Gus “Johnson” (born 1953), Interviewed October 14, 1993
Gus “Johnson” 14 October 1993 by Marc Stein. Copyright © Marc Stein 2021. All rights reserved.
I interviewed Gus “Johnson” at his home in West Philadelphia in October 1993. Gus is his real name, but he was commonly known by his nickname, which is used in a few of my other oral history interviews. He asked me to use an alternative last name, which I have done here. I was interested in interviewing “Johnson” after several other oral history narrators mentioned him, but I was unsuccessful in obtaining contact information until I serendipitously saw his name on an election ballot for the University City Arts League, where I was taking yoga classes. Someone there eventually provided me with his contact information. Before the taped part of the interview began, “Johnson” provided me with the following biographical information:
Date of Birth: 25 February 1953
Place of Birth: Philadelphia
Place of Mother's Birth: Greenwood, South Carolina
Mother's Occupation: Housewife
Place of Father's Birth: Savannah, Georgia
Father's Occupation: Businessman and Minister
Race/Ethnicity: Mixed (African American, European American, and Native American)
Religious Background: Episcopalian
Class Background: Middle Class
1953-69: 240 Monroe St., Soutwark (Queen Village), Philadelphia
1969-72: Pine St. and 6th St., Center City, Philadelphia
1972-73: 3512 Spring Garden St., Powelton Village, Philadelphia
1973-78: 4318 Pine St., West Philadelphia, Philadelphia
1979: Rt. 1, Mountain Groove, Pennsylvania
1962: Singer and Actor
1964-72: Actor (TLA Theatre)
1972-74: Student and Nightclub Performer
1973-76: Production Company Owner
In 2021 I was unsuccessful in locating “Johnson.”
Marc Stein Interview with Gus “Johnson,” 14 October 1993
Transcribed by Rob Marchesani and Marc Stein.
MS: This is Marc Stein. I'm interviewing Gus in West Philly on October 14, 1993. And I thought I would start by asking you to say something about your early childhood years. I know you were born in 1953 in Philadelphia. If you can just say something about your family and your neighborhood?
GJ: Alright. My mother was thirty when she married. My father was much older than she was. They waited to have children. We were all spaced. I was one of the youngest. And they were very Victorian. Because of their age, there was a very Victorian atmosphere that we grew up in and completely Victorian furniture and all the trappings really. And being southerners, they were very gracious people, but we lived in a neighborhood that was very, very mixed. It was wonderful. I learned some Yiddish probably before I learned to speak English.
MS: Is that right?
MS: So when you say mixed, you mean mixed racially?
GJ: Racially yes, absolutely.
MS: What kind of groups were most significant?
GJ: Let's see--along 4th street, because there were lots of material stores, it was Jewish. And there were Blacks. And along 2nd Street it was all Slavic. And I can remember when I was about twelve, there was an excitement in the neighborhood because a Spanish family moved in and nobody had ever seen anyone like that before. Everyone was sort of taking food over to their house just to see what they looked like. But it was a great, great neighborhood to grow up in. And it changed because of the restoration of Society Hill. It had been a wonderful neighborhood about a hundred years prior to that and fallen on bad times. And so in the sixties, there was this thing across America to restore neighborhoods and colonize, if you could, a lot of the neighborhoods, and so the government poured in tons of money into urban renewal.
GJ: And so that was one of the ideas. The mayor at that time, who was a neighbor of ours, Richardson Dilworth, had an idea, which is a crazy idea. Why should the wealthy commute from their estates to Center City for business, to conduct business? Why shouldn't they live in the neighborhood and commute on the weekends to their estates? And that's how Society Hill started.
MS: And what effect did it have on South Street and Queen Village?
GJ: On Southwark, it didn't have any effect at all, because the line was Lombard Street.
MS: Is that right?
GJ: But it had an effect on the immediate area, which is now Society Hill, because it was mostly Jewish and there were a smattering of Blacks in the neighborhood, but primarily it was Jewish and they were working class. And the city, along with urban renewal, did the most horrible things. That neighborhood looked like East Berlin for the longest time because they threw everyone out. Literally. Literally. And then they would use the most underhanded means. And most of the people were immigrants. And so they would say, "Your drain pipe needs repairing," and they would levy a fine of like $2,500, and then they would go around their properties and they would just levy these astronomical fines. And by the time that they wound up, the fines were more than the price of the house. So they gave them no alternative but to move, and so the neighborhood stayed completely empty. I can remember when I was a kid--you'd have to go through it to get to Market Street or something and it was just this skeleton of a neighborhood. There was nothing there, no people whatsoever. And slowly but surely, people started moving in and restoring the neighborhood.
MS: Did you have a lot of brothers and sisters?
GJ: One brother and three sisters.
MS: So there were five kids altogether.
MS: And do you have any memories of any recognition when you were a child that you were different in some way?
GJ: Oh absolutely.
GJ: Sure, yes.
MS: Can you talk about that?
GJ: Oh god yes. I used to tell my mother I thought that she either found me or found them, because it was like night and day. We had nothing in common.
MS: You mean you and your brothers and sisters.
GJ: Right. And I could remember in grade school--god I don't even remember what grade it was--but going through history books. And I can still remember seeing nude statues and just staring. My family, because of my parents' background, they were very, very religious, and I certainly wasn't at all. They were not into the arts and I was, even as a child. My mother pushed us towards it, but I was the one who sort of grasped that whole thing. And I went through school; I was a history major. My face was always in a book or something and my brother was out doing things with his friends. I was at home reading or something.
MS: Did you get teased in any ways because of it?
MS: By other kids?
GJ: No, my brother mostly, but it was fairly light.
MS: Yeah, fairly light?
MS: And did you have any kind of experiences when you were a child that made you think that you might be gay or homosexual?
GJ: I don't think that kids have a word for it. “Doing it with each other.” It--there's always that word, it. I never knew what it is, when you're doing it.
MS: So you were doing that then?
GJ: Yeah, sure.
MS: With other kids in the neighborhood?
GJ: Yes, in my neighborhood, yes.
MS: Starting at what age, do you recall?
GJ: I guess about nine or ten.
MS: It was never spoken about with the other kids or was it?
GJ: Oh god yes. Yes. I went to this boys' school for a while--St. Peter's. And now it's co-ed, but it's down on 3rd and Pine. And while the school itself is on Lombard Street, the church is on Pine. And in order to go to the school, you had to sing in the choir. And I think the grades went from like K to eighth grade or something. When you got to like the fourth or fifth grade, it was like this mass orgy. It was like even the choir master was gay. You felt right at home.
MS: And this was a mixed racial school?
GJ: Oh yes. Actually I was one of the first Blacks at that time to ever enter that school.
MS: Is that right?
MS: Did you encounter racism?
GJ: At first.
MS: By the other kids as well as the teachers?
GJ: No, no, the teachers never, but by some of the other kids.
