What Is the History of The Advocate?
by Wik Wikholm
Today, The Advocate coexists comfortably with its neighbors on
newsstands. Politicians and celebrities anxious to be interviewed grace
cover, and its pages are loaded with the same advertising that supports
mainstream magazines. But when it first appeared in 1967, The
a grittier look.
That first edition was the brainchild of Dick Michaels and his lover
Rand, of the Los Angeles activist group PRIDE. In an attempt to improve
group's newsletter, the two created the Los Angeles Advocate, a
paper laid out with a typewriter, with 500 copies printed on cheap 8-1/2
x 11-inch stock. The paper sold well, and in 1968 Michaels and Rand
from PRIDE. By the summer, advertising revenue produced enough income to
allow Michaels and Rand to quit their day jobs.
The quality of the paper's articles was as uneven as the printing, but
Los Angeles Advocate had a clear voice. The editorial style was
pro-sex, with nude or nearly-nude men on many early covers. Articles
how to avoid police entrapment ran side by side with lifestyle pieces
movie stars and male fashion, and Michaels covered the gay liberation
In 1969 Michaels and Rand renamed the paper The Advocate and
national distribution. By 1974 press runs routinely ran to 40,000
enough to attract the attention of a wealthy suitor from San Francisco
David Goodstein, an investment banker who had been fired from his job
because he was gay. When he approached Michaels and Rand with an
attractive offer, they agreed to
Goodstein was an improbable publisher for a militant newspaper. Most
California activists were allied with left-wing politics, so when a
millionaire took over their Advocate, many were appalled and
Goodstein didn't seem to care. But in 1983, as the AIDS crisis began to
The Advocate responded aggressively to more serious criticism.
activist Larry Kramer blasted the gay press, especially The
ignoring the growing AIDS epidemic and failing to push gay men towards
safer-sex techniques. Some publications ignored Kramer's broadside, but
the next month The Advocate started recommending condoms. The
magazine has maintained a high level
of AIDS reporting ever since.
Goodstein died of cancer in 1985. The paper's focus started to drift,
and many readers
feared its best days were behind it. But The Advocate was roused
in the early 1990s by an opportunity -- and a threat. Marketing reports
have since been questioned) suggested that gays had more expendable
than heterosexuals, and mainstream advertisers began funneling money
publications. The Advocate's advertising revenues nearly doubled
1990 and 1992, but the new interest also led to the creation of glossy
competitors like Genre, Deneuve (now called Curve),
The Advocate remade itself in 1992 and became the magazine it is
The erotic and personal ads were spun off into a separate publication,
the traditional newsprint was replaced with glossy stock. Advertisers
attracted to the magazine's new look, though reader response was mixed.
gay men felt that the magazine had "gone mainstream," but many lesbian
readers were relieved that male erotica was removed from a magazine that
called itself "gay and lesbian" since 1990.
Today, the biweekly remains the only national gay and lesbian news
publication and is now part of a growing gay media empire. Its
company, Liberation Publications Inc., recently bought rival magazine
Out and then announced a merger with gay Web powerhouse
References and Further Reading:
Hogan, Steve and Lee Hudson. "The Advocate," in Completely Queer: The
Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia. New York: Henry Holt (1998).
Streitmatter, Rodger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian
Press in America. Boston: Faber and Faber (1995).
Thompson, Mark, ed.. Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of
the Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York: St. Martin's Press (1994).
Wik Wikholm produces www.gayhistory.com, an introduction to modern gay
He can be reached on the site's discussion boards, or by e-mail at
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