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Posts for May, 2014

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 3

Jim Burroway

May 3rd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Curaçao Pride, Curaçao; AIDS Walk Las Vegas, NV; Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Miami, FL; Hot Rodeo 2014, Palm Springs, CA; Prague Rainbow Spring, Prague, Czech Republic; São Paulo Pride, São Paulo, Brazil; Sitges International Bear Meeting, Sitges, Spain; Tokyo Pride, Tokyo, Japan.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Fountain, May 1979, page 19.

 
Portland, Oregon’s The Other Inn opened in 1964 as the city’s first documented leather bar. It’s first owner, Jim Frantz, later sold it to Mama Bernice, a former barmaid at another gay bar, who took the leather boys under her wing as her “little bluebirds.” Her daughter later ran the Dirty Duck. Portland’s Gay Community Center moved into a space on the second floor above the bar and neighboring laundry in 1972. The entire block was razed in 1982 and replaced with a parking lot for many years before being redeveloped into an office tower.

Sir Francis Bacon, looking fabulous as always

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Sr. Francis Bacon Accused of “His Most Abominable and Darling Sin”: 1621. On May 3, 1621, Sir Simonds D’Ewes published his political biography of Sir Francis Bacon, in which he accuses the great lawyer, scholar and “father of empiricism” of “his most abominable and darling sin.” D’Ewes continued, “I should rather bury in silence than mention it, were it not a most admirable instance of how men are enslaved by wickedness and held captive by the devil.” D’Ewes accused Bacon of “keeping still one Godrick, a very effeminate-faced youth, to be his catamite and bedfellow… deserting the bed of his Lady.” That same year, Bacon resigned as Lord Chancellor over accusations that he accepted payment from litigants, which, while against the law, was a widespread and accepted practice at the time. He quickly confessed to accepting payments, a confession that may have been prompted by threats to charge him with the capital offense of sodomy.

Medical Report of a Gay Civil War Veteran: 1921. Dr. Clarence P. Oberndorf, a New York City psychoanalyst, spoke at the Annual Meeting of the Medical Society of the State of New York in Brooklyn about one of his patients, a 74-year-old Civil War veteran who suffered from depression, saying “For sixty years I have been leading a double life.” He became aware of his feelings for other men at a very early age. “He preferred rough, coarse men, like longshoremen, husky and full of vitality. These he sought at intervals, while his acquaintances knew him as a refined gentleman interested in art and literature.” He never married. “In my younger days,” he remarked, “I used to grieve because of my affliction, but in later years I have become indifferent.”

Oberndorf’s goal was not to cure homosexuality per se. “Where treatment is undertaken for passive homoerotism in the male,” — active homosexuals, or “tops,” were not considered truly homosexual in the early 20th century — “psychoanalysis may powerfully influence the attitude of the patient toward his malady by removing some of the urgent neurotic fears which accompany the inversion. After analysis such an invert at least feels himself more reconciled to his passive homoeroticism than previously. I have had male passive homoerotics seek treatment with just such stipulations — not to be cured but to be made more content with their lives.”

[Source: Clarence P. Oberndorf. “Homosexuality.” New York Medical Journal 22, no. 4 (April 1922): 176-180. Available online here.]

MCC Wins Federal Grant to Resettle Gay Refugees: 1981. The Rev. Elder Freda Smith, vice moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, announced that the gay church had been awared a $380,000 grant from the Reagan Administration to resettle gay Cuban refugees who were currently being housed in four reception centers across the country. Rev. Smith said the church had already resettled nearly 500 gay Cubans who had arrived during the previous year during the Mariel boatlift that brought 127,000 refugees to southern Florida. The gay refugees had additional motives for joining the boatlift: “Gays are looked down in Cuba because homosexuality runs against the macho attitudes in the country,” Rev. Smith added.

Rev. Smith said that federal officials authorized the grant because the MCC was better equipped to resettle gay refugees than other groups. “We are an idea whose time has come,” she said. She also reveald that the church itself would front another $100,000 toward the effort.

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, May 2

Jim Burroway

May 2nd, 2014

Existentialism in New Mexico: On I-10 near Lordsville, NM.

 
Chris and I are back on the road again this morning, on our way from our home in Tucson Arizona to pick of our car from Sewell Ford in Odessa, Texas, where we left it more than a week ago with a broken-down transmission after only 55,000 miles. The folks at Sewell got it fixed under warranty more quickly than I thought they would and even faster than they thought they would — they had said that it might take a week before they could even look at it. But the service rep called Monday and said it was ready to be picked up. So we’re heading out again for the nine hour drive to get the car, drop off the rental car, and return back to Tucson by Sunday night. We’ll be sticking to the boring Interstates in a bid to make good time. Ya’ll behave while I’m gone. See you Monday.

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Curaçao Pride, Curaçao; AIDS Walk Las Vegas, NV; Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Miami, FL; Hot Rodeo 2014, Palm Springs, CA; Prague Rainbow Spring, Prague, Czech Republic; São Paulo Pride, São Paulo, Brazil; Sitges International Bear Meeting, Sitges, Spain; Tokyo Pride, Tokyo, Japan.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, April 29, 1974, page 16 (Click to enlarge).

 
The Continental Baths were more than just a bathhouse. It also featured the night club where Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, and Wayland Flowers got their start. Other featured big name performers included Cab Calloway, Nell Carter, John Davidson, Gloria Gaynor, Andy Kaufman, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Manhattan Transfer, the New York Dolls, Pointer Sisters, Johnnie Ray, Martha Raye, Rip Taylor, Tiny Tim, Sarah Vaughan, and, exactly forty years ago tonight, cabaret singer Jane Olivor in a fundraising benefit for the National Gay Task Force.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Disloyalty vs. Security Risk: 1950. So if you’ve been following along on the Daily Agendas (for example, Feb 28, Mar 14Mar 23, Apr 18Apr 26) you would have a pretty good feel for the incredible anti-gay hysteria that was sweeping the country in 1950. The twin scares — the Lavender Scare and the Red Scare — cemented in everyone’s mind the argument that gay people in federal employment, particularly in the State Department and in the armed forces, represented a security risk which, in the words of the GOP chairman, were “as dangerous as the actual Communists” (see Apr 18). On May 2, columnist James Marlow took the opportunity to provide a couple of hypothetical situations to explain to readers the difference between being disloyal and being a security risk:

1. Jones, completely loyal, is a good worker, sober on the job. But at night, sometimes or often, he gets drunk and talks too much. In the non-sensitive agriculture department that might not make much difference, as long as Jones did his work and kept out of trouble when drunk. In the commerce department, if Jones held a sensitive job, he might be considered a security risk: he might blab secrets when drunk.

The commerce department could do one of two things: fire Jones on the ground that he was “unsuitable” for government work; or transfer him to a non-sensitive job. But state department officials say that if Jones worked there and was considered a security risk, he’d be fired. (The say emphatically they keep no known security risks or disloyal persons on the payroll, although Senator McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, says the place is full of them.)

2. Smith is found to be a homosexual. He’s completely loyal but because of his secret sex habits may some day run into an individual or group which would blackmail him. In the state department, he’d be considered a security risk and out, officials there say.

Officials of other government agencies, sensitive and non-sensitive, told this writer they would get rid of a homosexual on the grounds that he was “unsuitable” for government employment, not because he was a security risk.

L-R: Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and John Fryer as “Dr. H. Anonymous”

“Dr. H. Anonymous” Addresses the APA: 1972. For several years, gay activists Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31) and Frank Kameny (see May 21), among others, saw the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness as the single greatest impediment to equal rights for gays and lesbians. As long as the APA labeled gay people as sick, the government had an excuse to refuse to hire them, immigration authorities could refuse to allow them into the country, and thousands of therapists could continue to inflict harmful and questionable treatments to try to “cure” their patients (see, for example, see Jan 18Jan 20, Mar 29, Jun 3Jul 26Oct 30Dec 8, and our award-winning investigation, What are Little Boys Made Of?).

For Gittings and Kameny in particular, getting the APA to change its stance was a pressing priority. After years of protesting APA conventions as outsiders (see May 14), they finally were given permission in 1972 to organize a panel on homosexuality for that year’s convention in Dallas. The panel’s topic was to be “Lifestyles of Non-Patient Homosexuals.” Gittings and Kameny were part of the panel, and they had recruited three other prominent psychiatrists, Judd Marmor, Robert Siedenberg and Kent Robinson. But they also felt it was important to include a professional psychiatrist who was gay. Finding one who would agree to speak was virtually impossible. Everyone they asked turned them down, except one: John Fryer (see Nov 7), and he would only do it in disguise. He wore a mask, wig, and a suit several sizes too big (which was not easy to find since Fryer was already a big man to begin with), and he spoke into a microphone which distorted his voice. And with all of those precautions in place, American psychiatrists, for the first time, heard a fellow psychiatrist by the name of “Dr. H. Anonymous” describe what it was like to be gay in a profession that considered him sick. His speech was short, but to the point:

Thank you, Dr. Robinson. I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist. I, like most of you in this room, am a member of the APA and am proud to be a member. However, tonight I am, insofar as in it is possible, a “we.” I attempt tonight to speak for many of my fellow gay members of the APA as well as for myself. When we gather at these conventions, we have a group, which we have glibly come to call the Gay-PA. And several of us feel that it is time that real flesh and blood stand up before you and ask to be listened to and understood insofar as that is possible. I am disguised tonight in order that I might speak freely without conjuring up too much regard on your part about the particular WHO I happen to be. I do that mostly for your protection. I can assure you that I could be any one of more than a hundred psychiatrists registered at this convention. And the curious among you should cease attempting to figure out who I am and listen to what I say.

We homosexual psychiatrists must persistently deal with a variety of what we shall call ‘Nigger Syndromes.’ We shall describe some of them and how they make us feel.

As psychiatrists who are homosexual, we must know our place and what we must do to be successful. If our goal is academic appointment, a level of earning capacity equal to our fellows, or admission to a psychoanalytic institute, we must make certain that no one in a position of power is aware of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Much like the black man with the light skin who chooses to live as a white man, we cannot be seen with our real friends — our real homosexual family — lest our secret be known and our dooms sealed. There are practicing psychoanalysts among us who have completed their training analysis without mentioning their homosexuality to their analysts. Those who are willing to speak up openly will do so only if they have nothing to lose, then they won’t be listened to.

As psychiatrists who are homosexuals, we must look carefully at the power which lies in our hands to define the health of others around us. In particular, we should have clearly in our minds, our own particular understanding of what it is to be a healthy homosexual in a world, which sees that appellation as an impossible oxymoron. One cannot be healthy and be homosexual, they say. One result of being psychiatrists who are homosexual is that we are required to be more healthy than our heterosexual counterparts. We have to make some sort of attempt through therapy or analysis to work problems out. Many of us who make that effort are still left with a sense of failure and of persistence of “the problem.” Just as the black man must be super person, so must we, in order to face those among our colleagues who know we are gay. We could continue to cite examples of this sort of situation for the remainder of the night. It would be useful, however, if we could now look at the reverse.

What is it like to be a homosexual who is also a psychiatrist? Most of us Gay-PA members do not wear our badges into the Bayou Landing, [a gay bar in Dallas] or the local Canal Baths. If we did, we could risk the derision of all the non-psychiatrist homosexuals. There is much negative feeling in the homosexual community towards psychiatrists. And those of us, who are visible, are the easiest targets from which the angry can vent their wrath. Beyond that, in our own hometowns, the chances are that in any gathering of homosexuals, there is likely to be any number of patients or paraprofessional employees who might try to hurt us professionally in a larger community if those communities enable them to hurt us that way.

Finally, as homosexual psychiatrists, we seem to present a unique ability to marry ourselves to institutions rather than wives or lovers. Many of us work twenty hours daily to protect institutions that would literally chew us up and spit us out if they knew the truth. These are our feelings, and like any set of feelings, they have value insofar as they move us toward concrete action.

Here, I will speak primarily to the other members of the Gay-PA who are present, not in costume tonight. Perhaps you can help your fellow psychiatrist friends understand what I am saying. When you are with professionals, fellow professionals, fellow psychiatrists who are denigrating the “faggots” and the “queers,” don’t just stand back, but don’t give up your careers either. Show a little creative ingenuity; make sure you let your associates know that they have a few issues that they have to think through again. When fellow homosexuals come to you for treatment, don’t let your own problems get in your way, but develop creative ways to let the patient know that they’re all right. And teach them everything they need to know. Refer them to other sources of information with basic differences from your own so that the homosexual will be freely able to make his own choices.

Finally, pull up your courage by your bootstraps and discover ways in which you and homosexual psychiatrists can be closely involved in movements which attempt to change the attitudes of heterosexuals — and homosexuals — toward homosexuality. For all of us have something to lose. We may not be considered for that professorship. The analyst down the street may stop referring us his overflow. Our supervisor may ask us to take a leave of absence. We are taking an even bigger risk, however, not accepting fully our own humanity, with all of the lessons it has to teach all the other humans around us and ourselves. This is the greatest loss: our honest humanity. And that loss leads all those others around us to lose that little bit of their humanity as well. For, if they were truly comfortable with their own homosexuality, then they could be comfortable with ours. We must use our skills and wisdom to help them — and us — grow to be comfortable with that little piece of humanity called homosexuality.

The panel was a sensation. Despite the august credentials held by the other psychiatrists, their contributions to the discussion were all but ignored. Dr. Anonymous’s speech was the only thing people talked about. The “Dr. Anonymous” speech proved to be a critical turning point. The following year, Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was editor of the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual, met quietly with the Gay-PA and began the process of removing homosexuality from the authoritative manual. That process was completed by the end of the year (see Dec 15)

But on that day, the end goal still seemed to be very far away. But Fryer, despite his initial hesitation, was elated. The next day as he was flying back to Boston from Dallas, Fryer wrote in his diary:

The day has passed — it has come and gone and I am still alive. For the first time, I have identified with a force which is akin to my selfhood. I am not Black. I am not alcoholic. I am not really addicted. I am homosexual, and I am the only American psychiatrist who has stood up on a podium to let real flesh and blood tell this nation it is so.

[You can see Dr. Fryer's handwritten speech here and his diary entry here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Lesley Gore: 1946. She was still a junior in high school in 1963 when her single, “It’s My Party” shot to number one, was nominated for a Grammy, and sold over one million copies. She followed that with a string of top forty hits: “Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “She’s a Fool,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and another Grammy nominated hit, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.” Her fame led to a cameo in the beach party movie, The Girls on the Beach, which also included an early appearance by the Beach Boys, and she played the villain, Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s acolytes, in the Batman TV series. In 1980, she won an Academy Award, with her brother Michael, for the song  “Out Here On My Own” for the Fame soundtrack. In 2005, Gore revealed in an interview that she was a lesbian, and had been living with her partner since 1982.

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, May 1

Jim Burroway

May 1st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Curaçao Pride, Curaçao; AIDS Walk Las Vegas, NV; Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Miami, FL; Hot Rodeo 2014, Palm Springs, CA; Prague Rainbow Spring, Prague, Czech Republic; São Paulo Pride, São Paulo, Brazil; Sitges International Bear Meeting, Sitges, Spain; Tokyo Pride, Tokyo, Japan.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, December 19, 1973, page 46.

 
The River Club was among the earliest clubs to advertise in the Los Angeles Advocate in 1968. Located near the entrance to Griffith Park and across the Golden State Freeway from the delightful riparian entertainments of the Los Angeles River, it was popular among Latinos, due mainly to its being far from the barrios and the prying eyes of friends and neighbors. It also attracted a smaller number of African-Americans for similar reasons, although there were also other bars that catered to that community closer to home. The River Club’s reputation as a friendly place for people of color made it an attractive location for Asians in the mid-1970s, and it maintained its international character right up until it closed in the early 1980s. The bar is gone and replaced with an apartment complex.

Romaine Brooks, Self Portrait, 1923.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
140 YEARS AGO: Romaine Brooks: 1874-1970. The American painter worked mostly in France, where she was surrounded by the brilliant colors of Fauvism and the decompositional attitudes of cubism, but her work hearkened back to the style of James Whistler. She was born Beatrice Romaine Goddard, and in 1903 she married John Ellingham Brooks. He was gay, but he couldn’t take her gender-bending manner of dress and hairstyle. Their marriage lasted only a year, but she wound up keeping his name. The following year, she discarded the bright colors of her works which were so fashionable and adopted the darker, more subdued colors which would become her trademark.

