Today In Gay History: June 13th – Happy Birthday Paul Lynde, The First Lesbian Magazine, Janet Reno and MORE!
1574 – English poet Richard Barnfield was baptized on this date. No birth record exists. His “Affectionate Shepherd” (1594) scandalized Renaissance England by describing the love of Daphnis and Ganymede in florid detail. After all, it was only a couple of guys, fooling around.
1766 – Everet Jans van Leeuwarden of Frisia, Netherlands was convicted of attempted seduction to sodomy and sentenced to seven years of prison labor.
1926 – Comedian Paul Lynde best known for his roles as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched and Harry MacAfee, the befuddled father in Bye Bye Birdie and Uncle Arthur on “Bewitched” is born in Mt. Vernon, Ohio.
In 1966, Lynde debuted on the fledgling game show Hollywood Squares and quickly became its iconic guest star. Eventually he assumed a permanent spot as the “center square,” a move which ensured that he would be called upon by contestants at least once in almost every round. Despite an urban legend to the contrary, Paul Lynde remained in the center at the producers’ discretion. Many NBC tour guides have claimed that Lynde was afraid of earthquakes and the center square proved to be the safest square of the show’s set. An anecdote related during the A&E Biography on Lynde described an earthquake that occurred during the Hollywood Squares taping that frightened and alarmed many of the guests. Lynde remained in his seat, tapping his fingers, asking if they were going to finish the show.
On Hollywood Squares Lynde was best able to showcase his comedic talents with short, salty one-liners, delivered in his trademark sniggering delivery. Many of these gags were thinly veiled allusions to his homosexuality. Asked, “You’re the world’s most popular fruit. What are you?” Lynde replied, “Humble.” Asked how many men are on a hockey team, Lynde said, “Oh, about half.” Asked whether it was against the law in Texas to call a Marine a “sissy,” Lynde quipped, “I guess I’ll have to take the law into my own hands.”
Other jokes relied on double entendre, an alleged fondness for deviant behaviors, or dealt with touchy subject matter for 1970s television. Examples include:
- Q: “What unusual thing do you do, if you have something called ‘the gift of tongues’?”
- Lynde: “I wouldn’t tell the grand jury; why should I tell you?”
- Q: “The great writer George Bernard Shaw once wrote, ‘It’s such a wonderful thing, what a crime to waste it on children.’ What is it?”
- Lynde: “A whipping.”
- Q: “Paul, any good boat enthusiast should know that when a man falls out of your boat and into the water, you should yell ‘Man overboard!’ Now what should you yell if a woman falls overboard?”
- Lynde: “Full speed ahead!”
But despite his campy television persona, Lynde never publicly came out as being gay and the press generally went along with the deception. In a People magazine article the magazine featured Lynde and Stan Finesmith who was dubbed Lynde’s “suite mate” and “chauffeur-bodyguard.”
In 1978, Lynde career took a downturn after he was arrested outside of a gay bar in Salt Lake City. As a result he lost his guest starring role on The Donny and Marie Show and acting jobs became harder for him to find, although it is unclear if this was because of anti-gay prejudice or his substance abuse problems and noted erratic behavior, which often made him difficult to work with. He had been arrested for drunk driving and, while under the influence of alcohol, he was known to make rude and racist public comments towards people. Lynde finally became sober and drug free in the early 1980s, shortly before his death.
Paul Lynde was regularly admired by his peers during his lifetime. Mel Brooks once described Lynde as being capable of getting laughs by reading “a phone book, tornado alert, or seed catalogue.” In 1976 Lynde received an Entertainer of the Year Emmy award for being voted the funniest man of the year, which he immediately turned over to host Jackie Gleason (who never won an Emmy award during his lifetime), citing him as “the funniest man ever.” This gesture was totally unexpected and shocked Jackie Gleason.
Paul Lynde was found dead of a heart attack in his Beverly Hills home by his friend and ex-porn star, male escort, and now turned Private Detective Paul Barresi.
1982 – The magazine “Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui” was first published on this date. Translated from the French, the name of the magazine is “Amazons of Yesterday, Lesbians of Today.” The quarterly French-language magazine shared its name with a documentary film developed by a Lesbian collective in Montreal, Quebec in the early 1980s. The front page of every issue clearly stated that the magazine was intended “for Lesbians only”.
1991 – In a letter to Tony Marco, founder of Colorado for Family Values, Brian McCormick of Pat Robertson’s National Legal Foundation suggested the use of the phrase “No Special Privileges” to campaign for anti-gay voter support for Amendment 2. He warned that the wording should not be used in the amendment since opponents could argue that gay rights laws are not special privileges but seek to make the rights of homosexuals equal to everyone else.
1995 – Following Attorney General Janet Reno’s decision not to file a brief in the Colorado constitutional amendment case and protests over a meeting with elected lesbian and gay officials for which security guards wore rubber gloves out of fear of HIV infection, the Clinton administration attempted to smooth relations with activists by naming the first-ever White House liaison to the gay and lesbian communities.
1995 – The first White House liaison to the gay and lesbian community, Marsha Scott, was appointed by President Clinton.
1998 – Vice President Al Gore met with gay and lesbian political leaders at the White House. Gore vowed that he and the President would oppose any federal legislation that would interfere with the ability of gays and lesbians to adopt. 2005 – The Archbishop of Edinburgh, leader of Scotland’s Catholics, spoke out against Scottish plans to allow lesbian and gay couples to adopt children. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, said the plans, introduced by the government were “gravely immoral.”
2006 – A fire in a Chicago public library damaged more than 100 books, most in the gay and lesbian collection. The Chicago Police Department later upgraded the fire to a hate crime.
2006 – Seven men were sentenced to 10 months in prison for having gay sex in the African country of Cameroon
* Watch this rare and hysterical clip below of Paul Lynde visiting WSPD, Ch. 13, In Toledo, OH in 1978 where he does a guest weather forecast with the (now) openly gay Boston anchor man Randy Price.