Preference, Prejudice, Perversion – Or Common Failing?

An answer to all those who complain of their ill-treatment by the gay world because of their age or plainness – and a few thoughts about why.

Take a look at the personal ads page. Read the ads there. It’s clear that words like ‘young’, ‘dolly’, etc are used frequently. ‘Same age or younger’ is a common turn of phrase employed. Yet many times I hear complaints that the younger guys are only interested in one another, and not in their older gay brothers. Lots of people see this as something wrong in the gay scene — as though this rejection were something one had to suffer if you’re a gay man. A part of our ‘difference’.

Well, it isn’t. It’s a normal reaction that one finds in every situation, gay, straight or twisted. Its power, however, is increased greatly by the myth-machine which produces adverts, films, books, plays.

How the wig-makers, cosmetic firms, car manufacturers, boutiques must laugh sometimes – all the way to the bank with your money! After all, a gay man, by the time he’s thirty-five or so, can reasonably expect to be earning a reasonable wage – he can also reasonably be expected to be spending a large proportion of that income on trying to convince himself and others that he’s younger than he is. Clothes, toiletries, cars, furnishings – the middle-class, middle-aged gay must be an ad-man’s idea of a perfect consumer. Put a pretty boy in a pair of coloured underpants in the Y-front ads and watch sales figures soar in Kensington and Earls Court!

But … it doesn’t make you any younger, or prettier, really, You’ll still look the same when you drop ’em.

But … the biggest but of all . . . take a look around and you’ll see that we aren’t the only ones to fall for it. Look at the ads for ‘body-belts’ (one firm has renamed them sexi-belts), wigs, bronzers. The straight male buys just as much of this sort of thing as some of us do – he’ll buy a sporty looking car, bronze his skin, adjust his toupee, and drive off up West to try to ‘pull’ a dolly bird.

His wife will have an even more comprehensive range of creams, powders, clothes and sprays to appeal to her desire to look and be young again. And when she’s put it all on she will invite that nice young milkman in for a cuppa. Honestly, everyone admires and chases young and pretty sex-objects.

And if you’re young but not very pretty – Johnny can sit all night in a. club – whether it’s Bumpers or the Masquerade doesn’t matter, but unless he’s traded in his hornrims for contacts, his pimples for ‘bronzer’, and his grey flannels for tight jeans, he’s quite likely to go home alone.

Vera can sit there all night, but unless she’s either nude or in heavy clogs, striped tights, peek-a-boo pop eye make-up, teenform bra, Tampax, Femfresh, Mum Rolette (etc) gaucho pants and a smock, sit is all she’ll do.

Both of them will quite likely get talking to some nice girl/boy (perm any two from four) at work, or on the tube, or anywhere, and eventually settle into a relationship. But they won’t hit it off with anybody in the sort of situation where you have to be a sex-object all the time – like a gay pub or club.

If we were all known as who and what we are at all times in all places, the same might happen to all of us — in fact I’m sure it would.

But most of us are only able to openly be gay in the hothouse atmosphere of a pub – and if you aren’t young and/or beautiful, that sort of thing doesn’t really suit you. You’re looking for HIM – while all we youngsters are looking for IT. Undue emphasis gets placed on this young-and-lovely because it looms large when you don’t come out and you don’t know who is and who isn’t. Try it and see.

It’s hiding away like this that makes this natural phenomenon look much more cruel and unnatural than it really is.

Right – having established that the youth and beauty cult isn’t a special ‘hang-up for gays’, where does it come from?

It is forced on your attention all the time in the form of ads – posters, telecommercials, on the sides of buses, shop windows – the message is the same everywhere. Buy this and you’ll be irresistably sexy.

‘Things happen after a Badedas bath’ croons the dripping young lady with a towel almost making her decent.

‘We’ll make you blush whatever kind of cheek you’ve got’ says the Woolworth lady peeping from behind her lace curtains.

‘You too, can have a Morley like mine’ grimaces the straining hulk in a tight blue tee shirt.

But you don’t judge a book by its cover – so why should you judge what degree of sexual stimulation/satisfaction you’re going to get (if you must look at people that way) by who’s teeshirt, bra or aftershave he/she’s wearing?

