Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda
The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 28
Before 1970 or so, films with gay characters were either tragic (you just knew someone was going to be killed or commit suicide), or were played for laughs. By the 1980s, films turned turned even more tragic, thanks to AIDS. But there was a brief moment, say in 1974 when A Very Natural Thing debuted, when a film about ordinary love and relationships between men could be released to the general public by a somewhat alt-mainstream company, which is what New Line Cinema was aspiring to be at the time.
A Very Natural Thing is regarded as the first American film about gay relationships intended for a mainstream audience. The film’s reception was ambiguous. Straight critics thought it was too political (two men in love, apparently, made it so), while gay critics were more inclined to think it wasn’t political enough (the characters were too white, too middle-class, too heteronormative). Producer/director Christopher Larkin thought all of the critics were reading too much into the film. “I wanted to say that same-sex relationships are no more problematic but no easier than any other human relationships. They are in many ways the same and in several ways different from heterosexual relationships but in themselves are no less possible or worthwhile.”
The German silent film Anders als die Andern (English title: “Different From the Others”) tells the story of a famous concert violinist, Paul Körner (played by Conrad Veidt, who later appeared in Casablanca as Major Heinrich Strasser) who falls in love with his student Kurt Sivers (Fritz Schulz). Both men experience disapproval from their parents The real-life Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the famous German sexologist and gay-rights advocate (see May 14), makes several cameo appearances in the film. In one scene, he explains to Körner’s parents that their son “is not to blame for his orientation. is not wrong, nor should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even an illness, merely a variation, and one that is common to all of nature.”
Hirshfeld’s appearances appear directed more toward the audience than the characters he’s speaking to. In one flashback scene, when Körner first meets Hirschfeld’s character after discovering that an “ex-gay” hypnotherapist was a fraud (some things never change), Hirschfeld tells him, “Love for one of the same sex is no less pure or noble than for one of the opposite. This orientation can be found in all levels of society, and among respected people. Those that say otherwise come only from ignorance and bigotry.”
This film was no masterpiece. The acting is stilted, the plot is predictable. Another character, Franz Bollek, sees Körner and Sivers together, and confronts Körner in a blackmail attempt. Körner reports Bollek for blackmail and has him arrested. In retaliation, Bollek exposes Körner. Both men wind up in court, both are found guilty despite Hirshfeld’s testimony on Körner’s behalf (and another soliloquy for the audience). The judge has mercy on Körner by sentencing him to only one week. Apparently letting him go didn’t occur to the judge. Disgraced and shunned by his family, Körner kills himself. Sivers also tries to kill himself, but Hirschfeld intervenes with another polemic: “You have to keep living; live to change the prejudices by which this man has been made one of the countless victims. … Justice through knowledge!”
The film was originally released for general distribution, but it soon fell under official censorship and its showings were restricted to doctors and lawyers. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they rounded up all the copies they could find and burned them. Only small fragments of the film survives today. A version has been reconstructed from those fragments and is available on DVD. Unfortunately, the films reconstruction relies on surviving stills and added title cards, which make up far too much of the reconstructed film to make it a satisfying experience beyond its historical interest. This clip includes one of Hirscheld’s cameos (beginning at 3:10):
Milwaukee’s Neptune Club appears to have only lasted about a year: “Neptune Club is believed to have been Chuck Cicirello‘s first gay bar. He later opened the Factory, which was to become the legendary Milwaukee dance/disco bar, followed by Factory 2 and 3, and other bars in later years.” As of last October, the ground floor of the building appears to be empty.
Hal Call (Sep 20), who took over the Mattachine Society in 1953 after ousting the old guard who founded the organization (Apr 11), recalled to James T. Sears his year of studying journalism at the University of Missouri after his discharge from the Army following World War II, and the scandal that broke out after he graduated (see below):
There were scandals, yes. E.K. Johnston was a professor and in line for the deanship of the journalism school at the University of Missouri. He was held in high regard and taught us the whole science of advertising and newspaper promotion, merchandising, and direct sales. He was also a faculty counselor — my counselor.
… No, not with me, but he was involved in homosexual activities with some students after I graduated. That spread over Missouri like wildfire.
