Harry Langhorne, June 25, 1996
by Marc Stein. Copyright © Marc Stein 2009. All rights reserved.
I interviewed Harry Langhorne in June 1996 on his rooftop deck at his home in Center City. Langhorne was a well-known Philadelphia gay activist in the 1970s and several people I met while doing my Ph.D. dissertation on Philadelphia gay and lesbian history (completed in December 1994) suggested that I interview him. I did not do so for the dissertation, but several years later, as I was working on turning the dissertation into a book, I did. Before the taped part of the interview began, Langhorne provided me with the following biographical information:
Date of Birth: 3 November 1947
Place of Birth: Charlottesville, Virginia.
Place of Mother's Birth: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Mother's Occupation: Writer
Place of Father's Birth: Charlottesville, Virginia
Father's Occupation: Farmer
Religious Background: Episcopalian
Class Background: Upper Middle Class
1947-65: Scottsville, Virginia
1965: Charlottesville, Virginia
1966-70: New York City
1970-72: Philadelphia (Hamilton Motor Court, 36th and Chestnut)
1972-76: Philadelphia (3500 Hamilton St. in Powelton Village)
1976-86: New York City
1986-87: Philadelphia (35th and Baring in Powelton Village)
1987-93: Philadelphia (3rd and Gaskill St.)
1993-96: Philadelphia (316 S. 12th St.)
1965-73: College and Graduate School Jobs
1973-74: Stockboy at a South Philadelphia Drugstore
1974-76: Assistant Librarian, Philadelphia School District
1976-80: Law School Student
1970s: Brief Jobs at an ice cream store and a restaurant in Philadelphia
1980-81: Attorney, New York State Division of Human Rights
1987-96: Assistant Managing Director, Philadelphia Criminal Justice Coordinating Office
Langhorne died on 26 May 2001. For those interested in learning more about his work as a gay activist, see the Harry Langhorne Papers at the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University (http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/ead/htmldocs/RMM07304.html).
Marc Stein Interview with Harry Langhorne, 25 June 1996. Transcribed by Lisa Williams and Marc Stein.
MS: I thought we could start by talking a little about your childhood. I know you said that you were born in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1947. Could just say a little bit about what kind of family you grew up in and what your childhood memories are like.
HL: Well my father was a dairy farmer and had a farm in central Virginia. And my mother was from Bryn Mawr and she was a Main Line girl with southern Virginia roots, which is how they met, because she used to go back for her summer vacations to Albemarle county where she met my father. I grew up on the farm. It was about 300 acres and about 300 head of cattle. And we were in the avant garde of milking parlor technology, so we did fairly well.
MS: Do you have brothers and sisters?
HL: I have one brother and one sister, both older. I'm the third and youngest. We're fairly close together. There's about four years in which we were all born. And I would say that I would walk a few miles to visit a friend and I was sort of socially isolated. Apart from going out to kindergarten and so forth and school later, I played mostly with the children of farmhands on the farm.
MS: And you lived there through your whole childhood, I think you said until you were eighteen or so?
HL: Basically until I went away to prep school, which was probably more like sixteen.
MS: And before you went away to school, did you have any awareness of gay people or same sex desire or anything like that?
HL: Oh yes. Well it's a long period of time. In the fourth grade, I began to become aware. And I was one year behind most kids because of my birthday. I began to be aware that I was different, that I was attracted to boys, without that attraction being very strong or mature. Just I was aware of a difference. And I would say by sixth or seventh grade I was agonizing about it. And somewhere along in eighth grade it was pretty clear to me that that was that, whether I liked it or not. I certainly had no sexual experiences. I sort of hoped that some older person, male, would come along. I don't know how much older–five years older would have been a lot older–and sort of lead me into something. But that never happened. And I wasn't about to initiate it.
MS: And did it ever come up as a topic of conversation. I mean not only about you personally, but the whole topic of homosexuality?
HL: I would say basically no.
MS: Not in church, not in school?
HL: No, certainly not in church and not in school. I remember once that Mr. Weeks in seventh grade was telling us something about Oscar Wilde and referred to the fact that he had been imprisoned. And people wanted to know what for. Well he wouldn't tell us. So it was quite awhile. I mean I'm not sure how I found out and put it together.
MS: But you found out.
HL: Yes, somehow along the way. And I think he had no personal reticence in telling us. But he felt that it was an unwise thing to do. And I can't say that he was wrong.
MS: So you never encountered the word, never encountered the concept really, it sounds like?
HL: I remember seeing something in Time magazine that referred to homosexuality. And my father took it away from me. And I didn't ask him about it, but it was clear that it indicated an attitude of some sort on his part.
MS: Attitude, I assume, negative?
HL: Negative, yes. Not a suitable thing for me to see.
MS: And looking back now, are there any people from your childhood who you think must have been gay?
HL: No. My uncle was gay. And I don't remember when I learned that. But I must have learned it as a young teenager. He had sort of gone into voluntary exile in places like New York City and Paris. And when I say exile, I don't mean from America, I mean from the South. He was an emotionally difficult person. And I got to know him quite well in college, because he was living in New York City at that time and I was going to Columbia. And I was out to him and he was out to me. And he was certainly out to the family in general. It was no secret, except maybe to little kids. So I don't know when this was revealed to me.
MS: You don't remember the words that would have been used?
HL: No, no I don't. But in any case, while my father was taking Time magazine away from me, he certainly knew that his brother was gay. And in fact there's a second cousin or something who lived in the South and who was a portrait painter and quite good. And he is now deceased. I'm sure that he was out and that everybody in the family knew. Although he was not close to us. He was far enough away that I might have met him but I never did meet him.
MS: And when you were saying before that you were becoming aware of attractions, were there any particular boys or was it more general?
HL: Oh no. There were particular boys. And I do remember David Weisenbaden, I think, but I may be off on the last name. They and other boys and I were looking through an art book. And there was Botticelli's "Venus on the Half Shell." And the boys were saying "wow" or whatever. It was clear that they were responding to the image of a naked woman. And I was thinking, "David's cuter than she is." In a self-conscious way, I mean. And gradually that awareness became deeper and more emphatic.
MS: So you went away to prep school, you said, when you were about sixteen. And was that also in the South?
HL: No, that was Exeter, New Hampshire. The very first day I was there, I went to Van Hushedon's grocery store, which was just a block from the dorm. And someone who lived in my dorm started giving me a hard time. And I think he called me a faggot and he sort of blocked my way. And Van intervened and it looked to me as if this might be difficult. Now I don't know why he chose to call me a faggot.
MS: Who intervened, you said?
HL: The man who owned the grocery store. Van's grocery store. But I was fortunate in that he was thrown out of the school the very next day. And I never had to deal with him again. For other reasons, of course.
HL: I don't know what other reasons. I was just glad he was gone.
MS: And was that the first time that you remember being called that?
HL: Yes absolutely. In grade school, since I was academically the best boy in the class, and it was a nice school, people thought I was a little strange or different, but everyone was very friendly and perfectly nice to me. I was not given a hard time. Even though I was a pathetic athlete and definitely chosen last on any choose up.
MS: Now did anything happen in your years at prep school in terms of your sexuality?
HL: Not a lot. And I'm not going to tell you all about it. I did have mild crushes on various people naturally. And I was very aware. And I did suffer though mixers, where girls from a girls' school would come and we would have a dorm party and it was just excruciating. One friend I think began to stroke my hair in one moment of relaxation and one thing might have led to another. And it was clear to me that one thing might lead to another. And I was not prepared to have that, so that just sort of was disengaged from, without any sense of awkwardness. I was steering clear of it. I wanted it, but I was definitely steering clear of it. I was not ready in my own mind. I basically got through college without any sexual experience.
MS: And you said you went to Columbia, right?
MS: So that was, you said, '66 to '70?
HL: Yes. The gay group had already begun there and I even wandered into one of their meetings in the basement of Butler Library, a public meeting, a lecture, that probably had been to some degree advertised. And I didn't know what it was when I wandered in, because I was just doing some homework there. And it became apparent what it was. And I sort of felt well this has no real relevance to me, so I left.
MS: And why did you think that?
HL: I don't know. I was a little put off, but I don't know whether it was before or after wandering into their meeting, to read about the group. And this is pretextual put off. They weren't very open. You had to go through the Episcopal Chaplain in order to contact them. They had offices in the chapel. That lasted for one or two years, but that was the way they began. So it was written about in the Columbia Spectator, which was the campus newspaper. And so people knew that it was there and that's how you got in touch with them. I did have a sexual experience, probably in the spring of '68. I was twenty-one at that point. Well maybe it was '69.
MS: While in New York, this was?
HL: Yes, while on campus. Someone picked me up in a record store. It was not a good experience. And there was no more of that. I did fall in love with a straight roommate, or even before he became a roommate. Then we roomed together. I came out to him. He was not interested, but we got along O.K.
MS: And you continued to live together?
HL: We continued to live together. And that was probably the most intense emotional non-relationship of my life.
MS: Did you hear about Stonewall at all?
HL: Yes. I read about it in the New York Times.
MS: Did you have a sense of identification?
HL: Not very much.
MS: Not much. So you weren't really thinking of yourself as gay at this point?
HL: Oh I was.
MS: You were. But not identification.
MS: But not identification with these activists?
HL: Well I was still dealing with the question of how to come out. And I didn't see that going down and taking part in a riot was a very constructive way to come out. It would have been completely unsuitable. I was out to a couple of friends. I then came out to the straight roommate, before we roomed together, though I'm not sure that he really understood.
MS: And how is that?
HL: We were tripping at the time. And it seemed clear enough to me that I had been clear. But that doesn't mean that he heard clearly and perhaps I wasn't as clear as I thought. I merely stated it. I did not ask for a response, as I recall. But I was out to a couple of other friends. In fact, another roommate of mine later was gay. And I had no thought of having any relationship with him, of a sexual nature. He was having a relationship, I didn't know this at the time, with a third roommate (there were three of us together), which I thought was very exploitive. It was off-putting to me. I didn't like it.
MS: When you found out later?
