Monday, 27 February 2012

The Fastest Woman on Water

Marion Barbara Carstairs, known as Betty or Joe, (1900–1993) was a wealthy British power boat racer famous for her speed and her eccentric lifestyle.

Her parents were a troubled couple who separated soon after her birth. Her mother, an alcoholic American heiress, married three more times.

During World War I, Carstairs served in France with the Red Cross, driving ambulances, before going to Dublin with the Women's Legion Mechanical Transport Section. After the war, she served with the Royal Army Service Corps in France, re-burying the war-dead. Later, in 1920, she and a group of friends started the 'X Garage', a chauffeuring service that featured a women-only staff of drivers.

Carstairs lived a colourful life. She usually dressed as a man, had tattooed arms and loved machines, adventure and speed. Openly lesbian, she had numerous affairs with women, including Dolly Wilde (Oscar Wilde's niece and a fellow ambulance driver from Dublin with whom she had lived in Paris) and a string of actresses, most notably Tallulah Bankhead. Carstairs married once, to a French Count in 1918 so as to gain access to her trust fund, independent of her mother. After her mother's death the marriage was immediately annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.

In 1925, she purchased a motorboat after inheriting a fortune through her mother and grandmother from Standard Oil. She was also given a Steiff doll by a girlfriend, Ruth Baldwin, and christened him Lord Tod Wadley. She was extremely attached to this, keeping it with her until her death although, unlike Campbell's mascot 'Mr Whoppit', she didn't take it into her speedboats for fear of losing it. Between 1925 and 1930, Carstairs spent considerable time in powerboats, becoming a very successful racer, although the Harmsworth Trophy she longed for always eluded her. She did take the Duke of York's trophy and established herself as the 'fastest woman on water'.

Carstairs was known for her generosity to her friends. She was close to several male racing drivers and land speed record competitors, using her considerable wealth to assist them. She paid $10,000 of her money to fund the building of a Bluebird for Sir Malcolm Campbell, who once described her as "the greatest sportsman I know". She was equally generous to John Cobb, whose Railton Special was powered by the pair of engines from her powerboat Estelle V. And after she invested $40,000 purchasing the island of Whale Cay in the Bahamas, she lavishly hosted such guests as Marlene Dietrich and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She not only constructed a Great House for herself and her guests, but also a lighthouse, school, church, and cannery. She later expanded these properties by also buying the additional islands of Bird Cay, Cat Cay, Devil's Cay, half of Hoffman's Cay, and a tract of land on Andros.

After selling the island in 1975, Carstairs relocated to Miami, Florida where she lived until her death in 1993.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Burke Proposes Abolition of the Pillory, 1780

On Monday 10th April 1780, two men were convicted of sodomy and sentenced to stand for an hour in a pillory ‘near the obelisk’ in London. Theodosius Reade was a plasterer and William Smith a Hackney coachman. After about half an hour of appalling treatment by the mob, according to one account Smith was hit on the head by his ear by a stone and fell over dead. Another account suggests that he sank down and tried to strangle himself ‘till he appeared black in the Face, the Blood gushing from his Ears’.

Reade managed to get through the hour, but ‘was so severely treated, that it is doubtful whether he will recover’. It is not entirely clear whether Reade eventually died or not of his injuries.

For conservative statesman, Edmund Burke this seems to have been the final straw. He gave a speech in Parliament the next day proposing the abolition of the pillory. He argued that the ‘wanton cruelty of the mob’ and the negligence of those in charge of the pillory meant that the lawful sentence had been exceeded. On that basis, he felt that use of the pillory ought to be abandoned. He was supported by Sir Charles Bunbury who cited the case of a man in Bury St Edmunds, also sentenced to be pilloried for sodomy, who so feared the mob’s reaction that he took poison the night before. However, he was still pilloried and ‘whether he died from the poison, or in consequence of his ill treatment from the mob, had never been ascertained’.

Over the next few days, editorials in the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser were aimed against Burke, referring to him as ‘the advocate of the guilty’ and ‘displaying his talents to obtain mercy for sodomites!’ they also claimed that ‘every man applauds the spirit of the spectators, and every woman thinks their conduct right.’

