Scope and Content
Title: Donald Montwill Papers, Group I - Records of Valencia Rose,
Date (inclusive): January 1982-1985
Accession number: 93-7
Extent: 1.66 linear feet
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
San Francisco, California.
The papers (93-7) were acquired by GLHS in 1993 from Donald Montwill.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay and Lesbian
Historical Society of Northern California.
[Identification of item], Donald Montwill Papers, Group I - Records of Valencia Rose, 93-7, The Gay and Lesbian Historical
of Northern California.
Valencia Rose, located at 766 Valencia Street in San Francisco, opened its doors in January 1982 largely through the efforts
of Ron Lanza, an actor, theatre lover, and business entrepreneur. With co-owner and partner Hank Wilson, Ron turned a funeral
parlor into one of the city's most prominent cabarets. Lanza and Wilson heavily subsidized the Rose for the first two years
of its existence, from 1982 to 1984, bringing various theater productions to the Rose and offering full- course dinners through
the culinary talents of chef Ward Smith. In 1983, the life of this cabaret really took off, when Lanza hired Donald Montwill
as talent scout and Dennis Powers as publicist. By March of 1984, writing a feature for the San Francisco Chronicle, Randy
Shilts announced that the Valencia Rose had become "an epicenter of gay comedy." Many up-and-coming performers began their
careers at the Rose, including Whoopi Goldberg, Doug Holsclaw, Lea Delaria, and Marga Gomez and local politician, the then
"mother of gay comedy" Tom Ammiano.
While much performance came and went at the Valencia Rose, the cabaret also became a community resource. Donald Montwill,
who is largely responsible for the stellar performances there, solicited academics, politicians, and artists to give presentations
on the history of the gay and lesbian community. The series, entitled "Gay and Lesbian Pioneers," ran successfully during
1984, including presentations on lesbian subculture in Paris in the early twentieth century to lectures on the history of
the local leather culture. Montwill also turned the Valencia Rose into a public space for various community organizations,
encouraging political rallies and other kinds of organizing to take place there, as well as hosting educational evenings on
spirituality or holistic living.
During its brief life, the Valencia Rose became a dynamic cultural and political center of the Valencia Street neighborhood.
However, Ron soon set his sights on other goals, notably pursuing an acting career in Los Angeles. In late 1985, the Valencia
Rose closed its doors. Donald Montwill and his ill lover, Jim Mannis, moved to Hawaii. After Mannis' death, Montwill returned
to San Francisco and soon began planning the opening of a new cabaret with Lonza. This time they scouted a location near Castro
and began a strong campaign to obtain a cabaret licence. The result was the opening of Josie's Juice Joint on 16th Street
just off Market. He then continued his remarkable career as talent scout and theatrical impresario by becoming artistic director
for Josie's, which was, in many ways, the successor to Valencia Rose.
Scope and Content
This collection, consisting of Montwill's records as artistic manager of the Rose, contains a variety a materials on just
about any event occurring in its performance space. These ranged from musical reviews, plays, stand-up comedy, political meetings,
rallies, slide lectures, films and photography exhibits. Promotional materials compose most of this collection. Other items
include business documents, correspondence, and performance reviews from the local press.
The records (1.66 linear feet) are divided into three series; performer files, administrative files, and promotional files.
The performer files contain materials for performers or for specific performance events. In these files, you will probably
find a collection of fliers or other kinds of advertisements for an event. Unfortunately, though we have a plentiful supply
of fliers from these events, they provide very limited information. Often, only names and dates (with no year) can be found
on these fliers, accompanied by xeroxed photographs of the performer. Other materials in these files range from publicity
photos, press releases, occasional scripts, press reviews, and old copies of programs for the performances. Basically, anything
relevant to the specific performer or piece can be found in these files. These files were already largely in existence when
the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society received these materials.
The administrative files contain general business documents, monthly calendars, correspondence files, and release forms. Of
the two correspondence files, the first contain letters to Ron Lanza or promotional materials which Lanza collected. The second
correspondence file contains letters and materials that Donald Montwill probably compiled.
The first two promotional files are a simple collection of all postings of performances. Additional promotional files are
sorted into "Music Events;" "Photo, Slide, or Film Presentations;" and "Political, Spiritual, Holistic or Other Events." Again
these are mostly brief announcements of events. One of the more interesting files in this collection is the History Project
file. Here there are promotional materials, and a little correspondence, from "The History Project Series" which the cabaret
hosted for about a year. In the next files, a variety of materials more or less related to Valencia Rose can be found. A file
labeled "Information about Possible Performances," contains materials that either Ron Lanza, Donald Montwill, or others had
collected, pertaining to any performance considered as a possibility for Valencia Rose. The following file "Materials for
Planned Performances" consists largely of publicity photos, with reviews and other promotional materials also occasionally
included. The file "Articles about Valencia Rose" follows. This consists of reviews and other discussions of the cabaret found
in the local press. The next file of this series is a collection of monthly calendars dating from December, 1981 to July 1985;
this file includes miscellaneous press releases located in the back of the folder. Finally, the last file of this series contains
performance placards, or signs used to announce the event in the cabaret.
Title: Hank Wilson Papers
Identifier/Call Number: #96-2