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Richard Rouilard; Ex-Editor of Advocate Gay Magazine

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard Rouilard, the flamboyant, funny, stylish and innovative former editor of the Advocate, died Wednesday of the complications of AIDS. He was 43.

Rouilard, who increased circulation of the nation’s oldest major homosexual magazine from 60,000 to 150,000 during his two-year tenure from 1990 to 1992, died at the West Hollywood home that he shared with his companion of 20 years, Fox attorney Robert Cohen.

Rouilard, a lawyer turned journalist, was credited with raising the journalistic standards of the biweekly Advocate and adding national public relations panache, increasing the visibility and credibility of both the magazine and the gay and lesbian community that it served.

He published controversial, candid interviews with celebrities such as Madonna and articles dealing with police brutality against homosexuals and the high rate of homosexual suicide. He led activists, jokingly threatening to declare Gov. Pete Wilson “an honorary homosexual” for galvanizing the state’s gay and lesbian community by vetoing legislation that would have banned discrimination against homosexuals.

Rouilard also showcased tough issues such as the banning of homosexuals from military service and outing.

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“Outing is a very nasty business,” he told The Times in 1992. “But homophobic homosexuals are a nastier business. I don’t think homosexuality is a privacy issue.”

Rouilard was rated a California trendsetter by Time magazine and earned its designation as the “Voice of Gay Rights.”

Born to a French flight attendant who abandoned him, Rouilard was reared by adoptive parents in New Jersey who were horrified by the effeminate boy’s emerging homosexuality. Certain that he was “this horrible thing,” he attempted suicide at age 13 and again at 14. He went through six years of psychotherapy to learn to accept his homosexuality. When his parents spurned him, he returned to using his birth mother’s surname.

Rouilard attended Upsala College and studied law at South Texas College. Moving to San Francisco, he co-founded the National Gay Rights Advocates and ran it for three years, retaining an influence until the public interest law firm ceased to exist in 1991.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1981 and began a journalism career, writing a society column under the pseudonym Bunny Mars for Broadway department store supplements published in The Times, the Orange County Register and L.A. Style magazine. He also worked as an editor at that magazine.

For more than three years, he was society and style editor of the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He recently had worked as senior editorial consultant at the Los Angeles Times Magazine, as a contributor to The Times and as editor-at-large for Buzz magazine.

In addition to Cohen, Rouilard is survived by a sister, Beth Olsmit, of Coral Springs, Fla.


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