In my time looking at the lives of members of the early Mattachine, perhaps the most enigmatic was Paul Benard (April 24, 1916–November 7, 1954).
One of the eight men pictured in the famous “Christmas tree” photograph taken by Jim Gruber in 1951, Benard turns out to have been considered for a role in the Mattachine’s leadership. He left the group and left Los Angeles but remained in contact with members, only to die in 1954.
To my surprise last year, a chance query by Víctor Macías-González, Professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Wisconsin–La Crosse provided me with Benard’s birth name, and I was able to construct a very detailed account of his early life. Had the existing Mattachine leadership known about his involvement in the “little” and leftist theater endeavors of New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, they’d have seen him as a comrade.
This profile of Paul Benard is adapted from my work-in-progress with the working title The Feeble Strength of One: Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, Maxey, Marx and the Mattachine. Because its length likely would prevent its eventual publication as-is, I offer it here. Lengthy as it is, more study of Paul Benard is warranted.
Wallace de Ortega Maxey was a founding member of the Mattachine Foundation, which was the public face of the clandestine Mattachine Society. In that capacity, Maxey is best known as having hosted the Mattachine’s constitutional conventions, in the spring of 1953, at Los Angeles’ First Universalist Church where he was pastor. Later, Maxey became a champion of free speech, to the point of being a defendant in a significant obscenity case.
I composed two versions of the profile of Maxey.
A relatively brief overview of Maxey’s life focusing on his work with the Mattachine and anti-censorship efforts, posted on The Tangent Group
Chuck Rowland was a founding member of the Mattachine Society. He was active with ONE Inc. and founded the short-lived Church of One Brotherhood. Upon retiring from twenty years of teaching in 1982, Rowland founded Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles.
Bob Hull (above center with fedora) was a founding member of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles with Harry Hay, Chuck Rowland, Dale Jennings, and Rudi Gernreich. Mattachine set the stage for the gay liberation activism of the 1960s and 1970s, but because of his suicide in 1962, Hull wouldn’t see the movements, marches, and militancy that would soon follow.