I used to work in a psychiatric hospital where one of the patients thought he was a messenger of God and claimed to speak with divine authority. He was kept locked away because people thought he was mad.
Now I hear of a similar case in Italy (courtesy of The Daily Express). There’s an old chap there purporting to be speaking with holy inspiration. The difference between the two cases is that everyone felt sorry for the first, but several million people actually listen to and approve of the second.
I’m talking about His Holiness, of course, and far be it from me to be disrespectful, but his latest pathetic pontiff-ication is sheer Papal Bull.
He trots out the same old half-baked ideas as before. Homosexuals are more to be pitied than blamed, but just in case some of you Quest members were under the impression that jolly John Paul was about to sanction your practices, you can forget it. [Note: Quest was a group for gay Catholics.]
Homosexuality, as far as the Vatican is concerned, is still a first-league sin. So, those of you who’ve been up to your tricks had better get straight down to confession and tell all.
In The Mail on Sunday, Peter McKay reports on a revolting Washington DC disc jockey called Gary D. Not only was his programme blatantly racist, he referred to homosexuals as “faggots”, “queers” and, mysteriously, “bedwetters”.
He was sacked from the radio station KIX Country and, you would have thought, good riddance. But horror of horrors, there were hundreds of protest calls — not complaining about his remarks (“Get your guns and kill a commie today”) but about the fact that he had been fired.
Not to be outdone, this repugnant redneck has now dedicated his life to “finding a cure for homosexuality.”
He should be careful that homosexuals don’t take his advice — and their guns — and find a cure for him.
I was hoping upon hope that The Sun was changing its tune when it came to its attitude to gays, but I have to retire disappointed to the blue corner.
It recently printed one of the crudest smear-jobs on the Greenham Peace Women I’ve yet seen (“Four out of five are lesbians”) which insisted that because most of the women are gay their opinions can be safely ignored.
It followed this up with a news item “Go-go girls threatened by lesbians” about a protest by women at Glasgow University. It used phrases like “butch members of Glasgow Women’s Union” and called the protestors a “lesbian mob”.
It’s an old ploy to label your opponents gay, it negates any message they might be putting across immediately. And so The Sun sinks slowly in the west. If only it would.
Several papers reported that Jeremy Thorpe, “disgraced ex-Liberal leader” might be thinking of a comeback.
I hope he doesn’t. He’s suffered enough humiliation at the hands of the establishment. If he tries to re-enter public life, I fear he is asking for the same again.
“The Voice of the (Sunday) People” raised the terror of the gay menace again recently. This time the object of their righteous fervour was arch-threat to civilization Marilyn.
Marilyn is a transvestite pop singer who performs in drag and slap. He isn’t a very good singer but it isn’t the music the ever-vigilant PEOPLE is worried about, but the “kind of pouting performance you might expect to encounter in a gay bath house in San Francisco.”
Like some kind of time-warp back to the early sixties, Marilyn was criticized by the paper for “thrusting his pelvis” and for giving a “raunchy routine” that was “more sickening than sexy” on Top of The Pops — “a young people’s programme watched by millions of children all over the country.”
This was the editorial comment on a day when the arrival of Cruise missiles was announced, when the situation in Lebanon deteriorated and when the Ministry of Defence were found to be wasting billions of pounds.
As a newspaper, THE SUNDAY PEOPLE would make pretty good papier-mache.
Hands up those who saw the NEWS OF THE WORLD story headlined “Gay Confessions of a Kennel Club Top Dog”? Now hands up those who understand what the hell it was about?
As far as I could make out, Major Charles Carmichael was sacked from his job as secretary of the Kennel Club because he had sex with a 12-year-old boy some ten years ago. The Major, a born-again Christian, felt the need to “purge himself”.
But why he made his confession at a publicity lunch of the Kennel Club wasn’t clear, and where the blind girl and the faith healer fitted in was equally obscure.
However, there were a couple of quotes that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of Joe Orton’s loopy comedies.
“The Lord let me know clearly he was sending me to the Kennel Club so I would be witness to his glory,” the Major is reported as saying. “I have purged myself. I was only a closet gay and the incident with the 12-year old did not involve full intercourse.”
Major Carmichael is, by the way, a member of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship. Confused? You’re not the only one.
Gossip columnists obviously have a hard time filling their columns. Much of their material is weak in the extreme and their ‘wit’ for the most part embarrassing. And nowadays it seems only homosexuality is scandalous enough to raise eyebrows. There are few other subjects ‘gossips’ can sneer at and get away with it.
They’ve had a field day with poor old Elton John. But then, Elton does seem to ask for it. Not happy with just quietly getting married he has to give journalists all the ammunition they need to shoot him down. [Note: Elton John married German recording engineer Renate Blauel on 14 February 1984].
“Straight talking John Smith” in The Sunday People started his item with the hilariously witty and original “Oh my goodness, what a gay day”, and to prove what a wag he is he included the phrase “good on yer, yer pommy poofter”.
William Hickey in THE DAILY EXPRESS headed his tribute “Elton and The Boys He Leaves Behind-which managed to avoid the libelous while leaving little of Elton’s past gay life unexplored.
From other sections of the papers the overwhelming message to Elton was: “We knew you were really one of us all the time. Nice to know you’re normal.”
When, er, I mean if,the marriage ends, Elton is going to reap a nasty harvest from the sick publicity machine he is courting.
Another favourite target for the columnists is Peter Tatchell. Described in THE DAILY MIRROR by the execrable Peter Tory as “an admitted homosexual”.
Tatchell found himself in the limelight again because it is exactly a year since his notorious Bermondsey debacle.
That’s enough for the papers to rake it all over again and throw any residual mud at Tony Benn. Peter Tory, the MIRROR’s ‘gossip’ seemed positively gleeful in reporting that Tatchell had almost been shoved under a bus and threatened with several kinds of death.
Meanwhile, William Hickey again, this time reporting that Gay News has taken a poll in gay circles and found Neil Kinnock to be “man of the year” (a fact which the publisher of GN, raving right-winger Nigel Ostrer wasn’t pleased about). [Note: Nigel Ostrer bought the title Gay News from Denis Lemon after the original folded, but the new version did not last long and the title was sold on to Millivres and was incorporated into Gay Times].
According to Hickey, Neil Kinnock’s reaction on hearing the news was “That’s all I need right now”. There is evidence to suggest that Kinnock is a homophobe — but I still resent Hickey trying to use homosexuality as a chisel to chip away at the Labour leader’s reputation. It seems to be an increasing habit in the press — associate your worst enemy with homosexuality (however vaguely) and hope that his popularity will plummet. The evidence seems to suggest that it doesn’t work anyway.
One person who can’t be caught in that particular trap is Christopher Isherwood. THE STANDARD Diary reports that Isherwood recently met Bob Fosse, the man who turned the book Goodbye to Berlin into the film Cabaret.
Isherwood hated the film because it suggested that there was more to his relationship with the singer Sally Bowles than mere friendship. The irate Isherwood said: “I never slept with a woman in my life.” Hard for THE STANDARD to make innuendo out of anything as plain as that.
THE SUNDAY EXPRESS gossip column, however, carried a cleverly-worded piece about Rock Hudson and his manager Tom Clarke.
Although nothing was said directly, there was enough suggestion and insinuation to get the message over loud and clear.
THE DAILY MIRROR and THE SUN carried the story of the lesbian couple who had been allocated a flat by Hereford Council. THE MIRROR said: “the women are jumping the queue because they are being treated as a married couple.”
But as lesbians can’t get married, there would be no hope of them ever being housed if the MIRROR’s criterion were applied. Never mind, I thought, the councillors in Hereford have their hearts in the right place, and the women have their flat in which to live happily ever after.
But then THE GUARDIAN reported that there was to be a “rethink”. The publicity has been so hysterical that the anti-gay feeling in the Council (orchestrated by a Coun. Bert Evans) resulted in the women being “hounded remorselessly”.
Mr Evans said: “If this goes through we could see an invasion of sexual deviants which would mean that normal people would never get rehoused.”
If Mr Evans thinks Hereford is about to become another San Francisco he can rest in peace. Not many gay people would want to breathe the same air as such a bigoted burgher as he.
LIKE a lot of gay people, I have a great affection for Kenneth Williams. In the closeted sixties, his outrageous Julian and Sandy sketches in Round the Horne were like a lifeline to those of us isolated and alone. We seemed to share with Williams a naughty secret joke that straights could never hope to understand.
You can imagine my horror, therefore, on picking up the NEWS OF THE WORLD colour magazine and seeing our Kenny quoted as saying: “Man is made for woman and anybody who pretends that two men can live together happily like man and wife is talking a load of rubbish. Let’s not kid ourselves, there would no life in that kind of relationship.”
At the beginning of the interview, Mr Williams proclaims: “I am a cult” although I’m not sure he’s spelt it right
And like a vision from heaven to prove Kenneth Williams wrong, Sir Angus Wilson and Tony Garrett, his lover of 32 years, put their relationship in front of the TV cameras in THE OTHER HALF (BBC1). It turned out to be a loving, giving partnership with lots of humour and a good deal of quiet contentment.
The other nice thing about this programme was that it explored the texture and workings of a gay relationship rather than presenting another heavy tract on the nature and tragedy of homosexuality.
Sir Angus said he didn’t feel the need to wear a badge saying “I’m homosexual.”
He went one better and declared it on prime time television. In doing so he rendered a great service to the gay community.
In Mary Kenny’s attempted hatchet job on The National Council for Civil Liberties [Note: Now called simply “Liberty”] in THE DAIL MAIL she said the NCCL had been greeted on its 50th birthday by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and other “frankly lunatic causes”. She contended that by Mrs Thatcher declining to give her support it must be proof (if any were needed as far as MAIL readers go) that the NCCL is just another group of left-wing, gay-loving maniacs. Ms Kenny says she will believe in the NCCL when it “champions, everybody’s rights”.
This apparently, includes The National Front, Ku Klux Klan and others with murder in their hearts. Ms Kenny wants freedom for “racists to be racists” — as long as they are peaceful. Yes, the National Front is noted for its peacefulness, isn’t it?
The NCCL has consistently championed gay rights and maintained a justified watch on the police. It is an essential organisation in these times of rapidly diminishing personal liberty.
Peter Adamson, ex-Len Fairclough of Coronation Street, wrote a series of exposés in THE NEWS OF THE WORLD telling earth-shattering “secrets” of life backstage at Granada. There was an awful lot of schoolboy-type sniggering about tits, bums, lavatories and rather childish horseplay.
His memories of Peter Dudley, who played Bert Tilsley, were hardly surprising. He reveals that Peter was a “cottager” and a “harmless homosexual.”
A more tawdry set of memoirs would be difficult to imagine.
Homosexuality has definitely been flavour-of-the month as far as the media is concerned. And, in the main, it has been sympathetic coverage.
The Keith Hampson affair, coinciding as it did with a parliamentary debate on the subject, ensured maximum exposure for the ugly ‘pretty police’.
But did all this attention really make any difference to the situation? Well, perhaps the promise from the Metropolitan Police to “tighten up the rules” is pretty meaningless, but, as far as public opinion goes, I think we have made major inroads.
It was interesting to see how various papers treated the issue. According to THE SUNDAY MIRROR: “Police deny claims often made in clubs that they act as decoys to trap gays.” Whilst on the same day in THE OBSERVER: “Police sources said the decision to use agent provocateurs was taken at a very high level.”
The commentators were unanimously favourable in their support for an end to entrapment. It was as though someone had, at last, shouted foul! and all the media gurus joined in the call for fair play.
Lynda Lee-Potter in THE DAILY MAIL said: “If the destruction of Dr Keith Hampson MP’s career results in ending the vendetta against homosexuals which the police have been conducting for years, possibly one iota of good will emerge from this sad and sorry case.”
John Vincent in THE SUN wrote: “As the police know full well, the real crime that worries the public is out on the streets. For most people safety on public transport and in their homes comes before private morals.” Even the ghastly Woodrow Wyatt in THE NEWS OF THE WORLD managed to admit that he had “no room to cast stones” and ruminated on how the sex drive can “make worthy and sensible men behave like lunatics.”
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH carried a large and sympathetic piece entitled Law, Liberty and the Homosexual in which Paul Williams explored the gay world and its reaction to police activities.
Ken Livingstone was reported in the LONDON EVENING STANDARD as saying: “I think it is absolutely monstrous that in a city where mugging, burglary and rape are the main concern, we have police officers wasting their time around gay bars, waiting for someone to pinch their bums.”
And even the normally vituperative SCOTSMAN managed to say: “Just as in the era before homosexual law reform, the blackmailer was generally regarded with greater detestation than his homosexual victim, so in today’s different moral climate the police agent provocateur might be more generally disliked than the homosexual he arrests.”
I hate to return to the distasteful subject of DAILY EXPRESS gossip William Hickey, but his recent spiteful anti-gay tirades have been too much to ignore.
First, he set about trying to destroy the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality. He did this by publishing the names of those Tory MPs brave enough to offer themselves as vice-presidents of the group. This was supposed to be some sort “expose”, but the story amounted to nothing but spite, malice and ill-intention.
But he went one better a few days later by calling on Sir Peter Hayman, the elderly diplomat recently fined for cottaging, to surrender his knighthood. Or better still — in Hickey’s book — the Queen should take it away from him.
It took a pretty heartless bastard to write, as Hickey did: “After treachery one might suppose that fiddling about in public lavatories is only one down the scale in bringing dishonour to honours.”
He wrote this about an old man who has given most of his life to the faultless service of his country.
If Hickey knows what shame is, I hope he’s hanging his head at this very moment.
REPORTING that Tory MP Richard Alexander had resigned from the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality (see previous item) THE SUNDAY MIRROR says: “Mr Alexander stressed that he did not practise the group’s activities.”
Eh? Can we just have a re-run of that? …”he did not practise the group’s activities.”
Like what — licking envelopes? Organising meetings? Lobbying parliament?
Or does the CGHE have livelier ‘activities’ than we know about?
In an astonishing about-face, Sir John Junor, editor of THE SUNDAY EXPRESS and long-time critic of gay rights, has actually admitted that gays are often treated unjustly.
He was commenting upon the case of Richard Longstaff, who emigrated from England to the USA in 1966 and has now been denied American citizenship because he failed to declare his homosexuality on his original visa application all those years ago. “I hardly go singing and dancing in the streets in favour of the Gay Liberation movement,” writes JJ, “But isn’t it a little tough that someone who cannot be blamed for having been born the way he is should be victimised for not having had the courage to give a truthful answer to a humiliating question put to him when he was little more than a child?”
You’re making progress, Sir John. But hasn’t it dawned on you yet that America isn’t the only country that persecutes homosexuals?
Why not drop a line to your friend Margaret Thatcher. She can give you all the details.
According to THE SUN, ITV has sold The Benny Hill show to Russia. But the Soviets insist that all references to homosexuality be deleted from the shows.
It would be nice to think that the Russians didn’t want to insult the sensibilities of their gay citizens by exposing them to Hill’s vulgar and unfunny jibes. But the truth is more likely to be that they want to keep alive the myth that homosexuality does not exist in the USSR.
Whatever the benefits the revolution brought to the people of the Soviet Union, gays were, as they are everywhere else, excluded from enjoying them.
That haven of tolerance and love, Belfast, has, according to THE SUNDAY NEWS, been up in arms at the idea of Man Around’s gay holidays being made available to Ulster homosexuals.
“DUP leaders lashed out at the ‘filthy’ holidays,” the paper says, and with unusual restraint Assemblyman Wesley Pentland said: “Package holidays for homosexuals are dirty, deplorable, filthy, anti-God and unscriptural.”
Whereas East Belfast MP Peter Robinson said: “I’d like to send perverts and degenerates on a one-way trip to gay resorts.”
Believe me, if I lived in Belfast, I’d be the first one knocking on Mr Robinson’s door begging for that one-way ticket. Anything to get away from the poisoned minds and soiled mouths of these ga-ga men of god.
“Straight Talking John Smith” in THE SUNDAY PEOPLE chides the homosexual community for “hijacking another perfectly decent English word.” He refers to ‘pink’, telling readers that there is a ‘pink’ economy. And the money spent in this twilight world is known as the ‘pink pound’.
“Thus tainted,” he says, “the word pink will take on a simpering new significance far removed from its original intent.”
Well, as you’re so fond of straight talking, why don’t you take back all the words you and your wonderful kind have lumbered us with in the past? To start with you can have “queer” and “puff” and “fairy” and “nancy” and all the other perfectly innocent words you’ve corrupted in your sickening attempts to insult and belittle us.
I didn’t see the gay Play for Today ‘The Groundling and The Kite’ BBC1 but it got a very mixed reception from the critics. THE DAILY MAIL said it was “a honey … a sweet and gently funny play — I liked it enormously”. But THE OBSERVER hated it like poison: “should set the Gay Movement back a good five or 10 years. A few more offerings of this kind and it will all be illegal again by 1985.”
Well, whatever you thought of it, Lucy Hughes-Hallett in THE LONDON STANDARD made the point that despite the fact the two main characters were supposed to be madly in love they never actually got into bed together. “For two men to sit publicly on the same mattress, albeit fully-clothed is still, apparently, a no-no.”
She’s got a point.
The coverage of the Democratic convention in San Francisco inevitably included mention of the gay people in the city. The very visible gay population was lumped together with the “freaks” and “weirdos” who also turned out to protest. “Gays in street riots” said a headline in THE NEWS OF THE WORLD. I was disappointed when I read the story to find no evidence to support the headline.
Meanwhile, SIXTY MINUTES (BBC1) included a song from The Gay Men’s Chorus. The gobby Sarah Kennedy declared herself “speechless” after the item.
Which makes a pleasant change.
FAR be it from me to give extra publicity to the totally useless ‘socialite’ Vikki de Lambray, but he turned up in the William Hickey column again. This time saying he was going to marry some old berk called Sir Hew McCowan. “All arrant nonsense” says Hickey. ‘Miss’ de Lambray is quoted as saying: “He proposed to me over drinks at the Hippodrome Nightclub. He said I looked very lovely that night, very Sloane Rangerish, and ordered some special champagne.”
Will somebody please help me understand?
Lay aside any idea that I’m prejudiced against GAY NEWS because I’m writing for its main competitor. If you’ve seen it you won’t need me to tell you how appalling it is. Anyway, out of curiosity I squandered another 60p to see if there had been an improvement. And the impossible has happened: it has got worse!
