Loading...
Mark Segal was born in Philadelphia, and raised in the only Jewish household in his public housing project. As a child, he learned of friends and family members who had perished in Russian pogroms and German concentration camps. By 13, he was marching in his first civil-rights demonstration alongside his suffragette grandmother. 

Almost from day one, Mark knew he was gay. He humorously credits the male models in Sears Roebucks catalogues with helping him recognize his sexuality, but also explains it was just something he knew. He moved to New York City immediately after high school, and a month later, took part in the June 1969 Stonewall Riots, which effectively turned Mark into a lifelong rabble-rouser and queer activist.

Following Stonewall, Mark was one of the young activists who created a new organization called the Gay Liberation Front. He marched in the first Pride parade; but soon thereafter, seeking more direct ways to confront homophobia, he formed a radical group known as the Gay Raiders to protest the defamation of homosexuals on entertainment programs. The Raiders began staging zaps – disruptive events that draw public attention to the gay and lesbian rights movement. The Raiders performed stunts like handcuffing themselves to the Liberty Bell, interrupting a Nixon fundraiser, and perhaps most famously, zapping the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. In the midst of these confrontations, Mark exuded an almost constant, effervescent joy, and even formed friendships with some of his zap targets – most notably, Mr. Cronkite, who became a quiet advocate for fair media representation of gay people.

But Mark’s most enduring platform has been the award-winning Philadelphia Gay News, one of America’s longest-running LGBT publications. Mark has been PGN’s publisher since 1976, and sits on the board of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers’ Association. In 2015, with encouragement from his husband Jason, Mark published his memoir And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality. And in 2018, Mark donated 50 years’ worth of personal documents and artifacts to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Someone once called Mark ‘the Energizer Bunny of the gay rights movement’. The term fits. In fact, the only time OUTWORDS could pin him down for an interview was on a Sunday evening in August 2016, at the PGN offices in Philadelphia. Heading outside afterwards to shoot his portrait, Mark was still smiling – satisfied with his community’s progress, but nowhere near ready to take a break. 
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] Give me your name, first and last and spell it please.
Mark Segal: Mark Segal. M-A-R-K. S-E-G-A-L.
Mason Funk: Okay, it just occurred to me a few minutes ago to start with the story of the Philadelphia Gay News. This will be a portion, obviously, but I'd like to hear how the Philadelphia Gay News came to exist, and specifically how you got involved.
Mark Segal: In 1973, I was doing a group of disruptions of TV shows nationally and throughout the country.
Mark Segal: [00:00:30] These disruptions were meant to stop the censorship of LGBT people in media, because if we literally were going to create a movement for equality, the world had to know who we were. We werent in newspapers, we werent on TV, we werent in radio, we werent in magazines, so the group I found, the Gay Raiders, was meant to do that. Through this group of disruptions, at the end of 1973, and probably through 76, I probably was the most well-known gay activist in America.
Mark Segal: [00:01:00] That got me doing all the talk shows and thereby getting the word out, what have you. My good friend Jim Austin in Pittsburgh who ran Pittsburgh Gay News was starting a new newspaper called the Ohio East Gay News. He asked if I would do a speaking tour throughout Ohio to promote it and I said, Of course, I would. On the way back from this five city tour in a car, he asks me, Why don't you have a newspaper in Philadelphia?
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] He asked me
Mark Segal: He asked me, Why don't you have a newspaper in Philadelphia? I said, Nobody has done that before. We've had newsletters, mimeograph sheets, but not a real newspaper. He says, Well, why don't we do it together? That's how it came about. We started January 1976 with our first edition. Within nine months, Jim decided I was a little aggressive, more aggressive than he expected and he basically sold the whole chain to me for a dollar.
Mason Funk: [00:02:00] Oh my gosh.
Mark Segal: Within nine months, I was producing three newspapers in three different areas, which I eventually increased to four areas until I got the brilliant idea and learned that I couldn't be an absentee manager. I was driving myself crazy, and we pulled it back to just Philadelphia.
Mason Funk: Just give me a brief overview of the successes and the longevity of the Philadelphia Gay News. Now, you're mentioning forty years now and some of the high points.
Mark Segal: [00:02:30] Well, some of the statistics I guess, we're a weekly newspaper.
Mason Funk: Start with the Philadelphia Gay News.
Mark Segal: Philadelphia Gay News is a weekly newspaper. It happens to be the single longest-running LGBT newspaper under the ownership of the same owner since the beginning, which is me. It has won more national journalism awards from more organizations than all the other LGBT media combined.
Mark Segal: [00:03:00] We're very proud of our ... We've shared an investigative journalism award with the Wall Street Journal. I just have a very good, very professional staff, which makes their publisher very happy each week.
Mason Funk: Were there any low points?
Mark Segal: Oh God, yes.
Mason Funk: Tell me about some of the low points.
Mark Segal: Lets see. Death threats.
Mason Funk: Explain what you're talking about.
Mark Segal: [00:03:30] Okay, when we first started, we decided we were going to be different than most other
Mason Funk: Start with, We at the Philadelphia Gay News
Mark Segal: We at the Philadelphia Gay News decided we were going to be different than most other LGBT publications. Gay is in our name, Philadelphia Gay News. We have, in our city, if you go around the city, youll discover vending boxes for the daily newspapers, and next to those daily newspapers, you'll find a Philadelphia Gay News Box. There are 120 purple vending boxes on the streets of Philadelphia.
Mark Segal: [00:04:00] We decided we were going to be out there, and part of the fact of being a public institution was to make everybody realize that we were the same as everybody else. If you saw a daily newspaper, you saw the gay newspaper right next to it. That led to many of our boxes being hit by cars, things being left in them that you wouldn't want to, them being firebombed, bricks coming through our windows, people destroying our offices in the middle of the night,
Mark Segal: [00:04:30] coming in and taking out the plumbing and the electric. Death threats. Thunderbolt, the national magazine of the American Nazi Party put me on their death list. Those were just some of the
Mason Funk: Just another day at the office.
Mason Funk: Were you ever scared?
Mark Segal: No. I dont think anyone has ever asked me that question before.
Mason Funk: [00:05:00] Could you say it in a full sentence, basically so that Ill know what the question was. Like, Maybe in spite of all that, I never felt scared. In other words, we wont hear my sound.
Mark Segal: I don't feel comfortable saying that.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Mark Segal: I'm just digesting it now. Probably you will leave in the next twenty hours, I'm going to be digesting that question.
Mason Funk: Regarding the whole thing about whether youve ever been afraid, you want to just move on from that for now?
Mark Segal: [00:05:30] Of course, I'm thinking it. Im usually asked that question not that way, because that the way you said it was over my whole forty-seven years of involvement. I'm usually asked, When you disrupted Walter Cronkite, were you scared? Ive been asked that 10,000 times, but not over, no. In regard to when we came in the morning and saw that offices were trashed, we just start cleaning it up and putting it back together again. We didnt have time to be scared.
Mason Funk: [00:06:00] How about angry?
Mark Segal: Oh, lots of times, but angry at who? Angry at homophobes? Angry at your own community because they don't understand what you're doing? The hardest line for me to read in my own book, because I didn't realize what I wrote until then when I'm reading it,
Mark Segal: [00:06:30] it had its full effect on me, was right after some of the TV disruptions. We're going to court. We're up against ten years imprisonment, $10,000 fine and we're trying to do benefits to get legal aid funding. We can't get people to come to the benefits. I write in the book that I realized that 99.9% of our community at that time was in the closet,
Mark Segal: [00:07:00] but they also didnt want to support somebody who's trying to change the whole image of the gay community and make us presentable to the rest of the world, so that they would accept equality for our community. I also realized that 99.9% of the community didn't like what I was doing, and that was sort of painful. I think I was so busy doing it that I never realized. If you ask any gay activists of my age
Mark Segal: [00:07:30] who has been doing it for forty-seven years as I have, there's one line that they will always know that they've heard. Same exact line from anybody who have been in the closet that attacked them for doing gay activism, You'll ruin it for us. I mean, I feel like I should have named my book You'll Ruin It For Us.
Mason Funk: What did they think you were going to ruin for them that was so awesome?
Mark Segal: [00:08:00] I have no idea. The fact that they could go to bars and hide. If you look at the period before 1969, now you want to get into Gay Liberation Front, which I am, of all the organizations I've ever been a member of, probably the most proudest of, because it changed the trajectory of the gay community faster and stronger than any other organization that's ever existed in the LGBT community.
Mark Segal: [00:08:30] Its whole concept, before 1968 and Gay Liberation Front, the only places that LGBT people could meet and be themselves were in businesses that allow them to go into such as gay bars, which for the most part were illegal, private parties, cruising areas, and the one of maybe twenty gay organizations that existed in the United States of America. That was it.
Mark Segal: [00:09:00] That was it. Gay Liberation Front said, No, we're not going to have just that. We're going to be out, in your face, and we're going to create a community. From 69 to 71, we created the first youth organization, first trans organization, first legal notices to the community, first medical alerts to the community. We opened the first gay community center, and if all that were not enough at the end of the first year, we helped Craig Rodwell create Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee,
Mark Segal: [00:09:30] which was the first gay pride. That's amazing. If you do the statistics overall, it's absolutely amazing. Up until July 4th, 1969, there are no more than 100 out activists in the entire nation. Then, you could do the math very easy, because 65 to 69 was the premier and only demonstration yearly was July 4th outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Notice the photos, theres no photo that has more than forty people in it.
Mark Segal: [00:10:00] These were the premier ones. Busloads of people coming from New York, people coming from Washington and from the West Coast. The only one of its type once a year. Then, you add up the names of the organizations, there was Mattachine, Daughters of Bilitis, ONE incorporated, and I can go on and on. You'll discover very shortly that there maybe were twenty of those organizations in existence in the nation's top twenty cities. Two, three or four people from
Mason Funk: [00:10:30] [inaudible] two, three or four people
Mark Segal: Two, three or four people were out in each and every one of those organizations. That totals eighty people. 1969, we're talking about 100 out people and forty people at those demonstrations July 4th, 1969. One year later, Christopher Street Liberation Day March happens. According to the press,
Mark Segal: [00:11:00] anywhere between 5,000 and 15,000 people march. That shows you the strength in what Gay Liberation Front did in one year. One year.
Mason Funk: We're going to just backtrack a little bit and then kind of work our way forward to that point, because I want to kind of lay the groundwork for the Gay Liberation Front. Let me look over my notes here real quick. First,
Mark Segal: I like your glasses.
Mason Funk: [00:11:30] Thank you. How did you as an eighteen-year-old make your way? I don't want to go all the way back to beginning yet. I want to talk about your childhood in a little while, but just as an eighteen-year-old, how did you make your way to the Stonewall Inn?
Mark Segal: As an eighteen-year-old living in New York, if you were gay, you hung out on Christopher Street. That was the place to hang out at. Your night was, literally, you come out
Mark Segal: [00:12:00] and you would walk down Christopher Street, say hello to your friends that you've met over the weeks. Youd sit [inaudible] and talk to them, okay.
Mason Funk: It's the battery.
Mark Segal: Ah thats the battery.
Mason Funk: This is the one right here in his transmitter.
Mason Funk: Yes.
Mason Funk: Sounds like [inaudible].
Mark Segal: It's a good alarm. It's a great alarm system.
Mason Funk: Sounds so much more dramatically [inaudible].
