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Al Baum was born in 1930 and raised in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. His father was a successful investment counselor, and hoped that Al and his brother would follow in his footsteps, but neither son was interested. Al served in the military, went to Harvard Law School, got a second graduate degree in city planning at UC Berkeley, and ending up working for several years at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, where he had primary responsibility for writing regulations to save San Francisco Bay.

Al’s family were secular Jews. But during his military service in Germany in the 1950s, he attended Shabbat services for the first time. It was the beginning of a profound connection to his faith that would guide Al for the rest of his life.

For many years, Al kept the pieces of his life – work, sexuality, faith – separate. Just as he evolved into his Jewish identity, he took his time realizing his gay identity, only coming out when he was 45. By that point, Al was running his own city and regional planning consulting firm. On the side, he bought and restored seven grande dames of Victorian architecture in San Francisco. In the mid-80s, it was back to school again, this time to earn a master’s degree in social work. Following that, he was in private psychotherapy practice for some 25 years. In 1996, Al founded the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, uniting perhaps the two most important strands of his personal life.

Over the years, Al has served on the boards of many organizations including Jewish Family and Children Services of San Francisco, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the ACLU of Northern California, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. He was a founding member of the New Israel Fund, and has been an active supporter of Openhouse, a San Francisco LGBTQ senior organization. Al has also received numerous honors and awards, and in 2014, served as Grand Marshal of the San Francisco Pride Parade, accompanied by his partner, interior designer Robert Holgate.

An unfailingly courteous, clear-sighted man, Al talked both comfortably and introspectively about his life during his OUTWORDS interview in May 2017. At several points, he broke into tears for no obvious reason. Regardless of their meaning, Al’s tears suffused his interview with a sense of poignancy, and let us know we were in the presence of a big-hearted man.
[00:00:00] [banter]
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] Okay. Whenever you're ready, if you wouldn't mind starting by telling us your first and last names, spell them out, and let's just start there.
Al Baum: Alvin Baum.
Mason Funk: Could you spell them for me?
Al Baum: B-A-U-M.
Mason Funk: Okay. Do you prefer to be identified on screen as Al or Alvin?
Al Baum: I use them interchangeably.
Mason Funk: You do?
Al Baum: Depending on the circumstances.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Al Baum: [00:01:00] I'm known more frequently as Al, but that's ... I don't know.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right.
Al Baum: You can decide when we're through with the interview. No, you won't because you need to decide now.
Mason Funk: No, we can actually decide later.
Al Baum: All right. I feel comfortable with Al.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Okay. Tell me what your birth date is and where you were born.
Al Baum: I was born on September 7th, 1930 in Chicago.
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] Okay. Great. Tell me a little bit about the family you were born into.
Al Baum: Well let me correct my name, I'm Junior. My father was Alvin H Baum and I'm Alvin H Baum, Junior. My father and mother were both born in Chicago. And both of them had foreign fathers and American mothers. They met when my mother was 21, I think,
Al Baum: [00:02:00] and my father was 28, something like that. They were married in 1928. What would you like to know more?
Mason Funk: Most families have kind of a culture. What things are valued? What things are not valued? Can you give me a sense of your familys culture?
Al Baum: Everybody has a father and a mother, so they have two cultures because they are rarely the same.
Al Baum: [00:02:30] And then the nuclear family develops its own culture. My parents parents knew each other before they got engaged, and that was important in those days. I think my mothers parents were very pleased that they knew the Baums already. They lived in roughly the same area of Chicago,
Al Baum: [00:03:00] it's called Hyde Park, and within, I don't know, 15 blocks of each other. Incidentally, where I was born is one block from where the Obamas live. And thats - that's a recent development obviously, but it's an interesting one. Culture, I've never thought about it in that way before.
Al Baum: [00:03:30] They both - both of the fathers ... No, my mother's father came from eastern Europe. His father was a Rabbi. I knew very little about his family. My grandfather never talked about his family. My grandmother, who was obviously from a different family, invited all of his relatives to a dinner once a year and never more often because he didn't want to see them.
Al Baum: [00:04:00] But she thought it was proper to do that, so they did that.My father's mother's father was a mayor in Neenah, Wisconsin, and the story, which may or may not be true, is that one day, he was approached by two gentlemen from the town
Al Baum: [00:04:30] to ask whether he would join them in an enterprise that they were about to start because they had sales covered and they had the technical part of it covered, but they didn't have a financial person and he was known to be good at that.And he said, "Well, I'm really sorry. I would love to join you, but I've already planned to move to Chicago." That was Kimberly and Clark, the makers of Kleenex, and we've been sorry ever since.
Al Baum: [00:05:00] So, he was something of a big fish in a small pond. They moved to Chicago and two of ... My grandmother's name was Celia Billstein, and her brother, who was something of an alcoholic, lived next door to them on a street called
Al Baum: [00:05:30] Washington Park Place that I have never been to. And they were pretty educated people. Not college-educated, but they were very educated in spite of that.My mother's father, in 1901, became the first employee of a company that has changed names but is still around. It's now called GATX, which started out
Al Baum: [00:06:00] as the German-American Tank-Car Company, and he - my grandfather somehow acquired secretarial skills and he was the first employee. There were two partners who had come from Germany also, and he was their first employee. And he ended up Vice President of Traffic, which was a very important job in this company.He did very well for himself, very well for himself.
Al Baum: [00:06:30] I remember once, when I was a kid, kidding one of my parents about the way they were talking. I don't remember what it was, and they both said to me, practically in unison, "You're lucky. Many of our friends have parents who don't speak English, or don't speak it very well, and you have all four grandparents who speak perfect English without any accent,
Al Baum: [00:07:00] so don't complain about us." And they were right.My grandfather on my father's side got Multiple Sclerosis, and, first of all, he had to move from Chicago to Los Angeles, and then he died. I never knew him. I was two or three years old when he died. My grandmother, his widow, continued to live in Central Los Angeles,
Al Baum: [00:07:30] a block from the Ambassador Hotel, which is now gone, for many years. She lived to a ripe old age, and my father's sister, Hermine, lived first in Hancock Park, and then in Brentwood. She also died at a ripe old age. She went to Vassar, which was unusual in those days. She was class of 1918, I think, something like that.
Al Baum: [00:08:00] So, I come from an educated family. Not always college-educated, but they knew a lot and they read and they were financially comfortable. For the first six years of my life, we lived in the family flat in Hyde Park, part of Chicago. It was a two-flat building.
Al Baum: [00:08:30] My parents lived on the first floor, and my grandparents lived on the second floor for years until they moved to Los Angeles. That's the part of Chicago that was "saved" by the University of Chicago, and it's still a very stable biracial section, still. Culture.
Al Baum: [00:09:00] Honesty was valued. Education was valued. Hard work was valued. In those days, people worked five and a half days or six days a week. My father worked Saturday mornings. He'd get on the train because we were, by that time, living in Highland Park, which is a suburb on the North Shore of Chicago, and he would go into his office. Whether we really accomplished anything,
Al Baum: [00:09:30] I don't know, but he would go and that certainly has changed.I think I'll stop there because I'm not really sure what you meant by culture and I've done what I can do with it.
Mason Funk: Yeah. You've given me a lot of good clues to the prevailing set of values and ... Was it important to your parents that you get ... For example, you say,
Mason Funk: [00:10:00] "Educated, not necessarily college-educated." Was it important to them that you go to a good university, or were you very self-motivated? How did that all come about?
Al Baum: It was important to me. My father went to the University of Chicago, and my mother went to Wellesley, and I went to Harvard. At some point in the last 70 years or so, I asked myself, "Why did I go to Harvard?"
Al Baum: [00:10:30] And actually, I figured out ... I don't like the explanation very much, but I went to Harvard because a friend of my parents, who had been a beau of my mother's before she was married went to Harvard. So, I heard a lot about Harvard when I was growing up. This man, I won't go into the details and I won't name his name, but he was almost a prototypical Harvard man,
Al Baum: [00:11:00] and therefore not universally beloved, as I say.So, I'm glad I didn't realize it earlier so I didn't have to discuss it with my father. But I got the idea. I did very well in school, and I went to the school that I wanted to ... Well, I didn't. No. I applied to Harvard and to Swarthmore,
Al Baum: [00:11:30] and at Swarthmore, which is much, much, much smaller, they put me on the waiting list and that was it for me. I decided I'd go to Harvard. They had decided it for me, which made it a lot easier for me to decide where to go to college.And I was very happy there. I don't know if I would have been better off at Swarthmore. I'll never know that because that's a hypothetical that didn't happen. So, I was always at or near the top of my class in high school,
Al Baum: [00:12:00] public high school, Highland Park High School. The famous high school in that part of the woods is New Trier, which was our chief rival in football and other things, also, and Highland Park High was not as good as New Trier. I'll say that out loud. But, it was a good high school and I got a pretty good education there.
Mason Funk: [00:12:30] What were the years ... You know, WWII broke out when you would have been about 11, and so those early teenage years of yours, the war was happening.
Al Baum: Well actually, the war started in 1939-
Mason Funk: Well, that's true. Our-
Al Baum: -with the German invasion of Poland.
Mason Funk: Right. So, tell me how that was viewed and experienced by you and your family, and start out by talking about, letting us know you're talking about ...
Al Baum: That is such an interesting question.
Al Baum: [00:13:00] Well, what comes to mind first is that we did not suffer very much during the war. Until 1942, we were living in a rental house, a very nice house on a ravine, but it was rental because my parents didn't feel that they could yet afford to buy a house. I can remember ... This is strange.
Al Baum: [00:13:30] I haven't thought about this ... I was sitting under the piano in the living room when ... I don't know if it was Pearl Harbor or if it was the German invasion of Poland [inaudible 00:49:44], but I was sitting with a friend. We were just sitting under the piano, and I don't know why, and I have a visual memory of that, which is very strong.Also, we had some relatives who were in the meat business,
Al Baum: [00:14:00] and they had lived in the tiny village - - sort of near Frankfurt, near Bingen on the Rhine, really, where my grandfather had come from, and they didn't leave when they should have left.So, when 1938 or '39 arrived, and it was very clear what was going to happen in Germany to anybody who was willing to see
Al Baum: [00:14:30] what was in front of their eyes, my father and a distant relative got the family out. And they moved to Chicago and went back into the meat business, so all during the war, my mother would get legs of lamb and beef roasts and so on, all wrapped up really nice, and then they'd come out and there were no ration stamps exchanged.
Al Baum: [00:15:00] That was the fringe benefit of having those relatives in the meat business.I remember rationing of gasoline, because you had to turn in a coupon when you went to the gas station. Oh, well, maybe this is relevant, too. I have a - I had a cousin who was killed in the war.
Al Baum: [00:15:30] He was a bomber pilot. He was the son, one of the two sons of my Aunt Hermine in Los Angeles. He was the younger son and there is a photo, which I don't have a copy of, of him sitting on a fence, wearing a Harvard t-shirt. He did not go to Harvard. I don't know where he got or how he got the Harvard t-shirt, but he was a very handsome young man and my father essentially was
Al Baum: [00:16:00] the father to those kids because their father had died very young. And he was in Chicago. They were in Los Angeles, but there was a lot of back and forth, so the picture was in a place of honor in our home.So that was certainly a big effect of the war on me, and there's more I could say about that if you want to pursue it. But aside from that, really it was far away,
Al Baum: [00:16:30] and I was ... when the war ended in 1945, I was only 15. So, I kept up with the war. I read the newspaper carefully every day. I could have told you about battles. I can't now, but I could have then. But I can't say it had a huge effect on me.
Mason Funk: Do you remember, this morning we interviewed a woman who was born in '35, so, five years younger than you.
Mason Funk: [00:17:00] But she remembers ... she was from Milwaukee, and she remembered just this kind of tangible sense, well I guess my question is, did you have a sense that we could win the war, we could lose the war.
Al Baum: No.
Mason Funk: No? Tell me about that.
Al Baum: The worst part of the war was 1940 when London was bombed so badly,
Al Baum: [00:17:30] and then again, of course, in December of 1941 when the impossible happened at Pearl Harbor. But very soon after Pearl Harbor, we started winning things, winning battles, and the convoy system on the Atlantic protected most ships from being sunk by submarines. I never had any fears of that.
Mason Funk: [00:18:00] That's interesting. That's really an interesting comment.
Al Baum: Maybe she lived on the East Coast, which may have been much more war handy.
Mason Funk: No, she was there in Milwaukee, but I'm thinking she was also younger, and also, you know, her family circumstances might have been different.
Al Baum: Right. Well, if she was only ... you know, I was 15 when it ended, she was what? Ten when it ended. There's a big difference. She didn't read the newspapers every day.