HL: A little bit later. And then there was a whole sort of byzantine world of everybody sleeping with everybody else, sort of slightly not too far away, that I didn't know too much about but was bemused by and did not wish to get involved with.
MS: So then in 1970 you moved to Philadelphia, right?
HL: I moved to Philadelphia.
MS: Now why did you move to Philly?
HL: Well I wanted to go to architecture school and I got into two places. I got into Penn and I got into Columbia. And the problem with Columbia was that my straight roommate, with whom I was still in love, also got into Columbia architecture school. And I thought it would not be a good situation for me to be in that shadow. I thought that was reason enough to leave. So I went to Penn, where I was determined to come out. And so I was looking for opportunities. And what I really remember is that I saw a poster put up by people who wanted to organize a student group at Penn who were not themselves necessarily students. They were from the Homophile Action League. George Bodamer and Byrna Aronson were the two prime movers in this. And they had an organizational meeting. And there did not seem to be enough interest at the time, so it did not happen. At that time, HAL (Homophile Action League) was disintegrating. And GLF [Gay Liberation Front] was also on the scene, so that was where I sort of joined up.
MS: Did you actually go to a HAL meeting?
HL: I never went to a HAL meeting. Now there probably were a few more meetings that one could have gone to. And I felt comfortable with the idea of GLF or fairly comfortable with the idea of GLF. I wasn't very rigid about it. But I had been involved in the antiwar movement at Columbia. Quite a bit involved. Perhaps I should speak to that.
MS: Yeah. Why don't you say a little bit about that?
HL: Well on the fringe, of course, because when I first went to my SDS [Students for a Democratic Society) meeting at Butler Library, in the basement, the same room where the gay group had met, it was a large meeting and I just observed. And I felt these are very strange people. These are big city people who do not think like farm people from Virginia. They are very Jewish, they are very big city. They probably have left-wing parents. This was all most bizarre. And I did not identify with their way of viewing the world. But I was very concerned about the war and very disturbed about it and found their issues appealing. And so when the first student strike developed, I became involved and was one of the occupying students in the mathematics building, and later in, I'm going to forget the name of it.
MS: I've forgotten, too.
HL: It was one of the buildings on Broadway. And so I was arrested in the first big bust and was involved in the second bust.
MS: Was there any visible gay presence that you recall?
HL: Not that I recall, except that Allen Ginsberg came and visited the campus.
HL: Now that doesn't mean that there was none, but I did not see it.
MS: O.K. And so you had gone back to talk about that because it was some context for you for GLF.
HL: Right. So I liked the idea of a radical political orientation. And I had done a great deal of LSD at Columbia. And I'm sure Kiyoshi Kuromiya will not object to my saying that he was very much into LSD and other drugs at the time. And he gave a course at the Free U.
MS: On gay liberation?
HL: Yes. And he also meant for people to trip and he asked in class, "Are there any undercover police agents or FBI agents or whatever here?" As if this would have a kind of immunizing effect. I think he thought at the time that it would, with theories of entrapment in mind and so forth.
MS: So were you actually going to GLF meetings?
HL: Well I took part in some GLF activities. And I'm not sure now. I don't remember going into any GLF meetings. I met people in GLF.
MS: I know they met at the Gayzoo on South Street sometimes and they participated in the Belmont Plateau Be-Ins?
HL: Well I went to a Belmont Plateau Be-In and participated. I also went to the 1970, well I guess it was later, it was the mobilization to shut down Washington. Anyway it was one of the May Day demonstrations after Kent State. So the GLF group went from here and I was with them. We went to Washington and we participated in that. So I got arrested there, too, as did Kiyoshi, I believe. Now I'm not sure that Kiyoshi was arrested, but he may have been in the same cell with me. It's that bad, my memory. There were thirteen people in the cell, I believe. It was a one-person cell and we were there overnight. And we were continually rotating because there had to be someone under the bed at all times. And there had to be a couple of people standing on the door, on the bars of the door, at all times. So it was necessary to rotate so people wouldn't get cramps or something.
MS: And this was an entirely gay contingent?
HL: Yes. This was a gay contingent.
MS: All from Philadelphia?
HL: All from Philadelphia, I think. Well maybe we met with other people from other places. But there was a good size Philadelphia contingent. So I dropped trash cans on Rock Creek Parkway to stop traffic
MS: So GLF, do you recall, was it a primarily white group? Multiracial?
HL: Well it was primarily white, but Kiyoshi was of course of Japanese descent. And Lee Claflin, I believe, was of some sort of mixed descent. Whether it was part Hawaiian or part Japanese, I have a kind of vague feeling. You know he's got sort of slightly Polynesian, possibly part Japanese look, but it's quite ambiguous. There were a couple of Blacks that I met, and who were they? I'm not clear about that. And it was mostly male. Was it all male? But I don't feel that I got a really good acquaintance with the people who were involved. I met Basil. And there was a Black guy who was living in Powelton Village. And I have seen him since. And he worked more recently, and I ran into him, and I should remember his name, when he was working.
MS: Breeze? There's Breeze Cooper? Sag Powell?
HL: Well I've met them all. Sag Powell, of course, I knew quite well, because he was in GAA [Gay Activists Alliance].
HL: But that's not...
MS: That's not who you're thinking of. Cei Bell?
HL: Nope, not Cei Bell. I know Cei Bell. Another person who worked on a bail, early release project with a private contractor with the city. And I talked to him several times and I don't remember his name.
MS: Can't remember his name? So were you doing anything else in terms of gay culture in Philadelphia right around this time, in 1970-71? Had you discovered or encountered any of the bars or restaurants?
HL: No, basically no. I came out in the movement. Homophile Action League had dances. They had dances at St. Mary's. And they put posters up. And I went to some of those. And that led to my first sexual experience here in Philadelphia.
MS: With a fellow member?
HL: Well I don't think he was a member of HAL. And neither was I a member of HAL. They were advertised and open to the public. And lots of people were not members. I did a workshop in the dorm at Penn for students with other members of GLF? Was it GLF or was this early GAA days? I think it was GLF. Five years ago I would have remembered. Then when the GAA organizers began to put up posters saying that there would be a first public meeting at a certain point, I went to that. And there was a pretty good turnout and I got involved in that.
MS: With GAA? Well maybe to pause for a second before we go into that, because I believe that was in late '71 or '72.
HL: '71 probably.
MS: '71? Because I know GLF really existed just for 1970.
HL: Well I came on the scene after Kiyoshi put out his paper.
MS: The Gay Dealer?
HL: Yeah. It was after The Gay Dealer.
MS: Do you have any recall of lesbians at that point? Encounters with lesbians, friends who were lesbians?
HL: Well of course Byrna Aronson was at the first meeting.
MS: First meeting of GAA?
HL: No. She did not participate in GAA. She was a member of HAL. And basically HAL members did not carry over. Very few carried over, George Bodamer being one of the few.
MS: So you had met Byrna.
HL: I had met Byrna. And I didn't really meet any lesbians at the HAL dance. And I really hadn't met any gay people through school. I don't think I met any through GLF. And so until GAA really hadn't met any, except for Byrna.
MS: And what do you remember about Byrna?
HL: Well I liked her. A very down-to-earth person, who seemed serious and dedicated. And I found out that she was working at ACLU and that was the right thing. While I had radical inclinations, I wasn't extremely radical and was certainly sympathetic to people working in the system and would never have felt critical of that.
MS: And that you saw as a distinction between HAL and GLF?
HL: No. Well Kiyoshi certainly has a very alienated stance toward American society, which I don't share. And he wanted to pull down the American flag and burn it on campus. I thought that was stupid and wrong and mistaken and wrong-headed.
MS: Did you go, by any chance, to the Black Panther convention at Temple?
HL: No I didn't.
MS: You knew about it, though?
HL: Well I may have known about it kind of. But I didn't see it as an opportunity for me to go there. And I know that Kiyoshi did. And I know that GLF did. But I think that was kind of before I contacted them.
MS: And when you first moved to Philly in those first couple of years, did you have a sense that Philly had a gay neighborhood?
MS: There weren't any places you would go to sort of be around gay people?
HL: Well I didn't go downtown much.
MS: You were really in West Philly.
HL: Yeah. No, I was not aware of a gay neighborhood or of other gay students.
MS: So I guess then we should move on to GAA.
HL: I think so.
MS: Is that right? Is there anything else pre-GAA that you want to say?
MS: So tell me about the first GAA meeting that you went to.
HL: It was at the Christian Association. And there were a good number of people. And there were probably some women as well as men. And probably some Blacks and probably Sag Powell. I don't know if he was there or not. He was there from a fairly early point. I felt, as I think the other people did there, that this was an important step. And it was important for us. And it was important for us. And it was important for the gay movement. And we were going to have big plans. And we were serious. And that was more or less justified.
MS: What was new about GAA as, say, compared to the other groups? What was so unique about GAA?
HL: Well it was to be distinguished from GLF and HAL, of course. And the important thing about it was that it was dynamic. It was new. It wanted to grow. It wanted to pull in people. And HAL had clearly just lost its steam. I don't know why organizations do that, but it had. So it clearly wasn't the cutting edge of anything. We were sort of waiting for it to disband.
MS: And GLF?
HL: GLF was also sort of falling apart, but it clearly was only oriented toward a certain kind of person. And that was inadequate. It was fine by itself. It makes me think of Kiyoshi's ideas regarding mysticism and so forth and a kind of New Age thinking and its possibilities and change of consciousness in America, the Greening of America. And well my feeling is that there's a very limited scope for that kind of thing. And it can grow to a certain point but Madame Blovatsky did her bit. And she got so far. And the New Age in the Sixties was going to do its bit and it would get so far. But it was not going to remake America. And if you wanted to remake America, that was not the way to do it. So I had no commitment to that approach. I did want any organization I was part of to be progressive generally and to relate well to other progressive movements for social change. I'll get to a point later where I describe what I thought was beyond the fringe. The broad coalition, which is only me and thee and I'm not so sure about thee. So we wanted to do reformist kinds of work. We wanted to organize around reformist kinds of work, legislation and other projects. And a whole lot of committees gradually formed, developed projects, many of which then spun off as organizations of their own.
