Monthly Archives: April 2020

Discover the Most Deadliest…Spectacular & Dramatic… Staircases in the World

This is two different articles on the world‘s deadliest…and most spectacular…staircases, so there are a couple of double-ups which I have left, as the photographs are different. First article has been edited for clarity.

From way back, stairs are constructed to help in climbing heights, and to reduce the efforts associated with it. However, in some parts of the world, stairs are so terrifying that they look like nothing but passages leading to hell. They are scary in their design, and most of them have claimed lives. Here we present to you the scariest stairways in the world. Walk and be safe!

Pailon del Diablo Waterfall, Ecuador

Located adjacent to a stunning waterfall, and tropical scenery, this staircase is nothing short of a scary walk. The stairs are constructed with oversized pebbles to provide traction. However, the stairs are almost the same colour and blend in a way that creates an illusion of a stone slide. Moreover, they are slippery from the constant drizzle of the waterfall. Though there is a metal railing, it becomes useless after a drenching from the constant mist of water spray.

Half Dome, Cable Route, California

Half Dome, Cable Route, California

Stretching some 13 kms, The Half Dome Cable Route is a scary walk that takes you to an elevation of about 4,800 ft. In earlier days, because of the difficulty of the climb, the trail used to see fewer people, but in recent times its popularity has grown wider, with 800 visitors a day. This hiking trail takes you to the Vernal and Nevada Falls, then into Yosemite Valley to finally reach the Half Dome.

Janssen Observatory, Mont Blanc, France

Janssen Observatory, Mont Blanc, France

Located at the top of the magnificent mountain Le Mont Blanc, the stairs of the Janssen Observatory are something you should think twice about. Though the steps are short and are lined with a strong railing, it’s not the structure but the placement of the stairs which makes you feel nauseous.

Mount Huashan Heavenly Stairs, China

Mount Huashan Heavenly Stairs, China

Situated near the city of Huayin, Mt Hua Shan is a magnificent mountain that houses a steep, heavenly staircase. The walkway consists of a three-plank-wide path, with only side chains to hold and put your weight on to reach the next step. However, the moment you reach the final step, every risk that you have taken is rewarded with the most amazing views of the surroundings.

Flrli Stairs, Norway

Flrli Stairs, Norway

Located around the town of Lysefjord, this fascinating stairscase is featured in this list for two reasons: the stairs have 4,444 steps, and is sited at an altitude of 2,427 feet. Constructed wholly out of wood, this scary staircase takes you on a journey full of risk and adventure.

Haiku Stairs, Oahu, Hawaii

Haiku Stairs, Oahu, Hawaii

Leading up to the Oahus Koolau Mountain Range, Haiku Stairs are so steep and dangerous that it is illegal to climb, so much so that there is a guard placed at the bottom to stop anyone from going up. Also called the Highway to Heaven, the place is nothing short of the ultimate daredevil hike.

Taihang Mountains Spiral Staircase, China

Taihang Mountains Spiral Staircase, China

Attracting tourist from all over the world, this site in China is not for those who suffer from Vertigo. This 300 ft spiral staircase which is installed on the walls of the mountain, is in Linzhou and offers the most adventure-filled experience for mountaineers. The site follows age restrictions, and strict guidelines for the safety of those visiting it.

Angkor Wat Temple Stairs, Cambodia

Angkor Wat Temple Stairs, Cambodia

It is believed that the steps were made so steep to remind climbers about heaven, and the hardships you have to go through to attain it. This staircase is ancient, almost 70 percent inclined, with the risk falling constantly present .

Batu Caves, Malaysia

Batu Caves, Malaysia

Situated around a mountain about 8 miles from Kuala Lampur, Batu caves is a famous Hindu holy site in India, housing one of the highest and most dangerous stairways to climb. The stairway consists of 272 steps and takes you to the height of 330 feet, to the main temple.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
There is nothing like the Sagrada Familia, as you tackle this dangerous staircase in the bell tower of the basilica . The staircase coils around the tightly spiral walls and there is no railing to help you during your climb. And just to keep your nerves on edge, there will be large numbers of people walking up and down at the same time, making it all the more risky.

Duomo di Milano, Milan

Duomo di Milano, Milan

Any travelers visit to Milan is incomplete without visiting its famous Cathedral filled with more than 2,000 statues. But, in order to discover this landmark, you need to walk through the steep staircase in a shaft that remains congested with the crowd. The walk is indeed scary!

Inca Stairs, Peru

Inca Stairs, Peru
Leading to the Moon Temple at Machu Picchu, there are 600 feet or more of steep, slippery, cloud-covered granite rocks, that the Inca carved more than 500 years ago into the side of Huayna Picchu (the peak in everyone’s photos), which leads to the rarely visited Moon Temple—and a spectacular view of the ruins. The park limits the climb to the first 400 visitors each morning, and has added some metallic chains in the worst parts, so hold on because on one side is a sheer, damp wall and on the other, a straight drop into the Urubamba river.
Inside the statue of liberty Stairs, New York

Liberty Stairs, New York
Do you know that inside of the Statue of Liberty, is a dangerous stairscase that can literally take your breath away? After exploring the museum in the pedestal and going to visit the crown, there is a climb that can be called one of the deadliest staircases in the world. The climb itself is 354 steps, almost 20 storeys, and it is advised only for those in good physical health. Children who are at least 4 feet tall and accompanied by a responsible adult can be allowed to visit.

Discover 21 of the world’s most spectacular staircases

These staircases aren’t just a means of movement—they’re dramatic works of art.

DUISBURG, GERMANY Loop, curve, and climb up to nearly 69 feet on the walkable roller coaster, Tiger & Turtle Magic Mountain. Even with the epic loops closed off by a barrier to the public, the art installation’s twisted metal staircase gives amusement park lovers a new perspective on the classic and exhilarating ride. With 249 steps making up the walkway, visitors can catch striking views of the Rhine, and at night, the handrails are illuminated with LED lights.

PARIS, FRANCE Located in one of the world’s most well-known opera houses, the Palais Garnier’s staircases are rich in opulent beauty, intricate carvings, and detailed artwork.

CASABLANCA, MOROCCO The marble stairs in the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Africa, provides a beautiful foundation to the soaring arches, wide windows, and decorative wood carvings.

OʻAHU, HAWAII Once a path used during World War II to access a radio station antenna on top of Puu Keahi a Kahoe, the Haʻikū Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, climbs nearly 2,500 feet over O’ahu, Hawaii. While the nearly 4,000-step ladder provides stunning views of the island, it is illegal to climb the stairs from top to bottom after the government closed it due to massive weather damage. If caught taking the trek up, you may be slapped with a thousand-dollar fine on the way down.

SINGAPORE, REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE Used as the command center during the Malayan Campaign and the Battle of Singapore in World War II, the Battle Box was an underground bunker beneath Fort Canning Hill. Explorers can take the cobbled steps down to see where the British made the decision to surrender Singapore to invading Japanese in 1942.

ABHANERI, RAJASTHAN, INDIA Consisting of 3,500 narrow steps over 13 stories, Chand Baori is one of the largest stepwells in the world. In Hinduism, water is a safe boundary between heaven and Earth and provided cleansing powers. Stepwells like Chand Baori were not only a place people could gather to find water and shelter from the heat, but also a haven for bathing, prayer, and meditation.

XINJIANG, CHINA Following the natural grooves of the Tianshan Grand Canyon, these stairs give climbers stunning views of the wonders that lie below.

PORTO, PORTUGAL Rumoured to have been J.K. Rowling’s inspiration when designing Hogwart’s magical moving stairs, the opulent red staircase in Livraria Lello brings its own magic to Muggles in Porto, Portugal.

MUNICH, GERMANY Two spiral staircases dance and twist to create “Umschreibung,” a 30-foot-tall sculpture whose name translates to “transcription” or “rewriting.” The flights interlock at the peak to create a continuous loop. Erected in 2004 by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, the stairs can be found in front of the KPMG building complex in Schwanthalerhöhe.

PERU Tucked away in the Andes Mountains, the 26-mile-long Inca Trail to Machu Picchu boasts much of the original Incan architecture from the 15th century.

VATICAN CITY, ITALY Inspired by the original Bramante Staircase created by Donato Bramante in 1505, Giuseppe Momo’s 1932 take on the iconic staircase allows people to ascend and descend without ever crossing paths. The ornate bronze balustrade around the stairs is illuminated by the glass ceiling above.

VENICE, ITALY Resembling a snail’s spiraling shell, the Scala Contarini del Bovolo is a hidden gem in the Venetianneighborhood of San Marcos. Travelers can climb to the top of its 80 steps to find beautiful views over the rooftops of the city.

BANOS, ECUADOR The stairs around the dramatic waterfall El Pailón del Diablo, or the Devil’s Cauldron, are studded with observation platforms and jaw-dropping backgrounds. Raincoats are recommended and make sure to approach the slippery steps with caution.

BASEL, SWITZERLAND Just outside the Bahnhof St. Johann tram stop in downtown Basel, Switzerland, these stairs spiral to the heavens.

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA Considered one of Pittsburgh’s first skyscrapers, the Bank Tower’s decorated marble staircase coils in semicircles from the lobby to the 16th floor.

HALSTEREN, NETHERLANDS Visitors can now explore the Fort de Roovere and submerge themselves in the fort’s moat thanks to the Moses Bridge Stairs. Originally an inaccessible island, builders created a sunken bridge so restorations could be made on the 17th-century Dutch fort. To preserve the natural appearance of the island, the bridge sinks walkers into the moat, and two dams at each end ensure that people stay dry.

GAZTELUGATXE, SPAIN Familiar to Game of Thrones fans, the tiny island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is connected to the mainland by a manufactured stone bridge. The narrow path leading up to a 10th-century church zigs and zags over 241 steps and fills visitors with awe. Pro tip: There is a local legend that after you reach the top you should ring the church bell three times and make a wish.

ROME, ITALY Made famous by the 1953 film Roman Holiday, the Trinità dei Monti steps, or Spanish Steps, were designed by the architect Francesco De Sanctis in the 1700s. A steep climb, the 174 steps are between the Piazza di Spagna and the church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti.

BATU CAVES, MALAYSIA The Batu Caves, home to 13 Hindu temples, received a major makeover in August 2018. The 272 steps leading up to the caves were painted rainbow as part of site-wide renovation project.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS Locally known as the 66 steps, the Queen’s Staircase was built in the late 1700s to provide direct access from Fort Fincastle to Nassau City. While there are technically 66 steps, only 65 are visible due to the first step being paved over with asphalt in a restoration project.

ZÜRICH, SWITZERLAND To celebrate the Masoala Rainforest’s 10th anniversary in 2013, the Zoo Zürich opened the treetop walkway, so visitors can feel like they are a part of the jungle when discovering its native creatures. Comprised of two steel towers, each structure is covered in lianas and epiphytes, and a kapok tree grows in the middle of the large tower.

OTHER

El Peñón de Guatapé

© THE COLOMBIAN WAY/ GETTY IMAGES

Location: Colombia
Steps: 740
Rating: Tough, but not difficult
Also known as El Peñol, the Rock of Guatapé was once worshipped by Tahamies Indians. You can pay homage to the 656-foot high monolith by taking the 740 steps to the top of the uniquely surreal staircase built into the side of the rock.

Lion Rock

© EMAD ALJUMAH / GETTY IMAGES

Location: Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Steps: 1,200
Rating: Not hard
Sri Lanka’s Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress where a 5th century king built a palace on the summit and decorated its sides with colorful frescoes. Among the wonders is the Lion Staircase (pictured). The climb is not long, but those steps are steep.

Great Wall of China

© SINO / GETTY IMAGES
Location: China
Steps: 5,164 along the 26-mile marathon route
Rating: Hard — the steps go on forever
The official length of the Great Wall of China is 13,170 miles. Just along one 26-mile stretch — the official course of the Great Wall of China marathon — there are 5,164 stone steps. That’s a lot of steps.

Baroque Spiral Staircase of Melk Abbey

WHERE: Melk, Austria 

Melk Abbey was founded in 1089 and sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube River. The spiral staircase with Roccoco grate leads from the small library room to other library rooms, which are closed to the public. The undersides of the stone steps have been painted in great detail, adding to Melk Abbey’s reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful monastic sites. Other highlights are the stately royal rooms, the golden, glittering church, and the ceiling fresco by Austrian painter Paul Troger.

Tulip Stairs

WHERE: London, England 

In the Queen’s House in Greenwich, the elegant Tulip Stairs, an original feature from the 17th century, were the first geometric self-supporting spiral stairs in Britain. The bright shade of blue paint that coats the wrought-iron structure is made of crushed glass, and restaurateurs have followed this method ever since. The name of the stairs comes from the floral patterns on it, though the flowers in the balustrade are believed to be fleurs-de-lis. In 1966, the Rev R. W. Hardy’s took a famous “ghost” photograph which appears to depict two or three shrouded figures on the Tulip Stairs.

Barney’s Downtown

Monumental Steps of Bom Jesus do Monte

WHERE: Braga, Portugal 

Bom Jesus do Monte is a pilgrimage site outside the city of Braga with an outdoor Baroque staircase that climbs 381 feet. The staircase of dark granite covered in white plaster is known as the Sacred Way and leads to the 18th-century sanctuary of Bom Jesus (Good Jesus) on top of the hill. Although there are no visions or saints associated with the place, many pilgrims choose to uphold tradition and climb up the zig-zagging 577 steps on their knees. Each sense (sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste) is represented by a different fountain along the stairways giving the idea of purification of the faithful.

Reference

How Led Zeppelin III Was Their Most Misunderstood Album

Inspired by Welsh countryside, suffused with folk, acoustic and pastoral music, it was the Zeppelin album that confounded critics but truly brokered their legend

Image credit: Getty Images)
This article originally appeared in Classic Rock #198.

Nineteen sixty-nine was one helluva year for Led Zeppelin. In the short span of 12 months they played close to 150 shows, recorded two best-selling albums, toured the US five times, and established themselves as one rock’s top box-office draws. In the harsh winter of ’68 they had been lucky to get $1,500 (around £883) for a club gig, but by the time 1970 rolled around, they were demanding as much as six figures a show.

The band’s meteoric rise had been breathless. While the music press weren’t particularly kind to them, their dramatic, sexually explicit hard rock was almost irresistible to a new generation of kids searching for something new and exciting that wasn’t “the same old Beatles and Stones”. But after a year of non-stop touring, recording and shagging, the band were ready to take a break.

It was singer Robert Plant’s idea to head for the hills – the Cambrian Mountains in Wales, to be exact. The 22-year-old remembered an 18th-century cottage called Bron-Yr-Aur he had visited in his youth, and felt it would be great place to temporarily escape life in the fast lane and commune with nature. Plant extended an invitation to his co-writer, guitarist and producer Jimmy Page, and in the spring, the two men took their women, instruments and supplies to the bucolic retreat to recharge their batteries and “get back to the garden”.

“It was time to take stock, and not get lost in it all,” Plant said later. And what better way to keep it real than at a place with no electricity, candles for light, water from a stream and an outside toilet?

The story of Plant and Page’s regenerative trek to Wales looms large in Zeppelin folklore, with many assuming that most of the acoustic-based songs that eventually appeared on Led Zeppelin III were written there. Page disputes that notion, but doesn’t dismiss the significance of the journey.

“When Robert and I went to Bron-Yr-Aur we weren’t thinking: ‘Let’s go to Wales and write,’” says Page. “The original plan was to just go there, hang out and appreciate the countryside. The only song we really finished while we were there was That’s The Way, but being in the country established a standard of travelling for inspiration and set a tone for Led Zeppelin III.”

Celebration day, Zeppelin on stage at the Bath Festival, June 1970 (Image credit: Getty Images

While it might not have been conceived as a writing trip, the singer and guitarist’s stay in the Welsh mountains was deemed important and influential enough to be acknowledged on the album’s sleeve, stating: ‘Credit must be given to Bron Y Aur a small derelict cottage in South Snowdonia for painting a somewhat forgotten picture of true completeness which acted as an incentive to some of these music statements.’

Little did the band know that this ‘incentive’ and subsequent ‘tone’ would end up sending massive shockwaves throughout the rock world. Led Zeppelin’s pastoral third album was recorded at Olympic Studios in London and released in October 1970. It seemed almost self-destructively perverse – a 360-degree retreat from the testosterone-infused hard rock that had made them international superstars.

John Bonham teased the press about the band’s intended direction when Zeppelin regrouped for the first studio sessions of III in late May. ‘’We’ll be recording for the next two weeks and we are doing a lot of acoustic stuff as well as the heavier side,” he told the Melody Maker. “There will be better quality songs than on the first two albums.’’

The drummer wasn’t wrong. Six of the 10 tracks on the third album were built around the sweet ’n’ bitter strains of Page’s acoustic Harmony guitar as the band touched on everything from traditional bluegrass (Gallows Pole) to country blues (Hats Off To (Roy) Harper), to a folk song so upbeat you could square-dance to it (Bron-Y-Aur Stomp). To emphasise the rustic nature of the album, Zeppelin even changed their appearance, growing facial hair to Hobbit-like proportions and wearing clothes that made them look more like hippie farmers than sex gods. Fans and critics were dazed and confused, but the band stood their ground.

“We were so far ahead that it was difficult for people to know what the hell we were doing,” Page told journalist Brad Tolinski in the 2012 book Light & Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page. “Critics especially couldn’t relate to it. Led Zeppelin was growing. Where many of our contemporaries were narrowing their perspective, we were really being expansive. I was maturing as a composer and player, and there were many kinds of music that I found stimulating, and with this wonderful group I had the chance to be really adventurous.”

Soon after the album’s release, Page was keen to emphasise Zeppelin’s evolution. “There is another side to us’’ he said. “Everyone in the band is going through changes. There are changes in the playing and the lyrics. Robert is really getting involved in his lyric writing. This album was to get across more versatility and use combinations of instruments. I haven’t read any reviews yet, but people have got to give the LP a reasonable hearing.’’

Jimmy Page, more hippie farmer than sex god for Zep III (Image credit: Getty Images)

Page would go on to read the reviews. Some writers went so far as to accuse the band of jumping on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young acoustic-rock bandwagon, which Page called “pathetic”, noting that acoustic guitars were all over the first two albums and arguing that they were at the core of everything the band did. The reviews so incensed the guitarist that he refused to grant any press interviews for the next 18 months after the album’s release.

Plant, at the time Led Zeppelin III came out, was more direct: “You can just see the headlines, can’t you? ‘Led Zeppelin go soft on their fans’ or some crap like that. But now that we’ve done [this album] the sky’s the limit. It shows we can change. It means there are endless possibilities for us to go in. We won’t go stale, and this proves it.”

The truth is, the third album should have come as no surprise to anyone paying full attention to the band. The radical seeds that sprouted onIII had been planted years earlier. Throughout the 60s, as Page toiled as London’s top session guitarist, very little escaped his attention. Like a musical sponge, he absorbed every lick the Chicago blues boom had to offer, took copious notes on contemporary folk-guitar virtuosos like John Fahey and Bert Jansch, and even purchased a sitar years before world music caught the attention of Beatle George Harrison.

He had already started applying those exotic flavours to rock’n’roll during his brief stint with The Yardbirds, and developed those ideas further on such early Zeppelin tracks as Black Mountain Side, which featured an Indian tabla musician, and Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You, which improbably married a Joan Baez song to heavy metal power chords and a flamenco guitar solo. The acoustic songs, Page opined, were designed to create dynamics both on the albums and in live performances, and that the harder songs “wouldn’t have as much impact without the softer ones”.

Yes, some thought Led Zeppelin III was commercial suicide, but in retrospect it was a brilliant gambit. Not only did the album prevent the quartet from becoming hard-rock caricatures like, say, Deep Purple or Ten Years After, but it also gave them an opportunity to take an important evolutionary leap forward. Often marginalised as ‘the acoustic album’, III was much more than that: it represented a truly daring leap in synthesising the folk, rock and world music elements found on the band’s first two albums into what one thinks of as ‘the Led Zeppelin style’.

