The television world of Paul Henning stretched from the Appalachian Mountains to the Hollywood Hills. The sitcom creator struck gold (well, oil) three times with his beloved hits The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. That trio of smash shows delivered dozens of memorable characters, many of which crossed over from series to series.
Henning’s anything-goes brand of homespun comedy included a menagerie of clever animals, like Dog and Arnold, not to mention actors switching roles. Bea Benaderet played both Cousin Pearl Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies and Kate Bradley on Petticoat Junction. But no role-hopping was quite so silly as Max Baer Jr. portraying both Jethro Bodine and his twin sister, Jethrine Bodine.
Jethrine, as you will recall, was simply Max Baer Jr. dressed up to look somewhat like Little Bo Peep. He slipped into a curly blonde wig and floral dress and hammed it up. The joke was made complete with Jethrine’s feminine voice, which was clearly not dubbed by Baer.
Henning hired his daughter, Linda Kaye Henning, to give Jethrine her voice. At the time, in 1962, Linda Kaye had just one credit to her name, a bit role in a single episode of Mister Ed which aired earlier that year. She would voice Jethrine in 11 episodes throughout the first season of The Beverly Hillbillies.
In 1963, Linda Kaye’s collaboration with her dad leaped to a new level when she joined the cast of Petticoat Junction as Betty Jo, the redhead in the trio of Bradley daughters. Betty Jo played a significant role in the series. She was the one who discovered Dog at the start of season two. Later, after a major ongoing romance, she would marry cropduster Steve Elliott, played by Mike Minor. Henning would go on to appear in more episodes of the series than any other actress, appearing in all but three. (Not to mention, she would marry Minor in real life.)
Alas, despite all the crossovers, Betty Jo and Jethrine never shared screentime. Jethrine disappeared in ’63, just as Betty Jo first popped her head out of the water tower.
From dusty-sandal epic to zany comedy, these LGBTI characters from the Bible deserve some movie magic.
Ruth and Naomi
Starring:Lupita Nyong’o (Ruth) and Oprah Winfrey (Naomi)
Premise:At a time of famine, a mother who has lost her sons finds love, strength and hope in the unlikeliest place.
Plot:Naomi and her family flee to Moab to find food. Her husband and then her sons die. One of her daughters-in-law leaves, but the other, Ruth, refuses to go.
‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’ (Ruth 1:16)
Together they travel to Bethlehem and build a new life.
David and Jonathan
Starring:Channing Tatum (David) and Zac Efron (Jonathan)
Premise:One was the lowly shepherd who slew the giant Goliath. The other was the Prince of the Israelites. Their love would rock a nation.
Plot:David kills Goliath and becomes a great warrior. Prince Jonathan, heir to King Saul, falls in love with him.
They make a ‘covenant’, a sworn, lifelong friendship agreement – more marriage than bromance.
‘Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.’ (1 Samuel 18:4)
They make out: ‘They kissed each other and wept together’.
Saul tries to kill David, fearing he would take the crown. Jonathan repeatedly warns his lover, saving his life.
Saul and Jonathan die in battle. David becomes king and writes the ancient world’s gayest song of mourning:
‘I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.’ (2 Samuel 1:17)
Daniel and Ashpanez
Starring:Jamie Bell (Daniel) and Dev Patel (Ashpanez)
Premise:Babylon. The greatest city on Earth. A slave finds love with his eunuch overlord. Together they will defy the king and win eternal glory.
Plot:King Nebuchanezzer overruns Jerusalem and brings Daniel to Babylon to be his slave.
‘Now God brought Daniel into favor and tender [physical] love with the prince of the eunuchs’, Ashpanez, the man whose job it was to train the slaves to serve the king. (Daniel 1:9)
When Daniel refuses to eat the food the king commands, Ashpanez helps him. Daniel becomes the most ribbed and powerful of the king’s servants and goes on to survive action sequences in a fiery furnace and den of lions.
Jesus and the Beloved Disciple
Starring:Jared Leto (Jesus) and Darren Criss (John)
Premise:The Greatest Love Story Never Told.
Plot:John is one of Jesus’ first disciples and is repeatedly called ‘The Beloved Disciple’. He is next to him at The Last Supper.
‘Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.’ (John 13:23)
At the crucifixion, Jesus tells his mother Mary that this ‘beloved disciple’ is ‘your son’ and tells him that she is ‘your mother’.
Later, he is one of the first to find Jesus’ tomb empty and is visited by Jesus after his death.
The Ethiopian Eunuch
Premise:Judea. 31 AD. Around about teatime. And it doesn’t take much to save a eunuch.
Plot:An angel sends Philip to a desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza. He comes across a ‘born’ eunuch (gay man or possibly intersex person) who is the treasurer of the queen of the Ethiopians. (Acts 8:27)
When the Ethiopian Eunuch sees some water, he asks Philip to baptize him. But after they emerge from the water, Philip has simply disappeared…
The Centurion and his Lover
Starring:Hugh Jackman (the centurion) and Russell Tovey (his lover)
Premise:Boy meets centurion. Centurion falls in love with boy. Boy falls sick. Centurion visits Jesus and asks for miracle.
Plot:Hugh Jackman stars as the beefy Roman Centurion who falls in love with his slave. But when the young man falls sick, nothing will stop him from finding a cure, even if it means humbling himself in front of a conquered Jew, Jesus.
‘Lord, my “pais” [servant or same-gender lover] lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly… I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ (Matthew 8:6)
Via The Comics Reporter, the website Shorpy has a great collection of photos from the 1920s of the Krazy Kat club, a Washington DC hangout/speakeasy that appears to have been quite a hub of bohemian activity. The police busted it more than once. The clientele included college kids, flappers and gays. A diary by a gay man kept in 1920 refers to the Krazy Kat club as a “Bohemian joint in an old stable up near Thomas Circle … (where) artists, musicians, atheists, professors” congregated.
The gay angle is worth pondering because of the club was named after the comic strip Krazy Kat (who can be seen on the door sign in the photo above). Krazy was the first androgynous hero(ine) of the comics: sometimes Krazy was a he, sometimes a she. As creator George Herriman stated, Krazy was willing to be either.
Is it possible that Krazy’s shifting gender identity made him/her an icon for gays?
Or it could be that the owners just liked comics. The building that housed the Krazy Kat club remained a gay hangout for decades to come and also held on to its connection to comics: it was later renamed The Green Lantern.
It’s also the case that Krazy Kat attracted outsiders of all sorts, not just gays. In the 1930s in Chicago, there was a Krazy Kat club organized by teenage African-Americans, also interesting in the light of the fact that Herriman had some black ancestry and used African-American themes and motifs in his strip.
This 1920s Badass Bohemian Hangout Had a Speakeasy in a Tree House
Turns out that back in the 1920s there was speakeasy in Washington D.C. that served its bootleg cocktails in a treehouse. It was named the “Krazy Kat Klub” after the character in a popular comic strip created by George Herriman.
The club was run by Cleon “Throck” Throckmorton , an artist who later became a stage set designer. It was a hipster haven for the counterculture, the avant garde, the artsy set.
This excerpt from a 1922 article in the Washington Times on Throckmorton and his “Krazy Kat Klub” was written by Victor Flambeau. He describes the club as “a most spooky sort of place, weird and crazy as its name.” A place for “Good friends, a blazing fire, some primitive furniture, hand made no doubt, candles, drinks, eats, a floor to dance upon, a garden annex in summertime, a spreading tree with airy rookeries built in it’s branches.”
I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a really fun place to me!
Below is the entrance to the club, which was actually in an old stable. Cleon, aka “Throck” is on the right.
And you know those unruly bohemians! Because it operated during Prohibition it was raided many times.
Below is an account from the Washington Post on a raid in 1919.
Officer Roberts was under orders to watch the ” rendevous of the Bohemians.” (great name for a band!) when he heard a shot fired. A raid ensued and 14 people landed in the slammer, mostly for drunk and disorderly conduct.
The article likens the Krazy Kat Klub to a Greenwich Village coffee house, with gaudy pictures created by futurists and impressionists. And the people arrested were “self styled artists, poets and actors and” GET THIS, “some who worked for the government by day and masqueraded as Bohemians by night.”
The horror! Can you imagine? Government workers leading double lives! Who would have thought?
After seeing these photos I so want one of these in my back yard. Note to self, must add speakeasy treehouse to DH’s “Honey Do” list.
So, what about you? If you could time travel back to the 1920s, would you want to hang out in a place like this?
The Language of Krazy Kat
If you live near a decent book store, you can now buy a copy of George Herriman’s Krazy & Ignatz 1941-1942: “A Ragout of Raspberries”, which gathers together two years of great full-page, colourful Krazy Kat comics. Beautifully designed by Chris Ware, the book also has a substantial essay I wrote Herriman’s writing skills.
In celebration of this new book, I want to quote a very pregnant bit of dialogue that appeared on Jan. 06, 1918 when Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse started arguing about the nature of language:
Krazy: “Why is Lenguage, Ignatz?”
Ignatz: “Language is that we may understand one another.”
Krazy: “Can you unda-stend a Finn, or a Leplender, or a Oshkosher, huh?”
Krazy: “Can a Finn, or a Leplender, or a Oshkosher unda-stend you?”
Krazy: “Then I would say lenguage is that that we may mis-unda-stend each udda.”
(I know what Finns and Laplanders are but I have no clue as to Oshkoshers. Anybody have any idea on this?)
And here’s an excerpt from my essay:
To a striking degree, Herriman drew on the rich oral culture of early 20th century America. Herriman was a cultural magpie, taking his words from diverse sources far and wide, ranging from popular songs to political speeches to the Bible to medical and scientific discourse.
In describing Herriman’s literary skills, it’s easy enough to classify him as a nonsense poet, a coiner of nonce-words and playful gibberish in the great tradition of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. But if you pay close attention to Herriman’s language, what becomes evident is that he usually doesn’t make words up, however much he might twist them around. Rather, Herriman had a great ear for speech, for the endless mutations and variations of language as garbled by the human tongue. Herriman’s language was not something he invented in his head; it can be traced back to the world he lived in.
The America Herriman grew up in was much more oral than anything we’re used to. For us, music is something that comes out of a c.d. player or an iPod. In Herriman’s world, people could break out into song all over the place: at parties, at picnics, and in church. All the characters in Krazy Kat are tuneful, especially the eponymous heroine. These songs come from all sorts of genres, ranging from traditional hymns (such as Krazy’s familiar refrain that “there is a heppy land, fur, fur a-wa-ay”) to frontier anthems (“home on the range” gets a workout on July 26, 1942) to bluesy lamentations (when Krazy sings “Press my pents an’ shine my shoes” on July 22, 1935). Herriman also brings in songs from other languages. On July 29, 1941 we hear Ignatz sing to himself “Adios, Chaparrita Chula”. These words (which could be translated to mean “goodbye insolent darling”) are taken from the traditional Mexican lover’s lament “Adios, Mariquita Linda”.
Words aren’t stable, fixed things. They have shades of meaning and shifting connotations. Herriman was supremely alert to the slipperiness of language. Listen to how Ignatz tries to sweep aside Mrs. Kwakk Wakk: “Away, woman away with your gabble and gossip.” (May 25, 1941) Gabble is the perfect word because it denotes both meaningless speech and the low jabber of a duck (which is of course Mrs. Kwakk Wakk’s species).
A Gay Old Kat, Sans Everything, 26 February 2008, by Jeet Heer
The Language of Krazy Kat, Sans Everything, 7 February 2008, by Jeet Heer
Vote up the most insane stories from ancient Roman times—those that put Washington, D.C. and Hollywood to shame.
If the Ancient Romans knew how to do one thing well, it was party. When they weren’t busy inventing the aqueduct, concrete, or the basis for the modern calendar, they were discovering new and exciting ways to have a good time with each other. Sure, every emperor, senator, and nobleman under the sun promoted family values… but when that sun set, ancient Rome got into the kind of action that would make the writers of Game of Thrones blush.
While the Romans probably weren’t the first in history to push the sexual envelope, they were among the first to keep detailed records. Regular talk of affairs, orgies, and contests spun around the rumor mill for centuries. Of course, the Romans weren’t above tabloid-level journalism. It’s no coincidence that the most extreme rumors were about the most hated emperors.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Since most of these Roman rumors involved the emperors, that meant most of them ended in either bloody coups or executions. It’s good to be the king, but only as long as people let you stay in power. So, as crazy as you think modern Washington controversies may seem, some of the ancient Rome sex stories on this list may make you appreciate just how far politicians have come over the last two thousand years.
Nero Castrated A Man And Then Married Him
For someone with the power and maniacal reputation of Emperor Nero, it was probably easy to get bored at having his every whim met. Perhaps that’s why Nero turned an innocent boy into a eunuch and then tied the knot. The boy, Sporus, was dressed as a woman in a veil for the official ceremony, and the pair even took a romantic honeymoon to Greece.
Caligula Went To A Wedding And Left With The Bride
Gaius Piso made the poor decision of inviting Emperor Caligula to his wedding. When Caligula showed up to the banquet, Gaius told the emperor not to touch his soon-to-be wife Livia Orestilla. So, naturally, Caligula stole her, married her, then banished her to an island where she was forbidden to sleep with anyone ever again. Moral of the story? Don’t tell Caligula he can’t do something.
Nero Got Nasty With His Mom
For Emperor Nero’s mother, Agrippina, merely being the mother of the emperor wasn’t enough. Early in his rule as a teenager, Agrippina had a heavy hand in his decision-making. Rumors spread that she reinforced her influence with her body. Stories spread about Nero’s relationship with a consort who suspiciously resembled his mother as well as a public appearance together where his robes were noticeably stained.
Tiberius Went Skinny Dipping with Young Boys
Pushing the depths of depravity, stories said Emperor Tiberius trained young boys to fulfill his physical needs. He liked to go swimming with them, then have them lick and nibble him “between his thighs.” He called them “tiddlers.”
Caligula Slept With Guests’ Wives And Then Bragged About How They’d Gotten Down
Dinner parties with Caligula were a nightmare for married couples. Caligula frequently invited married couples over for dinner, and if a certain wife struck his fancy, he’d take her back to his bed chambers and return later to tell their husbands everything that went down. If that wasn’t enough for him, he’d sometimes file a bill of divorce for couples just because he could.
Caligula Had A Favorite Sister
Although it’s been said he took all of his sisters to bed, Caligula’s favorite was allegedly Drusilla. Stories said their grandmother caught them in bed together when they were still minors. Later in life, he took Drusilla from her husband. When she died, Caligula declared an entire season of public mourning.
An Empress Had A Taboo Face-Off With A Famous Prostitute—And Won
According to Pliny the Elder, Valeria Messalina, the third wife of Emperor Claudius and mother of his son, was known for her appetite for pleasure. Just for fun, the empress bet the best Roman courtesan of her time that she could sleep with more men in one day than said lady of the night. Messalina came out on top by bedding 25 men.
Nero Dressed Up As Animals For His Sexcapades
Nero may have had a weird childhood, but not even the most uncommon upbringing could explain his most ferocious urges. Stories said he liked to play a game where he dressed in animal skins, was let loose from a cage, and went to town on defenseless men and women who were tied to stakes.
Cleopatra Had A Love Child With Caesar And Paraded It Around Rome
Julius Caesar not only started the reign of Roman emperors; he was one of their finest playboys. Despite his marriage to Calpurnia, he took many mistresses—among them, the famous Cleopatra. When Caesar invited her to Rome, Cleopatra brought their baby and showed him off to everyone… including Calpurnia.
So what was an epic playboy to do? He gave the kid his name and drafted up a law saying he could marry as many women as he wanted.
Caligula Used His Sisters To Discredit Political Rivals
When Caligula wasn’t actually taking his siblings to bed, he often prostituted them off to his friends. This came in handy if he ever wanted to put those same friends on trial. He kept records of all the adultery and made them public to create an instant uproar whenever he needed to ruin a friend-turned-rival’s reputation.
Augustus Exiled His Daughter For Ruining Family Values
Emperor Augustus found himself in a bind with his daughter, Julia. Augustus was a supporter of family values and set out to make adultery illegal. Julia complicated his political stance by frequently indulging in vices, including public instances of adultery. Augustus was so upset that he exiled her to an island with no men or wine. As for the men she slept with, they were either exiled themselves or forced to kill themselves.
Emperor Elagabalus Was All About Role-Playing
Elagabalus would search for the most well-endowed men in all of Rome and bring them back to his palace. There, he’d pose for them as the goddess of love, Venus. He’d pretend his partner was Paris from the Illiad and let the fantasy go from there.
Caligula Turned His Palace Into A Brothel
When the Roman treasury was running low on money and taxes just weren’t doing the trick, Caligula turned his palace into a brothel. He put everyone on a line of credit with astronomical interest rates. Once, he allegedly saw two “Roman knights” who owed him passing by, so he had them seized and confiscated all their property.
Elagabalus Was a Part Time Emperor, Part Time Seducer
While Caligula turned his palace into a brothel, Elagabalus got in on the action himself. He had a room in his palace brothel where he’d stand at the door and try to entice clients into joining him.
Mark Antony Totally Went After Best Friend Caesar’s Girl After He Was Out Of The Way
Not long after Caesar met his end on the Ides of March, his closest friend and ally, Mark Antony, hooked up with his mistress, Cleopatra. Antony was named an enemy of Rome, but was too busy with the Queen of Egypt to care. Eventually, Caesar’s successor, Octavian, faced them down and defeated their forces. In the end they both took their own lives.
Claudius Executed His Wife For Organizing A Coup With Her Lover
Other than challenging prostitutes to feats of bedroom mastery, Emperor Claudius’s wife Valeria Messalina was famous for marrying another man, Gaius Silius, behind Cladius’s back. Together, they conspired to overthrow Claudius and rule the Empire. That all fell apart when Claudius found out—and executed them both.
Rock-n-Roll was invented by a queer Black woman born in 1915 Arkansas. Your disordered hardcore punk rock was sanctioned by a kinky-haired Black girl born to two cotton pickers in the Jim Crow South. The electric guitar was first played in ways very few people could have ever imagined by a woman who wasn’t even allowed to play at music venues around the country.
The Patron Saint of rock music is Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The original punk rebel from which we were all born, SRT is muva.
Born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant, Arkansas to parents Katie Bell Nubin and Willis Atkins. Two regular folks both passionate about music. Growing up in the Church of God in Christ (her mother was a preacher), religious worship through musical expression, Tharpe musicality was fostered in an encouraging environment from the jump. Described as a music prodigy, four-year-old Nubin began singing and playing her beloved guitar in the church. Even in that way, Tharpe is representative of an American musical history born in the Black church.
By six, Tharpe was a featured performer in a traveling evangelical troupe where she accompanied her mother to gospel concerts all across the country, playing with people like Duke Ellington, before eventually settling in Chicago. Traveling influenced her a lot, and her music was flavored both by urban contemporary and the sounds of rural, backwoods towns. By 19, she had met and married Thomas Thorpe, a preacher, too. But that didn’t last long. And by 1948, ol’ girl had left her husband—taking his last name with her, which she adopted as a stage name. Thanks for that, Thomas.
1938 would turn out to be a banner year for Tharpe. During this time she recorded her first pieces of music, with the backing of Lucky Millinder’s jazz orchestra, This would mark the first time a gospel act would lay down tracks for Decca Records, a British lael that boasted other icons like Bing Crosby. But Tharpe was still just an icon in the making. Somewhat of a legend all on her own. During this time she came out with her first hit, “Rock Me” by Thomas Dorsey. And that shit is kinda emo! And powerful. Not only a talented guitarist, but Tharpe’s soaring vocals on the track also knock the wind out of you to this day.
Performing as both a solo artist and occasionally in collaborations with groups like the all-white group, the Jordanaires and Cab Calloway, Tharpe brought her show to places like the Cotton Club and Carnegie Hall. Shocking and then captivating audiences, most people at that time had never even seen a Black woman play an electric guitar before. Let alone one who could command one to make such noises. Both controversial and respected for her undeniability, SRT brought gospel music to mainstream popularity every night she performed. Blending the sounds of her childhood with jazz, blues, and the genre she was inventing all her own. Even when this ostracized her from the gospel community.
In 1944, another seminal year in Tharpe’s career, she released “Strange Things Happening Every Day”. A song that went on to become the first gospel to chart on Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade (now R&B chart). It is considered by some to be the first rock song, ever. Fast-forward two years and Tharpe is witnessing Marie Knight and Mahalia Jackson live in concert in New York City. Utterly spellbound by Marie Knight, Tharpe tracked her down and the two set out to perform together. While Knight sang and played piano, SRT did both, plus guitar. The two became lovers and creative partners through the rest of the decade. During this time they recorded “Up Above My Head”.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe continued to tour and make new music throughout the fifties and into the sixties. In 1964 she performed the now infamous show at an abandoned railroad station where it was broadcast nationwide in England. Dressed in that luxurious fur coat and driven by a horse-drawn carriage, Tharpe was rock-and-roll royalty whether people knew it then or not. Regardless of how historic and inspirational this show was, the sixties were when her popularity began to fade. Blues began to surge and she toured Europe as part of the Blues and Gospel Caravan alongside Muddy Waters and Otis Spann. But with the rise of male and white rock singers and musicians who appealed more to mainstream culture–as well as Tharpe’s devotion to recording religious material—she was pushed to the fringes of the musical movements she helped inspire.
And inspired many she did. Everyone from Chuck Berry to Elvis was influenced by Tharpe’s musicality. During his induction speech at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, the Man in Black, Johnny Cash shouted her out as his favorite singer. A fact daughter-in-law Rosanne would later back up. Everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Aretha Franklin credit her musicianship as an important influence on them. “She influenced Elvis Presley, she influenced Johnny Cash, she influenced Little Richard,” says Tharpe’s biographer Gayle Wald. “She influenced innumerable other people who we recognize as foundational figures in rock and roll.”
“When people would ask her about her music,” Wald says, “she would say, ‘Oh, these kids and rock and roll — this is just sped up rhythm and blues. I’ve been doing that forever.’”
Sister Rosetta Tharpe died from a stroke in Philadelphia in 1973. She had been living there with her mother in a modest home after her leg was amputated as the result of diabetes-related complications. Marie Knight was there to do the makeup and hair for her burial. Tharpe was buried in an unmarked Philly grave that has since been annotated.
Quick thought experiment: Close your eyes and, in the hairiest part of your mind, try to picture the most iconic beards from history.
Odds are, you’ll have been imagining an assortment of upstanding, wise gentlemen — the likes of Charles Darwin, Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln, Dumbledore.
Now try the same sort of whiskers visualization withmustaches.
What do you get?
Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, every time.
For some reason, mustaches make us reach straight for the villains. But what about all the famous ’stache-toters who have had a positive influence on the world: Einstein? Gandhi? Martin Luther King? John Oates from Hall & Oates?
There’s clearly some sort of facial prejudice going on here, because while full beards have been warmly accepted by fashion and society at large for a decade or more now, mustaches on their own have been sneered at as second-class frizz for far, far longer than most of us have been able to grow one.
According toLucinda Hawksley, art historian and author ofMoustaches, Whiskers and Beards— who happens to be a great-great-great-granddaughter ofthe fantastically whiskered Charles Dickens— the fact that the mustache was “hijacked by the dictators” actually had a huge historical impact on above-the-mouth fashions. Whereas in the 1930s, the elegant lip-strips of silver-screen stars like Clark Gable, Errol Flynn andRonald Colmanhad bestowed glamor, prestige and enormous popularity upon the mustache, says Hawksley, its associations with both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia made the thought of wearing one feel decidedly less dashing in the decades following World War II.
Still, for all that the Führer’s trademark toothbrush mustache and Uncle Joe’s walrus style in particular suffered by association, the ’stache remained a viable option in other guises for men interested in projecting an image of rugged machismo. This reached an apex of billowing perfection in the early 1980s withTom Selleck as Magnum P.I.But for Hawksley, this was also the decade in which the mustache categorically lost its luster across the board. After that, she says, Selleck “still managed to have a moustache and carry it off, but for pretty much everybody else, it was completely outdated.”
Hawksley believes there were two main reasons for this. The first was the advent of designer stubble: “That became the big thing,” she says. “So, suddenly, instead of having a mustache and no beard you’d have a small amount of both.” The second is a recurring theme she sees in evidence “throughout the history of men’s facial hair: It’s that the younger generation wants to do the opposite of what their fathers had done. In the late-Victorian period, for example, by the 1890s, you’ve got young men saying, ‘I’m not having a beard — my dad and my grandfather had beards, and they’re just completely old-fashioned.’ And that’s exactly what happened in the 1980s: ‘Oh my God, a mustache! That’s such a 1970s look!’”
At around that time, though, something else was undermining the status of the mustache as the height of heterosexual manliness. In his bookOne Thousand Beards, Allan Peterkin (who has been a mustache consultant forJimmy Fallon) points to Selleck’s 1980s thicket as one of the last great American specimens, too. But he argues that Magnum also represented a mainstream, TV-friendly offshoot of a popular gay look of the era: “The so-called ‘clone,’ with his obligatory mustache, bomber jacket, beefed-up shoulders and muscular butt under tight jeans.”
This Freddie Mercury-esque “clone” look had evolved in turn, writes Peterkin, from the subculture of“leathermen” in the gay clubs of the 1970s, whose “sadomasochistic practises and role-playing flourished and became a new homoerotic norm. The look was hypermasculine,” he continues. “ThinkTom of Finlandiconography — and both mustaches and sideburns topped (and bottomed) it off.”
Peterkin also highlights theVillage People, whose stage routines for hits such as “Y.M.C.A.” and “Go West” featured both a leatherman and a mustachioed cowboy, helping to make Middle America aware of the mustache’s prominent status in gay culture.
Perhaps equally devastating for the ’stache’s popularity in straight society was the running joke in the first fourPolice Academymovies — from 1984 to 1987 — in whichhapless male characters find themselves trapped in a fictional gay club, the neon-lit Blue Oyster Bar, where they’re forced to dance with fuzzy-lipped leathermen. It was an increasingly unfunny gag, which simultaneously managed to entrench a daft homophobic stereotype and torpedo the mustache as a macho status symbol for straight men.
What really made mustaches utterly unwearable, though, wasn’t so much their association with gay and S&M subcultures but that — as epitomized by those Blue Oyster skits — they became the subject of ridicule. Hawksley points out that when “it stopped having that macho look about it, the man with the mustache became a bit of a joke. It was the bank manager, the annoying teacher…”
If the mustache’s appeal was entirely wrapped up with its machismo, how did it acquire its super-manly image in the first place? For Hawksley, the answer lies in its surprisingly important place in military history. Facial hair initially became a trend thanks to British soldiers fighting theCrimean Warin the mid-1850s. Says Hawksley: “It was the first time they’d ever been able to grow a beard in the army, simply because they hadn’t been able to shave — the shaving water would freeze; they didn’t have enough shaving soap… And so when they came back, it was the sign of a hero because the Crimean War was so widely publicized.”
Elaborate face topiary acquired a similar heroic status duringthe American Civil Warin the following decade, with the U.S. Army having relaxed itsoutright banon mustaches (except for soldiers serving in the cavalry regiments) in 1857. In military traditions on both sides of the Atlantic, full beards quickly gave way to mustaches as the mark of a whiskered warrior. Incredibly, while beards were banned from 1860 onwards, the British Army actuallyrequiredall soldiers to grow mustaches until World War I; after that, they became associated with the higher ranks, especially in the Royal Air Force.
Even today, whileU.S. Army regulationsoutlaw beards, mustaches are permitted as long as they “will not present a chopped off or bushy appearance, and no portion of the mustache will cover the upper lip line, extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from the corners of the mouth… or extend above a parallel line at the lowest portion of the nose.”
The Ultimate Mustache Grooming Guide
Mustache grooming made easy.
Mustache grooming can be tedious, since you’re working within the cramped space between your nose and top lip. There’s also an overwhelming number ofmustache stylesto choose from, which can make the very act of mustache grooming a bit convoluted.
But really, there’s one mustache style that can teach you the ins and outs of mustache grooming better than all the rest: The Chevron, famously worn by the likes ofTom SelleckandFreddy Mercury. Below, you’ll find a mustache grooming guide built around this mustache style, which will leave you with everything you need to know about how to shave a mustache.
Step #1:Trim your entire mustache using a pair of electric clippers set to the longest setting (or whatever your desired length is)— that way, your mustache hairs will be a single, uniform length.
Step #2:The edges of the mustache should extend just half an inch beyond the corners of your mouth — use a razor to shave any hairs growing further towards your cheeks.
Step #3:Finally, brush the mustache hairs upward using a small mustache comb and trim any stray hairs hanging over your upper lip using a pair of grooming scissors.
That’s it: The basis of mustache grooming. Achieving other mustache styles is simply a matter of leaving a little more hairthereand a little less hairhere. Take the classichandlebar mustache, for instance:
Step #1:Part your mustache hairs down the middle, then comb each side down and out.
Step #2:Use a small pair of grooming scissors to lightly trim any stray hairs — start towards the middle, cutting less and less hair length as you make your way to the edges of the mustache
Step #3:Apply a wax or apomadeto hold the hairs in place—once applied evenly throughout the mustache, twist the hairs together with your fingers, then curl the still-twisted hairs up and in.
Step #4:Lastly, and most importantly, eye the curls for evenness in the mirror. Make adjustments if necessary.
If the handlebar mustache is a little too hipster for you, thehorseshoe mustacheis another mustache style that can only be achieved if you have a basic understanding of mustache grooming:
Step #1:Use a pair of electric clippers to trim the entire mustache to your desired length (the #8 or #10 guard are good choices for this mustache style).
Step #2:Put the tip of your finger on the corner of your mouth, making a straight line down to your jaw, and use it as a guide for trimming the bars of hair with your electric clippers — just be careful not to cut your finger.
Step #3:Once the bars on each side of the mustache are even, eye them for your desired length.Make adjustments if necessary.
Raymond Burr was in excruciating pain as he filmed the final “Perry Mason” episodes in 1993. Almost no one on the set knew he was dying of cancer. Biographer Michael Seth Starr is not surprised. According to Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr (published by Applause), secrecy was second nature to the actor. He became one of the world’s most familiar TV stars during the original run of “Perry Mason” (1956-1966) and went on to another popular if less remembered series, “Ironside” (1967-1975). And there he was, instantly recognizable and in the public eye, a gay man who kept his sexuality concealed.
Any admission of homosexuality would have poisoned his career at any time before the 1980s. Times changed but Burr kept his own counsel through the end. He was actually once married, briefly, and went on to invent no less than two dead wives and even a dead son to fill out the blank spaces in his life story. Along with false reports of his service during World War II, he repeated these additions to his autobiography so long and so often that they found their way into his obituaries. In the 1950s he was “romantically linked” with rising starlet Natalie Wood. They were genuinely fond of each other but sparks never flew. Burr met his life companion, onetime actor Robert Benevides, in 1957 on the “Perry Mason” set. They were together through Burr’s death.
The story of a deeply closeted Hollywood lifestyle isn’t entirely unique; the backdrop of Burr’s career adds to its interest. Typecast as a “heavy” when he drifted into Hollywood after World War II, his hulking presence and brooding scowl made him ideal for film noir and crime dramas generally. He played the furtive murderous husband across the courtyard in Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window (1954) and finally stood on the right side of the law as the district attorney dismantling Montgomery Clift’s testimony in A Place in the Sun (1951). Never considered an A-list movie actor, he became a star in the emerging medium of television. Playing the title role in “Perry Mason,” he became one of TV’s best paid and best known faces. Later, as the wheelchair-riding detective in “Ironside,” he might even have spurred the drive toward ramps and accessible facilities for the handicapped.
Starr notes that throughout his public life Burr was unfailingly generous to charities and gave much of his time (when he wasn’t keeping a grueling work schedule) to public service of one sort or another. That the author only assembled a relatively slender volume out of Burr’s life probably indicates that the actor carried many of his secrets to the grave.
11 things you might not know about Raymond Burr
Learn how the ‘Perry Mason’ star links to orchids, Godzilla, wine and the history of synthesizers.
Raymond Burr is synonymous with Perry Mason. Yet the Canadian-born actor was far more than television’s greatest defense lawyer. Of course, he played the titular wheelchair-bound police consultant onIronside, too. Early in his film career, he was a natural in film noirs. Beyond the screen, Burr was a horticulturist, an oenophile and a seashell collector.
Burr’s fascinating biography was filled with fabrication and speculation, as he and his publicists obscured his private life. Here are things you might not know about Raymond Burr.
1.He starred in the radio program ‘Fort Laramie’ and read his lines from a wheelchair
Gifted with a rich, resonating voice, Burr naturally found work in radio. In the 1956 programFort Laramie, Burr starred as Cavalry Cpt. Lee Quince. In a foreshadowing of hisIronsiderole, he had to record much of his lines while confined to a wheelchair, after injuring his leg during the filming of Crime of Passion.
2.He was considered for the role of Marshal Matt Dillon.
Though his roots were in noir, he could have been a Western star, and not just on the radio. Burr was up for the lead role of Matt Dillon inGunsmoke, though he was deemed too overweight for the role, as was William Conrad, the man who played the Marshal on the radio. Producer-director Charles Marquis Warren was reported to have proclaimed, “When he stood up, his chair stood up with him.”
3.He was asked to lose weight for the role of Perry Mason.
Thankfully, the creators ofPerry Masonfound the right man for the role. Though the 40-year-old’s weight would again be an issue with producers. Burr beat out around 50 actors who auditioned for the gig, according to the bookRaymond Burr: A Film, Radio and Television Biography. One catch: They made him take a crash diet, dropping his weight to 210 pounds.
4.He was in a Godzilla movie, but never interacted with the Japanese actors.
The arrival ofGodzillain 1954 shook the film industry. In 1956, Jewell Enterprises took the monster movie and re-edited it for American audiences. Burr was cast as an American reporter, and footage of him was deftly inserted into the original to make it seem as if he were interacting with the other actors, who had completed their work two years prior. It was rumored that all his scenes were filmed in one day, but that seems to have been debunked, as his work likely was shot over the course of six days.
5.He portrayed Perry Mason in four different decades.
Just how popular wasPerry Mason? After the series’ original run from 1957–66, Burr returned to the role for a string of 30 TV movies that aired from 1985–95. Burr headlined 27 of them, up until his death in 1993. The character was around in the 1970s, too, in the flop seriesThe New Perry Mason, with Monte Markham playing the ace lawyer.
6.He was the original host of ‘Unsolved Mysteries.’
Robert Stack, sporting his trench coat, is well remembered as the host ofUnsolved Mysteries. He was not the first choice, however. On January 20, 1987, he hosted the NBC special that became the pilot for the series, though his services would prove to be too costly for the network to keep him on as host.
7.He made wine.
Raymond Burr Vineyardsare located in Dry Creek County, California. The operation started in 1986 with the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Portuguese grapes.
8.His show ‘Ironside’ featured the first synthesizer-based TV theme.
Legendary producerQuincy Jones composedthe killer theme to the 1967 crime series, about a consultant to the SFPD who had been paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet. If you’re unfamiliar, you might recognize the siren-like synthesizers from theKill Billmovies. Jones later included a longer version of the tune on his 1971 albumSmackwater Jack
9.He lived on a small island in Fiji.
Looking for privacy? You’ll find it on the tiny island of Naitaba, Fiji. Burr and his partner raised coconuts and cattle on the Pacific getaway.
10.He grew orchids and named a hybrid after his ‘Perry Mason’ costar
Another of Burr’s passions was flowers. He was a skilled grower of orchids, and with his partner, Robert Benevides, he hybridized approximately 1500 varieties. One hybrid was named for Barbara Hale, the actress who played Perry Mason’s loyal secretary, Della Street.
11.His partner was an actor, too.
Benevides had experience on television, as well. He landed a handful of guest roles on shows such as The Loretta Young ShowandWest Point. His best-known performance is perhaps theOuter Limitsepisode “O.B.I.T.” He is the military man choked to death by an eerie creature as he monitors the Outer Band Individuated Teletracer.
The Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club of San Francisco was the first registered Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Democratic Club in the nation. Forming only two years after the Stonewall riots in the infancy of the LGBT civil rights movement, Alice grew to become a vibrant organization that has made a profound impact on San Francisco, California and American politics. Alice made its impact by training activists over four decades to become political professionals and electing candidates that have fought for the issues that are important to the LGBT community. The club has been instrumental in growing new leaders who would rise to the highest levels of government in the nation, such as Dianne Feinstein, an early friend of the club. Alice has been critical to the fight for LGBT leaders to win office, such as Mark Leno, the first gay man elected to the California State Senate. These leaders have helped make San Francisco the epicenter of the LGBT political movement, advancing causes such as equal benefits, domestic partnership, transgender health care, and marriage equality. Alice continues to be a major player in local, state and national politics and remains an inspiring and effective organization to this day.
1970s-1980s: Challenging the Conspiracy of Silence and Working Together as a Community
Beginnings of the Club
Back in 1971, it had only been a couple of years since the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot and Stonewall Riots; homosexuality was still registered as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association; the modern Women’s Movement was just forming; President Richard Nixon was playing to his “silent majority”; and the issue of homosexuality was still thought of in the popular consciousness as “The Love That Dare Not Speak its Name.”   
At this time, ‘gay people’ (including women, men and transgender people who frequently referred to the community in this period as a ‘gay movement’), all faced widespread cultural stigma and the high probability that they could be fired, expelled from families, and subject to violence for simply coming out. To even speak of gayness was taboo. This environment constituted a ‘conspiracy of silence’ where the culture had established rules that any deviation from perceived normalcy related to gender and sex was considered pathological, immoral and criminal. At this time and in this hostile environment, for gay people to sign up publicly for a ‘gay democratic club’ and for politicians to be associated with the issue of homosexuality, was an act of bravery.
Jim Foster founded the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club in December 1971.  Foster was a gay rights activist who had been organizing with the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) to elect pro-gay candidates in San Francisco since SIR was formed in 1964. Prior to Alice there had been a few gay and lesbian advocacy groups such as SIR, the Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society and others, but gay political goals had never been incorporated directly into the platform of a major American political party.  In 1971 Foster chartered Alice to initiate gay advocacy within the Democratic Party and started a collaborative relationship that continues to this day. 
Why Alice B. Toklas?
Alice B. Toklas was the partner of the famous writer Gertrude Stein. The original 20 members of the Club chose Alice B. Toklas because the name served as a code to protect the confidentiality of members. Saying you were a “member of Alice” was like saying “I’m a friend of Dorothy” – only gay people would know that the “Alice” club referred to gay people.
Alice’s first political Campaign – 1972 McGovern vs. Nixon
Alice and Jim Foster played an important role in the Democratic Party’s selection of George McGovern as the Democratic Party candidate of 1972. Alice endorsed McGovern, opened a ‘McGovern for President’ campaign office, and became a Bay Area political operation for McGovern in one of the Democratic strongholds in the state of California. At a critical point in the campaign, Foster helped implement a midnight signature gathering campaign in San Francisco gay bars in advance of the state primary deadline that helped McGovern be the first candidate to submit the required signatures that morning. This placed McGovern’s name first on the list of candidates on the California ballot. McGovern won California with a 5-point edge over Hubert Humphrey, and ballot placement was considered one of the reasons for his win.
1972 Democratic Convention – First Attempt to put Gay Rights Plank in Democratic Party Platform
After McGovern became the candidate, Foster also represented Alice at the Democratic Party National Convention of 1972, and brought a “Gay Liberation Plank” to the national platform committee. This motion was extremely significant for the Democratic Party because it brought gay rights policy before the national party for the first time ever. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party was not yet ready to adopt gay rights in its platform. Kathy Wilch, a speaker at the Democratic National Convention, gave a divisive speech opposing the Gay Liberation Plank and halted approval of its inclusion in the Democratic Party Platform. This action angered many gay activists, prompting McGovern to send a letter clarifying: “Her views in no way reflect my views on the subject… I have long supported civil rights of all Americans and have in no way altered my commitment to these rights and I have no intention of doing so.”
McGovern didn’t specifically say he supported gay rights, but in referencing the Wilch incident, he included gay rights in the broader context of civil rights, which was a victory. Gay rights had never been recognized as civil rights by a previous national party leader. Alice and Jim Foster’s platform effort thus initiated a national effort to incorporate gay rights within the Democratic Party platform, and this relationship between the gay community and the Democratic Party would continue and grow for decades.
1973 – A club of professional advocates working from the inside
The people who started Alice were experienced in politics, many of them working previously for the Society for Individual Rights. Jim Foster, Jack Hubbs, Steve Swanson and Tere Roderick, the original officers, got the club off to a quick start. The club began raising “Dollars for Democrats”, started a door-to-door canvassing program, and outreached to Democratic Party members, including Supervisor Dorothy von Beroldingen, Supervisor Quentin Kopp, Supervisor Peter Tamaras, Senator Milton Marks, Senator George Moscone, and other elected officials.   At that time, Jim Foster built an especially close relationship with one of California’s most successful politicians: Dianne Feinstein. 
Early Political Successes
In 1969, Foster invited Supervisorial candidate Dianne Feinstein to meet with the Society for Individual Rights for her 1970 first race for Supervisor. After Feinstein was elected in 1970, Jim Foster requested that she introduce legislation to add the words “sex and sexual orientation” to the city’s non-discrimination ordinance. In 1973, Supervisor Feinstein introduced and passed the legislation at Alice’s urging. Following this action, Supervisor Dorothy von Beroldingen, another close ally of Foster’s, appointed Alice member Jo Daly to a television oversight commission, a first for the City, and paving the way for lesbians and gay men to be appointed to public positions in San Francisco in later years.
A major concern of the club in the early years was police harassment and substandard conditions in the San Francisco County jail. Gay men and lesbians dealt with police harassment issues with raids on bars and mistreatment by officers of people in the community. The jails were also a highly unsafe environment for gay detainees and the club made it a priority to change conditions in the jails. Jim Foster wrote Mayor Alioto a letter on behalf of the club criticizing him for not doing enough to address the problem of poor jail facilities. In this time, Alice began a long relationship with Sheriff Michael Hennessey who became a friend of the club, often performing as a disc jockey at the clubs annual holiday party. Hennessey worked with the community to institute changes in holding conditions for gay inmates.
Although the concept of “medical marijuana” was not a common political concept in this era, Alice supported efforts to decriminalize the overall possession and cultivation of marijuana.
The “Big Four”
In November 1973, Alice worked to elect Dianne Feinstein, Jack Morrison, Jeff Masonek and Dorothy von Beroldingen to the Board of Supervisors. It was the first “Alice Slate” of candidates, and became a model for future efforts.
1974-1977 Post Watergate Era – Beginnings of Political Change
With Richard Nixon’s resignation and the wind blowing at the back of Democrats, it was an exciting time. Jo Daly and Jim Foster went to the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York, representing Alice. Despite the excitement about Democrats heading towards a win, Gay people were upset at the removal of the gay rights plank from the Democratic Platform to avoid ‘controversy.’ Gay protesters organized outside of the convention hall while Jo and Jim registered their disappointment to other delegates inside the convention. The ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ suppressing advocacy for gay rights on the national political level continued to be a pervasive stance of the Democratic Party during this era.  
After the Democratic Convention, Carter made some efforts to reach out to lesbian and gay constituents through adult media. Playboy Magazine released an interview where Carter made it clear that he would sign a bill to extend equal rights to gay people, and his wife said at the time “I do not think that homosexuals should be harassed.” Carter’s choice of Playboy Magazine as the context for discussing gay rights cloaked gay rights in an adult context, and reinforced the idea that gayness is strictly about sex, but Carter’s outreach was an important start for a Democratic Party that was still finding its way on the issue of gay rights. It was the first time a Presidential candidate specifically committed to support gay rights legislation and this began to break the ‘conspiracy of silence’ surrounding the issue. 
Huge Victory in California – Decriminalizing Homosexuality
One of the important victories for gay rights during the post Watergate era, was Willie Brown’s passage of “consensual sex legislation”, Assembly Bill 489. The 1975 bill removed California’s anti-sodomy laws that criminalized sex between consenting adults of the same gender. Sodomy laws had long been used in states around the nation to criminalize homosexuality.While the laws had been used in practice sporadically, the practical impact was to silence lesbians and gay men about their sexuality. If someone came out about being gay and having a partner, sodomy laws made it that this person was in effect admitting to being a criminal. Since the formation of Alice, the organization had been working closely with Willie Brown to remove California’s sodomy law. Passage of this legislation marked an important step in protecting the civil rights of gay people and an important legislative victory for Alice.
Alice in 1977
With the election of President Carter, the passage of Willie Brown’s consensual sex acts legislation, and the election of Alice’s slate of candidates, Alice became better known to the community. With all of this success, more people wanted to get involved in politics and the Alice B. Toklas Club. An election was held in 1977 for Club President, and membership grew significantly. 107 members showed up to vote for the elections and 26 members were elected as officers to the club. With these elections, Alice’s moderate, professional insider style became a sore point for many in the community who felt the club didn’t speak for them at that time.
1977-1978 – the Moscone / Milk Period
Social change brings about the most raw of human emotions and Harvey Milk’srise to power awakened the city, bringing about new possibilities, and unfortunately new hostilities that had not been experienced in the past.
After two unsuccessful bids for Supervisor in 1973 and 1975, Harvey Milk was elected Supervisor after a new system of district elections was established in 1977. Known as the “Mayor of Castro Street”, Harvey was the first openly gay man elected to the Board of Supervisors, and he won as a grassroots candidate without the support of Alice. Members of Alice believed Harvey was too left in his politics to win, so the Club backed another gay candidate, Rick Stokes. But Harvey did win the election and made history, leaving Alice to consider its decision. One important historic aspect of Milk’s win was the recognition that grassroots politics could be successful. Alice members believed that politics was an ‘insider’ game, and that outsiders couldn’t make it into positions of power. Milk’s win disproved this and set about a rethinking of San Francisco politics for years to come.
Because Alice did not support Harvey, his supporters formed the “Gay Democratic Club” which eventually became the Harvey Milk Democratic Club after Harvey was assassinated. The ‘Milk Club’ ultimately became the left-leaning voice in LGBT politics for the city, while Alice became positioned as the ‘moderate’ voice in LGBT politics. A third club, the Stonewall Democratic Club, formed in Los Angeles and established chapters all over the country, with a San Francisco chapter established for much of the 1970’s and 1980’s. This club also became quite influential in San Francisco politics for some time, especially under the leadership of Gary Parker. With Stonewall and Milk, San Francisco now had three clubs for gay activists to choose from, whereas Alice had been the only game in town just a few years before.     
In 1977, when Harvey Milk and George Moscone were newly elected, the Alice B. Toklas Club met with Mayor Moscone. At this meeting he made commitments to Alice members about many issues: 
1977 Community Issues:
Police Commission: The Mayor agreed to appoint a gay person to the city Police Commission. He also praised the Toklas club for its resolution in support of Police Chief Charles Gain, a liberal policechief he appointed.
Community Center: Moscone supported city funding for the development of a Gay Community Center, explaining that the Center at 330 Grove was in a building that was to be torn down for construction of the Performing Arts Center. He promised funds would be made available.
Mayor’s Open Door: The Mayor established himself as a gay political ally, encouraging activists to work with Supervisor Harvey Milk to advance pro-gay legislation for him to sign. He also announced he had out gay people on his staff that would work with the community on community goals.
Pride Funding: He said he favored city funding of the annual Gay Freedom Day Parade from the city hotel tax, a long-time goal of the community.
Unity: Moscone urged Alice members to put aside their feelings that were evident from the campaign about Harvey Milk and to unite behind the winner for progress that could benefit the gay community.
Political Action and Progress
1978 was a year of clashes between the newly active “religious right” and the “feminist left.” Five years after the Supreme Court made it’s ruling on Roe vs. Wade, the religious right began to organize all over the country, linking feminism and gay rights as shared targets in their cultural war. Jerry Falwell created his “Moral Majority” and Anita Bryant waged a Save our Children campaign in Florida, while in California, State Senator Briggs jumped into the act by placing his Measure 6 on the ballot to ban gay people from teaching. The “No on 6 Campaign” backfired on Briggs and turned out to be a huge success story for LGBT Californians. Briggs lost his initiative after Alice and other LGBT organizations rallied together across the state. The campaign became a context for training young activists and supported networking among LGBT organizations. The conservative loss temporarily slowed the religious right’s crusade against gays. Progress was made on other fronts that year as well. The American Psychiatric Association finally removed homosexuality from its list of pathologies in 1978, which was a crucial step in helping American culture to shift its attitudes towards gay men and lesbians.    
Violence and Turmoil
While some progress was made in 1978, ultimately the year will be remembered most for its great tragedies. On November 27th, 1978, Supervisor Dan White climbed through an open window of City Hall and gunned down Supervisor Harvey Milk as well as Mayor George Moscone. It was a day when everyone grieved and the assassination changed San Francisco forever.
Dan White assassinated Milk and Moscone just days after the Mayor signed into law Milk’s Gay Rights Ordinance that White opposed. The LGBT Community held a massive, peaceful candle light vigil in Harvey’s memory following news of the murders. Later that year, White was brought to trial outside of San Francisco, and a suburban jury found him guilty of “voluntary manslaughter” and gave White 7 years in prison, a sentence widely criticized as too lenient. The jury supported the verdict on the grounds that he had eaten too many Twinkies and his blood sugar was so high, that he snapped and went temporarily insane. This infamous “Twinkie” defense sparked outrage within the LGBT community, for justice had not been done. Following the verdict, the “White Night Riots” broke out in San Francisco, and over 160 people ended up in the hospital. The riots directed anger at the SFPD, as Dan White had been a former police officer, and a string of police related incidents occurring around the time of the verdict led to an environment of tension between the community and the police. (For more about the Police and LGBT community tensions at that time, Uncle Donald’s Castro Street history has some interesting information: http://thecastro.net/milk/whitenight.html )
Amidst all of this turmoil, the leadership of Alice was torn about how to respond. Club President Steve Walters remarked:
“It’s been almost two weeks since the infamous Dan White non-verdict, and I’ve read and heard an infinity of comments and reactions about the trial, and events that night at City Hall. I remain conflicted, torn between my dislike of violence and my rage at the injustice of the jury’s decision. Harsh critics have emerged, focusing on the violence of that night, but ignoring the events that led up to it: the murders of George and Harvey, increased physical attacks against gay men and women, the infamous Pegs Place affair, and the equally infamous police investigative whitewashing, removal from the Dan White jury of a man solely because he was gay, and finally, the ultimate immorality and insult of the jury’s decision.”
As Walters mentioned, a string of issues had been creating tension between the community and the SFPD. The Pegs Place incident involved officers entering a lesbian establishment and assaulting women patrons with little action taken afterwards by the SFPD to respond to the incident. Walters and other members of the community charged that the SFPD had ‘whitewashed’ the facts of the Dan White case to protect one of their former officers. With anger mounting over all of these police issues, Alice became even more intensely focused on the issue of police misconduct, writing letters to the Mayor and requesting action to address the situation.   
The Early 80’s – Growing Pains, Separatism, and Different Agendas.
Lesbians and gay men shared some common political goals in the early 80’s (such as supporting Senator Art Agnos’s Assembly Bill 1, banning job discrimination against gays and lesbians), but issues such as economic justice for women and gay men’s sexual revolution came to be viewed at times as conflicting sets of priorities. When members of the community were appointed to positions of power, people began to raise questions such as “Can gay men in power truly speak for lesbians?” or “Are lesbians truly sensitive to the issues of importance to gay men?”
Former Alice Co-Chair Jo Daly was the first member of the lesbian and gay community to be appointed to the San Francisco Police Commission, but Alice member Bruce Petit wrote a letter to the club raising concerns about her appointment that echoed many of the divisions of the time.  He said:
“Feinstein fulfilled her major campaign pledge to the Gay community by appointing one of their own to the five-member body that directs the police department. But some activist elements faulted Daly as short on progressive credentials, too close of an ally to the Mayor, and unable to represent Gay men—who are said to have more problems with the police than lesbians”
Bruce Petit continued his letter, quoting lesbian Police Commissioner Jo Daly as saying:
“Women make 53 cents for every dollar men make. Two white gay men putting their incomes together are better off than anybody else in society. For Gay activist males to make their major concentration maintaining glory holes—when La Casa, the only home in the county where battered women and children can go, is going out of business because there is no money—that leaves us angry!” 
The tension between lesbians and gay men in this period was heated, and some of the accusations on both sides now seem unfair. The conflicts were perhaps especially acrimonious in Alice because male leadership had up to that point dominated the club. But despite the divisions that erupted at this time, there were also important unique perspectives that were affirmed out of that discourse. The community began to affirm that women have a truly unique perspective from men, and people of both genders have unique contributions to make. “Gay” was no longer used as an umbrella term for the community – “gay” became a word largely designated for men, and “lesbian” became an important, distinctive term of choice for women. 
Women in Leadership Positions
One of the most significant areas of progress for the community in the early 80’s was the rise of women to leadership positions, beginning the careers of some women who would go on to the highest offices in the nation. Barbara Boxer was elected to congress with outspoken support for LGBT issues as a central part of her campaign message.
Carole Migden became the President of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and ran for Community College Board, laying the groundwork for her later Board of Supervisors, Assembly and State Senate races.
Because of the male dominance of gay democratic clubs in the early years, lesbians worked outside of the Democratic Club system to become politically active in their own right. After Harvey Milk was assassinated and Harry Britt was appointed as his replacement on the Board of Supervisors, there was a feeling among many women that a woman should have been appointed to support gender balanced leadership. Out of the frustration of many women at being held out of political office, a group of politically active women formed the Lesbian Agenda for Action. Women like Roma Guy, Pat Norman, Martha Knutzen, Fran Kipnis and Carole Migden began to work outside the democratic club establishment in this organization as a way to assert power outside of a system that was heavily dominated by men. Out of this activism, Carole Migden eventually became the chair of the Democratic Party bringing gay staff with her. Roger Sanders, her staffer, computerized the Democratic Party system and helped her modernize the Democratic Party’s voter turnout process.   
After the Milk/Moscone assassinations, San Francisco moved back to citywide elections for supervisorial races. It was believed by some that district elections were a large part of the divisiveness that led to Milk’s assassination. Others felt that district elections were crucial to representing San Francisco’s diversity. Alice membership overwhelmingly supported the concept of district elections in 1980, with 200 members voting to support district elections and only two members dissenting.
1980 Democratic National Platform:
Alice worked very closely with the Harvey Milk Democratic Club in 1980 to successfully lobby Jimmy Carter (with the help of Mayor Feinstein) to include a gay plank in the Democratic Platform.  The convention that year had a record 71 openly lesbian and gay delegates, with 17 coming from California. Alice Delegates included Harry Britt, Gwenn Craig, Jim Foster, Bill Kraus and Anne Kronenberg (one of Harvey Milk’s Aides).  Mike Thistle went on behalf of the Milk Club and Alice member Larry Eppinette attended as a Carter delegate. Alice also sent many non-gay delegates including Kevin Shelley, among others.
Fighting Police Entrapment:
Law enforcement issues continued to be a major issue of concern for Alice, as Senator John Foran authored SB 1216 to legalize police entrapment and require that a defendant prove he/she is of ‘good character’, not predisposed to commit a crime, if loitering.
Gay Men campaigning for office:
John Newmeyer became California’s first openly gay man to run for congress in the 2nd District, and Alice endorsed his unsuccessful, but historic first bid. TomAmmiano ran for School Board for the first time in 1980, starting a long career in San Francisco politics, and Alice endorsed Tom in his first race.  Harry Britt was also appointed by Dianne Feinstein to replace Harvey Milk in office. This appointment was a source of contention for some in the community as many women felt that Ann Kronenberg, Harvey Milk’s legislative aide, should have been appointed to office to support gender balance. Britt continued to serve on the Board in the 1980’s focusing particularly on tenant’s rights issues.
Alice comes out officially as a “Gay Democratic Club” under Club President Connie O’Conner
During the early eighties Connie O’Conner was elected President of Alice and ran a slate of candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee. Louise Minnick, Randy Stallings and Connie O’Conner all won as Alice’s candidates in 1980. Connie also successfully made a motion to change the name of the club to the “Alice B. Toklas Gay Democratic Club.” This was very controversial at the time and many longtime Alice members such as Jim Foster and Robert Barnes argued that straight club members might feel alienated if the club was explicitly identified as a “gay democratic club”. Alice voted to change its name and move towards greater openness, while straight San Francisco allies continue to this day to sign up to be a part of Alice.
Alice wins seats on the San Francisco Democratic Central Committee
In 1980 Under the leadership of club President Connie O’Conner, Alice ran a slate of candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee and Louise Minnick, Randy Stallings and Connie O’Conner won seats on the committee. Previously only Milk club members like Ron Huberman and Gwen Craig represented the LGBT community on this committee.
Mayor Feinstein Recall Fight
In 1983, a heated battle ensued over attempts to recall Mayor Feinstein, with recall supporters citing her veto of domestic partners legislation and her support of landlords over tenants. Anti-recall supporters cited Feinstein’s longtime support for gay legislation and her willingness to put funds towards helping people with KS and AIDS at the very beginning of the epidemic. Alice voted 137 to 73 to oppose the recall effort and became very active in fighting the recall. Afterward, Feinstein was very grateful to Alice and instituted regular meetings with the club to keep in communication with the community about issues.
HIV and AIDS – The Total Focus of the Mid 1980’s and Early 90’s
The fight over the Feinstein recall was one of the last divisive fights between left and moderate LGBT democrats for a while, as the energy and focus had to go 100% to saving lives. San Francisco was hit especially hard by the AIDS epidemic and some of our brightest people in the community were lost. With them went much knowledge and skill that could be shared and passed down in the community. Many died early in the epidemic, such as the Founder of Alice, Jim Foster and former Alice President Robert Cramer who passed away just a few years before protease inhibitors were introduced. Many continued to die after 1994, and this had enormous impact on the community. Tony Leone, a longtime member of Alice, and a dedicated activist for gay rights, passed away in 1999. Dick Pabich, the legislative aide to Harvey Milk who went on to become a campaign consultant to Carole Migden passed away in 2000. Many friends in politics of these brilliant, dedicated people wondered how they could continue without their guidance and years of experience. A whole generation of knowledge was lost.
Alice jumped into the fight against AIDS early, as friends were dying, and the Federal Government was being completely unresponsive. Bay Area representatives Phil Burton and Barbara Boxer worked tirelessly to get federal support, while President Reagan still refused to even mention the word AIDS. It was a battle to get government to pay attention about something that was killing our community. As a result of this, a new slogan became popular among activists after the formation of ACT UP in 1987: “Silence Equals Death”. Activism against AIDS would increasingly be shaped as a direct battle between those who perpetuated the Conspiracy of Silence, and those who recognized that silence could kill them. 
The 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco
In 1984 the Democratic Convention was held in San Francisco three years after the initial discovery of HIV/AIDS and long before effective treatments were available. Alice representatives Sal Rosselli and Connie O’Conner were both elected as openly gay Gary Hart delegates to the Convention, and they watched Jesse Jackson speak to the convention floor after his first historic run for President. (Four years later Jackson would make his Rainbow Coalition Speech at the 1988 Convention where he famously included “gay Americans” as part of the Rainbow Coalition). Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis both lost their elections, but progress continued for the gay and lesbian community as the national Democratic Party began to publicly include the community as part of their public agenda.
Despite progress on some fronts, the fight against AIDS continued to be enormous and at sometimes overwhelming for the members of Alice. Club President Sal Rosselli wrote in the January 1985 edition of Alice Reports:
“While talking to friends over the Holidays, I often heard this statement characterizing 1984: Too intense, too much work; here’s to a relaxing 1985. Thanks to our active membership of almost 600, Alice has accomplished a great deal during the last year… Of course there is still so much to be done; but let us be proud and grateful for all we have accomplished. The year ahead looks like it may be less hectic and may afford us… more time to organize from within and focus on our primary agenda. That primary focus must be developing national, statewide and local plans to combat AIDS.”
By 1985, as can be seen in this statement, Alice was challenged by the fight against AIDS. After a depressing election loss against Ronald Reagan, and continuing struggles to save friends with few treatments available, these were difficult times. Alice’s primary focus would continue to be fighting AIDS until the partial success of halting the virus came with protease inhibitors in the mid ‘90’s, which allowed for a broadening of the political agenda.
The Larouche Initiative:
Alice and AIDS activists did not get a reprieve after 1985 – things got worse before they got better. In 1986, Lyndon Larouche capitalized on AIDS-phobia and placed his infamous Proposition 64 on the ballot to quarantine people with AIDS, using the clearly faulty logic that AIDS could be spread by mosquitoes. Even in the early stages of the virus, it was obvious that mosquitoes could not spread the disease; otherwise it would not have disproportionately impacted specific groups. Fortunately, California voters struck down the initiative, once again sending a message to the radical right that measures like the Briggs and Larouche Initiatives would not be supported in California. Alice worked very hard to defeat the Larouche Initiative, contributing to the opposition’s success.
Alice Pickets KQED over PBS Frontline Special on AIDS
In 1986 Alice became very involved in the fight against media defamation of people with AIDS under the leadership of Club President Roberto Esteves. San Francisco’s local television station KQED ran a PBS Frontline news story on a man with AIDS named Fabian Bridges who they presented as a ‘typhoid mary’. The reporters described Bridges as an HIV positive homosexual who had six partners a night and refused to stop having sex, regardless of his HIV status. The reporters didn’t mention that Bridges continued to have sex because he was in financial dire straights and he was a prostitute. The reporters also failed to mention that they paid Bridges to set up their exploitative interview. Alice joined with the Milk Club to protest the KQED Bay Area showing of this story to fight the media stereotype of presenting people with AIDS as predators. After this protest, KQED responded by appointing its first openly gay member to their community advisory board. This effort was one of the early efforts to fight media defamation of gays happening right after the formation of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in 1985.
1986 Alice’s endorsement critical in Jackie Speier winning Assembly Race
One of the Bay Area’s most prominent leaders, Jackie Speier, became first known to many as an aide to Congressman Leo Ryan who was assassinated in the Jonestown massacre. Speier was in Guyana during the Jonestown Massacre and while attempting to shield herself from rifle and shotgun fire behind small airplane wheel, Speier was shot five times and waited 22 hours before help arrived. Speier survived and returned home from the incident going on to serve as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. In 1986 she ran for an open seat on the California State Assembly against Mike Nevin. Nevin had secured the endorsement of the Burton/Brown San Francisco political establishment, as well as the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, but Alice was Speier’s first club endorsement, and fighting against tough odds, she wound up winning. Alice’s support proved critical as Speier won the race by only a few hundred votes. Speier went on to serve as a member of Congress representing nearly half of San Francisco, as well as San Mateo and the Peninsula. Alice member Ron Braithwaite organized support for Speier in her first race for Assembly and for many years Speier marched in the LGBT Pride Parade with Alice and always considered Alice to be ‘her club’. 
1987 Art Agnos wins race for Mayor
Alice shocked many in 1987 with its decision to make no endorsement in the race for Mayor between liberal Assemblyman Art Agnos and centrist Supervisor John Molinari. Molinari had been the favorite of Alice for some time and it was assumed by many that Alice would endorse him, but Agnos had many supporters who were able to block an endorsement of Molinari on a 275 to 206 vote.
1990s-2000s: An Organized Constituency Finds its Power
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Alice and the LGBT Community of San Francisco made enormous progress in challenging the conspiracy of silence that had prevailed in earlier decades. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, the LGBT Community started winning larger numbers of local electoral victories in San Francisco. It was no longer enough for the movement to rely upon straight allies (although Alice’s straight allies would continue to be crucial and would rise to prominence at all levels of government); but LGBT people would finally begin to win office in San Francisco in significant numbers, and would be appointed to various City commissions and departments holding offices in policy areas as diverse as Law Enforcement, Human Rights, Transportation, Education and Health. With this expansion of ‘out’ LGBT local representation and influence, Alice supported candidates began passing legislation that would implement changes for LGBT civil rights, not only in San Francisco, but far beyond the City limits.The 1990 “Lavender Sweep”
While San Francisco was confronting AIDS, there was an urgent sense that LGBT people needed to be in positions of power. It was not enough anymore to have friends of our community supporting us. We needed a place at the table. 1990 saw the culmination of two decades of political work by Alice and the Milk Club to bring our community to the table. All the hard work had finally come to success when the two clubs worked together in the historic 1990 Lavender Sweep (the first of two sweeps, the second being in 1994).
The 1990 sweep successfully pushed several candidates over the top to become elected leaders. Lesbian Donna Hitchens won citywide as Superior Court Judge. Lesbians Carole Migden and Roberta Achtenberg won races to join the Board of Supervisors, and Tom Ammiano became the first gay man elected to the San Francisco School Board. Years of work had paid off for all the candidates who had been trying to get into office, and work by Alice was crucial to these victories.
Alice Involvement in the Lavender Sweeps and broader community work:
Campaigns are not won by leaders simply rising to power. It takes incredible work and commitment of people in the community to make a difference. It takes fundraising. It takes strategy. It takes coalition building. It takes development of successful messages and professional campaign materials. It takes enlisting support, one endorsement at a time. And it takes courage to stand by your vision even in the face of opposition. That’s exactly what Alice and the community did to create the 1990 and 1994 landmark elections. There are countless heroes in these efforts that deserve to be recognized, and a few of these are Dick Pabich, Jim Hormel and Mark Leno who raised money for numerous community efforts throughout these years. Jim Hormel not only supported LGBT candidates, but also raised enormous sums for the new Public Library’s Hormel Center for LGBT research. Mark Leno became a lead fundraiser and strategist for building the new LGBT Community Center] and one of Carole Migden’s top fundraisers. Dick Pabich not only helped Carole Migden raise funds to get into office, but he became a chief fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer, paving the way for one of our nation’s most outspoken national advocates for LGBT rights in the United States Senate. Robert Barnes and campaign consultant Jim Rivaldo were instrumental in establishing a professional campaign operation for LGBT advocacy. Barnes became a key advisor to LGBT leaders and Rivaldo became a lead graphics designer for slate cards, billboards, and countless materials done pro-bono for LGBT causes during this time. Carole Cullum at the law firm of Cullum and Sena also provided crucial legal advice to LGBT campaigns while long time LGBT activists Martha Knutzen, Fran Kipnis and Denny Edelman gave non-stop volunteer work on behalf of community causes throughout these years as well. There were so many others, but this gives a small sense of the broad coalition of work that was being done to lay the foundation for LGBT political power and LGBT social services in San Francisco.
National Repercussions of the 1990 Lavender Sweep
The Lavender sweep had national repercussions as it became a precursor to LGBT campaign organizing prior to the 1992 presidential election, and established the San Francisco lesbian and gay community as a base of power that could help win local, state and national elections in the future.
1992 “The Year of the Woman”
In 1992 California made history by sending Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to the U.S. Senate and the LGBT community played a key role in that success. Political pundits billed 1992 as “The Year of the Woman because women candidates made successful efforts to break into the male dominated US Senate, which had only 2 female members in office at that time. Feinstein’s campaign used the slogan ‘2% is good for milk but not for equality’ in the US Senate. Senator Barbara Boxer won the election for US Senator in 1992 against radio commentator Bruce Herschensohn by 5% of the vote with the crucial assistance of the LGBT community. Her openly gay political consultant and fundraiser Dick Pabich was a key strategist for the Boxer campaign. Pabich adopted a strategy for Boxer to explicitly build a California majority of women, gay men and minority constituencies. Alice helped boost turnout in San Francisco to provide the margin of difference in that campaign.
Bill Clinton becomes President
That year Alice became an important player in Democratic Presidential politics as well. Robert Barnes, chair of the Alice B. Toklas Club had this to say about the approaching presidential election in the May 1992 edition of Alice Reports:
“Alice demonstrated its Democratic Party savvy in putting together a winning slate of delegates for the Clinton Presidential Caucus. Alice is the first major Democratic Club, and thus far the only Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club, to endorse Bill Clinton for President… With Alice’s support, lesbian Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg was the caucus’ top female vote getter.”
As an early endorser of Bill Clinton, Alice established itself as a “Friend of Bill’s” before other Democratic Clubs had gotten in the act, and Alice helped propel Roberta Achtenberg into the limelight of the Democratic Convention, supporting her eventual selection as Housing Undersecretary.
At the Democratic Convention, Bill Clinton was outspoken in his support of the LGBT Community, breaking the ‘conspiracy of silence’ that had long dominated national discussions of gay issues, even among Democratic politics. At the 1992 Democratic Convention, Clinton specifically talked about “gay people”, [43 minutes into speech], whereas in the past, democratic presidential contenders such as George McGovern and Jimmy Carter had said they supported “Civil Rights” when referring to LGBT people, but not actually identifying directly with our community at the Democratic Conventions. Clinton went on to appoint Roberta Achtenberg as Undersecretary of Housing, prompting archconservative Jesse Helms to famously refer to her as “that damn lesbian!” Clinton also appointed Democratic fundraiser and gay philanthropist Jim Hormel to be a U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, the first openly gay person to serve as a U.S. Ambassador.
Alice supports Mayor John Laird of Santa Cruz in his 1993 run for Assembly:
In September, 1993, many Alice members volunteered in the campaign to elect openly gay mayor John Laird of Santa Cruz to the State Assembly, as was reported by co-chair Mathew Rothschild in the Sept. 1993 edition of Alice Reports. Nearly a decade later, John joined Mark Leno as the first two gay men to be elected to the Assembly in 2002.
Susan Leal Replaces Roberta Achtenberg on the Board of Supervisors.
Susan Leal was appointed June 7th, 1993 by Mayor Frank Jordan to serve on the Board of Supervisors succeeding Roberta Achtenberg. Susan joined Alice in endorsing Willie Brown in 1995 and began a strong relationship with the club, building towards her run for mayor, which Alice endorsed, in 2003. As a Latina lesbian, she continued the tradition of broadening San Francisco’s LGBT leadership diversity. 
The 1994 “Lavender Sweep”
In 1994 San Francisco had a second “Lavender Sweep” with openly gay candidates Susan Leal, Carole Migden and Tom Ammiano being elected to the Board of Supervisors, and Leslie Katz and Lawrence Wong winning election to the Community College Board. Alice was instrumental in the fight, working in coalition with the Milk Club. Susan Leal went on to Chair the powerful Finance Committee on the Board of Supervisors, ensuring that much needed funds would be directed towards HIV and AIDS services. With the 1994 Lavender Sweep, Alice and the LGBT Community demonstrated a firmly established base of power in San Francisco. The community that previously needed district elections to win a single elected office was now a major power broker sweeping several candidates into numerous offices for a second time. San Francisco’s political establishment would from this point forward be walking in close step with the LGBT community and its political goals.
Willie Brown Elected Mayor:
With newly imposed term limits, longtime community ally Assemblyman Willie Brown was forced out of office and ran for Mayor in 1995. A major power broker for the state, it was believed that he could beat conservative Mayor Frank Jordan and bring unity to a deeply divided city. Prior to his campaign, Willie Brown met with Carole Migden, Alice Chair Mathew Rothschild, Milk Club Chair Martha Knutzen, Fran Kipnis and other LGBT community members to plan his run for Mayor. In the past, the lesbian and gay community had been on the ‘outside’ in brokering power for the city, but with the Lavender Sweep, lesbian and gay leaders were now recognized as a strong political force in San Francisco and Speaker Brown formed a direct alliance with the community in his race for Mayor. Brown won the election and went on to appoint more LGBT people to lead city departments and commissions than ever before in the city’s history. He also signed the Equal Benefits Ordinance to require businesses that contract with the city to provide equal benefits to domestic partners that are offered to married couples.
Carole Migden replaces Willie Brown in the Assembly:
Willie Brown, the legendary “Ayatollah of the Assembly” who represented San Francisco and the Democratic Party incredibly well for decades, including early support for LGBT rights through his consensual sex laws, stepped down due to newly imposed term limits and Carole Migden replaced him. Alice’s longstanding relationship with Willie Brown and Carole Migden helped position Migden to become the second LGBT person ever sent to the California State Legislature. Carole won election to the seat later in 1998.
Labor Organizing – Training for Alice Members
Jack Gribbon was a labor organizer who trained Alice members how to organize during the Willie Brown Campaign for Mayor. A waiter who organized thousands of hospitality workers in the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 2 (H.E.R.E), Jack ran Willie Brown’s 1995 field campaign and enlisted Alice members to spend months before the Mayoral election tirelessly calling voter lists, identifying Brown supporters and walking precincts to turn voters out on Election Day. Jack originally got involved with Alice during the Domestic Partnership campaigns of the 1980’s, and his training became a model that worked. Alice member Fran Kipnis, for instance, turned out 99% of her own precinct in 1992, the same year that Barbara Boxer won her U.S. Senate race by 5%. Alice would sign up precinct captains, identify voters and track down if they were voting by mail or voting on Election Day, and would work relentlessly on Election Day until the polls closed, taking nothing for granted until the fight was over. Gribbon’s approach continues to be the model the club uses to this day, and LGBT areas of San Francisco such as the Castro District are known to be some of the highest turnout districts in the city every Election Day.
Leslie Katz Elected to the Board of Supervisors:
In 1996 Leslie Katz was elected to the Board of Supervisors after being appointed by Mayor Brown earlier that year. Alice worked tirelessly on Supervisor Katz’s campaign, as Leslie had been a longstanding member of the club who had already shown her strong leadership capabilities over many years. One of her staff, Geoff Kors, would go on to become the Executive Director for Equality California.
Tom Radulovich elected to BART Board:
Tom Radulovich was elected to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors in November 1996 representing the 9th District in San Francisco. An Alice supported candidate over the years and gay official, Tom later made a run for the Board of Supervisors. He has served on the BART Board for a decade while working tirelessly on housing and transit issues, taking a strong leadership role in groups like the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) and the Housing Action Coalition (HAC).
The Equal Benefits Ordinance: San Francisco Flexes its Muscles.
In 1996, San Francisco enacted an ordinance that had a broad impact on the entire nation, and Alice supported leaders were instrumental to passing this legislation. Supervisor Leslie Katz, Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Supervisor Susan Leal, and Mayor Willie Brown together championed San Francisco’s landmark Equal Benefits Ordinance to require that businesses that contract with the City of San Francisco must provide equal benefits to domestic partners that they give to married partners. This law swept the nation in its impact, paving the way for hundreds of businesses to adopt domestic partnership benefits. Some businesses like United Airlines initially fought the ordinance but San Francisco leaders stood firm in demanding equality and the City prevailed. The ordinance became a model for similar laws passed throughout the nation, and the model for Christine Kehoe’s California Assembly Bill 17, signed by Governor Davis, to require businesses which contract with the state of California to provide equal benefits to domestic partners. This is one clear example where a San Francisco ordinance passed by Alice supported legislators managed to change not only the City of San Francisco, but also California and the nation.
Susan Leal Becomes San Francisco City Treasurer:
In 1998 Susan Leal was appointed to become the City Treasurer, where she managed the City’s $3 billion portfolio. Her investment policies and decisions produced a greater return during her period of service than any major county in the state. In 2001 Susan was elected Treasurer for another term with 87% of the vote, due to her reputation as a strong, effective manager of the city’s finances. Alice endorsed Susan’s candidacy and campaigned hard for her victory.
Domestic Partnership: New laws enacted for California.
Alice strongly supported Carole Migden as she went to the Assembly and introduced AB 26, which created a registry for Domestic Partnership and gave Domestic Partners many of the same rights (such as hospital visitation rights) that married couples enjoy. Later, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg would introduce AB 205, an extensive set of rights and responsibilities for domestic partners that almost mirrored marriage, building on Carole’s earlier work.
Mark Leno Elected to the Board of Supervisors
In 1998 candidate Mark Leno won election to the Board of Supervisors after being appointed earlier that year. Leno had spent years prior to his time on the Board of Supervisors working as a lead organizer and fundraiser for the LGBT Center. He was a key player in getting the Center built. Leno was also a longstanding member of Alice before his rise to office. As a Supervisor, Leno led the effort to create a transitional housing facility designed specifically to address the needs of LGBT homeless youth as well as passing the City’s first Inclusionary Housing Ordinance to mandate that developers construct a percentage of affordable housing as they develop in a city with skyrocketing housing costs.
Proposition 22 – The Knight Initiative:
In 2000, California voters were subjected to a divisive ballot measure that was designed to turn back the clock on LGBT rights – Proposition 22, the Knight Initiative. The measure was written to clarify that out-of-state marriages could not impact California marriage law regarding same sex couples. Voters passed the measure, despite the vigorous efforts of Alice and our LGBT leaders. Mark Leno (who would later introduce AB 849, the Marriage Equality Bill) worked especially hard to stop the initiative, traveling as a statewide campaign spokesman against the measure. Alice worked tirelessly to stop the Knight Initiative, and continues to be part of marriage equality organizing.
Robert Barnes deserves special mention because of his work on behalf of Alice, his commitment to LGBT rights, his work at the California Democratic Party, and his often-controversial approach to politics that dominated Alice for much of the late ‘90’s. He was an Alice Co-Chair who became a close advisor to many of San Francisco’s most successful politicians. Carole Migden, Mark Leno, Willie Brown, Dennis Herrera, Leslie Katz, Susan Leal, Tom Radulovich, Natalie Berg, Mabel Teng, Donna Hitchens, Kevin McCarthy, School Board members Dan Kelly, Juanita Owens, Lawrence Wong, and many other San Francisco officials worked closely with Robert Barnes at various points in their careers. 
He grew up in San Francisco in a working class family closely connected to politics. His father was a machinist and labor activist and in 1977 ran for District Supervisor against Dan White. Robert got into politics himself running for the BART Board and the Board of Education, but after losing these races, (one of them being to Tom Ammiano in his race for the Board of Education) Robert got involved in politics behind the scenes. He was particularly involved in Democratic Party activities and was the Chair of the California Democratic Party’s Gay Caucus for many years.
San Francisco has some of the most colorful, bombastic, and sometimes brilliant people in politics. Robert was one of them. He had an incredible sense of humor and got away with controversial jokes that most professionals would never dream of trying. He could say things that were unthinkable, throwing insiders out of their comfort zone, then warming them back up with charm, and closing the deal with masterful delivery. He was an extremely funny person in a somewhat bland professional scene. Robert Barnes, Chair of the Alice B. Toklas Club and Prominent Democratic Party Activist, died on August 9th, 2002 of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, just months before his candidate, Mark Leno, became the first gay man elected to the California State Assembly.
Robert’s work in the Alice B. Toklas Club:
For several years the Alice B. Toklas Club had been struggling during the AIDS epidemic, as members became focused on saving lives and had little time or energy to spare on Democratic politics. People were exhausted. During this vacuum of leadership at Alice, Robert Barnes almost single-handedly resurrected the club to continue political work.
While Robert took on leadership at Alice, he simultaneously developed a business in political consulting specializing in slate mail. The period where Robert took the lead at Alice was controversial because many of the political goals of the club seemed to be designed by Robert with his business clients in mind. Many people in the community felt that Robert was serving his own goals at the expense of the community. This fueled the Alice/Milk longstanding rivalry – the belief that Alice was becoming a front for Robert’s political work. But Robert worked on a variety of projects that were widely supported as well, such as the School Bond campaign and the 1994 Lavender Sweep. He worked relentlessly on the Octavia Boulevard campaign and worked very closely with Alice to promote the San Francisco Women’s Building, supporting their right to remove a bar from the premise and make it a safe space for all women using the facility. Robert also ran the campaigns of many important LGBT candidates and he worked tirelessly as the State Party Chair of the LGBT Caucus. His positioning Alice early with the Clinton campaign also proved to be invaluable for the community.
Perhaps Robert’s most important contribution was to bring numerous young people into politics, showing them how to be professional advocates for the LGBT community. He invited people who had no experience with politics to get involved, teaching them how to manage campaigns, how to work with elected officials, how to put together slate cards, how to design ballot arguments, how to raise money, how to write press releases, how to work with the state party, how to craft a winning message, and how to become successful in advancing the LGBT cause. He taught many people how to be professional leaders.
Alice / Milk Rivalries
The Alice and Milk Democratic clubs have throughout their existence been somewhat at odds with each other by virtue of the fact that the Milk Club formed out of a difference in political orientation and approach from Alice. Sometimes this rivalry has overshadowed any ability of the clubs to work together, and sometimes the two clubs have worked as if there were no rivalry at all. It’s fair to say that having two Democratic Clubs offers checks and balances on whether either club is acting genuinely in the interest of the community. Open dialogue and critique is definitely positive.
The history of tensions between the clubs could be seen from the beginning but grew to a high point in 1995 during the Willie Brown and Roberta Achtenberg campaign for Mayor. Alice endorsed Willie Brown citing his years of leadership and commitment to the community, as well as the desire to unseat Mayor Jordan with a strong, viable candidate at a time when no one could be certain that Mayor Jordan could be beaten. Roberta Achtenberg entered the race later and many members of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club supported her, wanting to see the first lesbian Mayor of San Francisco. Brown beat Jordan and Alice was absolutely critical to his victory.
The Achtenberg/Brown election was only one episode of a long period of division between the clubs. An event that further crystallized the tension was the Mayoral Election of 1999 when Tom Ammiano put himself forward as a write-in candidate late in the election cycle against Mayor Willie Brown. Ammiano waged a spirited campaign with his write-in candidacy, garnering national attention and enthusiasm, but the race exacerbated long-standing tensions between the Alice and Milk Clubs. Alice members were conflicted about the election because the club promotes LGBT empowerment, but Alice members had a long-standing relationship with Mayor Brown and were proud of his important work for the LGBT community, such as the landmark Equal Benefits Ordinance. Alice had already made its commitment to Brown before Ammiano got into the race with his write-in candidacy, so the club would have had to back out of its endorsement of a longstanding ally. Alice’s decision to stick with endorsing Mayor Brown hastened a growing divide between the two clubs.
The next major event that accelerated the rise in tension between the clubs was the 2000 supervisorial race between Mark Leno and Eileen Hansen. District elections had been reinstated that year and the Milk Club endorsed lesbian candidate Eileen Hansen for District 8, while Alice endorsed gay incumbent supervisor Mark Leno. Leno ultimately won the race because of his strong progressive credentials and history of accomplishment on the Board.
A crescendo in the long rift between the clubs came when Supervisor Leno ran for State Assembly in 2002 with the strong endorsement of Alice, while the Milk Club endorsed Harry Britt (who had been retired from elective office for over a decade). Mark Leno went on to pass progressive legislation to protect transgender people in employment and housing (AB 196) and passed the historic marriage equality bill (AB 849).
Healing the Rift
After the 2000 Leno/Hansen race, and after the 2002 Assembly race, leaders from Alice and Milk made a concerted effort to improve relations between the two clubs. Alice Co-Chair Rich Kowalewski, one of many who has been credited with working tirelessly to improve the Alice/Milk relationship, had this to say about the dynamics between the two clubs:
“Through these years, Alice has developed a good working relationship with the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. This cooperation has been possible because of ongoing dialogue between the leaders of the two clubs. I know I speak for Paul Hogan, Theresa Sparks, and Laura Spanjian when I say “thank you” Jerry Threat, Debra Walker, Robert Haaland, and Michael Goldstein for your leadership in the bridge building. We have learned to focus on the 90% on which we agree rather than the 10% on which we disagree.”
Rich, Paul, Theresa, Laura, Jerry, Debra, Robert, Michael, and Scott Wiener all did an excellent job of changing course in the direction of relationships between our two clubs. The community continues to benefit from Milk and Alice working together.
Throughout Alice’s history, most of the focus on issues and candidates had been on gay and lesbian rights. As the new millennium was ushered in, Alice supported officeholders took a lead in addressing transgender rights, making it a top priority with huge success. Shortly after his election in 2000, Supervisor Leno created the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force, which advanced changes in city policy related to transgender people. Following task force identified goals, Mayor Willie Brown named task force member Theresa Sparks to become the first Transgender Human Rights Commissioner. Leno authored the Employer Notification Law signed by Mayor Brown, requiring employers to post anti-discrimination notifications in places of business that specify that the city bans discrimination against transgender people. The Task Force addressed law enforcement issues and a joint task force between the Police and Human Rights Commission was created to address law enforcement treatment of transgender citizens. The Police Departments Office of Citizens Complaints (OCC) also adopted recommendations from the task force to implement sensitivity training and protocols regarding police interactions with transgender people. Theresa Sparks moved on to become San Francisco’s first transgender Police Commissioner, and Cecilia Chung replaced Theresa on the Human Rights Commission, thus maintaining two important commission seats. Cecilia, Theresa and other transgender leaders went beyond the work of this task force to join with community leaders in creating the transgender pride march on LGBT Pride weekend, and participated in the formation of the Transgender Political Caucus among many other remarkable efforts during this time.
The San Francisco Transgender Health Plan – A First and Model for the Nation.
The most historic advancement that came out of the work of the Task Force was a change to San Francisco’s health plan for city employees. Supervisor Leno authored and Mayor Brown signed an ordinance to change the city’s health plan to include sex reassignment surgeries, hormone therapy and other care for transgender people as part of the city health plan. The impact of this change went far beyond city employees. Insurance providers that contract with the city were now required to include transgender care as part of the benefit options available in their health coverage, paving the way for transgender healthcare benefits to be available to businesses around California and the nation. Previously, insurance providers had not even offered these benefits. Task force members were written up in full-page stories in the New York Times and other national newspapers, while Leno appeared on television and talk radio stations throughout the country to discuss the issue. The media coverage reached South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and all over the United States. This is yet another clear example of Alice supported legislators passing legislation that had an impact far beyond the City of San Francisco.
Changing Alice’s name
In 2001 under the leadership of Chair Paul Hogan, Alice made an important change to rename the club “The Alice B Toklas Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club.” Alice took the lead in outreaching to the transgender community and was the first of the two major LGBT Democratic Clubs in San Francisco to include “Transgender” in its official name. The vote to change the club’s name was unanimous.
Alice Candidate Dennis Herrera becomes City Attorney
Alice member and Alice’s endorsed candidate for City Attorney Dennis Herrera made a successful run for the job first in 2000, then again in 2005. A close friend of former Alice Co-Chair Robert Barnes, Herrera has been a steadfast ally of the club, continuing his longstanding commitment to LGBT rights. Herrera took the lead in defending the City’s action to marry same-sex couples and never wavered in his commitment to LGBT people.
Mark Leno Elected to State Assembly
Longtime Alice hero Mark Leno became the first gay man elected to the State Assembly, along with John Laird of Santa Cruz. Leno continued his groundbreaking work for the LGBT community with legislation such as Assembly Bill 196, signed by Governor Davis, which banned discrimination against transgender people in housing and employment. The bill protects transgender people in all areas of California from discrimination, and even strengthened protection in localities that previously banned transgender discrimination before the law. San Francisco’s local ordinance banning discrimination against transgender people had few actual remedies for violation of the law. With changes to state law, employers and landlords now face serious charges if they discriminate against transgender people in employment or housing.
California Legislature creates the LGBT Caucus
LGBT statewide activism showed enormous progress in the year 2002 as Assemblymembers Mark Leno, John Laird, Jackie Goldberg, Christine Kehoe and Senator Sheila Kuehl formed the California Legislature’s first LGBT Caucus. The five members saw the passage of crucial legislation signed into law including Leno’s AB 196 to ban discrimination against transgender people in employment and housing; Kehoe’s AB 17 to require companies that do business with the state of California to provide equal benefits offered to domestic partners and married couples; Goldberg’s AB 205 which upgraded domestic partnership legal rights and responsibilities in California to almost equal status to marriage; and Laird’s AB 1400 amending the Unruh Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the categories protected from discrimination in public accommodations.
Bevan Dufty Elected to the Board of Supervisors
In 2002, Longtime Alice member and gay candidate Bevan Dufty was elected as the Supervisor for the Castro in District 8. Dufty created an Improvement District for the Castro and worked closely with local neighborhood groups on a series of local changes that were designed to keep the Castro safe, clean and a place we can all take pride in. Bevan has worked with the State Library Commission to pursue funding for the LGBT Historical Society to expand its operations into a Castro facility, and he has been a tireless fighter for LGBT issues at City Hall.
Alice Friend Nancy Pelosi Becomes Democratic House Minority Leader
In 2003 Nancy Pelosi made a successful run for leader of the Democratic Party in Congress, which preceded her becoming Speaker of the House in 2006. The highest-ranking woman in office in American history,Nancy got there largely because of her impressive legislative record, fundraising, tactical skill for the party and with critical help from Alice. In 1987 Pelosi initially ran for Congress as a candidate against Harry Britt, and Alice was vital to her victory, narrowly winning the special election to replace former Congressman Philip Burton. In 1987 Pelosi initially ran for Congress as a candidate against Harry Britt. From Day One, Alice was there to help Pelosi become one of the most powerful leaders in America, and one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies. As a liberal from San Francisco, she would never have won the confidence of the national party if she could not back up her progressive values with financial leadership. Alice’s longtime support was an asset to her rise in power. Nancy has proven to be a true friend of the community for her years of leadership in supporting Ryan White Care Act funding for people with AIDS, her support of domestic partnership rights and other LGBT causes. Nancy is an historic American leader and Alice can be proud of playing a role in her success.
Susan Leal runs for Mayor
Longtime Alice friend Susan Leal made history as the first Latina lesbian to run for Mayor in San Francisco in 2003. Alice endorsed her candidacy and worked hard on her behalf. Leal said about the race in Curve Magazine: “what my candidacy does is it sends a message to women, whether they’re queer or women of color, that the last barriers could be broken.
Alice Candidate Kamala Harris becomes District Attorney
In December of 2003, Kamala Harris was elected San Francisco District Attorney with the overwhelming support of Alice early in her campaign. A longtime advocate for LGBT rights, Kamala has proven to be an effective champion for our issues as the City’s DA. One of her most important fights on behalf of the community has been to combat the gay/transgender panic defense used in California to defend acts of violence against our community. Law enforcement issues such as these have been critical to Alice since it’s beginning. The ‘Twinkie Defense’  used to give Dan White a lenient defense in his trial for the murder of Harvey Milk, and the ‘Transgender Panic’ argument used to defend the murderers of transgender high school student Gwen Araujo  are just two examples where legal arguments have been designed to play upon homo/transphobia in the judicial response to violence against the LGBT community. Our community must demand equal treatment by the judicial system and equal protection from law enforcement, and Kamala has been a very effective leader in fighting for these principles with the support of Alice. 
Former Alice Board Member Jose Cisneros becomes City Treasurer
In September 2004 Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed former Alice Board Member Jose Cisneros to become the city Treasurer. Once again, the work of Alice paid off with an effective city treasurer who is one of our closest allies. Cisneros went on to win a full term as treasurer later that year and continues to be a strong voice working with Alice in local government.
Theresa Sparks becomes first Transgender Police Commissioner in San Francisco
In 2004 former Alice Chair Theresa Sparks was sworn in as San Francisco’s first transgender Police Commissioner and would later become elected President of that Commission. After years of advocacy around police issues, Alice saw one of its chairs take a leadership role directly on the police commission and transgender advocates saw transgender leaders serve as officials in the City.
Alice Candidate Phil Ting Becomes San Francisco’s Assessor / Recorder
In 2005 another close friend of Alice made a successful run for office as Phil Ting won election to City Assessor/Recorder. Mayor Newsom appointed Phil because of his strong progressive credentials, long history of professional work at the Assessor/Recorder’s office, and his reputation as a non-political choice for the job. Phil Ting was the most qualified candidate for Assessor / Recorder and the electorate voted him in with Alice’s strong support.
Alice Joins Coalition Effort – “And Castro For All”
In 2005 Alice participated in a broad campaign to address charges of racism at a Castro business as the community had an important dialogue about racial justice. Many African Americans have felt that the Castro is not an inclusive space for communities of color. In this context, the Human Rights Commission issued a report about a Castro establishment finding the business had engaged in racially biased business practices. During this time, Alice Board Member John Newsome had this to say about the issue:
“Sometimes, the Truth matters most when it’s the most unpopular… Truth and, ultimately, Justice are well worth the effort.”
