The Daily Agenda for Monday, October 15

Jim Burroway

October 15th, 2012

The first issue of ONE, January 1953.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
ONE Magazine Founded: 1952. The idea of publishing America’s first nationally-distributed magazine dedicated to issues confronting gay people began exactly sixty years ago today. Here is how ONE later described that fateful day:

On a Wednesday evening October 15, 1952, between sixty and seventy men and women had gathered in the high-ceiling rooms of one of Los Angeles’ older homes for another of the “Discussion Group Meetings” devoted to socio-sexual problems, and especially to homosexuality in modern society. These meetings convened at various times and in various parts of the city as a part of the activities of the Mattachine movement .

On this particular evening the debate had been lively, with a wide range of views expressed when someone said, “There ought to be some way of letting more people know these things.” Why not a magazine?

So active was the discussion of this idea that the chairman invited those most interested to adjourn to the kitchen for further discussion. This done, it was agreed to meet again the following week to mull over the proposal more fully.

The following Wednesday an ardent handful of vaguely enthusiastic people assembled just a stone’s throw from Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. They decided that a mimeographed newsletter with exposes of local police methods, general articles and some news Items might be tried. There was much desultory talk about Art, Oppression and The Partisan Review.

The following day the host for the evening, whose chance remark it was that had set off the whole chain reaction, resigned. He found, on reflection, that the whole Idea was unintelligent, philosophically untenable and useless! This is just a little sidelight on the history of ONE, illustrating a type of the problems encountered.

Quite undaunted, the remaining few met with an attorney a few nights later. They asked some floundering questions that now look rather absurd but then seemed Important. And during the rest of 1952 they continued meeting every few days, right on through the holidays as well. Supporters resigned, or just plain “fell by the wayside”. New faces appeared, and then were seen no more. Time was wasted on trivia, even frivolity. Yet, through it all their leitmotif, “There MUST be a magazine,” somehow persisted.

What would be its name? This was a tedious, wearying hassle, over endless cups of coffee. The “dignified and ambiguous” school argued against the “Iet’s-be-frank” group, The thesaurus and the Oxord Dictionary became the constant companions of everyone in the group.

You will laugh at some of the proposals. We did. Such as “Raport” — (too much like a Bronx family name, someone quipped). “The Bridge” — (is it an engineering journal?) There were many others, and even more preposterous. It was finally voted, in sheer desperation — for it had to be admitted that it hardly seemed sensible to debate endlessly over the name for a publication that did not yet exist — that the unborn infant would be christened, “The Wedge.” But try as best we might there was little enthusiasm about the decision.

The next assignment had been to discover a masthead-slogan. So the researches began again. Guy Rousseau, a hard-working young negro member of the group came up with one from Thomas Carlyle. It ran, “A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.”

The masthead for ONE’s inaugural issue, January 1953. The Thomas Carlyle quote would be featured in every issue throughout ONE’s existence. (Click to enlarge.)

As a flash of inspiration it hit everyone at once. That was it! For there was the rapport. There was the wedge. And the bridge. “Makes all men one.” The name would be … ONE, for that is what everyone had wanted all along, a means for bringing about oneness, a coming together with understanding. The bitterness and hatreds, the persecution and injustices and discrimination would be stopped by dispelling ignorance , by showing THE OTHERS that all of us are humans alike, all of us living together on the same earth, under the same skies.

Surely there was “a mystic bond of brotherhood,” and ONE would tell them about it, at last all should see that men are brothers indeed, slde-by-side, all of them reaching toward the very same stars in the heavens. ONE would do this!

It was a rather dramatic moment. The little handful sat looking at each other in startled discovery. Something tremendous loomed up and around and among them, a challenge, electric with power and momentum. They well realized that there were obstacles before them, obstacles of almost terrifying proportions. There was no one who felt very confident. But a new concept had been born, a concept that thenceforth took possession of their loyalties and irresistibly carried them along.

Those fateful meetings took place in the home of Dorr Legg (a.k.a. Bill Lambert), located at the corner of  South Dalton and West 27th Street in Los Angeles (the house was torn down in 1958). Legg became ONE’s business manager. Three others present were Martin Block (he became ONE’s president), Dale Jennings (vice president) and Don Slater (secretary), who together made up ONE’s Editorial Board. Guy Rousseau (real name: Bailey Whitaker) became circulation manager. Jean Corbin (as “Eve Ellore”) joined the group as the magazine’s primary artist. Other important contributors included Jim Kempner, Fred Frisbie (as “George Mortenson”), Irma “Corky” Wolf (as “Ann Carll Reid”), and Stella Rush (as “Sten Russell”). As you can tell, pseudonyms were common, though not always for reasons you might think. While some authors consistently wrote under one pseudonym, Jennings, Block, Legg, Kempner and others often wrote under multiple personas, often in addition to their real names, in order to give readers the impression that ONE’s staff was larger than it actually was.

