Letter to My California Dreamer: The Hinton 'Sisters' From Colorado Find Paradise in Southern California

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Gregory Hinton (R) with his brother, Scott (L), in Palm Springs, CA. (Courtesy of Gregory Hinton)

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For our series “Letter To My California Dreamer," we’re asking Californians from all walks of life to write a short letter to one of the first people in their family who came to the Golden State. The letter should explain:

What was their California Dream?
What happened to it?
Is that California Dream still alive for you?

Here's a letter from Gregory Hinton to his brother, Scotty Hinton:

To my brother Scotty,

In 1977, I evacuated the “red-state” Rockies to follow you to Southern California. You were living with Ron—a camp, handsome and cash-strapped Laguna Beach hairdresser. When I arrived, Ron welcomed me into his Laguna paradise too.

Each weekend, a caftan-clad cavalcade of characters coalesced on your deck for cocktails, manicures and makeovers. The crooning of Sarah Vaughn’s “Misty” floated over the canyon. Ron’s friends dubbed us “The Hinton Sisters from Colorado.” We all started anew.

That summer I painted houses. Even with a business degree, no way would I closet myself off in a straight career. I found a place to live only two blocks away from the Boom Boom Room, Laguna’s legendary beachfront gay bar. As waves lapped below, the jukebox boomed Leon Russell’s “Back to the Island.” I was a long way from Colorado.

Scott Hinton (L) and his partner, Ron (R), in Laguna, 1981. (Courtesy of Gregory Hinton)

“Laguna is the Riviera of Southern California!” Ron observed. And things were looking promising. He got his real estate license on the third try. You guys settled in a condo overlooking Diver's Cove. I started writing in earnest. My first short story got published. I relocated to Hollywood. Ron was my biggest fan.

Together you opened a restaurant named Ron's in Laguna. You ran the kitchen. Ron covered the bar. You both worked hard. And in the 80’s we all drank too much.

When the restaurant folded (after seven good years), you both fled the Golden State for mom’s Denver basement. Midlife sobriety gave you a fresh start, but a fast-moving brain lesion felled you at 51. Five years later, Ron died a heartbreaking "Leaving Las Vegas" death. To honor your last wishes and give you the last laugh, I scattered both of your ashes in Wyoming’s Crazy Woman Creek. I miss my two ‘brothers.’

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As a gay man, California welcomed me as I am. I made films. I wrote novels. I found long love with my partner Tom. I am so proud to be a Californian. I owe that to you. And you inspired Out West with Buffalo Bill, my national museum program series dedicated to shining a light on the history and culture of the LGBTQ community in the American West.

Last year, with bittersweet emotion, I celebrated four decades in California — truly my Golden State and my community’s sanctuary, especially in these times. As Ron first told me, “Anything is possible here, dear.”

Love,
Gregory

We’d love to  see your letter to your family’s California Dreamer. Maybe it was a parent, a great-great grandparent or maybe even you were the first in your family to come to California with a dream. Fill out the form here and share your story with us!