Tag Archives: LGBT Forgotten History

Gay History – August 1966: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, San Francisco [WATCH: Screaming Queens]

On an warm August night in San Francisco in 1966 (no one knows the exact date since SFPD files have been lost) at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a seedy eatery in the Tenderloin district one of the first rebellions against the oppression of the LGBT community.

Compton’s became a sanctuary drag queens, young gay street hustlers, and down-and-out regulars much to the chagrin of it’s owners.

One August night the management who were finally fed-up and annoyed by the noisy crowd at one table, called the police. When a surly cop, accustomed to manhandling the Compton’s clientele, attempted to arrest one of the drag queens, she threw her coffee in his face and mayhem erupted. Windows broke, furniture flew through the air and the hustlers and drag queens fought back. Police reinforcements then arrived, and the fighting spilled into the street.

For the first time, the gay hustlers and drag queens banded together to fight back.  Getting the better of the cops, they kicked, punched and stomped on the cops with their high-heels. For everyone at Compton’s that night, one thing was certain — things there would never be the same again.

There is so much more to the story of the Compton Cafeteria than those bare-bones facts. In 1966 San Francisco it was unlawful to crossdress and it was unlawful to “impersonate a female.” Drag performers, transvestites, effeminate gay males, and rough trade hustlers experienced frequent harassment by police, including arrests, beatings and demeaning jailhouse treatment.  With no rights, employment or public accommodation protections, prostitution became survival sex work — it was the only way a drag queen or a down and out hot young guy could make a living.

The violent reaction of the drag queens and gays at the Compton’s Cafeteria did not solve the problems that they were having in the Tenderloin on daily basis. It did, however, create a space in which it became possible for the city of San Francisco to begin relating differently to the community — to begin treating them, in fact, as citizens with legitimate needs instead of simply as a problem to get rid of. That shift in awareness was a crucial step for the contemporary  social justice movement — the beginning of a new relationship to state power and social legitimacy. 

Gay History: The Lost and Forgotten Art of Gay Disco Fan Dancing Featuring: Bret Lacquement [Rare Video]

The Lost and Forgotten Art of Gay Disco Fan Dancing Featuring: Bret Lacquement [Rare Video]

Disco Ball

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s during the heyday of gay disco not only were you treated to the hedonistic world of loud thumping music, poppers, great recreational drugs, and the bodies of hundreds of  hot, sweaty, gyrating men.  If you lucky enough were treated to spectacular displays of “disco fan dancing”.

No one knows when it started and who was the first gay man to hit the floor and twirl but we do know that one of the best fan dancers of the era was Bret Lacquement member of the first and finest of the fan dancing troops who toured Europe and America  teaching and dancing.

Disco fan dancing is truly a forgotten art form as well as a lost piece of gay history.

Watch this rare 1977 footage of Bret twirling at the White Party at the Trocadero Transfer below.

#FlashbackFriday: Christopher Street Bookstore Commercial [Video - Circa 1980's]

Independent Bookstore Day – Gay History: NYC’s Christopher Street Bookstore Commercial [Video – Circa 1980’s]

This commercial for the Christopher Street Bookstore, located on Christopher and Hudson streets in NYC aired back in the late 80’s and early 90’s usually on Public Access Manhattan Neighborhood Network cable television during The Robyn Byrd Show and Lou Maletta‘s Men & Film is one of the last known historical records of the forgotten adult establishment.

The Christopher Street bookstore was one of the most popular “adult” bookstores in NYC (which you had to sign a waiver to get into) and featured private video booths complete with glory holes, and a cavernous downstairs “grotto”  backroom which was a free-for-all of anything sexual.  The basement closed during the height of the AIDS crisis.

Up until till its closing in 2006, according to this advert anyway the Christopher Street Bookstore was the largest gay bookstore in America!

Did you visit The Christopher Street Bookstore during it’s heyday?  Please leave your stories below so they can be saved for prosperity,