The source of our power
October 5, 2011 | 12:24 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 5:23 pm)
Each issue of Out Front Colorado comes with a lot of planning. Planning the Power Issue started about three months ago.
The Power Issue was originally supposed to hit the streets Sept. 21. However, as we were working simultaneously on our women’s health coverage, we decided it’d be best to flip-flop them.
The original reasoning was we wanted our breast cancer coverage out well in advance before the Oct. 2 Komen Race for the Cure.
I’m happy to report the decision was, as our sales department puts it, a “win-win.”
You see, October is an exciting month for the LGBT community in Denver and across the nation. Not only is Oct. 11 National Coming Out Day, but October also marks LGBT History Month.
While it’s not official, the program created in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher, has become a teachable tool for any educator who believes in giving his or her students a holistic view of history.
OK. That sounds really boring. After all, “History Month” is no Pride. There is no parade, no dance parties, no happy hours.
But if it weren’t for our forefathers and foremothers, there’d be no Pride at all.
That brings me to another happy coincidence. As our Power Issue honors those advancing LGBT equality in Colorado, the granddaddy of them all, Jerry Gerash, is returning to Colorado from California for a week this month.
Gerash, the lone survivor of the Gay Coalition of Denver that led the Gay Revolt of 1973, will take part Oct. 13 in a discussion about early Denver gay liberation. He’ll be joined by Donaciano Martinez, a co-founder of the 1969 Gay Liberation Front in Colorado Springs.
The two will be addressing an audience at the 45th Annual Oral History Association Convention when it meets here.
I first heard about Gerash the summer of 2010. I received an email with a link to a YouTube video, “Denver gay revolt of 1973, part 1 of 12.” I watched all 12 parts back to back. The narrator, Gerash, describes in great detail the pains the Denver gay community faced fewer than four decades ago.
Denver police officers – the VICE squad to be exact – made a regular habit of rounding up gay men in the Capitol Hill neighborhood for no good reason other than they were perceived to be of the homosexual variety.
Gerash and his cohorts spent months planning a response, gathering data and testimony, and took their case to a less-than-friendly city council. While the state of Colorado had already repealed its laws against sodomy, Denver was lagging.
Gerash and the Gay Coalition of Denver discovered in the first three months of 1973 every person arrested in Denver under the Lewd Crime Acts was a gay man. And 99 percent of all arrests were carried out by undercover cops.
The Coalition – all of four people – worked aggressively to recruit men and women to attend the Oct. 23 council meeting. But commitment has never been this community’s strong suit.
Hardly anyone was out in 1973. Hell, Out Front was just a twinkle in our founder’s eye. There was no Center, there was no One Colorado. There was no “power.” But there was the people oppressed. And those people, led by Gerash, and later Phil Nash, the aforementioned Martinez, Paul Hunter, Bob Engle, Carol Lease and Nancy Keene.
I’ll say this: our power as a community was born out of that council meeting. The details, you’ll have to discover when you attend Gerash and Martinez’s lecture and the viewing of the updated (and edited) documentary. It’s free if you’re an LGBT community member.
I guess you’re going to have to come out to get in.
When we started asking for nominations to the Power Issue, no one in Out Front Colorado’s office had any recollection of a similar feature. We called it the inaugural issue. But while digging in our archives I discovered a piece by founder Phil Price, “The Ten Most Influential People in our Community.” It was in OFC’s 10th anniversary issue, April 11, 1986.
Who was No. 1? Jerry Gerash.
Here’s what Price had to say:
“Attorney Gerald Gerash could appropriately be called one of the founding fathers of Denver’s gay community. Whenever he saw a gap, he tried to fill it. When we had no community center, he made sure we got one. When gay groups were splintered and unorganized in the early 1970s, he brought them together under one roof. When laws were used to discriminate against gays, he helped put an end to it. … Gerash moved to Southern California this past year after more than a dozen years of service to the community, but his legacy lives on.”
And it still does.
If you go
What: Gay Denver’s earliest days at the 45th annual Oral History Association
Who: Jerry Gerash and Donaciano Martinez
Where: The Steamboat Room at the Renaissance Hotel at 3801 Quebec St.
When: Oct. 13, 3:15 p.m.
Cost: Free to members of the LGBT community
Halloween is one of my least favorite holidays. And until recently, I had never been to a haunted house. That all changed when I visited the 13th Floor at 4120 Brighton Blvd. This fright joint can be found on almost any of the nation’s top haunted house lists. My friend warned me to get some adult diapers before heading over. Let’s just say, I wish I had taken his advice. For a frightfully good time, I recommend. More online at http://getscared.com
Gay History 101
Le Bakery Sensual vs. City of Denver
Two and a half years and one long legal battle after being ousted from the city of Denver, Le Bakery Sensual re-opened its doors October 1986. As a gesture of good faith, Le Bakery Sensual created a giant
victory cake and invited then- Mayor Frederico Peña, city attorney John Stoeffel and zoning administrator Dorothy Nepa to join in the grand re-opening. In May 1984, the city had shut down Le Bakery, calling it an adult bookstore. A court later decided the city violated owner Laurie Pensack’s freedom of expression. Le Bakery is still open and still making its deliciously scandalous cakes under the ownership of John Spotz, at 300 E. 6th Ave. in Denver.
Off the record
I recently returned from a business trip in New Orleans. While I was there I was able to visit several gay bars. It surprises me how in every city you will almost certainly find similarities between each “scene.” Want something similar to JR.’s, go to The Pub. Looking for something more like The Eagle, Rawhide is your best bet. Want something a little more chill like Charlie’s, Good Friends is for you. And of course, if you’re in need of strippers like the ones at Boyztown you can head over to the Corner Pocket. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you run into some “twins” of your Denver friends. I saw doppelgangers for nearly everyone I know.