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Interview with David Davenport and John Wilkinson, two of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front in Portland, Oregon

Interview with David Davenport and John Wilkinson
Date: July 23, 2003
Interviewed  by: Larry Knopp and Roger  Winters
Under auspices of Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project
Transcribed by Ruth  Pettis
Total Number  of Tapes:  2
Sound  quality:  good, in general;  some places hard to hear
Restrictions: right to review and edit transcript
verbal emphasis in italics

 

Introduction by George T. Nicola

1970sIn February, 1970, John Wilkinson was a 21-year-old gay man working for Portland’s Willamette Bridge newspaper. Another young gay man attempted to place an add seeking a “meaningful relationship”, but the newspaper refused to accept it.

That led John to write and publish a letter suggesting that what was really needed was an organization like the Gay Liberation Front recently organized in Berkeley. He asked readers for feedback, and that led to the organization of the Portland Gay Liberation Front, the first politically oriented gay organization in Oregon. In the process of organizing the group, John met 19-year-old Dave Davenport and the two became partners for life. Also working with them to represent lesbians was Holly Hart. The Portland GLF represents the birth of Oregon’s LGBTQ movement.

John and Dave would eventually move to Seattle to help John’s aging mother. In was in their Seattle living room that they organized Washington State’s marriage equality movement whose eventual success allowed John and Dave to marry.

This fascinating interview with John and Dave, from Seattle's Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project, is important in understanding the Pacific Northwest’s LGBTQ movement.

For additional detail, please see the following GLAPN articles:

How the Oregon LGBT Movement was Born

A History of Oregon’s Major LGBTQ Equality Organizations

Queer Heroes NW 2012: John Wilkinson and Holly Hart

John WilkinsonTHE INTERVIEW, Side 1 of 4:

Larry Knopp: Today is the 23rd of July, 2003.  I'm Larry Knopp, along with Roger Winters, representing the Northwest Lesbian  and Gay History Museum and we are interviewing  John Wilkinson and David Davenport, at their home  in Maple  Leaf

[John?]:  Close, Larry. Close.

[John?]: Wedgwood.

Larry: Wedgwood, excuse me.

Roger:  That's  part of Seattle,  isn't it? [laughter]

[David?]: Maple Leaf — it's over  there.

Larry: We usually like to start with personal/biographical material.  So if I could ask each  of you to tell us a little bit about  -- where  and when, if you care to say,  you were born, and where  you grew up and just a little bit about  family backgrounds. Then I can ask further  details  as necessary. David?

[David?]: Okay. This is David speaking. I'm 53 years old this August.  I was born in Phoenix,  Arizona, but essentially raised  in southern  California until I was about at which time my family moved  to southern  Oregon.  And I attended  school there  and then went to college  briefly, and then --

Larry: Was that Medford, or -  ?

[David?]: In Ashland.  Ashland,  Oregon,  at Southern  Oregon  College.  And then,  from there  I went to Eugene and worked there  briefly. And then  after that I moved to Portland,  Oregon,  and met John!

Larry: Okay. We'll come  back  for a little more detail in a minute.

[David?]: Just glossing over.

Larry: Get the skeletal  background first, and then —

John:  I'm 55, born February  25th,  1948, here  in Seattle at Swedish  Hospital, and was raised just a mile and a half from here,  southeast of here,  in my parents' home  where my mom lived until a few years ago.  She  died within the last couple  of years.  Went to View Ridge  Elementary School, a couple  of miles  from here,  and Nathan  Eckstein Middle School, a couple  of miles  from here,  and [laughing] Roosevelt High School, a couple  of miles  from here.  

And then attended the University of Washington, where  I bizarrely joined a fraternity, and bizarrely was president of the  fraternity.  It was an odd time, in that it was during the Vietnam War. There  was a great  deal of tumult. It was kind of an [unintelligible] that didn't know what it wanted  to be, exactly, so no one was sure  why they were … During that time I was fully aware  that I was interested in men,  sexually. And in the process of dealing  with some personal tumult, over that, I was advised by an acquaintance that I might just move — just go for a different perspective, a different place,  different environment — and I should move to Portland, which I did. Where  I met Dave!

Larry: And what year was  it, the two of you met?

John:  1970.

BACK TO TOP

Larry: Okay. Well , let's go back to you David, for a minute — a little bit about  childhood  and growing up in Ashland and then later Eugene. Do you want to talk a little bit about what that was like, a little bit about  your family? and in particular about  [your] growing awareness of your sexuality?

[David?]: Well , for me, my awareness of my sexuality has been  with me since  Day One.  I was always aware  that I was attracted to men. And in … of growing up, I basically  was  raised  in the country, when we moved  to Oregon, so when I met John  in Portland, he seemed very sophisticated to me because he was  from a big city — Seattle.  I [didn't] go to school  very long in Eugene — excuse me, in Ashland.  It was only basically for about  one year.  And then my stay in Eugene was just a little bit longer than that. But in Eugene I met some friends  who went to the University of Oregon,  and they kind of introduced  me into the counterculture, particularly anti-war  movement. So about  the time that I met John,  I was  drafted  — because — or actually,  my number was selected in the lottery and it appeared that I would be drafted. So just about  that time I decided to apply for Conscientious Objector status, which I achieved. And then, with the help of John,  I also went to my physical  when  I declared my sexuality.  So I was  classified as …

Larry: You covered a couple  of bases.

[David?]: Yeah,  I wanted  to get my Conscientious Objector status first. That's  a question of ethics. But then, there  wasn't  any point in denying my sexuality,  so just checked the box and answered the questions when  I went for my physical.  But I guess you could say that my background, in terms of growing up, is primarily rural because my southern California experience as a small child was just pretty much the same as anybody who's  of that  age.

Larry: How old were  you when you went to Ashland,

[David?]: Well, we never  lived in Ashland.  I should make  that clear.  I went to school in Ashland, [but?] my family's actually  from southern Oregon  ~ southwestern Oregon,  Grants  Pass, [Cave?] Junction, and that's  Josephine County.  So, in terms  of a difference in my lifestyle, in California we were pretty much  suburban middle class, but when we moved to Oregon  we became very rural, and that probably had more impact on my upbringing than anything prior to meeting  John.  But I didn't have  an issue with my sexuality at all. I was pretty comfortable with it. I had friends  ~ close  friends  ~ in high school,  and although, when I was an adolescent,  I went through,  I think the typical  adolescent trauma  regarding identity and things like that, my sexuality   really a problem.

Larry: So how did that work in a rural environment, in southern Oregon,  that you were  comfortable with your sexuality? Were  you able to express it?

[David?]: More or less.  It just —

Larry: So, what about  how that worked? [hard to hear]  met one another  in that  environment?

[David?]: Well , basically, it was a very small town and in high school  I met         guess I was  fortunate  - but I met a ~ my first boyfriend, I guess, although we wouldn't describe  ourselves as boyfriends. it would have  been just "best friends." And we did a lot of experimenting, but nothing significant, in terms  of romantic interest,  but we were good friends.  And that was when  I was about  14, and that  was my first experience. And then,  from there,  I [?] have  an active relationship with anybody until I met John,  but I knew people  who were gay when I moved to Eugene.

Larry: So was there  a point at which you interpreted your desire  for other men as about  identity? As  ~

[David?]: Yeah, when I was in high school.  And then it became something of an issue, because I wasn't uncomfortable with my own sense of self-worth,  but I was uncomfortable with society's perception of gay people.  And I can remember distinctly reading  an article in Time Magazine about homosexuals, and this particular article focused  on drag queens.

John: Was that the  "fluffy sweater" article?

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[David?]: I don't know what it was, but I do remember thinking that, well, this wasn't  me, but I felt like -- that something was going to happen  to me, as a gay person,  that I would turn into a drag queen,  that I  would want to suddenly start wearing  a dress. Almost, you know, like some kind of life-changing thing. And that disturbed me because I wasn't  really prepared for that, you know. But as I became more  aware  of society's perceptions of gay people,  it became more uncomfortable for me, in terms  of that knowledge, but in terms it was mostly just given the feel that I didn't know that many people.  And that didn't change significantly until I moved to Eugene with my friends  from the university  ~ or, excuse me ~ that didn't change significantly until I met my friends  from the University of Oregon,  in Eugene. And in that group  there  was a man, Brad, who was my first openly gay positive  role model, somebody who identified himself as being gay and was a very — seemed to be a very healthy  and happy  individual. So — and then we became friends. We didn't really get involved, but we became friends. And then after that I met John.  The rest is history.

Larry: So, I want to ask you about  something else you said, which was the distinction between your suburban middle class environment in southern and your more  rural environment in southern Oregon  — did I hear  you suggest that there  was something about  that more  rural environment that made  it easier and more  comfortable for you, in terms  of your sexuality, or — ?

[David?]: Well , it might have,  because I couldn't — I didn't have,  since  — It might have.  I [don't] know, because I don't know what it would have  been  like to have grown up in southern California.  It might have  been  easier there.  But in rural southern Oregon  — there  weren't  enough  people  around, and there wasn't  enough  — I think — peer  pressure to really bother  anyone, because —

Larry: So absence of peer  pressure might have  factored in there?

[David?]: Right, there  weren't  that many people,  so you would develop close relationships with your best  friends, and it wasn't  a situation  where  anybody really cared.

Larry: Was there  anything along the lines of subtle  codes or cues that came into play?

[David?]: [indicating no ?]

Larry: So — I'm not [hard to hear]  [for lurid interest  ?], but how —

[David?]: Yeah. He seduced me. He made  the  first   [laughter]

Larry: [to John] And it sounds like, in your case, the — perhaps becoming comfortable with your sexuality was  more of an issue,  than for David. Is that wrong?  Or, at least  it compelled you to move,  somehow.

John:  It did. It's an open question as to why. I mean,  I had been  sexually interested in other boys  since as early as I can remember having any sexual  interest  at all. One of my first — he wasn't  a boyfriend. Dave, we wouldn't have  called ourselves that. It was a Catholic boy, just up the  street from me.

Larry: At about  what age?

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John:  Oh, jeez  — we would just play. It had to be eight, nine, ten, you know?  Probably ten.

Larry: it was just happening in the way that little boys  [hard to hear]

John:  Little boys, just experimentation, you know. "Oh, that's  interesting. What's  that thing?"

That sort of go over to his house.  One day we got caught  playing  —

Larry: And how was that reacted  to?

John: Well, I think -  his parents,  I think, especially being  Catholic, were terribly concerned. probably saw me as being a  …    fact, they moved  away not long [laughing] I think that was  ~ it's probably my imagination,  that that had much to do with it , because they -  they had a large income  and could afford a much nicer house, and moved to a much better  neighborhood. But ~ my mother  -  she didn't t seem to react  at all, not in any way I could perceive. She was certainly aware  of it. But my interest  in boys  continued through  Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts ~ and Explorers, which I very much enjoyed, you know? As you would. And it's interesting that subsequently I found out how many of my fellow Cub Scouts,  Boy Scouts,  Explorers were also gay.

Larry: But there  were not things that actually happened in that environment? Or was there?

John:  Oh, sure!  I'd take  every  opportunity  I could get to play, which mean,  I don't want to overplay  that.  It wasn't  that often, but   -

Larry: Again, how was that accomplished, in a way that didn't put you at risk?

