Harry Hay, San Juan Pueblo New Mexico, October 16-19, 1976
Introduction: Harry Hay is the individual most responsible for the founding of the Mattachine Society, the moment from which begins a continuous history of LGBT organizing in the United States. Hay was quite a spontaneous talker, and the interview stretched over several days. It provides detailed information about Hay’s family background; his discovery of other gay men and a gay male social world in the late 1920s and early 1930s in California; the political radicalism of the 1930s and his involvement in the Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s; and the events that led to the beginnings of the Mattachine Society in 1950, until 1953 when Hay leaves the organization.
Born in England. Father a mining engineer—a powerful Scottish patriarch who ran his family with an iron hand. Both parents dominant. Oldest of three children—had to set example for siblings.
Left England soon after war breaks out. Goes to Chile where his father was engineer for Anaconda in Chile. Accident in mines—workers try to kill him. Lost a leg. Comes to California. (Long Beach, c. 1917-18), then into Orange County.
Hay’s father grew up in California. U of C Berkeley, answered Cecil Rhodes call for engineers in Africa. Mother born in Indian territory in Arizona frontier.
Move to LA, 1919. Skips classes—big for his age, but not aggressive or competitive—already a sissy. Had a very good public school education; read a lot.
Mother a Catholic, father a Presbyterian. Her grandfather converted at West Point—a general in Civil War; graduated 1846. Knew Rosencrans.
Received instruction in Catholicism—sang in choir as a child—beautiful soprano until voice changed. Became interested in religious music and history. Read Old Testament and New Testament (didn’t sound like anything in catechism). Message of love came through clearly.
Father had retired from mining—was raising oranges, developing new strains—knew Luther Burbank. Though well-off, father made Hay work from childhood—earning his own way early on. At 12, was sent off to Uncle’s cattle ranch in Nevada during summer haying season.
Father showed love by criticizing—was always expected to do better. Thrashed him for being left-handed. Hay understood early that his father wasn’t always right. This helped him later to come to terms with being gay.
Had no words for being gay. “In our time we don’t have words, we just have feelings.” Had been caught masturbating. Slept with hands bandaged and tied away from his body for year and a half. Remembers seeing both mother and father nude.
(Breaking in Shibley for Jennings case: 3 nights a week talking with leaders about what it means to be gay.)
Had pre-adolescent sex play with other boys. By high school, aware that his attractions to other boys were disapproved of—street talk among boys. Sex education lectures about perversions, leading young boys astray. Caught peeking at his undressing uncle who called him a dirty pervert and said people were hung in England for that—he cried. “I had no words yet. All I knew was ‘god-damned dirty pervert.’”
At about 13 years old, first inkling of what this was came through Hammond report about American Indians and their culture. Report of the Surgeon General of U.S. Army, c. 1849-52. Published in 1885. Uses the new German word, homosexual. Hay realized he was not the only one.
All the books he wanted were “behind the glass door… behind the librarian’s desk.” Couldn’t get to see them. “I knew that there were words.” Then discovered Walt Whitman—his books also locked up. Got a copy of Leaves of Grass. Copied some poems out—“wonderful and so exciting.” Now he knows there are others.
Senior year: president of Honor Society, active in public speaking. Part of gang of ten—all outstanding:athletics, ROTC, scholastic, pranksters and marauders. Graduated from Los Angeles High School (1929)—went through senior year twice—elective program—younger than his peers.
One member of Hay’s gang was an usher at a Fox theatre: talked about manager who made passes at young ushers, let the manager “do” him. Another mentions that Pershing Square is a place where leering men go; also rumors that toilet there (6th and Hill) is raided by police. Hay can’t yet do anything with this info—hangs in abeyance
Citizens Military Training Camp at Del Monte (Monterey Bay)—goes there summer, 1929—whole school ROTC. c. 2,000 there—also regular soldiers. Hay has been “ready for it” for over a year at this point. Several regulars pick out boys as their special buddies—very thick. Hay wonders if this is “it”.
Later that summer Hay goes up to Nevada again to hay fields—had been going every summer since 1924—given lots of responsibility, treated as an adult. Brought some of his friends with him that summer.
Didn’t go right to college: had a scholarship to go to Cal Tech; wanted to study paleontology, but father says oil tech, so Hay doesn’t go. Instead apprentices himself in a prestigious law office for a year.
Hay had also given thought, 1928-29, to entering priesthood. Studying articles of faith with local priest. In hay fields, meets old IWW members who introduce him to writings of Ingersoll and Bellamy. Breaks down at the point where faith rather than logic takes over. Decides there’s too much hypocrisy in the Catholic Church—refuses to stand as his brother’s sponsor at confirmation. Says his brother is too young to understand and it’s hypocritical to confirm him. Priest tells Hay he’s not a very good Catholic. Instruction stops. He doesn’t go to Loyola.
Hay can’t follow IWW any further—men are non-intellectual, tell him as much as they know. Have a pamphlet on Marx and Engels which they don’t understand. But Hay remembers and reads more in college.—e.g. John Reed, 2nd and 3rd International.
