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Stewart Butler was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1930, moved to New Orleans in 1932 and to Carville, Louisiana in 1941. He attended Louisiana State University from 1947 to 1951 and served in the Army for two and a half years. After leaving the Army, Stewart went to Alaska. He lived in the land of the midnight sun for a decade, attended the University of Alaska and earned two bachelor’s degrees—one in Geological Engineering and the other in Business Administration. 

Since there was no law school in Alaska, Stewart moved to San Francisco to attend Hastings College of the Law. During his second year of law school, he realized he was gay. He dropped out of Hastings in 1964 and returned to New Orleans. In 1973, Stewart met his soulmate Alfred M. Doolittle at Café Lafitte in Exile, the oldest continually operating gay bar in the United States. In 1979, Stewart and Alfred moved into a pink Creole cottage, which they affectionately dubbed the Faerie Playhouse. Over the years, they held countless LGBTQ organizing meetings at the Playhouse, and the back garden became the final haven for the cremains of various queer New Orleans luminaries.

Alfred was a great choice for Stewart because, among other sterling qualities, he was partial heir to a gold fortune. In 1978, with Alfred’s blessing, Stewart retired at age 48 from his day job. In 1980, he helped found the Louisiana Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC), to serve on its board of directors, and basically, to become a fulltime gay activist. From 1983 to 1986, he co-chaired Louisiana’s annual LGBT conference, Celebration. He was on the board of directors for PFLAG for almost two decades, and also served on the board of the Southeastern Conference for LGBT people. He spearheaded the campaign for a New Orleans non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBTQ people from housing and employment discrimination. The measure failed in 1984 and 1985, but in 1991, Stewart and his LGBTQ activist comrades finally managed to shoulder it through. In 1993, they pushed through another ordinance extending protections to transgender people.

After Alfred passed away in 2008, Stewart continued living in the Faerie Playhouse until his death in March, 2020. Today, even though Stewart is gone, the Faerie Playhouse is still very much alive and easy to find. Just head up Esplanade Avenue from the French Quarter, and look for the pink cottage adorned with large red hearts, and a plaque celebrating it as a center of New Orleans queer activism.
Natalie Tsui: [00:00:00] Oh, wait. Just one second. My apologies. It's just a little ...
Mason Funk: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Am I too, should I go ...
Mason Funk: No, I think we're alright.
Natalie Tsui: [inaudible]
Mason Funk: Okay, do me a favor and tell me your first and last names and spell them out for me, please.
Stewart Butler: [00:00:30] Stewart, S-T-E-W-A-R- T, Butler, B-U-T-L-E-R.
Mason Funk: Okay, and could you tell me the date and place where you were born?
Stewart Butler: I was born in Mobile, Alabama in August 21, 1930.
Mason Funk: Okay, alrighty.
Stewart Butler: But I didn't stay there long. I got out when I was two.
Mason Funk: Where did you go?
Stewart Butler: Here.
Mason Funk: You came here?
Stewart Butler: Well I didn't spend the rest of my life here.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] I know that. I wanna hear all about Alaska. Tell me how you ... Tell me a bit about your childhood until you went to Alaska. Just paint me a little picture.
Stewart Butler: Well, my father was a pharmacist-
Mason Funk: Just talk to me here.
Stewart Butler: For the United States Public Health Service and we lived uptown,
Stewart Butler: [00:01:30] that was the U.S. Marine hospital at the end of State Street, until 1941. We were transferred to Carville, Louisiana, which is the national,
Stewart Butler: [00:02:00] what they used to call leprosy, colony. Now it's Hansen's disease because of a stigma. We lived there from 1941 or two until, well my parents were transferred up to Long Island in '47 but
Stewart Butler: [00:02:30] I stayed on at LSU during ... I was going to LSU from '47 to '51 and a lot of things, of course, happened there. Then I was in the Army. Wanna know anything about LSU?
Mason Funk: Yeah, what kinds of things happened there?
Stewart Butler: [00:03:00] To me?
Mason Funk: You said a lot of things happened there.
Stewart Butler: Well, yeah. I didn't really know what I was shooting for at all. I think I was taking a course for psychology or some stupid thing.
Stewart Butler: [00:03:30] I can't remember when my grades were the best, but they weren't the best the end. Well, they were not the best at the end. I was in the ROTC there for two years, junior ROTC. And I went away to summer camp at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for one summer.
Stewart Butler: [00:04:00] I think that my ... No, that can't be there. Well, I didn't even, I ... I was in another fraternity, or joined a colony
Stewart Butler: [00:04:30] and met Wallace Baker there who played some influence on my life in that he was gay. Later on he was a fellow stamp collector. He used to always try to tell me I was gay and I told him he was nuts, of course.
Stewart Butler: [00:05:00] Then I was indefinitely suspended for stealing a civil defense tape recorder because they were in the same building where our fraternity colony met. I noticed they never locked their room.
Stewart Butler: [00:05:30] Supposedly there was top secret chemical, maybe biological, warfare information on it. So they conducted a search like crazy. I just put it up in my closet.
Stewart Butler: [00:06:00] My motivation was because someone else was there and had one and he was playing jokes with it all the time. I thought I should have one. At any rate, I did not get a degree from LSU, but also I didn't have a C average in my major ( laughs).
Stewart Butler: [00:06:30] And so I went up for the summer to live with my parents up on Long Island and Valley Stream. My father got me a job there as something, I forget what, but I had an opportunity where I could've stolen a few things but I did not.
Stewart Butler: [00:07:00] While I was there, I applied ... I didn't wanna get drafted in the Korean War, so while I was up there, I applied for
Stewart Butler: [00:07:30] Officer Candidate school and, believe it or not, was accepted. I wound up, because that's where they ... Any time that you spent before you actually went to the Officer School,
Stewart Butler: [00:08:00] any time that you waited for there to be an opening in whatever branch you wanted to serve in ... I wanted to be a Quartermaster to stay out of the front lines. I was gonna have to stay there longer which, would not have been in the Army longer, so I said, Well, they got openings in the medical service corps, of all things, for me.
Stewart Butler: [00:08:30] I accepted it and went to Officer Candidate School pretty quickly at Fort Riley, Kansas where I met this Irish Catholic farm boy. I used to always kinda have a crush on them boys as I was growing up,
Stewart Butler: [00:09:00] but never, of course, actually did anything. I got a crush on him and so I decided I'd become a Catholic. It was important that I did because he was the top candidate in that particular company and I was trying to emulate him.
Stewart Butler: [00:09:30] I was a lot higher in the final results than I would've been otherwise, so that was certainly a plus. But then he was gone, we went our separate ways and I wound up in New Jersey at
Stewart Butler: [00:10:00] Medical Service Basic Training where you trained enlisted men to become aids or whatever when they actually went on duty. Our company was
Stewart Butler: [00:10:30] pretty undisciplined. Our captain was, well, I forget his name, but he had to go away to some kind of school for however long there, so I was the commanding officer for the whole company,
Stewart Butler: [00:11:00] acting, brand new fresh First Lieutenant. Boy, I'll tell you, they was so undisciplined that I got rather angry and finally I had all ...
Stewart Butler: [00:11:30] at a company formation, very formal, very rigid, standard attention. I had told them that they were supposed to get their hair cut because they do that, it was grossly more than regulation said. After I said that, the word went around and everybody said,
Stewart Butler: [00:12:00] I ain't gonna get my hair cut. I ain't gonna get my hair cut. I had a black Sargent Beggs from South Carolina. One thing the Army taught me that broke down my tendency towards discrimination, having been brought up in the South, so that was very much of a plus from being in the Army.
Stewart Butler: [00:12:30] Of course, that was important in a lot of ways. And--
Mason Funk: Let me ask you a question. I know you ended up spending ten years in Alaska.
