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tv   Earth Focus  LINKTV  June 18, 2022 12:00pm-12:31pm PDT

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announcer: funding for this program provided by aids healthcare foundation, california institute of contemporary arts, dwight stuart youth fund, the city of west oñhollywood, los angeles lgbt center, california community foundation, and by these additional funders.
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alexei romanoff: i was sitting in my apartment in new york city. there's this snow storm. watching a kinescope of los angeles. and they were showing the freeways, multilane roads that you don't have to pay a toll on. d i was so impressed that i called one of my best friends and i said, "by next year i'm gonna be in california." d joey terrill: i grew up in cahighla park,my best friends montecito heights, mount washington. i'm second generation. my mom and all my aunts were from l.a. as well. it's my history. speaker: coming to l.a. in '60, i was thinking, "oh, it was a brand new world."
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the country was looking to be in a different place as well. so i thought integration and california was like the end of the rainbow or the beginning of it, whichever. marie cartier: los angelesnd is the end of the known worlof you come here and this is where it all washes up. there's a quote from chris williamson, "move to california 'cause the leash is a little bit longer." and if there was ever a population that needed that, it would have been gay people. alexei: the police were already in the black cat, and they were undercover police officers. and at midnight, two people kissed at midnight, new year's eve, and a nber of other people did at the same time.
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the police then came out with their badges and they started to arrest people in there. and then the regular uniformed police officers came in . they start pushing people around. two people ran out of the black cat, ran down the block to the new faces, which is w the circus of books. ran down, and ran into the bar. police officers chased them. they ran into the new faces and they said, "who is the owner or the manager of this bar?" and that was lee roy, my partner. her name, once again, is l-e-e, first name. her last name was r-o-y. but what they heard--and she was in a gown
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'cause it was new year's eve in her bar. what they heard, that her name was leroy, a man's name, and here she is in a dress. and they grabbed her and ey beat her and they broke her collarbone. and they pulled a bartender over the bar and they ruptured his spleen. and then they arrested erybody that was there that they could. those people wercharged with lewd conduct and they lost their cases so that meant they had to sign up as sex offenders for the rest of their life. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪
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steve hayes: it's hard to imagine today when l.a. is turning into a vast parking lot, but back in the day it was the wide open spaces. william mann: it was a frontier town. it was a town kind of removed from the rest of the country and the rest of the world in many ways, making its own rules and living by its own codes. it was this way station in many ways and the perfect place for people to come and reinvent themselves. ♪♪♪ mark thompson: this is as far west as you can get. if you're running away from oppressive ohio, you know, you can't get much further than will rogers beach in santa monica.
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steve: but you know what? every western's based on the same thing, you know. "go to californey," you know, and that's what they did. the golden land. martin turnbull: l.a. was particularly attractive because people from back east could come west and be who they were. lorri jean: everybody came from somewhere else. it offered an ability to just do things in a completely new and different way. steve: it was new and exciting and it was an adventure. lorri: and it also had hollood. david renstein: why this becama great movie mecca to begin with was the light. steve: the light out there was so good. and the weather was so good. it was ideal. david: if you look at pictures of the old--a lot of the old silent films, you can see the studios where they built these sets, but there are no ceilings because you didn't need them and the light, actual light, would come pouring in.
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centralizing movie production here created a differenkind of set-up than existed in major cities, certainly in, like, new york. in new york you walk out the door and you meet everybody you know in ten minutes. whereain hollywood, there was a lot of open empty space in and around. and they could have very private lives in this town. so because there was so much privacy, hollywood very easily became a gay mecca. craig loftin: gay people came to the new movie colony because they we always in theatrical circles in new york and in greenwich ville. historically, the theater has been a safe space for all gay people, especially gay men. in repressive environments especially, gay people learn how to act and sort of act throughout our lives, you know?
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if you have to pretend to be heterosexual, then you get ally good at playing a character. lillian faderman: the industry in hollywood attracted gays and lesbians because gays and lesbians he always tended to be artistic. david: what hollywood was looking for was sophistication and, well, wouldn't you know it, the smartest, most sophisticated people were ga steve: gay people created hollywood glamour, whether that be adrian creating the gowns for joan crawford and norma shearer and greta garbo, or orry kelly creating bette davis or walter plunkett designing the costumes for "gone with the wind," it was done by gay hands. they were as gay as geese, and these guys were, "fine, as long as the product came out great, terrific." david: you had writers, you had directors, costume designers, set decorators, all working and before we even get to the actors. pearl: minnie. minnie: pearl. speaker: ah, what an exquisite spectacle.
