Other Events This Weekend: MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Ft. Worth, TX; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
The Bishop of Clogher Defrocked for “Sodomitical Practices”: 1822. On July 19, 1822, Bishop Percy Jocelyn, the Anglican Bishop of Clogher in the Church of Ireland was caught in, shall we say, a most compromising position with a Grenadier Guardsman, John Moverly, at the White House Pub’s back room (apparently, they had ‘em even then) in Westminster. They were caught by the pub’s proprietor, and dragged through the streets by a mob, mostly naked as they were found, to a nearby jail. Bishop Clogher was granted bail a few days later, but the soldier remained in jail:
Lord Sefton when to see the soldier in prison. He says he is a fine soldierlike man and has no the air which these wretches usually have. The Bishop took no precautions, and it was next to impossible he should not have been caught. He made a desperate resistance when taken away, and if his breeches had not been down they think he would have got away. It seems that the soldier will be proceeded against with the greatest vigour, and the Magistrate is much blamed for having taken such small bail as that which he required. The Duke will not spare the Soldier. Lord Lauderdale said the other day that the greatest dissatisfaction would pervade the public mind at the escape of the Bishop and the punishment of the Soldier, and the people, who cannot discriminate, or enter into nice points of the law, will only see in such apparent injustice a disposition to shield the offender in the higher classes of society from the consequences of his crime, while the law is allowed to take its course with the more humble culprit.
Eventually, the soldier was released on bail as well. Both fled the city and were never seen again (although the Bishop was reportedly later seen in Paris as though nothing had happened). The Bishop’s ecclesiastical trial was set for October 21, and it went on despite his absence. According to the court record:
…It [the evidence] also proved the fatal and depraved purposes for which he associated himself with a private soldier, wholly beneath him in rank and station, as the unworthy and vicious partner of his depravity and guilt. The place chosen by him for that base purpose was also unfitted to him as a prelate of the church, the man of high rank and station; it was a common alehouse, situate in St. Alban’s-place in the city of Westminster. In his career of vice, he was very fortunately stopped, before he had perpetrated the last foul act, or crime, which he himself designed; and by which, if committed, his life would have been forfeited to the offended law of the country. Being found by the watchman and others, in a situation disgraceful and degrading to him, he was made a prisoner, in order to be removed to the watch-house of the district.
The bishop wasn’t actually convicted of the capital offense of sodomy itself because English law required that the act be, err, fully consummated, a standard of proof that was difficult to reach. Hence the observation that he was caught before perpetrating “the last foul act, or crime” of the, um, emission of seed. But the evidence was strong enough to strip the bishop of his office for “the crimes of immorality, incontinence, Sodomitical practices, habits, and propensities, and neglect of his spiritual, judicial, and ministerial duties.”
It’s almost impossible for a scandal to unravel worse than this one. First, the fact that a Bishop was caught in flagrante delicto was itself quite shocking. That was compounded by the perception that he had been given preferential treatment with his early release with very low bail. And if all that wasn’t enough, the Bishop was a well-known member of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. All of this hypocrisy was too much for Londoners to bear, and for many weeks afterward it was unsafe for members of the clergy to be seen on the streets. But it all made great material for satirists:
The Devil to prove the Church was a farce
Went out to fish for a Bugger.
He baited his hook with a Frenchman’s arse,*
And pulled up the Bishop of Clogher.
*Moverly was from a French family.
Dale Jennings: 1917. If anyone knows anything about Jennings, it’s probably limited to just one thing: his false arrest in February of 1952, from within his own home, on charges of soliciting a police officer for immoral acts. It wasn’t the fact that he was arrested which was so notable, but that he chose to fight the charges while also refusing to deny that he was gay. A gay man arguing before a jury that he was innocent was so unusual it made headlines across the country. Those headlines only got bigger when the jury deadlocked 11-1 for acquittal and the charges were dismissed (see Jun 23).
If he was known for anything else, then perhaps it was because two years earlier, Jennings helped to found the Mattachine Society with Harry Hay, Chuck Rowland, Rudi Gernreich, and Hay’s student at the California Labor School, Bob Hull, who happened to be Jenning’s boyfriend at the time. Jennings had met Hay and Gernreich while involved with the Communist Party in Los Angeles. When Jennings was arrested in 1952, it was the Mattachines who came to his rescue by raising money, hiring a lawyer, and generating enough publicity about the case that it would come to the attention of those newspapers which wrote about it. The case also had the effect of raising the Mattachine Society’s profile among gay people who previously hadn’t known about the secretive group, and its membership skyrocketed.
