The Daily Agenda for Sunday, May 18
May 18th, 2014
Other Events This Weekend: Harvey Milk Day Events, various cities and dates; Bearcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Brighton Heroes Run, Brighton, UK; Bear Watch, Galveston, TX; Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, New Orleans, LA.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The Noble Roman opened in 1970 on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, in a space that had been a supper club. It became a gay bar somewhat by accident: “The Roman was particularly popular because its heterosexual owner was overwhelmingly concerned with profit; she left event planning and day-to-day management to the all-gay staff. [Mary] Kester’s lax attitude permitted the bar’s popular free stage—the venue hosted innumerable drag acts, politely-received ventriloquism shows, and musical numbers. …The owner’s carefree management style had positive and negative effects on the community. The Noble Roman was an early site of faux gay weddings, and drag queens received a small stipend for their Sunday performances on its free stage. When it came to paying bills, her ownership was detrimental—the bar closed several times due to mortgage truancy.” Kester sold the bar in 1976 and the new owners turned it back into a straight establishment. The address today is now home to a restaurant called the Wild Onion.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Marriage In Minnesota: 1970. Mike McConnell met Jack Baker in 1966 on a blind date at a Halloween party in Oklahoma where they were both 24-year-old grad students. On Baker’s 25th birthday, they became “betrothed,” as they put it, in a private ceremony, and moved in together. They moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and that’s when they met activists Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny. “That’s what lit our fires of pride,” recalled McConnell. “These fine people were willing to say, ‘Look, I’m as good as anybody else.’ That’s all I needed to hear.”
In April, 1970. McConnell accepted a job at the University of Minnesota’s library and Baker enrolled as a first year law student. Three weeks later, on this date in 1970, the couple applied for a marriage license in Minneapolis. Their presence caused a minor stir among nervous office workers. Baker told them, “If there’s any legal hassle, we’re prepared to take it all the way to the Supreme Court. This is not a gimmick.” There were legal hassles. Not only were the denied a license, but the university fired McConnell when news of their application hit the papers. A federal judge blocked McConnell’s firing. He called the episode “rather bizarre, but concluded that “An [sic] homosexual is after all a human being and a citizen…. He is as much entitled to the protection and benefits of the laws… as others.” Unfortunately, that decision was reversed on appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case.
Meanwhile a state judge, ruling on the marriage case itself, sided with county officials and ordered them not to issue a license. While McConnell and Baker appealed that decision, McConnell legally adopted Baker in August 1971, which allowed them at least some of the benefits of marriage (inheritance, medical decision-making, even reduced tuition for Baker). Later that same year, they managed to obtain a marriage license from a clerk in Blue Earth County, Minnesota and were married by a Methodist minister. But in October, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. Nelson that state law prohibits same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal “for want of a substantial federal question,” Baker v. Nelson became an established precedent.
In 2012, Minnesotans defeated a proposed constitutional amendment, placed on the ballot by a Republican-controlled legislature that would have permanently barred same-sex marriages in the state. Voters also elected a Democratic-Farm-Labor (DFL, the state Democratic party’s name in Minnesota) majority in both houses of the legislature. Elections have consequences, and the new legislature passed a marriage equality bill in 2013, which Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) quickly signed into law. That law went into effect on August 1. Baker and McConnell weren’t among those to line up for marriage licenses that day. As far as they were concerned, the license they obtained in Blue Earth County was still valid and they saw no need for another one. They still live a quiet life together, well out of the spotlight, in Minneapolis.
[Source: Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price. Courting Justice: Gay Men And Lesbians V. The Supreme Court (New York: Basic Books, 2001): 163-171.]
Therapist Warns of Homosexual Epidemic: 1970. New York psychiatrist Charles Socarides warned the nation’s physicians in the May 18, 1970 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, that “Homosexuality is a medical disorder which has reached epidemiologic proportions; its frequency of incidence surpasses that of the recognized major illnesses in the nation.” Socarides, who had appeared three years earlier on the infamous CBS documentary “The Homosexuals” (see Mar 7), had become a nationally-recognized authority on the so-called “disease” of homosexuality and its cure, and so his article in the AMA’s prestigious journal carried considerable weight. Socarides chided his fellow physicians for not taking the new epidemic seriously:
Attempts to obfuscate the fact that homosexuality is a medical problem have not been met head on by those most qualified to clarify the situation. Only in the consultation room does the homosexual reveal himself and his world. No other data, statistics, or statements can be accepted as setting forth the true nature of homosexuality. All other sources may be heavily weighted by face-saving devices or rationalizations or, if they issue from lay bodies, lack the scientific and medical background to support their views. The best that can be said for the well-intentioned but unqualified observer is that he is misguided because he does not have and can not apply those techniques which would make it possible to discern the deep underlying clinical disorder or to evaluate the emotional patterns and interpersonal events in the life of a homosexual.