Al Baum: [00:18:30] You know, what happened, we forget it, although Trump has certainly caused many people to remember it or learn it for the first time. This was an isolationist country up until the start of the war and, most importantly, Pearl Harbor. And what happened when the war started was, people realized we were going to have to go into it eventually,
Al Baum: [00:19:00] in all likelihood, and the war plants started. People got jobs, people who didn't have jobs.The depression in the United States never really ended until 1940, and a lot of people were still unemployed, and they got employment very quickly. So that was, it's hard to think of a benefit of World War II, but that was a benefit.
Mason Funk: [00:19:30] So, by the time you were heading off to Harvard, working hard in high school, deciding to go to Harvard, did you have any sense of how you expected your life to unfold? Or were you sort of taking it as it came, or were you ...
Al Baum: Well, I was definitely taking it as it came, because that's all you can ever do, but yes, I thought ... My father had a good business as he would describe it and did describe it to my brother and me.
Al Baum: [00:20:00] He was what they called then an investment counselor, and now it's sort of a combination of a financial planner and a broker, a stock broker, and maybe other things too. But it was a very white collar job, a very socially acceptable job, and he did a very good job. He had a partner,
Al Baum: [00:20:30] and I never asked him this. I should have asked him this - whether he chose his partner, because of what I'm about to tell you. I hope not, because he was a very nice man, but he was a grandson of Julius Rosenwald.And so they - the Rosenwalds - in 1930, were down to their last 30 million dollars. 1930, that's equivalent to a billionaire now, or more than one billionaire.
Al Baum: [00:21:00] So, my dad and the other man borrowed money from the other man's parents to start a business, and they were very successful with it. It's gone through many permutations and combinations and, to some extent still exists. It's called something totally different, but ...
Mason Funk: [00:21:30] So, was there an expectation that you would go ...
Al Baum: My father wanted both my brother and me to take over the business. He knew it was a good business, he knew that we had the brain power to do it, he knew that we had the personalities to do it, but he - we didn't do it. My brother had no interest in doing it and I had no interest in doing it. And that was partly, I think largely, because
Al Baum: [00:22:00] of my father's ... the way he handled the question, or the way he handled us, I guess. He was not a bad father. He was a good father. But I don't know, why didn't we get in the business? He worked too hard, he did not go out of his way to educate my brother or myself about
Al Baum: [00:22:30] what he did and why it was important and why it was fun.I used to go visit him at his office in the Field Building, which was the equivalent of the Russ Building in San Francisco. It was the place to work in the '30s. Huge building. I used to go down, oh maybe once a month, and spend an hour there, but I never got the feeling that it was fun.
Al Baum: [00:23:00] It was work with a capital W, and it just didn't interest me. So, while I was in college, I conceived the idea of going to law school. Not before college, but in college, and where that came from I don't really know. I probably should, but I don't.
Mason Funk: Interesting. I also come from a family where there was a family business and it's interesting.
Mason Funk: [00:23:30] I never really thought about the idea that my father didn't do a very good job of selling his profession to me and my siblings. That's a reason why none of us went into his business either.
Al Baum: Well, I think in my dad's case, he must have thought it was so obvious that we would do that, because it was there for the asking. It was a very high-income business. It was very well respected,
Al Baum: [00:24:00] and he was well respected. I mean I bear his name and I still after so many years, I still get people who are confused. Take me for him ... you know, it's weird. But either of us could have walked into a very nice situation, but neither of us did.
Mason Funk: So once you decided to go to law school, you went to Harvard Law School. You embarked on a law career.
Al Baum: [00:24:30] No, that's not the way it happened.
Mason Funk: Oh good, okay.
Al Baum: We were draftable in those days, but college students were deferred. Deferred, not excused. And the time came when I got out of law school that I was no longer deferred, and so it was clear
Al Baum: [00:25:00] that I was going to be called into the service sooner rather than later. I could have gone into the Judge Advocate General's Office and done law. I would have been a second lieutenant and then a first lieutenant. But I would have been in one more year. That was three years, and being drafted was two years.Because I had been three years in law school, I was behind some of my friends. They had been into
Al Baum: [00:25:30] the service and out by the time I was making my mind up what to do. And they all said, "It's not so bad." You know. One of them was an officer and one of them wasn't. So I decided not to do that, and I let myself be drafted, and that turned out remarkably well, actually. I don't know if you want to hear that story, but it did turn out remarkably well.
Mason Funk: [00:26:00] Specifically what was so good about it?
Al Baum: Well, I first went to Fort Leonard Wood. That was not good. Whenever I am in a theater and hear a lot of coughing, I think of Fort Leonard Wood because the first night I was there, I was in a movie theater and saw a movie about a volcano exploding in Indonesia, which actually had happened. Krakatoa.But all around me people were coughing. It was a very unhealthy place.
Al Baum: [00:26:30] They burned soft coal to heat the place. It was awful. But, I had been told all this business about "never volunteer" is bunk. You volunteer when it suits you, and on the first day I was there, the First Sergeant came out of his little house and said, "Who can type?" And I raised my hand. So I was the clerk to the First Sergeant all during basic training, which means
Al Baum: [00:27:00] I didn't have to do KP and I didn't have to do guard duty, and I didn't have to do all the unpleasant things.So I got through that, and then I went to typing school and I fell asleep in a room full of typewriters typing because I was so bored. I already was a skilled typist and I had to be there. And then, one day we got on a train, some of us, and went to Fort Dix. The week before me
Al Baum: [00:27:30] in clerk typist school, the whole class had gone to Korea. The Korean War was over, but there were still, you know, many, many, many troops there, and they all went to Korea. We all went to either the United States or Europe.And because I was fluent in French at the time, I was sent to Germany and went to Berlin, which was about as good a place to be stationed in the Army as you can imagine. And that was fun. We were in a
Al Baum: [00:28:00] place that had been a German cadet school for their army. It was quite modern, quite new. It must have been built in the late 30s and it was pleasant. It was large. It was spacious. It had lots of trees, and a streetcar line ended right at our door, et cetera, et cetera. And Berlin, even then, right after the war, or soon after the war, was a cultural center,
Al Baum: [00:28:30] as it still is, or is more than ever, now.So my military career was short. Three months less than two years, and not bad at all.
Al Baum: I got out a little early because I had to come to California to take the bar exam.
Al Baum: [00:29:00] I left Berlin on Thanksgiving Day in 1957 and got on a train. Went to Frankfurt and got on a plane. I was lucky and got on a plane and flew - flew home. I was home for less than a week, and then I went to California because I decided I wanted to live in San Francisco,
Al Baum: [00:29:30] and I had to take the California Bar Exam. There's lots more to say about all that. Well, maybe I should say something about this because it bears on something that will come up later.The personnel sergeant in my company - I was in Headquarters Company of Berlin Command - and the personnel sergeant was a rather fey,
Al Baum: [00:30:00] obviously gay man, and some people went out of their way to befriend him, and some people went out of their way to stay away from him. I did neither, but I was friendly, as I always try to be. And he once invited me to dinner and I said, "Thank you very much, but - but no," and that was the end of that. He never bothered me,
Al Baum: [00:30:30] and when it came time, some people went home by ship, which was awful. Ten days on a ship, very uncomfortable and seasick, and I flew. So I was very happy that he had done right by me.
Mason Funk: Huh.
Al Baum: So then I arrived in San Francisco. No home, no job, and some cousins and very few friends.
Al Baum: [00:31:00] Two or three. And I said to myself, "I'll try it out for a year. If I don't like it, I'll go to Boston." Boston was my second choice. And Boston was, and still is to a large extent, a very segregated ... socially segregated, racially and other ways segregated city, and I didn't like that.
Al Baum: [00:31:30] I - I'm not a country club type. My parents belonged to a country club. My grandparents belonged to a country club. But I had no interest in belonging to a country club. And in Boston, I probably would have had to for both business and personal reasons. But here I didn't have to, and that's one reason - one of the many reasons I chose San Francisco.
Mason Funk: [00:32:00] When you say you didn't want to be, for example, in Boston, because it was a more segregated city, what difference did it make to you? Why did you want to be in a less segregated city as opposed to a more ... what-
Al Baum: That's a wonderful question. I always resisted being pigeonholed. I mean, from - from my early teens
Al Baum: [00:32:30] I didn't like being pigeonholed, so ... I remember ... You're getting all my stories. Or many of them. While I was in college, I befriended a man from a tiny town in Montana called Hot Springs. And in the summer between my
Al Baum: [00:33:00] sophomore and junior year, I set out - three of us set out - to drive through the west. There was another Harvard man whom I didn't know well, but was friendly with, and we sort of advertised for somebody who had a car because we didn't at that point. And somebody from Boston University showed up,
Al Baum: [00:33:30] and we said, "Fine," and we got in his car and took off.Well he proved to be a terrible driver. Just - just a frightening driver, a terrifying driver. So after three days of that, the other Harvard man and I said, "Forget it," and we said goodbye to him, and said, "We're going to hitchhike." So we hitchhiked and I ended up in Hot Springs, Montana, and I was there a week,
Al Baum: [00:34:00] and I - I was very proud of myself, and obviously I'm tellng you this story because I'm still proud. I fit in - I caused myself to fit in very well. They liked me. There was a forest fire while I was there and all of the men and the grown up boys went out to fight the forest fire, and I wanted to go, too, and they wouldn't let me because I didn't know what I was doing, and they didn't want me to get hurt.
Al Baum: [00:34:30] But it - it was - I can remember ... God, I haven't thought about this. There was a country dance one night, and they put a wooden box-like thing down on the ground, and then put, I think, cornstarch. Is that possible? So that you could slide. And everybody danced with everybody.
Al Baum: [00:35:00] And all the little old ladies, and there were a number of them, were dancing with the teenagers, and the grown men ... it was absolutely wonderful, and I just loved it.So I never liked to be - I didn't like to be pigeon-holed as a Harvard man. I didn't like to be pigeon-holed as, necessarily, a Brain, with a capital B. I didn't like to be pigeon-holed as a Jew.
Al Baum: [00:35:30] Those are the biggies.And so, it bothered me that in Boston, people were segregated by race, they were segregated by religion, they were segregated by socioeconomic ranking. Quite segregated. And so. I could've lived with it, I suppose, but I didn't want to, and I knew that it was different here.
Mason Funk: [00:36:00] That's a great story. My previous assumption, or my previous version of it, wasn't accurate, because I'd left out your military service, but you got here, you passed the bar, presumably.
Al Baum: I passed the bar in the first try, but I went three months without a job. It took me - I found a roommate, one of my law school classmates was here and wanted a roommate, so we found a house, 2523 Gough Street,
Al Baum: [00:36:30] and we were there one year. Maybe I should say something about my teariness, since this is new. My dad did the same thing when he got old, and now it's happening to me. And its -
Al Baum: [00:37:00] It's rather strange, because this would not have happened three years ago, but...I had a serious operation in September of 2015, and ever since then, I think not before then, but I know since then, I've been doing this. And there's nothing I can do about it. It doesn't mean that I'm sad, it just means
Al Baum: [00:37:30] that all of the muck at the bottom of everybody's life has been stirred up in me, that's all.So, I got a roommate very quickly. We got a nice, furnished house for $250 a month, furnished, which was even then was quite a bargain, and now it would be $5,000 or more a month, probably more. We were there one year, but the utility bills were unbelievable,
Al Baum: [00:38:00] because the ceilings were high and it was a two-story house and, I don't know, eight rooms.So the utility bills were just much more than the rent, and so we decided we would move after a year. We moved to a small apartment, and then he got engaged and got married and left, and somebody else came. I was there in the apartment for four years, and
Al Baum: [00:38:30] (but in, I think April or May of that year, I got here in December,the bar exam was probably in the middle of January, and I think it was in April or May that I got the job). I got a job. Not my - My record was good, quite good, but I got the job because I knew someone. One of the senior associates
Al Baum: [00:39:00] in the firm was the son of one of the senior partners, and so he had influence, and he'd gone to Harvard Law School, and I'd known him slightly there, not very closely.And I liked him and he liked me, so I got a job. And I was there five years, and they weren't happy years. I had loved law school, unlike most people. Most people hate law school, I loved it. I really -
Al Baum: [00:39:30] I did my best work in law school, and did very well. But, the law practice, I did not like. I didn't like being a hired gun, so to speak, gladiator, or whatever.I thought most of the work that we were called upon to do wasn't very important. It was just -
Al Baum: [00:40:00] I just couldn't get into it. And also, my mind, even then, was not a lawyer's mind. I don't know how I got through law school as well as I did, because I tend to let things slip a lot, and I let things slip a couple of times in the firm. Thats - I'd rather not recall that.And so, after -
Al Baum: [00:40:30] I should've left after two years, but I hung on, and after five years, it was plain that I had to leave, so I left. And I went back to school, strangely enough, and followed my first love in academic life.When I was at Harvard, I majored in American Government and History, but my real exciting courses were in city planning.
