Jay Uhte and Brent Zimmerman
DescriptionJay D, Uhte (84) talks with his friend, Brent Zimmerman (46), about their friendship and what it was like to be a gay man in the 1950 and 1960s.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Jay Uhte
- Brent Zimmerman
Recording LocationLos Angeles County Museum of Art
Venue / Recording Kit
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00:02 I'm Brent Zimmerman. I am 46 years old today is December 5th 2011 and we are in Los Angeles, California. My relationships Judy interviewing partner here. Today is just a close friend.
00:23 This is j u d I'm 84 years old. It's December 5th, 2011. I live in Palm Springs, California at the time this time and it's one of my best friends.
00:46 So I give a lot of thought to you know, how we might conduct this interview and I started out by looking back at you know events in history that occurred throughout your 84 years of your life and back when you were born what was going on at the time and so I can come up with some interesting things. I know if you even know some of the things that if you were born Charles Lindbergh, for example to the first transatlantic flight solo flight in the Spirit of St. Louis, that was a 1927 television officially became reality was the first transmission of an image by Bell Telephone company, which was considered like the beginning of Television that you were born in Calvin Coolidge was President interesting people born that you're Sidney Poitier and gently Israel Hollywood people Rodger Moore George C Scott Andy Williams Neil Simon was born that year.
01:44 You know, you were born in the middle of prohibition right before the Great Depression started, you know, you just a lot has happened in your life and World War II you were like, it's about 13 years old not nothing. None of that was your about 17 years old. I guess when World War II officially ended cuz you serve right at the end there right and
02:05 I mean guess you've seen the Summer of Love In The Stonewall riots and lots of things but I guess let's start I guess might like to do is save just let people know how we met and you know, my husband and I moved up into the Hollywood Hills in 1995 and lived around the corner from you for 7 years, and I never met you you had finally found it later that you would see no see no cuz you didn't all these long walks, right, but we've never met and then in 2002, we bought a house around the corner from us, which happened to be a caddy corner from you. That's really never even been on, you know, the Hollywood Hills have all those windy streets. And so I never even been if that's really know existed and it was literally around the corner from our house. And so we bought this house, and a whim and there you were you were neighbor.
02:59 And that's how we met and then I found out that you knew you would see me over the years, you know the living room the corner. So I'm just you know, I would love you to share with with us kind of how you ended up there. Just a little bit about that house you live in that house.
03:18 Well my partner and I we met on the beach in Santa Monica. I think probably in about 1950.
03:27 1 or 52 I came out here at a job that I had.
03:34 With the North American Aviation and we decided we could spend some time together.
03:42 He was driving a 49 Cosmopolitan convertible which impressed me cuz I was like antique cars and we were living in a little.
03:54 Community on Fountain and Genesee and Hollywood is consisted of some single family Cottages really and
04:06 It's something that we could afford the rent was.
04:11 $45 a month, so I recall she gives me and when they raised it to 55.
04:20 We decided that the best thing we could do is to buy a house. That was a $5 a month for rent. Well, it was for us. So those were times when two guys living together weren't always that it wasn't always that easy to buy a property together, especially if you were living together and so I bought the property because I had a better job record and credit.
04:52 Records and I later when after we moved in
04:58 We are at the property in both our names. How did you find the property Jay? Well, that was interesting. This was a lady that had an office on Hollywood Boulevard and I don't remember the name of the other.
05:15 Broker, but her name was mrs. Jinx.
05:19 And we later found out that she was it was this was the first house. She never sold and the individual that was selling the house had lived there for about two or three years and it was the man that was on the property was carrying two mortgages at that time.
05:43 That and we didn't have enough money to come down to satisfy the asking price, which was asking for it. They were asking $17,000 for it. But we managed to get it for 69 and I waking up with the rent money for the money for one month. So anyway, he assumed a third mortgage on the property to make up this the final sales price.
06:20 How much gas did you put down? I think it was about $2,500.
