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16 June 2019

The four years leading to Stonewall – a New York timeline


On the tops of, and around Stonewall, I have already published the following accounts
                                                           Stonewall Inn and the Riots
                                                           Three Centuries of Police Raids
                                                           Other Trans Person in New York 1969-72
                                                           Recurring Untruths: Masha P Johnson's Birthda
                                                           Where was Sylvia the night of 27/28 June 1969?
                                                           New York in the 1960s
                                                           East New Jersey in the 1960s
                                                           1969 – a Year of Much Activity

It is now 50 years since the Stonewall riots.  They became a pivotal event for both trans and gays.  There are a number of commemorative books out this year, but all from the gay perspective.   My June 2011 account is one of only a very few from a trans perspective.

What I am doing here is putting Stonewall in context.   What else what was going on in New York by and/or for trans people in the surrounding years?   I start with 1966 because that is the year of Benjamin's influential book, and continue to 1973 and the contentious pride march when Sylvia Rivera was badly treated. 

The four years leading to Stonewall
The four years following Stonewall
The trans geography of New York 1966-74


1966


The decision by the New York Bureau of Records to omit a sex designation from amended birth certificates for transsexuals was tested legally but unsuccessfully in Matter of Anonymous v. Weiner,

Harry Benjamin referred Phyllis Wilson to the new clinic at Johns Hopkins.

Sylvia Rivera was hustling as a woman.   She used a gun on a trick who was beating her.  He later had her arrested and charged.   Ray appeared in court as a clean-cut young man and was acquitted.

Marsha Johnson, 22, from Hoboken and Elizabeth, New Jersey, moved to Manhattan.   Sometimes she worked as a waitress, but usually she worked the streets.  

Spring 1966: the new New York City mayor, John Lindsay, had announced a crackdown on pornography and prostitution. Sylvia, at her usual spot on 9th Avenue and 44th Street was one of many caught in the sweep. Sylvia was put in the gay section in Rikers Island prison. It was here that she started doing heroin. She also met Bambi L’Amour.

After release Sylvia tried female hormones for a while: then stopped.  
“I don’t want to be a woman. I just want to be me. … I like pretending. I like to have the role. I like to dress up and pretend, and let the world think about what I am. Is he, or isn’t he?”
The noted photographer Walter Rutter came and took a series of photographs at Susanna Valenti's transvestite resort Casa Susanna in upstate New York.

Later that year Phyllis Wilson had become a dancer in New York.  Oct 4 a gossip column in the New York Daily News carried the item about her: 
“Making the rounds of the Manhattan clubs these nights is a stunning girl who admits she was male less than a year ago and that she underwent a sex change operation at, of all places, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore”. 
Johns Hopkins made a tactical decision and gave an exclusive to The New York Times, which ran the story on the front page on Nov 21. A press conference was called on the same day, where Edgerton and several colleagues announced at a press conference the establishment of the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic under the chairmanship of plastic surgeon John Hoopes. They announced that they had already operated on 10 patients, all of whom were happy with the outcome. Three were already married, and three more were engaged.

A black trans girl (born 1948) previously in the New Jersey foster care system, expressed the kinds of statement that a trans girl normally would, and for that was committed to a psychiatric institution.

Holly Woodlawn went to John Hopkins for the operation, but she was denied it in that she had not been in the program for at least a year. She went on a shopping spree instead with the money that her boyfriend had provided for the operation.

Kim Christy and her friend Billy, who was becoming known as International Chrysis and entering pageants and performing, shared a tiny apartment in the area that later became New York's SoHo. They met sex magazine pioneer and editor of Exotique magazine, Lenny Burtman who arranged photo-shoots and other favors. She got to know New York female impersonators such as Tammy Novak, and performed at Club 82 as a stripper and as a showgirl. 

·         Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. Julian Press, 1966. With a bibliography and appendix by Richard Green.  A close reading.   The seminal work that defines the field for decades to come.   


1967


The Harry Benjamin Foundation presented eight separate papers at a meeting at the prestigious New York Academy of Sciences on January 16, 1967, mainly considering etiology based on pre and post examinations of Benjamin's patients. Robert  Stoller,  Richard Green, Herbert Kupperman, Wardell Pomeroy, John Money, Ruth Doorbar, Leo Wollman and Henry Guze presented papers, based on their work with the HBF.


Harry Benjamin and Reed Erickson had been having disputes, sometimes quite petty, about how the money was spent. In the spring of 1967 the EEF grant to the HBF was reduced to $1,200, and in the fall – after the promised  three years expired-- stopped entirely.   Shortly afterwards, the Erickson Educational Foundation asked Benjamin to vacate the office that it was subsidizing.

Over 700 desperate transsexuals wrote and implored the doctors at the Johns Hopkins Clinic to help them. However the Clinic would approve for surgery only those whom they unanimously deemed to be ‘good candidates’. They often chose to err on the side of wait-and-see, recommending therapy rather than progressing a patient on to surgery.

Dr Edgerton adopted and adapted Burou's penile inversion method of vaginoplasty.

April: Mauricio Archibald, en femme, having been to a masquerade party, was on a New York subway platform waiting for a train. A police officer charged him as being a vagrant in violation of subdivision 7 of section 887 which forbids a disguise "in a manner calculated to conceal his being identified". He was tried and convicted.  See also Felicity Chandelle, who had been convicted under the same law three years earlier.  Neither Virginia Prince nor Siobhan Fredericks arranged help as they had done for Felicity.

September: Section 105 of chapter 681 of the Laws of 1967, which chapter repealed section 887 came into effect as of September 1, 1967, "provided that the newly enacted sections were not to apply or govern the prosecution for any offense committed prior to the effective date of the act".  

One-year-old Bruce Reimer from Manitoba was brought to see Dr Money after losing his penis in a botched circumcision, and was surgically reassigned to female as Brenda, and continued annual visits for almost 10 years, until Brenda began to refuse, and started to change back to male as David.

Phyllis Wilson’s marriage in Baltimore was reported in Jet Magazine.

Ray Rivera (Sylvia) was called to the draft board.   She proclaimed “I know I like men. I know I like to wear dresses. But I don’t know what any problem is”, was rejected and was still able to get a lift home.  

Eddie Dame, a cross-dresser since early childhood, was best man when his lover of four years married a women (Eddie and the lover had sex the night before and continued to do so occasionally until 1982 when the lover was seriously ill).   Eddie then went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and bought a full set of female clothing. Back in New York Eddie started going out dressed female. 

Flawless Sabrina/Jack Doroshow had organized 46 Nationals Pageants a year from 1959-1967, including the annual Miss Philadelphia contest held at the Hotel Philadelphia (now demolished) at Broad and Vine Stree, which was won in 1967 by the 19-year-old Rachel Harlow.

Flawless Sabrina held the Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant.  Miss Philadelphia (Rachel Harlow) was the winner;   Mis Manhatten (Crystal Labeija) staged a tantrum.  Kim Christy and International Chrysis were in the chorus line.  Minette and Mario Montez performed songs.   Dorian Corey, Jackie Curtis, Andy Warhol and Terry Southern were also present.  

Wayne County (the future Jayne) arrived in New York for the first time, and survived by meeting people in the Stonewall Inn.   However  he returned to Atlanta come September as could not afford a winter coat.

Siobhan FredericksTurnabout magazine for transvestites ceased publication.
 
Valerie Solanas, masculine woman and room-mate of Candy Darling, wrote the SCUM Manifesto Scum stood for Society for Cutting up Men.  She commented on male transvestites: 
“Women, in other words, don't have penis envy; men have pussy envy. When the male accepts his passivity, defines himself as a woman (males as well as females think men are women and women are men), and becomes a transvestite he loses his desire to screw (or to do anything else, for that matter; he fulfills himself as a drag queen) and gets his dick chopped off. He then achieves a continuous diffuse sexual feeling from `being a woman'. Screwing is, for a man, a defense against his desire to be female.”
Pudgy Roberts  was a New York female impersonator most famous in the late 1960s. He also wrote two novels, an how-to book, and edited a monthly magazine, The Great Female Mimics.

·         Andy Milligan (dir)  Compass Rose, with Minette.  US 73 mins 1967.
·         Jackie Curtis play:   Glamour, Glory and Gold.   Performed by Candy Darling and Robert De Niro.  
·         Pudgy Roberts.  Female Impersonator’s Handbook.  Capri Publishers, 1967
·         Bob Clarke (dir).  She-Man. With Hans Crystal and Dorian Wayne. US 68 mins 1967.  Bad transvestites blackmail men into feminization.  
·         The Rolling Stones in the song “Citadel” on Their Satanic Majesties Request: “Candy and Taffy, hope we both are well/Please come see me in the citadel”



1968


Leo Wollman  was on the WBI Boston television channel with Virginia Prince.

