The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, October 2

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2012

Baltimore Police Arrest 162 in Bar Raid: 1955. At 200 N. Gay Street — an appropriate address if there ever was one — stood the Pepper Hill Club, a nightclub popular with gay people. Because of its reputation, 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.”

The raid, which was billed as “the largest night club raid ever conducted in Baltimore,” took place in direct contravention of police policy. Just a few weeks earlier, police had conducted a mass raid at a straight nightclub, and outrage over that raid led police commissioner James Hepbron to ban mass raids. And so when the courts acquitted nearly everyone in the Pepper Hill case — only five were convicted of disorderly conduct — Circuit Judge James K. Cullen sharply reprimanded the police department for the mass arrests. 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.” The following year, the state legislature passed what became known as the “Pepper Hill Law” which formally outlawed mass arrests during bar raids.

Federal Panel Urges Decriminalizing Homosexuality:1969. A fourteen-member panel of doctors, lawers, and social and behavioral scientists led by UCLA’s Evelyn Hooker released a report urging the United States abolish all laws forbidding private same-sex relationships among consenting adults. The panel found, “Homosexuality presents a major problem for our society largely because of the amount of injustice and suffering entailed in it not only for the homosexual but also for those concerned about him.”

About existing anti-gay laws on the books, the panel noted, “There is evidence to indicate that entrapment is not uncommon, that existing laws are selectively enforced, and that serious injustice often results.” The report added, “Many homosexuals are good citizens, holding regular jobs and leading productive lives. The existence of legal penalties relating to homosexual acts means that the mental health problems of homosexuals are exacerbated by the need for concealment and the emotional stresses arising from this need and from the opprobrium of being in violation of the law.”

At the time the report was issued, homosexuality was a criminal offense in every state except Illinois. Between 1971 and 1980, twenty-two more states would descriminalize homosexuality. But progress slowed with the onset of the AIDS hysteria, when only fifteen states and the District of Columbia removed their anti-homosexuality statutes from the books between 1981 and 2003, when Lawrence v. Texas finally struck down anti-gay laws nationwide.

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.

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).

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

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