John:  Oh, it probably did put me at risk. It was  furtive. It was  certainly nothing we talked  about.  You know, the other boys that I played with tended,  interestingly, not to be the ones who I later found out were gay.      tended  to be the ones who, as far as I know, identify as straight.  One of them later became a football player  ~ a fairly well known football player  and a sportscaster.

Larry: So were there  clues  or cues that you used  to identify boys?  Or was it just the boys that you found  attractive [hard to hear]?

John: Yeah,  and it just kind

Larry: It sounds like you were more the aggressor in these situations?

John: Well , no. It's interesting, that it just kind of seemed to happen.  I would have to do a lot of thinking and remembering, that I'm not sure  I'm capable  of to really understand who was making  the moves  on whom.

Larry: But something was happening, and somehow people  were  finding each  other.

Yes. Very definitely. That happened in school  as well. Again, with people  who I believe identified as being straight;  ones who I later found  out were gay were not the ones that I connected up with .

Larry: Interesting.

John: Because no one,  at that time, in the 50s and early 60s, identified in that way. Except  for one guy. Scott,  in high school, who -  we wouldn't describe  ~ we'd describe  him as being  "flamboyant" now, I think. He was  clearly not ashamed, and he was very definitely the aggressor. He wasn't somebody I was interested in, other than the fact that he was  older and persistent. I didn't  find him attractive, and in feet, he kind of scared  me — because he was  so persistent and so aggressive. But it was interesting to observe that in action. And he seemed to be comfortable in himself, so —

Larry: So was there  a point for you, at which you kind of connected an identity with yourself? David said it was  about  14 for him, when he sort of put two and two together and said —

John: College.

Larry: College.

BACK TO TOP

John:  I would just after  I got out of high school,  and moved  into the fraternity  house and was away  from home,  then it started  to become clear to me.

Larry: How so?

John: Well , two things happened. Actually, while I was  still in high school,  I was walking down the Ave — University Way — and a very  friendly black man came up to me and started  chatting me up. And we ended  up at his apartment. And I think that was my first truly gay sexual  experience. I had no idea what I was doing, you know. He was the aggressor, in this case. And it was kind of interesting. He was  interested in some sort of continuing relationship. He actually snuck  me into my first gay bar 7-11  Club, I think?

Larry:  6-11?

John:  Club! Down on —

[Roger?]:  Second  Avenue.

John:  Second  Avenue. You know. I was  fascinated by the dim lights and — I seem to remember red- flocked  wallpaper, which may still be there!

Roger:  Typical of that  [hard to hear] [laughter]

John:  He advised — because I was no way near he advised me to take my hands out of my pockets and try to look older.  So he got me in there.  That was my first taste of alcohol,  so that —

Larry: So he was  an influential figure,  in terms  of the identity thing, for you?

John:  I' d say yes.

Larry: and you said there  was another  thing that  happened.

John: Well , there  were  actually several  things that happened. I started  working at KCTS TV , which was  still on campus at the time, still using black and white cameras. I was  a cameraman and did some audio, that stuff — volunteer stuff.

Larry: So we're now talking about  197[hard to hear]-- ?

John:  Oh, no.

Larry: 60s?

John:  Still the ~ this would be mid-60s, yeah.  So ~ it turns  out that one of the directors there  was  gay, and ~ it was apparent that others  who worked there  were aware  that I was  searching for something  - my identity, or sex,  or —

Larry: How was that apparent? How did you know that they knew?

John: Because ~ of one instance, where  one the engineers the station,  Cliff, warned  me about this guy, warned  me that he was homosexual, and to be cautious. Well , of course,  [laughing] that was like a red flag in front of a bull! It was  like, "Oh, this is ~ " And I had no interest  in him, in particular, but it was just more  evidence that, oh, there  are other  people  around, who are like me in some way. Also, at about that same time ~ I think it was at station  ~ I met up with a man who was just a little bit older than me who was  in the Navy when the Naval Air Station at Sand  Point was  still in operation. And we started  kind of dating. I was in the fraternity  at the time, and I remember bringing him over for dinner.  I remember us going on to the Naval Air Station, on a date,  and going to a movie at the base cinema, and sitting ~ I think we sat down  front, which was kind of brave  of us, and holding hands while we watched the movie. And then afterwards, he had an old car stored  in one of the garages that was across the street  from the base, on Sand  Point Way, and we opened  the doors  to the garage and then closed  the doors  behind us and went in and made  out in the back  seat [laughing] of his parked  and stored  vehicle.  And I remember that experience in particular as being my  first really, truly exciting sexual  experience. I remember I was  shaking, I was  so -  it was  so new and fresh,  and it felt wonderful.

Larry: Say again  how the two of you — how you found  one  another?

John:  As I recall, he came into the lobby at KCTS. I was  leaving and he was  standing there  talking to someone at the desk,  and we locked eyes, and started  up a conversation and walked out and ~ that was it .

BACK TO TOP

Larry: Wow.

John:  Oh, it's amazing. So, the confluence of all of that was that I was increasingly aware  that, yes,  I was, in feet, gay.

Roger:  Now, you were  in a fraternity,  you said.

John:  Right.

Roger:  Was this one of the campus fraternities, with a house and all that sort of thing?

John:  Uh-huh, Phi Kappa Tau. It was  a much lower-level tier fraternity,  not highly regarded. I mean, they have  campuses all over country.  This one had not been  successful. It had been  closed  for a number of years and had just re-opened. So they were looking for just about  anybody who would join . We had rowdy football players, who were really awful. They were heavy  drinkers and partiers, troublemakers. We had intellectuals. It was  "Animal House." [laughter]

Roger:  And you were president, though?

John:  and I was president of "Animal House." Ah !

Roger:  And did that – the Greek  society, in its penchant towards promoting all things  heterosexual – did that cause you problems, or frustrations, particularly?

John:  I was too self-absorbed, at the time, to really be thinking much about that,  frankly.

Larry:  You described it as "bizarre," in your experience -  or it ~ You described the fact that you it , and became president, as bizarre.

John: Yes.

Larry: You want to talk about that a little bit?

John: Well , I became president by default, because nobody  else  wanted  to do it . I had no qualifications.  It just ~ I think I was pulled into it because I was in a vacuum,  and there  was something pulling me.

Larry: When  you say you were  in a vacuum,  what do you mean?

John:  in terms of social connections. And so here  was a social connection that kind of reached out, and pulled me in. I didn't really have a lot of close  friends, not a lot of continuing  friends, and so I was  — I wouldn't even  say actively searching. I think it was kind of a passive act.

Larry: And was that a place  where  there  was any kind of a homosexual subtext  or subculture?

John: No . Except  for my little corner  of the world.

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Larry: Which was you,  alone?

John:  Me alone,  as far as I know.

Larry: So all these other environments you'd been  in that were  equally heterosexual and male  — there was more happening than in this very all-male environment?

John: Uh-huh, very definitely. A t one point, a number of us ~ in fact, it was all of the officers ~ moved out of the fraternity, and got a house together. The fraternity wasn't doing well. It was clear that it had no real purpose, that in fact ~ There were a number of distinct splits, in terms of how people felt about fraternity life, in itself. And those who - the officers tended to be the ones who thought fraternities were kind of silly, and the attempt to have an anti-fraternity was not working, as counterproductive — going over a —

Larry: So that was part of what was going on, was you were all sort of self-consciously imagining this fraternity as an anti-fraternity?

John: As something else, yeah. Being - yes, on Fraternity Row; yes, having Greek letters on the outside —

Larry: But we're not taking this seriously.

John: We're not taking this seriously. We're about something else. The problem being, defining what that something else was in a meaningful way.

Larry: And for you ~ at some level ~ were you hoping that that something else might be something that was ~ made being gay easier? Or was that a separate issue?

John: I think it was too early in to really have done much —

Larry: But did you graduate from the U-Dub?

John: No, I'm still short a couple of quarters - and still have thoughts about going back.

Larry: [to David] And did you graduate from Eugene?

David: From Southern Oregon College ~ no, I only went there one year, basically.

Larry: Okay. So you both, at some point ~ so when you moved to Eugene, it wasn't to go to school, is that right?

David: Correct.

Larry: Okay. So you both dropped out of college at some point, and pursued other interests. John: I had three or four majors, and along with the fraternity, I thought, why am I here?

Roger: Before we get real far afield, I want to go back to the Scouts and the Scouting [laughter] because I had, like, one campout as a would-be tenderfoot and got so intimidated by the homophobia that I ran away, screaming almost. But you seem to have had fairly active experience. What were those ~ ?

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John: There were — in my Scouting experience, there was no active homophobia. It was a social group. It was hosted by the church that I was a member of - Sand Point Community Church, just up on the hill here, where my parents were members. I was with my school friends. It was fun to go camping; we had pretty good times. So — it was a fun thing to do. I don't know what else to say about it .

Roger: Well, what sort of sexual things were the boys doing? [laughter]

John: Roger! [laughter]

Roger: I mean, at that age — I wanted to know, in a sense, because I felt the sexual charge in the Boy Scouts, in a way, but nothing ever came of it.

John: But it was powerfully repressed. Well, I can only speak for my own experience. I remember in Explorers - two of us staying behind in one of the bunkhouses, to play mildly while the others were of f doing something else. I remember being in a tent at night, with the mosquitoes buzzing around us, just kind of nuzzling up against another boy. It was pretty furtive, but still highly charged and fascinating to me.

Roger: So sex toys and lubricants were not involved? [laughing]

John: No , I wasn't aware of those the availability of those at the time.

Larry: Well , we got that clarified.

David: There's no badge in the Eagle Scouts for learning that [hard to hear] [laughter]

Larry: So, you were in Eugene how long, David?

David: Let's see — it must have been about a year.

Larry: And then from there you moved to Portland, is that right?

David: Right, with Brad and [Wendy ?].

Larry: Okay, [to John] and you were at the U-Dub for how long?

John: I was at the U-Dub for three years.

Larry: And then moved to Portland?

John: And then moved to Portland. At time, I volunteered at KRAB Radio [spells] K-R-A-B, which no longer exists. And their sister station, that they were just starting in Portland, which still exists, was KBOO Radio — Radio. And Lorenzo Milam suggested that I move down there and do some work.

Larry: and you said that your moving to Portland was part of a larger search, that in some way or another was connected to your sexuality. Can you say a little more about what you you were - ?

John: Yeah. to find myself. I didn't know what I was looking for.

Larry: Why was it necessary to move in order to find yourself, do you think?

John: Well , again, it was a fairly passive act. I did it because Lorenzo Milam suggested it would probably be a good idea. So apparently he saw something that I did not, or could not see, in terms of what might been my interest. And I [have to thank him for that ?].

Larry: Do you think that was about your sexuality that he was seeing?

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John: Oh, it was all about my sexuality, right! Lorenzo - fascinating man, fascinating, difficult man. He was loved and hated in equal measure by many people. He described himself I think, as being bisexual. He was the patron saint of both KBOO and KRAB . Writer, raconteur; had a houseboat down on Lake Union. And he, of all the people that I knew, I viewed as being a wise man. Quirky, difficult — but still knowledgeable and

Larry: I think I'd better flip the tape here.

Larry: So Lorenzo Milam was a wise man and mentor, it sounds like.

John: [hard to hear], yeah.

Larry: And, can I ask - do you think that, in fact, it was necessary to move in order to find yourself? Or do you think, had you not moved, that that would have been accomplished somehow, some other way?