Mark Segal: Sounds like a waterfall or something.
Mason Funk: [00:12:30] It sounds really good when you're wearing headphones.
Mason Funk: Oh, great, it does.
Mark Segal: [inaudible], what have you done before this?
Mason Funk: Most recently, I made a documentary about a historic black bar in Brooklyn that predated the Stonewall.
Mark Segal: Called?
Kate Kunath: The Starlite Lounge.
Kate Kunath: That was really fun to make a contribution to the
Mark Segal: Could I get it online or is
Kate Kunath: [00:13:00] Yeah, Ill send it to you.
Mark Segal: Oh boy, Id love to see it.
Kate Kunath: Lets see, what else? I worked on a TV doc.
Mark Segal: Was this a gay black bar?
Kate Kunath: Gay black bar.
Mark Segal: Thank you for doing that. Most people don't realize that in our community, we are very segregated. I mean, to this day, to this day.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I know.
Mark Segal: There are gay black bars in this city that people in the white community don't even know exist.
Mark Segal: [00:13:30] Thank you. Thank you, I mean, that's really important work.
Kate Kunath: Thanks. That means a lot coming from you.
Mason Funk: Are we speeding again?
Kate Kunath: Yup.
Mason Funk: Okay, so you were saying. Basically, lets start again, as an eighteen-year-old in New York City in 1969.
Mark Segal: If you were eighteen and you lived in New York and you were gay, the place you hung out was Christopher Street.
Mason Funk: In 1969.
Mason Funk: Start again fresh, please.
Mark Segal: [00:14:00] Okay, if you were gay in 1969 and you lived in New York City, the place you hung out was Christopher Street. It was the place where you would go. A typical night of Christopher Street was just walking up and down from Greenwich Avenue all the way down to the Silver Dollar off of Hudson. Silver Dollar was a restaurant, Greek-owned restaurant, diner I guess I would say. You would go in there and youd have a cup of coffee.
Mark Segal: [00:14:30] Youd then walk and stand at a corner and talk to your friends, or youd sit on a stoop somewhere and then you go in, pop in and out of the various gay bars and clubs that were in the area, see your friends and walk in and out. That was it. That was what you do every single night. You would pop at the Stonewall. You would pop into the International [inaudible] or whatever it was called then.
Mason Funk: [00:15:00] Who were you? You were eighteen, so you're probably younger, I'm guessing, but maybe not, but how did you make your way down there?
Mark Segal: Made my way to Christopher Street?
Mason Funk: How did you find your way from where you lived? How did you gain consciousness that this is where you belonged?
Mark Segal: Well, I moved to New York in May of 69, about six weeks before Stonewall. All I knew was that there were gay people in New York, because there were no gay people in Philadelphia. I never saw them, so I had to go to a place where there were gay people.
Mark Segal: [00:15:30] I knew there was this place called Greenwich Village, where all these strange people hung out. Since Id heard that gay people were strange people, I assumed they would be in Greenwich Village. I also didn't realize Greenwich Village was a very large area. I'm walking all around Greenwich Village, and eventually I came across Christopher Street. Eventually, I just realized, there they are, my brothers and sisters. You just walk down or you sit on a stoop.
Mark Segal: [00:16:00] I don't remember who the first person I met was, but probably and most likely it was Jerry Hoose. I remember Jerry Hoose introduced me to Bob Kohler. Bob Kohler, of course, introduced me to his dog Magoo, who became like any of us who were young and had pets at home, and we now were sort of like stranded in New York, Magoo became our family pet. which is why I'm very offended by in the film Stonewall,
Mark Segal: [00:16:30] while Bob Koehler's name is used in the film, the dog he has with him, they changed that name. That really offends me, because Magoo is like our family pet.
Mason Funk: Thats all right. Thats good. You're kind of hanging out in the neighborhood, and I guess the Stonewall is just probably, it's not famous then
Mark Segal: Oh, it's nothing, no.
Mason Funk: Stonewall is just a bar among many. So then set the stage for basically how this event that we all refer to these days
Mason Funk: [00:17:00] as the Stonewall Riots or whatever [inaudible], set the stage for how Well, basically tell me the story of that night and what you witnessed when you were there.
Mark Segal: My account of it. Everybody has their own account and they're all different.
Mason Funk: Their own account of what?
Mark Segal: Everybody who was at Stonewall has their own account, and they vary widely.
Mark Segal: [00:17:30] I decided early on that I wasn't going to correct other people. Everybody has their memories, and some of us are getting a little older, and I suggest other people they give their accounts, not give other peoples accounts. Most of us are... it's very vivid. For me, it was very vivid because I come from Philadelphia. Id only been there six weeks, and I was in the back of the bar.
Mark Segal: [00:18:00] The lights flickered on. I was wondering what was going on, and someone said, Ah, we're just being raided. They were very casual. Inside my head, I was scared to death. Ive never been at a raid before and then the police come in. They're starting to push some people around. They're not being very nice at all. They're literally harassing anybody who is stereotypical, and that includes men and there were women in there and people keep forgetting that. They're being really mean to the trans people,
Mark Segal: [00:18:30] or at that time, we only called them drag queens. They're literally extorting men, they're taking money out of their wallets. Then, they start carding people to let them out. I looked like the boy next door in those days, because I just got into New York. I was of absolutely no use to them, no use to them at all. They don't want to harass me. They couldn't get money out of me because I didnt have any money.
Mark Segal: [00:19:00] I was one of the first to be carded and let out. That turned out to be very lucky, because first off I was scared shitless. I got outside. I got to stand across the street and watch as it unfolded. One by one people came out, but instead of just dispersing, for the most part, people started doing a semicircle or horse shoe around the doors of the building. That sort of emboldened the customers of the bar,
Mark Segal: [00:19:30] because eventually that crowd became larger than the people that were in the bar, which were the police. When that happened, people just started throwing things at the door. I don't remember a Molotov cocktail at all. I remember people throwing various things that are mostly rocks and stones, cans, bottle, but no Molotov cocktail. While this was all going on, a man by the name Marty Robinson walks up to me.
Mark Segal: [00:20:00] I joined a group weeks earlier, called the Action Group, which Marty ran. It was this [inaudible] organization. The only action that I can recall was that night. Marty said, What's going on? I said, It seems like there's some type of demonstration going on here. No idea because it was just developing. He ran off, came back a little later with chalk. He gave us chalk. Those four members of us, who were members of the Action Group.
Mark Segal: [00:20:30] At this point, there's only two of us left, myself and Michael Laverty, a lawyer in New York whos still with us, who is known as one of the four founders of Lambda Legal. We're the two last surviving members of the Action Group. Our job that night was, according to Marty, to write up on the walls and the street, Tomorrow night, Stonewall. That was Martys idea. That was a very smart idea, because what most people are not aware of is that Stonewall was more than one night. It was four.
Mark Segal: [00:21:00] The next three nights, members of the community came together for the first time. I mean, everybody from every political spectrum of the community who wanted change, which primarily were people in their twenties and thirties. They gave speeches outside Stonewall. I was not one of them. I wasnt a spokesperson then. I didn't know. I was too young to know what I was doing. That's what came out of the ashes of Stonewall, was the creation of the Gay Liberation Front.
Mark Segal: [00:21:30] Going back to the evening itself, I'm standing outside, seeing all this activity, watching as the police are barricaded in the bar. This is the counterculture in 1969. America is in total turmoil. Everybody's fighting for their rights. In the middle of this, realizing what I've gone through, somewhere clicked in my mind, You know what? This is what I want to fight for. Why cant I fight for me?
Mark Segal: [00:22:00] I guess I'm more unusual than most people. I never thought that there was anything wrong with the fact that I liked men my entire life. I knew I had to keep quiet. I thought, It wasn't something you talk about. It might upset my parents and might cause them embarrassment. Personally, I never thought there was anything wrong with it. I think that's because of the way my parents brought me up and the family I had, in hindsight now. That's what in an instant that
Mark Segal: [00:22:30] I was living in the YMCA, six dollars a night. I had no job, no prospects in life. I thought Id go absolutely nowhere, but I thought, This is what I should do. I was there every other night. I was there when we created the Gay Liberation Front. I was a good follower, a troupe at that point, and very quiet, people tell me, which I'm not any longer.
Mason Funk: [00:23:00] Right, no, I've noticed, which is good. Just out of curiosity, because we see you today, what did you look like in those days? In 1969, what did you look like? You say you were very clean-cut at that point.
Mark Segal: Oh my God, I looked like the boy next door. You could have taken me out of Ozzie and Harriet, middle-class whatever. Take a look at me six months later, total change, hair down to my back.
Mason Funk: [00:23:30] Do you think that part of why the gay community, so to speak, began to finally fight back at that time was because there was so much turmoil in society? Were they emboldened by for example the [inaudible]? Was there kind of like the spirit in the air of like, We don't have to put up with something we don't agree with. Was that... and just wait for the motorcycle. That thought just occurred to me for the first time.
Mark Segal: Absolutely, at that period of time, 1969, you have to realize that women were fighting for their rights.
Mark Segal: [00:24:00] African-Americans were fighting for their rights. Puerto Ricans were fighting for their rights. Everybody was fighting for their rights. The only group that wasn't were gay men and lesbian women. The spark of Stonewall created that. There were a lot of people around the New York area, gay people, who were living in communes, whether they be lesbian separatists or gay men fairies. They wanted a change, but they didn't know what to do about it.
Mark Segal: [00:24:30] The police... thank God for the New York City Police on raiding that bar, they brought us all together. The most magnificent, incredible thing to watch were those three nights after Stonewall, to watch men and women from our community, separatists and every other type coming together to speak in one voice. Martha Shelly, John O'Brien,
Mark Segal: [00:25:00] and so many more. Perry, these people got, Barbra Love, I mean I could name name after name after name, got together and created Gay Liberation Front, which changed the world for the gay community. Changed the world. We did something that had never been done before. We created a community. We werent going to be isolated. We werent going to be pushed into bars and told we can't go anywhere else. We werent going to let the police come into Christopher Street,
Mark Segal: [00:25:30] our neighborhood, and do what they wanted. It ended then, it ended. My first arrest was, I guess, sixty days after that.
Mason Funk: We'll get to that. I want to backtrack a little bit. One of the things you wrote in your book and this is a direct quote, you said, The community, the gays were finally fighting back. and it felt good.
Mason Funk: The implication being that there was a lot of pent-up energy/anger ready to come out. Can you just talk about that, expand on that?
Mark Segal: [00:26:00] Absolutelyy. When you talk about the anger that we got out of our systems that night and during that whole first two years, 69 71, was a frustration that we verbalized by saying, Oh, our community has gone through 2000 years of oppression. If you want to take it up a little to just each and every one of us individually, think of what we each went through. There was no one,
Mark Segal: [00:26:30] not one of us in our community to this day that at one time or another is not in the closet. Thats oppression. Why are we all in the closet? Because depictions of gay people are always negative. Up until 1969, they didn't exist. They just didn't exist. They weren't on TV, they weren't on radio, they werent in magazines, they werent in talk shows. There were no characters on TV. Occasionally, you would see one. If you did, they killed themselves, or they were a pedophile,
Mark Segal: [00:27:00] or they lure young women into their homes. They were always the most negative of characters. Basically, if you take the long look at it, you can look at the fact that in religion, no matter what religion you talk about, we were immoral. If you talk about the military system, we couldnt be a part of that because we didn't fit the system because we weren't masculine enough.