Law Office, 1929-30: Red tie at that time meant that you might be “temperamental”—you’d be looked at by other men. Was happening to Hay, but didn't know what to do. Then remembers Pershing Square. Feb 1930—goes late after work, to toilet—“patting foot” in stall, moving over. Hay does same!! Meets man, conversation begins: has just come to LA from Kansas City, Missouri, living with sister in East LA. Arrange to meet again. First sexual experience. Champ Simmons (his ex-lover had been a member of a Chicago gay group, mainly social, betrayed from within, someone may have gone to jail) very kind and good to Hay, taught him a great deal.
[novel Strange Brother - Hay says was already written]
Simmons impresses Hay with the danger of it. Hay now realizes, through Simmons, that there are many, many gays. A “whole world that he didn’t know about.”
Some references about gay influences in Vaudeville - Bert Savoy, English. Attracted gay audiences. Had a series known as the “Margie” series—a secretary. Not female impersonation, but very good high camp. Word “dish” comes out of this, as well as most other terms in gay underground in 20s and 30s. Simmons told Hay all about this.
Savoy performed for US servicemen overseas during World War I. Many GIs brought back phrases, knowledge: Marge Campseries goes back to 1912-13.
Summer 1930 up to Nevada again. Enters Stanford, fall 1930. Discovers there was “a sex life of sorts to be had at Stanford.” No gay life, but sex, yes. Dorm rooms shared, no single rooms. Hay wrote some poetry that was printed in Stanford Quarterly. Love poems to a Stanford graduate student.
Summer 1931—meets an actor, become good friends. John Darrow (movie star, small part in Wings). Hay to learn a lot from him. Introduces Hay to a group of people in Santa Monica Canyon. Many, many gays there. Taken to parties. Cruised and flirted with. But doesn’t respond. For Hay, it’s love, a dream, a vision. Talks about it, teased and laughed at. Darrow defends him. Says that Hay will go a different route, had a “dream”.
Returns to Stanford, fall 1931. Decides he can’t hide or pretend any longer, will tell his friends -all of them (100 people). About 95% break ties with Hay, all sorts of excuses. About 5 closest friends say “so what”?
Ravel’s Bolero just released on record, with Ravel playing. Almost always played in gay circles. Not so much elsewhere. Really ostracized by many. Obviously story had spread because Hay was getting more looks from men.
Man who wins diving champion for US in 1932 Olympics was gay—Pete [Degiorno, De Jordan??]—great in drag. Never met him.
Christmas 1931 in Los Angeles—meets LA high school acquaintance -“contact” made—invites Hay to a party at a new speakeasy on Selma at Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood—the “Perry Smith party.” Opening of Jimmy’s Backyard. A gay bar—enormous crowd of 400—more than he had ever seen before. And they were dancing together! Hay had never thought of that.
Hay says much more racial mixing among gays in those days than later.
Smith likes Hay. Gives Hay his address in San Francisco—lives with a doctor named Frank Fenton—Cherry Lane on Russian Hill. Hay introduces himself to Fenton who teaches English at U of SF.
Hit it off at once. Very educated, cultivated. Become very close friends. Introduces Hay to modern French art, modern music. A new world for Hay. Surrealism; Imagist poets. Many gays interested. Hay sees it as part of “his world”. Doesn’t understand why not all gays are into it.
[Cruising on Market Street] Hay didn’t think there were many gay bars in San Francisco because not many gays. Says after 1915, San Francisco goes into a decline until World War II.
Fenton introduces him to Roy who works at a gay speakeasy (on Stockton south of Bush). Run by a lesbian—Madame Finocchio?—who presided at the cash register. Roy second in importance to Madame. Made decisions about who to invite and when. If he liked you, he’d remember you. An “Emily Post” of San Francisco gay world—a “responsible queen mother.” “Everyone’s good wonderful uncle.” In his mid 40's, attracted theatre and dance people.
Against Roy’s advice, Hay accepts an overture from a very English man in his mid 30s. Very dainty. Hay leaves with him and goes to St. Francis Hotel, royal suite on 3rd floor. Champagne, oysters, etc. Very aristocratic. Hay notices “crest” on his toilet silver. Invited to tea the next day on Sunday. But Hay doesn’t have proper clothes. Was Duke of Kent (wasn’t Duke then; a prince).
Hay first joins Communist Party soon after expulsions around Muste and Lovestone. Maybe 1934, spring? Joins through Will Geer, currently grandfather in The Waltons. He and Hay were lovers for a while at that time. Did agit-prop theatre in the streets. “Dangerous stuff…the Red Squad was always busting things up.” Geer blacklisted during Cold War (involved in Salt of the Earth). He and Hay in a play together at the time.
Agit-prop: About halfway thru, police would come with horses and nightsticks. Then began performing from back of van for quick getaways. Hay began studying drama at Stanford, fall 1931. Realized that’s what he wanted to do.
Agit-prop not total improv. Written pieces (often well known writers): outline and ending that you improvise toward.
