Essays on trans, intersex, cis and other persons and topics from a trans perspective.......All human life is here.
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“When I was in the carnival, all the queens were mad for Peggy Yule. She was magic and they always talked about her. She left home in 1875 when she was 15 and ran away with the carnival. She traveled in a covered wagon. Peggy lived in drag and became a real woman as much as she could, not so easy then. She probably used the depilatory wax. And she had long hair, so long she could sit on it, dyed red. Oh, it was gorgeous from what the queens said, and she worked right up to the end. She lived to be 106, and she could hardly walk at the end. But she had a boa constrictor this big around, and she would pull herself up on the boa constrictor and she could cooch up a storm. She could hardly move her feet but she could cooch up a storm, and she was 96 or 98 then. The last few years she couldn’t pull up and cooch anymore, so she worked on a chaise lounge and did fortunes.
“Peggy always had a place in the show because she was very well loved. Peggy was always willing to stake people and she was very faithful, so there were people she knew in her old age that were ride boys when she met them and now owned the show. When she finally retired they couldn’t get Peggy into the house — I suppose the central heating would get to her — so she lived out back in a truck. She was a legend among the queens, Peggy Yule.”
Minette, edited by Steven Watson. Recollections of a part-time Lady. New York: Flower-Beneath-the-Foot Press 1979: 48
Trigger warning. This 3-part article contains quotations from John Wojtowicz, the major protagonist. The quotations contain frequent misgenderings, and in the latter 2 parts traditional English swear words. Caveat Lector.
John Wojtowicz gave Carmen a yellow rose on her anniversary, and Liz a red one on hers.
The divorce of Carmen and John was finalized in 1983. Carmen reverted to her maiden name, and while working three jobs, put herself through college. She became an education associate for children with special needs.
Liz Eden was in a hit-and-run incident coming out of a gay bar late one night. She was rushed to St Clare’s Hospital in Hell’s Kitchen and they put pins in to save her leg. However apparently the blood transfusion was HIV+, and after a while and a couple of sicknesses Liz was confirmed to have AIDS.
One time while out, Wojtowicz and Liz were interviewed by gay film buff Vito Russo on his Our Time television show. Wojtowicz was still referring to Liz as ‘Ernie’ and Liz became quite infuriated.
Liz moved to Rochester, NY, and was said to be remarried. Liz died in September 1987 of Aids-related pneumonia – she was 41.
John and his mother
Finally out for good, Wojtowicz returned to living with his mother and his developmentally disabled brother Tony in Brooklyn.
Despite claims that he was paid $100,000 or 1% of the profits of the film which took in over $50 million on a budget of $1.8 million, he received very little of it apart from the $2,500 that went to Liz for the operations. The New York State Crime Victims Compensation Board diverted tens of thousands to the hostages, and contested against Wojtowicz receiving anything right up to his death. Sometimes he was on welfare. Sometimes he worked at minimum wage jobs.
John was married for a fourth time to Chiclets, a 17-year-old trans woman. She was viciously beaten by a group of transphobes in the Village. They dumped her in New Jersey. She was in a coma for a month before dying.
Pierre Huyghe, the French artist, was doing a series of dual screen presentations combining a real event, its fictional remake and a first-person recollection of the original. He was intrigued by the Dog Day Afternoon scenario. In 1999, he travelled to Brooklyn and knocked on doors until he found Wojtowicz at his mother’s house. He invited John to go to Paris to re-enact the events. A copy of the bank as in the film had been built in a studio in a Paris suburb. This could not be done in the US as Wojtowicz did not own the copyright. The resulting film, The Third Memory, 2000, opens with the standard FBI warning against copyright infringement, with a voice-over:
“I tell the FBI to go fuck themselves. . . . It’s been twenty-eight years since I’ve been fighting Warner Brothers to try and get my money back. They keep giving it to the hostages while I’m a millionaire living on welfare. My name is John Wojtowicz; I’m the real Sonny Worcek and I’m the one that you see in Dog Day Afternoon.”
It was shown at Huyghe’s first solo exhibition in New York. As Barikins’ book on Huyghe says:
“As Huyghe’s film demonstrates, neither Wojtowicz’s ‘self’ nor the details of his story are or were ever entirely his own. Not only was Wojtowicz’s original conception of the robbery influenced by Al Pacino’s performance in The Godfather (1972) (which he and his partners viewed on the morning of the bank robbery as a kind of motivational manual), but Pacino’s interpretation of the character later affected Wojtowicz’s reenactment of the siege.”
In 2005 there was the Australian film, Based on a True Story, which is mainly a study of the 1975 film combined with phone calls to Wojtowicz where he asks for money for further co-operation.
Instead he co-operated with Allison Berg & Frank Keraudren, local film makers who spent 10 years recording him and the other people in his story. It was released in 2013 as The Dog.
Wojtowicz died in 2006 of cancer, age 60. As he deteriorated, his brother Tony, despite his own disability, stepped up to become John’s carer. John was cremated and did not have the military funeral that he had hoped for.
Gordon Parks (dir). Shaft. US 100 mins 1971. GAA
activists including John Wojtowicz can be seen protesting in the credits sequence.
Sidney Lumet (dir). Dog Day Afternoon. Scr: Frank Pierson, from the magazine article by P.F. Kluge & Thomas Moore, with Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik, John Cazale as Sal, and Chris Sarandon as Leon Shermer (roughly based on Liz Eden). US 124 mins 1975. Oscar for best screenplay; Sarandon was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Top grossing film of the year. The shooting script is online at: Archive.
Pierre Huyghe (dir). The Third Memory. With John Wojtowicz as himself. US 10 mins 2000. A short documentary re-enacting the “Dog Day Afternoon” bank holdup.
Walter Stokman (dir & scr). Based on a True Story. With John Wojtowicz and Sidney Lumet, with photos or clip quotes of Liz Eden, Al Pacino, John Cazale & Chris Sarandon. Netherlands 75 mins 2005.
Allison Berg & Frank Keraudren (dir). The Dog, with John Wojtowicz, Liz Eden, Carmen Bifulco, Randy Wicker. US 101 mins 2013.