A few days after the incident, a Coroner’s Inquest into Smith’s death brought in a verdict of Wilful Murder by a person or persons unknown. Also, interestingly, at least one newspaper reported that Reade’s maidservant was imprisoned for accusing him [presumably falsely] of ‘the Practice of which he was convicted and sentenced’. The maid was also pilloried.

The Attorney General ordered an inquiry into the deaths and, as a result, the Under-Sheriff of Surrey was tried, but acquitted. Burke was able to secure a pension of £36 a year on the Civil List for the widow of William Smith. The pillory was not abolished until 1816 (except as punishment for subornation and perjury) and not totally abolished until 1837.

NOTE: Edmund Burke (1729-97) was a hugely influential Anglo-Irish politician, orator and political thinker, notable for his strong support for the American Revolution and his fierce opposition to the French Revolution.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The BBC...

... has a page for LGBT History Month on its website (thanks to Beth Brook for bringing this to my attention).

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Remember Anita Bryant?

Anita Bryant was responsbile for possibly one of the most unpleasant anti-gay campaigns in the US in the late 1970s. In 1977, she led a, sadly, successful vote to repeal Miami-Dade's gay-rights ordinance. At the time she was a popular singer with appearances on TV. She appears to have been making very good money, and was at one point worth several million dollars.

On 26 January this year, her husband of the time, Bob Green, was found dead at his home in Miami Beach, aged 80. This gives us an opportunity to reflect on the impact on them of Bryant's campaign.

As you may imagine, their activities attracted the attentions of gay rights campaigners, so that Bryant found herself frequently on the receiving end of a 'zap'(1) and even on one occasion got a pie in the face on TV. The regular zapping led to them losing work and lost Bryant a TV series, which was to have been sponsored by Singer Sewing Machines. That didn't deter them - they set up Anita Bryant Ministries to counsel gay people ['ex-gay', rather than supportive, would be my guess] and built a radio studio for a planned Anita Bryant Christian show

In 1980, Green came home one day to find Bryant was gone. The breakup caused many of her religious conservative folowers to abandon her, accusing her of not being a good role model. The ministry failed and the radio show never happened.

Bryant divorced and later married Charlie Dry, a former astronaut test pilot, moving to Oklahoma. They have apparently had a series of bankruptcies and tax troubles. Bryant still performs occasional gospel concerts.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Green became a recluse and lived, resentful, in Florida. "Blame gay people? I do. Their stated goal was to put [Bryant] out of business and destroy her career. And that's what they did. It's unfair.''

Read more here:

(1) - zap (fr hip sl // onomatopoeic comic bookese) to embarrass publicly; defeat; cause a disturbance, such as by boycotting [from The Queen's Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon by Bruce Rogers]

Read more here:

Monday, 20 February 2012

How Bona To Vada Your Dolly Old Eek!


In the 1950s and 60s, gay men spoke a slang, Polari, to avoid detection and prosecution.

How did Polari come about?
Polari has its origins in a variety of slangs from theatre speech to thieves’ cant to back slang. It arose as a way for homosexual men to gossip and talk about their sex lives (and other people’s!) without revealing dangerous information to outsiders.

During the post war period and into the 1960s, gay men could be (and often were) arrested for any indication of male-male sex. Their diaries and address books were confiscated and combed for evidence of ‘homosexual rings’ so that more ‘perverts’ and ‘queers’ could be arrested.

Perhaps worse, if an unscrupulous person found evidence that a man was homosexual, they might blackmail him, squeezing money from someone too scared to go to the police. (The 1961 film, Victim starring Dirk Bogarde, shows how easy it was to extort money this way.)

