A repeat of a rare July 15, 1962 broadcast for its time. A round table discussion by eight male homosexuals discussing their lives and loves.
Moderator: WBAI Public Affairs Director, Dick Elman.
To humanize homosexuality, Randolfe Wicker brought together a panel of eight homosexuals to speak as they would speak to each other. WBAI public affairs director, Dick Elman moderates a discussion recorded at a Brownstone home in NYC on the West Side.
In early 1962, WBAI New York’s listener-supported “progressive" radio station aired an hour-long special, “The Homosexual In America.” It featured a panel of psychiatrists who described gay people as sick and in need of a cure — a cure that they could provide with just a few hours of therapy.
Gay Activist and founder of the “Homosexual League of New York” Randy Wicker was livid, not only at the ignorance of these so-called “experts,” but also because, once again, there was a panel of straight people talking about gay people they didn’t even know.
Wicker went to the WBAI studios and confronted Dick Elman, the station’s public affairs director. “Why do you have these people on that don’t know a damn thing about homosexuality? They don’t live it and breathe it the way I do. … I spend my whole life in gay society.” Wicker demanded equal time and Elman agreed, provided Wicker find other gay people willing to go on the air as part of a panel. When plans for the program were announced, the New York Journal-American went ballistic. Jack O’Brian, the paper’s radio-TV columnist, wrote that the station should change its callsign to WSICK for agreeing to air an “arrogant card-carrying swish.”
The broadcast titled “Live and Let Live,” featured Wicker and seven other gay men, identified only as Harry, Jack, Bill, Peter, Marty, and two others, talking for ninety minutes about what it was like to be gay. They talked about their difficulties in maintaining careers, the problems of police harassment, and the social responsibility of gays and straights alike. The program’s host guided the programs with questions to the panel. “Is there harassment?” he asked. One panelist described some of the police harassment he had experienced, when one officer “roared up, jumped out of the car, grabbed me, and started giving me this big thing about ‘What are you doing here, you know there are a lot of queers around this neighborhood.’ He said, ‘You know, there’s only one thing worse than a queer, and that’s a nigger’.” (Remember this was 1962.)
The New York Times’s called the program “the most extensive consideration of the subject to be heard on American radio” —
A week before the broadcast, Jack O'Brian, a "right-wing" columnist for the New York Journal American, attacked it as an attempt to present "the ease of living the gay life." Wicker made the rounds to Variety, Newsweek, and The New York Times informing them of the broadcast and the attack on it by O'Brian. The 90-minute program, believed to be the first such in the United States, aired on July 15, 1962. Several mainstream media outlets, alerted by Wicker, covered the broadcast, which received favorable treatment in The New York Times, The Realist, Newsweek, the New York Herald Tribune, and Variety.
As a result of the publicity, from 1962 through 1964 Wicker was one of the most visible gay people in New York. He spoke to countless church groups and college classes and, in 1964, became the first openly gay person to appear on East Coast television with a January 31st appearance on The Les Crane Show which was recorded at the time of the original broadcast by Phil Gries founder and owner of Archival Television Audio.
Wicker is credited with organizing the first known gay rights demonstration in the United States.