Al Baum: [00:41:00] And the man that was my thesis supervisor left Harvard at the end of my stay at Harvard, and went to the University of Pennsylvania as the chairman of the department, and then he ended up at Berkeley, we'll get to that in a minute, as the chair of the department.But I had a great time with him and other people. I always loved maps, and I love architecture.
Al Baum: [00:41:30] And I was born to be a city planner. So I went and I got a degree in city planning at Berkeley in 1965. I went out into the world looking for a job as a city planner, but I was already 35 years old, and I was on the San Francisco Planning Commission.
Al Baum: [00:42:00] So I was sort of an odd duck, I mean I was like nothing they had ever dealt with before. And it turned out fine, because in 1965 the legislature in Sacramento passed a bill creating the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, BCDC.
Al Baum: [00:42:30] And I was recommended to them by a man who was in political office in San Francisco, and was very friendly with the newly selected executive director, so I ended up being number two man there.And I was there for six years and used my law well and was very happy. I liked my boss enormously, and I liked the whole thing.
Mason Funk: [00:43:00] This is a newly created entity ...
Al Baum: 27 members representing the federal government, the state government, the counties, the cities in the counties, nine counties. A little unwieldy, but not too unwieldy.
Mason Funk: This was '65?
Al Baum: Yes.
Mason Funk: [00:43:30] So it's like a trip back in the time machine. What was the growing awareness at that time that we might, to a certain degree, take for granted now, of the need to save something, or preserve or conserve something like the San Francisco Bay? What was new?
Al Baum: What happened was that, I think it was US Steel,
Al Baum: [00:44:00] proposed to build in the bay, near the Ferry Building, a 25 story building.And it didn't get built, obviously, but it was enough to get headlines and people began to be aware.And then three ladies in the East Bay, Kay Kerr, the wife of the then president of the University of California, and her friend,
Al Baum: [00:44:30] Sylvia McLaughlin, whose husband was the head of Homestake Mining. Homestake or Homestead, I'm not sure which, and then a third woman.The three of them took the Bay on as their project, and they were three very influential and brilliant - brilliant women. And they started an organization, a nonprofit called Save the Bay,
Al Baum: [00:45:00] which exists now. It's still influential. They printed lots of materials, they got on television, it was a classic. I mean, the resistance today reminds me of that, or it reminds me of today's resistance.And finally, the state senator from San Francisco, Gene McAteer, who was enormously powerful in the Senate.
Al Baum: [00:45:30] And the state senator from San Jose, his name was Nick Petris, they formed an alliance and they got the bill through, first the Senate and then the Assembly. And it wasn't a shoe-in by any means, but they did it. And the rest is history, as we say.
Mason Funk: I love that. It's a real snapshot in time.
Mason Funk: [00:46:00] I want to switch over to your personal life, because as you said, by the time you start this new career, you're now 35. I have to imagine in this day and era, people are saying, "Al, when are you getting married?"
Al Baum: Oh, yes. It started even before that. Well, all right, so we're up to 1965.
Al Baum: [00:46:30] And I came out as a gay man in 1975. And what happened in those 10 years, I had some girlfriends. And it wasn't obvious, it wasn't easy, it didn't fit me, but that's what I did because I thought, until 1973 I think,
Al Baum: [00:47:00] or maybe it was '72, I thought that's what I had to do.And then Jim Foster, I can't remember when it was, that Jim Foster was the first out gay man to address the Democratic (political) Convention. That was a turning point in this country. And he was a friend of mine and that changed me. Then I decided I really needed to do something about this,
Al Baum: [00:47:30] and I started going to therapy with Don Clark, who wrote a couple of really good books. Maybe those books never go out of date, I don't know, but from that era he wrote two, I think, really good books about being gay. And I went to him for a year and he paved the road, so to speak.There was one woman
Al Baum: [00:48:00] where there was some thought of marriage on both of our sides, but it wasn't right. And she knew it and I knew it, and so we stopped that. We're still in touch after all these years. She lives in Escondido.The coming out was with a bang,
Al Baum: [00:48:30] not with a whimper. I should tell you about that. I had a friend, incidentally with whom I'm still friendly all these years later, who was one of a group of 10 men who started something called Lavender University, which was a night school. It was just - It wasn't really much of anything, it was just an informal night school. They were all gay.
Al Baum: [00:49:00] They formed this thing but it wasn't doing very well, it wasn't catching on. And I had a friend at that time who was the education reporter for the Chronicle. And I asked him if he would be willing to do an article about them, and he was gay. I asked him if he would do an article about this Lavender University. He said, "Of course."So I made a plan to bring 2 of the 10 men to him.
Al Baum: [00:49:30] I was going to introduce them and then leave, but what happened was only one of them showed up. So we're standing in the lobby of the Chronicle, it's 1:00, which is when we're due, and then it's 1:05 and the other man didn't show up. Finally, it was 1:10 and I said, "We can't wait any longer, he's going to get pissed off, so we've got to go up."So we went up and explained what had happened, and he said, "Al, stay. Don't go. I need some more quotes."
Al Baum: [00:50:00] So I stayed and gave some quotes, and then he said, "Your quotes are really good. I want to quote you in the article, would that be all right?"And I can remember - you know they say when you're drowning your whole life passes before your eyes? Well, it was like that. But I had been telling people, friends, that they should come out. And I wasnt - I said to myself, "You have to be willing to do it yourself or you -
Al Baum: [00:50:30] you're just being hypocritical. You shouldn't be telling people they should come out if you're not willing to do it yourself."So I said, "All right." And the next thing out of his mouth was, "The photo lab is down the end of the hall to the left, go get your pictures taken." So it took two weeks, but two weeks later there was a story in the newspaper with a picture of me because the other guy wasn't known but I was known, and a story that made it very plain that I had a personal interest
Al Baum: [00:51:00] in this Lavender University, and that was it.This - I don't want to get off the track, but this became relevant years later, not so many years later, four years later when I was working in Sacramento for the Housing and Home Finance Agency. And the Housing Secretary left and Jerry Brown
Al Baum: [00:51:30] number one was the governor. And I thought maybe I had a chance to get - to get appointed to that post. I certainly had a resume that looked like I was qualified.So I let it be known that I would like that post and Jerry Brown sent Jacques Barzaghi to interview me. I don't know whether you remember Jacques Barzaghi. Jacques Barzaghi was a very
Al Baum: [00:52:00] mysterious man who was Jerry Brown's personal friend and sort of hanger-on, or right-hand man, or man Friday or whatever. I don't know what to call him, but he was very mysterious.He interviewed me and it was very plain that I wasn't going to get the job. I think he was homophobic but - because he let on that he
Al Baum: [00:52:30] knew about the article in the Chronicle, so that was that. I jumped ahead, I'm sorry.I was very happy at BCBC, but the time came ... Oh, and I [crosstalk 01:28:44] should say one more thing about that. I had a television series during that period, 13 weeks, about the Bay, and I just loved doing it. And that is not something that you'd think I would be telling you,
Al Baum: [00:53:00] but I'm telling you that because for the first 13 years of my life I stuttered very badly. And here I was on television just having the time of my life, being a ham, and that felt like an achievement.Okay, so I left BCBC and-
Mason Funk: Let me ask you a question.
Al Baum: Yeah.
Mason Funk: When that article was published and
Mason Funk: [00:53:30] the cat came crazy out of the bag in a big way, what were the repercussions? Were there any?
Al Baum: Well I've already told you one, but that was years later. One of my friends said, "Why did you do that?" But he wasnt - He was for me, not against me, but he said, "What did you have to do that for? You could've gone on forever the way you were."
Al Baum: [00:54:00] But he said, oh no, it was another man who said, "I'm glad you did that because now I can talk to you about more different things than I did before." And other friends just said, "Bravo. Good for you." Yeah, that's it.
Mason Funk: This is the '70's, is that right?
Al Baum: It was 1975.
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] So a lot is happening, can you just ... as a piece of history, can you describe what was happening, obviously in San Francisco in the 1970's? [inaudible 01:30:37] gay culture, and gay liberation, and women's rights, and feminism and lesbian separatism
Al Baum: Well, you're going through a lot of years when you get all those things ...
Mason Funk: So maybe just stick to (say), the mid '70's when you came out.
Al Baum: One thing that happens when you get to my age is that the ... even the sequence of things,
Al Baum: [00:55:00] much less the year in which they happen, go into the mists of history and are lost. So I can't tell you ... I get flashes of memory. I remember going to SIR with Jim Foster one time, SIR was Society for Individual Rights, and it was - it was the gay organization of that ... of its time,
Al Baum: [00:55:30] and it had a headquarters on, I think, 5th Street, between Market and Mission, or between Mission and Howard, upstairs, and I went there with Jim, I think I only went there one time, because I'm not much of a joiner, and I didn't ... I didn't see that I needed to do that. So, that's one memory I have. Many years later I knew Harvey Milk,
Al Baum: [00:56:00] I mean, we weren't friend friends, but we were certainly, he would always recognize me and be very nice. Well I'm screwing up the sequence, but I just ... Thinking of Harvey reminded me of a couple of things. One, on the day that Harvey Milk
Al Baum: [00:56:30] and George Moscone were shot, I happened to be in Santa Cruz. Why was I in Santa Cruz? Because the ACLU had received a bequest of some land in Santa Cruz, they didn't know what to do with it, they didn't know what it was or what it was worth, they asked me to go down and tell them, so I was alone in my car down there with the radio on, and I heard this ... I mean,
Al Baum: [00:57:00] they say people always remember where they were when they heard about President Kennedy, well this was the same sort of thing. It was awful. Awful.The Castro wasn't yet The Castro in those days. The gay entertainment center was Polk Street, not far from here. And it was quite a center.
Al Baum: [00:57:30] I can remember that my preferred method of finding partners for the night was to drive up and down Polk Street, just keeping my eyes open and seeing who would react. And I can't tell you
Al Baum: [00:58:00] when the whole center of gravity moved to The Castro, but it was ... I think it was probably in the '80's.I ... It took me a while to become a joiner,
Al Baum: [00:58:30] and a - a known - a well known as gay person. I didn't start out that way. I was the treasurer of the local chapter of the ACLU for five years, but I can't even tell you what the years are, they're on my resume, but I can't ... I don't remember them. That was where I came from, so to speak. But then years later
Al Baum: [00:59:00] I was on the board of Lambda Legal, as it's now called. And that marks the change. I started with general civil liberties, and then ended up with gay civil liberties, although I'm still a huge supporter of the ACLU.That could've ... Leads me off into the question of philanthropy. Are you ready to go there, or you want me to wait?
Mason Funk: [00:59:30] Yeah, no that's a good topic to take [inaudible 01:35:31].
Al Baum: I smile always, still, when I use that word because I refused the label for years and years and years and years. And to be honest, long after I had the wherewithal to give more than most people can, I didn't. And I finally got into it because I was shamed into it by a
Al Baum: [01:00:00] Catholic friend of mine who, a gay Catholic, friend of mine who was a lawyer, and we became quite close friends. Oh, this is ... I'm blushing because one night he gave a party, and it was a bring your own bottle party, and I brought a half consumed bottle of Scotch, because that was still my drink of choice at the time. And a couple of years later
Al Baum: [01:00:30] he started kidding me about that, why didn't I bring a new bottle of Scotch, an unopened bottle of Scotch? And that struck me as a very strange question. The thought had never occurred to me, and it was sort of against my principles.But he worked on me for a long time, he now for many years has lived in Africa where he's a teacher, but he worked on me, and worked on me, and worked on me, and gradually, gradually, gradually,
Al Baum: [01:01:00] I started giving more, and when you give, I'm sure it's the same in Los Angeles as it is here, when you give to anything, you get on the list, and then not only do they come back to you the following year, but everybody else that they trade names with comes to you the next year. And so it just keeps growing, and growing, and growing endlessly. And that's alright, I've learned to say "no" when I want to.I got off of our sequence.
Mason Funk: [01:01:30] But on, let's stay with philanthropy for a minute. 'Cause when I talked to Robert, he said ... I want to hear a little bit more about the shame, the way your friend shamed you into a different stance. I didn't get the details there. Could you take me through it? I assume this is this gay Catholic friend of yours.
Al Baum: He's from Chicago. He comes from a good family, with I think,
Al Baum: [01:02:00] five siblings. His father was a lawyer who started a bank, so he comes from affluence himself, but he wanted to be a priest, and he actually went to seminary, and when he realized he was gay, he told the top person in the seminary and this ... and the man said, "I'm terribly sorry, but you're gonna have to leave, you're a good student, we wanted to keep you, but -
Al Baum: [01:02:30] but you can't stay." So ... how did he shame me, I don't know. I went to visit him. He was then living in Malawi, I went ... no, in Zambia, I went to Malawi, we met in Malawi for a week or so, and we were ...
