The Daily Agenda for Sunday, August 17
August 17th, 2014
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Allentown, PA; Charlotte, NC; Fargo/Moorehead ND/MN; Madgeburg, Germany; Montréal, QC; New York, NY (Black Pride); Prague, Czech Republic; Pueblo, CO; San Jose, CA.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The Patch opened on April 7, 1968 on the Pacific Coast Highway in the Wilmington area of southern Los Angeles next to Long Beach. It quickly became one of the more popular gay night spots in the Los Angeles area thanks to its live music and a policy that allowed men to dance together. Soon after, the police commission called the owners and set a series of demands: no minors, no drag, no groping, only one person at a time in the restrooms, and no male-male dancing. The Patch agreed, as a price for staying in business, but when that business quickly fell off, they resumed allowing dancing. When the police commission objected, the Patch vowed to take it all the way to the Supreme Court. The commission backed down, but LAPD found other ways to harasses the bar: arbitrarily ticketing parked cars, refusing to arrest area teens who threatened patrons. The local PTA got wind of the Patch’s existence and circulated a petition to close the bar down. Even the local musician’s union showed up to cause trouble, despite the bar’s hiring a union band and paying above scale. Manager Lee Glaze was undeterred:
“John Q. Public has to wake up to the fact that he has to accept us, he says, “We exist. Straights have to learn to live with it. We know that we’re not acceptable anywhere but in our own society. We have to have a place to go. If they close up our clubs, we’ll all have to take to the streets.”
[Source: “‘Patch’ Fights Three-Way Battle. The Los Angeles Advocate (August 1968): 3, 25.]
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► Flower Power Protest Against Los Angeles Police: 1968. From the day The Patch opened four months earlier, the popular Los Angeles Bar fought a series of battles just to stay open. The Los Angeles police tried to prohibit dancing to in the joint, the local musician’s union demanded the Patch put up a week’s worth of wages for any bands they hired, and the local PTA was trying to drive it out of town. If that weren’t enough, local youths who hung out at a nearby hamburger stand made a sport out of threatening and harassing bar patrons. Whenever anyone from the bar tried to call the police, the police would simply threaten to arrest the patron, while giving the local toughs a free reign.
Things came to a head on Saturday, August 17 when the Patch’s manager, Lee Glaze, noticed a couple of vice cops in the room. During a break in the music, Glaze got up on stage, pointed out the cops, and chided the LAPD for sending such “homely” vice officers. The vice cops left, but returned a little later at around midnight with five or six uniformed officers in tow. As the band kept playing, the officers fanned out and began checking I.D.’s as the band kept playing. They arrested two of the patrons and charged them with lewd conduct. Glaze was outraged at the accusation. The two had been competing for a third man’s attention and weren’t the least bit interested in each other. As Glaze remembered later, “How could you possible arrest two queens who hated each other?”
This wasn’t a full on police raid. The police understood that they didn’t need to conduct a full raid to close a bar down. Ordinarily all it would take would be for the police to show up and ask for a few I.D.’s and the bar’s patrons would go scrambling for the door. Make a few arrests, and the patrons would never return and the bar would be out of business. Glaze wasn’t about to let that happen at his bar. He jumped back onto the stage, and with the police looking on, he urged the audience not to be intimidated by the police. “It’s not against the law to be a homosexual,” he said, “and it’s not a crime to be in a gay bar.” He then announced that the Patch would provide bail money and a lawyer for the two who had been arrested. He stepped down from the stage, the band resumed playing, and a most remarkable thing happened: nobody left. The crowd of 250 kept dancing as though nothing happened.
Glaze left to find out more about the charges and bail amount at the police station. He then returned a short while later with a crazy idea. “Anyone here own a flower shop?” he asked from the stage. Of course, someone did. “Go clean it out,” he shouted, “I want to buy all your flowers.” He then invited everyone to go down to the Harbor Division station after the bar closed.
About twenty-five hardy souls took him up on the call, and the group camped out — in the best meaning of the word “camp” — all night in the station’s waiting room staging what has become known as the Flower Power Protest as a bewildered desk sergeant looked on. “One flower hits me, and you’re going to be charged with assault on a police officer,” the sergeant said, intimidating exactly no one in the room. Troy Perry (see Jul 27), who would later that year found the Metropolitan Community Church, happened to be there and later recalled what happened:
When we arrived at the police station, Lee told the officer at the desk, “We’re here to get our sisters out.” The officer asked, “What are your sisters’ names?” When Lee said, “Tony Valdez and Bill Hasting,” the officer had this surprised look on his face and called for backup. They didn’t know what to do with all the gay men waiting in the lobby. …Lee showed me you don’t have to be afraid of the police. Once that happened, it encouraged me to become a gay activist.