He had to resign. I was up in Brookfield running a newspaper. Some of the merchants I called on for advertising knew I was a graduate from the school. They teased me about “taking that sex course from old E.K.” I was able to laugh it off. Secretly, I was embarrassed that they were attacking him. But what could I do?
[Source: James T. Sears. Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (New York: Routledge, 2011 ed.): 38, 40.]
A veteran University of Missouri journalism professor was arrested and charged with sodomy as Prosecutor Howard B. Lang, Jr. described to reporters fantastical tales of “mad homosexual parties” and “abnormal orgies” in Columbia, Missouri. According to the Associated Press on the day of his arrest:
The prosecuting attorney said he had issued a warrant for the arrest of E.K. Johnston, for 24 years a member of the faculty of the university’s school of journalism, after a long investigation into abnormal sex orgies here and other central Missouri cities. Two other men were held in the Boone County jail on similar charges. They are Willie Coots, a gift shop employee here, and Warren W. Heathman, 35, Rolla, Mo., an itinerant instructor for the Veteran Administration’s farm training program.
Lang said both had signed statements, implicating Johnston as a principal in what he called a homosexual “ring” at Johnston’s apartment which Coots had shared for the last 15 or 16 years. At least of score of University of Missouri students and other residents here, Lang said, also are implicated in the ring. No charges have been filed against any one except Coots, Heathman and Johnston, but several are being held in jail for investigation or as material witnesses.
Heathman, Lang reported, told a near-fantastic story of “mad parties” at Johnston’s apartment and at a cabin near Salem, Mo., in which as many as 30 members of the “ring” gathered to boast of conquests and to indulge in homosexual practices.
Johnston was released after posting a $3,500 bond (that would be nearly $35,000 in today’s money), and the university fired him the next day. Other students were subsequently arrested — some were beaten by police — then released, only to be dismissed by the university and sent home to their parents, who were told why they were expelled. One of the students committed suicide.
Johnson initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of sodomy, but after Coots and Heathman testified against him, he changed his plea to guilty. His attorney then called ten character witnesses in a bid to get Johnston sentenced to probation rather than a prison term. One witness, Dr. Edwin F. Gildea, head of the psychiatric department at Washington University in St. Louis, testified, “I examined him specifically for an hour this morning to find out of he would be a mecance to society. I do not believe that he is.” Other character witnesses included the dean and two professors from the Mizzou’s school of journalism. The testimony paid off, and Johnston was sentenced to four years’ probation under a $2,000 bond. Terms of the probation included “cessation of homosexual practices.” The others also pleaded guilty and were placed on probation.
Johnston was just one of a large number of students and faculty who were caught up in a wider anti-gay witch hunt then taking place on the UM campus, spearheaded by the university’s vice president Thomas A. Brady. In the late 1940s, the university had gained a reputation as a “safe haven” for gay people, and the state legislature exerted pressure to get them out of the university. The university set up an investigative committee under Brady’s guidance, and the committee set about identifying gay students and faculty based on the interviews with those who were offered immunity in return for testifying against the others. That investigation led Johnston’s arrest along with several other students. Decades later, some of those students recalled what those times were like:
“Phillip,” a former MU student interviewed by Jim Duggins of the GLBT Historical Society, describes running into a gay friend who’d been caught “at a party out in the woods in Salem, Mo., in a cabin, having a wild time.”
“The university got rid of everyone,” Phillip says. “Each student who had been involved had his transcripts stamped, ‘This student will not be readmitted to the University of Missouri until he is cleared of charges regarding homosexual activities.’ That’s why one kid killed himself right away, and others killed themselves during the ensuing months. It was just tragic.”
Phillip and the other interviewees also discuss the 1948 dismissal of MU advertising professor E.K. Johnston. “E.K. Johnston had been at the party,” Phillip says. “He was immediately dismissed; the chancellor of the university, or whoever it was, said, ‘We had no idea. Such a respected man,’ though Johnston had been talked about for years.”
The pall of those investigations, and the attitudes toward gay people that they engendered, hung over Mizzou for decades afterward. Bob Callis, who became dean after Brady’s retirement, wrote in a 1966 memo: “The record does show rather clear evidence that several incidences of homicide and suicide were a direct outgrowth of the activities of homosexual rings in operation at that time. Damage to human life and welfare of less serious proportion than suicide and homicide is also evident from the record.”
