We live in a democracy. It means we’re free to do and say what we like – and that’s official. But the way society is run might tempt cynics to say that British democracy means we have the right to do and say what the state and certain self-appointed arbiters of behaviour ordain.
The 1967 Sexual Offences Act – which made gay love “legal” – specifically excludes members of the armed forces from equality with other gays, already a minority unequal with “straight” society.
At least the law spells out the ground rules even if they are, undoubtedly, wrong. For instance laws that limit gay sex to those not in the armed forces, over 21 and in two’s, in private are clearly indefensible because they make us unequal with the rest of society.
The main failing of the law, as it stands at present, is that it does not give gays the legal equality, however grudging, that black people must receive.
But far more oppressive than open harassment and legal inequality for blacks and gays alike is the sinister form of silent censorship that Gay News and all the gay organisations experience.
The Campaign for Homosexual Equality came up against the Angry Silence twice earlier this year when it was trying to fix the place for its first annual conference. Both Weymouth and Morecambe fought shy of having fairies al the end of the pier.
Recently CHE won a victory by managing to lay a wreath to the Unknown Gay Soldier at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday. When almost any old ex-Servicemen’s Club and association representing those who allow themselves to be ruled by traitors — that is, Rhodesia – are allowed to lay wreaths, the inequality of not allowing the Gay Liberation Front to lay just such a wreath last year shrieks of a society where the homosexual is not equal even with traitors in the view of the elite law-forming body, Parliament.
Gay News has troubles with the Angry Silence in many directions and they have taken a new turn of late.
We’re used to news wholesalers and retailers such as Smiths, Menzies and Selfridges, joining in the elitist freezing out of gays. And you’re used to reading about our distribution problems by now.
The latest bizarre turn in this “free-speech” state is the Evening Standard’s refusal of an advertisement for a sex-education movie quoting Gay News.
The man at the Standard told Cobra Films’ representative that the paper wouldn’t mind running the ad if only they would quote a “respectable film critic, tor instance Alexander Walker”.
Once again the Standard has shown that whilst it will use the word ‘gay’ in headlines to sell the paper, it will not countenance the fact that gays live, are organised and have their own newspaper.
The ad-man at the Standard said that the GN crit of Cobra-1 was “near-pornography”
He is entitled to his views, but the Standard should print views it does not agree with, as the press should leave its columns open to all sectors of society as Charles Wintour, the Standard’s editor says in his recent book on the press.
Indeed, many of us feel that the views put forward as the paper’s official policy – in its leaders — and other right-wing pontifications carried in its pages are pornographic.
Mr Wintour is responsible for all the opinions expressed in the Evening Standard, including the writings of the “respectable” Alexander Walker, who was brought to the Standard by Godfrey Winn who discovered him in Brighton.
Many of the views put forward by the Standard work towards an elitist society and towards eroding free speech so that a schoolteacher may not be gay – and honest – and keep his job (GN11).
They are promoting a society where a lie is preferable to the truth. And that really is pornographic. In strictly legal terms it’s liable to deprave and corrupt the ‘Bristows’ of this world. If that’s democracy at work, no wonder so many of the more radical gays see the fight for gay equality as part of a much bigger and economic change in society.
But we at GN are used to being excluded from the press. Time Out – to whom we are grateful for many things — would not publish our ad which mentioned the personal ads in the back of GN on the advice of their legal eagle.
The silent censorship of the Cobra Films ad by the Evening Standard shows that society is not willing to accept a gay newspaper as a genuine newspaper – and it follows that if Gay News isn’t accepted as a paper by our fellow journalists, no gay can expect to be treated as anything but a curio by Charles Wintour and others like him who affect the way the power-holding elite think – no individual gay or gay organisation.
Please note that any letters received by us at Gay News are liable to be published unless you state otherwise.
Woodsetts, nr. Worksop,
Dear Gay News,
I have been going to write to you for some time but have kept putting it off through laziness. What has at last impelled me to shake off my torpor is the appalling and scandalous action of Mr Martin Stafford as reported in Gay News no 11.
As a fellow member of CHE’s Executive Committee, I am well aware of the petulant and selfish attitude that he adopts. But I am horrified that even he could go to the lengths that you have reported. To disagree with your policy of publishing contact ads is one thing; but to go over to the enemy in this way is something that ought not even be considered by someone holding any official position in an organisation such as CHE. I am absolutely sure that the overwhelming majority of CHE members will join with me in condemning such action in the strongest possible terms. I must congratulate Gay News for its objective (even kindly) reporting of the episode. It is time that CHE took some firm action to put Mr Stafford in his place as the squalid little nuisance that he is.
On the same subject, more or less, I find it very sad that so many of our brother and sister homosexuals, while looking for and expecting sympathy and understanding for their own problems find it so difficult to be sympathetic and understanding of those of others. Typical is the letter of VJM of Dublin in GN 11. What is so awful about camping it up in female clothes that a repressed pederast finds so hard to accept?
In the meantime, it’s an ill wind … etc. I have at last got round to telling you what a good job you are doing and sending you the small donation and the cigarette coupons that I have been meaning to do for some time.
With congratulations and all good wisnes tor continued success.
H. E. (Ike) Cowan
Good News, Bad News
Dear Friends and Lovers,
Congratulations on what must be the very best issue of Gay News yet (No. 11). What with one of my very favourite people on the cover and that splendid interview with Shuff, I sat transfixed in the laundromat long after my knickers had finished tumbling dry. Mrs Shufflewick is certainly the best drag artist working today, a comedian of genius. The interview proved that the success of such articles (which only come off now and then) lies in asking the right question at the right stage in the conversation. So congratulations to Shuff’s interrogators.
Now the bad news. I felt that Peter Homes’ report of the German gay movie at the NFT was inadequate and rather silly. The event was not, I agree, as important as all that. But it was interesting and both the film and the audience’s reaction had messages for us that deserved a rather more serious discussion than that offered.
Finally, your reporter with a cold who couldn’t stay on for CHE’s evening show after the fair has embarrassed me considerably. I certainly did not conceive the one-act musical that was put on, nor did I take part in it. In fact my only contribution to the evening was to appear in a five-minute sketch. Credit where credit’s due, etc — so thank Rex, Michael, Marie and Gavin for the show.
Lots of love,
Forced to be Free
National Federation of Homophile Organisations,
65 Shoot-up Hill, London, NW2 3PS
I don’t consider myself to be “Britain’s number one homosexual”; I simply told the London Medical Group audience that I had publicly been referred to in that way at another recent meeting, so I had no objection whatever to telling them that I was gay. This was in response to a “come out” challenge to the panel by a gay visitor in the audience. I added that the Chairman had set us an impossible task by asking for a “dispassionate and objective” account of homosexuality, because everybody in the world speaks from his or her own personal subjective sexual viewpoint, and I was no exception. But I hoped that having told them I was gay myself would not preclude my hearers from accepting that what I had to say was the result of knowledge gained through ten years’ professional work and responsible experience of running the Albany Trust. We have to scotch the absurd notion that only the “straight” can speak authoritatively about the “gay” (or vice versa).
This little episode did, however, cause me to reflect about “coming out”. It is good to be able to: but not everyone yet can without running considerable social and professional risks. Isn’t it somewhat unfair for those who are in a more fortunate situation not to recognise this? To taunt a panel of three professional people, only one of whom (myself) was able to publicly lay homosexuality on the line without almost inevitable and immediately damaging repercussions in their own sphere of work, strikes me as oppressive. It’s utterly wrong, of course, that such repercussions should still happen, but until we have all done much more to put society right in this respect, each one of us must surely be left to decide how far, and in what ways, we can come out. I have fought as hard as anyone for gay liberation and other civil rights causes; but I would resent being “forced to be free” a la Rousseau.
