Tag Archives: activist

Gay History - April 29, 1955: Rod McKuen  Born Singer-Songwriter, Actor, and Gay Rights Activist

Gay History – April 29, 1955: Rod McKuen  Born Singer-Songwriter, Actor, and Gay Rights Activist

Rod McKuen was an American poet, singer-songwriter, and actor. He was one of the best-selling poets in the United States during the late 1960s. McKuen also produced a wide range of recordings, which included popular music, spoken word poetry, film soundtracks and classical music. He earned two Academy Award nominations and one Pulitzer nomination for his music compositions and wrote over 1,500 songs.

But what many don’t know is that McKuen NEVER divulged his sexual preferences and was a dedicated gay rights activist.

In 1977 McKuen very publicly opposed Anita Bryant’s 1977 anti-gay Save Our Children—Campaign dubbing Bryant with the name ‘Ginny Orangeseed’—and gave benefit performances in Miami and at multiple gay discos in New York and LA to raise money for gay rights groups. His 1977 album Slide… Easy In‘s cover depicts the arm of 1970’s gay porn star Bruno, his fist filled with Crisco, hovering above a can with the label “disco” on it.. The so-called “Crisco/Disco” album featured the song “Don’t Drink the Orange Juice,” released during the national “gaycot” of Florida orange juice in response to the Anita Bryant campaign.

In fact in the 1950s, McKuen held a leadership role in the San Francisco chapter of The Mattachine Society. And in later years engaged in AIDS activism for well over a decade, participating in numerous fundraisers in support of AIDS related charities.

McKuen himself though refused to identify as gay, straight, or bisexual, but once explained his sexuality saying, “I can’t imagine choosing one sex over the other, that’s just too limiting. I can’t even honestly say I have a preference. I’ve been attracted to men and I’ve been attracted to women. I have a 16-year-old son. You put a label on.” (This caused The Advocate, to give McKuen the dubious “Something You Do in the Dark” award for refusing to identify as gay.)

For over half a century McKuen proudly advocated for gay rights while refusing sexual labels for himself

McKuen lived in Beverly Hills, California with his partner Edward, whom he called his “brother”, and four cats . He died of respiratory arrest, a result of pneumonia, at a hospital in Beverly Hills, California, on January 29, 2015.

Gay History – April 21, 1966: NYC Gay Rights Activist Stage “Sip-In” Protesting Over Refusal To Serve Homosexuals

On this date a little-known but very important milestone in gay history took place at Julius’ bar on West 10th Street in NYC that helped pave the way for the Stonewall uprising and gay rights. 

The Mattachine Society “staged” the first civil rights “sip-in.”

At the time, being homosexual was in itself seen as a disorder,” said Dick Leitsch, an original member of the group. It was also “illegal” to serve a homosexual liquor by order of the New York State Liquor Authority.

On April 21, 1966 Mattachine Society activists invited along four newspaper reporters, including Thomas A. Johnson of The New York Times. The plan was to convene at noon at the Ukrainian-American Village Hall, a bar on St. Marks Place. “ The Times reporter tipped off the owners, who shut the bar for the day. A sign in the window made the establishment’s attitude clear: “If you are gay, please stay away.”

So the men then moved across the street to The Dom, a club that, by night hosted concerts by the Velvet Underground. It had a sign just as unwelcoming as the one at the Ukrainian Hall. The Dom, too, was closed.

After going to a Howard Johnson’s, at Eighth Street and the Avenue of the Americas which served them. The men then advanced to a Mafia-owned tiki bar, The Waikiki. The  amused manager told them: “How do I know you’re homosexuals? Give these guys a drink on us.”

In desperation, the troupe trudged over to Julius’ on West 10th Street. “It was a rather dull, neighborhood place which was about three-quarters gay,” said Randy Wicker, 78, who joined the action at that stop. “I called it a closet queen bar.”

The activists knew Julius’ had to refuse them, because the night before, a man who had been served there had later been entrapped by an officer for “gay activity,” meaning the bar was in jeopardy of having its liquor license revoked. As they entered, the men spied a sign that read “Patrons Must Face the Bar While Drinking,” an instruction used to thwart cruising.  

