Sunday, June 28, 2009

queen bees are stinging mad

Courtesy of JMG, a look into the wayback machine:



-by Jerry Lisker, New York Daily News, July 6th 1969

She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn't bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.

Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. "We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over," lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.

"We've had all we can take from the Gestapo," the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. "We're putting our foot down once and for all." The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.

The thick glass shut out the outside world of the street. Inside, the Stonewall bathed in wild, bright psychedelic lights, while the patrons writhed to the sounds of a juke box on a square dance floor surrounded by booths and tables. The bar did a good business and the waiters, or waitresses, were always kept busy, as they snaked their way around the dancing customers to the booths and tables. For nearly two years, peace and tranquility reigned supreme for the Alice in Wonderland clientele.

The Raid Last Friday

Last Friday the privacy of the Stonewall was invaded by police from the First Division. It was a raid. They had a warrant. After two years, police said they had been informed that liquor was being served on the premises. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being closed. It was the law.

All hell broke loose when the police entered the Stonewall. The girls instinctively reached for each other. Others stood frozen, locked in an embrace of fear.

Only a handful of police were on hand for the initial landing in the homosexual beachhead. They ushered the patrons out onto Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square. A crowd had formed in front of the Stonewall and the customers were greeted with cheers of encouragement from the gallery.

The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop. She later confessed that she didn't protest the manhandling by the officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn't want him to see her this way, she wept.

Queen Power

The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb. Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins, compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the valley had become carnivorous jungle plants.

Urged on by cries of "C'mon girls, lets go get'em," the defenders of Stonewall launched an attack. The cops called for assistance. To the rescue came the Tactical Patrol Force.

Flushed with the excitement of battle, a fellow called Gloria pranced around like Wonder Woman, while several Florence Nightingales administered first aid to the fallen warriors. There were some assorted scratches and bruises, but nothing serious was suffered by the honeys turned Madwoman of Chaillot.

Official reports listed four injured policemen with 13 arrests. The War of the Roses lasted about 2 hours from about midnight to 2 a.m. There was a return bout Wednesday night.

Two veterans recently recalled the battle and issued a warning to the cops. "If they close up all the gay joints in this area, there is going to be all out war."

Bruce and Nan

Both said they were refugees from Indiana and had come to New York where they could live together happily ever after. They were in their early 20's. They preferred to be called by their married names, Bruce and Nan.

"I don't like your paper," Nan lisped matter-of-factly. "It's anti-fag and pro-cop."

"I'll bet you didn't see what they did to the Stonewall. Did the pigs tell you that they smashed everything in sight? Did you ask them why they stole money out of the cash register and then smashed it with a sledge hammer? Did you ask them why it took them two years to discover that the Stonewall didn't have a liquor license."

Bruce nodded in agreement and reached over for Nan's trembling hands.

"Calm down, doll," he said. "Your face is getting all flushed."

Nan wiped her face with a tissue.

"This would have to happen right before the wedding. The reception was going to be held at the Stonewall, too," Nan said, tossing her ashen-tinted hair over her shoulder.

"What wedding?," the bystander asked.

Nan frowned with a how-could-anybody-be-so-stupid look. "Eric and Jack's wedding, of course. They're finally tying the knot. I thought they'd never get together."

Meet Shirley

"We'll have to find another place, that's all there is to it," Bruce sighed. "But every time we start a place, the cops break it up sooner or later."

"They let us operate just as long as the payoff is regular," Nan said bitterly. "I believe they closed up the Stonewall because there was some trouble with the payoff to the cops. I think that's the real reason. It's a shame. It was such a lovely place. We never bothered anybody. Why couldn't they leave us alone?"

Shirley Evans, a neighbor with two children, agrees that the Stonewall was not a rowdy place and the persons who frequented the club were never troublesome. She lives at 45 Christopher St.

"Up until the night of the police raid there was never any trouble there," she said. "The homosexuals minded their own business and never bothered a soul. There were never any fights or hollering, or anything like that. They just wanted to be left alone. I don't know what they did inside, but that's their business. I was never in there myself. It was just awful when the police came. It was like a swarm of hornets attacking a bunch of butterflies."