MS: Do you know who started GAA?
HL: Well Tim Woodbury was the first president.
MS: Tim Woodbury?
HL: I'm not sure of the spelling.
MS: O.K. And who was he?
HL: I never got to know him very well. I think he moved away from Philadelphia shortly after the first year. He was president the first year. And his name was on stationery and there may be documents attesting to this. Who were the other officers? I could not tell you.
MS: But did he start it, do you think?
HL: I don't think it was one person exactly. I'm sure it wasn't one person. There was a certain amount of preparatory work. They wanted to have Robert's Rules of Order. They wanted to have a constitution and a committee structure and I'm sure they viewed GLF as a little harem scarem.
MS: Was the influence direct from New York's GAA or not so direct?
HL: Well clearly they got the name from GAA New York. And clearly they were modeling themselves on that. But what kind of contacts there were, I don't know. And I don't think they were extremely close. Probably people here had visited there and to a degree seen what was going on. I was not in on that planning phase.
MS: Well if I could maybe throw out an idea here for a second. What you were just describing as your vision of GAA, that is, working in some degree of coalition with other movements for social change, that seems to be different from what I understand about GAA New York, which really did seem to be much more single-issue focused. Would you say that's a fair characterization?
HL: Well we were a single-issue focus. But we had interest on the edge. We did pass resolutions in support of this or that, including even the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill.
MS: Do you think that made you different from GAA in New York? Or do you think that it's a miscaracterization of GAA New York?
HL: I couldn't tell you for sure. I just probably assumed that they weren't militantly exclusive, because it simply seemed to me to be stupid to be so. But of course the world does not look the same to everybody. I know that Barbara Gittings has a fairly one-issue orientation and found it difficult to see really why you would want to have a gay-focused organization that would look beyond a gay issue to, let us say, feminism. "What does ERA [the Equal Rights Amendment] have to do with it?" would be her point of view. And that struck me as quite unreasonably narrow. I can see that, oh, getting involved in vegetarianism might be rather beside the point.
MS: But why was the ERA more to the point?
HL: Because I felt, and I think most of the members in the group felt, that homophobia was sort of an aspect of sexism. They were too closely related. It was hard to imagine that one could make any political progress on gay issues if women's issues had not advanced. And although ERA did not pass, women's issues have advanced and so have gay issues. I wouldn't go back on that. I still think it's sensible to put them together. Even if you're not interested in pulling lesbians into your movement and your group, I think it makes sense.
MS: And on that score, what would you guess, the first couple years of GAA, the percentage of lesbians coming to meetings was?
HL: Well I'd be guessing, but I'd say maybe five percent.
MS: Out of how many people? How many people were coming?
HL: Well there was a good deal of turnover. That is to say, you had members and you had people who dropped in occasionally and you had people who came to check you out. And there were always a lot of new people coming to check you out. If all the lesbians who had come to check us out had stayed, we would have been predominantly lesbian. But that did not happen.
MS: How many people were there on a given night?
HL: I honestly can't remember. I know that we topped a hundred for a long period of time on a weekly basis. And I'm trying to think if we went much higher. I suppose, see there's even something in my head that says two hundred. We met at Horizon House. One could check out the capacity of the meeting room at Horizon House, because that's where it occurred.
MS: Do you know how that space was obtained?
HL: I didn't do it. Someone approached them and they agreed.
MS: What kind of place is it? I'm not even sure I know.
HL: It is a mental health and mental retardation community center and they get contracts. They're still in business. They're just on 12th street, about a block from here. They have contracts with the city.
MS: And they just had a big meeting room?
HL: They have a big meeting space on the second floor.
MS: I see.
HL: And we rented that. It wasn't free. I don't think we paid very high rent.
MS: So by then, you must have developed a sense of a gay neighborhood in Philadelphia.
HL: Yes. Of course, after our meetings at Horizon House we would adjourn, usually to the Allegro, which is no longer in existence of course. It's a parking lot.
MS: Right. But that was the favorite bar of GAA?
HL: It was the favorite bar, it was the favorite dance floor, most popular dance floor at that time. I don't think there was any private club on the scale of whatever it is now. I don't even know what it is now. The DCA or whatever.
MS: And your sense of the extent of Philly's gay neighborhood?
HL: Well a lot of the members of the group lived in Philly's gay neighborhood.
MS: Which was what? How would you define its boundaries?
HL: Well it would be both east and west of Broad, but it concentrates around Spruce, Pine, Locust.
MS: Spruce, Pine, Locust, east and west of Broad.
HL: East and west of Broad.
MS: River to river, would you say?
HL: Yes, although more concentrated in some areas than others.
MS: And where would you say the concentrations are or were?
HL: I don't know that they've moved so much. But then I'm probably less aware now than I was then. Probably not all the way to, I'm going to forget the name of the square.
MS: Not all the way to Fitler, but would it include Rittenhouse?
HL: I mean it could have been all the way to Fitler. It probably was. I just didn't know it.
MS: But Rittenhouse Square, too, was that a concentration?
MS: And Washington Square?
HL: Yeah. And all points between. 13th Street had its particular sleazy character.
MS: And were there any alternatives to these downtown neighborhoods for some kind of concentration of gay life, would you say?
HL: I understood that there were lesbians out in West Philadelphia, and some gay men as well. And scattered all over the city, too, because we had members who lived all over the city and in the suburbs. Some came in from the suburbs.
MS: But your sense was maybe lesbians in West Philadelphia.
HL: More concentrated out there than downtown. I'm sure there were lesbians here in Center City, too. But one didn't think of it as being quite the concentration.
MS: Do you have any theories about why lesbians in West Philly and gay men in Center City?
HL: I don't know if I had a theory. But it sort of fits one's general stereotype about the interests and socializing patterns of gay men and gay women. What are those stereotypical notions? Men are more interested in the bars. They're more interested in promiscuity. They're less interested in nest building. Nest building is more readily done in West Philadelphia.
HL: It's a quieter, more tree-lined, homey type of neighborhood, as opposed to the apartment houses of Center City.
MS: Fair enough. So then maybe back to GAA.
HL: Byrna lived in West Philadelphia, by the way. At least I think she did. But George Bodamer did, too.
MS: Now you said something to me on the phone, I think, about them being kind of a pair.
HL: A pair, a team. They had worked a lot together in HAL. They worked together in attempting to set up a gay Penn student group. However, George was not able to draw Byrna into the new GAA.
MS: What was the source of their bond? Why do you think they worked so well together?
HL: I don't know, but it might possibly be sort of the anti-macho character of George Bodamer that would have been comfortable to Byrna.
MS: And was he a feminist. Was he effeminate?
HL: Well he was certainly a feminist. He was not effeminate. He was big, tall, way overweight, long hair, brown hair, with a beard, quiet, introverted, neurotic about having a telephone in his apartment. He refused to have one, which later was a cause of awkwardness and difficulty. He wanted to be chair and was chair of the political committee of GAA, but would not have a telephone. And others, including myself, thought this was unacceptable, that in fact we would pay for the telephone, but he wouldn't have it. And if he wouldn't have it, we thought he had to go. This was wounding to George.
MS: Well you've given me some sense of him. That's helpful.
HL: He was a Methodist and he was active. Perhaps he was a Presbyterian. He was something like that. And he was active in the gay group in his church. That was another of his interests that I never learned a great deal about, but I think it was important to him.
MS: And so tell me about GAA's major activities and what you did with GAA.
HL: The primary reformist focus was to be a gay rights bill, as I think it was in GAA New York and probably many places around the country. It was the easiest-to-understand, simplest-to- organize around issue that would appeal to a broad swath of gay people, male and female. You didn't have to be terribly radical to support it. And it didn't matter what your gender was, although clearly there was the question of transgender and transvestite people and would they be included. And that was somewhat finessed. You can ask Cei Bell about it. I'm sure that he would have a point of view. Jerry Curtis of Homophile Action League had attempted to introduce the bill before. And he had drafted one, although that was essentially just amending it to add sexual orientation at the appropriate points and defining sexual orientation. He had not succeeded and Homophile Action League had not succeeded in getting a sponsor. I worked primarily on that. That was my main issue. Before we attempted to recruit sponsors, we went around to a lot of community organizations and got endorsements.
MS: What were some of those groups?
HL: You probably will have a list in the papers that I filed, but the Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Quakers.
MS: The Catholic Diocese?
HL: No, the Episcopal Diocese of Southeastern Pennsylvania. No, we approached the Catholic Diocese, their civil rights outfit, but they didn't nibble.
MS: So when you said community groups, I wasn't sure if you meant gay community groups.
HL: No, no. The idea was to get a list of endorsers that would impress City Council people. Clearly, well one, there scarcely were any gay community groups at that time. And secondly, they wouldn't have impressed any councilperson, so it would be a total waste of time.
MS: So who was the sponsor who you ended up getting?
HL: I'll be fussy. Not everybody who said they would do it ended up doing it. The prime sponsor was Bill Boyle, who turned out to be gay. And did Charlie Durham sponsor it? I think he did. He was a Black district councilman from West Philadelphia, now a judge I believe. And Ethel Allen, who I guess was Republican councilperson at large at that time, although she was later elected from a district in North Philadelphia and since has died.
MS: And still as a Republican she was elected?
HL: Oh yes. She never switched parties.
MS: Was she Black?
MS: That's right. And you said Bill Boyle ended up being gay.
HL: Well, we ended up learning that he was gay.
MS: In the course of the campaign for the gay rights bill?
MS: And was this ever made public during the campaign?
HL: Well, no. I think he took a bit of ribbing from other council people about being the sponsor. And I don't think he was out to them.
MS: How did you find out or what was the source?
HL: Well he told us. He told myself and Mark Segal. And I don't know how public he was. But he did go out to bars. He did have a lover. He was seen about. Mark would know more about it than I would.
Ms: Is he still alive?
HL: No he's dead. He was not a very healthy person. He was overweight. I don't think he exercised, I think, just not very healthy.
MS: Anyone else on City Council that you knew of at the time was gay, that you want to say?
