Yet, Another Gay Rights Pioneer Passes Away.
Aristide ‘AJ’ Laurent has passed away at age 70. A gay rights activist and co-founder of the Advocate magazine, Laurent has been fight for our rights for years and as the other great gay rights pioneer who’ve passed recently, he’ll be greatly missed.
Aristide J. Laurent, a pioneer in the gay rights movement and a founder of The Advocate newspaper, died at his home in Los Angeles on Oct. 26, 2011, after a long illness, friends announced. He was 70.
Laurent helped start The Los Angeles Advocate in 1967, working alongside Richard Mitch (Dick Michaels), Bill Rau and Sam Allen, who had taken over the Pride newsletter and renamed it. Laurent, then working at ABC Television with Rau and Allen, helped produce early issues of The Advocate in the studio’s basement print shop and wrote a nightlife column (“Mariposas de la Noche”) under the pseudonym “P. Nutz.”
Everyone on the paper used pseudonyms, he noted. “It was dangerous to be a ‘pervert’ prior to the liberation movement. You didn’t use your real name for fear of reprisals, not only harassment by the LAPD, but the ever-present possibility of losing your day job, family and friends,” he wrote in a 2007 blog marking the publication’s 40th anniversary.
Laurent was at the forefront of many marches and several causes, including the antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1967 he participated in pre-Stonewall “Black Cat” protests against police harassment of gays. In the 1980s, he was part of the ACT UP movement that fought indifference to the AIDS crisis. In 1993, he attended the historic gay march on Washington. But it was an act of charity that got him in trouble with the Los Angeles Police Department.
He spent his final months in hospice care with several caretakers and “my loyal band of crazy friends.” In his final letter, he wrote, “If you are reading this I’m dead. Deader, as the saying goes, than vaudeville. But don’t feel sorry for me, I’ve had a truly blessed life.”
Laurent is survived by his nieces, Tina Weeks and Natalie Dykes of Magnolia Springs, Ala., a nephew, Kevin Weeks of Baton Rouge, La., and hundreds of friends and “cousins” around the country.
May you rest in peace and remind all of us still working for equality that there is still much too be done.