Mason Funk: [01:03:00] Sorry, start that again, there was a really loud motorcycle.
Al Baum: Oh, okay.
Mason Funk: Just start over.
Al Baum: I'm trying to remember how he shamed me. He was very good at shaming. Maybe that's a Catholic thing they do, I don't know. But he had the mentality or the philosophy of a priest, which was to do for others.
Al Baum: [01:03:30] He wanted to be a priest himself, and he only left seminary because the abbot or whatever he's called wanted him to leave when he came out gay. And so I guess it was a philosophical thing with Patrick. And he knew from the way I was living, I've never ... Come back to that,
Al Baum: [01:04:00] when it circles around. I dont - I try not to live to my full means. My dad drove Plymouths and always economized even when he didn't have to. That was the result of having lived through the Depression. And that got passed on to me as a philosophy or a ... It's more than a philosophy. It's a knee jerk reaction.
Al Baum: [01:04:30] But Patrick said, "You can do it. Just do it. There's so many good causes around and you know some of them already. Just give a little more." And so, I inched up. I'm still inching, but at a higher level.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] In Robert's opinion, or it's probably more than an opinion, he believes that you give more now, say, proportionately than most other philanthropists. Is that so?
Al Baum: Yes. Something like 30 to 45% of my adjusted gross income.
Al Baum: [01:05:30] No, of my gross income. You can't take it with you and doing that has become part of my life. You know, its - in some part it's who I am now.
Al Baum: [01:06:00] We haven't gotten there yet but I had a third career after city planning and I'm old enough so I spent five years as a lawyer and 20-plus years as a city planner and 20-plus years as a therapist, but in any of those things, I could theoretically have stayed until I'm as old as I am now.
Al Baum: [01:06:30] People do it. I'm going to a reunion at Harvard in a couple weeks and there are people there who are still practicing law. There are people there who are still practicing professors, teaching and so on. I'm not. And for the last 10 years or so, I haven't worked in the traditional sense.
Al Baum: [01:07:00] I'm busy, but I don't work. And I'm quite happy with that. I'm sorry. I've done this.
Mason Funk: Yeah. It's okay. I do have a follow up question which is again, it's a little bit obvious, but when you note that you give away 35 to 40% of your gross income, what does that mean to you?
Al Baum: [01:07:30] I don't know what you mean what does it mean to me.
Mason Funk: How does that feel to you?
Al Baum: Well, most of the time it feels really good. It doesnt - it goes a lot of different ways and a lot of different levels. One year, 8, 10 years ago,
Al Baum: [01:08:00] I made a list of how many charities I gave to in a year. And there were 138. But some of them were in the $10,000 category and some of them were in the $100 category and that's still true. I realize then, and ever since I've been trying to reduce the number and the spread and increase the average
Al Baum: [01:08:30] or median amounts. That's not easy to do because once a group becomes used to you giving a certain amount, they expect you to give the same amount every year and my income doesn't increase a lot year by year, although it does some.So it feels good. And being the age that I am
Al Baum: [01:09:00] and having had the health issues that I've had, I've had to think about what happens when I die. My original intention was to leave it open ended and set up a committee that could then decide where the residue of the estate would go and in what amounts. That's changing.
Al Baum: [01:09:30] I think before this calendar year is up, I will together with Robert have decided on three or four or five specifics. I have one already worked out with the ACLU, a named activity named for me. And there'll be more I think because it's more satisfying to do that while you're alive.
Al Baum: [01:10:00] They're quite willing to do that. And Yeah.People are sometimes shocked. I think even Robert is shocked sometimes when I say that. Who I give to, and how much I give to where, is partially, and I emphasize the partially, partially dependent on my relationship, if any, with the person who asks me.
Al Baum: [01:10:30] I will give ... I shouldn't say this out loud, but I will generally speaking give $100 to any charity that a friend asks me to give to unless I'm really down on them like formerly the Boy Scouts of America. They have come around, but there was a year when somebody I knew asked me to give to them and I said no. And I told them why.
Al Baum: [01:11:00] But that's extremely rare. So I'll give $100, but I won't give $1000. To give $1000 or more, it has to be something that I'm really interested in.Or there's a certain amount of tit for tat. Not a lot, but some. Could we take a break?
Mason Funk: Yeah. Let's take a break and I'm going to do a little technical thing as well in-
Al Baum: [01:11:30] So during that period of time that I was with them which was about five years, it was the period in which, in reaction to feminism, men's groups were starting. The men decided the women all had groups and so they would form to sort of resist
Al Baum: [01:12:00] or cooperate or whatever, investigate. And so I thought to myself, "Why don't we do that? It would be interesting to get gay and straight men together to talk and just see what happens." So I did that. And it was very good. I can't tell you what I learned from it. It didn't go on all that long, maybe six months. Once a month for six months. But it was a nice experience. A very nice experience.
Mason Funk: [01:12:30] When did you start to think about psychology and psychotherapy as a possible career path?
Al Baum: Well, I retired in 1979. In 1979, our contract was finished. I was employed by Stewart Udall.
Al Baum: [01:13:00] He wasn't doing anything to get more contracts and didn't really want me to do it because I wasn't his partner, so that was the end of that. And that was fine. And I retired. I did several things in my four year retirement. I went to France and perfected my French and lived over there for a number of months. I went to Israel for the first time
Al Baum: [01:13:30] in a group of four, which was the precursor of something called the New Israel Fund, which exists very much right now. And I wasn't the lead person, but I sort of went along for the ride with the people who were the leads. And that was my first visit there which was interesting. And I did some real estate stuff. But at the end of - No, after a while I felt,
Al Baum: [01:14:00] you know, I'm keeping busy and Im making money, but Im not contributing to the world at all.So how am I going to do that? And February 4th of 1984, I thought to myself I'm going to become a therapist. Well, the deadline for applying for the obvious places to get training in September of 1984,
Al Baum: [01:14:30] the deadlines had already passed. One of the places that I had applied said that even though the deadline has passed, they would accept an application from me. But I decided to go somewhere else, and I decided that I was going to go to the School of Social Work at UC Berkeley and get another UC degree, and that's what I did, which may or may not have been the right choice.
Al Baum: [01:15:00] That department wasn't trying to train therapists. They were trying to train what we call social workers and administrators and policy people and so on. Not what I wanted to do.Fortunately, my application got in the hands of the one member of the admissions committee who would be favorable to my being there, and he told his colleagues,
Al Baum: [01:15:30] "I want this one." And that was that. I got in. I had an odd but satisfactory time there. I didnt learn a lot of what I wanted to learn, but I did that later on in my clinical training spots. So I should stop there and let you take it up.
Mason Funk: What do you think motivated this decision? Of all the things you could have done because you wanted to kind of re-engage?
Al Baum: [01:16:00] Well, I had been a consumer of therapy for years and years. I still am. And I grew to value and love the work myself from the other side. But I'll tell you another story, and this is one of the stories that I tell from time to time. Let's go back to when I was a freshman at Harvard.
Al Baum: [01:16:30] A freshman. I was, I don't know, 18. I guess 19. Yeah, 18. Harvard has this strange arrangement where there are two people in a room, two rooms to a suite. Two bedrooms and a living room to a suite.Somewhere around November or December of the first year, I got a phone call from someone that I had met but didn't know very well.
Al Baum: [01:17:00] And he said, "Could I come over and talk to you?" And I said, "Sure." So he came over, and it turned out he wanted to talk about his troubles with his girlfriend. And so I listened and reacted and advised. And at the end, I said to him, "How come you chose me to come to talk to?" And he said, "Well, I looked around at the people that I've met,
Al Baum: [01:17:30] and you seemed to be solid and friendly enough, and you also seemed like somebody who wouldn't spread it all over the freshman class." So I said, "Thank you. I'm flattered." And that was the end of the story. That was part of the underpinning of it, was that experience. I'm a natural-born listener. I like to talk, but I'm not a natural-born conversationalist. I'm a listener,
Al Baum: [01:18:00] which is perfect for a therapist.
Mason Funk: Wow. That's really interesting. My husband is a therapist, and when you talk about not spreading it all over the freshman class, there's some interesting stories there about how in the first few years of our relationship, he would not tell me anything.
Al Baum: Right.
Mason Funk: It was like ...
Al Baum: That's the way we're trained.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Al Baum: [01:18:30] I have less than 100 percent buy-in to all those rules. I don't want to get us off the point, but ...
Mason Funk: We can talk about that afterwards.
Al Baum: The classic rules no longer govern all the behavior of all the people. That's in my mind a good thing.
Mason Funk: [01:19:00] Yeah. I'd love to talk about that more but maybe a little later. So you ended up in ... you went into private practice eventually? Can you tell, kind of characterize ...
Al Baum: Yes. Well, there's two years of school and then you need I think it's 3,000 supervised hours before you can take the exam for licensing. I was trained in a number of places.
Al Baum: [01:19:30] I was trained at a very small, good but somewhat obscure training institute in San Rafael. I was trained for a year at Stanford in the Outpatient Psych Department Clinic because the head of the clinic, the M.D. who was head of the clinic had been a tenant and friend of mine. I was the first LCSW, the first social work person to go through that clinic.
Al Baum: [01:20:00] Then I was trained at Children's Hospital which - here in San Francisco, which at the time was the best, almost the only, training place for, excuse the expression, old-fashioned therapists, meaning - meaning Freudians and neo-Freudians. So I was very well trained in three different places. Then in the year 2000, I got my license. I had already had some clinical work as an intern in various places and in the training places, of course. But then I was out on my own. And I did that for I don't know, 14 ... It's unclear to me, believe it or not,
Al Baum: [01:20:30] I can't remember when I retired, really. I - I tell people sometimes it's 2004, but I think it was later. I should check it so I can be accurate about that. But I started my practice in the year 2000. It had to be later. It had to be much later. I'm sorry. I should know, and I don't.
Mason Funk: [01:21:00] That's okay. That's all right. Maybe it's because you haven't ever really retired. It kind of strikes me.
Al Baum: Well, I'm reading now an excellent, fantastic memoir of somebody that I used to know who had three careers. He was a banker and then he was an administrator and he ended up as a Jungian therapist. Along the way, he taught university
Al Baum: [01:21:30] and wrote books and wrote mysteries under another name, and etc. I can see what you mean. He, all of his life was a very ... He had piercing eyes and a piercing mind, and he remembered everything that he - that he experienced. He was able to write a 400-page memoir when he was
Al Baum: [01:22:00] in his late 60s and 70s. I couldn't do that, and he did it. And I love it. Okay. That's off the point.
Mason Funk: It is a question that I wrote down. I'm not sure what prompted it. You, I think Robert said ... No. Let's go back to what you wrote for your Harvard 25th year reunion. You talked about
Mason Funk: [01:22:30] having a kind of an unquenchable impulse to move forward. You said I hate wri- Writing this has been very hard for me because I don't like looking back. I like looking forward. Maybe I can just ask you that as a question in terms of whether you ... That was when you were coming up on your 25-year reunion. Do you think that's an important thread to your life?
Al Baum: [01:23:00] I wouldn't say that now. My 25th reunion was in '77, and that was how many years ago? Forty years ago. I've come 40 years farther. One of the reasons I love this memoir that I'm reading ...
Al Baum: [01:23:30] I'm almost done ... so much is that I knew him. Not very well, but I knew him. I knew - I know his husband, who published it after he died. I recognize - He changes the names of the characters, he gives like Steven O., just the initial O. I know Steven O.,
Al Baum: [01:24:00] I knew him in the 70s. I know - I wrote him a note a few days ago telling him that I was reading the memoir.I love doing that, I love sort of going around the circle again, closing the circle, reliving the past or getting closure on the past. You can look at it many different ways. So I would say that now I like doing both.Robert and I, as he may have told you, are not only going to New York,
Al Baum: [01:24:30] but we're going to Hawaii for his 60th birthday in January, and in February we're going on a long cruise starting in Auckland and ending in Bali. Long, I mean, more than a month. And I'm looking forward to that already.I don't know, you know, I don't have children. How do you tell time?
Al Baum: [01:25:00] You tell time by what you've done, and now what I do, all I do, is travel and sit at my computer and putter all day. But that's at least something, and yet I love to look back too. I'm going to my 65th reunion and they're all going to be old farts like me, but I will enjoy seeing the ones that I knew more than casually many years ago.
Mason Funk: [01:25:30] Do you make any kind of a linear connection? I really appreciate that a little while ago you paused and you said, "I should probably talk about these tears that keep coming up." I really appreciate that you addressed that. I wonder if you see a linear connection between the serious operation you had and the tears.