Renée Richards met with John Money at Johns Hopkins, but at the end was told that Johns Hopkins was not accepting any more transsexual patients at that time.

Dr Stanley Biber, in Colorado, contacted the Johns Hopkins Clinic for advice on how to do gender corrective surgery.   He was supplied with diagrams based on Dr Burou’s penile inversion method.

The most prominent patient in the Gender Identity Clinic was writer Dawn Langley Hall who had surgery in 1968, married an African-American the next year, and publicly announced the birth of a daughter in 1971 (a claim that the Gender Identity Clinic said was “definitely impossible”).

Erica Kay had surgery with Dr Benito Rish.

Lee Brewster, from West Virginia, who had been fired from the FBI finger-printing section because of suspicions that he might be gay, had arrived in New York, and started organizing drag balls as fund raisers for the Mattachine Society.

Eddie Dames joined Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and had a part in When Queens Collide.  The troupe gave him the name Bunny Eisenhower.  

Wayne County met photographer Leee Childers and they shared a coldwater walkup.  Later Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn moved in.

June 3. Valerie Solanas, shot Andy Warhol three times.  He was pronounced clinically dead. The doctors managed to revive him and operated for 5 1/2 hours, removing his spleen. Warhol was in critical condition but survived.

At approximately 8:00 pm, Valerie walked up to a traffic cop near Times Square and surrendered.  She was arrested and later taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric examination.

A photograph of Kim and Chrysis appeared in Female Mimics.

Flawless Sabrina/Jack Doroshaw was special advisor for gay and trans aspects on John Schlesinger’s film Midnight Cowboy.

Schlesinger’s new lover, photographer Michael Childers -- an old friend of Morrisey -- negotiated for a bunch of Factory regulars to be in the film’s party scene.  They each got $25 a day, but were left sitting around and became very bored, and only a few of them appeared very briefly in the film.  Schlesinger’s film was the first notable Hollywood film to tell of hustlers and the underground countercultural life.  Warhol, still in hospital, spoke on the phone to Morrissey,  and admitted jealousy that his material was being stolen.   They had made a film, My Hustler, in 1965.  Warhol suggested the Morrissey make a similar film, and have it out before Schlesinger’s, and use whoever had not been sent to Midnight Cowboy.   This Morrissey did.  He shot the film, Flesh, over six weekends, and for less than four thousand dollars (compared to $3 million for Midnight Cowboy).   He again used Joe Delasandro, as a hustler called Joe, and he included two trans actresses who had not been in the bunch sent to Midnight Cowboy: Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling.   During their short scene, they sit reading Hollywood magazine, commenting on the articles while Joe gets a blow job. The film opened at the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre in the last week of September 1968 and played there for seven months before moving to the 55th Street Playhouse in May, 1969. At the Garrick, its average gross was $2,000 per week, making $10,000-12,000 during the first six weeks.

A troupe of street queens, with varying membership sometimes camped out in the parkette opposite the Stonewall tavern.   It was a tough life.  One drugged-out queen fell asleep on a rooftop and came close to death with third-degree sun burn;  ‘cross-eyed Cynthia’ (?=Wanda) died when she was pushed out of a window of the St George Hotel in Brooklyn; another, Sylvia (not Rivera) jumped off its roof; Dusty ‘ugly as sin, never out of drag, very funny, big mouth’ who was careless about the term she used to refer to an African-American and was stabbed to death.

Sandy, a Yale-educated lawyer, was 6'5" (1.96m). He liked to say that he was five foot 17 inches. He was a regular in both Virginia Prince's FPE organization in New York, where he rarely wore female clothing, but did show photographs of himself so dressed.  He was also part of the local bondage community.   His lover was the drag performer Tobi Marsh.

David Wilde, who had been a focal point for FPE members in Manhattan, met Joan Bennett (1910-90), the film star and member of the New York acting dynasty, at a party.  When she met David she was appearing in the occult soap opera, Dark Shadows, 1966-71. They would date for ten years. When David told her about his female persona, Gail, she was initially dismayed, but afterwards she was unperturbed. David knew Harry Benjamin and asked him to talk to her about cross-dressing. 

Susanna Valenti responded in her column to Prince’s recent appearance on the Alan Burke television show. Burke pushed the line that a transvestite taking hormones and considering surgery was close to being a transsexual. Prince replied that she would not have the operation for anything. Susanna commented:   “Such a statement marks the boundary between the TV and the TS. The TV rejects the thought of surgery. He enjoys living the two sides of the human coin.”  However she estimated that she personally knew a dozen transvestites who had had surgery. “I met them all before the sex change, and some of them, at first, did not know they were TS’s, they only knew that they enjoyed dressing and would feel much happier as girls than in their male role.”  However she believed that many who did think themselves as transsexuals were mistaken. She also criticized transsexuals as a group as not being able to pass: “Very few of the TS’s I know have learned to move and gesture with that suppleness that is exclusively female”. Later she continued: “Society insists upon females behaving like ladies—and this is where our TS and pseudo TS friends fail in a most regrettable way. I am thinking right now of several instances whereby people continue to ‘read’ a TS as being a man even AFTER the operation”.


Catherine Bruce was photographed by Diane Arbus in both female and male personas.

Joe Tish had been a female impersonator since the early 1950s.   In particular she performed at the Moriccan Village on West 8th St.  In the late 1960 she had a long running show at the Crazy Horse. Tish was one of the few performers who left the club dressed as female. Although refused admission at the Stonewall when so dressed, she had no such problem at uptown straight clubs. 

Alexis Del Lago, from Puerto Rico had studied at the Parsons School of Design, and had started going as female.   She met Jackie Curtis which led to her being introduced to Andy Warhol’s Factory where she was invited to be in one of his films.


Desiree, who had previously hung around the Stonewall Tavern, took up with Petey, a gangster, and they moved to the suburbs as a heterosexual couple.  Petey, in a fit of jealousy, shot and killed her.

October:  Mauricio Archibald appealed to the New York Supreme Court. He contended that a) he could not be a vagrant in that he has visible means of support b) while cross-dressed, he had no intention of committing any illegal act. Judge Markowitz observed that the 1845 law had been updated and readopted, with a more modern aim to discourage “overt homosexuality in public places which is offensive to public morality” as well as disguises used to cover criminal activities.” But Archibald was not engaged in criminal activities, nor was he gay. Mere “masquerading” without harming third parties is not a crime in New York, suggested Judge Markowitz. “If appellant’s conviction was correct then circus clowns, strangely attired ‘hippies,’ flowing-haired ‘yippies’ and every person who would indulge in the Halloween tradition of ‘Trick or Treat’ ipso facto may be targets for criminal sanctions as vagrants. However Judges Streit and Hofstadter rules that the wording of subdivision 7 does not require that the State must establish either a lack of means of support or an intention to commit an illegal act. Thus the conviction was affirmed.

Edward Sagarin, who had published The Homosexual in America, 1951 as Donald Cory, wrote a paper "Ideology as a Factor in the Consideration of Deviance" for The Journal of Sex Research, in which he made the commonplace observation that scientists are not always as objective as they should be. In the section he named "Normal Necrophiles and Transsexuals", he quotes Harry Benjamin finding "no evidence of serious mental illness", and replies: "Benjamin describes a condition in which 'the male speaks of his female counterpart as of another person,' but to label this schizophrenia would constitute social condemnation, rather than diagnostic realism" and "One need only read the case histories, written by Benjamin or his collaborators, to note how disturbed are the patients". The Journal allowed Benjamin to reply: "My criticism of Sagarin's contribution is that his own ideology leads him to draw unwarranted conclusions in some (not all) instances, and his tendency to generalize too much".

Patrician but ever controversial novelist, Gore Vidal (1925-2012) produced a novel, Myra Breckinridge, (named for San Francisco transvestite Bunny Breckinridge, and an outgrowth of a proposed sketch for the risqué revue Oh! Calcutta! - itself produced by semi-closeted transvestite, drama Critic Kenneth Tynan).   An exploration of what real-life transsexuality never could be.   Myra, the supposed widow of film critic Myron, is taken on at a Los Angeles acting academy owned by Myron’s uncle, also rapes one of the young men.   After a car accident, Myra reverts back to being Myron.

