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The Daily Agenda for Monday, July 22

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2013

New Orlean’s Dixie’s Bar, one of the South’s few openly gay bars in the 1950s.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
55 YEARS AGO: New Orleans Launches Raids Against Gay Bars: 1958. The Big Easy has long enjoyed a mind-your-own business reputation where personal and public morality is concerned. But that “Laissez les bons temps rouler” mindset didn’t extend to the city’s gay citizenry, and much like other major cities across the nation, anti-gay campaigns often heated up ahead of local elections. Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Morrison had earned a national reputation as a dynamic reformer, even as he blocked efforts to reform the city’s notoriously corrupt police department. But in 1958, city councilmen complained that the police were sitting on their hands while the French Quarter was being invaded by roving bands of homosexuals, alledgedly from other cities since, apparently, such a thing was unheard of there, the city’s storied tolerance for sexual eccentrics in music, literature and the arts notwithstanding. One councilman complained of “men with blondined hair and awful looking people all day and all night in the French Quarter,” and wondered why police had only made 86 arrests in two years on charges of lewd behavior or wearing women’s clothing. Police Supt. Provosty A. Dayries responded, “You can’t just point to someone and say he or she is a deviate — that is one of the frustrating things about the problem.”

Amid complaints about lax police enforcement and courts that insisted that those arrested should be charged with something specific and based on real evidence, Mayor Morrison appointed his half-brother, Jacob Morrison to head a citizen’s committee to look into the problem. With pressure increasing across all sectors of city govermnent, Supt. Dayries launched a raid against known “deviate bars,” arresting eighteen people (mostly bar employees) on charges of vagrancy, disturbing the peace, and “no visible means of support.” Thirty others were warned to stay away. While most of the charges were dropped the next day, the names and addresses of those arrested were printed in the newspapers. That raid was tiny, compared to another “sweeping drive” which resulted in 325 arrested in a single night. One city resident, in a letter to the editor to a local paper, noted the irony of the New Orleans political establishment enforcing morals in the city: “I consider it a piece of unmitigated gall for anyone, be he District Attorney or City Councilman, to tell me what I may see or with whom I may associate without endangering my morals. I must confess that were I to seek guidance in matters of morals, I should not likely turn to politicians.”

[Source: "Dal McIntire" (either Jim Kepner or Don Slater). "Tangents: News and Views." ONE 6, no. 8 (September 1958): 17-20.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
50 YEARS AGO: Emily Saliers: 1963. A singer-songwriter and one half of Indigo Girls, she plays the guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and the Greek bouzouki. She met her Indigo Girls partner, Amy Ray, when they were in elementary school together in Decatur, Georgia. Both Girls are lesbian, although Saliers jokes that she prefers “gay” because “lesbian has three syllables.” In 2004, Saliers co-wrote a book with her father, retired theology professor Don Saliers, titled A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice, and the two of them conducted a combined book tour and church appearances around the country, including a stop at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  The Indigo Girls released their latest album, Beauty Queen Sister, in 2011, and they are currently touring as a duo, with several dates accompanied by a full band and symphony orchestras in select cities.

40 YEARS AGO: Rufus Wainwright: 1973. His mother was the late Kate McGarrigle, and his father is Loudon Wainwright III. With genes like that, it’s no wonder Rufus won a 1989 Genie Award for Best Original Song when he was only  sixteen years old. Rolling Stone named his eponymous debut album as one of the best albums of the year and named him the Best New Artist of 1998. Politically, he came late to the marriage equality bandwagon. “I wasn’t a huge gay marriage supporter before I met Jörn (Weisbrodt) because I love the whole old-school promiscuous Oscar Wilde freak show of what ‘being gay’ once was. But since meeting Jörn that all changed.” He and Weisbrodt became parents in 2011, and they married in Montauk, New York in 2012. His seventh studio album, Out of the Game, was released that same year. He is currently bringing his show to Europe, and to several U.S.and Canadian cities this fall.

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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