Mark Segal (born 1951), Interviewed March 17, 1993
Mark Segal 17 March 1993
by Marc Stein. Copyright © Marc Stein 2021. All rights reserved.
I interviewed Mark Segal in March 1993; the interview took place in his office at Philadelphia Gay News in Center City. As the coordinating editor of Boston’s Gay Community News in the late 1980s, I had known that Segal was the long-time publisher of PGN. After moving to Philadelphia in 1989 I became a regular reader of PGN and learned more about Segal’s history, including his leadership of Gay Youth in New York and Gay Raiders in Philadelphia in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Before the taped part of the interview began, Segal provided me with the following biographical information:
Date of Birth: 12 January 1951
Place of Birth: Philadelphia
Place of Mother's Birth: Philadelphia
Mother's Occupation: Mother
Place of Father's Birth: Philadelphia
Father's Occupation: Sales
Religious Background: Jewish
Class Background: Working Class
1951-54: 12th St. and Catherine St., Philadelphia
1954-60: 2333 S. Bambrey Terrace, Philadelphia
1960-69: 8111 Fayette St., Philadelphia
1969-72: 12th St. and Ave. C, New York City
1972-77: 8111 Fayette St., Philadelphia
1978-93: 743 S. 19th St., Philadelphia
1994-?: 505 S. 4th St., Philadelphia
1976-Present: Publisher, Philadelphia Gay News
After our interview Segal loaned me the scrapbook referenced in the transcript below; it consisted primarily of newspaper clippings about Segal’s gay activism in the 1970s. In subsequent years we corresponded occasionally and I wrote several articles about Philadelphia LGBT history that were published by PGN. In 2015, Segal’s published a memoir, titled
And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality. Three years later, he donated a large collection of his personal papers to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In 2021 I confirmed that Segal continues to serve as the publisher of PGN and continues to live in Philadelphia.
Marc Stein Interview with Mark Segal, 17 March 1993
Transcribed by Tracy Nathan and Marc Stein.
- Stein: This is Marc Stein. I'm interviewing Mark Segal in his offices in the PGN [Philadelphia Gay News] offices and it's March of 1993. So I thought I would just start off by asking you about how you came to be in Philadelphia, when you came out, what your background was before you came to Philadelphia, those sorts of questions.
Segal: 1969 I graduated high school in Philadelphia. It was Germantown High School, where I organized my first demonstration as a senior, one of the few things I did my senior year. Moved to New York because I felt that I needed to explore what being a gay man was all about. I arrived in New York on June 1. Quickly thereafter met a couple guys by the name of Marty Robinson and Jim Owles, who most people hearing this or who have read gay history books will know. But Marty Robinson is probably, to my estimation, one of the biggest heroes of the new gay movement. He headed a group outside of the Mattachine office in New York. We couldn't think of any other title, so we called it the Gay Action Group. Gay Action Group was a group that Marty Robinson created. He had no other place to meet, so we met in the Mattachine offices. But in a sense, we were not part of Mattachine. His reason for forming the Gay Action Group was that he felt that Mattachine was too vanilla and we needed a little more militancy in the gay movement. When I moved to New York, one of the first places I went to was Mattachine. And I just by chance met Marty, and his philosophy was closer to mine than Mattachine’s was, so I more or less signed up to just listen and learn. A couple of weeks later, I was in the Stonewall. The Stonewall Riots happened. Marty and I immediately, along with Jim Owles, the three of us, started doing chalk messages on Christopher Street. Later the Gay Action Group evolved into GLF [Gay Liberation Front] in New York. And of course GLF evolved. It split, became GAA [Gay Activists Alliance] New York, with all the splits and so forth and so on. Make a long story short, three years later I moved back to Philadelphia.
Stein: So that was when?
Segal: '70. '71 actually. And immediately got involved with GAA Philadelphia. And here I am.
Stein: So when you left Philadelphia, were you out as gay?
Segal: To my parents, no. During the stay in New York, I created a group called Gay Youth, which later became a national group with chapters throughout the country. And I thought it was sort of hypocritical to be doing that and not talk to my parents. So one night, being the brave soul I am, I got on the telephone and called my parents. Course I didn't do it in person.
Stein: How did they respond?
Segal: Actually, better than I expected, and the reverse of what usually happens. My father was extremely supportive and said he wasn't surprised and always thought I was, so it didn't come as any surprise. He just wanted me to be happy. My mother was concerned that I would be lonely in my old age. And I tried to explain to her that that was an image that she had gotten but not reality.
