Category Archives: Gay Interest

Gay History: Rev. Fred Niles ‘Cleansing March”, October 2, 1989. A Spectacular FAIL!

On this day in 1989, I was running the “Expectations” store, opposite the Oxford Hotel, in Oxford Street. It was almost like the entire gay community, and its supporters, had been waiting for this day. There was a palpable feeling of excitement – almost Mardi Gras-like – mixed with a strong undercurrent of rebellion on the strip. Watching from the 2nd floor window of my store, you could see people starting to line the footpaths early. By the time Nile’s parade participants started their march down the other end of Oxford Street, the paths were packed, and you could follow the progress of the parade from the roar of the crowd! Only for this parade, the roar was not of encouragement, or light-hearted joy, but of hate and vitriol! The communities hatred of Nile, and his constant gay-bashing was being fully voiced. As it passed by our section of the street, I notices a car load of Islanders, roped in by Nile to add bodies to his parade numbers. I don’t know what he had told them, or what they expected,but the looked cowered and terrified! As much as I didn’t feel sorry for Nile, or his cross-on-wheels, I did feel sorry for them. It would have been a very frightening situation from their perspective. Nile got everything he deserved – and then some. As far as the gay community was concerned, the parade was a great success – but not for Nile, or his supporters. He would have gone home with his tail tucked very firmly between his legs.

1989. Politics: Evangelist attempts ‘Cleansing March’ on Sydney’s queer heartland

Queer protestors prepare to give Fred Nile and his followers a rousing reception on Oxford Street. Photograph: Terrence Bell, courtesy of Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Australia’s ‘Reverend’ Fred Nile has built a career out of homophobic opportunism. He is the man to whom the media could turn whenever they needed a ‘controversial’ sound-byte on topics such as decriminalisation, HIV/AIDS and anti-discrimination.

For several years he topped up his profile with his annual stunt of a prayer meeting by the route of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. As tens of thousands gathered to celebrate Mardi Gras, Nile and his small band of followers portrayed themselves as brave martyrs standing against a sea of depravity. And on those rare occasions when it rained on the night of the Parade, Nile would claim it was all the result of his prayers – conveniently ignoring the fact that Mardi Gras was held in the middle of Sydney’s rainy season.

By 1989, however, even Nile must have begun to realise that his prayer meeting was being ignored – by God and, more importantly, the media. And so it came to pass that he announced that he would lead a “Cleansing March of Witness for Jesus” up Oxford Street – Sydney’s gay ‘golden mile’ – on October 2nd. The march would end with a “Pro-decency ‘Solemn Assembly of Repentance and Intercession’”.

Never one for under-statement, Nile claimed there would be 100,000 Christians on the march. It’s most unlikely that even he believed he would attract that level of support, but it always makes good Press to come up with such numbers. But whilst he was clearly pre-occupied with boosting the numbers of his likely supporters, he obviously failed to consider the size of the opposition.

This was the first demonstration that I had attended since my arrival in Sydney the previous year and is was quite an eye-opener. It was obvious from the outset that Sydney’s queer community was extremely well-organised and that, in itself, signalled that Nile had bitten off far more than he could chew.

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Sydney Gay Solidarity Group and the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras were three of the key organisations involved in the counter-demonstration. As we assembled in Green Park, just off Oxford Street, we were all given a cardboard mask with a caricature of Nile’s face on it. The plan, we were told, was to greet Nile and his followers, with thousands of Niles staring right back at them!

But there was more to the masks than mere caricature. They came in a number of different colours and the reason for this soon became obvious. Protestors were despatched to different areas of Oxford Street based on the colour of their masks. This ensured that there was an even spread of people along the route of the Cleansing March.

A couple of protestors in Fred Nile masks. Photograph courtesy of Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. http://www.alga.org.au

It wasn’t long before we were all in position to greet Nile and his followers. Apparently they were all in high spirits for the first section of the march. Led by a young bearded man carrying a cross (with wheels, unlike the original) they seemed happy and confident – until they turned the corner into Oxford Street. The 1500 or so ‘Christians’ that Nile had managed to muster came face-to-face with 5,000+  vocal, angry queers. More accurately, they came-face-to-face with thousands of Fred Nile faces.

To most people, the fact that they were out-numbered four-to-one by members of the local community would be a clear sign that they weren’t welcome and that they should go back to their own neighbourhoods. But evangelical Christians like nothing more than playing the martyr and so they persisted on their inflammatory course, carrying placards with ‘Christian’ messages like “What’s so gay about AIDS?”

Counter-demonstrators responded with messages like “Repent, Relent, Re-decorate!” and chants of “Two, four, six eight. Are you sure your priest is straight?” The Christians processed dismally up Oxford Street, the queers turned their protest into a party.

At the site of the planned ‘Repentance and Intercession’, Fred Nile was drowned out by boos and chants from the protestors. Then Jamie Dunbar, a photographer from the local gay newspaper, leapt to the microphone and chanted “Go to Hell Fred. Gay love is best!”. He chanted repeatedly until he was removed by Christian heavies.

It was clear to everyone that Nile’s stunt had seriously backfired. Even the media opined that his march had been a deliberate and unnecessary provocation. Yet Nile continued to dig a hole for himself. When interviewed on one news programme he complained that counter-demonstrators had used portable toilets that had been installed for his supporters. In consequence his supporters had been unable to use them because of the risk of AIDS. His interviewer could barely believe her ears and left her audience in no doubt as to what an ignorant and bigoted remark this was. Nile never went near Oxford Street again.

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Gay History: A Contradiction in Terms; Nicky Crane, and Kevin Wilshaw- Gay Neo-Nazi’s. Part 2.

KEVIN WILSHAW

I’ve had threats from people on the far left who think I’m insincere but especially people on the far right who think I’m a traitor,

A white supremacist active as recently as the start of this year says today he is publicly renouncing 40 years of hate. Speaking on Channel 4 News he comes out as gay for the first time – and admits to a violent past.

Much of Kevin Wilshaw’s life has been defined by a belief in white supremacy.

He said he had hurt people, “but not unprovoked, in defence. In a by-election in Leeds I smashed a chair over someone’s head.”

But he denied ever having approached minorities and assaulted them.

“I’d never do that, but I have seen incidents where people were singled out because they were black by a group of people. It turned my stomach, I rejected that, I pushed it to the back of my mind.”

He joined the BNP after being part of the National Front and flirted with dangerous fringe groups like the Racial Volunteer Force.

Mr Wilshaw says he remembers meeting David Copeland – the Brixton and Soho nail bomber. More recently he took to social media – and until the start of year was still speaking at rallies (2017).

In his interview with Britain’s Channel 4 news, Wilshaw showed a few of the decorative items in his apartment, including a Nazi flag and a bronze bust of Adolf Hitler.

When the interviewer asked Wilshaw “at what point did — well, Nazism — start to be attractive to you?” Wilshaw thought for a moment, then said “I must’ve been about 11 years old…. my father was very right-wing, and I think I took it a bit further than him.”

Wilshaw did not discuss specific dates or timelines, but according to HOPE Not Hate, a British non-profit that “campaigns to counter racism and fascism,” WIlshaw had belonged to the far right “since 1974 and even a little before.”

He admitted he hadn’t had many friends at school, and thought joining far-right groups would bring him a sense of “comradeship.” By age 18, he’d joined Britain’s far-right National Front party, and was a party organizer by age 20. He was particularly notorious (or just well-known) in Britain during the 1980s. Wilshaw’s original membership card, made out in the name of John Kevin Wilshaw, calls for “Racial preservation” and adds “Coloured Immigrants and their descendants must be returned to their lads of ethnic origin.”

Over the past 44 years, between the ages of 14 and 58, he has worked with UK far-right extremist groups peddling Neo-Nazi ideology.

His actions ranged from mundane “leafletting” to “occasionally getting involved in political violence”.

But now he claims to have put his days as a Mein Kampf-reading racist behind him to address the contradictions that have plagued him in private.

Mr Wilshaw is not only gay, but has Jewish blood through his mother.

Despite Wilshaw’s father’s “very right wing” tendencies, he married a partly Jewish woman, Kevin’s mother. “Her maiden name was Benjamin,” Wilshaw said. “We do have Jewish blood in the family on that side.”

Under Jewish law, a child is considered Jewish if his mother was. Yet Wilshaw’s own background clearly did not prevent him from joining a political group dedicated in part to the notion that this very background made him an inherent threat. This might be largely due to the fact that Wilshaw’s physical appearance has nothing in common with anti-Semitic caricatures regarding what Jews “look like.” (His mother died in 2015.)

HOPE Not Hate reports that other aspects of Wilshaw’s family life were at odds with far-right doctrines: despite the official Islamophobia of British far-right parties (he was once arrested for vandalizing a mosque in Aylesbury), he has a close relationship with his sister, who married a Muslim man and converted to Islam in 1970, and is also close to her Muslim children.

On an application form to join the National Front, he wrote about his hatred of “the Jews”.

“That term ‘the Jews’ is the global faceless mass of people you can’t personalise it, not individuals. That’s the generalisation that leads to 6 million people being deliberately murdered.

“I tended to compartmentalise things,” he said.

“I put my political life in one section and my normal life in the other.”

Mr Wilshaw was recently arrested on online abuse charges — the second time he has been arrested.

He said he quit the movement for good after being attacked for his sexuality.

“On one or two occasions in the recent past I’ve actually been the recipient of the very hatred of the people I want to belong to … if you’re gay it is acceptable in society but with these group of people it’s not acceptable, and I found on one or two occasions when I was suspected of being gay I was subjected to abuse.”

Mr Wilshaw admits that being a Nazi who is gay – but with a Jewish background – is a contradiction.

“It’s a terribly selfish thing to say but it’s true, I saw people being abused, shouted at, spat at in the street – it’s not until it’s directed at you that you suddenly realise that what you’re doing is wrong.”

“You have other members leading National Front who are overtly gay. And nobody could see the contradiction of it that you have an overtly gay person leading a homophobic organisation, makes no sense.”

“Then you have someone like Nicky Crane, one of the hardest people who would be gay.”

“Even when people found out, they’d rationalise it, ‘He’s not really gay’ or ‘gay and ok’.””I’ve had threats from people on the far left who think I’m insincere but especially people on the far right who think I’m a traitor,” he said.

“I can’t win!”.

Support has come from a fellow former extremist.

Matthew Collins was once an organiser for a far-right group and knew Neo-Nazis “who were involved in extreme violence … and did kill people”.

He turned informant and fled to Australia between 1993 and 2003 for his own safety.

Now he works for anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate, researching the state of the UK far right and trying to convince people to leave the movement.

“Is Kevin cured? No, I don’t think so … but Kevin’s on the way,” Mr Collins said.

“The work with Kevin is about socialisation. He wants to walk down the streets with another man and maybe hold hands.

“Our thing is to mix him in with regular normal people, drinking beer without dressing up like a [WWII German] tank commander, [and] having nice pictures on your living room wall, not pictures of Hitler.”

Kevin Wilshaw & Matthew Collins

“I feel appallingly guilty as well, I really do feel guilty, not only that, this is also a barrier to me having a relationship with my own family, and I want to get rid of it, it’s too much of a weight.”

“I want to do some damage as well, not to ordinary people but the people who are propagating this kind of rubbish – want to hurt them, show what it’s like for those who are living a lie and be on the receiving end of this type of propaganda, I want to hurt them.”

Fearing some level of revenge, Mr Wilshaw says “one or two would want to sort me.. they’d see it as betrayal.”

“I am going to find it difficult, granted, to fill a void that has occupied my life since childhood.”

The latest figures show right-wing extremism only makes up about 10 per cent of cases dealt with by the UK Government’s main deradicalisation program.

Anti-fascist campaigners believe the country’s extreme far right has declined significantly in recent years, perhaps to its lowest point in two decades, and some commentators have dismissed the remaining members as weird, uneducated white men with uniform fetishes.

But the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a Nazi sympathiser, just before last years Brexit referendum, showed the danger posed by elements of the movement has not passed.

Since then, three far-right groups have been banned by the UK Government and two people have been charged over a plot to kill another politician.

“We are very concerned by the number of the arrests and the nature of the arrests”, Mr Collins said, when asked about the most extreme end of the movement.

