March 12, 2004 by

Sallie Fiske


Categories: Media, Writers/Editors

Sallie Maranda Fiske, one of the first women to work in broadcast journalism in Los Angeles, died on Feb. 19. Cause of death was not released. She was 75.
The daughter of Frank Fiske, a Los Angeles journalist, and actress Dorothy Guthrie, Sallie graduated from Fullerton College and became a fashion buyer for the May Co. department store chain. In 1956, she hosted the KCOP talk show, “Strictly for Women,” then worked as the channel’s news editor for several years before making advertising her career.
She returned to television in the 1970s when KCOP gave her another afternoon talk show. In reaction to conservative crusader Anita Bryant’s anti-homosexual “Save Our Children” campaign, Fiske announced her sexual orientation on TV in 1977. She was fired for coming out of the closet and never worked in broadcast journalism again.
Her disclosure, however, presented other opportunities. Fiske became a gay rights activist who was influential in helping West Hollywood develop its nondiscrimination policies and ordinances. She also campaigned to defeat the Briggs Initiative, a 1978 California state ballot measure that would have allowed school boards to identify and fire gay teachers.
In 1985, Fiske launched the short-lived West Hollywood Paper, a weekly publication. Her final years were spent freelancing, and was best known for editing the 1994 book, “Queer Blood: The Secret AIDS Genocide Plot.”

8 Responses to Sallie Fiske

  1. Ed Garren

    I first met Sallie in 1984, right after moving to Los Angeles. I went to a Stonewall Democratic Club meeting and she was working at the front table, greeting new members. Our eyes met and it was love at first sight. From that moment, our long, lively mutual admiration grew.
    Sallie had a timeless quality about her. She was at once the consumate sophisticate and a charmed little girl at the same time. She loved light and colors. Every year I would put up my Christmas Tree and she would come over and watch the lights shimmer on the decorations. I would dim my living room to just the tree, a few candles, maybe a fire if it was cool, and we would sit mesmerized sipping hot chocolate and look at the tree.
    We went to (northern) Mexico a couple of times a year, sometimes to Ensenada or Rosarito. She always felt very at home there, as if she had returned to the family she longed for instead of her own. She was as comfortable around Mexicans and in Mexico as one might be in their own back yard with ones’ best friends. These were the people who saved her from abject hopelessness on the ranch of her childhood in Orange. No matter how unpredictable her family might be, she felt safe with the families who worked on the ranch, they loved her and cherished her and she always felt at home with them wherever she encountered them, like coming home to long lost family.
    Sal was cursed with being too ahead of her time. She loved Harry Hay and shared his vision of an equal and safe world for everyone. She talked about “Gay Marriage” two decades ago, and saw it as a watershed issue that must be resolved. About three years ago she looked at a “hybrid” auto going by and said, “You know the end of internal combustion is almost here.”
    And now, she has gone on, to hopefully a more peaceful world than this one, which challenged her so, and marked her with so much anguish, laced with occasional triumph.
    Be of courage my good friend, as you soar through the cosmos, propelled by your spirit and your quest for the shimmering light of the next galaxy. You remain in our hearts and our memories, light and love, forever.
    Ed Garren

  2. MD Sam Smith, CFP

    Sally was one of those rare individuals whose spirited intellect often left her searcing for engagement in overcrowded world. She was someone who could change your life after even a chance encounter and send you on your way, scratching your head and asking, “who was that woman?”, someone with whom you could spend an hour and come away knowing your life had been enriched.
    We are all forever enriched for knowing you. I wish we had given more back.

  3. Ruth Williams

    I had the pleasure of knowing you since 1984 and somehow we clicked and knew we’d be friends. You always gave so much and asked for so little in return. I learned so much from you,and I recall your excitement as you were seeing your dream of the West Hollywood Paper day by day becoming a reality. Blue sitting under your desk, your laugh, your serious moments when you were on deadline, your tears when it was coming to an end. I thank you for allowing me to part of those days. For your never ending belief in me, the endless talks when it seemed you knew every thought and every feeling I had. Your love and concern for my sons.
    I valued the times we did spend together, the few times we managed to pull each other out of our cocoons for a dinner. I regret we never did get to the Hungarian place you wanted to try. I’m sorry, so sorry that I didn’t take the time over the last few years to really push us both to get out more. Most of all, not being able to say these things to you when you were here. Thinking an email was sufficient – forgive me my friend. I will miss you. Sallie Fiske you were and always will be special to me – so long for now.
    Ruth Williams

  4. Noreen Hill-Duffy

    Dear Friends of Sallie’s,
    Of course, like you, I admired Sallie’s accomplishments, bravery and intelligence. But what I most loved about Sallie was her playfulness, curiosity and the way she could describe food in the most sensuous of ways. Sallie was a great playmate for me and I for her. I missed that when I moved to NC. and I know she missed it too.
    Noreen Hill-Duffy
    Associate Publisher and CO-owner of the West Hollywood, The Paper

  5. Susan Cooper

    If you knew Sallie like I knew Sallie… ooh, ooh, ooh what a gal.
    For sure.
    I will never forget her — and her footprint will always be upon my soul. How many coffees at the Abbey did we share over hours and hours of conversation? Jesus… I can’t believe she’s gone. Perhaps I’ll call her and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get her machine and she’ll call me back, as she usually did.
    Her memorial will be held on April 19th. The ONE center or something… downtown. I’d like to be more specific, however… I’ve lost — and we’ve lost one hell of a woman.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *