The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Gays and lesbians

Lugosi to Appear as Weird Scientist

  Feb. 17, 1953, Ed Wood Jr.  

  March 4, 1953, Transvestite  

Feb. 17, 1953: This is how I got here. I started researching the Lionel Atwill sex scandal of 1941 and discovered that before his career was derailed, Atwill planned to produce a film of the novel “The Dark River” by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. The project was never filmed, but the novel resurfaced in 1953 in a production that was to star Macdonald Carey.

That project was also never filmed, but  the Feb. 17, 1953, column by Edwin Schallert about the movie referred to the Edward D. Wood Jr. production titled “Transvestite” that was released as “Glen or Glenda?”

And in searching for “Transvestite,” I discovered the March 4, 1953, story of Arnold Lowman,  a chemist and part-owner of a cosmetics company who was suing his ex-wife to get upsupervised visits with their son, Brent. Lowman's ex-wife, Dorothy, objected to anything but supervised visitation, "principally on her former husband's admitted propensity for feminine apparel," The Times said.

Judge Clarence E. Johns decided in favor of Lowman, giving him custody one day a week and on alternate holidays.

Stay tuned for the Lionel Atwill case. It’s complicated, and The Times was squeamish about some of the details. 

Continue reading »

Matt Weinstock, Feb. 23, 1961


Feb. 23, 1961: Mildred and Gordon Gordon celebrate the sale of their suspense novel "Operation Terror" with … ice cream bars. In their early days, they had to give up ice cream bars because they were too expensive and ever since the desserts were a sentimental symbol of success, Matt Weinstock says.
DEAR ABBY: I am a boy who is 14. I take piano lessons and want to be a fashion designer. To most boys I am an ideal sissy. On the bus going home from school they pester me and try to pick a fight. Abby, I don't want to fight, although I think I could knock their stupid blocks off. Don't tell me to ignore them. It won't to any good.

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Matt Weinstock, Feb. 13, 1961

  Feb. 13, 1961, Comics  

Feb. 13, 1961: An employee at a missile component company was studying Russian and while on a trip to New York decided to buy a Soviet newspaper to test his skill. Then he took the newspaper to work. Uh-oh.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "SICK AND DISILLUSIONED": Talk to your clergyman about an annulment. When a woman marries, she is entitled to a man for a husband. [I would love to know the story behind this item! lrh]
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The Loud Family, Seven Years After TV Series

  Jan. 6, 1980, Loud Family  

Jan. 6, 1980, Loud Family

Jan. 6, 1980: Years before there was MTV’s “The Real World” (or MTV, for that matter), there was Craig Gilbert’s “An American Family,” the story of the Loud family of Santa Barbara, which aired on PBS in 12 one-hour episodes in 1973. During what is now considered the first reality TV show, oldest son Lance Loud announced that he was homosexual and Pat Loud ordered her husband, Bill, out of the house because of his infidelity. 

Margaret Mead called Gilbert's approach "As important in the history of human thought as the invention of the novel" but critics were less enthusiastic, saying that all the Louds seemed to do was lounge around their swimming pool. Several members of the family criticized Gilbert for selective editing that trivialized them.  
A follow-up film was made in 1983 and a 2001 film explored the life of Lance Loud, who died in 2001 at the age of 50.

Note to Times copy desk: 1980 - 1973 = 7, not 8.

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Death in Miami

  One Magazine, October 1954  

  One magazine, October 1954

In August 1954, a couple parking at a North Miami “lovers lane” found the body of a 27-year-old man in a pool of blood.  About 500 yards away, police located a 1950 convertible with blood spatters on the seat and a .22-caliber shell on the floor. Investigators traced the car to William T. Simpson, an Eastern Air Lines steward who had just returned on a flight from Detroit. One of his co-workers said Simpson was upbeat on the return to Miami because he was looking forward to a date.

One phase of the investigation began searching for leads on the murder weapon, which was identified as a Beretta. The other phase of the inquiry focused on Simpson’s friends and traced his movements through Miami night spots, determining that Simpson was gay.

In canvassing neighborhoods, detectives learned that for several months, people had noticed a young man hitchhiking on Biscayne Boulevard around 23rd or 24th Street and whenever he was picked up, the car was trailed by another man in a green Chevrolet. As the hitchhiker and the green Chevrolet appeared almost nightly, people began to suspect they were running some kind of racket.

In searching for anyone who owned a Beretta .22, police acting on a tip picked up Charles W. Lawrence, who was identified in a lineup as the Biscayne Boulevard hitchhiker. After 15 minutes of interrogation, Lawrence admitted killing Simpson while “resisting his advances,” according to the Miami Daily News.  Lawrence identified his partner as Lewis Richard Killen, who drove a green Chevrolet.

Killen told police that he and Lawrence had been working a scheme in which Lawrence would be picked up by a gay man while hitchhiking and trailed by Killen to a remote spot where the two would rob their victim. Lawrence claimed he didn’t plan to kill Simpson but just wanted to frighten him.

The gay community that was revealed during the homicide investigation horrified editors at the Miami Daily News, which responded with a three-part series by Jack W. Roberts that is republished in books on gay history. On the jump, the series – which can only be described as appalling beyond belief, even for the 1950s – and news stories about Simpson’s killing. Notice especially Part 2 of the series, which deals with the LAPD’s harassment of gays and quotes Deputy Chief of Detectives Thad Brown

Lawrence and Killen were charged with first-degree murder, but convicted of manslaughter.


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Pages of History

Big Table 3

"I was seeing Pershing Square, Los Angeles, now for the first time…the nervous fugitives from Times Square, Market Street SF, the French Quarter -- masculine hustlers looking for lonely fruits to score from, anything from the legendary $20 to a pad at night and breakfast in the morning and whatever you can clinch or clip; and the heat in their holy cop uniforms, holy because of the Almighty Stick and the Almightier Vagrancy Law; the scattered junkies, the small-time pushers, the queens, the sad panhandlers, the lonely, exiled nymphs haunting the entrance to the men’s head, the fruits with the hungry eyes and jingling coins; the tough teen-age chicks -- 'dittybops' -- making it with the lost hustlers … all amid the incongruous piped music and the flowers -- twin fountains gushing rainbow colored: the world of Lonely America squeezed into Pershing Square, of the Cities of Terrible Night, downtown now trapped in the City of lost Angels … and the tress hang over it all the like some type of apathetic fate."

-- JOHN RECHY: Big Table 3

dropcap_I_vadisf you read Norman Mailer’s article for Esquire on the 1960 Democratic National Convention, you might notice a description of Pershing Square by John Rechy and wonder “What’s Big Table 3?” Thanks to EBay, I now have a copy of the magazine and here’s the answer: 

Big Table (1959-1960) was edited by Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll, who began the journal after resigning from Chicago Review over criticism of what was intended as the first installment of William S. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch.”

In fact, almost the entire staff of Chicago Review resigned after Chicago Daily News writer Jack Mabley wrote a scathing column about the issue headlined “Filthy Writing on the Midway.”  As reconstructed from the Village Voice and the Chicago Reader, Mabley's Oct. 25, 1958, column read in part:

"Do you ever wonder what happens to little boys who scratch dirty words on railroad underpasses? They go to college and scrawl obscenities in the college literary magazine. A magazine published by the University of Chicago is distributing one of the foulest collections of printed filth I've seen publicly circulated.

"I don't recommend anyone buying the thing out of curiosity because the writing is obscure to the unbeat generation, and the purple prose is precisely what you can see chiseled on washroom walls.

"The beat generation has quite a representative on the Midway. I haven't had much contact with these people, but I get the impression they are young, intellectual, need baths and have extreme contempt for the less fortunate than themselves, which is almost everybody. I'm sure these words won't bother them because they wouldn't be caught dead reading anything so plebeian, even for a good sneer . . .

"The obscenity is put into their writing to attract attention. It is an assertion of their sense of bravado, 'Oh boy, look what I'm doing' just like the little kids chalking a four letter word on the Oak Street underpass.

“What is legally obscene and what is not? If anyone used these words orally in the street, he would be arrested. If the obscenity in the magazine were read in a public performance as a literary presentation, the performers would be arrested and charged with indecency, in my opinion. Yet, in print, stamped 'this is literary,” they get away with it.

"To save argument, let's concede that I am a bluenose. I am disturbed by the increasing legal tolerance of obscenity. I abhor public circulation of vulgarity and coarseness. I think it is evidence of the deterioration of our American society. I think it is dangerous. We are  going overboard in the liberal side -- in the courts, in literature, in popular men's magazines and paper-cover books. The Chicago magazine is abundant evidence of this trend.

"I don't put the blame on the juveniles who wrote and edited the stuff, because they're immature and irresponsible. But the University of Chicago publishes the magazine. The trustees should take a long hard look at what's being circulated under their sponsorship." (If anyone has a scan of the original column, please send it along).

But the controversy wasn’t over. More than 400 copies of Big Table 1, which included further excerpts of "Naked Lunch" and Jack Kerouac's "Old Angel Midnight," were seized by postal authorities because of "obscenity and filthy contents," according to the University of Chicago's website on Carroll's papers. An initial ruling found Big Table 1 to be obscene, but that was overturned on appeal by Judge Julius Hoffman (yes, the “Chicago Seven” Julius Hoffman). The journal ceased publication after five issues.

