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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 8

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Washington Blade, November 6, 1981, page B-15.

From The Washington Blade, November 6, 1981, page B-15.

Aversion Therapy of Homosexuality: 1969. Doctors had been using painful jolts of electricity to try to torture homosexuality out of people since 1935 (see Mar 11 and Sep 6). In 1969, The British Journal of Psychiatry published a paper by John Bancroft of Maudsley Hospital, a psychiatric facility in South London, titled “Aversion Therapy of Homosexuality: A Pilot Study of 10 cases.” The treatment went like this: first, the patient’s penis was attached to a device which measures changes in girth. Then:

In method A, the patient was asked to produce erotic homosexual fantasies whilst looking at photographs of males. Painful electric shocks were delivered to his arm whenever an erection developed up to a certain level. …Following this initial shock, further shocks were given at 15 second intervals unless the erectile response was falling or was once again below the threshold level. A minimum of 5 shocks was given in any one trial.

If the threshold level of erection was not reached by the end of 5 minutes, the trial was ended and a new trial was started with different photographs. On the average, 12 such trials were given in each session.

In addition each session included two further types of trial; one homosexual trial with no threat of shock, and 3 heterosexual trials when photographs of females were used and the patient encouraged to produce heterosexual fantasies. These heterosexual trials were included for two reasons. Firstly to allow discrimination between homosexual and heterosexual erections and so avoid any suppression of homosexual erections generalizing to both. Secondly it was hoped that either by a practice effect or by an “anxiety relief” effect (due to withdrawal of the threat of shock) the heterosexual responses might be reinforced.

In the last three patients an alternative method was used in the last part of treatment (Method B). In this method, the patient was asked to produce specific homosexual fantasies without the use of photographs, and to signal as soon as he had the image clearly in his mind. He was then shocked. In this second method, therefore the noxious stimulus was not contingent upon the erectile response but upon the fantasy.

Before or after the sessions, the patients were asked to describe any sexual activity they had participated in, as well as their masturbatory fantasies. The answers to those questions determined whether they passed or failed. How very scientific, don’t you think? But what’s most revealing is how Bancroft described the treatment effects for each of the ten patients. Each description is worth looking at:

Patient A: A 36 year old artist “of good personality” who , aside from a few dalliances, was “clearly heterosexual in his outlook.” He was married, but had frequent flings on the side. He volunteered for aversion therapy after reading about it in a newspaper article. “After 30 sessions he was initiating homosexual encounters but finding himself impotent. This had never happened before. Treatment was stopped after 45 sessions when he felt he could control the urges.” But on follow-up, he gradually returned “to his previous pattern. He was given a further course of treatment using method B; this gave him greater control but only whilst the treatment was continuing. Three and a half years after treatment homosexual encounters continue but the frequency is less than before treatment, the urges are less strong, and he is getting less pleasure from them.”

Patient B: A 28-year-old postal worker who “came for treatment because he was frightened by a police charge.” After 21 sessions, “he was starting to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies, but he expressed the following difficulty which was never completely overcome… ‘whenever I start to think of the vagina a penis comes into my mind — as though there was some kind of block.’ Treatment stopped after 39 sessions. Although he had started to find women attractive and to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies for the first time in his life, his homosexual interest had never been significantly reduced and had remained prepotent. … After four months homosexual urges became stronger and heterosexual fantasies difficult. After 6 months he resumed homosexual activities. Soon he was back to his normal pattern.”

Patient C: A 37-year-old zoologist who volunteered because “he wanted to become heterosexual. …After 12 sessions he was experiencing ‘pangs’ of anxiety on seeing attractive males in the street. By this stage he was beginning to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies. After 15 sessions he started to feel some anxiety during the female trials and a little later was noting ‘pangs’ of anxiety on seeing sexually threatening females as well as attractive males. This conditioned anxiety became more obvious and treatment was stopped after 35 sessions… For 2½ years he has maintained this conditioned ‘phobic’ anxiety to potentially attractive males, experiencing a ‘pang’ of discomfort in the chest when seeing them. On two or three occasions homosexual advances have been made to him and these have provoked intense anxiety and avoidance. …Two and a half years after treatment his homosexual interest is much reduced and he has no desire to make any homosexual contacts. He is once again using homosexual fantasies during masturbation but heterosexual fantasies occur some of the time.”

Patient D: A 22-year-old “with no settled employment, with an abnormal personality … [and who] also suffered from epilepsy.” “He showed inconsistent and varied responses during treatment and was an unreliable witness. There was slight improvement in the first half of treatment but the second half resulted in a hostile, negativistic and destructive attitude together with some depression of mood. He made a suicidal gesture and his first ever homosexual advance during this stage. Treatment was stopped after 36 sessions with no apparent benefit having been achieved.” After treatment, “he appeared much more accepting of his homosexuality.” But his sexual functioning was disturbed, possibly because of the effects of treatment: “He found little pleasure and was unable to reach orgasm. Nine months after treatment he was playing a passive role in buggery, but with no sexual arousal on his part. Two years after treatment he was much more settled and was having an affair with an elderly man in which sexual activity was getting less and less frequent. He still failed to achieve orgasm during these encounters…”

Patient E: A 36-year-old actor “of athletic build.” Despite being “actively homosexual,” he met and married a woman and subsequently became “almost impotent,” and for the year before undergoing treatment, he had been suffering from “intrusive homosexual fantasies [which] were still strong and frequent” along with “marked pervasive anxiety.” After 12 sessions, he began having intercourse with his wife “with slight enjoyment.” But after 32 sessions, “both heterosexual and homosexual responses were declining again. At this stage, homosexual fantasies provoked disinterest rather than anxiety, whereas heterosexual fantasies, especially involving his wife, provoked some anxiety.” On follow-up things only got worse. “Ten months after treatment, his relationship with his wife deteriorated again, his anxiety increased and he became completely impotent. One month later homosexual fantasies returned. He expressed anger at the treatment and the therapist and discontinued treatment.”

Patient F: A 47-year-old Scot who sought treatment for many years to become heterosexual. He had previously tried psychotherapy (including psychotherapy with LSD), and two previous, unsuccessful attempts at electric shock aversion therapy. So this was a guy who knew what he was getting into. “He reported relief at the start of female trials after only 2 sessions. After 8 sessions he started to produce strong erections to heterosexual fantasies. From then on the pattern was of fluctuating heterosexual interest. Homosexual interest and responses were reduced early in treatment, but showed a slight increase in the second half. Treatment was stopped after 35 sessions. At this stage he felt ‘really heterosexual now’ and had only occasional slight homosexual interest.” But his “really heterosexual” feelings proved elusive. He dated a woman, but when they broke up he was depressed for two to three weeks and “his homosexual interest increased and he had two homosexual experiences. Fifteen months after treatment, following a second severe but short lived depressive episode he is showing more homosexual interest again, but retains some heterosexual interest and has certainly not regained his previous ‘heterophobia’.”

Patient G: A 27-year-old clerical worker who had almost no heterosexual experience or feelings. “After 9 sessions he was finding heterosexual fantasies easier and after 12 sessions he was reporting an intense interest in women. Though fluctuating in intensity, heterosexual responses and interest continued for the rest of treatment. His homosexual interest and responses were slightly reduced during the middle stages of treatment but after 17 sessions they increased again. Treatment was stopped after 32 sessions, when his homosexual interest was much the same as before treatment, but he now found women strongly attractive.”

“Following treatment he became depressed, his homosexual urges became more marked and his heterosexual interest lessened. He remained depressed for the next five months. Then, following a minor rejection by a homosexual friend, he was admitted to hospital having been found wandering the streets at night removing some of his clothing. He showed no further evidence of psychotic behaviour. For the first month in hospital he remained isolated and mildly depressed. He was then started on diazepam and showed a marked change. He became more cheerful and confident and started a relationship with a female patient which continued after they both left hospital. At first he showed some degree of impotence, but he has had a satisfactory sexual relationship with her since. Fifteen months after aversion he enjoys regular sexual intercourse and has had no homosexual inclinations at all.

Patient H: A 24-year-old teacher who, despite strong attractions, had had little homosexual experience. While had had had several girlfriends, he found them “only slightly arousing.” “After 7 sessions he started to produce increasingly strong heterosexual responses associated with aggressive fantasies. After 15 sessions heterosexual images were beginning to intrude into his homosexual masturbation fantasies and a little later he masturbated with exclusively heterosexual fantasies for the first time. By this stage his homosexual interest was less strong and he had become unable to reach orgasm using homosexual fantasies. His homosexual responses in treatment continued as strong, however.” Following treatment, he began dating a girl, but the relationship never progressed beyond kissing. It ended after three months. “Six months after treatment, he made his first homosexual contact. One year after treatment he is energetically pursuing homosexual relationships but he avoids reaching orgasm himself, and if possible prevents his partner from doing so.”

Patient I: A 29-year-old policeman, married since 21, and with two children. When he first married, he “obtained slight pleasure from sexual intercourse but this steadily waned.” He began a three year affair with another man “and is not promiscuous,” during which time he became “mostly impotent with his wife.” He volunteered for treatment to try to save his marriage, but the treatment proved futile. “Little impression was made on either his homosexual or heterosexual responses. There was some reduction in homosexual urges after 5 sessions but he avoided using his ‘affair’  in his homosexual fantasies and was clearly resisting any attempt to destroy his feelings for him. He reported little anxiety during treatment but he was generally non-communicative and difficult to assess. After 20 sessions the treatment was changed to Method B. He was urged to use fantasies involving his ‘affair’. After only one further session it became clear that he did not really want the treatment to work. The treatment was therefore discontinued.” On follow-up, “he returned to his previous homosexual relationship with considerable pleasure and continued a reasonably friendly though sexless relationship with his wife.”

Patient J: A 27-year-old “of average intelligence” who, while never having had any heterosexual interest, he “could never contemplate an overt homosexual relationship because of guilt.” “He had 15 sessions of method A and 15 sessions of Method B. His responses were inconsistent. During Method A he was usually unable to concentrate on his fantasies for fear of the shock, even when very low levels were used. Occasionally, however, he responded easily. With Method B the same inconsistency occurred. At the end of treatment there was no evidence of change in his homosexuality, and the only change heterosexually was that he had lost his revulsion and was now able to sustain heterosexual fantasies more easily. … “In the first three months (after treatment), he experienced more interest in females. He mixed more with them socially, and kissed a girl for the first time. This did not, however, result in any sexual arousal. His homosexual fantasies continued as strongly as before. Ten months after treatment there is no further progress.

As you can see, there were precious few stories which could be defined, generously, as successes. Patient G, according to Bancroft, was the only one to show “no homosexual inclinations at all.” But one has to wonder what priced he paid. Later in the article, Patient G was among four who showed moderate or high anxiety during treatment, and he “expressed some slight aggression toward the therapist on 3 or 4 occasions.” He also “became depressed soon after treatment and remained so, in spite of anti-depressant drugs, until admission to hospital 5 months later.” Bancroft attributed his subsequent improvement not to his lady friend, but to the use of Diazepam.

Overall, Bancroft found the results disappointing, but he felt it was important to press on:

Methods of behaviour modification such as these are in their infancy and a considerable amount of further research is needed before such techniques can be advocated for general use. But the benefits to be gained from such research may be considerable. They will include increased understanding of behaviour modification in general, as well as a greater understanding of the behaviours to be modified.

The Rest Of The Story
I would love to know what happened to those ten patients since their treatment ended in the mid-1960s, but nearly fifty years on we may never find out. Bancroft would continue investigating methods for changing sexual orientation through the 1960s and the first part of the 1970s. But as the mental health professions changed its view of homosexuality,  behavior therapists in particular began to abandon their punitive approaches to behavioral modification. Over time, Bancroft eventually abandoned his efforts to “cure” gay people. When Robert Spitzer published his controversial ex-gay study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003 (the study that Spitzer renounced and apologized for in 2012), Bancroft, by then at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University, was one of some two dozen authors criticizing Spitzer’s study. Bancroft’s drew on his own past experience:

Times were different then. The Gay Rights Movement was early in its development and it was much more likely than it is today that individuals would seek such change. But on reflection, I realized that, whereas I was genuinely trying to help the individual, in the process I was aligning myself with those who reinforced homophobic attitudes and all the consequences of the stigma that ensued. It did not continue to be a dilemma for me, as my own results gave me no reason to continue to use such simplistic interventions.

And he criticized Spitzer’s study claiming that some people who underwent “reparative” therapy said they changed. He criticized it not just for its many methodological weaknesses, but also for the role it would inevitably play in reinforcing negative attitudes toward gay people:

If there were any grounds for regarding homosexual orientation as a pathology rather than a variant of human sexual expression, then treating the pathology might be justified. I would assert that there are no such grounds, and hence providing treatment on that basis is professionally unethical and, according to my value system, immoral. There is a long and disturbing history of medical practitioners imposing their moral values through their professional practice. The imposition of moral values, explicitly or implicitly, that is, urging someone to undergo change because their current sexual orientation is immoral, should not be regarded as “therapy,” and in any case raises other ethical and moral issues. …[Spitzer’s report] constitutes vigorous reinforcement of homophobia and the social stigma experienced by those with homosexual identities in our society. Together, this results
in widespread suffering for homosexual minorities and, no doubt, for many who are pressured into attempting such change, considerable conflict and unhappiness.

[Sources: John Bancroft. “Aversion therapy of homosexuality: A pilot study of 10 cases.” British Journal of Psychiatry 115, no. 529 (December 1969): 1417-1431.

John Bancroft. Peer Comments on Spitzer (2003): “Can sexual orientation change? A long-running saga.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 32, no. 5 (October 2003): 419-421.

For more information on the history of behavioral therapy, see our report, “Blind Man’s Bluff”.]

Leroy Aarons: 1933-2004. A journalist for the Washington Post for many years, he served as bureau chief for New York and Los Angeles, and covered the Pentagon Papers story, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, urban riots, and government scandals. He covered the 1982 Lebanon War for Time before becoming editor of the Oakland Tribune. He was hired by the Tribune soon after its new owner, Robert C. Maynard, bought the struggling paper and became the first African-American owner of a major metro newspaper. Maynard and Aarons turned the Tribune around and the paper won a 1990 Pulitzer for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Aarons worked with Maynard to found the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, now at the University of California at Berkeley. MIJE was established to bring racial diversity to the newsroom and ensure accurate representation of minorities in the news media. In 1989, the American Society of Newspaper Editors asked Aarons to coordinate the first survey of lesbian and gay journalists. That survey of 250 print journalists showed that most of them were closeted at work, that only seven percent said that their work environments were good for gay people, and that coverage of gay issues was “at best mediocre.” Aaron presented his results to the 1990 ASMNE convention, and closed his speech by coming out to his colleagues. Four months later, he took what he learned from the Maynard Institute and co-founded the National Association of Lesbian and Gay Journalists (NLGJA). He also became its first president.

