The Friends radio program ran from early1973 to the autumn of 1982 in metropolitan Washington DC. It became one of the longest running radio programs for a bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgendered audience in the nation. In those nine years, the program chronicled Washington DC's emerging BGLT community as it established community institutions, sought civil rights, and dealt with issues of racism, gender, health, and the arts. It captured a crucial slice of life that is valuable not only for nostalgic reasons but for documenting the emergence of an important minority community.
Beyond chronicling the local community, Friends, because of its location in the nation's capital, also captured national events and personalities. Friends recorded the entire program of the 1979 March on Washington and the simultaneous Third World Conference for people of color. A series of interviews documented the work of John Waters and Divine and frequent appearances by Casse Culver, Holly Near, Blackberri, Gotham, Criag Russell, and Audre Lorde capture much of the artistic ferment of the period. Jean O'Leary, Troy Perry, Jack Nichols, Frank Kameny, Leonard Matlovich, Elaine Noble, and Holly Woodlawn contributed interviews.
The Friends program was the product of an LGBT collective, the Stonewall Nation Media Collective, formed in 1973 to create and maintain the program. Among its most frequent broadcasters were David Aiken (who became the Advocate's Washington correspondent) and Bruce Pennington (an early member of Liberation News Service, GLF, and one of the first gay foster parents).
Friends was a subject of much controversy at WGTB-FM (90.1) where it began. In the early 70s, WGTB, the radio station of Georgetown University became the broadcast voice of Washington DC's counter-culture, anti-establishment youth. Its radical nature led Georgetown University to try repeatedly, and ultimately successfully, to close down the station. Following a brief hiatus after losing its home on WGTB, the Friends program moved in 1978 to DC's new Pacifica station, WPFW, where it remained until it closed down in 1982.
Bruce Pennington preserved many of the broadcast tapes of the Friends radio program and has donated the collection to the Rainbow History Project. With advice from the Library of Congress's preservation division and in partnership with the Washingtoniana Division of the DC Public Library, the Rainbow History Project is preserving, copying, and making available to the BGLT community and other interested persons, copies of the original broadcast tapes. Grant funding will make it possible to not only conserve the collection but to make it available to other BGLT archives and museums. Unfortunately contents of many of the tapes (about 45%) cannot be identified until they are copied. However those that have been identified provide fascinating insights into national and local events
Radio, recorded live
at the Third World Conference concert on October 13, 1979 at Harambee House, Washington, DC.
Now available for
listening for the first time in 25 years.
(these are Windows Media files and some may take a while to download because of their size)