The Eldorado, Berlin

12052702

The Eldorado after being closed down by the Nazis. Photo:Landesbildstelle Berlin

The Eldorado was a famed destination in Berlin for lesbians, homosexual men, transvestites of both sexes, and tourists during the 1920’s and 30’s. As soon as the Nazis came to power, gay bars and clubs like the Eldorado were closed down. The “El Dorado” was situated at 29, Lutherstraße. It had a lavish floor show. It was closed down in about 1932. Clubs with the same name have since re-opened.

A gay party in The Eldorado, 1926. Photographer unknown. Copyright details being sought

Tony’s Smart Set notes:

“Berlin’s 400 or so bars were divided in tourist guidebooks according to a strict taxonomy of desire. Flush heterosexuals might choose the Kakadu, with Polynesian-style décor and caged parrots hanging over each table; when patrons wished to leave, they could tap their glasses and the bird would squawk loudly for the check. Gay men would descend on the Karls-Lounge, where the waiters and “Line Boys” all wore neat sailor’s outfits. Lesbians liked Mali and Ingel, where guests were obliged to dance with the randy owners, or the Café Olala, where some customers liked to dress in Salvation Army outfits. Male cross-dressers went to the Silhouette, female cross-dressers to the Mikado, and everyone the entire sexual spectrum over blurred at the Eldorado, where one dancer, when quizzed by a slumming grand dame as to gender, replied in a haughty voice: “I am whatever sex you wish me to be, Madame.” “


SP

President Buchanan

12052701

15th President Buchanan. Image: The White House

James Buchanan may have the first homosexual US President, claim some. Rumours about Buchanan’s sexuality have circulated with historians determining that Mr Buchanan was gay, and that it was an open secret.

A letter written by Buchanan to Mrs Roosevelt on May 13, 1844 describes his loneliness after his great love, Alabama senator William Rufus King, moved to Paris to become the ambassador to France.

William Rufus King. Photo: Time

Buchanan wrote: “I am now “solitary and alone,” having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.”

Buchanan, who was in the White House from 1857 to 1861, was the only president who remained a life-long bachelor. Before becoming president, Buchanan lived with King for 15 years in Washington DC. King served as Vice President under Franklin Pierce but died shortly after Pierce came into office – four years before Buchanan took over.

Time introduces us to William Rufus King. “…The poor guy was only vice president for six weeks before he died of tuberculosis. A foppish dresser who wore powdered wigs long after they were fashionable, King carved out a distinguished career in the Senate, where he represented Alabama following its admission to the Union in 1819. The nation’s only bachelor vice president, King lived with James Buchanan, the nation’s only bachelor president, for more than a decade (they were nicknamed the “Siamese Twins.”)”

And what is the evidence to confirm the relationship between King and Buchanan?

“There is little correspondence between the two men for historians to pour over, as the men’s nieces largely destroyed it.”

Poor President Buchanan. His gay life completely “social cleansed” away.

Your Activist, though, has to admit: he has met plenty of gay couples, at parties, just like them.

SP

Tangier

12052502

Joe Orton in Tangier. Photo: Culture 24

Readers of the Joe Orton diaries will know of Joe’s holiday with his partner Kenneth Halliwell in the Mediterranean port of Tangier during the 1966-67 period.

For the first half of the twentieth century, Tangier was an international zone. Morocco was ruled by France and Spain, but Tangier was governed by an international coalition. It was a free port on the Mediterranean Sea under a libertarian administration with loose tax regulations which attracted banks and companies there in the early 1950’s.

It became a refuge for gay men wishing to escape repression back home. It was home at various times to William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and other famous 1950’s celebrities. Tangier was the world’s first and foremost gay centre with more openly gay bars per person than anywhere else in Europe or the United States.

Within the rest of Morocco, Tangier became something of a byword for decadence and corruption. First to go after Independence in 1956 was Tangier’s special status. Almost overnight the big businesses fled to Spain and Switzerland. The new Government imposed bureaucratic controls and instituted a clean up of the city closing all the gay bars. In well publicised trials in the 1960s several foreigners were arrested and departed from Morocco for sexual offences.

SP

The Lesbian and Gay Miners’ Support Group

12052401

The Lesbian and Gay Miners’ Support Group were set up during the 1984-85 miners’ strike and challenged prejudices held by many in the labour movement.

by February 1985 there were eleven lesbians’ and gay men’s miners’ support groups all over the country. By December 1984 the London group alone had collected over £11,000 through pub, club and street collections, benefits, parties and other events. The highlight event was undoubtedly the ‘Pits and Perverts’ gig at the Electric Ballroom where Bronski Beat headed the bill; it raised £5,650.

Bronski Beat featuring Jimmy Somerville. Public domain

The London group was the first to be set up in July 1984, and started with 11 members. Six months later it had grown to 50 members.

The Lothian Lesbian & Gay Miners Support Group was set up in September 1984 with 12 members raising £40 a week for the White Craige strike centre in East Lothian.