The tense and mysterious Friends, for example, was the result of an experimental tuning Page designed specifically to capture the droning vibe heard in North African music. With its Eastern tonalities and ominous string arrangement reminiscent of English composer Gustav Holst’s Mars, Friends was undeniably a gateway to future masterworks like Kashmir and Four Sticks. And it makes you wonder if Stairway To Heaven or Over The Hills And Far Away would have existed without stylistic forerunners like That’s The Way or Gallows Pole.

Page was spreading his wings, and the Zeppelin III sessions also gave Robert Plant the opportunity to grow as a songwriter. No longer forced to simply beat his chest and crow about the size of his knob, he wrote his first truly great lyric, for That’s The Way. Amid Page’s cascading acoustic guitars, dulcimer and weeping pedal steel, Plant weaves a mournful southern Gothic tale on a par with Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 hit Ode To Billie Joe. With its haunting ambiguity, the song could be about class, racism, homosexuality or even ecological disaster. It’s sophisticated, secretive and flat-out beautiful. And, Lord knows, it’s a far cry from ‘I’m gonna give you every inch of my love’.

Plant has said the third album was “incredibly important for my dignity”. Perhaps the same could be said for the entire band.

Led Zeppelin were daring, but not crazy enough to completely abandon hard rock. While the album has its share of quiet moments, it also has plenty of loud ones – peculiar as they may be.

Immigrant Song is one of the heaviest and most exciting tracks in the band’s entire catalogue. On the surface it seems pretty straightforward, until you realise it’s a song about Vikings, the main vocal riff sounds like Bali Ha’i from the Broadway musical South Pacific, and that the rhythm guitar borrows from Link Wray’s rockabilly classic Rumble.

Its lyrical inspiration came when Zeppelin took some time out from the studio and ventured to Iceland to play a show in on June 22 as part of a cultural exchange arranged by the British Government. Their first gig in the best part of three months, it took place at Reykjavik’s Laugardalsholl Sports. More importantly, just as the Welsh mountains had proved inspiring earlier in the year, Plant let his imagination run riot as he contemplated Iceland’s endless day.

“It was one of those times when you go to bed at night but you don’t sleep because the daylight’s still there – a 24-hour day,” the singer said. “There was just an amazing hue in the sky, and it was one of those things that made you think of Vikings and big ships – and John Bonham’s stomach.”

Less than a week later the band returned to the UK to headline the Bath Festival Of Blues & Progressive Music. The new song had already made such an impact on Zeppelin that they chose to open the show with it, and the British public heard Immigrant Song for the first time.

Unsurprisingly, their Bath show was a sensation, prompting Melody Maker to enthuse: ‘Led Zeppelin stormed to huge success at the Bath Festival. About 150,000 fans rose to give them an ovation. They played for over three hours – blues, rock’n’roll and pure Zeppelin. Jimmy Page, in a yokel hat to suit the Somerset scene, screamed into attack on guitar, John Paul Jones came into his own on organ as well as bass, and John Bonham exploded his drums in a sensational solo. And the crowd went wild demanding encore after encore… a total of five

“Bath was a turning point in recognition for us,” Page said. “There have been one or two magical gigs and Bath was one of them.”

“Bath was great,” remembered manager Peter Grant later. “I went down to the site unbeknown to [promoter] Freddie Bannister, and I found out from the Met Office what time the sun was setting, and it was right behind the stage. And by going on at eight in the evening I was able to bring the lights up a bit at a time. And it was vital we went on to match that.”

Page, “Bath was a turning point for us” (Image credit: Getty Images

Even more crucially than any show-stopping sunset appearance, the Bath gig would herald a new era in Zeppelin’s evolution. Midway through their set, Jimmy Page swapped his Gibson Les Paul for a Martin acoustic guitar, and John Paul Jones picked up a mandolin. As Page played a few opening chords, Plant stepped to the mic. “This is called The Boy Next Door, for want of a better title [a better title would emerge – That’s The Way, when it finally appeared on Led Zeppelin III]” he said. It was the first time Led Zeppelin played acoustically in the UK.

It isn’t all folky acoustic bluster on Led Zeppelin III; there’s Since I’ve Been Loving You, a standard three-chord, 12-bar minor blues that actually has way more than three chords and who knows how many bars, because the damn thing never seems to repeat. Or what about Celebration Day, a song that sounds like a berserk Slinky due to the fact that John Paul Jones is playing his bass with a guitar slide?

Like I said, loud but peculiar.

Then, of course, there was the matter of the Aleister Crowley quote etched into the run-off groove of early pressings of the album. Yes, the Beatles had put his image among many others on the cover of 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, but this seemed a little more covert; a little more dangerous, adding another disturbing layer to the already dark mythology of Led Zeppelin.

The phrase ‘Do what thou wilt’ and ‘So mote it be’ were inscribed on the vinyl by recording engineer Terry Manning during the final mastering process: ‘Do what thou wilt’ on side one, and ‘So mote it be’ on side two. The phrases were homage to Crowley, a practitioner of black magic who was once called “the most evil man in England”, and whom Page was quite enamoured with.

This phrase is from one of the fundamental principles of Aleister Crowley’s philosophy of Thelema: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will. There is no law beyond do what thou wilt.”

By the time of the release of the album, it was still rather an open secret that Page was interested in the dark arts, and the inscriptions on the album were one of the first public signifiers. It wouldn’t be until the next year that the guitarist would buy Crowley’s Loch Ness estate Boleskine House. This was something Page would downplay later, explaining to Rolling Stone in 1976: “I do not worship the devil. But magic does intrigue me. Magic of all kinds. I bought Crowley’s house to go up and write in. The thing is, I just never get up that way. Friends live there now.”

Page takes a seat at the Forum in LA in 1970 (Image credit: Getty Images

Whenever he’s queried today, Page silences any conversation on the subject by advising the hapless interrogator: “Forget the myths. Because it was really all about the music.”

Which mostly it was, and moving forward into the future. This was a band who were staunchly opposed to repeating what they’d done before. “There was no way the third album was going to be like the first. If there was a Zeppelin philosophy, it was always: ‘Ever onwards. Let’s see what we can do next,’” Page said in 2005.

“With Since I’ve Been Loving You, we were setting the scene of something that was yet to come,” says Page. “It was meant to push the envelope. We were playing in the spirit of the blues, but trying to take it into new dimensions dictated by the mass consciousness of the four players involved.

The same thing goes for the folk stuff as well. It’s sort of, ‘Well, this is how it was done in the past, but it now has to move.’ There was no point in looking back. We were just inspired with this energy that we had collectively.”

“On Hats Off To (Roy) Harper, Robert and I were just singing and playing in the tradition of Sonny Terry And Brownie McGhee. Then we put the vocal and harmonica through an amp and turned on the tremolo, and suddenly it sounded edgy and surreal. It was a perfect way to end the album. We were tipping our hat to the country blues, but presented it in a way that no one else had done.”

Perhaps the most surreal thing about Led Zeppelin III is that, after all these years, its time may have finally come. While it will never be their biggest album, it might be their most contemporary. Think about it: ‘dudes with beards, wearing expensive thrift-shop clothing, playing edgy folk music that borrows liberally from world music and heavy metal’ sounds very modern indie rock to these ears. It’s no wonder that the album has sold three times as many copies in the last two decades as it did in the first twenty years since its existence.

Perhaps this is what Page – ever the mystic – was talking about when he said: “We knew what we were doing was right and that it was actually breaking new ground. We were cutting with a machete knife through the jungle, and discovered a temple of the ages.”

Trailblazing can be tough business, but very satisfying when smart people follow your footsteps. Four decades later, it seems that the temple Led Zeppelin III built has become a very busy place indeed. Artists such as Laura Marling, Fleet Foxes, Devendra Banhart and even Mumford & Sons, whose thumping beats have at least one muddy boot in Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, have been known to drop in for a visit.

(Image credit: Getty Images

If one was really going to quibble with the concept of Led Zeppelin III, it might be with the notion that the band were doing anything particularly shocking or original. While it’s agreed that comparing them to Crosby, Stills & Nash was patently absurd, bands like Fairport Convention and The Byrds were all attempting to modernise folk music to some degree in the 60s and 70s. In a 2010 interview, Page flicked away that idea, but made a valid point, saying that while he admired those bands and what they were doing, he didn’t think anyone would ever confuse Led Zeppelin with Fairport or the Incredible String Band.

“They were coming from a much more traditional place, and I was coming from so many different areas. But maybe,” he adds with a laugh, “I was just coming from a rock’n’roll head. Something like Friends really isn’t – it isn’t traditional music, but I liked that we could go in that direction and put our own spin on it. At the same time, I don’t ever think we lost sight of the fact that we were a rock band.”

As for the bad reviews, Page has softened over the years, saying that in hindsight he could see how III was misunderstood. “Journalists were in a rush and they were looking for the new Whole Lotta Love and not actually listening to what was there,” he told writer Nigel Williamson. “It was too fresh for them and they didn’t get the plot. It doesn’t surprise me that the diversity and breadth of what we were doing was overlooked or under-appreciated at the time.”

In the final analysis, after the album was released in October and the dust settled, Zeppelin simply went on their way as they always had, and immediately began writing and working on what would eventually become their biggest album ever: Led Zeppelin IV. With the same acoustic guitar that he used on the maligned III, Page composed some of the band’s most beloved anthems, including Stairway To Heaven, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California and Four Sticks. Critics – and everyone else – be damned.

Reference

Gay History: When Did We Turn on the Moustache?

Or: When did the moustache stop turning us on?

Quick thought experiment: Close your eyes and, in the hairiest part of your mind, try to picture the most iconic beards from history.

Done?

Odds are, you’ll have been imagining an assortment of upstanding, wise gentlemen — the likes of Charles Darwin, Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln, Dumbledore.

Now try the same sort of whiskers visualization with mustaches.

What do you get?

Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, every time.

For some reason, mustaches make us reach straight for the villains. But what about all the famous ’stache-toters who have had a positive influence on the world: Einstein? Gandhi? Martin Luther King? John Oates from Hall & Oates?

There’s clearly some sort of facial prejudice going on here, because while full beards have been warmly accepted by fashion and society at large for a decade or more now, mustaches on their own have been sneered at as second-class frizz for far, far longer than most of us have been able to grow one.

According to Lucinda Hawksley, art historian and author of Moustaches, Whiskers and Beards —  who happens to be a great-great-great-granddaughter of the fantastically whiskered Charles Dickens —  the fact that the mustache was “hijacked by the dictators” actually had a huge historical impact on above-the-mouth fashions. Whereas in the 1930s, the elegant lip-strips of silver-screen stars like Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Ronald Colman had bestowed glamor, prestige and enormous popularity upon the mustache, says Hawksley, its associations with both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia made the thought of wearing one feel decidedly less dashing in the decades following World War II.

Still, for all that the Führer’s trademark toothbrush mustache and Uncle Joe’s walrus style in particular suffered by association, the ’stache remained a viable option in other guises for men interested in projecting an image of rugged machismo. This reached an apex of billowing perfection in the early 1980s with Tom Selleck as Magnum P.I. But for Hawksley, this was also the decade in which the mustache categorically lost its luster across the board. After that, she says, Selleck “still managed to have a moustache and carry it off, but for pretty much everybody else, it was completely outdated.”

Hawksley believes there were two main reasons for this. The first was the advent of designer stubble: “That became the big thing,” she says. “So, suddenly, instead of having a mustache and no beard you’d have a small amount of both.” The second is a recurring theme she sees in evidence “throughout the history of men’s facial hair: It’s that the younger generation wants to do the opposite of what their fathers had done. In the late-Victorian period, for example, by the 1890s, you’ve got young men saying, ‘I’m not having a beard — my dad and my grandfather had beards, and they’re just completely old-fashioned.’ And that’s exactly what happened in the 1980s: ‘Oh my God, a mustache! That’s such a 1970s look!’”

At around that time, though, something else was undermining the status of the mustache as the height of heterosexual manliness. In his book One Thousand Beards, Allan Peterkin (who has been a mustache consultant for Jimmy Fallon) points to Selleck’s 1980s thicket as one of the last great American specimens, too. But he argues that Magnum also represented a mainstream, TV-friendly offshoot of a popular gay look of the era: “The so-called ‘clone,’ with his obligatory mustache, bomber jacket, beefed-up shoulders and muscular butt under tight jeans.”

This Freddie Mercury-esque “clone” look had evolved in turn, writes Peterkin, from the subculture of “leathermen” in the gay clubs of the 1970s, whose “sadomasochistic practises and role-playing flourished and became a new homoerotic norm. The look was hypermasculine,” he continues. “Think Tom of Finland iconography — and both mustaches and sideburns topped (and bottomed) it off.”

Peterkin also highlights the Village People, whose stage routines for hits such as “Y.M.C.A.” and “Go West” featured both a leatherman and a mustachioed cowboy, helping to make Middle America aware of the mustache’s prominent status in gay culture.

Perhaps equally devastating for the ’stache’s popularity in straight society was the running joke in the first four Police Academy movies — from 1984 to 1987 — in which hapless male characters find themselves trapped in a fictional gay club, the neon-lit Blue Oyster Bar, where they’re forced to dance with fuzzy-lipped leathermen. It was an increasingly unfunny gag, which simultaneously managed to entrench a daft homophobic stereotype and torpedo the mustache as a macho status symbol for straight men.

What really made mustaches utterly unwearable, though, wasn’t so much their association with gay and S&M subcultures but that — as epitomized by those Blue Oyster skits — they became the subject of ridicule. Hawksley points out that when “it stopped having that macho look about it, the man with the mustache became a bit of a joke. It was the bank manager, the annoying teacher…”

If the mustache’s appeal was entirely wrapped up with its machismo, how did it acquire its super-manly image in the first place? For Hawksley, the answer lies in its surprisingly important place in military history. Facial hair initially became a trend thanks to British soldiers fighting the Crimean Warin the mid-1850s. Says Hawksley: “It was the first time they’d ever been able to grow a beard in the army, simply because they hadn’t been able to shave — the shaving water would freeze; they didn’t have enough shaving soap… And so when they came back, it was the sign of a hero because the Crimean War was so widely publicized.”

Elaborate face topiary acquired a similar heroic status during the American Civil War in the following decade, with the U.S. Army having relaxed its outright ban on mustaches (except for soldiers serving in the cavalry regiments) in 1857. In military traditions on both sides of the Atlantic, full beards quickly gave way to mustaches as the mark of a whiskered warrior. Incredibly, while beards were banned from 1860 onwards, the British Army actually required all soldiers to grow mustaches until World War I; after that, they became associated with the higher ranks, especially in the Royal Air Force.

Even today, while U.S. Army regulations outlaw beards, mustaches are permitted as long as they “will not present a chopped off or bushy appearance, and no portion of the mustache will cover the upper lip line, extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from the corners of the mouth… or extend above a parallel line at the lowest portion of the nose.”

The Ultimate Mustache Grooming Guide

Mustache grooming made easy.

Mustache grooming can be tedious, since you’re working within the cramped space between your nose and top lip. There’s also an overwhelming number of mustache styles to choose from, which can make the very act of mustache grooming a bit convoluted.

But really, there’s one mustache style that can teach you the ins and outs of mustache grooming better than all the rest: The Chevron, famously worn by the likes of Tom Selleck and Freddy Mercury. Below, you’ll find a mustache grooming guide built around this mustache style, which will leave you with everything you need to know about how to shave a mustache.

Step #1: Trim your entire mustache using a pair of electric clippers set to the longest setting (or whatever your desired length is) — that way, your mustache hairs will be a single, uniform length.

Step #2: The edges of the mustache should extend just half an inch beyond the corners of your mouth — use a razor to shave any hairs growing further towards your cheeks.

Step #3: Finally, brush the mustache hairs upward using a small mustache comb and trim any stray hairs hanging over your upper lip using a pair of grooming scissors.

That’s it: The basis of mustache grooming. Achieving other mustache styles is simply a matter of leaving a little more hair there and a little less hair here. Take the classic handlebar mustache, for instance:

Step #1: Part your mustache hairs down the middle, then comb each side down and out.

Step #2: Use a small pair of grooming scissors to lightly trim any stray hairs — start towards the middle, cutting less and less hair length as you make your way to the edges of the mustache

Step #3: Apply a wax or a pomade to hold the hairs in place  once applied evenly throughout the mustache, twist the hairs together with your fingers, then curl the still-twisted hairs up and in.

Step #4: Lastly, and most importantly, eye the curls for evenness in the mirror. Make adjustments if necessary.

If the handlebar mustache is a little too hipster for you, the horseshoe mustache is another mustache style that can only be achieved if you have a basic understanding of mustache grooming:

Step #1: Use a pair of electric clippers to trim the entire mustache to your desired length (the #8 or #10 guard are good choices for this mustache style).

Step #2: Put the tip of your finger on the corner of your mouth, making a straight line down to your jaw, and use it as a guide for trimming the bars of hair with your electric clippers — just be careful not to cut your finger.

Step #3: Once the bars on each side of the mustache are even, eye them for your desired length. Make adjustments if necessary.

If you’re interested in other mustache styles — like the slick pencil mustache or the bushy walrus mustache — check out this advice on how to cultivate and care for various mustache styles. Alternatively, if you’re less interested in mustache grooming and more interested in starting anew, read up on the best way to shave that tricky patch of face smooth.

Now get out there, and keep your top lip warm (or bare that subtle skin) in style, bucko.

Reference

The Best Chocolate Money Can Buy

Not all chocolate are created equal. Just as there are tiers of basic (and tiers of bad), there are tiers of good, excellent, and plain extravagant. 

Here are the best high-end chocolates money can buy, and just in time for the Easter holidays:

Marie Belle: River of Diamonds Cien Box

Price: $400 USD
The Draw: Chocolate meets art in this particular selection. Globally renowned painter, Chau Giang Thi Nguyen has replicated nine of this most famous oil paintings onto the ganaches within this box. So well crafted you’ll almost want to refrain from consuming them.

To’ak Chocolate: Cognac Cask 2014 Vintage Edition

Price: $385 USD
The Draw: This booze-infused bar is the accumulative efforts of two years testing, and four years of ageing. Mature and pleasurable.

DeLafée of Switzerland: Gold Chocolate Box with Antique Swiss Gold Coin 

Price: $315 USD
The Draw: This one leans towards more of the luxury for luxury sake mindset. These gold chocolates are 24-karat each, and comes with an antique Swiss coin that history buffs will supposedly love. 

Knipschildt Chocolatier: La Madeline au Truffle

Price: $250 USD (Per truffle)
The Draw: Indulgence is always fun, which makes this pick an entire crate-full of fun. The La Madeline au Truffle is wrapped in gold and handcrafted with 71% pure Ecuadorian dark chocolate. So it should come as no surprise that this is the most expensive truffle in the world.

THE BEST OF AUSTRALIA’S BEAN-TO-BAR ARTISAN CHOCOLATE]

Chocolate is without a doubt the ruling leader of the confection world. Whether it’s the joy that comes from savouring a piece, or the nostalgia that washes over you recalling the days you begged your parents for just one more bite, chocolate holds a very special place in our hearts.

And artisan chocolate is one of the best kinds. The bean-to-bar movement has picked up in Australia over the last few years, resulting in some incredibly creative boutique chocolate makers that are carving out their own identity alongside beloved established brands.

Some use native Australian ingredients to create unique flavour profiles. Others look to eccentric Asian flavours. And other still simply focus on highlighting the increasingly popular single origin movement.

Among Australia’s artisan chocolate offering, these are a few of our favourites:

Haigh’s Chocolates

Image: supplied

As Australia’s oldest family owned chocolate maker, Haigh’s Chocolates is rightfully considered a homegrown icon, pioneering the bean-to-bar movement in Australia.

