March 1, 2021 at 11:40 pm PST | by Karen Ocamb
Tribute to ‘give ‘em hell’ lesbian feminist pioneer Ivy Bottini
Ivy Bottini with a bullhorn (Photo by Yvette Sotelo)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Kick ass. If Ivy Bottini was pissed off at an injustice, you heard about it. The whole room heard about it. And by the end of her righteous rant, whether at a Stonewall Democratic Club meeting or before the West Hollywood City Council, even nonchalant shruggers applauded her passion. Time finally did what Bottini’s critics could not: her voice was silenced on Thursday, Feb. 25 at her daughter Lisa’s home in Florida. Ivy Bottini was 94. 

Unlike other lesbian feminists of her generation, Bottini did not strike withering fear in the pants of men in power. Perhaps it was because she exuded a subliminal sense of caring and flashes of humor during even the fiercest of diatribes. She hated the old tropes that lesbians hated men and had no sense of humor — traits that made her accessible to those in need from 1950s and 1960s housewives newly aware of the traditional shackles of sexism to the desperate dying gay men deemed untouchable by government, society and often even family in the early days of AIDS.

Ivy Bottini comforting HIV+ author/photographer Mark Thompson at the memorial for Thompson’s beloved husband, Rev. Malcolm Boyd. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Bottini’s power emanated from her authenticity. Discrimination burned Bottini to the core. She felt the pain. But she didn’t just jawbone about it; she translated the searing anger and pain from her own awakening into activism to alleviate the pain of others, becoming a freedom crusader for women, for LGBTQ people — for anyone suffering from oppression and internalized oppression sickness.   

“Thousands of deaths and no one cares! No one cares – except us,” an emotional Bottini told Andy Sacher of the Lavender Effect about the early days of AIDS.  “That was inhuman what was really happening to gay men. It was inhuman how they were demonized.” 

Throughout her life, each heightened moment fraught with systemic classism, sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia exploded into a personal epiphany, emerging in her artist’s conscious as empathy for others, especially in recent years, over the profound and ubiquitous discrimination experienced by transgender youth

In a 2017 interview, Los Angles Blade publisher Troy Masters asked Bottini: “If your life were a book, what would the title be?”

Ivy Bottini with Judith V. Branzburg before interview and book signing in West Hollywood. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

“Give ‘em Hell,” Bottini replied. In fact, the book about her life, as told to Judith V. Branzburg, Ph.D., has a more expansive title: “The Liberation of Ivy Bottini: A Memoir of Love and Activism.”  It opens with a March 17, 2016 gathering at the West Hollywood Public Library where Bottini was being honored by Hollywood NOW and California NOW under the theme “The Unsinkable Feminist Spirit of Ivy Bottini” during a week of being honored for her life’s work. “I guess that since I was eighty-nine years old, people figured if they were inclined to honor me at all, they had better do it before I croaked,” she wrote. 

Bottini’s history with the National Organization for Women was itself historic, helping found and led the first chapter of NOW in New York in 1968. The following year, she designed the national NOW logo at the request of then-NOW President Aileen Hernandez. 

“We were challenging things that women had lived with for years, centuries, and never questioned. And here we were questioning some of the most basic beliefs about women,” Bottini said in a 2015 interview broadcast by MSNBC.  “One of the things I thought about when I joined NOW was ‘maybe I’ll meet a real lesbian’ because I had no clue who was a lesbian. I thought I was the only one. And I thought the Women’s Movement can’t be for just straight women. It’s got to include lesbians. They’re women! Women are women — it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is.” 

It was a long hard road to that revelation. Bottini was born on August 15,1926 to Long Island cab driver and former boxer Archie Gaffney and his “unhappy” housewife, Ivy. An only child, Bottini was an athletic tomboy with a penchant for art. Life was good until her father died in a car crash in 1944. Bottini was 18 and suddenly money was short. In an extremely lucky stroke for young women at the time, she got a full scholarship to the Pratt Institute of Art and Design to study advertising, graphic design and illustration.