Atthur Bell. “Mike Umbers: The Emperor of Christopher Street”. The Village Voice, July 22, 1971. Online.
“Here Comes the Bride”. Drag: the magazine about the Transvestite, 2, 6, 1971: 9-12. Online.
Paul Meskil. “An Insider Is Sought in Bank Holdup: FBI Agent Kills Bandit at JFK And 2d Thus is Nabbed”. Daily News Aug 24, 1972..
“A Mobster is Linked to Bizarre Holdup”. The New York Times, Aug 26, 1972. Online.
Arthur Bell. “Littlejohn & the mob: Saga of a Heist”. The Village Voice, August 31, 1972, XVII, 35. Online.
“News”. Drag: Now! America’s No 1 Magazine about the Transvestite, 2, 8, 1972: 4, 6. Online.
P.F. Kluge & Thomas Moore. "The Boys in the Bank". Life Sept 22, 1972, vol 73 (12). Online.
“News”. Drag: The International Transvestite Quarterly, 5,17, 1975: 9. Online.
“Gay Bank Robber’s Real Wife Sees Movie – and Red”. Drag: The International Transvestite Quarterly, 6,24, 1975: 3, Online.
John Wojtowicz. “Real Dog Day hero tells his story”. Unpublished article written from prison for the New York Times in 1975, later reprinted in Gay Sunshine: A Journal of Gay Liberation, No. 29/ 30, Summer/Fall, 1976, and then again in Jump Cut, no. 15, 1977, pp. 31-32. Online at: www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC15folder/RealDogDay.html.
Eric Holm. "Dog Day Afternoon, Dog day aftertaste". Jump Cut, 10-11. 1976:3-4. Online.
Fredric Jameson, “Class and Allegory in Contemporary Mass Culture: Dog Day Afternoon as a Political Film” College English 38, April 1977: 854.
“Elizabeth Eden, Transsexual Who Figured in 1975 Movie”. The New York Times, Oct 1, 1987. Online.
Holly Woodlawn with Jeff Copeland. A Low Life in High Heels: the Holly Woodlawn Story. Martin's Press,1991. Harper Perenniel Pb. 1992: 111-2.
Lisa Photos “The Dog and the Last Real Man: An Interview with John S Wojtowicz”. Journal of Bisexuality, 3,2, 2003: 43-68.
Jefferson Cowie. Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class. The New Press, 2010: 200-5.
Michael Schiavi. Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo. University of Wisconsin Press, 2011: 85-6, 218.
Emily S Rueb. “A Wife Recalls Her Estranged Husband’s 1972 Failed Bank Robbery”. The New York Times, August 22, 2012. Archive.
John Strausbaugh. “Liz Eden’s White Wedding”. The Chiseler, 2012. Online.
Amelia Barikin. Parallel Presents The art of Pierre Hutghe. The MIT Press, 2012: 116-121, 138.
Sean Manning. “7 Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About the Real Dog Day Afternoon”. Esquire, Aug 8, 2014. Online.
Larry Getlin. “The bizarre true story that inspired ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ “. New York Post, August 3, 2014. Online.
Sam Roberts. “‘The Dog’ Who Had His Day on Film”. The New York Times, Aug 4, 2014. Online.
David Ehrenstein. “The wild Inside story of ‘The Dog’: How one failed bank robber shaped LGBT history”. Salon, Aug 6, 2014. Online.
Cynthia Fuchs. “'The Dog' from ' Dog Day Afternoon' Would Do It All Over Again, Hell Ya”. Pop Matters, 08 Aug 2014. Online.
J R Jones. “Revisiting the Brooklyn bank robbery that inspired Dog Day Afternoon: The Dog tells the sad story of a man trapped by his criminal past”. Chicago Reader, October 01, 2014. Online.
Gina Dimuro. “The Real Story Of John Wojtowicz And The Bank Robbery That Inspired ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ “. Allthatsintering.com, June 27, 2018. Online.
Emily S Rueb. “A Botched Robbery That Went Hollywood”. The New York Times, August 22, 2018. Online.
Phillip Crawford Jr. “Real Life Mafia Story Behind Dog Day Afternoon Movie”. Reddit.com/r/Mafia, April 2020. Online.
Trigger warning. This 3-part article contains quotations from John Wojtowicz, the major protagonist. The quotations contain frequent misgenderings, and in the latter 2 parts traditional English swear words. Caveat Lector.
A month after the robbery there was an extensive write up in Life magazine, “The Boys in the Bank”, which prophetically described John Wojtowicz as having “the broken-faced good looks of an Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman”.
Arthur Bell’s investigation of claims that Wojtowicz had been set up by the Gambino family brought bomb threats to the Village Voice. At Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) meetings
“conservative and radical gays debated over whether Wojtowicz was a counterrevolutionary lumpen adventurer victimized by the mob or a proud gay superfly caught in an act of righteous expropriation, but the debate was inconclusive.” (Holm, 1976)
A bartender friend of Sal Naturale asked GAA to help fund a burial. They declined and Sal was interred in the gigantic pauper burial site on Hart Island off the Bronx coast (which contains over a million corpses).
Warner Brothers wanted to turn the Life magazine article into a film.
“They came down to make the movie deal when I was in prison, and I told them, ‘I’m not making no movie, ’cos you’re gonna make me look ridiculous.’ So they brought Ernie down from the nut house, and they brought me in and let me fuck him in the warden’s office, at the old federal prison on West Street in the Village. They brought him down there, and Ernie had the paper, and he said, ‘Sign the paper.’ I said, ‘I ain’t signing that paper.’ He goes, ‘Well, don’t you want me to have the sex change?’ I go, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘Well, if you sign this, they’re gonna take me outta the nut house, I’m gonna get the sex change. And I’ll come and see you.’ And I says, ‘OK, let’s fuck.’ And he goes, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Well, we’ll seal the deal with a fuck.’ So the warden left, you know, and we stayed in there, and we got down. In fact, I fucked him on the warden’s desk.” (Photos-Wojtowicz, 2003: 61)
Wojtowicz mug shot
Wojtowicz thinking that he had a deal pleaded guilty. He had sold his story for $7,500 and 1% of the net profit, but he had to sue (from prison) to get it. Liz was to get $2,500 for the operation. She returned to the West 10th Street apartment. However, with the publicity about the film, the landlord realized who she was and evicted her. She found a place in a gay rooming house in Brooklyn.
As Carmen and John were still married, she visited him in prison. She was not pleased to encounter Liz Eden, also visiting. However the two somewhat became friends. Carmen called her when she had an orchiectomy with Dr Benito Rish in Yonkers in November 1972. She had a vaginoplasty the following March.
“He got out of the nut house . . . [but] they only gave him some of the money for the operation, not enough. So I had to have my mother and my wife [Carmen] give him more money. I signed the paper in November of ’72.”. After the operations Liz came to see John one last time, and explained that the doctors had told her to break off with him, and go somewhere else to be a woman. (Photos-Wojtowicz, 2003: 61-2).
John then attempted suicide, the evening before he was to be sentenced.
The working title of the film was, like the Life magazine article, Boys in the Bank, a riff on the successful pre-gay-lib gay drama, Boys in the Band, 1970. Director Sidney Lumet did not like this, and wanted something that suggested a hot, stuffy day near the end of summer. Thus it became Dog Day Afternoon – although without accuracy in reference to the rising of Sirius at the hottest days of summer. However the film was shot in late autumn, and the actors had to chew ice cubes so that their breath would not be seen. Sidney Lumet, the director was quoted as saying that Pacino was at risk because “no major star that I know of had ever played a gay man”.
The trans component in the film is quite small. The Liz-John wedding is not shown. The lover, Leon (=Ernest, and played by Chris Sarandon, Susan’s then husband), who appears for only a few minutes, is presented as a mid-70s gay stereotype, who has been informed by the shrinks that he is a woman trapped in man's body. He does not seem to be too happy with this conclusion. Despite its dubious portrayal of Leon, the film was much applauded for featuring a sympathetic, fully-rounded bisexual male. There is no mention of mafia contacts. Wojtowicz may, as Life Magazine said, have resembled Al Pacino, but the connection was secured as Pacino was cast as Sonny Wortzik (=Wojtowicz). Wojtowicz afterwards became known as the Dog because of the film. John Cazale, who had starred with Pacino in the TheGodfather films, was cast as Salvatore despite being 37 rather than the real Sal’s 18. The film Sal insists that he is not gay – in contradistinction to the real one. Sal is the only character in the film to have the same name as the corresponding real person.
Wojtowicz commented on the film:
“Well, they never tell you I was against him having the operation all along. And the only reason I decided to let him have the operation was because I wanted to save his life. Therefore, saving his life was the number one thing, and as long as you’re trying to save somebody’s life, whatever you’re doing’s not wrong. And I loved him enough to do that. That never comes across in the book or the movie. It’s just like, they make fun of my fat wife, Carmen, and they [implicitly] say, well, if you had a wife that was fat and had a big mouth, no wonder you went with the drag queen. But that’s a lie. I didn’t go with the drag queen because my wife was fat or ugly. To me, my wife was beautiful. And I like big women! ’Cos I like the Sophia Loren/Elizabeth Taylor type. The reason I broke up with my wife is because of our in-laws, and because I’m what you call an old-fashioned Italian: I’m the boss. Her parents would always interfere with us, and she would always take the parents’ side over me. And that’s what led to the breakup. … And [Sal] was gay, not like the movie tells you. He never said, “Tell them there ain’t two homosexuals in there,” ’cos he was a chicken hawk. He liked young guys and he had an apartment in the Village and he used to bring kids up there.” (Photos-Wojtowicz, 2003: 54, 57.)
Pacino took the film to Lewisburg Penitentiary before the official release intending to introduce the film. However the warden initially refused to allow the film to be shown even though Warner Brothers were offering it without cost. Wojtowicz made a fuss, and was supported by gay and straight newspapers on the outside, and the warden relented. However several of the other inmates after seeing it took the film to be saying that he had sold out Sal. Wojtowicz was subsequently beaten up and his cell set on fire. He had to be moved to a different prison.
Carmen visited him in the prison hospital. An attendant said to her: “Oh, you’re the other wife”, and she was informed that Liz was listed as next of kin. That was it. She went to see a divorce lawyer.
Carmen Wojtowicz sued Warner Brothers for invasion of privacy and unauthorized used of her and her children’s names and portraits.
Liz Eden sued Warner Brothers for libel and they settled out-of-court. Word was that Liz received somewhere between $25,000 and $50,000. For a while she had an agent and there was talk of a book deal, a nightclub act and even a discotheque to be called ‘The Garden of Eden’.
Wojtowicz started an affair in prison with George, a jailhouse lawyer, black, Irish and Jehovah’s Witness. They were married in the prison yard by a Jesus Freak. George got Wojtowicz’ sentence reduced and he was released in November 1979, but was then returned for parole violations such as still seeing George.
$2,500 in 1975 is $14,500 now.
It was standard practice at the time for sex-change doctors to tell their patients to break off all gay contacts and go live somewhere where their prior self was not known.
While Wojtowicz was not in any way co-ordinating with the heliacal rising of Sirius, the date of the rising has moved – because of the precession of the equinox – from 19 July at the time of the Caesars to the third week of August now. If you are 50° north or more, it is on 21/22 August.
“no major star that I know of had ever played a gay man”. Presumably Lumet, although in the film-biz had not heard of Dirk Bogart in Victim, 1961. However this was a New York film being edgier than anything from Los Angeles.
Sidney Lumet has made many great thrillers and crime films, and is known for his social concerns and depictions of minorities, however the gender variant persons in his films are either minor or get killed: a mannish lesbian briefly glimpsed in The Group, 1966; Jack Doroshow (Sabrina) in mufti in The Anderson Tapes, 1971; heterosexist female impersonator, Gypsy Haake has a cameo in The Morning After, 1986; International Chrysis' character is killed, and the other trans women are humiliated by Nick Nolte's bad cop in Q & A, 1990.
Trigger warning. This 3-part article contains quotations from John Wojtowicz, the major protagonist. The quotations contain frequent misgenderings, and in the latter 2 parts traditional English swear words. Caveat Lector.