Stewart Butler: Okay, alright. When I got out of LCS, it was in the Spring of one year and my sister was getting married.
Stewart Butler: [00:13:00] I had a 1950 Chevrolet station wagon, paid for. I didn't have any home town to go to or particular job or whatever. So, at my sister's wedding, I was one of the ushers and the other one was a guy by the name of Bob Patterson.
Stewart Butler: [00:13:30] After the wedding, people are gathering around and talking and yakking and I said, Well, if I had somebody to go, ... Because I was a wanderer. I'd grown up on the wheat harvest and I had ... Oh, when I was 17, worked for the United States Forestry Service up in Idaho. I liked to get out and see the world,
Stewart Butler: [00:14:00] so I said, If I had somebody to go with me, I'd go up to Alaska. And he said so quickly, I'll go. (laughs) That was my brother-in-law's best friend. So off we went, and we camped the whole way up to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Stewart Butler: [00:14:30] The only time we slept in a room was ... At any rate, Bob Patterson didn't see too well, so I was doing some of the driving, but we got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I said, Now if there's any place he can drive, he can drive here.
Stewart Butler: [00:15:00] Then we came to a tunnel and I said, Look out for the tunnel there. He said, What tunnel?" (laughs) I said, Take your hands off that steering wheel and let me have it. We managed to get through the tunnel and I took over the driving and he never drove one more mile.
Stewart Butler: [00:15:30] I drove the whole way. He took charge of all setting up camp every morning, preparing breakfast every morning and setting up camp in the evening and fixing supper. At any rate--
Mason Funk: Once you got to Alaska, what kept you there for ten years? What did you do in Alaska for ten years?
Stewart Butler: [00:16:00] Well, what did I do? First of all, it was to get a job. But then the University of Alaska ... Oh, and I figured it's the best thing to know if you're up in Alaska is mining, or the mineral industries in general.
Stewart Butler: [00:16:30] So I was taking a class down in Anchorage, which is where we'd wound up. He went back so I was left up there by myself with the station wagon, and decided on mid-term I was gonna go up to the University of Alaska and got a degree in,
Stewart Butler: [00:17:00] well I wanted to know the overall view of the mineral industries, so I was taking geological engineering rather than pure mining engineering or geology, which really doesn't qualify you for very much. I was at the University of Alaska for two years and--
Mason Funk: [00:17:30] Is that where you started getting involved in politics?
Stewart Butler: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that. Why did you get involved in politics?
Stewart Butler: I guess because I was a political animal, is what everyone's called it. I was elected student body beginning my second full year there, or rather elected at the end of my first full year
Stewart Butler: [00:18:00] to serve during my second full year. During that time, I could read you a lot of details, but I think that might take up too much time for what all we have to talk about.
Mason Funk: Right.
Stewart Butler: Now where was I?
Mason Funk: Did you get involved in politics because you wanted fame?
Stewart Butler: [00:18:30] I was president of the student body and I got a crush on my roommate, his name was Johnny Balisteri, during my last year.
Stewart Butler: [00:19:00] I decided, I asked my political science professor that I was thinking about running for the territorial legislature and he says, Why don't you?" So I went down and filed. I didn't know if I was a democrat or a republican. I picked the race where it looked like there would be the least opposition,
Stewart Butler: [00:19:30] so I went democratic. I went democratic and I won the thing by one vote,
Stewart Butler: [00:20:00] but it was an illegal vote. It was by a Canadian citizen who voted for me and he didn't have the right to vote. They didn't check things too much there. It took 90 days to get all the votes in from ... Oh, Johnny Balisteri's uncle was the carpenter's business agent
Stewart Butler: [00:20:30] and Johnny was gonna spend the summer there working as an apprentice carpenter. So his uncle
Stewart Butler: [00:21:00] took me along too, so I became a union carpenter and at the end of the summer, Johnny left and he was gone for good. I stayed on
Stewart Butler: [00:21:30] because I was politically connected now with the state democratic chairman with one or two others, so I said, Well," ... I was gonna say that they took 90 days for all the territorial senate votes to come in
Stewart Butler: [00:22:00] and it was on the last day, 90 days, that I had won by one vote. But it was the same day that we were granted statehood, thus nullifying that. Talk about poetic justice. So I ran for the first state legislature. As it turned out,
Stewart Butler: [00:22:30] I can't remember all of the details, but as it turned out, I was told that I needed to get out of that race, so I registered as a
Stewart Butler: [00:23:00] Democratic Senatorial candidate because there was only one man to go against. That's when the pressures came down on me that I'd better drop out of that race because he was a very, very much of a friend of the party chairperson. Of course, I did.
Stewart Butler: [00:23:30] Then I ran again, I guess, and lost to a guy, well, there's two. But the next year, he wasn't running, so I'm running third, so, wow. When it came time to register, I said, No, I've done this.
Stewart Butler: [00:24:00] It's time for me to take the summer off and go outside. In Alaska, we spoke of going outside.
Natalie Tsui: There's someone in the kitchen.
Mason Funk: Just one sec. Hey, Bill.
Bill: Yes?
Mason Funk: We can see you back there.
Bill: Oh, I'm sorry.
Mason Funk: We're seeing into the kitchen. Sorry about that.
Bill: Sorry.
Stewart Butler: Get outta the way.
Bill: I am.
Mason Funk: [00:24:30] (laughs) Let me jump forward a little bit because we've got a lot of ground still to cover.
Mason Funk: Who was Gregory Manella?
Stewart Butler: Dietrich Stromire, who maybe I mentioned also, talked me into going down to San Francisco to go to law school.
Stewart Butler: [00:25:00] So I went down to go to law school. The only people I knew in San Francisco were he and his wife. While I did pretty good that first year, he flunked out, so I was there all by myself.
Stewart Butler: [00:25:30] So I decided that for the Christmas holidays, I would take a cross country express bus to go to Whaleyville, Maine where I knew my family was having a reunion and surprise them without having said a word. On that bus, I met Gregory Manella. We got to talking and then
Stewart Butler: [00:26:00] when we stopped for something, he had epilepsy and he had a seizure and I came to try to help him out. That kinda made us friends. He was only 17 or 18 and
Stewart Butler: [00:26:30] he was going back to New York to rejoin his father and his lover. It turned out that the lover was trying to put the make on him, on Gregory, so even though hustled the streets of San Francisco,
Stewart Butler: [00:27:00] he went back to San Francisco without my having known about it. When I got back down to San Francisco and I was walking from where I lived up to where I went to school, I had to go through the Tenderloin and here Gregory saw me. He was hanging out in some gay joint.
Stewart Butler: [00:27:30] He came and jumped up on my shoulders and I said, Wow. Let me help this boy go straight and quit smoking marijuana. (laughs) We did. I took him down to Acapulco,
Stewart Butler: [00:28:00] I mean to Guadalajara and I said, Well, if I'm ever gonna try pot, this is the place to do it. I told Gregory and he says, Well, I'm not ... He pledged that he wouldn't going to try to get any pot while he was down there, so he wouldn't even help me go out and find it. I didn't know who to go to or anything else, didn't even know what it was and one thing or another.
Stewart Butler: [00:28:30] I, in observing one of the squares there, Zcalos, I got to see who was kinda running the place. I went up to him and asked him if he knew where I could get some. We had established an acquaintanceship.
Stewart Butler: [00:29:00] I went out and got it and brought it back and Gregory said, "That's it. That's it." We were afraid that it was a setup, you know, where we were gonna get arrested. First thing we did was clean that stuff and get it down to where it was clean,
Stewart Butler: [00:29:30] insert it into my collar to take it back across the States.
Mason Funk: Did you and Gregory end up having a long-term relationship?