Ask ten different people what their favourite Haigh’s chocolate is and you’ll get ten different answers. Though it’s hard to go past their dark premium fruit and nut block, which is flecked with juicy locally sourced fruits like pistachios, dried apricots, cranberries, and goji berries, and nuts like pecans, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

Haigh’s Chocolates has numerous stores throughout Melbourne, Sydney, and South Australia, as well as one in Canberra.

Hunted + Gathered

Just three to five ingredients – mainly organic cacao beans, organic coconut sugar and organic cacao butter – are used in the small-scale, boutique chocolate from Melbourne-based Hunted + Gathered.

This minimal, highly controlled profile, with the full bean-to-bar process carried out in-house, has earned owners and brothers Harry and Charlie Nissen a passionate following throughout Australia.

Aside from their Gold Medal winning Single Origin range, a must-try is their new collaboration with Four Pillars Gin, which is produced using spent gin botanicals and gin-steamed oranges from distillations of Four Pillars’ popular Rare Dry Gin. And if this collaboration is anything to go by, their next custom made chocolate bar with Australian specialty wine store Blackhearts and Sparrowsshould go down a treat. Wine chocolate, anyone?

Hunted + Gathered are stocked in numerous stores along the East Coast, as well as one in Perth. They also have a recently opened shopfront and cafe attached to their factory in Melbourne’s Cremorne.

Koko Black

Image: supplied

Widely recognised around Australia,  Koko Black turn hand-blended Belgium couverture chocolate into some of the country’s most beloved luxury chocolate bars, pralines and truffles.

With their range featuring well over 100 different varieties, the chocolate makers at Koko Black are able to showcase a wide range of local produce like organic walnuts from NSW, leatherwood honey from Tasmania, macadamia nuts from Queensland, and small batch spirits from the likes of Starward Whisky, The Rum Diary, and Four Pillars.

This is best represented in their new collaborative range with one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Brae’s Dan Hunter. The small collection, hinged on the idea of non-reliance on sugars and an appreciation of acids instead of excessive sweetness, highlights Australian native ingredients in flavours like macadamia and spotted gum honey crumble with caramelised white chocolate, and lemon myrtle with Venezuelan 72 percent single origin chocolate. Also on the menu: green ants with burnt butter cream and white chocolate.

Koko Black has one store each in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Canberra as well as numerous throughout Victoria.

Bakedown Cakery

Image: Alana Dimou

Using both premium quality couverture chocolate from Belgium and France, and single origin beans, Bakedown Cakery owner Jen Lo turns in some of the country’s most unique, distinctive and exciting chocolate bars.

Experimentation has been driving much of the boutique brand’s output lately, which includes a special Japanese condiment range that features flavours like pickled ginger with white chocolate, wasabi oil with dark chocolate, caramel soy sauce chocolate, and white sencha chocolate.

Unique Asian twists on premium quality chocolate also extends to Bakedown’s mainline range, where blocks of genmaicha oreo strawberry – using tea sourced from a plantation just outside of Kyoto – sit comfortably next to other creations like taro rice crispies, and pandan coconut lychee chocolates.

Aside from their online shop, Bakedown Cakery only has one store in Sydney’s St Leonards which is open every Thursday.

Jasper + Myrtle

Image: Jasper + Myrtle / Facebook

This small Canberra chocolate maker gets their beans cacao beans from Peru and Papua New Guinea, as well as from growing regions such as Vietnam and Bougainville. This gives self-taught chocolatier Li Peng Monroe many different flavour profiles to experiment with, and plenty of reason to focus on single origin dark chocolate bars highlighting provenance and allowing the natural flavour of the cacao beans to come through.

Completely handmade, Jasper + Myrtle have some of the most tempting flavour combinations in the country, including their award-winning dark chocolate with wakame and Himalayan rock salt, and the milk chocolate with lemon myrtle and macadamia.

Reference

Blasphemous Bibles And Cannibals At Sea: 4 Bad Days In History

History is full of famously bad days. Now, a new book pulls together 365 of the most tantalising and enlightening.

Stern reporter Gerhard Heidemann holds up the forged Hitler diaries, 25 April 1983. (AP-Photo/MS. Press Association Images)

In Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year, bestselling author Michael Farquhar revisits some of the most entertaining calamities in history – from the disastrous marriage of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves in 1540, to the mother-in-law that soured Harry Truman’s arrival at the White House in 1945.

Here, Farquhar shares four of his favourite excerpts…

6 May 1983, The Dummkopf “Diaries”

From the diary of a madman: “On Eva’s wishes, I am thoroughly examined by my doctors. Because of the new pills I have violent flatulence, and—says Eva—bad breath.” Certainly it was a rather bland entry, but a tantalising tidbit nonetheless—part of what promised to be a historic bonanza of insight into one of the world’s most evil men.

On 22 April 1983, the German news magazine Stern announced that it had in its possession the personal diary of Adolf Hitler—a long hidden set of some 60 volumes, spanning the years 1932 to 1945, for which the magazine had paid millions. It was a staggering sum, but the prestige that would come from such a scoop was priceless.

Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch was among those who saw huge profit potential in the diaries and wanted to serialize them in his Times of London. To authenticate the documents, he dispatched British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, a specialist in the 16th and 17th centuries who could barely read German. After hearing Stern editors relate the story of how the diaries had been retrieved from a plane crash in 1945 and secretly stashed away by a high-ranking East German officer, and then reviewing the massive pile of volumes, Trevor-Roper was “satisfied that the documents are authentic.”

Even as the world waited anxiously to read the private thoughts of this inscrutable monster, sceptics had reservations. Hitler biographer Werner Maser told Reuters at the time that “everything speaks against it. It smacks of pure sensationalism.’’ The chorus of doubt grew louder when Stern published a lavish special issue heralding the diaries on 25 April, and held a press conference to crow about it.

Instead of the expected huzzahs, however, editors were confronted with unwelcome questions about the diaries’ authenticity. And Trevor-Roper certainly didn’t help matters with his sudden and unexpected about-face when asked to address the suspicious press: “As a historian, I regret that the, er, normal method of historical verification, er, has, perhaps necessarily, been to some extent sacrificed to the requirements of a journalistic scoop.”

It was a disaster unfolding, the crowning blow of which came on 6 May when the German Federal Archives declared the diaries to be “a crude forgery” and the “grotesquely superficial” concoction of a forger with “limited intellectual capacity.”

Stern had been duped by a dope by the name of Konrad Kujau, a “jaunty and farcical figure,” as author Robert Harris described him, who apparently expended very little time or effort on his handiwork. The indications of forgery were obvious, from the paper, ink, and glue Kujau used—all of which were manufactured well after Hitler’s death in 1945—to the passages lifted directly, albeit often incorrectly, from a book of the führer’s speeches and proclamations. Kujau even messed up the Gothic initials embossed on each imitation leather volume, some of which read “FH,” not “AH.”

“We have every reason to be ashamed that something like this could happen to us,” announced Stern publisher Henri Nannen in the aftermath of the diary fiasco. Indeed, they did. The magazine’s editors had allowed their reporter Gerd Heidemann to run amok with the story, without even insisting he name his source. They also ignored the numerous warning signs of fraud that preceded publication. But at least Nannen and his colleagues could take a measure of comfort in knowing that some of what was written in the “diaries” was actually true. The führer really did have what his doctor described as “colossal flatulence . . . on a scale I have seldom encountered before.” And horrendously bad breath, too.

A page of what was thought to be Hitler’s personal diary, which reads: “Henceforth, I will take note of my political thoughts and actions to leave a record for posterity as does every politician”. Stern magazine handed out a reproduction of this page when they made public their ‘discovery’ on 25 April 1983. (AP-Photo/HO Stern. HO/STERN/AP/Press Association Images)

8 May 1632, The Holy (Mis)Writ

Some readers of a 1631 edition of the King James Bible were shocked (or at least pleasantly surprised) when they came across the Seventh Commandment in the Book of Exodus: “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Then there was the apparent blasphemy found in Deuteronomy, chapter 5: “The Lord hath shewed us his glory, and his great asse.” (The proper word was “greatnasse.”)

With these egregious errors, the 1631 version became known as the Wicked Bible or the Adulterous Bible, and on May 8, 1632, the printers were hauled before the fearsome Star Chamber for their blasphemous mistakes—with the additional charge of printing the Bible on bad paper.

“I knew the time when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially,” declared the appalled Archbishop of Canterbury. “Good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the best, but now the paper is nought, the composers boys, and the correctors unlearned.” Worse, he said, even the dreaded Catholics took better care with their “superstitious books.”

The printers were heavily fined and banned from their profession, but were lucky enough not to have been mutilated or dealt a similarly gruesome punishment of the day. Meanwhile, history has no record of how many marital beds may have been violated with blessings from the Wicked Bible.

19 May 1884, Filet Mignonette

When young Richard Parker boarded the yacht Mignonette on 19 May 1884, it was if his fate had already been eerily determined. Nearly 50 years before, Edgar Allan Poe published his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym – a tale of maritime adventure and disaster in which the starving survivors of a shipwreck draw straws to determine who among them would be sacrificed and eaten to nourish the others. A character by the name of Richard Parker comes up with the short one and is duly devoured by the rest.

In a remarkable echo of Poe’s story, the Mignonette was battered by storms while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope en route from Southampton, then England, to Sydney, Australia, and sank. Richard Parker survived the wreck, but not for long. The young man and his three companions drifted for weeks aboard a flimsy dinghy, fending off sharks and sustaining themselves on the two tins of turnips they had managed to salvage. Just as in Poe’s tale, the men did capture and eat a sea turtle, but starvation still loomed. Desperate for nourishment, the survivors began to eye one another. A maritime tradition known as the Custom of the Sea provided the solution for such situations: cannibalism. But not until straws were drawn to determine which man would become the meal.

The men of the Mignonette neglected this key provision because Richard Parker, dangerously ill from having consumed seawater, appeared very likely to die. Rather than wait for the inevitable, and risk eating corrupted, diseased flesh, the three other survivors instead killed the young man by stabbing him in the neck. Then they ate him.

“I can assure you,” one of the survivors recalled, “I shall never forget the sight of my two unfortunate companions over that ghastly meal. We all was like mad wolfs who should get the most and for men fathers of children to commit such a deed we could not have our right reason.”

Four or five days after this murderous act of necessity, the three survivors spotted the sails of the German ship Moctezuma. Salvation came, one of the men later said, just “as we was having our breakfast, we will call it.”

20 September 1884: a member of the crew of the Mignonette using a sea anchor in an open boat during stormy conditions at sea. Original Artwork: engraving by J Nash after sketches by Mr Stephens. (Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)

22 May 1856, Sumner’s Violent Schooling

In the decades before the Civil War — when sectional differences over slavery and state rights began to intensify to a dangerous degree — edgy lawmakers roamed the halls of Congress armed with pistols and daggers, practically daring any political opponent to defy them. The House of Representatives “seethed like a boiling caldron,” one observer wrote, as “belligerent Southrons glared fiercely at phlegmatic Yankees.” Lawmakers challenged one another to duels, took to the floor with scathing orations, and, in one scene reminiscent of a Wild West saloon, reacted like threatened cowboys after one member’s gun fell to the ground and accidentally discharged.

There were instantly “fully thirty or forty pistols in the air,” Representative William Holman of Indiana reported.

The tension was punctuated by one particularly violent episode in 1856, after Charles Sumner, an abolitionist senator from Massachusetts, delivered his rousing “Crime Against Kansas” speech, in which he argued vehemently against the expansion of slavery into that territory and attacked in particular Andrew Butler of South Carolina, one of the authors of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

“The senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight with sentiments of honor and courage,” Sumner thundered. “Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight—I mean the harlot slavery.”

Representative Preston Brooks, a nephew of Butler’s, was infuriated by Sumner’s inflammatory, sexually suggestive speech, and retaliated two days later, on 22 May. As Sumner quietly worked at his desk in the near-empty Senate chamber, Brooks approached him. “Mr. Sumner,” he said, “I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.” Without warning, Brooks then began whacking Sumner over the head with his cane. The assault didn’t stop, even after Sumner collapsed on the floor in a bloody heap, and his injuries were so grave that it would take him years to recover and return to his Senate seat.

Northern reaction to Sumner’s bludgeoning was one of horror. “The crime is not merely against liberty but civilization,” editorialised the Boston Evening Transcript. In the South, however, Brooks was hailed as a hero. “Sumner was well and elegantly whipped,” gloated the Charleston Mercury, “and he richly deserved it.” Southerners sent Brooks commemorative canes, with “HIT HIM AGAIN” inscribed on them. Meanwhile, the country careened ever closer to civil war.

Reference

Gay History: Raymond Burr’s Secret Life

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Raymond Burr was in excruciating pain as he filmed the final “Perry Mason” episodes in 1993. Almost no one on the set knew he was dying of cancer. Biographer Michael Seth Starr is not surprised. According to Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr (published by Applause), secrecy was second nature to the actor. He became one of the world’s most familiar TV stars during the original run of “Perry Mason” (1956-1966) and went on to another popular if less remembered series, “Ironside” (1967-1975). And there he was, instantly recognizable and in the public eye, a gay man who kept his sexuality concealed.

Any admission of homosexuality would have poisoned his career at any time before the 1980s. Times changed but Burr kept his own counsel through the end. He was actually once married, briefly, and went on to invent no less than two dead wives and even a dead son to fill out the blank spaces in his life story. Along with false reports of his service during World War II, he repeated these additions to his autobiography so long and so often that they found their way into his obituaries. In the 1950s he was “romantically linked” with rising starlet Natalie Wood. They were genuinely fond of each other but sparks never flew. Burr met his life companion, onetime actor Robert Benevides, in 1957 on the “Perry Mason” set. They were together through Burr’s death.

The story of a deeply closeted Hollywood lifestyle isn’t entirely unique; the backdrop of Burr’s career adds to its interest. Typecast as a “heavy” when he drifted into Hollywood after World War II, his hulking presence and brooding scowl made him ideal for film noir and crime dramas generally. He played the furtive murderous husband across the courtyard in Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window (1954) and finally stood on the right side of the law as the district attorney dismantling Montgomery Clift’s testimony in A Place in the Sun (1951). Never considered an A-list movie actor, he became a star in the emerging medium of television. Playing the title role in “Perry Mason,” he became one of TV’s best paid and best known faces. Later, as the wheelchair-riding detective in “Ironside,” he might even have spurred the drive toward ramps and accessible facilities for the handicapped.

Starr notes that throughout his public life Burr was unfailingly generous to charities and gave much of his time (when he wasn’t keeping a grueling work schedule) to public service of one sort or another. That the author only assembled a relatively slender volume out of Burr’s life probably indicates that the actor carried many of his secrets to the grave.

11 things you might not know about Raymond Burr

Learn how the ‘Perry Mason’ star links to orchids, Godzilla, wine and the history of synthesizers.

Top image: AP Photo

Raymond Burr is synonymous with Perry Mason. Yet the Canadian-born actor was far more than television’s greatest defense lawyer. Of course, he played the titular wheelchair-bound police consultant on Ironside, too. Early in his film career, he was a natural in film noirs. Beyond the screen, Burr was a horticulturist, an oenophile and a seashell collector.

Burr’s fascinating biography was filled with fabrication and speculation, as he and his publicists obscured his private life. Here are things you might not know about Raymond Burr.

1. He starred in the radio program ‘Fort Laramie’ and read his lines from a wheelchair

Image: radiospirits

Gifted with a rich, resonating voice, Burr naturally found work in radio. In the 1956 program Fort Laramie, Burr starred as Cavalry Cpt. Lee Quince. In a foreshadowing of his Ironsiderole, he had to record much of his lines while confined to a wheelchair, after injuring his leg during the filming of Crime of Passion.

2. He was considered for the role of Marshal Matt Dillon.

Though his roots were in noir, he could have been a Western star, and not just on the radio. Burr was up for the lead role of Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke, though he was deemed too overweight for the role, as was William Conrad, the man who played the Marshal on the radio. Producer-director Charles Marquis Warren was reported to have proclaimed, “When he stood up, his chair stood up with him.”

3. He was asked to lose weight for the role of Perry Mason.

Thankfully, the creators of Perry Mason found the right man for the role. Though the 40-year-old’s weight would again be an issue with producers. Burr beat out around 50 actors who auditioned for the gig, according to the book Raymond Burr: A Film, Radio and Television Biography. One catch: They made him take a crash diet, dropping his weight to 210 pounds.

4. He was in a Godzilla movie, but never interacted with the Japanese actors.

Image: Toho Company

The arrival of Godzilla in 1954 shook the film industry. In 1956, Jewell Enterprises took the monster movie and re-edited it for American audiences. Burr was cast as an American reporter, and footage of him was deftly inserted into the original to make it seem as if he were interacting with the other actors, who had completed their work two years prior. It was rumored that all his scenes were filmed in one day, but that seems to have been debunked, as his work likely was shot over the course of six days.

5. He portrayed Perry Mason in four different decades.

Just how popular was Perry Mason? After the series’ original run from 1957–66, Burr returned to the role for a string of 30 TV movies that aired from 1985–95. Burr headlined 27 of them, up until his death in 1993. The character was around in the 1970s, too, in the flop series The New Perry Mason, with Monte Markham playing the ace lawyer.

6. He was the original host of ‘Unsolved Mysteries.’

Image: NBC

Robert Stack, sporting his trench coat, is well remembered as the host of Unsolved Mysteries. He was not the first choice, however. On January 20, 1987, he hosted the NBC special that became the pilot for the series, though his services would prove to be too costly for the network to keep him on as host.

7. He made wine.

Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Raymond Burr Vineyards are located in Dry Creek County, California. The operation started in 1986 with the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Portuguese grapes.

8. His show ‘Ironside’ featured the first synthesizer-based TV theme.

Legendary producer Quincy Jones composed the killer theme to the 1967 crime series, about a consultant to the SFPD who had been paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet. If you’re unfamiliar, you might recognize the siren-like synthesizers from the Kill Bill movies. Jones later included a longer version of the tune on his 1971 album Smackwater Jack

9. He lived on a small island in Fiji.

Looking for privacy? You’ll find it on the tiny island of Naitaba, Fiji. Burr and his partner raised coconuts and cattle on the Pacific getaway.

10. He grew orchids and named a hybrid after his ‘Perry Mason’ costar

Another of Burr’s passions was flowers. He was a skilled grower of orchids, and with his partner, Robert Benevides, he hybridized approximately 1500 varieties. One hybrid was named for Barbara Hale, the actress who played Perry Mason’s loyal secretary, Della Street.

11. His partner was an actor, too.

Image: The Outer Limits / MGM Home Entertainment 

Benevides had experience on television, as well. He landed a handful of guest roles on shows such as The Loretta Young Showand West Point. His best-known performance is perhaps the Outer Limits episode “O.B.I.T.” He is the military man choked to death by an eerie creature as he monitors the Outer Band Individuated Teletracer.

Reference

A History Of The Bible: Who Wrote It- And When?

The origins of the Bible are still cloaked in mystery. When was it written? Who wrote it? And how reliable is it as an historical record? BBC History Revealed magazine charts the evolution of arguably the most influential book of all time

In 2007, Time magazine asserted that the Bible “has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment and culture than any book ever written”.

It’s a bold claim, but one that’s hard to refute. What other book resides on bedside tables in countless hotel rooms across the globe? What other book has bequeathed the world such instantly recognisable catchphrases as “an eye for an eye”, “thou shalt not kill” and “eat, drink and be merry”?

Factor in the number of copies that have been sold down the centuries – somewhere in the region of five billion to date, swollen by a further 100 million every year given away for free – and there’s no denying that the Bible’s influence on Western civilisation has been monumental.

But if the Bible’s standing as a cultural behemoth is beyond doubt, its history is anything but. For centuries, some of the world’s greatest thinkers have puzzled over the origins and evolution of this remarkable document. Who wrote it? When? And why?

These are the thorniest of questions, made all the more tangled by the Bible’s great age, and the fact that some, or all of it, has become a sacred text for members of two of the world’s great religions – Judaism and Christianity – numbering more than two billion people.

