Drum Issue one, from 1964
Playguy, Issue one from 1972
Monday, September 30, 2019
The ONE Archives in LA recently helped me when I was looking for a series of articles by Lou Rand Hogan, a memoir of sorts called "The Golden Age of Queens."
You can find it online at https://archive.org/details/bayareareporter
The series runs six issues, starting with Bay Area Reporter, Volume 4, Number 18, 4 September 1974 .
You can find it online at https://archive.org/details/bayareareporter
The series runs six issues, starting with Bay Area Reporter, Volume 4, Number 18, 4 September 1974 .
The Golden Age of Queens (ONE)by Toto le Grand
Many gay writers today make slightening mention of 'those old tired queens', when referring to anyone, of the genre, who is past fifty. Well, my dears, Mother has, at least, a score of years more than that; she IS a tired old queen. And pretty much bent out of shape, too. But, she wouldn't ex-change any modern-day activities for any of those wonderful years from the mid-twenties to the mid-fifties; that was truly the Golden Age — of Queens! Y., thinking back, it was glorious. To hell with your modern 'gay' bars (which aren't..); the mad, modern cruising (but where. .); the 'anything goes' Baths (where there are no REAL men, and who wants cat meat. .?). And, as for the Beaches and Parks, who really wants sand, or fox-tails, in her snatch. .? Yes. 'twas better back then, when there were MEN! Men who treated a 'girl' like a lady. And paid for it. Brought their own booze, and appreciated the service. A 'trick' was for a whole weekend, or 48 hours. or longer. Many even lasted out the year, possibly the next, too. And, you stayed at home, and cooked and drank a little, and loved, and lived! Nowa-days, it's to the Baths for 6 quick 'ki-ki numbers with other fags; or under the Pier for a couple, and then a third who turns out to be the Law. And so on...
Oh, hell, Mother could go on like this for hours; let's take a look backwards to that GOLDEN AGE. Actually. this really didn't all suddenly start in the mid-20's; but a great many started coming out of their closets about then. There were more and more 'impersonators' in vaudeville (and out…), all trying to take over Julian Eltinge's throne. And, in 1921, a book was published; the first truly gay book done in English and printed in America. It was by Robert Scully, and was subtly titled “The Scarlet Pansy”. It is a hilarious story, even now. It had a good sale, though most often 'under the counter'. Try to buy one now! It cleverly and humorously depicts the life and loves of a pre-war (to 1918) queen. It's wildly amusing, very camp, very gay. Peculiarly, much of the dialogue served as a model for the ‘gay talk' of the next fifty years. Some of us old bags still carry on like that. Every young queen should read The Scarlet Pansy.
Because of the necessity to hide one’s ‘other self’, the vogue for ‘stage names’ came into being. In the Golden Age, every real queen had a 'nom d'plume'. In San Francisco, of the late 20’s, one recall's Tzar Kerah, 'Miss' Applegate, the Countess Leamington, Bubbles (several of these, Poppy, the Little Flower, Ann Pennington, Rosie O'Grady, Appassionatta, a Pola Negri, the Mystery Woman. the Snake! (and she was,.. Hi, Gene..), and many many others. There were at least three ‘girls’ known as THE ‘Miss’ Cabral; all were at least partly Portuguese; there were dozens of routine Sally's, May, (a lot of May Allison's) and for want of any other name, almost any of us answered to 'Mary'. All these names were bandied about in gay circles; in the Park (THE park was Union Square), on Market Street (Powell-5th to Golden Gate-6th), even down on the Embarcadero, where only the boldest ever went. This 'name' thing was only a harmless bit, but it added some glamor to some often unglamorous people, and it did protect the name of the 'girl' involved. Mother (the writer, if you are confused..) who had come out some years earlier, as a pre-teen-age, (all actresses, whether stage, screen, or mattress, 'started at a very early age', they say..) with Miss Brown's Pasadena Playhouse, was most often known as Bubbles; Mother was slim, blonde, and lissom; in time became as popular as 'Sonny'. There was also a big musical on at that time, named 'Sonny'. Not long after arrival in the City, Sonny met a crazy ol’ bat by the name St. Ritas Benda, a brother of the 'mask' Benda. This very tired old queen had a sort of ballet school, in very tacky premises in a walk-up on Market St., the wrong side of Market St. South of Market was 'nowheres-ville', the 'in' crowd stayed on the North side of the street, unless, possibly, there were a bunch of cute sailors massed undecisively over there. In that case...Big feature of La Benda's studio, was a whole (throne) room, done entirely in peacock feathers. Entirely!, would you believe...? Well, it was!, Mother was there.
Through the Benda, Sonny soon met a few of the local gentry; through them some very nice people, and eventually got a job. While in Pasadena, the lad had done a few weeks, in rehearsal and a disastrous opening, with a sort of musical called The Jovial King. Ersatz Romberg! So, though very young, our boy was not completely inexperienced. Well, Sonny got into the chorus line of a new musical called The Desert Song; after that. it was Good News, another musical; remember Varsity Drag..? So, Mother was an actress, as well as an early 'teen-ager' and some other things. Program-wise, Sonny was listed in these shows as ‘Sonia Pavlijev’. If a Mexican girl named Apolonia Chalupec could become glamorous Pola Negri of the films, what could be wrong with a polish (?) name for a young Irish (!) faggot…?
At this period, big balls… (No, Maude, not those!, 'dances'...) were the 'thing'. The Sons of Herman (a fraternal group but in NO WAY a gay bunch) had an annual Ball at the Auditorium, with prizes for the best 'This'. the best 'that', Mother went as a sort of ‘houri’, (love that word!.) in a coat of gold body paint, some lightly beaded breast-works, a sash about her slim middle, and some ‘see-through’ silver gauze Turkish trousers. The ensemble was definitely fetching, and Mother was being selected for a prize, when she overdid the bit by going into a Low Kootch. Nowadays this sort of thing would hardly be noticed; it was definitely too far out forty or fifty years ago. Sonny was arrested and carried off, amid some cheers, to the slammer.
A kindly old man came and bailed Mother out, and was reasonably happy with the task of scrubbing off the gold paint from the lissom young body, in his shower. Mother soon had an apartment of his own, a couple of charge accounts,.. .and the kindly old man twice a week. Looking back, it must be repeated that 'Market Street' was the focal point of all the action: remember, up until 1932, there were no bars, open as such; you 'met' on the street. Every foot of it, from the Anchor Bar at the Embarcadero corner, to the Crystal Palace Market, could tell a story, all interesting. Mother recalls the Unique Theater. It certainly was! Between 3rd. and 4th, on the South side of Market, was... (hey!, maybe it's still there..?) this old grind house; old even in the late 20’s. It was a 24 hour movie and 'flop' house. Originally opened, and elegantly, as San First movie (nickleodeon) by Sid Grauman, who later had some big houses in L.A. There was nothing left of elegance, even in that Golden Age; at times, however, one could pick up an occasional 'middle-of-the-night trick'. In fact, the house was kept so dark (to hide it's grime..) that one could DO the trick right in his seat, if one were agile enough. This was quite often managed, and — as all things go — somebody 'complained'.. (probably some jealous bitch!..). Then for several weeks. queens who 'had just done one', were busted as they left the theater. For a time the 'group' wondered how Lilly (Law) could pick out the 'girls' who were still happily tasting the goodies, as they left the Unique...? Then, all became known. A beautifully built, well hung number would allow a girl a few slides, then suggest they 'meet outside' to go somewhere more comfortable. The queens, leaving first, were promptly arrested at the door; while the beautiful officer (inside) repainted his THING with mercurochrome. Yes, that tell-tale RED, about the lips, indicated to the waiting officers, just who had been doing what, in the theater. Mother often wondered what the valiant 'inside man' told his wife or sweetheart…?
Yes, there are thousands of stories, about that Golden Age: next we'll talk about some bootlegging in San Francisco.
Toto le Grand
The Golden Age of Queens (TWO)
by Toto le Grand
In San Francisco, in the late 30's, the big thing was 'booze'. With a handy supply, a girl could do almost anything, or anyone. Peopled would drink almost anything for a drunken kick. Almost everyone knew ‘how’ to make gin, and while many did do it at home, more piss-elegant parties preferred to call a bootlegger. Practically every building in the City housed one or more, and they all bottled the stuff in faked Burnett’s White Satin bottles. Mother never did know where those came from, though for many months she delivered a lot of them.
Gin, as you may know, can be made by mixing 1/3 water, 1/2 grain alcohol, adding a little juniper flavoring, a little glycerine 'to smooth it out'. And this is almost 100 proof! Most manufacturers soon used 2/5 alcohol to 3/5 water, for a more potable product. The delivered bottle (a quart, I believe) cost $2.00 plus a tip to the carrier, who also got .25 from the maker. Business thrived.
Well. 'things' were cheap in those days; would you believe that one of the City’s most popular French restaurants (Gireard's; there were two, one on O'Farrell across from Old Tait's, one on Market St.) sold a complete table d'hote dinner, family style, for .35 cents. On Thursday and Sunday you could get chicken, with everything else, for .50 cents. With coffee and a glass of wine! So help me! Rooms in not-too-bad small hotels were $3.00 a week. Speaking of hotels, there was a small hotel on Bush, just off Grant Ave. where the old Chinaman always cackled — at the appearance of two men — 'You wanchee 'rong time' or 'sho't time' loom...?' We loved it!
And Gawd! Was Market St. gay! Local belles all had to make the scene each evening; the 'promenade' was marvelous to behold. Recall a mad 'girl' called Anne Pennington, who would stop anything male, on the pave, and purr: "..would you like a fancy boy, tonight..?! Of course, nine out of ten ignored her, but that 10th! She was always in full make-up and went in for weird hair-do's. Mother remembers when she once appeared with her hair parted in the center, all the way back. The hair on one side of the part was black, straight and glossy, and combed back a la Chester Mossiel the other side was pale blonde, and all in little French curls. She was really 'too much', but that expression had not yet come into use; my teenaged amanuensis tells me. 'it's dead, man! like dead!..' Anyway, the time was before the 30's.
When groups of clattering queens, on Market St., grew a little too shrill, a big, handsome, burly (Irish!) policeman would look at them sternly and might remark, pleasantly enough, "Come now, bhoys,... let’s move it up an down..’ Often he'd make somewhat suggestive, but always humorous, gestures with his club,... er, baton.
Of course, in those days, 'the promenade' was to show off new 'outfits', hair-do’s, jewels, or the like. One might latch on to a trick; quite often one who'd pay. Not at all like so many years later when the tired, rejected and dejected, stand about on the ‘meat block’, demanding $2 or $20 for their flaccid (at best!) services. Ah, well...
The 'other Law of those days consisted of Officers. Reed, Crystal, and Jennings, all in plain clothes. This was the real Vice Squad, and principle among their assignments were gambling and 'hooring' (as all Irish police had it...) on the part of 'street girls'. You must remember that in those days, right up to late '41, there were literally dozens of nice, clean, neighborhood whorehouses. Small hotels, with a Madame and usually four or five girls. These were all over downtown San Francisco; some more elegant houses were farther out. Many of the smaller houses were just off Market St.; some toward North Beach, many South of Market. The Mission and the Fillmore had their share, too. While these places were never lavish, often forbidding drinks or drunks, the 'service' was 'homely', and — the price was right! ($2.00, with a tip for the girl...) At one period, and for about a year, Mother lived (not worked!..) in one of these houses. Right on Market St., between Mason and Leavenworth; it was upstairs and had entrances both on Market and Turk St., in the rear. I seem to recall that it was the 'Carson'; it was run by two mature and kindly Frenchwomen, Pauline and Germaine. They really 'mothered' a li’l boy lost.
Anyway, the 'houses' paid off to the beat cops, in the natural way of things, and the Vice Squad kept well-meaning amateurs off the streets. A policeman could, and would, always recommend a neighborhood house. Along the same line, the Vice Squad was to 'keep the queens down..’ for the same obvious reason. This was a duty in which they were ultimately and spectacularly unsuccessful; but that's another story.
While really based in San Francisco over the next few years, Mother made the first of her many trips to sea. Met this mad young thing (though older than I..) in the small park at the top of Nob Hill. Mother has always said, ‘..to make money, go where money is..’ A nice clientele parked around this little park, which was next to the City, most exclusive club, and almost 'across the street' from three leading — and expensive — hotels. It was here that Sonny met this scion of a leading local banking family. 'Temp' promptly asked, "where do you want to go.. ?” As Mother expressed no preference, we zoomed down the hill to the Marina, onto a nice, new yacht (the Zaca, later to be Errol Flynn's..) and ended up in the Galapagos Islands. A mad, drunken, trip! Later, on return to San Francisco, a shipping magnate offered to 'fix me up' (a sort of tat for tit!) as a Cadet (officer) on a passenger-freight liner. So, off again, this time to Buenos Aires; jumped ship in Montevideo, hitch-hiked home from port to port, getting back to Market St, a year later. Mother was 20!
Perhaps this would be a good place to add, that — while based in San Francisco, Mother went to sea for the next dozen years or so. Was over 4 years on the Lurline, a mad ship in those days; 500 in the Steward's department; probably 486 were actively gay! No wonder the Islanders called it the 'Queerline'. Then, 8 or 9 trips around the world, on 'world cruise' vessels, and so it went. But, every few months it was back to gay San Francisco. What, dear…? room steward…? waitress…? Hello no! Mother learned to cook, and but good!, and that’s another story… Sometimes told…
More later, about the Golden Age of Queens, from —
Toto le Grand
The Golden Age of Queens (THREE)
by Toto le Grand
In the 40 years or so since 'Sonny' first swished out onto Market Street, and vice-versa, there have certainly been some memorable happenings and changes there. It's present state, along with it, habitués, are a shame. Just a plain SHAME! Prices seem to be way up, and quality is almost non-existent. As our old French nana used to say, ‘..a lot of water has run under the bidet..’ Or was that what she used to say..? And, frankly, it's been a couple of years since Mother has trod those mad blocks; what was encountered then was so pathetic that she has little urge to retrace her steps. If the GLF, GAA, GOO, SIR, and various 'guilds' and other 'do-us-good' groups, would like to effect some civic improvement, they could handily clean up a few blocks of the old Drag. Target for tonight: Wash a hustler!
We note that the Old Cow (it'll never be Crow, to thousands..) is still going strong, though we wouldn't trust ourselves inside. (Pickpockets, and other groping-types, y'know...) Thinking back....WAY back... we recall a mad incident — something overheard — in this place. Everyone on the 'street' knew 'Nell'. a short of middle-aged queen, who cruised Market St. nightly. The 'War' was just over (?) and tricks were beginning to get paid 'for it'. The older you were, seemingly, the more you paid. It was beginning to be accepted, certainly never liked. Actually, Nell was quite well-off; had a very responsible job, and kept a very elegant apartment, on the Hill. However, on her nightly cruise, she'd dress like a ragpicker, always made it quite clear that '..she didn't have much money..' Yes, my dears, a cheap bitch. and — like so many such — was constantly being rolled, beaten, blackmailed, and the like. Of course, everyone 'knew her', and the Old Cow crowd was quiet as Nell told of her latest mis-adventure; ‘..so I asked him if he wanted to make a couple of dollars, and he agreed. My dears, he was just gorgeous, and SO BIG!...(followed the usual bit describing size, shape and size...) 'so, we went up to my place, and I quickly stripped, and was ready, laying on me tummy. He got his clothes off, came over to the bed, and PLUNGED that wonderful, big, (etc...) thing into my quivering quiff! And again! And, then he pulled it out. No! No come, no nothing! Just two strokes! After washing he got dressed,..and me laying there speechless... he picked up my pants, took out the wallet, took out two dollar bills, ...and there were at least ten in there...and remarked, as he went out the door: .’…you wanted a couple of dollars worth,.. and that's what you got!..' An' he left...’ As this all was so typical of the things that could happen to Nell. all present were vastly amused. It is possible that such antics would not amuse 'straights', but to all us faggots, it was hilarious.
Along in the block with the 'Cow' was, years ago, a sort of 'all-night' dairy lunchroom. It was often filled with unused (that night) hustlers, tricks, and queens. There were sometimes some gems to be found there; it seemed to be the first place that 'guys' hit, on arriving in San Francisco. One night, Mother picked up an absolutely ravishing blonde beast there. He said his name was Paul, and he was in his early 20's. Claimed to have a motorbike parked somewhere; had been in town about an hour. This explained what such a dream-boy was doing. all along, in such a place. Mother rushed it off to a small hotel, where — as usual — she registered as 'N. Gwynn and Party'. In those days, Mother was a browning queen (and LOVED it!). With Paul, we quickly assumed position A; after a brief but satisfying bit of jigging up and down, in and out, we achieved our objective. Right where he was, Paul heaved a long sigh, and went to sleep. After awhile, and with no new fires rekindled, Mother decided to wait for morning for an encore. She pushed Paul off, on to his own side of the bed, and — also went to sleep. Some hours later, Mother awakened with a start. Wide-eyed awake. Instinctively, she knew her 'friend' was still beside her, but something was wrong. Getting up to raise the shade, she was horrified to realize that Paul was dead. And he hadn't moved since being shoved off, some time earlier. Some 'stains' were still apparent; his eyes were open… Mother realized at what point he had expired; she broke all records for dressing; hastily, she partly 'dusted' the room. She removed the 'stains', and she closed the eyes. Pausing at the deserted hotel desk to rip out the last used page of the guest ledger, she flew! The following day she was on Yessler Way, in Seattle. Looking back, she realized, of course, that the man had simply had a heart attack or something. At least, ‘he died in the saddle, doing his thing..’. And, doing it to Mother. It really was days before she again 'assumed the angle’, though she did do some facials; even in Seattle. a girl has got to live. But, a peculiar thing to remember, how would you feel...?
And this recalls another dead boy. There was once a hotel — the Morse — on Market St; the building is now part of Weinstein's Store. It had six floors, with elevator, of course, but also an old-style circling staircase, with an open 'well' in the center that reached to the sky-lighted roof. The place was run by a 'Miss' Hayes, a shrewd old bag who specialized in gay-oriented hotels. Perhaps 65% of the guests at the Morse were gay — of some stripe or another. The halls were wide and warm; nights in San Francisco are often (most often) cold and damp. So, old sailors (some groups, too..) simply lay down in the halls to sleep a few hours. The 'paying guests' made frequent tours of inspection, and dragged in anything that looked tasty, you should pardon the expression...). There were some drunks, some fights, and so on. One night, and the house was very full, two sailors got to fighting in the hall on the fifth floor. (Later, at least 23 queens claimed the fight was over them; all lying bitches, of course, it was Mother they fought over! She says...) It all ended suddenly, and tragically, when one sailor picked up the other and dropped him into the stairwell. Five floors to a marble lobby. Well! Within 13 minutes there were at least 86 checkouts. Later, there was a police, and a Navy, investigation; somehow La Hayes lost her license for the Morse; she later operated a small pad on Kearny, called the Metropole. A sort of 'hot bed' house. But, with the death of the poor kid at the Mors, and it's closing, another era ended for Market Street.
At some point in the mid-30's, Sonny was often 'between ships'; like many another, she took to the paves. He ('she') also found that he could best offer his 'face an’ figger' in Navy blues. So, he had a tight (TIGHT) Navy uniform made, and did Post St. and the 'op o' the Hill nightly. And, it was a sort of 'racket'. He never asked for money; but did memorize car license numbers like crazy. Next day a 'Girl' in the Dept. of Motor Vehicles gave out the address; the City Directory, Voter’s Registration, and Dunn & Bradstreet (all handy at the Library).added to the dossier. The, he sent a bill 'for services’; the first went to the customer's office, the second to his home. There was a follow-up phone call if the bill was not paid; further calls — to wife and/or employer — were suggested. The fees were reasonable, and most — with a sense of humor, — paid. If not, Mother simply discarded the 'file' and forgot 'that one'. Yes, in a sense, it was a despicable program, though never doing any real harm. Before you think twice about it, it is impossible to manage today. In the mid-30's, .things were bad, and a girl did what she could…’.
Mother was twice picked up by a dignified old party; he always wore a homburg hat, a good black coat, with a scarf about his throat. Both times we drove out around Fort Mason, for obvious purpose. The subsequent 'check' revealed that Mother had been 'twice blessed' by an Archbishop. He was in fact, Sonny's second such. Many years earlier, when churchmen were exiled from Mexico, Mother was the young (and very tender!) belle of the ball at a party (in Los Angeles) given by 'Miss' Novarro (..may she be at Peace!..) Mother was 'communicated' by her first Archbishop, there. She never really thought so well of the Church after her second. Huh!
Queens, and tricks, in trouble often went to see 'Father Anthony' at a religious Brotherhood in downtown San Francisco. He, gently, laid on the hands; usually gave the troubled one a few dollars, and prodded them into going to Confession, and toward 'going home'. Many must remember 'Father Anthony': it is to be hoped that there are as many prayers for this kindly man.
Yes, there are thousands of stories, from the late 20's to the late 40s, the Golden Age of Queens. Really, we never had it so good. More later, from...
Toto le Grand
The Golden Age of Queens (FOUR)
by Toto le Grand
In the late 20's, Los Angeles was just beginning to come into it's own as a ‘gay’ town. While talkies were not in yet, the 'artistic set' had taken a firm hold on Hollywood, and — to a lesser degree — onto the City of which Hollywood is only a part. Cruising, on Hollywood Blvd. was very popular, and very good! Everyone was an 'actor’; one could find all kinds. Guys were available, in those days, because they wanted companionship, sex, a few drinks, even a good meal; not, as in later years, when men peddled their shopworn charms on the Blvd, on Sunset, on Selma Ave., for a few bucks.
There were probably hundreds of gay ones in the studios, and quite a few were actors. One heard 'queer' stories about almost anyone you could name, but these were seldom really true. Two or three internationally known cowboy and 'action' stars were certainly known to be less than manly off-screen; quite a few leading actors (and actresses) were almost positively identified as gay ones. But, in the colony of artists, 'who cared'..? Two stars come to mind, of the period; one Mother did not know, though he was often seen —and heard — loudly cruising on Main Street, many nights over a period of two or three years. The other was an acquaintance.
One of the biggest 'stars' of the period was William Haines, an alleged comedian. He was never as young as he looked; he had a stocky body, and a fat ass!, and was utterly crude, brash, and rowdy. To those who 'knew', he was also just a common, garden variety faggot. His pictures were slap-dash money-makers, and in the days before high income taxes, Haines was making a bundle. He may have worked hard 8 to 10 hours a day, but he pursued young men — preferably sailors — for at least 8 hours most nights. Some of this activity was in Hollywood, but mostly in downtown Los Angeles, on Main Street.
Main Street, incidentally, was where the ‘big red cars’ came from and left for – the harbor at San Pedro; 6th and Main was often a delightful field of blue uniforms. While Main Street had not then attained the dubious distinction of 'Skid Row', it was deteriorating fast. Of course, the big thing was to have something to drink; prohibition lasted 'til '33. In those gay days (and nights!) if you had a bottle and a room, you had it made. And, hundreds of jolly young sailors went back to their ships bragging about having been 'done' by William Haines. As a movie star. Haines had a spectacular finish; two or three very bad pictures; with sound he came on just a little too Nellie, too fat-assed, too bitchy. Then he was caught molesting a 5 or 6 year old boy on the beach at Hermosa. While he 'got out of it', the studios wanted no more of him, so his career came to a deserved end. Deserved,..? Well, one wonders. Haines had considerable money stashed away, he had never been a 'spender', was rather a cheap bitch; so he opened an interior-decorating shop in Beverly Hills. Through talent, or because of what he knew about other people in the industry, he profited hugely over the years. William Haines was recently in the news again; as a 'Special Consultant' to the State Department, he had spent a couple of million dollars of the tax-payers money, 're-doing' the U.S. Embassy in London. Word from England has it that he has a special 'thing' for 'Guardsmen' (stalwart 6 ft. plus young soldiers of the 'Household Guards'. They are now asking, from Americans, at least, 20 pounds as a minimum fee for 'services’). They do wear dashing, tight uniforms: tight uniforms have always been a great part William Haines 'thing'.
Another one met, in those days of the late 20's, was the divinely handsome Ramon Novarro. Such a great shame that he should be eventually murdered by a couple of illiterate hustlers. May he rest in Peace.
Novarro was a young Mexican, and had many relatives in Los Angeles; He was also — aside from his gay interests — intensely religious. Mother recalls that Novarro, with a few friends, often of Mexican descent, would cavort on Main St. and in nearby hotels, on most Saturday nights. We's all meet at an early. Mass at St. Vibiana's Cathedral (2nd & Main) after which we'd join an understanding priest (also named Father Anthony..) for a glass of, good wine. (Prohibition, you'll remember..) Then, about 10:00 AM, Ramon would slide into the choir at St. Vincents (Figueroa at Adams) where he'd sing — often with Alice Gentle — the High Mass. He had a beautiful voice. Over half of his earnings of these years (and he was Hollywood's top money earner for several years) went to the Church. His brother was an accomplished church organist, and I seem to recall that he had a sister who was a nun. (The family name was Samaniegos) Novarro's group seemed to be quieter and more dignified than the blatantly carrying-on Haines, though they played in much the same part of town. Ramon Novarro was BEAUTIFUL; spiritually and physically, just beautiful. One regret of a long life, says Mother, is that we were only speaking acquaintances; but, Novarro was 'nice' to everyone.
In the last years of the 20's, vaudeville was big in Los Angeles. Downtown were three major vaudeville theaters: the Orpheum, the 'Jr.' Orpheum (afterward called' the Hill-Street), and Pantages. All were within a block of each other, and in the center of this area (Hill St. between 7th and 8th) an enterprising couple of old vaudevillians. Carl and Lil Muller, opened a sort of coffee-shop lunch counter. The place had a narrow horse-shoe counter that reached deep into the building. They stayed open 'til about 3 AM.; Coffee Dan's, a sort of rowdy night club that sold beer, was across the street. Nothing really exciting happened at Muller's 'til one day they posted signs advising customers: ‘..not to be alarmed at sitting with people in full theatrical make-up, as these were performers at one of the theaters.' Somehow, this word spread like magic, and every silly faggot downtown did herself up in Woolworth's pancake, and flocked to Muller's. This nonsense went on for a couple of years, then problems arose. The place was so packed most nights, that it was almost impossible to get in — or to get out. French queens were turning tricks in the place, by simply sitting on the floor before someone 'sexy', and doing it. Drugs began to be sold; there were fights, then some knifings. The police were needed to regulate the packed-in crowds, and so on. Then, within another couple of years, prohibition was officially over; new places, including a number of short-lived gay bars, opened up. Muller's just wasn't with it any longer.
Downtown Angelenos were always partial to Pershing Square, and any mention of it was always good for a snicker. Up until the late 30's, it was a nice, shade, bushy pot in the middle of the city, with large (concealing) clumps of bamboo at it's center, and benches in the shrubbery of the crosswalks. Of course, Mother recalls — as a child — cavorting there before World War I, when it was still Central Park. While these early visits were not gayly oriented, and Mother was just a child, he was not an 'unaware' child. Don't know if it has been mentioned here, but 'Sonny' was sent to a Southern California military academy at the age of five, the folks living in an unschooled rural area. Shortly before he was six, Mother lost her cherry, being happily violated by two big boys — twins names Zarragosa, who were fourteen — and has continued in active participation for the next 60 years, or so.
Anyway, in 1918 they re-named the Park Pershing Square, after the General. In the early 30's, it was going strong, and had a fairly well established reputation. Perhaps the gay ones really did start going there for that proverbial 'breath of fresh air’; Los Angeles can be hot at night. The park soon became very cruisy, and often was busy all night long.
Actually, Mother can remember her very first visit to the Park, as the 'smallest uniformed cadet' from that same military academy (or a later one...?). It was 1917, and there were 'Over There' parades, just prior to our getting into THAT war. A part of the parade gathered around Central Park. On the Olive St. side were many horses hitched to the Park's iron railings; it seems that Olive was not paved there at 6th. Across the street at 5th, was St. Paul's Cathedral; this was the State Normal School. On the Northeast comer, at 5th, was the Philharmonic Auditorium. Mother vaguely recalls that there were some large wooden buildings down Hill St. to the Angel's Flight, at 4th; and next to it was Albert Cohen's. a large grocery store. This was all at least 55 years ago; but li'l Son, marched in the parade. Wonder if he swished...?
Later. Mother became a frequent habitué; she recalls that in the early 30's, the Philharmonic was still there — perhaps it still is. Across from the Park, at 6th and Olive, was an enormous upstairs public ballroom, facing on 6th. Perhaps Sid Grauman's Metropolitan Theater (at 6th and Hill) was built by then; Mother does recall the slow building, during '17 and '18, of the Million Dollar, at 3rd and Broadway. She cannot seem to remember when the Biltmore, or the New Public Library, just behind it, went in. Mother was away from Los Angeles (in and out of San Francisco) during a lot of the time between 1930 and ‘39. Memories!, and so it goes, back to the gay Park of the early 30's.
As noted, nights are warm, in Los Angeles; probably this is why many originally came to the Park. From where...? Possibly from the Library (if it was built by then..?); maybe some tired 'dancers' came across to see what they could do. Very probably many of the 200 or so residents of the YMCA were there; it was a couple of blocks away. Through as many years as remembered, this — and other — YMCA residences had no air-conditioning, and wall-to-wall faggots. (ln San Diego, with the country's largest YMCA for 'service personnel', the place is known throughout the city as they French Embassy!... ask me why…?)
Very soon the Park became a busy little trade center. Local cops, still on foot in those days, were gentlemanly, saw very little. The later day sneaky Vice Squad cops began to come around just before the Big War. And, there's a very laughable story there. An early lieutenant of this select group, was 'one'. With his partner, he'd follow a 'girl' and her pick-up to a nearby hotel; there were a dozen or so nearby that specialized in this trade. The officers would break in crudely, then the Lieut. would send his partner down with the queen, to 'book him'. The Lieut. would stay to 'question' the masculine member of the party — often a sailor. Word soon got around that the Lieut.'s questions seemed to take up just where the party had been interrupted. Eventually, this procedure became so well known that the Lieut. Was fired from the Police Force. He opened a bail-bond office, then reneged on some large bonds, and got into some other messes. He fled to Mexico, and that was the last heard of him. This was Vice Squad Lieutenant Max Berenzweig; one wonders if he was a 'friend’ of current Chief Davis...
Los Angeles can be very warm, climactically, almost any evening; as good a reason as any to take to the Parks. MacArthur Park (then Westlake, and without a street across the Lake) became very popular for a few years. Early movie companies made many pictures in this woodsy, hilly block, and perhaps that brought out many 'actresses'. Then began a series of muggings (not as common then as now..) and a much increased 'pick-up' service around many areas. This, with considerable activity around the T-rooms, brought the Park to the attention of Lily Law.
Some benighted souls still go there, and a sort of automation has set in: you can cruise and get cruised, propositioned, robbed, and arrested, all by the same juvenile-type police officer. Yes. dears, crime — of the more serious sort — runs rampant in the Los Angeles area, but L.A.’s finest steadily man the T-rooms, waving their all at visitors..
Mother learned early, and quite a few things. One is: NO ONE who could possibly be under 21. Two: ..no public performances, as in T-rooms, parks, beaches. etc. This certainly includes gay Griffith Park, and all the Beaches from Malibu to Seal Beach. Three: ..only operate behind a locked door; never on the ground floor; never in a room with easy window access, such as a fire-escape or a 'step-across'
But yes, Los Angeles in the late 20's and early 30's was FUN, if somewhat wild; it certainly wasn't deceitful and vicious as now. People were 'coming out' all over, almost everyone enjoyed themselves; there was very little commercial sex among the 'boys'. Then Lily got into the act; next came the hustlers from far and wide. Now, even the more permissive very young numbers will 'go' — but first, it's 'how much...?' And this is very discouraging to tired older (over 40) queens. More later, about THE GOLDEN AGE of QUEENS, particularly about the Baths... would you believe...?
Toto le Grand
The Golden Age of Queens (FIVE)
by Toto le Grand
San Francisco, in the late 20's and 30's, left many 'good' memories. For some reason, one recalls the many parades, often once a week, and some very impromptu. None were more jolly than during the time when 'Sunny Jim' Rolph was Mayor of the City. A short, tubby man in his late 50's, 'Jim' was constantly on the 'Street'; was often riding in a parade for someone or something. This was before they started tearing up Market St. every 3 mos. or so. That's where the action was, from somewhere below 3rd St. (near the Palace Hotel) to the City' Hall beyond Van Ness Ave.
Early on, lots of motorcycle cops would appear,... or, lemme see.... weren't those horse-patrolmen..? Yes, I think they were, at least in the late 20's. They would sort of line the wide street, and there was much happy, sometimes bawdy, give-and-take with the crowds. The people loved the cops (then) and everybody was happy. There was at least one common denominator; men of the force were good Irish Catholics, or good Italian Catholics, and this made for a jolly Parade Day feeling. Hell, the Archbishop might be in the next car... Then, there'd be the usual parade delay, but not for usual reason. Y'see, first they had to find His Honor. Often, early on such a day, the Mayor would quietly slide out of City Hall, to 'get a shoeshine'. He was very vain of his small feet, always wore Western boots, and had 'em shined several times daily. This re-furbishing was done in any of a dozen — or more —bars, restaurants, or hotels, all in the Kearny-Montgomery area, on either side of Market St. And, he would wander from one place to another, in each of which people would insist on buying 'Jim' a drink, or two. So, while the cars and other vehicles (there was always a Fire Company or two) of the Parade gathered around 2nd and Market, his staff scattered in all directions to find the Mayor. When located, it was sometimes necessary to 'walk him' a bit, or otherwise get him into a respectable condition. The people loved him dearly, as much drunk as sober; he served 10 terms as Mayor, went on to become Governor of the State.
The Parades finally got under way, and often riding in the Mayor's car (before 1930) was another San Francisco character, also much be-loved citizenry, 'Miss Tessie' Wall. In her later and frequently gayer years, Tessie was often called ‘The Queen of the Barbara Coast’. Actually, this was not true. It had been rumored, wrongly, that she once owned many of the 'cribs', 'cowyards', and 'parlor houses' (the three principle types of 'house' in the Barbary Coast, before it's definite closing in 1917).
Yes, before Sonny's time; as noted, the Golden Boy was swishing it up in Los Angeles, in that long distant year.
In any case, this was not true of Tessie Wall. Undoubtedly, she had worked in the Barbary Coast district (around Pacific and Montgomery Sts.) in earlier years, before the Fire (April — 1906); but it is not known that she either owned or 'managed' a place there. After the Fire, and with much of the old Barbard Coast destroyed, newer buildings, and houses, west of Kearny St and as far as Polk, became the new Uptown Tenderloin. These were almost all 'parlor houses', almost all had a Madame (a very few were operated by men..) and from 5 to 30 girls each. There was much pretension of elegance and refinement in many of these places, irrespective of the basic purpose of the establishment. Anyway, this is where Tessie gained her fame, and fortune. Not only was she exceptionally versatile (it was said) she had a fine 'respectable' clientele, and she was also known for a fantastic capacity for bottled wines. She could comfortably put away a dozen bottles or more, in an evening. Miss Wall was actually short, and inclined to plumpness, but this was a 'figure' greatly admired in her business, at that time.
The Uptown Tenderloin flourished 'til 1917, then was severely closed down, (well, not ALL the places...) by civic authorities goaded on by militant church groups. They weren't 'getting any', and obviously didn't want anyone else to be pleasured. Peculiarly, it was not the sins (?) committed in the houses that irked the do-gooders, but the fact that girls and young women were recruited from all over the country and brought to San Francisco. It was not what the girls did, or were to do, but the fact that they were 'enslaved' in the first place. Adultery (per se...) could be overlooked, but not those nasty 'white slavers'.
While many of the 'hotels' and apartment 'houses' of the Uptown Tenderloin did close in 1917, a select few did business for another 10 lavish years. A few operators became wealthy, particularly those who bought property. Among these was La Wall, who eventually retired to an elegant apartment house in the Western Addition. Married to a gambler at this time, Tessie was strenuously jealous of his 'extra-curricular' activities. Her husband bought her a lavish home in the country, but Tessie refused to move from the City; she is credited with the often-quoted remark, "..I'd rather be an electric light pole on Powell St., than own all the land in the sticks..” After a year or so, her husband got a divorce from Miss Tessie; our lady, an ardent Catholic, didn't believe in such things, and was heard to say, that, "..if she couldn't have him, she'd fix him so that no other woman would want him...” Meeting him on the street a few days later, the excited Madame fired three bullets into him, in ‘..vital, if not letha, parts..' She had done exactly as threatened. Exonerated almost at once by local courts she retired to her private home, taking with her much garish furnishings from her O'Farrell St. 'house'. She died in '32, aged 67.
Her household, in her last few years, consisted of a housekeeper and chauffeur (a colored man and wife) and a male nurse. There was a long series of these; many were interns from St. Mary's Hospital, and all were queens. Mi. Tessie was bedridden during much of her last year, but before this entertained (informally) quite frequently. She liked people to drop in for 'tea’, which was most often gin. Then she'd hold court! Present were often one or more of her 'old girls, (she was usually a good touch) and usually several gay numbers of varied sex. She loved showing her wigs, and she had these extravagant hair-pieces, she looked most like the popular conception of Queen Victoria; short, dumpy, and with a little bun of scant grey hair on the top of her head.
The several rooms of her 'flat' (the entire floor of a large apartment building) was like a mad antique shop; there was more 'damned junk’ (as she called it) than was believable. A 200 (or more) piece dinner set, in solid gold, with initials T.W. inset in chip diamonds; a table, more than 15 feet across, a foot thick slice of real mahogany, set on short legs and beautifully polished on top. There were several beds, all well-worn polished brass numbers; at least two dozen hand-carved Chinese chests, as large as coffins and filled with 'souvenirs'. There were a great many small boxes and an equal number of round tins, such as are used for fruit cakes; these held an incredible mass of 'costume jewelry', pieces of more or less value. One 'nurse' is said to have counted 86 ornate tortoise-shell combs. And so on; it is understood that much of this was sold at public auction, after her death; almost all of the estate went to the Church.
Somewhere, in '29 or '30. Sonny met a male nurse, who was then attending Miss Wall; our boy spent two mad afternoons in her fabulous place. The 'flat', and the Madame, were fantastic. One recalls that each year, at the time of the February linen sales, in the department stores, one paper or another would do a full page spread (with pictures) of Miss Tessie inspecting the 'linens'. She was very 'big' on towels. And so, to her death, she was a beloved San Francisco Character.
It may, somehow, give an idea of the City (in that Golden Age) when two of it's best loved citizens were the drunken Mayor, and an ex-Madame.
To go back a bit, Mayor Rolph's wife was in some sort of sanitarium, she never appeared publicly; but his raunchy public adored him when he was joined in a parade by Tessie Wall.
Yes, San Francisco was a 'peculiar' place, and was certainly ideal for queens. Everyone's policy seemed to be ‘..live and let live..’. During many years in and out of the City, Sonny met and knew many couples who lived exactly as if they were married, though both were men (or both were women...?) and these affairs were permanent.
Before passing on from our backward glance at 'houses', let Mother tell you about a different sort of house. Nowadays, there is a very elegant alley, running from Stockton to Kearney Sts., and between Geary and Post. Now known as Maiden Lane (sic!) this was once notorious Morton St. It now features exclusive and exotic boutiques and shops, some very fancy bars and restaurants, and the like. Before 1916 this was the location of some of the City’s wildest cribs and brothels. On the NE corner of Stockton and Geary, and across from the Ville de Paris (a department store), there was once a staid 3 story building, separated from the rest of the block by a narrow alley that ran along one side, from Geary to Morton (Maiden Lane). Thus, cabs, and other horse-drawn vehicles were able to drive right to a side door, on the alley, to discharge and pick up passengers. This was the notorious Spanish Woman's; clients were heavily veiled ladies, and inside were a variety of selected and horny studs, ready for action, at a price. Yes; things have not really changed so much.
In the late 20's and early 30's, there were many mad aspects of the Gay Life, in the City. 3rd and Market was a popular comer; a one-legged newsboy on one corner sold the very finest marijuana cigarettes (early 30's). The 'thing to do' where there were some deep doorways. One would blast away (the fragrance was not so readily recognizable then..), and then the group would move. Oh — so slowly, it seemed, up Market. In the next 4 or 5 blocks there were several chocolate shops (like Blums) and several small chili parlors. Each would be gigglingly visited, and much chili and French pastry consumed. It seemed to take many delightful hours to reach Leavenworth and Market. But, read mad fun! Incidentally, Sonny may have done this a dozen times, on year; has never 'smoked any' since, nor particularly wanted to. We know it's not 'habit forming'.