Al Baum: [01:26:00] Well, I think I would if it weren't for my father. My father was a perfectly ordinary, very nice man, but ordinary. Until he was maybe 75, began to get old, he sold his company when he was 70 years old and semi-retired, and then probably when he was 77, 78, 79, he gave up the office
Al Baum: [01:26:30] that he'd maintained in Chicago and retired to his home. And they still traveled some, he had a second wife.But my father had exactly the same thing I have in his later years, and I'm very suspicious. I don't think it was just the operation. But you know how they say that falling down and breaking your hip all of a sudden started a downward course,
Al Baum: [01:27:00] or having a mini stroke started a ... ? I think with me, the operation started a downward course.I mean, the cane is new, I didn't have a cane a year and a half ago. My hands are still - my hands and arms are still affected by the nerve damage in the neck that
Al Baum: [01:27:30] caused the operation to be necessary. So I'm not what I was. I don't like it, I don't like the diminution of my capacities, but I don't have any choice.And Im trying to make the - I mean, Robert is a big help because he says, "It's your fate. You've just got to live with it and make the best of it, and be grateful that you have what you have."
Al Baum: [01:28:00] And I am, I am grateful I have what I have.
Mason Funk: I guess I'm still curious. It's not that I don't understand it, because intuitively I feel like I sort of do, but when you say, "We got a house at 2525 Gough Street ... "
Al Baum: 2523
Mason Funk: ... "2523 Gough Street," and then that brings up tears, it's just fascinating. Like I said-
Al Baum: [01:28:30] I don't know if I could explain it to you because I dont - I'm not sure I understand it myself. I'm 86 years old. I could say it quite calmly, but that figure is so large. I mean, I - It's as if ... Of course I start the day
Al Baum: [01:29:00] reading the obituaries on the newspaper, everybody does at my age. I marvel that somebody died in their 40s or 50s, you know. I don't marvel when somebody dies in their 80s, 90s, or at 102. It's just that so much water has flowed over the dam.The reunion puts out a book in which
Al Baum: [01:29:30] everybody who's known, their spouse, if any, and their- how many children, how many grandchildren, and where do they live, what's their email address, what's their phone number. And this year, for the first time I think, what's their military service. Why they added that, I don't know.But I've been reading, I want to read through it before I get to the reunion so that I will look out for those who may be there.
Al Baum: [01:30:00] And flashes come to me. I mean, memory comes, not as you heard, for me it doesn't come in continuous data like the old computer sheets, it comes in just flashes like this. And sometimes the flashes are out of order. I'm very aware of that.I've never been terribly good on sequence or
Al Baum: [01:30:30] on pinning down the time and everything, and I'm worse now. On the other hand, I mean - I don't want to brag, but there are some things that I remember that other, much younger people don't remember who should.Well I'll tell you one that I didn't remember. Last night I had to say to somebody, "What was the name of that French Premier? His name started with an M and he was a left-winger, and he had a mistress." Mitterrand,
Al Baum: [01:31:00] I couldn't think of Mitterrand. I could think of things about him but I couldn't think of him, of the name itself.And that, if you read about getting older and loss of memory, and distinguishing that from dementia - from the beginnings of dementia, all of them say that that's perfectly normal, that the first thing that goes is names, because it's the part of the brain that stores the names that is first affected by aging,
Al Baum: [01:31:30] and so I accept that.
Mason Funk: A question occurs to me. In this project, OUTWORDS, my main goal is to interview as broad a diversity of types of people as possible, however, naturally I guess, I end up interviewing a lot of activists. People who are self-described, or whatever activists. I wonder how you see that word in relationship to yourself.
Al Baum: [01:32:00] Thats a good question. I was much more of an activist when I was younger. What does that mean? I think I've only been to maybe three Pride Parades in the last 30 years, three. And in one of them, which I want to tell you about, I was the Grand Marshal. I'm sure you've heard that.
Al Baum: [01:32:30] So I didn't do that, but I've always supported politicians who were good people and good on my issues. Supported them with checks and contributions, and supported them with sometimes giving parties - you know, receptions for them, and supporting them by word-of-mouth
Al Baum: [01:33:00] and so on. So that's kind of an activist.And as I mentioned earlier, I've always supported in a big way most of the major gay organizations, but again, money. That's what I have to give, a - I mean, a whole long list of them. I - I've never been a marcher
Al Baum: [01:33:30] or a- and now I cant. I physically can't go on a march or can't go to Washington as Robert's going to do, but I do what I can and what I can mostly is writing checks. So, if that makes me an activist, fine. If it doesn't, fine too.
Mason Funk: [01:34:00] Well, I guess part of what I'm getting at is that even when you were younger, it wasn't ... I guess what I want to highlight is that there's different ways for people to be ... This is one of the messages I want to come through in this archive is that there are different ways to be activists. Like the definition of an activist is not necessarily a marcher and that you chose a particular form of expressing your activism. Is that true would you say?
Al Baum: [01:34:30] Yes. Now, sometimes it's hard. I saw at somewhere yesterday, Jeff Sheehy who is the newly appointed substitute supervisor for District Eight, which includes the Castro. I knew him 15, 20 years ago. Never been close to him. He is being contested by Rafael Mandelman who is a friend of mine and I'm going to support Rafael
Al Baum: [01:35:00] and Jeff doesn't know that yet. And I was thinking this morning, "What am I going to do about it? Should I also give a token contribution to Jeff, which seems to me sort of wishy washy. Should I tell him? Should I just let him find out if he finds out or not? Should I ask Rafael not to publicize my ..." You know, I don't know, but this is an issue. It hasn't ... well,no I should mention it.
Al Baum: [01:35:30] I was very close to Carol Migden at one time and I was, I think, the only man at one of her major birthday parties, a bunch of women and me, but then she challenged Mark [Leno 02:12:20], she did something against him and I was much closer to him and thought more highly. I mean, he was more my kind of a person, but he was also politically more where I stand.
Al Baum: [01:36:00] And I cut her off and have never had anything to do with her since. If I see her, I greet her in a nice way because I don't hate her or anything, but I won't have anything to do with her politically. That's a sad choice I had to make. And people know that's a choice - I made it very evident. So, whatever.
Mason Funk: [01:36:30] Now, I have all these questions. It's like popcorn in my brain.
Al Baum: Good.
Mason Funk: So, it means that we're going to jump around a little bit and I don't want to forget about the Pride Parade, so we won't forget about that, but I want to jump way back to your coming out because a question that just occurred to me was what had you heard or thought about gay people prior to-
Al Baum: [01:37:00] Oh, thank you. Great question. I told you, how my memory works and I'm now going to describe to you a scene from when I was still in high school or maybe even still in grade school, but I think high school. Highland Park, Illinois where I grew up is a small town. It was 10,000 then and it's probably less than 20 now. And, in those days, the telephones were not automatic,
Al Baum: [01:37:30] they were, "Hello, Operator. I want -" whatever. So, the telephone company had a small independent building in the center of town. Highland Park is three different areas and there's the main area and this was in the main area and one day, my mother needed to go there to pay a bill or do something, I don't remember what.
Al Baum: [01:38:00] So, I'm in the passenger seat in the front and we park diagonally in front of the building. No parking meters in those days, and before I can get out of the car, I saw on the sidewalk, a pair of gay men. Now, we didn't use the word "gay" in those days. I resisted using it for years, but that's what they were and they were very obvious,
Al Baum: [01:38:30] and I said to myself, "I don't like the way they look. I don't want to associate with them. I don't like the way they look." They were prissy queens and that was not - and this is long before I gave myself any label.I knew that I liked boys and I may have even had some
Al Baum: [01:39:00] adolescent sex stuff with boys, but it wasn't a big part of my life, and yet I already reacted that way. So, I forgot what you asked me.
Mason Funk: What you thought about this world, these people, before you-
Al Baum: So, that was - what was that? That was 1946, say. So, 1975
Al Baum: [01:39:30] was 30 years later and it had changed a lot. I mean Jim Foster was one of the agents of change. Don Clarke was another agent of change. There were Don Clarke weekends. 13 men at a rural site from 7:00 Friday until 1:00 Sunday and they were very carefully structured
Al Baum: [01:40:00] and very good. That gave me a new view on gay men. So, by the time I came out, my view on gay men was pretty much what it is now, but it had to evolve.
Mason Funk: I didn't pick up on what you meant by gay men.
Al Baum: [01:40:30] Gay as compared to transsexual and drag queens. It took me a long while to get used to that. I'm used to it now. As a Los Angeles resident, does the name Donna Sachet mean anything to you?
Mason Funk: We interviewed her last summer. I did.
Al Baum: She's great. I'm very fond of her. Very fond.
Mason Funk: She was another Mark Smolowitz recommendation along with you.
Al Baum: [01:41:00] Ah.
Mason Funk: Yeah, she was fantastic. I absolutely loved her interview.
Al Baum: Yeah. I've never seen her out of her Donna Sachet garb.
Mason Funk: Right.
Al Baum: And persona.
Mason Funk: But tell me a little bit more about that evolution where you kind of started on that front and kind of how you evolved.
Al Baum: Well, I was very closeted and
Al Baum: [01:41:30] very retrograde or whatever the right word is, until 1975. I would go to the parks and pick up somebody and have sex, but I never told them my name or if I did, I gave them a fake name. And that reminds me of an incident: there's a tiny park on Russian Hill
Al Baum: [01:42:00] that I used to live near and frequent, and I met a guy who lived near the park and I gave him a fake name and some time after 1975, but not much after, I was walking down, I think Union Street and there he was coming towards me on the sidewalk, and I had been - it was when I was doing my television program and he said, "I saw you on television."
Al Baum: [01:42:30] And I thought to myself, "Served me right for doing what I had done." I was ashamed of it, ashamed of having done that, but I did it because I thought I had to. So, it's hard to talk about evolutions.There were change agents as I've already said and there was the change in the,
Al Baum: [01:43:00] what is the word, in the tenor or the zeitgeist, in the zeitgeist of the period. Big changes. And I benefited from both my individual change agents and from the change in the zeitgeist.
Mason Funk: Hmm. Okay. Let's talk about the Pride Parade because I want to know, tell me the story and how did you find out they wanted to honor you in that way.
Al Baum: [01:43:30] How did I find out-
Mason Funk: How did you find out that the committee, the organizers of that year's pride parade, I believe they wanted you to be the Grand Marshal.
Al Baum: Oh, I got a call, a phone call, from a woman I didn't know, and whose name I didn't even know. Her name is Lou, short for Louise, Fisher. F-I-S-H ... F-I-S-C-H-E-R. And by sheer coincidence, I've seen her in the last 48 hours.
Al Baum: [01:44:00] I hadn't seen her for a couple of years, but there she was. She was the proponent of me, and I never really asked her why. We're a member of the same synagogue, but I don't go. I guess she goes. I don't go. So I can't tell you why she did it and why they did it, except what I always say.
Al Baum: [01:44:30] You should see my office. I have shelves full of awards, often in Lucite, you know.Now I say because I've been around so long. You know, you can't ignore people who've been around as long as I have, I think. That reminds me of the line from From Here to Eternity.
Al Baum: [01:45:00] The guy goes in the officer's club at Pearl Harbor and sees the admirals and the women they married when they were second lieutenants. Showing up is one of the things that I get honored for. And I've known you know, Ive known
Al Baum: [01:45:30] "everybody" as we went along, and I've contributed to "everything" as we've gone along. I mean, you add all that together and it's not surprising, I suppose.I was surprised. I was absolutely flabbergasted when they - she called me. In fact, I probably said ... I don't remember, but I probably said, "Why me?" You know, because that's the way I felt, but we, as Robert probably told you, we had a wonderful time. It was so much fun.
Mason Funk: [01:46:00] It may seem again like an obvious question, but did it feel good to have such a-
Al Baum: Yes, it felt very good. We were in an open convertible. I don't remember what the car was, but it was fairly large. And somebody that we didn't know was driving his car.
Al Baum: [01:46:30] It was a sunny day, and I'm not supposed to be in the sun, so we had a rainbow umbrella, or parasol. And Robert was holding it, and he was sitting on the seat, and I was sort of sitting on the back of the seat. You know, up above. And waving to the multitudes. It was enormous fun, yeah.
Natalie: Can get that one more. There was a motorcycle.
Mason Funk: Yeah, there was a motorcycle.
Al Baum: [01:47:00] Oh, the scooter.
Mason Funk: No, there was a motorcycle just now outside.
Al Baum: Oh, I thought you were asking me about my scooter. I rode a red scooter for 35 years.
Mason Funk: Oh did you really?
Al Baum: And I was famous for that. Then Robert insisted that I give it up. I don't know when. 2008 maybe.
Mason Funk: Well, so because there was an actual motorcycle outside, could we just have your reflections on riding in the parade again with the rainbow umbrella-
Al Baum: [01:47:30] Well, you asked me whether it was fun, and my answer is yes, it was fun. It was a beautiful day. The parade starts down near the Ferry Building, and you're there for an hour, milling around. A lot of people that I knew came up and congratulated me. That was fun.