Brooks took a string of unconventional lovers, including the American heiress Winnaretta Singer and Lord Alfred Douglas (Oscar Wilde’s former lover), and the Russian ballerina Ida Rubinstein, who Brooks painted more than any other subject. Her paintings were almost all portraits, and very nearly all of them of women. By 1925, she had been featured in several successful solo exhibitions in Paris, London and New York, but after that year she produced only four more paintings. She briefly took up line drawing in 1930, but dropped that by 1935. Her longtime partner, Natalie Barney, also became her manager and continued to arrange shows for her. But after the Second World War, Brooks became increasingly reclusive and paranoid. By 1969, Brooks’s paranoia led her to stop communicating with Barney entirely. Brooks died in 1970 at the age of 96.

Michael Dillon: 1915-1962. The first transman to undergo sex-reassignment surgery, he started life as Laura. His mother died just ten days after his birth. He was raised by two aunts in Kent, England, studied at Oxford, and began working at a research lab in Gloucestershire. He had long decided that he was not truly the woman others thought he was, so in 1939 sought treatment from a doctor who was experimenting with teststerone. But before getting the testosterone pills from his doctor, the doctor insisted that Dillon see a psychiatrist, who violated Dillon’s confidentiality by blabbing about him all over town.

Dillon quit his professional job and fled to Bristol where he took a job at a mechanic’s garage. The hormones, by then, were having their effect and he was able to present himself as a man. In 1939 when Dillon was in the hospital for hypoglycemia, he came to the attention of a plastic surgeon, a specialty that was still exceedingly rare at the time. That surgeon agreed to perform a double mastectomy, provided the necessary paperwork so Dillon could correct his birth certificate, and put him in touch with another plastic surgeon, Harold Gilles, who was already being regarded as “the father of plastic surgery.”

Giles was in high demand to reconstruct penises for injured soldiors and he had also begun working with intersex people with ambiguous genitalia. He was willing to perform Dillon’s phalloplasty, but he already had a long line of wounded soldiers in front of him. So while Dillon was waiting for his surgery, he enrolled in medical school under his new legal name and became a physician.

When Dr. Giles was finally ready to perform the first of at least thirteen surgeries between 1946 and 1949, he entered an official diagnosis of acute hypospadias, a rare birth defect of the penis, in order to conceal the fact that he as performing the world’s first FtM reassignment surgery. Whenever Dillon returned to college following surgery, he attributed his limp and infections to war injuries. He also published a book, Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology, one of the first books to describe what would later be called transsexuality and transgenderism.

Dillon didn’t discuss his own history in Self; that would come out in 1958 when his aristocratic roots would betray him, when Debrett’s Peerage listed him as the legitimate heir to his brother’s baronetcy, while another guide, Burke’s Peerage, mentioned only a sister — referring to Dillon before he transitioned. By then Dillon was a ship’s doctor, and his ship was docked in Baltimore when the news of his sex reassignment broke. Reporters threatened to tear off his clothe4s to see the evidence of his surgery. Dillon fled to India where he began studying Buddhism, entered  a monastery and took the name Lobzang Jivaka. His problems weren’t over however, as his fellow monks and superiors refused to recognize him as male. He nevertheless wrote two books on Buddhism before dying on May 15, 1962 at the age of 47.

Tad Mosel: 1922-2008. It’s a sad commentary on where television has gone that its first decade of widespread existence is often looked upon as its golden age. That’s when people were still trying to figure out how to make the new medium work as an art form. Productions were on a shoestring budget, and in the very early years most programs went out live, forcing the actors and crew to stay alert and think on their feet. That immediacy made for compelling television that’s not often seen today.

Mosel was born in Steubenville, but the family moved to New York City shortly after his father’s grocery business failed following the stock market crash. His early exposure to Broadway in 1936 opened the young Mozel’s eyes to the theater. After serving in World War II, he studied at Amherst, did graduate work at Yale Drama School, and earned a Masters at Columbia. He quickly found a place in television in 1949, shortly after commercial broadcasting began in New York City, with his first teleplay on Chevrolet Tele-Theater. He considered that job a diversion, nothing more than an opportunity to make a little money — very little money because no “self-respecting writer” would dare write for TV — before returning to the theater. As he recalled in 1997,

Even drunken screenwriters wouldn’t write for television. So who was there left? It was us. It was kids who would work for 65 cents. And so with a very patronizing attitude you thought, “Well, if I could make a few bucks doing that, it would give me time to write the great American play.” It didn’t take too much experience to realize that television was a medium all in itself, and that it was a career all in itself, and it was a thrilling one. But we stumbled into it by being snobs if I may say so. They would give anyone a chance. I look back on it, and I think, “Weren’t we lucky to be there?” Because it was pure luck that we were there.

He went on to become a major script writer for television drama, with plays appearing on Goodyear Television Playhouse (1953-54), Medallion Theater (1953-1954), Philco Television Playhouse (1954) and Producer’s Showcase (1955), Studio One (1957-58), and CBS’s prestigious Playhouse 90 (1957-1959). He returned to theater in 1960 with All the Way Home, which opened to critical acclaim and earned him a 1961 Pulitzer. The play was also adapted for television and film in 1963. He continued writing screenplays until retiring in the 1980s. He died at age 86 of cancer in 2008. His partner of more than 40 years, graphic designer Raymond Tatro, had died thirteen years earlier.

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, April 30

Jim Burroway

April 30th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Curaçao Pride, Curaçao; AIDS Walk Las Vegas, NV; Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Miami, FL; Hot Rodeo 2014, Palm Springs, CA; Prague Rainbow Spring, Prague, Czech Republic; Sitges International Bear Meeting, Sitges, Spain; Tokyo Pride, Tokyo, Japan.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, April 29, 1974, page 15.

 
The Greenwich Village club opened sometime before 1960 as Trude Heller’s Versailles Club, but the name seems to have been quickly shortened to that of the very out and very loud lesbian who owned the joint. One former performer remembered:

She required rockers to rock—no ballads. She’d go crazy with rage whenever we sang a ballad. I’d look down from the stage and see her getting angry, then she’d run over to the light switch and start flicking it on and off, screaming, “C’mon! C’mon! Let’s twist already! Let’s twist the night away! Come on, baby, let’s do the f**kin’ twist!…All she wanted was action and for the place to rock.

In the 1970s, Trude’s featured live music sets with disco dancing inbetween with go-go dancer of both sexes dancing all night long. The music also changed with the times, featuring more funk and cabaret. Featured bands throughout Trude’s two-decade reign included Joey Dee and the Starlighters, the Allman Joys (featuring a houng Duane and Gregg Allman), Otis Redding, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Manhattan Transfer, the Mumps, and an early Beastie Boys. Celebrities also came calling, including George Hamilton, George Peppard, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, Marlon Brando, Bob Hope, Andy Warhol, David Nivens, Rudolf Nureyev, Salvador Dali (with a pet ocelot as his date), and even the ultimate loner Greta Garbo. It appears that the club finally closed sometime in the early 1980s. Today the address houses a sandwich shop called Lenny’s.

“I’m gay,” says Ellen, directly into the microphone.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Ellen” Comes Out: 1997. Ellen DeGeneres had already come out as a lesbian publicly two weeks earlier with a Time magazine cover story titled, “Yep, I’m Gay.” But Ellen Morgan, her clumsy, nervous, and eager-to-please character on her weekly sitcom, Ellen was as closeted as ever, although hints were dripping out throughout season four. Ellen’s character finally came tumbling out in her characteristically awkward fashion when she met Susan, a lesbian television producer who assumed that Ellen was also gay. Although Ellen denied it, much of the episode dwelled on her trying to come to terms with the fact that she really, really liked Susan — in that way. When Ellen was told that Susan was about to leave town, Ellen rushed to the airport and, after much hemming and hawing, finally said it: “I’m gay” — while inadvertently saying it directly into the public address microphone that carried her announcement throughout the terminal.

Getting the episode to air was easier than you might think. Network executives had become antsy about the series’ lackluster ratings and lack of focus, and DeGeneres wasn’t much interested in fixing the problem by relying on the standard sitcom formulas of dating and relationships. One producer suggested that maybe Ellen could get a puppy, an indication of how desperate the producers were to think that a puppy was all that was missing. That plot element was discarded, but the suggestion lived on in the episode’s title, “The Puppy Episode.” ABC and Disney agreed to their next plan, which was for Ellen to come out as lesbian. After rejecting the first script for not going far enough — “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it,” Disney executive Dean Valentine reportedly said — they began production on the episode on March 7.

Word spread, and the backlash soon followed. The studio received one bomb threat, and DeGeneres was followed to work by a “suspicious man” at least once. The American Family Association called for an advertiser boycott, as they always do, leading Chrysler to refuse to buy advertising time for the “Puppy Episode,” along with did J.C. Penney. (DeGeneres would become the advertising face for J.C. Penney in 2012, prompting yet another AFA boycott.) Wendy’s dropped Ellen from its sponsorship altogether, and ABC affiliate WBMA in Birmingham, Alabama refused to air the episode. Jerry Falwell displayed his monumental ingenuity by calling DeGeneres “Ellen Degenerate,” to which DeGeneris responded, “I’ve been getting that since the fourth grade.” Laura Dern, who played Susan, was unable to find work for a year and a half because of the episode.

“The Puppy Episode” however was the highest-rated episode of Ellen ever, drawing some 42 million viewers. It won two Emmys, a Peabody, and a GLAAD Media Award. Ellen was renewed for another season, but each subsequent episode was prefaced with a parental warning. Ratings dropped, perhaps because of the backlash, perhaps because of the warning, but also perhaps because so many episodes wound up dealing with gay-specific issues which were of little interest to the larger audience. At any rate, Ellen was cancelled after the end of Season 5.

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The Admiral Duncan immediately after the blast (Click to enlarge).

15 YEARS AGO: London Gay Pub Bombed: 1999. It was the start of a bank holiday weekend in Britain, and the venerable Admiral Duncan pub in Soho was packed with people getting an early start. Londoners that Friday evening were only somewhat wary following two unsolved bombings earlier that month in Brixton (April 17) and East London (April 24). Fortunately, nobody died in either bombing, although sixty one were injured, including a two year old toddler with a four inch nail embedded in his brain. Police narrowed the search to neo-Nazi David Copeland based on a CCTV image from the Brixton blast. Brixton was targeted because of its black population, while the East London neighborhood was largely inhabited by South Asian immigrants. Some feared that the next target might be Jewish, or possibly gay. One gay pub in Soho had put up a poster warning customers to be vigilant for any suspicious activity, but most people thought that his motivations were more racist than homophobic. That theory was quickly dispelled at 6:37 p.m. when a nail bomb that had been left in a bag at the Pub’s entrance went off. Jonathan Cash, who would later write a play about the bombing, described it this way:

“The loudest, most alien sound I have ever heard ripped through the pub and smashed into my head. I don’t know how long it went on – a couple of seconds, perhaps – then the most enormous crunch of something structural and solid. I felt no pain, just terror. My eyes were ringing, my nose filled with sulphurous dust and, in the blink of an eye, I saw unrecognisable shapes flying past towards the doors. With the dust and smoke, I could see little more than six inches in front of me. Somehow I was on the floor. Then I heard the screaming. I didn’t make any sound. Or perhaps I did. I can’t remember.”

Nick Moore, John Light, and Andrea and Julian Dykes.

Andrea Dykes, 27, who was four months pregnant, was killed instantly, along with two friends, Nick More, 31 and John Light, 32. About seventy were injured, including Dykes’s husband, Julian, who remained in a coma for three weeks. Four of the injured required amputations.

Police tracked Copeland down later that night and arrested him. He told them that he had hoped that his bombings would inflame racial tensions and create a backlash that would generate popular support for the radical-right British National Party. On June 30, 2000, a court sentenced Copeland to six life sentences, and in 2007 the High Court ruled that he should remain in prison for at least 50 years, guaranteeing that he will remain put away until at least the age of 73. There is now a memorial chandelier with an inscription and a plaque at the Admiral Duncan to remember those where were killed and injured.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Alice B. Toklas: 1877.Born in San Francisco, she met Gertrude Stein (see Feb 3) on the very first day that she arrived in Paris, on September 8, 1907. They remained inseparable for the next thirty-nine years until Stein’s death in 1946. Together, they hosted one of the more illustrious salons that attracted the best writers and painters of the Paris avant-garde, including American expats Ernest Hemingway, Thorton Wilder, and Paul Bowles. Stein and Toklas were early patrons of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and they were also patrons of some rather unsavory characters before and during World War II. Their support for the Vichy government went far beyond considerations of wartime survival. They could have easily escaped to Switzerland, but their friendship with the anti-Semitic Bernard Faÿ and open admiration for Vichy leader Marshal Philippe Pétain (Stein translated a collection of Pétain’s speeches into English to bring them to a wider audience) gave them privileges denied ordinary French citizens, let alone those who were both Jewish and gay.

Toklas was Stein’s partner in every way: cook, lover, editor, critic and muse. Stein gave her own autobiography the tongue-in-cheek title of The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, while Toklas’s 1954 memoir was titled The Alice B Toklas Cookbook. It was, technically I suppose, a cookbook — there are three hundred recipes, including the famous brownie recipe titled “Haschich Fudge” — but it’s was more accurately a memoir of the many dinners that Toklas and Stein hosted for their famous friends over the years. In 1963, Toklas really did write an autobiography, What Is Remembered, but it ends abruptly with Stein’s death in 1946, much as Toklas’s own life did in many ways. Their relationship being legally unrecognized, Stein’s relatives plundered the couples’ art collection and left Toklas in poor financial and physical health. She died in poverty in 1967 at the age of 89, and was buried next to Stein in the Peré Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, April 29

Jim Burroway

April 29th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, March 15, 1972, page 35.

 
San Francisco’s Polk Street in the 1960s had been lined with rather conventional bars and restaurants, but as the gay bars began to move in, the businesses which had been there catering to the straight crowd saw their business dry up. In 1970, a restaurant at 1695 Polk remodeled and re-opened as On the Q.T., with a name that gave a nod to the dual life that many gay people were living at the time. It began as a piano bar/cabaret and fine restaurant. It remained there until 1979, when it closed, moved to 1312 Polk Street, re-opened as QT II, and became one of San Francisco’s better known hustler bars.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
The San Francisco Streetcar Murder: 1961. It was late on a Friday night, actually shortly after midnight on Saturday morning, when William P. Hall, 27, was waiting near his San Francisco home for a streetcar on the J line at 19th and Church Street alongside Dolores Park. He was on his way to a dinner date with a theater manager at a North Beach pizza parlor when a car pulled up and three youths, Larry Magee 16, of 116 Tiffany Avenue, Robert Hall, 17 (and no relation to William Hall), and William Castillo, 17, both of 680 Castro Street, piled out. “Are you a queer?”, one of them asked. Hall replied “What if I asked you that question?” And that’s when the trouble really began.

Hall was a well-liked teacher in Marin County, but that night he was accosted by four young men “looking to roll a queer,” as they later admitted. They beat him mercilessly until his was unconscious, took his wallet containing $2.85, and left him lying on the trolley tracks. They then went piled back to the car, driven by Michael Kilkenny, 16, of 710 Castro Street, (and who police later said was the mastermind of the whole idea) and fled the scene. They then went looking in Buena Vista Park for other homosexuals to roll that night, although they later told police they didn’t find any. Car trouble finally ended the spree for the night.

A few minutes after they left Hall on the J line, a streetcar came along and was unable to stop in time before Hall was “ground to death beneath the wheels,” according to one news report. The motorman first told police that he thought he might have seen Hall feebly waving his arms as the streetcar approached, but later he said he wasn’t sure if Hall had moved. Firemen worked for nearly an hour to jack the streetcar up, but Hall died from his injuries before he could be freed.

About a week later, an anonymous tip led police to arrest the four youths, who, according to a San Francisco News-Call-Bulletin report, were quite proud of what they did:

“They said they considered Hall’s death justifiable homicide,” said Inspector Robert McLellan, who with Inspector William Guthrie helped crack the baffling case. “They seem to regard the beating up of whomever they consider sex deviates as a civic duty.”

The officers made clear Hall certainly was not in that unfortunate category.

“This is the first time we ever took anything,” one youth said, admitting the beating they gave Hall was not the first they had administered. “Most of the time, one of these guys comes up and says something suggestive. Then we jump him.” This boy said he knew of as many as 50 youths in his neighborhood who have taken part in similar attacks.

A later news report added:

“I know one fellow,” volunteered Magee, “who has 28 or 29 queers to his credit. They’re all over the city. This is becoming a homosexual town. They’re even coming into the Mission District. You can’t even go out to Dolores Park any more.”

And what qualifies a teenager to diagnose anyone as a sex deviate?

“Well,” Magee replied, “we ask ‘em.”