06:25 But that still didn't satisfy the sales price the individual that we bought it from was a writer for the studios and he had a terrible accident while under driving drunk and he was anxious to get out of the country and you finally end up in Mexico.
06:47 That time frustration with buying the first house primarily was the individual that we sent the checks to didn't cash them for over 6 months. So finally, we ain't got the broke the sales person involved and that was finally straightened out. I don't think he really knew what he was.
07:12 Doing at the time although he was an executive of a
07:17 National Cash Register company in Burley in Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio
07:24 That sound anyway, it was a it was it was built by a doctor in 1929. It was kind of a Spanish Monterey right style, but it was a total of 4 floors on the side of the Hill.
07:42 Smallest 1100 it wasn't a big mansion. Right? Right. I mean that street it was called sunnydip Trail called that when you bought it at Oak Point Drive Sunny dip train right on the corner, which is where we lived ultimately.
08:02 I mean that even when we lived there in 2002, it was a very narrow small Street in 1954 when you bought that house so I knew what was it like then well, it was only a paved about halfway between the next house and where we were leaving the time. It was just a dirt Fire trail entry remote for the Hollywood Hills. I did in and actually was only about 14 foot wide feet wide.
08:37 Did you guys you guys pay for that street at one point you and we'll have a good chili paper Street.
08:47 Could never have been built separating our garage and the house and I meant to bring him meme on record. And anyway, we asked that it be vacated and it took about five years but in some of the conditions.
09:09 That we encountered and getting the approval we had to pave the street and
09:18 That we are able to tie the two pieces of property together right hoping maybe sometime we could develop them.
09:26 That was that was our intent right buying all the Lots around other Lots became available and going to the buildable. I guess at the time they weren't because the street wasn't improved and write the conditions that change the build a house in the Hills. There was a fire problem and fire hydrants.
09:56 It just wasn't buildable property.
10:01 Especially on the 50/50 foot lots and that was so we had the time together it became a difficult.
10:09 Sure, right delete make the properties legal.
10:14 We got certainly built an Empire there. And if you had well how many Lots around and after the street was paved and and we got all the lights legal, Illinois.
10:28 Yeah, I would have been buildable but we like the isolation and the only neighbors we really had were across the street that worried for you moved into what's up that when you bought even the house 12958. There was no house right now or I mean 55 right now. So yeah the house that we bought which was go by from well-known Southern California architecture program me to the house now that it was the well-known was beautiful house will happen to be done by a post and beam and yeah, so you got to see that house built for three other owners 3, Maybe
11:19 What is it was great in there while we were so lucky to have move there and get to meet you and even though you had seen me over the seven.
11:31 Well, one of my neighbors and I always we walked the hills together and on Woodrow Wilson, which is one of the best. Yeah when you were living in there at the time now was so routine a routine.
11:53 Welcome by the walk, right?
11:56 We know it's what I find interesting to you and talking about your house purchase was that you couldn't get no a bank wouldn't lend to men no money that they were living together to purchase a home right by imagine if it was an investment property that was different but he's since you guys were living by knows but residents are they wouldn't lend you money. And so you said you had to take all these mortgages which you know by today's standards is very funny to have a 3 mortgage is on the $17,000 or less than Square. Actually. We didn't really visualize what the conditions right? Could we were quite vulnerable you were only 26 years old Miller 27 iMac 27 something like that. You were both really on I mean, it's fascinating to me that you to 25 year old guys would be no or anybody 25 years old to buy a property of a kind of really not usually access at that time and it was about it might be there were no street lights.
12:56 Where was was not a r i mean Nichols Canyon must have been the dirt Trail pretty much of a fire tomato. Yeah, but the whole thing about being I'm interested in the whole aspect of
13:11 Difficulties you had as a gay couple and I know it was so much more challenging it would that time and I'm going back to yeah. I mean, it was just completely different to different set of parameters that you had to live by that if I had to live by I mean when you guys you were nineteen fifty-four, I guess right when you go down right before that. No, I think we met in 52 right 53 and we live together for a couple of years before we bought the house. So just going back earlier. If you were born in Indiana, right when Indiana Richmond Richmond Quakertown, right and your family, it was actually where was your repair your Lutheran's or were they from where they born in Indiana area?
