Leading the Parade: Conversations with America’s Most Influential Lesbians and Gay Men
by Paul Cain
Forward by Jack Nichols
Published by Scarecrow Press (Rowman & Littlefield)
Published in 2006
402 pages; appendix, index
Commentary by Billy Glover
Submitted June 6, 2007
I should say that I, of course, view the “history” of each of these pioneers against my own.
Several, like myself, had family support, so that in my case, I never had to worry about losing a job, etc. That makes a difference, so that I admire people like Jim Kepner, who had to risk having no income to work for the cause. I had an easy childhood, even though a sissy, but played flute in our band and had lots of fun. Good grades in high school, but lousy ones in college — and even in band, which I immediately dropped. I don’t recall any problems with sex even in the army, until they kicked me out as they had seen me driving around lots in my great black top, white-and-red-bottomed Pontiac convertible. And then when I drove fast and argued with officers, etc. — well, that did it.
So I parked the car and, after throwing my Undesirable Discharge and army clothes away, I got on the train with about $300 in my pocket and went to L.A. which is where I had known I wanted to go after a family vacation there a few years before. This was in 1956 after finally getting enough hours to get out of LSU mid-term ’55 and going in the army at Forts Chaffee and Riley. I was lucky. I got off the train at that great station, got copy of the L.A. Times, and found a bed literally in a dorm room in a house at 3rd and Mariposa (butterfly is it?). I got a job as a clerk at Anderson, Clayton Cotton Co. at 6th & Lafayette Park. That didn’t last more than six months, I think, and I think they finally closed that part of the company. I then had contact with my family — who did not know where I was as I had just left the car and a note saying don’t worry, as I really didn’t want them to have to deal with my sexuality — but I joined the 1st Methodist Church and so knew they would know where I was when the Bossier church transferred my membership.
I then worked at Retailers Commercial Agency, on Wilshire Blvd. near downtown, doing credit clearing. They didn’t check my army record, but LSU did, the idiots. I had a lousy record — grades of course. Sociology and a little psychology saved me as it was common sense, but I had trouble with French, Biological Science, and chemistry — I would never have made it if I had to take a math course. So it was ironical that I ended up in finance in the army. And working at ONE, I did some more finance work, and then later at Tangents/HIC.
I had great fun (sex) at first when I finally got to ONE in ’60 after the Mattachine convention in Denver, and then headed up to work with Hal and Don Lucas in San Francisco. I picked up sailors in Long Beach and Marines in Oceanside, San Clemente. And then met Melvin Cain the day Kennedy was shot, walking from the bus station on 6th street, to Pershing Square, and took him home to my apartment on Belmont, across from Belmont High School. We were together for (off and on) over 13 years, and today I still feel he was a great part of my life (as he and Peter are now), and I should’t forget Irwin Shattner (they were in church together).
I worked mostly with Dorr Legg at ONE, so it was strange how I ended up in the organization’s splitting up. Over the years, we had many good people come and go, and I wonder where they are today. Some are dead, of course. Rodney Riggall, from Prairie Grove AR (his partner Ben is still thee in their house). David Kennedy, who had a terrible life. Dick Spelman, who moved to Chicago and disappeared. Stan perry, who moved to San Diego and disappeared. Bob Waltrip, who vanished. So I’m glad to still have Susan Howe, Jim Schneider, and newer friends, like Bill Percy, Todd White and you [Paul Cain], to share life with.
Anyway, it goes without saying that my most important mentor was Don Slater, even though he, like Dorr, was a conservative and I remain a liberal Democrat. The days in the office and long trips to CO gave us time to visit. He taught me how to live cheaply — I was spending family money then, which I don’t have now.
On to the book.
