Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda

The Daily Agenda for Monday, July 25

Rock Hudson (left) and Lee Garlington in 1963. The two broke up in 1965.

Rock Hudson (left) and Lee Garlington in 1963. The couple broke up in 1965.

On October 28, 1966, the FBI forwarded the following memorandum to Marvin Watson, special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson:

October 28, 1966.


Rock Hudson has not been the subject of an FBI investigation. During 1965, however, a confidential informant reported that several years ago while he was in New York he had an “affair” with movie star Rock Hudson. The informant stated that from personal knowledge he knew that Rock Hudson was a homosexual. The belief was expressed that by “personal knowledge” the informant meant he had personally indulged in homosexual acts with Hudson or had witnessed or received the information from individuals who had done so.

On another occasion, information was received by the Los Angeles Office of the FBI that it was common knowledge in the motion picture industry that Rock Hudson was suspected of having homosexual tendencies.

It is to be noted in May, 1961, a confidential source in New York also stated that Hudson definitely was a homosexual.

Our files contain no additional pertinent information identifiable with Mr. Hudson.

The fingerprint files of the Identification Division of the FBI contain no arrest data identifiable with Mr. Hudson based upon background information submitted in connection with this name check request.

NOTE: Per request of Mrs. Mildred Stegall, White House Staff.

Thomas Eakins

(d. 1916) Born and raised in Philadelphia, he studied drawing and anatomy at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and anatomy and dissection at Jefferson Medical College. His interest in the human body led him to briefly consider a career as a surgeon, but after studying art in Paris, he took his interest in the human anatomy in a very different direction. He became one of the finest painters of the human form. As for the particular human form he found fascinating, he made that clear while still a student in Paris:

“I can conceive of few circumstances wherein I would have to paint a woman naked, but if I did I would not mutilate her for double the money. She is the most beautiful thing there is — except a naked man, but I never yet saw a study of one exhibited… It would be a godsend to see a fine man model painted in the studio with the bare walls, alongside of the smiling smirking goddesses of waxy complexion amidst the delicious arsenic green trees and gentle wax flowers & purling streams running melodious up & down the hills especially up. I hate affectation.”

Salutat, 1898.

Eakins saw nudity as the essence of truth, which, in turn, was the underpinning of the realist style in which he worked. That insistence on truth got him into trouble. In 1886, he was forced to resign from the faculty of the Pennsylvania Academy after he removed the loincloth of a male model in a class which included female students. Despite the public outcry, several students left the Academy in protest over Eakins’s departure. They formed the Art Students’ League of Philadelphia, and enlisted Eakins as their instructor. He also taught at several other institutions, but his teaching career ended by 1898, just three years after being dismissed from the Drexel Institute for, again, using a fully nude male model.

Eakins married Susan Hannah MacDowell, one of his students, in 1884. Their marriage was childless, but they both shared a love of painting (Susan was a skilled artist in her own right) and photography, which Eakins had taken up in the 1880s. Amid further controversy, his photography often involved nude subjects (including a full-frontal nude photo of his friend and fellow Philadelphia, Walt Whitman), as works of art themselves, or as studies for his paintings. His entire body of work can be seen as a yearning for freedom — from what or for what, we can only guess. But looking at the obvious homoeroticism of his art, that guess is not a difficult one to make.

J. Warren Kerrigan

(d. 1947) While little-known today, Kerrigan had been a very popular silent film star for the early film studios Essanay, Biograph, and later Universal. He typically played a leading role as a modern, well-dressed man-about town, and his films were enormously successful. Photoplay magazine named him the most popular male star among its readers in 1914, the same year he became the first movie star to publish his autobiography. In 1916, the magazine Motion Picture Classic declared him the most popular star in the world.

He killed his career in 1917 over a glib remark about his refusal to enlist in World War I. He didn’t want to enlist because he didn’t want to leave his mother alone. He also didn’t want to leave behind his partner, actor and silent film director James Vincent, who lived at home with Kerrigan’s mother. When reporters pestered him over why he didn’t enlist, neither of the true answers were acceptable. Unfortunately, the answer he gave a Denver reporter was just about as disastrous as either of the real reasons he had:

… I think that first they should take the great mass of men who aren’t good for anything else, or are only good for the lower grades of work. Actors, musicians, great writers, artists of every kind — isn’t it a pity when people are sacrificed who are capable of such things — of adding to the beauty of the world.

Maybe he was tired — it was at the end of a four-month long publicity tour — or maybe he was just tired of dodging the question. At any rate, his answer was a public relations disaster, and his career was dead.

At least that’s how it looked for the next six years. In 1923, director James Cruze made a bold and surprising move by casting Kerrigan for the lead role in the Paramount western epic The Covered Wagon. The silent feature’s epic scale and outlandish budget for its day — it was filmed on location over several months at a cost of $783,000 ($11 million today) — set a new benchmark for filmmaking made it the most popular release that year. That success opened the doors to five less successful roles for Kerrigan the next year, ending in the swashbuckling 1924 film Captain Blood. By then, it was obvious that his reputation still hadn’t recovered. But with fresh money in the bank, coupled with his cautious investments and eschewing the lavish Hollywood lifestyle, his financial future was secure. He retired from filmmaking and lived quietly with Vincent until Kerrigan died in 1947 at the age of 67.

Nicknamed “Alfie,” the Welsh rugby player was the first professional rugby union player to announce publicly that he was gay. He told The Daily Mail, “I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player, first and foremost I am a man.” I think he succeeded. Since I don’t know squat about rugby, it would be disasterous if I were to try to fake it. So  I’ll take the cheap and easy way out by quoting shamelessly from Wikipedia:

With 100 test match appearances he was the most capped Welsh rugby union player until he was overtaken by Stephen Jones in September 2011. He is currently ranked 12th among international try scorers and is the second highest Wales try scorer behind Shane Williams. He also won 4 rugby league caps for Wales, scoring 3 tries.He played rugby union for Bridgend, Cardiff, the Celtic Warriors, Toulouse, Cardiff Blues and Wales as a fullback, wing or centre. In 2010 he moved to rugby league, playing for the Crusaders RL in the Super League, and for Wales.

He broke his arm during a match in July 2011. After failing to recover in time for the Rugby League Four Nations Tournament in October, he announced his retirement.

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, July 24

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), April 1986, page 12. (Source.)

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), April 1986, page 12. (Source.)

Baron Smith

In 1984, just one year after being elected as Member of the British Parliament on the Labour ticket, Smith became the first MP to come out as gay at his own choosing. There had been a few other MP’s who had been involuntarily outed, typically as a result of a scandal. But Smith did so voluntarily, during a pro-gay rally in Rugby, Warwickshire, protesting a proposed ban on gay employees by the town council. Smith did came out during his self-introduction at the rally: “”Good afternoon, I’m Chris Smith, I’m the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury. I’m gay, and so for that matter are about a hundred other members of the House of Commons, but they won’t tell you openly.”

That revelation did little to impede his political progress. Smith became Labour opposition whip in 1986, shadow Treasury minister in 1987, shadow environment minister in 1992, shadow secretary for National Heritage in 1994, and shadow secretary for Social Security in 1995. When Labour won the general election in 1997, Smith served as Tony Blair’s first Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport through 2001, making him the first openly gay Cabinet Minister. He left the House of Commons at the 2005 general election, and was rewarded for his services with a life peerage in the House of Lords as Baron Smith of Finsbury. In 2008, he was appointed chairman of the Environment Agency. He stepped down in 2014, and in 2015 he accepted an appointment as Master of Penbroke College, Cambridge. He also became chairman trustees of the Cambridge Union Society that same year.


Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Van Sant’s traveling salesman father moved the family around through much of his childhood. One thing remained constant though, and it was the young Van Sant’s interest in painting and Super-8 filmmaking. He enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design to study painting, but he switched to cinema after discovering avant-garde films. Since avant-garde films were never much of a money-maker, Van Sant wound up being very familiar with some of the more derelict areas along Hollywood Boulevard, and 1985’s Mala Noche, the story of a doomed love affair between a gay store clerk and a Mexican immigrant, was the first of many films touching on the fringes of society. 1989’s Drugstore Cowboy and 1991’s My Own Private Idaho became signature films which established Van Sant as a director to be taken seriously.

His 1993 flop, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, very nearly unraveled his career, but 1995’s To Die For (starring Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon and Joaquin Phoenix), his first major studio production for Columbia, catapulted him into the mainstream. Good Will Hunting, which starred and was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, earned Van Sant a Best Director Oscar nomination. His remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was considerably less successful. His decision to re-create Hitchcock’s film shot-for-shot in color instead of black and white looked more alike a parlor trick than a serious artistic decision. He then turned to art-house films, including Elephant (a fictional film inspired by the 1999 Columbine shooting) which earned the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2003. He returned to the mainstream again in 2008 with his biopic Milk, starring Sean Penn as the late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and featuring a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black (Jun 10). Again, Van Sant was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director, although he lost to Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire.

Kirk, at the age of 4 years and 6 months, just a few months before entering treatment at UCLA’s Feminine Boy Project (Photo courtesy of the family)

(d. 2003) For more than four decades, Kirk well known among behavioral therapists who were trying to prevent homosexuality and transgender identities in very young children. His identity wasn’t known; they only knew him by his pseudonym “Kraig.”

The seeds for “Kraig’s” fame were planted in the summer of 1970, when Kirk’s mother saw a television program featuring famed sexologist Dr. Richard Green describing a new federally-funded treatment program, called the Feminine Boy Project, at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. After hearing his spiel about the dangers of effeminate boys growing up to become homosexual, she became worried that her son was headed for trouble. So a month before his fifth birthday, she took him to UCLA where Kirk came under the care of a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. Ten months later, five-year-old Kirk was declared to be rid of his “severe gender identity disturbance,” and Kirk’s case would help Rekers earn his Ph.D. in 1972.

Two years later, Rekers published his case report of “Kraig” in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, where he described “Kraig’s” treatment and the astounding “success.” This was the first time anyone had reported curing a young child’s budding homosexuality or transgenderism — no one was ever quite sure what it was they though they saw in Kirk — and that paper became one of the more widely-cited papers in the late 1970s. Kirk’s case launched Rekers’s career, first as an acclaimed or controversial young psychologist (depending on one’s point of view at the time), and later as a significant anti-gay activist when he co-founded the Family Research Council in 1983. Throughout Rekers’s career he would write at least twenty papers describing Kirk’s case as an example of the power of his treatment program to prevent homosexuality and transgender identity in very young children. The most recent publication touting “Kraig’s” supposedly successful cure appeared in a 2009 book promoted by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), where Rekers served on its Scientific Advisory Committee. Of course, all of that was before Rekers was discovered returning from a European vacation in the company of a male escort in 2010.

But it wouldn’t be until 2011 when the truth about “Kraig” would finally emerge. Our award winning original BTB investigation revealed that Kirk’s therapy was highly abusive; that contrary to Rekers’s persistent reports, Kirk was not straight; that Kirk struggled all his life with the shame that his treatment at UCLA had been instilled in him; and that his struggle finally ended with his suicide in December of 2003. If Kirk were alive today, he would be fifty-one years old. His is still deeply missed by his mother, brother, sister and friends.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 23

From The Advocate, January 8, 1981, page 5.

From The Advocate, January 8, 1981, page 5.

Yesterday came news that the last manufacturer of the video cassette recorder will end production by the end of this month:

The last-known company still manufacturing the technology, the Funai Corporation of Japan, said in a statement Thursday that it would stop making VCRs at the end of this month, mainly because of “difficulty acquiring parts.”

…According to the company — which said in the statement, “We are the last manufacturer” of VCRs “in all of the world” — 750,000 units were sold worldwide in 2015, down from millions decades earlier.

…The first VCRs for homes were released in the 1960s, and they became widely available to consumers in the 1970s, when Sony’s Betamax and JVC’s VHS formats began to compete. VHS gained the upper hand the following decade; but Sony stopped producing Betamax cassette tapes only in 2016.

230037778_4e8c70e60eThe VCR and its constantly blinking “12:00” is credited for making binge watching and time-shifting possible possible for the first time. It made porn available to the masses for the first time, and it also created demand for on-demand video. Before VCRs came along, if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to hope it would be available at a local theater, and once the movie’s run was complete, it was as good as gone unless you were lucky enough to catch it on television sometime. VCRs changed all of that. Today, it’s all about Netflix and chill, but in the eighties and the nineties, it was a Blockbuster night.

I have to admit I was surprised to learn that VCRs were still being produced. And I’m even more surprised to learn that they sold 750,000 machines last year. Caetlin Benson-Allott, who teaches film and media studies at Georgtown, explains:

First of all, VHS has a longer shelf life than DVD. The average shelf life of a DVD is about 25 years given average use, and if it’s a DVD-R, it can be as short as five or 10 years, depending on the quality of manufacture. VHS, if stored right, is estimated to last 50 years. …Second, while the U.S. has gone over to digital television broadcasts, a lot of countries haven’t. Third and finally, because it is a mechanical device, there is the capacity to repair it yourself, assuming you can get or manufacture parts.

She mourns the VCR’s demise and thinks we’ve lost an important human connection because of it:

What I miss most—and I have to say I already miss this—about VHS are the video stores. I miss walking into the cornucopia that was my local Lincoln Video of Lincoln, Massachusetts, and finding out about some guy named Scorsese when I was way too young to be watching his movies. And then working back from him to other things that he liked. I miss having a relationship with a video clerk and the esoteric taste, the evolution of taste, that I got from knowing that guy or that gal. We have that in a sense with the you-might-also-like function on Netflix, but that’s an algorithm replacing a human relationship, which is never the same thing.

On June 24, President Ronald Reagan announced the creation of the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic, and two days later he appointed Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, to head the commission, despite Mayberry having no experience with the disease. Gay activists and people with AIDS were alarmed by the appointment, and demanded that the rest of the panel be made up of more qualified people, including representatives from the gay community. Anti-gay White House staff opposed that last demand, with Gary Bauer, Reagan’s chief domestic policy advisor, leading the resistance (Jun 30). In the end, Reagan apparently ignored Bauer’s advice. When Reagan announced the rest of the commission’s members on July 23, the list included Dr. Frank Lilly, a geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Lilly was also on the board of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis from 1984 to 1986, and he was openly gay.

Lilly’s appointment to a part time, purely advisory commission which did not require Senate confirmation appears to be the first Presidential appointment of an openly gay person, and his presence on the panel upset conservatives. Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) said that Reagan had caved in to demands by the gay community that “society accept their sexual practices as normal.” He warned that Reagan “should strive at all costs to avoid sending the message to society — especially to impressionable youth — that homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle. It is not. Homosexual practices are unnatural. The practice of homosexuality is immoral. The consequences of that immoral behavior is AIDS, and not only AIDS for homosexuals, but AIDS for many innocent victims, including children.”

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) lashed out by distributing pages from a comic book published by GMHC (“Lilly’s homosexual organization,” Helms called it) which included graphic depictions of safe-sex practices. Helms distributed those pages as part of a letter addressed “for senators’ eyes only” because “I think senators ought to know what the taxpayers’ money is being spent for, but I don’t want to help Lilly distribute this mess.” GMHC and the federal Public Health Service responded that the money used for Safer Sex Comix came from private donations, not government funds.

