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Okay, how's everybody? A couple of details, just to be really clear on these things before we go back into the riot or the meeting of the riot. Yeah, well that's fine, there's better than we do it. I'd rather be covered. Okay, here we go. One thing is, when you went to the magazine meeting, what were the subjects? Could you mention them either? The two managing meetings that I went to, one was how to reconcile being homosexual and a Christian. And the second one was how to find a good psychiatrist. Neither of which interested me at all, so I never went back. I think I became more radical later, but I didn't know that. Interesting to me, I'm curious, if you were involved, you know, you obviously were psychologically aligned with other people struggling for their rights. Did you ever think, what about us?
What about you? Oh, I think I did. I think I did. But at that moment, if you knew... I'm going to interrupt you saying, my voice won't be... If you could tell me what you're talking about while you say it. Okay, remind me of what we are talking about. Did you ever think, you know, hey, there's all these women, there's blacks playing... I think, okay, let me phrase it in my mind. As a gay person, you know. All my political activity, I didn't really... Civil rights, female rights, civil war, I mean, anti-beating means war, anti-war, actually. So I didn't... I didn't think of gay activism because the gay people, I knew at the time, it seemed preposterous that they would, in fact, be active. So it just never occurred to me that... And I think that's what happened, Stonewall Knight, to a lot of people. We went, oh my God.
I'm not alone. There are other people that feel exactly the same way. And that's why it mushrooms so fast. Mind you, mind you, only in the big cities. First in all, in New York and San Francisco, it took a few years later, Anita Bryant did probably more for gay liberation than any single human being on the planet because she brought the middle class gays into the movement. So... Okay. Yes. I don't want to cut the circle back to it. What's with the whole psychiatrist thing? What's the big deal in middle class gays? You have to ask... You have to ask someone, tell me the... You have to ask somebody, I don't know, because I've never really... The little I've been around psychiatry. The treatment, the ideas, Freud's ideas, I had read young and so forth. The ideas were made sense, but the idea of there being treatment did not make sense to me, particularly in our homosexuality, because I had no problem being homosexual.
So, I didn't care. Well, I wouldn't want to change. And that seemed to be what it was there for. It wasn't there to make you a happy homosexual. Psychiatry was there to make you a happy heterosexual. And I thought that was popostris. So, that's why it didn't interest me. Were you aware that people were getting, you know, electric shock? Yes. What can you talk about? What were you aware of? When I was still a kid in high school, somebody that I knew that was older than me, his family had him set off, and he was electric shock, and then they actually gave him, had him do the thing that they did to the actress French's farmer, where they go up and damage the frontal part of the brain. And the last time I saw him, he was a walking vegetable, because he was homosexual. I've also, when I was younger, knew lots of people that went off, went off to college, got caught, and put a gun to their mouth, or to their head. That was, I mean, it's still going on. I mean, it's still the most common cause of young suicide in America
is the fear that they might be homosexual, either male or female. So, we're talking, I mean, the don't ask, don't tell kind of, it can stay in the 60s. What's wrong with just remaining in the closet, you know, doing the thing in the bars? Why? Well, staying in the closet, again, because I've lived my entire life out of the closet, I don't know what it's like to be in the closet. But two things I've noticed in my life, staying in the closet, and first of all covering yourself with a marriage, is thus terrible damage to the woman involved. It should be a criminal act, because the woman, unless she already, in fact, knows, is being denied her own existence in a weird way. Staying in the closet can lead to murder, can lead to try to protect yourself,
can lead to all sorts of insanities. You cannot control your sexuality. It's that simple. We'll find a release one way or another. Also, staying in the closet doesn't respect the people that you do meet and have sex with who aren't in the closet. Unless they know you're in the closet and they're willing to go along with it. I never did, you see. I've always was very snotty. When I met somebody and found out they were married, they were dropped in mid-sentence. I mean, I've been signing a bar and walked off from somebody and somebody who knew me would say, oh, he's married. It's so interesting to me that you could be radicalized. You know, a radical, thinking person, and yet in the 60s, thank you. Well, first of all, there was no community. We were the twilight people.
Blacks are blacks. And obviously so. Women are women. And obviously so, there is a community. Gays were the twilight people probably in the closet who were either very silly and not the least bit interested in politics. The Queenie types. Oh, well, later it was the Queenie types who helped start this whole battle. It was the Dragon Queens, or the transvestites. So there was no sense that these people would ever... It was... I did meet... You did meet in the hippie movement and the anti-war movement. The radical movement of time, you did meet gays, but they were straight gays for the most part. So you never could imagine you'd have a collective war? No, not until Stonewall... I think subconsciously I did think that there was going to be...
