Notes on the launch of ONE magazine
By former ONE, Inc., President Fred Frisbie
(known as “George Mortenson”)
This narrative was presented to C. Todd White on Feb. 3, 2001
A Fortuitous Encounter
A dear young man!
Charming and well mannered, and not shorn anywhere, except on his head and that was clipped within a sixteenth of an inch from his scalp. I drove him home from the bar on Pico. He looked at my two-story house and ventured, “That must cost a lot of rent!”
“Not anymore,” said I. “It’s bought and paid for.”
“Oh,” said he. “How nice!”
As soon as I got some drinks served and he had admired my paintings of cats, dogs, and handsome young men and women, he asked, “Could I see the rest of the rooms?”
“Okay,” said I. “Shall we start with the bedrooms?”
“Not unless there are none other!” So I showed him my machine shop where I amuse myself experimenting and building things. And my art studio where I paint pretty people and animals. And my wife’s bedroom—she was visiting her folks in Puerto Rico.
“Oh, your wife’s room?” said he.
“Yes Dear!” said I. “She is a successful transvestite!”
“Really!?” said he.
“Yes Darling! You can see her portrait in a moment.” Next I showed him my wife’s bedroom, her huge closet full of gowns, trinkets, and keepsakes. He was delighted.
“How nice! How long have you two been together?” So the conversation turned, until we finally got into bed with each other and had a riotous time!
“Oh my goodness,” he said at last. “I can’t stay all night; I must be home by 5 a.m.!”
“Why?” said I.
“Gee!” said he. “I wish I would not have to tell you, but I have a half-ass husband!!”
“Really, Darling,” said I, “Do tell me all about it.”
“Well George, it started out by simply sharing the rent! But gradually it got more and more ‘sticky’ until now he call me ‘his own’.”
“Okay Dear, I’ll take you home right away,” said I. “By the way, is he also Black?”
“But, before I go,” said he, “I know a bunch of amazing people you should meet. They are forming a society called Mattachine! They meet in each other’s houses and they would love your house!”
“Why don’t you bring them?” said I, not knowing what to expect.
“Not so fast!” said he. “Would you invite all 27 of them?”
“Why not?” said I, “I have a piano and I could buy a keg of beer!”
“But you never met any of them,” said he.
“No, of course not, but if you introduce them to me, and vouch for them, we shall certainly meet!”
A Party of Strangers
And so it was done! In ten days, seven cars parked on my grounds, and a total of 28 people disembarked.
There was a tall, stately gentleman introduced as Mr. Dorr Legg; a fine-looking young man with a black eye patch over his right eye; a stoutish young man introduced simply as “Martin,” full of smiles, who soon started to camp with a miniature bamboo umbrella, such as one decorates cocktails with. There were several young women present, four pretty youths (it was established that they were over 18 in age), and the rest were adults in their thirties and beyond.
Mr. “Eye Patch” (I lost track of him and have since forgotten his name) promptly took his position at my workbench and started card games. The rest of my guests danced and sang songs. One played the parlor grand piano, and all of us enjoyed the occasion in 1953 [1951?].
It was decided to meet in 10 days at Mr. Lambert’s residence next time. He had been an eloquent and cultured guest, and I and my wife looked forward to meeting him again!
At Mr. Legg’s home on Alsaace Street, there were several new people we had not met, although Legg knew them all. He assured us that he had enjoyed our soiree tremendously and was delighted to see us (my wife and me) again. Then he explained that this would not be merely a casual visit, that he had invited us with a purpose in mind, that he had actually “sized us up” at our party and that he would now tell us about the “Mattachine Society” and would now invited us to join, if we chose to. But, he admonished us, should we not wish to join, we must not divulge the existence of the Mattachine nor their purpose!
We were both astonished, curious, respectful, and honored! We looked at one another, nodded, and accepted. Then there was applause, smiles, and congratulations — we were Mattachinos!
There was also a dedicatory ceremony gravely performed, by Mr. Dorr Legg, over us both. It was learned, years later, that this beautiful dedication was composed by Harry Hay. It was soul stirring at that time, and I regret that I cannot put it together anymore, though it gave us goose bumps! It happened over 48 years ago! And I never wrote it down. I doubt that Harry would still remember it, but he or his loved one might!
Suffice it so say that those who were thus indoctrinated into Mattachine were virtually lifted off this orb in exaltation!! I know we ( Louisa and I) were. But all this earth shaking “to-do” was nothing compared to what eventuated! After this stupendous indoctrination, the actual Mattachine businesses meeting took place—old business, present affairs, new business, then an open meeting and general discussion.
“Why don’t we publish a magazine,” offered a pretty young male person. The motion was promptly made and carried. “I have a suitable name for such publication,” offered a handsome young black grade school teacher.
“Let’s hear it,” said we all.
“From Carlyle,” said he: “A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.” A great silence fell among us, taking it all in. Finally, full applause—and ONE was incarnated!!!
And the rest is history—or is it? Dorr Legg was then and there elected as “Major Domo.” He chose the title “Business Manager” and was immediately acclaimed. I, as “George Henry Mortenson,” offered my technical support as Mechanical Engineer and was so inducted (after the technical functions of these duties were patiently explained).
But where would we function?
“Ah!” said someone. “I know Dale Jennings. He would know exactly where we could “carry on.” And indeed he did. When we did ask him, not only did he point us to 232 South Hill Street, but he got us started in the fundamentals of publishing! And he contributed to “fleshing out” our publication as well. Then, through Dale, we met Don Slater and Tony Reyes; and Eve Ellory, our talented illustrator; and Geraldine Jackson and Martin Block. And then we found our courageous attorney Eric Julber.
We later needed him to defend us against the postmaster who wanted to forbid our mailings.
Postscript from correspondence between Fred Frisbie and C. Todd White:
The old Goodwill Building, 232 South Hill room 203, was only big enough for Bill Lambert’s desk, one desk [donated by George Mortenson], one file cabinet and a folding stool for visitors, but at once the name ONE, Incorporated, was emblazoned on the corrugated milk-glass of the door.
There, Mr. Lambert pontificated, sometimes as “Mr. Lambert,” sometimes as Mr. Dorr, sometimes as Mr. Legg, but to us who comprised the sparse work force (at the beginning) he deigned to be called “Bill.”
When speaking to strange persons who knocked and were acknowledged, he regarded them coldly, spoke to them coolly and guardedly. There was an occasion when some city-attached person tried to “pull his leg” as it were, as follows:
“Do you all think of yourself as females?”
“No indeed,” said he. “We are, as you see, replete male persons, and as such we shall persist!”
Bill had a cast in one of his pale blue eyes and when he transfixed the eyes of his opponent, such person shrank without rejoinder!