Marriage, The New Beginning
By 2004, Alice and a broad coalition of allies had spent decades creating a very different world for the LGBT community than when Jim Foster started Alice. On Valentine’s Day, 2004, a time known in San Francisco as “The Winter of Love”, the community of San Francisco was ready to turn the page to a new day in our movement.
Marriage – The New Beginning
Of course Valentines Day 2004, the “Winter of Love,” was not the beginning of the fight for marriage equality. But the rush of people to City Hall where Mayor Newsom started marrying gay men and lesbians certainly did feel like a new beginning. For once, the Milk Club, Alice, the Bay Guardian, the Chronicle, Willie Brown, Tom Ammiano and all of San Francisco could stand together and be proud of our city. Not since the days of Milk and Moscone had there been such hope in San Francisco.
On February 14, 2004, Mayor Newsom directed the County Clerk to recognize same sex marriages, citing the US Constitution, and challenging state law as being unconstitutional. People rushed down to City Hall with their friends and families grabbing flowers and their best outfits to experience the words “I do”, with the blessing of the City. The religious right tried to halt the marriages, but the ceremonies continued for several weeks. There were thousands and thousands of same-sex couples who came from all over California, the nation and the world to be a part of it; and they happily waited in lines wrapped around City Hall with City workers volunteering twelve-hour days to marry as many people as possible while the courts allowed the marriages to continue. It felt like a moment when everything changed for our community and we could never go backwards again.
It would be unimaginable that Mayor Newsom would feel empowered to take that stand for marriage equality without the support of groups like Alice. All the years of work building political support behind the idea that gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people are just as deserving of basic dignity as everyone else paid off big when Mayor Newsom made the ‘radical’ act of recognizing our love. Gavin Newsom did not start the fight for marriage, but he boldly ushered in a new day that everyone in San Francisco could be proud of.
Mark Leno carried the torch of marriage equality through the summer in the legislature with Assembly Bill 849, making California the first legislature in the nation to pass a marriage equality bill without the prompting of a court order. Standing up to many who were fearful in his own party that the timing was inappropriate, Leno pressed ahead and through relentless tenacity passed the Marriage Equality bill out of the California Legislature. Leno and Newsom’s efforts helped educate the public and move the issue forward. Polling in California showed that as AB 849 passed the legislature, the California public moved from being decisively opposed to same sex marriage, to being evenly divided over the issue. Despite Governor Schwarzenneger’s veto of AB 849, and despite the rumblings of discontent over Newsom’s act of courage, Leno and Newsom’s efforts, with the work of Alice, Equality California, and countless activists around the state had moved California opinion significantly in our favor. As history continues to move forward, we can be more and more proud of standing up for what is right at a time when others were afraid.
Much can be learned from the work done at Alice. Decades ago after Stonewall signaled a new era for LGBT people, the community was stuck in a conspiracy of silence and a world that despised and misunderstood it. At that time, Alice sought an alliance with the Democratic Party. Over decades of work with allies around the nation, LGBT people were finally able to break the conspiracy of silence. Through years of work, Alice and other political organizations helped coordinate the energy of the LGBT movement into a local, state and national political platform that won systemic changes for the entire nation. Through the support of many leaders such as Mark Leno, Carole Migden, John Laird, Tom Ammiano, Susan Leal, Bevan Dufty, Leslie Katz, Theresa Sparks, Dennis Herrera, Jackie Speier, Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, Bill Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, and countless others; Alice helped transform law and sentiment towards LGBT people. San Francisco was at the forefront of change for Consensual Sex Legislation, Domestic Partnership, Equal Benefits, Transgender Health, and Marriage Equality to name just a few of the causes locally championed that went on to have national impact. And thirty years after Harvey Milk told the world “You’ve Gotta Give ‘em Hope,” California declared May 22nd “Harvey Milk Day” in a bill signed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009.
The LGBT community has seized and shaped its destiny over the last few decades. As we in the community look to our future, it’s important to remember how our efforts right now, even the small tasks we do along the way, really do change the world.
Lamberg, Lynne. Soulforce, August 12, 1998. Gay Is Okay With APA (American Psychiatric Association) Story on the history of the American Psychiatric Association 1973 removal of homosexuality from being categorized as a mental disorder.
Wikipedia. Society for Individual Rights (SIR) (the Society for Individual Rights was an organization formed during a period of the gay rights movement called the “Homophile” movement, and SIR would later be renamed and chartered within the Democratic Party as the Alice B Toklas Memorial Democratic Club.
Democratic National Party Platform, 1972 The “Gay Plank” which Jim Foster proposed was removed. The only language the Democratic Party left that remotely relates to homosexuality was under “The Right to be Different” section, and says “Americans should be free to make their own choice of life-styles and private habits without being subject to discrimination or prosecution.”
“Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, Vol. 1. Issue 1. Pg. 3.” Letter from candidate McGovern reprinted from the August 24, 1972 Village Voice.
Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Gay Vote, January, 1978 First issue of Gay Vote, the newsletter of the Gay Democratic Club (later named the Harvey Milk Democratic Club) Cover of newsletter. [See Documents page]
Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Gay Vote, January, 1978 First issue of Gay Vote, the newsletter of the Gay Democratic Club, pg 2 (discusses why the club formed) [See Documents page]
Stonewall Democratic Club, Los Angeles. Newsletter, November 1977, pg. 1 The Stonewall Democratic Club was chartered in Los Angeles by Morris Kight in 1975. This edition of the Stonewall newsletter recounts the formation of the club. Stonewall later became a national alliance of LGBT Democratic Clubs and San Francisco had a Stonewall chapter through much of the 1970’s and 1980’s, but the chapter disbanded. [See Documents page]
Stonewall Democratic Club, Los Angeles. Newsletter, November 1977, pg. 2 Stonewall Democratic Club History continued. [See Documents page]
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, August, 1982 “National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs” Founded [See Documents page]
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, December, 1977 San Francisco Mayor George Moscone makes several public commitments to the gay community [See Documents page]
Moral Majority Coalition, The. “Moral Majority Timeline”
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, May, 1977 Alice helps organize the fight in Dade County Florida [See Documents page]
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, July, 1975, Pgs 1-2 Backlash against consensual sex law. This backlash would build into an organized effort in following years led by State Senator Briggs to place Measure 6 on the 1978 state ballot to ban gay people from being teachers. [See Documents page]
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, July, 1975, Pg 4 More on origins of Briggs Initiative [See Documents page]
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, July, 1975, Pg 7 More on origins of Briggs Initiative [See Documents page]
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, June, 1979 Recounting the Dan White trial and local upheaval + police incident at “Pegs Place”, a lesbian bar. [See Documents page]
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Alice Reports, December, 1978 Death of Harvey Milk, recounting his life and impact on politics [See Documents page]
Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Gay Vote, August, 1979 Story of Police incident at Peg’s Place. (pg 1) [See Documents page]
Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Gay Vote, August, 1979 Story of Police incident at Peg’s Place. (pg 2) [See Documents page]
Reading The Face magazine in early 1984 I was overwhelmed by a double-page spread entitled The New Glitterati featuring Leigh Bowery photographed in his ‘Paki from outer space’ look. His face was camouflaged in bright Plasticine-blue make-up, his head adorned with a mock leather military cap emblazoned in sequins and badges, while his entire body dripped with jewels, piercing and lots of body glitter. He wore a masterful creation – a bright green velour top with plunging neckline, fitted with this amazing red, asymmetrical zipper. Bowery looked like some exotic fashion god, a contemporary Krishna put through the blender with an extraterrestrial. It was kitsch and outrageous. It was inspirational. Did Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano or Vivienne Westwood design these clothes? Intrigued, I wanted to know more. The writer of the article observed:
One glance at these blinding photographs reveals why designer and jovial poseur Leigh Bowery – 22 years old, Abba addict and unrepentant champion of platform shoes – chose to leave his native Australia and cultivate his own outrageous style on the fringes of London’s club scene. They just didn’t understand him in the outback.1
I sighed … finally, an Australian designer had made it into the pages of this influential style journal. Bowery did more for Australian fashion in two pages than had occurred in the past century … and the best was yet to come.
An extra extrovert, the ultimate spectacle, the fashionable performer, the grand poseur, Bowery communicated through his blatant sexuality, his extreme physical exaggerations, and his outrageous dress codes. Bowery was not simply dressing up; it was his lifestyle and commentary on the mundane, a joke about appearance. His collections or ‘looks’ were based on himself manipulating his body with clothing and make-up. Working outside the comfort zone, he developed a clothing aesthetic that few would dare follow. Original, provocative, evolutionary; Bowery manipulated clothing to totally change one’s appearance, like a form of cosmetic surgery. ‘In an age when pop stars, actors, designers – those who traditionally dictated stylistic trends – are almost indistinguishable in their uniformity and blandness, Leigh Bowery stands out like an erection in a convent.’2
Leigh Bowery’s place in fashion, art and popular culture is seditionary. The fashions he created were not worn on the streets, very rarely seen in daylight, or generated for mass consumption. His dress style hailed from club culture,3 and the concepts of dressing up and masquerade.
Bowery was born in Sunshine – a baby-boomer, semi-industrial suburban sprawl, west of Melbourne – on 26 March 1961.4 He attended Sunshine Primary School and later, Melbourne High School. He passionately wanted to be a fashion designer and studied for two years at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) before becoming disillusioned by the restrictions imposed by formal training. Fuelled by the visual culture of style magazines, Bowery was attracted to London by the new romantic/blitz movement of the early 1980s where fashion, art and music were fused under the glamorous spotlight of the nightclub scene. Pop stars and bands such as David Bowie, Steve Strange, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Culture Club influenced style. This was the breeding ground for the most creative, experimental and sexually charged clothing. Clubs were the stage for dressing-up; men and women wearing outlandish garments, big hairstyles and faces plastered with make-up. Gender boundaries were easily challenged in this world and androgynous looks abounded.5 Pretty clothes and special effects like frilly shirts, kilts, lace, satin and make-up were all worn by men – gay or straight – ‘it was almost like a love affair with yourself’.6 In the 1970s David Bowie, especially with his Ziggy Stardust persona, had ‘invented a whole language of art posing, he[‘d] invented the language to express gender confusion’.7 Fantasy and escapism were attractive vehicles to express individuality through clothing, make-up and hair. The key rationale for clubbers was attracting attention and being the centre of attention: dressing up was very competitive.
In 1984 the relaunch of London Fashion Week provided a platform for British designers to show their wares. This event, combined with vibrant street styles and the underground club scene, spawned the most creative and eccentric clothes, making London a potent source for world fashion trends. It nurtured and gained recognition for the fashion designers Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and in recent times, Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan. However, it was clubs that provided the major venue, market and audience for generating clothing that was beyond one’s wildest dreams/nightmares.
Without working from ‘classics’, referencing the cultures of the world, fashions of previous decades or centuries, emulating a favourite designer or the current pages of French Vogue, Bowery was inspired to create something that bore no resemblance to anything. Early in his career he had begun to despise fashion because it was too restrictive and conservative. Bowery’s looks were incredibly fresh and up-to-the-minute fashionable. Making items over a short period of time, for a special event or club night out, his garments were a spontaneous response to the immediacy of his environment.
I believe that fashion (where all the girls have clear skins, blue eyes, blond blow-waved hair and a size ten figure and where all the men have clear skins, moustaches, short blow-waved hair and masculine physique and appearance) STINKS. I think that firstly individuality is important, and that there should be no main rules for appearance and behaviour. Therefore I want to look as best I can, through my means of individuality and expressiveness.8
Bowery’s costume designs were complex, technically difficult and fantastic. By 1985 they bore no similarity to the catwalk or street styles of London or the rest of the world. Vivienne Westwood initially was a great inspiration to Bowery, particularly her anti-establishment spirit, her distortion of clothing and body forms, and her design mantra that ‘clothing could be subversive’.9 Bowery garments were worn by performers like Boy George, who recalled:
I was dressed like a Jewish bathroom, gold chains, safety-pins, badges and buckles, champagne corks and tassels. The costumes designed by Judy Blame and Leigh Bowery were meant to hide my expanding girth, although it was hard to look thin in an A-line smock with angel-wings jutting out the back.10
In 1985 Bowery evolved from a fashion designer into an aesthetic revolutionary when he became the public face of the nightclub Taboo. The name said it all. Situated in the Maximus discotheque at Leicester Square, the club was originally staged only once a fortnight. Wearing a different outfit every week, Bowery was the main attraction. Some of his kitsch looks included a
short pleated skirt, with a glittery denim, Chanel-style jacket teamed with scab-make-up and a cheap, plastic, souvenir policeman’s hat11 … yellow gingham jacket printed with red spots with matching shirt and face12 … a denim jacket covered with Lady Jayne hair slides and his bald head decorated with dribbled dyed glue. The club’s dress code was ‘dress as though your life depends on it, or don’t bother’.13
The taste for the ridiculous, and his constantly changing looks, ensured that when Bowery entered the club, everyone else looked boring. Taboo was not an exclusively gay club, however, it attracted a large gay following lured by the opportunity to be part of the outrageous fashion scene. The Taboo nightclub symbolised the excesses of the 1980s, looking fantastic was taken to extremes. Unfortunately, it closed after a year due to drug soliciting. Boy George has turned this club phenomenon into the Broadway musical Taboo.14
Without the assistance of the slick, branded imagery associated with major fashion labels and huge marketing budgets, Bowery’s fame and reputation rested solely on being seen. His creations were documented and celebrated in the London style magazines, i-D, The Face and Blitz; his antics were reviewed in the club pages, communicating his visual language. Promoting the fringe, these magazines gave copy and editorial to the young and original, promoting an ideas culture that supported independent design.15 In Melbourne the enclave of independent fashion designers and boutiques situated in Greville and Chapel streets would proudly display the latest edition of The Face or i-D in the shop window, and they were indispensable reading in every hairdressing salon. Many Australians followed Bowery’s career and lifestyle through this source, even the interior of his flat that he shared with Trojan16 was featured – walls covered in Star Trek wallpaper, clumps of plastic flowers decorating the skirting, and UV-lit. Interviewer: ‘Does the interior of your home match the interior of your mind?’ Leigh and Trojan: ‘Yes, it’s an extension of what we wear.’17
Bowery was a great fan of the American film director John Waters whose movies had a profound effect on the development of his dress aesthetic, his humour and body politics. Waters pushed the boundaries of taste, making films with outrageous plots and an offbeat humour merged with an unseemly collage of characters, scenery and costumes. This ‘trash’ aesthetic is best portrayed in the film Pink Flamingos, 1972, about the search for the filthiest person alive, which was Bowery’s favourite movie.18 The principle actor, Harris Glen Milstead, working under the name Divine and affectionately known as the Queen of Sleaze, and a cult figure in his own right, was a cross-dresser. His huge physique was featured wearing figure-hugging gowns or sack dresses. The representation of the ‘fashionable’ unfashionable person was meticulously crafted, with huge, bouffant hairstyles and highly stylised make-up, reminiscent of the Kabuki theatre, accompanying Divine’s extensive wardrobe. This image of alternative, Baltimore glamour was one Bowery chose to follow.