‘Why did Polari fall out of use?’ you ask
  • In 1967, ten years after the Wolfenden Report made its recommendations, Parliament finally made sexual acts between two consenting males in private provided they were over 21. Suddenly, the need for caution was not quite so great. Although the change in law didn’t stop blackmail and violence at once.
  • Round the Horne crackled out of the nation's wirelesses on Sunday afternoons from 1965, becoming one of the most popular comedies of the era until it finished in 1969. With its ground breaking mixture of innuendo, camp comedy and word play, it netted a regular audience of more than 15million listeners and was one of the best loved programmes in radio history. Two of its characters were Julian and Sandy, two ‘resting’ thespians who had a regular spot show casing their adventures. Kenneth Williams camped his way through the script as limp-wristed Sandy, normally introduced by Hugh Paddick's character saying "Hello, I'm Julian and this is my friend, Sandy", making homosexual double entendres that allowed British suburbia to laugh openly about what had been strictly taboo. They sprinkled their conversation with lashings of Polari, introducing it to a wider audience.
  • As the gay rights movement gained confidence, many activists saw Polari as a reminder of the oppression of previous years and rejected it.

  • In the early 21 century, there was a revival of interest. Staff in Madame Jojo’s, a cabaret bar, were taught Polari. As many of them were not native speakers of English, it helped them communicate with the bar’s patrons.
  • Dr Paul Baker, senior lecturer in linguistics at Lancaster University, has made a study of Polari and its use and origins.

A bit of Polari for the Novice…
Body..................................bod, leucoddy
Bulge of male genitals.....basket
Clothes..............................clobber, drag
Drink..................................bevvy, buvare, schumph (vb)
Dull, boring........................naff
Good looking
(Talking) rubbish...............(cackling) balonie
Young boy..........................chicken

BEVVY: Possibly short for ‘beverage’, maybe related to the Italian: bevo - I drink.
CAMP: Allegedly short for Known As Male Prostitue
DRAG: Particularly referred to women’s clothes; believed to have come from Shakespearean stage directions: “So-and-so enters, DRessed As a Girl”.
DISH: In one episode of Round The Horne, a character complained that "All the dishes are dirty!" "Ooh speak for yourself, ducky!" said his chum, quick as a flash. The audience probably got the use of the word ‘dish’ as an attractive young man, as in "Isn't he dishy?", but only fluent Polari speakers would also know that it refers to a person’s backside, which would afford them an extra special laugh.
NAFF: Originally used to denote sexual non-availability of a heterosexual man, it allegedly is an abbreviation of ‘Not Available For Fucking’. Its meaning evolved later to ‘dull', 'boring', 'drab', etc. The opposite in meaning was ‘TBH’ (or ‘to be had’).

Counting to ten in Polari:
1    una
2    dewey
3    trey
4    quarter
5    chinker   
6    sey
7    setter
8    say dooe
9    sey trey
10    dacha   

Some of my sources:

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Billy Lee Tipton (1914-89) - Jazz Musician

Jazz musician Billy Tipton was born Dorothy Lucile Tipton in Oklahoma City. Billy’s father was an aviator and car racer, his mother a housewife. They divorced when he was only 4 years old and Billy was sent to live with his aunt in Kansas City.

The move was vital in developing Billy’s future. His aunt taught him piano and a love for music. In the 1920s, Kansas City had a big jazz scene that, by the age of 16, was already influencing Billy. He began attending jazz clubs and knew playing piano and saxophone would be in her future.

At 18, Billy (still ‘Dorothy’ at that time) auditioned in several local jazz clubs. The club owners all said the same thing: Billy was very talented, but they simply would not hire a female. It was at this point in 1933 that Dorothy, with the help of her cousins, became Billy Tipton. (‘Billy’ had been her father’s nickname.)

Billy finished high school, but failed to ask for the graduation documents, as if already planning to leave his female birth identity behind. Early in his career, even when most of his friends still knew that he was female bodied, he obtained legal documents listing him as male, again suggesting he planned to live his life as a man.

Billy bound his chest, cut his hair, and wore a suit to the next audition. As Billy, he not only got the job but quickly became a success. Early on, Tipton cross-dressed only professionally, still living as a woman in private.

However, to keep playing jazz without discrimination or judgment, Billy continued to dress, and eventually lived the rest of her life, as a man.

During the 1950s, after playing saxophone for several bands, he began his own group, the Billy Tipton Trio with childhood friend Lou Raines and musician Bill Pierson. They became a quartet in 1954 by adding bass player Ron Kilde.

