Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda

Born On This Day, 1948: Perry Watkins

Jim Burroway

August 20th, 2016

Photo by Rex Wockner

Photo by Rex Wockner

(d. 1996) The Tacoma, Washington, teen was always open about his sexuality. He was out in junior high school. He was out when he studied ballet. His mother told him he should never lie or “give a hoot about what anybody thinks.” So when he was drafted into the army in 1967, he checked the “yes” box for “homosexual tendencies” on his paperwork. The doctor at the induction center saw it, but decided Watkins was qualified for service. Watkins figured the doctor assumed he’d be sent to Vietnam, get killed, and no one would hear about it ever again. After several more rounds of psychiatric interviews, and Watkins repeating very plainly that he was gay — and that he wasn’t just saying that to get out of the draft — he was inducted in May 1968 into the U.S. Army.

At first, he thought they’d changed the rules somewhere along the way — until a friend was discharged for telling his commanding officer the friend was gay. The only difference Watkins could see between his friend’s situation and his own was this: his friend was white. Meanwhile, another African-American friend who had also checked the “yes” box was also inducted, with no major problems. So it was a shock when Watkins applied to become a chaplain’s assistant, and his application was denied because he was gay. Angry, Watkins sought a discharge. The Army denied his request saying it couldn’t be established firmly that he really was a homosexual. In other words, he was too gay to be a chaplain’s assistant, but not gay enough to be kicked out. He became a personnel clerk instead.

Perry WatkinsWhen his service was up in 1970, Watkins returned home to Tacoma, but realized he’d need more education to get a decent job. The Army could provide that. So he signed up again. And like the first time, he marked on his paperwork that he was gay. When he was inducted again, he showed up with twice as much luggage as usual: for Watkins and for “Simone,” a drag character he developed at at Tacoma gay bar called the Sand Box. When he reported for duty in the personnel office at a Pershing missile unit in Frankfurt, Germany, a recreation officer asked what he did in civilian life. “I was a female impersonator,” he said. The recreation officer recruited Watkins to perform in a military show. It was such a success that Watkins got an agent who booked him in NCO and enlisted men’s clubs throughout Europe. When Simone competed against eleven other actual women in an Army beauty pageant, Simone won. Simone’s act even got written up in Stars and Stripes. When Watkins noticed that married soldiers got the day off for their wedding anniversaries, he demanded the day off on the one year anniversary of meeting his German boyfriend. He got it.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have been any more out that Watkins. So it must have seen rather comical when the Army’s CID began investigating reports that Watkins was gay in1972. CID investigators  inspected his locker and took photos of his drag paraphernalia. They interviewed him and he confirmed that he was gay. They talked to several other soldiers in Watkins’s unit, all of whom also confirmed Watkins was gay. But because Watkins refused to name anyone he slept with, the CID dropped the investigation.

In 1975, while serving as a mail clerk outside of Seoul, South Korea, the prior investigations into Watkins’s sexuality caught up with him again. This time, the Army tried to discharge him. But Watkins was confident during his discharge hearing in October. His outstanding record, his awards, his diploma, and the witnesses who praised his performance and said they’d work with him again — all of that impressed the discharge board, which opted to keep him in the army — much to his commanding officer’s surprise and relief.

Meanwhile, Simone kept performing for the USO.

By 1981, Watson was stationed at Fort Lewis, back home in Tacoma, determined to stay for another seven years to qualify for his pension. But problems already arose the year before when his security clearance was revoked for performing in drag and because he did “not deny that he was a homosexual.” Watkins contacted the ACLU, who represented Watkins in his appeal of the revocation. When that went nowhere, he filed suit in Federal Court. This put the government in an untenable bind. Its official policy was to discharge all gay people. But Watkins’s record clearly showed that in practice, the Army only discharged those it wanted to discharge and kept the others. When the Army held its discharge hearing and found Watkins “undesirable for further retention in the military service,” the Federal District Court judge pointed to the 1975 discharge hearing and ruled the Army committed double jeopardy.

Watkins was back in the Army for the remainder of his enlistment. When he tried to re-enlist in 1982, the Army refused until a Federal judge ordered his re-enlistment. When his enlistment was up again in 1984, a Federal Appeals Court had overturned the judge’s ruling and the Army discharged him again, this time acting so quickly that Watkins was unable to get a lawyer and a court order before he was drummed out.