A reporter visited the now closed Stonewall and it indeed looked like a cyclone had struck the premises.

Police said there were over 200 people in the Stonewall when they entered with a warrant. The crowd outside was estimated at 500 to 1,000. According to police, the Stonewall had been under observation for some time. Being a private club, plain clothesmen were refused entrance to the inside when they periodically tried to check the place. "They had the tightest security in the Village," a First Division officer said, "We could never get near the place without a warrant."

Police Talk

The men of the First Division were unable to find any humor in the situation, despite the comical overtones of the raid.

"They were throwing more than lace hankies," one inspector said. "I was almost decapitated by a slab of thick glass. It was thrown like a discus and just missed my throat by inches. The beer can didn't miss, though, "it hit me right above the temple."

Police also believe the club was operated by Mafia connected owners. The police did confiscate the Stonewall's cash register as proceeds from an illegal operation. The receipts were counted and are on file at the division headquarters. The warrant was served and the establishment closed on the grounds it was an illegal membership club with no license, and no license to serve liquor.

The police are sure of one thing. They haven't heard the last from the Girls of Christopher Street.


No, we never did go back into the paddy wagons like good little homos. Those days are long gone. We took to the streets to demand our civil rights. And while we haven't achieved full equality, we have made enormous strides which continue today, even as we take a moment to commemorate.

Jerry Lisker isn't available to read his article tomorrow to the many tens of thousands who will be assembled to mark the 40th anniversary of the gay pride movement. He won't be able to share with us how he perfected the art of smug superior bitchiness, whether he was related to Pope Pius XXIII or possibly had an insider's perspective. He doesn't realize that the few Queens he belittled under his byline gave birth to an international movement. He died of brain cancer in 1993.

And the police were right- they haven't hadn't the last from the Girls of Christopher Street. We owe each of them an enormous debt of gratitude.

Friday, June 26, 2009

the love you save

All but speechless.

Right here, but a million miles away. The Holmby Hills address and UCLA Medical Center are each about two miles away.

It's such an LA Story- the huge success, the adoration, the slow and agonizing descent. What happened on Thursday was a long, painful time coming.

But today is about remembrance.

Of the charming young bubblegum pop singer:

And of the man who muscially dominated the eighties, at the top of his game:

May the peace that eluded you in this world surround you in the next.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

for farrah

Very sad news in Santa Monica, as Farrah Fawcett lost her multi-year battle with cancer after a very brave fight. She just wouldn't give up.

Can you think of the seventies without her? Was there an adolescent boy anywhere in America, gay or straight, that wasn't familiar with that iconic poster?

As a tribute, here's a recollection of how we got to know her:

Her brilliant smile never faded. Rest well, Angel.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

blessed union

I park my car on the side street, because the boulevard is too dusty. it's less than a five minute walk each evening from the showroom. I turn right at the mechanic's shop and go about half a block. If the motor home is on my side of the street, I'll cross over to avoid the noise. The motor home is always there. It never leaves the block.

Miguel is inside fucking his ugly mistress. His name might not really be Miguel, that might just be the name on his pocket. We exchange occasional pleasantries when I encounter him during the day. I'm not sure what her name is, we've never actually spoken. I only know her voice from her loud sighs as he fucks her. The motor home windows are open this time of year.

It's a small block, and everyone seems to know each others' business. Miguel is married to a short fat woman and has a six year old son by her. He's a handsome lad, and we see him occasionally on Saturdays. I don't know if the boy is aware of the secret life of the aging Winnebago or not. I am told that Miguel can't get a divorce, because he is Catholic. So this is his best solution. I don't know if she is Catholic or not. Perhaps she's a Mormon. I wonder to myself whether it is a greater sin to fuck one's ugly mistress with a condom, or without.

I really know very little about them. I can't imagine the path she wandered down that made her believe that being fucked by a married man in a deteriorating RV behind his workplace is as good as she is going to get. She sometimes shows up with a little girl about three years old, I don't know if the child is the product of this union, or was fathered by another Casanova with a camper.

