KEITH ST CLARE
Keith St Clare is a shining diadem inside The LGBTQ History Project’s treasure chest. A diadem that bars the chest from closing. Anyone who wants to understand Keith should devour his Vanguard Magazine. Vanguard magazine planted the seeds for Keith’s lifelong devotion to community.
At 17 and a half years old, illegally joined the United States Air Force
At 21 years old, in 1967, become editor of pre-Stonewall Vanguard, the first gay, San Francisco magazine with mass distribution
Was bylined under Keith’s real name, “It was scary”
Published the limited gay services available and listed Keith’s home phone number and address
Featured the persecuted: youth, drug addicts, transgenders, hair fairies, drag queens and all gay men and women
Was the only gay editor who was a registered member of the Underground Press
Raised over 600 foster and group home kids
Produced 186 episodes of the nationally distributed and entirely youth run TV show, “Young Ideas”
Worked commercially for community theaters and community centers with Project New Pride
Vanguard was not to become absolutely one side or the other. When a publication goes out there and says, "The police have no business having anything to say in this publication, they're our enemy," that's a very consequential statement. I thought it was very important, if I was having trouble with the police, that I need to go down and I need to talk to the Police Commission and the Police Community Relations Board. I wanted to become one of their friends, small ‘f,’ because I expected them to be suspicious of me, and I expected to be suspicious of them. These friendships needed to be productive. My effort, in terms of police brutality, was to go and try to make friends with the police and to get them into small groups and to get them to talk with the hair fairies and the transsexuals and drag queens and to get them to reason. For everybody to get everybody's business cards and addresses and phone numbers and to get some help for them. Get some help for everybody and to get some jobs. And to get them to apply for jobs and get them to know where openings were. Try to get a drag queen on the police force, into some kind of job.
"You'll see a vase and it's got flowers in it, but you turn it around and you find the flowers are all plastic and that they are taped on the side of the vase and it's kind of an offense. There is a column and then there is a pilaster. A column is a beautiful thing in itself. You walk around it and it's magnificent, but a pilaster is kind of a cheat. Why are you there? Why? Why are you a pilaster?
'Gay is Good' is a phrase that I met at a conference for gay editors, and I thought this is good and I am going to do everything I can do to promote this. So I did, and I did everything I could do to get it to people who had money and the means to make as many of them on buttons as possible. When I was assembling them, I go so many cuts on my hands but they were like a crown of thorns of honor. To get them into pots and bags and bowls and throw them from cars and from the ranks of the early Gay Parades. After I made several thousand buttons, I couldn't count anymore. It was an idea that was wonderful, and I threw a lot of them myself. It was why I marched.
Vanguard’s overall goal was to figure out what we could accomplish. What people were talking about, what their objectives were and how they could accomplish them as the next thing or during the next period. I was listening and trying to come up with my little part of the thing and my little part of the thing was Vanguard. Doing the things that I did not hear. The things that nobody else was doing. Nobody else was doing anything that was going to be a little bit more lavender, a little bit more light, a little bit more philosophical, a little bit more scientific, a little bit cheaper, a little bit easier to read and a little bit more hands on. Smaller and irregular. A little bit more rude and crude and flexible. Something that could be published now and then.
I applied for a job on the Commission and they interviewed me and a better person got on the Commission. I applied again but a better person got it, a woman that time—I got respect all the time. Although I didn't get it, I did get it. I just didn't get paid for it.
I think that happiness is the greatest part of good health. Trying to be in pursuit of happiness is healthy."