I wrote a short account on this topic 12 years ago, August 2008. More information became available in the intervening years, so here is the revised version.
Liz Eden (1945 – 1986), “Jewish, English, German, and a Leo” as Wojtowicz put it, was raised with the name Ernest Aron in Ozone Park, Queens, New York. She was at the Stonewall riots. In 1971 she was in transition and living in a rooming house, 228 West 10th Street at Hudson in Greenwich Village in Manhattan – the building was only a short walk from what had been the Stonewall Inn.Another resident was Holly Woodlawn.
John Wojtowicz (1945 – 2006), a New Yorker of Polish and Italian descent,
had met a cis woman, Carmen Bifulco, in early 1966 - both working in a Chase Manhattan
bank, they went on the same employee ski trip in Massachusetts.They were quickly engaged, but he was
drafted.He had his first gay experience
while in base camp. He was also deeply affected when he was one of only a few survivors of a rocket attack on his base in Vietnam. On his return home in 1967, John and Carmen married and had two children. However in 1969, he walked out on her “the day a man walked on the moon.” The couple had been at a baseball game and “Johnny” left early. When she arrived home with their 8-month-old girl, the apartment had been cleared out. Even the baby’s crib and stroller were gone. A $10 bill was on the table. Cab fare, she said, to get to her mother’s house.
John became a regular on the gay scene, and especially at the Firehouse, the headquarters of the Gay Activists Alliance( GAA) from May 1971. He used his mother’s maiden name and was known as Littlejohn Basso.
“I was a member of the entertainment committee, so I would meet and greet new gay people coming into the scene. I could have sex with them quicker than anybody else, because they were just coming out.”
Mike Umbers was the landlord of StarHouse, and owner of the nightclub, Christopher’s End. With fellow associate Ed Murphy, also in the Gambino crime family, Umbers ran a prostitution ring pimping underage boys to wealthy pedophiles. Wojtowicz/Basso became Umbers' source for what was happening in GAA. He also went to GAA dances and told customers that there was more action at Christopher’s End.
The gay journalist, Arthur Bell, wrote of Wojtowicz/Basso:
"pleasant, spunky, a little crazy, and up front about his high sex drive. Once, during a Firehouse dance, he balled with a guy on a mattress in the basement.”
Randy Wicker, activist and journalist said that many GAA members regarded him as a “crazy, obnoxious, unlikable bisexual”. Even before meeting Liz, he had asked if he could be married at the Firehouse. This prompted a debate as to whether marriage is good for gay liberation.
On 29 June 1971, two days after the Second Christopher Street Liberation Day, the Italian-American Civil Rights League which argued that the Mafia did not exist (and was run by Godfather Joe Colombo) held its second annual public rally at Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. Colombo was being filmed by an African-American, Jerome Johnson, who then pulled out a gun and shot Colombo – leaving him paralyzed. Johnson was immediately shot dead by someone who quickly disappeared despite a heavy police presence. Johnson had been employed by Mike Umbers to make pornographic films, and Johnson’s last known address was 180 Christopher Street, upstairs above the Christopher’s End bar.
In July 1971 Umbers confronted Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in that they had not paid three months' rent for a rundown property that he owned. He threatened violence, but settled for eviction. Christopher’s End was raided Thursday the 15th, and again on Sunday the 18th. Arthur Bell wrote about Umbers’ influence in straight and gay pimping and in the gay bar scene in The Village Voice, 22 July, and shortly afterwards GAA organized a protest campaign outside Christopher’s End. Wojtowicz/Basso had become out of favor at GAA as it became known that he was associated with Umbers – and he even turned up at the demonstration holding a sign supporting Umbers.
Wojtowicz/Basso was one of the GAA activists whose protests were included in the credits sequence for the 1971 blaxploitation film Shaft. He was also in the zap of the office of the city clerk towards the goal of issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. John Wojtowicz met Liz Eden at the Feast of San Gennaro (19 September 1971), a few days later.
Liz and John
When the question of John marrying Liz came up, GAA, thinking of Liz as a man, decided that ‘drag’ and fake Catholicism would constitute a freak show. John and Liz approached the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) but they would not permit what they considered to be “drag”. The ceremony was held in Liz’s rooms at 228 West 10th St in a Catholic ceremony on 4th December 1971 – by an ordained priest, newly back from Rome whom Liz met through a friend. He was later defrocked. Randy Wicker was there, as was John’s mother Theresa, and Liz’s father. Drag Magazine covered the event; and, a novelty at the time, it was recorded on a video camera – one of the first available – for the GAA library. The wedding was even featured on the Walter Cronkite CBS evening television news. The bridesmaids were gay men, and lesbians were in tuxedoes. Arthur Bell estimated that the wedding had cost $2,000. It was marred only by John referring to Liz as ‘Ernest’ and ‘he’.
By April they were living apart. Liz wanted to go for completion surgery, but neither of them had the money.
Whether for the wedding or otherwise, Wojtowicz apparently owed money to the Gambino crime family, probably directly to Umbers.
The New York Times (Aug 26, 1971) later reported: “five men, including Wojtowicz, began planning the robbery last April, but that two of the men later bowed out. Wojtowicz was pressed to carry out the robbery by the underworld figure, who owns Greenwich Village bars and is involved in pornography… Wojtowicz owed the gangster money”.
As John later wrote of Liz:
“I was unable to obtain the funds for his birthday on 8/19/72 and so, on Sunday, 8/29, he attempted suicide while I was out of the house. He died a clinical death in the hospital but was revived. While I went to get his clothes, he was declared mentally sick and sent to the Psychiatric Ward of Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. I went to see him and I tried to obtain his release on 8/21, but was told he would not be released and would stay there for a long time until he was cured.” (Wojtowicz, 1977)
On another occasion John said:
“But [Ernie] kept trying to kill himself. So then I finally said to him, “Alright, I’ll try and get the money for your birthday,” which was August 19th, which is the same as [Bill] Clinton’s. So I did something to get the ten thousand he needed to get the sex change. And what happened is, the person that was supposed to deliver the money for his birthday party took off with the money. So then the next morning he took an overdose. … they had him in the prison psychiatric ward. He said he didn’t want to be there. I talked to the doctors, and they said, “He’s gonna be here for years, because he wants to chop his dick off, and he’s whacked out.” (Lisa Photos interview with Wojtowicz, 2003: 52-3.)
