News and Views
January 1966 • Vol. 1 No. 4
Originally published in the January 1966 issue of Tangents
NEW YORK—The 16th Precinct, embracing Times Square, is one of the city’s toughest and most lawless. Life magazine for December 3, 1965, printed a powerful and searching profile of this district. The writing of James Mills is sometimes intemperate —but then the subject matter almost defies understatement. It is a sickening revelation of human greed and callousness, brutality, stupidity and evil.
For this reason we deplore the fact that Life chose to devote a double page spread to a photograph of harmless young homosexuals camping it up for cameraman I. C. Rapoport—in the midst of photos of stabbings, badger games, and the exploitation of hapless young girls by narcotics peddlers and pimps; and vividly written descriptions of assaults, robberies, murders, the blackest of crimes.
It surely is no harder for the editors of Life than for the editors of Tangents to make the distinction between crime and deviant behavior. It is irresponsible of Life to spread confusion among the millions of readers it ostensibly means to inform with such articles, by lumping homosexuals with muggers and conmen.
Even the grim and cynical detective, George Barrett, upon whose nightly work this article is based, is temperate on the subject. “I have nothing against homosexuals.”
We are disturbed that Life continues to have.
TORONTO—Homosexuals are so numerous that the church “would do better to stop moralizing and start helping them find fulfillment and satisfaction as they are.” So writes the Reverend Mervyn Dickinson, director of pastoral counseling for the United Church in Toronto, in that church’s magazine, Observer.
Some homosexual relationships are expressions of a deep commitment and abiding love. Such ‘marriages’ cannot be dismissed as…depraved. Though they may not be the fullest expression of God’s will, they may be the best expression of God’s will of which these partners are capable. In such cases, the church could well give its blessing.
“There are,” Dickinson continues, “secret homosexuals in many pulpits. But none dares let his secret be known or there would be…swift rejection.” He described the official position of the United Church on homosexuality as follows: it is an unnatural deviation, a moral offense violating God’s will and cannot be “considered an excuse for immoral acts.”
He called upon his church to reconsider its stand.
Other Toronto ministers were divided.
Catholic John J. Keating called Dickinson’s proposal “sick.” Gospel Evangelical minister J. Harry Fraught said the church should “support psychiatric clinics…try to help and to heal…But the Church should never accept a homosexual relationship as ‘normal.’” Rev. Ernest Harrison, of the Anglican Church, supported Dickinson:
If two people in a homosexual relationship are as close to the love of God as they can get, the Church ought to bless the situation. Otherwise, the Church would be denying the people involved.
Los ANGELES—“Book is a Four Letter Word” was the title of an exhibit at the Los Angeles public library recently, featuring books that at one time or another were banned or censored in the U.S. and around the world. The list includes the Bible, Shakespeare’s plays, Alice in Wonderland (China), Tom Sawyer (Brooklyn, Denver, USSR), even Hans Christian Andersen.
“By showing some of the works censored or banned and calling attention to the principles of intellectual freedom, we hope to remind our citizens of the always-present dangers of censorship,” said Librarian Harold H. Hamill. “I don’t like all the books on the library shelves, but we do believe that the freedom to read is basic to American life.”
But the L.A. Herald Examiner was not sure it agreed. In a Sunday special article after the Library’s exhibit opened, writer John Bryan worries about the newsstands on lower Main Street where “a beardless youth stands beneath a ‘No Minors’ sign and giggles nervously over a book considered legal but ‘borderline pornography’ by the police. The book draws scowls and gritted teeth from the beat cop who occasionally searches out the store for ‘prosecutable’ items…and never finds them.”
But if the beat cop, and the PTA, County Supervisors, and the town government of Norwalk (Calif.), and the Herald-Examiner are unable to get it through their heads that there is such a Constitutional right as freedom of the press, Deputy District Attorney Harry Wood has been reminded by countless courtroom defeats.
“We flatly refuse to be the public censor,” he said. “We don’t think there can be such a thing under the Constitution.”
ACLU’s distinguished A. L. Wirin, victor in those same censorship cases, says:
The only sensible policy is for the individual to be the guardian of his own decency and conduct. Otherwise you end up with a totalitarian society which dictates to others what’s good for them…
Court decisions have formulated public opinion…So I think the legal struggle goes hand in hand with general gradual enlightenment which is taking place. We live in a period of quasi-enlightenment, liberality and tolerance of the treatment of sex in the arts.
But “quasi” is still the operative word, despite lawyer Wirin’s lifetime of struggle. And the bluenoses are fighting back. “An amendment has been proposed to the California State Constitution which would allow local authorities to pass morals laws stricter than those now permitted by the State Constitution.” So reports, with obvious approval, the Los Angeles County Employee newspaper.