After graduation, she worked in New York City art and advertising agencies, and following the inevitable plan for all women of the era, in 1952, she married the young man across the street, Eddie Bottini, had two daughters, Laura and Lisa, and silently struggled with her attraction to women. 

“After falling in love with all my gym teachers—that was a clue—and with all other teachers in grammar school and then junior high and high [school], I really was struggling growing up with how I felt about girls and women,” Bottini told the Los Angeles Blade in 2019.  “I was still falling in love with women quietly, silently.”

{Photo of young Ivy Bottini via Elaine Estelle Suranie.)

In 1955, Bottini got a job as an art director and illustrator at the Long Island newspaper Newsday. Eleven years later, in 1966, Newsday reporter Dolores Alexander told Bottini about her an interview with Betty Friedan, whose book “The Feminine Mystique” was all the rage.” Dolores took Bottini to a women’s meeting in New York City “and soon I was helping to found the first chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)” with Dolores. Bottini also joined national NOW where she served on the board for three years.

Meanwhile, Bottini finally mustered up enough courage to call an old closeted lesbian school friend to take her to a gay bar. Eventually, she asked a woman to dance. “That changed my life that evening. I just felt when I walked in there by myself, I felt like I had walked into my home, where I was supposed to be. So, over the next handful of years, I struggled,” she told the LA Blade.

Ivy Bottini (Photo Credit: One Institute) 

By September 1968, “I just had had it,” living a secret double life. Ivy Bottini had a breakdown — that led to a breakthrough. “I was on the Long Island Railroad in a snowstorm coming back from a New York NOW meeting and when we got to Garden City, I just got off the train,” Bottini said. It was cold. Struggling, she found a payphone, called her psychiatrist, and through tears, explained her circumstances. “I can’t go home anymore. And he said, ‘sorry,’ and hung up. And so I yelled out—it was late at night—I yelled out ‘fuck you!’ I was so angry at him.” She called a friend in Levittown who took her in. She told her husband she couldn’t come home as long as he was there.

Eventually he left but they didn’t actually divorce until 1972. Bottini secured a condo on the Upper Westside. Her daughter Laura moved in with her while Lisa moved in with her dad. “My life became totally different in one fell swoop.” Bottini came out inadvertently in 1968. She was answering a question at a NOW/NY press conference when, without realizing it, she referred to herself as a lesbian. “I accepted that I was a lesbian and as I accepted this, my life changed considerably.” 

That awareness led to action and intense interest from other NOW chapters in her consciousness raising groups. In 1969, Bottini put together a panel called “Is Lesbianism a Feminist Issue?” The place was packed. “Oh my god. I think I’ve hit sort of a nerve,” she said later.

NOW Takeover of Statue Of Liberty, Aug. 10, 1970
(Photo Credit: The Library of Congress)

Bottini organized the infamous Aug. 10, 1970 NOW/NY three-hour takeover of the Statue of Liberty, unfurling a banner “Women of the World Unite!” from the base. She also organized the Aug. 26, 1970 Women’s Strike for Peace and Equality commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. 

That spectacular women’s march down Fifth Avenue drew an estimated 50,000 people. But it also signaled ugly trouble ahead. When Bottini handed out lavender armbands to show solidarity with the oppression of lesbians, feminist leaders such as Gloria Steinem accepted them but Betty Friedan, the “mother” of the feminist movement, threw the armband on the ground and twisted it with her heel.

“My point was, ‘How can you have a women’s movement and leave a huge amount of women out?’” Bottini later told the Los Angeles Times. “But Friedan just never got that. She doesn’t understand that lesbianism is the bottom line of the women’s movement. If you can’t get past the fear of being thought of as a lesbian, whether you are or not, then you never are really free….Sexual politics is civil rights.” 