14:11 Oh, well lot of Quakers were German that what you mean? No, I'm just teasing.
14:19 When did when did you realize I mean was going up in Indiana and born in 1927 and it's impossible for me to
14:29 You know, what point form of the conversations that we've had in the past minute. I never got the sense that you were ever ever really struggled with the fact that you were gay. Cuz when you only realized that I really really heard you talk about and I have a similar experience why I never liked from texts and we will go to all of that. But you know that there's people that that I grew up with it would have had a lot of difficulty. My family was from small towns in Oklahoma, and I guess just because of the way I was raised. I don't know my parents instilled a lot of confidence in me and maybe I whatever reason I didn't have I didn't struggle with it a lot. I wouldn't make myself miserable about it. I didn't feel you know.
15:06 A lot of pain about it like some people do so, I feel very lucky in that sense. And I kind of sense that you had similar experience. So well, yeah with my good friends that I was in school with I think I realized that I liked to be with girls and dance and go out and all that but I always had an affection for one individual that time we spent a lot of time together and this was a
15:44 Actually, he was a brother of one of my best friends in the same in the 9th and 10th and 11th grades.
15:55 When did you realize at the time? I mean did you think about it as something that was wrong or was it it seemed normal, or did you think about it as a as a as a love type attraction or did you just think of the system I care about looking quite exciting and it was a great relief when we mean by that. Well, if you felt like you wreck realize what you were what you were well that for one thing and I never attempted to even have sex with a girl really, okay. It was something that
16:30 I had a really young Avenue Beaver come from Identity young age. And you didn't cause you a lot of struggle or mental Agony. Not really. Really. That's great. I mean I join the Navy when I was 17. I hadn't even graduated from high school yet. How do you do not so you haven't graduate from high school in the World War. I didn't want to be drafted. So I if you I was within 18, I mean maybe a week of being 18 when I graduated in 45 and I didn't get my diploma out of high school until I got back from
17:10 The white white easy didn't want to be drafted. Why is that I just I didn't want to be in the Army. I guess I see you and I didn't think I would I just so you got to pick your your service if you signed up as opposed to getting dropped. I think there was some fantasy about it. Really? Oh, yeah being on a boat with all those seamen.
17:33 Well, you think I was part of it went to the net worth of Tyler if I didn't have a problem with it, but I was always part of the parties but you'd be joined because you didn't want to get drafted you were afraid of getting drafted. You didn't join died in the Arlie because he thought it'd be fun to be in the Navy if you had to be in it. Never been never been on the West Coast or so. You've never been to the beach out of Indiana if you've been in Kentucky when you were in your well, maybe Ohio geography very welcome. It's easier to get to Ohio than it is to Kentucky. Okay, I see so you really haven't been out of the tri-state area help before you went to the Navy so you
18:33 Is the Navy you probably in the Navy just almost two years and I thought they were and you ended up after that. What will after I was down here. So you you imply that you know, you had a good time today. What was it like being gay in the Navy at the time? And I mean everybody knows that the whole don't ask don't tell in the military that I must be very interesting for you to watch the kids for the day.
19:00 Well, it was there like two memory. There were gay Sailors on the Liberty boats that you transport it out to the islands and I was on Okinawa or I think about whether I was I think I was on the way to Okinawa.
19:17 In August when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then of course, you didn't feel as long as well as getting bombed or some quarter. And that's when the Navy had some kind of an agreement with the Chinese Communist. I was in the end Phibbs. So we
19:46 Learned quickly returned all the Insidious boats over to the Chinese
19:53 And we saw we got to go to I got to go to Shanghai and Beijing and taking then and the things how long do not plan and if you can feel a lot of risk, it was kind of finishing welder wasn't having a good time. There wasn't the threatening four aspects of it. Right and some of the boats that I were on there were only twelve fifteen people and maybe just one officer and he wasn't on if we dock somewhere he was off with his other the other officers and there was Justin wasn't a hell of a lot to do.
