Dickmann (Ken) papers and photographs Edit


Finding Aid Author
Rachel Roque and Loni Shibuyama
Finding Aid Date
(c) 2013
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of Description
Description is in <language langcode="eng" scriptcode="Latn">English.</language>
Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.


  • circa 1920-1995 (Creation)
  • 1970 – 1995 (Creation)


  • 25.1 Linear Feet (Whole)
    10 archive boxes + 26 archive binder boxes + 4 archive shoeboxes + 1 oversize envelope.

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  • Abstract

    Personal papers, writings, theater production records, publicity material, correspondence, photographs, negatives, slides, and other material, circa 1920-1995, from Ken Dickmann. Materials document Dickmann's life as an Air Force veteran, writer, performer, director, publicist, and gay activist in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Hawaii. The collection includes his published and unpublished articles related to theater and film criticism and issues in the gay community; material from his work in theater and public relations; and extensive photographs documenting his family and friends, theater and publicity career, drag performances, travel, and gay and lesbian communities in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Hawaii. Also included are the correspondence and writings of Dickmann's friend Ron Romovich.

  • Biography

    Writer and publicist Kenneth Harold Dickmann was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 27, 1942. After high school in the midwest, he served for four years in the United States Air Force until he received a dishonorable discharge when it was revealed that he was gay. However, he successfully challenged and overturned his dishonorable discharge status.

    After leaving the Air Force, he lived in San Francisco in the early 1960s where he quickly became involved in the local theater scene as a performer, writer, and director. He starred in Society for Individual Rights (SIR) productions of all-male musicals, including Little Mary Sunshine, Dames at Sea, and Silhouettes. He directed the SIRlebrities Capades and hosted the Isadora Duncan Picnics and Bette Bus costume parties. During this time, he wrote weekly columns for Kaleidoscope, Data-Boy, and other publications.

    By the 1980s, Dickmann had moved to Los Angeles and was writing theater reviews and celebrity interviews for the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Frontiers, Edge, and the Advocate. In addition, Dickmann worked in public relations for Filmex and the American Cinematheque, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Art Festival, and various film festivals throughout Southern California.

    By the 1990s, Dickmann had been introduced to Hawaii by his dear friend Lee Mentley, and was dividing his time between Los Angeles and Hawaii, getting involved in Hawaiian cultural arts and community organizations. After being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Dickmann spent much of the last years of his life convalescing at Mentley's home until he returned to Los Angeles a few days before his death. Dickmann died of AIDS-related complications on November 20, 1995 in Los Angeles, and his ashes were scattered under the ancient Hawaiian temple made famous in the musical South Pacific.


    Box 1, Folder 1-3, Ken Dickmann Papers and Photographs, Coll2013-063, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.

  • Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open to researchers. Access to some materials is restricted due to mold damage. Advanced notice is required for specified materials.

  • Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the ONE Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at USC Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

  • Acquisition

    A portion of the collection comes from a series of donations by Lee Mentley on December 9, 2011, January 5, 2012, March 15, 2013, and previous donations in the 1990s. The remaining materials were retrieved by Bill Kaiser from an unknown source, date unknown.

  • Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder #, or item name] Ken Dickmann Papers and Photographs, Coll2013-063, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.

  • Processing Information

    Collection processed by Rachel Roque, September 2013.

  • Scope and Contents

    The collection, circa 1920-1995, documents Dickmann's childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; his enlistment in the Air Force after high school, 1960-1963; his involvement in the theatrical scene of San Francisco, circa 1964-1979; and his careers in public relations and journalism in Los Angeles and Hawaii, 1980-1995. The personal papers, 1942-1995, include academic records, memorabilia, financial records, medical records, Air Force records, appointment calendars, personal affects and small-scale art projects. Dickmann's writings include clippings of articles written by Dickmann, primarily related to theater, restaurants, and cultural criticism; personal writings, unpublished drafts, and notes; and early columns and writings under the pseudonyms Pola del Vecchio or Ken Fantastic. The performing arts and publicity career materials includes press kits, programs, production material, and theatrical reviews of productions and events, for which Dickmann performed, directed, produced, or publicized. The correspondence includes both personal and professional correspondence files. The photographs include photographic prints, negatives, and slides, documenting among other things Dickmann's experience in the Air Force, theater and drag events in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s, celebrity events in Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s, AIDS activism, and Dickmann's life in Hawaii. The collection also includes manuscripts and writings of Dickmann's longtime friend, Ron Romovich.

  • Arrangement

    This collection is arranged in the following series:

    Series 1. Personal papers

    Series 2. Writings

    Series 3. Performing arts and publicity career

    Series 4. Correspondence

    Series 5. Ron Romovich

    Series 6. Photographs

  • Related Materials

    Lee Mentley Collection [unprocessed], ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.

  • Separated Materials

    The following record albums have been separated to the ONE audiovisual collection:

    Another Side of Sharon McNight, Glendale Records, 1981 (signed by Sharon McNight).

    No Camping, Velvet Records, undated.

    To Love Somebody, Pearl and Kozmic Blues, Evatone, undated.

    The following objects have been separated to ONE's ephemera collections:

    Jump rope, rainbow color

    LGBTQ calendars (1988, 1993)

    Matchbooks from Melvyn's at the Ingleside Inn in Palm Springs, CA

    Promotional items from European pride events

    Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence button. Image of sisters planting a rainbow flag

    Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence wooden "coin", 1999

    Teletubby napkins

    "Weho Pride" button

    Gay- and lesbian-related clippings (3 folders) and HIV/AIDS-related clippings (1 folder) have been separated to the ONE subject files collection.


  • Type
    Mixed Materials
    Container 1 Type
    Container 1 Indicator