A History of Gay and Lesbian Springfield, 1945-2010



Dr. Holly Baggett | Missouri State University | 14279

Missouri State University History Professor Dr. Holly Baggett was approached to write an article about the history of Springfield’s gay and lesbian community for Springfield’s Urban Histories.

“This is what historians call “social history”-the history of everyday people and writing about every-day people who, for the most part were trying to remain invisible was going to be a little tough,” says Baggett. “The good was, that there has always been a vibrant community here, since World War II, which surprised me”

Gay and lesbian men and women always found ways to get together.

“The bad part of it is a lot of people had bad experiences during those days. There were straight bars that would let people in but sometimes it would get a little ugly and people had to go running out, police taking down their license tags, etc.”

Jim House told Baggett:

“At Drury I was president of my fraternity and editor of the newspaper and really active on campus and in those days if you would’ve ‘come out,’ you would have been out. So I was really afraid.” He was appalled at the lack of organization of the gay community. “And I decided I would open a bar to give gay people a nice place to go. I opened a bar called Mister Jones which was where Martha’s is. It was small and intimate, but it was nice.”

The AIDS Crisis hit hard in the Ozarks as it did across the country. House started the AIDS Project of Springfield.

“It was kind of a rough go because people didn’t want to talk about it. The poor guy who came in and admitted he was HIV-positive was a customer at the bar and when people found out he had AIDS, man, they were like, ‘do you really sterilize his glasses, do you throw his glasses out, you should serve him in a paper cup, what if he uses the bathroom?’ Ignorant stuff. I thought, that’s what the AIDS project needs to do, is educate, particularly the gay population.”

Another incident that many remember is the 1989 backlash to the play, The Normal Heart. Local representative Jean Dixon opposed the play and led a petition drive and media campaign to try to convince then Southwest Missouri State President Marshall Gordon to cancel the play.

In Springfield’s gay and lesbian community, the good and the bad have often been intertwined. “Those events helped galvanize the community. People started to get politically organized and say ‘You know, we’ve got to let people know we’re here, and this is our home, too.”

The push to organize after the failed attempt to add sexual orientation to the city’s Biased Crimes Ordinance led to the creation of GLO. Today, it is the only gay and lesbian community center open in the state of Missouri.

Anne Baker is the Archivist for Special Collections for the Ozarks Gay and Lesbian Archives in the Special Collections Department of the Meyer Library at Missouri State.

“Part of what we’re doing here, is not trying to document ancient history. We’re looking at what we can document now that will be needed a hundred years from now. So contemporary activities, we try to get newsletters that are still going out, the oral histories, quite a few of these people are younger, but their stories being told now will be very useful 50 years from now, a hundred years from now.”

Holly Baggett won the 2013 MCH Award for Best Article on Missouri History from The State Historical Society of Missouri for her article and research.




Thatcher thought Heath was gay, claims her biographer



Edward Heath | Allan Warren | 14280

Margaret Thatcher thought Edward Heath was gay, claims a new biography by Charles Moore. In an interview in 1974, before she challenged him for the leadership, Thatcher referred to Heath not having a family. Moore says it is “possible” she was deliberately hinting he was gay, in order to discredit him.

Speculation has always surrounded the private life of Mr Heath, who died in July 2005 aged 89. In 2007, Brian Coleman, the gay former Conservative London Assembly Member and ex-mayor of Barnet, claimed Heath was warned by police to stop cruising for sex as part of a vetting process in 1955. That year he became a privy councillor and chief whip under Prime Minister Anthony Eden. However, Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell, who became an MP in 1959, dismissed the claims. “I knew him well and would be astonished if he was a practising homosexual,” Sir Peter told the Mirror in 2007.


The Rainbow and Dove attack



Mitchell Dean | BBC | 14281

Mitchell Dean, 22, from Laindon, Essex, torched two men who were drinking in the garden of the Rainbow and Dove pub, in Leicester, on October 25th, 2011. A week earlier Dean had attacked another man in a similar fashion.

