PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel: “I’m Proud To Be Gay, I’m Proud To Be a Republican, I’m Proud To Be An American”

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2016

Here’s a clip from his speech last night. I would note that the reaction from the convention hall didn’t really kick in until he said he was proud to be a Republican and proud to be an American. That’s all well and good, but I think it’s safe to say that if he had just ended with “I’m proud to be gay,” the hall wouldn’t have been nearly as noisy.

After all, out of all of the 2,470 delegates at the convention, pro-LGBT proponents couldn’t find just twenty-eight of them to back revisiting the most the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history. Thiel may be proud of them, but his fellow Republicans just see him as useful.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, July 22

From David, a Jacksonville, Florida-based photography and lifestyle magazine, May 1972, page 51.

From David, a Jacksonville, Florida-based photography and lifestyle magazine, May 1972, page 51.

I can’t find any information about Pete’s, except that, like all the bars in the French Quarter, Pete’s was very welcoming to out-of-towners. If you go to 800 Bourbon Street today, you will still find the gays dancing and the D.J.s spinning, except it’s now called Oz. I’m sure they are just as welcoming to out-of-towners as Pete’s, although I doubt that this ad will still get you a complimentary drink.

Dixie’s Bar in New Orleans, one of the South’s few openly gay bars in the 1950s.

The Big Easy has long enjoyed a mind-your-own business reputation where personal and public morality is concerned. But that “laissez les bons temps rouler” mindset didn’t extend to the city’s gay citizenry, and much like other major cities across the nation, anti-gay campaigns often heated up ahead of local elections. Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Morrison had somehow earned a national reputation as a dynamic reformer, despite blocking efforts to reform the city’s notoriously corrupt police department. In 1958, city leaders complained that the police were sitting on their hands while roving bands of homosexuals, allegedly from other cities since, apparently, such a thing was unheard of there, were invading the French Quarter — the city’s storied tolerance for sexual eccentrics in music, literature and the arts notwithstanding. One councilman complained of “men with blondined hair and awful looking people all day and all night in the French Quarter,” and wondered why police had only made 86 arrests in two years on charges of lewd behavior or wearing women’s clothing. Police Superintendent Provosty A. Dayries responded, “You can’t just point to someone and say he or she is a deviate — that is one of the frustrating things about the problem.”

Amid complaints about lax police enforcement and courts that insisted that those arrested should be charged with something specific and based on real evidence, Mayor Morrison appointed his half-brother, Jacob Morrison to head a citizen’s committee to look into the problem. With pressure increasing across all sectors of city government, Supt. Dayries launched a raid against known “deviate bars,” arresting eighteen people (mostly bar employees) on charges of vagrancy, disturbing the peace, and “no visible means of support.” Thirty others were warned to stay away. While most of the charges were dropped the next day, the names and addresses of those arrested were printed in the newspapers. That raid was tiny compared to another “sweeping drive” which resulted in 325 arrested in a single night. One city resident, in a letter to the editor to a local paper, noted the irony of the New Orleans political establishment enforcing morals in the city: “I consider it a piece of unmitigated gall for anyone, be he District Attorney or City Councilman, to tell me what I may see or with whom I may associate without endangering my morals. I must confess that were I to seek guidance in matters of morals, I should not likely turn to politicians.”

[Source: “Dal McIntire” (either Jim Kepner or Don Slater). “Tangents: News and Views.” ONE 6, no. 8 (September 1958): 17-20.]

James Whale

(d. 1957) While serving in the British Army during the First World War, he was taken prisoner by the Germans in Flanders in 1917, where he became involved as an actor, writer and producer of amateur camp productions to help take his fellow prisoners’ minds off their conditions. It’s where he developed his love for the theatre and his hatred for Germany. On returning to England after the war, he got involved in theater, launching the West End debut of Journey’s End. It was a smashing success, which brought him to the attention of Hollywood. Whale signed with Paramount in 1929 and brought Journey’s End (1930) to the silver screen, to rave reviews in both the U.S. and Britain. That same year, he met producer David Lewis, who would become Whale’s partner for the next twenty-three years.

Whale moved to Universal Studios in 1931, where he produced Waterloo Bridge, another commercial and critical success. Universal head Carl Laemmle offered Whale his choice of any project the studio owned. Whale chose Frankenstein, casting the then-unknown Boris Karloff in the title role. It was, as they say, money in the bank, shattering box office records and earning Universal the unheard of sum of $12 million in its first release. Other highly-regarded films followed: The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Show Boat (1936).

In 1937, he produced The Road Back, the sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front. Harkening back to his experience with Journey’s End, it was supposed to be the film to cement Whale’s reputation for all time. But when filming started, Laemmle had lost control of Universal, and the new studio heads rescinded Whale’s total control over the film. The L.A. consul for Nazi Germany objected to the film’s anti-German themes. Whale refused to back down, and his original cut of the film received positive reviews. But sometime between the previews and the film’s final release, Universal bucked to Nazi criticisms, and ordered additional cuts and added comical-relief scenes to soften the film’s edge. Those changes were disastrous. The movie flopped, and Germany banned it anyway. Whale was furious. From then on, he was was consigned to making B movies for the remainder of his contract. Only one of those films proved successful; 1939’s Man In the Iron Mask.

When his contract ended, Whale left the film business, aside from a few odd jobs here and there. He entered a life of comfortable retirement, hosting pool parties for the benefit of Hollywood’s discrete gay set. In 1952, while traveling in Europe, Whale went to a gay bar in Paris and was smitten by a 25-year-old bartender, Pierre Foegel. When Whale brought Foegel to California, David Lewis moved out and Foegel moved in (although Lewis and Whale would remain lifelong friends). Whale suffered a small stroke in 1956, followed by a larger one a few months later. Those strokes left him physically impaired and emotionally depressed. He committed suicide in 1957 by throwing himself into his swimming pool. He left a lengthy suicide note addressed to Lewis, but Lewis hid it and Whale’s death was ruled an accident, leaving the exact nature of his death shrouded in mystery. Lewis released the note twenty years later, shorty before his own death in 1987.

A singer-songwriter and one half of Indigo Girls, she plays the guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and the Greek bouzouki. She met her Indigo Girls partner, Amy Ray, when they were in elementary school together in Decatur, Georgia. Both Girls are lesbian, although Saliers jokes that she prefers “gay” because “lesbian has three syllables.” In 2004, Saliers co-wrote a book with her father, retired theology professor Don Saliers, titled A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice, and the two of them conducted a combined book tour and church appearances around the country, including a stop at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  The Indigo Girls released their latest album, One Lost Day, last year, and they are currently on tour.

His mother was the late Kate McGarrigle, and his father is Loudon Wainwright III. With genes like that, it’s no wonder Rufus won a 1989 Genie Award for Best Original Song when he was only  sixteen years old. Rolling Stone named his eponymous debut album as one of the best albums of the year and named him the Best New Artist of 1998. Politically, he came late to the marriage equality bandwagon. “I wasn’t a huge gay marriage supporter before I met Jörn (Weisbrodt) because I love the whole old-school promiscuous Oscar Wilde freak show of what ‘being gay’ once was. But since meeting Jörn that all changed.” He and Weisbrodt became parents in 2011, and they married in Montauk, New York in 2012. His seventh studio album, Out of the Game, was released that same year. Last year, the German classical record label Deutsche Grammophon released a recording of his 2009 opera, Prima Donna, and this year saw the Deutsche Grammophon release of more of his compositions in Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespearian Sonnets.

NBA Pulls All-Star Game From Charlotte Over Anti-LGBT Law

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2016

Yahoo News broke the story:

Without any movement by state legislators in North Carolina to change newly enacted laws targeted at the LGBT community, the NBA is pulling the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, league sources told The Vertical.

The NBA is focused on the New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center as the host for All-Star Weekend and the All-Star Game on Feb. 19, league sources told The Vertical.

