Mike Anglin interviews Richard Longstaff, the legendary godfather of Cedar Springs and the owner of popular clothing store Union Jack. Richard, now retired and living in Florida, takes us through his own personal life story, both in England and the United States, his public life as a retailer in Oak Lawn, his deep involvement with the Dallas GLBT community, the torment of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, his humiliation before the American courts in a futile struggle to become a citizen of the United States, and his hopeful view toward the future.
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ANGLIN: This is Mike Anglin, and I’m acting as the interviewer here on behalf of The Dallas Way, and this is March 31, 2014, at about 2:15 in the afternoon. I am at the home of Richard Longstaff. Richard and I have been acquaintances for many years, and he has agreed to give an interview and answer some of our questions and talk about history for a while. So, Richard, thank you for agreeing to participate in this project with The Dallas Way.
LONGSTAFF : It’s a pleasure.
ANGLIN: Thank you. So they always say the best place to begin is at the beginning. Obviously you are from the United Kingdom in some locale, so tell us where you came from originally.
LONGSTAFF: Well, I was born in Cambridge, England, in 1939 just prior to World War II starting. My parents had a small grocery store, something about the size of a 7-11 type store … about that size … and we lived above it. So, just like Margaret Thatcher and I, we both had similar rearing. We both were raised, you know, above a grocery store …
ANGLIN: Honorable beginnings.
LONGSTAFF: But that’s all we have in common. [laughter] So, anyway, that was in Cambridge and the grocery store was called “Longstaff’s” and, my parents had that … and, anyway, then of course, I remember the war … We had our own air raid shelter at the time, in our stock room, and I remember being dragged down in the middle of the night, twice. It’s a strange experience, you know.
ANGLIN: For actual air raids?
LONGSTAFF: Yes. Cambridge never really got bombed because there wasn’t really a lot of industry there. They were after factories and ports and air fields. We did have a lot of air fields around us, especially as the war progressed. But, anyway, so I was raised there.
ANGLIN: Were you about six or seven when the war was over?
LONGSTAFF: Yes, in 1945, was when we had VE day. I remember that, too. You know you can remember certain things even when you were very, very tiny, and I do remember … you know, and I was only … I think the air raids finished in about 1942. I think Germany ran out of bombs, or planes, I’m not sure which. So I was less than three years old when that happened. But it’s just odd snatches of memory you get from a very early age.
ANGLIN: Were you an only child?
LONGSTAFF: No, I had a brother … about 18 months older than me. My family, my father, and his father, and most of my uncles, were all from the Merchant Marines … what we called the Merchant Navy, and my brother eventually went into that, too. I was the only one that didn’t. I stayed in retail like my parents. I stayed in Cambridge, didn’t on too well at home, I think because I had an inkling, back then, that I was gay, and I think that made it difficult. I was a very difficult teenager, and so it’s difficult. And so I went and joined the Air Force, I think just to get away from home.
ANGLIN: And where was that?
LONGSTAFF: That was the Royal Air Force, and they stationed me then right by Cambridge, just outside Cambridge.
ANGLIN: Had you gone through high school in Cambridge?
LONGSTAFF: My education finished before I was 15 years old ... formal education … so I started in this department store when I just turned 15, and they called it an apprenticeship, you know, that was just cheap labor, you know, a name for an excuse … for very little money. And I worked for Sir John Lewis Partnership, was the name of it … very successful retailers, even now, in fact the major department store retailers in England.
So I worked for them for the first two years before I joined the Air Force when I was 17 years old. And I was out, my term was finished, when I was 20.
Well, I had already fallen out with my parents at that stage, so I knew I couldn’t stay in Cambridge, and I met somebody in London. He was Scottish, from Dundee. And so we started writing … and we had, I guess, an affair of some kind. Anyway, we formed a very, very close relationship. And so he says … he knew I had problems in Cambridge, so he said, “Well, if you want to come up here and live here, you can stay with me. I live with my parents.” Like everybody did back in those days. And he says, you know, “And we’ll find a place of our own.” And eventually I did go live in Dundee, in Scotland. It lasted for two years up there. And it was quite an experience. You know, it’s almost like a foreign country in many ways, although it is part of the U.K.
ANGLIN: So that was ages 20, 21 and 22?
LONGSTAFF: So I was 20, and I move to England, in South Hampton, when I was 22.. And then I worked for a gas utility, in South Hampton, and, doing fairly well, finally bought a house there. And, I think, my friend, who … we lived together then … still … we both moved down to South Hampton. The prospects in Dundee were slim, you know, especially if you were gay. There was nothing happening there at all, so we decided to move to South Hampton. Neither of us had been there before; we just thought it would be a good place to be. Plus it was on the south coast, and a little bit warmer than what Scotland was. Anyway we found it a delightful place, and I still like South Hampton a lot. And there was gay life there, mostly because it was a big commercial port. So it was a very enjoyable time, and I was there about three years. He did his work on a PhD at that time; he wanted to teach in a university, and he really couldn’t get a job in the U.K., teaching in a university. So he put some feelers out, and one came in from the University of Oklahoma, in Norman.
ANGLIN: And what was his name?
LONGSTAFF: Ian Thompson. Yeah, and he’s still alive. He lives in California still. And he also never became a U.S. citizen. I never did understand why not, he said he just likes being British. Anyway, so I came out here for a holiday in 1964, and he says, you know, “If you want to come here and live …” he was already teaching at that time in the university … and he says “I’ll sponsor you.” You know, immigration laws were written as such at that time. You just needed a sponsor. The university had sponsored him, and he sponsored me … more or less so you wouldn’t become a ward of the state. And, also, we were northern European, which made it all okay. And if from southern Europe, or from anywhere else, it would have been probably a problem.
When I came out … you had to have a visa back then, British people did, to visit America … and a questionnaire … Did that … so, which was no problem, then I came back to South Hampton with the thought, yes, I think I will move out, at least for a while, and see if I like it. Give it two years. So I did, in 1965, I moved to Oklahoma, and living in Moore at the time, he was, and he had already found a new boyfriend, so it left me out a little bit.
ANGLIN: Did you still live together, the two of you, or …
LONGSTAFF: We did initially, and then he moved back to Norman, and I got a job, by that time, with the airline, so I had a regular wage coming in, and I could afford to get my own apartment in Oklahoma City, which I did, and working for the airline, too.
ANGLIN: Was this Braniff?
LONGSTAFF: It was Braniff Airways. Well, first of all it was Central Airlines. They are no longer in business, of course nor is Braniff. I got to work one day, at little Will Rogers Airport, where we all were, and they said to me, “We’ve had a problem with your employment.” And I says, “Oh?” And he says, “Yeah … we can’t … we’re going to have to let you go, because we can’t get you a radio license, because you are not an American citizen.” Because it was a small airline and we had to call the pilots to get them the load factors, or whatever it was. You know, you’re not only a ticket agent, but you do everything else, too. It was that kind of airline. And he says, “But not to worry,” he says, “I’ve spoken with the manager at Braniff, and he’s agreed to take you on.” So I just walked over to the Braniff office, and I had a job. So that worked out rather well. They obviously liked me, so …
ANGLIN: A different kind of job at Braniff?
LONGSTAFF: Well, it was more specialized, of course. It was a much bigger airline. So they had me in ‘cargo.’ I couldn’t become an agent you know, because of the way the federal laws were. You had to be a U.S. citizen to have a radio license, or to talk … something like that. I think that’s done away with now, but that was then. So, and then I worked for Braniff for over seven years, and during that time I thought, well, Dallas would be a better place to live. I thought of Houston initially because I had already decided I wanted to open a clothing store. I had that set in my mind. And I didn’t think there was much in the way of prospects in Oklahoma City. So I thought … so I did … and I just transferred with Braniff down to Love Field, which was the main airport at that time.
ANGLIN: That was Braniff’s center of operations? Was in Dallas?
LONGSTAFF: Yes, it was the headquarters ... uh, city. Exchange Park was their head office building, just right south of Love Field. Kind of like Southwest Airlines is today. So yeah, and it worked out well; I made good money. We were unionized., and I had never been a member of a union before. Yeah, the money was good. I started saving my money up , because, you know, my dream was to open a store.
ANGLIN: So you had a plan by that time.
LONGSTAFF: I had a plan.
ANGLIN: But you needed capital.
LONGSTAFF: Yes. And my mother, she did loan me $3,000, and I saved up another $5,000. So, for about $8,000 I got the store opened by SMU. It was an existing store and the guy didn’t want it anymore, so it was all fixtured and everything, and all I had to do was get merchandise for it and put it in. It was a very small store, probably about four or five hundred square feet.
ANGLIN: Do you have an address by any chance?
LONGSTAFF: Yes, it was just off Hillcrest, at … the street name will come to me, I think. I can’t remember exactly, but just opposite the campus, the SMU campus, on Hillcrest.
ANGLIN: Above Mockingbird somewhere?
LONGSTAFF: Yes, above Mockingbird. There was a big clothing store there … traditional men’s clothing, on Hillcrest … which that name is lost to me for the moment, too. God I can’t remember … it will come to me, the name of that street. And the building, I think, is still there. The last time I went by …
ANGLIN: I know there is a strip all along Hillcrest.
LONGSTAFF: Yes, of small shops there, and then another store came in called ‘The Jean Factory’ or something like that. The GAP started at about that time, too, in San Francisco. And it made news because all it was going to sell was Levi jeans. Because denim was becoming very, very fashionable. .. and it wasn’t until that time. So that was … I was there about two years, and there wasn’t much prospect, and I thought Oak Lawn would be “the” place … although it wasn’t gay at that time. And I found this place on Cedar Springs … 3918 Cedar Springs … $400 a month rent, and it was about 2,000 square foot of space … it was quite a good sized store. And it was right next door to a nice restaurant, which was the Old Warsaw … was there.
