First, a little backstory.
I’ve had some really interesting conversations with readers of the Hap Veltman/HAPPY Foundation LGBT archives stor(ies), which you can find here.
I’ve gotten questions I’ve gotten is about Mr. Veltman’s early life, who his family were, etc. So I figured I’d post this timeline, which there wasn’t room for in that week’s paper issue.
Hap’s Historical Timeline
June 23, 1936 Arthur P. “Hap” Veltman born in San Antonio, Texas. His father, Arthur “Pat” Veltman, was a Major League outfielder from 1926 to 1934, and played with the Chicago White Sox, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the (then-)Boston Braves and the New York Giants. (!)
1950s-1960 Hap Veltman attends St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, then Rice University, earns a business degree from the University of Texas, and studies at St. Mary’s Law School
1960s the Rabbit Habit on Mulberry launches Hap into local business/ entrepreneurial spotlight
1968 the Kangaroo Court opens, and is the first new significant nightlife/restaurant business on the Riverwalk in over twenty years
late 60 early ‘70s the Casino Club Building, Losoya building are developed, as are restaurants such as the Big Bend and the Greenhouse (with Yvonne Woods)
1973 The San Antonio Country opens with Gene Elder as general manager, Happy meets partner Kenneth Garrett
1981 The San Antonio Country is closed after being bought out, in a much-publicized series of legal wranglings, by Valero Energy
1981 The Bonham Exchange opens
1983 The San Antonio Conservation Society, in concert with Veltman’s Aztec Development Partnership, bids to save the historic Aztec theatre as a permanent home for the San Antonio Symphony (a 1986 municipal bond to buy it and the Majestic, however, fails to pass)
1985 Hap Veltman and Bernard Lifshutz buy the Blue Star Distribution Center, then a compound of run-down tire warehouses, as a home for contemporary arts
1986 The first Blue Star exhibition opens on July 1, featuring fifty-six works by twenty-seven local artists, both unknowns and established artists such as Richard Thompson, James Cobb, and John Tweddle. The exhibition draws over 3,500 visitors during the following month and has since become an annual event.
September 1988 the HAPPY Foundation established in Hap Veltman’s will
December 3, 1988 Arthur Hap Veltman passes away from complications due to HIV/AIDS at the age of 52, survived by family members Kenneth Garrett, Wade Strauch, Gene Elder, his mother Florence, and brother Robert.
Happy’s Photo Show
One of my favorite holiday events this year was the photography show/party at the Bonham Exchange, put on by Hap’s partner Kenneth Garrett, and his best friend/archivist Gene Elder on 12/3, the 20th anniversary of Hap's death.
There were drinks and food and music and great conversation and the photos themselves were amazing. Hap was talented in that arena as well. One of my favorites depicted Hap squatting in the Gulf Coast sand in front of a Mercedes in li’l bitty shorts. But f you wanna see it, you'll have to buy it from Kenny.
Anyway, here’s host Kenneth Garrett with art patron and bon vivant Rick Liberto (as always, forgive my bad iPhone photos)
Here’s some views of the excellent party.
It was moving and great to meet more of Hap’s friends. A really remarkable group of people.
LGBT Archives Biz
Incidentally, here’s a pretty bad iPhone photo of a GORGEOUS photo of the original staff at the San Antonio Country, Hap Veltman’s pre-Bonham gay disco. Recognize anyone? Gene’s in the pith helmet.
Furthermore, Gene e-mailed me recently to let me know of a Flickr slideshow of the Archives!
His e-mail reads, in part:
“With Annalisa Peace, Jane Henry and Bill Sibley.
See the Trojan with a Mount Rushmore stamp on it that I made to pass out years ago. See Annalisa holding up something to the camera that we can not remember what that was. See picture of Gene Elder and Ray Chavez as the Fall Fairies in the 1974 ballet Fairies Fiasco.
See the tsunami of information that I have collected.
It’s a terrific slideshow and really shows what the Archives are like. Go be amazed here.
Also, the HAPPY Foundation would like you to know that a series of three sculptures by sculptor Michael Bigger, that once resided in the “island” in front of the Josephine Theatre, have gone missing. The sculptures were dedicated in a public ceremony to Hap’s memory. Gene’s been on the case for some time, and reminds the Current that “the past President of Conservation Society had offered to pay for the repair last time this happened and to help with a plaque.”
Finally, he’s got a little traction with the City; James LeFlore, artist and San Antonio Public Art and Design Enhancement Program manager, has written Gene Elder back, thusly: “…I will check with Parks and Public Works to see if any city crews have been involved recently in picking up the artworks. As you may recall, Parks department was involved in picking up the fallen sculpture last time these were damaged and I didn’t find out from them until you, Virginia Nicholas, and I too started asking questions. Maybe that is the case again this time. Can you email or call me to go over what exactly has happened this time?”
Let’s hope the sculptures are found, repaired, and re-installed.