For now, there are still other cities trying to lure the All-Star Game, sources said.

A formal announcement on the NBA’s withdrawal out of Charlotte is expected as soon as this week, league sources said Thursday./blockquote>

The National Basketball Association has long warned North Carolina legislators that the state risked losing next year’s All-Star Game if it didn’t rescind HB 2, which prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting non-discrimination ordinances covering sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and excludes all workplace discrimination lawsuits from state courts. HB 2, additionally and more controversially, prohibits transgender people from using public facilities which correspond to their gender identity or presentation. A number of businesses have halted relocation and expansion plans in the state, and several conventions and concert performances were cancelled. Figures are hard to pin down, but one tally of known cancellations as of mid-April put the losses at $77 million.

So It’s Come To This: Ted Cruz Is the GOP’s Conscience

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2016

I guess it takes a narcissist to take on a narcissist. As William Saletan wrote back in January, the Republican Party is a failed state, and Trump is its warlord.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 21

From the Souvenir Program of the Michelle International contest held in San Francisco, 1962. (Source.)

From the Souvenir Program of the Michelle International contest held in San Francisco, 1962. (Source.)

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1957), and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) introduced Americans to the “Beat Generation,” a group, and then a movement, which began in New York’s Greenwhich Village and ended up relocating, for the most part, to San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, nurtured by City Lights bookstore, Cafe Trieste, and the Six Gallery. San Francisco columnist Herbert Caen dubbed them “Beatniks,” riffing on Sputnik which was orbiting overhead and the subject of considerable American angst. Others, filled with considerable American angst, picked up that term which seemed to suggest not only that the Beats were as far out of that product of Communism, but that they themselves were a product of that same ideology. The Beats probably reached their peak awareness among middle-Americans with the archetypal Beatnik character of Maynard G. Krebs (played by future Gilligan, Bob Denver) in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which aired on CBS from 1959 to 1963. Goatees, berets, black sweaters, bongo drums, roll-your-own cigarettes (often with substances other than tobacco) and a general, overall rebellion against the straight-laced norms of the McCarthy-dominated fifties marked the Beats as both a dangerous and fascinating phenomenon.

Thanks to the Beats’ non-conformist attitudes, a number of gay artists were associated with the subculture. In addition to Ginsberg (Jun 3) and Burroughs (Feb 5), there were the poets Robert Duncan (who had a brief affair with abstract impressionist painter Robert De Niro, Sr.), Robin Blaser, and Jack Spicer, (along with his partner, the abstract-impressionist artist Jess Collins). It’s not surprising that gay people would be fascinated by this movement, given its embrace of nonconformity.

In 1959, ONE magazine, the nation’s first nationally-distributed gay-themed publication, capitalized with that fascination with a cover story on “The Homosexual and the Beat Generation.” The author, Wallace de Ortega Maxey, was himself the embodiment of counter-culturalism. He was former priest and Archbishop of the American Old Catholic Church (an independent breakaway church) who seemed to collect consecrations from a bewildering number of pseudo-Catholic churches and the Episcopal Church, before abandoning independent Catholicism in 1954 and establishing the Liberal Universalist Church, first in Los Angeles in 1954, and then in Fresno. He was also an early Mattachine member and author of Man Is A Sexual Being (1958). By the time Maxey wrote his article for ONE, San Francisco’s Beats found themselves being gawked at by tourists and bedeviled by wannabe weekend Beatniks. Maxey began his article by describing the difference between what he called the real Beats and these poseurs:

The Homosexual and the Beat Generation.This gang of “kix” hoodlums consist of heterosexuals in the larger number. They are those who like to “cash-in” on the daring and non-conforming Beats. Having money in their pockets, they think they can out-buy, out-bid and out-sex the Beats. The few homos in this tribe of week-enders are of the timid sort who can’t make it in their own everyday world and in despair hope to find “satisfaction” in the world of the beat generation. …

There is a distinction to be made between the beat-homo and the nonbeat. The beat-homo has no inhibitions. Within his own consciousness he has accepted himself and is completely integrated. He is not fighting himself, much less the rest of the world. This applies to the male as well as the female of the species. He doesn’t give one god damn what the world thinks about him. Like the rest of the beat generation he simply wants to be left alone. He has closed his mental door to the rat-race. He has cut himself off from the shams and shamans of the competitive world. He is usually of the aesthetic type, psychologically, not necessarily so physically.

I have seen some gangling seamen and longshoremen, truck drivers, woodsmen and cement-construction workers, that would surprise all hell out of you when you listen to their conversation. In their particular fields of interest and study they are extraordinarily well informed. There is one chap I am thinking of who has been a seaman all his life, who can keep you spell-bound when telling about the “history of erotica”. Another, a female, could write a book about the world’s historic prostitutes and how they have influenced political thought. Still another homo-beat has been in several mental institutions under observation, but can reel off anything you want to know about the religions of the Orient. Of course, I am speaking of the real Beats, the ones who have severed all ties with the square world, as far as it is humanly possible to do, and still live.

It has been said that Allen Ginsberg is the St. Peter of the beat generation. He has been quoted in the New York Post (3-13-59) as saying: “I sleep, with men and with women. I am neither queer nor not queer, nor am I bi-sexual. My name is Allen Ginsberg and I sleep with whoever I want.” It has been my experience in discussing life in general with a considerable number of Beats, that these words of Allen Ginsberg voice quite accurately the opinions of the majority of the real Beats.

Maxey went on to describe two “Beat-homos” that he had been counseling. The first was “Tom Doe,” who had been kicked out of the Army when they found out he was gay. Saddled with a less-than-honorable discharge, he had trouble finding steady work. He lost his home, turned to alcohol, and “ended up three months later on a pad in Beatnik-land.” After discovering Maxey’s book, Doe underwent counseling with Maxey, with some considerable success:

When finally he was able to stop his self·deception and admit to himself he was what he was, all other matters took their proper place. When this bug-a-boo was disposed of and he could see his “whole self”, not just the phantom side, it was not long before he had re-established himself. However, he still thinks of himself as a Beatnik and has never moved away from Beatnik-land. At present, after much struggling and hardship he owns and operates a “shop” making a moderate living off the “squares” that come to stare at the Beats.

The second example, that of “Jim Doe,” is probably a better portrayal of a true San Francisco “Beat-homo”:

As stated previously he contended homosexuality was not his problem. He freely and frankly admitted to such tendency. When we met he was quite outspoken and wasted no words in getting to the situation that was disturbing him. He lived with a man and a girl in Beatnik-land; was contemplating going to art school and was quite talented in music and painting. He had been successful to the extent of having sold two of his compositions and one oil painting for a quite tidy sum of money. He claimed that his social relations were excellent with the other Beatniks and that generally speaking they liked him. What was his problem? Doubt. Underneath all the social relationships there was ever present a constant fear of someone betraying him. Of misplaced confidence. He never completely trusted anyone. Basically, when he got right down to the subject he was so damn lonesome, at nights after social events he usually went home alone, locked himself in his room and cried.

Doubt was his problem. First, I learned that he really doubted himself. After considerable discussion with Jim, I came to the conclusion his acceptance of his homosexuality was not as he made it appear. From his reading of abnormal phychology he wondered about his sex. As he said to me, “Am I a man or a woman?” “Who really was my father?” (He had never been able to find a birth record.) “Have I ever loved anyone?” “Does anything have any real meaning — or is life just an illusion?” “Dare I really trust anyone, completely?” “Must I go through all my life in doubt?” “The only reason I’m a Beatnik is that none of them try to pry into my personal life … I can get along with the other Beatniks because they don’t ask ‘personal questions’ “.

