GAY TIMES 85, September 1985

We’ve been well represented on telly this month starting with a modest little American documentary called Greetings from Washington (C4), a simple record of the 1979 Gay Pride march there. Then we were given a chilling glance of what life was like for gays in pre-1967 Britain in the Dirk Bogarde film Victim (C4). It is difficult to believe that only twenty years separates us from those terrible times.

Those intervening two decades are supposed to have been the “permissive” era and in Twenty Years On (ITV), David Frost chaired a lively, if superficial, discussion about the whole thing, including contributions from Denis Lemon, Richard Kirker and Germaine Greer. There was cheering news that a Gallup poll revealed that 82% of the British public thought that “homosexuals have rights”.

What seemed to be emerging was that people don’t feel happy with ‘movements’—be they gay or women’s—but they have no trouble accommodating individual people’s needs and feelings.

Germaine Greer popped up again presenting a religious programme called Choices (BBC1) in which sexuality—and particularly homosexuality-was discussed from a ‘spiritual aspect.’ Instead of the usual stereotyped responses from the fundamentalists, we had a rational (as far as reason can enter into religion) debate which came down firmly in favour of progress. Perhaps, though, this had something to do with the composition of the participating panel than a real change of heart amongst orthodox religionists.


The most pervasive image in the papers last month was that picture of Rock Hudson—gaunt and enfeebled. Day after day the same sunken-eyed, hollow-cheeked face looked out from headlines which ranged from “Rock Hudson Dying of Cancer” (SUN) to—when Aids was confirmed—”I saw Rock Wed Man” (NEWS OF THE WORLD), and the floodgates opened once more.

Poor Rock Hudson. The vultures have swooped in to pick at his bones before he’s even dead. “Our gay nights out with AIDS victim Rock” gloated THE SUN whilst THE STAR ran a three-day series purporting to be “the truth about Rock Hudson” which told us nothing but that Rock Hudson is gay and dying from Aids.

All the old clichés were wheeled out “Living a lie”, “secret torment” “bizarre lifestyle” and so on. Oh how they wallowed in it. John Junor in THE SUNDAY EXPRESS said: “There is rightly much public sympathy for Mr Hudson. Might there not have been more if when suspecting, as he must have done, the nature of the ailment from which he was suffering, he had not gone out of his way, as do homosexuals who offer blood, to place other and innocent people in danger.”

Innocent? What is Rock Hudson supposed to be guilty of? As far as the vile Junor is concerned he is guilty simply of being gay.

But who will be the next victim for them to “expose”? The rush to deny gayness has been rather undignified. Burt Reynolds is the hot favourite—he is reported to be suffering from some unnamed illness but insists it is not you-know-what. And the sneaky William Hickey in THE DAILY EXPRESS carried a little piece about Rudolph Nureyev. Apparently, the ballet star has had pleurisy and pneumonia. “He just overworked himself so was vulnerable,” his London agent Tony Barlow was quick to point out. But we got Sickey’s message.


Also, anxious for the world to know that they are not gay are George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham. “Gay? I’ve never been in love says George” in THE STAR. THE SUNDAY MIRROR carried much the same kind of thing from Wayne Sleep “Don’t Call Me Gay—why bachelor Wayne sleeps alone.” THE MIRROR said that Boy George had a “secret lover”—none other than Jon Moss, drummer of Culture Club. But what does Jon have to say about this? Very little, but his spokesman says: “This is so ridiculous.” Thanks a bundle you guys.


But back to Aids and how is this for five-star hypocrisy? THE DAILY TELEGRAPH carried an editorial that chided newspapers for, “a tendency to hysteria and myth”. It then goes on to say: “Moreover the scarcely concealed glee in some quarters about divine retribution for perversion is at best lacking in any Christian compassion, and at worst morally repugnant.” But wasn’t it this same newspaper that only recently wrote about the temptation to “gloat over the sufferings of homosexuals”? Now they say: “Homosexuals are seen as carriers of a deadly disease, and a threat to society at large. In this climate, a typical response … is for the gay community to retrench even further into a stereotyped politicised minority. Nothing could be more detrimental to better understanding nor be guaranteed to bring this controversy to a more bitter and fruitless end.”

Isn’t this rich coming as it does from Fleet Street which has consistently ignored the real needs of homosexuals and continues to present us as “bizarre” and “weird”. I think it’s what’s called a no-win situation.

Take THE SUN which carried this gem: “The sickest joke among America’s 12 million gays goes like this. Son: Mom, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is I’m gay. The good news is I’m dying.” I would stake my arm that such a “joke” did not emanate from the gay community—more likely from the sick minds festering in the Sun offices.

Meanwhile, THE DAILY MAIL tells us that “Aids is spreading through Europe as rapidly as in America, says the World Health Organisation.” Does the Government listen? “The country is sitting back waiting for half a million people to be infected, instead of the 10,000 or so that we have at present,” said Professor Julian Peto in THE OBSERVER. “We are heading inexorably towards an Aids crisis like the one in America today.”

To demonstrate this Government’s strange priorities, I quote Dr Richard Tedder, consultant virologist at the Middlesex Hospital in the same OBSERVER feature: “We are planning to spend £10 million a year screening all the blood in the transfusion service, which will prevent about 50-100 patients from receiving affected blood. Why are we not spending £100 million on trying to prevent the 10,000 infected people from spreading the disease by sexual contact and other means?” Dr Jon Weber of St Mary’s Hospital said the Government was showing “incredible complacency.”

Maybe the first shot in a gigantic threat to us all was fired in THE TIMES. Dr John Griffin said that there should be “compulsory” screening of male and female prostitutes and “Laws aimed at trying to ensure that Aids sufferers do not pass on the infection are being considered in Sweden”. Then he says: “If the morbidity and mortality due to Aids is to be contained, it could well be necessary to take swift action in a number of controversial areas.”

What these “controversial areas” might be is not clear, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to know what our enemies would like to see. The Government, which is starving researchers and educators of funds, is no friend of gays. We are vulnerable and our only hope is responsibility and a united voice in the face of hostility.


William Hickey reports that Lord Snowdon “chose author Charles Castle to write the first biography of his bachelor uncle Oliver Messel” but told him that he must not mention the interior decorator and stage designer’s homosexuality.

Well, that’s one little volume I won’t be soiling my hands with.


THE LONDON STANDARD says, “A million people who work with children are to be subject to new police vetting to make sure they do not have records of sex offences, Home Secretary Leon Brittan announced today.”

That sounds like bad news for all those gays who work in “sensitive” jobs with young people. For my personal experience is that you don’t have to have a criminal record to find yourself on the police computer listed as gay.

GAY TIMES 87, November 1985

The reporting of Aids continues at screaming pitch. The treatment given to the subject varies enormously and as you’d expect it was THE SUN that scraped the floor of the sewer. “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids,” was the headline over one of the most malevolently mischievous pieces of “journalism” I’ve yet seen. Given the criticism there has been over the deliberate panic created in the press over Aids, there can be no justification for giving three-quarters of a page to the opinion of some crazy clergyman to say (in large quotes): “If it continues, it will be like the Black Plague. It could wipe out Britain. Family will be against family. Nobody will trust anyone else and gun law will prevail.”

These are the words of Rev Robert Simpson of Barmston, Humberside. How THE SUN managed to find such a lunatic and why they decided to give such prominence to his opinions can only be put down to an evil desire to add to the hysteria. It was journalism of the most base and irresponsible kind, and there is nothing we can do about it—the Sun sails on impervious to criticism.

THE STAR, in its turn, ran one of those brave editorials saying: “Above all, the public must have a great deal more information about Aids, its effects and the risks of infection. Too many people are relying on rumour and stage door gossip about show-biz stars.” Which is rendered laughable by the fact that on the front page of the same issue is a story headed “Terror in Tinsel Town” which quotes from well-known medical experts like Linda Evans, Cher and pig-ignorant Joan Rivers, who seems to have little knowledge of the subject but an awful lot to say about it. “I have friends with Aids,” she screeches, “But I can tell you, there’s no kissing, no touches.” I wish she’d do us all a favour and shut her cavernous trap for a while.

THE DAILY MAIL carried a ghastly piece about American hysteria. It wasn’t so much an ‘objective report’ as a cover for the anti-gay feelings of the author, George Gordon. “America is gripped with fear, loathing and hysteria over the relentless increase of the killer disease Aids. What is terrifying its leaders is that the national mood is only a twitch away from focusing that hysteria on a human target—the millions of openly homosexual men who until now flaunted their gayness before the straight society.”

He goes on carping about the progress made by gays but is cheered to know that this is all being rapidly reversed. Then he says: “America is a deeply religious country, in which the fear of fire and brimstone is never far from the sophisticated surface”.” This, it seems. gives the born-again maniacs carte blanche to go on the rampage against those they see as the ‘originators’ of Aids. “The tolerant society is fast disappearing,” says Gordon, “Women, children and heterosexual men are catching Aids, and whether it is from contaminated blood or contact, it comes down to two primary sources—junkies using dirty needles and homosexuals.”

He tells us that Rock Hudson’s death, far from creating sympathy for gays has “aroused an awareness and revulsion that has swept the country.” George Gordon’s article ends: “The gay parades are over. So too is public tolerance of a society that paraded its sexual deviation and demanded rights. The public is demanding to live disease-free with the prime carriers in isolation.”

Now just a moment —let’s just look at what this man is saying. “Disease-free lives”? Humanity has never been free from disease and it never will be. What he means is gay-free. And that has implications that don’t bear thinking about.

NEW SOCIETY summed it up when they said that the Aids story is really one of “selfishness and fear”—which brings me on to the arch-practitioner of those two vices, John Junor, editor of THE SUNDAY EXPRESS. “Curious isn’t it,” he said of Rock Hudson, “the way he is being turned into some kind of folk hero? Elizabeth Taylor gushes about how much she loves him … others take their hats off and lower their eyes to the ground and talk about his courage … Mr Hudson may have had many qualities. In my view neither courage nor decency was amongst them.”

There are other human values too, like compassion and sympathy, I’d say Junor had them in about the same measure as a hyena.

At the more sensible end of the scale, NEW SOCIETY carried a large piece about what they called “the worst public health problem since polio and TB were defeated.” The author said, after looking calmly but not very hopefully at the state of research: “There is only one way to stop this disease from decimating the gay population, and possibly killing thousands of heterosexuals too: by altering people’s sexual behaviour.” The article is worth looking up and reading in full—it was in the issue dated 18th October.


THE latest gay play ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ had rather extreme love-it-or-hate-it reviews. Jack Tinker in THE DAILY MAIL loved it: “A triumph which packs its punches far and wide”. John Barber in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH agreed, saying he thought the play “the funniest as well as the most exuberant and perceptive and painful for years about sexuality, inversion and the disorders of modern love.” Irving Wardle in THE TIMES thought it “a revelation”.

But THE SUNDAY TIMES’ John Peter thought it “an entertainment for consenting adolescents. A long run might push homosexuality back into the ghetto from which it had a lot of trouble emerging in the past decade or two.” Michael Billington in THE GUARDIAN said it was “rather like Neil Simon re-written by Barbara Cartland.” Milton Shulman in THE LONDON STANDARD: “Such a soppy ending would have been derided as sentimental bathos had anyone dared write it about a romantically besotted heterosexual.”

Whatever the critics thought about it—and they’ve been wrong many times before—the preview audience on the night I was there were on their feet clapping and cheering riotously.


The Labour Party passed its gay rights resolution. The DAILY EXPRESS, SUN and MIRROR all quoted the single opposing speaker to the exclusion of everyone else. Meanwhile the SUNDAY TELEGRAPH told of the “increased commitment” to gay rights of 10 of the 32 London Boroughs and a growing number of Northern councils, like Manchester. “Council officers say the spread of the deadly disease Aids… has sharpened rather than undermined their commitment to helping the homosexual community.”

The LONDON STANDARD reported the issue of the GLC’s “Charter for lesbian and gay rights”. It quotes Ken Livingstone as saying: “Any statement about our grant for the gay and lesbian community was taken up by the gutter press who systematically tried to distort and twist what we were doing.”

THE DAILY MAIL is angered that Hackney council is giving gays “the same rights as married couples over council homes”. “The risk of encouraging people to claim homosexual relationships was obvious” it quotes. All these authorities just happen to be Labour-controlled. So, just to demonstrate that I am not biased I can report that THE DAILY EXPRESS told us of the Government’s contribution to the welfare of gays: “Government secretary Kenneth Baker is pledged to cut grants. Schemes thrown back include the GLC’s Lesbian and Gay Centre … Lord Elton promised that the clampdown would not affect genuine (sic) voluntary groups.”

Thanks a bundle Mrs T.


Some favourite gay films have found their way on to the telly in the past few weeks: ‘Victor/ Victoria’ and ‘La Cage aux Folles’ gave an exuberant portrait of the funny side of gay life, whereas ‘Fox and His Friends’ and ‘Nighthawks’ could easily depress the hell out of anyone. According to THE SUNDAY TIMES, Channel 4 has relented on its ban on Derek Jarman’s ‘Sebastiane’ and will broadcast it after all with only one minor cut.

Sarah Kennedy led a heated debate on gay rights in her ‘Daytime’ programme (Thames TV) in which the literally hysterical homophobes in the audience humiliated themselves with an incredible show of hatred and irrationality.

An ‘Open Space’ slot on BBC2 entitled ‘Plague on you’ was given over to an attack on Fleet Street’s coverage of AIDS. Ex-Fleet Street editor Derek Jameson and that puffed-up windbag George Gale of the Express condemned themselves with their own words. Jameson came over as a coarse, vulgar and thoughtless chump, as you’d expect, and Gale turned out to be an intellectual of the Adrian Mole variety, with about as much depth as a pancake. Lovely stuff.


Robert Baldock did a report on the Hippodrome’s gay night for NEW SOCIETY. It read rather like an anthropologist’s description of some newly-discovered tribe. I suppose this is explained by the conclusion he reaches about the ghettoisation of gays for profit. “The fact that there needs to be a ‘gay night’ at all indicates how hollow has been the social integration of the homosexual,” he writes, “… what 2000 years of homophobia did not succeed in doing, several years of freedom (under surveillance) have achieved: the domestication of the gay and the consignment of gay life and culture into a gilded cage … Sexual liberation has liberated people to make money out of sex. Gay separatism is a profitable business. The Hippodrome, despite the air of tolerance, is no welfare centre. ‘Tolerance is intolerable’, says Jack Land, the French, Minister of Culture, it is only a subtle, unadmitted form of racism.

GAY TIMES 89, February 1986

Realising that he has latched onto an easy source of cheap publicity, Bernard Manning has renewed his attack on gays. A report in THE SUN told us that he had appeared on the Joan Rivers Show, which is being made by the BBC for transmission in April. Manning is reported to have made crude and cruel jokes about Aids and said that “The idea of homosexuals sticking their tongues down each other’s throats is disgusting.” A member of the studio audience told THE SUN: “Manning turned the air blue. If it had not been a TV show, I would have got up and walked out.”

A few days later THE STAR picked up the story and, after asking Joan Rivers for a comment, made it the front-page lead. She obliged by calling Manning a “fat pig … tremendous hypocrite … and even a secret homosexual.”

Manning didn’t like that last one. “To say I’m a secret homosexual is going too far. That makes me very angry. My mother is 85 and that sort of thing could really upset her.”

Oh deary me. Diddums do it. But you can’t have it all ways, Porky darling, if you’re in the insults game, you’ve got to be prepared to get as good as you give.

Jean Rook, who is not ashamed to designate herself The First Lady of Fleet Street, commented on the spat between Manning and Rivers in THE DAILY EXPRESS. “The ugly-tongued pair were made for each other,” she said. “They should walk off hand-in-trotter. Into their bloody sunset.”

Given her own dexterity with the poison pen, it might well be a case of the kettle-calling-the-frying-pan-calling-the-dish-rag smelly.


Another moaning minny (if I might borrow a phrase from a well-known megalomaniac) is Geoffrey Dickens, Tory MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth. He’s the one formulating plans to get Britain’s gay clubs and pubs closed down, ostensibly to “stop the spread of Aids”. Now, according to THE SUN, he’s had a “death threat” from someone in Amsterdam. The letter said: “Educate yourself about Aids before pursuing the closedown. You drive the gay community underground and we’ll take you with it.”

It ended with a Latin phrase roughly translated as “watch out for the hangman’s rope.”

But if Mr Dickens makes such dire threats at a whole community can he really complain if they hit back – even if it’s only with a letter? I understand that Mrs Thatcher averages ten death threats a week – and that’s only from Michael Heseltine.

Dreary Dickens goes on to say: “I haven’t got it in for the gay community.” The question is: has someone got it in for him?

Let’s face it, Geoffrey Dickens is one of those pathetic politicians (Peter Bruinvels is another) who think that by having their names in the papers all the time they can fool their constituents into believing that it’s the same as actually doing something useful. They rush at each opportunity to an ever-eager SUN with an extreme quote about Aids or gays or child sex or prostitution or whatever the latest media craze is. Because journalists describe them as “raging” “angry” or “furious” it gives the impression that they actually give a toss about the issues they’re blabbing about.

