Monday, December 02, 2019

The History of LGBT Radio (Part 5)

Volume 4, number 34 of the Gay Community News listed five LGBT radio programs in it's calendar. This was more than I expected even in the relatively liberal North East.

SUN 7:30 pm — Come Out Tonight 94.3 WYBC New Haven, CT 
SUN 10:30 am — Closet Space 740 WCAS-AM Cambridge, MA
WED 10:15 pm — Gaybreak Radio 91.1 WMUA Amherst, MA 
TUE 8:00 pm — Gay Way Radio 90.9 WBUR Boston, MA
MON 8:00 pm — None of the Above 91.3 WWUH West Hartford, CT

Aside from John Zeh's reference in his quote in Lavender Culture the show also is referred to in a Yale AIDS memorial and a 1977 report to the Yale Corporation from the Yale Undergraduate Women's Caucus. [LINK]
"Yalesbians was established in September of 1975. Because the Gay Alliance at Yale was primarily male, we felt that a separate group would minister more directly to our position as women and gays. Though the two groups meet separately we have continued to work with the men's group. Aside from sharing an office with G.A.Y. a nightly telephone counseling and information service, produce a weekly hour-long radio show for WYBC and run a speakers bureau."  
The time line here is a bit muddled. We know that the Yalesbians were involved with Come Out Tonight, but that does not mean that they weren't producing another radio program which pre-dated it. The Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures by Bonnie Zimmerman specifically noted that WYBC aired a lesbian soap opera in 1970 called "The Liberation of Lydia." In that context it's important to note that Yale was an male-only institution until 1969. [SOURCE]  WYBC was one of the first student organizations to agreed to admitting women. The Connecticut Gay Task Force (CGTF) also was involved in the Come Out Tonight program. It's referenced in an article by Dai Thompson:
"...Other recent events include a panel on homosexuality... which was a part of a Yale course on Human Sexuality. This year’s panel was reported to have been a lot livelier than previous years. Quite a few of the 250 members of the audience seemed offended by the obvious closeness of the panel’s members, most of whom are members of the C.G.T.F. and regular contributors to WYBC’s “Come Out Tonight” program, Southern Connecticut’s only gay radio show..."
Just from these two references we can assume the program was on air in 1977. But this memorial page [LINK] for Jack Winkler puts the start of the program in 1976. It states that he helped produce “Come Out Tonight,” an hour-long gay radio show broadcast every Sun­day on WYBC. The show was the work of a dedicated group of about twenty people, both men from the Gay Alliance and women from Yales­bians. Perhaps most famous of that contingent now is Tara Ayres. She worked for 35 years in community radio first at WYBC, then at WORT in Madison as an anchor and producer for Her Turn, a feminist radio news collective and Queery, a program about LGBTQ
Over at WCAS-AM Loretta Lotman was one of the producers of Closet Space, at the same time she was Media Director at the National Gay Task Force. She later became a contributor for the Village Voice.  Unusually, the show aired from 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM on Sunday mornings, literally airing between religious programs.The show included news, a calendar of events, skits, interviews. Also producing was Ellen Davis of the Gay Community News. More here.

The first reference I can find to Closet Space is in a 1974 issue of WIN (Workshop in Nonviolence Institute).  Contemporary references show this program was still on air in 1976 and 1977. It's even still listed in an October 1980 issue of The Heights [LINK] so it appears to have lasted until WCAS-AM signed off in May of 1981 following their bankruptcy filing.

Gaybreak Radio aired on 91.1 WMUA, bi-weekly, on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month at 10:15 PM Wednesday nights. I can tell from issues of the Massachusetts daily collegian that it aired from at least 1975 through 1977. It was developed and produced by Scott Bacherman and hosted by Demian and Brian Egan through at least early 1977. In a September 1975, host Demian posted an announcement in the Out Front newspaper soliciting lesbians to help produce programming for the show.

In a 1979 filing with the FCC for station WPOE, Poets seat broadcasting includes a bit of Bacherman's resume.  It describes the founding of the Gaybreak program in 1972 as a 30 minute show, then in 1974  through 1976 as an hour long show before he left the station. We have no reason to think that's inaccurate, even if it may omit the names of other people involved in the program.

The resume neglected to mention that he was also program manager of WMUA in 1974. Bacherman also developed a feminist program called "Woman's Show."  In 1975 he won a UPI Tom Phillips award for documentary excellence. By 1986 he was a VP at TM Communications.  There's a nice retro 80's video of Scott opening WPOE on Youtube here.

