Guest Editorial: Be a part of local LGBT history

Posted: January 20th, 2017 | Editorial, Opinion & News, Opinions | No Comments

Historical film documenting bars and a webTV project about Balboa Park seek your input to stir up the past

By Lambda Archives Staff

Lambda Archives is pleased to be participating in two fun projects that highlight different parts of San Diego’s rich LGBTQ history, and we are seeking your help.

Paul Detwiler and Chris Cashman, both local San Diego filmmakers, are producing a documentary tentatively titled, “San Diego Queer History: the Bars,” that will explore the history of, and important roles played by, bars and nightclubs in the development of the San Diego LGBT community.

“The LGBT community has always viewed its bars as places of sanctuary,” Detwiler said. “The outpouring of feeling globally after the Pulse massacre was a powerful reminder of this. The San Diego bars, past and present, are also special places and we want to tell their stories, too.”

The filmmakers are seeking people who have stories about the bar scene anytime from the 1950s through the ’80s. If you remember those days, they would like to hear your firsthand experiences.

They are also searching for photos and other visual documentation of those historic spaces. If you have photos from inside or outside of any of the bars (especially the older ones that are no longer around), please consider sharing them — they could potentially be included in the documentary, and if so, you would be fully credited.

Participants listen to oral histories of Balboa Park’s “Fruit Loop” at last year’s Parkeology event. (Photo by Shaun Parker)

The documentary has fiscal sponsorship from the nonprofit San Diego Media Arts Center (, so any contributions made toward the film can be tax-deductible when made through the Media Arts Center’s online donation form at You can choose any amount to donate, but under the “program” section, make sure to select “other” and note the specific program (San Diego Gay Bar History Documentary) so that your contribution will be earmarked toward the film.

For more information, please contact Paul at

The other project seeking input is one the Archives helped with last year, called Parkeology.

Creator Kate Clark describes Parkeology as a “live event, webTV and podcast series that unearths lesser-known sites and stories of our urban parks.”

“Parkeology hosts events that explore popular and obscure locations in the park, from the secret lives of artifacts to closeted histories, from underground models to reimagined organ pavilions,” Clark said.

Each event is featured by Channel Parkeology as a webTV series hosted by Park Ranger Kim Duclo and Clark, Parkeology’s director.

Seasons I and II of the web-based series feature Balboa Park and its long history with the San Diego LGBT community. As in last year, Parkeology will soon host an evening in the park’s storied “Fruit Loop” (Marston Point) to hear the stories of this side of queer history with a reception.

“In collaboration with Lambda Archives, we introduce a second season of accounts from those who participated in, surveilled or managed the cruising culture in Balboa Park,” Clark said. “For one night, the parking lot of Fruit Loop will be transformed into a listening theater. Parked cars will play the firsthand stories of the men and women who remember when Balboa Park was a prime meeting place during a time when being gay was illegal.”

“Queen’s Circle: Cruising Oral Histories of Balboa Park” will be presented on Friday, Feb. 24, from 5:30–11 p.m. at the Marston Point parking lot in the park. The event is free to the public and no reservations are required. It is ADA accessible.

“Though hookup apps are the primary forum for orchestrating casual sex [today], many remember how park restrooms, foliage and parking lots facilitated the lost art of cruising,” Clark added. “Since the ’50s, Balboa Park has served as a place for the LGBTQ community to come of age, to encounter the AIDS crisis and even to experience fatal hate crimes.”

Parkeology is supported by the San Diego Art Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts, the San Diego Foundation, the California Arts Council, the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, and the Project for Public Spaces.

“I’m interested in creating interactive experiences that engage all the senses in order to help us connect more to each other, our environments and our histories,” said Clark, who has a background in public art and urban design.

If you have stories of the Fruit Loop or the early bars, please get in touch by emailing your contact information to or by calling 619-260-1522. To see information about last year’s Queen’s Circle episode of Parkeology, visit

—Lambda Archives is located at 4545 Park Blvd., in University Heights. To learn more, visit or call 619-260-1522.

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