In 1956, a record agent heard the band in Santa Barbara and decided to sponsor their first album. Sweet Georgia Brown was quickly followed by a second album Billy Tipton plays HiFi on the Piano. In 1958, the band was offered a chance at national fame. They were given the position as house band in Reno, backing famous artists such as Liberace. Billy, against the wishes of the other members, turned the job down to work at a booking agency and to play at night. It is believed Billy feared the fame would reveal his "cross-dressing, lesbian lifestyle".

He did not seek fame, Billy Tipton simply desired to be free from scrutiny and free to play jazz. Residing in Spokane Washington with his family for many years, Billy played only occasionally in local night clubs.

There is some debate whether the many romances in Billy's life began as a cover, or whether Billy was ‘truly’ a lesbian. Billy was said to have had 5 "Mrs. Tiptons", women who though records have not been found, lived with Billy as man and wife. Even these woman, along with his 3 adopted sons remained unaware of Billy's ‘alternative’ identity as a ‘woman’.

Amazingly, Billy was able to keep his secret until his death. He kept his breasts bound by elastic bandages, explaining that his ribs had been broken in a car accident and the bandages helped prevent pain. He made love only in the dark, often half-clothed and ‘was deft at the use of a prosthetic device’.

Tipton died in 1989 and was "outed" by the coroner. Soon after, people speculated as to why a "woman" would live fifty-six years as a man, not telling even his wife and kids! The possibility that he may be transgendered did not enter their thoughts

All of Billy's wives stressed the fact that Billy was not fond of physical affection, and they simply accepted that as part of the relationship. After the discovery, friends and family members, though obviously shocked, only had kind words to say about Billy. One of the sons responded, that he will only think of his father "simply as Dad."

His biographer, Diane Middlebrook, in Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton says: “For the rest of her life, Tipton bound her large breasts, dressed like a man and made love to women. But when she visited her family, Billy always became Dorothy again. Was Tipton a lesbian? Was she truly female? Would it be accurate to call her a transsexual?

“I think the Tipton story is about the indeterminacy of gender identity. It’s not that Tipton was born into the wrong body. Rather, her sexual identity became an exquisite act, a delightful invention that merged with her life on the stage. You can understand her as someone who chooses her self-presentation in the face of options. You can’t draw a bottom line with her about identity, because she’s so adaptable. She could enjoy the fact that here, she’s this, and here, she’s that.”

Billy Tipton’s body was cremated, and so many questions about Billy’s identity will never be answered. Middlebrook is certain Tipton wasn’t an hermaphrodite nor was she a transsexual. Rather, she was an actor, Middlebrook says. “I believe Billy’s relationship to herself was female. She was the actor; he was the role. Billy clearly was a sexy man. There’s no question he was a heterosexual guy.”

Allusions to Billy
  • The 1991 song "Tipton" by folksinger Phranc is a tribute to Billy.
  • "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" is a 1995 short (8 minute) film based on the life and career of Billy Tipton.
  • "Stevie Wants to Play the Blues" was a play based on Tipton's life by Eduardo Machado and performed in Los Angeles.
  • "The Slow Drag" was a play based on Tipton's life by Carson Kreitzer performed in New York City and London.
  • “Trumpet” is a novel based on Tipton's life by Jackie Kay.
  • "The Legend of Billy Tipton" by the punk band The Video Dead is about the story of Billy Tipton.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were founded in 1979. Also called the Order of Perpetual Indulgence, they are "radical genderfuck" artists, activists and self-described 21st century nuns for the queer (that is, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, etc.) communities. Highly visible gay icons and social activists, they use their visibility to advance a host of human rights and liberal issues within the LGBT communities and in society generally.

The Sisters are a global network of autonomous Orders or Houses, with the San Francisco Motherhouse being the largest biggest and most active fundraiser. They have members in at least 13 US states and 8 countries on 5 continents; they use the Internet to communicate. Most Orders are based in cities with large gay communities and so they are highly responsive to issues in the LGBT communities they serve.