In the issue I was foolish enough to buy, Conservative MP Matthew Parris was saying that gays were making “scapegoats” of the police. Can you believe it? His point was that it was the law that was wrong and we shouldn’t blame the police because they have to enforce it.
To the accompaniment of a rapidly rising blood-pressure I read: “If we don’t want homosexuals arrested for importuning we should say so, rather than knock the police for taking Parliament at its word and actually enforcing the law.”
When, Mr Parris, did Parliament instruct the police to use agents provocateurs? I can remember when it told them not to. When did it give permission to the police to beat up, humiliate and persecute innocent people or fabricate evidence in court?
To think that such an article should appear in a publication supposedly produced by gay people is incredible.
GAY NEWS is now only a shadow of its former self and is not only weedy, it is lousy to look at and a rip-off— it’s also positively dangerous.
DR ROGER THOMAS, the ‘disgraced’ Labour MP who was recently entrapped by the police and fined for cottaging was reported in THE DAILY MAIL as being “bitter” that his local constituency party plan to get shut of him. He’s even more annoyed that Neil Kinnock has withdrawn the “support” he promised when he thought Dr Thomas’s resignation might cause an inconvenient by-election.
I would have thought an MP of Dr Thomas’s experience would have known by now that if it was expedient and served their ambitions, politicians would sling their own mother in the canal.
So, it looks like ta-ta Dr Thomas.
Scientists and psychologists can now cease their researches into homosexuality. It has all been explained! What? Are you trying to tell me haven’t seen the latest is of THE PLAIN TRUTH?
For those who haven’t seen it, The Plain Truth is a free handout magazine published (without advertising) by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious cult with more money than sense (haven’t they all?).
Under the heading “Is it true that some are ‘born that way’?” we are told that being gay is nothing to do with hormones or genetics or parental influence. No, apparently, we were all visited by Satan at a very early age and he put the idea into our heads.
Well, that explains everything. According to The Plain Truth: “Satan is the originator of the idea that sex is intrinsically evil, dirty and shameful.” Funny, isn’t it, how it takes the churches to keep old Lucifer’s message going.
Are you listening at the back, you little devils?
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH’s “Mandrake” interviewed Christopher Isherwood in California. Mandrake is respectful for most of the article but then says: “Seeking to provoke, we raise the issue of ‘gay liberation’ in America — its unappealing stridency for instance.”
Christopher was “sweetly unmoved” by the intended jibe and simply said: “I want everybody — including my people — to have rights.” He enjoys being gay and says: “It’s nice to get together, to have your group, your bunch. It’s terrible not to have anything to belong to.”
So we can claim Christopher Isherwood as our very own living literary legend. And have, as a pleasant change, a dignified public figure who is gay with no ifs and buts about it.
More gay telly, treats last month – something which got up the nose of arch-moraliser Mary Kenny in THE DAILY MAIL: “I am profoundly against the persecution of homosexuals,” she said, after spending the whole column condemning us, “but too much pro-gay propaganda makes ordinary people feel hostile.” I wonder what she thinks all the anti-gay propaganda makes “ordinary” people feel – sympathetic?
Her ire had been raised by John Peacock’s play “More Lives than One” (BBC1). It was widely re-viewed, with Lucy Hughes-Hallett in the STANDARD saying: “I hope some toes were curling inside policemen’s boots last night …” She was referring to the cottage-squads depicted in the play, describing the police as: “Squandering whole afternoons in bullying, prurient little games.”
Herbert Kretzmer in THE DAILY MAIL observed: “Despite external signs of enlightenment, it strikes me that the prejudice against homosexuals is as rooted as ever and it was this continuing fear and loathing which provided the source of last night’s play.”
THE TIMES, of course, thought the cottage surveillance “a highly effective way of preventing a private indulgence from degenerating into a public nuisance.”
Sean Day-Lewis in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH said; “The play was a brave and mostly believable exploration of a difficult theme, but was opaque in its realisation of the bisexual capacity for taking its pleasures on all sides.” Just one comment about that Mr Day-Lewis: “Eh?”
Maureen Paton in THE DAILY EXPRESS said that “All he (the hero) wanted was to be treated like a human being – and here was a friend on the one hand urging him to suppress his instincts for the sake of his family and his aggressively liberated male lover on the other attempting to turn him into a card-carrying freak show.” Oh, by the way, subscriptions are due all those of you who want a new card entitling you to be a freak show.
LONDON Labour MP Chris Smith gave an interesting interview to NEW SOCIALIST about his decision to Come Out. With a majority of only 400, straight politicians might think Smith’s decision political suicide. But the interviewer, Christian Wolmar, put it another way: “A cynical observer might say that the timing of your coming out would guarantee that your party would re-select you because they couldn’t possibly be seen to de-select the only openly gay MP.” I hadn’t thought of that – but, anyway, how come Smith hadn’t come out before he was elected? “I didn’t do it because I was extremely worried about what the possible consequences might be.”
At least that’s honest, but I’m always a bit wary of gay public figures who’ve kept quiet for years and suddenly present themselves as shining examples to the rest of us.
No, I mustn’t carp – at least Smith has done it. Now, what about you other Westminster closet cases?
Rupert Murdoch, the Aussie owner of the most despicable ‘newspapers’ in the world was quoted in THE OBSERVER as saying: “I’d go to prison for The Sun but not for The Times”.
If that’s the case, he should have been doing hard labour years ago.
Left-wing councils that continue to promote gay rights really get the Tory press hopping mad. Hackney Council has produced a report that aims to give gay ratepayers the same rights as everyone else as regards adoption and fostering. Social welfare and so on. THE DAILY EXPRESS editorialised: “This is appalling foolishness. Despite the propaganda of militant homosexuals and trendy theorists, most of us still recognise the obvious truth: homosexuality is deviant.” The leader writer obviously had a bout of apoplexy while writing that – hopefully it might prove fatal. On the same day THE SUN, not to be topped, trotted out one of its hate-filled little homilies: “If it were not such a dangerous idea it would be laughable. Impressionable youngsters have enough difficulty coping with adolescence as it is. We can only assume that the Hackney loonies have taken over the asylum.” While the rest of us have to assume that the National Front has taken over the Sun.
A more considered, but equally lamentable reaction came from Peter Simple in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH. He wanted to challenge the “myth” that ten per cent of the population is gay. “When the hullabaloo over homosexuals erupted about 25 years ago, the figure given was 5 per cent. At this rate it should be 20 per cent by the end of the century.” But his real point came later: “What is thoroughly objectionable … is that homosexuals should be treated as ‘a community’ or a ‘minority group’.” He says that along with the Irish, women, blacks and the handicapped, we’ve been identified as a ‘group’ so that our vote can be manipulated by the Left. A tired argument which simply proves that if he thinks we’re that gullible, Peter really must be Simple.
The AIDS hysteria in the press continues unabated. It seems almost every day they manage to find some new shack-horror angle to splash in three-inch head-lines.
THE NEWS OF THE WORLD carried “gay plague” headlines in three consecutive issues, concentrating on the horrifying effects of the disease – on homosexuals of course. “Victims of gay plague long to die,” said one headline, whilst the following week came: “My doomed son’s gay plague agony”. The next issue carried: “Art genius destroyed by gay killer bug”. Anyone reading these stories would have got the impression that somehow only homosexuals are capable of getting AIDS. There was an element of rather sick self-congratulation in these pieces. They all seemed to be saying: “It can’t happen to us because we’re straight.”
Another batch of contaminated blood provided hundreds of column inches for the junk press. The DAILY EXPRESS was prompted to splash: “56 given AIDS killer blood” and told its readers: “The blood all came from a homosexual in his twenties who is now dying in hospital.” Lowest point was reached, needless to say, by the SUN, with a front-page story entitled: “Blood from gay .donor puts 41 at AIDS risk” (notice how, uncharacteristically, THE SUN had reduced the EXPRESS’s number of “innocent” victims by 15). “A gay blood donor with the killer disease AIDS has infected 41 other people it was reported last night.” I wonder how long it took reporter Leslie Toulson to create that first sentence which manages to make it appear that this poor man got some kind of kick from passing on the disease. The not very subtly concealed message is: see how irresponsible these queers are.
The leader-writer of THE SUN took the matter up on page two of the same issue: “In the streets of Britain there are an unknown number of men who are walking time bombs. They are homosexuals with the killer disease AIDS. When they volunteer as blood donors they become a menace to all society.” Notice the phraseology: “a menace to all society”.
I asked the editor of THE SUN, Kelvin McKenzie, whether he was prepared to take responsibility for acts of violence which might be incited against gay men by this highly provocative editorial. “I do not accept that our editorial did any more than urge all homosexuals, in the interests of the entire community, to think twice before giving blood,” was his reply.
Only THE OBSERVER tried to give balance with a small item headed: “Gays not to blame for AIDS”. It described how money was being withheld for research into AIDS because it had been incorrectly identified as a “gay disease”. “Government departments were described as reluctant to seem to ‘condone’ homosexuality. It was also blamed for an upsurge of anti-homosexual sentiment in Britain and abroad, providing a new focus for deep-rooted prejudice that years of ‘gay liberation’ have done little to dispel.” A doctor involved in AIDS research is quoted in the same feature saying: “In Africa the ratio of males to females with the disease is 1.1 to I — in other words almost exactly 50 per cent.”
Confirmation of this followed in THE LANCET, when it reported the case of a heterosexual couple, who had passed AIDS to their child. “This supports the idea that the virus can be transmitted heterosexually,” said The Lancet.
Picking this story up, the papers suddenly dropped the “gay plague” headlines. The gay angle suddenly became secondary as it dawned on them that they could get it, too. Except for THE SUN, of course, which still insisted that AIDS sufferers were “gay plague victims”.
It is papers like THE SUN and NEWS OF THE WORLD that do the whole community a disservice by encouraging bigotry in government departments and hindering research money. But what does Mr McKenzie and the rest of the Sun’s-of-bitches care — “the gay plague” makes them money and that’s the only criterion.
“Noel Coward’s friends are treating with ridicule the suggestion that he had a homosexual affair with the late Duke of Kent, the Queen’s uncle,” said the MAIL ON SUNDAY, pushing its crinolines firmly over its knees. The “allegation” had been made by author Michael Thornton, giving his book about the Queen Mother invaluable publicity in the process.
But could it be true or was it just greed for free advertising? Could His Grace really have been “one of them”? And surely our dear Noel wouldn’t have done such a thing, would he?
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.
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.”
“Vile book in school!” screamed the front-page headline in THE SUN “Pupils see pictures of gay lovers,” was the sub-heading on this so-called “Exclusive” story. It concerned a book called ‘Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin’ published by Gay Men’s Press. It has been available for three years but The Sun managed to discover it the day before the elections for the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority, who have made the book available to their teachers.
The Sun described the book as “a shocking schoolbook showing a little girl in bed with her homosexual father and his naked lover.” A more outrageous piece of distortion would be hard to imagine. It is, in fact, a friendly and reassuring attempt to help the children of gay parents understand their situation better. The Sun typically makes it sound like a sordid piece of porn all wrapped up in incest and child exploitation.
And as for “exclusive” —the book was ‘exposed’ by THE NEWS OF THE WORLD several years ago, and the week before The Sun’s story, THE ISLINGTON GAZETTE was using it to get at the Labour-controlled council there. And only the weekend before that wheezing old windbag George Gale (who has moved from the EXPRESS to the SUNDAY MIRROR) was on about the same book: “I don’t mind what homosexuals get up to so long as they don’t frighten the horses or spread Aids,” he says magnanimously, “But like the great majority of people who lead normal and natural sex lives rather than abnormal and unnatural ones, I get fed up with the gay lobby. The idea that homosexuals form an oppressed minority is nonsense. The notion that they are entitled to propagate their peculiar practises at the public’s expense is preposterous.”
Can you believe the arrogance of this man? Not only does he pat himself on the back for his “normality” he’s got the almighty conceit to suggest that anyone who isn’t exactly like him is “unnatural”.
Not wanting to be left out of this free-for-all gay bashing, that tiresome old toss-pot John Junor in THE SUNDAY EXPRESS put his size twelve in. “Which porn shop is peddling this filth?” he demands. (He’s talking about the book, by the way, not his newspaper.) “No porn shop … the Inner London Education Authority.” You’ll be pleased to know that Sir John’s long-overdue retirement is imminent, thank gawd.
