January 27, 2003.
Dear Jeanne, Joe, Todd, and Jim:
I sent you a bcc of my note of appreciation to Jack Nichols for the Gay Today coverage of memories of Morris Kight.
I thought of you because of our conversations about Morris over the years. And these wonderful memories on the website do not ignore the part of Morris that we have discussed.
And I’m still thinking, as you know, of how Morris handled his work, the publicity of it may be a better way of putting it, and that of Don Slater, W. Dorr Legg, Harry Hay etc.
I suppose Harry got help in his efforts. And, frankly, even when I hear or read the wonderful “history” from Dale Jennings, et al., about Harry’s pushing his agenda even as he kept claiming he only believed in consensus, it only adds to my admiration of them all.
I hope young people coming into this movement today will have such wonderful (although I guess less so at the time) memories and accomplish as much as these pioneers did.
But that can’t hide my problem with the fact that most of them did not get the credit they deserved. I don’t think Dorr was acknowledged at his death.
And I certainly don’t think we handled Don’s death well.
But the problem was that Don, and perhaps Dorr, did not want publicity. They actively fought against any attempt to get ONE/HIC credit.
Now I know they had been “bitten” by a few people trying to exploit them and the movement, but they ignored attempts that would have been helpful, such as when Deb Price tried to get information from them on the ONE court case, or Paul Cain tried to interview them for at least background of the movement if they didn’t want to be a chapter in his book of pioneers, Leading the Parade.
(I have just reread the letter Deb sent him, which he then wrote to me to be sure I had given her his address, and he still had “doubts” and even though he read more than most of us he had not read any of Deb’s columns, and as Joe Hansen has so often pointed out, he could be closeted with old English authors and not acknowledge any current writers, publications, and for years he fought over having a TV in the house.
Now I recall that before Don died we had been contacted by someone in Beverly Hills saying they were going to do a documentary, and I spent lots of time and faxes to them and nothing came of it. But even if they had been anti-gay or whatever, what harm could they do to us?
And Don had faced down the Customs people in the Federal building, so what was his concern? He and Harry and Vern Bullough et al. had the Motorcade through L.A. And it did get coverage by the media.
And in Randy Shilts’ book. He died without ever getting the film of that motorcade back from dear Don Schneider, and I hope he still has it in his Electric Theater Museum in Owasso. The film may not be all that important, but it illustrates how we lose our history. And to not have it makes it more important than if we do have it.
But my main reason for thinking now is that I am jealous of the response Morris has gotten as compared to Don, et al. Why did no one come forward to speak of Don Slater, or Dorr legg — maybe they did and I didn’t know it, if they handled Dorr’s loss as it seemed to me they were trying to handle Morris’, by fearing any outside publicity, etc. or a competitive memorial, etc. (as in Jim Kepner’s case). But the outpourings of love for Morris and what he did are great.
The question is: Where are all the hundreds of people ONE helped over the years? And the draft dodgers that Don kept out of the military? And the people who read ONE over the years, when there was no other resource And the college students who came to our monthly meetings at the Cahuenga office? And the people who heard Don on the Joe Pyne (radio) show? Or read his columns in the L.A. Times, or Edge or in a newsletter? Why did his work not touch people the way Morris’ did?
It was of a different nature I guess.
Perhaps it was hard to “like” Dorr. But Don was a gentle soul who was always friendly. But he said, and I assume it is still true, that his ideas, like ONE’s, were ahead of his time, and only years from now will we realize how right he was.
I knew then when I saw the difference at the psychology conference at the Hotel del Coronado years ago, when the audience listened to the intelligent talk of Don Slater and Jane Hansen, and were polite, and I’m not sure till now that they appreciated the truths they heard. But then I witnessed their emotional reaction to Morris’ preaching. So in a sense they were “hit” from all sides.
I wonder today where those psychologists have gone and how they think today about homosexuality.
I don’t think we would change a thing today, and certainly not our beliefs in the ideas we have promoted since 1952.
But I think, as a generic issue, we should discuss how much the serious work has done as compared to the sermons. Do Joe Hansen’s fiction books reach people a serious non-fiction book won’t or can’t?
And does reading Patricia Nell Warren’s Front Runner actually “reach” young people, gay and non-gay, more than a long article in a professional journal? And does a campy but accurate answer in “Smoke from Jeanne’s Lamp” do more good than the editorial?
Or, as I believe, does it take the NAACP, and CORE, and maybe even the Black Panthers to let the world know there is a problem here, and if we don’t solve it one way, an easy way, it may take a hard way?
I would like to hear what the young LGBT students at CSUN and USC etc. think.