Stein: So when was that? The early '70s? Still while you were...
Stein: So you were out to yourself, though, when you went to New York?
Segal: Oh, of course.
Stein: You had experiences in high school?
Segal: Oh yeah. Well the earliest thing I can remember is watching a David Susskind Show on Channel 12 where they interviewed members of the Mattachine Society. I had a t.v. in my bedroom. And I was sort of fascinated and watched that. It was the first time I saw real-live homosexuals on t.v. And even though I was a young kid at the time, they seemed to be trying to placate everybody that they spoke to, and they were very defensive, and not being very proactive about their gayness. And that sort of bothered me at the time. And my theory was to go to New York, since this was where all gay people were, I thought. I didn't think they were in Philadelphia. And learn a little more about this. Maybe I was just a little wrong, I thought, because these people had obviously been gay for a long time and knew what it was all about. But that's why, when I met Marty, I immediately realized that there were many points of view, many different flavors of homosexuals, and the vanilla variety wasn't the only one.
Stein: Now that wasn't the David Susskind interview that Barbara Gittings was part of, was it?
Segal: No, this was way before that.
Stein: This was earlier.
Stein: So you had not encountered any gay people or gay politics in Philadelphia when you were growing up here.
Segal: No, no.
Stein: You grew up in Germantown?
Segal: I grew up in South Philadelphia, then Mount Airy.
Stein: But were going to school in Germantown.
Stein: So what led you to come back to Philadelphia?
Segal: I didn't think that anything was getting anywhere in New York, either a personal life or a political gay movement, because at that time it was very fractured. Plus visiting Philadelphia as often as I did, I thought that I could be more helpful here. I thought there was more opportunity for my voice to be heard.
Stein: And did you move to Center City when you moved back?
Segal: Also I'm a Philadelphia chauvinist. I happen to love Philadelphia.
Stein: Did you move to Center City when you came back?
Segal: No, I moved back with my parents. And the other point was that my father wanted me to get involved in his business, which was the other reason I came back to Philadelphia.
Stein: I see. And where were they living at the time?
Segal: Mount Airy.
Stein: Mount Airy. So GAA was already established when you came?
Segal: It was already established, yes.
Stein: But you had established Gay Youth before that in New York?
Segal: In New York, yes, and I was a member of GLF.
Stein: And what were the first things that you remember doing in the political movement in Philadelphia?
Segal: I went to a GAA meeting and I was introduced by several people. I don't remember who at this point. And I was asked to create a Gay Youth here, 'cause there was not a Gay Youth, which I did. I was I think at the point just twenty-one. And the old rule about Gay Youth was that you could not be over twenty-one and be in the organization. So I founded it and got out. Then eventually I became the political chair of GAA. We would do things. The political chair of GAA did political lobby work. And when we did something more militant, we did the Gay Raiders.
Stein: And so let me just understand about Gay Youth. About how many would you say were involved?
Segal: Just a handful.
Stein: Just a handful? And how many kids do you think were touched in Philadelphia directly?
Segal: Well we did several t.v. shows. We did interviews. How many were touched, I have no idea.
Stein: What were the first big actions you participated in or led in GAA? Do you remember?
Segal: Yeah, the biggest action, the first action, was a demonstration.
Stein: The Ed Hurst Show?
Segal: Yeah, but see that was the Gay Raiders.
Segal: O.K., Gay Raiders did the zap on Steel Pier with Ed Hurst. And then GAA did the demonstration outside of Channel 6.
Stein: So Gay Raiders was not officially a part of GAA.
Segal: GAA? No.
Stein: How did Gay Raiders start?
Segal: The feeling was, amongst many of us, that there were many people in GAA that felt that the organization should do things by the book. Should have demonstrations, proper demonstrations, should lobby, but should not do any disruptions or anything militant. And there were other people that felt that what the city's gay movement needed was a good cop/bad cop. And we were willing to play, in a sense, the bad cop by doing militant actions.
Stein: And you were also involved in the Gay Switchboard, right? Founding the Gay Switchboard?
Stein: And was that a product of GAA?
Segal: Yes. Practically every organization that's in existence today stems from GAA. I don't know if you've gotten that in your research or not. Gay Switchboard, the Eromin Center, Community Center. Everything was an outgrowth of GAA, 'cause it was the only organization. And we would set up committees and those committees would form. And then once they were formed, they would break off, which was fine.