That it was Jennings who galvanized the Mattachines and gave it a sense of purpose is, perhaps, the greatest irony. Jennings, despite his flirtations with Communism, had little patience for the political theorizing and navel-gazing that took place in the early Mattachine meetings. One early Mattachine member recalled that as the group droned on about “the pain and sorrow, the desperate loneliness of being homosexual and afraid, always having to lie and hide,” Jennings “struggled not to laugh out loud.” He also had little patience for Hays’s insistence that homosexuals made up a distinct minority who were inherently and qualitatively different from heterosexuals. Jennings maintained that there were no differences whatsoever between men who preferred sex with women and men who preferred sex with men. “How could you construct a cultural minority out of a group of people with little in common except what they did in bed?”, he asked. Where Hays wanted the right to be publicly gay, Jennings wanted nothing more than the right to be left alone.
Jennings may expressed a desire to be left alone, but his combative nature ran counter to any desire he might have had to leave things well enough alone. As a budding novelist and playwright, he felt like he had a lot to say and wanted to say it. And so during another one of the interminable Mattachine meetings, he found himself drifting into the kitchen where a smaller group of people were discussing the need for a nationally-distributed magazine (see Oct 15) — a real magazine, professionally typset and graphically designed rather than the typewritten and mimeographed newsletters that had tried to pose as pale imitations. Jennings’s contributions would prove to be crucial: he was the only one of that small group who knew the first thing about the mechanics of publishing: editing, layout, typesetting, artwork, advertising, and so forth. He also provided access to the magazine’s first printing press: the first issue was printed by Jennings’s sister and brother-in-law in their basement.
Jennings wound up serving on the editorial board of ONE Magazine when it made its debut in 1953. As was common practice with ONE in its early days, Jennings not only wrote under his own byline, but under other pseudonyms as well to provide the illusion that ONE’s staff was larger than it really was. That first issue included his first-person account of his arrest and acquittal under his own name, along with two other articles as “Heironymus K.” and “Elizabeth Lalo.” In ONE’s third issue, as “Jeff Winters,” Jennings wrote “Homosexuals Are Not a People,” which, as the title suggested, reiterated his contention that homosexuals did not make up a distinct minority (“Homosexuality is today’s great irrelevancy.”). As “R. Noone,” he lambasted President Eisenhower’s executive order barring the employment of gay people in the federal government (see Apr 27), and in 1954, again as “Jeff Winters,” he wrote “Can Homosexuals Organize?”, a very critical history of the Mattachine Society which had just kicked out its founders and reorganized itself as a much more conservative organization (“The present Society however invites certain destruction by denial of all those things for which the Mattachine was founded. …From the trembling president on down to the least officer, they are terrified.”).
Jennings tenure as ONE’s first editor-in-chief was short-lived. He was headstrong and opinionated, which led to constant fights with business manager Dorr Legg (a.k.a. Bill Lambert), Don Slater (see Aug 21), and others. That divisiveness — and Legg’s unease over Jennings’s Communist ties — led to Jennings’s departure in March of 1954. (He was replaced as Editor in Chief by Irma “Corky” Wolf, who went by the pseudonym Ann Carll Reid.) As Jennings acknowledged nearly three decades later to Slater:
Bill Lambert got rid of me at almost the precise time that the local red cell took my membership card away from me for being a carnivore (gay) and hence a security risk. Naturally both organizations were quite correct and should have been more circumspect about letting me come near them in the very beginning.
After leaving the Mattachines and ONE, Jennings more or less dropped out. In 1968, he published his first novel, The Ronin, a recasting of an old Zen Buddhist myth, which found a somewhat surprising success in Japan. His second book, The Cowboys (1971), was based on a story he had sold to Warner Brothers and made into a John Wayne movie. He fought with the publishers to get his book published; they balked at the homoerotic passages. He finally got it published by a smaller imprint, but it was the $150,000 he got from Warner Brothers that secured his financial future.
Jennings bought a ranch outside of Los Angeles, but then lost it in a lawsuit to a former lover. He then moved to northern California, but decided in the 1980s to move back to southern California and reconnect with the gay community. But by then, the gay community had long since moved on and had forgotten him. Not only that, but the gay community had moved left politically while Jennings moved hard to the right. He did manage to reestablish contact with Don Slater in the 1980s, and they maintained a correspondence that lasted until Slater died in 1997. In 1984, Jennings sent one Christmas card to Slater lamenting, “When I was a loud-mouthed commie, people fled the Mattachine in the thousands; now that the prevailing shade this season is red, my conservatism is worse than damned: it’s ignored.”
Through the 1990s, Jennings became reclusive, surly, and a heavy drinker. He spent every day working on his memoirs on a word processer, but he often lost an entire day’s work by shutting the machine off without remembering to hit save. He began losing his memory, but was cognizant enough to ensure that his papers would go to Slater’s Homosexual Information Center Archives, which are currently housed at California State University at Northridge. He died on May 11, 2000 at the age of 82.
[Source: C. Todd White. "Dale Jennings (1917-2000): ONE's Outspoken Advocate." In Vern L. Bullough (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 83-93.]
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