The late Frontiers publisher Bob Craig was a conservative in advocate’s clothing.
A native Angeleno, Craig served in the Air Force before going to USC to study accounting. The successful Republican businessman became best known to the gay community in 1973 as the owner of the Hayloft gay bar in Studio City, where he screened movie classics and held annual beefcake Toys for Tots events—“Bring a Buck and a Toy.”
In 1978, Craig co-founded the Valley Business Alliance (now called the Los Angeles Business Alliance), a gay and lesbian chamber of commerce. His timing was insightful. In 1981, Los Angeles Magazine published an article entitled “But Will It Play in WeHo?” that trumpeted gays as the hot new marketing demographic. “[G]ay consumerism meant more than conspicuous consumption: It was also something of a political act,” Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons wrote in Gay L.A.
Meanwhile, David Goldstein purchased the Los Angeles Advocate and moved the publication to San Francisco. To fill the L.A. gay news void, in 1982, Greg Carmack and Jerry Hyde started Frontiers magazine. But by 1983, they were having financial problems and approached Mark Hundahl, a straight businessman who had just become co-owner of the Probe disco. They asked for $5,000, and Hundahl agreed—in exchange for two years’ worth of advertising.
“Greg told me he and Jerry started the magazine to be an advocacy magazine,” Hundahl says. “They made Frontiers the voice of the Los Angeles gay community and had the foresight to become part of the strong advocacy movement across the United States. In L.A., lots of people wanted to read it. It struck a nerve at the right place and right time.”
But when Bob Craig joined Frontiers later in 1983, he tried to break the contract. Hundahl reminded Craig that he had taken a “big risk” when the magazine was in trouble. At the end of the two years, Hundahl moved Probe’s business to a new magazine called Edge, where he met David Stern, with whom he would later become business partners.
After Bob Craig became the sole owner of Frontiers, he took a big risk, reprinting Larry Kramer’s famous AIDS polemic “1,183 and Counting” on the cover of the March 30-April 13, 1983, issue. Bar owners threw the magazine out, saying it was bad for business.
Craig also used Frontiers to advance the move to incorporate West Hollywood. After winning cityhood in 1984, Craig was elected chair of the West Hollywood Incorporation Committee, and, according to the Los Angeles Times, coined the term that came to identify WeHo.
“I would suggest that if you are gay, Camelot is on the horizon,” Craig said just before Election Day. Reporters soon called West Hollywood the “Gay Camelot” after voters elected a gay majority to City Council.
But with President Reagan’s election and the massive deaths from AIDS, the gay community faced harsh, hate-filled realities. In 1985, Craig helped found and became treasurer of LIFE AIDS Lobby. Craig “saw the importance of our visible presence in the political world,” former LIFE Lobby Executive Director Laurie McBride told the Times. “He championed the work at the state level because he saw that it was a critical area that was being neglected.”
In 1986, Craig helped fight the Lyndon La Rouche AIDS Quarantine Initiative, longtime activist Ivy Bottini says. But ironically, he refused to cover rowdy ACT UP until he met with members of ACT UP/L.A. In 1989, Craig was one of 80 community leaders arrested at a major AIDS protest at the federal building in Westwood.
But it wasn’t until 1991 that Bob Craig changed his party affiliation, after Republican Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed the gay civil rights bill AB 101. “Bob Craig was a man of conservative Republican values, but he was also a proud gay man,” says Bottini. When he became a Democrat, “there was a lot of applause. He was a wonderful amazing activist, in his own way.”
In 1997, Craig, Hundahl and Stern created a sister publication, IN magazine. “Frontiers would be more like Newsweek, while IN would be the gay People,” says Stern.
Bob Craig died of AIDS on April 28, 2000. He was 65. In 2007, Hundahl and Stern bought Frontiers and merged it with IN, continuing Craig’s vision of Frontiers as an agent of change for the LGBT community.
“Bob and I became very close friends later,” says Hundahl. “I respected Bob’s vision and his capabilities.”
“Bob helped fulfill a need—to create a platform for all voices of the LGBT community,” says Stern. “Frontiers was and is so important, because it is fundamentally about building and uniting community.”