Naturally it took considerable time and effort to bring about a change in his outlook on life. After exploring the various psychological “excuses” he presented for his condition, we assumed none were satisfactory by way of explanation. He had experienced a rotten home life in his youth. So have thousands of people. Examples were cited of heroic characters who began in pot-sheds. Switching to the existentialist treatment, in a few words I made it clear to him quoting from Jean-Paul Sartre: “Whereas the existentialist says that the coward makes himself cowardly, the hero makes himself heroic; and that there is always the possibility for the coward to give up cowardice and for the hero to stop being a hero. What counts is the total commitment, and it is not by a particular case or particular action that you are committed altogether.”

…The final outcome in Jim Doe’s story is interesting. He met a girl named Dora, a confirmed Lesbian. They got married and now have two children, a boy and a girl. Jim still says he is an homosexual and Dora affirms she is still a Lesbian, and they both live in Beatnik-land.

Maxey found similarities between the Beat Generation and the so-called “Lost Generation,” the group of artists of the inter-war years which included Earnest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But…

I think the Lost Generation placed more emphasis on the social and civil liberties interests than the Beats are doing. I think the beat generation is more nude than the Lost Generation was. There is little to discover among the Beatniks. As a matter of fact, they have a certain amount of juvenile crudeness in their art work and writing, with exceptions of course. They, the Beats, are not forced to starve while many · of the Lost Generation were, during the long siege of the depression.

However, with all their vices and virtues if they can teach the world by example the evils of social conformity, I feel they will go down in history as having made a worthwhile contribution.

[Source: Wallace de Ortega Maxey. “The Homosexual and the Beat Generation” ONE 7, no. 7 (July 1959): 5-9. ]

Protesters Confront Rubio In Orlando

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2016

rubioThings got ugly in a city where nerves are still very raw. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was in Orlando at a press event just blocks away from the site of the Pulse gay night club massacre which killed 49 and injured 53 a little over a month ago. The framing of Rubio’s visit probably didn’t help any. According to the Orlando Sentinel, it was “focused on how Rubio was trying to help businesses affected by slow traffic around the mass shooting scene.” It’s a legitimate concern. Those businesses are struggling and some have had to lay off employees. But given Rubio’s anti-gay record, it was very unrealistic for Rubio to expect a warm reception that close to Pulse and this close in time to the massacre:

Instead, about 30 protesters shouted so loudly outside that Rubio could hardly be heard at some points. The goal of the protest was to highlight Rubio’s lack of support for such things as gun control measures.

“I’m really angry at you,” Moran said. “I don’t feel you’re doing anything to support the LGBTQ people. I need to know what is your relationship is with the NRA. Why are you talking with transphobes and homophobes like John Stemberger… all of you have blood on your hands,” Moran said.

Rubio responded, “I disagree with your assessment… Homophobia means you’re scared of people, I’m not scared of people. Quite frankly I respect all people. We probably have a disagreement on the definition of marriage.”

Moran interrupted again, “Your policies kill people. Your policies enable people to be murdered. You have to protect us. You’re not protecting us. We’re going to be gunned down.”

John Stemberger and Marco Rubio

John Stemberger and Marco Rubio

John Stemberger is Florida’s leading and best-known anti-LGBT activist as head of Florida Family Action. Stemberger recently endorsed Rubio’s re-entry into the race to retain his Senate seat. Rubio responded with a Facebook post saying, “I’m honored to receive John Stemberger’s endorsement and I look forward to working alongside Florida’s faith leaders to uphold our conservative values.”

The Sentinel has video of the confrontation.

Report: Trump To Seek New Powers To Purge the Civil Service

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2016

There are a whole range of policy-making positions in the federal government occupied by people who serve at the President’s pleasure. Cabinet secretaries are the obvious ones, but the range of positions extend several layers down from there. But there is a point in the hierarchy where jobs are shielded from political patronage by Civil Service laws. The President doesn’t get to fire those people based on the color of their shoes or the party ID on their registration cards. Trump surrogate Chris Christie is telling donors that they aim to change that if Trump is elected:

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

…Trump’s transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said

…”One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people,” Christie said. He said firing civil servants was “cumbersome” and “time-consuming.”