What those who still feel bound to remain “in the closet” can do, however, is to make the work of those of us in the various homophile groups and publications more effective by seeing to it that we aren’t starved out of existence. The entire homophile movement is in a state of chronic financial crisis that threatens its continued life. I hope all your readers will carefully consider the urgent needs of the Albany Trust, the NFHO and its member organisations, GLF, Gay News, and the various other homophile publications and see to it that if they can’t yet come out of their closets, they do dig deeper into their pockets so that we can all do more to make 1973 a year that is safer for gay people to come out in.
Love and Peace,
Dearest Darling Gay News.
Much though I love your newspaper, I have just one teensy-weensy complaint. I refer of course dears, to our little friend Julian Denys Grinspoon. Really, I don’t know why he bothers! He doesn’t give anything worth having; and what a pseud name!
Well really, loves, who wants to know what films are on at our dear old Bio? No one ever goes there for the films, do they? One gets enough carnal knowledge from just sitting there; and as for active participation, well I don’t think I need tell you old queens anything about that! Jules makes such a fuss just because some silly duchess at the cinema wouldn’t give him what he wants. Then he makes a big thing about telling us about all the people he eventually got it from (the programme of course). As if we want to know about his private life anyway.
The double-entendres are just too much personally I don’t like that sort of thing. He’s always doing things behind people’s backs just to get his own way. That sort of thing was illegal you know! So, why do all you lovelies at Gay News waste your space (and time) on him? Anyway, loves, he’s so camp and that’s one thing I cannot stand!
Thanks for your mag.
Lots of love,
A straight reader and friend,
Call to All Gay Sisters
Dear Gay News,
This is really a call to all lady gays. I fervently agree with the letter from Sappho (GN10) and I sing in chorus “where have all the ladies gone?”
I’m sure I am not the only female reading this wonderful newspaper. But the guys rule the waves once again, don’t let them hog all the paper. I know lots about them and have seen plenty of their arses. How about giving me a little of what I want. Let’s have a few of our lady friends saying something about themselves. I don’t see why we couldn’t have a sexy little ladie’s page if we tried hard enough. But there is only you who can bring that about, so write in and say something – anything! Like, where a few of you lovely ladies hang out! I’m a fresher to London and am still looking for lots of friends and a tour around the gay places. So don’t keep your info to yourselves, let’s all know about it. I’m looking for an opening – don’t keep me waiting! Write and tell me, and lots like me I’m sure, where we can meet some of you lovely ladies.
Love to you all,
ED: Please get in touch with us Lynne, you forgot to put your name and address on your letter. Without your address we cannot forward any letters to you.
No GLF At CHE
May I bring this information to the attention of your readers. Going down to the CHE London Information Centre to do my lunchtime stint on the rota on Monday, November 6, I was told by the office manager that on the previous Sunday a decision was taken by the London Management Committee of CHE to remove all GLF literature in LIC.
The reason given was that LIC had too much of a left-wing flavour, and that GLF literature was too much in evidence. I observed that other gay literature including one of full frontal nudes was untouched by this censorship.
LIC exists surely to provide first information, on CHE, then information on all other gay organisations regardless of any political, religious or any other basis. I certainly was not aware that GLF dominated the diplay, nor was I conscious of the left-wing flavour of LIC — whatever sinister spectre that term conjures in certain narrow minds. It is sad to see this rage over gay-red-under-the-bed getting the better of some of our brothers and sisters, or is there some deeper motive behind this first move? Whatever the reason I am sure this decision is a bad one and must be resolutely opposed. Group Chairmen, please note.
Dear Gay News,
The article in a recent Gay News about so-called pederasty prompted me to get my thoughts on the subject in order and write this.
Basically I’m bisexual. At the moment I’m more heterosexually than homosexually inclined, but this is more because of ‘supply’ than ‘demand’. As far as the homosexual side of my sexual make-up goes I could be defined as a pederast, because I’m chiefly attracted to guys in an age-range of about 15—22. I doubt whether I could get it on with anyone older than this. I’ve thought about the reasons for my choice, and they’re something like this.
Physically and mentally, I’m a pretty fair balance between masculine and feminine. I’m also 19 (so that makes half my sexual make-up illegal but I don’t care, it’s the law that’s wrong), and I’m attracted to similar people. Maybe this is truer homosexuality than that seen in many couples where the butch/bitch syndrome is their basis. Anyway, there’s an elusive blend of masculine hardness and slimness with feminine softness which really turns me on. Quite a lot of guys in this age-group have it, and so do some women; the only trouble is, all the guys are straight! So I do the next best thing and go with women…
I’ve written mainly about physical characteristics; but before anyone writes a nasty reply, I do take mental characteristics into account, indeed very much so. however I can’t get it on with a guy or chick unless I fancy them. What a hangup!
Letterette Of The Month
… Thanks a lot … great reading … love the ads … love it all … Happiness is egg shaped … and so am I.
46, Cavan Drive, St Albans, Herts.
Dear Gay News,
I am in the process of finishing a gay film ‘Love Of My Own’ and I would like to hear from interested parties, in getting it on celluloid. Script-writers, film-directors with experience, actors, non-actors, and people with finance. This film calls for actresses (not in drag). I would like any gay director of a company to give permission to use the board room, and also anyone with a large house with swimming pool, so come on, let’s really make this film for 1973.
LONDON: A teach-in in London was told a teachers’ information service should be set up to advise teachers on how they can introduce gayness into sex education in schools.
The teach-in was held at the London Collegiate Centre by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and the London Homophile Society. The subject was introducing homosexual education into schools.
It lasted all day and was split into three sections.
In the first session, called Identifying The Problem, the speaker was Malcolm Johnson. The second session was Methods of Education with David Bell as speaker. David said that if a teacher had a healthy loving relationship with his pupils they would accept his sexual orientation as an incidental and healthy part of his total personality. Too often, gay teachers simply comply with acceptable heterosexual standards and to that extent have a hollow negative relationship with their pupils.
The third part of the teach-in was on practical action with Glenys Parry of CHE speaking.
In question time one teacher said he felt that a teachers’ information service should be set up to advise teachers on the best way to teach pupils about gayness.
Others criticised Michael Douane, of Risinghill School and N. S. Neil – who are seen as progressive in education – were reactionary in their approach to homosexuality. Apparently, they said, the heads saw freedom making happy healthy heterosexual children and adults, and that homosexuality is the result of negative environmental pressures.
One teacher said that real live homosexuals should be allowed to be guest speakers at schools to avoid a discussion on homosexuality becoming too abstract. But this idea the teach-in thought, would be a challenge to school authority structures and the establishment’s thinking, and would be difficult to implement.
Glenys’s session on practical action was on the ways teachers could come out and influence their pupils’ minds by discussing the real nature of figures in history and introducing the subjects into religious instruction lessons.
Whilst the teach-in admitted that it would be difficult to introduce homosexuality into some subjects, such as metalwork, Wallace Grevatt, who did much of the organising that got the teach-in to happen, said he hoped a teachers’ action group to provide an information service and to create pressure upon educationalists to consider the possibility of introducing homosexual education into school curricula.
Saturday November 11th saw a house packed to the gallery at Newcastle University for what was billed as the “Gay Liberation Debate”, with a local Methodist minister, The Rev. J. M. Furness, proposing that “This House deplores the Emergence of Homosexual Self-Confession and Self-Justification”. Mr Furness who assures us that most of his knowledge of the subject was gained from books borrowed from the library that morning, spent quite a lot of time trying to define who these homosexuals were. And by the time he had excluded you-know-what in public schools, in the armed services and in prison cells, his case that homosexuality was an aberration the flaunting of which struck at the very roots of society began to look a little thin. By the time he reached the responsibilities of older men with families to fight against the corruption of the young, it began to feel a little thin. And when he got to the bit about homosexuals deserving sympathy not condemnation, but that we should, presumably like the people with only one arm to whom he had compared us, be neither seen nor heard, it was clear that his seconder was not going to have an easy task.
After this it seemed a bit unfair on him that Michael Barnes opposing on behalf of Newcastle GLF should start off in a clarion-call voice and style resembling Henry V on the field of Agincourt. He was certainly going to be heard and he made it clear that sympathy was the last thing he had in mind, unless it was sympathy with any homosexual who should be unlucky enough to turn to Mr Furness for advice. Not a beer-glass rattled through his rousing speech and he made sure every member of the audience knew that there was still discrimination against us in law, socially and in our jobs, discrimination which would continue unless gays did come out and fight for the right to live in a way which others regarded as their birthright, fight against inhumanity like that of the Newcastle employer who recently announced that he’d not rest while a “fucking poof’ continued working in his office.
Richard Webster, secretary of Tyneside CHE, seconding for Michael under the Gay Lib banner (who said Brighton is the only place where there’s co-operation?) would have a hard job to knock down Dr A. S. Wigfield, Consultant Venereologist at Newcastle General Hospital, who seconded for the proposition. This wasn’t one of those venereological ogres but someone, evidently nearly as unhappy with the motion as he was with the VD figures, who in a witty speech delighted the audience with some of the best bad puns of a long time and condemned the commercial exploitation of sex in terms with which many gays would be happy to agree.
But it was a pity that his peroration against permissiveness was rather spoilt by a cheerful inability to resist a dig at the idea of gay marriage with the comment that we seemed to be wanting “our bride bartered on both sides”.
Richard was against “permissiveness” as well, but on rather different grounds. What right, he wanted to know, had Society to take upon itself to “permit” fellow human beings to be themselves? If (as he pinned a GLF badge on one side of his nice new suit, and a CHE one on the other) by confessing himself in public he had done something to help just one other gay person to feel proud of himself as a fellow human being, he’d have done something worthwhile. But as for self-justification, that term came from those who believed we had something — the plague? – we needed to justify. He knew he had not.
After which we sat back with bated breath waiting for what the Floor would say. One brave girl made a brief speech in defence of married life, and then… silence. Throughout the evening scarcely anyone had nipped out for a pee, hardly a whisper of disinterest had reached the platform (except while Mr Furness was consulting his borrowed books), yet no one else would speak. Had we all been so brilliant that there was nothing left to say? Had everyone a raging thirst? Could it be that all these liberated students weren’t liberated enough to speak on such a delicate topic? We don’t know. We don’t know either what the voting figures were: there was no point in counting all those hands when they were raised so overwhelmingly against the motion and in our favour.
Gay News is, as has been said many times in the paper, an unaffiliated, independent newspaper, that is open to all forms of opinions and comments. It is not a Gay Liberation Front paper, any more than it is a mouthpiece solely for Campaign for Homosexual Equality, or any of the other active gay organisations operative in Great Britain.
That most certainly does not mean though, that the ideas and aims, as well as reportage of the activities of these organisations, will not appear in our pages. They are welcome to submit copy to us which we will almost certainly print, the same as any other individual is more than welcome to express his/her viewpoints, whether through a letter, an article or by informing us of some news that is relevant to all gays
So we wonder why some members of London Gay Lib find it necessary to be so openly hostile by threatening to ‘take over’ Gay News if we do not print a letter of theirs. GN prints the majority of letters received, and the only time we reject readers/organisations communications is when we have a large number making exactly the same point, or when we can’t read the writing. Other reasons would be when we considered the letter to be racist, slanderous non-factual or unfairly offensive. We do not censor letters and whether the members of the editorial collective agree or disagree with what is being said is immaterial to whether they are reproduced. A quick look at the many letters we have printed in past issues would show that what we are saying is correct.
Why then the hostility from this small group of radicals? Is it because we are not a GLF paper? — for that we most certainly won’t ever be, as we will never be any other organisation’s publication. Is it because GN is critical of some London GLF activities and policies? – possibly, for up until the advent of Gay News no gay organisation received any serious criticism from gay people themselves. Does this mean to say that some London Gay Libbers are so right, so completely pure, that they don’t have to examine their motives, or consider the opinions of others, or even want to be bothered to attempt to communicate their ideas to others who haven’t reached the same advanced state of personal awareness as themselves.
The Gay News Office was invaded just after the publication of our first issue, by a GLF faction calling themselves Radical Feminists (we understand that they are now known as Radical Queens). They objected to us including an article critical of them in the issue we were preparing for publication. After screaming at us for an hour or so, they then disagreed amongst themselves, resulting in extreme boredom for us and a loss of valuable working time. They eventually trooped out, leaving us none the wiser to why they were above or afraid of criticism.
The only point of near communication that we were left to ponder was the slogan ‘Where’s your head at?’ which was frequently bellowed during the incident. This quaint phrase first came into use during the psychedelic boom of 1967, and was subsequently dropped from ‘hip’ language much the same time as ‘flower power’ died.
Does this new takeover threat mean that we will have to endure another hysterical screeching session, or maybe they will go farther and destroy our notes and intended copy, remove our files, damage our typewriters and light fittings and generally behave like a bunch of thugs from the National Front, as they did when invading the Time Out premises a year ago. You can rest assured that nothing more constructive will be coming from them, unless by some sort of miracle they manage to prepare an issue of the paper, which would surely be a one-sided, dogmatic rendering of their own exclusive cant.
The GN collective would of course never allow this to happen, as in the same way we will not allow any form of censorship, whether through intimidation or otherwise. Why can’t these people see that any articles they submit to us will take their place among all the other opinions and criticisms from other organisations.
Is it also necessary for GN street sellers to receive threats such as “What will you do if I rip up your papers?” as happens every so often. On more than one occasion, copies of GN have in fact been destroyed by agitated London Gay Libbers. What is the sense in this, for such action is on a par with book burning.
It is not intended by this piece to attack or even criticise the whole of the Gay Liberation Front movement. Many London members, despite ideological differences with Gay News, manage to maintain a civilised relationship with us, and also do much good and important work for the improvement of the lot of gays generally. Also relations with Gay Lib outside of London couldn’t be better, many of these groups, in fact, sell GN at their meetings and also in their surrounding areas. We have even received generous donations from one or two of these groups.
As we feel that no-one is exempt from constuctive criticism and we will never pander to pressure groups by withholding news, censoring our opinions and editorial comments, or allowing one faction or group to have more of a say or influence than another. The day we did allow this would be the time for us to quit publishing, for it would be betraying the trust people have in us, who rely upon our independent position to inform them factually, unbiasedly and without any preaching or politicising.
In a recent London GLF Diary (Nov 9-18) the embittered faction responsible for that edition suggested that people read such American Gay Lib publications as Gay Sunshine, Gay Liberator, Flaming Faggots as they would ‘prove more palatable than reading Gay News’. Apart from these papers only being available in limited numbers at a few bookshops, the writer(s) of the quoted piece completely fail to explain or communicate their reasons for such criticism. Possibly the truth and realities of matters and events nearer home are unpalatable. Possibly the vacuity of London Gay Lib during the last year is a matter they would rather sweep under the carpet.
We remain the only national fortnightly, independent gay newspaper in this country, and we mean to stay just that. No matter what threats we may recieve.
Gay News Editorial Collective
ED: The complete list of periodicals mentioned in the GLF Diary are as follows: The Body Politic, Lesbian Tide, Flaming Faggots, Gay Sunshine, Fuori and Gay Liberator. We would add to that list The Furies and The Advocate, America’s largest selling gay newspaper. Bookshops in London likely to have a few copies of these papers in stock are Housmans, Agitprop and Compendium.
There is a distinct possibility that CHE may soon be able to form a local group in Dublin. This is the result of a visit made there by one CHE member, Allan Crossley, during which he contacted The Irish Times, the Samaritans and an already existing homophile group.
The established group is called The Legion of Mary and is described as “an apostolic organisation aiming to achieve the personal sanctification of all its members”. The group has about 50 contacts, and its leaders (both married men with families) agreed that not all homosexuals who came into contact with them could accept their approach and methods, especially if they did not wish any involvement with the church. The group accepted CHE literature which has been distributed to members.
All Irish newspapers have refused to mention this group and have refused to accept any advertisements from it. The Irish Times did, however, publish an interview with Allan (November 21), a short article which, while stating CHE’s aims quite clearly and correctly, lent its emphasis to the fact that ‘buggery’ and ‘gross indecency between males’ are illegal in Ireland. Which indicates that the full implications of being homosexual are completely unknown – to the writer of the article at least. However there is, at the time of writing, a 90% chance that the same newspaper will agree to carry a CHE advertisement on its back page of personal ads.
Allan was also able to give CHE literature and posters to the Dublin Samaritans, and to put the idea into their heads that a speaker on homosexuality might be invited along.
Please note that any letters received by us at Gay News are liable to be published unless you state otherwise.
4, Hamilton Close, London NW8
Just to let you know, as calmly and sweetly as the situation permits, that the beautiful back photo on p7 of GN 10 is by me, repeat me. It is nothing to do with the journal called GAY TIMES, to which it is acknowledged, except insofar as they have printed it once, without bothering to acknowledge it at all.
The model, being well over 21, when this picture was taken, will no doubt be having the last laugh when he sees it used as an illustration on this particular subject!
Feminism is a Drag
Co Dublin, Ireland.
Please find enclosed my renewed subscription to Gay News.
I think it is a super production, but I sometimes get very depressed when I read all about the persecutions, prosecutions and the drag scene. The latter is stupidly too feminine for my liking and spoils the true concept of a homosexual.
In GN8 you had a short article on pederasts. Well, I’m afraid I’m one and as someone said in your paper, I must have a very sick mind. Maybe I have, but I have never approached or molested a child in my life, nor do I intend to. It’s far too dangerous to do and would spoil that child’s future. I reckon my mind isn’t as sick as those that dress up as women and those that act and address each other in female terms. They just cannot appreciate the male form.
For some years now I have adored, from a distance. boys of the ages 12 to 16 years. I think their faces, in most cases, are the prettiest of any human, their build just perfect. To me the body of a man is revolting and I would rather die than share a bed with one and likewise the thought of buggery is nauseating. My dream would be in the position of being able to kiss a boy from head to toe and no more.
I have never met a homosexual person in my life. Maybe because I don’t look for one. I have read many books and magazines which I often find revolting, but sometimes get satisfaction in seeing magazines of nude boys. I have never seen a real live body of a nude boy since I was a kid myself. I would really give anything, and I mean this, to see one and be with one. I have often felt like advertising, but realised it would be stupid because of the law.
It is terribly frustrating to look at a boy and not be able to touch him even though you don’t intend him any harm…
It is the first time I have ever written to a paper or a magazine. Gay News is the most advanced paper I have come across and I sincerely wish you continued success and safety.
Beware Of Longford
Dear Gay News,
I was so enraged to see that letter in GN9 by HRA (whoever the hell he is) condemning the picture of Longford and Cliff Richard that I felt compelled to write. I reject any notion that it was in “appalling bad taste”. I found it was very funny, and it made my day. Thank God someone has got a sense of humour.
I must admit that Lord Longford has always been a source of amusement to me, but that hit the bull. If it was mocking, then it was justified. If HRA is offended by the sight of a prick, then I feel sorry for him, he’s missing out on a hell of a lot!
Going back to Lord Longford as a person, it must be admitted that he indeed has a social conscience, but his idea of ‘helping’ is ludicrous, and even frightening. All that he believes in centres around sex, pornography etc; he seems to have it on the brain (which sounds bloody uncomfortable to me). People associate him with pornography, because every time we hear about him he rattles on about it. True, he might ‘help’ drop-outs, but then I could give you a list as long as your… no, longer, of people who devote their whole life to helping in the true sense of the word.
In case anybody did not realise, Lord Longford is officially a nothing. Despite the title and the fact that he can gas away in the House of Lords, he is only one person, and represents nobody – as an MP does. He is a member of a chamber that is not elected, therefore undemocratic, and unrepresentative. He is one of the many one-time officials that are put out to grass in the Lords. He has the advantage of assuming importance so that the Government could well take notice of his monstrous report.
For anyone who knows what freedom of expression is, beware, because if Longford gets his way, you’ll lose what you’re just getting.
Although it is only one little aspect of the subject, if Oz offends someone, don’t read it. If Oh! Calcutta! depraves, don’t look at it. And if the children are going to be corrupted, the goddamn parents can make sure that they only see what’s OK till they’re old enough to judge. After all, nothing will survive unless there is the demand.
Sorry this letter is so long and rambling, but let me end on a serious note. Well done to all the collective, you’re doing a great job. I’d send some money, but I’m out of a job and I’m broke; never mind, it’s the thought that counts.
How To Sell More GN
Dear Gay News,
One way to encourage more people to read GN (re: editorial in GN9) is for regular readers never to throw away a copy. Every copy can be left in a public place, trains and buses being the most convenient, rather than the dustbin.
Now that the paper is well-established, borough librarians could be expected to consider requests for the paper in public libraries; or is that asking too much?
ED: The best way to get Gay News into public libraries is for GN readers to demand that their librarians order it and put it on display.
CHE And Tight Foreskins
Dear Gay News,
I have recently been reading your paper which I find very interesting. There are two points from recent issues about which I would like to comment:
Firstly, someone seems to think that membership of CHE is limited to those over 21. This is not the case, though a particular local group may, if it so wishes, restrict its membership in this way. (Leeds does NOT).
Secondly, the tight foreskin problem. As an (ex) fellow sufferer, I read about this with real feeling. I suggest that unless the problem is quite exceptional the easiest and most natural method is best (I detest surgery). The method is to use a dropper with olive oil on it, drop into the problem area and very gently ease it to and fro. If this is done two or three times a week, for a month or so, you will soon find it can be pushed right back, washed, and the hood slid back with just a touch of oil for lubrication. The worst is then over, an occasional working to and fro and all will be fine (it was with me anyhow). This method was recommended by a doctor.
All good wishes.
