Newsweek named David Mixner as the most powerful gay man in America. He has been a highly regarded leader in American politics and international human rights for over forty years. David participated in over 75 campaigns, serving as campaign manager, fundraiser or strategist. He served as National Chairperson for Rep. Richard Gephardt’s campaign for President and Campaign Manager for Los Angeles’ Tom Bradley. He was a top dog in the Presidential Elections of Bill Clinton, Gary Hart and George McGovern; and the Elections of Jerry Brown for California Governor and Senator.
lgbtSR.com snagged an exclusive interview with the man responsible for momentous and positive moves in civil rights and equality. Rick Rose met David in Los Angeles during the painful, formative days of AIDS activism. At the time, David was active with the AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA) and was National Co-Chair of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
IN THE BEGINNING.
RR: What was your first bit of activism and what triggered you into action, as a young man, previous to your 1967 March on the Pentagon, protesting the Vietnam War, an event which was captured in Norman Mailer’s “Armies of the Night,” earning you national attention as an anti-war activist?
DM: Heading into the Deep South to do civil rights work in the mid-1960’s. I was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King and President John Kennedy. In 1964, most African-Americans in most Southern states were not allowed to vote. That was my first great adventure!
RR: Your first same-sex relationship was with Kit who died in an automobile accident. How did you keep that relationship going in a time when you couldn’t even talk about it, and how do you keep Kit alive today?
DM: He was the great love my life, and he has never left my heart. I remember him as if he was here today. Not very good at talking about it with anyone since it is such an intimate and personal moment, but I know it is important for others to realize the oppression that surrounded our relationships back then.
RR: Soon after you helped Mayor Bradley win his 1977 reelection bid, you took on the nasty Proposition 6 that would have made it illegal for gays and lesbians to be schoolteachers. The “NO on 6” brought you publicly out of the closet, and along with your lover Peter (Scott) and an equally legendary gay rights activist friend of yours, Harvey Milk, Prop 6 was rightly defeated by over a million votes, the first ballot initiative of its sort to be killed, and you took on another.
Shortly after that you experienced professional success in 1985, helping defeat the horrendously hateful Proposition 64, a ballot initiative proposed by Lyndon LaRouche that would require quarantining people with AIDS, you learned that Peter had AIDS. Four years later, you had the double whammy of tragically losing another partner. Like you, I lost two lovers. One to AIDS and one to immigration law. Why bother?
DM: For me it is quite simple. Fighting for our freedom is the right thing to do. Making sure that the next generation of young LGBT Americans can inherit a world where they can thrive and be free. We can never, ever want them to have to experience the trail of tears that we did.
IN IT TO WIN IT.
RR: A boxer trains for the fight, how do you stay in the fight?
DM: An overwhelmingly strong passionate belief in justice, freedom and the basic good in everyone.
RR: Is it time for a serious conversation between Obama and Hilary Clinton where Obama should step down in the battle for the presidency and let Clinton have at it?
DM: The President is not going to step down, and Secretary of State Clinton is not going to step up. It’s time to make sure Governor Rick Perry is not President Rick Perry. God help us.
RR: President Bill Clinton said this about you: “When I met David, he was young. I thought I have never met a person whose heart burned with fire for social justice so strongly. He has never forgotten the roots of his childhood…how fortunate we are in this country at this time with all the things we have to do to have his energy, his heart, his devotion and his passion.” You and Clinton were in good favor until his Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Was it a compromise or a step in the right direction?
DM: Anytime you officially put discrimination into the law, even if it is well meaning, it is just wrong. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was wrong on day one and it was wrong until it ended this week.
RR: In 2009, you were rightly honored by the Point Foundation which provides college scholarships to LGBT students with its Legend Award. The award was presented to you by Victoria Reggie Kennedy. I know how close you are to that family. What feeling came over you when you heard that your good friend Ted Kenney had died that same year?
DM: Obviously a sense of deep sadness and a real sense of loss.
RR: Among the many bizarre items uncovered as Libyan rebels ransacked Gaddafi’s compound was an album filled with photos of Condoleezza Rice. Fetish or national security nightmare?
DM: Oh hell, I don’t know what kept Gaddafi turned on, and it really isn’t a major issue of concern for me.
RR: So you recently played yourself in a play about your life at Dixon Place, NYC’s Laboratory for Performance as a benefit for the Ali Forney Center, an organization supporting LGBT homeless youth. Was that odd? How did it make you feel?
DM: Extremely odd and weird, but it brought a real sense of accomplishment and pride. I loved passing down, through the art of story telling, our history. “New York Magazine” described it as ‘brilliant,’ and we set a house record at the theater, so I am feeling real good about it.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE.
RR: What would you say is the biggest concern that we in the lgbtSr community should be addressing?
DM: Given the devastation of HIV/AIDS there are very few caretakers for this generation of seniors. We must look at issues of housing, care taking and capturing their stories for our young.
RR: Will there ever be a day, and how soon if so, where we, as a “united” people will go to a Film Fest, not an LGBT or Jewish Film Fest, where those distinctions are no longer needed?
DM: Of course there will be that day. At the same time it is important to preserve our history, culture and traditions that uniquely belong to the LGBT community.
RR: You have worked hand in hand with many powerful leaders. Who do you see as up and coming? Who will be the next McGovern, Clinton, Kennedy, Cristopher, Dukakis or Bradley?
DM: California’s Lt. Governor Gavin Newson, Illinois former State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulia, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Claire McCaskill.
RR: You have written two incredible books, “Stranger Among Friends” and “Brave Journeys” and have one on the way: “At Home With Myself: Stories from the Hills of Turkey Hollow.” What are you currently reading?
DM: Just finished bios on Cleopatra and George Washington. Currently reading “1861” about the first year of the Civil War when it was a time the nation was very divided.
RR: Two years ago, you and your two cats, Sheba and Uganda, made the move from quiet Turkey Hollow in Sullivan County, NJ to the heart of NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen from where you blog on www.DavidMixner.com which you used to motivate 200,000 to march for LGBT equality in DC on October 11, 2009, known as the National Equality March. Why don’t we any longer call midtown Manhattan, Clinton?
DM: (Grins) I think we like the nasty sound of it. Clinton is so boring, and Hell’s Kitchen is so nasty. Actually the cops called it Hell’s Kitchen in the 1940’s and 1950’s when it was run by the Irish mob.
RR: David, you are on a roll. Three years ago, Gordon and Sarah Brown, honored you with a luncheon at 10 Downing Street, representing the first time a British Prime Minister honored an LGBT activist in any manor. Will I ever have the chance to interview President Mixner for lgbtSr.com?
DM: Why thank you but never been tempted. I’m a very private person who loves an adventurous life out in the world. Can’t imagine being tied down in politics.