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American hero stabbed outside gay bar

Timothy Kincaid

October 8th, 2015

spencer stoneFirst-class airman Spencer Stone, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and student Anthony Sadler were vacationing together in Europe and on August 21st they boarded the Amsterdam to Paris train. Just past Brussels, Ayoub El-Khazzani stepped out of the bathroom with an AK-47 in what is believed to be a terrorist attack.

Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler rushed the gunman and successfully disarmed him. They then tended to one passenger who had been shot.

The trio were awarded the French Legion d’Honneur medal for their service and received by President Obama at the White House.

Now the Sacramento Bee is reporting that Stone was stabbed last night after leaving a gay bar in the Lavender Heights district.

Officers were called at 12:46 a.m. Thursday to the 2100 block of K Street where they found Stone with multiple stab wounds in his torso. Blood still marked the sidewalk Thursday morning near a bank parking lot and a bar.

One source with knowledge of the investigation said Stone was with two men and three women at Badlands Dance Club at 20th and K streets, then left and walked one block east, where the altercation began and Stone was stabbed. Police do not believe the attack was a hate crime.

They also think it had nothing to do with Stone’s heroism but is the result of a random alcohol fueled altercation.

Skarlatos is currently competing on Dancing with the Stars

McCarthy drops out of Speaker race

Timothy Kincaid

October 8th, 2015

NBC is reporting a rather surprising turn of events in the race to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abruptly pulled out of the race for Speaker of the House on the same day that he was widely expected to be nominated for the position.

The nominating contest in the GOP conference set for Thursday afternoon in the House has been postponed.

This is very not good for our community.

McCarthy is a conservative Republican and not an advocate for our equality. However, through his tenure as Majority Leader he has purposefully avoided social issues. His votes were against us, but he did not raise issues or go out of his way to support the more extreme measures of the far right.

The remaining candidate, on the other hand, is a nightmare.

Until today, the tea partiers had two candidates. The first, Jason Chaffetz should be well known to BTB readers. A California Jewish Democrat turned Utah Mormon Republican, Chaffetz has often led quixotic charges against the gay community. He was the frontman on the attack on marriage equality in Washington DC, seeking to impose a Federal override of the locally elected representatives. He wasn’t very successful.

He also isn’t very smart.

He is, however, dedicated to far right ideology and not afraid to let a little thing like constitutionality or the continuing functionality of government to stand in his way. As Speaker, Chaffetz would lead standoffs with the other branches of government, demand shutdowns, and advance bills that are consistent with his social agenda irrespective of whether they have support.

He would not just be bad for our community, he’d be bad for the country. And the Freedom Caucus (as the tea partiers have renamed themselves) apparently saw that and chose to have Daniel Webster, a rep from Florida, as their candidate.

I know less about Daniel Webster. He is, however, a far right conservative with strong religious ties to the more extreme end of evangelical Christianity. He is a fierce foe of equality and a supporter of a constitutional amendment to remove the rights of gay citizens.

Also, simply that he has been selected as the choice of those who see government as a means to put their theological doctrines into civil law should be enough to let us know that he’s not someone we want as Speaker of the House.

Webster is unlikely to be the first choice of establishment Republicans. He’s just too far out there.

So it’s difficult to predict what McCarthy’s move will mean.

It is possible that McCarthy is trying to shake up the party a bit and show them the possibility of one of the crazies being in charge so as to have them consolidate in support. Or he may be stepping aside to allow another establishment rep to come forward.

But if he’s clearing the road for Webster, it’s going to be an interesting, frustrating, and crazy year before the voters rush to the polls to remove the Republican majority next November.

Albert Mohler disavows secular reorientation therapy – and what that means

Timothy Kincaid

October 6th, 2015

MohlerDr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a fierce opponent of marriage equality or other social acceptance of gay people into civil life on an equal standing. But he is also a thoughtful opponent and has, over the years that we have been watching him, made concessions that some of his fellows were less willing to make.

As early as 2007, Mohler was able to reflect that there may be some biological basis for sexual orientation. In any case, he recognized that sexuality was not merely a behavior nor a chosen attribute which could be rejected.

In response, Mohler happily pondered a future with biological manipulation so as to “avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin”. He did not explain what other sinful temptations should be biologically avoided or whether this conflicts with free will theology.

While recognizing that orientation was, in fact, a real matter, Mohler has never been one to believe that one should live a life consistent with the way that God made you. Rather, he believed that whatever mediatory step could ‘cure’ the homosexual should be sought.

But times have changed. And, as is the case with many churches today, the Southern Baptists are shifting from railing against The Godless Homosexuals and instead trying to find ways to include them in the flock. In fact, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting a conference titled Homosexuality: Compassion, Care and Counsel for Struggling People.

Part of Mohler’s shift involves recognizing some realities. (AP)

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said so-called conversion or reparative therapy doesn’t carry the redemptive power of prayer.

“In the case of many people struggling with this particular sin, we do not believe that some kind of superficial answer whereby they can turn a switch from being attracted to persons of the same sex to being attracted to persons of the opposite sex,” Mohler told reporters at the start of a three-day conference on homosexuality and how to offer pastoral care to gays, hosted by the Louisville seminary.

“By God’s grace, that might happen over time as a sign of God’s work within the life of that individual. But … for many, many people struggling with these patterns of sin, it will be a lifelong battle,” Mohler said.

This is a rather important statement.

First, this is a recognition of the world around him. Mohler is now accepting that sexual orientation is, for nearly everyone, a fixed attribute.

Of course there is the God-talk. Through God all things are possible. If we have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. God can divinely change one’s orientation just as easily as He can change their skin color, their sex, or their height.

But He just doesn’t seem to have any inclination towards doing so. And the recognition of this fact is of extreme importance to youth growing up in conservative Christian culture.

While being told that you will likely always “struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions” and should pray for strength to resist them is hardly the ideal emotional place for a young boy or girl, it is far preferable to being told that there’s something wrong with you and you need to go to the doctor. Or that you are willfully rejecting God and choosing sin. Or don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

But this welcome shift makes the theology of Mohler’s position much more complicated.

When the Southern Baptists were preaching against The Homosexuals who were out there living a homosexual lifestyle, it was pretty easy. Just repent of those sins, change your ways, marry a nice young Christian woman and live as God wants you to live. And the fact that no one was doing this was not a threat to doctrine so much as a confirmation of just how hedonistic and debased The Homosexuals were.

But now that Mohler accepts orientation as a descriptive of one’s innate attractions, and now that the church wants to reach out to homosexual people (and recognizing that they are likely to stay same-sex attracted even if they are in the church) what do you do with sin? In fact, how do you define sin?

Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, said the conference, expected to draw about 2,000 people, would showcase how “uniquely biblical” counseling can lead to repentance. He said the organization opposes reparative therapy.

“We believe that repentant faith is the means of change,” Lambert said.

The conference’s goal, he said, is to give counselors “a growing love and care for people who struggle with sexual sin, homosexual sin. We want people to have a growing wisdom about how to come alongside them and walk with them through a process of care.”

I suspect that Lambert and Mohler think that they know what they mean. They are going to invite in The Homosexuals and show them love and prayer and work with them until the homosexuals just realize how pathetic and sinful they are. Just have repentant faith about homosexual sin and they’ll offer care.

That’s not going to happen. It just isn’t. To the extent that gay people want to join a church, there is a loud chorus of those who will not only allow you in the door but will march for your civil rights and celebrate your marriage. The Southern Baptist Church is not going to hit the top ten list for gay converts.

But while The Homosexuals are not going to trot down to the Southern Baptist church to be saved, this change in outlook will have a tremendous impact on youth growing up in the church. And on the church itself.

Because while this conference celebrates repentant faith, it doesn’t answer the key question: What the hell is homosexual sin?

That used to be easy. It was the Homosexual Lifestyle (which never needed definition). You’re gay and that is sinning. But if we are to welcome gays into the church and if we recognize that it’s a “lifelong struggle”, then being gay can’t stay a sin.

So what is this homosexual sin, exactly?

From a church perspective, we can define sexual sin – or at least for heterosexuals. Lusting privately, acting on that lust through porn or even engaging in fornication or adultery. And while everything on that list is officially off limits, it’s really only fornication, adultery, or a disruptive addiction to porn that ever rises to the level of getting attention.

Fourteen year old Johnnie masturbating to online porn is sin. But, well, let’s be real. Every fourteen year old Johnnie in the church is masturbating and everyone knows it. It’s certainly not something that is going to start a culture war or receive special attention from the pulpit.

But what if Johnnie is masturbating to gay porn. Is that different?

Theologically, that’s a toughie. Yes, all sin is the same in God’s eyes, but not all sin is the same in the eyes of the church. And if you’re Albert Mohler’s age and have spent decades fighting the homosexual agenda, you aren’t likely to see the two as the same. If Johnnie isn’t struggling against these horrible temptations and completely miserable, he’s sinning. And masturbating only encourages more of this temptation. To SIN!!!

But Johnnie, and his friends, are not likely to see his sin any different from a straight boy’s sin. If masterbating is wrong for one, why is it extra-wrong for the other? After all, you said orientation isn’t chosen. So why is one worse than the other?

And what’s more, the younger generation of Baptists are likely to call out their elders on the disparity. Without the presumption that gay people are inherently bad, it’s hard to make much of a case.

And if attractions are biologically based – ie. how God made you – then attractions in their own right cannot be sin. If being attracted to the Disney starlet and putting her poster on your wall is acceptable to Baptist parents, how can they find it wrong when it’s the latest boy band? Can little Susie find Nick Jonas cute, but not little Johnnie?

And is dating sin? Good Christian dating with no kissing, much less anything approaching second base?

Once The Homosexual is no longer the sinner out there but welcome in the church, pat answers can’t go unchallenged. And presumptions seem less convincing when you’re no longer in an echo chamber. If the Big Sex Sin is sex outside marriage for straight kids, then why have special rules on gay kids? That’s not welcoming. That’s not pastoral care.

For a while the Baptists will declare homosexual temptations lead to sin and should be avoided. And that heterosexual dating is in line with God’s plan but that gay dating leads to sin and is itself sinful. But how can one repent for being tempted – that isn’t Christian doctrine? And “dating” is hard to define in the mind of teenagers.

Mohler and the Baptists are going to find it increasingly difficult to draw a line with any consistency. Once you love people and let them in the door, all your inconsistencies tend to be glaring.

I suspect it will eventually come down to, “Just like we tell the straight kids, you can’t have sex before marriage. Ever. Period. Except you can never get married.”

And that’s when it will all fall apart. Because that logic is so arbitrary and cruel that it cannot withstand the inspection of Christian compassion. Once you accept someone’s humanity, once they are no longer the hedonist living some lifestyle, then they become real. And that is when the Baptists will find that the teachings of the Presbyterians and the Methodists down the street have some merit and will decide that same-sex marriage can reflect God. It will be some time, but this is the eventual conclusion.

Now, I’m happy that the Southern Baptists are moving towards more inclusion. But I think it will mean something very different from what they are expecting. And it will be amusing to watch.

Kim and Francis

Timothy Kincaid

October 2nd, 2015

Kim Davis

Kim Davis and her attorneys have been making quite a big deal about her meeting Pope Francis. (Washington Times)

“I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?” Mrs. Davis said in the written statement. “I never thought I would meet the Pope. Who am I to have this rare opportunity? I am just a County Clerk who loves Jesus and desires with all my heart to serve him.”

She continued: “Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong.’ “

From the descriptions given by Davis and Mat Staver, her counsel, you’d think this was an intimate and meaningful meeting in which the two shared their souls and pledged to fight together for their cause. Clearly the pontiff endorses Davis and her actions and encouraged her to fight on.

But knowing Staver’s history of less-than-factual statements and Davis’ gift for histrionics, something felt a bit contrived about their reporting.

We’ve all been in a receiving line of some sort or gone to a book signing or met for a moment with our Congressman. And while in the thrall of the experience we may think, ‘ohmigod, Taylor Swift was so nice to me’, by the time we got home we realized that she has no clue who we are, doesn’t recall the 10 seconds she gave, and has no opinion about us at all.

This felt like that. I certainly didn’t think it was some special audience with the Pope or any endorsement of Davis and her recalcitrance. That didn’t seem realistic.

Charles Pierce, writing in Esquire, looked further and speculated that the meeting was a set up contrived by Staver and Archbishop Carlo Vigano to play up Davis’ drama and tarnish Francis’ image, a position which was echoed by sources close to the Vatican.

In April, in a move that was unprecedented, Vigano got involved with an anti-marriage equality march in Washington sponsored by the National Association For Marriage. (And, mirabile dictu, as we say around Castel Gandolfo at happy hour, one of the speakers at this rally was Mat Staver, who happens now to be Kim Davis’s lawyer.) In short, Vigano, a Ratzinger loyalist, who has been conspicuous and publicly involved in the same cause as Kim Davis and her legal team, arranges a meeting with Davis that the legal team uses to its great public advantage.

Whether or not Pierce’s speculation has any merit, the result was embarrassment for the Pope and disappointment for Catholics who had hoped that Francis’ visit would usher in a less politically antagonistic relationship between the Church and the LGBT community. Taken together with a vague answer to questions about matters of conscience, it appeared that the Pope was endorsing Davis’ behavior.

Fut finally the Vatican has released a statement responding to the Davis’ self-aggrandizement and the answer is, more or less, “Kim who?”.

The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:

Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.

So there it is. Davis was part of a receiving line and got a rosary and a few moments of Pope Francis’ time. She, and her legal team, decided to spin that meeting into something that it was not.

As for the Pope’s only official audience? At present, it appears that it was with someone who does not share Davis’ position at all. (CNN)

Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug.


Liberty Counsel is now claiming that the Vatican is lying

Despite a statement this morning by a Vatican official, the Pope’s own words about conscientious objection being a human right and his private meeting with Kim Davis indicate support for the universal right of conscientious objection, even for government officials. The meeting with Kim Davis was initiated by the Vatican, and the private meeting occurred at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, September 24. This meeting was a private meeting without any other members of the public present.