But I certainly didn't give it a timetable. And I don't think I would have said it's going to happen now. I wrote a play about Stonewall and half the characters don't believe it can happen. And a couple of characters kind of wish it would. And I reminded at the end of the play that they weren't... That they said it couldn't happen. And I'm not sure I heard in your work what you're talking about in terms of the potential for a gays revolution. Can you put it in a whole sentence? Did you imagine what... I don't know that I imagined what could happen. I just felt something was going to happen. I didn't necessarily think in terms of the gays movement or the gays revolution or what have you. I also don't think I ever thought in terms of revolution. As active as I was in the peace movement and the civil rights movement and so forth, I honestly did not believe America was going to have a revolution. First of all, the nature of our political structure is such that it bends too easily to need a revolution. Okay.
But then do you remember... Was there something in your witness? No, no. It was a... Is it a wall of rise in what you feel this is different? No, after the Stonewall, I did feel that it was different. I still didn't have an idea what it was going to be. I don't think anybody did. If somebody said they did, I would really like to have them in a corner with the drink and find out what they're telling the truth. Because it happened so fast. We went from nobody at all to unions of three and four hundred people at the GAA and that... Next to that poor little church, there was a church on 28th Street, I think it was Biscuit Pallion, and the priest's father weeks let every movement have the hall. So it's where civil rights started, where I mean in New York and Gays. But the rise itself, apparently there were hundreds of hundreds of people who went out first. Well, yes, but it wasn't a group of people. It was a mob of people.
The real mob was the first night. The second night where isolated little groups of people that we were not acting in unison. We were just wandering around and we would every now and then share a yell. Again, it's like the story of the blind men wandering through the jungle and they find an elephant. And they reach out and each person feels a different part of the elephant and thinks it's a different thing. One feels the stomach, thinks it's a wall, one feels the ear, thinks it's a leaf. Well, everybody, the next two or three nights, have different stories from their point of view. It wasn't a collective point of view. My favorite story, and I don't know whether it was the second or third night, a half a block from Stonewall was the old woman's house of detention. And a lot of lesbians were incarcerated there. And they used to speak to their girlfriends by tearing off little pieces who'd wait down on the sidewalk. The girlfriends would be on the sidewalk, would call up a question to them. And they would tear a piece of toilet paper up in the cells, light it on fire and drop it out the window.
One was yes to, was no to the answer the question. So the second night, obviously the word had gotten up to the women in the house of detention that was what was going on. And this may have been, actually, when you asked for an example of community, this may have been, now that you're asking it that way, this may have been the first example of community I saw. There was a waterfall of torn pieces of toilet paper coming out of the women's house of detention, like a wonderful display of a fire waterfall. And that was community. It may have been the first time I really saw community. Because the riots or whatever they were themselves were not particularly community, they were individuals angry. But they weren't necessarily operating in a unison. It's probably the first night they were, I don't remember much unison, a little groups of unison, five or ten people. But I heard that people, like such as Craig Rodwell, you got together, petition passed out thousands of, I'm sorry,
leaflets saying come to my gathering people, you didn't see that. No, I think that, I did see that after the snake pit raid. Definitely. I didn't see it that night, and I'm quite sure Craig did it. That's exactly what Craig would have done. There was, what was fascinating is for something that happened overnight, there was lots of flyers. I didn't see them during Stonewall, but I'm told there were, and I, for a while, had a collection of them after the snake pit raid. It was like full-time professional, you know, radical action. When you said what you saw the first night was, talk a little bit about the anger part of the rage. Well, it wasn't rage, weirdly enough. I don't remember rage, it may have been rage. And individuals were angry, more or less, that they were being denied, that they were being messed with. They weren't angry as homosexuals, they weren't angry as,
this was Saturday night, and they were being messed with. As far as I know, now there may have been rage, there wasn't any, well, if this were all around me, people were mainly lawyers. They were watching. There was amusement, because it was clear that the gays, actually, you know what? The more I think about it, there was joy, because the cops weren't winning. The cops were barricaded inside. We were winning. And so there was, I remember now, yes, I thank you for asking that, because I'm now picturing it, there was joy. There wasn't particularly anger, there may have an individual anger, an individual confrontation. It's not, I don't know, not in front of me. But the major mood of the crowd was smiling. Because you've got this incredible situation. There's big cops, right? Well, we don't see the cops, they're inside. We never saw the cops. The cops were in the bar.
