The Daily Agenda for Sunday, February 22

Jim Burroway

February 22nd, 2015

Events This Weekend: Pride, Cape Town, South Africa; Telluride Gay Ski Week, Mountain Village, CO; Elevation: Utah Gay Ski Week, Park City, UT; Arctic Pride, Rovaniemi, Finland; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Where It's At, July 24, 1978, page 67.

From Where It’s At, July 24, 1978, page 67.

Broadway Baths was located just a couple of buildings away from the Eugene O’Neill Theater. The Broadway Baths building is gone, replaced with the parking garage entrance for the Times Square Crowne Plaza.

A "Ten Cent Turkish Bath" in New York's Bowery

A “Ten-cent Turkish Bath” in New York’s Bowery

New York Police Raid the Ariston Baths: 1903. The Ariston Baths were billed a Russian and Turkish Baths in the basement of the Arison Apartments at the northeast corner of Broadway and 55th Street. It had operated as early as 1897, and quickly became the scene of a thriving gay scene. By February of 1903, this scene came to the attention of New York police, which began infiltrating the baths in secret. On the evening of February 21, a large number of police officers stood by outside while undercover officers spent several hours inside noting the “crimes” taking place. At about 1:30 a.m. the signal was given for the officers outside to rush the baths and begin making arrests. That morning, The New York Times wrote about the “intense excitement about the place”:

Inspector Brooks, Acting-Inspector Walsh and Capt. Schmittberger of the West Forty-seventh Street Station, about 1:#0 this morning raided the Ariston Turkish and Russian bath… They drove up a patrol wagon in which they were going to take away those at the baths, of whom two were detectives looking for evidence.

Inspector Brooks said evidence had been gathered for weeks against the place and that the conduct of some of the frequenters of the establishment was questionable.

Superintendent McLintock of the Society for the Prevention of Crime, and Secretary Coursey, Police Commissioner Greene’s private secretary, were in the raid with the police.

There was intense excitement about the place when the raid was made.

This raid is often billed as the first recorded raid on a gay bathhouse. As many as 78 men were in the baths at the time, with 26 arrested. Eleven were charged with felonies and held on bail ranging from $1,700 to $3,500 (equivalent to about $44,000 to $91,000 today). One of those arrested was identified as “Moses Beck,” a pseudonym for someone described in the press as a “wealthy merchant” who had “managed to keep his right name for himself.” Altogether, seven men were convicted and received sentences ranging from four to twenty years. One was another prominent individual identified himself as “George Galbert.” He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in Sing Sing. Three months later, it emerged that “Galbert” was actually George Caldwell, an architect who was identified in the press as the “grandson of a former Kentucky Governor.” (In fact, his father Isaac Caldwell, was a prominent Louisville lawyer and his uncle, George Alfred Caldwell, had been a member of the US House of Representatives for Kentucky.) That news hit the press when it was learned that New York Gov. Benjamin Odell, Jr., had pardoned Caldwell after serving only three months of his sentence. That pardon reportedly came at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt or, at the very least, at the request of Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice, who was close friend’s with Caldwell’s sister. That pardon became major news, as the Saint Paul Globe reported from all the way in Minnesota:

George Caldwell once regarded as one of the best architects in Kentucky, began drinking and went from bad to worse. His sister Margaret brought him to New York and got him a position in an architect’s office. He had stopped drinking, rose to an excellent position and for the first time since their parents’ death the Caldwell girls were in comfort.

George was supporting these sisters and they believed him all that he represented himself to be when he was arrested last July and sent to Sing Sing to serve seven years for immoral practices. President Roosevelt met the Caldwell children’s father when he was in Louisville to consult John Mason Brown about a book he was writing.