Face it, you lifelong bachelor uncles of this world, he might not be the bang of the century but your old school chum is a lot more likely to be able to talk on your level about things that interest you both/has spent as many years as you have collecting hints and tips for use around the bedroom and kitchen, and is probably as well off as you are. He won’t deafen you with the stereo, won’t cost you nearly as much in nights at the club, and he won’t perpetually be calling you grandpa when you’re cross. Not, like our little chickens, however, pretty.

Don’t get too conned by the adman and his sexopohstic world – they even try and sell fire extinguishers on sex appeal now. It’s lying there, on fancy-wrapping and ribbon, with a romantic lovey-dovey message on a card – and what does the slogan say?

‘TAKE ONE HOME TONIGHT – ITS MUCH MORE THOUGHTFUL THAN FLOWERS’. How romantic – he/she will fall into your arms in rapture and you’ll have the world’s foamiest bed that night. Oh yes, I can see it now. Soft lights, sweet music and a quick squirt on the sofa!

And where else in the world do you find rose-tinted youths skipping into impossible sunsets with demure young blossoms draped in their arms? That one is perpetuated by the Barbara Cartland School of Smarm and others. Think of the unreal way ‘love’ is presented in all the kids books you ever read – no sex, white weddings, and intense conversations on the library sofa. No wonder everybody chases the common idea of beauty (which is just another sort of fashion) and supposedly carefree youth. Everyone, mind you, gay and straight. Like other pressures, we feel it more in our isolation.

Of course some people are more attractive than others – but that’s a matter of personal taste and preference. Of course it’s nice yo taste a little youth, both literally and vicariously, by the company of young people. But, I’m afraid there’s nothing odd about youngsters prefering their own company in the bedroom.

Just remember that it’s much nicer to grow old gracefully than to try and look, act and be younger than you are. After all, age ought to have its pleasures too. It makes a lot more sense to pursue them than to try to regain what has gone, I’m atraid, for ever.

Doug Pollard

ED: Doug’s article on ageing can only cover a single aspect of one of the most important subjects in gayness. So, if you agree with him or disagree with him, write to Gay News and tell us what you think. We want to give all points of view an outlet, that’s the policy of independent GN.

Penguins On The March

Penguin Education Specials:
A LAST RESORT? CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOLS. Editor: Peter Newell. 60p.
THE PAINT HOUSE: Words from an East End Gang. The Collinwood Gang and Susie Daniel and Pete McGuire. 30p.

A Penguin Special:
THALIDOMIDE AND THE POWER OF THE DRUG COMPANIES. Henning Sjostrom and Robert Nilsson 40p.

Three books, each important, each original, each an attack on common assumptions, and all written well without propagandising.

The first two, A Last Resort and The Paint House, are about two different aspects of violence. And instead of laying the blame where it is usually put (on the children in schools or the toughs’ in the skinhead gangs), they place it squarely where it belongs; on the shoulders of the people who made them that way, and on the society which sanctions and uses violence as the quick and easy way of getting what it wants.

A Last Resort was compiled from material collected by the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment (STOPP), and is the first shot in their campaign to abolish corporal punishment in schools. They are doing this along with the National Council for Civil Liberties. The book demonstrates how educationally and socially destructive the threat and actual use of physical punishment in schools is, and how a school can work better, both for the teachers and the pupils, when it is removed. Unfortunately, abolishing it also means that the traditional teaching methods and attitudes have to be questioned and modified or scrapped, and the book includes examples of schools where this has been done

One example will show how destructive caning and the threat of it is. Caning is often used as a punishment for truancy. This makes the school an even more unpleasant place to be, so the child is more likely to play truant again, and less likely to want to go back – after all, the first thing he will face is a caning. Eventually he will lose interest in being at school and want to be away from it as soon as possible. It may take longer to talk to and understand a child, but isn’t that better for him and everyone else (since it avoids building violence into him as a means of getting his own way), than the easy way out with a cane?

The Paint House is about East End boys whose background (including their schools) leaves them no means of self-expression except violence, and no importance except in the eyes of one another — hence the gang, and the violence they can get away with as a gang, become the most important things for them.

Who can blame them for using violence for getting their own way? After all, police, parents, government, teachers, even doctors use violence in one form or another to get their way. Some of us have a recourse against this in our social status – they have no such comfortable bolster.

