Politics and Power

"The problem wasn't that it was gay bashing; the problem was that the goddamn zoning people and the goddamn health people totally ignored what was going on there. Pools and whirlpools are supposed to be licensed in Dade County, and they're supposed to be inspected every six months. The pool at the Club Body Center hadn't been inspected in over two years, and the inspectors and licensers didn't even know there were two whirlpools, because they had never been there. I can see them sitting in the office, saying, `Ah, don't bother with that, that's just the fags.' Nobody says anything, nobody does anything. Because it's just a bunch of faggots. `That's okay. We can let them be. They can go kill themselves.' That's gay bashing.

"When we went over to lobby on behalf of the ordinance, Commissioner Sherman Winn asked me, `If the gay and lesbian community knew about Club Body Center, why didn't the gay community do anything about it?' I said to him, `I think a lot of it is because we didn't know how.' And he said basically, `You all weren't organized enough to do it, were you?' and I said, `That's right. We weren't.'

"And we weren't. There was no organization to do it. There was nowhere for the politicians to go; there was nowhere for the community to go. This goes back, I think, to Anita Bryant, to the fact that, for better or for worse, that campaign was essentially run by Bob Kunst, Jack Campbell [Democratic activist and proprietor of Club Body Center], and a few other people, and we got our teeth kicked in. I think that traumatized the gay and lesbian community, and it forced many lesbians and gay people to become apolitical, to just turn their backs on the system in disgust, and to set up their own lives, separate and apart and insulated from the rest of society. As a result, we have not integrated ourselves into this community at all, which hurts us very badly.

"Bob Kunst is a very complex character, and he has done an enormous amount of good and he's done an enormous amount of bad for the community. The bottom line is that Bob is motivated ultimately for Bob, and not for the gay community, not for the lesbian community. Bob makes a living out of this. Bob makes a living out of AIDS. And the person who backs Bob Kunst and keeps him financed is essentially Jack Campbell. According to Kunst, Campbell has given $50,000 to Cure AIDS Now and is a member of its board. And it strikes me as no coincidence that Bob Kunst was the one person in any AIDS organization who stood up and tried to defend unregulated bathhouses.

"Jack Campbell makes a living out of this whole thing. Jack's money comes from the bathhouses. The bathhouses are in existence because we are oppressed and repressed, and we have nowhere else to go. We need special places. We need gay bars and things like that. If there were not this climate of oppression and repression, we would not need a Club Body Center. But Jack Campbell isn't the issue.

"After Anita Bryant came the growth and maturity of the gay community in a very subtle and disjointed way. But over that period there was a great realization that we can do these things, that we can form organizations, take care of our own and others. If the Herald had published those articles one or two years before, the gay community would have said and done nothing, it just would have gotten beaten up. But it happened that the maturity and the articles came at the same time.

"This is what I'm really, really proud of with the PAC. It was the PAC that coordinated it. It was the PAC that brought them together. They all formed their own opinions, and they all had the balls to stand up and publicly express that position. You had organizations that had never spoken out before as anything -- gay or straight organizations -- taking public stands in front of the commission. Health Crisis Network, Body Positive, HOPE, the Gay People's Alliance, the Gay and Lesbian Youth Group, it just went on and on. They all came down and spoke. That was the great breakthrough of it -- that all these people who had never been out before in their lives stood up in front of an audience and said, `I'm lesbian,' or, `I'm gay,' and, `This is what I think is good for my community.' The extent that they were for us or against us is totally irrelevant. The point is, they did it. That does more to create and mature and give self-respect to the lesbian and gay community than anything anybody can do. That's not a one-person job. It's an entire community saying, `Hey, it's time.'"

Part Three

As recently as four years ago, when Baldwin and a few others attempted to form a gay and lesbian political group, they had trouble finding people willing to serve on a board of directors. But this past summer Baldwin and others began meeting with the idea of forming a political action committee, and, says Baldwin, "I couldn't get the people off the board." By August 10 of last year the Dade Action PAC had registered with the state.

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