UPDATE: Marjorie Christofferson, of the El Coyote, has tendered her resignation, and as of Saturday evening, was no longer employed as manager of the restaurant nor on its board of directors. She turned her resignation into her mother, Grace Salisbury, whose sister-in-law founded El Coyote in 1931.
Today's open brunch at the El Coyote (see post), hosted by Marjorie Christofferson, co-owner of the famous restaurant and popular hang out of the gay community, was intended for Marjorie to have a civil, open discussion with the gay community. She wanted to explain how she ended up donating to the Yes on 8 campaign, but many of the restaurant's gay regulars who attended and make up a majority of the establishment's patrons, vocally expressed their betrayal.
To put Marjorie's appearance in context, the meeting opened with one of the managers pleading with the group to realize that the restaurant is a separate entity than Marjorie, that is does NOT support Prop 8 and that it's more than 89 employees, several who are gay, have families that depend on their patronage. He mentioned that he has received three days of nasty phone calls, at work and at home, and he wanted to reiterate that Marjorie's personal decision did not reflect the restaurant's nor his.
The group immediately voiced its objection. One shouted, "She took our money and used it against us." And though they recognized the 89 employees and their families, "What about the 18,000 gay families disrupted by Prop 8?"
Bill Schoeppner, General Manager, informed that the restaurant itself intended to donate to both LAMDA and the Gay & Lesbian Social Center, and though this received applause, it was quickly pointed out that this wouldn't undo the harm of what Marjorie's personal donation had caused.
I don't believe this miasma was what they were hoping to bring Marjorie into, but they couldn't delay much longer. Marjorie, normally healthy and smiling, was overwhelmed with nerves. The past few days seems to have been torture, for she appeared frail and near hyperventilation, requiring the assistance of her two daughters to enter the room. After drinking some water, she apologized for needing to read from a prepared speech.
Marjorie began saying how "emotionally taken with all this," she has been, "sick at heart if I offended anyone in the gay community." Her voice shaking, she continued to say that the gay community was a "treasure to me and has been throughout my whole life." However, she went on to say that not everyone agrees with each others viewpoints, especially her own, even within her own restaurant.
Marjorie continued to defend the employees of her restaurant, begging the community to not take its anger out on them, for their livelihood depended on their patronage. It was she who donated, not them. "I've been a part of the Mormon church all my life. I responded to their request. It was a personal donation."
She went on to say that her aunt, Blanch March, founded the El Coyote to "create a caring atmosphere" for its patrons. Early on, before it was even well-known, she was aware of the "challenge and plight of gay individuals and always responded with love and empathy." El Coyote was to be a "healing place."
At this point, I noticed one of the employees, sharply dressed in a button down and tie, began to cry. His name is Alberto and has been waiting tables at El Coyote for over twenty years. As a gay employee, he feels a lot of confliction. "I feel bad. I'm with the gay community. But I'm a homeowner and I don't want to lose my job." When I asked about Marjorie, he told how she donated $2,000 for the AIDSWalk and went on to say, "I think she made a mistake, but she has apologized."
Yet the group never heard an apology from Marjorie before being walked out by her daughters, hardly fielding any questions. They said all they heard was an explanation. And it appears that wasn't enough.
Rocio, a waitress, tried to appease the group with tears in her eyes, saying when she started working at El Coyotoe years ago, it was "where I first saw so may gay people. They were nice." She believes she was led there by God, because just a few months later, her brother came out to her and working at the restaurant made all the difference in her response to his coming out.
Though the attendees expressed a lot of empathy towards the employees, they felt what Marjorie had done couldn't be changed. Or ignored.
Regan DuCasse stood up and spoke to the group. "As the only black person in the room, I feel betrayed." She said, just as Marjorie had always come up to them at their tables while they ate, smiling and asking how they were, many white people had smiled and treated her well only later to stab her in the back. She feels what Marjorie has done is just another betrayal. This last sentiment applied to what the whole group felt at that moment.
"Marjorie was in and out," Regan continued, referring to Marjorie's quick departure after her speech. "Her actions were cowardly. She didn't want to face the serious damage" she helped create.
So will there be a boycott? Though a consensus wasn't officially reached, one of the vociferous attendees was already out in front of the restaurant, holding up a sign and chanting the sins of Marjorie Christofferson, and in effect, El Coyote, for all on Beverly Blvd. to hear. And with the KTLA cameras recording it all nearby, it looks like all of Los Angeles is going to hear, too.
What are your thoughts? Should there be a boycott? Let's discuss.
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