Ivy Bottini’s passing on Thursday morning came as no real surprise to her scores of friends who quietly shared that the 94-year old lesbian activist/artist icon had been moved into hospice care at her daughter’s home in Florida.
Nonetheless, the finality of her death seemed sudden, like a surprise punch to the solar plexus. It was as if Ivy’s death marked the end of an era in which the debate over assimilation versus fitting into the mainstream majority culture spilled out into the streets; where the courage to come out, to stand up and identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual came with a huge price tag. In fact, it could cost you your life.
Today, folks in the transgender community feel that fear and summon that courage everyday they walk out the door and face a dangerous and deadly unknown. Ivy knew that, which is why she stood with the young trans women who complained so loudly about being dissed by Christopher Street West – but whose challenge fell on deaf corporate-bought ears until they got backup and the whole of Pride LA necessitated rethinking.
I’ve known Ivy Bottini since I started writing for the “gay” press in the late 1980s. Since her death, I’ve been talking to a lot of her friends about her – not only what she did but who she was. I do not want to simply rewrite what I’ve already written for years or pull bullet points from Wikipedia – I need to put Ivy into a proper context for the sake of kickass lesbian visibility in our community history. I hope my essay, which I expect to post Monday morning, will serve as an interesting piece for young LGBTQ folks, in particular.
Meanwhile, West Hollywood officials are honoring Ivy with an hour-long reading of sections from her biography on Sunday, Feb. 28 from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. at Kings Road Park, 1000 N. Kings Road, near the apartment where the beloved longtime WeHo resident once lived. The event will be hosted on Facebook by WeHo Councilmembers Sepi Shyne and John Erickson, with WeHo Women’s Advisory Board member Karen Andros Eyres.
Another memorial is being planned by Ivy’s longtime friend Terry DeCrescenzo and gal-pal Dottie Wine.
It is understandable that WeHo would want to honor Ivy in their own fashion. Ivy served as both a mentor to councilmembers, staff and volunteers and a chastising curmudgeon at council meetings when she thought they failed to meet the standards of her vision of equality.
“Today, we lost a titan in our queer and feminist communities. Ivy Bottini graced us with her infatigable spirit for the past 94 years and made her indomitable presence known wherever she called home….
Luckily, Ivy called @WeHoCity home for decades. We are grateful for her imprint on our city & the fight for full equality for women & LGBTQIA community. I’m incredibly lucky to have had a personal relationship w/ an icon who blazed trails for generations to come….
Her artwork hangs in my home, her voice shows up in my thoughts, her spirit will always be in my heart. We will lower the flags in West Hollywood in honor of Ivy on Monday, which is (fittingly) also the start of Women’s History Month. May she rest in power. #RIP #IvyBottini”
New Councilmember Sepi Shyne, a married lesbian, emailed me a quote:
“The community lost a legend. I lost a friend and mentor.
I got to know Ivy when I ran my first campaign for City Council in 2019. I met her for the first time in her apartment and we sat down on her kitchen table where she grilled me all about the West Hollywood issues she cared about; over development, the rising cost of living, women’s rights and shrinking green space. A week later she called to let me know she is endorsing me and we talked often in the following months. I haven’t had many Lesbian mentors in my life, but she quickly become mine as well as a dear friend. I will miss her very much.”
Karen Ocamb is an award winning veteran journalist, the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade & a longtime chronicler of LGBTQ+ lives in Southern California.