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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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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German victims of Paragraph 175 to get compensation at last

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Gay prisoners in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen with pink triangles. Germany, December 1938 | Unknown photographer | Socialist Worker | 16448gh

Germany is set to compensate up to 50,000 men convicted under a historic law which was still in effect until the late 1960s. “Paragraph 175” was part of Germany’s criminal code from 1871 to 1994, and made homosexual acts between men a criminal offence.

Thousands of gay and bisexual men were arrested and incarcerated in NZI concentration camps. Those who managed to escape the camps were often arrested again under Paragraph 175. The persecution continued well after the end of World War II. Gay men were often socially ostracised as well as losing their homes and jobs.

Since the end of World War II, a total of over 140,000 men were convicted, and 50,000 were prosecuted under Paragraph 175.

€30m will be made available in compensation to survivors, depending on individual cases, and taking the length of sentence into consideration.

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Heiko Maas | Heiko Maas | 16449gh

Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the draft law, which will be formally announced later in October, will offer “relatively uncomplicated” individual claims, as well as allowing for collective claims.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/germany-compensate-50000-gay-men-who-were-jailed-their-sexual-orientation-1585450

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Edward Albee

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Edward Albee | Charles Hopkinson | 16409gh

Widely regarded as “America’s Greatest Living Playwright” following the death of Arthur Miller, Edward Albee died Sept. 16 after a short illness. He was 88. Albee’s partner of 34 years, sculptor Jonathan Thomas, died in 2005.

Albee enjoyed a meteoric rise to international success in the late 1950s and 1960s, winning the 1963 Best Play Tony Award for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice for A Delicate Balance ( 1967 ) and Seascape ( 1975 ).

Jonathan Abarbanel notes that

Three Tall Women was his most autobiographical work in which he created an openly homosexual character for the only time in his career, although one who does not speak. It’s a son dealing with his formidable mother who is seen as three different women at different ages. Nonetheless, a gay undercurrent can be detected in a number of his works, sometimes bordering on the overtly homo-erotic.

A generous and supportive man, he established a foundation in 1967 which still functions in support of The Barn, a center in Montauk, New York, providing residential support for artists of all disciplines. Albee was at The Barn when he died.

http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Remembering-Edward-Albee-/56577.html

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Bob Mizer’s photos and The Athletic Model Guild

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Model: Mike Diaks | Photo: Bob Mizer/Bob Mizer Foundation | 16297gh

Male nude photographer Robert Henry “Bob” Mizer was born on March 27, 1922 and died on May 12, 1992. His first photographs appeared when he was 20 years old. He specialised in male nude pictures especially of bodybuilders, and sold his photos through the mail, which got him into trouble with the US Postal Office in 1947, who did not like photographs of men wearing scanty posing pouches being sent through their system.

He is famous for establishing the influential studio, the Athletic Model Guild, in 1945, and for founding the magazine Physique Pictorial. Over 1,100 men were willing to pose for his photographs. There were so many models, in fact, he needed assistance to cope with the workload – and was joined in the venture by his brother Joe and Mother Delia!

Other photographers also entered the field, but subsequent photographers and artists including Robert Mapplethorpe and David Hockney cited Mizer as a key influence on their own careers.

The Guardian have published a collection of some of Mizer’s more famous photographs, and there are more at the Bob Mizer Foundation website.

Bob Mizer Foundation

Beefcakes and Monkeys – The Guardian

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Harold O’Neal and amateur gay films

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Still from “Vallejo,” 1947 | The Harold T. O’Neal Collection | The G.L.B.T. Historical Society | New Yorker | 16216gh

During the post war years and into the sixties, positive portrayals of gay men and lesbians living happy and successful lives were completely absent from films. During the British film boom from 1955 to 1965 there were a number of films which shed light on homosexual lifestyles (in Britain) but again the characters portrayed “had flaws”. For a more accurate reflection of what life was really like for gay men and lesbians, it is necessary not to look at the portrayals of mass media, but to look at the private films made on home movie cameras by amateur film makers of the time.

The New Yorker sheds more light on the matter.

