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David Mixner was born on August 16, 1946, and grew up dirt poor in the town of Elmer, New Jersey. David says his early values were formed by “two Johns and a King”: John F. Kennedy (whom his mother called Saint John), Pope John XXIII (an early voice of liberation theology), and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. From these men, David says, he learned that “God puts you here on earth for only one reason: to serve others.”
 
In high school, David learned that Northern youth were going into the Deep South to lend their support to the Civil Rights Movement. After graduation, David headed to Mississippi, where he found himself staying in the home of a pig farmer and civil rights activist named Fannie Lou Hamer. One evening, terrified at the prospect of being arrested, David started crying. He beseeched Ms. Hamer to share the secret of her courage. Ms. Hamer replied, “Honey, courage is just a lack of options.” 
 
In 1964, David enrolled at Arizona State University, and quickly became involved in organizing sanitation workers there. He soon left Arizona for the University of Maryland, closer to the centers of political action and the Civil Rights movement. In 1968, he was beat up by the police outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago. He fought to end the War in Vietnam, and eventually landed in Los Angeles, where he helped form Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), the nation's first gay and lesbian political action committee. Soon after, David helped defeat California’s potentially disastrous Proposition 6, which would have made it illegal for homosexuals to teach in public schools, by getting then-Governor Ronald Reagan to come out publicly against the measure. David’s political star kept rising, until in 1992, he became the first openly gay person to serve on a national presidential campaign, helping his former roommate Bill Clinton to win the White House. Even before Clinton’s inauguration, the relationship soured—more so when Clinton broke his promise to issue an executive order allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. When David was arrested for protesting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell outside the White House, it was national front page news. David’s political consulting career was over, and by the end of the Clinton presidency, he was pawning his watches to pay rent.
 
Since those turbulent days, David has re-invented himself numerous times—as a writer, a performer, and the organizer of a national equality march in 2009 where more than 200,000 mostly young people showed up. In 2017, his play 1969 was staged at the Florence Gould Hall Theater in New York City, and in 2018, David’s performance of his one-man play Who Fell Into the Outhouse? raised $175,000 for homeless queer youth. David’s heroes today are the Parkland activists and climate activist Greta Thunberg. “It’s time for new blood,” he says. He also says, “No one will ever silence me.” In times of adversity, David always has Fannie Lou Hamer’s words, as well as her courage, to fall back on.
David Mixner: [00:00:00] Here later tonight. And I said, well, let's put it to a vote for the audience. How many think he should get nookie tonight? Everyone went, No! I said, I'm sorry he can't meet with you tonight.
Mason Funk: That's great.
David Mixner: Fucking started talking. And it's one thing you forget to [crosstalk].
Mason Funk: You are embarrassed. Yeah. But the only thing Im gonna ask is please don't look towards Craig.
David Mixner: That's the easiest thing in the world.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] Oh, fuck me!
David Mixner: I wouldn't be the first.
Mason Funk: God! I dare you to ignore, Craig.
Mason Funk: So let's start super simple, just tell me your first and last names and spell them out for us.
David Mixner: David, D. A. V. I. D. Mixner. M. I. X. N. E. R.
Mason Funk: And what was your place and date of birth?
David Mixner: [00:01:00] It was in Bridgeton, New Jersey. August 16th, 1946.
Mason Funk: Okay. So tell me a little about your family, family you were born into.
David Mixner: My family was extremely poor. We didn't have running water or electricity until I was about 10 or 12. We were sharecroppers. We worked for Mr. Seabrook on his corporate farm, picking crops, moving irrigation pipe. Actually one of the reasons I'm sick today is my whole familys been ill with this.
David Mixner: [00:01:30] And that is, Mr. Seabrook thought it wasnt economical to take us out of the fields when they sprayed DDT eight times a summer. So for 10 years I had DDT sprayed on me eight times a summer, and it's affected the health of my whole family. My father, when the farm started closing, became a teamster at the warehouseswas a warehouse worker, a big union guy
David Mixner: [00:02:00] and they were vehement segregationists. And surprisingly, my sister and I were not. But they also were against the war in Vietnam. My family lost Ford in Vietnam. And I remember when I refused to serve, I was dreading to tell my father when I was drafted, I said, I'm going to go to prison for five years.
David Mixner: [00:02:30] And I remember him looking at me and saying, you go fight in that war when the Rockefeller sends their kids to fight in that war. And he said, we've given already, enough. But you know, the interesting thing about that from a gay perspective, I was so closeted and so fearful of being known as a gay in 1969 during the antiwar movement that it was preferable, preferable for me to give five years of my life in prison
David Mixner: [00:03:00] than tell anyone I was gay, and I would've gotten out immediately. Think about that. I was willing to trade five years of life in prison instead of letting anyone know I was a gay man. Now I could have proved that I was gay. If they wantedthe draft board wanted evidence, I'd just say drop your trial. But the fact of the matter is it tells you the extent of the oppression back then.
Mason Funk: Did you end up going to jail?
David Mixner: [00:03:30] No, I went to the Chicago convention in 68. Julian Bond, who was a civil rights activist from the South, was my best friend. One of my best friends. And Julian and I put together, I was down in Georgia the Julian Bond delegation. I went all over Georgia, even got shot at, organizing the Julian Bond delegation to go to the Democratic convention in 1968. At that time, African-Americans were not allowed to participate in the Democratic Party in the South, Democratic Party in the South.
David Mixner: [00:04:00] And the Democratic governor was Lester Maddox who, when he campaigned, he handed out ax handles to beat blacks with. And so we put together a challenge delegation, which we lost in Chicago. But I went into the streets to protest the war, and the cops came into the streets
David Mixner: [00:04:30] and then at Michigan and Balboa created a corral on all four sides, took their name tags off, had masks on and started beating the antiwar demonstrators. And I had my whole leg smashed and was on crutches for three years. And when it came time for me to go to trial, the judge took one look and said, This man can't serve.
Mason Funk: I always like to ask people who became activists, if they didn't get it or learn it from their parents as examples, where it came from? Like, where, how did you ... ?
David Mixner: [00:05:00] I think the part I got from my parents was the way we survived as a family in a poor community, extremely poverty stricken community, was we took care of each other. If someone's kid got sick and they needed extra blankets, we took it over. It just was second nature. And I got those values from my family.
David Mixner: [00:05:30] They just forgot to tell me it was for whites only. But I always say for me it was two Johns and a King that formed my beliefs. In 1959 and 60, I was a fanatic fan of John Kennedy. My whole family was theyre Irish Catholic, and we were forced to go out
David Mixner: [00:06:00] every Saturday and put bumper stickers and cars and stuff like that. My mother viewed him as Saint John, and I loved it. And then he's the one that told me that there's a world out there far beyond this very small isolated community that I was part of in the country and that we had an obligation to go out there by that time we had television and
David Mixner: [00:06:30] and so he was a great inspiration to me. The other John was Pope John the 23rd, who was one of the early advocates from the papacy of liberation theology. And that's when I first learned about liberation theology, which has been the basis of everything I'd done. And to summarize in one sentence what that means, it means God puts you here on earth for only one reason; to serve others. And I've done that for 60 years,
David Mixner: [00:07:00] my whole life, for 60 years, I have served others not only on a global basis or on a political basis but you're expected to do it in your personal life too. If your friends in need, if they're in help. I've never locked my door in my life, so my friends, if they need help can always walk through it. Never. And they do sometimes at the worst hours you can imagine, but they're troubled. And then
David Mixner: [00:07:30] Dr. King, who I had the pleasure of working with in the South and he, of course, speaks for himself.
Mason Funk: Today being the day we are observing [inaudible]
David Mixner: Yes.
Mason Funk: I read that when you decided to actually go down to the South and do civil rights work, that that created a clash with your parents.
David Mixner: My dad beat the shit out of me.
Mason Funk: Tell me that. Tell me about that.
David Mixner: [00:08:00] Well, I mean the first time I wanted to go South I was a junior or senior in high school and I said I'm going to go South to Birmingham in 1963 because I was so moved by the courage of what people forget about Birmingham, it wasn't the adults. It's like Parkland. It wasn't the adults. All of the ad ...
Mason Funk: You have to find a way to, but most important is get comfortable.
David Mixner: Yeah, I know.
David Mixner: This doesn't make noise. That's why I told you to sit over there.
David Mixner: [00:08:30] I'm good back.
Mason Funk: No worries. You're going to want to shift around.
David Mixner: Yeah, get over there.
Mason Funk: Let's switch chairs. [crosstalk]
David Mixner: Fucking had to make it about him. Didnt he?
Mason Funk: I want to switch too, sorry, just pause for a second. I want to actually switch chairs. So I want to move this chair back here cause I want you to not be there, but that's what's going to happen. [Crosstalk] All right.
David Mixner: So, I was going to go South my later high school years, and my dad, who was a vehement segregationist,
David Mixner: [00:09:00] I mean, I can remember where I grew up. I went to segregated schools, even in Southern New Jersey, drinking fountains. The African Americans had to sit in the balcony and it was known as n heaven and white kids below would shout, how are things in n heaven? And that was a common word used. My sister and I laughed that it took us four generations to get my father to say the word colored.
David Mixner: [00:09:30] And he said it out loud in a restaurant and people looked at him and we just turned and looked at the people and said, you have no idea how long it took us to get him there. And he beat me and said, you're not going. I'll stop you. But when I left home and went to college, Mississippi summer was taking place.
Mason Funk: What was Mississippi Summer?
David Mixner: [00:10:00] Mississippi summers when young college white college students mostly, had been called to come to Mississippi by Robert Moses, who's one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. And to come down and try to register African Americans to vote cause they were against the law in Mississippi. You had to recite the entire Constitution of the United States from memory. One black person actually did it.
David Mixner: [00:10:30] Every white person somehow amazingly could do it. I mean, I've never seen such memory among poor white trash in my life. And also to set up freedom schools because the level of education in Mississippi was appalling. So Mississippi summer was a two prong attack to come down and organize for the right to vote and against segregation and to establish freedom schools for the young kids to not only teach them,
David Mixner: [00:11:00] read and write, but about their history and, and their rights in these freedom schools. And it was a very dangerous time. Three of the people who went down there were killed. Shanie, Swarner, and Goodman were buried in a dam just before I went down. A lot of people were beaten. I stayed with a lady named Fanny Lou Hamer,
David Mixner: [00:11:30] H, A, M, E, R. She is a civil rights icon in Ruleville, Mississippi, in Sunflower County. I remember the next day we were all gonna get arrested and she had been walking up this gravel road to the courthouse every day to try to register to vote. And they beat her every time. And she was beaten so bad that she was permanently disabled. So she had to drag one of her legs behind her almost,
David Mixner: [00:12:00] and the night before we would get arrested, At 17, 18, I was scared to death, and I started crying in her home. She was a pig farmer in Ruleville, Mississippi, had a parcel of pigs. And I just said, Oh, Mrs. Hamer, where do you get the courage? And she was a very big woman and got up and gave me a big hug on our couch and said, Honey, courage is just a lack of options.
