Dick Leitsch was born in 1935 in Louisville, Kentucky. While in high school, he came out to his Catholic parents, who took his revelation in stride. Bolstered by their support, Dick was living openly as a gay man by the 1950s. He got rowdy in the local Louisville gay bars, but in 1959, inspired by watching movies and hearing radio shows about New York, he took the plunge and moved to the Big Apple, where he supported himself in subsequent years as a journalist, waiter, bartender, painter, and holiday decorator.

Soon after arriving in New York, Dick met and fell in love with Craig Rodwell, a former ballet student from Chicago by way of Boston. Craig convinced Dick to come to some meetings of a nascent gay rights organization called the Mattachine Society, and by 1964, Dick was the group’s president. Two years later, in a rascally mood, Dick, Craig and a couple of buddies came up with the idea of ‘sip-ins’ (fashioned after the sit-ins of the civil rights era), to focus attention on bars and restaurants that were refusing to serve gay people. Ultimately, their actions led to legal rulings that queer people had the right to peacefully congregate in bars – or wherever they chose. 
On the night of June 28, 1969, Dick heard something on the radio about a disturbance at the Stonewall Inn. Hopping a cab, he arrived in time to witness the glorious mayhem that would alter the gay rights movement forever. Dick’s account of the riots was later published in The Advocate

OUTWORDS had the pleasure of recording Dick’s story in August 2016, on our first East Coast interview trip. In early 2018, Dick received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. He made arrangements to donate his files and photos from a half-century of gay activism to the New York Public Library, then celebrated his 83rd birthday by attending the 50th-anniversary Broadway revival of The Boys in the Band. Commenting on the steady stream of visitors he’d had since his cancer diagnosis, Dick said, “Had I known how much fun this would be, I’d have done it a lot sooner.”
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] Do me a favor, Dick. Tell me your name and spell it.
Dick Leitsch: My name is Dick Leitsch. D-I-C-K L-E-I-T-S-C-H.
Mason Funk: Okay and you're going to talk to me only. You can ignore the camera.
Dick Leitsch: Okay.
Mason Funk: And ignore Kate.
Kate Kunath: I know it's hard.
Mason Funk: It's really hard.
Dick Leitsch: So tell me again, just talk to who?
Mason Funk: I said just talk to me.
Dick Leitsch: Talk to you and not to her.
Mason Funk: And not to her and not to the camera.
Mason Funk: Just focus on me.
Mason Funk: I'm by far the best looking person in this room, so.
Dick Leitsch: [00:00:30] That's your attitude.
Mason Funk: Okay, all right.
Dick Leitsch: Yeah, right.
Mason Funk: So do me a favor. Tell me when and where you were born.
Dick Leitsch: I was born in Louisville, Kentucky. May 11th, 1935.
Mason Funk: What was your family like?
Dick Leitsch: What was my family like. Well, my mother was Irish and she lived in New York. She'd been in an orphanage and she got adopted in an orphan's home and grew up.
Dick Leitsch: [00:01:00] And she was fun and very, very pretty, and red hair, freckles, green eyes. A pretty girl, very funny, very funny and everybody was in love with her and she was in love with everybody else. A party kind of girl.
Dick Leitsch: [00:01:30] My dad's family was from Germany and they'd come to America in 1860 something or another. They got into the tobacco business, we ran tobacco for the business. My great-great-grandfather John was on the job, my grandmother had a job and then my dad and his brother and my sister ran the business and ran it until 1960 something or another, when we quit, the four of us. Well, the five of us, my brother and my 3 sisters, my mother ...
Dick Leitsch: [00:02:00] No, my brother, my two sisters and my cousin and I, we closed the business because we didn't want it. It was a good idea to get rid of, because tobacco is not a good business anymore. It's good time to be gone.
Mason Funk: Gotcha, gotcha. So let me backup a little bit. What kind of a kid were you?
Dick Leitsch: What kid was I?
Mason Funk: What kind of a kid?
Dick Leitsch: [00:02:30] I was very shy and bashful. I really was. Until I was, I think senior high school or something that I sort of came to. One of the things that got behind me about it was the fact that I was a Roman Catholic and I was the quiet kid. So this one priest there felt very sorry for me because I stayed by myself and was very quiet and all that. So he got me involved in this theater group.
Dick Leitsch: [00:03:00] In those days they used to have Roman Catholic schools in various places around the country. They formed this one and had plays about 6 to 8 times a year and they got involved into it, so I got involved in that and all of a sudden I started talking and I haven't shut up since. A lot of people wish I would
Mason Funk: You became a good storyteller. That's all right.
Dick Leitsch: [00:03:30] Well that's from out in Kentucky. In Kentucky everybody talks all the time. You, talk, you talk, you talk. You talk at dinner, you talk at breakfast, you talk in the evening. You talk every time and in the daytime you don't watch television. You sit don't and you all chat around the front porch. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. You know everybody's business and tell very good stories with it.
Mason Funk: Right. So you went from shy and retiring to pretty outgoing and comfortable. It sounds like you got comfortable with yourself.
Dick Leitsch: No, not really, but I do it. I'm still very shy.
Dick Leitsch: [00:04:00] It's just I don't know how to behave unless I have an adult. I'm working for a church now and I don't know that much about church and all that, so I pretend like a church. I pretend like church and they tell me, "Go be an actor," and I go and talk like an actor. They tell me I got to be a medicine person and be in charge of medicine, I got nothing to do with it, but I'll go ahead and talk like I did it and I'll make it up and go along with it.
Dick Leitsch: [00:04:30] Then I hope I tell the truth, but I just make it along as I go. I'm being pretty psychological like I went to a shrink or something, but I do stand in my situation from life and then behave that way, because I don't have my own way. I don't know how to do it. I don't know what I'm saying.
Mason Funk: Yeah, it's called fake it until you make it.
Dick Leitsch: Yeah, I just fake it all. I faked going through life. I faked the whole thing.
Mason Funk: [00:05:00] Well it sounds like another interpretation is you jump into situations and you figure it out as you go.
Dick Leitsch: Exactly, yeah. Well, that's the whole thing. I don't know what life's all about. I just try to figure out what it's going to be about some day. The problem with life is they change the rules all the time anyway. Once you learn how to do things, they change it and do things rather differently. It all happens.
Mason Funk: So how did you make your way to New York?
Mason Funk: [00:05:30] Do me a favor. Start by saying something like, let me know around the age of 18 or whatever age.
Dick Leitsch: I always knew I was going to New York, because I read a lot. I was the first child in my family. I was the first baby and so they all thought I was the best and the most wonderful and all that kind of stuff.
Dick Leitsch: [00:06:00] My grandmother in particular took me on and she said, "This is my kid." She was a big reader and we worked across the street from the public library. So every day she would take me across the street and we'd read and we'd come back home. The next day she'd get more books, we'd read again. We started reading when I was 3, 4 years old. I was a little tiny kid and all my life I've read all the time. In those days there was not much radio and there was no television at all yet, so we read newspapers.
Dick Leitsch: [00:06:30] Everybody read the paper in the morning and read the paper in the evening. In the morning you read the newspapers, in the evening you read gossip. The evening thing was all about fun things, so I read all about fun things all the time. It was all this stuff about New York and big towns and big cities and big people doing this and the other thing. Actually I lived in a big town Louisville, Kentucky, it's the biggest town in Kentucky. So I like big life and I don't like country, I like cities.
Dick Leitsch: [00:07:00] I knew New York was the biggest place I could ever think that was a city. So I decided I'm going to live there and I read newspapers about it all the time, read all the things that happened there. So when I got out of high school, out of college, I decided I'm going to move and I've got to go to New York. I thought, well, New York's a big place and I'm not that big and maybe it's too big for me or whatever.So I had a gay friend who lived in Cincinnati and said I will live in Cincinnati and I liked Cincinnati.
Dick Leitsch: [00:07:30] I dealt with Cincinnati, I can deal with New York. So I said to him, we're going to go to Washington. He said, "No, I went to New York. I hate it. I'm not going to go there again." I said, "Well, then you're going to break up with me, because I'm going to live up there." It went on and on and on and on and nagged and nagged and nagged and nagged until he dragged me there and I got to New York. Man, this is where I was meant to live and I've lived there ever since. Couple of times I tried to live in London, couple of times I've tried California, sometimes I tried to live in Florida.
Dick Leitsch: [00:08:00] No, I'm out of there, I'm going back to New York. These places are awful, New York is it for me. This is my place to live and I've been here ever damn since.
Mason Funk: Fantastic. Fantastic. You are an important storyteller, yeah. Kate's feeling the same thing. She's trying to leave New York, but I got a feeling she might be headed back. Okay, so you mentioned you had a gay friend and you first went to Cincinnati. So by the time you got out of College, you already had gay friends.
Dick Leitsch: [00:08:30] Yeah.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that. When did you figure out you were gay and then when did you start having gay friends?
Dick Leitsch: I don't know. I really don't know how it happened. They tell me I finally got my first one in first grade, because when I went to grade school, they took me to school there and there was this guy there and his name was Arie, A-R-I-E.
Dick Leitsch: [00:09:00] Saint Augustine. How would you say that for me?
Mason Funk: Arie.
Dick Leitsch: Arie, Arie. So I just met him in school. His name was Arie and we now became friends and apparently - I don't remember this, but my parents told me that - that he and I became best friends. We were all together. You saw one, you saw the other one there.
Dick Leitsch: [00:09:30] All that kind of stuff. Then the nun came and she got quarreled about him and she smacked him and he went and told his mom. His mom says, "Uh-uh. Nuns are not going to hit on the kids. You're at a Catholic church. You're going to public school." So he disappeared and I never saw him again in life at the time. I never have seen him ever since again in life. Never thought of trying to look him up or anything, but I never did.
Dick Leitsch: [00:10:00] On Valentine's Day he had given me a card and I still have that. I didn't know I still had it, my mother saved it for me. Later on she gave it to me. When I was 20 or 30 she gave it to me. "By the way, you got this. He was always the boy you were in love with, so then it was kept there for you all this your Then nothing ever happened there.
Dick Leitsch: [00:10:30] My life was mostly guys all the time, because there was me and then my brother and then they waited 5 years and they had 2 girls. So my brother and me were here and the girls were there and we didn't spend much time together or anything like that. I went to a Roman Catholic school, which meant after the 6th grade I never saw girls again. It was boys in high school and boys in College. boys, boys, boys. My family had this business and my father and my uncle ran it and my brother and I worked there.
Dick Leitsch: [00:11:00] All guys, all the time. I never had that much to do with women in my life in a real way. When I was in 8th grade, you're old enough to go get a job and I decided I want to get a job and I decided I liked the public library. So they got me a job working at the public library, shelving the books back. There was this guy there. I won't mention his name, because he's still around. He worked there too and we became very good friends and all that kind of stuff.
Dick Leitsch: [00:11:30] At times the women there would allow us do decorations, so he and I did decorations. He was older than I. He was high school, I guess he was the 4th grade of high school. I was 8th grade high school, he was 4 years older. We did all this together, making these [inaudible] things and stuff like that.
Dick Leitsch: [00:12:00] So he would let us do it in the evening. Stay late and do it, and lock the door when we left and all that. So we stayed late and do that. All these years, after one night he came in, we were putting this thing all together and so he started touching on me and I started touching on him and so he kissed me and I kissed him. We kissed a lot, and carried on and stuff like that. I wanted more and he didn't want anything more, because I was too young or something, being high school, he was college. So he disappeared.
Dick Leitsch: [00:12:30] He said no, no, no, he gotta go now. "We gotta go." I said, "No, no." "No, we gotta go now." Anyway, so he left and I never saw him again. He quit and I think he's still around. After he grew up I think he had problems and stuff like that, I heard, so I never tried to contact with him again. In the neighborhood, I said they were all guys and everything is guy, guy, guys in my life.
Dick Leitsch: [00:13:00] So we got into that, we just started playing together. First we heard about little of this and a little of that and more things and more things and things like that. We went to a Roman Catholic School and we went to all-boy schools and all the other guys had dates with girls and I dated girls too, because that's what you do to go to the dances and the parties and stuff like that. Besides, we're all friends. I liked a lot of the girls. We had good times.
Dick Leitsch: [00:13:30] A couple of them turned out to be lesbians or gay guys. Anyway we all became friends, and they got to a point basically where I suppose it happens in both middle class and higher sections and stuff like that. We had theses dates and we'd go out and we'd party and get drunk, and do a little drugging. Everybody started sitting around and kissing and carrying on and stuff like that and then the girl all of a sudden, "No, no, no. I have to go home now. I have to go home now. I have to go now." I didn't have a car and they did, so we would drive together.
Dick Leitsch: [00:14:00] We'd go there and when we have sex and stuff then he would take his girl and I'd take my girl home and the two of us together. "Hi, hi." So we not really ever get gay, gay sort of thing. We were just sort of having sex and stuff a lot. Then later on when I got older, I found out there were gay bars there, so I popped down to them and started going to those and meeting other people.
Mason Funk: So in Louisville there were gay bars?
Dick Leitsch: [00:14:30] Oh, god yes there were.
Mason Funk: Tell me about those.
Dick Leitsch: There were 2 big ones.
Mason Funk: Just do me a favor. Say "In Louisville."