All four teens had juvenile police records which included battery, burglary, disturbing the peace, and auto theft. Kilkenny’s father defending his son as “very studious” and “an upright young man.” But Castillo’s father was more forthcoming. “He’s a bum,” he said, tearfully, while blaming Kilkenny for being a bad influence. On September 8, all four teens were found guilty of first degree murder and robbery, charges which carried automatic life sentences.

[Sources: "'Queer Hunting' Among Teenagers." Mattachine Review 7, no. 6 (June 1961): 6-15.

Del McIntire (pseudonym). "Tangents." ONE 9, no. 7 (July 1961): 17-19.

"Four Youths Guilty in Streetcar Slaying." Mattachine Review 7, no. 10 (October 1961): 24.]

“I Am Proud Of My Gay Son”: 1972. Frustration had been growing in New York City’s gay community over the lack of news coverage of the gay rights movement since the Stonewall rebellion nearly three years before. When journalists and politicians gathered for the Fiftieth Annual Inner Circle dinner and comedy roast at the New York Hilton, members of the Gay Activists Alliance saw a perfect opportunity for a protest. But when they entered the ballroom during the intermission to distribute leaflets and briefly take the stage, they were thrown out. A fight ensued in the hallway, where, according to several city officials who witnessed the melee, Michael Maye, president of the city’s Uniformed Firefighters Association, threw twenty-one year old Morty Manford down an escalator, then kicked and stopped him. (Despite the numerous witnesses, Maye was later acquitted of the assault.)

Manford’s parents were outraged by the attack, and in April 29, Jeanne Manford’s letter appeared in the New York Post announcing her unquestioned support for her son:

A Fair Chance

I would like to commend The Post for its coverage last week of the tragic incident that took place at the Inner Circle dinner, when hoodlums who work for our city were allowed to beat up the young men of the Gay Activists Alliance and walk away while our police stood by watching. It might be that these “men” have themselves some deep rooted sexual problems or they would not have become so enraged as to commit violence in beatings.

I am proud of my son, Morty Manford, and the hard work he has been doing in urging homosexuals to accept their feelings and not let the bigots and sick people take advantage of them in the ways they have done in the past and are continuing to do.

I hope that your honest and forthright coverage of the incident has made many of the gays who have been fearful gain courage to come out and join the bandwagon. They are working for a fair chance at employment and dignity and to become a vocal and respected minority. It is a fight for recognition such as all minority groups must wage and needs support from outsiders as well as participants in the movements.

Jeanne Manford

Two months later, Jeanne would walk alongside her son during the New York City Gay Pride Parade, carrying a hand-lettered sign that read, “Parents of Gays United in Support of Our Children.” She later recalled that as they walked along the parade route spectators cheered and “young people were hugging me, kissing me, screaming, asking if I would talk to their parents. Very few of them were out to their parents for fear of rejection.” That when Jeanne and her husband, Jules, got the idea of starting a local support group for parents of gays and lesbians. That support group grew to become the internationally-renowned Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), with 350 chapters more than 200,000 members in the U.S. Jeane Manford passed away in 2013 at the age of 92.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, April 28

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, April 14, 1983, page 67.

 
Uncle Charlie’s began in two Manhattan locations in the mid 1970s: Uncle Charlie’s North was at 1049 Lexington Avenue near 75th street in the Upper East Side, and Uncle Charlie’s South was at 581 3rd Avenue at 38th Street in the Murray Hill neighborhood. The north location eventually closed (it is now a specialty stationary story), and South was joined by Uncle Charlie’s restaurant across the street and down a block at 542 3rd Avenue. Uncle Charlie’s Downtown opened on Greenwich Avenue at around 1980. I don’t know when Uncle Charlie’s South or the restaurant closed, but South today is home to a sushi bar, and the restaurant location became a Mediterranean bar and restaurant. Uncle Charlie’s Downtown closed in 1997 and became an Irish pub. Uncle Charlie’s is still around (although I’m not quite sure of its provenance) as a gay piano bar.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gay Bar Bombed in Greenwich Village: 1990. A home-made pipe bomb exploded shortly after midnight early Saturday morning at Uncle Charlie’s Downtown Bar, a popular video-bar in Greenwich Village. Damage to the building was described as minor, but at least three patrons were injured. Frizzell Green, said he was in the bar when the blast went off in a trash can, about five or six feet away from him. At first, police investigators told reporters that they didn’t consider the bombing to be bias-related. Gay rights activists disagreed, and organized a march on Saturday evening. Three to five hundred people gathered at Uncle Charlie’s and walked the ten blocks to the Sixth Precinct, blocking traffic and chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho! Homophobia has got to go!”

The bombing went unsolved for five years, until February 1995 when Federal prosecutors charged El Sayyid A. Nosair with the attack. Nosair, one of the leaders of a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist group, was already serving a prison sentence for assault and possession of an illegal firearm in connection with the murder of radical Jewish Rabbi Meir Kahane. Bizarrely, the jury acquitted him of murder, leaving the judge in December 1991 to sentence Nosair to 7⅓ to 22 years in prison, the maximum allowed by law. So when Federal officials charged him again in 1995 for bombing the gay bar and conspiring to blow up other New York landmarks including the World Trade Center, he was found guilty of seditious conspiracy with other defendants, including the blind sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, and sentenced to life imprisonment. At last report, Nosair was serving his sentence at the federal Supermax facility in Florence, Colorado.

TODAY’s BIRTHDAY:
Ryan Skipper: 1981-2007. Ryan would be celebrating his thirty-third birthday if Joseph Beardon and William Brown, Jr., hadn’t stabbed him more than 20 times, slit his throat, stole his car, left his body on a dark rural road in Wahneta, Florida, and bragged to friends that they killed him because he was “a faggot” on March 14, 2007. Jurors in Beardon and Brown’s trial were visibly shaken when they saw the autopsy photos. The coroner testified that it was the cut to the throat that killed him. The cut was 3.5 inches deep, tearing through skin, tissue, muscles and, more fatally, an artery. Ryan quickly bled to death within minutes. Bearden and Brown tried to clean the car so they could sell it. But it was too badly soaked with blood to be cleaned and they didn’t have a copy of the car’s title to sell it, so they abandoned it on a dock on Lake Pansy in Winter Haven and set it on fire. The flames only caused minor damage, and investigators were able to retrieve both of their fingerprints from the car.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Bearden, but jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder instead of first-degree murder as charged. He was also found guilty of theft of a motor vehicle, accessory after the fact, tampering with evidence, and dealing in stolen property. He was sentenced to life in prison. A few months later, Brown was found guilty of first degree murder, robbery, arson, and tampering with evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first degree murder conviction, another life term for the armed robbery with a deadly weapon, fifteen years for arson, and a five for tampering with evidence.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, April 27

Jim Burroway

April 27th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Philadelphia, PA (Black Pride); Potsdam, Germany; Tokyo, Japan.

Other Events This Weekend: Rodeo in the Rock, Little Rock, AR; AIDS Walk, Miami, FL; Side By Side International LGBT Film Festival, Moscow, Russia; White Party, Palm Springs, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, June, 1974, page 2.

 
According to Outhistory.org:

In the early 1960s, the Golden Horseshoe became Seattle’s first regular-hours bar where men could dance openly with men. In exchange for this “privilege,” the owners had to pay the police $50 per week, plus $15 a night for a cop to monitor the door on Fridays and Saturdays. Police pay-offs were common in this time period, a means of fending off harassment and keeping the bars open. In the late ’60s, a group of bar owners joined forces with the FBI to expose the pay-off system; scores of Seattle police were dismissed and some were sent to prison.

At one time, Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood was the center of gay nightlife before it all moved to Capitol Hill. More recently, the Golden Horseshoe’s former location housed an art gallery.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“A Closer Union Than That Of Most Marriages”: 1892. Mary Grew was the daughter of the Baptist preacher Henry Grew of Boston, who, after moving to Hartford, co-founded the Hartford Female Seminary and the Hartford Peace Society, which became a part of the larger New England Anti-Slavery Society. The elder Mary followed her father in his abolitionist footsteps. In 1840, she accompanied her father to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. But the convention’s most severe debates centered not on slavery, but whether women should be permitted to participate in the conference. The elder Grew sided with the conference organizers who demanded that women be excluded. Mary’s exclusion, which was supported by her own father, opened her eyes to the need to join the cause of women’s suffrage.

Grew dedicated her life to feminism and abolitionism, the latter cause shifting to civil rights for African-Americans following the civil war. Her lifelong companion, Margaret Burleigh, also joined Grew in both causes. They shared a home and bed together until Burleigh’s death in December, 1891. The following April, Grew responded to a sympathy note from fellow suffragist Isabel Howland, herself involved in a relationship with another woman. That may explain Grew’s opening lines in her thank you note:

Your words respecting my beloved friend touch me deeply. Evidently you understood her fine character; & you comprehend & appreciate, as few persons do, the nature of the relation which existed, which exists, between her & myself. Her only surviving niece, Miss Ella Jones, also does. To me it seems to have been a closer union than that of most marriages. We know that there have been other such between two men, & also between two women. And why should there not be. Love is spiritual, only passion is sexual. …

Why do we speak of those who have “gone up higher,” as though they were of the past? They live more really, more fully, than ever before; & they love us with a firmer, tenderer, nobler love. …

And I have the comfort & confident hope that my time on earth is nearing its end; for I am eighty-seven years old. I try to wait patiently. I do not feel wholly separated from her who was so large a part of my life.

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary (New York: Harper & Row, 1983): 230-231.]

Eisenhower Signs Executive Order Banning Gays from Federal Employment: 1953. By the time Dwight D. Eisenhower began his first term as president, an anti-gay witch hunt had been going on steadily for three years. When Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy, testifying before the US Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department, revealed that 91 employees “in the shady category” had resigned since 1947 (see Feb 28). Republican Senators took that admission to allege that President Harry Truman’s administration’s employment of “sexual deviants with police records” was recklessly endangering the country’s national security. The Republican Party’s national chairman sent a warning to 7,000 party members that, “Perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists are the sexual perverts who have infiltrated our government in recent years.” (See Apr 18).

So when Eisenhower took office, he was keen to demonstrate that he wouldn’t be soft on the pansies. Three months after taking office, he signed Executive Order 10450 mandating that all federal employees who were determined to be guilty of “sexual perversion,” among other offenses, be fired. As The Los Angeles Time described it, the “tough new loyalty-security program (is) designed to rid the government of homosexuals, alcoholics and ‘blabbermouths,’ as well as employees deemed subversive and disloyal. The Executive Order deemed all of those categories “security risks,” regardless of whether they were actually disloyal or not. It didn’t matter how low or innocuous their position was; their mere presence in a government office was deemed a threat. ONE magazine, the first national gay magazine in the U.S., worried about the order’s far-reaching consequences:

Every item in the new standards can be used to hound and harry not only every homosexual in government and in basic industry, but all his friends, acquaintances, and associates, be they homosexual, homosexually inclined, bi-sexual, or heterosexual. Further, every name breathed as fact or as rumor, whether they be National Security employees or not, goes into the National Security files for cross-referencing to Armed Services Files and the local records of the Communities in which they live, towards another day of total mobilization, or a National Registration Act, whichever is first.

For the homosexual, to be loyal is not enough. The homosexual is required to be 100% anti-homosexual as well. He must agree, by taking a loyalty oath, to subvert the Constitution of the United States (which is not his to subvert) and testify against himself. Then, as a homosexual, he must testify against his own decency and integrity thereby making possible acts of aggression against every person he has ever known. Then, having destroyed himself as a person not only to the community but to his own conscience, he is to be tossed aside as a basic security risk by one or all of the five standards of the Security Program.

The homosexual’s life is no longer a private matter to himself. It has become political by Presidential order.

More than 640 federal employees would lose their job because of allegations of homosexuality over the next year and a half. Unknown numbers of others resigned quietly. State and local governments and government contractors followed suit, tossing countless more innocent Americans out of their jobs.

Unintended consequences are funny things though. In 1957, a young astronomer by the name of Dr. Franklin Kameny was fired from the Army Map service because of his homosexuality (see Dec 20). After all of his court appeals were denied, he founded the Washington, D.C. Mattachine Society. In 1965, Kameny and Daughters of Billitis organizer Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31) organized demonstrations in front of the White House (see Apr 17, May 29), the Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (see Jul 4), and the Pentagon (see Jul 31), all to demand an end to the federal employment ban. This demand remained a key component of the whole gay rights movement from the 1950′s through the 1970′s.

The Civil Service ban on gays and lesbians would continue for the next two decades. In 1973, a federal judge ruled that a person’s sexual orientation alone had no bearing on an individual’s ability to perform his or her job, and it could not be the sole reason for termination from federal employment. But even with that ruling, the U.S. Civil Service Commission held out until 1975 before finally notifying Kameny that they had changed their policies and were now allowing gay people to work in federal jobs (see Jul 3).

[Additional source: Anonymous ("R. Noone") "You are a public enemy." ONE 1, no. 5 (May 1953): 5-7.]

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, April 26

Jim Burroway

April 26th, 2014

The mighty Rio Grande

 
I’ve been absent since a week ago Tuesday, on vacation to visit my inlaws, Chris’s parents, in Abilene, Texas. When we travel to Abilene from Tucson, we generally avoid the Interstates as much as possible, preferring to travel the back roads and more scenic drives. This time, our route took us through Alamogordo, Ruidoso and Roswell, New Mexico, and then through Brownsfield, Post, Snyder and Sweetwater, Texas before picking up I-20 for the last short leg to Abilene. I don’t know, I just find this kind of traveling far more relaxing and interesting than the mind-numbing conformity of the Interstates.

Another advantage (and disadvantage) of traveling that way is the spotty cellular and Wi-Fi coverage along those routes. Which means that much of the trip was blessedly free of Facebooking, Tweeting, emailing, and blogging. And it was also irritatingly void of those things at the same time. That online disconnect continued when we arrived at Chris’s parents house because their broadband internet is wired directly to their lone desktop computer and they see no need for Wi-Fi. Cell coverage was fine, but by then I was actually beginning to enjoy the disconnect. Not that we were completely disconnected — we still had CNN on TV to keep us informed on all of the late breaking developments. (The plane is still missing! The ferry is still sinking!) But Chris’s parents had just screened in their back porch, and it was just more enjoyable to hang out there with the parents and Chris’s brother, drink a few beers, crack a few jokes at each other’s expense, and play a few rounds of cards.

We stayed through the weekend and left Monday morning for our own little adventure to west Texas. San Angelo, Rankin, and Chris’s hometown of Ft. Stockton, and then down to Marathon, Alpine, and Marfa, where we holed up at the beautiful and historic El Paisano Hotel. That’s the hotel James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor stayed in while filming Giant. I missed grabbing the James Dean room by mere minutes. Oh well. Our room overlooking the courtyard was great, and the food and drinks at the bar were a welcome diversion. Good thing, too, because the Internet there was all caterwobbly, blazing for about two minutes then dead for six, then awesome for about a minute and a half and so on. So my disconnect continued, but by then I didn’t care. The next day, we took as spin back through Alpine, Lajitas, and Presidio, to take in the beautiful Big Bend country, Elena Canyon, and the Rio Grande valley, then back up through Marfa to Ft. Davis to walk around the grounds of the historic fort.

The courtyard at El Paisano. Our room is center right, above the fluttering Texas flag.

 
But our real adventure began late Tuesday night, back in Marfa. I left the hotel to go a few blocks to a convenience store to pick up some snacks for Wednesday’s eight hour drive back to Tucson. Got the stuff, got in the car, reversed out of the space, went out of the parking lot, turned right onto the highway, and that’s when the transmission promptly blew up. On a three year old Ford with only 55,000 miles on it. No forward, no reverse. Just a terrible noise like rocks in a tin can and a vaguely burning smell. Shit. Fuck. All that and more. I pushed the car to the side of the road, screamed and cussed some more like a crazy person, trudged back to the hotel, and told Chris what happened. I called Ford on the phone. They arranged for a tow truck to meet us Wednesday morning for the 89-mile tow back to the nearest Ford dealership in Ft. Stockton.

What a Ford transmission looks like after only 55,000 miles. I once had a 1974 AMC Hornet that was more reliable than this.

 
Mike from Barbee’s Wrecker Service met us that morning, and his cheerfulness and chattiness kept our minds off the drama (and off the broken air-conditioner in his cab) for the two hour tow. He told us about his wife, his kids, his speeding tickets, his 73 guns, his octogenarian neighbor rancher who called and wants Mike to help him break a horse, his mother-in-law’s golf cart which he — okay she doesn’t know this yet, so don’t say anything — which he souped up with a Honda engine and off-road tires. Right after he finished his modifications, he took it out for a spin and promptly got a speeding ticket. Mike knows a shortcut, the Old Alpine Highway. Have you heard of it? Of course, says Chris, we used to go parking on that road. Mike veers off onto a washboard gravel road, and Chris’s memories come flooding back. And now the two of them are swapping Ft. Stockton tales, about tornados, Rooney park, rollover accidents, the abandoned onion barns and stockyard by the railroad tracks. And there I am, sandwiched between them watching the dilapidated plastic dashboard bounce about three inches whenever the truck hits a mild rut.