Henry Giles Leeds Chairman, CHE
David Lutyens’s review of my book One In Twenty in GN8 is incompetent and absurd; he cannot have actually read the book at all. He says I deplore the fact that there are no serious homosexuals. But I do no such thing – on the contrary in Chapter Four I devote a whole page to listing homosexuals of genius, including nearly all those Mr Lutyens mentions himself, plus a great many more. In fact all that he fulminates against me for not mentioning, I do, and discuss at length: that every woman has a masculine side and every man a feminine side; that homosexuality is found in primitive as well as advanced cultures and so on.
He does not tell your readers who publishes the book (Seeker and Warburg), nor how much it costs (£1.50). He discusses it as if it were a new book, when in fact it was published six years ago, when homosexual acts between adult males were still crimes and the whole social atmosphere surrounding the subject was quite different from today. He misspells my name throughout the review. In fact, he gets everything wrong. What a shoddy performance!
ED: If any other reader would care to review One In Twenty, we will gladly print it.
J. Martin Stafford B.A. — the Enoch Powell of CHE — has struck again, though whether his efforts will produce a resounding silence or a mighty reverberation remains to be seen. For J. Martin Stafford B.A., a member of the present Executive Committee of CHE has, we understand, sent a personal letter to Lord Longford and the Director of Public Prosecutions suggesting they initiate action against Gay News.
This information was received in the Gay News office with wonder and amazement. For a start everyone immediately put their clothes on again. The lusty Julian decided to cut the Biograph for the afternoon and to take his knitting into St James Park instead. Our David Bowie LPs were flown at half mast and we ensured that all Warhol movies being shown that evening were halted for two minutes of silence. “With friends like that who needs enemies?” simmered Timeless Maureen the resident rad fem and “Who is J. Martin Stafford B.A. anyway?” cried Denis, rapidly covering his tattoos with Max Factor foundation (peach).
J. Martin Stafford B.A., who has been 23, is one of the best-known leaders of the homophile community. He lives in a modest bachelor flat on Manchester’s less than smart periphery and his low standard of living is fully compensated for by his High Moral Tone. Mr Stafford’s greatest friend is the Scottish historian and philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) who has had a seminal effect on Mr Stafford, notably in his lavish use of commas, colons and semi-colons. Hume has also trained Mr Stafford to perfect a prose style of some grandeur and resonance and this 18th century pastiche quite often obscures the extreme poverty of thought and stunted imagination in the words themselves. Mr Hume was unavailable for comment when we rang him at his remote Scottish manse, but the housekeeper confirmed that Mr Stafford’s favourite meal consists of undercooked tea and overcooked omelettes.
It is J. Martin Stafford’s personal mission to impose his own moral views on every homosexual in the entire world. “I entertain a very marked preference for personal relationships of a relatively stable nature, in which the parties are activated by more than a desire to satisfy their sexual appetites”, he pontificates. “Some would have us believe that all moral values have been imposed on us by the artifice of unscrupulous priests and ruthless politicians”, adds the 2’6″ guru.
J. Martin Stafford has had an interesting career in CHE. He joined the organisation five years ago after being counselled by the Albany Trust, and overnight became Hon. Treasurer of the Committee. At first he was a ruthless opponent of any sort or democratisation of the organisation. People would travel miles to witness the little fellow stamping his feet and spitting at Committee meetings when the concept of a constitution came up. However, he changed his mind when he discovered that the growing organisation was not attracting the radical, political element he so fears.
He discovered that his reactionary views and High Moral Tone were finding favour with many members and he was promptly and properly elected onto the re-formed Executive Committee by a substantial majority.
“Philosophical training has rendered my position more reflective”, is the way in which he expresses his opportunism.
Nevertheless, mough now democratically elected to the EC, J. Martin Stafford B.A. made it his business to oppose every decision and, when out-voted, to try devious methods of bringing his colleagues into disrepute. On one celebrated occasion, furious that the EC had unanimously (apart from him) agreed to ask Kenneth Tynan to be a vice-president of CHE, J. Martin Stafford B.A. called a meeting of the existing vice-president himself in an attempt to persuade them to override this decision. He declined an invitation from the rest of the EC for his resignation, but ceased to be treasurer.
“My own experience,” he says, “leads me to conclude that most people are quite happy to accept homosexuals who subscribe to the same basic standards of public decency and personal responsibility as everyone else at least professes.”
One of his hobbies is writing letters to people in which he slanders his colleagues.
“Homosexuals whose public behaviour is offensive or whose private behaviour is irresponsible will always be regarded with aversion and disgust,” he writes. And the man who is trying to get Gay News prosecuted says: “It is not their homosexuality which renders them objectionable, but the grossness of their conduct and the inhumanity of their disposition.”
Bona News Service
NOTE: all the quotes in this article are taken from a paper called ‘Can CHE be morally neutral?’ by J. Martin Stafford B.A., with additional material by David Hume.
LONDON: Any vicar’s wife who wandered into London’s Conway Hall the other Saturday wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at what she saw as hundreds of homosexuals did their thing — and in public. It was CHE’s autumn fair, and to all intents and purposes it looked like a village fete that had been rained off the cricket square and into the WI Hall.
CHE held the fair to raise money for its London social club — just as any village has a fete to pay for the work on the dry rot in the choirstalls. This autumn fair was a community event, like a village fete. Except for the fact that this was specifically for London’s gay community.
It would have warmed any vicar’s wife to see preserves and cakes on sale, lucky dips, seemly games of chance, though the rummage stall labelled “Drag” might have raised an eyebrow or both.
There may have been a vicar’s wife there, but mainly the people were those one usually gets to see in the gay ghetto. But for the fair they’d all come out, and as a social event it had that to commend it.
But all that, and speculation about vicar’s wives is irrelevant to the fact that CHE’s Autumn Fair raised £1,000 towards the Campaign’s projected gay social centre.
It’s also important to mention that the campaign, often regarded as the most staid and least go-ahead of the gay groups, actually put on the event, raised the money and gave a lot of people a good time, which didn’t just end with the fair but went on into the evening with such treats as No-No-Nanette in one act, conceived by Roger Baker and performed by Roger and the CHE Players, an amorphous bunch, who gave a lot of people an evening of entertainment, which this reporter had to miss so he could retire home with his cold. Pity.
Rex Jamieson (Mrs Shufflewick) talks to David Seligman, Martin Corbett and Suki J. Pitcher
After settling ourselves comfortably, with all essentials to hand (tape, cigarettes and whisky), David opened the show.
DAVID: What made you go on the stage?
SHUFF: Nobody made me. As a matter of fact, I went into the air force when I was nineteen, I was conscripted. I was in the air force for about 18 months and then we had a Gang Show come to our station, Ralph Reader’s mob, and I was on the backstage staff, and one of these fellas said “Why don’t you apply to the Air Ministry for a posting to the Gang Show – saves you carrying a gun about all bleeding day.” And that’s what I did. I went up and had an audition, and I was taken on.
I wasn’t doing drag then, I was doing a vicar act, a comedy parson. I was in that for about 2 years, and then I was demobbed and I thought “Well, this is marvellous, this life, getting pissed all the time, not having to work, or get up in the morning”, and I went into show business when I came out.
GAY NEWS: What was your first professional job?
SHUFF: OOOH, I can’t remember now! It was variety. I starved for about eight years. Then I got a TV audition which I was very lucky with, so I went into a show with Ralph and we did about three months – every fortnight on television. I worked with Norman Evans in another TV show, then I went to Moss Empires, Stoll Theatres, which of course aren’t any more now, I was on that circuit for about 10 years; so it’s gone on…
GN: You were touring a lot round the country?