In short, Staver and Davis are asking you not to take the Vatican’s word for what the Pope supports but to take the word of two Protestants who have a history of stretching the story. I’ll let you decide who to believe.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, October 10

Jim Burroway

October 10th, 2015

Legacy WalkLegacy Walk Dedications: Chicago, IL. If you’ve been looking for something to do in the Windy City this weekend, regular BTB reader, gay rights activist and Executive Director of the Legacy Project Victor Salvo alerts us to an interesting and informative event that will take place tomorrow afternoon on North Halsted Street. The Project will dedicate five new plaques for what is billed as the “the world’s only outdoor museum walk celebrating the diverse accomplishments of the GLBT community.” That museum currently consists of thirty bronze plaques affixed to ten pairs of twenty-five foot art-deco pylons which mark the heart of Chicago’s LGBT community. Each plaque commemorates the life and work of notable LGBT people who have changed the world

This year’s bronze plaques will commemorate Leonard Bernstein, Josephine Baker, Rudolf Nureyev, Billy Strayhorn, and the homosexual victims of Nazi persecution. The dedications begin this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. at the pylon located at 3245 N. Halsted. They will welcome each new plaque onto the street in a small ceremony conducted by youth participants in the Legacy Project Education Initiative (LPEI). The traveling celebration will move north toward the final dedication at 3656 N. Halsted. Participants may either meet at the first location and move as a group up Halsted, or gather at the pylon of their choosing to await the arrival of the co-celebrants. The ceremonies will wrap up at about 5:00 p.m., then move to the rooftop of the Center on Halsted for a post-ceremony pizza party. Click here for more information.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Meyers, FL; Little Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Oceanside, CA; Orlando, FL; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema LGBT Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, April 1978, page 25.

From GPU News, April 1978, page 25.

Little Jim’s started it all when it opened in 1975 as the very first gay bar on Chicago’s famed North Halsted street. The tiny hole-in-the-wall was soon joined by several other establishments catering to LGBT people and within just a few years, Boystown was born. As the years went by, it was often overshadowed by the larger and flashier establishments that sprouted up around it. The bar’s original owner, Little Jim Gates, sold the joint in 2014, but the new owners vowed to keep running it more or less as it was been for the past forty years.

Newsweek’s “Queer People”: 1949. In the mid-twentieth century, reactions to homosexuality fell into two camps. On one side were those who held that such “sexual perversion” was a criminal act which should be treated harshly by the courts. The other side, which saw themselves as more enlightened, saw homosexuality as a mental illness which merited pity rather than punishment. On October 10, 1949, Newsweek published an editorial titled “Queer People,” which came down squarely in the first camp:

The sex pervert, whether a homosexual, an exhibitionist, or even a dangerous sadist, is too often regarded merely as a ‘queer’ person who never hurts anyone but himself. Then the mangled form of one of his victims focuses public attention to the degenerate’s work. And newspaper headlines flare for days over accounts and feature articles packed with sensational details of the most dastardly and horrifying crimes.

The editorial reviewed The Sexual Criminal, a book by J. Paul DeRiver who headed the Los Angeles Police Department’s Sex Offenses Bureau. Newsweek lauded the “factual scientific book” with 43 case histories, including “lots of very queer people” including “the sadistic pedophile,” “zoophiles, psychopaths who performed sadistic acts on animals, and the necrophiles, who …commit acts of moral degeneracy upon or in the presence of dead bodies.” Eugene D. Williams, a California “special assistant attorney general,” wrote the introduction to the book, in which he warned that “the semihysterical, foolishly sympathetic, and wholly unscientific attitude of any individual engaged in social work and criminology to regard sex perverts as poor unfortunates who are suffering from disease and cannot help themselves, has a tendency to feed their ego.” To which Newsweek added:

A sterner attitude is required, if the degenerate is to be properly treated and cured. Williams suggests that the sex pervert be treated, not as a coddled patient, but as a particularly virulent type of criminal. “To punish him,” he concludes, “he should be placed in an institution where the proper kind of rehabilitory work can be done so that, of capable of being brought to the realization of the error of his ways, he may be brought back to society prepared to live as a normal, law-abiding individual, rather than turned out as he now is from the penitentiary, confirmed in his perversion.

ECHO ’64 conference program. (via Frank Kameny’s papers)

East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) Hosts Conference Calling for Direct Action: 1964. The early major “Homophile” gay-rights groups established in the 1950s saw their main purpose was not so much to advocate for changes in the law which criminalized same-sex relationships in all fifty states, but to confront the regular police abuses and day-to-day acts of discrimination which effectively kept just about everyone in the closet. The tactic those groups espoused was “education.” It was thought that by educating the general public about homosexuality and gay people, the public would come around to accepting gay people as equals. The Daughters of Bilitis’s statement of purpose, which appeared in the front of every issue of The Ladder, included the “Education of the public at large through acceptance first of the individual, leading to an eventual breakdown of erroneous taboos and prejudices.” Likewise, when the Mattachine Society was first founded in 1950, it considered it part of its mission to “EDUCATE … for the purpose of informing and enlightening the public at large.” ONE, Inc., which published the first nationally-distributed gay magazine in America, considered education so important that it established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies.

One problem, though, was that the “education” was not always particularly uplifting.  For one, the goal of education was supposed to be “understanding” of the “problems” that homosexuals faced. But in many of the early homophile literature, one could easily replace the word “understanding” with “pity,” and not alter the view being expressed one bit. Consequently, the educational approach tended to be one that valued being “reasonable” and “impartial ” over carrying any significantly useful information. And homophile organizations, eager to prove their reasonableness and impartiality, often invited speakers from “both sides” of an issue — which meant that gays and lesbians attending homophile conferences often had to sit through lawyers, mental health professionals and religious leaders explaining that gay people were criminal, sick, or sinful. As Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31) later commented, “At first we were so grateful just to have people — anybody — pay attention to us that we listened to everything they said, no matter how bad it was…. It was essential for us to go through this before we could arrive at what we now consider our much more sensible attitudes.”

By 1964, those more sensible attitudes were on display when four organizations — the Daughters of Bilities, the Janus Society of Philadelphia, and the Mattachine Societies of New York and Washington, D.C., met in the nation’s capital for the second conference of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), a loose confederation formed in 1962. Attendance was light: only about a hundred people showed up at the Sheraton Park Hotel, thanks to ECHO’s difficulty in getting the word out about where the event would take place. The Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW), which was hosting the conference, saw three other hotels cancel their bookings and three newspapers refusing to run ads for the conference. Those who showed up were charged up and impatient with the old ways of doing things. The DoB’s newsletter, The Ladder, set the scene:

“I’m an activist,” said a handsome young man present at the ECHO conference for 1964. “I’ve read nearly 75 books in the New York Mattachine Society library, and I’m fed up with reading on the subject of homosexuality.” His statement seemed to typify the attitude pervading this serious conference.

Any disappointment over the small attendance (less than 100 persons) could be offset by the fact that this was a down-to-business meeting attended primarily by those dedicated to immediate action. It was a gathering of men and women impatient to remedy the discriminations against the homosexual citizen in our society.

We talked with a long-time friend of one of the sponsoring organizations, and his remarks confirmed our view. “A few years ago,” he said, “ours was a sweeter, clubbier, less insistent organization. Now there seems to be a militancy about the new groups and new leaders. There’s a different mood.”

Signs of that different mood were everywhere, beginning with MSW’s Robert King’s prescient keynote address. He said that gay people were asking for “the rights, and all the rights, afforded the heterosexual. We are still in the asking stage. We will soon reach the demanding stage. (… A) dormant army is beginning to stir.” J.C. Hodges, president of the Mattachine Society of New York, challenged the prevailing timidity of previous homophile leaders to get involved with politics, declaring that “politics is everybody’s business.” He urged attendees to throw themselves into established political organizations. “Involve yourself if  you are to have any voice on your own behalf.”

The African-American civil rights movement, which was celebrating its successful March on Washington a year earlier followed by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that summer, was held up as an example for gay activists to follow. A lawyer from the ACLU advised, “I wanted to emphasize today the importance of recognizing your solidarity with other minority groups and your vital stake in maintenance and development of a society with freedom and justice for all.” During a panel discussion about legal issues moderated by MSW’s Frank Kameny (see May 21) asked if the panelists would be willing to form a board to look at creating a “multi-attorney approached to planned legal strategy” in challenging anti-gay laws. The panel agreed, with the National Capital Area ACLU chairman, David Carliner, recommending the establishment of a legal defense fund modeled after the NAACP’s.

The conference also had a bit of fun at the expense of Congressman John Dowdy (D-TX), who had introduced legislation in the House to strip MSW of its charitable status the year before (see Aug 8, Aug 9). That bill led to Kameny becoming the first gay man in history to address a Congressional committee when the House Subcommittee for the District of Columbia held hearings on Dowdy’s bill. ECHO issued a cordial citation in Dowdy’s honor. “We want to acknowledge that Rep. Dowdy caused more attention to be called to the homosexual problem than anyone else,” a spokesman told the Washington Post. The Post also reported, “A spokesman for the Congressman said Dowdy has not received an invitation, wasn’t going to attend in any case and viewed the award as an attempt to ’embarrass’ him.”

But if you really want to see the stirrings of what we would recognize as the modern gay rights movement, you would look to another panel discussion — a debate, really — between Frank Kameny and Dr. Kurt Konietzko, a psychologist and member of the Philadelphia Board of Parole, which questioned the entire raison d’etre of the homophile organizations until then. The topic was “Education or Legislation,” although The Ladder said that “‘Act or Teach?’ might better describe the alternatives.” On the “act” side, naturally, was Kameny, who argued that emphasizing education, as homophile groups had done, relies on the “naive assumption that in matters of ingrained prejudice, the majority of people are rational and amenable to reason. They aren’t. Prejudice is an emotional commitment, not an intellectual one, and is little if at all touched by considerations of reason. Study upon study…has shown this.” The Ladder continued:

Dr. Kameny cited one recent study which he said “showed that tolerance is only slightly promoted by more information, that communication of facts is generally ineffective against predisposition.” Large numbers of people “hate our guts,” he warned. In terms of their deep prejudices in this area, they are “uneducable and noninformable.” Anyone doubting this need only read the transcript of the Dowdy subcommittee hearings on HR 5990. “That’s entrenched prejudice in very high places!”

He pointed out that “the Negro tried the education/information approach for 90 years and got almost nowhere. In the next ten years, by a vigorous social-protest, social-action, civil-liberties type of program, he achieved in essence everything for which he had been fighting. Let not this lesson be wasted upon us.”

Dr. Konietzko countered that he believed education was essential to “the basic human question of how we get people to live together harmoniously. He also noted that educators, particularly religious leaders, were “charged specifically with instilling in the young the attitudes of the larger society … Prejudices are learned. And if they are learned, they are taught. And if you can change the teaching, then you can change society.” Konietzko cautioned that pushing “aggressively” would result in a backlash. “The more you threaten, the less they’re able to think straight, and the less willing they become to grant you anything.” He also recommended that homophile groups rely on outside experts to get their messages across — even though, as one audience member pointed out, “the ‘experts’ are constantly making pronouncements to the public which contradict the subjective knowledge of so many homosexuals.” That’s when Kameny delivered what would be his signature rallying cry for decades to come:

A place to start is for the homophile organizations to realize that in the last analysis — and I am knowingly oversimplifying — we are the experts and the authorities. And we had better start educating the public to the fact that when they want reliable information on homosexuals and homosexuality, they come not to the psychiatrists, not to the ministers, and not to all the rest — they come to us. (Applause) We are coming to be more and more called on to speak in our own behalf, and it’s time we started a coordinated program to do so. We must get across to the public that we are the ones to come to, not the psychiatrists or all the rest with their utter lack of information and their distorted viewpoints.

Five months later, Kameny’s rallying cry would inspire a groundbreaking resolution approved by the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., which declared that “in the absence of valid evidence to the contrary, homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense…” (see Mar 4). Gay activism then entered a new era as ECHO and its member organizations embarked on a string of pickets in New York (see  Apr 18), Philadelphia (see Jul 4) and Washington D.C. (see Apr 17, May 29, Jun 26, Jul 31, Oct 23) calling for equal rights for gays and lesbians.

[Sources: Warren D. Adkins, Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen). “ECHO Report ’64, Part 1: Sidelights of ECHO.” The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 4-7. See Jan 5 for Kay Lahusen’s bio.

Lily Hansen, Barbara Gittings. “ECHO Report ’64, Part 2: Highlights of ECHO.” The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 7-11, 15-20. See Jul 31 for Barbara Gittings’s bio.

Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen), Barbara Gittings. “ECHO Report ’64, Part 4: ‘Act or Teach’?” The Ladder 9, no. 5 (February 1965): 13-17.

Jean White. “Homophile Groups Argue Civil Liberties.” The Washington Post (October 11, 1964): B10.]

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 9

Jim Burroway

October 9th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Meyers, FL; Little Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Oceanside, CA; Orlando, FL; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema LGBT Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael's Thing, April 29, 1974, page 35.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), April 29, 1974, page 35.

Michael Giammetta, publisher of the weekly New York gay bar guide Michael’s Thing, wrote this review of The Alley in 1974:

Just ask anyone in Queens where they go when they want to have a royal time dancing and partying, and they’ll mention The Alley Opened over a year ago, this swinging bar is already a legend. The Alley takes its picturesque name from nearby Vaseline Alley, Queen’s version of Christopher Street where the cruising goes on like crazy. But the action on the streets can’t hold a candle to the sophisticated love-looks exchanged on the dance floor of this exciting bar.

“We never have to go to the city anymore,” a group of attractive boys told me. “We have everything we want right here in Queens. The disc jockeys play the latest and greatest rock hits and everybody is beautiful and together. The boys knew what they were talking about. Unlike many bars out in the boroughs, The Alley was filled with a lot of hip kids in the latest fashions. Here one could find the greased flat-top, rolled up jeans, and muscle shirts of the fifties freak-out movement so popular with flamboyant Manhattanites. But if that’s not your style, enough handsome hippies, glamorous boys, and dapper men frequent this bar to keep everyone happy. …The Alley gets four stars. One for fun. One for flair. One for frivolity. And one for fantabulous!