As soon as they approached, the bartender put a glass in front of him. When the men announced they were gay, the bartender put his hand over the glass; it was captured in a photograph by Fred McDarrah for The Village Voice.

The next day’s New York Times featured an article about the event with the headline “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars.” Two weeks later, a far more sympathetic piece appeared in The Voice. The publicity prompted a response from the State Liquor Authority chairman, Donald S. Hostetter, who denied that his organization ever threatened the liquor licenses of bars that served gays. The decision to serve was up to individual bartenders, he said.

At that point, the Commission on Human Rights became involved. It’s chairman, William H. Booth, told The Times in a later article: “We have jurisdiction over discrimination based on sex. Denial of bar service to a homosexual solely for that reason would come within those bounds.”

From that moment on gay men could not be refused service in any New York State Liquor Authority  licensed establishment.

Andrew Dolkart, co-director of the New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project, is seeking to have Julius’ made the second gay history site to enter the national register, after the Stonewall Inn. The building, which dates from 1826, has been a bar since 1864 and has had a gay clientele since the 1950s. It has been a setting for films including: The Boys in the Band, The Normal Heart, and most recently Can You Ever Forgive Me.

The small grill within the bar also makes one helluva cheeseburger .

 

Gay History – December 11, 1945: John Preston; Journalist, Activist, and Father of Leather S&M Gay Erotica Is Born

John Preston the award-winning writer, essayist, and journalist is born on this day in 1945.

Preston best known for his Leather S&M gay erotica was proud of his work believed it made him a better, more honest writer. As he explained in his 1993, Harvard lecture, which he titled “My Life as a Pornographer” (and which he later published in an essay compilation by the same name) “Pornography has made me be honest, about myself and some of the most intimate details of my life and my fantasies. … Once I had exposed my own sexual fantasies, my most intimate desires, I feared little else about self-exposure as a writer.”

Leather S&M porn activism may seem like an odd field of endeavor, but activism came naturally to the Medfield, Massachusetts native, who by age fourteen had already volunteered as a Freedom Rider in Alabama and a tutor in Chicago’s projects. He graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois, was certified as a sexual-health consultant by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Medical School, and he also studied theology at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Northwestern Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul. After moving to Minneapolis in 1969, he founded Gay House, one of the first gay and lesbian community centers in the country. He served as its first director until 1972, when he founded Gay Community Services.

mister-bensonBy the mid 1970’s, Preston moved to Los Angeles and became the editor of The Advocate (when it was actually a good media outlet). Then at about 1978, he moved to New York and took up fiction writing with a short pornographic story about a young man, Jaime, who becomes the sexual property of a Master named Aristotle Benson. He sent the story to Drummer magazine, which asked him to write an entire series on the exploits of Jaime and Benson. Those monthly episodes exploring Manhattan’s Leather and S&M scene were immensely popular. T-shirts reading “Looking for Mr. Benson” — some with a question mark, some without — began appearing in gay bars across the country. Mr. Benson: A Novel was eventually published in book form, where it set a new standard in pornographic fiction. Other titles followed, including his “Master” series: I Once Had a Master (1984, which became the subject of a Canadian customs court case), Entertainment for a Master (1986), Love Of A Master (1987), and In Search Of A Master(1989).

Mr. Benson is the compelling story of a young man’s quest for the perfect master. In a West Village leather bar, he finds wealthy, sophisticated, exacting Aristotle Benson, who leads him down the path of erotic enlightenment, teaching him to accept cruelty as love, anguish as affection, and ultimately, Mr. Benson as his master.  Its unabashed celebration of male sexuality made it a cult favorite among gay men, many of whom wore T-shirts declaring that they were “Looking for Mr. Benson.”