ANGLIN: Let me ask this, when you were on Hillcrest, what was the name of the store at that point?
LONGSTAFF: Union Jack.
ANGLIN: So the Union Jack name began on Hillcrest.
LONGSTAFF: Yes. Right from the very beginning, in 1971.
ANGLIN: So you just moved the whole operation over to Cedar Springs.
LONGSTAFF: Yes. So it was much bigger … so we built some shelves, and I had a friend then who was a hairdresser, and he wanted to take up some of the space, “Let’s put a little hair salon in here.” So we did. And business started getting better than it ever was on Hillcrest, plus we started putting the word out, you know, in the gay bars, because there was no gay magazine or any other way to, you know, say you’ve got a business and they’re welcome in there. And there wasn’t anything gay, period, except for a few gay bars, and none of which were on Cedar Springs.
ANGLIN: Where were they?
LONGSTAFF: East Dallas, primarily. On Live Oak. You know, there were about three bars there, the Villa Fontana being one … and I got to be very close friends with the owners of that, and they eventually opened two more bars there, and another bar further up … up on Live Oak. And then Frank Caven came in and put a bar near downtown, on Field Street … a small one … King of Clubs, or King of Hearts, whatever it was called … I don’t remember. And then other bars started to go into Oak Lawn, and, after I got started on Cedar Springs, Frank Caven put a bar there. It was a place called The Candy Store, on Throckmorton, where Sue Ellen’s is now … in that location. And it turned into the Mining Company … eventually … the building did … on Throckmorton.
ANGLIN: People called it the “TMC” ?
LONGSTAFF: Yes, they called it the Throckmorton Mining Company, and then … he was doing well there, so on the corner there, where the Crossroads Market eventually finished up, he was going to put the Old Plantation there. Frank, at that time, had a bar downtown, on Harwood, I think it was, called the Old Plantation, and then he opened another one on Rawlins in Oak Lawn. I think he moved it. I can’t remember the names of all these places, but he was the real pioneer of gay bars. There were few places in the country where you could go to a real big gay dance bar … very few places in the country at that time.
ANGLIN: This was probably in the mid-70s I would think.
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, about mid-70s we’re up to now. As I say, ’71 when I first opened the Union Jack … ’73 when I moved over to Cedar Springs, and then everything started to gradually turn ‘gay’ after that. It was a pretty sorry street at that time, apart from the one nice restaurant, the Old Warsaw, there was nothing else there. There was a pool hall. There was, you know, just one book store which was The Lobo book store, which had mostly historical books in it … of Texas.
ANGLIN: It later became a more gay-oriented ...
LONGSTAFF: Yes. Well, it wasn’t a gay business, at first. But I think once I opened Union Jack across the street it sort of blossomed a little bit, you know. And the owner gradually turned his business gay ... and moved across the street to the Lobo book store location.
ANGLIN: And then there was “Adair’s” across the street.
LONGSTAFF: Yes. Yes. Right next door to Lobo. That was just a red-neck beer joint. Also, on the corner, where the pizza place is now … Zino’s … and Skivvies … was a big … another music place called “Faces.” And it was just … you know, this was before “liquor-by-the-drink,” too. So they’re all beer joints, as we called them. And that’s all they were. And it’s hard to make money in the bar business when all you had was beer and wine. So. … but, when “liquor-by-the-drink” came along, and I can’t remember the year, exactly … the gay bars, really, and all … a lot of bars did it, it changed everything. You know, the restaurants got better, because you didn’t have to sneak around … it was almost like “speak-easies” … a lot of them were, and private clubs, supposedly. So things really opened up.
And then Frank [Caven] decided to start buying property there. Oh, with the one on the corner there where he Crossroads Market was, it isn’t now, he was about to open there, it was a dance bar, I think he was going to call it the Old Plantation, or some name … and it burned down. So that was our first big fire. The first of many. Most of that block has been burned down, and it was pretty much from arson, too. Very suspicious circumstances. One arsonist was arrested and caught … went to jail I assume … . that burnt down the Community Center, and my store, and the Roundup. And that was back in 1989. And things gradually got better. Hunky’s came in during the 80s. And more and more gay businesses started … and retail started to flourish there.
ANGLIN: What was your retail merchandise, at that point? Was it still jeans?
LONGSTAFF: Well, we just called ourselves a “jeans store.” Most primarily denim jeans; lots of Levis.
ANGLIN: 1970s and 80s styles?
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, you know. And t-shirts, and knit shirts. And nothing really dressy. Bar clothes, pretty much – what most people wore to go to the bar. That’s basically what we were. And also swim suits. We started in with swimwear and underwear; there wasn’t many underwear lines, except for the usual, that the department stores had, but we did start to find some really gay companies that were making swimwear.
ANGLIN: Did you specialize in gay companies?
LONGSTAFF: I tried to, as best we could, because we felt that was our niche. And I searched, you know, for gay manufacturers. And we were the first ones with many of them … you know. We were with Andrew Christian. So it was their very first account ... as we were with many other designers, too ... gay designers. Not all of them worked out. Andrew Christian did. But most of them did not; they didn’t last. All of our swim suit manufacturers were gay, except for Jansen. We did very will with Jansen. If they didn’t make a Bikini swim suit we really didn’t want it, you know, because that’s what gay people wanted. Otherwise, you know, we were going up against the department stores. So I tried to keep away, as much as I could, from anything the department stores had in there.
ANGLIN: Did you ever carry Speedos?
LONGSTAFF: Yes. Speedo was another straight one, but the rest was pretty much gay. The bulk of our sales was with gay manufacturers, and more and more gay designers started to get into that kind of business ... like they have with underwear now.
ANGLIN: Were you and Frank Caven cordial to each other? Friends?
LONGSTAFF: Oh, yes. Well, actually, I wouldn’t say we were friends, but more than acquaintances. We had a lot of drinks together, and when he started opening up in Florida … you know he had a lot of bars in Florida … he had a house there, and he invited me to stay there, and I did, in his house, which was nice. That was in the Tampa area, because he had about two big bars in that area. He was the first one to put a big dance bar in Tampa, too. In fact, he was quite a character, Frank Caven was. He, you know, he … it was always how he got his money to open these bars. They were big investments. But a regular bank would not loan you money to open any kind of gay business, especially a bar. So he got very friendly with a small bank in Arlington … somehow; I think he started investing money in it. So that gave him access to money, and he started doing the same in Florida. Well, he opened this first bar in Tampa, in the “cigar area,” and I can’t think of the name of the …it’s an old historic area of Tampa where they specialized in making cigars back years ago. And I can’t … strange name … it’s a district there, a historic district. But he found this huge, empty, old cigar factory … big, huge … and it was designated a historic building. So, because it was historic, he got the financing at 3% interest … something very, very low ... to put this huge, gay bar in it ... a massive place … and I went there soon after it opened. That’s when I stayed at his house, and I had never seen a bar that big before. It was one bar after another … one big complex. And he did it .. that’s … He was a wheeler-dealer that way. He was always … he would open bars if he could get financing. And of course he turned out to be a very, very rich man, and he bought … he started buying properties on Cedar Springs for an outrageous amount of money, everybody thought, but he wanted the properties, and he kept buying them, and he did it in Houston … started buying properties down there … and putting bars in Houston.
ANGLIN: Did you ever know Charlie Hott?
LONGSTAFF: Yes, I did. Wasn’t very friendly with him. Yes, he was the younger one, skinny little guy, small guy, and he worked for Frank … pretty much the business side of things. He really helped Frank expand the business a lot, I think, because he had a business sense that Frank probably didn’t have. So, and that’s all Charlie was … was the business … like the brain behind a lot of stuff. And I think he had part ownership at the time, too, that Frank gave him. Frank was pretty generous with the people that worked for him or worked with him, and he made them partners, or cut them in somehow. He was very good that way. I think that was part of his success. Anyway, he had a lot of bars in Florida, in Dallas and in Houston. And Dallas, I think, was always the core of his gay businesses. Yeah, I knew Charlie Hott. I knew all the bar owners. Tex and Joe, Bill and Ray that had the Villa Fontana and the Eighth Day, and all of those places. We were very close, and I still am. I just recently over in Hawaii, and I saw Howard’s [Howard Okon] house. Very nice, and he says any time you want to stay here, you can. And, of course, he still owns The Brick. Howard was another very enterprising person. He was in the architectural business and design, somewhat. You know one he did, I think, which is now Woodie’s. When he owned it, it was the Moby Dick’s, and it was an old, dilapidated Mexican restaurant, and he converted it into what it is now. And that really hasn’t changed since he first built it. And it’s just a wonderful concept. He was the first one to do a two-story gay bar with a balcony. Frank Caven pioneered with windows in a bar; that had never been done before … so people could see in and out.
ANGLIN: And that was JR’s.
LONGSTAFF: That was at JR’s … that was the first window bar. And then Howard did the first, you know, balcony bar, and also the first swimming pool bar.
ANGLIN: Do you remember the old disco bar right across from JR’s called the Village Station?
LONGSTAFF: Oh yes, yes. When Frank bought it … that was the Faces. Yes, Faces. He bought the bar, Faces, or whatever, and then it actually turned liquor-by-the-drink and he turned it into a dance bar, which was the Village Station. And it was enormously popular … a very, very popular bar, and then when that faded, he turned that into the 4,001, which wasn’t successful. He had a few “losers.” Mostly winners. Didn’t do well in Houston. And he had an employee at that time, Charles Armstrong, who I’m friends with, too. We stay in touch. Frank asked him to go down and manage the JR’s and the Mining Company down in Houston, which he did, and then Frank offered to sell it to him, which Charles did. He bought it. And Charles has done very, very well down in Houston. He’s now a multi-millionaire, and the biggest land owner in Montrose. He owns a huge amount of property down there. He kept buying, well, lots around his bars, and the property the bars were sitting on, so he could have parking, you know, there’s no zoning there. You can do anything you want with property. And he did; he kept buying more and more land and made paved parking lots, and houses, and everything down there. Well, he still is. Developers have really moved into Montrose now. I hear they’re going to build a thirty-story apartment building right on Montrose Boulevard. So it’s really going crazy there.
