© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A look at Milwaukee's Les Petites BonBons' impact on LGBTQ history and culture

Les Petites BonBons
People magazine, April 8, 1974
Les Petites Bons Bons at Rodney Bigenheimer’s English Disco.

For many, June has become synonymous with Pride Month. The annual celebration is an opportunity to reflect on the history of the LGBTQ+ community and how it continues to impact our culture.

In this month's Milwaukee Magazine, historian Michail Takach explores a little-known group called Les Petites BonBons. The group formed in the early 1970s in Milwaukee and its impact on Hollywood's glitter rock scene has gone down in history.

"These were seven boys from Milwaukee who skyrocketed to international celebrity status, hobnobbed with David Bowie and Iggy Pop and Lou Reed."

-Historian Michail Takach on Les Petites BonBons

Les Petites BonBons jacket
Ele Ellis
Les Petites BonBons jacket on display at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

As Takach explains, Les Petites BonBons began as a group of young activists that wanted to reinvent the world. It was born out of the gay liberation movement in Milwaukee, centered around UW-Milwaukee where a student faculty advisor founded the first gay rights group at UWM. It was initially called the Homosexual Freedom League but later renamed itself the Gay Liberation Organization. A splinter group broke off that was known as Gay Liberation Front.

"The idea of Les Petites Bonbon, who was born as a stage show for these Radical Queens who were a derivative of those earlier gay liberation groups. Although the show was never produced, a photoshoot was and this photoshoot, by the legendary Milwaukee photographer Francis Ford, really put the Bonbons on the map," explains Takach.

When speaking on their ongoing legacy, Takach says, "I think that their legacy is to question if we've gotten too comfortable, if we've gotten too complacent. ... Their legacy is is one of accountability [and] to drive action, to constantly invent a better future. Having spoken to some of the surviving Bonbons, they truly believed their movement was going to change the world. And it's up to us to keep that change in motion."


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
Related Content