A timeline of CHE and its times
The following timeline is also included, in a slightly different format, as Appendix A of Amiable Warriors Volume One.
Other gay events
First LGBT Ex-Forces Association formed in New York
Portugal decriminalises homosexuality.
20 March: Death of Lord Alfred Douglas; in later life he had found Catholicism and denounced his lover Oscar Wilde as evil.
In the news ...
25 April: 50 nations meet in San Francisco to hammer out the United Nations Charter. The UN officially comes in to existence on 24 October.
8 May: Official end of European conflict of World War 2; full enormity of concentration camps gradually emerges, including treatment of homosexual internees.
Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited published.
Allan Horsfall starts two years national service with the RAF, in Germany.
Other gay events
COC founded in Amsterdam. It adopts ‘homophile’ as its preferred alternative to the word ‘homosexual’. ‘Homophile’ had been coined in 1924 in Germany.
Alec Guinness fined 10 guineas for cottaging in Liverpool. He gave his name in court as Herbert Pocket, the character he had recently played in Great Expectations. This, and being caught outside London, meant he escaped the media attention attendant on Gielgud’s trial seven years later.
28 August: Sir George Mowbray, president of Reading University Council, fined £20 for importuning men in Piccadilly Circus underground station. It does not seem to have affected his career. John Wolfenden was Vice-Chancellor of the University from 1950 and would have known him.
In the news ...
29 September: BBC Third Programme starts. Amid accusations of elitism and being boring (‘just two dons talking to each other’) it created the space for more adventurous drama programming, and fostered the early careers of many gay writers.
Other gay events
COC opens its first club, in Amsterdam. It invites the police to the opening night party.
In the news ...
1 January: The US Supreme Court rules that movie studios could not practice ‘vertical integration’ and had to sell off their cinemas to conform to antitrust legislation. This allowed exhibitors to book foreign films, which did not have to conform to the Hays Code. As a result, films like Victim and The Leather Boys got US distribution.
24 November: US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approves citations for Contempt of Congress against the ‘Hollywood Ten’, who refused to co-operate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The ten are blacklisted by the major Hollywood studios the next day. The road to McCarthyism is clear.
30 May: Three Blind Mice was the BBC’s and Agatha Christie’s 80th birthday present to Dowager Queen Mary, who asked them for a radio thriller. QM’s fondness for gay men was also catered for in the character of Christopher Wren, who liked Sergeant Trotter very much and gave upright Giles the willies. Female perversion is barely hinted in ‘gruff, mannish’ ex-magistrate Mrs Boyle. Christie recycled the material into The Mousetrap, which celebrated 25,000 performances in 2012, and is the longest-running play ever.
3 December: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire opens on Broadway. It comes to London 1949. The 1951 film removes any reference to the homosexuality of Blanche’s husband. Brando in the film does for the white T-shirt what Clark Gable did for the vest in It Happened One Night in 1934.
Allan Horsfall leaves the RAF and joins his local RAF association. At the local RAFA club in Nelson he meets his life partner, Harold Pollard, 20 years his senior.
Antony Grey starts work in Leeds as a junior reporter on the Yorkshire Post. After a short time he joins the Iron and Steel Federation, where he becomes a PR officer. He remains there for 13 years.
Other gay events
Det Danske Forbundet av 1948 founded in Denmark.
Vice Versa, first American lesbian magazine, is published in Los Angeles.
In the news ...
10 December: Publication of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Publication of Kinsey Report on Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male. Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female follows in 1953, but with hardly the same impact.
Poland introduces equal age of consent of 15 for homosexual and heterosexual sex.
10 January: Gore Vidal publishes The City and the Pillar, at some risk to his literary career. His characters are strikingly butch, in contrast to the prevailing sissylit. The protagonist Jim Willard is an athlete who, at the end of the book (in its revised version) rapes his boyhood sweetheart. But he walks away from his defiance of social convention unpunished, even stronger. There are extended pictures of gay life in the forces during WW2. The book causes so much outrage that papers refuse to review Vidal’s subsequent work for many years, forcing him to publish under pseudonyms such as Edgar Box.
Robert Reid, having lost his employment as a teacher because of his pre-war sex offence conviction, scrapes a living as a writer of school textbooks. Publishes Notes on Practical Chemistry: A concise general science.
Ike Cowen, later CHE’s legal officer, leaves the RAF to start training as a barrister.
Other gay events
Danish gay activists publish Vennen, a magazine for gay men. Initially for members of Det Danske Forbundet, it is on the newsstands by 1951. It folds in 1974.
In the news ...
1 February: Clothes rationing ends in Britain. After the war you were allowed 24 points a year, and a suit cost 26–28 points, a pair of shoes 9. Homosexuals who like to look nice celebrate.
25 March: two lads (a fireman, 24, and a textile worker, 22) keep a suicide pact in Brontë country; one shoots the other in the head with a rabbit gun, then turns it on himself. His wife is eight months pregnant. The neighbours said they were both nice quiet lads. The case upsets Allan Horsfall very much.
Other gay events
RFSL is founded in Sweden.
International Committee for Sexual Equality (ICSE) initiated by COC.
4 June: George Ives, founder of the Order of Chaeronea and friend of Wilde, Carpenter, Nicholson and Havelock Ellis, dies, and with him, the Order. This was a kind of gay mafia for self-help, but never campaigned publicly.
11 November: Mattachine Society founded in San Francisco; the same year, California doubles the state penalty for sodomy to 20 years.
In the news ...
East Germany reverts to the ‘milder’, pre-Nazi, form of Paragraph 175 regulating male homosexual acts.
190 US Government employees are dismissed on grounds of their homosexuality.
9 February: Senator Joseph McCarthy kicks off his witch-hunt against communists and homosexuals in the US, with a speech in West Virginia to a Republican Women’s Club. The Red Scare and The Lavender Menace send government into persecution mode.
Radio play by Dr Jacob Bronowski, The Face of Violence, is an apocalyptically urgent post-nuclear piece, about the need to come to grips with man’s limitless appetite for destruction. Homosexuals appear on the sidelines as irremediable addicts of excess and triviality. Not a great advert, but the first mention of the subject by the BBC.
Jean Genet makes his only film. Un Chant d’Amour, an erotic silent film about the relationship between an older and younger convict and the power play with the prison guard, is banned for many years; it receives its premiere in a cut version at the Cinémathèque Française in 1954, but is not seen in the UK until 1971. Hull’s Metropolitan District Council refused it a screening as recently as 1989.
Jacqueline Mackenzie (later Jackie Forster) makes her TV acting debit in The Triumphant.
Other gay events
Publication of The Homosexual in America: A subjective approach by D. W. Cory.
California Supreme Court rules that having a homosexual clientele is not enough reason to deny a bar a liquor licence. The Black Cat in San Francisco, whose licence had been suspended in 1948, is back in business.
12 May: first International Congress for Sexual Equality opens in Amsterdam, with representatives from six countries. The Congress sends a letter to the UN demanding equal rights for the homosexual minority.
In the news ...
Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean flee to Russia, following a tip-off from Kim Philby that British CounterIntelligence has its eyes on them. Burgess – radio producer and most undiplomatic diplomat – leaked details about the Marshall Plan through the 1940s. A flamboyant queer, he triggered a first wave of ‘lavender menace’ exposés in the UK.
Greece decriminalises nearly all homosexual sex acts. The now-equal age of consent is 15.
Brian Hobson, aged 18, sucks a young man off on the back seat of a coach going to the Festival of Britain. He gets a taste for it, as he told a Leeds court three years later, ‘without any sense of shame or remorse’. In Leeds he ws one of 17 men in the dock and he admitted to sex with six of them. He was sent to prison for five years in December 1954.
André Gide dies.
Other gay events
Publication of Society and the Homosexual by ‘Gordon Westwood’ (Michael Schofield).
‘Vice rings’ start to appear in the papers increasingly frequently: 26 October – thirteen men in Dorking: ‘It started about ten years ago during the war.’ 23 November – fifteen men in Kingston, Surrey: ‘I cannot send you to Borstal – it is highly likely you would corrupt others there.’
18 May: Start of a Sunday Pictorial exposé of ‘Evil Men’. This runs for four weeks, a sensational series about the spread of the gay subculture, and the way it corrupts the young.
In the news ...
Worldwide publicity for Christine Jorgensen’s gender reassignment in an operation in Copenhagen. Contrary to belief at the time, it is not the first operation of its kind.
20 February: The UK scraps compulsory ID cards, which were introduced as an emergency wartime measure. As a result men like John Gielgud who are brought summarily before magistrates on cottaging charges can more easily give a false name to the court.
Spring Fire by Vin Packer published. The genre of lesbian pulp fiction is created.
Angus Wilson publishes his first novel, Hemlock and After. Bernard is given money to start a writers’ colony, and struggles to do so while coming to terns with his homosexuality. His next door neighbour, Mrs Curry, procures boys for paedophiles. The decayed middle-class ambience will become typical of his writing. Written in less than a month.
The lavender menace comes to Ambridge as Lady Hylberow tries to lure Christine Archer away to view Coptic churches in Ethiopia. She is disillusioned when she discovers Christine plays the field: ‘Her main interest would seem to be with “boyfriends” as she calls them.’
2 November: Robert Reid writes to the Letters Page of the Daily Telegraph, calling on Britain to adopt the Code Napoléon as regards homosexuality. All the subsequent correspondents agree with him, ex cept for a letter from psychiatrist Clifford Allen, who believes in cure.
Other gay events
Det Norske Forbundet av 1948 founded in Norway.
Publication of report on the ‘Problem of Homosexuality’ by the Church of England Moral Welfare Council. It favours decriminalisation and an age of consent of 21.
January: In Los Angeles, the first issue appears of ONE, the magazine of the Mattachine Society and the first gay magazine to achieve wide distribution among homosexuals in the United States.
28 April: President Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450, making homosexuality grounds for investigation and dismissal of US federal employees.
4 November: 83-year-old Lord Samuel, Liberal leader in the House of Lords, uses his reply to the Queen’s speech proroguing Parliament to warn that ‘there are pockets of immorality in our great cities which are a grave blot on our civilisation … we find that the vices of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the Cities of the Plain, appear to be rife among us. If they spread, then retribution will be found.’ This apocalyptic prophecy starts the ball rolling towards the Wolfenden Committee.
In the news ...
10 January: McCarthy is appointed chairman of the Senate Permanent sub-committee on investigations, acquiring far greater power to question, bully and persecute left-wing and allegedly homosexual opponents.
3 September: European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) comes into force in all Council of Europe states, and it becomes a condition of Council membership to sig the Convention at the earliest possible moment. Sir David Maxwell Fyfe was chair of the drafting committee. From his reaction to the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee, he clearly never imagined that the provisions of the ECHR could apply to homosexuals.
11 October: Rupert Croft-Cooke is sent to prison for nine months for having sex with two men he picked up in Oxford Street. His book, The Verdict of You All, comes out at the same time as Wildeblood’s account of his similar experiences, but has nothing like the same impact, being snobbish, cowardly and evasive. Croft-Cooke fled to Morocco. The fate of his poor servant, an Indian called Joseph arrested with him, has been quite forgotten, and Croft-Cooke shows no subsequent interest in, or loyalty to, him.
21 October: Sir John Gielgud is arrested. He gives his details as ‘Arthur Gielgud, clerk’, but a stringer in court spots him, and extensive publicity results. No lasting damage to his career, though there are calls for his knighthood to be taken back. On 11 Jan, Labour MP William J Field had been convicted of the same thing and fined £15 purely on the evidence of one policeman that he had smiled at another man. Two appeals fail, and he loses his seat.