I like Jack Nichols’ words, that we affected change in a few decades. And he eternal question, repeated in my mind with many of the pioneers you cover, why did they feel the need to try to change things and so many millions of other homosexuals, then and now, didn’t. We did have moral grandeur and the intelligence to find ways to work for change — obviously they worked, either separately or together — Kameny and ONE being at odds on the issue. Future generations should know and appreciate us, as we do the founders of our nation, and workers in other civil rights movements, that make America the great nation the founders risked their lives to give us.
I like that Cain saw the need to document this history before it and the people were gone. As was said, even young people today don’t even know what “Stonewall” was or means, much less Mattachine and ONE in the ’50s. I think each decade since the ’50s has been easier. I, like Barbara Gittings, joined a decade late-starting in 1959 after visiting ONE’s office and talking with Jim Kepner.
On Dorr Legg, Cain covers him well in a few pages, but that may be because I of course “lived” with him till 1965. I literally lived with Don Slater and Tony, but knew Dorr from office more than Don. I liked the quote that Dorr wanted to correct the discrimination and gain our civil rights. And ONE still is working. Now we are preserving our history and still giving our opinions. But I never accepted the idea that Dorr alone was ONE. He and Don and Kepner certainly gave it the base, and without them it would not have lasted, but he was obviously wrong in cutting back the magazine — both education and publication are alive today and both are necessary. He was an example of how most of us had no problem with the race issue. I like that Cain found sources I did not know of, such as Dean Gengel and the Advocate material. I do think it has to be on the record that ONE was first the magazine, and the organization/corporation came to support it and then to educate, social service, etc. (5/27/53, but the magazine was launched 1/53).
Kepner (the name Jim confuses me as of course I have Jim Schneider working today) says Dorr had no real interest in the magazine, and Dorr agreed, but he was not that much in the library from my memory. And I am sorry I and others judged Dorr by his looks though his actions were so arrogant it didn’t matter. But I didn’t see that for a year or so as I merely came to work and tried to learn, as they had been at it for a decade.
Kepner was of course right: Dorr, no matter his charm, was a devious dictator in corporation matters. Don didn’t mind this, at first. And Dorr was totally wrong about the importance of the magazine: magazines still do things today classes can’t. But we hear today of classes at the University of Wisconsin, doing a tour of historic gay places in the East. And supporting education, such as USC for ONE Institute, UCLA for Williams Institute, etc. And of course Jim Kepner really was right when he wanted to have and save the library/archives.
We were absolutely right to move ONE to the Cahuenga Blvd. West location, across from Universal City. Legally and morally we were right. But only Don Slater could have done it as he and Dorr were the major factors. But Tony, Jano, Melvin, I and others who supported the move were right. Rudi was scared and Morgan [Farley], John Burnside and Harry Hay and others had quit because they thought only Don had the right, and duty, do it. But almost everyone with Dorr quit too out of fear — Bob and Greg were school teachers. I’m not sure about “Joe Aaron.”
On to Jim Kepner. I love it that he said, “It was hard to understand Don worrying about the world changing so ONE needed to,” as “Don hardly noticed the changes in the world.” Well, Don was against lots of things — he didn’t have a Social Security Number till he finally had to work for money to help HIC for a law publication, proof reading I think. Tony Reyes worked first as a dancer — and still does it for fun in CO, and later in shipping for publication place (books on car repair, etc.). Don only allowed the one black phone in the house, no phone in CO, was only reading old books, as Joe Hansen mentions, refused to accept things and so fought several legal cases about taxes and water rights in CO. And fought the government on the drafting of homosexual men, and Customs over receiving magazines from overseas.
A point, that in the final settlement of the issue, we kept the material mostly and Dorr got the name. But Dorr immediately violated the agreement so we ignored it too. So we continued to operate as ONE, Inc. for a decade, as we needed a way to pay taxes on the Book Service, and a city license, and didn’t want to harm our tax-exemption as HIC, probably the first openly gay group to get it. And remember that ONE’s chapter in Long Beach operated as ONE, and is the Center there today.