The bondsman soon arrived, posted bail, and left, saying that the two should be out in a few minutes. The police had other ideas, and held the two for several more hours before finally dropping the charges and releasing them at dawn.
It’s easy to under-appreciate the significance of the Flower Power protest. For the first time in memory, a gay bar not only survived the aftermath of a police raid after so many failed before, but thrived, thanks to the bar manager’s taking on the police on their home turf. The protest inspired several others in the Long Beach area to form legal defense funds, gay community forums, and even the world’s first Christian denomination founded specifically to meet the needs of gay people. The Los Angeles Advocate, which later became the national gay newsmagazine The Advocate, called the courageous action “a remarkable sight.”
[Additional source: Dick Michaels. “Cops Join Hoods in Harassing Bar.” The Los Angeles Advocate (September 1968): 5-6.]
► Pat Buchanan Declares “A Culture War” in America: 1992. Dissatisfied with President George H.W. Bush’s more moderate policies in pursuit of a “kinder, gentler America,” former Nixon speechwriter and Reagan communications director Pat Buchanan launched a primary challenge against Bush’s 1992 re-election campaign. Buchanan’s loud opposition to immigration, multiculturalism, abortion and gay rights earned him the nickname of “Pitchfork Pat.” It also got him a surprisingly strong New Hampshire primary showing with 38% of the vote against the incumbent’s 53%. Buchanan may have come in second, but by exceeding expectations by a large margin, many saw his showing as a win of sorts. Through the rest of the primary season, Buchanan collected three million votes and earned a spot as keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in Houston.
A few weeks before the GOP gathered in the Astrodome, former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination, and with his wife Hillary, promised that voters would get two Clintons for the price of one. Clinton and his running mate, Tennessee Sen. Al Gore, were leading in the polls by a substantial margin, and the GOP needed to work hard at rallying its socially conservative base. Buchanan delivered the goods in his opening night prime-time speech, in which he brought “Culture War” into the political lexicon:
Yes, we disagreed with President Bush, but we stand with him for freedom to choice religious schools, and we stand with him against the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women.
We stand with President Bush for right-to-life, and for voluntary prayer in the public schools, and against putting American women in combat. And we stand with President Bush in favor of the right of small towns and communities to control the raw sewage of pornography that pollutes our popular culture.
We stand with President Bush in favor of federal judges who interpret the law as written, and against Supreme Court justices who think they have a mandate to rewrite our Constitution.
My friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton and Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so, we have to come home, and stand beside him.
Buchanan ended his speech with a call to arms: “We must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.” Televangelist Pat Robertson and Marilyn Quale, wife of Vice President Dan Quayle, gave similarly sharp speeches, but Buchanan’s stood out. It brought the GOP delegates to their feet, but outside the arena his speech wasn’t quite as well received. One TV commentator remarked, “The most significant delegate here in Houston this week is God.” Anthony Lewis wrote in the New York Times, “The sleaze was so thick on the ground in Houston, the attacks so far-fetched, that some people may be tempted to dismiss them as funny. Not I. I remember Joe McCarthy.” George Will was similarly dismayed. “The crazies are in charge,” he wrote. “The fringe has taken over. … No wonder the Republicans must beg people to come into their shrinking tent. The fringe on that tent’s entrance is forbidding.” But the most succinct reaction came from Texas political pundit Molly Ivins, who said, “It probably sounded better in the original German.”
[Additional source: Timothy Stanley. The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2012): 2-6, 210-211.
► Kurt Hiller: 1885-1972. The German essayist and political journalist was an early influential writer of the German gay rights movement in the first few decades of the twentieth century. In 1908, he joined the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the world’s first gay rights organization which had been founded in 1897 by Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14 ). “In the final analysis, ” he wrote in 1921, “justice for you will be the fruit only of your own efforts. The liberation of homosexuals can only be the work of homosexuals themselves.”