Segal: It was growth.
Stein: It seemed like a lot of your actions specifically were focused on the media.
Stein: With the action on Larry Kane's show, and with Johnny Carson, and Walter Cronkite, right? Those, I think, were the three big ones.
Stein: Why the focus on the media?
Segal: Well as I mentioned to you earlier, when I was a little kid, I think I was thirteen when I watched the Mattachine. I remember putting on my GE black and white t.v., must have been a nine-inch screen. I was in my bedroom and I didn't want anyone to hear, so I took the blanket that I had and put it over me and the t.v. set to watch this, so nobody would know I was watching it. Thinking back to that, I realized the effect the media had on me and realized the effect t.v. has had on our society in general. It affects our way of thinking more than anything else. It is the best brainwashing tool available to mankind or womankind. That brainwashing up until, I would like to believe, our involvement as a movement meant that gay men were always depicted as swishy, queeny hairdressers and gay women were always Mack truck driver murderesses. And my feeling was that that had to be changed. And there were several ways to change it. First thing to do was to change the way the news departments at the networks and local television stations reported on our community. It was time to stop the reporting on our community as “oh, another teacher's been charged with child molestation.” Up until the sixties, that was all we heard about gay people on t.v. news. I wanted them to report about our churches. I wanted them to report about all our social organizations, about the charity we did. They do that for the Irish. They do that for the Jews, the Catholics, why not the gay and lesbian community? And at that point, to my knowledge, nobody else was thinking in that regard. So first we did it locally. And from local, we went to national, because it was such a success. And I had a theory, which has never been proven out, which was that the way to change people's minds is to give them a steady diet of publicity about an issue. And my theory was to do that every six weeks, to do a major zap of some sort. And we did that for several years. I also believed in, like a paraphrase, of what Oscar Wilde said, which was that homosexuality as long as it didn't speak its name was an evil and the love that dare not speak its name. And I think, coming from the religion I come from, if you don't approve of something, you just don't talk about it, which is similar to Oscar Wilde's line. And the more you don't talk about it, the more the myths that other people have in their mind about our community prevail. To break those myths and those old theories, we had to become public and show ourselves. And my feeling was that the more we showed ourselves, the more people looked at our community, the better opportunity they had to realize we're just like them. No different. We have the same wants and desires.
Stein: Now I know in one incident where you actually succeeded in getting coverage of the gay community, people were quite upset. And that’s when the Inquirer did the magazine story in 1974. I think it was Art Spikol.
Segal: Art Spikol, yes.
Stein: Who did that story in which you were featured both in terms of Gay Youth and then in a group discussion that you reported on.
Segal: There were two Inquirer stories. I'm trying to remember which one it was. Well there were lots of times that the more closeted members of the gay community were not very pleased at what I was doing. Their feeling was that we should just do our thing, but be quiet about it and don't let anyone know who or what we were. My best remembrance in that area, one of the most painful for me: when I grew up in South Philadelphia, elementary school and junior high school, one of my good friends was a guy by the name of Philip S. [name deleted by transcriber]. And Philip, well the day we got the gay rights bill introduced in Philadelphia City Council was a very happy day for me. Nothing like that had ever been done before. We'd never reached that level. It was monumental. And I was feeling on top of the world. As I walked down the stairs of City Hall. I ran into Philip, who I hadn't seen in years, who I knew was gay. And we had a confrontation. And he was ashamed to have known me because I was making public something that should not have been public. And he hit me and that was the last time I ever saw him.
Stein: Is that right?
Segal: Yeah. It was upsetting for a while, but I don't know what's happened to him.
Stein: It seems like a lot of the other activities in the gay movement before Stonewall focused on psychiatry, focused on the law and police, and I'm wondering how much of GAA's activities and your activities continued with those concerns. Also I guess religion and the church.
Segal: Well one of the nicer things I was able to do, as far as I was concerned, was to debate the whole psychiatry issue. And the pinnacle of that was I did a Phil Donahue Show, the first. I did three Phil Donahue Shows, all of which I don't have, by the way, because at that time, this was before the videotape machines, if you wanted to buy a copy, it cost $106 dollars, and I didn't have $106 dollars. And that's one of the saddest things in my life. Because I had my mother and father do one of the Phil Donahue Shows with me and they have just both died. And I would give anything for that tape. I couldn't afford a tape at the time, so it does not exist anymore. And I've now written to The Donahue Show and they say that tape no longer exists.