Stewart Butler: His widow still calls me mom. (laughs) Can that tell you anything?
Stewart Butler: [00:30:00] I still send her ... She's an invalid and a cripple in a wheelchair and she's getting old and hard to get around. I send her a little money each month still.
Stewart Butler: [00:30:30] At some point while we were still in San Francisco, I think, I told Gregory, I said, "Well, look. I've always wanted to try it and you've done it so many times, it shouldn't make any difference to you, but I'd like to have sex with a male." And he got up and shut the blinds and started taking his clothes off and after having done whatever we did, I had to think about it and I said,
Stewart Butler: [00:31:00] "Wow. I guess I am gay." By this time, I was flunking out of law school because I quit studying because of getting involved with Gregory, trying to help him go on the straight and narrow, supposedly.
Stewart Butler: [00:31:30] The first year I was in San Francisco in this residents hall and I was having an affair with the cleaning lady. She left after the end of the summer and I can't remember all the details, they don't really matter anyway.
Mason Funk: That's okay.
Stewart Butler: [00:32:00] But all of the sudden, this other woman who I was going to leave because the other one had come back from Hawaii or wherever she went and said that she was gonna turn us in to the government, so we figured we better get outta here. We rented a car, not rented a car but drove a driveaway that was due to go to
Stewart Butler: [00:32:30] somewhere in Mississippi within striking distance of New Orleans. We had to have this car down to Los Angeles, or Riverside to the west, by the end of the next day. It was a matter of packing everything like that and driving away.
Stewart Butler: [00:33:00] We were driving all night, or into the evening and Gregory stayed awake to make sure I didn't go to sleep at the wheel. I said, "It's okay, I'm driving. That keeps me awake, you go ahead and take a nap." First thing you know,
Stewart Butler: [00:33:30] I drive right head on into a power pole and totaled the car. (laughs)
Mason Funk: Oops.
Stewart Butler: And he decide to have a seizure there. We didn't have that much money.
Mason Funk: Let's jump forward because I know we wanna get to New Orleans. You were on your way, at that point, to New Orleans.
Mason Funk: Let me--
Stewart Butler: And by that time I was about 34 years old.
Mason Funk: Okay. So you got to New Orleans. I know at some point you met Alfred Doolittle.
Stewart Butler: That was in 1973.
Mason Funk: How did you meet Alfred?
Stewart Butler: [00:34:30] It was like we were both down at Lafitte's and I was sitting there, you know, cruising the place. Lafitte's was the bar then and it still is one the main bars, the oldest in New Orleans.
Stewart Butler: [00:35:00] For whatever reason, he came on to me like gang busters, if you will and wanted me to take him home with him and he was pretty good looking. I was 42, he was 36. I said, "Well, you know, you wanna go home with me?"
Stewart Butler: [00:35:30] And he said, "Yeah." On the way to the car, he says, "You'll probably throw me out in the morning like everybody else does." (laughs) I said, "What have I gotten myself into this time?" He just kinda hung around and my friend, Wallace Baker, who I mentioned earlier, was around and said, " Why don't you just hang around?"
Stewart Butler: [00:36:00] And he did. Not too long afterwards, he said, "What day it is," and I tell him. He says, "Oh, great. I'm supposed to get some money on Friday," or whatever. I said, "Yeah, sure. You expect that John to pay you that $50 or something he promised you." But no, a check for $600 came.
Stewart Butler: [00:36:30] Alfred was from a very, very wealthy old socialite family from San Francisco, made their money in the gold rush days, going back that far. They had a lot of money. By this time, they weren't letting Gregory have
Stewart Butler: [00:37:00] what all should've been his, but they still sent him 600, which was a lot of money back in those days. I was only paying $70 a month for a furnished apartment, a large furnished apartment including utilities and everything in it, the furniture and goes down to dishes.
Stewart Butler: [00:37:30] I said, "Wow." He started just turning his money over to me, but when he wanted some, he wanted some. Once I tried to stop him and he hit me like and I said, "Well,
Stewart Butler: [00:38:00] I don't wanna get in a fight with him because one of us will kill the other one." I didn't know that he's both psychotic and schizophrenic, all of the above.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you this. Around the same time, Troy Perry was founding the Metropolitan Community Church. You remember Troy Perry?
Stewart Butler: [00:38:30] Oh, yeah.
Mason Funk: Tell us about the first time that you met him or heard about Troy Perry.
Stewart Butler: Have you ever heard about the Upstairs fire?
Mason Funk: That's what I was getting towards. I was moving that direction. Tell us about the Upstairs Lounge.
Stewart Butler: [00:39:00] The Upstairs Lounge was only open a year or so, but it wasn't a hustler bar like most of the other bars were. It was more of a social bar. And, of course, it was upstairs. It was really an apartment, but they primarily used just one room.
Stewart Butler: [00:39:30] Then somebody was making a big fuss about whatever, so Buddy Rasmussen, the bartender, who was a junior partner, came around and ... Well, the guy was trying to have sex in the restroom and this wasn't the bar for that,
Stewart Butler: [00:40:00] so he was hustled out of there, down the stairs. On the way, just before, he says, "You throw me out and I'll come back and I'll burn this place down." Somebody else had heard him that I was with, Steven DuPlanters from Lake Charles. He had to go anyway, he was in the Air Force in Biloxi. He left, but then Alfred says,
Stewart Butler: [00:40:30] "I wanna go to Wanda's." And Alfred was boss, so we left about 15 or 20 minutes before it actually happened. The biggest fire, as far as deaths were concerned, in the history of New Orleans to this very day. There were 32 all together.
Stewart Butler: [00:41:00] The reason people couldn't get out of the bar was because the fire was sweeping up the stairwell, which had these draperies in it and the main bar room, the windows were barred
Stewart Butler: [00:41:30] to keep unwanted people out, but they was keeping people in too. They were just consumed by fire, including the minister of the MCC Church. No church wanted to have any kind of service for any of these people,
Stewart Butler: [00:42:00] all these queers, you know. There were exceptions, and one of them was a father, Bill Richardson, whom I got to know pretty well, who was the Episcopal minister at a church up on St. Charles Avenue and also at St. Mark's Methodist Church
Stewart Butler: [00:42:30] there in the French Quarter. They allowed for a service and when we got in, they told us at some point that all of the news reporters and cameras were outside in front, and that whoever wanted to
Stewart Butler: [00:43:00] not have to face that can go out this other way. But not one person went that way. Everybody went out, but by chance, by this time, the cameras were gone. But they had this bravery to do that. This is about the time that Troy Perry showed up the first time.
Stewart Butler: [00:43:30] I think I met him then, Troy Perry.
Mason Funk: I remember you said that one of the really difficult things about the fire for you personally, the next day you had to go to work and just behave like nothing had happened. You couldn't be openly grieving because you couldn't out yourself. Is that right?
Stewart Butler: [00:44:00] That's right.
Mason Funk: Can you tell me about that?
Stewart Butler: The secretary was in on the secret that I was gay. She was sympathetic, but
Stewart Butler: [00:44:30] it was just hectic through that day, for sure. Because of all the people I knew that were in that. I can't remember their names, but there was a barber. In fact, I made an appointment for a haircut while we were up there. Buddy Rasmussen's lover was burned even though Buddy tried to get him out of there.
Stewart Butler: [00:45:00] But he was an alcoholic and he and Buddy had just separated and he just didn't wanna go, wouldn't go. Of course, most of them I had no idea who it was except for one other extra thin guy I knew from San Francisco who was very, very thin to the extent that
Stewart Butler: [00:45:30] he could slip between the bars and jump one story. You can bet the news cameras were all around that too. And the Fire Chief, McCrossen, was so homophobic that he had bad things to say.