The Alley appears to have closed sometime in the first half of 1976. The address today is the home of a branch of the Habib American Bank, a subsidiary of a prominent Pakistani bank.

South Africa Strikes Down Sodomy Law: 1998. South Africa’s penal code defined sodomy as a Schedule 1 offense, like murder or rape, and was punishable by life imprisonment. Another law, Section 20A of the Sexual Offenses Act, which outlawed any behavior “at a party” — defined as a gathering of two or more men — that would be an invitation to sexual activity. Under that law, any hint of a proposition or even a glance, could lead to an arrest. The laws had been mostly ignored — South African cities had been host to Gay Pride parades for more than a decade — but that didn’t stop two prisoners in Cape Town from being charged with sodomy after engaging in consensual sex in 1997. But South Africa’s Constitutional Court responded to a suit brought by the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and struck down the country’s harsh sodomy law along with Section 20A of the Sexual Offenses Act.

The ruling, written by Judge Lori Ackerman with a concurring ruling by Judge Albie Sachs, held that the decision violated South Africa’s new post-Apartheid 1996 constitution which made South Africa one of the first countries in the world to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The justices ruled that the decision was “part of a growing acceptance of difference in an increasingly open and pluralistic South Africa,” which included gays already serving openly in the military and the police force providing domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples. The ruling African National Congress had earlier decided not to oppose the lawsuit. The ruling was made retroactive to the adoption of an interim constitution of 1994, which also prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Simeon Solomon: 1840-1905. When he was about ten years old, Solomon, the youngest child of a prominent London Jewish family, began to learn to paint from his older brother. A few year later, he attended Carey’s Art Academy, and later, as a student at the Royal Academy, he became a prominent member of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle. He held several acclaimed exhibitions at the Royal Academy between 1858 and 1872, with many of his paintings drawing from his Jewish background with scenes from the Hebrew Bible and ordinary Jewish life. His paintings also explored affections between men. In 1871 Simeon Solomon privately published his erotic poem “A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep,” and the images he evoked in the poem would re-appear in his paintings for the rest of his career. John Addington Symonds would note that the themes of same-sex love in the poem was “the key to the meaning of his drawings.”

The Sleepers, and the One that Watcheth (1870, click to enlarge)

Solomon’s career though was ruined in 1873 when he was arrested at a public toilet and fined £100 (about £4,600 or UD$7,400 today) for attempted sodomy. He was arrested again the next year in Paris and was sentenced to three months in prison. He never recovered. From then on, he was hobbled by alcoholism and poverty. He would pass his remaining years in and out of the workhouse where he continued to paint, but both the quality and quantity of his work was severely impaired by his drinking. He finally collapsed in central London and died of bronchitis and alcoholism in 1905. Poet and critic Arthur Symons, on learning of Solomon’s death, lamented, “There is nothing in this world so pitiful as a shipwreck of a genius.”

Nona Hendryx: 1944. The Trenton, New Jersey-born singer, producer, songwriter, author and actress was one third (with Patti LaBelle and Sarah Dash) of the trio Labelle, whose greatest hit was 1974’s “Lady Marmalade.” Beginning in 1977, Hendryx embarked on a solo career, but struggled to repeat the success of LaBelle. She wasn’t without work though, as she provided background vocals for the Talking Heads and became a part of New York’s underground rock, R&B and dance scene. As the eighties progressed, she collaborated with Keith Richards, Peter Gabriel and Prince. In 2001, she came out as bisexual in an interview with The Advocate, and added gay rights to her repertoire.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, October 8

Jim Burroway

October 8th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Meyers, FL; Little Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Oceanside, CA; Orlando, FL; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema LGBT Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 7.

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 7.

Like a lot of bars of its day, it featured a large dance floor and drag acts. Unlike the other bars though, MAARS didn’t serve alcohol. It was strictly BYOB, which meant that it could stay open long after the other bars closed. It had also meant that the club could welcome teenagers when it opened earlier in 1971, although the policy seems to have changed to eighteen-and-up by October. Later that month, MAARS hosted a special party for the Ice Capades touring company. According to a write-up in Our Community:

And speaking of great shows, 86 members of the Ice Capades Company were recent guests at the Maars Bar for a party and special performance given in their honor. The grand entertainers pulled out all the stops to give the skaters and company members a hearty Texas welcome.

The John F. Kennedy Learning Center, a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school, now sits on the block where MAARS used to hold court.

Gay Activists Alliance Protests Aversion Therapy: 1972. There are many schools of psychology, and nearly all of them have one thing in common: in one form or fashion, they typically examine at least some aspect of an individual’s interior life in order to understand that person’s motivation for feeling or behaving the way he does. By understanding and working with what is going on inside — by discovering why the patient feels or thinks the way he does — the therapist hopes to modify what happens on the outside. Behavioral Therapy, however, flips that inside-to-outside model around, by focusing solely on re-directing or re-training the patient’s external behaviors directly. In fact, classical Behavioral Therapy cared little about what was going on in the inside. When taken at its purest form, Behaviorism isn’t much concerned with anyone’s interior life at all, let alone changing it. In fact, some Behaviorists went so far as to argue that what happened internally was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered, they argued, was external behavior.

Schematic diagram of Louis William Max’s device for inducing a powerful electric shock. (Click to enlarge.)

In the 1930s, Behavioral Therapy got a very important tool when New York University’s Louis William Max unveiled his new invention safely administer a painful electric shock to his patient (see Mar 11). The idea was that by administering an electric shock under undesirable conditions, the patient would associate that undesired condition with the painful shock, and would change his behavior to avoid that condition in the future. In 1935, Dr. Max delivered another lecture to describe his first usage for his electric shock apparatus: “Breaking up a homosexual fixation” (see Sep 6).

From then on, behavioral therapists connected thousands of gay men to electrodes and their penises to measurement devices. One twitch of arousal while looking at gay porn would result in a powerful electric shock. While some gay men could work up an aversion to gay sex that way, they rarely became straight. They just became very sick or nervous homosexuals, many of them undoubtedly further burdened with therapy-induced PTSD. Of all of the various types of therapies for “curing” gay people, aversion therapy, as this particular form of behavioral therapy was known, was obviously the most torturous.

And so when the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy (AABT) met for their annual convention in New York City, about a hundred members of the Gay Activists Alliance demonstrated in front of the New York Hilton, shouting slogans and distributing pamphlets. They also performed a bit of guerrilla theater, in which they asked heterosexuals to volunteer to submit to aversion therapy to cure them of their heterosexuality. After about an hour, the protesters marched inside the hotel and confronted about 50 delegates in one of the seminars. Several of the demonstrators compared the AABT’s work to Stanley Kubrick’s film, “A Clockwork Orange.” UCLA’s Dr. Robert Liberman, who served as the convention’s program chair, defended aversion therapy. “The therapists here have no moral quarrel with homosexuality,” he said. “All we want o do is to offer assistance for homosexuals to lead a more comfortable, spontaneous and creative life.” Another delegate, who refused to identify himself, claimed that “aversion therapy is entirely voluntary.”

But GAA spokesman Ron Gold countered that aversion therapy was a form of social engineering. “It is brainwashing,” he said. “You can’t deal with an individual homosexual’s problem without also dealing with the antiquated mores of society. Change must come at a broader, society-wide level.”

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association would finally remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Dec 15). When the AABT met again in 1974, its president, Dr. Ian Evans, told the membership that providing treatment to clients seeking to change their sexual orientation was morally wrong generally, and he singled out aversion therapy for particular criticism. Evans’s comments were not well received, and aversion therapy continued for a several more years, including at least one research program at Brigham Young University using aversion therapy on gay students continued through at least 1976.

One of the last papers to be published in the medical journals evaluating electric shock therapy to “cure” homosexuality appeared in 1981. Australia’s Nathanial McConaghy and his colleagues acknowledged “ethical objections to the use of behavior therapy in homosexuality,” but dismissed them and went on to present 10 cases in which men underwent electric shock aversion therapy for “compulsive homosexual urges.” By 1981, aversion therapy had mostly died out and McConaghy’s paper appeared as a strange anachronism.

[Sources: “Therapy scored by homosexuals: ‘Aversion cure’ is protested at psychiatrists’ meeting.” The New York Times (October 9, 1972): 32.

Ian M. Evans. “The effect of values on scientific and clinical judgment in behavior therapy.” Behavior Therapy 28, no. 4 (Fall 1977): 483-493.

Max Ford McBride. “Effect of visual stimuli in electric aversion therapy.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation. (Brigham Young University: August 1976). Available online here.

Nathaniel McConaghy, Michael S. Armstrong, Alex Blaszczynski. “Controlled comparison of aversive therapy and covert sensitization in compulsive homosexuality.” Behaviour Research and Therapy 19, no. 5 (1981): 425-434.

You can also learn more about the role of Behavioral Therapy in attempts to “cure” homosexuality in Blind Man’s Bluff, an epilogue to our award-winning original investigation, What Are Little Boys Made Of?]

Major Advertisers Boycott Controversial “Marcus Welby., M.D.” Episode: 1974. By the early 1970s, the National Gay Task Force had positioned itself as the primary watchdog of the national media’s portrayal of gay people, and because of that, some producers and networks began soliciting advice from the group whenever plots involved gays and lesbians. But whether they accepted the advice from the NGTF or not was another matter altogether, as evidenced by one of the earliest consultations from ABC. The network was planning an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. called “The Outrage,” which depicted a junior high school boy named Ted who was forcibly raped by a male science teacher. The storyline was unusually graphic for its time, describing Ted’s intestinal damage and hemorrhaging. Ted refuses to talk about what happened, fearing that being raped meant that he was gay. While Ted is in surgery, police arrest the teacher for trying to molest another boy. Ted awakes from surgery ready to testify, and the investigating officer congratulates him for handling the situation like a “real man.” ABC defended the episode by saying it was about pedophilia, not homosexuality. But the storyline played much too closely to the old stereotype of gay men forcibly preying on children.

This wasn’t the first time Marcus Welby, M.D. had drawn the ire of gay activists. The year before, an episode titled “The Other Martin Loring” featured a man whose  alcoholism, weight problems, depression and diabetes were blamed on his repressed homosexuality, which itself was depicted as a mental illness (see Feb 20). By the end of that episode, Dr. Welby advised Loring to see a psychiatrist so that Loring will win his “fight” to live a “normal” life. About three dozen gay activists occupied ABC’s offices, but the network refused to alter the episode.

With “The Outrage,” ABC may have wanted to avoid a repeat of that noisy experience, but why they decided to consult with the NGTF is a mystery since the network refused to take the NGTF’s concerns seriously. The only positive outcome of that consultation was that it gave the NGTF, along with the Gay Activist Alliance, a head start in organizing a massive national campaign aimed not only at the network itself, but also at its affiliates and advertisers. On that last point, the GAA had a particular advantage: one of its members worked in ABC’s computer room and had access to the network’s advertising accounts. Whenever an advertiser cancelled, the employee would pass the information on to the GAA, and it would soon appear in major newspapers — sometimes before the network’s vice president knew about it.

Meanwhile gay advocacy groups around the country staged noisy protests outside of stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C., along with several smaller market stations in Ohio, Iowa, Mississippi, Texas and Idaho. The first station to announce it was dropping the episode was Philadelphia’s WPVI, which was under intense pressure from the city’s very active gay community. Mark Segal, who had already established himself as a masterful “zapper” of live television when he interrupted Walter Cronkite’s CBS newscasts (see Dec 11), may well have been a strong motivator behind WPVI’s decision. “We are gratified by Channel 6’s decision,” he told the press.” It is the first time they have made such a decision in regard to us and we salute them. We hope it will be the first step between us and the station that will result in a better understanding of our position.”

Altogether, seventeen ABC affiliates ended up dropping the episode, and nearly a dozen sponsors had pulled out, including Bayer, Gallo Wine, Listerine, Ralston Purina, Colgate-Palmolive, Shell Oil, Lipton, American Home Products, Breck, Sterling Drug and Gillette. (Ralston Purina even wrote the NGTF sending “best regards” and added, “We do not wish to sponsor a program not welcome in everyone’s home.”) The protest was marked as a success in newspapers across the country, but it proved to be a very temporary one: just one month later, NBC would air an episode of Police Woman titled, “Flowers of Evil” (see Nov 8), which TV Guide called “the single most homophobic show to date.”

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, October 7

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Meyers, FL; Little Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Oceanside, CA; Orlando, FL; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema LGBT Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the San Francisco Hotel Greeter's Guide, 1958, page 47.

From the San Francisco Hotel Greeter’s Guide, 1958, page 47.

Finocchio'sA list of must-sees for San Francisco tourists in the late 1950s aren’t much different from today’s tourists: Fisherman’s Wharf, the famous Cable Cars, Coit Tower and, for many, a dip into the city’s gay culture. Finocchio’s was never, strictly speaking, a gay bar, but this advertising in a tourist guide placed in hotel rooms is testimony to the night club’s popularity with tourists. The club started as Club 201, a speakeasy during Prohibition, and moved to larger quarters in 1936 and changed its name to that of the club’s owner, Joe Finocchio, which also just happens to be a nice Italian word for fennel and a not so nice Italian word for gay. Since the 1930s, Finocchio’s was the most famous drag club in the entire country, featuring many drag acts by both gay and straight performers. Joe Finocchio died in January 1986, and his widow finally decided to close the club  in 1999 due to rising rents and dwindling audiences.

“I don’t want to marry anyone for at least two years.”(Click to enlarge.)

Liberace’s Girl Meets Mom: 1954. So here’s something I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of:

Liberace’s Girl Meets Mom, But No Wedding, By George!

Hollywood, Calif., Oct 7. — Pianist Liberace says that “there isn’t a word of truth to the report that I am engaged” to marry dancer Joanne Rio.

The report popped up yesterday and Liberace promptly denied it.

He said: “I was misquoted and I am very embarrassed for Joanne, who is a lovely girl and an understanding friend.

“I don’t want to marry anyone for at least two years — until I’ve made the motion picture I am planning for Warner Brothers and have a chance to tour Europe, which I plan to do next year.”

Friends say he dates other girls, but that Joanne is the only one he brings home to mother.

Miss Rio is a pretty brunette. She is the daughter of Eddie Rio, West Coast head of the American Guild of Variety Artists.

Liberace had no sooner announced his engagement to Rio when he quickly backtracked before the day was out. It appears that Joanne Rio was something of an on-again/off-again for Lee. They appeared together a month later on the cover of TV Guide, where Rio was introduced as Liberace’s “favorite date.” “If it’s God’s will that Liberace and I get married, then we will. I’m leaving everything in God’s hands,” she told the magazine. God’s hands, apparently, were busy elsewhere.

San Francisco Progress headline for October 7, 1959.

S.F. Mayoral Candidate Charges Incumbent With Allowing City to Become “Deviate Headquarters”: 1959. The Mattachine Society’s sixth annual convention in Denver, conducted over the Labor Day weekend in September that year, was judged to be one of the more successful conventions in the organization’s history. It featured a good roster of speakers, positive publicity from the Denver press, and little jostling among factions. Even the business meeting was rather routine, with a few dull resolutions passed, often unanimously, along with the announcement that the next convention, in 1960, would be held in San Francisco, where the Society was headquartered.

But one of those quiet, noncontroversial resolutions became headline news as San Francisco was gearing up for the mayoral elections in November, when the tiny The San Francisco Progress’s October 7 edition blared, “Sex Deviates Make S.F. Headquarters,” and placed the blame for it on incumbent mayor George Christopher:

A just-completed survey of vice conditions in San Francisco discloses that this city, during the Christopher administration, has become the national headquarters of the organized homosexuals in the United States. It is a sordid tale, one which will revolt every decent San Franciscans, but one which the San Francisco Progress believes is of vital importance to our city, and therefore must be told.

The survey was made in an effort to determine the truth or falsity of George Christopher’s claim that he has given the people a “clean city.”

The facts are that some of the big call girl operations and a number of minor bookmakers have been put out of business. But in their place another form of vice – – homosexualism — has been allowed to flourish to a shocking extent, and under shocking circumstances.

Last month at a convention of deviates in Denver, Colorado, a resolution, passed unanimously, praised the mayor of San Francisco — by name — for an “enlightened administration” which has permitted the group to flourish here.

The paper published a photocopy of the official resolution, which praised “the efforts of law enforcement authorities in San Francisco based upon an officially administered entity, enlightened, and just City Government and Police Force,” and expressed its appreciation “to Mayor George Christopher and Police Chief Thomas Cahill for their persistent and consistent efforts to conduct their administration with these high ideals foremost in mind.” City Assessor Russell L. Wolden, the Democratic candidate who was challenging Mayor Christopher in the November election, immediately jumped on the issue, telling The Progress:

“This is a matter of grave concern for every parent,” Russell L. Wolden, assessor and candidate for mayor, declared today. “It exposes teenagers to possible contact and contamination in a city admittedly overrun by deviates. For a city administration to permit this situation to exist is nothing less than scandalous. The whole rotten mess cries for investigation.”

Wolden repeated his accusations against Christopher in a speech broadcast on radio that night, and described the Mattachine as an organization that “conducted classroom instruction for deviates” and published literature of “the most lurid, disgusting and distasteful sort.”

William P. Brandhove (left) with Russell L. Wolden.

But the very next day, the entire campaign against Christopher began to fall apart when city’s three major newspaper, The Chronicle, The Examiner and The News-Call-Bulletin all uncovered the identity of man responsible for the resolution. William P. Brandhove, a Wolden campaign worker, had signed himself up as a Mattachine member just days before the convention, where he introduced his resolution to the executive board. “We thought it was just an innocent expression in favor of tolerance in San Francisco,” Mattachine secretary Donald Lucas told the newspapers. “We had no idea that it was intended or might be used for any political purpose.”

When reporters tried to find Brandhove for comment, they found that he had quickly checked out of the Grand Hotel in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, which was then the heart of the gay community. They eventually tracked him down in his Wolden campaign bumper sticker-plastered car. Brandhove admitted that he had, in fact, attended the convention. “I’m not a homosexual but I joined the Mattachine Society only to find out about its activities.” He also tried to distance the Wolden campaign from his activities, although he admitted to turning over copies of the resolution to his attorney, Ralph Taylor — who also just happened to be Wolden’s campaign treasurer — telling Taylor to “make sure it’s used.”

Brandhove’s name was already well known among San Francisco’s political establishment. He had been involved in a similar smear campaign in a 1948 congressional contest and the 1949 mayor’s race. He was also wrapped up in a local blackmail trial involving a small-time publisher of a scandal magazine who extorted large sums of money in exchange for agreeing not to print allegations of homosexual affairs. The Chronicle said Brandhove was “known to police and the underworld as an unreliable stool pigeon,” and noted that he had been arrested in 1930 in Jersey City, New Jersey on a charge of sodomy.

“Want some feelthy campaign issues?” San Francisco Chronicle editorial cartoon.

The papers immediately branded the entire operation a “smear,” which not only tarnished the good name of the honorable mayor, but the city itself and its citizenry, a charge underlined by the mayor himself. “In a blind drive for office, my opponent has degraded the city,” said Christopher. “Under no circumstances would I covet any office so much that I would stoop to maligning somebody.” Democrats also lambasted Wolden, with Democrat Club president Franklyn K. Brann saying “I didn’t know the Mattachine Society was running for Mayor.” The Chronicle and The News-Call-Bulletin called for Wolden to withdraw from the race. The Examiner blasted him for offending “the tenets of political decency of the Democratic Party that he so recently joined.” But instead of calling for Wolden to withdraw, The Examiner instead called on voters to kick him out.

And so they did. Seventy-one percent of registered voters turned out on November 3 and re-elected Christopher with in a 61% to 39% landslide. Meanwhile, the Mattachine Society, which had lodged a $1 million lawsuit against Wolden, reported that they were “deluged with telephone calls and visits from friends, well-wishers, curiosity-seekers and others” as a result of the controversy. Wolden managed to stay on as the city’s assessor until 1966 when, after twenty-seven years in office, he was convicted on eight counts of bribery and one of conspiracy for accepting payoffs in exchange for lower tax assessments.

[Sources: Wes Knight. “Smear Drive.” The Mattachine Review 5, no. 11 (November 1959): 12-15.

“Sex deviates make S.F. Headquarters: ‘Enlightened’ city rule earns praise.” San Francisco Progress (October 7, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 15-24.

Yancey Smith. “‘Mystery man’ seen in ‘smear’.” The San Francisco News-Call-Bulletin (October 8, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 24-25.

George Draper. “Praise of Mayor’s policy on deviates engineered by ex-police informer.” The San Francisco Chronicle (October 9, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 26-29.]

Walter Jenkins

Top Johnson Aid Outed In Sex Scandal: 1964. Walter Jenkins and Lyndon B. Johnson went way back, all the way back to 1939 when Johnson was still a young member of the U.S. House of Representatives. For the next 25 years, Jenkins was Johnson’s right hand man and top administrative assistant as Johnson rose through the ranks as Senator, Senate Majority Leader, Vice President, and ultimately President following John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Journalist Bill Moyers, who was Johnson’s press secretary praised Jenkins’s political skills: “When they come to canonize political aides, [Jenkins] will be the first summoned, for no man ever negotiated the shark-infested waters of the Potomac with more decency or charity or came out on the other side with his integrity less shaken. If Lyndon Johnson owed everything to one human being other than Lady Bird, he owed it to Walter Jenkins.”

But Johnson would effectively wind up losing his right arm during the final weeks before the 1964 presidential election when District of Columbia police arrested Jenkins at a YMCA restroom and charged him with disorderly conduct. That was not-so-subtle code for going down on a stranger in a men’s room. Jenkins paid the $50 fine. Republican operatives tried to shop the story to the press, but those were the days when a fellow’s private life was still considered off-limits. The Chicago Tribune and the Cincinnati Enquirer both refused the story. But on October 14, an editor for the Washington Star called the White House seeking comment on the arrest. White House staff tried to lobby all three Washington newspapers not to run the story, but that only confirmed the rumors. Administration staffers then tried to chalk the incident up to exhaustion and stress, but it soon came out that Jenkins had been arrested in 1959 on similar charges. The Star ran its story and a shocked President Johnson obtained Jenkins’s resignation that same day.

But a scandal that could have caused significant damage to the presidential campaign was soon pushed off of the front pages by two back-to-back international crisis. Nikita Khrushchev was unceremoniously dumped as Soviet Premier that same day, and China detonated a nuclear bomb two days later. Some members of the Goldwater campaign made a half-hearted effort to drum up outrage over Jenkins — it issued bumper stickers reading “All the way with LBJ but don’t go near the YMCA” — but Goldwater himself declined to make the incident a campaign issue. “It was a sad time for Jenkins’ wife and children, and I was not about to add to their private sorrow,” he later wrote.

Jenkins’s career may have been over, but the genuine good feelings held by Johnson administration insiders were undiminished. Jenkins received a large number of letters of support from administration officials and a personal endorsement from Lady Bird, who wrote an open letter that was published by several newspapers: “My heart is aching today for someone who has reached the end point of exhaustion in dedicated service to his country.”

Jenkins and his wife, Marjorie, moved back to Texas and remained together until separating in the early 1970s, although the two never divorced. Meanwhile Jenkins’s absence at the White House was keenly felt. Johnson Press Secretary George Reedy once commented, “A great deal of the president’s difficulties can be traced to the fact that Walter had to leave…. All of history might have been different if it hadn’t been for that episode.” Attorney General Ramsey Clark felt that Jenkins’s resignation “deprived the president of the single most effective and trusted aide that he had. The results would be enormous when the president came into his hard times. Walter’s counsel on Vietnam might have been extremely helpful.”

Dan Savage: 1964. The Chicago native grew up attending Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary North, which is described as a high school for young men considering the priesthood. (Other graduates include Cardinal Edward Egan and sociologist/novelist Fr. Andrew Greeley.) After graduating from the University of Illinois in Urbana, Savage moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he got to know Tim Keck, co-founder of The Onion, who was about to go to Seattle to establish the alt-weekly The Stranger. Savage told him to make sure the paper had an advice column because “everybody claims to hate ’em, but everybody seems to read ’em.”

To Savage’s surprise, he ended up being that columnist, when his sex advice column “Savage Love,” appeared in the very first edition of The Stranger in 1991. Since then, “Savage Love” has been the source of a number of well-known neologisms: GGG (good, giving, game, to describe an ideal sex partner), Monogamish, Pegging, “The Campsite Rule” (when starting a relationship with a younger partner, leave them in better emotional and physical shape than when you started), Saddlebacking (the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities), and, his most famous one, Santorum.

In late 2010, when Billy Lucas became the latest in a tragic line of teens who had killed themselves because of anti-gay bullying, Savage wrote:

I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better. But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied.  Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

The way to reach those kids was through videos uploaded on the Internet. Since 2010, the It Gets Better project has hosted some 50,000 videos from around the world with a simple message: just hold on and it will get better. The project was given a special 2012 Emmy award for “strategically, creatively and powerfully utilizing the media to educate and inspire.”

Savage is editor of The Stranger, and his “Savage Love” column appears in alternative weeklies across North America. He writes his advice column at the desk once owned by Eppie Lederer, better known as Ann Landers. Savage also records a weekly  Savage Lovecast  podcast. He has written six books, edited another, contributed op-eds for The New York Times, and has made numerous appearances on talk shows and news programs. His latest book, American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics, came out in 2013.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, October 6

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 31.

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 31.

Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Miami Mayor: “Deviates Are Leaving The City”: 1954. Miami’s ongoing media-driven hysteria over discovering the presence of gay people in their midst (see Aug 3Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14Aug 15, Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15, and Sep 19) appeared to be on the wane, with Mayor Abe Aronovitz telling The Miami News that the city’s highly publicized raids on gay bars and beaches were finally having their effect:  

Mayor Claims Deviates Are Leaving City

Miami is the cleanest town in the area so far as homosexuals go, it was claimed by Mayor Abe Aronovitz, who said, “but we are not solving it from a humanitarian standpoint because we are only clearing it up as far as Miami is concerned.”

“There is no solution from a humanitarian standpoint, however, because I have received complaints from both Broward County on the north and Monroe County on the south that the homosexuals are just drifting out of Miami.”

The City Commission later today is expected to pass on second reading an ordinance aimed at controlling homosexuals and also jeopardizing liquor licenses of establishments serving people known to have homosexual tendencies.

It was passed on the first reading two weeks ago.

And that is why there are no homosexuals in Miami anymore.

Rev. Troy Perry

Rev. Troy Perry Holds First Metropolitan Community Church Service: 1968. Perry’s life had always been difficult. His bootlegger father died when Perry was twelve. His mother married an alcoholic who reduced the family to poverty and was physically abusive. Troy ran away from home and stayed with relatives, who introduced him to Pentecostalism. In 1959, the nineteen-year-old Perry married a Church of God pastor’s daughter and became the pastor of a CoG church in Jolliet, Illinois — all this despite knowing that he was gay and was sexually active with other men. He merely told himself that it was a phase and that he wasn’t really gay. After all, it was impossible to be both gay and Christian, his superiors in the church had reassured him. But his cover didn’t last long in Jolliet though, and when his secret came out, he was told by church leaders to leave the church and tell his wife, who decided to stay with him.

