New York’s Bijou



The Bijou’s “attractive” entrance | Daniel Maurer | 18308

The Bijou was a sex club and cinema in New York’s gay district, which opened around 1990, with a colourful history. Writing in Bedford and Bowery, Lance Richardson gives us a tour.

It is an incredible space, but then the Bijou Film Forum, like the Adonis, has its own remarkable history. In the 1950s and 60s, when drag was still considered dangerously subversive (and illegal), queens performed a famous revue here in the mafia-run Club 82, “New York’s After-Dark Rendezvous.” Elizabeth Taylor was known to drop by, along with other forward-thinking celebrities, and it’s said that Errol Flynn once played the piano with his penis.

By the 1970s, the subterranean rooms were absorbing glam rock and avant garde punk, including sounds by The Stilettos, featuring an up-and-coming Debbie Harry. Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones even took a turn at the theater in 1990, launching a music club that seems to have lasted a red hot second. Since its halcyon days, in other words, the black door has hidden queers and iconoclasts, letting them do whatever they want, street-level society be damned.

The club appears to have still been trading in 2014 when the writer visited. During his visit, nobody said a word to him, until he left.

As I pushed through the turnstile to exit the theater, the man at the box office banged on his glass window. “Next time,” he said gruffly, “exit through the back door.” How clandestine! It was the first thing anybody had said to me at the Bijou Film Forum, and I loved it.



Billy Graham



Billy Graham | Undated file photo | Getty Images | 18307

The American evangelist preacher Billy Graham KBE – yes, he was an honorary recipient of the British award “Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” – died on 21 February 2018, aged 99 years.

You could describe him as a “Marmite” type of person – some people liked him and others did not. He toured the world preaching in large venues on his “crusades” from 1947 to 2005 – a total of 417 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. And you thought Mormons were a problem.

John Paul Brammer for NBC summarises his career and its effect in a sentence:

For many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, however, Graham was a crusader against them, one whose efforts shaped the religious right into an anti-LGBTQ political force.

That force continues to challenge advances such as employment rights, the right to foster children, to hold down a job, to marry your partner, to this day.

Graham himself had few specific words on LGBTQ people, compared with the rest of society, but his disapproval of homosexuality was unequivocal. “Let me say this loud and clear! We traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare.” Homosexuality was a “sinister form of perversion” that was contributing to the decay of civilization.

Advocates argue that he may not have been extremely outspoken on LGBTQ people, but he left behind an institutional apparatus that has done structural damage to the gay community.


Elisa and Marcela



Elisa and Marcela on their wedding day | José Sellier | 18306

A new film is being made about Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas who married in 1901 – the only known same-sex marriage in the history of the Spanish Catholic Church.

The historian Narciso de Gabriel, who wrote a book about the couple, says the pair were posted to village schools just a few miles apart in rural Galicia, close enough for Elisa to walk to Marcela’s house every evening after classes.

Posing in short hair and a morning suit as “Mario”, Elisa was duly baptised and married to Marcela.

Mr De Gabriel told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo in 2011 that the “wedding still stands as legal” in A Coruña’s civil register.

They didn’t get away with it. They spent the rest of their lives on the run from persecution across two continents.

Their story is to be made into a film by Isabel Coixet.



The He-She Barman, and other Bermondsey characters


Some of Bermondsey’s characters are highlighted in London News Online.

James Allen was killed by a falling plank in a wood yard. James Allen, who was married, was in fact a woman. After her death, a post mortem found she might have had a child at some stage. It became known as the case of “The Female Husband”.

The London Standard commented “her equivocal lord” was “beautifully shaped, and his legs and feet particularly well made”.

Allen’s wife’s father said: “Allen was as handsome a young man as ever the sun shone upon” when he married his daughter.

London Online notes:

Public interest in James Allen led to the publication of pamphlets and ballads. No law barred women from cross-dressing. But some were prosecuted for financial fraud – marrying a woman to take her dowry.