Also at 3rd and Market, were the streetcars that ran to and from the Navy Base at Hunter's Point. A hundred small hotels, within two blocks, happily rented rooms to 'gentlemen' for quickies. Then too, across the street,... well, nearer to Mission, were the ‘Baths.'. These were once known as 'Jack's Baths’; then when another entrepreneur named Jack opened a fabulous baths on Post St., near Polk, the '3rd. St. Baths' seemed to take that name.
One seems to recall that there were less than half-a-dozen public Baths in the late 20's, in the City. One, and a good Bath (Turkish style) was the Haman Baths on Ellis St. Not well known was the Columbus Baths in the Italian section; this was back of Frank Martinelli's Bal Tabarin (now Bimbo's). Rough, tough, Italian seamen, fishermen, truckdrivers, went here. Sonny found this place and not only went there, but kept it a secret. Mad! and of course, the paid...
Sonny was often taken to a private club (of wealthy retired gents. many ex-Service) on Post St. Here he’d gayly do a bathing routine, finally emerging from the steam, then the masseur, to dive into a small pool. Of course, our hero, at this point, was a slim blonde doll, but was always a little annoyed to see not only his 'patron', but many other old parties, sitting drooling about the pool. Very disconcerting.
Sometime in the mid-thirties, a Jack G...opened a Baths on Post St., between Polk and Van Ness. It had as many small cubicles (each with cot, chair, closet, a locking door..) as possible; a steam room, warm room, masseurs, showers, T-room, though no pool. The place may have been intended as a 'real' Turkish (style) Baths; it quickly developed into a mad, packed, male whore house. Any man who wanted to do practically anything 'sexual' with another man, could find it here. By midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, the Baths was filled to beyond capacity; people were doing 'their thing, or someones..’ in the hallways,.. all very impromptu. Someone spread the rumor that the U.C. football team came over from Berkeley every Monday evening; the place was mobbed, though it is doubtful if any of these athletes did appear. In those days, however, many 'men' (young, handsome, available, but still MEN) came for servicing. A rash of those people who like to make money from the vagaries of the Gay Ones, rushed into the baths business. At one time in the mid-50's there were, reportedly, 39 'baths’ in San Francisco. Many were simply places for sex —of any kind — between men; little likeness to a legitimate Turkish (style) Baths was even considered. A place to lock up your clothes, several 'cruising' areas; some with only a series of darkened rooms with mats on the floor, each room to accommodate as many as a dozen couples. Catch as catch can!
However, seldom — these days — is a really masculine man to be found in one of these places.
Guess we'll just have to look elsewhere, or, make do with a ‘sister’.
More about the Golden Age of Queens, in our next...
Toto le Grand
The Golden Age of Queens (SIX)
by Toto le Grand
In the mid 30’s, San Francisco, new 'gay-oriented’. bars opened daily; many closed just as frequently. (It's much the same still, in the 70's.) There were all the new 'baths’ too. Adventuresome queens found a wild place down the Coast (South of Fleischacker Zoo) where the beach was barren and deserted. Heavy weeds grew to some height, and 'nests' could be made in these for sun-bathing. It always starts with 'sun-bathing’; you may guess how long this was the principle sporting activity, though considerable browning was achieved. These places were (always) known as 'Bare Ass Beach;' of course no one wore clothes. (Ya got it - show it!) But, you had to walk a mile or so down the beach to find a suitable, or unoccupied, spot. ‘Lily’ soon became aware of all this; cops from Santa Clara County began patrolling the area on horseback. There were arrests. Then, parts of the Pacific shore in Marin County (across the Golden Gate Bridge) were similarly popular for a while; they became too popular, and again the Law spoiled the fun. (...the Nasties!)
Market Street was still the center of much cruising and of most gay activity; there were a few 'hustlers,' but there were also lots of sailors-and other servicemen - 'to be accommodated.' With a handy room and a bottle, a 'girl' could make out most satisfactorily.
During the last few years of the 30's, Sonny went to sea fairly steadily; 'she' was growing older,-- and wiser. Perhaps the mad, carefree hustling life was not all it had been ten years previously. In time, Honolulu became his home, and it was good! In time, he had soldiers, sailors, Marines! Local laws forbid (and were enforced) women to hustle bars or streets. The government ran a syndicate which operated well supervised - and clean - whorehouses; but this was always assembly-line sex; we had it all our way. There were lots of agreeable small hotels, lots of servicemen; Sake (locally made) sold for $1.50 a gallon. Those sexy-looking Hawaiian boys...? Nope! Not good parties; they really don't go for the 'uni-sex' bit, except at an exorbitant price. They really don't like the mahu (Hawaiian for faggot). An early self-styled Poet Laureate of the Islands, Don Blandings, was laughingly called Princess Kapu (‘private' or `keep out’) the Royal Mahu, sorta gay! Mother might add here, from her vast experience, Aleuts, true Hawaiians, Fijians, Samoans. Tahitians, do not often go for the gay bit. In Honolulu and Papeete (Tahiti), some will perform for a price, but are not happy with the idea; can be unpleasant. Samoans. Fijians and other mid-Pacific Islanders can be very hostile at the mere suggestion of such hanky-panky, no matter how virile and butch they may look. White New Zealanders and Australians, however, incline to an enthusiastic cooperation. There are many new 'Baths' and 'Health Clubs' in all large Australian cities… have had no reports of the Abos or Moaris down under; those seem very unattractive. One does recall that young Aussie Navy sailors (12 yrs. old and up..) always seemed available. One often heard the story (from the sailors)) that ALL (repeat - ALL) Aussie Navy sailors were forced to submit, in several ways, during their first week of training. This exercise as a 'leveler.' etc. Now, if we had a more judicious use of K.Y. - and other lubricants, in OUR Naval 'boot camps', wouldn't it be lovely. The Aussie Navy kids, however, could drink any American under the table with beer and stout; but, get a couple of small shots of spirit (whiskey, etc.) in 'em, and they were pliable; this does not necessarily mean 'limp.'
Back to pre-war Honolulu... Thursday and Friday nights, every other week in Honolulu, were particularly hectic. The Lurline was in, and spewed out it's 500 gay ones (waiters, stewards, some cooks, etc.) onto the beach. Honolulu and Waikiki were wild, and so were hundreds of lusty servicemen. Sonny was over 4 years on the Lurline. Things will never be as good again! Of course, that was 35 years ago. Where does the time go..?
In the later 30's, our Boy visited other parts of the world, and had much 'fun' on the way. Sonny stayed in Japan several weeks in the summer of '41, having missed his ship. Public opinion there, whipped up by militant newspapers, said all Yanks were bastards, and had much of the people believing this. There was, however, a growing awareness of all modern American ideas, including the Gay Life. (Yes, my dears, it can be really fun in a kimono...) In time, and even more so after the War, gay bars began to appear, and young Japanese took to the idea madly. They still do, and young Japanese are truly beautiful! Mother came home to Honolulu in Aug. '41, and being in the Reserve, put in for active duty.. was refused, possibly because of age...even then!.. went to Canada and joined the Air Force (just before Pearl Harbor), and spent a miserable 2 ½ years. Canadians (then, at least) were NOT with it. Back to the U.S. and quickly into Maritime Service, and out to sea again with Navy-leased cargo vessels, each with a Navy gun-crew on board, very handy!