None of The Above aired from at least 1975 through 1977. Eric Gordon for his part describes his involvement as having co-produced the show with Michael Jospe, his partner at the time. It's time slot was Mondays at 8:00 PM on 91.3 WWUH in West Hartford, CT. Interestingly, he seems to have been taping the program and re-broadcasting it on 91.7 WHUS in Storrs, CT on Wednesdays from 8:30 to 9:30 at least in 1977. [SOURCEWWUH has a history page [LINK] which has two entries relevant to the program beyond what you might derive from the anarchist advert above. I also found an unrelated resume of Jan Keywell, then of Manchester Community College, who appears to have been connected to the program. [LINK]

Eric Gordon first appears in the staff listing in 1975.  There are no other mentions of him until 1977 and it's not for a compliment. In the February 15th 1977 Executive Committee (ECOM) meeting minutes there is a mention of a problem with an anonymous male announcer refusing to sign the programs logs. Apparently the unnamed announcer disagreed with the content of a tape. The February 9th tape was a recording of the show None of the Above, and his objection was to the content of a program. PD Joe Rudich must have agreed with his reticence as he subsequently blocked the program from being aired. He also had not previewed the tape and was concerned about "language". In response the Committee decided to make it mandatory for the Program Director to audition all tapes before airplay.

The program didn't last much longer than that. The program was terminated by the Committee on March 4th of 1977 and it sounds like it was dramatic. We can deduce that Eric Gordon was suspended for a month after the February 15th meeting. We also see that he was interviewed by or wrote an article for the Advocate which was critical of WWUH. I am pretty sure he foresaw how it was going to end and selected the nuclear option. I can't blame him.
"...because of language utilized in a recently aired radio play. According to station records, the show and producer had been suspended for a month previously due to the airing of "offensive" language, material that was most likely in violation of FCC rules. The termination came as a direct result of the producers negative comments about WWUH in the Advocate and after his refusal to abide by FCC and station policies as determined by the ECOM. "
But out of all of these shows, Gay Way Radio has the most uncertain history. From the 1977 calendar we know that Gay Way Radio was on WBUR at that time. Furthermore from the Gay Jubilee: A Guidebook to Gay Boston, 1980 edition we know it was still on air when that was compiled. Sadly the description is very terse "Weekly radio gay talk show. Accepts phone calls from listeners. Aired each Tuesday evening at 8:30 pm on FM 90.9 WBUR."  From that all I can can tell is that it was pushed back half an hour since 1977.  A 1975 issue of Ms. Magazine lists Ann McGuire as host as does Sexual Preference, Volume 84 but as "Co-Moderator" in 1977.

But the book For People, Not for Profit: A History of Fenway Health's First Forty Years by Thomas Martorelli specifically puts the start of the program a bit earlier:
"In 1971, WBUR-FM, Boston University's radio station, launched a new show, “The Gay Way,” hosted by Elaine Noble, who would become the first openly lesbian candidate elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1975."
The book Women's Yellow Pages published in 1973 corroborates Noble as host. But our 1977 calendar lists Joe Martin as the host. Perhaps there were rotating hosts, or co-hosts, or different hosts over time.  Ironically it's an article on itself that further confuses the topic. They list San Francisco native John Ward as host in the mid 1970s.  He founded the group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, GLAD. That article points the finger at Boston University president John Silber as the programs assassin.
"He also hosted a program called "Gay Way" on WBUR until the longtime president of Boston University, John Silber, decided to take it off the air. "I was just starting out. I had an office in Park Square, 300 bucks a month," Ward said. "And [Silber] was determined to suppress this radio program, which was very successful — and he did."
This would be a dramatic end to the program if we can cast the villain correctly. But the book Dinner with Mobutu by Jake Smith names Station Manager Jane Christo as the killer. Perhaps it's more complicated, Jane as the instrument of John Silber, or Maybe Silber's ire was a coincidence.
Jane [Christo] had only recently been appointed station manager, and she was working hard to change the format of the station from the traditional NPR format — classical music, late-night jazz,  and a little news and public affairs — to a heavier concentration on news and public affairs. She had already offended the homosexual community in Boston by cancelling the program "Gay Way" and she was the target of picketing by some members of the black community for cancelling another program "Say Brother." Neither issue seemed to bother her very much."
Jane is considered a success today by many. [LINK] To be fair, the listenership of WBUR did grow from 60,000 to 400,000 between 1979 and 1994. You can even credit her with bringing in Car Talk, one of the most successful NPR programs ever. But she was also known as a vindictive sociopath.  "She possessed a short temper and a vulgar mouth and was known for holding grudges, sometimes for years, waiting for the right moment to exact revenge."[SOURCE] But like most despots, what took her down wasn't the abandonment of a community... it was the nepotism.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jose,
    The SUNY Buffalo State, Madeline Davis LGBTQ Archive of WNY recently received a donation of early 1970s magnetic reel to reel tapes containing 40 episodes of Stonewall Nation from 1973-1974. They are currently being conserved and transferred to digital files. They should be available online by the end of the month. Please feel free to email me for additional information: