Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 30

From the souvenir program for the Great Plains Regional Rodeo, Wichita, KS, August 1-2, 1992, page 20. (Source.)

From the souvenir program for the Great Plains Regional Rodeo, Wichita, KS, August 1-2, 1992, page 20. (Source.)

A tiny notice appeared in The Guardian of London:

BANKRUPTCIES GAZETTED, July 30, 1895.– Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, late Tite-Street, now of her Majesty’s Prison at Petonville, author.

From the Commercial Gazette, September 4, 1895, page 35.

From the Commercial Gazette, September 4, 1895, page 35.

Wilde was arrested (Apr 5) after losing his libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry, the irate father of Lord Alfred Douglas. “Bosie,” as Wilde called Douglas, was Wilde’s lover, and Queensberry publicly accused Wilde of “posing as a somdomite” (Feb 18). Wilde sued Queensberry and lost, which meant that Wilde really must have been a “somdomite.” On that basis, he was charged with gross indecency. His first trial ended in a hung jury, but the second trial resulted in his conviction and sentencing to two years imprisonment at hard labor (May 25).

Wilde may have been in prison, but he still legally owed Queensberry £677/3/8d, to cover Queensbury’s legal expenses from the libel trial. Queensberry, not satisfied with just seeing the little bugger in jail, brought bankruptcy proceedings against Wilde for payment of the £677 and change owed by Wilde, who obviously now had no means of paying, what with his royalties having dried up and him being in prison and all. Wilde may have been in prison, but Queensberry made sure there would be another humiliating public trial where Wilde was subjected to insults from the sizable crowd.

When the Commercial Gazette published a listing of Wilde’s creditors, it listed Wilde’s total liabilities at £3,591/9/9d, of which only £914 was partially secured. The largest debt listed was £1558 owed to Sir H. Lloyd, the trustee of Wilde’s divorce settlement from his wife. Wilde also owed £71 to the Savoy Hotel, which was something of a second home for Wilde. He often stayed there for weeks at a time, whenever he wanted to entertain certain particular guests who couldn’t be so well entertained in the Tite Street home Wilde shared with his wife and children. Guests like Bosie and a few other special friends or tricks he would pick up from time to time. Other debts were to various vendors for tobacco, jewelry, wines, and to cover a theater rental.

It’s not clear what might have happened with those other debts if Queensberry hadn’t decided to pursue Wilde into bankruptcy. But as it happened, Wilde was never able to emerge from bankruptcy and he died peniless in Paris in 1900. His estate was finally discharged from bankruptcy in 1906.

[Sources: “Bankruptcies Gazetted.” The Guardian (London, August 7, 1895): page 15.

“Oscar F. O’F. W. Wilde” The Commercial Gazette (London, September 4, 1895): page 35.]

Through the early part of the twentieth century, American medical and psychological writers began taking an increasing interest in homosexuality (or “sexual inversion,” “contrary sexual feeling,” “perverted sexual instinct,” or any number of other terms which they had yet to settle on). It was rare, however, to hear from “inverts” themselves. The July 1919 issue of the Journal of Urology and Sexology carried one interesting letter to the editor that gives some indication of the frustration that many felt due to the severe societal disapproval that was prevalent a the time:

A PLEA FROM AN INVERT

To the Editor:

A plea to be heard before it is too late — will you not listen and perhaps advise me? If you only knew how I need help!

I am a misfit. I am a young man who has never cared for any women. Am I to blame because God has given me a feminine nature? Why should I be shunned by all people, loathed by them!

I am clean and refined, am well educated in the fine arts and have high ideals concerning all things. And yet men who are covered with filthy sores from evil living, who have never had a decent thought or ideal in their lives, sneer at me. I am an outcast; I am lower than the lowest!

What few who are kind to me are women who have praised me for my high ideal concerning life.

Because the custom is not that two men shall marry, is it so wrong? If I love and respect a friend and he loves me, is it not as pure a marriage as between a man and woman; and far more equal?

I wish I had a friend to go and live with, to work out our ideals, and to grow in every way. Yet this has made me accursed among men; I am damned to a living hell!

Must I — who have denied myself almost too much, to become worthy of the highest friendship — must I forever walk alone?

Is there aught but beauty in the love of Marius and Cornelius in “Marius the Epicurian” by Walter Pater? Is Marius to be considered vile, because he had that “feminine refinement” that made him idealize life, that led him finally to the Christian faith and martyrdom?

I am alone and tired. Is it not a sad thing that I and many other young men who are worthy of much, should have but one hope — that Death shall come soon!

I need advice. If some young man among your readers might write to me! Do you not think we would save each other?

You must not believe me physically or mentally deficient — though I am near to suicide I

–Homo.

[Source: Anonymous. Letter to the editor: “A plea from an invert.” American Journal of Urology and Sexology 15, no. 7 (July 1919): 336. Available online via Google Books here.]

Sean Patrick Maloney50 YEARS AGO: After earning his Bachelor’s degree in 1988, Maloney spent a year volunteering with the Jesuits in the slums of Chimbote, Peru. He then returned to get his Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia’s School of Law in 1992. He entered politics in 1991, working for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, and he returned to work on his re-election campaign in 1996. After that campaign, he was offered a position in the White House staff, where he was senior advisor and White House Staff Secretary from 1999 to 2000. When Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Wyoming, Maloney was one of two officials sent by President Clinton to represent him at the funeral. One newspaper noted that Maloney was “the highest ranking openly homosexual man on the White House staff.”

After 2000, he became a senior attorney at the law firm which represented the Shepard family. He returned to politics in 2006, first as a member of Governor Eliot Spitzer’s administration, then in Gov. David Paterson’s administration after Spitzer’s resignation due to a prostitution scandal. In 2012, Maloney ran for New York’s 18th Congressional district and won, making Maloney one of six openly gay and bisexual members of Congress. Maloney and his partner, Randy Florke, together since 1992, are raising three adoptive children. Despite New York becoming a marriage equality state in 2011, the two had chosen not to marry because their marriage would not have been recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA was declared unconstitutional in 2013,  and Maloney and Florke married the following year in Cold Spring, New York, making Maloney only the second member of Congress to legally marry his same-sex partner.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, July 29

From Lesbian Tide, September 1977, page 39.

From Lesbian Tide, September 1977, page 39.

Speaking of political conventions, Lesbian Tide reported the results of the Social Workers party convention in 1980:

SWP COMES OUT AGAINST GAYS

At its 30th national convention, Socialist Workers Party (SWP) members decided to end its support of and intervention into the lesbian and gay rights movement. In the early 70s, the SWP had dropped their policy of excluding open lesbians and gay men from membership. In this latest move, however, SWP flatly stated that “coming out (especially on the job) is not political, but purely personal, and even has dangers of leading into “peti-bourgeois utopian lifestylism”!

— From Lesbian Tide, May 1980, page 22.

Stonewall was still eleven years away. The first Christopher Street Liberation Day march would be a year after that. And it would be two years after that when Jeanne Manford marched with her son during that year’s Pride parade with a sign reading “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children.” In 1958, the idea of publicly-proclaimed pride was impossible to imagine. Simple visibility was still the single greatest hurdle for gay people, thanks to the very real dangers it brought: police raids (Aug 14), arrest (Jun 23), loss of employment (Mar 22, Dec 20), commitment to a psychiatric hospital (Apr 14, Jul 26), murder (Aug 3, Jan 5). There were few visible examples of gay people, and almost no visible examples of family members who accepted and supported their gay relatives.

Actually, there were few visible examples of gay people accepting themselves. But more often than not, they saw themselves as freaks, perverts, deviants, delinquents, degenerates, sick — not just because society said so, but also because the “experts” said so, from all the respected professional organizations, prestigious universities and the most trusted hospitals. When Frank Kameny dared to challenge psychiatry’s verdict that gay people were mentally ill in 1965 (May 11), the push-back was furious within the gay community. The reaction could be summed up this way: who died and made you an expert on homosexuality? What credentials do you have to challenge those who have spent an entire lifetime studying the “problem.” Kameny’s answer was simple: “We are the true authorities on homosexuality, whether we are accepted as such or not.”

Getting gays and lesbians to accept themselves was still the biggest challenge facing the homophile organizations, and an essay written by a mother of a lesbian in the July 1958 issue of The Ladder, the official newsletter of the Daughters of Bilitis, shows just what a challenge that was. She spent her essay countering a lot of misinformation that a lot of people — including a lot of gay people –shared. To counter the assumption that her daughter would live a life of lonely spinsterhood, she described her daughter’s “congenial, intelligent, loving and kind ‘mate’.” Against the prevailing view that mothers were responsible for their child’s sexuality, she defended herself by pointing to her daughter’s morality (“she could not be cheap and promiscuous”) and her good citizenship. And to counter society’s assumptions that a faithful heterosexual marriage was every woman’s birthright, she offered the example of her own sad marriage.

