The Daily Agenda for Monday, October 7
October 7th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Liberace’s “Girl” Meets Mom: 1954. So here’s something I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of:
Liberace’s Girl Meets Mom, But No Wedding, By George!
Hollywood, Calif., Oct 7. — Pianist Liberace says that “there isn’t a word of truth to the report that I am engaged” to marry dancer Joanne Rio.
The report popped up yesterday and Liberace promptly denied it.
He said: “I was misquoted and I am very embarrassed for Joanne, who is a lovely girl and an understanding friend.
“I don’t want to marry anyone for at least two years — until I’ve made the motion picture I am planning for Warner Brothers and have a chance to tour Europe, which I plan to do next year.”
Friends say he dates other girls, but that Joanne is the only one he brings home to mother.
Miss Rio is a pretty brunette. She is the daughter of Eddie Rio, West Coast head of the American Guild of Variety Artists.
Liberace had no sooner announced his engagement to Rio when he quickly backtracked before the day was out. It appears that Joanne Rio was something of an on-again/off-again for Lee. They even appeared together a month later on the cover of TV Guide, where Rio was introduced as Liberace’s “favorite date.” “If it’s God’s will that Liberace and I get married, then we will. I’m leaving everything in God’s hands,” she told the magazine. God’s hands, apparently, were busy elsewhere.
S.F. Mayoral Candidate Charges Incumbent With Allowing City to Become “Deviate Headquarters”: 1959. The Mattachine Society’s sixth annual convention in Denver, conducted over the Labor Day weekend in September that year, was judged to be one of the more successful conventions in the organization’s history. It featured a good roster of speakers, positive publicity from the Denver press, and little jostling among factions. Even the business meeting was rather routine, with a few dull resolutions passed, often unanimously, along with the announcement that the next convention, in 1960, would be held in San Francisco, where the Society was headquartered.
But one of those quiet, noncontroversial resolutions became headline news as San Francisco was gearing up for the mayoral elections in November, when the tiny The San Francisco Progress’s October 7 edition blared,”Sex Deviates Make S.F. Headquarters,” and placed the blame for it on incumbent mayor George Christopher:
A just-completed survey of vice conditions in San Francisco discloses that this city, during the Christopher administration, has become the national headquarters of the organized homosexuals in the United States. It is a sordid tale, one which will revolt every decent San Franciscans, but one which the San Francisco Progress believes is of vital importance to our city, and therefore must be told.
The survey was made in an effort to determine the truth or falsity of George Christopher’s claim that he has given the people a “clean city.”
The facts are that some of the big call girl operations and a number of minor bookmakers have been put out of business. But in their place another form of vice – – homosexualism — has been allowed to flourish to a shocking extent, and under shocking circumstances.
Last month at a convention of deviates in Denver, Colorado, a resolution, passed unanimously, praised the mayor of San Francisco — by name — for an “enlightened administration” which has permitted the group to flourish here.
The paper published a photocopy of the official resolution, which praised “the efforts of law enforcement authorities in San Francisco based upon an officially administered entity, enlightened, and just City Government and Police Force,” and expressed its appreciation “to Mayor George Christopher and Police Chief Thomas Cahill for their persistent and consistent efforts to conduct their administration with these high ideals foremost in mind.” City Assessor Russell L. Wolden, the Democratic candidate who was challenging Mayor Christopher in the November election, immediately jumped on the issue, telling The Progress:
“This is a matter of grave concern for every parent,” Russell L. Wolden, assessor and candidate for mayor, declared today. “It exposes teenagers to possible contact and contamination in a city admittedly overrun by deviates. For a city administration to permit this situation to exist is nothing less than scandalous. The whole rotten mess cries for investigation.”
Wolden repeated his accusations against Christopher in a speech broadcast on radio that night, and described the Mattachine as an organization that “conducted classroom instruction for deviates” and published literature of “the most lurid, disgusting and distasteful sort.”
But the very next day, the entire campaign against Christopher began to fall apart when city’s three major newspaper, The Chronicle, The Examiner and The News-Call-Bulletin all uncovered the identity of man responsible for the resolution. William P. Brandhove, a Wolden campaign worker, had signed himself up as a Mattachine member just days before the convention, where he introduced his resolution to the executive board. “We thought it was just an innocent expression in favor of tolerance in San Francisco,” Mattachine secretary Donald Lucas told the newspapers. “We had no idea that it was intended or might be used for any political purpose.”
When reporters tried to find Brandhove for comment, they found that he had quickly checked out of the Grand Hotel in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, which was then the heart of the gay community. They eventually tracked him down in his Wolden campaign bumper sticker-plastered car. Brandhove admitted that he had, in fact, attended the convention. “I’m not a homosexual but I joined the Mattachine Society only to find out about its activities.” He also tried to distance the Wolden campaign from his activities, although he admitted to turning over copies of the resolution to his attorney, Ralph Taylor — who also just happened to be Wolden’s campaign treasurer — telling Taylor to “make sure it’s used.”