A cop in the bar with no exit. They thought they had an exit. At the back, and there wasn't one. So, power rolls were like... Yes, reversed. Can you talk about that? Well, I don't know how to talk about that, because I wasn't up that close. Plus, I don't think we see those are analytical ideas years later. That night, it was just really, really... Alan Ginsburg walked by at the next morning in the city. It's so great to see gays in public without the hurt. I can't remember the exact expression, the exact tortured look on their faces. And that's exactly... People just smiled. We're happy. All the other things... All the other things about this, that people discuss now the rage and what have you, may have been there, but that's looking back from a distance. That night, it was primarily joy look what we did that I can remember, what I remember.
And oddly enough, the things that followed from that point on, were GAA, GLF, the ZAPS, the political actions of which I was in some, and not some, and what have you... tended to be rather joyous, even when there was violence. So, I mean, for the first time, there must have been something amazing. Yes, well, there was... I'll tell you why... The big difference, I think, was the... was the first anniversary of Stonewall, which was organized by the two organizations, GLFGA. We were going to march up 6th Avenue to the park. And those days, the idea of walking in daylight with a sign saying, I'm a faggot, was, I rent nobody. Nobody was ready to do that. And I... I lived in this point up in the Upper West Side. I was involved with Circle Repertory Theatre, I had just started, and I was part of the company, and I moved up there to be closer
to that's where it was in those days. So, I got into the subway to come down to Shardin Square. And on the car with somebody, I recognized as being gay from the village. He kind of looked at me, and I kind of looked at him, and I said, I'm going to Shardin Square. He said, yeah, me too. So, I can't... when we're enjoying him, and he said, I've never been so scared in my life. I said, well, I'm not particularly scared, but please let there be more than 10 of us. Just please let there be more than 10 of us. Because it's all right in the village, but the minute we cross 14th Street, if there's only 10 of us, God knows what's going to happen to us. You know, so please let there be more than 10. And I got out of the village. I got a week out down a little early, and there was maybe 20, 25 people. And then there was maybe 40 people. And then I ran into Vito Russo, and... Vito said, my God, we're almost four, and I said, yeah, I mean, you know, then we were about 80 people, and it was getting... And it had been overcast, it was running to rain. And this is a fact.
At 12 noon, when we were to start off, the clouds parted, and the sun poured out like it was Hollywood set. And we all cheered, and we all laughed, because it was just... it was so artificial. It just didn't seem real. We were... We were on Christopher Street, just by Shardin Square. We started off, and we were about 120 people, and there were people lying in the sidewalks ahead of us to watch us go by gay people, mainly. We turned on the 6th Avenue, and we got to about... I would say just about half a block from 14th Street, and Vito turned around, and looked behind us. I cannot tell this without tearing up after all these years. And he said, oh, my God, and I looked back, and there were about 2,000 people behind us, and that's when I knew it had happened. I said, I cannot... I cannot tell this without tearing up. And Vito and I walked the rest of the whole thing with tears running down our face. But that's when it...
That's when we knew. It wasn't Stonewall. It wasn't... It was that... It's a pity that nobody will ever know that again, because it was... It was overnight. We were no longer... We were ourselves, for the first time. And it was just, you know... That's when the word... That is what gay pride is, and that's when the word actually was invented. And from years on, you used to be a right of ritual, somebody would say, oh, I can't march. I can't march. I can't march. I don't know what will feel, and they'd do it, and they were suddenly the most out-person in America. You know, they were practically looking like a commercial of somebody dancing through the field, just stepping off the curb and joining that march. I don't think it does that to people that much. In my shirt, there are people that it does, too. But that first day, looking back and seeing a couple of thousand people behind us,
and then by the time we got to the park, we were about 10,000 people, and it was... I had a good friend at the time, David Van Gogh, and he had a pet chimpanzee. And the chimpanzee and I were real pals. And when we got to the park, David had been up there with no one, and we were coming, but he didn't want to walk with the chimpanzee. And we got to the park right out of King Kong, and suddenly just monkey is pushing people out of the way, and jumped up and put his arms around me, and I just bawled, and Coco was looking at me like, maybe later, but... What were people doing when there was a lot of fun? Oh, yeah. And there were gay protests. John Paul Hudson was protesting in the march. He was an anarchist, and a close close friend. It's sort of the spirit of something really weird dawn. Yes.
