The Daily Agenda for Sunday, June 1

Jim Burroway

June 1st, 2014

Marriage Equality Goes Statewide: Illinois. Some same-sex couples have already been legally married in Illinois, particularly in Chicago’s Cook County, long before the law officially took effect today. Cook County began issuing marriage licenses last February after a Federal Judge ruled that there was no justification for forcing couples to wait until June 1. That ruling only applied to Cook County, but state’s Attorney General followed that with a statement encouraging the remaining counties to follow suit and begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Some did and some didn’t, but today none of it matters. Marriage equality is now the law throughout all of the state’s 102 counties. Today is also the day when those in civil unions can officially file paperwork to upgrade their unions into marriages, although for all practical purposes, they probably won’t be able to do that until tomorrow when county clerks offices open for regular hours. A few counties — tiny Montgomery County is one — have already said they will open today for special hours. Meanwhile, vendors across the state are already reporting that they are seeing a significant uptick in business ahead of the summertime marrying season.

Pride Events This Weekend: Asbury Park, NJ; Bergen, Norway; Birmingham, AL;  Buffalo, NY; Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo, ON; Dresden, Germany; Düsseldorf, Germany; Göteborg, Sweden; Guerneville, CALos Ranchos, NM; Oxford, UK; Queens, NY; Santa Cruz, CA; Washington, DC; Winnipeg, MB.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Beaver Lake, NY; Boston, MA.

Other Events This Weekend: Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; Film Out San Diego, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON; AIDS Life Cycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, July 27, 1977, classifieds section, page 31.

Keller’s was located in the Keller’s Hotel building at the corner of Barrow and West Streets in Greenwich Village. The six-story hotel was built in 1897-8 for $68,000 near the Hudson River, and until 1911 it was the Knickerbocker Hotel before becoming the Keller, then the Keller Abington. Its proximity to the Port of New York made it an ideal hotel for transient sailors and dock workers, and wherever there are sailors and longshoremen, there’s, well, there’s all the stuff that they do. The corner street-level storefront had been a restaurant, bar or a saloon since at least the 1930s, and in 1956 it became Keller’s Bar, which was later reputed to be the oldest gay leather bar in New York City. Here’s one remembrance of what the place was like in in 1974:

It was a small, rather plain room, shaped like a shoebox. A door, with a window on each side. A rough wooden bar that ran the length of the room on the left. A pool table and jukebox on the right. A few strings of Christmas lights and dozens of handsome men crammed inside. The jukebox featured a mix of current soul and rock, along with the Ronettes singing “Walking In The Rain” and the Shirelles essaying “Chains”. Later “Shame, Shame, Shame” would play incessantly, as the patrons danced in place, and the bartender hollered in faux-annoyance.

Keller’s Bar in 1964.

In 1971, the New York-based weekly newspaper GAY called Keller’s “the mother and father of New York’s leather bars. The Landmarks Commission ought to put a plaque on the front of it.” The hotel became an SRO for indigent residents before closing in 1990. Keller’s bar soldiered on until finally closing in 1998. A decade later, GAY got its wish when the Renaissance Revival building qualified for Landmark status in 2007. Today, the Keller remains boarded up and vacant despite soaring real estate prices and widespread redevelopment throughout the neighborhood. The building’s secretive and eccentric owners have refused to invest a dime to preserve or develop the building (or any of their other properties), and have turned down all offers to buy it.

115 YEARS AGO: New York State’s Mazet Committee Hears About “Fairie Resorts”: 1899. Corruption was so rife in New York’s Tammany Hall that a special state special legislative committee was formed to investigate the mess. But as it often happens today (and notwithstanding the city’s Democratic bosses’ renowned corruption), the Republican-led state investigation quickly took on a decidedly partisan tone. Upstate committee members took every opportunity to portray New York City as a den of rampant bribery, filth and degeneracy. Among those called to testify was Joel S. Harris, a police investigator, who told of the goings-on at Paresis Hall, a popular hangout for “sexual degenerates”:

I was with Mr. (John R. Wood, another investigator) last night at Paresis Hall, No 392 Bowery. I observed the actions of the persons congregated there. I saw and heard immoral actions and propositions by degenerates there. Captain Chapman came in about five minute to 1, as we stepped out. … We had been in the place about an hour or so; plenty of time for information to get from Paresis Hall to the stationhouse. Captain Chapman didn’t say anything to us, but I overheard him say to the proprietor … that he would not stand for any dancing on souvenir night, and he wanted it shut up. I have been in that place before, recently, three or four times, and I have on each occasion noticed the same conduct as I have just testified to. That is a well-known resort for male prostitutes; a place having a reputation far and wide, to the best of my knowledge. I have heard of it constantly. I have never had any trouble in going in. You go in off the street with perfect ease. These men that conduct themselves there — well, they act effeminately; most of them are painted and powdered; they are called Princess this and Lady So and So and the Duchess of Marlboro, and get up and sing as women, and dance; ape the female character; call each other sisters and take people out for immoral purposes. I have had these propositions made to me, and made repeatedly. There is not difficulty in getting into that place.