I’m afraid that like Bernard Manning, these men are just cynical media manipulators.


“London rape duo ‘homosexual’ link” was the nonsensical headline in the LONDON STANDARD over an equally silly story. According to police who are hunting two men responsible for 27 rapes of women in the capital, the perpetrators “could be homosexual”. The police don’t explain why two gay men should be involved.

Donning my Holmesian deerstalker I have done a spot of deduction on this case. Because these men are obviously callous, brutish, insensitive, amoral and as cunning as sin, it leads me to conclude that one is a policeman and the other is a journalist.


Channel Four’s BROTHERS achieved one ambition for the gay community. At last we have a sit-com with gay characters you can like and admire. Although American in origin, it has tried to tackle the issues without fudging too much. The gay angles are sympathetic and strongly drawn. The gay characters are as rounded as can reasonably be expected in such a setting.

Individual episodes walked a tightrope of bad taste, pulling back at the last minute from being offensive in order to let the gays win in the end. Naturally it is necessary to introduce the bigotry for it to be knocked it down.

The only thing that fails to convince is the fact that the gay brother, Clifford (Paul Regina), moons around making out he can’t find a “special (man) friend”. And yet he is handsome, well-built, charming, witty and everything anybody could want. His older, heterosexual brother, Joe, on the other hand, has managed to get himself several girlfriends during the course of the first series—one of whom made such violent love to him that the pictures trembled on the walls.

Never mind, I’m told that another fifty episodes have been commissioned and surely such a divine creature as Paul Regina cannot retain his virginity for that long. I’d make the pictures tremble with him any day.


The attitudes of the medical profession to gays is becoming increasingly important as the Aids crisis deepens. The idea of doctors displaying Manning-type tendencies when Aids is on the agenda is frightening. It was interesting, therefore, to see a comment in The BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL on the subject. “When Oscar Wilde was sentenced to a prison term for a homosexual offence it is said that the harlots danced for joy in the streets—while when he was travelling to Reading Goal bystanders on a station platform spat in his face. Since then the attitudes of the public in general and of doctors in particulars have changed—or have they?”

The question was prompted because for the past three years the BMJ has been carrying a small, discreetly-worded advertisement for the Gay Medical Association. Nothing unusual you might say, but the editors were shocked by the vituperative letters they received, demanding the ad’s withdrawal. “Am I to construe that the BMA and the editorial committee support the activities of such a band of homosexual perverts?” said one,  while another ranted: “… you may well be condoning and facilitating behaviour that … is wrong in that it is both perverted and immoral.”

A debate was forced at the Annual Representative Meeting of the BMA, with a motion demanding the removal of the advertisement. I’m pleased to say it was rejected—but one wonders just how representative of the medical profession in general these letter-writers were?


Paranoia bloomed briefly last month when Dr John Seale (“a Harley Street specialist” according to THE GUARDIAN) put forward the theory that the Aids virus was man-made for use in germ warfare. The Guardian could find no evidence to support such a theory. However, the London listings magazine CITY LIMITS took the story up and revealed that “More home-grown CIA ‘plant’ theories were mooted by some in the US gay movement itself … In Christopher Street, New York, the most serious ‘conspiracy’ theory has been researched by a team of journalists working on The New York Native—a gay newspaper … Their theory is not that the virus was ‘manufactured’ but that the State Department has been involved in a massive cover-up about the nature of the disease. They suggest this is because it involves the possible infestation of US cattle and any speculation along these lines would threaten the whole US agricultural budget.”

Well, it’s food for thought.


On the Aids front again, sombre features were included in THE SUNDAY TIMES and the NEWS OF THE WORLD. The NoW two-page spread reported on the work of “New York specialist in the disease” Dr Joseph Sonnabend. He told horrific tales of cases he had treated and the rejection and vilification of the victims. “This disease has brought out the very worst in human beings. A complete lack of compassion. Sufferers are just walking the streets in total despair. People are terrified to be in the same room as them.”

Sonnabend puts some of the blame for the panic on the powerful Aids Medical Foundation which he helped to launch and from which he has now resigned. “It started spreading social messages I found horrendous,” he said. “It suggested the disease could be passed on by prostitutes and was going to eventually wipe everyone out. The truth is there is no sign of the disease spreading outside the groups at risk—homosexuals, drug addicts and people who had transfusions with infected blood.”

Dr Sonnabend assures us he is not anti-gay but, he says, there can be no doubt that Aids has “spread amongst homosexuals because of the promiscuous lifestyle of some.” The NoW made much of this with a banner across the top of the feature reading “Promiscuity and depravity have spread this.” However, the paper admits that things are changing and Sonnabend says: “Aids in America is beginning to decrease. Homosexuals are being more careful. …I believe Aids will eventually disappear.”

I sincerely hope he’s right. But in the meantime the people who’ve fallen victim already are dying in terrible circumstances. THE SUNDAY TIMES did a follow-up report on the story of John Coffee, a young American haemophiliac who, when he discovered he had Aids, offered himself as a guinea pig for research. He endured all kinds of treatments and therapies, some of them extremely painful. His wife continued to kiss and cuddle him until the end proving, as she said, that “Aids is a difficult disease to catch.”

GAY TIMES 91, April 1986

Two gay departures from our telly screen last month. First of all, the curiously lifeless drag queen disappeared from EASTENDERS and Channel Four’s gay-ish sitcom BROTHERS ended its run. My favourite line from that show came when Cliff, the gay brother, had been beaten up by queer-bashers. His other brother explained: “Homophobes do not like homosexuals. They are not homosexuals.” To which camp and razor-sharp Donald retorted: “Don’t be too sure.”

