My name is David Bohnett, and Rand Schrader and I lived together as a couple for ten years prior to his death in June of 1993. I am pleased to speak today at the dedication of Schrader Boulevard on behalf of Rand’s family, many of whom are here; Rand’s mother, Hildi Lustig, and her fiancé Herman Taylor, his Aunts Bee and Rose and their husbands Bob and Harry, his cousin Jackie Berz and her husband Ron, his Aunt Ida Rose, and a number of friends of Hildi and Herman who have accompanied them here today. With us in thought and spirit are Rand’s brother Jon Schrader and his wife Marcie. I spoke with Jon over the weekend and he expressed to me his great pride in this honour for Rand.
I have thought a lot in the last few weeks about today’s dedication, and what it means for Rand’s family, friends and the gay and lesbian community. I have been struggling with how to put this event into a context with Rand’s life and achievements, and the achievements of the gay and lesbian community as a whole. I reread a few of Rand’s speeches yesterday, and in particular the speech he gave in December, 1992 for the dedication of the building we are standing in today. What strikes me, as it did Rand, is how far we’ve come in such a relatively short period of time.
Let’s think back for a moment to a time 23 years ago, in 1971, when the Center first opened its doors in a rented building at 1614 Wilshire Boulevard. In those early years, the Center was a place where gay people felt welcome and safe, and the discrimination imposed by the rest of the world was kept outside its doors. The sign in front said ‘Gay Community Services Center’. That sign said we’re here, this is a place for us.
Just three years after the Center opened I was a freshman at USC, and I drove my little motorcycle along Wilshire Boulevard just to see the sign that said Gay Community Services Center. I was far too frightened and intimidated to actually stop and go inside the building, and in fact I was scared even that someone would see me riding in front of the place. But knowing that the Center was actually there, gave me hope and comfort that one day, when I was ready, there was a place where I would feel welcome and safe, too.
Now, we have a much bigger building, a much bigger sign, and a street sign on the corner that says Schrader Boulevard. ‘Meet me on the corner of Sunset and Schrader’, ‘I’ll pick you up at the corner of Hollywood and Schrader Boulevards’. Really, I get goose bumps every time I think about how far we’ve come.
Let’s think of these two blocks between Hollywood and Sunset as the lesbian and gay yellow brick road – this is Hollywood, after all. In the land of Oz, Dorothy, Toto and the friends they met along the way followed the yellow brick road in search of their hopes, dreams, and a way home. When you turn onto Schrader Boulevard on your way to the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, look down and you’ll see the street is actually paved with gold – it is the path to our hopes and dreams, and our road home. Thank you very much.