“What we are looking at are groups that look like terrorists, talk like terrorists, act like terrorists and our belief for the last 18-months to two years is that they will eventually become terrorists.”

References

The Terrifying Truth About HIV Long-Term Survival!

The harsh reality is that the only people really qualified to comment on long-term survival are – long-term survivors.

Being a HIV long-term survivor is a bit like being a Vietnam veteran…more often than not you feel delegated to the sidelines of history. Like the Vietnam vets, we fought a socially unpopular and unacceptable war, and like them, our continuing presence is a reminder of things that many would sooner either forget, or just not acknowledge.

That is a harsh – and raw – assessment, and I can see hackles rising already amongst those who choose to observe it through rose-coloured glasses. The harsh reality is that the only people really qualified to comment on long-term survival are – long-term survivors.

Yesterday (June 5th) was HIV Long-Term Survivor Awareness Day. I can’t say that I didn’t personally feel a certain…pride…not the right word, though I’m hunting for the right one…that at last there was an acknowledgement of my part in HIV history. I posted the event as a Facebook status update, and I’m truly humbled by the response from my friends, and at the same time reminded that there are others in my current social “circle”who are also chalking up survival terms equal to my 36 years. Yet despite the acknowledgement, the most telling word to me was”Awareness”! And perhaps that word, more than any other, takes us back to the start of this article. It is an important word, as it suggests – very strongly – that we are the forgotten, those of HIV “past”, and our very existence needs to have attention drawn to it; that there needs to be a reminder that we didn’t all succumb to the ravages of AIDS.

Reality hurts, doesn’t it! And that really is the reality of long-term survival. To be honest, I don’t think anyone knows what to do with us, apart from just leaving us alone to muddle through. On the general overview of HIV history, and considering the numbers of those who died – and continue to – as a result of AIDS, the numbers of us who have survived 20 years or more are small. We are now a disparate group, spread far and wide by the great diaspora that resulted from HIV diagnosis in the day. We are no longer concentrated in the areas of ground zero for the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and in many respects that is a major reason for our being in the background of modern day HIV.

I don’t want to call this “awareness” day tokenistic…but, recognition of the sheer tenacity of HIV long-term survivors has been a hell of a long time coming! Considering that those of us with early diagnosis, who were still alive in the late 80s/early 90s were already long-term survivors…it’s recognition that is – like so much in HIV – well and truly overdue!

I have attempted to convey the harsh reality of long-term survival in past articles, and in my talks when I was a speaker for the Positive Speakers Bureau (PSB). Myself, and other speakers, whose history went back to the key points of HIV in Sydney were always in demand, as we were the living history of HIV and AIDS, the harbingers of the tales of horror, stigma, discrimination, political and religious turmoil, and the community response to the pandemic. But over time – I was a speaker for 12 years – I saw this group slowly dropping away for various reasons, and by the time I chose to retire from speaking I was one of the last of these “history” speakers. By that time, I personally felt that HIV in its modern guise was leaving me behind, lost in its dust as it moved into new territory. A HIV diagnosis still came with its fears and insecurities, but it was no longer a death sentence.

To be honest, I don’t think anyone knows what to do with us, apart from just leaving us alone to muddle through.

So, who are these people who are having “awareness” drawn to them? I can only speak for myself; can only put a personal perspective on HIV long-term survival. Perhaps the reality of it has always been something I have downplayed, in an attempt to NOT come across as a victim! The true reality of the horror years was TERROR!

My CMV diagnosis in 1996 filled me with terror! It was the ultimate reality that I was now on borrowed time. But even before that time, it was terrifying to get what was a death sentence in 1985! It was truly terrifying to watch the horrendous deaths happening around me on a daily basis! It was terrifying to know that that was what could be in store for me! It was terrifying every time I visited the doctor, every time I had a blood test! It was terrifying to know that treatments were limited, and of short duration! It was terrifying to be subjected to the side-effects of huge dosages of same treatments – side-effects I still live with today! It was terrifying visiting friends and lovers in hospital, knowing each kiss could be the last! It was terrifying to find myself losing weight, and trying to hide the fact under baggy clothing! It was terrifying to find myself the figure of HIV discrimination in my workplace, and powerless to do anything about it! It was terrifying to realise I could no longer go on working! It was terrifying after a lifetime of independence to realise that I would need to go onto DSP, and housing subsidies! It was terrifying watching myself head towards alcoholism, chain smoking and life in the fast lane to deal with everything that was going on – uncontrollably – around me! It was terrifying to find myself in hospital for the first time – a collapsed lung! It was terrifying to lie there for 2 weeks, having Sandy from the Oxford Hotel visit another friend and suddenly stumbled upon me! It was terrifying to see – very briefly – the look in her eyes! It was terrifying to think I could be there for reasons of HIV – yet denying it…I would go home…life would go on…yeah…right! It was terrifying to live the 24 hours between my possible CMV diagnosis, and its confirmation! It was terrifying to know that this was a reality- AIDS! It was terrifying only hours after that, getting off a bus at Prince Henry Hospital at La Perouse, and wobbling towards admissions…and thinking…what the fuck! It was terrifying to realise the reality of your health status; 10 CD4 cells, 48kgs weight…could that be right? Chronic candida, chronic anaemia, chronic CMV retinitis! It was terrifying to realise I was dying! It was terrifying to lie again in a hospital bed with nurses, and drips, and medications…and wondering if it was all worthwhile! It was terrifying finding myself at POW the next day, having drugs injected directly into my eyes! It was terrifying that day…and every day after! It was terrifying to sit in that waiting room days later, holding the hand of another guy going through the same thing, trying to reassure him as he wept, a reassurance I didn’t feel myself! It was terrifying trying new drug combinations, not knowing if they would be successful, or in time! It was terrifying to realise I accepted my fate, and was not frightened! It was terrifying to be told the combination had worked, and I’d soon be going home! It was terrifying to realise that I felt robbed, felt that I didn’t deserve to be spared that which so many I loved had not been saved from! Terrifying to realise I was going back to a world I no longer knew! Terrifying to realise that in many respects, I was now a freak…someone who just didn’t fit in! It was terrifying to know that no one, no individual, no organisation, was prepared in any way for the return of the living dead! It was terrifying to sit at home…lost, alone, isolated, unsure, unknowing, afraid! It was terrifying to have the reality of ongoing life, of being whisked from deaths door! It was terrifying going through the panic attacks, the anxiety, the depression! It was terrifying to discover that every one was so unprepared for “us” that necessary help was not available when we needed it! Terrifying to be taking massive numbers of drugs – 3-4 medications, with anywhere from 4-6 pills for each medication, 3 times a day (with dietary and time compliances on them), plus prophylaxis, plus pills to control side effects! It was terrifying to find I needed medication compliance counselling, return-to-life counselling, peer support groups, weekly clinics, specialists! Terrifying that I felt myself useless, at a loose end, disconnected! Terrified to realise I wanted nothing to do with life as it had been – so few friends survived the ravages of AIDS, and those not infected had no point of connection with me, and where I now was. I cut back my drinking, stopped smoking, adopted a healthier lifestyle, decided I wanted my life to head off in different directions to that which it had been going in! It was terrifying to find that there was no one to help me do that, and despite being at the forefront of a needs assessment project concerning the return-to-work requirements of others like me, the reality was that help was a couple of years away! It was terrifying to have lost the sight in one eye, and a good deal of the sight in the other due to the CMV, and learning to deal with that, and its uncertainties! It was terrifying to fall flat on my face on footpaths due to lack of depth perspective; tripping over tree roots, or low street benches, or falling down steps because I could not see the edge; It was terrifying going through the surgery to have Vitrasert implants put in my eyes to negate the regular intraocular injections, then surgery to remove the cataracts caused by same! Terrifying to get the Deca-Dorabolin injections to help put weight back on! Terrifying to return to a normal job – albeit temporarily – knowing that it made access to doctors appointments and hospitals (for drugs) very difficult! Terrifying to find myself collapsing in a gift store, and unable to use my legs…and even more terrifying to find the store owner dumping me in the gutter under the illusion I was a druggie…and everyone else ignoring me – then finally managing to walk again, only to collapse in the middle of Bondi Road on my way home! Terrifying to find I was losing my ability to walk a straight line, but drifted all over the footpath…and no one knew why! Terrifying going through many tests and scans- with dire predictions of what was happening in my head – to finally ascertain that THE virus had jumped the blood/brain barrier and was resident in my brain! The terrifying wait for it to resolve itself! Terrifying to go out to a pub for the first time after an 18-month recovery period! Terrifying to know I knew no one in the pub! Terrifying to go home with someone despite a previous very promiscuous life! Terrifying to get into a relationship again!

Terrifying! Terrifying! Terrifying! I could go on and on with the lists of terrifying experiences over this period, but the word count would be astronomical! Suffice it to say – terror had a name…HIV/AIDS! No one diagnosed these days will – I hope – ever have to go through it.

Survivor guilt was something that came later, after all the pandemonium of getting my health back on track quietened down, and left me with time to think, to mull over the events just past. It felt so unfair that I was still here! Felt unfair that, having prepared myself to die, it hadn’t eventuated, and I was left to continue mourning for those gone, continuing to live thanks to the hoped for medications that others hadn’t managed to hang around for! It was unhealthy thinking, but it happened anyway! More counselling to reconcile that!

So – has the terror stopped? For me, not really! A detached retina, and complex surgery to replace it in 2013, and the removal of the blind eye -it is now a prosthetic – in early 2015 has reduced what was bad vision even further. I joke that every time I walk out onto the street, I take my life into my hands…but it is, in reality, no laughing matter! It is quite frightening! It restricts what I do in some respects, but I deal with it. However, the fears of further detachments – I had one scare recently – or anything else that may affect what little vision I do have is always there.

However, it hasn’t all been terrifying over the last 22 years. I’ve taken control of my own health, I’ve reeducated myself, and fulfilled a few frustrated ambitions. I’ve reconnected with some old mates through social media, and it pleases me to know that not all disappeared like many did. I’m in a happy place as far as everyday life goes.

I hope this gives those that bother to read it an “awareness” of what long-term survival is really about. It would be fulfilling if something could be set up to make us more visible, less confined to the sidelines of HIV. I don’t have an answer to that conundrum only to say that it should have nothing to do with sitting in a circle, knitting and discussing HIV! Now that is a truly terrifying thought!

Tim Alderman © 2018.

Gay History: A Contradiction in Terms; Nicky Crane, and Kevin Wilshaw- Gay Neo-Nazi’s. Part 1.

“Adolf Hitler was my God. He was sort of like my Fuhrer, my leader. And everything I done was, like, for Adolf Hitler.”

NICKY CRANE

As part of my writing degree from the University of Technology in Sydney (2001) I studied a subject called Contemporary Cultures. Subsequently, I find the study of sub-cultures and “aberrations” within the Gay and Lesbian community a fascinating subject. However, occasionally a subject comes along that I find particularly disconcerting, and gay neo-nazi’s is one that confounds me! How a gay man could attach himself to the insidious writings and philosophies of one of the twentieth centuries greatest tyrants – especially one who condemned thousands of gay men and women to the ovens of the concentration camps – leaves me confused, and wondering…have they really studied what this movement was all about, and if they did, how could they be so dispassionate about it! Perhaps we can be reconciled to them by the fact that even they realised the contradiction, and gave up this somewhat insidious belief. However, the question remains – why? To be honest, and to be contradictory myself, I find the photo below a bit of a turn-on! Not the singlet…that is just wrong…but the man himself – oh yeah! There is an ultra-masculinity about him that is very sexy…and perhaps we should just leave it at that! The photo, and the man himself, are two different things!

Nicola Vincenzo Crane was born on 21 May 1958 in a semi-detached house on a leafy street in Bexley, south-east London. One of 10 siblings, he grew up in nearby Crayford, Kent.

As his name suggests, he had an unlikely background for a British nationalist and Aryan warrior. He was of Italian heritage through his mother Dorothy, whose maiden name was D’Ambrosio. His father worked as a structural draughtsman.

But from an early age Crane found a surrogate family in the south-east London skinhead scene. He was the British extreme right’s most feared streetfighter. But almost right up to his death, Nicky Crane led a precarious dual existence – until it fell dramatically apar

“ I hate the fact that’s cool to be black these days. I hate this hip-pop fuckin’ influence on white-fuckin’ suburbia.”