Harold O’Neal was an amateur film maker who lived in San Francisco. Born in Stockton, California, in 1910, he was a reserved, somewhat shy man who worked for the Veterans Administration and in personnel for the Army Corps of Engineers. He kept his sexuality closely guarded, but made dozens of home movies which captured the rhythms and intimacies of gay social life long before it was allowed to flourish in the open.

One home movie shows a telegenic group of men on a getaway at a shoreline cabin in the Bay Area town of Vallejo, in 1947. The friends sunbathe, laugh together, mug for the camera with more than a touch of theatricality. A man picks some orange flowers and tucks them behind his ear; another wears a grass skirt and dances the hula.
Another movie, from 1946, shows a house party where guests in suits and ties smoke cigarettes and drink from dainty glasses. Men dance in pairs, hands clasped, a head against a cheek. One giddily air-claps to music the viewer cannot hear.

A fascinating article.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-moving-revelations-of-gay-home-movies

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Canada’s gay tests

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In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, the Canadian government hired professor Frank Robert Wake to devise a scientific test to determine whether a person was gay.

At the time the view was that homosexuals suffered from a character weakness that could make them disloyal and easy to manipulate. In the United States, in the grips of McCarthyism, homosexuals were seen as communist sympathizers.

The Canadian government compiled a list of people alleged, suspected or confirmed to be gay.

Wake, who was the chair of Carleton University’s psychology department, was asked to devise an easy and cheap method for determining a person’s sexual orientation. He came up with the “fruit machine” – a collection of psychological tests including one designed to detect how a subject’s pupil responds to images of naked or semi-naked men and women.

It never worked, and the project was eventually abandoned. Hundreds of people were fired or demoted from positions in the military or civil service after taking such “tests”.

http://www.ottawasun.com/2016/04/08/carleton-called-on-to-apologize-for-gay-testing

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When gay men fled the UK

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David Boyle writes in The Guardian about one of his ancestors, a gay man, who got caught up in the furore and witch hunt which followed the Pheonix Park Murders in Dublin in 1882, when republican terrorists stabbed the Irish secretary to death. At the time, Dublin was ruled by Britain.

The murders shocked the public on both sides of the Irish Sea, and to claw back the moral high ground Irish nationalist MPs launched a campaign to identify homosexuals in the Irish government or part of the establishment in Dublin – starting with the senior detective in charge of the Phoenix Park case, James Ellis French. The campaign led to huge torchlight processions and mass demonstrations in many towns and cities of Ireland. … Most of the defendants were acquitted – the main issue at stake was whether it was physically possible to commit sodomy in a hansom cab.

The murder became the excuse a zealous anti-homosexual MP, Henry Labouchère, his chance to tag onto an unrelated Bill, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, a clause entitled “Outrages against public decency” which had the effect of making sex between consenting adult men illegal. A situation which remained until 1967.

His amendment was debated at night in a few minutes, and only one MP queried whether it was relevant to the debate.

In 1895 after the passage of the Bill, Mr Boyle’s gay relative vanished from the records. The witch hunt had started in England. He records

Contemporary letters imply the same of many others – maybe many hundreds of them. One correspondent reported that there were 600 passengers queuing for the Calais ferry the night Oscar Wilde was arrested that April.

The train and ferry to Calais was a popular escape route, but there were others. Generations of gay men who wanted to be able to live without fear of arrest found other ways to get out of the UK. There were the forces; there was the Merchamt Navy. And there may have been other surreptitious ways to leave London, which remain undocumented in gay histories.

In his book “Mr Clive and Mr Page”, published in January 1996, twenty years ago this month, which was set in the 1920s, Neil Bartlett OBE, who was Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith from 1994 to 2005, wrote of one of the characters in his novel who booked a passage through Thomas Cook’s on a tea clipper. There was a regular clipper service between Riga and Hays Wharf, now a shopping centre but then a working wharf, adjacent to Tower Bridge. It is understood there was a small community of ex-patriate British gay men in Riga throughout the 1920s and 1930s, but your Activist’s enquiries of gay organisations in Riga have failed to elicit any information regarding this community or what happened to them at the outbreak of World War II (if they were still there then.)

