Death of Dennis Nilson


“Dennis Andrew Nilson, date of birth November 23, 1945, died in custody at HMP Full Sutton on Saturday May 12, 2018. As with all deaths in custody, there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probate Ombudsman.”

Prison Service Spokesman, 13 May 2018

The Muswell Hill Murderer was thirty four years into his whole life sentence when he died. He murdered his first victim, Stephen Holmes, who was only 14 years old, on 29 December 1978. Nilson then murdered a further fourteen young men in acts which the trial judge described as “almost unequalled savagery” at his home, ending with the murder of his last victim, Steve Sinclair, who was 20 years old, on 26 January 1983.

Nilson would sit with their corpses for days. He slept with their corpses, dressing and undressing them, moving them around his home and placing them in different positions, hide the bodies under the floorboards, then he would dismember them, burning the body parts and flushing them down the toilet to dispose of them.

His victims are all thought to be homosexual men he had picked up. They were:

Stephen Dean Holmes, age 14, died on 29.12.78

Kenneth Ockenden, age 26, died 3.12.79

Martyn Duffy, age 16, died 17.5.80

William Sutherland, age 26, died ?.8.80

Seven other men who have never been identified who died between 9.80 and 4.81

Malcolm Barlow, age 23, died 17.9.81

John Howlett, age 23, died ?.3.82

Graham Allen, age 27, died ?.9.82

Steve Sinclair, age 20, died 26.1.83.

We will always remember his victims.


Australia’s attempts to cure us of homosexuality



It’s pronounced metrosexual | 18313

Not six months after Australia voted to legalise same-sex marriage, a proposal to debate gay conversion therapies at the Liberal Party’s State Council was quashed by party president, Michael Kroger. Australia has long used gay conversion therapies to control homosexuality.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Colin Delaney, claimed in 1958 that homosexuality was “Australia’s greatest menace”. Homosexuals convicted for consenting sexual acts with other adult men were segregated and medicalised within the prison system.

Sydney-based Dr Neil McConaghy used conversion therapy during the 1960s and 1970s with what Michael Kirby has described as “the most energetic attempts”. Leading LGBTIQ figures of the time including Sue Wills and John Ware protested against the dangers of this therapy, and said it was a key motivation for their activism.

McConaghy’s practices included apomorphine therapy. This involved the injection of up to 6 mg of the morphine derivative to induce severe nausea when patients were shown photographs of men. He also required patients to read pleasurable words on homosexuality aloud, after which he applied electrical shocks to them.

There is still no scientific or medical evidence which supports or validates the use of conversion therapies. Hhomosexuality was removed as a disease from the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1987.

New York: Doing the Continental



Inside the Continental | Pierre Venant/Penske Media/Rex/Shutterstock | 18311

A documentary film based on the memoir, “Live at the Continental Baths” by the New York bath house’s founder, Steve Ostrow, is previewed in The Guardian. The Continental was in the basement of the Ansonia hotel on New York’s 74th Street and Broadway. It was cleaner than the Everard Baths, and had 400 private rooms, a sauna, a swimming pool and a dancefloor. Top name performers including Bette Midler (“Bathhouse Betty”) and Barry Manilow.

There was a teeny problem in New York in 1968 when the Continental opened. “Homosexuality was illegal. Two men dancing together was illegal. Very good-looking policemen would come in, rent a room, get into a towel, go into the steam room and then wait for someone to touch them. And then, from underneath the towel, out would come handcuffs. Then they’d arrest everybody in the place,” recalls Mr Ostrow. They would all be taken off to the police station still in their bath towels, and Mr Ostrow would go round and bail them all out again.
He estimates that the Baths were raided at least 200 times.

Fed up with paying protection money and bribes to stay open, the patrons and Mr Ostrow decided things had to change. “After we had the raids, we collected 250,000 signatures and marched on City Hall – there were about 100 or 200 of us – and we had the laws changed so that homosexuality in private among consenting adults was not illegal. And everything changed in the city. Everything opened up. And we were the ones who did that.”

Remembering Charles Pierce



Charles Pierce | Copyright control | Find a grave | 18310

Charles Pierce was born on July 14, 1926 and died on May 31, 1999, of cancer. He described himself as a “male actress” but had a major influence on gay and drag culture throughout his life. He combined a long career of theatre and club engagements, including in London, with numerous appearances on television in the US.

Queerty noted in 2016 that

The blazing career of self-proclaimed “male actress” Charles Pierce was launched in the clubs of San Francisco around the time the struggle for gay rights was kicked into full gear with the Stonewall riots on the opposite coast. With his dead-on satirical send-ups of screen immortals such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Tallulah Bankhead, Pierce quickly earned a devoted fan following and it was common to see celebrities of the day (ranging from Lucille Ball to Anthony Hopkins) in his audience.

Pierce was born in New York and began his show business career playing the organ and acting in radio dramas at station WWNY. He began playing in small gay clubs and went to live in San Francisco. He specialised in impersonating the female movie stars he loved while he was growing up, including Joan Crawford and Mae West.

“Few performers have Mr. Pierce’s energy and aplomb on stage,” wrote the San Francisco Examiner reviewer in 1990. “This man is an entertainer; he enjoys himself up there, lustfully commanding our attention and admiration.”

In the 1970s he brought his show for a limited run to the Fortune Theatre in London’s West End.


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.


Last baths in Chicago



Brittany Sowacke | 18301

Man’s Country was a Chicago bathhouse open since 1973, but it closed on New Year’s Eve 2018 following the death in 2017 of its founder, Chuck Renslow, of the city’s leather community. Mr Renslow was the founder of the International Mr. Leather contest.


Chuck Renslow, 1977 | Quentin Dodt/Tribune | 18302

Vice sent a photographer to record the premises before it was cleared and redeveloped.

Man’s Country wore its history on its walls, with portraits of famous patrons, nude men, and other artwork throughout reminding visitors that this wasn’t some staid, humorless bathhouse. In the basement (dubbed “The Pit,”) a huge sauna—once billed as the largest in the Midwest—sat opposite a shower and wet area modeled after Parisian sewers. In its past, part of the cavernous Man’s Country space was transformed into a dance club called Bistro Too, where acts like Boy George, Divine, and major disco stars performed, shifting some focus away from sex in the wake of the AIDS crisis. It also played host to a leather bar called the Chicago Eagle.

Following its final night, everything and anything inside, from architectural elements to artwork to the disco balls that patterned its dance floors for decades, was auctioned.

Mr. Renslow died on 29 June 2017 of heart problems and pneumonia.

Chuck Renslow obituary