·         Frank Simon (dir). The Queen, with Flawless Sabrina, Rachel Harlow, Crystal Labeija, Mario Montez, Minette and uncredited in the chorus line:  Kim Christy and International Chrysis.  US 68 mins 1968.  Rachel went to the Cannes International Film Festival with the film and was a center of attention. David Bowie, in his androgynous phase, would cite her influence. 
·         Mart Crowley.  The Boys in the Band.   Dir: Robert Moore.  Premiered Off-Broadway April 14, 1968 and played 1001 performances through September 1970.   Despite its rather old-fashioned view, it was one of the first plays centered on gay men.
·       Jack Smight (dir). No Way to Treat a Lady. Scr: John Gay from a novel by William Goldman, with Rod Steiger and Kim August.  A misogynist serial killer does drag for one killing of a cis woman played by Kim August.  US 108 mins 1968.     One scene shot in the 82 Club. 
·       Andy Milligan (dir).  The Filthy Five. A heterosexual sex film, with Selena Robbins as the stripper who has a threesome with two men.  Robbins was featured prominently on the film’s poster – and incidently was post-op by then. 
·        Paul Morrissey (dir). Lonesome Cowboys with Francis Francine as the transvestite sheriff.  US 109 mins 1968.
·       Avery Willard (dir) Flaming Twenties. With Mario Montez, Minette, Jack Smith, Charles Ludlam, Bill Vehr.  US ? mins 1968
·        Minette.  Come to Me at Tea-Time.  LP, 1968.
·       Jean Marie Stein.  Season of the Witch. Essex House, 1968.   Stein was still pre-transition when she wrote this science fiction of a man, accused of rape, who has his consciousness transferred to the woman’s body.
·       Jackie Curtis’ play Amerika Cleopatra with Harvey Fierstein and Alexis Del Lago.
·       Lou Reed’s song “Sister Ray” – said by some to be about Sylvia/Ray Rivera who was 16 at the time. although the lyrics don't support this.
·       Lou Reed’s song “Lady Godiva’s Operation”.  “Life has made her that much bolder now/ That she [has] found out how/ Dressed in silk, latin lace and envy/ Pride and joy of the latest penny-fare”  -- however the operation ends badly.  



1969


Transsexual pioneer Christine Jorgensen came to Johns Hopkins for corrective surgery. 

Future showgirl Michelle Brinkle ran away to Baltimore intending to register at the Johns Hopkins Clinic, but never did, and ended up at Dr Burou’s Clinic in Casablanca instead.

Psychiatrist Jon Meyer became chairman of the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic, and his predecessor, John Hoopes wrote: “The surgery, often considered outrageously excessive and meddlesome by the uninformed, must be undertaken regardless of the censure and taboos of present society”.

Charles Ihlenfeld was a medical internist with an interest in endocrinology when a friend arranged an introduction to the then 84-year-old Dr Harry Benjamin who asked him to cover the office during the summer while Benjamin was in San Francisco. Ihlenfeld learned on the job, and stayed on: 
"I was awed by the courage of people who were willing to risk losing everything to gain the truth of their own lives".
Kim Christy was being kept by an oil tycoon.  She also starting doing photography for Eros Publishing Company, which published Eros, Mode Avantgarde, Hooker and Exposé.

Phoebe Smith, from Atlanta, came to New York after initial surgery with Dr Barbosa in Tijuana, to see Harry Benjamin for a hormone prescription.  She returned in November and Benjamin declared her ready for final surgery.

Terry Noel had been performing at the 82 Club since her operation in 1964.  Later she was a typist.  Then she moved to Virginia and married a naval officer.

Holly Woodlawn talked her way into Paul Morrissey’s Trash, first in a bit part, but then as the female lead (a heroin addict’s girlfriend).  She was paid $25 a day, and ad-libbed many of the lines.   Several Hollywood people petitioned the Academy to nominate her for best actress.

Vicki Strasberg, sex worker, was photographed by Diane Arbus at her birthday party.  

Susanna Valenti, writing her column in Transvestia, took up the concept that had been proposed by Sheila Niles of ‘whole girl fetishist (WGF)’ for members who did not pass well enough, particularly if it were for lack of trying,   Susanna even estimated that the majority of members were WGFs (Transvestia #55, 1969).  Later in the year, despite what she had written the previous year, Susanna Valenti had decided to live full-time as female. She planned to quit her job in the city and run Casa Valenti as a year-round bed-and-breakfast.

Joe Tish was performing in upstate New York. 

June 22: Judy Garland died, age 47 from an overdose. 

June 27: Judy’s funeral.

Edmund White: “I was just walking past Sheridan Square with my close friend Charles Burch the night of the raid. I had stopped going to the Stonewall because it had been taken over by drag queens, whereas before it had been a simple gay cruise bar where people danced to jukebox tunes.”

