An Incomplete History of Gay & Lesbian OC

3 MILLION B.C. The Pacific Ocean begins sculpting Laguna's famous gay West Street Beach.

LATE 1700s Over 130 North American natives are documented to include among their tribes berdache, androgynous people classified as neither man nor woman—cross-dressers, basically, but in a spiritual sense. Berdache are plentiful among the Native Americans living at the missions that pepper the length of California—nearly every village has two, three if they're lucky. But the Spanish Catholics who have established the mission system are hell-bent on eliminating berdacheism. A priest writes, "We place our trust in God and expect that these accursed people will disappear with the growth of the missions." Apparently, they do. By the 1820s, a missionary living at San Juan Capistrano reports that while berdache were once very numerous among the natives, "At the present time, this horrible custom is entirely unknown to them."

1835 After a five-month voyage from Boston around Cape Horn, Richard Henry Dana, a 19-year-old Harvard student, arrives aboard the trade ship Pilgrim in what is now known as Dana Point. In Two Years Before the Mast, Dana's journal of the adventure, he describes his friend Bill Jackson as a "fine specimen of manly beauty" and admits having "affection" for another shipmate, a young Hawaiian named Hope. Hmmm . . . five months at sea . . . a shipful of burly seamen . . .

1920s The blossoming film industry discovers that Laguna Beach makes a great shooting locale. Laguna's first wave of gays arrives as members of these early movie crews.

1927 The South Seas bar in Laguna Beach—later known as the Boom Boom Room—opens.

1937 Puritan fraidy-cats take a plaster fig leaf and cover over the wibbly-wobbly thing between the legs of the David statue at Forest Lawn in Cypress. Big Dave's package will remain sealed until June 1969.

1942 The El Toro and Tustin Marine Corps air stations open. Until both are decommisioned in the '90s, an untold number of mostly closeted gay and lesbian servicepeople will pass through them.

1957 Two years after its opening, Disneyland adopts regulations regarding public dancing, which includes a ban on same-sex shimmying. The idea, officials say, is to control crowds. The rule remains on the books until 1985.

1964 The Happy Hour, a women's bar in Garden Grove, opens. Lured by cheap rents, other gay bars spring up in the city throughout the next 10 years, including Rumour Hazzit, the Tiki Hut, the Mug, the Iron Spur, the Old Bavarian Inn, the Knotty Keg, the Hound's Tooth, the Ranger, the Saddle Club and DOK West. For a while, gay bars in Garden Grove actually outnumber West Hollywood's. Police harassment eventually shuts down most, but the Happy Hour is still there 35 years later.

APRIL 1966The California Angels move into Anaheim Stadium. Take the Kinsey Study, which claimed that 10 percent of the population is gay, and apply it to the approximately 1,100 ballplayers who've ever put on an Angels uniform during the team's 33 years. Then there's the fact that sports is a great place for a closeted queer athlete to hide.

MAY 1966 The Santa Ana Register (later known as The Orange County Register) reports on a "crackdown of suspected homosexuals" in the Newport Pier area, men who have allegedly been propositioning undercover police officers. The key word here is "alleged": before the men can be convicted, the Register prints their names, ages, home addresses and occupations, as if they're already guilty.

MARCH 1968 The Advocate, which has just started publishing and will eventually grow into "the national gay and lesbian newsmagazine," reports that an OC man has recently lost his home and car insurances after a neighbor saw him kissing a man in his back yard. The neighbor called police, who notified his insurance company.

1971 Christ Chapel Metropolitan Community Church, affiliated with the church's growing movement of gay-tolerant denominations, opens its doors in Santa Ana.

FEBRUARY 1971 Cal State Fullerton's Experimental College offers a course called Gay Life and Lib: A Study In Homosexual Life Styles and Politics. The Experimental College is part of a national trend on college campuses, a move toward non-traditional classes and new educational concepts. Other classes offered this semester at CSUF include Witchcraft: Traditional Vs. Avant-Garde, Appreciation of Restroom Graffiti, and the Life and Music of Jimi Hendrix.

APRIL 1972 The pink mailbox outside the Costa Mesa home of John Rule tells you that you've found what will eventually evolve into the Orange County Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center—one of the first in the country. The center is born in Rule's house this month, with a hot line and group rap sessions. The center will later move to Garden Grove to be more accessible to bar patrons, but it will endure broken windows and other assorted acts of vandalism—including a dead possum with a knife through its head left on the front porch.

SEPTEMBER 1972 A man wearing a GROOVY GUY T-shirt attempts to enter Disneyland. Park security, however, makes him turn his shirt inside-out. The slogan refers to a hunky-man contest regularly featured in the Advocate. It's not clear how Disneyland security officers would know this.

APRIL 1973 The Orange County Imperial Court, a fund-raising/ activist organization made up of drag queens, holds its first coronation ball at the Balboa Pavilion. Big hair, hoop skirts, glittery jewelry and glam, glam, glam are the rules. Tourist heads turn and crowds gather at the sight of drag queens getting out of their cars and entering the building.

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
1 comments
markinoc
markinoc

I just want to say a word about my uncle Wayne Peterson of Laguna Beach.  He is a good man, and a supporter of the arts and gay rights.


I was at the Festival in 1994.  It was really nice, intimate event, but most of Orange County was raining that day so the turn out was small.  Thelma Huston sang at one of the venues across the street and it was fabulous. 


It is true that the city council wanted Laguna to be a city for everyone, not just another city of radicals that were pushing rent control and bloated wasteful budgets.  Laguna has faired quite well by being on a sound financial footing sense then.

 
Loading...