We get to Ft. Stockton, to a rather small dealership with, I don’t know, maybe five guys total working there. Bad news, says the Stockton Ford guy. They’re a really small operation and it’ll probably take about three weeks to fix the car. And guess what? Ft. Stockton’s so small it doesn’t have a rental car agency. But I gotta be back in Tucson for work now. I can’t sit around for three weeks waiting for a car to be fixed. So I call up Ford on the phone again and explain the situation. Their solution? They want to tow me to the next closest Ford dealership, which is 73 miles away in Kermit. “Where’s Kermit?” I ask. Stockton Ford guy rolls his eyes and mouths to me, “They’re smaller than Ft. Stockton.” Obviously, that won’t work. What about Odessa? Ford on the phone says their policy is to only tow to the nearest Ford dealership, and that’s Kermit, only 73 miles away. Odessa is 87 miles. It’s Kermit or nothing, Ford on the phone insists. That stupid, I say. There’s no point in going to Kermit when they can’t do anything more than Ft. Stockton. Finally Ford on the phone works it out where they pay for 73 of the miles to Odessa if I pick up the remaining 14. Whatever. Fine. Two more hours in a hot, dusty tow truck with the ever cheerful Mike keeping our minds off our misery — the old Coleman Hotel fire, his father’s pancreatic cancer, buddies coming back from Iraq, a former co-worker who escaped from the Zetas, what do you think of that Obamacare, you guys been together for eleven years? That’s awesome, man! — and we make it to Odessa, where I can rent a car from Enterprise, say thank you and goodbye to Mike, and begin the journey home seven hours later and a hundred miles further away from where we planned to start off.

We don’t make it to Tucson Wednesday night as planned, obviously. And since we need to make up time, it’s now Interstate all the way. I call in to work and tell them I’ll need another day.  We decide to push on to El Paso that night and get a room there. No doing. All the hotels are full. (Seriously!!! El Paso! I know, right?) Another hour later, we finally get the last room in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Hot, sweaty, hungry, tired, and we’re bitching at each other. There’s no Mike keeping us entertained and distracted anymore. We grab a burrito, shower and go to bed.

We sleep in late the next morning because now we’ve got all day to make a four-hour drive to Tucson so what’s the rush, right? A nice leisurely breakfast, check out, and we’re loading the trunk when Chris points to the front of the car and says, “Tire’s flat.” Damn, sure enough. Luckily, there’s exactly one Enterprise office in Las Cruces. We air up the tire and make it to Enterprise. Unluckily, they already rented out their cars for the day and our tire’s getting very low again. So Enterprise guy directs us to a busy tire shop about a mile away, where tire guy removes two nails, patches up the tire, and sends us on our way about three hours later.

We got back home to Tucson later that evening, almost exactly 24 hours after we originally planned. And now we can look forward to another unplanned trip back to Odessa to return the rental car and pick up our car in another couple of weeks.

So that was how I spent my spring vacation. I’m somewhat sorry I was so out of touch, but not really. Everyone should go on disconnect from time to time. But I’m back now. Anything happen while I was gone?

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Philadelphia, PA (Black Pride); Potsdam, Germany; Tokyo, Japan.

Other Events This Weekend: Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Austin, TX; AIDS Walk, Kansas City, MO; Rodeo in the Rock, Little Rock, AR; AIDS Walk, Miami, FL; Side By Side International LGBT Film Festival, Moscow, Russia; White Party, Palm Springs, CA; Splash, South Padre Island, TX.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 3, 1979, page 23.

 
Mary’s opened in 1972 as a gay bar in Houston’s Montrose area, at around the time Montrose was just beginning to develop its identity as a gayborhood. It quickly established a rather wild reputation: “[T]he bar was known for having it’s own set of rules, one of which made it ‘illegal’ to wear underwear. And newcomers who violated the rule would have their underwear stripped from them and thrown to the rafters, past the trapeze that was normally manned by a naked bartender or patron.” As the years wore on, the bar also became something of a community center: “On a Friday night you could experience your favorite fetish out back, and on Monday you could attend a rally to support AIDS funding.” The bar changed ownership in 2003, and experienced a long, slow decline. It’s iconic outside mural was painted over in 2006, and the bar finally closed in 2009. The building now houses the Blacksmith coffee shop.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
State Department Continues Homosexual Purge: 1950. Two months earlier, Deputy Undersecretary of State John E. Peurifoy revealed in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee that the State Department had gotten rid of 91 employees accused of being homosexual (see Feb 28). After that news exploded onto newspaper editorial pages across the country (see Mar 23, for example), Peurifoy was appointed ambassador to Greece and Carlisle H. Humelsine took over his post at the State Department. In testimony made public on April 26, 1950, Humelsine told the House Appropriations Committee that the State Department’s purge was continuing, with the number forced out rising to 148 since 1947 and eleven more under investigation.

“There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind and there is no doubt as far as the State Department is concerned, that a homosexual is a security risk,” Humelsine told the panel. “We treat homosexuals as security risks. We are not attempting to run a campaign of going after people because of the fact that they have an illness. I think homosexuality is a type of illness. A homosexual, in my opinion, is just as sick as a person who has a cancer or some other disease. But it is absolutely apparent to us that these people are also security risks and we want them off our rolls. And we are going to get them off our rolls.”

Australian Judge Sentences Nine for Homosexuality: 1950. And The Advertiser was there to record all of the details, including the names and addresses of the eight men who pleaded guilty to various charges of “homosexual offences.” Two were sentenced to twelve months for “unnatural offence with each other,” another got eight months for “unnatural office with another man,” and five got four months for “gross indecency with another man.” A ninth man was ordered to pay a ” two year bond of £25 with two £25 sureties, not to associate with homosexuals or persons of bad character.”

On passing sentence, the judge remarked, “It must have come as a shock to the citizens of Adelaide to learn that there were centres of homosexuality in this city. Such practices have always been regarded as abhorrent to public decency and have been treated in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act as serious crimes. Whatever psychology may say about this class of offender, my duty is to carry out the law and to impose sentences which will act as a deterrent to others, who are minded to commit homosexual crimes. …In the majority of the cases,  the sentences will be light. They will not however be taken as precedents for the future. If, after the warning of the present sentences, the offences are found to recur much heavier penalties will ensue.”

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, April 25

Jim Burroway

April 25th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Philadelphia, PA (Black Pride); Potsdam, Germany; Tokyo, Japan.

Other Events This Weekend: Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Austin, TX; AIDS Walk, Kansas City, MO; Rodeo in the Rock, Little Rock, AR; AIDS Walk, Miami, FL; Side By Side International LGBT Film Festival, Moscow, Russia; White Party, Palm Springs, CA; Splash, South Padre Island, TX.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Drum magazine, November 1964, page 31. Drum was published by The Janus Society, a Philadelphia gay rights group.

Named for the nearby Forrest Theater, the restaurant and bar was bought in 1944 by Barney Zeeman, a pianist and former dance band leader in the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1960s, the Forrest began advertising itself in gay magazines and travel guides.  Zeeman died in 1976, and the Forrest continued to operate as a gay bar in various incarnations through the early 1980s. The location is now a leather bar known as the Bike Stop.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Miami Police Reveals It Keeps Tabs on 3,000 Homosexuals: 1962. Florida Gov. C. Farris Bryant convened a conference in Miami for area law enforcement officers to discuss the “serious and growing problem of homosexuality and other sexual perversions in the state.” The governor’s spokesman, Vernon Williams, addressed the conference, saying “The governor feels a diligent effort is required on the part of all agencies to curb the growth of homosexuality. But it s not our intention to start a witch hunt.” Williams had no need to announce a new witch hunt, as authorities in Miami and much of Florida had waged a rather long-standing campaign against gay people for much of the prior decade. Williams pointed to those campaigns and said that homosexuals were found “in the ranks of university professors, Sunday school teachers, and Scout leaders, among other professions.”

Williams wasn’t the only one discussing the results of various witch hunts. Closer to home, Dade County sheriff Thomas Kelly told the gathering that Metro police maintained a list of 3,000 local persons “suspected of being practicing homosexuals.” He told the gathering that the list was comprised of people “from 8 to 80,” and that they “tend to stay in groups and had many contacts throughout the county. … I feel that these people are sick.”

Gay Protesters Arrested At Philadelphia’s Dewey’s Malt Stand: 1965. Dewey’s was a chain of malt and sandwich shops with as many as eighteen locations sprinkled throughout Philadelphia. Many of them were open twenty-four hours a day, and the one on the 200 block of 13th Street known throughout Philly as the “fag Dewey’s” was popular with the LGBT crowd, especially after the bars closed. But “a large number of homosexuals and persons wearing non-conformist clothing” began to filter into the 17th Street Dewey’s management decided to keep the undesirables out of that location. On April 25, two teen boys and one teen girl were refused service. But instead of getting up and walking out, they remained seated and refused to leave. They were arrested along with Clark Polak, a gay rights leader and publisher of Philly’s gay magazine Drum, and all of them were charged with disorderly conduct.

The Janus Society, an early Philadelphia gay rights group, had joined with several other east cost gay activist groups to form the East Cost Homophile Organization (ECHO), which, in a 1964 conference, agreed to engage in more direct actions, including protests, to confront provocations against the gay community. That agreement had already spawned two planned protests in April: the first ever pickets for gay rights in Washington D.C. at the White House (see April 17) and in New York at the United Nations (see April 18). The Dewey’s sit-in was the perfect opportunity to put ECHO’s new-found commitment to direct action to work in Philadelphia by organizing a five-day protest and leafleting campaign. Over 1,500 pieces of literature were distributed in front of the malt stand while gay rights leaders negotiated with the restaurant’s management. On May 7, protesters staged another sit-in. Management called police, but this time police decided that they had no authority to force the protesters to leave. After an hour, management gave in and agreed to “an immediate cessation to all indiscriminate denials of service.” It is believed to be the first documented instance of a sit-in in support of LGBT rights.

St. Paul Voters Overturn Gay Rights Ordinance: 1978. In 1977, a proposed state anti-discrimination law failed to pass the Minnesota legislature. That defeat, which occurred just three weeks before voters in Dade County, Florida voted down a similar measure that had been approved by the Miami-Metro government, emboldened anti-gay activists at St. Paul’s Temple Baptist Church to turn their attention to that city’s three-year-old gay rights ordinance. Pastor Richard Angwin, in launching the petition drive to put the ordinance’s repeal on the ballot, stated frankly, “I don’t want to live in a community that gives respect to homosexuals.”

Anita Bryant, fresh off her victory in Miami-Dade, joined the fray along with her husband, Robert Green. A week before the vote, Anita Bryant failed to show up at a rally, telling some reporters that she didn’t feel well. Some suspect that the pie-throwing incident in Des Moines the previous fall may have unnerved her when she changed her story, saying that she was afraid she’d be assassinated. Local gay rights activist Jack Baker (see Mar 10) scoffed at the idea. “We’d be silly to shoot her,” he said. “She’s the best thing that ever hit the gay community.” Green showed up in her place and urged the crowd of 10,000 to stand against the forces of “moral breakdown of this nation,” saying “the devil is really working overtime.” Turnout was heavy for the special election, and St. Paul voters voted to repeal the the gay rights ordinance, 54,090 to 31,690. Soon after the election results were announced, over a thousand marchers demonstrated through the streets of St. Paul.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, April 24

Jim Burroway

April 24th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Philadelphia, PA (Black Pride); Potsdam, Germany; Tokyo, Japan.

Other Events This Weekend: Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Austin, TX; AIDS Walk, Kansas City, MO; Rodeo in the Rock, Little Rock, AR; AIDS Walk, Miami, FL; Side By Side International LGBT Film Festival, Moscow, Russia; White Party, Palm Springs, CA; Splash, South Padre Island, TX.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Weekly News (Miami, FL), October 21, 1987, page 21.

 
The Old Plantation was one of a dozen gay bars operated by Frank Caven and Charley Hott, two entrepreneurs from Dallas, Texas, who operated gay bars and night clubs from El Paso to Tampa. Three of the clubs — in Dallas, Houston and Tampa — carried the Old Plantation name and logo. The Tampa location opened in 1978 and remained there until the late 1980s, when it became Village Station, which in turned closed down in the early 2000s.

University of South Florida president John S. Allen.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
University of South Florida President Denies Hiring Homosexuals: 1963. Dr. John Allen, who became University of South Florida’s first president when it was established in 1957, strongly denied charges that the school “harbored homosexuals” on its faculty. He also denied that the Tampa-based school was “soft on communism,” was anti-religious, or that controversial writings by “‘beatnik” authors were typical of the literature found in the school’s reading program.

All of those charges were levied against USF and other Florida state colleges and institutions by the Johns Committee, Florida’s homegrown version of the McCarthy Red and Lavender Scares from a decade earlier. Named for its first chairman, state Senator and former acting Governor Charley Johns, the Johns committee was established in 1956 to investigate so-called communist links to the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1957, the Florida legislature broadened the committee’s mandate to investigate gays in the state’s colleges and universities, and reiterated that mandate again in 1961. Florida’s leaders of higher education proved eager to demonstrate that Florida’s sons and daughters were safe in their institutions, with many throwing their campuses open to heavy-handed investigators calling individual students and teachers out of class for interrogations.

The results of those investigations were made public in a report in 1963, in which Johns claimed credit for “flush(ing) 71 homosexual public school teachers and 30 homosexual deans and professors of universities,” with an additional sixty-three cases against teachers still pending. Dr. Allen responded, quite forcefully, that his school was certainly not infested with homosexuals. The committee, he pointed out, established only one clear case of a gay teacher among the entire 500 person-staff, which was only “one-fifth of one per cent,” as he put it. That person resigned immediately. Charges had been levied against two others which could not be supported, and reports indicated that they “later left the university for other reasons.”

The Johns Committee, already facing calls for its dismantlement, was in the midst of a legislative budget battle to fund its continued work for another year. Committee supporters triumphed in the state Senate three weeks later, allocating $155,ooo (nearly $1.2 million in today’s dollars) “to finance an even greater study of communism and homosexualism” over the next two years. That budget was more than double the $75,000 the committee was seeking. But the Johns Committee would finally overreach barely a year later with its publication of the famous “Purple Pamphlet,” which was denounced as “pornographic” by politicians across the state (see Mar 17). In response to the outcry, the Legislature finally pulled the committee’s funding in 1965.

[Sources: "Johns Offers to Step Out, Lauds Probe." Lakeland (Fla) Ledger (April 19, 1963): 1. Available online via Google Newspaper Archive here.

"Johns Committee Charges Denied by College Head." Sarasota Herald-Tribune (April 25, 1963) 4. Available online via Google Newspaper Archives here.

"Study Communism, Homosexualism: Senate Allots $155,000 To Legislative Probers." Ocala (Fla) Star-Banner (May 10, 1963): 3. Available online via Google Newspaper Archives here.]

New Orleans Police Institutes Massive Gay Roundup: 1981. In a 1982 article published in the Columbia Journalism Review, Randsell Pierson wrote a very informative piece wondering aloud, “Can the Straight Press get the gay story right?” Pierson had interviewed several closeted gay reporters at the New Orleans Times-Picayune who all said that they feared pitching gay-related stories to their editors for fear of being identified as gay. That silence, Pierson said, helped to explain why homosexuality was still illegal in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Lapses in coverage of gay issues was surprising, and among the many examples that Pierson offered up was this one:

Over a period of three days on the weekend of April 24, 1981, New Orleans police rounded up and jailed more than 100 gay men and women in a series of raids in the French Quarter. Those arrested were charged with “obstructing sidewalks” in front of gay bars. The arrests prompted a vigorous political response from the local gay community, which charged that the police were trying to drive gays out of the French Quarter. A protest meeting attended by 700 gays helped to persuade Mayor Ernest Morial and Police Chief Henry Morris to promise to investigate charges of police harassment. All charges against the arrested gays were subsequently dropped.