MADISON, Wisc.—The police of Madison are evidently not vocabulary builders. Playboy’s now famous leg pull, The Official Sex Manual, that gets its laughs by using multisyllabic nonsense words in place of real anatomical, physiological and psychological sex terms made Inspector Herman Thomas uneasy. The Manual—now in hard covers at your local bookstore—appeared to Thomas “to be of questionable moral significance.” Actually, it is of no moral significance whatever, but it is very funny. The District Attorney of Madison gently told the police department the Manual is not “hard core pornography.” But from his next comment, one wonders if even he realized it is satire. “The postoffice,” he said solemnly, “permits the distribution of manuals which are actually more comprehensive than the one indicated herein.”
SOUTHWELL, ENGLAND—Use of a four-letter word on television has been defended by a clergyman, the Very Rev. Hugh Christopher Heywood, 69-year-old provost of the Anglican Cathedral here. He came to the defense of critic Kenneth Tynan for his use on a BBC program of a four-letter word for sexual intercourse.
“Using the word on television is no worse than printing it in books like Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” Rev. Heywood said.
Tynan, literary director of Britain’s National Theatre, used “fuck” in a discussion of censorship and the stage that was aired at 11:30 at night. The BBC was flooded with telephone calls, and Conservative Members of Parliament demanded action against Tynan, the BBC, and its director general. Sir Hugh Greene.
Fifteen Conservatives signed a motion demanding that Greene either “clean up his programs or make way for a successor who will.” Ten others demanded Tynan be prosecuted for using obscene language in public. Six more demanded he be fired from the National Theatre.
Some men grow up, some just grow old.
WASHINGTON—The U. S. Courts are giving comfort to the snooper concept while two Congressional subcommittees are working to the opposite end. One is directed by Rep. Cornelius E. Gallagher, the other by Senator Sam J. Ervin. Both are digging into federally imposed personality tests as a device to decide when to hire, fire or promote personnel in government jobs.
Gallagher cited the example of a man with special skills who had been recruited by a security agency. He was given a battery of tests which revealed that at age 16 he had had one homosexual experience with a drunken uncle. He was denied a job, in spite of his Harvard honors background, his skills, and his marital record. Years later, recruited by the Post Office department, he was again rejected on the same ground.
“His personnel file had passed from the agency where it was supposed to be confidential, to a personnel officer in the Post Office,” Gallagher said. “There is a limit to the amount of information that one ought to possess. We don’t have the right to probe what a person’s thoughts may be at some future time in life. It is mental wire-tapping.”
Said Senator Ervin,
The analogy can be drawn…that if the employee has a right to confront his accusers (in criminal proceedings) then perhaps he should confront the psychological tests and the psychiatric reports which may cast a cloud over his emotional stability and his mental competency. In a sense they are his accusers.
The Senator meant that personality testing may be a violation of the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Happily his efforts and those of Congressman Gallagher and their subcommittees are taking effect, with the Civil Service, the Peace Corps, the Export-Import Bank, the Labor Department and even, grudgingly, the Office of Education.
YOSEMITE—Apparently one U. S. Park Ranger felt he was missing out on some of the fun he might have had if he had become a big city vice squad man instead. He cut holes above three toilet stalls in a resort men’s room here, disguised them as air vents, and after hours of vigilance saw “two men performing acts that violated both U.S. and California law.” So reports Time. Appeal to the California Supreme Court by the defendants brought a reversal of their guilty verdict. But the U.S. Appellate Court disagreed and upheld the convictions. “We are made as uncomfortable as the next man by the thought that our own legitimate activities in such a place may be spied upon by the police but people who choose to commit crimes where they may be seen take the chance that they will be seen.” This Appellate Court decision is going to mean the installation of a lot more peepholes. It is a decided encouragement to the concept of snooping. And its long term lesson would seem to be that while homosexuality remains classified as a crime, public washrooms are not places for its enactment. If they ever can be.
BERKELEY. CALIF.—The Daily Californian, that bills itself as the “nation’s largest college daily,” kept the University of California s reputation as the most liberal in the nation alive in late November and early December with a series of articles by Konstantin Berlandt “on minorities —racial, sexual, political and religious” on the campus.
Intent upon not doing things by halves, the series commenced with five articles on homosexuals. In article one, an estimate of “2700 homosexuals at Cal” is headlined. Accompanied by a photo of a campus men’s room, the article begins by stating that campus police have “recently removed the door of every other stall in the men’s restroom in the basement of the library. Just prior to the door removal, seven persons were arrested for homosexual activity.”
The series continued this high journalistic tone in its second installment where a former University student was interviewed about his homosexual experiences on campus in 1961.
I never walked into a head at Cal that there wasn’t someone there waiting. There’s a lot of sex on the Cal campus for homosexuals and…for guys who aren’t homosexuals but are looking for sexual gratification.
