GAY TIMES April 1989

That extraordinary phenomenon the “real man” has been stirring from his Neanderthal depths this month. One of his few refuges these days (outside the pub and football ground) is tabloid newspapers. You can always be sure of a sympathetic hearing for “real men” there. A “real man”, apparently, is one that plays sport, kicks a ball around, drinks, fights and generally behaves in a way would make civilised human beings ashamed of belonging to the same species. What is most likely to send a “real man” into a violent frenzy is to suggest to him that he might be homosexual.

The Daily Star informed us (22 Feb) that “The Los Angeles police department is recruiting GAY SHERIFFS!” Above this piece of earth-shattering information is a ‘Wanted’ poster, from the ‘Los Angeles Poofs Department’. “It’s enough to make Billy the Kid spin in his grave,” says the paper with utter disbelief that “poofters” might do the job of a “real man”. “The Wild West image of tough guy lawmen is set to bite the dust.”

Well, I wouldn’t want to be Billy the Kid, but I wouldn’t mind being a Jesse (James, that is), especially in West Hollywood, where 37 per cent of the population are not “real men” (or “real women” come to that).

And next we travel to Australia, natural habitat of the macho beer-swilling oik who advertises himself as “the real man”. It was in Oz that The Daily Express (17 Feb) unearthed a magistrate who had slagged off the Australian cricket team for “homosexual-type behaviour” and “unseemly activities” such as “kissing which is otherwise not normal.” He was not referring, in this instance, to the bowling over of maidens or, unfortunately, to erotic encounters in the changing room, but about the kissing and fondling and admiring of each other’s googlies which occurs during play.

The captain of the team, Merv Hughes (“a real matey bloke even more macho than Rambo. He’s fond of his beer and a good swear”) was not pleased with this “defamatory attack” on his “manhood”.

Michael Parkinson was commenting on the same incident (Daily Mirror 20 Feb) and he ended by saying: “anyone considering an alternative lifestyle would certainly have second thoughts if it meant being kissed by the likes of Merv Hughes.” Oh, I don’t know, I quite like a bit of rough for a change.

And in the pop world, Bros are reported to have “blown their tops” when an Italian journalist asked them “Is it true that both you guys are poofters?” The report was, naturally, in The Sun (27 Feb). Luke, one of the Goss Bros, snapped back: “Look, we don’t wear dresses and we are not gay. Get it right — we are as straight as they come.” He was so angry that an eye witness said: “Luke looked like he was going to hit the guy.”

And just to prove how macho he really is, brother Matt was “branded an animal” after he “started hurling bread rolls and French fries at nearby diners in a posh San Remo fish restaurant.” He did not bother to deny that he was “an animal”. In fact, one gets the distinct idea that he might consider it a compliment.

And finally, on this fascinating topic, Peter MacKay, writing in the London Evening Standard (13 Feb) gave the last word to the late Tom Driberg MP who “recalled in his scandalous memoir Ruling Passions that, after going to bed with a Scottish soldier he had picked up in Edinburgh, he asked the handsome kilted giant why he was not out seducing women. ‘Och, sleeping with women is for sissies,’ was the reply.” And that says it all.

The new chairman of the invertebrate Press Council, Louis Blom-Cooper, has promised to review the role of the Council in the light of recent criticisms. With this in mind he has created a committee to consider issues such as intrusion of privacy, right of reply and chequebook journalism. The operation and speed of the Press Council’s complaints procedure, including possible development of its conciliation service and of internal newspaper ombudsmen, will form a major part of the review.

I’ll have a few things to say to Mr Blom-Cooper about a complaint of mine which was upheld last month against Ray Mills, The Daily Star’s former disgraceful columnist.

The period between the complaint and the adjudication was a full year. It resulted in a small report of the Press Council’s decision in the 11th March edition of the paper, and nothing else. The complaint had concerned Ray Mills’ description of Victor Miller, the murderer of newsboy Stuart Gough as a “black bastard”, and the Council described Ray Mills’ outpouring as “indefensible.”

So what? Ray Mills just sits back and laughs. There has got to be something stronger than this if the Press Council is to be taken seriously by its detractors.

Meanwhile, The Sun’s internal ombudsman issued his first report (17 February) condemning the paper for “breaking privacy rules by revealing TV star Leslie Crowther’s treatment for alcoholism.”

The paper “was wrong to buy and publish the article,” said the ombudsman.

A few days later, with its usual childish defiance, The Sun wrote the same story about comedienne Joan Turner who was entering the self-same clinic for treatment for the self-same problem.

So much for the ombudsman’s influence over its employer, and I shall tell Mr Louis Blom-Cooper as much. If you want to stick your two-pennyworth in, write to The Press Council, 1 Salisbury Square, London EC4 8AE by 1st May.

Are the papers trying to tell us something, in a roundabout way, about two Tory politicians? The first is William Hague, freshly elected in the Richmond by-election. According to the London Evening Standard (2 Mar) he was recently a guest of the Speaker at a soiree at the House of Commons — the only bachelor amongst fifteen married couples. “He shares a flat with Alan Duncan,” the Standard’s gossip writer informed us, “two years his senior, also politically inclined …”

Mr Hague (27) “who has already had a 15-minute chat with the Prime Minister … says: ‘It’s complete nonsense that you have to marry for career reasons.’”

