The New York Times asked six of its gay journalists to look back at the way they had covered HIV/Aids and how easy it had been for them to work at the NYT during those times.
What emerged was a picture of a newsroom that often forced its L.G.B.T. journalists to choose between their career ambitions and their desire to have an openly queer life. The Times spent much of the 1980s figuring out how to cover gays as real people with newsworthy problems. It was also deeply unsure of how to deal with its gay employees, whose sexuality may have seemed, to those in management, to be at odds with the pedigree the institution wanted to uphold.
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 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.
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.
The Crowbar, New York, 1994 | Posed picture | Luis Carle | 17124
Luis Carle is a New York based artist-photographer who was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1962 and moved to New York City in 1984 to study photography at Parsons School of Design. His photos have been exhibited in many countries.
He sees his work as a bridge between the gay and straight communities, between the younger and older generations of the L.G.B.T. community, and between the past and the present. He was 17 when he came out in San Juan in 1980, and in subsequent years witnessed the AIDS crisis, the culture wars, and the march toward broader gay rights. All along, he made pictures of his community and the seismic waves that were reshaping it.
Luis Carle, 2017 | Jake Naughton | 17125
To preserve their memory and the contributions of the Puerto Rican LGBTQ community, in 1992 Carle formed a collective of Puerto Rican artists called the Organization of Puerto Rican Artists, Inc. (O.P. Art, Inc.), a supportive group of about 100 creative people.
“My generation was the one between oppression and freedom,” he said. “I feel proud of seeing both sides. I was right there in that period of time and my work documented some of the magic that went on in those days. A lot of that is not going to happen anymore.”
The Canadian government building | Canadian Government Executive | 17119
The Canadian government is expected to become the next country to apologise to former gay staff in the federal civil service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Armed Forces who were interrogated and harassed from the 1950s to the 1990s because of their sexuality.
During the Cold War, hundreds of gay men and lesbians in Canada lost government and military jobs because of their sexual orientation during the “LGBT purge”.
Gay men and lesbians in the civil service and the military were believed to pose a security risk, and thought to be vulnerable to blackmail by Soviet agents.
Hundreds of people are believed to have lost their jobs during four decades. Others were demoted, transferred, or denied promotion. Some were given the choice between being dismissed or undergoing psychiatric treatment.
A lie detector | Canadian War Museum | 17118
A notorious “fruit machine”, similar to the lie detector pictured, was developed by researcher Frank Robert Wake. It was a crude detector which was intended to identify homosexuals by monitoring the dilation of their pupils when they were shown pornography. Plagued with problems, the project was mothballed.
Activists have been working for many years in Canada to remedy the situation. In 1992, Michelle Douglas, a former army officer, helped bring an end to discriminatory policies towards gays and lesbians. After being discharged from the army because she was a lesbian, she launched a legal challenge. On the eve of the trial the military settled the case and changed its personnel policies.
In 1996 the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation. In June 2017 Canada added gender identity and gender orientation to the Act.
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.”