“You think I’m gonna sit here and smile while some fuckin’ kike tries to fuck my mother? […] fuckin’ forget it, not on my watch, not while I’m in this family. I will fuckin’ cut your Shylock nose off and stick it up your ass before I let that happen.” Derek Vinyard, American ing movie X

The similarity in thinking between Derek Vinyard in the above aggressive, frightening movie, and Nicky Crane has one major difference – the former is scripted.

The skinhead gang marched in military formation down the High Street clutching iron bars, knives, staves, pickaxe handles and clubs.

There were at least 100 of them. They had spent two days planning their attack. The date was 28 March 1980.

Soon they reached their target – a queue of mostly black filmgoers outside the Odeon cinema in Woolwich, south-east London.

Then the skinheads charged.

Most of them belonged to an extreme far-right group called the British Movement (BM).

This particular “unit” had already acquired a reputation for brutal racist violence thanks to its charismatic young local organiser. Many victims had learned to fear the sight of his 6ft 2in frame, which was adorned with Nazi tattoos. His name was Nicky Crane.

But as he led the ambush, Crane was concealing a secret from his enemies and his fascist comrades alike. Crane knew he was gay, but hadn’t acted on it. Not yet.

A boy stands in front of a poster featuring Nicky Crane

“When you’ve come from a tough background, when you get that identity, it’s a powerful thing to have,” says Gavin Watson, a former skinhead who later got to know Crane.

The south-east London skins also had close connections to the far right. Whereas the original skinheads in the late 1960s had borrowed the fashion of Caribbean immigrants and shared their love of ska and reggae music, a highly visible minority of skins during the movement’s revival in the late 1970s were attaching themselves to groups like the resurgent National Front (NF).

In particular the openly neo-Nazi BM, under the leadership of Michael McLaughlin, was actively targeting young, disaffected working-class men from football terraces as well as the punk and skinhead scenes for recruitment.

Crane was an enthusiastic convert to the ideology of National Socialism.

“Adolf Hitler was my God,” he said in a 1992 television interview. “He was sort of like my Fuhrer, my leader. And everything I done was, like, for Adolf Hitler.”

Within six months of joining the BM, Crane had been made the Kent organiser, responsible for signing up new members and organising attacks on political opponents and minority groups.

He was also inducted into the Leader Guard, which served both as McLaughlin’s personal corps of bodyguards and as the party’s top fighters. Members wore black uniforms adorned with neo-Nazi symbols and were drilled at paramilitary-style armed training weekends in the countryside.

“By appearance and reputation he (Nicky Crane) was the epitome of right-wing idealism – fascist icon and poster boy,” writes Sean Birchall in his book “Beating the Fascists”, a history of AFA.

They were also required to have a Leader Guard tattoo. Each featured the letters L and G on either side of a Celtic cross, the British Movement’s answer to the swastika. Crane dutifully had his inked on to his flesh alongside various racist slogans.

By now working as a binman and living in Plumstead, Crane quickly acquired a reputation, even among the ranks of the far right, for exceptionally brutal violence.

A young Crane shows off his tattoos with another skinhead

In May 1978, following a BM meeting, he took part in an assault on a black family at a bus stop in Bishopsgate, east London, using broken bottles and shouting racist slogans. An Old Bailey judge described Crane as “worse than an animal”.

The following year he led a mob of 200 skinheads in an attack on Asians in nearby Brick Lane. Crane later told a newspaper how “we rampaged down the Lane turning over stalls, kicking and punching Pakistanis”.

The Woolwich Odeon attack of 1980 was described by a prosecutor at the Old Bailey as a “serious, organised and premeditated riot”. After their intended victims fled inside, the skinheads drilled by Crane began smashing the cinema’s doors and windows, the court was told. A Pakistani man was knocked unconscious in the melee and the windows of a nearby pub were shattered with a pickaxe handle.

In 1981 Crane was jailed for his part in an ambush on black youths at Woolwich Arsenal station. As the judge handed down a four-year sentence, an acolyte standing alongside Crane stiffened his arm into a Nazi salute and shouted “sieg heil” from the dock.

Crane’s three jail terms failed to temper his violence. During one stretch, he launched an attack on several prison officers with a metal tray. A six-month sentence following a fracas on a London Tube train was served entirely at the top-security Isle of Wight prison – a sign of just how dangerous he was regarded by the authorities.

Nicky Crane’s legendary status escalated even more when he was featured in the cover of the album Strength Thru Oi! (1981), a compilation of crude songs of a popular punk sub-genre among skinheads. He appears grumbling, kicking to the camera’s direction. His violent attitude became an insignia of British Fascist movements. His image was printed on posters and t-shirts that were particularly popular among Neo-nazi followers.

In addition to his prominent membership in the brutal Nazi world, Crane was also a head of security of the band Skrewdriver, whose lyrics and music clearly evidenced their Fascist ideology. Craned developed a bond with Skrewdriver’s vocalist, Ian Stuart Donaldson, and together they founded the skinhead racist organization Blood & Honor.

Skrewdriver was founded in 1976 in Poulton-le-Fylde, a small town in Lancashire, England, by frontman Ian Stuart, who’d previously fronted a Rolling Stones cover band called Tumbling Dice. Skrewdriver began as a punk outfit, but quickly adopted the skinhead uniform: Bic-ed heads, white T-shirts, Levi’s, and “boots and braces” (steel-toe Doc Martens and suspenders). They weren’t overtly political at the outset, but they soon drew a strain of rabid fans sympathetic to radical politics, and drifted ever rightward. In the late 1970s, the group was dropped by their label, Chiswick Records, once their message became overtly violent; clubs throughout Britain refused to let them play.

But, though marginal, there was support for Skrewdriver and their ilk. The National Front, a far-right political party which was experiencing sharp growth throughout the 1970s, saw in Skrewdriver an opportunity for propaganda, and started its own record label, the cleverly named White Noise, on which the band released five early singles. Skrewdriver maintained an allegiance to a range of far-right groups and causes in the UK, including the National Front and the British Movement (BM), a neo-Nazi group founded in the late 60s and known for violence. BM wasn’t just lip service, either. The group had a trained elite, the Leader Guard, who spent weekends doing armed, paramilitary-style drills in the countryside. They regularly attacked members of racial minorities with broken bottles, clubs, or simply their fists.

Nicky began roadie-ing for Skrewdriver in 1983, and his association with the group boosted their reputation for brutality. Crane and Ian Stuart started Blood & Honour, a still-active, neo-Nazi political and social club, together in 1987. Crane, known for his temper and for leading ambushes against unsuspecting minorities (one judge called him “worse than an animal”) was living a double life, however. He was outed as gay after it was reported that he frequented Heaven, a London nightclub.

The outside world continued on without the presence of Crane. Groups against Fascism began to emerge, such as the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) and Anti-Fascist Action (AFA). Without their leader, Neo-Nazis could not counteract the destabilizing attacks of these new clicks. They also weren’t prepared to learn the truth about their hero. The possibility that Crane was homosexual would have never never crossed their minds, even though he secretly frequented London gay bars. Given his savage behavior and hatred towards groups that went against Fascist ideologies, no one  was prepared to accept Crane’s sexual orientation.

Unbeknown to his comrades, however, a very different side to Nicky Crane was emerging.

Crane was aware of the contradictions that he embodied and was burdened by his status as one of the most prestigious icons of Fascism. To preserve his reputation, he would make public appearances with skinhead girls who pretended to be his girlfriends. Nonetheless, Crane attended a gay pride rally on 1986 and appeared in gay amateur pornography videos.

The anti-fascist magazine Searchlight was, despite its political leanings, required reading for activists on the extreme right. Each month the publication would run gossip about the neo-Nazi scene, and fascists would furtively buy it to see whether they had earned a mention.

In April 1985 it ran a feature on Crane. It mentioned the GLC concert, the south London attacks and the jail sentences he had served. The magazine revealed it had received a Christmas card from him during his time on the Isle of Wight in which he proclaimed his continued allegiance to “the British Movement tradition” – that is, violence.

The Searchlight report ended its description of Crane with the line: “On Thursday nights he can be found at the Heaven disco in Charing Cross.”

Even a neo-Nazi audience might have been aware that Heaven was at this point London’s premier gay club. Nicky Crane had been outed. And homosexuality was anathema to neo-Nazis.

But the response of Crane’s comrades to the revelation was to ignore it.

A number of factors allowed Crane to brush off the report, Pearce says. Firstly, homosexuality was indelibly associated with effeminacy by the far right, and Crane was the very opposite of effeminate.

Secondly, no-one wanted to be seen to believe Searchlight above the word of a committed soldier for the Aryan cause.

Thirdly, on the most basic level, everyone was afraid of being beaten up by Crane if they challenged him.

“I remember it was just sort of furtive whispering,” adds Pearce. “I’m not aware that anyone confronted Nicky. People were happy for things to remain under the carpet.”

Sightings at gay clubs were dismissed by Crane.

Donaldson claimed Crane told him that he was obliged to take jobs at places like Heaven because the security firm he was employed by sent him there.

“I accepted him at face value, as he was a nationalist,” Donaldson told a fanzine years later.

For his part, Heaven’s then-owner, Jeremy Norman, says he does not recall Crane working on the door: “I would imagine that the door staff would have been supplied by a security contractor and that he would have been their employee but it is all a long time ago.”

Rumours circulated that a prominent football hooligan and far-right activist had hurled a homophobic slur at Crane, who in response had inflicted a severe beating which the victim was lucky to survive.

Word of this spread among the skinhead fraternity, too.

“My mate had a shop in Soho,” recalls Watson. “People would come in to say, ‘Have you heard Nicky’s gay?’ He would say, he works around the corner, why don’t you go and ask him? Of course they never did.”

Just as some in the gay community refused to believe that a gay man could be a neo-Nazi, others on the extreme right were unable to acknowledge that a neo-Nazi could be a gay man.

Searchlight reported in October 1987 that “Crane, the right’s finest example of a clinical psychopath, is also engaged in building a ‘gay skins’ movement, which meets on Friday nights” at a pub in east London.

Crane’s sexuality might by now have been obvious to any interested onlooker, but the neo-Nazi scene remained in denial.

While his right-wing colleagues studiously ignored the report, AFA took an interest. Its activists put the pub under surveillance.

The anti-fascists didn’t care about Crane’s sexuality, but were concerned that the gatherings might have a political objective. “Here were gay skinheads wearing Nazi regalia,” says Gary. “We could never get to the bottom of it – whether it was purely a sexual fetish.”

The gay community had, by this stage, begun to take notice of Crane, too. He was confronted by anti-fascists attending a Pride rally in Kennington, south London, in 1986.

The campaigner Peter Tatchell recalls a row erupting after it emerged Crane had been allowed to steward a gay rights march. The organisers had not been aware who Crane was or what his political affiliations were.

But now they were, and Crane must have realised he would no longer be welcome in much of gay London. The gay skinhead night may simply have been an attempt to carve out a space for himself where he would not be challenged either for his sexuality or his politics.

While his status in the far right was secure, he was being pushed to the fringes of the gay community. The double life he had been maintaining was beginning to erode.

After the Bloody Sunday march, there is no record of Crane taking part in any further political activity. He had begun drifting away from the extreme right.

Friends say he had begun spending an increasing amount of time in Thailand, where his past was not known and he could, for the first time since Strength Thru Oi! was released, be anonymous.

It was until 1992 that the ruthless Neo-nazi leader publicly accepted his homosexuality in a TV documentary called Skin Complex.

The Channel 4 programme was called Out. It featured a series of documentaries about lesbian and gay life in the UK. The episode broadcast on 27 July 1992 was about the gay skinhead subculture. Its star attraction was Nicky Crane.

First the programme showed recorded interviews with an unwitting Donaldson, who sounded baffled that such a thing as gay skinheads existed, and NF leader Patrick Harrington.

And then the camera cut to Crane, in camouflage gear and Dr Martens boots, in his Soho bedsit.

He told the interviewer how he’d known he was gay back in his early BM days. He described how his worship of Hitler had given way to unease about the far right’s homophobia.

He had started to feel like a hypocrite because the Nazi movement was so anti-gay, he said. “So I just, like, couldn’t stay in it.” Crane said he was “ashamed” of his political past and insisted he had changed.

