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Ken Dickmann papers and photographs

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: Coll2013-063

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of articles written by Dickmann, primarily related to theater, restaurants, and cultural criticism; personal writings, unpublished drafts, and notes; and early columns and writings under the pseudonyms Pola del Vecchio or Ken Fantastic.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.


  • circa 1920-1995
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 1995


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.


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.


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

Language of Materials



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.


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


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.

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.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Rachel Roque, September 2013.

  • De-Accessed: General interest clippings and publications removed from the collection, including: Disney clippings Comic strip clippings Hawaii clippings (2 folders) General interest clippings (2 folders) Travel clippings General interest publications (1967-1991) Coloring and comic books (1984) San Francisco Chronicle issues (1965, 1969) Newsweek issues (1967, 1970, 1992) Time magazine issues (1968-1991) Commemorative ice show magazines (1960-1963) Various arts publication issues (1968-1985)
  • Movie and music posters separated to the USC Cinematic Arts Archives: Coup de Torchon (4 large, 2 small) Hotel des Ameriques (3 large, 2 small) L'Ombre Rouge (3 large, 1 small) Il Faut Tuer Birgitt Haus (3 large) Something For Everyone Ernesto La Mano Negra Myra Breckenridge Travels With My Aunt Lovely to Look At The Loves of Carmen Beyond the Forest Girl Who Had Everything Moon Over Miami Une Etrange Affaire Das Letzche Loch (2) Subway Riders London Film Festival 1981 Joe Albany: A Jazz Life Good News (1 large, 1 banner) Mick Jagger
Finding Aid to the Ken Dickmann Papers and Photographs, circa 1920-1995
Rachel Roque and Loni Shibuyama
(c) 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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