SHUFF: All the time. Every bloody week of the year. I had to go on my knees to get a week off. I had this contract which was 42 weeks of the year guaranteed money, but they saw bloody well I worked 52! I did summer seasons at Blackpool, I did one at Margate, and one at Great Yarmouth. I’ve been Shufflewick for 24 years now.
GN: What started her off?
SHUFF: Well, as a matter of fact, not many people know this, I haven’t told everyone – I had an aunt who was exactly like Mrs Shufflewick. She used to walk like that, a great character, and that’s where I got the idea from to do it.
GN: Were you in fact the first drag act to appear on TV?
SHUFF: I think I must have been, if not the first, one of the first. I don’t remember anyone else who was doing it at the time.
GN: Danny la Rue hadn’t been heard of…
SHUFF: No, he was still in the chorus.
GN: When Shuff really got going, did she develop a lot, with reactions from other people? She can’t be exactly like your aunt.
SHUFF: No, of course not. You’ve got to broaden it a great deal, but I knew what I wanted out of it. I should say the aunt business was a sort of stepping-off ground. It evolved itself after that.
GN: You work a lot with your audience, don’t you? You get a lot back from them.
SHUFF: Especially in radio, more than television. I find it much easier to work in a radio studio where there’s an audience than in a TV studio. I think a television audience is sort of ready-made – they’ll laugh at anything, whereas in a radio thing you’ve got to bloody work to get laughs.
GN: What radio series did you do?
SHUFF: Oh, I did Midday Music Hall, London Lights, an awful lot of Music Halls when they used to be on a Saturday night, and Variety Bandbox, Variety Playhouse, all of those.
GN: I can remember a couple of times when I was a kid – I might have been about 5 or 6…
SHUFF: Thank you!
GN: …at the Met, Edgeware Road. I remember seeing Max Miller.
SHUFF: Yes! We did the Last Night at the Met. Max was on that bill.
GN: Do you regret the passing of Music Halls?
SHUFF: I do, very much.
GN: I think the Old Time Music Hall is very popular on TV.
SHUFF: I’m not mad about Old Time Music Hall as such. No, the Old Time Music Hall they put on nowadays is a sort of cock-up of the Victorian Music Hall – I mean, if they put on shows as we knew it, with people like Max Miller and modem people…
GN: I think, now, music hall is split up – any night at the Black Cap, that’s Music Hall.
SHUFF: Well, it is the modern equivalent, really.
GN: Do you find that you get the same atmosphere in the Black Cap as you did when you were in the theatre?
SHUFF: Oh, yes, definitely.
GN: Have you ever worked on the club circuit in the north, which is supposed to be the replacement of Music Hall?
SHUFF: (in a Shufflewick voice) Oooh, yes. I’ve done that – I’ve done that.
GN: And it’s hard work?
SHUFF: It is up there. You get places like Sheffield, Doncaster, and up that way – you’ve really got to get your knickers in a twist to get a laugh up there. I think they’re more, what’s the word, critical than down here. You get them down here – once they’ve got a couple of pints down them they’ll take anything – but up there…
GN: You must have had some good times up there?
SHUFF: I have… there was this landlady I had once, she took me up to the room, there was no paper on one wall, just the bare brick, and a light in the middle of the room with no shade on it. I said “Do you think I could have a shade for the lamp please?” She said What?” I said “The lamp – it’s very bright, could I have a shade?” “We don’t have them!” she said.
Then, in the morning I came down to breakfast, and there was my bacon and eggs on the table, moving. Moving on the plate – floating in fat! I sat down, and she stood in front of the fire like this (Shuff demonstrates a formidable stance, fag in mouth and eyes screwed up). She said “Did yer hear us laffing last night?” “No.” I said, “I was tired, I went straight off to sleep.” “Laffing fit to bust we were.” “Oh really?” “Our bitch is on heat, you see, and we had the dog in to her – right on that table where you’re sitting now!”
Oh, I’ve always had good times up there! I’ve never had anything untoward happen to me, I don’t think.
GN: Do you get any local humour into your act up there?
SHUFF: No. Never. That’s fatal, to do that. Because they know jolly well you’re not northern, if you start doing that they get a bit – antagonistic about it.
GN: Your act’s become very popular nationally and in the London pubs especially, in the last few years, and you see more drag shows in the pubs all the time. Why do you think it’s suddenly become popular?
SHUFF: I couldn’t tell you, because I think – well, really I shouldn’t say this – but I think it’s going to play itself out. There’s quite a lot of good acts going around, but on the other hand there’s a lot of bad acts who are going to mess it up.
GN: Do you include the people who do mime in that group?
SHUFF: Yes. Miming acts, to my mind, they’re not clever. I may be prejudiced, but if you mime to someone else’s work, to me that’s not clever at all.
GN: When you’re miming, you can’t ever get audience feed-back.
SHUFF: Well, you can’t stop! You’ve got to plod on. I’ve never done it, but I should imagine that’s it.
GN: Do you think that since Danny la Rue and TV, drag has become more ‘respectable’?
SHUFF: As I said, it has become accepted – as long as someone doesn’t fuck it up, and I think they will.
GN: When you first started, were you considered very daring because you went on stage in drag? What reaction did you get in the very beginning?
SHUFF: Not really daring, because in those days it wasn’t called drag, people were ‘dame comedians’ – people like George Lacey, he was marvellous. In those days, they did dames in pantomime, and if anyone did anything in drag on the music halls they called it ‘dame comedian’, you see. It wasn’t camp at all – I mean, some of these ones you see now, they’re outrageous aren’t they? They would never have put up with that on the halls.
GN: Because they’d have called them ‘queer’?
SHUFF: Then, you see, it was a man dressed as a woman, and that was it. They didn’t do all this pretty-pretty bit. Half of them now, you can’t tell if they’re men or women or what, can you? Have you seen Perry St Claire? I’m not saying anything, because I think he’s very good. Lovely voice, very good figure, and he’s a good artiste, but he wouldn’t have gone down in the old days. And of course, he’s got what I call a ‘pro’s’ sense of humour, but the ordinary peasants don’t know what he’s talking about.
GN: What do you thing about people who run pubs which put on shows? Do you think they are like the people who used to run the theatres?
SHUFF: No, not at all. They’re doing it for money, if they didn’t make the money they make and get the houses they get in there, they’d throw it out tomorrow night.
GN: And put on whatever would get the money.
SHUFF: Yes – a discotheque or something.
GN: So the people who put on the shows are making a lot of money out of it?
SHUFF: Well, you’ve only got to walk in the Black Cap any night, haven’t you, to see that.
GN: They have a lot of good people there; Jean Fredericks –
SHUFF: On Thursdays.
GN: But Jean doesn’t do a lot of comedy –
SHUFF: Well, he tries to tell stories.
GN: When you’re not writing or performing, what do you like doing? What are your interests outside show business?
SHUFF: Don’t think I’ve got any. Oooh, 1 like the cinema, I go there an awful lot.
GN: What do you think about the trend of cinema today?
SHUFF: Well. I think there’s far too much sex and violence and all that. I’m sorry to sound like a Mary Whitehouse, but you don’t seem to get any comedies, or very few, these days. I like to go and see a film and have a damn good laugh. I’m talking about when I was very young when there used to be those sophisticated Hollywood films, comedies — with people like Adolphe Menjou – and they were lovely, you could enjoy yourself. But nowadays it’s all sex and shooting and striking, and…
GN: And even the comedies aren’t always funny now. I think the Carry-On films are funny, but the others seem to be rather poor copies.
