The Daily Agenda for Sunday, November 4

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2012

Today Pride Celebration: Palm Springs, CA.

Also Today: Fall Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR.

California’s Prop 64 To Quarantine People With AIDS Defeated: 1986. Lyndon LaRouche’s name is all but forgotten today, but in the early 1980s the paranoid perennial Presidential candidate was regarded more as a joke than as a serious political thinker, even though he took himself very seriously. LaRouche typically ran as a self-styled Democrat (much to the consternation of real Democrats) while putting forth elaborate conspiracy theories and bizarre economic platforms. During his 1984 campaign, he managed to purchase 14 television spots in which he called Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale a Soviet KGB agent, and charged that Henry Kissinger and the Queen of England were in charge of worldwide drug cartels. He lost, of course, but didn’t go away.

Marchers protest Prop 64, known as the LaRouche Initiative, during San Francsico’s Freedom Day Parade, June 29, 1986.

In 1986, at the height of the hysterical anti-gay backlash that had sprung up in the midst of the growing AIDS epidemic, LaRouche founded his Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee (PANIC), which gathered enough signatures to place Proposition 64 onto the ballot. Prop 64, also known as the LaRouche Initiative,would have placed AIDS onto California’s list of communicable diseases under the state’s public health law, and that would have effectively forced anyone who was HIV-positive out of their jobs and schools and into a quarantine.

The LaRouchites said that such measures were required because AIDS was “worse than the Black Death” that devastated 14th-century Europe and Asia, and was “more deadly to mankind than a full-scale thermonuclear war.” They also claimed that AIDS had been created by the Soviets — or maybe the International Monetary Fund or maybe the World Bank — to kill “excess eaters” in Africa, and asserted that it could be spread like the common cold through casual contact or through mosquito bites. “A person with AIDS running around is like a person with a machine gun shooting up a neighborhood,” LaRouche told a San Francisco radio program. Health officials denounced LaRouche’s harebrained theories, but LaRouche held his ground. His Biological Holocaust Task Force charged that “AIDS is the first known epidemic which could potentially wipe out the entire human race” and that his detractors were “guilty of one of the most evil cover-ups in medical history.”

Flyer for a LaRouche-sponsored conference in Atlanta, 1992. (Click to enlarge.)

Despite support from Congressman William E. Dannemeyer, Prop 64 lost in a landslide, 71% to 29%. LaRouche brought it back again in 1988 as Prop 69, when it lost by an even wider margin. He also made that AIDS quarantine the centerpiece of his 1988 presidential campaign, but Prop 64 would prove to be his high water mark, such as it was. In October 1986, federal and state agents raided his heavily guarded compound in Loudon County, Virginia and offices in Massachusetts. A federal grand jury indicted LaRouche and several of his associates with credit card fraud and obstruction of justice. In 1988, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 11 counts of actual mail fraud and a count of conspiring to defraud the IRS, all part of a wider effort to obtain credit card loans in his name and those of his supporters that he had no intention of repaying. LaRouche, true to form, blamed the raid on Raisa Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s First Lady.

LaRouche served six years in prison, running again for President from prison in 1992. At one time, he shared his cell with televangelist Jim Bakker, who recalled, “to say LaRouche was a little paranoid would be like saying that the Titanic had a little leak.” He still hasn’t gone away. More recently, he posted an image of President Barack Obama as Hitler that began appearing at Tea Party and Town Hall meetings in 2009, and he helped to popularize the fiction that Obama’s health care reform included so-called “death panels.”

Barbara Grier: 1933. The Cincinnati native came from a colorful family: Her father was a womanizing former small town doctor who became a medical salesman, and her mother was a before-her-time feminist and actress. Her great-grandfather, James Jesse Strang, had five wives and headed a breakaway Mormon sect known as the Strangites which had a somewhat feminist bent. One of Strang’s wives, Grier’s great-grandmother, dressed in men’s clothing and travelled with him as a man on evangelical tours.

Grier herself didn’t fall very far from the family tree. She announced to her mother at the age of twelve that she was a homosexual. As Grier recalled later, her mother corrected her. “Mother said that since I was a woman, I wasn’t a homosexual. I was a lesbian. She also said that since I was twelve I was a little young to make this decision and we should wait six months to tell the newspapers.” That task out of the way, Grier then began collecting lesbian fiction, beginning with her mother’s copy of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. “Mother gave my wider world validation, Grier said. “It’s a pretty easy jump to see why I began collecting a lesbian fiction a few years later — Mother opened me up to many, many things.”

