The Grit and Glamour of Queer LA Subculture

Oral Histories

Biographies of Narrators ​(These sound excerpts also appear in the essay sections of "Swish Alps" chapter.)

Joseph Fiorillo was born in Miami, Florida in 1942 and eventually went to school in New York, where he primarily dated girls. Finding gay life by way of 1960's counterculture, he saw all sides of New York's swirling 70s nightlife. Moving to Los Angeles in 1979, Joseph worked as a real estate agent and established a private network of gay friends in and around Silver Lake while observing its thriving nightlife. Joseph’s life story weaves through crucial subcultures of the late twentieth century, charting sexual liberation, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the development of Silver Lake as an important gayborhood in Los Angeles.

MW Cartozian Wilson is a trans guy who was raised as a girl in Silicon Valley. As a child, MW did not want to wear dresses. From an early age, MW knew that “there was something different about me,” what exactly was less clear. A gifted student athlete at a private girls' high school, who also haunted the San Francisco underworld, MW ended up going to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he met his first girlfriend. MW eventually got an MFA in film at UCLA and moved to Silver Lake, where in 2004 he took over the legendary dyke/trans/genderqueer club Shotgun, hosted weekly at the Eagle leather bar.


Alvaro Vega grew up in a large Mexican American family in Arizona, knew he was gay when he was five, and first came out when he was in high school. He eventually moved to Silver Lake and immersed himself its gay culture. Alvaro first encountered HIV/AIDS in the local Kaiser hospital where he worked as a pulmonary technician. His oral history provides a view on over three decades of Silver Lake life.


Bill Tutton was born in 1963 and grew up in Buffalo, New York. He has played in bands since high school and came out to his family when he was twenty. In the 1980s, he moved to Los Angeles and gained national recognition in the 1990s as the bassist for The Geraldine Fibbers, a center piece of the Silver Lake music scene. He is married to Alvaro Vega.

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