SHUFF: Those Carry-On films are funny, and they’re such old gags, aren’t they –
GN: But that’s part of the fun isn’t it, and all the people in them know the gags –
SHUFF: And everyone that’s watching knows them as well!
GN: What do you think Mary Whitehouse’s reaction would be if she came into the Black Cap and saw your act?
SHUFF: (thoughtfully) I don’t know … quite honestly.
GN: But you’d think of something to say to her –
SHUFF: Mark Fleming would! That’s his scene, isn’t it, sending people up –
GN: But it’s not yours?
SHUFF: No. I just tell jokes – if they laugh, they laugh, if they don’t they don’t, that’s it. I don’t want to make any lasting friendships, or any enemies.
GN: Do you find you get a regular audience, people who are always standing near the front?
SHUFF: You get a few. That always upsets me because – it rather frightens me if you see the same people every time you’re on. I think they must know what I’m going to say. I’ve got about five acts that I do, I know these people who come in every time, they know the gags backwards – they still laugh, but I’d rather have people that haven’t seen me before.
GN: You’ve made a record, haven’t you?
SHUFF: For Decca, but I don’t think you can get it now, it’s out of print or whatever they call it. We did it at the Waterman’s Arms, when Dan Farson had it. We did a show at the Comedy Theatre, which folded after three weeks. It was called ‘Nights at the Comedy’ which was a good idea – Dan got a couple of backers, and a very good producer, but it didn’t run.
GN: What do you think of the theatre – do you go at all?
SHUFF: What is there to see? … The last one I went to see was ‘Move Over Mrs Markham’, with Cicely Courtneidge. I hadn’t been for such a long time, and I thought it was rather stilted. I suppose being used to variety, when you go and see a straight play it seems a bit slow.
GN: Do you get many tourists coming to see you?
SHUFF: You get an awful lot of people from Denmark and Sweden down at the Black Cap.
GN: Do they enjoy the show?
SHUFF: Well, they laugh, so I suppose they must do – I don’t know if they know what you’re talking about.
GN: Shuff, you come from London originally. Have you got a show business background?
SHUFF: No, not at all. I think my father was a waiter — I don’t know what he was waiting for … and mother was a whore, in Southend.
GN: Were you very stage-struck as a child?
SHUFF: No, as I say, before I went into the Gang Show, and that was only to get out of doing drill and all that. I’d no ambitions about going into show-biz at all. It was only that I thought it was a good way of not getting up in the morning.
GN: Have you any family?
SHUFF: No, none at all.
SHUFF: I have been. When I was twenty-four. It lasted for three years – then I went back to fellas again.
GN: When you were doing variety, with Moss Empires and so on, you must have appeared with a lot of people we’ve all heard of?
SHUFF: I did. I was very amazed, because all these people that I’d always heard of, and looked up to, and admired from afar – when you actually meet them, they’re quite ordinary and down-to-earth, and much nicer than a lot of these bumped up little bastards you meet in this day and age. They helped me a lot – I mean, in as much as being charming and nice to me, you know. Any sort of help I wanted in the way of asking how to time gags or anything like that, or scripts and that, they couldn’t have been more helpful.
GN: You were at the Windmill for a while?
SHUFF: I was there for about three years – five shows a day.
GN: It’s amazing the number of comedians who’ve come from the Air Force —
SHUFF: Yes, like Reg Dixon – Reg Dixon was in the Gang Show at the time, and Dick Emery, he was in the Gang Show.
GN: Doing the same sort of thing he does now?
SHUFF: No, he wasn’t doing drag then. I saw him the other night on the television doing that thing “Oooh, you are awful”, but when I knew him in the Gang Show, he used to do some butch things then. He’s very clever, he’s another very nice person.
GN: Have you got any burning ambitions?
SHUFF: Ambition? To meet a rich, lonely millionaire! No, I’ve no ambitions at all.
GN: What do you really dislike?
SHUFF: Empty glasses! Don’t think I dislike I anything really.
GN: What about critics? Did that show at the Comedy fold because of bad reviews from the critics?
SHUFF: No it folded because of lack of money, Daniel Farson wasn’t exactly – oh, dear – Dan was very happy-go-lucky, you know, not terribly business-wise.
GN: Was he more of a performer himself?
SHUFF: Dan? What could he do? Oh, he was a brilliant interviewer, when he was on top of his form, he really was. Then he used to get pissed every night and that was that.
GN: What do you think of organisations like the GLF? People get very uptight sometimes when they demonstrate outside pubs or try to…
SHUFF: Who’s GLF?
GN: Gay Liberation Front.
SHUFF: Well, I think, if I may say so, it’s the wrong thing to do, because I don’t think you get people to join you if you do things like that. I might be wrong – I’ve only seen it once, that was outside the Black Cap about three months ago. They were going to do a thing at Kentish Town, and they came up outside the Black Cap with leaflets and all that. I think there must be a better way to do it.
GN: To communicate with people?
GN: I think perhaps the Campaign for Homosexual Equality may be doing that. They’re more, for want of a better word, conventional.
SHUFF: You’re bound to get a lot of people who aren’t going to have anything to do with GLF at all, because they don’t understand it, and they are the people who are going to run you into the ground. I mean, if their job’s going to depend on it, they’re not going to scream the place down, are they?
GN: But it’s sad that they hide what they are.
SHUFF: Of course, but that’s the point of the whole thing, isn’t it?
GN (Suki): Of course, a lot of people don’t like drag –
GN (Martin): A lot of them do like drag, but they won’t admit it in GLF, because they’re afraid of getting screamed at –
SHUFF: That’s another point. You see, there’s a lot of fellas who would dearly love to go with a chicken, but they won’t in case the people next door or up the street and all that…
GN: But how do the people next door get to know there’s nothing wrong?
SHUFF: I don’t know – they do think it’s wrong, though, don’t they? I mean, no-one bothers about a fella picking up a woman and going off, but they pick up a young boy or something, ooh, that’s terrible.
GN: One thing, that’s so awful about being gay, is that gay people always seem to be much lonelier than other people. If you go to some of the gay pubs you see an awful lot of people standing around, not talking to people. Do you think that’s something particular to the gay world, or do you find it’s like that in all pubs?
SHUFF: I suppose it applies to ordinary people as well, I mean you get fellas who are probably terribly lonely and frightened to go up to a woman in a pub and have a chat, and vice versa.
GN: Show business is supposed to be very friendly –
SHUFF: Oh, yes it is – until you want to borrow some money! I’ve always found show business very friendly in every way.
GN: You said earlier that you thought perhaps drag as a popular form of entertainment might pass on – what do you think might take its place?
SHUFF: I couldn’t tell you that, if you gave me a thousand pounds. I still think you’ll have the top ones — plus self, of course – no, what I’m trying to say is that the bad acts will go to the bottom of the barrel.
GN: What’s the real skill of drag then – communicating with your audience?
SHUFF: Yes. I suppose I could do my act dressed as a man really – if it came to the point, suppose drag was suddenly banned, I think I could still go on and retain an audience
GN: So what does being Mrs Shufflewick add to it?
SHUFF: It makes it more comical, but I suppose I could dress up like a funny fella; if we got one of these silly bastards in the government saying “We’ll have no more gentlemen dressing up as ladies”, I would get myself a funny suit, a pair of glasses and a funny face, and still do the same gags.