In 1991, Aarons researched and wrote his first book, Prayers for Bobby, about a mother coming to terms with her gay son’s suicide. He also wrote a handful of opera librettos and plays on a number of topical subjects, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon Papers, and Reformed Judaism. When he died of cancer in 2004, he and his partner of 24 years, Joshua Boneh, were working on a play based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The NLGJA established a scholarship fund in his name in 2006 for student journalists in his name.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, December 7

Jim Burroway

December 7th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

Many circumstances contributed to personal closeness on the ranch and trail. Cownoys frequently bedded in pairs with their “bunkie,” and a ranch bunkhouse was occasionally called a “ram pasture.” Many cowboys engaged in “mutual solace,” a tender, expressive and euphemistic term for sexual relations. Vulgar and explicit “ugly songs” describing phallic size, virility, and sodomy were sung around campfires. In 1920s Nevada, the “sixty-nine” sexual position was common enough among cowboys to warrant its won euphemism, Swanson Neuf.”

Gay cowboys continue to be an intrinsic part of the West. In 1957, two Texas cowboys visiting the Mayflower Bar, an Oklahoma City gay bar, described their life as one where there are generally two or three gay cowboys to a ranch, who quietly recognize each other, keeping their identity a secret from the others.

— Jim Wilke, “Frontier Comrades: Homosexuality in the American West,” from the 2009 anthology, Out in All Directions: A Treasury of Gay and Lesbian America.

Pennsylvania Colony Enacts New Sodomy Law: 1682. Sodomy laws seemed to come and go in Pennsylvania. The colony had originally included Sodomy in a long list of offenses which were considered capital crimes, but the first assembly in 1676 held under the proprietorship of William Penn codified Quaker leniency in its law reform when it limited the death penalty to murder. This effectively left Pennsylvania without a sodomy law for the next six years, when the colony instituted this new law:

…if any person shall be Legally Convicted of the unnatural sin of Sodomy or joining with beasts, Such person shall be whipped, and forfeit one third of his or her estate, and work six months in the house of Correction, at hard labour, and for the Second offence, imprisonment, as aforesaid, during life.

This law would remain in effect until 1693, when William Penn fell out of power and was replaced with a Royal governor who repealed most of Penn’s legislation, including the non-capital sodomy law. No new law would be enacted until 1700 (see Nov 27).

The Trial of Captain Edward Rigby: 1698. Captain Rigby had already been acquitted of a charge of sodomy by a court-martial in early 1698, but Rev. Thomas Bray, a member of the societies for the Reformation of Manners — a kind of a Family Research Council of its day — was convinced of Rigby’s guilt and worked out a plan to entrap him. The bait, William Minton, was the servant of one of Bray’s parishioners and had been previously approached by Rigby. The snare was set, Rigby was caught red-handed, and was arrested and hauled into court. The trial record shows that, this time, Rigby pleaded neither guilty nor not guilty, apparently on the hopes that there would be a problem with the indictment itself which would cause it to be thrown out. The court however found the indictment sound, and since Rigby didn’t enter a plea, the proceedings continued as though he had admitted his guilt. Then several affidavits were read, with all of their salacious details:

That on Saturday the Fifth of November last, Minton standing in St. James’s Park, to see the Fireworks [i.e. the Guy Fawkes Day bonfire], Rigby stood by him and took him by the hand, and squeez’d it; put his Privy Member Erected into Minton‘s Hand; kist him, and put his Tongue into Minton‘s Mouth, who being much astonish’d at these Actions went from him; but Rigby pursued him, and accosted him again; and after much Discourse prevailed with Minton to tell him where he lodged, and to meet him the Monday following about Five a Clock, at the George- Tavern in the Pall mall, and to Enquire for Number 4. Minton the next day Acqainted Charles Coates, Esq; (with whom he lived) with what had happened to him the Night before, and desired his Advice and Direction therein; who with a Worthy Divine then present (being willing to detect and punish the Villany designed by Rigby) directed Minton to apply himself to Thomas Railto Esq; a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex; who being informed of what past between Rigby and Minton, appointed his Clark with a Constable, and two other Persons, to go with Minton to the George-Tavern, who were to stay in some Room adjoyning to the Room whereinto Minton should go: and if any Violence should be offered to him, upon crying out “Westminster” the Constable and his Assistance should immediately enter the Room.

That on Monday the Seventh of November last, about Four of the Clock in the Afternon, Rigby came to the George-Tavern, and left Number 4 at the Bar, with Directions, That if any Enquired for that Number, to send them to him; after Rigby had been about an Hour at the Tavern, (Minton not coming) Rigby called up one of the Drawers, and in a Passionte manner, bid him go to Minton‘s Lodgings, and enquire for a young Gentleman; and if he were within, to tell him a Gentleman staid for him at the George-Tavern; the Drawer accordingly went, but Minton not being within, the Drawer return’d that Answer to Rigby.

That about six a clock Minton came to the George Tavern, enquired for Number 4. and was shewed into the room where Rigby was, and [t]he Constable and his assistance were placed in a Room adjoyning; Rigby seemed much pleased upon Mintons coming, and drank to him in a glass of Wine and kist him, took him by the Hand, put his Tongue into Mintons Mouth, and thrust Mintons hand into his (Rigby) Breeches, saying, “He had raised his Lust to the highest degree,” Minton thereupon askt, “How can it be, a Woman was only fit for that,” Rigby answered, “Dam’em, they are all Port, I’ll have nothing to do with them.” Then Rigby sitting on Mintons Lap, kist him several times, putting his Tongue into his mouth, askt him, “if he should F[uck] him,” “how can that be” askt Minton, “I’le show you” answered Rigby, “for it’s no more than was done in our Fore-fathers time”; and then to incite Minton thereto, further spake most Blaphemous words, and said, “That the French King did it, and the Czar of Muscovy made Alexander, a Carpenter, a Prince for that purpose,” and affirmed, “He had seen the Czar of Muscovy through a hole at Sea, lye with Prince Alexander.” Then Rigby kist Minton several times, putting his Tongue in his Mouth, and taking Minton in his Arms, wisht he might lye with him all night, and that his Lust was provoked to that degree, he had — [ejaculated] in his Breeches, but notwithstanding he could F[uck] him; Minton thereupon said, “sure you cannot do it here,” “yes,” answered Rigby, “I can,” and took Minton to a corner of the Room, and put his Hands into Mintons Breeches, desiring him to pull them down, who answered “he would not, but he (Rigby) might do what he pleased”; thereupon Rigby pulled down Mintons Breeches, turn’d away his shirt, put his Finger to Mintons Fundament, and applyed his Body close to Mintons, who feeling something warm touch his Skin, put his hand behind him, and took hold of Rigbys Privy Member, and said to Rigby “I have now discovered your base Inclinations, I will expose you to the World, to put a stop to these Crimes”; and thereupon Minton went towards the door, Rigby stopt him, and drew his Sword, upon which Minton gave a stamp with his foot, and cry’d out “Westminster“; then the Constable and his Assistance came into the Room, and seized Rigby, who offer’d the Constable a Gratuity to let him go, which he refusing, carryed Rigby beore Sir Henry Dutton Colt, before whom Minton charged Rigby (who was present) with the Fact to the effect before related; who being askt by Sir Henry Colt, “Whether the Fact Minton had charged him with were True,” Rigby denyed not that the Charge against him was true, only objected against some inconsiderable Circumstances, which no ways tended to the lessening of the Charge.

You’ve gotta love late seventeenth century English for stuff like this. Anyway, Rigby was sentenced to stand three days at the pillory for two hours each, a £1,000 fine, a year in prison, followed by seven years’ probation. It wasn’t entirely unusual for prisoners to be seriously wounded or even killed at the pillory as crowds threw rotten garbage (and sometimes rocks) at them. But Rigby’s fate could have been far worse: the standard punishment for sodomy cases was death by hanging. Being an officer in the Royal Navy may have factored into the court’s leniency. Rigby survived his ordeal and fled to France after his release. There, he converted to Catholicism, and entered the French navy where he was a well regarded officer.

[Source: Rictor Norton. Ed. “The Trial of Capt. Edward Rigby, 1698.” Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. (Updated 11 July 2013). Available online here, where you can find much more information, including accounts from several contemporary newspapers.]

José Sucuzhañay

José Sucuzhañay Murdered in Brutal Hate Crime: 2008. Two men were waling arm in arm late at night after leaving a bar from a long night of drinking. Three men in a maroon SUV saw them and, and one of them yelled out, “Check out those faggots over there.” Two jumped out the SUV and attacked the couple. One of the attackers broke a bottle over José’s head. When he fell to the ground, another began beating him with an aluminum baseball bat while the others kicked and punched him. All were yelling anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs. The other victim ran and called 911 on his cell phone, Meanwhile, the assailants piled back into the SUV and drove away.

The men who were assaulted were not faggots, but brothers from Ecuador, from a culture where showing affection is relatively common. Romel Sucuzhañay was relatively lucky, having received only minor injuries. But José sustained massive head injuries and was soon declared brain dead. Doctors tried to sustain him on life support until his mother could arrive from Ecuador, but his heart stopped five days after the attack and one day before she could get there. José also left behind two young daughters.

Keith Phoenix (left), Hakim Scott (rigtht)

Nearly three months later, police arrested Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix, and charged them with murder and assault as hate crimes. Phoenix, an unemployed felon who was out on parole, showed no remorse. “So I killed someone — that makes me a bad guy?”, he said to police. Surprisingly, Phoenix was tried twice — the first jury deadlocked. But the second one convicted him of murder and assault as hate crimes. Scott was convicted separately of manslaughter and assault, but without the hate crimes enhancement. Judge Patricia M. DiMango sentenced Phoenix to 37 years to life in prison, and Scott to 37 years. José’s mother was magnanimous after the sentencing. “This is a very sad day,” she said through an interpreter. “It’s sad for my family and for the family of the defendants. I feel very sorry for the defendants, and of course there is a huge emptiness in my heart because of my son.” But Romel, the surviving brother, was traumatized by the whole experience. “My future is in pieces,” he said. “I have mental problems. And it is all because of the ignorance of these people and this distant event.”

Willa Cather: 1873-1947. Born in Back Creek, Virginia, Willa and her family moved to Nebraska when she was nine years old, and settled in Red Cloud. At the age of fourteen, she seems to have adopted a male persona, named “William” or “Willie,” with studio photos of her at the time had her sporting a crew cut and wearing male clothing, a practice she continued as a student at the University of Nebraska, and she often signed her letters “Aunt Willie” for much of her life. Willa also had a college crush on a fellow student, Louise Pound. In a letter written to another childhood friend, Cather describes, in surprisingly candid detail, a date she went on with Pound: “I am pretty well now, save for sundry bruises received in driving a certain fair maid over the country with one hand, sometimes, indeed, with no hand at all. But she did not seem to mind my method of driving, even when we went off banks and over haystacks, and as for me — I drive with one hand all night in my sleep.” This is an exceptionally rare glimpse — perhaps the only admission we have in writing — of Cather’s attachments to other women, although scholars have combed her novels and examined each morsel for other clues over the years.

“William” or :Willie” Cather, about 1890.

Cather began her writing career in college, with campus and local newspapers in Lincoln. After graduation, she moved to Pittsburgh, and then New York, where she worked in journalism before becoming managing editor of McClure’s magazine. In 1908, Cather became close to Edith Lewis, an advertising copywriter, who became Cather’s devoted “companion and housemate for nearly 40 years” — for the rest of Cather’s life — then heir after Cather’s death.

Cather’s first novel, Alexander’s Bridge (1912, was serialized in McClure’s. The story, of an engineer who designed the longest bridge in Canada, was influenced by her most recent travels to London, Boston and Canada. Years later though, she would renounce the workm saying it “was very like what painters call a studio picture… Like most young writers, I thought a book should be made out of ‘interesting materials,’ and at that same time I found the new more exciting than the familiar.” she returned to Red Cloud for a visit and realized that the backward, provincial country she couldn’t wait to flee as a younger woman was now the place that would spark her imagination. She immediately completed her Prairie Trilogy: O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Antonia (1918). All of them were written in a distinctly Western style: low key, laconic, direct. Praise for My Antonia was particularly effusive. Sinclair Lewis hailed it for making “the outside world know Nebraska as no one else has done.” Essayist Randolph Bourne wrote, “Here at last is an American novel, redolent of the Western prairie, that our most irritated and exacting preconceptions can be content with… Miss Cather, I think, in this book has taken herself out of the rank of provincial writers and given us something we can fairly class with the modern literary art of the world over that is earnestly and richly interpreting the spirit of youth.”

Her next novel, One of Ours, wasn’t published until 1922, and was inspired by the death of a cousin during the Great War. It came out to mixed reviews, but sold well and won her a Pulitzer in 1923. She wrote four more novels, but with the Jazz age in full bloom and the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway exploding onto the scene, Cather’s works seemed frumpy, overly nostalgic, and disconnected from the modern world in comparison. When the country was plunged into the Great Depression, Cather was viewed as irrelevant. She became reclusive, burned old drafts and personal papers, forbade anyone from publishing or quoting from her letters. When she died in 1947, her will severely restricted scholar’s access to her papers, a restriction that Lewis strictly enforced. This frustrated scholars for decades, particularly those who were trying to tease out details of the reclusive author’s private life. In 2011, her nephew and second executor Charles Cather died, and the copyrights passed to the Willa Cather Trust, which dropped the ban on quoting or publishing her letters, raising hopes among scholars for a rich new source of material. But when Knopf released The Selected Letters of Willa Cather earlier this year, those looking for a more personal glimpse of Cather’s life were disapointed. It turns out that Cather’s surviving letters were as circumspect as she was.

Billye Talmadge: 1929. Raised in Oklahoma and Missouri by a single mother after her parents separated, Billye Talmadge spent all of her life as a teacher, of one sort or another. She began teaching eighth grade English by the age of twenty-one, and later found her true calling as a well-recognized special education teacher (the state of California named her Teacher of the Year in 1971).

Talmadge also spent all her life as a student, less formally speaking at least. While home for a brief visit from college in 1949, one of her friends told her she was in love with another girl, news which shocked Talmadge. She went to the dean of women at her university looking for answers, and the dean provided Talmadge with several books, including Radclyffe Halls The Well of Loneliness. Talmadge said that reading it was “like coming home.” Looking to learn further, Talmadge sought out “the biggest butch on campus.” She recalled, “I asked her name, to make sure she was the right person, and then I said, ‘Are you a lesbian? Because I think I am and I need to know what this is all about.'”