On 15 April 2013 Dean was detained under the Mental Health Act. Sentencing Dean at Basildon Crown Court, Judge David Owen-Jones said: “The physical and psychological effects on these three young men are agonising. Their lives have been shattered at a very young age. They’re three young lads who had so much to look forward to in life.”


The Rainbow and Dove pub, Leicester | BBC | 14282

Dean had suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for three years before he was diagnosed and was obsessed with fire. He would set fires in open spaces, once set fire to a goose, and threatened to set fire to horses in a field.

Dean had known 20-year-old David Chaplin for three years when he set fire to him in the early hours of 19 October 2011. They shared 15 beers at Mr Chaplin’s flat and Dean attempted to kiss his friend on the cheek. Mr Chaplin resisted, saying he “didn’t feel that way”. Dean doused his friend with petrol, threw a match at him and fled the scene, leaving him on fire. Mr Chaplin had 25-27% burns predominantly on his head, face and hands, had his finger tips amputated and was permanently scarred. Barry Chaplin, his father said his son is no longer able to work. David was going to start work as a carpenter before he was attacked.


Victim Russell Banks | BBC | 14283

Russell Banks, who was just 21 at the time of the incident, and Robert Laszewski, who was 20, were drinking together at the Rainbow and Dove on 25 October 2011 when Dean threw an accelerant at them, believed to be petrol. Both were engulfed in flames. CCTV showed Dean leaving the scene with his jacket on fire. Mr Banks suffered 32% burns to his body and has permanent scarring on his head, face, hands and neck while Mr Laszewski was burnt on his arms and face.


Douglas Byng



Douglas Byng in drag | Brighton Our Story | 14284

Douglas Coy Byng was born on 17 March 1893 in Nottingham and died on 24 August 1987 in Arundel Terrace, Brighton: he was an openly gay and camp drag artiste and pantomime dame, and music hall star. He made a number of recordings which survive and have been transferred to CD. A Brighton bus has been named after him.

He began appearing in public in 1914 and by 1925 was working with Noel Coward. He was famous for his (for the time) risqué double-entendres, such as his “Mexican Minnie”:

Come where the heat from the sun’s burning rays
Gets you so gaga you tear off your stays!
I’m Mexican Minnie, all jolly and ginny
I loll in the mountains all day.
Though I’m well off the map, I’m just covered in slap,
Luring brigands to come and play ha’penny nap.
But they get very reckless, and will stay to breakfast
Then go off refusing to pay.
I say, “Well you can go,
“I’m sick of the gang, so
“You shan’t see my tango today!

His famous numbers included: “Sex Appeal Sarah”, “Milly the Messy Old Mermaid” and “The Lass who Leaned against the Tower of Pisa”. His “Doris, the Goddess of Wind” was revived in Alan Bennett’s 2010 play The Habit of Art. He also appeared on television in the early 1960s, notably in Alan Melville’s series Before the Fringe.

He composed his own epitaph:

So here you are, old Douglas, a derelict at last.
Before your eyes what visions rise of your vermillion past.
Mad revelry beneath the stars, hot clasping by the lake.
You need not sigh, you can’t deny, you’ve had your bit of cake.


Mrs. Shufflewick and Patrick Newley



A Mrs Shufflewick LP Cover | Mouse | 14286

Mrs Shufflewick was the drag persona of Rex Jameson, real name Rex Coster, a music hall great and one of radio and TV’s most original and brilliant comics, who was bisexual, and bacame a Dame Comedian. Jameson was abandoned as a baby and brought up in Southend on Sea, Essex. He needed a stage name, and was drinking a Jameson’s at the time…

As homosexuality was outlawed at the time, he was courageous: he developed a cockney charlady character he named Gladys Shufflewick, when he appeared on BBC radio in 1950, becoming the first dame comedian to perform in female clothing on radio. He actually arrived, usually by taxi, already dressed and stayed in character. He was usually billed as Mrs Shufflewick, and many in the audience were unaware of Rex Jameson, taking Mrs Shufflewick to be a woman.

Born in 1924, just before his 59th birthday in 1983 he popped out to buy cigarettes and Guinness and dropped dead on the pavement. Over 500 people turned up for his funeral.