The opinion polls had forewarned the Tory press that Thatcher was going to take a pasting, so they pulled out all the stops in their dirty tricks campaign prior to the recent elections. “Row over call for gay education in schools,” lied THE MAIL, whipping up a “storm” over a leaflet distributed by the Campaign for Homosexual equality to all candidates in the ILEA elections. All the leaflet said was that candidates should try to remember that not everyone is heterosexual. That simple message somehow became “children should be taught that relationships between men and women are not necessarily normal” in the hands of the Mail’s Home Affairs Correspondent Anthony Doran.
Meanwhile, Mr Shah’s tatty excuse for a newspaper, TODAY, proved that despite all its claims to be ‘different’ it is really just more of the same. It went on about a feminist group in Haringey, North London who were campaigning against racism and sexism. With the deftness of a practised liar, the Today hack transformed it into: “A feminist group in a left wing borough has been attacked for trying to turn people into homosexuals.” It’s so ludicrous it’s laughable.
And THE MAIL couldn’t let this story pass, either. They said the group was “urging Haringey council to publicise lesbians as loving, caring, perfectly normal women with special teaching on the subject in the borough’s schools plus the promotion of books like The Joy of Lesbian Sex in local libraries.” The DAILY TELEGRAPH told us of Islington Council’s “Job priority plan for homosexuals.”
Local papers, too, went to town on the “gays-under-the-Labour-bed” routine. THE EALING GAZETTE created a non-story about a local Labour candidate (who also happens to be a priest) after he vaguely spoke in favour of gay rights in a private letter. It didn’t work. The Tories lost control of Ealing along with many other councils.
But has this taught the newspapers the lesson that the more lies you tell, the less notice people take of you? I doubt it. In the run-up to the general election we can expect to see our lives used as a political weapon more and more. I just hope the Labour Party and the Alliance won’t allow this tactic to scare them away from their commitment to gay rights.
Television event of the month was the screening of ‘An Early Frost’, a TV movie about Aids and the effect on a middle-class American family when they discover their son has the disease. The subject was sensitively handled, although it was constrained by the conventions of the TV movie genre. It is reported that the script had to be rewritten thirteen times before production was authorised by the network censors.
On the whole it was well-intentioned and had moments of real emotion and compassion but, strangely, the gay lovers never touched each other, not even in the privacy of their own home. When they were eventually reunited after a long and painful separation they didn’t even shake hands.
By the end, all the homophobes had seen the error of their ways and the whole family was hugging each other and crying, which seems to be the mandatory conclusion to all American TV movies.
However, given the present right-wing mood, we should be grateful to see that American TV can still find time for thoughtful, liberal drama. ‘An Early Frost’ will have helped a lot of people understand something that is still being deliberately misrepresented by other sections of the media.
Much further down the telly scale comes ‘Trapper John’ (Thames TV), an American series which is a sort of cross between ‘Dr Kildare’ and `Starsky and Hutch’. It is shown very late at night for, I suspect, those who need an aid to sleep. A recent episode concerned itself with the attempted assassination of a gay policeman in the San Francisco force. As the injured rookie recovered in the hospital where the series is set, his bigoted father turned up and went bananas when he discovered that his son was a “fag”. Before the programme was over, of course, they were hugging each other, crying and saying, “I love you, pop” and “I love you, too, son”. Zzzzzzz.
Bernard Levin, scab journalist at THE TIMES, wrote an interesting piece headlined “Why gays must not create a new ghetto”. His thoughts had been prompted by a visit to Larry Kramer’s play ‘The Normal Heart’ (Albery Theatre). Mr Levin told us that he fully sympathises with our plight and can see the impatience we feel over the lack of political interest in Aids because it is perceived as ‘the gay plague’. “After decades of brutal incomprehension and indeed persecution, the homosexuals’ desire to assert their nature positively rather than defensively is fully understandable. But to assert it in terms of an entirely separate nature is to risk exchanging one kind of ghetto for another,” So what does Levin see as the answer? “Perhaps we should not think in terms of ‘homosexuals’ at all, much less of a ‘homosexual community’ …But impatience and anger will be wasted (as well as resisted) if they lead to claims for a separate status, let alone a special one.”
There may be some truth in what Levin says. In the end we can’t all live lives apart from the majority, and few of us would want to. But in the face of tyrants like his own paymaster and an establishment that doesn’t just drag its feet over change but actively tries to push us back into the closet, can it be wrong to want to unite and fight? The ‘gay community’ is a political rather than a social or religious grouping. We are so diverse in our opinions, backgrounds and priorities that we could never form a discernible ‘community’ in the same way as the Jews or the ethnic minorities do. Dennis Altman got nearest to it in his book ‘Aids and the New Puritanism’ (Pluto Press) when he used the term ‘gay constituency’.
But whatever we choose to call ourselves, we won’t be pushed back into the bad old days, not by AIDS or Murdoch or Tebbit. We’re here and we’re staying here.
‘La Cage Aux Folles’ opened at the London Palladium to predictably ecstatic reviews. A couple of the ‘liberal’ papers tried some political analysis of the first Broadway musical with a gay theme. Michael Billington in THE GUARDIAN thought it “about as daring as a Sunday school outing”. He makes the point that the gay ‘marriage’ at the centre of the show is too bland and placid to be real. “The show’s trick is to pander to an audience’s liberalism without ever testing it,” he says. Michael Ratcliff in The OBSERVER quotes one line from the show: “In the minds of the masses a lush is more acceptable than a fruit” and then says, “the audience titters because it is true and most of them agree.”
The only thing that offended me about ‘La Cage’ was the hype that preceded it. The male ‘chorus girls’ couldn’t wait to tell TODAY that they weren’t gay. “I’m married,” said one, “And I’ve got a steady girlfriend, let’s get it straight,” says another. THE MAIL said the star of the show, George Hearn, “would like it to be known that he is a three-times married heterosexual father of one, who likes pretty dresses but likes them best on women.”
Eventually Dennis Quilley, the co-star, told THE STANDARD “I am tired of having to answer questions about how a straight man could play the role of a gay club owner in France.” Just so long as we all know—nobody, but nobody who has anything to do with ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ is gay. OK?
A POLL in the DAILY EXPRESS conducted amongst single women between the ages of 16-30 showed that “29% thought homosexual relations between consenting adults were morally wrong”.
Does that mean that 71% thought they were perfectly OK?
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.