David Mixner: [00:12:30] That's one of the most important lessons I've ever gotten actually, from this pig farmer in Mississippi. So I got involved in that and that changed my outlook on the world as it did almost every young person who went there in a number of ways. One, it exposed us to the grave injustice of income inequality, segregation of that America, the richest nation on the earth at the time,
David Mixner: [00:13:00] had this horrible festering sore and that we could change, we could make a difference. And we did, some with their lives, some beaten. It was enormous courage to go there. I mean, the freedom rides had taken a place, and this white southerners really hated the white northerners more than they did the African Americans because we were living with them.
David Mixner: [00:13:30] And homes were bombed. And it was ... I was very proud. But it also taught me as a gay man that one could fight back. But if you did, it was going to be at a great price and I wasn't ready to make that price.
Mason Funk: Back to your dad for one second. It may seem obvious, but not necessarily. Why was he so ardently segregationist?
David Mixner [00:14:00] Because of leadership where we came from, politicians where we came from, they whipped up that frenzy so that they would not vote for people who believed in justice and liberty. It was a fear tactic.
Mason Funk: I mean, what were they saying to your dad?
David Mixner: This country is made up of a history of people who, when they arrived, were viewed as trash.
David Mixner: [00:14:30] And as they worked their way out, say, the Irish ... I mean they were the Irish draft riots and the civil war. As they worked themselves up through political power and was forced to be part of society as a whole, they always like to have someone below them just to make themselves feel better. And so my daddy was dirt poor.
David Mixner: [00:15:00] A lot of my family couldn't read and write and they needed someone to know that they weren't at the bottom of the barrel. Its a couple sentences of psychology, but I hope it gives some insight to what that was about.
Mason Funk: So I read that one of your first like concentrated organizing efforts was out in Arizona.
David Mixner: Arizona state
Mason Funk: [00:15:30] Organizing garbage workers.
David Mixner: Yeah, I was an Arizona state and the garbage workers and Tempe, Arizona, where Arizona state's located went on strike and they were almost all Hispanic and they were making 25 cents an hour from the city and had large families and they went on strike. And at this time, this Berkeley free speech movement was happening,
David Mixner: [00:16:00] the student movement. So it wasn't unusual in the more prominent universities for demonstrations to take place in support. It was unthought of at Arizona state, which was at that time, the bastion of Carl Hayden and Barry Goldwater, a very, very conservative state and certainly anti-union. So I said we had to have a rally on campus. That was my first foolish thing. And it's funny because
David Mixner: [00:16:30] I might have failed at that rally if it wasn't for the police. And who knows what direction that would have taken me, that failure. But I called this rally and I got a small group of people, maybe 10 of us, and we leafleted. And we did an interview with the Arizona state newspaper. And when we got to the rally, there was no more than 50 of us. And my heart broke because these garbage workers were joining us out of this university of 8,000 at the time,
David Mixner: [00:17:00] 50 showed up. But then the university overreacted. I mean, cause it's just 50 of us standing there feeling bad. And they sent in this marching group of state troopers who have helmets and masks and riot gear. And the moment they appeared on campus, suddenly we had like 500 at this rally because of the cops. You know, people were offended
David Mixner: [00:17:30] that they were on the campus and we ended up marching 500 strong down to City Hall to support the workers and picket with them. So it was a huge success. I still have the picture of me leading the March down to the City Hall. It ended up being a huge success and eventually they won the strike. I think it showed me that as a young person, I could you know,
David Mixner: [00:18:00] there's this saying, I think it's Andrew Jackson, The one person of courage makes a majority. And I really, I live by words of others. Gandhi says We have to value our words as much as we do our actions. I highly believe that. And so, it showed me that I could make change.
Mason Funk: It may seem obvious to you because you've done it so much, but how did you know what to do? Like literally things like leafleting. Like how did you know that here's this problem that you wanted to help you wanted to support this group of people who were striking?
David Mixner: [00:18:30] I didn't know.
Mason Funk: So how did you ...
David Mixner: I didn't know. You know, I mean, that's the foolishness of it all. I didn't know. So 10 of us got there, and we were in a room and all 10 of us sit there like, duh, this was 1965 or somewhere around there. We had never met before. So, I don't know. I always had a good sense of organizing.
David Mixner: [00:19:00] And I also had read a lot about Gandhi and I worked with Dr. King. And so I had seen a lot of Mississippi summers, but we sort of outlined the goals. We had to get people there. What were we urging them to march for? And you know, it's that age-old problem of people wanting to load every other issue on the back of the garbage workers, you know, apartheid in South Africa. We're going to match ... I say, We can do that separately,
David Mixner: [00:19:30] but this is about their livelihood. This is about their families. And that was a bitter argument, you know, cause they wanted to have 11 demands and I only wanted to have one, that we pay decent wages for these people who were picking up garbage. But you know, we learned through those process, out of necessity. How do you get a crowd? Well, you got to tell them it's happening. So how do you tell them it's happening? Well, back then we didn't have cell phones. We didn't have fax machines. We didn't even have Xerox machines.
David Mixner: [00:20:00] so you make leaflets through a mimeograph machine. Well, where could we get it? And someone got a hold of one. And you know, it just comes together really through a community of minds. We learned together.
Mason Funk: Since today's doctor ... Is the day we observe Dr. King's birthday. What do you take as the most important, insights or values that he represented and speak of him by name, please?
David Mixner: [00:20:30] Well, that's a tough question about whether ... There were so many gifts that Dr. King gave us. I think for me, the most important lesson I learned from Dr. King is that you can't move people unless you inspire people. You can't assume that the oppressed know that they're oppressed, that you have to make it real to themselves,
David Mixner: [00:21:00] and then using themselves to others. But until we realize ourselves that we're oppressed and that we have our right to freedom, you're not going to move out others outside the community. It will, you know, and that was most vividly illustrated in his demonstrations in Birmingham. Every civil rights organization in the country told him not to do the demonstrations in Birmingham
David Mixner: [00:21:30] the NAACP, the Urban League, all the ministers, not all of them, but most of them in Birmingham. And the adult leadership said, don't do the demonstrations in Birmingham in 63 to integrate restaurants and movies and stuff. And the people who faced the fire hoses and dogs at Birmingham weren't the adults. The kids left the high schools, the kids left the colleges and they made up the demonstrations
David Mixner: [00:22:00] and embarrassed their parents to participate. So what I loved about him is there was never not another option. If one door was closed, you would find a way to make it happen. And the second thing I think that, I want to say is that issues come and go, as Dr. King used to say.
David Mixner: [00:22:30] They come and go, they change, you compromise, you have to debate, you set less than you want to accept and then you keep pushing. But values and principles don't and that you developed a set of values and principles and those are never negotiable. Never. You can negotiate on issues. That's okay. It's not a bad word. Negotiate or compromise if done in the right spirit and you know, for sure that's as far as you can go at the moment.
David Mixner: [00:23:00] But such things as love and respect of others and whatever your personal values and principles, those are not up for a public vote.
Mason Funk: Since Fast forwarding just a tiny bit to 68, when Dr. King was assassinated, what was your reaction? Please name the incident you're talking about.
David Mixner: [00:23:30] April 4th? I'll never forget that day I was organizing for Eugene McCarthy in the Pennsylvania primary, who was an antiwar candidate running against Lyndon Johnson and someone run in and said, They've killed him. They killed him, they've killed him. And found that it was Dr. King. And I just fell to the ground crying, just devastated. I knew him.
David Mixner: [00:24:00] Because of my work with the garbage workers, and because of my past involvement, I was asked to be an honorary pallbearer. There were a lot of I wasn't a pallbearer honorary pallbearer. So I first went to Memphis where they had a Memorial March cause he was killed in Memphis trying to organize garbage workers. And I went to the Memorial March and then I flew to Atlanta to march behind the casket,
David Mixner: [00:24:30] to Morehead. You know, moments like that in our history take a terrible toll on the soul and you never really heal from them. But you have two choices in life, I found out, whether it's AIDS or assassination
David Mixner: [00:25:00] or chopping trees down in a national forest, you can become self-righteous victims. And I think self-righteousness is one of the great enemies of civilized dialogue. How can you talk if you say I'm right and you're wrong. Or you can become, find the light in the darkness
David Mixner: [00:25:30] and use it as an energy to move forward. And it's very difficult to do that. You know, I've said a prayer I'm going to share. I shared it in my last show, and I said it have said it every morning for 60 years as a liberation theologist. It says, Dear God, no matter how dark the storms you give me today, and no matter if you ask me to walk through a valley filled with bloody and harsh rocks,
David Mixner: [00:26:00] I do know that in this day you will give me a moment of joy in a moment of life. And all I asked today is that you don't let me miss them. Because I've learned that my biggest ally, my biggest friend is joy and love and light. And that it's always present no matter how much the darkness. And I think that is important
David Mixner: [00:26:30] because if you don't see that light, and if you don't see that joy, at least in your personal life, you're not going to be able to go on or you're not going to be able to be effective. You're going to become a victim. You're going to demand people do outrageous needs to meet your victimhood. You're going to lose the capacity to organize and reach into the hearts and minds of those who disagree with you. And you're going to live in an indulgent self-righteousness that leads to nothing.
Mason Funk: [00:27:00] That's amazing. Speaking of your liberation theology, so I come from a very strong Christian background. My first set of friends in the world in high school were Christian. And that was my life. Of course, I was like, What the fuck am I doing? Im gay.
David Mixner: Hallelujah. Praise Jesus.
Mason Funk: Praise Jesus.
David Mixner: Praise Jesus. Hallelujah.
Mason Funk: But of course today in America, religion is just as polarizing as everything else. And people, Southern Christians, the evangelicals say that people to judge isn't a real Christian and so on and so forth.
Mason Funk: [00:27:30] So how do you see the spectrum of how people in our country embrace what we call Christianity and live it, but in such different ways? So they see liberation theology as essentially nothing?
David Mixner: Well they don't have to see it as anything. We don't have to engage in debates that don't make any difference. We're not going to change their religious beliefs.
Mason Funk: Who are you talking about?