If conservatives were upset over Lilly’s appointment, other panelists named to the commission seemed to mollify those concerns. The most surprising nomination was New York Cardinal John, J. O’Connor, who had drawn the wrath of Act UP for publicly repudiating a National Conference of Catholic Bishops policy paper calling for AIDS educational programs even when they included information about condoms. Another conservative on the panel was Penny Pullen, Republican leader of the Illinois House of Representatives who sponsored legislation that would require a names-based HIV testing regime for marriage licenses, hospital admissions, and for all sex offenders and intravenous drug users, with additional tracing of sexual contacts for those who tested positive. Also named to the panel was Theresa Crenshaw, a controversial California sex therapist with a questionable resume who proposed barring students with AIDS from attend schools in San Diego. She also said that AIDS could be spread by insects, advised against “casual (dry) kissing” because AIDS patients “often carry other diseases,” and warned that AIDS “threatens our extinction.”

Reagan defended his more conservative choices: “When it comes to stopping the spread of AIDS, medicine and morality teach the same lessons.” The Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly also praised those selections saying she hoped the panel would “make recommendations to protect the uninfected from the infected.” But Jeff Levi, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said he did “not have high hopes for this commission.” Those fears appeared to be well-founded when Chairman Mayberry, the vice chairman and its only medical staff officer quit in October over turmoil within the commission.

The commission was quickly re-organized under the leadership of retired Admiral James Watkins. When the commission issued its report in 1988, it endorsed 580 specific recommendations including a call for state and federal anti-discrimination laws to protect people with AIDS. Another section harshly criticized funding cuts to public health services and the resulting impacts to the poor. It also recognized the work of gay community organizations which rose up to try to fill the gaps left by government inaction. “Semen, blood and ignorance surround this epidemic,” Watkins said at a press conference, “and we were in that last category.” He added, “The foremost obstacle to progress raised was the discrimination faced by those with HIV.” Such discrimination, he said, “is the rule, not the exception.”

Tim Sweeney, deputy executive director of GHMC, called the report “courageous, aggressive and compassionate. We challenge the President, Congress and presidential candidates to respond to this report by implementing its recommendations.” But the response to the report was muted. After all, it was a presidential election year with a lame-duck president waiting out the end of his term and a Congress whose attention focused solely on re-election.

charlotte-cushman200 YEARS AGO: (d. 1876) The American stage actress was from one of Boston’s oldest families, a direct descendent of Robert Cushman, a Pilgrim who helped organize the Mayflower voyage to Plymouth and who is credited for giving the first sermon on North American soil. But Charlotte was nothing like her Pilgrim forbearers or other proper Bostonian families. She would begin her life in the theater at thirteen, when she began singing opera to make money after her father died. She learned to sing from a friend of her father’s who owned a piano factory, and she is said to have possessed a remarkable contralto range. Her performance in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro was a great success.

But when her singing voice suddenly failed due to the strain of singing above her comfortable range, she switched gears and became a noted drama actress, with a particular flair for Shakespeare. In 1836, she made her dramatic debut in the lead role of Lady MacBeth to rave reviews. With her sister, fellow actress Susan Webb Cushman, they became famous for playing Romeo and Juliet together, with Charlotte playing Romeo to Susan’s Juliet.

Charlotte Cushman and Matilda Hays

Charlotte Cushman and Matilda Hays

In 1844, Cushman began traveling to Europe, where in 1848 she met journalist and sometime actress Matilda Hays. They began an affair and lived as a couple. They were known for dressing alike, and they immersed themselves in an expatriate community in Rome consisting mainly of lesbian artists. They also, separately, indulged in a number of tumultuous affairs. In 1857, Cushman began seeing the sculptor Emma Stebbins (Sep 1). When Hays discovered the affair,  the two underwent a violent argument, with Hays hitting Cushman and chasing her around the house. Hays left Cushman and sued her, saying that she had sacrificed her career to support Cushman’s. The two settled the case privately for an unknown sum, and parted ways.

Stebbins moved in with Cushman. A few months later, Cushman left Stebbins behind and returned to the U.S. for another tour. Before returning to Italy in 1861, Cushman performed at the Washington Theater in the title role of Hamlet. The poster for the production described her as “a lady universally acknowledged as the greatest living tragic actress.”