“The views I’ve got now is, I believe in individualism and I don’t care if anyone’s black, Jewish or anything,” he added. “I either like or dislike a person as an individual, not what their colour is or anything.”

The aim of the program was to explore homosexuality in different subcultures like the skinhead movement. The revelation attracted considerable press attention. The Sun ran a story with the headline “NAZI NICK IS A PANZI”. Below it described the “Weird secret he kept from gay-bashers”.

Crane reiterated that he had abandoned Nazi ideology. “It is all in the past,” he told the paper. “I’ve made a dramatic change in my life.”

The reaction from his erstwhile comrades was one of horror and fury. Donaldson issued a blood-curdling death threat on stage at a Skrewdriver gig.His appearance turned him into the object of scorn of various Fascist groups and also people who once were his friends, like Ian Stuart Donaldson, who declared with frustration:

“He’s dug his own grave as far as I’m concern. I was fooled the same as everybody else. Perhaps more than everybody else. I felt I was betrayed by him and I want nothing to do with him whatsoever.”

But according to Pearce – who by this stage had made his own break with the NF – it was Crane’s disavowal of National Socialism, rather than the admission of his sexuality, that proved particularly painful for Donaldson.

“I think that Ian would have been very shocked,” says Pearce. “He was deeply hurt. But it had more to do with the fact that he switched sides politically.

“Nicky didn’t just come out as a homosexual, he became militantly opposed to what he previously believed in.”

British Nazism had lost its street-fighting poster boy. For the first time in his adult life, however, Crane was able to be himself.

Watson recalls catching a glimpse of Crane – by then working as a bicycle courier – shortly after he came out. “I saw him riding around Soho in Day-Glo Lycra shorts,” remembers Watson. “I thought, good for you.”

Certainly, after coming out, Crane always described himself as gay rather than bisexual.

Nonetheless, his relationships with women, coupled with rumours that he had fathered a son, allayed any initial suspicions his comrades might have had. So too did his propensity for racist violence.

On 8 December 1993, Byrne took the train to London. He had arranged to meet his friend Nicky Crane at Berwick Street market, just a few yards from his Rupert Street bedsit.

Byrne was looking forward to having “a good old chat” about skinheads they both knew. But Crane didn’t turn up.

When Byrne got home, he found out why. Crane had died the day before. He was 35. The cause of death was given on his death certificate as bronchopneumonia, a fatal inflammation of the air passages to the lungs.

He was a victim of the disease that had killed so many other young gay men of his generation.

“He didn’t tell me about his problems with Aids,” says Byrne. “He didn’t talk much about it really. I thought it was a shame.”

Word had got around that Crane was ill, however. Gary recalls his shock at seeing his one-time foe looking deeply emaciated, waiting on a platform at Baker Street Tube station. Crane’s stature was such, however, that even at this point fellow passengers were careful to keep their distance.

Those who suffered as a result of his rampages may have breathed a sigh of relief that he was no longer able to terrorise them.

But his death marked more than just the end of Nicky Crane.

It also coincided with the passing of an era in which the extreme right hoped to win power by controlling the street with boots and fists.

In 1993, Crane was dead, Donaldson died in a car crash and the British National Party (BNP) won its first council seat in Millwall, east London. The various factions of the NF had by now all but withered.

The following year, BNP strategist Tony Lecomber announced there would be “no more meetings, marches, punch-ups” – instead, the intention now was to win seats in town halls. The party would try to rebrand itself as respectable and peaceful – a strategy continued, with varying success, under the leadership of Nick Griffin. Streetfighters like Nicky Crane were supposedly consigned to the past.

The broader skinhead movement was changing, too.

Watson, like many other former skins, had by the time of Crane’s death, abandoned boots and braces for the rave scene. His skinhead days already felt like a different age.

“The skinhead stuff was washed away by rave and it’s, ‘Oh yes, Nicky’s out of the closet,'” Watson says. “It’s the story of that side of skinheads, isn’t it?”

By contrast, the presence of skinheads in gay clubs and bars was no longer controversial. Shorn of its political associations, the look was by now, if anything, more popular in London’s Old Compton Street or Manchester’s Canal Street than on football terraces or far-right rallies.

Two decades after Crane’s death, says Healy, the skinhead is “recognised as a gay man unambiguously in London and Manchester”. He adds: “If the Village People reformed today there would be a skinhead in the group.”

He may be an extreme case, but Crane reflects an era in which people’s expectations of what a gay man looked and behaved like began to shift.

“Everybody always knew gay people, but they just didn’t know it,” says Max Schaefer, whose 2010 novel “Children of the Sun” features a character fascinated by Crane. “The neo-Nazis were no different from everyone else.”

It’s unlikely Crane reflected on his place at this intersection between all these late 20th Century subcultures. He was a man of action, not ideology – a doer who left the thinking to others, and this may be what led a confused, angry young man to fascism in the first place.

As he lingered in St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, west London, waiting to die, a young man named Craig was at his side. Craig was “one of Nicky’s boyfriends”, says Byrne.

According to Crane’s death certificate, Craig was with him at the end.

References

Coming Out Of The Dark Ages! (The UK Fight For LGBT Rights).

Originally published in the UK Guardian, 24 June, 2007. By Geraldine Bedell.

For most people the Sixties was a time of sexual awakening and experimentation. But it wasn’t until 1967 that gay and bisexual men could share that freedom. On the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, we revisit the appallingly repressive atmosphere of the Fifties and Sixties that ruined lives, destroyed reputations and finally sparked a campaign for change.

Forty years ago in Britain, loving the wrong person could make you a criminal. Smiling in the park could lead to arrest and being in the wrong address book could cost you a prison sentence. Homosexuality was illegal and hundreds of thousands of men feared being picked up by zealous police wanting easy convictions, often for doing nothing more than looking a bit gay.

At 5.50am on 5 July 1967, a bill to legalise homosexuality limped through its final stages in the House of Commons. It was a battered old thing and, in many respects, shabby. It didn’t come close to equalising the legal status of heterosexuals and homosexuals (that would take another 38 years). It didn’t stop the arrests: between 1967 and 2003, 30,000 gay and bisexual men were convicted for behaviour that would not have been a crime had their partner been a woman. But it did transform the lives of men like Antony Grey, who had fought so hard for it, meaning that he and his lifelong partner no longer felt that every moment of every day they were at risk.

It is hard for us to imagine now how repressive was the atmosphere surrounding homosexuality in the 1950s. ‘It was so little spoken about, you could be well into late adolescence before you even realised it was a crime,’ says Allan Horsfall, who campaigned for legal change in the north west, where he lived with his partner, a headmaster. ‘Some newspapers reported court cases but they talked of “gross indecency” because they couldn’t bring themselves to mention it, so young people were lucky if they could work out what was going on.’

Antony Grey, who later became secretary of the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS), describes having to make ‘painstaking circular tours through the dictionary’ to articulate the feelings he’d had since he was nine. The one thing he did manage to pick up was that ‘there was a hideous aura of criminality and degeneracy and abnormality surrounding the matter’. Grey, a middle-class boy, fearful of breaking the law, remained ‘solitary, frustrated and apprehensive’ until he met his partner at the age of 32.

Grey is now 89 and has a civil partnership with that same man (Grey’s partner has always remained anonymous and prefers to do so now). I met them at their house in north-west London, where we talked in a room overflowing with books. Grey is tall and used to look distinguished; he has had leukaemia and is gaunt now. But his memories of the period are precise. In the early days, they tell me, living together was a dangerous business. When a drunk coach driver crashed into their car outside their house in the night, ‘the first thing we had to do was make up the spare bed. We knew from experience that if you called the police and they suspected you were homosexual, they would ignore the original crime and concentrate on the homosexuality.’

This was what happened to Alan Turing, the mathematician and Enigma codebreaker. In 1952, he reported a break-in and was subsequently convicted of gross indecency. Though he escaped prison, he was forced to undergo hormone therapy and lost his security clearance; he later committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

For all that the law was draconian, it was also unenforceable. As a result, arrests often seemed to have an arbitrary, random quality. When Allan Horsfall became a Bolton councillor in 1958, he discovered that a public lavatory used for cottaging was well known to police and magistrates, yet there hadn’t been a conviction in 30 years. On the other hand, there would be intermittent trawls through address books of suspected homosexuals, with the result that up to 20 men at a time would appear in the dock, accused of being a ‘homosexual ring’, even though many of them might never have met many of the others.

A case of this kind, involving eight men in Bolton, spurred Horsfall to set up the North Western Homosexual Law Reform Society (later the Campaign for Homosexual Equality). He explains: ‘In this case, there was no public sex, no underage sex, no multiple sex. Yet they were all dragged to court and a 21-year-old considered to be the ringleader was sentenced to 21 months. I wrote a letter to the Bolton Evening News. They had four more letters in support and none against and the deputy editor was visited by the local police, who wanted to know if he thought this was what the people of Bolton really thought about the enforcement of this law.’

Horsfall thought it probably was and set up his campaigning group, which would play an important role in demonstrating to politicians that reform wasn’t merely the preoccupation of a metropolitan coterie. When the objection was made, as it often was, that the powerful miners’ groups wouldn’t stand for legalisation, Horsfall was able to point out that he ran his campaign from a house in a mining village where he lived with another man and had never had any trouble with the neighbours.

In the mid-1950s, there was an atmosphere of a witch-hunt (probably not unrelated to what was happening in America with McCarthy), with consequent opportunities for blackmail. Leo Abse, who eventually piloted the Sexual Law Reform Act through Parliament, recalls that, as a lawyer in Cardiff, his fees from criminals suddenly all started coming from the account of one man. He investigated and found he was ‘a poor vicar. The bastards were bleeding him. I sent for one of the criminals and told him if I had another cheque from this man, I’d get him sent down for 10 years. I sent for the vicar and told him to come to me if they approached him again.’

MPs on both sides of the House began to demand action. One or two newspapers ran leaders. And then there was another high-profile case in which the police were called on one matter and ended up prosecuting another. Edward Montagu, later Lord Beaulieu, contacted the police over a stolen camera and ended up in prison for a year for gross indecency. Two of his friends, Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood, got 18 months. Their trial in 1954 probably played into the decision of the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, to establish the Wolfenden Committee to consider whether a change in the law was necessary.

As Lord Kilmuir, Maxwell-Fyfe led the opposition to law reform in the Lords, so it was ironic that he started the process. Perhaps he thought, by handing over to a committee, to shelve the issue. Perhaps he assumed Wolfenden would find against, in which case, he chose a curious chairman, because Wolfenden had a gay son, Jeremy. Antony Grey told me that when Wolfenden accepted the job, he wrote to Jeremy saying it would be better if he weren’t seen around him too often in lipstick and make-up.

Allan Horsfall believes homosexuality was tacked on very late in the day to the business of a committee that had already been set up to look into the legal status of prostitution. (Certainly, its remit covered both; its findings were popularly referred to as the Vice report.) That would make sense of the choice of chairman, although it is also possible that, given the secretive atmosphere of the time, Maxwell-Fyfe didn’t know Wolfenden had a son who wore make-up.

The Wolfenden Committee sat for three years and recommended that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should no longer be illegal. Setting the tone for the discussion about law reform that would follow, it made no attempt to argue that homosexuality wasn’t immoral, only that the law was impractical. The age of consent should, in the committee’s view, be set at 21 (it was 16 for heterosexuals). The weedy reasoning behind this was that young men left the control of their parents for university or national service. In fact, it seems to have reflected a general prejudice that homosexuals were even more simple-minded than girls.

I met Leo Abse at his beautiful house overlooking the Thames at Kew where, he says, he is kept alive by his young wife Ania. He is 90 now and deaf, but mentally acute and still writing books. We talked in his first-floor drawing room as swans floated by outside. For all its shortcomings, the Wolfenden report is usually regarded as the key turning point in the fight for legalisation, the moment at which a government-appointed body said unequivocally that the law should change.

Abse insisted that its importance has been exaggerated. ‘People talk sloppily about Wolfenden, which was not by any means a key turning-point. A myth has grown up: the myth of pre-Wolfenden and after. It was only a staging post. When I arrived in the Commons after Wolfenden, the vote against it was overwhelming. Ten years of struggle came after.’