Rodney Garland’s The Heart in Exile is published. A gay psychiatrist tries to find out what has happened to his friend, who disappeared. A plea for ‘tolerance’ and a realistic picture of the gay subculture masqureading as a thriller. Having a central character who is gay and a psychiatrist gives the book added authority
8 June: The new Queen, Elizabeth II, attends the premiere of Benjamin Britten’s latest opera Gloriana, with his very public partner Peter Piers playing the romantic male lead. The opera, with its less than hagiographic portrait of the needy, vain Elizabeth I, goes down like a lead balloon.
7 September: Hidden away on the Third Programme, the most positive representation of an older lesbian until the 80s. Henry Read’s The Private Life of Hilda Tablet is based loosely on Ethel Smyth, but Hilda is an avant-garde composer, the inventor of musique concrète renforcée. ‘Throw your voice at the note, but for God’s sake, miss it!’ Hilda is a force of nature, randy, unapologetic and separatist feminist avant le jour, with a monstrous ego which she inflicts on her ‘companion’, Elsa Strauss. The occasional series continues through the 1950s.
Twelve young men aged 18–21 are convicted of being part of a ‘sex ring’ operating at an open borstal near Monmouth. It poses a dilemma of where to send them to serve their sentence, because the punishment would normally be – Borstal. This is a case often quoted by campaigners endeavouring to change the law, and arguing that the age of consent should be at least as low as 18.
Other gay events
Danish activists launch the IHWO, International Homosexual World Organisation. Despite its grand title, it is mainly a publisher of an international contact magazine and a distributor of nudie photographs. It folds in 1971.
André Baudry founds Arcadie in Paris.
The first publicly available guide to gay bars appears, in America.
25 March: Lord Montagu (12 months), Peter Wildeblood (18 months) and Michael Pitt-Rivers (18 months) are sentenced to prison for gross indecency.
7 June: Mathematician Alan Turing commits suicide with a poisoned apple; he had been offered the choice of two years’ imprisonment or chemical castration following a gay sex conviction.
In the news ...
2 February: The British Medical Association suggests that there is a link between smoking and lung cancer. Sixty years later, lesbians and gay men still have substantially higher rates of smoking than heterosexuals.
28 April: In an adjournment debate of the House of Commons, MP Desmond Donnelly demands a Royal Commission into the law relating to, and the medical treatment of, homosexuality. He is seconded by Sir Robert Boothby. The Under Secretary at the Home Office, Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth, announces a Departmental Committee of Enquiry into homosexuality and prostitution. Clearly it has all been decided in advance, and the debate is a bit of a charade.
17 September: seventeen men are found guilty in another so-called ‘vice ring’. Within an hour of being sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, one of them commits suicide in the cell, using sodium cyanide. He is a former Lt Colonel and holder of the MC, and had a wife and child.
19 October: David Maxwell Fyfe (now Lord Kilmuir) transferred from Home Secretary to Lord Chancellor. He is succeeded by Gwilym Lloyd George.
January: Calamity Jane is released in the UK, and Secret Love becomes a lesbian and gay anthem after it tops the charts for nine weeks in April–May. The tune is based on a theme from the first movement of Schubert’s piano Sonata D664. Doris Day’s performance as the girl who just doesn’t ‘get’ femininity strikes a chord with many a lesbian. If gay men were Friends of Dorothy, gay women were now Friends of Doris.
22 August: In Love and Miss Figgis (BBC Sunday Night Theatre) classics mistress Miss Figgis persuades her star pupil to give up thoughts of marrying her electrician boyfriend in order to go to the University of Oxford. The feminist Miss Figgis is described as a ‘child of Sappho’, and quotes the Greek poet extensively.
October: Films and Filming magazine is founded by Philip Dosse, one of a stable including Dance and Dancing, Plays and Players etc. These are intended by the publisher to reach out to a homosexual ‘community’ which barely exists at the time. It is not long before they run gay personal ads.
18 October: The first commercially viable transistor radio, the Regency TR-1, goes into production in the US. The ‘trannie’ becomes the most popular communication device in history and sells billions of copies over the next 25 years. Many a CHE group on a picnic would have ‘trannies’ – in both senses of the word.
12 December: Peter Cushing and André Morell strike a particular chord with homosexuals watching Nineteen-Eighty-Four on TV. For them the portrait of a society where you had to watch every look, every word and every gesture is not something set in the future.
Peter Wildeblood publishes Against the Law and circulates it to the members of the Wolfenden Committee.
The Wolfenden Committee starts taking evidence from, among others, three openly gay men: Wildeblood, Charles Winter, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and Patrick Trevor-Roper, the Queen’s optician.
Antony Grey comes out to his parents, a decision he later deeply regretted for causing a lot of stress to his father who was, unbeknownst to Antony, dying.
Other gay events
Daughters of Bilitis, the first US Lesbian organisation, founded in Los Angeles.
Prosecutions and mass arrests of gay men in Denmark following the seizure of publications thought to be ‘a commercial speculation with a sensual interest.’ The campaigning organisation Det Norske Forbundet av 1948 repudiates its founders, who were involved.
André Baudry is prosecuted and fined for publishing in Arcadie magazine material thought to be a ‘danger to youth’.
In the news ...
19 January: First commercial Scrabble sets go on sale. Many a games evening organised by local CHE groups features furiously competitive games of Scrabble and Monopoly.
1 December: In the wake of desegregation of interstate buses and trains, Rosa Parkes refuses to give up her seat to a white passenger when ordered to, and is arrested. The subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott inaugurates the Martin Luther King/ Ralph Abernathy Civil Rights movement. Many young gay people become involved, and their experience of activism here feeds into later gay activist campaigns.
First edition of Homosexuality by D. J. West.
1 June: Premiere of Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch, with its iconic image of Marilyn Monroe standing over a New York Subway grating with her white dress blowing above her knees.
29 July: This is Your Life premieres on BBC TV, with Eamonn Andrews. The much-parodied show is remarkable for the way it airbrushes the lives of the famous, including homosexual and bisexual guests. It moves to Thames TV in 1969.
22 September: First franchises set up by the Independent Television Authority start broadcasting. The first advert is for Gibbs SR toothpaste. As a spoiler, the BBC kill off Grace Archer the same night. Over the next 15 years independent television proves more daring in its handling of homosexual themes in both documentary and fictional strands.
27 October: Release of Rebel without a Cause, which confirms James Dean’s iconic status after his Oscar-nominated performance in East of Eden. Dean dies before the film is released. Though far too old to play a teenager, Dean graphically conveys his disturbance, and his combination of vulnerability and slightly ethereal beauty gives him huge appeal to both sexes. Everything which has come to light about his sexuality since has only confirmed his magnetic appeal. And his mystery. Pint-sized co-star Sal Mineo plays Plato, clearly but wordlessly in love with the troubled Jim, and is Oscar-nominated aged 16 for his performance. Mineo bravely comes out as gay in the late 1960s, and directs Fortune and Men’s Eyes on Broadway. He is robbed and stabbed to death in 1976.
29 October: Israel invades Sinai Peninsular with British and French support. PM Anthony Eden is accused of misleading Parliament. Disgust with Eden prompts Allan Horsfall to join the Labour Party and become involved with politics. He is not the only one to do so, and subsequently becomes involved in the fight for gay rights.
Other gay events
Arcadie in Paris organises the first club showing of Genet’s film, Un Chant d’Amour, taking a considerable legal risk. There is no comeback.
20 May: twenty men appear in court in Evesham, aged 17 to 81. The court decides that two men in their 30s were the ringleaders, driving around and picking up men to have sex in their cars, or inviting them back to parties where the youngsters dressed up in drag. These two get 6 and 4 years respectively. The case against the 81-year-old is dropped, but not before he’d been named in the local papers.
26 June: ‘They all say that this deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother-love has had the biggest reception and impact on London since Charlie Chaplin.’ These words trigger Liberace’s libel action against William Connor (Cassandra) which comes to court three years later, and results in damages of £8,000. The case hinges on whether Connor knew that ‘fruit’ is US slang for homosexual.
In the news ...
13 March: Parliament passes the Clean Air Act, in response to the Great Smog of 1952, in which an estimated 12,000 people died. Though a great advance in terms of health and environment, it gradually destroyed one cloak under which gay men could surreptitiously contact each other for sex.
14 April: First demonstration of 2-Quad Videotape, which revolutionises the creation of TV programmes. This gives the BBC the ability to wipe hundreds of hours of historically significant programmes in an act of cultural vandalism unparalleled since the melting down of silent film stock for its silver and camphor content. Indirectly it led to the domestic video, and the thriving home porn industry of the 1970s and 80s.
Granada TV’s Youth Wants to Know, a current affairs programme for teenagers, discusses homosexuality.
James Baldwin publishes Giovanni’s Room, a complex tangle of hetero, homo and bisexual relationships which also explores themes of alienation which the writer felt suspended between two cultures. This is reflected in the central relationship between the American writer, David, and the eponymous Italian waiter. Though there is a great deal of tenderness between the two, there is exploitation between young and old, the tale ends in murder and execution, and the book never quite gets over the feeling that to be homosexual is to be less than a man.
TV Mirror makes Jacqueline Mackenzie its cover girl. The photo will return to haunt Jackie Forster.
Antony Grey called to the bar at the Middle Temple.
Other gay events
April: Arcadie launches the CLESPALA Club in Rue Béranger in Paris.
In the news ...
14 January: R. A. Butler becomes new PM Harold MacMillan’s Home Secretary.
6 July: Elvis Presley makes his third and last appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Following complaints about the lewdness of his wiggle during his first two appearances, he is filmed only from the waist up.
4 December: Lord Longford introduces a debate in the House of Lords to ‘take note’ of’ the Wolfenden Report. No vote.
Granada TV Documentary feature Homosexuality and the Law coincides with the publication of the Wolfenden Report.
Tom of Finland, the artist of exaggerated homoerotic masculinity, first published in Physique Pictorial in Los Angeles.
15 May: In Emlyn Williams’ Accolade, an MP is exposed as someone who attends orgies. The bisexual Williams intended this as a metaphor for homosexuality. Much talk of wrestling with ‘strange forces’ in his nature.
HLRS commissions Peter Wildeblood to write the first campaigning pamphlet, Homosexuals and the Law.
3 January: Dr R. D. Reid’s letter in the Spectator calls for support for families etc. affected by cottaging cases.
10 January: A. E. Dyson’s letter in the Spectator calls for a campaign group to urge implementation of Wolfenden.
7 March: Thirty-three people, including former Prime Minister Clement Attlee, three famous novelists and one bishop, sign a letter to The Times, calling on the Government to implement Wolfenden
10 April: Allan Horsfall is unexpectedly elected to Nelson Borough Council, which goes 100% Labour. Shortly afterwards he goes to meet Peter Wildeblood for moral support.
8 May: Inaugural meeting of the Homosexual Law Reform Society. The Secretary is Rev. A. Hallidie Smith. There is an initial gift of £250, and two gay men donate part of their house in Liverpool Road as an office. The office moves to 32 Shaftesbury Avenue in September.
29 May: The HLRS sets up the Albany Trust, to ‘improve the psychological health of men’ by research and data collection. It is so named because the founding meeting is at the flat of J. B. Priestley and Jacquetta Hawkes in the Albany, Piccadilly.
20 July: Horsfall’s first campaigning letter to Reynolds News.
29 September – 3 October: Horsfall tries informally at the Labour Party to get MPs to adopt Wolfenden. He is told there is no chance of it becoming party policy.
Other gay events
13 January: The US Supreme Court rules that ONE magazine is not obscene. It is the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on any gay issue.
In the news ...
The world is introduced to Bri-Nylon, named after the company which is to manufacture it, the ICI-owned British Nylon Spinners. The drip-dry shirt has arrived.