Stein: Is that right?
Segal: It's kind of sad. But anyway, the first Phil Donahue Show I did, I debated with Richard Green, who wrote the nomenclature on homosexuality. And soon after that show, they changed the nomenclature, which I was very proud about.
Stein: So what year was that? The first Donahue show, do you remember?
Segal: Had to be '71 or 2. And that was an interesting show. It was fascinating, because it was taped. At that point he was still in Dayton, Ohio. And it was primarily a local show which was syndicated. And now it's a national syndicated show. So a little difference. But the second show I taped with him was in Chicago, which was with my parents.
Stein: That was the one with your parents. And what was the third one?
Segal: I don't remember the subject. I could look it up.
Stein: And then what about the church. Were there actions that you were involved with against organized religion?
Segal: The only action we had, when the gay rights bill was before Philadelphia City Council, there was talk that the archdiocese of Philadelphia would try to campaign against the bill. Luckily for us, the pope was coming to Philadelphia. As strange as that may seem, you may say why is that lucky. Well the archdiocese didn't want any embarrassment while the pope was in town. So we sort of did a backhanded deal. People would say the Church doesn't make deals. Yes, the Church makes deals. I let it be known to them that if they fought the gay rights bill, they would definitely be embarrassed when the pope came in to Philadelphia. And at that point I had a reputation that if I wanted to do a zap, I would do it, and I could not be stopped, no matter what kind of security they had. And they knew that. So it was sort of like a backhanded agreement. And they could make a statement about it, of course, freedom of speech, I have no problem with that, but if they started campaigning against it, I would then campaign against the pope.
Stein: So they in fact didn't campaign against the gay rights bill?
Stein: That's interesting. So what about the law, and when I say the law I mean everything from the police to legislation like the gay rights bill. That obviously was another major focus of your activity.
Segal: Yeah, that was the GAA activity. The legislation lobby was all GAA.
Stein: I see.
Segal: Demonstrations were Gay Raiders, or zaps I should say. Yeah, we were involved very heavily with changing the way that the District Attorney's office worked here in Philadelphia. Up until that point, it was very commonplace for non-gays to blackmail gay people. And if the blackmail didn't work out, the DA's office would then prosecute after being given information by the blackmailer. So the first District Attorney I worked with was--I'm not sure of the order, quite honestly, either F. M. Fitzpatrick or Arlen Specter. At one point Arlen Specter absolutely refused to meet with us even to discuss the issue. And we used to claim that we'd only do a zap if the corporations, political leaders, or what have you would not meet with us to discuss the issues important to our community. We were a community just like any other community. They had to meet with us. So when Arlen Specter refused to meet with us, we did one of my favorite fun zaps. At that point, the District Attorney's office was located in City Hall on the 6th floor, room 606 or 666, I forget which. And we printed up invitations to a party that the District Attorney Arlen Specter was throwing for the lesbian and gay community. And at eleven a.m. or twelve o'clock on that day, the District Attorney of Philadelphia was throwing a party for the lesbian and gay community. All were invited. Please come by for free coffee and donuts. And we handed these out throughout City Hall and City Hall courtyard and had a catering truck show up and deliver the stuff into Arlen Specter's office. The entire media was there. It was a little embarrassing for Arlen, because it was a very good-natured zap. And he came out and agreed to several of our positions at the time.
Stein: And what was the agreement on the blackmail issue?
Segal: He set up a task force in his office and more or less it just disappeared from that point on.
Stein: Do you remember when that was? What year that was?
Segal: Harry Lessig of the Daily News has my scrap book and it has that in it. And I'll get that back for you.
Stein: Is that a scrapbook he has permanently?
Segal: No, it's my scrapbook, not his.
Stein: I see. So I'd be able to look at that?
Segal: Yeah. Which has dates and everything else in it.
Stein: Oh that would be great. That would be really great. It did seem like you did some action against the police when they were picking up people on the merry-go-round. Does that sound familiar? Something about pulling fire alarms?
Segal: Not me.
Stein: It doesn't sound familiar?
Segal: No. That would be too dangerous. One thing that Gay Raiders always stood for, or I stood for, was non-violence and you don't do something that's gonna' create a danger to society. Pulling fire alarms would be a danger to society. If someone else did it, that was not me.
Stein: What were the other guidelines on the zaps?