Watkins tried, without much success, to enter gainful employment in civilian life. Having by then appeared on national television and becoming something of a local celebrity in Tacoma, potential employers shied away from hiring him. Meanwhile, his appeals dragged on. Finally, in 1989, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Army to allow Watkins to re-enlist. That ruling was stayed, preventing his re-enlistment, but the following year, an eleven-member panel delivered its en banc ruling, once again ordering the Army to let Watkins re-enlist. Pointing out that the Army knew about his sexuality since the day he was drafted, the court’s order would “simply require the Army to continue to do what it has repeatedly done for 14 years with only positive results: re-enlist a single soldier with an exceptionally outstanding military record.” The Army had “plainly acted affirmatively in in admitting, reclassifying, reenlisting, retaining and promoting” Watkins throughout his career, and it was unfair to discharge him after that.

The court’s ruling was narrow. It didn’t touch on any constitutional questions, and it only applied to Watkins only. The GHW Bush Administration appealed to the Supreme Court, which let the Appeals Court ruling stand. Watkins and the Army then settled the case a year later. Watkins declined to re-enlist in lieu of the the Army restoring his retroactive pay of about $135,000, full retirement benefits, an honorable discharge and a retroactive promotion from staff sergeant to sergeant first class.

[Source Randy Shilts. Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993): 60-63, 78, 155-156, 161-162, 218-219,241-243, 383-386, 395-398, 425, 448-450, 641-642, 718-719.]

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2016

From The Los Angeles Advocate, August 1968, page 28.

From The Los Angeles Advocate, August 1968, page 28.

Danny Combs, Groovy Guy 1968. (Photo by Pat Rocco, see Feb 9.)

Danny Combs, Groovy Guy 1968. Photo by Pat Rocco (Feb 9).

Who’s the grooviest guy in L.A.? “It’s about time we all settled this question, so let’s join in and find him,” proclaimed Sam Winston in kicking off The GROOVY GUY contest. Sponsored by the ADVOCATE and the HAYLOFT, the area-wide contest seeks to find the all-round attractive male from the standpoint of looks, build, and whatever else it takes to make The GROOVY GUY.

The final choice will take place at a gala pageant at the Hayloft on August 19. Any bar or combination of bars that wants to enter a candidate for the title may do so. Each entering bar may run a contest of its own or choose its entrant by any other method. They must make their choice by July 20, however. Each contestant will make appearances during August before the night of the pageant at the Hayloft and at his sponsoring bar. At the finals, each aspiring GROOVY GUY will parade before the judge twice once in a bathing suit and once in blue jeans and tee shirt.

The first contest in 1968 drew seven contestants and about 150 people to the Hayloft’s parking lot. (The bar itself was too small to handle the crowd.) Danny Combs won that year.The Advocate gushed:

Winner Danny Combs, who lives in Long Beach. is a fairly muscular young man with a 28-inch waist. He stands five feet nine inches and weighs 160 pounds. Other assets include blue-green eyes, a warm ready smile, and other things.

Contestants Bill Harris from The Klondike, Jamie Miller from Le Tomcat, Danny Combs, and Terry Gaffigan from The River Club hold raffle tickets. A member of the audience won a color TV.

Contestants Bill Harris from The Klondike, Jamie Miller from Le Tomcat, Danny Combs, and Terry Gaffigan from The River Club hold raffle tickets. A member of the audience won a color TV.

Combs was sponsored by The Patch, a bar that had undergone a bout of police harassment just two days earlier (Aug 17) and lived to tell about it. The 23-year-old model won a Groovy Guy Trophy and prizes including a trip to San Francisco with a night at the Ramrod, and a $25 gift certificate from a Los Angeles clothing store.

In 1969, the Los Angeles Advocate was renamed simply The Advocate and began national distribution. That year’s Groovy Guy contest was much larger, attracting 18 contestants and an audience of 1,500. That year was notable because organizers allowed same-sex dancing, which was still illegal at the time.  By 1971, the event was becoming so popular that other Groovy Guy contests started appearing in other cities across the U.S.

Souvenir program for the 1971 Groovy Guy contest.

Souvenir program for the 1971 Groovy Guy contest.

In 1972, the contest was moved to the Grand Ballroom of the International Hotel in Century City. Organizers added the Mr. Congeniality Award in an attempt to recognize “the whole man” and not just his physical attributes. That was about as successful as you would imagine it to be. By then, Groovy Guy had gotten so big that it had become too much of a distraction for the tiny Advocate staff. That was the last year for Los Angeles’ Groovy Guy, but not for the gay male pageant. Two other local gay publications took it over for 1973 and renamed it the Groovy Stud Contest (1973), then the California Groovy Guy Contest (1974-1977), then the Data Boy Pageant (1978, 1979), then finally the Super-Men Pageant (1980-1987).

[Other sources: “Where the Acton Is! The Groovy Guy Contest!!” The Los Angeles Advocate (July 1968): 2.