Mason Funk: [00:46:00] Like what?
Stewart Butler: Oh, I don't remember specifically, but what I can tell you is a few years later, the fire department was going to have an exhibit at the state museum and of all the history in the fire department that they were showing, not one single mention
Stewart Butler: [00:46:30] of that fire because of him. That created a backfire and there were demonstrations about that.
Mason Funk: Some people say that that fire and the outrage--
Stewart Butler: The reason that Troy was down was because the MCC
Stewart Butler: [00:47:00] had their services on Sunday afternoon, just before the beer bust and their minister, one of the famous pictures that was shown in the newspaper was him totally burned trying to get out the window, but you could still recognize him. Horrible,
Stewart Butler: [00:47:30] and I saw him that night before I went to work. I knew him.
Mason Funk: Somebody told me that in the first edition of the newspaper that came out around midnight the night that the fire happened, that the very, very first edition had a headline that showed a photograph of somebody on fire
Mason Funk: [00:48:00] and it had a headline that said, Flaming Queen. Do you remember that? Did you hear about that?
Stewart Butler: I'm sure I did, but I don't remember it.
Mason Funk: Okay. Apparently--
Stewart Butler: I'm 86 years old and there's a lot of things I don't remember.
Mason Funk: Your memory's pretty incredible, I have to say, but I can understand why you wouldn't remember a little detail like that. Tell me this, why was it so important, at work, why could you not ...
Mason Funk: [00:48:30] Why was it very important at work that nobody except for your secretary find out that you were gay? What was the problem?
Stewart Butler: I was afraid of getting fired, for goodness sakes. It was a very, very religious man who ran the place, and his wife. The place was small enough where we socialized and
Stewart Butler: [00:49:00] we did dinner at their place and his wife was even worse. I forget where they were from, but she was a very stout Catholic, for whatever difference that makes. That's why I was afraid. Of course, later on,
Stewart Butler: [00:49:30] Johnny Walker is who I was working for ... Oh, and Gregory came back to New Orleans. We were still seeing each other. We weren't having any sex. I think we'd had sex all together maybe three or four times.
Stewart Butler: [00:50:00] Where am I?
Mason Funk: Let me ask you this, some people say that the fire and the outrage about the media's coverage really gave birth, was like the beginning of the New Orleans queer community. That's really when a community of people in New Orleans began to form.
Mason Funk: [00:50:30] Do you agree with that? Or can you tell us about that? What was the long-term effect of the fire?
Stewart Butler: The fire happened in '73 and there wasn't much happening in New Orleans until 1988 or so.
Mason Funk: [00:51:00] Let me ask you
Stewart Butler: No, I might be wrong on that.
Mason Funk: There was an organization that you helped create called LAGPAC.
Stewart Butler: Right...
Mason Funk: That was about 1980.
Stewart Butler: That's what I'm talking about.
Mason Funk: So tell us about forming that organization. What motivated you to do that?
Stewart Butler: Like I say, I was a political animal, even though I was gay.
Stewart Butler: [00:51:30] I was working to go down into the housing projects to get black people registered to vote. Somehow or another I'm that Roberts Batson ... Oh, it's because there was a democratic committee meeting or something to elect something and
Stewart Butler: [00:52:00] it was Roberts Batson that stirred a few people up to go to this and, of course nothing happened. That's when Roberts founded Louisiana Gay Political Action Caucus. I happened to be at that organizational meeting.
Stewart Butler: [00:52:30] I was not elected to the board, but I stepped forward and was doing what I was doing there. Of course, they can see I was in there like that. I took over membership and we really got up to around 200 members.
Mason Funk: [00:53:00] What was the purpose of this organization, LAGPAC?
Stewart Butler: To get a non-discrimination ordinance passed in the city of New Orleans. (laughs) We tried in '84 with no success and in '86 with no success.
Stewart Butler: [00:53:30] I think it was around 1990 that we finally got it, which was a real, real, real battle. There were some people, the Boucherie Carrier, Jim Ruston came out with us. I don't know if he was gay or not,
Stewart Butler: [00:54:00] and it was some other people who weren't necessarily gay who were on our side. We went out and ran full page ads in the newspaper after having gotten the endorsement of a whole bunch of businesses, church people and so forth and so on.
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] How did you go about getting endorsements from churches?
Stewart Butler: Well, there's Father Bill Richardson, to name one in the universe. The Unitarian church, you know, they're pretty liberal.
Mason Funk: Do you think that made a difference-- [crosstalk]
Stewart Butler: [00:55:00] And it seems like we even had a Catholic priest somehow. Of course, the Archdiocese got a little upset with him. (laughs)
Stewart Butler: [00:55:30] What finally happened was that Johnny Jackson, and we were endorsing candidates at this time, was running for the city council. In our interviews,
Stewart Butler: [00:56:00] we interviewed him and he spoke relatively positive and we endorsed him. This was for the primarily black portion of the city.
Stewart Butler: [00:56:30] Well, we don't have any votes. We got faggot votes. (laughs) He got elected and he took the lead. He went on marches on Washington with us. Have a picture of him going by The White House with a gay flag.
Stewart Butler: [00:57:00] In other words, along the way, there were a lot of inspiring people that had so much to help with. I haven't even been looking at my notes.
Mason Funk: That's alright. I got everything right here. But this gentleman, tell me, what was the name of this gentleman who was running for office and you endorsed him--
Stewart Butler: Oh, what--
Mason Funk: [00:57:30] The one who became such an important ally, what was his name?
Stewart Butler: Wait a second now.
Mason Funk: Was it Batson?
Stewart Butler: No.
Mason Funk: Okay. Harold Scott?
Stewart Butler: [00:58:00] Harold Scott?
Mason Funk: He was in your notes.
Stewart Butler: Oh, well, you talk about who is so helpful in doing what all we've been doing, and you can name all these people who are relatively well-known, but they couldn't do it by themselves. They had to have people who were following them and doing so much of the work and he was one of those people.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] Who was?
Stewart Butler: Harold Scott, to the extent that when he moved to Key West ... Let me read one portion of his letter that he wrote in 1983. " I didn't spend as much as I thought I would
Stewart Butler: [00:59:00] have to on moving expenses. I'm going to send a check to LAGPAC. I don't care how you use it, but if I need to specify, I guess half for the New Orleans chapter and half for the state chapter." It was a check for $25, a lot of money in those days. That's what I'm talking about. It wouldn't just the leaders, I'm talking about the troops.
Stewart Butler: [00:59:30] If you gonna have a demonstration, you need a lot of people who are not leaders, but who ... I mean, a march on Washington, how many people are well-known? There might be some people known in their state who helped put together a delegation from that state.
Stewart Butler: [01:00:00] I used to get together with Charlene Schneider at her lesbian bar. A bar that, years earlier, without getting into that story, at least not now, was a straight bar I used to go to with a friend. Now it was Charlene's and
Stewart Butler: [01:00:30] she and I got to be good friends, used to go back in her quarters in the rear, smoke marijuana together. (laughs) I forget, yeah, she was helping. She was the co-chair of one of those marches on Washington, helped get the women out.
Mason Funk: [01:01:00] So, you were saying it just, you had to get the troops organized in order to get anything done.
Stewart Butler: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Mason Funk: You mentioned Charlene Schneider. I know that you have her remains and some other people's remains in your--
Stewart Butler: [01:01:30] In our memorial garden.
Mason Funk: Can you tell me about that memorial garden? Tell me about it for someone's who's never seen it, who doesn't know what it is or who is in there.
