Box 1

1. Letters to WBAI re: Pitts firing

2. Letters from WBAI listeners [many re: Pitts firing]

3. Letters from WBAI listeners [General suggestions and comments]

4. Schedule related to tapes 56 and 68 [panel discussion on counseling gay students at Queens College]



Full tape list in progress; reach out to for access.

Charles Pitts (1941-2015) was an American gay activist, journalist, radio host, and sound engineer. He was born in Jamestown, NY where he attended community college after high school and worked at a local radio station. In the mid-1960s he moved to NYC and worked as a freelance audio engineer for various companies involved in radio, educational, and film projects. Notably, he worked as sound engineer for the film crew at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Pitts explored the City’s emerging gay world and became an active participant in hippie and countercultural circles. His personal and professional inclinations drew him to WBAI, NYC’s progressive public radio station, a platform for left-leaning viewpoints and eclectic music. Pitts started at WBAI by just showing up and volunteering his engineering expertise, but soon became a staff member working on both sides of the microphone. In 1968 along with Baird Searles, Bill Weaver and other gay men started a weekly program on WBAI called “The New Symposium” with the intention to inspire “a sense of social identification within our subculture.” With a wide range of topics related to the gay community discussed by invited guests and callers, the half hour show was recognized by its listeners for it’s candid conversations of issues rarely heard in public media. 

In the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots, Pitts along with Bill Katzenberg, Pete Wilson, John O’Brien, Bill Weaver, and other gay activists founded the Gay Liberation Front.

In 1969 Pitts was fired from WBAI for refusing to adhere to the station’s music policies, but Pitts insisted it was really because the management was fearful of the station “being taken over by homosexuals.” He was eventually rehired by new management and from 1970-1971 Pitts co-hosted the show “Homosexual News” with Pete Wilson. In 1971 WBAI gave Pitts his own freeform radio show which he titled “Out of the Slough” with a mixture of discussions with callers, his reflections on gay life and current events as well as music. The show ran until January of 1973 and the following May Pitts was again fired from the staff by WBAI manager Jerry Coffin and while he appeared as a guest on other WBAI shows after that, he never hosted his own radio show again. 

Pitts had many critics even among his fellow activists, particularly concerning his discussions celebrating the gay male sexual culture that included anonymous sex, promiscuity, S&M, and particularly intergenerational sex. However, his radio shows were acknowledged by many young gay men in the 70s and 80s as an important exposure to gay male life that empowered and influenced them very positively.

In 1978 Pitts suffered a severe beating by a stranger after a night out at a Chelsea leather bar. After multiple surgeries and long hospital stays Pitts recovered but would suffer chronic pain from his injuries for the rest of his life. His assailant was never caught.

Pitts continued to work in radio serving as a production engineer at WNCN from 1976-1991. From his professional audio work miking, recording, editing, and mixing he won industry recognition with an Armstrong Award and two Peabody Awards. From 1994 until his retirement he was a production engineer for WQXR. He died of lung disease on May 21, 2015. 

–Source: Wikipedia