Ivy Bottini, a well-known activist both nationally and in the City of West Hollywood, is leaving WeHo.
Bottini will be moving (likely by the end of the month) to Sebring, Fla., to live with her daughter, Lisa Santasiero, and Santasiero’s wife. However, she will be in West Hollywood on Jan. 16 for a public reading of portions of “The Liberation of Ivy Bottini – A Memoir of Love and Activism,” her recently published biography, and a discussion between Bottini and her biographer, Judith V. Branzburg.
In an interview with WEHOville, Bottini said that she will miss West Hollywood, where she has lived since 1997, currently in a condominium on Kings Road. However, Bottini, 92, said the increasing cost of living was a factor. “Quite frankly, if I stayed here, I would run out of money. So I’m going,” she said.
Bottini was born and grew up in Long Island, a single child whose father, Archie Gaffney, was a cab driver and amateur boxer who taught Bottini that sport. Gaffney died in an accident when Bottini was 18. That left Bottini and her mother deeply impoverished. Pratt Institute of Art and Design gave Bottini a full scholarship to study advertising, graphic design and illustration, setting her on the path to an early career at art and advertising agencies in New York City and eventually as art director and illustrator at Newsday, the Long Island newspaper.
Bottini in 1952 married Eddie Bottini, a neighbor, and the couple had two daughters, Laura and Lisa.
It was in 1966 when Bottini made a major life change after attending a meeting with Betty Friedan, the author of “The Feminist Mystique,” a best-selling book credited with inspiring a wave of feminism that challenged the stereotype that a woman’s role was as a wife and homemaker. Friedan become the founding president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Bottini was inspired to help found NOW’s first chapter in New York City, where she served as president for two terms. She also served for three years on the organization’s national board.
Bottini experienced another major life change in 1968, when she accepted the fact that she was a lesbian. She made that a feminist issue when, in 1969, she staged a panel discussion whose title was “Is Lesbianism A Feminist Issue?”
Bottini’s feminist activism was very public. In August 1970 she led the New York City NOW Chapter in the first Women’s Equality March down Fifth Avenue, which attracted tens of thousands of participants. Earlier that month she and other NOW members took over the Statue of Liberty in New York and hang a banner labeled “Women of the World Unite” across it.
Bottini’s position at NOW became tenuous as she continued to raise the issue of lesbian rights. During a protest march, Bottini helped other members distribute purple armbands to show support for lesbians. She saw Friedan in front of her and passed her an armband, saying, “Here you go, Betty.” Friedan threw it to the ground and used her foot to grind it.
Bottini lost her position as president of the NOW chapter by seven votes in 1970. In 2016, the Hollywood chapter of NOW and the state organization presented Bottini with a letter apologizing for the way she was treated. The late Jeanne Cordova, an author, activist and longtime friend of Bottini’s, proclaimed that “the Women’s Movement’s loss was the LGBT movement’s gain!”
In 1972, Bottini divorced her husband. She moved to Los Angeles briefly in 1974 to focus on acting, comedy and the nascent gay rights moment. However, she returned to New York briefly when she was diagnosed with a thyroid disease. In April 1975, Bottini was staging a panel on lesbianism and feminism in San Francisco when she met and fell in love with Dottie Wine, with whom she has remained for 42 years in a relationship that swings back and forth from lover to good friend.
She toured the country for several years performing “The Many Faces of Woman,” a lesbian feminist one-woman show. Bottini was hired in 1976 as director of the women’s program at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center. She took a leave of absence from that position and worked as the Southern California deputy director for the “No on Proposition 6” campaign, which successfully fought a proposal to ban lesbian and gay people from working as public school teachers.
Bottini’s activism continued. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her as the first out gay or lesbian person to the California Commission on Aging. And in the early 1980s she co-founded the Los Angeles Lesbian/Gay Police Advisory Board. In 1983 Bottini I founded AIDS Network LA, the first AIDS organization, which focused on collecting and sharing information about the epidemic. In 1984 she was one of the founders of AIDS Project LA (now APLA Health).
Her AIDS activism was as robust as her feminist activism. In 1986, she helped create “No on LaRouche /Proposition 64,” a campaign to defeat a proposal by Lyndon LaRouche that AIDS be added to California’s list of communicable diseases and that those with AIDS be quarantined in concentration camps. Bottini also organized gay rights marches and protests focused on AIDS. She also lobbied successfully to get the State of California to rescind its statute of limitation for sex crimes.
In 1999, Bottini was appointed to the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, a position from which she worked to bring attention to crystal meth addiction and LGBT partner abuse. Bottini also promoted the idea of creating affordable housing for LGBT seniors. Her work was instrumental in the creation of Triangle Square, a-104 unit assistive living, affordable income apartment complex in Hollywood for LGBT people 62 and older. Located in Hollywood, it opened in 2007. Bottini worked with the City of West Hollywood to create a space for lesbians in the newly renovated Werle Building, which houses the ONE Archives.
Bottini has been active in local politics. She is endorsing incumbents Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister and challenger Sepi Shyne in the March 5 City Council election. Shyne, who is a lesbian, would be the second to ever serve on the City Council. The first was Valerie Terrigno, elected when the city was formed in 1984.
She has regularly attended City Council meetings, speaking out on a variety of issues. One of her most controversial recent moments was this past June when she condemned Mayor John Duran’s declaration of May 31 last year as “Stormy Daniels Day” and Councilmember John D’Amico’s presentation of the key to the city to the porn performer, who had alleged a sexual relationship with Donald Trump. Duran summoned Sheriff’s deputies to remove Bottini for speaking longer than the two-minute limit.
Bottini also has continued to focus on another passion – art. Her apartment is full of modern paintings. She has had one- woman shows and been a part of group shows in Hollywood, Pasadena and West Hollywood. Her work includes political paintings and “large-bodied, nude women celebrating the joy of life.”
Because of her macular degeneration, Bottini has lost much of her eyesight and her art has shifted to less detailed images.
Bottini expects to continue her art work in Sebring, which has an active art league. She also will continue her activism. “Sebring is the county seat for Highland County,” she said. “I suspect I’ll get involved with the democratic party. The women are now trying for a real push to get the ERA passed. Maybe when I get there I can help.”
And she will go fishing. “We’re not far from where I can go fishing,” she said. “My dad raised me fishing.”
Art enthusiasts can see, and purchase, Bottini’s art from 1 to 5 p.m. on the following Saturdays: Jan. 12, Jan. 19 and Jan. 26, at Bottini’s home. The address is 1015 N. Kings Rd., south of Santa Monica Boulevard. Samples of her art can be found on the pages below: