Tag Archives: This Day In Gay History

Gay History Month – October 16: Happy Birthday to Oscar Wilde and Nazi Germany’s Paragraph 175

October 16th.

1856:  Oscar Wilde is born in Dublin, Ireland.

After writing in different forms throughout the 1880’s, Oscar Wilde became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890’s. Today he is mostly remembered for his keen wit, his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.

At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas who was regarded at the time as a “mean spirited mincing queen intent on self-destruction” and later in life, tried to distance himself from Wilde’s name.

The charge against Wilde carried a penalty of up to two years in prison.

Queensberry was arrested with the charge carrying a possible sentence of up to two years in prison. Under the 1843 Libel Act, Queensberry could avoid conviction for libel only by demonstrating that his accusation was in fact true, and furthermore that there was some “public benefit” to having made the accusation openly. Queensberry’s lawyers thus hired private detectives to find evidence of Wilde’s homosexual liaisons. They decided on a strategy of portraying Wilde as a depraved older man who habitually enticed naïve youths into a life of vicious homosexuality to demonstrate that there was some public interest in having made the accusation openly

The trial caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials he was convicted and imprisoned for two years’ hard labour. In 1897, in prison, he wrote De Profundis, which was published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.

Oscar Wilde died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.

1929:  The  Reichstag Committee votes to repeal the notorious Paragraph 175.  

But in the end the Nazis’ rise to power prevents it from being removed from the books and they in turn use it as the tool to persecute hundreds of thousands of gay, lesbian and transgender German citizens which they beat, torture and kill, sending many  to concentration camps from which they will never return.

Paragraph 175 made homosexual acts between males a crime, and in early revisions the provision also criminalized bestiality as well as forms of prostitution and underage sexual abuse. All in all, around 140,000 men were convicted under the law.

While the Nazi persecution of homosexuals is reasonably well-known today, far less attention had been given to the continuation of this persecution in post-war Germany.

In 1945, after the concentration camps were liberated, some homosexual prisoners were recalled to custody to serve out their two-year sentence under Paragraph 175. 

In 1950, East Germany abolished Nazi amendments to Paragraph 175, whereas West Germany kept them and even had them confirmed by its Constitutional Court.

About 100,000 men were implicated in legal proceedings from 1945 to 1969, and about 50,000 were convicted. Some individuals accused under Paragraph 175 committed suicide.

In 1969, the West Germany government eased Paragraph 175 by providing for an age of consent of 21. The age of consent was lowered to 18 in 1973.  Finally the paragraph was repealed and the age of consent lowered to 14, in 1994.

East Germany had already reformed its more lenient version of the paragraph in 1968, and repealed it in 1988.

WATCH: The Judy Garland Show Ep. 9 - Guests: Barbra Streisand, The Smothers Brothers and Ethel Merman

Gay History – September 29: The Judy Garland Show, Hitchcock’s Rope, and Paul Jabarra

Tension and Release: 'Rope', 'Bound', and the Queer Legacy of the Hitchcock  Thriller - Film Cred
Farley Granger (l) and John Doll (r) in ROPE – Granger was bisexual in real life and John Dall was a gay man.

1948Rope, an Alfred Hitchcock film with a (very subtle, practically invisible) gay subtext opens in theaters.

Based on the play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton and adapted by Hume Cronyn it was inspired by the real-life thrill kill murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 by gay University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

Starring James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger, this is the first of Hitchcock’s Technicolor films, and is notable for taking place in real time and being edited so as to appear as a single continuous shot through the use of long takes

The screenplay was written by Arthur Laurents. Both Farley Granger and John Dall, were gay.

The original play that it was based on more explicitly portrays the characetrs of Brandon and Phillip in a homosexual relationship.  But the movie is considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces.

1963 – Judy Garland’s variety show debuts Sunday on CBS.  While Judy Garland herself was popular with critics and fans, unfortunately the variety show itself was not.

CBS put the show up against Bonanza, then the fourth most popular program on television,and consistently performed poorly in the ratings. Although fans rallied in an attempt to save the show, CBS cancelled it after a single season.

TV Guide included the series in their 2013 list of 60 shows that were “Cancelled Too Soon”

1992 – Actor, singer, and songwriter Paul Jabara (Last Dance) dies from AIDS at the age of 44.

