Among myriad trailblazing achievements, Leitsch was known as the first gay reporter to publish an account of the Stonewall Riots, and he was the first journalist to ever interview Bette Midler in print media.
Louisville, Kentucky native Richard Valentine Leitsch was president of the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest LGBTQ+ rights groups in America, in the 1960s.
Leitsch was the creator and leader of the “Sip-In” protests at Julius’ Bar in New York City. inspired by the “sit-in” lunch counter activism of the south. These peaceful protests were centered around Julius’ in Greenwich village. Julius’ is now registered as an American monument by the National Park Service.
In his early days as a journalist, Leitsch wrote for New York’s first gay newspaper, Gay. He interviewed Bette Midler in an October 1970 issue titled “The Whole World’s A Bath!”—it was her first interview ever.
As for his personal life, Leitsch had a longtime partner, Timothy Scoffield, who died of AIDS in 1989.
Leitsch died of liver cancer. Following his terminal diagnosis, he donated many of his personal documents, and many from Mattachine, to the New York Public Library.