Six years later, Talmadge and her then-partner, Jaye “Shorty” Bell, became involved with the Daughters of Bilitis, which had been founded a few months earlier (see Oct 19) but was on the verge of folding. Joining the group was a huge risk for Talmadge. “There were twenty-seven reasons why you could lose your teacher’s license in California at this time, above all if you were a card-carrying Communist or a suspected homosexual.” Nevertheless, Talmadge, Bell and a few other newcomers helped to inject new life into the nascent organization. Talmadge organized the group’s “Gab’n’Java sessions, and when the Daughters established their newsletter The Ladder, Talmadge contributed several articles.

Talmadge also became something of a one-woman social services volunteer for the group. DoB founders Del Martin (see May 5) and Phyllis Lyon (see Nov 10) remembered  Talmadge as “intuitive about somebody who might have a problem,” particularly if a woman was troubled or a victim of abuse. Talmadge recalled, “It was not unusual to get a call at 3 a.m. saying that we had somebody who was trying to commit suicide.” The Daughters found a local psychologist, Dr. Blanche Baker, who trained Talmadge, Martin and Lyons in counseling and crisis management. She also took calls whenever police arrested a lesbian or raided a bar:

We had one of your members who was picked up drunk, and she was drunk. But she was also dressed butch, and the officer damn near beat her to death. He kept calling her a dyke, and a queer, and a son of a bitch, all this type of stuff. I was called and I went down and bailed her out. … I could hardly recognize her she was so badly beaten.

Talmadge quickly learned her way through the legal system. When San Francisco police raided the Tay-Bush Inn and arrested ninety-nine men and four women (see Aug 14), Talmadge, Martin and Lyons arranged lawyers for the women, who urged them to plead not guilty and ask for a jury trial. That was a gutsy move, because it only increased the chances of their names and occupations appearing in the local paper. A lot of the men pleaded guilty and paid an eleven dollar fine — which also got them a permanent police record. Everyone’s names, addresses and employers were printed in the paper anyway, but the women saw their charges dismissed and no entries to their records.

In the 1960s, Talmadge’s interests turned to the spiritual. She was an early member of San Francisco’s Council on Religion and the Homosexual and, later, a spiritual group known as The Prosperos, which held that God, as male and female, was present in every person. “It was an educational group, primarily,” she explained. “Sexuality was one of the major topics. I got involved and became a teacher, with the goal of helping people to find themselves; not what I want them to be, but to find themselves and to express whatever that self is.”

By the late 1970s, Talmadge withdrew from The Prosperos, and turned her attention toward helping her partner, Marcia Herndon, an ethnomusicologist, write seven books. They remained together from 1974 until Marcia’s death in 1997. At last report, Billye Talmadge had recently moved to an assisted-living residence in Portland, Oregon.

[Sources: William Fennie. “Billye Talmadge (1929- ): Some Kind of Courage.” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (London: Routledge, 2002): 179-188.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007): 9.]

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, December 6

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 3, 1982, page 15. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 3, 1982, page 15. (Source.)

Lollie JohnsonLollie Johnson, a divorced mother of three, owned a number of gay bars and nightclubs in San Antonio, including the Hypothesis Club (1972-1976), The Zoo Club (1974-1979), Faces (1979-1983), and the Noo Zoo Company (1983-1993). She was also active in numerous San Antonio charities, including the Alamo Human Rights Committee, the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, and the San Antonio Tavern Guild. She sold her businesses in 1994, and passed away in 2001 at only 62. Her papers were donated to the University of Texas at San Antonio, which digitized them and made them available online.

An overcrowded ward at Wisconsin’s Mendota State Hospital, 1947.

Wisconsin Sheriffs Call For Indeterminate Sentences for Gay People: 1944. The annual convention of the Wisconsin Sheriffs Association, meeting at Milwaukee’s Schroeder Hotel, passed several resolutions, including one endorsing a bill proposed by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association which would mandate medical treatment and indeterminate sentences for gay people, among other sexual offenders, who were charged with disorderly conduct. The problem, apparently, was that the current law only carried light fines and minimal jail sentences.

What the Wisconsin Sheriffs Association was asking for was what would become known as a “sexual psychopath law.” Through much of the 1930s and 1940s, American newspapers found sensational stories in gruesome murders, often of young children, which reporters and authorities attributed to “deviates,” whether there was any evidence linking gay people to the crimes or not. Those newspaper headlines feed the belief that sexual lawlessness was growing across the country. Michigan was the first state to pass a sexual psychopath law in 1935 which required a judge to determine anyone convicted of a sex crime to determine whether that person was “psychopathic, or a sex degenerate, or a sex pervert.” If so found, the judge was to order the defendant to a state mental hospital until the defendant “ceased to be a menace to the public safety because of said mental condition.” How mental health officials were supposed to make that kind of a judgment, the law didn’t say.

By 1967, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia had passed similar laws. Wisconsin’s sexual psychopath law, enacted in 1947, gave broad powers to the local sheriff to place a suspect in detention without a hearing and without a conviction. That law was replaced in 1951 with the Sexual Deviate Act, which required the individual to be convicted of a crime first. In 1954, it was noted that of 22 individuals who were being indefinitely committed under the law, thirteen had been convicted of sodomy. Wisconsin’s Sexual Deviate Act was finally repealed in 1980.

American Medical Association Opposes Gay Cures: 1994. The AMA’s governing House of Delegates adopted a revised policy paper calling for an end to efforts to change sexual orientation. The old position paper titled, “Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population,” had been adopted in 1981. It read, that “some homosexual groups maintain, contrary to the bulk of scientific evidence, that preferential or exclusive homosexuality can never be changed, these people may be discouraged form seeking adequate psychiatric consultation. What is more important is that this myth may also be accepted by homosexuals.”

But by 1994, the AMA became convinced that the growing evidence showed that whatever disturbance gay people may have felt about their sexual orientation “is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment” and called for “nonjudgmental recognition of sexual orientation by physicians.” The AMA also said that “aversion therapy” — which involved showing a gay man, for example, nude pictures of men and shocking them with a jolt of electricity — “is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians.” It went on: “Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the social responses to it.” The new policy paper was adopted without dissent.

20 YEARAS AGO: FDA Approves First Protease Inhibitor for Treating AIDS: 1995. The Food and Drug Administration gave its approval for Saquinavir(marketed as Invirase), the first protease inhibitor for treating AIDS. This approval was notable for two reasons. First, the FDA gave its approval only 97 days after receiving the application for approval, which was in marked contrast to the years that it would have taken under the normal drug approval process. But after several high profile protests (see, for example, Oct 11), the FDA changed its process for approving drugs for treating HIV/AIDS to allow for a significantly accelerated schedule. But the most important aspect of this approval was that Invirase would prove to be the third part of what would soon become a three-drug cocktail which, for the first time since 1981, gave people with AIDS hope for a reprieve from what had been assumed to be a death sentence.

The first component of that three-drug cocktail, azidothymidine (AZT, marketed as Retrovir), was first approved in 1987. AZT was a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor (or “nuke”), which blocked a particular enzyme associated with HIV. It was virtually the only means for fighting the disease for almost a decade, but it’s effectiveness was sorely limited. In November of 1995, the FDA approved another “nuke”, Lamivudine (3TC, or Epivir) which gave doctors a second option for when patients became unresponsive to AZT. But when taken together, AZT and 3TC seemed to offer an additional “punch” for many people than they experienced when taking the drugs individually. When protease inhibitors became available and were used in combination with AZT and 3TC, doctors soon discovered that this combination therapy reduced the amount of HIV swimming around in patients’ blood by about 99 percent. In early 1996, two more protease  inhibitors, Ritonavir (marketed as Norvir) and Indinavir (marketed as Crixivan), joined Invirase on the market, giving doctors more options to choose from for what would be known as the “AIDS cocktail,” or Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART).

AIDS Diagnoses, Deaths (in thousands).

AIDS Diagnoses, Deaths (in thousands).

Researchers had previously seen too many supposedly promising treatments quickly proved to be ineffective before to get their hopes up too high now. Early reports of a possible breakthrough in 1996 were tentative, but the results soon proved unmistakable. When 3TC joined AZT in 1995 as a viable treatment, there was a noticeable plateau in the number of deaths due to AIDS. But in 1996 when the three-drug cocktail became available, the number of deaths due to AIDS would see its first drop since the epidemic began. And it wasn’t a slight drop either. It was a 20% improvement from the year before. People at death’s door began coming back from the abyss. For some who had prepared to die, finding that they were living again presented an entirely new set of challenges. The emotional whipsaw, dubbed “the Lazarus Syndrome” made restarting a life (including an education, careers, or simply a place to live) that had been systematically dismantled through disease, disability and stigma just one more challenge to surmount while still dealing with the anxiety of wondering whether this combination would soon fail as all of the other treatments had done before.

The three-drug cocktail wasn’t a cure, but the breakthrough was undeniable. Further improvements in HAART resulted in more effective combinations and dosages which made adherence much simpler, reduced some of the more harmful side effects, and more effectively manage viral load. HAART would eventually transform AIDS from a terminal disease to a chronic disease, albeit still a very serious one. More recent research shows that, thanks to HAART, people with AIDS can now expect a nearnormal lifespan, and when their viral load is undetectable, the likelihood that they can pass the virus on to others is reduced significantly. The probability isn’t zero, but it is quite low. “In fact,” says the CDC, “the rate of HIV infection for the HIV negative partners was 96% lower if the positive partner was on ARVs (Antiretrovirals). While we don’t know for sure whether HIV medications will have this huge benefit in preventing HIV transmission between men who have sex with men, or between other types of partners, we think it will. Having said that, it will never be 100% protective for all couples.”

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, December 5

Jim Burroway

December 5th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), July 1974, page 7

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), July 1974, page 7

From a pamphlet printed in London in 1641 (Click to enlarge).

375  YEARS AGO: Bishop John Atherton Hanged for Buggery: 1640. The delicious irony was that the good bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland was one of the loudest proponents for a new law making homosexuality a capital crime. He then became the second person to be hanged under that statute. His his steward, tithe proctor and cohort, John Chidle, was also condemned to death.

The original trial records were destroyed in the civil wars that followed the overthrow of King Charles I in 1649, so virtually everything we know about the case comes from public pamphlets which were the equivalent of our tabloid press. Historians harbor some doubt as to whether Atherton was really guilty. In addition to being a bishop, Atherton was also a lawyer who apparently had some success in winning back some of the church’s lands from Irish landlords, an act for which he undoubtedly collected a number of powerful enemies. Puritans, who were active in trying to abolish the office of bishops in the Church of England — they succeeded in that endeavor after they overthrew King Chuck and lopped off his head nine years later — are also believed to have played a hand in Atherton’s downfall.

We may never know the true story of Atherton’s sexuality. But his death remains a warning to all nations who would impose severe criminal sanctions on homosexual relationships. As long as draconian penalties exist, the temptation will be great for blackmailers and political opponents to lobb accusations against their targets. And under those circumstances, nobody will be safe regardless of their actual sexuality.

Massachusetts Bay Court Sentences Woman for “Unseemly Practices”: 1642. The Essex County Court in Salem recorded the following: “Elizabeth Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge, to be severely whipped and find 5 li. (pounds) for unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid; for stubbornness to her mistress answering rudely and unmannerly, and also for stopping her ears with her hands when the Word of God was read…” This brief mention is believed to be the first recorded legal prosecution of same-sex relations between women in North America.


Berkeley Becomes First City To Approve Domestic Partner Benefits for City Employees: 1984. Six years earlier, Berkeley joined a growing number of cities and counties which had established a non-discrimination ordinance on the basis of sexual orientation. But when Tom Brougham began working for the city in 1979, he found that he couldn’t sign his partner up for health and dental benefits. They were only available to married spouses of city employees, and marriage was available only to heterosexual couples. Brougham proposed a new category for same-sex couples, which he called a “domestic partnership,” which initially had three requirements: 1) That, aside from being a same-sex couple, the partners would be otherwise meet all the other qualifications for marriage; 2), that they live together in the same residence; and 3) they were the sole domestic partners for each other. Over the next few years, two more qualificaitons were added: a requirement of mutual financial responsibility and both partners must be at least eighteen years old and able to enter a legal contract.

Brougham and his partner, Barry Warren, spent the next two years working with local unions and the University of California at Berkely to lobby the city council, but that effort proved unsuccessful. But in 1982, San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt noticed the proposal from across the bay and decided to try to push through a similar measure in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors approved what proved to be a fiercely controversial proposal, only to see it vetoed by mayor Diane Feinstein in December of that year.

Brougham, Warren and the East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club then decided to step back and put together a methodical program to educate the East Bay community about domestic partnership benefits, organize a gay voting block in the city, and elect candidates who would support the proposal. In July of 1984, the city council was prepared to adopt the policy in principle, but they balked at the feared increases in health coverage costs. But the issue didn’t die there. During the November city council race, an approximation of marriage benefits for same-sex couples became a winning electoral issue when all those who had voted against implementing domestic partnerships were defeated. The following month, the new city council approved the measure, making the city the first in the nation to provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.

[Source: Leland Traiman. “A Brief History of Domestic Partnerships.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, no. 4 (July-August 2008): 23-24.]

85 YEARS AGO: Larry Kert: 1930-1991. The Hollywood High School graduate was only twenty when he joined a Broadway troupe for 1950 revue Tickets, Please! as his first professional credit. He then spent the next seven years working off-Broadway as a dancer. While dancing in the chorus for Sammy Davis, Jr., his friend and fellow dancer Chita Rivera persuaded him to audition for West Side Story. He didn’t make the cut, but a few months later Stephen Sondheim asked him to audition for the part of Tony, the role that Kert would originate when West Side Story debuted in 1957.

Consider the show’s creating team, and you have what would have had to have been the gayest production on the Great White Way: composer Leonard Bernstein (see Aug 25), lyricist Stephen Sondheim (see Mar 22), director and choreographer, Jerome Robbins (see Oct 11), and book-writer Arthur Laurents (see Jul 14). Kert remained with the production for the next three years, and he became so closely identified with West Side Story that he found trouble finding work elsewhere. Even when he was invited to appear on television, it was to sing “Maria.” And yet, he was disappointed to find that he wouldn’t get to play Tony for the 1961 film version. Kert had hoped that it would open the doors to a film career, but the film’s producers didn’t think the thirty-year-old Kert could play a teenager.

