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Posts for March, 2015

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, March 14

Jim Burroway

March 14th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Texas Bear Round-UP, Dallas, TX; Scandinavian Ski Pride, Hemsedal, Norway.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Wilde Side, September 1, 1976, page 29.

From Wilde Side, September 1, 1976, page 29.

I haven’t been able to find any information about the Citadel. The address — indeed, the entire block — is now occupied by a Ritz-Carlton Boston Common.

Sen. David Walsh (D-MA)

Sen. David Walsh (D-MA)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Naval Intelligence Police Raid Gay Brothel: 1942. Prostitution was against the law (still is, in fact), and police regularly raided brothels whenever they found them. On that point, this raid wouldn’t be much different, at least at the start, when Navy police raided one such establishment at 329 Pacific Street in Brooklyn. But because the Brooklyn Naval Yards had been the center of Brooklyn’s gay life since Walt Whitman’s days there after the Civil War, Naval intelligence was very sensitive to the goings-ons in the area. They also had received tips that the brothel had become a hangout for Nazi spies and sympathizers. They arrested the brothel’s manager, Gustave Beekman, and then told him that if he cooperated with federal authorities, they’d go easy on his sentence. His cooperation led to the arrest of several foreign agents. So far, so good, right?

Well, one of the names Beekman mentioned was a U.S. Senator who he identified as “Doc” and the press whispered as “Senator X.” On May 1, New York Post all but named Sen. David Walsh (D-MA), a confirmed bachelor with a reputation as a dandy, as that Senator X. Time magazine called it “one of the worst scandals that ever affected a member of the Senate.” Walsh was already well-known as an outspoken isolationist before the attack on Pearl Harbor, going so far as to refuse to endorse FDR for the Democratic primary in 1940 over the issue. As chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, he blocked Roosevelt’s attempt to help Britain after the fall of Western Europe. (Roosevelt got around it through the Lend-Lease program, which meant that we never “gave” Britain aid but just lent and leased it instead.)  Walsh collected a number of political enemies as a result.

His homosexuality was also one of the worst kept secrets in Washington and Massachusetts, making it very tricky for him to mount a defense. Walsh called it “a diabolical lie” and demanded a full investigation. Seeing an opportunity to bring Walsh to heel, Roosevelt defended Walsh’s reputation (despite saying privately that “everyone knew” that Walsh was gay) and asked the FBI to investigate. Just a few weeks later, on May 20 to be exact, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover delivered that, ahem, exhaustive FBI report to Senate majority leader Allen Barkley (D-KY). Barkley made a lengthy address before the Senate, saying that the report exonerated Walsh and that his “unsullied” reputation remained intact. He also declined to enter the report into the Congressional Record “because it contains disgusting and unprintable things.” Walsh survived the scandal, but his career was mortally wounded. He lost his race for re-election in 1946 to Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.

As for Beekman, federal agents reneged on their promise to let him off easy. He was charged with sodomy and given the maximum sentence: twenty years in Sing Sing. He entered prison on October 5, 1942 and wasn’t released until April 1, 1963, at the age of 78.

[Source: Jonathan Katz. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976): 580-581.]

65 YEARS AGO: Joseph McCarthy Adds Names to His Famous List: 1950. In February, Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s national profile went through the roof when, during a speech at the Republican Women’s Club if Wheeling, West Virginia, he announced, “I have here in my hand a list of names … that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” There’s been some dispute as to how many names he said he had. Some sources put that number at 205, others say 57. No audio recording or transcription of the Wheeling speech survives. Nevertheless, he never did make that list public, despite several promises to do so.

Meanwhile, the State Department tried to get in front of the situation when Deputy Undersecretary of State John E. Peurifoy testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he announced that the State Department had already let go 202 employees since 1947 who were considered “poor security risks.” Peurifoy added that 91 of those let go “for moral weakness … Most of them were homosexual. In fact, I would say all of them were.” (see Feb 28.) With that statement, the Red Scare quickly took on a distinctly lavender hue.

McCarthy wasn’t about to let the Truman Administration duck what he thought was a ripe political scandal, and over the next several days, he and Peurifoy skirmished openly in the press. McCarthy charged that Truman’s State Department was lax in ridding itself of “perverts,” while Peurifoy taunted McCarthy for refusing to release his list of a constantly-changing number of names. Finally, on March 14, McCarthy submitted 25 names of State Department employees that he said should be investigated to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee. He also claimed, according to press reports, “that a homosexual had been hired by the Central Intelligence Agency after the State Department allowed him to resign. He did not name the man, but said his perversion made him a bad security risk.”

“1,112 and Counting…”: 1983. More than a year had passed since playwright Larry Kramer helped to found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (see Jan 12) to provide the kind of social services to gay men with AIDS that New York’s public health agencies were loathe to address. In the succeeding fourteen months, the death toll continued to rise and the paralysis which had struck local public health officials seemed no closer to abating. Kramer, who was never known for squelching his anger whenever or wherever it arose, took his frustrations out in an essay, titled “1,112 and Counting…” in the March 14, 1983 edition of The New York Native, which at that time was just about the only source the gay community could turn to for the latest news (and obituaries) on the epidemic. It began:

If this article doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If this article doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get.

I am writing this as Larry Kramer, and I am speaking for myself, and my views are not to be attributed to Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

I repeat: Our continued existence as gay men upon the face of this earth is at stake. Unless we fight for our lives, we shall die. In all the history of homosexuality we have never before been so close to death and extinction. Many of us are dying or already dead.

Before I tell you what we must do, let me tell you what is happening to us.

There are now 1,112 cases of serious Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. When we first became worried, there were only 41. In only twenty-eight days, from January 13th to February 9th [1983], there were 164 new cases – and 73 more dead. The total death tally is now 418. Twenty percent of all cases were registered this January alone. There have been 195 dead in New York City from among 526 victims. Of all serious AIDS cases, 47.3 percent are in the New York metropolitan area.

These are the serious cases of AIDS, which means Kaposi’s sarcoma, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and other deadly infections. These numbers do not include the thousands of us walking around with what is also being called AIDS: various forms of swollen lymph glands and fatigues that doctors don’t know what to label or what they might portend.

When Kramer wrote his essay, the announcement of the discovery of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was still two months away (see May 20):

And, for the first time in this epidemic, leading doctors and researchers are finally admitting they don’t know what’s going on. I find this terrifying too – as terrifying as the alarming rise in numbers. For the first time, doctors are saying out loud and up front, “I don’t know.”

For two years they weren’t talking like this. For two years we’ve heard a different theory every few weeks. We grasped at the straws of possible cause: promiscuity, poppers, back rooms, the baths, rimming, fisting, anal intercourse, urine, semen, shit, saliva, sweat, blood, blacks, a single virus, a new virus, repeated exposure to a virus, amoebas carrying a virus, drugs, Haiti, voodoo, Flagyl, constant bouts of amebiasis, hepatitis A and B, syphilis, gonorrhea.

I have talked with the leading doctors treating us. One said to me, “If I knew in 1981 what I know now, I would never have become involved with this disease.” Another said, “The thing that upsets me the most in all of this is that at any given moment one of my patients is in the hospital and something is going on with him that I don’t understand. And it’s destroying me because there’s some craziness going on in him that’s destroying him.” A third said to me, “I’m very depressed. A doctor’s job is to make patients well. And I can’t. Too many of my patients die.”

Not that finally knowing that a virus was causing this mayhem was going to ease the sense of panic among those who saw the devastating effects first hand. Whatever panic Kramer experienced, he channeled it towards anger. He lashed out at the National Institutes of Health for its delays in grant funding, at The New York Times for its lack of coverage, at city Health Commissioner David Spencer for the “appalling” lack of health education, at the publishers of medical journals for the excruciatingly slow pace of the peer review process which had the effect of withholding vital information — sometimes by as much as a year — from doctors on the front lines, at The Advocate for soft-peddling the growing epidemic, and at the gay community itself:

If all of this had been happening to any other community for two long years, there would have been, long ago, such an outcry from that community and all its members that the government of this city and this country would not know what had hit them.

Why isn’t every gay man in this city so scared shitless that he is screaming for action? Does every gay man in New York want to die?

But his sharpest barbs were reserved for the (barely) closeted New York Mayor Ed Koch:

Our mayor, Ed Koch, appears to have chosen, for whatever reason, not to allow himself to be perceived by the non-gay world as visibly helping us in this emergency. Repeated requests to meet with him have been denied us. Repeated attempts to have him make a very necessary public announcement about this crisis and public health emergency have been refused by his staff. I sometimes think he doesn’t know what’s going on. I sometimes think that, like some king who has been so long on his throne he’s lost touch with his people, Koch is so protected and isolated by his staff that he is unaware of what fear and pain we’re in. No human being could otherwise continue to be so useless to his suffering constituents. When I was allowed a few moments with him at a party for outgoing Cultural Affairs Commissioner (and Gay Men’s Health Crisis Advisory Board member) Henry Geldzahler, I could tell from his responses that mayor Koch had not been well briefed on AIDS or what is happening in his city. When I started to fill him in, I was pulled away by an aide, who said, “Your time is up.” … One can only surmise that our mayor wants us treated this way.

Kramer closed by listing his friends who had died of AIDS, twenty-one names long, “and one more, who will be dead by the time these words appear in print. If we don’t act immediately, then we face our approaching doom.” The article also included a call to direct action. In doing so, it forever changed the way AIDS was discussed in the gay community. Randy Shilts, writing in And the Band Played On, called Kramer’s essay “inarguably one of the most influential works of advocacy journalism of the decade. ‘1,1112 and Counting…’ swiftly crystallized the epidemic into a political movement for the gay community at the same time it set off a maelstrom of controversy that polarized gay leaders.”

You can read the full essay here.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Sylvia Beach: 1887-1962. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister and a doting mother, Beach became enthralled with Paris while her father was posted there as an assistant pastor at the American Church. The family returned to America in 1906 when her father took a post at a church in Princeton, New Jersey, but Beach returned to Europe for several return trips, including a two year stint in Spain. During the First World War, she served in the Red Cross in Serbia before finally settling in Paris to study contemporary French literature.

It was during the course of her studies that she discovered Adrienne Monnier’s bookshop, La Maison des Amis des Livres. The two took an instant liking to each other, became lovers, and remained together for the next thirty-six years until Monnier’s death in 1955. In 1919, Beach opened her own bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, as an English-language counterpart to Monnier’s bookshop and lending library. Beach’s bookshop quickly became a favorite meeting place for American expatriate writers, and in 1921, she moved Shakespeare and Company to larger quarters at 12 rue de l’Odéon, right across the street from Monnier’s.

James Joyce, with Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, 1938.

For the next two decades, Shakespeare and Company would operate as a kind of a community center, bank, library, post office, crash pad, office, and even publishing company, when Beach took the chance to publish James Joyce’s Ulysses when no other publisher would touch it. Loyal customers and patrons included Ernest Hemmingway (she called him “my best customer”), T.S. Elliot, Paul Valery, André Gide, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Natalie Barney, Gertrude Stein and Man Ray. Her supporters rallied to Beach’s aid when she thought she would be forced to close the shop in 1936. She remained open after the Germans entered Paris, but she was forced to close in 1940 and was interned for six months. She kept her books in a vacant upstairs apartment. In 1944, Hemmingway famously “liberated” Shakespeare and Company, but the shop never re-opened for business.

In 1955, Beach wrote her memoir, Shakespeare and Company, about the cultural life of Paris during the inter-war years. She remained in Paris until her death in 1962. Columbia University Press published an edition of Sylvia Beach’s letters in 2010.

In 1964, George Whitman, an American bookseller in Paris, renamed his bookstore Shakespeare and Company as a tribute to Beach’s shop. He also named his daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman, who runs that store today.

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?

The Daily Agenda for Friday, March 13

Jim Burroway

March 13th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Texas Bear Round-UP, Dallas, TX; Scandinavian Ski Pride, Hemsedal, Norway.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 15, 1972, page 9.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
55 YEARS AGO: Michigan Man Commits Suicide Ahead of Sentencing: 1960. The crackdown against homosexuality being waged by Ann Arbor police and officials at the University of Michigan (see yesterday) took a tragic turn when one man who was due in court for sentencing was found dead in a hotel in St. Louis.

James P. Wiles had been found guilty of “attempting to procure an act of gross indecency” on March 7. The judge set sentencing for March 15, while Wiles’s lawyer announced that he would appeal the case to the Michigan Supreme Court, contending that Wiles had been the victim of police entrapment. But two days before that sentencing date, the 53-year-old Detroit resident’s body was discovered by a hotel clerk at the Melbourne Hotel when the clerk called to check in on the man after he failed to answer his phone. He had checked into the hotel under an assumed name on Thursday, March 10, three days after his conviction, and on the same day when he was reported missing from his home.

[Source: “Michigan Campus Purge Felt with Added Fury.” Mattachine Review 6, no. 5 (May 1960): 10, 21.]

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?

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, March 12

Jim Burroway

March 12th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Texas Bear Round-UP, Dallas, TX; Scandinavian Ski Pride, Hemsedal, Norway.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Barnard Bulletin, November 6, 1968, page 2.

From The Barnard Bulletin, November 6, 1968, page 2.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
55 YEARS AGO: Nine Plead Guilty To “Gross Indecency” In Ann Arbor, MI: 1960. The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan is sometimes called the Berkeley of the Midwest for its reputation for progressive politics. In 1974, Ann Arbor voters elected the nation’s first openly lesbian candidate to its city council (See Apr 1). But in 1960, things weren’t so comfortable for gay people. Earlier in the year, Ann Arbor and University of Michigan police had embarked on a series of raids around campus which netted at least 34 arrests, and they were scheduled to appear in court on March 12. The arrests were generally involving homosexuality in some respects, including “acts of gross indecency and attempting to procure between males.”

On March 12, attorneys for nine of the men asked for jury trials, whereupon Judge James R. Breakey, Jr., announced that if the defendants insisted on wasting his “valuable time” and the jury found them guilty, he would sentence them to six months in Southern Michigan Prison in Jackson, and add increased fines for good measure. But if the defendants change their plea to guilty and “throw themselves on the mercy of the court,” they would be sentenced to thirty days in jail, a $250 fine plus court costs, and five years’ probation. All nine took the bargain and changed their pleas to guilty.

[Source: “Michigan Campus Purge Felt with Added Fury.” Mattachine Review 6, no. 5 (May 1960): 10.]

New York Times Magazine’s “Homosexuality On Campus”: 1978. In February of 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court, in declining to review a lower court ruling, let stand a decision requiring the University of Missouri to recognize a gay student group as an official campus organization. That ruling became the backdrop for journalists Grace and Fred Hechinger’s profile on the state of homosexuality on the nation’s campuses for the New York Times Magazine. The Hechingers traveled to six campuses — Yale, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Northwestern, Missouri, and Hood College (a small women’s college in Frederick, Maryland) — to explore the extent to which attitudes had changed on campus toward gay people, and the growing visibility of gays themselves. There were inevitable conflicts, but the journalists focused less on overt displays of homophobia and concentrated instead on the interpersonal challenges:

For many members of the homosexual minority, being homosexual is still almost as much a disadvantage as it was 30 years ago. As freshmen, they enter into a peer culture that, for the first time, is free of most parental and general adult restraints. A new world of experimentation opens up. The homosexuals — many of them for the first time confronting, or perhaps merely suspecting, their homosexuality — are thrown into a world in which they must function without feeling fully part of it. It is a world dominated by powerful traditional and communal mores and symbols. All around them, heterosexual preoccupations with dating and mating are at a peak. Sex looms large among student concerns and conversation. The basic difference in interest is bound to erect a barrier between homosexual and heterosexual roommates….

