Join us as Dorien Grey goes Outside the Margins.
Once upon a time—1966 to be exact—there was a magical place called Los Angeles, to which good little gays and lesbians flocked from all across the land. But it was not always a happy place, for it was ruled by a very mean police department under the watchful eye of one Chief Ed Davis, who hated gays and lesbians and all other “perverts.” While there were many bars and restaurants where gays and lesbians gathered, they were not safe. Police raids were common. The police would enter a bar where, say, ten gays or lesbians were minding their own business…sometimes sitting a few barstools away from one another…and the police would say “You…you…you…and you” and all four would be arrested for “Lewd and Lascivious Conduct.” The parks were not safe, especially at night, and the teller of this tale was arrested in one for merely talking to an undercover vice cop (the best looking policemen were invariably appointed to the vice squad to be spiders in the Wicked Chief’s webs). The Teller had said nothing to the arresting officer that he couldn’t have said on national television or in front of his grandmother’s knitting club. Yet the report the officer prepared of the arrest would have scorched the pages of the hottest gay porn novel. And who is the court going to believe? A squeaky-clean, all-American police officer, or some disgusting, sick pervert?
The day of his trial, the courtroom was filled with equally sick, disgusting perverts who went before the judge one by one, each one having his charge reduced from “Lewd and Lascivious Conduct” to “Disturbing the Peace” and fined $325 plus legal fees. The coffers of the city were thereby kept full, the judge was happy, the police were happy, the lawyers were happy. The entrapped were not happy, but who cared?
This systematic harassment of the gay community (and in 1966, there was no organized community yet) continued until one night, in a bar called “The Black Cat,” a patron was beaten to death by the police during a raid. The harassment continued, but was turned down a bit from “boil” to “simmer.”
There were few gay bars which allowed dancing of any kind…to dare to physically touch the person with whom you were dancing risked arrest. But there was a place, a private club some distance outside of the city and up a steep mountain road, called The Canyon Club, owned by a former policeman who also hated gays and lesbians but was sufficiently fond of their money to lower his high moral standards and tolerate them. At the Canyon Club, you could dance and actually hold your partner during the slow dances. It was wonderful!
However, even the Canyon Club was not immune from the long arm of the law, and the police would drive up the steep road once or twice a month to check on things. But because the club’s owner was “one of their own” they always let it be known when they were coming. There was a small room just inside the front door where those entering had to show proof of their membership and then be buzzed in through a locked door to the main part of the club. There was, next to the buzzer for opening the door, another button which, when the police came in the front door, whoever was checking memberships would push, triggering a flashing red light inside the bar and dance areas. Immediately upon seeing the light, dancing same-sex partners would switch to dancing with someone of the opposite gender. When the police entered, all they saw was men dancing with women, and they would immediately leave, satisfied that they had done their duty to keep the world (or at least Los Angeles) free from corruption.
In a way, being gay/lesbian in Los Angeles in the ’60s and ’70s was not unlike being a member of a private club, whose members knew and kept and shared secrets, and looked out for one another.
And do you know what, boys and girls? Despite all the hassles, inconceivable to those of you under 30, your tale teller really misses going to the Canyon Club.
~ Dorien Grey
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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