But I do know that the Catholic Church and the Mormons pumped forty million dollars into my state to make sure that my relationship cannot have the acceptance that Miguel and his vile sham of a marriage have. And I know that these people, as fucked up as they are, had the legal right to vote on the status of MY life. And that is the most fucked up part of all.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


It's definitely a bittersweet realization when the iconic films of ones tortured teenage years show up in a retrospective series, so I didn't know whether to be thrilled or angst ridden when the Thirtieth Anniversary of Airplane! was celebrated at my beloved Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on Friday. Does this mean a "Smokey and the Bandit" film series is imminent?

Although I have the DVD version, the appeal of the silver screen and live audience was irresistible, so we met as a gang of six for what surely would be a memorable evening.

And don't call me Shirley.

And it was fabulous. Probably the most literal comedy ever made, the delightful zany bitchy comedy of my youth has lost nothing to age. Stephen Stucker's delightfully flamboyant and irreverent Johnny made us all howl with laughter. I realized that I've been quoting him for thirty years.

"WHERE did you get that DRESS? It's AWFUL..."

If I quote any more lines, I'll do the whole script. So instead, here is the original trailer for your enjoyment:

And don't call me Shirley.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Spent an amazingly relaxing weekend in Palm Springs, where they have truly mastered the fine art of sloth. Sunbathing by the pool was as close to high impact activity as we came. The weather was sunny and clear, warm but not hot, and the general atmosphere so relaxed and uncrowded that we didn't want to leave.

I've long said I would live there as soon as I figured out how to keep the bills paid. My stylist Ed admonished me not to, because everyone he knows who moved there have become alcoholics and sit out every evening and drink. As if that was supposed to dissuade...

But I digress. We lingered on Sunday evening and had dinner on an upper terrace of a cafe downtown, watching the sun set on the little town and amusing ourselves watching the tourists on the sidewalk. As my friend Will owns a condo there, we do not consider ourselves as being among them.

On the way out of town, we stopped off to refuel. It was a warm night just after sunset, and I had a flashback to 1973. I had taken my first trip to California that summer and travelled across country with my family in a ginormous Motor Home RV. As our timing happened to coincide with the first energy crisis of the seventies, refueling that giant barge became an adventure, especially considering the fact that most stations limited private cars (and RV's) to just ten gallons per visit. Ten gallons in a 27 foot Motor Home would be like trying to sail the Queen Mary on a quart of oil.

Dad came up with a plan he called the "dive bomb". He would choose an interstate exit with four truck stops, and simply visit all of them. By the time we were through, our 38 gallon tank was filled and we were back on the road. Necessity being a mother and all.

Our last westbound stop before reaching Los Angeles was just outside of Riverside, California, where we pulled the Motor Home into a Chevron just past sundown on a warn summer night. It was there I first set foot into Southern California. And it felt exactly the same last Sunday. The temperature? The sky? The position of the moon? I can't say, but for a moment it was the summer of 1973.

I wonder what it meant.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

when comets rained from the sky

Part of the reason why the tragic loss of Air France 447 has shocked us so deeply is the rarity of such occurrences in modern commercial flight. It was literally the first fatal airframe loss of a Airbus 330 passenger plane in sixteen years of service. We are shocked because it almost never happens anymore. But it is a reminder that while airline travel is statistically safe, it is not risk free. It involves the suspension of the laws of gravity via carefully honed mechanical apparatus, and any such suspension is temporary in nature. The fact that we've gotten so very good at doing it over the last sixty years does not diminish the potential for mishap.

The first jet powered passenger plane, the British built De Havilland Comet, made its public debut sixty years ago in 1949. It was certified as airworthy on January 22, 1952, and passenger flights for BOAC commenced on June 2. It was sleek, revolutionary, luxurious and fast- so very fast. It could cruise at 490 mph compared with about 315 mph for a piston engined Douglas DC-6. And the jet engines were quieter, smoother, and much simpler to maintain than their piston counterparts. The flying public was very impressed, so much so that they were willing to overlook a couple of early disasters. Twenty two Comet 1 and 1A models (with different interiors) were produced. Incidentally, the 1A was developed at the request of Air France and became their first jetliner.