Friedan called Bottini a “lavender menace” and plotted a “purge” of lesbians, maneuvering to get Bottini voted out of NOW leadership. The LA Times notes that in a subsequent 1973 Friedan essay in New York Times Magazine “smacked of downright paranoia; Friedan even claimed a woman was sent to seduce her and then blackmail her into silence while unnamed lesbians took over NOW.” Bottini left NOW and left New York for Los Angeles in 1971.

She shifted her focus to the growing Gay Liberation movement and turned her pain into insightful comedy and acting, studying at the famous Lee Strasberg Institute in Hollywood (before moving to West Hollywood in 1978). That yielded a lesbian feminist one-woman show called “The Many Faces of Woman” which she took on tour around the country for several years – two decades before Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking play The Vagina Monologues in 1994.

“It showed the craziness that women face and society puts on them,” Bottini says in the MSNBC video. “I talked about things that many women are not supposed to talk about like menstruation and birth control and contraception, and the gynecologist visit and lesbian dates. I was breaking ground that no other comedian in this country was doing. I swear to you it’s true: nobody was doing what I was doing. And it was consciousness raising.”

While the 1970s generally associated with disco and sexual freedom, the era was also a hothouse for politics with civil rights turning into liberation movements, including Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation after the Stonewall Rebellion. And Bottini was in the thick of it.

In 1976, America’s Bicentennial, she was hired as the Women’s Program Director at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, which led to her long association with Center co-founder Morris Kight.  In 1975, Kight co-founded the Stonewall Democratic Club, with Bottini joining shortly thereafter. Politicos were eying a significant change in the cultural landscape as evangelical Christian conservatives started speaking out against gay rights.

Then, in 1977, came the 10.0 earthquake. A new religious group called the Moral Majority, led by a publicity seeking Rev. Jerry Falwell and orange juice shill Anita Bryant, used their “Save the Children” crusade to overturn a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida. The Christian Right, which had come to the fore through efforts to Stop the ERA [the Equal Rights Amendment] and overturn Roe v Wade which gave reproductive rights to women, was reborn as a loud and crass anti-LGBTQ grassroots political movement. 

MECLA (Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles) was founded in 1977 as the nation’s first gay political action committee to press legislators on gay and lesbian rights, just as the “Save the Children” crusade was exported to California.  Bottini and Kight organized the Coalition for Human Rights to fight the ugly anti-gay ballot initiative, championed by State Senator John Briggs whose anti-gay attempts had failed in the legislature. Proposition 6 proposed banning gays, lesbians and their supporters from employment in public schools.

The No on Proposition 6 campaign was formed, chaired by MECLA co-chair Diane Abbitt in the South and San Francisco Supervisor candidate Harvey Milk in the North. They hired the consulting firm of David Mixner and Peter Scott as campaign managers — and the managers hired Bottini to serve as the Southern California Deputy Director. Jeanne Córdova a second-wave feminist who also came out in 1968, was media director.  Prop 6/Briggs Initiative was overwhelmingly defeated in November 1978, with help from Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan, who had been convinced to oppose the measure.

After the Briggs Initiative victory, newly re-elected Gov. Jerry Brown made a number of historic gay appointments: Stephen Lachs to the LA Superior Court in 1979; Rand Schrader to the LA Municipal Court in 1980; and in 1981, Mary Morgan to the San Francisco Municipal Court and Ivy Bottini, 55, to the California Commission on Aging, the first “out” lesbian or gay person to be appointed to a California board or commission.

Bottini met successful real estate broker and 12 Step fixture Gail Wilson during the fight against the Briggs Initiative. Wilson and her gay partner held a conference during which they told the audience not to come out, just do your jobs. “I thought I was going to go through the roof because that’s exactly why we were being attacked — because they never thought we’d fight back,” Bottini told the LA Blade. “So, I was at odds with Gail. I got up and spoke and I didn’t mince any words. And I thought, ‘well, she’s gonna hate me for the rest of her life.’” 