And it still lives on. I mean, every now and then, it's so funny. I finally watched the Harvey Milk movie. And it's a brilliant movie. It's certainly true of anything I knew of the people, and I knew most of the people in the movie. But it was really, really touching to me when I was... We started at the very beginning of the photographs of the arrests, and all brought it back to me. And again, I was bawling for most of the movie, not because of the movie, but because of the times being brought back. And we were so innocent. We were... America thought we were these homosexual monsters, and we were so innocent. And oddly enough, we were so American. We had greater faith in the system than probably anybody else did. And we probably still do oddly enough, which makes it very funny the far right and how anti-homosexual they are. Gays tended to be more law-abiding in general, I would think, than the community at large, which was always amusing me. What does it make you feel when you saw those...
That footage of the people being put in the alleyway? It just... Well, first of all, it reminded me... The first thought I had is this is still going on in every Muslim country, and they'll be heading, and they are hanging them, including Iraq. And that's only because I know about that. What do you think about what Mike was like? We're talking about that long ago. We're talking 50 years ago. Oh, 40. 50. That kind of raids... Well, no, I guess not New York. Those raids, the raids you see in that movie, are really Los Angeles, and I think Miami, which that went on a lot longer in those two towns. This is not... This is not for the movie, but a case in point, for years there was a police captain in LA named Davis. And after he died, for years homosexual love photographs, were two men holding arms, pissing on his grave, was your bridal picture,
because of LA. That, please, doesn't go on. Fine. But what is it that makes you cry when you think of people finally coming together in daylight and being themselves? How is that culture a night raid? I mean, what... I would love it if you could help people understand who know very well. Well... What's wrong with it? What does a raid make you feel nervous? See, unfortunately, I never actually... My one problem was an entrapment. But a raid... I never was in a raid. So I have no idea what that feels like. I do know that the entrapment horrified me that anybody could do that to me. Just have that control over me and no reason, as far as I was concerned. All right. As to what it was like to be put... And most of those raids, the kind of bars that had those kind of raids were raided over and over and over. So a lot of those people going into that party wagon had been there before it,
before women, particularly, women's bars were always raided, because the cops used to think it was funny to raid a dike bar. You know, the whole male, a macho thing going down. Yeah, that you need to talk to women about, and they will be more than trust me. You know, when they were to ask something about... Oh, yeah. You said entrapment was your issue, and you would mention this... What was it like? You were arrested or brought in for being... I accepted a drink. Entrapment was very simple. Because of state liquor laws, you could... You could not meet somebody in a bar and walk out with them if you didn't... Even if you knew them. Two famous playwrights who were living together at the time met at the Bleaker Street bar, walked out together, and one had been at a dress rehearsal of his Broadway show, and met his roommate at the Bleaker Street,
walked out together, and were, in fact, arrested. It was immediately stopped, yet you could be... Were you in your case when they brought you in, and then you were acquitted? Or were you thinking completely? I wasn't acquitted. I went through about three months of... First of all, I was charged with somebody I had never even seen before, so it became a whole line case. Supposedly, he and I... By the time it got to court, he and I were having sex in the toilet. All right, so it was completely... And it kept being dismissed, and kept being dismissed, and kept being dismissed, for about a three or four month period. The guy who was arrested with me came from a very influential New York state family who managed to get a very famous charge to be their lawyer, but the guy was a tax charge. He knew nothing. And so finally, we had no more postponements, and we were going behind a Catholic judge, named O'Connor, who was notoriously homophobic, and we were going to go to jail.
There was no question. And there was this old courtroom lawyer behind us with some... with his, you know, and he was saying to his client, you think you got troubles? These kids, they got troubles. And so I was talking to him, and he said, oh, he said, you shouldn't be in front of a Brian. He said, right, your lawyer gets you in front of a Brian. I said, well, it's not my lawyer. I told him this story, and he said, oh, okay. Give me 20 bucks. I said, give me 20 bucks. So I gave him 20 bucks. Well, you know, in 1960, was not a little money. I mean, that was a lot of money, closer to 50 now. And he... I signed that wander around and what have you. And then he came back and he said, now, he said in a minute, that judge is going to transfer a case from the bench. When he hands the files to his clerk to transfer, and tell your people to get up and go out and follow him, he had bribed the clerk to take two,
not only the transfer, but the other file also. And once it's transferred, it can't be transferred back. And he bribed him 20 bucks, after they paid all this money with the other family, the other guy, my 20 got us into a petty gambler court with an old Jewish judge. And those days I worked as a... I made for D... a damn... damn samplers. He was one of our customers, so he recognized me. And he just... he put the cop up, he said, first of all, they didn't do this, they even vented this. And we got out. It was thrown out of court. But was there a general? Do you think it was like a kind of harassment that Gays put up with the general? Well, of course they did. What? They did because, if they had a job in New York, it used to be standard in New York in the 50s and 60s, Upper West Side particularly, to rent to gay people because they would come in and they would redecorate the apartment. They would paint it and get it all in shape. When it was all in shape,
what he called it, the super, would discover that somebody not related stayed overnight and your beliefs would be broken and you would be thrown out. And the landlord now had a decorator in the apartment. And it was standard operating to appreciate the seizure in the Upper West Side. Oh, standard procedure. So much so that I knew people that were finally near the end of it saying, oh, are you kidding? I'm not going to paint this place. Oh, it's a great apartment. You should paint it. Uh-uh. Thank you. I want to stay here. But... There are a lot of people who are probably, you know, younger people now, gay people who have never heard of stone. I know. There are gay people who do not know what goes on with gays in Mexico. Why? They don't know. They do not know. They're not. But there are a lot of, there are a lot of straight people that paid no attention to torture in this country. Is there something like, do you think that, that... Stonewall,
the event is important for people to remember. I think that, I think most important, I don't think you can go back to the past. They will never go through what I went through, hopefully. Uh, as therefore, it cannot mean anything, it cannot mean to the, to a kid 19 or 20 now. Well, they do my place, street theater. Uh, it's very funny. It does have an effect on the audience at the end. They're ready to riot. Trust me. They have gotten up in some spaces to join in the riot. So then, what is the point of revitalizing memory? Uh, well, that... I'm not sure if it's the memory of Stonewall. What happens to them is they get tricked by the play and they get revitalized by, I must do something when something's wrong. That's what they get revitalized by. It isn't Stonewall. It's no more than you can't revitalize American. You can't talk about Lexington and Comcord and revitalize the American Revolutionary Spirit. It's not going to happen. Uh, the best you're going to end up with is a Williamsburg Reconstruction,
uh, which may or may not have an effect on you. So the fact that young kids don't know about Stonewall, most people don't know their own history. Most Americans do not know their own history. They don't know 10 years ago, little, and 30 years ago. Um, so what, things like this documentary is very valuable because it will reach a lot of people. It won't change very many people. The, the young kid who's coming out and having problems right now probably isn't watching it. Uh, maybe, if he is, hooray. Uh, but, songwriters and singing, pop singers and movies about coming out and so forth, do affect the kids. Uh, the fact that, uh, what's his name one, the Oscar for Harvey Milk, have, probably, will have, a lot more effect on people on young gays than whether they know about Stonewall or not.
You know, Stonewall did a great thing. That's all. You know, Stonewall did a great thing. You know, I'm fully understand why you want it. I just, I just, just, just being a pop singer. You know, you know,
American Experience
Stonewall Uprising
Raw Footage
Interview with Doric Wilson, 2 of 2
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Episode Description
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Such raids were not unusual in the late 1960s, an era when homosexual sex was illegal in every state but Illinois. That night, however, the street erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Raw Footage Description
In this interview, Doric Wilson discusses his participation in the Stonewall uprising and Gay Liberation movement. Wilson also recalls social repression in the 1950's, including the pressure to marry a woman, McCarthy era culture, and attitudes towards LGBTQ folk on the east vs. west coasts. Other topics include Wilson's experience growing up gay in rural Washington, working as a playwright in New York, and cruising and bar culture in Greenwich Village.
Copyright 2011 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Interviewee: Wilson, Doric, 1939-2012
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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Identifier: 034 (WGBH Item ID)
Format: DVCPRO: 50
Generation: Original
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Chicago: “American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Doric Wilson, 2 of 2,” 2011-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Doric Wilson, 2 of 2.” 2011-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Doric Wilson, 2 of 2. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from