In 1922 he published §175: Die Schmach des Jahrhunderts! (“Paragraph 175: The disgrace of the century!”), the title of which referred to the German penal code which criminalized homosexual activity between men. It was widely distributed, including to members of the Reichstag, during the debates on the sexual penal code in the 1920s. In 1929, Hiller took over as chairman of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, after Magnus Hirschfeld stepped down to focus his attention on the Institute for Sexual Research.
After the Nazis came to power, they banned both the Institute and Committee. Hiller, a gay pacifist socialist Jew, had more than enough reasons to land on the Gestapo’s radar. He was arrested and spent time in various concentration camps before being released on the brink of death in April of 1934. He fled to Prague later that year to avoid another arrest, then to London in 1938 just ahead of the German armies. While in London, he continued to write for the German exile press. In 1955, he returned to Hamburg, and tried to resurrect the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in 1962. That idea didn’t take root, but Hiller nevertheless continued to write on behalf of the gay rights movement. He published numerous articles and essays in the influential Swiss gay magazine Der Kreis. In 1965, Der Kreis returned the favor with a five-page commemoration for Hiller’s 80th birthday. Hiller died in 1972.
► Monty Woolley: 1888-1963. Born Edgar Montillion Woolley in New York to a wealthy family, Monty grew up among the crème de la crème of society. A Bachelor’s degree from Yale (with Cole Porter as a very close friend and classmate, see Jun 9), Master’s degrees from Yale and Harvard, he became an English professor at Yale with Thornton Wilder (see Apr 17) and Pulitzer honoree poet Stephen Vincent Benét among his students. Wooly began directing on Broadway in 1929, and his second career of acting in 1935 at the age of forty-eight.
His upper-crust background made him a natural for his most famous performance in the 1939 Kaufman and Hart comedy The Man who Came to Dinner. His portrayal of meddling and obnoxious prima donna radio star Sheridan Whiteside who visits a family in Ohio and winds up spending a month there, ran for 783 performances and rave reviews. Woolley signed with 20th Century Fox in the 1940s and appeared in the 1942 film adaption of The Man Who Came to Dinner with Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called the comedy the “most vicious but hilarious cat-clawing exhibition ever put on the screen, a deliciously wicked character portrait and a helter-skelter satire. (Woolley) spouts alliterations as though he were spitting out orange seeds …A more entertaining buttinsky could hardly be conceived.” Time said, “Woolley plays Sheridan Whiteside with such vast authority and competence that it is difficult to imagine anyone else attempting it.”
Indeed, it is hard to imagine anyone else. It suited his personality perfectly. And one cannot talk about Woolley without mentioning an incident at a dinner party, when after dinner he suddenly belched. A woman seating nearby glared at him. He glared back: “And what did you expect, my good woman? Chimes?” Woolley liked that line so well that he made sure it was written into his next film role.
His character-defining beard and mustache were as much a star as he was; fans affectionately nicknamed him “The Beard.” His hand and beard prints were both cast in concrete at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. He went on to earn Academy Award nominations for his appearances in The Pied Piper and Since You Went Away, playing crusty but lovable curmudgeons. but his sharp-tongued portrayal of the acerbic Sheridan Whiteside would come to define the rest of his career. Off screen, Woolley insisted that he was easy to get along with. Friends agreed, saying he was unusually generous and the life of every party. Yet when people saw him in a restaurant, it seemed they wouldn’t leave him alone until he finally dispatched them with an acerbic insult. Only then would they walk away deliriously happy. But when he bought a home in Saratoga Springs, Florida, he got to know and love the townspeople, and they returned his affection by electing him mayor in a write-in vote. He declined the offer, but showed his appreciation by giving a special performance of The Man Who Came to Dinner. “My heart lies in Saratoga Springs,” Monty said. “In Saratoga, I’m not Monty. I’m Edgar and that makes me happy indeed.”
At about the same time, Woolley met Cary Abbott, and the two moved in together in Saratoga Springs. After about five years together, Abbott suddenly died in 1948, leaving Woolley bereft. The kind and generous Woolley soon began drinking and becoming the acerbic old man he portrayed on screen. Even his good friend Cole Porter abandoned him, although part Porter’s disapproval came from Woolley’s affair with an African-American handyman. Woolley continued to appear in small roles in the 1950s, including a life television performance of The Man Who Came to Dinner, in a production that was condensed into a miserable forty-five minutes. He hated the result and critics agreed. Woolley died of kidney and heart disease in 1963 at the age of seventy-five.
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