Segal: If possible to make them as humorous as possible. Not endanger in any way. And strictest security. We had one zap, for instance, against Dr. David Reuben, I believe it is, who wrote Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex. And a lot of people from GAA wanted to get involved in the Gay Raiders, who we did not allow getting involved for the very simple reason that either (a) they could not keep secrets, and (b) did not have the proper mental attitude. In other words, nonviolent, nonviolence. In this case, several people found out about the zap before it happened, showed up to be part of it, and violence ensued.
Stein: What kind?
Segal: It should be very clear, from the police. But it should be quite clear that the people who were involved in the violence were not members of Gay Raiders. On the other hand, they did not create the violence. The violence was created by the police.
Stein: Throughout this whole period, from 1970 to 1976, what's your sense of how relations stood between lesbians and gay men? Were lesbians and gay men fully included in all the organizations you've talked about: GAA, Gay Raiders. Were there moments of greater hostility and moments of greater cooperation? Can you characterize the period?
Segal: Like a lightbulb, on and off. I mean there were times. I don't think it was just Philadelphia; I think on the national level. I remember in New York, of course, the fight between lesbians and gay men was absolutely outrageous. I mean it was horrible. Philadelphia never was that bad. What was kind of fun about Philadelphia was that we had a group that didn't exist anywhere else in the country, which was, I guess, a female counterpart to the Gay Raiders, which was Dyketactics.
Segal: We got along great with Dyketactics and worked with them on various things. So there was more of a comradeship than there was anything else. I mean we had our bad times. I mean GAA tried, as many organizations still do, to make sure women got in leadership positions where possible. Our problem was always finding women who wanted to be bothered or weighed down by what they thought was the overwhelming male percentage in all these organizations. And that problem still exists today everywhere.
Stein: I know the predecessor group, though, or the earlier group in Philadelphia, the Homophile Action League, actually seemed to have more women than men.
Segal: Yes. Absolutely.
Stein: So were you on the scene when HAL was still active?
Segal: No I wasn't. I was on the scene after that already had gone bye-bye, but a good deal of the members were involved in GAA.
Stein: I know that there was a forum.
Segal: I mean Byrna, for instance, who was not a constant GAA person, if we needed her for something, we'd give her a call and she'd be there. I mean she was more than willing to help out.
Stein: Why do you think relations were better in Philly than in, say, New York, between lesbians and gay men?
Segal: I think relations in New York of anything are pretty bad. One of the reasons I wanted to leave there. I mean my belief about New York, or Manhattan, is that it was an insane institution with each little neighborhood being a different ward. The city is very, very much like its makeup of concrete. Red, grey, very drab. And unfortunately, things might happen there very quickly, but they don't happen with the sense of reality that they do in Philadelphia or any other city.
Stein: You mentioned Dyketactics. I know there was also a Radicalesbians group that was operating in Philadelphia. Did they get along with folks in GAA?
Segal: Radicalesbians? Well with certain members. For instance, Tommi, who at that point I believe was president of GAA, got along with everybody, so there was no problem.
Stein: But there were others who didn't get along so well?
Segal: Of course. I mean you're always gonna' find some men who don't like women, some women who don't like men. I mean that's just the way it is. It will probably always be, unfortunately.
Stein: You think it's worse in the gay community than elsewhere, at that point?
Segal: No, I don't actually. I don't. I believe it's worse in the non-gay community because there sexual stereotypes really exist--the sexism, women being housewives, unfortunately. I mean look what's happened to Hillary Clinton and what people believe about Hillary Clinton. That's kind of sad. I mean here's a woman who has intelligence, a brain, and just because she's married to the president of the United States, they say she should not use her brain. That's sad.
Stein: Some people, including Kiyoshi [Kuromiya], characterize gay liberation as the male form of women's liberation, in that gay liberation represented a struggle against male sexism that often took the form of gay liberation. And other people, it seems like, see gay liberation as encompassing lesbians and gay men.
Segal: In that case, you have to believe that all gay men are effeminate and were fighting masculinity. I don't agree with that at all.
Stein: You don't buy that.
Segal: No. I mean that's like saying all gay men are one thing. Absolutely not.
Stein: Did the GAA folks get along with some of those types of GLF folks? 'Cause I'm sure that they were around.
Segal: In New York?
Stein: No, no, in Philadelphia.