But S&M porn was far from his only literary interest. Working as a journalist and essayist, he wrote for a number of gay magazines and penned a column about gay life in Maine after abandoning Manhattan for a refurbished warehouse in Portland. He wrote straight men’s adventure novels which, in a bizarro-world twist, his publisher insisted on publishing under a pseudonym lest his straight readers find out who wrote them. He then took what he learned from writing those books to write similar action adventure novels featuring gay characters, with story lines that addressed the difficulty gay teens experienced. When AIDS came along, Preston quickly adapted and became among the first to popularize safe sex stories by editing a safe sex anthology, Hot Living: Erotic Stories about Safer Sex, in 1985. He co-wrote, with Glenn Swann, a badly-needed safe-sex guide, Safe Sex: The Ultimate Erotic Guide, and two other rather unorthodox advice books: 1984’s Classified Affairs: A Gay Man’s Guide to the Personal Ads and 1994’s Hustling: A Gentleman’s Guide to the Fine Art of Homosexual Prostitution.

Preston edited several critically acclaimed anthologies, including Hometowns: Gay Men Write About Where They Belong (1992), Personal dispatches: Writers confront AIDS (1990, which he began compiling soon after his own AIDS diagnosis), and Flesh and the Word: An Anthology of Erotic Writing (1995, with two stories by his friend, Anne Rice). Two of his anthologies, Member of the Family: Gay Men Write About Their Families (1992) and Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together (1994) were honored with Lambda Literary Awards.

John Preston died of AIDS in 1994, at the age of 48. His papers are housed at the John Hay Library at Brown University.

*Mr. Benson is available through Amazon.com

**Sources: Back2Stonewall and Box Turtle Bulletin

5 Gay Celebrities and Heroes We Lost in 2018

Gay Rights Pioneer Dick Leitsch Whose Famous ‘Sip-In’ Helped Change NYC , Dies at 83

Dick Leitsch, a leading gay rights activist in 1960’s New York, where he helped end police entrapment of gays and organized the first major act of civil disobedience by a gay rights group — a  Sip-In at Julius’ bar — died June 22 at a hospice center in Manhattan. He was 83.

In 1966 being homosexual was, in itself, seen as a disorder, It was also “illegal” to serve a homosexual liquor by order of the New York State Liquor Authority. Leitsch who was president of the Mattachine Society’s New York chapter in 1965, took the group in a aggressive direction, taking on the city’s police chief and newly elected mayor, John V. Lindsay.

On April 21, 1966 Dick Leitsch along with two other Mattachine Society members invited along four newspaper reporters, including Thomas A. Johnson of The New York Times. The plan was to convene at noon at the Ukrainian-American Village Hall, a bar on St. Marks Place. “ The Times reporter tipped off the owners, who shut the place. A sign in the window made the establishment’s attitude clear: “If you are gay, please stay away.”

So the men moved across the street to The Dom, a club that, by night, hosted concerts by the Velvet Underground. It had a sign just as unwelcoming as the one at the Ukrainian Hall. The Dom, too, was closed.

After going to a Howard Johnson’s, at Eighth Street and the Avenue of the Americas which served them. The men then advanced to a Mafia-owned tiki bar, The Waikiki. The  amused manager told them: “How do I know you’re homosexuals? Give these guys a drink on us.”

In desperation, the troupe trudged over to Julius’ on West 10th Street. “It was a rather dull, neighborhood place which was about three-quarters gay,” said Randy Wicker, 78, who joined the action at that stop. “I called it a closet queen bar.”

The activists knew Julius’ had to refuse them, because the night before, a man who had been served there had later been entrapped by an officer for “gay activity,” meaning the bar was in jeopardy of having its liquor license revoked. As they entered, the men spied a sign that read “Patrons Must Face the Bar While Drinking,” an instruction used to thwart cruising. (They enforced that rule well into the 1980’s)  

As soon as they approached, the bartender put a glass in front of them. Dick Lietsch announced they were gay and the bartender put his hand over the glass; it was captured in a photograph by Fred McDarrah for The Village Voice.