Gets offer (for 1year) as understudy in Hollywood Repertory Theatre (?) Arthur Treacher? Then in 1855 revival play—geer in it.
Begins hearing revolutionary talk from other actors—remembering World War I stuff; also demonstrations and riots in LA by that time which Hay was going to - passing out leaflets, signing petitions. Geer takes him leafleting - brings him to Communist Party classes and meetings - underground; called cells. Spring 1934.
Mildred and Harold Ash(?)—organizers of Hollywood group in charge of writers and actors.
Wanted to be part of movement for political and social change. Spring 1933—demonstration in LA by women and children for free milk in Bunker Hill area. First time he saw police charge a peaceful crowd—became concerned, found himself throwing a brick, hitting a cop on horse. Rescued by Clara Belle, queen of Bunker Hill.
Feb 1934—joined theatre group doing revivals which Geer belonged to. Geer invited Hay to do agit-prop theatre, then invited him to join underground branch of CP. Hollywood Branch under Mildred Ash (Asch, Ashe?)—a traitor, FBI informer.
1st year in party one of “total confusion.” But liked the political action even if he didn’t understand theories. “thrown a lot of Marxist material raw.” No studying—texts were not yet readily available; just party pamphletsfrom 1920s—e.g. Toward a Soviet America. Had to swallow it whole or not at all. Did reading of Brecht and Stanislavski on theatre and socialism and arts.
Involved in New Theatre League, primarily a Young Communist League activity. Hollywood Theatre League—“communist oriented.” Painful to go to party meetings, but loved New Theater League, agit-prop, etc.
Sept 1934—did Waiting for Lefty by Odets—using it on strike and bread lines, for big demos, etc. Played from a van. May 1935—'Til the Day I Die—Odets—CP underground under Nazis. (Had a gay role which Hay played.)
Went up to SF for maritime strike. National Guard called out, fire upon strikers. Hay beaten in melee. Black Monday -100,000 workers in funeral march up Market St. General Strike. May 1934 That’s when Hay’s commitment began: “that was just something tremendous. And I was committed from then on, man, that was it. That did it. The commitment was not an intellectual one to start with. It was pure emotions, a gut thing. You couldn’t have been a part of that and not have your life completely changed.”
1935—involved with migrant labor struggles—did agit prop in the fields. Were able to organize protests against camp conditions, but no unionizing. Dropped away from party in late 1935. Scared, didn’t like it. But continued with theatre work.
1936—beginning of struggle around Spain. Joined Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, and the League Against War and Fascism. Doing ghost writing for a director as a living.
Olson running for governor (1938?)—progressive; EPIC [End Poverty in California]. Involved in Hollywood Writers—set up a Marxist study group which Hay joined—and he finally understood it. Series of study: 1. Wage labor and capital. 2. Value, price, and profit; 3. What is to be done? Then decision to join party offered. Next would have been State and Revolution.
“I was so excited: Lights came over my eyes, flashes, fireworks went off!... I was more than ripe and all of a sudden it was being presented in the right way and doors were unlocking and windows were opening and lights were flashing and bulbs were popping and it was great!”
Meanwhile, from 1935 on, realizes that “his golden boy” will have to have the same commitment, guts, and courage and politics that he had. Had many lovers, but none incorporated political consciousness.
Doctor recommends that he go to psychiatrist—new in LA. Psych tells him to close one book and open another. As simple as that. Begins wooing a woman in another theatre group, also involved in left politics—Hay open with her about his gayness. Then rejoins party—but tells them all about his gay past—after all it could have repercussions. Took 3 months to get a clearance—but he was marrying a party member (Anita) whose two brothers also in CP and mother raises money for party causes. Aug 1938. Married 9/9/38.
Joined Workers Alliance - organizing WPA workers. Assigned to artists and writers’ branch of party —developing skits, poster education for trade unions. CP involved in Maritime Union, Newspaper Guild and Department Store workers.
Late 1939—goes to NYC. Gets a job at Macy’s. Joins organizing committee for department store workers - all of organizing committee were CP. Renews association with New Theater League in New York. Alice Evans. Also Theatre Arts Committee. Assigned to a mixed party branch -artists, writers, dancers - a closed group, mainly involved in long-term study.
History of CP-Soviet Union—two-year study in topics: imperialism, state, and revolution. Basic material in great depth. Very difficult. Something finally “hit”, and it all fell into place. Became a Marxist teacher—set up class in imperialism.
During the 1930s, CP underground. Not open about membership until after World War II. Operated through mass organizations. A few units are open. Thus, involved in mass organizations, theatre work, party unit, and teaching. Goes back to LA in Feb 1942. Works with Russian War Relief until c. Aug 42.
Gets job as a foundryman—first basic industry job. Preparing to do organizing work there. Then job as systems planner with an aircraft firm.
