Sunday, May 28th, 2023

My contact with the Mattachine Society

Billy GloverSeptember 13, 2010.

In response to a query by Greg Jeu, Publisher, OutSmart magazine:

I was never a member of Mattachine, the first-early (Foundation), which started in 1950 and was essentially killed by 1952/3 when Hal Call and cohorts kicked the founders out at an annual meeting.

I think this is not important to most people but is sociologically and historically since as usual both sides were good people and had good reasons for how they acted and thought. I also was not a member of the Mattachine (Society) which Hal, and then Don Lucas, et al. restarted in San Francisco.

The early meetings of Mattachine were at secret, sort of like some Communist groups and earlier secret societies. From one small group meeting, it slowly grew to dozens and spread from Los Angeles over the south and then up north.

Harry Hay, Dale Jennings, et al. were either Communists or left-wingers. They were then kicked out of the party for being homosexual — remember Harry had actually married to be a good party member, although I don’t think his family background explains this. I think some material is good in Stuart Timmons’ book, The Trouble with Harry Hay (Stuart has recovered from a stroke and is working with others to honor Harry this year I think, although I have had no contact and don’t get response from what was, nor his email). I think a friend of Stuart’s, Lee Mentley, could get more info if you want. I don’t have contact with James Sears whose book on Mattachine covered most of this, Behind the Mask of the Mattachine.

My connection to Mattachine was short. It started in September, 1959 when I finally decided to go to ONE’s offices — having had the magazine from newsstand. I met Jim Kepner first, and we went down to a drugstore — Thrifty’s across from Pershing Square at 6th St., a few blocks from ONE’s offices at 232 S Hill St. and upstairs from Goodwill, a used clothing store. I remember it was a block from Grand Central Market, a great place and a block from a large Mexican-American movie theater and near the Bradbury Building, The Los Angeles Times and City Hall, and across the street from a Cooper’s Donut place, where we would go after evening meetings.

I had forgotten the reason Jim Kepner told me about the coming Mattachine convention in Denver, but it was I think that he was going to speak. I did not go with him, and honestly can’t remember if i drove or took a bus, but assume I drove, went to the meeting, my first active participation in a homosexual activity. It was “historic” for two reasons, actually getting large local media coverage, which backfired and the local people suffered. The second was getting “coverage” in San Francisco, because they had let some unknown person propose the group send a Thank You to the San Francisco mayor for being “gay-friendly” — not the right term but what it meant. The stooge was doing this for another man seeking the office — Wolper I think, and it was used in his ads against Mayor George Christopher. Not for a really good reason, but the local press/media and public got unhappy with this — even though they were still not “friendly,” so the attempt backfired and Christopher won re-election. And Mattachine got some publicity — this was before SIR, etc.

After the convention I went to San Francisco — again I don’t think I went with Hal, but when I got there I stayed a week or so with him and worked at the office on Mission St. They were also PanGraphic Press, which supported them, and so I helped put small books together and some on the Mattachine Review. I had read a book, Advise and Consent, and said it was worth talking about, so they told me to do a book review which I did but don’t think it was used until a year or so later. in ’61.

Then I returned to Los Angeles and started volunteering at ONE. Jim Kepner got mad at Dorr Legg for misleading them over the issue of tax-exemption etc., the same type thing Don Slater finally got tired of when he forced the separation in 1965. (Ironically it was only when we finally got a tax-exempt part — ISHR — that Dorr felt safe enough to really push his agenda (education) and tried to stop Don’s part (the magazine mainly.)

When Jim quit, Dorr got them to offer me the job, paid, as a staff member — the pay was a joke of course; both Don and Dorr had partners supporting them (Tony Reyes danced at a night club on Olvera Street). I had income from my family.

Most of this, by the way,  is covered in Todd White’s book on all three early organizations, Mattachine, ONE and then the Homosexual Information Center, Pre-Gay L. A. I don’t think you ever reviewed gthe book. You did print a chapter of an earlier book on Kepner — I forget which book.

We moved to the Venice Blvd. address, at Western, in 1962, and then the separation came in April — Easter — 1965.

Ironically at that time, Harry Hay had met John Burnside. John eventually left his wife, and they started living together. John moved his business — making teleidoscopes— to a building around the corner from us at Washington Blvd. at Western. Later, when Don and Tony bought a small house in the Four Corners area of Colorado, John and Harry spent a few years living in a cottage at San Juan Pueblo Indian Reservation in northwestern New Mexico.

Harry had dropped out of the movement, as did Dale Jennings, for a while but kept contact with us. He also worked while in New Mexico with stopping a dam that would have harmed a Native American community. Dale went on to write a little — including the movie, The Cowboys, which starred John Wayne, and a book The Ronin, both of which bring in a little money each year — HIC owns his estate. And Harry did the Radical Faeries thing. Harry’s views did not agree with those of ONE, but they always loved each other and worked together.

I should point out that the reason Hal Call et al. kicked Harry et al. out was that while their work had started a great movement, they would have killed it soon since they had the Communist background during that era, McCarthy, etc. Harry even appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee — one of the few who made them look foolish. Hal, a veteran, as in a lesser way was Don Slater, was a conservative, as were by then most of the founders of ONE, Inc., when it came out of early Mattachine to be the public voice for homosexuals, before early Mattachine essentially died.

Soon after Hal et al. started in San Francisco, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, et al. started DOB —Daughters of Bilitis — and then The Ladder. ONE published this history of the movement in the first book, Homosexuals Today, which also covered most European groups/publications.

I thought I’d put this in context; sorry it goes so long. Over the years we always had contact with Hal Call, and he left money to ISHR — he sided with Dorr and helped him rebuild the information before the legal issue was settled. I could not keep contact with Don Lucas. We also had good relations with SIR and Guy Strait, early San Francisco people and groups.

Hope your article goes well.


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