27/28 June  - 1st night of Stonewall Riots.  The police raid against the Stonewall Tavern hours after the Judy Garland funeral, was co-ordinated by Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, who used the excuse that the bar was unlicensed. The raid was carried out without the knowledge of the local precinct which was suspected of being on the take. Interpol had recovered negotiated bonds from Wall Street which were turning up in Europe. The bonds were being stolen by Wall St. employees who were victims of a blackmail operation run by Ed Murphy, sometimes called the Skull from his time as a wrestler. Murphy sometimes worked the door, where one task was to hand envelopes to a representative of the Sixth Precinct, rumored to be $1,200 a month. Other times he behaved as if he were the manager of the Stonewall Inn. Murphy had served time for stealing gold from dental offices, and had been arrested previously on blackmail charges, but supposedly had incriminating photographs of J. Edgar Hoover, and the charges had not been pursued. The NYPD figured out that the theft of bonds was tied to blackmail at the Stonewall Inn, and the order went out to shut down the club.  One of the first reported actions that started the riot on the 27th, was that a cop hit a butch female/trans man and that he hit back. It has been debated whether this was Stormé DeLarverie, who was previously the sole male impersonator in the Jewel Box Revue. Deputy Inspector Pine has testified that the first significant resistance that he encountered in the bar was from the transvestites. Allyson Allante, then 14, was arrested, as was Maria Ritter who was there with her friend Kiki to celebrate Maria being 18 and legally able to drink for the first time. Street queen, Birdy Rivera was also there. Diane Kearny was in the area and for a time joined the crowd that was observing events. Tammy Novak was arrested and put in the paddy wagon for drag queens, but escaped in the confusion and ran to Joe Tish's apartment where she holed up for the weekend. A police officer putting Maria Ritter into the paddy wagon had commented that he couldn't believe that she was a boy. She said that she wasn't. As some more trans women were directed in, Maria stepped around them and walked away. The same policeman went to intercept her, but as she broke into tears, waved her to go away. Marsha P. Johnson and Zazu Nova were also active in the riots, and Michelle, Dario Modon and Christine Hayworth were present. Marsha was observed dropping a heavy weight onto a police car. Wayne County met Miss Peaches and Marsha P Johnson on arrival and realized what was going on.  He joined an impromptu march up and down Christopher Street shouting "Gay Power!".  Beat poet Alan Ginsburg lived on Christopher Street and inevitably joined the crowd. Ed Murphy was handcuffed to another man, but they managed to escape into the crowd and took a taxi to an S&M friend who knew how to remove handcuffs. Perhaps the Sixth Precinct cops, already peeved in not knowing about the raid in advance, recognized the man who paid them off.

Apparently Sylvia Rivera was not at the Stonewall Inn at the outbreak of the riots as often been claimed.  Comparing the different accounts, the most likely account is that she had fallen asleep in Bryant Park after taking heroin. (Marsha later went to Bryant Park, found her asleep, and woke her up to tell her about the riots.)

A few weeks later the Gay Liberation Front was formed.  Five months later, the Gay Activists Alliance split from GLF. 

A few months after the riots, the Stonewall Inn closed. The space was occupied in turn by a bagel sandwich shop, a Chinese restaurant, and a shoe store.

September 19:  Leo Wollman was on the Phil Donahue television show to discuss transsexual operations.

In the October 1969 Transvestia Susanna Valenti, announced what she was doing. She had lost the “fabulous thrill” that comes with the transformation from ‘him’ to ‘her’ but it was becoming increasingly agonizing for her to make the switch back to ‘him’. She was criticized for failing to maintain the balance.

John Money conducted a follow-up study of ‘17 male and seven female patients’, and found that after surgery nine patients had improved their occupational status and none declined. “Seven male and three female patients married for the first time” and “All of the 17 are unequivocally sure they have done for themselves the right thing”.

There had been discussion that a book should emerge to embody the findings of the Harry Benjamin Foundation, but this was felt to be too narrow.   In particular that would exclude the important work being done in Europe.   The book, financed again by the Erickson Educational Foundation, eventually came out in 1969.


