Star Observer publisher Lawrence Gibbons recalls gay pride in the 70s and meeting Star Observer founder Michael Glynn.

Forty years ago I attended my first San Francisco Pride Parade. Standing on the sidelines, I watched as an extraordinary array of queer revellers of every age, shape, colour and size marched, pranced and boogied all the way down Market Street.

The Gay Liberation Movement was in full force and I was free at last.


That year in June the Dykes on Bikes unfurled new rainbow flags from their handlebars at the start of the parade. As they defiantly revved their engines from the Financial District to City Hall, I and hundreds of thousands of participants roared back in response.

Rainbow flags lined the light poles along the parade route. The year before, in the Seventh Annual San Francisco Pride Parade, the flags had made their international debut. As the State of California was embroiled in a bitter campaign to pass a religiously fuelled referendum to ban gays from teaching in public schools, rainbow flags were proudly waived for the first time.

I came out that summer.

In early November 1978, Proposition Six was resoundingly defeated. That night I jubilantly stood in a crowded bar in the Castro District and heard the first openly gay San Francisco city supervisor, Harvey Milk, deliver a rousing victory speech. Three weeks later he was assassinated by a fellow supervisor at City Hall. In late November, I was among 15,000 people who solemnly marched up Market Street carrying flickering candles to City Hall in remembrance of Harvey.

In the late 1970s I was an undergraduate at Berkeley. Campus life was defined by the radical anti-war politics of the previous decade, the black power movement, and a radical feminist agenda that paved the way for the Gay Liberation Movement. Across the Bay in San Francisco, disco music pumped in every gay bar and muscled men with moustaches (locally known as Castro Clones) were on the prowl for carnal pleasure. Armistead Maupin’s original Tales of the City was set in the day and is a PG version of actual events.

Here in Sydney Michael Glynn launched the Star Observer in July 1979 when he was 31 years old. Born in the States he protested the US government’s involvement in Vietnam by migrating to Australia.

Like many Americans of our generation, Glynn stood up for free speech, civil rights and the right to have a good time. He was an old fashioned entrepreneur.

I moved to Sydney to start my own publication in 1995. I had the honour of meeting Michael in the months before he died. His contribution to Australian queer history was formidable. In the end Sydney was not kind to Glynn. He sold his paper to a group of employees who went bust trying to pay their debt to him. He died a broken man.

Over the last 40 years, the Star Observer has had many owners, publishers and editors. Thousands of people have sustained, supported and participated in producing the Star Observer. The publication has only ever been the sum of its readers, advertisers, supporters and staff. Together Australia’s LGBTQI community has stood united to ensure that the Star Observer has served their interests.

The Star Observer remains Australia’s most significant independent queer media outlet. The Star has never been dependent on a government license or grants or corporate benefactors in any significant way. For 40 years the Star has primarily been funded by advertising revenues and community support.

Over the coming months we aim to return to the print publication to its roots by producing Sydney and Melbourne hard copy editions of the Star Observer once again. Digitally, we intend to provide regular national and international coverage of LGBTQI significant events. We recognise that compared to many other places in the world, we have it good here in Australia. But we refuse to become complacent.

After a brief month hiatus, the Star is proudly back on the street again. A team of passionate people has worked tirelessly to deliver the Star’s 40th anniversary edition and now its August edition. In a world of diminishing news coverage, community disengagement and reactionary, religious fuelled populism, it is more important than ever that the Star Observer continues to report the news and views of the LGBTQI community independently, fearlessly and without fail.

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