Instead, Wilson changed Bottini’s life. “She was a wonderful, magnanimous human being. And she said to me a month or so later, ‘what are you gonna do [with your life]’? I said, ‘well I don’t know. I guess I’ll go back to the Center.’ She said, ‘No, no, don’t do that. Go get your real estate license and come work with me in my real estate office. I said, ‘okay.’ I mean, you show me a door that’s open and I’m gonna walk through it, ya know?” Bottini became one of Wilson’s top sales brokers. 

Meanwhile, the Moral Majority spawned other rightwing conservatives, who elected Reagan president in 1980. As a reward, Reagan gave the anti-gay haters administration posts and when a mysterious disease started killing gay men, they did nothing. 

In 1982, Ken Schnorr, an old friend from Long Island, collapsed and died a week later. His mother called Bottini, freaked out about all the black and blue marks on his body, thinking the hospital hurt him. 

“After Ken died, something said to me there is more to this than we see,” Bottini said. “So, for some reason, I just picked up the phone and called the CDC. I had never done that before. ‘Look, this just happened to my friend. Do you have any answers? The hesitancy at the other end of the line, the hemming and the hawing before they would say anything — I just knew it was bad.” 

The CDC official explained the bruises as Kaposi sarcoma, usually found in elderly Jewish men. “And that was the explanation,” she said. “I got off and thought, ‘no, this doesn’t make sense because Ken was one of three first guys diagnosed with Kaposi in town, in West Hollywood, in L.A., and that started me on working to find out what the hell was going on. It was just horrible.” 

Shortly after Schnorr’s death, Rep. Henry Waxman, aided by his gay deputy Tim Westmoreland, held the first congressional hearing on what was then called GRID — Gay Related Immune Deficiency – at the Gay Community Services Center on Highland Ave.  “We all met in the lobby and under the stairs on the first floor,” Bottini said. “Waxman’s basic message was spread the word: nobody really knows how it’s passed.”   

After a couple weeks with no action, Bottini decided to hold a town hall. She called Dr. Joel Weisman, Schnorr’s doctor, to help inform the community. “Nobody really had a clue. But I felt very early on that it was bodily fluids. That’s the only thing that made sense to me. Because if it was airborne women would be getting it, everybody would be getting it and that wasn’t happening,” Bottini said. 

Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park was jam-packed. “It was all guys — and Dottie Wine (Bottini’s girlfriend) and I. And Joel talked about transmission and he believed it was bodily fluids, too. And I thought, ‘I’m not crazy.’”

The next year, in 1983, Bottini founded AIDS Network LA, the first AIDS organization in Los Angeles. It served as a clearing house for collecting and disseminating information. In 1984, Bottini helped co-found  AIDS Project Los Angeles, now APLA Health.  

Though the love remained, a three-year feud blew up between Bottini and Kight, who did not believe HIV/AIDS disease was transmitted by bodily fluids. Kight changed his mind just in time to reconcile and fight the 1986 Lyndon LaRouche Prop 64 AIDS quarantine initiative that would “put gay men behind chain linked fences.” Bottini was Southern co-chair for the statewide No on Prop 64 campaign; Córdova helmed media relations. The initiative went down to a stunning defeat and Bottini spent much of the rest of the 80s organizing marches, “die-ins” and protests to get funding and services for those impacted by the AIDS epidemic.

Ivy Bottini with Ruth Tittle and members of the West Hollywood Lesbian Gay Advisory Board (Photo courtesy Ruth Tittle)

The work continued into the 1990s, interspersed with painting and Bottini receiving the Drama-Logue Award for “Best Performance” in her play, “Against the Rising Sea.” She also joined the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board in 1999, serving as board co-chair for ten years. Her work there included bringing attention to domestic violence abuse in the LGBTQ community, helping focus attention on the crystal meth crisis, and supporting the annual Dyke March.

Bottini also conceived and spearheaded the first effort to provide affordable housing for gay and lesbian seniors, culminating in the founding of the nonprofit Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing in 2005. “I’d laid the groundwork by organizing the community  and provided the leadership that resulted in obtaining a grant from the State to move forward with the housing project,” known as Triangle Square in Hollywood, Bottini said.  And she kept at it, telling a rally in 2018 to “get off your asses” and vote! 

