How did the gay movement, which began as a sedate group of intellectuals, become what is arguably the most dynamic civil rights crusade in America? How did a deviant and marginalized fraction of society evolve into powerful, effective, and respected leaders? The short answer: Morris Kight. A self-aggrandizing, egotistical among powerful egos, Kight’s style of organizing and activism showed the power of the gay community and gay dollars.
Kight’s work in the 1950s as a rare ‘safe house’ that provided STD treatments, bail, and legal advice was the beginning of what later became (under his co-founding) the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. He used his unique charisma and organizing skills to benefit the 1960s anti-war movement and founding the successful Dow Action Committee. Pre-Stonewall, there was one gay movement – it was all underground.
Through his founding of the Gay Liberation Front, Kight co-organized the first legal gay pride parade in the country in 1970. He lead seminal protests that resulted in the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality as a disease from its diagnostic manual, civil rights protections for gay citizens, made gay-bashing a hate crime, and reduced police violence against the gay community. He fostered key relationships with politicians, socialites, and gangsters and had backroom deals with wealthy business leaders and handshake agreements with power brokers. This led to a new quality of life for homosexuals, liberated homo youths and, eventually, led to the first generation of never-closeted gays.
For all his good deeds, he took credit for more. This book is meticulously researched to corroborate or, in some instances, invalidate claims by Kight and others. Mary Ann Cherry befriended Morris Kight in the last decade of his life. With Kight’s blessing, she began writing his biography. Cherry is a Los Angeles based writer with wide-ranging credits including network television development, cable television writing, documentary film producing as well as creating and maintaining the historical archives for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.