John: Well, who knows? But what I found in Portland - it was fascinating mixture of people and attitudes and belief systems. I hooked up with any number of people people from religious backgrounds. There was a wonderful woman who would have gatherings in her living room of people from all backgrounds, just to talk. Gay people were welcome; people who were believers; people who weren't believers.

Larry: Just to put this in context ~ what year, approximately, was it that you moved to Portland?

John: That would have been in - we met in ~ it must have been '69.

Larry: And David, for you it was — ?

David: Right about — it was around '69 [hard to hear]

Larry: So you met very shortly after you both moved there.

David: Pretty sure. Yeah, because I remember when Brad and Wendy and I moved to Portland, we moved in with a fellow by the name of Richard. And Richard was the first, quote-unquote, "out" gay person I had ever met. And he was — he wasn't flamboyant, but he was distinct. He had quite a persona - very long hair, was into sort of a macrobiotic diet, and really a nice guy, really nice fellow. But he was close friends with Brad and Wendy through the Eugene ~ through the University of Oregon. And then the three of us — Brad was interested in a relationship with me but he had issues because he was trying to become a monk, a Catholic monk, and so — whereas he was attracted to me and emotionally we were compatible, he couldn't physically do anything. He had to — because it would have been a sin, and he was trying very hard to not [tempt ?] —

Larry: and who was Wendy in this, again?

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David: A mutual friend [hard to hear] A friend of Brad's, and they knew each other from the University of Oregon, and I met Wendy through Brad. But when we came to Portland, Brand and Wendy and I lived together with Richard, just the freeway in Portland. So it was kind of like a mini-commune and a very interesting time for me. I really hadn't been around people who were as smart and as attractive as these folks were. You know, they were very patient and they were very accommodating towards this kid from the country who didn't really know that much. But we had a lot of fun together; we had a great time. But it was through Richard — Richard's invitation — that I attended a meeting that John was sponsoring — or hosting, or in control of. And that's how we met. It was at this gay [lib ?] meeting. And I wasn't particularly ~ frankly, I just went there thinking I [might?] meet some guys, because I was only, I think, 19 at the time - hadn't been to any bars or anything, and didn't t really ~ wasn't aware of besides Brad and Richard, anybody else that was gay that was my age, because these guys were both older than I was. So I thought this might be an opportunity to go and see if there were any other — any guys around.

Larry: So what happened, in a very short period of time, after you arrived in Portland, that caused you to be organizing a gay liberation meeting?

John: it was an epiphany.

Larry: Well ! I guess we've got to hear about that! [laughter]

John: One of the things I was doing was — doing lay-up and calendar work for the Willamette Bridge. the underground newspaper at time, which was underground, by the way. Their offices were underground.

Larry: While, also doing something with KBOO Radio?

John: with KBOO Radio, but actually more with the Willamette then. I was trying to make a living on - and I went to work for the Willamette making just a few dollars a week. A couple of things happened. David McReynolds, who was one of the National War Resistance people in the nation at the time —

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Larry: Later a presidential candidate for the Socialist Party?

John: I think so, yeah. He came to Portland to talk about what had just happened in New York City ~ Stonewall. So that was the first news we'd gotten that something very interesting had just happened. Just about that same time so my ears were like, "Oh, this is interesting." Just about that same time, someone submitted an ad to the Willamette a personals ad, looking for a male companion ~ a same-sex companion. And the editorial board, who were ~ it consisted, I think, of communists, peaceniks, people who were Quakers ~ the husband and wife who had started the paper were Quakers. Just a fascinating melange of people. The editorial board refused the ad, seeing it as being an ad for sex. And I argued that it was unfair to - given the paucity of ways for gay men to meet.

[interruption — admonishing pet] John: Strike that from the tape!

Larry: We're talking about a cat. [dealing w. letting cat in ]

John: We're trying to train him - put the claws on the screen ?]. So, the paucity of ways for gay men to meet.

Larry: Did they take ads for opposite sex people looking to meet each other?

John: You know, frankly, I don't recall. I don't think they did. So I don't think it was outright discriminatory, but I argued —

Larry: You felt that, under the circumstances, it was unfair.

John: Yeah, this was a different case. You know, it was the bars or streets, and that was it. And of course, in retrospect, that was probably untrue. There were certainly private parties. And yet, you had to be already in a social scene, a social circle, to be included in those parties. you were outside of that, then you were left with the streets or the bars.

Larry: And of course, at the time, you were not aware any of those social circles - is that right?

John: Right. Well ~ not really. So, I wrote an [?] about the paper having rejected the ad.

Larry: An opinion piece?

John: An opinion piece, right.

Larry: For the paper.

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John: For the paper, right.

Larry: and they printed it?

John: Oh yeah. And subsequently I wrote some other pieces about the situation of gay people in Portland, and decided to call a meeting for March 6th, of at Centenary Wilbur Church, which was, I think, a Methodist church on the southeast side of the city. Unfortunately, the date of the meeting was too close to date of publication of the paper, so nobody showed up. So we called a second meeting on March 24th of 70 , and the attendance was amazing. So that was really — in my mind, that was the first meeting, the first organization.

Larry: How many people would you say were there?

John: Oh jeez, [hard to hear] 30? 40? 50?

David: Oh, at least, yeah. It was pretty crowded.

Larry: Men and women?

John: Men and women, yeah. It was very exciting, and he was in the back of the room.

David: Watching.

Larry: So, you had an epiphany, which was indirectly related to Stonewall.

John: Yes.

Larry: and that instant, essentially, began a long career of being a gay political activist.

John: Uh-huh. Punctuated by periods of long inactivity, have to say.

Larry: But in that — essentially that same moment, met David. John: Yeah! Isn't that amazing?

Larry: So - the meeting. What happened, and what did it lead to?

John: it led to further meetings and attempts at organizing. Unfortunately, [laughs] again, my interest became redirected — not totally, but you know, starting a relationship is a daunting task. So others came forward. A man named [D. Everett ?] came forward and became very active, and then other people who had real organizational skills came forward and took it from there.

Larry: So did this turn into an organization, with a structure and a name — that sort of thing? Or multiple organizations?

John: Oh, there was a brief time when there was a Gay Liberation Front taking on the names of the period related to the anti-war effort. That didn't accomplish much and didn't go anywhere, really. So other organizations came along and took it forward. And I wasn't really involved with those directly.

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Larry: So you became somewhat partly because you were focusing on a new relationship.

John: Uh-huh.

Larry: And then, at some point, got re-involved in gay politics in Portland?

John: Actually, it wasn't until — We didn't do much with gay politics in Portland after that. I mean, we were involved in personal stuff.

David: His job ~ he still worked at the Bridge, and we did those things [hard to hear] with the Bridge.

John: Oh! I forgot. One thing we did do, which was really fun, in retrospect kind of odd, but still fun -- just about that time - Is it Mark Crowley? Who did Boys in the Band? [hard to hear]: [repeating name]

John: Mark Crowley brought Boys in Band out. And we were invited - the newspaper staff was invited to a preview. And I saw it and I was horrified.

Larry: Is that the play or the movie?

John: The movie — the original. I saw it —

Larry: with Cliff f Goran and — whoever the hell else was in it .

John: Yeah. I thought, these people are really sad. They're angry, they're bitchy, they hate each other, they hate themselves. I don't like this. This is not a portrayal of my life. So I think - again, [D. ?] was involved with that, wasn't he? with the protest.

David: [ I don't remember him being there. ?]

John: We were there. So we made up flyers, leaflets, and [laughing] We picketed Boys in the Band when it opened in Portland!

Larry: How many of you were doing that?

John: Oh, it was just a few of us.

Larry: And you were both involved? David: Oh yeah.

John: Yeah. That was fun. [laughs]

Larry: How were you received by the public on the streets? I assume this was in downtown Portland, right?

John: Oh [hard to hear]. Yeah.

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David: There a problem. Basically, the flyer just said that this movie represents stereotypes and gay people aren't really like that.

John: Yeah, which is interesting because, looking back on the movie - you know, now it's a classic, in its own right. So to have picketed it , well - But, I had a right to my feeling at the time, and -

Roger: A few years later we were picketing Cruising.

John: Right.

[hard to hear]

Larry: [hard to hear] depicted a pretty tragic [hard to hear]

John: it was a movie of its time, and I was more interested in going beyond [our time ?].

Roger: [quoting line from movie?] "[hard to hear] Mary and takes a fairy and makes something pretty." [laughter] my favorite line.

John: Well done! Something else - it's all coining back. Scary. John Stossel, who is now with ABC News, was —

[Roger?]: And quite a controversial [man ?].

John: Yes. Was a local reporter in Portland at the time, and he had become aware had read the article in the Willamette and had become aware that something was going on. So he interviewed me.

Larry: The "article" being your opinion piece?

John: Yes. So he interviewed me for the local five o'clock, six o'clock news ~ whatever it was at the time. So I probably - I'd forgotten about this was probably also the first gay news interviewee - television, at least in —

Larry: How did that go?

John: Well , that was interesting. We both worked at the Attorneys' Messenger Service, at the time. We worked together for a Mormon couple - Chuck and Shirley. and told them any of this. And so their first introduction to me being an out gay man was sitting down to dinner and watching the evening news, and there's their employee, John. And they were actually really cool about it . Considering that they were Mormons, but they were ~ they had converted to Mormonism. They had gone — you should probably - I'll l get sued if we put this in the tape, so we may want to delete this from the transcript.

Larry: We'll l excise it from the [hard to hear]

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They had converted to Mormonism. They had both been heavy drinkers, and as a part of the fleeing from alcohol they fled to Mormonism and food. So they were tremendously obese Mormons, which is unusual because many Mormons are quite slim, as a part of their dietary regimen. But they were pretty cool about it . Their only comment was that they had wished that I had told them in advance that I was going to do it . And beyond that, no problem. So that was nice. That was actually - I have to say, that was one of the first affirmational responses I got from non-gay people, just in the sense that they didn't freak out.

Larry: So, nevertheless, despite picketing Boys in the Band and being the first out gay person interviewed on Portland television, most of those years, at least initially after moving there, were not spent being visible and active and high-profile, but focusing on your personal lives.

John: I think so, unless more synapses start firing!

David: I think through the Willamette Bridge, though, we were still pretty active because ~ Remember, my oldest brother found out that I was gay by reading that article about us in the Willamette Bridge. Because he came up to the front doorstep and he knocked on the door, and I said, "Hi , Mike." And he goes, "Hi , Dave." And he goes, "Oh," and he holds up this article and says, "Well, I just want you to know, I love you anyway." And I go, "Oh, that's great."

Larry: Now, there was, essentially then, an article about two of you?

[David?]: No. This was a satirical piece that we did on the public's perception of gay people, and it wasn't [particularly successful ?] in retrospect. But at the time it seemed very cutting edge.

John: It was, "Boys in the Bushes."

David: But my brother saw that, and he had just gotten out of the service, and he and his wife were in Portland at the time. And I was relatively estranged from my family because of my Conscientious status with the Vietnam War. In feet, I had been de facto kicked out of the house, or at least told not to come back, by my

Larry: But because of your war —

David: Because of my Conscientious Objector status,

Larry: — politics, not your sexual politics.

