Posts Tagged As: Black Cat (LA)
November 8th, 2008
On New Years Eve we shared with you the story of the police raid on the Black Cat Bar in the first minutes of 1967. Our retelling of this tale encouraged Wes Joe in his efforts to have that event recognized for its historical significance.
Today the LA Times reports that the City Counsel has honored Wes’ request.
The Black Cat, a Silver Lake bar that was home to the gay rights movement in Los Angeles, on Friday was named a historic-cultural monument.
“With Prop. 8 we took five steps backward, but the Black Cat gives us the perspective that we’ve taken 50 steps forward since 1967,” Wes Joe, a Silver Lake resident who nominated the bar for monument status, said at Friday’s council meeting in Van Nuys.
Congratulations to Wes Joe and to Le Barcito, the current name of the Black Cat.
As Wes notes, in the midst of our disappointment and our anger arising from the enshrinment of discrimination into three state constitutions on Tuesday, this should serve as a reminder of how far we have come.
In commemoration of the Black Cat raid of 1966, celebrate this New Year's Eve with a radical act. Kiss him "on the mouth for three to five seconds."
December 31st, 2007
This essay first appeared last year. Since then, the readership of Box Turtle Bulletin has increased ten-fold, so I thought it might be appropriate to re-post this to premiere our series for 2008, “Today In History.”
You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.
It all began exactly forty years ago this New Year’s Eve, on Sunset Blvd., in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, in a small bar called the Black Cat. There were some sixty or seventy patrons gathered during those final moments of 1966, counting down the last few seconds to midnight. Couples gathered and stood next to each other, and as the countdown approached zero, they leaned into one other, and, amid the shouts of “Happy New Year!” and the opening strands of Auld Lang Syne, they did something all couples do all around the world.
And immediately at least six plainclothes officers who had infiltrated the gay bar began viciously beating and arresting the kissing offenders. As the melee widened, several people tried to escape to the nearby New Faces bar. Undercover officers followed and raided that bar as well. One of the New Faces workers was beaten so badly by police that they cracked a rib, fractured his skull and ruptured his spleen.
Six Black Cat kissers were tried and convicted of “lewd or dissolute conduct” in a public place, conduct that consisted of male couples hugging and kissing. According to one police report, one couple had “kissed on the mouth for three to five seconds.” Apparently, three to five seconds are what constituted “lewd or dissolute conduct” among the LAPD.
It’s hard to describe what it was like to be gay in Los Angeles in the 1950’s and ’60’s. It was virtually illegal to be gay in LA, where undercover officers displayed unusual zeal to “clean up the streets.” No place was safe, not even private homes, bars or clubs. “Gay bars” barely existed. If one establishment gained a reputation as a gay hangout, it would be raided and shut down. Undercover officers would infiltrate private parties and bars suspected of being frequented by gay men. If they saw anyone who engaged in any sort of social touching, hand-holding, dancing, or even simple small-talk that might, in the imagination of the undercover officer, conceivably lead to “something more”, they were arrested. Entrapment was the norm and it didn’t take much to get arrested. Simply arranging to meet for dinner or exchanging phone numbers with an undercover officer was often enough to trigger an arrest — and being labeled a sex offender under California Law.
But all of that began to change with the profoundly radical act of a kiss.
It’s still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die.
Two and one half years before the Stonewall rebellion in New York, there was another rebellion underway in Los Angeles as the gay community stood its ground in defense of a kiss. In this case of do or die, more than 200 activists gathered at the corner of Sanborn and Sunset to protest the arrests and the ongoing police brutality and intimidation. At a time when few would dare to publicly identify themselves as homosexual for fear of intimidation and arrest, this first open gay-rights protest in Los Angeles was a very bold step. It led to the formation of PRIDE, a gay rights group in Los Angeles, and it swelled the ranks of the Mattachine Society. Where previous raids drove gay men further underground, this time the reaction was different. Gay activism in Los Angeles came of age that night forty years ago.
In the ensuing publicity, two of the convicted kissers, Charles W. Talley and Benny Norman Baker, were able to find some very brave heterosexual lawyers who agreed to handle their appeals. No gay lawyers were willing to publicly come out to take the case. Charles (the one described in the police report kissing someone “on the mouth for three to five seconds”) and Benny appealed their convictions all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. But their kiss was much too radical for that august institution. In 1968, the court refused to hear Talley vs. California, and so their convictions stood.
There’s no question that we have come a very long way since 1966. But in some ways, we haven’t yet come far enough. Male couples can still be beaten for simply holding hands in public. The ordinary act of placing one’s hand in another’s – the same thing so many heterosexual couples do with such ease and innocence – is still too provocative even today in many places. A kiss would be downright heroic.
In a society where heterosexual couples can kiss wherever they please and lesbians kissing is considered “hot”, a kiss is still a very radical act when that kiss is shared between two men. Critics point to the popularity of Will & Grace as evidence that gay men are accepted, but long-suffering Will Truman (Eric McCormack) rarely had a boyfriend. And when he finally got one, he wasn’t allowed to kiss him on the lips for the longest time. It wasn’t until the the show had been on the air for eight seasons that Will was finally allowed to kiss James Hanson (Taye Diggs).
A few years ago, Oliver Stone put Alexander the Great in bed naked with Hephaistion after they expressed their undying love for each other. But even though Stone’s reputation is supposedly built on his bold interpretations of history, he chickened out and only let Alexander share his kiss with Olympia in a love scene that was more a struggle for dominance than an expression of love. And while Ennis Del Mar and Jack Tripp Twist were finally allowed to kiss each other in the remotest reaches of Brokeback Mountain where nobody could see them, all of that kissing still came to an end some twenty-five years ago with Jack’s brutal murder.
Forty years after the Black Cat raid, men still cannot be seen kissing each other, unless ratings are tanking during the final season or one of them dies.
And yet, what are two lovers supposed to do?
And when two lovers woo
They still say, “I love you.”
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by.
A lot has changed since 1966, but the passage of forty years has not tamed the temerity of a simple kiss. For gay men, a kiss is still seen a boldly radical act. But it is also our declaration of independence, on which forty years ago many have pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
So all you men out there, do something radical this New Year’s Eve. Kiss him. On the Mouth. For three to five seconds.
I don’t care who you kiss or why. You can kiss him for love, you can kiss him for lust, or you can kiss him just because he’s cute. You can kiss him because he’s the love of your life, or you can kiss him because he’s a total stranger who you’ll never see again. But just kiss him, and kiss him boldly.
Kiss him for all of those who were not allowed to kiss. Kiss him for those who were beaten and arrested for kissing, and for those who fought back to defend that kiss. Kiss him for those heroes who declared an end to the shame of kissing. Kiss him because now you can; because today your greatest freedom is in that kiss. Kiss him on the mouth. And for good measure, kiss him for much, much longer than three to five seconds. Kiss him hard and long, with a kiss of forty years and still counting.
And wish him a very happy New Year.
Update: When I first wrote this, I had very few readers to admonish me for leaving something very important out: Ladies grab your gal and plant one on her “for three to five seconds,” at least. And don’t let up until you’re good and ready! I sincerely apologize for leaving you out. It was very boorish of me.
The same good wishes goes for everyone else, whoever you are, and wherever you find yourself. And have a very happy New Year.
That’s the advantage of having a larger readership this time: it keeps us accountable and on our toes, and it holds us to ever higher standards for ourselves and for each other. Thanks for your comments.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.