“Groovy Guy Pageant Scores.” The Los Angeles Advocate (September 1968): 3.

“Not Just a Body: Groovy Guy Contest to Stress ‘Whole Man’.” The Advocate (May 24, 1972): 7.]

Emphasis Mine

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2016

Olympic gymnast Danell Leyva proclaimed his support for LGBT rights on Instagram after the Pulse gay night club massacre. He also posted another video adding his support for transgender rights. Meanwhile, fellow gymnastics teammate Sam Mikulak had suggested that maybe they could draw a larger audience if they competed shirtless. “People make fun of us for wearing tights,” he said. “But if they saw how yoked we are maybe that would make a difference.” Leyva tested that theory on Wednesday during the gymnastics gala, a non-competition event that is held simply for fun, when he stripped down about halfway through his parallel bars performance.

Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev decided to follow suit on the high bar.

Men’s swimming is eminently more watchable now that Olympic rules have compelled them to ditch the all-body suits of past Olympics. Mikulak’s suggestion ought to be adopted immediately, don’t you think?

In other news, the Chinese men’s team did this:

Today In History, 1969: Frank Kameny “Throws Down The Gauntlet” Over Security Clearance Denials

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2016

Frank Kameny

Benning Wentworth was an electronics technician for a private research contractor for the U.S. Air Force when, in the spring of 1966, he was accused of homosexuality and his eleven-year security clearance was revoked. Frank Kameny, co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., and who himself had been fired by the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality, worked as Wentworth’s counsel in an appeal before the Industrial Security Clearance Review Office in the Department of Defense. The Pentagon justified its blanket denial of security clearances to gay people by claiming gays were subject to blackmail. Kameny pointed out the obvious flaw in that logic: Wentworth was out — he even appeared in a press conference about his hearing — and it’s impossible to blackmail someone over their homosexuality if the whole world knows about it. In his opening remarks, Kameny described a different unnamed person, known only as OSD 66-44, who was allowed to keep his clearance as long as he spent the rest of his life in the closet and pretended to be straight. But for Wentworth and others, that was not longer an option. The logic behind the two cases made no sense whatseover. Kameny declared:

The Department got its satisfaction out of OSD 66-44, whoever he may be. We hope he sleeps soundly these days, poor man. OSD 66-44 may have compromised. He may have knuckled under. He may have crawled. He may have groveled. He may have submitted to Departmental blackmail of the most contemptible kind.

We will not. We stand our ground.

We throw down the gauntlet, clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously.

We state for the world, as we have stated for the public, we state for the record and, if the Department forces us to carry the case that far, we state for the courts that Mr. Wentworth, being a healthy, unmarried, homosexual male, 35 years old, has lived, and does live a suitable homosexual life, in parallel with the suitable active heterosexual sexual life lived by 75 percent of our healthy, unmarried, heterosexual males holding security clearances; and he intends to continue to do so indefinitely into the future. And please underline starting with the word “and intends to do so into the future”. Underline that, please, Mr. Stenographer.

Despite the obvious problems with the Pentagon’s reasonings for withdrawing Wentworth’s clearance, Kameny lost that case. Wentworth and three others who also had their security clearances denied, filed suit in district court, then in Federal court. In 1973, a Federal District Judge ordered the Pentagon to restore Wentworth’s clearance.

Over the next three decades, the Pentagon and other agencies began to allow gay and lesbian Americans hold security clearances, but the policies were inconsistent and sometimes arbitrary. President Clinton signed Executive Order 12968 in 1995 (Aug 4) which finally prohibited all agencies from citing homosexuality as a reason for denying a security clearance once and for all.

You can read Kameny’s entire opening statement in the Wentworth case here.

[Additional source: Lillian Faderman. The Gay Revolution: The Story of Struggle (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015): 166-167.]

Toady In History, 1985: Congressman Hires Anti-Gay Extremist Paul Cameron As Advisor

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2016

Paul Cameron

This Associated Press Report appeared in newspapers nationwide:

A Psychologist who believes homosexuals should be quarantined has been hired as an expert on AIDS by a congressman who sits on the House subcommittee overseeing research on the disease, a newspaper reported Sunday. Paul Cameron of Lincoln, Neb., was hired for a $2,000, one-month tenure to advise Rep. William Dannemeyer, R-Calif., on homosexuality and acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the Register of Orange County reported. Cameron, who says the quarantine should be ordered to stop the spread of disease, has linked homosexuality to criminal behavior, including mass murder and child molestation. Dannemeyer, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health and environment, said he trust Camerin as an adviser even though the psychologist has been expelled from the American Psychological Association and repudiated by the Nebraska Psychological Association.

