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‘The Mattachine Steps’ Dedicated at Harry Hay 100th Birthday Celebration in Silver Lake-Photos

‘The Mattachine Steps’ Dedicated at Harry Hay 100th Birthday Celebration in Silver Lake-Photos

by Karen Ocamb on April 9, 2012

Harry Hay's 100th Birthday Day celebration: activist Wes Joe, Assemblymember Mike Gatto, author Stuart Timmons, LA City Councilmember Eric Garcetti holding Stuart's book on Harry Hay under the newly dedicated "The Mattachine Steps" in Silver Lake April 7 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The weather for Harry Hay’s 100th birthday celebration Saturday, April 7 in Silver Lake was fabulous, though the hike up the steep hill on Cove Avenue required considerable effort. Somehow, I think Harry would have appreciated that effort as a metaphor for what those early 1950s gay rights pioneers had to endure.  But gathered at the top were gays and straights alike, there to dedicate “The Mattachine Steps” that lead to the historic meetings of the Mattachine Society, which Harry founded in November 1950. (Please check out remembrances of Harry by Mark Thompson and by me before the event.)

On hand for the dedication were L. A. City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti, Assemblymember Mike Gatto (43rd AD), Silver Lake community activist and gay historian Wes Joe and perhaps most importantly for Harry and many of his friends – Stuart Timmons, author of Harry’s biography The Trouble with Harry Hay, which was updated with arduous, loving care by author Mark Thompson. Many were happy to see Stuart, who suffered a stroke in January 2008. Mark and his husband the Rev. Malcolm Boyd (also an icon), helped lead the ceremony.

In his remarks, Garcetti compared the gay rights history that happened in Silver Lake – starting with Harry Hay’s Mattachine Society and subsequently with the protest at the Black Cat bar – to be akin to the civil rights protests in Alabama. “Silver Lake is like Selma is the pages of history,” Garcetti said. “Imagine the moment when [these gay rights leaders] stepped forward bravely and publicly to say, ‘This is who we are.’”

Garcetti also cited John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier” speech at the Democratic Convention in LA in 1960. In an excerpt from that speech, JFK said:

“…I stand here tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind us, the pioneers gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build our new West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, nor the prisoners of their own price tags. They were determined to make the new world strong and free — an example to the world, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from within and without.

Some would say that those struggles are all over, that all the horizons have been explored, that all the battles have been won, that there is no longer an American frontier. But I trust that no one in this assemblage would agree with that sentiment; for the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won; and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier… the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats…

The New Frontier is here whether we seek it or not.

Garcetti said, “ we are perched on the edge of what is possible: absolute and true equality….We will reach that promised land but not because of what we’ve done” – but by standing on the shoulders of others such as Harry Hay.  After all the speeches, the gathering sang Happy Birthday to Harry.

Here are some photos from the celebration:

Cove Avenue and Silver Lake Blvd, lake on the left, steep hill on the right - No U-Turn once you get there (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The steep climb to get to the dedication (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The gathering, which included many from Harry's beloved Radical Faeries (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Mark Thompson emcees the event (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

LA City Councilmember Eric Garcetti addresses crowd (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Assemblymember Mike Gatto at podium (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Silver Lake community activist Wes Joe (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

"The Mattachine Steps" sign overlooks Silver Lake (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Mark Thompson says thanks and invites people to the Radical Faerie lunch in the park across the street and a reading of Stuart Timmon's book later in the afternoon (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Wes Joe, Mike Gatto, Stuart Timmons and Eric Garcetti with Stuart's book and proclamations honoring Harry Hay (Photo by Barry Schoenfeld)

Wes Joe, Mitch O'Farrell (formerly a special assistant to Councilmember Eric Garcetti and now a candidate for Garcetti’s seat) and Stuart Timmons (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Mark Thompson and Malcolm Boyd (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

'The Mattachine Steps' (Photo by Rodney Hoffman)

The official designation of "The Mattachine Steps" (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

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Matt Szabo Leaves Villaraigosa to Run for 13th District Council
July 12, 2012 at 12:49 AM

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Craig April 9, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Karen, The “unidentified person” in the photo with Wes Joe and Stuart Timmons is Mitch O’Farrell. Formerly a special assistant to Councilmember Eric Garcetti, he’s now running for that office as Garcetti is now seeking to be LA’s mayor. Mitch is a gay man and has been a great supporter of both GLBT and many other community efforts.

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Karen Ocamb April 9, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Corrected, thanks. KO

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MPetrelis April 9, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Totally cool to see Stuart Timmons out and about, enjoying himself, his friends and community, not to mention celebrating his good pal Harry Hay. Thanks much, Karen, for this fine report and especially for the great pictures. Everyone looks fabulous!

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