Dick Leitsch: There were 2 of them in Louisville. 2 gay bars in Louisville that I knew of. One was very nice, very elegant, kind of elegant, and it was a place that ... I can't remember the name of it, but everybody else knew it and still knows it. If I can remember, I know the name of it. Anyway, it was right near the theaters and stuff and you went inside and there was this bar and then over there in another room you went into and had dinner and things like that..
Dick Leitsch: [00:15:00] You didn't go to dinner. You just kept at the bar, hung out with the guys by the door. It was straight people and gay people, but they were mostly gay. The straight people who were around, knew what was going on. They would just go to dinner and then they wouldn't hang out in the bar and stuff like that.
Dick Leitsch: [00:15:30] Around the corner from that was another bar that was much more gay than that one, but it wasn't really a gay, gay, gay, gay bar. Like, we didn't have in those days. I'm talking about 1950s
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. We're talking about the 1950s.
Dick Leitsch: Those days we were talking about the 1950s and they weren't quite as gay as they are now.
Mason Funk: So what were they like? If you say they weren't gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, what was the difference between bars, say, New York in the 70s and the bars in Louisville in the 50s?
Dick Leitsch: [00:16:00] They were much gayer and they were much freer in New York than they were back there. It was just a bar and you went and you talked to people and you didn't touch anybody or do anything like that. Actually in New York you didn't do too much of that either for a long time.
Dick Leitsch: [00:16:30] In Louisville, bars were straight and gay and in New York there were strict, gay places were only gay places, straight people didn't go to them. There were lesbian bars, you can go to that. Even gay guys couldn't go into lesbian bars that were all-women.
Dick Leitsch: [00:17:00] Nobody danced, nobody touched, nobody did anything, that was all against the law. Which of course is what the whole demonstration was all about for a long time, was making people more free to do things. You could go to Fire Island and little bits in New York. Not very often in New York. You could have dancing, but you had to stand in line and everybody danced in line. Do you remember that?
Dick Leitsch: Yeah, all that kind of stuff and they did that and one of the people who worked there, stood there.
Dick Leitsch: [00:17:30] "No, no touching! No touching!" You can't touch anybody and all that, because the police were coming closer for that.
Mason Funk: Okay, so in New York now, when you were going to bars like, say, in the 60s, do you remember any police raids? Were you ever in a bar that was raided?
Dick Leitsch: No. Once in a while they would come. There were places - not in the bars - but there were not many gay places.
[00:18:00] Just a couple of gay bars and also in the park. There were some parks you hung out in and it had a little carrying on. Then there's the public library between 3rd and 4th street. So people would go around the street and like me, they would go and sit on the front porch in the evening. On the steps out front, in the evening, about 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 at night.
Dick Leitsch: [00:18:30] Stood on the thing, smoke a cigarette. Someone would come around driving a car. They would walk around the car, walk around the car, walk around the car and if they liked you they kind of drive real slow and they look at you and then they drive around the block slowly again and come back and look at you. 2 or 3 times, then they'd come over and stop the car and come talk to you. Or they would stop the car and you would go over and talk to them and then get back in and go with them. Go someplace and have sex and stuff like that.
Dick Leitsch: [00:19:00] Every once in a while, the cops would come around. "Hey, you guys, get out of the street, get out of the street." You were never quite sure whether they were throwing us out just because we were hanging out or whether we were trying sex. I don't remember. Also, in those days, people were very ignorant about homosexuality. Period. I've talked about that a lot with some other people. About how nobody knew what homosexuality was. So you didn't have to worry about that, because they didn't know.
Mason Funk: [00:19:30] How do you mean you didn't have to worry about that?
Dick Leitsch: Huh?
Mason Funk: You say you didn't have to worry about that, because they didn't know what homosexuality was.
Dick Leitsch: They didn't know, because in those days in Roman Catholic, everybody was sort of gay. There were these nuns. They were all together women and they lived together, they had dinner together. There were priests who did everything and they did everything together. There were the college boys, the catholic girls. Everybody wanting kind of sexuality thing. So if you were a whole bunch of guys sitting there or two guys standing there, something like that, nobody thought anything about it like they do now.
Dick Leitsch: [00:20:00] People were better about touching one another in those days, two girls would touch together. My sisters all kids with their boyfriends or girlfriends and stuff like that and nobody thought they were lesbians. I could go around and touch people and put them on and nobody thought I was gay. Two of us could walk down the street putting arms around and nobody thought anything about it in those days, because people were more sexuality in a way than we are now.
Dick Leitsch: [00:20:30] They didn't have the layer to say, "Oh, this is homosexual." Nobody knew what homosexuality was until Kinsey came along and taught everybody. Everybody is too young to know how it was. I remember when it first came out. When I was in high school I read Kinsey, because I worked at the public library, and I read all of that. I knew more than anybody else, I knew more than priests did in those days, because I'd read the Kinsey and they hadn't. They had no idea what the hell they were talking about.
Mason Funk: [00:21:00] You're so right. For the people watching this who are too young to know, tell us what was the Kinsey report.
Dick Leitsch: Well, Kinsey went on and studied homosexuality. Until then nobody knew anything about what sex was. Nobody talked much about it. They didn't like to talk about it. They were nervous to talk about it, because they were afraid you didn't know and they were telling you things.
Dick Leitsch: [00:21:30] Once upon a time there was this period when people who were going to be priests, would go to church. They were going to have to hear confessions some day. They were going to teach you confessions some day.
Dick Leitsch: [00:22:00] So they had these books you would read about it: how to know things or how to tell people what sin is. People who taught the school were always nervous about telling the students what to do, because they were given the idea that he should possibly do that, that they never thought about before. It also happened in law. In the beginning of America. I'm trying to think what the word for the place is.
Mason Funk: [00:22:30] The Puritans?
Dick Leitsch: No. Oh god. Anyway, at one point in the time of Virginia, back when Virginia was sitting on a counter and stuff like that, in Virginia in the history they tell the story about the time that somebody arrested a homosexual man ...
Dick Leitsch: [00:23:00] A man for sex down there and they were going to put him to death. You did put people to death for homosexuality like the Bible says you're supposed to do. So they were going to do this and so 3 clergy, Protestant guys came to study about that and there was a discussion about whether or not the man should be put to death or not, because the man had engaged ... I'm so sorry.
Mason Funk: [00:23:30] No worries. No problem. You can say it another way if you want.
Dick Leitsch: [00:24:00] The man became intercom and so somebody said, "Yes, but was it sodomy? Was it sodomy? Did they insert mental ..." God, I can't say it. I just can't say it.
Mason Funk: That's all right. Don't worry about it.
Dick Leitsch: Anyway, the whole point was they tried to do it and the decision was, no, you couldn't put him to death, because he didn't go inside. It has to be complete homosexual. Anyway, I blew up that story. I'll never get into that again. Let's go on to something else.
Mason Funk: [00:24:30] Yeah, let me ask you this. So let's jump ahead to the Mattachine Society. So there's a guy named Craig Rodwell apparently and I don't know if that's important, but tell me how you got involved in the Mattachine Society.
Dick Leitsch: Well, I came to New York with a lover and we were a couple and had a little apartment over here on 72nd and 5th Avenue. Anyway, I came to New York in those days with a lover. We were together for a couple of years then we broke out and left apart.
Dick Leitsch: [00:25:00] So I was just wandering around being single and going around picking on new people and stuff like that. One night, it was very cold that night, and I walked to the village and met this guy that turned out to be Craig Rodwell. So we went off and have sex and started talking about it the next day and talked and stuff. He liked me and he called me back and we went and talked again and started hanging out.
Dick Leitsch: [00:25:30] So he used to go out every night and afterwards he would go to Mattachine Society and he wanted me to come with him and I said, "Well, I don't know much about that." Im not very interested in that. He said, "Oh, it's very important and nah, nah, nah, nah, you got to do this, you got to do this. You got to get involved in it," and this kind of stuff and I said, "Um, all right, if you want." So I would go and hang out there and Mattachine in those days, there was a very small group and a very tiny little office. It only opened in the evening.
Dick Leitsch: [00:26:00] Everybody had jobs, working 9 to 5 and at 6 oclock they would go and open the office. They'd sit there and the places were open until 9. On Saturdays they opened from noon until 5, I think, or something like that. Sunday it was closed. Not much happened, because there was not much to happen in those days. So he started hanging out there and wanted me to come in and hang out with him and so I did.
Dick Leitsch: [00:26:30] As I say, they all started talking about some day people have to do things about making a better homosexual world and all that kind of stuff. They never had, it seemed to me, any idea how to go about doing it or interested in starting doing it. I just stayed around because he was fun. After a while I got tired of him, but there was this guy named Julian Hodges that was joining the place and Julian was a young guy who was very interested. A very politician sort of guy. He wanted to do a whole thing about Mattachine and make it a bigger, great organization and actually do stuff and do political activities and change laws and do things like that.
Dick Leitsch: [00:27:00] Everybody else seemed to be mostly talking about being sweet about it and all that kind of stuff and he was talking about actually wanting to change the world. So I liked his idea and I became very close to him, very good friends. We started hanging out all the time, we had dinner every night and all that. He would tell me all his ideas about his great plans and we got other people involved in it and went and talked about it. So we did that.
Dick Leitsch: [00:27:30] The way the organization was set up - and I don't understand why - but it was set up like an intellectual sort of thing. A teaching thing where, when you got an election, we had president and vice-president and secretary and treasurer and all that kind of stuff. When you became president, you didn't become president, you became the ... I can't remember what you call it, but there was already a president there and then when he left then you became it and became the president.
Dick Leitsch: [00:28:00] You got another one for next year. So the person who is the organization has a whole year to study before you become it. So Julian was to the point where you couldn't become any better. They would have an election and he was going to lose and so he said he couldn't find anybody that was good. People werent what I wanted to be either.
Dick Leitsch: [00:28:30] So he said, "Dick you like to do what I want to do. You're very smart. You do this, you do that. You become president." I said, "I can't do that. I don't know anything about president or about organizations. I don't know about any of this stuff. I'm just a nice guy. I don't know anything about it. I'm just a nice little queen here, that's all." He said, "No, no, no." He said, "You don't have to do anything. I'll do it." He said, "I'll lose my job and it will be your name, but you go ahead and do everything you're doing and you don't have to do anything at all. I'll just keep on repeating myself."
Dick Leitsch: [00:29:00] I said, "It's fine, I can do that." "You go ahead and do that." So I did.
Mason Funk: Hold on one second, okay? We're just going to let a siren go by in the street. Have a sip of water if you want. That siren is just like-
Kate Kunath: I know. It won't end.
Mason Funk: Yeah. It's not getting any closer or going any further way. It's just staying in the same position.
Dick Leitsch: They're looking for you.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Okay. We're going to take a little second so Kate can also adjust.
Mason Funk: You're doing great, by the way.
Dick Leitsch: I hope so.
Mason Funk: You're doing fine.
Dick Leitsch: I hope so, thank you.
Mason Funk: It's so weird.
Kate Kunath: I think so too. It must be going up and down an avenue or something. It's like echoing.
Mason Funk: Let's just wait a second and see if it fades out.
Mason Funk: [00:30:00] Oh good. Now we have the horns.
Dick Leitsch: That's New York for you.
Mason Funk: Yeah, exactly.
Dick Leitsch: There's always something going on.
Mason Funk: [00:30:30] I do believe it's getting closer.
Dick Leitsch: They don't usually last that long.
Mason Funk: Right. No, I think you're right. I think it's probably coming up the avenue, just bouncing off the walls.
Dick Leitsch: The thing is aeroplanes, they're like that too.
Kate Kunath: That's worse than [inaudible]. [crosstalk 00:30:50]. No, I'm in Brooklyn, but they occasionally will fly over.
Mason Funk: Oh, really?
Kate Kunath: [00:31:00] There we go.
Mason Funk: Yay, it faded.
Dick Leitsch: So now I forgot what we were saying.
Mason Funk: So we were talking about, I think you said this guy just said, I'll tell you what to do, but you'll be the president, is that right?
Kate Kunath: That's correct. It's president elect, is what you were trying to think of, president elect.
Dick Leitsch: [00:31:30] Okay, so anyway, so Julian kept on being the head of the president and I was just using my mouth. Anyway, I just used my name and he actually did all the work. Julian did all the work. He went on doing what had been done before and I just stayed there and took his place and signed things from time to time. Mattachine started to do things and stuff like that and Julian had a little problem in that he lost his money, he lost his job, he lost everything else, he had nothing else to do.
Dick Leitsch: [00:32:00] He couldn't go on doing it and he had to leave Kentucky. He had to go back from New York to his own place in Virginia. So I became head of Mattachine, because it's my name. So I didn't knew nothing. Before I went in, I said I knew nothing.
Dick Leitsch: [00:32:30] I know nothing about this. He said, "You're just going to be the head talking and I'm going to go on doing." Now he's gone. I got there. Everybody say, "You're the head of the Mattachine." I said, "Yeah right." So all these people, thank god, came in and took on for me.
Dick Leitsch: [00:33:00] Mattachine had this board of trustee of people who had donated Mattachine to give information for them.
Mason Funk: [00:33:30] It's okay. Take your time.
Dick Leitsch: What's his name?
Kate Kunath: You're right. You're on track. It was the board of-
Dick Leitsch: No, his name. Julian. Not Julian.
Kate Kunath: Julian Hodges?
Dick Leitsch: No.
Kate Kunath: Wardell Pomeroy?
Dick Leitsch: Wardell Pomeroy.
Kate Kunath: Kinsey's assistant.