It’s true that an awful lot of lobbying remained to be done. The HLRS got off the ground in 1958, following a letter to the Times signed by 30 of the great and the good, including former Prime Minister Clement Attlee, philosophers AJ Ayer and Isaiah Berlin, poets C Day Lewis and Stephen Spender, playwright JB Priestley and various bishops. (From our perspective of the early 21st century, when the churches seem so afraid of homosexuality, it’s interesting that in this period they consistently and visibly backed reform.)

Antony Grey became secretary in 1962, using the pen name he used for any letters he had published (his real name is Anthony Edward Gartside Wright): ‘My father was dying. I didn’t tell my parents I was gay until I was nearly 30 and they thought it was some foul disease. They were never comfortable with it.’

A long campaign ensued of talks to the WI and Rotary Clubs, university debates, public meetings and letter-writing. The meagre amount that the HLRS could afford to pay Grey was supplemented by means of a Saturday sub-editing job on The Observer, offered him by David Astor, then the paper’s owner and editor, who was a supporter of reform.

The campaigning work was exhausting and often thankless and the opposition a mixture of vituperative and mad. Grey once caused consternation at a Rotary dinner when asked what homosexuals were really like, by answering, ‘rather like a Rotary Club’. An opponent in a Cambridge University debate, Dame Peggy Shepherd, asked him over a nightcap at their hotel, ‘Tell me, why are you so concerned about these unfortunate people?

Various stabs were made at bringing the matter before Parliament, but the first really promising development came with a bill in the Lords in July 1965. It was sponsored by Lord Arran, an unlikely reformer: known to his friends as Boofy, he kept a pet badger. Grey recalls going for tea with him, with the creature in his lap. He had inherited the title because his older brother, who was gay, had committed suicide.

‘He wasn’t the sort of person you’d think would do it,’ Grey says. ‘But he was invaluable. He was related to everyone and was always saying things like, “I’ll have a word with Cousin Salisbury about that.” He was a bit mad – he referred to the bill as William – and he became an alcoholic while he was doing it. He more or less had to be dried out afterwards.’

For the opposition, Lord Kilmuir warned against licensing the ‘buggers’ clubs’ which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London. But Arran, supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, won his third reading by 96 votes to 31.

In the Sixties, the Lords led the way, quite unlike the situation in 2000, when the age of consent was finally equalised after the government invoked the rarely used Parliament Act to overrule a House of Lords that had thrown it out three times. Like the churches, the Lords has become more conservative about homosexuality over the years. The Catholic Archbishops of Westminster and Birmingham argued for exemptions in the 2007 Equality Act which would have allowed homosexuals to be turned away from soup kitchens and hospices.

Arran’s bill ran out of parliamentary time, but its success meant the pressure was now on for the Commons. A Conservative MP, Humphrey Berkeley, tried to sponsor a bill in the lower house. He was gay and in many ways, the lobby, certainly Grey, would have preferred him. ‘He was a nice person and not as quirky as Leo,’ Grey says now. ‘Both Arran and Abse thought that having got so far, they needed to make concessions, placate the implacable. It seemed to me that most people weren’t worried about the details.’

Abse takes a different view. ‘The House didn’t like Humphrey Berkeley. He was gay and everyone knew. He was an enfant terrible who never grew up. I don’t think he could have got it through.’ Berkeley ran out of parliamentary time and then lost his seat at the 1966 general election. Back in the new Parliament, Abse gave notice in the July that he intended to move a 10-Minute Rule bill. By his own account, he was not the man the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins (who wanted reform, fought for it in cabinet, guaranteed parliamentary time and assiduously sat through all the debates) would have chosen to pilot it through. ‘We had a reconciliation before he died, but when Roy Jenkins talked to me in those days, he used to shut his eyes, as though he wanted to blot me out.’

Abse believes Jenkins would have preferred Michael Foot, for two reasons. First, he says, Jenkins wanted ‘to bog down Michael’, whom he saw as a potential rival in any leadership contest; and second, he ‘thought I was too dangerous a character. I was too colourful’. He points to a shield on the wall, given to him by the Clothing Federation for being the best-dressed MP in Parliament. ‘I used to dress up. My wife – my first wife – used to dress me up. By God, they needed some colour in Parliament! It wasn’t only my narcissism. It was a part of opening up society. But I think Jenkins found it somewhat… he didn’t feel comfortable.’

Abse’s story is that he and Foot, who were and are great friends, outmanoeuvred the Home Secretary. Foot didn’t want the job. ‘He hadn’t specially involved himself in the homo issue’ (even allowing for the fact that he is 90, Abse’s language seems a bit odd here), and when he realised what was involved, politely backed off. Jenkins did then give his support, Abse acknowledges, ‘although on the way there were a couple of occasions when he lost his nerve and I didn’t’.

Human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell points out: ‘The tone of the parliamentary debate alternated between vicious homophobia on one side and patronising, apologetic tolerance on the other.’ The Earl of Dudley’s contribution in the Lords sums up the level of the opposition’s argument: ‘I cannot stand homosexuals. They are the most disgusting people in the world. I loathe them. Prison is much too good a place for them.’

But, as Tatchell suggests, the tone of the supporters is, from this distance, hardly less cringe-inducing. No one mentioned equality or love. The consistent position was that homosexuals were pitiful and in need of Christian compassion. Abse argues now that much of this was tactical. ‘The thrust of all the arguments we put to get it was, “Look, these people, these gays, poor gays, they can’t have a wife, they can’t have children, it’s a terrible life. You are happy family men. You’ve got everything. Have some charity.” Nobody knew better than I what bloody nonsense that was.

‘My inspiration was ideology. It’s a dirty word these days, but I was and am an ideologue. I am a Freudian. And I had been taught by Freud that men and women are bisexual. People should come to terms with their bisexuality, not repudiate it and become homophobic. You knew you were doing more than releasing thousands of people from criminality,’ he explains. ‘It was the start of opening up society to be more caring and sensitive. One was battling for all men and women to have a greater freedom.’

Commentators have argued over whether Abse was sufficiently ambitious with the substance of the bill, but there is no doubt that he was an adept tactician. He kept the mining MPs away from all the votes, ‘calling in my debts’. He used his friendship with the chief whip, John Silkin, to ensure there was enough time and he drew the opposition’s sting by gingering up a row over whether the law should apply to merchant seamen.

For a bit, it looked as though this arcane dispute might scupper the bill, but then Abse produced a compromise which, though patently absurd (merchant seamen could have homosexual sex with passengers and foreign seamen, but not each other) wrong-footed his opponents at a crucial moment. Right at the end, in the report stage, he managed to keep the required 100-plus supporters in the chamber all night so as to call for closure on the various amendments. On the last of these, he had 101 people there, which was all he needed but which, he says, ‘shows how precarious the bill was, and it’s why I get so damned annoyed when people say Wolfenden was a watershed. We got that bill through on one vote.’

Perhaps Abse is so anti-Wolfenden because his bill has been accused of being even more tentative than that report a decade earlier. Certainly, for those who had been lobbying, the act was a disappointment in several respects, not least in its confirmation of Wolfenden’s age of consent. ‘Of course, 21 was absurdly high,’ Abse acknowledges now, ‘but I wouldn’t have had a hope of getting it through under that.’ This does not seem to be his entire thinking though because he also says: ‘Adolescence is a difficult time and many young men go through a homosexual phase. Great care is needed in that you don’t corroborate them in their fixation.’

To make matters worse, the maximum penalty for any man over 21 committing acts of ‘gross indecency’ (which included masturbation and oral sex) with a 16- to 21-year-old was increased from two years to five years. Same-sex relations were also legal only in private, which was interpreted, as Tatchell says, as being ‘behind locked doors and windows and with no other person present on the premises’.

While sex may have been legal, most of the things that might lead to it were still classified as ‘procuring’ and ‘soliciting’. ‘It remained unlawful for two consenting adult men to chat up each other in any non-private location,’ Tatchell says. ‘It was illegal for two men even to exchange phone numbers in a public place or to attempt to contact each other with a view to having sex.’ Thus the 1967 law established the risible anomaly that to arrange to do something legal was itself illegal.

We shouldn’t think this provision was quietly ignored either. In 1989, during the Conservative campaign for family values, more than 2,000 men were prosecuted for gross indecency, as many as during the 1950s and nearly three times the numbers in the mid-Sixties.

So, is Abse right that he got as much as he could in the circumstances? Antony Grey thinks certainly not; Allan Horsfall is more equivocal. It is hard to judge at this distance, although the experience of recent years suggests there is a lot to be said for moving swiftly to consolidate positions gained, as Stonewall has done in sweeping on from Section 28 to civil partnership to protections for sexual orientation legislation. Stonewall’s chief executive, Ben Summerskill, acknowledges that in recent years, MPs with trade union backgrounds like John Prescott or Alan Johnson have been prepared to assert that equality means equality, which simply wasn’t the case in the 1960s. Other Labour ministers of the recent past have been susceptible to arguments about their legacy, where Harold Wilson’s government was mainly preoccupied with economic troubles and international crises.

Abse was disappointed in a different way by the aftermath of his Sexual Offences Act. ‘Those of us putting the bill through thought that, by ending criminality, we’d get the gays to integrate. But I was disconcerted and frightened at first because they were coming out and turning themselves into a self-created ghetto.’ Abse’s views of integration sound rather more like wholesale capitulation to majority behaviour. But, in any case, he is wrong. Horsfall says: ‘Nobody in the circles I moved in realised things had changed. It was 1970 before the Gay Liberation Front appeared and we were well into the Seventies before the Labour Party campaign for gay rights.’

Abse is disappointed that ‘the gays’ weren’t more grateful. ‘On my 90th birthday, I had lots of telegrams. I never had one word of thanks from any gay activist or lobby. When I’ve shown any reservations about the gays, they haven’t forgotten. The ghetto suggests they are not at ease. They’ve got to have a gay world. Perhaps it was presumptuous to think they would integrate and become part of society. They use the excuse of external pressure and discrimination, but really it’s not good enough.’

He is, unfortunately, taking a partial view. The single thing that more than any other has ‘normalised’ gay relationships has been civil partnerships. They could only have come about through lobbying, not by bien pensant intellectuals as before 1967, but by gay people themselves. And while it seems inconceivable now that we could ever go backwards, it is worth remembering the discrimination Abse dismisses was unchecked only recently.

Summerskill points out that recent events in Russia when gay activists, including Tatchell, were beaten up, possibly by plainclothes police, ‘were not unthinkable in Britain 20 years ago’. Those archbishops arguing for the exclusion of homosexuals from hospices in 2007 offered a glimpse of a grimy homophobia that still sits mouldering on the underbelly of some British institutions.

The 1967 act was terribly flawed, but the world changed overnight for those like Antony Grey and Allan Horsfall who lived with their partners. The law also emboldened them and others to campaign for the right for those partnerships to have the same standing in law as any other marriage and for other rights to be themselves and have the same freedoms as everyone else. Mealy-mouthed, half-hearted, embarrassed by itself as it was, the act made possible the equality that has since been so painstakingly fought for.

A 40-year journey from shame to pride

1967 Sexual Offences Act in England and Wales decriminalises homosexual acts between two men over 21 years and in private. Scotland legalises it in 1980; Northern Ireland in 1982.

1971 First ever gay march in London, finishing with a rally in Trafalgar Square.

1976 Tom Robinson releases ‘Glad to be Gay’, which reaches No 18 in the singles chart.

1979 First ever gay television series Gay Life commissioned by LWT.

1982 UK’s first HIV/Aids charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust launched.

1983 Labour Party candidate Peter Tatchell defeated in Bermondsey by-election after anti-gay campaign by tabloid press and local Liberals.

1984 Chris Smith, the UK’s first openly gay MP, comes out while in office.

1988 Section 28, preventing the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, introduced as part of the Local Government Act on 24 May.

1992 London hosts the first international Europride festival with a crowd of 100,000.

1994 Age of consent lowered to 18 from 21, despite unsuccessful campaign to lower it to 16, the consensual age for heterosexuals.

1998 Waheed Alli, one of the world’s few openly gay Muslims, becomes the youngest and first openly gay life peer in Parliament.