Bonus fact: The title of Big Table was suggested by Jack Kerouac, inspired by a note on his writing desk: “Get a bigger table.”

As for novelist John Rechy, the excerpt quoted by Mailer (who also had an item in Big Table 3) is from “The Fabulous Wedding of Miss Destiny,”  written about “a flaming drag queen”  while Rechy was renting a room on Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles. 

A highly revised version, titled “Miss Destiny: The Fabulous Wedding,” appears in Rechy’s “City of Night.”

According to WorldCat, Big Table is available in many local libraries.Or you can buy copies from various book dealers.

On the jump, a page from Big Table 3.

Continue reading »

Paul V. Coates, Confidential File, July 5, 1960

July 5, 1910, Cover

July 5, 1960: I have to hand it to Paul Coates. For this column, he tries to beat an 80-year-old con woman at her own game. Here’s his Jan. 28, 1960, piece about her.

Notice the Page 1 story about the killing of New York attorney Karl Dieffenbach, who was found nude, beaten and smothered in his room at the Disneyland Hotel. On the jump, the trial of two teenagers who said he invited them up to his room for drinks and then made “inappropriate advances.”  Dieffenbach was visiting Orange County to renegotiate a labor contract at an Anaheim manufacturing plant, The Times said.

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LAPD Captain Accused of Corruption


June 10, 1910, Doctors Convention

June 10, 1910: An AMA convention in St. Louis finds out what a Nautsch dancer is.

On the jump, the complicated case of Police Capt. Charles E. Dixon and Hampshire Hotel operator William D. Gage. Dixon, the head of the department’s “purity squad,” summoned Gage for questioning and accused him of “practices  of degeneracy,” The Times said. Unfortunately, despite all the coverage of the case, none of the stories alludes even obliquely to what sort of “degeneracy” was involved. I would assume Gage was accused of being gay, but that’s only a guess. Whatever the accusation, Gage reacted furiously. 

I’m posting quite a few stories about this incident because it reflects the nature of graft in this era. Gage was apparently falsely accused, complained to the Police Commission and was pressured to withdraw his accusations. When Gage refused to yield, he received threatening phone calls and his hotel on South Broadway was apparently targeted by a large number of unsavory guests, a technique that will appear in the 1930s harassment of Clifton’s Cafeterias and Clifford Clinton. (See also the Harry Raymond bombing.) 

Dixon was eventually fired and became a rancher in Orange County. In 1911, he testified before a grand jury about misconduct in the "Good Government” (Goo-Goo) administration. Buried way down in one of the stories is a line that Sgt. Charles E. Sebastian, the future police chief and mayor, has been promoted to lieutenant.
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Death Reveals Woman Posed as Man

May 25, 1910, Woman Posed as Man
May 25, 1910: Louis Rogers drank and cursed with other workmen and held her own at hard labor. Only in death was it revealed that Rogers was a woman. It would be interesting to know more about her, but I can’t find anything further in The Times.

Found on EBay – One Magazine

A lot of 34 issues of One Magazine from 1953-55, including the first issue, has been listed on EBay. One, a historic magazine that dealt with gay issues, was published in Los Angeles and figured in a landmark 1st Amendment ruling after being declared obscene. A copy of the January 1953 issue sold for $455 last year. Bidding starts at $9.99.

Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, April 20, 1960

April 20, 1960, Mirror Cover

Census Takers' Woes Myriad in a Big Way

Paul Coates   Census takers take, among other things, oaths.

    Before beginning their tours of duty, they solemnly swear that they are not Communists, fascists, blabbermouths or mixed up in payola.  They also take a pledge that -- no matter how distasteful or misrepresented they find working conditions -- they won't unite against Uncle Sam and go on strike.
    This last little clause, I can tell you now, is going to save the Bureau of Census and the United States government from chaos unequalled in our 184-year history.
    Before the government began recruiting enumerators, it sent out advance propaganda agents to lull prospective applicants into thinking that they would earn approximately $12 a day, whether they were paid by the hour or were paid a bounty for the heads which they counted.
    Which was, even in these inflated times, a reasonable enough wage. 
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Found on EBay – Julian Eltinge


Oct. 28, 1913, Julian Eltinge
Oct. 28, 1913, Julian Eltinge

This postcard of female impersonator Julian Eltinge advertising his appearance at Los Angeles’ Mason Opera House in October 1913 has been listed on EBay. The photo shows him in “The Fascinating Widow,” one of his most famous roles. Bidding on the item, which is in the UK,  starts at 4.99 GBP.

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