ANGLIN: The restaurants along Cedar Springs … I think in the mid-70s is when Jess Gilbert opened up The Bronx. Is that your recollection?
LONGSTAFF: Yeah. The mid-70s, about five years after I opened. He was in the clothing business … ladies’ clothing. So he, I think, he decided to get out of that and go into the restaurant business. So, yeah, I don’t know if that was his first restaurant or not, I’m not quite sure. But anyway The Bronx was quite successful until the last five years, when Cedar Springs went into decline as a gay strip ... as a gay tourist attraction, which is what the problem was, which is why I closed my business. It lost its appeal as a destination. And it has with most other cities, too. The Castro in San Francisco has gone the same way. And I think the “writing on the wall” was when Christopher Street pretty much faded, too, in New York City.
ANGLIN: What causes that, do you think? Why does that happen?
LONGSTAFF: I think … the novelty wore off. It was, you know, so exciting back in the early 80s, to go into an area, and you could know just about everybody you saw or talked to was going to be gay. And not just in a gay bar, but walking down the street, in a coffee shop or a clothing store, or no matter what. You know, a restaurant … it was going to be all gay, and it was. And it was wonderful. Wonderful experience. And I think that that, in itself, spawned the “gay rights movement” … we realized that we could all work, and socialize, and everything, together, and we are what we are. You know, and I was, of course, interested in gay rights, too, because I think, back in those days, you had to be very, very careful. We were all “in the closet,” and I hated it. I hated being in the closet. It was a double life, and I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t understand why so many politicians disliked us, and why so many business-type of people didn’t want us … they didn’t want us in their businesses. The politicians would just do everything they could to make our lives miserable, and more and more harsh laws were coming on the books … to, you know, criminalize us … and really persecute us, and I didn’t like that, you know? I couldn’t see the justification for it.
And so I had a few experiences like … I think that helped to mold me into, you know, being very supportive of “gay rights.” When I was in the air force, in the Royal Air Force in Cambridge … we had a sort of semi-gay bar in Cambridge back then. This was back in the 50s. It did happen back then … very discrete, of course. And I met another airman, and he was from Dundee, before I met Ian from Dundee … that’s how I met Ian. He was an “MP” with the Royal Air Force at another air base just outside Cambridge. And we had a little affair, of sorts, you know. He also had another friend that I got very close to. He was an airman, also, at this other base that Eddie was at … called Waterbeach. It’s now an army base but back then it was an air force … Royal Air Force base … air field. And I can’t remember his name, but I know he was from Yorkshire ... one of the industrial cities up there. Anyway, he was what we called a “bat man” … it meant he was a servant in the “officer’s mess” [dining area]. Their jobs were that they were to take care of the officers. They cleaned their rooms for them, and laid their clothes out … a “bat man.” I don’t know where that word came from.
ANGLIN: In the American military they are referred to as “stewards.”
LONGSTAFF: Stewards, yeah, same thing. Or valet, or something like that. But I don’t know where that came from, but that’s what he was. Well, something went missing there from the officers mess sometime, so, of course, the first thing they do is to search the airmen’s lockers.
ANGLIN: Something was stolen?
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, something went missing. I don’t know what it was. So they searched all the airmen’s lockers. Well, they opened his, and they found two books in there. One on “homosexuality” … entitled, oh I don’t know, one of the few books you could find anywhere in those days on homosexuality. He had that … “The Origins of Homosexuality,” or something like that. I don’t know what it was called, but one of the titles had the word ‘homosexual’ on it, but, what really damned him … he had a book: Auntie Mame. It’s kind of a joke, but what are these two books, Auntie Mame and this book on the science of homosexuality. All I know is …
ANGLIN: The combination was deadly.
LONGSTAFF: The combination of Auntie Mame and “Homosexuality,” yes, they put two and two together and it all came out. So they interrogated him, you know, and it’s not easy, as I discovered, to be interrogated. You think, oh, I could hold up; I could keep lying and lying and lying … but its very, very difficult with a seasoned, you know, investigator and interrogator, which I was eventually discover that with the immigration department. So he did, anyway he says, “Yes, I’m gay,” you know.
ANGLIN: Now, you and he had had a little affair?
LONGSTAFF: No, no, not this one. Not the one that got arrested. But the MP that I did … Eddie … who I did have an affair with, he was the MP, he said, “If you want to come and see … Michael, let’s call him … Michael … He’s in jail.” This was at Christmas time, and he says, “But we have to be very careful.” You know, because he was not supposed to have visitors and this sort of thing. So, he was one of the guards, so he could sneak me in to the brig, or whatever it was called.
ANGLIN: And “MP” means “military police?”
LONGSTAFF: Yes, sorry. I should have said that, yes. You use the same term here, don’t you? Yeah, the “military police.” They may have called it something different then, I don’t know. But, anyway, he was in the military police. So I went up, then … this was on Christmas day … we got off on Christmas day … to visit Michael behind bars … he was in the jail, behind bars. And he was so sad and miserable, you know, and he was so pleased to see us, you know, he cheered up immediately, and I thought, you know … and all because he admitted being gay, he was in jail. And it soured me so much. I thought, this is not right. It just isn’t. And then with what, later on, you find all the gay bashings and everything. It was one thing after another, you know? But I moved to South Hampton, which I mentioned earlier, back in the early 60s. This was in the 50s, when I was in the air force. But in the early 60s, in South Hampton, I remember his name, his name was Gene Travis. He was a merchant … merchant marine … ex-merchant marine … and, so, and was a little bit flamboyant, some of these merchant navy people were, because it was one of the few jobs, anywhere in the world, at that time, you could be openly gay, and no one cared ... if you were in the navy, not ... the merchant navy. It’s just one of those things. You had to come along, you know, because you’re in tight quarters there. And that’s still the same, even today, you can be openly gay, working on a cruise ship, or any ships for that matter, and you won’t really be harassed or anything. It’s sort of part of the … what … sea life. Of course a lot of sex went on, too, a lot of relief for some of those people, too, I suppose. I don’t know. So, anyway … and he was pretty obvious. Well he picked up this trick, in South Hampton, and he took him home.
ANGLIN: Now who picked up a trick?
LONGSTAFF: Gene Travis did. The retired, you know, merchant marine guy. And he picked up this trick. He took him home. And then everything went fairly well, I guess, he thought. Well this trick, I suppose in a state of remorse, you know, went to the police department and told them he was seduced … or whatever his story was ... he unwillingly went with this guy, not knowing what he was going to be in for. Anyway, the police immediately … immediately … came over to his house, ripped the sheets off his bed, and took them down to the lab to look for semen stains. And they did; they found semen on those sheets, came back, and arrested him, and he went to jail. And I thought, this is incredible.
Anyway, while I was living in South Hampton, I decided to move to America. And I did, and after seven years with Braniff, I opened the Union Jack. The early days of Union Jack ... on Cedar Springs. And things started to turn gay once I got to Cedar Springs. I knew a lot of people by meeting them in the bars. And I got some match … everybody smoked back then, including myself … so we put matches with our Union Jack name on it, and any way I could. And I knew there was a big gay community out there, but we had no way to reach it. There were no gay publications, really no … because that was before the Internet, or computers, or anything. So it was the telephone, pretty much, and that was it. So gradually … gay people got to know us … so we gradually turned, you know, from jeans into swim wear, and underwear, anything we could get that people thought looked sexy ... which usually meant skimpy. The height of bad taste, but you know that’s what people … people were desperate for it ... straight and gay, you know, there was just nothing around.
So we gradually survived and did better. In 1974 I decided to open a store in Houston … so, from ‘71 to ’74. So we went down … in eventually three different locations in Houston. Houston was never successful. The other stores … there were two other clothing stores there … sort of … that weren’t doing terribly well, nor was I, and eventually I sold it after about 14 years, or 12 years, whatever it was. And about 18 months later, or just over a year, it burned down … another mysterious fire. But it wasn’t my store then.
ANGLIN: Any reason for the Houston store not being successful?
LONGSTAFF: Well, I talked to Charles Armstrong a lot about that. It think it was because we didn’t have a “hub.” I think the reason for our success in Dallas, and all the gay bars and all the gay businesses on Cedar Springs, because we were all collected together. Like a little gay shopping mall.
ANGLIN: It was a destination?
LONGSTAFF: It turned into a destination. Houston never was that, even though it had a bigger gay population, and politically it was much more ahead of Dallas. They had the gay pride parade a year before we did. You know, everything … and all the gay organizations, you know, like the GPC down there, the Gay Political Caucus, got started in Houston. And they started a year later here. Everything here was a year later, it seemed, in Dallas. And then how I got to meet you, I think, was on the legal side when we realized we couldn’t do it through the polls, you know, through the voting booth … we had to do it through litigation. And we also wanted gay figures, too, so we tried to get a gay city councilman, and we started to raise money for that, which turned into somewhat of a fiasco. He was the pastor of the MCC church. The name won’t come to me now. I got to be, eventually, very good friends with him.
ANGLIN: This is someone who worked with Troy Perry?
LONGSTAFF: Yes, and that’s how I got to meet Troy Perry. And the guy who took over for this guy, and who moved to Los Angeles, to the head office. And I can’t think of his name. Most names I’m okay with, but … I lose some of them.