Well, now we have to turn to this month’s parade of homophobes and gay-bashers, and a motley crew they are, too.

We start with Bernard Manning (who is now making his farewell appearance in this column). Did you see the much-trumpeted appearance on the embarrassing Joan Rivers show? It had obviously been heavily edited because gone were the jokes about Aids and sticking-tongues-down-throats. But it was still offensive enough to leave the other guests sitting on their settee looking extremely unhappy and unamused. Perhaps Mr Manning should be given more air-time—his own vileness would ensure a rapid end to his seedy career.


The annual attempt to get an ordinance passed in New York to outlaw discrimination against gays was commented upon by two British columnists. In THE TIMES, John O’Sullivan deigned to concede: “Tolerance yes, rights no.” He wrote: “The central question can be simply stated: is discrimination against homosexuals so widespread and damaging that it can and should be prohibited by legislation with all its potential for perverse and unintended consequences?” He concludes that “Most people hope their children will grow up heterosexual. If they can influence their sexual development in that direction, they will do so.”

This argument totally ignores the fact that there is no hard evidence to show that sexual development can be controlled one way or the other, so what form these “influences” would take doesn’t bear thinking about.

The same subject was tackled in a much less restrained manner by the ranting redneck George Gordon in THE DAILY MAIL. Mr Gordon has featured in this column before, assuring us that “the gay parades are over” but now having to concede that this proposed ordinance has brought gays out into the streets again.

“The bill will add sexual deviance to the list of categories—race, creed, gender, marital status and national origin—protected under the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The big question is why?”

Mr Gordon tells us that the idea is “an insult to the Jews and Hispanics and anyone else on the anti-discrimination list and it is totally unnecessary as legislation unless one feels that the cause of homosexuality, repugnant to the majority of the population, needs some sort of special encouragement.” He goes on to say (and quotes others as saying) things like: “The idea is almost a poisoning of young minds” and “I have a duty and a right to protect my children from sexual deviants. If their teacher was gay, and in my mind that means a carrier of Aids, I would want to yank him straight out of the class… they are trying to force me to accept a lifestyle I find revolting.”

George Gordon is a bigot of the first order and I’m sure he feels at home in America. He isn’t merely anti-gay, he is unhinged on the subject. But much more worrying is that THE DAILY MAIL should give so much space to such a slanderous attack.


Who was it that said statistics are the lowest form of information? I can’t remember, but they’ve got a point.

NEW SOCIETY told us that during a survey of 1500 teenagers, one of the questions asked was: “Are homosexual relationships right or wrong?” According to the magazine “56 per cent of boys questioned and 37 percent of the girls thought homosexual relationships were wrong.”

But surely if you look at that another way it means a gigantic 63 per cent of girls and a respectable 44 per cent of boys thought that gay relationships were perfectly OK? Given the relentless anti-gay propaganda they are exposed to, I’m astonished that any came out on our side.

Statistics have also exercised the already troubled mind of Peter Simple, the strange columnist in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH. “When the great hullabaloo about homosexuality erupted 30 years ago the figures generally accepted by homosexuals themselves was five percent. This has now risen to 10 per cent and shows signs of rising further.” But hasn’t Mr Simple said all this before? He says he is “bored into the ground by ghastly homosexual pressure groups.”

So long as he is bored six feet into the ground, I’ll be happy.

And still with THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, we were given the result of a Gallup poll on the subject of Aids. “Almost one in three adults in Britain believe it is unsafe to associate with anyone suffering from Aids, even without intimate physical contact”. But didn’t that mean that the majority didn’t think it as unsafe? And given Fleet Street’s mischievous campaign of misinformation, I find that quite amazing.

The statement: “The Government would be spending more money on Aids if the disease didn’t affect mainly homosexual males,” drew a 53 per cent agreement rate.

Which shows you can fool some of the people some of the time.


And speaking of the long-awaited Government education campaign—did you see it? Despite the fact that something like 85 percent of the victims are homosexual men, the word homosexual was mentioned only once. The ‘frank’ advice about sexual practices referred to “rectal sex”. The trouble is that an awful lot of people haven’t a clue what rectal sex means, let alone what “lipid membranes” or “T-helper cells” are.

The advertising manager of this magazine, Terry Deal, was quoted in THE GUARDIAN as saying that the Government was “shirking its responsibilities for telling people the specific truth about Aids and was going to use general information about the disease to counter the untruths which had appeared in the popular press.”

Alexander Chancellor summed up the dilemma in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: “If the Government fails to deal with the sexual realities it will be rightly attacked. If, on the other hand, it emphasises them unduly, it will be no less fiercely criticised.”

NEW SOCIETY was less mealy-mouthed. “Cowardice over AIDS” it said. “Anyone with an ounce of empathy will relate to the terrors of the gay community. Even now, in London, one in three homosexual men presenting themselves at clinics for sexually- transmitted diseases have the virus. Anything that lessens the spread, whatever temporary trauma it causes the Mary Whitehouse brigade, must be justified.”


THE LONDON STANDARD published a letter from Elizabeth Bridgett of London El. “I am inclined to pay heed to the theory that Aids is one of the last great apocalyptic plagues, bearing in mind the Bible’s contention that the Creator doesn’t like sodomy very much.”

Oh, so the superstitious brigade have changed their tune have they? At first it was “homosexuals” who were being punished, until the flaw in the argument was pointed out: lesbians are homosexual and Aids is almost unknown to them. So now it’s been boiled down to a specific act: sodomy.

But it seems to me that the wonderful old “Creator” doesn’t like a lot of things, if recent events are anything to go by. He certainly can’t like children very much when He sends earthquakes to flatten maternity hospitals and increases the incidence of infantile leukaemia.

Mrs Bridgett and her ilk can keep the Creator. He’s not very nice if you ask me.