For many years his manager was Patrick Newley, who died age 54 in 2009. The Telegraph obituary noted: “Newley took on the task of pouring into cabs, and out of dressing rooms, the ageing drag artists Douglas Byng and Rex Jameson”.


Patrick Newley | Public domain | 14287

Newley was born Patrick Nicholas Galvin in Dublin on March 25 1955. In the 1960s the family moved to Brighton and Patrick was sent to a boarding school. By now well aware that he himself was gay, and showing typical 1960s style and panache, Newley dropped out of school at 14 to work in an underground bookshop owned by the American poet Bill Butler. He completed his education reading the banned Kids’ issue of Oz, and typesetting works by Aleister Crowley – and a hashish cookbook.

Newley first met Rex Jameson eking a meagre living on the gay club circuit. He had a great following, but so many fans sent round bottles of spirits that he sometimes forgot whole routines. Newley persuaded Dorothy Squires to include him in her 1974 London Palladium comeback. The show, attended by Barbara Cartland and Danny La Rue (“Which one is which?” someone asked) won “Shuff” a standing ovation and within a month he was the highest-paid act on the gay club scene.


How we were “treated”



Tech Crunch | 14288

San Francisco’s new science museum includes “a dingy 20th century exhibit on mental health”. Mental health clipboards detail the treatment of unfortunate individuals who were institutionalized and drugged for behaviors that, today, we would consider quite normal, including homosexuality.

“Normalcy is a shifting landscape,” explains co-curator Pamela Winfrey, who wants kids and adults alike to understand how medical science helps define convention.

“Frank C” was institutionalized for what doctors called a “homosexual panic.” After being discharged from military service 1942, he went berserk outside of a restaurant. He told physicians, “I know that I am in the Kings County Hospital. I am not sick. I got excited on Fulton Street and I was throwing garbage. My blood temper. I went up. I was angry. In the Virginia restaurant I got a broken plate…I thought that someone planned to kill me.” Doctors “suspected he feared his own latent homosexsual desires; at the time, this so-called ‘homosexual panic’ was believed to lead to paranoia…he was confined in calm and quiet surroundings and treated with medication”.”

Tech Crunch

Bar with colourful history closes in San Francisco



The bar inside 330 Ritch | Facebook | 14289

SFist informs us that following a nasty shooting inside the bar recently, San Francisco nightclub 330 Ritch has surrendered its licence and closed. The shooting left three people injured, one critically.

It appears there has been an increase in the number of shootings in San Francisco over recent months. “Supervisor David Chiu said that he and his district were optimistic that nightlife violence numbers in and around North Beach were going down, but he says, “Unfortunately over the last six to twelve months there’s been some indication that this is a problem that’s not going away.””


West Hollywood Wives | 14290

Long ago, in the days before AIDS, this building was the Ritch Street Baths, and there are still some open-air showers on the roof to prove it, says SFist.

The Ritch Street Baths is mentioned in the Tales of the City books by Armistead Maupin.

Opened in 1965 by gay community leader Rick Stokes and David Clayton, SF Gate describes the baths:

“a bathhouse near the Southern Pacific train station that was modeled on a Minoan temple in ancient Crete.”

Mr. Clayton told The San Francisco Chronicle in 1984 that early gay bathhouses were located in out-of-the-way places where “people going by would not be alerted to what type of establishment it was. At a time when most gay people were in the closet, they were places where you could sneak off to.” In 1977 Stokes and his original investors sold it to the national Club Baths Chain. The club was affected by an arson fire in 1977 when a number of bathhouse fires swept San Francisco. It closed down during the San Francisco bathhouse crisis in 1984.

Mr Stokes went to law school a year after he opened the baths and became a lawyer so he would have more access to power as a gay businessman. In 1971 he was named by the Family Services Agency of San Francisco as a member of the board of directors, and was one of the first out gay men appointed to such a position.

David Clayton died in 1995. He was a founder of Sacramento’s first gay organization, the Association for Responsible Citizenship, a major supporter of Theater Rhinoceros, the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and other arts institutions.