GN: Do you enjoy dragging up?
GN: Do you get a lot of pleasure out of appearing on a stage and talking to an audience?
SHUFF: When I go well, I do – but there’s no pleasure when I die a death.
GN: What do you say then? You don’t say “I’ll give it up tomorrow”, do you?
GN: I remember one Sunday evening, it was early and the place was nearly empty. There were two people in the audience with whom you had a fifteen minute conversation.
SHUFF: I did?
GN: Yes, and it was hilarious, it was the funniest thing, because these people were answering you back, and sending you up in all sorts of ways.
SHUFF: I don’t remember that, but if you’ve had the background of music hall – I don’t want to sound big-headed or anything – over the years, then you can cope with things like that. I’ve worked some… I remember years ago, when I first started, I worked places like Middlesborough, and –
SHUFF: I’ve done Scunthorpe! I did Wigan, I did the Coventry Theatre for six weeks with Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe, and it was marvellous. I was only, you know, the wines and spirits, I was the second turn on, but they were a marvellous audience, and then I was booked at Wigan Hippodrome, for the week following, and I was top of the bill. I got to Wigan, and they’d got “Mrs Shuttlewick”, with two ‘t’s … I went through from Monday to Saturday, twice nightly, without a titter. Not one laugh – they didn’t know what the bloody hell I was talking about, this was before television, and being a Londoner, they didn’t know what I was talking about. So I have, er, gone through the mill.
GN: They were still polite enough to sit there?
SHUFF: They couldn’t do much else –
GN: They wanted to get their money’s worth!
SHUFF: Oh, I had a horrible week. I was practically putting my head in the oven.
GN: But I’m sure you’ve had some good weeks as well –
SHUFF: Ooh, I’ve had some marvellous weeks.
GN: Is there any town you particularly enjoy?
SHUFF: I think London mostly. There’s so much to do, you can go to museums, you can go to Regents Park or Hyde Park, there’s so many theatres and cinemas, you’re never at a loss to know what to do.
GN: Have you appeared outside this country?
SHUFF: Only with the Gang Show when we used to go over to Africa and Egypt and Cyprus, and all round there. That was playing the Air Force camps. I really enjoyed the Gang Shows, you see it was my first thing in show business, so I couldn’t have not enjoyed it.
GN: You all work together in the Gang Show, don’t you, you do your own act, then you were in all the joint numbers –
SHUFF: Oh, there’s all the sketches and things as well, but you don’t get that in variety.
GN: You do a double act with Mark Fleming, don’t you?
SHUFF: Every Sunday. I like working with Mark. There’s not many people I could work with, I must say that. Not because I didn’t like them, because you’ve got to have the same sort of mental thing. You see, I can get up with Mark, and without any rehearsal we can do a quarter of an hour of comedy, just playing off the cuff, backwards and forwards to each other. Like someone playing tennis – I couldn’t do that with everybody.
GN: Have you any dreams of becoming a straight actor –
GN: A lot of people like Frankie Howerd have tried Shakespeare –
SHUFF: I did a season of straight plays, ooh, hundreds of years ago, at the Harrow Coliseum, do you remember that? Remember when that chap used to have it, Alfred Denville, his son was the head chap there? I was in a show in Blackpool, and I had a message, or a telegram or something, to go and see Alfred Denville, so 1 went to see him and he said (actor-laddie voice) “Ah, I’d like you to appeah in my plaihs”, and I said “I’m not an actor”, and he said “I’ve heard about you, that your timing is good” and all this balls. So suddenly a script, about forty thousand pages, arrived – I think we did ‘Smilin’ Thru’ to start with, and then I did about four different plays, and I hated every minute of it. A straight play – there was no comedy in it.
GN: There’s something particularly rewarding about it, isn’t there, about making people laugh?
SHUFF: There is, if you can make them laugh. I did Greenwich Theatre – take this down! – the year before last. Marvellous place, no microphones, a round stage, no curtains or anything, and I said to him, can I have a microphone please, and he said “You won’t need a microphone” and I said I can’t shout, and he said “You’ve no need to shout, just talk in your normal voice.” — and he was right! The acoustics are so marvellous there, you’ve only got to whisper and they can hear you in the back of the gallery.
GN: What kind of people do you think come to the pubs – the same people who would have gone to the music halls?
SHUFF: I suppose you could say that.
GN: Do you think TV will remain the dominant thing, or will people get fed up with it?
SHUFF: I think they’re fed up with it now, quite honestly.
GN: You don’t like it, I mean, you don’t have a set?
SHUFF: Well, let’s face it, what do you see these days? The occasional thing worth looking at, the only thing I like watching are the old films. These modern things, they’re ridiculous, these bloody documentaries, they’re so boring – and it’s very much a closed shop, in variety – the same people on all the time, Max Bygraves and people like that, you know.
GN: What do you think about radio?
SHUFF: I think radio’s gone to cock quite honestly – you either get records, or sports results, all things like that. You very rarely get a decent play on, or decent variety – well, there’s no variety –
GN: And yet if they brought it back, people would like it.
SHUFF: I should imagine they would.
GN: What do you think about the radio comedy series, things like The Navy Lark, and Does The Team Think?
SHUFF: Well, they’ve been going for so long now that they’ve got the same gags all the time.
GN: Are there any really new gags, though?
SHUFF: Well, there aren’t really, you’ve got to tart up the old ones.
GN: I think it’s Ted Ray who always says there are only three jokes, on which all other jokes are based —
SHUFF: Actually, there’s only seven! Seven basic themes, and all the rest are sort of cobbled round them.
GN: Can you define the seven?
SHUFF: Ooh, yes, well, I don’t know if I can after all this whisky – you’ve got husband and wife jokes, you’ve got the queer-boy jokes, you’ve got the man in the street jokes, and things like that, and they’re all connotations of each other.
I had a lovely – did I tell you this gag? There’s this Irishman in a bar, he’s got this bit of paper with all these numbers and figures and things on, and this Englishman is stood next to him. He says “You look very studious” and he says “Aaah, well, Oi’ll tell yer what, Oi’m goin’ ter be the foirst Oirishman to go ter the sun. The fockin’ Americans have been to the moon, and the fockin’ Russians are goin’ to Mars, Oi’m goin’ to the sun.”
So the English fella said “Well, you’re a bit daft, ’cos you’ll be burnt to a cinder the moment you get there”, and he said “Aah, Oi’ve thought o’ that – Oi’m goin’ at night.” COLLAPSE OF WHOLE PARTY OVER THE SCOTCH GLASSES!
SHUFF: Have you finished now?
GN: Tell us what you think of Gay News.
SHUFF: It’s worth doing, but I’m afraid, very much afraid that you won’t be recognised. People, they’re frightened to accept it. I wish to God they would… I could be wrong. At least they can’t do anything to you police-wise can they?
GN: They can, all our small ads are illegal. According to the Attorney General, a gay ad is exactly the same as a prostitute’s ad.
SHUFF: What about all those cards in the shop windows? In the West End?
GN: What about all the computer dating, and all the hetero ads?
SHUFF: Don’t they do them for that?
GN: No, and they’re very obvious. I mean, they’re looking for cock, or cunt.
SHUFF: I’ve seen some of those in Archer Street, you know, you’ve got ‘Lady wishes to meet gentleman with leather gear’ and all that balls, well there’s only one answer to that, and they don’t get done. I think you’re very brave to run the contact ads – I really mean that.