From there, Kert’s career was characterized by a few successes in a field of sometimes spectacular failures. He appeared in the 1962 musical comedy A Family Affair, which ran for only 65 performances. The disastrous musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1966) closed during previews. In 1968, Kert took over the role of Cliff in Cabaret and stayed with it for a year, but his next venture, 1969’s La Strada, closed on opening night. Kert then took over the lead role in Stephen Sondheim’s Company shortly after it opened on Broadway. Critics raved, and Kert became the first and only replacement actor to receive a Tony nomination.

Kert’s career continued more or less like that through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s. While the uneven successes may have frustrated other actors, Kert was known for his upbeat attitude, whether he was performing on Broadway or in regional theater. “I love roller coasters, and I’ve been on one all my life,” he told one interviewer in 1988 while part of a touring company of La Cage of Folles. His last public performance was at the Rainbow and Stars Cabaret, where he joined his West Side Story co-star Carol Lawrence in reprising the musical’s popular numbers. He died eight months later, in 1991, of AIDS at the age of sixty. He was survived by his partner, Ron Pullen.

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, December 4

Jim Burroway

December 4th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Washington Blade, December 4, 1981, page B-14.

From The Washington Blade, December 4, 1981, page B-14.

Roxanne Ellis (L) and Michelle Abdill (R)

20 YEARS AGO: Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill Murdered: 1995. Roxanne and Michelle had had it up to here with living in Colorado Springs, where they felt that the atmosphere was very hostile to gays and lesbians. And after seven years, they decided that it wasn’t going to get better anytime soon, so they packed up and moved to Oregon’s Rogue Valley, just north of the California line. They quickly adapted to their new home in Medford, where they started a property management business, became board members at their church, began restoring their old Craftsman home, and visited Roxanne’s thee-year-old granddaughter as much as possible. They also became active in state politics, working to defeat Measure 9 in 1992 (which would have amended the state constitution to declare homosexuality “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse” and prohibit its “promotion.”) and Measure 19 in 1993 (which would have restricted library access for materials related to homosexuality).

On December 4, 1995, Roxanne met with a potential tenant to show him an apartment. At about 5:00, Michelle left the office, saying she had gotten a call from Roxanne saying her pickup wouldn’t start. Neither Roxanne nor Michelle were seen until their bodies were discovered four days later in the back of Roxanne’s pickup. Both had been shot in the head, and their bodies were covered with drapes and cardboard moving boxes.

That prospective tenant, twenty-seven year old Robert Acremant had just moved to Medford with his mother three weeks earlier. A witness had seen Acremant park the pickup truck and walk away. When police circulated a composite sketch based on the witness’s account, his mother recognized the face as her son who, she thought, was acting strangely. She called the police. When detectives matched the address labels on her moving boxes to those covering Roxanne and Michelle’s bodies, they new they had their man.

He confessed to the murder, claiming it was a simple robbery. But the district attorney was skeptical. After all, victims’ purses, wallets, jewelry, cell phones and money were left at the crime scene. Acremant also confessed to killing Scott Gordon in Visalia, California two months earlier. Later in 1996, he wrote a letter to his hometown newspaper stating that while he had intended to rob the couple, he found it was easier to just kill them knowing they were lesbians. He also wrote that he killed Gordon because Gordon had made a pass at him. He later recanted his story about why he killed his victims, but the reasons he gave remained incoherent. Perhaps the best indication of the state of his mind is the one part of his story which remained consistent: He was trying to raise money so he could afford to resume his relationship with his “girlfriend,” a call girl in Las Vegas who had broken off contact with him after he ran out of money and began stalking her.

On September 11, 1996, Acremant pleaded guilty to the murders of Roxanne and Michelle, and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. It would emerge later that he had been complaining for years that he heard voices and that there was a transmitter in his head so others could control him. On February 18, 2011, his sentenced was reduced to life imprisonment after he had been found mentally delusional and unable to assist in his own appeals.

180 YEARS AGO: Samuel Butler: 1835-1902. The English novelist was both the son and grandson of Anglican clergy. Naturally, his family expected him to continue in the family business. After studying in Cambridge, Butler worked briefly as a lay minister in a poverty-stricken London neighborhood. In 1860, he decided to put off the question of ordination and moved to New Zealand, where he became a successful sheep rancher and writer for the local press. While there, Butler met Charles Paine Pauli, and they returned to England together in 1864. Butler supported Pauli financially for the next 30 years. When Pauli died, Butler discovered a terrible betrayal: Pauli had amassed a fortune from being supported by two other men, and he excluded Butler from his will.

Butler’s more notable works included Erewhon (1872), a futuristic parody of Victorian England; The Fairhaven (1875), a satire of Christianity; and his posthumously semi-autobiographical The Way of All Flesh (1903). Written between 1873 and 1884, Butler dared not publish The Way of All Flesh in his lifetime, as he considered its attack on Victorian values too controversial. It also included a sham marriage by one character who struggles with his feelings toward other men (a mistake which Butler, a lifelong bachelor, avoided in real life). While The Way of All Flesh had to await Butler’s death before it could see the light of day, Butler’s 1899 Shakespeare’s Sonnets Reconsidered put forth Butler’s belief that Shakespeare wrote several sonnets to a younger man who had betrayed him, perhaps a reflection of Butler’s own experience with Pauli.

Ed Flesh: 1931-2011. If you’ve ever watched the game show Wheel of Fortune, then you’ve seen Flesh’s most famous handiwork. The prolific art director designed the famous horizontally-spinning wheel that is the show’s trademark. He also designed the sets for Jeopardy!, the Newlywed Game, the $25,000 Pyramid, and Name That Tune. Ed died in 2011 at the age of 79, leaving behind his partner of 44 years.

A. Scott Berg: 1949. The biographer has won numerous awards in his career, beginning with his first book in 1978 about editor Maxwell Perkins, which won a National Book Award. He also wrote the story for Making Love, the groundbreaking 1982 film which was the first major Hollywood release to deal with homosexuality in a serious way. In 1998, his highly acclaimed best-seller, Lindbergh, about the famed aviator, won him the Pulitzer. In 2003, he published Kate Remembered which appeared in print just twelve days after Katharine Hepburn’s death. The memoir about his twenty-year friendship with the actress remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for eleven weeks. Berg currently resides in Los Angeles with his film producer partner.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, December 3

Jim Burroway

December 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, August 19, 1982, page 38.

From The Advocate, August 19, 1982, page 38.

The idea of gay men dancing together at a cowboy bar must have confounded quite a few straight Angelinos in 1987 when they read about Rawhide:

Cowboys dance the two-step at the Rawhide. They dance with each other. Men crowd around a wooden bar at the center of the club as a country band plays on stage. Sometimes they will join arm-in-arm and sway to the music.

Over the last eight years, the Rawhide in North Hollywood has earned a reputation as one of the best places in Los Angeles to hear live country and western music. It is perhaps better known as the city’s only gay cowboy bar.

For it is in this place, with sawdust on the floors and bartenders who will pat you on the behind, that two very different cultures meet. As local musician Jack Daniels puts it, country music has its roots in “rednecks and Blue Ribbon beer drinkers,” the kind of people who aren’t too understanding when it comes to the gay community.

“It’s really a weird combination, but in L. A. they go for anything,” said Paul Bowman, a country and western musician and disc jockey at KFOX-FM (93.5). “Most redneck cowboys, you mention gays to them and they’re ready to fight. Rednecks don’t go in there.”

…One customer, who asked not to be named, said the gay community needs a place like the Rawhide. “I would never go to the Palomino. Redneck and gay don’t mix well,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to go into a country bar and not have to worry.”

Rawhide appears to have remained in business until sometime around 2007 or so. That’s when the sawdust was swept out and the place became a gay Latino nightclub.

gI_nybghlogojpg 30 YEARS AGO: New York Business Group Says People with AIDS Should Be Required to Work at Home: 1985. Just as the state of New York was about to release a report showing that workplace AIDS discrimination complaints had gone up from four the previous year to nineteen in 1985 (one was a heterosexual security guard who was fired after a one-week hospital stay), the New York Business Group on Health, which advised 265 businesses including Bloomingdale’s and New York Telephone Co. about heath benefits and insurance issues, recommended that employees diagnosed with AIDS should be required to work from home. The group also suggested that supervisors treat workers as they would any other seriously ill employee.

“Our theses is employers should recognize the importance of AIDS as a problem and prepare for its eruption,” said Dr. Leon Warshaw, the group’s Executive Director. “They should form fairly explicit policies and procedures. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves suddenly involved in a crisis situation and as a result they will be liable to take ill-ocsidered actions, knee-jerk reactions that could boomerang.” Like, say, telling a Bloomies sales clerk to try doing his job from his walk-up, instead of following the group’s other recommendation: that companies educate their employees of the then-prevailing medical opinion that AIDS couldn’t be spread through casual contact.

Ron Najman of the National Gay Task Force blasted the proposal. “That suggestion is totally inappropriate,” he said. “It’s counterproductive, and it leads to de facto discrimination. They are speaking with forked tongue here. It’s opening the door to tolerating hysteria and panic.”

Allan Bérubé: 1946-2007. He is best known as the author of the best-selling book, Coming Out Under Fire, which documented the stories of gay men and women serving in World War II. Drawing on GIs wartime letters, interviews with veterans and declassified military documents, Bérubé revealed a history that had previously been hidden. What’s more, his timing was prescient; the book came out just three years before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enshrined into law. Bérubé won a Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men’s Nonfiction. The book was made into a documentary in 1994, which won a Peabody Award in 1995 and earned him a Genius Grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. After he died in 2007, the bulk of his personal and professional papers went to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, December 2

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Pacific Coast Times (Los Angeles, CA), November 18, 1977, page 11.

From Pacific Coast Times (Los Angeles, CA), November 18, 1977, page 11.

The Stud lasted a decade, from 1976 to 1987, when it became Griff’s. The name may have chanced, but Griff’s retained the whole leather/cowboy focus that was the Stud’s forte. Griff’s closed in 1993 when the owner died of AIDS. A few months later, the club acquired new owners, and two weeks after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Griffs reopened as Faultline — get it? — while continuing to cater to a decidedly assertive crowd.

Columbus, Ohio, Police Question 500 “Deviates”: 1962. “At least 500 men with abnormal sex habits walk Columbus streets. Nothing can be done about them unless they break the law,” the Columbus Dispatch breathlessly exclaimed on a December Sunday morning. Police in Columbus, Ohio, had “thoroughly checked” about 2,500 people since the gruesome murder of Columbus Business College student Mary Margaret Andrews two and a half months earlier. Of those checked out,  police tagged five hundred of them as “deviates.”

Detective Chief Wade Knight’s statements to the Dispatch illustrate the confused nature of his investigation. At one point, he said suggested that “the person who committed the crime is abnormal, but not a sex maniac or degenerate.” But then he emphasized what he believed to be the likelihood that the crime was somehow linked to what the Dispatch listed as “molestings, window peeping, exhibitionists, and homosexuals.” Knight added, “I didn’t realize, and I don’t believe the homicide squad realized, how many people there are walking the streets with abnormal sex habits until we got into the Andrews case.”

Knight also suggested that the five hundred was just the tip of the iceberg. “In this case we would uncover more sex deviates than otherwise. Probably many are walking the streets we didn’t pull in.”

Knight complained that Ohio’s laws were inadequate to deal with the problem. “They certainly need help. They realize they need help and many would like to have it. They need psychiatry and an institution for their care. A lot know they are abnormal and don’t want to do anything about it.” Knight acknowledged that courts could work out a psychiatric treatment plan. But under Ohio law, the cost of treatment was borne by the individual being committed for treatment, a cost which many were unable to pay. Knight called on families to “take every step to help them. If they don’t they are only hurting themselves and the people they (they deviates) are associating with.”

[Source: James Speckman. “500 Sex Deviates Quizzed by Police.” The Columbus Dispatch (December 2, 1962): 22A.]

Cooper Union

Gay Activists Challenge “Gay Cure” Psychiatrist at Cooper Union: 1964. Two and a half months after organizing the first known gay rights picket on American soil (see Sep 19), New York activist Randolphe Wicker (see Feb 3) decided to try another direct challenge, this time against the medical profession which held that homosexuality was a mental illness. Dr. Paul Dince, Associate in Psychiatry at New York Medical College was scheduled to speak on “Homosexuality, a Disease” at the popular Cooper Union Forum of Public Programs.

Wicker and four activists arrived early to the Great Hall to hand out literature and display signs reading, “We Request 10 Minutes Rebuttal Time.” They got their rebuttal time during the Q&A session following Dince’s talk. Wicker pointed out that all of the so-called experts disagreed and contradicted each other over why some people became gay and whether they could be cured. He lambasted the research to date which had been conducted almost entirely of “unhappy, ill-adjusted homosexuals” who were patients undergoing therapy. He derided the so-called experts for starting with the assumption that homosexuality was a disease, and drawing conclusions which supported their prejudices. He also warned that those who were firmly committed to the homosexuality-as-disease theory were happily charging exorbitant hourly fees and draining the bank accounts of homosexuals or their parents while promising a cure.

The Ladder gleefully reported, “Applause for the challenger topped applause for the lecturer, who appeared stunned for a moment by the reaction of the audience.” Dince was also forced to concede the point about unscrupulous therapists. “Unfortunately, they do exist,” he admitted. And he admitted his own surprise at being picketed and receiving such a strong rebuttal during his first public lecture.

[Source: Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen). “‘Expert’ Challenged.” The Ladder 9, nos. 5-6 (February-March 1965): 18. For Kay Lahusen’s bio, see Jan 5.]

A Poster from the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, Los Angeles, 1985.

A poster from the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, Los Angeles, 1985.

30 YEARS AGO: CDC Freezes AIDS Education Grants: 1985. Fearing a backlash from the White House and conservative political leaders on Capitol Hill, officials at the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that they were putting on ice more than $1.6 million in AIDS “innovative risk reduction” grants for education on safe sex practices. CDC spokesperson Donald Berreth confirmed to reporters, “There was some concern that there would be a backlash against the federal government funding ‘pornography.’ This is a problem that existed before with sexually transmitted diseases, not just AIDS. It’s something we have struggled with within the CDC.”

Berreth denied that the CDC’s decision was due to “outside influence.” But CDC director Dr. James O. Mason had told gay rights groups and others that he was under considerable pressure from the White House not to sponsor what was termed “sexually graphic” educational materials, even though Mason had argued that such education “could stop this epidemic in its tracks.”

Gianni Versace: 1946-1997. For the man known simply as “Versace,” fashion had long been a family affair. He began his apprenticeship at home, where his mother ran a sewing workshop that employed as many as a dozen seamstresses. When he began selling at his own boutique in Milan in 1978, his older brother, Santo, joined him to oversee the growing firm’s organization, distribution, production and finance, while younger sister Donatella served as Gianni’s publicist, critic and muse. Versace would go on to design for such celebrities as Princess Diana, Madonna, Elton John, Cher, Eric Clapton, and Sting.

