Celebrate the gay movement in West Hollywood and San Francisco

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June 11, 2014

Op-ed by Don Kilhefner, West Hollywood, California

Dear Comrades

I am writing to inform you about two happenings which might be of interest to you.

Don Kilhefner and Rev. Neil Thomas at a recent protest in Plummer Park.

Don Kilhefner and Rev. Neil Thomas at a recent protest in Plummer Park.

Gay History Mural

Last Thursday evening (June 5) was the unveiling of a Gay History of Los Angeles Mural at the Wells Fargo Bank in West Hollywood.

It focuses on key events and individuals that midwifed our community into being.

Wells Fargo Bank is located in the Ramada Inn building at 8571 Santa Monica Blvd. There is a parking garage immediately west of the bank building.

The team that put it together did an excellent job and there is a monitor that explains each image.

It has a little too much white meat for my taste but, hey, it’s West Hollywood. It’s worth checking out.

It was a bittersweet moment for me being in a room again with Troy Perry, Jeanne Cordova, Ivy Bottini, Pat Rocco–people I have known since I was in my late 20’s– and realizing that this could very well be the last time we are all in the same room together, breathing.

Morris Kight riding in his last CSW Parade. He was instrumental in creating the first Gay Pride parade (New York had a rally), paving the way for all Prides since.

Morris Kight riding in his last CSW Parade. He was instrumental in creating the first Gay Pride parade (New York had a rally), paving the way for all Prides since.

Morris Kight has already died (In my last visit with Morris in the hospital, he adamantly insisted that I should not tell people he “passed on” or “transitioned” or “has gone to Glory Land“–“Tell them Morris is dead!”).

“The Gay Essay” by Anthony Friedkin at the De Young Museum of Fine Art in San Francisco

Early in 1970, a 19 year old Tony Friedkin contacted Morris Kight and me at the Gay Liberation Front to see if we would open doors for him to do a photographic essay on the emerging gay community and the people in it. He grew up in West L. A. the son of a screenwriter and dancer/ choreographer.

The cover of Tony Friedken's book, "The Gay Essay," is a photo of Morris Kight (l) and Don Kilhefner in the very early days of the Gay Community Services Center (the origin of today's Los Angeles LGBT Center).

The cover of Tony Friedkin’s book, “The Gay Essay,” is a photo of Morris Kight (l) and Don Kilhefner in the very early days of the Gay Community Services Center (the origin of today’s Los Angeles LGBT Center). By Tony Friedkin.

He said “I’ve been surrounded by gay people all my life– they were my parent’s friends and my babysitters.”

We felt very simpatico with Tony and did open doors for him.

He took photographs for two years of GLF’s Friday night “Gay Funky Dances” at Troupers Hall, Troy Perry standing defiantly in the ashes of his burned down church, the early Gay Community Services Center and so forth–catching the humanity of gay, lesbian and trans people at a critical period in our emergence.

After being turned down by galleries all over the city because it was too controversial or it would turn people off, “The Gay Essay” was finally shown in 1974 at the Ohio Silver Gallery in West L. A.

Tony went on to become one of America’s most important photographers.

Now the de Young Museum in San Francisco is mounting a major re-exhibiting of “The Gay Essay” beginning later in June and Yale University Press is coming out with a book on the exhibit.

The Reverend Troy Perry, Gay Activist, in His Burnt Down Church, Los Angeles, 1973 Gelatin silver print 14 × 11 in. (35.6 × 27.9 cm) Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Anonymous gift in honor of Sheila Glassman. By Tony Friedkin.

The Reverend Troy Perry, Gay Activist, in His Burnt Down Church, Los Angeles, 1973
Gelatin silver print
14 × 11 in. (35.6 × 27.9 cm)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Anonymous gift in honor of Sheila Glassman. By Tony Friedkin.

Last week KQED, the public television in San Francisco, was in Los Angeles with a film crew interviewing Tony and me regarding the exhibit which will appear on television there and is of interest to National Public Television for airing.

An iconic photo of Morris Kight and me will grace the back cover of the book and is also in the Gay History Mural.

If you get too San Francisco in the next six months, you owe it to yourself to take in Tony’s “The Gay Essay” at the de Young Museum.

It was groundbreaking. It’s a important part of our history here in Los Angeles. And it’s beautiful and stunning.

Blessings on Tony Friedkin.

Animae Communitatis Colendae Gratia (For the sake of tending to the soul of the community)

 

 

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