The “swirling cesspit”—which, if I’m not mistaken, is located somewhere in Greater Manchester Police Headquarters—has unleashed the backlash we’ve all been anticipating. Those of us who’ve been hoping that reason would prevail have seen our hopes vanishing down the plug-hole. Ayatollah Anderton has rained fire and brimstone upon us. [Note:James Anderton was Chief Constable of Greater Manchester from 1975 to 1991. He was also an evangelical Christian prone to making outrageously reactionary remarks. At a national police conference on how the police should deal with people with Aids, he said: “Everywhere I go I see evidence of people swirling around in the cesspool of their own making. Why do homosexuals freely engage in sodomy and other obnoxious sexual practices knowing the dangers involved?”]
His words were ludicrous, unrealistic, over-the-top and dangerous. They were the words of ignorance and fear and they were the very words which THE SUN and the denizens of another cesspit had been waiting for. “Perverts are to blame for the killer plague,” was THE SUN’s headline (12 Dec), one which they’ve had on ice for some time now, waiting for the right moment. “Why do homosexuals continue to share each other’s beds?” asked The Sun’s leader writer, “Their defiling the act of love is not only unnatural but in today’s Aids-hit world it is LETHAL … The Sun hopes Mr Anderton will treat these perverts with the contempt they deserve.”
You think it can’t get any worse than that? Look at the DAILY EXPRESS (13 Dec) “The homosexuals who have brought this plague upon us should be locked up,” said one of their readers. “Burning is too good for them. Bury them in a pit and pour on quick lime.”
“In leading a moral crusade against the decadent sexual attitude of a society that condones homosexuality and prostitution and thereby fosters the spread of Aids, Mr Anderton is articulating a deep-rooted feeling in Britain,” said an editorial in The LONDON STANDARD (12 Dec) and this seemed to be borne out by a telephone poll on LBC radio (12 Dec) which showed 74 percent in favour of Mr Anderton’s views. The Manchester police claimed 99 percent support for their chief from the “hundreds” of calls they said they had received.
And yet criticism for Mr Anderton’s speech came from unlikely sources. The Government being one of them. Minister’s involved in the Aids education campaign were quick to jump on the outrageous remarks. TODAY newspaper (13 Dec) opined that: “Policemen, it is said, have big feet, James Anderton has a big mouth, too … His outburst … will do nothing to stem the growing hysteria over this disease.” And even THE STAR managed to say: “When the deeply religious Mr Anderton attends church tomorrow, we suggest he reflects on two words of criticism from the Terrence Higgins Trust … unchristian and uncaring.”
But on Sunday (14 Dec) the right-wing press were once more on the bandwagon, causing it to roll even faster. “Mr Anderton’s remarks will strike an answering chord in the breasts of many men and women in the pew who cannot be described as stupid or intolerant.” wrote the Rev. William Oddie in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, “the tragedy that follows disobeying God’s instructions was not surprising.”
“James Anderton is right,” editorialised THE SUNDAY EXPRESS. “He talks more sense than all the Government propaganda we have had so far.”
“Aids should be made a notifiable disease and buggery, almost certainly the main way of transmitting it, should once more become a criminal offence,” was the predictable response of George Gale in THE SUNDAY MIRROR. And finally, THE SUNDAY TIMES warned: “Anderton has served notice. The Moral Majority is stirring.”
Anderton’s speech has certainly lit the sparks of intolerance, hatred and violence, and now the fascists of the press are anxious for those sparks to be fanned into a conflagration. For if this raw incitement to violence comes from the police, then who will gays turn to for protection from this ghastly threat? The “moral majority” have stirred before within living memory, in Germany. There “morality” was that of the murderer and the beast. They were equally convinced that what they were doing was right and “necessary” to protect their beloved country. Is the same mistake going to be made again?
The next General Election will, according to Joe Ashton MP (writing in THE STAR) be fought on the issue of “Aids, homos, lesbians, Loony Left, race and barmy councils.” The groundwork is already being laid by the Tory tabloids droning on endlessly about local authorities and gay rights. Aids has come along just at the right time to add fuel to this fire. And despite Norman Fowler’s plea that Aids not be used as a party-political weapon, we have sad spectacle of it becoming just that.
The Prime Minister has fired her first volley, so we know it is serious. According to THE STAR (3 Dec) “she said she hoped for a reversal of recent trends which have made homosexuality and drug taking socially accepted.” This allowed The Star to headline its report: “Maggie’s Rap for Gay Out-casts—Aids threat makes them unacceptable.” But is this what Mrs Thatcher really said or just the Star’s interpretation? For the answer to that we have to turn to THE GUARDIAN (3 Dec) to find out that she was answering questions from Tory MP John Townend who “asked her to agree that the spread of the disease could be greatly reduced if ‘there was a change in public attitudes, and in particular if indulging in homosexual activities and drug taking were once again to become morally unacceptable.’ The Prime Minister replied: ‘I’m sure that attitudes are changing in the light of information about Aids … and then I think that much of the behaviour that has been going on will be unacceptable for many and various reasons.” Ominous enough, I agree, but hardly The Star’s contention that she has called for gays to be made “outcasts.” Wishful thinking on their part, I suppose.
The Sun journalist with the highest hate-rating amongst “loony left” students is Professor John Vincent. He wrote in 3rd Dec issue of that rag: “This autumn’s Labour Conference voted … for a public campaign for gay rights … absurd though this is. For gay rights today are much the same as anyone else’s, and are not under any obvious threat.” (Where has this man been for the past three months?). “There is not much sign of a public campaign from Labour’s National Executive. Presumably being sensible men, they realise that there are few more uphill tasks than promoting gay rights in the middle of the Aids plague.”
Despite the glaring contradictions in this short piece, Prof. Vincent is probably right about the Labour Party. But I don’t see that the Tories really have any reasoned argument for going to the opposite extreme and trying to take rights away from gay people. Indeed, their bluff was called as THE DAILY EXPRESS (6 Dec) reported: “An allegation about Tory gays in ‘high places’ shocked the Commons yesterday during a Conservative attack on Labour council policies. Angered by Tory complaints about gay teachers in Labour authorities, the party’s front-bencher Mr Jack Straw claimed there are some in high places in the Conservative hierarchy who have homosexual tendencies … He said gays holding senior posts in the Conservative party deserve the same tolerance that Labour Councillors are trying to give in their own areas. He added: “Members better put up or shut up on this because if they are saying it is wrong for homosexuals to teach in schools, are they also saying it is also wrong to seek leadership of this country and to seek prominent position within the Tory party and in this House?”
