On this day in 1956, WRCA-TV (now WNBC) aired an award-winning weekly panel discussion program called “The Open Mind”. The program, hosted by Richard Heffner, was not only well ahead of its time when it first went on the air in May 1956, it is still an acclaimed syndicated program on American Public Television,
Heffner and The Open Mind hosted the first televised discussion on the East Coast on homosexuality. The Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder featured a review of the program by Sten Russell (real name: Stella Rush).
“The moderator asked if the homosexual could accept himself if society didn’t accept him. The conclusion was that it was very difficult, indeed. The moderator asked if there were cultural factors in the present making for more homosexuality. Miss Kelley asked if homosexuality were [sic] growing or just being more talked about. She cited Kinsey’s books as examples. The moderator said that the matter of national “security” had focused attention on this problem. He mentioned blackmail potential as part of the “security problem”.
Laidlaw said that a homosexual was not necessarily neurotic or psychotic, but that he was more likely to be in certain ways, due mainly to the pressures of public opinion which caused him to have to hide and cover up his actions and desires. Dean Swift was concerned as to the shock children experienced when approached by adult males. Laidlaw said that that depended on the predisposition of the child. Miss Kelley said that she was not worried about the “predisposition of the child,” but that the American Law Institute wished to protect any child from the traumatic shock of any sexual attack.
Despite the misinformation and prejudices,the show was as eveven-handeds as it possibly could have been at the time which outraged the New York Archdioceses of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Francis Spellman started a war with the station and threatened to go to the FCC to have the NBC affiliate’s broadcasting license revoked.
That didn’t stop Heffner or WRCA. They scheduled another program on homosexuality just two months later which was followed by another in January. The episodes covered topics including whether homosexuality should be treated as a criminal or a medical matter, nature vs. nurture as the cause of homosexuality, and how society indoctrinates young people into gender roles
Unfortunately, no surviving tape of this episode still exists just this one still shot below.
On August 2, 1969, just a little over one month after the Stonewall Riots the newly formed Gay Liberation Front took to the streets of Midtown Manhattan and participated in a rally and march to demand the release of political prisoners and members of the Armed Forces who were being held in military stockades. The focus was on Fort Dix 38 who were 38 prisoners made up of AWOLs, Vietnam war resisters, and conscientious objectors who rose against deplorable and inhumane conditions at the Army Base stockade in New Jersey.
There were three short films that NYPD detectives shot. We have seen these loops and they are silent and last just over nine minutes altogether. The films were digitized by the city’s Department of Records and Information Services, which manages the Municipal Archives. They were posted on YouTube for some time but have been removed.
While the detectives did not name GLF in their report the font on the banners, including the interlocked female/ female and male/ male graphics that were GLF’s symbol, are readily recognizable.
Allen Young, who was working for the Liberation News Service in August 1969, recognized Dan Smith and Ralph Hall, two GLF members, in the film.
NYC’s Department of Records and Information Services, which manages the Municipal Archives shared the films with Gay City News, archivists said they knew only that the film was shot on August 2, 1969.
While we still have the still shot posted above that shows the GLF symbol on the protest sign we are attempting to locate the videos once again and when they are found they will be reposted for their historical significance.
1905: Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations (1953-1961), is born in Jonkoping, Sweden. Hammarskjold will die in a plane crash in what was then the Belgian Congo under mysterious circumstances in 1961. Secretary General Hammarskjold is the first SG to die while holding office. President John F Kennedy referred to him as “The greatest statesman of our century,” and he was posthumously awarded the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize. While it is rumored that Hammarskjold was homosexual, it never seems to have been proven in any consequential way. Still, we honor his birthday here for the amazing leaps he made toward world peace as the Secretary-General.
1967: Ian Campbell Dunn writes to Antony Grey, secretary of the Homosexual Law Reform Society in London, about establishing a chapter in Scotland. Grey refuses because of problems with another branch.