Not only was Cameron kicked out of the APA and censured by the NPA, he was also denounced by several other professional organizations for gross and unethical misrepresentations of legitimate scientific research. Cameron would go on to say that medical extermination of people with AIDS might be a legitimate consideration, and in 1999 he wrote admiringly of how the Nazi’s “dealt with” homosexuality. Dannemeyer’s record on LGBT issues was little better. In 1986, Dannemeyer was the only prominent politician to support Lyndon LaRouche’s Proposition 64 in California, which would have labeled AIDS a disease subject to quarantine (Nov 4). In 1989, Dannemeyer read into the Congressional Record Cameron’s graphic description of gay sex, “The Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do.” Dannemeyer left the House in 1992 to try to run for the Senate seat for California, but he lost in the primary.

Today In History, 2013: Marriage Equality Arrives in New Zealand

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2016

On April 17, 2013, immediately after the New Zealand Parliament passed a bill granting marriage equality in a 77-44 vote, House members and visitors in the gallery sang “Pokarekare Ana,” a traditional Maori love song. Poking at the ever-present rivalry between the Aussies and the Kiwis, Green MP Kevin Hague told reporters, “Hopefully it will push the Aussies into doing something.” His hopes went unfulfilled, but in August New Zealand became the thirteenth nation to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Born On This Day, 1934: Renée Richards

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2016

Renee Richards

The Yale-trained eye surgeon, author and professional tennis player completed her transition to female in 1975. After transitioning, she moved to California and re-established a successful practice as an ophthalmologist while playing in amateur tennis tournaments. After a local reporter covering a tennis tournament revealed that she had transitioned, she decided to end her practice and become a tennis pro with the hopes of raising awareness for transgender people. When she tried to enter 1976 U.S. Open, the United States Tennis Association suddenly came up with a previously unknown “born-women only” policy and demanded that Richard submit to chromosomal testing to confirm her eligibility to compete. She sued, and in 1977 she won the right to play as a woman.

1977 US Open Tennis ChampionshipThat year, she was a finalist in women’s doubles with Betty Ann Stuart at the U.S. Open, but lost in a close match to Martina Navratilova and Betty Stöve. Richards won the 35-and-over women’s singles. She continued playing until 1981, and she ranked as high as 20th overall in 1979. She later became Navratilova’s coach, but Richards would always be known more for her transitioning than for her tennis career.

But if transgender people were looking to Richards as an advocate for them, she would disappointed them again and again. In 1999, she told People magazine:

This route that I took was not easy. But the compulsion was so great, I couldn’t turn it off. You can’t turn it off by throwing away all of your women’s clothes or joining the Navy. I had to do it. I wish that there could have been an alternative way, but there wasn’t in 1975. If there was a drug that I could have taken that éwould have reduced the pressure, I would have been better off staying the way I was—as a totally intact person. Since there wasn’t, my alternative might have been suicide. …I get a lot of inquiries from would-be transsexuals, but I don’t want anyone to hold me out as an example to follow.

In her 2007 autobiography, No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life, she describes the challenges and the freedom that came with her decision to transition, while expressing her frustration over the intense public scrutiny that concentrated so much attention on it. A New York Times profile revealed her to be “surprisingly conservative”: her idea of marriage “demands a man and a woman” (“It’s like a female plug and an electrical outlet,” she said), and she called the 2004 decision by the International Olympic Committee to allow transgender people to compete “a particularly stupid decision.” Her own lawsuit to play in the U.S. Open was different, she said, because at age forty, “I wasn’t going to overwhelm Chris Evert and Tracy Austin, who were 20 years old.” She reiterated those views in the 2011 documentary Renee,: “Transsexuals have every right to play, but maybe not on a professional level because it’s not a level playing field.” Having resumed her surgery practice after retiring from tennis, she continued practicing in Manhattan and Westchester County, N.Y., until her retirement in 2013.

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Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2016

From Wilde Side, September 1, 1976, page 22.

From Wilde Side, September 1, 1976, page 22.

During its heyday, this Boston club had something for everyone: a jazz club, a cruise bar, one dance floor for rockers, another for disco, and a roof top deck with food and a view of Fenway Park. The club closed in 1988 after about fifteen years in business in the aftermath of a police bribery scandal. Documentary filmmaker Vincent-Louis Apruzzese said:

“It was a big story at the time, and is probably the reason it closed. The owner videotaped policemen taking bribes at the club. I asked for the footage, and it does exist, but is in court records now. I spoke to a security person there and there was an elevator with a video camera in it, and he said if we had seen the stuff that they deleted over the years, we’d have quite a movie. That was because I guess a lot of people would sneak into the elevator to do drugs and have sex, and they had no idea that they were being videotaped. They had cameras in the elevator, in the office, and a couple of other places.”