An illumination from a Byzantine manuscript depicting Jesus Christ. (Photo by Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Where does the Bible originate?

Archaeology and the study of written sources have shed light on the history of both halves of the Bible: the Old Testament, the story of the Jews’ highs and lows in the millennium or so before the birth of Jesus; and the New Testament, which documents the life and teachings of Jesus. These findings may be incomplete and they may be highly contested, but they have helped historians paint a picture of how the Bible came to life.

Perhaps the best place to start the story is in Sun-baked northern Egypt, for it was here that the Bible and archaeology may, just may, first collide.

For centuries, the Old Testament has been widely interpreted as a story of disaster and rescue – of the Israelites falling from grace before picking themselves up, dusting themselves down and finding redemption. Nowhere is this theme more evident than in Exodus, the dramatic second book of the Old Testament, which chronicles the Israelites’ escape from captivity in Egypt to the promised land.

But has archaeology unearthed one of the sites of the Israelites’ captivity?

That’s the question that some historians have been asking themselves since the 1960s, when the Austrian archaeologist Manfred Bietak identified the location of the ancient city of Pi-Ramesses at the site of the modern town of Qantir in Egypt’s Nile Delta. Pi-Ramesses was the great capital built by Ramesses II, one of Egypt’s most formidable pharaohs and the biblical tormentor of the Israelites. It’s been argued that Pi-Ramesses was the biblical city of Ramesses, and that the city was built, as Exodus claims, by Jewish slaves.

It’s an intriguing theory, and one that certainly has its doubters. But if it were true, it would place the enslaved Israelites in the Nile Delta in the decades after 1279 BC, when Ramesses II became king. So what happened next?

The Bible is in little doubt. It tells us that Moses led the Israelites out of their captivity in Egypt (whose population had been laid low by ten plagues inflicted on them by God) before Joshua spearheaded a brilliant invasion of Canaan, the promised land. The historical sources, however, are far less forthcoming. As John Barton, former professor of the interpretation of holy scriptures at the University of Oxford, puts it: “There is no evidence of a great invasion by the Israelites under Joshua; the population doesn’t seem to have changed much in that period as far as we can tell by archaeological surveys.”

St Catherine’s Monastery in the shadow of Mount Sinai, where the Codex Sinaiticus came to scholars’ attention. (Image by RF CREATIVE/Getty Images)

In fact, the best corroborating evidence for the Bible’s claim that the Israelites surged into Canaan is Merneptah’s Stele.

What is Merneptah’s Stele?

Like all good autocrats, Merneptah, pharaoh of Egypt, loved to brag about his achievements. And when he led his armies on a successful war of conquest at the end of the 13th century BC, he wanted the world, and successive generations, to know all about it.

The medium on which the pharaoh chose to trumpet his martial prowess was a three-metre-high lump of carved granite, now known as the Merneptah Stele. The stele, which was discovered at the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes in 1896, contains 28 lines of text, mostly detailing the Egyptians’ victory over the Libyans and their allies. But it is the final three lines of the inscription that has arguably excited most interest among historians.

“Israel has been shorn,” it declares. “Its seed no longer exists.” These few words constitute the first known written reference to the Israelites. It’s an inauspicious start, one that boasts of this people’s near destruction at the hands of one of the ancient world’s superpowers in their homeland of Canaan. But the Israelites would survive.

A replica of Merneptah’s Stele, now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The last 3 of the 28 lines deal with a separate campaign in Canaan, then part of Egypt’s imperial possessions. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

And the story they would go on to tell about themselves and their relationship with their God would arguably eclipse any of Merneptah’s achievements. It would spawn what is surely the most influential book of all time: the Bible.

Merneptah’s Stele may describe more Jewish pain at the hands of their perennial Egyptian persecutors, but it at least suggests that they may have been in Canaan during Merneptah’s reign (1213–1203 BC).

If the early history of the Israelites is uncertain, so is the evolution of the book that would tell their story.

Who wrote the Bible?

Until the 17th century, received opinion had it that the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – were the work of one author: Moses. That theory has since been seriously challenged.

Scholars now believe that the stories that would become the Bible were disseminated by word of mouth across the centuries, in the form of oral tales and poetry – perhaps as a means of forging a collective identity among the tribes of Israel. Eventually, these stories were collated and written down. The question is by whom, and when?

A clue may lie in a limestone boulder discovered embedded in a stone wall in the town of Tel Zayit, 35 miles southwest of Jerusalem, in 2005. The boulder, now known as the Zayit Stone, contains what many historians believe to be the earliest full Hebrew alphabet ever discovered, dating to around 1000 BC. “What was found was not a random scratching of two or three letters, it was the full alphabet,” Kyle McCarter of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland has said of the stone. “Everything about it says this is the ancestor of the Hebrew script.”

The Zayit Stone does not in itself tell us when the Bible was written and collated, but it gives us our first glimpse of the language that produced it. And, by tracking the stylistic development of that language down the centuries, and cross-referencing it with biblical text, historians have been able to rule out the single-author hypotheses, concluding instead that it was written by waves of scribes during the first millennium BC.

Ask the expert: John Barton

John Barton is a former professor of holy scriptures at the University of Oxford and the author of A History of the Bible: The Books and Its Faiths.

Q: Just how reliable is the Old Testament as an historical document?

A: Some parts, such as the early chapters of Genesis, are myth or legend, rather than history. But parts of Samuel, Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah describe events broadly known also from Assyrian or Persian sources. For example, Jehu, king of Israel in the ninth century BC, appears on an Assyrian monument, the Black Obelisk, doing obeisance to the Assyrian king. From about the eighth century BC onwards, the Old Testament contains some real historiography, even though it may not all be accurate.

Q: Does it matter if it’s not historically accurate? Are we guilty of placing too much emphasis on this question?

A: I think we are. Much of the Old Testament is about seeing God at work in human history rather than in accurately recording the detail, and sometimes we exaggerate the importance of historical accuracy. The Old Testament is not a work of fiction, but nor is it a modern piece of history-writing.

Q: How much does archaeology support the historicity of the Old Testament?

A To a limited extent. It gives us a context within which the Old Testament makes sense, but it doesn’t confirm a lot of the details. It mustn’t be forgotten that archaeology has also yielded vast numbers of documents from the ancient near-east, such as Assyrian and Babylonian annals, which illuminate the Old Testament world.

Q: How much do we know about the scribes who wrote the Old Testament?

A: The scribes are never described in detail in the Old Testament itself, but analogies with Egypt and Mesopotamia make it clear that there must have been a scribal class, probably attached as civil servants to the temple in Jerusalem or the royal court. After the exile of the Jewish people in Bablylon in the sixth century BC, scribes gradually turned into religious teachers, as we find them in the New Testament.

Q: When was the Old Testament assembled into the book it is today?

A: Probably during the first century BC, though parts of it were certainly regarded as holy scripture much earlier than that. But the collection is a work of early Judaism. It should be remembered that for a long time it was a collection of individual scrolls, not a single book between two covers.

Q: Did the Old Testament anticipate the figure of Jesus Christ?

A: There are prophecies of a coming Messiah – which means ‘anointed one’ – occasionally in the Old Testament, and Christians claimed them as foretelling Jesus. But messianic hopes were not widespread or massively important in first-century Judaism and are even less central to the Old Testament itself. Christians discovered texts they saw as messianic prophecies – for example, in Isaiah 7 – though other Jews did not read them that way.

Q: Why did the New Testament gain so much traction in the first centuries AD?

A: The New Testament was accepted because it was part of the package of the Christian message, which was massively successful in the early centuries. The message, which was that all humankind was accepted through Jesus by the God worshipped by the Jews, proved a winner.

Who was King David?

The first wave of scribes may, it’s been suggested, have started work during the reign of King David (c1000 BC). Whether that’s true or not, David is a monumental figure in the biblical story – the slayer of Goliath, the conqueror of Jerusalem. David is also a hugely important figure in the quest to establish links between the Bible and historical fact, for he appears to be the earliest biblical figure to be confirmed by archaeology.

“I killed [the] king of the house of David.” So boasts the Tel Dan Stele, an inscribed stone dating from 870–750 BC and discovered in northern Israel in the 1990s. Like the Merneptah Stele before it, it documents a warlord’s victory over the Israelites (the man doing the gloating was probably the local ruler Hazael of Aram-Damascus). But it at least indicates that David was a historical figure.

The Tel Dan Stele also suggests that,no matter how capable their rulers, the people of Israel continued to be menaced by powerful, belligerent neighbours. And, in 586 BC, one of those neighbours, the Babylonians, would inflict on the Jews one of the most devastating defeats in their history: ransacking the sacred city of Jerusalem, butchering its residents, and dragging many more back to Babylonia.

For the people of Israel, the fall of Jerusalem was a searing experience. It created, in the words of Eric M Meyers, a biblical scholar at Duke University in North Carolina, “one of the most significant theological crises in the history of the Jewish people”. And, according to many scholars, that crisis may have had a transformative impact on the writing of the Bible.

The Old Testament is far more than a formulaic story of a nation’s evolution, it’s also a chronicle of that nation’s relationship with its God. Did the sack of Jerusalem in 586 BC convince a new wave of Jewish thinkers that they hadn’t been keeping their side of the bargain? Did it spur them into revisiting all previous editions of the Jewish scriptures in order to sharpen the emphasis on the agreement or ‘covenant’ between the people and their one God?

Whether this theory holds or not, there’s little doubt that by the time they returned from their Babylonian exile, the Bible occupied a unique place in the consciousness of the Jewish people. However, it would be centuries before the book would be revered as a secret text for non-Jews. And the reason for that transformation from national to international significance was, of course, the figure of Jesus Christ. It’s the so-called New Testament, the account of Jesus’s life and teachings, that turned the Hebrew Bible into a civilisationshaping, global icon.

Who was Jesus? Did he really exist?

Most scholars agree that Jesus, a first-century religious leader and preacher, existed historically. He was born in c4 BC and died – reportedly crucified on the orders of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate – in cAD 30–33. Then, for around 40 years, news of his teachings was spread by word of mouth until, from around AD 70, four written accounts of his life emerged that changed everything.

The gospels, or ‘good news’, of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are critically important to the Christian faith. It is their descriptions of the life of Jesus Christ that have made him arguably the most influential figure in human history.

“We can’t be sure when the gospels were written,” says Barton, “and we know little about the authors. But the guess is that Mark came first, in the 70s, followed by Matthew and Luke in the 80s and 90s, and John in the 90s or early in the second century.

“In general, Matthew, Mark and Luke tell the same story with variations, and hence are called the ‘synoptic’ gospels, whereas John has a very different style, as well as telling a markedly different version of the story of Jesus. Matthew and Luke seem to be attempts to improve on Mark, by adding more stories and sayings from sources now lost. John is a different conceptualisation of the story of Jesus, portraying a more obviously divine figure.”

Though the variations in the four gospels may have proved a source of frustration to those trying to paint a definitive picture of Jesus’s life and teachings, they offer a fascinating insight into the challenges facing the early Christian church as it spread around the Mediterranean world in the first and second centuries AD.

Mark, it’s been argued, wrote for a community deeply affected by the failure of a Jewish revolt against the Roman empire in the AD 60s, while Luke wrote for a predominately Gentile (non-Jewish) audience eager to demonstrate that Christian beliefs could flourish within the Roman empire. Both John and Matthew hint at the growing tensions between Jewish Christians and the Jewish religious authorities.

As a Jew, Jesus would have been well-versed in the Hebrew Bible and, according to the gospels, saw himself as the realisation of ancient Jewish prophecies. “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law, or the prophets,” Matthew reports him saying. “I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfil.” But for all that, by the time the gospels were written, schisms between Judaism and nascent Christianity were clearly emerging.

How did Christianity spread around the world?

The Epistles, or letters, written by Paul the Apostle to churches dotted across the Mediterranean world – which are our best source for the initial spread of Christianity – confirm that Christianity started in Jerusalem, but spread rapidly to Syria and then to the rest of the Mediterranean world, and was mostly accepted by non-Jews, says John Barton, former professor of the interpretation of holy scriptures at the University of Oxford.

“The epistles [which make up 13 books of the New Testament] are our earliest evidence for Christianity,” says Barton. “The first date from the AD 50s, just two decades after the death of Jesus.”

As Paul’s letters to churches such as the one in the Greek city of Thessalonica reveal, the first Christian communities were often persecuted for their beliefs.

And it’s such persecution, particularly at the hands of the Romans, that may have inspired the last book of the New Testament, Revelations. With its dark descriptions of a seven-headed beast and allusions to an imminent apocalypse, Revelations is now widely believed to be a foretelling of the grisly fate that the author believed awaited the Roman oppressors of Christianity.

Despite that oppression, by the fourth century Christianity had become the dominant religion in the Mediterranean world, with the New Testament widely revered as a sacred text inspired by God. “It was around this time,” says Barton, “that the 27 books of the New Testament were copied into single books as though they formed a single work.” One example is the Codex Sinaiticus, now in the British Library. “The first person to list exactly the books we now have as the New Testament is the fourth-century bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, but it’s clear that he was only reporting what was already widely accepted.”

By the end of the early fifth century, a series of councils across the Christian world had effectively rubber-stamped the New Testament that we know today: the Bible’s journey to being the most influential book in human history was well and truly under way.

Versions of the Bible

Different editions of the Bible have appeared over the centuries, aiming to further popularise the stories and teachings within. Here are three of the most notable versions…

King James Bible

On 24 March 1603, King James VI of Scotland was also crowned King James I of England and Ireland. His reign would usher in a new royal dynasty (the Stuarts) and a new era of colonialism (most especially in North America). But arguably every bit as significant was his decision, in 1611, to introduce a new Bible.

The ‘King James Version’ (KJV) wasn’t the first to be printed in English – Henry VIII had authorised the ‘Great Bible’ in 1539 and the Bishops’ Bible had been printed during the reign of Elizabeth I in 1568 – but, in terms of impact, the KJV would dwarf its successors.

Shortly after his coronation, James was told that existing translations of the Bible were “corrupt and not answerable to the truth of the original”. What his scholars produced was a book designed to be read out aloud in church – fast-paced, easy to understand, a masterclass in storytelling.

No other version would challenge its dominance in the English-speaking world until the mid-20th century. According tob historian Adam Nicolson, the King James Bible’s “particular combination of majesty and freedom, of clarity and richness, was for centuries held, particularly by the Victorians, to be the defining terms of our national identity”.

The Gutenberg Bible

In 1454, in the Rhineland town of Mainz, three friends – inventor Johannes Gutenberg, printer Peter Schöffer and financier Johann Furst – pooled resources and brainpower to come up with what the British Library describes as “probably the most famous Bible in the world”.

The Gutenberg Bible, as the three friends’ creation would come to be known, signalled a step-change in printing techniques. Whereas earlier Bibles were produced by printing presses that employed woodblock technology, the press that churned out the Gutenberg Bible used moveable metal type, allowing more flexible, efficient and cheap printing.

Gutenberg’s Bible also had massive cultural and theological ramifications. Faster, cheaper printing meant more books and more readers – and that brought with it greater criticism, interpretation, debate and, ultimately, revolution. In short, the Gutenberg Bible was a significant step on the road to the Protestant Reformation and ultimately the Enlightenment.

In the words of Professor Justin Champion of Royal Holloway, University of London: “The printed Bible in the hands of the public posed a fundamental challenge to papal dominion. Once released from Latin into the vernacular, the word of God became a weapon.”

Dead Sea Scrolls

Sometime between November 1946 and February 1947, a Bedouin shepherd threw a stone into a cave at Wadi Qumran, near the Dead Sea. When he heard something crack he headed inside to investigate. What he found has been described by the Smithsonian Institute as “the most important religious texts in the Western world”.

What the shepherd had chanced upon were the Dead Sea Scrolls, more than 800 documents of animal skin and papyrus, stored in clay jars for safe keeping. Among the texts are fragments of every book of the Old Testament, except the Book of Esher, along with a collection of previously unknown hymns and a copy of the Ten Commandments.

But what really makes the scrolls special is their age. They were written between around 200 BC and the middle decades of the first century AD, which means they predate by at least eight centuries the oldest previously known Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

Were the scrolls left in the caves by a Jewish community living near the Dead Sea or, perhaps, by Jews fleeing Roman troops in the first century AD? We may never know for sure.

Reference

Both Men And Women Have Worn High Heels Throughout History

Could you imagine being a soldier riding a horse into battle wearing a pair of stilettos? As crazy as that may sound, it’s nearly historically accurate – except stilettos weren’t invented for another 1,000 years. 

Though they are more commonly worn by women today, high heels were originally made for men. High heels have enjoyed a largely unisex appreciation spanning many centuries and only became female coded in the last 300 years. Throughout history, the public opinion on how these fashionable yet painful shoes should look and feel and who should wear them has vacillated. 

High heels are an evocative symbol of power today. While these elements have remained consistent dating back to their early days, they also represented many more things: independence, social standing, self-importance, masculinity, and strength. Heel wearers were lauded for their fashion sense and despised for their perceived arrogance. 

As frivolous as dress shoes might seem, the origin of high heels is a microcosm of Western gender relations throughout the last millennium.

900s: High Heels Are Used In Horseback-Riding Cultures To Keep Feet In Stirrups

Photo: David Roberts/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The first known high heel was worn by Persian men in the 10th century. They were neither decorative nor stylish, but they served a utility purpose: gripping the stirrups as they rode their horses.

This provided better control and the ability to ride closer to the horse. Heels were especially useful during wartime as the added control allowed the rider to remain steady on the horse and keep his hands free to access and deploy his weaponry. 

1500s: High Heels Are Worn By Courtesans

Photo: Maurice Quentin de La Tour/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

High heels were especially popular among one specific group throughout the 16th century: courtesans. The highest caste of harlots, courtesans were the predecessor to the high-end escort. 

They enjoyed privileges that were not available to most other women, let alone other workers like them. They were allowed to enter libraries and keep company with high ranking men. They were known to smoke, drink, and wear high heels to appear “elevated” above other women, and also because the men enjoyed what they saw. 

They were the women who commonly wore the dramatically high heel, often using male servants and noblemen as a human crutch. 

1500s: Aristocratic Women Wear Heels To Indicate Status

Reconstruction of an Venitian chopine, after models dating from 1500 to 1600. On display at the Shoe Museum in Lausanne.

The chopine platform shoe popular with women throughout the 16th century took heel wearers to unbelievable heights, with some shoes clocking in at over 22 inches tall. To keep from falling over, the aristocratic women would often use their maids as a crutch.

This was, understandably, a tremendous public health hazard. Many thought the bodily damage and potential miscarriage was worth it; and while no one could see the shoes, the real marvel was in the dazzling length of the skirt. The long skirts were meant to display wealth, as onlookers were scandalized by how much the extra fabric must have cost. 

Despite the finer shape of the heel, the high heel that followed the chopine was actually more balanced. 

1600s: Persian Migrants Bring Heels To Europe, Where Men Wear Them To Appear More Formidable

Photo:  Ninara/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

At the turn of the 17th century, Persian Shah Abbas I sojourned to Europe to seek diplomatic assistance in defeating the Ottoman Empire. Abbas and his entourage visited Russia, Germany, and Spain, resulting in a boom of interest in Persian goods and aesthetics. Aristocratic men quickly adopted the high-heeled shoe, valuing its projection of virile masculinity.

Whereas the Persian soldiers and noblemen used heels out of necessity, they were initially considered formidable and donned for their appearance. 

1700s: King Louis XIV Introduces High Heels With Red Soles To The French Court

Photo: Hyacinthe Rigaud/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The first half of the 18th century was the peak of the men in heels movement. Louis XIV of France, also known as the Sun King, reigned over France for 72 years. Standing at 5’4,” King Louis was rather arrogant, to say the least. The Sun King moniker came from his deeply held belief that he was the center of the universe, and that France revolved around him.