An editor of an undergraduate daily admitted that he felt a certain sickness about homosexuals,” but on the political level I’m supportive.” As a junior he had picked a homosexual roommate from a choice of two. The heterosexual candidate was addicted to loud music; the homosexual one had a lot of books, was interested in history. “On a conscious level,” the editor, now a senior, said, “there was no problem. But still I didn’t get to be good pals with him. His life outside school was different from mine. There was a gap. I feel like the white liberal kid talking about a black roommate.”

But most of the article focused on gay students themselves, mainly on issues surrounding how and whether to come out on campus and with their families. Some campuses had responded with group programs to aide in navigating the complex waters:

At Northwestern, James E. Avery, the university’s young and articulate chaplain, arranged for us to meet with a group of homosexual students and Samuel Todes, the associate professor of philosophy, who is one of the rare species of homosexual faculty members willing to “come out.” Professor Todes reported that every Wednesday evening a discussion group is held, attended by some 40 students, most of whom are in the process of “coming out.” The discussion group, said Professor Todes, “is a small breathing hole in what is still a pretty airtight closet.”

…At Standord, we joined The Bridge, a peer-counseling group, in an informal afternoon discussion. Sitting in a circle, cross-legged on pillows, the group of young men and women looked like any other college rap session. Although we had been told that at least half of those present were homosexual, it would have been impossible to tag them, confirming our observation that on campuses, as elsewhere, only a small number of homosexuals matched popular stereotypes.

In sharing the emotional strain of many of their follow students, these young people underscored the tough side effects of coming out, even the tentative declarations to a few friends. One heterosexual student described her reaction when a member of the group had told her he was homosexual. “What was I supposed to say? You can’t just reply, ‘That’s interesting, what else is new?’ ”

…”Coming out,” said Dave, a peer counselor as well as a leader in the Gay People’s Union, “is a very liberating experience, but you have to be awfully sure of yourself to handle negative attitudes.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Edward Albee: 1928. The playwright best known for The Zoo Story (1958), The Sandbox (1959), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), Albee was adopted just a few weeks after he was born by a wealthy theatrical management family involved with the Keith-Albee vaudeville circuit in New York. His parents gave him all of the advantages of wealth, but he never felt close to them. He figured out he was gay when he was twelve and away at boarding school. He never really came out to his parents — “There were many things they never discussed with me – that being one of them – but I didn’t feel close enough to them to impose on them to discuss anything, not that I felt I needed any discussion about it.”

Friends and collaborators describe him as crusty and curmudgeonly. Writers, when writing about him, find it impossible to resist titling their efforts, “Who’s Afraid of Edward Albee?” His reaction to being labelled a “gay writer” illustrates this trait. When he was given the Pioneer Award at the 2011 Lambda Literary Awards, he said, “A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay. Any definition which limits us is deplorable.” Many artists in attendance took offense at that remark, but Albee stuck to his guns, explaining to NPR “Who goes around talking about abstract expressionist painters and making a definition or a distinction between those of them that were straight and those of them who were or are gay? Nobody does it. People only do it with writers and I find that so ridiculous.” But that doesn’t mean he’s a fan of assimilation:

Why do all gay people wish to vanish into this society? Is it self-protection? I don’t know. I just don’t want us to be forced to think that we must imitate other people and behave the way they do in order to become invisible.

I had a 35-year relationship. Were we married? Yeah, I guess we were. We certainly felt that we were. We certainly treated each other like we were married to each other. Did we ever feel the need to get a marriage license? No, of course not. We knew we were married to each other. All this legality that people seem so involved with nowadays, it troubles me just a little bit. I understand all the problems to come with wills and families denying access to the loved one and all of that, but come on, do we really want to be exactly like straight people?

Albee has received three Pulitzer Prizes, for A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975), and Three Tall Women (1994). The Pulitzer’s drama jury selected Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for the 1963 prize, but the jury was overruled by the advisory committee which decided not to give a drama award for that year. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf  did get a Tony for best play that year, as did 2002’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? In 2005, Albee was honored with a special Tony for lifetime achievement.

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?

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 11

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Texas Bear Round-UP, Dallas, TX; Scandinavian Ski Pride, Hemsedal, Norway.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), December 1977, page 36.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), December 1977, page 36.

Dr. Ignatz Leo Nascher (1863-1944)

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
“Some Queer Folk” in Greenwich Village: 1919. Esthesiomania was defined as “a form of insanity marked by perverted moral feeling and by purposeless eccentricities.” If you’ve never heard the term, you can be forgiven. The Austrian-born New York physician Ignatz Leo Nascher was something of a wordsmith, having coined the word “geriatrics” to describe the particular branch of medicine he pioneered. He didn’t coin “Esthesiomania” though, but he apparently thought it was a handy word when he began his article in the March 1919 edition of the American Journal of Urology and Sexology with this definition and a complaint that while the condition was “quite prevalent little has been written about it, many textbooks omitting it altogether.” A lot of people were eccentric — “the artist, the poet, the novelist, the composer” — but some took those eccentricities a bit farther than he considered healthy. Admitting that there was no set demarcation between eccentrics and esthesiomaniacs, he felt that a “close number of the erratic, unconventional class called bohemians, in the Latin quarter of New York City” might help to provide an illustration. The Latin Quarter, which then was also known as Greenwich Village, was home to

…many men and women presenting marked peculiarities and eccentricities, departures from the customs, styles or ethics of the day, yet they possessed an idealistic sense of morality. Others possessed an inherent sense of justice but they cannot adapt themselves to the restrictions upon behavior imposed by society. Some deliberately adopt eccentricities in a spirit of bravado, others in a spirit of egotism to attract attention and secure notoriety, some for a commercial or mercenary purpose. It was possible in some cases to determine an aberrant, perverted moral feeling and trace from this the obvious eccentricities.

Polly’s Restaurant (Click to enlarge)

Nascher recognized that there was a very relative quality to morality: “We must remember that what is considered moral in one place or at one time may be considered unmoral in another place or at another time, that the styles, customs and ethics of one community or in one stratum of society will be looked upon as queer and abnormal in another community or in another stratum of society.” By way of example, he pointed out that wearing sandals, common attire in the neighborhood, was highly unorthodox but healthier than “the high-heeled, narrow-pointed shoe.” In this case, one convention was merely sacrificed for another ideal, with no real moral lines crossed. Nascher also recognized that some of the eccentricities for which the Village was known were little more than affectations by poseurs:

Many of the so-called bohemians are merely shamboes, sham bohemians, who imitate and exaggerate the eccentricities of well known characters to attract attention to themselves. They are egotists, extravagant in their eccentricities, loud in talk, radical in their expressed views but shallow and weak when pinned down to discussion. They are readily swayed by argument or threat, are not inherently vicious or immoral, but, like the high-grade moron, they lack a sense of responsibility and obligation to society. They are studiously negligent in their appearance, talk art, music, literature apparently erudite to the uninformed but banal to the person familiar with the subject. They fit up their rooms in a bizarre fashion and make a display of them as they do of themselves to secure notoriety. Their whole life is a sham.

It is hardly necessary to speak of those who deliberately affect eccentricities in dress and surroundings for commercial purposes, to attract visitors to their shops. Most of them lead at home quiet, regular, conventional lives. Others affect eccentricities in dress and conduct in a spirit of bravado, women especially adopting them to show that they are “emancipated” and can do anything a man can do. Greenwich village has received an unenviable reputation through its exploitation for commercial purposes, by a few tradespeople who play upon the morbid curiosity of sightseers.

No, those aren’t the ethesiomaniacs he wanted to study. The subjects Nascher sought were the “true bohemians” who “do not advertise the fact that they are bohemians, nor do they deliberately violate the dictates of society. They ignore them as though unconscious of any social restrictions.” They were often artists, writers, musicians or actors:

They lack ambition and if they seek fame at all, it is only as an aid in securing a livelihood or for a momentary gratification. They are usually improvident, unpractical, indolent and lack the sense of responsibility and obligation. Wanderlust, procrastination and a lack of neatness and order are common failings and the pursuit of pleasure is a more important factor in their lives than their future welfare. While most of the men belong to the intellectual class and many are college graduates, and many of the women are college or convent bred, the belief in palmistry, phrenology, clairvoyance, astrology, fortune telling by cards and other methods, is very prevalent and they readily adopt peculiar cults and fads especially such as have something of the mystic or mysterious about them.

The lack of the sense of responsibility and obligation extends to their social relations. There is a spirit of good fellowship not found in conventional society and entirely different from the spirit of friendship. At social gatherings there is no thought of sex differences, women smoking, drinking and often paying their own bills, taking part in discussions and unabashed if the conversation takes a turn which would exclude them in conventional gatherings. There is no deep or lasting affection in this good fellowship and the “hail fellow, well met” feeling disappear at the parting. There are seldom deep, lasting friendships except in the “pal” relations between couples of opposite sex. In some of these cases there is true platonic love, couples sometimes living together as though they were of the same sex. In other cases marital relations are maintained without civil or religious bonds, in some the relations are frankly those of man and mistress, and sometimes couples live together as pals and occasional sex mates. but each retains absolute independence. I have reason to believe that in some of the “pal” relations, between individuals of the same sex as well as between individuals of opposite sex, the couples are perverts.

…I found in the village a number of sex perverts, male and female, including sadists and masochists, and a few inverts, masculine women with female perverts as mates and effeminate men with male perverts as mates.

All in all, it looks as though very little has changed in the Village after nearly a century.

[Source: I.L. Nascher. “Esthesiomania: A study of some queer folk of New York’s Latin Quarter.” American Journal of Urology and Sexology 15, 3 (March 1919): 121-132. Available online via Google Books here.]

80 YEARS AGO: The Delivery of “Safe” Electric Shock for Psychological Treatments: 1935. Two years earlier in April 1933, the New York Branch of the American Psychological Association decided to form the Committee on the Use of Electric Shock in Psychological Experimentation. The committee was formed to “exchange views regarding some of the difficulties involved in electrical stimulation,” namely the delivery of powerful electric shock in aversion therapy as part of the popular new therapeutic craze known as Behavioral Therapy. The electric shock had to be powerful enough to serve as a negative reinforcement against undesired thoughts, feelings or behaviors, but not so strong that it would prove lethal. That was not a small issue in the 1930s. Electrical executions had been by then well on their way to replacing the hangman’s noose and the firing squad as more “humane” ways of imposing the death penalty on criminals. To avoid the same fate for psychiatric patients, research was needed to invent “safer” devices and institute safety standards so that clinicians could begin shocking their patients into conformity.

In a paper published in the March 1935 edition of Psychological Bulletin, New York University’s Louis William Max came to the rescue with a nine page thesis, describing his research into the problem. He had experimented with three types of protective devises: fuses, mechanical relays, and vacuum tube-based devices:

The ideal protective device must meet three requirements: (1) it must operate smoothly and unfailingly at the pre-determined cut-off current; (2) this operation must be sufficiently rapid, since the duration factor is an important one in lethal shock; and (3) the cut-off action must never occur below the prearranged maximum, as this would interfere with experimentation. Since the quantitative evidence thus far available is of a more or less anecdotal nature, and the physiologically safe limits both as to time and intensity have not yet been satisfactorily determined, we recommend as provisional maxima 12 m.a. and 8 sigma (½ cycle of 60 cycle A.C), these values being subject to subsequent increase when justified by further experimentation. This means that an adequate safety device must eliminate all currents above 12 m.a., and that this elimination must take place within 8 sigma after the onset of the stimulus. The 8 sigma limit is but a small fraction of the threshold shock-duration reported by Duchosal as producing ventricular fibrillation in the animal heart, and thus affords a good margin of safety; as ½ cycle A.C. it also provides a convenient electrical parameter for specifying and checking the speed of A.C. protective devices.

While his study of the three types of devices was still ongoing, his investigation into the use of fuses and mechanical relays didn’t appear promising. Instead, he recommended a “vacuum-tube protective device for A.C. shock with adjustable cut-off,” complete with crude hand-drawn schematics. He had been using a version of his device using D.C. electric shocks on human subjects for the previous two years, but D.C. shocks were unsatisfying; A.C. was what delivered the best jolt (electric chairs, for this reason, used A.C., not D.C.):

Schematic diagram of Louis William Max’s device for inducing a powerful electric shock. (Click to enlarge.)

Of the vacuum-tube devices investigated, the one which best meets our requirements is that of Fig. 2. As regards expense, a complete stimulator circuit built around this device would cost less than present electrostimulators. Its chief disadvantage is that its underlying circuit is more complicated than a fuse or relay circuit would be. But the manipulative adjustments required are rather simple, and could easily be made even by a non-electrically minded experimenter, by following a set of operating instructions.

…Regardless of which protective device proves most adequate, the design of shock apparatus needs improvement. All live and exposed connections with which an operator may come in contact or which may be short-circuited by an accidentally dropped screwdriver or metal pencil should be eliminated. Experimenters, for example, have reported unpleasant shocks from exposed studs and tap switches…

Even the most ideal of protective devices cannot substitute for the exercise of care in the use of shock apparatus. For the operator’s protection, it is recommended that only one hand be employed in the manipulation of the controls in present high-voltage apparatus. In locating the shocking electrodes on the subject, avoid all contralateral leads {i.e., from one side of the body to the other), or ipselateral leads above and below the heart (such as right hand to right foot). Where possible, electrodes should be firmly fastened to the subject, especially when intense shocks are contemplated, as the subject’s “startle” responses may dislodge an electrode and throw it into contact with a body part to be avoided. The subject might well be insulated from the ground, by means of a rubber mat or glass casters, particularly where the floor is of cement or composition. Finally, every experimenter using shock apparatus on human subjects should learn the Shaefer method of resuscitation.

Six months later, Max would present a paper before the 43rd annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Ann Arbor, Michigan (See Sep 6) describing the use of his new invention in an attempt at “breaking up” a “homosexual neurosis in a young man.”

[Source: Louis W. Max. “Protective devices and precautions against lethal shock” Psychological Bulletin 32, no. 3 (March 1935): 203-211.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
David LaChapelle: 1963. When the kid from Connecticut move to New York City and started hanging out at Studio 54, he met Andy Warhol who hired the aspiring young photographer to work for Interview magazine. He would go on become a fashion photographer for Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone. GQ, Vogue, and Photo. He depicted David Duchovney in Lycra bondage pants, Chris Rock in a Blaxploitation fantasy, Kanye West as an African-American Jesus, Michael Jackson as an archangel, Jason Priestly as Elvis, Eminem naked, Elizabeth Taylor in a shocking pink turban, Lady Gaga as, well, Lady Gaga, and Dolly Parton’s breasts as a mountainous backdrop for Dollywood. His 1995 photo of the “kissing sailors” ad for Diesel was one of the first public ads showing a gay couple kissing. It was extremely controversial, landing in the glossy mags fresh off of the debate over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He also branched out into videos, working for Elton John, Moby, Enrique Iglesias, Macy Gray, Amy Winehouse, and many others. In 2004, he produced a documentary about the South Central L.A. dance style know as “krumping.”

LaChapelle’s color-saturated, provocative and surreal images have been in high demand in the fashion and music world, both for his photography and his videos, and the workaholic put in grinding hours getting each painstaking detail just right. It took him fourteen years, he says, before he finally learned how to say no. That came when Madonna was haranguing him about a video the two were planning. LaChapelle had enough, pulled the cell phone away from his ear, and snapped it shut. That’s right. He hung up on Madonna. He’s still working, but at his own pace and on his own terms. He no longer feels he has to say yes to everyone, which now leaves artists scrambling for substitutes when he turns them down. In 2011, LaChapelle accused Rihanna of copying his imagery for her video “S&M.” The two settled out of court just as the case was about to go to trial.

John Barrowman: 1967. You’ve heard of bilingual. This Scottish-born actor is bidialectic, having learned to speak naturally with a non-descript American accent after his family moved to Illinois in 1975. Barrowman quickly picked up his Americanish after he was getting picked on by other kids in school because of his Scottish accent, although he still speaks with his brogue when talking to his parents. The accent isn’t the only thing Barrowman picked up while in Joliet. At the urging of his high school music and English teachers, he discovered a love of performing and won several parts in several musical productions.

After graduating from high school in 1985, he moved to San Diego to study performing arts, which opened the opportunity for him to move back to Britain in 1989 to study Shakespeare. That’s when he landed his first West End role as Billy Crocker in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. For the next decade, he appeared in other West End productions: Matador, Phantom of the Opera, Hair, Rope (where he met his future husband, Scott Gill), Miss Saigon, Sunset Boulevard, Godspell, and Beauty and the Beast, just to name a few.

He broke into television in 1993 with the BBC’s children’s program Live & Kicking, and he became a regular presenter and guest for several other programs and prime-time soap operas. He was considered for the role of Will in Will & Grace, but was rejected for being “too straight.” Ironically, the role went to the straight Eric McCormack. Barrowman’s big television breakthrough would come with his role as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood.

Barrowman and Gill entered a civil partnership in 2006 and married in the state of California in 2013. The couple shuttle between their homes in London and Cardiff.

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?

Latest marriage poll

Timothy Kincaid

March 10th, 2015

In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, US support for marriage equality reaches new heights

Q35 Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into same-sex marriages? (IF “FAVOR” OR “OPPOSE,” ASK:) Would you say that you strongly (favor/oppose), or just somewhat (favor/oppose)?

38 Strongly favor
21 Somewhat favor
9 Somewhat oppose
24 Strongly oppose
2 It depends
6 Not sure

And just in case the anti-gays think this means they are winning:

Marriage graph_Page_2

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 10

Jim Burroway

March 10th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, August 2, 1976, page 18.

Not be confused with the more famous Sandpiper on Fire Island, this Staten Island disco was often known as Carmine’s Sandpiper. It wasn’t a gay bar per se (I’m led to understand there were no gay bars in Staten Island at that time, though I’m open to correction), but the Sandpiper was known as a very gay friendly venue since the 1950s. Located in a frame house on a residential street, the Sandpiper was a modest bar during the week, but hosted DJ’s and drag shows on the weekend. Sometime in the 1970s, the Sandpiper became Club Brazil, a full-on gay bar and popular disco. The building has since been torn down and replaced by a cookie-cutter duplex.

Gen. George Washington’s General Orders for March 14, 1776, available online at the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Court-Martial of Lt. Frederick Gotthold Enslin: 1778. Gen. George Washington’s general orders for March 14, 1776 at Valley Forge, PA., included the following description of a court martial that occurred on the 10th:

At a General Court Martial whereof Colo Tupper was President (10th March 1778) Lieutt. Enslin of Colo. Malcom’s Regiment tried for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier; Secondly For Perjury in swearing to false Accounts, found guilty of the charges exhibited against him being breaches of 5th. Article 18th. Section of the Articles of War and do sentence him to be dismiss’d  the service with Infamy. His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning [March 15] by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return; the Drummer and Fifers to attend on the Grand Parade at Guard mounting for that Purpose.

This case began in late February with the court-martial of Ensign Anthony Maxwell, who was charged with “propagating a scandalous report prejudicial to the character of Lieut. Enslin.” Maxwell, who had accused Enslin of “attempted sodomy with a private,” was acquitted. Whatever he said, the court-martial found that it wasn’t “prejudicial to the Character of Lieutt. Enslin further than the strict lien of his duty required.” If Maxwell didn’t slander Enslin as the court found, then that evidently meant that Enslin was guilty. Enslin was quickly court-martialed, and is believed to be the first person to be forced out of the forerunner of the U.S. Army on charges of homosexual behavior.

[Source: General George Washington, March 14, 1776, General Orders. Library of Congress’s American Memory Project. Available online here.]

Mattachine Official Appears On New York Television; Follow-up Program on Lesbians Cancelled: 1958. It had been about a year and a half since WRCA featured a panel discussion on homosexuality (see Aug 4), but that program didn’t include any real-live gay people. This time, when WABD decided to host a discussion of homosexuality on it’s lunchtime public affairs program Showcase, the producer contacted Tony Segura, the New York chapter president of the Mattachine Society, about coming onto the program. Segura agreed, on the condition that his name wasn’t mentioned and he could wear a hood while on the air. Those precautions were important: homosexuality was a felony in New York, with punishment of up to twenty years in prison. The program dealt mainly with dispelling some of the stereotypes about gay people, a task that was undoubtedly made more difficult by Segura’s relative invisibility.

Even so, the program proved highly contentious among the higher-ups at WABD. The next day, Showcase was scheduled to host another panel discussion, this time about lesbians with a member of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis participating. But fifteen minutes before airtime, word came down that the topic was cancelled and the guests were to talk about something else — anything else. Because one of the guests, Helen King, had written a book about handwriting analysis, that would be the safe topic of the day, but not before the host for the day, Fannie Hurst, announced that “after the high plateau reached yesterday, the station feels we are a little premature.” The guests quickly exhausted the impromptu topic, and the program ended early as Hurst apologized once more for the fact that the program had “undergone severe censorship,” and expressed the hope that “fear of living” would in time be replaced with enlightenment and human understanding. She closed with a “hail but not farewell.”

[Sources: Philip Jason. “Mattachine Official Participates on New York Television on Homosexual Subject.” The Mattachine Review: 4, no 4 (April 1958): 24-25.

Lorrie Talbot. “A Daughter Watches TV.” The Ladder 2, no. 6 (March 1958): 10-11.

Edward Alwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 34-35.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Jack Baker: 1942. Jack first met Michael McConnell in 1966, at a barn party on Halloween night in Norman, Oklahoma. Jack was a field engineer for a firm in Oklahoma City, and McConnell was studying at the University of Oklahoma, working on his Masters degree in Library Science. They dated for a while until Jack got a better paying job at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, a job that he quickly lost for being gay. On March 10, 1967, on Jack’s twenty-fifth birthday — he formally proposed to Michael, and Michael accepted on one condition: that someday, somehow, they would figure out a way to be legally married, and that they would never accept second-class citizenship. That lifelong commitment they made to each other set Baker and McConnell on an audacious path as the pre-eminent pioneers in the marriage equality movement.

In 1969, Baker decided to go into law, and was quickly accepted by the University of Minnesota’s law school. He moved to Minneapolis in September, and McConnell joined him six months later after completing his job assignment in Kansas. Baker was determined to start a gay group as soon as he got to UM, only to discover that one already existed: FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression) had formed earlier that summer, just a few months before the Stonewall rebellion. Baker threw himself into FREE’s work and became its first president. His first major accomplishment came in 1970, when he pushed the University of Minnesota to become the first campus in the country to adopt an anti-discrimination policy for companies that recruited graduates on campus.

Michael McConnell (L) and Jack Baker (R)

Michael McConnell (L) and Jack Baker (R)

Later that same year, Baker and McConnell made the first step in fulfilling the promise they made to each other when they went to the County Clerk’s office and applied for a marriage license (see May 18). They were denied, and in the resulting outcry McConnell lost his library job at the University of Minnesota. The couple sued in state court, but lost. They then appealed the decision all the way up to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled in Baker v. Nelson that state law prohibits same-sex marriage. They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to take the case “for want of a substantial federal question.” That would become the official legal position across the country for more than three decades.

(Photo: GAY, November 1973, page 4.)

(Photo: GAY, November 1973, page 4.)

But Baker and McConnell were undeterred. In August of 1971, McConnell legally adopted Baker. That same month, Baker and McConnell moved to Blue Earth County and applied for another marriage license. That license was granted following the mandatory waiting period, and when the couple was married by a Methodist Minister, they became the first lawfully-wedded same-sex couple in the U.S. Getting the state and federal governments to recognize their marriage was quite another matter. Federal courts rejected McConnell’s attempt to claim Baker’s veterans benefits. The IRS refused to accept their 1973 joint tax return.

Meanwhile, Baker found more avenues for activism. In 1971, he ran for the UM Student Body President as a fully, openly gay man — one of his campaign posters had him posing in white high-heeled shoes. His election made history and made national news, with Walter Cronkite himself informing viewers, “In Minneapolis, an admitted homosexual, Jack Baker, has been elected president of the University of Minnesota Student Association.” He made history again the following year when he became the first president to successfully run for re-election in the University’s 121-year history.

Meanwhile, Baker and McConnell’s improbable marriage remained intact: no state or federal court ever ordered their marriage invalidated or annulled, and no attorney general issued an opinion holding that their marriage was invalid. They have continued to live together as a married couple, regardless of whether anyone else would recognize it or not. Which explains why when marriage equality finally arrived in Minnesota in 2013, Baker and McConnell were not among the thousands descending on county clerks offices requesting marriage licenses. They are still together today, both retired and living quietly in Minneapolis.

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?

The Daily Agenda for Monday, March 9

Jim Burroway

March 9th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 3, 1983, page 9.

From The Advocate, March 3, 1983, page 9.

This is another of those places where it’s very difficult to find anything about. Googling “Last Call” doesn’t help, especially when trying to add “gay bar” and “Los Angeles.” All that comes up is a series of articles about the closure of gay bars. The address however pointed the way to a tragic story. It appears that the Last Call Inn was located on the ground floor of the Palomar Hotel, a run-down, overcrowded building with multiple code violations. The building suffered a devastating arson fire in 2001. Two died: a mother who fell to her death after handing her children off to firefighters through a third-floor window, and Arturo Ortiz, the hotel owner’s brother and manager, whose body was found hunched over a gasoline can on the hotel’s second floor. Arson investigators determined that he had spread forty gallons of gasoline throughout the building when a pilot light lit the gasoline before he had finished. Juan Ortiz, the hotel’s owner, was charged with insurance fraud and murder. He was found guilty of insurance fraud, but was finally acquitted of the murder charges in 2007 after two hung jury trials. Since then, the Hollywood Community Housing Corporation rebuilt the historic building, converting it into 27 affordable apartments for low-income and disabled seniors. The Palomar Apartments won the 2006 Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
LA Police Beat Howard Efland to Death During Hotel Raid: 1969. The Dover Hotel was a five-story brick building in downtown Los Angeles where men checked in, removed their clothing, and laid on their beds with the doors open waiting for others to walk by. That made it a favorite target of L.A. police, which raided the place on a fairly regular basis. During the latest raid, vice officers Lemuel Chauncey and Richard Halligan hauled Howard Efland, a nurse who was one of the hotel’s customers, outside of the hotel in handcuffs, and laid him in the ground in front of the hotel where proceeded to beat and kicked him. Witnesses heard Efland scream, “Help me! My God, someone help me!”, while the officers beat him, kicked him, did knee drops on his stomach and stomped on him. Efland died of massive internal injuries.  At first, the LAPD told Efland’s parents that their son had simply died of a heart attack. That lie was betrayed, of course, when they saw the condition of their son’s body. A coroner’s jury then ruled Efland’s death an “excusable homicide,” claiming that he had resisted his arrest, despite witnesses saying that he was helpless against the assault. No one was ever held accountable for Efland’s murder.

TODAY’s BIRTHDAYS:
Will Geer: 1902-1978. He was Grampa Walton on screen, and a social activist off. He had been a member of the Communist Party in 1934, where he met Harry Hay (see Apr 7) who would go on to co-found the Mattachine Foundation (which later became the Mattachine Society) in 1950. Geer and Hay briefly became lovers while working as union organizers in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But they soon parted ways when Geer married his wife, actress and fellow political activist Herta Ware. Geer went on to work with folk singers Burle Ives and Woodie Guthrie in advocating for migrant farm workers and organized labor. He also found time to do some acting, mostly on the stage, often Shakespeare. Between 1948 and 1951, he was also in more than a dozen movies, but he was soon blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

With the blacklist in force, Geer fell back on his training as a botanist (he had a master’s degree from the University of Chicago) and founded the Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon near Santa Monica, California, with his wife. They would divorce in 1954, but they remained very close friends thereafter. Together, they turned Theatricum Botanicum into an artists colony, with an outdoor summer theater and Woody Guthrie living in a small shack.

By the late 1950s, Geer was back on Broadway, and in 1964 he was nominated for a Tony for his role in the musical 110 in the Shade. His career in film resumed in 1963 with a minor part in Advise and Consent, and in 1967 he played the prosecutor in the film adaptation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. When he died after completing the sixth season of The Waltons in 1978, his remains were cremated and his ashes buried at his beloved Theatricum Botanicum, which continues to host performances and youth acting workshops.

Samuel Barber: 1910-1981. He was apparently a very precocious child. In a very anxious letter at the tender age of nine, he came out to his mother — as a composer:

Dear Mother: I have written this to tell you my worrying secret. Now don’t cry when you read it because it is neither yours nor my fault. I suppose I will have to tell it now without any nonsense. To begin with I was not meant to be an athlet [sic]. I was meant to be a composer, and will be I’m sure. I’ll ask you one more thing .—Don’t ask me to try to forget this unpleasant thing and go play football.—Please—Sometimes I’ve been worrying about this so much that it makes me mad (not very).

He wrote his first musical at seven, tried his first opera at 10, became an organist at 12, and began studying piano, voice and composition at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia at 14. That’s where he met his lover, partner and musical collaborator Gian Carlo “Johnny” Menotti, and they would remain together for the next forty years. By Barber’s twenties, his compositions were commissioned or debuted by Vladimir Horowitz, Leontyne Price, Arturo Toscanini, among others. He won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his 1957 opera Vanessa, and for his 1962 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. But his 1966 opera Antony and Cleopatra was a dud, and he spent his remaining years in isolation and depression, while Menotti, a successful composer in his own right, indulged in dalliances with a string of much younger men. Barber died in 1981, Menotti in 2007, and it is Barber’s work that is better remembered.

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?

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, March 8

Jim Burroway

March 8th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA Events This Weekend: Belgian LGBT Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium; SWING Gay Ski Week, Lenzerheide, Switzerland; Winter Party, Miami, FL; Leather Alliance Weekend, San Francisco, CA; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GAY, August 17, 1970, page 15.

From GAY, August 17, 1970, page 15.

Countless generations of gay Philadelphians can boast of having their first drink in a gay bar at Allegro’s. It was Philly’s oldest, largest and best gay bar, a three-floor mega-complex with one floor devoted to dancing and another a quieter piano bar. Male patrons were required to wear a jacket and a tie, but that dress code eventually relaxed and went away altogether by the late 1960s. One patron remembered what it was like in the late ’60s:

The Allegro was really the happening place… At the Allegro, I can remember guys with tambourines on the dance floor, and the excitement — we kind of knew that the future was wide open, and there was this kind of pride and pleasure in being gay. There was this electricity in the air that was very strong, this feeling: We are persecuted, we will bond together.

Another remembered going there for the first time in 1973.

It was the Rizzo years, so you were careful. But still, there were so many bars and businesses. It was fun. Friday or Saturday night, you could walk around and see hundreds and hundreds of people walking from bar to bar at 11:30 or midnight. My uncle took me to my very first gay bar, the Allegro. We kind of sensed we were both gay, and he said I should go out and be with other gay people. The entrance was on Spruce Street, and there’s a little alley there, and we stood across the street and I said, “What are we doing?” And he said, “You can’t just walk into the bar.” Again, this is 1973. So we waited with two other guys until there were no cars, and no people, and then we ran into the bar.

Another remembered that the Allegro’s size gave its patrons an advantage whenever the police raided the place: “You felt safe up on the third floor, because by the time a raid happened, you could jump out the third-floor window.”

TODAY IN HISTORY:
First Post-WWII Gay Organization Formed: 1948. The Veterans Benevolent Association had been meeting in New York City since 1945, serving as a social club for 75-100 regular members. Four honorably discharged veterans founded the group, and the VBA became an important resource for those who needed assistance with a nasty employer or with legal problems. On March 9, the New York State Department issued a Certificate of Incorporation, which described the group this way:

To unite socially and fraternally, all veterans and their friends, of good and moral character, over the age of twenty years. To foster, create, promote, and maintain the spirit of social, fraternal, and benevolent feeling among the members and all those connected by any means and ties. To enhance the mutual welfare of its members. To promote and advance good fellowship, mutuality, and friendship, and to promote the best idealism and interests of its members. To advance the social and economic interests of its members; to provide suitable places for meeting of members and the establishment of facilities for social, fraternal, benevolent, and economic activities and functions.

Of course missing from that description is any reference to homosexuality.

As time went on, a split developed within the group between those who wanted the VBA to become more politically active and others who wanted the group to remain a social organization. The conflicts grew until the group was finally disbanded in 1954.

From Wicce, “a lesbian/feminist newspaper”, Summer, 1974. (Source)

Philadelphia Police Raid Rusty’s Bar: 1968. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo had developed a fearsome reputation in the city’s African-American community, anti-war demonstrators, radicals, hippies, students, and anyone else who ran afoul of his law-and-order regimen. He is reported to have said about one group of demonstrators, “When I’m finished with them, I’ll make Attila the Hun look like a fag.” In 1968, Philly police turned their attention not to fags, but dykes, with a raid on Barone’s Variety Room, a popular downtown lesbian bar that everyone knew simply as Rusty’s, after the bar’s tough, take-no-prisoners manager, Rusty Parisi. When police descended on the bar, they unplugged the jukebox, turned on the house lights, and, as gay rights advocate Ada Bello recalled, “the small posse of trench coat clad figures slowly moved form table to table.”

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “It was alleged (in graphic language) that several women had been making love on the floor, that others were drunk and disorderly, and that some had resisted arrest.” Byrna Aronson was there, and she didn’t see the police when they arrived. “I leaned down to kiss my girlfriend on the cheek, and Captain Clarence Ferguson, in a pork-pie hat, tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You’re under arrest.’ and I said, ‘What for?’ He said, ‘Sodomy.’ I just started to laugh. Police arrested a dozen women, including Aronson, charged them with disorderly conduct, held them overnight, and brought them before a magistrate in the morning, when all charges were dropped.

Bello, who was a member of the local chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis that had formed a year earlier, remembered that raid on Rusty’s as an important turning point for the group. “The Philadelphia police made a very valuable contribution. Maybe it was the mood prevailing in the country at that time. Maybe it was because there is such a thing as the last straw. But out of that incident… our group got the first clear sense of direction. Some of the women came to us and demanded action. …. Several women joined that chapter, among them Byrna Aronson.”

The challenge before the DOB was, as one member put it, “were we really going to try and change the world or were we going to talk among ourselves about how the world ought to change?” The DOB’s bylaws were clear: all protests had to be approved by the national board. But as Bello said, “It was difficult to get authorization from the administration of DOB. We couldn’t find the president — remember, this was before cell phones and e-mail — and we felt that it was hampering our ability to react.” In the end, local DOB leaders decided they were more interested in action than social gatherings. “So we thought, ‘why not start another organization — one whose middle name is Action!'”

In August of that year, the local DOB chapter voted to dissolve and regroup as the Homophile Action League (HAL) as an organization of both lesbians and gay men. Pioneering gay rights activist Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), who two years earlier been relieved of her duties as editor of the DOB’s newsletter The Ladder over her participation at a pro-gay picket at Independence Hall (see Jul 4), also joined HAL. “There hadn’t been any really concerted effort on the political scene until HAL was organized and began to attract some men.” The DOB had been open only to women, but Philadelphia’s lesbian leaders felt that it was time to make common cause with gay men. With HAL, local gay rights activists found the freedom they needed to respond to local provocations.

The disbanding of the local DOB chapter was an important milestone in the eventual downfall of the Daughters of Bilitis as a national organization. That year, national DOB president Shirley Willer (see Sep 27) tried to reform and decentralize the DOB in response to the Philadelphia action, and she wound up resigning in disgust when her efforts failed. The national organization finally disbanded in 1970.

45 YEARS AGO: New York Police Raid the Snake Pit: 1970. It may come as a surprise to those who are not of a certain age, but raids on gay bars by the New York police department didn’t end with the Stonewall uprising in the summer of 1969. In fact, raids continued, virtually uninterrupted. At about 5:00 a.m. of March 8, 1970, New York police descended on the Snake Pit, an after-hours unlicensed bar in Greenwich Village. Deputy Inspector Seymore Pine showed up with a fleet of police wagons, and without bothering to sort out the owners from the clientele, arrested all 167 customers and took them to the station house, an act which violated police policy. One patron, Diego Vinales, panicked. An immigrant from Argentina who was in the country illegally, he feared what would happen to him in the police station and tried to escape by jumping out a second story window. He landed on a fence below, its 14-inch spikes piercing his leg and pelvis. He was not only critically wounded, but was also charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. As paramedics attended to Vinales, a cop told a fireman, “You don’t have to hurry, he’s dead, and if he’s not, he’s not going to live long,” sparking a false rumor that Vinales had died.

Following on that rumor, the Gay Activist Alliance immediately organized a protest for later that night. A pamphlet publicizing the protest read, “Any way you look at it, Diego Vinales was pushed. We are all being pushed. A march on the Sixth Precinct will take place tonight, March 8, at 9pm, gathering at Sheridan Square. Anyone who calls himself a human being, who has the guts to stand up to this horror, join us. A silent vigil will occur immediately following the demonstration.” Nearly 500 people showed up for an angry and loud but peaceful protest protest to the precinct station on Charles Street, followed by a vigil at St. Vincent’s hospital where Vinales lay in critical condition. Rep. Edward Koch accused New York City Police Commissioner Howard Leary of green-lighting the resumption of raids and illegal illegal arrests on the gay community. Leary resigned and Pine was reassigned to Flatbush in Brooklyn. And the gay community, which had already witnessed a burst of organizing activity since the Stonewall uprising nine months earlier, became even more politically and socially active, setting the stage for a very successful Christopher Street commemoration later that summer for the first anniversary of Stonewall.

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).

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, March 7

Jim Burroway

March 7th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA
Events This Weekend: Belgian LGBT Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium; SWING Gay Ski Week, Lenzerheide, Switzerland; Winter Party, Miami, FL; Leather Alliance Weekend, San Francisco, CA; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Voice, January 15, 1982, page 22.

The Stud lasted a decade, from 1976 to 1987, when it became Griff’s. The name may have chanced, but Griff’s retained the whole leather/cowboy focus that was the Stud’s forte. Griff’s closed in 1993 when the owner died of AIDS. A few months later, the club acquired new owners, and two weeks after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Griffs reopened as Faultline — get it? — while continuing to cater to an assertive crowd.

Hanging outside Newgate Prison

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Thomas White and John Newbolt Hepburn Hanged for Sodomy: 1811. The notorious raid on the White Swan (see Jul 13), a “molly house” on Vere Street in London (in present day Camden Borough; the street itself no longer exists), gave up its final victims when two men, Ensign John Hewbolt Hepburn and regimental drummer Thomas White, were hanged at Newgate Prison for the crime of sodomy.

About twenty-five people were arrested during the raid at the White Swan. Six of them were found guilty of attempted sodomy and were made to stand at the pillory (see Sep 27). They barely survived. But neither Hepburn nor White were among those arrested during the raid, but regimental drummer James Mann was. And to save his own skin from the pillory or worse, he ratted out Thomas White, a drummer with the Guards in a Portugal regiment, and Ensign John Newbolt Hepburn of the West India Regiment. White and Hepburn were arrested on July 26 and held in Newgate Prison. Their trial was scheduled for October 21, but was postponed due to the absence of two witnesses.

When the trial finally began on December 3, there was only one witness, Mann, who testified that Hepburn approached him on the parade ground in St. James Park. Mann described the encounter according to this double entendre-laden account of Mann’s testimony: that Hepburn “was very anxious to speak to the boy who was then beating the big drum, meaning White, and said he would reward him if he would bring the lad to his lodgings, at No. 5, St. Martin’s Church-Yard.” Mann and White went to Hepburn’s lodgings that evening, where the three agreed to meet at the White Swan on May 27,where they had dinner and took a private room for sex.

White was found guilty of buggery, and Hepburn was convicted of “consenting & permitting Thomas White to Commite the crime of Buggery with him”, and, “for committing the crime of Buggery with each other.” Both were sentenced to death by hanging:

Hepburn and White were hanged before the debtors’ door at Newgate on the morning of Thursday 7 March 1811. “White came out first; he seemed perfectly indifferent to his awful fate, and continued adjusting the frill of his shirt while he was viewing the surrounding populace.” Hepburn came out two minutes later, accompanied by the clergyman, his servant, the hangman, the ordinary, and other functionaries. The executioner put a cap over his face. White fixed his eyes upon Hepburn. “After a few minutes prayer, the miserable wretches were launched into eternity. A vast concourse of people attended to witness the awful scene. The Duke of Cumberland, Lord Sefton, Lord Yarmouth, and several other noblemen were in the press-yard.” Holloway notes this aristocratic presence, implying that these noblemen had availed themselves of White’s friendship in the Swan.

TheHomosexual

CBS Airs “The Homosexuals”: 1967. Described as “the single most destructive hour of anti-gay propaganda in our nation’s history,” the special was produced by the prestigious CBS Reports, an award-winning series that grew out of the game show scandals of the 1950s. CBS Reports was set up to use its hour-long format to delve into subjects which were deemed too controversial for other programs, and “The Homosexuals,” which took three years to complete, was the first nationally-broadcast program introducing the American audience to gay people.

After completing a rough cut, the producers approached CBS correspondent Mike Wallace. At first, Wallace declined, saying that he wanted no part in a program that would “pity the poor homosexual.” But after seeing the rough cut, which portrayed gay people in a relatively neutral light, he agreed to host the special. But higher ups at CBS were skittish about letting it go on the air. At one point, the special was killed, and all of the positive footage from interviews gathered in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and New York City was axed along with it. When CBS decided to revive it in 1965, the producers started over. This time, they found gay people to interview on the East Coast: Lars Larson in New York, and Washington, D.C., gay rights activists Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols. Nichols appeared under the pseudonym of Warren Adkins because his real name was identical to his father’s, who worked at the FBI. Nichols later recalled:

Jack Nichols as “Warren Atkins.”

After we finished and the camera was turned off, Mike Wallace sat down with me and talked for about half an hour. He said, “You know, you answered all of my questions capably, but I have a feeling you don’t really believe that homosexuality is as acceptable as you make it sound.” I asked him why he would say that. “Because,” he said, “In your heart I think you know it’s wrong.” It was infuriating. I told him I thought being gay was fine, but that in his heart he thought it was wrong.

At ten o’clock on Tuesday night, not long after the closing credits of Petticoat Junction, viewers across American watched as Mike Wallace declared:

The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested or capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life, consists of a series of one–chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits. And even on the streets of the city — the pick-up, the one night stand, these are characteristics of the homosexual relationship. And the homosexual prostitute has become a fixture in the downtown streets at night. On street corners, at subway exits, these young men signal their availability for pay.

Charles Socarides

The documentary featured psychotherapist Charles Socarides, who would go on to become an outspoken critic of the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973. He would also help to co-found the National Association for Research and Treatment (later Therapy) of Homosexuality (NARTH). His appearance was filmed in a classroom at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, set up as though he was taking spontaneous questions from a group of psychiatric residents. One woman was shown asking if there were any “happy homosexuals.” Socarides responded, “The fact that somebody’s homosexual — a true obligatory homosexual — automatically rules out the possibility that he will remain happy for long, in my opinion.” He characterized happiness among gay people as “a mythology.” Irving Bieber, who was among the forefront of psychoanalysts claiming high success rates in “curing” gay people, blamed homosexuality on parents. “I do not believe it is possible to produce a homosexual if the father is a warm, good, supportive, constructive father to his son.”  Missing from the program was any mental health professional to disagree or counter Socarides or Bieber, leaving the impression that the entirety of psychology stood behind these two men.

Albert Goldman

“The Homosexuals” traded in a number of other stereotypes. One portion examined whether a “homosexual mafia” existed in the creative arts. Gore Vidal appeared on camera to denounce the stereotype as “nonsense,” but of course he would say that;  he’s one of them. Columbia University Professor Albert Goldman provided the “straight” rebuttal, contending that homosexuals were responsible for distorting the theater, art, and fashion as a way of striking back at the heterosexual majority. (Two decades later, Goldman would gain notoriety for publishing a biography of John Lennon, claiming that the former Beatle was “a violent, schizophrenic drug addict.”)

But it was a fourth gay man, a closeted homosexual whose early appearance in the program, his face obscured by a potted plant casting a dark shadow across his face, made the most memorable appearance in the film. He was described as being twenty-seven years old and college educated, and “unable to hold a job because of his inability to contain his homosexual inclinations. Wallace said that he had been in jail three times “for committing homosexual acts. If he is arrested once more, he faces the possibility of life in prison. He is now on probation and in psychotherapy.” The young man described himself this way:

The man behind the potted palm.

I felt as though I had license to satisfy every need, every desire, every tension… animal sexual gratification… I use the word “sick” — I’m not taking a pot shot, I’m not attempting to judge homosexuals. I’m not a judge. I know that inside, now, that I am sick. I’m not sick just sexually, I’m sick in a lot of ways …. immature, childlike, and the sex part of it is a symptom like a stomach ache is a symptom of who knows what.”

That man’s appearance was so memorable that today it is often mistakenly said that all of the gay men in the program were similarly photographed.

Wallace closed the program with an interview with another anonymous hidden gay man who was married with two children, and who described his life as one of unrelenting tension and hardship. Wallace then wound up the program saying

The dilemma of the homosexual: told by the medical profession he is sick; by the law that he’s a criminal; shunned by employers; rejected by heterosexual society. Incapable of a fulfilling relationship with a woman, or for that matter with a man. At the center of his life he remains anonymous. A displaced person. An outsider.

In the program’s aftermath, Nichols, despite appearing under an assumed name, was fired from his job the day after the program aired. Larson filed a formal complain and withdrew his signed release, saying that his interview had been edited to make him seem unhappy about being gay. As for Wallace, he would later regret participating in the episode. In 1996, he said, “That is — God help us — what our understanding was of the homosexual lifestyle a mere twenty-five years ago because nobody was out of the closet and because that’s what we heard from doctors — that’s what Socarides told us, it was a matter of shame.”

Here is an nine minute edited version “The Homosexuals.” You can see the whole episode here.

[Sources: Edward Alwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 69-73.

Lawrence Laurent. “CBS studies homosexuals.” The Washington Post (March 9, 1967): D23.]

First US Municipal Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: 1972. The very first municipal ordinance providing anti-discrimination protections in employment for gays and lesbians became law not in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, but in East Lansing, Michigan. In early 1970, the Gay Liberation Movement had formed at the Michigan State University’s East Lansing campus, where they found fertile ground on a campus which was regarded as one of the most progressive in the nation. In 1970, MSU’s new president became the first African-American to lead a major university, and MSU students were especially active in anti-war protests. The politics of MSU extended into the community, where GLM worked for nearly a year carefully lobbying for an ordinance prohibiting local employers from firing gays and lesbians because of their sexual orientation. The work paid off, with the city council approving the measure 4-1 over the objections of the mayor. Shortly after the vote, GLM founder Don Gaudard boasted, “Not everything happens in San Francisco.”

15 YEARS AGO: California Voters Pass Prop 22: 2000. When Prop 22 came before California voters, state law already defined marriage as “a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman.” But California’s law also said that a “marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state,” which anti-gay activists saw as a loophole. Although no state yet offered marriage equality (Vermont was still debating a civil unions bill in early 2000), anti-gay activists feared that same-sex marriage was legalized elsewhere, Californians would flock to that state to get married, and expect those marriages to be recognized back home. Why of all the nerve! Prop 22 added a provision to the California marriage code saying that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” It passed during the March primary by a 61% to 39% margin.

Over the next decade, several challenges to Prop 22 were launched in the courts and the legislature. In 2006, the California Supreme Court agreed to review all of the court cases that challenged state law, and heard oral arguments in March 2008. Six weeks later, the Supreme Court ruled that Prop 22 violated the state constitution and was therefore invalid. By then, anti-gay activists had already begun the process of bringing Prop 8 to the November 2008 ballot, and when the first same-sex marriages were solemnized in July, the campaigns for and against Prop 8 were already well underway. Prop 8 passed in November 2008, but this time by only 52% to 48%. While the ground had shifted by nine percentage points in eight years, it wasn’t enough to prevent same-sex marriages from coming to a halt. Prop 8 finally fell in 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court’s ruling finding Prop 8 unconstitutional.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Alan Sues: 1926-2011. Campy. Flamboyant. Wacky. And he loved his tinkle. Nobody said “gay,” but that would have described him as accurately as any of the other adjectives attached to his characters in NBC’s hit sketch comedy series Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. During his run from 1968 to 1972, Sues played several recurring characters, including the memorable and effeminate sportscaster Big Al, who’d punctuate his sportscasts by ringing a small brass bell and exclaiming how much he loved that “tinkle.” He also played the perpetually hung-over Uncle Al the Kiddies’ Pal in a series of sketches designed to parody childrens’ programs, and once appeared in a drag imitation of fellow cast member Jo Anne Worley. As over the top his performances were, he didn’t disclose publicly that he was gay. Michael Michaud, a friend and administrator for Sues when he died in 2011, told The New York Times, “It wasn’t because he was ashamed of being gay; it was because he was surviving as a performer … He had a ton of gay fans. Many gay men came up to him and said how important he was when they were young because he was the only gay man they could see on television.” Well, maybe not the only gay man — Paul Lynde was also plying much the same shtick for laughs (see Jun 13). But the point is taken: forty years ago, there were almost no identifiable gay characters on television.

Seus was born in Ross, California, and he served in the Army in Europe during World War II. When he came home, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill to take acting lessons at the Passadena Playhouse. In 1953, he made his Broadway debute in Elia Kazan’s “Tea and Sympathy.” He married, and he and his wife started a vaudevillian-style nightclub act where he developed some of the characters that would later appear in “Laugh-In.” After he and his wife divorced in the late 1950s, Seus moved to California and appeared in The Wild Wild West and a memorable episode of The Twilight Zone. By the late sixties, he was still known as a dramatic actor, but when he joined Jo Ann Worley in an Off Broadway musical comedy, they both caught the attention of producer George Schlatter, who cast them both in Laugh-In.

From then on he became known as something of a manic comedic actor, which reflected his off-camera personality pretty well. Fellow Laugh-In cast member Ruth Buzzi said “Alan Sues was one of those guys even funnier in person than on camera.” Schlatter recalled, “He was a delight. He was an upper. He waked on the stage and everybody just felt happy.” Seus also brought his antics and happy attitude to his role as commercial spokesman for, appropriately, Peter Pan peanut butter. But serious acting roles didn’t dry up completely. In 1975, he played Moriarity in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Broadway production of “Sherlock Holmes,” a role he cherished for the rest of his life. He died in 2011 of a sudden heart attack at the age of 85.

Wanda Sykes: 1964. The comedian and actress began her professional life in the unlikeliest of places, as a procurement officer for the National Security Agency (NSA). She worked there for five years after college (she has a bachelor’s degree in marketing) while moonlighting at verious standup comedy clubs in the Washington, D.C., area. In 1992, she quit her job and moved to New York to work as a book editor for a publishing house. Her big break came when she opened for Chris Rock at a New York comedy club, which led to a job as a writer for The Chris Rock Show. She made seveveral appearances on The Chris Rock Show, Curb Your Enthuseasm, and her own short-lived Fox show Wanda at Large. Other credits include HBO’s Inside the NFL, Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, NBC’s The New Adventures of Old Christine and Will & Grace. In 2007, her HBO comedy special, Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired was nominated for an emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. In November, 2008, she publicly came out during a rally in Las Vegas protesting the passage of California’s Proposition 8. Since then she has worked with GLSEN on anti-bullying videos, and has hosted fundraisers for marriage equality.

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).

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, March 6

Jim Burroway

March 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA
Events This Weekend: Belgian LGBT Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium; SWING Gay Ski Week, Lenzerheide, Switzerland; Winter Party, Miami, FL; Leather Alliance Weekend, San Francisco, CA; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, August 1974, page 75.

From David, August 1974, page 75.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Lewd Behavior Upon a Bed”: 1649. Court records from Puritan colonies indicate that authorities appeared to have been reluctant to prosecute crimes based on homosexuality, if the scarcity of such records is any indication. But court records also show that Plymouth Colony was considerably less reluctant, given that its court records report quite a handful of cases (for example, see Aug 6, Mar 1). The colony’s statute called for the death penalty for “buggery” and “sodomy,” which had the effect of only outlawing male homosexuality. As in England, female homosexuality was unmentioned. But that didn’t prevent the Plymouth Colony from prosecuting one case of lesbian behavior. The court records for Plymouth Colony recorded a very brief notation for March 6, 1649:

We present the wife of Hugh Norman, and Mary Hammon, both of Yarmouth, for lewd behavior each with the other upon a bed.

According to Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay/Lesbian Almanac:

Recent research by J.R. Roberts in the Plymouth manuscript records provides background information on Norman and Hammon. At the time of the above charges Mary Hammon was fifteen years old, and recently married. Sara Norman’s age is unknown, but she was apparently somewhat older, as he had been married in 1639. About the time of the court’s first charge, 1649, Hugh Norman, Sara’s husband, deserted his wife and children.

A marginal note in the Plymouth court record of March 6, 1649 reported that Mary Hammond was “cleared with admonition” — perhaps because of her youth. Sara Normon’s case was evidentially held over for later judgment.

…Patriarchal custom was evident in the fact that court records in this case referred to the “wife of Hugh Norman”; although Sara Norman was publicly charged with a serious crime, her whole name was used only once in the documents

On October 2, 1650, the court rendered its judgment on Sara Norman:

Whereas the wife of Hugh Norman, of Yarmouth, hath stood presented [in] divers Courts for misdemeanor and lewd behavior with Mary Hammon upon a bed, with divers lascivious speeches by her also spoken, but she could not appear by reason of some hindrances unto this Court, the said Court have therefore sentenced her, the said wife of Hugh Norman, for her wild behavior in the aforesaid particulars, to make a public acknowledgment, so far as conveniently may be, of her unchaste behavior, and have also warned her to take heed of such carriages for the future, lest her former carriage come in remembrance against her to make her punishment the greater.

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary (New York: Harper & Row, 1983): 92-93.]

Rudolph Schildkraut, who played the father in “God of Vengeance,” 1923.

Theater Owner, Producer, Cast of “God of Vengeance” Arrested: 1923. Yiddish theater was a lively component of New York’s cultural life in the first part of the twentieth century, even if it did mostly fly mostly under the radar of the city’s cognoscenti. Maybe that’s why the 1907 production of Sholem Asch’s Got Fun Nekome, with its story line about a family who lived above a brothel owned by the father and the budding lesbian relationship between his daughter and one of the prostitutes, managed to go off without a hitch. Not that there was no controversy. The Yiddish press was greatly concerned that the play’s “immoral” content would trigger an anti-Semitic backlash if its plot line was noticed by the wider English-speaking city. But no backlash materialized, and the play was a huge success. It went on to be translated into several languages and was well received throughout much of Europe over the next decade.

Sixteen years after its Yiddish premiere, the play returned to New York in an English translation of God of Vengeance. When it made its Broadway debut at the Apollo Theater, it featured the first lesbian love scene on the Great White Way. This time, it was noticed. A month later, detectives showed up backstage during a performance to inform the theater’s manager and producer that they and the entire cast had been indicted for presenting an obscene and immoral play. The complaint wasn’t that the play had a lesbian them — at least, not directly — but that the lesbian theme in a Jewish play libeled the Jewish religion and was anti-Semitic. The Judge agreed, calling the play a “desecration of the sacred scrolls of the Torah,” in reference to the scrolls the father in the play commissioned, in vain, to protect the purity of his daughter. The entire cast was found guilty, but only the Harry Weinberger, the producer, and Rudolph Schildkraut, who played the father, were fined $200 each. Everyone else was let go. The play, which had closed on the night of the indictment, has been revived several times over the years, mostly by Jewish and other repertory companies.

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).

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, March 5

Jim Burroway

March 5th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA
Events This Weekend: Belgian LGBT Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium; SWING Gay Ski Week, Lenzerheide, Switzerland; Winter Party, Miami, FL; Leather Alliance Weekend, San Francisco, CA; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, August 2, 1976, page 43.

The Gilded Grape at 719 Eighth Avenue, just a few blocks off of Times Square, was one of many bars that was allegedly mob-owned, this one by Matthew “Matty The Horse” Ianniello, the one-time acting boss of the Genovese crime family, and his business partner, Carl Moskowitz. Whatever you might think of mob-owned gay bars, they knew how to throw a party and the Gilded Grape was tremendously popular, particularly among drag queens and transwomen. Ianniello and Moskowitz, who also owned the cruise bar Haymarket on the same block (see Jan 13), were eventually convicted for a skimming profits from several gay bars in the area. There’s a sushi restaurant where the Gilded Grape once stood.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Jenny Jones Show” Taping Leads to Murder: 1994. The nationally-syndicated Jenny Jones Show debuted in 1991 as a fairly serious but entertaining talk show along the lines of Oprah, but after a few years of seeing The Jerry Springer Show’s ratings shoot through the roof, Jones’s producers decided to give their show a harder edge. Several new features began making their appearances: paternity test results, feuding neighbors, out-of-control teens and secret crushes. That last feature was what drew Jonathan Schmitz to the Jenny Jones Chicago studio, where producers told him that he would learn the identity of a secret admirer. Naturally, he thought the admirer was a woman, and not 32-year-old neighbor Scott Amedure, who proceeded to tell the embarrassed 24-year-old Schmitz about a fantasy involving whipped cream, strawberries and champagne on national television.

Three days after the taping and back home in Orion, Michigan, Schmitz continued to seethe over the embarrassment. That day, he found an anonymous, sexually suggestive not on his door and assumed it came from Amedure. Schmitz bought a shotgun and ammunitions, went to Amedure’s home and fired two shots at close range into Amedure’s chest. Schmitz then left, drove to a gas station, called 911 from a pay phone and confessed.

Schmitz was arrested and charged with Amedure’s killing. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to twenty-five to fifty years in prison. His conviction was overturned on appeal over errors in jury selection, but he was convicted again on retrial and given the same sentence. Amedure’s family sued Warner Bros. and the Jenny Jones Show over their ambush tactics and negligence. The jury awarded the Amedure family $2.5 million, but the Michigan Court of Appeals, citing the producers’ First Amendment rights, overturned the verdict on appeal.

The fateful episode was pulled from the schedule immediately after the shooting and has never aired on television. It has however become part of the public record and parts of it aired on Court TV during the trial.

L-R: Unidentified woman, American holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge, Exodus International boardmember Don Schmierer, Family Life Network (Uganda)’s Stephen Langa, at the time of the March 2009 anti-gay conference in Uganda.

Three American Evangelical Activists Conduct Anti-Gay Conference in Uganda: 2009. Nine days earlier, BTB had become the first Western outlet to discover and report the shocking announcement that Exodus International board member Don Schmierer and a little-known staffer at Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation, Caleb Lee Brundidge, would join Holocaust revisionist and anti-gay extremist Scott Lively for a three day anti-gay conference in Kampala. The day before the conference was to take place, Parliament Speaker Edward Ssekandi made an announcement before the House inviting members to a special breakfast to be held at the Parliament conference Hall on the morning of March 5, ahead of the actual conference itself scheduled to begin later that day at the Triangle Hotel.

By then, Lively was already known to regular BTB readers for his involvement with the international anti-gay extremist group Watchmen On the Walls (not to be confused with an unrelated Family Research Council initiative by the same name) and for his book, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, in which he wrote that “the Nazi Party was entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals throughout its short history.” Lively regularly described gays as sick and “followers of the Father of Lies.” Lively argued that “civilization and homosexuals” were engaged in a full-blown war, which is part of the Devil’s design to destroy civilizations. When the Watchmen On the Walls held a rally in Novosibirsk, Russia, Lively excused Satander Singh’s murder by Russian Evangelicals in Sacramento.

“Can anyone say AIDS?” Scott Lively calling AIDS a just punishment from God at an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda, March 7, 2009.