After last month’s SUN feature about gay parents, Deirdre Sanders printed a letter from the parent of a gay man who wrote in protest: “Gay people need love and understanding from their family, not to be condemned as monsters. I’m sure there are a lot more families like ours which are prepared to support their child with help and understanding.”

But days later dreadful Deirdre was at it again: “My gay dad-in-law threatens blackmail”—casting the gay man yet again as the villain.

I don’t suppose people read agony columns to hear about well-adjusted individuals. But then again, I don’t suppose many well-adjusted people read The Sun.


When two people love each other, surely it is a cause for celebration? Love is good and valuable and worthwhile whatever the sex of the people involved. There can be no doubt that there was love of a sort between comedy duo Les Dennis and Dustin Gee. In an interview in THE MIRROR about life without Dustin, Les Dennis says: “It was a double grief in losing my closest friend and what we had professionally.”

But he still has to make sure that nobody gets the impression that it was anything other than platonic. Even though Dustin Gee was gay (“He was quite open with people about the way he was”) Les Dennis still feels the need to say: “There was this awful story about me and Dustin living and laughing together, suggesting we shared a house. It was absolute rubbish. I had a ground floor flat and Dustin had one two floors up.”

How strange that people are so defensive that they have to decry “living and laughing together”. This little rider surely devalues a touching relationship. For whilst the Mirror makes much of the love between Les and his wife, it seems to suggest that Dustin’s kind of love was something less than desirable.

I think it’s sad.


What’s a gay life worth? Not much if a recent court case at the Old Bailey is anything to go by.

According to THE CHISWICK GUARDIAN a man called Peter Fennell, a soldier of Ivy Crescent, London W4, kicked a gay man to death a few feet from a police station. What had the man done to deserve such a violent end? “He touched me… I went berserk”, said Fennell. This brute was jailed for four years, which probably means he’ll be out in two or less.

Haven’t we heard all this before? Or did Harvey Milk die in vain?

GAY TIMES 92, May 1986

Eddie Shah’s fuzzy newspaper TODAY, carried the text of a speech by Noman Tebbit, chairman of the Conservative Party and, I’m told, an extra in the film “Zombie Flesheaters”. Mr Tebbit says that all the ills of the present day stem from the permissive sixties. “Legislation on capital punishment, homosexuality, abortion, censorship and divorce – some of it good, some of it bad – but all of it applauded as ‘progressive’ as ushered in in quick succession, leaving an overwhelming impression that not only were there going to be no legal constraints but there was no need for any constraints at all. Tolerance for sexual deviation generated a demand for deviance itself to be treated as the norm,”

Commenting on the speech THE GUARDIAN said: “There are two things wrong with what Mr Tebbit is saying. First, the problems are about things that are happening now, not twenty years ago. After seven years of Conservative government it is pretty pathetic to blame the wrongs of today’s world on the Wilson era… Was it really a debasement of standards to legalise homosexuality? Mr Tebbit’s speech came close to being outright anti-gay”

The Guardian believes that Mr Tebbit is “testing popular temperature to see how a general slagging off of liberal values will go down electorally.”

Hopefully it will go down with all hands.


The Press Council’s rejection of my complaint about THE SUN and its notorious “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids” story has taught me a bitter lesson – never make a complaint to the Press Council, My disturbing conclusion is that this complaint might have done more harm than good because now The Sun can crow that it has ‘official confirmation of how responsible and balanced its coverage of Aids has been.

The story complained about was, to my mind, a classic example of the sensationalism, exaggeration and distortion that has led to the present climate of hysteria. The Press Council maintained that the article would not provoke “discriminatory action against people with Aids.” This is clearly nonsense. As Anna Durrell, another complainant about the same story, pointed out, the article implied that the only way to stop the spread of Aids is to kill people who have it.

My advice to people who are angered by the continuing scaremongering in newspapers and magazines is to forget the Press Council and find an alternative way to complain. There are lots of ideas in the “Right to Reply” pack which is available for £2.95 from The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.


To illustrate how newspapers feed off the myths they themselves have created about Aids, let’s look at some of the stories that have appeared during the past month.

The CHISLEHURST TIMES reported that Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World is being held this year in Chislehurst Caves. “Sex Show in Caves Plan” said the headline in the paper and quoted a local councillor, Mrs Joan Bryant, as saying: “Ordinary people have got to use these facilities and I couldn’t be more alarmed. Aids may fester in the drains and sewage pipes.”

The STAR gossip columnist, Peter Tory—a man hardly noted for his sensitivity—reported that: “It is proving difficult to sell the late Rock Hudson’s house.” The reason—you’ve guessed it. “People are just spooked by Aids. I don’t know whether they are afraid of catching it from the door-knobs or what. But they just don’t want to know.”

THE DAILY EXPRESS told us that “Two prison officers wore green ‘space suits’ to flank an Aids prisoner in court yesterday. As well as the protective coveralls, the officers had respirators available, they did not carry them into the dock.”

The “Aids prisoner” in question was, it turned out, simply antibody positive (this was not what the Express said, they don’t seem to have grasped the difference between being antibody positive and having Aids). “He has been treated like a leper while on remand in Leicester Prison. His food was passed to him through a hatch and everything he touched, including reading material, was burned.”

The Express also told of the “scandal” of three “Aids victims” (once more, they meant HTLV-3 positive) being allowed to “mix will other prisoners in at overcrowded, under-staffed, top-security jail.” A spokesman for the prison officers is quoted as saying: “Needless to say, the other prisoners don’t know. You can imagine what would happen if they did.”

The MAIL ON SUNDAY tells us that “insurance firms are considering ways of identifying Aids victims who apply for life insurance.”

The catalogue of appalling ignorance, the frightening over-reaction and cruel prejudice continues to grow. It must have started somewhere. Someone must have fanned this panic. For the culprits I think you need look no further than Fleet Street and Wapping.