In 2006, after UM students approved a $63 million expansion and renovation of the student union building which had been named for Brady when it first opened in 1963, a campus controversy erupted when several students uncovered Brady’s anti-gay investigations and publicized them on campus. The students formed a group called Not My Brady and called for renaming Brady Commons. After all, they argued, it would essentially become an entirely new building for a new era, and keeping Brady’s name on it, given his anti-gay policies, was no longer appropriate. The university President and Chancellor both made it clear that they wouldn’t consider the change. But when the building opened in 2010, Brady’s name was quietly dropped. It is now officially the MU Student Center.
After his arrest and conviction in Columbia, Professor Johnston moved to Kansas City, where he lived until his death in 1990.
When Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, the tiny group only had eight members (see Oct 19). Five years later, and the Daughters were large enough to hold its first biennial convention at the Hotel Whitcomb in San Francisco. The DoB’s press release announcing the convention was met mostly with silence, with a few sprinkles of condescension here and there. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen typified the latter when, while referring to a gay-baiting mayoral campaign the previous autumn (see Oct 7), he wrote, “Russ Wolden, if nobody else, will be interested to learn that the Daughters of Bilitis will hold their nat’l convention here May 27-30. They’re the female counterparts of the Mattachine Society — and one of the convention highlights will be an address by Atty. Morris Lowenthal titled ‘The Gay Bar in the Courts.’ Oh brother. I mean sister. Come to think of it, I don’t know what I mean.”
Two hundred women and men attended the convention, whose theme was “A Look At The Lesbian.” he convention began on Friday night with a cocktail party at Martin and Lyon’s home. The main convention occurred at the hotel on Saturday, with panels of speakers, a lunch, and a cocktail reception and banquet that night. Just as lunch was about to be served, a detail from the San Francisco police department also showed up to have their own look at the lesbians, specifically to make sure the ladies were wearing ladies’ clothing. SFPD had a long history of harassing lesbians dressed in slacks, jeans, or shirts with the buttons on the wrong side. As the Daughters had long emphasized outward conformity in the hopes that it would put larger society at ease, they were already prepared for the inspection. Del Martin brought the police inside so they could verify that everyone — the women, anyway — were wearing dresses, stockings and heels.
The convention went off without further disruptions from police, but the same couldn’t be said about some of the invited speakers. As Helen Sandoz (see Nov 2) reported in the DoB’s newsletter, The Ladder:
Saturday was a day to remember. We started out with the usual panel … the pat on the head… the understanding… the back-up by professionals. So, another homophile convention was under way in the usual manner. Then lunchtime came. An Episcopal minister served up our dessert with damnation.
Stella Rush provided more details about the brimstone delivered by Rev. Fordyce Eastburn, Episcopal chaplain at San Francisco’s St. Luke’s Hospital:
Having admitted that homosexuality was an unknown island to him, Rev. Eastburn proceeded to inform us that he felt that homosexuality was a “primary disorder of the Divine Plan.” …Homosexuals, he told us, were: 1, afflicted with a disorder of nature; 2, must attempt to stay away from their sources of temptation; and 3, should take therapy and attempt to make a heterosexual adjustment to life. (If you can’t make number three, I presume that leaves you celibate, presuming further that you’re capable of remaining celibate and retaining your sanity.) …Well, it was a real different kind of luncheon, you had to admit that!
The gathering remained polite, despite the seething anger building in the crowd. Martin had invited Eastburn in the hopes if “open(ing) a door to communication with the church.” But Rush remembered, “It was awful — once more we were being told we were sinners. The men and women activists held up well, for they had come to accept themselves. But a gay boy I knew in L.A., who had no ties or experience in ONE, Inc., or the Mattachine and had come at my invitation, was harmed rather than helped. I lost his friendship over it.”