1975: The Annual Conference of the Metropolitan Community Church is held in Dallas, Texas. Among the speakers was Elaine Noble, who was the first person to be elected to public office while running openly as a lesbian. Noble was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for two terms starting in January 1975. She was the first openly lesbian or gay candidate elected to a state legislature
1981: Tennis player Martina Navratilova is outed by reporter Steve Goldstein of the New York Daily News. But comes out publicly through a column written by Skip Bayless. After all is said and done very few are surprised she’s a lesbian. And very few care.
1984: John O’Connell is brutally murdered by five men who drove to San Francisco looking for “some fags to beat up.” The assailants were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to prison terms of 15 years to life.
A 9 p.m. in the Polk Street district, a favorite area of homosexuals, two men walking along the street were accosted by four of the Vallejo group, one of them shouting anti-homosexual epithets.
John O’Connell, 42, suffered two blows and fell to the pavement. The medical evidence was that it was the fall, not the blows, that produced the cerebral trauma that caused death.
The defendants left the scene laughing
In 1989 a California Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, reduced the convictions to involuntary manslaughter, ruling that the two bare-handed blows struck by the assailants in a 1984 sidewalk attack were not sufficiently life-threatening.
“The appeal court said correctly that a slap and a punch do not make a murder,” said Maureen R. Kallins, a San Francisco lawyer. “This was a classic example of a hysterical jury verdict . . . and a classic example of being tried by the press.”
1986: Chicago’s city council defeats a gay rights bill by a vote of 30-18.
1987: U.S. President Ronald Reagan nominates homophobic judge Robert Bork to the US Supreme Court. He would be rejected by the Senate 58-42.
1987: The International Lesbian and Gay Association’s 9th annual conference begins in Cologne, West Germany.
1993: Seven years after legalizing gay sex, New Zealand’s parliament amends the Human Rights Commission Amendment Act, outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation (“heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or lesbian”) or HIV, passing Parliament after only 1 1/2 days of debate but intensive lobbying. It exempted the Government until December 31, 1999.
1998: Famed choreographer and director Jerome Robbins (pictured above), dies at age 79, four days after suffering a stroke. Among the numerous stage productions he worked on during his career were On the Town, Peter Pan, High Button Shoes, The King And I, The Pajama Game, Bells Are Ringing, West Side Story, Gypsy: A Musical Fable, and Fiddler on the Roof. Robbins was a five-time Tony Award winner and a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. Robbins also received two Academy Awards, including the 1961 Academy Award for Best Director with Robert Wise for West Side Story.
But not all were success and high points for Robbins. In the 1950s, Robbins found himself swept into the whirlwind of the McCarthy era and, as a former Communist, pressured by the FBI to name the names of party associates at hearings held by The House Committee on Un-American Activities. (HUAC). For three years he resisted. But threatened by exposure of his homosexuality, he at length agreed to testify before HUAC and named eight people. Robbins himself never spoke of his testimony publicly; in his journal, he wrote, “Maybe I will never find a satisfying release from the guilt of it all.”
1998: The U.S. House of Representatives votes 214-212 in favor of a bill to withhold federal housing money to San Francisco because of the city’s policy of welcoming private companies contracting with the city that offer domestic partner benefits equal to those offered to married employees.
2002: The federal government of Canada decides to appeal an Ontario Superior Court ruling which supported gay marriages. Less than a year later the government loses the appeal and introduces legislation legalizing gay marriage.
2003: Bishop Fred Henry of the Catholic Diocese of Calgary, Alberta, in Canada, warns Canada’s (straight) catholic Prime Minister that the PM risks jeopardizing his “eternal salvation” by introducing legislation legalizing gay marriage. Prime Minister Jean Chretien ignores the warning and introduces the legislation anyway.
2006: The first World Outgames opens in Montreal, Quebec, with about 18,600 participants from 111 countries as conference delegates, athletes, volunteers, or participants. About a half million spectators attended the Outgames, an athletic event set up after a quarrel with the long-established Gay Games.
