Purple sage: https://purplesagefem.wordpress.com/ has an awesome blog and has been reading Lillian Faderman’s book on Dyke history. It’s interesting to see her take on my times.
I came out in the late 70’s and the 70’s and 80’s were a wonderful time to come out. There was a huge community here in the LA area and it was big enough to have a lot of different varieties and lifestyles. We had several bars but the culture had evolved enough that there were other things to do besides hang out in a bar. There were butch femme bars, mostly in Hollywood like the Palms, as well as Peanuts for the under 21 crowd. I used to go there with my deaf friends from CSUN because their speakers were on the floor and the deaf women could dance because they could feel the beat. There were the two main bars in Long Beach, The Suite where it was how you looked that mattered and was a meat market and the Que where everyone was welcome. Our bar was Vermies in Pasadena (If you wanted to see Melissa Ethridge she played the Que and Vermies but on week nights so you had to be willing to stay up) or we went out to Pomona to Robbies and the Valley had Menopause Manor AKA the Oxwood Inn. We thought the women at the Oxwood were sooo old, they were probably in their 40’s and 50’s. Sunday afternoons were for the men’s bar Rumours to see a local duo Second Wind.
But we also had things like softball leagues and rugby teams and I came out into the huge collection of Girl Scout lesbians. The place to see and be seen at the time were the women’s music concerts. When Cris Willamson, Margie Adams, Meg Christian or Holly Near came to town, they usually played Royce Hall at UCLA or the Veteran’s auditorium or the Ebell and it was packed. Everyone wore their best clothes. Somewhere I have a picture of all my friends and myself on our varying takes on dyke chic that were all tuxedo versions. It helped that women’s tuxedo fashion was very “in” in the 80’s so clothes we liked were readily available and then there was the wonderful West Coast Women’s Music and Comedy Festival that started in Willits and finally ended up in Yosemite. That happened every Labor Day and was heaven on earth. Usually about 3,000 women of all different communities all in one place.
We had Girl Scout campers area, neutral areas, noisy areas and S&M play area, there were the leatherdykes there were Goddess dykes, butch/femme areas and a disabled area with lots of friendly women to help. There were androgynous areas and child care for women with children and areas for young girls that came with their moms. There were workshops on every topic you could think of and music and drumming all the time. We had rituals out on the grass under the moon. The vegetarian food wasn’t that great so there were cooking areas for non-vegetarians which led some competition among the Girl Scout dykes and since my group included some friends from CalTech with access to dry ice some fudgsicles that were the envy of a lot of other women as well as when we baked things or fried bacon. Yes, we were evil and loved it.
There were tall women, short women, women of all colours and shades, women of all abilities, women with scars and women with bold beautiful tats covering mastectomy scars and we for a few days a year were all family. Women built the stages, ran the sound and did security and fire patrol, women did the cooking and the child care, and the first aid at the med tent, all of it volunteer labour and everyone took a shift or you had to pay extra. The only time you saw a man was when you heard, “Man on the land!” when they pumped the Portajanes.
They had awesome vendors and that is where the majority of my jewelry came from for years.
And at night all the communities melded at Main Stage under the stars and it was magic. To be among all those women loving women was amazing. My first one was in Santa Barbara and we had come straight from camp. It was amazing to see all those women. We drove up there and we knew we had reached the place because the women at the gate were topless. I remember thinking, oh Lady, you won’t catch me doing that. Yeah, that lasted until the next morning and it was hot. I learned that redheaded pasty white girls with chests that have never seen the sun should wear overalls over certain parts of your anatomy. I had a tan from camp but not there. Owie, thank heavens for the good souls with aloe vera to share. I had to go back to work when I got home.
Long Beach had a yearly dyke picnic that brought people together as well as a bunch of men that stood outside the park and would yell things like, “Which ones the man?” thank heavens the cops were pretty cool and kept them out of the park.
Point being, we had a community and when you came out, you had places to go and friends. There were bookstores to go to like Page One in Pasadena that was owned by two wonderful women and friends of mine worked there and told me what books I needed to read so I was introduced to Sally Gearhart and Rita Mae Brown and Jane Rule. I read Another Mother Tongue and Patience and Sarah and The Wanderground and laughed hard at Ruby Fruit Jungle. We could listen to the latest women’s music and pick up a copy. Occasionally we had a field trip to Sisterhood in Westwood. They had great posters and tshirts so we came home with Mountain Women ts and Uppity Women Unite or the Ladies Sewing and Terrorist Circle.
Now that kind of community does not exist, the bookstores and bars are mostly gone. I haven’t heard of the picnic still happening and all of it was found in the Lesbian News, found all over town even in straight book and record stores with the free stuff at the front. I don’t know what a kid does now for community. Our biggest problem was finding a lover that hadn’t slept with most of your friends already. One of the reasons my friends found the first episode of the L word hysterical was because of the chart they made. We did that one night. I found out later the writer of that episode knew someone who had been there and used it.
I miss those days when it still was the LG community before the damn alphabet soup happened.