“Patriotic war.” As far as left was concerned, all-out war effort was absolutely primary: defending the Soviet Union. Federation of Architects, Engineers, and Technicians—tries to do organizing for it openly—fired for it, 1943. Gets another job but party tells him to lay low on organizing and to do other political work. Begins teaching course on political economy. Glendale, Silver Lake area.
Actually heretical—was the Earl Browder period of accommodation.
Adopted two children, 1942 and 1945. Knows he’s still homosexual—begins reading Gordon Childe, English cultural Marxists. Realizing that he can’t turn his back on homosexuality, not as easy as he was told.
Classes very satisfying.
Cooperative day nurseries set up toward end of war (cooperative, consensual, harmonious)
[Small portion erased!! Came home all excited, wrote “a call for a permanent organization.” Felt we had to come together and “find out who we were.”]
From late 1930s on, Hay develops and pursues an interest in folk and traditional music. Begins doing research. Gets involved with People’s Songs, 1945 or 46: Pete Seeger involved, lived at Hay’s house for a while. Ties it in with rent and price control struggles right after war. New lyrics made for folk songs - used at demonstrations, on picket lines. Soon 50 or 60 songs: sent all over country. Seeger starts People’s Songs in NY. Peoples Songs becomes major commitment 1946-47, Hay heavily involved. Earl Robinson, Malvina Reynolds.
Party meetings: Hay was Educational Director at executive committee meetings also OPC struggles, nurseries, neighborhood party club in Silver Lake, restrictive covenants.
1948 Mundt-Nixon bill: eventually ends up as Smith Act and McCarran Act.
Hay’s wife involved in Hollywood Mobilization—against Gerald L.K. Smith—big protest organized (his rally organized at Emanuel Arts High School?). Walkout staged—over ½ audience—go to Olympic Auditorium for massive anti-rally. Very emotional. Large group of Hollywood celebrities—Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner. Goes on til 3 in the morning.
CP, 45-47. Following the Duclos letter which accused CPUSA of revisionism; acceptance of liberal capitalism; Stimulates period of internal criticism—but many leaders incapable of it: Browder voted out. Paul Klein, director of S. Calif Branch, didn’t self-criticize. Total self-examination from bottom up to create new program.
Hay sent to S. Calif party conference as rep from Silver Lake, fall 1945. Dorothy Healey also delegate - that’s when Hay gets to know her well. Klein very defensive: attacked from the floor. Klein had become very “arrogant and self-important”—cat-called off the stage. Opens up the conference, reorganized by delegates. Develops a whole program from grassroots. Very exhilarating—“a grand experience.” One important change: commitment to study intensively, especially basic texts.
As a result, Hay has 8 classes: education director of party unit in Silver Lake. Also, meetings for all teachers, education directors in country. E.g. 10 session course on imperialism (not much taught before this) Slowly though, classes go out of vogue: getting in the way of practical struggles, 1947.
Hollywood Mobilizationsets up People’s Educational Center, 1947. Peoples Songs invited to have a class there - develops into a history of music class, tying it into class struggle, etc. Hay to do it—Spring 1948: two 3 month sessions.
CIO sets up a labor school in LA—People’s Education Center sends Hay there to teach in Southern Calif Labor School—housed in building later used by ONE Inc. By 1950, a year-long course of 4 three-month sessions. Heavily rooted in Marxist cultural theories/writings.
History of music as a reflection of the class struggle. Folk music increasingly appropriated by ruling class who make it more and more abstract and formal until it becomes unusable by masses—and then new forms appear from below.
Through his research, discovers Societe Joyeux: groups of bachelors in medieval France. Societe Matachins - masked men, leader known as Mother Pig, always in women’s dress on stage, would perform in countryside, rituals of protest against oppression on behalf of oppressed—expendable because bachelors.
In his class are later members of Mattachine Society. Hay perceives the Matachins as gays, his “antecedents”—also believes them related to the berdache. People who are willing to give of themselves to others in exchange for respect.
Hay during these years had isolated himself from gay social life, but did some cruising, had some contacts - especially through artistic and music circles. Remembers how comfortable it was.
“I begin to recognize that somehow or another, my time as a heterosexual, a pseudo homosexual, is coming to an end… I begin to be conscious of the fact that what I was told by the psychiatrist is wrong… and I begin to think that I have had all this magnificent experience and training in organization and in struggle, and I think my own people are going to need this and how wonderful that I can pass it on… it’s half-formed… I don’t have any real ideas yet, but it’s surfacing, bubbling.”
Then comes the beer bust of Aug 9, 1948—a party given by a gay man. Through his class, Hay in contact with many in music business, looking for folk records, etc.—meets and gets to know many gay men. Paul Faulkner, worked for Schirmer’s, has party. Invites Hay to meet someone else interested in folk music. All gay. Not a party of Wallace supporters. Hay very involved in Progressive Party effort and starts talking about it. [Bob, Chuck, Dale not yet in Harry’s class]
Bachelors for Wallace suggested as a way of organizing for him—would obviously be gays. Maybe can get sexual freedom plank in; stop hounding homosexuals in State Dept. A way of organizing gays for Wallace. Lots of fun, camp etc. talking about it. Hay gets excited, goes home, writes 5 page single-space prospectus that goes far beyond Bachelors for Wallace.
