Arthur Evans with sign

Arthur Evans (1942-2011)

    Arthur Evans and I met in late summer 1969, in the early days of the New York Gay Liberation Front (GLF), and formed a friendship which lasted until his death in San Francisco on 11 September 2011, at the age of 68. After Arthur moved to San Francisco in 1974, he and I continued to correspond and exchange books with each other, and we saw each other when I visited SF.
    In the late fall of 1969, the weekly GLF meetings became utter chaos, thanks to the “no votes” and “structureless structure” resolutions which had been passed. People would SCREAM at each other over the slightest provocation, and virtually nothing got done. I remember Arthur and me sitting on the periphery, watching the horror show from a distance, and talking about our dreams for gay liberation. He had the vision and the practical ability to do what had to be done.
    Above all, Arthur should be remembered as one of the three main founders of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) in November 1969, and as the architect of the GAA Constitution — which ensured that the new organization would focus entirely on gay rights and that its affairs would be conducted in a democratic and orderly way. [1]
    Arthur started a Radical Study Group, which met at the apartment of his lover, Arthur Bell. In a letter to me he wrote:

What I do remember was your suggestion that we read Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, a book that has had a major impact on my own intellectual development. I will always be grateful for our discussion of that book and other works. I found the Radical Study Group to be much more satisfying than my graduate study in philosophy at Columbia University at the time. By comparison to participants in the Radical Study Group, my professors at Columbia seemed like intellectual sleep-walkers. (Arthur Evans to John Lauritsen, 3 March 2008)

At one of these meetings Arthur Bell gave me a copy of Lionel Tiger's book, Men in Groups, which had an impact on my own thinking, moving me to concentrate on male relationships.
    In 1981, Arthur and Hank Wilson became the first two people to warn gay men about the dangers of “poppers” (nitrite inhalants). This was on the verge of what came to be known as the “Gay Health Crisis” and later “AIDS”. At this time, the so-called “AIDS virus” — first “LAV”, then “HTLV-III”, and finally “HIV” — had neither been “discovered” nor named. Arthur's article, “POPPERS: an ugly side of gay business”, written for the San Francisco newspaper, Coming Up!, proved to be tragically prophetic; he clearly saw the link between the gay male lifestyle and the new illnesses. To read the poppers article click here. [2]
    Arthur's second article on gay business, 
“Drinking: a gay way of life”, was published in December 1981.  To read his article on alcoholism among gay men it click here.
    In 2009, on the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, GLF and GAA, Arthur distributed a statement, in which he beautifully summed up the goals and history of gay liberation. To read it click here
    In a letter to the San Francisco Bay Times of 9 July 2009, Arthur made an incisive critique of “queer” and “LGBT”. He concluded: “I acknowledge the right of other people to call themselves LGBT, or G, or queer. But please don't dump any of these terms on me. I'm still gay and proud.” To read this letter click here
    In his last years, Arthur was severely criticized by some “progressives” for his part in helping pass Proposition L, the civil-sidewalks law. My own sympathies were entirely with Arthur, based on a letter to me:

Am still trying to get the money together to move to Northern California. My street is overwhelmed with drug dealers, junkies, drunks, the whole bit. Incessant noise and aggravation — people crapping and pissing on the sidewalk, pounding on drums around the clock, pushing drugs in everybody's face, blasting radios, fighting with each other, smashing bottles on the sidewalk. This scene has made it very hard for me to work, and greatly demoralized me. Hopefully, I'll be able to get the money together somehow to move this summer. We'll see. (Arthur Evans to John Lauritsen, 14 May 2001)          

But Arthur couldn't get the money together, and stayed in Ashbury, San Francisco.
    In January 2011, Arthur wrote that his health was deteriorating, and asked for information on how he might find an institutional buyer for his papers.  Knowing that his days were limited, he had the excellent foresight to write his own obituary.  To read it click here.
    With Arthur's death, I have lost a friend and comrade.

For all eternity, brother, hail and farewell!
(Catullus 101, tr. JL)

John Lauritsen, 19 October 2011

1. To read the GAA Constitution click here.  To visit the Gay Activists Alliance pages click here

2. For other articles on poppers click here

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