Shortly after Grier graduated from High School, she met Helen Bennett in the public library and they became partners for the next twenty years in Kansas City. While there, Grier met Jeannette Howard Foster (see Nov 3), who was herself in the process of compiling her groundbreaking bibliography of lesbian literature, Sex Variant Women in Literature. Foster mentored Grier in the art of bibliography, and Grier set about compiling her own extensive bibliographies, including several volumes of The Lesbian in Literature. It was during this time that Grier discovered the Daughters of Bilitis’ magazine The Ladder. “From the first issue I saw, the March 1956 issue, I said this is what I am going to spend the rest of my life doing.” Grier’s memory must have been a little off: The Ladder’s first issue wasn’t until October 1956. But the March 1957 issue inaugurated an important new column called “Lesbiana,” which was a running bibliography of lesbian fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry, along with a brief overview of each work. Grier wrote a letter to The Ladder, which was published in August of that year offering her own additions for “Lesbiana”:

“I have now reoeived and thoroughly read (and reread) five issues of THE LADDER, and I feel I must write and congratulate you on your magnificent work for us all. I enjoyed your attempt to list and annotate literature in your feature ‘Lesbiana’ most of all, as I know the years of frustration and work involved in collecting a library of gay literature. I now have some 300 works of fiction, poetry and drama, with perhaps 200 devoted to women. Your , column should help many others along the same lines. … I am enclosing with this letter a few additions you might wish for ‘Lesbiana’. …

G.D., Kansas City, Kansas

That anonymous introduction marked the start of fifteen years of Grier (as “Gene Damon”) reviewing lesbian-themed writings in The Ladder, beginning with the following month’s issue which featured her reviews of two works of pulp fiction. She continued contributing book reviews under multiple pseudonyms, including Lennox Strong and Vern Niven (her fifth cousin was British actor David Niven). During the nearly-disastrous 1968 Daughters of Bilitis convention (see Sep 26), Grier was named editor of The Ladder, and she immediately began remaking the magazine to reflect her own priorities. Without consulting with the national board, she dropped the subtitle “A Lesbian Review” and began focusing more on the growing women’s liberation movement. She expanded every section to add more fiction, poetry, and artwork, but cut back publication to six times a year instead of monthly.

But her boldest move occurred two years later when Rita Laporte, DoB’s President, walked into the Daughters of Bilitis office in San Francisco and walked out with the magazine’s production tools, correspondence, archives and, most importantly, its mailing list — all without the board and other officer’s knowledge. Laporte turned those materials over to Grier, and in the following issue (August/September 1970), The Ladder proclaimed itself an independent publication for “all women, that majority of human beings that has known oppression longer than anyone.”

While Laporte did the deed, Grier was suspected of instigating the move. According to Marcia Gallo’s Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement:

“It was Barbara’s idea,” (DoB co-founder) Phyllis Lyon insists. She believes to this day that Barbara Grier convinced Rita Laport to help her steal The Ladder. “Rita went to the place where the addressograph plates were made for mailing The Ladder to subscribers.” The small business was one that she and (her partner Del) Martin, along with three other friends, were partners in. One of them, Pat Durham, was there that day Laporte came in asking for the mailing materials. She knew Laport was the president of DOB so gave her the plates when asked. However, “she wondered, and later that same day called us,” Lyon explained. Laporte took the address plates as well as files from DOB’s office and transported all of it to her new home in Sparks, Nevada, near Reno. Although Grier still was editing the magazine from Kansas City, they began producing The Ladder from Nevada in early summer 1970 — away from San Francisco and DOB’s organizational center.

Grier defended the theft as an act of lesbian feminist salvation, explaining that they did it to save The Ladder from the DOB’s institutional weakness. “DOB was falling apart — we wanted The Ladder to survive. But Grier’s actions hastened The Ladder’s doom, now that it was cut off from DOB funding. It lasted another two years before folding in 1972. It barely outlasted the DOB as a national organization. Denied the powerful organizing tool and voice that The Ladder provided, the DOB board vote to disband the national organization and free the local chapters to operate autonomously.

Shortly after The Ladder’s demise, Grier launched Naiad Press, which for the next twenty-five year focused on publishing books “about lesbians who love lesbians, where the girl is not just going through a phase.” Naiad published more than 500 original titles, making it the world’s largest lesbian publisher. It brought back several out-of-print works, including Gertrude Stein’s prose poem “Lifting Belly” and countless classic lesbian pulp fiction titles from the 1950s and 1960s, which sparked an enormous revival of interest in the genre. Among Naiad’s notable works was Jane Rule’s Outlander, Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, Ann Bannon’s Beebo Brinker series and the 1985 anthology Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, which earned the condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church. When Grier serialized several o of the stories in Penthouse Forum, she earned additional condemnations from many of the nuns in the book as well as feminists who denounced the men’s porn magazine as exploitative of women. They also condemned her for cashing in on Naiad’s largest selling book. Grier defended the serialization, saying that it reached a larger audience of non-lesbian women who might never have encountered the stories elsewhere.