This was really the first version of the 1950 document.
Begins with general, down to the particular—the old party way. Concerned about gays in government employment. With Marshall Plan, Hollywood Ten, coming to fascist-corporate state, which always need scapegoats and then “use guilt by association to divide the rest of the people.” Won’t be blacks or Jews.
We had to “begin drawing ourselves together.” Had to “find out who we were and what we were for…we would begin to educate ourselves and develop methods of communication of these ideas. We would then negotiate our position with the parent society as a group, not assimilate as individuals.”
Works all this out the night of the party. About the organization: “I recognize that security is very important as far as gay people are concerned and we have to have something that is absolutely secure and absolutely tight so that people are not going to be exposed.” Pyramid-type organization, though still unclear until 1950. Also thinks important list of sponsors necessary: progressive/liberal lawyers, minorities, doctors, artists and writers. Can’t see how any progressive “can possibly turn us down.”
Calls up Paul and others at party, tells them all about, wants to start meeting: no one even remembers clearly—no one willing to do it—too scared and fearful. “Out of your mind. It’s absolutely impossible.”
Hay makes appointments with prominent people in LA, shows them the prospectus—a few think it’s a good idea: tell Hay to get the group going and then they’ll consider sponsoring. So Hay goes to gays—most say he’s crazy, a few say they’ll join after sponsors gathered. “So I can’t get people until I get sponsors, and I can’t get sponsors until I get people, and this keeps me busy for two years!”
Presented himself to sponsors as another progressive-liberal interested in the plight of government employees.
Hay began working on this before Kinsey book much in circulation.
Masonic Guilds as model for security and anonymity. Semi-Public Discussion Groups—those who come frequently and show interest will be offered chance for more responsibility—they would be invited into closed guild, “like the closed units we’d had in the party for years.” Guilds would guide DGs, see that they moved in certain direction. Once guild reached a certain size, would subdivide. Reps from each guild would meet in a higherorder. Would limit the number of people you knew. Each guild responsible for several DG’s.
Hay had close relationship, including sex, with Lester Horton, dancer—from before marriage. Hay’s oldest daughter, Hannah, had a scholarship at Horton’s school. One Saturday, Rudi Gernreich in the audience watching class. Hay knows he must show him prospectus—tells Rudi about it; rewrites it; meet on Monday. Rudi calls next day—very enthused—wants to get started at once. Hay hopelessly in love —“ready to throw all caution to the winds.”
Rudi quickly shows it to lots of people—has same experience Hay has had—“same old excuses…same old brush-offs.”
Two decide to do something—Korean War has started. Rudi has all CP and progressive friends -came from Germany in 1938. Had been a dancer and designer of stages and costumes for Horton. Take Stockholm peace petitions down to gay beaches at Will Rogers State Park.Get 500 signatures in 3 months.
Hay decides to show it to Bob Hull, in his class, who sometimes brings his friend Chuck. (had taken the course a couple of times, had talked to Hay about his problems—Hay recommended an attorney.) Brings Hull a couple of copies. Thursday. Knew he was gay, but didn’t know he was a party member. Had attended two previous 6 month sessions of the course.
Saturday—Hull calls. With Chuck Rowland and Dale Jennings (Hay had never met him before, but later realizes he knew his mother, at a meeting with her) come to Hay’s house. Rudi there. The 5 meet—sit outside on hill, looking over Silver Lake, toward Burbank, talk from mid-afternoon to evening.
Had to boil prospectus down and figure out where to start first. Wild dreams going - DG’s around the country, ties with progressive movement. All were pro-CP. “A lot of day-dreaming and not too much organizational work at first, not at the beginning. It was too wonderful, we had all found each other. It was kind of an intellectual love affair at first.”
Initially meet once a week, Sundays. After 1st of year, Hay begins to make more time for himself. Soon, two/three meetings a week. Work on perspectives and question of security. Realize they had to work very slowly—“we had no blueprints at all and no way of knowing when we’ve made a mistake.” A mistake now could set the movement back 20 years.
Bob and Harry realize that middle-class manners lead to holding back doubts—decide that every misgiving must be raised and fully discussed—“we agreed very early on the whole theory of unanimity.”
By Spring 1951, as they talked to people, realized they needed a statement of purpose. Missions and Purposes took months to write. Steve [Konrad Stevens] and Jim [Gruber] in by April 1951. Had first discussion group toward end of Nov 1950. 3 others show up including Stan Witt.
Chuck going to see psychiatrists as sponsors. Bob goes to see ministers. Dale talks to lots of gays. Meantime, the five are becoming a team. Steve and Jim come to DG - see Bob and Chuck in Norwalk between meeting. By their 3rd DG meeting, already invited into inner group. Circa March 1951.
DGs so far had never been the same people twice—meet every 2 weeks, never know who or how many will come. Talk about anything: what it means to be gay; can we have relationships; working with intangibles, don’t have a set of words to describe the ideas. Eventually, get to point of having short reports that get DG starting.