They fear that “Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants” because every president before them did the same thing. And to be clear, this practice, called “burrowing,” is not simply declaring, say, an assistant to a deputy cabinet secretary as a a protected civil service job. Rather, it’s the practice of moving a political appointee from a policy-making position outside the purview of civil service laws and finding them non-political positions jobs in the government, with the hope that they might somehow still be able to wield some kind of influence. Every president has done this: Bush did it before he left office, as did Clinton, elder Bush, Reagan, and so on.

But this kind of proposed change to the Civil Service laws would go beyond endangering just former political appointees who are now in non-political positions. It would, in by Christie’s own admission, make it easy for Trump to fire whomever he pleases, just like he does on his TV show. It would open the gates to the kind of nineteenth century-style political patronage that the civil service laws were intended to abolish, when political litmus tests were standard for every government job from mail clerk to Postmaster General.

In fact, it was this kind of patronage that contributed to the assassination of President Garfield in 1881 by Charles Guiteau, a mentally unstable man who was furious that Garfield didn’t give him a government job in return for guaranteeing Garfield’s election thanks to a speech that Guiteau gave that nobody remembered. Garfield’s assassination was the last straw for a populace already outraged over the “spoils system” which saw the wholesale replacement of federal employees every time the government changed hands.

So imagine now a scenario where a new law goes through allowing those protections to be eliminated if the president or one of his minions doesn’t like the politics of some federal workers. There is precedent for that, from 1950 to 1953, when thousands were fired from government jobs because the were supposedly “subversives.” A particular kind of “subversive” sought during those times were gay people, a witch hunt that was codified in a 1953 Executive Order signed by Eisenhower. For the next twenty-two years, it was the official written policy to prohibit hiring and employing gay people by federal employment, and for the next twenty-two years, thousands of gay people, or simply people accused of being gay, were fired. One such firing turned Frank Kameny into an aggressive gay rights pioneer and a perennial thorn in the Civil Service Commission’s side until 1975, when the Commission finally modified its policy following a string of defeats in the courts.

So Trump now wants to replace a system designed to protect government employees from being fired for political purposes and replace it with a system specially designed to specifically allow employees from being fired for political purposes. Purges like what he has in mind are dangerous territory, especially in the hands of someone who already sees no constitutional problem with instituting a religious test banning Muslims from entering the U.S. So why stop with Democrats? Why wouldn’t he purge civil service employees based on religion? Or, given Trump’s famously thin skin and fondness for vendettas, just someone — anyone — he doesn’t like?

It’s hard to know whether this proposal would actually go anywhere, but with this Republican Congress, it’s hard to dismiss it outright. More importantly, though, this gives us a very clear view of the mindset inside the Trump campaign, which already has shown it has no concern about the nuts and bolts of the constitution or for laws, rules, norms, history, facts, etc. If you want to know what Trump’s American might look like, you might want to check out Turkey or Russia right about now. Especially Russia. He admires Putin.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 20

From Where It's At (New York, NY), July 24, 1978, page 31.

From Where It’s At (New York, NY), July 24, 1978, page 31.

Yogi Bera once complained that a favorite restaurant in St. Louis got so popular that “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” A reviewer for a New York newspaper Gay Times complained that  G.G’s Barnum Room had also become way too popular:

ggsbarnumroompage2_2G.G. Knickerbocker’s, the bar that was so notorious for the wild drag trade there, went disco in a big way with G.G.’s Barnum Room. But perhaps in too big a way. Now that they had a big write-up in New York Magazine, the place (with a wide-open admission policy), seems to be overrun with tourists in polyester suits. It’s the place to go if your idea of a good time is having straight people gawk at you! The management seems so intent on exploiting gays to the limit that I fully expect them to offer chartered guided tours of the place to New Jersey ladies’ clubs, as the next logical step.