Things calmed down a bit, only to heat up again during a mid-afternoon debate between opposing lawyers in a gay bar case. Sidney Feinberg, North Coastal Area Administrator of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, defended the ABC’s practice of arresting gay bar patrons who propositioned undercover officers. One man at the convention rose up to ask a simple question:
“Sir,” the man asked timidly, “What is wrong with the person so approached saying ‘no’?” Mr. Feinberg asked in thundering tones whether the young man realized what he was asking. He was implying that to be protected all anyone had to do was say “No.” (Yes, it appeared as if that was what the young man was saying.) Such an implication seemed to inflame Mr. Feinberg greatly; certainly it was clear that such a thesis would put the ABC out of the job it said it wanted to be put out of. Mr. Feinberg expostulated that a man di d not have to accept the proposition of a prostitute either, did the questioner mean to imply that there should be no repression of prostitutes? There was a sprinkling of affirmations from the audience of those who believed there should be no such repression, and Mr. Feinberg became even more agitated. He stated in effect that if the audience did not even see eye-to-eye with the Law on something like that, that we would pursue two parallel lines in discussion and never come to any understanding.
Another queried, “Sir, would it be considered ‘indecent’ in a bar for men to be dancing together?” Mr. Feinberg opined that it would. The young man asked, “Why?” Mr. Feinberg said that such at hing was offensive. Another male member of the audience asked rather curtly, “Offensive to whom?” Mr. Feinberg became even more agitated, and the tension in the audience rose proportionately. “Offensive to the public.” Someone else asked, “Who decides what is offensive to the public? You?”
Finally it was Morris Lowenthal’s turn to speak. Lowenthal was a San Francisco attorney who successfully defended a gay bar that the ABC had tried to shut down. As Lowenthal detailed the ABC’s many attempts to shut down gay bars solely on the basis of the makeup of its clientele — as “resorts for sex perverts,” as ABC policy put it. The heated exchange that followed not only shocked the audience, but even made it into the Sam Francisco newspapers. Again, Rush described what happened:
Mr. Feinberg, who had been crouched over the table all this time, obviously fuming, erupted with a demand that he be allowed rebuttal time at the end of Mr. Lowenthal’s discourse. …Mr. Feinberg was almost incoherent with fury until he calmed down a bit and tried to refute Mr. Lowenthal. Unfortunately he did not use facts, but sheer passion and sound decibles. I felt a rumble which literally rose from the floor, a very frightening feeling to one who has never been in such a position before. Mr. Feinberg attacked Mr. Lowenthal as having accused State officials of corruption, bribery and blackmail.
The audience, which had borne patiently the fireworks up to that point, became angered at tactics which it felt were not only unfair, but untrue. Also the audience was much impressed by the fact that whatever the merits of anybody’s case, Mr. Lovlenthal had at no time raised his voice, shouted or become angry.
Del Martin managed to calm the waters before open rebellion broke out, and was undoubtedly relieved when the time came to bang the gavel and move the convention to the next item on the agenda. The rest of the convention went on without interruption or aggravation. That night, they even gave out honorary S.O.B.’s — a “Sons of Bilitis” award to nearly a dozen male activists and allies. By Sunday night, while Lisa Ben (see Nov 7) delighted the crowd with her gay-themed songs and parodies, the organizers and attendees were overjoyed at the convention’s success. Sandoz ended her report in The Ladder with a note of thanks to everyone who attended, including those who were uninvited or otherwise less than welcome:
Those of us who attended will never forget the excitement, the living proof of our worth. It was a timely shot in the arm when so much is adverse in so many areas. Thank you, DOB, ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control); Vice Squad, professional folk… thank you all for letting us see you and letting you see us.
[Sources: Sten Russell and Helen Sanders (pseudonyms for Stella Rush and Helen Sandoz). “Convention Highlights.” The Ladder 4, no. 9 (June 1960): 5-6, 25.
Sten Russell (pseudonym for Stella Rush). “DOB Convention: A Look At The Lesbian.” The Ladder 4, no. 10 (July 1960): 6-25.
Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006): 60-66.
Vernon Scott, UPI’s Hollywood correspondent, filed this breaking news item:
Ask a man what he does for a living in Hollywood — or Tulsa — and if he answers “interior decorator, a deadly silence ensues. He would be better off admitting he is a safecracker or even an actor.
An interior designer is immediately suspect. Any guy who makes a bock matching puce draperies with vermillion carpets and Louis XIV breakfronts must defend his manhood, or at least stake a claim to it, or be classified as, er… well, sissy.