Two of the city’s three television stations — WDSU (NBC) and WVUE )ABC) — followed the breaking story and sent film crews to the protest meeting held on the Tuesday following the weekend arrests. The Times-Picayine/States-Item waited five days after the first arrests to report on the story. The account, buried in section 5, said nothing about the protest meeting, which would seem to have been the logical peg, and failed to include in its tally the arrests a group of thirty-nine gay men picked up the previous Sunday. Reporter Allan Katz, who wrote the story, says: “They wanted somebody to do something in a hurry. You would think that because the story was four days old before they assigned it to a reporter they didn’t consider it a major story. About the only time in my experience we really try to relate to gay news is when something really controversial comes up.” Apparently, the arrest of more than 100 men and women in a city not under martial law was not considered “really controversial.”

[Source: Randsell Pierson."Uptight on Gay News: Can the Straight Press Get the Gay Story Straight? Is Anyone Even Trying?" Chapter 59 in Larry Gross & James D. Woods (eds.) The Columbia Reader on Lesbians & Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999): 368-376.]

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, April 23

Jim Burroway

April 23rd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Philadelphia, PA (Black Pride); Potsdam, Germany; Tokyo, Japan.

Other Events This Weekend: Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Austin, TX; AIDS Walk, Kansas City, MO; Rodeo in the Rock, Little Rock, AR; AIDS Walk, Miami, FL; Side By Side International LGBT Film Festival, Moscow, Russia; White Party, Palm Springs, CA; Splash, South Padre Island, TX.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GAY, August 17, 1970, page 15.

 
Atlantic City was a significant gay destination in the 1970s before the new round of casinos began to arrive in 1978. The M&M Lounge was part of the New York Avenue strip of gay bars and resorts. Over time, the M&M became a full service resort with a full service hotel, disco, piano bar, cabaret theatre, and a bathhouse. The location today is nothing but a parking lot.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Hate Crimes Statistics Act Signed Into Law: 1990. Following strong support from the Administration and Congress, President George H.W. Bush signed the Hate Crimes Statistics Act into law in a ceremony at the Old Executive Office Building which, for the first time, included LGBT advocates, along with representatives from the ACLU, NAACP, and other groups that had criticized Bush’s record on civil rights. The LGBT representatives were invited only after agreeing not to turn the signing ceremony into an opportunity to protest the Bush administration’s AIDS policies. The law, which requires the Justice Department to institute a program to systematically collect hate crime statistics based on race, religion, ethnic background and/or sexual orientation, was the first federal law to specifically identify gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The Justice Department and FBI have been issuing annual Hate Crime reports since 1992. All reports from 1995 on are available on the web.

Sen. Rick Santorum’s “Man On Dog” Interview: 2003. In an interview printed in USA Today, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) was in the midst of blaming the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals on liberals and the “right to privacy lifestyle” (which Santorum made abundantly clear that he did not accept), when he cast his eye toward the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas which would strike down sodomy laws later that summer. Santorum defended sodomy laws and launched his most infamous polemic against gay families:

AP: OK, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?

SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold — Griswold was the contraceptive case — and abortion. And now we’re just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you — this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it’s my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that’s antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, where it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —

AP: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about “man on dog” with a United States Senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.

The AP reporter wasn’t the only one freaking out. Dan Savage wrote a New York Times op-ed calling Santorum out for his blatant bigotry. Noting that Sen. Trent Lott had lost his post as Senate majority leader over remarks praising staunch segregationist Sen. Stromm Thurmond’s (R-SC) 1948 presidential bid, Santorum was assured of escaping this outrage with no sanctions. “Unlike the former majority leader, Mr. Santorum didn’t slip up and say something in plain English that every good Republican knows must only be said in code. Unlike Republican appeals to racist voters, Republican appeals to homophobic voters are overt.”

Dan Savage, spreading the, er, word at the 15th Annual Webby Awards on June 13, 2011.

But a month later, Santorum’s comments were largely forgotten, except among the LGBT community. Lamenting that “the Santorum scandal didn’t have legs,” a 23-year-old reader of Dan Savage’s “Savage Love” column suggested holding a contest to “‘include’ (Santorum) in our sex lives–by naming a gay sex act after him.” Savage agreed, and invited readers to send in their suggestions. By June, the votes were counted, and a definition was promulgated:

Hey, everybody: We have a winner. Savage Love readers, by a wide margin, want Sen. Rick Santorum’s name to stand for… THAT FROTHY MIXTURE OF LUBE AND FECAL MATTER THAT IS SOMETIMES THE BYPRODUCT OF ANAL SEX! It was a landslide for that frothy mixture; the runner-up, farting in the face of someone who’s rimming you, came in a distant second. So congratulations to WUTSAP, who nominated that frothy mixture, and a big thank you to the thousands who voted.

The definition was created, but it still wasn’t obvious that Santorum’s name would be equated with the aforementioned byproduct. Four months after Santorum’s infamous comments and two months after the definition was created, the neologism was still struggling to catch on. It wasn’t until the end of the year when a new web site was created that SpreadingSantorum ended up becoming the most successful Google bomb in history. And with that, a callow comment which almost faded into history has become the name by which Santorum will be known for the rest of his life.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, April 22

Jim Burroway

April 22nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, December 1974, page 28.

 

TODAY IN HISTORY:
State Department Fires One Homosexual Every Two Days On Average: 1953. In testimony before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Undersecretary of State Donald B. Lourie testified that the State Department was firing upwards of five employees a week on grounds that they were security risks. Of those, he said, about one every two days were fired on grounds of homosexuality. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who had been leading a three year Red and Lavender Scare campaigned, commended Lourie and Scott McLeod, department security chief, for “doing a good job.” He added, “I think it’s unfortunate that the public doesn’t know what a painstaking job of housecleaning is being done.” Sen. Allen Ellender (D-LA) asked why the State Department seemed to have so many more homosexuals on its payroll than other departments. Lourie replied that maybe they wanted “to get away from home” and go abroad to countries where homosexuality is “condoned.” Lourie didn’t explain which countries in 1953 condoned homosexuality.

“Conquering AIDS” Op-Ed in the New York Times: 1983. The epidemic was coming on its two year anniversary, and as of April 13, 1983, 1,339 people had been diagnosed with AIDS, with 505 known deaths recorded. Nearly half of them were in New York City. Dr. Kevin M. Cahill, director of the tropical disease center at Lenox Hill Hospital, became alarmed at the lack of action, both on the part of federal officials as well as New York’s City Hall under Mayor Ed Koch. Cahill attributed that lack of urgency to “politicians (who) handled the epidemic with unaccustomed wariness. Almost without exception, public leaders evaded the epidemic issue, avoiding even the usual expressions of compassion and concern. The victims’ sexual orientation apparently made involvement risky, and the politicians directed their courage and energies elsewhere.” Cahill wondered why the medical community was “strangely absent” as the disaster escalated:

When a fatal infection struck down veterans attending an American Legion convention, health professionals across America joined in the search for a solution. When women using tampons became ill with toxic-shock syndrome, medical centers immediately focused their enormous talents on that problem. But when the victims were drug addicts and poor Haitian refugees and homosexual men, no major research programs were announced. Until it became clear that the disease could spread to the general population through blood transfusions, organized medicine seemed part of a conspiracy of silence.

Cahill applauded the “many instances of individual courage” by physicians, nurses and technicians who took up the fight with “a quiet dignity and decency that deserves special respect.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
John Waters: 1946. The auteur of such film classics as Pink Flamingos (1972), Female Trouble (1974), Desperate Living (1977), Polyester (1981), and Hairspray (1988) grew up in the Baltimore suburb of Lutherville, the son of respectable upper-middle class Catholics and the product of a private education at Baltimore’s Calvert School, Calvert Hall College High School, and Boys’ Latin School of Maryland. He got his first 8mm camera from his grandmother for his sixteenth birthday. After quickly abandoning a short stay at NYU, Waters returned to Baltimore and began making low budget films with his childhood friend Glenn Milstead (later known as Divine, see Oct 19), Mink Stole, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, and several others that made up his company, the Dreamlanders. His influences included such figures as Walt Disney, B-movie producer Edward D. Wood, Jr., Frederico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Andy Warhol.  His campy films with outlandish characters pushed the envelope of propriety and taste, out-exploiting exploitation films, out-trashing trashy films, and sailing under the budgets of Drive-in “B” movie fair.

His Trash Trilogy — Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living became art house favorites and set him up for his first mainstream crossover hit, Polyester, starring Divine, former teen heartthrob Tab Hunter (see Jul 11) and Ricki Lake. From then on, his films became somewhat less controversial — Divine would never again be seen eating dog shit — but they remained the same off-beat celebrations of the bizarre and outrageous as his earlier work. Only now, he could attract bigger name actors like Johnny Depp (Cry Baby, 1990), Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston (Serial Mom, 1994), Melanie Griffith (Cecil B. Demented, 2000), and Tracy Ullman and Johnny Knoxville (A Dirty Shame, 2004). In 2003, Hairspray was adapted as a hit Broadway musical which won eight Tonys, eight Drama Desk Awards, and four Laurence Olivier Awards. That Broadway musical was then adapted for the 2007 film remake, starring Michelle Pfeiffer Christopher Walken, Zac Efron, Queen Latifah, with John Travolta in drag for Divine’s role as Edna Turnblad.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, April 21

Jim Burroway

April 21st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GAY, August 17, 1970, page 15

 
One Sheridan Square had an illustrious history before it became The Haven in the late 1960s. In 1930, it was the first racially-integrated nightclub, Café Society. Modeled after the popular cabarets in Europe, Café Society featured such performers as Pearl Baily, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Leadbelly, Sarah Vaughn, and Dina Washington. Billie Holliday first sang “Strange Fruit” there, after which she simply left the stage without an encore, leaving the words to sink in with the audience.

Café Society closed in the 1950s, and One Sheridan Square became a restaurant, a theater, and, eventually The Haven. On September 7, 1970, the Village Voice’s Lucian K. Truscott IV described The Haven in an article about New York’s after-hours clubs:

The largest and most active club is the Haven on Sheridan Square. The scene is drugs and kids. In that order. It’s a teen club for the super-hippie teeny-bopper who doesn’t drink, is beyond grass and acid, and is looking for kicks. The Haven may reflect the times in music or in the clothes worn by its patrons, but its scene is an old one. It’s cool. Very, very cool. So cool, in fact, that I saw a kid cool-out — that’s overdose — in front of the Haven two Friday nights ago. And not a kid in the crowd of 300 gathered on Sheridan Square turned to take notice.

… It used to be Salvation until its owner was found floating face-up in the East River and the new name and management took over.  It’s an after-hours “club,” chartered by the state of New York as a “social club.” It still looks like Salvation, but there’s no liquor — perhaps because its clientele is too young to drink anyway — and the rates are cheaper. The admission at the door is $2 or $3, depending on the night and whether you can get in. I’ve tried three times and got in once. One I was a “member,” and the other two times I wasn’t, the membership policy of this chartered “Social Club” being rather loose and irregular. … The Haven, as entertainment, is a drag. The Haven, as a scene, is something more than that.

The Haven, which was reportedly controlled by the Gambino crime family, closed down in 1971 after it and several other gay and straight bars were raided by the New York Joint Strike Force Against Organized Crime. In contrast to the NYPD raid on the Stonewall Inn that touched off the seminal 1969 riot, this time officers reassured patrons that they weren’t the targets and simply asked them leave peacefully. Gay activists, in turn, used the raids as an opportunity to call for reform of the liquor and zoning laws with the goal of driving out mob-controlled gay bars and allowing legitimate gay bar owners to operate in the area. One Sheridan Square today is home to the Axis Theatre Company.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Three Homosexuals Order A Drink: 1966. Gay bars were made illegal in New York, due to a State Liquor Authority regulation against serving customers who were “disorderly,” a term that was invariably used against anyone who was gay. Inspectors routinely revoked bars’ licenses which allowed gay people to congregate, citing New York City’s statutes against “indecent behavior.” As a result, the better bars routinely refused to serve anyone suspected of being gay.

Furthermore, New York Police routinely launched entrapment campaigns in which they would place good-looking undercover officers in bars who would hit on suspected gay people, propose a sexual encounter, and arrest them and shut down the bar. Vice officers were under a monthly quota, which resulted in a lot men being arrested on flimsy evidence. All of this together drove the gay bar trade to the less reputable bars, often owned or operated by the Mafia who paid off police officers for protection.

To highlight the problem, members of the Mattachine Society — President Dick Leitsch and members Craig Rodwell and John Timmons — contacted reporters at The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New York Post to say that they planned to stage a “sip in” at a bar in the Village. The idea behind the sip-in was to go into a bar, announce that they were homosexual and order a drink. If they were served, the reporters would report on it, and the bar would either serve them and risk their liquor license, or refuse to serve them and they would then sue to bar. As Leitsch later recalled:

Well, first of all, we were going to go to this bar on 8th Street (the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant). They had a sign in their window saying, if you’re gay, go away. And we thought that would be very dramatic and we’d go there and ask for service and see what happened. We notified the press and being gay, we got there late. And the New York Times had already gotten there and said, what about this gay demonstration? And the manager said, what? So he closed the place for the day.

When we got there, there’s a sign on the door saying, closed today. And so then we decided we had to go Julius’ because Julius’ had been raided like 10 days before. The bar would have a sign in the window saying, this is a raided premises, and very often they’d put a uniformed cop on the stool inside the door, and he sat there until the trial came up.

So we knew that Julius’ would not serve us because they have this thing pending. And so when we walked in, the bartender put glasses in front of us, and we told him that we were gay and we intended to remain orderly, we just wanted service. And he said, hey, you’re gay, I can’t serve you, and he put his hands over the top of the glass, which made wonderful photographs. The whole thing ended up in court, and the court decided well, yes, the Constitution says that people have the right to peacefully assemble and the state can’t take that right away from you. And so the Liquor Authority can’t prevent gay people from congregating in bars.

The May 5 edition of the Voice carried the headline, “Three Homosexuals In Search of a Drink,” and featured a photo of the three Mattachine members seated at the bar with the bartender’s hand covering their drinks. After stories appeared in the Times and the Post, the Liquor Authority was forced to abandon its anti-gay operations. But NYPD raids would continue for at least three more years, culminating in that fateful raid at the Stonewall Inn in 1969.

Julius’ bar, which dates back to 1864, is still in business, billing itself as Greenwich Village’s oldest bar and New York’s oldest gay bar.

Wall Street Journal Coverage of  the Ex-Gay Movement: 1993. The article opens with a description of an ex-gay meeting at the Foursquare Pentecostal Church in Hayward, California, near San Francisco, where a 31-year-old former missionary talked about his despair over the difficulties of trying to change:

He confesses: “It’s not working, and I don’t know why.” The others, regulars at this Friday-night support group, are sympathetic; they know the temptations of the flesh and the damnation they figure awaits those who succumb. “It’s a matter of will,” says one. “You have to make the choice.” Maybe, suggests another, it is demonic possession.

The erstwhile missionary’s eyes grow watery. He has begged God to free him, has surrounded himself with Christians and spent a month in an in-patient treatment program. But nothing has worked, and thinking about it just makes it worse — especially at these meetings. “I’m having sex, I’m having fun, and I don’t feel bad about it,” he confesses. “Not getting AIDS is all I care about.”

Having sex, having fun and not feeling bad about it are not options here. Another of those interviewed was John Evans, who, with Ken Philpot and Frank Worthen, founded Love In Action (which would later move to Memphis). Evans had already left the ex-gay movement when his best friend, Jack McIntyre, killed himself over his failure to change. McIntyre had spent four years in Love In Action before winding up in the psychiatric ward at Marin General Hospital:

There, in 1977 at age 46, he recorded his thoughts in a letter: “No matter how much I prayed and tried to avoid the temptation, I continually failed. . . . I love life, but my love for the Lord is so much greater, the choice is simple. . . . To continually go before God and ask for forgiveness and make promises you know you can’t keep is more than I can take. I feel it is making a mockery of God and all He stands for in my life.”

In room 104, he gave himself Communion, swallowed a lethal nightcap of Valium and Dalmane — tranquilizers and sleeping pills — and lay down on a couch to a quiet death.

By 1993, Exodus International claimed 65 affiliated ministries, but Evans said, “They’re destroying people’s lives. If you don’t do their thing, you’re not of God, you’ll go to hell. They’re living in a fantasy world.” Among those in that fantasy world was John Paulk, who was also interviewed for the Journal:

Mr. Paulk had been a prostitute, a female impersonator named Candi and an alcoholic who tried to kill himself before he decided to become straight and marry an ex-lesbian he met in church last year. “I had no sexual interest in women at all,” he says. “But when you begin a relationship with a woman that you believe God has led you to, then you develop attraction to that person. To say that we’ve arrived at this place of total heterosexuality — that we’re totally healed — is misleading.”