In all, this isn’t so much a portrait of a mother and her lesbian daughter, but a counter-narrative to the prevailing opinions of gay people at that time. The essay’s defensiveness isn’t what we would recognize as a proclamation of pride today, but when you consider how oppressive the dominant assumptions were at that time, Mrs. Doris Lyles had to start somewhere.

My daughter is a Lesbian. By all measures of accepted society, that is a pretty blunt statement. If I were an average mother, I wouldn’t even bring this assertion out and view it furtively, even when alone. Nevertheless, I do not think I would come under what one would call average, and I say this in a far from self-satisfied manner. However, I do not believe in hiding truth under our stilted, self-imposed laws of society. Many people today are frustrated and under mental treatment because of these frustrations, simply because they refuse to face the truth and prefer to delude themselves in so many ways.

My daughter from small girlhood seemed to be a little different from the average child. For one thing, she was above average mentally and had very strong will power and determination that even in childhood seemed to brook no interference. Frankly, I believe that if I had been a dictatorial, demanding mother whose child had to bend to her ego and demands, I might have had a pretty serious case of delinquency to contend with today, instead of an intelligent, serious-minded daughter who holds a fine position in a respected professional field, lives what is for her a full, rounded-out life of contentment and security, with no frustrations or problems, at least none that amount to much.

I will be very frank in saying that I am lucky in that she found a congenial, intelligent, loving and kind “mate” in this association of which I am aware but do not understand completely as a normal mother and wife. I do not like that word “normal” applied here, for there are no two more normal persons alive than my daughter and her charming associate.

In finding out about my daughter’s preferences, I had one very firm belief. I knew she would find someone of kindred tastes and lead a very circumspect life no matter what path she chose, for I knew my child and understood she could not be cheap and promiscuous, whether Lesbian or heterosexual. This thought was a great comfort and from the beginning I knew she would need love, appreciation and understanding from me; not censure, shame or withdrawal. One thing I have done to an extent most people would feel was too much to the extreme: I have left her to her own devices and now, in her middle twenties, she leads her own life completely and when she wishes to come to me, for whatever period of time she chooses, she knows she is welcome and won’t be importuned to “come oftener” and “stay longer”. As a child, I led a sheltered life in which my mother dominated all my moves and actions. When she passed away, I was at completely loose ends and made a very foolish marriage which would not have happened had I been free to follow my own course in life. This had made me wary of being possessive and trying to shape and run the lives of others. As a consequence, I think I have my daughter’s love and loyalty — even to a greater degree than most mothers who make demands and expect them to be carried out.

With the background of theatrical people during my childhood, I learned rather early that all of us, men or women, did not come within the realm of “norms.” Maybe this is why my daughter’s fate didn’t seem so terrible to me. I could think of a great many worse things, such as the unhappy twenty years of marriage I had shed at the time I learned of my daughter’s “difference”. I spent those years with a man who was a congenital liar, who preferred a lie when the truth would have served him better, and who couldn’t leave town for a week’s trip as a Salesman who travelled without having his quota of affairs with anyone — waitresses, nurses, — he seemed to prefer uniforms. It was a question of keeping my marriage together by not digging too deeply in the barrel, and keeping my temper, but definitely losing my self-respect. This I believe is a fate far worse for a girl. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I should use every means within my power to help my daughter in her situation, but frankly I do not believe she needs help from me or anyone else. If ever the time should come when she feels the need for advice or counsel, I only hope I will be able to advise her wisely, but certainly not against what she believes with all her being to be her path in life.

We preach freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even though reams and reams have been written on the subject, there are very few who will admit belief in freedom of love.

[Source: Mrs. Doris Lyles. “My Daughter Is a Lesbian.” The Ladder 2, no. 10 (July 1958):4-5.]

His role on Project Runway is that of a fashion professor and mentor, in line with his previous life as a member of the faculty at Parson The New School for Design, where he served as the fashion design chair before moving to Liz Claiborne in 2007 to work as their chief creative officer. Meanwhile, he’s been “making it work” at the Lifetime reality series which just started its thirteenth season last week. He is an animal rights advocate and speaks out against the use of fur in fashion. He also made an “It Gets Better” video, motivated by his own suicide attempt when he was seventeen. He’s  been a rather private person, not given to opening his life to public scrutiny. But that began to change in 2006 when, in an interview with Instinct, Gunn said that he hadn’t been in a relationship since the early 1980s, after the end of a six-year relationship with the love of his life, whom he still loves today. He’s been celibate ever since then. In 2012, he wrote a short essay, Shaken, Not Stirred (available only as a Kindle Single) in which he described growing up with a rigid, controlling FBI-agent father who was J. Edgar Hoover’s ghostwriter.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 28

From Michael's Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 50.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 50.

