The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, the only city-sanctioned LGBT Hall of Fame in the world, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, was founded to honor people and entities, nominated by the community, who have made significant contributions to the quality of life or well-being of the LGBT community in Chicago. The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame inductees for 2021 were selected from a slate of candidates submitted by Chicago's LGBT community.
This year's induction ceremony will be held on Oct. 6 for the inductees and their guests. A virtual ceremony will be webcast on Oct, 28, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. in recognition of National LGBT History Month.
This year's nine individuals, two organizations, and a "Friend of the Community" (ally) inductee are as follows:
Ginni Clemmens (posthumous)
The gentle, yet radical Ginni Clemmens was known worldwide as one of the earliest openly queer recording artists and was an important part of Chicago's folk music scene. During the late '50s, she performed at Chicago folk clubs such as the Earl of Old Town, Poor Richard's, and Mother Blues. She became a hit at early women's festivals due to her vocal support for the feminist movement. She cemented her reputation as a serious folksinger with an appearance on Dunwich label's 1977 compilation, "Gathering at the Earl of Old Town."
Clemmens established her own recording label, Open Door Records. Her 1976 album "I'm Looking for Some Longtime Friends" and the '80s compilation, "Gay and Straight Together, Volume 1", both released on her label, were groundbreaking in their own, openly addressing lesbianism. Clemmens' 1981 solo LP "Wild Women Don't Get the Blues", was similarly empowering, and its title track, by Ida Cox, has been a de facto feminist anthem for many years. In 1988, she relocated to Hawaii, where she died in 2003 at age 66, from injuries sustained in a car crash.
Lisa Cruz was born in Puerto Rico where she increasingly faced harsh situations for being transgender, including being beaten by the police. She made her way to New York where she performed drag under the name Ginger Valdez. For more than 15 years she was a well-known female impersonator. In 1985 Lisa was diagnosed as HIV positive and her search for better opportunities brought her to Chicago, where she began her work at Minority Outreach Intervention Project and soon became its first Latina transgender outreach worker. Through her work with this program, she made sure that racially and economically marginalized communities had a voice and access to health services, especially in the fight against HIV-AIDS. As a survivor, Lisa Cruz has become a major community advocate in defending the rights of the transgender community.
Thomas Hunt (aka Mz Ruff N Stuff) moved to Chicago in 1989 as a member of the Guardian Angels. Hunt has a strong commitment to the physical safety of our LGBT community. He is a fourth-degree blackbelt in martial arts. In the 1990s, when there was an upsurge of violence on Halsted Street, Thomas Hunt joined the Pink Panthers to help by patrolling the streets. Hunt was also instrumental in organizing numerous events on the South and North sides for HIV/AIDS.
He started working as a nightclub promoter and throwing loft parties and soon became a manager at Club House in the West Loop. One night the host for a drag show didn't appear and Thomas Hunt stepped in wearing lipstick and a wig. He was a big hit. People wanted him to come back, and Mz Ruff N Stuff was born. He is called Chicago's Beauty Queen and has been entertaining in Chicago for over 20+ years. He coordinates shows, promotions and is a well-respected seamstress. He has performed at festivals and parades and in bars and nightclubs around the country, and locally at Hydrate, Club Escape, and Lips, among other venues.
Wayne Johnson has worn many hats over the years. He defines himself as a special event jockey, habitat craftsman, metro chef, and urban explorer. Wayne spent 20 years at the Leo Burnett Advertising agency in Chicago, departing as a VP of Development for the agency's creative department. During his time at Leo Burnett, Wayne was also doing double duty working at Roscoe's Tavern after hours and weekends. He continues to work in the background for Roscoe's on special graphic design projects.
As the winner of the Today Show's national "Domestic Diva" contest and a 10-year contributor for NBC-5 Chicago, Wayne has put his varied skills to good use. His weekly "Wayne's Weekend" segments on NBC 5 have covered everything from cooking and party planning, to home decorating, crafts, and new things happening in the city. Since his stint at NBC 5, Wayne has appeared on Good Morning America and Windy City Live sharing more of his food and lifestyle ideas. He has been a docent for the last two years for the Chicago Architecture Center on its nationally recognized river cruise and has acted as master of ceremonies for a variety of civic and charitable events.
