Karen Ocamb

ACT UP's Robert Navarret Has Died at 72

Filed By Karen Ocamb | September 10, 2012 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: ACT UP, HIV/AIDS, JT Anderson, obituary, Robert Navarret

ACT-UP-LA-Robert-Naverret-and-JT-Anderson-1.jpgACT UP/LA members Robert Navarret and J. T. Anderson in Santa Monica 2011. (Photo courtesy JT Anderson)

Note from Karen: There is something so unfair about AIDS warriors who fought so hard and survived during the worst calamity in LGBT history to die. I know it's unreasonable to think members of ACT UP should have some sort of get-out-of-jail-free invincibility card - but really, longevity ain't too much to ask for. Especially for gentle folks like Robert Navarret who was ubiquitous when an action was called and flashed a kind smile at moments of peace. This is how I remember Robert Navarret - but JT Anderson, on the right pictured here with Robert in Santa Monica last July - was his friend. He kindly agreed to share his memories of JT. It's after the break.

Robert Navarret 1940 - 2012

Remembrance by JT Anderson

Robert Navarret, ACT UP/Los Angeles member and Radical Faerie, died at his home in Venice, California, August 30, 2012. He would have been 72 years old September 21.

Robert was raised in Lancaster, CA, the town where Judy Garland and her family lived when her father, Frank Gumm, owned the Valley Theatre. Life in Lancaster was no Oz, however, for a gay boy in the 1940s and 50s.

After graduating from high school, Robert joined the military and was stationed for a while in Turkey.

He began his life in Los Angeles working as a salesperson and later for IBM. He had a long-term relationship and lived briefly in Boston. He moved into his beach home in Venice about 40 years ago.

Being an avid gardener, Robert worked professionally and cared for many yards including Bruce Bennett's, the star of a 1935 Tarzan movie and Joan Crawford's husband in "Mildred Pierce." His home in Venice was a showplace of flowers and other plants.

His Venice home included a small California bungalow and an apartment complex with a beautiful upstairs apartment and a ground level apartment in which he lived. He was a self-trained carpenter and handyman and renovated the entire complex over the years making it a stand-out on Mast Street.

LGBT and AIDS causes became his passion when he was arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court in 1987 and joined ACT UP/Los Angeles in the summer of 1989. He attended meetings and participated in actions with a burning desire to make a difference. Photography was his specialty and he documented many of ACT UP/LA's actions. He tirelessly helped to create signs, banners, and posters.

Determined to be on the front lines, he participated in actions in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Orange County, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, Chicago and Washington, DC, where he was hit by a car in 1993 during an action against the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, suffering a fractured ankle. His compassion for people with AIDS lead him to help provide cushions for the AIDS ward at the LA County/USC hospital where many patients had been forced to endure long hours on hard benches.

His association with activists in ACT UP/LA encouraged him to get involved with other causes. He was at the historic SANOE [Stop AIDS Now Or Else] stopping of the Rose Parade in 1990, and participated in anti-war protests, including wearing his faerie skirt, much to the chagrin of Jackson Browne, at the downtown Los Angeles march against the first Gulf war.

ACT-UP-LA-SANOE-1990-rose-parade-.jpgStop AIDS NOW OE ELSE protest at the 1990 Rose Parade.

He was especially proud of his work with Clinic Defense, risking his life in many pre-dawn freeway chases to get to clinics in order to stop the domestic terrorist organization Operation Rescue from blocking women's access to legal health care. He was arrested for writing pro-choice messages on the sidewalk in front of the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana.

During his activism he also had time for the Radical Faeries, attending circles and gatherings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Anza Borrego, Joshua Tree, Deep Creek Hot Springs and Oregon. He was known as Mooncalf in faerie circles. He was never ashamed or afraid to wear his faerie skirt, wearing it at actions in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. He last wore it recently at a tribute to Harry Hay in Silver Lake.

Robert was a very creative person. He was a photographer, painter, drawer, actor, and sculptor. He developed his own film in his home studio. Besides ACT UP/LA actions, Robert also enjoyed photographing the physique events at Muscle Beach and photographed many of the participants in body-building competitions in California. He took classes in painting and drawing and used many of his friends as subjects.

He had recently been attending life drawing workshops at the Tom of Finland Foundation and drawing and sculpting sessions at a studio in Culver City. His last sculpture was completed about two years ago. It is a stunning bronze statue of a male nude in a classic pose with his arm stretched out to the horizon.

ACT-UP-names-restore-Sept-2001.jpgHIV/AIDS activists gathered at Highways Sept 2001 to help restore its memorial. From left, Peter Dobson, Eric Scott, J. T. Anderson, Robert Navarret, Chuck Stallard and David Nichols. (Photo courtesy The Body)

Robert was a member of the Fabulous Monsters acting troupe, providing support, building sets and acting in many productions. He was in "Tiny Hamlet Show", "Project: Alice" and many other productions. His favorite, however, was his role in "Speed Hedda", performing in the historic La Mama Theater in New York. Robert was an ardent opera fan and had planned to attend many productions of the 2012 LA Opera season.

Robert was a member of Golds Gym, Venice, for many years but mostly enjoy yoga classes and walking and cycling in the Venice area. He loved to travel and spent extended periods of time in France, Italy, China and Tibet.

Robert is survived by two sisters and many family members, and by countless friends and fellow activists.

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