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L. A. Gay & Lesbian Center records

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: Coll2007-010

Scope and Content of Collection

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.


  • 1971 - 2005
  • Majority of material found within 1971 - 1977



The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

Publication Rights

Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives as the physical owner. Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in the materials. Note that ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).

Administrative History

In Spring 1971, a group of activists from the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) held a series of meetings at the home of GLF activist John Platania, to create an organization to provide social services for members of the gay and lesbian community, many of whom were marginalized and on the street, in the Hollywood/Silverlake area of the city of Los Angeles and in the adjoining unincorporated area of West Hollywood, in Los Angeles County. Platania, who had worked for the Los Angeles Community Development Agency, drew up a detailed development plan for a nonprofit corporation to offer services based on the gay hot line and services for street people instituted by the MCC, and the Liberation House, a crisis housing facility at 1168 North Edgemont, in Hollywood, opened by the GLF's Survival Committee. The formal proposal, prepared by GLF activist Don Kilhefner, was submitted on July 14, 1971, and the articles of incorporation were signed by Morris Kight, June Herrle, James Kepner, and John Platania on July 22, 1971. The articles were filed in the office of the California Secretary of State on January 4, 1972.

The Gay Community Services Center opened its doors in October 1971, in a run-down Victorian house designed by William Eastlake, at 1614 Wilshire Boulevard. A second Liberation House, at 1322 North Van Ness Avenue (formerly a residence of filmmaker Jack Warner) and a Gaywill Funky Thrift Shoppe, at 1519-1521 Griffith Park Boulevard, were already in operation. Kilhefner was appointed the Center's first Executive Director.

The Center initially provided hotline, information, referral, counseling, housing, education, and employment services; a venereal disease clinic was opened in October 1972. Services were provided free of charge, with the exception of housing for which a nominal per diem fee was charged. In accordance with the founders' concept of "community", the Center was staffed entirely by gays and lesbians. In addition, most of the staff, including professionals and paraprofessionals, were volunteers, although a small number of full-time core staff members received minimal "survival stipends". The Internal Revenue Service refused to grant the Center non-profit status until April 1974, and as the Center was unable to obtain government funding without this certification, it was forced to depend entirely upon donations for the first year of its existence. In 1972, the Center served approximately 75,000 persons with a staff of 85 full-time and part-time volunteers; its income was reported at $41,678.

In November 1972, the Center received its first grant, of approximately $20,000, for a drug education program, from the National Free Clinic Council (NFCC). Kilhefner and Center Administrative Director Ken Bartley also served as co-directors of a similar grant awarded the Los Angeles Consortium of Free Clinics. The granting of non-profit status by the Internal Revenue Service in April 1974 enabled the Center to apply for public funding, and between August and November the Center received federal and local government grants totaling $410,281, to fund its medical and alcohol and drug abuse programs. The three-year grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to fund the Center's Women's Alcohol Program (WAP) was worth $1 million, a windfall unprecedented for any gay group in the world, and the Center thereby became the first institution with the word "gay" in its name to receive federal funding.

Early in 1975, the building at 1614 Wilshire Boulevard was condemned, and the Center, which had been searching since late 1974 for new quarters, obtained a lease, with option to purchase, on a building at 1213 North Highland Avenue. In April 1975, on the eve of the Center's move to its new home, two events nearly destroyed the Center. An attempt by Center management to divert some of the NIAAA funds to other Center programs was vigorously protested by the WAP program director, Brenda Weathers, and resulted in the transfer of the grant from the Center to a newly incorporated, independent Alcoholism Center for Women, which remains in existence today. At the same time, a conflict arose between lesbian feminist members of the staff and what they perceived to be the Center's patriarchal male-dominated hierarchy. The controversy resulted in the firing of eleven staff members, who in return picketed the Center's new facility on Highland Avenue. The issue, which resulted in the alienation of many donors as well as a significant portion of the lesbian community, was not resolved until 1978. Nevertheless, a number of lesbian activists, including Lillene Fifield, who had been instrumental in obtaining the NIAAA grant, remained with the Center on the grounds that the Center's work in helping the marginalized members of the gay and lesbian community outweighed the sexism evidenced in some quarters.

The Center's programs, in particular the Venereal Disease Control Program, which by providing a safe space for testing was able to identify and treat sexually transmitted diseases earlier than the Los Angeles County Health Department, thus saving the county money, had earned the Center the support of local politicians, in particular county supervisor Ed Edelman and city councilwoman Peggy Stevenson. Thus, despite the controversies of early 1975 the Center continued to expand: annual income for 1975 was $527,050, and for 1976 was $645,306. By this time the number of professional and nonprofessional volunteers had grown to 250, and the salaried staff to 44.

The rapid growth of the Center in the mid 1970s was made possible by the generosity of the Democratic administration of President Jimmy Carter: in particular, by 1981, CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) funds totaled nearly $500,000, (approximately one-third of the Center's $1.8 million budget, and provided the salaries of 41 of the Center's 85 paid staff. The Reagan administration, however, eliminated many social service funding programs, and slashed the budgets of those that remained. Anticipating the end of federal funding for the Center, the Center Board of Directors instituted a robust private donor program to free the Center from the vicissitudes of government funding. Steve Schulte, Executive Director of the Center from 1979 to 1983, who had earned a political science degree from Yale and had worked for the Los Angeles City Council, recast the Center, which had retained the "casualness about dress and rules" of its founders, as a serious, "respectable" institution that would appeal to mainstream donors.


16.2 Linear Feet (18 boxes.)

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

Date and manner of acquisition not known.

Related Material

Jim Long Papers, Coll2007-011, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.

Lillene H. Fifield Papers, Coll2007-014, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.

Processing Information

Formerly housed in boxes 103-230, 103-233, 103-312, 104-101 through 104-114, 104-116, and 104-117. Collection processed by Michael Palmer, May 2007.

Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

L. A. Gay & Lesbian Center records
Michael P. Palmer
© 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in: English

Repository Details

Part of the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, University of Southern California Repository

909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles California 90007 United States
(213) 821-2771