David: Right. And Mike wasn't particularly gung-ho about the military, but he was in the service. So he was out of the family, too. So he was gone when this happened — when had this altercation with my parents. So he — when he got out of the service and came back into the States and he and his wife moved to Portland, then they happened to pick up a copy of the Willamette Bridge, and saw that article. And he actually was coming think they were in Portland to see us, anyway, and then coincidentally saw that and brought it over with him and said, "Oh — " He was the first person in my family that I literally came out to, in terms of being an openly gay person. But, as far as my parents were concerned — or my stepfather and my mother — we didn't reconcile for some 20 years. So we didn't — there wasn't any —

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Larry: There was no contact?

David: No contact until a long time after that.

Larry: and when you did reconcile, did the issue of your sexuality have to be processed, or — ?

David: Yes and no, because after John and I became involved, whenever I spoke to my mother about my situation, I never made a point of excluding him. In fact, I usually made a point of including him, so I always said, "John and I — " or blah-blah-blah. So they were aware that I was not living with a woman, unless her name was John, and that — I would tell Michael what was going on, and I don't know whether he talked to mom about it. I found out later that he never really did, because it wasn't an issue that he was comfortable with. But finally, when I finally just told my mom, it was no news because she had known about John for ten or fifteen years.

Larry: And he's your only sibling?

David: Oh no. No, have five brothers.

Larry: So, how about the way the rest of your family [hard to hear]

David: That's a little bit different. I don't remember exactly —

Larry: Sorry to take this detour, but going to come back and do the same thing with you [hard to hear].

David: I don't remember exactly how my other siblings found out. You know, a couple of my brothers, Eddie in particular — actually, I have two brothers and three half-brothers, but we're all in one family. And Eddie left home and was sort of gone, so I haven't seen him since then. So I'm not sure he's even aware of it . Patrick, my older brother — I don't know exactly how he found out. I think I just told him, but I don't remember when.

John: Yeah, I think so, too.

David: I don't remember when. And then, my mom was with my youngest brother, Tony, and they sort of found out at the same time. my stepfather was never very close to him, in terms of my personal life, after I was essentially kicked out. And we never reconciled, because he and my mother separated and then he died before I could ever talk to him about it . so -

Larry: and your father, before the stepfather —

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David: My father died when I was about [?] but he and my mother separated - or, he and my mother separated when I was about two. So I never met my real father.

Larry: [to John] And we t really talked about your family very much, and their reactions in finding out, and all that sort of stuff. Were those issues?

John: Well , my father died when I was young. He died in 1959, when I was eleven. So I never had a chance to have that conversation with him. my mom ~ I told my mom. I remember going over to her house and making the announcement.

Larry: And how old were you at that time?

David: We were living together when you did that, because didn't t you come up to Seattle to do that?

John: Did I?

David: I think you made a trip specifically to [hard to hear] [ I remember that trip. ?]

John: I think I did, specifically to make the announcement, yeah. And her -- the first words out of her mouth were, " I thought so!" [laughter]

David: Because I remember you were really, really nervous about [that trip ?].

John: Yeah. And second words out of her mouth were, "Does this mean I'm not going to have any grandchildren?" And that was kind of heart-rending, because I'm the only child. And the answer was, "Well, yes." Which is too bad, because now, the answer wouldn't be, "Yes. It means you're not going to have any grandchildren." The answer is, "Well, I don't know. Let's talk about that." How times change.

Roger: What influenced you to come up here to tell your mother, at the time? Was there a ~

David: Our relationship. It was our relationship.

John: Yeah. It was time.

David: I think you had been telling your mom about me.

John: Oh, yeah.

David: Like I'd been telling my family [hard to hear]

John: Oh, exactly. Yo u were always included in whatever "we're" doing.

David: And since he was the only child, it was ~ his mother didn't [hard to hear] [care ?] at that time, but he was still close to her, and so he would periodically come up without me. And that just - we didn't want that to go on.

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Larry: So, back to Portland, and shortly after you met, and the period in which you were relatively inactive — it sounds like you were actually somewhat active!

[several talking at once]

[David?]: Yeah, now that the memories —

[John?]: — memories are starting to come back.

David: Because we were still involved with the Centenary Wilbur Church and the anti-war movement. And we had friends the same age we were, which was the draft age, who were also involved. Actually, our very close friend at that time, Steve [Simms ?], was involved with this anti-war activity, and he was also involved in another effort at liberation, insofar as that he was the first person to file a sex discrimination suit against AT&T , and was actually the first male telephone operator in the country. That was kind of all wrapped up into this political thing, and Steve would help us with some of that. So we would get involved as these issues became more but in general wasn't an activist per se at that time.

Larry: and you were working — you said for a —

[David?]: Attorneys' Messenger Service.

Larry: Both of you?

John: For a while, yeah. And then Dave was a bartender for a while, at the [Family Zoo?] Tavern.

David: [Family Zoo ?] Tavern.

John: And that became kind of our social center — was that place. Al l of our friends were kind of centered on that. "What a scene.

Larry: So you had a very, sort of gay-centered social life?

John: Oh, totally! At that point it was like, "Boom! We're gay! Okay."

David: It was just an amazing time, really, for Portland, because the community really started to come together then.

So we're talking — your mid-twenties, at this point?

John: Early, mid-twenties, yeah.

David: it really started to come together.

Larry: And what part of Portland did you live in?

John: Oh gosh. we started down —

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David: Southwest Oak.

John: Yeah. we first lived together, I had just moved into house that Dave had been in with Brad and Richard and Wendy.

[David?]: No t exactly, but --

Larry: How long, after you met, did you decide to live together?

[David?]: Oh, about two weeks, I think.

Larry: and you're still together. Well, at some point in this interview, we're going to have to talk about how that [happens ?].

David: Well actually, I was living with Richard at the time, and Richard had grown fond of me, but there was nothing physical between us. But [ I mean ?] very fond ~ and [met ?] John, and tell you story, because it's really cute. But I was at the Gay Lib meeting, and I saw John, but he looked a lot different than he does now. First of all, he had a full beard like Roger's.

John: I think I shaved my beard at that point because you asked me to.

David: Right. And came over the next day to see Richard —

Roger: [Your bigotry. ?]

John: Sorry, Roger.

David: And then I really didn't pay too much attention to him that night, to be honest with you.

Because he was talking a lot, and what-not. But you know, I just wasn't [hip ?]. I was just kind of looking around. And - but when he came over the next day, he was much more interesting to me, at that time. So then we sort of hit it off.

John: Right. I came up after the meeting - there was this cute blond boy in the back of the room. and after the meeting I came up and ~ you were with Richard, as I recall, and so I was talking to Richard but looking at Dave. And we kind of made a date for next day, or - No, it wasn't actually a date.

David: You came over to see Richard.

John: I came over to see —

David: Because Richard was having emotional problems. Had a lot of them, too.

John: Which then contributed to.

David: Yeah, because then you came over and we hit it off, and Richard was fond of me, but he said that John - that I could not see John and live in his apartment.

Larry: Oh, my!

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David: Because it was difficult for him. So we just got our own place — downstairs.

John: Downstairs - yeah! Same building, just one flight down.

David: That was kind of funny. But we're still good friends, Richard and me. Brad went up to Canada to be a monk, and Wendy became the Labor Commissioner of Oregon and actually ran for governor a couple of times. No — did she actually run for governor?

John: I don't think so, but she was in legislature, and then she was also State Labor Commissioner. She — Wendy Roberts - from the Roberts clan.

[Larry?]: [hard to hear] So it was her sister that was governor?

David: it was her stepmother, I think.

John: Stepmother, yeah. And her father had been governor, I think, or some other — something. Anyway, it was a huge political clan. It's kind funny.

David: That was a fun time — very exciting, really exciting. Kind of scary, but very exciting.

Larry: So you spent a number of years just in this heavy kin d of exciting environment -

David: Stew. Oh, yeah.

Larry: ~ full of growth and excitement, and stayed together as a couple in all this time.

John: Yeah. We moved apart briefly for six months, at one point. That was — what? — about five years —

David: Yeah, about five years into the relationship. Yeah. Because — we were still in the process of finding out who we were, and finding out what we liked. The sexual energy in the city was high. Our sexual energy was high, because we were young. You know, we met young. I was only think actually you were 20, so I would have been 22. So we were still young, still in the process of coming out, had not seen a lot of people. So there was still a lot of that to do. And at one point it was enough of a challenge that we decided to split, for six months, as it turned out.

David: To find out if we needed to be [alone ?].

Larry: And then you found out that you didn't?

John: Well , I found out I could live alone, but I didn't want to. There was a very emotional coming-together [hard to hear]

David: I think every couple kind of has to do that, you know? Sometimes we just have to see if living apart is better than being together, to really know if being together is what we want to do.

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Larry: So then, at some point you - at least you, and I'm not sure also you, David - felt compelled to become politically active again. After how long a period of time was that?

John: Oh, not until we moved to San Francisco, I would say.

David: and on, in but I don't remember anything specific. John: That's the problem!

Roger: [What was ?] the gay liberation organization about? What did it do, and did it last, or - ?

John: Oh, it didn't last, no. I think it was mostly about holding meetings to talk about what they were going to do.

David: To meet other gay people, basically, outside the bars.

John: Yeah.

David: I mean, there weren't really gay bars, per se. There were bars that had gay people frequent, I think [Family Zoo ?] was first official gay bar in Portland, although people went to - what was that place around the corner? I don't remember. But it was mostly to meet people, I think.

Roger: In Seattle a similar group, about the same time, had a lot of highly political folks who took it off in various directions. Were there political junkies in this group? Or was it all pretty social?

David: Well , John would know more about that.

Roger: The peaceniks, or the to hear]

David: There were people that carried on. George — wasn't George involved in --?

John: George was involved, and ?]. Do you remember actually came along and kind of took it over. He — I think — he's the true founder of an actual, functional political movement in Portland. I may have written the first article; I may have been a spark; but he was the worker.

We're just about at the end of this tape now, I'm sorry.

 

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[SIDE 2 ENDS]

 

Larry: ~ John, and just answering Roger's question about what this Gay Liberation organization did, and —

Roger: You mentioned Neal who?

John: Neal Hutchins, yeah. And he's really the one who deserves the credit for having started something organizational. He published the newspaper — I think it was first gay newspaper in Portland. He was very active.

Larry: and how long after those first meetings that you helped coordinate was all that going on?

John: Oh, that was I think within a couple of years.

Larry: [repeating] So — late sixties, or early seventies?

John: Early seventies.

Larry: Now, you said that at some point the two of you moved to San Francisco. John: Uh-huh.

Larry: and what was that about? And when was it? And [what happened ?]?

John: That would have been in '80, wasn't it? Didn't we move in — 7 9 or '80.

David: Yeah.

John: Maybe it was 79.

Larry: So the whole — go ahead.

David: Actually, a lot of that had to do, I think, with the fact that we were living as a couple in a small city, that didn't have very many gay couples. So as we got older — I mean, it was one thing to live together as young men, where you could be identified by strangers as just single men living together out of convenience, but it was another to live together as a couple for an extended period of time, as you got older and older. And it seemed like as though —

John: Well , and the ice storms had something to do with it. [laughs]

David: Yeah, the weather in Portland was really bad. We were tired of that, too. But we had gone down to San Francisco a couple of times, individually and together, and enjoyed the environment there. and it seemed ~ oddly enough, it seemed like there was almost a mass migration from Portland. A lot of our friends were moving south to San Francisco. And our careers — my career as a landscaper in Portland was kind of — it was fine, but —

Larry: When did you start doing that?