Versace’s designs, which were a mash-up of ancient Roman and Greek art with splashes of pop and abstract art thrown in, reflected the opulent, jet-setting lifestyle he enjoyed with his partner, designer and model Antonio D’Amico. Versace met D’Amico in 1982, and D’Amico would later design Versache’s Sport. The two remained partners for the next fifteen years, until July 15, 1997, when mass-murderer Andrew Cunanan gunned down Versace outside of his Miami Beach mansion. Versace was Conanan’s fifth victim in four months, before Cunanan killed himself on a houseboat eight days later.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 1

Jim Burroway

December 1st, 2015

305943_10152291838655603_104958559_nWorld AIDS Day: Everywhere. Today is the day set aside to increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education about HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 35 million people are are living with HIV/AIDS. The good news is that the rate of new HIV infections worldwide are still declining, as have AIDS-related deaths. Where access to antiretroviral (ARV) medications are available, AIDS changed from being a fatal disease to a chronic one, albeit a very serious one. Those who are on ARVs can now expect a nearnormal lifespan.

Not only that, but there has been increasing recognition that when those who are undergoing treatment and have an undetectable viral load, their ability to transmit the virus on to others is greatly diminished. The probability isn’t zero, but it’s surprisingly low. “In fact,” says the CDC, “the rate of HIV infection for the HIV negative partners was 96% lower if the positive partner was on ARVs. While we don’t know for sure whether HIV medications will have this huge benefit in preventing HIV transmission between men who have sex with men, or between other types of partners, we think it will. Having said that, it will never be 100% protective for all couples.”

So that, by itself, is not the silver bullet that we’re all looking for. But that fact combined with the growing acceptance in the gay community of PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylactic, typically in the form of the anti-retroviral drug Truvada), we may have an exciting possibility to significantly reduce the number of new infections. Some studies have shown an effectiveness for preventing HIV from 92% to as high as 100% for those on a daily regimen of Truvada. It’s possible that 100% figure is a fluke, and many studies have noted that it’s been something of a challenge getting men to take the drug daily.

Neither approach represent a cure, which is still the holy grail of the AIDS battle. But treating those with HIV to get their viral load down, when combined with making PrEP available to anyone at risk of infection, together could be the one-two punch we’ve been looking for. Ending the transmission of HIV would be the next best thing, and that is something that we now have the medical capacity to achieve. But access is still a problem as many doctors are reluctant to prescribe it, as Timothy’s frustrating quest for PrEP has shown. And he has insurance with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which is not exactly a fly-by-night outfit. The CDC agrees that not enough doctors are prescribing PrEP, and has recently recommended that about 25% of sexually-active gay and bisexual men should be on PrEP.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:


From The Weekly News (Miami, FL), October 21, 1987, page 5.

AZT became the first FDA-approved drug to combat AIDS in March of 1987. Beyond that, there was nothing else in the arsenal besides safe sex messages. But given the reluctance of the Reagan Administration and Congress to allow funding for organizations which provided clear and direct safe sex information, exactly what “safer sex” meant was still often left unspoken. If you didn’t know any better, would you be able to figure out what “safer sex” was supposed to mean from reading this ad that appeared in Miami gay newspaper? The word “condom” doesn’t appear anywhere. In the nearly three decades since then, we’ve learned that safety pins don’t work, and preaching about condom use is little better among a generation that has grown up with condom fatigue.

Connecticut Passes It’s First Sodomy Law: 1642. “If any man lyeth with mankind as hee lyeth with woman, both of them shave committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death. — Levit. 21. 13.” If it’s any consolation, the same penalty also applied to adultery.

Miami Reinstates Gay Rights Ordinance: 1998. Miami first passed a gay rights ordinance more than two decades earlier (see Jan 18), but it was overturned following an acrimonious campaign led by Florida Orange Juice spokesperson Anita Bryant (see Jun 7). That victory led Bryant to spearhead campaigns to overturn similar ordinances in St. Paul, Minnesota (see Apr 25), Wichita, Kansas (see May 9), and Eugene, Oregon (see May 23). That tidal wave reached its high-water mark in 1978 when voters in Seattle turned back a Bryant-inspired attempt to rescind that city’s anti-discrimination ordinance (see Nov 7). That same day, California voters turned down the Brigg’s Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools.

In the decades that followed, eleven states, 27 counties and 136 cities had passed anti-discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing and employment. But gays and lesbians in Miami, where the anti-gay backlash against such legislation first became a major political force, remained without those protections. That changed in 1998, when the Miami-Date Commission voted 7-6 to approve an ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment. The vote came after more than four hours of public debate while opponents of the measure prayed on their knees outside.

“It says that we’ve grown up,” said Carlos Hazday, a local gay activist who spearheaded the campaign for the ordinance. “We’re not perfect, we still have differences, but we’re learning from our mistakes.” Miami Beach mayor Neisen Kasdin welcomed the vote after arguing that an image of intolerance was bad for the area’s tourism-dependent economy. “Greater Miami is no longer a provincial, backwater town,” he said. “Let’s not retreat from our destiny as a major international city.” Reporters seeking comment from Anita Bryant tried leaving messages on an answering machine at her theater in Branson, Missouri. They were apparently unaware that she had been forced to close her theater and declare bankruptcy.

Matthew Shepard: 1976-1998. I’m not sure what to say about him that hasn’t already been said. He has become so much larger in death than he was in life — except, of course, to those who knew him. For the rest of us, he’s an icon, not unlike the golden images venerated in Orthodox churches of impossibly heroic saints who suffered their unimaginable tortures in stoic silence. Most of what we know about him can be summed up in a simple creed: he suffered, died, and was buried. One popular description of how he was found — tied to a fence with his arms outstretched — took on religious significance, even if the image it portrayed was inaccurate. Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, has always been uncomfortable with the deification.

“People call him a martyr, but I take exception to that,” she said. “I’ve tried very hard to keep him real. It’s unfair to make him larger than life. He had foibles. He made mistakes. He was not a perfect child by any means.

“When he was killed he was not on a victory march or a protest march or anything that you would consider fighting for gay rights. He was just living his life as a 21-year-old college student who smoked too much, drank too much and didn’t study enough. He was a college kid trying to figure out his future.”

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, November 30

Jim Burroway

November 30th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by: 

From ONE, August 1964, page 6.

From ONE, August 1964, page 6.

The Jacket of a Camp 45 rpm. The title refers to the ad campaign for Tareyton cigarettes.

The Jacket of a Camp 45 rpm. The title refers to the ad campaign for Tareyton cigarettes. (Source.)

Camp Records appears to have been in business in Southern California for a few years in the mid-1960s. Little else is known about the company or the artists. It’s address was a Post Office box in Hollywood, and the artists were either uncredited or were obviously made up — Byrd E. Bath, B. Bubble, Sandy Beach. Camp released two albums and about a dozen 45 rpm singles, all of them were either parodies sung with effeminate voices or, in the case of Mad About the Boy, of Broadway and cabaret numbers, sung ordinarily by women, but in this album were sung by men. You can learn more about Camp Records and listen to several MP3s here.

Robert Odeman (right) and Martin Ulrich “Muli” Eppendorf (left).

Robert Odeman: 1904-1985. Born Martin Hoyer in Hamburg, he took his stage name when he began traveling throughout Europe performing as a classical pianist. When his playing career ended after suffering a hand injury, he turned to the theater as an actor. He met his first love, Martin Ulrich Eppendorf, at the age of 17, and they remained together for the next ten years. After his beloved Muli died in 1932, Odeman became musical director of a theater in Hamburg, and in 1935 he opened his own cabaret. The Nazis closed it a year later on the grounds that it was politically subversive. A year after that, in 1937, the Nazi’s pressured a bookseller to renounce Odeman as a homosexuals, and he was convicted under Paragraph 175, Germany’s notorious statute that outlawed homosexual acts between men.

After serving in prison for 27 months, he was released in 1940 under the terms of a Berufsverbot, or a professional ban on certain professions including public performances. He was also kept under police surveillance. In 1942, he was arrested again under Paragraph 175 and was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was assigned an office job, which probably saved his life. An estimated 30,000 prisoners lost their lives there, from exhaustion through forced labor, disease, or were executed. When the Red Army advanced on Sachsenhausen, the camp’s SS guards ordered the 33,000 remaining inmates on a forced March. Thousands more prisoners did not survive the death march. But Odeman and two other “175’ers” were able to escape.

After the war, Odeman returned to Berlin where he worked as an actor, composer, and author of satirical poems. Because Paragraph 175 remained on the books, Odeman continued to be regarded as a convicted criminal and, like others convicted under the statute, he was denied compensation that was given to other Holocaust survivors. He died in 1985 at the age of 81.

 50 YEARS AGO: Ryan Murphy: 1965. The screenwriter, director, producer and creator or co-creater of Nip/Tuck, Glee, and The New Normal grew up in a writerly Irish Catholic family in Indianapolis: his father was newspaper circulation director and his mother, though a stay-at-home mom, had written five books and worked in communications for more than 20 years. Murphy ended up being outed to his parents at the age of fifteen when they discovered that he had been having a covert affair with a 21-year-old. They removed him from summer camp, sold his car, threatened to file statutory rape charges, and sent him to a therapist in the hopes of making him straight. Murphy drew a lucky card with his therapist, “who after two sessions called my parents in and said, ‘Your child is very smart and manipulative, and clearly he’s getting A-pluses in school even though this is going on, so either you deal with it honestly or he will turn 18 and you will never see him again.’ There was a long silent car ride home, and we never spoke of it again.”

Murphy wrote for the school newspaper while attending Indiana University, then got jobs at papers in Miami, L.A., New York, and Knoxville before selling his first script to Steven Spielberg in the late 1990s for something called, “Why Can’t I Be Audrey Hepburn?”. Murphy’s first television project was with the WB teen comedy series Popular, but his first critical and popular hit came with FX’s Nip/Tuck. He followed that with Fox’s Glee, which was based, in part, on Murphy’s own experiences in choir back in Indiana. In addition to his writing and producing duties, Murphy selects much of the music that gets covered on Glee, which has led to a number of public spats with Slash from Guns N’ Roses, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, and the Followill brothers of Kings of Leo, over their refusals to allow their music on Glee.

Murphy also co-created American Horror Story, which debuted in 2011 on FX. A horror anthology, each season of American Horror Story operates as a self-contained miniseries with separate casts, characters and story lines. In 2012, Murphy was co-creater of NBC’s The New Normal, about a gay couple and a surrogate who will carry their child. Again, Murphy’s inspiration for The New Normal was drawn on real life. Murphy and his husband, photographer David Miller, welcomed their first son in 2012. Their family grew with the addition of a second son in 2014.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, November 29

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2015

Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by: 

From ONE, December 1962, page 21.

From ONE, December 1962, page 21.

Black Friday may be over, but Christmas shopping has barely begun. Here’s a gift idea for that someone who’s always so hard to shop for.

65 YEARS AGO: Der Spiegel Reports On Arrests of 750 Gay Men: 1950. The Third Reich had been defeated five years earlier, but Germany’s notorious Paragraph 175 lived on to claim more victims. On this date in 1950, Germany’s news weekly Der Spiegel featured a surprisingly sympathetic report on the arrest of 750 gay men by the Frankfurt Criminal Police resulting in 140 criminal charges as of November 25. Magistrate Kurt Romini denied that an official campaign had been launched, saying he was only responding to complaints from “young persons.” But it turns out that Romini himself had been in charge of handling criminal cases against gay men as State Attorney during the Nazi regime. “During his work in the Third Reich,” Der Spiegel reported, “it was not in the interest of a defendant to admit to homosexuality. As soon as he confessed, he was on the way to the concentration camp (with a pink triangle on his chest) and certain to eventually be castrated.”

Castration was no longer in vogue, but Der Spiegel discovered a new twist in this latest campaign. Police relied almost entirely on street hustlers to make arrests and build cases. “They (the hustlers) are driven, for example, through the city in unmarked cars. Then they indicate which passers-by they recognize in the street traffic. The auto stops, and the subject is arrested and interrogated. Moreover, he is entered into the criminal records system. That is, he is photographed; the picture is then shown to all hustlers in custody and informants until someone recognizes him. When someone admits that he visits bars frequented by homosexuals, then a detailed description of a sex act by a hustler is sufficient for a court to convict him. There are known cases where such relationships persons with homosexual tendencies with a certain hustler did not exist. The ‘boys’ invented experiences, and a conviction resulted.”

One hustler, identified as 19-year-old Otto Blankenstein, had been the star witness (and often the only witness) in at least 40 cases. This was true even though “tangible symptoms of mental illness are apparent” in Blankenstein. Der Spiegel also reported that a number of the cases involved blackmail, where the men refused to pay a bribe to some of the street hustlers in exchange for not naming them to police. It’s likely that some of the men weren’t even gay. Their only “crime” was to respond to a few innocuous questions from a hustler at a train station, who then surreptitiously followed them as they walked home. On learning the man’s address, the hustler could then learn more about him; if he was unmarried, the hustler was extra-lucky and his mark would be easier for the inevitable blackmail demands. Refusal to pay resulted in being turned over to police.

If the victim was lucky and wasn’t convicted, his problems still weren’t over. “The citizen is recorded as a suspected homosexual, and a duplicate of his mug shot, which he had to let the police take, is now placed in the Frankfurt mug shot library, and will be shown to hustlers and other people in custody. They will point at it and say, ‘That one, that one, I saw him too in the Kleist Kasino (a popular gay bar), and he offered me DM10 for the night.'” At the peak of the campaign, Judge Romini, who was in charge of all Paragraph 175 cases, was presiding over four trials per day. At least six of the accused men committed suicide.

On February 14, 1951, Der Spiegel carried a brief update revealing that Romini’s star witness, Otto Blankenstein, had been declared mentally ill, and Romini himself had been accused by his housekeepers of “severe night-time disorderly conduct and outburst in the presence of his professional colleagues.”

[Thanks to BTB reader Rob in NYC for the translations]

25 YEARS AGO: Pres. G.H.W. Bush Signs Immigration Bill Ending Gay Ban: 1990. When Congress overhauled the nation’s immigration laws in 1950, it was still in the grip of the McCarthy Red and Lavender Scares. Consequently, Congress banned Communists and “persons afflicted with psychopathic personality” from entering the U.S. That latter clause was added by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee with the express purpose of excluding “homosexuals and other sex perverts.” The legislation that was ultimately signed into law didn’t mention homosexuals, but the U.S. Public Health Service consistently interpreted the language to be “sufficiently broad to provide for the exclusion of homosexuals and sex perverts.” When Congress addressed immigration reform again in 1965, it added “sexual deviation” to the list of characteristics that would preclude immigration. But even then, the law didn’t single out homosexuality for exclusion, but it nevertheless remained official immigration policy even after homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders in 1973.

