Posted in category "Scandals"

Jim Garrison’s Kennedy Assassination Fairy Tale

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 19, 2022 | Categories: Accountability, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

On March 1, 1967, New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw, 54, was arrested at his home on 1313 Dauphine Street on charges that he conspired to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.  New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison said Shaw conspired with Lee Harvey Oswald, David Ferrie and Guy Bannister to kill Kennedy. Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, shot Kennedy on November 22, 1963, from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Depository as Kennedy traveled by motorcade through Dallas.  Shot through the head, he died almost instantly.  Garrison claimed that Shaw was the man named as “Clay Bertrand” in the Warren Commission Report. Garrison said that Shaw used the alias Clay Bertrand in New Orleans’ gay circles. 

Conspirators

Guy Bannister was a private investigator in New Orleans. He was a former FBI agent and an avid anti-communist, with ties to various anti-Castro groups. David Ferrie, a former seminarian, was an airline pilot and an anti-communist activist. At the time of the assassination Guy Bannister was helping Ferrie in his dispute with Eastern Airlines and the New Orleans Police Department regarding charges of extortion and “crimes against nature”—picking up teenage boys for sex.

Homosexual Thrill Killing

Like many Americans, New Orleans District Attorney Garrison did not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone but was part of a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Since Garrison needed a theory that allowed him the authority to prosecute, he produced the idea that the assassination was a “homosexual thrill killing.”  Since gay men were culturally perceived as criminal sexual deviants, they were vulnerable to blackmail and intimidation. On July 15, 1967, NBC gave Garrison a full half hour to explain his hypothesis about the assassination.  “Tonight, I’m going to talk to you about truth and about fairy tales,” he began. Garrison told journalist James Phelan of the Saturday Evening Post that David Ferrie and Clay Shaw “had the same motive as Loeb and Leopold, when they murdered Bobbie Franks in Chicago back in the twenties,” a reference to the sensational 1924 kidnapping and murder of a fourteen-year-old boy by two lovers.

Fabricating a Theory

Garrison’s spider web of conspirators were connected by gossamer threads. Shaw and Ferrie were both homosexuals.  Ferrie and Garrison were anti-Communists associated with Cuban refugees in anti-Castro groups. Lee Harvey Oswald joined a civil air patrol squadron in 1955. Oswald met Ferrie when he was a guest instructor. Under hypnosis, Perry Raymond Russo, an insurance agent, claimed that he saw Shaw, Oswald and Ferrie at a party discussing assassinating President Kennedy. The conversation also included plans for “triangulation of crossfire” and alibis for the participants. 

Russo recalled seeing Shaw on Nashville Avenue Wharf when he went to see JFK speak (May 4, 1962). “He said he particularly remembers this guy because he was apparently a queer. It seems that instead of looking at JFK speak, Shaw kept turning around and looking at all the young boys in the crowd. He said that Shaw eventually struck up a conversation with a young kid not too far from him. It was perfectly obvious to him that Shaw had stared at his penis several times…He said that Shaw had on dark pants that day that fit very tightly and were the kind of pants that lots of queers in the French Quarter wear.”  During the trial a prosecutor asked Shaw and various witnesses if Shaw had ever worn “tight pants.” Shaw said that he didn’t have any tight pants.

Like Shaw and Ferrie, Russo was a homosexual. Russo was Garrison’s star witness at Shaw’s trial.  In 1971, he admitted to members of Shaw’s defense team his story was completely made up, and he persisted with it since he was afraid of Garrison and would not “sacrifice himself” for Shaw.

Clay LaVergne Shaw was big man, six foot four and a barrel-chested 225 pounds. Quiet and soft-spoken, he moved in New Orleans’ elite social circles. Shaw was the former head of New Orleans’ International Trade Mart. He was an amateur playwright (Tennessee Williams was a friend). Shaw was also an advocate of restoring the city’s famed French Quarter, where he owned a home. His close friends knew that he was gay, but it was a carefully guarded secret so it would not affect his standing in the community.

Continuing Harassment

The jury took less than an hour of deliberation to return with a verdict of not guilty.  The date was March 1, 1969, exactly two years after his arrest. A few days after his acquittal, Garrison charged Shaw with perjury.  Shaw spent the remaining years of his life and his entire savings trying to clear his name.  The strain of the five-year ordeal took its toll on Shaw’s health. He died of lung cancer on August 14, 1974.  He was 61 years old.

Garrison’s group of conspirators eventually morphed beyond Lee Harvey Oswald (who was insinuated to be gay or bisexual) and a few gay men in New Orleans.  His theory went on to include the FBI, CIA and the whole “Military-Industrial Complex” of plotting Kennedy’s death in cahoots with anti-communist and anti-Castro extremists.  Despite the bizarre circus of Shaw’s trial, Garrison managed to keep Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories in public consciousness.

Although Clay Shaw was discreet about his homosexuality, Garrison knew about it and found it useful to portray Shaw as a criminal and a conspirator.  Shaw’s “double life” fed into that narrative. How Shaw managed his gay circle and sexual life during the trial is sad, showing a blameless and dignified man turning on himself at his core. During the trial and aftermath, he must have endured an excruciating amount of ridicule and prurient interest. Shaw wanted to protect his friends, so he told them to stop contacting him directly. He also sought counseling with a Catholic priest and began reading extensively about spirituality, including Father Adrian Van Kamm’s Religion and Personality.  Another book was Thomas Merton’s, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, which Shaw mistitled, Confessions of a Guilty Bystander in his journal and an interview.

Homophobia

Author Alecia P. Long, in her 2021 book, Cruising for Conspirators – How a New Orleans DA Prosecuted the Kennedy Assassination as a Sex Crime, includes a short vignette on pages 120-121 on Shaw’s struggle with his sexual desires. “On April 17 Shaw documented in his journal a daylong struggle with sexual temptation. ‘I have resolved, since all this happened, to change my life completely and to let die certain aspects of my personality which should have been disposed of many years ago.’ The sexual attraction he felt awakened “memories, reflections, and desires” that he found “vivid, intense and disturbing.” “At day’s end, he wrote, ‘The best defense seemed to be silent repetition of the Lord’s prayer off and on during the day, with particular emphasis on that passage asking that we be led not into temptation but delivered from evil…Empirically, it worked.  By afternoon all temptation had disappeared. I have no hope it will be that easy in the future, but at least I have found the path.”

Homophobia – never mentioned – played a huge role in Garrison’s conspiracy theory, the trial, and Shaw’s individual reckoning. Shaw fought to clear his name as an assassination conspirator until the end of his life, but in the process of doing so seems to have come to believe that his homosexuality was responsible for his predicament. He committed to celibacy to make amends. What an ugly and mournful end for a man who lived as fully, productively and authentically as society would allow until he was falsely accused of killing Kennedy.

 

 

 

 

 

Ria Brodell’s Butch Heroes

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 17, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

I search for lesbians in history. There is very little historical record or literature on lesbians before the late 19th century. Imagine my delight in discovering Ria Brodell’s book, Butch Heroes. I am grateful that she found and brought these women to life. I can’t identify with their assumption of a male role; although I certainly can appreciate their brave and adventurous lives.

What is interesting about these lesbians is that all of them dressed and assumed a male “role,” i.e., a “butch.” Their lovers or wives assumed a female “role” in the partnership. Did the lesbians in Butch Heroes feel that they needed to identify as a man because they wanted to have sex with other women? Did identifying as a male give them freedom to avoid the female role of keeping house and staying at home? Or both?

What Ria Brodell did with her book is to make an emphatic statement that lesbians have always existed, found lovers, lived their lives with varying degrees of success, and some led exceptional lives. Much like today. Society’s degree of toleration has expanded in the last one hundred years, particularly in the past 20 years, but no lesbian lives totally “out” without experiencing some form of violence. Just like the past.

Brodell uses a uniquely Catholic format to portray Butch Heroes. When she was growing up her aunt had a huge collection of holy cards, and they would look at them together. She would talk to Brodell about the various saints whose stories were depicted on the cards. “So when I started researching people for Butch Heroes, I immediately thought of holy cards. The way cards employ symbolism, their intimacy, colors, style, etc. was perfect. They elevate a person to reverence. They are used for remembrance. I want this for the Butch Heroes.” 

Ria Brodell started the Butch Heroes project in 2010 after creating the painting, Self Portrait as a Nun or Monk, circa 1250. “I was thinking about what my life would have been like had I been born into a different century. Joining the church, becoming a nun or monk, was one option for those who did not want to enter into a heterosexual marriage or conform to strict gender roles of their time. As a former Catholic, I knew that “homosexuals” were called to a lifetime of chastity or service to the church, but I supposed that queer people of the past must have found other ways to live, and I wanted to find out how they did so.” 

Prior to researching and painting Butch Heroes, Brodell blended sexuality, gender, role models, and Catholic childhood in The Handsome & the Holy, a series of self-portraits and vignettes she created from 2008-2010. The Handsome & the Holy was the first time I tried to tackle the subject of my gender identity, sexuality and Catholic upbringing through painting,” Brodell said. “As a kid, part of me knew that something was “queer” about who I was attracted to, and who I wanted to be (Cary Grant, Ken, the Prince in all the Disney movies), but I didn’t have the language or the knowledge to understand what that meant. The way I wanted to express my gender did not mesh well with having to wear a little plaid skirt to school.”

Since I owned a Ken doll growing up I know exactly what she meant.

“When I began this series, I remembered a drawing I made for my First Reconciliation book in second grade. I had drawn a picture of St. Michael I was very proud of, and I showed it to my grandma. She told me it looked more like He-Man…Looking back now, He-Man and St. Michael had a similar appeal for me, strong warriors, fighting for good. As far as what unites movie stars, saints and toys like G.I. Joe and He-Man, for me they all represented an ideal, whether it was physical aesthetics or moral values. In combining them all for “The Handsome & the Holy” I was hoping to unite my “queer side” with my religious background because they are equally present in my life.”

One figure I’m surprised Ria Brodell left out was Saint Joan of Arc—who was burned at the stake for dressing like a man and hearing divine voices. I don’t know if she was a lesbian but dressing in armor certainly was outside the gender norms of 13th century French peasant girls.

Another candidate for a future Ria Brodell series would be St. Hildegund of Schonau (d. 1188). St. Hildegund was the daughter of a German knight. When she was twelve, she accompanied her father on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. For her protection, she was disguised as a boy called Joseph. On the way home her father died. Hildegund/Joseph contained to maintain her identify as a boy then man. Back in Germany, Joseph was admitted to the Cistercian monastery in Schonau, where he remained until his death.

Buy Butch Heroes here.

 

 

 

A Little-Known Story About Cardinal Krol

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 5, 2022 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals

Cardinal Krol (left) Pope John Paul II celebrating Mass

Cardinal John Krol, archbishop of Philadelphia (1961-1988), tried to dissuade Kirkridge, a Christian retreat house in Bangor, Pennsylvania, from hosting the first Conference for Catholic Lesbians in November 1982.  Nothing public, just behind-the-scenes pressure. The caller first asked, then threatened. The Cardinal’s office didn’t have any leverage, since Kirkridge Retreat Center is an interfaith Christian community, not a Roman Catholic institution or organization. The Kirkridge staff had backbone, the request came to naught.  Cardinal Krol did not want any public Catholic lesbian gathering in the neighboring diocese (Allentown) which was part of his ecclesiastical province. It would be a scandal.

I know this, because I received a call from my contact at Kirkridge to let me know that this had happened, and to reassure me we that we could still host our event there.

Who tipped Cardinal Krol’s office off, I don’t know, because at that time, we had barely begun to circulate notice of the conference.  They must have seen an invitation letter to a speaker, picked up gossip from Dignity, or heard a rumor via a gay clerical network.

Cardinal Krol was described by New York Times writer Peter Steinfels as “an outspoken defender of traditional theology, hierarchical authority and strict church discipline.” He was also one of the first Catholic prelates to align with Republic Party figures.  A photo taken in 1981 shows him with President Ronald Reagan. 

Krol was used to working behind the scenes to stop scandals.  In 2003, the report from a Philadelphia Grand Jury strafed Cardinal Krol and his successor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, charging that they protected predator priests and concealed sexual abuse of boys and girls. On page 30 of the report it notes: “For most of Cardinal Krol’s tenure, concealment mainly entailed persuading victims’ parents not to report the priests’ crimes to police, and transferring priests to other parishes if parents demanded it or if “general scandal” seemed imminent.”

The Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL) had a second conference at Kirkridge in 1984.  There was no warning call from the Philadelphia Chancery this time.  My feeling is that Cardinal Krol had bigger fish to fry that year including preparing the opening invocation at the August 1984 Republican National Convention. In his remarks, Krol agreed with comments that President Reagan had made earlier in the day that religion and politics are inseparable. “Our Republic was conceived and survived only on moral and religious foundations,” Krol said. “The most important right of all,” Kroll emphasized, “is the right of life, which must be protected by the government.”

Protecting the unborn was a high priority for Cardinal Krol. Protecting the institutional Church from scandal was also very important to him–more important than the life and faith of abused children and their families. How else could he justify reassigning priests who sexually violated children and teens to a new parish to continue the cycle of abuse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closeted Killer – The San Francisco Doodler

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 11, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

The Doodler

THE KILLER

The Doodler, also known as the Black Doodler, was a gay serial killer active in the San Francisco area during 1974-1975. He killed at least six men and attempted to kill at least three others. The toll may be much higher. The man suspected of being the Doodler is still alive and living in San Francisco. The SFPD identified him as a person of interest, but don’t have enough evidence to charge him with a crime. Three survivors of his attack refused to identify him or talk to police. It was easier for them to almost die and risk others getting stabbed to death than ruin their lives and careers by coming out.

