RUDI GERNREICH, Austrian fashion designer, died (b. 1922); a fashion designer and an early Gay activist. Born in Vienna, he fled Austria at age sixteen due to Nazism. He came to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles.
For a time, he had a career as a dancer, performing with the Lester Horton Company around 1945. He moved into fashion design via fabric design, and then worked closely with model Peggy Moffitt and photographer William Claxton, pushing the boundaries of “the futuristic look” in clothing over three decades. An exhibition of his work at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2003 hailed him as “one of the most original, prophetic and controversial American designers of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.”
In the USA, Gernreich was an influential co-founder of the original Mattachine Society in Los Angeles, the USA’s first Gay Liberation movement.
Although Mattachine’s co-founder Harry Hay claimed “never to have even heard” of the earlier Gay Liberation struggle in Germany (Harry could be selectively deaf), by the people around Adolf Brand, Magnus Hirschfeld and Leontine Sagan, he is known to have talked about it with Austrian and German emigres in America. He was close friends and one-time lovers with Gernreich.
Later in life, Gernreich chose to devote himself to cooking and selling soup. His Final Will and Testament endowed a fund to provide legal funds for Gay men arrested by entrapment. He was portrayed, admirably and excitingly, by Ugly Betty star, Michael Urie, off Broadway, in the play The Temperamentals. He largely remains an unsung hero of LGBT Rights.