The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, October 15

Jim Burroway

October 15th, 2013

The first issue of ONE, January 1953.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
ONE Magazine Founded: 1952. The idea of publishing America’s first nationally-distributed magazine dedicated to issues confronting gay people took root when bored Mattachine members in Los Angeles were questioning whether the Society would ever amount to much. Martin Block, who was one of the earliest society members, recalled “We had these meetings and we’d kick some ideas around and sometimes they would be very stimulating but very often they wouldn’t be.”

Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) was similarly board and “didn’t have the patience to sit there night after night and hear everybody whine over and over again how tough it was to be homosexual.” Not that it wasn’t tough: Jennings had just come off of a rare victory when he was acquittal by a jury after being falsely entrapped by police on a morals charge (see Jun 23). But that, too, was part of the problem. Another member, Dorr Legg (a.k.a Bill Lambert, whose  home they were meeting in) agreed. “We were just in a fury and everybody began sputtering: ‘We’ve got to tell them!’ Up speaks this little pipsqueak: ‘Well, you need a magazine.’ It was just like a match to gasoline.”

Here is how ONE later picked up the story:

The following Wednesday an ardent handful of vaguely enthusiastic people assembled just a stone’s throw from Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. They decided that a mimeographed newsletter with exposes of local police methods, general articles and some news Items might be tried. There was much desultory talk about Art, Oppression and The Partisan Review.

The following day the host for the evening, whose chance remark it was that had set off the whole chain reaction, resigned. He found, on reflection, that the whole Idea was unintelligent, philosophically untenable and useless! This is just a little sidelight on the history of ONE, illustrating a type of the problems encountered.

Quite undaunted, the remaining few met with an attorney a few nights later. They asked some floundering questions that now look rather absurd but then seemed Important. And during the rest of 1952 they continued meeting every few days, right on through the holidays as well. Supporters resigned, or just plain “fell by the wayside”. New faces appeared, and then were seen no more. Time was wasted on trivia, even frivolity. Yet, through it all their leitmotif, “There MUST be a magazine,” somehow persisted.

What would be its name? This was a tedious, wearying hassle, over endless cups of coffee. The “dignified and ambiguous” school argued against the “Iet’s-be-frank” group, The thesaurus and the Oxord Dictionary became the constant companions of everyone in the group.

You will laugh at some of the proposals. We did. Such as “Raport” — (too much like a Bronx family name, someone quipped). “The Bridge” — (is it an engineering journal?) There were many others, and even more preposterous. It was finally voted, in sheer desperation — for it had to be admitted that it hardly seemed sensible to debate endlessly over the name for a publication that did not yet exist — that the unborn infant would be christened, “The Wedge.” But try as best we might there was little enthusiasm about the decision.

The next assignment had been to discover a masthead-slogan. So the researches began again. Guy Rousseau, a hard-working young negro member of the group came up with one from Thomas Carlyle. It ran, “A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.”

The masthead for ONE’s inaugural issue, January 1953. The Thomas Carlyle quote would be featured in every issue throughout ONE’s existence. (Click to enlarge.)

As a flash of inspiration it hit everyone at once. That was it! For there was the rapport. There was the wedge. And the bridge. “Makes all men one.” The name would be … ONE, for that is what everyone had wanted all along, a means for bringing about oneness, a coming together with understanding. The bitterness and hatreds, the persecution and injustices and discrimination would be stopped by dispelling ignorance , by showing THE OTHERS that all of us are humans alike, all of us living together on the same earth, under the same skies.

Surely there was “a mystic bond of brotherhood,” and ONE would tell them about it, at last all should see that men are brothers indeed, slde-by-side, all of them reaching toward the very same stars in the heavens. ONE would do this!

It was a rather dramatic moment. The little handful sat looking at each other in startled discovery. Something tremendous loomed up and around and among them, a challenge, electric with power and momentum. They well realized that there were obstacles before them, obstacles of almost terrifying proportions. There was no one who felt very confident. But a new concept had been born, a concept that thenceforth took possession of their loyalties and irresistibly carried them along.

Don Slater, W. Dorr Legg, and Jim Kepner. Circa 1957-1958. (via ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives)

Legg became ONE’s business manager. Three others present were Martin Block (he became ONE’s president), Dale Jennings (vice president) and Don Slater (secretary, see Aug 21)), who together made up ONE’s Editorial Board. Guy Rousseau (real name: Bailey Whitaker) became circulation manager. Jean Corbin (as “Eve Ellore”) joined the group as the magazine’s primary artist. Other important contributors included Jim Kepner, Fred Frisbie (as “George Mortenson”), Irma “Corky” Wolf (as “Ann Carll Reid”), and Stella Rush (as “Sten Russell”). As you can tell, pseudonyms were common, though not always for reasons you might think. While some authors consistently wrote under one pseudonym, Jennings, Block, Legg, Kempner and others often wrote under multiple personas, often in addition to their real names, in order to give readers the impression that ONE’s staff was larger than it actually was.