The Doodler got his nickname by his habit of sketching his victims prior to having sex and killing them. Based on one victim’s description, the Doodler was a black man, 19-25 years old, very lanky and around six feet tall. He often wore “a Navy-time watch cap.” He may have been an art student – he told one of the survivors he was “studying commercial art.”

The Doodler’s approach was to go to a gay nightclub or bar, sketch his chosen victim and use his sketch as a pick-up line. He would suggest they go somewhere private or isolated for sex. He would stab the man to death sometime during the sexual encounter. The Doodler left his sketches at the crime scene, although the police never released any of the sketches to the public.

No one knows exactly why the Doodler started killing in January 1974 or why he stopped in June 1975. The police believed that he had “mental difficulties involving sex,” or “sexual identification problems.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Doodler told each victim: “All you guys are alike,” by which he meant gay. Detectives believe that the Doodler was a self-hating gay man, who killed during or after sex as a way of dealing with his own homosexual desires.

THE VICTIMS

The victims were white gay men, 27-66, that the Doodler picked up in bars and clubs for a sexual encounter. Each victim was stabbed or beaten to death. Most of the violence went well beyond what was needed to kill each man.

Gerald Cavanaugh

VICTIM #1 – Gerald Cavanaugh, 49.

Gerald Cavanaugh’s body was discovered at 1:57 am on January 27, 1974. He was lying at the edge of the water at Ocean Beach. He had been stabbed 16 times. A cut on his left hand indicated a defensive wound. Cavanaugh wore underwear, shoes, socks, pants, a shirt, a jacket, and a Timex watch. He had $21.12 in his pocket. He worked in a mattress factory. He was 5’ 8” and weighed 220 pounds. Cavanaugh was Catholic. “Never married,” noted the coroner.

Cavanaugh was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on March 2, 1923. He left home young and did a 21-month hitch with the US Army in World War II. He ended up in the Haight-Asbury section of San Francisco in the 1970s, to take advantage of the sexual freedom there and in the nearby Castro. He was not out to his family. He went home once a year to visit his mother until she died in 1967. After that, he never went back.

Police records show that Cavanaugh had been stopped by police, suspected of having sex in men’s restrooms near the foot of Ulloa Street at Ocean Beach. His body was found in the sand a short distance away. The anonymous call that tipped police to Cavanaugh’s body came from a pay phone at those restrooms.

His sister came from Canada to identify his body, but no one took Gerald Cavanaugh home after his murder. He lies under a weathered gravestone in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California, about 12 miles south of San Francisco.

Jae Stevens

VICTIM #2 – Joseph “Jae” Stevens, 27

Early in the morning of June 25, 1974, Jae’s body was discovered by a woman walking her dog. He was in the bushes by Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park, close to his car. He had been stabbed three times and there was blood in his nose and mouth. Joseph Stevens had been born in Texas but moved to San Francisco in his late teens. Stevens performed as “Jae,” a female impersonator at Finocchio’s, a nightclub in San Francisco. He was originally brought in as a replacement act but proved to be so popular that he quickly moved into gay stand-up comedy. One of his sisters described him as “Very, very talented. And again, gorgeous. Oh, my, we had such fun together, making up little shows while he was growing up and then later in clubs. I mean, he was a fantastic actor. And, oh, could he sing.”

Three months after his death, another sister, Alma Teresa Stevens, thought evil spirits had emerged from his murder. She killed their mother and burned her in the family fireplace. She attacked another sister and tried to kill her. The sister survived, but Alma ended up in an institution for the criminally insane. The people who purchased the family home said the mother haunts the house, but she is a friendly ghost. They talk to her and ask her to watch the house while they are away.

Klaus Christmann

VICTIM #3 – Klaus A. Christmann, 31

Klaus or Claus Christmann, a German national, was last seen alive at Bojangles, a gay dance club in the Tenderloin district. He had been visiting friends in San Francisco for three months. His wife and two children remained in Germany. According to the coroner, “The deceased’s pants were unzipped and open,” supporting investigators’ theory that Christmann and the Doodler had gone to a quiet, private area for sex.

A dog walker discovered his body early in the morning on Sunday, July 7, 1974. He lay near a street leading from Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach. His throat was slashed in three places, and he had been stabbed 15 times. At his death, Christmann wore a tan leather jacket, “black side zipper ankle boots with brown Cuban-heels, a white Italian shirt, orange bikini briefs, one blue moonstone ring and one brown cameo ring along with a gold wedding band.” The coroner also noted he had a tube of face paint in his pocket, which led police to speculate that Christmann may have been working as a drag queen or female impersonator in secret.

Frederick Capin

VICTIM #4 – Frederick Elmer Capin, 32

Frederick Capin was from Washington State, a decorated Vietnam veteran working in San Francisco as a registered nurse. He had been a medical corpsman in the Navy and was the recipient of a medal for saving four men under fire in Vietnam. His body was found on May 12, 1975, by a hiker behind a sand dune between Vicente and Ulloa Streets in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco.

Capin, six-feet-tall and a lithe 148 pounds, had been stabbed 16 times in upper left chest. Capin’s corduroy jacket and multi-colored “Picasso” shirt were blood-soaked, and there was dried blood smeared over his face, hands, and blue jeans. The marks in the sand leading to Capin indicated his body had been dragged about 20 feet.

VICTIM #5 – Harald Gullberg, 66

Harld Gullberg

Harald Gullberg was a sailor. He was born in Sweden in 1908 and became a naturalized American citizen on August 15, 1955. Half his teeth were gone and those remaining were rotted. Gullberg was a heavy drinker and was slowly dying from cirrhosis.

His body was found near Land’s End Trail by Lincoln Park Golf Course on June 4, 1975. Gullberg’s throat had been slashed. He had been dead about two weeks. Gullberg’s pants were unzipped, and he wore no boxers or briefs. He had $2.43 in his pocket. His face was eaten by maggots.

VICTIM #6 – Warren Andrews, 52

In January 2022, the San Francisco Police Department identified a sixth victim of the Doodler. Warren Andrews was a lawyer for the U.S. Postal Service. He lived in Millbrae, a suburb of San Francisco. Andrews was battered with a rock and branch and left for dead on the morning of April 27, 1975. His body was found in Land’s End park. His family flew him home to the Seattle area, where he lay in a coma until dying nearly two months later. A reporter tracked down Andrews’ sister. When asked if he was gay, she said, “I think he probably was…but back in those days, everybody was in the closet.”

Warren Andrews

THE SURVIVORS

Three men survived an attack by the Doodler. They saw his face, talked to him, may have even had sex with him. They were able to flee or get away before he killed them. The eyewitnesses described their attacker as a young, tall, slim black man.

