At a Glance:Mark Segal has been a Project Contributor since June 2010, has written 72 entries and currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.
Walter Cronkite called him a brilliant friend, Hillary Clinton told him he was more tenacious then her, and Barack Obama just felt that they needed to sit down and talk, and they did. But most in the LGBT refer to Mark Segal as the dean of American gay journalism. Respected by his peers for pioneering the idea of local LGBT newspapers, he is one of the founders and former president of both The National Gay Press Association and the National Gay Newspaper Guild.
In the radical days of New York in June 1969 and the beginnings of the militant gay movement, Mark was one of the four members of the Action Group that organized demonstrations for three nights after the infamous Stonewall Riots. His personal accounts of that night appear in numerous history books. He immediately joined forces with others to create the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) which signified the new radicalization of the gay community in New York. At the age of 18 he was the youngest of the pioneers, and as such within a year founded Gay Youth, the nation’s first organization to deal with the issues of gay teens and endangered LGBT youth. He was 19, President of Gay Youth, and a major force in GLF NY.
Wanting to take the community out of isolation, Segal then created the Gay Raiders in order to take the fight national. The Raiders’ campaign against the television networks changed America and the gay Rights struggle. Before Act Up, GLAAD, Will & Grace, Roseanne or Ellen Degeneres, Segal was America's first gay television superstar. Segal understood the power of media, and realized the LGBT community being created was one of isolation and invisibility. He believes to this day that educating the masses brings equality. The pivotal point of that campaign to end media silence came when Segal disrupted the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, an event covered in newspapers across the country and viewed by 60 percent of American households, many seeing or hearing about homosexual rights for the first time. Prior disruptions included The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and Barbara Walters on the Today show, as well as handcuffing himself to a camera on the Mike Douglas Show while Tony Bennett and the first lady of the American theatre were having their foot read by a professional foot reader (photo available). The trade newspaper Variety claimed that Segal had cost the industry $750,000 in production, and tape delays and lost advertising revenue. It labeled him a danger to television. The networks caved. Segal became the poster boy of gay rights, that homosexual who sat on Uncle Walter Cronkite’s desk. Overnight he was feature fodder for newspapers and magazines and did the talk show circuit, including three times on The Phil Donahue Show, the Oprah of its time. He even was given his own talk radio show, GayTalk, the nation’s first gay commercial broadcast show.
Mark then decided to bring change to the political establishment. Again his tactics made him a force to be reckoned with. No candidate running for election or in a primary in Pennsylvania goes through the state without a courtesy call with Mark or in the case of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, an interview in the Philadelphia Gay News which Mark founded in 1976. Segal's favorite achievement in this area was tricking U.S Attorney General Richard Thornberg to sign and issue a Gay Pride proclamation. Segal reached political prominence when he launched the nation’s first campaign to unseat a City Councilman. With the entire political machine behind the candidate Segal launched the first gay political TV campaign. In an incredible upset, the councilman lost. Segal had beaten the political machine. He is now held in such high esteem that Senator Bob Casey and Philadelphia Democratic Chairman, Congressman Bob Brady had to bring Congressman Barney Frank to Philadelphia in order to gain Segal's support. Mark was offered and turned down Ed Rendell’s offer of being Deputy Mayor. He has served on dozens of Boards and commissions but his and favorite is a board member of the Philadelphia International Airport, and as Rendell puts it, "Mark is Philadelphia's official flying fairy." No other gay leader in the nation has reached such a pinnacle.
With his clout (top 10 Philadelphia Magazine) and fame in 1974 he demanded and got a meeting with Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp. There they created the historic "Governor's Council for Sexual Minorities." That commission was the first governmental body in the world to specifically look at the problems faced by the LGBT community with government. That was followed by the first executive order banning discrimination in state government. When the state police wouldn't concur, Segal called a press conference and signed up to become America's first openly gay state trooper. Like he did with the media Mark was now the center of the Gay Rights struggle in politics. While Harvey Milk was fighting to pass a gay rights bill in San Francisco, Mark had already completed the task and was advising Harvey and others. There is no issue in the gay rights movement in the last 40 years that Segal has not had major involvement in.
Aside from publishing, Segal has also reported on gay life from far-reaching places as Lebanon, Cuba, and East Berlin, during the fall of the Berlin Wall. He represented the gay press and lectured in Moscow and St. Petersburg at Russia's first openly gay conference, referred to as Russia's Stonewall. Segal continued to keep national attention by such acts as handcuffing himself to the Liberty Bell or simply disrupting political dinners. Simply, Mark likes breaking barriers. Like having a republican congress fund a gay community center or having Miss America for a gay press event.
He currently coordinates a network of local gay publications nationally to celebrate October as gay history month, with a combined print run reaching over a half million readers. His determination to gain acceptance and respect for the gay press can be summed up by his 15-year battle to gain membership in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, one of the nation's oldest and most respected organizations for daily and weekly newspapers.
The battle ended after the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Pittsburgh Post Gazette joined forces and demanded PGN's membership. Today Segal sits on the Board of Directors of PNA.
He joined the infant dot.com revolution by becoming one of the founding members of Gay.com. He joined with Salon.com and the ACLU in a court battle against the Child Online Protection Act, which went all the way to the Supreme Court. His weekly column in PGN has won numerous national awards. In 2005, he produced Philadelphia's official July 4th concert for a crowd estimated at 500,000 people and made a profit of 1.1 million for charity. The star-studded show televised live from in front of Philadelphia's famed Art Museum featured Sir Elton John, Patti Labelle, Brian Adams and Rufus Wainwright. On a recent anniversary of PGN an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer stated "Segal and PGN continue to step up admirably to the challenge set for newspapers” by Finley Peter Dunne: ‘To afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted."
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