In the August-September 2015 Issue...
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Article1Blame Anita Bryant
Looking back at our founding 30 years ago
by Linnea Due

Protesting Anita Bryant, June 1977
GLBT Historical Society co-founder Greg Pennington moved to San Francisco in 1977. In June of that year, singer Anita Bryant spearheaded a repeal of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Florida. "As the Chronicle headlined it, " Pennington says, "`5,000 Furious Gays March in San Francisco.' Well, they marched for five days in a row. On the second night, I joined in." 

From that point on, Pennington began investigating how gay news was reported in different publications. "I was already monitoring the Advocate," he explains. "I started keeping track of periodicals. Gay Windows, The Washington Blade, Gay Community News. I started collecting publications and making chronologies."

After Harvey Milk's assassination, a group convened at the home of Scott Smith, Milk's former partner. "That's where I met Willie Walker," says Pennington. 
Willie Walker and Greg Pennington,1987

Walker explained to Pennington that he wanted to set up an archives, but he believed that its mission had to be broader than simply collecting materials. "He wanted to have educational programs and outreach," says Pennington, who agreed-"I decided I would help him make it happen." The two formed the San Francisco Periodical Archives

Meanwhile, other groups were meeting, such as the Gay and Lesbian History Project. Most history project members were academics, who would meet to vet each other's research. "Walker and I went to a meeting of the history project on September 5, 1984. Gayle [Rubin] was there, with Allan Bérubé and Eric Garber. We proposed to them the idea of creating a historical society. And we got a go-ahead that they would support such an organization." 

At the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, October 1987
The nascent group had five meetings through the holidays and into 1985. "But we wanted to get other people involved," Pennington says. "We were a group of white men and a couple of women. And we realized, you know, we've got to start this thing all over again." 

With this in mind, Walker sent a letter to 160 organizations and 100 individuals inviting them to what turned out to be the pivotal meeting at the San Francisco Public Library on March 16, 1985. There were 63 people at the library that Saturday afternoon. "We made the decision that everyone at the meeting was a member," Pennington remembers. "And we chose the name, the San Francisco Bay Area Gay and Lesbian Historical Society." Read the complete version of this story 

Bay Area native Linnea Due is an award-winning writer and editor.  
ArchivesAndEighteenthIn the Archives and Out on 18th Street
In the Archives

Still from a 1948 film by O'Neal
Earlier this year we surveyed all 5.25 linear feet of the Harold O'Neal film collection (#2002-03). The longtime San Francisco resident and Army Corps of Engineers employee started shooting amateur films in 1939 and continued through the 1980s, capturing a wide variety of subjects, including footage of the relocation of Japanese Americans to concentration camps in World War II, female impersonators performing at the Beige Room in San Francisco, gay men socializing in the 1940s, and gay freedom day parades from 1978-1980. 

A typical example shows a 1948 garden party in which O'Neal's friends chat on a patio; one man's hand rests so casually on another man's leg that it's easy to forget how uncommon such sights are in home movies from the era. 

Keep up with other news from the Archives at our blog, Visions & Voices of GLBT History.
Out on 18th Street

Detail of one of the panels
As the AIDS pandemic exploded in the 1980s, the city of San Francisco ordered the closure of gay bathhouses; the Bulldog Baths at 132 Turk Street* was among them. Opened in 1979, the Bulldog Baths was promoted as "the largest bath in the U.S.A." The venue, which filled five stories, contained a variety of sexual arenas, including jail cells, an orgy room, a steam room, a douche room and a mack truck (see a video tour of the venue recorded soon after it closed).

Orgy scenes painted on sheetrock by M. Brook Jones were installed throughout the Bulldog to further add to the fantasy atmosphere. After the venue closed, these murals were taken down and eventually donated to the GLBT Historical Society. Four of the panels are on view as part of the GLBT History Museum's newest exhibition, " 30 Years of Collecting Art That Tells Our Stories." 

*Note: The site is now a dog resort of the same name.
UpcomingeventsUpcoming Events

First Wednesday means free admission

August 5 & September 2

Bob Ross Foundation logo On the first Wednesday of each the month, admission is free at the GLBT History Museum, courtesy of the Bob Ross Foundation

SEX PANIC: The History of the San Francisco Bathhouse Closures

Thursday, August 13, 7-9 p.m., GLBT History Museum

In 1984 the controversy over bathhouses and the AIDS crisis, sexual freedom and public health erupted into a political battle. With a skyrocketing increase of AIDS deaths, a fight within the gay community, city hall, and the medical community erupted, fueling passions on all sides. A vibrant sex culture collapsed, and the aftermath affects us 30 years later.

Join us for a multimedia presentation on this topic by sex educator, activist and erotic art collector Buzz Bense. Bense moved to San Francisco in 1979 and lived here through the plague years. In 1986, he opened the sex club 890 Folsom; he was also the founder and owner of Eros.

Marlena's Love Roast: The 2nd Annual José Sarria Community Celebration

Thursday, August 20, 6-8 p.m., San Francisco LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street

We're pleased to co-sponsor a celebration of a community hero, Garry McLain, a.k.a. Marlena. In the 1970s and 1980s, he participated in countless events and fundraisers leading to his election in 1990 as Absolute Empress XXV of the San Francisco Imperial Court. Through his service as Empress, the many shows and charity events at his popular bar, Marlena's, and his sponsorship of the Mr. Hayes Valley Leather title, Marlena has made our community stronger and more vibrant. Join us as we toast and roast the contributions of this special friend of José Sarria. Tickets available here.
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For research at our Archives, come to...

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657 Mission Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94105
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See our research hours here.