Thursday, July 31, 2008

What really went on at the 1959 Denver Convention of Mattachine???

My memory is that I met Jim Kepner at ONE when I was at loose ends, and we talked over a coke (after meeting at ONE’s offices on Hill St. (I think that old elevator was on the Broadway side) in the Thrifty Drug across from Pershing Square. He said he was going to the convention. I decided to go—I must have had a car, but I went anyway. I wonder if there are any records of who signed up, any brochures if any? I know it got lots of publicity in the 2 papers-The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. I don't know if Jim wrote it up in his journals. I don't remember any of the meetings or even the speakers.

But they all are relatively unimportant-also what did Hal write up about it later? I'm not sure if Don Lucas was there. BECAUSE people there were so excited at how well things were going, publicity etc, that they paid little attention to a sneaky proposal to honor the mayor of San Francisco for being so helpful and in a sense gay-friendly. Now as I recall San Francisco was NOT all that good in those days. But no one thought much about it and it passed along with some other things and the convention ended and everyone went home—except the members who had done such a great job and lived in Denver. All hell broke loose—they lost jobs, etc.

AND suddenly Wolper or whatever the politician’s name was that was running against Christopher started publicizing the queer, I forget what term he used, organization honoring Christopher and how terrible that was for San Francisco’s image, etc. and of course the voters should NOT vote for Christopher.

Talk about unintended consequences—the papers, etc., which were NOT gay-friendly, took out after the man, calling HIM a troublemaker and supporting Christopher. Hal, et al., loved it of course—it got Mattachine great publicity. I'm not sure how many new members it got, but in those days neither Mattachine nor ONE got much help from all the publicity they got—which wasn't that much anyway.

I am not sure of the dates, but I must have gone to San Francisco then and that is when I first (of two times) stayed with Hal and worked a week or so in the PanGraphic office, and the only record is the book review I did of Advise and Consent, which appeared later.

I had actually lived a few months in San Francisco earlier and did not contact Mattachine at the time—I was working the last “regular” job, as “caller to check on credit” at Retailers Commercial Agency-Retail Credit, now called something else, in Atlanta GA. Ironically my first job after getting kicked out of the Army at Ft Riley, dropping off my car in Bossier city, taking the train to L. A., and following Don Slater’s idea, even before I knew him, I lied and neither firm ever checked on my military service (and thus Undesirable Discharge) but did send for my lousy transcript at LSU—was a southern company that should have checked as that was their business—the first company was southern also, Anderson, Clayton Cotton co, of Houston, and some parts still in business, on 6th St. at Lafayette Park. Retailers in L. A. had been on Wilshire near downtown, across from the hospital. I was not doing well, so they transferred me to try San Francisco, and finally we just mutually called it quits.

I took a bus trip around the country, Boston, N. Y., etc. Left car parked on hill in S. F. and it was in good shape when I returned. Then returned to L. A. and went to work for ONE, and rest is history.

But it seems important to think that what we or they thought was the main thing at the convention turned out to be nothing and yet the convention put Mattachine on the map andin a sense started San Francisco toward being what it is today and that was NOT what the agent provocateur had wanted.

A lesson rightwingers might want to consider.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A newsletter that should be read by the people at the LGBT Journalists Association

I have been looking around at material and found a copy of our newsletter #55, of Fall/Winter, 1996.

If we don't let the world know any more about our work, they should know the information and views expressed in the reviews of the books and the books themselves, mainly the two relevant to NLGJA: Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media, by Edward Alwood (Columbia University Press, 1996) and Unspeakable, the Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America, by Rodger Streitmatter (Faber & Faber, 1995).

The reviews say that for the most part the books give information and history that journalists, and everyone, needs to understand how this movement got to where it is today.

But the reviewers also point out the misinformation, and that is important since for the most part later historians will just quote from the books without checking to see if there are any errors.

Straight News is reviewed by Joseph Hansen, famous not for being an editor and writer for ONE/Tangents Magazine, but as a gay writer of gay mysteries. But he knows the facts. And he points out important things relevant even to the discussion I have had with NLGJA people and the editor of Bay Windows.

Gay/lesbian journalists of today may not even know how bad the situation was in the ’50s and ’60s and how awful the media covered us, in the few times they did cover homosexuality.

Later journalists still did not check their facts. As Joe points out, sometimes he, Morris Kight, Troy Perry or others may have been at the same event and the newspaper coverage only gave one view-usually Morris’s. One strange point is that AIDS got us attention.

