Discrimination in Earls Court
Dear Editorial Collective,
Readers of GN – more than a few of them — who live in or visit Earls Court may be interested to hear of an odd case of discrimination which I met with at the NSS Newsagents, a few yards to the left as one leaves the underground in Earls Court Road. I wanted to display one of the printed CHE publicity cards on the postcard boards of this always busy shop; many newcomers to London look at these boards, and I hoped that some of them would ask CHE for information and, perhaps, help. As the Manchester address of CHE is the only one on the card, I added the address, phone number and hours open of the London Information Centre.
I handed the card to a girl assistant (who isn’t to blame in all this) who charged me 50p for a week’s ‘showing’ and said the card would appear the next morning. When, late the next afternoon, it still wasn’t up, I asked the same assistant about it, and she said that the manager had refused to display it; the trend of her remarks was that he thought it not respectable and likely to give offence. ‘To whom?’ I wondered. There are usually ads at this shop of the type ‘3rd young man required for gay flat’, and while I entirely support gay flats, I don’t see why, if they can be advertised, a concerned and humane organisation such as CHE can’t. There are always ads of the type, ‘Lovely young model gives French tuition’, ‘Young man seeks part-time work; any position considered’. In other words, prostitutes — but not CHE – can advertise there!
I asked the assistant if I could see the manager. She went away, came back, and told me he was busy. So I said I’d wait. She saw him again and told me that he’d be busy for the next hour; I politely offered to call back in an hour’s time or to make an appointment to see him. This time I was told that he refused to see me at all. Naturally I wanted the manager himself to tell me why the ad was rejected. A male assistant said that the trouble seemed to be that ‘it comes right to the point’ – to which I made the obvious reply that surely this was a very good thing. I suppose ‘the point’ is that the word ‘homosexual’ is actually used: blush, blush.
The crowning absurdity was that, close to the copies of Playboy, Men Only, Mayfair, Cosmopolitan, etc, the shop (partly redeeming itself) was selling Lunch, the CHE-associated magazine. I took a copy from the rack and pointed to the magic words inside the cover.
I might not have written this letter if the manager had agreed to see me, might have tolerated the lack of understanding and the illogicality; but the plain rudeness of his refusal led me to say — very pleasantly – that I’d try to give the matter some publicity, and where better than in this independent paper?
When I asked to have the postcard returned, the staff couldn’t find it. I was given back my 50p, but wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t looked to see if the ad was displayed. (I hadn’t left my own address). I don’t wish to be unfair: I expect the manager would have sent the 50p to CHE at 22 Great Windmill Street.
This may be an embarrassing letter if the NSS Newsagents sell Gay News! However, I don’t think they do. I usually buy mine from the news-stands outside Kensington High Street tube and outside The Boltons — to encourage this kind of ‘outlet’; the service is friendly and courteous.
What worries me is that it’s just possible that an unhappy homosexual might have been helped by CHE, and now won’t hear about it.
ED: The manager of the NSS Newsagents at Earls Court has always refused to stock Gay News, despite the large amount of requests he receives for it. His manner has always been rude to indifferent to the person approching him. He also has shouted, on at least one occasion “Fucking poof” at a member of the public enquiring whether or not he stocked GN. Please pester him and the staff until the paper is regularly on sale there.
ED. Owing to the extreme shortage of space in this issue, we are unable to publish as many letters as we feel we should. We apologise to those people who have not had their correspondence printed. We will endeavour to include their letters in the next issue.