David Mixner: [00:28:00] The hardcore religious right. You know, they have taken refuge in a self-righteous religion that is every bit as part of their makeup as the air that they breathe. I can sit down if they'll sit down with me and talk and talk and talk and I could spend that energy so much more effectively, using that time and my energy and my abilities,
David Mixner: [00:28:30] whatever that is, to reach people who are reachable. We get distracted by noise from our job so whoever's making the most noise, whether it's on the left or the right, we get distracted by all that noise and we want to respond and we want to put our energies into proving them wrong or trying to tamper down the harsh violent rhetoric from the other side.
David Mixner: [00:29:00] And it's all a distraction. You know, my embracing of liberation theology is personal and you don't have a vote and I don't care what you think. I mean, I have a lot of gay people saying, How can you pray? How can you believe in God? I said, You don't have to know. And I'm not going to waste my energy explaining it to you because it's my strength.
David Mixner: [00:29:30] It is my light. And quite honestly, you don't have a vote in this, how and where I find the strength and the belief that gets something through like the AIDS epidemic where I lost 300 friends and gave 90 eulogies in two years to young men under 40 to get through the strength to deal with Trump, to get through the strength of segregation,
David Mixner: [00:30:00] to get through the strength of the Iraq war, which led to all the troubles in the Middle East today, which was based on lies and deceit. How I find the ability to, day in and day out for 60 years, find the strength is not your business.
Mason Funk: Quick aside, I made the mistake of posting on Facebook not too long ago.
Mason Funk: [00:30:30] Remember when Marianne Williamson waswhen she was still a candidate and this terrible hurricane hit the holidays, I think. And she was like going on about how she was like praying for the people, and people were just raining all kinds of crap on her. And I made the mistake of going on Facebook and saying, Gosh, you're all a little bit cynical about prayer. And then they just rained on me.
David Mixner: See, but that's the point. We tend to go where the noise is. Why do we care if she prayed?
Mason Funk: Right?
David Mixner: [00:31:00] I mean, if she thought that was effective or if she thought sending beams of light for her was effective, God bless her. At least she cared. You know, not exactly how I would approach a situation with the hurricane and beyond this or Bahamas or the outrage that's taking place repeatedly on a daily basis in Puerto Rico for the last years. I mean, a disgrace. You know? So why aren't they talking about how we can get help to Puerto Rico, get decent power stations,
David Mixner: [00:31:30] rebuild the economy instead of worrying about where Marianne Williamson ... You know why? Because it's easy and the rest of it is hard and it requires energy. Lots of times people come up in the street and they have this famous finger in front of you, which I hate. I want to break their fucking fingers every single time and they shake it under your nose and they say, You've got to do this. And I take my hand and pull down their finger and I said, I don't have to do anything,
David Mixner: [00:32:00] but if you don't like what I'm doing, and there will be times that you will not like my approach. And there'll be times I'll be wrong and I'll have to change my mind. Do it yourself. If you think you can do it better, I will celebrate you out there doing it. Of course nobody ever does, especially those who shake their fingers under your nose. They never do. They expect you to do it.
David Mixner: [00:32:30] Do it your way as if I'm on their staff and I'm a person of conscience doing the best I can. And the one thing I want to say is, you know, self-righteousness, which I just think is an enemy, our self-righteousness. It makes it impossible. These purity tests, what someone did 30 years ago in high school when holding it against them, it's just nonsense. But here's what I want to say.
David Mixner: [00:33:00] Someone the other day said to me, I have the truth. This is truth. There is no truth. There's knowledge up to the point of today that we base facts on it. When I grew up, I was told there were nine planets and now poor Uranus wasn't even one of them. And turns out that there's probably a billion different solar systems, a little over nine planets. Thank God I didn't have to map those out on one of those little class projects.
David Mixner: [00:33:30] So, every day, I get information that changes how I look at the world -- every day -- that changes the truths I've known, that challenges the truth. And my job is to be a wise enough person that if something raises its head that creates doubt, to explore it because that new truth could make me even more effective.
David Mixner: [00:34:00] But truth changes every day. We get knowledge unless we shut down, unless we stop reading, unless we stop listening to the news. And unless we develop our own little cocoons and shut out the world, every one of us will get knowledge today. That should, SHOULD change how we look at the world.
Mason Funk: Great. Okay. Let's slash backwards again. When did you start to connect your sexuality with this broader idea of equality and justice? Or when did you start? Yeah.
David Mixner: [00:34:30] Well, you have to understand the times. You know, when, when we talk about coming out, everyone sort of views my coming out in today's climate. I came out in 1976 when I was 30, and I remember my father sitting at the table when a friend of mine
David Mixner: [00:35:00] killed himself because he was gay at 16 in high school. This was what, in the 60s, early sixties. And my family having a discussion, cause we all met for dinner at night back then, and there was consensus at the table from the adults that his family was better off with him dead instead of the shame he would bring to that family. That was my first realization. I got the message.
David Mixner: [00:35:30] And for a whole series of other events, which would take too long. I mean, at the time parents had the ability to commit you and have a lobotomy done. And there was one hospital in California that did 4,000 lobotomies on gay people in one year. It was known as the homosexual Dachau. That was the climate I was living in. That was how I had to sort through what I knew. I was different. I'm always amazed
David Mixner: [00:36:00] because kids never censored themselves. You know, you've got a seven year old and you're taking him down the street and he sees a woman who's struggling and challenged by weight. And he said, look at that fat lady. The mother or father would say, don't say that. We don't say that in public. And that's how you learn manners or what to say and not to say, and as a child, almost everyone I know who was gay and struggled with this and those times knew they couldn't talk about it. And I find that amazing,
David Mixner: [00:36:30] find that amazing that we had this great secret from four or five, six, seven and we knew from day one to shut the fuck up about it. And I went through some trauma, you know, my first partner being killed by a drunk driver. And I thought that he was killed because of what we were doing. 1966.
Mason Funk: [00:37:00] Can you slow down and tell that story?
David Mixner: Can I slow down? If I got any slower, I'll go to sleep. Jesus, who do you think I am? Craig Hartzman?
Mason Funk: Oh, that was good timing. Is that ...
David Mixner: I can't turn that ringer off
Mason Funk: [Crosstalk]
David Mixner: I probably can, but I can't figure it out.
Mason Funk: [00:37:30] Well, [inaudible]. Okay, so your first boyfriend.
David Mixner: He was on the football team with me in Arizona state.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, start off by telling us what you're talking about. The first ...
David Mixner: I was at Arizona state, I played football and
David Mixner: [00:38:00] this was at a time where we didn't even know what gay was or homosexuality. If you went to the dictionary and looked it up, which all of us did and always thought that the whole, everybody in the library was looking at us knew the word we were looking up when, I mean, you look back and say, how would they know? But somehow I felt every eye in the library was looking at me when I looked up the word and it said, pervert a mental illness, disease of the mind.
David Mixner: [00:38:30] And in 1960 there was no gay press. No magazine would print of it, there was no representation on television except the worst possible stereotypes. there was nothing for us to embrace or look or learn from. and the only mention of it in the papers, was when people got arrested in public places, which they did because they had no place else to go.
David Mixner: [00:39:00] and they printed their names and their addresses and their profession and destroyed lives. And many of them committed suicide. Many of them had their lives destroyed as they knew it. But when Kitt and I met -- well, it's like a dirty novel in the locker room -- we'll just leave it at that. We just knew there was a connection
David Mixner: [00:39:30] and a bond which led to a sort of fumbled sexuality. We became roommates, separate rooms, separate phones, you know, what roommates do, and then slept together every night. He wanted to become a songwriter, poet. And I wanted to become a writer and activist. Actually, activism was never a career for me, I wanted to become a writer and I thought I was too stupid to become a writer
David Mixner: [00:40:00] He went out one night and he was killed by a drunk driver. And I was a hundred percent convinced at that time that God had killed him because of what we were doing. It really fucked me up. So we faced these challenges. All of us in those days, every day. You know, you had to watch every word you said
David Mixner: [00:40:30] you had to ... I'm always amused because America seems to have a love affair more than any other nation with the truth. What is the truth? And that the greatest sin that we could make is to lie. George Washington we're taught in school, couldn't lie about chopping down that fucking cherry tree. Honest Abe.
David Mixner: [00:41:00] A father saying to a son, "I don't care what you did, just tell me the truth. I can deal with the crime better than you lying to me." Us sending countless politicians to jail, not for what they did, but for perjury. You know, we seem to have a love affair with the truth and every institution or church or Grange, our labor unions or whatever just hates lies.
David Mixner: [00:41:30] Unless you're homosexual. We were the one exception to the great American love affair with the truth. You are so bad, we support you lying about who you are. Think about that. We were the one exception to that journey that you are so bad. Please lie to us. And even when we came out to us, they said, lie to us about what you're doing. We don't want to hear about what you're doing. We don't want to hear about it.
David Mixner: [00:42:00] It's okay for you to lie. That's how bad you are. And so when Kitt died, I couldn't talk to anyone about it, I couldn't express my feelings. I couldn't get help. I was left alone in the midst of this horrible grief.
Mason Funk: When you say it fucked you up, I understand the grief, but did it have a long term, a long tail in terms of your own [crosstalk]
David Mixner: [00:42:30] Of course, after that I never gave anybody my name cause I thought I was a death sentence. Typhoid Mary. I never, I made up constant lies about who I was, a rancher from Colorado, a cowboy or this or that. Anything to throw people off track. We were trained but to lie. And it took us a while, even when we didn't have to lie and I came out to stop lying.
Mason Funk: So what changed for you?
David Mixner: [00:43:00] Well, I had gotten through the civil rights movement and I was a major leader in the antiwar movement. And Anita Bryant raised her ugly head in Miami to put on the ballot. She was a fucking loser. She pretended she was Miss America. She came in second. She didn't even win. You know, she was a big old loser, selling orange juice on television, decided that it was her responsibility to put on the ballot for the first time in history,
David Mixner: [00:43:30] the first ballot initiative we faced to take away our rights. And I remember living in California and everyone in sheer panic, at first we were in denial. We didn't think it would pass. And then when it passed 2 to 1 and then went on to Wichita and St Paul and Eugene, excuse me, panic set in the community.
David Mixner: [00:44:00] It came to California in 1978/77, it started. A Proposition Six, which would make it against the law for homosexuals to teach in the public schools. And if they were accused of being homosexual, they had to stand trial in front of the school board, public trial. And if they found guilty by the school board of being homosexual,
David Mixner: [00:44:30] they lose their teaching credential for life. When this came to California, it was leading against us 75 to 25. And the reaction of some of the leaders like David Goodstein of the Advocate and Rob, Mike Berg of the Advocate Experience, let's not fight and we'll take it to the courts. And there was enormous pressure from those with resources not to fight it.
