The Daily Agenda for Thursday, August 21
August 21st, 2014
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Chico, CA; Columbia, MO; Cornwall, UK; Derry/Londonderry, UK; Erie, PA; Galway, Ireland; Kassel, Germany; Lansing, MI; Manchester, UK; Mocton, NB; Norfolk, VA; Salem, OR; Sligo, Ireland; Stockton, CA; Toledo, OH; Torquay, UK; Ventura, CA; Waterloo, IA.
Other Events This Weekend: Big Bear Adventure Weekend, Big Bear Lake, CA; Michigan March to the Capital, Lansing, MI; Camp Camp, Portland, ME; AIDS Red Ribbon Ride, Rochester, NY; Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Vancouver, BC.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The Sax Club in Burbank managed to find a way to bring the crowds in on what was typically would typically be a dead Monday night, by hosting a take-off on the game show “The Dating Game.” The Sax Club’s version, called the “Date-Me Game,” was so successful that when The Los Angeles Advocate reviewed the club in June of 1968, it noted that the game had been going on each Monday night “for the past 20 weeks. The game followed, more or less, like the television version, as a “mystery bachelor” would quiz three contestants and chose one for an all-expenses paid date. Judging by the elaborate prize, the “Date-Me Game” must have been popular and lucrative: “First, they were to be treated to dinner and cocktails at the exclusive Enchanted Castle in the Hollywood Hills. Then their “Date-Me Game” car will whisk them to the airport where they will jet to San Diego for a night of fun at the famous American speakeasy, Mickey Finn’s. Then after a full night of pleasure, they will be flown back to Los Angeles to leave future dates up to fate.”
The Advocate’s review of the Sax Club continued:
Kathy, the Sax’s jolly bar-miss and Frank, the manager, made the contestants and customers feel at home in the warm, friendly atmosphere which surrounded the dancing and laughter. David, the owner, told us that they had thought of doing a “camp” version of the “Newlywed Game,” but were having trouble finding a ‘gay married couple’ that stayed together long enough. By the way, if you wish to compete for a fabulous date in the “Date-Me Game” go in and sign up at the bar. The Sax also features jam sessions every Friday and Sunday … plus other entertainment.
[Source: “P-Nutz” (pseudonym). “Syncopation: The Sax Club.” The Los Angeles Advocate (June 1968): 13, 16.]
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
► The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot: 1966. Stonewall gets all of the press. Lore has it that it is the very first time in modern history that the LGBT community physically fought back against police harassment. Lore is wrong.
Until some very recent development began to take hold in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, it has always been an impoverished neighborhood, home to the transient and the marginalized. Polk Street, between Ellis and California Streets, was the heart of the gay community in the 1960s. Turk Street, to the south and east, was home to the transgender/transsexual community. Because cross-dressing was illegal in San Francisco, gay bars often didn’t welcome transgender and transsexual people out of fear of being raided by police. What’s more, and because it was extremely difficult for transwomen to hold a job, many of them turned to prostitution and drugs. Rounding out the Turk Street population was a host of homeless LGBT youth, drag queens, prostitutes and hustlers.
At the corner of Taylor and Turk streets stood Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a twenty-four hour restaurant and one of the few places that the people of Turk Street could go to get out of the weather and the violence on the street, and get a cheap meal or grab a cup of coffee between tricks. It was also the meeting place for Vanguard, a radical queer youth group established by Glide Memorial Methodist Church.
In the Spring of 1966, new management arrived at Compton’s, and they began to make life difficult for the hustlers, transwomen and homeless youth who spent a lot of time there but very little money. By summertime, Compton’s hired security guards and began calling the police to clear out the restaurant. Vanguard responded with a picket on July 18, but Compton’s policy of harassment and discrimination continued.
Then one night sometime in August — nobody knows when, and disturbances in the Tenderloin were so common that newspapers rarely bothered to report them — Compton’s again called the police to clear out the restaurant. When police arrived, One of the officers grabbed a transgender customer who threw her coffee in his face. Immediately, about fifty other customers started rioting, overturning tables, throwing dishes and breaking the cafeteria’s plate glass windows. The rioting expanded out in the street as customers left the cafeteria only to find more police officers and waiting paddy wagons. The riot only grew from there. By the time the night was over, one police car was destroyed and a corner newsstand was set on fire.
While little is known about the Compton’s riot, it did manage to have a lasting impact. The transgender community began organizing and police started backing off from arresting anyone violating the city’s cross-dressing laws. Those laws were eventually discarded a few years later. In 1968, the National Transsexual Counseling Unit was formed which brought together a network of social, psychological and medical support services for the transgender community. The NTCU was headed by Sergeant Elliot Blackstone, who had acted as a San Francisco Police liaison to the LGBT community since 1962.