The nation’s doctors may have changed their understanding of gay people, but immigration authorities did not. That change wouldn’t come about until Congress again set out to reform the nation’s immigration laws again in 1990. This time, Congress decided to lift the political litmus test which automatically barred Communists and people with other potentially controversial political views from entering the U.S., and it also specifically struck down the exclusion of entry based on sexual orientation. When President George H.W. Bush signed the bill into law, gay people, for the first time, could enter the U.S without fear of automatic exclusion if their sexuality were discovered.

The new law was supposed to go further, with a clause which was intended to eliminate the automatic exclusion of people with AIDS from immigrating. But the law contained another clause which left it up the Health and Human Services Department to determine the list of communicable diseases which would prevent travel and immigration to the U.S. That list, as of 1990, still included HIV/AIDS, thanks to an amendment added to a 1987 appropriations bill by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) which required that HIV/AIDS be included on the list of excludable diseases. When public health officials tried to remove AIDS from the list, it touched off a massive political firestorm of opposition from conservatives. HHS backed down, and the HIV travel and immigration ban would remain in place as an interim policy. When HHS moved to remove AIDS from the list in 1993, Congress retaliated by approving a measure that made the HIV/AIDS immigration and travel ban law. That ban was finally lifted in 2010.

100 YEARS AGO: Billy Strayhorn: 1915-1967. Born in Dayton and raised in Pittsburgh, Billy Straygorn was a classical music enthusiast from a very early age. But imagine how hard it was for a black kid to try to become a concert pianist in the 1930s. There was little encouragement for him, but Strayhorn persisted, even taking a job in high school so he could buy his own piano. His musical focus shifted when he hears his first jazz record. From then on, Strayhorn’s compositional focus turned toward jazz, but always with a classical influence.

Strayhorn composed “Lush Life,” which would become his signature song, while still performing in Pittsburgh. That changed when he met Duke Ellington in 1938. Ellington, who was certainly no slouch as a bandleader and composer himself, was immediately impressed with Strayhorn’s talent. Strayhorn moved to Harlem, where he and Ellington composed such standards as “Take the A Train,” and “Satin Doll.” Ellington was hit-or-miss in giving Strayhorn credit. He gave Strayhorn credit for some of their collaborations, but for others Ellington took sole credit (and royalties). But there was little doubt that Ellington valued the quiet young composer, and if anything bothered Strayhorn, it seemed to be centered more on his own lack of independence than on any perceptions that Ellington was taking advantage of him.

But if Strayhorn lacked independence, there was something of a benefit to his being out of the spotlight. It allowed him to be one of the few openly gay jazz musicians in Harlem. In fact, he met one long-term partner, musician Aaron Bridgers, in 1939, who was friends with Ellington’s son. Strayhorn and Bridgers remained together, as an openly gay couple, for eight years until Bridgers moved to Paris in 1947.

In the 1940s, Strayhorn composed several songs for Lena Horne, including “Maybe,” “Something to Live For,” and “Love Like This Can’t Last.” That raised his profile somewhat, even as he continued composing for Ellington. By the 1950s, Ellington gave Strayhorn full credit on several larger works like “Such Sweet Thunder,” “A Drum Is a Woman,” and “The Far East Suite.” Ellington later said of him, “Billy Strayhorn was my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.” In 1960, Ellington and Strayhorn collaboration on a jazz interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” That album featured Strayhorn’s name and likeness along with Ellington’s on the front cover.

Strayhorn was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1964, and he died in 1967 with his partner, Bill Grove, by his side. Before he died, he handed off his final composition to Ellington, “Blood Count,” which appeared on Ellington’s 1967 memorial album, And His Mother Called Him Bill.

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Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 28

Jim Burroway

November 28th, 2015

Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by: 

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 3. (Source.)

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 3. (Source.)

Today’s Agenda is an all-Dallas edition. From Our Community of Dallas, October 1971:

Co CoaCO COA is her name, and she’s tan, talented, and terrific! She, sings and strips–heaven only knows she has the voice and the body. This unique personality was born and raised in Florida. But her story reads like that of countless young boys and girls allover the nation: when she was eight, she slowly became aware that she was “somehow different” from other little girls her age. She was drawn, with deep affection towards other girls, something she wasn’t go “outgrow.” Her parents (meaning well) encouraged her to marry. Needless to say, this didn’t make her straight. Next her parents (again meaning well) sent her to a psychiatrist. Needless to say, this didn’t work either. Eventually she was to tell her psychiatrist, “Look, I’m me!” Now she, her parents and her psychiatrist accept her for what she is — not for what somebody wants her to be.

Still in her mid-twenties, she’s been a professional singer and stripper for ten years. Most of her experience has been in straight bars, where she was unhappy as she was required to “push champaign.” She considers herself a serious artist, does not drink champaign, nor does she want to push it.

Her ambition is to someday own her own bar, where she will produce and direct shows. In he meantime Co Coa will be playing the Cotton Club Review at the State Fair of Texas this October. Then she will return to the Chip Inn on Wednesday nights where she gives a show around 9 pm and again at midnight. On other nights she will entertain (grandly) at the Neptune.

You just never know what you’ll find as you leaf through these old newspapers. This story, from the same edition of Our Community where the above ad appeared, just goes to show that some things never change:

BeatingI have just returned from the Emergency Room at Parkland Hospital, where 40 stiches [sic] were sewn into my chest to close a two inch deep knife wound. There are four stiches [sic] in my chin, and eight in the back of my head, the result of being kicked and stomped while on the ground. My jaw is fractured, and it is extremely painful for me to talk, swallow, move or even breathe. Fortunately my jaw will not have to be wired, but the left side of my face is swollen, and there are multiple bruises all over my body. Painful as it is to write this, I feel I must, as a warning to others of the dangers of Lee Park.

Early Sunday morning, around 2 am, September 12, I left friends and was walking home. I did not enter Lee Park, but was walking on the sidewalk, on the right-hand side of Hall street, going south of Turtle Creek. A man stepped from the shadows of a tree and asked me for a light. When I replied that I had none, three other men jumped me. One man placed a gun at my throat and I was forced into the park. They beat me to the ground, kicked, and stomped me. They ripped off my shirt and demanded my wallet and boots. Finding only one dollar, one of my attackers cooly said, “You’re not going to like what I’m going to do to you.” I was then stabbed in the chest. Desperately trying to shield myself from the slashing knife, I was cut on the chin, hand, and neck. Fighting for my life, I somehow was able to break away and run to my apartment nearby.

…A similar incident happened near Lee Park on Labor Day. About 8:30 that night, I was driving home and passed the same area. Two men, one of whom I knew, ran out of the park into the street. I quickly stopped and asked the matter, and was told that a companion was being beaten by two men in the bushes nearby. Hurriedly I grabbed a lead pipe from the back of my car, ran into the darkness, and found two men beating a blond youth — one man held the youth’s arms behind him, while the other beat him. I clubbed one of the men on the head with the pipe, knocking him to the ground unconscious; the other man ran a way. I grabbed the dazed youth and told him to get the hell out of there. I did not know the youth, and have not seen him since.

I am not asking you, the readers of my story, to stay out of the parks; everyone has a right to unmolested use of the parks. But I do want to warn everyone in our community of the possible danger, and to suggest that none go to the parks alone or unwarily.

— Unsigned. “Beatings and stabbings continue at Lee Park.” Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, pp 1-2. (Source.)

Lee and Reverchon Parks are part of a chain of parks alongside Dallas’s Turtle Creek, which, then as now, is part of the gayborhood of Oak Lawn. Also, then as now, they are well-known cruising areas as well as scenes of unknown numbers of gay bashings.

Dallas Judge Gives Light Sentence In Double Murder: 1988. It was a common sport among Dallas-area high school students throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s: drive into the Oak Lawn gayborhood on a weekend night and spend the evening “gay bashing” — their term for it. (One of my friends was stabbed in the chest and spent days in intensive care in one such attack while walking along Throckmorton Street with his boyfriend. His assailants were never found.) In one case, nine guys from North Mesquite High School drove to Oak Lawn one night in May to “pester the homosexuals.” According to the New York Times’s description of the event:

Witnesses who were in that group said the boys were standing on a street corner and shouting at passers-by, and then Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, drove up and invited the boys into their car. [Richard Lee] Bednarski was said to have persuaded one more friend in his group to get in the car. After the car reached a secluded area of Reverchon Park, Mr. Bednarski is said to have ordered Mr. Trimble and Mr. Griffin to remove their clothes. On their refusal, a witness said, Mr. Bednarski drew a pistol and began firing. Mr. Trimble died immediately. Mr. Griffin died five days later.

At first, the crime was thought to be a botched robbery. Former Dallas Gay Alliance president William Waybourn later remembered, “Reverchon Park was a notorious mugging point. We don’t even know they would gay at first.” But as details unfolded, it became clear that there was more going on. Bednarski, the son of a police officer, began bragging about the shootings, then he became worried that Griffin might live to identify against him.

Bednarski was found guilty of two counts of murder, but Texas law allows the defendant to decide whether the judge or jury would determine the sentence. Bednarksi’s defense lawyer sensed that Judge Jack Hampton was sympathetic and chose him. Prosecutors demanded the maximum: life in prison. But Hampton announced that he considered, among other things, that Bednarski has no prior criminal record, was attending college, and was raised n a “good home.” He then handed down the sentence: 30 years in prison instead of life.

Judge Jack Hampton

Judge Jack Hampton

The sentence was considered light. Hampton explained his reasoning two days later to the Dallas Times Herald: “The two guys that got killed wouldn’t have been killed if they hadn’t been cruising the street picking up teenage boys. I don’t care for queers cruising the streets picking up teenage boys. I’ve got a teenage boy.” He also said that he would have handed down a much harsher sentence if the victims had been “a couple of housewives out shopping, not hurting anybody. I put prostitutes and gays at about the same levee, and I’d be hard pressed to give someone life for killing a prostitute.”

Those remarks touched off a furor in the gay community. Paul Varnell of the Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force summed up the reaction and said, “It appears that we do have one law for heterosexuals and one law for homosexuals.” John Wiley Price, the outspoken African-American activist and Dallas County Commissioner, said, “The only difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Judge Hampton is that one wears a white robe and the other a black robe.” On December 19, 200 people attended a rally outside the county courthouse. The next day, Sen. Edward Kennedy joined another protest at City Hall Plaza, where he described Hampton’s comments as “bigotry at its worst.”

Hampton had his supporters though. Two days later, fifty of them demonstrated outside the courthouse. The Rev. Donald Skelton of Victory Tabernacle Church said that his reason for demonstrating had less to do with supporting Hampton as it was to “protest sodomy.” He explained, “Our sole thrust is against sodomy. I feel sorry for them [homosexuals].” That same day, Hampton called a press conference and apologized for his “poor choice of words,” although he also protested that the Time Herald reporter had “distorted” his remarks. “I did not intend to state that any victim of crime was entitled to less fair treatment.”

The gay community wasn’t satisfied. Waybourn responded that Hampton had “raised the question of his judicial fitness and ability to be impartial.  This question cannot be answered with a simple apology.”

LGBT leaders filed a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which publicly censured Hampton for making “irresponsible statements” that “created an additional burden for the entire judiciary.” But it fell short of condemning his prejudice or removing him from the bench. Hampton, who had been first elected judge in 1981 and would be up for re-election in 1990, remained unconcerned. “Just spell my name right,” he told the Times-Herald. “If it makes anybody mad, they’ll forget by 1990.” He was right. He was re-elected in 1990, but his judicial career finally ended when he ran for an appellate court seat in 1992 and lost.

Bednarski was released in 2007 after serving less than nineteen years in Huntsville.

[Additional Source: Arnold Wayne Jones. “Jack Hampton’s Injustice.” The Dallas Voice (October 17, 2008): 1, 12-13, 16. Available online herehere, here and here.]

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, November 27

Jim Burroway

November 27th, 2015

Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From California Scene, Fall 1973, page 38.

From California Scene, Fall 1973, page 38.

Harvey Milk, an avid amateur photographer, got the idea of opening his own camera shop after a developer ruined a roll of his film. He opened Castro Camera in 1972 on Castro Street when the area was still a working-class Irish neighborhood known then as Eureka Valley. It was a down-on-its-luck part of town that had seen better days, and was what we would politely call today “in transition.” Because of cheap rents, Eureka Valley saw an influx of gay people fleeing higher rents elsewhere. The Eureka Valley Merchants Association took a dim view of the gay-owned businesses opening up on their street and tried to keep Milk from getting a business license. Milk banded together with other gay businesses in the area and formed the Castro Village Association, which, in turn, organized the Castro Street Fair in 1974. It was a monster success, and thus Eureka Valley vanished and “the Castro” was born. Milk became known as the “mayor of Castro Street,” and Castro Camera served as an unofficial community center and official campaign headquarters when Milk launched his political career.

 315 YEARS AGO: Pennsylvania Outlaws Sodomy: 1700. The Pennsylvania assembly passed a new sodomy law to replace the old one which had been abrogated in 1693. The new law read:

…whoever shall be legally convicted of sodomy or bestiality, shall suffer imprisonment during life, and be whipped at the discretion of the magistrates, once every three months during the first year after conviction. And if he be a married man, he shall also suffer castration, and the injured wife shall hae a divorce if required.

In keeping with the pacifist nature of the Quakers who dominated the political structures in Pennsylvania, the colony’s law against sodomy was quite lenient: it was the only colonial law which didn’t call for the death penalty. That relative pacifism however didn’t extend to those of African descent. Another law, “An Act for the Trial of Negroes,” added this:

…”if any negro or negroes within this government shall commit a rape or ravishment upon any white woman or maid, or shall commit murder, buggery or burglary, they shall be …. punished by death.”

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pages 122-123.]

Harvey Milk Assassinated: 1978. Harvey Milk finally succeeded in winning political office as a gay man for two reasons. One, he refused to hide who he was; and two, he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. Among those alliances, initially, was with the most conservative member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Dan White. There couldn’t have been two politicians from more opposite ends of the political spectrum. White, a former cop, was a conservative Catholic representing a blue-collar neighborhood, while Milk, a gay Jew from New York, represented the growing gay districts surrounding the Castro. Milk and White made several media appearances in which they spoke warmly of each other, and Milk began telling friends that he thought White was “educable.” That began to change however when Milk changed his mind about White’s opposition to a proposed psychiatric treatment center in White’s district. Harvey initially supported White, which would have given White the 6-5 majority he needed to block the facility. But as Harvey learned more about the center, he discovered that San Francisco children would be sent instead far away to a state hospital where they would be cut off from their families. He concluded that “they’ve got to be next to somebody’s house,” and switched his vote.

