Get a Sneak Preview of a Kick-Ass Documentary on Gay Activist Ray Hill

Courtesy Houston's Voice and Proud Pony International
Activist Ray Hill knows a thing or two about trouble.
One of the things you'll learn in the upcoming documentary about gay activist Ray Hill is that when police raided Houston's lesbian bars in the 1960s, they would arrest any woman wearing pants with zippers or buttons in the front. If the zipper was on the side, you were spared. In the front, that's cross-dressing. That's jail.

"Your name gets printed in the Houston Post and Houston Chronicle the next day," Hill says. "Your family, to whom you may be closeted, all of a sudden is deserting you....All of a sudden, your life is destroyed. And it is not infrequent that people commit suicide after getting picked up in a bar for doing nothing wrong."

In a city with a thrice-elected lesbian mayor, that story sounds insane today. That's a good thing. And that's partly because of the blood, sweat and tears that activists like Hill poured into a decades-long struggle for the most basic civil rights.

Produced locally by Proud Pony International's Jarrod Gullett and Travis Johns, the 27-minute

"The Trouble with Ray", 6 minute version from Proud Pony International on Vimeo.

The Trouble With Ray will be released to generate interest in raising funds for a full-length documentary. In the meantime, Proud Pony has released a six-minute teaser.

If the six-minute teaser is any indication, The Trouble With Ray is off to a great start. The subject matter -- a reflection on the gay civil rights movement in Houston and nationally, courtesy of Hill -- is certainly worthy. And Hill is nothing if not a natural-born storyteller.

Gullett tells us that he and Johns "met Ray a couple of years ago and right away we knew this was a man we wanted to get to know. That first day, we spent at least two hours completely engaged by stories of Tennessee Williams, Oveta Culp Hobby, Harvey Milk, and Ray's cross-country antique 'buying' spree that ended in his arrest in California and subsequent return to Texas with none other than Marvin Zindler." (More on that in a bit).

While Hill has received attention for other accomplishments, like his role as host of KPFT's "The Prison Show" and work for prison reform, Gullett tells us via email, "no one had really addressed the enormous impact he's had on the LGBT movement in Houston, and as a result of that work, how Houston's story is tied to the national LGBT movement....In addition to giving some praise and credit to Ray, we hope this video will record a part of our history that's rarely told. As we move into a new era for LGBT rights in America, we hope to preserve the realities and legacies of those who paved the way."

Kim Hogstrom, an independent producer and freelance writer, also played an important role in The Trouble With Ray,pitching the idea to Comcast's Houston's Voice multi-media site, which contributed seed money.

Hogstrom filled us in on the Hill-Zindler connection via email: According to Hill, "Zindler extradited Ray from Cali to Texas to do his time. Within 10 minutes of picking Ray up at the Cali jail, he took off Ray's chains and made him drive the cop car all the way back to Texas, while Zindler slept in the back seat, farting and snoring." (Why those dudes never got their own sitcom is beyond us. But we digress).

Proud Pony hopes to release the full 27-minute video during Pride Week, in June. We hope they raise enough to complete a feature-length documentary. This history ought to be given its due.

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