Mark Segal: [00:27:30] We fit into that stereotype. To crime fighters, we were illegal and should be arrested up and locked up, and the key should be thrown away. To the medical and psychiatric field, we were just medically ill, and should be lobotomized or given behavior modification of some sort.
Mason Funk: You're saying that all of this
Mark Segal: [00:28:00] All of this came out... We thought about all of this when we were fighting back, whether it be throwing a stone at the Stonewall or whether picking up a sign and marching against the police station on Tenth Street in the Village. All that internalized hate for what we've been through. The fact that we couldn't tell our parents who we were, that we couldn't talk openly about our lives, share the goodness of our lives, share the horrible things in our lives
Mark Segal: [00:28:30] came out. It was very liberating, extremely liberating.
Mason Funk: It sounds like a cork coming out of a champagne bottle.
Mark Segal: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay, let me look here real quick. Lets back track a little bit, prior to this moment in history in 1969 and the birth of Gay Liberation Front, there had existed another organization, fairly prominent, fairly successful called the Mattachine Society. Set that up for me.
Mason Funk: [00:29:00] Tell me who the Mattachine Society were. Tell me what their basic approach was, and how that differed from what the Gay Liberation Front eventually decided to adapt as their approach.
Mark Segal: Mattachine Society, one of the oldest gay organizations, and I love that together with ONE incorporated, Daughters of Bilitis. For the most part, they believed in trying to fit in society. Their routine primarily was to say, Hey, we're just like you. We even look like you.
Mark Segal: [00:29:30] In one demonstrations they had on July 4th, outside Independence Hall from 1960 to 1969, all men must wear suits and ties or women had to wear dresses. That was the rule. No one under eighteen could march. They had very strict rules on who they had to be. In their offices, they wouldn't let anyone in under eighteen. They were afraid of being raided by the police.
Mark Segal: [00:30:00] They wanted to do things by the rules of standard operating procedure by society. We on the other hand, didn't give a fuck. We were out to change all the rules. The rules were bent against us and we knew it.
Mason Funk: Let me just have you say, When we formed the Gay Liberation Front, and then just carry on. Just start there.
Mark Segal: We in Gay Liberation Front decided that the rules didn't apply to us and we were going to break them all.
Mason Funk: [00:30:30] Why?
Mark Segal: Because the rules were meant to keep us in our place, and we didn't want to be kept in the places they wanted us to be. We didnt want to be kept in the hospitals. We didn't want to be kept in the prisons. We didnt want to be kept in the institutions. We wanted to live our lives.
Mason Funk: What fault do you find in the Mattachine approach?
Mark Segal: Slow. Too slow, not getting anywhere.
Mark Segal: [00:31:00] Brave individuals, wonderful individuals, but you would find it very hard to find any accomplishments other than the fact that they got people together for the first time, talking about issues inside the community. That might have been twenty, thirty, or forty people.
Mason Funk: Can you put that exact tension between this so-called the people who want to kind of not offend anybody, but work within the system, and the people who were throwing rocks and basically saying,
Mason Funk: [00:31:30] Fuck you. Can you put that in the context of other civil rights movements that have experienced the same tension?
Mark Segal: Oh absolutely. I think that anybody from the LGBT community who doesn't realize that we are on the shoulders of so many other civil rights organizations and moved into this country, hence world, I guess, doesn't understand social justice and movements. I think the best example that I could give is
Mark Segal: [00:32:00] many of us in Gay Liberation Front literally looked upon the African-American civil rights movement as what we wanted to copy. I particularly like to use Martin Luther King as an example. He's my favorite for one very simple reason. He was a smart man. I think people misunderstand and judge him in some ways,
Mark Segal: [00:32:30] which fascinates me more than anything else. I think his brilliance was letting children walk by the police who are holding the dogs, because he knew that while those children might get bitten, millions of Americans would see that, and thats what would change America. Those children were being nonviolent. It was the police that were being violent with the biting German Shepherds
Mark Segal: [00:33:00] and the water hoses. It takes a brave man to tell his community to do something like that.
Mason Funk: Sorry, it takes a brave man
Mark Segal: It takes a brave man to tell this community to do something like that, and he did. The sad part is that even he outlasted what was in vogue at that point, because in Tavis Smileys book Death of a King, the last year of Martin Luther King, he struggled with how to deal with the changes in his community.
Mark Segal: [00:33:30] He was still using the word Negro, whereas in our community, Mattachine used the word homosexual. None of us wanted to be called a homosexual. We didn't like it. It was a clinical term. Martin Luther King was dealing with the Black Panthers. In our community, Mattachine was dealing with Gay Liberation Front.
Mason Funk: [00:34:00] Well, my sense is that's how change happens. Ultimately, you need the trigger happy people, and you need the people who are going to work behind the scenes. That's just a sense that I have. I don't know if you have any thoughts on that. In other words, how does this combustible energy finally begin to cause change?
Mark Segal: Oh, it caused change across the board. I love to show people or point out to people
Mark Segal: [00:34:30] how history repeats itself. I mean, the biggest issue in the LGBT community right now are trans rights for many reasons, because of the anti-trans laws being passed around the country. Gee, that's remarkably not new. Gay Liberation Front supported trans rights in 1969. In fact, we had an organization called STARs, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.
Mark Segal: [00:35:00] It disappeared when the course of the gay rights struggle went from Mattachine as you put it to Gay Liberation Front. Then, when we in Gay Liberation Front became a little too radical for the community, a group of people broke away and created a Gay Activist Alliance because their point was, Gay Liberation Front wants to be part of every social movement there is. We want to concentrate on just the gay community.
Mark Segal: [00:35:30] I find that coming back to history today, where you see the struggle, when you see people inside our community saying, Well, there arent enough brown and black people in our own organization, and we're going to fight our own organizations. Well, Gay Liberation Front had that and what we did, which was kind of interesting was Let me go back a little. A question that I was asked at a recent event was from a young African-American woman. She says, I want to be part of Black Lives Matter, and I also want to be part of the LGBT community,
Mark Segal: [00:36:00] can I do both? The answer is yes, you can. We already did that one point. I said, We did that way back when during Gay Liberation Front. They looked at me very strange when I say that. I go, There was a meeting which I wasn't present at, whereby members of Gay Liberation Front wanted to march with the Black Panthers. Other members of the Gay Liberation Front said, We're not going to march with them. They don't support gay rights, they don't like people like us.
Mark Segal: [00:36:30] This created a meeting between the Black Panthers and there was the Gay Liberation Front. On one side of the room, you have the Black Panthers, who are holding guns. The other side, you have the members of the Gay Liberation Front. I like to say to the audience, Who do you think was more scared, the Black Panthers or the gay people? Out of that meeting came the Bobby Seale letter to [inaudible]. We created change with an organization, which quite honestly, Black Panthers,
Mark Segal: [00:37:00] much more radical than Black Lives Matter. We went to the meeting. We organized that meeting, or members of Gay Liberation Front did. Then, what came out of that? We as members of the gay community marched in a Black Panther organized march outside the house of detention in New York City. Ho ho, hey hey, house of D has got to go. I remember that very well to free Angela Davis. We had a big Gay Liberation Front banner in a Black Panther march.
Mason Funk: [00:37:30] Youve mentioned the Gay Liberation Front, but you haven't just told me the story of how you guys decided to form this thing called the Gay Liberation Front. Tell me that story.
Mark Segal: Well, I don't know if I can. I think there's other people who can, because I don't think of myself as a founder. I think I showed up at the second or third meeting.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, tell me what you're talking about, what organization?
Mark Segal: Okay, I think it's difficult for me to talk about the founding of Gay Liberation Front, because I don't believe I showed up until the second or third meeting.
Mark Segal: [00:38:00] There were no rules. We didn't work by Robert's Rules of Order. When people walked in for the meeting, a stick was thrown, whoever got the stick, they were the chair of that meeting. There were no officers, and I still to this day wonder where the money came from, because I found the Gay Youth, and we were a committee of Gay Liberation Front,
Mark Segal: [00:38:30] but we also operated autonomously Gay Liberation Front. When we did our events, we needed money because we didnt have any money. We go to the floor of GLF and say, Can we get a few dollars. STAR, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, would do the same, and we had an agreement with STAR. STAR and Gay Youth always were lock armed. The key thing about Gay Liberation Front meetings was that you had to reach consensus for anything to be done. The best way to do that and get your way was [inaudible]. Y
Mark Segal: [00:39:00] ou stay as late as you need to stay because there was no time to the end of the meetings. They were chaotic.
Mason Funk: You told me people would yell at each other, they called each other names.
Mark Segal: We were reinventing ourselves as a community. Therefore, we were reinventing ourselves and trying to figure out who we were. Society always had told us who we were. We were now going to tell ourselves who we were or find out who we were. We no longer wanted to Were gay men all feminine?
Mark Segal: [00:39:30] There's a guy with a beard over there. Are all lesbian women truck drivers? No, look, that one wears lipstick. We were learning that we were every shade of color of diversity. We had to accept that. The biggest subject that constantly was brought up was sexism, and men had to deal with that constantly. Women had to deal with it just as well. I remember my first foray into the discussion of sexism
Mark Segal: [00:40:00] when women were yelling at the men for growing beards because that was trying to show their masculinity. I said, Well, then why do you shave your armpits? You're fitting into what society is telling you to do. That did not go over so well.
Mason Funk: Wow, so was there something in the middle of all that chaos and all that passion and all that fighting that was also fomenting the power to change, the power to be in front of change within the Gay Liberation Front?
Mark Segal: [00:40:30] It was one of the most joyous periods of my life. I think
Mason Funk: Your favorite, I'm sorry to interfere, the early days of the Gay Liberation Front was
Mark Segal: The earliest days of Gay Liberation Front were probably some of the most joyous times I've ever had. The fighting... the fighting to learn who we were was over-the-top. We were by far the most dysfunctional organization
Mark Segal: [00:41:00] that has ever existed in the LGBT community, and it was magnificent. It was wonderful to watch. It was wonderful to be a part of. We were creating change. We didn't know how we were doing what we were doing. We knew why we were doing it, because we hated the lives that we had, that life being the oppressive thumb of society on us. We were going to lift that thumb, any way, shape, or form. We didnt know how, but we were going to experiment until we found that solution. I think we certainly did.
Mason Funk: [00:41:30] Wow, thats exciting. I have to say, in reading some of the excerpts from your book, it has made me genuinely wish that I had been there, like oh my gosh.
Mark Segal: There are other people in Gay Liberation Front who wish they were not there. There are some whore still very bitter, who got into some of those disputes. They really
Mason Funk: Bitter about what?
Mark Segal: We had disputes on issues of sexism. We had issues of politics.
Mark Segal: [00:42:00] There was one person who was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, so everyone always was suspicious of him because he was toeing the party line for them. There was another person over here who might have been a communist. Another person over here was a liberal. There was a conservative over there. We were all over the map, and some of those ideological arguments really went up to the wall. There was never any violence, but the language sometimes could be pretty sharp and very painful and very hurtful.
Mason Funk: [00:42:30] Wow, so it wasnt all just jolly and fun?
Mark Segal: No, it was for those people. I was lucky that being one of the youngest members, I never got into any of those really heated battles. I didn't want to take sides in any of them. I was learning. I felt like I was a student. I was soaking it all up. People ask me today what university I graduated from and I say, Gay Liberation Front. It's where I learned everything.