20:36 Solar field Japanese
20:43 I think it was obvious to them easier for them to fit in with I don't know if you have the time if you feel like you fit in with any group, or are you?
20:58 You are selective about who you sure.
21:03 Virginia shortage of companionship. It sounds like in the Navy know that you were says 19 now, I guess. Yeah, I was 19. Okay. Only when I was 20 20 and then you went where from the Navy I went to Indiana Tech. That's when I arrive at the GI Bill of Rights.
21:34 So they paid for your school after that $75 a month. That's what you get a degree from from The Mindy at attack. I didn't get that until I got to California so you but you had a job before you move to LA. So you didn't get a degree in Indiana Tech, but I was in engineering school. So why why leave out of the job precipitate out here? I mean, what did you do? Well, I will I work for Bethlehem Steel for a while and I met some contractors and they asked me if I'd like to work for them and that's how I got involved in the construction. Okay is a while you were in school you work in Bethlehem Steel, and they have you had a job offer in Los Angeles from them.
22:28 So I did not know that so you didn't go to school till you got out here for two kids are getting ride RI.
22:35 So when you all did you go to school while you were working out here at Bethlehem Steel? No, no. No, I work for a construction company had architects.
22:50 That they would have a signing job is to or the owners would and I got to freaking with some of those and I got the experience and then you can take the test for the architectural exam. And if you passed it, then you mean it was still the same requirements, but you necessarily you didn't have to have an architecture degree. Now you do right? But if there was a lot of grandfather and will laws right into effect in that is interesting and I work for the same company for almost 34 years.
23:27 Never different owners, but it was the same company but not very long after so you haven't you came out here to La now. I heard from somebody that you actually had wanted to live in San Francisco. Is that true? Well sure what we were shipped out of Treasure Island when you were in the service and I only spent maybe four days in San Francisco and that that was the most exciting City. I'd never thought I'd ever been in. Well, I didn't to Chicago that only for the football games that I've never been to New York or the East Coast.
24:10 So it was so exciting about San Francisco.
24:13 Well, I don't know if it's just kind of a free attitude of things there.
24:20 There was a black cat was a notoriously.
24:27 Barn, and there was a popular but it was it didn't get rated as long as much as some of the others did that's why I said I don't know who knows how was being paid off but it was always safe to go to the black cat. Where was my cat? Was it right down right in downtown Downtown Summerlin? I don't remember the street then. Why do you think do you think because the military option X left and returned to their and drop you off in a field by mean it because it was kind of a departure point. I guess I can wait for military. Is that why you think there was going to be such a gate to hell really never thought about it at the time. They aren't even now it was
25:21 Maybe all the military guys who the gay ones decided. They got there and loved it and decided to stay there till maybe like you they were from you know all over the country to never experienced such a great Cloud. There were a lot more gay bars and restaurants in Hollywood, but don't trouble in the 50s and 70s Wilshire rated by the by squads and things like that that you were even in that. Well, I never got arrested, but you couldn't dance with another guy. You'd have to grab your ass girl at the bar stools when you're out of the Dance Floor. It was so even the lights would come on. And will you mean if they were being raided to me now?
26:09 So where you were you ever in a bar or club that was being rated how many times?
26:21 Well, there was one called the Apache and there was another one called maybe was Apache territory. I think I thought there was a problem with that the Indians didn't like.
26:32 Something about that meant but then there was like that and I don't know what it was. But but there was a famous bar that I remember in Hollywood was called the Golden carp and between the tables and the chairs there was like a little river a glass-top walkway with goldfish swimming swimming in it. And that was pretty fancy that was pretty exotic and not going to read it. So what was it like to be so what you said you grab the closest girl dragged or was every little bit of everything we on Halloween when he gets raided. What was it like in the 1950s? Well, if a guy's holding hands or
27:28 Just saying or
27:32 Being a little more attentive than you normally would they would you would be arrested for vagrancy or obscene Behavior? It was it was just a way to
27:51 You're a
27:54 Your lifestyle right to the bar owners pay people off to keep telling me. I'm good.
