I will always remember the first time I met Richard Hunter. But then again, everyone remembers the first time they met Richard Hunter - he was just one of those guys. He, more than any other individual, was the nucleus that led to the founding of West Hollywood Aquatics (WH20), the first team within United States Masters Swimming whose mission focused on the inclusion of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender athletes. But that was still a few months down the road.
In May 1982, I saw a poster announcing a Gay Olympic Games to be held in San Francisco over Labour Day weekend. I called the number, and was put through to Dr. Thomas F. Waddell, a former US Olympian whose idea it was to create such a brash, in-your-face challenge to the sports world at large. He put me in touch with Susan McGrievey, the renowned ACLU attorney he had chosen to organize the Los Angeles team. We met for dinner at the Melting Pot, and before the night was through, she handed full control of Team Los Angeles over to me.
|I quickly organized those from her list, and we called the first meeting of all athletes on Sunday, 13 June in the Poinsettia Park gymnasium, where a newly-formed men's basketball team was scrimmaging. The meeting started at 6pm, with swimmers, volleyball players, runners, wrestlers and others, all meeting for the first time. You could feel the electricity.|
The meeting was barely underway when it came to a complete standstill: through the north doors came two bronzed, bare-chested Adonis' in cutoffs and sandals. The one carrying a piece of corrugated cardboard had a personality the size of Texas, and this brilliant, mega-watt smile that just wouldn't quit. He was one of those people who just couldn't help himself from making an entrance - it was just part of what made Richard Hunter who he was. The sleepy-eyed beauty at his side was Ric Boner, a swimmer-diver who would also become one of the original founders of WH2O.
|Richard Hunter and Ric Boner at Gay Games I|
In mid-August, the same week we had our Team Los Angeles send-off party at Studio One, we received the shocking news: the United States Olympic Committee had won the right in court to prevent us from using the word "Olympic." Every item printed, etched or embedded with the word Olympic either had to be destroyed, or the word removed. They also won the right to hold Tom Waddell financially responsible, a lawsuit that wasn't settled amicably until October 2000 - fourteen years after he had died from complications due to AIDS.
|Iconic Hunter photo / Hunter with WH20 teammate Steve Smetzer|
Besides being the poster boy for Gay Games II, he was featured in many magazines and caused a stir with Dr. Waddell and others when he appeared in an ad for HIM Vitamins, sporting his gold medals, without their permission.
|Shamey Cramer, Errol Graham, Richard Hunter at Gay Games VI|
He did his best to remain in positive spirits, but his body was giving out. Despite the advancements in HIV medicines, the high levels of toxicity, among other things, had caught up to Richard. Thus, it came as no surprise when Errol informed us he had a heart attack and died this past August. The moth had flown too close to the flame for too long.
His commitment to his sport and the Gay Games movement in its infancy was the initial glue that bound our swimmers together for that first Gay Games. Athletes from West Hollywood Aquatics were instrumental in establishing International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics. Many of those same athletes were responsible for establishing the Federation of Gay Games, which has fostered the Gay Games movement since 1990.
Although Richard was not involved in those organizations, he was a mighty pebble that started many of the first ripples that created the sea of change.
Richard Hunter was a giant, of that there is no doubt. His passion was contagious. His enthusiasm and energy were boundless. Despite being so flawlessly beautiful, he was one of the most approachable individuals. He was one of only two individuals left with whom I worked locally prior to the initial Gay Games, so his loss affects me deeply. But his spirit joins with others who guide me in my work with IGLA, the FGG, and beyond.
As they say in Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud (New Zealand to modernists): Hei maumaharatanga - In loving memory to Richard Hunter. May you find the peace in rest that so eluded you in life.