The Daily Agenda for Saturday, December 19

Jim Burroway

December 19th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), November 1971, page 7.

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), November 1971, page 7.

Entre’ Nuit opened at at 4516 McKinney Avenue in Dallas sometime in mid-November of 1971. According to an announcement in Our Community, Entre’ Nuit boasted “a stunning parquet wood dance floor (the largest in Dallas), luxurious carpeting, wall-to-ceiling mirrors, a neo-Grecian classical facade and interior columns, spacious T-rooms, and billiards table.” But opening a gay club was a dicy proposition, as Our Community reported in January:

The beautiful Entre’ Nuit had been opened less than a month, and was already one of the favorite gathering places for the gay folks of Dallas. But on the morning of Sunday, December 19, at about 7: 00 A.M., someone (for reasons unknown) burned it. An off-duty policeman was the first to spot the flames, but by the time the fire department was able to bring the fire under control, the back half of the bar was completely gutted. Three jugs of gasoline had not burned. One was in the center of the parquet wood dance floor, another was placed near the bar, and the third was close to the entrance.

Bill and Joe, owners of the Entre’ Nuit have no idea who burned the bar nor do they know of any motive for anyone doing so. But one thing is certain: the Entre’ Nuit will not be closed for long. Completely redone, and with much the same decor, it will reopen shortly after the first of the year. So everyone attend the Entre’ Nuit New Year’s party even if it will be a little late this year.

Most gratifying is the way other bar owners have rallied together and have offered a reward ($800 so far) for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for this latest burning.

Entre’ Nuit wasn’t the only establishment targeted that night:

Sunday night, December 19th, at 3: 15 A.M., the manager of the King of Clubs had just closed the club and was driving away with friends when he happened to look back and see a man with a can (perhaps gasoline) in the shadows of the building. The manager and his friends quickly stopped the car and gave chase to the prowler who ran down a side street and was lost in darkness. From the other side of the building, another man ran in a different direction. When the friends and manager reentered the club to call police, they head still a third man run across the roof, jump off, and disappear into the night. The police came, made a thorough search, and promised the club would be checked several times a night from now on. For added precaution, a security guard will be in the building at all times.

The paper then addressed the speculation that these might have been “gay-on-gay crimes”:

It was pure luck that this attempted burn-out was thwarted. With the burning of the Swinger, the Entre’ Nuit, and the vandalism of the Villa Fontana, the gay community is getting a little fed up with this crap, and is patronizing the victims of these “gay against gay?” crimes. One wonders who gains? Who is the loser – the real loser? The Swinger and the Villa have reopened and is doing more business than ever before. The Entre’ Nuit will reopen soon too. Gay bars are like gay people themselves: we’ve been imprisoned, murdered, and brutalized all through history. Yet we always come back — stronger.

From the 1980s to the late 1990s, that entire area of McKinney Avenue underwent a massive gentrification — although that particular area adjoining Highland Park was never exactly down on its heels.  The building where Entre’ Nuit was housed is now a trendy boutique.

[Source: “Arsonists Burn Another Bar.” Our Community (January 1972): 8.

“King of Clubs Saved from Arsonist.” Our Community (January 1972): 11. Full copies of Our Community are available online here.]

An abandoned building of the Norfolk State Hospital, via Flickr.

120 YEARS AGO: “Exaggerated Human Nature”: 1895. What is Insanity? Who better to ask than an insane man?

Said a patient in the Norfolk (Nebraska) Hospital: “I am not insane; this man is not insane; that man is not insane. There is no such thing as insanity; it is simply an exaggerated form of human nature.”

Insanity is a type of civilization, the offspring of humanity’s progress, the step-child of Nature, the penalty inflicted for brain-development. Indeed, it is in itself an abnormal form of brain-development, an exaggerated type of human nature. It is a little plant that has sprung from the footworn pathway traversed by the mighty cavalcade coming down the vast reaches of human civilization, human culture and human competition. It may be regarded as a proud flesh of the mind — a preternatural development or derangement of the protoplasmic cells. When the clock of civilization struck its sunrise hour, man everywhere was an unclad savage, drunken, greedy, treacherous and beastly. To fill his stomach and to find a comfortable place to sleep completed the apex of his ambitions and gratifications. It was his normal state.

When he commenced to enlarge his cranial sphere, when he began to expand the horizon of his thought-realm, he started the development of a subtle, an inscrutable agency, which has developed rough corners, exaggerated eccentricities and uncontrollable proclivities. In the slow and leisurely peregrination or the mad stampede at times of humanity adown the corridors of the past, in the jostle, the clash, the strife, the crowd, the crush, the greed, the vices and the mistakes, do we wonder that here and there should occur exaggerations, excrescences and abnormal protuberances of the functions of the mind?

Dr. J.H. Mackay was the superintendent of the State Hospital for the Insane in Norfolk, Nebraska, where presumably he had that enlightening exchange with an inmate. He talked about his tenure there at an 1895 meeting of the Missouri Valley Medical Association in Kansas City. But imagine the horrors that patient, and others, must have endured under Dr. Mackay’s direction:

A unique fact in connection with the insane is that any injury producing pain, such as a scald, burn or corporeal punishment, as well as a shock or fright, has a remarkably salutary influence in brightening up the minds of the insane. Recently a patient in this hospital severed the external jugular vein and was in rigors from hemorrhage when found. The vein was ligated and the patient made a good recovery and improved very rapidly, his mind becoming much clearer than previous to the injury. Instances are on record by the score where accidents of scalding and other injuries involving pain have resulted in the recovery of patients suffering from melancholia and acute mania. It would be interesting to try the results of scorching the soles of the feet, or of administering corporeal punishment or blood-letting, fright and shock in some of the chronic cases of insanity and confirmed melancholia and mania. I am of the candid belief that such treatment would result in good to the patient. It may be claimed that such treatment is barbarous. No treatment is barbarous that benefits a patient and releases his mind from the fog and gloom of insanity, however painful that treatment may be.

Mackay’s beliefs were rather typical for the late 1800s. He was a firm believer in Degeneracy Theory (see Aug 16, Sep 9, or Oct 26 for brief explanations) and the older pseudo-science of phrenology (see Aug 6 for a brief introduction), and he touched on both theories in his talk. Those beliefs led him to the conclusion that all mental illness and criminality — Mackay didn’t see the difference between the two — were actually physical ailments of some sort, with its roots either in the patient’s heredity or his misshapen skull. He presented his sketches of skulls to prove his point:

MackayDrawingsThe next is a drawing of the skull of another murderer. Do you see the deposit of bone along the suture. It is nearly one-fourth of an inch thick. Who knows but what the abnormal condition of that poor fellow’s skull led him to be a criminal? and yet he was hanged. What was accomplished by killing him? …A representation of the skull of a Flathead Indian is also shown here. The Flathead is one of the most cruel and bloodthirsty of races. It is well known that the sloping angle is produced almost wholly by artificial means. What the shape of the skull may have to do with his vicious nature I leave to you to judge. The drawing of a normal skull is introduced for purposes of comparison. …

The malformations of which I have spoken exhibit peculiar types of exaggeration or atavism. Certain portions of the brain are abnormally developed; others are practically annihilated, crowded upon and crowded out until the patient has become mentally lop-sided. unbalanced and uncontrollable. Genius, incoherence, imbecility, criminality and perverted sexualism run riot, unrestrained and unbridled by the individual. Two-thirds of all the patients are sexual perverts. Homosexuality, sexual inversion, masturbation, urnings et id omnia genus ail nauseam are the rule.

There were also the “men-haters” among the women:

There are men-haters among the women — women whose sexual system has been starved or perverted or abused; old maids with acquired or inherited sexual perversion, starvation or inversion; married women whose maternal instinct and sexual nature have been extinguished by hard work, poor diet, frequent child-bearing and nursing, and the dreary, monotonous, pleasureless, changeless grind of a quarter of a century, more or less, of married life.

Because Degeneracy Theory held that things would only get worse, Mackay was a proponent of what had become known as Eugenics (see Nov 10 for an explanation; see Aug 16 for another example of Eugenics advocacy). Mackay’s proposal was particularly draconian.

It goes without saying that to be effective any effort to improve the physical characteristics of our race must antedate the birth of the individual. We need laws to abridge the life of all monsters that do not conform to the type of man, to quarantine or prohibit the public exhibition of museum freaks, and to prevent, as far as possible, the birth of such. A judicious inspection by the state of all children before reaching puberty would serve the double purpose of discovering abnormal conditions of mind and body, and afford an opportunity for the application of means, as far as possible, to remedy them, and the segregation of those totally unsuited mentally or morally to propagate their species. In this way only can we hope to prevent insane and half-witted girls becoming pregnant. Rigid restraint, quarantining and unsexing of criminals, insane, rapists, imbeciles and those who spread specific diseases.

Mackay was a political appointee of the Populist/Democrat Gov. Silas Holcomb, and took over the state hospital in Norfolk soon after the Governor took office in 1895. Mackay resigned his position in the summer of 1896. No explanation was given for his departure, but his wife filed for divorce the following year — a rarity and a scandal at that time — claiming “extreme cruelty and inhumane treatment,” and adultery. He died in Houston in 1922 at the age of 57.

[Source: J.H. Mackay. “Exaggerated human nature.” Medical Arena 4, no. 12 (December 1895): 353-361. Available online via Google Books here.]

 55 YEARS AGO: Michelangelo Signorile: 1960. After graduating with a degree in journalism at at Syracuse University, the Brooklyn native returned to New York where he got his first job at a public relations firm which specialized in placing stories about their entertainment clients in gossip columns. That naturally meant that he was collecting and trading in gossip, which is where he noticed the double standard in how the media glamorized the heterosexuality of celebrities while maintaining a veil of silence around anything that might be remotely gay. But it wasn’t until his friends began dying in the early years of the AIDS crisis that he began to draw a line from gay invisibility to the ease with which media and public officials could turn a blind eye on what was happening. He became an activist in 1988 when he joined ACT UP, which led to his arrest during a speech by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later to become Pope Benedict XVI) who was the Vatican’s point man on Catholic orthodoxy and the author of papers against homosexuality and against condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS. Signorile had gone simply to watch the protesters, but as he heard the Cardinal speak, he thought of the homophobia he had experienced growing up in the church, and he couldn’t contain himself. As he wrote later in Queer in America: Sex, the Media, and the Closets of Power:

Suddenly, I jumped up on one of the marble platforms, and looking down, I addressed the entire congregation in the loudest voice I could. My voice rang out as if it were amplified. I pointed at Ratzinger and shouted, “He is no man of God!” The shocked faces of the assembled Catholics turned to the back of the room to look at me as I continued: “He is no man of God—he is the devil!'”

So yeah, he was arrested, and another gay rights activist was born.

Signorile is considered the pioneer of the controversial act of outing public figures. He was the co-founding editor of OutWeek, where, in a weekly column called “Gossip Watch,” a watch column of the city’s gossip columns, he railed against the media’s double standard on how they treated gay and straight public figures, and he argued that this double standard drove the gay community to invisibility in the midst of an growing health catastrophe. He outed Hollywood producer David Geffen, who was promoting Guns ‘N’ Roses and comedian Andrew Dice Clay, two acts which were attacked for crude anti-gay lyrics and “jokes” about the AIDS crisis. He also outed gossup columnist Liz Smith and, perhaps most famously, publishing tycoon Malcolm Forbes (see Mar 18). It was actually Time magazine which coined the term “outing,” but Signorile always considered the term itself biased. He preferred to call what he did “reporting,” and insisted that it was no different from the same kind of reporting that media outlets routinely do with straight people.

Signorile later worked at the Advocate and Out magazines, and he also wrote columns for In 2000 he began working in internet radio, and that led to hosting The Michelangelo Signorile Show on SiriusXM OutQ beginning in 2003. In 2014, his program moved to a broader audience on SiriusXM’s Progress 127, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. EST. He has written four other books, including Life Outside – The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, Drugs, Muscles, and the Passages of Life and Hitting Hard, a collection of essays and columns. His 1996 book, Outing Yourself: How to Come Out as Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends, and Coworkers was an exceptionally valuable book to me as I was beginning my own journey of coming out. His latest book, It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, came out in April 2015.

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?

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