overview

The first public zap by the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) occurred on April 13, 1970, in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during its 100th anniversary celebration.

This began a series of zaps over the next year protesting Mayor John V. Lindsay’s refusal to take a public stance on gay rights issues.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2019.

History

On April 13, 1970, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Mayor John V. Lindsay was invited to participate in a morning ceremony on the front steps that also inaugurated the new fountain in front of the museum. The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) was furious over the police raid at the Snake Pit on March 8, and had been trying without success to engage the mayor over the issues of police harassment of, and job discrimination against, the LGBT community. GAA decided to confront Lindsay at the museum in its first public zap. (See our curated theme for background on the “zap” tactic.)

We were going to disrupt Mayor Lindsay’s personal life and the personal life of his family as a result of the political consequences of his administration. So we decided that every time he appeared in public or every time that we could get to him, we would make life as personally uncomfortable for him as we could and remind him of the reason why.

Arthur Evans , GAA member, c. 2004

Marty Robinson briefly interrupted Lindsay’s museum speech, but was pulled away by police. After the ceremony, the mayor was handed a GAA flyer, and GAA president Jim Owles said to him, “You have our leaflet. Now when the hell are you going to speak to homosexuals?” About fifteen GAA members with leaflets, including Arthur BellArthur Evans, and Morty Manford, also managed to join the receiving line inside the museum and individually continued to confront Lindsay. At no point did the mayor respond or comment on gay rights.

 

Related GAA Zaps Against Lindsay
Six days later, on April 19, 1970, about 40 GAA members infiltrated the taping of the TV show “With Mayor Lindsay” at WNEW-TV’s studios at 205 East 67th Street. Forming one third of the audience, GAA continually interrupted the show, to the exasperation of Lindsay and guest Arthur Godfrey. The disruptions were edited out of the broadcast, but Owles and Robinson were invited back the next night on a news program. This action also prompted a meeting between GAA members and Lindsay administration officials ten days later.

Frustrated by Mayor Lindsay’s continued public silence on LGBT issues, GAA continued its zaps on him in the fall of 1970. As the mayor and his wife Mary entered the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera on its opening night, September 14, 1970, they were confronted by a GAA member who shouted “What are you going to do about ending police harassment of homosexuals?” before being grabbed by police. About 30 GAA members, who had dressed up and infiltrated the opera patrons, chanted “End Police Harassment!” and “Gay Power!” This was noted by the New York Times and several other media outlets.

About 25 GAA members confronted the mayor and his wife again on October 28, 1970, while they were entering the Imperial Theater for a benefit performance of Two by Two. This time, Mary Lindsay lost her temper and assaulted several people by kicking and hitting them, while the mayor attempted to restrain her.

Finally, in May 1971, Lindsay gave in to GAA’s constant pressure, and his office quietly issued a statement in favor of Intro 475 (Clingan-Burden Bill) that had been introduced into the City Council in January to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Read about other GAA actions, listed in chronological order, in our curated theme.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Richard Morris Hunt and Richard Howland Hunt (front façade)
  • Year Built: 1894-1902

Sources

  1. Arnie Kantrowitz, Gay Activists Alliance Meeting Minutes, September 17 and October 29, 1970.

  2. Arthur Bell, Dancing the Gay Lib Blues: A Year in the Homosexual Liberation Movement (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971), 51-53.

  3. David Carter, Stonewall: the Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004), 243-247. [source of pull quote]

  4. “GAA Confronts Lindsay at Channel 5,” GAY, May 11, 1970.

  5. “GAA Confronts Lindsay at Museum,” GAY, May 4, 1970.

  6. “GAA – then til now,” Gay Activist, April 1971.

  7. “GAA – then til now,” Gay Activist, April 1971.

  8. Grace Glueck, “For Museum Birthday, Good Cheer and Cake,” The New York Times, April 14, 1970, 1.

  9. Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: the Story of the Struggle (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015), 219-220.

  10. “Lindsay and Wife Zapped by Gay Activists,” GAY, November 23, 1970, 1.

  11. “Marty Robinson,” in Kay Tobin (Lahusen), The Gay Crusaders (New York: PaperBack Library, 1972).

  12. “Met Opera Returns With Quiet Elegance,” The New York Times, September 15, 1970, 54.

  13. “Militant Homosexuals to Stage March to Central Park Today,” The New York Times, June 27, 1971, 30.

  14. Morty Manford and Arthur Evans, “The Theory and Practice of Confrontation Tactics, Part 2: The Political Function of Zaps” GAY, February 26, 1973, 17.

  15. “WNEW-TV is Struck by Studio Engineers,” The New York Times, May 24, 1970.

Curated Themes

20 Sites

Gay Activists Alliance

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

Various Locations
Central Park
Public Spaces
411 East 76th Street
Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Cultural & Educational Institutions
315 East 68th Street
Mercedes de Acosta Residence
Residences