Since Louis was a statistically below-average height man, and fancied himself as monumentally important, he was all about a high heel. He was known for the emblematic red-soled heel, predating Christian Louboutin’s red-bottom heels by 200 years. 

Plebeians were allowed to emulate him by wearing high heels, but only those in his court were permitted to wear the red soles. Doing so without prior authorization was grounds for punishment and being thrown out of court.

1700s: Men’s Heels Become More Broad And Sturdy, While Women’s Become More Decorative

Photo: Jean Francois de Troy/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

After a few centuries of a uniformly chunky heel, the design split off into distinct gendered categories. Returning to the original utility purpose of the shoe, the men’s heel became more broad and thick. In contrast, the women’s heel became more tapered and served as a decorative garment. This shift would signal the impending end of society’s acceptance of the unisex high heel.

Mid-1700s: Heels Are Perceived As ‘Frivolous’ And Are Worn Exclusively By Women

Photo: LACMA/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Despite the emergent popularity of high heels at the turn of the 18th century, they were quickly dismissed as frivolous women’s footwear. The design continued to skew more and more dainty and tapered over time, more closely resembling the thin heeled shoe that is worn today.

The purpose for wearing the high heel was not for emphasizing the shape of the wearer’s legs but rather the smallness of her feet. Skirts were still too long to show the contour of the foot, and small feet were a desirable feminine trait at the time. 

Late 1700s: Heels Go Out Of Style Following The French Revolution

Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Soon after the gendered divide that diminished the widespread appeal of the high heel, one historical event in 1789 ended public interest in the shoes entirely. 

The French Revolution was a people’s movement that sought to do away with the aristocracy. Garb that emphasized social status became undesirable, and high heels became passe and undemocratic. The shoes were already widely dismissed for their “irrationality and superficiality,” so they were not missed. 

Mid-1800s: Photography And Adult Entertainment Reintroduce High-Heeled Fashion

Photo: French Walery/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Although heels were considered irrational and superficial at the end of the 18th century, they found popularity elsewhere as men began to enjoy the effect a heel had on the shape of a woman’s posterior. 

The advent of photography in the 19th century was monumental for countless reasons, but it also ushered in the renaissance of the high-heeled shoe. Adult postcards featuring women in heels became very popular in France, and the rest of Europe and America soon followed. 

Effectively, the invention of print adult entertainment was directly responsible for the high heel comeback, cementing society’s correlation between sexuality and high heels. 

1940s: Pin-Up Girl Posters Correlate High Heels With Female Sexuality

Photo: Alfred T. Palmer/Flickr/Public Domain

The progression of adult postcards led to the widely popular pin-up genre. Exceptionally tall, thin, and with sharp heels, these provocative shoes were allowed to be more visually intriguing and less structurally sound as the models only needed to pose in them for a few minutes at a time.

The pin-ups were especially popular in the men’s barracks throughout WWII, which inadvertently caused an innovative shake up that would change the shape of the heel industry forever. 

1945: The Stiletto Is Invented And Becomes A Women’s Fashion Staple Following WWII

Photo: Arroser/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

In the 1950s, high heel technology allowed for a new type of heel that was thinner, sharper, and more chic than ever before. Up until this point, heels were typically made out of wood, so they could only be carved as thin as was structurally sound. Once shoemakers began using steel to create the structure of the heel, they could be much thinner and still safely support the wearer’s weight, and thus the stiletto heel was born. 

The stiletto heel was a small piece of metal attached to the inside of the shoe, allowing the heel to pivot separately from the shoe and allow flexibility for the wearer. The interior steel piece is known as the “shank,” and it is placed on the back of the heel, rather than in the middle like the original style of heel. 

Late 1900s: Heels Remain Popular, But Designs Become More Casual And Comfortable

Photo: Pudsly/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

2010s: As Drag Culture Goes Mainstream, Men Are Wearing Heels Once Again

Photo: DVSROSS/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

While performative cross-dressing has existed for centuries, our current understanding of drag culture quietly progressed in the shadows all throughout the 20th century. It has surged wildly in popularity throughout the early 21st century.

This newfound acceptance of female impersonation and gender fluid performers has made it fashionable once more for men to wear high heels, and this effect has spread beyond the realm of drag performance. This is not to say that the average guy on the street is wearing eight-inch stilettos, but tolerance for gender experimentation has blurred the lines of what clothing is “female” or “male.”

Time Immemorial: Stories Like ‘Cinderella’ Reinforce The Notion Of Heels As A Status Symbol

Photo: Oliver Herford/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The status and desirability of heels has been primarily governed by class signaling and sociopolitical events. While there are many intricate and discrete factors throughout history, many of those dynamics can be best understood through allegorical stories about coveting the high heel.

One example, and possibly the oldest, is Cinderella. Stories using the “slipper test” plot device have been told since the first century in Egypt, and many individual cultures have their own retelling of this type of story. In the case of the present-day Cinderella, the glass slipper represents access to a higher social class. Without it, she appears normal, dowdy, and as a laborer. Due to her beauty and virtuous neighbor, however, she is rewarded by being innately worthy of wearing the shoe. 

Reference

Buddhism 101: Schools of Tibetan Buddhism

Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, Jonang, and Bonpo

Buddhism first reached Tibet in the 7th century. By the 8th-century teachers such as Padmasambhava were traveling to Tibet to teach the dharma. In time Tibetans developed their own perspectives and approaches to the Buddhist path.

The list below is of the major distinctive traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. This is only a brief glimpse of rich traditions that have branched into many sub-schools and lineages. 

NYINGMAPA

A monk performs a sacred dance at Shechen, a major Nyingmapa monastery in Sichuan Provinc, China. © Heather Elton / Design Pics / Getty Images

Nyingmapa is the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism. It claims as its founder Padmasambhava, also called Guru Rinpoche, “Beloved Master,” which places its beginning in the late 8th century. Padmasambhava is credited with building Samye, the first monastery in Tibet, in about 779 CE.

Along with tantric practices, Nyingmapa emphasizes revealed teachings attributed to Padmasambhava plus the “great perfection” or Dzogchen doctrines.

KAGYU

Colorful paintings decorate the walls of Drikung Kagyu Rinchenling monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal. © Danita Delimont / Getty Images

The Kagyu school emerged from the teachings of Marpa “The Translator” (1012-1099) and his student, Milarepa. Milarepa’s student Gampopa is the main founder of Kagyu. Kagyu is best known for its system of meditation and practice called Mahamudra.

The head of the Kagyu school is called the Karmapa. The current head is the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who was born in 1985 in the Lhathok region of Tibet.

SAKYAPA

A visitor to the main Sakya Monastery in Tibet poses in front of prayer wheels. © Dennis Walton / Getty Images

In 1073, Khon Konchok Gyelpo (1034-l102) built Sakya Monastery in southern Tibet. His son and successor, Sakya Kunga Nyingpo, founded the Sakya sect. Sakya teachers converted the Mongol leaders Godan Khan and Kublai Khan to Buddhism. Over time, Sakyapa expanded to two subsects called the Ngor lineage and the Tsar lineage. Sakya, Ngor and Tsar constitute the three schools (Sa-Ngor-Tsar-gsum) of the Sakyapa tradition.

The central teaching and practice of Sakyapa is called Lamdrey (Lam-‘bras), or “the Path and Its Fruit.” The headquarters of the Sakya sect today are at Rajpur in Uttar Pradesh, India. The current head is the Sakya Trizin, Ngakwang Kunga Thekchen Palbar Samphel Ganggi Gyalpo.

GELUGPA

Gelug monks wear the yellow hats of their order during a formal ceremony. © Jeff Hutchens / Getty Images

The Gelugpa or Gelukpa school, sometimes called the “yellow hat” sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), one of Tibet’s greatest scholars. The first Gelug monastery, Ganden, was built by Tsongkhapa in 1409.

The Dalai Lamas, who have been spiritual leaders of the Tibetan people since the 17th century, come from the Gelug school. The nominal head of Gelugpa is the Ganden Tripa, an appointed official. The current Ganden Tripa is Thubten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu.

The Gelug school places great emphasis on monastic discipline and sound scholarship.

JONANGPA

Tibetan monks work on creating an intricate sand drawing, known as a mandala, at the Broward County Main Library February 6, 2007 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images

Jonangpa was founded in the late 13th century by a monk named Kunpang Tukje Tsondru. Jonangpa is distinguished chiefly by kalachakra, its approach to tantra yoga.

In the 17th-century the 5th Dalai Lama forcibly converted the Jonangs into his school, Gelug. Jonangpa was thought to be extinct as an independent school. However, in time it was learned that a few Jonang monasteries had maintained independence from Gelug.

Jonangpa is now officially recognized as an independent tradition once again.

BONPO

Bon dancers wait to perform at the Masked dancers at Wachuk Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Sichuan, China. © Peter Adams / Getty Images

When Buddhism arrived in Tibet it competed with indigenous traditions for the loyalty of Tibetans. These indigenous traditions combined elements of animism and shamanism. Some of the shaman priests of Tibet were called “bon,” and in time “Bon” became the name of the non-Buddhist religious traditions that lingered in Tibetan culture.

In time elements of Bon were absorbed into Buddhism. At the same time, Bon traditions absorbed elements of Buddhism, until Bonpo seemed more Buddhist than not. Many adherents of Bon consider their tradition to be separate from Buddhism. However, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has recognized Bonpo as a school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Reference

  • O’Brien, Barbara. “Schools of Tibetan Buddhism.” Learn Religions, Feb. 11, 2020, learnreligions.com/schools-of-tibetan-buddhism-450186.

Gay History: History Of The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, San Francisco, California, 1971-2004

Introduction

The Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club of San Francisco was the first registered Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Democratic Club in the nation. Forming only two years after the Stonewall riots in the infancy of the LGBT civil rights movement, Alice grew to become a vibrant organization that has made a profound impact on San Francisco, California and American politics. Alice made its impact by training activists over four decades to become political professionals and electing candidates that have fought for the issues that are important to the LGBT community. The club has been instrumental in growing new leaders who would rise to the highest levels of government in the nation, such as Dianne Feinstein, an early friend of the club. Alice has been critical to the fight for LGBT leaders to win office, such as Mark Leno, the first gay man elected to the California State Senate. These leaders have helped make San Francisco the epicenter of the LGBT political movement, advancing causes such as equal benefits, domestic partnership, transgender health care, and marriage equality. Alice continues to be a major player in local, state and national politics and remains an inspiring and effective organization to this day.

1970s-1980s: Challenging the Conspiracy of Silence and Working Together as a Community

Alice B Toklas, 1949 Photo by Carl Van Vechten 

Beginnings of the Club

Back in 1971, it had only been a couple of years since the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot and Stonewall Riots; homosexuality was still registered as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association; the modern Women’s Movement was just forming; President Richard Nixon was playing to his “silent majority”; and the issue of homosexuality was still thought of in the popular consciousness as “The Love That Dare Not Speak its Name.” [1] [2] [3]

At this time, ‘gay people’ (including women, men and transgender people who frequently referred to the community in this period as a ‘gay movement’), all faced widespread cultural stigma and the high probability that they could be fired, expelled from families, and subject to violence for simply coming out.[4] To even speak of gayness was taboo. This environment constituted a ‘conspiracy of silence’ where the culture had established rules that any deviation from perceived normalcy related to gender and sex was considered pathological, immoral and criminal. At this time and in this hostile environment, for gay people to sign up publicly for a ‘gay democratic club’ and for politicians to be associated with the issue of homosexuality, was an act of bravery.

Jim Foster founded the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club in December 1971.[5] [6] Foster was a gay rights activist who had been organizing with the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) to elect pro-gay candidates in San Francisco since SIR was formed in 1964.[7] Prior to Alice there had been a few gay and lesbian advocacy groups such as SIR, the Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society and others, but gay political goals had never been incorporated directly into the platform of a major American political party.[8] [9] In 1971 Foster chartered Alice to initiate gay advocacy within the Democratic Party and started a collaborative relationship that continues to this day. [10]

Why Alice B. Toklas?

Jim Foster organizing a phone bank in the early 1970’s. Photo from Alice Reports Newsletter of the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club.

Alice B. Toklas was the partner of the famous writer Gertrude Stein.[11] The original 20 members of the Club chose Alice B. Toklas because the name served as a code to protect the confidentiality of members. Saying you were a “member of Alice” was like saying “I’m a friend of Dorothy” – only gay people would know that the “Alice” club referred to gay people.[12]

Alice’s first political Campaign – 1972 McGovern vs. Nixon

Alice and Jim Foster played an important role in the Democratic Party’s selection of George McGovern as the Democratic Party candidate of 1972.[13] Alice endorsed McGovern, opened a ‘McGovern for President’ campaign office, and became a Bay Area political operation for McGovern in one of the Democratic strongholds in the state of California. At a critical point in the campaign, Foster helped implement a midnight signature gathering campaign in San Francisco gay bars in advance of the state primary deadline that helped McGovern be the first candidate to submit the required signatures that morning. This placed McGovern’s name first on the list of candidates on the California ballot.[14] McGovern won California with a 5-point edge over Hubert Humphrey, and ballot placement was considered one of the reasons for his win.[15]

1972 Democratic Convention – First Attempt to put Gay Rights Plank in Democratic Party Platform

After McGovern became the candidate, Foster also represented Alice at the Democratic Party National Convention of 1972, and brought a “Gay Liberation Plank” to the national platform committee.[16] This motion was extremely significant for the Democratic Party because it brought gay rights policy before the national party for the first time ever. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party was not yet ready to adopt gay rights in its platform. Kathy Wilch, a speaker at the Democratic National Convention, gave a divisive speech opposing the Gay Liberation Plank and halted approval of its inclusion in the Democratic Party Platform. This action angered many gay activists, prompting McGovern to send a letter clarifying: “Her views in no way reflect my views on the subject… I have long supported civil rights of all Americans and have in no way altered my commitment to these rights and I have no intention of doing so.”[17]

McGovern didn’t specifically say he supported gay rights, but in referencing the Wilch incident, he included gay rights in the broader context of civil rights, which was a victory. Gay rights had never been recognized as civil rights by a previous national party leader. Alice and Jim Foster’s platform effort thus initiated a national effort to incorporate gay rights within the Democratic Party platform, and this relationship between the gay community and the Democratic Party would continue and grow for decades.

1973 – A club of professional advocates working from the inside

The people who started Alice were experienced in politics, many of them working previously for the Society for Individual Rights. Jim Foster, Jack Hubbs, Steve Swanson and Tere Roderick, the original officers, got the club off to a quick start. The club began raising “Dollars for Democrats”, started a door-to-door canvassing program, and outreached to Democratic Party members, including Supervisor Dorothy von Beroldingen, Supervisor Quentin Kopp, Supervisor Peter Tamaras, Senator Milton Marks, Senator George Moscone, and other elected officials.[18] [19] [20] At that time, Jim Foster built an especially close relationship with one of California’s most successful politicians: Dianne Feinstein. [21]

Cover of the Alice Reports Newsletter, November 1973

Early Political Successes

In 1969, Foster invited Supervisorial candidate Dianne Feinstein to meet with the Society for Individual Rights for her 1970 first race for Supervisor. After Feinstein was elected in 1970, Jim Foster requested that she introduce legislation to add the words “sex and sexual orientation” to the city’s non-discrimination ordinance. In 1973, Supervisor Feinstein introduced and passed the legislation at Alice’s urging. Following this action, Supervisor Dorothy von Beroldingen, another close ally of Foster’s, appointed Alice member Jo Daly to a television oversight commission, a first for the City, and paving the way for lesbians and gay men to be appointed to public positions in San Francisco in later years.

Police issues

A major concern of the club in the early years was police harassment and substandard conditions in the San Francisco County jail. Gay men and lesbians dealt with police harassment issues with raids on bars and mistreatment by officers of people in the community. The jails were also a highly unsafe environment for gay detainees and the club made it a priority to change conditions in the jails. Jim Foster wrote Mayor Alioto a letter on behalf of the club criticizing him for not doing enough to address the problem of poor jail facilities.[22] In this time, Alice began a long relationship with Sheriff Michael Hennessey who became a friend of the club, often performing as a disc jockey at the clubs annual holiday party. Hennessey worked with the community to institute changes in holding conditions for gay inmates.[23]

Marijuana

Although the concept of “medical marijuana” was not a common political concept in this era, Alice supported efforts to decriminalize the overall possession and cultivation of marijuana.[24]

Cover of the Alice Reports Newsletter, November 1973

The “Big Four”

In November 1973, Alice worked to elect Dianne Feinstein, Jack Morrison, Jeff Masonek and Dorothy von Beroldingen to the Board of Supervisors. It was the first “Alice Slate” of candidates, and became a model for future efforts.

1974-1977 Post Watergate Era – Beginnings of Political Change

With Richard Nixon’s resignation and the wind blowing at the back of Democrats, it was an exciting time. Jo Daly and Jim Foster went to the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York, representing Alice. Despite the excitement about Democrats heading towards a win, Gay people were upset at the removal of the gay rights plank from the Democratic Platform to avoid ‘controversy.’ Gay protesters organized outside of the convention hall while Jo and Jim registered their disappointment to other delegates inside the convention. The ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ suppressing advocacy for gay rights on the national political level continued to be a pervasive stance of the Democratic Party during this era. [25] [26]

After the Democratic Convention, Carter made some efforts to reach out to lesbian and gay constituents through adult media. Playboy Magazine released an interview where Carter made it clear that he would sign a bill to extend equal rights to gay people, and his wife said at the time “I do not think that homosexuals should be harassed.” Carter’s choice of Playboy Magazine as the context for discussing gay rights cloaked gay rights in an adult context, and reinforced the idea that gayness is strictly about sex, but Carter’s outreach was an important start for a Democratic Party that was still finding its way on the issue of gay rights. It was the first time a Presidential candidate specifically committed to support gay rights legislation and this began to break the ‘conspiracy of silence’ surrounding the issue.[27] [28]

A young Willie Brown who would become Speaker of the California Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco

Huge Victory in California – Decriminalizing Homosexuality

One of the important victories for gay rights during the post Watergate era, was Willie Brown’s passage of “consensual sex legislation”, Assembly Bill 489. The 1975 bill removed California’s anti-sodomy laws that criminalized sex between consenting adults of the same gender. Sodomy laws had long been used in states around the nation to criminalize homosexuality.[29]While the laws had been used in practice sporadically, the practical impact was to silence lesbians and gay men about their sexuality. If someone came out about being gay and having a partner, sodomy laws made it that this person was in effect admitting to being a criminal. Since the formation of Alice, the organization had been working closely with Willie Brown to remove California’s sodomy law. Passage of this legislation marked an important step in protecting the civil rights of gay people and an important legislative victory for Alice.

Alice in 1977

With the election of President Carter, the passage of Willie Brown’s consensual sex acts legislation, and the election of Alice’s slate of candidates, Alice became better known to the community. With all of this success, more people wanted to get involved in politics and the Alice B. Toklas Club. An election was held in 1977 for Club President, and membership grew significantly. 107 members showed up to vote for the elections and 26 members were elected as officers to the club. With these elections, Alice’s moderate, professional insider style became a sore point for many in the community who felt the club didn’t speak for them at that time.

January 1978 Edition of the “Gay Vote Newsletter” of the “Gay Democratic Club” (later known as the “Harvey Milk Democratic Club”) when Harvey Milk was sworn into office

1977-1978 – the Moscone / Milk Period

Social change brings about the most raw of human emotions and Harvey Milk’srise to power awakened the city, bringing about new possibilities, and unfortunately new hostilities that had not been experienced in the past.

After two unsuccessful bids for Supervisor in 1973 and 1975, Harvey Milk was elected Supervisor after a new system of district elections was established in 1977. Known as the “Mayor of Castro Street”, Harvey was the first openly gay man elected to the Board of Supervisors, and he won as a grassroots candidate without the support of Alice. Members of Alice believed Harvey was too left in his politics to win, so the Club backed another gay candidate, Rick Stokes. But Harvey did win the election and made history, leaving Alice to consider its decision. One important historic aspect of Milk’s win was the recognition that grassroots politics could be successful. Alice members believed that politics was an ‘insider’ game, and that outsiders couldn’t make it into positions of power. Milk’s win disproved this and set about a rethinking of San Francisco politics for years to come.

