Hope Along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay
Film Paints Vivid Portrait of One of the Originators of the Gay Civil Rights Movement and Founder of the Mattachine Society
For Immediate Release Contact: Wilson Ling (415/356-8383 ext. 231 or Wilson_Ling@itvs.org)
Randall Cole (415/356-8383 ext. 254 or Randall_Cole@itvs.org)
(San Francisco, CA)— Political activist Harry Hay started America's first successful gay rights organization, the Mattachine Society, in the midst of America's most conservative era, as Joseph McCarthy rabidly interrogated suspected Communists and "deviants.” HOPE ALONG THE WIND: The Life of Harry Hay tells the powerful story of Hay's work, which laid the foundation for the modern U.S. lesbian and gay rights movement. Hay passed away on October 24, 2002 at the age of 90.
The film traces Hay's roots in the Communist Party and the Labor Movement, where he learned the organizing skills he needed to bring together "America's most hated minority.” In 1948, while working on the Henry Wallace presidential campaign, Hay wrote a startling document, declaring homosexuals an oppressed minority. While the idea is widely accepted today, at the time the notion of homosexuals as a minority was considered absurd. But it was this key concept that would eventually bring the movement together.
Late one evening in January of 1953, Dale Jennings, a member of the Mattachine Society, was on his way home from a meeting and walked through Westlake Park in Los Angeles. Within minutes a team of LA police had arrested, handcuffed and taken Jennings off to jail. It was a common event in the 1950s: LA police entrapped homosexuals every day. And every day lives were ruined when the men plead guilty and their names were printed in the newspapers.
But this arrest would be different. For the first time a group would fight the charges, and they would win. It was this event that would help launch a battle for equality that continues to this day. In one of the most unlikely periods for a homosexual rights movement to begin, one individual would stand up for the rights of this oppressed group, and a revolution against oppression would begin. The Mattachine Society, led by Harry Hay with his convictions and tenacity, took up this challenge during the decade most known for conformity and sexual repression in post WWII America.
Within several years the group blossomed from its Los Angeles beginnings to become a nationwide organization, forever changing the course of gay and lesbian civil rights. Mattachine chapters survived in several cities until the early 1980s.
As the Mattachine Society's secret underground meetings grew larger, Hay was forced to resign from the Communist Party. Ironically, within a few short years he would be ejected from the Mattachine Society for his former Communist involvement. Hay's more than 70 years of activism made for a roller coaster ride of triumphs and defeats.
Featuring interviews with the surviving members of the group, dramatic archival film and photos and evocative stylized imagery, HOPE ALONG THE WIND: The Life of Harry Hay follows the founding of the group, the dramatic court trial that put the Mattachine Society in the spotlight and the group's politically charged breakup. The film also covers Hay's exploits later in life, including his co-founding of the Radical Faeries, a counter culture gay group that explores a spiritual dimension to their sexuality, and his participation in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade as a marshal.
HOPE ALONG THE WIND: The Life of Harry Hay reveals Hay's challenging and controversial views that placed him at the center of political debate. In the end, the film is an inspiring chronicle of an activist who refused to quit, and as a result, founded one of the most dynamic movements in modern American history.
HOPE ALONG THE WIND: The Life of Harry Hay is a co-production of Eric Slade Productions and KQED Public Television, produced in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding provided by SBC Communications, Wells Fargo Foundation, The California Council for the Humanities, The San Francisco Arts Commission, Horizons Foundation, The Bridges/Larson Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, Columbia Foundation, Fleishhacker Foundation, Small Change Foundation, Frameline/Tzabaco Fund and Phil Willkie.
About the People Profiled in HOPE ALONG THE WIND: The Life of Harry Hay
Harry Hay The founding father of the gay rights movement, Hay devoted his entire life to progressive politics. In 1950, he formed the Mattachine Society, the first successful gay rights organization in the U.S. and in 1979, he co-founded The Radical Faeries, a movement affirming gayness as a form of spiritual calling. He was also the first to apply the term "minority” to homosexuals. Diagnosed with lung cancer, Hay passed away peacefully in his sleep on October 24, 2002 at the age of 90.
Dale Jennings A founding member of the Mattachine Society, Dale was thrust into the spotlight when he was entrapped by Los Angeles police in a late night park arrest in Los Angeles in 1951. While most homosexuals entrapped by police in the 1950s quietly pled guilty and paid the fine, Jennings and Harry Hay rallied the Mattachine Society to mount a defense in court. Jennings' defense attorney caught the police officer in a lie, found evidence of jury tampering and the case was thrown out, giving Mattachine and Jennings a triumphant victory.
Konrad Stevens Mild mannered Konrad Stevens (called "Steve” by his friends) was a founding member of the Mattachine Society. He worked as a commercial photographer. He joined the group together with his boyfriend John Gruber. In the film, Stevens describes how everyone knew someone who was arrested in a bar raid, "that's just the way we lived.” He also describes in great detail what a difficult character Harry Hay was. "I don't think anyone became his friend,” Stevens recalls, "he was too wrapped up in his work.”