HL: No. I believe that Ethel Allen was.
MS: That's sort of what I was getting at.
HL: But she never told me so.
MS: I heard that from someone else.
HL: And why do I think so? I don't even know why I think so. She was a wonderful person. She was very earthy and down to earth and articulate and sensible. And she could relate well to a broad spectrum of people. She was a medical doctor. That's why she was Dr. Allen. So she was a great person to have on your side. Bea Chernock, Beatrice Chernock, who was also a Republican councilwoman at that time, kept thinking well maybe she would come on board and sponsor the bill. But in the end she never did.
MS: And why do you bring her up? Was she a lesbian?
HL: No. I feel reasonably confident that she was not a lesbian.
MS: And how do you spell her last name, do you remember?
MS: And I thought for some reason that David Cohen was a sponsor. Is that not right?
HL: He may have been at a later time. But he was not a member of City Council at that time.
HL: I don't think he was a member. No. Others expressed interest. Zezichny from the Northeast. But he didn't come on board in the end.
MS: Well maybe to step back a second again from the gay rights fight, although I want to get back to it, it seems to me, if my memory serves me, before the gay rights fight became the big GAA focus, Gay Raiders was making its splash. And I know you had some role in some of those activities, right?
HL: Well I would not have become involved with Gay Raiders until after GAA formed. And I did participate in a number of actions, but I would have met Mark Segal through GAA I suppose.
MS: And you joined with him on some of the Gay Raiders actions, right?
HL: Yes. Most particularly the CBS Walter Cronkite zap. That was not the first, but it was the most important. I wrote some press releases. I helped get press releases out to the press. I did some minor backup work. I did get chained with Mark to the front door of the CREEP [Committee to Reelect the President] headquarters at Rittenhouse Square, which almost got us into serious trouble. There was a young male Republican who resented this, who resented being locked into his building and thought he might get physical about it. And since we were already chained with no ability to unlock ourselves, we would have been sitting ducks. However, wiser, more sensible Republican heads prevailed and this did not happen.
MS: Now Mark was pretty controversial for some of the things that he did at that time. And what was your relationship with him and with the Gay Raiders and what was the Gay Raiders' relationship with GAA?
HL: Well there was really no relationship of Gay Raiders to GAA, except maybe he met a few people there, who helped him in the Gay Raiders domain. But that was his vehicle. You could have called it Mark Segal and the Gay Raiders, because they were whatever team he put together to help him with whatever his project was. I guess Tommi Avicolli was another. We did, oh golly, I think that the disruption of the guy who wrote....
MS: David Reuben?
HL: David Reuben.
MS: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About...
HL: ...Sex And Were Afraid to Ask. At Playhouse in the Park. That was a Gay Raiders action and there were a number of people who participated in that. Maybe eight or ten actually on the stage, not just in some kind of backup role. That, of course, was disastrous.
MS: Why is that?
HL: Because Reuben left the stage immediately and wouldn't come back until we were gone. And we wanted to debate him on the stage or something. O r we wanted to discuss with the audience. The audience was having no part of it, no part of it. This kind of disruption was completely unacceptable. And the guards came and dragged us off. And someone clubbed Bernie Boyle and I don't know if he was unconscious, but he was certainly bleeding and had stitches later and it was very distressing. It was a fiasco.
MS: Now this seems at odds with the way you characterized yourself before as wanting to really work within the system.
HL: Well no, I saw no discrepancy in working inside and outside, but there are people who feel that working inside is wrong or a waste. I never felt that.
MS: And nor did you feel that working outside was....
HL: No and I felt primarily (I guess I felt this consciously at the time but it was an awareness that developed in stages) that the gay movement was at a particular stage. This is not a general question of whether you work inside the system or not. It's how you get a movement that has no recognition going. Controversy is very useful. We thought, as most people thought, that the media was a major vehicle for getting your movement known and taken seriously. Until you were taken seriously in the press, or at least paid attention to in the press, you would not be paid much attention to politically. Not that it would be impossible, but that it would be much more difficult. So Mark thought that almost any publicity was good publicity. He wanted to make it interesting and catchy and amusing if possible. There was the coffee klatch demonstration in the offices of Arlen Specter, when he was district attorney, where we came around with a coffee wagon and danish and invited people up and down the hallways to come have coffee with us in his office as we met with him. And this was not terribly distressing to Arlen Specter. I don't think he relished it, but he was polite enough that he could deal with it.
MS: So what do you say to the critics of Mark's who say that this was too much focused on him and his personality.
HL: Well I think the observations concerning his personality have some validity, but I think it was the correct tactic for the time. The only one that I possibly regret, well I regret two, one for personal reasons and one for political reasons. I got in trouble with the Cronkite demonstration. I had to spend a lot of time raising money to pay off the fine. The whole trial. I felt we were unfair to Walter, not that that bothered me a lot. It absorbed a lot of energy and maybe it absorbed more energy than it was worth. On the other hand, I think that it probably was worth it.
MS: Was that the personal or the political example?
HL: No that's the personal. That is to say, I had to spend a lot of energy that I didn't want to spend cleaning up the mess that that created for me. The political one was the GAA demonstration. That was not Gay Raiders, that was GAA, at the Republican fundraising dinner at the Academy of Music. And while I don't necessarily think that we would have gotten anywhere with them through less confrontational tactics, I think it may have hurt us politically in some ways. Not just with the Republicans, but with George Schwartz, who was president of City Council and who in fact controlled City Council and could keep things bottled up in committee. I don't know the inside of his head. He didn't want it to come out. And I think he may have not liked Mark, who was Jewish, and George Schwartz was Jewish, and Isadore Bellis was Jewish. He was chair of the committee.
MS: Chair of which committee?
HL: Of the Law and Government Committee that the gay rights bill was assigned to. And they may not have cottoned to Mark as a fellow Jew going out and behaving the way he was behaving.
MS: That's very interesting.
HL: And I'm primarily basing that on Mark's opinion of his relationship to George Schwartz. I think if you ask him he will say at least that George Schwartz did not like his being Jewish. It might have been a little easier for Schwartz if Mark had not been Jewish.
MS: Was Schwartz Republican? Was that the link that you were making?
HL: Oh no, no.
MS: So then what was?
HL: He was political.
MS: So the idea of disrupting a fundraiser?
HL: There's a political class. And I think it might not have set well with him.
HL: I doubt that he thought, "Well great, they're beating up on the Republicans, that's fun." I don't think that was his reaction. I think it was, "Those scruffy radicals, what are they up to now?" I will remark that Ethel Allen thought that the Republican fundraiser demonstration was a very bad idea. She disapproved of it. But of course she was a Republican. And maybe Beatrice Chernock could have come on board, although she was a good hesitator. I was going to say prevaricator, but I guess that's not the right word. But she would sort of dangle this in front of you. And I think she never really intended to do it.
MS: Now the other group that worked intensely on the gay rights bill was Dyketactics, right? At least for a period of time.
HL: Well not the first round.
MS: How do you distinguish between the rounds? Could you help me there?
HL: Well the rounds I guess really would have to do with council sessions. And I'll get the chronology all screwed up. We got it introduced. It was assigned to the Law and Government Committee. They would not hold a hearing. It became apparent, how I forget, that the way to get the hearing in the Law and Government Committee was to go to the Human Rights Commission and have hearings there. So we had to get hearings there. And we had two days of hearings, I believe.
MS: Is this Kevin Vaughan?
HL: No, no, long before Kevin Vaughan.
MS: I've forgotten the name of the person.
HL: McGroft was there, but he was not the head of the organization.
MS: I can check back on that. So they held hearings.
HL: Yeah, and they issued a recommendation, which was, of course, approval. They liked the idea, which was kind of almost a foregone conclusion. Not quite, but almost a foregone conclusion. Larry Graff was the name that I'm thinking of, but he was not head of the commission. It was Clarence Farmer who was head of the commission. And whether their recommendation was that legislation be enacted or that the committee hold hearings or City Council hearings, I don't remember. So eventually we got the hearings. I don't remember how.
MS: For the Law and Government Committee.
MS: So that was the first round, is what you're saying.
HL: Well that was the first round. And of course I think it never came to a vote. It was not voted on. And eventually it expired because that session ended. So that was the first round. That was getting the bill introduced, getting some sponsors, getting a slew of people to support it. And a number of them came to testify. A lot of these organizations are very top-down. So there would be an executive committee and they would approve it and that would be that. So the UAW [United Auto Workers] endorsed the Philadelphia gay rghts bill. Well that's a very small group of people doing the endorsement. And we got a number of other union groups and community groups and church groups from a variety of churches. And that got a lot of people to come in and it was useful. I mean, when there was coverage of the hearings, that was taken note of and I think it did make it more respectable and helped. And then of course you can say, "Well, if you make yourself too respectable, then aren't you kind of emasculating the idea or the cutting edge of the gay rights bill." The radical point of view would be that the bill itself won't do any good. It's only a vehicle for raising consciousness and if you don't handle it in a consciousness-raising way, then you're going to forego the very opportunity that you're attempting to create.
MS: Is that your position?
MS: No. What was your position?
HL: I think that it served a consciousness-raising purpose and raised consciousness where consciousness was. So I think it worked. There was a lot of debate, too, whether the bill should be amended and modified or restricted in any way to make it more acceptable. Could this be done piecemeal? And of course the argument would be, well, we're really more interested in it as a platform and you don't want to compromise your platform. And I can't even remember what side I came out on. I wrote an editorial, though, a long editorial in the Gay News, extremely long, probably the longest they ever ran, attempting to analyze that issue.
MS: In the Philadelphia Gay News?
HL: Yeah. It's back there somewhere. I would hate to say I came out on one side and you look it up and I was actually on the other.
MS: Well I'm just surprised because I think the News started in '76.
HL: Oh no, no, no, no, no. It was much earlier.
MS: It started in '74 maybe?
HL: Well at least '74. It was begun in Pittsburgh, you know, and Mark had then got a sort of Philadelphia franchise and there were various ideas of how you would combine a national section and a local section. And I think the Pittsburgh people tried to go to Washington or somewhere. Cleveland, Cleveland. And they did open a Cleveland paper. And so eventually Mark bought it or took it over.