Wojtowicz recruited associates that he knew from gay bars to help rob a bank: Bobby Westenberg and Salvatore Naturale. He had met Sal, who had been in and out of institutions since age 11, at Danny’s, a bar at 140 7th Ave, and moved him into his apartment. The night before in a hotel room Wojtowicz very pushily had sex with Bobby. Sal wanted to do so also but was rejected. The next day, August 22, 1972, they went to see an early showing of The Godfather in a Times Square cinema. They then set off to rob a bank. At the first one a gun was dropped and went off, and they fled. At the second they ran into one of their mothers’ best friends, and they fled. At a third they crashed into another car and they fled.
They then attempted to rob a Chase Manhattan Bank branch at 450 Ave P, in Flatbush, Brooklyn, just before closing. Westenberg ran off at the last minute when he saw a police car nearby. Wojtowicz and Naturale held the bank employees hostage. The bank branch had less money than they hoped for, but they did get $38,000 cash and $175,000 travelers’ checks.
The bank manager was able to indicate to another branch by giving a wrong answer to a question on
the crowd across the street
the phone that something was wrong. The police were called. The media arrived.
Wojtowicz gave his reason as paying for his lover’s sex change, and admitted being homosexual. A gay and lesbian contingent from Manhattan arrived shortly afterwards to cheer him .
The cops had Liz brought to the scene. Supposedly she knew nothing about the heist, although Wojtowicz had talked to her about it. She later told Arthur Bell that she had taken the pills hoping to stop him from doing the robbery. There was talk of exchanging her for a hostage, but that never happened.
While Wojtowicz did most of the talking and was obviously the lead robber, the police were actually more concerned about Naturale who, although he was only 18, had a criminal record.
Arthur Bell, the Village Voice journalist, phoned the bank and Wojtowicz answered. The story that he told Bell was that he had spoken to a Chase-Manhattan executive in Danny’s, the same bar where he met Sal. The executive had given a date when the Flatbush branch would receive a shipment of over $200,000 in cash that could be easily taken. Bell understood that Wojtowicz had shared his plans with Mike Umbers who supplied guns in exchange for 50% of the take. The problem was that the delivery had been at 11am and the robbers did not arrive until closing time.
Carmen had taken the children to Rockaway Beach for the day. She had heard something on the radio about “an admitted homosexual” robbing a bank, but paid it no mind. Back home a neighbour called to say that her husband was robbing a bank. She watched the situation on television a while. Then took a tranquilizer and went to bed.
The standoff lasted 14 hours and was continuously played on local television – where it even pre-emptied coverage of Richard Nixon’s acceptance speech at the Republican national convention.
After negotiations, at 4 am the next day, a bus took Wojtowicz and Naturale, together with seven hostages and an FBI driver to Kennedy Airport. Wojtowicz and Sal thought that they were about to get a flight to Europe. Then when a code phrase was uttered, the driver turned and shot Naturale, the supposedly more dangerous robber – he died soon after. Wojtowicz was taken into custody.
Ancestry.com says: Wojtowicz (Polish) is a patronymic from the personal name Wojciech (or Voytek), which in turn is from wójt ‘village headman’ (see Wojcik).
EN.Wikipedia(Wojtowicz) says “from Volhynia (plural form: Wojtowiczowie) was a part of the nobility of Poland (the family's roots were probably in the Lithuanian-Ruthenian nobility). The village of Wojtowice of Ostróg County in Volhynia is the origin of this house.” While it lists prominent members of the family, it does not include John.
228 or 250 West 10th Street? Most accounts say 250, but the address on the wedding invitation as printed in Drag Magazine says 228. It may be that John lived at 250 and Liz at 228, but I could not find a clear statement to that effect.
If, in fact, Wojtowicz had been informed by a bank executive, and had been planning for months to rob a specific bank, why then was it only the fourth bank that they attempted to rob on that day?
Further information about Salvatore Naturale:He was also known to the police as Donald
Matterson, and had been arrested under that name for possession of narcotics and
burglary tools five months before the Dog Day Robbery.His intention was to use the proceeds to
finance his two sisters’ removal from foster care and removal from their
Wojtowicz, in his interview with Photos claimed (p48): “it’s the first
gay, public drag wedding in American history”.Okay, ‘drag’ is the wrong word, and Wojtowicz is no historian, but let
and Anna Ryan, Grand Rapids Michigan. 1935 Jean Acker and
Vernon Long at the Cabin Inn,
Chicago 1950 Jackie
Starr and Bill Scott, Seattle
Trans women marriages:
Thompson and Frank Carrick, Indiana 1955 Tamara
Rees and James Courtland, Los Angeles 1959 Charlotte
McLeod and Ralph Heidal, Miami 1969 Dawn
Langley Hall and John-Paul Simmons, Charleston, South Carolina Some of the US gay histories that mention GAA and the Firehouse, but have
not a word about either John Wojtowicz or Liz Eden: ·Martin Duberman. Stonewall, 1993 ·Charles Kaiser.The Gay
Metropolis, 1997 ·David Carter. Stonewall, 2004 ·Lillian Faderman.The Gay
Lydia Dream was a female impersonator ventriloquist who played a nurse using her dummy for a patient. She was active in the early decades of the 20th century.
Her male persona, Walter H Lambert was also a talented painter. The best known painting was Popularity, 1903, a canvas 13' by 5’6” (4 x 1.68 m) which depicts 226 prominent music hall artists. It is situated at the junction of Lower Marsh and Waterloo Road, London, which was known in the profession as Poverty Corner where unemployed artistes gathered. In 1908 it was put on show at the Vaudeville club, but in 1914 when the owner of the painting died, it was sold for £140. It is now in the Museum of London.
Michael Kilgarriff. Grace, Beauty & Banjos: Reculiar Lives and Strange Times of Music Hall and Variety Artistes. Oberon Books, 1998: 92.
