Steve Ganzell, a longtime leader and prominent figure in the West Hollywood community, has passed away. The cause of death has not yet been made public.
According to reports, the former Christopher Street West board member died at home on Sunday. Earlier the same day, he had participated in the reading of the names of those who have died of AIDS that was held at West Hollywood Park for World AIDS Day.
Ganzell, who was 65, had been a member of the CSW board of directors from 2003 – 2017. He was named co-chair of the organization in 2013, and was one of several board members who resigned in 2017 over mismanagement controversies.
He was also a much-loved figure in in the Los Angeles leather community, serving as chair for the Los Angeles Leather Coalition for four years.
A clinical psychologist by profession, Ganzell maintained a private therapy practice and served as the clinical director of the mental health program for WeHo-based HIV service organization Being Alive.
Fellow WeHo community leader Jimmy Palmieri, who was close to Ganzell, posted the following tribute on Facebook:
“I have been sad for a few days now but sworn to secrecy. Waiting until all of his family and clients had been notified, I am heartbroken to say Steve Ganzell passed away after he valiently sat for 2 hours in the cold at the reading of the names. He was a friend for 20 years and my heart is broken. This is not my loss. this is a HUGE COMMUNITY loss. I have stories that are funny, and stories very touching about him. In time I’ll share them. How lucky I was to have him attend the reading as his last public event, to have the last video and pics of him. As he was leaving the event, I hugged him and said, ‘I love you man’….he said ‘And I love you Mr.’ I will miss you very much Steve. So very much.”
Another friend and prominent community member, Robert Gamboa, posted:
“What a beautiful and perfect man who did so much for all of our communities. He was brave, bold and always made sure we listened and led with love. He was love. He was kindness. He was power. And made so much possible. I gave him a hug that night. I’ll never forget it… I will miss you Steve. Thanks for all you did for us and for our community. I love you, Brother.”
Being Alive Executive Director Garry Bowie posted:
“We will deeply miss his straight-shooting talks on mental health and how we were able to advance our program here. With his help and leadership we were able to add 6 new universities to our Mental Health training program for therapists and develop a great team… I personally miss him as a friend, our weekly meetings and other fun times. The staff and therapists at Being Alive are devasted and have been in mourning since Monday morning. Steve Ganzell was one of a kind! RIP our friend.”
Palmieri, speaking to the Blade about Ganzell’s passing, added, “He just never said no to me from the day I met him – I can’t remember if we met at the Tom of Finland House erotic art fair or at the Eagle, he just said to me, ‘Don’t you just flit around like a butterfly?’ I bust out laughing and we were friends.”
Palmieri also offered praise for Ganzell’s advocacy of the sober community in his work with CSW, which is the organization that plans LA Pride.
“It was not until Steve came on board that the sober space had recognition. That man carved a space for us, got us everything we needed and checked on me 10 times a day.
“He lit the WeHo skies up with those beautiful lanterns – that was his doing. That man was magical. He made beautiful things happen.
“He had worldwide friends who loved him.”
Ganzell is survived by his partner, Tony Giragos, his adult children, Crystan, Chalisse, Zach, and Adam, and his grandson Anson.