ggbarnum-ny-exterior-bwYou can see that New York Magazine write-up here. The “G.G.” referred to the Gilded Grape, a mob-owned gay bar which operated at 719 8th Avenue until 1977. (By the way, Where It’s At, the bar guide that published the ad featured above, was also mob-owned.) It became G.G. Knickerbocker’s when it moved into the ground floor of the Knickerbocker Hotel. G.G.’s Barnum Room, located just off of Times Square, was one of the most extravagant discos in Manhattan. Named for the circus master P.T. Barnum, the Barnum Room featured what they called their Jungle Gym in the Sky: scantily-clad  scantily-clad trapeze artists swinging above the dancers’ heads. It also featured a cabaret room for drag shows. One such show inspired Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers to pen the Diana Ross anthem “I’m Coming Out” after seeing three different drag queens dressed as Ross one night. The Barnum Room lasted until November of 1980. The front entrance to the Barnum Room is now a parking ramp next to a Bobby Van’s Steak House.

Mattachine Missions and Purposes

65 YEARS AGO: In 1950, a group of seven men met at the home of Harry Hay (Apr 7) in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles to found a new society for gay people they tentatively called “The Society of Fools” (Nov 11). The following April, the group followed Hay’s suggestion to change its name to the Mattachine Society, after the medieval French secret societies of masked men whose anonymity empowered them to mock and criticize kings and other nobility. That same month, one of the newer members suggested that the group’s ideals be put down in writing. They began drafting the Mattachine’s “Missions and Purposes,” and marked it “confidential” out of fear of attracting the attention of the police. Jim Gruber (Aug 21), one of the founders, described the whole effort as “a dare” with serious potential consequences, as they saw it. Given the tenor of the times amid the McCarthy-inspired Lavender Scare, their fears weren’t out of line.  The members ratified the document on July 20. It read:

MISSIONS AND PURPOSES

of the

Mattachine Society.

TO UNIFY: While there are undoubtedly individual homosexuals who number many of their own people among their friends, thousands of homosexuals live out their lives bewildered, unhappy, alone, isolated from their own kind and unable to adjust to the dominant culture. Even those who have many homosexual friends are still cut off from the deep satisfactions man’s gregarious nature can achieve only when he is consciously part of a large, unified whole. A major purpose of the Mattachine Society is to provide a consensus of principle around which all of our people can rally and from which they can deprive a feeling of “belonging.”

TO EDUCATE: The total of information available on the subject of homosexuality is woefully meagre and utterly inconclusive. The Society organizes all available material and conducts extensive research itself — psychological, physiological, anthropological, and sociological — for the purpose of informing all interested homosexuals and for the purpose of informing and enlightening the public at large.

The Mattachine Soeity holds it as possible and desirable that a highly ethical, homosexual culture emerge as a consequence of its work, parallelling sic the emerging cultures of our fellow-minorities — the Negro, Mexican and Jewish peoples. The Society believes homosexuals can lead well-adjusted, wholesome and socially productive lives once ignorance and prejudice against them is successfully combatted and once homosexuals themselves feel they have a dignified and useful role to play in society. The Society, to these ends, is in the process of developing a homosexual ethic — disciplined, moral and socially responsible.

TO LEAD: It is not sufficient for an oppressed minority like the homosexuals merely to be conscious of belonging to a minority collective when, as is the situation at the present time, that collective is neither socially organic nor objective in its directions and activities — although this minimum is, in itself, a great step forward. It is necessary that the more far-seeing and socially conscious homosexuals provide leadership to the whole mass of social deviants if the first two missions (the unification and the education of the homosexual minority) are to be accomplished. Further, once unification and education have progressed it becomes imperative (to consolidate these gains) for the Society to push forward into the realm of political action to erase from our law books the discriminatory and oppressive legislation presently directed against the homosexual minority.

The Society, founded upon the highest ethical and social principles, serves as an example for homosexuals to follow and provides a dignified standard upon which the rest of society can base a more intelligent and accurate picture of the nature of homosexuality than currently obtains in the public mind. The Society provides the instrument necessary to work with civic-minded and socially valuable organizations and supplies the means for the assistance of our people who are victimized daily as a result of our oppression. Only a Society, providing an enlightened leadership, can rouse the homosexuals — one of the largest minorities in America today — to take the actions necessary to elevate themselves from the social ostracism an unsympathetic culture has perpetrated upon them.