1 January: The European Economic Community (EEC) comes into effect following the Treaty of Rome of the previous May. The EEC will be transformed into the EU in 1993 after the Maastricht Treaty.
4–7 April: First march demanding unilateral nuclear disarmament goes from London to Aldermaston. It is organised by the Direct Action Committee but supported by the newly formed Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The march becomes an annual event in the early 1960s and at its height attracts 200,000 people. Its strategy of attracting large numbers of high-profile supporters serves as a model for the HLRS Honorary Committee and for CHE’s extensive list of Honorary Vice-Presidents. Several prominent CHE activists come from a previous involvement in CND.
30 April: The Life Peerages Act gets royal assent, meaning women can sit in the House of Lords for the first time. Baroness Wootton is the first to be appointed. She will be a great support for the Earl of Arran piloting his Sexual Offences Bill through Parliament in 1965–66, and in general the influx of Life Peers meant a gradual loosening of the hidebound conservatism of a purely aristocratic peerage.
26 November: Home Secretary R. A. Butler introduces a debate in the House of Commons to ‘take note of’ the Wolfenden Report. Agreed without a vote.
5 December: STD calls initiated in the UK when the queen speaks from Bristol directly to the Lord Provost in Edinburgh. The STD system cuts out the need for an intervening telephone operator. Long distance calls becomes private, and much easier. National CHE campaigners, especially those without their own telephones, benefit greatly.
10 December: Ian Harvey MP fined £5 for breaking park regulations, when caught having sex with a guardsman. He insists on resigning, despite apparently having no pressure applied to do so. Later he becomes an active Vice-President of CHE.
Trouble for Two is a weekly sitcom written by and starring Jacqueline Mackenzie and others. Two showbiz women live together, and employ an effete cleaner called Humphrey. Twenty years ahead of its time in terms of gender portrayal, the show mixed quick-fire ‘bachelor girl’ dialogue, kooky clowning (women wrestling!), bursting into song and jokey references à clef which would have been libellous, except that to sue would be to out oneself. Nancy Spain made a guest appearance in one episode. Taken off after seven episodes, alas.
John Stephens opens his first boutique in Carnaby Street.
Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy published: A semi-autobiographical study of an enclosed adolescent male community in wartime, the centre of the book is the love relationship between Brendan and Charlie, who is gay. Behan is as explicit as he dares, and clearly has a physical relationship with Charlie, although not gay himself. Also a book about growing up and finding that life isn’t as simple as the propaganda might suggest.
Iconic girls’ comic Bunty first appears. Most girls in the 1960s look forward to their weekly ‘fix’ of the Four Marys and Lorna Drake – except the lesbians who didn’t want to be ballet dancers. Reviled in some quarters for its sexist stereotyping and its crude class assumptions, Bunty still manages to respond to the times as gradually the young female characters become more self-reliant and have more interesting things to do.
4 May: Birth of US artist/gay activist Keith Haring. By the 1990s, a Haring print was a fixture in many a gay flat, with its jolly cartoon outlines orchestrated like the Mr Men in an orgy.
16 October: First broadcast of Blue Peter, triggering nearly sixty years of gossip and speculation about the presenters’ sexuality. In 1962 Valerie Singleton, the object of much gossip in the LGBT community, had provided the narrative voiceover for the skinflick Nudes of the World.
10 January: The HLRS starts advertising for supporters in the New Statesman and Spectator.
Other gay events
H. Montgomery Hyde is deselected by his Northern Ireland constituency party because of his advocacy of homosexual law reform, and amid general criticism of his record as a constituency MP.
7 January: A judge demands that the police investigate the British Friendship Society, a pen pal club in which people with similar tastes are invited to write to each other. ‘One doesn’t run a club like this without knowing the kind of use it is going to be put to. … A man with perverted tendencies easily gets contact with other men.’ A vicar is charged with having obscene photos, including one of himself ‘in what appears to be a silk female garment’. He has never met any of his serviceman contacts, there was no sex, and yet he loses his living.
13 January: Thirteen men appear before Mr Justice Elwes in Kendal in Cumbria. Unusually, Elwes rules that the process of arrest and trial and the attendant publicity is punishment enough. He also points out that they are only on trial because they have been honest with the police, and if they hadn’t pleaded guilty the police could have done nothing – an incentive for future victims not to co-operate with the police. Elwes also expresses the hope that nobody will be dismissed from their job, or lose their pension rights.
May: The Donut Riots. First recorded incident where homosexuals fight back against the police, at Cooper’s Bar in LA. This, like the Stonewall Bar, is a popular hangout of drag queens and hustlers. When the LAPD arrests three people, the other customers start pelting them with doughnuts and coffee cups. While the police are calling up reinforcements and arresting more people, the original three escape. One is the author John Rechy.
19 August: George Butler hangs himself while awaiting trial for gross indecency. He has been refused bail and as a result been in prison for two months. He is 17.
23 October: nine men come up before the judge in Sale, Cheshire. One of them, a night watchman, is Albert Goldstraw. In 1936 he was involved in the previous Sale witch hunt and got seven years’ imprisonment, with two years’ hard labour. This time he gets five years. Progress?
In the news ...
7 January: The USA cynically ditches its puppet dictator Battista and recognises the new Cuban government led by Fidel Castro. After years as something of a louche holiday paradise for richer homosexual men, Cuba becomes a place of persecution, and Castro’s attitudes to homosexuality and treatment of gay men become a sticking point for many who admire him in other respects.
21 January: The European Court of Human Rights is established as a result of Article 19 of the European Convention. The Court becomes the last place of redress after an individual’s quest for justice has exhausted all national channels. As such, it gives verdicts in some cases such as Jeff Dudgeon’s which significantly extend LGBT rights from the 1980s onwards.
29 July: Obscene Publications Act comes into law. Previously obscenity has been regulated by common law, a case of 1868 which has allowed no defence on public interest grounds. Roy Jenkins’s new law allows a defence of public good, and also innocent distribution – ‘I didn’t know what it was.’ It also allows JPs to issue warrants for the police to seize and destroy material. The new act is used in high profile cases of the 1960s – the Lady Chatterley trial at the beginning and the Oz Schoolkids Issue at the end of the decade.
16 September: Xerox unveils its new plain paper copier. Cost and size mean that it will be a long time before it supersedes the duplicator, and gay activists can’t say goodbye to inky fingers and seething frustration until the 1980s.
8 October: General Election – Conservatives under Harold MacMillan increase majority to 100.
17 November: First duty-free shops open at British airports. Getting your duty frees became an inescapable routine for the newly affluent Brits taking foreign holidays from the 1960s onwards.
BBC current affairs show In The News features an episode on ‘The Homosexual Condition’. Talking heads panel includes C. R. Hewitt (founder member and later Chairman of the HLRS under his nom de plume of C. H. Rolph) and ‘a former homosexual’.
Bisexual Colin McInnes publishes Absolute Beginners. A celebration of the new vibrant coffee bar culture, the novel features large numbers of young Afro-Caribbeans, homosexuals, unapologetic rent boys, and drug addicts. The jazzy poetic dialogue casts a golden glow over some less savoury situations.
March: The belated release of The King and I in the UK gives homosexuals another ‘Secret Love’ anthem with the song ‘We Kiss In A Shadow’: ‘Alone with our secret forever we sigh/For one smiling day to be free…’ Cliff Richard records the song in 1961. ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story will fulfil a similar function, though the lyrics aren’t so directly pertinent.
14 May: Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon don drag to escape gangsters. Much anthologised last lines: Jerry: ‘We can’t get married at all.’ – Osgood: ‘Why not?’ – Jerry: [normal voice] ‘I’m a man!’ – Osgood: [shrugs] ‘Well, nobody’s perfect!’
24 November: South, an ITV Armchair Theatre, shows Peter Wyngarde as an exiled Polish officer in the Deep South, disintegrating as he realises the depth of his feeling for a young man. Very discreet, highly melodramatic, but blessed with a bravura leading performance, and brave for its day. Peter Marshall thunders in the Daily Sketch, ‘There are some indecencies in life that are best left covered up.’
30 November: The TV series Probation Officer features the first clear TV representation of a gay male couple.
31 March: Hallidie Smith resigns as HLRS general secretary. Replaced by Mr and Mrs Newell.
May: C. H. Rolph prepares draft Sexual Offences Bill for any MP willing to sponsor it. Dusty responses from Lords who are shown it – whether for general, technical or other practical reasons is unclear.
12 May: The HLRS organises its first and only large-scale public meeting at Caxton Hall in Westminster, and over 1,000 people attend. A motion to urge implementation of the Wolfenden Report is allegedly passed by 1000 votes to 3.
July: Allan Horsfall asks for permission to start a Manchester branch of the HLRS. Co-Secretary Venetia Newell refuses permission: ‘We always seem to get … crackpots and shifty types.’
Other gay events
19 July: National Assembly of France passes the Mirguet Amendment, which pronounces homosexuality, along with prostitution and alcoholism, ‘a social scourge’.
November: Responding to the Mirguet Amendment, the French government doubles the penalties for public decency offences involving homosexuals (Article 330.2).
In the news ...
29 June: MPs defeat Kenneth Robinson’s proposal that the government should implement Wolfenden at the earliest opportunity. Vote 213–99 against.
31 December: Conscription of 18-year-olds into the Armed Services (National Service) officially ends; last serving men discharged 13 May 1963.
Oscar Wilde year. Peter Finch in The Trials of Oscar Wilde slugs it out at the box office with Robert Morley in Oscar Wilde. Better than either was Micheál Mac Liammóir as Wilde in the On Trial BBC TV series (5 August). Unlike the movies, the aptly named Peter Lambda’s script allows Wilde his male prostitutes, who are rather jolly.
4 March: Hammer Films’ Never Take Sweets From a Stranger breaks taboos in British films in its treatment of heterosexual child sexual abuse, with the usually cuddly Felix Aylmer as the (unspeaking) abuser. It bombs at the box office, because of the discomfort of audiences with the subject and the uneasy mix of courtroom and horror genres. It has never been shown on British TV.
22 March: Joan Henry’s Look on Tempests opens at the Comedy Theatre. It examines the effects on his family when a man is accused of gross indecency. It is the first play to treat homosexuality on the West End stage after the Lord Chamberlain lifted his ban on the subject the year before. Gladys Cooper stars. Joan Henry is married to the film director J. Lee Thompson, who is best remembered for Cape Fear and The Guns of Navarone.
14 January: First issue of Albany Trust’s Man and Society. Exclusively about homosexuals, but with the promise of other subjects in future issues.
March: The HLRS gets in touch with J. Arthur Rank to get permission to screen an advert about the Society’s work before showings of Boy Barrett (the first title of the film Victim). Turned down, but the Society gets permission to leaflet in cinemas showing the film.
June: After over a year of effort, Allan Horsfall finally gets his local Labour Party to debate whether to adopt Wolfenden as official party policy. Motion defeated 13–6.
5 July: The Danish magazine Eos and other foreign publications ask the Albany Trust for permission to reproduce articles from Man and Society. The committee agrees that it could only do the Society harm to be associated with these organisations, and withholds its permission.
Other gay events
7 November: José Sarria becomes the first openly gay person in the world to run for public office on a platform of gay rights. He gets 6,000 votes, enough to plant the idea that there is a ‘gay vote’ to be wooed.
In the news ...
28 May: Peter Benensen’s article ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’ appears in The Observer, leading to the formation of Amnesty International six weeks later. The article is about two students being sentenced to seven years for raising a glass to freedom in Dr Salazar’s Portugal. CHE and other LGBT campaigners will spend many years trying to get Amnesty International to accept homosexuals as prisoners of conscience, which it finally does in September 1991.
