Oral History with Lee Lampos, 1958

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Abstract

Lampos grew up in Northern Virginia and went to college at the University of Virginia before moving to the district. He talked about how, when he was in college, gay groups had started popping up and he joined the one at UVA. They had regular meetings and scheduled big dances to create and celebrate community, even though many of these people were not out to family or even friends at the time.

After moving to DC, Lee looked for ways to get connected with and involved in the gay community and found out about the gay and lesbian switchboard, a phone hotline staffed by volunteers to share information about gay-friendly places, activities, businesses, and services. The switchboard was founded in the 7ps but Lampos joined in the late 80s when a lot of people were getting involved. Both men and women worked at the switchboard, with volunteer numbers getting up to 40+ at the peak of operations in the mid 1980s.

Lee listed a few of the locations the switchboard worked out of before shutting down in the late 90s. These included a community center at 17th & R streets, another community center int eh early 90s at Massachusetts and N street, they also had trainings at the director’s house on Logan Circle and Rhode Island Avenue and moved to yet another community center on M & 18th street before getting their own office in an old high rise building at 16th and P streets.

Lampos discussed how the switchboard became a conduit for all kinds of resources and information about and for the gay and lesbian community in DC and shared a list of restaurants, bars, and businesses that were gay friendly from the 80s to the early 2000s. These included Lambda Rising, Freddy’s, The Eagle, The Green Lantern, Rummington’s, The Phase, Llamas Bookstore, and Banana Cafe. Volunteers utilized publications like The Blade and the gay yellow pages, as well as tips from community members to put together their notebook of resources. They also created an official guidebook for the community as well, and attended conferences with other gay and lesbian hotline workers in New York City.

Not only did the switchboard provide information and point people in the direction of the resources they needed, the volunteers were also available to talk people through other general problems of being a gay person at the time - coming out, relationship problems, talking with community members, dealing with AIDS in the community, and much more.

When asked why a lot of the gay bars, restaurants, and other businesses have since closed, Lee talk through how the community has come a long way and we no longer need as many specific places that are gay-friendly, because most places are gay-friendly. Although he lamented the loss of these secret, under-the-radar type spaces, Lee talked about how just in his lifetime he went from being nervous when seeing two men holding hands in public to that being accepted and normal in most of our everyday lives.

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Original Format

Yes, recording available ( 01:33:53)
(audio mp4, 44.9 MB)

Citation

“Oral History with Lee Lampos, 1958,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed May 27, 2024, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1792.

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