Danny Garvin, one of the most important witnesses to, and participants in, the legendary Stonewall Uprising in 1969, has passed away at the age of 65. Garvin died on December 9 in New York City.
According to Stonewall historian David Carter, the Stonewall Riots began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, when New York City police officers raided New York’s most popular gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. This raid set off a popular uprising: a six-day series of protests, demonstrations, and confrontations between the city’s gay community and the police. The Stonewall Riots transformed a small gay movement into the mass lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights movement that continues today.
Carter said Danny Garvin and Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt proved to be the two most knowledgeable sources about the Stonewall Inn for his book about the historic Stonewall Rebellion, titled Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.
“Danny was there the night it opened (on his birthday in 1967) and became a regular customer of the Stonewall Inn,” Carter said. “He met his first love there by dancing with him, dated the main doorman (Blonde Frankie), and was roommates with one of the men who worked in the coat check. Danny’s knowledge of the club has contributed a lot to a better understanding of the Stonewall Inn.”
“Fortunately, Danny also happened to walk up the street soon after the June 1969 raid began, and his detailed memories of that night significantly add to our knowledge about the Uprising,” Carter added.
“Danny’s life story is all the more remarkable and historically relevant because his experiences mirrored those of his generation as if he were a gay Zelig,” Carter said. “Danny was in a gay hippie commune before Stonewall and he was roommates with gay activist Morty Manford after Stonewall. Morty Manford’s introduction of Danny Garvin and another gay friend to Manford’s parents precipitated Manford’s coming out to his parents. Morty’s mother Jeanne Manford later founded what became Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, now PFLAG. He hung out with Andy Warhol’s crowd, and he founded the recovery contingent of LGBT marchers in the LGBT Pride March each June.”
“Danny’s gentle and sensitive nature brought a great deal of warmth and humanity to the history of this watershed event in the LGBT civil rights movement and also endeared him to his friends and family,” Carter continued. “In addition to sharing his life story so generously with me, Danny became a friend. He was always a selfless person. Like most authentic Stonewall witnesses, he did not seek the limelight or recognition. Of all the persons I met working on the book, he was the sweetest. I will always miss him and consider myself blessed and honored to have been his friend.”
David Carter, Danny Garvin and Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt were all featured in the PBS American Experience documentary, Stonewall Uprising, by award-winning filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. The documentary was based on Carter’s book.
Family and friends honored Danny Garvin and his legacy at a memorial service on December 12 and at his funeral the next morning on December 13.