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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Holy Barbarians -- Police Beat Man in Raid on Gay Club



There's a lot of rambling, self-important navel-gazing in "Holy Barbarians" and although these meandering insights are vital to the people in the book, they can be fairly tedious reading.

But there are also rewards. Here's an account of a group of people tending to a gay man who was evidently beaten by the police after a raid on a gay club called the Casbah. In this instance, author Lawrence Lipton's "I Am a Tape Recorder" approach brings us into this tiny converted garage in Venice where several people are nursing Ron Daley. 

Page 120-123, "Holy Barbarians"

Holy Barbarians (Scene: Ron Daley's pad. A made-over garage. Ronny has fitted it out with redwood panel walls and laid straw mats over the cement floor wall to wall. Two mattresses on the floor are covered with Japanese fabrics and strewn with cylindrical and three-cornered cushions of pastel colors. The bookcases are boards and glass bricks. Two lamps hang from the ceiling, parchment lantern shades of modern design derived from the Japanese. The components of the hi-fi are unenclosed. In one corner, a triangular private shrine holding a single rosebud in an Oriental vase, over it a rice paper print of the Buddha in contemplation, a Buddha of Zen simplicity. Partitioned off with bamboo and rice paper screens is a tiny kitchenette, all the utensils neatly hung on the wall, copperware, shiny bright, and the dishes set up on the shelves, a spartan kitchen, clean, monastically clean).

Ronny is lying on the bed, swathed in bandages. He was brutally beaten up by vice squad officers during questioning at the police station after a raid on the Casbah, a gathering place for homosexuals, and is out on bail. Gilda Lewis has moved in to do nursing duty. She is busy in the kitchen making some broth for Ronny. He is telling me about the incident. His voice, always low and modulated, is almost a whisper.)

RON: It wasn't like anything I had ever experienced before, Larry. His eyes were hazel, with little golden flecks in them. I must have been pretty high at the time and I guess he was, too. But it wasn't the pot altogether, I'm sure of that. It wasn't physical so much as it was spiritual, something inside us or outside, out there, who knows what it is, really? drawing us together. And he was talking. Art. Music. Philosophy. Poetry. I can't recall what he said, exactly. It wasn't what he was saying. It was a kind of spiritual presence. I felt as if I had finally found someone who was like that other dark side of me, myself, and I was looking at myself as in a mirror. And discovering myself in ways I had never known before. I'm sure it isn't a unique experience. Others must have known it -- I remember vaguely having read about such a meeting once in was it Shelley? Or something in Gide?

(Gilda comes in with a cup of broth. I help to prop him while she spoon-feeds him, slowly and very gently. His face is badly cut up under the bandages. The doctor told me as he was leaving that he might be badly disfigured for life. After the broth he continues with his story. So far he has said nothing about the police beating, only about the young man he met at the Casbah that night and what happened before the raid.)


RON: There was something in his voice that I remember. It seemed to be coming from somewhere far out. And I was enveloped in it, like a palpable thing. Like he was an extension of myself ...  the mystical being ... the Other ... Narcissus' reflection in the pool come to life and assuming an existence of its own. And yet separate and different in some wonderful, mystical way ...  Something I had always dreamed might happen to me....

(He goes on like this for some time, his voice trails off into silence. He may be asleep. About the police beating nothing now or at any time since then, to me or anyone that I know of. Angel Dan Davies is at the door with Dave Gelden and Rhonda Tower, the chick Angel has been making it with lately. They take off their sandals and leave them at the door before entering, as Ron always does. Rhonda has bad news. The prominent lawyer she knows has refused to take Ron's case.)

RHONDA: You could have knocked me over with a feather. Like I was sure he'd take the case. He's taken other cases where there wasn't any money. Liquor cases and labor cases, things like that. But when I told him how the vice squad goons beat up Ronny and the homosexual thing man, he just flipped. What kind of a friend was I, trying to drag him into a scene like this!

DAVE: Like I told you, you were wasting your time going to a cat like that. He's a square, man, and you don't catch a square sticking his neck out.

RHONDA (to me): Do you know any hip lawyers? (I shake my head and smile) See, you've got to go to a square in a case like this, whether you like it or not. They've got you over a barrel.

GILDA: Even the doctor was afraid to come when I told him what it was, and where it was.

ANGEL: It's like money. Did you ever try sounding a square for money? He'll take you to a fancy restaurant and spend ten bucks but you can't sound him for money to buy food for your wife and kids. They'll buy you drinks in a bar but sound them for a buck to buy groceries and they'll act like they're embarrassed they'll hem and haw and Christ! -- You'd think you'd asked them to take their pants off in public or something.

DAVE: That's what it is, man. Like they can't admit it, even to themselves, that there's such a thing as real starvation in the world. Or like this lawyer the cat can't face it, that a couple of cops will beat up on a cat just because he's a homosexual. They've got to prove it to themselves and to each other that they're real he-men.

RHONDA: Do you suppose the Civil Liberties Union lawyers might do something?

ANGEL: The Liberals? The political cats? They're the biggest squares of all when it comes to sex. Homosexuals yet -- wow! We got to find a lawyer who isn't prominent, or political or social. Some shyster who's mixed up in the rackets, maybe. He's the only kind that'll have the guts to mix it up with the cops in a police-beating case. He's beat, in a way, so he doesn't have to worry what the country club boys or the PTA is going to say about him. He doesn't have any illusions about justice or civil rights or the Constitution.

RHONDA: I know a prostitute that works up on the Strip --
 
DAVE: Now you're talkin, Get ahold of this chick and she'll know what to do, who to go to.

ANGEL: Like when I was on the road and I landed in a town broke, I learned one thing: never go to the local minister or the rabbi or the social agencies. All they'll want to know is who you've got back home that they can ship you back to if somebody back home is willing to wire them the money. Go to the first whorehouse you can find and talk to the madam, or to some saloonkeeper in the slum part of town, I remember a whore in Terre Haute once--

DAVE: They're the original hipsters the outlaws, the outcasts. The square, like he's got all these official lies he's got to believe, the schoolbook story and the church story and all that shit -- 

(Ronny stirs a little. Angel lights a stick of tea and holds it to Ronny's lips to take a drag on. Ronny smiles and tries to nod his thanks. It hurts.)

DAVE: (looks over at me and shakes his head): Like I told you, Larry. The squares talk about their religion, their laws, their justice, their charity, but sooner or later it always turns out to be the man with a gun on his hip.

The text of the entire book is here in plain text and in pdf format.

 
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Comments (1)

How far have we come? In Texas the other day, a young man was brutally beaten by cops who raided a gay bar on the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. The cops claimed there was "public intoxication" going on.

Of course all those good old boys in Texas straight bars never get publicly intoxicated, right?


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