Bottini grieved her beloved West Hollywood before health issues forced her to move to Florida. “What I think I am going to miss most is the camaraderie in the city and the access to the city council and that a very palpable vision could be fed into the city council and the city council would start to take it on and then come back to the community to make sure there’d be discussion,” Bottini said. “That doesn’t happen anymore but that’s what I will miss. I will miss walking down the street and knowing most everybody that I pass. Now I know hardly know one person.” 

Asked how she’d like to be remembered, Bottini told the LA Blade: “I’d like to be remembered as someone who had a really good sense of humor and could find something funny or strange or out of the ordinary in just about everything I worked on. The early city was creatives. We’re not creative anymore — we’re not. We’re not creating anything.”

Ivy Bottini, Judith V. Branzburg and Torie Osborn at WeHo book signing (Photo by Jon Viscott) 

Bottini also appreciated being appreciated. At a packed book signing, “people came up to me and say things like ‘I’ve been watching what you do for 30 years.’ Or ‘you don’t remember me but 20 years ago…’ There were a lot of memories that came to me. I’m not saying I remembered everything they were talking about – the politics, the conscious raising, the comedy — but they did.” And always there were gay men who approached her and said, “we never met but you saved my life with that town hall.” 

“I had no clue how I touched the people in the city. I can be kind of hard-nosed sometimes when I speak. Sometimes I’d come home and go, ‘oh, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.’ But none of that hit me” after the book signing. 

“It was like this huge family reunion,” Bottini said. “They were remembering how I had change their life. And that was the reason that I was doing things. I was trying to save their lives. I saw the danger that we were about to get hit with while we were walking through [life]. And it was happening and we didn’t even know it — people’s lives were just being torn apart with deaths and children being taken away from lesbian mothers and…It was too much. I saw a tapestry of hurt and that’s what I was fighting. It all adds up to being able to live a life of safety and not live a life of fear.”

Editor’s Note: Ivy Bottini was a significant woman pioneer in the LGBTQ movement and her story touches upon every aspect of a significant time in the history of the long fight for Equality for LGBTQ people. In part 2 of Karen Ocamb’s tribute, Bottini’s friends remember.

Friends remember

Friends react to Ivy Bottini’s death, on the day the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act

Ivy Bottini, Jeanne Cordova, E. Lynn Harris, Don Kilhefner, Pat Rocco, Rev. Troy Perry at Wells Fargo Bank in West Hollywood unveiling of mural of LGBTQ pioneers (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“She lived this incredible life. I mean, her history with the women’s movement, as well as the lesbian movement in America and the larger LGBTQ movement was just incredible. As far as I’m concerned, she was a real pioneer in making a difference than all of our lives. Both Ivy and Morri [Kight] were excellent spokespersons for our community. But she had a knack for being able to throw one-liners out, too, so she could quickly stop nonsense by saying something funny. 

People don’t realize — it took me having lesbians like Ivy who made me realize that women even had another layer than I did as a gay man. They could be smart as a whip, for example, and work for a bank but always hit that glass ceiling. The bank would say – and this actually happened with one of my church members — you know, we would love to make you a general manager. I mean, you’re a smart as a whip. You do all this, but you’re not married. She couldn’t say, ‘yes, but I’m a lesbian. I’m not going to leave.’ Because they were trying to say, ‘you’ll get married and you will have children and leave us. And we don’t want to invest in women.’ Or she’d say, ‘well, I’m a lesbian. I’m not going to get married.’ And they’d say,  ‘Oh, we’re going to fire you.’ That was the difference right there. With gay men, we were not questioned much about our sexual health as much as you might think….One of our clergy, Frieda Smith, told me how she worked in a store and she ran their dark room developing photographs and her boss would sexually harass her. She really woke me up to things, too. 