Lively’s incendiary rhetoric didn’t disappoint those who attended the Kampala conference. Claiming that he “(knew) more than almost anyone else in the world” about homosexuality,” Lively equated homosexuality with Nazism and fascism, blamed the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay people, charged that European and American gays were constantly on the lookout for children to molest, that the motivation of the gay agenda was to destroy Christian civilization, and that AIDS was a just punishment for being gay. That same day, Lively met with Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, who was threatening to propose a new anti-gay law with stronger sanctions.

The conference ended, but its impact continued to reverberate throughout Ugandan society. In the weeks that followed, there were follow-up meetings and rallies, vigilante campaigns, rising violence and blackmail which ultimately culminated in the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, otherwise known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” in Uganda’s parliament in October, 2009. The bill, which included the death penalty for homosexuality under certain broad conditions, languished in and out of Parliament for the next several years, before being revived and passed just before Christmas in 2013. By then, the death penalty for so-called “aggravated homosexuality” has been removed and replaced with a life sentence (as though spending a lifetime in the notorious Luzira prison were any better). But other criminal sanctions remained in what is now the Anti-Homosexuality Act: lifetime imprisonment for entering into a same-sex marriage, seven years for conducting one, five to seven years for advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people, five years for providing housing to LGBT people, and seven years for providing services to LGBT people. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act on February 24, 2014. Uganda’s constitutional court nullified the law on a technicality the following August.

Lively, who had bragged that his 2009 conference was a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda,” is being sued by Sexual Minorities Uganda in U.S. Federal Court under the Alien Tort Act. The lawsuit alleges that alleging that Lively engaged in a conspiracy to deny the LGBT community of their rights under International Law which caused harm to the LGBT community in Uganda.

Since February 24, 2009, BTB has followed every twist and turn of the events in Uganda. Our compilation, Slouching Toward Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate, is a timeline and index of the nearly 600 posts that we have written documenting the events in Uganda since then. You can also follow our Uganda tag for more recent events. The video below is a compilation of Lively’s fateful talk in Kampala and its aftermath.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Matt Lucas: 1974. The English Comedian, actor and screenwriter is best known for his work on the BBC television show Little Britain, a sketch comedy program he created with David Walliams which skewered daily British life. Lucas’s characters included the bizarre grammar school teacher Mr. Cleaves, the morbidly obese Bubbles DeVere, the possibly disabled Andy Pipkin, the 200-plus pound weight loss instructor Marjorie Dawes, a West Country teen named Vicky Pollard, and “the only gay in the village” Daffyd Thomas. Little Britain ran for three seasons beginning in 2003. Since then, Lucas’s appeared on several British comedies and he brought a rival of Little Britain to America on HBO as, well, Little Britain USA. He also appeared as Tweedledum and Tweedledee in Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 4

Jim Burroway

March 4th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA
Events This Weekend: Belgian LGBT Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium; SWING Gay Ski Week, Lenzerheide, Switzerland; Winter Party, Miami, FL; Leather Alliance Weekend, San Francisco, CA; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW.

EMPHASIS MINE:
Fifty years ago today, the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. declared that “homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense,” making it the first gay rights group to take a stand against the recognized authorities in psychiatry (see below). Frank Kameney announced the resolution in the May issue of Eastern Mattachine Magazine:

EasternMattachine1965.05Who among us wants to live in constant self-doubt, wondering whether he is sick. just because of his homosexuality? Who wants to be kept in perpetual suspense regarding his status as a complete human being? Shall we leave it up to the psychiatrists, ministers, government, police — who are so often strangely bereft of the aura of insight, honesty, disinterested, omniscience, and goodness which they’re supposed to have?

No, the duty lies with the organizations which represent the homosexual. It is up to them to defend his interests in a positive fashion, by striving to obtain his civil rights and by offering the individual homosexual a constructive image of himself. It does not show integrity for an organization purporting to side with the homosexual to remain mute on a crucial matter like the question of whether or not homosexuality is an illness, an issue around which so many problems, both individual and collective, revolve. It would be self-defeating for a homophile group in its fight against unscrupulous and cold-hearted official prejudice to keep its opinions in abeyance, as some propose, until effective research has knocked down the straw man which incompetent scientists have set up. We cannot play the role of a passive battlefield, across which the “authorities” fight out the question of our sickness. In the last analysis, WE are the authorities, and it is up to us to take an active role in determining our own status and our own fate.

– Frank Kameny, “Positive Policy.” Eastern Mattachine Magazine 10, no. 4 (May 1965): 23-24.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Eastern Mattachine Magazine (Published by the Mattachine Society of New York), June 1965, page 26.

The Golden Calf was located just south of Thomas Circle and operated from 1963 to 1970. It was a popular meeting place for members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. The entire 14th Street corridor has been redeveloped over the past few decades, with the entire block now taken up with high-rise apartment buildings, condos and offices.

The Arrow, Sydney, New South Wales, March 4, 1932, page 2 (Click to enlarge).

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Wide Open Immorality Among Brisbane Perverts”: 1932. The Arrow, published in Sydney, New South Wales between 1906 and 1933, was a sporting weekly which often augmented its sports and racing coverage with attention-grabbing stories of a scandalous nature (see also Jan 8 and Dec 23). Think of it as sort of a cross between the Daily Racing Forum and National Enquirer. And in the 1930s, there was nothing more scandalous that the “Wide Open Immorality Among Brisbane Perverts” which screamed across page two on March 4, 1932. The immorality? “Weddings” — in scare quotes “Between men followed by ‘ceremonies’ that shock the world”:

THE growth of the pervert population of Brisbane, beautiful capital of Queensland, is astounding, and in the last year hundreds of these queer semi-feminine men have made the city their headquarters.

Now they have evolved into a cult, with two main sects, one on the north and the other on the south side of the town, with the river dividing them. And occasionally they meet at queer, indecent, degrading ceremonies when perverted lusts come into full play and shocking rituals are celebrated.

IN the last two weeks there have been two “weddings” — ghastly, horrifying spectacles of painted men and primping lads united in a sacrilegious blasphemy that they call the “bonds of matrimony.” Strangely enough, they conduct these luridly immoral gatherings absolutely free from police interference, while the fact that these orgies are held is no secret in Brisbane. Professional people have been invited as guests to witness the “weddings”—
astounding revelation that perversion of this rotten type is so openly accepted in Brisbane.

Nowhere else in the world — not even in Berlin, with its open homo-sexual clubs —- is there the open boast that there are these ceremonies or the widespread extension of this sordid cult of male perversion.

…Even the “honeymoon” is celebrated in public amid the plaudits of the rest of the painted men-dolls, dancing round in a hideous circle —- the whole scene resembling a nightmare of evil. The ages of these cult-fanatics and perverts seem to range about the same —- somewhere between 18 and 25. One young lad was initiated at the last “wedding” at South Brisbane last week —- by a public ceremony, in which he stripped like a bride, was clad in fancy raiment, and then his virtue taken from him — in perverted fashion —- while an orgy of lust broke out immediately afterwards.

This in Brisbane, in the year 1932! It is almost unbelievable, but true.

More likely unbelievable than true, The Arrow closed by demanding “Police action, speedily, please!”

Cedric Adams

60 YEARS AGO: Minnesota’s Gay Community Responds To Father’s Letter: 1955. The previous Sunday, popular Minneapolis broadcaster and columnist Cedric Adams published a letter in The Minneapolis Star from a father who learned that his son was gay (see Feb 27). According to the father, his son had undergone therapy and “has been salvaged,” but that Minneapolis was still rife with homosexuals with police were doing nothing about it. Adams published the letter in order to, at the very least, “point a finger at the condition.” Two days later, he followed up with a selection of letters from the superintendent of the Minneapolis Police Department defending the department’s policies on policing gay bars (see Mar 1). Adams also published a few letters from readers which, while not exactly enlightened on the phenomenon of sexual orientation, were at least restrained — restrained for 1955 — for not calling for a massive crackdown of some sort which had been common in many other cities across the U.S.

That alone was remarkable — for 1955 — and the fact that it is remarkable for 1955 tells us how far we’ve come in the six decades since then. But what is truly remarkable is that Adams decided to give the last word on the subject to gay people themselves. This was his column for Friday, March 4:

THE HOMOSEXUAL PROBLEM, as touched off by the letter here from a Minneapolis father; sparked by an answer from Thomas Jones, superintendent of police in Minneapolis, and supplemented by an official suggestion from the University of Minnesota, has brought one of the greatest mail responses This Corner has had in several months. In order to be completely fair about the charges and the countercharges, perhaps we should give the homosexuals their chance. The following excerpts from letters are submitted without comment. The opinions expressed are those of the authors of the letters. Please bear that in mind.

“I AM SHOCKED that you, of all people, should stoop so low as to use a letter for a vicious and cowardly attack. Did the father in question ask his son who forced him to go to those bars? The boy was an incipient homosexual seeking his own kind. That son received his homosexual bent from one or both of two factor heredity or environment. The father should know he was responsible on both counts. Why did you pick on one minority for a scathing attack? Why not work toward a happy integration of all men into a society we can be proud of rather than striking at minorities on senseless grounds and forcing them underground?”

“I’VE BEEN A FAN of yours for 20 years, but all of that is shattered now. You have thrown ethics to the wind in attempting to editorialize on a subject about which obviously you know nothing. How can you call any situation alarming, shocking, a social danger, worthy of investigation? Homosexuality is as old as history itself. Many great men and women have been homosexuals and yet lived very useful and worthwhile lives by contributing some of the best works in art, literature and music. No man ought to pass judgment on another man’s way of living. If a man or a woman is born physically abnormal, why not try to help them? If they prefer to be with people of their own sex, why not leave them alone? I am really sincere when I say that I think both you and the Minneapolis father made a vicious attack on an innocent minority of our society. And you class them with thieves, dope addicts and other social misfits. You would have done better to study the situation before you attacked. Careless words, thoughtlessly spoken, can leave scars that never heal. It is so easy to hurt instead of help.”

“HOW STUPID, RIDICULOUS and narrow-minded can you get? It’s regrettable that so many so-called normal people know so little about homosexuals and their problems. I’ve been around for quite some time. And I have yet to find anyone who has been ‘taught’ to be a homosexual. One may be enlightened on the activities of a homosexual, but unless one has a natural inclination it’s doubtful he will become one. Either he w1ll be repulsed by the whole idea or he will experiment with it and if he finds it’s where he belongs, he’ll stay with it. No one taught me to be a homosexual. When I approached the age of 17, I realized what I was, accepted the fact and have been content with it ever since. My parents know that I am a homosexual. They’re completely understanding…

“FEW OF THE THOUSANDS of us In the city are mentally ill. Most of us know what we are and are content to be so. All we ask is to be understood and left alone. I have two suggestions for you and others similarly concerned. Read the book, ‘The Homosexual in America,’ by Donald Webster Corey (see Sep 18) or a magazine called, ‘One,’ published in Los Angeles (See Oct 15, Jan 13). Before the citizens in this area lose their minds worrying about their children becoming homosexuals, let them read the above material and do a little serious thinking. I don’t mean to imply that homosexuality is not a problem, but I do say the problem will not be solved by closing the places we frequent or by sending us off to mental institutions or a workhouse or a prison.”

“MAN TENDS TO IGNORE this problem in ignorance. The basic chemistry of the human mind and body are born in delicate balance, particularly in the formative years of youth. Disillusionment, emotional insecurity, domination or indifference of a parent tend to upset this balance. There is no sure cure for homosexuality. The taboos of society tend to restrain the victims to secret. Thus is delayed much needed help and perhaps sealing forever the door to a happy life. May I give this advice to parents: Get to your children early in life with the facts and pitfalls of life. Enlighten yourselves — that you may look down in mercy. The homosexual will probably remain until long after our generation is forgotten. If found among your loved ones, give help, aid, treatment. Do not cast them out. Their sorrow is already greater than any you can inflict.” (Parenthetical information added.)

This is a fascinating glimpse into how gay people in the upper Midwest saw themselves: a mix of proud self-acceptance with a heavy dose of internalized homophobia from society’s then-unchallenged message that homosexuality was, at minimum, a defect. It would also take another ten years — as you will see below — before gay activists begin to take a bold step to address that problem.

[Source: “In This Corner, with Cedric Adams.” Minneapolis Star (March 4, 1955). As reprinted in ONE magazine, 3, no. 4 (April 1955): 18-23.]

50 YEARS AGO: Mattachine Society of Washington DC Declares Homosexuality Is Not A Mental Illness: 1965. We often think of Stonewall and 1969 as marking the of the more assertive gay rights movement, shoving aside the prior generation’s timidity and accommodation. But as I’ve written before, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you really wanted to point to a pivotal year which truly marked the beginning of the beginning of a self-confident and assertive stance on gay rights, that year would be 1965, not 1969. That year, began with a San Francisco police raid on a New Years’ Day party (see Jan 1). The community’s reaction resulted in the appointment of the first ever police liaison to the gay community and forever changed that city’s politics. Then later that month, The Washington Post, published a five part series which was the first relatively judgment-free, balanced, mostly accurate and sympathetic portrayal of gay people in a major newspaper (see Jan 31). New York activist Randy Wicker had already organized America’s first public protest for gay rights in New York in 1964 (see Sep 29), and 1965 would usher in the first public protests for gay rights in front of Independence Hall (see Jul 4) in Philadelphia and in Washington, D.C., (see Apr 17May 29Jun 26Jul 31Aug 28, and Oct 23).

March 4, 1965 marked another momentous step in the gay rights movement when  and Frank Kameny shepherded this resolution through the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.:

“The Mattachine Society of Washington takes the position that in the absence of valid evidence to the contrary, homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense, but is merely a preference, orientation, or propensity on par with, and not different in kind from, heterosexuality.”

This might seem obvious today, but in the 1960s this was still considered a radical step. The mental health community regarded homosexuality as a mental illness, and many in the gay community still acquiesced to that diagnosis. Or, if not that, they often still accommodated themselves to the idea that homosexuality was some kind of a defect or shortcoming or — as one letter writer in Minnesota wrote above in 1955 — something to be pitied.

Getting the MSW to approve this resolution took two years of cajoling and lobbying. Jack Nichols (see Mar 16) had been collecting studies and arguments against the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness. At the urging of Frank Kameny (see May 21), Nichols presented a formal statement to the MSW board in Octiber 1963, arguing why it was imperative for the board to take a stand against the APA:

The mental attitude of our own people toward themselves that they are not well — that they are not whole, that they are LESS THAN COMPLETELY HEALTHY — is responsible for UNTILD NUMBERS OF PERSONAL TRAGEDIES AND WARPED LIVES. By failing to take a definite stand, a strong stand … I believe that you will not only weaken the movement ten-fold, but that you will fail in your duty to homosexuals who need more than anything else to see themselves in a better light. (Capitalizations in the original.)

The board rejected Nichols’s proposal, he, Kameny and MSW member Lilli Vincenz set about lobbying other members to support a resolution declaring that homosexuality wasn’t a disease. The counter-argument among activists was a rather simple one: Who would you believe? Credentialed doctors or amateur activists. As Kameny later recalled in 2008:

The decade-old gay movement of that time was really huge — there were actually five or six gay organizations in the entire country; that was it. Without being critical, that was a different cultural climate from the present; they were bland, defensive, and overly acquiescent to the so-called authorities and experts of the day.