Then there was Thomas Walker, the ‘She-He Barman of Southwark’, who profited from public curiosity about how a weak and feeble woman could live as a man by touring the country singing songs about his life.

The Southwark QueerStory exhibition will be on at Peckham Levels from Thursday, February 15 until Wednesday, February 28 from 10am to 11pm each day. The exhibition includes 1930s photographs of Bermondsey lad Ralph Hall, living a life of domestic happiness with his lover Monty, and their love letters written when Ralph was posted off to war.

Pub drag culture of the 1960s is celebrated as well as the emergence of the gay disco scene pioneered by DJ Tricky Dicky in 1970s Camberwell, as well as the saucy drag shows and boozy dancing at the Ship & Whale.



Major collection preserved in Louisiana



2nd left: Stewart Butler; far right: Rich Magill | Undated | Stewart Butler and LARC | 18305

The Louisiana Research Collection, housed at Tulane University now holds the letters, diaries and flyers of four prominent gay activists: Rich Magill, Alan Robinson, Skip Ward and Stewart Butler.

Leon Miller, head of the collection, called the acquisition “extremely significant.”

Magill wrote “Exposing Hatred,” a study of violence perpetrated against the gay community.

Robinson owned and operated Faubourg Marigny Books and founded many LGBTQ organizations.

Ward promoted the rights of gay people in rural areas.

Butler remains a force in the civil rights movement and his home has been a meeting place for civil rights activists since 1979. He co-founded Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus of Louisiana in 1980. He advocated for the New Orleans gay rights ordinance in 1984, 1986 and 1991, and served on boards including the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, the Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus and PFLAG.

The New Orleans Advocate notes:

Over the years, Butler amassed 25 boxes of documents, including letters, meeting minutes, election questionnaires and more.

“I didn’t throw things away,” Butler said. “I just kept them, because I thought maybe they could be useful in the future.”

Butler co-founded the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana in 2014. Shortly thereafter, he donated his papers to the research collection, which has acquired LGBTQ materials for more than 30 years.



New home for gay collection



Heather Rousseau/Roanoake Times | 18304

The Roanoake Times reports that the local collection of gay books and artifacts has a new permanent home, after many years of being hidden from public view and moving around. The Roanoke LGBT Library has found a new home as a research collection in Roanoke Diversity Center, Roanoake, North Carolina.

Established in 2000, the collection now has a wide array of subjects, from medical and psychology books from the 1960s and ’70s, to mid-20th century lesbian pulp fiction novels. The collection was originally the personal collection of 1,200 volumes of Jim Ricketson, a gay man and retired book editor. The collection has since more than doubled to nearly 3,000 volumes, which have now been catalogued. Much of the collection is long out of print.

Members of Roanoke’s LGBT community continued to donate books, and some books came from a now-closed gay bookstore called Outward Connections.



Homosexuality in ancient China



Uncredited and undated graphic | Hornet | 18303

Matt Baume writes in about ancient China and its tolerance of homosexuality.

For centuries, same-sex relationships in China were simply no big deal. One collection of literature dating from around 600 BC describes male attraction at court; other scholarship identified numerous same-sex partners for male emperors around 200 BC.

Emperor Ai, for example, tried to arrange for his male partner to inherit the throne. It is from Emperor Ai that we get the euphemism of the cut sleeve: a story says Ai’s partner fell asleep on Ai’s sleeve, and so the emperor cut it off so as not to wake him.

(see graphic.)

China’s history has many similar stories. A story around the year 150 about Huo Guang describes a same-sex romance. Ruan Ji and Ji Kang were described as lovers around the year 300.

From the 1300s to the 1600s a number of writings record gay couples in a matter-of-fact context which indicates such relationships were common.

Laws against homosexuality in China originated in the 1600s. There was government surveillance over relationships. By the Second World War, Chinas’ LGBT community faced harassment and persecution.