28:01 Are Universal leather bars really had to pay to go off a off now just to kind of avoid the hassle that it will need to do it.
28:10 Interesting, so but you never were arrested, but you saw people get arrested.
28:16 Well, it was yeah. Yeah, it was always on your mind and right.
28:23 They came stomping through the right front door cost. Well, it's you know it one of the things that happened a number of years later.
28:33 But talking about this subject Me to Hell bring this up now cuz I think it's interesting. You were about 40 early forties. I think you were with a 42 and Stonewall 6969 and here you live in the west coast. So in the west coast being kind of the other epicenter of the larger gay communities, I mean, it was pretty much the Ola San Francisco New York for the big gay ghettos. They call him the hell he really did work yet. I was in the sense that the gay community banded together and live together and you know more than they do now really which I need to know how much younger than you. I still find it kind of I miss that I see the gated communities disbursing and you don't have the concentration like you do in West Hollywood. I mean, I have people with baby strollers and families all around me that are lovely people but you know, you don't have quite the fraternity that you had, you know, what the time no discrimination is not what you saw me so we don't have to live together real feel like we need to be kind of in that environment anymore.
29:32 But the Stonewall riots, I mean that was I was thinking about that before we got through came to the it came here today and that must have been interesting. I mean tell me what you got what your friends you've thought about that when you know, I don't I don't know exactly when the mattachine society was doing but I know tell us what that is a lot of it was I think it was probably the first gay organization that tried to get
29:59 Rules changed for the police behavior and gay men and women would be more acceptable. I mean, we know what we we lived and worked right next to your neighbors and
30:19 And kind of a PR campaign they were trying to write it was and then when they're gay and lesbian center was established everything everything changed. It was much later. That was yeah. Oh, yeah. I'm not sure that would probably been in the well it would have been in the 70s. Yeah, because
30:41 Then there was in the water late 70s and early 80s was one of the plague was right.
30:50 Rampant tubes and that brought a lot of attention, right? Okay Community. I know how it significant that was and you know two gay rights in our history in the gay community. How did what was the reaction among you were in a few certain age group. Are you were in your early forties so middle-aged dish. What did your group of friends think about what happened at Stonewall in the riots? It was it was in there and excitement about it in Los Angeles. Well, I think there was but
31:29 That was the beginning of a lot of
31:36 Maybe not joining some of the gay groups but supporting.
31:47 The gay community
31:54 I don't actually don't remember specifically.
32:00 What's up?
32:05 What's up?
32:08 We did contribute. I don't care. I mean my partner and I we supported a group of people, but we weren't Wonder
32:21 Did you feel like anything was just suddenly changing. Did he give you that feeling at all? Samba laps a little less?
32:31 Let you know that I've just read read about it a little bit not a lot, but I find it very interesting how much people attitudes changed just almost overnight and that mean of that event became pretty much the spurred. What we now know is the gay pride parade and game around the world really so it's something that course. I was only let's see four years old at the time that was significant to me at the time course is certainly has been significant to me in my lifetime because it's enabled me to to do a lot of things that you know in the open that you can do when you were my why remember we were really proud of ourselves when we went to the first gay parade in Hollywood and where you at the fair was in the House of Pies parking lot.
33:22 Laugh out loud, they called the house of God that was pretty important to your mark down Hollywood Boulevard like that. I don't think it was a floater anything like that to be a few cars and it was people local there was a city councilman at the time. I can't remember his name now. Okay. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it was in office. I guess during that time is famous for being openly gay. And so it's doing that. I'd forgotten the dates and I think you yeah. Yeah something that kind of raining pretty strongly down.