Mason Funk: [00:43:00] That's very cool. Now, because you're also able to talk about this, and you wrote about it in your book, not many people know that Stonewall was four nights. Even fewer know that there were two events prior to Stonewall called Compton's Cafeteria and the Deweys sit-in in Philadelphia. Can you just briefly tell us what Compton's Cafeteria was, the riot there. I think it was the summer of 1967 in San Francisco?
Mark Segal: 1965
Mason Funk: 65, okay. What was Compton's Cafeteria?
Mark Segal: [00:43:30] I wasnt there, number one.
Mason Funk: I understand.
Mark Segal: Okay. Everyone thinks Stonewall was the first riot or first mass demonstration by the gay community. It was not. There were two that preceded it. The first was in Philadelphia, which was at basically a lunch counter in a diner in Philadelphia called Dewey's at 17th and Chancellor. There, a gentleman went in, and he wasn't dressed the way a proper gentleman should be dressed at 2 a.m. in the morning,
Mark Segal: [00:44:00] asking for a sandwich. They asked him to leave. An organization called Janus Society here in Philadelphia decided to hand out fliers asking people to boycott. That was the extent to that was. That was the first time anything like that had ever been done. A few months later in San Francisco, similar place late at night that was mostly frequented by the gay community, mostly drag queens or people who were feminine.
Mark Segal: [00:44:30] This was a rollicking place that they went every night late in the evening when the bars were about to close. They were in and the police told the management, You should keep your clientele a little more in control. The management decided to try to do that and told them they have to behave themselves, they shouldnt be dressed the way they're dressing. They asked them to leave. Well, that didn't go down too well with the drag queens in San Francisco at Compton's.
Mark Segal: [00:45:00] It was a full-scale riot, similar to what took place at Stonewall, but unfortunately, typical of our history, as I like to describe them, the men who wear those little polo shirts with the polo or alligator on them decided they didn't want our image to be betrayed by people like that, so they suppressed that. Those people were fighting back. They were fighting back against oppression. If they had the money to buy
Mark Segal: [00:45:30] the cheese sandwich and tomato soup, why shouldn't they be served? If they weren't causing any type of problem in the restaurant, other than what they were wearing or their mannerisms, why shouldn't they be served?
Mason Funk: Okay, you used [inaudible].
Mark Segal: If you polo shirt and alligator people don't like it, screw you. These were heroes.
Mason Funk: I agree with that 100%. You used the phrase in your book, Oppression within oppression, talk about that. What does that mean?
Mark Segal: [00:46:00] There is a large segment of the LGBT community that has always wanted to assimilate. They want us to look like the rest of society, and so those of us who don't or didnt, they want to suppress in some way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, that comes in many ways, shapes, and forms. In our community, those who are politically more militant were always shunned upon, so therefore Gay Liberation Front
Mark Segal: [00:46:30] was almost historically wiped off the face of the earth by first Gay Activist Alliance, then the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, people like Martin Duberman, because they saw no need for a radical gay organization that would deal with Young Lords and the Black Panthers and work with women's rights organizations. What kind of craziness is all this, they thought. We would always say,
Mark Segal: [00:47:00] But, we're fighting for our lives. It took until 1982 for them to discover that we were fighting for our lives, something called AIDS. Then, our radicalization became popular again.
Kate Kunath: Were you still a group?
Mark Segal: I'm sorry.
Kate Kunath: In 1982, were you still a group?
Mark Segal: No, Gay Liberation Front went to about 1973, 72-73. Yeah, that was the end of it,
Mark Segal: [00:47:30] but at that point, Gay Activist Alliance was the major organization in New York. In 1980s when AIDS came along, there came an organization called ACT UP.
Mason Funk: Talk to me because even though she asked the question [inaudible].
Mark Segal: Got it, I'm sorry.
Mason Funk: In the 1980s.
Mark Segal: Then in 1980s, this new radical organization came up called ACT UP, Larry Kramer literally was following the playbook of Gay Liberation Front. Wed done street theatre of all types long before,
Mark Segal: [00:48:00] but then our community en masse realized that there was no one there to help us. We had to do it for ourselves.
Mason Funk: That's a really interesting turn to the story. I want to go back a little bit before we make our way back up there just because I don't want to leave out a couple of stories that I think you can tell us. First of all, you spoke specifically about how within the Gay Liberation Front, for the first time ever you reached out to gay youth. I think that's a really important story to be heard.
Mason Funk: [00:48:30] What did you do? Why did you do it and how did you do it in terms of reaching out to gay youth? Where did the idea come from?
Mark Segal: I do what this thing is, which Ill show you. I'm sorry about that. We created Gay Youth because we felt that coming out created lots of problems for many young gay people.
Mason Funk: [00:49:00] I'm sorry, I keep doing this. In 1971, within the Gay Liberation Front, we created Gay Youth.
Mark Segal: In 1969, as part of Gay Liberation Front, we decided to create a gay youth organization because nobody was speaking to gay youth, and my feeling at that time was that we had special needs, and most of the other people in the organization didn't want to get into. That was one of the great things about Gay Liberation Front, if you felt there was an area that needed to be taken care of, you could create it.
Mark Segal: [00:49:30] We created Gay Youth, called Gay Youth New York. We did various things, whereby we had a youth hotline. If people felt like there was a problem, you could call in. We would hand out flyers at high schools and colleges around New York saying, Here's the Gay Youth hotline. Wed also hand out flyers for meetings. We then started sending press releases to newspapers, magazines, TV shows,
Mark Segal: [00:50:00] TV stations, radio stations. We also said we were available to speak. In 1970 - let me get my glasses on. In 1970, Gay Youth became the first organization to ever speak in a, anywhere in the nation, a high school. We spoke at Oceanside High School in Oceanside, New York and it was Tony Russomanno and myself. The week later, their school newspaper came out,
Mark Segal: [00:50:30] and the headline in their school newspaper was, Gay Activist Lecture, They Are Not Neurotic. Do you love that headline? Thats Tony Russomanno and myself. Tony Russomanno went on to become a Peabody award-winning journalist and anchor in one of the San Francisco TV stations, member of Gay Youth.
Mark Segal: [00:51:00] There were five members of Gay Youth from 1969-70, still alive today, that we know of. We're still friends, and each and every one of them is successful. I like to think that we're successful because we bonded, and we were the first gay youth generation who's grown from gay youth out to gay seniors. We did that with a bond and we supported each other. Each and every one of us are successful in whatever our endeavor is.
Mark Segal: [00:51:30] It's kind of amazing, and it shows you what being supported like when you're young can do for you. That's what Gay Youth did. We felt so strong about who we were and what we were doing. We wanted to share that with other gay people, so that's why we went out and did radio shows, TV shows. We didn't know what the hell we were doing. You asked me earlier, was I ever scared? Yeah, the first time I ever did a radio show, the first time I ever did a TV show,
Mark Segal: [00:52:00] I had had no training. I just knew what I believed in and I was going to try to get the sentiments across.
Mason Funk: Great.
Kate Kunath: Will you scooch forward for me?
Mark Segal: What?
Kate Kunath: Just scooch forward for me a little bit, the chair.
Mark Segal: The chair?
Mason Funk: Okay, yeah.
Mark Segal: Hows that?
Mason Funk: Just set the frame piece aside also [inaudible].
Mark Segal: Yeah, the [inaudible], so thats one [inaudible]. Theres only about six of these left in the world.
Mason Funk: [00:52:30] Sorry, do me a favor, move it to the left, so I can
Mark Segal: I didnt mean, I'm [inaudible] for your benefit actually. This is all we could afford to promote the first gay-pride march.
Kate Kunath: It looks cool.
Mark Segal: Yeah, it's a sticker basically. We would let them and put them.
Mason Funk: Who created that?
Mark Segal: Craig Rodwell. The whole idea of the first march was Craig Rodwells.
Mark Segal: [00:53:00] He created Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, which had a lot of members from Gay Liberation Front. We all joined. We were cross populating each other's organizations at that point.
Mason Funk: Right. That's crazy. That's very cool. Now, you mentioned something in your book. This is a sentence of [inaudible], There was no internet, no cell phones, just feet, and your parents thought you were in school. What I don't know, what you havent told us yet is, what the hell did your parents know or think about what you were doing in New York this time?
Mark Segal: [00:53:30] My parents thought that I was going
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. When I moved to New York
Mark Segal: When I moved to New York in May of 1969, my parents thought I was going to New York to join the RCA Technical Institute and learn how to be a TV cameraman. There was no such thing. It was basically made up. I escaped to New York. It was for me to escape to New York, to be with my people, or to find my people.
Mark Segal: [00:54:00] I just knew that I wasn't going to grow in Philadelphia, living in a closet somewhere. I didn't know what there was, but obviously I was looking for freedom. Obviously, I wanted to be free. I didn't want to have that thumb pressing down on me. I didnt know how to do it, and so I thought, escape to New York, I would find that. Guess what, I did and I brought it back to Philadelphia.
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] Yeah, an incident that you mentioned in this era in your book is the incident involving Troy Perry. I think it's really instructive, so I would love it if you would tell that story.
Mark Segal: My dear friend Troy Perry, who I love and adore to this day. He just got back from Cuba. He did the first gay wedding in Cuba.
Mark Segal: [00:55:00] That's cool. That's really cool. In the summer of either late 1969 or 70, Troy will be able to tell you. Hes in LA, you could talk to him. He decided to open the first
Mason Funk: Start again, in this summer of 1969, [inaudible] Troy Perry.
Mark Segal: During the heyday of Gay Liberation Front in 1969 1970,
Mark Segal: [00:55:30] Troy Perry was creating his Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) chapters around the country. Metropolitan Community Church was a religious organization of churches, basically. They were gay friendly churches. He was an evangelical minister who had come out. He decided that obviously they didn't want him since he was a homosexual, so he would start his own church. He made one in Los Angeles and several other cities.
Mark Segal: [00:56:00] Now, he decided to come to New York, where Gay Liberation Front held fort. People at Gay Liberation Front, our biggest enemy was religion. After all, it was religion that has kept us down for 2,000 years was the line. We're not going to let a religion oppress us anymore. Troy Perry had a meeting to organize his church in New York at the Summit Hotel on Lexington Avenue.
Mark Segal: [00:56:30] All these religious people are there, and we show up, Gay Liberation Front and start picketing. To my knowledge, it is the first time any gay organization had ever picketed another gay organization. I don't even remember what the slogans were. There were great slogans for every single march, whatever they were, Ho ho, hey hey, 2, 4, 6 [inaudible]. At the end of the meeting,
Mark Segal: [00:57:00] Troy came out and asked a couple of us to talk, me, and I don't remember who the other one was because it ended up being three of us. Troy said, Why are you picketing me? I'm just like you. We said, Well, you're part of religion, you want to oppress us. He says, No, I don't. He says, I'm trying to show where religion supports gay people. He says, There are going to be gay people out there who aren't going to like you, arent going to fit into what you're trying to do, arent going to believe in you.