Already, though, there are moments of “jubilation”, when people begin to soar. “A dream begins to take shape” in the minds of many, “a sense of belonging that is so different from cruising.”
Take off occurs during summer 1951—July - Aug—developed a questionnaire: provide all kinds of topics for discussion. People can show it to friends who become very interested, want to find answers. By Aug 1951, DG has subdivided. (Then corrects and says Dec 1951.)
Sept 1951: tells his wife who asks him to move out for sake of children. She files for divorce. Goes to party and recommends his own expulsion. Felt he had to—conspiracy trials had begun in NY, probably would come to Calif.; Hay might be called to testify; FBI might expose his Mattachine work.
Fall 51—Labor School closes; CIO pulling out of such activities. But Hay teaches in his home for another year or so.
Dec 52 —Hay dropped by CP as a security risk, but remains a friend of the people. Meanwhile story being spread that he was kicked out as a queer. Meant a virtually complete break with family, friends, and associates of many years. But allows him to devote complete time to Mattachine: 4 to 6 nights/week and weekends.
Hay working as a system engineer: wasn’t able to get a job with larger firms that have government contracts—can’t get security clearance. But “happy and excited” about Mattachine.
Sept 1951—all day conference: Buena Park? Need for more contact with one another; also to discuss larger theoretical issues, rather than just day-to-day. Name Mattachine not chosen until April-May 1951. Says it was Chuck’s idea. Had been informally using other names; Brotherhood, Society of Fools, etc.
For a while, steering committee members going to everything. Claims already two or three 1st order guilds, according to geography. Need for inter-guild conference. Hollywood guild (at this point, councilors are still the 5th order). Inglewood guild. Guild near Whittier.
Guilds 2. Councilors… 5. Fifth Order
c. 1953 convention, ready to start a 3rd order.
Inter-guild: theoretical stuff that Hay wanted to discuss—“wanted to get people to thoroughly consider the possibility that homosexuals were a social minority.” Chuck at first opposed idea of H as a minority; also Dale. Long conversation with Chuck during day while working.
Hay also against Puritan moral kick—wants Mattachine to take responsibility for street brothers and screaming queens. At this time, Mattachine reaching people with jobs, stable.
Mattachine held parties and dances.
Hay brings up both points at Conference.
Social minority question taken quite seriously. Speculation on Dialectics—given at a Discussion Group. Hay said June 52. [?]
But much resistance to support for the “screaming queens”
Expected 25—only about 12-15 show up: just guild members. Hay felt minority idea had to be accepted before Mattahine would see itself as a social action group—and Hay wants Mattachine to start doing that. All of first five “were committed to the primacy of Marxist thinking.”
But even early recruits were not radicals, just gays in general. Founders didn’t know gays from their political work. Imperative need to formulate concepts in a way that can be communicated, understood, and accepted by non-radical gays. Thus, much educating themselves before they can educate others.
1950-51: increasing number of bar and street raids, entrapment, use of college boys as decoys: had begun c. 1947 or 48. But awareness of it spreads slowly due to isolation of gays. Discussion Groups have the effect of spreading this awareness. Hope that Mattachine could spread the word about “hot” areas, also getting pictures of arresting officers, attending trials, etc.
Women—not many; rarely return.
July 51—Ruth Bernhard, photographer, gets involved—very fully. Quickly becomes 1st order member, goes to inter-guild events, social events etc. Women frequently came to social events in large numbers, but not to organizational meetings.
Oct 1951 on—Lots of police raids against Chicano organizations. Riots in the barrio, especially by young. (Barrios beginning to expand especially to Anglo areas). Cops raid on pretext of narcotics and gambling. Lots of beating and brutality. Enough furor that it gets aired at City Council meeting. 5th order decides to appear as group of citizens in sympathy with victims of police brutality—especially entrapment of Chicanos through use of plainclothes in their community—but not speaking out as gays. They did get to speak: Chuck, Harry, Bob, Steve, Rudi were there. Also Paul Bernal. Harry and someone else spoke. Introduced themselves as members of Mattachine, friends and sympathizers, a way of making themselves known to members of Chicano and black community as groundwork for united action on future issues.
Says Jennings arrested Feb 1952. Took a while to develop unanimity around fighting Jennings case publicly. Looked like a “foregone conclusion” that “he’d be a felon for life.” California has sex registration law. Never before standing up and admitting homosexuality. Jennings pleads not guilty, demands jury trial—Monday. Had met all day Sunday to decide on that, but had no idea how to do it.
Realized had to raise $1500. By 1952, Korean War and Hydrogen bomb; block committees formed for “civilian defense.” But then CP knew pictures were being taken of people meeting in homes. “Jittery.” “We knew there was spying going on.”
Making case public was “a ramrod job” which Hay did, “not infrequently.” At beginning of meeting, most of group probably against. Hay works on them.