“Walter Lambert's 'Popularity' - A vast painting depicting the Music Hall Stars of the early 1900s”. Arthur Lloyd.co.uk. Online.
In Barry Miles' biography of William Burroughs we find the following re a trip to London in 1965.
"Bill moved into the Hotel Rushmore at 11 Trebovir Road in Earl’s Court, where Ian Sommerville had been living while Bill was in New York. The rooms were laid out like a ship’s cabin with a bed, cupboards, and shelves arranged for maximum efficiency. It was another hotel that began life as a porticoed Regency row house and was later converted into a rooming house. It was bought by Jeffrey Benson, an antiques dealer and interior decorator who was a close friend of John Richardson’s, the art critic. Benson didn’t know what to call it because it was so drab and ordinary-looking. Richardson had a musicologist friend named Robert Rushmore, whom Benson thought was the most boring person in the whole world, which gave Benson an idea. “It’s really drab, dear, just how drab can you get? The Rushmore, we’ll call it the Rushmore.” There was a circle of transvestites known as “the Maids” who all lived at the Rushmore. They were called Babs, Carlotta, and Scotch Agnes. There was no bar, but Benson ran a sort of salon in his parlor, featuring the Maids. Christopher Gibbs knew the Rushmore well. “Jeffrey Benson was always referred to as Madame. And Madame’s acquaintanceships were always very wide and varied. And Madame was always the same, in sort of half drag, very painted up, falsies. Very sure of what he thought was the best kind of life to lead.” One of the regulars at the salon was April Ashley, who in those days, before her operation, was known as Mental Mary."
Barry Miles. Call Me Burroughs: A Life. 12Twelve, 2014:444.
There is no confirmation of any of this in either of April Ashley's two autobiographies. The comment cannot be true of her in 1965 in that she had had surgery with Dr Burou in May 1961.
Will Franken was raised in Sedalia, Missouri, with a “hyper-masculine” father who had been with the US military in Vietnam. His sisters dressed him as a girl, which he enjoyed. He learned to become a comedian. When he got his first car he was thrilled that he could drive to another town to buy women’s clothing. Then father discovered a pair of women’s shoes which led to a confession and being called a ‘faggot'.
Will did a degree in English with a specialization in Restoration and 18th century literature, and afterwards taught high school in New York City while pursuing an acting career. He developed comedy routines inspired by Monty Python and Kids in the Hall.
He lived in San Francisco from 2002, and lived as Sarah for three months, but still gigging as Will. It was disconcerting that Sarah was addressed as 'sir'. Sarah got married to a woman:
“We each had three bridesmaids”.
However Will was gaining recognition as a character comedian:
“I was more obsessed with my career at that point and felt being out as transgender would limit me”.
While in San Francisco, Franken was awarded "Best Comedian" of 2005 by the SF Weekly and "Best Alternative to Psychedelic Drugs" by the SF Bay Guardian. He later made a television debut on BBC America's “The World Stands Up,” a showcase of UK, American and Australian comedians.
There was a Wikipedia Page for “Will franken” (small f) created in 2006. He was divorced in 2007.
In 2013 Will emigrated to England, at first living in North London, and becoming known on the comedy circuit.
At the age of 42, Franken moved to Bethnal Green, and, as Sarah, started to make new friends. Initially she had a rule that she was Will on gig days, and otherwise Sarah, but then worked up the courage to perform as Sarah. As Franken was known for switching from character to character while performing, it was hard to persuade audiences that Sarah was not just another character:
'Hello, I'm Sarah and I'm going to do some character comedy for you tonight. And this is not a character by the way... It's the first time I've ever come on not in character.'
Overall Sarah’s gigs went well. The Guardian ran a story on her, which caused a ripple of publicity and enquiries from various media. She – 6’5”(1.96m) - did get negative comments in the street, but in many cases was able to use the incidents as material for her show.
Franken’s mother found out from Facebook, and left a comment about God’s condemnation. Sarah deleted her from Facebook.
She never started on oestrogen.
Overall Franken’s act did not change:
“In fact, in many ways, being Sarah allowed me to get across some necessary conservative perspectives quite foreign to the artistic milieu. … As always, I defended free-market capitalism and argued against the proliferation of radical Islam—although at first with considerably less expletive-laden shouting than I would have engaged in as Will.”
However after seven months Franken reverted. As Will/Sarah was to some extent a public figure, he wrote an essay, “Seven Reasons for Will's Return”. He summarized it in The Independent:
“My exasperation at public abuse, the disarming prospect of no longer attracting females, and a lingering resentment to what I perceived as an oversight of my comedy in favour of the identity politics du jour: transgenderism… I was frightened, angry, lonely, confused – and, perhaps worst of all, bored. Utterly bored with the topic of transgenderism”.
Will received a number of negative comments that criticised him more for his reversion than for his political opinions, and – as he responded in an article for The Federalist:
“Unwittingly, I have become a threat to a prewritten collective narrative. My choice to live again as a man implies there may be others for whom the trans lifestyle is a choice. Perhaps the fear and anger emanating from the activists is twofold. On the personal level, there’s a fear among some in the trans community who are likewise uncertain about their own decision and are reticent to address the personal responsibility of choice that is part and parcel of that uncertainty. … Especially if loose cannons like myself keep making up their own minds about what do with their own lives. Choice is rebellion. Choice is rock-n-roll”
The Wikipedia page was removed in December 2018 for lack of notability.
·“Will Franken is Drugs Without Having to Hit the
Bottom: Recovery Comedy Interview”. Recovery Comedy, May 22nd,
·Ralph Jones. “Comic Sarah Franken: why I became a
woman after 40 years of fear”. Guardian, 15 July 2015. Online.
·Megan Boyanton. “Comedian Sarah Franken on being
transgender, spiritual and ready to rock ‘n’ roll”. PinkNews, 24th
July 2015. Online.
·Kieran Gilbert. “Transgender comedian thrives on
laughter to beat fear, abuse”. Daily Mail, 9 August 2015. Online.
·Alice Jones. “Transgender comedian Sarah Franken on
performing her first show at the Edinburgh Fringe”. Independent, 10
August 2015. Online.