Mark Segal: [00:57:30] There are gay people who are religious and want to be religious. I could reach them. You cant. I can get them to be part of the gay community, you can't. He says, You can get to the political ones. I can get to the religious ones. He said, We're both trying to do the same thing. It was just logical. Give me a piece of logic and I'll buy, anytime. Troy and I have been friends ever since. I've supported MCC since that day,
Mark Segal: [00:58:00] Dignity, the Jewish, any religious organization that wants to be gay friendly, I'm in support of because there are religious people out there. I mean there are gay Mormons out there, are they going to be interested in what Gay Liberation Fronts doing or a gay Mormon organization? They're going to go to the gay Mormon organization first. We should make that place ready for them. I hate to say this, but the most controversial thing I will probably ever say is I'm glad there's gay Republicans,
Mark Segal: [00:58:30] because guess what? There are conservative Republicans who are gay who are afraid to talk to anyone, they might go talk to Log Cabin Republicans. I don't believe in any of their political stuff, but hey, on a personal level, they might be able to help people come out of their closet, might get them to feel better with themselves.
Mason Funk: Yeah, it's been one of the funny thoughts I've been having. I haven't actually scheduled or reached out to any people of [inaudible]l Log Cabin Republicans [inaudible]. I realized if I'm not excluding anybody, I'm not excluding [inaudible].
Mark Segal: [00:59:00] You should.
Mason Funk: I want to hear their point of view, I want to hear their story. Their stories are just as valuable as anybody elses.
Mark Segal: We have a few Log Cabin Republicans. This is a very Democratic city, but I asked my editors, I said, You got to go out and find a gay person who supports Trump and either interview them, or let them do an op-ed piece. I don't care. I can't believe that any gay person in their right mind would support, anybody in their right mind support Trump,
Mark Segal: [00:59:30] gay, straight or whatever they are. The most interesting thing was we in Philadelphia could not find one LGBT person who supports Trump. We went to log cabin Republicans and said, Do you got any? They said, We dont got any. We did find one in Allentown. We had to go two hours out in Philadelphia to find a gay person that supported Trump.
Mason Funk: Greater Philadelphia area?
Mason Funk: [01:00:00] Thats hilarious. Okay, so now tell us the story that you have probably told a thousand times. You got involved in this activity called zapping. What was zapping, and what were your most famous zaps, and what were you up to?
Mark Segal: A zap is very simply a disruption of some sort. Everyone
Mason Funk: Set me in the timeframe.
Mark Segal: Okay, the zaps I did were primarily during 72 to 1976, but there were zaps before
Mark Segal: [01:00:30] I did them by many other people. In the gay community, the one most known for before me was Marty Robinson. He did them on a small scale in New York. Marty was a friend of mine. In fact, Marty was the first gay activist I ever met when I moved to New York. He's the one who got me into the Action Group, so I watched his actions and learned a great deal from him. I'm probably one of the few people who admired Marty but didnt sleep with him. There's great legends about that.
Mason Funk: [01:01:00] Okay, but we got to restart, we got to start again because I want to make this about the zaps.
Mark Segal: Kate, are you laughing over there?
Mason Funk: It's all crazy entertaining, but I'm trying to kind of have some sort of
Mark Segal: What I want you to realize is the joy. It took me awhile to realize why I hated the movie Stonewall. First thing was the liberties they took with us. Come on, were in that film! These are my friends and me in that film!
Mark Segal: [01:01:30] I mean, they literally ripped us off. It's number one. Number two, the changes they made and how depressing it was. We were full of joy during that period of time. I mean, I got arrested, and I was so happy to be arrested. I'm sure there were depressing moments, but we were fighting back finally. This was 2,000 years in the making, and we were part of it.
Mark Segal: [01:02:00] We were happy campers, not the most depressing people you saw on the screen in the history of your life. You want to cut your throat after seeing that movie. I'm sorry.
Mason Funk: That's awesome.
Mark Segal: I apologize.
Mason Funk: I have no skin in the game. I didnt even see the movie, but I love your observation. Okay, so lets go back to zapping.
Mark Segal: Could we do this off the record?
Mason Funk: [01:02:30] [inaudible] record.
Mark Segal: No, I don't want to do another.
Mason Funk: Okay, all right.
Mark Segal: Think of the character Danny, have you seen the film?
Mason Funk: No.
Mark Segal: Okay, [inaudible].
Mason Funk: Ill see it, I maybe will. Okay, so lets go back to the
Mark Segal: Dont see it. It will totally
Mason Funk: [inaudible].
Mark Segal: Well, because you know enough about history now that will really anger you. When you see Frank [inaudible] arguing about whether or not homosexuality is an illness and him taking [inaudible], youll want to throw something at screen.
Mason Funk: [01:03:00] Wow. Thats amazing. Okay, so back to zapping. Tell me what zapping was, how you got involved in zapping, and some of your personally most famous, or maybe your famous of Walter Cronkite.
Mark Segal: Well, zapping is demonstration, plain and simple. To me, zapping was more than just a disruption. It was doing an action of any sort.
Mark Segal: [01:03:30] I came across the idea and again, this is thanks to Gay Liberation Front. When I came back to Philadelphia, I realized that our goal, which was being in your face and out, loud, and proud, had to be more than just inside the community. If we were going to change the world, we had to change the way the world thought about us.
Mason Funk: Oops. If we were going to change the world
Mark Segal: [01:04:00] If we were going to change the world, we had to have the world change its mind on who and what we were. The only way to do that was to reach the world. How do you reach the world? Through the media. Well, the media sensors us. The media doesn't know we exist. How do you change the media if they won't listen to you or meet with you? You disrupt them. I started out on a path of disrupting a local TV station first,
Mark Segal: [01:04:30] and when I disrupted that first local TV station, I woke up the following morning to discover that the entire front page of the local tabloid was a picture of me disrupting that TV show. I realized with that one disruption, Ive reached 1.6 million people in the Delaware Valley.
Mark Segal: [01:05:00] That disruption also got other newspaper columnists to call me and to interview me. It also led to some radio stations calling and interviewing me. It's sort of like the Kardashians, but only political and substance and really something happening. I realized immediately, Do an action, it reverberates into more publicity, and isn't that what we're trying to do? At this point, it didn't matter what it was,
Mark Segal: [01:05:30] but then I created the organization called Gay Raiders. The idea was that every six weeks, because I timed it and I realized first it was Andy Warhol every 15 minutes. I realized at that point in the 1970s, if you did a crazy action, the publicity circle would last for six weeks, and then you have to do something new. Historians will now know that they figured out every six weeks is when we did a demonstration of some sort. We did some crazy things,
Mark Segal: [01:06:00] like chaining myself to the Liberty Bell, the neckbrace around the entrance to the United Fund, so they couldn't get into their offices in the morning. Disrupted a reelect the President Richard Nixon fundraising dinner. Do anything and everything, but the thing we're most known for is our TV disruptions. That started with a syndicated show here in Philadelphia called the Mike Douglas Show,
Mark Segal: [01:06:30] which was your typical afternoon talk show where they would have celebrities come on and do crazy things or talk about crazy things. During a period of the show when they had a professional foot reader reading the feet of the first lady of the American theater, Helen Hayes, and Tony Bennett, I came out of the audience, handcuffed myself to the camera and started screaming and yelling. The producer came over and said, If youll keep quiet,
Mark Segal: [01:07:00] youll let us finish the taping, we'll talk about this. I thought, Okay, this is a fair deal, yeah we'll do that. They finished taping the show. They cut the chain on me. The police wanted to arrest me and the producer was nice and then said, Well, dont arrest him yet, let us talk. The producer said, What do you want? I said, I'd like you to put a gay spokesperson on your show. They said, Okay, anybody but you. I suggested Troy Perry.
Mark Segal: [01:07:30] Troy is a great speaker and represents this community very well. They did. Troy Perry became the first person to appear as a talk show host nationwide on syndicated Mike Douglas Show from that action. From there, we decided that we had to go a little further, so we went out to California and disrupted the Tonights Show with Johnny Carson,
Mark Segal: [01:08:00] where I got arrested in Burbank. He kept doing jokes about the Burbank One after that. I was the Burbank One. We then tried to disrupt the Merv Griffin Show and other shows that were taped or connected to ABC Television, because I had what was called a Gold Pass at that point, which was gotten me by my friend Mars Knight in Los Angeles,
Mark Segal: [01:08:30] which got me into any show that was being taped on the ABC Television Network. They decided rather than me creating all these problems for the ABC Television Network, they would sit down and talk with us. [inaudible] of ABC Standards and Practices in Los Angeles became the first person to sit down with gay activists. That was Mars, Troy, myself, and several other people. ABC Television Network became the first network to agree not to stereotype gay people, to think about having them in programming, and so forth.
Mark Segal: [01:09:00] It was more written policy than reality at that time, obviously, but it was a breakthrough. I went back to the East Coast. The next little event we had was we figured, We're not getting really anywhere with the other two networks, got to do something against them. Next target was NBC. One night, we went on the last tour of 30 Rockefeller Center of the NBC Studio, and strangely,
Mark Segal: [01:09:30] might be at 9 o'clock at night, we hid in the closet. We stayed in that closet until the next morning at 7 a.m. or 6 a.m., whatever it was. Came out of the closet and since we took the tour of NBC Studios, we knew exactly where to go. We disrupted a TV show called The Todays Show. I was quickly hustled out of the studio and taken into the hall, where a woman came out and started interviewing me and following her came a man who said,
Mark Segal: [01:10:00] Get in there, you're on, you're on, you're on. He says, Not until I have the story. She continued to ask me questions. The name of that woman was Barbara Walters. Barbara Walters has the distinction of being the first network anchorperson to ever report on a gay demonstration on national television. That demonstrated that you just witnessed. Then, about a month later, on December 3rd, 1973, we decided to take it a notch up to CBS.
Mark Segal: [01:10:30] That one, during the first, right after the first break of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, when they came back from commercial, Walter was talking about security procedures for the president, whereby I slipped between the camera and Walters desk and actually sat on Walters desk, directly blocking the view between Walter and the camera and held a sign up into the camera, which said, Gays protest CBS prejudice.
Mark Segal: [01:11:00] I got hustled off onto the floor, wrapped in wires. For some odd reason, this one, the floor technicians and all were trying to protect Walter, I guess, wrapping me in wires and the CBS Television Network went blank for seven minutes. This was a live broadcast. Walter Cronkite had the largest audience and was the most trusted man in America for many years. There was only CBS, ABC, NBC News. If you watch news,
Mark Segal: [01:11:30] you most likely watch the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. His evening broadcast was broadcast to 60 million Americans. When I appeared, I obviously became the first out gay person on network TV, but I also had an audience of 60 million people. That would not happen again until the last episode of Will & Grace. That large of an audience.
Mason Funk: [01:12:00] Wow [inaudible]. The philosophy, if you want to call it the philosophy, was it was better to just get in front of people's eyeballs and jolt them into the awareness that there are gay people, probably more than any specific message you can communicate with a piece of paper.
Mark Segal: Oh, absolutely.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
Mark Segal: Okay, famous line from 1895, 1900, Oscar Wilde,
Mark Segal: [01:12:30] love that dare not speak its name, and we were. My goal very simply was, you're going to speak it, you're going to talk about it because if you talk about it, you might not want to talk about people like me, me particularly, because I'm the radical one, I'm the one doing this action, but you want my friend Jane down the street who is a lesbian, or my friend Jim who is a gay man. You'll see them, and you'll get to appreciate them and realize you have brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, cousins that are gay.