The magnitude of Bowery’s costumes is unforgettable, both in physical scale and psychological effect. The Metropolitan, c. 1988 – christened by Nicola Bowery in reference to its most famous appearance at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, at the opening of the Lucian Freud retrospective in 1993 – had been worn by Bowery to various events (figs 1–4,8)19 Like many of his fashioned items, The Metropolitan was a work in progress that would simply be upgraded or reaccessorised to suit the occasion. This dress reads like a masculine ballgown, it is not intended to be drag or transvestite costume. Gender bending was common in the 1980s; the most infamous example was the skirted male suit produced by Jean Paul Gaultier in 1985. It was an attempt to blur the distinctions between male and female dress, however, the translations into mainstream fashion were commercially unsuccessful.20
Forged from a garish floral sateen, The Metropolitan boy’s dress has a square, flat bodice with a right breast pocket and open underarms. The bodice extends into a full-face mask with cut-out holes for the eyes and mouth. The mask was a device Bowery employed to prevent ruining his clothes from greasy make-up stains; in Metropolitan he could apply make-up only to his eyes and lips. Using extensive metreage, the enormous skirt appears to hover, supported by a series of taffeta and tulle petticoats, producing a fashionable silhouette reminiscent of 1950s haute couture. Bowery was serious about the history of fashion and his private library contained many books relating to designers, including the major French couturiers Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior, the pre-eminent role models who practised the very expensive, drop-dead-gorgeous philosophy of French high fashion. Restricted by money, Bowery still participated in fashion’s excesses by relying on inventive detailing and utilising entire bolts of inexpensive fabrics for the production of major works. His selection of ‘tasteless’, out of date, patterned prints purchased from discounted fabric shops defiantly challenged the grand-ballgown tradition. In this case, the floral motifs are enlivened with clusters of blue sequins painstakingly sewn on individually by Nicola Bowery in a mock Dior/Balenciaga style.21
Bowery was a professional dressmaker; he drafted patterns, cut fabric and sewed. His garments were solid constructions, strong enough to survive the rigours of clubbing. When he lived with the corsetiere Mr Pearl, they would purchase second-hand corsets, pull them apart and remake them to learn the exacting construction techniques.22
The Metropolitan is a total disguise, providing an obvious reference to traditions of fancy dress and masquerade,23 a perfect choice for a gallery opening depicting the wearer’s naked portraits! The art world was familiar territory; Bowery visited museums and he avidly collected art books and catalogues. Bowery even played the role of an art exhibit in 1988, performing at Anthony D’Offay’s London gallery wearing a different outrageous, tasteless, memorable look each day. Bowery desperately wanted his artware to be acknowledged by this elite. Nicola Bowery intentionally named this costume The Metropolitan in the hope that it would enter that prestigious collection.
In a rather perverse way, Bowery loved fashion protocols and niceties; wearing gloves, hats, belts and shoes. Gloves were a particular favourite and an expensive item to buy, so he would often steal these to complete his ensemble. Like the leader of a militant fashion army, Bowery walked into the Metropolitan wearing a floral dress with a Kaiser helmet, a pair of khaki camouflage-print gloves, a leather neck-and-waist belt and a pair of candy-pink platform shoes, and literally invaded the space. In all the fashion galas and openings held at the Metropolitan, no one had ever seen anything like this. His entrance would have been either very funny or very frightening. Just like a scene from a John Waters movie, he stole the show. Bowery’s exposure and main recognition in the mainstream art world came through the hauntingly beautiful, naked portraits of him painted by Lucian Freud. With his curvaceous, plump body and luminescent, waxed skin and his un-made-up natural face with pierced cheeks in-filled with clear plastic plugs, this was the Bowery the art-museum world could relate to.
After 1990 Bowery stopped using fancy decorations on his clothing, instead, his work became much more abstract and surreal. During a trip to Japan he had discovered a catalogue of Transformer robots. These sophisticated toys provided a catalyst for Bowery to reconfigure his body and clothing in strange ways: he became a transformer. The Pregnant tutu head, c. 1992, costume is an experiment with scale and form (figs 5-7). Bowery in his performance pieces had already mesmerised his audience with giving birth to Nicola Bowery on stage.24 He was fascinated by the body’s capacity to change shape, and pregnancy was the most obvious example. Bowery’s clothing rituals often involved pain, discomfort and restrictions that produced difficulties with breathing, urinating and mobility. Although not intentionally designed for sadomasochistic pleasures, he applied any device, physical or manufactured, to achieve the masterpieces of his imagination, and this was pleasure enough.
Bowery had already attempted to distort his own body with unorthodox combinations of clothing forms and the deception of make-up. The Pregnant tutu head‘s top has a protruding belly suggesting the silhouette of a pregnant woman and the continuation of the species; it is worn with stretch pants. To continue this exaggerated silhouette and reinforce the symbol of growth, Bowery crafted half-circle, fabric shoes from large pieces of foam rubber covered in brown fabric. The bulbous shoes look ridiculous, like the cartoon models worn by Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The headpiece is formed like a large pompom made from tiers of orange tulle frills zipping up the back; the wearer encapsulated in a puff of fabric. A pair of full-length, dark blue gloves complete this ensemble. Bowery’s 1990s clothing is often visually disturbing, as he experimented with costume freakery.
Since his death in 1994,25 Bowery’s contribution to fashion and style culture has begun to be assessed and acknowledged in wider forums beyond style magazines and the club subcultures. Today, the boy from Sunshine is recognised internationally as a major style icon of the twentieth century, he was ‘surely a predictor of fashion!!!!’.26 Phaidon published The Fashion Book in 1998,27 a gigantic tome devoted to the 500 leading designers who had created and inspired world fashion over the past 150 years. Only three Australians made the final cut: Colette Dinnigan, Akira Isogawa and Leigh Bowery. Bowery’s recognition came not from commercial success or as a known fashion brand, but from his creativity and originality, described in the book as ‘part voodoo part clown’. He was indexed as an icon alongside the likes of David Bowie and Johnny Rotten. Bowery was not about setting fashionable trends, however, the influence of his creations is seen in the work of designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan, and in the conceptual approach of much contemporary fashion, reinforcing the ‘continuing importance of this experimental dimension of fashion culture’.28
An exhibition of Leigh Bowery’s work was staged in Australia in 1999: Leigh Bowery: Look at Me at the RMIT Gallery, Melbourne, curated by Robert Buckingham and designed by Randal Marsh, included original costumes, videos and photographs. For many Australians this was their primary exposure to Bowery’s work in a local context,29 and certainly, to see actual costumes was provoking. Unexpectedly, these crafted, one-off garments designed for club wear and art performance were neither pretty, fashionable nor utilitarian. Instead, they had the power and capacity to confront issues relating to appearance, sex and politics. For many viewers this experience was a revelation. Bowery’s genre was as provocateur. The National Gallery of Victoria acquired two costumes from this exhibition and it is the only gallery in the world (at the time of writing) to represent his costumes.30 Bowery is finally an official part of Australia’s material culture.
Perhaps the best recognition and understanding of Bowery’s work is the inclusion of The Metropolitan in the inaugural hang at the Ian Potter Centre: NOV Australia, at a gallery devoted to Australian art. ‘Leigh would be ecstatic’ if he knew he was part of a major public collection.31
This article focuses only on aspects of Bowery’s clothing design, in particular, the examination of his work in a broader fashion context, and does not attempt to cover his extensive repertoire, particularly his performance work or collaboration with the Michael Clarke Ballet Troupe.
1 L. White, ‘The new glitterati’, The Face, no. 48, April, 1984, p. 56. For a discussion of influence and role of the style magazine and fashion journalism see C. McDermott, Streetstyle: British Design in the 80s, New York, 1987, pp. 81–88; for an examination of the nature of fashion journalism see A. McRobbie, British Fashion Design: Rag Trade or Image Industry?, London, 1998, pp. 151–174.
2 A. Sharkey, ‘The undiluted Leigh Bowery’, i-D, no. 42, The Plain English Issue, June 1987, p. 63.
3 ‘Because clubbing and raving are done by a narrow segment of the population after most people go to bed, the scale of the social phenomenon often goes unnoticed.’ S. Thornton, Club Cultures, Cambridge, 1995 p. 14.
4 For a complete account of Bowery’s life, see S. Tilley, The Life and Times of an Icon, London, 1997; and R. Violette (ed.), Leigh Bowery, London, 1998.
5 S. Cole, Don We Now Our Gay Apparel, New York, 2000, p. 158.
6 ibid., p.159.
7 J. Savage, Time Travel, Pop, Media and Sexuality 1976-96, London, 1996, p. 112.
8 Tilley, p. 97.
9 McDermott, p. 26. Vivienne Westwood collaborated with Malcolm McLaren from 1971 to 1983 before embarking on a solo career.
10 B. George with S. Bright, Take It Like a Man, London, 1995, p. 521.
11 Tilley, p. 57.
12 ibid., p.61.
13 ibid., p.53.
14 Music and lyrics by Boy George, based on the story by Mark Davies. Directed by Christopher Renshaw. Matt Lucas, Boy George, and most recently, Marilyn, have played the role of Bowery.
15 T. Jones (ed.), Fashion and Style: The Best from 20 Years of i-D, Koln, 2001.
16 Pseudonym used by Gary Barnes, 1966–86, who described himself as an ‘artist and prostitute’. Encouraged by Bowery, he painted confronting works in a Daliesque/naive style. They lived together for several years, Bowery dressing him in his latest fashion designs.
17 F. Russell-Powell, ‘Penthouse’. i-D, The Inside Out Issue, no.19, October 1984, p. 8.
18 Nicola Bowery, discussion with the author, 23 May 2002.
19 N. Bowery, discussion, 17 July 2002. The Metropolitan was purchased from Bowery’s widow, Nicola Bowery. She generously donated Pregnant tutu head to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1999.
20 S. Mower, ‘Gaultier’, Arena, London, July/August 1987, p.85. Gaultier produced only 3000 suits worldwide.
21 N. Bowery, discussion, 23 May 2002.
22 N. Bowery, discussion.
23 See A. Ribeiro. ‘Fantasy and fancy dress’, Dress in Eighteenth Century Europe, New Haven, 2002, pp. 245–282. The custom of masking or disguise goes back to antiquity. ‘The masquerade provided opportunities for role-playing and subversion of propriety in defiance of the conventions of society’ Ibid., p. 245.
24 For photographs relating to Leigh Bowery’s performances, from Wigstock to his pop group Minty, and his performances with the Michael Clarke Ballet Troupe, see Violette.
25 ‘The fabulous Leigh Bowery passed away on New Year’s Eve, 1994, and London lost another mirror ball. No one knew Leigh had Aids because he didn’t want them to. He said, “I want to be remembered as a person with ideas, not Aids.”’ George with Bright, p. 566.
26 Walter Von Beirendonck, letter to the author, 14 June 2002.
27 The Fashion Book, London, 1998. See Leigh Bowery entry, p.70; Colette Dinnigan, p. 135; Akira Isogawa, p.225.
28 D. Gilbert, ‘Urban outfitting’, in Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations and Analysis, eds S. Bruzzi & P. Gibson, London, 2001, p. 9.
29 In 1987 Bowery performed with the Michael Clarke Ballet Troupe at the Melbourne Town Hall, horrifying his parents and most of the audience with his obscene acts.
There is some research suggesting a link between being closeted and being anti-gay. But while the notion feeds many jokes, it also obscures very real homophobia.
2017 has been a banner year for the armchair psychological theory that anti-gay public figures are secretly gay themselves.
Never mind the long-running jokes and memes about Mike Pence covering up some secret homosexual identity. There have been actual examples this year of outspoken anti-LGBT figures exhibiting behavior that seems to contradict their political ideology.
The same idea emerges every time: The hypothesis is that their bigotry doesn’t just make their sexual behavior hypocritical, it actually functions as a cover for it, consciously or otherwise.
Recently, there has been former Ohio state Rep. Wesley Goodman, who resigned late last week after it came out that he had had sex with a man in his office.
In March, former Oklahoma state Sen. Ralph Shortey resigned after being hit with child prostitution charges for allegedly soliciting sex from a 17-year-old boy. Shortey has reportedly decided this week to plead guilty to a child sex trafficking charge.
Both Goodman and Shortey are married men who were clear political opponents of the LGBT community while in office.
After Shortey was arrested, the Associated Press noted that he “routinely” voted for anti-LGBT bills, quoting the director of the LGBT advocacy organization Freedom Oklahoma who said, “He was never vitriolic about it, but he would make the bad votes.”
More strident was Goodman who, as the Columbus Dispatch reported, “consistently touted his faith and conservative values,” with a Twitter bio that read: “Christian. American. Conservative. Republican.”
As more information about their alleged misdeeds emerges—Goodman now stands accused of fondling an 18-year-old man at a conservative event, and of pursuing several young gay men—there is a certain grim catharsis in seeing such hypocrisy exposed.
The LGBT community will never tire of bringing up the long history of Republican gay sex scandals every time new—and increasingly unsurprising—allegations emerge, precisely because they seem to be so predictable in hindsight.
(As GQ sarcastically put it in response to the Goodman news: “Anti-Gay Ohio Republican Resigns After, Surprise, Having Sex with a Man in the State Capitol.”)
A 2012 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology generated a fair number of headlines that year—including The New York Times’ “Homophobic? Maybe You’re Gay”—for suggesting that some self-avowed straight people who showed signs of same-sex desire were more likely to hold discriminatory attitudes.
Two authors on the study—psychologists Richard M. Ryan and William S. Ryan—wrote in their accompanying New York Times opinion piece that they had asked 784 college students to rate their sexual orientation on a 10-point scale and then told them to sort “images and words indicative of hetero- and homosexuality” into categories.
The “twist,” as they put it, were subliminal flashes of the words “me” or “other” before each image that can theoretically reveal subconscious bias based on how long it takes the subjects to sort images that don’t match their self-described sexual identity into the right category.
The result: The researchers isolated a “subgroup of participants”—more than “20 percent of self-described highly straight individuals”—who “indicated some level of same-sex attraction,” and who were “significantly more likely than other participants to favor anti-gay policies; to be willing to assign significantly harsher punishments to perpetrators of petty crimes if they were presumed to be homosexual; and to express greater implicit hostility toward gay subjects.”
“Thus our research suggests that some who oppose homosexuality do tacitly harbor same-sex attraction,” they concluded.
The psychological mechanism behind this subgroup’s anti-LGBT vitriol is, in theory, relatively simple: They are taking out their own issues with sexual identity on other people.
As Netta Weinstein, the study’s lead author, said in a press release, they “may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves.” So if you’re an American politician, there may be no more effective way to prove to yourself that you’re straight than to target LGBT people.
The 2012 study is certainly suggestive. It’s continually cited whenever it seems to apply to a homophobic figure, like after Pulse nightclub gunman Omar Mateen was rumored to have frequented the LGBT nightclub in the buildup to the shooting.
There are other studies that have come to similar conclusions. As Science magazine reported after Pulse, there is a “scattering of research” that suggests “some conflicted gay men might indeed be homophobic,” like a small 1996 study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology that measured penile arousal and found a link between “homophobia” and “homosexual arousal.”
But the keyword in all of the above literature is “some.”
There is, at this point, enough research in this area to suggest that there may be something deeper to the armchair psychology. But the “secretly gay homophobe” theory is far from being a complete explanation of anti-LGBT prejudice in American politics.
Twenty percent of people who describe themselves as “highly straight” is still 10 percent fewer than the 32 percent of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage.
Just because that 20-percent subgroup is “significantly more likely” to tout an anti-LGBT ideology doesn’t mean we can assume someone like Mike Pence is likely to be covering up a secret past as a gay clubgoer just because of his anti-LGBT track record. So-called closet cases may be abundant, but there’s no way to prove that every Republican who tries to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination is hiding something.
In fact, overgeneralizing and joking as if that were the case may hurt LGBT people.
On Twitter, comedian Cameron Esposito, herself a lesbian, has criticized the homophobic undertones of the constant Mike Pence jokes—and has called out the media for being seemingly more interested in the salacious “homophobe caught having gay sex” story than in the mistreatment of LGBT people writ large.