Segal: What was interesting about GAA is that in New York, the main organization split into GLF and GAA. GLF in New York wanted to work for every radical cause you could possible imagine. GAA's goal was to be just a gay and lesbian organization period. Whereas in Philadelphia, we had one main organization, GAA, and we were both the radical and non-radical elements all in one group. And that was great about GAA in Philadelphia. See Philadelphians keep kicking themselves in the teeth too much and they shouldn't. GAA probably had the longest-going gay organization meeting on a weekly basis, with the largest number of people, than any city I know, including New York. GAA would get sometimes 100 and sometimes 200 people out at a meeting. That was incredible. I mean New York would only get that under a crisis.
Stein: You met for the most part in Horizon House, is that right?
Stein: For the whole time that you were involved in GAA?
Segal: When I was involved, yes.
Stein: And maybe I should ask you when GAA died. It seems like it was around '76, '77?
Segal: I don't remember, to be honest with you.
Stein: So you don't remember the waning years and why it might have collapsed?
Segal: No, at that point I think I was involved with too many other things.
Stein: What about the Bicentennial celebration? Were you involved in any of the activities or counter-demonstrations or anything like that at that point?
Segal: We were supporting a good deal of the counter-demonstrations. Which ones specifically, you'll have to jar my memory. I don't know.
Stein: And maybe I should ask you about the founding of PGN. How did that all come about?
Segal: I was on a speaking tour in Ohio. There was a sign for a Pittsburgh publication called Pittsburgh Gay News, founded by Jim Austin. At the time I was probably the best known radical gay activist in the country.
Stein: Is that Jim Austin who wrote the book on gay fiction?
Stein: No, a different one.
Segal: No. So on this tour in Pittsburgh, to create the Ohio East Gay News, he asked why wasn't there a gay newspaper in Philadelphia. I said, “Well we have this thing called The Gayzette.” And well he saw that of course and knew what it as and said, “Why don't they have a full-fledged newspaper?” I said “because nobody's come around and put it together.” He says, “Well I'd like to do it and I need someone in Philadelphia. Would you be interested?” And from that backhanded comment, we created PGN. And we were an arm of the Pittsburgh publication for nine months.
Stein: Oh is that right?
Segal: And after nine months, we bought the whole company. The Philadelphia paper was so strong we bought out the whole company.
Stein: And were you the primary buyer-outer?
Segal: Yes, oh yeah.
Stein: And did Pittsburgh Gay News continue?
Segal: It continued. We continued doing Pittsburgh and the Ohio East version for quite a while. We even expanded into Atlanta, until I learned that absentee management doesn't work and realized that PGN was going full force and I really should put my energy and efforts into this publication, which is what I did.
Stein: I guess maybe to skip back for a second to the gay rights bill and the fight for state gay legislation, were you involved directly in either of those?
Segal: Oh absolutely.
Stein: Both of those things?
Segal: Actually we made some history here in Pennsylvania, which most people don't even know. The nation's first, the world's first government body created specifically for lesbian and gay people happened in the state of Pennsylvania. Also the nation's first proclamation on gay issues was created here in Pennsylvania.
Stein: Was that Shapp?
Segal: Governor Shapp. And the original document is right here. This document, which was dated April 23, 1975, created the mayor’s. Oh I’m sorry. That document right there stated that in the state of Pennsylvania, all departments no longer could discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. It was the first such document in the entire world. Never been done. No executive order had ever been created like that before. He then created the Governor's Council for Sexual Minorities, which is the first governmental body.
Stein: Why in Pennsylvania? Why do you think it happened here?
Segal: Because of Governor Shapp, plain and simple. Great, great man. A great man who should historically get the credit that he's getting but is not getting.
Stein: So you wouldn't give credit to GAA and the activists?
Segal: We're the ones who met with him. Yeah, of course.
Stein: I mean from what you’re saying, it sounds like GAA as a more unified group than other cities, maybe that at least in part counts.
Segal: Oh, I think the leadership of GAA was absolutely beneficial in working with and creating an atmosphere which made it possible for the governor to do what he did. I mean this is light years ahead of anybody else doing something similar. And the governor took a very proactive position on gay rights, the first politician in the nation.
Stein: You were less successful on the city level, is that right?