ANGLIN: But he wanted to be on City Council.
LONGSTAFF: Yes. As a demonstration. We felt the votes were around in the Oak Lawn area, to get an openly gay person elected. Well, it was badly run, badly financed campaign, and it didn’t get anywhere. And he wasn’t the best of candidates, either. He was controversial already. Not just because he was the pastor of the MCC, but he was one of the driving forces, this guy was, and he had my admiration for this … of getting the gay community together. To get us started. He sort of kicked us in the pants, as it were, to get us moving. So he did a lot back then, and he got the gay bar owners organized and to doing fund raisers for his candidacy … candidacy for City Council. And so we started to move, collectively, on gay issues. We called the organization “DAIR” … D-A-I-R … or Dallas Alliance for Individual Rights. I think that was the first political organization we could, and I was a member of that, and it was all business owners, because no one else could ... because they felt that they’d lose their jobs, or something not good would happen to them.
ANGLIN: Was this Chance West, by any chance?
LONGSTAFF: Chance West was … yes, I remember him. But he wasn’t involved with us very much. He was a hair dresser. I don’t know whether he had his own salon. Probably, if he did have his own salon, he’d have been welcomed as a member maybe, I don’t know. Or maybe he wasn’t ready for that step at that time. I didn’t really know him until he got involved with the Dallas Gay Alliance or GPC, or whatever it was back then.
[Note: Chance West was the first president of the Dallas Gay Political Caucus. He was not present at the time that organization later changed its name to the Dallas Gay Alliance, during the presidency of Don Baker.]
ANGLIN: I think he is considered the first president of DGPC .... the Dallas Gay Political Caucus, at that time, which later became the Dallas Gay Alliance.
LONGSTAFF: Yes. Yes. So, this is kind of who we were … people who could come out, who felt we weren’t going to lose our jobs, so these were the only people who could really get involved. You know, this was in the days before smarter people, like you [laughter] . . . I mean real leaders that knew what they were doing got involved, like Bill Nelson and these people, and William Waybourn. So this all came later. But we got it started … got the ball rolling … in a very clumsy kind of fashion, but it was going. We got fund raisers going. Everybody was so anxious to get something going! You know, politically or in any direction. It was sheer pent up frustration within the gay community. And it kind of exploded in many ways ... this enthusiasm did. Sometimes spun off in the wrong direction, I think … sexually, a bit … some of the businesses got a bit too overt. There’s a lot … a lot when on that I didn’t like, but, you know, that’s what it was. It was called freedom. We had to be, you know, everybody had to be liberated. It was called the “Gay Liberation Movement.” I think that was one of our titles at the time. So, you know, that was in the middle 70s. And gradually on Cedar Springs more and more businesses started to open up on that street.
And then we started gay pride. Well, Ray Hardin, co-owner of the Villa Fontana and some other gay bars … he owned the bath house, the first bath house which was called “The Bachelors’ Quarters” on Live Oak, and the Entre Nous, which was a gay bar underneath the bath house, and then he closed or sold … I think closed the Villa Fontana, and most of that corner, and he moved over to Fitzhugh Avenue with the Eighth Day, and that just turned into a hustle bar, pretty much, you know. But I was very close friends with him. We traveled a lot. And he got involved with the MCC church, and that’s how I got to meet Troy Perry back in those days. And we went to a conference at the MCC church, one of the annual conferences, or semi-annual, whatever, in Denver. So we drove up to Denver. On the way there we stopped in Amarillo for the night, so we went to the local gay bar, and in the bar there, all of a sudden, there was a hell of a commotion, and all of these people … ruffs … were piling over the fence … gay bashers, you know … and so somehow we got out of that unscathed, but a lot of people got beat up and everything, for just being there. But that was just sort of part and parcel of what went on in those days. But we got to Denver, and we had a good time in Denver. It was very, very interesting. Got to meet Troy Perry there. And things were starting to get organized, not so much nationally but locally. And Troy Perry was quite an influence … he was on Ray Hardin, and a lot of other people, and Frank Caven, that he talked to. And we realized that the status quo wasn’t very good for any of us in business; it would be better if we were legalized. After all, all our customers were criminals back in those days. So we tried to improve the lot for everybody, including ourselves. I think Ray Hardin, especially, was really gung ho on gay rights.
Well, while we were in Denver … the reason I’m bringing this up … is because there were activists around … local communist party was there, trying to recruit … and some other little things, and labor unions were, and one of them had some banners out there that said “Boycott Coors Beer.” Because Joe Coors, one of the owners there, was very anti-gay. And you could be anti-gay businesses back in those days … and no harm would come to you, there would be no criticism of any kind. Anyway, so we were driving back. Ray was talking, you know, he was a schemer, Ray Hardin was. He was a kind of wonderful person. I think you’ve probably met him. I think you did. You probably didn’t like him. You probably … and a lot of people didn’t. He was very outspoken, and a very in-your-face kind of person. He’d talk to you like this, you know. But I found him wonderful; I really liked him a lot. And he inspired me a lot, too. And while we were driving back he said, you know, “Coors beer” … and he knew the bar owners, and I knew them, too … we kind of stuck together a little bit. Or I stuck with them … I wasn’t a bar owner, but we were all kind of good friends, because we didn’t know who was going to be raided next. Even though they were all in competition with each other, they tried to work with each other the best they could, because if one got busted, they would try to, you know, talk or make phone calls or something to try and ... because they were afraid it was going to happen to them, too.
So he said … anyway, we were talking about Coors, he said that, you know, fifty percent of the bar business, then, was Coors beer. And that was before liquor got so big. It was all beer, and a colossal amount. And he said, “I know what I’m doing.” And he says, “And I can ask these other bar tenders.” They knew roughly what their liquor sales were, because it was public information for the tax rolls. And so he asked them to do it anonymously, to put down on a piece of paper what their purchases were just for Coors beer, anonymously. Of course, everybody kind of knew, or rather what percentage of their beer business was Coors. Anyway, they got it all together, and there was just one distributor at that time in Dallas that sold all the bars that one product, and he said “We can do something.” Ray did this. He took it on himself. He said: “We can do something here. We ought to boycott Coors.” Just to make a point. And we were good friends with the owners of TWT back then … TWT Magazine … we finally had a gay publication coming out. And so we all got together, and I did what I could to get the information, flyers out and this sort of thing … in the store and passing them out in other places ... to boycott Coors beer.
And, well, it took off ... I think for the same reason the gay community was frustrated. They wanted to act, and there weren’t many ways they could. So, a boycott on Coors … and there was an easy thing to switch brands on, as against cigarettes, they tried that with a brand, and I think it didn’t work ... but beer was. And the beer sales for Coors plummeted in Dallas, not just in the gay bars, but in all other bars, too, and in the liquor stores, in the grocery stores where they could, you know, sell beer. It was a huge drop in sales, and it was expanding, too. Other cities started to do it … they could see the success of it. I think on the front cover of TWT magazine there was sort of a drag queen’s foot with a big high-heel shoe on it, stepping on a can of Coors. Wonderfully effective! You know, and that’s all it took. And people just stopped buying it. And then Ray urged all the bars … and in fact almost all of them did … to stop ordering Coors completely. Kick it out. And they did. Frank Caven was the first to agree to that, and it couldn’t have been done without him because he had nearly half the gay business in Dallas, and he did for many years after that. And so, the distributor was the first one coming around begging us, he said “What can we do? What can we do? We’ll change our employees rules and everything. We’re going to write letters to the Coors factory saying this is what they need to do.” Of course, those letters were ignored, I think, from the head office in Denver, or in Colorado, I think Golden, Colorado. Then Coors was trying to get into New York City, because they weren’t selling in New York at that time … they didn’t have the … whatever up there … and so the City Council of New York City said “No, you’re not coming in. We’re not going to allow you to sell.” And then San Francisco started. Not all of them were so successful, because they couldn’t get the bars to kick them out completely like we did in Dallas. You know, it was all kind of voluntary there. Anyway, so then we realized we could do things. People were willing to do … to make an effort for whatever … and then we realized we could form voting blocks and this sort of thing. It was a civil disobedience, I guess, would be a name for that exercise. But it was … it was a big thing in its time. Yeah.
ANGLIN: So the Dallas gay pride parade then came a year after the Houston parade?
LONGSTAFF: Yes. There was one years ago, and I don’t remember much about it. They had it downtown. About a dozen people marched in business suites, and I was a participant in that one. In fact, in the first one, I put a float in it. And I was the first one to put professionally built floats in it ... brought ‘em up from Houston where they had a float building company.
ANGLIN: And you had a window display?
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, during one of the early Gay Pride weeks … before the parade started … we thought we had to have a “gay pride” display, so my effort was … for Gay Pride Week … was to have go-go dancers in the window, and a drag queen. And so we took whatever displays there were out of the window. And we had the music, and we had a DJ come into the store and we did that. And so we had, of course, this red-neck bar across the street, this beer joint … called Adair’s … they went and called the police and said there was some vulgar activity going on in the Union Jack across the street. The police came. Two squad cars came. And they piled out and came to the store and looked, and they saw the drag queen who looked ... well, we called her a “drag queen” … she was a transsexual. And a very beautiful, you know, transsexual. And she looked good, and the two guys, too. You know they had sort of “go-go” boots on, and this sort of thing ... you know, silver shorts, whatever it was they had on.
ANGLIN: Shirtless, maybe?
LONGSTAFF: No, no, they had clothes on. It wasn’t quite that. Anyway, it was loud music and it was drawing some people around the front of the store, and no one had seen this, no one was celebrating Gay Pride in Dallas at that time, and they thought this was very novel, you know, for us to do that. And so we haven’t done that since … once was enough. The police said “There are no laws being broken here.” One of them made a remark about the drag queen, how beautiful she was … didn’t realize it was a guy, you know, which we found was very amusing.
