New gay Dallas artifacts: A letter from Log Cabin to Karl Rove, QL’s kissing booth and these pics

Posted on 23 Jul 2010 at 12:02pm

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell informs us that RCD has made some notable acquisitions of late for its Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Library. For example, McDonnell said activists Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice recently dropped off some Queer LiberAction memorabilia, including a megaphone and the group’s patented kissing booth. Also, some recovering ex-Log Cabin Republicans provided a copy of a letter they wrote in the 1990s to Karl Rove, then an advisor to Gov. George W. Bush (we’re dying to read this). And finally, McDonnell sent over the below photos he took of photos that came in from William Waybourn, a pioneering Dallas gay-rights activist who now lives outside of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, many of these items will have to be placed in storage for the time being due to space concerns. But McDonnell says Waybourn’s pics are slated for display at the Center. After the jump, we’ve posted a few a more of them along with Waybourn’s descriptions.

This is a photograph I took of John Thomas in the mid-1990s. He loved it, saying it captured the essence of who he was. Later, when AIDS began to take its toll on him, John wanted it used as his “official” photo because he was concerned that people wouldn’t remember how he looked before AIDS, and not as someone ravaged by the disease. On a side note, I asked John, Bill Nelson, Mike Richards or others appearing in the media on behalf of lesbian and gay issues to look presentable, e.g. wear coats and ties, etc. John and Charlotte Taft, then Dallas’ most “out” lesbian, were always media outstanding role models, skewing people’s impression of what they thought “activists” looked and sounded like.

Joe Desmond (left) and his partner Ken Flanagan were two of the Dallas Gay Alliance’s unsung heroes. Joe was the longtime meticulous secretary of the Alliance and both men were out of the closet in their respective corporate environments. Full of dry wit, they were part of the crew (with me) that let the air out of the bus tires of the right-wing zealots who used to come to Cedar Springs every weekend trying to save us. They were always on the front lines, helping with demonstrations and creating services for persons with AIDS. If I recall, Joe and Ken met while serving distinguished careers in the military, got thrown out because they were gay and ended up in Dallas. Ken died first, then Joe. They left the bulk of their estate to pay off more of the note on the community center.
This was a mega-fundraiser we pulled together called “Fabulous Faces & Fashion for AIDS.” Actress Morgan Fairchild (left) and Faye Dunaway (right) presented me with a check for the Center for $50,000 from Lucy Crow Billingsley. On the far right is Donna Knox, vice president of the Apparel Mart. The event was my idea, but would not have happened without Kim Dawson. In order to raise more money, Kim pulled in personal favors to get name designers, including Givenchy, Alexander Julian and celebrities like Faye Dunaway, Cicely Tyson and Morgan Fairchild to attend. We put a “name” at every table just so they could assist in opening pocketbooks. Hey, we needed the money. I called on Kim many times. She was a tour de force raising funds for the Center. Not only did she lend her name, but she pushed others to contribute money or time or both. One of our first fundraisers was a fashion show in the vast expanse of the Apparel Mart. At the rehearsals the day before the big event, the “celebrity host” apparently got cold feet about lending his name to such a cause like AIDS. Kim stopped the proceedings and with her arm looped in his said “take a walk with me.” Kim escorted him down that long runway that ran from the stage like a thoroughfare inside Apparel Mart’s four-story atrium. We watched as they stood at the end in a soundless, but animated conversation. As the two of them returned to the stage, Kim announced “OK, we’re ready. Now where were we?” At that same event, Kim got Speedo to donate some swimsuits to auction off. When the box arrived, there must have been 500 swimsuits, so Kim had each model put on several suits and we auctioned them right off the boys until all were sold. Of course, the closer the suit to the model, the higher the price.
Photos of Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo inside (left) and outside (right) Crossroads Market. Bill is on the left in both photos. Prior to the Alliance offices and “community center” coming to life on Cedar Springs, Crossroads Market functioned as an ex officio Center for groups and meetings. In fact, many meetings were conducted in the back of the store, right along with business. Bill would jump up to wait on a customer while the meeting would continue, then he would plop back down without missing a beat. As hard to believe as it may be, copiers were a luxury item back then and the store’s copier functioned as a printing press for many Alliance fliers and posts. Every weekend, there was always some community group hosting a fundraiser or sign up table on the corner outside. We wanted the store to be a community store, but we never thought it would end up becoming the “cornerstone.” At one point, I told Bill we were going broke buying coffee (it was free to customers) and giving away condoms. It was before we shamed the county health department into giving them away on the streets. We had a giant jar filled with condoms and people could take as many as they liked. The food bank wasn’t the only service started in Crossroads, as the “kiddie gays” used to meet in the back of the store while their parents grabbed hamburgers at Hunky’s. The first meeting was only four or five kids and a couple years later, the meetings had expanded to multiple nights and scores of gay kids came to meet other gay youth.

Mike Richards at a press conference on AIDS, sounding the alarm to the public about how to avoid getting AIDS. Education was the only prevention and, sadly, the Alliance was the only educator for the first few years. Both the city and county governments, as well as the medical establishment in Dallas, turned a blind eye to the coming plague, leaving for us to spread the word and create our own service-delivery system. Mike was a major advocate on the AIDS front, not just in Dallas, but a founding member of the Denver Principles, outlining how to educate people and treat infected patients. AIDS was a big scare and no one wanted to talk about it; President Reagan couldn’t even say it. One of the first national meetings on AIDS was hosted by the Alliance and held in Dallas in the early 1980s, but it was called “GRID” then — “gay-related immune deficiency.” Mike became the Center’s first full-time employee — we paid him the equivalent of his monthly rent. I don’t know how he survived, but friends contributed and he managed to do enormous work to prevent AIDS. MIke kept up on the latest treatments, so we had volunteer American Airlines flight attendants bring back unapproved (and unavailable) promising drugs from overseas. When it was discovered that aerosolized pentamidine was much more effective at preventing pneumonia than getting it by IV after you got it (and died), we started our own “Guerrillas in the Midst” program and gave out treatments (for free) to guys as a preventative.
It looks like the glass cracked in shipping. My apologies. That’s Terry Tebedo and Bill Nelson in the store for a photo that appeared in the Dallas Morning News or Times Herald weekend section. If I recall, that’s a Xerox copy of the photograph, but if it was a Times Herald photo, then it no longer exists. If Dallas Morning News, then it might still be in their archives. I think the story was on Bill’s running for city council. I know he was on the cover of one weekend section, but just don’t recall which one.

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