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Guide to the Donald Montwill Papers, Group I - Records of Valencia Rose, January 1982-1985
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Donald Montwill Papers, Group I - Records of Valencia Rose,
    Date (inclusive): January 1982-1985
    Accession number: 93-7
    Creator: Valencia Rose
    Extent: 1.66 linear feet
    Repository: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
    San Francisco, California.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The papers (93-7) were acquired by GLHS in 1993 from Donald Montwill.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Donald Montwill Papers, Group I - Records of Valencia Rose, 93-7, The Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California.

    Historical Note

    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.
    During its brief life, the Valencia Rose became a dynamic cultural and political center of the Valencia Street neighborhood. However, Ron soon set his sights on other goals, notably pursuing an acting career in Los Angeles. In late 1985, the Valencia Rose closed its doors. Donald Montwill and his ill lover, Jim Mannis, moved to Hawaii. After Mannis' death, Montwill returned to San Francisco and soon began planning the opening of a new cabaret with Lonza. This time they scouted a location near Castro and began a strong campaign to obtain a cabaret licence. The result was the opening of Josie's Juice Joint on 16th Street just off Market. He then continued his remarkable career as talent scout and theatrical impresario by becoming artistic director for Josie's, which was, in many ways, the successor to Valencia Rose.

    Scope and Content

    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.
    The records (1.66 linear feet) are divided into three series; performer files, administrative files, and promotional files. The performer files contain materials for performers or for specific performance events. In these files, you will probably find a collection of fliers or other kinds of advertisements for an event. Unfortunately, though we have a plentiful supply of fliers from these events, they provide very limited information. Often, only names and dates (with no year) can be found on these fliers, accompanied by xeroxed photographs of the performer. Other materials in these files range from publicity photos, press releases, occasional scripts, press reviews, and old copies of programs for the performances. Basically, anything relevant to the specific performer or piece can be found in these files. These files were already largely in existence when the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society received these materials.
    The administrative files contain general business documents, monthly calendars, correspondence files, and release forms. Of the two correspondence files, the first contain letters to Ron Lanza or promotional materials which Lanza collected. The second correspondence file contains letters and materials that Donald Montwill probably compiled.
    The first two promotional files are a simple collection of all postings of performances. Additional promotional files are sorted into "Music Events;" "Photo, Slide, or Film Presentations;" and "Political, Spiritual, Holistic or Other Events." Again these are mostly brief announcements of events. One of the more interesting files in this collection is the History Project file. Here there are promotional materials, and a little correspondence, from "The History Project Series" which the cabaret hosted for about a year. In the next files, a variety of materials more or less related to Valencia Rose can be found. A file labeled "Information about Possible Performances," contains materials that either Ron Lanza, Donald Montwill, or others had collected, pertaining to any performance considered as a possibility for Valencia Rose. The following file "Materials for Planned Performances" consists largely of publicity photos, with reviews and other promotional materials also occasionally included. The file "Articles about Valencia Rose" follows. This consists of reviews and other discussions of the cabaret found in the local press. The next file of this series is a collection of monthly calendars dating from December, 1981 to July 1985; this file includes miscellaneous press releases located in the back of the folder. Finally, the last file of this series contains performance placards, or signs used to announce the event in the cabaret.

    Related Collections

    Title: Hank Wilson Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: #96-2