The Daily Agenda for Saturday, June 1

Jim Burroway

June 1st, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Aarhus, Denmark; Alkmaar, Netherlands; Angers, France; Bradford, UK; Boston, MA; Buffalo, NY; Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo, ON; Davenport, IA; Dayton, OH; Dresden, Germany; Göteborg, Sweden; Honolulu, HI; Kiel, Germany; Lille, France; Lorraine, France; Los Ranchos, NM; Oxford, UK; Plano, TX; Queens, NY; Regensburg, Germany; Salt Lake City, UT; Santa Cruz, CA; Shanghai, China; Sonoma Co, CA Springfield, MA; Staten Island, NY; Tulsa, OK; Washington, DC; Waterford, Ireland; Winnipeg, MB; York, UK.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Beaver Lake, NY; Boston, MA; Long Beach, CA.

Other Events This Weekend: Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; Rainbow 5K Run/Walk, Indianapolis, IN; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; Gay Days Disney, Orlando, FL; Film Out, San Diego, CA; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA (Sponsor Rob Tisinai here!); Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
New York State’s Mazet Committee Investigation: 1899. Corruption was so rife in New York’s Tammany Hall that a special state special legislative committee was formed to investigate the mess. But much like today (and city’s Democratic bosses’ corruption notwithstanding), the Republican-led state investigation quickly took on a decidedly partisan tone, with committee members taking every opportunity to portray New York City as a den of filth and degeneracy. Among those called to testify was Joel S. Harris, a police investigator, who told of the goings-on at Paresis Hall, a popular hangout for “sexual degenerates”:

I was with Mr. (John R. Wood, another investigator) last night at Paresis Hall, No 392 Bowery. I observed the actions of the persons congregated there. I saw and heard immoral actions and propositions by degenerates there. Captain Chapman came in about five minute to 1, as we stepped out. … We had been in the place about an hour or so; plenty of time for information to get from Paresis Hall to the stationhouse. Captain Chapman didn’t say anything to us, but I overheard him say to the proprietor … that he would not stand for any dancing on souvenir night, and he wanted it shut up. I have been in that place before, recently, three or four times, and I have on each occasion noticed the same conduct as I have just testified to. That is a well-known resort for male prostitutes; a place having a reputation far and wide, to the best of my knowledge. I have heard of it constantly. I have never had any trouble in going in. You go in off the street with perfect ease. These men that conduct themselves there — well, they act effeminately; most of them are painted and powdered; they are called Princess this and Lady So and So and the Duchess of Marlboro, and get up and sing as women, and dance; ape the female character; call each other sisters and take people out for immoral purposes. I have had these propositions made to me, and made repeatedly. There is not difficulty in getting into that place.

Paresis Hall was one of several well-known “fairy resorts,” located on the Bowery at Fifth Street near Cooper Union. It was a combination of a brothel, dance hall and all-around proto-gay bar, patronized by working class immigrants and by organized parties of the well-heeled, who visited the establishments on “slumming” tours. Gender norms were much more definitional in those days, and so it was a common understanding , even among the gay men themselves though not necessarily a universal one, that in any coupling one would play the man and the other would play the woman — with the “man’s” heterosexuality remaining intact. It would take a number of years before the separation of sexual identity and sexual orientation as two distinct concepts would take hold. And so at the turn of the last century, dressing in drag carried greater significance beyond a style of entertainment or an expression of gender-bending. And when prostitution thrown in, it was also, for some of those in drag, a way of making a living, although not all male prostitutes dressed in drag. Those who didn’t tended to escape notice from tourists and police inspectors.

George P. Hammond, Jr., also testified:

I know this place called Paresis Hall, and under your directions I have visited it a number of times. I have been in the place since April 1st to the present time fully half a dozen times. I knew of it before, as an officer of the City Vigilance League. I am in the produce business. When this committee began its sessions I took a vacation on the produce business and came in to help you. The character of the place is such that what we call male degenerates frequent the place, and it is a nightly occurrence that they solicit men for immoral purposes. They have one woman who goes there they call a hermaphrodite. These male degenerates solicit men at the tables, and I believe they get a commission on all drinks that are purchased there; they get checks. I have observed five or six of these degenerates frequent that place, possibly more; the last we were there we saw a greater number than we did previously. Those five or six are always to be found there; almost invariably you will find them there .hey go from there across the street to a place called Little Bucks, opposite, and from there to Coney Island. I have never had any difficulty in getting in; not the least; I have been received with open arms. There are two ways of going in, one way up through the barroom, the other through a side entrance; any way at all that suits you can walk in … They have a piano there, and these fairies or male degenerates, as you call them, they sing some songs.

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976): pp 46-47.]

Police Impersonator Arrested in Blackmail Scheme: 1956. A small article in The Honolulu Advertiser highlighted a common danger that gay men faced in the 1950s:

A Honolulu fisherman has confessed he passed himself off as a vice-squad lieutenant to collect $27 “bail” money from a frightened restaurant worker, police said yesterday. [Note: $27 in 1956 is equivalent to about $230 today.]

The accused man, Bernal Waiwaiole, 28, of 1133 Maunakea St., is being held in custody until he puts up $50 bond for himself.

The 38-year-old restaurant worker told Detective Segundo Antonio he was resting on a bench in Waikiki shortly after midnight March 17 when Waiwaiole accosted him.

He said Waiwaiole flashed his wallet open and introduced himself as “Lt. Shaffer” of the vice squad. Then, he said, Waiwaiole demanded $25 “bail” money with the threat of locking him up.

The victim, frightened and with only $4.90 in his pocket, took a taxicab to his rooming house to borrow the balance of the money. Waiwaiole, who accompanied the restaurant worker, then demanded another $2.

The victim forked it over.

Waiwaiole was arrested Saturday morning after a friend of the restaurant worker told police about the incident.

Air Force Lab Suggests Development of “Gay Bomb”: 1994. In a scenario that sounds more like a Monty Python skit than an actual proposal for warfare, an Air Force lab suggested the development of some highly unusual non-lethal chemical weapons. According to a memorandum dated June 1, 1994, he Air Force’s Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, sought the development “Harassing, annoying, and “bad guy” identifying chemicals.

Three classes of chemicals were proposed. The first consisted of “chemicals that attract annoying creatures to the enemy position and make the creatures aggressive or annoying.” Rodents and stinging and biting bugs were suggested as suitable targets. The second class of chemicals would “make lasting but non-lethal markings on the personnel,” making them “easily identifiable (by smell or appearance) weeks later, making it impossible for them to blend with the local population.” If the chemicals had an irritating or annoying factor, so much the better. But it was the third category that was oddest of all:

Category #3: Chemicals that effect [sic] human behavior so that discipline and morals in enemy units is adversely effected [sic]. One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior. Another example would be a chemical that made personnel very sensitive to sunlight.

The brief memo conceded that such chemicals did not currently exist and “would need to be created. Manufacturing techniques would need to be developed for chemicals needed in large quantities.” Decontamination measures would also need to be developed. The entire development and testing program for all three categories of chemicals was projected to cost $7.5 million over six years, which was small potatoes for defense programs, even for 1994.

When news of the program broke in 2005, Marine Captain Daniel McSweeney told reporters that the memo was among hundreds of suggestions for non lethal weapons sent to the Pentagon each year, and said, “‘Gay Bomb’ is not our term. It was not taken seriously. It was not considered for further development.”

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?

Palmer

June 1st, 2013

A gay bomb? Wouldn’t that be “Can’t Stop the Music”?

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