Harry’s Back East was a longtime gay bar whose origins went back to at least 1968. In 1971, the weekly newsmagazine GAY called it “the busiest bar in New York any night.” It probably owed its popularity to its reputation as a simple, laid-back and friendly establishment. At least one story has it that Judy Garland paid a visit there in 1969 shortly before she died. The front bar area was a narrow space, with a very long bar in front that ran the length of the front room and just about every item imaginable hanging from its ceiling — toys, dolls, musical instruments, you name it. The dance floor was in the back, adorned with a disco ball and a large red light connected to a light switch at the front bar that the bartender could flip whenever the cops came in. When the red light came on, that was everyone’s signal to stop dancing together and act innocent — whatever that meant — lest the cops start arresting them for “lewd” conduct. If the owners were current on their bribes, then the cops would leave, the red light would go out, and everyone would go back to doing whatever they were doing before they were so rudely interrupted. But if the bribes had gone unpaid, the cops would stay and become a general nuisance, making everyone uncomfortable until either all the patrons left or the owner arrived and paid up. Harry’s survived that era and soldiered on until 1982 when it finally closed. The location in 2011 held a restaurant that later closed. Now it’s a retail store that sells fancy frozen foods that Manhattanites can re-heat in their gourmet kitchens.

In 1955, the Illinois General Assembly inaugurated the gargantuan task of overhauling its criminal code. Since its last major revision in 1874, the code had accumulated a patchwork of conflicting and confusing statues, some of which made no sense in the 20th century. Horse thieves, for example, were punished with a minimum penalty of three years in prison, but the maximum penalty for auto theft was only one year.

Over the ensuing six years, an eighteen-member joint committee of the Chicago and Illinois Bar Associations combed through the 148 chapters and 832 sections of the old statute books, using the American Law Institute’s 1956 Model Penal Code as a guide. The ALI had put together its Model Penal Code because a number of states were planning to revise their criminal codes over the next decade, and the 1956 Model Code was intended to guide them through the process. Among its many recommendations included the elimination of all prohibitions against consensual sexual activity between consenting adults, including those laws which criminalized homosexual activity and relationships. Because the Model Penal Code also touched on a plethora of other criminal statues, it’s likely that most Illinois lawmakers didn’t realize that they were repealing their anti-sodomy law by adopting the omnibus legislation. Nevertheless, the code was adopted and signed into law by Gov. Otto Kerner, and the anti-sodomy law’s repeal became effective on January 1, 1962.

That didn’t mean however that eliminating the state’s anti-sodomy law was entirely by mistake. A booklet describing the new code prepared for Chicago Police by Claude R. Sowele, assistant professor at Northwestern University’s law school, commented, “The Law should not be cluttered with matters of morality so long as they do not endanger the community. Morality should be left to the church, community and the individual’s own conscience.” While Illinois became the first state to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships, the change in the state’s criminal code had few practical benefits for the state’s LGBT population, as police raids and harassment on other pretexts (or no pretext even, other than the opportunity to milk the gay community of more bribes) would continue without letup for another two decades.

Chart

For the next ten years, Illinois would remain the only state in the union to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships. In 1971, Connecticut finally rescinded its sodomy law, followed by Colorado and Oregon (1972), Hawaii and North Dakota (1973), Ohio (1974), New Hampshire and New Mexico (1975). The big year was 1976, when California, Indiana, Maine, Washington and West Virginia stopped criminalizing homosexuality. By the time Lawrence v. Texas struck down all sodomy laws nationwide in 2003, thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had eliminated their anti-gay statutes, either by legislative action or by state court decisions. Progress towards equality in the U.S. has only accelerated since then. It took forty-two years to get rid of all of the sodomy laws across America. But it only took us eleven years from the time Massachusetts instituted marriage equality in 2004 (May 17) until all Americans gained the right to marry the person they love in 2015 (Jun 26).