·         Richard Green and John Money (eds) Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment, with a preface by Reed Erickson, an introduction by Harry Benjamin. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969.  With contributions by Erickson, Money, Green, Stoller, Guze, Pomeroy, Doorbar, Hamburger, Wollman, Sherwin.
  • Avery Willard (dir). Camp Burlesgue. With Pudgy Roberts impersonating Bette David, Carol Channing, Tiny Tim, Marlene Dietrich, Lily Tomlin, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. US 6 mins 1969.
  • Jackie Curtis play: Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit, with Candy Darling.
  • Lou Reed’s song “Candy Says”:  “Candy says, I've come to hate my body/ And all that it requires in this world …. Candy says, I hate the big decisions/ That cause endless revisions in my mind”




13 June 2019

Jessica Amanda Salmonson (1950 – ) science fiction writer and editor.

Original version August 2010

Salmonson started life as Amos, being born in Seattle to parents on the carny circuit, father a fire eater and mother a sword swallower.  Amos was seven when, with an elder sister, they were abandoned and put in the foster system. 

Salmonson started submitting stories to pulp magazines from the age of 10, although without initial success.   At 12 Salmonson ran away and was able to survive in the burgeoning hippy scene of the mid 1960s.   Salmonson’s father was rediscovered, and his new wife, a Thai Buddhist nun, became a teacher of Buddhism to the teenager.  

By the age of 22, Salmonson was able to get published.   A few years later, while one of the editors of The Literary Magazine of Fantasy and Terror which served as a forum for issues of feminism, Salmonson transitioned and was able to discuss her changes in its pages.


Jessica Amanda Salmonson has specialized as a writer and anthologist in stories with female protagonists, and in feminist science fiction. She has also used the names Patrick Lean and Josiah Kerr and Paghat the Ratgirl. 

She is a prolific author.   For the most comprehensive list of her works see her page in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.


  • Jessica Amanda Salmonson. The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Present Era. Paragon House, 1991;Anchor Doubleday, 1992.
  • Jessica Amanda Salmonson & Jules Remedios Faye. Wisewomen & boggy-boos : a dictionary of lesbian fairy lore. Banned Books. ii, 105 pp1992.
  • John Clute. “Salmonson, Jessica Amanda”. In John Clute and John Grant (ed) The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. Orbit.  St Martin’s Press, 1997. 
 EN.Wikipedia       Encyclopedia.com       Fancyclopedia    
 Internet Speculative Fiction Database    

09 June 2019

Gloria Swanson (1906 - 1940) performer.

Original version: October 2010


Walter Winston was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  His family, like many other African Americans, moved north to Chicago for a better life.  In the 1920s Winston took the name of a Hollywood Star and as Gloria Swanson won several prizes in Chicago’s drag balls.

In 1928 the Sepia Gloria Swanson (as she was billed) was hostess at the Book Store in the city’s Bronzeville, a speakeasy with a mainly black clientele which became popular as it was known that she was a permanent fixture. Her theme song was fats Waller’s “Squeeze Me”, which she rewrote to make it raunchier.  She was also known for her version of Sophie Tucker’s “Some of these days”.  She moved to the nearby Pleasure Inn on East 31 St, and white thrill seekers also started to come.  She then opened her own club on East 35th St.  She literally entertained all night: the audience was so enthralled that the sun was up when they left.  As such she was a major figure in the new Pansy Craze.  Noted in her audiences were the composer William C Handy and boxer Jack Johnson.


Swanson had already performed in New York in 1932, and in summer 1933, on the eve of the end of Prohibition, Gloria moved uptown to Harlem, and quickly became the headliner at the black-owned popular Theatrical Grill on 134th Street. She sang bawdy parodies, and danced a little, and was always well-dressed in evening gowns.  She was noted for her rendition at the Harlem Opera House of “I’m a Big Fat Mama With the Meat shaking on my Bones”. A year later Swanson was starring with Gladys Bentley at the newly opened Ubangi Club.  She also performed with major jazz performers such as Fletcher Henderson.

She was a creature of the night, breakfasting in the evening and dining at dawn. She wore mainly evening gowns, was rarely in street clothing, and almost never in male attire. She was plump, jolly and bawdy, and also a good cook. She was completely accepted by the underworld and bohemian types who came to her club. Apart from those in the know, many of her clients never suspected that she was not a woman.

This lasted until Fiorello La Guardia became mayor of New York in 1934 and as part of his reforms had the police stamp out the pansy subculture. One-by-one they picked off the queer nightclubs.   The Ubangi, almost the last to survive, closed in April 1937.

Swanson returned briefly to Chicago in 1934, and then performed in Baltimore and Philadelphia 1935-6, and then returned to Harlem as a headline act.   However she was forced into male attire offstage, and as such, Gloria's admirers failed to recognize her.