…Apruzzese, who grew up in Everett, remembers going to the club at a very young age. “It was sometime around 1977-78. I was very young and definitely not of age, but I was an oddball at the time. I had dyed hair, and people thought I was some kind of odd lesbian. I was so young, that I looked androgynous; but I still had this masculine edge. I wore earrings, and no one was wearing earrings. The 1270 wasn’t the first club I ever went to, but was the one I liked the most. And I think I liked it because a lot of the people that went there were outcasts, even a lot of the other bars wouldn’t let them in; so they appreciated it.”

The 1270, for some, was literally a life saver, providing refuge for gays and lesbians from the occasional gay-bashing baseball fans leaving Fenway. Today, it’s the gentrified Baseball Tavern, catering to many of those same Red Sox fans, and tourists.

Emphasis Mine

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2016

Bryant bombs in Boston; GCN vandalized

BOSTON — Anita Bryant failed to perform in Boston September 1 when Democratic US Senatorial candidate Howard Phillips called off a fundraiser staring the anti-gay crusader. Phillips claimed to have cancelled the concert due to threats of violence from “militant homosexuals,” but failed to mention that only 78 tickets had been sold for the event.

Advertisements in Boston newspapers appeared with Bryant’s face partly covered by the caption, “Cancelled Due To Threats Of Violence.”

Bryant did arrive in the city to plug Phillips in a news conference however. Two thousand people flooded Copley Square in protest. Addressing the crowd, former Superior Court Judge Robert Bonin called the cancelation “a typical demagogic trick. Politics is the only profession where mediocrities can gain the world’s attention by slander.” The demonstration took place without incident.

TBP Caption: "What A Dump!" Staff of Boston's GCN faced this mess after the latest vandalism.

TBP Caption: “What A Dump! Staff of Boston’s GCN faced this mess after the latest vandalism.”

Two days later the offices of Boston’s Gay Community News were forcibly entered and ransacked for the fifth time in the past year. Desks and file cabinets were forced open and their contents dumped on the floor. The vandalism followed a week of phone threats of violence in the wake of Bryant’s visit. Boston police continue their investigation.

[Source: The Body Politic (Toronto, ON, October, 1978): 17.]

Today In History, 1978: Boston Police Beat, Arrest Gay Youths

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2016

Boston Police Commissioner Joseph M. Jordan

Boston Police Commissioner Joseph M. Jordan

Problems between the Boston Police Department and the gay community had been growing for months. Several complaints each week were lodged with the Gay Community News about police inaction in dealing with crimes against gay victims and open police harassment of gays and lesbians throughout Boston. On August 18, three gay teens, two of them in drag, were walking to a Beacon Hill apartment when they heard screams coming from the Arlington Street T station. Two men came out of the station and ran to their cars. When Larry Brown called out their license plate numbers to his friends,the two men chased them down, beat and kicked them, and shouted, “This is for Anita Bryant.”

When a police car arrived, the three youths learned that the two men who had beaten them were actually Boston police officers: John Gillespie and Thomas Clifford. Patrol officers arrested the victims, with Gillespie and Clifford going free. On the way back to the station, the arresting officers threatened to dump the youths “in the Charles River or the Blue Hills” because “queers have no right to live.”

After Massachusetts State Rep. Barney Frank demanded an investigation, the BPD’s Internal Affairs Division began looking into the incident. They found Clifford and Gillespie guilty of physically and verbally abusing the three men, failing to submit incident reports, and submitting false statements to their commanders and to IAD. Lt. Ralph Maglio was also found guilty of neglecting his responsibilities as a duty supervisor and of making false statements to IAD.

Boston Police Commissioner Joseph M. Jordan suspended Clifford and Gillespie for three months without pay. Maglio received a one week suspension without pay. Jordon’s action made it the first time Boston police officers had ever been disciplined for abusing gay people. Rep. Frank praised the Commissioner’s actions. “I think it’s terrific. It should have a tremendous effect, because it shows that the Commissioner will not tolerate abuse even if the victim is a runaway gay teenager in drag.”

[Sources: “Boston Police Trial.” GPU News (Milwaukee, WI, October 1978): 14.

“Boston Suspensions.” GPU News (November 1978): 14.

“‘Fag-beating’ Cops Get First-Ever Suspensions.” The Body Politic (Toronto, ON, November 1978): 17.]

Today In History, 1990: President George H.W. Bush Signs the Ryan White CARE Act

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2016

American Foundation for AIDS Research Program Officer Terry Beirn urging President Bush to support the Ryan White CARE Act.