MS: Right. I thought the Philly version didn't start until '76, but I could be wrong.
HL: I was the local news editor here and did heaps of news coverage. Wrote heaps of stories.
HL: Which was a good experience. I mean you would often see that your stories would trigger something of a activist nature. I started out on the Gayzette and the Gay Alternative. The Gayzette was a newspaper and the Gay Alternative was a literary magazine. And I was on the Alternative through its entire history and through the Gayzette through much of its history. And Tom Wilson, now Tom Wilson Weinberg, had an idea, a concept of what that paper should be. And it was not really my concept. And I sort of felt that Mark had a much better concept.
MS: And what would you say is the difference?
HL: Tom's concept was a gay community newsletter. He liked very much hand-lettered headlines, advertisement-free, and yet which nonetheless would pay its own way. And he was not interested in putting any kind of money into it. He wanted it to pay its own way and build its own way, but not take advertising, except of the most limited and correct form.
HL: And I didn't think that was a sensible approach. I thought it was destined not to last very long, that it couldn't last long if no one can make a living from it. And that it was much better to have a newspaper that could really last than a, I don't think we used the term politically correct at that time, but broadly speaking politically correct. We liked GCN [Gay Community News], but I think even that was sort of beyond Tom's notion of what the Gayzette should be. So I was very happy to see the Gay News develop. And Mark has a certain flair for the crass, which is not entirely ingratiating, but which nonetheless is functional. And I very much respect the fact that it's functional.
MS: Well maybe back to the gay rights fight. Going back to Dyketactics, you said that they weren't in on the first fight, but they came in later.
HL: Yeah. I mean they probably did some work on their own after the bill was introduced to lobby for the bill. But I don't even remember that. I don't think they did anything to get the bill introduced.
MS: What I know mostly about is the city hall episode.
HL: I think that was the second round. I don't remember. And I was not there that day, by the way, in which that particular disruption occurred. And that really was rather late. I think that was the second round. I think they would have tended to want to keep a considerable amount of distance and separateness. Though I think by that time, Linda Cohen, was that her name? Dave Cohen's daughter.
MS: Sherry Cohen.
HL: Sherry Cohen. Beg your pardon, Sherry Cohen. She was probably involved in Dyketactics? I don't remember her from before that. There was also the Governor's Council on Sexual Minorities. And women were involved in that. Philadelphia women were involved in that.
MS: So were there non-Dyketactics women actively involved in the gay rights bill fight?
HL: I certainly don't want to say no. I suspect there are women who feel that they were actively involved and I wouldn't contradict that for a minute. I'm trying to think who. Mark and I were the primary movers in the Political Committee. And for a period of time, Cathy McPeek was involved in the Political Committee. And she was chair of the Political Committee at one point, I believe. Maybe I'm wrong. She became president.
MS: Of GAA?
HL: Yeah. And the Political Committee would meet at her apartment for a period of time.
MS: Where did she live?
HL: She lived very near to the Steps. And she objected to the loud noise at night. Where that little street comes out onto the numbered street, there's a T-intersection. She's right opposite that mouth of the street.
MS: I see. Do you remember the order of the presidents of GAA?
HL: I can try. Tim Woodbury. Jeffrey Escoffier. Peter Dunning. Tommi Avicolli, I guess. And Cathy McPeek and myself. And there's some repetition. I think maybe it was me, Tommi Avicolli, and then me again.
MS: Do you know more about Cathy, since she was the only woman.
HL: Cathy McPeek probably had not been a member a great length of time before she became president. I think we liked the idea of having a woman president. We wanted to make ourselves more attractive to women. It was certainly our reflection that if more of the women who came through stayed that we would build up our female membership. And if she were president, more would be likely to stay.
MS: Why do you think most women didn't stay?
HL: Well the general reason that women did not stay in the gay movement in general. It was always a double question for them of feminism and gay liberation. And there was always the social aspect, even for the most dedicated of activists. And consequently if you don't see very many women there, it's hard to get a critical mass. If it's not done from the beginning, it's not likely to happen.
MS: So you're saying the gay men used GAA in part as a social environment. And that might have been off-putting or less attractive?
HL: Well less attractive, but if women could also have used it in a social way, it might not have been off-putting. But with only a very small group of women and a large group of men, it's very hard to get that going.
MS: Right, right. Now I have a tape of a session that was run about women in GAA. And the only label on it says Joy. And I probably could play you the tape and maybe you would even recognize the voice because it goes on for quite a awhile.
HL: I think I remember. I think I remember the occasion. I believe she was a member of GAA. And maybe there was a women's caucus or committee and she was attempting to encourage women's participation, if I have the right person. But she certainly felt that women have a different outlook on the world. And a women's sensibility is different. And undoubtedly their way of doing politics and their way of doing organizing and their way of doing science and their way of everything is different.
MS: Do you remember her last name?
HL: Nope. I don't.
MS: O.K., but it was Joy?
HL: Well it rings a bell. That's all I can say.
MS: Not Jo Hoffman?
HL: I don't remember. And there was more than just her. I mean there was a small group, but I don't think that it really took off. And there were other women who were perfectly comfortable, who were sort of more tomboy types of an old fashioned sort and who just were not put off, who saw gay movement activity, and I don't mean gay and lesbian, I mean gay movement activity. I don't mean gay male, I mean gay movement activity, was not necessarily a social thing for them. And they were perfectly happy with the idea of working with men.
MS: Because they themselves were identified as masculine? Is that what you're saying?
HL: Well possibly. But I mean I don't think Barbara was put off it and I don't think she's identified as masculine. I think Dwayne Johnson was sort of a tomboy.
MS: Dwayne Johnson was a lesbian?
HL: Yeah. She ran stuff off for us. She had a Gesettner machine or something. This was the Gesettner machine age. This was before the Xerox age. Gosh, it's like before TV.
MS: I remember dittos.
HL: There was a Gesettner machine at the Christian Association and maybe there was a better machine that Dwayne Johnson had at the YMCA, I think. And she was real nice and she wasn't very active with us, but she did copying, which was of course very important.
MS: So did you have any encounters, separatist or anti-gay male encounters, with lesbians during this period?
HL: The only time I had one was when we went to a conference in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1971, leading up to the 1972 Democratic convention and Republican convention. And this was a planning conference and there was a women's workshop. And it was not made clear from the scheduling material on the blackboard or whatever that it was closed to men.
MS: This was a gay conference?
HL: Yeah. And I walked into this workshop and I was shouted out. Not in a polite way.
MS: Do you remember what they said?
HL: No, but it was just loud and vociferous and sort of, "Get out, get out, get out, go away!"
MS: Right. Is that the only incident, really, you can remember?
HL: Only incident? Yeah. It is the only one I remember.
MS: Did you have a sense of a separatist community in Philadelphia?
HL: Oh yeah. I mean it was quite clear that with the breakup of HAL, that the women in it, I think, were unhappy. But of course I never went to those meetings so I never experienced that. And so the Dyketactics was sort of a counterpart to GLF. Maybe most of the women who would have been in GLF if they had been in a group with men were in Dyketactics.
MS: Are you talking about Radicalesbians now, because that was a group that was around the same time.
HL: Oh, I am talking about Radicalesbians. And I sort of think of Dyketactics as being...
MS: Radicalesbians was '71, around '71. They met at the Women's Center.
HL: ...a cross of Radicalesbians and Gay Raiders, maybe.
MS: Right. And then Dyketactics was more I think Penn-based.
HL: O.K. See I really don't know about the structure of Dyketactics. I don't know how many people were in it. I worked with people, and women, with the Gay Community Center, which was women as well as men, and the Gay Media Project, which was women as well as men, and the Gay Alternative, which was women as well as men.
MS: Can you tell me about each of those?
HL: Well the Gay Alternative attracted women clearly with a more literary bent. It was mostly men.
MS: Rachel Rubin, is that the main lesbian involved?
HL: Well I can look on the back cover of the first issue and we'll see who was there. It was Kate, whose last name I've forgotten. I guess Rachel was involved. I sort of don't remember her primarily. And I kind of think that Victoria Brownsworth was involved, then known as Tigger, then a bisexual. But maybe not.
MS: Pat Hill, I think, also was
HL: Pat Hill, who founded Giovanni's Room.
MS: Well I think Tom Wilson Weinberg and Bernie Boyle were the original owners.
HL: The original original, and Pat acquired it from them. Well probably Tom had very small ambitions in this direction. And Pat had larger ambitions, although not terribly large. But it built slowly. You have to admit that these things build slowly and it does take capital. I'm sure Pat did not have a lot of capital and had to build it as she went. And then Ed Hermance came in. And he and Pat Hill had it for a long time.
MS: So that was the Alternative. And then what about the other groups you mentioned? Gay Media Project and the Community Center?
HL: Well Gay Media Project involved a good many women, as well as men. It involved a lot of people. Gay Media Project was smaller, although it had open meetings and maybe twelve or fifteen people would come and there were little committees. And John Wyles was a prime mover in that and Loretta Dellogia was a prime mover. Loretta later went to Temple Law School. And they, as I said about George Bodamer and Byrna Aronson, seemed to me to be a team. They worked very closely together, particularly in Gay Media Project. It's been remarked to me that John Wyles, while attracted to men, did not particularly like men, and liked women much better. And I think that may be a help in the formation of such pairs. Of course it could work the other way as well, but I have not encountered that.
MS: Gay Media Project was inspired by the Inquirer article, right? Is that right? "Gay Today?"
HL: Yes, I think that's true. And I think it was a committee in GAA at first and then spun off. And we had been concerned about representations of gay people in the media. And one of our earlier demonstrations was to go down to Mr. Livingroom. And there was a TV commercial they were running, if not on cable at least on low-budget advertising TV, where Mr. Livingroom was a gay man and inviting you down to see the furniture at Mr. Livingroom. And very much a femme, swish image. And we did not approve. We thought this was not good. We might be a little more tolerant now. Actually, is it TLA Video or is it Spruce Video? Anyway, one of the current video outfits in Philadelphia today runs an add which might have failed the Mr. Livingroom test. And no one seems to be raising a great fuss about that. But those were different days. And we didn't like it. So we went down in a group. We kind of milled about. And this was late in the evening actually. I don't think we were disrupting a lot of business, but we disturbed/annoyed them. And I think it intimidated them a little bit. There was such a large number of people, including, of course, I believe, Cei Bell.