MS: Now what kind of religious school was this?
GJ: It was Episcopalian.
MS: Episcopalian? And so describe this orgy atmosphere. Would you see kids after school or was this taking place during school?
GJ: Well there were these pews, you see, and I'm telling you, when I first went there, I was about fourteen and I was not used to things like being groped during choir practice. They were very open about it. Then the teacher would say--whatever his name was—“why don't you stop that.” And everybody would laugh. It was a quite relaxed atmosphere, but I was surprised.
MS: Do you remember the first time something like that happened?
GJ: Yes, yes.
MS: Can you tell me about it?
GJ: That I was groped in school?
GJ: Yes. I think I'd been at St. Peter’s for about two weeks. And one of the kids next to me was groping the boy next to him. And I tried to ignore it, so the next thing I know I had a hand on my crotch. And so of course you’re singing and you know what an Episcopal school is like: “Oh little lamb of god who taketh away the sins of the world.” So yes, and the teacher, Mr. Robinson, who was just this flaming queen, composed beautiful music. But he had particular students that he favored and then he would invite all the new boys home and try to make them.
MS: Is that right? Did that ever happen to you?
GJ: So he invited me to his house. He lived at 4th and Spruce and he had a grand piano there and we were sitting down. And he sat me down next to him on this piano bench, this long bench. And so then he started talking and--horrible looking man with many chins--he's playing and one of the things that we had to do at the time was to play. Piano lessons were a part of the curriculum. And music was a big interest in the school. And so we were at his house. And the next thing I know he goes and he brings sherry for both of us. I think this is great. Here I am, this kid, having liquor, which I knew you couldn't have. And then he made a suggestion that we go to his room and we should take off our clothes. And I said to him, "Mr. Robinson, I am fourteen years old." And I think if he were a bit younger or in better shape, I would have jumped, but I did remind him that I was fourteen years old. It was my way, as I was going out the door, and I said, "I think I should leave."
MS: Then nothing happened.
GJ: Nothing happened, no, no. And he was very nice the next day at school. It was just like it never happened.
MS: He didn't retaliate.
GJ: Not at all.
MS: Now did your parents ever know that this was going on at school?
MS: And were there ever any kind of scandals in the school when someone found out that this was going on?
GJ: No. The only thing that we had--there was a head master, Father Cusney. He was a huge, huge man. And he was not a nice person. And he literally was removed for actually striking some of the students. And he was the head master of the school, but he also worked with Friends Select, because when we got to grade eight we could go to Friends Select.
MS: I see.
GJ: And so he worked there as a teacher part of the time. And there was an incident with one of the neighbor's children. It was their daughter. And you don't strike the daughter of an admiral. You don't strike the only child of a middle-aged admiral. I mean these people were like forty before they had this child and so she was the sun and Louisa was everything to them.
GJ: And doing that, he was quietly removed. And they lived across the street from the school. They had servants. They had cars. The Episcopalians go all out with their priests and suddenly he had nothing.
MS: Did you go off then to Friends Select?
GJ: No. No, no, no. I did not.
MS: Where did you start going to school after eighth grade?
GJ: After eighth grade I spent two years in South Philadelphia at Bartlett. Then I went to South Philadelphia High.
MS: And were things pretty similar at those schools or totally different?
GJ: It was totally different--my first encounter with Italians. At first it was because we were going into a totally different neighborhood
MS: At Bartlett or at South.
GJ: At Bartlett and South Philadelphia. At Bartlett you were on the fringe of the Italian neighborhood, but in South Philadelphia High you were in the heart of it.
MS: And so what was different about it?
GJ: What was different about it? Well there were lots of race riots. I'll never forget. There was this guy, Louie DiGeronimo's father, supposedly owned a beer distributing company. His father I think was killed at some point for being mixed up with some unsavory characters, but we had gym class together. And instead of letting us outside during breaks, the roof was fenced in, and so you'd go up there and also the lunchroom was up there. And once lunch period was over, of course they cleaned up. And any of the students could go up during their breaks. And I remember we were up there. It was like study period. And he said “have you ever done this?” And we started having sex. And it went on through high school.
MS: With him in particular, you mean?
GJ: Yes, yes. It was the oddest thing. In June we'd say goodbye and in September we would. It was in school only.
MS: For several years?
MS: And what was his name?
GJ: Louie DiGeronimo. I shall never forget that.
MS: How long? For three or four years?
MS: And were you having sex with other kids?
GJ: Yes, yes.
MS: And was he as well?
GJ: Yes. There was the, the, the guy named Patrick Schmittenberg.
MS: That doesn't sound Italian.
GJ: No it wasn't. He was my neighbor. He lived at 4th and Spruce. And his mother had been divorced. She was on like her third husband. They worked for the government and he was an only child. And they were German. And we were best of friends, and we did carry on until, oh god, I guess I got out of high school.
MS: So also for several years?
GJ: Yes. I met him when I was about thirteen. We went everywhere. We did everything, except for school.
MS: So would you say he was your most significant relationship or was Louis?
GJ: Louie DeGeronimo? Louie DeGeronimo was not. I never thought of him. It was sex. I remember when we were in the stairwell one day and nearly got caught. The vice principal suspected that someone was there. I'll never forget that. And he yelled down, "I know you’re there. I’ll suspend you!” And really here we are with our pants down to our ankles.
MS: So tell me what you meant when you said that there were race riots at South Philly High.
GJ: People were getting shot, killed. It was an awful time.
MS: And was it between Italians and Blacks?
GJ: Yes, and any whites who were not Italian who were in the school.
MS: So it was Italians against whoever was not.
GJ: The strangers, the outsiders, yeah.
MS: And that's because other people were coming from farther neighborhoods?
GJ: Mmhmm [assent].
MS: And were you caught up in any kind of violence?
GJ: Sometimes, yes.
MS: I'm not exactly sure how to ask this, but in your sexual dealings, did you encounter racism during high school?
GJ: No, no I didn't.
MS: You didn't.
MS: And why do you think that is?
GJ: I don't know. I really don't. I have no idea at all. It was afterwards that I really encountered it. The neighborhood I came from, it just didn't happen, and so it just never happened. And everyone lived next door to everyone else. If you were ill, your neighbors brought you things, and it was common. Everybody was sleeping with everybody else. So it wasn't anything there and it just didn't happen.
MS: Were you also having sex with girls at all during these years?
GJ: Sometimes. You have to keep up an image in high school.
MS: So that's what that was about?
GJ: Yes, mainly.
MS: Yeah, so it wasn't as often?
MS: And it sounds like it wasn't particularly enjoyable?
GJ: No, no, no. It was to keep up the image.
MS: So tell me this--was it ever talked about in your high school years?
