Monday, December 8, 2008

The El Coyote Showdown - My Blog Report

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.


  1. BOYCOTT!!! BOYCOTT!! Too little, too late. She used OUR money against us! She is an owner of El Coyote, so she will be responsible for whatever happens to the restaurant. It's time we take a stand and show everyone that there are ramifications to their actions. El Coyote supports discrimination. Gays will not support El Coyote!

  2. I, too, attended the luncheon (no lunch was served btw :) and while I left feeling compasion for Marjorie, I know in her heart she is not sorry for her actions. She seems personally confused and fearful of the repercussions of her actions (and I don't mean just the financial ones). The LDS Church has striped her of her confidence and her ability to think for herself.

    We cannot continue to allow people to hide behind religion while they demand their right to bigotry and discrimination. Marjorie is conflicted, but as an adult, as a human being, as a member of our community, as a citizen, and as a person of faith, it is her obligation to question her conflicting beliefs. It is her responsibility to decide what is right and what is wrong, and then stand up for those beliefs. That is called integrity. If she believes, as the church tells her, that gay people should not be equal under the law, it is insincere of her to profess her "love" for us. If she believes that we are equal, then she has an obligation to her church, to help them understand this complicated issue. We need to help these people separate their fears from the facts.

    I also believe that this movement goes far beyond gay marriage. I would like to end legislative discrimination once an for all. Let's makes this fight for equal protection under the law for everyone.

  3. BOYCOTT! I will certainly not be dining there so long as it is run/owned by bigots! Maybe the message here is, there are consequences to your actions. Think before you act!

  4. I called to make an appointment the night before but was told it was all ready full. I showed up anyway and was surprised that there was plenty of room. They made it as small as possible and didn't allow the media in the room. She tried to seperate her personal beleifs from that of the restaurants and does not understand that you can't seperate the two. It was the manager that said they would support lambda legal and the gay and lesbian center not the owner. She didn't even know. All they tried to do was damage control. BOYCOTT BOYCOTT BOYCOTT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. As I just wrote a second ago on a friend's facebook comment, I don't see how what the owner's vote determines if you eat there or not. They are entitled to vote any way they are entitled to eat there or not.

    It would be unacceptable if they asked your views before deciding to serve you first, right?

  6. This reminds me of the Coors beer boycott in the late 90s. The gay community was largely in support of the boycott, but some took some heat for accepting advertising from Coors when it was demonstrated that the company (as distinct from the family) was actually very supportive of LGBT causes.

    The best result for a boycott would be a full apology by Ms. Christofferson, and equal donations, by her, to our cause. I'm not at all sure that a boycott of El Coyote will achieve the desired result.

  7. Thank you.

    Out of all the bloggers that claim to have been at the meeting this morning, this is the most accurate account of what I experienced.

  8. while you may not think that a boycott will achieve the desired result, it will get the attention of a lot of people. We should not sit silent and hope that things work themselves out. Boycotting El Coyote is the most visible way and people will be protesting Thursday at 7:00.

  9. You people are sick - the rise of Pink Fascism in reaction to the popular will proves that the rainbow stickers you slap on your cars stand for intolerance, racism, intimidation and hysteria. I will never see your community the same now that you have revealed yourselves for the haters you are.

    I will support El Coyote and Marjorie Christofferson in any way I can (I've already made a reservation for Sunday night). I'll also spread the news wide and far about your hysterical reaction after the election - America now sees you for the hypocrites you are. Good luck ever passing a gay friendly proposition in California!

  10. I agree. What a bunch of losers. Whaaa! You didn't get your way, so you have to throw your temper tantrums to get your way. You just don't get it do you? In this country, people vote. They voted AGAINST you and your pathetic agenda to shove gay marriage down our throats. That means you have to take your ball and go home.