David Mixner: [00:45:00] And I was in the closet and I'm sitting there [inaudible] how can we not fight it? What's left for us if this passes? And I don't care if we get 30% of the vote, we've got to fight it. And Troy Perry was on that and Diane Abbott and Pat Denslo and Roberta Bennett, and there was a small group of us that went off and formed their own organization called ANGLE,
David Mixner: [00:45:30] Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality, to fight this initiative, just that. And we had no money. So Reverend Troy Perry, who founded the MCC churches said, I'll get you the money from my congregation and you have to understand this man already had seven churches firebombed and burned to the ground, including the headquarter church. And so he was raising money to rebuild these churches and to rebuild his congregation.
David Mixner: [00:46:00] He went on a 17 day fast in front of the federal building in downtown Los Angeles and said, I'm not going to eat until we have $100,000 in the bank. Now $100,000 in today dollars I don't know what that would be, but it'd be close to a million. And he said, not pledged in the bank. And on the 17th day, we got a hundred thousand dollars in the bank despite the opposition of some of the major donors at the time. And we set up the No on Six Campaign
David Mixner: [00:46:30] and we worked real hard and raised $2 million. And at the time, if you gave more than $99 to a campaign you had to report. So we got $99 check after $99 check after $99 check, because no one wanted their name. And so we did a big newspaper interview about it
David Mixner: [00:47:00] and suddenly Paul Newman and Norman Lear and all these straight celebrities wrote big checks. And that ended the curse of $99 because a lot of the gays closeted gays in the entertainment industry didn't felt comfortable writing us big checks. We got it up to about 45, 55/45 against us and we couldn't budge it. And I knew some people, Don Livingston,
David Mixner: [00:47:30] who's no longer with us and Pete Hannaford, who were advisors to Ronald Reagan. So I called them and said I wanted to meet with them. Now they was Don was still closeted at the time and I don't know what Pete's status is, whether he's gay or straight, but they met with me.
David Mixner: [00:48:00] But they wanted to meet at a Denny's in a Mexican neighborhood so no one could see them meeting with me cause I was so prominent at that time. And they showed up in the middle of the summer wearing raincoats, sunglasses, and a hat.
Mason Funk: Hold that thought. Just hold on.
David Mixner: That's all right.
Mason Funk: Thats amazing [crosstalk]
David Mixner: What?
Mason Funk: I'm loving this Dennys story. I mean, I've never heard this. I mean, I know the Prop Six story, but just hold up for one sec.
David Mixner: [00:48:30] Well Cleave will have you believe that Harvey did the whole thing
Mason Funk: Just hold on for the siren.
David Mixner: It's all right. All I can think of when I hear [inaudible] men in uniform.
David Mixner: They're still around. You know, I was rushed at a hospital. I've had 11 surgeries and eight stays in intensive care. There were times when they didn't think I was going to make it. A couple of times, the last two times really,
David Mixner: [00:49:00] really didn't think I was going to make it. Gave me a 5% chance of survival and I have yet to have a good looking paramedic pick me up here.
Mason Funk: Dammit.
David Mixner: I said, What the fuck?
Mason Funk: My husband used to live near where there are fire stations in LA and he was like, It is the only damn fire station that didn't have hot firemen.
David Mixner: There's one right here, underneath me, but they have some hot firemen and I bring them donuts every once in a while.
Mason Funk: Okay, were good. Back it up, the guys didn't want to meet with you ...
David Mixner: [00:49:30] Yeah. We met in a Denny's in East Los Angeles. They, in the middle of summer, showed up in raincoat, sunglasses and hats, in case anyone saw them, and they said, What do you want? And much to their credit, it took a lot of courage for them. I mean, I don't want to minimize it. It did take a lot of courage back then. They had a lot to lose. And I said, I want to meet with governor Reagan to get him to come out against the initiative. And they said, Dave, he's not going to come out against the initiative, you know that". I said, I gotta try. We're at 45, we're not moving.
David Mixner: [00:50:00] And they said, Well, we'll set it up. You'll get 15 minutes and no more. I said, Thank you. I went back to the campaign. They were livid that I had done this. Harvey said that, you know, I had destroyed the campaign because Reagan could then say he met with us and then come out against it and he would look reasonable. How dare I meet with this man? And he's the man that fought people's park
David Mixner: [00:50:30] and went down to the long laundry list of all the things he had done wrong. And I just said very simply, I'm going to go meet with him. And I was Southern California co-campaign manager and I said, Fire me, if I do not succeed, blame it. Dump it all on my head. We've got to get above 45 and there's nothing else that can get us above 45 at this stage. With four weeks to go. That's a big jump. We made a big jump.
David Mixner: [00:51:00] We jumped 20 points. I went in to see governor Reagan with Peter Scott, got new suits, looked real good. I must say he was one of the kindest men I've ever met with in politics and gracious, put his arm around us, which Democrats wouldn't do at that point for fear of touching a gay man. Sat me down. He had the jelly beans.
David Mixner: [00:51:30] Peter had to slap my hand cause I was halfway down to a jar of jelly beans. I was so nervous and he said, Boys, what can I do for you? And I said, Well governor, we're here because we want you to come out against prop six. And he smiled and he said, David, surely they told you that I'm going to endorse prop six. I said, Yes it did. But I was shocked. And he smiled and he said, You couldn't have been shocked.
David Mixner: [00:52:00] I said, I was, governor. He said, Well, perhaps you can explain to me that shock. I said, I never thought I'd live today to see what governor Reagan endorsed anarchy in the schools. He said, What? I said Anarchy in the schools. I said, Governor, if you look how this is drafted, it says that any teacher that's accused by anyone of being gay has to go on trial.
David Mixner: [00:52:30] So that means if I got a failing grade or didn't like a teacher, all I had to do was say they're gay and the kids are going to run the schools. It's going to be anarchy in those schools. Kids can never again get a failing grade. No one can be held responsible for their behavior. He said, Let me see that. He said, The damn stupid fucks. Because that's how they drafted it. And 15 minutes turned into 45 minutes.
David Mixner: [00:53:00] And the great lesson in that, by the way, is don't go in and try to convince someone of your position, but go in and tell them where they lose. And instead of trying to be self righteous about, You've got to like me because I'm gay. I didn't care if he liked me because of gay. I just want him to come out against the goddamn initiative. He didn't have to invite me to dinner, though it would have been his loss. I'm a wonderful dinner guest.
David Mixner: [00:53:30] So we're leaving the office and I said, Governor, can I ask you what you're going to do? And he said, No. And we smiled and he patted me on the back and we left. We went back to the headquarters. Of course, everyone was waiting there, angry as hell that I went and did this, I don't know, three days later he wrote a column that appeared on the front page of every California newspaper saying he was against no on six because it would create anarchy into schools and it was drafted badly
David Mixner: [00:54:00] and we won 55-45, that initiative. The first time we've ever defeated an initiative, and it was because of governor Reagan.
Mason Funk: That's an amazing story.
David Mixner: You just gotta be smart. You know, you gotta put yourself in the other shoes. If I went in and say, You don't understand how oppressed I am, governor, and that I'm a good person and I deserve this and I deserve ...
David Mixner: [00:54:30] the wall would have come down. I went in and told him why he had something to lose and talked on his language, get over ourselves, folks. The purpose of a movement is not to prove that we're right, the purpose of a movement is to change minds. And to change minds. You have to value your words. You have to give time and energy to think what other people's fears are,
David Mixner: [00:55:00] where they're coming from, and then connect that with what we have in common, in that case anarchy in the schools. But we forget as a movement. I'm always amazed when someone comes out later than I did, for example, which would be most people, people attack them for taking ... Attacking Pete Buttigieg for coming out later than any of us. What the hell? I mean, who cares?
David Mixner: [00:55:30] That's what our job was. That's what we did all this work for so that someday we could have a viable candidate for President of the United States. That's what all this was about. And we have a guy who is respected and a viable -- think about it -- candidate for President of United States. I got to tell you, I can't wait to don the New York primary to be able, after 60 years of doing this,
David Mixner: [00:56:00] to walk into the fucking voting booth and vote for a gay man for President of the United States, a viable gay man who's respected internationally. That's what, and we're sitting there nitpicking how gay he is. How crazy can you get? It should be a point of great pride and say whether you support him or not? There's other good candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and I know, I understand if people want to support them, they don't have to support him but simply
David Mixner: [00:56:30] because he's gay. But the fact of the matter is he smashed the glass ceiling. In the future, any young kid in kindergarten when they say, do you want to be President of the United States, the gay kid can raise their hand too now, because they can be. They can raise their hand. I never could raise my hand because I knew I couldn't be and they can raise their hand.
David Mixner: [00:57:00] Woman, young girls, young boys can now dream of being President and believe it's possible. That's what's happened with this race. And they're nitpicking about what age he came out or the fact that he's not a Tom Ford model, give me a fucking break. How crazy and stupid can you get otherwise I don't have an opinion on that.
Mason Funk: [00:57:30] So what was the tipping point for you when you finally decided and what was the process? How did you come out?
David Mixner: Well, Anita, Brian, I knew if I was going to run this campaign, I was going to be identified as a gay man. And I was, at that point, had done the antiwar movement, civil rights, I'd been on the cover of Time, nominated for prizes and awards. I was an integral part of the democratic party. I had been on the McGovern commission and worked with Julian Bond and Dr. King and I was very well known
David Mixner: [00:58:00] and I just could not stand the idea that we would not fight back. That's what really was the turning point that everyone said we can't win. Not to fight back on six. Just drove me crazy. And then I realized that how could I pass judgment on them when I wasn't out.
Mason Funk: So how did you come out?