34:22 Cisco yeah, that's for sure.
34:26 Well, you certainly seen a lot what some
34:29 You know, I like answer. I can't compare my experiences. I mean, I've been what do you think about when you know, you know you my partner Cyril who he and I met in 1989 so we can have been together over 22 years to write 22 years and you know you met us in 2002.
34:52 What do you think about the way you know the kind of gay community have today that's their own I grew up in and let it enforces where you enjoy. It's it's it's the goal. I get cold chills when they talk about it. Yeah, it's just it's been a lifetime.
35:16 For me
35:19 And I were together. We live in the same house or 52 years, right? I mean 48 years. I lived in the same house or 52. So I passed away a year before cereal and I moved in across the street.
35:36 So you guys have been in the house for 48 years. That point has been together for 50 almost almost.
35:46 Well, I was really sorry that I never got to meet at I got to see a lot of his wonderful artwork. He was an artist and that you have a house full of his work, which I just really admire so lucky to have that, huh?
36:00 And beloved, we love him because we joke that my part and I were just bought a house in Palm Springs that we're trying to pull together and get furnished in. Well, I like some of his paintings and so we're going to trade I've offered you to have a rotating Art Exhibit in our house just so you have a place to display everything so it would benefit us both know we both have very good taste. Well, I'm glad to hear you say that day you certainly do
36:27 Oh gosh well and we sit we just feel so lucky that we've gotten to to know you over the years. I mean, it's just so funny. I remember getting into the house and we were moving in and you probably out doing something on your property. You were always working on that property and it was so big and you're always out chopping some trees down or clearing brush or something in your car's. Yeah, and you know, we started working on that house and I was always outside probably doing similar things. Yes, you were and we were doing construction on it for a while. And so will you and I got to be got to be good friends and hanging out in front yards for a long time. Well, and now we got a new project and that we didn't have to get your supervising my my palm springs that are Palm Springs house and helping me get that done and
37:13 That's what I thought. Laura Story. I won't go into you on this special light in our lives. In fact, when we moved back you came to our our marriage we came back from Boston Store labeled in Boston for a year and we they were about to have the marriage. Well, there's a bunch of election for when Obama got elected. Right and we were concerned that the legality of marriage in California might end. It was uncertain because they were and so we flew in from Boston knowing we were going back to California and we flew in from Boston to get married and we got her license in Beverly Hills. And for some reason I don't remember why we ended up going back to Palm Springs to do the ceremony. They probably because you were there and there was another technical reason. But anyway, so we getting into the City Hall & Oates
38:13 Because we live in Palm Springs and I kind of left out the fact that we move to Palm Springs.
38:20 Let's see if we have the house for rent on 2005. I got 2006 we sold the house down here from you and we moved to Palm Springs and then
38:29 What you think about that? Well, it was an honor to be asked for one thing and it was a lot of fun. And yes what you mean the fact that we have to go back to where I was wondering what you thought about when we moved before I guess about four years two and a half years what happened to all of our a lot of our friends and when we have at Laguna house all of our friends and Laguna move to Palm Springs, right? And then when I moved to Palm Springs,
39:06 They all moved back to Laguna right and you were living next across the street from us, right? And when you move to Palm Springs Arts to even after you left, I know you weren't living here in Palm Springs while we have to move to Palm Springs. And then I did the Boston dream about it every night. And you did a great job on the the condo that you bought in Palm Springs. You got it and read it. Well, I did a few things.
39:54 You can afford it. Well, you and I are quite alike in the fence to be like things to be perfect or near-perfect. First of all the curse. Well listen to I was just sure Ben has become such a special forces in our life and thanks for doing this. This was important to me. I keep saying kept saying and I want to write these things down. So I'm so glad that we have this opportunity to to do the and you're going to look for a long time to come and we can't wait to be back in and have her house in Palm Springs. You would come looking forward to it. All right with a fever.
40:32 Very important to my day-to-day activities and loving very loving I agree, but we love you to death. Okay.