ONE debuted in January of 1953, and included an article by Dale Jennings describing his 1952 arrest by Los Angeles police on a morals charge and his rare acquittal by a jury (see Jun 23). Im 1958, ONE won an important Supreme Court victory when the Court decided that the U.S. Post Office could not refuse to distribute ONE because homosexual content, per se, was not pornographic (see Jan 13). ONE ceased publication in 1968.

[Source: “How ONE began.” ONE 3, no. 2 (February 1955): 8-15.]

Press conference announcing the formation of the National Gay Task Force. Front row L-R: Ron Gold, Howard Brown, Bruce Voeller, Nathalie Rockhill. Seated behind L-R: Martin Duberman, Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny. (Click to enlarge.)

National Gay Task Force Founded: 1973. Dr. Howard Brown made the front page of The New York Times two weeks earlier when the the former Health Administrator for New York Mayor John Lindsay’s administration came out of the closet. Brown had resigned in 1967 when he learned than an investigative reporter planned to expose homosexuals in City Hall.  His secret was not revealed, which meant the reasons for his resignation remained a mystery until he came out 1973. The response, he said, was overwhelmingly favorable, so much so that he decided to establish a new gay advocacy group. This new group, the National Gay Task Force (later to become the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, or NGLTF) would be the first such organization with a truly national scope. According to an article in The Village Voice:

The Gay Task Force will work nationally on gay civil rights legislation and discrimination against gay parents in custody and visitation cases, and will coordinate information from all parts of the country about the progress toward gay civil rights. According to a spokesman for the group, a major coming out of the closet of other well-known people is expected in the near future.

Dr. Bruce Voeller served as its first Executive Director. Other leaders of the new organization included historian Martin Duberman, pioneering activist Barbara Gittings, and Ronald Gold who would had already played a pivotal role in the APA’s pending delisting of homosexuality as a mental illness later that year.

“No I don’t have it. Do you?” White House Spokesman Larry Speakes plays the comedian over AIDS.

AIDS a Laughing Matter at the White House: 1982. The very first public mention of AIDS at the White House was not an auspicious one. It was the subject of jokes and laughter between the press and White House Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speaks:

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement ­ the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?

SPEAKES: What’s AIDS?

Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?

SPEAKES: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)

Q: No, I don’t.

SPEAKES: You didn’t answer my question.

Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President ­

SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)

Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?

SPEAKES: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.

Q: Does the President, does anyone in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?

SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any ­

Q: Nobody knows?

SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.

Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping ­

SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no ­ (laughter) ­ no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.

Q: The President doesn’t have gay plague, is that what you’re saying or what?

SPEAKES: No, I didn’t say that.

Q: Didn’t say that?

SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn’t you stay there? (Laughter.)

Q: Because I love you Larry, that’s why (Laughter.)

SPEAKES: Oh I see. Just don’t put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)

Q: Oh, I retract that.

SPEAKES: I hope so.

Q: It’s too late.

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?

Marcus

October 15th, 2012

That White House response is unbelievably callous. Was there any backlash? I Googled and couldn’t find anything.

Alex

October 15th, 2012

Remember that the reporter asking those AIDS questions was Lester Kinsolving, a notorious nutjob who currently reports for WorldNetDaily and is known for using phrases like “the sodomy lobby” to describe gay-rights organizations. Speakes wasn’t exactly dealing with a sensible journalist.

Russell

October 16th, 2012

The National Gay Task Force’s founding mission was to “work nationally on gay civil rights legislation and discrimination against gay parents in custody and visitation cases.” What a complete and utter fail of an organization. Forty years later, they haven’t accomplished their basic goals from 1973.

And their focus is increasingly on issues that earn the group points for political correctness but which have nothing whatsoever to do with gay people or gay civil rights. They have not been of any use in the 4 marriage campaigns. They haven’t helped in WA or ME. MD is only minutes away from their offices, but the so-called Task Force was nowhere to be seen on Marylanders United’s recent disclosure of campaign supporters. No, the “Task Force” had more important fish to fry, like its recent report on Eskimo transgenders in Alaska. No doubt the affected population, which is predominantly heterosexual and probably comprises fewer than 100 people, appreciated the shoddy study, which will now be used to gather dust on a bookshelf in the Task Force’s DC offices.

HRC is improving rapidly under new leadership, but the “Task Force” would do us all a favor if it would disband and stop sucking up gay money.

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