Matt Palazzolo, Young Gay Rights Activist and Actor, Has Died on a Mountain Hike

Matt Palazzolo, an actor and writer who was a longtime member of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, a member of the Christopher Street West board and very well known in the city’s gay community, died Tuesday while hiking in Australia.

Palazzolo, 33, apparently died of a heat stroke while climbing Mount Sonder, a 4,265-foot mountain in Central Australia. Palazzolo, an avid hiker and a friend were hiking in 108 degree heat.

Palazzolo was born in Fremont and has a resume that includes roles in “Bloomers” (2011), “Stone Fruit” (2018) and “Switched at Birth” (2011).

Matt Palazzolo

Palazzolo was appointed to LGAB by West Hollywood City Councilmember Abbe Land and then re-appointed by Lindsey Horvath and John Duran and served for eight years. He also was active in local politics, hosting an event to promote Sam Borelli’s candidacy for a City Council seat in 2013 and also promoting former Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, who now is Los Angeles County Assessor. His activist work included involvement in the “No on Prop 8” movement, which included a protest rally drawing more than 12,000 people opposed to the ban on same-sex marriage in 2008.

ABC News in Darwin, Australia, reported that Palazzolo and an unnamed partner set out to hike the Larapinta Trail on Mount Sonder at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. The hike up and down the trail was about 10 miles long. Palazzolo and his hiking partner were headed down the trail when Palazzolo ran off from his partner. When the hiking partner arrived at a car park he alerted authorities to Palazzolo’s disappearance. It took them three hours to find Palazzolo, whose body was located more than a thousand feet away from the trail.

Chris Day from the area’s Parks and Wildlife staff told ABC News that such a hike “comes with a high risk of becoming dangerously dehydrated.”

There was an outpouring of expressions of grief on Facebook from Palazzolo’s friends and family members. His father, Pat Palazzolo, expressed his pride in his son for his work as an advocate for gay rights, referencing the video posted at the top of this story:

“Dear family and friends,

“There were times when I reacted with resentment when people acted or spoke badly towards or about my son Matt because of his sexuality. But he seemed to always react with compassion, love and understanding.

“He told me once that everybody has their own timetable for understanding what they previously didn’t understand.

“But he was also a determined advocate for gay rights, determined to bring awareness and knowledge to those who didn’t yet have it. This video was one moment from Matt’s young life that we are all so proud of. “

CORRECTION:  An earlier version of this story said Matt Palazzolo was originally appointed to the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board by John Duran. In fact he originally was appointed by then-City Councilmember Abbe Land and then re-appointed by Duran. The story has been corrected.

  1. He gave us all some of his spirit – upbeat smile and energy that lifted the room so sad so sad Rest In Peace Matt , hard to digest. And it makes me smile thinking of you through the fight for the rainbow flag on city hall and you thought I was crazy but let me know you were just as crazy and keep going without pissing off the guy that appointed you – God Bless you with the biggest rainbow –

  2. Bob Dell, i obviously don’t know but it’s common for someone to behave very erratically when succumbing to heat stroke/dehydration. Even if you’re hiking in a well known area like the MacDonnell range it’s a dangerous endeavour. It was 108 degrees in the shade that day which might not sound terribly hot but add to that the heat from direct sun and then the extreme radiant heat due to the lack of vegetation in the area and it’s deadly. Very very difficult to then stay hydrated when hiking, it’s just a bad Idea. Plus going looking for a friend who has ran off is dangerous like trying to save a drowning person.

    Every year we lose tourists in central Australia, rip Matt. Hopefully his profile prevents more incidence like this.

  3. Oh how sad!! I served with Matt on the LGAB, and his spirit, activism, and compassion will be missed. RIP Matt. A bright soul has left this Earth.

  4. Words Cannot express my Sadness & of the community of WeHo as well.. Such a beautiful person in every way .. we are all richer for having known him .. I was especially privileged to have served on LGAB with him … Thank you Matt for being the kind giving person that you were ..

  5. I have known Matt since he was in Kindergarten with my daughter. I am so devastated that he is gone. Wishing his family peace. I love you Matt and you will be missed. Allison Andersen

  6. This is a terrible loss. The story makes no sense. Two buddies go hiking – one runs off and dies; the other goes to the car park. What am I missing?

  7. Oh my God! I woke up to the tragic news that fellow Asian-American gay rights activist, screenwriter, actor and producer Matt Palazzollo has died at such a young age. I cannot process this right now. He was the Harvey Milk of this generation. Matt, myself and a bunch of LGBTs came together late 2008 and started a handful of gay civil rights organizations that became known as Stonewall 2.0 after the passage of Prop 8. He led marches, gave goose-bump inspiring speeches, organized events, starred in Charlie Gage’s documentary INSPIRED: The Voices Against Prop 8 and was a shining star of our movement. Matt was our impromptu leader, a great mind teeming with so much talent. He has left a lasting legacy. The LGBT community has lost a bright light. You’ll always remain in our hearts and in our memories as the Harvey Milk of this generation, Matt! I’m proud to have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with you marching the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood fighting for gay rights my brother. My heart is broken and I can’t process this tragic loss. I am numb from shock that you’re gone. I hope the City of West Hollywood Government pulls together an event for the public to celebrate Matt’s life so we can properly say our goodbyes. May you Rest-In-Peace Matt.

  8. So sad to have someone like Matt leave us so soon,
    A man who cared so much about others,
    Someone who gave us so much. May Matt rest in peace.
    I’m sending my prayers to his family and friends from the holly land, ISRAEL.
    Love NO Hate. TLV.

  9. The LGBT community in California is in mourning. Matt was a beautiful man in every way. His passion, determination, and generosity of spirit were an inspiration to many in the dark days of Prop 8 and beyond. I feel fortunate to have met him and worked with him on our continued march towards equality. Rest in peace Matt. You made a difference.

  10. Oh my – no words. Matt was my next door neighbor. Sweet, charming, friendly. I’m very saddened to hear this.

  11. Terrible news. May Matt rest in peace.
    Correction: Alejandro Romero played the character Lexus in the film Powder Blue. Matt wasn’t in the film.

  12. There are no words to describe the loss West Hollywood will feel from losing such a wonderful man. His legacy will be one of love, activism and kindness. RIP Matt. I am typing this through tears.

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