Segal: No, at this point we also had Ed Rendell, who became the first politician on the city level to go out and seek the support of the gay and lesbian community, and publicly. And when he won election as District Attorney in Philadelphia, and I could tell you the date on that was December 1, 1977, he wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin thanking the members of the gay and lesbian community for their support. First time that had ever happened. In answer to your question, three words: George F. Schwartz. He was president of the city council. And he was opposed to the gay rights bill, even though I had worked with his legal assistant at the time, a woman by the name of Lynn Abraham, to write the bill. And we of course worked with various members of the council, the committee, even the mayor of the city of Philadelphia at the time, who was Frank Rizzo. Frank Rizzo and George Schwartz thought they had a great idea to stall the bill. Their idea was to ask that hearings be held on it in the Human Relations Commission. Well the Human Relations Commission held hearings on the bill, and their report, the summation of the report, which was very lengthy, stated that there was an overwhelming need for this form of legislation in the city of Philadelphia. We took that back to city council. And the day the bill passed, I was doing a hunger strike sit-in in the courtyard. There was a disruption in the city council, the first disruption of city council of that magnitude that had ever happened.
Stein: Was that the Dyketactics action?
Segal: Yes. Well it wasn't just Dyketactics; there was GAA, Dyketactics, Gay Raiders. I mean it seemed like anybody who was political at all all of a sudden decided that this was a piece of legislation that should be put in. The few of us who had worked on this piece of legislation wondered where all these people had been throughout the last two years. All of a sudden they showed up in one day and were angry.
Stein: When was that again?
Segal: 1975. December something or other. I remember well because I was doing my hunger strike and there was the sit-in outside, in City Hall courtyard. There was the Christmas tree in the middle of City Hall courtyard. And a reporter from Channel 6 came up to me and asked me what I was doing under the Christmas tree. And we said we were the Christmas fairies. The t.v. tape from Channel 6, in fact, which they still have, I understand.
Stein: The city council passed it?
Segal: No, they did not pass it.
Stein: They did not pass it, yeah, that’s what I thought.
Segal: Before the session, I was called up. A policeman came outside and asked me to come in: “please come up to meet with President Schwartz.” During the meeting, President Schwartz said to me the bill would not pass, and it would not pass because I would not do the polite and proper thing, which was to inform the president of the council of the city of Philadelphia what we were doing with his body before it was introduced. That was not true and I explained to him that I had repeatedly asked for meetings with him, but he would hear nothing of it. Well he was later convicted in the Abscam indictments and went to jail.
Stein: So you felt a little vindicated.
Segal: Oh yeah. And the man was a crook.
Stein: And is your memory that lesbians and gay men also fought relatively cooperatively on that?
Segal: On that? Oh yeah, absolutely. And the brunt of the problem was taken by Dyketactics. I mean the police really went after them.
Stein: Were there any fights in particular where the gender lines seemed to be divided more than in others?
Segal: The wonderful thing about Philadelphia is that when there's a problem, we come together. And we come together beautifully. I can't remember one.
Segal: I'm sure there are some. I mean there had to be some of them. But when there was a problem, we worked together.
Segal: So you didn't have any personal confrontations of any sort that you can remember that were on issues about sexism and feminism and those sorts of things?
Segal: Not on sexism, feminism. I always considered myself a feminist man.
Stein: I have a tape that Tommi gave me of a GAA forum on sexism and GAA.
Stein: Do you recall it?
Segal: No, but the reason I'm laughing is that I remember a forum. We did some great forums. My favorite forum was Dennis Rubini talking about food. It was a nutritional forum. And Dennis Rubini used a line I will never forget. Anybody who eats food is a fascist pig, thereby alienating everybody in the room.
Stein: So I was just wondering, it sounds like you don't remember it.
Stein: You were saying that you were probably the leading gay activist in the country, most widely known at the time of the zaps.
Segal: At the time of all the Cronkite and all the t.v. zaps, yeah.
Stein: Who were the other people in Philadelphia who stood out in that period as being the other important leaders in the community?
Segal: Tommi Avicolli, Harry Langhorne.
Stein: They were both presidents of GAA. Is that right?
Stein: At different times?
Segal: Oh yeah. Saj Powell, who's no longer around, Byrna Aronson, Barbara Gittings.
Stein: Is Saj Powell not in Philadelphia?
Segal: Saj died.
Stein: He died. He's the person who you did the first action with, is that right?
Segal: Yeah. Brilliant man. Absolutely brilliant.
Stein: Can you tell me something about him, since I won't be able to talk with him directly?
Segal: Saj was always on a plane a little different that everybody else. He was a musician, a philosopher, just always a kilter off. You would always think you were getting his argument, and then he would say something and he would just totally throw you off. But he was a fine leader in getting things done, being an activist, not sitting on the sidelines. He did that in his personal life and in his public life.