The words are the words of the gang members themselves, with a thread supplied by the two ‘outsiders’, and occasional comments (highlighting the misunderstanding and ignorance) from people in authority, whether in school, work, pub or whatever.

It is a committed book, about change and about class differences, but it restrains its preaching and puts a cogent case. That we are all people, but you wouldn’t think so from the way we treat one another. Most of us are subtle about it. Skinheads are not.

The third book I want to talk about is about one of the worst cases of disregarding people in order to profit — the thalidomide story. Thalidomide and the Power of the Drug Companies. Time after time, so calmly you almost don’t notice, the book details how Chemie Grunenthal ignored mounting evidence about the various permanent side effects of thalidomide, until the sudden incidence of ‘thalidomide babies’ gave them no option. Even years later, when on trial, the contended that there was no proof that thalidomide caused the damage. Profit, in other words, was a higher consideration than people. The amazing thing is that, with the exception of the USA, most countries have done little to tighten their regulations regarding the introduction of new drugs. And that the majority of the population in some countries where thalidomide was sold still do not know about what happened!

Three books then, that attack basic assumptions and structures in our world. If you don’t believe things need changing, read them and see.

Heroes And Villains

Heroes and VillainsAngela CarterPicador paperback, 4Op.

Heroic, legendary, Tolkien-like… these and similar phrases pepper the quotes on the back cover of this book. Well, for me, it wasn’t quite so large in scope. I thought, in fact, that it’s structure clearly indicated its firm roots in the here and now.

On the one hand, a clinical, orderly, comfy, well-protected community, in which the greatest respect is accorded academics and those with ‘experience’; on the other, the violent, brutal, primitive world of the ‘Barbarians’, to whom the professor’s daughter escapes.

We, like Marianne, are asked which is best. The brutal and elemental, or the coldly civilised? The madness induced by societal repression, or the death from wounds or disease? Primitive or civilised?

This is in many ways the conflict everyone shies away from – the fears of the older generation as the young threaten to destroy the constricting, but also supportive structure called society. The book stands as an expression of the falseness of the security kick – the feeling of security which no-one seems to have and everyone wants – and the way in which this debilitates people. The Barbarians are much more alive than the Professors.

But the question ‘Which is best’ is never answered, the conflict never resolved. It all depends on what you want. If you’ve made your mind up that you’re on the side of the revolution, then this book will be too. And vice versa. It doesn’t look like any choice at all to me.

Lord Porn Lashes Back

Pornography, Obscenity and Gays

19721001-01The law as it stands makes certain kinds of published material ‘obscene’, and therefore illegal, if, in the opinion of the jury, that material tends to ‘deprave and corrupt’ the people who might read it or see it.

There has been considerable dissention, not least in legal circles, over what depravity and corruption is, and how its effects can be measured. I would contend that propaganda which, in order to make a case for certain views, distorts what truth it sees where it does not ignore it outright, which would contain and condemn sexual expression within confines pleasing only to its authors, which seeks, in effect, to pervert natural, free and honest human sexuality in literature, art, the cinema into the narrow confines of heterosexual marriage only, is pornographic within that definition.

19721001-03The Longford Report on Pornography is just such a book. Although the enquiry was a totally independent one (ie set up by individuals not a government body), it has received assistance from government sources and has been aided (for which thanks are offered) by the police.

As regards gays, the book is a total distortion of the truth and perpetuates all the myths about us, despite evidence from CHE in the person of lan Harvey. The only suggestion offered as regards gays is that, if we are prepared to seek it out, we ought to be allowed our wank literature. We are one more ‘perversion’ along with prostitution, bestiality pederasty, sado-masochism, though none of these are explored, but accepted as such. Likewise, the terms ‘normal’ and ‘decent’ pepper the book without any exploration of their meaning or implication. They are taken to mean heterosexual intercourse within marriage and chastity before (despite the fact that more than one ‘witness’ underscores the impossibility of this).

The inquisitors themselves clearly state the propoganda intention of the inquiry, and therefore the book.

HOW FAR CAN WE GO ?