15 June: Start of the erection of the Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier, or the Berlin Wall as it was popularly known. From now on gay rights in East Germany would advance faster than in the West.
16 June: dancer Rudolph Nureyev defects to the West while performing in Paris.
4 December: Women’s control over their own fertility takes a step forward with the availability of birth control pills on the NHS, thanks to health minister Enoch Powell. This new freedom from consequence for women contributed significantly to the relaxation of moral codes encapsulated in the word ‘swinging’.
11 May: Harold Pinter’s The Collection on Rediffusion. A gay couple’s relationship is threatened when one of them may (or may not) have had sex with a woman. Her husband is drawn into seduction/ power games too. Rarely has sexual tension been so creepy.
31 August: Victim released. The film stars Dirk Bogarde as a bisexual barrister who is blackmailed by a former (male) lover. It will initially be banned in the US.
14 September: A gala Leicester Square opening for A Taste of Honey: 17-year-old Jo meets black sailor Jimmy and gets pregnant by him. She befriends a gay textile designer. Jeff, whom she invites to move in with her, and they resolve to look after the baby together, maybe even get married: ‘You need someone to love you while you’re looking for someone to love.’ The dream is shattered when Jo’s mother moves in with them. Blessed with a blistering performance from Dora Bryan as the mother, and one of great sensitivity and integrity by Murray Melvin as Jeff, A Taste of Honey was the first film to posit that what every straight girl needs more than anything is a gay best friend.
19 December: The Children’s Hour was William Wyler’s second crack at a movie version of Lilian Hellman’s play of a subconsciously lesbian idyll destroyed by a vengeful and malicious pupil. Despite a more open climate, Wyler fought shy of allowing the teacher couple to show their affection. And the queer still dies.
March: second HLRS delegation to see Home Secretary Butler, who tells them nothing can be done until after a general election. (The first delegation was in May 1959, shortly after the society’s formation.)
22 October: The HLRS agrees to appoint Edgar Wright as new Secretary, but he also insists that he should do it under his pen name of Antony Grey, for fear of embarrassing his family. This is a six-month trial appointment for 1.5 days a week, at a salary of £500 p.a.
Other gay events
1962: Czechoslovakia and Hungary decriminalise homosexuality.
9 March: Leo Abse is refused permission to introduce his private members bill, the first Sexual Offences Bill to try to incorporate Wolfenden’s recommendations.
In the news ...
1 January: Illinois becomes the first US state to repeal its sodomy laws.
14 October: John Vassall is sentenced to 18 years imprisonment after he’d been named as a Soviet spy by two defectors the year previously. He was set up at a party organised by the KGB, who got him very drunk and then photographed him in compromising positions with various men. He was only a junior clerk but still provided information which helped the USSR to modernise its fleet. The KGB may have sacrificed him to protect a more senior spy. The case is soon forgotten in the bigger scandal of Profumo and Christine Keeler, but the connection between homosexuality and treachery is revived for the first time since 1951. Reformers criticising the watering down of Wolfenden in Parliament pointed out that Vassall would have still been ‘illegal’ after the passage of the 1967 Act.
14–28 October: The day that Vassall is sentenced, the Cuban missile crisis begins when an American U-2 spy plane takes photos of Russian missiles on Cuban soil. There is a ten-day stand-off, during which time most of the world goes about its business believing that the world will end at any moment. The crisis is resolved by a deal between Khrushchev and Kennedy that the Russians will get their missiles out of Cuba if the Americans get their missiles out of Turkey. These two withdrawals are staggered so that it doesn’t look like Americans have ‘given in to blackmail’, and the US denies any deal.
Journalist Michael Davidson publishes his frank memoir, sex and all, The World, the Flesh and Myself. ‘This is the life story of a lover of boys.’
The first complete authentic text of De Profundis, Oscar Wilde’s long love-hate letter to Bosie, is finally published. Wilde’s executor, Robbie Ross, donated the manuscript to the British Museum library in 1905, on condition that no-one should see it until 1960, thus preventing Lord Alfred Douglas from seeing it.
6 June: In Otto Preminger’s Advise and Consent, a Senator (Don Murray) is blackmailed over his homosexuality by Charles Laughton in order to secure a nomination for Secretary of State. Threatened with exposure, he commits suicide. The theme resurfaces in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man two years later, when a presidential candidate is similarly ‘compromised’. No suicide this time.
11 September: TV version of Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train, scripted by John Hopkins, has a boozy muckraking lesbian journalist as its central character, hot on the heels of an East European spy ring. Her girlfriend, Janet, eventually gives up on her obsessive if drunken devotion, and marries a businessman.
20 November: The L-Shaped Room shows an unmarried pregnant Frenchwoman moving into an anonymous boarding house in order to have the baby or to abort it. The house becomes a surrogate family, and among the members is Mavis, an old Variety trouper who laments the loss of her female friend, and Johnny, who has to listen to the man he loves having sex with the heroine in the room next door – the first black gay character in British cinema. Individually depressing but collectively uplifting about the possibility of renewal and acceptance in these squalid surroundings.
10 December: Gay men viewing Lawrence of Arabia permit themselves a certain frisson at the scene between the Bey (José Ferrer) and Lawrence (Peter O’Toole); the portrayal of Lawrence’s sadomasochism is subtle enough for the film to slip into the ‘A’ certification (PG now) while being entirely credible. And O’Toole is beautiful.
26 June: A witch hunt in Bolton sees ten men in the dock for gross indecency, five of whom work at the local hospital. Allan Horsfall’s anguished and angry letter triggers a correspondence which puts him in touch with many who will become part of NWHLRC next year.
26 October: The HLRS Committee accepts Antony Grey’s idea for regional committees, and gives him permission to discuss it with a group of supporters in Manchester.
October: The HLRS starts to publish Spectrum, a bi-monthly magazine with in-depth articles on aspects of homosexuality and counselling, with news of parliamentary campaigns and quotes from the press. The first issue has an article by journalist James Cameron on security risks: ‘With sane and humane legislation, queers would be no more vulnerable than teetotallers.’ The magazine runs to 30 issues, and folds for lack of cash in 1970.
Other gay events
13 January: The Observer runs a prominent feature about COC clubs for homosexuals in Amsterdam.
22 January: The jury stops the trial of Lawrence Summers, a 16-year-old cellarman, up for the manslaughter of the Labour MP and former Party Chairman George Brinham. They decide, after the judge has directed them that a homosexual advance ‘is about as clear a case of provocation as it is possible to have’, that there is no case to answer. Summers gets a hero’s welcome when he returns to his native Matlock, and sells his story for a lot of money to the News of the World. The Labour Party keeps quiet.
11 October: Death of hugely influential artist, poet and film-maker Jean Cocteau.
In the news ...
BBC Pronunciation Department sends round a memo about how to pronounce ‘homosexual’. A short ‘o’ please, as in the Greek for ‘same’, not a long ‘o’ as in the Latin for ‘man’.
5 June: Secretary of State for War John Profumo resigns amid increasing rumours of a security scandal involving his sharing of Christine Keeler’s favours with Russian intelligence officer Yevgeny Ivanov.
28 August: James Baldwin is excluded from the Civil Rights March on Washington on the grounds that he would be too inflammatory. His well-known homosexuality is seen as a provocation.
City of Night is published – John Rechy’s erotic novel of cruising in San Francisco.
Meeting Point, the BBC’s Sunday God slot, devotes its whole 30 minutes to Towards a Quaker view of sex. The programme echoes the book in using the word ‘affection’ a lot. There are numerous complaints.
18 March: The Sunday Mirror TV Critic complains about young Tim going to see his doctor (Dr Bennett on 24-Hour Call) because he is worried about being homosexual. ‘If this gets around doctors will be pestered to help with anything from a leaking tap to parking the car.’
January: The Albany Trust starts its occasional series of Winter Talks. CHE Vice-President Angus Wilson gives one that autumn on ‘Literature and Sexual Freedom.’
2 March: Allan Horsfall gives a talk to a church group in Ashton-under-Lyme. Parishioners guard the doors to keep the youth club and boy scouts out. The vicar is so apologetic he joins the NWHLRC six months later.
4 June: Allan Horsfall goes to a Manchester discussion group set up by Stanley Rowe and others; minutes record it as the first meeting of the Manchester branch of the HLRS.
2 September: Albany Trust is turned down for a lease because the landlords don’t want them dealing with clients on the premises. The pressure on the tiny Shaftesbury Avenue office remains.
7 October: First formal meeting of the NWHLRC at Church House, Deansgate, Manchester.
December: NWHLRC publishes its first leaflet Something You Should Know About. 10,000 copies initially, plus reprints. The contact address is given as 3 Robert Street, Atherton – Horsfall’s home address. There is no adverse reaction.
Other gay events
The lesbian and gay picket arrives with two actions in New York: against a psychiatrist who insists homosexuality is a mental illness, and against the local draft board over the confidentiality of gay conscripts’ records.
The BBC proves cowardly: Panorama scraps an item on gay clubs in Amsterdam, featuring interviews with cheerful, well-adjusted homosexuals.
April: Arena 3 is started by Esmé Langley and Diana Chapman. First a social group, then additionally a magazine and support service. At first, married women have to produce signed permission from their husbands to subscribe.
July: Two Tory back-benchers report to their Chief Whip that Lord Boothby and Labour MP Tom Driberg have been seen importuning young men at a dog track. Driberg’s rampant passion for giving blow jobs was somehow never made public, thanks to his unscrupulous leverage using his position as a journalist and keeper of some dark Labour Party secrets (e.g. he allegedly serviced Aneurin Bevan in Bevan’s office at Westminster).
22 October: Bryan Magee TV documentary on male homosexuals for This Week, following programmes about abortion, suicide and drug addiction. Among the shocking highlights are shots of men kissing and dancing together in Amsterdam, and a happy gay couple – two shop assistants who (disgusting!) met each other in church. Six members of the HLRS appear. Magee records over 200 interviews, and re-works the material into the book One in Twenty (1966). This is translated into eight languages and sells prodigiously over the next ten years.
In the news ...
January: Mary Whitehouse launches the ‘Clean Up TV’ campaign, which morphs in 1965 into the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, and is currently called MediaWatch-UK.
20 April: BBC-2 starts broadcasting. This allows for greater representation of homosexual characters and themes in drama and documentary, and also has a knock-on effect on the output of BBC-1.
12 May: Twelve young men burn their draft cards in New York. It is the first such public protest in an anti-war movement which will snowball over the next eight years.
15 October: General election. Labour majority of 4 under Harold Wilson. Sir Frank Soskice appointed Home Secretary.
9 November: Parliament votes to suspend the death penalty for all offences except treason, spying, piracy and arson in a royal dockyard. This is regarded as ushering in a period of social liberalism. The suspension is regularly renewed until the death penalty is finally abolished completely in 1998.
Jane Rule’s popular lesbian romance Desert of the Heart is published.
Publication of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man. This simple, eloquent account of a day in the life of a middle-aged professor getting over the loss of his long-term partner set new standards of realism and emotional depth in its treatment of gay male characters. A very Buddhist novel too.
8 March: The Leather Boys is a classic study of unrequited love between gay/straight best mates, set in the contemporary biking world. Straight boy Reggie loses interest in sex with Dot (Rita Tushingham) when biker Pete comes into his life. When Pete takes him to a gay bar, he realises what’s going on, and rejects his friend. Reggie is last seen walking away from the camera with the word ‘Dodgy’ on the back of his leather jacket. Maybe there is still hope…?
