Gay Activists Alliance Zap at Radio City Music Hall
The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) zapped a presidential campaign fundraiser for Mayor John V. Lindsay on January 25, 1972, after his continual refusal to publicly back a bill before the City Council to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
GAA members thoroughly disrupted the event inside, making noise, handcuffing themselves to balcony railings, and releasing flyers, while hundreds picketed outside.
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On January 25, 1972, Mayor John V. Lindsay, running for president, held a campaign fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall. This was the first private benefit event ever held at the Hall, and was controversial since invitations had been sent to city commissioners, who were barred from making political contributions but were in attendance. The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) decided to zap the event due to what the group considered the mayor’s refusal to sufficiently and publicly back Intro 475 (Clingan-Burden Bill) that had been introduced into the City Council in January 1971 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodation. (See our curated theme for background on the “zap” tactic.) This was one of the first GAA actions since Rich Wandel had become president on January 1.
The New York Times reported that “The Mayor was interrupted at the start of his remarks by three hecklers who shouted for justice for homosexuals. Mr. Lindsay walked off the stage and the hecklers were evicted…” These three GAA members were Morty Manford, Steve Ashkinazy, and Cora Perrotta. Another dozen activists who had infiltrated the event, including Wandel in a fake Abraham Lincoln beard, Marty Robinson, Steve McBride, Frank Arango, and Vito Russo, handcuffed themselves to balcony railings and set off air horns and alarms. GAA newsletter editor Ernest Cohen released hundreds of “Lindsay Lies to Gays” flyers from one of the balconies to the main floor below.
Outside Radio City, in sub-freezing weather, was a large crowd of some 500 to 700 picketers, which included GAA, the Forest Hills Residents Association, and Jewish Defense League. The GAA contingent, consisting of some 250 members and friends, stayed for two hours and was covered by two TV stations and radio.
Related GAA Zaps
The following day, Wandel held a press conference at the GAA Firehouse. At the same time, seven members were arrested at City Hall after first posing as a Columbia University journalism class and then chaining themselves to interior railings, and Jo Carroll to the Mayor’s desk. The “Lindsay 7” were Carroll, Perrotta, Arango, Bruce Gelbert, Nathalie Rockhill, Brenda Howard, and Ed Eisenberg.
Later in the day, eight GAA and Gay Women’s Liberation Front members were arrested at Lindsay’s campaign headquarters on the 12th floor at 415 Madison Avenue, posing as a Queens College Lindsay for President group. The “Lindsay 8” (Wandel, Manford, Ashkinazy, Martin Clabby, Paul Hons, James Vetter, Cathy Stein, and Deni Covello) were arraigned that evening at Criminal Court downtown, and were supported there by about 100 members of the LGBT community.
Following the defeat of Intro 475 in committee the next day (January 27), Lindsay was threatened with protests by gay rights groups wherever he appeared nationally. On February 7, the mayor announced an administrative directive to protect LGBT city employees against discrimination in hiring and promotion, claiming to be the first public official in the country to do so. In March, Lindsay addressed GAA directly in a letter published in the newspaper GAY.
Read about other GAA actions, listed in chronological order, in our curated theme.
Additional LGBT History at Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall operated under a movie and stage-show format for its first five decades. Since 1979, it has mainly featured concerts and special attractions. Among the LGBT performers who have appeared here have been Liberace (in his final performances in 1986), David Bowie, Peter Allen, Whitney Houston, Elton John, and Barry Manilow.
Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (August 2020).
NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.
- Architect or Builder: The Associated Architects (Reinhard & Hofmeister; Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray; and Hood, Godley & Fouilhoux), with Edward Durell Stone, design supervisor
- Year Built: 1931-32
Arthur Bell, “Gays in Chains,” Gay Activist, March 1972, 5, 7, 8, 20.
David Carter, Stonewall: the Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004), 251.
Gay Activists Alliance, “The Lindsay 15 Goes to Court” press release, February 2, 1972.
John Francis Hunter, “The Gay Insider,” GAY, February 21, 1972, 5, 7.
John P. LeRoy, “Lindsay Issues Job Directive for City Gays,” GAY, March 6, 1972.
Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: the Story of the Struggle (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015), 220-223.
“Lindsay Speech Disrupted by Activists,” GAY, February 21, 1972.
Martin Tolchin, “Thousands of City Employees Attend Lindsay Benefit,” The New York Times, January 26, 1972, 18.
“Mayor Lindsay Speaks to the Gay Community,” GAY, April 3, 1972, 1.
“New City Directive Bars Hiring Bias on Homosexuals,” The New York Times, February 8, 1972, 35.
“Protestors Face Trials for Lindsay Zaps,” GAY, March 6, 1972.
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