“These were the terms of reference of the committee: ‘to see what means of tackling the problem of Pornography would command general support’.” In short, they accepted the existence of a problem and the ‘need’ to do something about it. Their only concern was ‘how far can we go and get away with it.’ (my quotes). That alone destroys any confidence one might have had in any conclusion they might produce. This is not a serious enquiry into porif and its effects – it is a political exercise by a minority in an attempt to impose their views on the majority, and should be read as such. As should Mein Kampf, and Das Kapital. This is the Festival of Lighters handbook.

“Hard pornography is intended to appeal to the person who wishes to go well beyond simply acquiring some erotic literature. It builds its own market by appealing quite unashamedly to various groups of inadequate of sexually maladjusted people.” That, among others, is us, of course.

As regards children, they accept the common attitude that a child’s introduction to sex is the prerogative of the parent. They know, but hardly take account of, the refusal or reluctance of most parents to undertake this duty. They nowhere mention the obvious point that a child ought not to need ‘introduction’ to sex, but that it ought to be an open and freely stated part of his/her life from birth onwards. On the contrary, they seem to want to keep the child unaware of any sexual relationship between his/her parents, until the child becomes disturbed enough about his/her developing sexuality to want to ask about it. They stress sex as essentially a private and family matter, not a subject for public discussion or display. They want parents to have the right to keep the child in ignorance by withdrawing them from sex-education lessons.

Great play is made at one point of the fact that the BBC sex education series gave no stress to moral standards, to the point that the pregnant woman in the film wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

In short, they want the right to pervert, repress, and distort a child to suit their politics. They would destroy a child’s right to freedom, development and love.

Their definition of pornography is wider than most of us would accept. They see no value or service in magazines such as Forum, since these do not moralise as they would. They see ‘sex-aids as a further ‘corruption’. They see the whole field of sexual education and pornography as an addiction, leading happily married men and women (who defines their happiness?) to experiment with other forms of sexual activity which, without porn, they might have remained ignorant of. They see it as ‘perverting’ children away from ‘normal’ (ie hetero/married) sex to experiment with ‘perversions’. They ignore the diversity and richness of the human-sexual spectrum, and would repress and confine human development.

Despite the confusion in the evidence, and the examples of the American report and the Danish experiment, they cannot accept that pornography can suffer from over-exposure, and that it might in the process do some good. They point out that, since pornography is ‘bad’ (which they have failed to prove), it must have a bad effect.

After all, they say, who can argue that what people see and read does not affect them? Why else, they ask, do advertisers spend millions of pounds on television time and display space? Why do parents and the state spend so much to educate a child? Because all these have an effect.

Firstly, as I have noted, they have failed to prove any conclusive effect one way or other in the majority of cases.

Secondly, advertising is designed to persuade – porn, along with other kinds of depiction, merely shows. Of course literature has an effect – there would be no point in writing it otherwise. But if a display of pornographic material affects someone (ie arouses them), that arousal or offence is their reaction, it comes from them, not the porn. It does not create that person’s sexuality, simply exposes it.

As a second line of defence. they point out that even the people who deny the corrupting effect of pornography agree with the sanctions preventing the ridicule and abuse of coloured people, so doesn’t that prove ‘an effect’? They ignore the fact that such sanctions exist to prevent damaging lies from creating a damaging effect on the way people live together. Do they regard the depicted sex-act as a lie? Even if a woman wears a wedding ring?

Perhaps the nastiest and most unreasonable part of a thoroughly nasty and unreasonable book is the attack that Malcolm Muggeridge, disguised as the Sub-Committee on Broadcasting, perpetrates upon the BBC. The report itself, in other sections (notably Frank Gillard’s refutation of the Sub-Committee report) shows up the lack of investigation, thought or concern for truth of Mr Muggeridge, so I do not propose even to discuss these lies. Unfortunately, they are well-phrased;

“‘Family viewing’ (the practice of placing more adult programmes after 9pm), therefore, like family planning, more aptly describes a
process which is destructive of family life.” Need I say more?

The result of this superficial and prejudiced ‘enquiry’ is a proposed Bill to change the law on obscene publications. These changes would appear to have been discussed with the police beforehand.

A publication (or programme, or film) would become obscene if “its effect, taken as a whole, is to outrage contemporary standards of decency or humanity accepted by the public at large.” In other words, once more publishers will not be able to discover whether they are breaking the law or not until the jury decides. Thus the police will have an even freer hand to close things they do not like. To them, the existence of a gay newspaper could be an outrage.