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 recommended the elimination of all prohibitions against consensual sexual activity between consenting adults, including those 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 on July 28th, 1961, 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) would continue without letup for another two decades.
Illinois would remain the only state in the union to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships until 1971, when Connecticut would finally rescind 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-homosexuality laws, either by legislative action or by state court decisions.
On this day in July 1967, just under 2 years before the Stonewall Riots in the United States – The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 received royal assent from Elizabeth II, decriminalizing private homosexual acts in England and Wales. The age of consent for homosexual acts was set at 21, compared to 16 for heterosexual acts.
In the 1960s, one MP, Leo Abse, and a peer, Lord Arran, put forward proposals to change the way in which criminal law treated homosexual men by means of the Sexual Offences Bill. This attempt to liberalise the law relating to male homosexuality can be placed in a context of the rising number of prosecutions of homosexual men.
In his 1965 Sexual Offences Bill, Lord Arran drew heavily upon the findings of the Wolfenden Report (1957) which recommended the decriminalization of certain homosexual offences.
The Wolfenden committee had been set up to investigate homosexuality and prostitution in the mid 1950s, and included on its panel a judge, a psychiatrist, an academic and various theologians. They came to the conclusion (with one dissenter) that criminal law could not credibly intervene in the private sexual affairs of consenting adults in the privacy of their homes. The position was summarized by the committee as follows: “unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law’s business” (Wolfenden Report, 1957).
There was no political impetus after the publication of the Wolfenden report to legislate on this matter, but by 1967 the Labour Government of the time showed support for Lord Arran’s mode of liberal thought. It was considered that criminal law should not penalise homosexual men, already the object of ridicule and derision. The comments of Roy Jenkins, Home Secretary at the time, captured the government’s attitude: “those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives” (quoted during parliamentary debate by The Times on 4 July 1967).
The Bill received royal assent on July 27, 1967 after an intense late night debate in the House of Commons.
Lord Arran, in an attempt to minimize criticisms that the legislation would lead to further public debate and visibility of issues relating to homosexual civil rights made the following qualification to this “historic” milestone: “I ask those [homosexuals] to show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity… any form of ostentatious behavior now or in the future or any form of public flaunting would be utterly distasteful… [And] make the sponsors of this bill regret that they had done what they had done”
The Act applied only to England and Wales and did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces
The 1,433-seat Adonis Theater was originally built as the Tivoli Theater in 1921 by Billy Rose for Fanny Brice of all people and it was one of a kind. But as time went by the grandly opulent vaudeville house turned movie theater on Eighth Avenue and 51st Street in its declining years became famous for anonymous stud romping, porn, and SEX SEX SEX.
It was a cinema palace that survived by giving Doris Day and Rock Hudson (oh the irony of it all) the pink slip and bringing in and out and in again Jack Wrangler, Kip Knoll, Richard Locke, and the infamous Falcon Video-Pac guys to survive and became one of New York’s most popular ALL-GAY adult theater in the 1970s and early 1980’s.
Not much history remains of the Adonis in books or on the internet just a few fading memories of those who who wandered its dark interior in days and nights of an era long gone by.
The Adonis came complete with a grand lobby and a balcony flanked by solid two-story Ionic columns. Even as men prowled the aisles looking for sex the vast if not somewhat faded grandness of the theater could not be overlooked. Even Variety went so far as to peg it as the largest and most lavish gay porn theater in New York City.
In the late 70’s the Adonis was a sexual amusement part. While the images of Jack Wrangler and Movies by Joe Gage flickered on the screen men in the aisles, the seats, the balcony, the bathrooms, and anywhere they could find would act out their sexual fantasies. Sundays were so crowded that it was hard to find a seat in Adonis but that was all that was hard to find. Patrons would avoid the seats under the balcony’s edge at busy times for fear of being showered with semen from high above.