There’s quite a bit in fraternities. I know of two fraternities at Cal that go out and get homosexuals at bars and bring them home for everybody…It is also prevalent in the sports world.
This double-barrelled accusation brought protests from fraternities and the sports world and Californian editor Peggy Krause published an apology for the “unfortunate impression” the article gave.
The series, however, continued. Part 3 contained more temperate views of campus homosexual life. “It’s quite possible on this campus to talk someone into having sex,” said a homosexual interviewee. “But it’s certainly not the usual cruising-pickup scene of other universities and cities—there’s more bisexuality. Sex here is part of the total relationship with other persons.”
Part 4 quoted “a 27-year-old homosexual and University employee.” He said, “One of the most profound things about all college students…is the great effort they make to conform. Their homosexual lives are kept as remote and separate from their college social lives as could be imagined.”
Part 5 quoted Dr. Harvey Powelson, chief of the University Psychiatric Department:
Homosexual is not a term I use. I assume most people I see have either sexual feelings or sexual relations with people of the same sex. I don’t bother about it unless it becomes an issue either legally or for the person. I don’t think homosexuality is a disease and, as such, it is bard to think of cures.
Our reaction to the series is the same as that of graduate student Christian Holinka in a letter to the Californian.
This is not to question the inordinately large number of students quoted as involved in the problem. It is to question the purpose in presenting the most sensational and least desirable aspects of a minority group—aspects, one might suspect, that are rejected even by many members in that group itself.
NEWS AND VIEWS—In the USSR, scientists are still obsessed with Pavlov’s dog. Conditioned reflex therapy as a cure for homosexuality has begun in Soviet hospitals. Electric shock is the method. Reports the U.S. magazine Male:
The patient will be kept in agony while he looks at or thinks about (!) men, but the pain stops when he concentrates on women. After 28 horrible treatments most of the deviates wind up cured and get married to girls.
Then again, mightn’t the masochists among them end up marrying the doctor?…
Variety reports that Film 491, a motion picture made by Vilgot Sjoman, a protege of Ingmar Bergman, has been “found obscene by visiting Iowa Judge Henry Graven in N.Y. Federal Court. The 90-minute film portrays homosexuality, prostitution, rape and sodomy.” And, of course, they don’t have such things in Iowa…
Speaking of movies, it is amusing to contrast Hollis Alpert’s grownup estimate of The Leather Boys in the Saturday Review with Time’s approach to the same film. Alpert:
Not ducked in the least are the homosexual implications of the relationship. In fact [director] Furie deals more sensitively and delicately than any film I have seen with that touchy material…There is always a feeling of prevailing compassion…
Time, in its customary middle-class, middle-brow, middle-west manner:
When the truth of [the boys’] relationship becomes overt, Colin shrinks from his sickening discovery…that leaves only one of them doomed to the wretched half-world of homosexuality.
We keep waiting for the day when Time prints something about the “wretched half-world of heterosexuality” since if homosexuals possess half a wretched world it stands to reason heterosexuals must occupy the wretched other half…
In the New York Times, Natalie Jaffe reported in midNovember,
An organization devoted to the advancement of plain but scientific talk about sex says that there are some signs that plain talk is in demand. The organization is the one-year-old Sex Information and Education Council…formed to combat…pseudo-scientific sex manuals that are preoccupied with mechanics rather than relationships, the restriction of sex education in the schools to isolated facts of reproduction…and the wide-spread fear of the open, frank discussion…young people need before they can make decisions.”
The 30-member council has published two manuals, one dealing with homosexuality. For better or worse? We will report later…
In Huntington Park (Calif.) police arrested a slender, attractive girl on a burglary charge. The matron called upon to search her at the jail returned a little flustered to the police desk. The suspect had turned out to be a female impersonator. He was then placed in a booking cage with two other men. And when the Captain entered the station a few minutes later he gave the officer in charge hell for putting a woman in with two males. The “girl” in question carried a purse, of course—in it three lethal rocks and a knife with a six-inch blade! Just what kind of female was this one impersonating?…
Back to the movies for a moment: Dorothy Seiberling, writing in, of all places, Life, demolishes with ridicule 20th Century Fox’s travesty life of Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy. Pertinent paragraph:
The movie stresses the love…between Michelangelo and the teen-age daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent…Though it may seem strange to the conventional minds of moviedom, this amorous relationship is more offensive to the knowledgeable spectator than the truth about Michelangelo’s homosexuality. Throughout his life he formed passionate attachments to men, most of which were well known to his contemporaries. He could scarcely tolerate a female servant in his house…
Evidently we can expect a fair portrayal in Life before we get it in a Hollywood film!
Content ©1966, 2016 by The Tangent Group. All rights reserved.