Mark Segal: [01:13:00] I was just opening the door. All I wanted them to do was start talking about the subject, even if it was negative, because up to that point, there was no discussion, no debate. There was no debate. We were guilty. We were sinners. We were criminals. No debate on all those things. I wanted to create the debate. The only way you create a debate
Mark Segal: [01:13:30] is to have two sides. If you are not going to allow the debate, we were going to make you have to be.
Mason Funk: That's awesome. Okay, I want to go back to the very beginning, to begin wrapping this up. You, from what I know... I just want to know what kind of family you were born into,
Mason Funk: [01:14:00] and I want to know about granny, your grandmother Fannie. I just want to know where the roots of this very strong sense of conviction and action came from.
Mark Segal: Most beautiful thing for me that's come out of the book is I thought when I wrote the book, people would say, Oh, what was it like working with Patti Labelle? What was it like working with Elton John? Whats Barack Obama like?
Mark Segal: [01:14:30] I get more questions about my grandmother Fannie Weinstein than all three of them mentioned. She's sort of like becoming a little hero of her own. This little four foot seven woman, remarkable woman who had more to do with who I am today than even I realized before I wrote the book. Seems to mean a lot to a lot of other people than just me, which is really special.
Mark Segal: [01:15:00] Fannie Weinstein was the woman who was going to save me from the situation that I found myself in. My father and mother unfortunately had a store, which was condemned by the city to make way for a housing project. Since it was condemned, the city had to put the family somewhere, so they put us into another housing project called Wilson Park. We were literally the only Jewish family in a 4,000 person housing project that was Jewish.
Mark Segal: [01:15:30] We were living in poverty, literally an expressway on one side of us, the train tracks on the other side from the middle class Irish and Italian Catholic families, middle class. The first thing I learned, of course, as a five-year-old was people didnt like Jews too much.
Mark Segal: [01:16:00] Why were we different than everybody else? Then, some of the members of our family didnt like us because we were the poor members of the family. Then, when I would go to school, the kids would ask, You killed our Christ, and you're going to have horns growing on your head. I learned about poverty. I learned about discrimination from an early age, but life was not all negative. I had this wonderful four foot seven inch grandmother by name of Fannie Weinstein,
Mark Segal: [01:16:30] who came in to swoop me up and save the day. She was going to make my life special. For some odd reason, bless her heart, she did that. Shed take me off to theaters. She would take me off to movies. Every summer, I would stay with her for a few weeks, and at the end of those two weeks, she would throw me a dinner party. Little kid, and she would throw a dinner party for me. I was the guest of honor, and she would invite all these, what I thought at that time were strange people.
Mark Segal: [01:17:00] Grandmom liked to have a diverse crowd around. She was an independent woman. I guess she should be. She, as a little girl, had to leave her native country of Russia because the pilgrims came to the United States, had to deal with anti-Semitism in the United States. As a woman, she fought for the womens right to vote. Shes a suffragette. Then in the 1960s, she was a civil rights worker. At the age of thirteen, she took me to my first civil rights demonstration.
Mark Segal: [01:17:30] Grandmom was a very special lady. Very independent lady and full of joy. After everything she had gone through in her life, she was full of joy, which is I think where I get that from. I think I get a lot of things from Fannie. At thirteen, I'm doing civil-rights demonstrations thanks to her. Is it any surprise that that light will go off in my head at Stonewall? I think grandmom planted it.
Mason Funk: [01:18:00] Was she was aware of your activities, of your protests?
Mark Segal: Oh my God, yes.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that. How did she react to all this when she learned that you were getting yourself arrested and disrupting the national news with Walter Cronkite?
Mark Segal: She loved it. She thought it was spectacular. I guess best way to describe her and reaction to it was would be
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, the best way to describe my grandmothers reaction to my gay activism
Mark Segal: [01:18:30] Yeah. Best way to describe my grandmother's reaction to my activism was after I found the Philadelphia Gay News and when you have a product like a newspaper or something, I learned just like activism, you have to promote it. A man by the name of Dave Cope who was a football player had just written an autobiography. He was traveling around the country and the publishers had contacted us and said, Would you like to do something with him?
Mark Segal: [01:19:00] That was the first event I ever organized for the newspaper. We got a bar, which is called Steps, to lease us out the space or give us the space. They were going to have a bartender and people had to pay for the drinks, but we got the place free. They had a balcony, and I was going to introduce Dave Cope who was going to make a speech. We invited all these politicians and news people and members of the community to hear him speak. I also invited my family, so my grandmother.
Mark Segal: [01:19:30] I introduce Dave Cope and he gets up to speak. He wasn't very good speaker, and he started mumbling, and the crowd started speaking, Ugh. My four foot seven grandmother is in the middle of the crowd, and she sees that we're losing the crowd. This is her grandson's event, and she doesn't want her grandson to lose the event, so all of a sudden in the middle of this crowd, probably 100 150 people, you see her doing the following,
Mark Segal: [01:20:00] Right on Dave, right on Dave, right on Dave. She kept doing until the rest of the crowd did it with her.
Mason Funk: Oh my God, wow.
Mark Segal: That was my grandmother.
Mason Funk: Thats hilarious. I didn't expect that to be what she did, wow.
Mark Segal: My parents, my grandmother, my uncle Stanley never once said one negative thing.
Mark Segal: [01:20:30] It was a natural transition for what I was doing. It was like, Okay, you're gay, shouldnt you be fighting for gay rights? I mean in hindsight, it seems absolutely crazy when I think about it. I mean, the sad part is I never realized what they were going through. Like, my mother stopped going to the Cousins Club, which was an organization
Mark Segal: [01:21:00] where all the cousins of the family would get together maybe once a month because of what some of the other relatives were saying about me. Her point was, If you don't like my son, screw you, I'm not coming. It was amazing when I got a call from the Phil Donahue Show and said, Would you like to bring your parents on? I said, Mom, dad, want to go to the Phil Donahue Show? My father was thrilled. He was going to be [inaudible].
Mark Segal: [01:21:30] He just loved the idea. My mother was scared to death, but she was going to do whatever she can to support her son, so they did it. I'm still digesting it to this day, I mean now that they're all gone, I realize that I could not have done anything without that support. It was totally impossible.
Mark Segal: [01:22:00] I think that me being a gay activist is natural, the minute I realized that I was gay. It's part of my family DNA.
Mason Funk: Wow. There's a story that obviously didn't turn out so well, which is the story of your cousin Norman. Tell us about Cousin Norman and how his life went.
Mark Segal: Well, Cousin Norman probably... I'm sure everybody has a Cousin Norman,
Mark Segal: [01:22:30] but the story of Cousin Norman also shows you how we're oppressed or how we learn to be oppressed, and how we learn to be silent. We have relatives at a place called [inaudible ] New Jersey and every few weeks, my parents would go visit them and I would go with them also. They would play cards on Saturday night and late at night, whatever that would be eleven or twelve at night, we would go drive home. One night we're driving home, my mother and father in the front seat, me in the backseat and I'm a little kid.
Mark Segal: [01:23:00] I'm sleeping in the backseat. I hear my parents talking, and my mother said something to my father, Isnt it a shame what Bill did to Norman? My father said as I could recall something similar to, Well hes a [inaudible]. My mother is saying, Well, that doesn't matter. You just dont do that to a child. They talked a little further. The reality is Cousin Norman, who was 15 or 16, his father found out he was gay, beat him up and threw him out of the house.
Mark Segal: [01:23:30] Later in years, I began to realize the story, and when I became more and more actively involved and got a few dollars in my pocket, we should say somewhere around line here that young gay activists up until the 1970s didnt get a salary anywhere. After I found the paper, I finally started getting a salary, and I could do some investigation.
Mark Segal: [01:24:00] I started to look for Cousin Norman, who I didn't know as a child. I don't think I ever met him as a child. I knew he existed. I knew he was gay. I knew he was thrown out of his house. It's all I knew about him. I knew his first name and his last name. I don't remember how I eventually found him, but I found Cousin Norman. He was living in California, I forgot the city, but it was an hour outside of Los Angeles.
Mark Segal: [01:24:30] Luckily for me, I was going to LA to be installed as the President of the Gay Press Association. I called Norman over the phone and I said, Norman, I'm going to be in Los Angeles on whatever the date was. I said, Would you like to get together and meet? I didn't know what to expect. The Gay Press Association was staying at the Sheraton Universal City. I remember saying, Why dont you get there, and we'll have lunch.
Mark Segal: [01:25:00] Then I'm going to be sworn in as the President of this organization, and I'd love to have you come, if you'd like. I didn't know what to expect because we really hadnt talked on the phone. I found him but we really hadn't talked. All I knew was that he was poor, and I'd send him some money. I show up at the restaurant at the hotel, and Norman comes in, and he looks very disheveled in clothes that are obviously coming from a thrift store somewhere.
Mark Segal: [01:25:30] He doesnt have good teeth, doesn't have good skin. He just looks like a person who has been run through the mill. I sit down, and I'm wearing a suit and tie because I'm about ready to be sworn in. I knew the look because Gay Youth New York 1969, we took care of a lot of homeless kids. That's one of the reasons we did it.
Mark Segal: [01:26:00] I knew what hed been through, but I wasn't quite sure. Rather to tell him that my life, which was going uphill, I said, So tell me, what youve been up to? It's all I had to say, and then he decided to tell me his whole life story from the time he gotten thrown out of the house, nowhere to go, no money in his pocket, had to hustle drugs, alcoholism, possibly even killing one of his lovers when they were drunk, throwing him out of a window.
Mark Segal: [01:26:30] It was a horrendous story of how a human being is thrown out and their life is totally trash because of what a parent does to them, because they don't love them or don't understand them. I had nothing but sympathy for him, no matter how bad the story was. He was just who he was because of what was done to him. We talked for a little while,
Mark Segal: [01:27:00] and he looked at me, put his hand on me and said, I'm just so proud of you. I wanted to say, I'm proud of you for just surviving. It came time to go into the auditorium for me to be sworn in by Lynn Redgrave, no less . I have no idea why I'm being sworn in by Lynn Redgrave, but hey, it's Hollywood. I go up to the stage, I'm sworn in as the new President of the Gay Press Association.
Mark Segal: [01:27:30] I had some remarks planned, but I decided not to do that. I said, I'd rather talk about what we as people have gone through. I talked about all the children who had been lobotomized, all the people who've had aversion therapy, all the people who have been arrested, killed, and firebombed to create a gay rights struggle. I said, What we don't often look at are
Mark Segal: [01:28:00] what are done to our gay youth at times. I know that personally, because I have a cousin who went through all that, and he survived it all, and hes with us today. If you don't mind, Id like to introduce you to my cousin Norman. Norman stood up and just started crying and blew me a kiss and left. Spoke to him a few times after that.
Mark Segal: [01:28:30] He was overwhelmed with emotion because he never thought he would be in a room like that ever and being acknowledged. He said it was the best day of his life. I thought Id heard him. My goal was to honor him. He clearly felt honored. He disappeared a few years after that.
Mark Segal: [01:29:00] He's many years older than me. I assume that now hes dead. I can't find any traces of him.
Mason Funk: Kate, do you have any questions?
Kate Kunath: Only like 10 million.
Mason Funk: [01:29:30] Let me check, how are we on this card, should we swap cards before we just begin to wrap up or do we have a few minutes on there?
Kate Kunath: We have enough.
Mason Funk: Okay, good.
Mark Segal: I dont even have pictures of him.
Mason Funk: Really, wow.
Mark Segal: Rather, his face is etched into my brain.