Stewart Butler: It was for people who were cremated and we got all of the cremains of some,
[01:02:00] part of the cremains of some, a lock of hair from some that weren't cremated, such as Alfred. I haven't told you all about Alfred yet by any means. He was crucial to what I was doing, as it turned out. But we're not at that point yet, I don't guess, where--
Mason Funk: [01:02:30] We can. Let's go back and talk more about Alfred. Why was he so crucial?
Stewart Butler: I think I told you he came from a wealthy San Francisco family.
Stewart Butler: [01:03:00] When my folks were living in Virginia and Alfred's sister wanted to meet me, they came down to meet me. I don't know if Alfred was with us or not,
Stewart Butler: [01:03:30] but they decided that I was okay. You know, they were concerned about Alfred. He was, like that. Traveled all over Italy. He even went to Paris in the beatnik days before I met him. He knew James Burroughs
Stewart Butler: [01:04:00] and he had a whole bunch of nude, oh who was it? Harold Norris, who drew what they call acid drawings. Or at least they didn't call them that, but that's what I called them. I've got four of them in there. Alfred was buying things like that and somehow getting them home.
Stewart Butler: [01:04:30] He met the head of the ... What's the church of England?
Mason Funk: The church of England?
Stewart Butler: Yeah. Well, he met that guy somehow or another. You know, he was traveling high in more than one ways.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] How was he so important to what you were trying to accomplish here in New Orleans?
Stewart Butler: Once he wanted to ... We'd been living at 2115 for 10 years straight, which is where
Stewart Butler: [01:05:30] I was living when I first met him in '73. He took me on a trip to Europe, got to visit Denmark and, I think, Sweden and Denmark and Amsterdam and Paris. He took me down and showed me the old Beat Hotel
Stewart Butler: [01:06:00] where these people had hung out. You've heard of the beat generation. Of course a lot of people never have heard of them. He took me to, oh, what was the name of that caf where everybody hung out?
Mason Funk: Caf Du Monde? No, that's here in New Orleans.
Stewart Butler: [01:06:30] Caf ... Caf Flor ... I'm not sure, but it was where all the beat people hung out and when I went to Europe with him, those people were gone. When I went to Europe with Alfred, those people were gone.
Mason Funk: [01:07:00] Why was he so important to you? What did he mean to you?
Natalie Tsui: Sorry, there's 15 minutes left on the card, so should we switch over now?
Mason Funk: No, let's keep rolling for a few minutes more. Why was he so important to you, Alfred?
Stewart Butler: Because when he wanted to move back to, in 1979,
Stewart Butler: [01:07:30] back to Los Angeles to live his youth again and go to the chicken bars and ride the surf, we had to borrow money from his momma to put down on this house until we got the money from selling Prytania,
Stewart Butler: [01:08:00] down halfway between, my poor memory, Hollywood Boulevard and the street where all the hustlers hung out.
Mason Funk: Sunset or Santa Monica?
Stewart Butler: Could've been. Anyway, help me, where was I?
Mason Funk: [01:08:30] I was asking you why Alfred was so important to you. Now you told me that he decided he wanted to move back to L.A.--
Stewart Butler: Okay, the point here is that he didn't have the say on selling Prytania. I think maybe I'd given him half. But he had to have my approval and I said,
Stewart Butler: [01:09:00] "I'll do it on one condition." I was 48 at the time, and I said, "I'm not going to work anymore." By this time he was getting enough money from his family for both of us to live on. Course, I had to go out and meet his mother and I asked her, "Well, what do you want me to call you?" She says, "You can call me anything you want. How about Momma Do?" (laughs) I said, "Great."
Mason Funk: [01:09:30] What was that? Momma what?
Stewart Butler: Momma Do for Doolittle. So that's what it was. Whenever we came out to San Francisco, I came out to San Francisco and she would let me have her car. (laughs) Which, God knows, I didn't need. Parking's no picnic there.
Mason Funk: [01:10:00] So is the idea that by Alfred allowing you to retire, that freed you up to work full-time for gay and lesbian rights?
Stewart Butler: Yeah, and that's when I got involved just when things were happening. I got involved in everything there was, marches on Washington.
Stewart Butler: [01:10:30] I went to ... It wasn't too long afterwards where the students at LSU in 1980,
Stewart Butler: [01:11:00] or so, hosted the Southeastern Conference for Lesbians and Gay Men. I went to that conference and I have to tell you, I was totally blown away.
Stewart Butler: [01:11:30] One of the guys that put that together was named Robert Udick. Later on he was working in the print shop for Loyola University. We could get all sorts of free printing. (laughs) That's amaze ... When computers first came out, we were able to get our
Stewart Butler: [01:12:00] mailing list put on one of the oil company computers by one of their employees who had no idea what she was doing. It's mind boggling. For some reason I went to another print shop where they gave me real breaks on what the normal price would be. And he wasnt even gay.
Mason Funk: [01:12:30] Do you think you ... What skills or talents did you have that made you effective to get stuff done. How did you get stuff done?
Stewart Butler: Because I was a political animal, I suppose.
Mason Funk: What does that mean, a political animal? What does a political animal do?
Stewart Butler: [01:13:00] What does a politician do? That's what I mean. They go out and organize. It's not always a matter of being elected to public office. You can be a political animal. Look at Carville, James Carville, who my sister remembers. (laughs)
Stewart Butler: [01:13:30] As a little boy. And ... Again, where am I?
Mason Funk: I was asking why were you effective? You said because you both got people organized.
Stewart Butler: I got involved with Pete Flagg and was in charge of their membership in LAGPAC
Stewart Butler: [01:14:00] and the Southeastern Conference of Lesbians and Gay Men. I was so taken by it that the next year when they had it in Birmingham, I had to go. That's where I eventually met Ron Joullian.
Mason Funk: Ron who?
Stewart Butler: Ron Joullian and his lover,
Stewart Butler: [01:14:30] Tim Angle. Tim wouldn't particularly active, it was Joullian who was a deal for the Southeastern Conference. I got on the board, for God Sakes, and traveled all over the South for these board meetings. We had the Southeastern Conference here in New Orleans in '86
Stewart Butler: [01:15:00] in combination with our Celebration, which was an offshoot of that. I could go back into ... The state gay conferences started as a LAGPAC thing but then somebody told me, You don't get the people here
Stewart Butler: [01:15:30] because everybody thinks it's all political because it's LAGPAC that puts it. So, we spun off Celebration on its own. I worked with that for four or five or six years and I'm still great friends with, oh, God, I can't remember her name now.
Stewart Butler: [01:16:00] I could if I stopped, but she moved to Dallas but I'm still somewhat in touch with her.
Mason Funk: Wanna take a little break?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, we have to--
Mason Funk: Let's take a little, we have to switch a card on the camera. We have to just--
Stewart Butler: Oh, that's why you want a break. It's not so I can go pee, huh?
Mason Funk: Well, that's exactly right, but you can--
Natalie Tsui: [01:16:30] Rolling.
Mason Funk: Tell me more about Ron Joullian and why he was so important. Do me a favor. How do you spell Ron Joullian's name?
Stewart Butler: J-O-U-L-L-I-A-N.
Mason Funk: Great.
Stewart Butler: Now you've got it on the record.
Mason Funk: There you go.
Stewart Butler: [01:17:00] The way we got to know him even more was the fact that my parents lived up in Vermont during this period. Both had Alzheimer's, my sister was looking after them. We'd go up there three times a year. We'd go up there in the spring, fall, I mean the spring, Christmas, fall and we would always stop in Birmingham
Stewart Butler: [01:17:30] to spend the night with Ron Joullian. So we got to know him and his lover, Tim, very well. They had been here to New Orleans, at least Ron had, for the Southeastern Conference for Lesbians
Stewart Butler: [01:18:00] and Gay Men when we had it in conjunction with our Celebration, which had been a spin off of the same thing, which was quite a ... There was a bus of about 50 people who had come in from
Stewart Butler: [01:18:30] Atlanta and when they left, I had postpartum depression. Now, that's off the beat, but that was on the way to get back to Joullian too. It was the Southeastern Conference. Then we got to know them traveling back and forth so often. We'd spend a night or two in Birmingham
Stewart Butler: [01:19:00] and got to meet a lot of their friends. We'd kept trying to talk to them into coming down to New Orleans to visit. They thought that New Orleans would just be too much for them, too wild. But finally, I got them to come down one year for Mardi Gras.