Al Baum: [01:48:00] We had collected a very small group who would march alongside our car, and they marched with us. Then along the parade route people kept breaking through the barriers and coming up and saying, "Hi!" It was, I suppose you could say, one of the many high points of my life. I am to some extent a ham. And there's nothing better for a ham than that.
Mason Funk: [01:48:30] That's great. That's great. What would you say, among your professional and personal accomplishments, is there one that you can name as the one that you are possibly most proud of?
Al Baum: I always resist questions like that. I even resist the question,
Al Baum: [01:49:00] "What is your favorite restaurant in San Francisco?" I have four, and I always give the four. That's such a difficult question.
Al Baum: [01:49:30] You've heard enough, read enough, about my life to know that I've been in many spheres in my life, and to some extent I still am. So, if you were to ask me, "Did I have a patient that I'm most proud of the help that I gave that person?" I might be able to answer that.
Al Baum: [01:50:00] If you asked me, "While you were at BCDC, what would you say was your main achievement there?" I could prob- that one I could answer. But you get the idea of what I'm saying.Overall? I don't know. I really don't know. I claim to be a modest man,
Al Baum: [01:50:30] so I don't think in those terms. Or at least I don't confess to thinking in those terms.
Mason Funk: I like it. I am curious. You can't probably talk about the patient that you're most satisfied about, but in your time at the Bay Conservation, Development ...
Al Baum: Commission.
Mason Funk: Commission. What event or accomplishment there are you most satisfied with?
Al Baum: [01:51:00] When I was working at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, my first title was a lawyer's title,
Al Baum: [01:51:30] and I wrote the regulations that the commission enforced. And that was a big job, an important job, and a really fun job because I like statutory drafting, and these are essentially statutes. They are mini statutes. And they've been modified many times since, but the whole framework is still there. So that was really the thing that I was most proud of.
Mason Funk: [01:52:00] Hmm. That's cool. I like that it's something that's not, you know, like, we didn't save this ... or you know, I mean it's like it's the nuts and bolts. It's the nitty gritty.
Al Baum: No, but it's really ... You keep striking ideas in my mind, which is wonderful. When we go to Sausalito, I see Scoma's, which is a wonderful,
Al Baum: [01:52:30] small restaurant in a little kind of house on posts above the water. That used to be the Glad Hand, and I used to go to the Glad Hand all the time. There's a walkway that goes along there that we caused to be built. There's a Spinnaker restaurant, which was owned by Gene McAteer, the senator. We got them to put a walkway outside of the restaurant
Al Baum: [01:53:00] so the public could go out and be next to the bay.I'm reminded ... I go many places, and I'm reminded of things that I did in those days. I mean, this is off the point, but the Japan Center in San Francisco, which is right near here. It has nothing to do with the Bay. The man who was the developer also developed something in the bay and came to me and tried to sweet talk me
Al Baum: [01:53:30] so that I would give him a permit that I didnt think he should have. And I remember him. So, yeah, that's where I say to you, I suppose, I've lived.
Mason Funk: Yeah, a whole career unto itself.
Al Baum: Yeah, a whole life.
Mason Funk: What ... When you look at the changes in terms of visibility
Mason Funk: [01:54:00] and legal protections that LGBTQ people enjoy today that 50 years ago would have seemed unthinkable, what do you see as the greatest causes of the rapid changes we have all witnessed in terms of how LGBTQ people live, and are viewed and are accepted and included?
Al Baum: [01:54:30] That's a wonderful question. Well, they say that the good votes and the good attitudes among the general public come most from people who know they know gay people, and therefore it's a cumulative thing. It's a process of more and more people coming out
Al Baum: [01:55:00] and being normally good people. Not all of them are good, but most of them are at least normally good. So it's just cumulative, exponential and natural change of attitude. There have been some key people, some of them politicians, some of them not.
Al Baum: [01:55:30] I mean, if you look at Evan Wolfson, I think he's a key person. Even Kevin Cathcart is probably a key person. Certainly, Kate Kendell. I don't know if you know her, at the NCLR. She is a key person. People who are skilled and vigorous
Al Baum: [01:56:00] and charismatic. I'm having a senior moment. Just give me a ... Ellen DeGeneres. I've seen her on the TV within the last 48 hours. Is she marvelous or what? I mean, she's no spring chicken anymore,
Al Baum: [01:56:30] and she has her hair gray, but, God, what charisma and what power to engage people. That's my answer. There're many factors, but there are some of them.
Mason Funk: At this moment, I'm going to ask Natalie to start thinking, if you have any questions.
Natalie: Okay. I have a couple.
Mason Funk: [01:57:00] Okay. When you answer her questions, please talk to me as if I had asked it.
Natalie: Okay. I was wondering if you could tell us more about the red scooter, your red scooter.
Al Baum: [01:57:30] I can't, now, remember exactly when I got my red scooter, but even 40 years ago, parking was difficult in San Francisco, and I saw people zipping by me all the time on their scooters and motorcycles. And I have a dear friend, a straight friend, of about 55 years standing, who got a scooter before me.
Al Baum: [01:58:00] He was the pioneer. He also got an answering machine on his phone before I did, and I followed soon after. So I followed him into getting a scooter so that I could zip around, and also park and also save huge amounts of time getting from here to there, and parked much faster than I could have possibly in a car. So I had a series of scooters.
Al Baum: [01:58:30] I mean, they wear out, or they get... I was hit twice, once down near Fisherman's Wharf on a Sunday morning, and then the accident that Robert - that was that last straw for Robert, which was on Market Street. In both cases, I was thrown off and thrown backwards onto the pavement. But I was wearing my helmet, so I wasn't knocked out or anything, and I didn't break anything.
Al Baum: [01:59:00] I didn't even sprain anything. I was shook up, but I was lucky.I loved my scooter, and I thought I would miss it terribly. Well, I did, but it took me about a year to get used to not having it. And since then, I don't ... I couldn't do it now. It wouldn't be safe for me to do it now. So that's just another change
Al Baum: [01:59:30] from aging that one has to accept. But I don't know. I think I'm still legendary because of the scooter. And I would ride the scooter in blue jeans or in tuxedo, both.
Mason Funk: Another question?
Natalie: Kind of a followup and then another. I was wondering why you were legendary. Did you go cruising on that scooter?
Al Baum: [02:00:00] No. Did I go cruising on the scooter? Why was I legendary? No, I didn't go cruising on the scooter ever. One, because it was too obvious that it was me. Secondly, because I didn't feel safe taking anybody on the back of the scooter. Not that I was that great a driver of a car,
Al Baum: [02:00:30] but a scooter is inherently much more dangerous than a car is. So that's why. And the legendary thing, once again, it has to do with longevity. If you do anything obvious for 35 or 40 years, you become legendary.
Al Baum: [02:01:00] Another thing that I was legendary for was the black leather sack that I carried over my shoulder, over my left shoulder, and then on my right side, for many, many, many years.
Al Baum: [02:01:30] The reason I did that was that I am forgetful. I carry a wallet. I carry at least one pair, usually two pairs, of different glasses. Sometimes I carried a checkbook. I carried keys. I carried a lot of things. And to have them in the sack meant that I was much less likely to lose one of them, because they always went back into the sack. Then many years later
Al Baum: [02:02:00] I discovered that it was that that got my body out of shape that then required an operation, which is - which was not very successful. Now ... Oh, I'm not wearing it. I usually wear, now, a fanny pack, cloth fanny pack. I wear it wherever I go. If I'm wearing a sport coat, I put it over the sack, so as to hide it somewhat. But to hell with it. I mean, if people see me wearing a fanny pack, then they see me wearing a fanny pack. I can't worry about it.
Mason Funk: [02:02:30] Did Herb Caen ever reference you on the scooter? I just wonder.
Al Baum: Not on the scooter. He did reference me. I have it somewhere. He referenced me because I was on the San Francisco Planning Commission when I went back to planning school and got a degree. And he thought that was unusual and wrote it up.
Mason Funk: Natalie, another one.
Natalie: [02:03:00] Okay. You might have asked this, but I was wondering how you met your current partner.
Al Baum: Oh, that's a nice story.
Natalie: Talk a little bit about that.
Al Baum: Yes.
Mason Funk: And did you have any significant long term relationships before you met Robert?
Al Baum: Okay. You asked me about significant long relationships before I met Robert. I think the honest answer is no. Not that I didn't have some relationships, and not that some of them weren't potentially serious. I'm thinking of one...
Al Baum: [02:03:30] I'm thinking of one person who now lives in Los Angeles with whom I was very compatible. And stupidly, I think neither one of us quite cared enough about the other one to propose. "Close, but no cigar" as we say.
Al Baum: [02:04:00] And then there was another one who I'm still in touch with who now lives in Seattle, very nice gentleman. And he - I don't know what would have happened to us if we'd stayed together. He said he didn't want to be Mrs. Alvin H. Baum. Given the personalities and the circumstances, he was right. That's what would have happened. A very retiring man.
Al Baum: [02:04:30] Those were the only two significant relationships in all those years. I stopped dating women in 1971. So when I finally came out to my father in 1972,
Al Baum: [02:05:00] he wasn't surprised. He had asked my best old friend from Chicago when he knew the friend was coming to visit me and when the friend went back to Chicago, my father asked him, "Do you think Al is a homosexual?" And he, being very smart, said, "Why don't you ask him?" But he knew the answer full well.
Mason Funk: [02:05:30] Let's get back to Robert.
Al Baum: Alright. I was just going to say one more thing. Those were often lonely years. I wanted a relationship. Always wanted a relationship and one story that Robert would tell - because I told him not that long ago - is: I had a girlfriend, let's say in the mid 60s,
Al Baum: [02:06:00] whose mother came to visit and I took my girlfriend and her mother to drinks before dinner. And when the girlfriend went to the washroom, the mother said something to me like, "I don't think you'll ever be married." And I was by that time having sex with men whenever I could and thought, "How does she know?" But that's not what she meant.
Al Baum: [02:06:30] She meant something about the way I was talking about marriage or about the girlfriend.There obviously was something that didn't fit with people despite all the therapy. So how did I meet Robert? In May -
Al Baum: [02:07:00] In April or May of 2004, I had a date for dinner with a friend. Just a friend friend. And when he got to my house, I was then in a house down on Green Street, when he got to my house, I said, "I'm terribly sorry, Kirk, but I need to go to the emergency room." I had gotten some infection and so we didn't go out for dinner. He took me to the emergency room
Al Baum: [02:07:30] and they kept me overnight and for two more days in the hospital. And I realized from that that I should not be living alone in a four-story house because it wasn't safe. I mean, I really needed to have people around in case I needed them.I decided I was going to move to an elevator building. So I sent out an email to everyone I knew (so to speak) and said, "Can you recommend
Al Baum: [02:08:00] a designer to work with me when I move?" I got a list. People responded and I made a list and then I started interviewing them. The first one I interviewed was a pair of gay men and I felt nothing for them. They were alright, but they just didn't excite me at all. And the second was Robert. The way I like to tell the tale was that after five minutes,
Al Baum: [02:08:30] I decided I wanted to work with him, and after five weeks, I realized I was in love with him, and after five months, he finally succumbed to my - to my entreaties. And the meeting was on May 20, which we celebrate still as our anniversary. Oh boy.
Al Baum: [02:09:00] It hasn't been an easy road for the two of us. He lived here for a while, for a year and a half and then didn't want to live here anymore. He's a neat freak and I'm a messy person. It doesn't look it in here, but I am - Im a very messy person. That drove him crazy.
Al Baum: [02:09:30] We live separately, as you know. And that is fine. We go on these trips, long trips. We're together 24 hours a day for weeks. It's fine. Then we come back and we're separate and really not together enough. Not as much as I would like, but it works. And as you know, we got legally married.
Al Baum: [02:10:00] Not on May 20th, but on May 17th. Three years ago now. There's the invitation. What else about that?
Mason Funk: That's great. That's a great story. I'm very happy for you guys. Did you have a follow up you wanted to ask?
Natalie: Nope. That was it. That was a great story.
Al Baum: [02:10:30] Well, we have a little shrine over there. We have the invitation, we have the glass that we drank wine out of, and we have a thing that the Buddhists use to put good wishes in. We had people write good wishes for us and we put them all in there and they're still there to look at whenever we look at them. Then there's a Japanese drum that we brought back from Japan
Al Baum: [02:11:00] that was played during the wedding. So that's our shrine.
Mason Funk: That's great. I have just a very short list of final questions, but before I go to those, I wanted to ask if you feel that there's anything we haven't talked about that you would want to talk about?
Al Baum: [02:11:30] Well, you haven't asked me whether I ever went to bars and if so, how often and where. That's one question. You haven't asked me a more modern question, whether I have ever used the hookup websites. And if so, with what results. What else? You haven't asked me ...