Mason Funk: Yeah, [inaudible]. It's an amazing story. We're obviously [inaudible].
Mark Segal: Last name was Reber.
Mason Funk: How do you spell that?
Mark Segal: [01:30:00] R-E-B-E-R. When I first wrote about it, his sister's still alive. Her name is [inaudible ]. She called me and says, this is his sister, My father was not really that bad. I said, [inaudible], he beat your brother up and threw him on the street. She was very silent about it.
Mark Segal: [01:30:30] She was a nice woman. I think it was difficult for her to accept, but she eventually accepted it. That was not atypical for its time period. Guess what, it still happens today. I think people need to understand that theres still oppression against our youth. Literally, Williams Institute has suggested that up to 33% of
Mark Segal: [01:31:00] youth homeless on the streets of American cities are LGBT, and it's because of that same reason.
Mason Funk: Okay, your turn.
Kate Kunath: I want to go back to Stonewall for a minute and just
Mark Segal: Only if you promise to send me your documentary.
Kate Kunath: I promise.
Kate Kunath: [01:31:30] Just to remind you that you respond, youll respond to [inaudible]. It's nice to have these first-person accounts. When you were at Stonewall, this comes from a little bit of my interest too. When you were at Stonewall, you're looking around like, what was the racial composition of the crowd? Thats sort of the first part of the question, and then did you feel like your struggle was their struggle and their struggle was your struggle,
Kate Kunath: [01:32:00] or did you feel like race was creating a divide? The third part of the question is how has that changed or not changed over the years? If you're a room, having a gay meeting, when you look around, what do you see and do you feel
Mark Segal: You asked lots of questions. You don't get one more. That's enough.
Kate Kunath: Well, it's kind of the same, same three part question, then and now.
Mark Segal: [01:32:30] No, it's all a theme. I get the theme. At Stonewall, I've been amused at watching the revisionist history on both sides of the issue. Let's talk about the composition of who was there. Let's make it clear, this was a riot. Nobody was taking a roll call.
Mark Segal: [01:33:00] What we have of evidence, remember what I said earlier was that we were censored, so therefore, take a look at the few descriptions we have of what media descriptions we have of that evening and what pictures we have. I think there are two or three. Now, I remember the one that was taken on the steps, and I remember I wouldn't be on those steps because guess what, I was only there for six weeks and as I told you, I was nervous as hell inside the bar.
Mark Segal: [01:33:30] I was still nervous outside the bar. The people who would be photographed at that point were of course people who were living on the streets, the people who we would call the dregs of society, who to me were the gem of our beginning of the movement. The trans people, the African-Americans, the Latinos, but were they of the majority of people there? I would say probably not. I would say it was probably evenly split between them
Mark Segal: [01:34:00] and, I guess I have to call, street kids like me, street kids, hustlers. The people who weren't there were the people with the alligator shirts, the people who had good jobs, because those people ran the minute they got out of the bar. They ran away. People like me were curious. People like Sylvia, that was her street, Marsha Johnson, was her street.
Mark Segal: [01:34:30] They lived on that street. It was their home. If anything, I guess the makeup of the people there that night were young radicals, street kids, hustlers, people who were stereotypical, racially mixed. I wouldnt say any one group was overpowering, but what you saw image-wise were the people who would be photographed.
Mark Segal: [01:35:00] I dont think anybody has brought that out before, interesting. I think you probably are the first one going to have that on this. How weve come as a community forward in that evolution of racism, sexism. Well, up until recently people didn't admit there were women at Stonewall, but there were. I mean [inaudible ] might not have been there, but there were other women who were.
Mark Segal: [01:35:30] That's been proven by the one woman who got arrested during that evening. I think three people got arrested that evening, I'm not quite sure how many. One of them is a woman, so we know that there were. People can no longer deny that. That really annoys me. I think what we need to do is all of us need to embrace the fact that everyone from the community was there that night in one way, shape, or form,
Mark Segal: [01:36:00] with the exception of the people with the little alligators or polo players on their shirts. They didn't start coming out to things like that until 1982. [inaudible ] were busy on Fire Island that night, not caring what we were doing, fighting. When I think about where we've come on that level today, so the latest thing I've been involved in is creating an LGBT senior affordable living building.
Mark Segal: [01:36:30] Our dream and vision was that everybody of the entire rainbow would live there, and so we created a subcommittee to make sure we got that. It was pretty difficult getting African-Americans to move into the building in what was considered a gayborhood, because they thought it would be all white people, all gay white people.
Mark Segal: [01:37:00] It took a long time to try to persuade them. You would think it would be the opposite way. It wasn't. We were finally able to do that. Same thing with women. Women thought it would be all white men. I know you're going to be over there tomorrow. I think you're going to be very surprised.
Mason Funk: Oh, I cant wait.
Mark Segal: Have you seen pictures of the building yet?
Mason Funk: I have seen some. Yeah, Ive been reading some articles online. I think to follow, [inaudible] ...
Mark Segal: [01:37:30] Did I answer your question?
Mason Funk: Yeah I mean [inaudible]
Mark Segal: Give me another segment if I missed any, whats that?
Kate Kunath: I think theres a lot of ways to answer and you can probably go on and on in different directions about it, but I think [inaudible]... I guess my assumption is that Stonewall was mostly a white bar, and people of color are going there,
Kate Kunath: [01:38:00] at least the ones that I've talked to were not comfortable there. It would make sense that the composition during the riot period or who was allowing themselves to be visible [inaudible ] people lose. The people who have gained the most from that movement are completely the opposite of that. Thats
Mark Segal: I just thought I just said that.
Kate Kunath: Yeah, you did, yes.
Mason Funk: I do think
Mark Segal: You got it exactly right. See, people like me felt comfortable going in there.
Mason Funk: [01:38:30] Talk to me.
Mark Segal: People like me felt comfortable going in there because my friends were the drag queens, and a lot of them were African-American or Latino. My friends were people like Jerry Hoose, who was stereotypical. My friends were the young radicals who were trying to figure out what we're going to do to create what was going to be a gay movement. We didn't have that word then. All those people who were the outliers of society,
Mark Segal: [01:39:00] even gay society, went to Stonewall. Thats who went there, and the people who wanted to pick up the hustlers went there. That was the clientele. When the bar got raided, all the people who wanted to buy the hustlers, they ran, because they had nine-to-five jobs. All those of us who didnt have the nine-to-five jobs, we stuck around.
Mason Funk: [01:39:30] I think what you said in passing just now or what you said in just passing, the people who have the least to lose are the ones who
Mark Segal: We had nothing to lose. I didn't have a job. I had no prospects for the future. I didnt know what I was going to do. Somewhere that light went off in a second in my head, grandmom took me to it, the civil rights march, pilgrims, Holocaust. It all adds up, builds up. It was an instant. I don't know if I said pilgrim, Holocaust, civil rights, gay rights,
Mark Segal: [01:40:00] I dont know, but it was all jumbled in my brain. There was no word for gay activist then.
Mason Funk: To this day, you find that you can, because you once were a kid who had nothing to lose and so who was willing to fight, to this day can you identify with and do you care maybe on a deeper level about people who still to this day have nothing to lose, whore still trying to piece together an existence? Can you relate to them in a way that large segments just cant?
Mark Segal: [01:40:30] We had a debate in this community many years ago about outing, outing people. I find outing people is offensive. We're fighting for the right to be ourselves, live our lives the way we want to live our lives. How dare us be moral dictators to other people? I feel very strongly about that. Now, if you're an archbishop, a bishop, or a priest whos toeing line that homosexuals are ill and immoral,
Mark Segal: [01:41:00] yeah, feel free to out those people or a politician. Other than that, oh no, people have a right to live their life. Do I get angry with out people? I get more offended by people who claim to be gay activists, but won't go the full way, don't understand what equality means. To me, it means equality on every single level. When we were building the senior building,
Mark Segal: [01:41:30] we had some people who didn't believe that it was possible, and those people who felt, Oh, we're going to segregate our own community. No, it's not segregating our own community, don't you realize that there are homes like this for African-Americans, there are homes like this for Jews. There are homes like this for black people, for Jews, for Catholics. Why shouldnt we have one? Why shouldnt we get our tax dollars? We pay taxes.
Mark Segal: [01:42:00] It's called equality. We deserve to have the same things that any other community has. Why would you not fight for that? Why would we not fight for gay youth homes for our community when we need them? Why not trans places? I mean, if we're going to be a real community, fight for the betterment of our community, that means fighting for the most endangered in our community. In my estimation at the moment,
Mark Segal: [01:42:30] that's trans and youth and seniors. Let's get over this idea that everybody in the LGBT community is rich and are well-off or upper-middle class. There are many, many poor LGBT people, and don't they deserve to have equality also and feel a little sense of freedom and liberation and part of a community? Do we have to isolate them?
Mason Funk: [01:43:00] Great questions [inaudible].
Mason Funk: Is there a contradiction between the isolation and the creating safe spaces or creating spaces that are cultural institutions, whether it's a gay bar or an LGBT retirement home? Is there a contradiction [inaudible ] the segregation and the safe space?
Mark Segal: [01:43:30] Well, I don't believe there's a need to segregate lock, stock, and barrel. You're still part of a greater community. Our senior building is in what's a gay neighborhood primarily, which means that maybe 30%, 40% of the people in the neighborhood are LGBT, but there are still lots of those strange people called heterosexuals living there. Is that what they call them, heterosexuals? Yeah, they live there.
Mark Segal: [01:44:00] Our building was designated by the federal government LGBT-friendly, and the reason it's LGBT-friendly means you don't have to be just LGBT to live there. We have some of those strange heterosexuals living in our building. Now, strangely enough they're the minority in the building. Building is predominantly LGBT. I find it strange that the first generation
Mark Segal: [01:44:30] that has created gayborhoods or gay communities are the first generation that can't afford to live in them. That's the reason to build an affordable senior building in a gayborhood, because why should they be thrown out of the community that they helped build? The sad part of it is is that if you're part of that first out generation who grew up in the 50s and the 60s and you were out in the 1950s, 60s, imagine two things
Mark Segal: [01:45:00] that any senior organization will tell you is you need two things to survive as a senior, one of which is family, and the second of which is a good 401k, or money. If you're out 1950s and 60s, for the most part your family disowned you, and that meant you were probably stereotypical, and you didnt get a job that had a 401k, so you don't have any savings. Therefore, you cant afford to live in that neighborhood. Therefore, you need an affordable building, and that's why we do that.
Mason Funk: [01:45:30] Great. I'm going to start wrapping up.
Mark Segal: Did that answer that question?
Kate Kunath: It does. It's more for economic reasons than cultural reasons for the old folks?
Mason Funk: Well, no because theres also the cultural thing, which is that as I'm sure you know, so many elderly people have to essentially go back in the closet.
Mark Segal: [01:46:00] Let me give you an example of that. Too good of an example of that actually.
Mason Funk: Tell me, give us when you started.
Mark Segal: Let me give you an example of why we need senior homes for LGBT people in the community. When you're working on building a building such as this, a structure such as this, you're often busy dealing with
Mark Segal: [01:46:30] the bureaucracy of the federal government, the city government, the state government or going through numbers with the contractors that you lose sight on the people, the humanity of what you're doing it for. I'm lucky that every once in a while, somebody would give me a call and tell me their story and say, Hey, when is that building getting over, you're still working on that project? One day I get a call from this woman who was living in an affordable building in a suburb somewhere. She says, When are you going to open that thing, because I got to move and I'm being treated really badly.
