TODAY IN HISTORY:
Miami’s Anti-Gay Mayor Writes To Gay Magazine: 1954. Miami’s witch hunt against gay people wasn’t just the subject of headlines in South Florida (see Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14,Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15, Sep 19, Oct 6 and Oct 20). ONE magazine, the pioneering Los Angeles-based gay magazine was paying close attention and relaying events to its national audience. In its November 1954 cover story, Jim Kepner (writing as Lyn Pederson) brought ONE’s readers up to date with a complete chronology beginning with the murder of a 27-year-old Eastern Airlines flight attendant, William T. Simpson and the police’s discovery of a gay community with a “nominal head of the colony — a queen” (see Aug 3). Kepner mocked the investigation: “Pulling two and twaddle together, detectives guessed if Simpson hadn’t been the queen, perhaps he’d been a sort of royal pretender, killed by his rival.” But after recounting all of the events that followed, Kepner warned that what was happening in Miami was no laughing matter:
The Miami story illustrates what trumped up hysteria can do in a few weeks to any city in the United States. Corrupt politicians and opportunistic demagogues can endanger any community that permits itself to be herded into pogrom. …And one begins to realize that by all the requirements, the fantastically large minority of homosexuals is perhaps the top candidate for any new and large scale witch hunt In America.
Now that homosexuality has become mentionable in polite society, the social balance can be seen quickly shifting as society tries to decide what new attitude it must take to the problem. It seems certain to this author that the shift will be fast, and the new attitude drastic, and that it will determine in large part the extent to which this nation remains a free and open society.
If Miami had caught the attention of ONE, it can also be said that ONE also caught Miami’s attention as well. The Miami News published a front-page article in August on “how Los Angeles handles its 150,000 perverts.”: “In California the homosexuals have… established their own magazine and are constantly crusading for recognition as a ‘normal’ group.” On November 4, ONE wrote a letter to Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz, who was leading the anti-gay witch hunt. We don’t know what that letter said, but Aronovitz replied on November 12. Based on the Mayor’s reply, it appears that at least one of ONE’s objectives was to take Aronovitz to task for his proposal to try to shut down the city’s gay bars (see Sep 15, Sep 19, Oct 6 and Oct 20). Whatever other objections ONE may have raised, Aronovitz’s reply remained limited to just that one item. That reply was printed in ONE’s January 1955 issue:
November 12, 1954.
One, Inc .
232 South Hill Street
Los Angeles 12 , California
Attn: Mr. Marvin Cutler , Secretary
Bureau of Public Information
In reply to your letter of November 9th, this is to advise that I have never advocated harassing homosexuals or other deviates. I have always insisted that the lowest form of human being is the individual who while operating a public business violates many laws and caters to homosexuals for the purpose of taking advantage of other human beings.
Miami is not required to provide a haven for the homosexuals and deviates of the nation and therefore, if you will keep informing the nation of this fact, I will be much obliged.
Yours very truly,
ONE recounted several statements that Aroniwitz had uttered over the past several months and concluded, “The editors of ONE feel that the above statement by the Mayor of Miami is slightly at odds with statements attributed to him by the MIAMI DAILY NEWS.” As for providing a haven for the homosexuals of the nation, ONE curtly observed: “Editorially, we might also point out to the Mayor of Miami that it is quite possible that some of the homosexuals in Miami might have been born there.”
[Sources: Lyn Pedersen. "Miami Hurricane." ONE 2, no. 11 (November 1954): 4-8.
Unsigned. Letter from Mayor Abe Aronowitz. ONE 3, no. 1 (January 1955): 36.]
Gay Liberation Front Protests Time Magazine: 1969. The cover story of Time magazine two weeks earlier (see Oct 31)) continued to weigh heavily on the minds of New York’s gay activists. The article said a few nice things about gays — it included a few comments from New York Mattachine member Dick Leitsch and Washington Mattachine founder Frank Kameny to represent gay people. But it also included quotes by Dr. Charles Socarides and a man he claimed to have cured. (Socarides would go on to co-found NARTH in 1993.) Those views and the article might have been acceptable if it had appeared just a year earlier, but in November of 1969, just four months after the Stonewall Rebellion, members of the Gay Liberation Front saw no need to sit by while so-called “experts” cast judgments on their mental health and moral beliefs. Many in GLF were particularly angry because they had cooperated with the writer, only to find the article emphasizing the old tired stereotypes, particularly of gay men.
On November 12, members of the Gay Liberation Front and the Daughters of Bilitis picketed the Time-Life building and handed out leaflets to passers-by. They read, “In characteristic tight-assed fashion, Time has attempted to dictate sexual boundaries for the American public and to define what is healthy, moral, fun, and good on the basis of its own narrow, out-dated, warped, perverted, and repressed sexual bias.” But due partly to the cold and snowy weather, the protest didn’t attract much attention, save for some jeers from construction workers across the street and a very brief mention during the eleven o’clock news on the ABC affiliate.
[Source: Edward Alwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 97-98.]
50 YEARS AGO: Mike Rogers: 1963. “The Most Feared Man On Capitol Hill” is known for his ability to snoop out closeted anti-gay politicians and expose them long before the mainstream media catches on. Rogers’s targets have included Virginia Congressman Edward Schrock, Idaho Senator Larry Craig, and former RNC chair Ken Mehlman. Some have criticized him for it, but he says what others call “outing” he calls “reporting.” In 2009, Rogers appeared on a local Washington, D.C. news program with host Doug McKelway, who criticized Rogers and said that he would like to “take you (Rogers) outside and punch you across the face.” Rogers demanded an apology, but never got one. Ask him his favorite movie, and he will answer Outrage, the 2009 documentary by Kirby Dick which discusses the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who work against the gay community.
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