Al Baum: [02:12:00] Theres another one, it's a different kind of question, you haven't asked me whether I still have any of the straight friends that I had in 1975.
Mason Funk: That's a question. I won't forget the others, but that was something that was in my mind which was you sent me those prepared remarks that you sent in to Harvard on the occasion of your 25th Reunion in which you came out.
Mason Funk: [02:12:30] You told them about yourself. Maybe this is related to the question you just asked about whether you have any of the same straight friends, but I wondered if you could weave ... Maybe it's two separate questions. I'm not sure. I wondered what the reaction was when you came out to your Harvard classmates.
Al Baum: Very little. I had sex with one of my classmates at my 25th reunion.
Al Baum: [02:13:00] I only did it because it was there and because it makes a good story. I didn't do it because I care that much about him.
Mason Funk: Then how did the straight ... Do you want to talk about the straight-
Al Baum: Yeah. I'm trying to think about the 25th reunion. I think whoever said anything said, "Good for you. You know, thanks for doing that," or whatever.
Mason Funk: Did it seem like a big deal at the time?
Al Baum: [02:13:30] Oh yes. Oh yes. Yeah. It did.
Mason Funk: Did you go through, "Should I, should I not?"
Al Baum: No, no. I realized I had to do it, because I didn't know ... the 25th is the biggest of the reunions. The only one that could possibly compare is the 50th, and the 50th ... when you're 25 years out, 25 years hence seems a long time, so it's not very real. So it was either then or not at all,
Al Baum: [02:14:00] and I couldn't not do it. So I was glad I did it.I still have many of the friends, close friends, and still many of the acquaintances I had in 1975. I mean, if I go - I was on the board of the Jewish Community Federation for nine years, fairly recently, and I saw a lot of people who were of my age group,
Al Baum: [02:14:30] and I had known them for, you know, 30, 40 years. Everybody's very friendly, very accepting.We invited - we had 238 people to our wedding, and a lot of them were old, straight friends of mine. Now, unfortunately, I'm at an age when people are dying right and left,
Al Baum: [02:15:00] and that's hard. Very hard. Oh, you also didn't ask me how the AIDS epidemic affected me. I just realized. I'm going to stop and let you ask about what you want to ask about.
Mason Funk: [02:15:30] OK. So tell me about how you experienced the AIDS epidemic.
Al Baum: [02:16:00] I had one patient who lost 32 friends, and was in a state of shock as a result of that. I didn't. I lost my best friend,
Al Baum: [02:16:30] and that was very, very hard. But my social system was not greatly affected. One person from my inner circle, and that's all.I was on the committee for the AIDS Research Institute at the time, and I remember we went and visited Ward 84,
Al Baum: [02:17:00] I think it is, at San Francisco General Hospital. The AIDS ward, and I remember how moving that was. I think I participated emotionally in the thing, without having been devastated by the loss of my entire surroundings, so to speak.I got an email this morning from the man who is now the fundraiser for the AIDS Research Institute,
Al Baum: [02:17:30] wanting to have lunch again so he can extort a contribution from me, but he's not going to have to extort it.I don't know what to say. Do I have survivor's guilt? No. I don't. I know that I was lucky. My sex life, without going into detail,
Al Baum: [02:18:00] was versatile, quite versatile. But in 1982, which is when we first became aware of AIDS, I was 52 years old. I had a mustache. Maybe I had a beard. The beard came and went. I'd been around a lot, and
Al Baum: [02:18:30] what men generally wanted from me was not the most dangerous thing for AIDS. So I - Once I knew what was most dangerous and least dangerous, I wasn't terribly worried. But, I remember my then general practitioner doctor, a straight man, saying to me ... I said something about, "Shouldn't I be tested for HIV?" And he said, "No."
Al Baum: [02:19:00] And I said, "How can you say that? I mean, you know I've had a very active sex life," and he says, "I have many patients who have HIV. And every single one of them has had flu-like symptoms at the beginning, when they turn positive. You've had nothing. You haven't been in here for years. You've had nothing, so you're not positive, but if you want to be tested, we'll get you tested." and I said, "Yes, I do," and I was negative.
Al Baum: [02:19:30] That's a story that I'd forgotten until now, but that's worth telling. I was worried at the beginning. Those were terrible times.
Al Baum: [02:20:00] But, I have to admit that after five or ten years of the epidemic, when I realized that I was going to stay negative, and that most of my friends ... well, the first thing that happened was most of my friends were negative, and then that changed, so that people were positive. But, then came in protease inhibitors. And it was no longer a death sentence,
Al Baum: [02:20:30] and then my attitude changed. I mean, I - It became less scary, less important in my life. I once - I've never told Robert this. I once had sex with a friend who was HIV positive, and made no qualms about it. He told people right and left.
Al Baum: [02:21:00] We were not repeat sex partners, but we had been to a party together. We were feeling very good about one another, and he said, "Won't you come in?" And I went in, and we had sex together. And yes, I was careful, but if I'd been truly careful, to the point of being paranoid about it, I wouldn't have had sex with him. So my attitude's evolved.
Mason Funk: [02:21:30] Why do you think you did have sex with him, and didn't worry too much about it, or whatever?
Al Baum: Because he was a good guy, and he did not push me or tempt me into behaviors that would've exposed me to his - to the risk.
Al Baum: [02:22:00] It's funny. I really don't want you to use this, but I do want to tell you that I can't remember his name right now. Bill Something, and I don't know what. It was a long time ago.That was probably ... When did protease inhibitors come in? '95? That's probably when it was. 20 years.
Mason Funk: [02:22:30] You mentioned that I had not asked you about the bars and the, back in the day, some of your haunts, some of your favorite memories of that cruisey period, where there were no phones, and no apps.
Al Baum: [02:23:00] I basically never went to bars. I mean, possibly once per year, but probably not that often. One, because I don't drink very much. Secondly, because at that time, they were still smoky, and I hate smoke. I wouldn't go. And also, because I found ... I didn't feel like I belonged, and therefore, I wasn't at my ease and didn't find easy conversation.
Al Baum: [02:23:30] My - I had perhaps three methods of finding sex partners. One was driving up and down the street, another was in the parks, and a third was just sticking my neck out. If I met somebody who was attractive to me,
Al Baum: [02:24:00] I would say something to them. That was the hardest, of course.There's a book, that started in French, called Tricks. I think it was called Tricks even in French, but then it was translated into English. And I have a copy of the English version still on my shelves.
Al Baum: [02:24:30] And it was about, I think, 45 tricks that the author had had, and each chapter was the same format. Where they met, and how they met, and what they did, and what happened afterwards.It was so boring. It was - I remember how bored I was reading it. I thought it would be titillating, but it wasn't in the least. It just sort of made me feel
Al Baum: [02:25:00] the futility, the self-defeatingness of that kind of life.
Mason Funk: But it sounds like you did a lot of that.
Al Baum: I did. I did a lot of it, yes.
Mason Funk: Is it just that it's boring to read about other people doing it?
Al Baum: No, no. It never was very - very successful for me. At the Don Clark weekend, I met a man whose house
Al Baum: [02:25:30] I went to visit two weeks ago for dinner. That was in 1974, probably. Good God. 43 years. I was in another men's group, not with Don Clark, but with somebody else, whose name I forget right now. We went once. We were assigned an exercise.
Al Baum: [02:26:00] We were supposed to go to a bar on Castro Street, and just hang out separately and observe all of us, and then come back together again and talk about what we observed.We did that, and it was fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. And we had all had a lot to drink, and we were feeling loving towards one another. What occurred was what you have to call an orgy, but it was the most loving orgy. I mean, it was extraordinary. It's the only time in my life I'd ever done that,
Al Baum: [02:26:30] but it was because there was so much love being exchanged by all these men, 13 men, who, several months before, had not known each other.I did a lot of it, and then I got smart. In 1982, I think it was, I stopped doing the cruising that I had been doing.
Al Baum: [02:27:00] September of 1982, if I remember correctly, I was in Paris, and I was cruising there, of course, and said to myself, "You know? From what you've been reading, this isn't a very good idea," so I stopped. That was good. That's another thing that saved me.
Mason Funk: I've been wanting to ask, and this maybe ties together, but I've been wanting to ask
Mason Funk: [02:27:30] about your spirituality, either as a human being, or as a Jewish man, or both, and then it occurred to me to ask about the intersection between your spirituality and your sexuality. I don't know if that's something that you relate to as a question.
Al Baum: [02:28:30] So, you asked me about spirituality and Judaism and sexuality. Separate, perhaps related. My family was not very observant. In fact, they were pretty non-observant, and that's the way I was raised, and that's the way I still am. I'm not a believer.
Al Baum: [02:29:00] I am a member of a synagogue, and there was a period during the AIDS epidemic when I found that was helpful, being there was helpful to me, but that's a long time ago.I haven't been in the synagogue for a service ... Well, maybe with one exception, in the last five years. Not even for the high holidays. I just decided
Al Baum: [02:29:30] I don't care, and now it's hard for me to go to places, and so i just don't.So, I used to say I was a bad Jew, and then people, rabbis and other people would say, "No, you're not," and they would go through the litany of things. I believe in charity.
Al Baum: [02:30:00] I believe in helping those who need help and helping those...
Natalie: I'm sorry. There's a phone ringing.
[02:30:30] [TECHNICAL]
Al Baum: So, you asked me also about spirituality, and that's a harder question to answer. Robert has been trying to
Al Baum: [02:31:00] get me to read The Power of Now for years. I can't. I mean, I tried, twice. It's just not my language. It's not the way I think. Its - It's ... I don't argue with the theories, but I don't know. So am I - am I spiritual?
Al Baum: [02:31:30] I don't know. I mean, I believe in goodness. I believe in, as I said earlier, in helping my fellow man and woman. I believe in equality of the sexes, the genders. I'm accepting of other religions than mine.
Al Baum: [02:32:00] I often ... No, not often, but from time to time in my lifetime, I have thought that those who have a faith to sustain them are fortunate. I really don't.Why am I a member of a synagogue? Because it's expected of me. My father, who was -
Al Baum: [02:32:30] was very much like me, was actually one of the founders of a new synagogue in Highland Park, Illinois, and I should have, but I never asked him why. Why? You don't go, you don't care, you don't know much about it ... But I didn't ask him. I've been friendly with a couple of the rabbis of my synagogue,
Al Baum: [02:33:00] a gay man and a lesbian woman. I like them as people, and probably, if I'm still a member when I die, probably my funeral will have a rabbi officiating, although I will be sure to specify what's to be done, but ...
Al Baum: [02:33:30] I respect those who are spiritual, but I wouldn't call myself spiritual.
Mason Funk: It seems, it strikes me that maybe the reason your dad ... Well, how could I guess? But, in your case, maybe, you see your religion as your service as, in a way, your spirituality, a form of spirituality.
Al Baum: [02:34:00] Well, yes. That's why people say I'm a good Jew rather than a bad Jew. I say I'm a bad Jew because I don't know much, and I don't pay attention to it and I don't go to services, and I don't really do anything with the synagogue except pay my annual dues and give a little more when I'm pushed to. But they said, "But you do so much else for the world and for people who don't have,"
Al Baum: [02:34:30] and so on, and that's true. That is part of the Jewish religion. It's a Mitzvah, and I do do that. I admit that. It doesn't feel spiritual to me, but I think in terms of what people mean by the word, perhaps it is.
Mason Funk: Last summer, we interviewed a woman in Chicago, actually, named Mary Morton, who is a very well-known
Mason Funk: [02:35:00] African-American lesbian. Has been involved ... She was president of the Chicago chapter of NOW, the first African-American president of the Chicago chapter of NOW, and so on. She said in her family, they had a kind of an unspoken rule of thumb, which was, "Service is the rent you pay for living."
Al Baum: I like that.
Mason Funk: I wonder if that's maybe ... If you relate to that?
Al Baum: [02:35:30] Yes. It's really interesting. I was just remembering something my father said about a man whose last name ... First name I don't remember. No, I do remember. Sam Rosenthal, whose son was in my brother's class in school, and Sam was a lawyer with a well-known firm in the city, so every day he went from Highland Park to Chicago to practice Law.
Al Baum: [02:36:00] But he elected to run for city council in Highland Park, and my father said to me, "That is extraordinary because that's not going to do his practice any good at all. If he had put the same time and energy to doing something in Jewish welfare in the city, it would have helped his practice, but he preferred to do that." There's Robert.
Mason Funk: [02:36:30] Yeah. Hold that thought, though, because I want that story over again, please.
[02:37:00] [ROBERT ENTRANCE & INTROS]
Mason Funk: [02:37:30] Okay. So, start the story again if you wouldn't mind, about Sam Rosenthal who ran for city council and your dad's ...