2000 Government lifts ban on lesbian and gay men in the armed forces.

2001 Age of consent lowered to 16.

2003 Section 28 successfully repealed on 18 November.

2005 First civil partnerships take place.

Gordon Agar

· The following correction was printed in the Observer’s For the record column, Sunday July 1 2007. The article above referred to Allan Horsfall as ‘a former Bolton councillor’. Although in 1963 he was a resident of Bolton when he set up what became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, he wasn’t a councillor there. He was, however, a councillor in Nelson, Lancashire in the late 1950s.

Gay History: Alan McKail, Designer, Melbourne (1888-1931).

Alan McKail

b. 31 January 1888,

Beaumont, Hay, New South Wales

d. 5 November 1931

Warrandyte, Victoria

Buried Box Hill, Melbourne, Victoria

Also known as Hugh John Alan McKail, Alan M’Kail, Allan McKail

Designer (Textile Artist / Fashion Designer), Designer (Theatre / Film Designer)

A Melburnian auctioneer, fashion and theatre designer known for his costumes at Melbourne’s Artists’ Balls. Contemporary police and media reactions to his more flamboyant costumes give an insight into attitudes towards gay male and transgender identity in early twentieth century Melbourne.

AS EARLY AS 1868, the Block on Collins Street’s north side, stretching from Elizabeth to Swanston Street, was fashionable: ‘ablaze with its crowds of colonial fashionables and celebrities . . . passing the hour in an easy, careless, lounging, gossipy manner’. Whilst ‘doing the block’ on Saturday mornings, middle-class Melbourne showed that it was the best dressed in Australia. So popular indeed, that soon this celebrated stretch was sold, demolished and replaced, as it has been twice since.

Back then, the most desirable place to be seen in Melbourne was Café Gunsler on the Block, later known as the Vienna Café. In 1916 it was remodelled as the splendid, spacious Café Australia, and in 1927 became the Australia Hotel. In 1939 this was demolished and replaced by the larger, glamorous Hotel Australia, some of whose bars immediately became the most popular meeting place in Melbourne for homosexual (‘camp’) men, particularly the Collins Street first floor cocktail bar and the basement public bar, which from 1970-80 became the Woolshed. In 1992 the Hotel Australia and an adjoining hotel were demolished and replaced by Australia on Collins. This site has a significant architectural history in which creative women played a strong role, but after briefly tracing its development, I want to explore the much less known experiences and memories of its gay clientele, mainly from 1930-1992, as far as evidence allows.

Most of the rich experiences of gay men recounted in this article were concealed from the community and straight historians at least until the 1970s, and even today. Most of the gay men whose stories are quoted here seem to have led happy lives and did not feel oppressed, but they knew the limit of their behaviour, without exposing themselves and their friends to risk. So describing their lives openly for the public record was risky. Aberrant lives are known from court records, but until ALGA oral history interviews, the social experience of ordinary lesbians and gay men in Melbourne before about 1980 remained systematically unexplored. For instance, although it describes other underworlds and minority behaviour, Andrew Brown-May’s Melbourne Street Life, published in 1988, only once mentions homosexuality, and that as a nuisance in public urinals.

There is only the slightest evidence of whether the Café Australia, or the pre-war Prince of Wales supported a gay culture, or even that one existed in private. Other than the legal records and Truth’s prurient histrionics, the earliest evidence of generalised gay social life is from c.1930, from the gays born during the Great War who lived long enough and were courageous enough to record their memories on tape.

The eminent architect Lloyd Tayler designed Harrington’s Buildings (1879-1939) for the new owner and in 1891 the first building of the ambitious Block Arcade was completed. Soon after, Café Gunsler’s (to its left) was bought by Austrians who renamed it the Vienna Café (1890-1915). It remained fashionable and popular: theatre celebrities and famous men gathered there and its Melbourne Cup festivities were the highlight of the year, when Collins Street was thick with hansom cabs and often the vice-regal party attended. Oral history interviews can take us back as far as living memory allows (to about 1930). Before that often the only information about unconventional behaviour we have comes from court records. On 22 September 1908, Alan McKail (aged 20), Douglas Ogilvie (22) and Tom Page (25) were three young men-about-town who decided to dress as fashionable ladies, and have a champagne supper at the Vienna Cafe on the fashionable “Block” of Collins Street. The three were observed “going the pace” at the Vienna Cafe on the evening of 22 September, 1908. According to their statements, the three had come into the city that Saturday night in disguise to attempt to gain entry to the Scandinavian Ball. When refused entry to that function, they went to the theatre and decided to finish off their evening with supper at the most fashionable restaurant in Melbourne. Apparently, while there, “their behaviour was such to attract attention.” As they left the restaurant, a hostile crowd gathered in the street and the three were roughly handled by some of the toughs in the crowd. The police were called and the three found themselves in the City Court. They were charged with behaving indecently in a public place, Collins Street.

The presiding magistrate was unsure as to whether the defendants were “sexual perverts or brainless young idiots who needed to be brought up with a round turn.” He was of the firm opinion that “such conduct as theirs was a menace to every respectable woman, and not only a riot, but even murder, might take place if young men were permitted to carry on in that manner in a public cafe” and stated that the difference between male and female apparel was one of the “cornerstones of civilisation and no-one could be allowed to flaunt that convention.” Page and Ogilvie worked for the Melbourne Steamship Company, whilst McKail was ‘well connected’, had £500 a year and trained as a fashion designer in Paris.

Mr. Fogarty, for defendants, without calling any evidence in defence contended that not the slightest testimony had been given that defendants had behaved in an improper or an indecent manner. Their disguise was obvious. If they could not go to a fancy dress ball in female costume the’ University students’ precession and characters in this Eight-hours demonstration,were also illegal.

Mr. Dwyer, P.M., said the suggestions made against the defendants in the case had not been justified by the evidence. They had not conducted themselves improperly, nor taken other undue advantages of tho costumes they were wearing. Unless there was a law which forbade man to assume the garb of woman, or vice versa, there seemed to be nothing against defendants. Still, they wore silly young donkeys, and he (Mr. Dwyer) did not for a: moment regard their action as a proper proceeding, which only tended to raise scandal and injure their reputations; They were treading on thin ice, and might get themselves into trouble without the intervention of the law if they were not more careful.

‘Defendants were discharged.

In late 1915, the significant Chicago architect of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) and his wife Marion Mahony (1871-1961) redesigned and rebuilt the interiors as ‘the most beautiful café in Australia’, and our earliest architectural modernism. When it opened in November 1916 Australia was at war with the Austro-Hungarian Empire whose capital was Vienna, so the name was sensibly switched to Café Australia. Six o’clock closing had been imposed that October, substantially reducing its opening hours. At least one patron remembered the Café Australia as being ‘slightly gay’ in the 1930s.

In 1927 it was renamed the Australia Hotel and by 1932, sold to hotelier Norman Carlyon’s company, The Australia Hotel Pty Ltd.10 Later, Carlyon owned the freehold with Frederick Matear (1888-1968). The State Library of Victoria holds an evocative mid-1930s street photograph looking east, depicting the Block Arcade, the Australia, the Tatler Bar and their neighbours.

The twenties: the decline and fall of our hero Alan McKail.

After getting so much unwanted attention parading around Melbourne’s ‘Block’ dragged-up as a Gibson Girl in the Edwardian years, then charming the social pages as a cubist Pierrot during the Indian Summer of the pre-war era, one would have imagined the Roaring Twenties would have been Alan McKail’s crowning glory. But, although our Alan could obviously still turn heads in the Jazz Age, noted among the well-dressed patrons of the Moonee Valley racecourse in ‘Table Talk’ in January 1925, he seems to have been falling out of the social spotlight.

The twenties began with McKail in a sound enough position to help out friends in need, purchasing ‘The Robins’, artist Penleigh Boyd’s Warrandyte retreat, after Boyd’s tragic death in a car accident in 1923 had left his family in financial limbo. McKail’s company, Decoration Co., who had worked with Penleigh Boyd on the sale of his studio contents only a few month earlier, handled the sale of Boyd’s estate. As Steve Duke pointed out, the security afforded by McKail’s purchase and the estate sale ensured that Boyd’s youngest son Robin would go on to write ‘The Australian Ugliness’, his influential book about poor aesthetic standards in local architecture and design, among many other career highlights.In February 1926 the Decoration Co. auction business, whose shareholders included Alan McKail, his former life partner Cyril John McClelland and his aunt Effie Eliza Ball, was valued by Melbourne ‘Herald’ at £20,000 (about A$1,500,000 in today’s money). Later that year ‘The Herald’ reported that McKail was about to head off to Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), for a holiday.

But things weren’t all going well in The Robins. Steve Duke often speculated that Alan McKail’s poverty-stricken death from tuberculosis in 1931 may have been caused by the renowned excesses of the age. Evidence has recently emerged from Victoria’s health records which, sadly, confirms Steve’s theory.

In November 1925 Alan McKail checked into the Pleasant View licensed house in his childhood home suburb of Preston, staying there for a week. The idyllic name of the house, which looked across the Lower Yarra Valley towards the Dandenongs, disguised its purpose; it was a clinic for recovering alcoholics. Nineteen months later, and not too long after his return from Colombo, McKail voluntarily checked into the less euphemistically-titled Lara Inebriates Retreat, north of Geelong, for another week’s drying out.

On the 2nd July 1927, Alan McKail checked out of the Lara Inebriates Retreat. At the time of writing, there are no further known references to him in the Melbourne press until his death notices appeared in November 1931. [1]

There is an Alan McKail Day cemetery walk at Box Hill cemetery in January (see link in References) which visits LGBT graves in the cemetery and plants rainbow flags on them.

Citation [1] The twenties: the decline and fall of our hero Alan McKail by Steve Duke BA FRGS (1957-2017) and Eric Ridder. By permission, and with thanks to Eric Riddler, and the Three Mullets Club https://www.facebook.com/threemulletsclub/?fref=ts

References

Ross Hinkley Is A Friend Of Mine: A Strange and Savage Tale!

Let’s get one thing sorted right from the start – that is not Ross’s real name! His actual name is Parrish Charles. Why the change? Who knows!

The Ross – he’ll always be Ross to me – I’m about to write about here is not the Ross I knew in Darlinghurst in the 80s and 90s. That Ross was a handsome, funny, sometimes insecure man, with dark hair, and big, dark eyes. That Ross was generous, giving, fun-loving, even after he moved to Melbourne. If you visited there, his home was always open to you, and he looked after you. That Ross I wanted to have wild sex with, yet never did. He had a brief relationship with an ex of mine – who shall remain nameless, and will never forgive Ross for what he did! His anger and disappointment is implacable!

I am not so unforgiving. Even though this Ross is one I did not know – and probably wouldn’t have liked – I know that somewhere inside this lost soul is the Ross I used to know. I guess I sound like I’m making excuses for him, though it is probably more that I want to know that outside this, he is not lost.

I had my own battles in the 90s with ill-health, so lost contact with many. I got such a shock when I found out about the following incident.

So, to April 29, 2008…

The police issued the following Media Release on the morning of the attack:

Man Arrested After Clifton Hill Stabbing Attack

Release date: Tue 29 April 2008

Last updated: Wed 30 April 2008

A 45-year-old man from Alphington has been arrested and remanded after a stabbing attack in Clifton Hill earlier this morning.

Parish Charles of Bennett Street, Alphington was arrested at his home at 7.30pm and has been charged with attempted murder by Yarra CIU detectives.

Detectives believe the attack on a 23-year-old Indian student, working as a cab driver, occurred sometime around 3.00am, possibly in Hodgkinson Street near Wellington Street.

The taxi driver was located lying on the footpath by two men who were walking along Hodgkinson Street about 5.30am.

He was treated by paramedic’s members at the scene before being conveyed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital where he remains in a critical condition.

Mr Charles has appeared before an out of session’s court hearing and has been remanded to appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday 30 April.

Senior Constable Leigh Wadeson

Media Officer”

No one seems able to pinpoint the reason that saw him drive to the Alfred Hospital about 1.40am on April 29 that year (2008) and walk towards the emergency department without going in.

Charles hailed a taxi an hour later and asked the driver, Jalvinder Singh, to take him to a former address in Clifton Hill. When Jalvinder Singh pulled over at the address, Charles produced a hunting knife from his pants and stabbed him five times in the stomach and chest before driving off in the taxi, which he crashed nearby. “While he was stabbing me he was holding me from behind around the neck. I was in shock. I felt like I was fighting for my life,” Mr Singh said later in a statement.