ONE debuted in January of 1953, and included an article by Dale Jennings describing his 1952 arrest by Los Angeles police. In 1958, ONE made history when it won an important Supreme Court victory when the Court decided that the U.S. Post Office could not refuse to distribute ONE because homosexual content, per se, was not pornographic (see Jan 13). ONE, Inc. also established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies, which sponsored a series of seminars and graduate studies programs. ONE ceased publication in 1968.

[Sources: James T. Sears: Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2006): 166-167.

“How ONE began.” ONE 3, no. 2 (February 1955): 8-15.]

Press conference announcing the formation of the National Gay Task Force. Front row L-R: Ron Gold, Howard Brown, Bruce Voeller, Nathalie Rockhill. Seated behind L-R: Martin Duberman, Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny. (Click to enlarge.)

40 YEARS AGO: Press Conference Announcing Formation of National Gay Task Force: 1973. Dr. Howard Brown made the front page of The New York Times two weeks earlier when the the former Health Administrator for New York Mayor John Lindsay’s administration came out of the closet. Brown had resigned in 1967 when he learned than an investigative reporter planned to expose homosexuals in City Hall.  His secret was not revealed, which meant the reasons for his resignation remained a mystery until he came out 1973. The response, he said, was overwhelmingly favorable, so much so that he decided to establish a new gay advocacy group. This new group, the National Gay Task Force (later to become the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, or NGLTF) would be the first such organization with a truly national scope. According to an article in The Village Voice:

The Gay Task Force will work nationally on gay civil rights legislation and discrimination against gay parents in custody and visitation cases, and will coordinate information from all parts of the country about the progress toward gay civil rights. According to a spokesman for the group, a major coming out of the closet of other well-known people is expected in the near future.

Dr. Bruce Voeller served as its first Executive Director. Other leaders of the new organization included historian Martin Duberman, pioneering activist Barbara Gittings, and Ronald Gold who would had already played a pivotal role in the APA’s pending delisting of homosexuality as a mental illness later that year.

“No I don’t have it. Do you?” White House Spokesman Larry Speakes plays the comedian over AIDS.

AIDS a Laughing Matter at the White House: 1982. The very first public mention of AIDS at the White House was not an auspicious one. It was the subject of jokes and laughter between the press and White House Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speaks:

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement ­ the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?

SPEAKES: What’s AIDS?

Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?

SPEAKES: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)

Q: No, I don’t.

SPEAKES: You didn’t answer my question.

Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President ­

SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)

Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?

SPEAKES: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.

Q: Does the President, does anyone in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?

SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any ­

Q: Nobody knows?

SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.

Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping ­

SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no ­ (laughter) ­ no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.

Q: The President doesn’t have gay plague, is that what you’re saying or what?

SPEAKES: No, I didn’t say that.

Q: Didn’t say that?

SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn’t you stay there? (Laughter.)

Q: Because I love you Larry, that’s why (Laughter.)

SPEAKES: Oh I see. Just don’t put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)

Q: Oh, I retract that.

SPEAKES: I hope so.

Q: It’s too late.

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?

Michael

October 16th, 2013

Two of the items above have been posted and reposted on BTB a number of times. Rather than repeated postings of the same items, I’d like to suggest that BTB do some new posts analyzing or updating the originals.

First, the post about Larry Speakes and AIDS is arguably misleading. I remember the first time I read this post on BTB several years ago. I was so horrified by it, I had to learn more about what happened and what the reaction was, so I did some internet research on this. The unnamed reporter in that exchange was not a real journalist but some sort of conspiracy nut who, for some reason, was able to get into White House press room. I think he might have been affiliated with a Lyndon LaRouche publication and thus qualified as a reporter, but I don’t remember the specifics.

In any event, he was sort of wacko and he would always ask bizarre questions of Speakes. So when he asked about AIDS, Speakes tried to blow him off. The reporters in the room knew the questioner was a nut, so they were laughing at the whole thing. On the transcript, it certainly does seem like they were joking about and laughing at AIDS, but I think they were actually laughing at the antigay conspiracy nut.

I think BTB should do a follow up on this post, setting out the full context and if possible, finding out if Speakes ever clarified what happened. Speakes is still around, and I think it would be interesting if someone from BTB picked up the phone and called him and asked him about it. Also, please either fix the link in the above post or explain it. The link takes you to a security consulting company website, which has no apparent connection with the post.

Second, with respect to NGLTF. BTB should do a big piece on NGLTF. There is a real story here about what has happened to a once important and active group.

This used to be the most active grassroots gay organization in the US, even though it operated on a shoestring budget. Today, it’s budget is huge. It pays its executive director around $250,000, approximately what HRC (a much larger organization) pays its executive. But although it sucks up a lot of cash, it doesn’t seem to do much of anything. It holds a big conference each year. It issues press releases celebrating this or that victory or denouncing this or that defeat, events with which it had no direct involvement. And it issues occasional “reports” which, as advocacy research, have had zero impact on any policy change. I recently read a book by Alexander Nicholson, the entire focus of which is the story of the 2010 repeal of DADT. Several hundred pages of insider accounts of who did what, the good, the bad and the ugly. NGLTF did nothing. They weren’t even worth mentioning and don’t appear in the index. This is a group that was created to work on federal policy and they are absent from one of the most significant efforts to change federal policy in our community’s history. There is a real story here and no one has covered it. You should.

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