Dick Leitsch: [00:34:00] So Mattachine had this organization of volunteers who were intellectuals. Who kept ...
Mason Funk: Well, let's skip ahead and maybe do a different story. One of the things that was in the notes that I got was that on one hand you were there and you didn't think you knew how to do anything.
Dick Leitsch: I didn't know anything.
Mason Funk: On the other hand I think you had the idea of starting a call center to provide advice to people who had been busted in bars.
Dick Leitsch: Well that's another story.
Mason Funk: [00:34:30] Yeah, tell me.
Dick Leitsch: Okay. Well at that time ... God, I have to explain all that now.
Mason Funk: I think it's kind of incredible, that story.
Dick Leitsch: In those days, in New York, they had ... How am I going to explain all this. What do you call it? Police entrapment?
Dick Leitsch: No, you didn't call it that.
Mason Funk: Raids.
Dick Leitsch: No, what did you call it?
Mason Funk: When people got busted in bars?
Dick Leitsch: Yeah. No, what were the cops calling it?
Kate Kunath: They were calling it entrapment. When they would entrap.
Dick Leitsch: They didn't call it entrapment. That's what we were trying to prove them doing, but they were saying they didnt do anything. What did you call it what they did?
Mason Funk: Oh, like a raid?
Mason Funk: A sting?
Dick Leitsch: [00:35:30] They would send these cops who would come along and entrap you to improve you. What do you call it?
Kate Kunath: Queues?
Mason Funk: Or prove you were gay or?
Kate Kunath: Lid.
Dick Leitsch: Disorderly.
Mason Funk: Disorderly conduct?
Dick Leitsch: Well, that's basically what it comes down to. There was another word for it.
Mason Funk: What's the general idea?
Dick Leitsch: [00:36:00] Entrapment. Well, one thing about New York, they were always trying to stop homosexuality. To keep anybody from being homosexual. Over the years, for some reason or another, I don't know when it happened or how it became or anything, but they had this group of people in New York ... Oh Jesus.
Mason Funk: [00:36:30] Would it help if we just took a little pause?
Mason Funk: Yeah, we'll take a little break.
Dick Leitsch: Stone Wall, where it is. It was a very nice restaurant and it caught on fire and it was a mess. Just a mess. So what they did was the Mafia came in and said, "Oh, great." They painted everything red or black.
Dick Leitsch: [00:37:00] In there case it was red. It was either all red or black and they came and painted the whole place in, brought in some liquor, brought in cigar, brought in some music and stuff like that, called it a bar and you could. It was a mess and it was awful. You knew it was awful, but you didn't care and all because you knew and they knew that the Mafia was going to close it in any time at all, so there's no point in putting money into it. So while you were there, you could do anything you wanted to do. You could kiss, you could pee, you could do anything you wanted to do. Fighting and carrying on and have a really great, good time.
Dick Leitsch: [00:37:30] People did. Also having sex in the mens room,everybody did and you could do it. It was fun. You had a great, wonderful time. All of a sudden - it's my fault, partially - we came and made the bars nice. Somebody comes in and starts putting carpets in, they painted all paint and it's all pretty. Now you can't touch on this, you can't do on that, you can't pee in the corner, you can't do that. That's why bar across are dying, they're not fun anymore.
Dick Leitsch: [00:38:00] This is the place where you go have a drink. You can do it at any old place. It's not a gay bar and it's not fun anymore like it used to. You saw fowl with it.
Mason Funk: Wow. Crazy. That's amazing. Amazing. You say the Stone Wall was basically a slum down there?
Dick Leitsch: It was, they were all slums. I worked in them, I knew. I worked in them for 20 odd years. They were awful places. They were places falling apart and nobody ever built one. You always found one that was falling apart and places that were in bad business and knew the place was closing, they would come and beg you to come be a gay bar.
Dick Leitsch: [00:38:30] There's a place up the river. This little hill is down there, where Jewish people hang out and Jewish people stopped going there. This is like in the 70s, this is Mattachine time. So they called Mattachine and begged us to come down and have parties down there. Have people down there, do horseback riding and all that kind of stuff.
Dick Leitsch: [00:39:00] Turn it into a gay place. "Please come down. Nobody is coming. Please come down and turn it into a gay place." At least they stayed open a little while, because they were closing. Nobody was there. At least somebody, gay somebody would come help me.
Mason Funk: A gay person better than no person.
Dick Leitsch: Exactly. Money is money. I don't understand these pretty idiots now, these Christian people who will say, "We will not bake cakes to people who are getting married."
Dick Leitsch: [00:39:30] Good god, if you're running a bar, you'll cook for any damn thing. I'd cook for two dogs that want to get married. You know, what the hell. Just pay for the damn thing. It's a bar, you make money. That's what trees are all about.
Mason Funk: It's amazing. It's amazing. So where did you come up with the idea for this whole sit-in. Where did that come from? Sip-in, rather.
Dick Leitsch: Well, they kept closing bars. As fast as you open a bar, they close it and we had no place to go and no place to hang out. That's one of the recent things, we were in trouble. We had nothing else to do.
Dick Leitsch: [00:40:00] We were talking about police entrapment. Or we haven't talked about police entrapment, but the cops were always closing polices. Every time gay people hung out, the cops would close it. So nobody would go to gay bars. Nobody would associate with gay people, because the law does not tell that. Churches, you wouldn't have a gay church. You wouldn't have a gay theater or stuff like that, by pretending that they weren't gay.
Dick Leitsch: [00:40:30] They actually closed earlier bars at the back of 3rd Avenue and 53rd street. The police would come in and they would raid the corner where people lived on the street corner and also in the village down there. There was a block where the police would come and raid the street corner because hustlers hung out there.
Dick Leitsch: [00:41:00] Too much getting boyfriends going on down there or were making too many sexual offers down there and stuff like that. They would come and close the neighborhood on the corner. Those days you had no place to go. So gay people, if you wanted to hang out, you went to Central Park, you went to bars and there was a couple of French restaurants you went to, but that was it.
Dick Leitsch: [00:41:30] Most of what you did, it happened on the upper west side. So much of the people in the theater worked in the village in 42nd street, Town Square. That's where you went to movies all the time. To see the movies at Time Square. So after that, when you got out of that, you would walk up in front of Riverside drive. Shit. I can't talk any damn thing.
Mason Funk: It's all right. No worries.
Mason Funk: [00:42:00] What I want to get back to is so how did you have this idea to do this sip-in?
Dick Leitsch: So anyway, there was no place to go and all that. They kept raising the bars. You had no place to go, no place to hang out and stuff like that. You'd open a bar and as fast as you started hanging out there, the cops would come and close it. Also, it had to do with the fact that in California that wasn't such of a problem. In California they did the intelligent thing and they got the people to organize bars themselves and then they set up an organization for people who were in the bar business and they donated money to politics.
Dick Leitsch: [00:42:30] There was a name for it. I can't remember what it was. There was an organization like that. We didn't have that in New York and of course we were dealing with the Mafia most of the time. So they werent going to do that, they werent going to come organizations for us and all that kind of stuff. So anyway, we're sitting there in this place that's being closed and so one day I was just talking to somebody or some group or another and I said, "Well everybody they come in and say we have no place where they have right to drink and eat.
Dick Leitsch: [00:43:00] It's like the black people in the south. They're close to the restaurants, a lot of them close to them bars down here." They say, "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah." So we decided we would do something about that. People also want to do something to demonstrate about. We didn't have gay demonstrations down there, maybe because we never could find a way to set it up, to organize it. With this we decided, well, we'll have a demonstration. We'll go down and demonstrate at bars and put up signs and have people carry signs back and forth and all that.
Dick Leitsch: [00:43:30] Of course I talked to our lawyers about it and our lawyers said, well the problem with that is the reason that the police use an excuse for closing bars is by saying that a bar has to remain an orderly place. You have to be disorderly and disorderly behavior and if you go into a place with a demonstration and throw up a sign and all that, the place is automatically disorderly. So you close the place. You got to find some way to do it.
Dick Leitsch: [00:44:00] I said, "Well, everybody has the right to eat and drink and besides, why are they making laws against gay people drinking and eating when we have the right to do everything we want to do. The law says that Americans have the right everybody else has and the law says that everybody has be free, so why can't we do that? So well, we're just going to say we have a right to this" and we did.
Dick Leitsch: [00:44:30] So there were these places around town that knew, as I said. In those days everybody knew the cops are going to close every place. They raised the place, everything. They would raid bars, restaurants, anything they could think of. Churches. Anything they could think of to organize, they closed.
Mason Funk: So you had this idea to go and-
Dick Leitsch: So I said, "Why don't we just go ahead and say we have the right to eat and drink. We're going disorderly.
Dick Leitsch: [00:45:00] You can't close the place for being disorderly. We're going to be disorderly and we're going to do this. We're just going to have dinner and eat. Is that fine?" He said, "Well, you can do that, but you can't make a big stink about it. It has to be very simple all the time and very organized and very discreet." So we just told a couple of people, 4 people I think in the newspaper, to cover. No television, no media, no nothing, no demonstration.
Dick Leitsch: [00:45:30] Just the 3 to come and talk with us. Sp we got three together, I got my lover at the time, John, decided we would do it and he was also managing by that time. We decided we would do it together and he brought along Craig and then Craig got Randy into it. So it ended being 4 of us and we went in. As I started to say though, they were closing everything and so people were afraid of being closed by the police, because if you had the gay people in it, the cops would come and close it.
Dick Leitsch: [00:46:00] So they put signs around asking if you're gay, don't come here. Various signs saying that all over town. There was one in the east village that had a thing in the window saying, if you're gay, please go away. They were very nice about it, very civilized about it, but that's what it said. I said, "That's the place we'll deal. We'll go there." They did the lunch there, which is more like they did it disorderly, then an evening kind of would be.
Dick Leitsch: [00:46:30] So we decided to go in at noon and so we set up the media and all that kind of stuff. We went in, we got there 10 minutes late and the place wasn't open. The guy from the New York Post was there and he said, "What's going on?" I said, "We're having this demonstration." "No you're not, the place is closed." "What do you mean it's closed?" He said, "They came in and we told them what they were doing and they decided to close for the day. They don't want the problem with it." I said, "Oh shit. What are we going to do?" So we were still having conversation about it and said, well, we'll try this little Mafia place right here.
Dick Leitsch: [00:47:00] There's a little Mafia joint down there. So we went down the street to that and walked in, sat down. The media came and we sat at one table, they sat at the next table and we came in and the waiter came in. So we would like drink and all that and we gave a little piece of paper. It said, "We are 3 homosexuals." We said our names. "These are our names. We're homosexuals, we're orderly, we don't intend on being disorderly. We just want service."
Dick Leitsch: [00:47:30] He said, "Why can't you get service?" The media said, "Don't you know it's against the law?" "Huh, wait a minute." So the manager comes out and he's this big Mafia guy and he walks there with 500 dollar shoes and all this kind of stuff. He was, "What's going on here?" I said homosexual thing, homosexual thing. "How do I know they're homosexual? They ain't doing anything. Give them drinks on the house." Oh god. We were having a demonstration. So we walked around the corner and had a little meeting again and there was another bar on 6th avenue and we went in there and told them who we were, what we were doing.
Dick Leitsch: [00:48:00] They didn't have a manager. They had a manager, he was an assistant manager and he was at the back washing dishes. So he came out wearing this dirty, white thing and said, "What's going on out here?" We said, "We're homosexuals." He goes, "I can't believe that. Who in the hell would make against the law against homosexuals. [inaudible] queer anyway." And then, "Give them drinks."
Dick Leitsch: [00:48:30] So there again we're sitting there and John's sitting there and he says, "Damn, one more drink and I'm going to be drunk. We can't go home." There was this bar called Julias' and before Julias' was in the neighborhood that served dinner and is famous for-
Mason Funk: Cheeseburgers?
Dick Leitsch: No. For what?
Mason Funk: Cheeseburgers.
Dick Leitsch: [00:49:00] Cheeseburgers. Cheeseburgers. Yeah. There was this place called Julias' and he was famous for cheeseburgers and drinking and so we went in there. They'd come in and it was straight and gay both. It was a neighborhood place. Everybody hung out and it was very heavy gay, but a lot of people straight and mostly guys. I don't remember many women there. Most guys came in and they had good cheeseburgers and stuff like that. They're a very friendly neighborhood sort of place. So this guy had wandered in, it turned out he was a clergy person.
Dick Leitsch: [00:49:30] He had walked in and sat down and had his cheeseburger and drink and some guy comes over, sits down and the next thing they start conversation and it's a big conversation. Talk, talk, talk and carrying on about this stuff. The guy says, "Look, I got this problem. I have a friend who's in England and he's going to call me tonight at midnight on the telephone and I got to go home and talk to him." He said, "But this is a really good conversation we're having. Yeah, I like this."
Dick Leitsch: [00:50:00] He said, "If you want to, when we finish this drink, come back to my house and I'll make some coffee or soda or whatever at the house and we'll sit and talk and finish this conversation after I make my phone conversation. So the guy says, "Sure. Great." So they paid their checks off, they put their coats on, they go out the door. The clergy guy says, "You're under the police." He says, "What do you mean you're under arrest."
Dick Leitsch: [00:50:30] He says, "For a homosexual act." "We didn't talk about homosexuality. What's this all about?" He said, "You're going to jail for having a sexual-" "I didn't do it." "You did." "Well, it's your word against mine and you know who's going to win so come on." So he takes him out of the thing. They always hold you overnight, and the next day you have to go down and see the lawyer and then you got to pay a fine to go back out. Then you have to wait for a couple of weeks or something until you see your hearing.