Betty Lark Ross
Betty Lark Ross was a high school teacher of art, photography, and filmmaking at the Latin School of Chicago for nearly 40 years. In addition, she was a founding member and later co-chair for the Chicago chapter of Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers' Network (later renamed listen GLSEN.) Putting her job at risk she became one of the first teachers in Chicago to come out as an openly lesbian educator. Among her many achievements is that she supported LGBT youth through GLSEN youth leadership summits, the GLSEN Chicago youth scholarship program, and the GLSEN Midwest conference on ending homophobia in schools. Ross organized the first group of teachers to be out and proud in Chicago's Pride Parade and helped fund and distribute "It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School". She presented workshops on creating safer schools, especially for LGBT students and teachers.
Her photography has documented our vibrant community life, including the Gay Games in Chicago, Dyke March, and Pride parades. In addition, she founded and co-chaired Out Artist Network showcasing Chicago's LGBT artists. Betty and her spouse Becky Flory are renowned for their creative contributions to the Halsted Street Halloween parade and Chicago's Cows on Parade in Sweet Home Chicago.
Otis Mack, also known as "Chicago's Heavy Diva", does not take entertainment lightly. Comedian, promoter, host, and emcee extraordinaire, he is CEO and founder of Heavy Diva Productions and creator of the Chicago Warriors, a drag troupe. He started his promotion company 20+ years ago in the hope of reaching LGBT youth through fun and entertainment.
Mack balances a duo career as the founder of Heavy Diva and as a case aide at the Children's Home and Aid Society. As a case aide, Otis works closely with children, placing them in understanding homes with proper foster parents.
Mack makes it a point to organize fundraisers and shows to support organizations whose missions center on HIV/AIDS outreach, prevention, and care. Mack continues efforts in supporting the African American LGBT community in the areas of entertainment, media, civil rights, business, and art. Mack currently can be found partaking in online activism.
Dr. Claudia Mosier has been a member of Chicago's LGBT community for the last 43 years. Her advocacy began back in college, where she volunteered on the suicide hotline. She volunteered with the Lesbian Community Center which opened in 1979. Mosier participated in Chicago's "Take Back the Night" marches and volunteered at Mountain Moving Coffeehouse. During that same period, she protested the discrimination against women of color at various lesbian bars.
She also started advertising herself as a lesbian therapist and helped to open and volunteered at the Greenhouse Shelter for Battered Women, the first shelter for battered women and their children in Chicago. In the 1980s during the early years of the AIDS crisis, she provided free therapy for HIV-positive people and their families of choice.
She and a gay male colleague started the first doctoral-level college psychology class on LGBT competent care in Illinois. For every hospital treatment center in the clinic job where Claudia worked, she always made sure there was an LGBT group. She is the first LGBT prescribing psychologist in Chicago. In many different settings, from the early 1970s to the present, Claudia continues to advocate for the LGBT community in whatever location she finds herself.
DJ, producer, and Grammy nominee, Ralphi Rosario has helped to both reflect and define the community at various times. When he first began his career in 1981 he was a part of the Hot Mix 5 on WBMX, as the youngest member of the group, he was still in high school. The Hot Mix 5 went on to become one of the leading forces in the early Chicago house music scene and a source for the celebration in the homes and clubs of the LGBT community.
Eventually, Ralphi expanded into music production and remixing. In 1987, his collaboration with Xaviera Gold, "You Used to Hold Me," became a hit that continues to be remixed and re-released, he also worked regularly at Chicago's hottest clubs. In the early 2000s, was the first resident DJ at Hydrate.
As a DJ and remixer, he has released several full-length albums and remixed tracks by artists including Katy Perry, Mariah Carey, The Pet Shop Boys, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Giorgio Moroder, Ricky Martin, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyoncé. In 2012, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for the Rosabel Club Mix of the Rihanna track "Only Girl (In the World)."
Kirk Williamson has tirelessly devoted the last two decades to informing and entertaining Chicago's LGBT community through his work in the local queer press. His skilled eye is responsible for the clean look of many issues of both Windy City Times and its sister publication Night Spots for which he served as managing editor for 11 years. At Night Spots he committed himself to cover the broad spectrum of LGBT nightlife. Williamson's work included writing a popular events column, documenting the nightlife community with thousands of photos, laboring over creative layouts in years of Pride issues, and helping to produce books on local and national LGBT history.
He branched out to producing the official guidebooks for many esteemed local organizations including International Mr. Leather, Illinois Gay Rodeo Association, The Legacy Project, Bear Pride, and Pride Chicago.
He started at Windy City Times in his 20s, embedded himself in the LGBT community to make sure diverse voices were represented, and now he serves as production manager at The Chicago Reader. His new role allows him to make sure that LGBT people are not just represented and shaping the narrative within their own community, but to ensure that a legacy media outlet also is inclusive.