The loss stunned White, and for several months he refused to speak to Milk or his aides. He also tried to retaliate by switching his vote on Harvey’s gay rights bill, but the bill passed anyway 10-1. White became increasingly disillusioned with politics, and abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. He quickly regretted his decision, and asked Mayor George Moscone to re-appoint him as Supervisor. Instead of complying with the request immediately, Moscone said he would think it over and announce his decision on November 27.

The night before the scheduled announcement, White learned through a reporter that he would not get the reappointment. The next morning White went to City Hall with his loaded .38 Smith & Wesson. He went to Moscone’s office and asked for a meeting. Moscone agreed and invited him into the mayor’s office. There, White shot Moscone twice in the abdomen and twice in the head. He then went down the hall to Milk’s office. When Milk got up out of his seat to greet White, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back, and twice more in the head.

News of the two assassinations sent the city reeling. To make matters worse, San Franciscans were still grappling with the shocking news of the Jonestown, Guyana massacre and mass suicide the week before, which had been led by San Francisco-based preacher Jim Jones and resulted in 918 deaths. That night, tens of thousands of stunned mourners gathered in the Castro for an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall. The sea of candles stretched ten city blocks long. At the steps of city hall, Joan Baez led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang a hymn by Felix Mendelssohn.

John Aravosis: 1963. An attorney, Democratic political consultant, gay activist and blogger, Aravosis is the founder of Americablog. His first major success as a gay activist came in 1998 when he defended U.S. sailor Timothy R. McVeigh (not to be confused with the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh), who was being kicked out of the Navy after he was outed by America Online. The internet provider had released the identity behind McVeigh’s email account even though the Navy never bothered to get a court order or warrant, in direct violation of AOL’s terms of service. McVeigh was days from being discharged when Aravosis embarked on a massive publicity campaign that caught the attention of ABC News, Time and Newsweek. It also got the attention of another lawyer, who took McVeigh’s case pro bono. McVeigh not only won an honorable discharge from the Navy, but also a large settlement from AOL.

Aravosis founded AmericaBlog in 2004. AmericaBlog first received widespread media attention in 2005 after it outed “Jeff Gannon” (real name: Jeff Guckert), a member of the White House press corps who had a reputation for fielding softball questions during news conferences.

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The Daily Agenda for Thanksgiving Day

Jim Burroway

November 26th, 2015

J.C. Leyendecker’s Thanksgiving cover for the Saturday Evening Post, 1928.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), November 20, 1987, page 11. (Souce.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), November 20, 1987, page 11. (Source.)

British Parliament Shelves Wolfenden Report Recommendations: 1958. More than a year had passed since the Wolfenden committee issued its groundbreaking report urging Parliament to decriminalize homosexual activity between consenting adults (see Sep 4). The Wolfenden committee, named for chairman Lord John Wolfenden, had spent the previous three years combing through studies and soliciting testimony from experts in medicine, science, theology, ethics, and the law. The first print run of 5,000 copies of the Wolfenden Committee’s 155-page “Report on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution” sold out within hours of its publication. In it, the committee recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence… It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour.”

When Parliament finally got around to considering the report on November 25, 1958, Conservative Home Secretary Rab Butler opened the debate by announcing that the government was not prepared to alter the country’s laws with regard to homosexual relationships. He explained the reasons, in part, in terms of what he believed the effect the law’s removal would have on those who were not particularly religious:

Home Secretary Rab Butler

Many people outside the influence of religion found no other basis for their notions of right and wrong but in the criminal law. Could we be sure that if the support of the criminal law were removed from these people they would find any other support?

What is clear to me is that there is at present a large section of the population which strongly repudiates homosexual conduct and whose moral sense would be offended by an alteration ot the law seeming to imply approval or tolerance of what they regard as a great social evil. Therefore the considerations I have indicated satisfy the Government that it would not be justified, on the basis of opinions expressed so far, in proposing legislation to carry out the recommendations of the Committee.

Opposition MP Anthony Greenwood (Lab-Rossendale) spoke in favor of the Wolfenden Committee’s recomendations, although he stressed that his position was not an official Labour position. He said that he hoped that during the debate, Members would “extend tolerance to each other and compassion to minorities in our midst who are denied the happiness and fulfilment which is the lot of most of us.” He then added:

MP Anthony Greenwood

What we have to decide is whether men who, for some reason we do not understand, are practising homosexuals should live their lives under the shadow of the law and at the mercy of the blackmail. I believe that life is harsh enough for these people without society adding to their burdens. The fact that the law is largely unenforced, and indeed largely unenforceable, is certainly no reason for retaining it. I am fortified in my view by the fact that it is shared by many of the great religious leaders of the country. … I believe that ultimately this reform will come. I am saddened by the fact that it should only come after a still greater toll of human misery has been extracted by society.

Arguments for and against the Wolfenden recommendations cut across party lines. Labor MP Frederick Bellenger (Lab-Bassetlaw) opposed any change in the law. He described those in the “cult” as “a malignant canker in the comminuty. If this were allowed to grow, it would eventually kill what is known as normal life.” But Conservative MP High Linstead (C-Putney) argued that because homosexuality was “fixed in people at an early age,” the law would make “no difference to a man’s tendencies.” Labour MP Jean Mann (Lab-Coatbridge and Airdrie) opposed any changes to the law, but the feminist in her couldn’t let one point pass without comment. On observing that lesbian relationships had never been criminalized under British law, Mann wryly remarked that this time it was “the male (who) was now demanding equality with the female.”

The greater consensus on both sides of the House was against scrapping the laws criminalizing consensual homosexual relationships. The House approved, without dissent, a motion put forward by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government which said, simply, “That this House takes note of the report.”

[Source: “No Action on Homosexuals Yet: Mr. Butler Sets Out the Problems.” Daily Telegraph (November 27, 1958). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review 5, no. 1 (January 1959): 4-12.]

ABC Airs “A Question of Love”: 1978. Six years earlier, ABC broke ground in providing a positive portrayal of a gay relationship with the broadcast of “That Certain Summer” in 1972 (see Nov 1) depicting a divorced father’s relationship with another man. But portrayals of lesbians remained limited to criminals, prisoners and sexual abusers (see, for example, Nov 8). In response to pressure from LGBT activists, ABC opted to produce a docu-drama based on a true-life custody battle by a Texas lesbian mother for her two sons. Gena Rowlands played the mother, with Jane Alexander as her partner, as they contended with the mother’s abusive ex-husband who discovers their relationship and sues for custody. In the end, the jury sided with the father, despite his history of violence and infidelity. The made-for-TV movie aired on Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend following a warning that the program may not be suitable for young people. It was greeted with a few smarmy reviews, but surprisingly for being in the year of Anita Bryant, the telecast prompted very little protest or controversy.

Wayland Flowers: 1939-1988. The thing about puppets is that they get to say and do things that ordinary people aren’t allowed to do. Maybe that’s why Georgia-native Wayland Flowers took up puppetry and created “Madame,” which Hofstra University’s Patricia Jukliana Smith aptly described as “a grotesquely ugly and flamboyantly ribald old crone festooned in outrageous evening gowns, tiaras, and rhinestones.” In other words, an outrageously campy drag queen in wood and wire, a hideous hag who thought herself glamorous and who spoke in double entendres and bitchy take-downs.

Flowers developed Madame in night clubs and gay bars throughout the 1960s before landing frequent appearances on Laugh-In. The act then appeared as a recurring comedy skit on Solid Gold before eventually replacing Paul Lynde as Center Square on Hollywood Squares. In 1982, Madame was star of her own sitcom, Madame’s Place, a half-hour syndicated program that ran five days a week for one season. Madame’s talk show within the series drew Debbie Reynolds, Foster Brooks and William Shatner as guests. Flowers died on October 11, 1988, five weeks after collapsng during a performance at Harra’s resort in Lake Tahoe. The family attributed his death to cancer, and asked that no other details about his AIDS-releated death be released to the public.

Simon Tseko Nkoli: 1957-1998. Born in Soweto, Nkoli became a youth activist against apartheid with the Congress of South African Students and with the United Democratic Front. He also became a gay rights activist when he joined the mainly white Gay Association of South African in 1983 and later formed the Saturday Group, the first black gay group in Africa. Nkoli’s anti-apartheid activism led to his arrest in 1984, when he faced the death penalty for treason with twenty-one others who became collectively known as the Delmas 22. While prisoner, he came out as gay. Fearing that the state would use his homosexuality against the entire group, the others of the Delmas 22 demanded a separate trial. But in the end he won them over and they stood trial together because, as they all realized, they were in the same struggle together. As Nkoli later wrote in the anthology, Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa, “If you are black in South Africa, the inhuman laws of apartheid closet you. If you are gay in South Africa, the homophobic customs and laws of this society closet you. If you are black and gay in South Africa, well, then it really is all the same closet, the same wardrobe. Inside is darkness and oppression. Outside is freedom. It is as simple as that.”

By coming out as gay while a prisoner against apartheid, he is credited with helping to change the attitude of the African National Congress toward gay rights. Patrick “Terror” Lekota, who later became chairman of the ANC, remarked, “all of us acknowledged that [Nkoli’s coming out] was an important learning experience . . . His presence made it possible for more information to be discussed, and it broadened our vision, helping us to see that society is composed of so many people whose orientations are not the same, and that one must be able to live with it.” And so, when it came to writing the Constitution, “how could we say that men and women like Simon, who had put their shoulders to the wheel to end apartheid, how could we say that they should now be discriminated against?”

After his acquittal and release from prison in 1988, he founded the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW), which organized South Africa’s first Gay Pride march in 1990. He also was among the first African gay men to come out publicly as HIV-positive and founded Positive African Men in Johannesburg. He was among the first gay activists to meet with President Nelson Mandela in 1994, and he campaigned successfully for anti-discrimination measures on the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution. Nkoli lived long enough to see South African repeal its sodomy law in 1998, shortly before he died on November 30.

 45 YEARS AGO: John Amaechi: 1970. The Boston-born son of a Nigerian father and English mother grew up in England and didn’t take up basketball he was seventeen, when he moved to Toledo and played hoops at St. John’s Jesuit High School. His college career began at Vanderbilt, then he transferred to Penn state, where he was named to First Team Academic All-American twice. He also when he began his career as a motivational speaker and youth mentor. After college, he played one season with Cleveland (1995-6), then played a few years in Europe before returning to the Orlando Magic in 1999. He was so grateful to Orlando for hiring him when no other NBA team would that the next year he turned down a $17 million contract from the Lakers so he could remain in Orlando for $600,000 per year. “There are many people who are asked what their word is worth,” he later explained, “and when people ask me that I can say, ‘At least $17 million.'” After Orlando, Amaechi was traded to the Utah Jazz, where he played for two years. He then went to the Houston Rockets for a season before retiring from the New York Knicks.

Since then, Amaechi has launched his second career as NBA broadcaster for UK’s Channel Five and he provided broadcast commentary for the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Olympics. He also returned to school to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. In 2007, Amaechi became the first openly gay former NBA player after coming out in his memoir, Man in the Middle. In 2011, Amaechi was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to sports and for his voluntary work after retiring.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, November 25

Jim Burroway

November 25th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 3, 1983, page 56.

From The Advocate, March 3, 1983, page 56.

Wendy Chandler

Wendy Chandler

Judge Rules Utah Teacher’s Rights Were Violated: 1998. Wendy Weaver taught psychology and physical education, and coached the girls’ volleyball team at Spanish Fork High School in Utah. In 1997 after an acrimonious divorce, from her ex-husband Gary Weaver went to the district and told them the reason they divorced was because she was a lesbian. Rumors quickly began to swirl around the high school, and that summer students began asking her if she was gay. She answered truthfully, and a few of the girls dropped out of the girl’s volleyball team.

On July 14, the school district removed her as volleyball coach and banned her from mentioning her “lifestyle” or partner to students, parents or staff. If she mentioned a word about her sexuality to anyone, she would be fired. A letter to that effect was placed in her employee record. She was also relieved of her duties as coach of the volelyball team, despite having led the team to four state championships.

When word got out, an overflow crowd showed up to denounce Weaver at a Nebo Board of Education meeting on November 14, 1997, where parents demanded the right to pull their children out of any class she taught. A group, calling themselves the Nebo Citizens for Moral and Legal Values presented a petition signed by 2,700 parents demanding her removal. After Weaver filed suit in Federal Court alleging that her First Amendment Rights were being violated, the parents’ group filed a suit of their own, with the backing of the Utah County chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, demanding that Weaver’s teaching certification be revoked because, according to the complaint, Defendant Weaver engages in sodomy as defined under Utah criminal law.”

On November 25, 1998, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins issued a sweeping 25-page ruling finding that Weaver’s constitutional rights of free speech and equal protection were violated. The judge ordered the school district to remove its threat to fire her from their files, restore her to the girl’s volleyball coaching job, and to pay her the $1,5000 stipend that she would have been entitled to as coach. He found the limits on Weaver’s speech to be overly broad. “Indeed,” wrote Judge Jenkins, “these restrictions limit Ms. Weaver’s ability to speak on her sexuality outside of the school, as, for example, when meeting a parent of a student in the supermarket, or when speaking at dinner with a friend who may be a staff member at the school, or even when speaking with her own children, who are students in the school district.” All of this was a gross violation of Weaver’s constitutional rights. “Simple as it may sound, as a matter of fairness and evenhandedness, homosexuals should not be sanctioned or restricted for (speech) where heterosexuals are not likewise sanctioned or restricted.”

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, November 24

Jim Burroway

November 24th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Village Voice, July 7, 1970, page 8. (Source.)

Berkeley’s KPFA Broadcasts Two-Hour Program on Homosexuality: 1958. On a Monday before Thanksgiving, several people gathered at Pacifica Radio’s studios at KPFA in Berkeley, California, for what appears to have been the first broadcast discussion on homosexuality in the Bay area. The broadcast consisted of two separate panel discussions in two consecutive hours, which represented quite an investment of airtime for the non-profit, noncommercial station.

Participants for first hour of the historic broadcast were Mattachine president Hal Call (see Sep 20); Dr. Blanche Baker, a bay area psychologist and straight ally who wrote a regular column for ONE magazine; and Leah Gailey, a mother of a gay son. The first hour’s topic was “The Role of the Homosexual as an Individual and as a Member of Society.” Del Martin’s (see May 5)  summary of the broadcast for the Daughters of Bilitis’ magazine The Ladder the following January indicates the kinds of the questions that ordinary people had about gay people:

…According to Dr. Blanche Baker, San Francisco psychiatrist, there is much controversy on the subject, “even in the medical profession.” There are those who feel it is a neurotic problem and others who call it glandular, or even a hereditary problem.

“For myself, from many years of work, I consider the homosexual first of all a human being,” she stated. “I believe in individual adjustment of each particular case. Factors leading to homosexuality lie deep in the individual nature. It is a psychological problem in which early childhood has its effect. All people have a certain amount of maleness and femaleness in their constitution, and child experiences tend to throw us to one side of the scale or the other.”

When questioned by Elsa Knight Thompson, moderator, Mrs. Leah Gailey, housewife and mother, replied, “My first reaction was a universal one — shock. There was ostracism to face for me and my son. It was clearly — shock. But basically I loved my son, so I decided I would try to understand. Fear is based on the unknown, and much fear disappears as one learns to understand.

“There is much literature on the layman level for anyone to read,” she pointed out. “It is just a matter of understanding and accepting.”

Mr. Call declared that the problem of homosexuality is very often closer to all of us than many realize — a member of the family, a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend.

“Approximately every tenth adult may be predominantly homosexual in orientation,” he stated. “This covers the entire strata of society, every intellectual and economic Ieve1.”

Mr. Call said that there had not necessarily been an increase in homosexuality in recent years, as some have supposed, but rather a greater awareness of the subject.

Moderator Thompson posed the problem of “hostility” in the homosexual. Does it stem from the individual because of his fear of being “different”? Or is it a result of society’s attitude?

Mr. Call said that the homosexual adopts attitudes as result of the society in which he lives. He may effect certain mannerisms of hostility toward society because of its attitudes and also because of his inability to accept himself.

According to Mrs. Gailey, the homosexual’s hostility is based on fear from society and guilt from self. The homosexual has both problems to face, she said.

Dr. Baker pointed out that in her field she works on self acceptance so that the individual can relax and be more comfortable in the world he lives in.

When asked if her clients wished to rid themselves of their homosexuality or if they sought acceptance, Dr. Baker said, “Most of those who come to me want to get rid of this approach to life. If the heterosexual component potential is large enough to function with, fine. But many cases just don’t have the potential.”

Dr. Baker said she had no statistics on the subject, that she herself worked with small numbers of people, “But the ones who come to me are artists — versatile, gifted people, not just bread, meat and potatoes people.”

Mr. Call did not consider this a just evaluation. He said that homosexuals are no more gifted or talented than any other group, but that perhaps the homosexual has more opportunity to develop creative and artistic talents since he doesn’t have the economic pressure of providing for a wife and family.

Elsa Knight Thompson suggested that, as in the  case of any other minority group, there is more concentration to excel in order to counteract criticism.

“This is true job-wise,” Mrs. Gailey declared. “Because of his fear of detection, the homosexual puts forth an utmost effort to do his best.”

On consideration of the short duration of most homosexual relationships, Dr. Baker asserted, “The friction between homosexual couples is due to the hate in themselves and an unhappy adjustment to life. The over-emphasis on a sexual level would keep them from adjusting on other levels.”

Mr. Call pointed out that there were many lasting homosexual relationships that are not known or recognized, and Dr. Baker admitted, “We are all too conscious of those who do not get along together and don’t know about those who do.”

The second hour was given over to the professionals: Dr. Karl Bowman, a at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco; Dr. Frank Beach Jr., anthropologist and professor of psychology at the UC Berkeley; Morris Lowenthal, a San Francisco attorney who worked on a number of gay rights cases on behalf of local bars targeted by the state alcohol control board; and Dr. David Wilson, attorney and psychiatrist of the UC Berkeley’s School of Criminology.

Bowman, like Baker and Lowenthal (and Beach, as you will see), was something of an ally for the Bay area gay community, having given several talks for local Mattachine and DoB meetings in the bay area. He opened the second hour with brief discussion of the state’s anti-gay laws which “largely traced back to ancient Hebrew laws.”  He added, ” it is my contention,” Dr. Bowman added, “it is time to re-examine our laws in the light of present knowledge and recommend modifications.” Del Martin picks of the narrative from there:

Dr. Frank Beach Jr. …recounted the varying degrees of homosexual behavior: the latent individual who has tendencies but who manifests no overt behavior, the individual who has one or two experiences in his life time, those who find satisfaction in both homosexual and heterosexual behavior, and those with exclusive homosexual experience.

Dr. Bowman pointed out that in the armed forces mere diagnosis of latent homosexuality makes an individual unsuitable and subject to an undesirable discharge which interferes seriously with the individual’s ability to secure a position. Some one who has never violated any law and who has never had a homosexual experience thus becomes a victim, he said.

Relative to the problem of who is a homosexual, Morris Lowenthal, San Francisco attorney, spoke of the 1955 law passed by the California state legislature that any bar or restaurant becoming a “resort for sexual perverts” may have its license revoked. The problem of the proprietor is two-fold, he said, since the 1951 California Supreme Court decision in the Stoumen vs. Reilly case upheld the civil right of the homosexual to meet and eat or drink in any public bar or restaurant, while the new law in direct conflict prohibits the use of these premises as a gathering place for homosexuals. Mr. Lowenthal also posed the issue as to how the bartender or owner can determine the homosexual tendencies of his patrons.

The subject then moved to the question of what “causes” homosexuality. Beach and Bowman argued that homosexuality may be hereditary, although Bowman also believed that ” physical condition and psychological conditioning” played a role. It’s interesting that those arguments were as lively then as they are now, with the underlying assumption that if homosexuality was biological in origin, then laws forbidding it were profoundly unjust:

“The crux of the matter,” asserted Dr. David Wilson, attorney and psychiatrist of the University of California School of Criminology at Berkeley, “is the law making something a crime. Society passes a law because it feels threatened, but it doesn’t work and in no way affects the amount of homosexuality. If the law doesn’t work, it should be reappraised and handled in a realistic manner.

“The propensity is there or it could not develop. We can not change basic individual factors. Unless we know why, we can’t pass laws to curb the incidence of homosexuality.”

Mr. Lowenthal advanced the theory that homosexuals have been discouraged in cultures when an increase in population was needed for survival and encouraged when it was necessary to curb the population.

“Naive assumption!” Dr. Wilson interjected. “Homosexuals are not going to be the productive members of society in any case.”

Dr. Beach also rejected the idea, “Human beings don’t behave this rationally.” Prohibitions appear in many societies, he added.

Dr. Bowman considered the population theory a rationalization. “Cultures that allow homosexuality freely have in many cases had a higher increase in population than those who have not.”

“Rejection of the homosexual is purely on an emotional basis and tied up with our general repressive attitude toward all sex behavior,” he added.

In our criminal laws, many of which are not enforced, it was pointed out by Attorney Lowenthal that no reference is made to homosexuals specifically. Vague and ambiguous laws are used and abused against the homosexual resulting in his subjection to blackmail.

Dr. Bowman pointed out that the California law reads, “Anyone guilty of the infamous crime against nature…” The use of such wording has led to long controversies, he stated.

Dr. Beach took exception to the “crime against nature.” The capacity for homosexual activity is inherent in nature — in man’s biological constitution — and there is therefore nothing “unnatural” in homosexual activity, he said.

“It would appear then that the law is vague, open to loose interpretation and capable of injustice to the individual where invoked against him, bearing no fruit from the social standpoint,” Elsa Knight Thompson, the moderator, put in.

“Laws to prevent crimes of Violence and violation of children would satisfy my requirements of a fair law,” Dr. Wilson asserted. “Homosexuality is a medical and social problem, not a legal one.”

Mr. Lowenthal declared that a strange situation existed where it has been granted by the California Appellate Court that the homosexual is no menace to society and has no particular propensity toward crime, yet at the level of police and certain legislators he is declared a menace and attempts are made to whittle away the civil rights of the individual.

“The mere existence of a law can be a threat to an individual even though it may not be enforced or can be overturned at a higher court level,” Dr. Wilson said. However, he did not hold out much hope for immediate action. The legislators won’t change the law until they understand more. It will take a great deal of time and education, of which this program is a step.

The KPFA broadcast was an enormous shot in the arm for the gay movement. Tapes of the broadcast were circulated and played at gay conferences and meetings, and the Mattachine Review reprinted the broadcast transcripts in July and August of 1960. The program was rebroadcast a month later on KPFA, and Los Angeles’s KPFB and New York’s WBAI picked it up for 1959. KPFA also published a printed transcript as a booklet.

You can listed to the program’s first hour via the Internet Archive here.

[Sources: Del Martin. “Two-Hour Broadcast on Homophile Problem.” The Ladder 3, no. 4 (January 1959): 7-14.

“The Homosexual In Society.” Mattachine Review 6, no. 7 (July 1960): 12-28.

“The Homosexual In Society (Part II).” Mattachine Review 6, no. 8 (August 1960): 9-25.]

Craig Rodwell at Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop. Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen. (Source)

First Gay Bookstore In the U.S. Opens: 1967. Craig Rodwell had been a longtime resident of Greenwich Village, and he grew increasingly frustrated with the New York Mattachine Society’s timidity. In 1964, he formed the Mattachine Young Adults in an attempt to gain greater visibility for gay people, and he helped to organize the nation’s first gay rights picket  at the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center, in protest over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential (see Sep 19). In 1966, Rodwell joined three other activists to stage a “sip-in” to challenge a New York Liquor Authority regulation against serving customers who were “disorderly,” a term that was invariably used against anyone who was gay (see Apr 21).

But perhaps his most important contribution to the gay community came in 1967, when he opened the doors to the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop at 291 Mercer Street near Washington Park. It has been described as “the first legal business (i.e. not a bar) opened explicitly for gay people.” Despite the severely limited quantity of materials on homosexuality, Rodwell decided to focus his offerings on literature by gay and lesbian authors. Selections were slim at first, reportedly “three copies apiece of the 25 most positive books about homosexual behavior he could find.” He refused to sell pornography in a bid to avoid negative publicity. It didn’t work. A New York Post columnist compared his modest bookstore to see-through dresses and topless flicks. That decision also wasn’t particularly popular with his male gay customers. Consequently, money was tight, with Rodwell putting in 70-hour work weeks as the store’s sole employee for its first eighteen months.

Three months after founding Oscar Wilde, he founded a bookshop-based youth group, Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN) which published the New York Hymnal, a monthly newsletter that called for ending Mafia ownership of gay bars and police harassment of bar patrons.

In 1973, Rodwell moved the Oscar Wilde to 15 Christopher St, just a block away from the Stonewall Inn. At some point, Rodwell relented on the pornography ban. Bills had to be paid, but the operation always remained a struggling, hand-to-mouth existence. But for the next four decades, Oscar Wilde became a more than a bookstore; it was also something of a community center for its LGBT patrons.

When Rodwell developed stomach cancer in 1993, he sold the store to one of his managers, Bill Offenbaker, who ran it until 1996, when Larry Lingle took it over. The store was never much of a money maker, and in 2003, Lingle announced that he would have to close the doors. At the last minute, the owner of Washington, D.C.’s Lambda Rising bookstore bought it and saved it from closure. Three years later, manager Kim Brinster took over, but with the down economy and the pressure that all booksellers were experiencing from and big box chain bookstores, the store couldn’t survive, despite its drastically bel0w-market rent. The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop closed for good on March 29, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. In a fitting coda just a few weeks later,’s software accidentally reclassified all LGBT-themed books in its inventory as pornography.

[Additional source: Martha E. Stone. “After Many a Season Dies the Oscar Wilde.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 16, no. 4 (July-August 2009): 9.]

Candy Darling

Candy Darling: 1944-1974. The Andy Warhol star was born James Lawrence Slattery in Queens to a violently alcoholic father and smart, supporting mother. After her parents divorced, Jimmy and her mother moved to Long Island, where she spent much of her childhood watching old Hollywood movies on TV and impersonating her favorite actresses. In the mid-1960s, her mother confronted her about rumors that she was dressing as a girl and hanging out at a rough gay bar known as The Hayloft. In response Jimmy left the room and came back a few minutes later dressed as Candy. Her mother later said, “I knew then… that I couldn’t stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented.”

By then, Candy had been going into Manhattan and hanging out in Greenwich Village quite regularly. She first adopted the name of Hope Slattery after she began taking hormone injections. Her name then evolved to Hope Dahl to Candy Dahl and Candy Cane, but so many people called her “darling” that it stuck. By then, she was a fixture of Greenwich Village’s arts scene. Lou Reed wrote a whole song about her, “Candy Says,” and he gave her a cameo in the second stanza of “Walk on the Wild Side”:

Candy came from out on the Island
In the back room she was everybody’s darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, “Hey, babe,
Take a walk on the wild side.”

In 1967, Candy Darling starred in a way-off Broadway play called Glamour, Glory and Gold. Andy Warhol saw the play one night, praised the performance (“I wasn’t bored.”) and met with Darling afterward. He cast Darling for a short scene in Flesh with Joe Dallesandro (see Dec 31). She was then cast in Warhol’s Women in Revolt (1971), where she played a Long Island socialite who joined a women’s lib group PIGS (Politically Involved Girls). She went on to appear in several other films, including in Klute (1971) with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, and Lady Liberty (1971) with Sophia Loren. She also appeared in several off-Broadway plays, including a revival of Tennessee Williams’s Small Craft Warnings.

Candy Darling died of leukemia on March 21, 1974. Shortly before she died, she wrote a letter for Warhol and members of the Factory. It read:

"Candy Darling on her Deathbed" by Peter Hujar. This photo was used for the cover of Antony and the Johnson's 2005 album, I Am A Bird Now.

“Candy Darling on her Deathbed” by Peter Hujar. This photo was used for the cover of Antony and the Johnson’s 2005 album, I Am A Bird Now.

To whom it may concern

By the time you read this I will be gone. Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life. Even with all my friends and my career on the upswing I felt too empty to go on in this unreal existence. I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. It may sound ridiculous but is true. I have arranged my own funeral arrangements with a guest list and it is paid for. I would like to say goodbye to Jackie Curtis, I think you’re fabulous. Holly, Sam Green a true friend and noble person, Ron Link I’ll never forget you, Andy Warhol what can I say, Paul Morrissey, Lennie you know I loved you, Andy you too, Jeremiah don’t take it too badly just remember what a bitch I was, Geraldine I guess you saw it coming. Richard Turley & Richard Golub I know I could’ve been a star but I decided I didn’t want it. Manuel, I’m better off now. Terry I love you. Susan I am sorry, did you know I couldn’t last I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again.

Goodbye for Now
Love Always

Candy Darling

Her funeral was attended by a high crowd. Julie Newmar read the eulogy, and Gloria Swanson saluted her coffin.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

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