Jalvinder Singh was driving this taxi when he was stabbed.

Mr Singh lay bleeding in the gutter for three hours before a passing truck driver discovered him and called for help. A surgeon later described Mr Singh’s survival as miraculous.

Police later arrested Charles at his home at Alphington, where he was getting ready to go to the Alfred for some tests. Considering the sheer savagery of the attack – described as “random, unprovoked and frenzied” by Justice Curtain at the 2009 trial – it is a pure anomaly that not only does Charles not remember the attack, but cannot even come up with a reason for it! Stranger still are the possible reasons – all health related – that are given as possible causes for the attack.

At his Supreme Court trial in 2009, Justice Curtain said Charles had been diagnosed as HIV positive in 1986 and at the time of the attack he was depressed and unhappy about his treatment at the Alfred Hospital.

He claimed to be suffering from blackouts and said he could remember little of the incident.

But in a series of reports from psychiatrists and psychologists to the Supreme Court there was no evidence Charles was psychotic or suffering from a mental illness that would explain his behaviour.

At the time of his appearance in the Magistrate’s Court, just after his arrest in 2008 “Charles’ lawyer, Rob Melasecca, told the court his client had contracted HIV 20 years ago and had recently begun taking new medication.

Mr Melasecca said Charles had no memory of yesterday morning’s events.

His client had no criminal history and was horrified about what had occurred.

“He’s very much someone who is out of his comfort zone … does not know where he is, does not know why he’s (here).”

Mr Melasecca said Charles had been planning to attend The Alfred hospital for treatment when he was arrested.

He said his client needed help otherwise there would be “two victims”.

“His mental health is a very big question mark,” Mr Melasecca said.

The cab driver injured in the attack was in an induced coma, he said.

“The difficulty is the victim in this matter is in an induced coma, so he’s not able to tell us what happened,” Mr Melasecca told the court.

Charles, who was sitting side on, facing the public gallery, as he sat in the dock, was wearing blue rubber gloves, as was the security guard who sat next to him.

He had a shaved head, a goatee-style beard and appeared hunched over during the hearing.

Charles said he had been suffering severe head pain, which he compared with an “electric shock”.

Mr Melasecca asked that Charles receive blood tests while in custody, as he was due to attend an appointment at The Alfred today to be tested for meningitis.

Mr Martin ordered that Charles be remanded at Melbourne Assessment Prison, where he would be assessed to see whether he should be transferred to St Vincent’s for more intensive treatment.

Police would allege that Charles attacked the taxi driver while they were travelling in the vicinity of Wellington Street, Clifton Hill.

He then dumped Mr Singh in the street and took control of the car before crashing it into a power pole, police would allege.

Mr Melasecca said his client did not dispute the police version of events, but said his client’s state of mind would be key to the case.

“He’s in a terrible condition,” he said. “This is not going to be a case about anything other than about his intent and his state of mind.”Outside court, Mr Melasecca said police would allege that Charles caught a cab outside The Alfred hospital after driving there – but not entering the hospital – in his partner’s car.”

In a victim impact statement, Mr Singh, 24, said he tried to return to taxi driving in a bid to overcome his fears following the attack, but found he was too anxious to continue. He said he had trouble with memory and concentration, and was considering dropping out of his hospitality course as a result. Mr Singh also said he stopped playing cricket because he had trouble breathing.

Prosecutor Susan Borg said the defence had not established any direct link between Charles’ depression and the stabbing.

Justice Elizabeth Curtain extended Charles’ bail but warned she was likely to jail him at a sentencing hearing on September 30.

Throughout all this, never has the obvious question been asked – or answered – in any of the reports on this case – why did Charles leave home with a hunting knife secreted in his trousers! Doesn’t that sort of imply intent?

At his Supreme Court trial, Charles pleaded guilty to intentionally causing serious injury and theft. He was sentenced to nine-and-a-half-years jail, and will be eligible for parole in six-and-a-half-years.

The attack on Jalvinder Singh in April2008 prompted a mass blockade of city streets by taxi drivers and led the State Government to introduce better safety measures.

And, of course, one cannot ignore the terrible implications of all this on 23-year-old student, Jalvinder Singh, who was driving the cab as a way to earn money, and was an unfortunate innocent victim to this very savage attack. A fortnight ago he made what his doctor describes as a “miraculous” recovery after his heart stopped on the operating table for more than 10 minutes.

Royal Melbourne Hospital cardiothoracic surgeon, Alistair Royse, said he was amazed Mr Singh survived the attack, in which he received four major stab wounds to the chest.

“A knife wound to the front of the chest went through his breast bone and luckily missed his heart by a centimetre,” Mr Royse said. “Another went through his rib – his lung was penetrated causing five litres of blood to bleed into his chest but also an inability to breathe causing a loss of consciousness.”

When doctors opened up Mr Singh’s chest to assess his injuries, his heart stopped, forcing them to perform open heart massage for about 15 minutes. He required 25 units of blood and the medical team treating him debated whether to continue trying to save him, fearing he had been left unconscious for several hours so his brain injuries would be too severe.

He was kept in an induced coma for nearly a week.

“On Sunday we reversed the sedation and he woke up normal. It’s remarkable, so therein, I think, lies the miracle of what’s happened,” Mr Royse said.

“On paper he had no prospects of survival but not only has he survived, I believe he will make a full and complete recovery once his wounds have healed, and (he will) have a normal life expectancy.”

Mr Royse said Mr Singh’s youth, fitness and resilience helped save him.

The part-time taxi driver and hospitality student yesterday thanked the medical team who treated him before he was discharged from hospital.

“I am very glad I was treated here by the doctors and staff who have given me a new life,” he said.

He said he was looking forward to resuming his studies and had not ruled out driving taxis again. Mr Singh said he had spoken to his mother in India only once since the attack but told her he was fine.

“She doesn’t know the reality, she only knows a little bit about the injuries,” he said, adding he had no plans to tell her.

“She’ll be worried and I do not want to make her worry.”

Mr Singh said he was happy new taxi safety measures would be introduced.

But he admitted not knowing that Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky was introducing safety screens for drivers, pre-paid night-time fares and other measures.

“The leaders know what should be done, but after this and all kinds of accidents I think improvements should be done,” he told reporters today.

“I am very glad I was treated here by the doctors and staff who have given me a new life.

“Most Australians are very good and have sent me cards. Staff from Carrick (the Melbourne institute where Mr Singh studies hospitality) have visited me daily.”

Mr Singh remembers being stabbed and collapsing but little else.

He said he would stay in Australia and continue his studies but was undecided about resuming work as a taxi driver.

So what of Ross/Parrish? If he served his time, and received parole, he would have been discharged from jail sometime in 2015. I wonder if his partner stayed the course, or was so horrified by the events that he went his own way! I have no idea where he is, no any means to contact him. I do want him to know that despite the horrifying details surrounding this event, and by no means condoning it, that as an old friend, I have not deserted him. He has admitted to the crime, has done his time, and I hope that in some way he has managed to resume his life. If we are all condemned for our past actions, then there is little hope for any of us! Be kind to yourself, my friend, and take care!

Tim Alderman (2017)

References

Gay History: The Murder of Drag Entertainer,Wendy Wayne; King’s Cross, April 30, 1985.

The names Wendy & Wayne, and gender terms him and her are all used in this article. The newspapers used the male terminologies, though only ever knowing Wayne as Wendy I felt more comfortable using the female terminologies. Where people have been quoted, the terminologies they used are included.

On the evening of April 30, 1985, well known and popular gay drag entertainer, Wendy Wayne (Wayne Kerry Brennan), 35, was murdered in his small Darlinghurst Road, King’s Cross, bedsitter. He had been knocked unconsciius by a blow to the head, then shot twice in the back. It was thought by police that the killer may have been a client.

I did not personally know Wendy, though had seen her perform at Pete’s Beat in Oxford Street, and had actually met her on 25 February that year, when she attended a party at a friends flat (Barry Costello) on the corner of  Oxford & Crown streets in Darlinghurst, then joined us on the awning outside the flat to watch the Mardi Gras parade. She attended the party with Tiny Tina – another performer at Petr’s Beat. Little did we know at that time, that 8 weeks later she would be dead.

Tiny Tina (left); Wendy Wayne and Barry Costello at Mardi Gras, February 25, 1985. Photo taken in Barry’s flat (Writer’s private photo collection)

Friend’s were distraught and puzzled.  Wayne had geen well loved, and was known to many people, both straight and gay. To everyones knowledge, he had no enemies. He was a popular performer at Pete’s Beat, and also at Les Girls, where he put in occasional guest appearances.

An autopsy indicated that the murder was quite brutal, with him being knocked unconscious by a hard blow to the back of his head. The murderer had then shot him with what appeared to be a .45 ecalibre gun with two shots at close rang in his back. One shot had been placed between the shoulder blades, and exited through the neck. He was shot a second time through the  base of the skull, with the bullet exiting through the chin. He was then covered within a leopard skin. He was discovered by a friend, Kenneth Beckham, the next morning. The door to the bedsit was open’ and the television & heater were both on. Police were unable to find the killer, the gun, or bullets involved in the murder.

Accoding to Kenneth “Wendy was the nicest person you could ever meet”. “She was loved by her workmates, and all her friends”. “No one knew of any ill-feeling between her, or anyone else. She was just too kind”. Kenneth also informed police that Wayne had grown up in Newcastle, and had geen a performer for some years. He stated that there had been no arguments, either professionally, or romantically. He was well known by many in pubs in Darlinghurst, Moore Park, and Surry Hills.

There were fears among both gays and other transvestites that a sex killer could be on the loose. Police claimed that Wayne was kniwn to other King’s Cross prostitutes, and personalities. Kenneth stated ” I just hope police find this killer, in case he strikes again!”.

Gloria Murphy, friend and colleague of Wayne’s, said “I’d love to lay my hands on the bastard who did it. I’m not scared, just angry and daddened by the whole business!”. Gloria had known Wayne for 20 years, and they both performed together in the Hallelujah Hollywood show at Pete’s Beat. “I knew Wendy when she was just a 16-year-old kid who ran away from home” she said. “She performed around all the old traps such as the Pink Pussycat, and the Pink Panther”.

Wendy’s friends cimed that she had only recently become a prostitute, and may have attracted a “bad” client. Talent co-ordinator of Pete’s Beat, Tina, also appeared in the stage show with Wendy and saud “I’m sure it was no one known to our social circle, we’re a pretty tight knit group and don’t associate with weirdo’s”. Graham King, stage manager of Pes Beat, sobbed as he said “As soon as Wendy stepped on stage it was magic. It will never be the same again”. “Wendy was a real performer who joked, sang, danced, and really drew a crowd. She made over 400 costumes for her acts over the last three years”.

Terry Grimley, lighting technician of Pete’s Beat, agreed. “She was excellent. Really tops”. And as Gloria says “The show must go on!”.

A month after her murder, police still had no leads  in finding her killer. On the 13 May, Detective Sgt Smith, of Darlinghurst police, appealed to anyone with information in connection to the murder to contact him.

On Sunday night, 12 May, Kandy Johnson & Simone Troy threw open the doors to the upstairs var and entertainment area in the Oaddington Green Hotel, for a genefit for Wendy. Trixie Lamont and Lirraine Campbell-Craig diverged from their usual Sunday night show to host an evening of fund-raising for Wendy’s family. Both of Wendy’s sisters were present, to receive a total of $2,500 donated by local gay businesses, and attendee’s at the event. The elite of Sydney’s drag community performed on the night, including Kandy, Trixie, Lorraine, the performers from the apet’s Beat show, Beau’s and Les Girls.

The murder of Wendy Wayne has never been solved. Whacky conspiracy theories that she was murdered by a detective, or that Sydney bar owner and personality Dawn O’Donnell was involved have not been taken seriously, and have never been investigated.

