The Black Nite brawl

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The Black Nite, Milwaukee | Milwaukee Public Library Collection | 17041

On Saturday night, Aug. 5, 1961, four troublemakers got more trouble than they bargained for at the Black Nite on N. Plankinton Ave., one of Milwaukee’s most popular gay bars of the time.

Built by George Burnham in 1853 as a grain elevator, the old flourmill at 400 N. Plankinton Avenue was later home to manufacturers Fairbanks, Morse & Co. Long known as the Old Mill Tavern and Cafe, the ground floor storefront was acquired by local financier Harry Kaminsky in 1958.

Kaminsky convinced Mary Wathen of Omaha, Nebraska, to open Mary’s Tavern. Mary complained immediately about being “bothered” by homosexual clientele from nearby taverns. “They drove regular customers away,” she complained to Kaminsky, whose response was “if we can’t beat em, let’s join em.”

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A party at the Black Nite | Wisconsin LGBT History Project | 17042

Mary’s Tavern joined The Fox Bar (open in 1948 at 455 N. Plankinton) and Tony’s Riviera (open in 1952 at 401 N. Plankinton and a longtime gay landmark earlier when it was known as the Anchor Inn) to create the city’s first gay district.

Four 20-year-old servicemen (Kenneth Kensche, John Cianciolo, Bruce Pulkkila and Edward Flynn) decided to check out the Black Nite on a dare.

Wally Whetham later reported that “this gang came in and started tearing the bar apart, and the bar fought back.” The servicemen, out for trouble, found a packed bar of 75 patrons ready and willing to defend their turf by any means necessary.

One patron suffered extreme lacerations when he was thrown through a broken window; another patron experienced a brain concussion when he was hit in the head with a barstool. He would remain in critical condition for weeks after the brawl. In the end, over $2,000 in losses were reported, including the bar’s entire bottled liquor inventory, an electric organ, a jukebox and all windows.

“One of the guys came at me and said, ‘OK you sick faggot, come on.’ I popped him right there, and the blood sprayed and he fell to the ground. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. He started it, but I stopped it. I may be a ‘faggot,’ but I’m the one who stopped it.”

“And then the cops came down, and put them all in a paddy wagon, and took them to jail,” said Josie Carter. “They said, ‘You have no business coming down here and harassing these people. The police were good to me back then; they took care of me and taught me how to stay out of trouble.”

The four servicemen were charged with disorderly conduct. Judge Christ T. Seraphim dismissed their charges due to “lack of evidence.”

https://onmilwaukee.com/history/articles/the-black-nite-brawl-lgbt-history.html


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When we rise

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A scene from “When we rise” | ABC Television | 17038

“When we rise” is a four part television series made for American television by film producer Dustin Lance Black for ABC television, which was commissioned by ABC in 2012. When We Rise” is a 50-year history of the gay rights movement told through four characters who suffer — and often triumph over — family rejection, landlord discrimination, gay-bashing, police harassment, legislative defeats and AIDS.

The New York Times notes:

“We’ve reached the stage in the L.G.B.T. movement when a network not only feels comfortable taking this on — but doing so in a big way,” said Eric Marcus, a gay historian who produces the Making Gay History podcast and is preparing his own multipart documentary on the movement.

Torie Osborn, a longtime gay and lesbian rights leader who was active in San Francisco during struggles depicted in the movie, said, “I hope this is a moment for our allies to learn about our history and young gay men and lesbians to learn about their history.”

“This is a story that could have been told before,” she said, adding: “Better late than never.”

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San Francisco, 1983 | Bettman/Getty Images | 17039

Mr. Black focuses largely on San Francisco. New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, Minneapolis and other cities also played parts in the American gay story.

The four characters who form the frame of Mr. Black’s story are Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, Richard Socarides, and Dr. Charles W. Socarides, who helped to have homosexuality declassified as a mental illness.

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Dustin Lance Black | Andrew Testa/The New York Times | 17040

Mr. Black said that if he had learned anything from this work, it is that the gay rights movement is a story of triumphs followed by setbacks. Mr. Trump’s election, he said, is just another turn in this road.

“We are in a period of backlash right now,” he said. “I would give anything for this to be less topical. But this series shows our history is a pendulum, not a straight line.”


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Gay motorcycle clubs celebrated

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Five Blue Max Motorcycle Club members in uniform jackets and Pickelhauben helmets seated on Harley Davidson Electra Glide motorcycles at curb in Glendale, California, c. 1970 | One/USC Archive | 17033

An exhibition opening at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, “Sprayed with Tears”, delves into the history of Southern California’s gay motorcycle clubs. These were popular underground clubs throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Some of them that are active today.

Using material from the ONE Archives, artist collective Die Kränken focuses on one of these clubs, Blue Max, and re-stages a performance that took place there annually between 1968 and 1993: “The Rose of No Man’s Land,” where a World War I fighter pilot is nursed back to health by a Red Cross nurse, played by a club member in drag.

There will also be a video of the Black Pipe, an LA gay leather bar that was raided by the police in 1972, and a display of screen-printed handkerchiefs that were used for the “hanky code,” a surreptitious method of communicating sexual desire by placing color-coded handkerchiefs in one’s rear pants pocket.

The Satyrs Motorcycle Club are thought to be the “oldest running gay men’s motorcycle club” in the world, dating back to 1954.

The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives is at the USC Libraries, 909 West Adams Blvd, University Park, Los Angeles.

http://hyperallergic.com/357473/an-exhibition-mines-the-history-of-socals-gay-motorcycle-clubs/


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Polari explained

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Julian and Sandy, 1970s, LP Cover | Copyright control | 17032

Paul Baker, an authority on Polari, having studied it for some time, has provided Scroll/The Conversation with a brief history of the language. To summarise:

Polari has now largely fallen out of use, but was historically spoken by gay men and female impersonators.

