Michael Bettinger Interview

Excerpt from an interview with Michael Bettinger:

CG:  A curiosity I have about Stonewall and the phenomenon that grew out of it is about how previous events happened in San Francisco and Los Angeles and other places where there were, you know, altercations with police that led to disruptions and- of different gay establishments, um but I’m always, I’m always curious to hear from my interviewees what was different about New York that really pushed the Stonewall incident in the direction that it went to become this turning point?


MB: Alright, my belief and view: it was only serendipity. It was a very hot night a very warm night that June night.  For what its worth Judy Garland was buried that afternoon. Uh, she was very popular in the community and I think it was just serendipity that the police uh, decided to raid Stonewall that night. You can read all about the history, the payoffs and exactly how it happened. It could just as easily have happened in San Francisco I think. In San Francisco we had several events, the Compton Cafeteria riots and there was another riot that happened a few years before. There was a lot of activity going on, you know just below the surface level of you know what happened with Stonewall.  The fact that it happened in New York and Stonewall, was a seminal moment -- it ‘s like Rosa Parks or a lot of other things. It just changed forever the nature of how everyone was looking on this and everyone knew it was time. And the movement picked up all over the country and all over the world really started, but it could have happened in San Francisco just as easily. There was a lot of activism going on here around the same issue too.  So my belief, it was just serendipity.


CG: Mhmm, now… yeah, yeah.


MB: But it was the Vietnam War, it was what was called women’s liberation it was the racism going on, the civil rights movement.  It was uh, you know, gay people decided, hey we have the exact same issues.


CG: Yeah, it was a critical mass of things that all converged.  Uh, when you were talking earlier you mentioned briefly, earlier something that happened in San Francisco uh…


MB: Yeah, that’s my aversion to riots uh the night of the Dan White decision there were riots at City Hall.  Several cop cars were burned, an ex boyfriend calls me up “hey look, come on down, look what’s going on here… cop cars are burning, there’s rioting going on in the Castro.”  The cops did riot in the Castro and again I have the motorcycle downstairs in the garage and I ask myself “do I want to go see this?” I can get on the bike, I can just stay on the periphery. No, I do not like riots, is what I thought. I’ll pass on this. I’ll read about it tomorrow morning in the newspaper.

Michael Bettinger Interview