KEITH ST CLARE
Keith St Clare is a man driven by a mission: help those who need it. A 1980 issue of The San Francisco Crusader called him a “nice man who cares about real problems.”
When he was 17 years old, his father maneuvered him into the United States Air Force, and he served as an Aerospace Ground Power Repairman stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Four years later, in 1966, he returned to the United States and moved to San Francisco. The Summer of Love expanded in his heart, and he became and edited Vanguard magazine. Vanguard was for the untouchables pushed aside by gay assimilationists and the heterosexuals they attempted to replicate. It was a forever open dialogue between the denied, forgotten, persecuted youth, drug addicts, transgenders, drag queens and all gay men and women.
Although Keith stopped publishing Vanguard in 1979, it is a living magazine. The content is controversial and remains true. It is a combination of every medium, a breath from every culture. There are pre-Gay Liberation articles titled Interview with a Transvestite, The History of Syphilis, Bisexual Interview, List of Sex Offenses and Their Punishments in All 50 states, LA Secret Police, Lavender in Uniform, Interview with a Maschosit, Black Art Adds Culture, etc. Erotic images and delicate yet in-your-face poetry unites every issue.
The fact that Keith gave a voice to these untouched subjects in 1966 is bold, but even bolder is that he did so using his real name and real address. He admits he was scared, but the military taught him how to protect himself. He says he was not going to be a martyr.
Keith did not stop with Vanguard. He worked commercially for community theaters and produced 186 episodes of the nationally distributed and entirely youth-run TV show Young Ideas all the while raising over 600 foster kids.
Vanguard was not to become absolutely one side or the other. When a publication goes out there and says, "The police have no business having anything to say in this publication, they're our enemy," that's a very consequential statement. I thought it was very important, if I was having trouble with the police, that I need to go down and I need to talk to the Police Commission and the Police Community Relations Board. I wanted to become one of their friends, small ‘f,’ because I expected them to be suspicious of me, and I expected to be suspicious of them. These friendships needed to be productive. My effort, in terms of police brutality, was to go and try to make friends with the police and to get them into small groups and to get them to talk with the hair fairies and the transsexuals and drag queens and to get them to reason. For everybody to get everybody's business cards and addresses and phone numbers and to get some help for them. Get some help for everybody and to get some jobs. And to get them to apply for jobs and get them to know where openings were. Try to get a drag queen on the police force, into some kind of job.
"You'll see a vase and it's got flowers in it, but you turn it around and you find the flowers are all plastic and that they are taped on the side of the vase and it's kind of an offense. There is a column and then there is a pilaster. A column is a beautiful thing in itself. You walk around it and it's magnificent, but a pilaster is kind of a cheat. Why are you there? Why? Why are you a pilaster?
'Gay is Good' is a phrase that I met at a conference for gay editors, and I thought this is good and I am going to do everything I can do to promote this. So I did, and I did everything I could do to get it to people who had money and the means to make as many of them on buttons as possible. When I was assembling them, I go so many cuts on my hands but they were like a crown of thorns of honor. To get them into pots and bags and bowls and throw them from cars and from the ranks of the early Gay Parades. After I made several thousand buttons, I couldn't count anymore. It was an idea that was wonderful, and I threw a lot of them myself. It was why I marched.
Vanguard’s overall goal was to figure out what we could accomplish. What people were talking about, what their objectives were and how they could accomplish them as the next thing or during the next period. I was listening and trying to come up with my little part of the thing and my little part of the thing was Vanguard. Doing the things that I did not hear. The things that nobody else was doing. Nobody else was doing anything that was going to be a little bit more lavender, a little bit more light, a little bit more philosophical, a little bit more scientific, a little bit cheaper, a little bit easier to read and a little bit more hands on. Smaller and irregular. A little bit more rude and crude and flexible. Something that could be published now and then.
I applied for a job on the Commission and they interviewed me and a better person got on the Commission. I applied again but a better person got it, a woman that time—I got respect all the time. Although I didn't get it, I did get it. I just didn't get paid for it.
I think that happiness is the greatest part of good health. Trying to be in pursuit of happiness is healthy."