Socarides distinguished between two types of homosexuals: the “obligatory” and the “episodic.” Only the former were true homosexuals as he put it. “The latter is characterized by isolated homosexual acts without the stereotypy, the compulsivity, of the former.” As for the former:
There is a high incidence of paranoia or paranoid-like symptomatology in overt homosexuals. This is related to the medical fact that overt obligatory homosexuality is either a fixation or regression to the earliest stages of ego development. As a result, archaic and primitive mental mechanisms belonging to the earliest stages of life characterize the homosexual’s behavior. Also, homosexuality, obligatory or not, can be seen in the schizophrenic in his frantic attempt to establish some vestige of object relations as an expression of the fragmented and disorganized psychic apparatus with which he has to struggle.
Socarides argued that because homosexuals were suffering from a mental illness, they should not be penalized legally for consensual activities “so long as it is not accompanied by antisocial or criminal behavior.” Despite increasing calls to decriminalize homosexuality, homosexual behavior was still criminalized in every state except Illinois (see Jul 28). Socarides cautioned that ” any change in the legal code should be accompanied by a clearcut statement as to the nature of obligatory homosexuality, its diagnosis as a form of mental illness, and a universal declaration of support for its treatment by qualified medical practitioners.” And only those “qualified medical practitioners,” he concluded, were qualified to pass judgment whether gay people were sick:
It is vitally important to realize this fundamental point: the diagnosis of homosexuality can not be self-made, imposed by jurists, articulated by clergy, or speculated about by social scientists. … If the homosexual is to be granted his human right as a medical patient, issues which becloud his status should be clarified. Above all, the homosexual must be recognized as an individual who presents a medical problem.
The whole issue of homosexuality must be transformed into one more scientific challenge to medicine which has time and again been able to alleviate the plaguing illnesses of man. With this respected leadership on the part of the physician, we will see a surge of support for the study and treatment of the disorder by all the techniques and knowledge available through the great resources and medical talent of the United States.
[Source: Charles W. Socarides. “Homosexuality and medicine.” Journal of the American Medical Association 212, no. 7 (May 18, 1970): 1199-1202.]
First Published Report Of New “Exotic” Disease Among New York Gays: 1981. June 5, 1981 is typically cited as the date of the first published report on a new disease which would become known as AIDS, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a notice concerning five previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles who died from rare infections which were normally easily curable (See Jun 5). But the first published report actually appeared in a New York gay newspaper a month earlier, tucked inside an issue of the New York Native on page seven. Dr. Lawrence Mass, who wrote a regular health column for the small weekly, had heard rumors of several new exotic diseases striking down gay men in Gotham. Some were coming down with a rare kind of a skin cancer that had previously only affected older Jewish or Mediterranean men. Others were stricken with a rare form of pneumonia which typically only appeared in people with severely suppressed immune systems such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and transplant recipients. There were also a host of other odd diseases that gay men were coming down with, but so far nobody had figured out that there might be a single cause to link them all together.
After Mass was assured by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that there was no evidence of an emerging “gay cancer,” Mass wrote an article titled, “Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded,” which began:
Last week there were rumors that an exotic new disease had hit the gay community in New York. Here are the facts. From the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Steve Phillips explained that the rumors are for the most part unfounded. Each year, approximately 12 to 24 cases of infection with a protozoa-like organism, pneumocystis carinii, are reported in the New York City area. The organism is not exotic; in fact, it’s ubiquitous. But most of us have a natural or easily acquired immunity.
“What’s unusual about the cases reported this year,” Mass explained, “is that eleven of them were not obviously compromised hosts. The possibility there exists that a new, more virulent strain of the organism may have been ‘community acquired.'” But Mass reported that there was not enough evidence (yet) to make a clear connection between the new disease and the gay community.
It wouldn’t be long before that link was made. Chroniclers of the AIDS crisis now recognize Dr. Mass as being the first to write about the emerging epidemic in print. Dr. Mass went on the help found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and was the principle author of the organization’s Medical Answers About AIDS through four revisions spanning ten years.
30 YEARS AGO: CA Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Discrimination Decision for Lesbians Denied Restaurant Seating: 1984. On January 13, 1983, Zandra Rolon and Deborah Johnson made dinner reservations at Papa Choux, a very elegant Los Angeles restaurant. They specifically reserved a “Romantic Booth” in the restaurant’s Intimate Room, which featured sheer curtains around the booths, strolling violinists, and a measure of privacy. When they arrived for dinner, they were seated at the reserved booth, at first, but then they were told that they had to move. The manager told them, falsely, that a city ordinance prohibited such seating.