Polari developed first in the world of entertainment, West End theatres and 19th-century music halls, travelling entertainers and market-stall holders, and was based on Parlyaree which had roots in Italian and rudimentary forms of language used for communication by sailors around the Mediterranean, which found its way into Britain, especially London and port cities, and gradually became used by gay men and female impersonators, especially during the first half of the 20th century. In England, gays added Cockney Rhyming Slang, backslang (pronouncing a word as if it was spelt backwards), French, Yiddish and American airforce slang to Polari.

It was useful as a means of conducting conversations in public spaces, which would have alerted others to your sexuality at a time when homosexual acts were illegal.

“Vada the naff strides on the omee ajax” meant look at the awful trousers on the man nearby. Inserting a Polari word – such as bona (good) or palone (woman) – into a sentence could act as a coded way of identifying other people who might be gay. The language itself, full of camp, irony, innuendo and sarcasm, also helped its speakers to form a resilient worldview in the face of arrest, blackmail and physical violence.

In the 1970s, in a gay magazine called Lunch, activists branded Polari as ghettoising and it gradually became surplus to requirements. In 2000, Baker carried out a survey of 800 gay men and found about half the respondents had never heard of Polari.

In recent years however, there has been renewed interest in Polari. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence created a Polari Bible, running a Polari wordlist through a computer program on an English version of the Bible.

Paul Baker is the Professor of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University.

https://scroll.in/article/828942/a-brief-history-of-polari-a-language-for-gay-men-and-its-curious-afterlife


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Remembering the Black Cat

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February 1967 | Black Cat/USC Digital Archive | tc17031

Two years before the Stonewall riots in New York City, Silver Lake in Los Angeles was the epicenter of a gay rights protest movement of its own. In February 1967, demonstrators at the Black Cat Tavern,, 3909 W Sunset Blvd., took a stand and pushed back against anti-LGBT forces, and a rally was held there yesterday to commemorate the events of 1967 and continue the movement today.

The Black Cat Tavern had been open for only two months when a party on New Year’s Eve, 1966 was raided by undercover officers who infiltrated the party and, when they saw same-sex couples kissing at midnight, police began a flurry of arrests. 14 patrons of the bar were arrested for “assault and public lewdness” and the police physically beat several of the individuals. A riot broke out and spilled into the street and neighboring bars.

After the raid, organizers met to begin planning a large demonstration to be held at the Black Cat. The then-new PRIDE organization began publishing a newsletter called The Advocate where they disseminated details of the gathering; the Advocate has published ever since.

On February 11, 1967, an estimated 300 to 600 protestors surrounded the Black Cat in what would be remembered as a tense but ultimately peaceful protest against homophobic laws and police brutality. The event marked a turning point for the local gay rights movement and part of a growing trend of LGBT resistance.

https://www.timeout.com/los-angeles/blog/commemorate-a-milestone-of-local-lgbt-history-this-weekend-at-the-black-cat-tavern-020917


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Hackney’s gay collection

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Some of the items owned by Hackney Museum | Gary Manhine/Hackney Council | 17030

Hackney Museum has decided it doesn’t have enough gay history in its archive, and has launched a project to discover more of the London borough’s gay past. Emma Winch, Hackney Museum’s heritage learning manager, told an event to celebrate gay history month: “Young people tell us museums don’t do enough to collect and share LGBTQI history. This, and the lack of representation in the national curriculum, is unacceptable. It has an effect on their identity and confidence.”

Musician I’m Empire was at the launch to give a speech on his experience of coming out as a queer man in Hackney’s black community, while street artist Stik shared his memories of the queer “safe house” community in Dalston Lane.

Stik described how he first arrived in London in 2001 after “spectacularly crashing and burning” and joined a group squatting then-derelict London Fields Lido, sleeping in a wooden art shipping container. “I came to Hackney because it was somewhere possible to live and I found an accepting and vibrant community,” he said.

A house in Dalston Lane was a hub for wild parties. “Our parties like Behind Bars and Queeruption fundraisers were the most radical punk and progressive things I have ever seen, and there’s no way we could get away with such subversive actions nowadays.”

http://www.hackneygazette.co.uk/news/heritage/hackney_museum_launches_drive_to_collect_more_of_borough_s_gay_history_with_inspiring_talks_from_stik_and_i_m_empire_1_4875508


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Kerry apologises for Cold War Purge

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Brian Snyder/Reuters | 17012

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry apologized to hundreds of State Department employees who were fired after the start of the Cold War for being gay in what is known as the “lavender scare.”

“In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today. On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-kerry-apology-idUSKBN14T2HB


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Marking 50 years of legality

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It was in 1967 the UK law was changed to legalise homosexuality between two consenting males. The 1967 act amended the law of England and Wales regarding homosexual activity, with Scotland following suit in 1980, and Northern Ireland in 1982.

The British Museum’s new exhibition will highlight the previously-hidden gay histories within its collection, and creates a treasure map of historic LGBTQ moments and objects held by the museum.

The Museum has a coin featuring the Roman emperor Hadrian on one side, and his male lover Antinous on the reverse. Antinous, who would have been part of a harem of the emperor’s lovers, drowned in the Nile river during a lion hunt, leaving the emperor distraught.

Other events will be taking place across the UK at the British Museum, the Red House, the Walker in Liverpool, the Russell-Cotes museum and gallery, and more.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/british-arts-gay-history-2017-797522


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