David Mixner: [00:58:30] Well, I told my parents and my family, and was not allowed in the house for four years. Kicked out. A great personal trauma to myself and then to my friends. I came out by sending a fundraising letter telling them I was gay and would they support No On 6. And when I came out, many Democrats
David Mixner: [00:59:00] who I had contributed small checks to sent the checks back, didn't want me to be reported anymore and wouldn't have any further contact with me. I'm talking about liberal Democrats now, not Republicans, but we changed, didn't we? We're now where President Obama, with no fear, came out for marriage and gays in the military, and appointed gay ambassadors and deputy cabinet members
David Mixner: [00:59:30] and embraced transsexual people. That's how far we've come. And that wasn't that long ago. I remember in 1992 -- I'm rambling here, but forgive me -- this is how far we come, in 1992 Bill Clinton, who's still alive and well, you know, everyone's gaga. At the convention, I was in his kitchen cabinet and a close friend of his,
David Mixner: [01:00:00] and we had come a long way. He had come out, and for LGBT people to serve in the military. And he had taken some good stands during the campaign, which he never followed up on, but there were some things he followed up on that's not fair. But the gay and lesbian vote and money, especially through a time that Paula Jones and Jennifer Flowers after New Hampshire,
David Mixner: [01:00:30] when it looked like his campaign was going to collapse, we poured money into that campaign because we knew that if we did, we would have great influence because everyone else was abandoning it, and it worked. It was a good strategy. Well, we got to the convention, and I would go to a meeting every day at the kitchen cabinet up in his suite to plan that day. And I got a copy of his acceptance speech. And in one line it said,
David Mixner: [01:01:00] "And as women and as men and as Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans" and that and that, didn't mention gay and lesbian Americans. And I said, you got to say that. And they say, Oh well it's all done and we're going to release it. So there was a young guy on the convention floor from Texas named Tom Henderson, who has since died of AIDS, one of the smartest political people I've ever met in my life. He was one of those Texas politicians. They could tell you the political beliefs of a turtle.
David Mixner: [01:01:30] He knew where everybody was laid. He knew and he was in charge of our floor operation for LGBT -- cause there were a lot of LGBT delegates and allies at that time. And I called Tom and I said, what are we going to do? I said, if he doesn't say the word gay, just say the word gay. We're fucked. And so he said, well let's go back to the delegations and see if we can convince a couple of them to walk out
David Mixner: [01:02:00] if he doesn't. Well, I went to some and he went to some and suddenly we had eight major state delegations, gay and straight willing to walk out of the convention. Wisconsin, California, New York, Oregon. And so I called Mickey Kantor back of the thing, and I said, Here's the deal. He can either take that sentence out all together,
David Mixner: [01:02:30] which was acceptable to us where no one's mentioned, or put us in it. Cause if we're not in it, these eight delegations are going to walk off the floor and you can call the chairs to see that I'm not bluffing and this is your choice. You can have great coverage of his acceptance speech about a new time and a new place in America or the stories tomorrow can be how eight delegations walked off the convention floor and that's your choice, Mickey. And he said, "Well, we got to talk."
David Mixner: [01:03:00] And I said, "No, no, no, no. We don't have time to talk. He's going to go on in three hours. That's your choice." And I hung up from my phone in the California delegation and we didn't know what was going to happen. And by this time, the press knew, everybody in the convention knew. Everyone was waiting to see what would happen. And he got to the section that has Spanish Americans, Asian America, and he stopped. And there was this pause that seemed to last forever, but it was probably a second and he said, and gay Americans,
David Mixner: [01:03:30] the place went crazy for just saying the word gay. That's what the battle was. Just even to be acknowledged that we exist. Think about that. That was in 1992 to where we are today. Extraordinary path of victory defined by a trail of tears. But that's extraordinary success story as a community.
Mason Funk: [01:04:00] Let's pause. That's great. And I have a follow up question in mind, but I want to pee. So let's talk about the AIDS epidemic, for a period of time. And you've mentioned the number of people you lost, and the eulogies you gave. We were talking about this earlier on, for someone who doesn't know, I don't really know the best means to communicate the reality of the epidemic to people who never experienced it.
David Mixner: [01:04:30] I don't know if you ever can. It's like saying to me, who was the first generation after the Holocaust? I was born in 1946, so in 1946, people were just internationally becoming aware of the extent of the Holocaust and the horror and seeing the pictures for the first time. And I don't know,
David Mixner: [01:05:00] that knowledge changed me forever. And the slogan, Never Again. And in many ways I used the, not in many, almost exactly, the Jewish model to organize, of building allies and Never Again, and organizing the community and political giving and stuff. That was a role model for me,
David Mixner: [01:05:30] but I don't know. And I've seen all the films. I, been part of so much around a Holocaust. I mean, if you go into the Holocaust museum in Washington on one of the major donor walls is American, gay and lesbian and allies because, when the Holocaust museum, a guy named David
David Mixner: [01:06:00] I don't know ... Who was active in the Holocaust museum -- and it was just before the March in 1993, when it opened -- said, Would you come and do a personal tour before it opens? And I said, Yes. And I realized that it was one of the most important museums in the history of this country. And I was particularly moved by the room that said, what did they know and when did they know it?
David Mixner: [01:06:30] And that we had a chance to bomb the railroads to the camps. And we turned away the St. Louis. And I was appalled by that. And I said, every school child should come through this museum. So I said, I'll go into the community ... And raise $1 million to support the work of this museum, but you really don't have an LGBT exhibit of what happened on the Holocaust.
David Mixner: [01:07:00] And interesting enough, it was controversial on the board. And Miles Lerman was the chair of the Holocaust museum at the time. And, I said, Miles, I won't make this a point controversy. If it is a point of controversy, I won't do it because we're making great progress in the Jewish community with the gay community. I want it to be a place of unity. And if there's a big battle on the board,
David Mixner: [01:07:30] I don't want it in the paper. Well, Miles did his work and I had to meet with a couple of rabbis, Orthodox rabbis and had a great conversation with them one by one. And they voted to allow us to raise them $1 million, and of that million, 400,000 would go into studies of what happened to LGBTQ community. At that time. There were only like eight, nine survivors. And of those eight and nine, only two were willing to talk
David Mixner: [01:08:00] because what people don't realize, and we just found out when we did this work, that when the camps were liberated by the American troops, the gay prisoners were not liberated. Eisenhower ruled because of paragraph 87 in the Germany law that they were real law breakers and were kept in prison until 1949 often sharing sells with some of the people that were involved with the Holocaust.
David Mixner: [01:08:30] And, there was a documentary called paragraphs 75, I think it is. and so we went into the community with this information cause I had gotten it from one of these rabbis. I said, well, you know, he told me about that and that gay men were used in medical experiments mostly. And a lot of lesbians were sent to be prostitutes on the Russian front and killed.
David Mixner: [01:09:00] So within six months I had raised $2 million for the Holocaust museum from the gay and lesbian community. And our condition was that we go on the $2 million wall and you'll still see that there today. They used $1 million of that 2 million and they did a traveling exhibit of what happened to LGBTQ people during world war II. And so,
David Mixner: [01:09:30] do we ever able to explain to people how you feel, the loss, what happened to us, how our government turned their back on us? Nah. But we can make sure they never forget and that's the key. And to never forget, you got to know what happened. And my friend Peter Scott and I knew the fourth person
David Mixner: [01:10:00] that came down with AIDS in Los Angeles, Ken Snore, and he died within a week. And my doctor, general practitioner at the time, was a guy named Dr. Joel Weisman, and Peters was Dr. Gottlieb. And they were two of the people who first identified the AIDS virus. And I remember going to dinner at Joel's house and he said, there's something strange happening, gay guys are coming down. We have an old man's disease,
David Mixner: [01:10:30] Kaposi sarcoma I think, or something like that. And I don't know what's going on. And that's the first I heard it was at a dinner party at Joel's house. Then Ken died. And then they all started dying. So fast, it was unbelievable. Your head turned around. Now, you have to remember this as a nation. In the 1970s when 28 people came down with Legionnaires' disease,
David Mixner: [01:11:00] the country practically stopped. It was on the front page. The country couldn't do enough to stop this disease that they had never heard of that Legionnaires got in a hotel in Philadelphia, 28 people died. Nobody did anything. Our government totally turned their back on us. And I had a person who worked in the White House, Gary Bauer, who said to me,
David Mixner: [01:11:30] "If you don't want to die, stop having sex. It's that simple." I wanted to say, I wish your parents had stopped having sex. Now, not only were we dealing with this unknown disease, nobody told us how it was transmitted. No one told us what was happening. It was referred to as the gay disease. It wasn't until a year or two, I forget how long,
David Mixner: [01:12:00] did the New York Times even acknowledge that it existed? But all I know is that friend after friend of mine started dying. Now here's the thing. Once it became public knowledge that this was rampant in the LGBT -- gay men's -- community, mostly, funeral takers, undertakers wouldn't bury us, the AMA said the doctors didn't have to treat us,
David Mixner: [01:12:30] the nurses association said they didn't have to treat us, they had to volunteer to work for us. Hospitals turned us away because if they knew they had a patient with AIDS, no one else would come to that hospital. You know, dentists wouldn't treat us. I mean, I can go down the long list. Restaurants turned us away, hotels turned us away.
David Mixner: [01:13:00] And the only way we could get care is to convince some hospital that was struggling financially to take their top floor and create an AIDS ward Henson, Vincent, Sherman Oaks, San Francisco general, and then all the doctors and nurses volunteered. And I would go up to visit friends on the AIDS ward and I would sometimes visit three rooms
David Mixner: [01:13:30] and it was a death sentence. Now I got to say that any other community, not only would it have been devastated by the genocide that took place in our community because of lack of government action. I am absolutely 100% convinced that if the press and the government had done everything they did on Legionnaires' disease or toxic shock syndrome,
David Mixner: [01:14:00] we would've had a cure so much faster or a treatment like we do today, and that hundreds of thousands of lives I think our government condemned, and I believe this with all my heart, hundreds of thousands of us to die. But our community -- without going into too much detail, because I'm sure you'll get it elsewhere -- instead of being victims, didn't even like the word victim,
David Mixner: [01:14:30] we fought it; organized, demonstrated, act up, dial ins storming the FDA, all sorts of creative ways to get medicine. I went down to Mexico all the time to bring back Ribavirin or AL-721, whatever was the drug of the month that we thought might help. Smuggled it back in, done on a mass scale. We all took turns so we wouldn't cross the border too often.
David Mixner: [01:15:00] Found doctors that would treat us, found nurses that would treat us. Since home care nurses wouldn't come into our homes. We learned how to change needles, how to change tubes, how to treat shingles at home, how to bathe people, we walked the dogs, we had grocery pantries in our AIDS organizations. We had dentists who would show up and have little offices at APLA or San Francisco AIDS foundation or gay men's health crisis.
David Mixner: [01:15:30] In the most heroic response I have ever seen from any community equal to what many others like the Jewish community and African American community and others. Instead of being victims, we became courageous, nobel people taking care of our own. And at the same time, politically, a lot of gay men who had been involved politically and there was misogyny in the gay community at times.
David Mixner: [01:16:00] There's misogyny in the American political community, lesbians stepped to the fore and took over the political operations of the community so that we could fight, at the same time, for freedom while we were dying and burying our dead. And they also came and help become part of the care teams.