SURVIVOR #1 – May 1975

A European diplomat met the Doodler in a restaurant “where he was having a midnight snack.” The Doodler asked the diplomat if he had any cocaine. They went back to the diplomat’s apartment, where the Doodler stabbed him six times. The diplomat denied they had “sexual relations.”

SURVIVOR #2 – July 1975

A “nationally known” entertainer took the Doodler back to his Fox Plaza apartment. The identity of this person has never been disclosed, although he might have been actor Rock Hudson or Richard Chamberlain, or singer Johnnie Ray. The identity of this survivor is one of the great mysteries of the case.

Rock Hudson

SURVIVOR #3 – July 1975

The third survivor was a “well-known San Francisco figure” who left the city after the attack and refused to answer calls or letters and wouldn’t help the police in their investigation. The man had brought the Doodler back to his Fox Plaza apartment, which happened to be on the same floor as the first attack two weeks prior. The late Charles Lee Morris, owner and publisher of the Sentinel, a San Francisco gay weekly, told a story about a Los Angeles man who was about to go to bed with a young black man resembling the composite sketch of the Doodler, but changed his mind when a knife fell out of the man’s pocket.

THE SUSPECT

In January 1976, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about the Doodler and two days later a suspect was arrested. A man who resembled the composite sketch was taken into custody after he entered a Tenderloin bar and offered to draw the patrons. Along with a book of sketches, he’d been carrying a butcher knife. When he was brought in for questioning he denied assaulting or killing anyone; but became so enraged during an interrogation that he attacked one of the detectives.

The man was let go, and never charged, because none of the three survivors would testify against the man in court. It would mean coming out of the closet and being revealed as gay. Without their cooperation, police couldn’t build a case. Gay rights activist and politician, Harvey Milk, said, “I can understand their position. I respect the pressure society has put on them.”

In 1977, the San Francisco Sentinel reported that a local psychiatrist practicing in the East Bay area informed police that one of his patients confessed to being the Doodler. The psychiatrist said his patient was struggling with his own homosexuality and was killing in response to his own conflicted feelings. The psychiatrist has the surname “Priest,” or may have been a priest. His identity was lost.

San Francisco Police confirmed in 2019 that the man suspected of being the Doodler was alive and still considered a person of interest in the case. In the 47 years since the Doodler’s last murder, many of the officers involved in the case have died, although one of the survivors may still be living. Susan Stryker, the author of Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area mentions the case briefly. “The only people I found who remembered the killings were trans women who lived in the Tenderloin at the time,” she said. “It is a very poorly-remembered episode in SF LGBT history.”

Were there other serial murders of gay men in the late 70s and 80s in other cities in California or gay urban centers? In the case of the younger men, Klaus Christmann in particular, my theory is the Doodler savaged men with whom he was strongly sexually attracted. The older men, Gerald Cavanaugh and Warren Andrews, may have been of the age or physical resemblance of a man or men who sexually abused or took advantage of him when he was younger. The choice of a knife as a killing weapon is strongly evocative of an erect penis. It enters a body and takes control. He stabbed at the heart.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Kevin Fagan, resurrected this notorious serial killer case through his podcast, The Doodler, produced in partnership with Ugly Duckling Films and Neon Hum Media. Maybe the murderer will confess? Maybe the police have enough DNA to prepare a case? Sadly, I don’t think either one will happen and the Doodler will die a free man. Who is he? A friendly neighbor? A respected elder? A recluse in a shabby apartment with a dog-eared sketchbook?

 

 

 

 

Saint Thecla the Evangelist

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 7, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Saints, Scandals, Sex

A healthy number of saints’ stories feature people who were “called to chastity” or to a relationship with Christ vs. marriage. All kinds of fantastic legends and tales ensued about the lengths to which these people would go to avoid marriage and connubial sex. Ultimately, they were all successful in their quest to avoid sex with members of the opposite sex. They ended up living alone (rarely) or with a same-sex companion (often) or same-sex community in a wilderness setting (usually).

Thecla at her window listening to Paul

St. Thecla the Evangelist is one of those saints. She would face anything but marriage.

Thecla’s story is preserved in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, an apocryphal story of Paul’s impact on a young virgin, Thecla, and her subsequent trials, adventures and spiritual leadership as his disciple. She infuriated many Church Fathers, including Tertullian, who griped that some Christians were using the example of Thecla to legitimize women’s roles in teaching and baptizing.

According to Acts, Thecla was a beautiful young woman of Iconium (now Konya, Turkey) whose life was transformed when she heard St. Paul preaching in the street beneath her window. She announced her intention to break off her engagement and to embrace a life of chastity. Her finance was furious. Her family was scandalized. They denounced her to the governor who had her arrested and condemned to death. Thecla was tied naked to a stake, but a miraculous thunderstorm put out the flames. She is saved. Once home, Thecla disguises herself as a youth and escapes to reunite with Paul and travel to Antioch.

While traveling, she is sexually assaulted by Alexander, a prominent man of Antioch. One account reads: “Repulsing the assault, she tears his cloak and knocks the wreath from his head. Alexander (the would-be ravisher) brings her before the magistrate who, despite the protests of the women of the city, again condemns Thecla to death, this time ad bestias. Pleading to remain a virgin until her death, she is taken in by ‘a certain rich queen, Tryphaena by name,” who lost her own daughter. (Tryphaena was the widow of Cotys, King of Thrace and a great-niece of the Emperor Claudius. In Romans 16:12, Paul sends greetings to a Tryphaena.)

Queen Tryphaina

Thecla is allowed to return to Tryshaena. She rides a lioness (who licks her feet) and is paraded through the city. The next morning, Alexander comes for her and escorts her to the arena to die. There she is stripped and thrown to wild beasts. A lioness (presumably the one who licked her feet) protects her from the attacks of lions, bulls and bears. Thecla prays, and throws herself into a trench of water (an euripus) and baptizes herself. The water is full of ferocious and hungry seals. A cloud of fire covers her nakedness and kills the vicious seals. The women in the stands of the arena cast fragrant nard and balsam into the area, which had a pacifying effect on the remaining wild animals. The awestruck governor releases Thecla and she returns to the palace of Queen Tryshaena. Refusing all entreaties to stay with the queen, Thecla dresses in male clothing and sets out to find Paul. She tells him that she baptized herself, and had been commissioned by Christ to baptize and preach in his name. According to the story, Paul recognized her as a fellow apostle and encouraged her to preach the Gospel. Wherever she went, “a bright cloud conducted her on her journey.”

Thecla encouraged women to live a life of chastity and to follow the word of God. She returned home to find her finance had died and her mother indifferent to her preaching. She left, and in one version of her story, she dwelt in a cave in Seleucia Cilicia (southern Turkey) for 72 years and formed a monastic community of women, whose members she instructed “in the oracles of God.”

