Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gay Pride: Remembering Don Amador

One of the lesser-known gay heroes from the 1970's, Don Amador's life story might make a film rival to "Milk." In fact, Amador briefly appears in the movie, played by his friend, activist Cleve Jones.

Of course the big difference between Milk and Amador is Milk was actually elected to public office and, after his assassination, became a gay martyr. Amador failed to achieve his political ambitions and like many thousands of gay men, died of AIDS-related illness in the 1980s.

But in the late 1970s Amador was a big deal. Most of what I've been able to find out about him comes from a People Magazine profile from 1977. Born Donald Grace in 1941, considered a "sissy," he quit high school to join the Navy. After an honorable discharge he spent a year living in a monastery and converted to Catholicism.

In 1965 he reenlisted as a Navy recruiter and served under Chief Richard J. Amador. In 1971, Richard Amador (age 70) legally adopted Donald (age 28). This was one year after Amador "married" his lover, Tony Karnes, on the steps of Hollywood's Blessed Sacrament Church (they weren't permitted inside).

Amador served as L.A. mayor Tom Bradley's liaison to the gay community and became one of the first people to teach a class on Gay History (at Cal State University, 1976).

So that's the People Magazine version. A more intimate look at Don Amador and his spouse is coming shortly. Meanwhile, the photo above by Pat Rocco of them (on the left) with a group of friends, taken in 1979 at the March on Washington (Have you ever seen so many moustaches in one place?)

1 comment:

WWdreamer said...

I am the moustache in the foreground of the photo with all the hands on me. I worked on Don's campaign and have many photos. At the time, the community was divided, perhaps not ready or willing to accept him as their representative. The results were a great disappointment to Don and everyone who worked on the well-organized campaign. Don and Tony were ardent supporters of the Gay Band's participation in the March on Washington. He is missed, but I believe Tony is still with us.