You will understand the feeling I have even now, reading Joe’s closing remarks: The efforts told to us in story after story in Edward Alwood’s fine book, efforts by numberless heroic men and women down the decades to educate and awaken to our common humanity the people among whom we lived should lift your hearts.

"Not that the war is won as this grisly century dies. Many battles lie ahead, not the least to wipe antihomosexual laws off the books of ALL states. But reading this account of the equal-rights battles already won should give all of us courage to fight on with the certainty that if we do, in the end our victory will be complete." Joe and Don would rejoice to see how much has been done so far.

Unspeakable is reviewed by Jim Kepner. He of course points out the conflict among g/l journalists,which in the early days seemed to be that “professional” college trained journalists looked down on the first g/l journalists who trained on the job. He says rightly that Streitmatter seems to not have really read his material and makes statements that are simply not true, such as that ONE was not forceful on seeking rights, or that we were not as good as the Mattachine Review and The Ladder, which is by any objective view simply nonsense. Hal Call merely used “professionals” and copied items and ONE did original work, and we never allowed “professionals” to tell us about us: we told them.

He points out that there were publications before Vice Versa, and that even Henry Gerber is ignored. And Jim's work is completely misunderstood by Streitmatter—Jim didn't merely quote the news, he commented on it—the very title of the Tangents section was news and views. But ONE has to be given credit as the first public and continuing-for two decades homosexual publication. And the NLGJA honored Don Slater as its editor and his struggle to make the magazine professional and something our community could be proud of.

Jim also points out the constantly repeated error that ONE was an all-male publication/organization. Obviously he never looked at the credits as for years the main editor was a woman and Stella Rush, still alive and kicking was a writer as was Betty Perdue (as Geraldine Jackson).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

GQ and New Republic article on homosexual issues

Being a retiree, and having time, if not money, I spent several hours in my local library yesterday, just to see what was in the magazines. I had liked the current issue of Time, which I get for $15 a year as a senior citizen (a term Don Slater hated) but can't see every publication, and Jim Kepner would be nuts by now with all the good coverage on our issues in lots of publications, much less tv soap operas.

The July issue of GQ magazine has a great long article on Bishop Gene Robinson.

The June 11th issue of The New Republic has a 2 view article on the CA marriage decision. One view is that it, and this is the Don Slater view, is wrong to say we are a suspect class and it could hurt the cause. It could be a victory in the battle but could prolong the war for a decade due to backlash. I think that was the Jeffrey Rosen view.

The other view is that we would have had to face the issue sooner or later, just enjoy it and don't worry the amendment may not pass—the view of Richard Just.

I see no email address for the publication, but someone should thank them for the discussion and make the obvious point that—for us this is a win-win situation—we will not have lost something we never had and, as it says, this is an education process that has to take place anyway. It may be costly for us, but think how much time, energy and money the bigots are having to waste—including the Catholic and Mormon churches. That alone would make it something Don would have to be a part of.

Names are not exclusive, and so what two names jumped out at me in different publications: Dale Jennings, in San Diego—and the letter (I think it was in American History) was talking about an article that told about J Edgar Hoover’s desire to end habeas corpus and arrest all the dissidents he disliked—the claim is that arrangement for jails has—been made already.

And in a religious magazine, Charisma or Christianity Today, there is mention of a Paul Cain, in regard to a religious event in Lakeland FL, and I gather he has been accused of sexual violations (hetero).

And in the same type of book on black civil rights history like the one I reviewed on Bayard Rustin, herein The Nation is a review of a book that should mention him, but in the review does NOT and yet has coverage of the same issues—use of communistic issues to attack the movement yet that may have been a source that helped it. AND here is coverage of a black, cross-dressing lesbian feminist, named Pauli Murray, and this is in the 1940s I think, but she was involved in some type of March on Washington that I think was before Rustin's.

The book is Defying Dixie, radical roots of civil rights, by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, published by Norton, $39.95. I think she either went to Howard later and may have taught law.

And finally, the question in New Orleans Magazine about an early bar-and it is the My-O-My, which I knew about but never went to, a female impersonation bar on the lakefront in New Orleans.

And this is only a few publications. Poor Jim Kepner. He would not have been able to do the news section even if he spent 24 hours a day. What a wonderful problem though: almost every article is favorable. Even a mention of the marriage in either Charisma or Christianity Today (or maybe Christian Century, but I don't think so as it is a liberal publication anyway) which refers to the logical way to handle it saying: things can be immoral but not illegal.

I think we miss a lot by not going to our library once in a while and just seeing what we have missed. Again, I know of no LGBT publication that covers such things. I glance at things like Queer News and it is limited in what it covers.