[Sources: Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980 (Los Angeles: ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, 2011): 38-39.

Stuart Timmons. The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement Centenary edition (Brooklyn: White Crane Books, 2012): 170-172.]

KTLA_1947

KTLA’s Crime Story was one of those very serious, topical panel discussion programs airing in the graveyard time slot of 11:00 p.m. on Sunday nights just before station sign-off — back in the days when televisions would go off the air sometime around midnight. The program picked a topic each week, and moderator Sandy Howard would assemble a panel of “experts,” which were typically from among the KTLA staff, since real experts weren’t often eager to schlep to the studio late at night for a low-rated program. Topics for discussion included drugs, law enforcement, prison reform, international crime, and, on this night, homosexuality, which itself was a crime under California law.

In previous episodes where the subject was homosexuality, the tone was almost entirely negative and the opinions offered were ill-informed. But on this night, things were different. Sitting in for Howard was Bill Bradley, who this time brought into the studio someone who actually knew something about the topic: Herbert Selwyn, attorney for the Los Angeles Chapter of the Mattachine Society. Selwyn wasn’t gay, but at least he was in regular contact with the gay community and could speak as an ally. Also on the panel were two psychiatrists (both of them working for state penal systems), and a private detective and former L.A. policeman who also free-lanced for the scandal magazine Confidential — so you can imaging what his contribution would be.

After the announcer made clear that the opinions expressed on the program were not those of KTLA, Bradley asked the panel to define “sex crime.” Right off the bat, one of the two psychiatrists, Dr. Isidore Ziferstein of the Iowa State Penitentiary, declared that he didn’t consider sex acts between consenting adults to be criminal because no one was harmed — a radical idea in 1958. Fred Otash, the private detective, began explaining that California’s penal code defined “sex perversion” as including, more specifically, “copulation by mouth.” Ziferstein responded, “Yes, the penal code regarding sex acts would make nearly every American citizen a sex criminal.” The other psychiatrist, Dr. William Graves of San Quentin, agreed.

Bradley then asked whether all homosexual men — lesbians were never mentioned during the entire program — were sex criminals. Otash jumped in and said yes, according to the letter of the law, and rightly so, contending that homosexuals bred other homosexuals simply by contact. Because homosexuals could not keep to themselves, they “preyed on normal men” and made them gay. He then got tired of saying the word “homosexual,” over and over. “You may call them homosexuals, I call them ‘fags’,” he declared. That, for the most part, was the extent of his “expertise.”

Selwyn, confident that the two psychiatrists would answer the question of whether “normal men” could be turned so easily, turned the topic instead to the problem of police entrapment, which was rampant in Los Angeles. If a policeman could strike up a conversation with a gay man in a bar and get the man to suggest that they retire to his apartment, he was liable to find himself in handcuffs and facing a fifteen year sentence.

The program ended with the two psychiatrists agreeing that homosexuality should not be against the law, but they debated whether homosexuality was a neurosis or not. Ziferstien said that society wasn’t just anti-gay, but anti-sex, and that this produced an abundance of “sex deviates,” including homosexuals. Graves pushed back, and pointed out that because society was so anti-gay, it would be surprising if some gay people didn’t become in some way disturbed or distressed over the situation. In other words, Graves was explaining the concept of homophobia some ten years before the word itself was invented. By this point in the program, the panelists were regularly ignoring Otash as they lamented the way the law and society treated gay people. A review published in ONE magazine, the nation’s first gay magazine, commented that viewers “may have been gratified, if surprised, by the unexpectedly friendly attitudes toward homosexuality expressed on the program. … The members of the qualified panel made effective, intelligent observations, and many positive and constructive points.”

[Sources: “Sten Russell” (Stella Rush) “TV: Crime Story.” ONE 6, no. 8 (September 1958): 26-28.

“Sten Russell” (Stella Rush). “Crime Story.” The Ladder 2, no 12. (September 1958): 11-14.]

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