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Gay History: Chicago Whispers
Random events from 1970
by Sukie de la Croix

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This week I'm picking a few random events from 1970 in the hope of jogging a few memories. Let me know if anything rings a bell. Some of these events are from the Gerber/Hart Library Timeline and others are from my own research.

March 8, 1970: The recently formed Northwestern University Gay Liberation group presented a teach-out in co-sponsorship with NU's Women's Liberation. Three hundred people in the audience heard a number of local gay leaders speak. A campus organization at Roosevelt University was inaugurated at approximately the same time.

April 24 & 25, 1970: Members of Chicago Gay Liberation (CGL) picketed the Normandy bar on Rush Street to get the bar to allow dancing. CGL members felt that the community should be allowed to dance in public without harassment. Within a month, the Normandy secured a dance license.

May 1970: Some community leaders called for a boycott of those gay bars that would not allow liberation literature or organizing efforts on their premises.

May 1970: The Chicago Seed, a 1960s era 'underground' newspaper, published what it called 'A Gay Manifesto.'

May 2, 1970: The NU Gay Lib holds its first dance at Patten Gym on the Evanston campus.

May 18, 1970: This article appeared in the Mattachine Midwest (MM) newsletter: 'Bar Patrons Plead Guilty' by David Stienecker.

'A long-delayed trial of 12 persons arrested September 20, 1969 at the Club 21 (Now Legacy) began on May 18. The first 1-1/2 days were spent trying to pick a jury. By noon of the second day only eight jurors had been chosen. It was then decided to waive the jury and go ahead with the case. An MM Officer was in court to hear the testimony of one of the vice patrolmen. The crap that was spilled forth went something like 'He had an erection, I could tell because of the bulge in his pants.' It was pointed out by attorney Paul Goldman that the officer could not tell if the man in question had a bulge unless he had seen the size of the arrestees genitalia beforehand. Another example of such questionable testimony occurred when a policeman testified that a man 5' 2' was rubbing genitals with a man 5' 10.' There's a neat trick if you do it.

'The case against the bar owners and the employees (keeping a disorderly house) was dismissed. Eight patrons had been charged with public indecency. One, a sailor, had his case dismissed (the Navy took over). Another, a German immigrant, had his case reduced to 'disorderly conduct,' then pleaded guilty and was fined $100. Of the other six, five pleaded guilty to the public indecency charges and fined $100. One stood it alone and pleaded innocent, but in the absence of witnesses on his behalf, and because of the police testimony, he was found guilty and fined like the others. The last defendant still has the option of appealing.

'According to Goldman and the MM observer, the judge in the case, Irwin Field, was fair in his conduct of the trial and distinguished himself by his restrained demeanor. What a shame the defendants didn't stick together and beat this rap. We hope that those who pleaded guilty realize that they are furthering the corrupt system under which we are subjugated.'

May 24, 1970: The first meeting involving Chicago Gay Liberation, Mattachine Midwest, the Women's Caucus and other groups was held. Gay Liberation explained its more activist approach to things. A consensus was reached suggesting further cooperation among the groups.

The women's caucus had been formed a few months earlier, but the exact date is not known. They met weekly on Monday nights.

June 23, 1970: Fifteen members of Chicago Gay Liberation infiltrated the American Medical Association annual meeting at the International Amphitheater to confront Dr. Charles Socarides, a physician noted for anti-gay writings and positions.

July 1, 1970: Howard 'Bud' Tanner, an early leader in Mattachine Midwest, was fatally stabbed in his apartment at 1117 N. Dearborn. The killer was described as a white male, 30-40 years of age, 6', 180-200 lbs, with large biceps, broad shoulders, dark thinning hair, a flat nose, small eyes, bad teeth and a sun-burned complexion. He had described himself as a truck driver from California.

Nov. 7, 1970: Written by Doug Akins in 'The Club Set,' a column in the Nov. 7, 1970, issue of the Chicago Defender. He's writing about the famous South Side Drag Ball.

'On Halloween night the Finnie's Club had the largest crowd of spectators and masqueraders than the organization has had in its 35-year history.

'Over 4,000 people packed the Coliseum to capacity, and then some. And get this, the master himself, Edward Plicque, placed the microphone in my hands for the better part of the night saying to me at the end of the dynamic program, 'You are now a graduated master of ceremonies.' Yessir, all the clubs were there, including a mob of Post Office employees headed by Ernest Cohen. Among them were John Slaughter, Jerry Delt, Mr. and Mrs. Larry Kinnaird, Althea Brown ... .

'The gowns, hair styles and other flamboyant attire worn by the contestants were unbelievable to say the least, making it a difficult task for judges Roselillyan Harris, Theodore Charles Stone, Fancie Windham, Henry Golden, Orlando Hawkins, Hillary Jones and also the anchor man, yours truly.'

If anyone knows anything about the above events please contact me, (773) 871-7610, e-mail

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