The Adonis was crowded at most times of the day, and night. Sleazy, and dark, it attracted a fun, fast crowd. Instead of popcorn, you could buy small tubs of lube, cock rings, and poppers at the concession stand. And for “boys on a budget” If one didn’t have the $7 admission you could easily meet someone in front of the theater to pay your entrance fee.
The Adonis’ house manager had a stake in the career of iconic porn star Jack Wrangler. So in 1977, a film called A Night at the Adoniswas shot in the theater. Theater employees such as Bertha the cashier acted in bit roles, and as soon as a print was readied it was on the screen at The Adonis.
A net posting by Oliver Penn recalls the movie. . . “it was rather odd to be in the exact theater that was being depicted on the screen, sort of a movie coming to life all around you. What was happening on the screen was also happening in real life as you were watching the film.”
But the theater’s size, age, and the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic took its toll. There were also some serious structural problems because of its age and lack of upkeep. In the mid-’80 the balcony collapsed. Luckily no one was hurt
Real estate developers that had a stake in the neighborhood and deeply closeted Mayor Ed Koch who was using the AIDS epidemic to clean up Times Square trying to get the theater closed down to tidy it up for the building of the monolith Worldwide Plaza, soon to be built on the next block. One prospective tenant, a homophobic law firm Cravath, Swain & Moore, stipulated that the theater had to close before Worldwide Plaza was built. The plaza’s developer, William Zeckendorf, subsequently bought up the site, and that was the beginning of the end of the Adonis.
Later a little-known bizarre postscript to this story surfaced when a partner in said law firm David Schwartz—instrumental in shuttering the Adonis—was murdered by an 18-year-old male prostitute whom he’d spent the day with at his Connecticut summer home and then took to a sleazy Bronx motel. Schwartz had been stabbed 27 times. It turned out that this moral pillar of the community who had a wife and three children liked rough street trade and had been living a double life for years.
But The Adonis did live on for a bit longer and transferred its name to another theater owned by further south on Eighth Avenue, at 44th Street which was quickly outfitted with campy Greek statues and Roman columns but it wasn’t the same. Not long after the city of New York was doing its best to close down every gay sex establishment in NYC and “new” Adonis was eventually closed in 1994 by the City’s Health Department after a raid revealed high-risk sexual activities taking place among patrons.
The grand old Adonis Theatre would stand like a grey ghost until the spring of 1995 on its corner of 8th Avenue and 51st Street until it was demolished. Now its memory is a ghostly reminder of the heyday of gay sexual freedom in a now scared and scary post-AID world.
Do you have stories about The Adonis or other forgotten NYC gay places? If so leave them in the comments.
For those of you too young to remember the movie Cruising it is a 1980 psychological thriller film directed by William Friedkin of The Exorcist fame and starring Al Pacino. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name, by New York Times reporter Gerald Walker. It’s about a rookie NYPD cop that goes undercover to bait a homophobic serial killer in the leather and S&M world of New York’s Greenwich Village.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force ( back when they had a task and did something ) in a letter to the New York Times wrote that “in the context of an anti-homosexual society, a film about violent, sex-obsessed gay men would be seen as a film about all gay people. The psychosexual dynamic of Cruising is certainly questionable—deliberately so, to some extent—though in chalking up violent homoerotic impulses to unresolved daddy issues, the movie may be a greater insult to the intelligence of psychoanalysts than to the sensibilities of gays.”
The movie suffered a huge backlash from the LGBT community which did everything it could to disrupt the movies filming in Greenwich Village and promotion in NYC.
Village Voice writer Arthur Bell was the person who raised a call for full-out sabotage of the movie writing that Friedkin’s film “promises to be the most oppressive, ugly, bigoted look at homosexuality ever presented on the screen,” he wrote, “the worst possible nightmare of the most uptight straight. I implore readers . . . to give Friedkin and his production crew a terrible time if you spot them in your neighborhoods.”