Ingenious campaign: planned by beginning of March
Feast of Fools celebration—bring up Jennings case in context of brotherhood, fellowship. Raffles, parties to raise money.
Lester Horton gives benefit in Apr 52—advertised as a “gay event” for the Matt Society.
Main topic at discussion groups:
Met with gay shop owners in West Hollywood/Robertson Blvd. Uninterested in DG’s, but very interested in legal defense, developing a group of reliable lawyers who would fight, rather than demand huge pay-off fees. (Harry and Rudi in charge of West Side guild.)
Willing to take leaflets and give to customers. Perhaps 5,000 flyers from March-June.
Need name and address: Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment, Hay’s mother’s address. Began getting checks in mail. People began showing up at mother’s house—unburdening and making donations.
Paper bus stops and benches on Santa Monica, Sunset, and Hollywood Blvd. Left leaflets on buses. Beaches at Santa Monica and Long Beach. Not too much money, but really spread the word. Began getting correspondence from all over the place. “Mattachine” begins to have meaning to lots of people.
George Shibley takes on case.
Mike Snider—very involved in Mexican-American cases: police brutality and political repression.
Shibley—lawyer for National Maritime Union and Longshoreman’s Union: “good fighting attorney.” Pine St. office in Long Beach. 5th order does intense education job with Shibley. 2-3 nights a week - talked about being homosexual, becoming homosexual, loneliness. “Every one of us had gone through the experience of thinking we were the only one in the world.”
Shibley’s summation “an absolutely masterful performance when he discusses what it means to grow up homosexual.” Makes analogy as Armenian - the alienation, the loneliness, being different, fears, courage. In college it stopped for him, but for homosexual, whole life. Wet eyes in the courtroom.
Failed to attract media: Shibley got case delayed 2 times; finally comes up in June. Announcements reportedly sent out to media. No one showed up. “An absolute black out. No one printed it and no one ever knew the trial was being held.”
Must have printed 15,000 leaflets. DG’s and guilds work hard on it—money, spreading the word. Even being distributed by gay workers in supermarkets—Eagle Rock, East Hollywood, Santa Monica. Result: “all of a sudden the gates have opened, they pour in.” DG’s grow, guilds too. (30 new members at a DG!) “It’s the Dale Jennings case that opens it wide up.”
Law-change crowd begins to show up. Until Jennings case, guild members chosen carefully -long discussion about Missions and Purposes, background and philosophyof Matt. Pledge and induction ceremony. After Jennings case, procedure loosens up considerably. Two 2nd order groups; 3 or 4 guilds (at time of case.)
2nd order - councilor from each guild and some 5th order members. Phil Jones; Martin Block. Dorr Legg never in 2nd order—Hay had only met him twice before ONE magazine being planned. Don Frey, Dave Pohl—at the Zuma Beach conference.
Hays says that figure of 30 members [Rowland letter] refers to 1st and 2nd order, but not all of 1st order. These were different levels of commitment within the Guilds.
E.g. Guilds in San Pedro-Long Beach; Laguna; San Diego, which are running DG’s but nothing else, don’t consider themselves permanent members. “We’ve grown too fast and the whole thing had gotten loose and disorganized.” Were talking about reorganization before call for convention. “beginnings of real dichotomies, real splits in political outlook”
A “whole flock of people” from Laguna, Whittier, San Diego—Nixon/Eisenhower supporters.
Hay by fall 52 no longer going to guilds—being mentioned in papers about communist conspiracy trials.
Mattachine Foundation: talked about from beginning; early DG’s told that it was being sponsored by MF even before it existed. Acted as a “paper façade”—people needed that for a sense of safety.
Jennings case—5th order realizes MF must be set up. Structure and articles of Incorporation drawn up. Board of 15 - but 8 would be 5th order. Says Block and Maxey in 5th order and MF. Block in from 1951.
Hooker and Isherwood show up at a MF meeting to discuss Hooker research—Legg also shows up to discuss magazine (Hay dates as May 52 - but must be October) Block, Jennings, Legg in same guild. Hays says it was decided that magazine will be separate from Matt, but Matt will help thru mailings, publicity, and announcement through DG’s. But a separate corporation. Says Legg, Block and Jennings wanted a closer relationship with Matt.
Mattachine Foundation tries to break silence of media. Trying to get some entrée into newspapers. Letters to Bar Association thru Snider - get nowhere. Try Psych Assn. through Gwartney (has wife and kids in San Bernadino; connected to State Institution in Chino)—but too scared about his double life.
DG in San Juan Capistrano; DG in Laguna.
Letter to candidates—Oct and Nov 52. State elections—Nov 52. Local elections—Spr 53 (city and county). But candidates often announce in fall.
Zuma Beach conference.
Hull may have been treasurer for party unit in Western and 6th area. Martin Block a “passionate fellow-traveller.”
Feb 53 Conference—beginning to hear about pressure from below. But also leadership realizes need to “restructure and consolidate.” “haul ourselves back in”—at this point, Paul Bernal and Dale hardly speaking to each other. Strains; people resentful of each other.