Because Alice did not support Harvey, his supporters formed the “Gay Democratic Club” which eventually became the Harvey Milk Democratic Club after Harvey was assassinated. The ‘Milk Club’ ultimately became the left-leaning voice in LGBT politics for the city, while Alice became positioned as the ‘moderate’ voice in LGBT politics. A third club, the Stonewall Democratic Club, formed in Los Angeles and established chapters all over the country, with a San Francisco chapter established for much of the 1970’s and 1980’s. This club also became quite influential in San Francisco politics for some time, especially under the leadership of Gary Parker. With Stonewall and Milk, San Francisco now had three clubs for gay activists to choose from, whereas Alice had been the only game in town just a few years before. [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]

In 1977, when Harvey Milk and George Moscone were newly elected, the Alice B. Toklas Club met with Mayor Moscone. At this meeting he made commitments to Alice members about many issues:[35] [36]

1977 Community Issues:

Police Commission: The Mayor agreed to appoint a gay person to the city Police Commission. He also praised the Toklas club for its resolution in support of Police Chief Charles Gain, a liberal police chief he appointed.

  • Community Center: Moscone supported city funding for the development of a Gay Community Center, explaining that the Center at 330 Grove was in a building that was to be torn down for construction of the Performing Arts Center. He promised funds would be made available.
  • Mayor’s Open Door: The Mayor established himself as a gay political ally, encouraging activists to work with Supervisor Harvey Milk to advance pro-gay legislation for him to sign. He also announced he had out gay people on his staff that would work with the community on community goals.
  • Pride Funding: He said he favored city funding of the annual Gay Freedom Day Parade from the city hotel tax, a long-time goal of the community.
    Unity: Moscone urged Alice members to put aside their feelings that were evident from the campaign about Harvey Milk and to unite behind the winner for progress that could benefit the gay community. 

Political Action and Progress

1978 was a year of clashes between the newly active “religious right” and the “feminist left.” Five years after the Supreme Court made it’s ruling on Roe vs. Wade, the religious right began to organize all over the country, linking feminism and gay rights as shared targets in their cultural war. Jerry Falwell created his “Moral Majority”[37] and Anita Bryant waged a Save our Children campaign in Florida, while in California, State Senator Briggs jumped into the act by placing his Measure 6 on the ballot to ban gay people from teaching. The “No on 6 Campaign” backfired on Briggs and turned out to be a huge success story for LGBT Californians. Briggs lost his initiative after Alice and other LGBT organizations rallied together across the state. The campaign became a context for training young activists and supported networking among LGBT organizations. The conservative loss temporarily slowed the religious right’s crusade against gays. Progress was made on other fronts that year as well. The American Psychiatric Association finally removed homosexuality from its list of pathologies in 1978, which was a crucial step in helping American culture to shift its attitudes towards gay men and lesbians. [38] [39] [40] [41]

Violence and Turmoil

While some progress was made in 1978, ultimately the year will be remembered most for its great tragedies. On November 27th, 1978, Supervisor Dan White climbed through an open window of City Hall and gunned down Supervisor Harvey Milk as well as Mayor George Moscone. It was a day when everyone grieved and the assassination changed San Francisco forever.

Dan White assassinated Milk and Moscone just days after the Mayor signed into law Milk’s Gay Rights Ordinance that White opposed. The LGBT Community held a massive, peaceful candle light vigil in Harvey’s memory following news of the murders. Later that year, White was brought to trial outside of San Francisco, and a suburban jury found him guilty of “voluntary manslaughter” and gave White 7 years in prison, a sentence widely criticized as too lenient. The jury supported the verdict on the grounds that he had eaten too many Twinkies and his blood sugar was so high, that he snapped and went temporarily insane. This infamous “Twinkie” defense sparked outrage within the LGBT community, for justice had not been done. Following the verdict, the “White Night Riots” broke out in San Francisco, and over 160 people ended up in the hospital. The riots directed anger at the SFPD, as Dan White had been a former police officer, and a string of police related incidents occurring around the time of the verdict led to an environment of tension between the community and the police. (For more about the Police and LGBT community tensions at that time, Uncle Donald’s Castro Street history has some interesting information: http://thecastro.net/milk/whitenight.html )

Amidst all of this turmoil, the leadership of Alice was torn about how to respond. Club President Steve Walters remarked:

“It’s been almost two weeks since the infamous Dan White non-verdict, and I’ve read and heard an infinity of comments and reactions about the trial, and events that night at City Hall. I remain conflicted, torn between my dislike of violence and my rage at the injustice of the jury’s decision. Harsh critics have emerged, focusing on the violence of that night, but ignoring the events that led up to it: the murders of George and Harvey, increased physical attacks against gay men and women, the infamous Pegs Place affair, and the equally infamous police investigative whitewashing, removal from the Dan White jury of a man solely because he was gay, and finally, the ultimate immorality and insult of the jury’s decision.”[42]

As Walters mentioned, a string of issues had been creating tension between the community and the SFPD. The Pegs Place incident involved officers entering a lesbian establishment and assaulting women patrons with little action taken afterwards by the SFPD to respond to the incident. Walters and other members of the community charged that the SFPD had ‘whitewashed’ the facts of the Dan White case to protect one of their former officers. With anger mounting over all of these police issues, Alice became even more intensely focused on the issue of police misconduct, writing letters to the Mayor and requesting action to address the situation. [43] [44] [45]

Jo Daly, an early President of the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club, who was Mayor Feinstein’s appointment to the San Francisco Television Oversight Task Force, and later the San Francisco Police Commission, the first openly gay or lesbian appointment to a City commission in San Francisco.

The Early 80’s – Growing Pains, Separatism, and Different Agendas.

Lesbians and gay men shared some common political goals in the early 80’s (such as supporting Senator Art Agnos’s Assembly Bill 1, banning job discrimination against gays and lesbians), but issues such as economic justice for women and gay men’s sexual revolution came to be viewed at times as conflicting sets of priorities. When members of the community were appointed to positions of power, people began to raise questions such as “Can gay men in power truly speak for lesbians?” or “Are lesbians truly sensitive to the issues of importance to gay men?”

Former Alice Co-Chair Jo Daly was the first member of the lesbian and gay community to be appointed to the San Francisco Police Commission, but Alice member Bruce Petit wrote a letter to the club raising concerns about her appointment that echoed many of the divisions of the time. [1] He said:

“Feinstein fulfilled her major campaign pledge to the Gay community by appointing one of their own to the five-member body that directs the police department. But some activist elements faulted Daly as short on progressive credentials, too close of an ally to the Mayor, and unable to represent Gay men—who are said to have more problems with the police than lesbians”

Bruce Petit continued his letter, quoting lesbian Police Commissioner Jo Daly as saying:

“Women make 53 cents for every dollar men make. Two white gay men putting their incomes together are better off than anybody else in society. For Gay activist males to make their major concentration maintaining glory holes—when La Casa, the only home in the county where battered women and children can go, is going out of business because there is no money—that leaves us angry!” [2]

The tension between lesbians and gay men in this period was heated, and some of the accusations on both sides now seem unfair. The conflicts were perhaps especially acrimonious in Alice because male leadership had up to that point dominated the club. But despite the divisions that erupted at this time, there were also important unique perspectives that were affirmed out of that discourse. The community began to affirm that women have a truly unique perspective from men, and people of both genders have unique contributions to make. “Gay” was no longer used as an umbrella term for the community – “gay” became a word largely designated for men, and “lesbian” became an important, distinctive term of choice for women. [3]

Barbara Boxer and Carole Migden early in their careers. Photo from Alice Reports Newsletter

Women in Leadership Positions

One of the most significant areas of progress for the community in the early 80’s was the rise of women to leadership positions, beginning the careers of some women who would go on to the highest offices in the nation. Barbara Boxer was elected to congress with outspoken support for LGBT issues as a central part of her campaign message.[4]

Carole Migden became the President of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and ran for Community College Board, laying the groundwork for her later Board of Supervisors, Assembly and State Senate races.

Because of the male dominance of gay democratic clubs in the early years, lesbians worked outside of the Democratic Club system to become politically active in their own right. After Harvey Milk was assassinated and Harry Britt was appointed as his replacement on the Board of Supervisors, there was a feeling among many women that a woman should have been appointed to support gender balanced leadership. Out of the frustration of many women at being held out of political office, a group of politically active women formed the Lesbian Agenda for Action. Women like Roma Guy, Pat Norman, Martha Knutzen, Fran Kipnis and Carole Migden began to work outside the democratic club establishment in this organization as a way to assert power outside of a system that was heavily dominated by men. Out of this activism, Carole Migden eventually became the chair of the Democratic Party bringing gay staff with her. Roger Sanders, her staffer, computerized the Democratic Party system and helped her modernize the Democratic Party’s voter turnout process. [5] [6] [7]

District Elections:

After the Milk/Moscone assassinations, San Francisco moved back to citywide elections for supervisorial races. It was believed by some that district elections were a large part of the divisiveness that led to Milk’s assassination. Others felt that district elections were crucial to representing San Francisco’s diversity. Alice membership overwhelmingly supported the concept of district elections in 1980, with 200 members voting to support district elections and only two members dissenting.

1980 Democratic National Platform:

Alice worked very closely with the Harvey Milk Democratic Club in 1980 to successfully lobby Jimmy Carter (with the help of Mayor Feinstein) to include a gay plank in the Democratic Platform. [8][9] The convention that year had a record 71 openly lesbian and gay delegates, with 17 coming from California. Alice Delegates included Harry Britt, Gwenn Craig, Jim Foster, Bill Kraus and Anne Kronenberg (one of Harvey Milk’s Aides). [10][11] Mike Thistle went on behalf of the Milk Club and Alice member Larry Eppinette attended as a Carter delegate. Alice also sent many non-gay delegates including Kevin Shelley, among others.[12]

Fighting Police Entrapment:

Law enforcement issues continued to be a major issue of concern for Alice, as Senator John Foran authored SB 1216 to legalize police entrapment and require that a defendant prove he/she is of ‘good character’, not predisposed to commit a crime, if loitering.[13][14]

Advertisement in the Alice Reports newsletter for Tom Ammiano in his first campaign for School Board. Ammiano would later become a San Francisco Supervisor and Assemblyman.

Gay Men campaigning for office:

John Newmeyer became California’s first openly gay man to run for congress in the 2nd District, and Alice endorsed his unsuccessful, but historic first bid.[15] TomAmmiano ran for School Board for the first time in 1980, starting a long career in San Francisco politics, and Alice endorsed Tom in his first race. [16] Harry Britt was also appointed by Dianne Feinstein to replace Harvey Milk in office. This appointment was a source of contention for some in the community as many women felt that Ann Kronenberg, Harvey Milk’s legislative aide, should have been appointed to office to support gender balance. Britt continued to serve on the Board in the 1980’s focusing particularly on tenant’s rights issues.

Alice comes out officially as a “Gay Democratic Club” under Club President Connie O’Conner

During the early eighties Connie O’Conner was elected President of Alice and ran a slate of candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee. Louise Minnick, Randy Stallings and Connie O’Conner all won as Alice’s candidates in 1980. Connie also successfully made a motion to change the name of the club to the “Alice B. Toklas Gay Democratic Club.” This was very controversial at the time and many longtime Alice members such as Jim Foster and Robert Barnes argued that straight club members might feel alienated if the club was explicitly identified as a “gay democratic club”. Alice voted to change its name and move towards greater openness, while straight San Francisco allies continue to this day to sign up to be a part of Alice.

Alice wins seats on the San Francisco Democratic Central Committee

In 1980 Under the leadership of club President Connie O’Conner, Alice ran a slate of candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee and Louise Minnick, Randy Stallings and Connie O’Conner won seats on the committee. Previously only Milk club members like Ron Huberman and Gwen Craig represented the LGBT community on this committee.

Mayor Feinstein Recall Fight

In 1983, a heated battle ensued over attempts to recall Mayor Feinstein, with recall supporters citing her veto of domestic partners legislation and her support of landlords over tenants. Anti-recall supporters cited Feinstein’s longtime support for gay legislation and her willingness to put funds towards helping people with KS and AIDS at the very beginning of the epidemic. Alice voted 137 to 73 to oppose the recall effort and became very active in fighting the recall. Afterward, Feinstein was very grateful to Alice and instituted regular meetings with the club to keep in communication with the community about issues.[17][18][19][20]

HIV and AIDS – The Total Focus of the Mid 1980’s and Early 90’s

The fight over the Feinstein recall was one of the last divisive fights between left and moderate LGBT democrats for a while, as the energy and focus had to go 100% to saving lives. San Francisco was hit especially hard by the AIDS epidemic and some of our brightest people in the community were lost. With them went much knowledge and skill that could be shared and passed down in the community. Many died early in the epidemic, such as the Founder of Alice, Jim Foster and former Alice President Robert Cramer who passed away just a few years before protease inhibitors were introduced.[21] Many continued to die after 1994, and this had enormous impact on the community. Tony Leone, a longtime member of Alice, and a dedicated activist for gay rights, passed away in 1999. Dick Pabich, the legislative aide to Harvey Milk who went on to become a campaign consultant to Carole Migden passed away in 2000.[22] Many friends in politics of these brilliant, dedicated people wondered how they could continue without their guidance and years of experience. A whole generation of knowledge was lost.

Alice jumped into the fight against AIDS early, as friends were dying, and the Federal Government was being completely unresponsive. Bay Area representatives Phil Burton and Barbara Boxer worked tirelessly to get federal support, while President Reagan still refused to even mention the word AIDS. It was a battle to get government to pay attention about something that was killing our community. As a result of this, a new slogan became popular among activists after the formation of ACT UP in 1987: “Silence Equals Death”. Activism against AIDS would increasingly be shaped as a direct battle between those who perpetuated the Conspiracy of Silence, and those who recognized that silence could kill them. [23][24][25][26][27]

Sal Rosselli (center, dark hair mustache), who would later become the President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers

The 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco

In 1984 the Democratic Convention was held in San Francisco three years after the initial discovery of HIV/AIDS and long before effective treatments were available. Alice representatives Sal Rosselli and Connie O’Conner were both elected as openly gay Gary Hart delegates to the Convention, and they watched Jesse Jackson speak to the convention floor after his first historic run for President. (Four years later Jackson would make his Rainbow Coalition Speech at the 1988 Convention where he famously included “gay Americans” as part of the Rainbow Coalition). Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis both lost their elections, but progress continued for the gay and lesbian community as the national Democratic Party began to publicly include the community as part of their public agenda.[28][29][30]

Despite progress on some fronts, the fight against AIDS continued to be enormous and at sometimes overwhelming for the members of Alice. Club President Sal Rosselli wrote in the January 1985 edition of Alice Reports:[31][32]

“While talking to friends over the Holidays, I often heard this statement characterizing 1984: Too intense, too much work; here’s to a relaxing 1985. Thanks to our active membership of almost 600, Alice has accomplished a great deal during the last year… Of course there is still so much to be done; but let us be proud and grateful for all we have accomplished. The year ahead looks like it may be less hectic and may afford us… more time to organize from within and focus on our primary agenda. That primary focus must be developing national, statewide and local plans to combat AIDS.”

By 1985, as can be seen in this statement, Alice was challenged by the fight against AIDS. After a depressing election loss against Ronald Reagan, and continuing struggles to save friends with few treatments available, these were difficult times. Alice’s primary focus would continue to be fighting AIDS until the partial success of halting the virus came with protease inhibitors in the mid ‘90’s, which allowed for a broadening of the political agenda.

A young Robert Barnes getting his start in politics. He would later become one of the most influential political consultants in San Francisco.

The Larouche Initiative:

Alice and AIDS activists did not get a reprieve after 1985 – things got worse before they got better. In 1986, Lyndon Larouche capitalized on AIDS-phobia and placed his infamous Proposition 64 on the ballot to quarantine people with AIDS, using the clearly faulty logic that AIDS could be spread by mosquitoes. Even in the early stages of the virus, it was obvious that mosquitoes could not spread the disease; otherwise it would not have disproportionately impacted specific groups. Fortunately, California voters struck down the initiative, once again sending a message to the radical right that measures like the Briggs and Larouche Initiatives would not be supported in California. Alice worked very hard to defeat the Larouche Initiative, contributing to the opposition’s success.[33]

Alice Pickets KQED over PBS Frontline Special on AIDS

In 1986 Alice became very involved in the fight against media defamation of people with AIDS under the leadership of Club President Roberto Esteves. San Francisco’s local television station KQED ran a PBS Frontline news story on a man with AIDS named Fabian Bridges who they presented as a ‘typhoid mary’. The reporters described Bridges as an HIV positive homosexual who had six partners a night and refused to stop having sex, regardless of his HIV status. The reporters didn’t mention that Bridges continued to have sex because he was in financial dire straights and he was a prostitute. The reporters also failed to mention that they paid Bridges to set up their exploitative interview. Alice joined with the Milk Club to protest the KQED Bay Area showing of this story to fight the media stereotype of presenting people with AIDS as predators.[34] After this protest, KQED responded by appointing its first openly gay member to their community advisory board. This effort was one of the early efforts to fight media defamation of gays happening right after the formation of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in 1985.[35]

1986 Alice’s endorsement critical in Jackie Speier winning Assembly Race 

One of the Bay Area’s most prominent leaders, Jackie Speier, became first known to many as an aide to Congressman Leo Ryan who was assassinated in the Jonestown massacre. Speier was in Guyana during the Jonestown Massacre and while attempting to shield herself from rifle and shotgun fire behind small airplane wheel, Speier was shot five times and waited 22 hours before help arrived. Speier survived and returned home from the incident going on to serve as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. In 1986 she ran for an open seat on the California State Assembly against Mike Nevin. Nevin had secured the endorsement of the Burton/Brown San Francisco political establishment, as well as the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, but Alice was Speier’s first club endorsement, and fighting against tough odds, she wound up winning. Alice’s support proved critical as Speier won the race by only a few hundred votes. Speier went on to serve as a member of Congress representing nearly half of San Francisco, as well as San Mateo and the Peninsula. Alice member Ron Braithwaite organized support for Speier in her first race for Assembly and for many years Speier marched in the LGBT Pride Parade with Alice and always considered Alice to be ‘her club’. [36][37]

1987 Art Agnos wins race for Mayor

Alice shocked many in 1987 with its decision to make no endorsement in the race for Mayor between liberal Assemblyman Art Agnos and centrist Supervisor John Molinari. Molinari had been the favorite of Alice for some time and it was assumed by many that Alice would endorse him, but Agnos had many supporters who were able to block an endorsement of Molinari on a 275 to 206 vote.[38]

1990s-2000s: An Organized Constituency Finds its Power

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Alice and the LGBT Community of San Francisco made enormous progress in challenging the conspiracy of silence that had prevailed in earlier decades. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, the LGBT Community started winning larger numbers of local electoral victories in San Francisco. It was no longer enough for the movement to rely upon straight allies (although Alice’s straight allies would continue to be crucial and would rise to prominence at all levels of government); but LGBT people would finally begin to win office in San Francisco in significant numbers, and would be appointed to various City commissions and departments holding offices in policy areas as diverse as Law Enforcement, Human Rights, Transportation, Education and Health. With this expansion of ‘out’ LGBT local representation and influence, Alice supported candidates began passing legislation that would implement changes for LGBT civil rights, not only in San Francisco, but far beyond the City limits.The 1990 “Lavender Sweep”

While San Francisco was confronting AIDS, there was an urgent sense that LGBT people needed to be in positions of power. It was not enough anymore to have friends of our community supporting us. We needed a place at the table. 1990 saw the culmination of two decades of political work by Alice and the Milk Club to bring our community to the table. All the hard work had finally come to success when the two clubs worked together in the historic 1990 Lavender Sweep (the first of two sweeps, the second being in 1994).