Gay-owned businesses on Christopher Street barred the filmmakers from their premises. People attempted to interfere with shooting by pointing mirrors from rooftops to ruin lighting for scenes, blasting whistles and air horns near locations, and playing loud music. One thousand protesters marched through the East Village demanding the city withdraw support for the film to which Mayor (and famous closet case) Ed Koch responded, “Whether it is a group that seeks to make the gay life exciting or to make it negative, it’s not our job to look into that.”
Al Pacino who starred in the movie said that he understood the protests but insisted that upon reading the screenplay he never at any point felt that the film was anti-gay. He said that the leather bars were “just a fragment of the gay community, the same way the Mafia is a fragment of Italian-American life,” referring to The Godfather and that he would “never want to do anything to harm the gay community”.
Friedkin asked noted gay author John Rechy, to screen Cruising just before its release. Rechy had written an essay defending Friedkin’s right to make the film, although not defending the film itself. At Rechy’s suggestion, Friedkin deleted a scene showing the Gay Liberation Front slogan “We Are Everywhere” as graffiti on a wall just before the first body part is pulled from the river, and added a disclaimer:
“This film is not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world. It is set in one small segment of that world, which is not meant to be representative of the whole.”
Friedkin later claimed that it was the MPAA and United Artists that required the disclaimer, calling it “part of the dark bargain that was made to get the film released at all ” and “a sop to organized gay rights groups”. Friedkin also said that no one involved in making the film thought it would be considered representative of the entire gay community, but the late great gay film historian Vito Russo disputed Fredkin’s claims citing the disclaimer as “an admission of guilt” writing “What director would make such a statement if he truly believed that his film would not be taken to be representative of the whole?”
Now over 40 years later despite the content of the movie which by today’s standards seems schlocky and mediocre at best. Snippets of Cruising are easily one the most graphic and true depiction of the NYC underground gay leather scene ever seen in a mainstream movie and is also in a way, a documentary of a time and places lost in history with background shots of the West Village and West Side highway that capture that period in time.
Locations like The Ramrod, The Anvil, Mineshaft, and the Eagle’s Nest (the latter two eventually barred Friedkin from the premises) have been gone for decades, but Cruising is a flashback to a time of poppers, color-coded pocket hankies, hardcore discos, bathhouses, backrooms, park cruising and yes even Crisco. It is a visual time capsule back to a part of our history that has been overshadowed by the plague known as AIDS that would soon wreak havoc on the gay community in the years after the movie was released.
Like it or not the movie Cruising is a part of our history and reflects an era of images and memories that are slowly being lost forever.
Note: The exterior entrance of the club that Al Pacino enters is the door to the infamous Mineshaft in NYC. (CLICK HERE to learn more about The Mineshaft.)But as stated above Friedkin was barred from filming within the establishment. The next shot of Pacino walking down the stairs was filmed at the Hellfire Club Sex Club in the Triangle building on 14th Street which later would house J’s Hangout and home of the New York Jacks on 14th and Hudson Street.
What now stands in its spot is the gentrified 675 Bar which is described as a “subdued lounge attempts to bring back some dignity to the Meatpacking District with pedigreed cocktails, and uncomplicated entertainment”
We’ve always been hunted. And always will. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!
Wealthy Republican businessman Herbert Baumeister was married with three children, who lived in a big house on a horse farm in suburban Indianapolis.
He was also a prolific serial killer and was suspected of killing over 20 boys and young gay men he met at or around gay bars during the 1980s. Baumeister died by suicide in 1996 at a public park in Canada after police searched his 18-acre Fox Hollow Farm estate in Westfield outside of Indianapolis and issued a search warrant for his arrest.
When Baumeister’s wife and children left for summer vacations, police believe Baumeister picked up young men at gay bars, took them to his home, and strangled them to death. Investigators believe Baumeister burned the bodies, pulverized the bones, and disposed of most of the remains on parts of his 18-acre farm.