  11. To Shane and "anonymous" I'll try to put this in simple terms so you can understand. Prop 8 should never have been put to a vote. Civil rights issues (yes this is a CIVIL RIGHT, religion has no bearing on it) Prop 8 goes against equal protection rights of the constitution. It is ILLEGAL to strip a minority of their rights. If segregation was put to a popular vote back in the 60's, blacks would still be sitting at the back of the buss and drinking from separate water fountains.
    Shane- you want to talk hypocrisy? Calling gay marriage a "threat""" tomarriage is perhaps the biggest crock of them all. How many families have imploded by gay marriage? How many straight marriages have ended because gays and lesbians were allowed to marry? NONE. YOU are the hypocrite my friend. Your blind hate and ignorance does more to damage families and equal rights than gay marriage ever will.
    What is the heterosexual divorce rate BTW? 50%!! is that the fault of gays and lesbians? NO you, hypocrite it's not. It's HETEROSEXUAL'S.
    Do gay guys have abortions? NO, straight people do. That's a threat to families and children alike.
    GROW UP. You aren't any better than anyone else. There's no reason you should have rights and deny them to another group.
    It's about equality stupid. If you want to strip away my rights- you can damn well pay my TAXES.

  12. If her restaurant closes down, there will be a new one that will open (because there will still be a need to serve the LGBT community with lousy food and drinks). Maybe even several smaller ones with more variety and with ownership that has a much better stance on LGBT issues. So, boycotting her is not only a democratic thing to do (I mean, all who yell fascists, we're not burning her restaurant down - that would be anti-democratic), we are simply doing what so many communities (including the religious right) have done - we'll be voting with our feet and dollars. I repeat voting with dollars. Oh, and by the way, voting with dollars is not restricted November 4 once every four years.

    If you still feel strongly about it, help Marjie relocated to where you live and start a restaurant there. Maybe you should put your money where your mouth is and start eating at her place. Or driving to her restaurant. I am assuming you support her position. It's better if you spend extra cash on this, than donating more to various socially conservative causes.

  13. My fiancée and I ate at El Coyote last Monday, 11/17. The place was busy and we talked with several members of the mixed hetero- and homosexual staff. They are united in supporting Marjorie.
    Marjorie sat and talked with us for about 20 minutes. Some of the things that she told us are:
    > She has no ownership of El Coyote; she is an employee. (I believe this has no bearing on her right to believe, think, contribute, and vote as she will but some of her opponents have made an issue of her supposed ownership).
    > The business has not and will not make any politically-oriented donations. Marjorie donated to support Prop 8 and other employees donated in opposition to Prop 8. The money the male employee in the video said would go to overthrow the voters' will was a pool of some employees' private donations, not the business's money. El Coyote has/does/will make non-political humanitarian donations for counseling, welfare, etc. that include help to the homosexual community.
    > One of their managers has been with the restaurant for 50 years. Other employees have been there 20 to 30 years. The staff, like the neighborhood, is sprinkled with homosexuals among the heterosexuals. Nearly 100 people depend upon El Coyote for their paychecks.
    This was good enough for my fiancée and me to return in the future. I would that we outsiders follow the staff's example and agree to be there together in peace. I hope to see all of the posters on this thread there frequently.
    - - - - - - - - -
    To the boycotters of El Coyote,
    Let me get this straight. Marjorie is not an owner, but one employee, of 89 employees at El Coyote, who you found to support Prop 8. This was enough for you to demonstrate, boycott, harass customers, and yell at that one employee. So the standard is that if 1/89 -- 1.25% -- of a business's employees voted for Prop 8, you will do these things to that business.
    About 2/3 of Catholic voters, 70% of Black voters, and 91% of Mormon voters voted Yes on Prop 8. Each of those percentages applied to 2% exceeds your 1.25% trigger. This means if more than 2% of a business's employees are Catholic/Black/Mormon, your standard with El Coyote calls for you to boycott and harass it.
    Are there any businesses that you can patronize? Looking at you from the other side, your stand appears to have removed you from our economy.