Lesbians Against Pit Closures followed in November 1984, involving more than 20 women who collected £50 a week for the Rhodisia Women’s Action Group, Worksop. The gay community’s support for the miners received much coverage in the left-wing and trade union press. The lesbians’ and gay men’s ‘fringe meeting’ at the October 1984 Labour Party conference was attended by about 250 people.

The recognition of gay rights issues by the union and Labour movements and the contacts forged during the miner’s strike between them and the gay movement led to the formation of a network of gay groups for the members of trade unions which continues to thrive. It also led to gay and lesbian issues being included in training courses for union representatives in the workplace, and the adoption of gay rights policies by the Labour Party.

SP

An early Gay Pride March

12050501

Photo: Fred McDarrah/Getty

As Time says, “A month after Stonewall, the first gay-pride march was held. The riots had galvanized an outsider culture into out-in-the-open activism. There had been previous attempts to persuade heterosexual society to assimilate gays and lesbians (notably by the Mattachine Society, founded in 1951). But those were almost cordial affairs. Stonewall began a series of uprisings and mass action, often fueled by martyrdom, that would become a pattern for American gay politics in the decades ahead.”


SP

The Cleveland Street Scandal

12050403

Public domain

In the Victorian era, male homosexuality was seen as an aristocratic vice that corrupted lower-class youths. The Cleveland Street scandal reinforced that perception.

An unidentified Post Office Messenger Boy of the time. Public domain

In 1889 a homosexual brothel at 19 Cleveland Street, London was discovered by Police. Sex acts between men were illegal, and the brothel’s clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that Prince Albert Victor, (Prince Eddy), the second-in-line to the British throne, was a client. Prince Eddy was sent off to India on a lengthy tour of duty. The government was accused of covering up the scandal to protect the names of aristocratic patrons.

The scandal came to light by accident when Luke Hanks, PC 718 of the General Post Office Police, stopped and interviewed a 15-year-old telegraph boy called Charles Swinscow, who worked at St Martin’s Le Grand mail office. He had been found carrying 18 shillings. This was the equivalent of two months’ wages, and he was immediately accused of stealing.

Swinscow revealed that he had earned the money by “going to bed with gentlemen” at the rate of four shillings a time at Number 19 Cleveland Street, and several other telegraph boys did the same to supplement their wages. Scotland Yard put the house under watch, and reported that “a number of men of superior bearing and apparently good position” were frequent visitors.

The house at 19 Cleveland Street was a four-storey town house furnished with velvet curtains, antique furniture, oil paintings, Dresden china, silk bedding and a grand piano. Champagne flowed. It was considered safe enough by titled aristocrats. None of the boys were coerced against their will to work there. Quite the reverse – they were sexually experienced and had experimented with each other in the basement toilets of the General Post Office!

One of the clients, Lord Arthur Somerset, was an equerry to the Prince of Wales. He and the brothel keeper, Charles Hammond, managed to flee abroad. The head boy Henry Newlove fingered three eminent patrons of Cleveland Street: Lord Arthur Somerset, the Earl of Euston and Colonel Jervois. Lord Arthur was allowed to obtain leave from his regiment and discreetly disappear to the Continent, even though he had been positively identified by some of the Post Office telegraph messenger boys found in the brothel, while none of their clients were prosecuted. Henry Newlove and George Veck, who had tried to escape dressed as a vicar, were found guilty of procurement but received light sentences of less than a year. Lord Arthur Somerset was charged in absentia with “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons”. He never returned to England to face the charges and spent the last 37 years of his life in a villa in the South of France with his companion Andrew Neale.

Henry James FitzRoy, the Earl of Euston, was named in the press as a client and successfully sued for libel.

The Cleveland Street scandal was debated in the House of Commons in 1890. Lord Salisbury’s government was accused of “a criminal conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice”. A demand for an inquiry was defeated by 206 votes to 66.

The property used as a brothel at 19 Cleveland Street still stands; it has since been renumbered on the Land Registry, and has been converted into flats.

The famed historian H Montgomery Hyde has written a book about The Cleveland Street Scandal.

SP

The London Gay Men’s Chorus turns 21

12050402

Photo: Michael Cheetham

The London Gay Men’s Chorus has turned 21.

The choir was begun in 1991 by a group of nine men – none of whom are in the choir any more – who used to meet at a social group called London Friend, where they would play their favourite CDs. “Someone said to them: ‘Why not start a choir if you’re so into music?’ so they rehearsed a few pieces to raise money for charity and put on their first gig at Angel tube,” says chorus chairman Alisdair Low. The gig, which featured nervous renditions of songs including Over the Rainbow, drew such crowds that the station had to be closed. Low joined two years later. “We used to rehearse under Finsbury library. We had a burly female stage manager on the door to bat away the council kids who would shout abuse through the door.”

Over the past 21 years, the London Gay Men’s Chorus has grown into Europe’s biggest gay choir. Anyone can join, although the waiting list can be six months long, with 70 or 80 people turning up at new members’ evenings.

The LGMC perform two major concerts a year, tour the world, and have played venues ranging from London’s Palladium and Roundhouse to 10 Downing Street.

SP