In 1994, Baumeister’s 13-year-old son Erich found a human skull and a collection of bones while playing on the family’s Fox Hollow Farms estate. Julie said she forgot about the incident until November of the following year when police asked for permission to search the property as part of their investigation into a string of killings targeting young gay men in the area. The Baumeisters refused the request, but Julie later consented while Herbert was out of town in June 1996. His body was found with a single gunshot wound to the head on July 3, 1996, at a public park in Ontario, Canada.
investigators believe the over 10,000 charred bones and fragments could be the remains of at least 25 people. During the original investigation in the 1990s, forensics extracted 11 human DNA samples, of which eight, all young men, were identified and matched. The two new DNA profiles will be compared against existing DNA samples provided by the family of young men who went
He left a three-page suicide note in which he apologized for spoiling the scenery of that Canadian park where he killed himself and apologized for his failing marriage and crumbling businesses, the Indianapolis Star reported on July 6, 1996. His suicide note said nothing about the missing men and the bones found on his farm nearly two weeks prior.
Hopefully the new DNA techniques available will help find some rest for the victims of this demented monster.
DO YOU THINK HOMOSEXUALS ARE REVOLTING?
YOU BET YOUR SWEET ASS WE ARE!
We’re going to make a place for ourselves in the revolutionary movement. We challenge the myths that are screwing up this society. MEETING: Thursday, July 24th, 6:30 PM at Alternate U, 69 West 14th Street at Sixth Avenue.
*Printed on the first leaflet of the Gay Liberation Front.
In 1969 the leading gay political organization in operation was the Mattachine Society of New York (MSNY), which utilized very buttoned-down, straight-laced legal techniques to try to advance equality. But right after the Stonewall Riots a group of gay men and lesbians fed up with being abused and the slowness and exclusion of the Mattachine Society’s techniques formed the Gay Liberation Front.
One of the GLF’s first acts was to organize a march in response to Stonewall and to demand an end to the persecution of homosexuals. This was the first gay pride parade in New York in June 1970. As the flier shows below, this inaugural gathering was called Liberation Day and featured a “Gay-In” in Central Park, consciousness-raising groups, dances, and women-only potluck dinners making the first pride not only a protest but also a community event.
The GLF had a broad political platform, denouncing racism and declaring support for various Third World struggles and the Black Panther Party. They took an anti-capitalist stance and attacked the nuclear family and traditional gender roles but first and foremost their fight was focused on gay rights.
The Gay Liberation Front sought to avoid many of the pitfalls they saw in the political tactics of groups like Mattachine. Where Mattachine activists had sought to project an image of respectability, the new gay liberationists would fight against mainstream attitudes and values. They would “start demanding, not politely requesting, our rights.”
GLF members openly claimed the word “Gay,” which had been avoided by the previous generation of gay and lesbian activists in favor of cryptic, inoffensive names: Mattachine, Bilitis, Janus. They demanded liberation in the spirit of the national-liberation.
GLFs did not hide or feel ashamed of their sexuality. They claimed it publicly, and they urged others to do the same long before Harvey Milk stated the same request in San Francisco. The GLF, called for LGBT people to come “out of the closet and into the streets,” and also believed that patriarchy and sexism were the root cause of the disenfranchisement of people and that assimilation wasn’t the answer, and that to gain rights. (Tell that to the HRC.)
GLF meetings were run by consensus. While this was not the most efficient method of decision-making, it created an opportunity for dialogue that transformed its members. The core activists of GLF — who included Michael Brown, Martha Shelley, Lois Hart, Bob Martin, Marty Robinson, Karla Jay, and Bob Kohler among many others — organized marches on Time magazine and The Village Voice, fund-raising dances, consciousness-raising groups, and radical study groups, and published their newspaper, Come Out!, out of the Alternate U. on Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. GLF eventually became a network of semi-autonomous cells. Groups such as the Red Butterfly Cell, the 28th of June Cell, the Planned Non-Parenthood Cell, the Gay Commandoes, and the Aquarius Cell each pursued a specialized agenda, free from the demands of establishing an overall GLF consensus. GLF quickly became the incubator of the new gay and lesbian mass political movement. Although many activists moved on to create more focused gay and lesbian organizations, GLF transformed the consciousness of everyone it touched.