That was not my personality. I insisted that we were the experts on ourselves as gay people, and on our homosexuality. So we set out trying, as best we could, to tackle what we saw as the problems besetting the gay community.

Furthermore, Kameny was no ordinary activist. He was a scientist, with a Ph.D. in astronomy, and was perfectly capable of evaluating the statistical weaknesses and deviations from the scientific method that prevented much of the published studies of psychiatry from being taken seriously by anyone expecting any level of rigor. As Kameny explained in a letter to New York activist Randy Wicker (see Feb 3):

I think that the major thing wrong is that the professional people tend to make their judgments upon samples limited to those who came to their offices for assistance, and thus in the statistical sense, are sampling extremely poorly, and come out with results based on an atypical group. This is especially true o f the homosexual group.

There are other faults too, of course, and one of the primary ones is a seeming inability, on the part of many of the professional people, to pull themselves away from the value judgments of the society around them, With the tie-in of those judgments to classical religion, convention, mores, etc.; and to look upon the ideal as conformity to the purely statistical “norm” rather than as an “adjusted” conformity to one’s own self and one’s own individuality, as one who is, with the limited assumptions that anyone who is not like everyone else is abnormal (in the non-statistical, defective, emotion-laden sense). There is also a tendency to accept certain widespread phenomena (e.g., heterosexuality) as being so “natural” that they d0 not need exploration or research, that their origins do not need explaining, and that departures from them are automatically pathological…

Kameny and Nichols identified the APA’s stance as the single most important factor standing in the way of the gay community’s goal of equality. As he explained n a 1964 letter to the Dick Leitsch of the Mattachine Society of New York,

IF society calls homosexuality a sickness (and it does) then the entire validity of our entire position, of our demands for equality, of everything for which we stand rests upon our responding to that sickness allegation with a denial… I do repeat: A position denying that homosexuality is a sickness, disturbance, pathology, etc., etc. is the single MOST important position which can be taken, at the present time, by the homophile movement and its individual member organizations.  (Capitalizations in the original.)

Kameny not only argued that homosexuality was not an illness, but he also disputed the mental health profession’s authority to even make such a pronouncement in the first place. This was important because many other gay and lesbian activists insisted that the movement had to defer to the “experts” in order to be credible. Kameny’s retort was to the point: “We are the experts on ourselves, and we will tell the experts they have nothing to tell us.” As Kameny explained in 2008:

The (resolution’s) opening clause — “in the absence of valid evidence to the contrary” — functionally shifted the burden of proof from us to them. If those who believed that homosexuality was pathological had their evidence, let them present it. Until they presented it, it wasn’t pathological. They never did…

After two years of arguing and cajoling, Kameny, Nichols and Vincenz finally got the MSW board to agree to the resolution. Them, Kameny, along with several other activists in cluding Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31) and John Fryer (see Nov 7), began the eight-year task of getting the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

[Sources: Franklin E. Kameny. “Does research into homosexuality matter?” The Ladder 9, no. 8 (May 1965): 14-20.

Franklin E. Kameny. “How it all started.” Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health 13, no. 2 (April 2009): 76-81. Remarks delivered at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., May 2008.

Michael G. Long. Gay is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2014): 70-72, 88.]

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 3

Jim Burroway

March 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGEDNA is brought to you by:

From Contact (Houston, TX), June 1974, page 5.

From Contact (Houston, TX), June 1974, page 5.

On March 3, 1974, Houston’s Farmhouse was gutted by a four-alarm blaze. The fire came just six days before the club was set to re-open and show off its new renovation. That renovation became necessary after parts of the club were damaged in a smaller January 27 fire. Investigators didn’t think the earlier fire was arson, but they were reconsidering their earlier assessment now that there was no doubt about how this latest blaze started. Houston Fire Department spokesman Paul Carr said that this fire broke out in very specific “strategic” locations and two empty gas cans were found at the site. “We have a list of people who would have had motives for doing this, but so far no one has been charged or arrested,” he said.

The prior fire had been expensive. The owners spent $45,000 to remodel ($213,000 in today’s dollars), of which only $21,000 came from insurance. Emmet Newton, one of the Farmhouse’s three owners, said, “There have been three other fire bomb attempts, and this is the second time this building has been heavily damaged.” There were two smaller fires in 1973. “I wish somebody would stop this. It could have been murder this time.” Newton and Gene Howle, a second owner, use to own Houston’s Plantation Club until it was destroyed by arson four years earlier.

The owners vowed to rebuild, and estimated that it would probably take about six months before they could reopen. Instead, they chose to move three and a half miles away and open in a completely new location. This brief notice appeared in Houston’s gay newspaper, Contact just three months later:

After a lengthy wait, the much-heralded new Farmhouse will open this month. And it appears it has been worth waiting for. The new Farmhouse comes complete with four bars, multi-level dance floors, a swimming pool, and tons of other dandy things not to be believed. It occupies an entire city block, at 2710 Albany, and is inch-for-inch the biggest gay bar and entertainment complex in the country.

Marc Andre Raffalovich

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
120 YEARS AGO: The Usefulness of Homosexuals: 1895. Marc-André Raffalovich was a French poet and early theorist on homosexuality (see Sep 11). He was also among the early writers to introduce the very word “homosexuality” into the English language. He had begun writing about the subject in 1894, using the French word unisexualité, but when he contributed an English translation of a portion of his work for the March 1895 edition of the Journal of Comparative Neurology in 1895, he used the terms “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” as opposite but equal poles of human sexuality. That, in and of itself, makes this particular article noteworthy, as it appears to be the first time that homosexuality and heterosexuality were discussed as directly contrasting characteristics. He nevertheless also continued to use older terminology — “invert” and “uranism” (based on a German theory of a “female psyche in a male body” as an early formation for effeminate male homosexuality)  — and he appears to have coined a new term, “psychic hermaphroditism,” to describe bisexuality.

As for the inverts themselves:

It is difficult to do justice to the inverts; so also it would be difficult to do justice to the heterosexuals if we were to confine ourselves exclusively to their sexual life. Falsehood and sexuality are always so intimately associated because reality belies desire since expectation and realization are in glaring contradiction. If men were bold today, if they were not under the sway of an all-pervasive materialism, how differently would they think of sexuality!

…The day when the invert ceases to call for the indulgence of society, he will begin to justify himself in the eyes of truly superior men. Because heterosexuality is not suppressed homosexuality ought to be equally favored. Strange logic, if the repression of heterosexuality is one of the problems of the future, as I believe it to be.

Raffalovich saw two types of homosexuals: those who were born gay and those who “chose” their inversion. The former were worth studying, but the latter were mere criminals as far as he was concerned. Nevertheless, he was among the first to argue that homosexuality (and homosexual people) was morally neutral. But that didn’t mean he believed in homosexual emancipation. Instead, Raffalovich wrote that a homosexual, if he were “the superior being that he imagines himself and if he had any religion,” should pursue celibacy and dedicate himself to serving humanity:

The great men claimed for homosexuality have been great only because they have not allowed themselves to be overmastered by their sexuality. The grand inverts have been grand in spite of their inversion or because they raised themselves above it and so above humanity. The man without family, without wife, without children, who is kept by continence or by chastity from so many annoyances, vexations and falsehoods and whose heart is not barren and withered, may be a Michael Angelo or a Newton. (Newton is classed here only for his chastity).

…Well! since the invert is not burdened with maternity nor by all the vexations of the female sex, why not try to make him serve humanity? He has many defects and many vices inborn, but our civilization and our education do not and cannot improve his condition.

The bees and the ants have workers who do not reproduce. Is it possible, barely possible, to make some use of the uranists?

But as for changing and becoming heterosexuals, Raffalovich thought that would be impossible, and even dangerous.

So I protest that we should not make a practice of pitying the inverts as inverts. The enthusiastic uranists do not wish to change. With whom should they? The true homosexuals, those who have the passion of similarity, if they were women would love women; so also the true homosexual if he were a man would love a man. Let us pity humanity as a whole if we wish; let us pity it bitterly if we have no religion — but let us not pick out the inverts for the our utmost pity. I cannot repeat this admonition too often.

Raffalovich’s conflicted view of homosexuality betrayed his own conflicts with his sexuality. Three years earlier, he had met and fallen in love with his lifelong companion, the poet John Gray. Together, they developed a deep devotion to Catholicism, to which Raffalovich converted in 1896 and became a third order lay Dominican. Gray also converted and later became a priest (see below). After Gray’s ordination (with Raffalovich footing the bill), Raffalovich settled near Gray’s parish in Scotland where he continued to provide financial support and attended mass every morning. And while Gray served his parishioners, Raffalovich served humanity by hosting a salon and becoming a patron of the arts. Raffalovich and Gray remained devoted to each other (while living in separate households) for the rest of their lives until Raffalovich’s death in 1934, just four months before Gray’s.

[Source: Raffalovich, Marc Andre “Uranism, congenital sexual inversion.” Journal of Comparative Neurology 5, no. 1 (March 1895): 33-65. Available online via Google Books here.]

Statistics on Homosexuality Convictions: 1914. The American Journal of Urology had become increasingly focused on sexual matters as the new century progressed, so much so that in April 1914 the journal would modify its name to American Journal of Urology and Sexology. In the last month under the old title, Douglas C. McMurtrie, who wrote a regular column called “Department of Sexology,” listed the following statistics on convictions for “Crimes Against Nature”:

STATISTICS regarding all crimes in the United States are miserably defective and the results attending an effort to determine the frequency of the offence of sodomy, generally designated as an “offence against nature” is unsatisfactory. We find, however, that on June 80, 1904, there were in American penal institutions 376 prisoners committed for this crime. These prisoners comprised 15.5% of those committed for offences against chastity. Of the total 375 were male and 1 female.

The distribution by states was as follows: New Hampshire, 1; Massachusetts, 20; Connecticut, 7; New York, 62; New Jersey, 12; Pennsylvania, 52; Maryland, 8; Virginia, 3; West Virginia, 1; North Carolina, 4; South Carolina, 1; Georgia, 1; Florida, 3; Ohio, 22; Indiana, 6; Illinois, 20; Michigan, 11; Wisconsin, 6; Minnesota, 8; Iowa, 2; Missouri, 11; North Dakota, 2; Nebraska, 2; Kansas, 4; Kentucky, 6; Tennessee, 5; Alabama, 3; Mississippi, 6; Louisiana, 3; Texas, 29; Montana, 4; Wyoming, 2; Colorado, 5; Arizona, 1; Utah, 2; Idaho, 2 ; Washington, 8; Oregon, 1; California, 30. It will be seen that the frequency of conviction varies greatly in different localities.

In the figures of crime given for the state of Indiana, which are probably the most complete available, the offence in question is not mentioned. In the Indianapolis police court, however there were two cases of sodomy in 1910 and ten in 1911.

[Source: Douglas C. McMurtrie. “Statistics of Sodomy” American Journal of Urology 10, no. 3 (March 1914): 146. Available online via Google Books here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Mlle de Raucourt: 1756-1815. Born Françoise Marie-Antoinette Saucerotte but known popularly simply as Mademoiselle de Raucourt, the French actress and a favorite of Queen Marie-Antoinette was famous for her incredibly beauty and her singing talents, and infamous for her entirely open affairs with men and women. Her affair with the Marquis de Bièvres proved financially profitable: he gave her £12,000 and made her financially independent. She then became infatuated with the opera singer Sophie Arnould in an affair that ended badly. Two men represented the women in a duel. Raucourt then began an affair with Jeanne-Françoise Souque, and the couple lived so lavishly that they soon became bankrupt and fled to Germany to get away from their creditors. They were able to return to France a few months later with the help of the French Prince de Ligne.

When Raucourt returned to France and resumed performing at the Comédie-Française, she caught the attention of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who became her patron. But being an open lesbian and a favorite of the Court in pre-revolutionary France would soon prove precarious. Libelous pamphlets began appearing charging that Raucourt participated in all-female orgies. The pamphlets also claimed that she was the leader of la Secte Anandryne, an allegedly secret society of man-hating lesbians which, in reality, never existed. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, she remained faithful to her royal benefactors and was imprisoned in 1793 for lack of loyalty to the Revolution. When the Revolution in turn was overthrown in 1794 by the Directory, she was released and named the director of the Théâtre Louvois. In 1803, Napoleon named her director of the imperial theaters in newly-conquered Italy.

Raucourt retired in 1814, and died on January 15, 1815 at the age of 58. When the priest refuse to allow her body to enter the church for a requiem mass, the crowd of mourners, numbering 15,000, rioted and forced the church doors open and demanded the service take place. After the funeral, her brother organized a lifetime income for her partner, Henriette Simonnot de Ponty, whom Raucourt had met while in prison.

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).

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, March 2

Jim Burroway

March 2nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From  (Long Beach), September 12, 1980, page 13.

From (Long Beach), September 12, 1980, page 13.

The Red Mill was one of those many bars that have come and gone with little trace of its existence. I was able to find one brief mention of it from 1975: “Thirteen drunk Long Beach police officers enter the Red Mill gay bar after midnight, creating a disturbance. Three officers are fired for conduct unbecoming an officer.” As for the bar itself, it was completely wiped by redevelopment. That portion of Locust avenue was turned into a pedestrian promenade, and a Renaissance Hotel has been built in its place.

Dr. Fritz de Quervain

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Swiss Doctor Recommends Castrating Homosexuals: 1929. An article appearing in the German-language Swiss Medical Weekly by the famed Swiss surgeon Johann Friedrich (Fritz) de Quervain was reviewed a couple months later in the American Urologic and Cutaneous Review:

Results of Castration in Sexual Abnormalities. — F. de Quervain (Schweizerische Medizinische Wochenschrift, March 2, 1929) reports the resutls of observations made upon some thirty-two patient, twenty-seven men and women in whom castration had been carried out in an attempt to relieve some sexual annormality. The libido was diminished more or less in every case. Out of eight cases of perverse sexual practices, cure was secured in five cases. Psychic disturbances (depression, epileptic and schizophrenic disturbances) of transient nature were observed in nine cases; vaso motor disturbances, similar to those of the menopause, were seen in seven cases. The castrate body type developed in only seven cases. Twenty-three of the patients expressed themselves as very well satisfied with the results of the operation. The operation is indicated in cases of persistent exhibitionis, rape and homosexuality.

[Source: “Results of castration in sexual abnormalities.” Urologic and Cutaneous Review 33, no. 5 (May 1929): 351.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
John Gray: 1866-1934. A poet of the Aesthetic movement, Gray was a friend of Oscar Wilde, who some say used Gray as his inspiration for the title character in The Picture of  Dorian Gray. Like many in the Aesthetic movement (Wilde included), Gray was drawn to Roman Catholicism. He converted in 1890, lapsed, then re-embraced Catholicism in 1895 before issuing his 1896 volume Spiritual Poems: Chiefly Done Out in Several Languages. It included eleven original poems, plus twenty-nine translations of other Catholic and Protestant spiritual poets. In 1898, he went to Rome to study for the priesthood, and he was ordained in 1901. He served is a priest in Edinburgh, and was supported in his endeavors by his life partner Marc-André Raffalovich, a successful poet and early defender of homosexuality who had joined the Dominicans in 1896. The two lived near each other until Raffalovich died suddenly in 1934. Gray was devastated, and became ill and died just four months later.

