The Daily Agenda for Thursday, March 6
March 6th, 2014
Events This Weekend: Winter Pride, East London, UK; Lake Tahoe Winterfest, Lake Tahoe, NV; SWING Gay Ski Week, Lenzerheide, Switzerland; Carnival Maspalomas, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; Winter Party, Miami, FL; Out In the Desert LGBT Film Festival, Tucson, AZ.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
David Link, a regular contributor at Independent Gay Forum, suggested we highlighting Studio One:
Before there was Studio 54, there was Studio One. Those of us who came of gay age in the mid-1970s in LA will remember the long lines to get in, the insanely crowded dance floor, the short-shorts (oh, the short-shorts!), the Backlot theater, and that crazy winged horse. I would drive in to west Hollywood (in those days, it was just the west end of Hollywood, not yet a city in its own right), and while the geographical distance wasn’t that far, it was a gloriously different, neon-lit, disco world that had no precedent out where we came from. Even those of us who couldn’t remotely be described as disco-bunnies marched up that long, dark, industrial stairway to — well, it was some kind of heaven. Studio One is long gone, and the real heaven is (I hope) a ways off, but that one was pretty great.
Capable of accommodating a thousand dancers on its mammoth dance floor, Studio One was the largest discotheque in Southern California and a pioneer of the disco era. It featured seven mirrored balls, lasers, strobe lights, a red neon Pegasus, and bartenders wearing satin shorts. Featured performers at Studio One or the Backlot included Sylvester, Eartha Kit, Wayland Flowers, Madeline Kahn, Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Paul Lynde, Joan Rivers, Patti LaBelle, and Rip Taylor. The Tommy premiere after party was held there in 1975, and it proved to be the hottest ticket in town. Owner Scott Forbes, opened Studio One in 1975 because he felt the gay community needed a lively, dynamic, and prominent alternative to the dingier, darker gay bars that were the norm. And he stressed that “Studio One was planned, designed and conceived for gay people, gay male people. Any straight people here are guests of the gay community. This is gay!” Open seven nights a week, the party finally came to an end in 1988.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Lewd Behavior Upon a Bed”: 1649. Court records from Puritan colonies indicate that authorities appeared to have been reluctant to prosecute crimes based on homosexuality, if the scarcity of such records is any indication. But court records also show that Plymouth Colony was considerably less reluctant, given that its court records report quite a handful of cases (for example, see Aug 6, Mar 1). The colony’s statute called for the death penalty for “buggery” and “sodomy,” which had the effect of only outlawing male homosexuality. As in England, female homosexuality was unmentioned. But that didn’t prevent the Plymouth Colony from prosecuting one case of lesbian behavior. The court records for Plymouth Colony recorded a very brief notation for March 6, 1649:
We present the wife of Hugh Norman, and Mary Hammon, both of Yarmouth, for lewd behavior each with the other upon a bed.
According to Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay/Lesbian Almanac:
Recent research by J.R. Roberts in the Plymouth manuscript records provides background information on Norman and Hammon. At the time of the above charges Mary Hammon was fifteen years old, and recently married. Sara Norman’s age is unknown, but she was apparently somewhat older, as he had been married in 1639. About the time of the court’s first charge, 1649, Hugh Norman, Sara’s husband, deserted his wife and children.
A marginal note in the Plymouth court record of March 6, 1649 reported that Mary Hammond was “cleared with admonition” — perhaps because of her youth. Sara Normon’s case was evidentially held over for later judgment.
…Patriarchal custom was evident in the fact that court records in this case referred to the “wife of Hugh Norman”; although Sara Norman was publicly charged with a serious crime, her whole name was used only once in the documents
On October 2, 1650, the court rendered its judgment on Sara Norman:
Whereas the wife of Hugh Norman, of Yarmouth, hath stood presented [in] divers Courts for misdemeanor and lewd behavior with Mary Hammon upon a bed, with divers lascivious speeches by her also spoken, but she could not appear by reason of some hindrances unto this Court, the said Court have therefore sentenced her, the said wife of Hugh Norman, for her wild behavior in the aforesaid particulars, to make a public acknowledgment, so far as conveniently may be, of her unchaste behavior, and have also warned her to take heed of such carriages for the future, lest her former carriage come in remembrance against her to make her punishment the greater.
[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary (New York: Harper & Row, 1983): 92-93.]
Theater Owner, Producer, Cast of “God of Vengeance” Arrested: 1923. Yiddish theater was a lively component of New York’s cultural life in the first part of the twentieth century, even if it did mostly fly mostly under the radar of the city’s cognoscenti. Maybe that’s why the 1907 production of Sholem Asch’s Got Fun Nekome, with its story line about a family who lived above a brothel owned by the father and the budding lesbian relationship between his daughter and one of the prostitutes, managed to go off without a hitch. Not that there was no controversy. The Yiddish press was greatly concerned that the play’s “immoral” content would trigger an anti-Semitic backlash if its plot line was noticed by the wider English-speaking city. But no backlash materialized, and the play was a huge success. It went on to be translated into several languages and was well received throughout much of Europe over the next decade.
Sixteen years after its Yiddish premiere, the play returned to New York in an English translation of God of Vengeance. When it made its Broadway debut at the Apollo Theater, it featured the first lesbian love scene on the Great White Way. This time, it was noticed. A month later, detectives showed up backstage during a performance to inform the theater’s manager and producer that they and the entire cast had been indicted for presenting an obscene and immoral play. The complaint wasn’t that the play had a lesbian them — at least, not directly — but that the lesbian theme in a Jewish play libeled the Jewish religion and was anti-Semitic. The Judge agreed, calling the play a “desecration of the sacred scrolls of the Torah,” in reference to the scrolls the father in the play commissioned, in vain, to protect the purity of his daughter. The entire cast was found guilty, but only the Harry Weinberger, the producer, and Rudolph Schildkraut, who played the father, were fined $200 each. Everyone else was let go. The play, which had closed on the night of the indictment, has been revived several times over the years, mostly by Jewish and other repertory companies.
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?