In another version, Thecla passed the rest of her life in a rocky desert cave in the mountains near the town of Ma’aloula (Syria). She became a healer and performed many miracles. She remained persecuted, and men still conspired to rape and kill her. Just as she was about to be seized, Thecla cried out to God for help. A fissure opened in the stone walls of her cave and she disappeared. It is said that she went to Rome and lay down beside Paul’s tomb.

Thecla and animals

Her cave became an important pilgrimage site in early and medieval Christianity. Today visitors can still see Thecla’s cave and the spring that provided water for her. The nuns who live at the Mar Thecla monastery will tell you her story and show you the opening in the rock where the saint escaped.

There are many wonderful parts of St. Thecla’s story, beginning with her determination to live her life following her calling to evangelize, rather than accede to family or societal expectations. Her protection by animals, the public affirmation by groups of women, are also very positive. She was unashamed of her nakedness when she was led twice to the arena to die. She was proud of her body, her virginity, and her sole possession of it. The biggest surprise was her encouragement by St. Paul ( wives-be-subordinate-to-your-husbands), accepting her as a fellow apostle. The ugly, horrifying constant throughout her life is the desire by men to rape Thecla or kill her if she won’t submit to their authority. Men who are rapists do not believe that they are the problem–females (or males) who aroused them are at fault. What can Christianity do to change this perception?

 

 

 

Andy Warhol’s Catholic Influences

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 5, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

Andy Warhol is an influential and celebrated 20th century artist and pop icon. He was gay and was raised Catholic. His faith and sexuality influenced his art. As an adult, he did attend church from time to time, especially after he was shot and almost killed in 1968 by Valerie Solanas, a writer and radical feminist.

Andy Warhol with Bibles

“Revelation” an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum from November 19, 2021 to June 19, 2022, features Warhol artworks that are infused with both strains, often harmoniously and deeply revealing. The show was developed by the Andy Warhol Museum’s chief curator, Jose Carlos Diaz and curated at the Brooklyn Museum by Carmen Hermo.

Some of the show’s highlights include Warhol’s two gigantic versions of “The Last Supper” in pink and yellow; and a fusion of the face of Christ, an advertising tagline, and a shirtless young man; and a shot-up, scarred Warhol reminiscent of Christ’s wounds or a martyred St. Sebastian.

Much of Catholic dogma, art and religious expression is focused on the body. The sacrament of the Eucharist—eating and drinking Christ’s body—can have sexual overtones. Human figures in Catholic art history are often beautiful men, some in sexually suggestive poses. These influences went into Warhol’s formation as an artist and as a man, and he combined them with the pop arts trends of the day. Catholicism has inspired generations of homosexual artists through its sensual and sexually charged imagery.

 

 

The Mob Behind Dog Day Afternoon

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 26, 2021 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

John Wojtowicz

“I’m a Catholic and I don’t want to hurt anybody. Understand!” yelled Sonny Wortzik, the bank robber played by Al Pacino in the memorable 1975 movie, Dog Day Afternoon.  Pacino’s character was based on John Mojtowicz, 27, who along with 18-year-old Salvatore Naturile, and Robert Westenberg, attempted to rob a Chase Manhattan branch in Gravesend, Brooklyn on August 22, 1972.  Westenberg fled when he saw a police car. All three men were gay.  The night before the robbery they all had sex together at the Golden Nugget Motel.

In the movie, the main reason for the heist was to get money to pay for a male-to-female sex change operation for John Wojtowicz’s wife. That may have been part of Wojtowicz’s stated reason, but was it the whole truth? According to Liz Eden (born Ernest Aron), Wojtowicz’s transgender wife, Wojtowicz owed the Gambino family money.  Some of that money went to pay for their December 1971 wedding, where they were married by a Roman Catholic priest. Liz Eden wore a wedding gown; John Wojtowicz his Army uniform and medals from the Vietnam war.

According to the FBI, Wojtowicz met Naturile a month prior to the robbery at a gay bar called Danny’s, located on Seventh Avenue South in the Village. Naturile agreed to participate to get money to rescue his two sisters from foster care. The guns used in the robbery supposedly came from Mike Umbers, 37, a Gambino family associate who ran a club, bar and bookstore in the West Village.  Umbers fronted several gay bars, callboy rings and pornography operations for the Genovese and Gambino organized crime families.  Wojtowicz was friendly with Umbers, much to the chagrin of his fellow Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) members. Wojtowicz was known as “Littlejohn Basso” (Basso was his mother’s maiden name) at GAA.

Sal Naturile

On August 26, 1972, this article about Wojtowicz’s Brooklyn heist appeared in the New York Times:

“An acquaintance of John Wojtowicz—who has been charged with robbing a Chase Manhattan branch in Brooklyn last Tuesday and holding nine persons hostage—reportedly told the Federal Bureau of Investigation yesterday that an underworld figure supplied the guns used by Wojtowicz and two accomplices in the holdup.” “The acquaintance, Gary Badger, was questioned by F.B.I. agents yesterday afternoon, but the bureau would not comment. A friend of Mr. Badger, however, said that he told the agents that five men, including Wojtowicz, began planning the robbery last April, but that two of the men later bowed out. Wojtowicz was pressed to carry out the robbery by the underworld figure, who owns Greenwich Village bars and is involved in pornography, Mr. Badger reportedly told the agents. Mr. Wojtowicz owed the gangster money, he said.”  Arthur Bell, a respected Village Voice columnist and investigative reporter, interviewed Badger, who showed up at a GAA meeting to make a plea for money to help bury his friend, Sal Naturile.

Arthur Bell knew Wojtowicz through GAA meetings and dances.  He interviewed Wojtowicz and published an article about the robbery in the August 31, 1972 edition of the Village Voice, “Littlejohn and The Mob, Saga of a Heist.” Wojtowicz described how he met a middle-aged Chase Manhattan bank executive at Danny’s.  The executive told him how he could rob the branch of $150,000 to $200,000.  The money in the bank’s safe was picked up early; so instead of the big payday only $29,000 was on hand.

Bell also knew Mike Umbers, and interviewed him in 1971, a year before the robbery.  The article, “Mike Umbers: Christopher’s Emperor,” described his start in the sex business; first as a pimp for high-class call girls and brothels, and then catering to gay men.  Umbers had his run-ins with police and other crime families. According to the article, “Corruption, Before and After Stonewall,” Mike Umber’s Christopher’s End club was trashed by police.  It was possible that police destroyed the interior with hammers and axes because Umbers wasn’t paying them off; or,  the attack was ordered by Al Moss, also known as Abe Moss, who ran some gay bars for the Gallo crime family in the West Village.

Mike Umbers (second from right) in front of Christopher’s End

I was interested to read that Al Moss had a nephew named “Red” who paid the police $2,000 a month to protect The Barn, an after-hours club on Hudson Street.  “Red” may be a reference to Red Mahoney, a long-time associate of Ed Murphy, who had his own checkered past as a gay blackmailer and gay activist. Mahoney worked with Murphy when he was alive and took over running the Christopher Street Festival after Ed died in 1989.  Mahoney ran the Festival until 1992, when he became ill and stepped down.  Mahony was a short, grumpy guy with dark red hair. He didn’t have Ed Murphy’s gregarious nature or command the same respect.

