Mark Segal

Buried LGBT Treasure

Filed By Mark Segal | July 19, 2013 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History
Tags: Comcast, Phil Donahue, Phil Donahue Show

Gold_Coins.pngEvery one of us has a precious item that brings back pleasant memories. Just the thought of it brings joy. I too have an object, but surprisingly, I've never seen it.

From 1973-75, yours truly was most likely the nation's most well-known gay-rights activist. Coming off of my disruptions of countless live TV shows, a series of reports on police departments and elected officials, and my work with Gov. Milton Shapp, I was on almost every TV talk show at the time.

But one show stands out and that's The Phil Donahue Show. Not any Donahue show, since I did do three of them. No, this is the one that was taped in February 1973, where not only was I the guest, but my whole family appeared as well. That made us one of the first families of an out gay person on TV, preceded only by An American Family on PBS a year-and-a-half earlier.

Phil wanted to show a typical gay family and have his audience exchange with them. So there was my father, mother and Phillip, my partner at the time, along with me for an hour of fun. Yes, fun. Every other time I did the Donahue show it was work, with lots of heated Bible-thumpers, but this time with my family I actually enjoyed it, and it brings back fond memories... from what I can remember, since I don't have a copy of the tape.

See, at that time there were no home video recorders so, to get a copy of the tape, you had to buy it from the production company. The price was $100, and since gay activists did not earn any living in those days, I couldn't afford it. There was no Internet or YouTube in those days either. So I never got that tape, and now with my family all gone, it's the one item that is the golden grail of treasures for me.

When I ran across Phil Donahue awhile back, he told me that many of his tapes from that time were lost in a fire. I've searched television museums and private collections, but it remains elusive.

I was telling this story to a few of my friends at the last Comcast Joint Diversity Council meeting when some of the Comcast staff agreed to see if, through their connections, they could see if it exists.

For weeks, I searched through boxes of memorabilia and finally found the official letters from Donahue, and even the TV release forms signed by my mother and father. The search is now on, but I have a sinking feeling that it is one of those items that will only live in my memory. But to see my friends at Comcast so taken by the story and the adventure of the search now adds a delightful end regardless of its outcome.


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