WeHo resident, LGBTQ activist Matt Palazzolo dies while hiking in Australian Outback

UPDATED: Friends of Matt Palazzolo plan celebration of life

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Matt Palazzolo, a well-known West Hollywood resident and activist in the LGBTQ community, died Tuesday of heat stroke while hiking and getting lost in the Australian Outback, according to ABC Darwin in Australia.

Palazzolo’s family confirmed his death on social media Wednesday.

Palazzolo’s friends expressed shock and sadness about his death on Facebook.

They remembered Palazzolo as a “beautiful person” with “passion, determination, and generosity of spirit.”

Palazzolo’s father, Pat, also posted on Facebook. The video Pat makes reference is posted above.

There were times when I reacted with resentment when people acted or spoke badly towards or about my son Matt because of his sexuality. But he seemed to always react with compassion, love and understanding,” he said.

He told me once that everybody has their own timetable for understanding what they previously didn’t understand, Pat said. But he was also a determined advocate for gay rights, determined to bring awareness and knowledge to those who didn’t yet have it.

This video was one moment from Matt’s young life that we are all so proud of,“ Pat said.


Palazzolo, 33, was a member of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board and the Christopher Street West board, had finished climbing Mount Sonder, a 4,265-foot mountain in Central Australia with a friend.


As they were descending the mountain and finishing the 10-mile round-trip trek in 108 degree-heat, Palazzolo ran off and took a wrong turn, according to ABC Darwn.

When Palazzolo’s hiking partner returned to a car park and didn’t see Palazzolo, the friend contacted authorities. Palazzolo’s body was discovered about three hours later in an area more than 1,300 feet from where he made the wrong turn, according to ABC Darwin.

West Hollywood activist Matt Palazzolo died Tuesday from heat stroke while hiking in the Australian Outback. Photo: Will Branske.


The Larapinta Trail on Mount Sonder is a steep, rocky incline with exposed landscape.

“There’s no big shady trees and it’s very rocky, so when you’ve got a hot day like we had (on Tuesday) we’ve got a lot of radiated heat coming back off the rocks,” Chris Day of Parks and Wildlife told ABC Darwin.

Duty Superintendent Rob Burgoyne told ABC Darwin that,  We do know he had water with him, but he did do a very foolish thing in that he apparently ran away from his companion after the descent.


“It wouldn’t be a terribly advisable thing to do in (108 degree) heat, to actually sprint away,” Burgoyne said.

Authorities warned against embarking on the long trek in the heat because it comes with a high risk of becoming dangerously dehydrated, Day said.

“It’s almost physically impossible to put back the fluids that you’re going to lose as quickly as you’re losing them, and unfortunately people become dehydrated very rapidly before even realising that it’s even happening,” Day said.

“Unfortunately, it is too late, quite often, once people realize they’re in trouble,” he said.


In West Hollywood, Palazzolo’s activism was ignited in 2008 with the No on Prop 8 movement, which inspired him to co-found Equal Roots

On Facebook, Tom Crowe-Garey, who galvanized people in Long Beach to protest Prop 8 and crossed equality paths with Palazzolo, said,  “Thank you (Matt)  for always being a kind soul, a spitfire activist, and overall warm human being.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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