And then the next phase was we had the Gay Community Center come in next door. And the Roundup came in on the other side when the restaurant moved. I guess the area was getting … well, it was pretty raunchy. I was surprised that the high-end restaurant, the Old Warsaw, was on that street. It didn't make much sense to me to begin with. There was nothing but female prostitution and drugs and everything. It was just a nasty street .. a low-end street … a huge amount of prostitution. Openly, you know, the hookers were walking up and down the street … a lot of ‘em, too.
ANGLIN: And the Throckmorton Mining Company building had been known as a drug transaction location … the “TMC” ?
LONGSTAFF: No, it was so rampant there, the police department … where the Mining Company is now, across the street from Union Jack, was a small grocery store … like a 7-11 type operation … that went vacant, so they decided … the police department rented it out and kept it going as a grocery store … but it was a front to take in, you know, stolen merchandise, as a fencing … you know, a fake fencing operation. And once they got exposed for what that was … it had run its course … they closed. And I think Frank [Caven] bought the building and turned it into a gay bar.
ANGLIN: So the police had been running a sting operation.
LONGSTAFF: It was a sting, yeah, I should have said a sting. I got to be very close friends with Terry Tebedo ... not so much with Bill [Nelson]. Bill was all business, but Terry liked to socialize a lot. In fact I’ve got a picture in my bedroom of Terry and me setting up the flags for Gay Pride Week, I think.
ANGLIN: I’d love to see that.
LONGSTAFF: Yes, I’ve got that, and another one, too, of Bill and me together. So Terry and I turned out to be very, very close friends, and we got on very well. Most of our socialization was done on Cedar Springs, and I used to visit a lot with him in his store [The Crossroads Market]. Bill was always busy with groups and politics and everything, you know. And we talked a little bit about it. I got a few words of wisdom from Bill … we were talking about getting into the newspapers, and I was telling him about all the publicity about my immigration issues, and he says, “Don’t be afraid to talk to the press.” He said, “They’re only going to say good things about you.” I thought that was a strange thing to say. I didn’t understand that response, but, of course, it was very true. You always seek out the press, if you can, because they’re not going to say anything bad about you. There’s only going to be good, so the more you can talk to the press, the better it is.
LONGSTAFF: Yeah. I found that interesting, too. And with that in mind, you know, I was never afraid to talk to the press after that. I wasn’t very good at it, you know, I wasn’t like he was. He was born for that, I think, but I wasn’t, you know. I was a retailer.
ANGLIN: And William Waybourn was part of their operation for a while there, too [The Crossroads Market].
LONGSTAFF: Yes. Later on he came on the scene. I think because … well he was involved with the DGA [Dallas Gay Alliance], wasn’t he. I don’t know much about the history of that. I was more involved on the other side … about what’s going on with the bars and businesses, and this sort of thing ... on the gay issues there. Not so much with what’s going on with the politics, and with the politicians. That was more on Bill Nelson’s side. Ray Hardin dealt a little bit with the politicians, but some of the things I saw go on with those politicians, you know, wasn’t too savory. But anyway.
ANGLIN: Was Jess Gilbert ever involved? [Another business owner on Cedar Springs, including a popular restaurant called “The Bronx”]
LONGSTAFF: No. He never was.
ANGLIN: He was relatively distant?
LONGSTAFF: He was always very distant and didn’t want to be involved. He would cooperate, usually reluctantly, with any efforts that were going on. Kind of … but he’d just rather stay aloof. He wanted to complain about everything but didn’t want to do anything. Didn’t want to be involved. Just complain. And that sort of pissed people off ... a lot.
ANGLIN: Did you follow the development of, what was it, Under Arrest and Aresta?
LONGSTAFF: I remember when Under Arrest, or the first store came on … came on the street. And it was called “Off the Street” … and then “Aresta,” yeah. And then it changed names and it moved across the street where Nuvo became there. I can’t remember the name now … the first big gift store there. He eventually moved, I think, to the quadrangle.
ANGLIN: It was Ken Knight’s.
LONGSTAFF: Yes, Ken Knight’s, yeah. And I can’t remember the name … not this minute anyway … what the name of that business was.
ANGLIN: That’s where Aresta was. Aresta was Ken Knight’s.
LONGSTAFF: Yes. And he changed the name of it when he moved it across the street? Or did he not?
ANGLIN: I think it was “Under Arrest” at first when it was next to The Bronx. And then when he moved across the street, I believe that’s when he changed it to “Aresta.”
LONGSTAFF: Aresta, yes, that’s … you’re right … yes.
ANGLIN: And then when he sold and moved to the Quadrangle, which he did, he set up the store then as “Ken Knight.” He took his name for the store. And that’s when Nuvo, with Jon Bonsignore, went in [to the old Aresta space].
LONGSTAFF: Moved in there, yeah. Okay, now, about Bill Nelson. I didn’t have really much interaction with Bill.
ANGLIN: What are your reflections on Terry Tebedo? What did you think about him?
LONGSTAFF: Oh, he was a great person. He was always smiling, and, you know, he was cute and sexy, and he was always a very, very popular person. And we used to just have a lot of fun talking, you know, about what was going on in the street. Sometimes it turned more serious, you know, when he was talking about some of the more serious subjects. You know, he just had such a wonderful sense of humor. He was just a great person to be around and to be a friend of. And I did regard myself as a friend with Terry Tebedo.
ANGLIN: Let me ask this, Richard. During this period of the 80s, obviously something which started happening that affected everybody was AIDS. How did that first present itself to you as an issue? How that become a growing issue in your life, and your experiences with people that you knew?
LONGSTAFF: Well, the first [HIV-positive] person that I was close friends with was in Houston. You know I had this store in Houston. And I got to mix with all of the gay activists there. Steve Shiflett became a very close friend of mine. And he was the real leader, I mean he really was at that time. He turned the GPC into something really big, and he helped get Kathy Whitmire elected. I have a picture of myself and Kathy Whitmire together here. I just found that. I’ve got some interesting pictures … well not many. I don’t keep stuff like that … like photographs. So, Steve Shiflett … I got to know him, and then also Robert Schwab, Mort, as we called him, “Mort” Schwab at the time.
ANGLIN: And they were both involved in the Texas Human Rights Foundation.
LONGSTAFF: Yes, yes. And that’s how we got to be close. I went down to Houston, I was always mixed with, you know … and sometimes stayed at his house, too … at Robert’s house.
I don’t remember on what occasion that was … I think when the store was out of business or something, I’m not sure. No it wasn’t, because he died in the early 80s. He died in abut 1982. But he was the first close person I knew that died of AIDS. And it all happened in about … at least the visible part of it … happened in about seven months. And it was absolutely shocking the way, you know, I saw him turning into a skeleton. And I went to stay in his house once, and he had a partner back then, who was a doctor, and Robert couldn’t get out of bed; he was too weak and skinny. And, anyway, his doctor friend … I don’t remember his name … asked me, “Can you come in here and help me with Robert?” And we had to turn Robert over, because he couldn’t turn himself, to make him more comfortable in his bed. And I think he … whatever it was … he had to help him into the bathroom. And I thought, “I’ve never seen this before.” You now, to me, I was frightened, frightened of AIDS. I didn’t know what it was. None of us did. And also I wasn’t a very “touchy” person anyway, and just to touch anyone like that ... it was difficult. But I did, because I was asked to, and that was it. He was there. And it was … I’m glad I did now, and I’m glad I was around at that time to see Robert ... and to see what AIDS really could do. Few people had got to see it to that extent. They saw them while they could still walk on the streets, perhaps, and could have had Kaposi’s sarcoma … the “gay cancer” as they called it ... the skin disease, that was really disfiguring. So you saw that, but once they got really sick and couldn’t get out of the house, that was even worse, you know?
ANGLN: They would tend to disappear at that point …
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, anyway, usually from the first signs of it … to death … was usually six or seven months. Sometimes sooner. It was very fast. Well, it seemed like a slow death in its time, but now … for AIDS, you know … and, of curse, I’ve lost all those friends I had down there … all the gay activists, including Steve Shiflett. I once stayed at his house when he moved to San Francisco, and he was already sick then … or starting to get signs of it. And it was a bad situation with Steve, too, the way he went. I wasn’t living in San Francisco, of course, when he died. But I heard the details, and it wasn’t good. I don’t think his life in San Francisco, once he moved from Houston, turned out that well. I think it was, in part, he got sick … and Ii think he had trouble making a living there ... and a lot of other issues he had. Which is a shame, you know, because he did so well in Houston. Such a vibrant figure, too. An intelligent man. But Robert Schwab … he was really the fist really visible case I saw. So then Terry talked to me about it, and he says, “We want to do a pantry back here.” It was an empty space in the back of the Union Jack. It still empty, I think, now. They don’t know what to do with it. “And we want to turn it into a food pantry.” And I says, “Why?” And it was all explained to me ... you know, people losing their jobs because they got sick, or because they got diagnosed and couldn’t get insurance any more. Health insurance was a horrible issue that made me very bitter against the system, and I still am. The health issue here … I’m a firm believer in a single payer system. Something like “Medicare For All.” And we saw how bad the “free enterprise system” could be when AIDS started … including us at the store. Our premiums kept going up by leaps and bounds. We eventually found out we were “redlined.” The postal codes, 75219 it was, like it was in Houston … very difficult. The only way we could get insurance, they came into the store and took a blood sample from everybody there before they would insure us … for health insurance. And right in the middle of the store they took blood samples. And I was so bitter about that, too.
ANGLIN: Well, when did you first talk to Terry about his own health? Terry Tebedo?