David Mixner: [01:16:30] Families would not come visit their dying children, and a group of us in LA and I think around the country, [inaudible] with my experience, said that no one will die alone. So we had charts on our walls, each of us in our homes about who we would visit on what day or what pet we would walk or whose laundry would we pick up. And I just had a chart on my wall that,
David Mixner: [01:17:00] you know, what was my assignment for that week? And everyone had them. And it's a story of enormous courage, nobility of people getting arrested two weeks before they're dying. Amazing story. Can you open that door behind you? That's where the cats go to the potty and I don't really want to clean up their shit off the floor. Thank you.[crosstalk]
David Mixner: [01:17:30] So, but I mean, you know, you'll interview other people who will go more in details. But I lost 308 friends. Exactly. Because I realized after about 20 friends, I was starting to forget the ones who had died earlier because I was so focused and I said, I don't want to forget them. So I kept a journal and just would list each person that died.
David Mixner: [01:18:00] And it went to 308 before it stopped. That journals in Yale university now. I gave 90, exactly 90 eulogies in two years for young men under 40; takes a toll. I don't know if you ever recover. I don't know how to describe it. I don't know how to describe the devastation one felt. I don't know how to describe the fact that my years from like 35 to 45
David Mixner: [01:18:30] were taken from me because even though I didn't die, our whole life was about AIDS and all of our things that we normally would do were, thinking about taking care of and fighting and basically lost my youth to it. I often say I lost my young years to the Vietnam war because they were sending us over there to die.
David Mixner: [01:19:00] And I lost my middle years to AIDS. I was in a support group. I've had some things in my life which I don't really want to go into, about being in prison overseas, and treated badly. we'll leave it at that and this has a point.
David Mixner: [01:19:30] I had to come back and become a day patient for what they did to me at an Institute that specialized in post traumatic stress syndrome. And to this day, I'm in a post traumatic stress group and, which are mostly veterans today.
David Mixner: [01:20:00] I came back pretty wounded mentally from a torture and eventually got to the group where my doctor Kloss Hoppy at the Hacker clinic said I had to go into a group and I said, I'm not going to go to a fucking group and share this. I'm not even sharing it with my parents and friends. I'm not gonna share it with fucking strangers.
David Mixner: [01:20:30] Let me just say he, he was a heroic man cause I was a terrible patient. I actually threw chairs against the wall. He was German and I kept asking him every time, I didn't want to answer a question. What did your relatives do during the war? He put up with a lot, bless his heart. But the point on AIDS,
David Mixner: [01:21:00] I went to this group and it was all Jewish ladies, blue haired ladies. I went storming out and saying, what the fuck do I have in common with them? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And he said, Go sit down there and shut up. Cause they always had to think that if I didn't do what they said they could commit me. That's how stressed I was. And I went in,
David Mixner: [01:21:30] I got one of the most valuable lessons that I could use with AIDS. They were all survivors of the Holocaust. All of them had been through things much worse than I had been through. All of them fell into two distinct groups, almost 50/50, all of these women. They gave me a great gift. 50% never cease to be victims of the Holocaust.
David Mixner: [01:22:00] That's all they could talk about, their tattoos, who they lost, what they lost, but not in a healthy way. Not in a way to make people not forget, but in a way that they stop living life, that they were clearly, as they viewed themselves, victims of the Holocaust and they never recovered. The other side of the group was Jewish ladies who had been through the same thing and decided that they had been given the gift of life
David Mixner: [01:22:30] that had been taken for so many others. So they were jumping out of airplanes, going down rapids, and felt an obligation to and to live a fuller life because of those who couldn't. And I remember going back to my doctor and say, I want to be in that group. I don't want to become a victim of this. I don't want to become a victim of anything that's happened to me. I just want to know that as of today, I'm still alive and for me to have joy and happiness in my own life is to..:
Mason Funk: [01:23:00] I'm having lunch with Howard.
David Mixner: I'm coming out to see it.
Unknown Speaker: Hes loss a ton of weight and its amazing [crosstalk]
David Mixner: I know, I know. I'm coming out to see you in April.
Mason Funk: Yes. I know.
David Mixner: Steve Guy's going to drive me down. Yeah. With Guy Davis.
Mason Funk: Steven Guy is close ... Is that kind of your best friend?
David Mixner: Best friend.
Mason Funk: [01:23:30] His name is Steven Guy, hes so hot and his boyfriend now, his name is Guy Davis.
David Mixner: I said please get married so I can call you Guy Guy. He's my best friend. He's taking care of me.
Mason Funk: Hes a good guy.
David Mixner: He's a best friend with benefits for years. I don't know if you knew that.
David Mixner: I didnt know that.
David Mixner: Oh my God. For 15 years. [crosstalk] Yeah. There he is over there and here. I don't have a picture of Craig cause he's never given me one with him.
Mason Funk: [01:24:00] I have given you pictures. Anyway, go on.
David Mixner: No you have You give me pictures, but not with us. If I'm not in them. They ain't going to go up there. Let me just make that fucking clear. [crosstalk] No, we'll get it in April. Even more fun. You're nervous. Aren't you?
Mason Funk: Never nervous. Okay. Just back up saying you wanted to be part of the group.
David Mixner: [01:24:30] I wanted to be part of that group because as of today, I can live life with happiness and joy. I feel it's imperative for those of us who lived history to share it. I think it's imperative that we never forget. And I think it's imperative by never for you ... You can't say Never Again if you don't know what the past was. You can't go down the street chanting slogans.
David Mixner: [01:25:00] Never again, never again if it's just two words. You have to understand what it means, and you have to understand the price that was paid for you to get to this point. In that journey, in that seeking of knowledge of identifying who you are,
David Mixner: [01:25:30] each and every one of us, this is our identity. This is what we come out of as a people, as a tribe, as we gain more and more knowledge about that, we can never forget what a courageous, powerful, dignified, brave community that we come from. That we are a community that for decades have been under assault, day in and day out,
David Mixner: [01:26:00] and still are with the Tennessee adoption laws and stuff. And we know we can handle it now cause we did in the past, but you got to know what we did and how it was done and the price that was paid because then you'll have the self esteem to do it yourself.
Mason Funk: That's awesome. Let me just ask you, since we're here,
Mason Funk: [01:26:30] the incidents you alluded to of being overseas and being imprisoned, you mentioned to Craig and here in this room that you don't feel like you have or you don't have a lot longer to live. Are you sure you don't want to tell that story?
David Mixner: Yes.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David Mixner: Its on Yale. It's on tapes and it is a horrendous story that my family doesn't even know about. I mean basically I was a friend of Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet and was rounded up on September 11th, 1973
David Mixner: [01:27:00] and taken to the stadium and Chile and tortured nonstop for 30 days. but first of all, for my own health, I can't go public with it because I don't want to answer questions on it. I think it's an important part to be recorded for history. And I have it. It is, I'm still in a post traumatic stress syndrome group for that. And the last thing I want is for the appearance to either sell books
David Mixner: [01:27:30] or to be viewed as a victim is to share that story where it would go public. And, I got out alive and 10,000 others didnt.
Mason Funk: Okay. I didn't know it was recorded at Yale, so enough said.
David Mixner: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Good. Okay. So, starting to wrap things up. I do want to talk briefly about ...
David Mixner: Nice try though.[crosstalk] Nice try. Nice try. But I got news for you, you failed.
David Mixner: [01:28:00] If you want to deal with failure, you can talk to Craig. He can tell you how he's dealt with it. I love this man. Absolutely adore him. We go back a long history. We do indeed.
Mason Funk: Do you want to talk about the Clinton years briefly and Dont Ask, Dont Tell?
David Mixner: Yeah, I can talk about it. It's not going to be very complimentary to Bill Clinton.
David Mixner: [01:28:30] Bill Clinton and I were roommates for a while at Oxford, close friends. We bonded because we both came out of similar backgrounds. Very white, poor him and Hope and me and Elmer, he had a better name. Elmer. I mean, what can you do with that in a slogan? the man from Hope you can do something with. He willingly campaigned, and publicly, for gays in the military.
David Mixner: [01:29:00] And then as we're getting towards the end of the campaign and it's clear he's probably going to win. I went down to Little Rock with Jeremy Bernard and said, we got to prepare for these issues in transition because the reality of a campaign promise and actually implementing it are two different things. I had learned that from previous presidents. I'm like an old hooker. I've worked this block for 60 years
David Mixner: [01:29:30] and I know all the Johns and exactly what they're into. I'm looking at you. No one wanted to touch the gay issue. They didn't want to be, they were all saying, who's going to be chief of staff and going to get this appointment? And they thought that if they became an advocate of the gay issue in these transition meetings,
David Mixner: [01:30:00] that they would lose something in the process. And I couldn't get anyone to talk about it. And one of the things I'm most proud of, I had all this access in power when Clinton won, I went to Ruann Rayburn and I think Tim McFeely was head of HRC at the time and said, This isn't about me. You've got to put a transition committee for the gay community of all the groups, heads and stuff.
David Mixner: [01:30:30] I'll come, but I don't want to be responsible and make you go through me. I'll introduce you to people, open the doors. But this should be a community effort. And quite honestly, I don't want that pressure. You know, I'm having you all yelling at me why so-and-so isn't getting this appointment. And it was the smartest thing I ever did for my own sanity. At the same time, there was a guy named Keith Meinhold in the Navy,
David Mixner: [01:31:00] who had a case that was up before the federal court. And I kept saying to Micky Canner and Eli Siegel and James Carville and David Wilhelm, you got to have an answer because this decision is going to come down and you're going to be asked about it. No one would touch it. Well on December 3rd after the election, 1992,
David Mixner: [01:31:30] he has his first national press conference. He being President-elect Clinton, and the day before the conference took place, the Meinhold decision came down and, of course, the first question out of their mouths, do you still support an executive order? Him not having paid a price in the campaigns said Yes. Instead of saying, Well, we've got a process here and this is what we're going to do.
David Mixner: [01:32:00] Now what I recommend that they do is the Jimmy Carter model. Jimmy Carter faced a very similar issue of amnesty for draft Dodgers and people who went overseas and no one wanted him to sign it, but we, it was the last healing moment that we had to do. And what he did is he got sworn in, went inside before he went to the congressional reception and signed about 25 executive orders. And that was one of them.
David Mixner: [01:32:30] And yes, it got a little bit of attention, but it was sort of drowned out by the inaugural. And I said, let's do that. Let's go in with say a choice, gay, like 25 orders, environment, sign them in after you're sworn in, go to the thing and it will be lost in all of the inaugural coverage. It will be a sidebar story. Wouldn't do that. Oh, they agreed to do that? Because after he said he would, it was banner headlines in the New York Times President elect plans to sign executive order
David Mixner: [01:33:00] and they just went into sheer panic. So that was my advice to him. We all agreed the day before the inauguration, there was a party in my honor at the Hilton and I get a call from George Stephanopoulos and there's people in the room with me, thank God, because people won't think I'm blowing it up my ass. Saying, David, we're not going to do the executive order.
