Keith Griffith papers
Held at: John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center [Contact Us]1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Darrell Keith Griffith (1959-2012) was born in Crawfordville, GA to Clarence and Barbara Griffith and attended Nathanael Greene Academy in Siloam, GA, graduating in 1977. After high school, Griffith was briefly married, and lived for short periods in Charleston, SC and Chicago, IL, working in radio broadcasting, taking college courses, and working as a night manager at a hotel. He found his home and successive partners Jay Rindal (1951-1987) and Oscar Macias, in San Francisco, CA. He took college courses at both San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco. While in San Francisco he worked as marketing coordinator for AIDS Treatment News and then as a vacation coordinator for Vacanza Bella.
According to one statement by Griffith he first got involved in AIDS activism in 1985 as one of the early organizers of the AIDS/ARC Vigil at the Federal Building on United Nations Plaza in San Francisco. He was a co-founder of Citizens for Medical Justice and the AIDS Action Pledge, precursors of ACT UP San Francisco. These groups, which espoused non-violent direct action, were modeled after the anti-war group Pledge of Resistance. In 1986 he was arrested at the California Governor's office for demonstrating in support of a bill to block job and housing discrimination against AIDS victims; he and his fellow arrestees became known as the "Sacramento Four." Griffith also demonstrated against the pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome in 1987, demanding independent auditing of their research and production expenses of the drug AZT. He worked with the prostitutes rights organization COYOTE in 1988 to protest proposed legislation that would have subjected convicted prostitutes and drug users to mandatory testing and felony charges if found to be HIV positive. Griffith was named "Man of the Year" by the San Francisco Sentinel for his activist work in 1986. He seems to have left the movement around 1989 or so.
Keith Griffith loved to travel. Among the places he is known to have visited are the Caribbean, Europe, and South America, and he lived in Venice, Amsterdam, and Toronto at various points in his life. He enjoyed visiting museums and studied Renaissance artwork. He also frequented bathhouses and wrote about the experiences in his travel journals. He maintained friendships with those he met along the way.
Griffith was managing editor (1993-1995) and associate editor (1994-1995) of Steam, a short-lived quarterly journal devoted to the topic of public sex, which was published by friend and former porn star, Scott O'Hara (1961-1998). Griffith served as associate publisher (1995-1996) of the glossy magazine Wilde. Both were products of PDA Press, Inc., a company jointly owned by Griffith and O'Hara, which filed for bankruptcy in 1997.
In 1995, Griffith founded the website CruisingForSex.com, which was designed to assist gay men in finding sex partners in public locales including bathhouses, restrooms, and parks. The site included both listings of physical locations where sexual activity might occur, and also messageboards for men to communicate with one another. At one time Griffith claimed it to be in the top 1.2% of all websites, not just among adult sites. He was known online as the "Cruisemaster" and kept a blog on the site from 2005-2009. Griffith also owned a pornography studio and produced several gay male porn videos.
After leaving San Francisco around 2000 Griffith moved to New Orleans, LA. His business was impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Later he moved to Atlanta and then Augusta, Georgia to be closer to family. He was diagnosed with cancer while living in Georgia. He died of AIDS and cancer on September 18, 2012.
(Sources: Internal; email from Frank Carroll, William Dobbs, Paul Fahey, Sean McShea)
The collection is divided into two series: Personal materials and AIDS activism. The personal materials date from 1983 to 2012, the year of Griffith's death. Biographical material is in the form of obituaries from the mainstream and adult film industry press (2012), as well as Griffith's own answers to questions for his 10th high school reunion in 1987. Correspondence with friends makes up a large portion of the personal series. Included are letters from friends he met while living and traveling in Europe, as well as from friends within the United States. Of particular note is the intense friendship developed with former porn star and eventual business partner, Scott O'Hara, documented in over 20 letters from O'Hara to Griffith.
Education materials from Griffith's college courses at San Francisco State University or City College of San Francisco include papers on topics including "The Morality of Homosexuality - The Immorality of 'Western Tradition'", "Gay People as Part of the Reorganization of the Social Reproduction System", "Achilles: Brute or Grieving Widower?", and "The Journey of the Truth: Oedipus, Huck Finn, and the Rest of Us".
A restricted portion of the personal materials concern orgies Griffith sponsored at his home in San Francisco. In 1987 and 1988 he put personal ads in the San Francisco Sentinel seeking other men looking to engage in group sexual activity. The ad stated: "Lots of Men, Lots of Sex: Origies are back and safer! Invites going out soon to those who qualify. Send photo, stats, brief reason why you should be there." The response seems to have been strong: 48 responses are in the file. These responses often include detailed physical descriptions and photographs. Envelopes and letters often include the correspondent's name and address. In a separate file are Griffith's form letters back to correspondents and a detailed ranking of potential participants. (Researchers with a serious interest in working with these materials may apply for access, and an accommodation that preserves the privacy of those included may be worked out.)
One of Griffith's great interests in life was travel. Materials related to trips he took or hoped to take are included in the personal series. These include brochures and clippings, menus from a Princess Cruise to the Caribbean, as well as a group of records created by Griffith to rank potential travel locales. Finally there are two travel diaries, both from trips to Europe, in 1989 and 1992. Two additional items in the personal series are a sketchbook of male figures drawings (2004) and a file of undated photographs of Griffith.
The series on AIDS activism covers Keith Griffith's years of involvement in the social justice movement, 1985-1992. Materials from several organizations may be found in the collection, including those co-founded by Griffith, such as AIDS Action Pledge (AAP), the AIDS/ARC Vigil, and Citizens for Medical Justice (CMJ), and to a lesser extent those concurrently active in the Bay Area, including the AIDS Coalition Endowment, Bay Area Pledge of Resistance, Lavender Left, and National Lawyers Guild AIDS Network. For the first group, there are some organizational and meeting records, publications, and promotional materials, as well as clippings from news sources on the groups' activities, especially public protests. There are materials from several important meetings and events, such as the California Conference of Local Health Officers (CCLHO), 1986-1987; meeting minutes from an AIDS Planning Conference for "Forging a Pro-Active Strategy to Fight AIDS in California," 1987; an event to build a national movement called "Agitate, Educate, Organize," 1987; planning documents for an AIDS Mobilization event, 1988; and the program book from the AIDS Medicine and Miracles Conference, Boulder, CO, 1992. Publications found in the collection include issues of The AIDS Action Call: Newsletter of the AIDS Action Pledge, 1987-1988; AIDS Treatment News issues, 1987-1988; and the National Lawyers Guild AIDS Network: The Exchange newsletters, 1987.
There are several essays written by Griffith about the AIDS epidemic, as well as writings by fellow activists John Belskus and Carol Leigh, aka Scarlot Harlot. The topic of state imposed quarantining of AIDS victims, which Griffith and his associates took a firm stand against, is represented in the collection by its own file as well as appearing within several other files.
Gift of Frank Carroll, 2012.
- ACT UP (Organization)
- AIDS Action Pledge (Organization)
- Citizens for Medical Justice (Organization)
- National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (2nd : 1987 : Washington, D.C.)
- John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center
- Finding Aid Author
- John Anderies
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use. The "Orgies" files are restricted. Researchers with a serious interest in working with these materials may apply for access, and an accommodation that preserves the privacy of those included may be worked out.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives of the William Way LGBT Community Center.