It would remove the defence of literary merit or public good – on the grounds that if it is well written it must be more effectively corrupting!

It would increase the penalties for everything.

If it ever became law it would be an artistic disaster.

I note with apprehension that shortly after the publication of this report the police chose to raid the least offensive of porn – the Paul Raymond magazines.

The only thing I can say in conclusion is that the report continually equates porn with Nazi anti-semitic propoganda. I would have thought that this report itself was open to a not unsimilar charge. More than that it is not necessary to say.

Chedio London

19721001-05The Campaign for Homosexual Equality got almost three hours of airspace when they took over Radio London’s ‘Platform’ programme — the programme being especially extended to cope with the large number of phone calls from listeners wishing to question the studio panel and audience.

The programme opened with a series of statements (delivered in pseudo-working-class tones) of the conventional prejudices, interspersed with cold, calm, facts, delivered in a distinctly middle-class tone. Which was, in fact, the tone of the entire programme. It constituted a plea for the civil rights of gay people, for greater knowledge and understanding, for more honest and comprehensive sex education, for the right of gay people to marry, adopt children, buy houses – in other words, it requested the right to be as respectable, as conformist, and as dull as the rest of suburbia. Put on your pinny, Lavinia, you’re going to be a real housewife. If CHE has its way.

The reactions of the audience (who phoned in) were interesting, but one couldn’t help the impression that most people who phoned 1 in knew someone on the programme (I did, for example). Perhaps the bulk of the audience were bored away by the initial part of the programme, which consisted of four speeches taped by four different types of gay person – one young man, one old man, one woman and one rather more adjusted young man (since joining up), – followed by a studio discussion of each one. I’d heard a lot of it before, and it seemed to me to go on for too long. But these things were being said over Auntie Beeb’s airwaves, were being talked out frankly and in public. By CHE!

The basis of the CHE manifesto, which is what I shall call the first part of the programme was the call for greater knowledge, because ignorance leads to hostility. And people are brought up with all kinds of unpleasant and untrue myths about gays, which not only make them shun the gays they recognise, but contribute enormously to perpetuating our own feelings of guilt about our sexuality.

Thus the education of children was an important topic – so that those children with homosexual tendencies would grow up accepting them without guilt or fear, and so that their heterosexual friends would not think anything of them for being different. The law would call this depraving and corrupting, I think.

Once knowledge of the true nature of gayness (ie we’re people the same as anyone else) began to be accepted, then the next most important part of CHE thought would become action.

Homosexuality and heterosexuality, as distinct forms of sexuality, would eventually cease to exist altogether. In order to reach that stage, homosexuals should not be discriminated either for or against in societies laws. Thus a gay couple should be allowed to bring up children (after all, even if the child did turn out to be gay, as was suggested by a listener, that was no worse than being straight). Here, even the studio panel and audience disagreed – several of the women thought that a child needed a mother, but had no use for a father. Others thought that if a child had a loving, adult relationship to grow up in the shadow of, that was all that mattered.

Listeners also phoned in raising the questions of joint mortgages and bank accounts for gay couples (both are already possible in some areas, notably Halifax) and similar We-want-to-be-just-like-them questions (I thought gay people had seen by now that marriage doesn’t work, even for straights). Some listeners, notably one John Myers, didn’t accept that gay was as good as straight; he suggested that since homosexuality was (in his words) an abnormality, wouldn’t CHE be better off devoting its time to researching the causes of it so that in future it could be prevented or cured at an early age. He was politely told that to look for a cause was to look for a cure, and since homosexuality wasn’t a disease it didn’t have a cure. Many have looked for one and none have been found. People like him had just to get used to us.

CHE also explained its position on cottaging (in response to a phoned-in question from yours truly) which was: We do sympathise, we don’t approve; the police say they only act when a member of the public complains – we would like that member of the public to make his complaint in court to the magistrate; we would like to see and hear less of police soliciting such offences (which they do); we would like offenders in this respect to be put in touch with us by the courts; we hope to have a bust-fund to help people who want to fight against such arrests instead of pleading guilty to avoid the publicity.