American Foundation for AIDS Research Program Officer Terry Beirn urging President Bush to support the Ryan White CARE Act.

Since the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, the nation’s response to the deadly disease was chronically slow and woefully underfunded. Much of the resistance to increased funding stemmed from open hostility to the disease’s two main risk groups; gay men and intravenous drug users. If there was any sympathy toward the disease, it was reserved almost exclusively for hemophiliacs who were infected by tainted blood products. They were deemed the only “innocent” victims of the disease, and Indiana teenager Ryan White was their most visible symbol. By 1990, the first of the most meaningful treatments, AZT, was available (Mar 19), but its $10,000 per year price tag (over $21,000 in today’s dollars) made it beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest patients.

In hearings held in early 1990, the House Budget Committee heard testimony in Los Angeles and San Francisco about the challenges in providing care. Mervyn Silverman of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) warned that up to one million HIV-positive Americans were at risk of becoming ill with full-blown AIDS. Others declared that it was finally time to treat AIDS like any other natural disaster. By the spring, members of the House and Senate were gearing up to prepare major legislation to help pay for treatment. The legislation would provide block grants to states to provide testing, counseling and early low-cost treatment to those with HIV and who had no other means to pay for it. It also would provide additional finds for urban centers where health care systems were already strained by the epidemic, and provide medical care for expectant mothers with HIV.

Ryan White and his mother, Jeanne, in 1985.

Ryan White and his mother, Jeanne, in 1985.

Different versions of the legislation passed the House and Senate, but they were far apart in the specifics. When the final version was hammered out in conference, it went back to both chambers for approval. During the House debate, the Bush White House signaled its opposition to the bill, saying “The bill’s narrow approach, dealing with a specific disease, sets a dangerous precedent, inviting treatment of other diseases through similar arrangements.” By then, the bill had been named the Ryan White CARE Act after the teen who died the previous April. His mother, Jeanne White, testified on Capital Hill in support of the bill.

North Carolina bigot Jesse Helms led the opposition in the Senate, but his filibuster threat was thwarted when the bill arrived on the Senate floor with sixty-six co-sponsors, more than enough to end debate. Both houses voted overwhelmingly for the bill’s final passage in voice votes between July 31 and August 4. Sensing that any White House veto would be quickly overridden, President Bush quietly signed it on Saturday, August 18.

Born On This Day, 1906: Marcel Carné

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2016

(d. 1996) A major figure in poetic realism, French filmmaker Marcel Carné began working in silent film as a camera assistant. In the mid-1930s, he went to England to work on Alexander Korda’s Knight Without Armour (1937) while also directing Jenny (1936), which was the start of Carné longtime collaboration with surrealist poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert. Carné had the misfortune of being in France during Germany’s invasion, where he continued working in Vichy.

Filmmaking is always a complicated enterprise. Doing it in wartime under a repressive dictatorial regime added another set of difficulties when Carné began work on what became his most highly acclaimed film, Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise). He had to work around Vichy restrictions, shooting the film in two parts to comply with Vichy’s 90-minute limit. Starving extras made off with food before banquet scenes were shot. Some of those extras were Resistance fighters, who used the cover of daylight filming to allow them to meet together. Set designer Alexandre Trauner and music composer Joseph Kosma, both Jews, had to work in secrecy. The main quarter-mile long set was destroyed during a storm, electricity was as intermittent as the funding, film stock was rationed, key personnel were reassigned to other projects by authorities, and production was suspended following the Allied landing at Normandy. After Paris was liberated in 1944, production resumed, but one of the actors was sentenced to death by the Resistance for collaborating with the Nazis; all of his scenes had to be re-shot with a replacement. When Children of Paradise was finally released as a single three-hour film (and without an intermission), it became an instant success, remaining at the Madeleine Theater for the next 54 weeks.

Children of Paradise would be Carné’s high water mark. Riding on the its success, Carné’s next film, Les Portes de la Nuit was given the largest budget in the history of French film. It flopped, and it would be Carné’s last collaboration with Prévert. In the 1950s, Carné was eclipsed by the French New Wave, and his films, except for 1958’s Les Tricheurs, were typically panned by critics. Openly gay, Carné often cast his partner, Roland Lesaffre, in many of his films. Carné made his last film in 1976. But Children of Paradise was never forgotten. It was voted Best Film Ever in a poll of 600 French critics and professionals in 1995, and it was restored and re-released on Blu-ray in 2012.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 17th, 2016

From The Los Angeles Advocate, July 1968, page 19.

From The Los Angeles Advocate, July 1968, page 19.

