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The Richard Pryor set that shook the gay rights movement in 1977.

The Richard Pryor set that shook the gay rights movement in 1977.
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In the early days of the anti-Briggs campaign, a Richard Pryor comedy set turned into a public fiasco and laid bare longstanding divisions in the gay community. With the movement low on cash and running out of time, thousands of gay Californians decided their only option was to tell the world who they really were.

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(If you—or anyone you know—are in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, anytime: Dial 988 or visit 988lifeline.org.)

Subscribe to Slate Plus to immediately unlock the first five episodes of Slow Burn: Gays Against Briggs. Your subscription also gets you ad-free access to all your favorite Slate podcasts, plus other member exclusive content. Join now on Apple Podcasts by clicking “Subscribe” at the top of our show page. Or, visit slate.com/slowburnplus to get access wherever you listen.

Season 9 of Slow Burn was written and produced by Christina Cauterucci. Slow Burn is produced by Kelly Jones, Joel Meyer, and Sophie Summergrad.

Josh Levin is the editorial director of Slow Burn.

Derek John is Slate’s executive producer of narrative podcasts.

Susan Matthews is Slate’s executive editor.

Merritt Jacob is our senior technical director. We had engineering help from Patrick Fort and Madeline Ducharme.

Our theme music is composed by Alexis Cuadrado. Artwork by Ivylise Simones, based on an image of Silvana Nova and a poster designed by Larry Hermsen and the Too Much Graphics Collective.

Sources for This Episode:

Books

Clendinen, Dudley and Adam Nagourney. Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America, Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Faderman, Lillian. Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death, Yale University Press, 2018.

Faderman, Lillian. The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Fejes, Fred. Gay Rights and Moral Panic: The Origins of America’s Debate on Homosexuality, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Hobson, Emily K. Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left, University of California Press, 2016.

Jones, Cleve. When We Rise: My Life in the Movement, Hachette Books, 2016.

Milk, Harvey, eds. Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris III. An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk’s Speeches & Writings, University of California Press, 2013.

Perry, Reverend Troy D. with Thomas L.P. Swicegood. Don’t Be Afraid Anymore: The Story of Reverend Troy Perry and the Metropolitan Community ChurchesSt. Martin’s Press, 1990.

Shilts, Randy. The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, St. Martin’s Press, 1982.

Stone, Amy L. Gay Rights at the Ballot Box, University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Williams, Daniel K. God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Articles 

Avicoli, Tommi. “Breaking Anita Bryant’s Monopoly On The Lord,” Berkeley Barb, March 3, 1978.

Bajko, Matthew S. “LGBT History Month: Fall of 1977 Part of Seminal Period in LGBT History,” Bay Area Reporter, Oct. 8, 2017.

Barnes, W. E. “Lack of unity clouds anti-Briggs campaign,” San Francisco Examiner, July 16, 1978.

Boyer, Peter J. “Pryor satire stuns gay benefit,” Associated Press, Sept. 21, 1977.

“California vote sought on homosexual issue,” Associated Press, May 2, 1978.

“Cash Came Just in Time,” United Press International, Sept. 23, 1977.

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Cordova, Jeanne. “Hollywood Bowl, A Sexist Bunch,” Lesbian Tide, November/December 1977.

Cordova, Jeanne. “Make ‘Um An Offer They Can’t Refuse,” Lesbian Tide, September/October 1978.

“Decade of Gay Rights at Issue When California Goes to Polls,” Associated Press, Oct. 26, 1978.

Enszer, Julie R. “Sally: A 2023 Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Deborah Craig,” OutHistory, 2023.

Gillam, Jerry. “$859,487 Spent to Push Antigay Issue,” Los Angeles Times, July 12,  1978.

Gold, Herbert. “A Walk on San Francisco’s Gay Side,” New York Times, Nov. 6, 1977.

Grant, Lee. “‘A Night for Rights’ at the Bowl,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 20, 1977.

Herscher, Elaine. “Gay Workers Fight Isolation, New Right,” Berkeley Barb, Sept. 15, 1978.

“Homosexual Initiative Delayed by Typing Error,” Associated Press, Nov. 2, 1977.

“Huge crowd at human rights concert,” San Francisco Examiner, Sept. 19, 1977.

Khalil, Ramy K. “Harvey Milk and California Proposition 6: How the Gay Liberation Movement Won Two Early Victories,” WWU Graduate School Collection, 2012.

Laird, Cynthia. “Lesbian educator Sally Gearhart dies,” Bay Area Reporter, July 14, 2021.

Nichols, Rosalie. “Should Lesbians Support the Gay Movement?,” Lesbian Tide, January/February 1978.

Opatrny, Dennis J. “Briggs isn’t working hard on death penalty initiative,” San Francisco Examiner, Oct. 4, 1978.

“Pastor plans fast to raise gay funds,” Ventura County Star, Sept. 11, 1977.

“Prop. 6 is gay rights’ milestone,” Associated Press, Oct. 25, 1978.

“Pryor’s Performance: The Rights and Wrongs,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 2, 1977.

Saul, Scott. “Richard Pryor: meltdown at the Hollywood Bowl,” the Guardian, Jan. 11, 2015.

Smith, Martin. “Televangelists and Duffel Bags,” Sacramento Bee, April 12, 1987.

Smith-Silverman, Sara. “‘Gay Teachers Fight Back!’: Rank-and-File Gay and Lesbian Teachers’ Activism against the Briggs Initiative 1977–1978,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, January 2020.

Tracey, Liz. “Harvey Milk’s Gay Freedom Day Speech: Annotated,” JSTOR, June 13, 2022.

Tracey, Liz. “Proposition 6 (The Briggs Initiative): Annotated,” JSTOR, Oct. 28, 2022.

Wray, Robert. “The Fireworks Behind the Bowl Benefit,” Alternate, November 1977.

Zacchino, Narda. “Chamber Switches Yes Stand on Prop. 6,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 26, 1978.

Audiovisual

Epstein, Rob. The Times of Harvey Milk, 1984.

[Briggs on Prop 7], Kevin Burke sound recordings (1999-51), Courtesy of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

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[Avotcja Excerpts], Kevin Burke sound recordings (1999-51), Courtesy of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.





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