Obituaries, Campaign 114, June 1985

Tim Alderman (2017)

References

  • Drag queen’s death hunt Pt 1, Daily Mirror, Wednesday 1 May 1985
  • Drag queens death riddle Pt 2 of above, Daily Mirror, Wednesday 1 May 1985
  • Killer could strike again (Peter Holder, Steve Brian), The Sun, Wednesday 1 May 1985
  • Killer could strike again (Peter Holder), The Sun, Wednesday 1May 1985
  • Police hunt transvestite killer (Mark Forbes), Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 1 May 1985
  • Wendy killing shocks gays (Alan Hardie), Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 1 May 1985
  • Drag queen was prostitute – Daily Mirror , Thursday 2 May 1985
  • We’ll avenge Wendy’s murder (Monica Beagle), The Sun, Thursday 2 May 1985
  • Obituaries, Campaign 114, June 1985
  • Sydney entertainer Wendy Wayne, murdered, Campaign 114, June 1985
  • Sydney gay entertainer murdered, Outrage 25, June 1985

Sacrilege: Living HIV Outside The Square!

“Sacrilege” may seem like a strange word to use in relationship to ones life. Its religious connotation is “the violation or profanation of anything sacred or held sacred” thus by a very loose expansion of the meaning – a human life, as it is, in many respects, regarded as sacred. Stretching definitions even further – and many would not be surprised that I don’t take it literally – infecting it with HIV could be considered a sacrilege, be it intentional or unintentional. The sacred has been violated! Also, as a HIV+ man, it is expected that I will follow a set of “rules” as dictated by various community groups, doctors and specialists! To totally ignore the expected, and go off down your own path would be considered by many to be sacrilege!

I can’t contemplate continuing to live with HIV without viewing it within the framework of my life! No war is without its battles, without its dark times, yet still seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! If I had to use a word to describe myself, belligerant comes straight to mind – but then I think to myself “That’s a bit harsh!”. Okay…cantankerous is one that has been used by those close to me, so that’s sort of acceptable, and it’s true! Curmudgeonly… a word I love, but I’m not really surly enough! So I’ll just stick with stubborn! I could claim that it’s a Capricornian trait, but it goes deeper than that.

At 12-years-of-age, my stubborn streak was already settling in. Though unrecognised by me at the time, it was a survival mechanism that was to serve me well for most of my life. It is only when I look back to 1965, that I realise what a testing ground it was: my mother left my father; a bitch of a housekeeper who was to forever change our family dynamics; and my father jumping over The Gap with Kevin, my brother – resulting in my brothers death – would have sent a less resilient person into dark depths that they may never have risen from! Considering the lack of psychological & emotional support available at that time, to have come out of that year relatively unscathed had to show a stoicism way beyond that normally expected from one so young. By digging my heels in, ignoring all the negativity around me, and just “getting on with it” – a philosophy I still embrace – I was to set in place a mental tenacity that was to impact my life for decades to come!

There was no love lost between my father & myself! Even prior to Kevin’s death, I had seen – and felt –  a violent streak in his nature; almost a need to punish those who had a life contrary to his. He could be a right royal cunt! The only way I could establish my own independence – which had flowered rapidly after Kev’s death – was open defiance! He told me not to smoke…so I smoked; not to drink…so I drank; to get a trade…I went in every direction but; and to get my hair cut…I left it to grow – despite a threat, after an argument about it, to “knock my block off”! He even denied me a 21st birthday celebration, because he had been at war when his fell due…I organised it myself. My grandmother left me a small inheritance, and just after my 21st, I moved out of home, into my own apartment. After he remarried and moved to Vincentia (on the south coast of NSW), we had little contact. After his suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning in his car in 1978, I never cried a single tear – but just let out a massive sigh of relief! I was free! As the ultimate act of a true prick, he left me nothing in his will – it all went to my step-family! Just to show that they were all tarred with the same brush, directly after his death his sisters indulged themselves in a game of telephone harrassment against my step-mother. I was glad to walk away from them all!

As soon as the old man died, I came out! It is the one time my usual defiance was kept capped. I had seen what he wss capable of with my brother, and my survival instinct whispered to me to be  quiet about this issue. Again, I had witnessed him & his mates yelling “poofter” out of the car window to some poor guy who did nothing more than wear a pink shirt! As I said – they were pricks! Stubbornness does not necessarily equal a death wish! Then, having stepped out of the closet, I megaphoned my life choice to all and sundry, including my employees. No one seemed particularly surprised! There were some in my workplace who were not impressed with my sexual preferences, and made no secret of it! My pure indifference to them was reward enough. My decision to desert the security of a regular job had nothing to do with my detractors…it was based purely on a desire to break free of a life I wanted to leave behind. But the curve balls were to keep coming, with no inkling at that time of the odd parallel path that both being gay, and being HIV+ were going to lead me down!


Even as I was coming out in Melbourne in 1980, snippets about a lethal cancer, that was killing gay men who frequented the saunas in the USA, were appearing in the local press here. I read them, and like many others, though not panicking, was left with a feeling of unease. That unease turned to immense consternation over the next couple of years, as the reports became more alarmist, and HIV crossed the ocean to our shores. By the time they developed a test in 1985, I for one was already stacking the odds – and not in my favour! In retrospect, this may have been a defence mechanism against coming up HIV+…that if I did, I was already prepared for it, and if I didn’t I could just breath a sigh of relief. The former proved to be true!

Back in the day, there was a severe lack of counselling, and given the sheer volume of testing results coming in at that time, was cursory at its best. When I went to get my result – and I don’t know why I made the presumption I did – the positive result was not a shock. These were strange (ethereal?) times, and for those of us admitting to our – then – death sentence, it was almost like belonging to a select club.

There was a two year window given at that time, between diagnosis and the advent of AIDS, leading, so they thought, to an inevitable death. Some didn’t make it to the window period, and my first friend, Andrew Todd, died at the end of 1986. I made it to the two year point…and was still very healthy. By then, the window for those diagnosed in 1985 had been expanded to five years, so the waiting game for many of us continued.  Up to 1990 is a very convoluted journey, and I don’t want to rehash history that has already been covered in many writings, and is really outside the parameters of this article. I decided to make this a useful period, and did a number of trials. It was better than just sitting around and waiting. This was a time when I made my one bad decision regarding my healthcare – I allowed my doctor to – after a najor ethical battle with her – to put me onto AZT! There has been much written about AZT, and its history as a drug…which was not exclusively formulated for use with HIV. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but my thinking on HIV has always been a bit radical, and I, along with others, gravitate to the thinking that HIV and AIDS – despite our use of them as co-joined conditions – are separate illnesses, and HIV doesn’t necessarily lead to AIDS, but AIDS as an independent condition, brought about by the deterioration of the immune system. 

So, I had a diagnosis of HIV, with no related conditions that would have rated a diagnosis of AIDS. Even with a CD4 count on the decline, I still had good health – which admittedly may have been a lot better if I wasn’t knocking myself around by chain-smoking, and chronic abuse of alcohol – until…I started AZT! Many of those still around from that time will acknowledge that the decline in their health status is directly parallel to starting AZT. It wasn’t nicknamed “human Rat-Sac”for nothing. It’s negative affects from then up until now are also well documented. Damaged nerves, liver & kidney problems, the leaching of calcium from bones, and other neurological problems can all be traced back to AZT usage. I wish I had stuck by my guns, and refused to use it! There is no evidence that it saved one single life. I wouldn’t have refused trestment with other drugs that came along shortly after – I didn’t have a suicide wish – but I have no doubt that if I had refused AZT, some ongoing problems I have now would not have happened. I have an undisguised hate of Big Pharma, and its tactics, and lack of ethics where it comes to flogging a drug, and how they went about flogging this incredibly toxic drug to a desperate and unsuspecting demographic is truly horrifying – more on this shortly.

So, dispite heavy smoking, alcohol abuse, long work hours, and a shit diet…I made it to 1990, and with my health still okay. I won’t say I was unscathed, as the relentless list of those who died over this time, with many more to come, was physically, mentally, and emotionally destructive. I am by nature – and experience – a stoic in the face of death. I accept the reality, and inevitability of it – but any sign of the existance of God in this obliteration was missing – no just, loving God would ever allow this! My conversion to Atheism was complete. However, the combination of all that was happening was starting to wear me down, and encountering on-the-job bullying by an Area Manager brought about my decision to leave the workforce in 1993, and go onto disability, and get a housing subsidy. It was a forgone conclusion back then that this was the road to take because – after all – none of us would survive for all that long. At this stage, under the most positive of thinking, I gave myself two more years. 

I actually got to mid-1996 before it all started to come undone. I have written about the circumstances surrounding all the events that happened at this stage, so won’t repeat them here, but will give you an intimate insight into my thinking on my situation when I was finally admitted to Prince Henry Hospital in June, 1996. Given that I was already close to death when admitted, with a plethora of conditions that really should have killed me earlier, and that I really thought I would never leave there any other way than via a wooden box gives a good indication of how serious things were. It was in Mark’s Pavilion there that my stoicism, my acceptance of reality, possibly should have been tested, but instead gave me a calmness, an acceptance of my own potential death that I had pondered about prior to this. I was chronically ill, I was tired and in some respects, if other factors hadn’t intervened, death just seemed like such a pleasant, restful reality, leaving all that was happening behind, joining all those that I had loved and lost over the last 10 years. It was an acceptance of death that I wasn’t expecting to be quite so complete, so easy, so without fear. 

But I picked my moment, didn’t I! Big changes were happening in the treatment of AIDS, and shortly after being admitted, not going down the road of death, that I expected to go down, I walked – well, taxied – out of Prince Henry. I exited that taxi into a world that was in no way prepared for the living dead of HIV. If I ever thought my battles were behind me, I could not have been more wrong. The next couple of years – a long period of recuperation – were intense. There was a seemingly neverending period of specialists, doctors, clinics, pharmacy, counselling, peer support groups, drug compliance groups, massive – and I mean massive – amounts of medication, side effects, dental work, anxiety and panic attacks, and drug trials. It was a time where one wanted to initiate great change in the direction of ones life  – with no one there to assist. Change had to be fought for, had to be forced. All these community groups gathering money and prestige, sitting in meetings and forums, listening to the likes of me yelling about what we needed…and just turning deaf ears! It was a frusteating period where everything was years behind where it needed to be, and if you wanted to get on with your life without being trapped in the system, you had to do it under your own steam! So I did!

Some volunterr work, some work in the community sector, a flowering writing career that demanded and exposed…when I eas “allowed” as one didn’t question the system – led to a brief period of full-time work – that didn’t help my health at all – then onto university & TAFE to experience at last that which gad been denied me in my youth. This led to an interesting period of experiences, from spending 12 years talking about the HIV experience through the Posituve Speakers Bureau, to 15 years writing for “Taljabout” magazine and various other publications, starting several businesses – the most recent of which was destroyed by the GFC, to where I am now – happy, balanced, and reasonably fulfilled.

However, the last few years haven’t been without its challenges, and my mental tenacity, combined with a fairly laud-back approach to life, have seen me get through things without any apparent negativity. I do health care on my own terms these days, because if one just relies on mrdico’s, one would rattle like a pill bottle. I want less pills, not more! About 15 years ago, I halved my HIV medications. I have been waiting for some red-faced, fuming doctor to lecture me about it (has no one realised how rarely I get scripts?) but no one ever has. In the interim, my blood readings get better and better, with CD4s on the rise, and an ongoing undetectable viral load. Okay, I no longer smoke – gave that up in ‘96, drink bugger all, have turned vegetarian, and exercise daily, but nothing else. Big Pharma be fucked! Your drug resistance tests – a farce! You just don’t want people on old drugs! Over-prescribing? You bet you do…big time! I wouldn’t trust you as far as ai could kick you! 

Have I mentioned my shit vision? Whoops…overlooked that. Blind in one eye thanks to CMV (also covered in articles on my blog), and almost blind in the other. The most major decision over the last couple of years? Having my blind eye removed voluntarily, and replaced with a prosthetic. Does it stop me getting around? Not fucking likely! I might be slow, but I get there! I have a white cane (laughingly called my whacking stick), but rarely use it. I walk the dogs, do the shopping, get to gym! It might be done with a slight feeling of nervousness, but it gets done.

I don’t hold any grudges. What has been, has been! In a way, I thank my father for the rough younger years. It gave me a set of survival tools that have served ne well – and still do – throughout my life. Maybe I was born in an auspicious astrological period, or maybe my natural survival instincts are genetic, endowing me with stoicism and mental tenacity! Whatever it is, it has seen me through nicely! Life is to be enjoyed, and despite the occasional downs, it should be lived to its fullest. Just step outside that square, and do it on your own terms!

Tim Alderman (©2017)