Patch manager Lee "The Blond Darling" Glaze

Patch manager Lee “The Blond Darling” Glaze

The Patch opened on April 7, 1968 on the Pacific Coast Highway in the Wilmington area of southern Los Angeles next to Long Beach. It quickly became one of the more popular gay night spots in the Los Angeles area thanks to its live music and a policy that allowed men to dance together. Soon after, the police commission called the owners and set a series of demands: no minors, no drag, no groping, only one person at a time in the restrooms, and no male-male dancing. The Patch agreed, as a price for staying in business, but when that business quickly fell off, they resumed allowing dancing. When the police commission objected, the Patch vowed to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court. The commission backed down, but LAPD found other ways to harasses the bar: arbitrarily ticketing parked cars, refusing to arrest area teens who threatened patrons. The local PTA got wind of the Patch’s existence and circulated a petition to close the bar down. Even the local musician’s union showed up to cause trouble, despite the bar’s hiring a union band and paying above scale. Manager Lee Glaze was undeterred:

“John Q. Public has to wake up to the fact that he has to accept us, he says, “We exist. Straights have to learn to live with it. We know that we’re not acceptable anywhere but in our own society. We have to have a place to go. If they close up our clubs, we’ll all have to take to the streets.”

[Source: “‘Patch’ Fights Three-Way Battle. The Los Angeles Advocate (August 1968): 3, 25.]

Today In History, 1968: The Flower Power Protest Against Los Angeles Police

Jim Burroway

August 17th, 2016

L.A. Police check ID's of more Patch patrons outside the bar.

L.A. Police check ID’s of more Patch patrons outside the bar.

From the day The Patch opened four months earlier, the popular Los Angeles bar fought a series of battles just to stay in business. The Los Angeles police tried to prohibit dancing in the joint, the local musician’s union demanded the Patch put up a week’s worth of wages for any bands they hired, and the local PTA was trying to drive it out of town. If that weren’t enough, local youths who hung out at a nearby hamburger stand made a sport out of threatening and harassing bar patrons. Whenever anyone from the bar tried to call the police, cops would simply threaten to arrest the patron and give the local toughs a free reign.

Things came to a head on Saturday, August 17 when the Patch’s manager, Lee Glaze, noticed a couple of vice cops in the room. During a break in the music, Glaze got up on stage, pointed out the cops, and chided the LAPD for sending such “homely” vice officers. The cops left, but returned a little later at around midnight with five or six uniformed officers in tow. As the band kept playing, the officers fanned out and began checking IDs. They arrested two of the patrons and charged them with lewd conduct. Glaze was outraged. The two had been competing for a third man’s attention and weren’t the least bit interested in each other. As Glaze remembered later, “How could you possible arrest two queens who hated each other?”

This wasn’t a full-on police raid. The police understood that they didn’t need to go through all that just to close a bar down. Ordinarily, all it would take to do that would be for the police to show up and ask for a few IDs, and the bar’s patrons would go scrambling for the door. Make a few arrests, and the patrons would never return and the bar would be out of business. Glaze wasn’t about to let that happen. He jumped back onto the stage, and with the police looking on, he urged the audience not to be intimidated. “It’s not against the law to be a homosexual,” he said, “and it’s not a crime to be in a gay bar.” He then announced that the Patch would provide bail money and a lawyer for the two who had been arrested. He stepped down from the stage, the band resumed playing, and a most remarkable thing happened: nobody left. The crowd of 250 kept dancing.

Glaze left, and went to the police station to find out more about the charges and bail amount. He then returned to the Patch a short while later with a crazy idea. “Anyone here own a flower shop?” he asked from the stage. Of course, someone did. “Go clean it out,” he shouted, “I want to buy all your flowers.” He then invited everyone to go down to the Harbor Division station after the bar closed.

Patch customers stage "Flower Power" protest inside the LAPD's Harbor Division station.

Patch customers stage “Flower Power” protest inside the LAPD’s Harbor Division station.

About twenty-five hardy souls took him up on the call, and the group camped out — in the best meaning of the word “camp” — all night in the station’s waiting room staging what has become known as the Flower Power Protest, as a bewildered desk sergeant looked on. “One flower hits me, and you’re going to be charged with assault on a police officer,” the sergeant said, intimidating exactly no one in the room. Troy Perry (Jul 27), who would later that year found the Metropolitan Community Church, was there:

When we arrived at the police station, Lee told the officer at the desk, “We’re here to get our sisters out.” The officer asked, “What are your sisters’ names?” When Lee said, “Tony Valdez and Bill Hasting,” the officer had this surprised look on his face and called for backup. They didn’t know what to do with all the gay men waiting in the lobby. …Lee showed me you don’t have to be afraid of the police. Once that happened, it encouraged me to become a gay activist.

