It was a Sunday morning in late June, 1970. Tim and Leo's apartment was filled with packed boxes; the walls, the living room shelves, and the kitchen cabinets were bare.
They were leaving the next day for Los Angeles. Leo had been signed, along with the rest of the original cast, to do the film version of We Are Here. After sober consideration and, Tim thought, touching discussions between him and Leo, the two had decided to leave New York and make Los Angeles their new home.
Leo's agent (his first ever) had promised that after the movie filming was complete, he could get Leo jobs in television and maybe other feature films. Leo asserted that he wanted to play gay roles whenever possible. (“Not that there are many of them,” Leo told Tim privately. “But when they do represent 'our people'”—and here Leo had laughed self-consciously and endearingly—“I want to be part of it.”)
Tim had little difficulty lining up work for himself on the West Coast. Home magazine was happy to retain him on a free-lance basis, doing stories about architects and landscape artists based in California. Due to his past work on Multitudes, Tim also had been contacted by a new Los Angeles-based magazine for gay men, The Activist. The magazine had been launched two years before in part as a way to publicize and foment a response to incidents of police harassment at area gay bars and businesses. And the magazine already had proven its usefulness; The Activist played a crucial role in helping protestors gather and organize when police targeted The Patch, a dance bar near Long Beach. The resulting demonstrations had occurred nearly a year before the Stonewall Inn riots, Tim noted to Leo.
Tim had been a bit dubious when he first was contacted by The Activist; he realized that he was at least twenty years older than any other writer for the magazine. But the editors assured him that he had the right idealistic and rebellious spirit to be a contributor.
Tim and Leo also would have family in the area after their move; Sam Gould recently had taken a position at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He had been glad to hear Leo and Tim were coming, and Rose was grateful that they would be there to keep an eye on “her boy.”
On this morning, though, as Tim wandered through the piles of packed boxes, he was touched with feelings of sadness and loss. He and Leo had spent twenty years together in this apartment, and he had grown to love the place. He especially would miss those quiet Saturday and Sunday mornings when, while Leo slept, he would walk quietly out to the living room, pull back the curtain, and recline on the sofa in prayer while focusing on the beauty of the open sky overhead.
Of course, Tim knew in the end that anywhere he went with Leo he would be happy. Because for Tim, to be with Leo was to be home.
Later that morning, after finishing a light breakfast at a local deli, Tim and Leo set out walking. As they did, Leo reached for Tim's hand. Tim was moved every time Leo made that gesture; it showed that Leo was done with hiding, that he was happy to show the world that he and Tim were a couple in love.
“What are you going to miss most about New York?” Leo asked.
Tim smiled. “Lots of things. The changing seasons. The beautiful buildings. Our friends. The places where we've made happy memories. How about you?”
Leo was thoughtful for a moment. “I think what I'll miss most is good bagels.” They laughed.
As they continued through the narrow, winding streets of the neighborhood, they passed fliers on windows and lampposts advertising a Gay Pride march, one year to the day since the Stonewall Rebellion.
Leo shook his head in wonder. “Did you ever think, sweetheart, that you would see the day when people would hold an event to celebrate being gay?”
“I think it's wonderful,” Tim replied. “You and I have been working toward our own gay pride for a long time. How tremendous is it that, in the years to come, maybe it won't take other people as long.”
Leo squeezed Tim's hand. “You've taught me a lot about pride, sweetheart.”
“You've taught me, too, darling,” Tim said happily. Then he paused. “You know, I'm thinking of a Bible passage right now. From Paul. You might remember it—Pete used it at his wedding. It's the one that goes, 'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.'”
Tim glanced lovingly at Leo. “Except our love has been filled with pride, Leo. Pride in each other, and learning to take justifiable pride in ourselves, too. To see the good that's in us and to own it, to celebrate it.”
They walked along silently, hand in hand, until they arrived at Waverly Place, near Sixth Avenue.
The crowd had begun to assemble. Craig Rodwell, from New York Mattachine and the owner of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop, was there, and so was his partner, Fred Sargeant. “It's good to see you!” they called to Tim and Leo as they worked the crowd and persuaded passers-by to join in.
Two young men held a banner reading “Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day, 1970.” Others held signs identifying themselves as members of the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists Alliance, the Lavender Menace. Some participants carried streamers; one person held aloft an American flag.
“Let's go,” Rodwell called, and the at-first ragtag group started up Sixth Avenue in the direction of midtown. Quiet in the beginning, members of the assembly soon started to chant and to sing:
Say it clear; say it loud. Gay is good; gay is proud.
Tim and Leo joined in the chanting, grasping hands and holding them aloft. Each had a radiant smile on his face.
Tim leaned in to give Leo a kiss on the cheek, and as he did, he happened to glance behind him; the number of marchers had grown from several dozens at the start of the parade to thousands. Tim was astonished as he continued to glance behind him. There they were: people of all genders, races, ages, marching, chanting, laughing and jubilant, moving boldly and proudly as one into the future.
Yes, dear readers. . .today's chapter is the final installment of A Proud Love.
I hope you've enjoyed sharing in Tim and Leo's love story. And if you didn't, thank you for checking out this blog.
It's not too late to leave comments, on this or any installment. I'd love to hear what you think! Did you like the story? Did you find Tim and Leo believable? Did anything about their experiences surprise you?
Thanks again, and best wishes to you all! --Dave Kucharski