The 1990 sweep successfully pushed several candidates over the top to become elected leaders. Lesbian Donna Hitchens won citywide as Superior Court Judge. Lesbians Carole Migden and Roberta Achtenberg won races to join the Board of Supervisors, and Tom Ammiano became the first gay man elected to the San Francisco School Board. Years of work had paid off for all the candidates who had been trying to get into office, and work by Alice was crucial to these victories.[1][2]

Jim Rivaldo, Harvey Milk’s campaign consultant and worked as a political and graphics design consultant for both the Alice and Milk Clubs in the following decades

Alice Involvement in the Lavender Sweeps and broader community work:

Campaigns are not won by leaders simply rising to power. It takes incredible work and commitment of people in the community to make a difference. It takes fundraising. It takes strategy. It takes coalition building. It takes development of successful messages and professional campaign materials. It takes enlisting support, one endorsement at a time. And it takes courage to stand by your vision even in the face of opposition. That’s exactly what Alice and the community did to create the 1990 and 1994 landmark elections. There are countless heroes in these efforts that deserve to be recognized, and a few of these are Dick Pabich, Jim Hormel and Mark Leno who raised money for numerous community efforts throughout these years. Jim Hormel not only supported LGBT candidates, but also raised enormous sums for the new Public Library’s Hormel Center for LGBT research. Mark Leno became a lead fundraiser and strategist for building the new LGBT Community Center] and one of Carole Migden’s top fundraisers. Dick Pabich not only helped Carole Migden raise funds to get into office, but he became a chief fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer, paving the way for one of our nation’s most outspoken national advocates for LGBT rights in the United States Senate. Robert Barnes and campaign consultant Jim Rivaldo were instrumental in establishing a professional campaign operation for LGBT advocacy. Barnes became a key advisor to LGBT leaders and Rivaldo became a lead graphics designer for slate cards, billboards, and countless materials done pro-bono for LGBT causes during this time. Carole Cullum at the law firm of Cullum and Sena also provided crucial legal advice to LGBT campaigns while long time LGBT activists Martha Knutzen, Fran Kipnis and Denny Edelman gave non-stop volunteer work on behalf of community causes throughout these years as well. There were so many others, but this gives a small sense of the broad coalition of work that was being done to lay the foundation for LGBT political power and LGBT social services in San Francisco.[3][4][5]

Carole Cullum and Kathy Brehm. Carole, as Alice co-chair, helped the SF Women’s Building in a political fight to remove a bar from its premise and make it a safe space for all women using the facility.

National Repercussions of the 1990 Lavender Sweep

The Lavender sweep had national repercussions as it became a precursor to LGBT campaign organizing prior to the 1992 presidential election, and established the San Francisco lesbian and gay community as a base of power that could help win local, state and national elections in the future.

1992 “The Year of the Woman”

In 1992 California made history by sending Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to the U.S. Senate and the LGBT community played a key role in that success. Political pundits billed 1992 as “The Year of the Woman because women candidates made successful efforts to break into the male dominated US Senate, which had only 2 female members in office at that time. Feinstein’s campaign used the slogan ‘2% is good for milk but not for equality’ in the US Senate. Senator Barbara Boxer won the election for US Senator in 1992 against radio commentator Bruce Herschensohn by 5% of the vote with the crucial assistance of the LGBT community. Her openly gay political consultant and fundraiser Dick Pabich was a key strategist for the Boxer campaign. Pabich adopted a strategy for Boxer to explicitly build a California majority of women, gay men and minority constituencies. Alice helped boost turnout in San Francisco to provide the margin of difference in that campaign.[6]

Button from Clinton’s 1992 Election campaign “Clinton: The Cure for the Blues”

Bill Clinton becomes President

That year Alice became an important player in Democratic Presidential politics as well. Robert Barnes, chair of the Alice B. Toklas Club had this to say about the approaching presidential election in the May 1992 edition of Alice Reports:

“Alice demonstrated its Democratic Party savvy in putting together a winning slate of delegates for the Clinton Presidential Caucus. Alice is the first major Democratic Club, and thus far the only Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club, to endorse Bill Clinton for President… With Alice’s support, lesbian Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg was the caucus’ top female vote getter.”

As an early endorser of Bill Clinton, Alice established itself as a “Friend of Bill’s” before other Democratic Clubs had gotten in the act, and Alice helped propel Roberta Achtenberg into the limelight of the Democratic Convention, supporting her eventual selection as Housing Undersecretary.

At the Democratic Convention, Bill Clinton was outspoken in his support of the LGBT Community, breaking the ‘conspiracy of silence’ that had long dominated national discussions of gay issues, even among Democratic politics. At the 1992 Democratic Convention, Clinton specifically talked about “gay people”, [43 minutes into speech], whereas in the past, democratic presidential contenders such as George McGovern and Jimmy Carter had said they supported “Civil Rights” when referring to LGBT people, but not actually identifying directly with our community at the Democratic Conventions. Clinton went on to appoint Roberta Achtenberg as Undersecretary of Housing, prompting archconservative Jesse Helms to famously refer to her as “that damn lesbian!” Clinton also appointed Democratic fundraiser and gay philanthropist Jim Hormel to be a U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, the first openly gay person to serve as a U.S. Ambassador.[7][8][9]

John Laird

Alice supports Mayor John Laird of Santa Cruz in his 1993 run for Assembly:

In September, 1993, many Alice members volunteered in the campaign to elect openly gay mayor John Laird of Santa Cruz to the State Assembly, as was reported by co-chair Mathew Rothschild in the Sept. 1993 edition of Alice Reports. Nearly a decade later, John joined Mark Leno as the first two gay men to be elected to the Assembly in 2002.[10]

Susan Leal Replaces Roberta Achtenberg on the Board of Supervisors.

Susan Leal was appointed June 7th, 1993 by Mayor Frank Jordan to serve on the Board of Supervisors succeeding Roberta Achtenberg. Susan joined Alice in endorsing Willie Brown in 1995 and began a strong relationship with the club, building towards her run for mayor, which Alice endorsed, in 2003. As a Latina lesbian, she continued the tradition of broadening San Francisco’s LGBT leadership diversity. [11][12]

The 1994 “Lavender Sweep”

In 1994 San Francisco had a second “Lavender Sweep” with openly gay candidates Susan Leal, Carole Migden and Tom Ammiano being elected to the Board of Supervisors, and Leslie Katz and Lawrence Wong winning election to the Community College Board. Alice was instrumental in the fight, working in coalition with the Milk Club. Susan Leal went on to Chair the powerful Finance Committee on the Board of Supervisors, ensuring that much needed funds would be directed towards HIV and AIDS services. With the 1994 Lavender Sweep, Alice and the LGBT Community demonstrated a firmly established base of power in San Francisco. The community that previously needed district elections to win a single elected office was now a major power broker sweeping several candidates into numerous offices for a second time. San Francisco’s political establishment would from this point forward be walking in close step with the LGBT community and its political goals.[13][14]

Willie Brown Elected Mayor:

With newly imposed term limits, longtime community ally Assemblyman Willie Brown was forced out of office and ran for Mayor in 1995. A major power broker for the state, it was believed that he could beat conservative Mayor Frank Jordan and bring unity to a deeply divided city. Prior to his campaign, Willie Brown met with Carole Migden, Alice Chair Mathew Rothschild, Milk Club Chair Martha Knutzen, Fran Kipnis and other LGBT community members to plan his run for Mayor. In the past, the lesbian and gay community had been on the ‘outside’ in brokering power for the city, but with the Lavender Sweep, lesbian and gay leaders were now recognized as a strong political force in San Francisco and Speaker Brown formed a direct alliance with the community in his race for Mayor. Brown won the election and went on to appoint more LGBT people to lead city departments and commissions than ever before in the city’s history. He also signed the Equal Benefits Ordinance to require businesses that contract with the city to provide equal benefits to domestic partners that are offered to married couples.[15][16][17][18]

Carole Migden replaces Willie Brown in the Assembly:

Willie Brown, the legendary “Ayatollah of the Assembly” who represented San Francisco and the Democratic Party incredibly well for decades, including early support for LGBT rights through his consensual sex laws, stepped down due to newly imposed term limits and Carole Migden replaced him. Alice’s longstanding relationship with Willie Brown and Carole Migden helped position Migden to become the second LGBT person ever sent to the California State Legislature. Carole won election to the seat later in 1998.

Labor Organizing – Training for Alice Members

Jack Gribbon was a labor organizer who trained Alice members how to organize during the Willie Brown Campaign for Mayor. A waiter who organized thousands of hospitality workers in the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 2 (H.E.R.E), Jack ran Willie Brown’s 1995 field campaign and enlisted Alice members to spend months before the Mayoral election tirelessly calling voter lists, identifying Brown supporters and walking precincts to turn voters out on Election Day. Jack originally got involved with Alice during the Domestic Partnership campaigns of the 1980’s, and his training became a model that worked. Alice member Fran Kipnis, for instance, turned out 99% of her own precinct in 1992, the same year that Barbara Boxer won her U.S. Senate race by 5%. Alice would sign up precinct captains, identify voters and track down if they were voting by mail or voting on Election Day, and would work relentlessly on Election Day until the polls closed, taking nothing for granted until the fight was over. Gribbon’s approach continues to be the model the club uses to this day, and LGBT areas of San Francisco such as the Castro District are known to be some of the highest turnout districts in the city every Election Day.

Leslie Katz Elected to the Board of Supervisors:

In 1996 Leslie Katz was elected to the Board of Supervisors after being appointed by Mayor Brown earlier that year. Alice worked tirelessly on Supervisor Katz’s campaign, as Leslie had been a longstanding member of the club who had already shown her strong leadership capabilities over many years. One of her staff, Geoff Kors, would go on to become the Executive Director for Equality California.[1][2]

Tom Radulovich elected to BART Board:

Tom Radulovich was elected to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors in November 1996 representing the 9th District in San Francisco.[3] An Alice supported candidate over the years and gay official, Tom later made a run for the Board of Supervisors. He has served on the BART Board for a decade while working tirelessly on housing and transit issues, taking a strong leadership role in groups like the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) and the Housing Action Coalition (HAC).

The Equal Benefits Ordinance: San Francisco Flexes its Muscles.

In 1996, San Francisco enacted an ordinance that had a broad impact on the entire nation, and Alice supported leaders were instrumental to passing this legislation. Supervisor Leslie Katz, Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Supervisor Susan Leal, and Mayor Willie Brown together championed San Francisco’s landmark Equal Benefits Ordinance to require that businesses that contract with the City of San Francisco must provide equal benefits to domestic partners that they give to married partners. This law swept the nation in its impact, paving the way for hundreds of businesses to adopt domestic partnership benefits. Some businesses like United Airlines initially fought the ordinance but San Francisco leaders stood firm in demanding equality and the City prevailed. The ordinance became a model for similar laws passed throughout the nation, and the model for Christine Kehoe’s California Assembly Bill 17, signed by Governor Davis, to require businesses which contract with the state of California to provide equal benefits to domestic partners. This is one clear example where a San Francisco ordinance passed by Alice supported legislators managed to change not only the City of San Francisco, but also California and the nation.[4][5][6][7][8]

San Francisco Treasurer Susan Leal

Susan Leal Becomes San Francisco City Treasurer:

In 1998 Susan Leal was appointed to become the City Treasurer, where she managed the City’s $3 billion portfolio. Her investment policies and decisions produced a greater return during her period of service than any major county in the state. In 2001 Susan was elected Treasurer for another term with 87% of the vote, due to her reputation as a strong, effective manager of the city’s finances. Alice endorsed Susan’s candidacy and campaigned hard for her victory.

Domestic Partnership: New laws enacted for California.

Alice strongly supported Carole Migden as she went to the Assembly and introduced AB 26, which created a registry for Domestic Partnership and gave Domestic Partners many of the same rights (such as hospital visitation rights) that married couples enjoy. Later, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg would introduce AB 205, an extensive set of rights and responsibilities for domestic partners that almost mirrored marriage, building on Carole’s earlier work.[9][10]

Al Gore and Mark Leno

Mark Leno Elected to the Board of Supervisors

In 1998 candidate Mark Leno won election to the Board of Supervisors after being appointed earlier that year. Leno had spent years prior to his time on the Board of Supervisors working as a lead organizer and fundraiser for the LGBT Center. He was a key player in getting the Center built. Leno was also a longstanding member of Alice before his rise to office. As a Supervisor, Leno led the effort to create a transitional housing facility designed specifically to address the needs of LGBT homeless youth as well as passing the City’s first Inclusionary Housing Ordinance to mandate that developers construct a percentage of affordable housing as they develop in a city with skyrocketing housing costs.[11]

Proposition 22 – The Knight Initiative:

In 2000, California voters were subjected to a divisive ballot measure that was designed to turn back the clock on LGBT rights – Proposition 22, the Knight Initiative. The measure was written to clarify that out-of-state marriages could not impact California marriage law regarding same sex couples. Voters passed the measure, despite the vigorous efforts of Alice and our LGBT leaders. Mark Leno (who would later introduce AB 849, the Marriage Equality Bill) worked especially hard to stop the initiative, traveling as a statewide campaign spokesman against the measure. Alice worked tirelessly to stop the Knight Initiative, and continues to be part of marriage equality organizing.[12]

Robert Barnes

Robert Barnes

Robert Barnes deserves special mention because of his work on behalf of Alice, his commitment to LGBT rights, his work at the California Democratic Party, and his often-controversial approach to politics that dominated Alice for much of the late ‘90’s. He was an Alice Co-Chair who became a close advisor to many of San Francisco’s most successful politicians. Carole Migden, Mark Leno, Willie Brown, Dennis Herrera, Leslie Katz, Susan Leal, Tom Radulovich, Natalie Berg, Mabel Teng, Donna Hitchens, Kevin McCarthy, School Board members Dan Kelly, Juanita Owens, Lawrence Wong, and many other San Francisco officials worked closely with Robert Barnes at various points in their careers. [13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

He grew up in San Francisco in a working class family closely connected to politics. His father was a machinist and labor activist and in 1977 ran for District Supervisor against Dan White. Robert got into politics himself running for the BART Board and the Board of Education, but after losing these races, (one of them being to Tom Ammiano in his race for the Board of Education) Robert got involved in politics behind the scenes. He was particularly involved in Democratic Party activities and was the Chair of the California Democratic Party’s Gay Caucus for many years.

San Francisco has some of the most colorful, bombastic, and sometimes brilliant people in politics. Robert was one of them. He had an incredible sense of humor and got away with controversial jokes that most professionals would never dream of trying. He could say things that were unthinkable, throwing insiders out of their comfort zone, then warming them back up with charm, and closing the deal with masterful delivery. He was an extremely funny person in a somewhat bland professional scene. Robert Barnes, Chair of the Alice B. Toklas Club and Prominent Democratic Party Activist, died on August 9th, 2002 of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, just months before his candidate, Mark Leno, became the first gay man elected to the California State Assembly.

November 1998 Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club slate card produced by political consultant Robert Barnes, with graphics designed by Jim Rivaldo

Robert’s work in the Alice B. Toklas Club:

For several years the Alice B. Toklas Club had been struggling during the AIDS epidemic, as members became focused on saving lives and had little time or energy to spare on Democratic politics. People were exhausted. During this vacuum of leadership at Alice, Robert Barnes almost single-handedly resurrected the club to continue political work.[21][22]

While Robert took on leadership at Alice, he simultaneously developed a business in political consulting specializing in slate mail. The period where Robert took the lead at Alice was controversial because many of the political goals of the club seemed to be designed by Robert with his business clients in mind. Many people in the community felt that Robert was serving his own goals at the expense of the community. This fueled the Alice/Milk longstanding rivalry – the belief that Alice was becoming a front for Robert’s political work. But Robert worked on a variety of projects that were widely supported as well, such as the School Bond campaign and the 1994 Lavender Sweep. He worked relentlessly on the Octavia Boulevard campaign and worked very closely with Alice to promote the San Francisco Women’s Building, supporting their right to remove a bar from the premise and make it a safe space for all women using the facility. Robert also ran the campaigns of many important LGBT candidates and he worked tirelessly as the State Party Chair of the LGBT Caucus. His positioning Alice early with the Clinton campaign also proved to be invaluable for the community.[23][24][25]

Perhaps Robert’s most important contribution was to bring numerous young people into politics, showing them how to be professional advocates for the LGBT community. He invited people who had no experience with politics to get involved, teaching them how to manage campaigns, how to work with elected officials, how to put together slate cards, how to design ballot arguments, how to raise money, how to write press releases, how to work with the state party, how to craft a winning message, and how to become successful in advancing the LGBT cause. He taught many people how to be professional leaders.

Paul Hogan, Alice Co-Chair after the Leno/Hansen Race was one of many who worked tirelessly to improve relations between Alice B. Toklas and Harvey Milk Democratic Clubs

Alice / Milk Rivalries

The Alice and Milk Democratic clubs have throughout their existence been somewhat at odds with each other by virtue of the fact that the Milk Club formed out of a difference in political orientation and approach from Alice. Sometimes this rivalry has overshadowed any ability of the clubs to work together, and sometimes the two clubs have worked as if there were no rivalry at all. It’s fair to say that having two Democratic Clubs offers checks and balances on whether either club is acting genuinely in the interest of the community. Open dialogue and critique is definitely positive.

The history of tensions between the clubs could be seen from the beginning but grew to a high point in 1995 during the Willie Brown and Roberta Achtenberg campaign for Mayor. Alice endorsed Willie Brown citing his years of leadership and commitment to the community, as well as the desire to unseat Mayor Jordan with a strong, viable candidate at a time when no one could be certain that Mayor Jordan could be beaten. Roberta Achtenberg entered the race later and many members of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club supported her, wanting to see the first lesbian Mayor of San Francisco. Brown beat Jordan and Alice was absolutely critical to his victory.

The Achtenberg/Brown election was only one episode of a long period of division between the clubs. An event that further crystallized the tension was the Mayoral Election of 1999 when Tom Ammiano put himself forward as a write-in candidate late in the election cycle against Mayor Willie Brown. Ammiano waged a spirited campaign with his write-in candidacy, garnering national attention and enthusiasm, but the race exacerbated long-standing tensions between the Alice and Milk Clubs. Alice members were conflicted about the election because the club promotes LGBT empowerment, but Alice members had a long-standing relationship with Mayor Brown and were proud of his important work for the LGBT community, such as the landmark Equal Benefits Ordinance. Alice had already made its commitment to Brown before Ammiano got into the race with his write-in candidacy, so the club would have had to back out of its endorsement of a longstanding ally. Alice’s decision to stick with endorsing Mayor Brown hastened a growing divide between the two clubs.[1]

The next major event that accelerated the rise in tension between the clubs was the 2000 supervisorial race between Mark Leno and Eileen Hansen. District elections had been reinstated that year and the Milk Club endorsed lesbian candidate Eileen Hansen for District 8, while Alice endorsed gay incumbent supervisor Mark Leno. Leno ultimately won the race because of his strong progressive credentials and history of accomplishment on the Board.

A crescendo in the long rift between the clubs came when Supervisor Leno ran for State Assembly in 2002 with the strong endorsement of Alice, while the Milk Club endorsed Harry Britt (who had been retired from elective office for over a decade). Mark Leno went on to pass progressive legislation to protect transgender people in employment and housing (AB 196) and passed the historic marriage equality bill (AB 849).[2][3][4]

Healing the Rift

After the 2000 Leno/Hansen race, and after the 2002 Assembly race, leaders from Alice and Milk made a concerted effort to improve relations between the two clubs. Alice Co-Chair Rich Kowalewski, one of many who has been credited with working tirelessly to improve the Alice/Milk relationship, had this to say about the dynamics between the two clubs:

“Through these years, Alice has developed a good working relationship with the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. This cooperation has been possible because of ongoing dialogue between the leaders of the two clubs. I know I speak for Paul Hogan, Theresa Sparks, and Laura Spanjian when I say “thank you” Jerry Threat, Debra Walker, Robert Haaland, and Michael Goldstein for your leadership in the bridge building. We have learned to focus on the 90% on which we agree rather than the 10% on which we disagree.”