David: After I left the Family Zoo tavern. I forget in what year it was, exactly. I did it for about four - was a landscaper for about four or five years — landscape contractor.

John: You started that about the same time I started working for Kodak, I think, didn't you? So you were a bartender at the Family Zoo during much of the

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David: About three or four years, I think - not that long [hard to hear]

John: Yeah, it wasn't that long [hard to hear] -- longer than ~

David: I didn't really like that bar scene [hard to hear]

[John?]: The smoky environment

[hard to hear]

David: [bunch of drunks ?] [hard to hear] was a trip. The stories I could tell. But also, at that same time I started —

Larry: — stories that should be told [hard to hear]

David: Yeah, they should, but you should probably get it from him. I also started to paint, as a hobby, around that time, about the same time that I was a landscape contractor, rather. And I wanted to pursue that professionally in San Francisco, and I thought that would be a better place than Portland. So that was our motivation. And John was able to get a transfer, with Kodak, down there.

Larry: So you had started working at Kodak in Portland? John: Uh-huh, in 7 4 ~ June of 74 .

Larry: Doing what?

John: Field engineer — fix-it guy.

Larry: So, basically, all this time you were enjoying being young gay men in Portland; you were figuring out what you were going to do for a living, and what you wanted to do with your lives; and doing the gay scene; and all that stuff. And there came a point, then, when you just felt it was time to move on?

[David?]: Portland seemed to be too small.

Roger: And you were, of course, identified as a couple, which was not that commonplace at the time, but also going into bars. So was that kind of a divisive force, or anything? Were you ~ I don't know if you were drinkers or anything dining that time?

John: No.

David: No .

Roger: That wasn't ~

David: Whenever people met us, they pretty much met us as a couple. So right away, people ~ No , it was never much of an issue.

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Larry: Now, so you were in — you left Portland in 1980 you said?

John: 79 or

Larry: So you were in Portland during the Anita Bryant campaign in Eugene — [hard to hear]: No

Larry: — which I believe was —

[several voices, trying to establish dates]

Larry: I actually think it might have been spring of 78 , that she did

[several voices]

Larry: So was that a big issue in the Portland gay community at the time? Were you aware of it? Did it mobilize you, motivate you? [hard to hear]

John: I would swear Anita Bryant was while we were in San Francisco, or maybe I'm thinking of John Briggs.

Larry: Well, the Briggs Initiative was also 78 , and that was the same year as Seattle's campaign.

Roger: Seattle's Initiative 13 was the fell of 78. The Briggs was the fall of 78.

John: But we had them — See, the memory fails!

Larry: and Eugene was, I think, that spring. I think [hard to hear]

Roger: Yeah, I think Eugene was part of the series. It went: Miami ; Wichita, Kansas; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Eugene, Oregon. So [the] "Anita Bryant March."

Larry: The Save Our Children campaign.

John: Well , the memory fails.

Larry: Okay. Apparently, then, it must not have —

John: Apparently not. [So, we were not active. ?]

Roger: I think it may have been an easy victory for the Anita Bryant forces in Eugene. Then it was not creating the kind of response you saw with — in more recent years — Lon Mabon, and that sort of thing. The community simply wasn't there, and people were intimidated at the time. And I think all the political effort was going to California.

Larry: So that was not a big issue in your consciousnesses, at least as for as you remember, at the time.

John: No .

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Larry: So was there anything else —

David: [We ?] might not have been there. Was it in 78 or 79? We might have moved by then. Yeah, because I was involved in a political effort in the Bay Area, down there. What was that?

David: It might have been We might have literally been moving, at that time, because I know that I turned 30 in San Francisco, which would have been [1980 ?]. So it would have been ~ We had lived there at least a year, maybe two.

Larry: So, maybe you moved there a little earlier than —

John: Maybe to hear] The memory [hard to hear] while you're asking me. It's good you're doing this now, because it's only going to get worse. [laughter]

Well , so anyway, you moved to San Francisco, and mainly because you felt like you needed to be in a bigger place.

David: A bigger city that was —

John: Well, we just — it was a lot of different reasons. It was a sense of excitement, to do something new. We took our - one of our best friends, Susanne [Stoughton ?], with us. She and her cat moved down with us and our cat, in a big moving [van ?].

David: The cat had had kittens.

John: Oh, that's right.

David: There were six cats. John: I forgot about that.

Larry: And why San Francisco, not some [other?] place?

David: We went to San Francisco to make our fortune.

John: Dave wanted to be an artist.

David: That was feeling. That was really the feeling.

John: We had both gone down there. We had both visited - separately - and kind of liked what we saw.

David: Met some nice people. It was very exciting, to go on Castro Street and see out gay people everywhere. and straight society basically accepting them, which wasn't true in Portland. I mean, there were plenty of gay people, but there were no out gay people, per se, and living as a couple in Portland was not comfortable. We had incidents that could have been - we were never able to prove it - could have been harassment, towards a [same sex ?]couple.

Larry: Like what?

David: Vandalism of our cars and apartment. We never were able to tell if it was a jealous boyfriend [laughter], or if it was the downstairs neighbors, or what. But it did happen. And we lived together for years. I mean, we were together all the time. So, to move to San Francisco and be a couple was not a big deal to anybody.

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John: I remember one time going down to San Francisco and wandering into the Castro camera shop one time, and there was Harvey Milk . And at the time — had no idea who he was. Just chatted with him for a few minutes and walked out, so —

Larry: Di d you live in the Castro?

John: Basically.

David: Well, western [addition ?], first.

John: We started quite a few miles away, but eventually gravitated towards the Castro. And we had an apartment on above the Castro, a tremendously busy, noisy street, and decided that we wanted to buy. So our last place was on Divisadero, just where Divisadero splits off into Castro, if you're going south, and heads towards Castro [proper ?].

Larry: And how long did you stay in San Francisco?

[John?]: We moved here in '87.

Larry: So you moved from San Francisco to Seattle?

John: Yeah, my mom had a stroke.

David: it was five to ten years, I think, in terms of [hard to hear]

John: I don't think we were there quite that long, but again — I'd have to look at the papers.

David: Yeah, the mortgage ~ actually go by the dates of our mortgage [hard to hear] [laughter]

Larry: So did you become property owners in San Francisco?

John: Uh-huh, yeah. The last place we lived in , we actually owned.

Larry: Okay. And what were you doing down there? You were working for Kodak the whole time?

John: Whole time.

Larry: and you were being an artist?

David: I got a job in a bar [laughing] and continued my — pursuit of my career as a painter.

Larry: And was it a gay bar?

David: Yeah. It was [hard to hear]

John: Right on Castro Street.

David: ~ Bear Hollow bar, on Castro Street. I actually ~ Actually, as it turns out, the bar manager liked my paintings and became something of a patron of mine.

John: He was a straight man.

David: Well , I'm not talking about Don.

John: Oh, not Don, the owner, but -

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David: Not the owner, but manager, Doug. And he liked my paintings, and he liked art, so he gave me a job as a bouncer, just so I could have some income while I was doing this. Because, you know, making money as a painter, but - Then I just kind of moved up in the hierarchy of bar, and eventually became the manager there, so —

John: And that was fine. It was a smoky bar, dealing with [drunks? drugs?] again, but still it was a social center. You were right on Castro Street, so you got to see it all.

David: Money was great!

John: money was great. It was fun.

David: It was a very exciting time.

Larry: So you were pursuing your respective careers, and enjoying living in San Francisco. And were — was there sporadic gay activism there too?

John: Oh, yeah! I got involved with the Stop AIDS Project when it first started. And was - jeez, I did d a couple of things. I did the street - we called them the street interventions, where you try to pull people in, to talk about their sexual activities and how to be safe. Actually, it was as much about community building and esteem building as anything else about feeling part of a larger whole, in order for everyone to gain a sense that they could control what was going on. they weren't alone, and didn't have to feel like they were just victims.

Larry: What motivated you to get involved in the politics stuff? know that might seem like an obvious question, but everybody's story [on that score ?] is different.

John: my first exposure to them was that was pulled in, by them, to one of their meetings. And found it to be very involving, very interesting - a good thing. And because the group was started by people who came first out of EST, and later the - what did that become? The Advocate

Roger: — Experience?

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John: The Advocate Experience. So it was people who had that background, who could be very persuasive.

Roger: [hard to hear] the experience and the [intensity? intensive?]. What do you know? I didn't know we had a reputation.

John: You do. They pulled me right in, and so I became a street organizer. Later I became a group leader. Later became a board member, of the Stop Project, so that was —

Roger: Had you done other political stuff on the way to that?

John: Yes, and I'm trying to remember what other campaign there was in California, about that where we felt threatened.

Larry: The Briggs Initiative was in '78.

John: Okay.

Roger: There was the tax revolt stuff.

John: No , this was definitely a gay —

Larry: An y possible City Council — well [hard to hear] you must have been there when Harvey Milk and George —

John: No , because we were going into the East Bay, to involve people over there.

Larry: and you must have been there when Harvey Milk and George Muscone were killed, right?

John: No.

David: Shortly after.

John: Just after.

David: We had just moved there, just after that. So it was a tumultuous time.

John: It was.

David: God! I wish my sense of time was better.

Roger: November was when the assassinations occurred. Wasn't it?

Larry: Actually, no, because Harvey Milk lived through the Briggs and campaigned against it -

Roger: [hard to hear] '78.

Larry: — and celebrated the victory, so I think it was very shortly after.

Roger: No, that's right,it [wasn't long ?] after that [election ?].

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Larry: Right. It might have been that same fell.

Roger: [I'm thinking ?] of the Dorian Group office in Smith Tower, at the time. John: So it was something after that, and —

Larry: Well , there may have been some other attempts at statewide initiatives. That's possible.

John: There had to be, because I remember going in a caravan over to the East Bay, to the gay bars there, to try to involve people. And remember how shocked we were at how uninformed people were, over on the other side of the Bay.

Larry: So you lived down there; you bought a home; you had careers; you had lives; you were ~ it sounds like - pretty happy down there. And you came back here because of you mother's illness. Is that right?

John: Uh-huh.

Larry: And did you ~ aside from that, were you wishing that you didn't have to leave? [hard to wise, that you —

John: No. We were ready to leave. We weren't necessarily ready to come here.

David: San Francisco was ~ After the AIDS epidemic ~ it was the AIDS epidemic [hard to hear] San Francisco, the climate there was —

John: We were watching our friends drop like

David: Getting sick and dying. The bars, economy was just hammered ~ the gay economy was hammered by the epidemic, particularly in the bars. Business was terrible. Just the whole Castro Street was just devastated. So it was not a happy time, not a nice place to live. But John's mom actually had a stroke a couple years prior to us moving, and we were coming up to see her. John was coming up quite a bit to see how she was doing, and then we came up together a couple of times. and then I think it was almost two years afterwards that we came up and we visited her, and we could see that her physical condition was deteriorating to the extent that she was either going to have to move down there with us, or —

John: [Which wasn't possible. ?]

David: - we were going to have to come up here, to take care of her. Or - not to become caregivers, but just to kind of [oversee her care ?].

John: To be here.