Matthew Mitcham: 1988. The Queensland, Australia native and Olympic gold medalist received the highest single dive score in Olympic history in the 10m platform in 2008. His performance prevented a Chinese gold medal sweep in diving, and he became the first Australian male to win Olympic gold in diving since 1924. Australia’s post office acted very quickly on the historic win, issuing a 50 cent stamp with his image just one day after his victory. But despite his achievement, his gold medal didn’t translate into sponsorship gold. While lesser athletes snapped up lucrative deals, Mitcham struggled to find a single sponsor before finally landing a contract in 2009 with an Australian telecom. It’s widely believed that his open homosexuality played a role in holding back the rush of sponsors.

In 2011, he suffered a string of injuries which hindered his training for the 2012 games in London, where he finished 13th in the 10m platform semifinals, just one place away from qualifying for the finals. His autobiography, Twists and Turns, was published in Australia and 2012 and internationally the following year.

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?

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, March 1

Jim Burroway

March 1st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: Pride, Cape Town, South Africa; National Student Pride, London, UK; SWING Gay Ski Week, Lenzerheide, Switzerland; Telluride Gay Ski Week, Mountain Village, CO; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), March 1974, page 13.

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), March 1974, page 13.

Lionel Dean (center) and friends, about 1899. (Source)

Lionel Dean (center) and friends, about 1899. (Source)

Brooklyn hipsters may think they invented something new with the whole lumbersexual thing, but as with all trends, the gays got there first. More than 40 years ago, the lumberjack motif defined Portland’s newest gay bar on the ground floor of the historic Washington Hotel. Before the Axe Handle, another lumber-themed gay bar, Timber Topper, operated in that space from 1970 until the Axe Handle bowed in. Long before that, the hotel’s saloon was operated, Lionel Dean, an architect who designed the hotel in 1911 and who was arrested in late 1912 during the first days of the Portland Vice Scandal. That vice was homosexual activity, and more than fifty men were implicated before the scandal was over, although most of them were acquitted for lack of evidence. (At least seven pleaded guilty or were otherwise convicted.) Dean wound up moving to New York, where he took up residence with another man, and where he died in 1938.

So 428 S.W. 12th Street in Portland likely had an extraordinarily long history as a gathering place for Oregon homosexuals, lumberjack and otherwise. But you wouldn’t know it today. The hotel is now the Washington Plaza Apartments and the former tavern is an artisanal (of course) ice cream parlor.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Trial for “Lude & Sodomiticall Practices: 1642. The Plymouth Colony Court heard a case brought against Edward Michell and Edward Preston for “lewd & sodomitical practices tending to sodomy.” The precise wording was important: sodomy itself was punishable by death, but practices which fell short of sodomy itself (which required proof of penetration and emission), were deemed merely “sodomitical” or sodomy-like. According to surviving records:

Edward Michell, for his lude & sodomiticall practices tending to sodomy with Edward Preston, and other lude carriages with Lydia Hatch, is censured to be presently whipped at Plymouth, at the public place, and once more at Bamestable, in convenient time, in the presence of Mr. Freeman and the committees of the said town.

Edward Preston, for his lude practices tending to sodomy with Edward Michell, and pressing John Keene thereunto (if he would have yielded), is also censured [sentenced] to be forthwith whipped at Plymouth, and once more at Bamestable (when Edward Michell is whipped), in the presence of Mr. Freeman & the committees of the same town.

John Keene, because he resisted the temptation, & used means to discover it, is appointed to stand by whilst Michell and Preston are whipped, though in some thing he was faulty.

Former Dutch New Netherland Colony Adopts Duke of York’s Civil Law: 1655. The English had conquered the Dutch New Netherland Colony (parts of present-day Connecticut, New York, New Jersey Delaware and Pennsylvania) in 1664, whereupon the colony became the personal proprietary colony of the Duke of York, who would later become King James II, the last Catholic king of Britain. James was commander of the Royal Navy during the Second Anglo-Dutch War which would continue for another three years. As a reward for his service, James’s brother, King Charles II, had granted James the American territory between the Delaware and Connecticut Rivers.

The Dutch would later get their revenge when James was overthrown by William of Orange and Mary, James’s own daughter, in what became known as the Glorious Revolution, but that would come more than two decades later. In the meantime, there was the question of what to do with the new formerly Dutch colony’s legal code.

That question was settled on March 1, 1665, when representatives from several towns in the new colony met at Hempstead, Long Island, to approve a new code of laws drawn up by the Duke’s representatives. These new laws listed eleven capital offenses: blasphemy, premeditated murder, murder of a defenseless victim, (4) conspiracy to murder, bestiality, sodomy, man-stealing (kidnapping), perjury to take a life, treason, insurrection, and children over sixteen smiting their parents. The section on Sodomy quoted Leviticus:

If any man lyeth with mankind as he lyeth with a woman, they shall be put to Death, unless the one party were Forced or be under fourteen Years of age, in which Case he shall be punished at the Discretion of the Court of Assizes.

The law went into effect that year in New York and New Jersey, and in Pennsylvania Colony ten years later.

New Haven Colony Passes Sodomy Law: 1656. When the New Haven Colony, in what is now Connecticut, its legislation was unique in the English-speaking world for mandating the death penalty for women as well as men for acts “against nature,” as well as for masturbation and anal sex among heterosexual couples. The act, which quoted Leviticus and Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, read as follows:

If any man lyeth with mankinde, as a man lyeth with a woman, both of them have Committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death. Levit. 20. 13. And if any woman change the naturall use, into that which is against nature, as Rom. 1. 26. she shall be liable to the same Sentence, and punishment, or If any person, or persons, shall Commit any other kinde of unnaturall and shamefull filthines, called in Scripture the going after strange flesh, or other flesh then God alloweth, by canall knowledge of another vessel then God in nature hath appointed to becomp one flesh, whether it be by abusing the contrary part of a grown woman, or Child of either sex, or unripe vessel of a Girle, wherein the naturall use of the woman is left, which God hath ordained for the propagation of posterity, and Sodomiticall filthinesse (tending to the destruction of the race of mankind) is committed by a kind of Rape, nature being forced, though the will were inticed, every such person shall be put to death. Or if any man shall act upon himself, and in the sight of others spill his owne seed, by example, or counsel, or both, corrupting or tempting others to doe the like, which tends to the sin of Sodomy, if it be not one kind of it; or shall defile, or corrupt himself and others, by any kind of sinfull filthinesse, he shall be punished according to the nature of the offence; or if the case considered with the aggravating circumstances, shall according to the mind of God revealed in his word require it, he shall be put to death, as the Court of Magistrates shall determine.

New Haven Colony also applied the death penalty for adultery. This law remained in effect for the next ten years, until 1665 when New Haven Colony joined Connecticut and came under Connecticut law, which specified the death penalty for “man lying with man” only. That and adultery.

60 YEARS AGO: Minnesotans Respond To A Father’s Letter: 1955. Two days earlier, popular Minneapolis broadcaster and columnist Cedric Adams published what must have been a shocking letter in The Minneapolis Star from a father who learned that his son was gay (see Feb 27). According to the father, his son had undergone therapy and “has been salvaged” — according to the father. Also, according to the father, Minneapolis was rife with homosexuals and the police were doing nothing to close down their bars. Adams published the letter in order to, at the very least, “point a finger at the condition.”

Indeed it did, and the letter became the subject of three more columns over the following week. On March 1, Adams returned to the subject, publishing a number of letters that he received from outraged citizens in the Twin Cities area. His column for the day went like this:

A father’s letter printed here Sunday having to do with a homosexual problem of his 20-year-old son has produced a wave of reaction, some from the public, some from the University of Minnesota and some from our own Minneapolis police department. While the situation is still fresh, This Corner wants to extend to Thomas R. Jones, superintendent of the Minneapolis police department, an opportunity to discuss some of the charges made by the father of the son involved. I ran that letter on Sunday for two reasons: I think the situation needs some airing and I was convinced that this father, and perhaps many others, need a little straightening out on the whole problem. Superintendent Jones did exactly what I hoped he would do. He took the bull by the horns and in a very straightforward manner did his best to pinpoint the mistakes of the parent involved. I spent two hours with Chief Jones In his office yesterday and came out with this statement trom him:

“THE OBVIOUS INDICTMENT of the police department in your Sunday column is unjustified and without basis of fact. You omitted the names of the bars because of the possibility of damage suits against your newspaper. The writer of the letter you published had no evidence which would be admissible in a court of law to prove the accusation and inferences made in his letter. Police officers are also bound by that same restriction and cannot name individuals or establishments or make arrests of either unless they are in possession of provable facts which would be admissible in court to prove that a crime has been committed…

“THE ACT OF HOMOSEXUALITY is defined as sodomy In our state statutes and is a felony. Both parties involved are equally guilty in the eyes of the law and can be sentenced to a term in the state penitentiary. However, one may not accuse another of such activity unless he is in possession of such facts that would prove the commission of the crime. This applies to any law violation and you’d be doing a public service by bringing this, to the attention of your readers. Police officers cannot name individuals or establishments or make arrests until they can prove a crime has been committed. A group of suspected homosexuals frequenting a bar does not constitute a violation of the law. There’s no evidence that a crime has been committed. Now, take the father’s statement that the police have done nothing to curb the situation. That’s a complete misstatement of fact. Only last week a night club was told to discontinue an act because the police department strongly suspicioned that objectionable individuals made up a majority of the show. We do not want that kind of attraction. An identical case was similarly disposed of two years ago…

“THE FATHER WHO WROTE the letter didn’t even suggest that he ever made an attempt to bring his suspicions or complaints to the proper authorities — his police department. He states that his privately hired ‘private eye’ saw police officers in two of the spots he visited while making his investigation. The duty incumbent on every citizen to bring cases of law violations to the attention of the proper authorities is even more binding on parties holding special police commissions, such as private detectives. They take an oath to enforce the law and to assist law enforcement bodies in every instance of law violation that comes to their attention. It’s the duty of our police officers to patrol bars, to look for law violations, but the mere presence of a group of homosexuals in any bar is not evidence of violation of the law…

“I CAN’T HELP WONDER whether the father of the son in question had ever taken the time or trouble to caution or advise his son about some of the sins or pitfalls of the world in which we live. It’s my suspicion that he, like so many others, is trying to excuse his dereliction of family duty by trying to place the responsibility for his son’s yielding to temptation on the police department. This neglect of family duty, in my opinion, is the greatest single cause of juvenile delinquency. Why haven’t this father and you and your column and the newspaper you refer to as a ‘family gazette’ taken a more active stand in endeavoring to give our city enough police officers to carry out the many duties and responsibilities expected of them instead of waiting for lightning to strike home before doing something about it. We have a vice squad of five men to patrol a city of more than half a million. Our whole department has fewer officers per thousand population than the average for all cities in the United States over 10,000 population. Minneapolis has the lowest incident of homosexuality of any city of its size in the country. Don’t let your readers get the wrong impression from letters which do not present the facts.”

The next day, Adams published another letter from a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota:

“GENERALLY SPEAKING, FATHERS and mothers are always’ well-advised to take to a school counselor students who experience behavior and emotional problems. The teacher, the counselor, and the parent have much in common and can be of help to each other. If the boy, referred to in the letter of Feb. 27, is a student in any Minnesota college or university, I am certain that even now the appropriate college counselor would be very pleased to discuss the matter with the father and mother and that much good would result if the parents of this or any boy would take advantage of this available assistance. — E. G. Williamson, dean of student affairs and professor of psychology, University of Minnesota.

These two columns represents a historically interesting turn. Considering the times — 1955, just five years after the initiation of the Lavender Scare — the father’s letter didn’t generate a state of general panic demanding that the authorities do something immediately. Instead, Adams posted a series of letters from readers calling the father to task. The letter writers didn’t betray any evidence of enlightenment toward gay people — their motivation appears to have been to rush to defend the reputation of Minneapolis and its people (“Minneapolis has the lowest incident of homosexuality of any city of its size in the country”). But in the context of the times, they do show a remarkable restraint in their reactions upon learning that there are homosexuals in the city.

But the real surprising turn would come in another three days when Adams would feature another round of letters, this time from gay people themselves.

[Source: “In This Corner, with Cedric Adams.” Minneapolis Star (March 1, 1955). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review, 1, no. 3 (May-June 1955): 24-30.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Mercedes de Acosta: 1893-1968. Born in New York City to Cuban and Spanish immigrants, de Acosta went on to publish a novel and three volumes of poetry, and she saw four of her plays produced. But none of them were successful. De Acosta instead became on early example of achieving fame for being famous, thanks to her many lesbian affairs with Broadway and Hollywood celebrities despite a more-or-less arranged marriage to painter Aram Poole from 1920 to 1935.

Lovers included the Russian-born silent film star Alla Nazimova (see Jun 3), the dancer Isadora Duncan, and Broadway actress Eva Le Gallienne. De Acosta’s five-year relationship with Le Gallienne started the same year as de Acosta’s marriage. De Acosta wrote two plays for Le Gallienne, both of which flopped, which led to their breakup. She met Greta Garbo in 1929, and the two almost immediately began an intense and stormy relationship. They split in 1932 and de Acosta began seeing Marlene Dietrich. That relationship lasted for the rest of the decade, even as de Acosta and Garbo continued to see each other from time to time and remained, at the very least, close friends over the next thirty years.

Following the war, de Acosta moved to Paris, where she sat out the 1950s and the McCarthy Red- and Lavender Scare. She returned to New York in 1960, broke and in poor health, and published her memoir Here Lies the Heart, to generally good reviews. De Acosta was candid-for-1960 about her relationships while carefully avoiding anything of a sexual nature. Nevertheless Garbo was appalled and ended all contact with de Acosta once and for all. Other critics were shocked and accused de Acosta of exaggeration, but her long-time friend Alice B. Toklas (See Apr 30) came to her defense. “Say what you will about Mercedes, she’s had the most important women of the twentieth century.” De Acosta died in poverty in 1968, and was buried in Washington Heights in New York City.

Bryan Batt: 1963. He’s best known for playing Sal Romano, the married but glass-closeted art director at the Sterling Cooper ad agency for the first three seasons of AMC’s Mad Men. He also played gay roles in Kiss Me, Guido, Jeffrey, and the stage version of La Cage aux Folles. Jeffrey came out while he was playing a male (straight) lead on the Broadway version of Sunset Blvd. He was worried that coming out then would ruin his career, “but now I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. It’s normal to be gay.” When he’s not acting, Batt is in New Orleans with his partner of 25 years where they own a home decorating store.

Don Lemon: 1966. The host of the weekend prime-time CNN Newsroom, Don Lemon joined CNN in 2006, reporting from Chicago as then-Sen. Barack Obama was beginning his long trek to the White House. Since then, his on-the-scene reporting has included the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse, the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Massachusetts. He won the Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage of the capture of the Washington, D.C. snipers, and an Emmy for a special report on Chicago-area real estate. In 2009, Ebony named him as one of the Ebony Power 150, and in 2011 he was the keynote speaker fort he National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association national convention. That was after he came out as gay in his 2011 memoir, Transparent.

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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