Stewart Butler: [01:19:30] After that, they started coming more and more and more. We took weekend trips also to places like out into the bayou country like to Lafayette and Bayou Le Boeuf. I don't know that we got down to Grand ...
Stewart Butler: [01:20:00] We probably got down to Grand Isle. We went way down the river to as far as you could go one time and still drive. They started coming more and more and more and they were coming so often that finally they said, "We're spending so much time in New Orleans,
Stewart Butler: [01:20:30] we might as well move there." (laughs) It turns out that when I had to make a decision as to what to do with this estate that I have, which amounts to a good bit from Alfred and his family, they saw to it that I was well fixed
Stewart Butler: [01:21:00] after Alfred died. Even some money that didn't really go to Alfred. [crosstalk 01:21:19] Anyway, when they came down, like I say, they moved down here.
Stewart Butler: [01:21:30] Without going into all the details of where they lived and so forth and so on. Of course, we remained very, very tight, good friends. We met a whole bunch of other people from Alabama that were down here for one reason or another that they knew.
Mason Funk: What was the importance of Ron?
Stewart Butler: [01:22:00] He is my sole heir, my power-of-attorney, my medical power-of-attorney and that's not because I want him to have all of this. I wanna get it to the church because Alfred had, towards the end of his life, he was always so worried
Stewart Butler: [01:22:30] about my soul. I was reading to him some time and he was so desperately sick for about three months or so, couldn't eat or drink anything, tubes shoved down his throat.
Stewart Butler: [01:23:00] What's that got to do with it?
Mason Funk: You were reading him something.
Stewart Butler: And I had an epiphany and that look of relief and joy on his face, I could never forget. Probably more so than my first,
Stewart Butler: [01:23:30] remembering him ... Well, this is one picture of Alfred. At any rate, he got me--
Mason Funk: Tell me about the epiphany you had. What epiphany?
Stewart Butler: [01:24:00] About going to church, saving, being ... He was worried about that I was gonna go to Hell. For some strange reason, in reading him something from a play he wrote, Peter Puck, or maybe it was one of the other two plays he wrote that we had privately published in the same book when he was, and then when he was so sick I was reading it.
Stewart Butler: [01:24:30] Right after he died, I started going to church right here across the street. Oh, I'd asked him ... Alfred was raised an Episcopalian, but they sent him to Town School for Boys, which is a Catholic school and they converted his ass. He made me go around with him to see all of the different churches in New Orleans.
Stewart Butler: [01:25:00] Go to Mass somewhere. Not on a Sunday, but evening Mass, which is shorter, and different churches. Some of them we just went and saw and the architecture and everything was a real experience. Towards the end of his life,
Stewart Butler: [01:25:30] and I asked him, I said, "Now do you want your Mass to be done by the Catholics or the Episcopalians?" He says, "The Episcopalians." I said, "Thank you, Jesus." Right across the street. It's been such a wonderful experience.
Stewart Butler: [01:26:00] It's a church that has such a diversity. People who are openly gay, the chief administrator's gay and he has, you know, no secrets about it. Of course, straight people, black people and people with little babies and young children
Stewart Butler: [01:26:30] and wonderful people. It's an important part of my social life now as well as my spiritual life.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk 01:26:54] When you had this epiphany, did you feel like a connection to God for the first time, or how would you describe it?
Stewart Butler: [01:27:00] Oh, no, I'd been raised a Protestant. When I was at OCS and I wanted to pretend like I was Donald James McCormick, and I decided to become a Catholic, my father drove all the way from New York to Fort Worth, Kansas to intervene. And yet they wound up at one point being Episcopals.
Stewart Butler: [01:27:30] I said, Oh! I said, Why didn't you go in first class and get in with the Catholics? (laughs) They didn't like that.
Mason Funk: That's awesome, what did they say? They just laughed?
Stewart Butler: Yeah. The other time my father tried to intervene when I was indefinitely suspended from LSU when he drove all the way down.
Stewart Butler: [01:28:00] Then after I got back to New Orleans with Gregory and I told him I was gay, they drove all the way down from, this time they were living in Virginia, here to intervene. My father wanted me to go see a psychiatrist and he suggested that I go see his second cousin, or his cousin, I don't know which and
Stewart Butler: [01:28:30] I did. He said, Relax, I'm gay too. (laughs) You know, we were talking about when things, other things ...
Stewart Butler: Back to Ron Joullian, because I wanted the stuff to go to the church, but I didn't necessarily want everything to go to the church. I can just give Ron Joullian instructions as to
Stewart Butler: [01:29:00] what to do with this, that and the other thing, both in the matter of things and money. I might decide that ... And the other thing that happened is that, well ... At one time there was living over here in the back,
Stewart Butler: [01:29:30] taking, doing chores around with me to get groceries and one thing or another. He told me he would stay for another year and finally just said,
Stewart Butler: [01:30:00] I'm leaving at the end of this year. I went berserk. I was obsessing on him. I started to, what do they call it, when you try to spy on people? And he caught on and he left.
Stewart Butler: [01:30:30] I told him that I want you to take $5000 and get out of here today. You can come back later for your things. I was nuts. We had to stay apart, for the most part, for several years. I went to--
Mason Funk: So he lives here now?
Stewart Butler: [01:31:00] That's the miracle. When I was last in the hospital, double pneumonia, which was back in, what year is it?
Mason Funk: 2017 now.
Stewart Butler: The year 2000 ... when I got out of the hospital.
Stewart Butler: [01:31:30] This family-- What we have here is what we call a family of friends, no blood connection, but like blood. When I got out of the hospital, then Roger Joullian said,
Stewart Butler: [01:32:00] "You've got to have somebody come live with you." I said, "And I'm quitting driving." I should've quit before. I quit smoking when Alfred died, boom. The doctor said later on when I got COPD, said, "You gotta quit." I said,
Stewart Butler: [01:32:30] "I've already quit smoking for three years or eight years or whatever." Because I quit smoking to take this out, somehow. I said, "But what about marijuana?" "Oh, that's okay." Then when I got worse with my COPD, he said, 'No more smoking, not even marijuana.. I said, "Can I do brownies?" He says, "Oh, yeah. That's okay." (laughs)
Mason Funk: [01:33:00] Go back to, you were telling me about getting double pneumonia and that lead to Bill coming back?
Stewart Butler: Honey, he says he's a Pagan, but he acts more like a Christian should act than most Christians.
Stewart Butler: [01:33:30] He's such a wonderful, wonderful man. I still love him but I can't obsess.
Stewart Butler: And he loves me, and I know that. I said, "Why do you love me?" He said... Oh, I said, "You really love me?" He said, "If I didn't, I would be out of here." (laughs)
Stewart Butler: [01:34:00] But he is, in many ways, my boss, in some ways. I got pretty much of a free hand and still take care of myself in many, many ways, but I could not do that if he were not here.
Stewart Butler: [01:34:30] As indirectly, that's all because I went to the Southeastern Conference up at LSU. You get the strings?
Mason Funk: Yeah, yeah. So, Ron Joullian is still around? He's still part of your life?
Stewart Butler: Oh, yeah. He's 68, Bill's 69.