GJ: No one ever talked about it. Everybody was screwing everybody else. In the gym, you'd go into the showers. It was happening. And outside the shower, you'd walk out of the shower and everybody would have the towels around and there were these long benches and everybody was doing things to everyone else. And once their clothes were on, nobody ever talked about it. It was bad enough that the teachers sometimes would have to come in and yell for us to get dressed. No one ever, ever talked. I was surprised. I didn't know that school could be so exciting. But it was. It was an eye-opener going to a different area to go to school. But the odd thing about it was that a lot of the kids that you were having sex with were the same kids that were fighting you after school.
MS: Is that right?
GJ: Mmhmm [assent].
MS: Can you think of any particular incidents like that?
GJ: No, not me, I can honestly say I've never ever, ever, ever had anything like that. But I know that in the boys' room things would happen. There were sexual things going on between Blacks, Italians, and so on, and yet after school there were these race riots.
MS: How do you explain that?
GJ: I can't. I just cannot. I've never been able to explain it.
MS: Now did you ever read anything? Since you said that you were quite a reader, did you ever read about homosexuality in those years in any kind of book?
GJ: Anything that I read about homosexuality put homosexuals as sick, demented monsters that should be shot, burned, put to the stake, just erased from the face of the earth.
MS: Do you remember anything specifically?
GJ: We had to read--that was my first encounter with Freud in high school. And I said I disagreed with that. And I remember--it's not the A.M.A. Of course they thought that everybody was sick.
MS: The American Psychiatric Association?
GJ: Yes. Yes, was always putting out statements to the press that it's a disease, it's a sickness, and schools tried to really push that at that time.
MS: Yeah? So that was openly taught?
GJ: These things are not good and when it came to that, homosexuals were considered to be these-- and I can remember when we were shown films. These are the people to avoid and the homosexuals were the type of people, deviants, that wring their hands while drooling after young men. It was crazy.
MS: Now you started acting and singing, you told me before?
GJ: My mother hated that.
MS: As a pretty young child, right?
GJ: She hated that. And I did.
MS: How did that come about? Where were you singing and acting?
GJ: I started doing it because I was asked to do it. When Society Hill was going on, they decided to re-finish Head House. They would have affairs and things outside. So I was eventually asked to sing as part of a group and then I was asked to sing later on as a solo. And once I started doing that, I was bitten. The ham. And I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
MS: Did you start to encounter homosexuality in the theater/music world?
GJ: I didn't. When I got older. By the time I was about fourteen and never any earlier than that, no.
MS: So what happened when you were around fourteen?
GJ: When I was about fourteen, I saw two women in a dressing room, 'cause the door was ajar. And I was walking by and they were having sex.
MS: And was this a theater production? Do you remember?
GJ: It was a production, but it was after.
MS: But I mean were you performing in a theater?
GJ: In a theater, yes.
MS: And they were also performers?
GJ: Yes. They were older than I was. I don't recall whether they were in the show itself or whether they were a part of the crew administration, but they had some involvement with the theater. And each other.
MS: And was that pretty common from then on? Did you encounter a lot of homosexuality?
GJ: You encountered it. There was a lot of it and most of it, for the strangest reason, was hidden. I've always been a very open person and so I was not afraid of what I was. I never put a label on it, but I remember that so many homosexuals that I met were afraid and it was still during a time that you could get fired.
GJ: Or be blackballed for life.
MS: So even in the theater world, people were pretty closeted, would you say?
GJ: Yes, absolutely, yes. And they still are, but not to the extent that they were then.
MS: Well aside from your music teacher in grade school, do you remember the first adult gay man you met?
GJ: Absolutely. I followed him home. I had a big standard poodle named Gustave. I must have been about sixteen. I had this huge poodle that I bought. And it was apricot color, like the color of that chair, the brown golden thing. And I was walking my dog down Pine Street. And this man turned the corner. I guess it was about 7th and Pine or something. Started walking down Pine, on 7th Street down Pine. He had a shopping cart with him and it was full of laundry. And I don't know why I did this. I don't know why I did this still. I followed him all the way down to 3rd and Pine and somehow got in front of him and my dog tripped over his laundry and I started helping him up. And then I start apologizing and it was all over after that. I planned this whole thing and I'd never ever been with an adult man in my life.
MS: And you went home with him?
GJ: And I found out that he lived on American Street and I lived on Monroe, which are a block away from each other. American is between 2nd and 3rd and runs from South to Monroe, and he lived on American Street near Bainbridge. And I said, "Well I'm going your way," and then he invited me in for tea. And so I went to his house and he was living in this little house. And we started talking and it got to be about 11 o'clock at night, I think. And whenever things happened when I was a kid, I was always naïve, because it never dawned on me that you don't serve people tea in your bedroom. Here you are, we were in his bedroom. And finally he said, "Are you going to take off your clothes?" And so my response was, "Here? Now?" And he said, "Yes," and I did. And I knew, I knew. All those old movies that I'd seen--I knew. I knew that this was it. Yes, and no one my age could ever do it for me after that.
MS: Is that right?
GJ: Right. Yes, I was really like a vampire. I went out at night in search of adults.
MS: So as a teenager, were there places, then, that you would start going to to cruise?
GJ: I wasn't much into cruising. I was working most of the time. Philadelphia's gay society, if you want to call it that, was totally different at one time. People did cruise, but for the most part, if you wanted to meet someone, introductions were usually made. It was very good. So it was safer at the time, in that regard, and you always knew someone who knew the person you were interested in.
MS: So that's how you would find your partners?
GJ: Yeah, right.
MS: So there weren't many repeat performances of that street pickup that you just described?
GJ: No, no, no, no, no, no.
MS: Were most of your partners, going through your teenage years, Black or white?
MS: And was there any different dynamic that went on when you were with someone else who was Black?
GJ: No, no, not at all. Not at all. I always had this thing about finding out about people. And I think one of the reasons I chose the stage--I'm sure you've heard other people say this--is that they're there and you're here. And basically I was a shy person. I am. I may not seem like it all the time, but it's true, and I stay pretty much to myself. But I've always been curious about other cultures. And so I joke with my agent. I told him that I want to spread happiness to the otherwise dull and dreary people in the world. And I've always been curious about other people.
MS: And the theater world is supposed to be able to allow for that?
GJ: Oh it can. If you travel, if you were on a tour or something, of course. And if you were in Muleship, Montana, or somewhere, you were on the stage. They don't care who you are. You're on the stage. And when they leave that, the next day they're going to be on a plow or something. So to them, you're the big star, even if you are either in the chorus or just an extra.
GJ: You're the closest they're ever going to get to that small amount of fame. And so it was really interesting, if you'd go on tour and go through small towns, how they reacted, but also I just wanted to find out and know what Asians were like or Indians were like or whatever. So whenever I got the chance, I did it.
MS: Well now maybe moving ahead a little bit in time, you told me before that you moved out of your parents' house sometime around when you were sixteen, which would have been around 1969. How come you left home?