Ivy should be remembered as a strong woman who have made a difference, not only in women and lesbian rights, but for all of us. And with NOW, she also was an incredible example of not giving up the fight, even if there’s an organization that doesn’t want you there.” 

Rev. Troy Perry, Founder of MCC – Metropolitan Community Church (Ivy’s church), co-Founder of Christopher Street West, longtime gay activist.

Rev. Troy Perry, Diane Abbitt, Ivy Bottini, Phillip Ray De Blieck, and Dottie Wine at an event at the One Institute (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Ivy Bottini stepped into my life a few weeks short of 46 years ago, at a NOW Consciousness Raising Conference in San Francisco. Things have not been the same since! She was a multifaceted difference-maker and spoke out when she observed injustices. She was a visionary who could see dangers before evident – think John Briggs and AIDS – and took action, often at great resistance from other community activists. She loved to mentor young people and others new to the addiction of activism and watch them claim their own power to make a difference.

Never seeking accolades and recognition, both flowed her way as others recognized and appreciated her value to the many causes she impacted.

So honored and proud to have experienced so much of life with Ivy.  So much more could be said, but it will have to wait. Except, I love you, Ivy!”

Dottie Wine

Ivy Bottini and Dottie Wine in 1986  (Photo via Elaine Estelle Suranie.)
Ivy Bottini and Dottie Wine with Rep. Adam Schiff and LA County Assessor Jeffrey Prang at Mayor’s LA Pride party (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“No on 6 was the first time that our community was targeted by a statewide ballot initiative in any state. It was also the first time we came together as a community and organized and fought back. Ivy had a history of fighting back when she was in New York. Then NOW called her a ‘lavender menace’ and threw her out. She was always a grassroots person — she always wanted to fight for full equality for our community. And when you look at her life, that’s exactly what she did. That was who she was.”

Diane Abbitt, MECLA board co-chair, No on Prop 6 campaign co-chair, Equality California board co-chair.

Ivy Bottini, Bernadette Abbruzze, and Diane Abbitt at a WeHo event. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“I’m devastated by the loss. It feels like the end of an era of a certain kind of activism, that Ivy represents. On a deeply personal level, she was my earliest political mentor. I was still in my 20s when we first met. She took me under her wing and taught me so much. At I time when I was still learning about oppression sickness, Ivy taught me not only about male privilege & white privileged, but about class privilege (in the context of the Gay Academic Union). Her wisdom and maturity saw me through many personal, political, and professional crises. I’ll miss her so much.

We expect to have a ZOOM event soon, to honor Ivy. We’re also hoping to curate an exhibit of her art as soon as we can safely do so.”

Teresa DeCrescenzo, executive director of GLASS.

The “Supreme Court Photo” with Robert Arthur, Ivy Bottini, Quentin Crisp, Morris Kight, and Patricia Nell Warren taken at home of Victor Burner. 1994.
(Photo courtesy ONE Institute)

“I have so many memories with Ivy. We served 12 years together on the WeHo Lesbian Gay Advisory board, ending around 2014/2015. Something that always stood out was Ivy’s drive for activism. She loved seeing the younger generations on the board. She was always telling them ‘we need to get in the streets!’ Since then, I venture to say that many off those younger generations have been “in the streets”.

Above is a picture of Ivy, me, and some of LGAP members in, I believe, 2014.”

Ruth Tittle, business leader, philanthropist, activist.  

“Ivy Bottini was a great lesbian feminist activist. I am sure that at the very minute she passed, her best butch buddy, Jeanne Cordova, reached down to help her up.”

