Parting Glances: A Glimpse of Shocking

Charles Alexander
By | 2016-06-23T09:00:00-04:00 June 23rd, 2016|Opinions, Parting Glances|

There were two newspaper kiosks in once-busy downtown Detroit in the 1960s. One situated at Grand Circus Park. One, at Campus Martius, across from the still-standing, landmark 1877 Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Each month I’d stop at the closest stand, sneak a look up and down Woodward Avenue, and wait for the perfect unobserved moment to buy a copy of “Grecian Guild Physique Pictorial.”
I kept this potent visual aphrodisiac in a brown paper bag when traveling home, sneaking a peek between bus stops. (I was once seen over my shoulder by an attractive guy who slipped me his phone number and an unused transfer. I did not get off at the next stop.)
The 6″ x 8″ fuel for my fantasy life (or, was it, more subliminally, 6″ x 9″?) cost $1.50. There were no full-front nude images. Only suggestive posing pouches. Oiled sleek bodies. Magnificent outdoor settings. It worked nonetheless. Monumentally so!
Some of the photos carried cryptic markings. These indicated top or bottom, straight or gay, whether a professional photographer’s model, or a hustler privately available. Not that it did me or my friends any good. But it was camaraderie of a secret shared from straights.
How times have changed! There’s so much erotica, porn and acrobatic, vibratory, cucumber silliness on the Internet – 90,000 online porn sites – that it constantly borders on being ho-hum boring. Go tumblr kink of choice.
(My initial weekly 105 hours of X-rated viewing has dropped to a mere 25, with fewer cold showers in between. Care to compare notes?)
The Internet, of course, is giving the post office a run for the money. But there was a time in the 1960s when magazines like “Physique Pictorial” could not be sent through the mail. Censorship was pervasive. Terrifyingly so.
To send nude photos or suggestive letters meant arrest. My high school artist buddy Gordon Barnard (aka Rita Hayworth) was a member of the Grecian Guild, a fan club for supposedly discrete networking. The postal authorities steamed open one of his “more suggestively worded epistles,” and he was hauled into court, warned and fined.
Back then – without the convenience of Grindr and DoMeMary – bars were the only place to meet gays to make sexual assignations. The best bars were those with a back entrance. Coming or going incognito was an important plus.
One had to be wary of vice officers. Unless a bar paid them off, and a few did, there was a risk of being arrested for looking at an undercover cop a few seconds too long. It was his word against yours, and most of the time your shamefaced explanation didn’t count in court.
The vice officer who entrapped me when I was 23 was attractive. He said he had seen me around. He offered me a lift home. (There was no mention of sex.) When I went to his blue Ford Thunderbird, it was locked. His partner ran on the scene, called me a fag, yelled dramatically, “You’re under arrest!”
You were expected to behave in Detroit’s gay bars (there were seven or eight downtown in the 1960s). No touching. No kissing. No holding hands. No dancing. I recall the excitement when a private club – the former Detroit Press Club, located above a burlesque theater – permitted same-sex dancing with its $25-a-year membership. Woweee!
Today’s LGBTs take so much for granted. But we all need to be reminded there was a time when we had no newspapers, no churches, no gay centers, no Pride marches, virtually no positive visibility. Nothing but each other. We made do. And many don’ts.
Friendly tip for living from an oldster: Take nothing – or no one – for granted. Do-do happens when you don’t pay attention. Watch your step! The trumpet blares in the distance. Don’t say you haven’t heard it blowing. (No pun intended.)

About the Author:

Charles Alexander