Commenting on the Government’s advertising campaign on Aids, NEW SOCIETY says: “Isn’t there something missing here—like homosexuals? They do, after all, account for 90 percent of the 305 Aids cases recorded in Britain so far. Yet the word ‘homosexual’ features only once in that ad and in a negative context: ‘Does Aids only affect homosexuals?’ it asks.  No. If your eye happened to jump over the ‘only’, you would get a message that was the precise reverse of the truth.”


In the face of all the anti-gay propaganda which newspapers carry, I wondered whether they actually have formal policies of homophobia, or does it all stem from the ignorance and prejudices of individual journalists?

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is quite open about it. When it announced its ‘new look’ a few weeks ago, the editor, Max Hastings, wrote: “The Daily Telegraph’s political commitment to the Conservatives as the only party currently fit to govern the country remains undiminished. So too does our belief in traditional moral values. There will be no sudden discovery of enthusiasm for Gay Lib in the columns of the Telegraph.”

Well, at least we know where we stand there. But what about THE DAILY MAIL which published that grotesque and slanderous piece by George Gordon last month? I asked the Assistant `Managing editor of the paper, Mac Keene, what their policy was about homosexuality and the reporting of Aids. “The Daily Mail does not have what you call a ‘policy’ towards homosexuality or Aids, just as we have no ‘policy’ towards deaf people or towards diptheria. We cover news stories on all subjects factually as they arise.”

Factually? You will remember that George Gordon’s article contained the sentence “If their teacher was gay, and in my mind that means a carrier of Aids, I would want to yank him straight out of the class.”

And now we have ‘Lord’ Frank Chapple, posing as a journalist, writing in the same paper that Aids is a “homosexual-induced epidemic”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘induce’ as “Bring on by artificial means”. Is Frank Chapple inferring that gays somehow created Aids?

I asked ‘His Lordship’ this very question. He replied: “Let me ask you a question. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if homosexuals stopped spreading the disease?”

My answer is yes, I do. I also think that it would be a good idea if those who have access to the mass media stopped spreading clap-trap about a serious and tragic issue.


On telly we have another American sitcom tackling a gay theme. Kate and Allie (Channel 4) concerns two divorced women who set up home together to save money, and as a mutual support system. In one episode this month the two women decided to pose as a gay couple in order to avoid paying a rent increase. (The serial is in a part of America where gays are recognised as having rights.)

The landlady who demanded the increase was very happy that her tenants were gay because so was she, and she produced her lover to prove it. From then on the misunderstandings and embarrassments that stemmed from the initial lie snowballed.

Kate didn’t like the deception because she had come to like the two lesbians and didn’t want to hurt them. And besides, she wailed, although she hadn’t done much with her heterosexuality lately, she didn’t want to give it up.

As is the fashion in these rather syrupy sit-coms, they came clean —and everything turned out right in the end. The two gay women made friends with the two straight women, there was a little homily about tolerance working both ways and they all ended up at the gay centre having a wonderful time.

Although these American series have a constant undertow of schmaltz, they are invariably good-natured. The gay theme was handled sensitively and the gay characters given a full range of expression and dignity.

Our home-grown comedy shows are crude by comparison—they only seem to be able to present gays as mincing hairdressers or silly waiters. Which says a lot about the state of things here.


Now for the case of the invisible gay customers. It happened at Lucky’s, a restaurant/cocktail bar in West London which operates a gay night each Sunday. In an advertising feature in the WEST LONDON GUARDIAN we are told “There’s never a dull moment at Lucky’s … with our new kid’s disco on Sunday afternoon. On Monday and Tuesday nights you can tune in to Lucky’s jazz-band. Wednesday it’s Ladies Night … Thursday, Friday and Saturday disco nights … something for everyone.”

Everyone? What happened to Sunday night? It seems to have disappeared. Along with a very lucrative band of Lucky’s customers.


Writing in NEW SOCIETY, Jeremy Seabrook warns against the dangers of dismissing The Sun as “a ‘comic’ unworthy of serious attention.” He makes a convincing case to explain the Sun’s popularity. “The details of the horror stories are not important; it is their cumulative effect which counts.”

And, indeed, the cumulative effect of their relentless homophobia counts against us very dearly.

GAY TIMES 99, December 1986

AIDS is once more big news and we are subjected to the sad spectacle of the newspapers trying to convince us that at last they are taking the matter seriously. Their new-found ‘responsibility’ is quite pathetic to behold. The tabloids put on their poker faces-and then sum up an immensely complex subject in three paragraphs. The problem is that the so-called serious treatment is almost as bad as their previous disgraceful behaviour when Aids was just ‘the gay plague’.

Ben Elton, who has a column in The Daily Mirror had the courage to criticise his own paper (10 Nov) for trying to encapsulate such a complicated thing into a brief question-and-answer format. “I thought it unwise to publish such vague ‘symptoms’” wrote Mr Elton. “Apparently, Aids symptoms include dry throat, diarrhoea and fatigue. I get the same effect from six pints of lager and a few fags. Last week surgeries everywhere must have been crammed with hungover people holding The Mirror and thinking they were going to die. I’m not being flippant. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

And a little knowledge is still what the papers are giving their readers. And for all their alleged concern The Daily Mail still managed to carry a critical front page lead (Oct 30) about Manchester City Council’s planned response to Aids. The Council had said that they intended to support and help victims of the disease in their employ and do their best to try and stop ill-informed colleagues making life even more miserable for them. The Tory leader of the council Joyce Hill was given the lion’s share of space to say: “It is not fair to ask a family man to work alongside an Aids carrier without even letting him know he could be at risk. The council should get its priorities right, this is not the kind of thing it should be wasting money on.”