GJ: My father was dead by that time and I did not get along very well with my mother. And parents a lot of times do not really suspect something and parents are the last people to admit it. And I knew my mother suspected something. And she wouldn't have wanted to admit anything. And I was telling her all these things.
MS: What would you be telling her?
GJ: That I was sleeping with men. And men were coming by my house, picking me up, and then she was going, "Oh well, he works with that person." And I'd say, “No I don't, I don't.” And I remember when I lived with someone. I moved out and then moved in with a man that I met with the poodle, Harry his name was, and we lived together and my mother absolutely refused to acknowledge that this was happening.
MS: So she never tried to, say, stop you?
GJ: No. No.
MS: Nothing like that.
GJ: No, not at all.
MS: So you moved in with Harry when you were sixteen?
GJ: Mmhmm [assent].
MS: And let's see, was that at 6th and Vine?
GJ: No, that was at American Street.
MS: American Street. Oh right, because it was just a block away.
MS: How long were the two of you together?
GJ: Not long at all.
MS: So you moved to 6th and Vine.
GJ: Then I moved, yes. My best friend Steven Janoski, he was in the same situation that I was, only his parents were older. Tommi Avicolli knows him, but his parents were older and his father died when he was fourteen, and so I was even a couple of years older. And I was his best friend. And his mother became the executor of the estate. She did not live at the house. She had her own apartment and she remained in her apartment, but at eighteen he sued for his own independence because his mother, as the executor of the estate, was spending money like it was water.
MS: Is that right?
GJ: Yeah. So he, in order to come into that--because his father was a lot of things and none of them were very good and he used to call me the black fairy. We used to get into these arguments all the time.
MS: The father?
GJ: The father. The father and I would get into these awful arguments. And his father had one leg, and so whenever his father would get me upset I'd call him Peggy, which was really gonna' annoy him.
MS: So you and Steve moved in together? Is that right?
MS: At 6th and Vine?
GJ: At Pine. Pine. 6th and Pine.
MS: Oh that was 6th and Pine.
GJ: The second house in from the corner. And we created Maisson Duck.
MS: You want to tell me about that?
GJ: This wild house. It was a wild, wild house that was a drop-in spot. And then three other guys, two at first and then another one moved in afterwards.
MS: Who were they?
GJ: There was Sag Powell, Steven Labkoff, and Fred Saunger. And Fred Saunger was a male prostitute that Steven met and fell in love with and realized that he was never going to be anything but a male prostitute, but he stayed anyway for some reason. And Steven Labkoff was a real good friend of ours and he moved in. And then Sag Powell, who was one of the really, really special people who died. He was one of the first people, I think, in the city to die of AIDS.
MS: Is that right?
MS: What can you tell me about him? His background?
GJ: He had danced in San Francisco and L.A. Tommi would....
MS: Tommi's told me about him, yeah. I just wanted your impressions.
GJ: He was just an incredible person. I loved him very much and he was just a good friend and I think of him a lot. A lot, because we were very, very close, and I don't think that there was anything that ever, ever scared him at all. And the more bizarre it was, then you could expect him to do it, really.
MS: Let me make sure I understand this, because I thought you said before that you had lived for a time at 6th and Vine. Did I just miss that?
MS: It was Pine?
MS: So there was no place at 6th and Vine.
GJ: No, no.
GJ: Except the Vine Street Expressway.
MS: Right. Well maybe we should shift to talk a little bit about how you became involved in gay activism, because I know that you were involved with GLF.
GJ: It was a fluke. It was a fluke. I can remember it. It was like '68, '69. I remember it. I had a friend, and I don't remember him very well now and he probably wasn't a very good friend then, but a casual acquaintance that I knew. I remember being asked to go to a meeting. And the theater was located at 4th and South. And I went to a meeting in a print shop at 2nd and South. It was on 2nd Street. And it was dark. It was at night. It was in the winter, so it was dark. And I went to this print shop and it was packed with people sitting on tools and all this stuff and on the floor and that was like the first real progressive gay organization in the city.
MS: And that was GLF.
GJ: No it wasn't.
MS: What was the group?
GJ: It had no name. And then it became the Homophile Action League and then GLF branched out from that, because let's see--then we were in '68. By '69, December of '69, women wanted one group and men wanted another group, and women and men wanted another group. And so they just branched out. And the Gay Activist Alliance came about a year later.
MS: Why don't we start with HAL then? Did you start to go to HAL meetings regularly?
GJ: No, no.
MS: That was just that one time.
GJ: Well what happened was I was working. At that time, when I wasn't going to school, I was working. And so I went there and the theater went under a period of bankruptcy. And we had to keep it open. It was a part of the contract. But we were receiving money in grants from the Ford Foundation and Pew and all these things and the foundations and there was a lot of money, but the head of the theater had thrown it into bankruptcy.
MS: This was TLA?
GJ: Mmhmm [assent]. It went under three bankruptcies before it finally just closed its doors as a theater. But the first one, we kept the theater open. And so my boss, Samuel Long, who was very, very gay, knew these people needed a place to meet, because the person who owned this shop was getting uptight about all these people who were seen coming into the shop at certain hours of the night. And so I asked my boss if he'd consent to open the theater to the group.
MS: Is that right? So it was still Homophile Action League?
GJ: Yes. And so the side lobby could accommodate most of them. And of course all the way in the back at that time there was the concession area, where we provided coffee and all those things and seats.
MS: Do you remember any other person who was at the HAL meeting?
GJ: Oh, yes! Yes, Kiyoshi.
MS: Kiyoshi was there?
MS: Anyone else?
GJ: Well none of the people are here in the city. But there was Bruce Hamilton and some other people. But they're not here. They all went to Washington.
MS: O.K. But you said you didn't stick with HAL.
MS: You were working and absorbed with school.
GJ: But I felt that this was a big thing that I was doing. I was very pleased that I was getting my boss to do this. But I was very shocked when they consented.
MS: Was this a mostly white group, do you recall?
GJ: No. No it was not.
MS: It was mixed racially?
GJ: It was mixed racially, yes. The thing about it, Marc, is that it's like you and I could sit down and talk as we are now and--I'll try to explain this to you--we could even have sex. But once you saw me on the street, you wouldn't acknowledge my existence. So that's how it was then. Often whites who were having anything to do with non-whites were really ostracized by their peers. And it took a lot of courage for both people to have a relationship or to go public with the relationship. So it was not an easy time.
MS: Can you tell me a little bit about how then you got involved with GLF?
GJ: Yes. Sag and Steven Janoski got me involved with GLF. And it was just starting to come together.
MS: Do you know how it started and why it started?
GJ: The Stonewall incident is what really did it.
GJ: The oddest thing is that we knew, everybody, we all heard about it, of course. Philadelphia--I love this city--we knew it should have happened. Something should have happened a long time ago to make lesbians and gays more aware. I mean to bring it to the public eye. But for some reason, it never happened. And when that happened, then lesbians and gays started really getting out there and saying this is what we should do.
