Happy Birthday Harry: Silver Lake honors gay rights pioneer

Silver Lake resident Wes Joe speaks at Saturday's dedication of The Mattachine Steps.

This morning gay activists and Silver Lake residents gathered near the base of a steep hill to celebrate the designation of a section of the Cove Avenue stairway in honor of pioneering gay activist Harry Hay and the movement he helped set into motion.The teacher, actor and Communist helped found one of the nation’s first gay rights groups, The Mattachine Society, in November 1950.  Today, on what would have been Hay’s 100th birthday,  a section of the  Cove Avenue public stairway west of Silver Lake Boulevard was officially designated as The Mattachine Steps. The occasion was marked with speeches, a few tears and ended with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for Hay.

Hay, who according to some accounts moved into Silver Lake during the early 1940s,  lived at  2328 Cove Avenue, according to Silver Lake resident Wes Joe, who has been researching Silver Lake’s gay history.  Hay would soon part ways with The Mattachine Society over his Communist affiliation but the group continued and established chapters in other cities.

Today’s Mattachine Steps dedication is  one of several events to mark the 100th birthday of Hay,  who died in 2002.  On Sunday, April 15, ONE  National Gay & Lesbian Archives will present film clips, a panel discussion and  literary readings about Harry Hay at ONE archives building, 909 W. Adams.


  1. Typo in name: “Harry Hay” vs. “Hay Hay”

  2. a big thanks to Silver Lake hero Wes Joe for making this happen!

  3. I think there should be a sign at the stairs at the top of the cul-de-sac at Fair Oak View Terrace; those stairs were featured in the Three Stooges’ “An Ache in Every Stake.” Not as significant as the Mattachine Society, but still kinda cool. (The stairs first appear at around 3:10.)


  4. the designation of the Mattachine Steps was timed to commemorate 100 years since the birth of Harry Hay.

    Mr. Hay lived on Cove Avenue in Silver Lake in the 1940’s and was a co-founder of the Mattachine Society – an organization dedicated to gay rights.

    This information and other significant information regarding Mr. Hay should be available in text on the signage which the City of Los Angeles placed at the steps.

    But the operative element in this Landmark Designation and its location is the significance of the individual – Mr. Harry Hay.

    The most sincere and genuine designation for this landmark should appear in large bold letters at the very top of the city installed signage at Cove Avenue marking the – Hay Stairway.

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