It didn't take long for the first passenger jet crash in history. On October 26th of that same year, a BOAC Comet registered G-ALYZ leaving Rome failed to become airborne and crashed at the end of the runway. Fortunately no passengers were killed, but the Comet was demolished. Early press reports blamed pilot error, but this would later be revisited. In March 1953, a brand new Canadian Pacific 1A CF-CUN also failed to become airborne, this time attempting to depart Karachi, Pakistan. This time, five crew and six passengers were lost. It was again attributed to pilot error.

Another BOAC Comet, G-ALYV crashed only two months later on May 2. This time the plane was departing Calcutta in a tropical storm when, six minutes into flight, the horizontal stabilizer separated causing an airframe failure. It was questioned whether over-manipulation of flight controls might have been a factor, but in any event it was a tragic loss of forty three lives. Still the reputation of the Comet remained aloft.

And then in 1954, they seemed to rain from the sky. On January 10, BOAC Flight 781 (registered G-ALYP) departed from Rome under clear weather, ascended to cruising altitude and then fell from the sky in a fireball near the island of Elba, to the astonishment of local fishermen who witnessed the falling debris. There had been no indications of trouble, and the co-pilot was in radio contact with another BOAC flight when the conversation ceased in mid-sentence. Thirty five people were lost. The Comet was grounded as a precautionary measure- four of twenty two had now crashed.

While the Royal Navy began to recover the debris, a committee studied possible causes and decided that the likeliest event was probably fire. After making some recommendations, the Comet returned to the skies on March 23rd. Fifteen days later, on April 8, another Comet fell from the sky. This time, a BOAC Comet 1 leased to South African Airways departed Rome bound for Cairo. The plane , registered G-ALYY again climbed to cruising altitude, and then simply disappeared near Naples with 21 on board. The Comet's airworthiness certificate was revoked and a major investigation undertaken by the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

They worked tirelessly for months. They subjected an identical airframe to underwater pressurization tests in a specially built tank. This airframe, G-ALYU, suffered a failure of the pressurized skin near an escape hatch after about 3,000 cycles. They were astonished- metal fatigue causing a hull fracture on a two year old plane was almost inconceivable. They next gutted a Comet and filled it with pressure gauges, then went for a test flight. They discovered that the square corners of the windows were subject to four times the pressure they had anticipated. It began to make sense. After careful observation, recovered wreckage of G-ALYP found a fatigue crack emanating from a fiberglass window on the roof of the aircraft provided for radio signal transmission. The Comet had a fatal flaw. Actually, it had more than one. Aerodynamic testing showed it also had a flat spot on the leading edge of the wings, so that the two incidents where it failed to ascend were reclassified from pilot error to design flaw. The windows would be redesigned as oval. the wings reshaped, and the hull thickness would be increased before attempting to return to service.

By the time the Comet returned to the skies as a vastly improved model 4 in 1958, the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC8 were on the verge of starting the era of modern jet flight as we know it. The 707, more than any other, shrunk the world and "flew the seven seas" and while both aircraft suffered incidents, they helped establish air travel as the safe and reliable method of travel we rely on today.

But it is important to remember the early days when the Comet fell from the sky, and the sacrifices made by innocent lives. No one stepped aboard the Comet expecting not to return. The final moments were certainly terrifying. The only comfort comes from the fact that the knowledge gained from those early failures significantly advanced the cause of the jet airliner. We owe them all our gratitude. As saddened as we are by the recent tragedy, we can be grateful for how rare such an event has become.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

air dreams

I woke up in the middle of the night on Sunday from a troubled dream. I was with a friend, in a house I did not recognize. He had dark hair and Mediterranean features. I did not know his name. He was upset because his parents had dropped in unexpectedly. They were an older couple, the wife was speaking a few words of English through a thick French accent. I thought they were very nice. "They are", he explained. 'I just can't seem to get them to accept that they're dead". I remember being very pragmatic, suggesting that we show them the death certificates, which were in view on the table.

Then I awoke.

It wasn't until morning that I heard about Air France 447, an Airbus 330 with 228 people on board, being lost in the Atlantic.

I wonder if I will recognize her picture.