Can you believe what you are reading? Are the people who produce The Daily Mail really so heartless, so ignorant and such downright bastards that they think efforts to help sick people are wrong? Yes, I’m afraid they are. For was it not the DAILY MAIL that gave arch-Tory propagandist Paul Johnson a full page (Nov 4) to return to his favourite subject? “Aids: The danger Labour ignores at Britain’s peril” was the headline over an article which was, as you’d expect from Mr Johnson, full of distortions, unconvincing overstatements and back-to-front conclusions. According to Mr Johnson, you can forget about the conspiracy theory that Aids was created in an American laboratory —no, it is the Labour Party who are to blame for the whole Aids situation because they have supported gay people. “During the past five years, while the evidence of the Aids peril has grown, the Labour Party has step-by-step committed itself to policies which place homosexuality on a moral par with normal sex and encourage its expression.” Mr Johnson rants on and on about “homosexual militants”, “pro-homosexual propaganda” and so on. He concludes: “On the issues of Aids and the homosexual connection, Labour is playing politics with human lives. As the public grasps this fact, there could be an awesome political retribution.”

Mr Johnson might well be right. No doubt he will work day and night to make sure his prediction comes true. What he forgets is that he, too, is playing with human lives, but they are only homosexual lives so they can, in his reckoning, be discounted. Paul Johnson is a sad and cynical man. His shocking use of a terrible tragedy to score cheap and easy political points makes me feel sick.

But at least Johnson’s thinking is his own. For now we have that other right-wing columnist Woodrow Wyatt in The NEWS OF THE WORLD saying precisely the same thing. “Some Labour councils encourage Aids with grants to homosexual centres. So do Labour education authorities telling children that homosexuals living together are as stable as married couples. They also encourage children to experiment with sex. This is murder.”

It would be too much for Woodrow Wyatt and Paul Johnson to understand that unless gay people are encouraged to feel secure as members of society and able to get together occasionally for mutual support then they will become unreachable with the vital information about Aids. The reason so many gay relationships are unstable is precisely because of the bigoted attitudes of people like this. Important points such as these cannot be considered by Johnson, Wyatt et al because they are not really engaged in any kind of constructive discussion, they are engaged in propaganda. But by far the biggest tragedy—and there is overwhelming evidence of it happening already — is that Aids will become a party-political issue. Right wing puritans are already jumping on the bandwagon with their irrelevant moralising, carelessly ignoring the enormous human suffering involved. Foremost amongst these is the staggeringly obsessed Dr Adrian Rodgers of Exeter, who pops up with depressing frequency on TV and in the papers with his strident calls for the re-criminalisation of homosexuality and imprisoning of people with Aids.

If the issue is used to score cheap political points I fear that what is now a huge medical problem could turn into a social catastrophe. This is a problem for the whole human race and not one to be used by politicians as a tool to retain power. And not only are our local minor politicians using Aids like this, it is also emerging as an ideological battleground for East and West. The SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (Nov 9) said: “Whilst the rest of the world frantically endeavours to find a cure for the plague of Aids, the KGB is using the disease as a cynical campaign of disinformation against the West”.

My advice to all the Fleet Street “thinkers”, the destructive so-called moralisers and the super power plotters, is to put aside dogmatic stances and face up to Aids as a tragedy for the whole of mankind. This disease doesn’t care whether your politics are red, blue or candy-striped.


Remember Mills, The Star’s so-called “angry voice”? He’s the man who has, since his column started some months ago, managed to contravene every single article of the National Union of Journalists code of ethics. He is racist, homophobic, anti-women—in fact, if you aren’t a white, heterosexual male you are fair game for Mills’ fascist rantings. And he doesn’t hold back. Indeed, the columns are almost unbelievably crude. The fact that a national newspaper sees fit to print such stuff speaks volumes for the rapidly declining state of the British Press.

Now we discover, courtesy of the London listings magazine City Limits (Oct 30), that Mills is, in fact, Ray Mills, the deputy editor of The Star. He is known to his colleagues as “Biffo”. Mr Mills thinks this is an affectionate soubriquet after the cartoon bear but, in fact, it stands for Big Ignorant Fat Fucker from Oldham, according to an ex-member of the Star’s staff quoted in City Limits.

I suggest that Gay Times readers could make life a little more difficult for the obnoxious Mills. I already have a complaint lodged against him with the ethics council of the NUJ and I suggest others make similar complaints, either to the NUJ or the Commission for Racial Equality when appropriate.

And finally, a world to Mills’ colleagues at The Star: your silence in the face of this journalistic abomination is almost as bad as Ray Mills’ own stirring up of racial and sexual hatred. His violent words will soon incite violent action. Are you going to sit by and let innocent people take the brunt of Ray Mills’ abuse of his access to the press?


The plot of Channel Four’s gay film Consenting Adult (Oct 28) was a familiar one. Young son comes out to comfortable middle-class parents and the family goes into crisis. This was a better than average rendition of the theme, given that it was an American TV movie. Tear-jerking performances from Martin Sheen and Marlo Thomas, playing doting parents who can’t accept that their son has apparently changed overnight from the American dream to the American nightmare. There is much soul-searching before mom and pop really believe their son’s assertion that his homosexuality is “true and getting truer all the time”. Indeed, by the end of the story pop has to send the mandatory “I love you son” from beyond the grave in the form of a letter which he couldn’t bring himself to post while he was alive. Mom agonises a bit more before she decides that she might as well get on with it and invites son and lover home to dinner.

Although it was played as a weepy, the film managed to make a very important point which we’ve failed to get over in political debate. It demonstrated that there are two distinct kinds of homosexual: the gay bogeyman created by the newspapers (who appears to spend his wholetime preying on children, spreading diseases and eating up the entire rate precept) and the real flesh and blood person who has all kinds of hopes, and fears and dreams just like everyone.