Service included several trips around the world (making 11 in all). Sonny carried on til early in '46, when he took a final discharge on the West Coast.(..a lovely line, no..?) Almost at once it was back to San Francisco, where things were still tres gay, but sorta sad.
It had all changed. The cruising on Market St. was still there, but the people involved seemed shabby a. somewhat desperate. Trade was grim and shopworn, often feral. Queens were less than light-hearted. Somehow, the brilliance and gayety were gone. It was all mechanical, desperate, commercial. In fact, one is convinced, the post-war atmosphere turned a lot of discerning homos into heteros. In fairness, it must be added, that with a more general acceptance, more and more homos were in evidence, a situation which has grown steadily into the 70's.
However, as has become very evident in the 20 years following the War, there has developed an all-encompassing hetero-homo who is 'a little of this - a little of that.' He’ll go with almost anyone presentable, but has no great drive to go at all. At over age 15,-it's none of it 'new,' or a 'surprise.' He's done it all! He may or may not have liked it, but it’s sure no novelty you're offering, and, if the price is right...' A notable example of what we've bred, is the cycle clubs. With all that rugged leather,--brass, dirt, etc., it has become noticed that there are many homos, and here creep in the odd bits of sado/masochism, etc. This is certainly a far cry from the dainty, gay fellow who simply like to lick dicks or get screwed in the ass, there were practices as old as Time, and just as normal. Yes, there were a few fetichists pre-War, a few who liked the Golden Shower, the Daisy Chain, some rimming queens (Ugh!) and the like; but nothing like the mad and sad characters that have lately developed, such as those psychopathic messes who advertise in underground newspapers ..'slave seeks Master, w/Fr., Gr. overtones..’!
And, actually, my dears, back in that gentile age, it was not always the act itself - there are only so many sizes and shapes, and not all of these are interesting - but rather it was the ‘chase’, the cruising and seducing the trick, that was often the best part of the whole incident. One recalls several, over the years, who went all out to make interesting, but seemingly impossible, guys. When fully believing (in the mind) that ‘she’ (or he) could have it, these gay ones gracefully bowed out. After, however, often paying a premium fee. One such, a 'Miss Ferguson’ - as she was known, but not his real name - was particularly bold. He fancied truckdrivers, college athletes and - some uniformed policemen. He'd promise almost any-thing to get his target on the bed, fly unzippered, point of acquiescence. Then he'd suddenly remember an urgent appointment and, after paying off, would fly! Mother knew him for over 25 years, since the late 20's, and he really never did a number. Fortunately he was very wealthy – he bought many, many suits of clothes for guys; he used to cruise in front of large men's clothing stores, would boldly approach a prospect... ”hey, ya like that suit..?", and continue as openly with his proposition. Don bought several cars for handsome fellows, to my knowledge, innumerable motor-cycles. Even through a time in the Army, he never went 'all the way.' As he explained, it was the self-satisfaction of being able 'to do the thing,' that mattered, even if he never did it. It takes all kinds.
To go back... Sonny returned to the Coast in '46. He found that the old, gay camaraderie was fast slipping away - everything gay was becoming commercial. This in two senses: (1) Basically, sexual opportunity was much increased; almost anyone would go, but, was price, not principle..' Of course, there were all the thousands of young men and women, who ended their War in San. Francisco. Moral viewpoints had broadened. Who wanted to go back to Mole Hole, Idaho, or West Hernia, Illinois, where sex was still tied down with old taboos. The kinds of action he'd become interested in weren't even heard of back home. (Though an old philosopher once said: ..no village, town, or wide-place-in-the-road is so small that it doesn't have its gay element…)
In pre-War days, however, there was always a sort of theatrical connotation to off-beat sex; the boys often referred to themselves as Mattress-actresses. More seriously, there was an illusive mystique about practiced homosexuality, which always includes the rites of initiation of the 'new one', to the delights therein. This was gone after the War, most guys of 19 or 20 had 'been had' at least once, some often enough to join in the fun.
This general acknowledgement - of things homosexual - filled Coast cities with men and women who were usually available. As a long-known gay community San Francisco probably got more than her share. Many 'found a friend' and settled down to a happy, peaceful co-existence. These quiet ones - and there were, and are, many -one seldom hears of. Less stable types became blatantly commercial (many as male prostitutes) or in some manner, lived off of those who felt and lived homosexually.
And this brings us to the second major development. As the war ended (and of course, Mother speaks of WW2..) it became apparent that hotels, restaurants, publishers, theaters, bars (particularly bars), baths. and other such places that catered to homos, could be a profitable thing. Over 20 or more years. and with no sense of shame, a large crowd of purveyors have lived off the fact that there ARE homosexuals, and that many of the things these people want to do are illegal or semi-illegal. Particularly Gay business is now big business, though very, very seldom are the owner-operators of these services gay themselves. These are simply the people who live off the queers, and obviously with a complete lack of moral or principle.
One could go on along these lines, as some have, at great length, but our point here is that Queens did have a Golden Age, almost finished by the 50's, almost completely disappeared now in the 70's.
For one thing, a new drug culture slid into place; this is not a homo's thing. As every girl knows, sex of any kind is unsatisfactory with any drug involvement. Or. 'ya can't party with a pill-head..' and so on.
Also, just after the War, many were left in San Francisco, and other Coastal cities, who were criminal as well as immoral. Many were (and are). actual psychopaths. Crimes of violence, even murder, increased many fold, aimed at the homosexual. Many communities, such a Long Beach, hardly ever allow a newspaper reference when a crime victim is a queen, even if he's brutally murdered. However, if she is female and can be branded a 'SEX QUEEN' or an ex-Madame, and she gets robbed or beaten, it's all in the local headlines. San Francisco and Los Angeles both minimize crimes against gay ones, but they do take place, even to frequent murders. Some California police are said to 'protect' the homosexual, this is arrant nonsense, they persecute them in every legal and illegal way possible.
Yes, dears, the old mystique is no more: you can rent a trick on almost any corner (if you offer enough..!) but almost no one will.. 'come up to see my flower arrangements...' It's all no longer genteel. Alas, the Golden Age of Queens is no more. Pity!
Toto le Grand
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Thursday, November 15, 2018
A Sliver of Flesh: Four New Short Stories of the Homosexual Life by Alexander Goodman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I haven't read one of these for a while. I was digitizing all the author's works for posterity and have done this one too. You can download it here.
View all my reviews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I haven't read one of these for a while. I was digitizing all the author's works for posterity and have done this one too. You can download it here.
View all my reviews