The Flower Power protesters later that morning after the two detainees were released.

The Flower Power protesters later that morning after the two detainees were released.

The bondsman soon arrived, posted bail, and left, saying that the two should be out in a few minutes. The police had other ideas, and held the two for several more hours before finally dropping the charges and releasing them at dawn.

It’s easy to under-appreciate the significance of the Flower Power protest.  For the first time in memory, a gay bar not only survived the aftermath of a police raid after so many failed before, but thrived, thanks to the bar manager’s taking on the police on their home turf. And there was another important first: instead of fleeing, never to return, customers stood by the Patch after the raid. And for that, Glaze expressed his appreciation in a letter to the editor of The Los Angeles Advocate two months later:

If all gay bars had customers such as mine, there would be no further harassment from various agencies such as the ABC the police, and the so-called ” straight” public. Throughout these problems their attitude has been “We’ re doing nothing wrong. We re hurting no one. There is nothing illegal about being in a gay bar. There is nothing Illegal about a bar being gay. And we’re staying. Period.”

These people have finally had it. They’re standing up for their rights as individuals.

The protest inspired several others in the Long Beach area to form legal defense funds, gay community forums, and even the world’s first Christian denomination founded specifically to meet the needs of gay people. The Los Angeles Advocate, which later became the national gay newsmagazine The Advocate, called the courageous action “a remarkable sight” and hailed Glaze’s speech that night in the bar “a minor masterpiece. It infected his audience with some of his own courage. Let us hope that the infection spreads.”

[Additional sources: “Patch Fights Three-Way Battle.” The Los Angeles Advocate (September 1968): 3, 25.

Editorial: “Courage Catches On.” The Los Angeles Advocate (September 1968): 5.

Dick Michaels. “Cops Join Hoods in Harassing Bar.” The Los Angeles Advocate (September 1968): 5-6.

Lee Glaze. Letter to the editor. The Los Angeles Advocate (October 1968): 19-20.]

Today In History, 1992: Pat Buchanan Declares “A Culture War” in America

Jim Burroway

August 17th, 2016

Pat Buchanan

Dissatisfied with President George H.W. Bush’s more moderate policies in pursuit of a “kinder, gentler America,” former Nixon speechwriter and Reagan communications director Pat Buchanan launched a primary challenge against Bush’s 1992 re-election campaign. Buchanan’s loud opposition to immigration, multiculturalism, abortion and gay rights earned him the nickname of “Pitchfork Pat.” It also got him a surprisingly strong New Hampshire primary showing with 38% of the vote against the incumbent’s 53%. Buchanan may have come in second, but by exceeding expectations by a large margin, many saw his showing as a win of sorts. Through the rest of the primary season, Buchanan collected three million votes and earned a spot as keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in Houston.

A few weeks before the GOP gathered in the Astrodome, former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination, and with his wife Hillary, promised that voters would get two Clintons for the price of one. Clinton and his running mate, Tennessee Sen. Al Gore, were leading in the polls by a substantial margin, and the GOP needed to work hard at rallying its socially conservative base. Buchanan delivered the goods in his opening night prime-time speech, in which he brought “Culture War” into the political lexicon:

Yes, we disagreed with President Bush, but we stand with him for freedom to choice religious schools, and we stand with him against the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women.

We stand with President Bush for right-to-life, and for voluntary prayer in the public schools, and against putting American women in combat. And we stand with President Bush in favor of the right of small towns and communities to control the raw sewage of pornography that pollutes our popular culture.

We stand with President Bush in favor of federal judges who interpret the law as written, and against Supreme Court justices who think they have a mandate to rewrite our Constitution.

My friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton and Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so, we have to come home, and stand beside him.

Buchanan ended with a call to arms: “We must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.” Televangelist Pat Robertson and Marilyn Quale, wife of Vice President Dan Quayle, gave similarly sharp speeches, but Buchanan’s stood out. It brought the GOP delegates to their feet.

But outside the arena his speech wasn’t quite as well received. One TV commentator remarked, “The most significant delegate here in Houston this week is God.” Anthony Lewis wrote in the New York Times, “The sleaze was so thick on the ground in Houston, the attacks so far-fetched, that some people may be tempted to dismiss them as funny. Not I. I remember Joe McCarthy.” George Will was similarly dismayed. “The crazies are in charge,” he wrote. “The fringe has taken over. … No wonder the Republicans must beg people to come into their shrinking tent. The fringe on that tent’s entrance is forbidding.” But the most succinct reaction came from Texas political pundit Molly Ivins, who said, “It probably sounded better in the original German.”

[Additional source: Timothy Stanley. The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2012): 2-6, 210-211.]

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