Mark Segal: [01:47:00] Why are you being treated badly? Well, I'm a lesbian, and when they found that I was lesbian, they no longer let my girlfriend come and visit me. How long have you been together? Thirty-three years. Then, I could tell about the gay man who every time he went into the community room, the employees of the building would go around and pray around him, try to pray the gay away from him.
Mark Segal: [01:47:30] Theres other people who were physically abused. But my favorite story about why we need a home like this is more about a woman who lived there, who the first week we opened the building, TV crew comes in to interview some of the residents. They're interviewing her and they go, Madam, you're a lesbian, why did you want to live in this building specifically? She said, I am not a lesbian. I'm a heterosexual woman,
Mark Segal: [01:48:00] and the reason I am living here is because in the building I was living out before, I couldn't boast about my gay grandson. Here, I can.
Mason Funk: Wow.
Mark Segal: You might see her, she's still living in the building, tomorrow when you go over there. Her grandson's name is Tony Singer.
Mark Segal: She is so proud now. She could boast about him, where's in the building before she couldnt. Is that interesting?
Mark Segal: [01:48:30] You're going to love meeting Elizabeth. You are absolutely going to love Elizabeth. She has just the greatest story in the world.
Mason Funk: I cant wait. I did not know until I read the newspaper articles even that you had founded this building, I was like so clueless, so anyway
Mark Segal: Yeah, I'm like the energizer bunny, I don't stop. Jerry Hoose before he died, what was his line? I have it on tape somewhere.
Mark Segal: [01:49:00] Jerry Hoose, one of my friends from Gay Liberation Front, another person who was at Stonewall.
Kate Kunath: Have any of them come to live in the building?
Mark Segal: Yes, I'm so proud. Susan Silverman lives in the building. She is a member of Gay Liberation Front New York, and also member of Gay Youth New York. I'm very proud that one of them is living there. Jerry wanted to live there, but I knew he had cancer, and I knew he would never make it.
Mason Funk: [01:49:30] One of the things you said or this was written about you, this was actually a quote about you in the New York Times article about the building, it said, the way you got things done was you learned to be persistent, annoying and friendly all at the same time. I would love for you to basically just tell us that as the way that you learned to get things done, because I think thats a genius combination. I wish I could master that,
Mason Funk: [01:50:00] and so far I may have learned to be friendly, but I'm not so good at being persistent and annoying. Just tell us about that.
Mark Segal: Basically, you're asking me to tell you what it's like to be annoying, persistent, and what was the other one?
Mason Funk: Friendly.
Mark Segal: Friendly. I remember Gay Liberation Front, I always go back to Gay Liberation Front, where someone said, You have to have high consciousness, okay.
Mark Segal: [01:50:30] The image I got from that was is that those people lecturing everybody else about consciousness, were standing at the top of the mountain. Everybody else had to struggle to get up to that mountain and just get there. They're just preaching away how great they are and how wonderful they are and blah blah. My logic has always been, I might want to stand at the top of that mountain, but I'm going to put my hand out and say, Let me help you understand this. Let me help you understand why we need this. Let me help you help us.
Mark Segal: [01:51:00] That's kind of the philosophy I had. The point is okay, I'm doing this, you agree I need it. When are you going to start helping me get this done? Two weeks is enough, we'll start tomorrow. How about starting right now? It's going to take me three years to do this? Then we got to start right now. Who do we need to call? When do I meet that person? Oh, come on, do I need to get you a clock? How about a watch? How about if I get you a lovely little watch,
Mark Segal: [01:51:30] so we can start timing this thing? I guess one of the secrets that I have is I help people laugh. When they're doing a project with me, I have fun with them.
Mason Funk: But you dont let them off the hook.
Mark Segal: Whats that?
Mark Segal: Oh, absolutely not. I have a tape of the grand opening of the building and here are governors, senators, congress people, city council people, mayors, one after another coming up here.
Mark Segal: [01:52:00] Every single one of them said, Mark is a pain in the butt. I'm so proud of that. Guess what, I'm a pain in the butt, but look you got the buildings there. It's there, $19.8 million, it's up and it didnt cost the community a dime. Now, tell me any other $19.8 million building in the entire country that's LGBT-friendly that didnt cost the LGBT community a dime. It's a miracle.
Mark Segal: [01:52:30] It really is. You'll see that miracle when you see the people. I mean, it's not just the building. It's the community that the residents have created themselves, which we had nothing to do. You will leave that building, I can tell you right now, with a smile on your face.
Mason Funk: I'm sure.
Mark Segal: I go over there, no one believed when I said that because of how persistent I am as you just said. I said at the ribbon-cutting that,
Mark Segal: [01:53:00] Ill be over here just maybe once every few months or so. It's up to you to create a community. You people living here will have to create the community that you want. Everybody thought I'd be over there every single day, counting the silverware or something, I don't know. They're like shocked at how rarely I'm over at the building. I do my best to stay away from the building, although I really would like to go over more often because every time I do, the residence is just to be something you smile about.
Mark Segal: [01:53:30] You see so many people whose lives were taken away from them for so many years, and they now come back, and they're so vibrantly involved in the community. It is such a beautiful thing to behold. I mean it amazes me how much volunteer work gets done out of that building. It also amazes me how many fundraisers are done in the building for other organizations. It truly has become the center of the gay community. It's a wonderful [inaudible] to watch these people spring to life again.
Mason Funk: [01:54:00] Thats awesome.
Mark Segal: What they give back to the community, I mean, it's phenomenal.
Mason Funk: Okay, four last questions, these are intended to be sort of short and pithy, right.
Mark Segal: Me?
Mark Segal: He hasn't been listening.
Mason Funk: To a young person or a middle-aged person or an older person who is about to come out in some way, shape, or form,
Mason Funk: [01:54:30] take the leap out to be who he or she is, what insight or wisdom or guidance do you offer that person? Please incorporate my question in your answer.
Mark Segal: To those about ready to come out no matter what age, no matter where they are on the socio-economic, political ladder, it doesn't matter. I have two things to tell you. Number one,
Mark Segal: [01:55:00] you will have a community that loves you and has resources for you, something I couldn't have said in 1969. You will have people there who are in a position to help you, no matter where you are, no matter what needs you have. We have built that community. We do have a structure now. Number two, if you think coming out will end your life and all your prospects, and you won't be able to do whatever career you want to do,
Mark Segal: [01:55:30] think of that eighteen-year-old kid living in a YMCA at $6 a night, no money in his pocket, no job, no prospects, standing outside Stonewall, thinking, Huh, what am I going to do with my life? Well, that was me. I think I did okay and so therefore, so can you.
Mason Funk: [01:56:00] Great, wonderful. Number two, whats your hope
Mark Segal: That wasnt short enough. That wasn't short.
Mason Funk: That was pretty short. By your standards that was short. What is your hope for the future?
Mark Segal: I really don't know. I had a teacher in second grade, Mrs. Rice, never forget her. She gave me one of those lines you live by, which was, Always set your goal just a little out of reach because if you reach your goal, you'll then have to set another one.
Mark Segal: [01:56:30] I'm now setting crazy goals. I dont know, I just want to do things that I've never done before ... Is it about me personally or community wise?
Mason Funk: I think more community -wise.
Mark Segal: Community-wise?
Mason Funk: Or just for the world, in other words, what do you hope will exist after you're gone? What do you hope will happen that will outlive you?
Mark Segal: [01:57:00] I hope we make a world somehow where we just talk about coming out is not so dramatic. If I can help in doing that in any way, great. If I cant, I hope the next generation can. That's what I hope they do. I believe the way to do that is what we're doing now through the media. I mean, so many millennials today, it's easier to come out.
Mark Segal: [01:57:30] I've never said this on camera before. About a year ago, I got a call from my cousin with most beautiful news that I could ever get, which was that one of my cousins, her daughter who was fifteen had just come out to her. I just marvel at that idea that a child of fifteen could come out to her parents. Of course, my family,
Mark Segal: [01:58:00] they were fine because they all grew up with having me as a relative, but she felt so comfortable. Then that same girl, some cousins came up from Virginia and we all went to dinner together, or lunch. The story I took from that lunch is the one that tells me where I hope society will go. My girl cousin who is a lesbian, her two boy cousins are staying over the house
Mark Segal: [01:58:30] and they don't know she's lesbian. Her girlfriend comes up, and they're all playing together, and one of the boy cousins said, You know that girl over there, I'm going to marry her someday. My girl cousin says, No, you're not. I'm going to marry her someday. That to me was the beautiful thing to ever hear, a 15-year-old girl.
Mason Funk: [01:59:00] It's gorgeous.
Mark Segal: Eileen, don't kill me for telling the story.
Mason Funk: Why is it important to you to tell your story in this format? In other words, why did you agree to participate in this project?
Mark Segal: Because
Mason Funk: Incorporate my question in your answer please. In other words, it's important
Mark Segal: I think this project is important
Mason Funk: [01:59:30] Sorry, I'd rather to have you say, It's important [inaudible]. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Mark Segal: I think it's important for me to tell my story because it's not just my story. Anybody who accomplishes anything, accomplishes it with partners, people who care about the same issues that work with them on those issues. No one does anything by themselves. In this way, I not only got to tell from my viewpoint, but I also got to give credit to the people who helped me along the way, helped me learn,
Mark Segal: [02:00:00] helped me understand, helped me build projects. Everyone from my family, grandmom to Gay Liberation Front University to Tony Russomanno and [inaudible ] of Gay Youth to Harry Langhorne who did the zaps with me to Dan Andrews and Jeff Garcino who helped build the building with meet, to Irene Benedetti to [inaudible], all the people I worked with, I need to give them credit for what they did.
Mark Segal: [02:00:30] That's kind of important because a lot of times history forgets the people you work with.
Mason Funk: Great. As part two, you were already going there, what is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS?
Mark Segal: If we don't record our history, we will lose it, plain and simple. We can't afford to lose our history because when we don't study our history, you sometimes repeat bad things, and we've done this over and over in our community.
Mark Segal: [02:01:00] Gay Liberation Front honored trans people. Then, honoring trans people in our community disappeared for many, many, many, many, many years.
Mason Funk: Sorry just say that again, Gay Liberation Front honored trans people
Mark Segal: Gay Liberation Front honored trans people and after Gay Liberation Front no longer existed, we ignored trans people for many years to come after that.
Mark Segal: [02:01:30] Many years, way too many. How many trans lives were destroyed during that period of time that we as a community didnt take care of? Gay youth issues were handled back in 1969, and then they disappeared off the scope for many years again. We didnt [inaudible] seriously until the late 70s again. I'm sorry, yeah, late 70s. History needs to be recorded.
Mark Segal: [02:02:00] What people have gone through needs to be recorded, so that we can have a line somewhere to say, Okay, we can do better than this. Let's build from that line. Let's build up. Lets build up. Let's build up.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, say that last sentence. There was a motorcycle. Gay history needs to be recorded so that, just start there.
Mark Segal: Gay history needs to be recorded so that we have benchmarks on where we were, and where we can go and what the next level can be
Mark Segal: [02:02:30] and where we can go from there and how we can build from there, how the next generation could go.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Kate Kunath
Date: August 07, 2016
Location: Home of Mark Segal, Philadelphia, PA