The organisation now has more than 800 members worldwide. Originally, the organisation included only gay male nuns, but now accepts all genders and orientations including intersex, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual and transgender people.

The Order is mostly set up as non-profit charity organisations within their countries, raising money for AIDS, other LGBT-related charities and mainstream community service organisations, helping lead the campaign for safer sex and harm reduction, performing modern ritual and educating on various issues and against hate crimes.

The Sisters have been considered controversial by various members both within and outside the LGBT and queer communities but have received the harshest criticism for obvious parodies of Catholic icons and policies.

However, the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence alone have raised well over $1,000,000, distributing it to non-profit organisations that serve not only the ‘queer and sex positive communities’ but also mainstream organisations that don't discriminate in their charity work, such as the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Their mission statement says:
The Sisters devote ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. The Sisters believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.

The Sisters take vows to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt, while serving their respective communities.

In 1982, Sister Florence Nightmare and Sister Roz Erection (both registered nurses), joined with a team of Sisters and medical professionals to create Play Fair, the first safer sex pamphlet to use plain language, practical advice and humour. The pamphlet preceded the AIDS pandemic and coined the phrase "safe sex". They revised it for their 20th Anniversary and it is still one of the few sex-positive, harm-reduction pamphlets available in the US. The Sisters worldwide continue to raise awareness of sexual health, healthy sexuality and many Orders regularly pass out condoms and participate in events to educate on sexual health issues.

Sister Florence Nightmare (aka Bobbi Campbell) became the first "face of AIDS", appearing on the cover of Newsweek (8th August 1983) with his lover. It was believed that humanising the people behind the disease would lead to more compassion, not only from religious and homophobic people who were then demonising gay people but also from the gay community that was at ground-zero of the impending global AIDS pandemic. Bobbi wrote of his experiences living with AIDS in a weekly column that touched people personally and in 1983, together with Dan Turner founded the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement or PWA Movement.

The Sisters in the US have held fundraisers for the Cuban boat refugees (Mariel boatlift), the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the Gay Games; for Project Open Hand, which provides meals to homebound people with HIV and AIDS; and for conferences, events and alternative proms for queer youth as well as dozens of other organisations every year.

Sister Chanel 2001 (aka Gilbert Baker) created and made public domain the Rainbow Flag. Now an international symbol for LGBT human rights, it is recognised by the International Congress of Flag Makers, and is flown in lesbian and gay pride marches and events worldwide.

Exorcism of Pope John Paul II
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence believe that many institutions and social constructs are a source of dogma, hypocrisy, guilt and shame. This has led to clashes with the Catholic Church, for example when the Sisters staged an exorcism of Pope John Paul II because of his harsh condemnations of homosexuality.

Sister Boom Boom runs for office
In 1982, Sister Boom-Boom, now retired, ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and got over 23,000 votes with her occupation listed as "Nun of the Above". San Francisco passed a law soon after, commonly called the "Sister Boom Boom law", requiring candidates to use their legal name. She was immortalised in Emily Mann's play Execution of Justice about the trial of Dan White for the assassinations of the city’s first gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, and Mayor George Moscone in 1978. Wesley Snipes played her on Broadway.

Nuns of The Above
Nuns of the Above is the comic-tragic name given by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to those in their ranks who have died, mainly from AIDS, and are immortalised in their folk art section of the Names Project Quilt commemorating people who have died from AIDS. It is also a reference to Sister Boom Boom's run for San Francisco supervisor - see above. Created in the early 1990s the quilt has made history several times.

The Sisters' AIDS Names Project quilt for the "Nuns of the Above" was featured at the 1996 NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display in Washington DC in front of the US House of Representatives and was amongst the first quilts viewed by then Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper. It later featured in the Names Projects' calendar worldwide. The Nuns of The Above quilt itself has been flown around the US and is in high demand for local displays.