Dick Leitsch: [00:51:00] So the thing was, if you own the bar - and this happens - and then he is accused of homosexual, if he is founded guilty, then the liquor authority takes the license away from him and you lose your license and you lose your career.
Dick Leitsch: [00:51:30] So they took this guy to jail and he was there the next day and so we knew that happened. So we knew that when we went there, that the guy went in and said, "We were gay," the bar said that you're gay, they said, "We're not going to serve you." So we went in, we sat down, the city people sat there. We sat there, said, "We're homosexuals." In those days people drank hard liquor more than they drank beer. It was fashionable. People didn't drink much beer in those days in nice places.
Dick Leitsch: [00:52:00] So the way you went to Julius' was you would sit down and you would walk in and say good evening. I'd come to you, I'm the bartender. I say, "Good evening, what can I get for you?" They give you a glass and you say you'll have the gin and tonic. I say, "Good." So I reach over and give you ice and reach over here and give you gin. Reach over here and give the other stuff. Put the thing on top. Put it on and hand it like that to you. Now it's standing all right in front of you.
Dick Leitsch: [00:52:30] So we go in and we say, "Hi, we're homosexuals, were serving ... The bartender comes he says, "You're very very nice. How are you? Welcome to Saint Mary's, or welcome to the place" We said, "We're homosexuals." He's got this glass here ready for you. He says, "I can't serve you," and there was a photographer, he got a picture of him and that's how we got that famous picture of them. People think that was set up, it wasn't. That's the way drinks were made in those days. You put your drink out, say no. So we had that thing going and the guy said, "Well, I can't serve you because you're homosexual."
Dick Leitsch: [00:53:00] So then we decided we were going to go to court. We did to go court. We were going to go to court and say that we were going to sue the liquor authority on that and the liquor authority came out and said, "We have never discriminated homosexuality whatsoever. We only discriminate people for being disorderly and nobody's been disorderly here, so there are no problems on that. Not whatsoever."
Dick Leitsch: [00:53:30] We decided we didn't have a case, except that it turned out that when other people were already liberal and not on our side, that we didn't even know at the time. When the case started coming back going to courses like this, the lawyers would say, "No, homosexuality is not a discrimination against that." In New Jersey, 3 bartenders got together there and put it together and the liquor over there did say homosexuality, it's not legal to close against servers to homosexuals in bars like that.
Dick Leitsch: [00:54:00] So they were going to have this other conversation and then got in a whole massive thing after that with the liquor authority, because they already said by now, "Okay, you're allowed to eat. You're allowed to drink. There is no problem whatsoever." So the cops came in and said, "But we have to close this place because the men are dancing together."
Dick Leitsch: [00:54:30] So we went back to court and we had these guys come in with films showing that Jewish men danced together, Greek men danced together." "Oh, okay. Homosexual dancing is okay." So we went to another place and they were kissing. "Men are kissing together. Men are kissing together." "Yeah, we'll get his picture for Georges Duhamel and the president were kissing together."
Dick Leitsch: [00:55:00] Well, men can kiss in public. One thing after another until finally they said, "No, no, Okay. Gay bars are legal. Gay bars like this, leave them." What you want to do is you can't have sex in the corner down there.
Mason Funk: That's amazing. What an amazing story. Let's turn the A/C back on just for a sec, just to kind of like cool down again. Let's jump forward to this famous, famous, famous incident called the Stonewall Riots.
Dick Leitsch: The Stonewall thing, yes.
Mason Funk: You remember that? Were you there?
Dick Leitsch: [00:55:30] Oh yeah, I was there. I was head of Mattachine and it was Saturday night and my lover was taking me to Europe. I'd never been to Europe in all my life and Bobby was going to take me there and he bought plane and we were going to leave Sunday. So we were home down here in this apartment, getting our clothes together and stuff like that to go and had the radio on.
Dick Leitsch: [00:56:00] There was a lot of news on television those days, but there was this old channel news thing on television or radio. It was all news conversation on the radio and so we had that on and the guy said there's a problem in the gay bar in Greenwich Avenue. Came on television saying there's a problem with a gay bar in the village and the police are coming down there and the situation's going on.
Dick Leitsch: [00:56:30] We don't know what it is, but something is happening down there. I said to Bobby, "Oh, shit, I got to go." Bobby said, "You can't go." He said, "You go down there, you're going to stay there. We got to get the plane early in the morning and you gotta finish this stuff and get out of here." I said, "I gotta go. I'm the head of Mattachine, for god's sake. I have so much to do." "Yeah right. You're right. Then you won't show up back again will you? Nah, nah, nah, nah." So we had the argument and I get in my taxi and I get in the corner down here and go to the village and you can't get below 14th street, because there's a crowd down there on the street.
Dick Leitsch: [00:57:00] So I started walking down the rest of the way down. I go down and everybody in the village is down in the middle of Christopher street, carrying on and screaming and carrying on. Car all over the place, caught in traffic. The buses can't move, nothing moving and all this kind of stuff and everybody is standing in front of this place and shouting with everybody and carrying on and all that. So I just joined the crowd next to some people I knew and we all talked about it.
Dick Leitsch: [00:57:30] Everybody is sitting and bitching and then they raided at the bar. Bars were usually closed in the evenings, early in the evening something like that and they just came in and took people away. I mean they arrested the people who owned the place or anybody who was disorderly or who was dressed in drag something like that at times and they told everybody else to leave. This time they came in and they came in around midnight.
Dick Leitsch: [00:58:00] Usually bars close at 4. Saturdays they closed at 3. So you had an hour less to get a trip before the night too. They never did in in the night like that and it was just very strange that they had done this thing. Anyway, it happened and so the cops are going in and they came in. They came into the bar and raised it and started driving people out and all of a sudden everybody started standing and watching and
Dick Leitsch: [00:58:30] just started making noise to the police, saying, "Pack up dirty pennies," and yelling at them and stuff like that and the people came out and the place was crowded. The crowd got bigger and bigger and bigger and the cops seem to decide they couldn't come out, because the place was crowded and everybody was making noise and throwing noise and stuff like that.
Dick Leitsch: [00:59:00] So people started throwing things around. People started throwing pennies at the cops, dirty pennies and stuff like that. Some people threw rocks and some people threw this and so anyway went down the street and got some lighters. Police came along with a lighter card and there was a window and there was a bar on the window down there and they put that on the gas and lit it on fire.
Dick Leitsch: [00:59:30] The cops inside the place was going to catch on fire, because they couldn't see outside how much fire there was, they could just smell the fire. So they decided to go out the back door and there was no back door. Or if there was, it was locked and they couldn't get out and they couldn't get inside because everybody is inside and the place is packed with people. The cop couldn't get outside and they're inside and they think they're under fire. They think they're dying and so they called out for help, Please send help.
Dick Leitsch: [01:00:00] Nothing happened to them and so they called a second time. We found this out later, they called a second time and nothing happened again. You can read the book about it. I can't remember what the cop's name is, he said that he thinks the local police department here had paid a buy-off to the police to stop the raid. So when the cops were in there, they didn't get help when they called for other help.
Dick Leitsch: [01:00:30] So they thought they were inside really dying in there and they kept singing for help, help, help, help, help and so all of a sudden everybody came out. All of New York came out together. In those days, there's black demonstrations and Vietnam demonstrations down there a lot and in town and the whole place was a mess. They had just created that huge organization ...
Mason Funk: [01:01:00] Yeah, more equipment. They had given the police a lot more, like-
Dick Leitsch: So they decided this whole new thing with all men wore particular uniforms and big trucks and big cars and they come with all these people.
Dick Leitsch: [01:01:30] So all of a sudden the door opened and all of a sudden the street comes up. There's these 2 big trucks down there, full, full with cops all wearing black stuff. Different unit things and wearing hoods way down here, they got things over their window. They all stand up down there and they form up and they went from that wall to this wall, coming on the sidewalk, the street, the other sidewalk streets, like close, close all the way, coming down this big wall.
Dick Leitsch: [01:02:00] There are 50 or a 100, couple of 100 of them coming down there. It seemed like there were hundreds anyway and they started on the corner there and they walked right across the street. As they came along, we had no choice. We had to move and if you didn't move, they just went right on walking. People were falling on the floor and they just pushed us all the way down to the curb and then when they got down there, they turned around and walked back this side right there and then they walked back up here.
Dick Leitsch: [01:02:30] Usually when there was trouble with gay demonstrations in Manhattan, it was on 42nd street and the cops were coming down and they were on this street and walked down here and everybody had a follow or if they wanted to. You could enjoy yourself on the street there, but youre in danger. It always gets this way. When it got that way, if you wanted to, like we did now, they could go there and then back over here and back over here. It's a very, very long walk.
Dick Leitsch: [01:03:00] In the village, the buildings are very small and very close. So the cops came along like this. Everybody walked outside like that. They kept walking, everybody came back behind them. They came down to this corner and they went back like that this way. Every time the cop came back, we went back. Every time the cop came, it went on and on and on and on. It seemed like hours. It couldn't have been 2 hours, but it seemed like 2 hours. Everybody walking down here. Back here, we go back there, back here, back there forever and ever. So it just went on and on and turned into a big, long mess and eventually it just kind of wore out.
Dick Leitsch: [01:03:30] It was not a demonstration thing. Everybody started yelling, "Gay pride, gay pride," and all this kind of stuff, but it was in kind of a good spirits sort of thing. Gay people are very nice. It's always fun. [inaudible] Oh the cops are going, "Hi, we're doing it better." "Hi cop." You know, stuff like that. "Hey cutie. How are you doing baby?" All this kind of stuff. After a while it seems it just got boring and everybody just started slowly disappear. Gradually disappear.
Dick Leitsch: [01:04:00] It was getting later at night anyways. I would say close to 3 oclock in the morning. So pretty soon they started disappearing, they started disappearing. They got into their trucks, they all went away and went away and pretty soon I looked around and the bar was closed. Everybody had gone home. It was after 3 o'clock and everybody had gone even most of them who've been here in the first place. They had all gone and there was nobody in town. It's the emptiest I've ever seen New York in my entire life, because I stayed to the bitter end.
Dick Leitsch: [01:04:30] It had been a very hot night and it had been very cloudy, it seemed like, but all of a sudden there was no sky and there was no people around. Everybody had gone and New York City was very empty and there was nobody there. It was very quiet, very, very quiet. This great, huge, white thing up in the sky, that was just absolutely gorgeous. One of the prettiest nights I remember in my life in New York. It was just wonderful.
Dick Leitsch: [01:05:00] Bobby said, Im gonna go down to the subs and see whats going down there. They had trucks, the trucks on Fire Island where people usually went down and had sex at night. So I walk down to the trucks down there. The whole entire world of gay men was down there. One after another, after another. I don't know where the cops had gone, but they had gone. We were having the best party ever and there were no cops down there raiding that night.
Dick Leitsch: [01:05:30] So I went back to Mattachine office that was around the morning. In comes the first 2 people I expected.
Dick Leitsch: [01:06:00] The two cops who had don the raiding and that David writes the book about. "Ah, we have a problem down here." I said, "Yeah, you do, don't you baby?" He said, "Well, we got bad trouble." I said, "Yeah, I know you do." He said, "My boss is very mad." I said, "I know your boss is very mad." He had had a similar disruption happen in the village with straight people where the music things were, with a teenage boy. Youth kids. Music thing and where they had big demonstrations.
Dick Leitsch: [01:06:30] People started getting out of hand, so the cops called the raids off, let everybody go. I told him, "You could have done the same thing he did and you wouldn't be in trouble now." He said, "Well I couldn't have, because we were locked in the damn room down there with police blowing the place up. The place was on fire. We had to stay there and do that." Anyway, that whole thing. He had a big fight about that.
Dick Leitsch: [01:07:00] Anyway, he said, "You gotta come down here and start this." I said, "How the hell am I going to start this? I'm one single person. The whole room is full of thousands of people down here. You got them pissed off. I have a gay demonstration. I'm supposed to make you do this, not to stop you. I can't do anything for you. And so, everybody else is into it too, and then the door comes in." Everybody is coming into the Mattachine meeting all day long and half of them are getting pissed off and the other half are happy with me and so we're saying, "Fantastic. Burn the place down! Burn the place down!" Others go, "You gotta stop that! You gotta stop that!"
Dick Leitsch: [01:07:30] someone like,I shouldn't say his name, but he was a big capitalist, rents gay shops down there and all that stuff. "Dick, you gotta stop that! It's going to ruin business down here. People aren't going to come down here with all those demonstrations going on. We can't sell anything." How is it that gay people doing things like that? we are not rioters, we're nice people. We don't tear places down. So we're carrying on and carrying on about this.
Dick Leitsch: [01:08:00] Anyway, we didn't know what was going to happen that day, let's wait until evening. It started getting dark at night. We had all these leaflets hanging out St. Daniel. Demonstration, demonstration, demonstration things and all that kind of stuff. So people started going in and everybody in New York turned up. All of a sudden there's all the black people, all the demonstrate people, all this people, that people, everybody. Communists all down there, everybody's down here looking and all of them have to like gay people in the first place. "We don't like gay people," but now they're revolutionary.
