The bare basics of the 1965 New Year's Day Mardi Gras Ball (talk about mixing up holidays for a good cause!), held at the California Hall located on Polk and Turk Streets in San Francisco, were known to me before seeing the terrific new documentary "Lewd & Lascivious".
After enjoying every one of its fifty-minute running time, I now am more educated about the ball, how it came to happen, the raid on it by the San Francisco Police Department and why it changed this City's and gay history.
The documentary shows Christian clergy around 1960 reaching out to the gays and lesbians in the bars on Polk Street and in North Beach, primarily for spiritual guidance for those who wanted it but to also plant seeds of justice to challenge the constant harassment and occasional assaults by the SFPD.
Clergyman and their wives proposed a fun gathering of queers on New Year's Day in 1965, and after getting the backing of the six gay and lesbian groups in existence (who had never coordinated an event together before with each other), set up a meeting with the police. All the clergy and queers wanted was to be left alone at a private event, at a hall where the owner had no problem with who was renting his venue.
A trial ensued, the judge dismissed the District Attorney's legal arguments, massive local and national media coverage was part of the mix, and when it was time to stage the 1966 edition of the ball, the cops had a radically new hands-off attitude.
One minor criticism I have to make is about the background music as the survivors engage in their truth-telling. The power of their voices and choice of words, their anger and laughter, are diminished because the music is manipulative.
Let's hope this important documentary is shown on our local PBS outlet KQED and PBS affiliates nationwide.