Feb 1953—Bob and Chuck taking a seize-the-time attitude—abandon caution and open up; drop intensive security program. Chuck argues that if we open up, we can get lots and lots more people in. Harry against this—pushes for full and open debate. Feb conference to discuss all of this—c. 15 people.
Paul Coates column—whole thing blows up, can’t be concerned with how to reorganize, because whole organization is in “jeopardy”. Pushed into hasty action.
Farewell speech not given in April—but 5th order does meet on Sunday of April convention—Hay’s speech a disaster. Hay realizes unanimity gone but still hopes that “by some miracle we can salvage something.” Hay at Saturday session in May—remembers meeting with people trying to come up with name. Red-baiting at May session.
SIDE #9A [second effort at summary]
Mattachine Foundation sent letters thru Mike Snyder to Bar Assn. Trying hard to break into media somehow.
Gwartney afraid of his double life; not much help in reaching psych profession.
5th order decides in fall of 52 to send letters re Homosexuality to candidates for local office. Bring idea to Mattachine Foundation which approves it. 1st letter sent to candidates for State Senate and Assembly in Oct 1952, get no answers at all. Essentially same letter then sent to local LA candidates early in 1953: city council and board of education.
Leo Gallagher, old time progressive who runs for everything, responded in the affirmative.
Would they favor sex education in high school with constructive and positive view of homosexuality?
Somehow Paul Coates gets a copy—checks it out with candidates and writes a column. Speaks to Hay’s mother and then to Hay - convinced it’s a communist international conspiracy. Gruff and abrasive person.
Hay says there were two columns—plus Coates on TV and radio. The newer conservative crowd, Nixon-Eisenhower types, Whittier, Laguna and South, who had not been shown Call-to-Action, start raising hell—get subversives out of Matt Foundation!
Zuma Beach inter-guild conference discusses sending letters to candidates—that’s where decision is made.
(Hull and Rowland in 1950 had panicked about McCarthy and government screaming about Homosexuality and communism—fled to Mexico for a few months, come back, Hull’s comrades want to know why—kicked out of party for H—Rowland had been expelled in Minneapolis before coming to LA.)
Hay really the only one who had close or major ties with CP at this point. Because of government investigating, by fall 52 he had made it a point not to remember names of anybody at meeting (Claims Confidential article came out in Spring 52) or faces—in case he does get called before HUAC. By fall 52, Hay only going to 5th and 2nd order and Mattachine Foundation.
Feb 1953 conference—discussion about reorganization—arises out of leadership, not from below. Aware that Matt has grown too fast, getting too unwieldy, too loose. Feeling need to consolidate. Also, strains beginning to grow in leadership group. Hay had proposed criticism-self-criticism meeting:
Hay starts off—admits tendency to strong-arm, to push people into agreeing with him. Chuck and Dale (Dale the source of most tension) don’t open up—Bob Hull, Paul Bernal do. Whole attempt a failure. C. October, 1952.
Security beginning to break down. People being drawn into committee who were not guild members. Names of guild members being mentioned to people in Discussion Groups, shouldn’t be happening. Stories circulating that no one should know.
Chuck a political opportunist—wants to move with the wind, follow the push from below, create an open organization for law reform. Hay wants criticism self-criticism session (Feb 53 Conf) to discuss why some are giving in to this impulse, what direction to move in.
Paul Coates column appears—ball taken out of their hands.
Rudi and Harry—will take years and years of work, we’ve moved too fast—time to retrench.
Bob and Dale and Chuck—too late to retrench; out of our hands but go along in the call to convention—trying to see how much of the original dream can be saved. Know convention will be held whether they approve it or not.
Hay’s Fifth Amendment Speech—really concerned about security. Purpose is to convince convention of continuing need for some measure of closedness, security, anonymity, or else many members will drop out. Speech made on Saturday. On Sunday 5th order meets, tells Hay his speech was a “total disaster.” Still holding to unanimity but “a ragged one.”
Hay initially claims that farewell speech given on Sunday of April convention.
Corrects it - farewell speech may have been at 2nd session in May, but the unanimity was gone after April, Rudi stops attending, whole thing unraveling.
Then definitely says farewell speech given in May—that’s when they offer the name.
Says Burns (Hay had never meet Burns before April convention) chaired May session, not April. April was a series of events, not session with speech from the floor etc. Rowland gives Keynote speech. If anyone chaired in April, it might have been Martin Block.
But May convention run and chaired by insurgent group. Bob and Chuck, from their guild, proposed that Burns chair since he’s accepted as leader. Hay has to accept since he doesn’t know people. Chuck’s opening speech gone over by 5th order for weeks.
Red-baiting restrained at April—completely unrestrained in May session. Motion for loyalty oath in May. Very bitter debate but defeated. Hay kept in background on Saturday—afraid his presence would lead to more redbaiting, so he wasn’t at main session. Proposed for vice-president at Sunday session in May, but declines.
Next six months almost a total blank for Hay—came close to a mental breakdown, seriously considered suicide.