This collection contains correspondence, memoranda, minutes, reports, proposals, contracts, accounting and finance records, flyers, brochures, calendars, notes, press releases, photographs, resumes, and other materials relating to the founding and activities of the Gay Community Services Center (now the L. A. Gay & Lesbian Center) in Los Angeles. The core of the collection consists of records for the period 1971-1977. These materials were probably transferred to Jim Kepner's archives sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. An inventory of the collection made at or about the time of its transfer, indicates that the records were originally filed in four file drawers and three boxes; although by the time the collection was processed the materials listed had been randomly dispersed between 19 boxes, it was possible to identify most of the materials from the original deposit, and the collection has been arranged to follow as much as possible the original order. The remainder of the collection, covering the period from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, consists of materials collected by Kepner and others; these materials were found stuffed in boxes with no apparent arrangement or order. Those materials considered important to an understanding of the history and activities of the Center have been integrated into the collection; the remaining documents, consisting largely of direct fundraising, promotional, and what appear to be duplicate materials, have been placed in boxes at the end of the collection, and will be processed and integrated into the collection as time permits.
Of the corporate records of the Center, the minutes of the Board of Directors are incomplete except for the years 1987-1988. However, minutes or drafts do survive for the critical months of April and May 1975, which, together with other materials in the collection, provide a fairly full account of the developments surrounding the dismissal of the Feminist 11, and the subsequent strike that threatened to destroy the Center. The records include extensive notes by Morris Kight: while some of these may have been part of the original deposit, the majority appear to have been sent by Kight (who was obsessed with his legacy) to Kepner at a later date. Note that much of Kight's material from 1973 and 1974 was typed on chemically treated paper, which has now darkened to the extent that the original writing is difficult, if not impossible, to read. An important file of correspondence with the Internal Revenue Service, which refused to grant the Center tax exempt status, thereby effectively denying it access to federal funding, until 1974, reveals the homophobia pervasive within government agencies in the 1970s.
Of the administrative records, the General Correspondence, Staff Memos, Management Collective, and Program Directors files are the most useful for tracing the daily operations of the Center. The 1971 organizational study, which constituted the blueprint for the Center, documents the extensive planning that preceded the creation of the institution. The Center in its early years had difficulty keeping accurate financial records, which may explain the relatively few financial statements in the collection; to offset the absence of these records, certain accounting materials, which would normally have been de-accessioned, have been retained. Publicity materials include correspondence with local newspapers concerning homophobic content and documents relating to the Center's response to the portrayal of gays and lesbians in television programs. Photographs include a series taken in 1971 by Lee Mason of the Center's original offices at 1614 Wilshire Boulevard and of the Funky Gaywill Shoppe on Griffith Park Boulevard; photographs from the 1980s and 1990s derive largely from the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman, and document his work on behalf of the Center.
Records of its various fundraising programs indicate how aggressive and inventive the Center was at raising funds. The records of the Wilshire Volunteer Services Fund, set up in 1972 to obtain general donations in cash and kind, and of the Building Fund, set up in 1976 to purchase the Highland Avenue facility, are particularly full, and include correspondence and receipt books. Correspondence files document the Center's unsuccessful attempts in the 1970s to obtain funding from private foundations. The extensive correspondence and funding proposal files of the Public Funding Task Force, led by Morris Kight, document the Center's aggressive pursuit of funding from all levels of city, county, state, and federal government. The Calendars and Events series includes records of fundraising events, including yard sales, celebrity roasts, gala dinners and receptions, and special theatrical events
The largest series in the collection comprises correspondence, memoranda, reports, proposals, contracts, accounting and finance records, flyers, brochures, notes, and other materials relating to the programs offered by the Center. The materials are fullest for government-funded programs, and document in particular the Center's drug education program funded by the National Free Clinic Council, 1972-1974; the Alcoholism Program for Women (APW), 1974-1975; the activities of the Van Ness House in the Center's Alcohol/Drug Abuse Program; and the Venereal Disease Control Program (VDCP; from 1977: Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Program, STDCP) and other medical programs. The records of the National Free Clinic Council program contain information on populations outside the gay and lesbian community, as Don Kilhefner and Ken Bartley also served as co-directors of the Los Angeles County Council of Free Clinics' drug education program. The Alcoholism Program for Women, funded by a three-year, almost $1 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, was removed from Center jurisdiction and transferred to the newly incorporated Alcoholism Center for Women in June 1975.
Other programs for which materials survive include CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act), a job training and placement program under which the Center also paid the salaries of almost half its paid staff. The records of the Educational Outreach program include correspondence of the Speakers' Bureau, which provided trained speakers for school and college classes and civic groups. The records of the Housing program include lists of residents of several of the Center's "Liberation Houses", for short-term emergency housing. The records of the Resource and Referral program include a resource binder with additional fact sheets on gay and lesbian (and gay and lesbian supportive) institutions, organizations, and businesses. The Center also promoted the self-development of members of the gay and lesbian community and the records of the Self-Development program include materials by Betty Berzon and Newt Deiter on group and peer counseling, as well as materials on raps, growth groups, and workshops.
Many of the program files contain correspondence with Los Angeles politicians, in particular City Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson and County Supervisor Ed Edelman, who vigorously supported the Center and its activities. In addition, the records of the Center's political activity include correspondence from 1975 with California assembly leaders on the decriminalization of consensual private acts, and with the offices of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and District Attorney John Van De Kamp. A major goal of the Center was to improve relations between the Los Angeles police and the gay community, and additional documents on this issue can be found in the Subject Files series. The records of the Prison, Probation and Parole program, which assisted the reintegration into society of gay prisoners (including those incarcerated for consensual sexual activities decriminalized in California in 1976), include correspondence with prisoners, probation officers, and prison officials.
The extent and nature of the services offered by the Center to women and youth was the subject of considerable discussion in the 1970s, more radical lesbians, in particular, feeling that their concerns were overlooked and marginalized. The records of the Youth Services program, known in its earliest years as Gay Youth of Los Angeles, are fragmentary, but include a manual for Center youth workers, circa 1972. The records of the Women's Services program are only slightly more complete, but include the proposal and contract for the Lesbian Resource Program for Self-Development (the forerunner to Lesbian Central of the 1980s), funded by the Los Angeles County General Revenue Sharing (GRS) program.
The collection contains an incomplete set of newsletters published by the Center, including some printed for the general public, and others for "internal" circulation. The People series contains materials relating to individuals connected in one way or another to the Center: the files for activist Morris Kight and County Supervisor Ed Edelman, in particular, document their roles in the Center's history and development. The Subject Files series contains a small number of original subject files found among the Center records. These include a police file, with correspondence, memoranda, and other materials relating to the Center's work to improve relations between the Los Angeles Police Department and the gay and lesbian community, and Linda Poverny's 1984 PhD thesis on the management of the Center during its first ten years.