Ken Burns, Los Angeles, January 10, 1977.
Introduction: Ken Burns participated in the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles for a small number of years in the early-to-mid 1950s. He was part of the group that moved the organization away from its more politically radical roots to a more conservative and cautious politics. Of all the interviews I did, this was the shortest and proved most difficult, since it was hard to get Burns to say much. Whether he was reluctant to talk, or whether his short involvement actually meant that it hadn’t figured importantly in his life and so had been largely forgotten, I will never know.
Went to discussion group sponsored by Mattachine Foundation. Claims that he didn’t recall structure—“a secret type of thing,” “very mysterious”—“we didn’t know who was in charge.”
Met in homes, through word of mouth. Would also have fundraising events. Group of us got together who weren’t happy with secretiveness. McCarthy era—lots of talk about Communists. Discussion groups “all over town”—says 5 or 6.
Many people wouldn’t use their own names. Doesn’t remember debate about minorities, or about preamble.
“We felt we had to work through people… who could better present what [homosexuality] was all about, better than ourselves.”
“We were not as militant as ONE.”
“A definite decision that by working through research projects and people in education and religion that we would get this acceptance. But we didn’t have a strategy… we didn’t have much confidence [in ourselves] at that time.”
“One of our primary things was the emphasis on the individual… there really wasn’t a lot of organizational strategy.”
“We didn’t expect an overwhelming response and initially we didn’t want it… we worked in the background. It was rare that we even wanted our name mentioned… there wasn’t enough research to give the public information that was valid.”
Difficult to coordinate out-of-state chapters.
Evelyn Hooker’s research as the most significant accomplishment—spoke, traveled, word got around. Also Porter clinic. [Langley-Porter]
Also on TV—commentator sought Mattachine out and threatened to blast them if they didn’t—we wouldn’t have done it at that time.
Burns resigned because he had changed jobs, had to travel, didn’t have the time.