Dick Leitsch: [01:08:30] "I want to be a revolutionary, so I'm going to be part of it too." They just stand there looking at you and looking at you and looking at me and it was dead silent and all that stuff and somehow or another somebody does the wrong thing and bang, all of a sudden it starts all over again. It's just amazing.
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt for a second. Eventually you wrote an article and-
Dick Leitsch: [01:09:00] Hardly anybody wrote about it. Only 3 people wrote about it in the beginning. 3 people who were there who wrote about it, and two of them were the English Voice newspaper, because their office is there. Two of them were locked in the building too, they couldn't get out. So they saw it out the window. The other was me. They wrote about it the next week. I mean, they wrote it up that day, but the newspaper came out in about a week.
Dick Leitsch: [01:09:30] At the time, it just so happened at the time of the month that it was time for us to put out the newsletter and so they were putting out the newsletter and I said, "Stop! Stop the press! Stop the press! We have a story." A little 2 page of 3 people that they print and put it in. So those are the only 3 things that ever got published about actually what really happened there. The next day they wrote 2 little articles in the newspapers and stuff like that, but nobody saw it. It wasn't demonstration. Some of this demonstration things, where things happened like 3 nights in the week.
Mason Funk: [01:10:00] In a row?
Dick Leitsch: Yeah, so one day after that thing started quieting down and stuff like that and nobody knew what to do about it, including me in particular. I had less known what to do about it than anybody else, because everybody was telling me different things to do and I said the best thing to do I could think of to do was that when I got churches to rent me rooms and other places and had demonstrations. I invited everybody to come and said, "Say what you want to say about it. Come up. Spit it out, spit it out. Throw it out."
Dick Leitsch: [01:10:30] Everybody is handing out leaflets and stuff like that. They did that. In the old days, before all this was going on--
Mason Funk: Let me ask you a question before you go on. You came up with this expression, "The pin drop heard around the world." How did you come up with that expression.
Dick Leitsch: It was a gay demonstration and in those days when somebody sits around and pretends that they're straight and you know they're not and all of a sudden they're trying to keep anybody else from discovering theyre really gay and they're talking and they're trying to talk straight and then all of a sudden they say the wrong thing.
Dick Leitsch: [01:11:00] Everybody, "Oh my god, you're such a faggot." So I said, "She certainly dropped the ..."
Mason Funk: Oh, she dropped her hair pin?
Dick Leitsch: She dropped her hair pin and that tells you that. Oh god, you said one things too, buddy and all the nooses come out.
Mason Funk: [01:11:30] So then how did you get from there to the expression "the hair pin drop heard around the world."
Dick Leitsch: They just dropped the world saying, "Okay, everybody is gay." Everybody were queens all of a sudden. Until then, everybody ignored homosexuality. All of a sudden, bang, you had to look at it. We used to say that someday the problem is silence. Nobody talks about people being gay. That's what I was getting to next. People don't talk about being gay. Nobody talks about gay life, stuff like that. It's a big secret sort of thing.
Dick Leitsch: [01:12:00] All of a sudden there's a whole wide world. We always said, someday, something is going to happen that people are going to realize that there are gay people and we are important, that we do things like that. And god, if only just once our hair turned green or just one day everybody in the world said, "We're not going to school, we're not going to work. One day, we're not doing ballet. We're not doing anything." One day, everybody in the whole world's doing nothing and you'll realize how important the people who are gay are. Who gay people are. How we all are. How everybody's there. How we do everything and it happened.
Dick Leitsch: [01:12:30] We all got AIDS, but that's not what we planned, but we always hoped that something like that would happen. The day AIDS happened, that's what happened. All of a sudden there are gay people everywhere, you can't escape it. It's here you know it and it's my mom, it's my sister, it's my brother, it's my grandmother, it's everybody is gay. The thing we always wanted to happen is something and it happened. It happened, the wrong freakin' thing, for god's sake.
Mason Funk: Right. Wow.
Dick Leitsch: [01:13:00] When I started doing this Mattachine stuff down there, everybody wanted to do it. Everybody saw this great idea. Eventually they said. I had to do a lot of teaching to a lot of people about that, but once they started doing it, we got to go out and do it. As I said, Mattachine in those days had no money, no people, no nothing. We had one little bitty office and it opened at six in the evening and was open until 9.
Dick Leitsch: [01:13:30] It closed on Saturday from noon until 5 and that was the gay world, which is no time to call. Nothing can happen those in those days. Everybody is asleep. So somebody had to do it. It happened my mother died and I had a little bunch of money and so I said to Julian, "I'll take this money. If you let me stay 9 in the morning until 5 in the evening, then I'll stay down here and volunteer the staff. I'll volunteer the staff and take their phone calls, do things for them. Get things going."
Dick Leitsch: [01:14:00] So all of a sudden, things started happening. You could reach media. Things could happen and so we started having a meeting going on there and stuff like that. By this time Julian had gotten out and so I was head of it and I was doing this. People would call up and they want to be on television, they want somebody to write an article, they want somebody to this, somebody to do that.
Dick Leitsch: [01:14:30] "Dick, somebody's got to and I'd love to do it, but I can't, because my mother shouldn't know I'm gay." Or "I'll lose my job. I'm a teacher, I'm a this, I'm a priest, I'm a that. I can't do that. You gotta do it, Dick, you gotta do it." That's how I became the famous homosexual in the whole world, because I was the only one who ever gave my name out, who ever did anything, who was ever publical and anything like that. So I signed my name, I went on television, I was in the newspaper, I was picture here and all that kind of stuff. Time after time, after time, after time.
Dick Leitsch: [01:15:00] I say again, nobody else would do it. I begged them, I said, "I'm tired of it. I don't want to do it." Not only that, I was in the office. I needed to be out there, but I had to do it and so I did. Then the Stone Wall happened and it was all my fault. Everybody said, "Dick's got to do it." In those days, there were no gay movements. There were 15 gay organizations in the whole United States of America.
Dick Leitsch: [01:15:30] About Stonewall time, there were about 20, 30 gay organizations in the whole world. The day after Stonewall, everybody is a gay liberation, everybody is a homosexual, everybody is the homosexual leader and I was nobody anymore after that. Everybody started organizations. Craig Rodwell had an organization, he had 2 organizations and a box of letters. Anybody, they all had boxes of literature, telephone numbers and they were all a leader and leader and everybody disapproved how everybody else did it. It was all that kind of stuff.
Mason Funk: [01:16:00] Was that good for you, because then you could just kind of retire?
Dick Leitsch: Well, I went on and do it for a while. Eventually I did quit, but I stayed for another 5 or 6 years, I guess. 4 or 5 years. The same way I went through the whole thing. Then they started having Christopher day. The Christopher demonstration thing. So my best friend in the whole world was Ed Yates. He had been my best friend forever and ever and ever in 1950. He had become a school teacher and he ran a school in Virginia.
Dick Leitsch: [01:16:30] He lived in New York with me. He was a room mate here. So we were room for years and we kept in touch all the time and we're best friends and then he had to go down to Virginia before Stonewall happened and so he was down there. So he never came to New York after Christopher's thing started happening. He never came to a demonstration, because it was school time down there. Eventually 15, 20 years later, he happened to come back and so he wanted to come back and see the first demonstration that ever happened.
Dick Leitsch: [01:17:00] I said okay, so I took him down. We go down to 5th Avenue. 5th Avenue from there to there, from there to there all you see is gay people banners and flyers, singing. He says, "Oh god, this is like a sign. We always thought this would happen. Oh I'm so excited." I said, "You really want to see it. What we're going to do?" So we go on top of the Empire State Building and we stand there and I said, "Look down there." He looked down there from the village to there, from there to there.
Dick Leitsch: [01:17:30] Gay people. Gay people. Millions and millions and millions. So he's up there looking like this. Looks at it for a while. Looks at it. He says, "God, Dick, remember [inaudible] as a queer. sometimes I felt that."
Mason Funk: Wow. Wow. Amazing. So tell us more, on a kind of a sad topic, tell us more about everything changed with AIDS. How did you experience that?
Dick Leitsch: [01:18:00] I was working in bars and I was particularly at gay bars in those days. One of my things always in my life I wanted to do was work in a bar. So I did become a bartender and that's my favorite thing I ever did. I was working at gay bars and all of a sudden everybody started coming in and saying ... What's the medicine you go to in those days? That make you pretty.
Mason Funk: [01:18:30] A medicine? Oh, plastic surgery?
Dick Leitsch: No, no. Anyway, before they had AIDS doctors you went to this person. I can't remember where you went to.
Mason Funk: Like a dermatologist?
Dick Leitsch: Dermatologist.
Mason Funk: Hold on one second for the siren. Hold for the siren. Just started up, but hold that thought.
Dick Leitsch: What did you say again? Bartender?
Dick Leitsch: Talk about the AIDS.
Mason Funk: The name again?
Mason Funk: Okay, so start up.
Dick Leitsch: So we're working at gay bars in those days and everybody all of a sudden started talking about ... Oh, fuck I lost it.
Dick Leitsch: Dermatologist. So I was bartending then and all of a sudden everybody wanted to talk to dermatologist doctors and I didn't know any. I didn't know what the hell it was. "Why do you want that?" "I got this problem. I got this disease and this and this and this."
Dick Leitsch: [01:19:30] All of a sudden everybody starts talking about, "We've got this and we got this. Did you hear so and so died?" "What?" "He got AIDS." You go, "What?" All of a sudden we started getting this and nobody knew. Nobody knew. So word started coming about what it was and eventually they came up with it and all that. The fact that the damn Republicans wouldn't do anything about it. Wouldn't even assist the elects and stuff like that. All of a sudden it was just awful, because you're in the bar and the bar every day, there were so many people at night, every night. All of a sudden it kept getting smaller and smaller. They were looking awful and they were dying around you.
Dick Leitsch: [01:20:00] Gee and nobody was doing anything about it. It was terrifying. An awful thing. Then that's how I learned about it. All of a sudden. You know, people I was working with, the guy I worked with right across the street at his bar, 2 days later he died. He wasn't even sick very long. Bang! He was gone.
Dick Leitsch: [01:20:30] It got to the point where you didn't want your phone to ring, because somebody else was sick, somebody else was going to die and things like that. It was just awful. You tried to take care of and try to go see him and stuff like that and you couldn't. "Dick, can you help me? Dick, can you help me? Dick?" "I'm sorry. I have 3 people helping you already." "Oh, I'm so sick, I need you." "I'm sorry, I can't do it." I got to work in the meantime to keep the money going and stuff like that. It was awful. It was just hideous. You can't even talk about it. You had to have been there.
Dick Leitsch: [01:21:00] It kept happening and happening and getting worse and worse and worse and then bang, all of a sudden my lover got it. So, this is a bit there for a year-and-a-half taking care of him. He lasted a long time and so a very long time taking care of him. That was a total disaster. In the meantime, other people died and left around us. By that time, you had to do it by yourself, because when people were first sick, we tried to help one another, but pretty soon you had too many to do it and then they were all dying and you had nobody left to help them.
Dick Leitsch: [01:21:30] The ones who were there were so scared or so worn out. Jim was my lover and he was very good about taking care of other people. I did the best I could. I was working all the time. I do all that kind of stuff, but slowly we stopped seeing them, because we couldn't do it. Then all of a sudden, when it was my turn, there was nobody to take care of him and I couldn't get anybody to come help me, because first of all they had nobody to do it and everybody they knew was sick or too busy and they couldn't even help me.
Dick Leitsch: [01:22:00] Basically I was by myself, really, literally. I went to work and I came home, I went to work and I came-. It's all I did. Take care of him, you know, one after another. Then all of a sudden they started sending the organizations now to help up and stuff like that. It took a long time for the government to come and help anything about it too. First of all, the gay organizations had to do it and everybody needed it.
Dick Leitsch: [01:22:30] In the beginning it was just hideous. It was just so amazing. People don't talk about it, because if you do it, you don't like bringing it back a lot, you know? There's nothing to talk about. At least I don't want to talk about it. Then you have these crazy ass people who tried to do it. I don't know why. It was amazing.
Dick Leitsch: [01:23:00] He had a boyfriend who got AIDS and so he decided he wanted AIDS and he was trying to get it, because he wanted to go with him. I didn't want to do that. I just couldn't deal with it. Another guy, another bartender down there, he had got sick, very sick and he wasn't working anymore and he got somebody who was getting government to live for and stuff like that. So he came to the bar one day and I say, "Hey, how are you?" He said, "Oh, so bad.
Dick Leitsch: [01:23:30] It's getting worse and worse and worse." We chatted about the whole thing and stuff like that. He says, "Well, I got to go now." I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "I'm going to the parks down there and getting sex." I said, "Girl, you're doing what? You're dying." "Hell I died with him. He can die with me too." Off to the bushes. I never spoke to him again. Wouldn't have anything to do with him. He's like, "You know, I did it for him, somebody else is going to do it for me. I might as well do it for somebody else."
Mason Funk: [01:24:00] Yeah, wow.
Dick Leitsch: It was a bad situation. It was just hideous. Just so insane. You can't imagine it.
Mason Funk: Let's take a little break.
Dick Leitsch: It's funny and I try not to believe it. Anyways, you can't stop believing it. I did that before I was born. The day I was born I was taken to church, I think. By the second Sunday I started going there every Sunday. Then I went to Catholic School and at the time I went to Catholic School they had more teachers than they did anybody else.
Dick Leitsch: [01:24:30] Before Vatican too, the priest had the same mass every day. If you're at home by yourself, you got to say mass by yourself, but you had to say mass every day. So at school, when it came lunchtime or morning time for breakfast or something, they had to go do mass. In those days, you got to carry things around a lot.