LONGSTAFF: Well, he always brought the subject up; I didn’t. I was afraid to. I didn’t know what to say, because my business partner also had it at that time, too. Maurice ... you know, Maurice Cantu. He got sick. Just everybody was getting sick. All my friends in Houston were. And then it started, you know … sold the store there, and it burned down after that … so, about 1989 or so, late 80s … no … about ’92, I think, that burned down. And then people started to get … a lot of people, at that time, were getting sick with AIDS. But Terry was the one, I think, who approached me and said “Do you think it would be okay with that food pantry,” and I said, “Well, I don’t understand why.” And he said, “Well, people are losing their jobs … They’re going hungry. They can’t get anything.” You know, and we knew in the store how difficult it was with health insurance. It was a strange, strange thing; it was like a plague had come upon us. And I said, “Yeah, why not?” I didn’t understand all the reasons … I didn’t mix with all that many AIDS people, like they did, you know. We saw them come in the store. We saw them on Cedar Springs. And we knew some of our friends had it … and apart from … and none of them were going hungry. And I thought, well, that’s fine, you know. So they opened a food pantry.
ANGLIN: Behind the Union Jack?
LONGSTAFF: Behind the Union Jack, yeah. It was actually behind Tape Lenders more than us. So, that happened.
ANGLIN: And that still exists today.
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, the food pantry … but not in that location. They moved, yeah. The location wasn’t very good. The building was terrible, too. So, yeah, it was a bad, bad, bad period.
ANGLIN: Did you go to the funerals in that time?
LONGSTAFF: Some. Not many, you know, because I wasn’t close to that many people. So, no, I tried to avoid them if I could. It was just too … too difficult. It was … we didn’t know what to do.
ANGLIN: Speaking of the food pantry, there was the fire of 1989.
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, well, the Gay Community Center was next door to the Union Jack. The guy was a volunteer, apparently, in the Gay Community Center decided he was going to steal some computers ... break in at night and steal some computers. So, to cover his tracks, he set a small fire, he thought, to try and hide the evidence . whatever. A stupid thing to do. Well, it spread. It went into the ceiling above our store, and it got into the Roundup, and it got into their liquor room and that’s when the whole thing just blew up. And it knocked the whole three buildings down to the ground. So, we were gone. Well … I relocated a few doors down the street. There was an empty building there. So we could stay in business, even though we had to start afresh with the merchandise. But a lot of it was on order anyway. Like daily deliveries were coming in, so within a couple of weeks we got back open again. The Roundup … there was an empty building on Maple Avenue, which I think used to be a gay bar … and they moved into that. So they were situated, and they kept their business going until they could rebuild. And it took us a good 18 months to rebuild that building back and get back open again on Cedar Springs.
ANGLIN: Was it insured?
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, I had insurance, but it was tough to get the insurance company to pay. And I think the Roundup did a bit better than I did. I was grossly underinsured. So anyway, we did get the insurance money. Otherwise I couldn’t have survived, you know. I would have gone out of business. Couldn’t start again from scratch.
ANGLIN: Did they ever identify and catch the person who started it?
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, the person who did it … that’s why I mentioned how it got started … to cover up a theft ... He was obviously not too bright, because he went and sold the computers. And one of them, the woman [buyer] looked on the hard drive and discovered that the AIDS Resource Center or the Gay Community Center was on that computer. So she called the police, and the police investigated … and arrested him. But I don’t know anything more than that ... what happened to him after that. I’m assuming he went to jail, you know. That’s all I know. So that was the one arsonist on that street that actually went to jail, because there were so many suspicious fires ... one after another there. Mostly in the bars.
ANGLIN: Let’s turn now to the Richard Longstaff story as a citizen of the United Kingdom coming to America, and the process that you went through, because that’s also quite a story, that a lot of folks are very familiar with. But it’s worth talking about, and understanding. When you moved to Oklahoma, you were on some sort of a visitors visa?
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, I had a “green card.” I was a permanent resident. I don’t know how the process … I don’t remember back then the process. I came in as an immigrant, and I got a green card, I think fairly soon after my arrival here. You know … applied for a social security card, you know, because that’s all part of it. I didn’t have to … I think the draft was going at that time, but I didn’t have to register for that because I had already served in what they call “a NATO country” … so, the Royal Air Force, the British Air Force, so I didn’t have to worry about that. So what was the question?
ANGLIN: So you had a green card at that point, and that allowed you to work at Braniff.
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, and it gave me all the rights. Someone with a green card, and the rules still apply, I think they’re still the same, I, as a green card holder or a permanent resident in this country can do everything except vote … and I can’t serve on a jury … about the only two issues … otherwise the federal law applies to me like to any American citizen. So … no difference.
ANGLIN: So you had a social security number …
LONGSTAFF: Yes, everything like that … and I pay regular taxes like everybody else … Medicare … everything. Everything else is the same, except I can’t vote and I can’t serve on a jury. So I’ve never done those since I’ve lived in America. I did vote once in my life, in 1962 in England, before I immigrated, and I voted for the Liberal Party. The politics are different. We had sort of four parties. The Communist Party wasn’t anything, but … I voted for the Liberal Party, the “third party,” because the leader of the Liberal Party said, “If I become Prime Minister, we’ll decriminalize homosexuals.” The homosexual law … that was in 1962. And I said, “They’ve got my vote.” So I did. I voted for him. Because that was my political issue, and it has been my political issue ever since. You know, other politics … you know, I’m interested in them but that’s my number-one issue. If I were voting, I’d be looking at gay rights and gay issues ... or things that affected the gay community.
So, eventually, I thought, “Well, I probably should become a U.S. citizen.” I had thought about it, but I had been here ten years, and I was sitting in Ray Hardin’s office, you know, in the gay bar over there on Fitzhugh, I mean over there on Live Oak Street. And we were talking about getting organized politically. And I said, well, we have to get people registered to vote, and get them to the polls. You know, we were talking about the city council. So he says, “Well, you aren’t even a citizen, so why … you need to become one so you can go and vote.” And I says: “Well, I suppose you’re right.” So I went down and got the forms … the immigration forms, and decided that I’ll apply for naturalization. So I got my two witnesses together … my business partner and another friend who worked for Braniff Airways ... that’s how I got to know him. And so I went … I had to go to the county prison to be fingerprinted and photographed, you know, it was almost like criminal proceedings there. And it was the first time I had ever seen inside a jail, too. And I recognized some of the faces, too, some of the trustees that were doing the work and everything ... all in their little white outfits, you know ... white uniforms. Anyway, I got that done, and my first interview came up in the old Cabell Building, downtown Dallas. That’s the federal building, and also the immigration department was based, at that time, there. They have since moved, I think, out of that building ... the courthouse. So I went there to be interviewed. So I did. I say “interviewed” … it soon turned into an interrogation. And it was a horrible experience. I was in a small, closed room … no windows, no anything. Just a desk and two chairs. And I was in one of the chairs, and this other guy, the investigator, or the immigration officer came in and sat down there, with a file. And he went down the questionnaire I had to fill out to apply for naturalization, and also for entering the United States. And it’s a long list of silly questions, really, you know: “Was your mother a prostitute?” “Was your father a Communist?” “Is there any Communist in your family?” And “Have you been convicted,” or “Have you been arrested?” And I mean sensible questions, too, and other things, you know, but some really horrible questions. And then he said, “Are you a homosexual?” I says, “No.” And he starts going down the list again, and he comes back and he says, “Are you a homosexual?” Louder this time. And I says: “No.” And so he asks one or two other questions … and he comes back and says, “Are you a homosexual? You know what I mean … gay!” He shouted the word gay, very loud. And I said, “Well, I’ve had some homosexual experiences.” And I thought, where is this coming from? He says, “You know, if you don’t answer truthfully …” or he announces, before that, he demanded an answer. He says, “lack of candor … your application will be denied.” You know, “Your petition will be denied ... for lack of candor if you don’t answer my questions.” And, so, with that in mind, I thought, “Well, if I continue to lie, where’s this going to go?” You know, it could be worse. So I thought admitting to have had some homosexual experiences was better than just saying, out and out, “No.” And so I said, “Yes.” And he says, “Well, okay, where have you had sex?” He says, “Where in Dallas.” And I said, “I don’t think I’ve had sex in Dallas.” And he says: “Where … where?” And then I thought … ah … it’s legal in Colorado. I said, “The last time I was in Colorado I may have had a sexual experience there.” And then I couldn’t remember anything else, where I’d had sex. And he says: “How many times did you had sex, you know, with a man?” And I couldn’t remember that either. You know, I just said, “I don’t know .. I just don’t know.” You know, like I was flustered and all of this. I was trying … I had never been interrogated before. I didn’t know what to say, or how to react, or anything. And he was very loud, and it was a sterile room … it was something like you saw in the movies. You know, an interrogation. And then I … oh, then he disappeared for a while, and he was gone for a good twenty minutes, and I looked around and I thought there’s got to be a microphone or a camera somewhere … I expected to see one of those double mirror things, you know, all of that. But there wasn’t … it was just a sterile room. So, anyway, he came back in and started again, you know? And I still wouldn’t answer all his questions. So, anyway, so the interview finishes. So with that, then, about three weeks later the application forms come again, like right from the very beginning. Fresh. So I started afresh, and I thought, “Damn them!”