The next day’s New York Times featured an article about the event with the headline “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars.” Two weeks later, a far more sympathetic piece appeared in The Voice. The publicity prompted a response from the State Liquor Authority chairman, Donald S. Hostetter, who denied that his organization ever threatened the liquor licenses of bars that served gays. The decision to serve was up to individual bartenders, he said.

Dick Leitsch’s Sip-In led to a growing acceptance of gays at bars in New York and across the country. Perhaps most significantly, the publicity resulted in a Mattachine lawsuit in New Jersey, where in 1967 the state Supreme Court ruled that “well-behaved homosexuals” could not be barred from a drink.

Richard Joseph Leitsch, who often used the family name Valentine as his middle name, was born in Louisville on May 11, 1935. Survivors include a brother and sister. His partner of 17 years, Timothy Scoffield, was diagnosed with AIDS and died in 1989.

Russia’s Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality Holds Protests In St. Petersburg – Video

Russia anti-gay

Russia’s Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality held a series of  brave protests in solidarity with other groups around the world this past week against Russia’s extreme discrimination against its LGBT citizens   The Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality  participated in the #Russia4Love – Day of Action despite being stalked and filmed by police, and harassed by anti-gay Russian extremist.

We, Russian LGBT people and their allies, would like to thank all the people around the world who support us and express their concern about the events in our country in hope of making a difference and pulling Russia out of a tightening medieval darkness,’ the organizers said in an official statement.

About 30 Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality members gathered near the city’s statue of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg but soon attracted a police attention who refused to let protesters take photographs of themselves with their signs so the activists moved to St Isaac’s Square.  Police filmed the whole action and demanded the IDs of those involved.

In another part of the city Daniel Grachev,  picketed at the Olympic clock in the Little Stables and was attacked by Russian nationalists who approached him and shoved a cake in his face and said “Welcome to the Soviet Union.  Welcome to Russia”.

Grachev was wearing a T-shirt with a pink triangle, which served as a pretext for an attack, as well as a poster, on which was written ” The Nuremberg Trials, and not the Olympics. ”

“I wanted to convey the idea that Russia is going to fascism, and it is not a place for the Olympic Games and the space for the Nuremberg trials,” – he said.

The two men who attacked Daniel were arrested but while at the police station the St. Petersberg police also checked into Grachev extremism. “I was amused by it.” said Daniel.  “If I am am arrested for calling Russia a facist state then Russia proves that it is indeed a fascist state, “- he concluded. (Loosely translated from Russian text)

Video of Daniel’s attack can be seen below:

Falcon Video Founder Documentary In The Works – Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story – Video

 

The upcoming documentary, Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story shines a spotlight on one of the most unlikely and overlooked gay heros of the past 40 years.

Chuck Holmes was the 1970’s gay porn version of Hugh Hefner, a charmer, an unrivaled businessman, and a man with a taste for the finest things in life.

Holmes founded the world famous Falcon studios and with the extraordinary amount of money that he made from it he wanted to give back to the gay community that made him rich, only to find that while his money was more than welcome,  he was not because of his profession.

Chuck gave millions to organizations like the HRC, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund in their early days, and to politicians like Barney Frank and Bill Clinton, and donated heavily to the AIDS Memorial Grove.  But despite all the money and donations Chuck never quite fit in. He always feared that his ‘dirty money’ as some called it would be returned.  And sometimes it was. But in most cases it was accepted, quietly and without proper recognition of its donor.

Michael Stabile the documentary’s writer and director is in the final stages of getting the documentary ready for a late 2013 release. The independent documentary has been funded by individuals through Kickstarter and other fundraising venues but they still have a bit further to go. If anyone is interested in in sending donations to help Mr. Stabile finish up what will be a fascinating documentary piece of LGBT history, he can be reached at michael@fauxjob.com

Perhaps the Human Rights Campaign should think about helping this project especially since if it wasn’t for Chuck Holmes’s backing  in its beginning HRC wouldn’t be around to be throwing the gala cocktail parties it does today.

WARNING: Although NOT X-Rated the following promo reel is NWSF.