David: Which is basically what we did. And we were pretty much ~ we liked the Northwest. We liked [hard to hear]

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John: [hard to hear]

David: — we're from the so we sort of felt like we were coming back. And so it wasn't a big problem.

John: We were looking [hard to hear]

Larry: and San Francisco was kind of a depressing place to be.

David: it was very depressing when we left.

John: Right, and I was getting kin d of stressed out by the city life. You know, it's a fest-paced city. As nice as it is still have very fond memories of San Francisco ~ but I remember just getting increasingly stressed.

David: it was very congested. It's a very small city and difficult to get away from.

Larry: You know, it's probably been described to death - no pun intended - in a lot of ways, but what ~ You described San Francisco in those years as being sort of devastated and depressing, and so forth, but what - how else did that impact your lives and the lives of your friends? What was it really like to be living in San Francisco at that time?

David: Well , it was like being in war, because your friends were - there were new casualties every day, and fatalities to go along with it. And it was just a matter of time. I mean ~ nobody was safe.

John: and at the time, it was nothing like we see now, where at least there's some level of hope. I remember one of our friends, Scott, who also ~ he lived upstairs from us. He lived with Susanne, right?

David: in Portland.

John: Who had moved down to San Francisco with us. Scott had moved to San Francisco, had become a waiter. We weren't terribly close to him. He was a funny guy. A really outrageous guy. But he was infected and became ill and died very quickly. And that really affected me, even though we weren't close to him, speed with which it happened was kind of shocking. Because there was nothing — there were no drugs at the time.

David: I don't think - particularly now, maybe ~ I don't know; I cant speak for other people. But perhaps people don't realize how fast that disease progressed, in people that came down — that were diagnosed with it. And a lot of people held off the diagnosis. They wouldn't their friends, or they wouldn't see a doctor, or whatever, out of fear. So that when it became known, they passed away relatively [hard to hear] — the first six months.

John: Right. The first clue was Pneumocystis. They were in the hospital and they were dead.

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David: They were gone. We lost friends from Portland that way, too. So our friends were dying. All of our friends from ~ I can't say all of our friends ~ but many of our friends that we knew from our time in Portland, growing up together - Steve in particular -

John: Who had moved to Albuquerque just -

David: Our close friends were all dying, and then in San Francisco it was just magnified because there were ~ the BAR Reporter Reporter ~ would have an obituary, you know, that was ~

John: There were pages —

David: — pages of them.

John: ~ of obituaries. I remember walking down Castro Street - The first I knew of AIDS -- and it's in Randy Shilts's book — it's funny to read some of my own history in his book. He notes the pictures of K.S. lesions in the window of the pharmacy on the corner. And I remember those pictures ~ those very Polaroid pictures.

David: Randy used to come into the Bear Hollow Bar all the time, and we actually became good friends. And he's from Eugene, I believe ~ went to the University of Oregon.

John: We actually met him, too, in Portland. We knew ~ he came into the ~

David: He was a good friend, as was Cleve Jones [hard to Cleve Jones is still politically active, but — they used to come in the bar a lot, because it was kind of a neighborhood bar. But I can remember the health department coming in to bar and talking to us about this gay plague, and describing to us what the symptoms were, and telling — advising us to advise our clients not to go home and have sex with people that - anonymous sex with people that they didn't know, for a good period of time. Because they didn't know how it was transmitted at that time. A t first they thought it might be contact, or it might be spread like the flu .

John: It might be poppers, might be —

David: Could be anything. And it was absolutely — for business, in terms of the gay scene - it was absolutely devastating. The bars just - practically shut down, en masse. And of the bathhouses did. So the whole community was just - it was like a war. It was like a war. Fatalities every day; casualties every day.

Larry: Did you feel like you were fleeing something, in a way, when you left then?

David: Yeah, no question about it. But it was coincident — I'm not sure that we would have left if your mother hadn't required our care, [hard to hear]

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John: Yeah, we were ready for a change, but we probably wouldn't have reached the exact same conclusion about what that change meant, had it not been for my mother's need.

David: Because we were pretty well established in San Francisco. We had good jobs, property ~

John: We had a home, and friends.

David: And friends.

John: But fewer of them.

David: We had to make a decision regarding his mother's care, because John's an only child and she just depended on him 100 percent. There wasn't anybody else up here to deal with it. And she could not — her stroke was pretty debilitating. It was almost her complete left side, I think it was.

John: Yeah.

David: and she started to have cognitive problems after a couple years, to where things were difficult — managing everyday stuff was getting harder and harder. And her physical condition — I was shocked when we saw her a year after one visit, that she had deteriorated so much. So we just had to do something, and it seemed like the right — it seemed right.

Larry: So you came up here with no jobs.

John: Oh, no. I transferred again. Thank you, Kodak.

David: No, [he?] transferred.

Larry: Oh, you transferred.

John: I've been with Kodak for almost 30 years [hard to hear]

Larry: You're still with them.

John: Yeah.

Larry: and you must have — were you still working at the bar then, David?

David: Yeah, I was, and I left the bar. And I didn't want to get another job in a bar when we came up here, so I did some part-time stuff.

John: But you wanted to paint again.

David: I wanted to get my studio set up, more officially, and really tr y to make a go of it, which I did and — That's how I actually got into the business that I am now, which is working as a gallery director. And been doing that for about or 16 years.

Larry: Where was your studio?

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David: In the back there.

Larry: Oh, here. So when you moved here, you bought the studio - bought this house.

[John?]: Right. Specifically with studio space in mind.

[David?]: And had to have enough [hard to hear]

Larry: And proximity to your mother in mind.

John: Exactly.

Larry: So your studio was, and always has been, and always will be — here.

[John?]: Well , it was, but it's been replaced by a gym.

Larry: So you're not painting anymore?

David: No, not painting.

Larry: So you're doing full-time gallery ~

David: Well , I'm still in the art business, and that's fine.

John: is one of Dave's paintings.

David: That's one of my paintings. They're all over the place.

Larry: And you have continued to work at Kodak.

John: Uh-huh. And I'm retirement-eligible, this year.

Larry: And apparently also, you've continued to be politically active?

John: Yeah.

Larry: Well l let's talk about that a little bit.

John: Soon after we moved here — Stop AIDS Project had pulled me in, had really convinced me that activism was a worthwhile pursuit, on a long-term basis.

Larry: How did it do that?

John: Because I thought it was effective. I liked the people I worked with. I liked the way they thought about problems. I liked their very careful approach. The Stop AIDS Project was designed around polling data. Their approach was, these are the kinds of actions that produce results, given what we know about people's attitudes and the way people behave in response to certain ~ certain desired outcomes. So here's what we're going to do to try to achieve those outcomes. Very precise.

Larry: Did that, then, put you at odds with some other AIDS organizations, or - ?

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John: There were no other AIDS organizations at the time. That was kind of — the Stop AIDS Project, I think, was probably the first.

Larry: Okay. But what about subsequently? Because I'm thinking about organizations like Act Up and Queer Nation, and so forth, whose tactical strategies were probably not

John: [laughing] No. We had no contact with them, at all, so —

Larry: So it wasn't a question of kind of aligning yourself with a particular faction, or ideology, or ~

John: No . I was introduced to the organization. I liked what I saw. Their approach fit with my sense of self and what worked and —

Larry: What did the — this is still in San Francisco now, right?

John: Still in San Francisco.

Larry: Now, what did the Stop — what kind of position did they take on some of the controversial issues at the time? Like whether or not the baths should be closed down. Do you remember? I remember that these were controversial issues in the gay community at the time, that not everybody - that many people felt that the health department ~ What was the health director, director of the department in San Francisco? You know, felt that he was an enemy —

John: [hard to hear] no, that's the wrong name. I don't remember.

Larry: I'm just wondering if any of those controversies kind of affected you.

John: Not really directly, no. We were much less focused on those kinds of issues than direct intervention. The rest of it was like [somebody else's issue ?].

Larry: So when you came here, was there a Stop AIDS Project here? Or did you have to find an equivalent? Or what was — ?

John: I wasn't looking for anything here. I had done that and I wanted something different.

Larry: And had you stopped doing that, by the time you moved? Or were' you active until the end?

John: No , I wasn't active all the way lit l the time we moved — pretty close to that time.

Larry: Okay, but then when you came here — you weren't interested in continuing that. But you were interested in continuing —

John: At something. And I picked up a copy of the SGN and saw ~ it was soon after we moved here. It was, jeez, I think within a matter of months, wasn't it? After we moved here, that I got on the Seattle commission that — at the time it was the Mayor's Commission -

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David: right!

Larry: Sexual Minorities Commission? Or —

David: Wasn't it called the Women's Office ~ ?

John: Well, no. It was part of —

Larry: Office of Women's Rights? [hard to hear]

Roger: [hard to hear] and it's the Mayor's Commission on Sexual Minorities [hard to hear]

John: Which later became the Commission for Lesbians and Gays, which is now something else.

Roger: And this was under Mayor —

John: Royer.

Roger: Royer, still.

John: Yes.

Larry: Now, did you have to be appointed to that position?

John: Yeah.

Larry: So which means — the mayor appointed you?

John: Yes.

Larry: How did that happen?

John: Through an interview process.

Larry: So you, essentially, applied? John: Yes.

Larry: And you were interviewed and then you were selected?

John: Appointed, right. And it was supposed to be a two-year appointment that stretched on, I think, for two and a or three [laughing] But in the interim it became Commission for Lesbians and Gays. Ed Murray was on the task force and on the commission with me, along with — oh, who else? Shelly Cohen was on it . It was a good group of people, really good people. And kin d of in the middle of it , it became the Commission for Lesbians and Gays. Hal f the appointments came from City Council; half from mayor, as I recall. And I was kind of grandfathered in to new commission.

Larry: And what was your work as a commission?

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John: Well my work — was on domestic partnership ordinance. Shelly Cohen and I worked on that together. And I later became the chair of that committee. So we would meet together with City Council representatives and mayor's representatives, working on the terms of the ordinance.

Roger: So this was the ordinance for city employees, to have domestic partners?

John: That's right.

Roger: Is that how we met?

John: it may well have been.

Roger: Because I was involved with the King County group trying to get ~

John: Yes!

Roger: It was a little bit later, and we wanted to come to you, who had done this.

John: Right. And I think it was how we met. That rang a bell.

Roger: I couldn't think of how it was.

Larry: So you worked on that ordinance for approximately how long, would you guess? John: Oh, gosh. That went on for a year, year and a half, probably.

Larry: and culminated with enactment of the ordinance? John: Yes.

Larry: Do you remember what year that was? I'm sure we can look this up, but I'm just curious.

John: Well , it was — you'll have to look it up.

Larry: Okay.

Roger: Wasn't there a challenge to it?

John: There was a challenge — "No on --" The campaign was "No on 35," so it was — what? Initiative referendum? Initiative 35.

Larry: To undo the domestic partner registration for city employees.

John: Right. And by that point — I believe by that point I was off commission, and then became involved with the campaign. Another exciting and really wrenching time. I was on the steering committee — the campaign steering committee. Spent a lot of time in the office that was donated to us. Spent a lot of time on street corners with rah-rah signs.

Larry: This tape is just about to finish on this side, so why don't we flip it.

