October 14, 1979

Donald, Frank, and Connie on the Mall in Washington DC, Sunday October 14, 1979, for the first gay march on Washington.

Frank and I left San Francisco on October 1 in my VW Bus. Our adventure took two months and we drove 10,000 miles. Our dear friend Connie flew to Pittsburgh on Thursday before the march and we 3 drove to DC in a driving rain storm. The march was the dream of Harvey Milk, openly gay member of the SF Board of Supervisors and gay community leader. He and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in City Hall in 1978. His death accellerated the planning of the march, in part a tribute to him. We felt duty bound to attend.

3 from SF

We arrived in Washington on Friday night and spent Saturday playing tourist and learning about the march. For dinner, someone directed us toward a big gay club/restaurant in the South East District of the City. There was a long line but we decided that to find an alternative would take even longer. Two black women (of the lesbian persuasion, I believe) were ahead of us on line. They were friendly, charming, and made our wait more tolerable. Reaching the door, the women were asked to show several pieces of picture ID, which they did. Apparently the ID was valid because the doorman gave it back and pointed to their feet. "It's against our policy to allow open-toed shoes. It's an insurance thing!"

We knew these women weren't going to make it inside with anything less than a ruling from the Supreme Court, and they were closed. We couldn't believe this could happen, especially on this particular weekend at a gay business. We should have shown our outrage, but were hungry and tired and didn't have an alternate plan. So we rationalized that this was not our problem. It was the part of southern hospitality known as racism! Although I'm not proud of our decision to stay, I must say that no one else walked away in protest either.

So, before the march even began, we had compromised our ideals and we realized that we can't expect a lot of support from those who don't feel the sting of our oppression.

San Francisco We had some rain on Saturday but it stopped before the concert on the mall that night. The marchers assembled at 10 AM on Sunday at the Capitol end of the Mall. The morning sky was gray but before noon the sun was out. The march followed Pennsylvania Ave to the White House, passed it on the Ellipse side, and continued on to the Washington Monument where a rally was held. We marched with the San Francisco group, many of whom travelled together on a chartered Amtrak train. They called it AmTrash!

If that boy on the left caught your eye,
click on him for a closer look.

That's Frank and I in the march. I carried a rainbow flag and he carried a flag which he made himself. It was solid black with a lavender triangle in the center. At the top of the flagpoles were small flags from New Jersey, West Virginia, and New Mexico, our home states. There was also a San Francisco flag up there!

This picture makes it look like attendance was poor. No, there were well over 200,000 people there but the march was slow to move out of the assembly area and stretched thin along the way.



Repent of what? I didn't do anything wrong. Besides, what does that have to do with civil rights? These two guys were on duty during the entire march. Only two cops were assigned to keep the peace and they ignored the occasional taunting dialogue. I wonder how many people were inspired by their presence. I will say that they had courage to protest when outnumbered 100,000 to 1.


This person would have gotten the prize for best costume if there was one. She must have worked for weeks on the costume. It was perfect. The other side of the sign said, "DON'T TREAD ON ME". President Jimmy Carter lived in that big house in the background. I wonder if he paid any attention to us. If he did, he didn't have any public comment. I lived in DC during the summer of 1970 and attended several peace rallies. For those events 2 rows of city busses were parked bumper-to-bumper around the entire White House grounds. Why didn't they do that for us?



this is


Of course the reason we attend these demonstrations is a noble one. We are showing our support for the particular cause. But there are other benefits for participants. Aside from the comraderie and party atmosphere there are always beautiful people to look at. My vote for best looking guy at the march went to Brian from Boston. He was on roller skates most of the day and I saw him everywhere I went. As if his good looks weren't enough to attract attention, he waved an american flag which both flashed and crackled to announce his presence. His t-shirt stated "I'M BRIAN FROM BOSTON". His tight white pants caught my eye and said different things to different people. I thought "Now that's a fine looking butt!" The same picture of him is also on my FAVE FOTOS page. Several people have contacted me to say that they also took a picture of this Boston Patriot that day. He may well have been the most photographed person at that event. You can click either of the above pictures to see more of him. Brian, if you see this page, thanks for your smile!

San Francisco

Another shot of the San Francisco contingent with Frank and Connie and the tall flags. Behind them, the large posters say "OUR FIGHT HAS JUST BEGUN" and "STONEWALL '69 - CITY HALL '79", referring to the June 1969 riot in Greenwich Village and the May 21, 1979 riot at San Francisco City Hall. These banners first appeared in the 1979 SF Gay Parade.

The Lincoln Memorial and a group of US Park Service Mounted Police. I included this photo because it is one of my favorite pictures and my favorite monument in the Nation's Capital. (Capital is the city. Capitol is the building.)



The Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool with the United States Capitol visible at the far end of the Mall. The post parade rally was held at the Washington Monument. I walked from the rally to the Lincoln Memorial to get a perspective of the size of the group. At least I got a nice picture. The shots below give an idea of the size of the crowd.

That's my picture album and some of my memories of the 1979 Gay March on Washington. Thanks for taking the time to look at it. If you have any comments, e-mail me. The march was an exciting and empowering event. For me and my lover (at the time), Frank, it was part of a 2-month, 10,000 mile trip around the US. If you'd like to view that picture-story, CLICK HERE. To read my response to questions from the Chicago Free Press about the march, CLICK HERE.



There is an interesting MP3 audio collage of the 1979 MOW at SWEEPING FEATURES.COM, recorded and produced by Jok Church & Adam Cieslelski. It includes the story of the Amtrash chartered train and reveals that a piano had been installed in the lounge car, a big hit, making it the first gay bar on wheels. Before reaching Washington, the bar ran out of everything but (of course) orange juice, due to the boycott of Anita Bryant in Florida. WARNING: There are 2 MP3 audio tracks. Each is over 20 MB in file size, a very long download with dial-up connections.

A pageful of pictures from the 1979 March can be found at the QUEER MUSIC HERITAGE site, a history and archive of queer music. It is a labor of love by radio personality JD Doyle, anadmirable project to document an important facet of our history.


This page created March 25, 2000 and modified September 24, 2004
• Text and Graphics © 1979 - 2000 • UD Graphics • San Francisco •
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