David Mixner: [01:33:30] And I had told everyone that's what we were going to do because they told me to. I said, What? And they said, Well, we need six months. And the President asked me to call you, we're not going to sign it in the inauguration. And he doesn't want it to distract from his inauguration. And I said, That's exactly the point, it wont. And he said, Well, that's not going to happen. Him and Hillary are convinced that it will distract from the nomination
David Mixner: [01:34:00] when we need six months and we expect the community to really mobilize. And, and at the end of six months, we'll sign it. And I said, Would the President give me his word, his promise as a friend that he'll sign it in June if we mobilize?" Absolutely. So I get a group together and once again, I don't want to be the head of this thing.
David Mixner: [01:34:30] I've never been good at being on organizational boards and stuff. I just want to say bullshit through all the meetings. So I'm not a very constructive team player, quite honestly. And I know that, I know it's not a strength of mine, so I allow others to carry the burden and I just mouth off. And, so Tom Stoddard, who was one of the most wonderful people in the world, great organizer, Lambda legal defense fund since died of AIDS,
David Mixner: [01:35:00] one of the great gifts agreed to head it. Fred Hochberg agreed to raise money. David Geffen, Barry Diller, all of them poured money into it. We had no shortage. Artists did artworks. We mobilized all over the country, increased the polls by 10%, went from 32 to 42% almost a majority, right? And then we wake up one morning in June and Barney Frank had agreed with Clinton to do Dont Ask, Dont Tell.
David Mixner: [01:35:30] No one called us, never heard from them. And suddenly he's before a group of generals and not a gay person in the room saying, Dont Ask Dont Tell. Now Barney and some others tried to portray that as a victory. And I know I had a conversation with President Clinton and he said, Oh, this is a big step. And I said, It is a devastating step. And he said, Oh no, I mean, you know, it's a big step forward. And I said, Totally will not work.
David Mixner: [01:36:00] I said, Let me tell you something, Mr. President, you live in the second floor of the White House with a wife and a daughter you adore. So you walk down and you take that elevator down and you walk through the Rose Garden and you walk into the Oval Office. And the moment you walk into the Oval Office as Commander in Chief, you're not allowed to mention Mrs. Clinton or Chelsea. You're not allowed to show any pictures of them.
David Mixner: [01:36:30] You can't say that you're spending any time with them. You can't say to anyone that you love them. I said, You can't live that way and neither can we. And what's going to happen? It's going to be used in blackmail and many, many lives are going to be destroyed because you've left it at the discretion of commanders. That's number one. Number two, you had the power to change it. Now in this legislation, we have to get a congressional act, overturn it. It's much worse.
David Mixner: [01:37:00] But he just wanted it off the plate. He said, I couldn't disagree with you more. I got arrested from the White House. I think the hardest part was I got very little support from the community, which I now understand why.
Mason Funk: Why?
David Mixner: I had just spent four years telling them to get involved and at last, we were, at least, having a President who was making some appointments and they could get invited to social function.
David Mixner: [01:37:30] That was a major victory. And I was asking them to give it up for my beliefs. I couldn't do that. That was their decision. But the Advocate had a front page cover saying, David Mixner A Friend of Nobody after I got arrested, that was pretty hard. And Craig refused to speak to me. But I did ... That was my test of not giving up my principles and values
David Mixner: [01:38:00] and the difference between principles and values and issues. And I knew I had to do it. The Quakers have a tradition called giving witness. And that means even though a great evil has happened and you can't change it, it's important to make a sacrifice, to give witness to how bad this is. And I did. And the next day, Rahm Emmanuel had a press conference, I was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, that David Mixner is no longer welcome in the White House
David Mixner: [01:38:30] and anyone who does business with him is not welcome in the White House. And I lost all my clients and my business and couldn't work for four years. And at the end of the four years I was selling watches to pay my rent at Pawn shops. And I thought I was done politically.
Mason Funk: Did you foresee the consequences?
David Mixner: Yes. Yes, yes.
Mason Funk: Tell me, walk me through that. Walk me through the decision.
David Mixner: [01:39:00] Well, my sister's always been, she's since deceased, but always been my best friend and advisor. And I called Patty and I said, I just think a lot of lies. And we walked through what we thought the policy, and she agreed that no one could live like that. You couldn't live like that. How could we expect people in the military, especially in battle, not mentioning the ones they love, Jesus Christ. So I said, You know, Patty, if I get arrested, we knew Clinton well, both of us.
David Mixner: [01:39:30] He had his purple rages, as we used to call it, cause his face would turn purple. When he loses his temper, he's going to come all out for me because I'll be the first one arrested in this administration, that he knows. And I said, There'll be no mercy. And she said, That's right, but do you have a choice? Courage is the lack of options. she proved that back in my face, Fannie Lou Hamer, I'll never forgive you for giving me that.
David Mixner: [01:40:00] And she says, We'll make it through somehow. And I did what I thought was right and it took me a while to understand that that was a personal decision and not one I made on behalf of the community. But I did, it took about three or four months. I was so hurt by some of the reaction. But then I understood that this was a personal decision I made. I had no right to expect anyone else,
David Mixner: [01:40:30] unless they agreed with me, to join me. I went into deep debt, couldn't work for four years, was blacklisted. And then, he called and said, "Would you come over and visit?" Cause he had gotten in problems. I forget what, and he needed my help. I said, "Not if it's viewed as an endorsement of this policy." I mean, by this time, like 14,000 had been dismissed from the military and it was just a nightmare.
David Mixner: [01:41:00] Some had been sent in to Leavenworth, some had killed themselves when they were outed. It was a disaster. I mean, at least I had the solace of knowing that I spoke up to try to prevent this. and then came DOMA, I went to see him in the Oval Office. He cried. We agreed to disagree.
David Mixner: [01:41:30] I agreed to go to convention as a Clinton delegate as co-chair of the California delegation in '96. And then DOMA came up, we had the votes to defeat it in the Senate and he endorsed it, when it was still in the house. His logic to us was, well, he had to provide cover for people in this election year. And he called me late at night and said, This is the most painful thing I've ever had to done. Tears came down my face,
David Mixner: [01:42:00] and stuff and I said, Well, Mr. President, if this is the most painful thing you've ever done, why are you running radio ads all through the Christian broadcasting network bragging that you signed it? which he had been doing. Now you've got to understand he was running against Bob fucking Dole. Bob fucking Dole was not going to be President. He had this election wrapped up. This was pre Monica Lewinsky.
David Mixner: [01:42:30] I mean, please. But he just wanted ego wise that's the biggest total possible. And he did it on our backs. So I resigned from the delegation. The other person who resigned is Tina Podolski joined me in that. Only two of us refuse to go to the convention. I think Tina's extraordinary woman in Washington state, someone you should interview, and a friend of Craig's and she did the same thing,
David Mixner: [01:43:00] bonded us forever. We became friends forever just on that one action. Little did I know that, all of that ... And I was desperate for money at the end of the four year. I mean literally was going to pawn shops, selling stuff to pay for my rent. But then I published my book, which was the number one bestseller, Stranger Among Friends, and got the money to get out of debt and
David Mixner: [01:43:30] little did I know that that action that I took and paid such a price for later would make me sort of semi legend, not only just in the gay community but in the straight community of a person who on principle gave up great political power and access and money to do what he believed in and as the Monica Lewinsky stuff unfolded, my stock went up. And I didn't know that would happen, that I did not know what was happening. I just thought that I had dealt myself out and here we are 60 years.
Mason Funk: [01:44:00] Fantastic.
David Mixner: Is it helpful?
Mason Funk: It's super helpful.
David Mixner: How about you, numb nuts? Do you have any questions?
Mason Funk: More than, I mean, it's [inaudible]. It's more than helpful. I just, it's just ...
Craig Hartzman: The picture of you being arrested is vivid in my mind. That picture that played all over.
David Mixner: Front page of every newspaper in the country and it's a funny story. I can tell you about it. There's always humor.
David Mixner: [01:44:30] Always look for the moment of light. There's two arrest stories. I'll tell you real quick, if we have time. Oh, well when I got arrested, about 10 or 12 other people joined.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, tell me what you're talking about. What incident.
David Mixner: Okay. So when Clinton announced, Dont Ask Dont Tell. I decided I had to do the Quaker tradition, even though I knew it wouldn't change anything of getting arrested and making a personal sacrifice of losing all my access to a personal friend in the Oval Office, which by the way, I had dreamed of having all my life.
David Mixner: [01:45:00] You know, I want it to be the Bernard Baruch on a park bench across the street from the White House that he had a sandwich with. We decided to get arrested in front of the house, which was the first group to ever get arrested in his administration. And it was by his best friend, one of his best friends. Now I remember the 12 of us, 15 of us, I forget, but,
David Mixner: [01:45:30] who decided to do it? I remember people looking at the White House windows at us, my friends. And the cops came and Tony Linhart and Jeff Matcham was getting arrested with me. Jeff had been a captain in the air force and had been dismissed and Tony Linhart was a good friend.
David Mixner: [01:46:00] This stunningly handsome cop starts working towards us with handcuffs and I said, he's mine. And they say, why do you get him? And I said, fucking seniority and why they're sitting there debating that. I stepped forward and held out my hands to him. So he's taking me back and I'm just like turned on beyond belief. And he said, Thank you Mr. Mixner, my brother's gay. And he put me in the Patty wagon.
David Mixner: [01:46:30] I said, Listen, in honor of your brother, do you think you could run the Siren when we leave? So they all know that we were out here. And he said, Well, it's against the law for us to run. I said, Well, I just thought you might want to honor your brother. And as we're leaving the siren goes off. And off and off, it was such a great story. The other thing is we all got arrested in front of the White House when the international AIDS conference was in Washington D C and this time there were about couple hundred
David Mixner: [01:47:00] and get a set in front of the White House, led by a guy named Dan Bradley and Troy Perry and myself. And a whole mess of us got arrested. And when the police showed up? This is at the height of the AIDS epidemic they got out of the Patty wagons. I can say Patty wagons cause I'm Irish. They had yellow gloves up to here and face masks cause they were afraid even to touch us. And this dead silence. And they were like 2000 spectators from the AIDS conference watching us get arrested in Lafayette park.
David Mixner: [01:47:30] Just dead silence when we realize what they were about. And out of the crowd, I never know who started but some wonderful queen who I'll never forget, started chanting your gloves, don't match your shoes, your gloves don't match your shoes. And suddenly 3000 people were chanting your gloves don't match your shoes. And we had reclaimed the power. I will always be indebted to that queen. Was it you?