MS: Who was in drag at that point? Is that right?
HL: No, he was not in drag, but nonetheless hardly needed to be in drag. There were other members of the organization who were so femme that they could be mistaken for women when in male drag.
MS: And was GAA a comfortable place, do you think, for feminine men, butch women, drags?
HL: Fairly, fairly. There were a number. I'm sure they didn't feel entirely comfortable, but formally at least we were welcoming. And there were a small number of them. And there was Radical Queens, which was a caucus in the group, and of course therefore gave a kind of home base within the group, which both expressed their discomfort but at the same time gave them a base which would make them feel comfortable enough to continue in the organization.
MS: Right. That's actually a point I wanted to ask you about. It seems to me that in these years, four, five years, that so many different groups that in other cities formed their separate organizations in Philly somehow still were operating under the rubric of GAA.
HL: Well they started there and so there's a period of time in which they were there. And then they would spin off. I mean they were not ejected. And they didn't leave in a huff. It was sort of felt, well, they should do what they want to do and if they feel that they can be more comfortable and do what they're doing better apart, or that they can recruit better apart, well no one seemed to be very uptight about that.
MS: And do you attribute that to anything about Philadelphia? Because other people have characterized it similarly. That there wasn't a lot of antagonism, that people didn't storm off in a huff, whereas in other cities that I know, that was more the picture.
MS: So any theories about why things worked differently here?
HL: Well I'm too removed from it. It could be that that was a little bit the position at the beginning, that at the opening meeting that it was made clear that we were open to everybody. We wanted to draw in everybody. We didn't want to be exclusive. And I guess the attitude was: you may not feel entirely comfortable with everybody, but we would like everybody to get comfortable with everybody. And I'm sure that we–I wasn't there–didn't do enough organizing in the Black community and leafleting of Black bars and so forth before the first public meeting. And some people may have felt, well we didn't really know where to do it and so forth, but whether you know or not where to do it, if you don't do it then it has real consequences. And so that probably held us back. The man that I was trying to remember in Powelton Village who is Black. I can see his face, but I can't remember his name. I think he lived with Lee Claflin at that time in Powelton Village.
MS: Community Center Committee. That was one group that I didn't pick up.
HL: That also, we wanted it to be for everybody. And realized it might not end up being for everybody. And basically, I felt very low-key about it because I felt many women are just not going to work with us. And I didn't feel that it was unwelcoming. And I'm sure that some women did feel that it was unwelcoming. But I also felt that it wouldn't make a lot of difference. That it was going to be very hard to get them to stick around if they saw something more interesting in the feminist direction.
MS: So it sounds like the picture you're drawing is that it wasn't gay male sexism so much as the positives for them, the attraction that they might have had for being in feminist groups.
HL: Yeah I felt that. And then I still feel there's a tendency, my consciousness could be raised on this, because I'm out of the loop, that in a way there are no lesbian issues that are distinctively lesbian and not gay. And the primary reason to have gay and lesbian is because lesbians feel separate. And they feel separate and therefore they go off and organize in a separate way. And it's not a question of issues. And even when I see NGLTF [National Gay and Lesbian Task Force] making a thing in their most recent mailing about lesbian health issues, you kind of look at their discussion in their mailing about what are these lesbian health issues? I end up feeling, hey there are none. There are feminist health issues that I think are very real. And there is a lesbian community to work in. But I think individual lesbians scarcely have any issues that women in general don't have, except how do you get the information to them, that kind of thing. So I'm not highly persuaded. I think that it is right for gay organizations to work on feminist issues, but I don't actually see that there are lesbian issues to work on. Except insofar as there's community building and gay men can help in that and be cooperative in that.
MS: Well one of the things that this is making me think of is something that's attributed to Kiyoshi and other gay liberationists, that is the idea that gay liberation is a parallel movement to feminism. That gay liberation is liberation for men in the way that feminism is liberation for women.
HL: Well there's an overlap. I don't think that it's a parallel movement. I'm not sure that Kiyoshi thinks precisely that either. It is parallel but overlapping. If you're a lesbian, then clearly both are relevant to you. Feminism alone is not enough. Gay liberation alone is not enough. And therefore there are two focuses that women are attracted to. And I would not criticize a lesbian for devoting her energies to the feminist movement. I don't think that it's obvious that she should work in the gay liberation movement, even if she's gay. But it would be a great pity if the gay movement didn't have some women working in it because I think it is not a gay male movement in terms of its issues. In terms of community building, there is a problem. That's how do you define yourself and how do you develop? It's not obvious that it should be one or the other. If you have a coffeehouse at the community center, there's no necessity for it to be all men or all women. Although if you build a lot of numbers, you may find that there's not enough room for all the women and all the men you want to pull in. And then you're going to tend to separate. Because it's an alternative place to meet other people of your sexual persuasion, so there you are.
MS: Some people have said to me that because a lot of these spaces are sort of sexual spaces, it makes sense that gay men and lesbians wouldn't be drawn to one another, even when sex is not, say, the overt issue.
HL: Yeah, right. Well see I don't feel very strongly about that one way or the other. I think Homophile Action League dances were clearly open to men and women and that was fine. And they weren't so sexual that it was uncomfortable to be in mixed company. I saw no necessity for them to be all one sex. And if there's a gay AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] as there is in New York and they have dances, I think their dances are mixed. They're probably mostly men. I don't know. But then of course they have this additional aspect, which brings them together, which is not just being gay. It's also AA. So if you have this third element, then that could cement the social bonds between the men and the women.
MS: Do you think activism is one of those things that could?
HL: Can be, can be. And of course this is a big city and I'm just going to repeat what other people undoubtedly have said and which is obvious. That in a small community it's more necessary for people to bond together. And there may only be one bar in town and it's for men and women and they mix and it's no problem. And you come to the big city and there are these other social opportunities and people tend to self-segregate.
MS: And on that score, you put Philly in the class of big cities, which it certainly is. In that time, did you have a sense of Philadelphia's gay scene as being unique in any way?
HL: Well I figure every big city is unique.
MS: Well what was unique about Philly?
HL: I had not much awareness of other big cities. Of course, New York and San Francisco I had some awareness of. I really had no awareness of the gay scenes in the other cities.
MS: I guess maybe I'm interested in not just what your sense was at the time, but your sense now, looking back on what has been distinctive about Philadelphia.
HL: Well, these relations between men and women, probably less intense than New York, in terms of division and radicalness and willingness to work together at some level.
MS: Greater willingness here?
HL: Greater willingness here. Byrna, for instance, was perfectly willing to be supportive and to help in various ways. And Barbara Gittings was certainly supportive, but she never considered, I think, joining GAA. She scarcely ever came to any meeting. Maybe if she was invited for a panel discussion she would come. But she really never came as a community member that I can recall. And I'm sure she was asked to join and was not interested. She had her own little schtick.
MS: Right. Anything else distinctive about Philly other than on that dimension?
HL: Well we already had a little history of gay activism before I came and before HAL. And Barbara Gittings is representative of that. I later made met Keith...
HL: Clark. And he was Bill Holick's lover, and so I knew him through that and he was somewhat active, I guess, in GAA for awhile. Or maybe even sort of successor groups. Let the record show that he can't remember.
MS: Well maybe if nothing springs to mind, I do want to get back to the gay rights bill, because we haven't ever really tied that up.
HL: How disjointed. So we had the hearings and they were successful and it didn't come out of committee and didn't get voted on. And then I guess we got it reintroduced. And was it ever voted on? I cannot even tell you now if it was ever voted on. I don't think it was because I think I'd remember.
MS: But in your campaigns, your active involvement in those years, it never did pass. It was later, right?
HL: It did not pass, no. It was only when I was in law school in New York that it passed. And I came down for that, but of course I really had no active participation in that. Other people did it. Mark was involved, but other people did it. And there was a new group and GAA had expired before I left in 1976.
MS: Right. Well actually I'm curious about that. Why did GAA expire? Was it about the gay rights bill and not winning that?
HL: I guess people got tired of the gay rights bill. And at that time there was enough going on in other areas. The committees had spun off. They were no longer therefore there as a kind of supportive ring around the political core. And the political core lost its momentum and the ring had dispersed. And I think the social scene was more active, so that I think there was less of a felt need for an alternative space which GAA filled for social purposes. Not as many people came and fewer people meant fewer people. And perhaps a lack of creative leadership on my own part.
MS: Well if that were true then there would never be any political groups that would last very long, unfortunately. To pick up another thread, Cathy McPeek, we talked briefly about this on the phone. I think one other person said to me that they remember her leaving when she got involved with a gay male member of the group.
HL: Right. She had a lover, Marilyn. She got involved with a man. This was disturbing to her on two fronts. One is she felt that now that she was bisexual, how could she, in good gay conscience, be president of a gay activist group. She did not share this with anybody in the group, but she stopped coming to meetings and could not be found.
MS: While she was president?
HL: Yes. This was distressing to me. I did not feel that this was a reasonable way to behave. This reminded me very much of George Bodamer refusing to have a telephone, as sort of unacceptable behavior.
MS: This was before you knew why she wasn't....
HL: Right. Well of course I didn't know why. She didn't tell anybody. She was unavailable. So she was dealing with difficulty arising from, well it was told to me in confidence a long time ago. Do I say it now? Does anyone care? Someone attempted suicide, I believe, and she had to deal with this and this was emotionally draining and took all her time and energy. And she didn't want to tell anybody and she didn't feel it was anybody's business because it was a personal matter. So she ended up kind of feeling that her not participating in GAA was a personal matter. And this rubbed me very much the wrong way.
MS: Now I'm a little confused. Now it sounds like there were two reasons she wasn't coming. Is that right?