The couple moved to California, where they joined the Church of God of Prophecy, another Pentecostal denomination. When he finally decided to tell his superiors in that denomination that he was gay, they acted as CoG had: they kicked him out. This time though, his wife left him, taking their two young sons with her. Perry spent the next several years trying to figure out what he was: was he gay, or was he Christian? In 1967, he tried to kill himself after breaking up with a boyfriend. The following year, he was on a date at a gay bar called The Patch near Long Beach when when Los Angeles police decided to randomly arrest two of the bar’s patrons (see Aug 17) . His date, broken and demoralized by the experience, decided that no one cared about gay people, including God. That’s when Perry decided it was time to show that young man, and all gay people, differently.

From The Los Angeles Advocate. October 1968, page 20.

And so on October 6, 1969, he held his first worship service in the living room of his Huntington Park home. Twelve people attended. Nine were friends of his, who showed up to support him. Three were there in response to an ad that Perry placed in that month’s edition of The Los Angeles Advocate. The next week, there were twelve. Pretty soon, the fledgling congregation was growing so quickly that finding larger quarters became a weekly endeavor. “You better attend church every Sunday if you want to know where the church is going to be,” members joked.

Soon the congregation moved to the Encore Theater on Melrose Avenue, and they quickly filled all 385 seats in the house. By the time the MCC bought its first genuine church of its own in the West Adams area, the congregation had swelled to 1,000. That purchased also made the MCC the gay organization in the U.S. to own a piece of real estate. In 1996, Perry remarked, “If you had told me twenty-eight years ago that the largest organization in the world touching the lives of gays and lesbians would be a church, I would not have believed you.” Over the years, twenty-one MCC churches were targets of arsonists and four MCC clergy were murdered. But in 2000, Perry repeated his vow: “We will never, ever, be chased out of a city; we’ve never, ever left a city where we’ve faced persecution.” The MCC currently has 172 churches in 37 countries.

[Source: Lee Arnold. “Troy Perry (1940- ).” In Vern. L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 393-398.

San Francisco Police Sweep The Castro: 1989. ACT-UP had put on a number of protests and marches before in San Francisco, almost all of them without incident. This one was small: about 150 people showed up at the Federal Building a few blocks from City Hall. After a brief rally, they marched to City Hall, then up Market Street to the Mint Building before ending at Castro Street. Typically during marches like this one, the Police department would assign a handful of officers to help block traffic and ensure the safety of protesters and onlookers. But one marcher, Gerard Koskovich, noticed something was different about this march:

“The march turned non-routine the minute it left the federal plaza. Hordes of San Francisco police officers on foot and on motorcycles emerged as soon as the protesters started marching on the street. They attempted to force the march to stay on the sidewalk,” said Koskovich, who wrote an essay about the Castro Sweep in the 2002 anthology Out in the Castro: Desire, Promise, Activism. “The first arrest happened a block away from the federal building. The tactical coordinator for ACT UP stepped out into the street to talk to the commanding officer and he was immediately grabbed, thrown face down on the asphalt, handcuffed, and then taken away. No one had seen anything like this at a queer protest in San Francisco for a number of years.”

By the time the rally reached the Castro, the marchers were met by hundreds of police officers. It was a sign of how the night would end.

“When I got there I saw the single largest mass of San Francisco police officers I had ever seen at that point. The entire intersection of Castro and Market streets was filled with officers standing in rank,” said Koskovich. “At this point it was still a peaceful march of people staying on the sidewalk. It was completely perplexing why the police force brought out a horde of officers.”

Angered by the police confrontation, marchers sat down in the middle of Castro Street near Market. One group staged a die-in, and others spray-painted stenciled slogans and body outlines on the pavement as a “permanent AIDS quilt” on the street. Police then announced that the demonstration was an “illegal action” and began a sweep action, marching in unison down Castro toward 18th street, forcing thousands inside the Castro’s homes, stores, bars and restaurants under virtual house arrest. As Koskovich wrote in OutWeek a month later:

The police soon charged in earnest. I saw one officer advance with his baton in a jabbing position, a technique that the San Francisco Police Commission banned after an officer using it nearly killed Farmworkers Union co-founder Delores Huerta last year. Others pushed with the sides of their batons, knocking the front of the crowd off balance. I fell against the person to my left, scraping my ear, then regained my footing.

After a partial withdrawal and a second effort to clear the area, the police announced that the entire block of Castro from Market to 18th St., including the sidewalks, had been declared an illegal assembly area. The crowd held its ground, milling into the street and repeatedly chanting “Cops go home” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, SFPD go away.” A group of officers reacted by ramming their motorcycles through the center of the crowd.

In the confusion, I lost sight of the friends I had been standing with and made my way to the opposite side of Castro St. From that vantage, I watched an officer break ranks, approach a man standing peacefully in the street, and beat him over the shoulder. Shortly thereafter, I saw a second officer pin a bystander against a news box, then club him to the pavement. Other cops joined in, one of them so eager to land a blow that he carelessly clubbed a fellow officer.

Minutes later, I heard someone calling out my name and spotted Alex Chee, one of the friends I had marched with, leaning from an ambulance moving slowly through the police lines. “I’m going to the hospital with Mike,” he shouted. With a sinking feeling, I pushed to the back window; inside, I could see another friend, Michael Barnette—a 19-year-old who was attending his first ACT UP demonstration—strapped motionless on a stretcher.

Michael received several stitches to close a gash across his eyebrow. According to witnesses, an officer identified as a captain in the SFPD Tactical Unit and an event commander for the October 6 protest clubbed Michael on the head as he stood on the sidewalk on the west side of Castro St. From the opposite corner, I had heard protesters chanting the officer’s helmet number—1942— but had not seen the beating.

This went on from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. in an action which reminded everyone of the White Night riots ten years earlier, when San Francisco police rioted in the Castro following the conviction of Dan White of manslaughter for the assassination of Harvey Milk (see May 21).

The following night, 1,500 protesters demonstrated the police action in the Castro. Mayor Art Agnos issued a statement to the Bay Area Reporter saying that previous night’s police action was “deeply disturbing, and if even 25 percent of the allegations turn out to be true then what happened October 6 is unacceptable.” Deputy Police Chief Jack Jordan was demoted, and he resigned the following month. Other high-ranking officers were re-assigned and reprimanded. The Tactical Squad was relived of one of its primary responsibilities, crowd control. “Civil disobedience did occur,” Police Chief Frank Jordon said, but the response was “inappropriate” and represented a command breakdown. Three years later, the city settled a series of lawsuits brought by victims for $250,000.

Matthew Shepard Assaulted: 1998. At around 6:30 PM, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bicycle on Snowy Mountain View Road, just outside of Laramie, Wyoming, when he wiped out near the end of a rough buck-and-rail fence. In the fall, he severely damaged his front tire. Aaron got up to try to figure out how to get back into town when he was startled by what he thought was a scarecrow. He took a closer look and discovered that it wasn’t a scarecrow, but a 5-foot-2, 102 pound University of Wyoming student by the name of Matthew Shepard. Aaron was further surprised to see that the bloody figure was still alive, though barely. Matthew was comatose, breathing “as if his lungs are full of blood,” Aaron would later testify. It had been a very cold day that day with a 30-degree freezing wind the night before, and it was now evening again. Matthew had been there for more than 18 hours, laying on his back, head propped against the fence, his legs outstretched. His hands were tied behind him, and the rope was tied to a fence post just four inches off the ground. His shoes were missing.

Aaron, in a state of panic, ran to the nearby home of Charles Dolan. From there, they called 911, and then the both of them returned to Matthew to wait for the sheriff’s deputy to arrive. Deputy Reggie Fluty later testified that the only spots not covered in blood on Matt’s brutally disfigured face were tracks cleansed by his tears. She told the barely breathing victim, “Baby, I’m so sorry this happened.”

Matthew was rushed to Poudre Valley Hospital’s intensive care unit in critical condition. He suffered fractures from the back of his head to the front of his right ear from being pistol-whipped by a 357-Magnum more than twenty times. He had severe brain stem damage which affected his body’s ability to control heart rate, breathing, temperature, and other involuntary functions. There were lacerations around his head, face and neck. He had welts on his back and arm, and bruised knees and groin. He had also suffered from hypothermia. His injuries were too severe for doctors to operate. They did however insert a drain into Matthew’s skull to relieve the pressure on his brain.

By the end of the day, Matthew Shepard was laying quietly in a soft, warm bed with clean sheets after having spent eighteen hours in the freezing high plains of Wyoming tied to a fence post. He was breathing with the aid of a ventilator.

Bruno Balz: 1902-1988. He wrote some of Germany’s most famous songs for film despite his career being hampered by official persecution for his homosexuality. When Balz was arrested by Nazi authorities for violating Germany’s Paragraph 175 outlawing male homosexuality, he was released after several months’ imprisonment on the condition that his name not be mentioned in public. When he was arrested again in 1941 and tortured in Gestapo headquarters, his songwriting partner, Michael Jary, appealed to authorities to release him, saying that he could write songs to lift German morale as part of the war effort. He wrote two of his greatest hits just days after his release. And while his songs would be criticized later for aiding  the war effort, gays in Germany were buoyed by what they saw as double meanings in some of his songs. One song in particular, his 1938 classic “Kann denn Liebe Sunde sein?” (“Can Love Be a Sin?”), became something of an anthem for Germany’s underground gay community:

Every little Philistine makes my life miserable, for he’s always

talking about morality. And whatever he may think and do, you can

see that he just doesn’t want anyone to be happy…. Whatever

the world thinks of me, I don’t care, I’ll only be true to love.

Can love be a sin?

Can’t anybody know when you kiss,

When you forget everything out of happiness?

Balz’s troubles continued even after the war and the fall of Nazism. After all, Paragraph 175 remained the law of the land until 1994 after Germany’s reunification, which meant that the strictures on him remained in effect preventing him from receiving his due credit for his music. Balz died in 1988. There is now a Bruno Balz theater named for him in Berlin.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, October 5

Jim Burroway

October 5th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1978, page 40.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1978, page 40.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa Feeds “Men Dressed Like Women” To His Dogs: 1513. The Spanish conquistador and explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa is a revered figure in Panama, where you can buy a bottle of Balboa beer for about 1.50 Balboas (which is used interchangeably with the U.S. Dollar, also legal currency there). His name graces Panama City’s main port at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal as well as numerous avenues and parks throughout the country.

Balboa first explored the South American coast from present-day Columbia to Nicaragua in 1501, before settling on the island of Hispaniola to become a farmer. When Balboa returned to the South American continent in 1509, he did so as a stowaway from Hispaniola — a bankruptcy refugee, to be exact — but he quickly proved his worth with his knowledge of geography and local native culture, thanks to his earlier expedition. In 1510, Balboa founded the city of Santa Maria la Antigua del Darién on the northern coast of present-day Colombia near today’s border with Panama, and in 1511, he declared himself governor of Veragua, which roughly covered the Caribbean coast of present-day Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Balboa then spent the next three years exploring his domain, defeating various native tribes and befriending others, always remaining on the lookout for gold.

In 1513, Balboa arrived at the region in present-day Panama controlled by the chief Careta, whose forces Balboa defeated and whom Balboa befriended. Together, Balboa and Careta defeated a rival chief, Ponca, and made an alliance with another chief, Comagre, whose son told them that if they really wanted to find lots of gold, they needed to conquer the tribes living on the coast of “the other sea” on the other side of the Isthmus of Panama. Balboa and his hordes set off to conquer their way south, and on September 20, when Balboa stood on a summit on the mountains alongside the Chucunaque River, he became the first European to see, on the distant horizon, the Pacific Ocean. Nine days and one battle later, Balboa walked knee-deep into the ocean with his sword in one hand and his battle standard in the other, and claimed possession of the “South Sea” and all of its adjoining lands for Spain.

While Balboa continued his journey along Panama’s Pacific coast, conquering and discovering as he went, he discovered, after killing chief Quarega and entering his village, what Balboa perceived to be the famously relaxed attitude among Quarega’s people toward the Peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nominandum. I say perceived, because it’s not exactly clear that Balboa’s men correctly interpreted what they saw. Sure, native groups throughout Panama had a reputation for tolerance of homosexuality and cross-gender behavior, so it’s not inconceivable that he found some of those goings-ons in Quarega’s court. But some scholars doubt that Balboa’s men actually managed to come across two full score of them in a single village. Some speculate that the Spaniards mistook the ceremonial attire of members of Quarega’s court for women’s clothing. Others suggest that in the political vacuum following Quarega’s death, there may have been some finger-pointing among political rivals who were savvy to the Spaniards’ disgust for the “sin so horrible.”

At any rate, at least forty of them — Gay men? Transgenders? Cross dressers? Or disgraced officials on the losing end of political score-settling? — were rounded up and devoured by Balboa’s dogs, in what has been described as the first recorded instance of Spanish punishment of homosexuality in the New World. About a century later, Antonio de la Calancha, a Spanish official in Lima, was still singing his praises, albeit somewhat inaccurately, of the man who “saw men dressed like women; Balboa learnt that they were sodomites and threw the king and forty others to be eaten by his dogs, a fine action of an honorable and Catholic Spaniard.”

[Sources: Charles C. Mann 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, (New York, Alfred A. Knoff, 2011): 348.

Ward Stavig. “Political ‘abomination’ and private reservations: the nefarious sin, homosexuality, and cultural values in colonial Peru.” In Pete Sigal’s (ed.) Infamous Desire: Male Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003): 134-135.

Walter Williams. “The abominable sin: the Spanish campaign against ‘sodomy’ and its results in modern Latin America” in ): in Larry Gross and James D. Woods’ (eds.) The Columbia Reader on Lesbians & Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999): 128.]

California Studies Treatment for “Sex Deviants”: 1951. An item appeared in The Los Angeles Times describing efforts that promised “the eventual solution of one of California’s most difficult problems – the sex offender.” California had tried to “legislate sexual offenses out of existence” through more severe penalties, but lawmakers were “finally persuaded medical research might bring results,” and passed the Sexual Deviation Research Act in 1950. And with that, according to The Times, efforts were now fanning out to “several laboratories, schools, hospitals, and clinics throughout the State.” The Dean of UCLA’s Medical School was already bragging of research breakthroughs. “It is now possible, he states, to predict with a fair degree of accuracy, through blood and urine tests, the onset of a sexually psychopathic ‘attack’.” What, exactly, was being studied was obviously very sensitive; it took eight paragraphs before the LA Times writer finally got around to describing what these “sexual deviations” might be:

Another study underway is concerned with diagnosis and treatment of homosexual males. The purpose of this research is twofold: (1) to make physical, psychiatric, glandular and mental studies of the types of homosexuals who affect feminine behavior and (2) to investigate such psychological factors in homosexuality as the personal, family, social and cultural histories of patients. Results of these studies, it is felt, should greatly add to more accurate diagnosis of types of homosexuality and its treatment.