In addition to recognizing the extraordinary achievements of individuals, the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame also honored two LGBT organizations for their contributions to life in Chicago.
The first Chicago Gay Rights March held on Saturday, June 27, 1970, the first to honor the Stonewall Rebellion, featured 100 to 150 people organized by the Chicago Gay Liberation. In its second year, the event became a parade under the auspices of the Chicago Gay Alliance. When those two organizations dissipated, Rich Pfeiffer stepped up and formed PRIDEChicago to take over management and planning of the annual parade, and did so for 47 years. PrideChicago, headed up by Rich Pfeiffer and Tim Frye, was the glue that held it together.
Over the years, the number of registered entries, participants, and spectators has steadily increased as more people became comfortable with being out and proud. After Mayor Jane Byrne lost her reelection bid, she decided to thank the LGBT community for supporting her. When word got out that she was going to be in the parade that year, elected officials began contacting PRIDEChicago in large numbers to register for the parade, continuing a tradition that lasts through today. PRIDEChicago has always strived to keep the occasion diverse and inclusive. Over the years, PRIDEChicago has hosted numerous grand marshals from the world of sports, music, film, and TV.
It is estimated that the crowd attending and marching in the parade has remained at or over one million people since 2015. PRIDEChicago has ushered the Chicago LGBT Pride Parade through six decades. Rich Pfeiffer passed away in 2019, but Tim Frye is continuing the tradition with this year's parade, delayed until October due to the pandemic.
Urban Pride Chicago is a signature event that is projected to draw 5,000+ attendees for its yearlong agenda of social, educational, and cultural programs for adults, youth, families, and allies. Urban Pride Chicago Week was founded in 1991. It advocated safe spaces and programming for Chicago's African American LGBT community. As a result, Urban Pride Chicago held its inaugural weeklong Pride celebration. More than twenty years later, Urban Pride Chicago has evolved with the city's changing landscape and has grown into a highly anticipated event, drawing thousands of people to Chicago's Bronzeville, Hyde Park, and Jackson Park neighborhoods.
Urban Pride Chicago events increase awareness of the city and its vast culture while increasing revenue and visibility for corporate sponsors and local businesses alike. Indeed, Urban Pride Chicago offers a unique opportunity to view the ways Chicago's African American LGBT community is flourishing concurrently with the city's cultural and economic boom.
The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame also posthumously honored an ally, as a "Friend of the Community"
Lana Hostetler (posthumous)
It is hard to imagine a more devoted ally and "Friend of the Community" than Lana Hostetler (1941-1999). In the early days of Illinois' and Chicago's second wave of LGBT civil rights work in the 1980s, she co-founded, along with Kitt Duffy, Jon-Henri Damski, Rick Garcia, and Art Johnston, the Illinois Federation for Human Rights, which later became Equality Illinois. Her contributions to the community were immense and serve as a reminder that our history is replete with allies who marched alongside us.
Hostettler was the organization's chief lobbyist and political strategist for much of the first decade and was instrumental in pushing legislation supportive of LGBT rights. Art Johnston acknowledges that we wouldn't have made the astonishing progress we made as early as we had where we're not for Hostetler, "It was Lana who helped design early strategy which led to the eventual passage of Illinois' human rights ordinance. She taught the co-founders of Equality Illinois how to lobby and she led the work in Springfield; from overall strategy to the ongoing work," Johnston asserts.
Tragically, Lana died in a house fire in 1999 and did not live to see the fruits of much of her labor. Through her lobbying savviness and her relentless commitment to human LGBT justice, Lana laid the foundation for the strong civil rights advocacy efforts Equality Illinois would build on for decades following her death.
Founded in 1991 as the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame, the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame's purpose then, as now, is to honor people and entities, nominated by the community, who have made significant contributions to the quality of life or well-being of the LGBT community in Chicago.
The first Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame ceremony took place during Pride Week and was held at Chicago City Hall. Then-Mayor Richard M. Daley hosted the ceremony and afterward, photos of the inductees were displayed in City Hall. The Hall of Fame has no physical facility but maintains a website, which allows anyone to visit the Hall of Fame at any time. Traditionally, the City of Chicago has displayed the Hall of Fame materials during induction periods, Pride, and in October, Gay & Lesbian History Month.
From its founding in 1991 until 2016 the Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame relied on support from the City of Chicago. The city ceased funding the Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2016, that time, it was rechristened the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame and has since been supported and maintained by the Friends of the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, with approval from the City of Chicago.
For more information, visit the organization's website chicagolgbthalloffame.org/ or its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/56108152083/ .