It seems like a reasonable point at first sight, but THE SUN (6 Dec) wasn’t long in turning the whole thing on its head. “Power-hungry gays have infiltrated the top ranks of the Tory party”, and you see how easily the whole thing turns into a witch-hunt within the Tory party, and how this would add to the growing paranoia and hatred of gays in general.
Indeed, there are signs of it happening already. The SUNDAY MIRROR (7 Dec) revealed that “would-be Conservative candidates were sent on a weekend of intensive interviews by Tory Central Office.” They were told that if they wanted to get ahead, they must get a wife. “All the bachelors in this group were taken aside and told that they had ‘little chance’ unless they got married. The MIRROR says that when bachelor ex-PM Ted Heath was asked about the ban he retorted “It sounds like nonsense”. Another unmarried Tory, Charles Irving said: “It’s a typical Conservative attitude from the Victorian era.” But aren’t the Tories into Victorian values? Perhaps Mr Irving had better watch his seat (if you’ll pardon the expression), along with a lot of ambitious, but closeted, Tory politicians.
Faint hope comes in a quote from a spokesman for Norman Tebbit (THE SUN 6 Dec): “Mr Tebbit knows homosexuals” (not in the biblical sense one assumes) “and has a high regard for some of them.” But then, Norman Tebbit is lower than a snake’s belly, so who’d trust anything he said anyway?
More from the crazy world of Aids reporting. The good news is that some papers have tried to look at the issues sanely, rationally and calmly. Full marks to TODAY (Nov 19/20) for an informed four-page special. Much of the credit for the realistic tone of the piece must surely go to gay journalist Harry Coen. The DAILY TELEGRAPH (Dec 1/2) also tackled the issue satisfactorily with a two-day feature by Lesley Garner. The GUARDIAN continued to be sensible and restrained with several excellent features and letters.
The low-life tabloids, however, persist in their campaign of wilful distortion, sensationalism and trivialisation. The SUN has been particularly nasty, as you’d expect. “Gay Santa Gets Sack—Fairy grotto bust up” said the front page of 6 Dec. They wallow and rejoice in the pain and humiliation being heaped on gay people because of Aids. They, and their sister paper, THE NEWS OF THE WORLD, have harassed and pursued Kenny Everett, almost willing Aids on the poor man. They published a cartoon by Franklin on 5 Dec which would disgust anyone with a grain of compassion.
THE LONDON STANDARD also hit rock bottom with a tasteless Jak cartoon (24 Nov). Aids is causing monumental suffering to a lot of people—and human misery and death are not the material that jokes are made from. These peddlers of hate should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Here’s a selection of other quotes from the past month to illustrate how serious the threat to our lives has become:
“The surest way to protect the public from Aids is to outlaw homosexuality and lock up offenders. —Desmond Swayne, prospective Conservative candidate for Pontypridd (WESTERN MAIL 22 Nov).
“Isn’t it time the Government either stopped pretending that the fairies who started this disease, and the even filthier fairies who keep spreading it, are the fairies at the bottom of the garden,” —John Junor (SUNDAY EXPRESS 30 Nov)
“It disturbs me that the growing ‘army’ of homosexuals is infiltrating the world of children’s television… We cannot allow this to continue. And more especially when studio audiences are invariably brought into contact with these persons,” (Roy Court, CHELTENHAM SOURCE 23 Oct)
“I have no sympathy with promiscuous young people and homosexuals with Aids. They’ve asked for it. If people lived as the good Lord provided, there would be no Aids,” – (Letter in DAILY MIRROR 8 Nov).
“If Saatchi and Saatchi were advising the Vatican, they could not avoid the point that the market needs a strong line on gays, not a gentler one. St Paul’s view on those who in unnatural lusts would be decidedly populist today,” – Mary Kenny (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 30 Nov).
“I regard homosexuality as a misfortunate,” – Archbishop of York (DAILY MAIL 21 Nov).
“Homosexuals should be viewed as handicapped people,” – Archbishop of Canterbury (DAILY MAIL 22 Nov)
“Chastity will become once more a virtue… and homosexual practices – which have brought this disease upon us – a moral, legal and social offence,” – George Gale (SUNDAY MIRROR, 30 Nov).
“The inference that ‘gay’ is on a par with ‘straight’… is homosexual propaganda very cleverly done, riding on the back of public concerns about Aids,” – George Gale (DAILY MIRROR 26 Nov).
“The chief apparent object of last week’s full-page ads (‘Aids is not prejudiced’) appears to have been to protect homosexuals from ostracism… Ordinary people may be ill-informed on Aids but they are not fools. They note that councils pay full-time officials to proselytise on behalf of homosexuality… that books advocating homosexuality are circulated amongst children by local authorities, that clubs and facilities, often subsidised on the rates enable homosexuals to meet, pick up partners and so spread the disease,” – Paul Johnson (SPECTATOR 6 Dec).
“Christmas is coming and so is the Jew-baiting season,” wrote Martin Page in THE SUNDAY MIRROR (16 Nov) “Does the New Testament teach us to hate Jesus’s people? If it does, should the offending scripture be purged of the offending passages? The Right Revered Austin Baker, Bishop of Salisbury and chairman of the Church of England’s doctrinal commission answers yes on both counts. He also says: “Unselective love is central to the spiritual wisdom of Jesus.”
I see. Well, while the Right Rev has got his blue pencil out, perhaps he’d like to have a look at one two passages I could point out to him. Or is his ‘unselective’ love not quite so unselective after all? Maybe the gay Christians would like to pursue the matter with him?
One glimmer of hope is that Gavin Strang, MP for Edinburgh East is introducing a Private Members Bill into the House of Commons which will be concerned with protecting the rights of people affected by Aids. According to THE GUARDIAN (10 Dec) this will include “making it illegal for employers to sack staff who are carrying the Aids virus.”
We must all help get this Bill through, and we can start by writing to our own MPs and demanding that they support the measures when they come before the House. If you live in a Conservative area, you could point out in your letter the damage that viewing Aids as a party-political issue could cause. I would be pleased to see any replies which Gay Times readers receive to any such lobbying?