Robin Tyler, business leader, activist, comedienne, marriage equality plaintiff

Ivy Bottini, Robin Tyler, Jeanne Cordova don mustaches Ivy got as a gag gift at a Christmas party at Cordova and Lynn Balin’s house. (Photo via Elaine Estelle Suranie)
Ivy Bottini, Jean O’Leary, Jeanne Cordova, Robin Tyler (Photo courtesy Robin Tyler) 

“Ivy Bottini changed my life in ways too numerous to mention.  It all really started around the year 2000 when she said to me after I ran into her at an event, ‘Kid, you need a mentor!’  I had known Ivy for a few years prior to that as an artist and as my landlord, and we had lost contact for a few years but after 2000 I started to spend more time with her and learned about her life as an activist. Little did I know that when I accepted her gift to be my mentor that I would gain a family member, a colleague, a confidant, a teacher, a trusted advisor and a dear, dear, dear friend. 

I find solace in knowing that the loved ones no longer with us and whom she introduced me to over the years have greeted her on the other side today.  An army of LGBT activists who have waited patiently to be reunited with our wonderful friend.  I feel an obligation to Ivy, to stay involved in the work to make this a better world.” 

Sue Sexton, Director of Development & Marketing at ONEgeneration, West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board member.

Sue Sexton and Ivy Bottini (Photo courtesy Sue Sexton) 

 “I first met Ivy in Justin Smith’s acting class. I was new to the LA lesbian and gay community, but I had heard about Ivy: she was ‘the talk.’ We hit it off immediately. I was drawn to her passion for equality, her passion for true expression of self. In Justin’s class we were able to play all the characters — it didn’t matter the gender. We all got to know each other and ourselves. Ivy directed me in a scene from “Kennedy’s Children.” I played the Marilyn Monroe character. We laughed and reminisced about this experience often.

It was in this class that I understood how much Ivy enjoyed acting, performing on any level — but she loved theatre. I started The Ivy Theatre specifically to give voice to lesbian playwrights so that ‘our’ life experiences could be portrayed on the stage. We could play all roles if we chose to because we could. Ivy embodied ‘female voice’ — one of such strength and direction, one of compassion and passion — a voice that could lift one up and shut one down when necessary. A voice that said it like it was a voice of ‘Truth to Power!’ That’s what I wanted in my theatre company and that’s why The Ivy Theatre was born. 

There is currently a play that is being developed by Austin writer Kathy Center based on a short story I wrote where the lead character is based on Ivy. It’s interesting because Kathy didn’t know Ivy and so she read about her and one of Ivy’s quotes that moved Kathy the most was ‘if something needs to be done, you just do it.’ No truer words.”

Marian Jones, founder and artistic director of The Ivy Theatre (1996-2006).

Marian Jones with Ivy Bottini (Photo courtesy Marian Jones)

“What I loved best about Ivy was her unapologetic passion for grassroots activism. Especially feminism and LGBT rights. She hated elitism and loved regular, everyday people. I worked with her over the years – I remember best her passionate speeches for No on 64/No on LaRouche – the heinous ballot measure in 1986 that would have quarantined people living with HIV/AIDS. I worked on the campaign and Ivy was our most effective weapon. We’d send her to speak at a church, a rally, any crowd anywhere – and she’d bellow her fierce opposition, rile up the troops, persuade allies, and raise tons of support and money. 

On a personal note, she was a fierce supporter of my valiant insurgent campaign for CA Assembly in 2012. I’ll never forget Ivy in her mobile chair, festooned in Torie! stickers, wheeling at full speed around the Democratic convention in Feb 2012, buttonholing anyone who would listen about how great I was, how angry she was the gay Speaker supported a straight woman over me…she didn’t give a hoot what anyone thought of her boisterous loud voice. 

Ivy was fierce. And a fixture in WeHo and LA queer and feminist politics for decades. I’ve missed her since she moved to Florida. The world is quieter and less vibrant without her.”

Torie Osborn, longtime progressive activist.

Tories Osborn with Ivy Bottini at the Macha Theater in West Hollywood in 2012
(Photo courtesy The Outlaugh Comedy Festival, via Facebook)

“Ivy and I became friends after we were both invited to speak at APLA on the same panel. I could hear her at the end of the table but couldn’t see her around the people between us, she was so short! I just loved what she was saying, her ideas. Afterwards, I introduced myself and asked if I could take her to lunch sometime. She thought I was hitting on her and said yes.