The Gay Liberation Front aimed to create a society free not only from sexism and homophobia but also from sexual labels (and intersectionality).
Legendary poet, novelist, and university professor Samuel Morris Steward also known as Phil Andros and Phil Sparrow was born on this day in Woodsfield, Ohio.
Born into a Methodist household, Steward converted to Catholicism during his university years, but by the time he accepted his teaching position at Loyola University, he had long since abandoned the Catholic Church.
Steward led one of the most extraordinary (and unknown) gay lives of the twentieth century. Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail. He was also an intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder,
After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicago’s notorious South State Street, Steward met famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in late 1949 and subsequently became an unofficial collaborator with Kinsey’s Institute for Sex Research. During his years of work with the Institute, Steward collected and donated sexually themed materials to the Kinsey archive, gave Kinsey access to his lifelong sexual records, introduced him to large numbers of sexually active men in the Chicago area, and provided him with large numbers of early sex Polaroid photographs which he took during the frequent all-male sex parties he held in his Chicago apartment. He also allowed Kinsey to take detailed photographs of that sexually-themed apartment. He ultimately donated a large number of drawings, paintings, and decorative objects that he had created to the Institute.
In the spring of 1950, at Kinsey’s invitation, he was filmed engaging in BDSM sex with Mike Miksche, an erotic artist from New York also known as Steve Masters.
After Gertrude Stein, Kinsey was Steward’s most important mentor; he later described Kinsey not only “as approachable as a park bench” but also as a god-like bringer of enlightenment to mankind, thus giving him the nickname, “Doctor Prometheus.”
During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros. Initially, he wrote for the Danish magazine Eos/Amigo. Some of his early works described his fascination with rough trade and sadomasochistic sex; others focused on the power dynamics of interracial sexual encounters between men. In 1966, thanks to changes in American publishing laws, he was able to publish his story collection $TUDwith Guild Press in the United States.
By the late 1960s, Steward had started writing a series of pulp pornographic novels featuring the hustler Phil Andros as narrator. Unlike modern gay porn, Steward’s was exceptionally well written to the point where some characters spouted Shakespeare while they screwed handsome young men. His descriptions of sex are among the most graphic in the language.
During his final years in Chicago, Steward befriended beefcake photographer Chuck Renslow, owner of Kris Studio, and Renslow’s partner, Dom Orejudos, the homoerotic illustrator also known as “Stephen” and “Etienne.” Renslow would later go on to open The Gold Coast, Chicago’s first leather bar, and to found IML, or International Mr. Leather, a yearly gathering of leathermen from around the world.
But there was a downside to Steward’s life. that came with enormous physical, professional, and psychological costs. The frustration from living in a closeted era combined with his obsession drove Steward to alcoholism which he eventually overcame. He suffered through long periods of dark depression, loneliness, and self-destructive behavior. Dangerously violent characters and sex fascinated Steward, and his overtures and adventures frequently landed him in the hospital.
In his later years, Steward’s abilities as a writer were compromised by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a barbiturate addiction.
Samuel Steward died at the age of 83 in Berkeley, California, and left behind over 80 boxes full of drawings, letters, photographs, sexual paraphernalia, manuscripts, and other items, including an autograph and reliquary with pubic hair from Rudolph Valentino, a thousand-page confessional journal Steward created at the request of the sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, and a green metal card catalog labeled “Stud File,” which contained a meticulously documented record on index cards of every sexual experience and partner.
The attic full of items contained a secret history of a little-documented strand of gay life in the middle decades of the 20th century. Steward’s experience stands in stark contrast to the familiar story of furtive concealment and persecution in the period before gay liberation. As new biographies of artists and writers like E.M. Forster detail the effects of sexual repression on their work, Steward’s history shows what a life of openness, when embraced, entailed day to day.