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Saying goodbye to longtime LGBTQ+ champion Chuckie Betz

This 1971 photo of Chuckie Betz was the first from a gay pride event ever published in Milwaukee media.

A little more than three months ago, Be Seen podcast hosts Nate Imig and Michail Takach sat down with self-described "radical queen" Chuckie Betz. In a conversation packed with emotion — and, as anyone who knew Betz would expect, plenty of humor — Betz gave us a lesson on Milwaukee's LGBTQ+ history.

At the time, we counted ourselves thankful to not only get the opportunity to share space with Betz, but also share his perspective and wisdom with the Radio Milwaukee audience.

Now, upon hearing that Betz died Tuesday night, our feelings of gratitude grow even stronger, mixed of course with the sadness that accompanies the passing of this remarkable individual.

We thought it best on this occasion to share a couple things. First, these words from the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project, posted late last night:

2023 has been a very cruel summer.

Tonight, we’re sad to hear about the passing of Chuckie Betz (1951-2023,) longtime #LGBTQ champion, who shattered the status quo for 50+ years. In 2022, Chuckie allowed us to use his iconic image for @RadioMilwaukee #BeSeen podcast.

Chuckie was active in the LGBTQ community as a teen. Over time, he founded Gay Liberation Front, Radical Queens, and New Gay Underground. In 1971, he appeared in the Milwaukee Journal — the first gay person ever seen on the front page — and sparked a queer revolution.

Chuckie hitchhiked to a Black Panthers Convention in Philadelphia in 1970, where he met with not only the New York chapter of Gay Liberation Front, but Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera of STAR. It was one of the most proudly remembered moments of his life.

Chuckie moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. He joined Les Pettit Bon Bons, a clique of Sunset Strip glam rock club kids, earning photos in national music magazines. By 1976, he was living a Tales of the City experience in San Francisco with best friend / roommate Meg.

Chuckie’s grand adventures were an inspiration to us all. And he will be a very, very hard act to follow. With his passing, there are no survivors of Gay Liberation Front MKE.

Honestly, there's nothing more for us to add at this point besides to share the Be Seen episode featuring Betz. You can listen to it using the player at the top of the page (the conversation starts at the 8:05 mark).