RIGHT UP FRONT--I AM GAY--PART 3
(Before I go any further I do want you to know that I will be writing about many subjects besides the +gay aspect of my life---just wanted to get this out--pardon the pun--first!)
It was the gayest of times and it was the saddest of times but it was life.
I came out in 1948 in New York and in the mid 1950s I lived in Hollywood and Laguna Beach, California, while in the late 50s until 1969 I alternated between Miami Beach, Florida, and New York City, New York. I do not claim to know how gay life was in the Midwest or outside of the big cities until I moved to +Memphis in 1969 and that will be the next part.
Obviously life was much different then and, in many ways, better for gay people. Gay life was more of a secret society and though we had many public places to go to the only time they were discussed was when say the police raided a gay bar and the next day the men’s names and sometimes addresses were on the front page of the newspaper along with their pictures.
Remember many young boys came off the farm to go to Paris and when they came back from war they stayed in the big cities.
We had our bars such as Mary’s in the Village, The Circle in Hollywood and The Alley in Miami beach. There were ‘Turkish’ baths with probably the most notorious being the Eveard (make your own jokes here) Baths on 28th and Broadway. It was rumored to be owned by the Police Athletic League and they informed the place whenever it was about to be raided. There was a big scandal when a fire broke out and 9 men were killed. It became the social hangout for many celebrities who knew they were ‘safe’ there and wanted anonymous sex. It was one of 4 main baths in the Manhattan area.
There was the ‘Bird Circuit’ a group of bars that catered to gay men. Many times it was infiltrated by police detectives in plain clothes hoping to catch 2 men holding hands. I use to go to the Faision D’or where there was dancing in the back room and anytime a bartender thought an undercover cop was in the front the would flick the lights in the back and the men would jump apart.
We had our signals to let other gay men know we were gay too. Ironically one of the signals, wearing a pinkie ring, was also a Mafia symbol! Wearing red ties, penny or tasseled loafers along with a red tie were quick give-a-ways.
In many ways. because of the times, there was a lot of ‘outdoor’ and/or public anonymous sex mostly engaged in by married men who couldn’t take the chance of being in a bar or bath raid and being exposed. Whether it was “Vaseline Alley” in Central Park in New York or Griffith Park in Hollywood or long the wall of Ocean Drive or behind the Saxony hotel on the rocks below First Street in Miami Beach, men, in fear of being caught, were having sex.
Remember this was the 1950s and very little was known by the public about gays and so many secrets were kept. The most infamous aspect of gay life back in those days were the ‘private’ parties.
Next Part 4--the ‘upper crust’ of gay life
Image Credit » Various pictures of me owned by me