The Daily Agenda for Sunday, March 16
March 16th, 2014
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
For those who could afford it, a trip to Europe often meant breaking free from the constraints of being gay in America. Then, as now, Amsterdam was a favorite destination. But as you can see, businesses elsewhere also sought the gay dollar, pound, franc and mark. The two Amsterdam hotels, Hotel Floca and Hotel Zwitserland Amsterdam, are now both private apartment houses. Cafe Tusculum was still there in Hamburg until very recently, although it appears to no longer be in business. But Hotel P.L.M. is still operating as an inexpensive but well-regarded hotel in the heart of Cannes.
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
55 YEARS AGO: ONE Asks, When Will Homosexuals Stop Pitying Themselves?: 1959. Never to leave well enough alone in its early years, the staff of ONE magazine staked out a bold-for-the-fifties argument for gay equality in the face of a generalized broad-based fear in the gay community in the wake of the Lavender Scare earlier that decade. ONE’s founders consisted of disaffected former Mattachine members who grew tired of the endless, aimless discussions taking place in Mattachine meetings (see Oct 15). ONE’s first issue opened with a stirring re-telling an exceptionally rare, early gay-friendly ruling in a court of law when Dale Jennings fought and won against lewd conduct charges resulting from a case of entrapment (see Jun 23). ONE fought vigorously against postal authorities that tried to shut the magazine down on indecency grounds, a fight that ultimately led to the very first gay rights Supreme Court victory (see Jan 13). ONE’s board chairman Dorr Legg (who went by the name of William Lambert, see Dec 15) even found himself face-to-face with FBI agents sent on J. Edgar Hoover’s orders demanding that he retract a statement that appeared in ONE alleging that gays occupied key positions in the FBI. Legg refused (see Jan 26).
So ONE, at least in its early years, was aggressive, sometimes too aggressing in the view of some in the gay community. In a March 1959 editorial, Legg pushed back against that criticism, hard.
“Too aggressive! Just asking for trouble!” Comments such as these have been thrown at ONE many times over the years by the timorous. As, for instance, the criticisms back in 1953 over an editorial which vigorously proclaimed, “ONE is not grateful.” The Los Angeles Postmaster had jusl released copies of an issue he had been withholding from the mails, The editorial continued, “ONE thanks no one for this reluctant acceptance… Never before has a governmental agency of this size admitted that homosexuals not only have legal rights but might have respectable motives as well. The admission is welcome, but it’s tardy and far from enough.”
Whether or not this was “too aggressive” it has always been ONE’s position that homosexuals are, first of all, citizens, and entitled to exactly the same rights and privileges accorded all citizens. Neither second-class citizenship nor discrimination could be tolerated, we devoutly believed. It was our indignation over police brutalities, the peephole spying, and other such incidents which supplied us with the energies and “recklessness” that kept ONE going in the face of all obstacles.
We have always felt sad, even a little ashamed, for those who “just couldn’t afford to be associated with such a group.” For this attitudes showed how many Americans were forgetting that Constitutional freedom also included the freedom from being pushed around by public officials, and that if one class of citizens is deprived of its rights, all can and eventually would be.
However, in trying to be “the voice of U.S. homosexuals,” ONE Magazine had to steer a course between what only a rare few were discerning as an issue of the highest moral order, and the all-too-evidence inability of most homophiles to get out from under the crushing load of guilt imposed upon them by a society which hated queers, laughed at fairies, or gladly beat-up homos, all with the deepest feelings of self-satisfied virtue. This same society could not and would not listen to the proposition that homosexuals were, by and large, no better or no worse than other people. “Preposterous,” they snorted, while the homophiles themselves rather pitifully asked, “Do we dare claim this?” or else struck back at ONE for even proposing such a heresy.
Legg noticed that all of the legal victories won so far came about because heterosexual lawyers were willing to take up the causes that “homosexuals have hitherto been too spineless to do for themselves.”:
When are American homosexuals going to stop sitting around pitying themselves, excusing themselves, hiding their faces and bemoaning their lot? When are they going to roll up their sleeves and do some of the hard work and the fighting that any segment of society must do to defend its own rights. These attorneys are pointing out some of the ways of going at these things. How embarrassing that this should be necessary! …
A salute to the attorneys for waking us up! Once awakened, what are we going to do about it? Let it never be forgotten that evils unchallenged grow even worse, nor that few evils are more vicious than the suppression of personal freedoms. ONE proposes to strengthen its battle for the social and civil rights of homosexuals. The ride may be bumpier from here on out. But what is anyone with a shred of self-respect to do about that?
[Source: William Lambert (Dorr Legg). Editorial. ONE 7, no. 3 (March 1959): 4-5.]