HL: Yes. Her attention was absorbed in the emotional difficulty of her personal situation. And she felt that it was no longer appropriate. So somehow these two things played together. She didn't come and tell anybody. And we eventually had a political committee meeting in her apartment and after the meeting she decided that she would tell me what was what, now that she was a little bit more able to spend time. And it's clear that she regarded this as a personal matter, personal confidence. She could have said, "For personal reasons I am not able to do this any longer." And I didn't particularly want to know what her personal reason was. I just wanted her to declare something. And then, of course, I felt that I had been badgering her to say something and now that she had said something, it was a personal matter, I should not press her on it. Of course she felt entirely the different way. She felt now that she had made a personal confidence, I should show personal interest. I felt I was being extremely tactful by not pressing the matter and inquiring further. It wasn't that I wasn't curious. So apparently she took great offense, I heard later, that she had made this personal confidence and in my insensitive masculine way I had refused to empathize or ask questions and I had changed the topic. I had changed the topic to what we would do now that she no longer wished to be a member. This struck her as appalling.
MS: More than a member, right? She was still president of GAA?
HL: But she expressed the desire not necessarily not to be a member but not to be president. And so it seemed incumbent to do something.
MS: Right, right. And is that when you became president of GAA? Or you're not sure about that?
HL: Maybe it was president the second time. Yes, I think that I mentioned that maybe I would be president after her.
MS: Was that at all common in GAA, members getting involved cross-sex or was it really unusual?
HL: No. Victoria did it, but Victoria didn't care. She was open about it. And she never expressed it as a conflict. Whether she felt it as a conflict is another matter.
MS: And was she getting involved with gay guys or with just guys?
HL: Don't know. Guys, probably straight guys. Maybe bisexual guys, I don't know. And we had one woman who was interested in gay men who propositioned me.
MS: Really? Who was bi herself, or just interested in gay men?
HL: Mostly interested in gay men, I think. I was hardly the only one she propositioned. I did not feel that this was meant to be a special relationship of any particular sort.
MS: Well this may seem like a complete lack of segue, but I'm asking everyone this question because it's how I'm ending my book. Do you remember what you did around the time of the Bicentennial?
HL: Oh yes.
MS: Everyone has a story.
HL: Well I took part in the Counter-Bicentennial event with a GAA booth.
MS: Can you talk about that. There was a GAA booth?
HL: A very beautiful booth which could be assembled and disassembled and re-used. And we had our literature there.
MS: This was for the big, focused one-day celebration? Was it on July 4th?
HL: Yes. And I remember I took down the booth and we took it to someone's home in West Philadelphia. And the fireworks were going off as we were putting it in the basement and driving into Center City for the fireworks. And the fireworks were all over by the time I got here and I felt that this was unfair.
MS: Beause you had done your action earlier in the day.
HL: Well we'd spent the whole day doing it. And others were not in charge of taking down the booth. They had gone to the fireworks.
MS: Now where was the booth? Is this at Independence Mall?
HL: No this is up north. Fairmont Park. There were thousands and thousands of people. There was a Counter-Bicentennial parade that I guess Rizzo was upset about. He was alarmed that this was going to be a radical riot. Who knows? Chicago 1972 all over again. Which of course it was not by any stretch of the imagination. It was a nice large parade with a lot of color. And up where the sort of grounds were where people ended up, I believe, there were a lot of booths representing all kinds of different organizations as you can imagine. It's a kind of social movement booth-fest.
MS: So it was pretty much separate from the patriotic celebration happening.
HL: Well it was way far away from Independence Mall. It was separate. It was not to confront or mix. And both, I guess, were reasonably large. I don't recall how large the regular one was, but there were thousands of people in the counter one and of course people from out of town as well, to a certain degree, because Philadelphia, for the Bicentennial, is a focus. And I don't remember very much about that day.
MS: Big gay contingent at the Counter?
HL: Reasonably gay contingent, yeah.
MS: Actually we haven't talked much about Rizzo.
HL: Yeah. Actually I wanted to just mention something about Jerry Dilno and David Waldrin, who were in the Gay Nurses Association and were a sort of working pair. Although I think David was not quite the neurotic kind of person that John Wyles was. I think he was more together. Maybe Jerry Dilno was more together than Loretta Dellogio, actually. And their collaboration was more based on good common sense. But they also, I think, did work with the Gay Media Project. And this came to my mind because I think one of the primary events that put people off Mark was the "Marcus Welby, M.D." script affair, where I guess he got a copy of the script and he wouldn't share it out or something. And he's sometimes a little fast and loose with the truth. And I think people working on that project felt that he wasn't team playing. And I think that really put them off.
MS: O.K., Rizzo. I ask because it seems like there are very divided opinions. A minority of the people I've talked to actually think he was quite good for the gay community. And then a majority seem to think he was terrible for the gay community.
HL: Well you never know what he was saying to city council people on his own, but he said that if City Council passed the bill, he would sign it. And he didn't have to say that. He didn't have to sign it. And he said that at a reasonably early point, so I thought that was very helpful. And of course he would say bigoted things. And certainly he was in a position to lead public opinion, particularly that part of public opinion which is rather hard to reach. And so it would have been very valuable if he'd been even better about it. But he sort of would say, "It's not my thing. I don't know why they do it, but they seem to have a good time." And of course he used to have raids on gay bars. He probably took payoffs. Or at least accepted a situation in which payoffs were commonplace. And used the gay issue at an early point for political advantage when elections were coming up. Standard raid-the-gay-bars mentality.
HL: And he wanted to make Attila the Hun look like a faggot, all that stuff. I mean of course that's off-putting, but I think when it came down to the gay rights bill, that he was more helpful than not. And certainly more than you had any right to expect from past history.
MS: As far as you know, was it at all public the rumors about his son being gay?
HL: Well rumors are rumors. How do you mean public?
MS: Did the rumors circulate in any kind of public way? Did the rumors circulate among gay activists?
HL: Not that I remember, at least not for a long time. And then I'm sort of the kind of person who doesn't hear rumors. Won't remember them either. Is he gay? Couldn't say for sure.
MS: I haven't asked him. But the rumors definitely exist.
HL: Linda Cohen's gay. I'm willing to say that.
MS: Sherry Cohen.
HL: Sherry Cohen, beg your pardon. Linda perhaps, if there is a Linda.
MS: And I have actually the rumor in print in 1970.
HL: And I think Mayor Greene has a gay son, I believe. Is he out? I don't know.
MS: This is the first I've heard of that.
HL: Didn't do a lot of good. Shapp had a gay child, or I don't know. I don't know. I can't even remember if I heard a rumor. Shapp is very nice, though.
MS: Well I want to give you at least a couple minutes to say whatever's on your mind by way of concluding.
HL: Oh, concluding. I can't conclude in a couple of minutes. I'm trying to think if I have anything else to say about Rizzo. I guess not. About the only time I saw him in person was when he was doing a press conference concerning MOVE. First MOVE. MOVE said that homosexuality is awful. I think they described concrete sidewalks as being homosexual, i.e. against nature. They were not endearing. All the leftist groups around town. The Labor Party and the Socialist Workers Party and their various positions. That was interesting. And I tried to monitor that a little bit. There was a gay Marxist study group.
MS: So maybe looking back on these years, we really focused on '70 to '76. Do you think progress was made? Do you look back fondly on that time?
HL: Oh yeah, I think a lot of progress was made. And I think Mark had a lot to do with it, in spite of people not being altogether happy with him. Getting people to take the issue seriously, and I think relations with the press were key. And I think Mark's approach was to give them copy that they would want to print. And that was effective. And of course when you get established and you get taken seriously, then you don't have to do that stuff anymore and to a certain extent it becomes unproductive. Shenanigans. No more of that please!
MS: What's so fascinating, when you just offered that description, it could have as easily have applied to Rizzo as to Mark.
HL: Yeah. Of course I despised Rizzo. I took part in the effort to prevent him from changing the charter so he could be reelected and I thought he was horrible. A really bad mayor.
MS: But I mean in the sense of shenanigans to get media attention to accomplish other things, although obviously for very different political purposes.
MS: But that sense of the media, the importance of the media. So you were saying you think progress was made and Mark had a lot to do with it.
HL: Yeah. And of course not Mark alone, by any means at all. I had my small part and the fact that there were a hundred people coming to GAA meetings and then spinning off in such a variety of directions, and getting a bookstore going and a newspaper going and a community center going. And the Eromin Center, which is defunct, but I mean that went for some time. As well as some political activism at the state level, which helped to set off some local activism in outlying parts of the state. Which then, I think, has moved us to the point where a president can attempt to make homosexuality not a grounds for being kicked out of the army, which is sort of extraordinary. And if I live a full life, a lifetime, I expect to see most of the things that we set out to accomplish accomplished. Of course they will be less glorious than one will have hoped, because they're always less glorious than one hopes. And maybe people will just take it all for granted, which would be nice. I was astonished at the time when the news of the German homosexual emancipation movement, when that sort of broke in America. That was astonishing, that that whole thing had happened and I don't think hardly anybody knew about it.
HL: Hardly anybody. That's why I say "when the news broke," because it really was at this point news.
MS: Right, right.
HL: It wasn't history because it wasn't in the history books.
HL: I had looked into the German youth movement and I had never seen anything but a sort of hint of this. German youth movement being a possibly predecessor of radicalism in America. So no, I'm very encouraged. And I guess I saw it even before I left in 1976. Then I was going to say that in New York I took part in a gay Democratic club. I was very active in that for a number of years. And there was also the Family Protection Act. And there was an effort to get a broad-based coalition to combat the Family Protection Act, which after all attacked every conceivable liberal kind of group. Certainly labor, women, Blacks, and gays. They were all there and I don't know who else. And it was outrageous across the board. And so I thought, well, broad-based means broad-based. And I went to their meetings and it was really for radicals only. And Planned Parenthood? No, I don't think so. Oh no, no, no. They're pushing infant formula in third world countries. Unacceptable to have them in our broad-based coalition. How far is this group going to go in being politically effective? Nowhere. Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere.
MS: We just started to talk about your decision to leave Philadelphia in 1976.