Compton’s, like Stonewall, not the first time LGBT people fought back against police harassment. There had been a similar riot in 1959 at Cooper’s Donuts in Los Angeles. But the Compton’s riot was an important turning point. And yet it was almost forgotten. The 2005 documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria revived attention to the Compton’s riot once more, and a memorial plaque was set in the sidewalk in front of where Compton’s once stood ni 2006. The location is now a free clinic for women. The plaque reads:
Here marks the site of Gene Compton’s Cafeteria where a riot took place one August night when transgender women and gay men stood up for their rights and fought against police brutality, poverty, oppression and discrimination in the Tenderloin: We, the transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual community, are dedicating this plaque to these heroes of our civil rights movement.
Here is the trailer for Screaming Queens:
► Aubrey Beardsley: 1872-1898. He struggled with tuberculosis from the age of nine until his untimely death at the age of twenty-five. The nearly constant reminders of mortality may well have influenced his black ink sketches, which combined the then-popular whimsy of art nouveau stylings with grotesque themes (sometimes including depictions of enormous genitals and breasts) akin to what you might find in modern goth. “I have one aim — the grotesque,” he once said. “If I am not grotesque I am nothing,” Beardlsey received his first commission in 1893, when he published 300 illustrations for an edition of Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. That same year, he was hired to create the illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome. Other notable works followed, for an edition of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (1896), a private edition of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata (1896) and his own A Book of Fifty Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley (1897).
He founded the magazine The Studio in 1893 and co-founded The Yellow Book in 1894. The Yellow Book quickly earned a reputation for being provocative and daring, despite publisher John Lane’s constant attempts to keep Beardsley under control. Before each publication, Lane would painstakingly examine each of Beardsley’s illustrations to make sure he didn’t hide any inappropriate details, as Beardsley was known to do. The two played this cat-and-mouse game throughout Beardsley’s tenure at The Yellow Book, which shocked critics for his open mocking of Victorian values. In response to those critics, Beardsley published two drawings in one issue of The Yellow Book which were stylistically different from his other work, under the pseudonyms of Phillip Broughton and Albert Foschter. A critic at The Saturday Review called “Broughton’s” illustration “a drawing of merit” and Foschter’s “a clever study”. But as for Beardsley’s, they were “as freakish as ever.”
Beardskey was fired due to his association with Oscar Wilde soon after Wilde’s arrest in 1895. The Yellow Book‘s quality and popularity suffered, and it folded in 1897. Beardsly then went to The Savoy, where he also served as editor, allowing him to pursue writing as well as illustration. The Savoy was published by Leonard Smithers, a friend of Wilde who also published a number of Beardsley’s works, as well as, among other things, pornographic books. The Savoy lasted only a year. In 1897, Beardsley’s health deteriorated. He moved to the French Riviera, converted to Roman Catholicism, and died at the age of twenty-five on March 16, 1898.
► Don Slater: 1923-1997. Born the oldest twin, in Pasadena, California, Don Slater never did take to his father’s passion for team sports, but he did become an accomplished skier and swimmer and was passionate about nature and the outdoors. He also, early on, acquired an easiness among a variety of people, from street hustlers and cross-dressers to literature professors and librarians, which belied his conservatism — a “gentleman’s conservative,” friends called him.
While attending the University of Southern California in 1944 following his honorable discharge from the army, he quickly connected with the University’s “gay underground.” He met his partner, Tony Reyes, in 1945, and the two remained together for the next fifty-two years until Slater’s death. In the early 1950s, Slater and Reyes attended a Mattachine meeting in Los Angeles, but Slater found the whole thing silly. He was put off by the “mystic brotherhood” talk and dismissed the whole affair as “a sewing circle” and “the Stitch and Bitch club.”
But when he learned that Bill Lambert (a.k.a Dorr Legg, see Dec 15), Dale Jennings (see Oct 21); and others were about to found ONE Magazine as the first national publication for the emerging gay community (see Oct 15), Slater felt that he found his calling. The first meetings of the nascent magazine took place in 1952 just before Slater’s graduation from USC (a graduation delayed by a bout of rheumatic fever) and those meeting minutes were written in his spiral class notebook.