In 1993, Paulk was a cautious “success story” for the  ex-gay movement. He would later run Focus On the Family’s Gender and Homosexuality division, and he was elected to two terms as chairman of Exodus International. In 1998, he helped to found Love Won Out, a traveling ex-gay roadshow and infomercial conducted jointly by Focus and Exodus. Love Won Out staged a half a dozen conferences per year in cities across North American for the next thirteen years. That same year, he and his ex-lesbian wife, Anne, became the face of the ex-gay movement in a massive publicity campaign that culminated in their landing on the cover of Newsweek. In 2000, Wayne Besen photographed Paulk as he was leaving a gay bar in Washington, D.C. (see Sep 19). After a brief hiatus, Paulk returned to ex-gay ministry, and continued working at Focus On the Family and speaking at Love Won Out conferences for the next three years.

In 2003, the Paulks left Focus and moved to Oregon, where John started a catering business while Anne continued writing books and speaking on the ex-gay circuit. But in 2013, John recanted his ex-gay beliefs and issued a formal apology to the “countless people (who) were harmed by things I said and did in the past.” Later that year, he and Anne divorced. Meanwhile, Anne helped to form a break-away group of former Exodus ministries following Exodus president Alan Chambers’s acknowledgment that change in sexual orientation was not possible. She now serves on the board of directors of that dissident group, Restored Hope Network.

[Source: Michael J. Ybarra. "Going Straight: Christian groups press gay people to take a heterosexual path." Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition (April 21, 1993): A1.]

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, April 20

Jim Burroway

April 20th, 2014

J.C. Leyendecker’s cover for the Saturday Evening Post, April 11, 1925 (Click to enlarge)

 
So here’s some trivia for you. In most of the world, Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus, typically goes by a name derived from the Greek Πάσχα (Paskha), which in turn comes from the Hebrew פֶּסַח‎ (Pesaḥ), which is Hebrew for Passover. Early Christianity replaced the Passover lamb with “the Lamb of God” and kept the name for their own commemoration of the Resurrection. The Greek Πάσχα was quickly transliterated into the Latin Pascha, and together those two languages gave rise to the modern Pashkë (Albanian,) Pazko (Bosque), Pasqua (Catalan), Påske (Danish and Norwegian), Pasen (Dutch), Pääsiäinen (Finnish), Pasko (Esperanto), Pâques (French), Pasko ng Pagkabuhay (Filipino), Pascua (Galician), Pak (Haitian Creole), Pasqua (Italian), Paskah (Indonesian), Paskah (Javanese), Paskah (Malay), Páscoa (Portuguese), Paşti (Romanian), Πасха (Pascha, Russian), Pascua (Spanish), Pasaka (Swahili), Påsk (Swedish), Paskalya (Turkish), Πаска (Paska, Ukrainian), and Pasg (Welsh).

But in the good old King James English, we call it Easter, which has nothing to do with the Paschal sacrifice or Passover or any of that. The Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre refers to the month of the Germanic calendar which the Venerable Bede in the Eighth century said was named for the Anglo-Saxon goddess Ēostre. (Easter in modern German is rendered as Ostern.) Which means that in the Lord’s Red-Letter English, we have taken the Paschal Lamb out of Pascha and replaced it with Easter eggs, bunnies, bonnets, and Peeps. Happy Easter everyone!

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: BEARcelona, Barcelona, Spain; AIDS Walk, Columbus, OH; L.A. Rodeo, Los Angeles, CA; Philly Black Pride Philadelphia, Pa; Pride, Potsdam, Germany.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Bay Area Reporter, March 6, 1975, page 7.

 

TODAY IN HISTORY:
China Removes Homosexuality From List of Mental Disorders: 2001. After consulting with mental health organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere, the Chinese Psychiatric Association published the third edition of the Chinese Standards for Classification and Diagnosis of Mental Disorders, which formally removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The move came as Chinese psychiatry was coming under international scrutiny for the growing use of mental institutions to detain dissidents and members of the banned Falun Gong sect. The delisting of homosexual was controversial: the Beijing Youth Daily gave prominent space to a senior psychiatrist who called gay people “abnormal.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
George Takei: 1937. It’s hard to tell, but the actor best known for his role as Mr. Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek franchise turns seventy-seven today. Oh, my! Born in Los Angeles to two native-born Californians of Japanese descent, Takei nevertheless ended up spending his formative years at a Japanese in internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas, and then in the Tule Lake camp in California. His first roles in the 1950s was doing voiceover work, dubbing Japanese monster movies. Later, he was able to score a gig with CBS’s award winning Playhouse 90, an episode of The Twilight Zone, and film roles in Hell to Eternity (1960), A Majority of One (1961), and Walk, Don’t Run (1966). When the Star Trek pilot came along in 1965, Takei was cast as helmsman for the USS Enterprise, but he was only able to take part in half of the first season due to a commitment he already had as a South Vietnamese officer in the John Wayne film, The Green Berets. When Takei returned for Star Trek’s second season, he found that he had to share a dressing room, script, and a ship’s helm panel, side-by-side, with Walter Koenig as the starship’s navigator, Ensign Pavel Chekhov.

Star Trek only lasted three seasons on NBC. It struggled to find an audience during its first season, and rumors flew that NBC was going to cancel it it at the end of the second season. A letter-writing campaign saved the program for another year, only to see NBC placing it at the dead-end 10:00 time slot on Friday night and slashing its production budget. After 79 episodes, NBC canceled the series, in a move which TV Guide in 2011 ranked as number four of its “biggest TV blunders.” Thanks to syndication, Star Trek found a larger audience than it ever had on NBC. Takei has since reprised his role as Leutenant, then Commander Sulu in the first five Star Trek movies before he was promoted to Captain with his own starship, the USS Excelsior in a Star Trek: Voyager episode, a role he reprised for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

In 2005, Takei came out as gay in an issue of Los Angeles-based Frontiers magazine. “It’s not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through,” he said. “It’s more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen.” That corridor included longtime active memberships in various LGBT organizations and a then-eighteen year partnership with Brad Altman. In 2008, Takei and Altman turned that partnership into an honest-to-god marriage just before Prop 8 was approved by California voters, and they were the first same-sex couple to appear in the Game Show Network’s revived celebrity edition of The Newlywed Game. Takei is one of the more entertaining stars of Facebook and the Twitterverse (You can send your birthday greetings to @GeorgeTakei), and he also has Asteroid 7307 named in his honor. His Internet-themed memoir, Oh Myyy!: There Goes The Internet, just dropped this week at Amazon in paperback following a November 2012 release for Kindle.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, April 19

Jim Burroway

April 19th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: BEARcelona, Barcelona, Spain; AIDS Walk, Columbus, OH; L.A. Rodeo, Los Angeles, CA; Philly Black Pride Philadelphia, Pa; Pride, Potsdam, Germany.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

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

 
The location has been redeveloped and is now a chic restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Dick Sargent: 1930-1994. His best known role was that of the second Darrin in the 1960s sitcom Bewitched, after having taken over that role in 1969 when Dick York was forced to leave due to ongoing health problems. It was a fortuitous second chance for Sargent: he was the producers’ first choice for the role in 1964 but was forced to turn it down because he was under contract with Universal Studios to appear in the short-lived sitcom Broadside, a WWII comedy about four girls on an island with 4,000 sailors. (Hilarity allegedly ensued, but only for one season.) Before he got his second chance at Bewitched, Sargent appeared in several films and television programs which helped pad his resume with a growing list of solid if not particularly memorable roles.

He never really made it onto the A-list, but he did have a solid run opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as America’s favorite put-upon mortal. And what a strange, gay time he must have had on the set, with openly-flamboyant Paul Lynde as practical-joker Uncle Arthur and the closeted and conflicted Agnes Moorhead as Endora (a character whose style and sarcasm deserves unceasing genuflections from drag queens everywhere). The series ended in 1972 and immediately went into syndication for whole new generations to enjoy. Meanwhile, Sargent kept working in minor roles and voiceovers for commercials and cartoons.

In 1974, Sargent appeared with lesbian Fannie Flagg (see Sept 21) in the game show Tattletales, in which Hollywood couples would try to guess each others’ answers to embarrassing questions about marriage, sex, or other coupley topics. They were, ostensibly, “dating” for the game show’s purposes. Sargent finally came out on National Coming Out Day, October 11, 1991, over concerns about high suicide rates among gay teens. He revealed that when he was a student at Stanford he twice tried to kill himself when he realized he was gay. The following summer, he was Grand Marshall of the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade alongside his former Bewitched co-star and forever friend, Elizabeth Montgomery. He became involved with the AIDS Project Los Angeles and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Sargent died in 1994 of prostate cancer.

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, April 18

Jim Burroway

April 18th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: BEARcelona, Barcelona, Spain; AIDS Walk, Columbus, OH; L.A. Rodeo, Los Angeles, CA; Philly Black Pride Philadelphia, Pa; Pride, Potsdam, Germany.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GAY, August 8, 1970, page 15.

 
Twenty-nine year old Morris Levy used his fortune from Roulette Records, which he had founded in 1956, to buy Roundtable two year later when the previous owners racked up a $750,000 tax bill. Before Levy bought, renovated and renamed it, the club had been the Versailles, which for the previous twenty-two years was regarded as one of the finest restaurant/cabarets in the world. Levy turned the Roundtable into a restaurant and jazz club featuring several major acts. It was also a rather convivial place, with Steve Allen stopping in to take a spin at the piano and Jackie Cooper joining him on drums from time to time. By about 1970, jazz had departed the Roundtable, and the stage and dance floor area was given over to the gays, and a few years after that the Roundtable jumped on the disco bandwagon.

RNC Chairman Guy Gabrielson

TODAY IN HISTORY:
GOP Chairman Warns of “Perverts Who Have Infiltrated Our Government”: 1950. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) Red and Lavender Scares got a boost when Guy Gabrielson, Republican National Chairman, issued a letter addressed to about 7,000 party workers, under the title “This is the News from Washington,” in which he wrote:

Perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists are the sexual perverts who have infiltrated our Government in recent years. The State Department has confessed that it has had to fire ninety-one of these. (see Feb 28) It is the talk of Washington and of the Washington correspondents corps.

American sensibilities were quite delicate in 1950, particularly on a subject as contentious as homosexuality. In many respects, it was still the “love that dares not speak its name.” Newspaper editors were reluctant to actually use the word “homosexual,” preferring instead to dance around the subject wherever possible. The use of the word “pervert,” on the other hand, was totally acceptable and routine. Gabrielson expressed his frustration over editors’ concerns over their readers delicate sensibilities:

The country would be more aroused over this tragic angle of the situation if it were not for the difficulties of the newspapers and radio commentators in adequately presenting the facts, while respecting the decency of their American audiences.

Dick Leitsch and Craig Rodwell (photo: Randolphe Wicker).

First Gay Rights Picket at the United Nations: 1965. Two years earlier, independent Mattachine Chapters in New York, Washington, and Miami, along with Daughters of Bilitis chapters in New York and Philadelphia, with other activists and small groups, had come together to form the East Coast Homophile Organization. ECHO was intended to be not so much a separate organization but a forum in which members of the activists groups could get together and plan strategy and share valuable lessons. At a meeting during the fall of 1964, they decided that the old ways of doing things — engaging in polite “education” programs with the hope of increasing “understanding — just wasn’t yielding any results. “It was a gathering of men and women impatient to remedy the discrimination against the homosexual citizen in our society,” The Ladder reported, which quoted one attendee: “A few years ago, ours was a sweeter, clubbier, less insistent organization. Now there seems to be a militancy about the new groups and new leaders. There’s a different mood.”

The group decided it was time to engage in more direct action. And so when Cuban President Fidel Castro announced a new round governmental policy of rounding up its gay citizenry and and throwing them into internment camps, New York and Washington, D.C. activists felt that this provided a good “hook” on which to hang a couple of protests. Activists in the D.C. area took the opportunity to mount the first ever picket at the White House (see yesterday), while New York advocates decided to protest in front of the Cuban Mission. They soon discovered that police rules prohibited picketing with a fifth of a mile of the Cuban Mission, so they chose to picket at Hammarksjold Plaza at the United Nations. Twenty-nine picketers showed up for the first gay rights protest at the United Nations, and only the second gay rights protest in New York City (see Sep 19).

[Sources: Warren D. Adkins and Kay Tobin (pseudonyms for Jack Nichols and Kay Lahusen) "ECHO Report '64. Part one: Sidelights of ECHO." The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 4.

"Cross Currents." The Ladder 9, no. 8 (May 1965): 22.]

New York Times: “Certain Words Can Trip Up AIDS Grants.”: 2003. A New York Times investigation revealed that AIDS researchers were having trouble getting their research proposals funded by the National Institutes of Health because certain sensitive terms were included in their grant applications. Scientists, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Times that they were warned by federal health officials that their research would come under closer scrutiny by the Department of Health and Human Services or by members of Congress if their proposals included certain key words, including “sex workers,” “men who sleep with men,” “anal sex,” and “needle exchange.” A spokesman for HHS denied that such screening was taking place, but another unnamed official at NIH confirmed that:

…project officers at the agency, the people who deal with grant applicants and recipients, were telling researchers at meetings and in telephone conversations to avoid so-called sensitive language. But the official added, “You won’t find any paper or anything that advises people to do this.”

The official said researchers had long been advised to avoid phrases that might mark their work as controversial. But the degree of scrutiny under the Bush administration was “much worse and more intense,” the official said.

Dr. Alfred Sommer, the dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, said a researcher at his institution had been advised by a project officer at N.I.H. to change the term “sex worker” to something more euphemistic in a grant proposal for a study of H.I.V. prevention among prostitutes. He said the idea that grants might be subject to political surveillance was creating a “pernicious sense of insecurity” among researchers.

…In another example of the scrutiny the scientists described, a researcher at the University of California said he had been advised by an N.I.H. project officer that the abstract of a grant application he was submitting “should be ‘cleansed’ and should not contain any contentious wording like ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ or ‘transgender.’” The researcher said the project officer told him that grants that included those words were “being screened out and targeted for more intense scrutiny.”

He said he was now struggling with how to write the grant proposal, which dealt with a study of gay men and H.I.V. testing. When the subjects were gay men, he said, “It’s hard not to mention them in your abstract.”

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, April 17

Jim Burroway

April 17th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: BEARcelona, Barcelona, Spain; AIDS Walk, Columbus, OH; L.A. Rodeo, Los Angeles, CA; Philly Black Pride Philadelphia, Pa; Pride, Potsdam, Germany.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Eastern Mattachine Magazine, July 1965, page 25.

 
Nob Hill opened in the late 1940s as a formal dinner club. By the early 1950s, the club’s owner, James Jones, realized that the lack of a gay bar for African Americans presented a golden business opportunity. Nob Hill soon joined the ranks of the Capital’s very few gay bars and the only one that was African-American owned. It developed a reputation for its drag shows and its Sunday night Gospel concerts, and became an essential refuge for gay African-Americans in Columbia Heights. Nob Hill finally closed in 2004.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
First White House Picket for Gay Rights: 1965. In 2010, former Cuban president Fidel Castro apologized for for his government’s persecution of gay people in the mid-1960s. That persecution included rounding up gay people and throwing them into camps. That apology reminded Washington, D.C.’s veteran gay rights advocate Frank Kameny (see May 21) of Castro’s action in 1965 led directly to the first time a group of gay activists picketed the White House that spring:

While, Castro had no notion, of course, of what he was doing in this context at that time, in my view and in my interpretation of the dynamics of the 1960s Gay Movement, he triggered Stonewall and all that has followed.

News of Castro’s incarceration of gays in detention camps in Cuba came out early in 1965 — probably in March or very early April. At that time “the 60s” hadn’t yet erupted in their full force, but the precursors were very well advanced. Picketing was considered the mode of expression of dissent, par excellence.

Jack Nichols (see Mar 16) approached me to suggest that we (“we”= The Mattachine Society of Washington, of which I was President) picket the White House to protest Cuba’s action. I felt that it was rather pointless to picket the American President to protest what a Cuban dictator was doing. So I suggested that we broaden and Americanize the effort. One or more of our signs said (in gross paraphrase, here, from memory) “Cuba persecutes Gays; is America much better?”, and others specifically addressed governmental and private anti-gay discrimination here, and other gay-related problems of the day.

Those MSW picketers, seven men and three women, arrived promptly at 2:00 in the afternoon of Palm Sunday at Lafayette Park. They went across the Pennsylvania Avenue and formed an orderly oval in front of the White House and marched, carrying signs reading, “U.S. Claims No Second-Class Citizens. What About Homosexual Citizens?”, “Cuba’s Government Persecutes Homosexuals. U.S. Government Beat Them To It,” and “Gov. Wallace Met With Negroes. Our Gov’t Won’t Meet With Us.” They dressed conservatively, the men in suits and ties, the women in skirts and heals. Kameny insisted on it. “If you’re asking for equal employment rights,” he said, “look employable!” The group had decided not to publicize the protest in advance because they didn’t want to give authorities time to invent a reason to block their protest. But that also meant that there were no reporters or news cameras at that first protest, although the local Afro-American did include a small news bulletin about the demonstration.