MS: Why don't you tell me what you then did with GLF or how you first started going.
GJ: Well, I first started going because Steven Janoski was going to Temple. And he was also going. They would meet at Horizon House at 12th and Lombard.
MS: Is this GLF or GAA?
GJ: GAA. Well the Gay Liberation Front sprang off of the Homophile Action League. Then GAA sprung up and ran.
GJ: So they just changed the name.
MS: People have talked to me about two different GLFs. I know there was a student group at Temple. And then there was Kiyoshi's group at Penn that covered the whole city?
MS: Is that the way you remember it or no?
GJ: No. Kiyoshi was responsible, because Kiyoshi, for one thing, was out there organizing and really getting people involved to form an organization. We met at 21st. He had an apartment on 21st Street between Pine and Locust. And we used to meet there. And if I'm not mistaken, we met there a few times and then we later on went on to Horizon House, because his apartment was not that large.
MS: What would you do in GLF? Was it mostly meetings or were there actions?
GJ: Mostly meetings. Actions hadn't really taken place. During the time that the Gay Liberation Front was really at its height, there was at the Judge Louis Quadrangle on 6th and Market a big rally that was staged.
MS: At where did you say?
GJ: The Judge Louis Quadrangle. You know where that is?
MS: No, I don’t think so.
GJ: 6th and Market. Between 5th and 6th and Market, well there's Independence Hall and you keep walking towards Market Street and there's a park and you cross Market Street and there's this other park that has this fountain in it and it's called the Judge Louis Quadrangle.
MS: I see. Why was there a rally? Do you know?
GJ: It was a gay liberation rally. One of the first. Probably the first in the city.
MS: And you were there?
GJ: And I was there, yes. And so was the news. Oh there were lots of speakers. Barbara Gittings was there.
MS: Is that right?
GJ: And I was thinking, “Oh my god. I'm gonna' be seen on the news. Everyone will know.” And after about five minutes I said, “What the hell? Who cares?”
MS: People have said to me that the gay movement in Philadelphia changed in 1969-1970, not only because it became more militant but it went from being a largely white movement throughout the ‘60s to being a very multiracial movement for a few years in the '70s. Can you say anything about that?
GJ: I don't remember it being an all-white movement. I do remember it being multiracial.
MS: Well I guess this was before you were involved.
GJ: Yes, absolutely.
MS: But it doesn't sound like you had a feeling that this was something new because you hadn't known what it was.
GJ: I hadn't known. I hadn't known what it was before, but it came together very well. It was its time. And we got out. I remember with Tommi Avicolli and Dan Daniels and several other people, we got out one day. It was a Saturday and it was a protest of holding hands. And we went into department stores. There were like a dozen of us holding hands, arm in arm, and doing these things and shopping and trying to elicit responses. And people were trying to be very cool and ignore us and Tommi and I went to Bonwit Teller and tried on furs and all these things. And the women thought it was great. The guys didn't think it was so great. And then I remember in 1970 a paper came out called The Gay Dealer. Frank Rizzo was the police commissioner, I think, at that time, and on a dare, this was at Broad and Spruce. It was the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I was there to hand him a copy of The Gay Dealer. My friend Eddy Taylor and I. Frank Rizzo was surrounded by the police from one side of Broad to the other. Really like this block of police.
GJ: And he's in the middle, and so whenever he would stop, the entire parade would stop. And we got to Broad and Spruce, and he got to Broad and Spruce, and the cheering turned into jeering. And then at that moment, again I don't know why I did this. I had these papers and I managed to get under the police, between them, and ran up, and he stopped. Eddie was with me. He looked at me and I said, "Mr. Rizzo." He's this huge man. "I think you should read this." And I’d heard so many bad things about him I just thought he was going to pull out a club and bludgeon me right there on the spot. And so he stopped. The entire parade stopped. And we were talking and he's going through this, examining the paper, and he was asking what it was, and I was telling him about it. And so he folded it up and he put it in his jacket pocket. He says, "I'll read it, young man." I said, "No you won't." He said, "I really will read it." And he thanked me and he shook my hand and he shook Eddie's hand. And of course we walked back to our group, really with our chests puffed up, because we had done what nobody else had. I would never have done that today. I probably would, I'm sure. But yes, that was a thing; that was great. That was my first encounter with Frank Rizzo.
MS: Any other memories of what you did with GLF?
GJ: Oh yes, yes. We helped form the Gay Switchboard, the Gay Task Force. Oh god--what is its name--there's a woman's organization--Sisterspace came out of there. I was on the board and actually voted the money to give them. And again from out of there we started the gay community center. And just really went around giving talks. Again, Tommi and Steve Janoski and other people were involved with that. And there were some crazy things, like the Gay S&M Society and all these other things. But the focus was really in the beginning--I can remember just standing out in the cold feeling really, really angry. And there was Tommi and I and a few other people trying to stop. The bars were awful bad. They were terrible. And probably if you weren't pretty or if you weren't white, you weren't going to get in. And all well known.
MS: Had you encountered that?
GJ: No. I actually had not encountered that at all, ‘cause we knew a lot of the people, the bartenders and the people who worked at the door. They would come to the meetings. But a lot of people just were turned away, so we protested that.
MS: Which bar, do you remember?
GJ: Oh, god yes, the biggest one at the time in the city was the Allegro. So what we would do was we would pull the fire alarms in order to stop. And that was another thing. When the police were raiding a bar, you would pull the fire alarm, which would just block them up. They couldn't do anything at all.
MS: So you were fighting racism in the bars? How did the bar and the people in the bars respond?
GJ: The people in the bars chose to ignore what was going on, which they still do--choose to ignore what's going on. And it's slightly better really than it was. The last time I was downtown, I just haven't seen any change in their policies at all.
MS: Did you encounter much racism in GAA? I know Tommi has told me that there were disputes at times, especially around election times.
GJ: There were always accusations around election time. And I did not. I did not. I can honestly say I did not.
MS: You have good impressions of people like Mark Segal?
GJ: I despise Mark Segal.
MS: Then and now or just now?
GJ: Then and now. Then and now.
MS: Why did you despise him then?
GJ: He was a glory seeker. He came on the scene late. He did a little bit of stuff. Shot off his mouth and tried to take credit for everything that had happened in the movement. And there were people who had been out there getting their asses kicked. People died protesting bad treatment, and then you have Mark Segal, who just appeared by chaining himself to a camera on The Mike Douglas Show and showing that he was a homosexual and suddenly wanting to take credit for all that had gone down before. And I absolutely resented it.
MS: Do you literally mean people died?