6 May: Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane premieres at the New Arts Theatre. It is put on thanks to the sponsorship of Terence Rattigan, who invests £3,000 in West End transfer. The cheerful comedy of bisexual competition for sexual favours is broadcast on ITV on 15 July 1968, and filmed two years later.
3 June: An episode of Z Cars is introduced in the Radio Times as follows: ‘A man attempts to blackmail Frank Wood. Wood has only to go to the police… Given normal circumstances, Wood’s course of action is plain, but Wood is a homosexual, a man outside the law and unable to go to the police without incriminating himself.’ Somebody …. Help is scripted by John Hopkins.
23 November: House of Glass is set in an army detention centre. Noel Currer-Briggs, whose brother directed it, thought it worth writing to Antony Grey to alert Albany Trust supporters to the interest of this ATV production. Features a pre-Compo Bill Owen, and Leonard Rossiter.
March: Albany Trust discussion groups start as a means of involving the mainly gay supporters who volunteer in the office. The syllabus is controlled by Antony Grey, but they turn into social groups. Organised by George Mortimer.
7 July: Billy Ray (28) sentenced to two years and John Clarkson (19) to six months Borstal for gross indecency. The trial shocks Ray Gosling into accepting the need for law reform – he joins NWHLRC.
Other gay events
March: Bryan Magee TV documentary on female homosexuals for This Week features parents delighted their daughters have found happiness, and a couple of open school teachers. Nobody is filmed in shadow, unlike in the male equivalent. The Daily Express runs a panicky campaign: ‘You still have time to stop this filth entering your room.’ Or you could just switch off …
17 April: Franklin Kameny and the Mattachine Society of Washington stage the first of the annual pickets of the White House in aid of civil rights for homosexuals. The day after, they picket the United Nations.
28 October: House of Lords passes the Earl of Arran’s Sexual Offences Bill by 116 to 46.
In the news ...
8 March: 4,000 US troops are sent to Vietnam, the first combat troops to be drawn into the war.
18 May: The Government announces the introduction of the first blood alcohol limit for drivers, triggering an outcry about infringement of civil liberties.
6 August: At the last moment the BBC pulls the broadcast of Peter Watkins’ The War Game, a savagely satirical view of the official British reaction in the event of nuclear attack. The film goes on to win a Best Documentary Oscar in 1966.
28 September: Fidel Castro says that any Cuban who wants to emigrate to the US is free to do so. The subsequent exodus leads to the creation of a vibrant but reactionary Latino gay community in Florida.
6 December: Passing of the first UK Race Relations Act. This is revealed to be woefully inadequate over the next few years, and is strengthened by two further acts in 1968 and 1976. However, it recognises the problem, and the role of legislation in tackling it.
23 December: Roy Jenkins replaces Sir Frank Soskice as Home Secretary.
The Killing of Sister George opens at the Bristol Old Vic, with Beryl Reid as George and Eileen Atkins as Childie. The author, married to a lesbian, intends it as a farce, but it becomes an ‘issue’ play because there is so little lesbian material around. Beryl Reid wins a Tony for her portrayal of George on Broadway in 1966. The film version runs into censorship arguments over the seduction scene (not in the play) and only achieves a limited release in cinemas. Even today the sex scene is usually left out when the film is shown on TV.
January: The BBC’s first successful TV soap, Compact, acquires its first effeminate character, Eliot, played by Maurice Browning, (who also made a camp villain in The Avengers). Completely bald, pouting, temperamental, his favourite novel is Little Women and he carries a small velvet cushion. He pours a healthy dose of vinegar over the heterosexual preoccupations of a thinly-disguised Women’s Own. The BBC scraps Compact before Eliot can embed himself.
18/25 January: Two-part story in the series Hit and Run. Lying, self-denying queer breaks down in the dock and admits he killed a pedestrian and pins blame on the friend who rejected his advances, as an act of revenge.
10 March: BBC Wednesday Play Horror of Darkness, starring Glenda Jackson, Nicol Williamson and Alfred Lynch. Edgy Pinteresque dialogue when Lynch’s old college chum Nicolson turns up to reclaim his love. Cop-out ending with death of the queer. Lynch plays many gay characters in the 1960s, and, in addition to his life partner Jimmy Culliford, has flings with Nureyev and US gay playwright Doric Wilson.
25 March: ‘Hello, I’m Julian, and this is my friend Sandy.’ As Hugh Paddick intones those immortal words, Julian and Sandy mince into the national consciousness on Round the Horne, where they hold court for four years. They give comfort to many a young queen over his Sunday lunch, while his parents have no idea what they are talking about.
25 March: Conscience on a Rack, an episode of The Human Jungle, stories from ‘a psychiatrist’s case-book’. Teacher Flora Robson is discovered to be sending blackmail notes to herself out of guilt and fear that she may have ‘corrupted’ a younger girl.
18 July: Ivan Geffen chairs a meeting of supporters in Birmingham, but a proposed West Midlands group doesn’t take off.
End of August: Allan Horsfall has to leave a conference early because of an anxiety attack. ‘The truth is that I haven’t had a holiday for four years, and it is beginning to show.’
11 November: 150 people attend a public meeting organised by NWHLRC at the Houldsworth Hall in Manchester. Speakers are Alan Fitch MP, the Dean of Manchester, Allan Horsfall and Antony Grey. Humphry Berkeley is grounded at London Airport and pulls out at the last moment. Hardly any press coverage apart from a small paragraph in The Guardian.
Other gay events
Beaumont Society is founded to provide support for cross-dressers, transvestites and transsexuals.
In the news ...
The first widely available credit card, Barclaycard, is launched. The other banks launch Access cards in 1972. In 2014 debt owed on UK credit cards is £57 billion; there are 90 million debit and 58 million credit cards in circulation.
11 February: Humphry Berkeley’s Sexual Offences Bill receives its second reading in the House of Commons. Bill lost when General Election called.
31 March: General Election. Labour is returned with increased majority of 96. Previously their majority had been whittled down to one. Humphry Berkeley loses his seat.
16 June: The Earl of Arran’s reintroduced Sexual Offences Bill passes in the House of Lords by 78 to 60 votes, less than two months after being tabled.
7 July: Leo Abse given leave to introduce his Sexual Offences Bill in the House of Commons, by 244 to 100 votes.
November: An all-male jury finds Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn obscene after the judge excuses women from service on the grounds that they ‘might be embarrassed to read a book which deals with homosexuality, prostitution, drug taking and sexual perversion.’ Originally, Wimbledon MP and Leo Abse opponent, Sir Cyril Black, had brought a private prosecution at Marlborough Magistrates Court, which found the publishers guilty despite an array of defence witnesses including Professor Frank Kermode, who compared the novel to Dickens. The defiant publishers publicly state they will continue to publish it everywhere outside the court’s jurisdiction (Soho), thus provoking the Old Bailey trial. An appeal led by John Mortimer in 1968 gets the original verdict reversed.
Maureen Duffy publishes The Microcosm, a gynocentric novel with lashings of lesbianism and a sharp portrait of The Gateways.
29 January: In Honeymoon Postponed, an episode of Armchair Theatre, two honeymooners have to move in with their parents. Dad is in permanent mourning for the death of his ‘best mate’. Son can’t consummate the marriage, leading to the suggestion he may be homosexual. The family greet the possi-bility with remarkable understanding. But he isn’t. Transferred to film as The Family Way (1966).
25 March: Dusty Springfield’s most commercially successful single, You don’t have to say you love me, is released by Phillips. Originally an Italian hit for Pino Donaggio (Io che non vivo), its tremulous emotional masochism ows a certain debt to Jacques Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas, and Springfield so identified with it, it took her 47 takes to get the recording right.
11 May: The Connoisseur, a rare excursion for BBC1, is set in a public school where a cynical housemaster (‘a connoisseur of antiques … and boys’) turns a blind eye to dark doings in the dorm, possibly including rape and prostitution, in order to stay in with his best cricketers, including pretty Ian Ogilvy. An allegory of political corruption and a prototype of If…
NWHLRC publishes new leaflet, After the Act, mainly drafted by Martin Stafford. Initial print run of 10,000.
15 June: NWHLRC committee calls for a network of clubs for homosexuals similar to those in the Netherlands. ‘Not more social workers, but more social facilities.’ Martin Stafford is at his first meeting here.
3 August: NWHLRC meeting passes a resolution condemning the use of aversion therapy as a cure for homosexuality, although supporting the right of people to choose it if they so wish.
September/October: Reg Kilduff offers to hand over the Rockingham Club in Manchester to the NWHLRC for its first gay social club.
11 October: Prof. A. J. Ayer resigns as President of the HLRS. Replaced by Rev. John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich. Financial crisis means severe cutback in staff.
23 October: The NWHLRC starts advertising in local papers around Manchester
Other gay events
April 27: Valerie Solanas self-publishes the Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM) Manifesto, price $1 for women, $2 for men. The Society never existed; Solanas was a Dadaist guerrilla.
27 July: Sexual Offences Act passed, partially decriminalising male homosexual acts, over a year after being introduced.
27 November: Craig Rodwell opens the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in New York.
In the news ...
Norman Pittenger’s A Time for Consent: A Christian’s Approach to Homosexuality goes beyond any previous Christian writing to argue for acceptance of gay relationships according to exactly the same moral standards and criteria as heterosexual relations. Pittenger’s extreme fluency as a writer and his insistence on the importance of human love led to his nickname, ‘the Barbara Cartland of theology’.
18 January: Jeremy Thorpe becomes leader of the Liberal Party.
27 June: The first ATM (cash machine) is introduced at Barclays Bank in Enfield.
30 September: Roy Jenkins is replaced as Home Secretary by James Callaghan. Jenkins has been in office for less than two years, but has overseen the passage of both the Sexual Offences Act and the Abortion Act. Callaghan is never known for his commitment to civil liberties or gay rights.
David Hockney paints A Bigger Splash, one of a series of Californian paintings reflecting a new, calmer sybaritic lifestyle.
In Mrs Dale’s Diary (trendily renamed The Dales), the doyenne of radio soaps, Mrs Dale (Jessie Matthews) discovers her brother-in-law is homosexual. It makes a change from worrying about Jim. The first sympathetic portrayal of a homosexual as a leading character in a soap, but an odd choice of character to ‘out’, given his long history of uncomplicated heterosexuality in the programme.
15 February: First TV appearance of proto-Python Graham Chapman, on At Last the 1948 Show. Chapman is almost the only ‘theatrical’ to come out in the early 1970s, and features with his lover David Sherlock on the cover of an early Gay News. Chapman is one of the major funders of the magazine.
5/14 June: Man Alive runs two gay programmes, one on men and one on women, to coincide with the passing of the Sexual Offences Act. The male programme shows mostly scared lonely men with backs to camera, but ‘a married woman with two children, and… what seemed a very happy, very settled couple of women’. The lesbian programme features shots of the Gateways Club.
6 September: A week after the SOA comes into force, a hotel manager wants to throw out a middle-aged man (George Cole) and his young USAF lover. C. P. Taylor’s Friends twists the knife of class consciousness and convention; the manager retreats when he discovers they are both officers. And fathers.
February: Esquire Clubs set up as a private limited liability club in which all profits must go back into the club. Reg Kilduff, director of the Rockingham, Ray Gosling, Colin Harvey, Allan Horsfall and Harold Pollard are directors.
6 May: The NWHLRC sends in valuers to the Rockingham. Independent valuation agreed. Two weeks later Kilduff announces he wants £7,000, and doesn’t accept the independent valuation. Committee says this is exorbitant, and relations break down.
14 May: The HLRS rejects the idea of supporting clubs for homosexuals, and insists that Antony Grey resign as an Honorary Vice President of Esquire clubs. He was recruited, along with senior Samaritans and the NCCL secretary Tony Smythe, back in January.