Herman Hoefer, a wallpaper manufacturer and owner of the Ariston Apartments, had fled the city immediately following the raid, but returned after believing the coast was clear. But police broke into his flat at 2:00 a.m. on May 4 and arrested him on charges of keeping a disorderly house. It was later found that Hoefer wasn’t responsible for the operation of the baths, but the controversy nevertheless damaged the Ariston’s reputation and tenants fled. By the end of the year, Hoefer declared bankruptcy and lost the Ariston, which was then valued at $800,0000 (about $20 million in today’s dollars)

 65 YEARS AGO: Modesto Youth Gets Probation On “Morals Charge”: 1950. Vernon Edward Jensen, a clerk at a florist shop, pleaded guilty to what The Modesto (CA) Bee called simply a “sex perversion charge.” The circumstances behind the arrest aren’t described, except that

Jensen was one of nine recently arrested on perversion charges in a police roundup. Two of the nine were county teachers, Rolla H. Nuckles, 37, of 110 Roselawn Avenue, Modesto High School public speaking instructor, and Charles Lloyd Martin, 23, at 310 South Broadway, Turlock, who taught English and history at the Wakefield School there.

The charge against Nuckles were dismissed two days earlier, after having been held in jail since January 27 at the recommendation of the Deputy District Attorney. But that didn’t shield him from having his name and address printed once again in the paper. There is no mention of what happened to Martin. As for Jensen, a psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Gladen, head of the Modesto State Hospital, said that he wasn’t a “psychiatric abnormal person”:

As quoted by the court, Dr. Gladen pictured Jensen as not a homosexual but as “foolish kid,” now highly penitent and disgusted with his past action, and deserving of another chance.

The court agreed, and sentenced him to three years probation, during which time “he must obey all laws, report to the probation officer at regular intervals, remain in the county and refrain from excessive use if liquor.”

I see these names in the papers and often wonder what happened to them. Whenever people were arrested on a “morals charge” or for “lewd vagrancy,” their names, addresses and places of employment were typically printed in the paper, and that publicity often made whatever official punishment they may have received mild in comparison to losing their job or being shunned by their families and neighbors. It must have been an extraordinarily humiliating experience for each of these three men. But sixty years later, those very details are sometimes the only thing which can truly remind us that these were real people suffering from this kind of official oppression and not just characters in long-forgotten newspaper clippings.

Like I said, I often wonder what happened to some of these people that I run across, so I went sleuthing on There, I found a Vernon Edward Jenson, born February 11, 1929 in Butte, California, who died in 1995 in Alameda. Unfortunately, that’s all I was able to find for him. I wasn’t able to come up with much of anything for Martin.

Rolla H. Nuckles from a 1933 college yearbook

But I may have found some interesting information on Nuckles, the teacher against whom the charges were dismissed. Rolla Hargiss Nuckles was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and attended the University of Kansas where, in 1932 and 1933, he was a member of the Dramatic Club, and in 1933 was president of the local chapter of the National Collegiate Players, “one of the many units in all nation-wide dramatic movements.”) That same year, he appeared on the Dramatic Club’s performance of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” where, according to the college yearbook, “Elizabeth Crafton stole the show and Rolla Nuckles wore lace.” Nuckles appears to have been quite the performer. As a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, he was described as “perhaps the most delectable tap dancer to nauseate the Hill in some years.” In 1938, he’s still there, teaching “radio speaking” for students at the University of Kansas’ radio station KFKU and directing radio dramas as well as theatrical plays. This seems to match pretty well with being a public speaking instructor in Modesto.

Ensign Rolla Nuckes (Life)

Ensign Rolla Nuckes (Life)

After I first posted this information about Nuckles, a BTB reader was able to dig up some more info to send to me. It turns out that Nuckles was something of a war hero. During World War II, Nuckles served in the Navy in the Pacific, where he was credited with helping to rescue 157 survivors of the Cruiser U.S.S. Helena on July 16, 1943.

Kansas City Star, July 19, 1943, pages 1, 6.

Kansas City Star, July 19, 1943, pages 1, 6.

The Helena had sunk in a Pacific battle in the Solomon Islands the week before. Nuckles was in charge of the landing craft which evaded Japanese patrols in a pre-dawn raid to save the men who had made it to an enemy-held island. Those exploits earned him a front-page write-up in The Kansas City Star and a feature in the August 23, 1943 issue of Life.

After the war, Nuckles hosted the radio program “Navy Reporter” for Armed Forces Radio. He moved to New York City, where he worked in several 0ff-Broadway productions, including a production of Romeo and Juliet with Eva LaGallienne and Harvey with Roddy McDowell. He also taught drama at the State University of New York in Morrisville, Old Dominion, and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio,where he also directed and acted in a number of plays. He died in San Antonio in 2000.

Frank Kameny Becomes First Openly Gay Candidate for Congress: 1971. The U.S. Constitution grants each state voting representation in both houses of Congress, but because the District of Columbia isn’t one, its more than half-a-million residents are taxed without voting representation (even though its population is larger than Wyoming). But in 1971, Congress agreed to allow D.C. to be represented in the House of Representatives by a single by a non-voting delegate. On February 22, pioneering gay rights advocate Franklin E. Kameny (see May 21) filed his nominating papers and proclaimed himself “the first publicly declared homosexual ever to run for Congress.” In announcing his run, Kameny declared, “We intend to remind a government and a country, which seems in may ways to have forgotten it, exactly what Americanism means — that this is a country of personal freedom and individual diversity; that Queen Victoria is dead, and the Puritans are long gone.”

Kameny joined a crowded field of eight (soon narrowed to six after two candidates’ petitions were thrown out), led by front-runner Democrat Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, who had been an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Contrary to expectations, Kameny didn’t run a single-issue campaign. He spoke at forums and television appearances about welfare reform, crime, the Vietnam war, freeway construction, home rule for the District, and other issues in terms similar to other candidates. But, as he told one audience, his campaign added “a special concern for what America stands for in terms of human rights for minorities like homosexuals.” One audience member exclaimed, “Are you serious?” Kameny answered, characteristically, “Yes, I certainly am.”

The overarching theme of the campaign was personal freedom. “I offer you beyond what the other candidates offer,” he told one forum at Howard University, “a special sensitivity to personal freedom, the right to live your life as you choose to live it.”

At one point in the campaign, Kameny told reporters, “My candidacy is a special one and will be conducted in some special ways.” One of those special ways was a campaign event he held at 1:00 a.m. on an early Friday Morning at Pier Nine, one of the city’s largest gay bars at Half and T Streets SW. The goal was to make sure the gay vote became a visible one. “Even if we don’t win,” he said, “if we can get 5,000 to 10,000 votes, things will not be the same again. That many votes would not be overlooked. …We are part of society; we are citizens of Washington, and we love this city. We want to play an active role in the life of Washington.”

On March 23, Fauntroy, as expected, won and became the District’s first non-voting delegate to Congress. (He would also, years later, become an outspoken foe of marriage equality in the District and a supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment.) Kameny came in fourth with 1,841 votes. The vote count may have been small (only 1.6% of the total), but it did wind up changing the local political dynamic. In the following year, several candidates for the newly elected city school board went out of their way to court gay and lesbian voters.

[Sources: David R. Boldt. “Homosexual files delegate papers.” The Washington Post (February 23, 1971): A17

William L. Claiborne. “Candidate seeks end to homosexual ban.” The Washington Post (March 10, 1971): C1, C3.

Bart Barneas. “Kameny stresses personal freedom.” The Washington Post (March 13, 1971): B1, B2.

“Kameny for Congress.” The Rainbow History Project (Undated): Online.]

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?


February 22nd, 2015

“After being snubbed by the Oscars, Quebec director Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” has won best foreign film at France’s César Awards.​

The film beat out heavyweights such as Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which are both in the running for best picture at Sunday’s Oscars, for the prize in Paris on Friday.”

Fritz Keppler

February 22nd, 2015

KFKU, eh?

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