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Screening Kicks Off Month of Events Leading Up to LAvender Los Angeles

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, October 05, 2009, at 08:29PM
Men in Drag - 1949 LAPL / Herald-Examiner Collection

This photo from the Herald-Examiner archives shows drag queens at 3rd and Main in 1949.

Tomorrow holds the first of two film screenings leading up to LAvender Los Angeles, a two-week event centered around the history of LGBT Los Angeles. The event, to be held November 7 - 20, is organized by Downtown-based advocacy group Roots of Equality.

Event organizer Tom DeSimone sends in this background on the inspiration behind the event:

Long before West Hollywood was even settled, Downtown Los Angeles was the heart of the city’s queer culture.

As early as the 1920s, Pershing Square was a meeting place for gay men who “cruised” the park for sex and friendship. In a world where one’s homosexuality was concealed, the opportunities to meet other gays were few and far between, and the downtown scene was one of the most open and visible gay playgrounds in the nation.

Nearby, on Main Street, a stretch of bars, theaters and hotels were the haunts of hustlers, queens and those who desired them. Miss Destiny, perhaps downtown’s most famous queen in the 1950s and 1960s, frequented downtown bars like the “326” and “Harold’s” on Main Street, made famous in John Rechy’s novel, City of Night.

But, it was Pershing Square where Miss Destiny felt the most at home, socializing among others who were labeled social outcasts by the dominant culture. “Pershing Square lets you be yourself better than any other place I know,” she said in a 1964 interview.

The city made numerous efforts to rid the park of this culture, with several redesigns of Pershing Square, each version increasingly more inhospitable to human habitation.

This November, LA’s LGBT history will come alive at the corner of 5th and Main Streets. “LAvender Los Angeles” is a two week exhibit that will feature the story of LA’s LGBT community from the late 1800s to the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York. Well before Stonewall, queer people here in LA formed the first queer organizations, published the first gay magazines and engaged in some of the first LGBT protests in the nation, helping to lay the foundation of the modern LGBT movement.

A sneak-peak of LAvender Los Angeles will be on display Sunday, October 25 at the Downtown Independent Theater, which will be screening “On These Shoulders We Stand”, a documentary on LA’s LGBT history.

Tomorrow, October 6, the group will screen "The Other Side - A Queer History" at The Exchange (114 W. 5th).

Tickets for the Sunday, October 25, screening of "On These Shoulders We Stand" are on-sale now via the group's website.

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