by Dr. Derek Lamar
Most of the funding for this Fourth Way School consisted of class fees, life memberships and donations. We almost never had any fundraisers. But for some reason someone had this idea about a rummage sale. I think they probably just wanted to clean out their garage. Nevertheless students began dropping off odds and ends at the school. Most of the donations were being kept in the lounge at the back of the school. It was referred to as "The Coffee Room" because that was pretty much all that happened there, other than the rest rooms.
A few students milling about one day exchanged the usual conversations as they drank their coffee. Steve began sorting through the clothes another student had just brought in. Her name was Pat. Steve, who was notoriously gay, proceeded to pull on a pair of her levi's. He said, "I always wanted to get into your pants." She snapped back, "That's the only way it'll happen!" Hisssssss. Though gay, Stephen was no stranger to sleeping with females. And I doubt if Pat was totally straight though clearly she usually had a boyfriend and he, almost always, was from the outside.
(Above right: The corner Steve was standing on in front of a Baptist church on Selma Avenue.)
Hustling on Selma Avenue
Steve was among the "young men" who hung out in Hollywood. One day Steve saw a large car turn the corner on Selma Avenue. Selma Avenue was famous for hustling in those days. You could usually find a young man on any corner advertising his wares while a block away on Hollywood Blvd. you could find a plethora of female prostitutes. As the car slowed down and moved in closer Steve could make out an older white haired man. As the car passed he could see a peculiar rear view mirror set-up. It went all the way across and was divided into five mirrored sections. With all of the traffic on Selma you have little time to consider much and the procession continued.
(Above: Many ways to look in a mirror. If I really had a picture of Thane's car it would look pretty much like that except that they didn't have personalized plates back then.)
Steve was originally from Denver, Colorado but made it to Hollywood with only his bratish looks and the ability to play the piano. He became friends with some former Hollywood High School students: Tom, Mike, Henry, Mark and Scott. Tom was the Teacher's secretary at this Gurdjieff School and his mother was singer and film star, Marion Bell. At some point in time Steve found himself at the Teacher's home with his new friends. He went outside for a cigarette and noticed a large car in the driveway with a peculiar rear view mirror. He knew he had seen it somewhere before. After he went back into the house Thane walked into the living room and instantly Steve said to himself: "Selma Avenue".
I had heard stories about the Teaching even before I met Thane at Ludwig Gerber's house on Blue Jay Way. I knew about the concept of androgyny and it appealed to me right off. I remember when I first learned the word. It was when I was working at the L. A. Image and Jim Martin wrote a review of the Stones concert at the Forum and referred to Mick Jagger and his androgynous persona. Up to that point I only knew about bi-sexuality. It made sense to me at the time. I was attracted to both males and females plus it fit with a whole "new world" idea of liberation, equality and rebellion.
When I first started attending lectures and classes at this "mystery school" I met a lot of people and you didn't automatically know if they were straight or gay. Everyone was open and expressed themselves physically with hugs and kisses and you couldn't simply assume anything one way or the other. Well, it WAS a "mystery school", right? Santa Monica wasn't far from Hollywood and the influence of the music, TV and film industry attracted many creative people of all lifestyles.
(Above left: Mick Jagger was the first entertainer to be recognized as having androgynous qualities. This was more a recognition on the part of the general public and a readiness to understand androgyny than on Mick Jagger himself. David Bowie also became associated with that word but with Bowie it was more fabricated and with Jagger it was his charismatic persona which exuded that chemistry.)
The atmosphere of experimentation within the school took on hedonistic proportions. It seemed like everyone had their names on a list for something new. There were guys, fresh out of the military, who found themselves being pulled into the crowd of self-discovery in ways they only dreamed about. For some it was a lifestyle of opportunity while others took it in stride. Marriages were dissolving and relationships were changing so often it was hard to keep up. Women were discovering liberation and men were discovering each other.
One night after dinner at The Broken Drum, ("You Can't Beat It"), Tom, Baba and myself found our way back to "The Zoo" where we were living at the time. As we approached my apartment I heard Baba turn and say: "Oh, Tom... Derek and I would like to be alone now." Tom sheepishly smiled and continued on to his own apartment. I thought I was going to die. I about dropped my keys (and my pants) right there. I am not sure I could look into Baba's face for a minute or two I was just shocked. I felt "just like a little girl", as the guy used to say on Saturday Nite Live. Wow that was worth the price of admission. If nothing had happened that would have been enough. It is weird needing to feel so "wanted" especially when you are young. I had a crush on Baba and he was wearing his famous pants that night too. They had zippers that ran all the way down the pleat of each leg. That always struck up a conversation.
(Above right: The "famous" zipper pants looked better with Baba in them.)
It would be years later that I would learn that there was much in the founding of the school and its historical role in the sexual liberation which passed by unnoticed by most people. Thane had been connected with the Mattachine Society, along with its founder, Harry Hay. Martin P. Starr, author of The Unknown God, said to me that as far as he could tell Thane and the school "were akin to a Christian Science group crossed with a (very discreet) sexual liberation movement -- they were considered a part of Harry Hay's "Circle of Loving Companions" a gay collective of the 60's." Starr said, "My friend Michael Bertiaux heard Thane lecture in Chicago in the early 1970s and he remembered him being surrounded by very handsome young men who doted on him."
