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John Mitzel, icon of Boston gay literary scene, dies

Posted by Jim Lopata October 9, 2013 05:45 PM

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John Mitzel in his Calamus bookshop, 2012 (photo: Emil Cohen)

John Mitzel (1948-2013), long-time owner of the storied Boston gay bookstore Calamus, died in his sleep in the early morning of October 4 due to complications from throat cancer.

A memorial is planned this Friday evening at 7 p.m. at Calamus, 92 South Street by South Station in Boston.

The following is a profile of John Mitzel that ran in the September/October 2012 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.

John Mitzel Ain’t Going Anywhere

The Boston gay bookstore owner takes his place with some of the legendary personalities of our time

By Mark Krone

For gay bookstores, these are the last days of disco. Legendary outlets such as Lambda Rising in Washington DC, A Different Light in San Francisco, and the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in New York have all closed. But in downtown Boston, on South Street, Calamus Book Store stubbornly remains open. “As long as I am here, this will be here,” says owner John Mitzel.

When it comes to post-Stonewall gay activism in Boston, John Mitzel was there. He was there at the first organizing meeting of Gay Pride in 1971. He was there at the beginning of gay publications such as Fag Rag and Gay Community News. And there, too, when gay people turned to the courts in 1978, establishing the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). He was also an early author of books primarily for the gay market. His new collection of short stories, Last Gleamings, on friends he lost to AIDS, will come out this fall. Considering his impact on gay Boston, Mitzel should be better known.

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About the author: Boston Spirit Magazine’s daily blog brings you all of the information you need on New England’s LGBT community. In addition to highlighting local and national LGBT news, we will also highlight local leaders from the worlds of business, politics, fashion and entertainment and keep you up-to-date on all the latest events and parties, hot spots for travel, shopping, dining, and more!
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