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Parting Glances: Outing the Stonewall Inn

By | 2017-05-25T09:00:00-04:00 May 25th, 2017|Opinions, Parting Glances|

Back in the days when closets were leased for a lifetime, it was Standard Operating Protection to go by a nickname. Some SOPs I recall are Little Bobby, Little Pat, Estralita, Marshmallow, T.D. (Tall Dick), Savoy, B.J. (Butch Jimmy), Miss Bruce, and, among Dykes Anonymous: Big Red, Skye, Petey, Speedy, Rusty, Drano, Big Birdie.
Long before the esophageal advent of gay porn stars, I was actually introduced to a guy — of dubious intellectual turpitude, to be sure — who went by the alias of Dallas Copenhagen. Cope for short. (I suspect he no longer holds dual citizenship, or turpitude of any kind, in this world.)
I debuted at 19 with the user-friendly SOP Also-Ran. (I changed it to Brando when hitchhiking.) Our nicknames provided a protective distancing ’til we found out whom we could trust as lover, friend or washroom towel attendant.
Nicknames kept nasty people from calling our folks, employers, shrinks, parole boards and made blackmail (an ever-present danger) less likely. Speaking of which: I was quite surprised to learn that the famous Stonewall Inn — where the Gay Lib movement began in 1969 — was also a home base for blackmailers operating on a well-coordinated, profitable scale.
According to historian David Carter’s “Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution,” the Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn operated under a loophole membership license. Members were to bring their own booze for bartender pouring (with tips). In actuality, booze — watered down booze — was sold on the premises.
Prospective Stonewallers filled out index cards: name, address, telephone number. The usual scribble. Bartenders — gay-hating thugs, hand-picked for the blackmail sting — sized up new customers. Anyone who appeared well-dressed (even casually so) — who seemed several cuts above the usually impoverished street queens who regularly danced there — was fair game.
Cute waiters (all gay) were ordered to be friendly with these “scores.” Chat them up. Gradually — after a few drinks or bar visits — finding out where they worked, what make of car they drove, etc. Hustlers were also threatened to come on to these newcomers, tricking with them, getting them stewed, stealing their wallets.
According to Carter, the blackmail ring operated mostly in New York City and Chicago: “(The ring’s) scope and size were staggering: having operated for almost 10 years, the ring had victimized close to a thousand men (netting $2 million) who were highly successful.
“Among those listed (in the police investigation) were the head of the American Medical Association, two army generals, Admiral William Church (suicide), a Republican member of Congress from New Jersey ($50,000), a Princeton professor, ‘a leading motion picture actor,’ ‘a musician who made numerous appearances on television,’ heads of business firms, ‘a much admired television personality’ and ‘a British producer.'”
The shaved-head arachnid behind the blackmail spider web was Francis P. Murphy, known among his cronies as “The Skull.” His criminal record began at conception. His crime den was above the club.
But Murphy proved a canny operator. He managed to sidestep indictment, time after time. For one important reason: a buddy-buddy photo with America’s Big Ms., er, Mr. Untouchable: J. Edgar Hoover, head of the F.B.I.
Writes Carter, “… investigation into the nationwide blackmail ring had turned up a photograph of Hoover ‘posing amiably’ (in drag?) with the racket’s ringleader, and had uncovered information that Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s lover, had himself ‘fallen victim to the extortion ring.’
“After federal agents joined the investigation, both the photograph of Hoover and the documents about Tolson disappeared.” Poof!
Oh, yes; Hoover’s Standard Operating Protection — Dick Tracy. Tolson’s: Tess Trueheart. (And, please remember when out driving: It’s Brando, not Also-Ran. Please honk. I’m a little deaf at 2 a.m.)

About the Author:

Charles Alexander