Rich, Paul, Theresa, Laura, Jerry, Debra, Robert, Michael, and Scott Wiener all did an excellent job of changing course in the direction of relationships between our two clubs. The community continues to benefit from Milk and Alice working together.

Rich Kowalewski, Alice Co-Chair after the Leno/Britt Assembly race was one of many club members who worked hard to establish better relations between the Alice B. Toklas and Harvey Milk Democratic Clubs

Transgender Rights

Throughout Alice’s history, most of the focus on issues and candidates had been on gay and lesbian rights. As the new millennium was ushered in, Alice supported officeholders took a lead in addressing transgender rights, making it a top priority with huge success. Shortly after his election in 2000, Supervisor Leno created the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force, which advanced changes in city policy related to transgender people.[5] Following task force identified goals, Mayor Willie Brown named task force member Theresa Sparks to become the first Transgender Human Rights Commissioner. Leno authored the Employer Notification Law signed by Mayor Brown, requiring employers to post anti-discrimination notifications in places of business that specify that the city bans discrimination against transgender people.[6] The Task Force addressed law enforcement issues and a joint task force between the Police and Human Rights Commission was created to address law enforcement treatment of transgender citizens. The Police Departments Office of Citizens Complaints (OCC) also adopted recommendations from the task force to implement sensitivity training and protocols regarding police interactions with transgender people.[7] Theresa Sparks moved on to become San Francisco’s first transgender Police Commissioner, and Cecilia Chung replaced Theresa on the Human Rights Commission, thus maintaining two important commission seats.[8][9] Cecilia, Theresa and other transgender leaders went beyond the work of this task force to join with community leaders in creating the transgender pride march on LGBT Pride weekend, and participated in the formation of the Transgender Political Caucus among many other remarkable efforts during this time.[10]

Photo of Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force Members Theresa Sparks and Veronika Cauley (center) and others at the moment San Francisco’s Transgender Health Benefit Ordinance was passed.

The San Francisco Transgender Health Plan – A First and Model for the Nation.

The most historic advancement that came out of the work of the Task Force was a change to San Francisco’s health plan for city employees. Supervisor Leno authored and Mayor Brown signed an ordinance to change the city’s health plan to include sex reassignment surgeries, hormone therapy and other care for transgender people as part of the city health plan.[11] The impact of this change went far beyond city employees.[12] Insurance providers that contract with the city were now required to include transgender care as part of the benefit options available in their health coverage, paving the way for transgender healthcare benefits to be available to businesses around California and the nation.[13] Previously, insurance providers had not even offered these benefits. Task force members were written up in full-page stories in the New York Times and other national newspapers, while Leno appeared on television and talk radio stations throughout the country to discuss the issue. The media coverage reached South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and all over the United States. This is yet another clear example of Alice supported legislators passing legislation that had an impact far beyond the City of San Francisco.[14]

Changing Alice’s name

In 2001 under the leadership of Chair Paul Hogan, Alice made an important change to rename the club “The Alice B Toklas Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club.” Alice took the lead in outreaching to the transgender community and was the first of the two major LGBT Democratic Clubs in San Francisco to include “Transgender” in its official name. The vote to change the club’s name was unanimous.[15]

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera

Alice Candidate Dennis Herrera becomes City Attorney

Alice member and Alice’s endorsed candidate for City Attorney Dennis Herrera made a successful run for the job first in 2000, then again in 2005. A close friend of former Alice Co-Chair Robert Barnes, Herrera has been a steadfast ally of the club, continuing his longstanding commitment to LGBT rights. Herrera took the lead in defending the City’s action to marry same-sex couples and never wavered in his commitment to LGBT people.

Mark Leno Elected to State Assembly

Longtime Alice hero Mark Leno became the first gay man elected to the State Assembly, along with John Laird of Santa Cruz. Leno continued his groundbreaking work for the LGBT community with legislation such as Assembly Bill 196, signed by Governor Davis, which banned discrimination against transgender people in housing and employment. The bill protects transgender people in all areas of California from discrimination, and even strengthened protection in localities that previously banned transgender discrimination before the law. San Francisco’s local ordinance banning discrimination against transgender people had few actual remedies for violation of the law. With changes to state law, employers and landlords now face serious charges if they discriminate against transgender people in employment or housing.

California Legislature creates the LGBT Caucus

LGBT statewide activism showed enormous progress in the year 2002 as Assemblymembers Mark Leno, John Laird, Jackie Goldberg, Christine Kehoe and Senator Sheila Kuehl formed the California Legislature’s first LGBT Caucus. The five members saw the passage of crucial legislation signed into law including Leno’s AB 196 to ban discrimination against transgender people in employment and housing; Kehoe’s AB 17 to require companies that do business with the state of California to provide equal benefits offered to domestic partners and married couples; Goldberg’s AB 205 which upgraded domestic partnership legal rights and responsibilities in California to almost equal status to marriage; and Laird’s AB 1400 amending the Unruh Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the categories protected from discrimination in public accommodations.[16][17]

Supervisor Bevan Bufty

Bevan Dufty Elected to the Board of Supervisors

In 2002, Longtime Alice member and gay candidate Bevan Dufty was elected as the Supervisor for the Castro in District 8. Dufty created an Improvement District for the Castro and worked closely with local neighborhood groups on a series of local changes that were designed to keep the Castro safe, clean and a place we can all take pride in. Bevan has worked with the State Library Commission to pursue funding for the LGBT Historical Society to expand its operations into a Castro facility, and he has been a tireless fighter for LGBT issues at City Hall.

Nancy Pelosi photo taken in 2003 when she was the first woman elected Democratic House Minority Leader.

Alice Friend Nancy Pelosi Becomes Democratic House Minority Leader

In 2003 Nancy Pelosi made a successful run for leader of the Democratic Party in Congress, which preceded her becoming Speaker of the House in 2006. The highest-ranking woman in office in American history,Nancy got there largely because of her impressive legislative record, fundraising, tactical skill for the party and with critical help from Alice. In 1987 Pelosi initially ran for Congress as a candidate against Harry Britt, and Alice was vital to her victory, narrowly winning the special election to replace former Congressman Philip Burton. In 1987 Pelosi initially ran for Congress as a candidate against Harry Britt. From Day One, Alice was there to help Pelosi become one of the most powerful leaders in America, and one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies. As a liberal from San Francisco, she would never have won the confidence of the national party if she could not back up her progressive values with financial leadership. Alice’s longtime support was an asset to her rise in power. Nancy has proven to be a true friend of the community for her years of leadership in supporting Ryan White Care Act funding for people with AIDS, her support of domestic partnership rights and other LGBT causes. Nancy is an historic American leader and Alice can be proud of playing a role in her success.[1][2]

Susan Leal runs for Mayor

Longtime Alice friend Susan Leal made history as the first Latina lesbian to run for Mayor in San Francisco in 2003. Alice endorsed her candidacy and worked hard on her behalf. Leal said about the race in Curve Magazine: “what my candidacy does is it sends a message to women, whether they’re queer or women of color, that the last barriers could be broken.

District Attorney Kamala Harris

Alice Candidate Kamala Harris becomes District Attorney

In December of 2003, Kamala Harris was elected San Francisco District Attorney with the overwhelming support of Alice early in her campaign. A longtime advocate for LGBT rights, Kamala has proven to be an effective champion for our issues as the City’s DA. One of her most important fights on behalf of the community has been to combat the gay/transgender panic defense used in California to defend acts of violence against our community.[3] Law enforcement issues such as these have been critical to Alice since it’s beginning. The ‘Twinkie Defense’ [4] used to give Dan White a lenient defense in his trial for the murder of Harvey Milk, and the ‘Transgender Panic’ argument used to defend the murderers of transgender high school student Gwen Araujo [5] are just two examples where legal arguments have been designed to play upon homo/transphobia in the judicial response to violence against the LGBT community. Our community must demand equal treatment by the judicial system and equal protection from law enforcement, and Kamala has been a very effective leader in fighting for these principles with the support of Alice. [6]

Carole Migden Elected to State Senate

Building on years of support from Alice, Carole Migden was elected in 2004 as the second lesbian ever (following Senator Sheila Kuehl) to the California State Senate. Migden had spent the interim years after she left the State Assembly as the Chair of the Board of Equalization prior to running for Senate.[7]

San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros

Former Alice Board Member Jose Cisneros becomes City Treasurer

In September 2004 Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed former Alice Board Member Jose Cisneros to become the city Treasurer. Once again, the work of Alice paid off with an effective city treasurer who is one of our closest allies. Cisneros went on to win a full term as treasurer later that year and continues to be a strong voice working with Alice in local government.[8]
Police Chief Heather Fong introduces Theresa Sparks, President of the San Francisco Police Commission

Theresa Sparks becomes first Transgender Police Commissioner in San Francisco

In 2004 former Alice Chair Theresa Sparks was sworn in as San Francisco’s first transgender Police Commissioner and would later become elected President of that Commission. After years of advocacy around police issues, Alice saw one of its chairs take a leadership role directly on the police commission and transgender advocates saw transgender leaders serve as officials in the City.[9][10]

Alice Candidate Phil Ting Becomes San Francisco’s Assessor / Recorder

In 2005 another close friend of Alice made a successful run for office as Phil Ting won election to City Assessor/Recorder. Mayor Newsom appointed Phil because of his strong progressive credentials, long history of professional work at the Assessor/Recorder’s office, and his reputation as a non-political choice for the job. Phil Ting was the most qualified candidate for Assessor / Recorder and the electorate voted him in with Alice’s strong support.[11]

Alice Joins Coalition Effort – “And Castro For All”

In 2005 Alice participated in a broad campaign to address charges of racism at a Castro business as the community had an important dialogue about racial justice. Many African Americans have felt that the Castro is not an inclusive space for communities of color. In this context, the Human Rights Commission issued a report about a Castro establishment finding the business had engaged in racially biased business practices.[12] During this time, Alice Board Member John Newsome had this to say about the issue:

“Sometimes, the Truth matters most when it’s the most unpopular… Truth and, ultimately, Justice are well worth the effort.”

Marriage, The New Beginning

By 2004, Alice and a broad coalition of allies had spent decades creating a very different world for the LGBT community than when Jim Foster started Alice. On Valentine’s Day, 2004, a time known in San Francisco as “The Winter of Love”, the community of San Francisco was ready to turn the page to a new day in our movement.

Marriage – The New Beginning

Of course Valentines Day 2004, the “Winter of Love,” was not the beginning of the fight for marriage equality. But the rush of people to City Hall where Mayor Newsom started marrying gay men and lesbians certainly did feel like a new beginning. For once, the Milk Club, Alice, the Bay Guardian, the Chronicle, Willie Brown, Tom Ammiano and all of San Francisco could stand together and be proud of our city. Not since the days of Milk and Moscone had there been such hope in San Francisco.

On February 14, 2004, Mayor Newsom directed the County Clerk to recognize same sex marriages, citing the US Constitution, and challenging state law as being unconstitutional. People rushed down to City Hall with their friends and families grabbing flowers and their best outfits to experience the words “I do”, with the blessing of the City. The religious right tried to halt the marriages, but the ceremonies continued for several weeks. There were thousands and thousands of same-sex couples who came from all over California, the nation and the world to be a part of it; and they happily waited in lines wrapped around City Hall with City workers volunteering twelve-hour days to marry as many people as possible while the courts allowed the marriages to continue. It felt like a moment when everything changed for our community and we could never go backwards again.[1][2]

It would be unimaginable that Mayor Newsom would feel empowered to take that stand for marriage equality without the support of groups like Alice. All the years of work building political support behind the idea that gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people are just as deserving of basic dignity as everyone else paid off big when Mayor Newsom made the ‘radical’ act of recognizing our love. Gavin Newsom did not start the fight for marriage, but he boldly ushered in a new day that everyone in San Francisco could be proud of.

Mark Leno carried the torch of marriage equality through the summer in the legislature with Assembly Bill 849, making California the first legislature in the nation to pass a marriage equality bill without the prompting of a court order. Standing up to many who were fearful in his own party that the timing was inappropriate, Leno pressed ahead and through relentless tenacity passed the Marriage Equality bill out of the California Legislature. Leno and Newsom’s efforts helped educate the public and move the issue forward. Polling in California showed that as AB 849 passed the legislature, the California public moved from being decisively opposed to same sex marriage, to being evenly divided over the issue. Despite Governor Schwarzenneger’s veto of AB 849, and despite the rumblings of discontent over Newsom’s act of courage, Leno and Newsom’s efforts, with the work of Alice, Equality California, and countless activists around the state had moved California opinion significantly in our favor. As history continues to move forward, we can be more and more proud of standing up for what is right at a time when others were afraid.

Thousands marching down Market Street, San Francisco in support of Marriage Equality

Above (top): Former Alice Co-Chair Laura Spanjian, Former Alice Co-Chair Scott Wiener, and Former Alice PAC Chair Rafael Mandelman; Above (bottom) Former Alice Co-Chair Julius Turman and Former Alice Co-Chair Rebecca Prozan. Four out of five of the Alice leaders pictured above along with former Alice Co-Chair Theresa Sparks, ran for San Francisco Supervisor in 2010.

Conclusion:

Much can be learned from the work done at Alice. Decades ago after Stonewall signaled a new era for LGBT people, the community was stuck in a conspiracy of silence and a world that despised and misunderstood it. At that time, Alice sought an alliance with the Democratic Party. Over decades of work with allies around the nation, LGBT people were finally able to break the conspiracy of silence. Through years of work, Alice and other political organizations helped coordinate the energy of the LGBT movement into a local, state and national political platform that won systemic changes for the entire nation. Through the support of many leaders such as Mark Leno, Carole Migden, John Laird, Tom Ammiano, Susan Leal, Bevan Dufty, Leslie Katz, Theresa Sparks, Dennis Herrera, Jackie Speier, Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, Bill Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, and countless others; Alice helped transform law and sentiment towards LGBT people. San Francisco was at the forefront of change for Consensual Sex Legislation, Domestic Partnership, Equal Benefits, Transgender Health, and Marriage Equality to name just a few of the causes locally championed that went on to have national impact. And thirty years after Harvey Milk told the world “You’ve Gotta Give ‘em Hope,” California declared May 22nd “Harvey Milk Day” in a bill signed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009.

The LGBT community has seized and shaped its destiny over the last few decades. As we in the community look to our future, it’s important to remember how our efforts right now, even the small tasks we do along the way, really do change the world.

References & Notes

  1. Lamberg, Lynne. Soulforce, August 12, 1998. Gay Is Okay With APA (American Psychiatric Association) Story on the history of the American Psychiatric Association 1973 removal of homosexuality from being categorized as a mental disorder.
  2. Wikipedia. The Modern Women’s Movement
  3. Phrases.org. “The Love That Dare Not Speak its Name”
  4. Wikipedia. Phrase “coming out
  5. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, December, 1972. Pgs 1-2. Discussion of the beginnings of Alice, the national election, and Alice’s purpose.
  6. Wikipedia. Jim Foster
  7. Wikipedia. Society for Individual Rights (SIR) (the Society for Individual Rights was an organization formed during a period of the gay rights movement called the “Homophile” movement, and SIR would later be renamed and chartered within the Democratic Party as the Alice B Toklas Memorial Democratic Club.
  8. Wikipedia. Daughters of Bilitis
  9. Wikipedia. Mattachine Society
  10. Clendinen, Dudley and Nagourney, Adam. 1999. Out for Good – The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. New York: Simon and Shuster Recounts Jim Foster organizing the Society for Individual Rights in 1964 and bringing the membership of this organization to become members of a chartered group of the Democratic Party called the “Alice B Toklas Memorial Democratic Club.”
  11. Wikipedia. Alice B. Toklas
  12. Wikipedia. The Phrase “Friend of Dorothy”
  13. Wikipedia.George McGovern
  14. Clendinen, Dudley and Nagourney, Adam. 1999. Out for Good – The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. New York. Simon and Shuster. pgs. 132-133.
  15. Wikipedia. Hubert Humphrey
  16. Democratic National Party Platform, 1972 The “Gay Plank” which Jim Foster proposed was removed. The only language the Democratic Party left that remotely relates to homosexuality was under “The Right to be Different” section, and says “Americans should be free to make their own choice of life-styles and private habits without being subject to discrimination or prosecution.”
  17. “Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, Vol. 1. Issue 1. Pg. 3.” Letter from candidate McGovern reprinted from the August 24, 1972 Village Voice.
  18. Hartlab, Peter. 1999. Obituary, Dorothy von Beroldingen. San Francisco Chronicle. December 21.
  19. 1998. Obituary, State Senator Milton Marks. San Francisco Chronicle . December 5.
  20. Wikipedia. Quentin Kopp
  21. Wikipedia. Dianne Feinstein
  22. Molotsky, Irvin. 1998. Obituary, Mayor Joseph Alioto. New York Times. January 30.
  23. San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. Michael Hennessey. 
  24. Wikipedia. “Medical Marijuana”
  25. Democratic National Party Platform, 1976 No “Gay Plank” in this 1976 Party Platform
  26. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, July, 1976 Alice delegates report on the 1976 Democratic Convention. [See Documents page]
  27. Scheer, Robert. 1976. Interview with Jimmy Carter. Playboy Magazine. November.
  28. Carter, Jimmy. 1998. Living Faith. Three Rivers Press. Excerpt of Jimmy Carter Recollections on 1976 Election Year interview with Playboy Magazine
  29. Wikipedia. “Sodomy Laws”
  30. Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Gay Vote, January, 1978 First issue of Gay Vote, the newsletter of the Gay Democratic Club (later named the Harvey Milk Democratic Club) Cover of newsletter. [See Documents page]
  31. Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Gay Vote, January, 1978 First issue of Gay Vote, the newsletter of the Gay Democratic Club, pg 2 (discusses why the club formed) [See Documents page]
  32. Stonewall Democratic Club, Los Angeles. Newsletter, November 1977, pg. 1 The Stonewall Democratic Club was chartered in Los Angeles by Morris Kight in 1975. This edition of the Stonewall newsletter recounts the formation of the club. Stonewall later became a national alliance of LGBT Democratic Clubs and San Francisco had a Stonewall chapter through much of the 1970’s and 1980’s, but the chapter disbanded. [See Documents page]
  33. Stonewall Democratic Club, Los Angeles. Newsletter, November 1977, pg. 2 Stonewall Democratic Club History continued. [See Documents page]
  34. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, August, 1982 “National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs” Founded [See Documents page]
  35. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, December, 1977 San Francisco Mayor George Moscone makes several public commitments to the gay community [See Documents page]
  36. Wikipedia. George Moscone
  37. Moral Majority Coalition, The. “Moral Majority Timeline”
  38. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, May, 1977 Alice helps organize the fight in Dade County Florida [See Documents page]
  39. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, July, 1975, Pgs 1-2 Backlash against consensual sex law. This backlash would build into an organized effort in following years led by State Senator Briggs to place Measure 6 on the 1978 state ballot to ban gay people from being teachers. [See Documents page]
  40. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, July, 1975, Pg 4 More on origins of Briggs Initiative [See Documents page]
  41. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, July, 1975, Pg 7 More on origins of Briggs Initiative [See Documents page]
  42. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, June, 1979 Recounting the Dan White trial and local upheaval + police incident at “Pegs Place”, a lesbian bar. [See Documents page]
  43. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, December, 1978 Death of Harvey Milk, recounting his life and impact on politics [See Documents page]
  44. Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Gay Vote, August, 1979 Story of Police incident at Peg’s Place. (pg 1) [See Documents page]
  45. Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Gay Vote, August, 1979 Story of Police incident at Peg’s Place. (pg 2) [See Documents page]