Greenwich Village, New York City, 1969. Three-days of rioting of thousands of gay men and women against police harassment sparked the modern gay liberation rights movement. The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, a popular gay bar, was frequently raided by police. On June 28, New York police arrived to rough up customers and make arrests. Sick of police brutality a mixed crowd of black and white drag queens and gay men and women fought back. Police called up aggressive riot squads as fighting spread onto the streets, further incensing crowds and leading to three days of rioting. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/stonewall/
In those years, gay men and women were considered sexual deviants and many states had laws that prohibited public displays, such as kissing and dancing.
In less than a month, the Gay Liberation Front was founded.
1970 San Francisco “Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay-In”
In June 28, 1970, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles held gay pride events commemorating the Stonewall riots. In San Francisco, it was called “The Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay-In” and was held in Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadows.
My husband Walter and Barret Bassick, partners in a sound reinforcement company called White Noise Sound, were hired to provide the sound. As they set-up and tore down an array of speakers, amplifiers and microphones, Walt and Barret would play rock ‘n roll tapes.
At the end of the gay-in, Walt put on a tape of Frank Zappa songs. As the crowd dispersed, Barrett started breaking down microphone stands and coiling wires, while Walter was at the mixing scaffold in front of the stage tearing down amps. But when Zappa’s tune “Dynamo Hum” started playing over the loudspeakers, some of the lesbians became enraged and began to rush the scaffold. (https://www.justsomelyrics.com/763646/frank-zappa-dynamo-hum-lyrics.html)
Barret turned the system to feedback, a particularly invasive screech. Walter, turned his back on the women, dropped his pants and mooned them. Rage was defused by surprise and laughter.
What happened 20 years later provided the story’s cap. Walter was attending a large audio manufacturing convention in Anaheim and went out to dinner with an audio engineering buddy on the refurbished Queen Mary restaurant on the Long Beach pier.
During dinner, the waiter appeared with what Walter describes as an ‘upper shelf’ bottle of wine. “Compliments of one of our guests,” the waiter said.
“I cannot accept the wine without knowing who gave it to me,” said Walter. The waiter pointed out a middle-aged couple. Walter walked over to their table, “I’d love to know why you are presenting me with such a nice bottle of wine.”
“Aren’t you the guy who mooned the audience at the 1970 gay-in at Golden Gate Park?” asked the man.
When Walt said yes, the man turned to his wife and said, “See honey, I told you I could remember a pretty face as well as a pretty ass.”
First National Women’s Music Festival
In 1974, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the first National Women’s Music Festival that was held on the campus of the University of Illinois at Champaign–Urbana. A few thousand women, the majority lesbians, gathered to celebreate women’s culture. Cris Williamson, Meg Christian and Margie Adam, music icons of the feminist movement, were featured performers.
In 1974, I had quit Fillmore Management and had begun to promote making and selling records outside of the major label industry. Indie labels began sprouting. Olivia Records was the first feminist label, and Cris Williamson’s record, “The Changer and the Changed” sold over a million copies. www.criswilliamson.com
As an aside, I had admired Cris’ music for many years as my former boyfriend managed her, got her a record deal with the Ampex label, and in 1972, released a lovely album produced by Al Brown. The funk-rock band Mandrill and Lena Horne’s album, “Nature’s Baby,” were also produced by Brown.
Other gold-record artists from indie labels of the seventies included blue grass mandolin artist David Grisman (Acoustic Disc) and rock musician George Thorogood (Rounder Records). Their successes helped prove the viability of indie recording and inspired hundreds of thousands of musicians.
Two endearing memories remain from that festival. First was the pure joy of the women in being able to freely and openly gather, hold hands, dance, sing and fall in love. Much of the audience sang along with the performers and the auditorium turned into a gospel-like church music fest. I experienced a similar feeling in 2010 at a Grateful Dead concert in Denver attended by fifteen thousand, where people held hands and sang the songs as though they were anthems.
The second memory was of an older man, not particularly attractive, that was employed by the university to provide sound and lights for events. When I first introduced myself to him, he angry and afraid to be around such a huge gathering of lesbians. By the festival’s end, he talked to me about the warmth and graciousness of the women.
In that same year, I began producing the Coyote Hooker’s Masquerade Ball for Margo St. James, a fundraiser for equal treatment of women incarcerated for sex crimes. She invited gay men and women, bisexuals, drag queens, sex workers and other minorities who felt discriminated against. (Subject of future blog)
Legalization of Same Sex Marriage
Forty-five years later, on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans against same sex marriage and declared the Constitution protects the right of same sex couples to marry. Four days later, jubilant gay men and woman around the world celebrated Gay Pride Day.
Although the ruling is cause for great celebration, stigma against gay men and women remains within many families and religious institutions. After the ruling, religious and political leaders threatened to disobey the law.
Fox News granted an exclusive interview with Franklin Graham, a prominent white evangelist who believes homosexuality is a sin against God. “I believe God could bring judgment upon America…You better be ready and you better be prepared because it’s coming. . .There will be persecution of Christians for our stand [against gay marriage].” http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/06/28/exclusive-franklin-graham-warns-gay-marriage-ruling-will-lead-christian-persecution
How very sad that prejudices against gay men and women, and non-white racial groups, such as blacks and Muslims continues, to foment hatred and fuel violence in a country that was founded on principles of religious freedom.
Even sadder that these prejudices, and the media appetite for them, distracts so many away from focusing on such major issues as climate turmoil, over-population, and increased impoverishment of poor people.
The antidote: practice of the Christian principles of love, forgiveness and treatment of others as equals. And perhaps two that are most associated with Buddhism: kindness and compassion.