Slater saw ONE’s main mission as being an educational one. When ONE, Inc., established an Educational Division, he became an Assistant Professor for Literature. He also became the organization’s archivist, which he saw is ONE’s core strength. Those duties were in addition to his role as an editor for the magazine. As the organization grew, Slater took on leadership roles on the Board of Directors. By the mid-1960s, a bitter dispute divided the board, and Slater led a group that complained that the board had been illegally usurped by the rival faction. In April of 1965, Slater, Reyes and Billy Glover moved ONE’s library and office from Venice to a new location on Cahuenga Blvd “for the protection of the property of the corporation.” For four months, confused subscribers received two competing ONE Magazines in the mail, one published by ONE, Inc., and the other by Slater’s The Tangent Group, named for a regular column in ONE.
Slater soon changed the name of his magazine to Tangents, but the dispute continued. The remnant faction at ONE, Inc., demanded the return of the archives, which Slater believed would have been threatened if they were returned. “If ONE has any assets, this is it. Damn the future of its publications, but the fate of this material is important.” After a two year court battle, the two sides settled, with ONE, Inc., retaining the right to publish ONE magazine and The Tangent Group retaining ownership of Slater’s beloved archives. In 1968, the Tangent Group re-incorporated as the Homosexual Information Center (HIC).
The turmoil over ONE did little to slow Slater’s activism. He helped organize a motorcade protest in Los Angeles in 1966 on Armed Forces Day to protest the exclusion of gays in the military, and he was arrested by police in 1967 when they shut down a play sponsored by HIC. In 1968, he led a picket of the Los Angeles Times for refusing to publish an ad for another gay-themed play. He continued to publish Tangents until 1973. Slater passed away in 1997 from rheumatic heart valvular disease. His HIC archives of more than 4,000 books, periodicals and pamphlets are now housed at the Vern and Bonnie Bullough Collection at California State University at Northridge.
► James “John” Gruber: 1928-2011. James Gruber was born on Des Moines, Iowa, but his father, a former vaudeville performer turned music teacher, moved the family to Los Angeles in 1936. In 1946, Gruber turned eighteen and enlisted in the Marines. He later remarked that being in such close proximity to men, he “went bananas in the sex department.” Despite the, ah, camaraderie, he continued to have affairs with women, and throughout his life he considered himself bisexual. After he was honorably discharged in 1949, he studied English Literature at Occidental College and met Christopher Isherwood, who would become a close friend and mentor.
In April 1951, Gruber and his boyfriend, photographer Konrad Stevens, became the last new members of a group of gay men who had begun gathering under the name of “Society of Fools,” which proved to be a turning point. “All of us had known a whole lifetime of not talking, or repression. Just the freedom to open up … really, that’s what it was all about. We had found a sense of belonging, of camaraderie, of openness in an atmosphere of tension and distrust. … Such a great deal of it was a social climate. A family feeling came out of it, a nonsexual emphasis. … It was a brand-new idea.”
Gruber and Stevens brought a new sense of urgency into group, with Gruber suggesting the group rename itself the Mattachine Foundation, referring to the medieval masque troops known as “matachines” (spelled with one “t”). Gruber was also responsible for taking the only known photo of the early members of the highly secretive group when he snapped a quick snapshot during a gathering in 1951. Founder Harry Hay was furious that the members’ faces were photographed in violation of Mattachine’s strict policy of anonymity, and Gruber was nearly expelled. The only way he stayed in was by lying and saying there was no film in the camera.
Gruber was active in Mattachine’s early public push to address ongoing harassment the Los Angeles police department. He and other Mattachine members formed the Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment to raise funds for Dale Jennings’s solicitation trial (see Jun 23). Gruber wrote and distributed much of Mattachine’s early literature to publicize the trial and solicit funds for legal fees. Not only did Jennings win his case, but Mattachine’s newfound public profile attracted a crop of new members. Ironically, those new members, having discovered Mattachine because of its publicity, demanded that Foundation pull back from the spotlight over fears of further harassment. Many of them just wanted was a social organization, not a political one. They also had misgivings over co-founder Harry Hay’s Communist connections. Frustrated over the looming takeover by the newer members, Gruber and the rest of the old guard resigned (see Apr 11).
Gruber moved to San Francisco, and then Palo Alto, where he changed his first name to John. “It was the most effective way I could find to escape Mom’s ceaseless calling for ‘Jimmy!’ inside my head,” he said. He became a high school and college teacher, and he loved working in his new profession. In the late 1990s, Gruber became involved with documenting the history of the gay community and was recognized as a pioneering organizer. Before he died peacefully in 2011 at his home in Santa Clara, he was the last living member of the original Mattachine Foundation.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?