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Laurent, Aristide J. (1941-2011) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Laurent, Aristide J. (1941-2011)

Historical Note:

Aristide Joseph "A.J." Laurent was born in Magnolia Springs, Alabama on September 15, 1941 to farm hand Duval "Buck" Laurent and Elizabeth "Betty" Weeks. He had one younger sister, Carol Elizabeth Weeks (1945-2010). After graduating from Weeks High School in 1960, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and served four years, first as a signals intelligence operator in Karamursel, Turkey and later as an instructor at the Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.

Upon discharge in 1964, Laurent moved to Los Angeles, California and began living as an openly gay man. He took a job with the American Broadcasting Company where he worked from 1964-1967 producing scripts for ABC Television. Laurent allegedly participated in the Compton's Cafeteria Riots during the summer of 1966 as well as the Black Cat Tavern Riots which occurred on New Year's Day 1967. Following these demonstrations he became involved with the Los Angeles organization PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) which published a local newsletter documenting police violence and harassment against the LGBT community.

In the basement print shop of ABC studios alongside Richard Mitch, Bill Rau, and Sam Allen, Laurent transformed PRIDE's newsletter into The Los Angeles Advocate, later known simply as The Advocate—the oldest and largest LGBT publication in the United States and the only pre-Stonewall publication of its kind still in existence today. Under the pseudonym "P. Nutz," Laurent penned the nightlife column, "Mariposas de la Noche" ("Butterfly of the Night").

Laurent continued his work in publishing and printing until retirement in the 1990s and remained an active LGBT rights activist into the first decade of the twenty-first century. He participated in the 1976 charity "slave auction" at the Mark IV Bathhouse in Hollywood to benefit the Gay Community Services Center and was one of forty arrested by Los Angeles Police after a mistaken tip indicated that the event was an actual, illegal slave trade. In the 1980s Laurent joined the ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) movement to fight discrimination, inequality, and indifference to the AIDS crisis. In 1993 he attended the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation and visited the capitol again in 2000 for the Millennium March on Washington.

On October 26, 2011 Aristide Laurent passed away after a fifteen year battle with prostate cancer. His work, efforts, and advocacy involvement can be considered the foundation for the modern LGBT equality movements in the United States.

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