All in all, not so stuffy a programme as I, for one, had been expecting, some lively discussion, and most issues squarely faced. A good statement of where CHE is at and going to, and, thank god, made in public.

Wait and Watch

THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY

Starring Shirley Maclaine, Perry King, Michael Hordern. Directed by Warris Husein, Colour, an ITC Production. Distributed in the UK by Scotia Barber Distributors Ltd.

Some films have a good script and leaden direction. Some have a lousy script and brilliant direction. Films in both categories often come off really well. ‘Joel Delaney’ is of the second type.

The film is mainly a chillingly beautiful contrast between the two faces of New York – the smart middle-class home with its smart middle-class mum and well-controlled kids, and mum’s brother, living amongst Puerto Ricans in the heart of Spanish Harlem. From the schizophrenic city come schizo people – like Joel Delaney. Sometimes he’s a bored and rebellious middle American, sometimes he’s a raving maniac who beheads women with a flick-knife.

How, who, why, when and who’s next is the meat of the film. The tension, the uncertainty, the gruesomely understated deaths (look over the fridge door when Shirley goes into the kitchen to get the kid’s breakfast in the beach house), the powerful use of music. All these masterly touches from Waris Hussien lift what is sometimes a boring script into the realm of fear and tension. You might be tempted to walk out early on in the film, when nothing seems to be happening and the dialogue is banal. Don’t. Wait and watch. It’s worth it.

Radio CHE

19720914-03GAY NEWS has promised you a full report on the edition of Radio London’s ‘Platform’ programme produced by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). Well, rest assured, it is on its way. The programme was very long, and in fact was extended to almost three hours because of the number of people who phoned in to ask the studio panel questions. This makes for an awful lot of tape to transcribe, but the programme covered a great deal of ground in such detail that we feel we ought to report it in full.

It is perhaps the most comprehensive statement that we have of where CHE, the largest of the gay organisations, is at and where it is going, and also showed up some of the internal differences of that group. Furthermore, Radio London has a limited audience (or had – at the time only those of us in the London area with VHF sets could hear it), and the Platform programme is only heard by a minority of that minority. As many people as possible should be aware of what was said.

So in order to do justice to both CHE and the programme we are holding our full report over to the next issue. We feel that to rush into print at this time would give you only an inadequate report.

In fact, CHE surprised us by dealing with such controversial topics in such detail with little of the formality or prudishness that is often their hallmark. Sex education, adoption by gay couples, marriage and mortgage, parents, school, young gays, old gays, women (though not sufficiently), relationships, cottaging, political and social groups, and many more topics were covered fairly and in some depth. Whilst one may not necessarily agree with some of what was said, it is the first time that such a statement has been broadcast in this country, and the opportunity was fully grasped.

Full marks to Roger Baker for assembling such a balanced studio panel who maintained their sense of humour in the face of some distinctly loaded and difficult questions from listeners.

One’s only complaint is that the introductory statement of facts and studio discussions went on far too long, but that may be because this ‘one’ had heard most of the elementary facts before. Anyone ignorant of gay people and gay life, and the situation for gay people in this country will have learned and profited from hearing the programme.

Camp Classics

19720914-10Ganymede in Rome twenty-eight epigrams of Marcus Valerius Martialis. The Palantine Press £3

A slim hardback volume on high quality paper of very free and rather camp translations of Martial’s epigrams relating to pretty boys in the somewhat decadent days of Rome. Personally, I find it all a bit precious (and at £3 it is) and coy, but it will no doubt appeal to classicists and/or romantics, and will probably find it’s way into many homes in Harrow, Eton and Winchester.

Front cover, issue #6

What Have I Got to Lose

19720901-01On Wednesday, 23rd August, there were more recorded murders than ever before in one 24-hour period in one city. This total does not include the shooting of Salvatore Naturelle by an F.B.I. agent at Kennedy airport after he and John Wojtowic had held up a bank in Brooklyn and had attempted to arrange a getaway by jet, using seven hostages whom they had held for several hours as bargaining counters. The place was New York City.

In such a city, on such a day, it is perhaps surprising that both major London evening papers devoted their headlines to the story in most editions from noon onwards. They did so not only because the gunmen might have got away with eleven and a half thousand pounds, not only because they held seven hostages and said they would not be afraid to kill them, but because the gunmen were gay and had said so.