Dick Leitsch: [01:25:00] So you would go in and the book would be up there and the other stuff up there. So you come in and you're here. The priest is up there. This book had to go from there to there. So he had to go up, pick that thing, take it down here, [inaudible], take it over there. Or else he would have to carry it over and it doesn't look good that way. So he would find altar boys. "What are you doing for lunch, Dick?" "I got a lunch-" "No you don't, come with me. Come with me, carry my book for me." So you had to go and you had to do 25 minutes of that every day. Carry the damn thing around.
Dick Leitsch: [01:25:30] You had to go hide from him and you couldn't hide from him, so you ended up at least 3 out of 5 days a week, you always seemed to get stuck with someone you had to go with mass. So it got to the point where sometimes when when I don't do church on Sunday, I think, "Oh god, somebody's missing."
Mason Funk: Yeah right. Even to this day.
Dick Leitsch: 8 years of that of my life, doing that. We had to do it when we were grade school too. We had nuns. The children had to do it too.
Mason Funk: [01:26:00] Did you ever tell your family about the fact that you were gay? Did you tell your parents?
Dick Leitsch: You know, that's very strange about that. I don't think I've ever told them that. I don't think I've ever told my siblings. We all know it. Had no choice in knowing it. They were always with me. The first time I came to New York with Bobby and I talked to my folks and said I was living with Bobby and all that.
Dick Leitsch: [01:26:30] We had an apartment and we do this, we do that, we did the other thing. So dad said, "When are you coming to New York? When are you coming to visit?" I said, "Well you know, I just Ive been working for a year and I don't have that much money and I can't really afford to. He said, "Well, bring Bobby then the two of us have got to meet him to if you're going to live there and let the guy know who the family is."
Dick Leitsch: [01:27:00] I said all right and so we just went down and we never talked about being gay, but it's just assumed we were lovers and stuff like that. My mother, she was always hanging with gay guys anyway when she was single. She liked gay guys a lot. So I became gay. One of my priests had said that I was going to be gay. He had told me ahead of time I was going to be gay, because he just knew it. I don't know why he knew, because he was gay too, but he never had sex. I've known him for years and years.
Dick Leitsch: [01:27:30] I know he's never cheated on him. I'm sure he's not. I never thought he ever had cheated, but I knew he was gay, he knew he was gay, but he never talked about it. So anyway, he had told them. So this went on and on and on and the first time it ever came back was when my gay nephew, Tim, he was about 7, 8 years old then. They had that television show where these two women and a guy rented an apartment and it was very chic and the crazy man who's the landlord.
Dick Leitsch: [01:28:00] That show was on and somebody talked about it and somebody says, "Jim is gay" and so somebody says, "Oh, you know he is gay?" How the hell did it come up? Oh, somehow in the conversation they were talking about 2 guys living together and well if 2 guys live together, they must be gay of course. It was a joke in the thing.
Dick Leitsch: [01:28:30] My little boy said to my sister, "Does that mean uncle Dick lives with Bobby. Does that mean-?" He says, my sister told him, "Don't be a fool. Of course he's gay." That's the only time I ever heard it described in conversation of whether we were gay or not, was that coming up.
Mason Funk: Wow. So tell us also-
Dick Leitsch: [01:29:00] There's so many people in my family. We had this business and the business was wholesale and we dealt with all these people and we knew hundreds and hundreds of people all the time and a lot of them were gay and you knew they were gay. They came together and stuff like that. Women particularly. You know, there were a lot of lesbians down there, because it's Kentucky and in Kentucky all the lesbians are. 2 women who hang with horses or 2 women with dogs, you know they're lesbians. Or we assumed that they were before they said they were.
Dick Leitsch: [01:29:30] Where we lived on the West End, there's a filling station next door to us and it was run by a women and she would wear men's clothes and stuff like that. She never had nothing to do with men. She was a buddy, she was a man. She thought of herself as a man, and she drank with them and she cussed with them. She did everything else.
Dick Leitsch: [01:30:00] She didn't hang out with lady-type girls and stuff like that. When church has masses, when the chasers had parties and women danced and stuff like that, she would not dance with a woman though. She would only dance with women. All the women like my sister and my aunts would always ask her to dance, because they knew she didn't like dancing with men. So, to have someone to dance with, all the ladies would volunteer to dance with her. I don't know whether they thought she was a lesbian or not, but she was a woman-hater and she would dance with me, but she wouldn't dance with men.
Mason Funk: [01:30:30] Wow.
Dick Leitsch: That's very strange.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you a question. Of course at Stonewall we know there are a lot of cross-dressers, there were a lot of drag queens there. Did you know many of the drag queens? Were you friendly with them?
Mason Funk: [01:31:00] Sylvia Riviera or Marga Johnson?
Dick Leitsch: No. Oh god. Fuck, I just lost her name. Liz. I can't remember Lisa's last name. She's famous because she had been a roommate of my lover, actually. Before I lived with him, he and Liz were roommates and Liz became lovers with this very strange little boy.
Dick Leitsch: [01:31:30] A very strange little guy. He didn't seem to have it all with him. There's more involved in this story, but anyway, we'll get to that story. At that point he This is after I contacted without Mattachine, after I hung with them stuff like that.
Dick Leitsch: [01:32:00] I kinda lost track with all of it. No, it was earlier, 1980s, 1970s ... Anyway, he decided that Liz wanted a sex change and Liz then was never very sure if she wanted to have a sex change and all that, but he decided she wanted to have it. So he was going to raise the money for it. So he got some guns and friend ... You read about this, right? He got this guy and these guns and he went down to movies and he got out the guns and he was going to steal money to get her a sex change.
Mason Funk: [01:32:30] This is the one that was made into the movie?
Dick Leitsch: Yeah. I almost went to the wedding. So they started an Episcopalian church, back when I was at the Mattachine and he was starting a gay church.
[01:33:00] And so they had the Episcopal church at 11 oclock and in the afternoon they rented out their gay demonstration down there. So Liz got into it with this guy. What was his name. Johnny? Was his name Johnny? I can't remember.
Dick Leitsch: [01:33:30] Anyway, the two of them were into it and they decided they were going to get married. I was working at Mattachine in those days. Liz said, "We're getting married." I said, "You're what?" We didn't have any marriage in those days. He said, "We're getting married." I said, "Where are you getting married?" He said, "They're marrying me in this church down there." He said, "On such and such a Saturday," he said, "there's going to be a wedding." He said, "I want you to be in the parade. You want to be in the procession. In the funeral."
Mason Funk: In the wedding.
Dick Leitsch: [01:34:00] In the wedding. He said, "I want you to be in the wedding." I said, "Oh sure, I'll be glad to." So he asked me about it once or twice afterwards. "Yeah sure hon. When you get the wedding, let me know. We'll do it," and all that. With that gone, they wouldn't call me and I thought they were kidding and I didn't pay attention to that. So they went ahead to have the wedding and I didn't show up and so I didn't get involved in it. So I wasn't in the newspapers when all this things happened afterwards.
Dick Leitsch: [01:34:30] In those days it's against the law in New York to go around in the public place in the wardrobe of other clothes and they chose that as against the law. So they were arresting drag queens all the time in those days for that. The only break on that was to have to a party that was given by a costume party.
Dick Leitsch: [01:35:00] You'd get a paper from the government where you can write this party, because in the 1920s, 1930s, they had those big things in Harlem where they had these big parties for drag queens. Art musicians. No, what do they call it?
Mason Funk: Jazz musicians.
Dick Leitsch: Jazz musicians. Thanks. So he would go get permission from the state and at this point people were wearing clothes there. So all those drag queens were going around getting busted for wearing dresses and stuff like that.
Dick Leitsch: [01:35:30] So I said, well somebody's got to do something about that and of course that was problem. I got in trouble again, because everybody is so conservative, I guess still in those days. All those right things, Im another thing, I don't like that. They got pissed off because one of the people who worked there came wearing leather all the time. "Oh, it's bad imitation having leather guys hanging around bars like this in this place like this and nah, nah, nah." So I said to the drag queens, "Oh no, no drag queens. That embarrassed me." Everybody looked so bad image for us. Nah, nah, nah, nah.
Dick Leitsch: [01:36:00] I thought, well you know, nobody else had a place to go where they could do it legally and this would give them a place to go. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you can't do that." He says, "You don't want to encourage that sort of thing." [inaudible] I said, "We're going to have a fundraising thing and we're going to have a costume party and you all can come." So people came and they could wear dresses like we were playing roles where were and so people still got upset about it. I said, "I'm not giving a party for drag queens. It's just a way people raise money."
Dick Leitsch: [01:36:30] Of course it cost you a lot of money, because in those days they didn't have discos yet. So you had to have a band, you had to have a big place for them to dance, you had to rent a room and stuff like that and advertisements, all those kind of stuff. We usually broke even and made a little bit of money and stuff like that. Also, you had to have donations, because if you're going to spend all those money on a wig and dress and flyers, you want to get something for it. So there would be a big prize. A hundred dollars for the best costume, 50 for the second, that kind of stuff and you have a contest and all this thing.
Dick Leitsch: [01:37:00] So we started holding all these parties and we made money out of it. Sometimes good money, sometimes little money. We made money. So they started having it every month and it turned into this whole big kind of thing. The only problem was that Liz was the prettiest and Liz was gorgeous. I mean, that boy was so plain in plain clothes. Put a dress on him. Amazing. Oh my god, he's just so spectacular.
Dick Leitsch: [01:37:30] So we had a contest, Liz won, have a party, Liz won and everybody started bitching, "Why does she always win?" "Well, she's the prettiest." "Yeah, I know, bitch. She's the prettiest but can't someone else win once in a while?" "Well how do we stop her, because she's going to be the prettiest." "Dick, I always come with a good idea." "Liz, why don't you be one of the judges? You won so many prizes, it's her turn." "Oh yeah. Right. I'll get even with that bitch and make sure she doesn't get the prize." So I worked out a big fantastic deal.
Dick Leitsch: [01:38:00] The problem with that was there was this guy who thought that was one of the awful things to do and he had a job and he volunteered Mattachine and stuff like that. He thought drag was disgusting, but somebody dared him 25 Bucks that for Halloween he wouldn't dress up. So to win the 50 Bucks he did it. He loved it. He loved it, turned into the big drag queen. Went up all this clothes, all this kind of stuff. Went up going into business doing these drag balls that we were doing.
Dick Leitsch: [01:38:30] He started doing them and did them better than we did. Then he started business where he bought a loft and got all his oversized shoes and dresses and ran a dress with men-sized clothes for women and he made money out of it and ran a business for it. A benefit organization. When Stonewall happened he did a magazine called Drag and he did Drag.
Dick Leitsch: [01:39:00] And when Stone Wall had demonstration in those days, we had the procession of can in Central Park and then went down to the village and down there there's a big lecture where people got up and give speeches and all that and everybody competed with one another. We don't want those people. We don't want this people. Well, he went out. First time all the lesbians came out and tried to stop him from having a demonstration because they thought drag was disgusting and sexist and all that kind of shit. A big fight.
Dick Leitsch: [01:39:30] Anyway, Liz made lots of money out of that. Then he got into the whole thing where straight guys got into it and it was all these straight guys getting together in drag. So they would come and pay him money to put them into drag. They paid a little money for having sex with them too from time to time. Eventually he died from AIDS, but he did a whole big business out of drag. The first time I ever heard anybody making a living out of it. He did fantastically.
Mason Funk: Okay, let me ask you about Bette Midler. What stories did you have?
Dick Leitsch: [01:40:00] I worked for the newspaper, the first gay newspaper ever around here was Gay. No imagination, right? So he ran a newspaper that was edited by my best friend, Jack Nichols, who was the editor of it. So we all worked for it. I wrote a column for it every week. In those days everybody was doing cabarets and there at all these places we sang in bars. Everybody was trying to sing and become a star.
Dick Leitsch: [01:40:30] So theyre all actually publicity, I suppose from all these bars, like let me sing, let me sing. So all these bars were hiring people to come and sing in the cabarets and then they'd call the newspaper and say, "Give us press. Get us press." So people were sending their pictures and all this kind of stuff. That's what we did for a living. We wrote for the newspaper.
Dick Leitsch: [01:41:00] So they would say, "We've got somebody singing next Thursday, will somebody come in the newspaper for it," and so we go over and we talk and I come and talk to you and you'd sing and you'd play a little bit. Then you give me a picture, your resume and all this stuff. I would talk to you and then go write an article about you and say, "Oh, I just met so and so. He was the most fabulous singer you've ever heard. He was very good-looking guy and he sings this and he sings that. He's performed here and there. He's just fantastic, just amazing." So they would go out and sing and you never heard from them again in your life. Then we go next week and do another one. "He's so fantastic. The best thing you've ever heard singing" and you never heard from him again.
Dick Leitsch: [01:41:30] We'd all done that and we'd all done this time after time, after time, after time, after time. So Steve Ostrow opened the gay bar. The Tubs, it was called. That's what we called it and he had done that. It was huge, very big place. Really, really grand place down there. It had been an old gymnasium for that big hotel down there and had a swimming pool in it and everything.
Dick Leitsch: [01:42:00] So he did it and until then bars were just awful places. So they're like the Mafia, they're about to be closed. So it was just a slum. This place, he did it nice, elegant, grand, clean, washed. Most places in those days, some hadn't been washed. This one was washed and shiny and polished and everything. So you'd go and you'd put your clothes in the locker and then you wear a towel and that's all you wore. Ran around naked.
