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Gay History – The Brutal Torture Murder of Hello Dolly’s “Barnaby” Danny Lockin

One of the most brutal gay murders in Hollywood and Broadway history was that of the talented Danny Lockin who played the role of “Barnaby” in both the Broadway and movie version of “Hello Dolly” at the age of 34.

In 1965 Danny Lockin replaced Jerry Dodge in the role of Barnaby Tucker in Hello, Dolly! and went across the United States on six traveling productions.  Several actresses playing Dolly Levi he performed with included: Betty Grable, Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, Dorothy Lamour and Anne Russell. He remained in the role for the movie version of Hello, Dolly! after enduring an audition and  13 callbacks before finally getting the role.  When filming for movie ended, Lockin continued the role on Broadway again where he worked with both Ethel Merman and Phyllis Diller until it closed on Dec. 27, 1970. One of the actresses that Locin mixed feelings about was Carol Channing as Dolly, about whom he once said: “Carol Channing is rather disconcerting. You’ll notice her looking at you with those big baby-stare eyes. Then eventually it dawns on you that the person behind those eyes is, in show business terms, about 200 years old.” He also later expressed unhappiness with the way audiences reacted to Merman in the role of Dolly Levi, and how this changed the show. “She wasn’t Dolly up there, she was Ethel Merman in Dolly clothes. … The audiences came, of course; they came to see the Ethel Merman version. But it wasn’t Hello, Dolly! any more, it was her show. … Channing or Streisand, they were part of a cast, trying to act out a character. But with Ethel Merman—and not just her fault, with the audience, she was such an institution—the rest of us felt like just her chorus boys or her chorus line.

On the night of August 21, 1977  Danny Lockin went to a gay bar The Mug, in Garden Grove, California. He left the bar with a slight, 34-year-old unemployed medical clerk, Charles Leslie Hopkins (who already had a police record and was on probation at the time). Several hours later, Hopkins called police to say that a man had entered his apartment and tried to rob him. Upon arrival, police found Lockin’s body on the floor of Hopkin’s apartment. He had been stabbed ovwe 100 times, and bled to death. Lockin’s  body had also been mutilated after death. Hopkins claimed he had no idea how the dead body got in his apartment.

Hopkins was arrested immediately.

Police found a book of pornographic pictures in Hopkins’ apartment which showed men being tortured during sexual orgies. Prosecutors initially intended to seek a first degree murder conviction, and to use the book to prove that Hopkins had planned the murder. Hopkins’ trial began in May 1978, but endured a two-month delay. During the delay, the Supreme Court of the United States held in United States v. Chadwick, 433 U.S. 1 (1977), that police may not engage in warrantless searches of an individual’s property in the absence of an exigency. On July 31, the trial court ruled the pornographic book inadmissible as evidence. On August 8, the trial court judge held that the death penalty could not be applied to Hopkins due to lack of evidence of premeditation.

On September 28, 1978, Hopkins was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a three-year prison term. Since the court was permitted to consider suppressed evidence if the evidence was not seized merely to obtain a lengthier prison sentence and it did not “shock the conscience of the court,” the trial judge increased Hopkins’ sentence from the usual three years to four years.  Hopkin’s was released in just over two years. Many believe that due to the “homosexual nature” of the case and societal prejudice at the time, justice was not served. After being released from prison, Hopkins married. It has been reported that Hopkins “died an unusually slow and painful death from cancer.”  

Danny Lockin was buried in Westminster Memorial Park cemetery in Orange County. His grave is in Block 29, Section 219, Grave 4 with a simple stone that calls him “Beloved Son”.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's best known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced on such notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story. Back2Stonewall has been recently added to the Library of Congress' LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive. Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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18 thoughts on “Gay History – The Brutal Torture Murder of Hello Dolly’s “Barnaby” Danny Lockin”

    1. There are many lessons to be learned from this horrific article. This story is of great important interest to the gay community, film and Broadway buffs and humanity in general.

      There is a saying that those who do not learn from an remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Where we have been, where we are going and who we are are all very important.
      Peace.

    1. From some dude on Facebook.
      Charles Leslie Hopkins served 2 years in prison with good behaviour.
      He died an usually slow and painful death from cancer; however, if you read any of his obituaries online, or his family’s “memorial tributes,” you will sadly see that there is NO mention of his murder of Danny, the brutal nature of the savage killing, or the fact that Hopkins was gay. Oh YES, he left OC after the murder, and got married TO A WOMAN, and they had 5 kids together and 4 step kids.

  1. Lockin was survived by an ex-wife and son.

    btw Ramon Navarro is up there in sensationalism, bludgeoned with a bedazzled likeness of his best friend’s member.

  2. I think that we all relate to people we see on the screen. We don’t know them…but we DO know them, in a way, and can relate to them. It’s of great interest for me to know what happens to them, and I think it’s more than just curiosity. I do think that, today, we can be more open about relationships, less apt to go into a marriage that can be forced on us by society, and therefore, a little less placed in a position where one has to go to a bar to find a hookup. Too bad he found himself in that position…and this bird should still be rotting away in prison for this atrosity

  3. Asking why this is do important why this is being done now. Really, every life is important. Wouldn’t you want people to understand if you were killed and tortured. And the man only got four years, where is the judges brain…. common sense is gone.

  4. for the life of me i will never understand people who — sincerely — moan, “why is this event from so long ago important now? forget it, move on . . . ” history is a thing, past is prelude . . .how do we know where we are going if we do not know where we have been? those who want to rule and manipulate rely on an ignorance of history in order to enslave . . . thank you to all historians — history is everything we know about who we are . . .

  5. Asking why dredge up something that happened 43 years ago is exactly WHY we SHOULD. I remember when Danny was killed. I’d seen him do his act not too long before, and he and a group of us went to eat afterwards. He was a sweet sweet guy who did not deserve to die like this and most certainly deserved a justice he was never afforded. That SAME YEAR a young man went to Chicago police to report being brutally beaten tortured and raped. And the moment he confided he was gay/bi himself, it became two queers having rough sex and that’s about how seriously it was taken. The man who did it to him was John Wayne Gacy, and by the time he was eventually stopped a year later it’s estimated he’d killed another 12-14 young men in the interim. We MUST keep this history of injustice alive, especially in times like this when the climate and those in charge threaten us with a backslide of our rights and civil liberties we have not seen SINCE those days.

  6. Just a bit of a caveat if you go searching for the murderer: there was a Charles Leslie Hopkins born 1937 who lived his entire life in Indiana. He did not kill Danny Lockin. Charles Leslie Hopkins born 1943 in Connecticut and died 2006 in Orange County, California, was Danny’s killer. Some people are posting on the Find A Grave website that Indiana Charles is the murderer. This has to be upsetting to his family. (I’m a genealogist.)

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