In most cases interior decorators would have a tough time passing ink-blot tests, much less the marine psychological examination.
This state of affairs — the overwhelming number of effeminate men in the decorating business — infuriates a red-bearded Englishman named Ian Phillips who designs interiors for movie and television personalities. Phillips has decorated the homes of such luminaries as Annette Funicello, Glenn Campbell, Mike Landon, Rod Taylor and Barbara Eden, and Mike Ansara.
“I’m fighting the control the homosexuals have over interior decoration in this town and in other major cities,” Phillips said, pounding the table. “How can these creatures express a truly masculine attitude in a home, or a really feminine touch? They’re lost somewhere in between.”
Phillips finds himself swearing lustily and throwing references into his conversation about his four years as a British naval commando to remove the onus his profession forces on him. “This profession is badly in need of young people who can bring in new ideas. But they don’t want to be tagged as something less than men because the limp-wrist characters have taken over.”
The only reference to Ian Phillips that I can find online is that he was hired as Special Interior Decorator for the 1965 film, How to Stuff A Wild Bikini, starring Annette Funicello and Dwayne Hickman. The New York Times called it “an answer to a moron’s prayer.”
President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality on this date. For several years, Moscow gay rights advocates tried to commemorate the anniversary of this historic event by conducting a gay pride march in Moscow. And every year, Moscow authorities have suppressed the march, usually violently. In 2013, Russia upped the ante when President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure which ostensibly bans distributing “pro-homosexual propaganda” to minors, but which is so broadly written as to ban virtually all pro-LGBT advocacy anywhere in Russia.
The American novelist and short story writer is known among lesbian pulp fiction fans as Vin Packer, and among fans of young adult fiction as M.E. Kerr. Her 1952 paperback, Spring Fire, is often considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel. Maker worked on the novel while working as a proofreader at Gold Medal Books. She got Spring Fire published there by posing as a literary agent representing an author named “Vin Packer.”
Spring Fire, was a hit, but the nature of the audience caught Gold Medal Books by surprised. “Spring Fire was not aimed at any lesbian market,” Meaker said in 1989, “because there wasn’t any that we knew about. I was just out of college. We were amazed, floored, by the mail that poured in. That was the first time anyone was aware of the gay audience out there.” Thrilled with Spring Fire’s success, Gold Medal sought more stories from Vin Packer, who proceeded to produce twenty pulp fiction novels between 1952 and 1969.
Inspired by Donald Webster Cory’s groundbreaking book The Homosexual in America (see Sep 18), Meaker’s second persona, Ann Aldrich, published a series of nonfiction works to describe the the lesbian experience in 1950s America. We Walk Alone appeared in 1955 to mixed reviews. While it was an eye opener to general audiences, lesbians weren’t so taken with it, with many of those criticisms being played out in the pages of the Daughters of Bilitis’ newsletter The Ladder. Aldrich’s 1958 follow-up, We, Too, Must Love (1958), did little to win over her lesbian critics who, in the 1950s, were desperate to see lesbians portrayed in a much more ordinary and “adjusted” (read: unobjectionable) manner as possible. Del Martin (see May 5) wrote:
Your intentions are admirable, Miss Aldrich, but somehow we feel that you have not reached your objective. You have glossed over that segment of the Lesbian population which we consider to be the “majority” of this minority group. We refer to those who have made an adjustment to self and society and who are leading constructive, useful lives in the community in which they live. While we will grant you that the “average” Lesbian, like any other “average”, makes dull reading, you must concede that without inclusion of this group you have not painted a well-rounded and true picture of Lesbian life. …Lesbian life which you have depicted may be likened to a similar study of heterosexual life in which only the Skid Road characters and the well-to-do are delineated. …Surely in your 18 years of Lesbian experience you have met those capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation.”
Meaker became a successful young adult fiction writer under the pseudonym M.E. Kerr, beginning in 1972, covering topics which weren’t usually covered by books for that audience: racism, absent parents, homosexuality and, later, AIDS. Her first book as M.E. Kerr, 1972’s Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!, had as a central character an overweight girl, and was listed by the School Library Journal as one of the 100 most significant books for children and young adults. She also wrote four books for younger audiences under the pseudonym Mary James.
