Monday, March 20th, 2023

Don Slater picketed Barney’s… who knew???

Billy GloverJune 24, 2013.

Mary Ann Cherry, from Los Angeles, writes:

Scroll down for a nice photo of Don Slater at the Barney’s Beanery picket.

I was surprised to see him there (well, to see a photo of him there) as my understanding was that he wasn’t opposed to Irwin Held’s constitutional right to have a sign in his establishment (you know, the Libertarian stand). Decent article, even if the facts are a little mixed up.

I hate you.  You confused me to my core. I think I know how the Exodus man feels—if he is sincere. To have what you believed for over 50 years challenged by a picture is not a gay feeling.

But, the fact was and is that Don Slater opposed the picketing. He believed, as a conservative Republican and based on his personal faith and beliefs that the owner (of a private business) had a right to be wrong. The answer was to educate him and not support his business. (If taxpayers were involved, that was different.)

If that is truly a sign of him at the picketing, I can assure you his sign was not like the rest. I did not know he went there. I did not. We had enough work to do with the magazine and organization so did not take on every project, no matter how worthy. He did like—even though he worried about the idea of a ghetto church—Troy Perry and Morris Kight, even though we also did not agree with Morris’ early idea that anyone showing up for a meeting had a right to vote. That was one of Harry Hay’s ideas too as I recall.

What this article, I gather based on the death of one of the owners, does is force us to think about what the media and historians are finding of “importance” in our movement’s history. There is a new film about the fire at the gay bar in New Orleans, Upstairs Lounge.

Why, I ask, is it not just as important to have covered the picketing of the Los Angeles Times, by these same pioneers/activists?  It was successful in more ways than one. Morris, Troy, Joe, Don, Melvin, I and others picketed, peacefully, at the newspaper when it refused an ad for a forgotten (I gather) play, The Geese, by a man later honored as a Louisiana celebrity, because it had the word homosexual in it.  There had first been a meeting with the paper’s representatives and ours.

The religion person at the paper (John Dart) came down and talked to Melvin and Troy. He did not interview Melvin (Cain) as his church was not a “gay” church, but the writer decided Troy’s was, and his interview/ article went “viral” as it did in the old days—other papers reprinted it, and the MCC got publicity.

And the paper changed its policy. And later had the same problem with gay and lesbian.

I welcome any facts that differ from my history. I have no contact with Troy or others still living, and have no faith in what is said or claimed by people who were not there or got in the movement, say at ONE Archives, years later and have  only taken the time to learn/hear one biased version of “history.”

Sadly, that includes most “media” people.


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  1. Karen Ocamb

    Ah, the media and background info…..So I found the story to be very interesting from a different perspective. This section, in particular:

    “Rev. Troy Perry, too, would have continued to “stay out,” but to his surprise the new owners extended a public apology. In 2005, Perry went to Barney’s to accept the apology in person. He stayed to eat after, and he’s been back a few times. Forty years after the notorious sign ignited early LGBT activists, Perry sees Barney’s as a “great old-fashioned place” to stop for a bowl of chili.”

    What ACTUALLY happened was David Houston’s publicist reached out to me because the new owner wanted the LGBT community to know that Barney’s was not the old anti-gay place of yore. I said, well, no one’s going to believe that unless there is a public apology for the previous owner’s bigotry – which went way beyond the sign. I suggested that I bring Rev. Troy Perry as one of the original protesters and David could apologize to him and I could cover THAT.

    And that’s what happened – and David and Troy did continue to talk together and Troy did enjoy a bowl of chili. I have photos. But I couldn’t tell the above story because – old journalism ethics – if I was a PART of the story, I couldn’t COVER the story and getting that apology was more important than self-aggrandizement. That said, it’s sometimes galling that – since Frontiers and most of the gay press haven’t digitized their stories and made them accessible on the Internet – the LA Times gets cited for reporting the “apology” story, not Frontiers.

    BTW – the year after that, Houston hung the rainbow flag outside Barney’s on Gay Pride day. I’ve got a photo of that, too.

    Just a little behind the curtains FYI…..

  2. Billy Glover

    Now that is what makes people want to read and makes them find “history” interesting. And it is not negative, just behind the scenes info that adds flavor. But you and Frontiers do deserve credit.

    And that is why journalists/historians need to hear ALL sides of an event/issue. (As the old (black) preacher is reported to have said: First, if you came to pray for rain, where is your umbrella? And to help you understand my sermon I am going to tell you what I’m going to say, then I will say it, and then I will tell you what I said.

    Today, commercials on tv follow that “rule.” As, sadly, do some tv talkers, including Rachel and most of the MSNBC and Fox News people.

    So if I keep saying that HIC is not getting credit, and Don Slater, it is because i believe that in history, for example, you do NOT honor military veterans of one war just by ignoring the ones from an earlier or later war.

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