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"Passing The Torch" Post 29 of 40

25 Aug 2022 09:30 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

1982: Building Momentum and the National Torch Relay

Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.

Post 29 of 40 - 25 August - 1982: Building Momentum and the National Torch Relay

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Richard Hunter (center) on the medals stand at Gay Games I

SHAMEY CRAMER: I will always remember the first time I met Richard Hunter. But then, everyone remembers the first time they met Richard Hunter - he was just one of those guys. He, more than any other individual, was the nucleus that led to the founding of West Hollywood Aquatics, the first team within United States Masters Swimming whose mission focused on the inclusion of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender athletes. But that was still a few months down the road.

After meeting with US Olympian Susan McGrievy on June 1 1982 to formally create Team Los Angeles, I quickly organized those from the list who had contacted her or the San Francisco organizers. We called the first meeting of all athletes on Sunday, 13 June in the Poinsettia Park gymnasium, where a newly-formed men's basketball team was scrimmaging. The meeting started at 6pm, with swimmers, volleyball players, runners, wrestlers and others, all meeting for the first time. You could feel the electricity.

Team LA at the Gay Games I Closing Ceremony led by Richard Hunter and Ric Bohner

The meeting was barely underway when it came to a complete standstill: through the north doors came two bronzed, bare-chested Adonises in cutoffs and sandals. The one carrying a piece of corrugated cardboard had a personality the size of Texas, and this brilliant, mega-watt smile that just wouldn't quit. He was one of those people who just couldn't help himself from making an entrance - it was just part of what made Richard Hunter who he was. The sleepy-eyed beauty at his side was Ric Bohner, a swimmer-diver who would also become one of the original founders of WH2O.

They had just returned from Venice Beach (the gay beach at that time) where they were recruiting new team-mates. Richard showed us the cardboard sign, which read something to the effect: “Los Angeles Swim Team forming for Gay Olympics in San Francisco - Swimmers Needed." As if either of them needed a reason to talk to men in speedos. But it worked. They actually recruited some of our best swimmers with that hand-made sign.

My Team LA Co-chair Rand Wiseman-Curtright and I continued to work with Richard and Ric, and others who began creating the structure of the swim team. Two car washes were arranged in the parking lot of the Detour, a gay bar located at Sunset Junction in Silverlake. Thanks to Ron Kirkhoff, they became a car wash AND a bake sale. I arranged a third car wash for the swimmers in the Studio One parking lot in West Hollywood.

Between the funds raised from these events, plus the $1,000 grant we secured from Christopher Street West Pride Committee, we were able to cover the cost of registrations, uniforms and equipment for nearly all of our 147 athletes.

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Jean-Nickolaus Tretter in 1983

JEAN-NICKOLAUS TRETTER: When we contacted San Francisco Arts & Athletics about having the torch relay come through Minneapolis-St Paul, they said no; there was no way to get it from Cleveland to San Francisco because there was no one willing to organize a run through the central United States. Since we really wanted to be part of the torch relay, and were already promoting the Gay Games, Team Minnesota volunteered to take up organizing the relay through the entire central part of the United States. But there’s a little problem there. The Great Plains states are very flat and very long, and to have enough runners to cover that entire distance would be extraordinarily difficult. The gentleman running the torch relay out of San Francisco told us “just get the torch to Denver. We don’t care how you do it, but we can take it from there.” So we made a few changes.

One of the things the torch relay had to do was make money for the Gay Games, so the various torchbearers had to get financial pledges for every mile they carried it. We had enough people to run it from Cleveland through Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin to Minneapolis-St. Paul, but then there was central and southern Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas - the whole thing going to Denver. What we came up with is that people didn’t have to run those distances, they could either ride on a bike, or if we absolutely needed to, people could drive those distances in a car. Then, for the driving segments, we allowed people to pledge as low as a penny a mile. It ended up working out quite well. We did a big send-off from the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, and the people in Lincoln Nebraska and Wichita Kansas got their communities together and threw big welcoming parties.

We weren’t sure about having people running or being alone on a bicycle on some of those prairie roads. We were concerned about having openly gay people running through those areas, where people tend to be a little more conservative and unwelcoming, so we followed them all the way in a van to make sure they were safe. When we got to Denver, we heaved a great sigh of relief, then turned right around and went back to St. Paul.

The torch arriving in San Francisco for Gay Games I

And the torch got to San Francisco just fine.

The 1982 National Torch Relay schedule included the following cities:

  • June 13 - Stonewall Inn, New York City
  • June 24 - Piedmont Ohio
  • June 26 - Columbus Gay Pride Parade
  • June 27 - Columbus
  • June 28 - Findlay
  • June 29 - Toledo
  • June 30 - Angola IN
  • Jul 1 - South Bend IN
  • Jul 2 - 5 - Chicago, IL
  • July 6 - Milwaukee, WI
  • July 7 - Madison
  • July 8 - Madison
  • July 9 - Sparta
  • July 10 - Eau Claire
  • July 11-15 Minneapolis/St Paul, MN
  • July16 - Albert Lea, MN
  • July 17 - Des Moines IA
  • July 18 - Omaha, NE
  • July 19 - 20 - Lincoln
  • July 21 - Fairmont NE
  • July 22 - Minden, NE
  • July 23/24 - McCook, NE
  • July 25 - Imperial
  • July 26 - Sterling, CO
  • July 27 - Ft. Collins, CO
  • July 28 Boulder, CO
  • July 29/30 - Denver, CO
  • July 31 - Empire, CO
  • Aug 1 - Kremmling, CO
  • Aug 2 - Hayden, CO
  • Aug 3 - Elk Springs, CO

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Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.

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