Over the years the Sisters have named as saints hundreds of people who have helped on various projects behind the scenes, organising, coordinating actions or projects, performing at events as an artist or MC or even serving the greater LGBQ&T community. Some of the more notable saints include:
•    assassinated San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk
•    author Armistead Maupin
•    actresses Ethel Merman and Rosie O'Donnell
•    Professor of Christian Theology at King Alfred’s College, Winchester, Dr Elizabeth Stuar
•    artist Derek Jarman
•    Jackie Forster (1926-1998), actress, TV personality, feminist and lesbian campaigner.
•    Peter Tatchell, gay and human rights campaigner
•    Tony Whitehead, first Chair of the Terrance Higgins Trust
•    Ian Campbell Dunn (1943-1998), gay rights campaigner in Scotland
From Wikipedia and other sources

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Passion of the Cut Sleeve

The "passion of the cut sleeve" is a traditional Chinese euphemism for male same-sex desire.

The story goes that one day Emperor Aidi was resting in the company with his favourite (read: 'lover') Dong Xian. The Emperor awoke first to find his robe's long sleeve trapped under his sleeping lover. Rather than disturb Dong Xian, he cut the sleeve off his robe.

For more on Speaking LGBT Chinese, see page 24 of the 2012 edition of Past2Present.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Cleveland Street Scandal

The Cleveland Street scandal occurred in 1889, when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, London, was uncovered by police. At the time, sexual acts between men were illegal in Britain, and the brothel's clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that one of the brothel's clients was Prince Albert Victor, who was the son of the Prince of Wales and second-in-line to the British throne. Officials were involved in a cover up to keep the prince's name and others' out of the scandal.
HRH Prince Albert Victor
One of the clients, Lord Arthur Somerset, was an equerry to the Prince of Wales but he, as well as the brothel keeper, Charles Hammond, managed to flee abroad before a prosecution could be brought. The rent boys, who also worked as messenger boys for the Post Office, were given light sentences and none of the clients were prosecuted. After the Earl of Euston was named in the press as a client, he successfully sued for libel. The British press never named Prince Albert Victor, and there is no evidence he ever visited the brothel, but his inclusion in the rumours has coloured biographers' perceptions of him since.
Public interest in the scandal eventually faded. Nevertheless, newspaper coverage reinforced negative attitudes about male homosexuality as an aristocratic vice, presenting the telegraph boys as corrupted
and exploited by members of the upper class.
This attitude reached its climax a few years later when the Marquess of Queensberry accused Oscar Wilde of being an active homosexual. Wilde sued Queensberry for libel but his case collapsed. He was arrested, found guilty of indecency, and condemned to two years' hard labour as the result of his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas.


Sunday, 12 February 2012

Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen, Poet - 1903-1946
A major figure of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. His birthplace is assumed to be Louisville, Kentucky. He was brought up by his grandmother, who took him to New York when he was nine. He used the name Countee Leroy Porter until 1920, though by 1918 the orphaned Cullen had been adopted by the pastor Frederick A. Cullen of the Salem Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem.

He was educated at New York University and Harvard. While still in his twenties, his poetry won prizes in journals and was collected in Color (1925), Copper Sun (1927), The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927), and The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929).

A later collection, The Medea and Some Poems (1935), opens with a translation of Euripides' tragedy. His other works include Caroling Dusk (1927), an anthology of verse by African American writers, One Way to Heaven (1932), a novel about Harlem life, and two books for children.

Cullen married WEB DuBois' daughter but two months later sailed off to Europe with his lover Harold Jackman, who was his best man at the wedding and with whom he maintained a long-term relationship and to whom he dedicated a number of his works.

He is known for the verse questioning the pain of his existence. "I doubt not God is good, well meaning, kind, ...Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing!"