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two ladies of title kissing one another. ♪♪♪ william: in new york, during the roaring twenties, harlem was the place to be. the harlem renaissance was the most excing place in the entire city. so these white aristocrats would make sure they were in harlem because these were the people who were living on the edge. and we see this in los angeles as well when the pansy clubs arrived. ♪♪♪ ♪ frankie and johnny, both sweethearts. ♪ ♪ mm, how they could love. ♪ ♪ and they thought that they'd love eachther, mm, ♪ ♪ but everying about him was a man. ♪ ♪ and he was doing her wrong.
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william: the clubs became very popular. llian: movie stars went slumming in those clubs. speaker: where are we going? speaker: well, you said you wanted to go slumming, so i picked a place to eat in the village. only the wild poets and anarchists eat there. william: joan crawford, william haines, cary grant, randolph scott, would be spotted at these pansy clubs. watching drag queens like karyl norman and gene malin coming out and doing drag acts onstage. speaker: we present to you now by remote control, that famous artist, mr. julian elting female impersonator ♪♪♪ lillian: julian eltinge was a male to female impersonator. he appeared regularly at the orpheum theater and was exemely popular. craig: julian eltinge was one of the most famous men in america at the turn of the century. it was seen as not necessarily something sexual. it was like a magic trick.
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i think that was how a lot of audiences viewed him. lillian: what's fascinating about that phenomenon is that you couldn't go out on the streets dressed in clothes of the opposite sex, but people flocked the vaeville theaters and movie thears to see instces of male impersonators and female impersonators. ♪♪♪ john duran: we are the aberration. we are the non-conforming sexual status, so we have to find one another and we're not painted with a lavender stripe down our face, right? so it's not apparent who is gay or who's homosexual. so there has to be some contact, some sort of dance or interplay that happens before there's a sexual bargain that's made. speaker: sometimes you would look into a person's eyes, he would look into your eyes, and all of a sudden you'd know through the eyes. after you had cruised each other by chasing each other back and
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forth from looking in the same window at the same thing for quite a while, you might ask the person, "do you have a match?" or "can you tell me the time?" these were theittlthings that we would be using in the '20s and wwere sll usi them in the '30s, i might add. john: cruising is probably as ancient as, you know, homosexuality, you know, whether it's oscar wilde or even further back, you know, when homosexuality was always taboo. that cruising, that making sure it's safe and okay, is what cruising is. is this gonna be okay or am i gonna get violently beaten by continng down this path? lillian: the cruising scene was purportedly fabulous in los angeles. there were cruising areas such as pershing square or griffith park. craig: pershing square in--you know, was much different than it is today. ese days, it's kind of this big nightmare urban planning but it used to be a beautiful tree lot, all these paths with trees and bushes everywhere. it was public but there were little priva spaces alover
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e places where, you know, people could, at night, have surreptitious sex with one another. mark: because it was the central cruising spot for gay men. how else are we gonna do it, you know? we didn't have grindr back then or cell phones or anything. marie: gay bars sprung up as meeting places for this new population. craig: before world war ii there wasn't really what we would call gay bars. sometimes we look back at them historically, we call them that but they were ally more like bohemian bars. they were bars where a lot of marginalized groups of people would hang out and meet, like, leftists and communists and maybe some non-whites and then the gays are all kind of in this marginal space together.
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the world war ii mobilization was the biggest mobilization in american history, all in kind of one institution. and so, the gay people all found each other pretty quick. and maybe for the first time, go into a bar with other gay people. andrea segal: and also for the very first time in history, women were getting an income. marie: rosie the riveter. andrea: this image is the most successful image the office of war ever used in recruiting. so when you look at this image, this is a butch woman and masculinity is praised at this time, so it's like, you know, be masculine during the war effort, help the country. and that changed the landscape for women and their ability to connect to each other without men. craig: a lot of people experienced that during the war and then, after the war, they thought to themselves, "well, that's where i wanna live now." and so, l.a., a lot of gay pele thought"oh, there's a place for me here that certainly didt exist in my small town back in nebraska."
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marie: they're able to live on an identity that they couldn't live out in their home towns. and so it created a community that needed spaces, and those spaces were the gay bars. craig: after world war ii in the late '40s is where you really see gay bars, specifically, start to emerge. marie: so in los angeles, you had a whole strip of bars that was around vermont and 8th. the open door, the star room, the patch. andrea: we had "joani presents" we had "the pacesetters," "the jazz world," "the love in." andrethere was lots of "joanbars out there.had "the nancy valverde: there wa no latin people, you know? and so we started going to a place in east l.a. it was a straight bar. we made it lesbian. it's been gay ever since. marie: one of the things that was almost true for everybody i interviewed, is they thought they were the only one 'til they showed up in a gay bar. they didn't have a sense of "this is all over the world."