Craig Hartzman: [01:48:00] I was at the March on Washington. Two of them. You spoke at one.
David Mixner: 93. That's the one I spoke out.
Craig Hartzman: Yeah. That's the one you spoke at, I was out there.
Mason Funk: Tell us that story.
David Mixner: Not much to tell.
Mason Funk: Not much to tell?
David Mixner: Not much to tell. It was one of the greatest days of my life. Not only because of the ...
Mason Funk: [01:48:30] Just set the stage.
David Mixner: In 1993 March was
Craig Hartzman: Okay. Can I just, the reason I want you to talk about this, this is so important because I think we're missing, especially in the gay community, this activism thing, that they weren't part of where ... I was so young and we were going back to Washington and doing these marches and protesting and I always talked to my kids now like, where are you? Where are the young people out fighting this? Especially in the gay community, so that's why these are important.
Mason Funk: [01:49:00] Do me a favor, just kind of try to, I know it's hard to try to ignore [inaudible].
David Mixner: Oh, he's so hot. He's so hot. You should have seen him when he was young. I used to go home and masturbate to him. Not that often, but every once in a while [crosstalk]. Look how red he is, I love doing that to him. I love doing it to him.
Mason Funk: Okay, the March on Washington.
David Mixner: [01:49:30] March on Washington and the LGBTQ community felt extremely empowered as they should have when Clinton got elected. The convention was very, you know, they spoke about AIDS, they spoke about gay, we won on that speech. It was an extraordinary empowering moment for the gay community and actually if coming of age politically by the election of Clinton, quite honestly, which I've come to understand. and so he told us to do all this stuff to build support. So there was a March already planned on Washington,
David Mixner: [01:50:00] I think it was in April. Anyhow, whenever it was because of the empowerment and because Clinton was there and because we were also hopeful, people from all over came for their first march, first step of activism and changed their lives. They were a million people, at least.
David Mixner: [01:50:30] It was an extraordinary empowering day for the community. And I think another turning point and activism for us all, a lot of people who had been on the sidelines on the election or on the sidelines of AIDS, coming together as a tribe like that -- which I believe in, that's what I think the purpose of our marches, is to see you're not alone -- coming together as a tribe like that was a moment that most people will never forget. And the other aspect of it is Washington DC only had 800,000 people at that time.
David Mixner: [01:51:00] So you would walk around the city that weekend. It was like living in a gay city and that you were in the majority and it taught you like, Oh my God, they're the outcasts. Ooh, look straight people. Ooh kids. And it was an extraordinary ... It was one of the turning points in our history. A lot of activism came out of that march. A lot of pride came out of that march and a lot of young people got involved for the first time after that march.
Mason Funk: This was after. Don't Ask, Don't Tell had been announced in June of 93.
David Mixner: [01:51:30] No, I think it was in April. So it was before it was.
Mason Funk: Gotcha. Huh. Were just about to wrap up here and when I watched you make me sick, you talked about telling your old geezer friends to, "Get out of the way of the young people coming." Can you expand upon that or ...
David Mixner: Yeah, I think it's based on my personal experience and not on some sort of philosophic,
David Mixner: [01:52:00] I remember throughout my life when adults abdicated responsibility, the Parkland students are a good example. It's the students who are leading the gun control stuff now. It's the students who are leading the climate thing come on. The leader of the climate movement, it's a 16 year old autistic girl, who's one of my heroines, Greta. And when we were in the war, our demand was really one, bring them home now,
David Mixner: [01:52:30] immediate withdrawal from Vietnam cause we knew it was an unjust war and people were dying for nothing. And all the adults, just like they did in Birmingham, and just like they're doing on gun control and says like they're doing on climate change, said, Oh, you can't make it that quick. You can't do that. How do you? I remember one Senator, liberal Democrats saying to me, How are you going to do immediate withdrawal, David? It's unpractical. I said, Well, it's easy. And he said, No, how, how's that going to happen? I said,
David Mixner: [01:53:00] You put him on the planes and you put them on the ships and then point them East. It's that simple. You know, and I remember saying to him, This is an absurd war. We're not going to win. And all my buddies are dying. My family's dying, you know? I mean, in one month, in May of 1968, more people died in that one month and an average age of 19 years old,
David Mixner: [01:53:30] than the entire Iraq war, it was a slaughter house. And I realized that they were unwilling to consider because of my age at 23 that I had answers or with the Parkland students who are ridiculed or Greta who's just being attacked from left and right. Instead of embracing the excitement of young voices being heard
David Mixner: [01:54:00] and caring about their planet, they want to put them down. And I learned that lesson and now after 60 years, I had a moment the other day where some young people had an idea and I found myself saying, Oh, I'm not sure that will work that way. In fact, it came earlier in 2000 and I don't know,
David Mixner: [01:54:30] Obama spoke at HRC something. We had another March that Cleve Jones and I called and no national organization would support it. They said, Oh no, you can't march, Obama shouldn't sign this before the election. I said, Are you fucking crazy? If we wait till the second term, we'll never get it. And we were right on that too. So we called for a march. Oh my God. HRC hated it. Lot of my friends didn't even go. And they said,
David Mixner: [01:55:00] I don't know of a person that's going, they would say to me, and I said, I know you don't because you're an old fuck. We're doing it for the students. Well, 250,000 showed up and not, I'd say the average age was 19/20. I've never seen so much good looking young ass in my life. Put that in there. And everyone told us not to do it.
David Mixner: [01:55:30] And it worked. Yeah. I mean, the others was important too, what HRC was telling us was important and GLT ... All of it is important, but it's not an either or thing. And by bringing those students to Washington, they felt just as empowered as we did in 1993 and made it even more difficult because it was much more visible than anything else for Obama to wait to the second term, we knew what we were doing.
David Mixner: [01:56:00] And so I believe, and I believe deeply, there's a sense of ageism in the gay community are unbelievable. And I constantly have to provide over and over again because of my health. Because once people think you're sick, they think you're deaf and can't speak, they speak loudly to me, How are you doing? Fucking pancreas? Give me a break.
David Mixner: [01:56:30] I don't hear from my fucking pancreas. But I constantly over the last 10 years had to reinvent myself time and time again to prove Im still relevant. And quite honestly, I was tired of doing it. because, and then I found during that march, Robin McGehee and Kip Williams were the co-chairs, young kids and two of the best organizers in the country. I love him to pieces.
David Mixner: [01:57:00] I respect them beyond belief. And so I would get on a call cause I was honorary chair and they'd say that, that and that. And I said, Well, when's the office going to be set up and who's head of housing? And they said, We're not having an office. We don't need an office. It was the Internet. And they did the whole thing for less than $200,000. Right. And I kept insisting where, you know, my experiences at marches
David Mixner: [01:57:30] where we had to have housing and all that was not important. And I learned from them that, that I listened. I'm proud of that. I also learned that I did have something still to offer because we were hitting this barrier of all the organizations. So I went out and got 50 prominent people who I knew couldn't say no to me to endorse the march, which gave it instant credibility and saved it.
David Mixner: [01:58:00] So we learned from each other, you know, and ever since then I said, you know, we got to listen to the young. We don't have to stop thinking ourselves or stop participating. Though, because of my health and that I'm so tired, I won't be doing what I've done in the past, but I'm working on a column right now. I'm going to continue writing as long as I have a voice. Where I used to be able to write something in three hours. It takes me three days now, but I'm still at it.
David Mixner: [01:58:30] No one will ever silence me, ever. Even in death, I've laid a trap. They're going to still hear from me. so it is time for new blood. It is time for the Greta's. It is time for the Parkland students. It is time for young people in our community, but what we can do is mentor them
David Mixner: [01:59:00] and offer wisdom, knowing that some of it won't be accepted because it doesn't apply based on our journey. But also some of it will be important and helpful. And if they choose not to do what you advise, be okay with that. Don't walk away. Say, Okay. I understand. Because quite honestly, by the time the water get up their ass because of climate change, I'll be long gone. I don't care if I have plastic straws or paper straws.
David Mixner: [01:59:30] What the fuck do I care? I've got about a year or two. You know, it's their fucking problem now, but I do hope to shine some light on some things. [crosstalk]
David Mixner: [02:00:00] Yeah, I'll just get it and get rid of him. Hello. Just as I thought. Spam.
Mason Funk: Okay. Couple more quick questions.
David Mixner: That's what you said a few minutes ago.
Mason Funk: I'm so guilty as charged.
David Mixner: I'm going to lose my voice soon.
Mason Funk: If you could tell your 13 year old self, one thing would it be?
David Miner: [02:00:30] Come out early. My biggest regret that I didn't come out sooner. My life began when I came out. It's the most important decision I've ever made in my life. Come out, come out, come out, come out.
Mason Funk: Excellent. Why, why is it important to you to tell your story?
David Mixner: Well, my story is their story.
Mason Funk: Whose story?
David Mixner: Our story, our tribe's story. You know, it's not my story. I can't claim credit. This isn't my journey. This is a journey of a community that I just happened to have the honor of retelling.
David Mixner: [02:01:00] Especially since so many people died in the AIDS epidemic. I sort of been given it by default. The stories I tell is not mine. My story involves sexuality, my writing, my creativity. Those are my personal things. This is our story. This is the story of a community that went through hell and ended up triumphant.
David Mixner: [02:01:30] And so I tell it so that they know what we did as a community, not what I did. Cause I didn't do it. We did. I really didn't do it. I couldn't have, it's not possible. I'm just one of many.
Mason Funk: Yeah. At the end of each OUTWORDS video, we say OUTWORDS: our stories forever. That's our tagline. Last question. So speaking about OUTWORDS, the purpose of this project is to collect stories like yours all over the country from people
Mason Funk: [02:02:00] who've been in the headlines, to people who are just working their little towns and communities. What do you see as the value of doing this? Please mention OUTWORDS.
David Mixner: I think I answered it in the beginning, didn't I?
Mason Funk: Lets just go one more time shorter and mention OUTWORDS.
David Mixner: If we don't know what we come out of as a tribe and a people of LGBTQ citizens, we will not have the self esteem that comes with knowing our history of knowing
David Mixner: [02:02:30] that we come from something truly magnificent and beautiful and courageous and powerful. And to know that and to know stories of our ancestors will enable us to go into the future full force with dignity.
Mason Funk: Okay. That's it. Perfect. Thank you so much.
David Mixner: Get your asses outta here. How's your kids?

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Michelle McCabe
Date: January 20, 2020
Location: Home of David Mixner, New York, NY