·Bruce Dessau. “Exclusive: Will Franken On Changing
Back From Sarah To Will”. Beyond the
Joke, 23/12/2015. Online.
·Will Franken. “Why I began living as a woman - then
decided to transition back”. Independent, 28 Dec 2015. Online.
·Will Franken. “What Life As A Transgender Woman Taught Me
About Progressives”. The Federalist, Match 7, 2016. Online.
Elizabeth Bellinger, born 1946, was raised as male, and at age 21, under some pressure, was married to a woman. The marriage lasted for four years. After that she undertook eight years of counselling which led to transition. She had completion surgery in 1981. Later the same year, she went through a ceremony of marriage at a Registry Office with Michael Bellinger, a widower of the same age who was fully aware of the situation. She was described on the marriage certificate as a spinster. In the late 1990s, following the claims of BSTc differentiation in trans women, and the Human Rights Act, 1988 which made rulings of the European Convention on Human Rights authoritive in UK courts, she sought to clarify the legal status of her marriage,
For 30 years since Corbett v Corbett, the criteria for determining sex for purposes of marriage had stood. Trans women were not women for such purpose, but an exception was made for intersex women using the definition of a natural non-congruence of the chromosomes, gonads and genitals.
In 2000 two cases came to court. In the first W. v W., a divorced husband attempted to have the marriage annulled also, but his request was denied when it was established that his wife did meet the Corbett exception.
In November that year, Mrs Bellinger sought a declaration under the Family Law Act, 1986, c. 55, § 43, Part III, Declaration of Status (Eng.), that her marriage had been valid at its inception. This would require that she be recognised as female for the purposes of section 11(c) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (which incorporated the Nullity of Marriage Act, 1971), which in turn would necessitate giving the expressions 'male' and 'female' in that Act a novel, extended meaning: that a person may be born with one sex but later become, or become regarded as, a person of the opposite sex.
The respondent Mr. Bellinger filed no objecting reply. It was the Attorney General who elected to intervene to argue the case against granting the declaration. Evidence was taken from Professors Louis Gooren and Richard Green and consultant urologist Timothy Terry, and Russell Reid was cited. However the High Court applied the Corbett test and found that Mrs Bellinger was male in that at birth the chromosomes, gonads and genitals had been congruent: ‘the present state of medical knowledge lead inexorably to my dismissing her petition’.
In 2001 at the Appeal Court, Mrs Bellinger’s counsel argued that the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ had been deliberately left undefined in the Nullity of Marriage Act, 1971. They sought to expand the range of factors in that scientific understanding had advanced since 1971, and referred to the non-congruance of brain structure, particularly the size of the BSTc (stria terminalis) citing Zhou et al, 1995, and argued that therefore she should be understood as covered by the intersex exception as set out in Corbett. Two of the three judges responded that they were intrigued by the evidence but as the evidence would require a dissection at autopsy, evidence with regard to Mrs Bellinger’s brain could not be obtained. Thus the stated advances could not be brought to her aid. They ruled that Mrs Bellinger was not female as the law then stood. The third judge did dissent, and urged the abandonment of purely biological tests. On psychological grounds he would have recognised Mrs Bellinger as a woman under English law. All three judges accepted that "the profoundly unsatisfactory nature of the present position and the plight of transsexuals require careful consideration". However, the two judges said any change in the law must be a matter for Parliament. The court was dismayed to hear that no steps had been taken by the Home Office following the report in April of the previous year of an inter-departmental working group on transsexual people.
An appeal went to The House of Lords. In the meantime the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled in Goodwin v United Kingdom and I. v United Kingdom. In both cases involving completed trans women the claim was that UK policies violated their rights to privacy under Article 8 and to marry under article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR repudiated the Corbett test, arguing that gender dysphoria is a medical disorder and that this obviates any need to determine its aetiology and that the emphasis on chromosomal sex was disproportionate in that in some intersex conditions the gender identity is not congruent with the chromosomes. The minority opinion in the Bellinger appeal was cited with approval.
While it was still left to the UK to establish a workable definition of gender transition and marriage, the ECHR did conclude that the UK’s policies were in violation of articles 8 and 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In December 2002 the UK Government announced that it would bring forth legislation on the matter, and government counsel conceded that UK law was incompatible with the articles 8 and 12.
In April 2003 the House of Lords considered Bellinger v Bellinger and upheld the majority decision of the Court of Appeal, but indicated its incompatibility with the judgements of the ECHR. This was the first such declaration of incompatibility. However they declined to apply section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1988 which states that domestic law must, if possible, be interpreted in a way that makes it compatible with the ECHR. The judges did not accept that the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 could be extended to include the marriages of transsexuals. To read the 1973 Act in such a new way would be a major change to the law and such change is not the duty of the courts. The issue was handed back to Parliament.
In 2004 the UK government enacted the Gender Recognition Act, and then Bellinger would be entitled to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. Certainly a step forward, but hardly the confirmation of the legal status of her marriage in 1981.
J-N Zhou, M A Hofman, L J Gooren & D F Swaab. “A Sex Difference in the Human Brain and its Relation to Transsexuality”. Nature, 1995, 378: 68-70. Reprinted in The International Journal of Transgenderism, 1997, 1,1. Online.
Christopher Hutton. The
Tyranny of Ordinary Meaning: Corbett v
Corbett and the Invention of Legal Sex.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2019: 145-152.
There are issues not discussed in the source accounts. Was Mrs Bellinger risking being charged with ‘perjury’ for presenting herself as female, or her status as 'spinster' at her marriage in 1981?
Did the Gender Recognition Board require the Bellingers to divorce before she was awarded her Gender Recognition certificate?
It is just as well that the legal changes were not built on the assumptions about BSTc as proposed by Zhou et al. Twenty-five years later that line of research has not proved productive.
The European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights are not part of the European Union. They are part of the Council of Europe, a wider organisation. Russia is a member. Only Belarus is not. The current Johnson government equivocates and does not commit to remaining in the Council of Europe. If it were to withdraw, and also repeal the Gender Recognition Act, the legal status of trans persons would be back to what it was in 1971.