They marched for one hour, then packed up and left, elated over how easy it all was. That protest would lead to many more that year: at the Pentagon, the Civil Service Commission, the United Nations, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, and two more pickets at the White House. Those pickets marked a new beginning for the gay rights movement, and they all happened in 1965, four years before Stonewall. Kamany later reflected on that auspicious year:

Ever since, it has been my view, and remains so, that those demonstrations created the protest-oriented mindset which made Stonewall possible, and that without it Stonewall just wouldn’t have happened. Therefore, several steps removed, and obviously utterly unbeknownst to him, by his 1965 detentions of Cuban gays, Fidel Castro precipitated and triggered Stonewall and all that we have gained from it since. So, if you enter into a same-sex marriage, or are helped by a gay-protective anti-discrimination law, or run for elective office an an open gay, thank Fidel.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Thornton Wilder: 1897. The Pulitzer Award-winning playwright and author is best known for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, as well his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. He also wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. His works touched on very broad, universal themes: the qualities of good and evil, and finding meaning in the lives of ordinary people. Our Town was particularly inventive: it’s sparse stage setting was quite “modern” in 1938, but not as avant-garde as the character of the “stage manager,” who breaks the fourth wall and converses with the audience, even going so far as taking questions.

Details of Wilder’s private life are very hard to come by. The lifelong bachelor was exceptionally circumspect about his private life, although he is known to have enjoyed a wide circle of friends. He was romantically linked with the writer Sam Steward, to whom he was introduced by Gertrude Stein. They were reportedly together while Wilder wrote the third act of Our Town — in which we learn that the town’s choir director and church organist Simon Stimson commits suicide. Sadly, in 1938 it would not have been at all difficult to read that as code.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, April 16

Jim Burroway

April 16th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: BEARcelona, Barcelona, Spain; AIDS Walk, Columbus, OH; L.A. Rodeo, Los Angeles, CA; Philly Black Pride Philadelphia, Pa; Pride, Potsdam, Germany.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, August 1973, page 22.

 
Chicago’s Twenty-One Club first opened in 1961, and was the scene of a police raid in September 1969, just a few months after Stonewall. According to a brief article written by Bill Kelley for Mattachine Midwest:

The first raid of the current series occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 20, when the 21 Club was hit and 12 persons were arrested and charged with public indecency. ( Public indecency is defined as lewd fondling on the body in public, and Chicago police routinely apply the law to cover homosexual dancing and even two men with arms over each other’s shoulders. Allegations of lewd fondling are always thrown in, but the real police target is harmless activity on a par with accepted heterosexual behavior.)

As usual, nothing was going on, but the time had come, so the 21 club was raided and innocent victims grabbed. Woody, the owner, was taken in and quite generously bailed out the patrons. He contacted MM, gave us details of the event and took an MM referral attorney. Moreover, Woody has helped raise funds for the legal defense of the patrons ( a benefit cocktail party was being held on Sunday, Oct. 21, as this went to press).

At some point, Club 21 became known as Legacy 21. It was still in business in 2001 when the Chicago Tribune published this brief profile which noted that the bar was Chicago’s oldest gay bar still operating. I haven’t been able to track down when the club finally closed, but by 2012 it was closed and boarded up tight, its large yellow sign was still hanging out front.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
U.S. Morals Lowest in History: 1952. The National Association of Evangelicals were holding their tenth annual convention in Chicago when the group’s president, Dr. Frederick C. Fowler, told the gathering that American was at its lowest moral level in its history. Despite church membership being an all-time high, Fowler blamed “the moral collapse everywhere evident” on materialistic education:

“What is the reason for immorality in the State Department, where homosexuals were dismissed not for their sin but for security reasons?” he asked. “What is the reason for the corruption in the Internal Revenue and other departments of government, for the admitted cheating in college examinations, and in other forms of immorality in the American scene?”

“It goes back to those so-called ‘brilliant’ educators, centered in John Dewey at Columbia, who questioned and then denied the very existence of God, and ruled out any final authority except their own ridiculous and assumed knowledge.”

Fowler’s prescription for America’s abysmal 1950s values was simple: “Yo cannot disregard God and ignore his moral laws and not expect to reap a harvest of rottenness.” He called on government to act as “a minister and trustee, not a Lord; that it is responsible not to itself but to God and the people.” He also asserted that “Christianity can exist without democracy, but democracy could not exist without Christianity.

Human Events Warns of “Homosexual International”: 1952. Before Countess Waldeck became Countess Waldeck, she was Rosa (or Rosie) Goldschmidt, the daughter of a prominent German Jewish banker, who had quite a knack for reinvention. She later became Catholic, and then became a countess when she married, perhaps, her third husband (who’s really counting?) the Hungarian Count Armin Graf von Waldeck. Time described it as “a marriage in which friendship and German passport considerations were deftly blended.” But that’s getting ahead of a few things. Her first marriage, in 1921, was a brief one to the gynecologist Ernst Gräfenberg, for whom the “G-Spot” is named. They divorced four years later “by mutual agreement. In 1929, the 31-year old married the 63-year-old widowed Franz Ullstein, scion of Berlin’s Ullstein Verlag publishing house, which was caught up in a sensational spy scandal. That marriage ended, but she got a lot out of it. When she published her 1934 autobiography “Prelude to the Past,” she candidly described the Ullstein affair along with some affairs of her own.

All of which is to say that Waldeck not only had a knack for reinvention, but also one for international intrigue which she parlayed into a career in journalism for Newsweek and another gossipy and wildly popular book in 1942 about international spies at a grand hotel, the Athene Palace in Bucharest.

But a decade later, her popularity faded as America’s attention turned inward during the McCarthy era. The new enemies now were American Communists and subversive homosexuals in the cojoined Red- and Lavender Scares. Waldeck made another stab at international conspiracy with a story she published in a small newsletter, Human Events, which despite its circulation — perhaps 40,000 in 1960 — claimed among its conservative readers many top Republican Party leaders and an actor in California who would soon become governor and future President. In 1952, Human Events published Waldeck’s essay, “Homosexual International,” in which she praised the ongoing investigations and firings of homosexuals from the State Department, but warned that political leaders and the general public failed to grasp that those investigations barely uncovered the tip of an international iceberg.

In reality the main reason why, at this juncture of history, the elimination of the homosexuals from all Government agencies and especially from the State Department is of vital urgency is that by the very nature of their vice they belong to a sinister, mysterious and efficient International.

Welded together by the identity of their forbidden desires, of their strange, sad needs, habits, dangers, not to mention their outrageously fatuous vocabulary, members of this International constitute a world-wide conspiracy against society. This conspiracy has spread all over the globe; has penetrated all classes; operates in armies and in prisons; has infiltrated into the press, the movies and the cabinets; and it all but dominates the arts, literature, theater, music and TV.

And here is why homosexual officials are a peril to us in the present struggle between West and East: members of one conspiracy are prone to join another conspiracy. This is one reason why so many homosexuals from being enemies of society in general, become enemies of capitalism in particular. Without being necessarily Marxist they serve the ends of the Communist International in the name of their rebellion against the prejudices, standards, ideals of the “bourgeois” world. Another reason for the homosexual-Communist alliance is the instability and passion for intrigue for intrigue’s sake, which is inherent in the homosexual personality. A third reason is the social promiscuity within the homosexual minority and the fusion it effects between upperclass and proletarian corruption.

There was at that time an underlying belief in some quarters that there was something about homosexuality that wasn’t quite American. It wasn’t so much that homosexuality was a foreign import, but there was an undercurrent of thought that somehow tied homosexuality in America to other subversive “foreign” influences. The McCarthy witch hunts only encouraged the notion that homosexuals and communists were interchangeably charged with being national security risks. There was even a new word for the homosexual side of this international conspiracy: hominterm, a play on “Comintern,” short for the Moscow-based Communist International. This “Homosexual International” was allegedly an international conspiracy to control the world and break down society. Waldeck described its supposed history this way:

Actually, the Homosexual International began to gnaw at the sinews of the state in the 1930′s. Until then it just nibbled. I have before me notes I took years ago about that nibbling stage. Still very new to politics, I was amazed to discover that, the “Cherchez l’homme” pointed to a much more powerful factor in international affairs than the “Cherchez la femme.” With fascination I watched the little Sodoms functioning within the Embassies and foreign offices. Somehow homosexuals always seemed to come by the dozen, not because they were cheaper that way but rather because a homosexual ambassador or charge d’affaires or Undersecretary of State liked to staff his “team” with his own people.

Waldeck claimed that “the scope of this article does not permit naming names and place,” which was rather convenient because it allowed her to spend the rest of her 3,500-plus word article to indulge her vivid imagination without actually having to produce anything which might constitute verifiable facts:

…Why had a certain capitalist country such an amazing influence on the politics of a certain revolutionary country? Because the aristocratic ambassador of the capitalist country was a homosexual and so was the foreign minister of the revolutionary country, and the perfect understanding between them cut across ideologies. Why did a certain bilateral trade conference, which seemed hopelessly bogged down, suddenly come to life again? Because the homosexual head of one mission, in order to please the homosexual aide of another mission, decided to sacrifice some vested interests at home for the sake of better understanding abroad. There were many instances of this kind; they didn’t then add up to a menace. But in politics it is always smart to fear a power not because it is dangerous but because it could become dangerous.

That the Homosexual International could become dangerous should have been evident to anyone who had an opportunity to observe the mysterious manner in which homosexuals recognize each other — by a glance, a gesture, an indefinable pitch of voice — and the astonishing understanding which this recognition creates between men who seem to be socially or politically at opposite poles. True, other Internationals are better organized and more articulate. But what is the unifying force of race, of faith, of ideology as compared to the unifying force of a vice which intimately links the press tycoon to the beggar, the jailbird to the Ambassador, the General to the pullman porter?

Waldeck then returns to the two great themes of the McCarthy witch hunts in claiming that “the Homosexual International has become a sort of auxiliary of the Communist International”:

…the Homosexual International works into the hands of the Comintern without any special organizing effort. This does not mean that every homosexual diplomat or official is a Communist or even a fellow-traveller. Still, this dangerous mixture of anti-social hostility and social promiscuity inherent in the vice inclines them towards Communist causes. That’s why agencies in which homosexuals are numerous excel in the sort of intrigue and doubletalk which, apparently objective, somehow always coincides with the party line. One could probably trace some of our more preposterous foreign policy decisions during the last 25 years to the little Sodom inside the State Department. Then too, a study of the the OWI (the U.S. Office of War Information) — veritable home from home for the Homosexual International during the war — would yield a few fascinating cues.

There is another even more sinister aspect of homosexuality in high places. It is that homosexuals make natural secret agents and natural traitors. This conclusion is to be drawn from a theory developed by Professor Theodor Reik in his “Psychology of Sex Relations.” Briefly, this theory is that the phantasy of sex metamorphosis operating in most homosexual affairs which causes him to play the role of the other sex causes him also to enjoy any job which gives him the chance of playing a double role.

The classical example is the famous espionage case of the homosexual Colonel Alfred Redl of the Austro-Hungarian Military Intelligence who, during the decade preceding World War I, delivered Austrian military secrets to the Russians and denounced his own agents to them. He got an immense kick out of playing the role of both the traitor and of the one whose lifework it is to apprehend and punish traitors.

Wardeck advised that the chief weapon against Homintern’s spread was education, in language that is still familiar today:

At best the elimination of homosexuals from Government agencies is only one phase of combatting the homosexual invasion of American public life. Another phase, more important in the long run, is the matter of public educations. …However, the chief educational task would be to combat the “love-and-let-love” line which, peddled by the pseudo-liberal fringe, claims that sexual preversion (sic) does not prevent a man from functioning normally in all other contexts and that it was just like Senator McCarthy to “persecute” the poor dears in the State Department. This line is fatal in that it lulls society into a false sense of security. It fools homosexuals themselves.

It fools them by instilling in them the notion that there is nothing wrong with the satisfaction of their abnormal desires and that it is, indeed, the solution of the homosexual problem. That this is by no means the case is demonstrated by the unhappiness under which most homosexuals (even the most successful among them) labor. In fact, if proof were needed of the high price paid by those who violate the Divine Laws, that dark melancholy unhappiness which is so characteristic of the homosexuals would be it. Actually, license acerbates the homosexual problem both for society and for the individual. Its solution lies just in the opposite direction — namely, in the practice of the admirable art of self-control and resignation.

Two weeks later, Rep. Katherine St. George (R-NY) read the article into the Congressional Record while warning that “the dangers to our own country and our whole political structure from this kind of international ring is dangerous in the extreme and not to be dismissed lightly.” Waldeck’s “Homosexual International” was so influential that Human Events reprinted it again in 1960.

[Source: R.G. Waldeck "Homosexual International." Human Events (April 16, 1952): 1.]

Miami Gay Bar Raided: 1960. Residents of greater Miami woke up on Easter morning to the news that Metro police overnight had raided the “E Club,” located at the corner of Tamiami Trail and SW 37th Avenue “at the request of a citizen. Twenty-three men, including the manager, were arrested at the “deviates’ den” and were charged with “disorderly conduct by being in a known homosexual hangout.” The manager was charged with allowing minors in the bar as well as “operating a known homosexual hangout.” Among those charged was an instructor at Miami Military Academy. When reporters informed the academy’s superintendent, he vowed, “We will drop him immediately, without question. We just can’t have a thing like that. We have enough headaches as it is. I will get in touch with him tomorrow and find out if he was arrested.” Another man from Coral Gables told police he was a teacher, but he later told the Miami News that he was a former teacher who hadn’t taught since 1956.

The names, addresses, and occupations of all twenty-two men arrested were printed in the accompanying article.  According to The Miami News:

Habitues of the place were reported to embrace each other, wear tight-fitting women’s pants and bleach their hair, (Metro Capt. Patrick) Gallagher said. When Gallagher and six other officers descended on the place Friday night, they found the dim-lit bar full of men, some of them paired off in “couples” he said. The only woman in the place told police she just dropped by for a drink, and she was not detained. Officers took all the men in the place to headquarters. Several were released after a screening and 22 were booked.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Dusty Springfield: 1939-1999. Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien got the nickname “Dusty” because she was fond of playing football with the boys on the streets of Ealing in West London. In 1960, Dusty, her brother Tom and Tim field formed a reasonably successful folk trio, The Springfields. When Dusty launched her solo career in 1964, she kept the Springfield name, and switched to to a kind of an R&B Phil Spectoresque “Wall of Sound” that completed her transition to the singer we know today.

Her first album, A Girl Called Dusty, reached number 6 on the British charts powered by her single “I Only Want to Be With You,” which also broke into the U.S. top 20 more than a full year before the Beatles invasion. Other hits followed: “Wishin’ and Hopin’” (1964), “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” (1966), “The Look of Love” (1967), and “Son of a Preacher Man (1968). She also had a knack for exposing other acts to new audiences. She hosted a series of television programs that introduced the Temptations, the Supremes, the Miracles and Stevie Wonder to British audiences, and while recording an album in Memphis for Atlantic records, she convinced one of the label’s heads to sign Led Zeppelin. Those Memphis sessions resulted in the album, Dusty in Memphis, which won rave reviews but was met with poor sales. (It nevertheless won a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 2001.)

By the mid-1970s, Springfield had mostly abandoned her recording career and hid out in the U.S. and away from the British tabloids. Part of that had to do with her increasing drug and alcohol abuse, but part of it also had to do with her sexuality. In 1970, she told the Evening Standard that she was “as capable as of being swayed by a girl as by a boy.” She had lived with follow singer Norma Tanega from 1966 to the early 1970s, and she had an on-again/off-again relationship with American photojournalist Faye Harris. Meanwhile, her addictions got worse and her mental health deteriorated. She began cutting herself, was hospitalized several times, and was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Springfield started recording again in the late 1970s but her later efforts failed to chart. She even tried New Wave music in 1982. But when she accepted an invitation from the Pet Shop Boys to record vocals on their 1987 single “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”, the single reached number 2 in the U.S. and U.K. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994 while recording her final album, A Very Fine Love, in Nashville, and died in 1999, just two weeks before she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, April 15

Jim Burroway

April 15th, 2014

IRS Form 1040 for 1958, with check boxes for “Yourself” and “Wife.” (Click to download. PDF: 472KB/4 pages)

TODAY’S AGENDA:
It’s Tax Day in America, a day that has long been a yearly reminder of the ways in which gay couples have paid more taxes that straight couples in exchange for fewer government benefits and, historically, open discrimination. In the 1950s, that discrimination extended to federal bans on gays in government employment and the military, where the policy wasn’t “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but “get out, and here’s your dishonorable discharge.” With DADT gone and major portions of the Defense of Marriage Act voided, the playing field between gay and straight families have been leveled considerably. But in 1958, Helen Sandoz (see Nov 2), who had become president of the Daughters of Bilitis the year before, had plenty of reasons to lament the unfairness directed towards gays and lesbians of her day:

All morning I have been working on my income tax and this is a drearier task for the Lesbian than f or most people.