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troy perry: i kept trying to figure out where do you meet gay people? finally, one day, somebody said, "you need to go to a gay bar. the first gay bar i went to was called the "red raven" in hollywood. it was so dark, i could not see my hand in front of my face. they had red lights throughout the bar. i--had signs that said, "do not talk to strangers." and i thought, "how do you meet anybody i--hhere if you can'td,talk t" "do not talk to strangers." they were trying to give u a clue about theolice. alexei: women could dance together and with no problems, but two men couldn't. and there was a club and it was called the canyon club. troy: the canyon club. the canyon club was located in topanga canyon. alexei: and there were two juke boxes in the place, one at either end of the dance floor. and when the county sheriffs would be coming in, the doorman would flip the switch. the other jukeox wouldgo one
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partners would separate and switch partners. troy: "grab one of the four lesbians," they told me. i thoalexei: the sheriffsird." would come in. they'd look around and when th left, he'd switch--hd switch e switch again, the juke boxes would switch back. but if they had caught you dancing together, two men, you knew you would go to jail. lillian: when i was 16, a friend who was a gay boy took me to the "if club" on 8th and vermont, and i walked in and suddenly i found my home. the first things i learned at the open or is that you had to be either butch or femme. jene cordova: my lover had taken me to a bar called tommy's and i first recognized butch femme.
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marie: butch femme was a way for you to connect with other people. people would often choose to be butch or femme just to be in the culture. jeanne: right then and there i decided, "well, i wna be buh." lillian: there was real pressure to choose. jeanne: i am butch, i think i'm bch. lillian: if you didn't know, and said, "i'm neither," they told you you couldn't be. th was kai-kai, and kai-kai was not a good thing to be. marie: it's kind o like that was a gender identification that wasn't trusted. lillian: people wanted to know when you came into the bar who was gonna stand, you know, shoulder to shoulder to me if something happened. edythe eyde: the flamingo club, that was on la brea, and they used to have two dances in the sunday afternoons and i used to go over there and dance. ♪ can you afford to board a chattanooga choo choo? ♪ ♪ i've got my fare and just a trifle to spare. ♪
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edythe: and they had a woman who sang there beautifully. she was a red-headed gal, who made--who owned her own bar in studio city, what was-- donna smith: beverly shaw. lillian: she was this beautiful woman who dressed a la marlene dietrich, high heels, gorgeous legs. she would sit on top of the piano and sing songs "tailored to you taste," she said. ♪ remember this, it's all in the game. ♪♪ edythe: and then as the evening came, why, the straight people would come in and then the entertainers would come out on their little stage and entertain. ♪♪♪
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♪♪♪ edythe: and they would get up there on the stage and they were very good. marie: so at what place could somedy meet somebody and actually have a connection where i know you're gay and i still--i'm gonna treat you like a human being. pretty much the only place that was gonna happen was in a gay bar. lillian: and so these bars began to crop up all over los angeles in the 1940s. speaker: there's suddenly this visibility to gay people and gay culture that hadn't existed before. lillian: i think things were fairly open for gays and lesbians, but after the war, all of that changed. craig: post world war ii america, right around 1950.
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what you have happening is a complicated set of things. you have the growth of the suburbs, you have all these soldiers who returned, changed people. but you also had the beginnings of a kind of putting women back in their place. marie: there was a whole movement for what was called rosie go home, because the men were coming back from the war and women were expected to give up this new economic freedom and givehe jobs to men. craig: by about 1943, the war had shifted a lile bit. it looked like we might win at that point and so, there wasn't as much of a need to keep recruiting and keep getting new people in, no matter who they are. and so, it's within the military, starting around 1943 and 1944 that you start to see the really first aggressive crackdowns of gay people at the level of kind of the federal government. this was really, i think, when the mood turned
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and gay people started to feel that there was, you know, that openness of the early war was gone. and the question then was what would the post-war world be like? craig: gay people had become a lot more visible, both during the war and after the war. you know, gay people didn' just become aware of theelves during the war, other people became aware that they existed and that there were a lot of them. speaker: dr. charles socarides is a new york psychoanalyst at the albert einstein school of medicine. they are taught that no man is born homosexual, and many psychiatrists now believe that homosexuality begins to form in the first three years of life. chris freeman: freudianism was becoming more well known in the us by the 1950s, so a lot of anxieties around these kind of domineering mothers who would create these little sissy boys who would become homosexuals. craig: add to that, the publication of the kinsey
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reports, which has the absolutely startling statistic that 37% of the american men he studied had had sex with other men. in other words, homosexuality as a practice and as a behavior was not some rare, obscure thing. that was shocking. but a lot of people read kinsey's work and said, "agh, these gays. there's more of them than there used to be. they're growing in numbers. they're sick and they're deranged and they're perverts and they go against american morality. and we need to be vigilant." speaker:y directn of the president of the united states, stay in your homes. i repeat, stay iyour homes. yes, cities, nations, even civilization itself, threatened with annihilation because in one moment of history-making violence, nature, mad,
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rampant, wrought its most awesome creation. but borne in that swirling inferno of radioactived, du were things so horr, so terrifying, so hideous, there is no word to describe "them!" speaker: [screaming] willia the crses that i teach, i always show the film "them!" which is about giant mutated ants that are coming to take over the wld. these creatures that are gonna come and destroy america as we know it. metaphorically, it's not just the fear of communism, it's the fear of anything that is going to take away what supposedly makes america work. and one of the things that supposedly makes america work is the nuclear family: a husband,. and homosexuals, as understood in the 1950s, completely challenged that idea.