In 1985, Grier was given the President’s Award for Lifetime Service from the Gay Academic Union for her work in cataloguing and preserving lesbian literature. In 1991, she and her longtime partner Donna McBride were given the Lambda Literary Award for Publisher’s Service for their work with Naiad Press, and in 2002 they were honored with the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award. Grier’s own collection of lesbian literature is believed to be the world’s largest. Almost fifteen thousand books and several hundred feet of papers is now housed in the James C. Hormel Collection of the San Francisco Library. Grier died of cancer in Tallahassee in 2011 at the age of 78.

[Sources. Unsigned “Lesbiana.” The Ladder 1, no. 6 (March 1957): 12.

“G.D.” Letter to the editor. The Ladder 1, no. 11 (August 1957): 24-25.

Victoria A. Brownworth. “Barbara Grier (1933- ): Climbing the Ladder.” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (London: Routledge, 2002): 253-264.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement(Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007).]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-portrait, 1980

Robbert Mapplethorpe: 1946. Nearly banned in Cincinnati, shunned by the Corcoran, denounced by politicians, Mapplethorpe has become a kind of a shorthand for those who see contemporary art as sending civilization to hell in a hand basket and seek to control it. His studio work consisted mainly of rather common subjects: still lifes, orchids, lilies, and celebrities. Lots of celebrities, including Richard Gere, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Andy Warhol, and Patti Smith, who Mapplethorpe dated while still trying to figure out how to come to terms with his own sexuality.

It wasn’t until he began putting together the works for his 1989 solo tour The Perfect Moment, that he decided to include, for the first time, some recent photos that he had taken. They included several provocative, sexually explicit images of homoeroticism and BDSM. The American Family Association slammed the National Endowment for the Arts, which had funded the exhibit, which they called “nothing more than the sensational presentation of potentially obscene material.” Congressional leaders threatened to cut funding for the NEA. When that failed, Sen. Jesse Helm introduced an amendment prohibiting the NEA from funding “obscenity,” which cast a chilling effect on the arts for more than a decade.

The Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. had initially agreed to host the travelling exhibit, But on June 12, 1989, it announced its cancellation. That reversal, in turn, generated further public protests from defenders of art and free expression. In one protest, artists and LGBT advocates projected slides of Mapplethorpe’s photos on the museum’s facade. Pop artist Lowell Blair Nesbitt revoked his $1.5 million bequest to the Corcoran and several artists began canceling their own exhibits. The Corcoran’s director, Christina Orr-Cahall, issued a formal statement of apology in September, and resigned the following December.

When The Perfect Moment arrived at the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati in April of 1990, it drew large crowds and considerable controversy. Hamilton county’s prosecutor tried to shut the show down, but the judge ordered the city and county not to interfere with the exhibit. After the show was over, the center and its director, Dennis Barrie, were charged with “pandering obscenity,” in what may well be the first time an art museum has faced criminal charges over the contents of an exhibit. The museum and Barrie were both acquitted.

Mapplethorpe didn’t live to see the controversy over his photos. He died on March 9, 1989 of complications from AIDS at the age of 42.

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?


November 4th, 2012

i worked at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art at the time, and we hosted Mapplethorpe’s exhibition — as I recall, no protests, no police, no flap at all. But then, in the City of Clout, the “guardians of public morality” don’t have any.

It was a good show, too.


November 4th, 2012

The direct-democracy tools of the initiative, referendum and recall were all considered “progressive” when they began to appear in the US, around the turn of the last century.

They were adopted to thwart open and wholesale corruption in state legislatures.

In practice, however, they have been used almost exclusively for mischief. Think LaRouche, think Anita Bryant, and so many more.

With more than a century of poor examples at hand, and corruption still a norm in many places, we need to admit that these tools haven’t worked as intended, and rescind them.


November 4th, 2012

That Grier is very inspiring. As is her mother. The homosexual/lesbian line was hilarious and her support for her daughter is lovely to see, especially given the era.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts


Another Temporary Hiatus

Today's Agenda Is Brought To You By...

Today In History, 1971: Minnesota Couple Stake Claim To First American Same-Sex Marriage

Today's Agenda Is Brought To You By...

Today In History, 1954: "Perverts Vanish" From Miami

Born On This Day, 1907: Evelyn Hooker

Born On This Day, 1925: Fr. John J. McNeill

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.