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Guide to the Donald Montwill Papers, Group I - Records of Valencia Rose, January 1982-1985
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Collection Overview
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This collection, consisting of Montwill's records as artistic manager of the Rose, contains a variety a materials on just about any event occurring in its performance space. These ranged from musical reviews, plays, stand-up comedy, political meetings, rallies, slide lectures, films and photography exhibits. Promotional materials compose most of this collection. Other items include business documents, correspondence, and performance reviews from the local press.
Valencia Rose, located at 766 Valencia Street in San Francisco, opened its doors in January 1982 largely through the efforts of Ron Lanza, an actor, theatre lover, and business entrepreneur. With co-owner and partner Hank Wilson, Ron turned a funeral parlor into one of the city's most prominent cabarets. Lanza and Wilson heavily subsidized the Rose for the first two years of its existence, from 1982 to 1984, bringing various theater productions to the Rose and offering full- course dinners through the culinary talents of chef Ward Smith. In 1983, the life of this cabaret really took off, when Lanza hired Donald Montwill as talent scout and Dennis Powers as publicist. By March of 1984, writing a feature for the San Francisco Chronicle, Randy Shilts announced that the Valencia Rose had become "an epicenter of gay comedy." Many up-and-coming performers began their careers at the Rose, including Whoopi Goldberg, Doug Holsclaw, Lea Delaria, and Marga Gomez and local politician, the then "mother of gay comedy" Tom Ammiano. While much performance came and went at the Valencia Rose, the cabaret also became a community resource. Donald Montwill, who is largely responsible for the stellar performances there, solicited academics, politicians, and artists to give presentations on the history of the gay and lesbian community. The series, entitled "Gay and Lesbian Pioneers," ran successfully during 1984, including presentations on lesbian subculture in Paris in the early twentieth century to lectures on the history of the local leather culture. Montwill also turned the Valencia Rose into a public space for various community organizations, encouraging political rallies and other kinds of organizing to take place there, as well as hosting educational evenings on spirituality or holistic living.
Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California.
Collection is open for research.