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craig: racism and xenophobias is nothing new to american history. eventually, though, you know, if you have those patterns of xenophobia, the targets at some point become interchangeable. that same kind of xenophobia that underlies the internment and the violence of the zoot suit riots, i mean, that went on for five days. the young latino youth in l.a. were being perceived as un-american, as anti-patriotic 'cause they wore all the cloth, you know, they weren't conserving the materials. and they were perceived as being disrespectful to the navy men who obviously had a sense of importance themselves and saw themselves as correctly american, both because of their whiteness and because they spoke english. and so, you know, if you look at japanese people as potentially inherently un-american and latino youth as un-american,
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well, you know, okay, gay people, add 'em to the pile. craig: when you think of the post-war period, we think of the cold war, the anti-communist scare, joseph mccarthy. chris: joseph mccarthy was a senator who led a kind of flushing out of every communist out of every crack in america. craig: people are living with the reality of atom bombs for the first time. that's a very, very scary reality. and many government officials were eager to exploit that fear for her kinds of purposes. harry hay: we were thinking about the fact that they had moved towards a police state and we know in this particular case, that because of that kind of policing, it won't be the jews this time because of the holocaust, and it won't be the blacks because the blacks are already beginning to organize. obviously, the new scapegoats are going to be people like me. we're the homosexuals, the unacceptables, thpeople t that--the people that you might say that everybody loves to hate.
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craig: what a lot of people don't realize is just how much gay men and lesbians were targeted as part of the anti-communist scare. chris: the lavender scare, which is because homosexuality was so taboo, or because it was illegal, because you could get arrested for it, it was thought that homosexuals were particularly vulnerable to blackmail, which of course, they were. craig: as communism became more demonized, being gay or lesbian kind of got enveloped into that and the two things became oddly interchangeable almost. there's a very famous quote from joe mccarthy where he said, "if you're against me, you'r either aueer or a communt." marie: you know, gay people are considered the nation's highest security risk. craig: if you were targeting gay people, you felt like you were protecting the country from communism. ♪♪♪ craig: for people who just didn't like gay people, this was an opportunity to brutalize and pick on 'em a little bit, but it
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was also an opportunity for people like mccarthy and people who ran the house un-american activities committee to pretend like they're protecting the country, to say, "thanks to my efforts, i rooted out 100 national security threats." speaker: we arrested 3,000 homosexuals. i can state conclusively that the problem is growing. speaker: in those days, they weren't so much gay bars. sometimes, it was just a bar that that's where you would expect to see other gay people. and i wentnto this bar where i'd gone quite often, and i came in and i think drinks were 25 cents or 30 or somethingike th. and i ordered a drink and the bartender said, "that'll be a dollar to you."
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and the minute he said that, i knew what he meant. he meant that because i was gay, i was not-- no longer welcome there. and so i finished my drink and left. i felt like a puppy that had just been beaten. that's what it felt like to be gay then. speaker: i'm concerned with the moral atmosphere in the community. and i am opposed as a matter of principle to making anything which is improper or immoral conspicuous. speaker: would be in a bar and the cops would come in and line everybody up and say, "you, you, you, you, you, you're cong with us." d so, that's the way we lived. andrea: and the young queens, they were very, very brutal to, you know?
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they were, like, slamming them, feeling them, and pushing them, like, against the wall. andrea: at that time, there were so many suicides amongst the young. knew so many that took their lives. it was so sad, because their parents, you know, would throw them out and the only way, though, that they could live is to do prostitution. speaker: the best way to describe it is frightening. all gay people felt in danger. lillian: it really seemed like, in all sorts of ways, it was open season on homosexuals. speaker: most homosexuals do not consider themselves ill, and they are able to live with their condition fairly comfortably. on the other hand, there are those whose compulsive behavior


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