So I started afresh and started … I filled the forms out … sent them in. And of course it included being photographed, and being fingerprinted again, so I went to the county building, downtown, you know the top of that county building there, where the top three levels are a prison. I didn’t know that, I think no body knows that’s a prison at the top, but it was, or it still is. So I did all of that and I came back in, and they say, “Okay, you have to see a judge.” And then it got really bad in the federal building there. I had no attorney then, because I thought, well, you know, I didn’t know where it was going; I couldn’t see the reason for having that. I had a couple of friends in the court room; one was an attorney, I think. He was involved in the “gay switch board,” which I was involved financially with ... “GayLine” as they called it, which was one of the very first things “gaywise” in Dallas. We were paying the telephone bill for it. So he … Judge Joe Estes, a semi-retired federal district judge, or a judge, federal judge, I don’t know. He was handling immigration cases. So he was up there and he was looking down … he was way high up there … when you’ve been in one of those courtrooms … and they’re imperious … and oh just scary. So he’s looking down at me, and he demanded to know if I was a homosexual. And I said, “Yes, I have had some homosexual experiences.” And he said, “Before you came to the United States?” And I said, “Yes.” Anyway, and then he banged his gavel down and says: “Application denied.”
So that’s when I came away, and I was really upset, and I went over to Ray’s office ... Ray Hardin’s office … you know, the bar guy … first of all, and he says, “Well, I put you up to this.” And he says, “I’m sorry.” And all of that, and so we were talking about what we could do. And, well, I agreed. I thought I had seen so much of this stuff going on, and just to walk away from it, I thought, “No, this is not right.” So I felt I had to fight it. I’d done nothing wrong. I had no convictions of any kind. And it’s so unjust.
ANGLIN: Well, you’re a “model citizen,” except you’re not a citizen.
LONGSTAFF: Yeah, well, I got asked the question: “Why did you tell him you were gay?” I said they knew I was gay before I walked in that office. And they say, “How? How could they know that?” People were asking me, “Why did you tell them?” And I said, “They knew, and if I told a lie I could be deported, you know, it would be much worse.” People asked the question, and it’s such an obvious question to ask. But I felt that if I lied, my lie would eventually be exposed and I would have been in even more trouble. So I had to admit that I was gay. And they’d say, “How did they know?” And I didn’t really want to say much back in those days “why,” because I really didn’t realize … you know, I knew it was going on … I thought it was going on … but it wasn’t until after that, actually, that the police got caught taking license plate numbers outside gay bars. In Ft. Worth. They also got caught doing the same thing in Oklahoma City, and I’m assuming it was going on in Dallas. In fact, one meeting in City Hall they were having about the “crime watch” thing in the Oak Lawn area, and the police chief was there, and I asked him, you know, after the meeting, I says: “Do you … did you ever keep files on homosexuals in this town?” Just for the hell of it, as it were. And he said, “Well, I know nothing about that.” And I said, “Well, you know, they did that in Ft. Worth and in Oklahoma city.” And he said, “Oh that was before ...” you know, just brushed it off. But they did. It was done in every city. And I remember them outside … I went to a private party once in University Park and the police were outside there, taking license plate numbers down there. And I was at another party in Oklahoma City, where they did the same thing. And we know they did it in Ft. Worth, because a lawyer made them “cease and desist,” or whatever the term was, and an injunction against the police department to make them stop doing it in Ft. Worth. That never happened in Dallas, but I just assumed that it was going on here. It was affectionately known as “the fag file,” that the police departments were keeping on homosexuals. We know the F.B.I. was doing it ... and for no good reason … just for their … for someone’s gratification, and it was done in Dallas, too. And one of the issues when I first applied for naturalization was that the only investigation they did at that time was to look at the local police records, and the F.B.I. records perhaps. And the F.B.I. records have nothing, and the Dallas police report would have nothing except that I was a suspected homosexual, and that was it. That was enough for them. And, you know, I don’t know about the legalities of that. To me, it wasn’t legal back then; I don’t think … it isn’t now.
ANGLIN: Well, it was tolerated back then, and not tolerated now.
LONGSTAFF: Yes. It probably was legal if you were a suspected, you know, criminal. And we all were! It was all against the law … period! Even in your own home. Chapter 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code ... a Class C misdemeanor. But it was used ... for discrimination. And it was certainly used against all gay people … when they went out publicly or whatever.
ANGLIN: The policy justification, of course, being “You wouldn’t want a criminal to be a school teacher. So, we’re not saying you can’t be a school teacher because you’re gay, we’re saying you can’t be a school teacher because you’re a criminal ... since you’re gay.”
LONGSTAFF: Right. Yes, right. So they … that investigator knew I was gay even before he met me.
ANGLIN: He must have, because he kept on centering right back on it.
LONGSTAFF: Yes, that’s all he was interested in. All he was interested in. There was nothing else. There was nothing else apart from maybe a speeding ticket, perhaps. I don’t know … probably not, but I don’t know ... if that. But otherwise, a few parking tickets. Nothing! There was nothing. I’ve never been arrested for anything. It had to be the “fag file.” You know? And it was used against me.
ANGLIN: So you decided that “this wasn’t right” . . . so what did you do?
LONGSTAFF: Well, we looked around for immigration attorneys and we found one … he died … he’s now dead … I can’t think of his name. Anyway, I hired him and talked to him, and he was scratching his head. He had never heard of anything like this, you know, being denied naturalization because you were gay. And so I didn’t hear any more from the immigration department. There was one letter I got from them … they were asking me to withdraw my application for naturalization ... which I probably should have done until better times had come along, but I didn’t know what was going on. It was just wrong. Then they had a really big investigation of me for about six months. They sent investigators to Houston and to places that I had lived and had given as addresses, and in Dallas, too, knocked on neighbors’ doors, asking if they knew me to be a homosexual and this sort of thing. It wasn’t nice, what they did. Trying to dig up something. There was nothing negative from anybody, so they had nothing. So, in the end, the immigration department supported my petition for naturalization. It wasn’t until I went to Judge Joe Estes that he says, “No.” And he told the immigration department … no, first of all, he didn’t say “no” ... he turned to the immigration officers in the courtroom there to find a reason to not naturalize me. That was quite clear at the time. I’m getting my sequences a bit wrong here. So I realized I had to hire an attorney … which was Richard something … I can’t think of his last name now. And also Brian Bates was one of the guys … and he’s still around … he’s now in Houston … was one of the attorneys, too. And he was mostly, with me, was Brian Bates. Really nice man. I liked him, and he stayed with the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
So, anyway, after that investigation they found nothing, and then Judge Joe Estes … of course, we were in his court several times … and also in his chambers … and one of the lawyers noticed … and I didn’t notice so much … that during the conversations there … you know there were about five of us, six of us … in his chambers in the federal courtroom there … that when he was talking to me he’d never look at my face. He could never look at me. He always looked at somebody else, or somewhere else, couldn’t bring himself to look at a homosexual. You know, just a horrible, horrible, homophobic man, you know. Anyway …
ANGLIN: Did you appeal the case?
LONGSTAFF: Yes. Well, we appealed it to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
ANGLIN: And by this time, what had happened? Had Baker vs. Wade been decided by Judge Buchmeyer?
LONGSTAFF: I don’t remember all the dates and sequences there. I don’t know how that case went. There was talk, at one time, for me to be a plaintiff to challenge 21.06 because I had been discriminated against because of it. But they decided that I wouldn’t be a good candidate for that. And I didn’t want to be, either. I would have done it, if that’s what they wanted, but I didn’t want to be … I didn’t want that kind of publicity. And I wasn’t a good candidate, period. Because a lot of public speaking had to be done, and everything, and Don [Baker] was good at that. You know, he was educated, and you had to have someone who was more polished that I was. And he was … he could speak with passion and everything. And he did a very, very good job. And he wasn’t afraid of the media or anything. So, excellent choice. No, that was my only slight connection with the Don Baker case [Baker vs. Wade]. But I did then go to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. They didn’t know what to do either … with my case … they couldn’t really find a reason why I should be denied. They referred it back to Judge Joe Estes’s court, and that’s when I went into chambers with him and all of that. And it went back again to the Fifth Circuit, and they ruled against me then, on the grounds of being a “psychopathic personality,” and I lied on the immigration forms … not admitting to being a psychopathic personality. Because that was on the questionnaire.
ANGLIN: Even though the American Psychiatric Association had, many years before that, removed that …
LONGSTAFF: Prior to that! Yes. Yeah, back in the 70s they did that, yeah. Prior to that ... they removed homosexuality off their list of disorders ... or whatever the terminology was.
ANGLIN: As Dr. Judd Marmor, who was the president of the APA at that point in time, said, “We decided at that point to stop lying.” Because that is what the American Psychiatric Association had known it was doing … for decades … they were lying by saying it was a psychological disorder … and they knew better. Just to satisfy the population, because they knew there was so much prejudice. But under Judd Marmor the APA finally removed that designation.
LONGSTAFF: Oh, is that how that … I didn’t know that.
ANGLIN: He was one of the chief … probably the “lead witness” in Baker vs. Wade. He traveled to Dallas and testified in front of Judge Buchmeyer ... about the American Psychiatric Association’s decisions, about what brought that about, and he said, “Basically, we were just finally telling the truth. That it is not a sickness of any kind.”
LONGSTAFF: Well, that was brought up in my case, but the Fifth Circuit chose to ignore that. But they said, “This is how Congress has written the law.” Congress, at that time, hadn’t changed the rules there. And Congress has complete control of immigration. So, then, that’s how it was. It was on the law books, and, apparently, Congress meant for homosexuals to fall into the group of psychopathic personalities. So that included me … and all my friends ... and customers [laughter] … and movie stars. A whole bunch of people.
ANGLIN: So, you mentioned earlier the Supreme Court. How did it get to the Supreme Court?