GJ: Yes. People were killed. Yes. And I can tell you something else while I was in the GAA. We started a program because straights used to encounter gays at 20th and Spruce. There was this big cruising area and so they would pick up teenagers on the weekends and what they would do was to take them down by the railroad tracks and kill them. Rob them, rape them, and kill them. And the ones that weren't killed a lot of times were left on the tracks, and if they didn't get off the tracks when a train was coming, they lost a limb or were killed. And it happened. It happened. It happened. And finally we were able to work with the police and we got volunteers with cars to patrol the area on the weekends. I was one of the people and we were able to put a stop to it. It took a long time, over a year. But we were able to chase them down, apprehend them, and then hold them until the police got there. And so I remember an incident where a kid was snatched off of 20th Street and Spruce, just pulled into the car. And we got after them and chased them down Pine Street and we were able to get him out at Broad and Pine and call the police.
MS: So you found the police pretty cooperative?
GJ: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. At times.
MS: Let's see. Did you have much experience in bars? Were there bars that you were able to go to?
GJ: Most of them. I really didn't have a problem with them at all.
MS: So what was your favorite bar in the late '60s, early '70s?
GJ: Well it wasn't the Allegro. There wasn't really a favorite one. By the time I had finished passing out literature and being insulted, it left a bad taste in my mouth for the bars. It really did and it still lingers.
MS: What was the one place that you went to most frequently?
GJ: Well the Allegro was the place and the Steps.
GJ: Oh yes. Yes. That was one of the places to go to.
MS: And you said you personally were not excluded, but you certainly knew of people who were.
GJ: Yes, yes. America has this thing. If you are very dark with real negroid features, they turn you away. And so most of the people who were turned away were very dark with very negroid features.
MS: I wanted to ask you a set of questions about relations between lesbians and gay men.
GJ: In the early part of the movement, it was great. It really was. And then once you had the Homophile Action League and then groups started to branch off from that, it really became bad. It did.
MS: Why don't you start first with the time when things were good? This was in HAL and then the early GLF?
GJ: Yes, and I'm going to just go back. There was a time when gays and lesbians really--it sounds like another century--there was a strong bond. And somehow I think the movement sort of liberated everybody and they just went off. Everybody went off into their own world, I guess.
MS: What do you remember about the times when things were positive? I mean where would you have felt the bonds? Did you have good friends who were lesbians?
GJ: Yes. Oh yes. Very good friends. And I remember I had two neighbors who were older women. And I was a teenager and they lived at 4th and Delancey. Peg and Ellen. And Ellen was British and I used to go over there on the weekends. And again I was a teenager and I would sit in their kitchen and they had a first floor apartment. And there was a rabbi who lived above them. And they'd have all these women and they'd party on the weekends. And one night, it was a Saturday night, and they were sitting there. And I was drunk and they were drunk. And I was about fifteen. And they were drunk and Peg leaned over the table and she said, "Do you know what you are? You're a faggot. You are a homosexual." She starts using all these terms. And I said, "No I'm not. No I'm not. Yes I am." She'd sit and we'd sit around and sing and this rabbi would pound on the floor.
MS: Was that some kind of breakthrough moment when she said that to you?
GJ: Well yes. It was, yes and no. You always know, but admitting it publicly is one thing.
MS: Was that one of the first times you admitted it?
GJ: Yeah, it was.
MS: So you remember that as an example of closeness?
GJ: Very close, yes.
MS: Yeah. Any other examples?
GJ: Oh yes. I had some friends who lived on Lombard Street, right off of 21st. They were a group of lesbians that owned the house. I was about seventeen and they decided that I should have a boyfriend. So they used to go out to the bars and they'd bring home these guys for me to go out with. And it never worked. It just never worked out. But I was very thankful that they would do these things. "You need someone in your life!" “I have a dog.” They would bring home these men. So most of the time the guy was a little drunk or something.
MS: Oh really.
MS: Now what about in the early movement? Were things still positive?
GJ: Everything, yes, yes, because everyone was fighting for one cause.
MS: Do you remember some of the women specifically?
GJ: Byrna Aronson was just a powerful person in the community. And Rosalie Davies--when she started out was Rosalie Buck--was a big influence in the community. Arleen Olshan, who later on teamed up with Ed Hermance with Giovanni's Room. There were just a number of women who were just really, really, really, really close with men, had a close alliance. And I was very sad when that suddenly broke off, because for a while they wouldn't even speak to me.
MS: Do you remember when things changed?
GJ: I'd say about 1972. You could really feel it.
MS: You remember any specific incidents?
GJ: They just wanted their own space. I remember once I was with Arleen Olshan and some women in Giovanni's Room and then she was talking and she was talking to them. They were talking to us. And they were agreeing with her. And I just said, "Yes." And she turned around and just nearly took off my head and later on, about two years later, she apologized for the incident.
MS: At the time she thought you shouldn't be part of the conversation?
GJ: Because I was male, yes.
MS: What groups did they break off into? Was this the Radicalesbians? Dyketactics?
GJ: Dyketactics was one of them. Radicalesbians, Sisterspace. And again, we knew a lot of the women who were in different organizations. And I remember someone had called from GAA. There was going to be a mass rally and demonstration. And I was asked to get on my bike and go to their headquarters, which was Chestnut Street at the time. And I really think I was out here in West Philadelphia, but they said they would open the door, take this from me, because I knew them, and yet.
MS: Was this the Chester Ave. Women's Center?
GJ: No, it was Chestnut.
GJ: And it was completely different when I got there. And the Anna Crusis women's choir--I've known a lot of the women who sang and still sing in the choir. I was one of their early supporters, helped form a tech group for them. And I can remember going to a party after working my ass off for them, a cast party, and really being treated badly. And I told someone that I knew who invited me. And the next year I volunteered, and when it came time for the party, I said I would not go. And they asked why and I said, "Because for the first time in my life, working with you women, I was treated like a nigger." And well, well, no, no, no, no, no. It really didn’t happen. Well I have been more friendly to strangers.
MS: Now this was later, right? The choir started a little bit later.
GJ: Later, yes. No let's see, this was in the '70s, yeah. But it was later, yeah.
MS: Do you think that gay men had been sexist?
GJ: There were lots of gay men who were sexist, yes.
MS: In what ways? Can you think of any specific ways? Like what would have really made the women angry?
GJ: Well one of the ways: there were lots of gay men who really were sexist and separatist, and they were open about it. They wanted to exclude women from gay bars. And they wanted to exclude women from most gay functions. And they were very vocal with their vulgarity and I can understand why a lot of women would have been offended by them. And it was strange, because I was going out with someone who made a statement at a party once that he didn't like women and he didn't think that they should be allowed in certain groups. And it ended there. Because what I said is, “if you can call this woman a bitch or whatever you're going to call her, then you can certainly call me in a moment of anger a nigger.” And he said, “Well that's not true.” And I said, “You're exhibiting it now. Prejudice is prejudice. It doesn't matter who it is.”
MS: But it sounded like from what you were saying before that you also did n0t think it was fair to treat you…
GJ: And I said that, too, to a number of women friends.