Dick Leitsch: [01:42:30] Then you'd go in the doors and have sex. Or there's a big room, you can all go in there and have sex as a group in there and that kind of stuff. You go to the gym and you can go to the pool. He turned it to get better and better. He put in a cabaret thing where you have food and stuff to eat. Music stuff, things like that. So you can do a little dancing and stuff like that. All of a sudden he decides he's going to do somebody who's singing there. He was our best advertiser. He covered the whole front page every week. So he decided he's going to do this thing with this girl singing.
Dick Leitsch: [01:43:00] So Jack called and said, "Write this." "Uh-uh. I've done enough of those things." "Oh no, I've done that often enough." So they called me. "Dick, would you write this article about this girl. She's got this bar down there and she's supposed to be great. She's supposed to be wonderful. They say she's very, very good." I said, "Yeah, they all say she's very good." He said, "Will you come and sing for her." "Sorry hon, I've done enough of those things. My turn. Let somebody else do it." Nobody else would do it.
Dick Leitsch: [01:43:30] Week after week after week he would call and say, "Somebody, come do this. This girl is amazing. You're just going to love her. She's fantastic. Get somebody to come do it." "Okay, I'll try." So nobody would do it. "You gotta do it. I'm paying for the thing. Every week I'm paying them money. The least you can do is send an advertisement for us." So Jack calls me and says, "Dick, would you go cover this girl Bette." I said, "Well, I don't want to do it." He said, "Come on, Dick. You're my best friend." He says, "Do this for me. I need it for the money. The guy's bitching about the advertising and stuff."
Dick Leitsch: [01:44:00] I said, "Okay. So I'll do it." So I call Steve and asked him and he said, "Yeah. You're going to come here? Good." He said, "Well, the meeting's on Thursday. I'll talk to her and her group will be there on Thursday. So you come to Thursday at whatever time and meet there and you'll see the show, because it's opening. It's rehearsal time."
Dick Leitsch: [01:44:30] He said, "You come with that and then you'll see the show and then after that, they live around the corner down here. Right from where you live. So you go over there and we're going to go to the grocery store together there and buy stuff for him, because he and his girlfriend had their boyfriends coming for dinner. So you're going to go with these 2 girls and you're going to buy groceries and go to their apartment. They're going to make dinner while you talk and do your interview."
Dick Leitsch: [01:45:00] I said, "Okay fine. Fantastic." So I go to this grocery store, which is still there. It hasn't been renewed since then. It looks just the same as it always did. It's very nice and it's very interesting, because it's so old-fashioned. Anyway, we went there, we had dinner. We went down to her place. She got the joints out and we sat down and had little joints and started talking and she did this interview. She was Bette Midler and her roommate was ... Give me a break.
Mason Funk: [01:45:30] Melissa Manchester. Barry Manilow.
Dick Leitsch: Bette Midler ... I can't do it.
Mason Funk: It's all right. It's all right.
Dick Leitsch: Anyway, it was the 3 of them. Is this taped?
Dick Leitsch: O shit.
Mason Funk: You're fine.
Dick Leitsch: Anyway, it was the three of them. So there were 2 of them. It was Bette Midler and the 2 of them and we did this conversation thing and so I wrote back and I typed a little thing and said she was wonderful. The thing I always say, that I know anything about.
Dick Leitsch: [01:46:00] "She was just absolutely wonder. I know she would be wonderful. You're going to hear from her forever and ever and ever." I wrote the thing out and published it out. They loved it, I loved it. She told me that she'd only written one interview before in her total entire life. That was the first one. I said, "Well, you know, one of the first ones myself ever doing too girl. It's all right." So we did it. There again, it went on for a couple of weeks. All these people wanted to do this. Everybody wanted to do these cabarets and become a star.
Dick Leitsch: [01:46:30] So many people were so really good and they really should be stars, but there are so damn many people who want to be bars, there's not room for all of them to be stars. So you need a gimmick. You just need the lucky little type. It just so happened that Bette Midler, she went down there. She was amazing down there. Everybody adored her. She was just fantastic. Of course she knows how to work.She worked at writing law and that. It got to the point where she got to be very, very good.
Dick Leitsch: [01:47:00] When she did the show and she took a bow and right after she sang, everybody would applaud and scream and carry on. They would take their clothes off and throw them at her. So everybody would stand there stark naked. So it was fantastic and that was the whole gimmick. The place was packed. Every gay in the whole world went down there. Everybody would sit here all the time. There again, nothing happened to her. Nobody knew, except the gays knew.
Dick Leitsch: [01:47:30] A gay guy worked for Johnny Carson and told him about it. He said, "There's this girl down there, she sings, she's amazing, she's a really fantastic girl and you won't believe what happens. When she does well, they take their clothes off and go naked. "No." "Yeah." "No." "You gotta to see her on the show." He said, "Well, I can't have her naked on a show, I know, but I want to hear this." So he had to come down and hear it and he went down there, and she got up and sang, everybody just applauded, and then started talking.
Dick Leitsch: [01:48:00] And he asked a question, he told her that, all the gays just love me. They talked about gays in those days too, about that time. She said, "They're all gay and all that. When they love me, they take their clothes off and throw their clothes at me." "No, no, no." The audience went crazy and loved it and that's what made her into the star. As I say, anybody else who's really good because they sing, they went, "Oh that's nice. You sing." You got to have a gimmick and that was her gimmick.
Dick Leitsch: [01:48:30] Not only that, it made everybody else, because after she left there and started to move on doing other things, everybody else wanted to be in there of course. What's her name, the opera singer? I can't remember her name, but a famous person in the Metropolitan who had retired. Lived up the street here.
Mason Funk: Sorry, I have to interrupt. Siren.
Kate Kunath: [01:49:00] Is this whistling for you on the reporting? Do you hear this?
Mason Funk: No. We got the Bette Midler story. That was fantastic.
Dick Leitsch: You got what?
Mason Funk: The Bette Midler story. That was great. I want to go on. We have 4 short questions that we use to wrap up with everybody.
Dick Leitsch: Oh, we're finished. Okay.
Mason Funk: In fact, why don't we turn the A/C on just for a minute.
Mason Funk: [01:49:30] As soon as the siren clears, we'll just go to our final wrap-up questions. Oh, that's actually quick. Oh no, I still hear it.
Dick Leitsch: We're finished already? I haven't said anything yet?
Mason Funk: Oh my god, you've said so much. You told incredible stories.
Dick Leitsch: Theres still stuff I wanted to tell you I havent gotten to yet.
Mason Funk: [01:50:00] Oh no, that's what Paul's here for.
Dick Leitsch: That's right. That's what he write the book for.
Kate Kunath: For getting into the deep track stories.
Dick Leitsch: I'm going to have to tell it to him. He's going to have to write it, because he won't make it laugh like I do.
Dick Leitsch: You think I'm funny, you should meet my brother. Go ahead.
Mason Funk: I have a couple of questions kind of to wrap up. One is, do you have any advice to someone who's about to come out as a gay person, as a transgender person? If someone is about to come out, what advice would you give them?
Dick Leitsch: [01:50:30] Everybody has to go out. There's no point not to going out. All you do is make trouble. It's just going to make you frustrating and unhappy and they're going to find out about it anyways. Like I used to always say, if I can remember it. The important thing about gay people is understand that it's usually a secret to you. Everybody else already knows. They've already figured it out.
Dick Leitsch: [01:51:00] They just wonder why you won't tell the truth, because they look at you and then, "Why are you lying to me?" That's their attitude towards you. "Why are you lying to me? I love you."
Mason Funk: That's interesting. It really is, yeah. It's kind of like you're not doing them any favors by not telling them.
Dick Leitsch: You're not fooling anybody. Nobody is ever fooling anybody. You just think you are. That's true in life. Be honest, because everybody knows you are, everybody's guessing.
Mason Funk: Great, great. Second question for you. What is your hope for the future?
Dick Leitsch: [01:51:30] Oh my god.
Mason Funk: Caught you off guard with that one, huh?
Dick Leitsch: I don't know. I think I've done everything I wanted to do, really. I've been around for 81 years, for god's sakes and everything I wanted to do, I've done at least ones. Some of them I've done too many times already. I'm just hanging on and keep on living, doing it one more time before it stops.
Mason Funk: That's great.
Dick Leitsch: Really, everything you can think of, I've done, that I wanted to do.
Mason Funk: [01:52:00] How do you hope that the world for gay people will change after you're gone? What do you hope will happen for the world?
Dick Leitsch: They just get better and better than we are, I guess. We keep getting better and better and better. All these things that I thought would never stopped happening in my lifetime, that I hoped would happen in lifetime have. So many of them have.
Dick Leitsch: [01:52:30] There's the obvious things like murder and all that kind of stuff, I hope it stops. I think eventually it will. I think right now it's doing so much. Anyway, I sound like I'm an opera singer. No, Im not a diva singer, but anyway, let me forget that.
Mason Funk: All right. Let me ask you this. Why is it important to you to tell your story? Why is it important to you to tell your story to me or to Paul? Why is it important to you?
Dick Leitsch: [01:53:00] I want them to know what I've learned and know things that I think they should do and some things they should certainly never do. That you should stop doing. Just go on getting better and better. I guess that's all I can say. That's not very interesting, but-
Mason Funk: That's all right, that's all right. Last question. You said to me that you liked what we're doing. This project called OUTWORDS.
Dick Leitsch: [01:53:30] That I what?
Mason Funk: You told me a little while ago. You said, "I like what you guys are doing." This project where we're going around interviewing people.
Dick Leitsch: Oh, your thing. Yes.
Mason Funk: The project is called OUTWORDS. Why do you think OUTWORDS is important?
Dick Leitsch: Well, because otherwise if you don't tell it, it's going to be lost forever and ever and ever. If you read history, which I do, there are so many things that have happened before, that we don't know they ever happened and we need to know that they happened.
Dick Leitsch: [01:54:00] I don't want to get into all that. Now I forgot what we were talking about.
Mason Funk: Why projects like this are important.
Dick Leitsch: Oh yeah. So that we know what other people have done and see what they did and hear about things we can do better, like I said about myself, and things that we should better and things we shouldn't do better for other people ever again. Shouldn't make mistakes and make the blessings that we did.
Dick Leitsch: [01:54:30] Otherwise all these stuff has happened before in the world. If we don't write it down, don't put it down in tapes, put it somewhere or another, people don't know. We have to redo things they shouldn't have done before. There have been times before us when gay worlds were history. Where people tried to make history again. We lost about it.
Dick Leitsch: [01:55:00] 15 years ago when things happened, you have to find it in a book and you can hardly find them in there and things happened and they got lost. The things we lose now are going to lose if we don't keep it here. People can find it. When we stop being so gay, open as we are now, if new ways come, we go back and say, "Hey, no, no. This is the way it was did before and this is why we should do it again. This is the way it was. This is the way it's going to be better, we keep it the way they were doing it. We change every time.
Dick Leitsch: [01:55:30] We're always changing every time and we start changing things. You start out being best, you get best, you get best, you get best and pretty soon you go back to the beginning. So you always go back to where you were, which was better and you make it go away from you. Did that make any sense?
Mason Funk: Totally made sense. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah, totally made sense.
Dick Leitsch: Mind you, that was with the gay movement. I look around with gay demonstrations and people talk about getting wedding, having babies, adopting babies and stuff like that.
Dick Leitsch: [01:56:00] I'm not against it if you want to do that, but I think it's a lousy damn idea. Back in the 1955s, everybody wanted me to be married all the time. They wanted me to have babies. If I'm gay and I can't do it, I should get a lesbian or take a single girl and use her to do that kind of stuff and pretend to be like her and make I enjoy stuff like that. No. I didn't want to do that and I don't want to marry a guy and I don't want to have babies and a dog and live in the suburbs and all that kind of crap with a guy or with a woman.
Dick Leitsch: [01:56:30] I don't want to do that. I want to be what I am. I didn't go around trying to get people to join the army and be babies and stuff like that. I meant for you to go have nasty sex, to drink a lot, have a good time, go through a little marijuana from time to time back in the old days. I don't want to do like that, but right, it got to the point now where the whole world is all about it goes worse than this.
Dick Leitsch: [01:57:00] It goes from the past to this, to this, because they're stuck getting married and having babies and all that. To going through all the things I did, to going back to having babies and then you have to go back, you know. Am I following?
Mason Funk: I'm totally following you. I've heard many people express this, but maybe no one as well as you, you want gay people to be able to live on their own terms. Is that right?
Dick Leitsch: [01:57:30] Like I say, in the old days at Mattachine, that was the problem with all the people in Mattachine were trying to be like this. We had to be like nice gay people, nice organized people, church-going people, do this kind of person, do this. We don't drag queens, we don't do bush queens, we don't do this, we don't do that, we don't trend leather, we don't have cheap sex, we don't do that, we don't have sleazy sex. We got to be nice. No, no, no. There's lots of thousands of ways to be gay and be any kind of gay you want to be and if you want to have babies and puppies and suburbs and stuff like that, you do that.
Dick Leitsch: [01:58:00] If I want to drag and wish and do this, I can do that. If I want to wear leather and go on motorcycles, I can do that and we can all be happy doing it. We don't have to be like this and this and this. We have to be like everything. Everybody has to be able to do what they want to do. Just don't hurt anybody else. Just don't mean to mess up everything, but do it your own way for yourself if it makes you happy. I don't want to wear a dress. I've worn dresses 2 or 3 times in Australia.