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star

Charles William Haines was born to a wealthy Virginia family in January 1900. He left home at 14 and moved to New York City. After winning a talent contest he moved to Hollywood where he played bit parts for several years until MGM Studios began casting him in more prominent roles.
By 1925 he was MGM's biggest male star; his films were very profitable for the studio. Cultivated as a romantic leading man, his good looks and flair for comedy won him many fans. He made a career out of playing wise-cracking young athletic types whose large egos held them back until an attitude adjustment brought success.
Haines was openly homosexual. From 1926, Haines lived with Jimmy Shields, whom he had met when Shields was his stand-in for a film. Studio publicists were able to keep Haines' sexual orientation from the press. However, in 1933, Haines was arrested in a YMCA with a sailor.
Louis B Mayer, head of MGM, gave him an ultimatum: choose between a sham marriage or his relationship with Shields. To his credit, Haines chose Shields and they were ultimately together for 50 years. Mayer fired him and terminated his contract.
Haines did make a few minor films at Poverty Row studios, then retired from film. His final films were made with Mascot Pictures, Young and Beautiful and The Marines Are Coming in 1934.
Haines and Shields began a successful career as interior designers and antique dealers. Some of their early clients were friends like Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Carole Lombard and George Cukor.
Their lives were disrupted in 1936 when members of the Ku Klux Klan dragged them from their home and beat them, because a neighbour accused them of propositioning his son. Crawford, and other stars, urged the men to report this to the police. Marion Davies asked her lover William Randolph Hearst to use his influence to ensure the neighbours were prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but ultimately Haines and Shields chose not to report the incident.
The couple finally settled into the Hollywood community in Malibu, and their business prospered until their retirement in the early 1970s, except for a brief interruption when Haines served in World War II. Their long list of clients included Ronald and Nancy Reagan when Reagan was governor of California.
Haines never returned to films. Gloria Swanson (a lifelong friend) personally invited him a to appear with her in Sunset Boulevard (1950) but he declined.
Haines and Shields remained together for the rest of their lives. Joan Crawford described them as "the happiest married couple in Hollywood". Haines died from lung cancer at the age of 73. Soon afterward, Shields, who suffered from what many believe to be Alzheimer's Disease, put on Haines' pyjamas, took an overdose of pills, and crawled into their bed to die. They were interred side by side in the Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery.
William Haines has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7012 Hollywood Boulevard. His life was detailed in William J Mann's 1998 biography, Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The first out gay football referee?

