Delve into these digital recordings, firsthand stories about the lives of LGBTQ people in Colorado.

Don Johnson

Don is a psychiatrist and former faculty member at CU Boulder. In this oral history he talks about his journey as a young man, coming to terms with his sexuality and his Mormon faith, and his coming out at CU Boulder.

Bob Vitaletti

Bob grew up in Pennsylvania in a working-class neighborhood.  In this oral history he talks about working realizing he was gay and growing up with a want to figure himself out and help others. “Dr. Bob” moved to Colorado in the late 1970s after becoming a psychologist. He met his husband Joseph Moore-Vitaletti in the early 1980s. He helped create Rainbow Alley and pioneered studies in anxieties related HIV/AIDS.  He is a lifelong Democrat and helped work on the Obama campaign in Colorado in 2008 and has consulted on television.

Laurie Theimer

In this interview Laurie talks about growing up in Denver and coming out at 21. She describes the world of women loving women in Colorado during the 1970s. She talks about caretaking for her friends during the HIV/AIDS crisis and moving to Arizona in 2006, as well as working with youth who share LGBTQ stories and creating community. 

Chris Sloan

Chris has long embodied Christy Layne.  Christopher Sloan studied ballet growing up in a Mormon household in Utah.  He came to Denver in the mid-1970s and almost immediately began to perform with the International Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire (ICRME), the local drag organization in Denver.  He has toured the country as a performer for over 40 years. In 1976, he got the permit for the first Pride parade in Denver, was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and later became an HIV activist.  He was trained at the Shanti Project in San Francisco, volunteered to care and support HIV patients there, and is a fundraiser for projects around the country.   

Tim Gill

Tim Gill is the founder and creator of the Gill Foundation, Quark, and has supported the LGBTQ people of Colorado for many years. In this oral history he talks about growing up in Denver, as well what it was like to go work the Gay Liberation Front at CU Boulder in the 1970s. He talks about the impact Amendment 2 had on our community as well as our response to it. The Gill Foundation continues to advocate for the LGBTQ people of Colorado to this day.   

Brandi Roberts

Brandi Robert served as Empress, mother, grandmother, and activist. In this oral history she talks about her growing up in New York, having a family, and becoming a hairdresser. She talks about her being outed and about how her life changed. She speaks about the history of drag in Dallas and Denver from about 1980 on. Most importantly she talks about her family and what they mean to her.

Tracy Phariss

Tracy Phariss is a science teacher, long time activist, and was born and raised in Colorado. He talks about his childhood, attending Colorado School of Mines, and experiencing discrimination as a student. He talks about his coming out, going into education, work with the Colorado chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.

Judith Blair

Judith grew up in Ohio. She felt different as a kid but found guidance from other people. She eventually moved to California and talks about the bars and her social life revolving around sports like baseball. She talks about her experiences with hippies and counter-cultural life, as well as her first loves and experiences in Colorado. She talks about work with Olivia Records, the Women’s Music Movement, and her band Sweet Honey. She also talks about her life of activism and eventually the loss of her partner and her survival through the loss of a loved one. Judith continues her activism with Queer* and her company Brain at Work.

Lonnie Hanzon

Lonnie Hanzon was born and raised in Colorado. He talks about growing up, being a magician as a young adult, and going into entertainment and art. Lonnie established his business, found his husband, and set a course for life right at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. By the 1990s he had travelled the world and done installation art in Denver, New York, and in faraway locations like China. He has been called “Father of Christmas” and worked with the Center on Colfax for many years. He talks at length about the major works in his life, coming out, and being an out artist in Colorado. He lives and works near Denver.

Don McMaster

Don grew up in West Denver in a Catholic household. He became an elementary school teacher. He helped create and run the first men's coming out group at the First Unitarian Society of Denver and the Gay Community Center of Colorado. He is a life long member of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus.

Inga Larson

Inga Larson is an activist and works in mental health. She was involved in the Amendment 2 Campaign in Durango, Colorado.

Carol White

Carol was born in Louisiana. She has a dual master's degree in divinity and music. She moved to Colorado in the 1970s. She founded the Denver Women's Chorus, Harmony: A Colorado Chorale, and is a mover and shaker among the music movement in Colorado. She is a mother to the music of Colorado.

Gillian Edwards

Gillian Edwards was born near Sheffield, England. As a young girl she remembered the end of the second world war, and traveling around the world as a high school student. She realized she fell in love, realized she was a lesbian after college, and emigrated to the US. Though she married a man thinking it would be a fix, she later divorced, came out and felt free. Gillian worked for IBM for many years, and engaged in sports and outdoor activities with other lesbians. She later met her wife Betsy McConnell, fell in love, and was interviewed by Betsy for this oral history.

Scotti Carlyle

Scotti moved to Denver at the age of 18.  He immediately got involved in drag and female impersonation.  He was a member of the Turn About Revue and the was part of the founding of the  Guilded Cage bar in 1964.  He is one of the first Empresses of the Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for different causes all over Colorado.

Pat Gourley

Pat Gourley grew up in the midwest on a farm.  As a young adult he traveled to the south and saw racial discrimination first hand.  He moved to Boulder, Colorado and attended nursing school.  He was later a leader in HIV at both Denver Health and for the community at large.  He continues his philanthropic work today.

Donaciano Martinez

Donaciano was born and raised in Colorado Springs.  His family lived in an area which would later be torn down for "urban renewal" to make America the Beautiful Park.  He grew up seeing signs which said things like "No dogs or Mexicans allowed."  He also grew up when gay men had few spaces to find each other and had only the "bars and the bushes."  Donaciano grew up, went to college, and was a member of the Gay Liberation Front at Colorado College, later founded La Gente Unida, led efforts to pass Denver's first anti-discrimination ordinances, and is a life long Chicano activist.

Mary Celeste

Mary Celeste was the first out and proud lesbian to be elected in Denver County. She is also a founding, long time member of the Colorado GLBT Bar Association, LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, and was a leader with the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project (CLIP) in their work against Amendment 2.

Tea Schook

Sue Anne Michaels

Annie Brenman-West

Bill Olson

Alice Cookie Barron

Interview Transcript (PDF)

Beth Kahmann

Interview Transcript (PDF)

Bob Janowski

Bearing Witness Project

HIV/AIDS hit Colorado in 1982 and by 2015, more than 5,000 people had died from the disease, while 11,000 currently live with it. This project aims to gather their stories. In partnership with the Colorado AIDS Project (CAP), we gather oral histories, help with document collections, and provide educational outreach.

If your life has been impacted by HIV/AIDS, we want to hear your story. Please email David Duffield at history@lgbtqcolorado.org.

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Bob Janowski: "Eugene Levi Case"

Elisabeth McConnell 

Ellis McFadden