The couple filed suit, and were represented by civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who told reporters, “We intend to end this dinner discrimination and give Papa Choux’s their just desserts.” Papa Chou’s owner, Seymour Jacoby, countered with a newspaper ad declaring that “Papa Choux’s will never allow this charade. It would certainly make a mockery of true romantic dining.” But Rolon and Johnson won, and the case was upheld on appeal.
On May 18, 1984, the California denied the restaurant’s request for a hearing, and Jacoby took out another ad saying that “true romantic dining died on this date.” Allred countered, “This is not the death of romance. It is the death of discrimination.” A few days later, about 100 or so bar customers gathered for a “wake” as the restaurant closed its six curtained booths.
Patrick Dennis: 1921-1976. The name given him at birth was Edward Everett Tanner II, but his father had already begun calling him Pat before he was born, and so Pat he remained throughout childhood. When he published his 1955 novel, Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade, based on growing up with his real life Aunt Mame Dennis, it became one of the best-selling books of the 20th century and gave him the name the public would know him by. The book remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 112 weeks, and became the basis for the movie Auntie Mame in 1958 starring Rosalind Russell. But that wasn’t fabulous enough. It went on to become a Broadway musical in 1966 starring Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur. From there it became a Hollywood musical starring Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur. Mame’s outrageous main character defined camp. Mame’s commitment to imagination and style can best be summed up in her most famous line: “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death. Live!”
Dennis married in 1948 and had two children. He struggled with his bisexuality and was said to have been a fixture in Greenwich Village. He tried to commit suicide at one point, and after years of leading a double life, he decided to leave his family after he had fallen in love with another man. By the 1970s, his novels fell out of favor and out of print. His caviar tastes and extravagant nature, not unlike those of his quasi-fictional Mame, soon had him flat broke. He began a second career as a butler, and a rather anonymous one at that, having reverted back to using his real surname. He worked at the estate of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds, where it is said that his employers had no idea who he really was. He died in at age 55 of pancreatic cancer.
80 YEARS AGO: Don Bachardy: 1934. He met the famous writer, Christopher Isherwood (see Aug 26), on Valentine’s day when he was eighteen and Isherwood was 48, and they remained together as partners until Isherwood’s death in 1986. Bachardy still lives in the house they shared together in Santa Monica. It’s a shame that virtually every biography about Bachardy starts with that association with the acclaimed author because he is a talented painter in his own right. He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and the Slade School of Art in London. His first one-man exhibition was held in 1961 at London’s Redfern Gallery. Most of his work is portraiture, and several of his sketches appeared in Isherwood’s novels.
If Bachardy was sometimes overshadowed by his relationship with Isherwood, he seems to have come to terms with it. But it did pose problems between them earlier in their relationship. During a particularly difficult period when Bachardy was studying in London, they almost broke up. Isherwood imagined what it would be like to live without Bachardy, and wrote A Single Man in which Bachardy’s character was already dead before the novel began. If you know the novel’s story, the result is not a happy one.
But they did remain together, and were life-long collaborators as artists and as a couple, sharing in each other’s successes. As Bacardy explained in the 2007 documentary Chris & Don. A Love Story:
I don’t take any credit for what’s happened to me in my life. It all seems fate — my destiny and Chris’s destiny. We were actually exactly what the other wanted and needed, whether we knew it or not. Well, Chris knew it. I didn’t for a long time …. I know that Chris would agree that the last ten years or so were our best — not the early years when we were younger and beautiful, but the later years when we really just enjoyed each other’s company and worked together in a variety of ways. It all just enhanced our basic unity — unity with each other, our harmony.
They continued collaborating, even as Isherwood was dying of cancer, when Bachardy would sketch him every single day, sometimes nine or ten times. “Chris was in a lot of pain towards the end,” he told The Sunday Times. “But he had sat for me so often over the years, and I knew this was something we could still do together. Each day, I could be with him intensely for hours on end.” On the day he died, Bachardy kept working on a sketch, a sketch of the man’s body with whom he had spent his entire adult life. “Chris would have been proud of me,” he said in the documentary. “He’d have said ‘that’s what an artist would do.’ And that’s what an artist did.”
[Source: Chris Freeman. “Lives in Art: Isherwood and Bachardy.” The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, n0. 5 (September-October 2008) 30-33.]
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