W is an anonymising initial issued by the judge, William Charles, in the case, and does not reflect their real names. We have no other name or pseudonym to refer to the persons.
W was born 1947, in the North of England. Because she had indeterminate genitals, the parents were asked did they want to raise a boy or a girl. The father chose ‘boy’. A year later the child was adopted by a cousin of the mother and her husband. The child was raised male but opted for girl toys and female clothing whenever she could.
At secondary school she refused to shower with the boys and to wear the boys’ uniform. The school compromised and allowed her to wear a female top. By age 15 she had noticeable breasts and a female body shape. The adoptive father convinced the family doctor to administer testosterone injections. W resisted and had to be held down by the adoptive father. There was no effect and when the adoptive father proposed increased dosage and frequency, and surgery to remove the breasts, W ran away and lived as a girl. However she was found and returned home.
At age 17 W ran away for good. She lived with a man in Manchester, apparently alternating genders, but he complained that she was too feminine, and the relationship ended.
W was scheduled for correction surgery at age 23, but this was postponed indefinitely because of a cerebrovascular accident. It was not until 1980 that she started on oral oestrogen. She finally had correction surgery in 1987 with a ‘Dr D’.
She married in 1990, and shortly afterwards had a Trachea Shave to reduce her Adams Apple. However the marriage did not last, and ended after two years. It was annulled on the basis that she was not female -- this was on the persuasion of her then solicitor that that was the cheapest way to end the marriage.
A second marriage in 1993, which gave the husband the right to remain in the UK, lasted three years and they were divorced in 1997. She had had a breast augmentation in 1996.
The husband further applied in 1998 for an annulment so that he could re-marry in church – although he remarried before his case came to court in October 2000. This time Mrs W defended against such an annulment, which would declare her legally male, and thus would interfere with her application for a revised birth certificate, and her future freedom to marry. Both parties jointly instructed Dr Conway, a consultant endocrinologist. Information was sought and obtained from ‘Dr D’ as to W’s anatomical details prior to surgery. Justice Charles found that she easily fell into the intersex exception as per the Corbett test: emphasis was placed on the natural lack of congruence of the chromosomes, gonads and genitals. Conway also gave in evidence the opinion that if Mrs W had been born in a later decade, she would have been raised as a female. Justice Charles copied much of Justice Roger Ormrod had written in 1971 in the Corbett v Corbett case.
Thus the Respondent was declared to be legally female, and her ex-husband’s application to have the marriage declared void was thus refused.
Dr Conway stated that “It is extremely difficult to be conclusive about an original diagnosis of an intersex state after surgery has been completed", but suggested that W had partial androgen insensitivity which is why the enforced testosterone injections failed to have any effect.
Whether you regard W as intersex or a transkid, she was badly failed by the medical system in the 1970s. There was a Manchester gender clinic at Witherington Hospital from 1972 and a TV/TS group in the city from 1973. W should have been offered an early transition, and not have had to wait until almost middle-age.
As W had not had her birth certificate revised before either of her two marriages, she was at risk of being charged that in violation of the Perjury Act, 1911, she had “knowingly and wilfully caused a false statement to be entered in a register of marriage”, as Victor Barker had been so convicted in 1929. The authorities sensibly did not so charge her.
There was a W. v W. divorce case in South Africa 1976 that involved a trans woman.
In April 1902 various newspapers published an article that was merely a list of trans men who had come to public notice. The headlines varied.
The St Louis Republic newspaper published “Forty Three Women who have Posed as Men”, April 27 1902. Online.
For the Sunday Times of Perth, WA, it was “Strange Mysteries of Wedded Life: Women Who have posed as Husbands”. Online.
The opening paragraph: “Within a year six women have been discovered, in America alone, who have successfully masqueraded as men; have gone through a legal form of marriage and even posed as the fathers of families. Upwards of a score of similar cases have come to public attention recently in different parts of the world. There have been forty-three instances of women posing as husbands within the last ten years. One medical authority claims that one woman in every 3,000 is a victim of this peculiar mania.”
1 in 3,000 is of course much higher than the 1 in 100,000 that would be so uncritically repeated in the late 20th century.
It then goes on to give a list. When the writer knows the long unused female name he gives it. In the list below I give the male if I know it.
👉 William Howard of Canandaigua, New York, who died 33 March 1902 after forty years of legal marriage. He left three children.
👉George Green of Petersburg, Virginia, originally from England, died age 74. He lived as male for sixty years, and had been married for thirty-five, blessed by the Roman Catholic Church. He worked as a manual laborer, including in the mines in Pennsylvania.
👉 Murray Hall of New York who had died the previous year and whom we have discussed in detail. GVWW.
👉 Charles W Hall, originally of Massachusetts, was returning with his wife from Europe for New York, when he died on board ship from complications due to alcoholism. The writer does not give his male name. GVWW.
👉 The writer claims the Chevalier d’Eon as a woman passing as a man!
👉 Frank Wayne of the US Army killed in battle in 1862.
👉 Franklin Thompson a soldier in the Second Michigan regiment.
👉 Charles D Fuller of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania during the US Civil War.
👉 A “Mrs L N Blaylock of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina”, also during the Civil War. The writer does not give Blaylock’s male name.
👉 Christian Canenagh with the British Army in the Netherlands. Canenagh fought a duel with a superior officer, and after being outed, remained with the regiment as a cook.
👉 John Taylor, said here to be a steward on a trans-Atlantic liner. Actually he was a cabin boy in the French and
English navies in turn during the revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. GVWW.
👉 Christian Walsh, in English Army.
👉 Felix Francoine of the Hungarian Army, who despite being outed at death, was buried with full military honours.
👉 Countess Carlotta May of Austria (male name not given) was ‘notorious’ in the 1890s for male clothes and activities, and was engaged to marry a woman. But then dramatically reverted to womanhood, female clothing and married a Count.
👉 Tony Teesa who worked in a hat factory in Yonkers.
👉 A person who had recently died age 103, who had kept a tavern near London for 17 years until one day a pauper was brought in who recognized his long lost wife.
However this does not add up to 43 – only 17 by my count.