BELLA ABZUG, U.S. Congresswoman from New York born (d. 1998) In addition to her numerous accomplishments in the U.S. House of Representatives (She famously said, “This woman’s place is in the House — the House of Representatives,” in her successful 1970 campaign to join that body) she was an outspoken supporter of LGBT civil rights. She was one of the first members of Congress to support Gay rights, introducing in 1974, the first federal gay rights bill, the Equality Act of 1974, with fellow Democratic New York City Representative, Edward Koch, the future mayor of New York City.
My personal encounter with her entailed a reception MECLA having for Midge Constanza in Los Angeles. I was doing press for the event, which was being held at attorney Sheldon Andelsen’s luxurious home. This was BC (“Before Cellphones”) and everyone had an answering service (you can Google it). Actual live people who took messages for you…and occasionally made mistakes. In this case the mistake worked in my favor. I called in to pick up my messages and was told that a “Beela Ab…Abzu..” she struggled with the name. And I said “You mean Bella Abzug!?” And she said yes. “Did she leave a call-back number? I asked incredulously. “Yes.”
And so I phoned Bella Abzug and said “Hi…this is Bo Young and I’m returning your call.”
“I’m not recognizing the name…not sure why I called you…” she responded.
And I said, “I thought it might be in response to an invitation to a reception we’re having to honor Midge Costanze this Friday.”
“Oh I love Midge, but I’m not sure I can come. I’m here for Planned Parenthood and they’re going to keep me pretty busy”
So I said, “Well, let me give you the information and maybe you can make it.” And I gave her the address and time etc.
Cut to the party. Scene: A magnificent, ultra-modern, all white mansion. A bedazzling piece of “starchitecture” that said “I’m rich as Croesus.” The room is buzzing with the chatter of people networking and who are well aware they are in such a house, sitting on top of a hillside overlooking Beverley Hills and Bel Air. The horizon pool glistened outside and hot waiters are passing delicious finger food.
And out of the blue I hear a bellowing “Where’s Bo Young?” And I look in the direction of the front door, where the question came from…and there was Bella!. I walked up to her and she took me by the arm and kept me with her for the rest of the party. I was always touched by the way she made sure that everyone there knew who it was that got her there.