LONGSTAFF: Well, the second time they denied it … in the Fifth Circuit … and Jeff Appleman was also involved, at that stage, from San Francisco. Jeff got involved in these gay immigration issues because of a case in San Francisco … similar to mine … another English guy ... flew in for Gay Pride events, from London to San Francisco … and of course he was ready for Gay Pride Week because he was covered in gay buttons … and gay lib … and gay as you could be. And he came through the immigration department like that. Whether it was a put-up job like that or not, I don’t know. But, anyway, he was denied entry. So Jeff Appleman was an immigration attorney in San Francisco. And when this guy from England was denied entry into the United States and was held at the San Francisco airport, he [Appleman] thought “Well what’s this about” … So he was more curious than anything. He had done a lot of pro bono work at that time. And so he decided to go down to the immigration department and say, “What’s this … You can’t do this.” You know, that kind of thing. And they said, “Well, yes we can because homosexuals are not allowed to come into the United States.” I think word had traveled through the immigration department of my issue, with my case, so it had become an issue with the immigration department. No one had realized before that homosexuals could not legally enter this country. And that was my case … “legal entry” was a prerequisite for naturalization. Well, apparent I had lied on the immigration forms by not admitting to being a psychopathic personality … so, and lying, of course, being one of the “excludable categories” ... barred me from coming into the United States. So the same thing with them. I guess the memo went out to all their departments that homosexuals were not allowed into the United States. So he was barred. So Jeff Appleman went down there and he tried … and he got him out somehow. Or got him into the city somehow, you know, until they could resolve the issue. So Jeff got involved that way. Jeff is a straight attorney, too, and a really good guy, and he joined in with my suit to the Fifth Circuit Court. And eventually we applied to, you know, after the second time of hearings with the Fifth Circuit (without going into the legal details here of why it went to the Fifth Circuit twice). So the Supreme Court refused to hear it and said it affects too few people. So they didn’t have the time for it, or whatever their reasoning was.
So there was a lot of publicity on the mere fact that they wouldn’t hear the case. The Dallas Times Herald … sorry, the Dallas Morning News reports … one of the newspapers … called the head of the immigration department here in Dallas and said, “Now what are you going to do about Longstaff, now that he had been denied naturalization on the basis of illegal entry? Are you going to depart him?” And he casually answered … the immigration guy did … said, “Well, I suppose so.” And, of course, it’s front page news ... in the Morning News, and then all over the world. The New York Times said: “British Homosexual To Be Deported.” And then the London Times picked up the same story that said “Gay Brit To Be Deported From the United States.” I thought that wording was interesting. The word “homosexual” had been dropped, and the word “gay” put in … in the London Times. But it was an AP story … or a UPI story, or whatever ... one of those syndicates.
Anyway, so then, it looked like things could get really difficult. So we looked at the possibility of . . . Oh! I forgot … with the San Francisco case … that went to the Ninth Circuit. They appealed that all the way to the Ninth Circuit. And the Ninth Circuit ruled in the gay guy’s favor. They won there. So we had two different federal laws [decisions] going to the Supreme Court ... their interpretations of it … and they refused to hear it … so we had two different laws in different parts of the country. So, like, in California, you could come in and out and be an openly gay person, but not anywhere else in the United States ... or at least in the Ninth … in the West Coast area. Anyway, so I was placed for deportation, and my friend Steve Shiflett, the gay activist in Houston called. We didn’t have any friends in Congress in Dallas at that time, so they called Mickey Leland’s office and said, “Can we put a stop to this possible deportation?” And he said, “Yes, I’ll inform the immigration department that I’m going to put a private member’s bill before Congress” … if they started deportation hearings against me … to stop it. To put a hold on it. So, with that, the immigration department pretty much backed off, and I heard nothing more from them ... until Jeff Appleman did call them some years later and says: “What are you going to do about Longstaff? He needs his green card. He can’t go anywhere without his green card.” You know, they had taken it away from me. I couldn’t leave the country. And it was a bad time, you know, my mother at that time had had heart surgery, so I couldn’t go and visit her … and all of that. Couldn’t do that. I couldn’t get back into the country with no green card. So they said, “We’ll give him his green card back, as long as he doesn’t apply for naturalization and just keeps a low profile.” Which I’ve done for all these years. So, and that’s how it’s been.
So I called Jeff Appleman, just recently, about a year ago, mostly because a local film maker was wanting to do a documentary on me, but it fizzled. The project fizzled ... a movie on me. I think he lost interest in it. And so I called him and I says: “You know, I’m still not a U.S. citizen. Is there anything we can do here? There’s still unfinished business.” And he says: “I agree with you, I’ll see what I can do.” So, he had an office, his law firm did, in Washington, D.C., so they were busy with the immigration department in Washington, D.C., and so the word came back saying “We’re very, very sorry. He should be a U.S. citizen, but our hands are tied. The Fifth Circuit has got its name on the law suit, and there’s no way we can do anything about that.” Nothing they can do. It’s a decided issue, and the Supreme Court refused to hear it, so that was it. Nothing more I could do legally. So I just thought, oh, well, I guess I never will be a U.S. citizen.
ANGLIN: Well this is interesting, and this is just a reaction of mine … that after that happened … after the Supreme Court’s decision saying it affected too few people, whatever … the law changed. The Supreme Court changed the law in Lawrence vs. Texas, and invalidated all the 21.06-type laws throughout the country.
LONGSTAFF: It invalidates the statute, yes. Fourteen states at that time, yes, I think.
ANGLIN: So, the changed circumstance, now, is that the supreme law of the land has been changed since your case ... by the Supreme Court in its Lawrence decision, saying that all these laws, upon which Judge Estes based his decision (that you were a criminal), have now been invalidated as contrary to the protections of the United States Constitution.
LONGSTAFF: Well, Jeff said that we can try, even though they’ve said that, we can go the legal routes, still, if you want. But he said, “It’s probably going to be expensive and I don’t think there’s much chance of us winning.” And I said, well, I’ve spent enough money doing this, so I couldn’t see the point. It could drag on for years. And, you know, at my age, I’d never see the benefits of that. And so, after hanging up on the phone with him, I got to thinking, “Well, there is one way, perhaps, and that would be a presidential pardon.” And then I thought, “Well, I live here in Oak Cliff; my Congressperson is Eddie Bernice Johnson; and she’s very gay friendly … maybe approaching her office.” Because I was friends with Harryette Ehrhardt, so I called Harryette, and told her, and she said, “Well, come over to my house and we’ll talk about this.” She said, “I’ll have Terry Hodges over, at the same time, and she works in Eddie Bernice Johnson’s office … unofficially, kind of thing, as a fund raiser … that’s her job there, I think.” So we sat in Harryette’s living room there on Swiss Avenue, in her house, and we talked about it. And so I said, “What are the chances of a presidential pardon?” And Terry Hodges was extremely keen on this, and she said, “Well, I want a presidential pardon, too.” With her issues. And she said, “I’ll talk to the Congresswoman and we’ll see if there’s anything that can be done.” So anyway, the Congresswoman agreed that it would be a good issue to go with. So we started then getting the information they wanted about me … mostly the legal issues … to apply for a presidential pardon. So Tom Coleman, in California, was extremely helpful. He had kept my old files. So he and his law firm there, pro bono, I might add, thank goodness, did a lot of work and investigated the presidential pardon issues ... you know, what we would need to get that. And so I took it all over to Eddie Bernice Johnson’s office … so they’ve got all of that information now, and they forwarded a copy to the Justice Department in Washington, and also to the White House. So that’s where it’s sitting now. It’s all pending. The Justice Department, I think, has to recommend it and say, yeah, this is a good case, to go forward with it to the Office of Pardons within the administration. Something like that. And they called back and said the biggest issue we’ve got here … I mean … what charges have been brought against you? I said, “Nothing.” And they asked if I had been accused of anything, and I said, “No.” I said, “I have no convictions of any kind. Nothing.” And they said, “This is the difficulty.” And this is where Tom Coleman’s work came in and said that presidential pardons have been used for people who have not been convicted of any crime ... namely Richard Nixon ... and a lot of other politicians … Oliver North, I think. And all of these people came up. And anyway Oliver North maybe not, but Richard Nixon was one. And there were quite a few others … and they were all pardoned, and had committed no crime. Their slate was wiped clean so nothing could happen to them. And I thought, if this could happen for me, then I could apply for naturalization again. So, anyway, I thought, “It’s a long shot, but just for the hell of it. It’s not costing me any money.” This is the thing. I’m tired of spending money on that issue, you know. But it’s in the history books. It has made its mark. The federal laws got changed, because of the publicity in my case. Barney Frank and Alan Simpson … Senator Simpson and Congressman Frank … co-sponsored a bill and got the law amended. So homosexuals, then, could legally come into the country. That was all back in the late 80s when that happened, and so I think that was accomplishment enough. You know? That was good ... that something happened. That no one would be intimidated again upon entering the United States.
ANGLIN: Wow. Well, I’m sorry that you had to go through it.
LONGSTAFF: Yeah. Well, a lot of other people did, too, with a lot of other cases, you know. Don Baker, for instance, you know. A lot of people. It is very hard to win a case ... a gay legal case. And it was not until gay marriage came along that we won anything hardly. Very few cases we won in the courts.
ANGLIN: There is a lot of progress, just in the past few years.
LONGSTAFF: And it’s all marriage, too. It has changed attitudes completely.
ANGLIN: Well there was the Dormer decision in Colorado that said that a state can’t pass a law that prohibits cities from creating ordinances banning discrimination against gay people. Because there were people in the state that were tired of the liberal cities passing protective ordinances. So the politicians at the state level just said, “We’re going to pass a state law that says the cities can’t do that.” And the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that you can’t do that. You can’t pick out a sub-group and pass a law that deprives them of access to city councils seeking ordinances that protect them. And then of course the Lawrence vs. Texas decision is huge because it invalidated all same-sex criminal laws.
LONGSTAFF: Oh, yes, that was wonderful. I think the world is a lot better place since when I first came to America. Not just America, but the world is a better place. And certainly it’s a lot better for gay people thanks to issues like the rights of gay marriage. Breakthroughs like that change attitudes completely.
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Interview and transcription by Mike Anglin