When we think of LGBT culture and the movement for gay rights in Los Angeles, there's a tendency to think first of West Hollywood. But LA's rich gay history touches the entire city, from Edendale (now Silver Lake/Echo Park) to Huntington Park to "Ginger Rogers" Beach. From police brutality to the AIDS crisis, the city was often aggressively positioned against the queer community, but it made a space for itself. Below is a map of 14 of the most important locations in the fight for gay rights in LA.Read More
Mapping Los Angeles's groundbreaking role in LGBT history
This incident, though relatively small in size, is often considered by historians to be the first modern uprising against police treatment of gay people.
John Rechy, a noted chronicler of gay LA, wrote in his book City of Night that this location of the Cooper doughnut chain on Main Street was the site of a 1959 uprising of transgender women and street hustlers. The event has also been detailed in the 2009 book Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, says Out magazine.
Rechy, who was present in the doughnut shop on the night in May 1959 when the riot took place, notes that at this time, it was not uncommon for police to arrest members of the gay populace simply for congregating or being in a bar that was being raided. (It was this kind of police attention that also inspired the Black Cat riot in Silver Lake seven years later.)
Resentment at being targeted by the police came to a head in the Cooper Do-Nuts, and when police came into the especially popular gay hangout attempting to arrest three people (Rechy among them), some of the trans women and gay patrons bombarded the officers with donuts, coffee, and paper plates until the police ran out seeking backup. When they came back, the event escalated such that it ultimately shut down Main Street for a full day.
Gay L.A. says the Cooper Do-Nuts was located between two older gay bars, Harold's and the Waldorf on Main Street, south of the Rosslyn. Everything south of the Rosslyn is now a parking garage or lot.
Harry Hay's House
Harry Hay, credited with founding the first gay right organization, the Mattachine Society, lived and had meetings here at the time the group began in 1950. (It started as Bachelors Anonymous.) Kevin Roderick wrote in his insightful eulogy for Hay in Los Angeles magazine that many consider the house to be the birthplace of the gay rights movement. The concrete stairs adjacent to his home were named the Mattachine Steps in 2012, to commemorate his contributions to the gay rights movement.
Rev. Troy Perry's Home
Christopher Street West (the organization that produced the first PRIDE parade) was founded here at the home of Reverend Troy Perry (founder of the Metropolitan Community Church), according to the LA Pride website, and this is where the idea for the parade was born in May 1970. (The first PRIDE took place in June 1970.) It's also been reported that Perry performed the first public same-sex marriage in this house in 1968.
The picnic grounds at Griffith Park were the site of Gay-Ins starting in 1968. A flyer for what claims to be the first Gay-In says it was both fun and educational, beginning with a primer on police harassment and ending with a bar crawl.
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Julian Eltinge's Villa Capistrano
Vaudeville star and female impersonator Julian Eltinge was so wildly successful that in 1918 he had noted architects Pierpont and Walter S. Davis (with Henry F. Withey) build him Villa Capistrano, a lavish and opulent Spanish-Moorish home with a sunken garden. (The house is now privately owned and the gardens are gone.) Despite his popularity and fame, he was under scrutiny for his perceived homosexuality. Especially toward the end of his career, police created problems for him: At a show in a Hollywood gay club, he was made to do his act in a tux instead of his gowns due to an anti-cross-dressing law.
Black Cat Tavern
This city historic-cultural monument (#939) was the site of a brutal police raid in 1967 that spread to adjacent bars, becoming a full-blown riot and resulting in more than a dozen arrests. The protests in response to the raid predated the Stonewall riots in New York by two years.
RKO Studios, Lisa Ben, and Vice Versa
Vice Versa, widely acknowledged as the first known lesbian magazine, was published in 1947 by "Lisa Ben," using carbon paper and the typewriter at her job as a secretary at what was then RKO Studios.
Pershing Square was the center of "The Run," a circuit of gay-friendly establishments and cruising spots that served in the 1920s through the 1960s as what the book Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians calls "the premier homosexual spot." But it was also a centralized place where people could meet and socialize in the absence of a strong out gay community. The Run included the Central Library, the bar at the Biltmore Hotel, and the Subway Terminal Building's bathrooms.
Jewel's Catch One
When this club opened in 1972, it was the first exclusively for African-American gay and lesbian party people. At the time, popular gay clubs like Studio One were known to hassle black people for multiple forms of ID before letting them in.
In September 2014, club proprietor Jewel Thais-Williams put the building up for sale, saying, "after 41 years, there's no reason to stay if the kids are not interested. And I'm not interested in chasing them to find out what they want to do, either." The club was bought by Mitch Edelson, who runs Silver Lake's Los Globos venue with his father, Steve Edelson. It's been rechristened as Union.
Though the trailblazing club is gone, its legacy lives on: Jewel's Catch One was the subject of a recent documentary.
One Archives Gallery & Museum
ONE magazine was the first wide-distribution magazine for gay people. Its founder Jim Kepner went on to amass what became the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, now housed permanently in West Adams, courtesy of USC.
This WeHo arm of the One Archives is usually open to the public and hosts rotating art exhibits, but is currently under renovation and is closed until spring 2017. During the closure, there's expected to be off-site exhibits at Plummer Park.
Will Rogers State Beach
A section of this state beach is recognized as LA's unofficial gay beach, and has been referred to by the nickname Ginger Rogers Beach since the 1950s. The gay section is close to PCH and Entrada Drive/West Channel Road, though now it's mostly seen as part of the larger beach.
The first edition of LGBT-focused magazine The Advocate (then more of a newsletter) was published in 1967. The issue was mimeographed (under the radar, of course) in the basement of what was then ABC Television Studios West, now Prospect Studios.
Tom of Finland House
Tom of Finland was name that Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen used when he first started submitting his homoerotic art to magazines popular among gay, male readers. This house in Echo Park eventually became his home, and his presence drew notable gay artists such as John Waters and Robert Maplethorpe to the home as well, which became a gathering place.
Tom of Finland went on to have appreciation for his art grow, and exhibited his work in museums like LACMA. His work, showing strong, virile men, was considered especially important in the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic meant that the prevailing image of gay men was the opposite of muscular and healthy.
The house is now the home of the Tom of Finland Foundation, an archive for homoerotic art. Just last year, for its connection to Tom of Finland and its merits as a turn-of-the-century Craftsman house, the Tom of Finland house received city Historic-Cultural Monument status. In a letter of support for the house receiving this designation, the West Coast editor of Architectural Digest wrote that Laaksonen's artwork "one of the most important forces in the evolution of gay culture in the 20th century."
Great Hall/Long Hall at Plummer Park
During the deadly AIDS crisis, this New Deal-era park building hosted meetings of the local chapter of ACT UP, an AIDS advocacy group. It served, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy as, “the backdrop to unprecedented campaigns for greater visibility and more effective treatment” of the disease.