As to the phrase “Bandito” Don, well, friends, Don won, so we were the legal ones, just without the name. We must acknowledge the work of Ed Raiden and Lequita McKay on our behalf. I’m not sure how Chodos did for Dorr. And Dorr suffered rom working with Reid Erickson and ISHR — and Don and I were the first ones paid by ISHR, so we knew Dorr had that income to work with after we separated.
Harry Hay, or who said, that ONE, Don and Dorr were dinosaurs. That is not true. What they, and Harry did still exists today. Harry’s later groups still are around, as are the three parts of ONE. They all serve a purpose — faeries or whatever. And for Harry to say he approved of Don but didn’t like how he did it — what would he or anyone else have done???
A very important point here — you quote Dorr as saying the issue was settled. But there are people at ONE Institute today, who know nothing of any of the three people or legal dispute, who still claim that our material is theirs, including John O’Brien. They should do their homework.
The main reason for HIC to continue is to keep Don Slater’s work and thinking alive, as it is the best in the field. And Dorr was right: ONE was good as it stayed out of politics (Morris Kight is glad of course) religion, and even social clubs, etc.
Gittings was right: Dorr stopped reaching out and ONE Institute today still is not reaching and using the material they have. But Kameny is wrong — ONE has affected the movement and thinking more than any one other group. He merely concentrated on the federal issue and they did on the psychiatrists, but we talked at conferences of psychologists, etc., too. We too were on TV shows, radio shows, Don wrote opinions for the two L.A. papers.
And while I don’t remember hearing the phrase, Dorr was right in that our enemies were the four horsemen: church, legal, social, and sciences. Kameny had to fight laws and science, which said we were sick and criminal, but ONE did too, as did Hal Call, etc. We still have to get rid of religions that attack us, and the few remaining reparative psychologists, etc.
On a side note: I would change or delete some of Joe Hansen’s biography of Don (A Few Doors West of Hope) including the part about Dorr using black partners. But Joe and Jane did much for HIC.
I share the feeling of Lisa Ben in being happy to have a home in my old age, and I just wish I could have contact with Edyth, Stella, et al. and want them to get the honor they deserve. Why was she aware of the possibility of communicating with a publication, and no other women? I hope we have a copy of her record.
Kepner’s portion is the major part of the new ONE Institute, I think, although they stole some of our material and even tried to claim our Dale Jennings material, even though he died only long after the separation and left his work to HIC. Again, Jim Schneider did most of the work — with Gus Sanchez and family — to get 909 W. Adams ready for use, and he kept Dale in his last years, and deserves great credit. The same thing applies to those in San Francisco who helped Harry and John.
I have always been concerned that neither Dorr nor Kepner ever mentions HIC to visitors, and that showed a problem that lasted, even though they both did work with HIC, such as book reviews, etc. People visited Kepner’s place on Hollywood Blvd. and never knew we were a few blocks down the street. We always told visitors about Dorr and Kepner.
I of course have now read the Sears book on Hal Call (Behind the Mask of Mattachine), and it agrees with Kepner’s thought that Hal had a problem with sexuality, so he acted to try to overcome it. I didn’t see it and liked him of course.
Kepner was right, and should have supported Don — which he didn’t do and in fact hurt us as he advised Chet Sampson to stick with Dorr as we would fail in a few weeks, they were on the tour in Europe — as he knew how devious Dorr was when he kept the IRS letter secret from Jim even though it was a legal problem for Jim and ONE. I lied that Jim was a gadfly and worked with many groups. His library is a great legacy for our community. I am just sorry he suffered trying to publish Pursuit and Symposium.
I’m running out of time and patience, so will close and write more later. But again Kepner was right: “Hal’s sexual attitudes reflected his poor self-image.” Again, thank goodness Hal, Don, etc. found the desire to work in the movement; even though he hurt Harry in taking over Mattachine, he was right. And Hal’s concentration on P.R. and the Review proves that we were right that the magazine was important to the movement.