Sexual_Offences_Act_1967.djvuOn July 28, 1967, Queen Elizabeth II gave her Royal Assent to the Sexual Offenses Bill, which marked a significant overhaul of Britain’s laws regulating sexual practices between consenting adults. The Royal Assent was the last act in a long, tortuous path toward finally getting rid of the Gross Indecency statute that had ensnared so many victims like the famous playwright Oscar Wilde (May 25) and WWII code-breaker and computer pioneer Alan Turing (Jun 23). The law penalized male homosexuality with up to two years in prison. (Consensual sexual acts between lesbians was not illegal, largely because the phenomenon was unknown when the Gross Indecency statute was last amended in the nineteenth century.)

Efforts to repeal the Gross Indecency law had been ongoing for well more than a decade. It began soon after a a string of arrests of very prominent and well-known men in Britain in the early 1950s, including Lord Montagu (Oct 20), his cousin, Maj. Michael Pitt-Rivers, and journalist Peter Wildeblood (May 19), all of whom had been charged and convicted under the same law that put Wilde away for two years. The resulting debate over whether homosexual acts between consenting adults should remain criminalized let Home Secretary David Maxwell-Fyfe in 1954 to convened a committee to study the issue under the leadership of Lord John Wolfenden. After three years of study, the committee issued what became known as the Wolfenden Report in 1957. The report recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence” (Sep 4). Parliament shelved the report a year later (Nov 26). Efforts to revive the the report’s recommendations followed in subsequent years, but backers of repeal were dealt a severe setback after the John Vassal spy scandal in 1962 (Sep 12).

MP Leo Abse

MP Leo Abse

In 1965,  Welsh Labour MP Leo Abse, and the Conservative Whip in the House of Lords Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran, put forward the Sexual Offenses Bill as a private member’s bill, meaning that the bill was not an official part of the government’s legislative agenda. But the Labour Government signaled its support in 1967 and allowed a free non-party vote on July 4. Home Secretary Roy Jenkins took pains to reassure members that “this is not a vote of confidence in, or congratulations for, homosexuality.” Instead, he said, “those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives.” Supporters said that the bill would eliminate one of the most frequent causes of espionage: blackmail of gay diplomats and other officials.

But Labor member Peter Mahon summed up the feelings of those who opposed repeal. “It is by no means unnatural to have a feeling of absolute revulsion against a bill of this kind. Without any lack of charity I say without equivocation it was a bad bill to begin with, it is a bad bill now and will be a bad bill until the end of time. It will be a bad bill throughout eternity because homosexual acts are a perversion of natural function.” Conservative member Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles warned darkly that “decent and reasonable” people of Britain would react violently when they realized what Parliament had done. “It will only encourage our enemies and those who disparage us, and it can only dismay our friends,” he declared. Another Tory MP, Sir Cyril Osborne, said that many people were tired of democracy being made safe for “pimps, prostitutes, spivs and pansies — and now for queers.”

Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran

Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran

After an acrimonious eight-hour debate, Parliament approved the Sexual Offenses Bill in a rather minuscule 99-14 vote, with most of the 600-member chamber not taking an official position. It then went to the House of Lords, which gave its approval to the measure on July 21. Lord Arran quoted Oscar Wilde in closing the debate. “We shall win in the end, but the road will be long and red with monstrous martyrdoms.” Lord Arran’s subsequent statement then reflected the ambiguity most politicians felt who supported the bill: “I ask one thing. I ask those who have, as it were, been in bondage for whom the prison doors are now opened to show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity. This is no occasion for jubilation and certainly not for celebrations. Homosexuals must continue to remember that while there may be nothing bad in being homosexual, there is certainly nothing good.”

Wikipedia has this anecdote about Arthur Gore, the 8th Earl of Arran and Conservative Whip in the House of Lord, who strongly supported the repeal of Britain’s sodomy law:

Arran was the sponsor in the House of Lords of Leo Abse’s 1967 private member’s bill which decriminalised homosexuality between two consenting adult males. He also sponsored a bill for the protection of badgers. He was once asked why the badger bill had not received enough support to pass whereas decriminalising homosexuality had. “Not many badgers in the House of Lords,” he replied.

Harry’s Back East was a popular gay bar in New York’s Upper East Side. Next door to Harry’s was Geordie’s, a popular straight bar which didn’t take kindly to its neighbors. Hanging right there behind the middle of Geordie’s bar was a large, three-foot-long ax, with an elaborately-designed sign hanging from it reading “FAIRY SWATTER.”