John Gruber Gruber and boyfriend Konrad Stevens were founding members of the Mattachine Society. In the film, Gruber describes the climate of fear they all lived in. "In those days if you were a homosexual, it was your problem and you knew it,” he says. He talks about after a police raid on a gay bar, everyone relaxed because the police had "done their duty for the day and now we could have fun.”
Miriam Sherman Sherman was a Section Organizer in the Communist Party in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s, and she served as Harry Hay's "boss” in the Party. When Harry realized he needed to resign from the Communist Party so he could do his work organizing the Mattachine Society, he went to Miriam Sherman.
Helen Gorog Gorog was a long time Hay family friend. She introduced Hay to his wife-to-be, Anita Platsky. Gorog knew Hay was homosexual, so when Hay announced his engagement to Anita, Gorog wondered, "did she know?”
Frank Pestana Pestana has been an attorney and political activist in Los Angeles all his life. He was a student in Hay's political folk music classes. In the film he eloquently describes how the Communist Party was fighting for the basic rights of the people: "social security was a dream to us!”
John Burnside Burnside was Harry Hay's partner for over 40 years. They met while working together at ONE Institute in LA, a gay resource center. Burnside owned a kaleidoscope factory at the time, which Hay became part of when they joined their lives.
Urvashi Vaid Former director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Vaid is currently a deputy director at the Ford Foundation.
Leslie Cagan A political activist and board member of Pacifica Radio.
John Callahan A political activist and union organizer in Los Angeles. Callahan worked with Hay in Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition.
Brendan Kearney Seen in the film at a gathering of the Radical Faeries, at the 80-acre Radical Faerie Sanctuary in Southern Oregon.
Andre Pruitt Seen in the film at a gathering of the Radical Faeries, at the 80-acre Radical Faerie Sanctuary in Southern Oregon.
About the Producers
Eric Slade, producer/director, is an independent producer/director in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. His productions have won awards from numerous groups including the National Educational Media Network; Bologna, Italy AIDS Film Festival; the American Medical Association Film Festival and the International Television Association. His independent documentary work includes The Impact of AIDS, Safety in Numbers and Acting Up for Prisoners.
Jack Walsh, producer, is an award-winning independent filmmaker and public television producer. His recent executive producer credits include And Then One Night: The Making of Dead Man Walking, which was nominated for a regional Emmy 2002; Independent View, a 17-part national series on independent film, which he also developed; and Season by Season, a 22-part national cooking series with chef/host Michael Chiarello, all produced at KQED. Additionally, he was the series producer for the Living Room Festival, an innovative program of independent productions that aired on KQED in the 1990s.
Vivian Kleiman, executive producer, is a veteran of over twenty years of independent film production. Her credits include several documentaries for television including Forgotten Fires (ITVS), co-produced with Michael Chandler, and Color Adjustment and Tongues Untied, both with acclaimed filmmaker Marlon Riggs. She teaches documentary film at Stanford University.
Sophie Constantinou, cinematographer, has recently completed shooting for the HBO documentary Born in Slavery. She shot numerous projects for PBS, including Home Front and Presumed Guilty. Constantinou has also lensed many independent documentaries including My Comrade Yankee and Some Real Heat.
Marsha Kahm, cinematographer, has over 22 years experience shooting documentary and commercial projects. Her credits include The Cockettes, the HBO documentary Rachel's Daughters, HIV: un-infected (does not equal) un-affected and Uncommon Places: The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Dawn Logsdon, editor, was the editor on Rob Epstein & Jeffery Friedman's award winning Paragraph 175 and on KQED's acclaimed documentary The Castro. She also edited Teaching Tolerance for the Southern Poverty Law Center, School Colors for Frontline and Lebanon: Meaning in Ruins for the Children's Defense Fund.
Taylor Mali, narrator, is a poet and performance artist in New York City. Mali produced two spoken word CDs, several books and won three national slam poetry championships. He was featured in the films Slam and Slam Nation.
Mark Page, writer, is a veteran writer, co-producer and researcher, who has worked on almost 20 documentary projects for national PBS and cable, including What About God?, StopWatch and Crime and Punishment in America.
Philippe Roques, cinematographer, has worked on a number of award winning projects including Tom Shepard's Scout's Honor (ITVS), the PBS series A Question of Equality (ITVS) and White Christmas. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Film at Vassar College in New York.
Stuart Timmons, writer, is a free-lance writer and the author of The Trouble With Harry Hay, Founder of the Modern Gay Movement. He writes about the areas of AIDS and social policy and gay and lesbian culture. His work has appeared in Spin, VIBE, The Advocate, LA Weekly and The Los Angeles Times.
Sharon Wood, scriptwriter whose writing credits include three Oscar nominees: Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press, Straight from the Heart and Super Chief: The Life and Legacy of Earl Warren. Wood served as writer on Paragraph 175, an HBO documentary that took the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, and more recently on And Then One Night: The Making of Dead Man Walking, which was nominated for a regional Emmy 2002.
KQED operates KQED Public Television 9, the nation's most watched public television station, and Digital Television 9, Northern California's only public television digital signal; KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM, the most listened to public radio station in the nation; the KQED Education Network, which brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents, and media professionals through workshops, seminars, and resources; and www.kqed.org, which harnesses the power of the Internet to bring KQED to communities across the Web.
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