Joyce Vandeveer (1927-2009) was a photographer who documented the jazz scene of 1950s and 1960s New York and San Francisco. She was friends with such illuminaries as Johnny Matthis and Lenny Bruce.
She also worked at Mona's Candle Light, the nightclub featured in the Academic Film Archive of North America's film of the same name, which was recently awarded a preservation grant from New York Women in Film and Television.
She was an activist for gay and lesbian rights, involved in a famous pre-Stonewall court case which fell to her favor, but which nevertheless left her somewhat paranoid the rest of her life, or she might've remained better known.
After a 1954 raid of Tommy's Place in San Francisco, she was arrested and targetted for special persecution and prosecution. The charge was serving liquor to a minor, which she had never done, but the intentions were purely homophobic, as the ultimate purpose was to shut down the gay bar.
She fought the homophobia in courts and was ultimately found guiltless by a jury. Her chief accuser was even found guilty of perjury -- but the gay bar, called a "hang out for perverts and bohemians," was succcessfully closed down.
And the PTA which had joined the city government's anti-gay campaign hounded Joyce thereafter. Others whose names and photographs had been published in local papers continued to be subjected to a campaign of humiliation. This forced Joyce underground and out of California forever, and denied the gay community fuller ongoing testimony to our own history. She went to her grave still feeling embarrassment and shame.
Joyce died 23 August 2009 in Austin, Texas, of ovarian cancer which she had battled for three years. She was in the Christopher House hospice care facility that permitted the dying to bring their pets. She was survived by her seventeen year old cat Cleo, and her well-dressed chihuahua Panda. Joyce's former life companion, alas, suffered advance alzheimers and was in a care facility, so could not be with her. But Panda was "faithfully at her side" throughout her final days.
Joyce's remains were donated to medical science. Among her last wishes were instructions to those who might grieve for her to imbibe Cabernet Sauvignon in her memory, or if one is extraordinarily sad, a Scotch and Water on the rocks.