The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 24

Jim Burroway

March 24th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, February 2, 1976, page 50.

Harry’s Back East was a longtime gay bar whose origins went back to at least 1968. It probably owed its longevity to its reputation for being a simple, laid-back and friendly place. At least one story has it that Judy Garland paid a visit there in 1969 shortly before she died. It was a narrow space, with a very long bar in front that ran the length of the front room, with a separate dance room in the back with a disco ball and a large red light that came on whenever the cops entered the front. That was everyone’s signal to stop dancing and act innocent, lest the cops start arresting them for “lewd” conduct. If the owners weren’t current on their bribes however, all bets were off and everyone was arrested regardless of what the cops found. Harry’s survived that era and continued as a popular hangout until it finally closed in 1982. The location’s latest incarnation appears to have been a restaurant that has recently closed.

Westbrook Pegler

Westbrook Pegler

Third Major Columnist Piles On the Lavender Scare: 1950. When Undersecretary of State for Administration John Peurifoy testified before the Senate Appropriations Commitee that 91 State Department employees were let go “for moral weakness (“Most of them were homosexual. In fact, I would say all of them were.”), that news barely made the papers (see Feb 28). Where it did, it was buried in much larger articles about an ongoing political argument over Alger Hiss, which was the main focus of the hearings. But after a public feud between Peurifoy and Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) broke out before the press, two major columnists brought the growing Lavender Scare to American readers across the country (see Mar 21, Mar 23). Now a third right-wing nationally syndicated columnist, King Features’ Westbrook Pegler, a rather nasty critic of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, took to the papers to warn that Peurifoy’s revelation was just the tip of the iceberg:

In the history of the United States, no situation ever existed before the long Roosevelt regime which was even comparable to that which was revealed recently by John E. Peurifoy, a deputy under-secretary of state, who testified that 91 homosexuals had been dismissed from the State Department. Homosexual means a person who has relations with another of the same sex. It is common knowledge that such persons have psychic ways of seeking one another. They flock together and are secretive and without honor. They are not beneath shame, however, and this makes them the more dangerous in positions of trust and “delicacy” in a government. Being furtive and ashamed, they are susceptible to blackmail and threats of exposure.

…Mr. Peurifoy did not name any of the 91 who were thrown out of the State Department. That was only one department. There is no information as to other departments. No reason occurs why the State Department should have been so heavily contaminated and others should not have been equally corrupt. There is no reason to assume, in the absence of proof, that the 91 who were eliminated from the State Department were, in the English phrase, “the lot of them.” Others may be there still. In the absence of a list one does not know whether Peurifoy’s homosexuals include an old family friend of the Roosevelts whose reputation, rightly or wrongly, became notorious and who finally left, apparently of his own will and in good order. He was a confidant of the royal family and is shown to have been put to the uses of the communists in one conspicuous recorded case.

Pegler continued writing for King Features Syndicate until 1962, when he fell out with executives at the Hearst Corporation which owned the syndicate. He then found work writing for the John Birch Society, the White Christian Council and the Christian Crusade. (Despite all this, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote a paean to Pegler in the New Yorker in 2004.)  This column demonstrates the kind of journalism by innuendo and supposition that would so endear him with the Birchers two decades later. It also illustrates the nasty partisan nature of McCarthy’s new crusade. Pegler recalls a comment by Eleanor Roosevelt, who he not so endearingly calls “the Empress”:

In a recent broadcast, shamelessly plugging her paltry potboiler, “This I Remember,” the Empress said of her late husband: “I think he got — I think a great many people that perhaps he never saw but once made impressions on him. He began to learn about people. He began very often with me to meet different people when he was young and I always had lots of queer friends.”

In October, 1920, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for vice president under James M. Cox. John R. Rathom, the publisher of the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin of Providence, R.I., and two other persons were sued in a libel action by Roosevelt … (The complaint) demanded $500,000 on the ground of charges published by Rathom concerning Roosevelt’s attitude toward sailors convicted of sexual perversion when he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The article in question charged that degenerates had been returned to active service. … Roosevelt’s failure to press his complaint, allowing it to lapse by default, was tantamount to an admission of the truth of the charge that he had been guilty of felonious conduct.

The Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1969, page 1. (a href="">Source)

The Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1969, page 1. (Source)

Los Angeles Times Discovers “The Male Colony”: 1969. This would have to be about the oddest reporting on the gay community to come out of a major newspaper of the 1960s. The Los Angeles Times’s track record on reporting about the goings-on in the gay community was never particularly stellar. It ignored the Black Cat raid of 1967 (see Jan 1) along with a host of other developments taking place right under its nose. But in 1969, the Times finally came through with an article which, despite its myriad of limitations and quirks, ammounted to a reasonably balalced-for-the-1960s look at the heretofore ignored community. The quirkiness begins with the front-page title, “The Male Colony — Who They Are, What They Think”:

Los Angeles is a city where the homosexual colony has been established for a long time and is well organized. These two facts have resulted in a gradual erosion of much of the active hostility directed against homosexuals here. For example, about 15 years ago, publications of a homosexual organization were seized by the postmaster here because an article dealing with long-term living arrangements between male couples or “homosexual marriages.” Today, illustrated articles of this sort pass through the mails without any difficulties.”

The article went on to characterize the police’s interactions with the gay community, after years of hostility “in the early 1950s” were now benign. That undoubtedly came as a surprise to large numbers of gay people in Los Angeles. Much of the reporters views on the gay community seemed to have come from a man identified by his pseudonym, “Chuck Thompson,” who was “past 40 (and) financially independent” with a “Hollywood canyon home, expensively decorated with a pool,” with friends who “live in beautiful houses and give the finest parties.” This would hardly make Thompson a very representative member of the community. But his wasn’t the only representation of what the Times considered typical of gay life:

“On Friday and Saturday, high school boys come to Hollywood and get picked up by a queer,” said Capt. Charles W. Crumley, commander of the Los Angeles Police Department Hollywood Division. “It’s almost ritualistic. Homosexuals have a hell of an influence on youth. This is a serious threat to the whole society. We could have a whole generation of fruits.”

…On one street, near a church, Crumley said, the homosexuals sometimes are so thick that a man could not get his car out of a parking lot without being propositioned twice. “A vice officer does not ahve to offer himself as bait,” Crumley added. “He does not have to use any subterfuge. In cationg a homosexual, you don’t have to half try.”

The homosexual-as-predator theme was amplified further when the article described situational homosexuality in prisons, even though, as a professor of crimiology at Cal State Long Beach noted, “On their release, when they have a chance to be with the opposite sex, they would probably not continue to be homosexual.” It also spent considerable time discussing transgender people — which was almost always confused with homosexuality at that time, even among professionals.

Lebians weren’t completely ignored. Seven out of 77 paragraphs were devoted to them. The Times explained that near-exclusion by noting that “comparatively little research has been done on the subject of lesbians. It is known that lesbians usually form long-lasting relationships and are not promiscuous, as are most male homosexuals. They seldom become a topic for police attention.” Their problems, according to the article, weren’t the problems of lesbians, but the problems of being women in a male-dominated society.

A somewhat jumbled history of the gay rights movement followed, with brief mentions of Lisa Ben’s newsletter “Vice Versa” (see Nov 7, which the Times confusingly described as “the prototype of all existing homosexual organizations” even though it wasn’t an organization at all), the Mattachine Society (which the Times erroneously described as operating “still in secret,”) the Daughters of Bilitis, and ONE, Inc., which published ONE magazine.

This final section on gay rights groups was introduced by remarks from Dr. Judd Marmor, then a psychiatrist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “Homosexuals are becoming more expressive in asserting their minority rights,” he reportedly said. “Their organizations are less underground. They are vocal and insistent about getting their rights as human beings despite their variant behavior.” Marmor had already spent much of the decade trying to convince colleagues that gay people were neither ill nor deviant. He was an early and strong advocate for removing homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders (see May 2). All of that leads me to wonder if the Times may have misquoted him when closing the article in a way that would be more satisfactory to the Times:

As for the future of homosexuality, society needs to become more tolerant, according to Dr. Marmor. At the same time, research into the prevention of homosexuality should be undertaken, he added.

 ACT-UP Launches First Protest: 1987. Morning rush hour became ensnarled in lower Manhattan as 250 AIDS activists protested at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street. The protest was the result of growing frustration over New York City’s lax response to the AIDS crisis in the city as well as the Food and Drug Administration’s cautious and excruciatingly slow process for approving new drugs to combat the disease. Only one drug, AZT, had been approved so far (see Mar 19), but at $10,000 per year ($20,000 in today’s dollars) it was prohibitively expensive, hard to obtain (it was being rationed), and of very limited efficacy. European regulators had approved several other drugs for use in combating AIDS, but the FDA’s standard process for approval would take the better part of a decade, far longer than most people with AIDS would have to live.

The newly-formed group, ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), was born from that frustration, and on the morning of March 24 they took to the streets for the first time. Playwright Larry Kramer, one of the group’s founder, said, “We’ve been told by the leading AIDS experts that there are drugs that are safer to use and more promising than AZT. We want these drugs and we want the Wall Street business community to help us get them.” The group also called for a massive public education campaign to stop the spread of the disease, an anti-discrimination policy for people with AIDS in treatment, insurance, employment and housing, and a national comprehensive national policy on AIDS. Protesters sat down in the middle of the street, resulting in seventeen arrests. After more than a year of protests, including a massive protest in which members of ACT-UP occupied the grounds of the FDA in Washington, D.C., (See Oct 11), the FDA finally relented and instituted a new emergency streamlined process for quicker approval of AIDS drugs.

Grethe Cammermeyer: 1942. She was born in Oslo during the Nazi occupation of Norway, in a home that was across the street from Nazi headquarters. Her parents were active in the resistance, and they used to hide guns under the mattress of her baby carriage, and push her through the streets of Oslo to make deliveries to the resistance. After the war, the family moved to the U.S. in 1951, and she became a U.S. citizen upon turning eighteen in 1960.

In 1961, she joined the Army Nurse Corps to learn to be a nurse. She married a fellow soldier in 1965, served at a hospital in Vietnam for fourteen months, then left the army in 1968 when she became pregnant for her first son. Army regulations at the time didn’t allow women to have dependent children. When that changed in 1972, she returned to the Army Reserves and rose to the rank of Colonel in 1987. Meanwhile, she gave birth to three more sons and entered a period that she called her “identity crisis, as I came to understand that I was a lesbian.” She divorced after fifteen years of marriage.

In 1988, she accepted a position as Chief Nurse of the Washington State National Guard. While interviewing for a top-secret clearance in 1989, she truthfully answered the question that would get her in trouble: “I am a lesbian.” During that past year, she had been in a relationship with Diane Divelbess, and the two would go on to become lifelong partners. But Cammermeyer’s answer to investigators kicked off an investigation and proceedings that ended with her discharge in 1992. She immediately filed a lawsuit to try to get her job back. In June, 1994, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Zilly ruled that the military’s ban on gays serving openly was unconstitutional. The Pentagon requested a stay of the decision, but Zilly refused, as did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. To preserve “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Pentagon elected not to appeal rather than risk a higher court ruling that would free others from serving under the ban. Cammermeyer returned to the National Guard, and retired with full military privileges in 1997.

After Washington voters approved a marriage equality referendum at the ballot box in 2012, Cammermeyer and Divelbess became the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license in Island County, where they make their home.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?


March 24th, 2015

“Christian medical professionals are challenging Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in court over a policy that requires doctors to provide or at least refer medical services, even when they clash with personal values.”

“The new Ontario policy requires doctors unwilling to provide certain care, such as prescriptions for contraception, to refer patients in good faith to a “non-objecting, available, and accessible” physician. The policy also says in medical emergencies, the doctors would be required to perform procedures themselves.

Doctors who violate the policy could face disciplinary action, the college policy states.”

“”The obligation to provide an ‘effective referral’ for a procedure or pharmaceuticals to which the physician objects on moral or religious grounds is, for some physicians, unconscionable,” the applicants say in the statement of claim.”


March 24th, 2015

“Pegler continued writing for King Features Syndicate until 1962, when he fell out with executives at the Hearst Corporation which owned the syndicate. He then found work writing for the John Birch Society, the White Christian Council and the Christian Crusade. (Despite all this, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote a paean to Pegler in the New Yorker in 2004.)”

Given how in the 1950s and 60s in the National Review Buckley would go on and on about how awful the Civil Rights movement was and talk a lot about its “connections” to Communists, it is entirely appropriate the Paean would write a paean.

Paul Douglas

March 25th, 2015

Pegler was a pretty nasty man. Even the Hearst Corporation was apparently too liberal for him. Died of stomach cancer apparently.
No tears.

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