It was the beginning of a thirty-year friendship based on a shared sense of humor about life, political activism, strong opinions, creativity and her wondering when we would start dating. Our banter was effortless. We have traveled together, spent time with each other’s families and have shut down countless restaurants talking late into the night. She painted my portrait in 2005 — her last portrait just before her eyes took another turn toward darkness.

Ivy was one of the most interesting, funny, and astute people I have ever known.”

Producer Elaine Estelle Suranie.

Elaine Estelle Suranie with Ivy Bottini via Facebook 

“I remember reading about Ivy in the LA Times back in ’75 when I was 10. ‘Bottini comes on like a carload of sinners at a revival meeting. She prances onstage, amid bright lights… No shoes, no props. Just Ivy, her wit, and her microphone…’ I remember thinking, ‘I have to meet that woman someday.’ Who would have known that our paths would cross in so many ways. In the ’80’s, I got my mother to hire her to be our real estate agent…my attempt to expose my mother to lesbians who were successful and not living tortured lives. Years later, through my circle of friends, I was able to enter her circle of friends. Learning about the world through her eyes is a gift that, at the moment, is beyond my ability to describe. Her tenacity, fearlessness, and good humor are lessons for us all to live by.”

Jeannette Bronson, Administrator at LA County Dept of Children and Family Services, Founder of Black Lesbians United.

Ivy Bottini and her large circle of friends (Photo via Elaine Estelle Suranie.)

Ivy was a source of strength for women and others who were trying to break free and define themselves as equal players in our nation. Despite being ousted by NOW for being a lesbian, she never gave up the fight for equality for women. In later years, she partnered with Morris Kight to help move the LGBT community into the awareness of the political class. She was a mencha, a friend and a supreme artistic soul. She was a great mentor to me.”

Eric C. Bauman, past president Stonewall Democratic Club and former Chair California Democratic Party.

Ivy Bottini and friends (Photo by and courtesy Ann Bradley.)

Ivy Bottini was a triumphant force of nature. When I first moved to Los Angeles, she was one of the first people who reached out to me to welcome me with open arms and to give me access to her world. She transformed our nation; she transformed women’s rights; she transformed LGBT rights; and she kept going. She was a force of nature during the AIDS crisis and a transformative figure for West Hollywood and so much more. I will miss her. I will miss her phone calls. I will miss her energy. I will miss her love. Rest in peace, Ivy.”

Troy Masters, publisher of the Los Angeles Blade.

Los Angeles Blade publisher Troy Masters gives Ivy Bottini her Blade award after a farewell event at the ONE Institute in 2019. (Photo courtesy WeHo Times.)

“Ivy wasn’t necessarily a mentor to me.  She was a friend.  But she was a friend who I would go to to get a different perspective on the directions that I already knew I was going to go in.  My friendship with Ivy was dear and it was close, but her frustration with me was also funny and a perfect example of who she is

About 2 months before she passed, our last phone call — we talked about some political something or other that I was involved with. Ivy was always so angry at me for not being more angry, for trying to be diplomatic.  We talked and talked and talked and when it was time to hang up, we said our ‘I love You. I’ll talk with you soon’ and Ivy THOUGHT she hung up……which enabled me to hear her say in that Ivy Long Island accent: ‘WHY does she ask me if She NEVER takes my ADVICE! I can’t remember the exact words but it was definitely her frustration with my lack of BullsHornOut style of confrontation.  I hung up the phone and literally laughed out loud.  I treasure those last words from her. 

Ivy was angry at me for not being angrier and I was often angry with her for not being angry at things that DID get me angry.  And that’s how our friendship grew as we shared our little office at Frontier’s Magazine.”

Marna Deitch, Founder of Motorcycle Contingent for Equality and Ivy’s friend for close to 20 years.

Marna Deitch w Ivy Bottini (photo courtesy Marna Deitch) 

And lest we forget this valuable friendship: 

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.

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