Brandhove’s name was already well known among San Francisco’s political establishment. He had been involved in a similar smear campaign in a 1948 congressional contest and the 1949 mayor’s race. He was also wrapped up in a local blackmail trial involving a small-time publisher of a scandal magazine who extorted large sums of money in exchange for agreeing not to print allegations of homosexual affairs. The Chronicle said Brandhove was “known to police and the underworld as an unreliable stool pigeon,” and noted that he had been arrested in 1930 in Jersey City, New Jersey on a charge of sodomy.
The papers immediately branded the entire operation a “smear,” which not only tarnished the good name of the honorable mayor, but the city itself and its citizenry, a charge underlined by the mayor himself. “In a blind drive for office, my opponent has degraded the city,” said Christopher. “Under no circumstances would I covet any office so much that I would stoop to maligning somebody.” Democrats also lambasted Wolden, with Democrat Club president Franklyn K. Brann saying “I didn’t know the Mattachine Society was running for Mayor.” The Chronicle and The News-Call-Bulletin called for Wolden to withdraw from the race. The Examiner blasted him for offending “the tenets of political decency of the Democratic Party that he so recently joined.” But instead of calling for Wolden to withdraw, The Examiner instead called on voters to kick him out.
And so they did. Seventy-one precent of registered voters turned out on November 3 and re-elected Christopher with in a 61% to 39% landslide. Meanwhile, the Mattachine Society, which had lodged a $1 million lawsuit against Wolden, reported that they were “deluged with telephone calls and visits from friends, well-wishers, curiosity-seekers and others” as a result of the controversy. Wolden managed to stay on as the city’s assessor until 1966 when, after twenty-seven years in office, he was convicted on eight counts of bribery and one of conspiracy for accepting payoffs in exchange for lower tax assessments.
[Sources: Wes Knight. “Smear Drive.” The Mattachine Review 5, no. 11 (November 1959): 12-15.
“Sex deviates make S.F. Headquarters: ‘Enlightened’ city rule earns praise.” San Francisco Progress (October 7, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 15-24.
Yancey Smith. “‘Mystery man’ seen in ‘smear’.” The San Francisco News-Call-Bulletin (October 8, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 24-25.
George Draper. “Praise of Mayor’s policy on deviates engineered by ex-police informer.” The San Francisco Chronicle (October 9, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 26-29.]
Dan Savage: 1964. The Chicago native grew up attending Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary North, which is described as a high school for young men considering the priesthood. (Other graduates include Cardinal Edward Egan and sociologist/novelist Fr. Andrew Greeley.) After graduating from the University of Illinois in Urbana, Savage moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he got to know Tim Keck, co-founder of The Onion, who was about to go to Seattle to establish the alt-weekly The Stranger. Savage told him to make sure the paper had an advice column because “everybody claims to hate ‘em, but everybody seems to read ‘em.”
To Savage’s surprise, he ended up being that columnist, when his sex advice column “Savage Love,” appeared in the very first edition of The Stranger in 1991. Since then, “Savage Love” has been the source of a number of well-knowin neologisms: GGG (good, giving, game, to describe an ideal sex partner), Monogamish, Pegging, “The Campsite Rule” (when starting a relationship with a younger partner, leave them in better emotional and physical shape than when you started), Saddlebacking (the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities), and, his most famous one, Santorum.
In late 2010, when Billy Lucas became the latest in a tragic line of teens who had killed themselves because of anti-gay bullying, Savage wrote:
I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better. But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.
Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.
The way to reach those kids was through videos uploaded on the Internet. Since 2010, the It Gets Better project has hosted some 50,000 videos from around the world with a simple message: just hold on and it will get better. The project was given a special 2012 Emmy award for “strategically, creatively and powerfully utilizing the media to educate and inspire.”
Savage’s most recent coinage is NALT Christians (meaning Not All Like That), which refers to the response that he had been getting when criticizing anti-gay Christians. When other Christians would remind him that “we’re not all like that,” he took to calling them NALT Christians and challenged them to speak up about their beliefs: “Don’t tell me, tell them,” he’d say. That has led to the establishment of the NALT Christians Project, which, like the It Get’s Better project, provides a platform for NALT Christians to share their beliefs that there is nothing sinful about being LGBT.
Savage is editor of The Stranger, and his “Savage Love” column appears in alternative weeklies across North America. He writes his advice column at the desk once owned by Eppie Lederer, better known as Ann Landers. Savage also records a weekly Savage Lovecast podcast. He has written six books, edited another, contributed op-eds for The New York Times, and has made numerous appearances on talk shows and news programs. His latest book, American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics, is available in hardcover and Kindle.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?