NBA Legend Magic Johnson Lovingly Supports His Gay Son

Former NBA player for the LA Lakers turned activist Earvin “Magic” Johnson recently was asked about his 20 year old son, Earvin (also called EJ3) who was seen out in public with his boyfriend. The response from Magic Johnson is what we all hope our parents would have, complete love and support. Here’s more:

Earvin Johnson III, one of Magic’s three children, stepped out hand-in-hand with his unidentified boyfriend on Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip on Monday night, TMZ reports.

Although this is reportedly the first time Earvin, also known as EJ, and his boyfriend have been seen together publicly, there is nothing to suggest that he was not open about his sexuality prior to this.

EJ is a 20-year-old student at New York University and Magic and his wife, Earlitha “Cookie” Kelly, couldn’t be prouder of him. “Cookie and I love EJ and support him in every way,” Magic told TMZ. “We’re very proud of him.”

When Magic revealed he was HIV-positive in 1991, rumors about his sexuality arose. Instead of recoiling from the spotlight and the speculation, the former Los Angeles Lakers player used his celebrity to spread awareness and tolerance.

Back in 2008, Magic opposed California’s Proposition 8 — a clause that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

Prop 8 singles out one group of Californians to be treated differently — including members of our family, our friends, and our coworkers,” he said in a recorded telephone message sent to California voters. “That is not what California is about. So this Tuesday, vote no on Proposition 8. It is unfair and wrong. Thanks.”

For over two decades Johnson has set out to challenge and defy the stereotypes of HIV. Not only has this man showed a great example of being an involved activist in promoting awareness, prevention and treatment, he is also a devoted and loving father.

Gay History Month – Remembering Marsha P. Johnson: The Original Transgender Activist (1945 – 1992)

Marsha P. Johnson was an African-American transgender activist and a popular figure in New York City’s gay scene from the 1960s to the 1990s.

One of the city’s oldest and best known “drag queens”, (which is what Marsha proudly reffered to herself as) Marsha sometimes worked as a waitress, but usually she worked the streets. She was known for helping other transvestites and street people and was regarded as one of NYC’s original drag mothers.

Marsha participated in clashes with the police amid the Stonewall Riots along with her friend Sylvia Rivera and both became co-founders, of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in the early 1970s.   Marsha and Sylvia became the mothers of  S.T.A.R House and together gathered food and clothing to help support the young queens living in the house on the streets of the lower East Side of New York.

Marsha was one of a kind.  Once, appearing in a court the judge asked Marsha, “What does the ‘P’ stand for?”,  Johnson gave her customary response “Pay it No Mind.” and the  judge laughed and let her go.  This phrase became her trademark. In 1974 Marsha P. Johnson was photographed by famed artist Andy Warhol, as part of a “ladies and gentlemen” series of polaroids featuring drag queens.

Masha P. Johnson was as tough and as gritty as New York City itself.  But as kind and as loving as any mother could be to her “children”

In July of 1992 that came to an abrupt end when Marsha’s body was found floating in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers shortly after the 1992 Pride March. Police ruled the death a suicide. Johnson friends and supporters said she was not suicidal, and a people’s postering campaign later declared that Johnson had earlier been harassed near the spot where her body was found.  Attempts to get the police to investigate the cause of death were unsuccessful but many today believe that Marsha was murdered.

Marsha P. Johnson was an original, an activist, and a martyr.

May she be at peace and never be forgotten………

77 Year Old Transgender Activist Honored By The Queen of England

77 year old transgender activist April Ashley has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)

The recognition in the Queen’s Birthday Honours has thrilled the 77-year-old. “It’s unbelievable and wonderful and especially fantastic to receive it in the year of Her Majesty’s Jubilee,” she said yesterday, at home in Fulham, south-west London. She declined to speak until she had finished watching the Trooping of the Colour. Duncan Fallowell, her biographer, said: “It makes me proud to be British. Proud of an establishment that can make such an award, perhaps a rather eccentric award.”

The MBE is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom.  The Order’s motto is For God and the Empire. It is the most junior of the British orders of chivalry, and the largest, with over 100,000 living members worldwide