We live together, we own homes, we pool our resources and we work for the community, but we cannot enjoy the benefits of a household under the law.

According to statistics that I have seen here and there, there must be quite a lot of “married” homosexuals. This is a great boon to Uncle Sam, because, no matter how much these people make, no matter how much property they own, they will still pay the “single, one deduction” type of income tax. A pair of Lesbians may own a house, join the community league, contribute to all causes, keep the yard up as a credit to the area. They enjoy the taxes imposed by the state and county and city. They pay these taxes. But because the church and state do not sanction their “marriage” they must file as single citizens and pay the premium tax thereon. Property is held jointly, loans are made jointly. The mortgage broker doesn’t question the sex. Property taxes are levied jointly upon the owners. Only when it comes to income tax does the fairness disappear.

I do not cry for a small space on an income tax blank asking for me to check “sex” and leaving room for a variation. I do not ask for a special consideration. I Just think that one person in any household that is bearing its rightful burdens otherwise, should be allowed to claim “head of household” without a lot of claptrap about “relationship”.

Society may choose to condemn homosexuality. But those of us who live together and own property and join in our community’s interests are householders and have a right to consideration under the constitution. Shall we all become cousins?

Source: Helen Sanders (Helen Sandoz). “Me vs. Taxes” The Ladder 2, no. 8 (May 1958): 10.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, August 30, 1976, page 23.

 
My how times have changed. The location is now a yoga studio.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Founded: 1979. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence founded a “convent” in San Francisco when three men, dressed in full traditional habits, went out in the Castro on Easter Sunday of 1979. Ken Bunch (Sister Vicious PHB), Fred Brungard (Sister Missionary Position) and Baruch Golden, were met with shock and amusement. Over the next several months, the attracted new members: Sister Hysterectoria (Edmund Garron) and Reverend Mother (Bill Graham). They quickly settled on a name for their group and composed a mission statement: “to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt.”

Originally a form of camp street theater, the controversial nuns’ mission became deadly serious a few year later as the AIDS crisis gripped San Francisco. The Sisters became among the earliest bay-area AIDS charities at a time when few other established churches and organizations deigned to pitch in. The Sisters helped organize the first AIDS Candlelight Vigil, and have raised more than $1 million in San Francisco alone to benefit such groups as the Breast Cancer Network, Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic and the Gay Games. The Sisters continue to bring meals to those who can no longer care for themselves, and they fund alternative proms for LGBT youth.

The Sisters have branched out with twenty-four orders and seven missions across North America and sixteen orders internationally. And through it all, they continue to be the favorite targets of many religious-right organizations, many of whom still show scant evidence of performing the charitable work that the Sisters do. Ironic, isn’t it?

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Leonardo Da Vinci: 1452-1519.
Born in Vinci “at the third hour of the night,” Leonardo was apprenticed to the artist Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence at the age of fourteen. Early descriptions indicate that he was tall for his day (at least 5’8″), athletic and extremely handsome. One contemporary described him as “an artist of outstanding physical beauty who displayed infinite grace in everything he did.” At the age of twenty-four, Da Vinci was among four people accused of sodomy, a very serious accusation because it carried the death penalty. Those charges were dismissed on the condition that there were no further accusations. When accusations were made again that same year, charges were dismissed again, perhaps because one of those charged may have been linked with the powerful Medici family.

Undoubtedly, those accusations made Da Vinci very cautious, even in Florence where, despite those charges,  homosexuality was somewhat more tolerated than elsewhere (so much so that in Germany, the word Florenzer became slang for homosexual.) While there’s no further contemporary mention of Da Vinci’s sexuality, it was generally known that the life-long bachelor was particularly fond of and generous with his handsome male pupils, some of whom may have inspired some of Da Vinci’s erotic sketches. Later historians mostly assumed that he was gay, an assumption that gained greater currency in the nineteenth century when German, French and British authors began examining the new understanding of what was to be called inversion, uranism, and, finally, homosexuality. Whenever nineteenth century authors sought examples of inverts in history, Da Vinci’s name nearly always earned a prominent mention.

Henry James: 1843-1916. His father, Henry James Sr., was a prominent Swedenborgian philosopher and litrary figure who counted Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Carlyle among his friends. His brother, William, was a groundbreaking American philosopher, psychologist, and physician. His sister, Alice, who struggled with mental illness and opium use for much of her life, was mainly known after her death for her candid, witty and insightful diaries which made her something of a feminist icon.

His father’s constant search for intellectual stimulation had the family nearly constantly on the move between the United States and Europe. The younger James’ adopted a similarly peripatetic life, traveling often between the U.S. and Europe. (He would eventually become a British citizen in 1915, just a year before his death.) His literary works often focused on the perceptions of Europeans and Americans as they encountered each other, and they nearly always examined the characters’ psychological motives. The Portrait of a Lady(1881), explores some of the conflicts between Old World and New World perceptions of personal freedom, duty, honesty and trust through the story of an American heiress whose fortune attracts the malicious attention of some American expatriates in Italy, one of whom marries her in a loveless and psychologically abusive relationship. Another American heiress figures in The Wings of the Dove (1902). She is stricken with a serious disease while visiting relatives in London, and the novel explorse her effect on those around her.

James was also an important literary critic. In his essay The Art of Fiction (1884), he sought to free authors of the prevailing conventions on what made a proper novel. James argued for the widest freedom in content and methods of storytelling. He wrote an important critical study of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and when he collected his own works for a final edition, he wrote a series of prefaces that subjected his own writings to the same penetrating criticism. James had ambitions to becoming a playwright, but his attempts were poorly received and he soon abandoned the effort.

James was exceptionally circumspect about his personal life. He never married, proclaiming himself simply as “a bachelor.” He was horrified by Oscar Wilde’s flamboyance, yet fascinated by his downfall. In one letter to a friend, James protested that Wilde “was never in the smallest degree interesting to me — but this hideous human history has made him so — in a manner.”

James’ biographers insisted that he was celibate due to a “fear of or scruple against sexual love on his part.” But as other diaries and letters to contemporaries and younger men have come to light over the years, a more complete picture of James’s private life has begun to emerge. His letters to American sculptor Hendrik Christian Andersson were intensely emotional and somewhat erotic. Similar letters to novelists Howard Sturgis and Hugh Walpole have also come to light.

James suffered a stroke in late 1915, and died a few months later in London on February 28, 1916 at the age of 72. His ashes were returned to America and interred in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Back in England, a memorial stone for him was placed in the Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner in 1976.

120 YEARS AGO: Bessie Smith: 1894-1937. “The Empress of the Blues” was born in Chattanooga, the daughter of a laborer and part-time Baptist preacher. He died before she could remember him, and by the time she was nine, she had lost her mother and a brother. Her older brother had joined a Black Vaudeville troupe owned by Moses Stokes, which featured Ma Rainey as blues singer. In 1912, Bessie joined that same troupe, but as a dancer rather than a singer. While it’s believed that Rainey didn’t teach Smith to sing, (Smith had been singing on the streets of Chattanooga from a very young age), Rainey is credited with teaching Smith about stage presence. By 1913, Smith began singing professionally, and her career exploded in 1923 when she began recording for Columbia Records. By then, she was the highest-paid African-American entertainer in her day.

In 1923, she entered a very stormy marriage with Jack Gee, but he was unable to accommodate her show-biz life or her open bisexuality. They separated but never officially divorced. Meanwhile, she recorded hit after hit for Columbia, including “Downhearted Blues,” “St. Louis Blues”, “Empty Bed Blues,” and the tune she is perhaps best known for today, “Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer).” By the end of the 1920′s, the arrival of the “talkies” meant the end of vaudeville, while the onset of the Great Depression brought about a collapse of the recording industry. Smith continued touring in clubs, but the going was tough. By 1933, she was recording for Okeh records, where she was paid a non-royalty fee of $37.50 for each side. Those were her last recordings. She was critically injured in a car accident in 1937, her right arm nearly severed in the accident. She died the following morning at the G.T. Thomas Afro-American Hospital in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Her funeral in Philadelphia drew 10,000 mourners. Her grave however remained unmarked; her estranged husband kept pocketing the money raised for a tombstone. She finally got her marker in 1970, courtesy of Janis Joplin.

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George Platt Lynes: 1907-1955. He first wanted to start a literary career after meeting Gertrude Stein and her circle in Paris. In 1927, he opened a bookstore in Englewood, New Jersey and took up photography so he could take pictures of his friends, and that is where his creative energies went. By 1932 Lynes opened his photography studio in New York and began exhibiting in the city’s art galleries. He earned commissions from the New York City Ballet, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodmans. After World War II, he moved to Hollywood, where he became chief photographer for Vogue and photographed such luminaries as Katharine Hepburn, Gloria Swanson, Igor Stravinsky, and Thomas Mann. His work was an artistic success, but a financial failure. He moved back to New York, but was never able to re-establish the success he once had.

You can see his passion for photography in his photos recalling why he took up photography in the first place: intimate (usually nude) photos of friends, lovers, performers and models. The artist Paul Cadmus (see Dec 17) posed for Lynes and recalled how he “used flattery to make everyone feel so comfortable.” Those male nudes were never published, at least not in his lifetime. In the late 1940s, he transferred many of his negatives to Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s Institute for Sexual Research in Bloomington, Indiana, and destroyed much of the rest of his work just before dying of lung cancer in 1955. In 2011, Rizolli published George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes, marking the first time many of his beloved nudes appeared in print.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, April 14

Jim Burroway

April 14th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, May 13, 1983, page 38.

 
In 1983, Indianapolis’s gay bars got together to take out a full page ad in the Advocate to encourage anyone coming to town for the upcoming Indy 500 to stop in for some fun. Among them was Heads or Tails, which was located in a small strip mall in the northern part of the city on Meridian near 38th Street. As of 2011, the strip mall is empty except for a payday loan office next door to the club’s old location.

The state mental hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Iowa’s Sexual Psychopath Law Goes Into Effect: 1955. The last time anyone saw eight-year-old Jimmy Bremmer alive was on the night of August 31, 1954, when the Sioux City youth went to a friend’s house two doors down to play after dinner. He left his friend’s house at around 8:00 to go home, but he didn’t make that short distance. On September 29, his decomposed body was found in a pasture north of town. His crushed skull was several feet away from his decapitated body, and both hands were missing. A man was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. He had confessed after being sent to a mental hospital and injected with Desoxyn and Seconal. (His conviction wouldn’t be overturned until 1972.)

The Red and Lavender Scares, which had dominated the evening news and newspapers for most of the decade, may have been winding down in Washington, but its effects continued to reverberate in cities and towns across the country. With Jimmy’s death, Iowans became convinced that the state was crawling with sexual psychopaths. On January 31, 1955 Iowa legislators introduced a bill in the Iowa House of Representatives “to provide for the confinement of persons who are dangerous criminal sexual psychopaths.” The bill extended to anyone, whether they had been convicted of a crime or not, and its procedures allowed “any reputable person” to charge anyone with such “propensities.” It empowered the court to appoint a psychiatrist for an examination, and allowed the court to commit the accused to  indefinite confinement until “cured,” or until proven to court that release would not be “incompatible with welfare of society.”

The bill passed both houses unanimously with very little discussion and went into effect on April 14, 1955, making Iowa the twenty-fourth state to pass such a law. Michigan was the first, in 1937, and in one eleven year period confined 369 under its law. Twenty-four were confined under the District of Columbia’s law between October 1948 and March 1950 (see Jun 9), and in California, more than fourteen hundred had been confined over a fourteen year period.

On the evening of July 10, 1955, two year old Donna Sue Davis was kidnapped from her crib where she was sleeping. The kidnapper had come in through the open bedroom window, and left the house with Donna Sue through that same window. A neighbor saw the kidnapper flee and gave chase, but the kidnapper got away. The next morning her body was found in a cornfield outside of town. An autopsy revealed that the child had been raped and sodomized. Her left jaw was broken and there were several bruises and cigarette burns on her buttocks. She died of a massive brain hemorrhage from a severe blow to the head. One itinerant farm hand was arrested, but investigators quickly ruled out the possibility that he committed the crime.

Panic gripped Sioux Falls as hardware stores reported running out of padlocks. The Sioux City Journal on July 12 demanded that the city be made “the most feared town in American for the sex deviate.” With no other firm suspects to investigate, the police chief began a roundup of “known sex perverts.” On July 23, Gov. Leo Hoegh announced that a special ward at the state mental hospital in Mount Pleasant had been established to house them. He said, “The guy I want to treat [is the sex deviate] who is now roaming the street but never committed a crime.” Most of those “sex perverts,” it would turn out, were gay men, “diagnosed” with “sociopathic personality disturbance. Sexual deviation (Homosexuality).”

By the end of the year, thirty-three men had been committed, all without charge or trial. At least twenty of them from Sioux City. Many of them were arrested at the Warrior Hotel and its bar, the Tom Tom Club. Once they were nabbed, and fearing for their jobs and reputation, they named names which led to more arrests and detentions. A few with connections were set loose, and one man was able to successfully fight back in court. That was a risk; one juror commented, “He admitted in open court that he listened to Liberace on the radio, and a man who does that is liable to do anything.”  But most of the men accepted plea bargains to avoid public trial and arrest. At least one confined man’s diagnosis was “Homosexuality, no overt acts” — he hadn’t even done anything except be a homosexual. Sioux City’s prosecutor boasted, “At least word is out that they’re not welcome in Sioux City any more.”

At Mt. Pleasant, the men underwent group therapy, individual counseling, and so-called “therapeutic” — unpaid — labor. They were spared aversion therapy, but otherwise, hospital staff were at a loss as to what to do. Mount Pleasant superintendent Dr. W.B. Brown said, “there is no specific treatment which brings about improvement or cures of such individuals. … Law requires me to report to the court once a year… What can I say? I can’t say they are cured.” He also complained that due to crowded conditions, the gay men were often put in the same bedrooms together, leading an Iowa State law professor to note that “the curative effect of this may be said to be doubtful. Staff psychologists, pressured by a state government that no longer wanted to foot the bills, eventually released the men despite doubts that they could be “cured.” Most of those confined never spoke of their confinement again.

Donna Sue’s killer was never found. The sexual psychopath law was finally repealed in 1977.

[Sources: "Dal McIntire" (pseudonym). "Tangents: News & Views." ONE 4, no. 2 (February 1956): 11-12.

Neil Miller. Sex-Crime Panic: A Journey to the Paranoid Heart of the 1950s (Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2002).]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
110 YEARS AGO: John Gielgud: 1904-2000. Acting is quite literally in his blood. His maternal grandmother was the actress Kate Terry, whose two brothers and sister were also actors, and his great-grandmother on his father’s side was a renowned Polish actress, Aniela Aszpergerowa. And for good measure, his brother Val was a popular radio actor, writer and director for the BBC. John began studying acting in 1921, and by the following year he was understudying for Noël Coward. From 1929 to 1931, Gielgud drew attention for his performances in the title roles for Shakespeare’s Richard II and Hamlet at the Old Vic Theater, and through much of his career he was a fixture in London’s West End where he specialized in classical plays with a smattering of comedies here and there, including a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, for which he won a Tony in 1948.

He also took his Shakespearean roles to film, although he didn’t get really serious about film acting until the late 1960s. He won an Academy Award for his supporting role as a sardonic butler in Arthur (1981), a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Providence (1977), and a BAFTA Award for Murder on the Orient Express (1974). He also appeared on television’s Brideshead Revisited (1981) and won an Emmy for Summer’s Lease (1991).

Gielgud’s “coming out” was under less than auspicious circumstances: shortly after receiving his knighthood in 1953, he was arrested and found guilty of “persistently importuning for immoral purposes” at a public toilet in Chelsea. Deeply humiliated, Gielgud avoided traveling to the states as much as he could for the next decade, fearing that he would be denied entrance by U.S. Customs, who routinely barred homosexuals from entering. While Gielgud never denied being gay, he kept his private life private. After he died in 2000, it was revealed that he had made anonymous financial contributions to the British gay rights group Stonewall.

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