Stewart Butler: [01:35:00] He doesn't have the strength at all that he once did, you know, but he brings all the groceries in ... I go grocery shopping with him. Put my oxygen in a push cart and get around and buy certain things and then meet him and we check out together.
Stewart Butler: [01:35:30] Because what he's getting is a stipend plus room and board. He's never been one to want very much.
Mason Funk: [01:36:00] I wonder if you should have a look at the questionnaire and see if there's anything that you feel is important for us to talk about.
Stewart Butler: You can edit this out, but, after we're through, I wanna show you some things on here.
Stewart Butler: On your questionnaire.
Stewart Butler: [01:36:30] Of course, I could go into more detail as far as the University of Alaska's concerned having gone on the Forestry Service in Idaho with the wheat harvest at
Stewart Butler: [01:37:00] age 19, which was, you know, all these things is so memorable.
Mason Funk: Can you just sit back for a second and just talk to me about what was, I wanna know what was important about those experiences for you, the wheat harvest, like--
Stewart Butler: The traveling, wanting to see things.
Mason Funk: [01:37:30] Mm-hmm (affirmative). Why was that important? How did that change you?
Stewart Butler: It got me up to Alaska and it got me to San Francisco, made me a queer. We traveled ... Alfred and I, I've been to every state in the Union except two and that's Michigan,
Stewart Butler: [01:38:00] no, it's Minnesota and Hawaii. Then since I've been back here in New Orleans since the second time we came back in '79 is when we bought this house.
Mason Funk: [01:38:30] Tell us about this house. What is it called?
Stewart Butler: The Faerie Playhouse, but you gotta spell Faerie correctly. It's F-A-E-R-I-E. That name comes from Alfred because he spoke a lot and thought a whole lot about fairies and,
Stewart Butler: [01:39:00] of course, Alfred Doolittle gave me so, so many wonderful experiences in my life and a lot of trial and a lot of humor. Once we went to the opera, Salomon. You know what happens in that opera? She strips down naked. She's getting up to that point,
Stewart Butler: [01:39:30] Alfred takes off his shoes. She starts taking off her clothes and he starts taking off his clothes. I said, "Stop that," and I got up and left.
Stewart Butler: [01:40:00] He'd gone down to Lafitte's and got the shit beat out of him, came home, black eye and everything, but that wouldn't funny. What was funny? I think it was the LAGPAC meeting that we were going ... No, it was a meeting to
Stewart Butler: [01:40:30] get a community center going. We had a meeting and everybody ... Finally Alfred got up and said, "Why don't y'all quit ... and do something." (laughs)
Mason Funk: When did he die and what did he die of? Alfred?
Stewart Butler: What?
Mason Funk: [01:41:00] When did Alfred die and what caused his death?
Stewart Butler: I always said that it was the smoking. He'd smoke a whole cigarette at once, or rather, he'd light it, put it down, light another one and go through a carton a day. He was very ... But they said it was his heart.
Stewart Butler: [01:41:30] Well, whatever you wanna call it. Oh, in his final sickness, they finally put a feeding tube in his stomach and they got him out of the hospital before they
Stewart Butler: [01:42:00] even told me how you do it. We had hired, look after people who are ill, but they're not nurses.
Mason Funk: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Like a--
Stewart Butler: So they couldn't do anything about that. It was me.
Stewart Butler: [01:42:30] But it went a point, Father Bill Terry from across the street, came to give him final communion. We just slipped a teaspoon of water into his mouth
Stewart Butler: [01:43:00] and he says, "Oh, that tasted so good." (laughs) Then there was a time, like I said, he'd give me the money, then he'd want me to give it to him and he wanted $500,
Stewart Butler: [01:43:30] or $400 because he wanted to go down to Maison Blanche and buy a gown. I gave it to him, I didn't have any choice. Then he calls me up and he says, "That's not enough, I need another hundred." (laughs)
Mason Funk: [01:44:00] What did he need a gown for?
Stewart Butler: His imagination. I used to have to, there was one medicine that he didn't mind taking too much, but the one that he really needed to take if you're gonna knock his ass out, came in a capsule. So I'm upstairs grinding up pills, emptying out capsules and putting
Stewart Butler: [01:44:30] the pills into the capsule. Then I'd slip him the capsule. He'd do that in a bar sometimes. You know, when he's really getting messed up. He would take it then wanna go home,
Stewart Butler: [01:45:00] so I brought him home and I went back out. We did not have a monogamous relationship. It wouldn't just on my part, even though I must say I was naughtier than he was. But finally before he finally died, he'd gotten so used to the pills
Stewart Butler: [01:45:30] that he was putting his own out every week and you didn't have to worry about it.
Mason Funk: Listen, I think we should probably wrap up pretty quick. I think one question I have is, you talked about, for the queer community,
Mason Funk: [01:46:00] you talked about the importance of men including and having forming community with women, with lesbians, with trans people. Why was that important?
Stewart Butler: The gay community is men and women overall, but yet
Stewart Butler: [01:46:30] you never would see a woman come down into, well, sometimes a woman would go into Lafitte's or something and they had blacks going in there too. And so dignity--
Mason Funk: Oops, sorry.
Natalie Tsui: Sorry, that battery needs to change.
Mason Funk: We have to change your battery. Hold on one second, okay?
Mason Funk: Do you want me to grab a battery?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah. I have to turn this off, otherwise blasts it with static.
Mason Funk: Okay, just one sec, sorry.
Natalie Tsui: I usually change--
Stewart Butler: Need to take this out, right?
Natalie Tsui: Thank you.
Stewart Butler: What do you do with your used batteries?
Natalie Tsui: [01:47:30] We charge them.
Mason Funk: These are rechargeable, so we never throw them away.
Stewart Butler: Good. We don't have rechargeable, but we recycle.
Mason Funk: Uh-huh.
Stewart Butler: Bill's mad on that. I used to be, I can't anymore. Well, around the house, but not out picking up cans or one thing or another.
Mason Funk: [01:48:00] Okay, so I was asking you, why was it important for the gay male community to expand and form relationships and bringing women and lesbians and trans people, this is something you've said. I wanted hear more about that. Why was that important?
Stewart Butler: As I told you, we had Celebration, went on for some years. Almost as soon as I
Stewart Butler: [01:48:30] quit running Celebration, the women started taking over, to the extent that one year they said that, because of one lesbian who didn't want anybody to know that she was gay other than gay people.
Stewart Butler: [01:49:00] They had a Celebration in which it didn't have any workshops that had anything to do with men, no male speakers, it's all female. I went ahead and invited Johnny Jackson
Stewart Butler: [01:49:30] that I told you about before. They wrote me back and they said, "We accept your resignation." (laughs) That's what I don't want. I want people to be together whether they're black or white or young or, I hate this confrontations.
Stewart Butler: [01:50:00] You don't have to, I mean you can discuss something and come to something. We're losing that too in this country. I believe the more people get to know each other and get over some of their religious prejudices,
Stewart Butler: [01:50:30] that we'd have a much happier world. That's something I guess I learned over my lifetime. And as far as the transgenders are concerned, I was on ... I don't know how it happened, but this one transgendered woman
Stewart Butler: [01:51:00] somehow got me involved and it ... And the HRC, Human Rights Campaign, wouldn't have anything to do with it because they said, "It's not in our mission statement."
Stewart Butler: [01:51:30] And it was the same damn thing that LAGPAC had done when Dignity came because they were discriminating against blacks and women in the bar. Oh, "That's not in our mission statement." Horrible! I think anybody should be able to go anywhere they want if it's open to the public.
Mason Funk: [01:52:00] Do you think that times are changing in ... I mean, I know that we have a political situation in this country that's horrible, but in the gay community, do you think people are becoming more inclusive?
