Monday, September 12, 2011

Arthur Evans, Gay Liberation Writer,
Has Passed Away in San Francisco

(Arthur Evans picketing against anti-gay policies at the NYC Board of Education. Credit: Rich Wandel, NY Public Library.)

[UPDATES: Click here to read Arthur's official obit, that he wrote himself. Go here to watch a tape from 1971 when he and GAA zapped the NYC marriage bureau.]

When I was an out gay teen in the late 1970s, I read about the Gay Activists Alliance agitators in the Big Apple and they inspired me to get political about my same-sex attractions and question all authority. In the mid 1980s, as AIDS was decimating gay men and the community was slowly getting its anger to come to the fore and guide us, I met Marty Robinson, a key GAA member.

(Marty Robinson in his heyday, challenging Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.)

Marty and I worked very well together, and did quite a bit of arguing too, in the Lavender Hill Mob in 1986/1987. The Mob was a handful of smart, angry activists with a gay and AIDS agenda with well-honed zapping skills. We went after the New York Archdiocese, the City Council, the awful Mayor Ed Koch, the FDA and NIH and CDC, and demanded our brothers and sisters find their piss and vinegar and start putting it to good use. Us Mobsters eventually saw ACT UP come around and were there at its first meeting.

It was through Marty that I met Arthur Evans in 1987, when I traveled to San Francisco to talk activism and coordination with the radicals in Citizens for Medical Justice. Like the Mob, CMJ was showing up at government hearings to disrupt proceedings, demanding respectful and professional care for our friend and lovers struggling to stay alive.

Arthur was tangentially involved with CMJ and the affiliated AIDS Action Pledge effort that was a network dedicated to preventing any person with ARC, AIDS Related Complex, or full-blown AIDS, from being forcibly quarantined.

(Arthur circa early 1990s.)

Over lunch in the Haight in spring 1987, we became friends. I asked him about the early days of agitation against John Lindsay and other pols, while every tale he told had bearing on the nasty effing health crisis stalking and killing homosexuals in ever-increasing numbers and locations.

It is said gays create their own families and relationships for a host of reasons, and looking back on my time with Marty and Arthur in the 1980s I now see that they were more than my mentors. They were caring uncles passing down life lessons and we developed familial bonds, that strengthened me.

Today I  that Arthur passed away over the weekend. My friend Jay Blotcher back in New York sent this note written by Perry Brass to his e-blast list:

Speaking of which, I've just learned today of the death of Arthur Evans, one of the great gay liberationists of the early Liberation period of the lgbt movement, circa 1969 to 1974. Arthur was a founding member of the Gay Activists Alliance and one of the original members of the Gay Liberation Front. He was also bright, intense, and deep—one of those men from a particular period and
place (he lived most of his adult life in New York and later in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury area) who could have fit into many periods and places, and been a gift in all of them. Arthur, I'll miss you greatly.

I have no details on the circumstances of Arthur's demise, and expect to learn more in the coming days.

At a time when the world didn't give a damn about homosexuals, Arthur demanded that attention be paid to our plight, our beauty and our liberation and he put himself on the line to make things better for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders everywhere.

I'm gonna miss arguing with him online and on Castro Street. A true queer original has died. Rest in peace, Arthur.


vcdiva said...

I have known Arthur for many years since I arrived here in 1996. He and we had a very special relationship. He was a very private person, but I loved that and many other things about him. I am sorry to hear that he is gone, for I will truly miss him. May God Bless his beautiful soul. My condolences to his family and extended family. Please let me know when there is a Memorial for him.

Michael said...

hey veronika,

i know the BAR is working on news story about arthur and expect to learn from the paper the details on a service and celebration of his life. at the ruth brinker celebration at city hall tonight, that i'm so glad i went to, a number of folks were chatting about arthur. it helped to be among friends who knew him, to process the sadness over his passing away.

love to you!

DavidEhrenstein said...

My but that's a gorgeous picture of Arthur from the 1990's. Very different from the bearded INTENSE, LOUD ANGRY and totally wonderful man I knew back in the glory days of Gay Activists Alliance of New York. Arthur was "in your face" like no one else. Uttery fearless, his ceaseless fury frightened the cops. I am ever so happy to hear he was filmed for Vito, the soon-to-be-premiered documentary about Vito Russo with an all-activist cast (myself included.)
Like Vito he will always live in my heart -- and the hearts of those lucky enough to have known him and fought alongside him.

Michael said...

this is the first i'm hearing about the movie on vito. should be a great film for a great man and film critic. i'll do my part to promote the film. and yes, good thing arthur spoke to the filmmakers before he passed on.

Jeffrey Schwarz said...

Michael, thanks for writing about Arthur. He is featured prominently in VITO, which will premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 14th.

Jeffrey Schwarz
Producer / Director, VITO

Michael said...

hi jeffrey,

congrats on having the debut at the NYFF. wish i could be there. as we get closer to the premiere, i'll promote the film. i'm sure it will eventually play here in SF.

Michael Bedwell said...

While never personally acquainted, everytime I passed him on the street, saw him in Walgreens, I invariably thought of those around us: "If you only knew how MUCH you owe this man!" For those unfamiliar with him or GAA, he's the one with long hair & headband in the historic video clip at the following link who gets right in the face of officials in the NYC marriage license bureau that GAA was "zapping." Rude? You're F-ing right they were rude—& if more still were we wouldn't STILL be 2nd class Americans 40 YEARS LATER! Bravo, Arthur!

Mike said...

That's to bad r.i.p Arthur. He tried to do good in the world. He will always be remembered for that.