John has fought in Vietnam. He has been married. He had also been through a form of marriage ceremony with Ernest Aarons after leaving his wife. One of the conditions he imposed upon the police in attempting to arrange his getaway was that his gay wife should be brought to him from psychiatric hospital where he was undergoing treatment. Clearly John was a man under considerable mental strain himself, and this was probably one of the factors which led him to act upon the information from one of the bank’s employees in attempting to steal the $29000.

John and Salvatore had been on the point of leaving the bank with the money when the police arrived. They seized seven hostages and retreated inside the bank, from where John conducted negotiations with the police and interviews with the press. He said that they would not be afraid to shoot any of the hostages, since the Supreme Court had declared the death penalty a ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ (thus banning it under the US constitution). “What have I got to lose? The Supreme Court did away with the chair . . . What have I got to lose? I am a homosexual. I told the cops to get my wife – he’s a male . . . I told them if they bring him here I will release half the hostages.” But Ernest refused to join John, saying that John “doesn’t love me any more”. Under the circumstances. John was clearly right. What did he have to lose?

John’s mother, like most mothers, believed that John was being led astray by Salvatore . . . “He’s not a mean kid he’s not the type that would hurt anybody.”

Eventually the police brought a limousine to the bank, driven by an FBI agent, to take the robbers and their loot and hostages to the airport, where a twin engined jet was waiting for them. They were escorted by a 21-car motorcade.

At the airport. Special Agent Richard Baker approached the limousine as it drew near the waiting plane. Engaging the occupants in conversation, he drew their attention away from the agent/driver, who turned and shot Salvatore through the chest, killing him. (Who needs the Supreme Court to exact a death penalty?) John then gave himself up, and the money and hostages were recovered intact.

The most amazing thing about the robbery, taking place as it did in a crime-ridden city was that it received such wide and urgent coverage in the London press . . .

(midday) EVENING STANDARD . . . GAY GANGSTERS HOLD 7 HOSTAGES

EVENING NEWS . . . GAY GUNMEN HOLD GIRLS HOSTAGE

(Late) EVENING STANDARD . . THE GAY GUNMEN GET AWAY WITH SEVEN HOSTAGES

EVENING NEWS . . . GAY GUNMEN FLEE BANK WITH GIRL HOSTAGES

(Late Extra) EVENING STANDARD . . . THE GAY GUNMEN AIRPORT BATTLE – HOSTAGES FREED

EVENING NEWS . . . GAY GUNMEN DRAMA ENDS IN DEATH

Did you notice? Our own, non-medical, non-derogatory term for ourselves used without obvious explanation or apology. It seems so petty a point to have arisen from such dramatic and painful occurrences, but nevertheless, so important. Is it also petty to point out that the press made no attempt to connect homosexuality with gun-toting and bank robbing – after all, we’ve been bracketed with criminals for a long time. Perhaps all the effort over the years does have an effect on people after all.

Such a pity, too that one daily paper should choose to belittle the whole thing the following morning by calling it a ‘farce’ and ‘exotic’. I do not share their sense of humour.

I feel sorry for John and Salvatore and Ernest. Perhaps I’m not supposed to.

He’s Where He’s At

04-197208XX 10Fritz and Cat (X) — based on characters created by Robert Crumb
Directed by Ralph Balshi 78 mins, cut.

If you don’t like the underground, after this film you will hate it. If you do, then you’ll find you and your friends sent up rather cruelly. The Daily Express will have it’s worst suspicions confirmed. Mary Whitehouse won’t see it for fear of having an orgasm. Whatever else this film is it’s certainly real – a bit too real at times. It took me a whole evening afterwards to realise that the straight world caricatured the same way would be absolutely unbearable, unfilmable.

Police really are pigs here, and rather dumb ones too – everyone else is some sort of nasty animal. Fritz the Cat is a kind of naive college-kid revolutionary. There’s a sort of mix-up in the usual cartoon conventions – people really do fuck, they do die when they get shot, but Fritz escapes virtually unhurt from the centre of a massive explosion (though he is hospitalised first). It’s really a horror movie to out-horror anything Lee or Price could contrive.

It’s also truly funny – if you can remember it’s a cartoon. I forgot.