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.
Part II: Imprisonment, the Movie and onemore wedding
Part III: Release, a final wedding and afterwards (and Bibliography)
|228 West 10th St today|
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.
“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.”
"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.
|Liz and John|
“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.)
|the crowd across the street|
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 .
Drag marriages:1886 Charles 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:1912 Frances 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 Revolution, 2015