HL: Right. I had been working with the school district as an assistant librarian. The pay was very low, the prospects for advancement were nil. And although the hours were truncated, they were school hours, I would nonetheless come home feeling tired. And there did not seem to be a lot of reason to stay in this position if there were some way to do something else. It was concerning me that I was not making any money. There was a good deal of peanut butter in my diet. And so I thought I should go back to school. And I applied for law school and I got into Yeshiva in New York. I don't even think I got into Penn. I think I applied to Penn. And so I went. And that was it. And of course also it was made easier by the fact that GAA really had fallen apart at that point. Just the momentum was gone. There was really no great reason to stay. I had dropped out of architecture school because partly I was more interested in the gay movement than I was in architecture school. So I really started putting as much time as I possibly could into GAA and all the surrounding activities. I dropped out partly because architecture seemed not really my talent and too difficult. Law school did not seem difficult. I really enjoyed law school. It was hard, but it was fun. And I did have the thought that maybe law school would be helpful in gay movement affairs, whereas I did not think that being an assistant librarian would be helpful.
MS: Were you sad to leave Philadelphia? Or did you leave with no looks back?
HL: Well I was somewhat sad. I had a great many friends and acquaintances at that time here. And when I came back, most of them had left and it was not possible to sort of resume. And I've never had as many friends since. So the gay movement was very important to me, both for coming out and for socializing and for making friends.
MS: And then that coming out and socializing part we haven't talked a whole lot about and in particular the sex and relationships part.
HL: Well I do remember one committee meeting where I looked around the room and I realized that I'd been to bed with everyone there.
MS: So that's a dimension of things we really didn't cover.
HL: No. And yet I also feel that I was less sexually active than many people. Undoubtedly more so than some others.
MS: But it really was a kind of cruisy environment or an environment in which a lot of people found partners?
HL: Well you met people. I mean some people were more socially oriented, came to meetings really only to meet other people. And very often we did not see them for very long periods of time. Other people were more serious and there were degrees of seriousness. And other people were very serious but very social, so there was a whole mix. And we drew a broad spectrum of people. There were people who were supporters of George Wallace and people who were very conservative.
MS: Is that right?
HL: Yeah. Who came, too. And of course they felt that the group was very unwelcoming to conservative people, very off-putting, very hard for people of a certain class and people of a certain conservativeness to feel comfortable there. And I'm sure that was true. It's very hard to be user-friendly to everybody.
MS: When you just said class, did you mean upper class or poor?
HL: Social class. Upper class. Charlie Gottesman used to come. And he was active and he approved generally of what we were doing. But he's socially upper class and politically conservative, fairly conservative. I will stand by upper class. If he wants to correct me on politically conservative, I will accept that. He felt uncomfortable. And I'm sure that there are welfare people who felt uncomfortable because we were middle class. And we weren't radical enough for a few and we were certainly too radical for many. I think we wanted to be open to everybody.
MS: Now were you living by yourself during all these years?
HL: Well, when I was at Penn, at Hamilton Court, I had a number of roommates, none of whom were gay. But I was out and they were all students. I lived one summer there in that apartment with Matthew Grande, who was gay, now deceased. And then I moved to Hamilton Street and although I had my own apartment in this house, Peter Dunning lived downstairs. And he lived with his lover Bill Hawke. So it was a very friendly house. And sometimes I would have dinner with the family or they would have dinner with me.
MS: So you didn't live with a lover during these years?
HL: Nope. Didn't have a lover. I've rarely had a lover. I've had no relationship that's lasted more than one year. And god only knows how the one that lasted a year lasted a year. It was satisfactory to me. But I'm a very low key kind of person and this person was just starved for romance. And he was not happy with the relationship. He wanted much more intensity. And did he get it when he left me! He fell in love with someone who was young and cute and then that fell apart and then he became obsessed with him. And this became almost like Fatal Attraction. It was not good. Whereas I did not inspire that sense of romance in him. And so there was no Fatal Attraction element to our relationship. There were lots of relationships. All had their own distinctive character. Most of whom I met through GAA.
MS: Oh so that story was of someone you knew through GAA?
HL: No that was in New York.
MS: Oh. Any other final things that we haven't covered?
HL: Well I'm just kind of wondering if I can characterize the scene. We had cocktail parties sponsored by GAA. They were wonderful. I had the best time at those parties, partly because there were all sorts of people there that I was doing things with and could talk to them about. And so I would feel very up. Ebullient. And I think other people had a good time. They were quite successful. And there was the Master Batters, that was a spin-off of GAA. I did that for a bit.
MS: I think someone told me about the parties, GAA parties, sometimes being pretty late night and becoming pretty close to sex parties. HL: Not in my experience. I won't contradict. I probably wasn't looking for a sex party.
MS: I'll let you guess who told me that story.
HL: I don't have a clue. Jeffrey Eiberson. It was his apartment. I don't know. He probably moved around. So it was very busy and productive. And I felt that I wanted to do this, that it was a phase of life, that I didn't intend to do it forever. Maybe I would, but I had no real thought that I was necessarily going to be doing this forever. I felt that it was important to do. And I was very aware of its importance to other people, as well as myself, for coming out. And therefore I expected that there would be kind of a standing wave of young people coming into the movement, using the movement in exactly the way I had used it, and being active. I didn't think that activism should only be that, but I thought that there would always be that dimension to it. And much more in the gay movement than in most things, although young people do want a political vehicle very often. It's much stronger for gays, I think, than it is for other groups. So I had no sense of dismay about drifting out of the gay movement. I had a sense that it was a phase of life, just as I also tend to think that being a queen is, for many people, a phase of life. That it's a strong way of acting out, coming out. And then when you get a little older and a little more mature and calmer and more used to yourself and a little more used to being gay and people being gay, there's less need to be a queen.
MS: But I take it from what you've said that that wasn't a phase that you went through.
HL: No. Nope. I could barely tolerate it.
HL: I think of Eugene Spotto, who took it very much amiss that I did not want to put on a dress. "What's wrong with you? Why aren't you getting in touch with your female side?"
MS: But when you say you couldn't stand it, do you mean you couldn't stand it in other people or you couldn't stand it being proposed for yourself?
HL: There was a way in which this kind of acting out is very immature and off-putting and I was put-off. And I did meet some people who were using it in an exploratory way. But they just seemed to be more mature, more in grasp of themselves and what they were doing and not so off-putting. I didn't necessarily want to do it, but if I did it, I would have done it with them instead of some of these other queens. It's just as there are brands of humor. There are kind of jokes that people make that tell me that they are not at ease with themselves, not at ease with being gay, and this is defensive humor. And I can't say that I am completely at ease myself, but I don't find that this humor helps. And I'm uncomfortable about it. And I do think that, to a certain degree, it is a question of age and maturity. So he thinks he's outgrown it, does he?
MS: You have contrary voices in your head.
HL: I certainly was active in the Gay Democrats for a long time. Of course now I'm in a job where I'm not supposed to endorse candidates or work for candidates or do anything like that. So that's restrictive. And since I'm celibate, I feel a little detached, but of course completely gay nonetheless. Scarcely a bisexual impulse in my body. And I feel that some issues are still important. I think that gay marriage is an important issue, as well as national gay rights legislation. I don't seem to be able to focus on state issues at all. They just escape me. And I'm annoyed at John Street. He's annoying in many ways. And I think domestic partnership is important. Gay marriage is a better way to put it. I think gay relationships need to be legitimized in the society. And I think that's an important vehicle to do it. I'm not sure that I entirely buy the notion that if we have gay marriage it would be a great pity if gays didn't take advantage of it by getting married all over the place. I've heard that view expressed by Andrew Sullivan, I guess, or read it expressed. That's the only issue that's sort of tempted me out of my shell at all. And not very much lately. A few years ago. I was interested in it in New York. We had a gay group at Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva, which I helped to found. And I helped to found the gay group at Penn. In fact, Matthew Grande and I started it.
MS: Was it called Gays at Penn originally?
HL: Yeah, yeah. If it wasn't for me and Matthew, it would not have happened.
MS: I've seen some of the leaflets for some of those first....
HL: The first orientation sessions?
MS: No, like a lecture series with Jonathan Katz and others.
HL: Yeah, we did lecture series. And as I say I'm a bit confused about whether it was us. No, it wasn't us. I'm totally befuddled. We did go to dorms and hold sessions in common rooms for students. And that, I think, was before Gays at Penn formed.
MS: Halley Tarr, I know, had some pieces in the Daily Penn. I don't know if that name rings a bell.
HL: Oh it does. Certainly. I remember him. He was in GLF and he was kind of in GAA. I think of him more as GLF.
MS: I found some of his classified ads in the DP [Daily Pennsylvanian] calling for formation of a student group.
HL: What year would that have been?
MS: You know I've forgotten right now.
MS: I think it was '71. He had something on the editorial page.
HL: Well I think that would be the group. He may have been at the meeting with Byrna and George and myself. It was a very small meeting. Very few people came. And I was surprised how few came and that it didn't happen. And then, of course, the second group on Penn campus, at the Christian Association, was the citywide group. It was GAA. It was not a campus group. And there were few students who joined.
MS: So that was the origin of GAA, is that right? The group that initially met at Penn.
HL: At the Christian Association. That's where we first met.
MS: And that became a citywide GAA.
HL: Well it was citywide from the beginning. It was not a campus group.
MS: Just happened to meet there?
HL: They were given the accommodation by the Christian Association, but it was not meant to be a campus group.
MS: So the citywide GAA first met at the Christian Association.
HL: Right. That was the first public meeting. And here had been a maybe five- or six-month period before that where they were kind of getting ready for it. And that's an interesting question. I don't know where Tim Woodbury went or whether George Bodamer knows about it. He may, he probably does know something about it.
MS: Does he still live in Philly?
HL: I think he does. He was here for a long time. Someone told me, I think, that they saw him not too long ago and that if I saw him I would recognize him.
MS: Well he's on my list. So I'm going to track him down. Well why don't we wrap it up. Any final, final words?
MS: O.K. Well thank you very much for doing this.
HL: You're welcome.