Research would continue for at least another thirty years in California and throughout the western world, all to no avail. When the American Psychiatric Association finally determined in 1973 that homosexuality was not a mental illness in need of a cure, efforts to change sexual orientation in the scientific community slowly began to wane over the course of the next decade — with the notable exception of a very tiny religiously-motivated dissident minority, and their efforts to change sexual orientation still come up short. California’s law mandating research into curing homosexuality remained on the books, ignored and forgotten, until it was finally repealed in 2010. In 2012, California began moving toward the opposite direction when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation which prohibits licensed professionals from providing conversion therapy to minors.

HC Robert Mapplethorpe.jpg

25 YEARS AGO: Cincinnati Museum Acquitted of Pornography Charges over Mapplethorpe Exhibit: 1990. Before the late 1980s, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was known for his brilliant black and white photographs of achingly beautiful subjects: orchids, lilies and celebrities, including Richard Gere, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Patti Smith. But when he began putting together his 1989 exhibit, The Perfect Moment, he decided to include some of his more recent works, photos that he had begun taking since the early 1980s of very sexually explicit images of homoeroticism and sadomasochism. The exhibit, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, sparked immediate outrage among social conservatives. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) tried to de-fund the NEA entirely, and wound up settling for yet another of those many “Helms Amendments” that wound up littering the legal landscape for decades to come. This amendment barred the NEA from funding “obscenity,” a nebulous mandate which cast a chilling effect on the arts for more than a decade.

The controversy led the Corcoran Gallery to cancel The Perfect Moment, in the summer of 1989, but the Washington Project for the Arts stepped in to host the show. Thanks to the publicity, some forty thousand people attended. The show’s next step was the University Art Museum in Berkeley, which hosted the show without incident. From there, it went to the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, but police closed the exhibit on opening day in order to videotape the exhibit on orders from Hamilton County Prosecutor Arthur Ney. Later that day, Ney got an indictment from the grand jury charging the CAC and its director, Dennis Barrie, on charges of pandering obscenity and child pornography. If convicted, the museum faced fines of up to $10,000 and Barrie faced up to a year in prison and $2,000 in fines.

A demonstration in downtown Cincinnati immediately after the trial ended.

A demonstration in downtown Cincinnati immediately after the trial ended.

As far as anyone knew, no other museum in the country had ever been indicted on similar charges. The controversy had an immediate impact in the city and on the museum. When the exhibit reopened with seven portraits removed and replaced with black placards, crowds descended on the small museum to see what the fuss was all about. One farmer arrived with mud on his boots and overalls and presented a check for $20, saying that he’d fought in World War II for the freedom of expression exemplified by the exhibit. Nearly 80,000 people attended the exhibition, making it one of the most successful shows ever for the CAC.

When the trial got underway in late September, the jurors were subject to a crash course on art history and photography from some of the country’s leading museum directors. Martin Friedman, director of Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, expounded on the formalism behind Mapplethorpe’s composition and lighting. Janet Kardon, the exhibit’s curator, testified, “No matter what the subject matter, he brought a sense of perfection to it. And all of the attributes one characterizes a good formal portrait by, that is composition and light and the way the frame is placed around the image, all of those things are brought to every image.” One of those images, was Mapplethorpe’s 1978 Self Portrait (NSFW), which featured what Kardon described as a “figure study” in which “the human figured is centered. The horizontal line is two-thirds of the way up, almost the classical two-thirds to one-third proportions … it’s very symmetrical, which is characteristic of his flowers.” Of course, none of his flowers had a bull whip inserted in the ass.

Evan Turner, from the Cleveland Museum of Art, told the jury, “I think with these difficult images, one way of judging their quality … is to look at them as abstract, which they are, essentially.” Robert Sobieszek, photography curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, placed the portraits in biographical terms: “They reveal, in very strong, forceful ways, a major concern of this creative artist; a major part of his life, a major part of his psyche or psychology, his mental make-up and perhaps, they say to me, some troubled portion of this life that he was trying to come to grips with… IT’s not unlike Van Gogh painting himself with his ear torn off, or cut up.”

Surprisingly, the prosecution called only one “expert” witness, the anti-gay activist and author Judith Reisman, who was then a paid “researcher” for the American Family Association’s. Her artistic background, as the defense repeatedly pointed out, was limited to writing songs for Captain Kangaroo.

Dennis Barrie hugs his attorney H. Louis Sirkin after hearing the verdict.

Dennis Barrie hugs his attorney H. Louis Sirkin after hearing the verdict.

After less than two hours of deliberation, the mostly blue-collar jury returned verdicts of not guilty. Defense lawyer H. Louis Sirkin called the verdict “a signal to everybody that before they start shutting down museums and telling people what they can say and what they can see, they better realize there is a protection out there, and it is the greatest document ever written.” A visibly relieved Barrie reacted, “This was a major battle for art and for creativity, for the continuance of creativity in this country. Mapplethorpe was an important artist. It was a beautiful show. It should never have been in court.” Meanwhile, the CAC came out of the controversy stronger than ever. It had overgrown its previous digs at the Mercantile Center and in 2003 moved into a splendid new building which the New York Times described as “the best new building since the Cold War.”

[Additional source: Richard Meyer. Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002): 211-218.]

175 YEARS AGO: John Addington Symonds: 1840-1893. He fulfilled the expectations of Victorian England by marrying and having a family, but the poet and literary critic was always conscious of “men constituted like me.” As an early proponent of what was then called “male love,” Symonds was among the first to publish works for general audiences with direct references to homosexuality. His 1876 Studies of the Greek Poets, Second Series, included praise for Greek “friendship,” which led to withering condemnation from critics. One critic decried Symond’s “phallic ecstasy” and his “palpitations at male beauty.”

While Symonds became more circumspect in identifying himself with “male love,” he nevertheless continued to explore the theme. Symonds’s 1878 translation of Michelangelo’s Sonnets corrected, for the first time, the proper male pronouns which had been rendered female by previous translators. And in that same year, he published his poem “The Meeting of David and Jonathan” (1878), where Jonathan, “In his arms of strength / Took David, and for some love found at length / Solace in speech, and pressure and breath / Wherewith the mouth of yearning winnoweth /Hearts overcharged for utterance. In that kiss / Soul into soul was knit and bliss to bliss.”


But Symonds kept most of his writings on homosexuality private, first in letters to Walt Whitman, Edmund Gosse, and Edward Carpenter, and later in privately-circulated works like Male Love: A Problem in Greek Ethics (1883) and A Problem in Modern Ethics (1891), where he wrote in the introduction this answer to those who argued that the only good homosexual was a celibate homosexual:

I have taken no vow of celibacy. If I have taken any vow at all, it is to fight for the rights of an innocent, harmless, downtrodden group of outraged personalities. The cross of a Crusade is sewn upon the sleeve of my right arm. To expect from me and from my fellows the renouncement voluntarily undertaken by a Catholic priest is an absurdity, when we join no order, have no faith to uphold, no ecclesiastical system to support. We maintain that we have the right to exist after the fashion which nature made us. And if we cannot alter your laws, we shall go on breaking them. You may condemn us to infamy, exile, prison -– as you formerly burned witches. You may degrade our emotional instincts and drive us into vice and misery. But you will not eradicate inverted sexuality.”

In 1893, he began to publish more openly about homosexuality in Walt Whitman: A Study, and he began a collaboration with Havelock Ellis, who was then embarking on his landmark study, Sexual Inversion. Symonds died in 1893, ten months into that collaboration. When Sexual Inversion made its English debut in 1897, Symonds was listed as co-author. But Symonds’s executor, scandalized at the association, prohibited his name from being further associated with the book. Symonds was credited as “Z” in the second 1897 printing, and his essay “A Problem in Greek Ethics” was deleted. Interest in Symonds was revived in 1963 when Phyllis Grosskurth won the 1964 Canadian Governor General’s Award for John Addington Symonds: A Biography. Twenty years later, she would also bring The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds to print for the first time in 1984, ninety-one years after his death.

David Pallone: 1951. Major League Baseball umpires never become household names. But a few can somehow find ways to become memorable. That happened to Pallone on April 30, 1988, when he was umpiring at first base in Cincinnati when, in the ninth inning, he called New York Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson safe on a delayed call. That delay allowed another Mets runner to score the winning run. Reds’ manager Pete Rose rushed to Pallone to argue the call. Tempers escalated, one thing led to another, Pallone might have touched Rose, Rose definitely shoved Pallone, and Pallone immediately ejected him from the game. Fans showered the field with trash for the next fifteen minutes and Pallone had to be taken out of the game to ease tension. Rose was suspended for 30 days and fined $10,000.

Later that year, Pallone was forced to resign when a New York Post article outed him as gay and claimed that he was part of a teenage sex ring. Those charges were later proven groundless, but Pallone says in his memoir Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball that team owners were unimpressed and pressured baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti to fire him anyway. Or, more accurately, Pallone was paid to leave, and strongly encouraged to do so. Today, Pallone is a diversity trainer and motivational speaker based in Colorado.

Thomas Roberts


Thomas Roberts: 1972. The former CNN Headline News anchor became the first national anchorman to come out as gay when, in 2006, he spoke at the annual convention of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in Miami Florida during a panel discussion titled “Off Camera: The Challenge of LGBT TV Anchors.” Describing his appearance on that panel as the biggest step he had taken publicly to be out, he had been coming out at CNN over the past several years. But he found the tension between his public life and private life to be difficult to balance. “When you hold something back, that’s all everyone wants to know,” he told the gathering.

Roberts stayed at CNN until 2007, when he resigned to move to Washington, D.C. to pursue other opportunities. In late 2010, he began guest-anchoring for MSNBC, and became a full-time anchor in December.  He currently anchors MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts weekdays from 1:00 to 3:00 E.T. In 2012, Roberts married Patrick Abner in New York, making Roberts the first (and the most handsome) national anchor to marry a same-sex partner.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, October 4

Jim Burroway

October 4th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, November 1968, page 13.

From The Los Angeles Advocate, November 1968, page 13.

Shands Hospital

Florida Hospital Dumps AIDS Patient: 1983. Twenty-seven-year-old Morgan MacDonald had been treated at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, since July for various opportunistic infections because of AIDS. When his state Medicaid benefits ran out, the private teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Florida tried to find a nursing home to send him to, but none in the area would take him. So the hospital declared MacDonald “well enough to walk,” stuffed $300 into his pocket, loaded him onto a Lear Jet with a doctor and a nurse, and shipped him off to San Francisco and dumped him at the offices of the city’s AIDS Foundation. The nurse and doctor walked out and left the volunteer staff to figure out what to do with him. He’s condition was so bad, he was unable to lift his head. Foundation volunteers took MacDonald to San Francisco General Hospital which immediately admitted him.

General’s Dr. Mervyn Silverman was furious. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he told reporters. “It’s unconscionable to do this to a patient, especially a patient in serious condition.” A Shands spokeswoman claimed that MacDonald didn’t need hospital treatment, but outpatient treatment instead, and said that shipping him off to San Francisco — even though he came to them from Vero Beach, Florida — was “a real humanitarian thing to do.” They also claimed that MacDonald was ambulatory when he left Shands, and that he worsened sometime after leaving. “AIDS is a disease where your condition changes,” the Shands spokeswoman said. San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein denounced the dumping and demanded that Florida Gov. Bob Graham investigate. A Florida Health Department official would later admit, “We are having problems in Florida because medical professionals are reluctant to provide care because they know so little about AIDS. We are seeing people take any opportunity within the law to avoid providing care.” The state, however, found no evidence of legal wrongdoing. MacDonald died in San Francisco, a medical outcast, sixteen days later. San Francisco General sent Shands Hospital a bill for $6,627.12, which Shands refused to pay.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir: 1942. When she became Iceland’s first female Prime Minister in 2009 following more than a year of public protests over Iceland’s handling of the financial crisis, she broke yet another important barrier by becoming the world’s first open lesbian head of government. The LGBT community around the world cheered, but Sigurðardóttir had no time for celebrations. Her plate was full with the collapse of the island nation’s entire banking system and the stock exchange losing some 90% of its value. She renegotiated Iceland’s payment of bank deposits to holders in Netherlands and Britain — much to the outrage of Icelandic taxpayers, which rejected the deal in a 2010 referendum with a resounding 93% against and 2% in favor. A second round of negotiations also went down to defeat before Iceland’s voters in 2011 with 60% against and 40% for. Meanwhile, the arduous process of revising the country’s constitution produced one of Sigurðardóttir’s few victories, when voters approved it in a 2012 referendum with significant margins. In September 2012, she announced that she would not seek re-election in the upcoming elections. She retired from politics when the new government took office in May 2013.

Jóhanna had been in a Registered Partnership with Jónína Leósdóttir since 2002. When Iceland enacted its marriage equality law in 2010, Jóhanna and Jónína became among the first to convert their legal partnership into a marriage.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, October 3

Jim Burroway

October 3rd, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade, June 1977, page 10.

From The Blade, June 1977, page 10.

The Fraternity House was located in Washington, D.C. just a couple of blocks west of DuPont Circle, opening in 1976 just as the area was beginning to become a full-fledged gayborhood. The club wasn’t exactly on P street itself, but just down an ally around the back, in an old Carriage House. In 1997, the club was re-named Omega, which remained in business right up until the end of 2012, when the building was reportedly sold for $1.9 million and was to be renovated into a 5,850-square-foot single-family house.