Stein: Maybe if you don't mind I'll just ask you for a few minutes some non-movement questions, but about your life in Philadelphia otherwise. Were there gay businesses that you frequented that you remember in Philadelphia?
Segal: Gay bars, that's about it. Steps, for one. Steps, Allegro.
Stein: And there's a lot of talk that the movement people were not always well-received in the bars. Was that your experience?
Segal: Well yes and no, depending on which bar. Also we shouldn't forget a bar called Roscoe's, where Woody, who now owns Woody's of course, was the manager. Started out as a bartender there. That became a bar which a good number of GAA members would go to on a regular basis.
Stein: Is that right?
Segal: That became very popular.
Stein: Roscoe's. Where was that?
Segal: Roscoe's was where there is a Skinny Delight right now, on Spruce Street, right off 15th, across from the Drake. That became a very popular bar that was very movement oriented. So I guess you can't say that.
Stein: Mixed lesbian and gay?
Segal: Yes. That was the most mixed bar in the city of Philadelphia. That was where I went for the most part when I would go out to a bar. I've never been a bar person for the most part.
Stein: What about businesses other than bars. Were there restaurants, bookstores? I know there was Giovanni's Room, but were there other bookstores or restaurants that you felt as if you were in the gay community when you were at?
Segal: There wasn't very much other than some restaurants occasionally, but at the time I didn't have money to go out to restaurants.
Stein: And bookstores? Anything other than Giovanni's Room?
Segal: Other than Giovanni's Room? Before Giovanni's Room, there was Robin's.
Stein: Which you would go to?
Segal: Yeah, of course.
Stein: Did you have a feeling that Philadelphia had a gay neighborhood at that time?
Segal: Yeah. There was always a feeling that Spruce Street was the gay neighborhood. Always.
Stein: Spruce Street from where to where?
Segal: Spruce from around 10th down to the river.
Stein: Down to the Schuylkill, obviously.
Stein: And what made it seem like a gay neighborhood to you?
Segal: There were always gay people there. You would go into any business along that street and you wouldn't feel you were out of place. If I was walking down the street with Tommi Avicolli, who at the time looked out of place, people wouldn't bat an eye. But if I walked with him on Kensington Avenue, we might not be alive today.
Stein: Was it a gay male neighborhood or a lesbian neighborhood or a mix?
Segal: Primarily gay male.
Stein: Did you have any sense that there were lesbian neighborhoods in Philadelphia at that time?
Segal: Oh yeah. I think that for the most part, at that point the lesbian neighborhoods were in West Philadelphia and Germantown, where they are today. I think the lesbian community's been very stable.
Stein: Do you remember encountering anything there? Would you ever go there for meetings?
Segal: In West Philadelphia?
Stein: Or in Germantown.
Segal: Oh yeah. There was a bar in Germantown, right off of Germantown Avenue. I don't remember the name of it. Which was a very popular mixed gay bar. And it was there for quite a while and it was a nice place to go. In West Philadelphia, we would go out there for parties primarily or for events at the University of Pennsylvania.
Stein: Maybe I'll just finish up with one other question. Some people have talked to me about a feeling that the movement at different points of time was more or less gender integrated than the community as a whole. Some people say that the movement was where lesbians and gay men encountered one another in ways that they would never have in their homes, in the bars, in the neighborhoods. Was that your experience, would you say?
Segal: Oh absolutely, which is one of the funny aspects of our movement. We're constantly kicking the movement in the teeth for not being as integrated as it should be, yet it's more integrated than our own community at large. I mean take a look at the community. Take a look at the various restaurants that serve the lesbian and gay community. They are primarily staffed by either gay men or lesbian women, with the exception of a few places which I can think of. Probably Judy's for one, which isn't totally a gay and lesbian restaurant, and the Waldorf Cafe. Same thing. Not completely a lesbian and gay business. But if you take a look at the bars that people go to, they usually go to a gay man's bar or they go to a woman's bar like Hepburn's, although Hepburn's does have men that go in there occasionally. You don't find very many women who go into 247 or Bike Stop or even Woody's for the most part. So our society, our community as a society, is definitely at sexual poles.
Stein: And why did lesbians and gay men come together at all in the movement? Why do you think the movement didn't remain as separated as the community back in the '70s?
Segal: I think there's strength in numbers. I think we're fighting the same form of sexism. And I think we work well together, even with our differences.
Stein: Anything you want to add?
Segal: I'm just getting older by the minute.