Al Baum: Well, we were talking about how come my father was a founder of a synagogue, and I don't remember exactly why I thought of Sam Rosenthal, but I did. Sam Rosenthal was
Al Baum: [02:38:00] the father of a friend of my brother's who was in the same class.He was a lawyer in a big firm in Chicago. But he chose to do his civic activities in Highland Park, which is a town of 10,000 people and not likely to produce many clients for his law practice. My father thought that was extraordinary and very kind and very good
Al Baum: [02:38:30] of Sam to have done that because if he devoted the same amount of time and energy to say the Jewish Welfare Federation in Chicago, it might have helped his practice. He didn't care.
Mason Funk: The idea of being ... sometimes people do things for purely service motives, to be of service as opposed to, you know, for another-
Al Baum: [02:39:00] Well, yes. The word is altruism. And I guess I'm altruistic. Yeah.
Mason Funk: This may be sort of out of left field, but I was talking on the drive yesterday from LA with a friend of mine about altruism and why we do things that on the surface would appear to be altruistic. If we are - If we are still basically animals concerned with ....
Mason Funk: [02:39:30] It seems like in many ways, we humans are still animals, very concerned with passing on our DNA and raising children to be successful in the world. We gay men, on the other hand, don't have that usually. We're not usually-
Al Baum: Well, in the future that isn't going to be the case, but it has been true, yes.
Mason Funk: [02:40:00] But I guess the question that my friend and I were talking about is why do we do altruistic things? Is that another form of self interest or is there such a thing as true altruism?
Al Baum: Well, there can be self-interest. I mean, I don't know, but I think the greatest giving in the Jewish religion is anonymous giving because if it's not anonymous, then you're building up your own reputation and your own ego by -
Al Baum: [02:40:30] by giving with a name attached to it. I think that is the case. There's also, I remember reading that one of the theories of the evolutionists is that the reason why there are gay people is because the society needs the altruism of those who don't have children for whom they have to do everything or for whom they have to build up a fortune or whatever.
Al Baum: [02:41:00] That's as far as I've thought it out which isn't very far.
Mason Funk: Do you wonder why you ... We've sort of talked about this, but do you wonder where your streak or passion for philanthropy, love of man, or altruism comes from or what motivates it?
Al Baum: [02:41:30] I don't know that I know. Certainly a major component of my life, particularly since I retired from my therapy practice, is the philanthropy. I mean,
Al Baum: [02:42:00] I made light of it, but there are a lot of awards in the office on the shelf. And they're all ... I mean, money isn't the only thing that I have given to charities. I give sage advice. I admit to sage advice. But it's a major factor and ...
Al Baum: [02:42:30] Well, maybe we should talk about this. I don't know your age, but I do know that the common wisdom is that gay men become invisible at age fill in the blank. Some people say 50, some people say 60. Whatever. I'm not invisible even now at my advanced age and being somewhat disabled I'm still not invisible. Why?
Al Baum: [02:43:00] Because I can do things for people. I mean, Robert reminds me of that every once in a while, but he doesn't have to. I know it. And I remember my father. I told you he sold his company when he was 71 or 70. And he maintained an office in downtown Chicago for another 10 years or so. People - and then people used to come out to the house, you know, which was a 40 minute drive
Al Baum: [02:43:30] to talk to him about business things because they wanted his -his investment. And I - I realized something then that that was surprising to me at the time, but then I got used to it and realized that's the way of the world. So I don't know if I answered your question, but that's as far as I can take it.
Mason Funk: [02:44:00] Do you ever - When someone calls you up and you think that they want to ask you for just a check but they really want to ask you to think with them about their project, about their business and help them in a more mentoring way, do you appreciate that? Does that feel good?
Al Baum: Yes. Yes it feels good. I dont like - Well nobody calls anymore. They - they either write in the mail or they -
Al Baum: [02:44:30] they send an email. And if they call, I'm not very friendly because I - I don't like the phone and I - I'm not very friendly. But if somebody only contacts me when they want a check, they don't rise in my estimation or in my affection. Not at all. And that's true of Robert also. But I don't mind people,
Al Baum: [02:45:00] so to speak, playing dual roles. I don't mind people who are friends also asking me for contributions. And I don't mind somebody who wants a contribution trying to befriend me. I don't always want to, but I don't mind. I mind if I make the judgment that they're doing it just to enhance their fundraising capacity, but I - I don't mind if it's somebody who's
Al Baum: [02:45:30] genuinely a friend and also wants a contribution. And I - I think, I'm not sure, but I think I'm pretty good at distinguishing one from the other.
Mason Funk: You've probably had a lot of practice.
Al Baum: I have. Yes. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Well, I want to ask about your art collection and what it means to you and the story behind it and
Mason Funk: [02:46:00] how you organize your thinking around art that you want to acquire and have.
Al Baum: Okay. People used to call me an art collector and I'd say, "I am not an art collector. I have a lot of art, but I am not a collector." Well, what did I mean by that? To me, a collector is - is systematic and I am the opposite of systematic about art as well as a lot of other things too.
Al Baum: [02:46:30] So I have traveled ... Long before I met Robert, I traveled. And I acquired a lot of things. You notice that a lot of things on the wall are fairly small. They're small so that I could put them in my suitcase and carry them home. Not have to pay the shipping and not have to pay the excise tax because what you bring in, I always lie. Say I'm under $800. It - it used to be $400. Now it's $800.
Al Baum: [02:47:00] So I - if I - I always put a figure that's a little less than the actual figure.So that's one answer. Each one of these things has a story. I can't always remember the story now, but generally speaking I tend to remember. I was with some old friends recently. I was going to get up and go to the ...
Al Baum: [02:47:30] You see on the third - on the second shelf down on the second shelf over, you see a round thing that's sort of green and brown and decorated.
Mason Funk: Do you want me to bring it to you?
Al Baum: If you want, sure.
Mason Funk: If I can reach it. Is it this?
Mason Funk: Yes.
Al Baum: [02:48:00] Robert and I were in a cruise in southeast Asia in January of this year. And shortly after we came back was Chinese New Year. And I have a Chinese New Year group. We - It's tradition. We meet every year for a banquet. And one of the couples,
Al Baum: [02:48:30] male and female couples, he worked for USAID for years. And they gave me this. It's from Burma. And I told them, I remarked on it, and they had forgotten. But I didn't forget. So many of the things here
Al Baum: [02:49:00] are worth about three dollars. Sometimes less. But it doesn't matter. So - so that's one notable thing. The other thing that's notable is that Robert and I are still buying. My shelves are full - We - we have a huge watercolor that we bought in Hong Kong a few weeks ago that's going to go there. And it has to go there because of the colors.
Al Baum: [02:49:30] And then that's going to, we have to decide what to do with that. So Im - I'm full up. The house is pretty full of stuff. But we keep doing it because it's our fun. It's what we like to do when we're away, so I'm not going to stop that. As long as I'm able to travel, we're going to buy things.
Al Baum: [02:50:00] Yes, I - I can - I can feel my itch to get up and go over and show you what - what each thing is. But I won't do it, obviously. But its - I do love doing that. I do.
Mason Funk: Why don't you just set that ... maybe on the table.
[02:50:30] [TECHNICAL]
Mason Funk: [02:52:30] Is there anything else? I'll ask again before I do my final four short questions. Is there anything else that we should talk about?
Al Baum: No. I don't think of anything.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right. One question I ask every interviewee is, it's very appropriate in your case,
Mason Funk: [02:53:00] to someone who is just about to come out, whatever that means to that person and whatever his or her age might be, what from your own experience would you say to that person in the way of guidance or wisdom or advice? On coming out?
Al Baum: I'll give you two current examples. I have a dear friend, not a long time friend but a dear friend,
Al Baum: [02:53:30] whose boyfriend is from India. And until a few weeks ago, he had not told his parents that he was gay, and he's in his 40s. And my friend has been urging him to do it. And he finally did it. And he's much more at ease now, and his parents took it very well,
Al Baum: [02:54:00] although that's a, you talk about our society being conservative sometimes. That's a much more conservative society.And then this is going to sound odd, but we have a friend who's in his low 50s, and his girlfriend who lives with him now is 25. And she has not told her parents that she's living with him. They live in San Francisco. She has not told them.
Al Baum: [02:54:30] They are ethnic. I don't even need to mention what ethnic, but they are ethnic parents. And we - her boyfriend and Robert and I have urged her to do it, and she won't do it. She's just too afraid of the consequences.So I would say that my experience is that nine times out of ten, 99 times out of 100,
Al Baum: [02:55:00] it comes out good. Now, I will also say that if the person is above, as you asked me before, 35 or so, they know already. They know from the fact that the person is not married, and from the fact probably that the person does not date the gender they're quote supposed to be dating.
Al Baum: [02:55:30] And we're just kidding ourselves that they don't know. So you've got very little to lose and a lot to gain by doing it.
Mason Funk: What is your hope ... What gives you hope for the future?
Al Baum: [02:56:00] This is not a good time to be asking me that. I am very worried about our so-called President, and about this country. I am very worried that so many people voted for an idiot to be President of the United States, and don't seem to be yet put off by the terrible things that he's been saying and doing from the beginning.
Al Baum: [02:56:30] So, I mean, I'm sure when the time comes I won't be ready to leave, but right at the moment I think, "Thank God I'm not going to be here in 2020", or I'm unlikely. I may be. Actually, I think I will be because I'm expecting another 10 years or so. And we're in '17 right now, so I'll be here in 2020.
Al Baum: [02:57:00] I'm worried about the next presidential election. I'm worried about the midterm elections. I'm worried about everything. What gives me hope? Well, the resistance gives me hope. The resistance to Trump, and my sort of belief that most people at base,
Al Baum: [02:57:30] way down deep inside, are good people. Not all by any means, but most. It's sort of a - Its wishful thinking, I admit that. But there have been other countries and other societies through the ages that have gone through a bad period as we're going through right now, and they've come through - theyve come out the other side.
Al Baum: [02:58:00] So I suppose we will too if we don't blow ourselves up in the meantime.
Mason Funk: Excellent. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Al Baum: [02:58:30] Well, I should perhaps not generalize, but I think it's important to everybody to have something that stays after we're gone. And I have friends and associates who have been the subject of oral histories that are at UC Berkeley in the Bancroft Library, I'm not going to do that.
Al Baum: [02:59:00] So this is about the first time that this opportunity has come my way. I've written the two Harvard things. There are other brief written stuff that could be perpetuated if I, or Robert, or anybody cared enough to do it, but they're not big deals.
Al Baum: [02:59:30] To be honest with you, I don't know what this is going to be. I don't know whether this is going to be a big deal, but I suppose it could be. And that would be really nice. You know one of the things that happens when you get old, you think, "Where am I going give ... To whom am I going to leave all this stuff, who will treasure it at all, much less as much as I do?" And I'm not talking only art, I'm talking books ... Well, books, not so important, but the art
Al Baum: [03:00:00] and the photographs and all of the letters, everything, and I don't know the answer. There's a Jewish archives in the East that apparently will take much - almost anything. And there is the Gay and Lesbian History museum here, which I'm sort of close to, medium-close, and maybe they would take things.
Al Baum: [03:00:30] I don't know. My health is good enough now so that it's not an obsession with me, but eventually it'll become an obsession because I've started giving things away already in a small way.But I want - I mean, it would be very nice if ... 100 years from now, my name isn't going to be on a building, it could be, but I've decided not to do that. So it would be very nice if somebody had something that would remind them of me, of my existence.
Mason Funk: [03:01:00] I hope this interview, maybe will be that.
Al Baum: I hope so.
Mason Funk: Yeah. You sort of answered this, because these two questions sort of overlap, but in a more direct way when you ... This projects being called OUTWORDS, what do you see as the value of a project like OUTWORDS that is seeking to compile
Mason Funk: [03:01:30] a lot of interviews like this one, from people all over the country? What do you see is the value of that?
Al Baum: I'm going to answer it in a strange way. I have a cousin whos now 28 or 29, and he went to photography school in Santa Barbara. And he went then to Los Angeles and he did a project on Holocaust survivors. He would take their picture and interview them and record the interview and then ...
Al Baum: [03:02:00] I forget who it ended up with. I think Skirball maybe. And he - he loved doing it. You're doing the same thing. I'm a survivor, but not a Holocaust survivor. Would you ask me again the way you asked me the first time? I lost the track of it.
Mason Funk: Yeah. What do you see is the importance of a project like Outwords?
Al Baum: [03:02:30] Well, remember I spoke several hours ago about the fact that it's been established by surveys that people who know they know a gay or lesbian person are more favorable to the gays and lesbians than if they don't know that they know. So this is one way of making
Al Baum: [03:03:00] more people aware of the, not only the existence, but of the variety, as you say, the variety of LGBTs. I don't know what your plans are for number or duration, but I will know eventually, I'm sure.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Natalie Tsui
Date: May 08, 2017
Location: Home of Al Baum, San Francisco, CA