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Outfest Premieres ‘Long Road,’ 50 Years of The Advocate

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Men and women could be arrested for holding hands, dancing or displaying any affection toward a member of the same sex when the Advocate first published in 1967.

Fifty years later, filmmaker Billy Clift documents some of the seminal moments and events in LGBT history, in his documentary “The Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years,” premiering at Outfest on Thursday, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Advocate started as a newsletter called “Pride,” following a particularly maddening police raid in Silver Lake on New Years Eve. A year later it became The Advocate, evolving into a national magazine (and eventually an online publication) that was a go-to source of badly-needed information for LGBT people. It not only covered arts and entertainment as well as politics of the day, but it later became a crucial source of information about AIDS, potential treatments, and other life-and-death information that would help galvanize the LGBT community.

The film, a HERE TV original, does a good job of showing the monumental hurdles the LGBT community has had to endure over the last five decades. Some of the key players of the early years are interviewed in the film, Rev. Troy Perry, Cleve Jones, Ivy Bottini, Robin Tyler, and, possibly the most profound, Dr. Michael Gottlieb, the UCLA doctor who treated the first Los Angeles AIDS patient and identified the disease in 1981.

Other familiar faces are West Hollywood activist Dr. Don Kilhefner, musician Dave Koz, writers Dustin Lance Black, Bruce Vilanch, and Armistead Maupin; former California Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Durk Dehner, LA LGBT Center Executive Director Lori L. Jean, activist Torie Osborn, NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt, and many others.

(A book with a similar title, “Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement,” was written by Mark Thompson, detailing the publication’s first 25 years.)

It’s gratifying to see the community’s successes, its ascent as a political force; the impact of such movements as the Coors boycott and Anita Bryant getting her “just desserts,” as Tori Osborn puts it, and to witness how far LGBT rights have come.

While the details are important, some topics are examined to the point where the viewer could lose sight of how the Advocate figured into the situation, or what part the magazine played in that incident or period of time.

But the documentary offers a powerful chronicle of some of the most turbulent decades in LGBT history, and of the publication that was there to record it. To that end, it’s invaluable.

Click for tickets and more information. “A Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years”, Thursday, July 19, 7:30 p.m., Samuel Goldwyn Theater,  8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. 

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and is currently producing a documentary for her own company, Saving Grace Films.

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