[SIDE 3 ENDS]

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Roger: - see these threads coming back together, because, as I said, we lived in a parallel universe, if you will . But there are some things that are just ~ we've probably kind of blocked out of our memories, but they were very big events at the time.

John: Oh, huge!

Roger: No on 35 was huge, and some of us saw it in the context of a series of referenda that had come up after Initiative 13. And none of us here, though, were - Lon Mabon victims.

John: [Initiative] 35 would have been in and Norm Rice was mayor at the time.

Larry: So how'd that campaign go?

John: We won!

Roger: Did it go to [a] vote?

John: It went to a vote, and we won pretty handily. We did real well for ourselves.

Larry: And other organizations? Or political activities that you were involved in at the same time, or subsequently?

John: That kind of burned me out for a while. was really intense.

David: Plus his mother — he was becoming more and more — well, we were both becoming more and more involved in his mom's care, because ~ She was still living by herself] but she was having all kinds of physical and mental So we became ~ just very involved — caring for an elderly parent, and it's a very ~ It really was time consuming, and emotionally. We actually ~ she actually lived with us for a while.

John: was not a good idea [hard to hear]

David: The social worker advised against it, but we had to try it anyway. It didn't t work very well.

John: Everybody said, "Don't do that! You're making a mistake," and they were right.

David: So we were really involved in her care for the last few years of her life, and it took up almost all of our time.

Larry: And how long ago did she die?

John: It's been — what? Three years? About three years.

Larry: So a good portion of the 90s, or at least —

David: It got progressively —

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John: We laid low until about [laughs] And that was the start of the marriage issue. So we were

[hard to hear]

David: I remember exactly when that started, because when I was working at Friesen Gallery, downtown, I was a member of the G.S.B.A., which is like the lesbian and gay chamber of commerce, and at our monthly luncheons we would have invited guests — invited speakers. And Evan Wolfson* came to one of our meetings to talk about legal marriage.

John: in September, I think.

David: Something like that. And I don't — you didn't — Did you go to the luncheon with me that time? I think I told you about it.

John: Oh, yeah. We both decided we've got to go to that.

David: and I said, "You know, this is something we should go to." And then — so I remember distinctly on way home, I said to John, " I think this is an issue that we can win . I think this is something that we can make happen." And that was enough. He [imitates whoosh noise: there he went!

John: "Okay!"

Roger: was about that time T got a call from John [hard to hear] saying, "Are you aware of this legal case in And he explained it briefly, and then said, "And you know, the Constitution has the "full faith and credit" clause, don't you?" And it's like: click-click! Two and two equals yes! This is our issue now. It was a very quick realization.

John: It was. We went soon after —

David: We went to the luncheon, and then Evan had a talk that night, I believe, that we went to afterwards at Barbara Bailey's place?

John: At Barbara Bailey's.

David: On Capitol Hill .

John: That's right. And so we were pulled in even —

Larry: At her bookstore or at her home?

John: At her home. I'd forgotten about that. And —

David: He was a very [hard to hear]

Larry: [to David] you were the instigator of this one, actually, through the G.S.B.A.

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David: kind of, but he's the political animal, so I just just felt like this was something that we could win, that we really could win .

John: And I don't know how we ~ somebody must have suggested to us that we go to the COCO meeting. What does COCO stand for?

Roger: The Council of Community Associations, or something like that. John: — Community Organizations, yes.

Roger: And Janice Van Cleve was in that.

John: Janice Van Cleve was in that, and that's where we met Janice Van Cleve who, to her credit, on to -- as soon as we ~ We were just talking to people. We had no connections at COCO, didn't really know anybody, and we just kind of said ~ in all different directions, 'We're here just because we understand that marriage is becoming an issue. And Evan Wolfson was here talking about it. " And Janice Van Cleve was like - right there! Saying, "Well, we should do something about this. Let's have a meeting. Can we have it at your house?" [laughter] And we did! Right in the living room.

Larry: And hence, the Legal Marriage Alliance was born? John: Was born in our living room. We should have a plaque!

Larry: With you, John, and you, Roger, as founding officers?

John: [hard to hear]

Roger: I kind of resisted being an officer. I called myself Minister of Propaganda for a long time. Writing the FAQ, and things like that. John was our first victim ~ president!

John: Oh, I [was? wasn't?] a victim ~ oh!

Roger: ?] was here.

John: We had a lot of people [hard to hear]

Roger: [hard to hear] Joe [Curio ?] and [hard to hear]

Larry: This would have been '95? '96?

Roger: '95.

John: '95 ~ October believe.

David: [hard to hear] was here, too, I believe? He was involved [hard to hear]

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John: Yes, and Stevie and —

Roger: We had about people, at the beginning meeting. Most were couples. [Larry?]: Who's Stevie?

John: Damien's partner.

David: They're divorced.

Roger: I wanted to ask you — because the marriage movement came late in your relationship — had you already figured out all of the legal and other arrangements to make for yourselves early on? Or was this something that —

David: We did it a long time ago [hard to hear] wills.

John: we went and saw Dan [Warsho ?] and had our wills done, and — yeah, we'd investigated what we could do.

Roger: At about what point in your time together?

John: Gosh, we didn't do that — did we? — until we moved here.

David: Was it when we moved here?

John: Yeah. We didn't have rings until our 15th year.

David: Was it 15?

John: Yes, it was. [hard to hear]

David: I don't [laughter] We got the rings in San Francisco, I know. I remember that. And I guess we did the wills here [hard to hear] It just seemed like we needed something [hard to hear]

Roger: Arrangements.

David: Yeah. The big deal was deciding — about ten years into the relationship - that's when I decided that this was it. This was the relationship that I wanted to stick with. For me, it was about ten years into it . Took ten years to decide he was the one! [laughter]

John: We were both young and —

David: That's true.

John: — virile, and desirable, and — you know.

Larry: So the Legal Marriage Alliance was born in this house — indirectly of a meeting that G.S.B.A. hosted for Evan and then on your urging, David, the issue was taken up by John [hard to hear]

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David: I guess I was [hard to hear], I?

John: I guess you were, dear.

Larry: And what has happened subsequently? This is more recent history, but it's probably important that we document it , in terms of the Legal Marriage Alliance. It's obviously an issue that hasn't gone away. I know that Hawaii voters sort of nixed that issue in the bud, but what's happened here? [hard to hear]

John: Although Hawaii was a loss and a victory, all wrapped up in one -

David: It seemed like whole thing culminated, really, from an - and I wasn't as involved as he was, but as an interested observer. It all [revolved? evolved? involved?] around — well, it became involved in trying to defeat the effort in state legislature to make it illegal.

Larry: The Defense of Marriage [hard to hear]

John: To pass [hard to hear]

David: And that was all wrapped up in with the civil rights - or, the job protection, because there was a lot of conflict in the community over which issue should be foremost. And I remember, there was a lot of conflict about that, because people who did not like [hard to hear] ~

Larry: Did they happen exactly the same year? Those - because I remember, there was the statewide initiative in '97. Was the state legislature's Defense of Marriage Act the same year, do you recall?

Roger: It was going on throughout that entire period -- so '96, '97, and '98 was when it was finally passed, over the governor's veto.

Larry: It was '98 when that happened?

Roger: Right. But it was in the hopper each year, so we had lobbyists and effort, and so on, going every year, those three years.

David: Lots of trips to [hard to hear]

John: We were very much more a political organization at the time.

David: We actually had lobbyists.

John: We actually had lobbyists — paid lobbyists.

Larry: What was your relationship to the statewide initiative to codify gay rights in '97? The one that was defeated so soundly? Was the Legal Marriage Alliance involved? Or did you stay away from that issue?

[David?]: [hard to hear] sort of backed off. We actually [hard to hear]

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Roger: We were a focused group ~ focused on the one issue, and I think deliberately left all the other activities available in the for people to pick and choose as they would. And some of us just had different views about whether that initiative should be happening at all, or not. But nevertheless, it was ~ it went as it did, and helped to create the climate, perhaps - or affected the climate in which the result came and — of the vote on marriage.

Larry: Would you say that the marriage issue in community was less controversial than the statewide initiative? [ I mean ?], in some gay communities, there are splits on the marriage issue. Some gay people feel that marriage is a institution and [hard to hear]

John: Oh right. Oh, there's still a big split. We still hear from people who --

David: But not as controversial as it used to be. tell you, it's been a paradigm shift in attitudes in the straight and gay community about this issue. I can remember having a discussion with a fellow A . member who told me, point of fact, that I would never see gay marriage in my lifetime -- anywhere. I just can't wait to write him a little note saying —

John: "See?"

David: "You were so wrong!"

John: That reminds me of a discussion I had with one of the district managers at Kodak. Kodak now has domestic partnership benefits, which is good in itself. And just a year before Kodak extended the benefits, I had a similar conversation with my district manager, who is actually a very nice man, very sweet man. Who told me, similarly, that he thought that Kodak would never extend domestic partnership benefits. So, you know, one more check mark: okay, wrong! wrong!

Larry: So, you had paid lobbyists during the campaign to defeat the state Defense of Marriage Act. Has the organization persevered since? Has it gone through cycles? Have you ~ Roger, as much a person to ask about this as John [hard to hear] I imagine [hard to hear]

Roger: Cycles, cycles, cycles. I'd say, after '98, the political wind went out of the sails. battle was lost.

John: That battle was lost.

Roger: That battle was lost, over that particular vote. And the core group intended to persevere always, I think.

Larry: and you have.

Roger: And we have. Considerable shrinkage, in terms of the number of activists. A change in leadership, in that having burned John out again —

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John: That lasted two and a half [laughing] [hard to hear] [two talking at once]

Roger: Were you president then?

John: No, just once, thank God. Once was enough.

Roger: But throughout the whole [bloody ?] period, right?

John: Yeah, the [bloody ?] period.

Roger: And then Janice Van Cleve came in , and through her own energy and initiative really held tilings together almost single-handedly for a while. Because a lot of us were tired and depressed, and whatever.

David: It was really a hard time ~ a really hard time, when they passed that bill .

Roger: And then we have since tried to mean, as Janice found time to move on, and then I came in as president, but - We had a small board, but started to use technology and things to build up interest and education, and so forth.

John: And we've had a recent infusion of new and young blood, which is really nice.

Roger: And then we've seen the turning of the tide, in terms of legal marriage coming in Europe, and then coming in and maybe coming in Massachusetts or New Jersey, or something [hard to hear]

David: With Will l and Grace [be ?] coming on TV . [laughter]

Roger: Right. And Ellen [hard to hear]

David: Not literally, but -

Roger: But, you know, the culture has changed a I think we've created a very articulate and knowledgeable resource in the community about marriage, and have been able to help a lot of people, as well. That's one thing I've enjoyed a lot [hard to hear] the questions you get over the Internet, or whatever.

John: One of the nice things, too, is seeing [the suf&sion? this diffusion?] of perspective on marriage, throughout the community. and I'd like to think that at least some of that is through our efforts. way people talk about it and think about it seem reflective of some of the words that we put out there. It may be just ego, or hopeful - thinking, to think that we achieved that, but nonetheless —

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David: I remember the first time we marched in the parade in June — and we just basically marched as couples, with signs — I think it was — was it the first year we had signs [saying ?] how long we were together, or something?

several: Yes.

David: and that was very —

John: — empowering.