Jabara was in the original cast of the stage musicals Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. He took over the role of Frank-N-Furter in the Los Angeles Production of The Rocky Horror Show when Tim Curry left the production to film the movie version in England.  Jabara wrote Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” from Thank God It’s Friday,  Barbra Streisand’s song “The Main Event/Fight”(1979), and co-wrote the Weather Girls hit, “It’s Raining Men” with Paul Shaffer.  Paul Jabara won both Grammy Award for Best R&B Song and the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Last Dance” from TGIF in which he also played the role of Carl, the lovelorn and nearsighted disco goer.

2006 – Closet case Republican congressman Mark Foley (from Florida) resigns after Instant Messages of a sexual nature between him and underage male Congressional pages are revealed.

Foley had served as chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and  led legislation to make federal sex offender laws  harsher. Federal authorities had said the explicit IM messages could result in Foley’s prosecution, under some of the same laws he helped to enact but in the end Foley was not charged with any crime.

Foley is now in the real estate business in Palm Beach, Florida.

2012 – California becomes the first state to ban gay conversion therapy on minors to “cure” them of their homosexuality.

Gay History – September 26, 1975: The Rocky Horror Picture Show Opens in the USA. – OH ROCKY!

Gay History – September 26, 1975: The Rocky Horror Picture Show Opens in the USA. – OH ROCKY!

Over forty-five years ago on September 26th, 1975 the movie that has taught generations to “Don’t dream it, be it.” and to be more accepting to others who are different,  The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened at the UA Westwood in Los Angeles, California. 

Directed by Jim Sharman from a screenplay by Sharman and Richard O’Brien, the production is a humorous tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late 1940s through early 1970s. It introduces Tim Curry and features Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick along with cast members from the original Kings Road production presented at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1973.

Still in limited release nearly four decades after its premiere, it has the longest-running theatrical release in film history. It gained notoriety as a midnight movie in 1977 when audiences began participating with the film in theaters

Prior to RHPS’s infamous the midnight screenings’ success, the film was withdrawn from its eight opening cities due to very small audiences, and its planned New York opening (on Halloween night) was cancelled. Fox re-released it around college campuses on a double-bill with other off-beat films.

RHPS was eventually screened at midnight, starting in New York City at The Waverly Theater on April Fools’ Day of 1976.. By that Halloween, people were attending in costume and talking back to the screen. By mid-1978, Rocky Horror was playing in over fifty locations on Fridays and Saturdays at midnight, newsletters were published by local performance groups, and fans gathered for Rocky Horror conventions. By the end of 1979, there were twice-weekly showings at over 230 theaters in the United States including the 8th Street Playhouse in NYC which had the premiere floor-show in the country led by Sal Piro. 

I played Brad Majors opening night and later also Eddie at 8th. Street Playhouse and I WAS NOT an asshole at that time just a closet-case Jersey boy.

But that would soon change.

Dori Hartley and Will Kohler RHPS - 8th Street Playhouse Floorshow. NYC NY

Dori Hartley and Will Kohler RHPS – 8th Street Playhouse Floorshow. NYC NY

How many times have you seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Gay History – August 28, 1981: The CDC Formally Recognizes AIDS As An “Epidemic”

On June 5, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published it’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), and mentioned cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles. All the men have other unusual infections as well, indicating that their immune systems are not working; two have already died by the time the report is published.

After the Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times covered the story. doctors from across the U.S. flooded the CDC with reports of similar cases. Because of these reports on July 8th. the CDC established a Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (KSOI) to identify risk factors and to develop a case definition for national surveillance.

In a “follow-up” report on August 28, 1981 the CDC formally announced that an extremely rare form of cancer, Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), and of pneumonia, Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP), which were showing up at an epidemic rate among gay males. Of the cases reported since January of 1976,  94% of the men whose sexual preference was known were gay and 40% of those cases proved to be fatal. Moreover, the number of cases seems to be increasing. 91% of the cases have occurred since January 1980, and the majority were from New York and California. Even more astonishing is the fact that 10% of patients were reported with both KS and PCP.

By year-end, there was a cumulative total of 270 reported cases of the “Gay cancer,” later called GRIDS (Gay Related Immuno Deficiency) which claimed 121 deaths in the United States.

Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, well over 60 million people have contracted HIV and 25 million have died of AIDS-related causes.  And its still not over.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, 84.2 million [64.0–113.0 million] people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 40.1 million [33.6–48.6 million] people have died of HIV. Globally, 38.4 million [33.9–43.8 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2021.17, 17,803 people were diagnosed with AIDS. In 2016, there were 15,807 deaths among people with diagnosed HIV in the United States.

To date twice as many Americans have died of AIDS than died in the Vietnam War.

**NOTE:  The term AIDS was coined in 1982. HIV hadn’t been discovered yet, so there was no way to know whether people were sick until they were truly sick. Someone was said to have AIDS if he (and it was mostly men back then) developed one of a long list of opportunistic infections and cancers that don’t occur in people with healthy immune systems. After HIV was discovered and a test became available, being HIV-positive was added to the definition of AIDS.

 

Gay History - October 6th: Judy & Barbara, The MCC, Brokeback Mountain and The Castro Sweep [Rare Video]

Gay History – October 6: Judy & Barbara, The MCC, Brokeback Mountain and The Castro Sweep [Rare Video]

October 6th.

1791: France adopts The French Penal Code of 1791, marking it as the first Western European country to decriminalize same-sex acts.

1928: The New York Times reported that George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells had protested the seizure of the lesbian novel “The Well of Loneliness” by English customs agents. The novel had been published in France and was being imported into England.

1963: Judy Garland sings with Barbra Streisand on Judy’s variety show. It is their one and only performance together.

1968: A group of 12 people congregated for the first meeting of the Metropolitan Community Church in Huntington Park, California. Founded by Rev. Troy Perry, who held the first meeting in his living room, the religious organization centralizes its ministry efforts around the LGBT community.

1989:  In the annals of bloody misconduct by members of the San Francisco Police Department, the events of October 6, 1989, called the Castro Sweep ranks high on anyone’s list. 

In reaction to a small, peaceful protest against federal neglect of people with AIDS at the San Francisco Civic Center, about 200 San Francisco police officers rioted in the Castro neighborhood, beating protesters and passersby, sweeping seven city blocks of all pedestrians, and placing thousands in homes and business under house arrest for the duration.  The incident which would become known as the “Castro Sweep” and prolonged a rift between the city’s law enforcement and LGBT community that had began a decade earlier with the White Night riots sparked by a lenient sentence for the killer of the city’s first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, and Mayor George Moscone.

Journalist Brett Averill wrote in the Bay Area Reporter:

“… a bland plea for more AIDS funds ended five hours later with bloodied heads, mass arrests, and the specter of fully armed riot police marching through the heart of the Castro sweeping  demonstrators and confused passersby from the streets and sidewalks.”

Before the night was through, the police had shut down an entire city neighborhood and arrested 53 people and injured 10.

The next night over 1,500 people came out to the Castro to symbolically reclaim the street.

Then-Police Chief Frank Jordan, who became mayor three years later, responded to the incident by demoting his own brother, Deputy Chief Jack Jordan, for how he handled the affair. Jack Jordan suddenly resigned from the SFPD a month later.

Read all about The Castro Sweep from participant and fellow LGBT historian Gerard Koskovich by clicking  HERE  and HERE.

1997:  Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain is published in this week’s issue of The New Yorker. The story, later turned into a hit movie depicts the complex romantic and sexual relationship between two men in the American West from 1963 to 1981.

Brokeback Mountain ranks 12th among the highest-grossing romance films of all time.

1998: On this night one of the brutal and vicious hate crimes in American history happened when Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked, pistol whipped, tied to a fence and left to die by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.  It was reported that Shepard was beaten so brutally that his face was completely covered in blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by his tears. Shepard, who was still alive but in a coma, was discovered 18 hour later on the morning of October 7th.   Matthew passed away a few days later on October 12, 1998.

The horrific event would become one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history and spawned an activist movement that, more than a decade later, would result in passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law.

For details on the Matthew Shepard story as a whole please visit here.

2014:  The Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on seven of the petitions arising from challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.  Which meant that the lower-court decisions striking down bans in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia should go into effect clearing the way for same-sex marriages in those states and any other state with similar bans in those circuits.  Indeed, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (who had declined to defend his state’s ban on same-sex marriage) indicated this morning on Twitter that, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the mandate in the Virginia cases would issue at 1 p.m., at which point “marriages can then begin.”same-sex marriage cases”.