Wednesday, February 11, 2009

black cat bar

Tonight, on the 42nd anniversary of the protest, I attend a commemorative event at the site of the Black Cat bar in Silver Lake. Now operated as Le Bar Cito, and still a gay bar, in 1967 this was the site of a massive protest against the Los Angeles Police Department and its treatment of gays and lesbians.

On New Year's Eve, 1966 going into 1967, the Black Cat bar hosted a New Year's eve party. The LAPD sent undercover cops into the bar, and at midnight when the men celebrated the New Year by kissing each other the cops arrested 14 men for "Lewd Conduct." A semi-riot followed with men beaten and fleeing to a neighboring bar ("New Faces" now the site of Circus of Books). But a month and a half later, on February 11, 1967, 600 gay men and lesbians and their supporters staged a protest in the street in front of the bar.

On November 8, 2008, just 4 days after the election that saw the passage of Proposition 8, the Black Cat was designated Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monument #939. Tonight, on the anniversary of the protest about 200 men and women crowded into the bar for a little program celebrating our history. Rodney Scott, of Christopher Street West (the organization the puts on the annual gay pride parade) mc'd the evening. He introduced Troy Perry, the MCC founder, and Neil Thomas, the current Senior Pastor of MCC-LA. Wes Jo, the SIlver Lake resident who shepherded the process of having the bar designated an historical cutural monument spoke briefly and thanked his husband. LA City Council President, Eric Garcetti spoke. Several folks were honored including Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons who wrote the book, Gay LA, which is where I first heard of this story. Mr. Timmons couldn't attended as he suffered a stroke a y ear ago and is still recovering.

I was pleased and impressed at the turn out and at the mix of folks present. Leathermen, suits and ties, a couple of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a good percentage of lesbians, neighborhood folks. I had never been in the bar before. It's a nice space. Now it attracts a mostly Latino crowd and features drag queen shows. After the presentation a man came out dressed as Shirley Bassey in a feather boa and lip sync'ed to "This is My Life."

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