Meanwhile, The Sun (2 Mar) reported “Young Tories sat stunned as their Conservative leader’s slide show on Russian culture suddenly showed a colleague flashing his bum.”

Apparently, John Kershaw, who is leader of the Conservative group on Manchester City Council, went on holiday with Steve Robinson, “a psychiatric nurse in his mid-twenties” who appeared in the photo “grinning and lying face down on a hotel bed.”

“Oh, that should not have been there,” Mr Kershaw is quoted as saying.

Freudian slip, perhaps?

Gratuitous insults department: “Another surprising finding of the survey was that only 74 per cent of the public disapprove of a lesbian or gay couple caring for a child, and 14 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds would approve of such an arrangement.” — Mail on Sunday (5 Mar).

Speculation has been rife as to whether the quiz show Trick or Treat is to be AXED (as the tabloids love to say about cancelled TV programmes).

The Daily Star (16 Feb) said the slump in the show’s popularity was all the fault of “Outrageous transvestite co-host Julian Clary, who calls himself The Joan Collins Fan Club. The executive claimed that camp Clary’s lewd behaviour, women’s clothes and make-up had older viewers switching off in disgust.”

Lewd behaviour? Am I watching the same show as everyone else? The Sun’s TV critic Moira Martingale opined (1 Mar): “I’m sure Trick or Treat is being axed because of boring Mike Smith rather than camp Julian Clary, who’s rather fun.”

Daily Express reader Marion List of Lancaster did not agree (24 Feb): “The awful Julian Clary makes me feel sick,” she wrote. I know what she means. The Daily Express letters page has a similar effect on me.

City Limits (23 Feb) was enthusiastic: “The unmissable Joan Collins Fan Club perfects the catty one-liner … in this vicious but vastly entertaining game show parody.” This was echoed by a correspondent to The Sun (3rd Mar) who thinks Julian is “fantastic”.

The question of whether or not our Jules survives into the next series (should there be one) is not a topic that will keep me awake nights. But he certainly knows how to make “real men” squirm, and that’s a point in his favour.

“Silence Equals Death” goes the slogan, and I think this is the technique that the tabloids are trying to use on Channel Four’s lesbian and gay magazine ‘Out on Tuesday’. By all previous standards ‘Out on Tuesday’ should have provided endless cannon-fodder for the gay-bashers at The Sun and Star. But what do we get? Total silence. The only mention they’ve made of the programme so far is an unavoidable one-line announcement in the TV listings. Why is this? Could it be that they do not wish to alert their readers to the existence of a positive, confident and well-made programme which totally contradicts their own negative view of gay life?

Of the tabloids, only The Daily Express (15 Feb) reviewed it, and then only to whinge that the Saatchi and Saatchi attempt to “promote homosexuality” got round the IBA ban on gay advertising.

It’s a shame that many potential viewers, who would have been helped and reassured by the programme, will never know it existed, simply because their morning paper failed to tell them about it.

The Sun’s medical correspondent Dr Vernon Coleman likes to think of himself as “controversial”. In fact, his opinions (of which he has plenty) seem, at times, simply daft. Writing in the 23 Feb issue of The Sun, he commented upon the Health Education Authority’s Aids campaign, the one in the straight papers featuring a beautiful woman. “The adverts are designed to convince us that straight sex is dangerous … But it is the HOAX of the century …Last October I pointed out that the Government’s official estimate was that just EIGHT heterosexuals had died of Aids contracted in Britain since 1981.” Now, he says, that figure has been reduced to FIVE. On this reasoning Dr Coleman suggests that the HEA’s spending of “£3.5 million of YOUR money” is simply “pointless, misleading and unnecessary”.

However, on 2 March, The Independent was quoting Mr Chris Daykin, chairman of the Aids working party of The Institute of Actuaries, as predicting that Aids among heterosexuals could exceed the cases among homosexuals by the first decade of the next century. “It seems likely that heterosexually-acquired infections are growing quite fast,” he says, “albeit from a small base.”

As usual, the advice proffered for confounding these predictions is for heterosexuals follow the gay lead and “significantly change their behaviour.” Such a thing is though unlikely when you have the likes of Dr Vermin Coleman encouraging a potentially fatal complacency among the people who have proved they do not want to hear the message.

I know that some tales get better for the telling, but The Sun excelled itself on March 6th when it recounted the story of the lion that was used as a gimmick at one of the Hippodrome nightclub’s gay nights. The incident took place at least two years ago, but you know The Sun — always first with the news. Anyway, according to the article, the lion “went berserk”, not because it was being used as an unwilling prop in a cabaret but because “the air was filled with the fumes of an illegal sexual stimulant amyl nitrite… ‘As soon as the lion got one whiff of that it went berserk,’ recalls the club’s former Press officer, Paul Kassel. ‘We ended up with hundreds of squealing gays running over each other in every direction, stabbing each other with their false nails in their panic.”

Maybe they outlawed poppers while I wasn’t looking, but I don’t think so. The Sun is simply inaccurate to say that amyl nitrite is an “illegal” substance- — the rest of the article is a bit hard to believe, too.

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