The vast web of connections between the mob (Genovese, Gambino, Gallo crime families), their associates (Murphy, Mahoney, NYPD), front men (Umbers), expendables (Wojtowicz, gay hustlers) and gay clubs and bars before and after Stonewall continues to amaze me.  The connections were essential to their multi-million dollar businesses of bars, clubs, pornography, prostitution and blackmail.

Was the middle-aged Chase Manhattan executive who tipped off Umbers and Wojtowicz being blackmailed?

 

 

 

 

 

The Catholic, Fruit-Flavored Liberace!

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 7, 2021 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

In 1959, the flamboyant entertainer, Liberace, sued the Daily Mirror, a British paper, for insinuating that he was a homosexual. Daily Mirror columnist, William Connor, writing under the pen name, Cassandra, described Liberace as “…the summit of sex – the pinnacle of masculine, feminine and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want…a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.”  In court, Liberace denied being a homosexual (“I’m against the practice because it offends convention and it offends society”) and sued for libel.  He won and was awarded £ 8,000. Liberace skipped off and coined his famous saying, “I cried all the way to the bank.”

To the day of his death from AIDS in 1987, Liberace denied he was gay. He belonged to the generation of show business homosexuals (Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Hepburn, Agnes Moorehead..) who believed that their personal lives were private, and certainly not political.  Liberace’s Catholic upbringing may have had a hand in shaping his attitudes, but so did social mores of post-World War II America. Actors and entertainers’ contracts included morals clauses. If they were exposed as homosexuals, their careers were over and they were economically ruined.  “I don’t think entertainers should publicly air their sexual or political tastes,” said Liberace. “What they do in the privacy of their home or bed is nobody’s business.”

He encapsulates the institutional Catholic philosophy of homosexuality for both clergy and laity:  flirt, enjoy romance, have sex with tricks and lovers, but always deny your homosexuality and condemn it in others.  Above all, say nothing political. This practice was most recently on display with the outing and resignation of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, the general secretary of the U.S. Conference for Catholic Bishops in July 2021. Burrill was exposed through his cellphone data which indicated that he had repeatedly used his Grindr app to find men and had visited gay bars and bathhouses. 

Wladziu Valentino Liberace (May 16, 1919-February 4, 1987) was the highest paid entertainer in the world at the height of his fame in the 1950s-1970s. Born in Wisconsin to parents of Italian and Polish origin, “Mr. Showmanship” was known for his excesses on the stage and off. After watching a movie about Frederic Chopin in 1945, Liberace made the candelabra his symbol, always on his piano during a performance. But he was best known for his elaborate, sensational costumes. There was a “King Neptune” costume; a red, white, and blue hot pants outfit; one of his favorites called the “lasagna” costume, which featured a cape that fanned out when he spun around. Two of the most “over the top” capes were designed by Liberace’s dear friend and furrier, Anna Nateece. One was white fox fur with a train 12 feet wide and 16 feet long. The second was made from 500 mink skins and weighed over 150 pounds. They were both trimmed with rhinestones.

His homes exhibited the same excess. Mirrored walls, a marble quarry’s worth of floors, colonnades and fixtures, a casino with a slot machine jackpot of three candelabras, a canopied bed with an ermine spread. On the bedroom ceiling was a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel with Liberace’s face among the cherubs. Liberace loved dogs and had about 20 of them between his Las Vegas and Palm Springs houses. They must have had a hard time skidding and slipping on the shiny marble floors.

Liberace was camp before the word came into wide-spread use. When the word first appeared in the early 20th century, it denoted “ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical, effeminate or homosexual behavior.” In the 1966 Batman television series with Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward is the Boy Wonder—the campiest show ever–Liberace played a dual role as a concert pianist, Chandell, and his gangster-like twin, Harry, who was extorting Chandell into a life of crime as “Fingers” in the episodes “The Devil’s Fingers” and “The Dead Ringers.” According to Joel Eisner’s The Official Batman Batbook,” they were the highest rated of all the show’s episodes. The show had huge homosexual overtones as well. Burt Ward speculated in his book, My Life in Tights, that Batman and Robin could have been lovers. What drew fans to Liberace was not only his flamboyant and outrageous costumes and act, but his warm, gracious, polite, and down-to-earth way of speaking to fans and his audience from the stage or television. “I talked to my viewers as if they were my friends, my next-door neighbors,” he said.

Liberace gave a hint to one of his connections to Catholicism when he once remarked on religion: “There will always be the need for people to worship,” he said, “whether it’s religion, an entertainer or a movie star. I’ve always felt close to religion because it’s a form of show business.”  The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Mother Angelica and even Bishop Robert Baron of Word on Fire could appreciate that statement. But when it comes to costumes, Liberace undoubtedly would feel closest to Cardinal Raymond Burke with his 20-foot train of watered silk, scarlet gloves, and jeweled red hats.

In November 1963, Liberace almost died from kidney failure during a performance in Monroeville, a town right outside of Pittsburgh, PA. The day before he had been cleaning his costumes in an unventilated room with a toxic cleaning solvent. The deadly fumes nearly killed him. He collapsed onstage and was rushed to St. Francis Hospital. Liberace was hooked up to a new device – a dialysis machine – and given a 20% chance of surviving. His doctors told him to get his affairs in order. “I took it very philosophically,” Liberace said. “I had led a good life, made a lot of people happy, and I had no regrets.” He described one experience during his hospital stay in his autobiography, The Wonderful Private World of Liberace that was a turning point in his recovery: “A very young and lovely nun wearing a white habit came to see me late one night, when I was very near death. She said that she was going to pray to Saint Anthony for me, and that he would make me well. The very next day, I began to get well. I described the nun to Mother Superior at the hospital and asked who she was. The Mother Superior said, ‘There are no nuns in the hospital who wear white habits.’” Dialysis took off after it saved Liberace’s life, and St. Francis Hospital gained a new, life-long patron. Liberace raised money for the hospital, financed a new intensive-care ward, and made sure that the sisters had tickets whenever he performed in Pittsburgh. 

Soon after his Monroeville hospital stay Liberace was snared by sexual blackmailers. “The Chickens and the Bulls” extortion scheme is forgotten now, but it was a scandal in the mid-1960s. In a New York Times article published on March 3, 1966 – “Nationwide Ring Preying on Prominent Deviates,” a celebrity believed to be Liberace is described. “A TV celebrity, a twinkling star who has millions of female fans all over the world, refused to take the witness stand. However, he did tell investigators that he had paid blackmailers more than $20,000. “I can afford to lose the money,” he said, adding: “I hope they die of cancer.”