28 June: Future General Secretary Paul Temperton attends his first NWHLRC meeting. He meets Martin Stafford. They start a relationship and become responsible for the development of local CHE groups (in 1970) and for office management.
July: Albany Trust Wychcroft conference leads to the ‘SK’ social events at St Katherine’s, Limehouse.
September: Publicity for Esquire Clubs on Radio 4, following Gosling article in New Society. Earl of Arran condemns them in his column in the Evening Standard. Antony Grey, in a letter of reply to Ray Gosling, says the time is not ripe for clubs for homosexuals.
Other gay events
Troy Perry founds the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles.
8 January: John Holland is interviewed in the Wolverhampton Express and Star about his plans for MANDFHAB (Male and Female Homosexual Association of Britain), including an advice line and raising money for a gay centre. He is overwhelmed by the response, and has a breakdown, causing the project to fold by the end of the year.
9 March: Peter Spencer falls out with John Holland over the issue of admitting under-21s, and starts MAF-MAN in Nottingham, which keeps to over-21s and turns down bisexuals. This morphs into Nottingham CHE.
12 March: Homosexuals Anonymous starts meeting in Coventry Council for Social Service, having been driven from the Cathedral by lurid publicity in the local press about ‘The first gay club in England’. It lasts about a year, as the more extrovert homosexuals take over and drive out the shy.
24 March: Sensational article in The People about the gay goings-on at the Hope and Anchor, Leeds.
April: A series of police visits to the Flamingo Club in Wolverhampton result in pensioner George Smith being prosecuted for running a disorderly house. The court (and the press) is shocked at the idea of men dancing together. Smith’s customers rally round him with remarkable solidarity.
1 July: East Germany adopts Paragraph 151 to replace Paragraph 175. It provides for sentences of up to three years for over-18s having lesbian or gay sex with under-18s. Bulgaria also legalises homosexuality this year.
August: First edition of Jeremy, a lifestyle and fashion magazine for gay men.
In the news ...
The Post Office introduces a split tier system of First Class and Second Class stamps.
January: five secretaries in Surbiton offer to work an extra half hour a day for no pay, triggering the ‘I’m Backing Britain’, campaign, later rolled into Robert Maxwell’s ‘Buy British’ campaign. This rather loses credibility when it emerges that the campaign T-shirts were made in Portugal.
1 January: The Motion Pictures Association of America formally abandons the Hays Production Code and replaces it with a four-category rating system similar to Britain’s. The code has been increasingly ignored by independent producers (as opposed to studios) in the 1950s and 60s, and the absence of an MPAA certificate, which has no legal value, does nothing to harm the box office of movies like Some Like it Hot.
22 March: Danny Cohn-Bendit leads students to occupy the administrative buildings at the University of Nanterre, triggering les événements leading up to the May student uprising in Paris. On 13 May a million people take to the Paris streets. Cohn-Bendit is also involved in radical sexual politics, which has since led to others accusing him of support for paedophilia.
26 July: Theatres Act abolishes the role of the Lord Chamberlain as theatre censor.
5 October: Police baton-charge civil rights demonstrators in Derry, triggering the last and most bitter phase of ‘the troubles’.
7 December: Douglas Englebert demonstrates the first electronic mouse and the first hypertext system; six months previously Intel had gone into the business of manufacturing semiconductors.
Art model Quentin Crisp publishes his memoirs, The Naked Civil Servant. It sells only 3,500 copies until the TV version is broadcast in 1975.
Allan Ginsberg, always a challenging poet where his homosexuality is at issue, publishes Please, Master, a delirious sadomasochistic love poem to Neal Cassady. Still one of the most sexually explicit poems ever written. In 1982 he bemuses punters in ‘Heaven’ nightclub by reading it, anonymously, for an Amateur Talent Night. He comes second.
17 June: US Release of The Queen, a ciné vérité documentary about a drag beauty contest in New York. Grade A bitching and much conversation about sexual identity and avoiding the draft. Criticised for its stereotyping and praised for its honesty in equal measure. A must for a CHE group cinema trip in the early 1970s.
28 August: BBC Wednesday Play features Simon Gray’s Spoiled. Maths tutor has a ‘moment of weakness’ with a boy he’s cramming in both senses of the word. Very indirect – ‘It was the kind of thing we talked about once.’ Mary Whitehouse approved because it did not ‘normalise or justify deviation… but showed it for the tragedy it is.’
September: Bryan Forbes’ Deadfall released, with Michael Caine. A hysterical farrago of bisexuality. Eric Portman plays an older gay man who betrays his lover to the Nazis then screws the man’s wife. He incestuously marries the resulting daughter rather than explain ...
6 September: Pasolini’s Teorema released: gorgeous angel Terence Stamp appears to a bourgeois family and shags each member in turn, plus the maid. Each character makes confession, and is transformed by the sex. A Catholic/ Marxist/Jungian vision which so confused the Church that it gave Pasolini a special award at the Venice Film Festival, then withdrew it.
27 September: Hair opens in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre, having waited for the Theatres Act 1968 to abolish stage censorship. It will run for five years, until forced to close when the roof of the theatre collapses. Its tasteful nudity and cheerful praise of ‘Sodomy’ in the eponymous song make it notorious.
19 December: Premiere of Lindsay Anderson’s liberating, visionary If… Bobby Phillips of the incomparable forelock watches bewitched as prefect Wallace works out in the gym. A few scenes later they are seen asleep in each other’s arms, having in the meantime presumably developed a passionate relationship. The homosexuals are on the side of the revolutionaries, as pretty Bobby mows down teachers and dignitaries with a submachine gun.
1 April: NWHLRC is officially renamed the Committee for Homosexual Equality (CHE).
Other gay events
International activists’ gathering in Denmark organised by IHWO.
West Germany decriminalises homosexuality; Dutch parliament votes to lower the homosexual age of consent to 16, while retaining penalties against gay sex between those over 21 and those under 21.
January: The Elmwood Association starts in Belfast following a visit by Antony Grey – the first gay organisation in Northern Ireland.
28–30 June: Stonewall riots in New York.
August: Colin Harvey, one of the founders of CHE, launches, with Ian Dunn, the Scottish Minorities Group, in Glasgow.
In the news ...
2 January: Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch buys Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, the News of the World.
24 January: The LSE closes in response to large student demonstrations. Two days later LSE students occupy University of London Union to protest at the closure. Unrest spreads to other campuses, most notably Hornsey College of Art, which operates a democratic student-chosen and run syllabus for a couple of months. This is known as the Hornsey Project and becomes a model for libertarian educationalists.
14 May: Canada introduces an equal age of consent at 14, eighteen months after the legislation was enacted. PM Pierre Trudeau tells the press, ‘There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.’ The age of consent is raised to 16 in 2008. The age of consent for anal sex remains higher, at 18.
25 June: West Germany modifies Paragraph 175 to legalise homosexual acts for over-21s.
20 July: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to land on the moon. They collect about 21 kg of material and stay for about two hours. In a major, and high risk, propaganda exercise, the whole thing is broadcast live on TV worldwide, In Britain, the audience is nearly 30,000,000 – almost as many as for Di’s funeral, which is a lot shorter.
John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy is widely seen as a portrait of a repressed gay relationship between the cowboy Joe (Jon Voigt) and Ratso (Dustin Hoffman), despite the stream of anti-gay abuse from both characters’ mouths. Voigt’s pretty boy looks and dazzling performance help to make this an iconic film, a cult among gay men of the time, and the only X-rated film to win an Oscar to date.
In The Gay Deceivers two young men set up home together in order to avoid the military draft. The first film to be officially turned down by the BBC on the grounds that it was offensive to gay people.
August/September: Staircase is not the camp comedy it is marketed as, but a study of emotional dependency, a kind of queer Steptoe and Son; the couple in question Harry (Richard Burton) and Charles (Rex Harrison) are barbers and long-time lovers. Their relationship is threatened by Charles’s impending court case for importuning a policeman. Burton plays a blinder, deeply committed, very touching, but Harrison seems determined to distance himself and emphasise his heterosexuality by a truly appalling attempt to swish. It’s also saved by dialogue which elevates bitching to poetry. Infinitely better than Vicious.
CHE publishes its third leaflet, Homosexuality Today. This goes much beyond law reform towards a general demand for equality socially as well.
February: First CHE local groups in West Midlands, Oxford, Bristol, Manchester and Sheffield
March: The CHE Bulletin enthuses about the idea of local groups, since a Club is proving so difficult to start: ‘The scope for local groups is vast. It is on strong local groups that a national executive can best be based.’
19 March: The HLRS agrees to reconstitute itself as the Sexual Law Reform Society, with a view to preparing a report to the Criminal Law Revision Committee, currently surveying the whole field of law relating to sexuality.
25 April: Harold Pollard stands down as CHE Chairman, replaced by Allan Horsfall. Paul Temperton officially replaces Allan as General Secretary. Unofficially he has been doing the Secretary’s work for a year previously. The same meeting also agrees to start a Correspondence Club, a pen-pal scheme for isolated members, despite misgivings about possible police interference.
9 May: Allan Horsfall has a heart attack. Work increasingly devolves on Paul Temperton and Martin Stafford.
June: George Mortimer appointed London Organiser. He is replaced by Roger Baker in September.
10–11 July: Conference on Social Needs of the Homosexual in York, leading to the formation of the National Federation of Homophile Organisations (NFHO), a kind of umbrella group chaired by Antony Grey. The occasion also serves to bring key figures into CHE including Ike Cowen from Nottingham (Legal Officer) and Alan Swerdlow (Liverpool CHE and FRIEND).
111 September: Swinton Planning Committee rejects an application for planning permission to open a club in the town centre. The councillors think it is too near a youth club and there is a danger of corruption
Fifteen CHE groups are formed by October, including four in London. Membership exceeds 600.
2 October: Antony Grey resigns from the SLRS. Joseph Rowntree Trust turns down an application from the Society for three years’ funding.
24 October: First national meeting of all CHE group organisers is held in Birmingham.
4 December: London organiser Roger Baker appears on a Late Night Lineup special about homosexuality with Joan Bakewell, John Breslin, Anthony Storr and Michael De-la-Noy. Breslin is an actor who came out as gay in February; Storr is a psychiatrist and presumed straight; De-la-Noy (real name Walker) has replaced Antony Grey as director of the Albany Trust, having been sacked as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s press secretary.
18 December: Burnley Corporation gives Planning Permission for a social club on Hammerton Street in the city centre. This is in an old Co-op building
Other gay events
February: The Kingsway Group starts discussion meetings in Holborn. Up to 100 people attend talks. By August it has amalgamated with CHE.
1 May: Lavender Menace founded in New York by, among others, Rita Mae Brown and Karla Jay
13 October: First meeting of Gay Liberation Front, in the basement of the London School of Economics.
27 November: GLF organises first UK demonstration by homosexuals, in Highbury Fields.
1 December: GLF produces first edition of its magazine, Come Together.
22 December: Over 1,000 people turn up for GLF ball at Kensington Town Hall, many turned away.
In the news ...
1 January: Family Reform Act 1969 comes into force, effectively making the age of majority 18 for nearly everything – but not for gay sex, despite a few efforts by the Committee for Homosexual Equality to get an amendment to that effect during the passage of the bill through Parliament.
16 January: Police raid the London Art Gallery and confiscate eight out of the fourteen exhibits in John Lennon’s London Bag exhibition. They are a record of his wedding to Yoko Ono and contain ‘erotic lithographs’.
22 January: The first jumbo jet lands at Heathrow. The era of mass international travel and the global village has arrived; the world is shrinking rapidly.
18 June: General Election. Conservative majority of 31 under Edward Heath on a 72% turnout. First election where 18-year-olds can vote.