GJ: Yes. Always.
MS: And how did they respond? Generally well?
GJ: Generally well; they did. But the treatment was always there when they got into their groups or their friends. It was always there.
MS: Were there ways that the separate lesbian groups and the gay men's groups cooperated? Did Dyketactics and Radicalesbians and, say, GAA support one another?
GJ: Politically, yes, because GAA was a very wealthy organization, so whenever they needed something, they would go to the floor, the body, the membership, and they would send someone or a group to ask for money for help, for financial aid, or a promise of financial aid, to help them do whatever they needed to get done. They're moving to a new space and they need help. Or if there was going to be a demonstration or something and they really thought that the presence of more people, more bodies there, would be more effective, yes. And so those times we used to hold dances in the basement of St. Mary's church. I remember I asked a woman to dance with me. And her friend just said I was the worst human being in the whole world.
MS: For doing it? For asking?
GJ: Mmhmm [assent]. Where a couple of years prior to that it was nothing.
MS: As far as you know, did many gay men and lesbians sleep together during those years?
GJ: No, not that I know of. No, not at all.
MS: That was out of the picture?
GJ: That was out of the picture. Suddenly here you are. I don't know. It's like coming out of the dark ages. And there were parties going on everywhere.
MS: Yeah, you went to a lot of parties?
GJ: All you had to do was walk down the street.
MS: Were they all in Center City?
GJ: They were everywhere really.
MS: What other parts of the city?
GJ: Oh god, out here.
MS: West Philly?
GJ: Unbelievable, yes.
MS: Did you go to parties in other parts of the city?
GJ: Yes, around Temple a lot. The city was just unbelievable at that time. I think that we worked during the day and came home at night often and just opened your doors. And it was just a few friends dropping over and a few of their friends dropping over and then the next thing you know by ten o'clock you have a hundred people at your house. And most of them you don't know.
MS: Would it tend to be gay male parties or mixed lesbian and gay parties that you went to?
GJ: Most of the time they were gay male parties. There were those times that it was mixed, but most of the time they were gay male parties.
MS: Why do you think that was? Why weren't there lesbians there?
GJ: Lesbians at that time, these neighborhoods became very attractive. And especially in Center City, they gravitated toward these neighborhoods, started collective houses, and really stayed away. So if you were living down in Center City, you were having a lot to do, ‘cause a lot of the time, there weren't a lot of women.
MS: I see.
GJ: And they became political, more political. As gay men became less political, they became really more political.
MS: Is that right? Yeah?
MS: Yeah. Yeah. What was happening to make gay men less political, do you think?
GJ: The freedom, I think. Suddenly there was a freedom and it was almost like Blacks in the '60s. And I don't think that the gay community really saw what was happening, the political tokenism. It was the in thing to have gays at your party. It was crazy. And so most straight people who ten years prior would have run you out of town on the rail or tarred and feathered you, suddenly you were invited to their homes and they tried to suddenly be liberal. And so you knew it was happening. So you would eat their food, drink their liquor and wine, and then really become the most obnoxious character that you could become. And then they thought, “Oh isn't this wonderful.”
MS: I just remembered we talked before the tape was on but not at all on the tape about your role in the antiwar movement and draft resistance.
MS: You want to tell me how that started and what your involvement was?
GJ: My brother was older, quite a few years older than I, and he was born in the forties and I was born in the fifties. And so after high school he decided that he was going to join. He joined the Army and went off to Vietnam to fight. And so I then got involved with the resistance.
MS: What year was this?
GJ: And this was about 1960-, oh god.
MS: You probably remember how old you were?
GJ: About 1965.
MS: You would have been twelve?
GJ: There were people younger than I.
GJ: And what we did at first--as a child, you could learn a lot of information and the FBI wasn't after you. The FBI was everywhere. They were everywhere. And there were always big, big rallies at the steps of the Art Museum. And you'd have people like Janice Ian show up and all these wonderful people and it was free. And you could always spot the FBI because they would wear jeans and something else and then they would wear like Oxfords. And if any people in the place who didn't have an Afro or long hair and looked something like....
GJ: And they were clean. But they were just everywhere. And I can remember jumping out of windows and onto rooftops with people. We would have been arrested. They would have been hauled away and taken away and court-martialed. So you would jump out of windows because they were breaking down the doors downstairs and stuff.
MS: Explain to me what, though, what you were doing in the resistance, what the resistance was.
GJ: It was like the Underground Railroad, so you had an area which was yours. And you would get a call to be at certain places at a certain time and you would meet one or five people. And you then had to arrange housing for them, if St. Mary’s was too crowded, because they all went up to the bell tower to hide. So back then there were tons and tons and tons of clothes for them to crawl under and sleep to keep warm. So if there were too many people up there, then you would arrange for them to stay until you could then take them to the next point and drop them off with someone else. They were getting out of the country.
MS: Is that right?
MS: And mostly Black?
GJ: No! No.
GJ: It was mixed, yes.
MS: And mostly people from Pennsylvania?
GJ: All across the country.
MS: And were a lot of people using or trying to use homosexuality as a way of staying out of the military?
GJ: Yes, but after a while, yes, yes. They would have started out maybe in drag when going before the draft, and at first they were being let go, and then after a while the people at the draft board caught on to what was happening. And so you could come in in drag or pretending you were pregnant with something under your clothing--whatever you did, they took you anyway. Because the war had escalated to a point where so many people were getting killed. They were taking anyone.
MS: Right. You said something before about having the Center City area?
MS: Can you explain that?
GJ: My contact place was Head House Square at 2nd and Pine. And that's where I would meet most of my contacts. And the other thing was that most of them were Marines. It's true. It was unbelievable. It was like running the gridiron trying to get them from point A to point B.
MS: So these were not draft dodgers; they were AWOL.
GJ: They were AWOL, but I did encounter a number of draft dodgers.
GJ: Most of the people that I had contact with were military.
MS: They were already in the military.
GJ: Mmhmm [assent].
MS: And you said something before about why Center City was becoming such a big area for draft resistance?
GJ: Well I don't know if I did, but it was. It was becoming a big hiding place. It was a great, big hiding place. The gay community should receive a medal because they really, really went all out to help. It was unbelievable. And put their asses on the line.
MS: How do you mean? Doing the sort of things you did?
MS: Or do you mean like housing people?
GJ: Yes. And at first when it was happening, they said no, but when their uncles and fathers and brothers, people like that, lovers started getting killed, the gay community just sprang forth. And because the gay community was the political underground to the feds, we could hide very well. And they really never penetrated that.
MS: And was that primarily people's homes or also gay businesses? That kind of underground?
MS: That too? Gay businesses helped?
GJ: Oh a lot, yes.
MS: Can you think of any specific ones?
GJ: No. A lots of the bars--the owners would put them up.
MS: Is that right?