 Hollywood Production Code Changed to Allow Films Dealing with Homosexuality: 1961. There were a number of rather risqué films coming out of Hollywood in the early days, risqué, at least, according to Catholic clergy and middle-American sensibilities. To counter the growing noises coming from the country’s moral finger-waggers (not to mention legislators in 37 states who were busy introducing a patchwork of movie censorship bills) Hollywood enlisted a moral finger-wagger of its own, William H. Hays, to head the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). Hays promptly promulgated what came to known as “The Hays Code” which, for the next thirty years, more or less dictated what would and most certainly would not be displayed on America’s movie screens. Number four on Hays’s list of Don’ts was “any inference of sex perversion,” which, when strictly enforced, meant absolutely no portrayal of gay men or women, or even any hint of any bending of gender roles. (Also banned by the code: “Miscegenation” at number six, and “Ridicule of clergy,” number ten. “Willful offense to any nation, race or creed” came in last at number eleven, even though the race stipulation rarely enforced.)

If the MPPDA certified that a film met the standard, it was given an MPPDA seal of approval, which assured theater owners that the film would pass muster with squeamish audiences. If it failed, it was sent back to the studios for edits or canned altogether. Some films were produced outside the studio system and beyond the reach of the MPPDA, but their distribution tended to be severely limited. But in the 1950s, studios began to test the code’s limits, and by the end of the decade, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot became a smash hit even though United Artists didn’t bother to obtain the MPPDA seal. Between 1958 and 1961, several popular films — Pit of Loneliness, Suddenly, Last Summer, Devil’s Advocate, Victim and A Taste of Honey are just a few — dealt with anti-gay prejudices or had gay characters.

As the sixties opened, with Elvis regularly appearing on Ed Sullivan and the sexual revolution just getting underway, it was obvious that the MPPDA either needed to adapt its aging code to modern sensibilities or fade into complete irrelevancy. And so on October 3, 1961, the MPPDA announced a revision to its three decade old code: “In keeping with the culture, the mores and the values of our time, homosexuality and other sexual aberrations may now be treated with care, discretion and restraint,” the MPPDA announced. To which Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper replied, “Well, all I’ve got to say is that our producers shouldn’t have any trouble with casting.” The Children’s Hour and Advise and Consent were released soon after the change was announced.

 35 YEARS AGO: Congressman Pleads No Contest For Soliciting a Teen Male Prostitute: 1980. Rep. Bob Bauman (R-MD) had a history of voting for anti-gay bills in Congress. He voted twice to deny federal funds to lawyers dealing with gay rights issues, and he backed a “family protection bill” that would have explicitly legalized discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation. He was one of the brightest stars of the far right, serving as chairman for the American Conservative Union. But on this date in history, Bauman was charged by D.C. police for “soliciting sex from a sixteen-year old boy.” It turns out he had a habit of cruising gay bars in Washington, D.C., a habit he blamed entirely on alcohol. A judge bought his story and accepted his not guilty plea in exchange for entering a six-month alcohol rehabilitation course. Voters in his district didn’t buy it though. Despite the Ronald Reagan-led Republican landslide in November, Bauman lost his Congressional seat, and his wife walked out the following June.

In 1986, he wrote his memoir, The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative, not because he wanted to tell his story but because he was broke. He wrote that his downfall was orchestrated by the Carter administration, House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill and a Maryland senator who considered him a potential rival. As for himself, he told one interviewer, “I still don’t like being gay. If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t be gay.” But he did begin to accept himself and, for a while in the mid-1980s, tried to organize a conservative gay rights organization. That effort fell apart when other gay Republicans refused to go public or write checks to support the group. (Some would, however, donate smaller amounts in cash because it couldn’t be traced.) Bauman is now an attorney for the Sovereign Society, a group which provides expatriation services for Americans looking for offshore tax havens.

 90 YEARS AGO: Gore Vidal: 1925-2012. His 1946 novel Williwaw, written when he was 21, was a success, but not nearly as notorious as his second one two year later. The City and the Pillar, dedicated to “J.T.” in an oblique reference to James Trimble III, Gore’s first love who died on Iwo Jima, was the first major novel to deal directly with male homosexuality — so directly that Orville Prescott, The New York Times book critic, refused to allow the Times to review Vidal’s next five books. Vidal managed to work around the Times’s boycott by publishing several mysteries under the pseudonym of Edgar Box. He worked on the script for the film Ben-Hur, including adding a gay subtext to the relationship between Messala and Ben-Hur (played by Charlton Heston, who was oblivious to the gay references). Over the course of his life, Vidal published thirty-one novels and story collections, eight plays, fourteen screen-plays (including the infamous 1979 cult classic Caligula), and countless essays on whatever subject that struck his fancy — and his fancy was struck by an unusually wide variety of topics.

But as famous as he was for his writing, he was probably just as famous — and maybe even more so — for his public appearances, for which Gore could always be counted on to say something shocking. Most famous of his public appearances, perhaps, came in 1968 when ABC News invited Gore and William F. Buckley, Hr. to provide political analysis during the Republican and Democratic conventions. It was during one of those discussions, carried live on national TV, that Gore responded to Buckley’s complaint about “pro-Nazi” protesters with, “As far as I’m concerned, the only sort of pro-crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself.” An obviously livid Buckley then replied, “Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I’ll sock you in the goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.” The Gore and Buckley feud continued to play out in competing essays in Esquire and in court where they sued each other for libel.

When Gore died in 2012, many obituaries identified him as either gay or bisexual. If he were alive, he would have loudly railed against pinning an identity on him. He hated the very idea of identity, particularly a gay one, believing that they were inherently false. He believed more in the nineteenth-century concept which saw sex and sexuality as simply something one does, and he had no patience whatsoever for those who sought to build an identity — let alone a movement — over something called gay. In that way, he had much in common with anti-gay activists who believe that the very concept of “orientation” is some sort of a homosexual plot to change the world. And yet, Gore’s own promiscuous pansexuality — he said that he had had more than a thousand liaisons before the age of 25 — underscored his own comfort with ignoring the constraints that others would put on him. And yet, he was also an iconoclast’s iconoclast: he maintained a loving, loyal and long-term relationship with his partner, Howard Austen, for fifty-two years until Austen died in 2003. Gore said that the secret to their longevity was that they only had sex once, in the beginning, and then no more. He explained it this way: “It’s easy to sustain a relationship when sex plays no part & impossible, I have observed, when it does.”

 Jake Shears: 1978. He was born in Arizona, but grew up north of Seattle on San Juan Island. When he turned fifteen, he sought out Dan Savage for advice on whether he should come out to his parents. Savage gave him what he later called the worst advice he has ever given:

And after he told me everything I was like: “Oh, they know. They’re just waiting for you to tell them. You should tell them. Just come out to them. They’re waiting. They’re ready.” And he came out to them and they didn’t know and it was a big disaster and they threatened to pull him out of school and they were really angry and so he called me. I had a radio show and he called me and I got him off the air and got his mother’s phone number and called my mother and gave my mother Jake’s mother’s phone number and had my mom call him mom and yell at her. And it helped, but yeah, I gave him so really shitty advice.

(Savage now says that “not everybody is in a position where that is wise or safe and we have to tell these gay teenagers to take a cold, hard look at who their families are and where they live before they take that step.” But this isn’t about Savage, it’s about Shears.)

When Jake was nineteen, he traveled to Lexington, Kentucky to meet up with a former classmate, and that’s where he met Scott Hoffman (better known by his stage name, Babydaddy, see Sep 1). They hit it off immediately, and that turned into Shears’s second great turning point in his life. They move to New York the following year where they immediately immersed themselves into the city’s gay nightlife. In 2000, they formed the Fibrillating Scissor Sisters and began performing in underground clubs. When Ana “Ana Matronic” Lynch joined the duo in 2001, they dropped the word “Fibrillating” from their name and began performing as the Scissor Sisters. They were soon joined by Derik “Del Marquis” Gruen (see Aug 31) on lead guitar and Patrick “Paddy Boom” Seacor on drums, the band’s token male heterosexual. In 2002, the Sisters cut a single, “Electrobix” which proved to be less popular than its B-side, a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

That got the attention of major record labels, and by 2003 they were recording for Polydor. They proved popular in Britain, but their success in America was thwarted by skittish radio programmers and Wal-Mart, then the largest music seller in the country. Wal-Mart, in particular, objected to the song “Tits On the Radio,” which they described as a “snarling, swaggering attack on conservatism,” and demanded the band record a “clean” version. The band refused.

In 2010, Shears contributed a video to Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, where he talked about the abuse he suffered in high school after coming out, and how he channels those memories into his energetic performances today. In 2012, Scissor Sisters went on a world tour in support of their latest album, Magic Hour. While performing in North London in October, the Sisters announced that they would be taking an indefinite hiatus.

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 2

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 70.

Condado is an oceanfront enclave just to the east of the colonial district of Old San Juan. Developed at the turn of the previous century as a haven for wealthy Americans (the Vanderbilts’ summer home is now a hotel), the district got its second wind in the 1950s as a tourist destination. By the 1970s, there were several bars, restaurants and guest houses catering to the gay tourist trade, like these two clubs on Ashford Avenue.

Interior of the Pepper Hill Club, two weeks after the raid (Source).

Interior of the Pepper Hill Club, two weeks after the raid (Source).

60 YEARS AGO: Baltimore Police Arrest 162 in Bar Raid: 1955. Quick — name the first gay bar raid that backfired and forced the local police department to abandon such tactics. I suspect most people would probably name the 1969 raid at the Stonewall Inn, but I’m sure you already know that’s the wrong answer. I can’t say that I can pinpoint the very first raid to leave a lasting positive effect, but the 1955 raid at 200 N. Gay Street  in Baltimore — an appropriate address if there ever was one — is probably a good candidate.

That was the address of the Pepper Hill Club, a gay club on the fringe of what was called “The Block” in East Baltimore, an area that hosted a number of strip clubs and rough bars. Because of its reputation and its proximity to a nearby police station, the Pepper Hill Club quickly became a target for the city’s vice squad. At 11:00 p.m., Lt.Byrne and officer Edgar Kirby stopped in to check on the club, looked around, then left. Less than an hour later, police descended on the club and arrested all 162 patrons, employees and owners for “lewd behavior,” which consisted of male couples hugging, dancing and kissing. “We were met by a human wall,” Sgt. Hyman Goldstein later testified. “We found complete disorder, and in the rear of the place there was no light at all. Back there we found several couples.” He also testified that most of those arrested were from Washington. “We have received word that Washington police are conducting a drive on homosexuals; apparently some of them are coming to Baltimore for their entertainment.”

It took 24 trips in the paddy wagons to get all 162 patrons, employees and owners to the police station. The newspapers reported that the raid was “the largest night club raid ever conducted in Baltimore.” It was also against police policy. Just a few weeks earlier, police had conducted a mass raid at a straight nightclub, and public outrage over that night’s indiscriminate arrests led police commissioner James Hepbron to ban such mass raids. That outrage only grew this time when the courts acquitted nearly everyone in the Pepper Hill case — only four were convicted of disorderly conduct, and one woman was convicted of assaulting an officer when they tried to load her into the van. One man was fined $10 when he insisted on testifying even though his disorderly conduct charge was about to be dismissed. Charges were also dismissed against the club’s owners, Morton Cohen and Vincent Lance, who stood accused of operating a “disorderly house.”

Circuit Judge James K. Cullen sharply reprimanded the police department for the latest mass violations department policy. Commissioner Hepbron agreed with the judge and promised that it wouldn’t happen again, saying that the department’s policy against wholesale arrests would be “reiterated, re-emphasized and, if necessary, re-enforced.” He also disbanded the vice squad and reassigned its personnel to the rackets division. Those actions weren’t enough to satisfy Baltimoreans or state legislators. The following year, the Maryland legislature passed what became known as the “Pepper Hill Law” which formally outlawed mass arrests during bar raids.

Front cover of the Oct 2, 2010 edition of Rolling Stone. (Click to enlarge.)

5 YEARS AGO: Ugandan Tabloid Outs LGBT People Under the Headline, “Hang Them!”: 2010. Seemingly out of nowhere, an obscure Ugandan tabloid, Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication with the same name) published what they said would be the first part of a four part series exposing one hundred LGBT citizens in Uganda. The first installment included the call to “hang them” on the front cover and over the article itself, and featured the faces, addresses and employers of a number of LGBT Ugandans, including LGBT rights activist David Kato and retired Anglican bishop Christopher Senyonjo on the front cover.

This latest development occurred just as it seemed that the tempest over Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill (also known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, thanks to its death penalty provision) was starting to quieten down. In the face of international outcry, the Ugandan government had been trying to figure out a way out of the mess, and by late 2010, it seemed that the bill had been safely sidelined in a Parliamentary committee until the Rolling Stone cover story threatened the uneasy peace. Uganda’s Media Council moved swiftly to order Rolling Stone to shut down after discovering that the tabloid had not properly registered with the authorities.

November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone"

November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone. (Click to enlarge.)

The tabloid complied, but resumed publishing again on November 1 with a second installment of its outing series. This time, the publication was much more sinister, with reporters apparently obtaining photos and other information from profiles of LGBT Ugandans posted on dating web sites. With each publication, more evidence emerged that the tabloid, which carried virtually no advertising, was receiving support from anti-gay sources. Strong circumstantial evidence suggests that anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa was a driving force behind Rolling Stone’s activities. Sexual Minorities Uganda quickly obtained a temporary court order barring Rolling Stone from outing individual private persons in Uganda. Two months later, the court made that injunction permanent, and awarded each of the plaintiffs 1,500,000 Uganda Shillings (US$650) for damages, plus court costs.

But by then the damage was done. David Kato, the attorney and LGBT-rights activist whose image appeared on the front cover of that first Rolling Stone “Hang Them” issue and who led the court case against Rolling Stone, was found bludgeoned to death in his home in Kampala.