After World War II another expatriate community of British gay men emerged in Tunis, North Africa.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has any further information about the migration of gay men from the UK following the 1885 Act.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/21/gay-ancestor-witch-hunt-sexual-behaviour

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/671989.Mr_Clive_And_Mr_Page

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/neilbartlett

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David Maxwell Fyfe

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David Maxwell Fyfe | Date: 1954 | Press Association | 15492

Sir David Maxwell Fyfe was a British Conservative politician, lawyer and judge who combined a legal career with politics as Solicitor General, Attorney General, Home Secretary and Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.

It was as Home Secretary that David Maxwell Fyfe oversaw the crackdown on homosexual men in Britain. Prior to becoming Home Secretary he was one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials and was instrumental in drafting the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Home Secretary his decisions were often controversial, such as his decision not to grant clemency to Derek Bentley. He was removed from Government in 1962 by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, during a Cabinet reshuffle.

For the homosexual community he was a puzzling figure at the time of the purges, for he as Home Secretary was responsible for setting up the Wolfenden Committee and giving it the job of reviewing the laws surrounding homosexuality. Then, elevated to the House of Lords, he led the opposition to implementing the findings of the very same Committee he had set up!

As late as 1965 – just two years before the 67 Act – he still opposed law reform for homosexuals, saying he was against licensing ‘buggers’ clubs’ which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London and telling Sir Robert Boothby that it was not his intention to legalise homosexuality: “I am not going down in history as the man who made sodomy legal.”

Not exactly a gay icon, then, he died in January 1967, so he did not live to see the 67 Act being passed.

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Patricia Highsmith and The Price of Salt

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“Carol” | The Weinstein Company – Rooney Mara, left, and Cate Blanchett | Wilson Webb/AP | 15489

Fans of the unsettling thrillers of Patricia Highsmith – and their many movie adaptations – should prepare for a new classic among Highsmith movies in Carol, Todd Haynes’s sombrely rapturous filming of the most atypical work in the author’s oeuvre, her early lesbian romance The Price Of Salt. Published in 1952 under a pseudonym, it enjoyed cult bestseller status with a largely lesbian readership for 30 years,

writes John Patterson in The Guardian reviewing the new film “Carol” which is an adaptation of her 1950s book “The Price of Salt”.

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The original edition | 15490

When The Price of Salt was first published in paperback in 1953, Highsmith was flooded with thousands of letters from readers. The letters came addressed to the author “Claire Morgan,” the pseudonym she had used for the book. Highsmith had been working in a department store while submitting mystery stories to digest-size magazines.

While by no means the first novel to tackle lesbian issues, the book became successful. Nathan Smith commented,

“The Price of Salt” was a landmark book for queer America, offering readers a powerful and hopeful ending.”

Moreover it started a publishing phenomenon.

As a 25-cent paperback with a lurid cover, The Price of Salt entered a growing market. A wave of lesbian pulp novels had first begun being published in the early 1950s, notably Women’s Barracks (1950) and Spring Fire (1952), both of which sold more of than a million copies each. Although these paperbacks were marketed as a cheap and tawdry form of entertainment, they offered many women solace and comfort in the knowledge that they were not the only ones struggling with their sexual identity. As an act of secretive reading, the lesbian pulp novel formed an invisible lesbian community,

explains Smith in New Republic.

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Patricia Highsmith | Uncredited/Denver Library | 15491

American novelist and short story writer Mary Patricia Plangman (Patricia Highsmith) was born on January 19, 1921 in Texas and died on February 4 1995. Her grandmother taught her to read and write and by the age of 9 she is said to have read and enjoyed The Human Mind by Karl Menninger, about Freudian analysis. Her short stories started appearing in print from 1942. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950 and became a famous Hitchcock film. The Price of Salt was her second novel, although she did not associate herself with it publicly for many years.

Patricia Highsmith was an unusual individual who was fonder of cats than other people yet had the ability to communicate so well with so many people. She may have been an alcoholic. Wikipedia records that

Highsmith had sexual relationships with women and men. She never married or had children.

Highsmith died of aplastic anemia and cancer in Locarno, Switzerland, aged 74, with her place and importance in gay history and gay literature, assured.

http://www.centredaily.com/entertainment/celebrities/article47542225.html

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/nov/23/carol-patricia-highsmith-todd-haynes

https://newrepublic.com/article/124220/patricia-highsmith-offered-gay-readers-hopeful-ending

https://www.denverlibrary.org/blog/patricia-highsmith

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