Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jay Murley, Gay Rights Pioneer, Dies at 75


Copyright © 2011 by Leo E. Laurence for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Though he was a frail, senior citizen with false teeth, only one eye, little hair and a bubble belly, the late Jay Murley had a magical way of connecting with the cutest, very young guys … and many were his roommates and/or guests.

Jay was 75 when he died quietly at Scripps Mercy Medical Center in Hillcrest, after being ill for about two to three years, according to his daughter, Trish.

Jay grew up in a Boston suburb. His mother was an artist and his father a radio broadcaster; ac-cording to biographical data provided by Sam Warren.

Jay was married to Valerie Hart when we first connected about 44 years ago. We both worked in radio news in San Francisco in the 1960’s (he with KYA Radio, I with ABC-KGO News).

He was particularly proud of live KYA broadcasts he made of the controversial SFPD raid on the famous Black Cat homosexual bar on Hallowe’en in 1963 in San Francisco.

He bounced over to a Phoenix station, then left radio and moved to Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. There, on behalf of the ACLU in Orange County, he got actively involved in police misconduct issues among homosexuals.

By day I was a mainstream reporter at ABC-KGO News in San Francisco at the time in the 1960’s. By night I was an underground reporter for the Berkeley Barb, the only journalist regularly covering the Gay community.

Jay told me that he regularly read my Barb stories.

He was the only person I’ve met at the LGBT Center in Hillcrest who understood that our now worldwide Gay Lib movement actually began on the streets of San Francisco, two months before Stonewall.

Indeed, Jay told me he was thrilled when Gale Whittington recently published an autobiographical history novel, Beyond Normal ( Whittington’s book intimately — and sometimes erotically — challenged Gay history and the Stonewall myth.

Jay earned an undergraduate degree at Harvard and sometimes flaunted the distinction. He did not hold a law degree, according to his daughter.

He earned an MBA from Western Ontario University in Canada. He closely identified with Can-ada, and proudly played hockey there. He loved to talk about Canadian hockey.

Jay enjoyed being on the attack. He sometimes crudely used legalistic lingo and pseudo-legal procedures, when negotiating with City College of San Diego for official recognition of the Fellowship of Gay Supporters (FAGS). And he was successful!

The name FAGS was tacky, but caught the imagination of the “City” students, though it got only weak coverage in the campus newspaper (the City Times) which Jay battled regularly.

Jay loved to be around young people. He liked working intimately with Gay students at Cal State University in Fullerton. Later in the 1990’s he was intimately involved in organizing the now officially recognized Fellowship of Gay Students (FAGS) at City College of San Diego.

Jay served as treasurer of the Binational AIDS Project, involved with Gays in Tijuana and was an ex-president of the Prime Timers, a social club for Gay seniors, according to Warren. He also served nine years as treasurer of the Humanist Association of San Diego.

Jay passed away quietly and peacefully on Feb. 8, the day after his 75th birthday.