26 – 30 August: An estimated 700,000 attend the Isle of Wight Festival, the biggest ever pop event in the world, with more people even than Woodstock. Acts include The Doors, Chicago, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Procul Harem and The Who. Tiny Tim’s rendition of ‘There’ll Always Be an England’ is a camp classic. The descent of six times more hippies than the entire population of the island leads to a special act of parliament in 1971, prohibiting more than 5,000 people gathering on the island without a licence. The yachters and retirees will be left in peace for the next 30 years.
19 September: Jimi Hendrix dies of asphyxiation in the Samarkand Hotel in Notting Hill, having taken 18 times the recommended dose of a sleeping tablet. He is 27.
19 September: Margaret Court wins the tennis Grand Slam (US, Australian and French Opens, plus Wimbledon). For this she gets a bonus of $10,000, where a man in the same position could earn up to $1 million. The differential so infuriates Billie Jean King that she sets up the Women’s Tennis Association to get some leverage for the campaign for equality. Court becomes a Pentecostal minister in her native Australia, and most recently has been a prominent campaigner against same-sex marriage.
19 October: BP discovers a large oil field in the North Sea, and announces that it is big enough to start drilling.
10 November: IT (International Times) found guilty of conspiracy to corrupt public morals and outrage public decency. Publishers given £1,500 fine and two-year suspended prison sentences.
25 November: Novelist Yukio Mishima’s seppuku suicide makes disturbing international news, in which his fascism and his homosexuality are intertwined.
Gay Lib comes to crime writing when Joseph Hansen introduces gay private eye Dave Brandstetter in Fadeout.
Maurice, E. M. Forster’s gay novel inspired by a visit to Edward Carpenter, is published. After he finished the first draft in 1914, Forster spent much of his life tinkering with it, but thought it unpublishable because he insisted on a happy ending for the gay characters. By the time it appears, the zeitgeist has moved on and it seems old-fashioned.
17 March: The Boys in the Band makes it to the big screen after over 1,000 performances on Broadway. A movie which divides gay opinion still, it is hampered by the very theatrical setting and the US cliché of using games as a dramatic device (cf. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). On the one hand it is praised for its recognisable portraits of homosexuals at the time, complete with camp defences masking zilch self-esteem – ‘We all know gays like that.’ On the other hand, don’t we deserve more positive representation? Either way, a milestone and a yardstick for the 1970s.
6 June: Quentin Crisp’s TV debut in a World in Action feature. The first glimpse of the famous tiny squalid Soho flat.
12 June: The Kinks release ‘Lola’, the story of a confused flirtation between the singer and a possible TV/TS person. The song is characterised by a gentle humour at the expense of the singer and affection for the eponymous subject. It gets into trouble with the BBC over product placement – the reference to Coca-Cola, which is replaced by ‘cherry cola’ in the TOTP performance.
3 August: Much-delayed release of Cammell’s and Roeg’s Performance, starring Mick Jagger and James Fox. Dazzlingly filmed mindfuck between a gangster on the run and a reclusive rock star. Some voyeuristic lesbianism, but the homoerotic element between the guys is undermined by the fact that, in spite of the lippy and swish, they are never seen in bed together.
6 August: Ian McKellen and James Laurenson have the first onscreen gay kiss, in BBC2’s televising of the Prospect Theatre Co’s production of Marlowe’s Edward II. Bette Bourne, later founder of Bloolips and Neil Bartlett regular, has a small part. He joins GLF a few months later.
1 October: Last Train Through Harecastle Tunnel., by Peter Terson. Railway enthusiast Alan aches for his son (Richard O’Sullivan) to be a real man like him, despite his obviously being a queen and spending most of his spare time trolling the toilets and cruising the streets.
4 October: 13-part BBC TV version of Sartre’s Road to Freedom. Daniel Massey plays the main (tortured) homosexual character. The first TV play to show – discreetly – male homosexual sex (with a rent boy).
10 October: First of 69 episodes of LWT’s Upstairs Downstairs, a historic precursor to the much inferior Downton Abbey. The first series goes out at 10.15 p.m., which allows it to explore ‘adult content’. Originally a very feminist conception by actors Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins, the central relationship is between Miss Elizabeth and her maid Rose (Marsh). Elizabeth has a homosexual husband. Rose shares a room and often a bed with an under maid played by Pauline Collins. The first episode is written by Fay Weldon, the second, The Mistress and the Maids, by CHE vice-president Maureen Duffy, although she asks for her name to be taken off the credits. For Episode 5 (A suitable marriage – 7 Nov), in which homosexuality features strongly, Jean Marsh tries in vain to explain to the producer why it’s a bad idea to call a gay German visitor Baron von Rimmer.
2 December: Michael Tippett’s Knot Garden premieres at Covent Garden. The opera features a mixed-race gay couple.
10 December: ITV play Roll on Four O’clock, written by Colin Welland, depicts homophobic bullying in a school. One teacher reassures the young pansy: ‘As you get older you’ll find other boys and men… you’ll learn to live with it.’
January – March: A postal strike means that there are no postal deliveries for 47 days. CHE subscriptions are reduced to a trickle for this period, and new members only come via word of mouth. A temporary cash flow crisis results.
Annual inflation rises to 8.6%, house prices rise by 11.8%. By the end of 1973 they have almost doubled, putting dreams of buying any gay centres into the realms of fantasy.
5 March: CHE adopts a constitution, effective from 1 April. Includes an elected National Executive Committee, and quarterly meetings of all group reps. Name changes to Campaign for Homosexual Equality.
1 April: Paul Temperton becomes full-time paid General Secretary at a salary of £20 per week, plus luncheon vouchers.
2 April: 120 London members turn up for the first pan-London meeting. At this meeting the magazine Lunch is agreed, and the Task Force set up which will in time become FRIEND. It also agrees to try to set up a London Club.
10 May: CHE takes possession of its new offices at 28 Kennedy Street in central Manchester. A gaggle of volunteers get out the paint brushes immediately.
26 May: Licensee Ken Pilling gives an interview on Radio Blackburn in which he announces the club for Burnley will become a reality. The story is picked up by local and national radio, and Granada TV.
11 June: A local Christian coalition in Burnley forms a ‘Stop The Club’ Committee. The local Co-op takes fright at the ensuing publicity and withdraws the offer of a lease.
19 June: First national GLF think-in in Leeds. CHE attends and the two organisations agree to work together where possible.
30 July: 200–300 people turn out at Burnley Public Library to hear the arguments for a club at a public meeting. This is extremely rowdy, but CHE is supported by 15–20 members of GLF, and a mass ‘coming-out’ shows that about half the audience is homo-sexual. CHE is elated by the success of the meeting as a PR and consciousness-raising exercise.
September: First edition of the London magazine Lunch, with David Hyde as editor.
20 November: first CHE Winter Fair at Conway Hall.
4 December: London Women’s Group is recognised at National Council. This is mainly a social/induction group to ease new members into joining mixed groups, and also to provide a social space to meet with London GLF women and others, away from men. Women are expected to have membership of a mixed group as well as the women’s group.
Other gay events
Dennis Altman publishes Homosexual Oppression and Liberation, a seminal work for queer theorists.
Love & Abbott publish Sappho was a Right-on Woman.
4 February: first GLF street theatre demonstration outside Bow Street Magistrates’ Court.
10 March: FHAR, the French equivalent of GLF, manifests itself in disruption of a radio programme on which Arcadie is appearing.
28 August: GLF youth group organises march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square to protest about age of consent.
September: Members of CHE and GLF hold a joint fringe meeting at the Liberal Party Conference in Scarborough, organised by the CHE Vice Chair, Michael Steed, a prominent Liberal. At the meeting Bernard Greaves draws attention to the local police’s habit of spying on toilets and entrapment; as a result the Liberals vote to boycott Scarborough in future.
October: Leeds GLF produces the first edition of the Leeds Broadsheet, the main communication between GLF and CHE groups over the next two years.
30 October: NFHO formally comes into existence. The 15 month delay is caused by rows over the perceived authoritarianism of the organisation, and the difficulty of setting membership fees for such a variety of groups. CHE don’t trust the ambitions of Antony Grey and is always suspicious that NFHO is trying to become the national organisation.
1 November: First edition of Body Politic, Canadian gay paper/magazine of high intellectual content and fearless journalism. Twice prosecuted for obscenity, it is very influential on other publications, including Gay News. It folds in 1987.
In the news ...
David Hockney finishes his painting, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, the only painting by a living artist to get into the top ten paintings in Britain, as voted by Today listeners in 2005. It is a wedding present for designer Ossie Clark, whose best man is Hockney. Clark is bisexual and continues having affairs after marriage. Percy is a white cat; in medieval and renaissance art, the cat symbolises infidelity.
Finland and Austria decriminalise male homosexuality.
1 January: Divorce Reform Act comes into force. This introduces the concept of ‘no fault’ divorces, and reduces the period of marriage necessary before divorce to two years. This year for the first time the number of divorces tops 100,000, a threefold increase on ten years previously.
3 January: BBC Open University begins. Ostensibly making programmes for OU students to tie in with OU courses, this broadcasting strand is responsible for some of the key gay documentaries of the 1970s. These also have a life of many years as teaching aids.
15 February: UK adopts decimal currency.
1 April: Little Red Schoolbook published and immediately seized. It is successfully prosecuted for obscenity, and appeals to the Lords and the European Court of Human Rights both fail. However, the government, unusually, lets publisher Richard Handyside bring out a version with a mutually agreed (censored) text.
8 October: Pan Books publish paperback version of David Reuben’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask.
28 October: House of Commons votes in favour of Britain joining the European Community.
14 January: W. Stephen Gilbert’s Circle Line hits the screens as a BBC1 Play for Today after a nervous delay of a year. In it a sexually experimental second-year university student goes to bed with an eager 14-year-old. A cheerful justification of the therapeutic benefits of casual sex, and guaranteed to épater la Whitehouse. The NVLA lists it in its top ten horrors of the year. ‘How long can the BBC get away with this?’ thunders the Sunday Post. The BBC takes fright and wipes the tape within three months of broadcast.
29 March: A man and a woman sit plunged in grief in The Waiting Room of a hospital in the play by John Bowen. He has lost his lover in a road accident, she her husband. Slowly they realise that this is the same man. Unsentimental study of loss, and the way supposed mutual friends melt away, embarrassed by tragedy.
1 May: Visconti’s much-misunderstood Death in Venice premieres in London. Dismissed by some as tawdry, the film yearns after ideal, unachievable beauty as Visconti photographs Tadzio (Bjorn Andressen) as if he were Michaelangelo’s David.
2 July: After a number of personnel changes, Queen performs its first live gig with its classic line-up. Farrokh Bulsara has just changed his name to Freddie Mercury, and is joined on stage by Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.
Panorama runs 18-minute feature on GLF. 24 September: GLF members appear on Thames TV’s Today programme.
17 December: David Bowie releases 'Queen Bitch' as part of the album Hunky Dory. The first of Bowie’s genderfuck bisexual offerings, heavily influenced by Lou Reid and the Velvet Underground. A swirling ambiguity of pronouns makes it slightly unclear exactly who the singer’s so jealous of, but the use of ‘cruising’, ‘swishy’ and the title itself pushes it firmly to the effeminate male side. ‘She’s so swishy in her satin and tat. … My God! I could do better than that.’
January: CHE hosts its first youth conference, in Manchester. Both CHE and GLF members take part.
February: CHE Elections are held by postal ballot, having been postponed from the previous summer. The first semi-elected EC includes Robin Bloxsidge, who becomes responsible for discrimination, Bernard Greaves, responsible for political action, and Liz Stanley, the women’s officer.
