45 Years of Stirring the Pot

Ever since the first issue of The Advocate clandestinely rolled off the presses in 1967, the content of the magazine has engendered debate, adulation, and occasionally venom.

BY Neal Broverman and Michelle Garcia

August 21 2012 3:00 AM ET

At The Advocate we’ve worked hard to keep people talking about the issues of the day, though the response to some articles was not always what we expected. Sometimes we got it wrong, and sometimes, despite our best efforts (or because of them), we became part of the news ourselves.

September 1969: The “Newspaper of America’s Homophile Community,” as The Advocate called itself then, relegated the Stonewall riots to page 3, while a still image from Midnight Cowboy featuring a naked Jon Voight took the cover.

April 23, 1975: The Advocate became a contender, landing an interview with up-and-coming star and Continental Baths diva Bette Midler. None other than legendary queer photographer Annie Leibovitz snapped the accompanying photo of Midler primping for a performance, while her PR team sweated over the “gay” interview.

March 10, 1976: Former San Francisco 49ers running back Dave Kopay was the first major pro athlete to come out when he shared his story with The Washington Star in December 1975. A few months later he spoke to The Advocate about being gay in the locker room and his decision to come out.

August 7, 1980: With an image of San Francisco as the cover, “Gentrification: Is the Gay Role in Urban Restoration Creating a Backlash?” centered on gays turning around rundown urban neighborhoods, sometimes to the detriment of African-American residents who found themselves priced out of their homes. Writer Thom Willenbecher took on the nuanced subject with aplomb, pointing the finger at racist gays as well as homophobic black city leaders. Willenbecher suggested the new queer, mostly white, residents partner with their racial minority neighbors on elections and improvement projects. Thankfully, Willenbecher didn’t forget that gays of color exist: “Gay blacks must stand up and be counted,” he urged.

March 18, 1982: The term AIDS wasn’t mentioned once in “Is the Urban Gay Male Lifestyle Hazardous to Your Health?” cover story. The mysterious illness at the story’s center was then known as GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency). A questionnaire from the Centers for Disease Control found that many of the infected were promiscuous, and some were drug users. Amid all the clinical discussion of T cells and Kaposi’s sarcoma, an overarching fear that the “fast-living” urban gay existence may have serious repercussions was evident.

December 23, 1982: “Sock It to ’Em: The Foot & the Fantasy”: Yes, while AIDS was exploding, we devoted a cover to an utterly out-of-touch exploration of foot fetishes. (Or was it? After all, foot play is safe sex.)

February 17, 1983: The Advocate finally put AIDS on the cover, with the unforgettable image of three men in a bathhouse seeing, hearing, and speaking no evil. The article, “Coping With a Crisis,” was just as powerful, with writers Larry Bush and Nathan Fain asking scientists, doctors, and politicians what they were doing to halt the seemingly unstoppable progression of AIDS.

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