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Morris Kight, 83; Gay Rights Pioneer in the Southland

January 20, 2003|Nancy Wride | Times Staff Writer

For the last several decades, he made Los Angeles and later, Hollywood, his home. Always theatrical, Kight found his way to the spotlight quickly.

"Though he'd only become an activist two years earlier, by 1971 Morris Kight was omnipresent in Los Angeles' Gay Liberation Front," reported "Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement," a 1994 chronicle published by the Advocate, the nation's largest gay newspaper.

"A political wheeler-dealer par excellence ... Kight had a genius for publicity," the Advocate reported. "Although some denounced him as a 'media freak,' he became an oft-quoted and much-photographed spokesman for gay liberation."

He lived frugally, supporting himself from the early 1950s on with proceeds of twice-yearly yard sales at which he sold restored antiques and collectibles.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 22, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 8 inches; 299 words Type of Material: Correction
Kight obituary -- The obituary of activist Morris Kight in Monday's California section stated he was a longtime member of the Los Angeles Human Rights Commission. In fact, he was on the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.

He claimed to be the first in the Los Angeles area to throw a yard sale. But with his slightly affected speaking style, he noted: "I sold brass, silver, china, silverware; I was great at weavings. I accumulated many dealers, and customers like Liberace, a gay pianist who was a great collector. I'd keep track of what they liked and when I got something I would call them up. And enough money came in from that to pay the lights, rent and gas and car travel. I didn't earn enough out of it to pay income taxes, so that was never an issue."

Out of that eccentric income came the 3,000-piece Morris Kight Collection, a trove of fine art, art produced by gays and lesbians and collectibles such as political posters that chronicle the evolution of the homosexual rights movement. He recently arranged for the collection to be donated to the One Institute at USC.

What once was a rhythmic cadence in speaking was lost after Kight suffered a series of five strokes in nine years, which ultimately left him relying on a walker.

But physical challenges never slowed Kight for long.

"I've known Morris as long as I've been on the board of the organization, about five years," Sharon Donning, a leader of Christopher Street West, said in 1999.

"But I've known about him my whole life. I admire Morris because he's the one who got it all started in L.A. ... And we wouldn't be here without him, basically."

Kight is survived by his life partner of 25 years, Roy Zucheran; two daughters, Carol Kight of Claremont and Angela Bonin of Texas; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled at 1 p.m. Feb. 1 at Metropolitan Community Church, 8714 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood.

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