"Toto, I have the feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
Welcome. This web site is a memoir and reflections on gay history and popular culture from the post-World War II years to the early Nineties - most of it centered on New York City, though one section is devoted to Syracuse, and there is a brief bit about Chicago.
The site is sprawling, and progresses at a discursive pace. To alleviate some of the pain for those whose reading experience is limited to text messages, the site is divided into a series of relatively shorter chronological sections, which should make selective reading easier.
WHAT THIS SITE IS NOT
I have tried to show that gay people of the past were active agents, instead of presenting the history of gay people during my lifetime as the usual chronicle of political organizations and "great events," which effectively reduces all but a few gay individuals to flotsam carried along on a stream of social movements. The overwhelming majority of gay people, after all, never participated in either these political organizations or the great events.
In writing the narrative I have drawn on my recollections, supplemented by a random collection of personal journals, appointment books, jottings on scraps of paper, a few clippings and memorabilia. Dates, names, etc. of which I was unsure I have attempted to verify from outside sources, but undoubtedly there are some errors. If my recollection of an event or person has conflicted with something I came across somewhere else, and that reference didnít evoke an oh-yeah-thatís-right! reaction, then I have put down things as I remembered them.
The content of these pages focuses on gay men, and there is very, very little in them specific to lesbians. It was my experience during these decades in New York that while relations between individual gay men and lesbians may have been amicable enough, members of the two groups did not frequently socialize nor share many spaces in their gay lives. The lesbian subculture and history for most of these years was ordinarily quite separate from that of gay men. The skew of the content that follows reflects this reality.
My impressions of and opinions about these years are here in abundance. You are not obliged to like or accept them, of course. On the other hand, I have not fictionalized the gay world I lived in to accommodate the academic and political orthodoxies that developed in the late 20th century.
A COUPLE OF POINTS ABOUT THE CONTENT
The task of tracking down most of the individuals referred to in these pages would at this point be virtually impossible. In most cases I have referred to people I knew personally only by their first names. For a few I have used full names. For a very small number of people - some of them dead, and two or three who may be living - I have , for various reasons, used made-up names. Fictional names approximate the sound and ethnicity of the real ones; thus, someone named Bill Swenson might become Bob Sorenson but not Fauntleroy Balducci.
Ethnicity and race are mentioned frequently in the pages that follow for several reasons. Among them:
Many white Americans born in the thirties, forties and fifties routinely identified themselves and other whites by ethnicity, e.g. - "Italian-American," or more likely just as "Italian," or "Polish," "Irish," etc. While this may no longer be customary, it was common up into the 1970's. To leave these descriptive tags out would be to give a bland, homogenized impression of past times which many people who lived in them would find peculiar.
Race and color, of course, have been a primary concern in American life since the colonial era. Creating formal and informal systems to regulate the activities and interactions of racially identified groups has been, and remains, an obsession of the political Right and Left. Therefore, I thought it was appropriate to give my impressions of the racial makeup of neighborhoods, bars, etc. that were part of my life over the years.
Finally, most of my adult life was lived in New York City - Manhattan, to be precise - and in this city ethnicity and race have been as much in the forefront of the city's life as the fact that "the Bronx is up and the Battery's down, and people ride in a hole in the ground."
The initial section of the site, When My World Was Young - the early post-WW II years and the Fifties - is the driest and overall the least personal. But it is relatively short, and I would encourage you to stick with it, nevertheless. It glimpses into a world that is now six decades in the past, a world which is probably as remote for most people who will visit this site as the world of the early 20th century was to me growing up in the 1950's. The post-WW II decade was, however, the matrix of the last phase of modern American gay life, and most readers would probably benefit from at least scanning this section in order to get a feeling for the temper - and especially the constraints - of that time.
A list of external links appears at the end of each section in the site and contain only links appropriate to that section. This seemed preferable to having one page of links at the end of the site with a humungous number of listings. I have chosen not to include links to most well-known web sites of general gay interest (they can easily be found with any search engine), but only to sites specific to New York City gay history or people and places I mention. I have included a few links to other sites which have interesting material about New York City or past historical or cultural events, even though these sites have no material about gay life as such.
While this site contain no images of sexual arousal nor of sexual interactions, it does contain explicit references to sexual situations and activities in the text. This site is not intended nor suitable for all members of the public.
First, if you are a minor in the jurisdiction where you reside or from which you are viewing, or below the age of eighteen, the content of these pages is not appropriate for your viewing under any circumstances, with or without parental or guardian permission. You should NOT enter the site.
Second, persons with conservative social and religious beliefs and attitudes should most certainly refrain from entering. This would include conservative hetwannabe GLBT's. The subject matter is the lives of homosexuals/gay people/queers. If that topic offends you in any way, shape, form or manner you have been informed beforehand, and to enter the site is to willfully seek to be offended .
If you are not a minor, nor below age 18, and are not someone whose religious, social or political beliefs and sensibilities might be offended by the topic matter of this site as I have described it above, please click the word "enter" below which records your assent, otherwise please click on the word "leave.Ē
Last site update or additions: 09 January 2013 12:00 GMT