Meaker had a contentious relationship from 1959 to 1961 with the eccentric author Patricia Highsmith (see Jan 19), which Meaker wrote about in the 2003 memoir, Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s. Meanwhile, a whole new audience has rediscovered her pioneering pulp fiction work, with collectors driving up prices on original paperbacks. Cleis Press re-released a large number of titles since 2011 in paperback and for Kindle.
After the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies were united into the new Massachusetts Colony, a revision to the Massachusetts Bay Law of 1672 revised its old sodomy law. The death penalty remains, but now “Buggery” is defined to include bestiality as well as sodomy:
For avoiding of the detestable and abominable Sin of Buggery with Mankind or Beast, which is contrary to the very Light of Nature; Be it Enacted and Declared … That the same Offence be adjudged Felony … And that every Man, being duly convicted of lying with Mankind, as he lieth with a Woman; and every Man or Woman that shall have carnal Copulation with any Beast or Brute Creature, the Offender and Offenders, in either of the Cases before mentioned, shall suffer the Pains of Death, and the Beast shall be slain and Burned.
Massachusetts abolished the death penalty for sodomy and bestiality in 1805.
(d. 2012) When she flew onto orbit on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983, Sally ride became the first American woman and the third woman worldwide in space (behind Soviet cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982). She was thirty-two at the time, which made her the youngest American to travel to space — that record still stands. She repeated that trip again the next year, also aboard Challenger.
The Los Angeles native had always been interested in science. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and physics at Stanford, where she also earned a master’s and Ph.D. in physics while studying X-rays in interstellar space. She answered an ad that NASA placed in the Stanford student newspaper seeking applicants. Out of 8,000 applicants, she was chosen in 1978. When she was selected for STS-7 in 1983, her gender was quite a novelty, with clueless reporters asking, “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” and “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
She was scheduled for a third flight in 1986, but that flight was cancelled after the Challenger disaster. Instead of flying into space, Ride joined the investigation, heading the subcommittee on operations where she discovered key information regarding the ill-fated O-rings.
Ride left NASA in 1987 to work at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989, she became a physics professor at U.C. San Diego and served as the director of the California Space Institute. She was also heavily involved with NASA’s outreach to school children, and co-founded a company that developed science programs for elementary and middle school students, with a particular emphasis on getting girls interested in science. In 2003, NASA asked her to join the Columbia accident investigation, making her the only person to investigate both shuttle disasters.
Ride had married fellow astronaut Steve Hawley in 1982, but they divorced in 1987. After that, Ride was extremely circumspect about her private life. After she died in 2012 of pancreatic cancer, her official obituary said that she was survived by her mother, sister, a niece, a nephew, and “Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years.” That’s how she came out. Her sister, Bear Ride, confirmed that Sally was a very private person and said, “We consider Tam a member of the family.” She added, “I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.”
In 2013, President Barack Obama honored Ride with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Dr. O’Shaughnessy is currently the Executive Director of Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego, a nonprofit which focuses on professional development for teachers “to help educators build students’ STEM literacy” for K-12 students.
(d. 2003) If she were alive today, she’d be celebrating her twenty-ninth birthday. Instead, she didn’t quite make it to sweet sixteen. On May 11, 2003, she and her friends were waiting for the #1 New Jersey Transit bus in downtown Newark when they were propositioned by two men. The girls rejected their advances by declaring themselves to be lesbians. The men attacked, and when Gunn fought back, one of the attackers stabbed her in the chest. After both attackers fled, Gunn was rushed to the hospital where she died. The murder became the subject of several protests in Newark, and more than 2,500 people attended her funeral.
One of the attackers, Robert McCullough, was arrested and charged with murder. In a tale that could have come from a bad comedy sketch, McCullough claimed that Gunn died after she ran into his knife. He eventually agreed to a plea bargain in which the murder charges were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea for manslaughter, aggravated assault and bias intimidation. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Irish brewer James Everard opened the Everard Baths in 1888 in an old renovated church building. He had bought it in 1886 and turned it into a music hall known as “The Regent.” It flopped a few months later. It reopened again as “The Fifth Avenue Music Hall,” but that, too, closed soon after. Everard renovated it again, and on May 7, 1888, he opened it as a Turkish bath.
Everard died in 1913, and the property was sold to Meyer Smolowitz, who in 1921 sold it for the princely sum of $175,000 to a lawyer by the name of Abraham Harawitz. Harawitz announced that he would spend another $100,000 on renovations for the “bathhouse and dormitories. By then, it had already become popular with gay men and picked up the nickname “Everhard.” Police raided the premises in 1919 and arrested nine customers and the manager for lewd behavior, and arrested fifteen more in another raid in 1920. But despite those raids, the Everard Baths remained a major gay venue through the succeeding decades. Well-known patrons over the years included Gore Vidal, Rudolf Nureyev, Lorenz Hart, Truman Capote and Ned Rorem.
In 1977, a fire broke out in the Everard, killing nine customers and injuring ten more (see below). The fire destroyed the top two floors of the four-story building. After the building was rebuilt, the Everard reopened in 1979, and remained open for another seven years. It finally closed for good in April 1986 in a city-wide campaign by New York mayor Ed Koch to shut down all of the city’s bathhouses in response to the AIDS epidemic. The building is still there and houses the Yung Kee Wholesale Center.
Author, poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was the toast of London. He made his mark in literature in The Picture of Dorian Gray (an annotated edition with some of the more homoerotic themes restored was released in 2011). His essays made him a respected man of letters, while his popular plays (Salome, A Woman of No Importance, and especially The Importance of Being Earnest) burnished his reputation for sophisticated wit.
But the wild success of Earnest, which premiered February 14, 1895, was quickly eclipsed by Wilde’s conviction and sentencing for homosexuality. Four days after the premiere of Earnest, Wilde was denounced as a homosexual by the Marquess of Queensberry (see Feb 18). Wilde, who was involved with the Marquess’s son, Alfred Douglass, ignored the advise of his friends and sued the Marquess for libel. That proved disastrous. During cross-examination, Queensberry’s lawyer asked Wilde whether he had ever kissed a particular young man, Walter Grainger, in greeting. “Oh, dear no,” Wilde replied, “He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was unfortunately extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.” Queesnbury’s lawyer pounced on Wilde’s admssion for not kissing Grainger: it wasn’t that Wilde didn’t like kissing men, but that he didn’t want to kiss this particular “ugly” man.
In short order, Wilde lost the case (see Apr 5). The next day, he was arrested and charged with gross indecency. His first trial began on April 26, with Wilde pleading not guilty. It was during that trial that Wilde uttered these famous lines under cross-examination:
Charles Gill (prosecuting): What is “the love that dare not speak its name”?
Oscar Wilde: “The love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the love that dare not speak its name,” and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
Despite that admission, Wilde’s first trial ended in a hung jury. But a second jury on May 25 found him and another friend guilty. Justice Alfred Wills sentenced them to the maximum sentence allowed by law: to two years of hard labor:
Justice Wills: Oscar Wilde and Alfred Taylor, the crime of which you have been convicted is so bad that one has to put stern restraint upon one’s self to prevent one’s self from describing, in language which I would rather not use, the sentiments which must rise in the breast of every man pf honor who has heard the details of these two horrible trials. That the jury has arrived at a correct verdict in this case I cannot persuade myself to entertain a shadow of a doubt; and I hope, at all events, that those who sometimes imagine that a judge is half-hearted in the cause of decency and morality because he takes care no prejudice shall enter into the case, may see that it is consistent at least with the utmost sense of indignation at the horrible charges brought home to both of you.
It is no use for me to address you. People who can do these things must be dead to all sense of shame, and one cannot hope to produce any effect upon them. It is the worst case I have ever tried. that you, Taylor, kept a kind of male brothel it is impossible to doubt. And that you, Wilde, have been the center of a circle of extensive corruption of the most hideous kind among young men, it is equally impossible to doubt.
I shall, under the circumstances, be expected to pass the severest sentence that the law allows. In my judgment it it totally inadequate for a case such as this. The sentence of the Court is that each of you be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for two years.
[Cries of “Oh! Oh!” and “Shame!”]
Oscar Wilde: And I? May I say nothing, my Lord?
The court adjourned.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.