Atl Cel­e­brates Stonewall Month

East Point Pos­sums, GA Gay Lib­er­a­tion Front South­ern Fried Queer Pride and more

GA Voice - - Front Page - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

It was Au­gust 5, 1969, barely a month af­ter New York City’s Stonewall Ri­ots kicked off the mod­ern LGBT rights move­ment in America. LGBT peo­ple across the coun­try were sim­mer­ing, At­lanta in­cluded—ev­ery­one was at the ready to ig­nite their city’s move­ment.

And—not for the last time—it was the At­lanta Po­lice De­part­ment that lit the fuse.

That evening at what used to be the Ans­ley Mall Mini Cin­ema, the APD raided a screen­ing of Andy Warhol’s “Lone­some Cow­boys,” which fea­tured gay sex scenes among other things. When the lights went up, of­fi­cers started snap­ping pic­tures of the 70 or so pa­trons in the crowd, who then cleared the the­ater ac­cord­ing to a Vil­lage Voice ar­ti­cle about the in­ci­dent. They seized the print and put the man­ager/pro­jec­tion­ist un­der ar­rest on charges of vi­o­lat­ing Ge­or­gia’s ob­scen­ity law.

Ac­tivists led by a man named Bill Smith then founded the Ge­or­gia Gay Lib­er­a­tion Front in protest to the “Lone­some Cow­boys” in­ci­dent later that month. And it’s that group that we have to thank for later or­ga­niz­ing the first At­lanta Pride march.

Mak­ings of a march

Gay Lib­er­a­tion Fronts formed around the coun­try af­ter the Stonewall Ri­ots, so the tem­plate ex­isted for a GLF to come together in Ge­or­gia, re­mem­bers Dave Hay­ward, who moved to At­lanta in late 1971 and be­came part of the GGLF’s core col­lec­tive. He says Smith was in­tent on rep­re­sent­ing the en­tire state with the group, which rarely hap­pened with other GLFs at the time

“Thus Bill was a prime ex­am­ple of strad­dling the rad­i­cal world and the more con­ven­tional tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal world,” Hay­ward says.

The group didn’t feel they had enough sup­port to mount a Pride march the fol­low­ing year, but they did hand out lit­er­a­ture about the GGLF at that year’s Pied­mont Park Arts Fes­ti­val. But in 1971, it hap­pened.

Around 125 peo­ple marched from Peachtree Street to Pied­mont Park for the city’s first Pride. And since the city re­fused to grant a per­mit, the group had to march on the side­walks and stop at ev­ery traf­fic light along the way. Berl Boykin, an­other piv­otal fig­ure in the found­ing of the GGLF, is be­lieved to be the only per­son still alive who was both a part of the march and still liv­ing in At­lanta, but he was not avail­able for an in­ter­view.

First main­stream media cov­er­age

Judy Lam­bert, whose hus­band was bi­sex­ual, joined Smith as co-chair of the GGLF for the 1972 Pride march, which Hay­ward says was in­fa­mous for its lack of sup­port from the gay bars at the time, the Cove and Sweet Gum Head in par­tic­u­lar.

“The SGH ush­ered us off the premises for leaflet­ing about Pride and for protest­ing their mul­ti­ple card­ing poli­cies for women and mi­nori­ties,” he re­mem­bers. “The Cove un­der man­ager Frank Pow­ell was par­tic­u­larly vi­o­lent and bod­ily hurled GGLFers into the park­ing lot for leaflet­ing about Pride.”

That year also brought the first known main­stream media cov­er­age of At­lanta Pride, with Smith front and cen­ter on TV re­ports that night yelling, “What do we want?!” “Gay rights!” “When do we want them?” “NOW!”

But sev­eral months af­ter that 1972 march, an in­ter­nal al­ter­ca­tion would sig­nal the ap­proach­ing end of the GGLF.

The end of the line

While Lam­bert and les­bian fem­i­nist and ac­tivist Vicki Gabriner were the chief fe­male lead­ers of the GGLF, it was other­wise a very male-dom­i­nated or­ga­ni­za­tion. It was that fact that led to the for­ma­tion in 1972 of the At­lanta Les­bian Fem­i­nist Al­liance.

And it also led to a con­fronta­tion that year be­tween Smith and an­other mem­ber named Sev­erin (also known as Paul Dolan), who Hay­ward con­sid­ers the first trans­gen­der leader of the GGLF. Sev­erin later formed a short­lived splin­ter group called FLAME (Fem­i­nist League Against the Ma­cho Em­pire).

“Whereas Sev­erin was charis­matic, and a per­former at Pride marches and ral­lies and ben­e­fits singing his own songs in his own voice as a man with a mus­tache in an evening gown—’cos­mic drag’ he called it—Sev­erin did not have the or­ga­ni­za­tional skills of Bill,” Hay­ward re­calls.

The GGLF was able to put on one more Pride march in 1973 but due to dis­sen­sion in the ranks and a fall­out in par­tic­i­pa­tion, the group dis­banded.

The play­ers and the legacy

Other lead­ers of the GGLF in­cluded Char­lie St. John, the first gay ap­pointee to the At­lanta Com­mu­nity Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion; Dr. Ara Dos­tourian, who founded one of the first LGBT stu­dent groups at West Ge­or­gia Col­lege; Shelby Cul­lum, an older mem­ber of GGLF who was from one of At­lanta’s old­est fam­i­lies; and Steve Ab­bott, who worked with Boykin on LGBT is­sues when both were at Emory Univer­sity in the 1960s. St. John, Cul­lum and Ab­bott have since passed away while Dos­tourian is be­lieved to now live in Rhode Is­land.

We were un­able to con­firm the cur­rent where­abouts of Judy and Phil Lam­bert or Vicki Gabriner.

Smith, who Hay­ward calls “our own gay Ge­or­gia Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton,” went on to found At­lanta’s first LGBT news­pa­per The Barb. He also suc­ceeded St. John on the At­lanta Com­mu­nity Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion. He died of an ac­ci­den­tal drug over­dose in 1980.

Hay­ward, who still lives in At­lanta, is founder of At­lanta LGBT his­tory or­ga­ni­za­tion Touch­ing Up Our Roots and he has been named a grand mar­shal for this year’s At­lanta Pride pa­rade.

“The SGH ush­ered us off the premises for leaflet­ing about Pride and for protest­ing their mul­ti­ple card­ing poli­cies for women and mi­nori­ties. The Cove un­der man­ager Frank Pow­ell was par­tic­u­larly vi­o­lent and bod­ily hurled GGLFers into the park­ing lot for leaflet­ing about Pride.” —For­mer GGLF mem­ber Dave Hay­ward re­mem­bers the 1972 At­lanta Pride march, the sec­ond to take place

Ge­or­gia Gay Lib­er­a­tion Front founder Bill Smith in an un­dated photo. (Photo by AJC via Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity)

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