That incident didn’t slow Liberace down. He had affairs, tricks, and romances, taking in live-in lovers, usually blond, blue-eyed young men with strong physiques. One of his lovers, Scott Thorson, said Liberace’s first sexual encounter was with a Green Bay Packer football player. Thorson is also the source for a story of an affair between Liberace and Rock Hudson.

4/17/79
Liberace show at the Las Vegas Hilton

Scott Thorson, 62, met Liberace in 1976 when he was 17. When he was 18, Liberace hired him to act as his personal friend and companion.  He also incorporated Thorson into his Las Vegas performances. Thorson would don a chauffeur’s uniform covered in rhinestones and drive Liberace on stage in a Rolls Royce. The five-year relationship ended in 1982, when Liberace had members of his retinue forcibly eject Thorson from his Los Angeles penthouse. Thorson admitted that at least part of the reason for the breakup was his drug addiction.

But Scott Thorson wasn’t finished with Liberace. Shortly after he was dismissed/dumped, Thorson filed a $113 million dollar lawsuit against Liberace, the first same-sex palimony suit in U.S. history. Liberace continued to deny that he was a homosexual and insisted that Thorson was never his lover. The case was settled out of court in 1986, with Thorson receiving $75,000 in cash, three cars and three pet dogs. Thorson sniped that Liberace was a “boring guy” in real life, and mostly preferred to spend his leisure time cooking, decorating, and playing with his dogs.

In August 1985, Liberace was secretly diagnosed as HIV positive. Cary James Wyman, his alleged lover of seven years, was also HIV positive and died in 1987 at the age of 33. Another alleged lover, Chris Adler, came forward after Liberace’s death and claimed that Liberace had infected him with HIV. Adler died in 1990 at age 30. Besides his long-term manager, Seymour Heller, private physician, Dr. Ronald Daniels, and a few family members and close friends, Liberace kept his HIV positive status a secret until the day he died and did not seek any medical treatment for it.  Urged by a former boyfriend to admit that he was sick, he refused, saying “I don’t want to be remembered as an old queen who died of AIDS.”

Liberace died on February 4, 1987 at The Cloisters, his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 67 years old. His death was initially attributed to anemia from a watermelon diet, and emphysema and heart disease from chain smoking. However, the Riverside County coroner performed an autopsy and while emphysema and coronary artery disease were present, the real cause was pneumonia due to complications from AIDS. Liberace received the Last Rites a few days before he died. “He had the rosary wrapped around his right hand. There was no jewelry. The rosary beads were his jewelry,” said his publicist, Jamie James.

Within hours of his death, his body was taken from his home directly to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. He was buried on February 7th and is entombed with his mother and brother, George. The marble façade has the very enigmatic epitaph: “Sheltered Love.”  A memorial service for Liberace had been held the day before at Our Lady of Solitude Church in Palm Springs. Two stars were present – a neighbor, actress Charlene Tilton from the television series, Dallas, and Kirk Douglas. There was a second memorial service at St. Anne’s Church in Las Vegas on February 12th, with Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Robert Goulet, Rip Taylor and Sonny King in attendance.  In contrast to his glittery public life, Liberace’s burial was private, and his memorial services were quiet and low key. 

I agree with Liberace that not everyone is called—or should—make their private life public. Like most gays and lesbians of his era, he lied about or denied his homosexuality.  That is an unadmirable trait, but understandable in the context of his time, his entertainment career and his faith.  Except for a despised handful, there were no gay rights supporters, no “out” showbusiness people, religious, public figures, or academics until deaths from AIDS began in the 1980s and the gay and lesbian rights movement began to pick up momentum. His longtime publicist, Jamie James, once said, “He had this image, but he was no sissy. You have to be a pretty strong, brave person to wear what he wore and act like he did during those days. You had to have guts, believe me.”

Reading:

Liberace Cooks! – A Cookbook by Liberace. 1970

Liberace: An Autobiography by Liberace. 1973

The Wonderful Private World of Liberace by Liberace. 1986

Behind the Candelabra:  My Life with Liberace by Scott Thorson. 1988.

Liberace: The True Story by Bob Thomas. 1988

Liberace: An American Boy by Darden Asbury Pyron.  2000

Rocking the Closet: How Little Richard, Johnnie Ray, Liberace and Johnny Mathis Queered Pop Music by Vincent L. Stephens.  2019

 

 

 

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The Perils of Social Media

Posted by Censor Librorum on Aug 21, 2021 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, the former general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, used Grindr, a gay male dating and sex hookup app, at his office, home and while on trips for the USCCB.  In his position at the USCCB, Burrill played a key role in coordinating national and diocesan responses to sex abuse and coercion scandals. He and several senior USCCB officials met with Pope Francis Oct. 8, 2018 to discuss how the conference was responding to ecclesiastical scandals related to sexual misconduct, duplicity, and clerical cover-ups.

On June 20, 2018, the day the McCarrick sex scandal became public, Burrill’s cell phone emitted hookup app signals at the USCCB staff residence, and from a street in a residential Washington neighborhood! He traveled to Las Vegas a day or two later. On June 22, the mobile device associated with Burrill emitted signals from Entourage, which bills itself as Las Vegas’ “gay bathhouse.”

Burrill resigned on July 20, 2021, after The Pillar, a Catholic investigative journalism site, revealed the extent of his almost daily Grindr usage.

“If someone who has made the promise of celibacy or a vow of chastity has a dating app on his or her phone, that is asking for trouble,” said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, NJ at a Zoom panel organized by Georgetown University.

The Pillar tried to reveal a few more Grindr exposés of priests in the Newark archdiocese and in the Vatican but they were squelched.

Less than a month later, another clerical higher up made the news: “Pope replaces Bishop After Video of Him Masturbating on Zoom Call with Another Man Leaks on Social Media.” Tome Ferreira de Silva, the bishop of the Diocese of Sao Jose do Rio Preto in Brazil, had previously been accused of having an affair with a young man working as his driver and ignoring credible allegations of local priests having sex with teenagers. The video was released to a local TV station.  A still of the video shows the bishop playing with himself.  Several previous Vatican investigations of the bishop came to nothing.

Monsignor Burrill slunk off without saying anything.  Bishop Ferreira de Silva publicly groused about his exposure.

When I read these stories and exposés a favorite saying from Lily Tomlin (another lesbian!) springs to mind:

No matter how cynical I get I can’t keep up!”

 

 

 

Ed Murphy: Gay Blackmailer and Activist – Chapter 7 – The Improbable Activist

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 20, 2021 | Categories: Accountability, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

After the Stonewall raid, Ed Murphy went to work at Tele-Star, another gay bar.  The Tele-Star was raided soon after by police.  Murphy told friends that he refused to let police into the bar, so they had beaten him up very badly.  He was covered in cuts and welts, had bandages all over his face, his arm was fractured, and he was barely able to walk.  The beating may have been at the instigation of Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, who must have been furious about not netting him at Stonewall.  Some officers may still have been angry that Murphy impersonated a police officer during the “Chickens and the Bulls” extortion schemes, and it was payback time.  Murphy was also raped by a black inmate during his jail stay.  Murphy said the police heard he “liked niggers” and that he hung out with and protected black teenagers and transvestites.  After Murphy was released from jail, he stopped informing for the NYPD.

