April 21, 2016

50 years ago today (and 3 years before Stonewall): The gay-rights activism called the "Sip-In" (like "sit-in," but sipping a drink in a bar).

The NYT details the history of a time when NYC required bars to refuse to serve "disorderly" persons and — according to Dick Leitsch, 81, who was there to experience it said — "being homosexual was, in itself, seen as disorderly."

The activists failed to encounter discrimination at Howard Johnson’s (where the manager said "I don’t think the government has any right to question a man’s sex life") and at Waikiki ("a Mafia-owned Tiki bar," where the manager said "How do I know you’re homosexuals? Give these guys a drink on us.") They continued to Julius’, the West 10th Street where they knew that "the night before, a man who had been served there had later been entrapped by an officer for 'gay activity,' meaning the bar was in jeopardy of having its liquor license revoked":
As they entered, the men spied a sign that read “Patrons Must Face the Bar While Drinking,” an instruction used to thwart cruising. As soon as Mr. Leitsch approached, the bartender put a glass in front of him. When the men announced they were gay, the bartender put his hand over the glass; it was captured in a photograph by Fred McDarrah for The Village Voice.
Photo at the link.
According to Mr. Wicker and Mr. Leitsch, their battle to be served was a subset of a larger issue: the ritualized police entrapment of gay men for intent to have sex. “With this action, we were entrapping them into obeying the law,” Mr. Wicker said.

The next day’s New York Times featured an article about the event with the headline “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars.”...
Later, there was the Stonewall uprising, and Leitsch "said he felt instantly overshadowed by a younger, louder generation," but, as the NYT puts it today, long after slurring Leitsch as a "deviate":
His pioneering efforts, which included showing his full face to TV cameras, instead of cloaking his identity in shadow, a common practice at the time, became old news overnight. “The day before Stonewall, I was the only gay person,” Mr. Leitsch said. “The day after, everybody was gay.”

16 comments:

coupe said...

Colonel "Bat" Guano: You wanna know what I think?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Yes!

Colonel "Bat" Guano: I think you're some kind of deviated prevert. I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts.

That movie had a lot of twee prophesy in it...

Curious George said...

What difference, at this point does, it make?

Michael K said...

When I was in college, we would go to San Francisco for football games and, when in town, we used to go to Finocchio's nightclub which was a female impersonator place that had good shows. It also had the weirdest clientele you could find in San Francisco, which was saying a lot.

A friend of mine was driving to San Francisco for his medical school interview at UCSF and I went along for the ride. After his interview, we went into a bar for a drink. About the time our drinks came, a floor show began in a nightclub section. It was obviously a gay show. He and I looked at the bar tender and then at the guys sitting on each side of us. We were the only straights in the place. We quickly finished our drinks and left.

I never figured out what the "Stonewall" thing was about as we never saw the slightest discrimination against gays in California. That was in the 1950s.

Mike said...

And 30 years before that, was Walter Duranty reporting from Moscow...

Owen said...

Interesting story about the pre-Stonewall campaign to entrap businesses into obeying the law! The whole point was to victimize them and their employees by creating a scene from a long-running play about martyrdom. They were prepared to sacrifice others' rights in order to get some of their own.

Lyle Smith said...

He's the man.

Comanche Voter said...

Ah Finnochio's. Michael K was in med school; I went to Finnochio's in the late 60s while I was in law school Heck I even think my wife and I took my in laws to it. The shows were actually pretty good. I think we were seated in the "straight" section. The AIDS epidemic was 15 years in the future and it was a happier time in San Francisco.

Caroline Walker said...

Anybody else old enough to remember why the movement called itself "gay" in the first place? Why, to signify an enthusiastic thumb in the nose at bourgeois convention....in particular, at marriage.

AReasonableMan said...

It was a simpler time, before Denny Hastert, when the term deviate had yet to be defined downwards.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

So, if I understand it correctly, the bars didn't really ask about the patron's sexuality and mostly didn't care even when the patrons announced their orientation and intentions, but we're still supposed to understand the non-gay people back then to have been horrible bigots?
I mean, is this not something close to terrific evidence for people who say things like "I don't care about someone's orientation, I just care about their actions?" I think some religious people take that line, and defend their opposition to some pro-gay legal changes on that basis (defending themselves from charges of anti-gay hatred)--this episode pretty much backs that up, right?
There were laws and rules against cruising for (gay) sex and the police quite likely acted unfairly towards gays (targeting them for enforcement action). Ok, that sounds like an unjust law (although people could probably come up with reasons the law wasn't irrational or wholly based on hate) so the law should be (and was) changed. The private citizens and business owners, though, seem to have been motivated by something other than anti-gay animus, which kinda undercuts the story we're supposed to believe about the history of the gay movement, no?

Sebastian said...

Suppose a foreign group forces Americans to engage in conduct that causes 300K deaths. Suppose that same group inflicts epidemics harming more than a million people. Would we call it "disorderly"?

Owen said...

Sebastian: you could strengthen your hypothetical by recounting how that group, after largely creating the epidemic and often destroying those who tried to explain how certain lifestyle choices exacerbated the epidemic, demanded a massive and immediate reallocation of healthcare resources to its benefit. Both on the R&D priorities, and on the "access" to resulting medicines, no hesitation or balance was to be countenanced.

Fernandinande said...

From 1961, a bewarement hierarchy -
"Girls Beware" of boys and "Boys Beware" of homos.

MayBee said...

Didn't a Senator get arrested for having a "wide stance" in a bathroom stall?

The police still look for cruising activity.

ken in tx said...

I'm in favor of toleration but not celebration. My church has joined something called "Reconciliation Ministries" a United Methodist LBGT group. Next week, the Chancel Choir is expected to sing at a celebration of that event. I have been praying for our church to be led away from sin and error. Every church I have attended has had homosexuals in the congregation and/or leadership. They were mostly ignored, and we were never before asked to celebrate their particular lifestyle.

Owen said...

Ken in TX: may your prayers bear fruit. Your approach seems right to me. Love the sinner, hate the sin; and we are all sinners.