Karl (Rolf) Meier: 1897-1974. Karl Meier’s first love was the theater. He began training as an actor in Zurich in 1917, and he began performing in Swiss plays and operettas starting in 1920. Between 1924 and 1932, he was part of several productions touring Germany, although he never appeared an any of the famous cabarets of Berlin. He returned to Switzerland in 1934 and joined the cabaret Cornichon, which proved to be a huge success for the next thirteen years. He resigned from Cornichon in 1947 and moved to children’s theater, radio, and then television and minor roles in film. He also moved into stage production, direction and set design, became the leading producer of independent amateur theater productions in Switzerland. He remained involved with Swiss theater until his stroke in 1970. His life partner of thirty years, Alfred Brauchli, cared for him until his death in 1974.
The mention of his life partner brings us to Karl Meier’s other life, a parallel one but not a hidden one. While Meier never performed in Berlin during his tours of Germany, he did come in contact with the gay subculture there, where he met Adolf Brand (see Nov 14), editor of the world’s first gay journal, Der Eigene (often translated as The Unique, The Special One, or The Self-Owned; there is no direct English equivalent.) Meier contributed a number of articles to Der Eigene and, from 1934, for the Schweizerisches Freundschafts-Banner (Swiss Banner of Friendship) in Zurich, a gay journal that was founded in 1932.
In 1943, one year after Switzerland decriminalized homosexuality, Meier took over the editorship of the journal, which by then had added a French section to the original German. Under the pseudonym of “Rolf” (even though his association with the journal was well-known), he changed the title to Der Kreis (The Circle), and by 1952 made the journal trilingual with the appearance of an English language section.
He also took the journal into a much more conservative direction. Before Switzerland decriminalized homosexuality, the journal had been very vocal in the political sphere. But after changing to Der Kreis, Meier feared that pushing for any further political reform would incite a backlash. From then on, Der Kreis limited itself to philosophical, cultural and medical/psychological topics while promoting a much more heteronormative model for gay men and women. And while the French and English sections of Der Kreis had their own editors, Meier’s influence was supreme. The German sections made up about half of the journal, and Meier’s articles, under various pseudonyms, made up close to a fifth of the entire German output. He also included a section of photos and illustrations — always tasteful and never showing frontal nudity — including some fifty photos by George Platt Lynes (see Apr 15) over the course of several years.
Der Kreis would prove to be profoundly influential to would-be gay publishers around the world, including the band of brothers who founded ONE magazine in Los Angeles (see Oct 15). ONE often reprinted articles from Der Kreis, and it regularly carried advertisements for Der Kreis subscriptions. For its part, Der Kreis encouraged gay men in America and all over Europe to travel to Zurich for its conferences, festivals, and a large Christmas celebration each year. But by the 1950s Der Kreis was already being criticized for being too conservative. When the 1960s rolled in with its greater freedoms of expression and more daring gay publications from Germany and Scandinavia, Der Kreis’s popularity declined precipitously. It finally ceased publication in 1967.
Jack Nichols: 1938-2005. The co-founder, with Frank Kameny, of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Mattachine Society, Nichols was out to his parents since he age of twelve. His mother, described as an Auntie Mame figure, accepted him with aplomb; his father, an agent with the FBI who had divorced his mother after returning from World War II, not so much. His mother’s Scottish immigrant parents, with whom he and his mother lived in affluent Chevy Chase, Maryland, were similarly accepting: his grandmother allowed him to neck with his male dates in the driveway. They also encouraged Nichols’s self-education through their own devotion to the Scottish “free thinker” tradition. By the time he was fifteen, Nichols had read over a thousand books on philosophy, poetry, and religion. By the time he was nineteen, Nichols and his first boyfriend bought a house and lived together openly as a couple.
In 1960, he met Frank Kameny (see May 21), and together they co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. Beginning in 1963, Nichols chaired the Washington Mattachine’s committee on religious concerns, which eventually became the Washington Area Council on Religion and Homosexuality. With Kameny, he led the first gay rights March in front of the White House in April, 1965. Afterword, when Nichol’s presence at the protest drew the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, Nichols’s father, who feared that it would jeopardize his career, threatened to kill him. For obvious reasons, that would mark their final parting.
That same year, Nichols participated in the first of five annual pickets at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on Jul 4, and he began to lead the challenge to remove homosexuality from the APA’s list of mental disorders. Nichols was among those who appeared on the 1967 documentary CBS Reports: The Homosexuals (See Mar 7). In 1969, he and his partner, Lige Clarke, moved to New York and founded GAY, reputed to be the first gay weekly newspaper in the US distributed on newsstands. He and Clarke also wrote a column, “The Homosexual Citizen,” for Screw magazine. That column was the first gay-interest column in a non-gay publication. Nichols would later serve as editor for Sexology magazine, the San Francisco Sentinel, and GayToday.com. He also wrote four books: 1974’s Roommates Can’t Always be Lovers: An Intimate Guide to Male-Male Relationships, 1975’s Men’s Liberation: A New Definition of Masculinity, 1996’s The Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists, and 2004’s The Tomcat Chronicles: Erotic Adventures of a Gay Liberation Pioneer. He died in 2005 at his home in Florida of complications from cancer.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?