Annie Leibovitz: 1949. “My mother and father took photographs and made eight-millimeter home movies when I was growing up, but I didn’t start taking pictures myself until the late Sixties when I was studying at the San Francisco Art Institute,” she explained in her 2006 monograph, A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005. She further developed her photography skills while on a kibbutz in Israel in 1969, When she returned to the U.S. in 1970, she became staff photographer for Rolling Stone, quickly rising to chief photographer from 1973 to 1983. While she is known as a portraiture artist, she took her favorite photos while doing reportage, particularly when she was concert-tour photographer for the Rolling Stones in 1975.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1980.

While she liked that work, her personal style of reportage was distinct from photo-journalism. “I’m not a journalist,” she wrote. “A journalist doesn’t take sides, and I don’t want to go through life like that.” Her point of view took her all over the world, including the Sarajevo siege in 1993 and the world’s capitals to photograph kings, queens and celebrities. It’s hard to pick one photo as a perfect example of her intimate style — the touching photos that she took of her lover Susan Sontag on her death bed are particularly poignant — but the most iconic photo perhaps is the 1980 portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. It turned out that Leibovitz would be the last person to professionally photograph John Lennon on that fateful December day: Lennon was murdered five hours later outside his apartment building in New York City.

In 2001, Leibovitz became a mother for the first time at the age of 52, but the years following would prove to be difficult for her. She spent most of 2004 taking care of Sontag, who was dying of myelodysplastic syndrome which evolved into leukemia. Sontag died the following December. Leibovitz’s father died six weeks later. Editing the photos for A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005 was an important part of her grieving process. “I would go into (her workshop) every morning… and cry for ten minutes or so and then start working, editing the pictures. I cried for a month. I didn’t realize until later how far the work on the book had taken me through the grieving process.”

Her grieving wasn’t over: her mother died in 2008, and in 2009 Leibovitz fell into serious financial difficulties. She borrowed $15.5 million, using the rights to all of her photographs as collateral. The New York Times< tried to figure out how an artist of such renown could be in such financial trouble. It cited several personal issues, including the recent loss of her father, mother, and Sontag, who died in 2004, and a costly renovation of her townhouses in Greenwich Village. Eventually she was able to negotiate her way through her financial problems and retain control of her work.

In 2011, she published her latest book Pilgrimage, which probably represents her most personal work to date, even though there are no people in the book. She began photographing the pictures for it while dealing with her financial struggles in 2009. She decided to go to places where she had no agenda, no assignment, no requirements from clients. Instead, she chose locations and subjects that meant something to her: Emily Dickinson’s house, Niagara Falls, Sigmund Freud’s couch. “I have a bit of a feeling that I’ve had it with people,” she told The New York Times. “But you don’t ever get away from people, really. And these are pictures of people to me. It’s all we have left to represent them. I’m dealing with things that are going away, disappearing, crumbling. How do we hold on to stuff?”

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, October 1

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From High Gear (Cleveland, OH), March 1976, page 10.

From High Gear (Cleveland, OH), March 1976, page 10.

The neighborhood in downtown Cleveland has changed quite a bit since the gays partied at the Rainbow. The building now houses the Local Heroes Grill, right across the street from Progressive Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians. When it opened in 1994, the ballpark was called Jacobs Field. While that name was retired when Progressive Insurance bought the naming rights in 2008, locals still call it the Jake.

Denmark Grants World’s First Registering Partnerships: 1989. Axel Lundahl-Madsen and Eigil Eskildsen made world history when they became the first same-sex couple to have their relationship nationally recognized after forty years together. They had been living under a shared surname, Axgil, (an amalgamation of their given names) for 32 years, but in 1989, when they became the first of eleven couples to enter into what was legally called a Registreret Partnerskab (Registered Partnership), their surname became fully legal.

Denmark’s Registered Partnership just barely fell short of full marriage equality. When the new law went into effect, the differences were so minor that registrars who didn’t have the new forms simply re-used the already existing marriage forms. A civil ceremony was still required with at least two witnesses, and with promises of for better or worse, for sickness and poorer, and all that. After all that was done, couples were officially “registreret” (registered), although in everyday language everyone just simply said they were “gift” (married).

But there were a few important differences that kept Registered Partnerships from being fully equal to marriage. It didn’t cover adoption rights, artificial insemination availability, or religious wedding ceremonies in state-run Lutheran Churches. Those were still out of reach. Several bills which would provide full marriage equality have been debated in the Folketing over the ensuing years. The ruling coalition rejected a marriage equality bill in June 2010, but the Folketing decided to extend adoption rights to Registered Partnerships a month later. Finally, in July of 2012, the Folketing approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage by a vote of 85-24. The law took effect on July 15. Axil and Eigil didn’t live to see full marriage equality in Denmark; Eigel passed away in 1995 and Axel joined him in 2011.

George Cecil Ives: 1867-1950. The Sacred Band of Thebes, the army of ancient Thebans instituted in 387 B.C., was an elite force of 150 pairs of male lovers. The theory went that soldiers would fight harder and better if they were defending a lover. The Sacred Band met its end fifty years later when the rest of the Theban army fled the forces of Philip II of Macedonia at the battle of Chaeronea. The Sacred Band, instead of fleeing, fought to its death. And so when, in 1897, the German-English poet, writer, and early gay-rights campaigner decided to found a secret society for gay men, he named it the Order of Chaeronea in honor of the brave Sacred Band.

George Ives was already well connected with England’s gay scene, having probably had a brief fling with Oscar Wilde followed, later, with a brief affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde’s sensational run-in with the law, which dominated the papers of London in 1895, undoubtedly had an affect on Ives. After Wilde was released from prison, Wilde wrote Ives that he believed that a more humanitarian climate may slowly emerge. “I have no doubt we shall win, but the road is long, and red with monstrous martyrdoms,” Wilde wrote. “Nothing but the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act would do any good.” Ives was ready to take on the work of changing society and laying the grounds for repeal, but he couldn’t convince Wilde to join him in what he called the “Cause.” Wilde, his health broken from two years at hard labor, had already given his measure of martyrdom. We don’t know how many other people Ives managed to enlist into the “Cause,” but we do know that some of the members included the Uranian poets Charles Kains Jackson and John Gambril Nicholson, the Rev. Samuel Elsworth Cottam (an Anglican priest who published a gay magazine called Chameleon), and the eccentric self-styled Catholic priest (he was apparently never ordained or part of an order) and occult expert Montague Summers.

Ives’s Order was influenced greatly by the Aesthetic movement — of which Wilde was but one very visible proponent — which mixed philosophy, idealism and art as part of what Wilde’s biographer, Neil McKenna, described as “a new gospel of Beauty.” Members of the Order of Chaeronea observed an elaborate system of rituals, ceremonies, seals, codes, passwords, and a calendar dating from the year of the Battle of Cheronea (1897 was written as C2235). New members swore that “you will never vex or persecute lovers,” and that “all real love shall be to you as sanctuary.”

In 1914, Ives co-founded the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology with Edward Carpenter (see Aug 29) and Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14), to promote the scientific study of sex and with it a more rational attitude toward sexual matters. Ives was very interested in the penal reform movement, and wrote several articles and lectures on the subject. When he died in 1950, he left behind a large archive covering his lfie and work, including 122 volumes of diaries 45 volumes of scrapbooks, the latter consisting of clippings on such topics as sensational crimes, penal methods, cross-dressing, homosexuality and cricket scores. His diaries have been a treasure trove of information for historians examining the early gay rights movement in England. His papers were purchased in 1977 by the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, September 30

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Arizona Gay News (Tucson, AZ), September 15, 1978, page 8.

From Arizona Gay News (Tucson, AZ), September 15, 1978, page 8.

The popular Phoenix bar opened in 1971 as Mi Casa Es Su Casa, and then later as Casa de Roma, but it quickly became known simply as The Casa. It has been described as a small, plush bar with a small stage that hosted quite a number of renowned plays, musicals, and drag shows, often emceed by their comic drag headliner Cissy Goldberg (Keith Morris), who was famous for singing “The Man That Got Away” while supposedly drunk and pregnant. I’m not sure, but it looks like the location may be the parking lot for the Salvation Army.

Truman Capote: 1924-1984. He taught himself to read and write before he entered his first year at school. When he was about ten years old, he submitted his first short story, “Old Mrs. Busybody,” to the Mobile Press Register for a children’s writing contest. Capote later remembered, “I began writing really sort of seriously when I was about 11. I say seriously in the sense that like other kids go home and practice the violin or the piano or whatever, I used to go home from school every day, and I would write for about three hours. I was obsessed by it.” He remained the lifelong friend of author Harper Lee, who was a neighbor in Monroeville, Alabama. “Her father was a lawyer,” he remembered, “and she and I used to go to trials all the time as children. We went to the trials instead of going to the movies.” Those trials not only influenced Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird, but also helped lead to Capote’s greatest literary triumph, In Cold Blood.

Truman Capote in 1948, contemplating some outrage against conventional morality, no doubt.

His first novel however, was autobiographical; 1948’s Other Voices, Other Rooms told the story of a thirteen-year-old boy living in rural Alabama who was dealing with his emerging homosexuality. He described it as “an attempt to exorcise demons, an unconscious, altogether intuitive attempt, for I was not aware, except for a few incidents and descriptions, of its being in any serious degree autobiographical. Rereading it now, I find such self-deception unpardonable.” Other Voices, Other Rooms remained on The New York Times bestseller list for nine weeks. Everything about the novel was scandalous, including the Harold Halma photo of him on back of the dust jacket, which was considered rather homoerotic for 1948. The Los Angeles Times complained that he looked “as if he were dreamily contemplating some outrage against conventional morality,”  and he probably was. He relished the controversy.

He remained busy for the next decade, adapting novels for Broadway and churning out articles for The New Yorker. Then he struck gold again in 1958 with his collection, Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories. The title tale introduced the character of Holly Golightly, who became one of Truman’s most beloved characters. But the real turning point came with his 1966 “nonfiction novel,” In Cold Blood. It took him four years to write the book about the murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife and two children in Holcomb, Kansas. The acclaimed book brought a new style of storytelling to true events, and it launched Capote to full-on celebrity status. That same year, he threw the Black and White Ball in New York, which has gone down as one of the most legendary parties of the twentieth century. While he was famous for being a literary genius, he was also, increasingly, famous for being famous and for being among the famous. He was a regular fixture at Studio 54 and on the talk show circuit.

He loved the limelight, although it did take its toll. In the 1970s, he sank into drug and alcohol abuse, which got in the way of working on his epic novel, Answered Prayers. He bragged about it often, but years went by without any sign of the work. He finally adapted portions of it for a series of short stories in Esquire. The second of those stories, “La Côte Basque 1965,” would make him persona non grata among the Jet Set, with its salacious details of the personal lives of William S. Paley and Babe Paley, who had been among his close society friends. It was seen as a betrayal of confidences among Capote’s friends, and two more short stories resulted in Capote’s being cut off from the high society he craved. He died in 1984 of liver cancer at the home of Joane Carson, the ex-wife of TV host Johnny Carson. His royalties continued to support his partner Jack Dunphy until his death, and then went toward establishing a literary prize in honor of Newton Arvin, a former boyfriend, author and professor whose life was ruined when he was fired from Smith College for being gay.

The Velvet Voice

 80 YEARS AGO: Johnny Mathis: 1935. Chances are the last time you heard one of his songs was on television or in film, where his music is capable of setting just the right mood or sense of nostalgia. While he is frequently described as a romantic singer, his first love was jazz. It was during a performance at The Blackhawk club in San Francisco that he caught the attention of Columbia Records’ jazz producer George Avakian, who sent a telegram to the head office, “Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.” While Mathis enjoyed singing, the opportunity posed something of a dilemma for the San Francisco State College student: the track and field star was about to try out for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. He had to decide: the Olympics or a recording session. It was one or the other; it couldn’t be both. After consulting with his father, Mathis chose the recording career.

His first album Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song, was a jazz album. It didn’t sell well. His second album, produced by Mitch Miller, focused on soft, romantic ballads backed by the Ray Conniff Orchestra. That would prove to be the signature Mathis sound. In Late 1956, he recorded his two most popular songs, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” and “It’s Not For Me To Say,” followed soon by “Chances Are,” which hit Number 1 on the Billboard chart. By the end of the 1950s, hit singles were no longer his forte; his strength was as an album artist. Heavenly, released in1959, hit #1 in the Billboard album chart and went multi-platinum. A year earlier, he released Johnny’s Greatest Hits, the first ever Greatest Hits album in music history, spent 491 consecutive weeks on the Billboard top 100 album charts, earning him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.. At one point, he had five albums on the Billboard charts simultaneously. His last #1 single was 1978’s “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” a duet he recorded with Denice Williams.

Mathis, who never married, managed to keep his personal life out of the public eye. Maybe the fact that he had been an Olympic-caliber athlete helped to keep some of the rumors at bay. Nevertheless, the rumors were out there, which he acknowledged in a 1982 interview with Us Magazine, where he was quoted as saying “Homosexuality is a way of life that I’ve grown accustomed to.” But when he started receiving death threats because of that interview, he prevailed on Us Magazine to retract the statement. In 2006, Mathis again acknowledged his sexuality, saying that his reticence on the topic was “generational.”

Ari Shapiro

Ari Shapiro: 1978. The Fargo, North Dakota native grew up in Portland, Oregon and graduated from Yale in 2000. He began his career in radio journalism at NPR as Nena Totenberg’s intern before moving on as editorial assistant for Morning Edition. He worked as regional reporter in Atlanta and Miami, then he became NPR’s Justice Correspondent, then White House correspondent in 2010. Last year, he became the network’s London correspondent. This year, he returned stateside to take over as a host for All Things Considered.

His golden voice wasn’t just made for radio. He’s also recorded several songs with Pink Martini, including the song “But Now I’m Back for their fourth album, Splendor in the Grass, and sings in Hebrew and Ladino (a Judeo-Spanish language spoken by Sephardic Jews) for the group’s holiday album, Joy to the World. He also performed live with Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, Kew Gardens and the Olympia in Paris. Shapiro has been married to Michael Gottlieb, a White House lawyer, since 2004.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

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