In the 1980s, membership in the club fluctuated between 11 and 16. A regular schedule of monthly meetings was maintained, primarily in members’ homes, but sometimes involving dinner at nearby restaurants. Several times a year, there would be meetings at the homes of members in Lancaster, Palm Springs, San Diego, and Las Vegas that would generally entail sleep overs and additional activities like group meals in restaurants and visits to local bars. One of the most notable local meetings occurred in 1981 when Jim Neuman hosted the B&B’s “First Summer Mess,” a formal dinner in full uniform that took place in the Mirror Room of the Huntington Sheraton Hotel in Pasadena.
Based on the available records, it appears that the numbers of beer busts and other public events occurring in this decade were relatively few. The B&B’s first beer bust of the 1980s appears to have been the one that took place in October 1982 at the Eagle in San Francisco in conjunction with the meeting of the American Uniform Association. In the mid-decade, the beer busts averaged one per year, and in 1988 and 1989 increased to two per year. The LA beer busts in this era took place at Gauntlet II (now the Eagle) and at the Zone and Griff’s, two bars which successively occupied the building at 4216 Melrose Avenue that is now The Faultline.
The B&B’s most memorable public event of the ‘80s was the “Daffodil Festival” that took place on April 9, 1988. This event was organized by Bruton Peterson and Neil Cowan as a fundraiser for AIDS. The event took place in the backyard of Bruton Peterson’s home on Rowena Avenue. According to Bruton, “It was Neil Cowan’s idea to do the Daffodil Festival. It was time for Neil and I to do another meeting. Everyone did a meeting. And Neil and I had done a sitdown dinner the year before for 75 people. And we decided to do it again and Neil made it into a fundraiser and named it the Daffodil Festival. Well, it was spring, and you know that daffodil was a derogatory name for gay people.” An envelope for donations was included along with the invitation and the invitation indicated that “A donation to your preferred AIDS organization will be matched by an anonymous benefactor in your name in honor of the twenty years of service to the Uniform Community by the members of the CALIFORNIA B&B CORPS.” The invitation specified that the dinner would be: “In the suitably Lavish Style to which we have all become Accustomed, as prepared by Master Chef Rich Norrath, Executive Chef of Ye Olde Bathhouse Monterey.” The lavishness of the décor matched the lavishness of the menu. Guests were impressed upon arrival by the little electric luminaria that lined the walk up to the garden behind the house. The swimming pool had been transformed by the addition of lily pads that had been obtained from the Huntington Gardens, which had just thinned out the lilies in one of its ponds. In this era when there was intense rivalry among the three uniform clubs to outdo each other, the B&B reportedly experienced a little schadenfreude because as Bruton Peterson recalls, “...I do remember that the Black and Tans were really a little disturbed because Neil had hired a marimba band to play, and it turned out that they were planning to have a marimba band at their Christmas event, and they thought that we had upstaged them on purpose.”
The tradition of putting on a Christmas dinner every December to celebrate the founding of the club and install new officers continued through the 1980s. These were formal, if not grand, occasions that provided members opportunities to wear formal, crisply creased uniforms with highly shined tall boots. In 1980, 1981, and 1982 these events took place at the New York Company, a restaurant that once existed at 2470 Fletcher Drive, between I-5 and the LA River. From 1983-1987, and then in 1989, they took place at The Gardenia, a sophisticated super club at 7066 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. The Gardenia still exists, and at the time was selected for these events because it met the club’s high standards for décor, service and cuisine and because Tom Rolla, its owner, was a friend of the B&B. In 1988, on the occasion of the club’s 20th anniversary, the dinner took place in the Grecian Room of the Biltmore Hotel. There were 133 men present, including the members of the Corps of Rangers and the Regiment of the Black and Tans, who had been invited as guests.
In the mid 1980s, a shadow fell over the club as the AIDS epidemic spread through the gay community. A total of 12 of the club’s officers succumbed to AIDS: Morgan Yates, Buck Sires, Ron Stamper, Robert Hamilton, Johann Dawson, Neil Divine, Ralph Goetz, Chuck Romanski, Jim Bachman, Clifton Bowman, George Burgess, and Mike Deffley.
In its reflection on the impact of the AIDS scourge on the club, the 1998 club history stated:
AIDS hit us it seemed harder and more than the other organizations, and the early terrors of not knowing the phases of the illness, nor yet its true horrific nature created a vast unease and sense of doom among us. If the Brotherhood in Uniform was to survive, it would have to undergo a searing loss of our compatriots and friends, of our newly-found freedoms and our innocence of our optimism. If we become only the witnesses to this crime of human waste for our community, let it be said that we will tell the tale to all who will listen to sing the songs of valor and decency to which we all aspire. The loss of our comrades is like the loss of soldiers in some great War, a battle we still fight, a skirmish community wide and needing our strength for many years to come. If we give you the names of our members; Morgan, Buck, Ron, George, Robert, Jim, Clifton, Johann, Chuck, Mike, Neil, Ralph, Jack, or any names we might share knowledge of, let them be spoken of with the special love our brotherhood imbues. Let the names not die.
With renewal in spirit to rebuild the California B&B Corps came a desire to help in raising funds for the many nascent AIDS charities in our area. A Daffodil Festival was held as a poolside event, and at that party generous guests helped raise enough money to help the San Francisco Continuum Project, a day care facility for AIDS patients, get off the ground. The nature of fundraisers when your own people are involved becomes more urgent. Beer busts, eagerly anticipated auctions of uniforms, and arm- twisting as required has helped us feel useful.
The club’s first AIDS fundraiser bar event for which there is a record was the “Michigan Beer Bust” that occurred at Griff’s in August 1984, shortly after the death of Morgan Yates, the first of the club’s members to succumb to AIDS. The beer bust was co-sponsored with the Regiment of the Black and Tans and the proceeds went to Aid for AIDS. A second AIDS fundraiser beer bust co-sponsored with the Black and Tans took place in 1985. In 1988, the Daffodil Festival raised funds for AIDS and a beer bust at The Zone in September of that year that was co- sponsored with the Corps of Rangers. In the subsequent decades, fund raisers for AIDS causes continued, with money raised for Aid for AIDS, the Shanti Foundation, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the AIDS Emergency Fund, and the AIDS Service Center of Pasadena.
Meeting at Mel Saddler’s house in Atwater Village in 1986. Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) is standing on the right. Tom was a friend of the B&B and was an occasional guest at B&B meetings and events.
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