GJ: We had small stores which are no longer in business and things like that. But there were lots of people within the gay community who just opened their doors and said we could take these people in. And the longest that they would stay would be a week. And that was a long, long time. Usually it was overnight or tops three days.
MS: Were a lot of the Marines and the other people you helped gay themselves?
GJ: Not at first, but later on, a lot of gays came through.
MS: Why do you think that changed?
GJ: I don't know. Well I guess because a lot of gays were getting drafted, but it just happened and I have no explanation for that.
MS: What do you think it would have been like for a straight Marine to get taken care of by someone in the gay community?
GJ: They would have been very grateful, because it meant that they didn't have to stay out in the streets.
GJ: And really risk being arrested. Most of the time when these people went AWOL, they were in their military uniforms, so you had to really provide them with everything. And after my brother went to war, my mother then started cooking, and we'd sneak food at night, two, three, four o'clock in the morning, to St. Mary's to help feed.
MS: So your mother was helping out.
MS: But your brother must have been very disapproving.
GJ: He was, until he got injured. And then his opinion, like a lot of veterans' opinions, changed. But he thought we were awful.
MS: Did you have any close encounters with the law?
GJ: Yes. Really, god yes.
MS: Can you tell me about those?
GJ: Close encounters how? Well narrow escapes were more like it. I remember we were in a little apartment on 21st Street near Chestnut on the third floor. And the door downstairs was kicked in. And if it weren't for the person across the street who had called us, because that was a drop-off point. I just dropped this guy off to this apartment and she was then gonna' take him and do whatever. We never knew what happened to these people. Once you delivered them to that spot, your job was done. So while we were there, we’re sitting down and smoking these joints and we’re getting ready to say goodbye and suddenly she gets a call and you hear the door downstairs being broken down. And we were able to get out and go down the fire escape. We climbed over a few back fences and then got away. But she couldn't go back to her apartment for a while because she would have been arrested. That was a time that if you smoked a joint you would have gotten twenty-five years.
MS: Did you know much about the Susan Saxe case around that time?
GJ: Yes I did.
MS: What did you know about it?
GJ: I remember it was a big thing at that time. I remember the Berrigan brothers and I was still quite young, but I remember the Berrigan brothers and all the things that they were doing. It was awful. I was in Rittenhouse Square the day that Rizzo did his famous raid on the convent of the saint, the Order of Notre Dame on Rittenhouse Square. And what he did was he arrested white people, because he had this idea that only white people were committing these crimes like drugs and all these things. Rizzo had no concept--I never thought that he really did--that there was a gay underground. Never, never. We had an office at Smedley Street. Smedley, which is between 15th and 16th on Pine. And so there was a group of us who actually started an office there--our branch of the resistance. And we were quite open about it.
MS: Was it a gay branch?
GJ: Yup. The only one that I could ever remember. And there was this bathroom. One of the guys there had this crush on Robert Kennedy, so he did this collage of Robert Kennedy. I remember the Robert F. Kennedy memorial tearoom. He put this all over the room. And now it's a delicatessen. And then the police, of course they would suspect. And see the smart thing about it was that we were taking calls there. Luckily there were contacts. We had lots of contacts, so you'd make your calls and really people would call in. A lot of the groups were swamped in the city. And so we were taking a lot of calls from them. And the police for some reason just had this idea that we were hiding people. And of course we were not and they would always be raiding the place, looking for people. And then you'd be handcuffed and taken outside and sit outside while they looked through this place. And they looked in the basement, because of course it was in the first floor that was the store that we were living in. They never found anything, but they did that to most resistance groups. And of course you couldn't hide anyone. That would be the most stupid thing that you could possibly do.
MS: Right, right.
GJ: You're just really asking for trouble. But they had this idea, since you were doing this or they had an idea that you were doing this, that you were like World War Two bands of immigrants and refugees in the basement that you were hiding and it wasn't.
MS: Now by the time of the Bicentennial in '76, the war was over.
MS: Did you participate in any of the protests during that year or around the big July Fourth or summer celebrations of the Bicentennial.
GJ: No, I did not.
MS: Do you have any recollections of that?
GJ: No, I was in New York at that time and I was working.
MS: So you were out of Philadelphia?
GJ: I was in and out of Philadelphia.
MS: In and out, I see.
GJ: Yes. I do remember when the war ended, there was a big, big scream of “yay.” Just after the war ended there were big celebrations and we felt that we'd accomplished a lot, because we did. And we didn't have to worry any longer, we felt, about putting ourselves on the line. But then it was almost as if, “What do we do now?” And I think that the gay community and the lesbian community changed right after that, because there was nothing then to fight for. That part which had sort of been almost the foundation of the movement, because it was civil rights, equal rights, all these things. We'd come a long way from being invisible to suddenly being very, very visible. And so we were there, but the war's over and our part in that was gone. And everyone seemed to just blend, go into the woodwork.
MS: Except you were saying before that you think that lesbians were getting more political.
GJ: They did become more political. They really, really started coming out. And Arleen Olshan really became political. She really pushed Giovanni's Room. And lesbian singers started really getting more on the scene. They had always been known within a small segment of the women's community. Suddenly they're here and I was very glad, because it was like your time has come. But with it all came their form of discrimination, which was really blatant, against men. And I just couldn't understand that. Yes and no. They had been discriminated against. They had been discriminated against and they'd faced a lot of oppression, but we were not their oppressors. And it is as if they turned against their own friends and it took a long time for that feeling, which is still there, but not as much, not as bad as it was.
MS: Some people have said that it was a new generation of women.
GJ: The old generation. Barbara Gittings was giving a talk one day at GAA and she was just vehement about gays and lesbians being affectionate with each other in public. She didn't believe even that they should even sit in a movie theater which is totally dark and hold their hands. I just thought this is crazy. I said, “You! You who really. I mean people threw garbage at you in the fifties. You really came this far and helped this movement and you're pushing it back.”
GJ: “By making a statement like that. By acting like that.”
MS: But she was still interested in working with gay men, right?
GJ: To a point.
MS: Yeah, did you see her turning more separatist, too?
GJ: I think that she came from an era when everyone had to hide in rooms and draw the curtains, so she had a close association with men. But I think that in order for her point to really get across with the movement, she had to really become more involved in the women's community.
MS: Do you have any final thoughts that you want to share before we turn this off?
GJ: Well have you covered what you wanted?
MS: I covered what I wanted to.
GJ: I think that Tommi Avicolli, Sag Powell (who is dead), Kiyoshi, people like me, Barbara Gittings and all those people, Arlene Olshan, just a large number laid the cornerstone. And I don't think that kids today are really doing enough. I think they shouldn't forget. They just shouldn't forget. And Gays at Penn was started because we hadn't seen each other for a while. There were five of us and it started from five people to what it is now. Interesting.
MS: Well thank you very much.
GJ: Thank you!