Party celebrates impresario, adds to documentary till

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

It’s not often you get the opportunity to relive your glory days and shape the future in the same night, but nothing with Stirling Silver’s name attached has ever been in the realm of the ordinary. Saturday night Northern Lights Lounge celebrates the Detroit nightclub impresario’s birthday with a gathering of friends, fans and family from his heyday, with a portion of the proceeds going toward a new locally-produced documentary.

Original Todd’s DJ Charles English will get the party started with ’80s new wave classics, but the night’s most interesting entertainment is a 20-minute preview of the film “America You Kill Me,” which chronicles the pioneering work of renowned local gay rights activist and Triangle Foundation founder Jeffrey Montgomery.

Montgomery, who left the Triangle Foundation (now called Equality Michigan) in 2007, has spent the last several years as an independent LGBT activist and political commentator. He spoke with The Detroit News about his legacy and how he hopes the documentaty will inspire new conversations about gay rights.

Q: How close is the film to being finished, and what kind of release do you have planned for the final product?

A: Most of the filming is done. (Director Daniel Land) is leaning on possibly doing one or two more interviews, but, in the meantime, we’ve got hours and hours of footage. There’s a four-hour interview ... between me and Craig Fahle that was done before he left WDET, plus there’s about 15 individual interviews with other people. Then there is probably a couple hundred hours of archival news footage and other things. Now he’s in the process of editing everything ...

The next thing is going to be the whole distribution business of it. We’re at the beginning of looking into that whole process. We’ve already got some very good possibilities of some festival appearances.

Q: How did this project first come about?

A: It started out a while after I retired from Triangle Foundation, and I was thinking I would like to be able to get back out there and be an independent voice on many of these issues. At the time, the marriage equality thing was waylaid up and I was debating beginning to get back out on a speaking circuit at colleges and other venues. Then somebody suggested one of the best ways to get out there would be if I had a book or something. I began to really think about a memoir.

One thing lead to another, and we decided to make a whole documentary about what I’ve done, my career and my successes and whatever. And we found this incredibly gifted director, Daniel Land ... In fact, Stirling introduced us to him. He loved that idea, and he totally embraced it.

Q: Why did you decide to retire from Triangle Foundation and go solo?

A: Over those 17 years, many things were accomplished and many were not, and at that time a lot of issues like marriage were coming much more to the forefront. My personal belief at that time was that that shouldn’t have been the issue we focused a lot on. General civil rights was a more important battle, and as it turned out marriage turned out to not be such a bad deal to pursue, because here we are.

But I was thinking if I were a parent, I would be the kind of parent that when my child was 17, I would let him go and hope that I raised him well enough to do things.

I tend to take a more radical approach to issues, so I thought this would be a way for Triangle to go on and do whatever it was going to do, and for me to go on and do my own thing and strengthen my voice so I don’t have to worry about any affect on fundraising for the organization or alienating part of the community.

Q: Now that gay marriage has been legalized in the United States, what big issue do you think the LGBT community should tackle next?

A: First of all, it’s a very good thing that gay marriage is legal. In the process of all that, we as a movement learned a great deal of things I think could be used now very positively to help on these larger issues like employment and housing discrimination, as well as taking a lot of these accomplishments and making sure that they’re followed through at the legal level, really getting laws and regulations changed.

Q: What is your mission for the next stage of your career?

A: I’ve been out of the mainstream of the gay movement for a while, and I think this film will be one way for people who are doing the work now to sort of be introduced or reintroduced to me and what I’ve done. And also having conversations like this one I’m having with you to let people know I still do have a lot to say about these things.

If nothing else, I want to keep being a regularly heard commentator who can guide these discussions and perhaps have people look at things through the benefit of history from someone who’s been through so much and can still add a great deal to discussions.

Steven Sonoras is a Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

‘A Special Club Reunion for a Good Cause’

9 p.m. Sat.

Northern Lights Lounge

660 W. Baltimore, Detroit

$6 cover, portion of proceeds benefit the documentary, “America You Kill Me”

(313) 873-1739