Exhibitions open Wednesdays through Sundays
Los Angeles is rooted deep in LGBT history that is often
overlooked by many. Most people assume that the modern day gay movement
started with Stonewall riots in New York. But Stonewall had the fortune
of international coverage, the event was commemorable and had the mnemonic
capacity to create a commemorative vehicle for which dozens of annual
pride parades mark the occasion.
Los Angeles’ gay history begins as early as 1850
when it was the wild frontier and the gold rush was on. Being gay was
not much of an issue up until 1914, when the events in Long Beach changed
American’s perception of gay people for the next 40 years.
Not until a couple of pioneering gay groups formed in
the 1950s, did gay people chart a long course toward equality.
During America’s darkest period in history, with
Senator, Joe McCarthy and the witch-hunt for “Un-American Activities”
which caused citizens to name other citizens who were “communist
sympathizers” or “homosexuals”, seven men bravely
formed the an organized motorcycle club in 1954. At great risk to their
lives, including their livelihood, these former military men created
the oldest enduring organization in the world.
But more than just a club of like-minded bikers, these
men also endured and trailblazed many of the equality protections the
lgbt community enjoy today. The Satyrs are much more than just a club,
it was a movement.
The Pioneers of the Leather and Biker Scene
Smell the leather, feel the power between your legs, and
take in the story of the oldest continuing gay group in the world at
an exhibit of historic (and sexy) images of the Satyrs
In 1953 The Wild One was released. It starred
Marlon Brando, looking for all the world like a Tom of Finland drawing
come to life, as the leader of a rough-and-tumble motorcycle gang. In
1955 James Dean became the icon of troubled youth in Rebel Without
a Cause. And at the same time Tom of Finland was working on his
iconic drawings of leathermen that he would submit to Physique Pictorial
The mood in America was taking a rebellious turn. The
leather and motorcycle zeitgeist was in full bloom. Gay men had become
a part of the post-World War II biker culture in the ’40s. Leather
bars were springing up in major cities and simultaneously, it seems,
pioneering gay motorcycle clubs were formed: the Satyrs, established
in Los Angeles in 1954; Oedipus, also established in Los Angeles in
1958; the New York Motorbike Club and early San Francisco clubs, including
the Warlocks and the California Motor Club, started as well. Leather
clubs for gay men opened in Amsterdam and Berlin in the 1950s.
This was a counterculture within a counterculture. The
men who were drawn to the scene weren’t so much into camp, show
tunes, and cashmere sweaters. The soul of the scene was a masculine
“Los Angeles County once boasted more than 19 gay
motorcycle and uniform clubs,” Satyrs president, Riley Black said,
adding, “It was the ‘golden years’ of the ’60s
following the death of U.S. senator Joe McCarthy. Rumble — The
Long Road to Equality displays in storytelling format more than 60 years
of our community’s history from the archives.” This exhibit
is more than just photos tacked to a wall; this is living history display
and will also showcase various artifacts from long since dissolved organizations.
to see a documentary about the club when it celebrated 50 years.
Special thanks to Garry Bowie of the Satyrs for this article.
"Before and during the Second World War, what leather
clothing there was, was always brown. Suddenly, right about 1950, the
black biker’s ‘uniform’ appeared. It is amazing how
fast it spread around the world. I have been told that I influenced
— Tom of Finland
"In the early part of the 1950s, Tom was fast at
work drawing his men in uniform-style gear, combining his uniform fetish
with the garb of the tough boys. The defining moment for him was when
he saw some stills of Marlon Brando from the film The Wild One. As Tom
said, “I immediately felt it, that my men would wear black leather
from that point on.” He transposed his brown leather jackets,
breeches and caps into black. The “Leatherman” was born.
"Tom had a tailor in Helsinki make him a pair of
black leather breeches and jackets soon after. Being somewhat of a dandy,
he wanted to go somewhere public all geared up; he was known for making
appearances at the local motocross. He forwarded his drawings of men
in full leather gear to his pals in England and Germany. The effect
was contagious — they, too, had gear made — and would send
back to Tom photos of themselves all decked out. In turn, Tom was inspired
to do more and to keep on elaborating on the gear and improving his
ability to render the feel of leather. This was the beginning of what
was to become the international Gay Leather scene."
of Finland: Life and Work of a Gay Hero
Tom Of Finland — The Complete Kake Comics
TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991),
Untitled (Detail from Kake vol. 02 – The Sexy Sunbather, 1968, Pen &
ink on paper,
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #68.61, © 1968 Tom
of Finland Foundation
Kake, a dark-haired, mustached
Leatherman often wore a tight white T-shirt bearing the motto “Fucker.”
Between 1968 and 1986, Tom published 26 episodes of Kake adventures,
most as 20-page booklets. This edition collects all of these stories
in one volume!
of Finland – The Complete Kake Comics
Dian Hanson, editor | Hardcover, 703 pages
like to thank everyone who came out to the Closing of the ‘Rumble‘
exhibition. I would also like to thank the Satyrs for giving Tom Finland
Foundation the closing weekend. It was an amazing event and exhibition
I am proud to have worked on, a great slice of our rich leather history.”
Bellenger, Mr. Long Beach Leather 2013
Everyone involved with this project did an outstanding
Marc is very dedicated, creative and wise.
Thanks to the sponsors who made this opportunity happen.
Cultural Alliance of Long Beach
Hours: Wednesday - Friday, 4 PM
to 9 PM,
Saturday - Sunday, 4 PM
to 9 PM,
727 Pine Ave, Long Beach, CA, 90813 ·
Satyrs Mototcycle Club, Rumble LA Website