When the Gay Activists Alliance learned about the sign, they sent a delegation to meet with Geordie’s owner to request the sign’s removal. The owner protested that he wasn’t bigoted, that some of his best friends were gay, and blah blah blah. He claimed, with a reportedly straight face, that the sign and ax had nothing to do with gay people. It had something to do with leprechauns or something. The GAA pointed out that Geordie’s customers might not see the sign the same way the owner claimed to see it, and instead take it as an invitation to violence if any stray gay patrons were found inside of Geordie’s. Remember, this was in 1977, when the Anita Bryant-inspired anti-gay backlash (Jun 7) had already inspired at least one murder in San Francisco (Jun 22). The GAA insisted that one way or another, the sign was coming down. According to one former GAA member:

Geordie’s owner got belligerent and made the mistake of belittling GAA’s ability to deliver on the guarantee that the ax/swatter sign would come down. “Go ahead, throw a picket line up in front if you want to! It won’t change anything,” he taunted. He raised his voice: “You can picket till you’re blue in the face. The ax and sign stay up. Nothing you do will make me take it down! It will never come down! Never!” With that, he walked away ending the discussion, and the GAA delegation left Geordie’s.

When the GAA delegation reported back to the organization’s membership, the reaction was summed up by a member who said: “If he thinks the worst gays and lesbians can do to him is march around on a futile picket line in front of his bar, we’ll have to show him how wrong he is! We won’t be laughingstocks any more!”

Geordie had apparently assumed that GAA just picketed people they didn’t like. In fact, the GAA rarely picketed. Instead, they were known for their “zaps,” a kind of a direct action that was carefully planned and executed with military-like precision. The zap was a GAA invention, and they were very good at it (Jun 4, Jun 24, Oct 27).

At 10:45 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, the GAA conducted a three-prong zap on Geordie’s. The first contingent went in first. Their purpose was to get all of the bar’s employees all in one place. To do that, they rushed straight for the ax. Right on cue, the bouncer, bartenders, and Geordie’s owner rushed behind the bar to defend the ax. That’s when the second contingent came in. Armed with “bigot swatters” — fly swatters and toy tomahawks with labels neatly attached — they harangued the 35 or so customers until they left. A few of the more resistant customers, they physically shoved out of the bar. One group of customers complained that they hadn’t settled their tab. GAA members shouted, “It’s on the house!” The two contingents inside the bar was made up of around 65 GAA members, demanding the sign come down, but otherwise calmly occupying the bar. Meanwhile a third contingent of about 70 more activists arrived outside and they threw up a more traditionally loud picket, I guess as a present to the bar owner.

Seven police cars arrived, sirens wailing and lights flashing. What they saw was this: a very large picket outside, bar employees inside behind the bar, gay patrons who weren’t being served, and a bar owner furiously demanding police arrest everyone in sight. A dozen police officers, surrounded by more than a hundred gay protesters, must have had quite a few flashbacks to another dicey situation with gay bar patrons seven years earlier. Police refused to make any arrests and reminded the bar owner that he could diffuse the situation quite easily on his own. Defeated, the owner took the sign down. The GAA pressed him to promise it would never go back up. He promised, and the GAA erupted in celebration:

The 65 triumphant GAA invaders left the bar and held an emotional victory rally with the 70 gays and lesbians who had been picketing and leafleting outside, as dozens of cops and many hundreds of other people looked on. Chanting, “If it goes up, we’ll be back!” as a parting shot, the jubilant gays and lesbians then dispersed among whoops of victory and yelps of conquest. Their delirious hooting and hollering echoed up and down the canyon of Third Avenue.

A headline in the next issue of New York magazine proclaimed, “Militant Gays Aren’t Kidding Around Anymore,” and wrote: “In the old days, police raided gay bars. Last week, it was a group of whistle-blowing, militant gay activists who raided a straight singles bar.” The ax never went back up, but the adverse publicity kept customers away and Geordie’s went broke soon after.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 27

From The Bay Area Reporter, July 15, 1971, page 13.

From The Bay Area Reporter, July 15, 1971, page 13.

I don’t know much about either of these two bars. The Corner Longhorn Saloon, which got top billing in this paring, is now a parking lot. But the building that housed the Cow Palace had been a long succession of gay bars going back to the 1960s. Before the Cow Palace, it was the In Between. After the Cow Palace, it became the Bolt, the Brig, and finally, the Power House.

