Pat Rocco

1943 Artist

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Pat Rocco, an entertainer, photographer, and an activist has appeared on radio and on television; performed, produced and directed for the stage; photographed, produced, and directed motion pictures; participated, organized and documented the struggle for equal rights for gays and lesbians in Southern California and in Hawaii; provided emergency shelter and job training for the homeless, and has been with his partner, David Kirk Ghee (known as David Kirk), since 1972.
Born February 09, 1934, Pasquale Vincent Serrapica lived in Brooklyn until he and his family relocated to California in 1946. As a child Pat loved to entertain his family and friends by singing, as a teenager he was featured twice weekly for two years on a Pasadena radio station, KWKW. After completing high school at home for his unwillingness to renounce his homosexuality, Pat attended colleges and worked at a defense plant in Monrovia, California. While working he meet a local Youth for Christ director, Chuck Leviston; after a second meeting, Pat left college to sing for Youth for Christ. During this time Pat recorded an album of devotion music for Cornerstone Records. In 1954, theatrical programs document his adoption of the stage name, Pat Rocco; in 1966 he officially changed his name. For the remainder of the 1950s Rocco sang on stage in musicals, toured with country with Marge and Gower Champion, and appeared as a member of the Top Twenty on the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. Also during this period Rocco began to photograph theatrical performances. In June of 1960 he left the stage to become the owner and operator of a motion picture theater in Moorpark, California and later district manager for three motion picture theaters and a skating rink. In 1962, Rocco returned to the stage as managing director and went on to produce and direct several stage shows and musicals until the late 1960s.
In 1967, he answered an advertisement to shoot still photographs of nude male models, Rocco soon realized the potential of this enterprise and began shooting his own motion pictures. Named after an earlier business, Bizarre Production sold photographs and short non-explicit erotic motion pictures by mail-order. The Park Theater near McArthur Park in Los Angeles expressed interest in showing Rocco's motion picture along others of gay interest to the general public. After the success of the first program the Park Theater sought more programs of short motion pictures. Rocco later added Bizarre News Films to his programs, capturing local protests and interviews on film.
His motion pictures attracted an audience of like minded individuals that appreciated the beauty of the human form and Rocco's positive depiction of gay intimacy. In appreciation of his films Dick Winters and others formed The Society of Pat Rocco Enlightened Enthusiasts (SPREE). SPREE met monthly for nine and half years (1968-1978) as a primarily gay male theatrical company and social organization. During this time Bizarre Productions cease to exist as the industry turned to more explicit depictions of sex, however Rocco continued to photograph events and protests in Southern California for a number of gay newspapers.
He became increasing involved in the struggle for equal rights for the gays and lesbians in the community and through the Democratic Party. Rocco campaigned for the resumption of the Christopher Street West (CSW) pride parade, developed and championed the idea of an accompanying festival, and the participation of a float from the gay and lesbian community in the annual Santa Claus Lane Parade in Hollywood. Rocco also organized events to raise money for those arrested at the Mark IV "Slave Auction" and to pay tribute to Councilman Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. He collaborated in organizing and participated in numerous organizations and events in Southern California. As Rocco worked in the community he became aware of the need for emergency housing for gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals in Los Angeles.
Through the auspices of the United States Mission, Rocco branded his own emergency housing program, Hudson House, that rewarded industry, provided meals, and later job training to those in need. Rocco operated Hudson Houses in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Hawaii.
Rocco and his partner have retired to Hawaii where they continue to be active in the community and in the struggle for equal rights for gays and lesbians. [Source: Online Archive of California]