The Daily Agenda for Christmas Day

Jim Burroway

December 25th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Club Scene, December 1983, page 56.

From Club Scene, December 1983, page 56.

All of us at BTB wish you a wonderful and happy Christmas.

TIME Magazine’s “Object Lesson”: 1950. Col. Alfred Redl was Austria-Hungary’s masterful chief of counter-intelligence, having set up a massive espionage network in Russia. But when the Russians discovered evidence of his homosexuality in 1903, they blackmailed him into becoming, for the next eleven years, a double agent. In 1913, Austria-Hungary officials learned of Redl’s treachery. A group of officers confronted Redl at the Hotel Klosmer, and left a revolver behind in Redl’s room when they left. Redl wrote a last farewell letter and shot himself (see May 25). Thirty-seven years later, Time magazine wrote about the growing Lavender Scare taking hold in the U.S. (see Feb 28Mar 14, Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14Apr 26, May 5, May 15, May 19, Jun 15, Jul 17, and Dec 15), and recalled the Redl Affair, as that whole mess had been known, as an “object lesson” on the what it called the dangers of allowing gay people to work for the U.S. government:

Last week, a Senate investigating committee resurrected the case of Alfred Redl as an object lesson for the U.S. For 27 weeks, North Carolina’s frock-coated Clyde Hoey, with three other Democratic Senators and three Republicans, had been quietly looking into a sordid matter: the problem of homosexuals in the Government. The problem had been the subject of nervous explanations, joke-cracking and effective campaign sneers ever since last February, when Deputy Under Secretary of State John Peurifoy offhandedly told Congress that State had gotten rid of 91 employees for homosexuality (see Feb 28).

Senator Hoey’s investigators had compiled a shocking history. They had found a record of homosexuality or other sexual perversions among workers in 36 of 53 branches of government, as well as in the armed forces. Between Jan. 1, 1947 and last April, 4,954 cases had come to light among some three and a half million people in Government service. Most were in the armed services, which are far larger than civilian Government departments and traditionally aggressive at searching out perverts.

There were 574 cases involving civilian Government employees and 69 are still under investigation; in all the other cases the accused had either quit, been cleared or fired. The investigators found the greatest batch of civilian cases—143—in the State Department. State had cleared or gotten rid of all but a dozen whose cases were still pending. A surprise second in the totals was the Veterans Administration, with 101 cases. Others: Atomic Energy Commission, 8; EGA, 27; Congress’ legislative agencies (Library of Congress, congressional employees, etc.), 19; White House office, none.

…The investigators feared that some sex perverts would inevitably go undetected in Government jobs, but most federal bureaus and agencies, they concluded sharply, had been lazy or downright negligent about cleaning house. The Senators recommended tighter laws and harsher punishment for sex perversion in the District of Columbia, more intensive examination of job applicants.

[Source: “Object Lesson.” Time (December 25, 1950): 10.]

Albert Cashier: 1843-1915. It’s unclear when Jennie Irene Hodgers undertook a male identity, but by 1862 the Irish native was living in Illinois when he decided to enlist in the union army. He enlished as Albert Chashier and served in Company G as part of the Army of the Tennessee under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Company G fought in the siege of Vicksburg, the Red River Campaign and at Guntown, Mississippi. Cashier’s fellow soldiers noticed that he was small and standoffish, but thought little about it. He was once captured by the Confederate army, but escaped back to Union lines after overpowering a guard. He remained in the Union army until he and the rest of his company were mustered out in 1865.

After the war, Cashier worked as a private handyman for Illinois State Senator Ira M. Lish at his estate in Saunemin. Cashier also workd as a farm hand, church janitor, and cemetery worker. As a man, Cashier registered and voted in elections long before women’s suffrage came into being, and he claimed a veteran’s pension. He successfullly maintained his male identity until 1911, when he was hit by a car and broke his leg. The attending physician discovered his biological gender, but in an amazingly forward-thinking move, the physician decided to respect Cashier’s privacy, sharing the secret only with the superintendent of the Soldiers and Sailors Home at Quincy, where Cashier was then living. It was only after Cashier’s mind deteriorated and he was moved to Watertown State Hospital in 1913 when attendants discovered his birth gender and forced him to wear a dress. But when Cashier died on October 10, 1915, he was buried in his Civil War uniform and given a full military funeral. His grave stone in Saunemin cemetary simply reads: “Albert D.J. Cashier. Co. G., 19 Ill. Inf.” Sometime in the 1970s, a second tombstone was placed with Cashier’s birth name added.

Quentin Crisp: 1908-1999. He was always a gender-bending raconteur, even going back to when he was the object of endless teasing in elementary school. In 1926, he studied journalism at King’s College London, but switched to art at Regent Street Polytechnic. He also visited the cafes and pubs of Soho’s Old Compton Street, the heart of the gay community in London. It was then that he decided that his life’s work would be “making the existence of homosexuality abundantly clear to the world’s aborigines,” and he did so by developing the flamboyant style that would become his signature. When World War II broke out, he tried to join the Army, but was rejected on medical grounds — “sexual perversion” was the diagnosis. He remained in London during the Blitz, and placed himself at the service of American G.I.’s, so to speak. That’s where Crisp picked up his love for all things American.

In 1968, he achieved success with his third book, an autobiography he titled The Naked Civil Servant. The title referred to his job as a paid nude model for government-supported art schools, which he described as “like being a civil servant, except that you were naked.” The book at first didn’t sell well, but it led to a documentary featuring him talking about his life while sitting in his flat filing his nails. That documentary eventually led to the 1975 television adaptation of The Naked Civil Servant, featuring John Hurt as Crisp. Crisp’s second career as professional raconteur and lecturer was launched, touring Britain with his one man show, and moving to New York permanently in 1981 to fulfill a longtime dream. Before moving to the States, he was reportedly asked at the US Embassy in London if he were a practicing homosexual. He replied, “I didn’t practice. I was already perfect.” But his sharp-tongued wit also got him in trouble. During the early years of the AIDS crisis, he recklessly joked that AIDS was the latest “fad.” He made a pact with a New York performance artist named Penny Arcade that he would live to be a hundred years old, with a decade off for good behavior. He died just one month before his 91st birthday.

Here he is in a Q&A session in Los Angeles following a lecture on style:

Also, parts three and four.

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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