This odd case began as yet another police round-up of cross-dressing men at a drag ball off of Farringdon Street just a little to the northwest of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Before this story was over, the drag ball would become a masquerade ball, but as you will see, at least one masquerade continued for several days after the ball had been put to an end. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, let’s start at the beginning: The Times of London reported the following small item on July 27 1854:

GUILDHALL – John Challis, an old man about 60 years of age, dressed in the pastoral garb of a shepherdess of the golden age, and George Campbell, aged 35, who described himself as a lawyer, and appeared completely equipped in female attire of the present day, were placed at the bar before Sir R.W.CARDEN charged with being found disguised as women in the Druids’-hall, in Turnagain-lane, an unlicensed dancing-room, for the purpose of exciting others to commit an unnatural offence.

Inspector Teague said, — From information I received relative to the frequent congregation of certain persons for immoral practices at the Druids’-hall, I proceeded thither in company with Sergeant Goodeve about 2 o’clock this morning. I saw a great many persons dancing there, and among the number were the prisoners, who rendered themselves very conspicuous by their disgusting and filthy conduct. I suspected that the prisoners and several others who were present in female attire were of the male sex, and I left the room for the purpose of obtaining further assistance, so as to secure the whole of the parties, but when we got outside Campbell came out after us, and, taking us by the arms, was about to speak, when I exclaimed, “That is a man,” upon which he turned round and ran back immediately to the Druids’-hall. I returned and took Campbell into custody and observing Challis, whom I have frequently seen there before, behaving with two men as if he were a common prostitute, I took charge of him also.

When Campbell was brought before the three magistrates empaneled for Guoldhall, a baker came forward to accuse Campbell of pickpocketing:

Isaac Somers said, — I am a journeyman baker, and have used the White Hart, in Giltspur-Street, for the last 20 years. About seven weeks ago I met a woman dressed in muslin, and wearing a white veil. She took me to the Druids’-hall, and I had a glass of brandy-and-water and a cigar, for which I paid 1s. I changed a sovereign, and while in the company of that woman I felt her arms close round my waist, and shortly afterwards I missed the 19s. I had received in change. I believe that person, whom I took for a woman, was the prisoner Campbell, in women’s clothing.

Campbell denied the charge, but the lead magistrate ordered him held for further investigation. Challis was offered bail in two sureties of 25 shillings each and his own recognizance at 50 shillings.

Campbell and Challis were called before the magistrates five days later for further examination. With Campbell being charged with the more serious crime of theft, the proceedings that day focused mainly on him. This is where the first surprise comes in: it turns out that Campbell was no ordinary pervert, but was a trained lawyer from Scotland. And his performance in court impressed the lead magistrate who, it appears, had taken a rather dim view of the police officers’ performance in the case. According to The Times:

The prisoner Campbell cross-examined the inspector and sergeant with great adroitness with the view to shake their evidence, and succeeded in showing a discrepancy in their statements with regard to certain portions of the disguise he had on at a particular hour in the evening, and which he urged was an important point established in his favour, as he should prove that the inspector was mistaken in his identity.

Sir R.W. CARDEN.– After all, Campbell, it is entirely a question of character, and if you can show me that you are a respectable person, it will have more weight in my mind than anything you can elicit from the officers.

Campbell.– I wish to ask the inspector another question. Was I dancing when you entered the hall?

Inspector Teague.– You were not; but I afterwards saw you dancing with a man.

Campbell.– How do you know it was a man?

Inspector Teague.– Because he had a beard and whiskers.

Sir R.W. CARDEN.– That is no criterion, for Campbell has ringlets, and yet he is not a woman. (Laughter.)

Campbell.– I had but one dance all evening, and that was with an elderly lady who knew what I was.

Sir R.W.Carden.– I should think it must have been an elderly lady, for no young man would have danced with you (Laughter) … It seems to me very extraordinary, if these immoral practices have been going on for some time as the inspector and sergeant intimated, that they should not have taken greater precautions to apprehend the parties before, or, at all events, to have come prepared with a clearer case. It does appear exceedingly improbable, if Campbell is what he has represented himself, and a clever fellow, that he should have been guilty of the conduct imputed to him in an assembly of 100 persons, and while aware that two policemen in uniform were present watching him. If the police suspected immoral practices were going on there, it was not the way to detect them by going in in full uniform.

The baker, Somers, was then called to the stand. This time, he couldn’t swear that Campbell was actually the one who robbed him. Based on this testimony, the charge of robbery was dismissed, and the rest of the proceedings were dedicated to exactly what on earth was going on at Druids’ Hall.

Unlike a number of other raids that took place in pubs and other public places, Druids’ Hall was a meeting house for the Ancient Order of Druids, a fraternal order in London much like the Oddfellows or the Elks in the U.S. The AOD supplemented their offers by renting out their hall for any number of occasions. There is on archive.org, for example, a report of an early Mormon meeting that took place at Druids’ Hall four years earlier. Undoubtedly, the Ancient Order must have found this kind of publicity deeply embarrassing. A representative from the Order also testified:

John Bestow said, he had the care of Druid’s-hall, (sic) for the Ancient Order of Druids, and he occasionally let it for meetings, lectures, and dancing. On the evening in question there was a bal masqué, and admission was given by tickets issued by Harris, who took the room.

Sir R.W. CARDEN.– Is not money taken at the doors?

Bestow.– I never saw any. I believe Harris gives the balls, and always loses by them.

Sir R.W. Carden.– There was music there on the night of the ball in question?

Bestow.– Yes, Sir. There were four musicians.

Skir R.W.Carden.– And the place is not licensed!

Bestow.– Certainly not, Sir.

Madeleine Vincent said, she attended to the refreshment department in the ballroom, and saw the prisoners there, but saw nothing disguting in their conduct, and never told the police that she had. She had said their conduct was disgraceful because they made such a noise, but that was the only impropriety she saw or complained of.

So now it’s a bal masqué, which, I suppose could be something different from a tawdry drag ball. But not necessarily. Another witness testified that he had seen “disgusting conduct” at these balls and had been complaining about it for the past eighteen months:

Joseph Brundell said, he was formerly in the city police and for 18 months he was on duty near Druids’-Hall. Harris had got up several of these balls and the prisoners frequently attended them dressed in female attire. Witness on such occasions had noticed disgusting conduct on the part of other men towards the prisoners while in their company.

Sir R.W.CARDEN.– Do you mean to say that you saw these things going on for 18 months and reported them to your sergeant.

Brundell.– I did, Sir, and he told me not to interfere unless I saw such conduct take place in the public street.

Sir R.W.CARDEN.– You are bringing a very serious charge against the sergeant, and one that ought to be investigated by the commissioner, for it is monstrous that a house of this character should be allowed to exist in the city of London for two years and no steps taken to suppress it.

Inspector Teague.– It is very difficult to catch them in the act, as they have men placed at every outlet to keep a lookout.

Sir R.W.CARDEN.– And so they have at the west-end gambling houses; but the police there always interfere.

Inspector Teague.– But the police go in with a force, and it is not safe to do so without proof.

Sir R.W.CARDEN.– And surely you can have force where it is required. If you always waited for direct proof, there would be very little chance of detecting or preventing crime.

After dismissing the robbery charge, Carden released Campbell on bail pending the disposition of the misdemeanor charge of cross-dressing. Campbell and Challis were called before magistrates again the next day, but only Campbell showed up. Challis had apparently skipped bail. If the previous day’s events were surprising, this day’s proceedings started with a bombshell: Campbell wasn’t the Scottish lawyer he claimed to be, but the Rev. Edward Holmes, a member of the Scottish Independent Church. Campbell maintained that he was a lawyer, but conceded this true identity as the Rev. Holmes, saying the only reason he had dressed as a woman and attended the ball was “to see vice in all its enormity” so he could “correct it from the pulpit.” For the past twelve to eighteen months! Surprisingly, the magistrates bought it:

Campbell.– It is a quite a mistake. I certainly did wish to see a little of London life without mixing with its abominations.

Sir R.W.CARDEN.– And you thought that dressing yourself in women’s attire was the best way of avoiding those abominations? I must say it was a very imprudent course.

Campbell.– I dare say it was, and I am extremely sorry for my folly…

Sir R.W.CARDEN– I certainly hope you now see the folly of indulging in such extraordinary freaks, as you term them, and that you deeply feel how degrading it is to a man of education — wehther you belong to the church or the law it matters not — to be placed in such a position. …However, under the circumstances, I am willing to believe it was nothing more than an act of the grossest folly, and that you now sincerely repent your imprudent conduct.

Alderman CARTER.– As the sitting magistrate, I can only express my utter disgust at the prisoner’s conduct in so attiring himself as a woman, and, had it not been for Sir F.W. Carden’s concluding remarks, I should have felt inclined to commit you to prison as a rogue and a vagabond. You may go now, and I hope I may never see your face here again.

…Campbell, alias Holmes, was then discharged.

[Sources: The Times (London, July 27, 1854): 12; The Times (London, August 1, 1854): 12; The Times (London, August 2, 1854): 12.]

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