By Chris Park
If ever you were looking for a man who liked to be a little controversial, Norman Redman would fit the bill. He lived in Littlehampton and ran an ice cream stall on the local seafront (1) and was a part time gym instructor (2). He also was a Sussex and London Football Association referee, officiating for the local boy’s football league and at some adult matches (3).
In 1973 Redman wrote to Gay News explaining how his role as a professional referee was in no way affected by his homosexuality (4). He said he neither “hid” nor “advertised” his gayness: “It seems that the gay person is more accepted in the sports world than any other. My only complaint is that it can be so bloody frustrating in the changing rooms!”
Then in February 1976, under the clever headline “Pressing gaily on”, he was reported as making his 5th attempt at election to his local council, letting it be known that he was the founder of the Arun group of CHE, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (5). Just over a week later, he is reported to have challenged the Saints (Southampton Football Club) to a match with a team of CHE members. It seems that the Saints were unable to rise to the challenge: it was refused - with no little contempt (6).
Things really started to get interesting when in July/August 1976 he gave an interview to Gay Times. From August into September that year he was hardly out of the news throughout the UK (7). In part this was because Len Mullineux, the manager of an under-14s team, the Wickbourne Lions, angrily refused to have Redman as referee and demanded that the League replace him. “Our boys will be called off the pitch. They just won’t play. We are prepared to forego the two points”, he declared.
Mr Jim Twitcher, chairman of the Bognor Regis and Chichester Minor League, rejected this request as Redman was a “perfectly good referee”.
However he did say, “as Mr Redman has admitted that he is gay, we would not allocate him to our 12-year-old matches. We [on the committee] are all parents. We all have sons.”
The next day, he was in the headlines again (8). On the advice of his solicitor, Redman demanded an apology from Len Mullineux for implying that he was a danger to young boys. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mullineux was quoted as refusing to do so. Sadly, I could find no reports as to the outcome of this part of the story.
Two years later in the summer of 1978, Redman was in the headlines again (9). This time he was setting up the Gaystars XI, what seems to have been the first ever gay football team. Much was made, particularly by the Daily Express, of the fact that his first recruit was a team hairdresser. I should point out that the Kevin Keegan perm was a phenomenon in 1975. Slough’s Evening Mail was more concerned about what might happen when a goal was scored: “Won’t we be left wondering if all the ensuing kissing and hugging is for real?”
Redman gave his motives for setting up the team as “to boost public relations between CHE and the general public. We also think that by coming out into the open we may encourage other gay persons to ‘come out’.” He took the whole project seriously. He applied to the London and South-east Sports Council for a grant to buy kit, which would be all blue. He registered with the Sussex County FA, so that they would play with other affiliated teams. He wrote to Alan Mullery, then manager of Brighton and Hove Albion, for advice on coaching and approached Coventry City for permission to observe the team in training.
Sadly, according to an article from 1982, ‘serious gay sportsmen disliked the gimmicky show business image of Gay Stars [sic], and the club folded after a few months.” (10) This article was about another club claiming to be the world’s only gay football team. Disappointingly, the club was not named - at the request of the team’s manager, Graham Smith.
Redman”s next brush with fame was also in 1982 (11). He claimed to know of enough gay players in all four leagues to “field a team plus four substitutes”. He said: “They tend to be more skilful in manoeuvrability and make good attackers.” Manchester City’s manager, John Bond, is quoted as saying: “This doesn’t surprise me.” While Bobby Robson, then managing Ipswich town, soon to be England Manager, said: ‘I’m utterly staggered. Football isn’t conducive to them, and there is no place for them.”
The article also mentioned that it seemed Redman would be the sole representative of Britain at the first Gay Olympics, due to be held in San Francisco that summer.
Later that year, Redman was mentioned in a South African newspaper (12). He was working to launch a “national sports association exclusively for homosexuals”. He wanted it to “encourage homosexuals of both sexes to take part in indoor and outdoor sports against each other and against “straight” sportsmen and women”. Once again, I could find nothing about the outcome of his efforts.
In 1987, Redman found further notoriety when he came out as having AIDS (13). He is referred to as “bachelor Norman”. He was by now working as a council equal opportunities officer and had been a referee for 20 years. He had been diagnosed as HIV positive only 6 months previously, so did not in fact have AIDS at this point. He said in a later interview, “I’ve given up trying to explain the difference [between HIV and AIDS].”
The main concern for The Sun was his contact with boys. He had notified the FA of his diagnosis. They allowed him to continue, although Peter Bentley, chairman of Sussex County FA, said:
“Mr Redman is not a bad ref. But where young boys are concerned I think you have to worry.”
West Sussex FA claimed that he had “brought the game into disrepute”. Redman is reported as being so angry that he sent back his trophies (14). In 1988, Redman branded Westloats Club from Bognor Regis “uneducated idiots” as the players were afraid of catching AIDS (15). This caused further backlash against Redman from Sussex FA, who found him to have brought the game into disrepute. He tried sending the club some Terence Higgins Trust leaflets to help educate them and appealed the ruling to the National FA but got nowhere.
Redman seems to have led a quieter life after this, with no more national news headlines.
  1. Evening Argus, Littlehampton, 2 September 1976;
  2. The Guardian, 31 July 1978
  3. Ibid.
  5. Brighton Evening Argus, 21 February 1976
  6. Southern Evening Echo, Southampton, 3 March 1976; Sunday Mirror, 7 March 1976
  7. Hartlepool Mail, Scarborough Evening News, Dublin Herald, Scottish Daily Express, the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror, 2 September 1976
  8. Western Daily Press (Bristol), Bognor Regis Observer, East Anglia Daily Times (Ipswich), Kent Evening Post (Maidstone), The Journal (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), 3 September 1976
  9. The Guardian, The Evening Standard, The Evening Mail (Slough), 31 July 1978; The Daily Express, 2 August 1978; The Sussex Express (Lewes), 4 August 1978
  10. The Yorkshire Post (Leeds), 19 February 1982
  11. The Daily Mirror, 5 April 1982
  12. The name is unclear, it may be the Port Elizabeth Evening Post, 15 September 1982
  13. The Sun, 27 February 1987
  14. The Daily Mirror, 18 September 1987
  15. Time Out, 15 June 1988