FOF #829 – Stoking the Fire

Aug 28, 2008 · 114822 views

Activist Rick Stokes on the Feast of Fools podcastRick Stokes did what almost every gay man in Kansas did back in the 1950s- he got married to a woman. His wife knew that he had a number of gay experiences before they got married but whether it was naivety or wishful thinking, they thought his desire for a gay life would go away.

When his desires wouldn’t abate, his family, his wife and his in-laws convinced him to undergo electro shock therapy to cure him. After many treatments and with no guarantee of success, Rick opted out of this unusual treatment and ended his marriage. But he says later it was the kick in the pants he needed to help him to chase his own rainbow colored dreams.

Rick Stokes gets a thank you kiss from Fausto Fernós (Marc Felion left, Alex in the back)He moved to Sacramento, CA to find the man who he would eventually spend 35 years with. Along with his partner, Rick formed the Association for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) to provide social interaction and to promote pro-gay action.

They group provided a place for people to feel good about being gay and to accomplish pro gay activities. One such activity was to raise awareness about STDs like gonorrhea or syphilis which were very common but were little understood by gay men or even by their doctors.

The pair eventually moved to San Francisco and became involved in the gay scene. Having acquired a law degree, Rick became well known as the “go to” guy if you got busted by the police for what were punishable offenses back in the day. Often times, people arrested for what was considered lewd behavior pleaded down to a lesser crime in order to reduce the risk of being found out and losing work. Rick convinced people to not “plead out” their cases but to go to trail. Eventually, the court system figured out that they weren’t go to win any of these cases so the police stopped targeting gay men.

Rick later ran against Harvey Milk for Supervisor seat in 1977 and lost. He will be portrayed by in the upcoming film “Milk” by Stephen Spinella, an openly gay actor known for his role in Angels in America and Spring Awakening on Broadway.

Listen as we talk with Rick about the horrors of being electrocuted in attempts to change your sexuality, working for gay rights in America at a time when being gay as illegal and where we are all headed in our fight for sexual diversity.

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  1. Jon-paul says:

    Fausto and Marc, you guys amaze me. This is perhaps one of the most important podcasts you have ever made. Rick Stokes is such a part of LGBT history not only for the bay area but for our overall shared history. I was amazed at the perspective he was able to give through the stories of his own personal life and his participation in some pivotal historical events. I was riveted to his words and realized that we owe a lot of what we enjoy today to people like him who pioneered the way for us. Thank you for proving once again why the Feast of Fools is the best podcast on the Internet!

  2. Curtis says:

    Rick is a genuinely amazing man. He’s one of my bosses and I knew he had a fascinating history, but I learned so much about him in this interview. His story is so inspirational. It’s so easy for us to whine about the challenges we face today, imagine facing what Rick did and not only surviving, but finding the personal strength to demand and create change. We should all take a page from his life and actually do the work to make the world a better place, rather than just talk about it.


  3. DC_gay_man says:

    Really enjoyed Rick’s perspective of gay history, San Francisco culture, and perhaps his reminders to us of what we should consider going forward.

  4. Rhea says:

    Thank you for interviewing Rick Stokes. He is a perfect example of a businessman who truly gives back to the community. Without men like him who paved the way for us, where would we all be?

  5. RcktMan says:

    This was one of the most compelling shows I’ve ever heard on Feast of Fools. Rick’s stories of the history and the development of the gay rights movements and the events that shaped them– as well as his own personal struggles– were interesting, moving and deeply touching. Thank you so much for bringing him on the show so we can learn about this amazing man.

    Your interviewing was again insightful, respectful, and so well-done.

  6. Ronan says:

    An amazing show. You guys keep raising the bar. Thanks for this interview. Rick is an amazing person. I wish I had met someone like him twenty years ago. He would have changed my life. Now, thanks to your podcast he can continue to change the lives of others with his wisdom.

  7. Dave says:

    Aren’t we lucky to have the internet, blogs, communites and podcasts like this one to find each other and communicate in a mass medium, but on an intimate level?


  8. Rhea says:

    When the Milk movie comes out later this year, I really hope they portray Rick Stokes in a fair and balanced light, and not as an “Uncle Tom” of the gay community for mere dramatic effect. Both Milk and Stokes are/were pioneers, like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were for the black community. I hope the movie emphasizes that!

    Marc and Fausto, please have Rick Stokes back on the show when Milk premieres in October and get his two cents on the movie and on how he was portrayed.

  9. TrickyToro says:

    What a rare and wonderful opportunity to learn about our history from the source. Thank you guys for having Rick on. His comments regarding homeless people sound like the comments of a business owner. We actually have Reagan to thank for closing the state hospitals and flooding the streets with patients who receive a monthly social security check. And as anyone can attest there are virtually no public toilets in SF especially for someone without money.

  10. corey says:

    This episode was extremely interesting and informing. I love your shows that help connect us to the story of how we got to where we are today in our community.

  11. ben Consoli says:

    What an amazing show today. Rick’s story is so moving and compelling. Love it!

  12. Nikole says:

    I would love to get a hold of Mr. Rick Stokes can someone please help me? My email is I think he is amazing. I watched “The word is out” and would love to know how to meet him for a cup of coffee………………

  13. drumsey says:

    “Do you think we are overreacting to HIV/AIDS these days? Why not?” What a STUPID comment. In a city where 1 out of every 4 gay men you meet is HIV+ and with infection rates that are STILL at epidemic levels and with HIV rates GROWING among men under 30… we are definitely NOT overreacting enough. That sort of “we don’t need to worry/care” attitude is a BIG part of the problem!

    You might want to watch the movie “We were here”, by SF doc filmmaker David Weissman. It’s a great documentary of the city’s response to HIV/AIDS. It was nominated for an Oscar.

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