David: [hard to hear] for us, it was very empowering for us but [hard to hear]

John: Because the cheers, and the [clapping ?] were wonderful. Yo u know, just merely having signs saying, "Ten years," "Five years," "Six months" — or whatever.

David: So what was it? Like six or eight couples the first year, and this year we had — there was a lot!

[laughter]

[several talking at once] [David?]: — won a prize.

John: We didn't t get to keep the money, but it was —

Roger: We got to donate the money, so that was good. One thing we did, that is not known much, but I think was one of the more significant things is, Evan Wolfson approached us and said, "Do you think Washington should be [part of? ] the next wave beyond Vermont? Because we have a situation where you can't just up and vote the Constitution change. You have to start with the legislature." And so Legal Marriage Alliance led a lengthy examination within the community of this proposition, and whether the state is ready for this, whether the community could muster the education, political unity and will to pull it off. And then have test cases and so forth come to the floor. We concluded that no, Washington State wasn't ready. But we didn't just jump to that conclusion, and we didn't just take it based on our own opinions. We were out — we worked up questions with other community groups and had interviews done with people throughout the state —

John: It was quite a process.

Roger: — and came up with a report and conclusions, and — I thought it was one of the most, in a sense, brilliant and responsible tilings done, politically, in the gay community over all these years, because it wasn't just someone's personality or political beliefs pushing something. It was: we want to do the right thing, for the right reasons, and with the intention of succeeding.

John: and the interesting thing is that probably very few people in the community know about that having taken place.

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Larry: How was that done, exactly? Did the leadership of the organization, or the rank and file of the organization, at a meeting at some point say, "This is how we need to proceed." And then —

Roger: We never really had a rank and file after the legislative years, so ~ but the leadership, which included Jamie Peterson at time, who is now co-chair of Lambda Legal Defense's board, and was active with them anyway ~ He had hosted the Legal Committee meetings, which brought a number of lawyers and others together, talking about stuff and kind of an expansion of that luncheon ~ lunchtime brown bag get-together at Jamie's law firm office. And we started to invite people from

John: Women's ~ Northwest Women's Law Center.

Roger: Northwest Women's Law Center, Privacy Fund, Hands Off Washington, or whatever - And to invite them t o participate in dialogue we were having once a month, and maybe even more frequently for a while. And just out of that evolved this - nobody wanted to just jump the gun, or trust some one person's or group's opinion, or even their pessimism. We wanted to test the possibilities, and if we could contribute to the next wave we really wanted to be there.

John: So the group developed a questionnaire, a fairly lengthy questionnaire, and developed a list of community leaders to give this questionnaire to - to ask about the state of the community, its willingness —

Larry: gay community? Or the community at large in Washington State?

John: The gay community. About its capacity for withstanding what could be a backlash, in the face of any positive efforts on our part. was an examination made of our constitution, the nature of our state supreme court — it was quite broad ranging - to come to a conclusion about the likelihood of success, should we go forward.

Larry: To do that, did you ~ to develop the questionnaire and examine the constitution, and all of that - did you draw on the resources that were present in your leadership community? Did you hire out any professionals? I noticed you talked about hiring just wondering how professionalized this process was.

Roger: We drew from the expertise of the groups represented at table.

John: Which was considerable!

Roger: Considerable, yes. The Northwest Women's Law Center, ACLU , Privacy and our own group, actually. Some of the legal minds that were attracted to it.

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John: So it's interesting that perhaps one of the most important things we've done, in the State of Washington, was to avoid a battle that we were unlikely to win. That was particularly important in light of the Mur e of the initiative a couple of years before.

Larry: and which [battle ?] was that?

John: The — Initiative [676 ?] — [hard to hear]: Which one was — ?

Larry: The statewide anti-gay ~ the Hands Off Washington [hard to hear]

John: Right. There was a great - still, a great [hard to hear]

Larry: That was the [summer? son?] of Lon Mabon, right.

John: ~ a great deal of fear in the community. People were really tired [hard to hear]

Roger: Demoralized and [hard to hear]

John: — which, unfortunately still seems to be true.

Roger: in a sense the bottom line, too, was, you can block a constitutional amendment in Washington if you have control of one house plus ~ one third of one house plus one. And none of us could say we did, or expected that we could, in any reasonably near future. So that was pretty sobering, but when you look now at, say, state of New Jersey, where they had, and mounted, a considerable educational effort, where they have pending a very [pitted? good?] lawsuit - beyond Massachusetts, what's going on there ~ and where they don't vote on constitution. So that's where we might have been, but I don't regret not being there.

John: Well , yeah, and it's important that we take appropriate path. We need to be intelligent about what that path is. And for this state, that will l be a different path than it wile l be other states. We're still one of strongest marriage organizations in the country. We're still a resource for news organizations to seek out for information. During the current big deal on marriage, we've been in the news It seems like, in feet, we'll l be — who's doing [hard to hear]

Roger: [hard to hear] is going to be on NPR tomorrow.

Larry: And to what do you attribute your success as an organization, then, when you reflect on it?

David: The people involved.

Roger: The people involved, yeah.

John: The people and —

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Roger: And some of it the determination to follow this issue, that we think is the right issue, to its conclusion. and that this is - of everything that we've all been searching for — the freedom of choice, being an adult in our society, having equality — full equality, even equality that makes a Bil l Clinton worry a little bit to hear] [laughter]

John: That's equality!

Roger: Yeah. And I think not becoming doctrinaire about it, not letting somebody's — like I say, you cant "should" on people and get them to be well motivated, and really try to just [drain ?] out from people the contribution they want to make.

David: I think the organization has been very flexible in how they go about doing their business, too. So, like Roger was saying, there isn't any one particular set of rules on what it has to be. It's been flexible, so it's survived. And then, the people there are dedicated and involved, and not going to give up — just not going to give up.

Roger: I think you see people like — One thing I've noticed about John and me is, throughout our years, of various involvements, we've wanted to have the result of our efforts be effective, which doesn't necessarily mean need to be loud, or they need to be politically correct, or they need to be heralded or anything else. And really feel like either making progress for real people and tilings happening, or we're doing something else, which I think tends to be intellectual masturbation. Excuse me. [laughter]

[Larry?]: We've talked about much more than tonight!

Larry: Well, I'm mindful of time. I guess there's maybe about five minutes left on this tape, and that doesn't mean we couldn't go on. [hard to hear] two hours. I wanted to be sure and ask you about the G.S.B.A. a little bit. You are — what's the nature of your involvement in G.S.B.A.?

David: Well , I was on the board for a while, but I — when I changed jobs — I went from one gallery to another, and - the gallery that the I go to now is not a member of the G.S.B.A., so I'm not involved with them, currently.

Larry: Okay. But when you were on the board, were there — was it an exciting time? Was it a - ?

David: It was an interesting time, but it's essentially a business organization, and they made a very concerted effort to stay out of politics — which kind of frustrated me because I felt that — A group with that much organization and that much — and so much resource throughout the community, could have been an advocate for some causes. But it's in their charter so they couldn't do it. It was an interesting - from a business point of view, it was interesting, but it wasn't completely satisfying.

Larry: Were you also a gallery manager, at that time?

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David: Right. I was director of Freshen Gallery at the time. So I was there primarily as a business contact, but I was also — I have to give them credit. if they hadn't hosted Evan Wolfs-on at that the Legal Marriage Alliance would not exist. I mean, well maybe — in the form that it does now.

Larry: So in spite of their efforts to remain [apolitical ?] —

David: Well , there was always a lot of controversy about that, whether the organization should be primarily to support the gay and lesbian business community, or whether it should have a broader appeal, or a broader approach.

Larry: What was the reason for inviting Evan Wolfs-on, then?

David: Well , they did invite political speakers to the luncheon, but only as part of the - how shall we say? — not an entertainment factor, but just as something that luncheon could do, that's not officially [hard to hear]

[several talking at once]

John: [hard to hear] informational to hear]

David: [hard to hear] wasn't officially associated with the organization. Roger: They also brought Sunny Kobe Cook [hard to hear] [laughter] John: and you must, at some time, ask hi m about his sporting activities. Larry: Well , tell us about your sporting activities, David!

David: What sporting — [hard to hear] Oh, I was —

John: in San Francisco! The football. The baseball. The basketball. The tennis.

David: I was a founding member of the Gay Tennis Federation in San Francisco, which was a gay tennis organization. And it was interesting — we wrote up the constitution and did all of that, and we actually had a gay tennis circuit, which I think is still going on. And it was founded in San Francisco. It started in San Francisco, and then we had -- not like - Davis Cup. We would go to different cities and compete, individually, and I think they eventually started competing as teams from different cities, but I wasn't there at that time. But we had San Francisco, and then Los Angeles and Houston and San Diego. And Seattle, I think, also had a [member ?], so I started that ~ I founded that in San Francisco [hard to hear]

Larry: But it sounds like, also other sports -

[John?]: The San Francisco Trojans'

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David: there was a community charity event every year, where the San Francisco community would play the sheriffs department in —

[John?]: Football.

David: — a game of charity touch football. And so — in fact, [hard to hear]

[John?]: I think [he? we?] started that too,

[David?]: — and it was an AIDS benefit. Actually, it was an benefit. So we started that, and just a bunch of people in the community got together who liked to play football. And we organized a team, and we had some — [hard to hear] was on team, and we had a great old time. We weren't very good, but we had a great old time.

Roger: Don't you always beat the police, because they don't want to let you tackle them?

David: The department. No, we never could beat them, because they always used the guys from the — the department —

John: They cheated!

David: — prison guards, local police department, so they were really —

John: Big!

David: — big guys. But it was a lot of fun, and I was the quarterback.

John: It was so fun. Sports and me just are miles apart, but it was so fun to watch him doing it .

David: That was actually one of the most — I thought, for me personally — that was one of the most exciting and interesting things to living in San Francisco, because you met fellow gay athletes. And it was a big issue then. I don't remember if you recall, in the Gay Olympics, which actually started in San Francisco — and I forget the fellow who passed away —

John: Tom Weddell.

David: Tom Weddell was a hero in community, as being an openly gay athlete. And it was quite — there were quite a few athletes, semi-professional — Glen Burke, remember him? He was a — used to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, in their baseball team. In fact, they had a couple articles about him in the paper. He passed away of ADDS. But I competed with him on football team, and he was an interesting guy. So I got to meet a lot of closeted athletes who were able to do their thing in San Francisco. It was fun. It was very exciting. The Gay Olympics was great. That was it . It was very exciting.

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Larry: Well , I'm sure we could talk a lot longer. Is there anything either of you had either expected to be asked, or hoped to be asked, or that you wanted to be sure and — get down for posterity?

John: No , we just thought we'd [hard to hear] try and sit here and remember

Roger: So, on Oprah or something, they l say, [parodies feminine voice] "What's the secret of staying together for 33 years?"

John: Right.

David: Good Finding the right person.

John: A sense of humor. Knowing what's important. Willingness to talk things out. David: I think, ultimately, it just amounts to wanting to stay together —

John: Yeah. Focus on the relationship.

David: — more than wanting to be apart, because if you want to stay together, you know, you'll do just about anything to make it happen. if you don't want to, no matter what you try, it isn't going to work. But I think, really, it's meeting the right person. I think I was very lucky to meet this guy.

John: Thank you, dear!

Larry: Well , thank you, both, very much. I think this is just about to expire itself.

 

[TAPE RUNS OUT]

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