Stewart Butler: [01:52:30] We don't have the activism we once did. They don't feel the need for it. As far as gay marriage is concerned, it's something they just stumbled upon. It's great, of course, but like in Alfred's and my case, I wouldn't working. Alfred was getting the income, but I still had to file an income tax because of my social security or whatever.
Stewart Butler: [01:53:00] But we beat them on that because Alfred adopted me. I wasnt working, he could take me as a dependent. All the income was coming to him. So many things you learn along the way.
Stewart Butler: [01:53:30] It's been a wonderful adventure the whole life and then the LGBT Plus archive project of Louisiana. My once somewhat active gay involvement, even though I still have good, I mean LAGPAC is no longer, but I still have good friends all over the place and in PFLAG, which, of course is still here,
Stewart Butler: [01:54:00] but it's not as big as it once was. It's a tiny little thing, which is too bad. They did so much good work. Now it's just for faggots, but for these homophobes. They suffer from homophobia just as much
Stewart Butler: [01:54:30] and there more of them than do the lesbians and gays and transgenders. Then the transgenders has such a hard time. I mean, the gays and lesbians had such a hard time accepting the transsexuals. That was because of Barney Frank, our great friend up in the senate because he didn't wanna go over the edge as far as trying
Stewart Butler: [01:55:00] to get something passed. Of course, I don't think they ever have.
Mason Funk: Why do you say, it's really interesting when you say that the homophobes suffer from homophobia and there's a lot more of them. Why do you say they suffer ... What do you mean when you say they suffer from homophobia.
Stewart Butler: It's homophobia that keeps them from knowing that their young child is gay
Stewart Butler: [01:55:30] and who commits suicide because he's afraid to tell them, one example. You can go a thousand other places. Why do you think PFLAG exists? Parents having a hard time dealing with their children and children having, young gay people having a hard time dealing with their parents.
Stewart Butler: [01:56:00] It's what LAGPAC, I mean, PFLAG was started on and I happen to been involved with them from their very beginning. This is a ...
Stewart Butler: Eventually getting more and more involved. Political. (laughs)
Mason Funk: Hey, Natalie. Do you have questions?
Natalie Tsui: [01:56:30] I don't.
Mason Funk: Okay. Okay, I have four short questions to ask you to wrap up. Number one, if a person comes to you and says, "I'm thinking about coming out," whatever that means to that person, what's your advice to that person?
Stewart Butler: First of all, I'd ask them why is that such a problem to you? Then I would give them
Stewart Butler: [01:57:00] the best advice that I could, considering. It could very well be said, "Go see PFLAG." Going back to this church, it has as many gay and lesbian people as it does because this the only church that is as accepting
Stewart Butler: [01:57:30] of gays and lesbians as anyone, except MCC, of course, and they don't have any straight, I mean they don't have any, maybe one or two. That answer your question?
Mason Funk: Yeah. Number two, what is your hope for the future?
Stewart Butler: [01:58:00] Cash out of here without having a lingering death. (laughs) That's my hope for the future. As for the world, I don't have much hope, what with climate change and war just over the horizon anywhere. No, they're gonna blow this planet right off the map
Stewart Butler: [01:58:30] and there'll be a few people who manage to get to Mars or something. But that'll be it. Of course, they could start a new colony. (laughs) They could be the aliens.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Stewart Butler: Because hopefully other people can learn something from it.
Mason Funk: [01:59:00] What would you like people to learn from your story?
Stewart Butler: To be open-minded and take it as far as you can go, no matter what.
Mason Funk: What do you mean, take it as far as you can go?
Stewart Butler: [01:59:30] You're gonna die, if nothing else, or you become, as you get older, your boundaries shrink. God knows mine have, I think. They keep on shrinking. Of course, you still learn new things, but not as quickly as you forget them, and short term memory too.
Mason Funk: [02:00:00] So you want people to take it as far as they can go, meaning?
Stewart Butler: Put it this way, I don't have that much hope for the future.
Stewart Butler: [02:00:30] I think the planet itself is doomed. I could be wrong, you know, I mean.
Mason Funk: I hope you're wrong, but I understand why you feel that way. A lot of people do.
Mason Funk: [02:01:00] What do you feel about this community we call the LGBT Plus, or the LGBTQ community that you have helped create? How do you feel about that community?
Stewart Butler: How do I feel about it? I think they're doing important work for as far as it goes. You talk about archives,
Stewart Butler: [02:01:30] you know, eventually there won't be any archives anywhere, probably. Did you see in the newspaper where they found some cases of wine down in Liberty Hall whenever they were trying to restore the wine cellar and they found cases of wine that was 221 years old now? (laughs)
Mason Funk: [02:02:00] In Liberty Hall where, here in New Orleans or in Philadelphia?
Stewart Butler: No, that was in Philadelphia, yeah.
Mason Funk: So how was the--
Stewart Butler: That's what I said, Independence Hall.
Mason Funk: Yeah, okay. And did they open the wine?
Stewart Butler: [inaudible] (laughs) If there was enough of it and I had a chance to, I sure as shit would.
Mason Funk: [02:02:30] (laughs) So-
Stewart Butler: And I also believe in getting as much enjoyment from life you as can in whatever state you're in. Sometimes that might even be shortening your life or not.
Mason Funk: [02:03:00] You think people don't generally get as much enjoyment out of life as they ought to?
Stewart Butler: People in general?
Stewart Butler: Oh, they think they do. I guess that's as good as anything.
Mason Funk: My last question, is this project, the reason we're here today is a project called OUTWORDS and it's an attempt to capture stories like yours from just all over the country
Mason Funk: [02:03:30] and bring them all together in one place. What do you see as the importance or value of doing that?
Stewart Butler: Just to protect our history. Not that you are the only one trying to preserve history,
Stewart Butler: [02:04:00] but a lot of people want to put it on paper and some want to put it on computers or a dozen different ways like the LGBT Plus. We're also interested in oral histories. [crosstalk 02:04:35]
Mason Funk: [02:04:30] The value of that, all these projects taken together, what is the value?
Stewart Butler: Just so people will know that we've had a hard time, I guess, break down all the prejudice that still are there.
Mason Funk: [02:05:00] What is the hardest thing that you think you've faced?
Stewart Butler: (laughs)
Stewart Butler: [02:05:30] I don't know. I'm thinking about when Alfred died, but I was prepared for it, so it wouldn't, in a sense, that hard to do. Of course, I've had a lot of hard things, but the hardest thing ...
Mason Funk: [02:06:00] But you said you want people to know that we had a hard time as queer people. You want people to understand that.
Mason Funk: So, what do you mean by that when you say we've ... the hard things we've faced, the hard things we've dealt with, like what? I know it seems like maybe an obvious question, but I just wanna get your opinion.
Stewart Butler: [02:06:30] My opinion on what now?
Mason Funk: When you say you want people to know the hardships we've faced as queer people. What hardships are you talking about?
Stewart Butler: Mass sidewalk arrests, if nothing else. Stonewall, or what led up to Stonewall.
Stewart Butler: [02:07:00] Losing George Muscony in, not Muscony, but ...
Mason Funk: Harvey Milk.
Stewart Butler: Harvey Milk in San Francisco. That was hard.
Mason Funk: Okay. Well, thank you. I really, really appreciate you letting us come here today to talk to you.
Stewart Butler: [02:07:30] Glad to have done it.
Mason Funk: Okay, thank you very much. We're gonna record, for technical reasons, 30 seconds of this room with nobody talking. Natalie will call it out.
Natalie Tsui: Okay, room tone.
Natalie Tsui: [02:08:30] Okay, that's good. Thank ...

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Natalie Tsui
Date: July 12, 2017
Location: Home of Stewart Butler, New Orleans, LA