Charlotte Cushman and Emma Stebbins

Charlotte Cushman and Emma Stebbins

In 1869, Cushman underwent treatment for breast cancer, with Stebbins setting aside her sculpting to devote her energies to Cushman’s recovery. As Cushman recovered, she developed a career as a dramatic reader, reading scenes from Shakespeare, poetry, poems and humorous pieces. In 1871, the couple returned to the U.S. and Cushman embarked on a series of performances, many of them billed as her final appearance as either a dramatic reader or actress. Her final final stage performance was in May of 1875 at Boston’s Globe Theater, which was followed by a short tour of dramatic readings in Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse before retiring to her villa in Newport. She became ill in October of 1875, and moved to Boston for treatment, where she died the following February of pneumonia. As for Stebbins, she never produced another sculpture after Cushman died. Instead, she devoted her time to compiling their correspondence for Charlotte Cushman: Her Letters and Memories of Her Life.

(d. 1942) Trained as a lawyer though he never practiced, Edward Irenaeus Prime-Stevenson was known as a very cosmopolitan man of letters, befitting one who was born into a wealthy and cultured family. A master of nine languages, he wrote poetry, short fiction, magazine serials and travel essays for Harpers and The New York Independent before settling on music criticism. Early in his career, he wrote two books for boys: White Cockades: An Incident of the “Forty-Five” (1887), a historical fiction about a young Prince Pretender; and Left to Themselves: Being the Ordeal of Philip and Gerald (1891), which Prime-Stevenson described as “a romantic story in which a youth in his latter teens is irresistibly attracted to a much younger lad, and becomes, con amore, responsible for the latter’s personal safety, in a series of events that throw them together—for life.” While Left to Themselves didn’t contain any sexual content, it is believed to be the first gay novel for young adults.

It was at about that time that he began dividing his time between the U.S. and Europe, and by the time the century turned, he was spending most of his time, never quite settled, in a regular circuit that consisted of stays in London, Paris, Budapest, Florence, and Rome. His beloved mother had died and left him an independently wealthy man, and his great love, Henry Harkness Flager, the son of a railroad magnate, had dumped him to marry a woman. As Prime-Stevenson let it be known in a few of his letters, he found America too oppressive for one such as he.

While in Naples in 1906, he published his “little psychological romance,” Imre: A Memorandum, under the pen name of Xavier Mayne. Imre, about a young Hungarian military officer’s relationship with another man, was notable for two reasons. Not only was it the first American novel to deal openly and sympathetically with homosexuality, but its story line had a happily-ever-after ending.

Prime-Stevenson, again as Xavier Mayne, followed that with another book, The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life, which he published privately in Rome in 1908. (“Intersex” during this period was used to refer to gay men or women under the idea that they were members of the “intermediate sex”. “Simisexual” was an all-Latin version of the word “homosexual,” which scandalized some scholars for its hybridization — some said bastardization — of Greek and Latin roots.) This 646-page opus, dedicated to the memory of the German writer Richard von Krafft-Ebing (Aug 14), covered an incredible array of topics: homosexuality in the ancient world and among primitive peoples, animal studies, gay geniuses, literature, ancient and modern legal codes, male prostitution, blackmail, violence, and contemporary anecdotes, gossip and scandals. It is considered the first great defense of homosexuality in the English language, as in this passage (where he uses Krafft-Ebing’s “Uranian” to refer to gay men):

Happiest of all, surely, are those Uranians, ever numerous who have no wish nor need to fly society — or themselves. Knowing what they are, understanding the natural, the moral strength of their position as homosexuals; sure of right on their side, even if it be never accorded to them in the lands where they must live; fortunate in either due self-control or private freedom — day by day, they go on through their lives, self-respecting and respected, in relative peace

From 1913, Prime-Stevenson published Her Enemy, Some Friends — and Other Personages, a collection of short stories, many of them with overtly gay themes. This time, he published it under his own name. He stayed busy through the 1920s and 1930s, but by then he was writing mostly about music. When World War II broke out, he retreated to Lausanne, Switzerland, where he died in 1942.

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.

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