February: The EC backs an education campaign, supporting the idea of approaching head teachers for permission to give talks to senior schoolchildren, and to distribute leaflets to the kids outside the school anyway if permission is refused. They backtrack on this a month later, in response to uproar at the NC, and insist it would only be done through official channels.
April: A row about producing separate advertising posters and leaflets for women, giving a female contact in London. The EC wants all recruitment to go through the national office, but the women insist that CHE will never recruit women unless they are put in touch with a woman in the first instance. They win, after many prominent CHE women members threaten to resign.
May/June: CHE takes part in two episodes of Jimmy Saville’s Speakeasy, the first with GLF and the second on its own. This is the largest audience CHE has achieved to date, and the phones at the London Office, staffed by volunteers, don’t stop ringing afterwards for twelve hours, despite having two extra lines put in for the occasion.
June: CHE membership stands at 1,750
1 July: Carnival Parade from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park. First Gay Pride March designated as such. Several CHE groups attend.
17 August: Weymouth Council votes to refuse facilities to CHE for a conference in 1973. One Alderman calls it ‘a disgusting idea. Just how low can we get in this town to raise money?’ As a result, Morecambe beckons.
6 September: Having agreed a deal for the 1973 Conference, Morecambe Council rats on it, claiming that the hall where it is to be held is a fire hazard. Since the Fire Brigades Union will have its own conference there a month after CHE’s, this is clearly a lie. But CHE gets round this lack of co-operation by hiring the pier privately, ensuring a conference can take place, even if it costs more.
22 September: Open meeting on the church and homosexuality at Holborn Assembly Rooms. Speakers are Rev. Norman Pittenger and, from America, Rev. Troy Perry.
September: Liverpool CHE organises a successful teach-in for local social workers, doctors, probation officers etc., in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. Cathedral authorities defy protests from churchgoers and editorials in the press.
15 December: CHE members and GLF activists disrupt a BMA seminar on homosexuality, and follow it up in early 1973 with a pamphlet addressed to doctors. 5,000 copies distributed.
Other gay events
Radical gay organisation FUORI founded in Italy
Norway decriminalises male homosexuality, with the abolition of S213 of its penal code. Age of consent 16.
March: NCCL/GLF questionnaire on harassment distributed to all CHE members with the March Bulletin. NCCL wants to write a report for lawmakers based on the responses, but there are not enough; the level of self-esteem is such that most people aren’t even aware of oppression. The report is never written. The NCCL ‘bust card’ Your Rights on Arrest goes out at the same time.
5 May: FRIEND starts advertising its regular telephone service staffed by volunteers operating Monday to Friday, 7.30–9.30 pm. Prior to this there are only informal counselling arrangements, and all calls are answered by Michael Launder or Michael Butler from the Samaritans.
June: first edition of Gay News appears. The initial predominance of former members of GLF gives it a slightly critical stance towards CHE, but CHE’s Glenys Parry is Northern Correspondent, and with the decline of GLF Gay News becomes more supportive. Early editions are undated.
Autumn: CHE fringe meetings at both Liberal and Labour Party conferences.
In the news ...
Sweden allows transsexuals legally to change sex, and offers free hormone therapy.
Lancaster team captain Luke Fitzgerald clearly seen on University Challenge wearing a gay badge. The producer tries to cut it out with very close-cropped filming – but to no effect.
4 January: First hand-held scientific calculator comes onto the market, at a cost of £200.
22 January: Britain, Ireland, Norway and Denmark sign a Treaty of Accession to join the EEC, to come into force on 1 January 1973. Norwegian voters repudiated the treaty before then, so Norway never joins.
30 January: Bloody Sunday in Derry, when 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators are shot by British soldiers. Internment without trial has been introduced the previous year, with hundreds being imprisoned in Long Kesh and twenty killed in the ensuing riots. Bloody Sunday is followed by IRA retaliation on 21 July (Bloody Friday – nine killed) and 31July (Bloody Monday – nine killed).
14 June: IT loses appeal against conviction on conspiracy charges. The Law Lords judgement rules that decriminalising acts does not make them fully lawful.
22 August: John Wojtowicz and Sal Naturale hold several Chase Manhattan Bank employees to ransom in New York. Wojtowicz is trying to raise money for his boyfriend’s sex change operation. The events are fictionalised in the film Dog Day Afternoon.
1 September: School leaving age raised from 15 to 16.
Under the Age has a queenie bartender, Suzie, presiding over a group of young toughs, all of whom are drinking under age and some having sex under age as well. A conversation piece by gay playwright E. A. Whitehead, and directed by Alan Clarke, best known for Scum but ever a sympathetic portrayer of dispossessed youth. In a pioneering move, BBC2 stages a studio discussion immediately afterwards, in which GLF’s John Chesterman attacks the negative characterisation of a gay bar. This rather misses the point, that young people will respect those who respect them, especially people who are themselves oppressed.
Escape from the Shadows, Robin Maugham’s candid autobiography, describes his struggle to free himself from his bullying father, his cynical and manipulative queer uncle Somerset Maugham, and from the guilt occasioned by his homosexual feelings.
Gay anthems start to appear: Madeline Davies’ Stonewall Nation, produced by the Mattachine Society; Alan Wakeman’s A Gay Song, recorded with Everyone Allowed and distributed free; Eric Presland’s We Were In There, premiered improbably at an Oxford May Ball.
January: David Bowie outs himself as bisexual in an interview with Melody Maker; John, I’m Only Dancing, in which the singer reassures his boyfriend that he has no sexual interest in the girl he’s with, follows in September. Despite the subject matter, the single has ample airplay and reaches No.12 in the UK charts. However, TOTP ban the video, featurong Lindsay Kemp’s androgynous mime troupe.
5 February: David Hockney becomes the first openly gay castaway on Desert Island Discs. His chosen book for the island is a work of pornography – Floyd Carter’s Route 69.
13 February: Film version of Cabaret released in the US; in it, bisexuality is seen as rather fun.
17 March: John Waters’ Pink Flamingos is released in the US. Refused a certificate in the UK, it became a cult thanks to club screenings, and causes 20 years’ controversy as to whether Divine actually ate dog poo for the movie – Waters says he did in his memoir Shock Value (1982)
8 September: Pilot episode of Are You Being Served?, part of BBC Comedy Playhouse. In the pilot Mr Humphreys is a minor character and not at all effete. Writers David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd ask him to camp it up, in the face of stiff opposition from within the BBC.
26 October: A Life is Forever. Bleak prison drama in which a young gay prisoner, McCallister, pursues his heterosexual cell-mate, looking for love and protection. The straight man beats him up, but later punches another man who’s abusing the boy. It seems McCallister has found his protection. Praised at the time for its realism and Tony Meyer’s cute bum.
LBC’s Call-In features Jackie Forster and Denis Lemon fielding calls from a woman with a gay son and Brent of Fulham asking ‘What do you do in bed?’ CHE, FRIEND and Parents’ Enquiry contribute ‘planted’ calls.
Members of Liverpool CHE take part in The World In Action’s Joe, the first programme to deal with the full horrors of aversion therapy. Joe has electrodes tied to his legs while being shown a picture of a naked man with a moustache riding a horse. The CHE condemnation is rather undermined by the fact that no-one talking has personal experience of the practice. Gay News calls the programme ‘nothing less than a free advert for aversion therapy’.
13 January: First national FRIEND conference.
27 January: 120 women attend CHE’s first women’s conference.
March: First national employment campaign, with a questionnaire to major employers in the private and public sector. Replies are slow in coming, and bland and evasive.
6–8 April: First CHE National Conference in Morecambe.
31 May: CHE members appear on Mavis Nicholson’s Good Afternoon programme on Thames Television.
July: Paul Temperton resigns, intending to leave in September. Allan Horsfall resigns as Chairman, but is persuaded to stay on until a new General Secretary is found. He subsequently becomes President for Life. Martin Stafford, now feeling totally isolated within the organisation, also resigns.
June: CHE has over 3,000 members and 70 local groups.
Other gay events
COC organises an international rights seminar in Amsterdam. Six countries attend.
Icebreakers founded, an offshoot of the GLF counter-psychiatry group. Early members include Nettie Pollard, and Peter Norman and Roger Baker from CHE.
19 July: CHE disaffiliates from NFHO, following the example of SMG. If Grey ever had any Napoleonic ambitions, which he denies, they are now as dust.
15 December: The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its second Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II). This is first reflected in the seventh printing of the manual the following year. This follows a campaign led by Frank Kameny and American GLF. At the 1971 APA Conference Kameny seizes the microphone and yells, ‘Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate, psychiatry has waged a relentless war of extinction against us.’
In the news ...
West Germany reduces homosexual age of consent from 21 to 18. It remains 14 for heterosexuals.
22 January: The US Supreme Court judgement in the case of Roe v. Wade overturns the right of US states to outlaw abortion.
8 March: Provisional IRA plants bombs in the Old Bailey and Whitehall. In September there are further bombs in King’s Cross and Euston stations, and in Oxford Street and Sloane Square. Suddenly the activities of the Angry Brigade seem very small beer.
3 April: First hand-held mobile phone call made by Motorola inventor Martin Cooper. The phone weighs about 2 kg.
12 April: Labour takes control of the Greater London Council. Illtyd Harrington becomes chairman of Policy and Resources. Harrington is gay, and becomes the focus for new attempts to obtain funding for lesbian and gay causes, including a Gay Centre.
20 September: Tennis champion Billy Jean King beats Bobby Riggs in a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ circus which the world’s Number One female player takes on mainly in order to stop the disreputable antics of a loudmouth hustler bringing the game into disrepute. Rampant speculation that she is a lesbian is confirmed during a ‘palimony’ suit in 1980, making King the first tennis player to come out.
17 October: OPEC starts an oil embargo against countries which supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war, triggering an oil crisis. Over a year the price of crude oil rises from $3 to $12 a barrel. The UK escapes direct sanctions because Edward Heath refuses to allow US planes to use British airfields to fly arms to Israel, and the Government embargoes sales of arms and supplies to either side. However, it can’t escape the price increases caused by the ubiquitous use of petroleum products in manufacture, and transport costs. The small hatchback car becomes popular.
Lou Reid’s Walk on the Wild Side reaches No 10 in UK singles chart, in a bowdlerised version which omits lines about oral sex. The version from the LP is popular at gay discos, and Goodnight Ladies, also from the album Transformer, often closes proceedings.
Rita Mae Brown publishes Rubyfruit Jungle. What might have been seen as just another coming-of-age lesbian novel is made unique by its savage sense of humour and its Southern setting. In its day its explicitness was remarkable.
Francis Bacon paints the Black Triptych, reflecting his grief at the suicide of his partner George Dyer.
6 March: Granada’s World in Action broadcasts Conversations with a gay Liberal.
26 March: Death of Noël Coward.
13 July: Fassbinder scripts and produces Tenderness of the Wolves, about a homosexual rapist and murderer who drinks the blood of his boy-victims, strips their flesh for dinner parties with his cannibal friends, and boils the bones for soup. Makes Cruising look like Love Story. Later claimed as a satire on the predatory commercial gay scene. Come now, The Fridge was never like this.
29 September: Death of W. H. Auden.
8 October: LBC starts broadcasting in London.
30 October: Armchair Theatre’s Golden Road sees Cass and Jim take in a lodger, Anna, and Cass and Anna end up sleeping together. Jim walks out, taking their daughter with him. It’s clear that the only way Cass is going to see her daughter again is by stopping seeing Anna. The play ends on a shot of Anna standing at the front door, locked out of the house. Heart-breaking. Nowadays this would be a great campaigning tool for lesbians, but this was pre-video recorders for most people.