(Above: Harry Hay as the years rolled by. Far right: Michael Bertiaux, author, teacher & gnostic priest)
It was more than just the Harry Hay influence that was connected here. It was an explosion of consciousness really. Not only was Harry Hay's Mattachine Society out there from about 1951, but also there was The Daughters of Bilitis that was founded in San Francisco in 1953. I don't know who was actually from the Mattachine Society, which was in its own way rather metaphysical, but the Daughters of Bilitis was very influential and brought its own impact of sexual liberation into the mix of this Fourth Way School. Gurdjieff's school, the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at the Prieure in Fontainebleau-Avon, France, had many "gay" or homosexual members including Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. In Thane's school there were several members whose reputations remain high on the list of gay history and thus sexual liberation in general.
(Above left: Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas... Paris days with G. I. Gurdjieff)
Billye Talmadge, the black sheep niece of Senator Talmadge, became a student of Thane's and worked to become a very influential Mentor. Billye had a history of fighting against social injustice and that included her participation in the Freedom Rides in the South during the civil rights movement of the early 1960's. Billye also became one of the early members of the Daughters of Bilitis.
(Left: Billye Talmadge as she teaches on Consciousness and the importance of letting go of one's "inner demons" in order that one's hidden splendor be revealed. Far right: Senator Talmadge being sworn in circa 1947.)
Along with Billye were other members of the D.O.B. who were students of Thane and strong supporters of this Fourth Way School. Helen "Sandy" Sandoz, first president of D.O.B. (aka Helen Sanders aka Ben Cat) and ran the printing press in Thane's school in the early days. A peculiar factoid of her life is that she was related to the famous family who ran the Sandoz Laboratories that produced the first pharmaceutical "acid" associated with Timothy Leary's experiments. Her life partner Stella Rush (aka Sten Russell) was always there in class and special events. She is well known for her poetry and her early influence in the gay movement. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were also members of this school and students of Thane's and came and spoke on more than one occasion later on in the 1970's. More recently they are remembered for being the first "same-sex marriages" to take place in San Francisco, February 12, 2004. (Blackboard Feb. 2004)
(Above: Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin as the years unfold a lifetime of consciousness raising. Phyllis is on the left and Del on the right correspondingly in each photo above.)
The Stonewall Riots in June of 1969 opened the door to the modern gay liberation movement. The Police raided The Stonewall Inn, of New York's Greenwich Village, but the patrons violently resisted. Even the people on the street, butch lesbians, gay teenagers and transvestites all joined in and stood up to the common oppression. In the gay movement this is often looked upon as a Rosa Parks moment. On a certain level, consciousness was changed that day, even if only in the minds of the gay community.
Another student, known then as the Right Reverend Michael Itkin, and who had become an ordained catholic priest in 1957, continued his work for sexual freedom even while he was in the school. His work throughout the 1950's and 1960's toward the creation of a "gay church" would become the seed for a philosophy that would be known later as "Liberation Theology". Michael passed away in 1989, however, but because of the importance of this work, he was later canonized by the Moorish Orthodox Church in America as Saint Mikhael (19361989) of California.
(Above left: The Stonewall Inn. Right: Rev. Michael Itkin.)
The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) had been invited to the school and they showed up for a few Sunday lectures here and there. Troy Perry started the church in 1968, the year before the Stonewall Riots. They were an early indication of the changes that were happening under the surface of what was otherwise just another day before God. Unfortunately a lot of the "gay" people who wandered through casually just didn't get the "androgyny" thing. A lot of gay people didn't want to be androgynous they just wanted to be GAY.
(Left: Troy Perry, founder of The Metropolitan Community Church)
On the other end of the spectrum we had visitors from an Ontological Church in Orange County who were a little freaked out over this male / female thing going on. They just didn't get it. When androgyny was discussed they just looked at each other in disbelief. In their world SEX had nothing to do with God. When it was offered that "In the beginning God created man male and female"; the look they gave was clear: that "Yes, that was right and those three letters: A-N-D were what kept us apart."
Joe Dabich, known as "Pepe" was one of the more "colorful" students and would be termed "transgender" today. Pepe had a very Andy Warholish ambiance that he carried with him most of the time. He was the first student of the younger crowd to die in the 1970's. But it wouldn't end there. Steve, who I mentioned earlier, died of the AIDS virus in the 1980's. This really angered me personally, not just because he was such a close friend but also because he had so much potential. Everyone has potential, but his was right there on the surface. Unfortunately he had a lot of self-destructive issues that kept his struggle in chaos and it overcame him through that disease.
(Left above: Street hustling... depressing, dangerous and sometimes deadly.)
Saga continues Adult Children of an Alcoholic Teacher
Copyright © Derek Lamar 2005
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