Saturday, November 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: Aristide Laurent and The Not-So-Sudden Death of The Advocate

As a person known for having an article in the very first issue of The Advocate in 1967 (under the nom-de-plume “P.Nutz”), and having been there at its birth, I take this news with mixed emotions. I continued writing and working with the newspaper and into the 1970’s when it became a glossy under Mr. Goodstein. As Todd White reported in one of his earlier Legends columns in The Long Beach Blade, I was an “accidental activist” who kept winding up at history-making events because, well, “where the action was there was I” ... starting with The Black Cat protest in abt 1968 and marching against the passage of Prop 8 in 2008. I was a personal friend of Advocate owners Dick Mitch, Bill Rau, and Sam Allen. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, we were so proud of our work and how the Advocate grew in circulation with each new issue to hit the stands, eventually becoming a household world in most LGBT households. This was during the rag-tag beginning of the gay/sexual revolution—hippies, gay-ins, pride parades, protests by the unwashed masses of gays & lesbians. It was the right thing at the right time. It was an idea whose time had come.

Then David Goodstein came along and purchased all the Advocate stock (I think he paid $4 a share for what was originally sold for $1 a share). I was one of the “anointed” whom he moved to San Mateo to set up shop. There is much debate about what Goodstein changed the Advocate to, but I’m a believer in the theory that nothing can, or will, remain the same and must adapt to its time. In those 10 years from 1967-1977, much progress was made in the battle for gay rights and equality. Goodstein, rightly or wrongly, decided that it was time for the gay community to move into the main-stream and flex our purchasing power. Still, the gay community continued to fight and demand equality without the help of the all-new-glossy Advocate. I cannot say, nor will I attempt to, say, how much influence Goodstein and the new Advocate had on causing corporations to acknowledge us as a source of income to be courted and leading to Ellen daring to come out on national TV. To me his concept was just another militant division, or troop unit, in our march towards equality.

So it seems that “new” Advocate is about to go the route of the “old” Advocate and, like the dinosaurs, become an anachronism and victim of technology and progress. One can only assume (and hope) that the new technology (esp. the Internet) will now continue the battle for equality using today’s weapons. Being an optimistic cynic, I would not be surprised that the gay community (though, perhaps in a different form) will still be standing and progressing when the rest of the country collapses into the Haves and the Have Nots. Of course, by then, we probably will no longer be known as DINKS (double income/no kids) as in the past 40 years of my activism, we have gone from sexual liberation to the right to marry and have kids.

I attended the Advocate’s 40th Anniversary party in WeHo in 2007. I felt like a dinosaur among all those pretty young things and Hollywood celebs. Stuart Timmons tried to get the editor of the Advocate to introduce me to the gathered throng as the oldest living former Advocate employee still standing and speaking out, but ... well, I think the word “oldest” didn’t go over very well with a crowd whose parents had probably not been born when the rest of us were fighting against bar raids and lewd conduct arrests for just holding hands in a bar. I told Stuart to let the issue go because I was from a different world than this generation and that was OK. I had my many years of wonderful memories, felt very secure in myself and the fact that I had contributed a little something toward their freedom to party in public and dance man-to-man, woman-to-woman without fear of being raided by the LAPD. That was more than enough for me for me.

As one-of-our-own (Rod McKuen) said in song during that period: “People change. Life goes on. Every midnight brings a new dawn.” Here’s hoping each new dawn brings continuing advances in our struggle for equality. Gay marriage is an idea whose time has come and, in my humble opinion, nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. We saw that with the Hate Bill including the gay community. We will see it with our other reasonable demands, including marriage, adoption, DADT, and things we can only dream about for the future.

The older I get, the more things from my generation pass on ... my favorite bars, my friends, my health, newspapers, etc. Thank Zeus and Aphrodite I still have my memories to sustain me above ground.

Aristide Laurent


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Anonymous said...

J'ai appris des choses interessantes grace a vous, et vous m'avez aide a resoudre un probleme, merci.

- Daniel