Dick Leitsch: [01:58:30] It hurts and the shoes hurt and I don't want to do it and if you want to put on a dress and shoes, then you go ahead and do it. I'm not wearing this damn thing ever again, thank you very life.
Mason Funk: Oh my god. You just preached. You kind like just preached. That was good. All right, I'm going to give Kate a change, because Kate always has some good questions.
Dick Leitsch: Well, it's about time we heard that.
Dick Leitsch: That's got to be the most important part.
Mason Funk: Now the tricky thing is if Kate asked a question, you still need to answer to me.
Dick Leitsch: Oh.
Mason Funk: [01:59:00] I know. It's bull shit. Actually I could trade places and Kate could sit here.
Dick Leitsch: No, that's all right. I'll look at you.
Mason Funk: All right. Okay.
Dick Leitsch: I've seen enough of you, but that's all right.
Mason Funk: I know. Tell me about it. Tell me about it. Okay, Kate.
Kate Kunath: The last thing you said, did hit on that a little bit, because I was wondering. The Mattachine Society wants the gays to fit in and then that's not actually what you think. When did you change your mind.
Dick Leitsch: I'm so sorry. I can't hear you. I have trouble talking.
Mason Funk: [01:59:30] Oh, okay. So when you worked at the Mattachine Society, you know, you were very devoted to that organization. They were all about keeping a low profile and fitting in. So when did you decide that was not the right way to go? When did you decide, fuck the mattachine society. Everybody should do what they want to do.
Dick Leitsch: [02:00:00] Well, I always felt that way. I always felt that we should do it in the Mattachine, the way they wanted to do it. Well, no, that's not true. In the beginning I was very conservative too, but as I said once before, when I became the head of the Mattachine Society, because somebody else, it was supposed to be his job and he left and I got stuck with it and I didn't know what I was doing with it. So all these people came. I didn't know what to do. So I went and asked people. When you don't know what you're supposed to do, go ask somebody else.
Dick Leitsch: [02:00:30] So we had this organization of people who have been volunteers for Mattachine to come and help us. So I went to them and talked to them and so they talked to me. We had a lawyer there who had been part of the Kinsey people. We had a member of Mattachine who had been a member of the Kinsey report. So he took me aside and we had 3 talks, 4 talks, 5 talks to gay life, how gay people live, what gay people do.
Dick Leitsch: [02:01:00] How gay people world and things like that. We went to other places, to clergy people, talk about religion and gay people. I talked to them. We had meetings about that. I started having that discussions of gay people got pushed to come and talk to Mattachine, to talk about that. Other organizations like that. At the time there was this man there who was a taxi driver, who was a friend of mine and he was in Mattachine, involved in that.
Dick Leitsch: [02:01:30] The only gay life I knew, was my kind of life, which is a little white boy like me and we had little boyfriends in those days and we just have sex together and we were truthful to one another and all that kind of stuff and a little family sort of thing. That's the only gay life I knew and it was all this other stuff going on. Leather queens, drags whatever and I knew nothing about it.
Dick Leitsch: [02:02:00] So he said, "I'll show you the world." He said, "Everybody will talk you a lot of stuff, I'll show you the world." So we got into his car, because he was a taxi driver. He drove me around and showed me things in New York city. He showed me bars, he showed me just all kinds of things you would never see. The most interesting thing that he took me to, was we went to Coney Island, where Jewish people lived out there in those days.
Dick Leitsch: [02:02:30] Apparently in Jewish organizations - I don't know anything about Jewish organizations - but apparently if you're hard deal Jewish people, you got to get married. Whether you're gay or straight, whoever you are. You got to get straight. You got to have a baby. Babies are very important. You don't have a baby on a Saturday, because that's the holy day. You're supposed to have sex on Thursday or Friday. Whether you like your woman or not, you have sex once a week and all that kind of stuff and so that's one thing they did.
Dick Leitsch: [02:03:00] In those days in New York, there was where you bought lotteries and everybody bought lotteries in those days. So you went on and bought tickets and stuff where you work and you bought a bet and you bet on it. Then every day there was a prize who won. What happened was, there were 3 or 4 numbers and where those numbers came from, so it couldn't be cheated, there were horse traces everywhere and who ever day they had race horses and every day they win.
Dick Leitsch: [02:03:30] The money is given to the government. So the prize is that the last numbers on that number is who wins this money in that bet thing. It can't be cheated, so it's got to be honest. It happened in the early evening.
Dick Leitsch: [02:04:00] So the newspaper would print that prize in the thing for tomorrow morning. It would come out tonight, right around dinner time, the number would come out in the paper in the New York News. So every day people who were into gambling would go and buy their number and then have dinner at home and after dinner they take a walk in the evening, about 7 oclock when the paper came out and bought the newspaper, see if they won or not.
Dick Leitsch: [02:04:30] The Jewish places down there, they would go out after dinner. They'd eat dinner with the wife and kids if they had them and they'd go out and get their newspaper, see if they won thing. These Jewish guys with curly hairs and the thing, sometimes hairy thing that they wear out there, all that stuff. They would go out there and they walk down under the boardwalk.
Dick Leitsch: [02:05:00] They walked under the boardwalk down there and the other guys would come down to their meeting and have blow jobs back there. He took me around the corner and showed me and I've never seen that. The most interesting thing I saw and the whole thing the most bizarre. Maybe it's not bizarre for me, but for a little Christian it might be it's a bizarre thing. Two guys wearing their suits, having blow jobs under the [inaudible]. It's kind of funny. Dozens of them do it every night
Mason Funk: [02:05:30] Wow. So it just broadened your horizons. It just made you realize-
Dick Leitsch: It did. That's why I didn't stay in Kentucky. I should have stayed in Kentucky and played bass, I should have gone to basketball, had babies and go to church like they do in Kentucky, but I wanted everything. You know, I go out and try to learn new things everything.
Dick Leitsch: [02:06:00] See new things, do new things, I always do. That's why I read all the time. I want to learn new things, I want to go things and when you show me something new, I'm going to watch it. When I go to dinner with people. I went to dinner with my friends the other night. "What are you going to have for dinner?" I said, "I'm going to have that." He said, "Why that?" I said, "Because that's something I've never had before." You know, some people go and buy the same thing every time. I go and try to find something I've never seen before and I buy that. That's how you learn. That's how you grow up. That's why you don't be a child.
Mason Funk: Fantastic. Another question? That was a doozy. That was a good one.
Kate Kunath: [02:06:30] For the record, he still does that. Every time we go out to a restaurant, he says, "Well, I never had this before."
Mason Funk: Uh-huh. That's great. That's great.
Dick Leitsch: Craig died from cancer and Randy Wicker says he died from cheeseburgers. Whatever he had, breakfast, lunch or dinner, that's what he had. Every time he went, cheeseburger. He died of cancer when he was 50.
Kate Kunath: I guess my question right now would be a story that comes to mind that you haven't told yet.
Dick Leitsch: A story I haven't told yet?
Mason Funk: Well, you said a minute ago, when I said we were almost done, you said, "Oh, I haven't told you half the stories I want to tell you.
Dick Leitsch: Oh god, I don't know.
Mason Funk: So is there one that comes to mind that you just are burning to tell?
Dick Leitsch: [02:07:30] No, because I never can think of anything. I always need something to close.
Mason Funk: You need somebody to ask you, yeah.
Dick Leitsch: Yeah, to lead me into it.
Mason Funk: Does anything come to mind if I say, what adjectives you would use, most incredible or most beautiful or most memorable moment you've experienced. Does anything come to mind?
Dick Leitsch: [02:08:00] Stonewall. Stonewall was the most important thing. It's something that I never thought would happen and always hoped it would. I always thought Stonewall was the most important thing, the most interesting thing, because I always wanted it to happen and I never really thought it would. I thought someday we're going to, but this is impossible.
Dick Leitsch: [02:08:30] I think that all of us feel the same way. We all thought it was going to happen and thought well, it's never going to happen, if it would happen, good god, wouldn't it be great if it did? One day, bang, there it was. I ended up just like the Russian guy who led the war.
Mason Funk: The Russian guy?
Kate Kunath: Gorbachev?
Dick Leitsch: Who?
Dick Leitsch: Oh, way before him. The 1st one.
Kate Kunath: [02:09:00] Lenin?
Dick Leitsch: Renin, because in the old days Renin decided he was going to cremate Tell me his name again?
Mason Funk: Lenin.
Dick Leitsch: Grenin. If I could see it. Grenin. In the old days of Gennit. Gennit?
Dick Leitsch: Lenin. Lenin.
Mason Funk: Think of John Lennon.
Dick Leitsch: [02:09:30] In the old days Lenin said he was trying to create the communist demonstration. He tried, tried, tried, worked his ass off to try and all that kind of stuff, but one day it happened. He was someplace else, he had to get a train and come to it. That's what happened to Stonewall. All these days I thought someday we were going to make demonstration, we're going to make this happen, we're going to make this happen, we're going to make this happen and one day, bam, it just happened and nobody knew it. All of a sudden, "Oh my god, we thought we had to make it. It just happened. Everybody made it at once." That's why there is no greatest homosexual in the world, because no greatest homosexual did it. A group did it. It just happened one day, everybody else.
Dick Leitsch: [02:10:00] You know, all these times I kept trying to teach this, everybody else tried to make this happen, make this happen and one day or another, everybody rose up and said, "No, dammit. It's going to happen." We didn't get all this talk about Stonewalll and we didn't get involved in the bars and the police entrapment and all that kind of stuff.
Dick Leitsch: [02:10:30] But all these days, everybody thought gay demonstrations that happen, someday we should all get demonstrations. Some day or another we should have a reservation sort of thing when these don't happen. So this happens a little bit. All these days, we kept wishing that someday something wonderful would happen and we could stop the world change, everything can happen and one time we were going to be free, things were going to happen and one day somebody did this little bit and this little bit and one day they got the bars going, made stores legal.
Dick Leitsch: [02:11:00] Another day we got over entrapment. When Stonewall happened, everybody started yelling, "Gay pride! Gay pride!" At first somebody laughed. "Gay pride. Right, that's got to be there." All of a sudden they realize, "No, we've done this, we've done this, we've done this. Mattachine did that, Mattachine did that. God dammit! Make it happen!" We did. I didn't do it, he didn't to it. All of a sudden we just together said, "Dammit, it's going to happen" and one day that just happened.
Dick Leitsch: [02:11:30] In the beginning everybody said, "Oh my god, this is awful." No, that's right. That's what we should have done. That's what we should have done and all the people who were against it, said it's great. All the people who were in favor of us said, "Thank god." Just one time. Shows you, you try to change things, you try hard enough to change things, some day they will actually change. Things do change.
Dick Leitsch: [02:12:00] The world doesn't have to always be awful. Some days you have to make it better and it can be made better and you can do it. I did and I'm just a dumb little hillbilly from Kentucky and I made the world a bit better.
Mason Funk: All right.
Kate Kunath: Can I ask one more little question?
Mason Funk: Yeah. Yeah?
Kate Kunath: Who was the first person you fell in love with?
Dick Leitsch: I don't want to tell you his name.
Kate Kunath: How about the second person.
Dick Leitsch: [02:12:30] I don't know about that. I was in love so many times. I was in love all the time. I had a lot of lovers. I had so many lovers. I'm always in love with people.
Kate Kunath: You didn't have like one love of your life?
Dick Leitsch: Well, there was that one that I told you about in my first grade. I fell in love with a little boy. I still sort of remember him. I don't remember him at all, but I remember him, I remember the idea. The first one ... Oh god, I know who that was, but I can't talk about it, because his wife would kill me.
Dick Leitsch: [02:13:00] We'll make up another one.
Kate Kunath: Can you tell us about the details without any names?
Kate Kunath: Can you tell us anything about the story using no names?
Dick Leitsch: Oh yeah. He was the one I went to college with and I told you I went to Roman Catholic school and in those days the Roman Catholic school was very Roman Catholic.
Dick Leitsch: [02:13:30] So 2 guys would get together and go to college and go to girls together and so he and I always went with these 2 women. She was a friend of mine. The girlfriend was a friend of mine. I always went to proms with her all the time or dances with her and he always went with one who turned out to be serious about it, because he eventually married her. At the time we went to these Roman Catholic schools and you go dance and you party and you kiss and carry on and do all that kind of stuff.
Dick Leitsch: [02:14:00] Then when it came to the important thing, the woman always said, "No, no, no, you can't do it until marriage. You can't do it after sex." Nobody ever got laid, so we would go out and have the parties and drink things and drink with us and stuff like that. Go to parties with this and restaurant and stuff and then take the women home. She'd go there and she'd go there and it's just the 2 of us and we started playing together one another and so we started having kind of an affair, really.
Dick Leitsch: [02:14:30] I was madly in love with him. He wasn't madly in love with me. He was just horny with me, but we did it for almost 2 years, I guess. It was like a love affair, except that he wasn't in love with me. He just wanted to have sex. I guess I was in love with him and that's the first time. Is that what you wanted me to say?
Kate Kunath: Yeah, just a little.
Dick Leitsch: Is that what you wanted to know of me?
Kate Kunath: Just a little anecdote.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Kate Kunath
Date: August 11, 2016
Location: Home of Dick Leitsch, New York, NY