Ed Murphy, 1978

In 1978, Ed Murphy “came out” as a gay man and stopped informing on the Mob to the FBI.  He was 52. Murphy claimed that he wanted to quit both his careers as a criminal freelancer and as an informer, and work for gay liberation.  He wanted to become a “good guy.” Ed continued working at gay bars, which were mostly mob run, so his association with members of the Genovese and Gambino families continued until his death in 1989. I don’t see how the Mafia would let an informer walk around and live; Ed would have ended up in a swamp, empty field, or vacant lot. Having Ed inform to the FBI was useful—he could have been fed information about certain people and his informing allowed the Mafia to keep tabs on FBI activity and plans.  Ed saying that he no longer worked for the FBI may have been true or a ruse.  Murphy did testify in 1979 that he had been an undercover agent specializing in gay bars and corruption for the New York State Select Committee on Crime.

In a May 8, 1978, Village Voice article by Arthur Bell, “Skull Murphy – The Gay Double Agent,” Murphy disclosed that he decided to come clean  because certain mobsters became aware he was an informer. “Everything I know is on file at law enforcement agencies for certain people doing investigations,” he told Bell. Look, I’m getting old. I’m getting out of this business, baby. I’m doing it for one reason. I want to see their asses kicked.”

I find it impossible to believe that Ed Murphy ratted on the mob for years and lived to walk away after testifying. He was low level and sullied enough that a gunman could put a bullet in his head and get away with only a pretense of an investigation. Who would mourn? Not the influential gay men and officials that he served and compromised. Not the NYPD. Instead, Ed continued to live and work in New York at mob-affiliated gay bars and clubs.  He solicited cash donations from businesses, many of them mob-owned, to help fund the Christopher Street Festival and annual gay pride day parade. More likely, much of the information that Murphy provided had to do with corruption and sexual antics by politicians, government officials, men in law enforcement, and others that would be embarrassing to be publicly aired. A friend reacted to Murphy’s pronouncements: “Even the criminal element has a code of ethics. If the Skull’s planning a trip to heaven, he won’t get there by hurting people.”

In 1972, Murphy founded the Christopher Street Festival Committee.  It was started to help the local merchants profit from Gay Pride Day and, to give people who felt uncomfortable marching a place to meet and mingle with other gay people.  When I was marching in the 1980s and early 1990s, there were thousands more people at the festival than at the parade.  The parade included primarily middle class and affluent white people. There were a lot of banners of community service or activist groups, including religious groups and some church and synagogue groups.  The original march in 1970 started in the Village and ended up in Central Park.

CCL at NYC Gay Pride March, 1988

By 1974, Murphy had persuaded march organizers to start the parade uptown and finish at Christopher Street.  His main motive was probably money, since the bars, clubs, booth merchants, and area businesses would rake in bags of cash from marchers and revelers.  But while making money was the biggest driver, I also feel that Ed wanted to include the thousands of people who didn’t march out of fear of family rejection, job loss, or just fear.  Many of them were black, Latino, and blue-collar whites. Murphy almost single-handedly ran and controlled the festival.  Most participants were happy with the crowd and the freedom to “be,” if only for an afternoon or night. “People often wondered where they money went,” said Candida Scott Piel, a long-time AIDS and gay rights activist who helped to organize the Pride parade and rally in the ‘80s. “But if your group ever needed help, or you were just someone in need, Ed was always there to lend a hand or find someone who could.”

Every year Murphy would come by the Conference for Catholic Lesbians booth on Christopher Street to say hello, see how we were doing, and make sure that no one from the commercial vendor booths was bothering us. Eventually he would end up at one of the nearby bars, like Two Potato, holding court with a group of young guys. Prior to the Festival, Ed took part in the Pride parade.  He would ride with a group of young men in a Cadillac convertible. A picture from the 1984 parade shows him all dressed up in a blazer wearing a blue sash with the words, “The Original Stonewaller.”  His hands are raised as if in a benediction to the crowd.

Ed Murphy, NYC Gay Pride March, 1984

Ed Murphy’s life after Stonewall had taken a surprising turn after his previous incarnations as a juvenile delinquent, WWII soldier, armed robber, gay bar bouncer, pro wrestler, pimp, house detective, fairy-shaker, and informant: he became a community activist.  During the 1970s and ‘80s, Ed Murphy was known for charity work with homeless street youths, drag queens, prostitutes, people suffering with AIDS and the mentally handicapped.  He was named New York State’s volunteer of the year in 1977 for his work with people with developmental disabilities.

Ed Murphy would round up his friends and treat people in residential facilities to parties for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and summer picnics.  He would dress up as Santa Claus for Christmas, and in his all-purpose tramp-clown outfit for the other occasions. “He’s a marvelous man,” said the coordinator of volunteer services for one of the homes.  “Whenever we need something in a pinch, Ed Murphy is there. It doesn’t matter if it’s shoelaces or an excursion.” Murphy did whatever needed to be done to make Christmas special.  “One year we wanted to have a house for Santa Claus to sit in, but we didn’t have no money,” he recalled. “So a couple of the guys go down to this yard on 10th Avenue and rob some lumber. After the party, they put it back, but the owner comes into the bar and complains. I asked him what he’s yelling about, its only got a couple of nail holes in it.  The next year, he donates the lumber for free.”

From his job as a doorman/bouncer, Ed collected a group of fellow bar workers, patrons and ex-cons who help him with the parties.  “We’re here with Eddie,” said a man who pushed a cart full of presents for the residents told a reporter.  “The guy’s a nice guy, and, like, he loves people. I been in a few institutions myself, so I know what that means.” Murphy had an informal group of 50 bars, most of them gay bars, to help provide food, drinks, and gifts for the parties. “We don’t accept money,” Murphy said. “We’ll ask one bar for hamburgers, another for soda, and so forth.” He got bakeries to donate to AIDS hospices and old age homes.  He even got Detective Jim McDonnell from his “Chickens and Bulls” days to do some volunteer work when he retired.  Murphy surprised McDonnell with a plaque at an awards dinner.

After Stonewall, Ed Murphy appears to have made a complete transition from a thug who threatened gay men for money; to a burly, bewhiskered Santa Claus who distributed gifts and treats to bring joy to people who would have had neither.  What happened to Ed Murphy? Why did people never mention his role in the “Chickens and the Bulls” or even his alleged blackmail role for the mob at Stonewall?  It was the ultimate irony to see the man the cops were after during the Stonewall raid for financial crimes at the head of the Gay Pride parade proudly wearing the sash proclaiming, “The Original Stonewaller.”