Paresis Hall was one of several well-known “fairie resorts,” located on the Bowery at Fifth Street near Cooper Square. It was a combination of a brothel, dance hall and all-around proto-gay bar, patronized by working class immigrants and by organized parties of the well-heeled, who visited the establishments on “slumming” tours. Gender norms were much more definitional in those days, and so it was a common understanding, even among the gay men themselves though not necessarily a universal one, that in any coupling one would play the man and the other would play the woman — with the “man’s” heterosexuality remaining intact. It would take a number of years before the separation of sexual identity and sexual orientation as two distinct concepts would take hold. And so at the turn of the last century, dressing in drag carried greater significance beyond a style of entertainment or an expression of gender-bending. And when prostitution thrown in, it was also, for some of those in drag, a way of making a living, although not all male prostitutes dressed in drag. Those who didn’t tended to escape notice from tourists and police inspectors. And those who did often found that paying a cut of of the revenues was often enough to entice most police inspectors to look the other way. “Fairie resort” owners were also in on the bribery schemes, which not only protected them from police incursions, but also, allegedly, resulted in lower tax assessments at Tammany Hall. All of which piqued the interest of the Mazet committee.

George P. Hammond, Jr., a produce dealer who was “spending a vacation in helping collect evidence” for the committee, also testified. He had been a member of the City Vigilance League, which had been established in 1892 in response to rampant police corruption in the city. He told the committee:

I know this place called Paresis Hall, and under your directions I have visited it a number of times. I have been in the place since April 1st to the present time fully half a dozen times. I knew of it before, as an officer of the City Vigilance League. I am in the produce business. When this committee began its sessions I took a vacation on the produce business and came in to help you. The character of the place is such that what we call male degenerates frequent the place, and it is a nightly occurrence that they solicit men for immoral purposes. They have one woman who goes there they call a hermaphrodite. These male degenerates solicit men at the tables, and I believe they get a commission on all drinks that are purchased there; they get checks. I have observed five or six of these degenerates frequent that place, possibly more; the last we were there we saw a greater number than we did previously. Those five or six are always to be found there; almost invariably you will find them there they go from there across the street to a place called Little Bucks, opposite, and from there to Coney Island. I have never had any difficulty in getting in; not the least; I have been received with open arms. There are two ways of going in, one way up through the barroom, the other through a side entrance; any way at all that suits you can walk in … They have a piano there, and these fairies or male degenerates, as you call them, they sing some songs.

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976): pp 46-47.]

Police Impersonator Arrested in Blackmail Scheme: 1956. A small article in The Honolulu Advertiser highlighted a common danger that gay men faced in the 1950s:

A Honolulu fisherman has confessed he passed himself off as a vice-squad lieutenant to collect $27 “bail” money from a frightened restaurant worker, police said yesterday. [Note: $27 in 1956 is equivalent to about $230 today.]

The accused man, Bernal Waiwaiole, 28, of 1133 Maunakea St., is being held in custody until he puts up $50 bond for himself.

The 38-year-old restaurant worker told Detective Segundo Antonio he was resting on a bench in Waikiki shortly after midnight March 17 when Waiwaiole accosted him.

He said Waiwaiole flashed his wallet open and introduced himself as “Lt. Shaffer” of the vice squad. Then, he said, Waiwaiole demanded $25 “bail” money with the threat of locking him up.

The victim, frightened and with only $4.90 in his pocket, took a taxicab to his rooming house to borrow the balance of the money. Waiwaiole, who accompanied the restaurant worker, then demanded another $2.

The victim forked it over.

Waiwaiole was arrested Saturday morning after a friend of the restaurant worker told police about the incident.

20 YEARS AGO: Air Force Lab Suggests Development of “Gay Bomb”: 1994. In a scenario that sounds more like a Monty Python skit than an actual proposal for warfare, an Air Force lab suggested the development of some highly unusual non-lethal chemical weapons. According to a memorandum dated June 1, 1994, he Air Force’s Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, sought the development “Harassing, annoying, and “bad guy” identifying chemicals.

Three classes of chemicals were proposed. The first consisted of “chemicals that attract annoying creatures to the enemy position and make the creatures aggressive or annoying.” Rodents and stinging and biting bugs were suggested as suitable targets. The second class of chemicals would “make lasting but non-lethal markings on the personnel,” making them “easily identifiable (by smell or appearance) weeks later, making it impossible for them to blend with the local population.” If the chemicals had an irritating or annoying factor, so much the better. But it was the third category that was oddest of all:

Category #3: Chemicals that effect [sic] human behavior so that discipline and morals in enemy units is adversely effected [sic]. One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior. Another example would be a chemical that made personnel very sensitive to sunlight.

The brief memo conceded that such chemicals did not currently exist and “would need to be created. Manufacturing techniques would need to be developed for chemicals needed in large quantities.” Decontamination measures would also need to be developed. The entire development and testing program for all three categories of chemicals was projected to cost $7.5 million over six years, which was small potatoes for defense programs, even for 1994.

When news of the program broke in 2005, Marine Captain Daniel McSweeney told reporters that the memo was among hundreds of suggestions for non lethal weapons sent to the Pentagon each year, and said, “‘Gay Bomb’ is not our term. It was not taken seriously. It was not considered for further development.”

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?


June 1st, 2014

My knowledge of LGBT history must be sorely lacking, since I had never heard of the expression “fairie resorts.” It helps explain the origin of radical fairies later. Nor was I sure that drag bar culture was that ancient. Thanks.


June 1st, 2014

I’ve often wanted a Gay Bomb myself. I’d only use it ethically, and that’s a promise.


June 1st, 2014

@Soren456 “I’ve often wanted a Gay Bomb myself.”

Here you go: Alan Turing’s bombe is pretty old, but it works.

Ben In Oakland

June 1st, 2014

Fyoung– drag bar culture is even older than that. You should find something if you google “molly houses”.


June 1st, 2014

I thot bombe was a Bond gay reference from Diamonds…
Mr. Wint: And for dessert, the piece de resistance… a Bombe Surprise.

Tiffany Case: Mmm! That looks fantastic. What’s in it?

Mr. Wint: Ah… But then there would be no surprise, Madame. -(imdb)

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