In the 1940’s a handwritten, misspelled sign that said “Fagots Stay Out,” made history at West Hollywood eatery and watering hole Barney’s Beanery.
Put up by original owner John “Barney” Anthony, the message so offended the locals so much t that Life magazine did an article on opposition to the sign in 1964, which included a photograph of the owner steadfastly holding on to it. The owner died in 1968, but the new owner Irwin Held, kept the sign up despite pressure and efforts continued to have the sign removed. The Rev. Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Church, said he was shocked when he first heard about the sign. He confronted Held, who said the sign “didn’t mean anything” and refused to take it down.
Activists put pressure on Held not only through protests and actions designed primarily to make them a nuisance to the business. “Sip-ins” involved settling into booths for hours while ordering nothing but coffee. In “change-ins,” people queued up in long lines just to ask the staff to make change.
The Gay Liberation Front organized a zap (protest) of the restaurant on February 7, 1970 to push for its removal. The sign disappeared that day — but then it went back up along with several more signs.
It wasn’t until early 1985 that it finally came down for good with the newly incorporated city’s adoption of an antidiscrimination ordinance, Days after the city voted. The then-mayor, Valerie Terrigno, the entire city council and gay-rights activists marched into Barney’s and relieved the wall of the offending sign. It now rests in the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.
The removal of the sign was a time of the changing times in West Hollywood — but many LGBT people continued to steer clear.
Barney’s Beanery is still in operation today. Under new owns and management.
This is your history.
Learn from it