She also became ill, and had to withdraw from public life altogether. After several hospitalizations for heart conditions starting in 1936, the Sepia Gloria Swanson died in 1940 at age 33. Over 200 attended the funeral.

  • “ ‘Gloria Swanson’ Buried in Harlem: Entertainer Won Fame as a Female Impersonator”.  Chicago Defender, May 3, 1940.
  • George Chauncey. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. Basic Books 1994: 251.
  • Richard Bruce Nugent edited by Thomas Wirth. Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance: Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugen. Duke University Press. 2002: 221-2.
  • Chad Heap.  Slumming:  Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940.  The University of Chicago Press, 2009:  91-4, 233, 245, 256, 266-7, 270, 324-5n70.
  • David Freeland.  Automats, Taxi dances, and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan’s Lost Places of Leisure.  New York University Press, 2009: 160.
  • St Sukie de la Croix.  Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago before Stonewall.  The University of Wisconsin Press, 2012: 143-5.
  • Jim Elledge.  The Boys of Fairy Town: Sodomites, Female Impersonators, Third Sexers, Pansies, Queers, and Sex Morons in Chicago’s First Century,  Chicago Review Press, 2018: 143-4, 155. 
  • James F Wilson. Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance.  University of Michigan Press, 2010: 194-5.

Queer Music Heritage.


31 May 2019

Two own-voice impersonators


Sometimes we get only a snapshot of a person, and never find out what happened to them later.   Here are two trans woman surviving as performers, who are incidentally mentioned in books on other topics.  This is all that we have of them.

Loretta Zotto (193? - ?)


During the filming of Trouble Along the Way, 1953, about a failing Catholic college that employs a has-been sports coach (John Wayne) trying to regain his lost wife and daughter, director MichaelCurtiz (who made Casablanca and Mildred Pierce)was noticed spending time with Loretta Zotto, an extra on the cast.   Zotto was tall, beautiful, well-endowed and was compared to film-star Jane Russell.   

One night Judy Garland, Peter Lawford and Merv Griffin (who had an uncredited voice part in the film) went to the West Hollywood club, Tabu.   Judy said: “I hear there's a drag queen there who does Judy Garland better than I do”.   

They sat through three ho-hum acts, and then the star, billed as Stormy Weather, came on and performed “The Trolley Song” from Meet Me in St Louis, 1944 and “Over the Rainbow”.   Judy graciously conceded that Stormy sang “Over the Rainbow” better than she did.   Merv recognized Stormy, instantly, as Loretta Zotto from the film set, and Peter scored a date with her, and reported back to the other two on Stormy’s actual genital sex.   

Merv blew his chances of a better, bigger part in Michael Curtiz’s next film by telling him that they knew.

  • Darwin Porter.  Merv Griffin: A life in the Closet.  Blood Moon, 2009: 213-4.

Ruth Brown (194? - )


Ruth had a troubled career, divided between church gospel, drag bars and jail.  She  took the name of the well-known rhythm and blues singer, Ruth Brown, and was even presented in a night-club as if she were the Ruth Brown (several cis women also were so presented in other nightclubs).  

She was at the Stonewall riots, and performed at Harlem drag balls.

In 1976 Marion Williams, the gospel and blues singer, appearing at New York’s Town Hall encouraged the audience to sing along, but they were unable to match her range.   It was Ruth who stepped down from the balcony and sang a duet with Marion. 

A few years later, when Anthony Heilbut had produced Marion’s album I’ve Come So Far, a group of critics and fans were invited to hear her sing.   Among them were a group of what were taken to be church ladies, but were not.  Among them was Ruth who led the ladies in holy dance.   

Heilbut then got to know Ruth. In the late 1980s, he accepted her invitation to hear her sing Sally’s Hideaway.  He describes her act: 
“She was indeed a powerhouse, a combination of Wilson Picket and Little Richard, but better than either.  She sang a typical soul repertory, including songs that predated her audience.”

·         William G Hawkeswood.  One of the Children: Gay Black Men in Harlem.  University of California Press,1996 :86.
·         Chip Deffaa.  Blue Rhythms: Six Lives in Rhythm and Blues.  University of Illinois Press,1996: 263n9.
·         Anthony Heilbut.  The Fan Who Knew Too Much: Aretha Franklin, the Rise of the Soap Opera, Children of the Gospel Church, and Other Meditations.  Alfred A Knopf, 2012: 22-5, 30, 34-5, 48, 70, 109.