www.Stradivarius-London.co.uk
 THE PINK PAST
The sixties
    .
MAIN
INDEX PAGE
STRADIVARIUS
INDEX 
PAGE
STORIES
HUMOUR
CONTACTS
LINKS
ARTICLES
TRISH
  ......
The Pink Past. 
1967 and all that

Memories of the Sixties

Memories of the fogotten sixties

Hello from a Brit now in Los Angeles -

Some added London venues from the late fifties to the mid-sixties; most of the gay bars in London were then membership clubs although of course there were a some gay pubs as you mention, but for those of us who were young, these seemed to be more for rent boys and tourists, The White Bear for example. There was The Carousel Club in Orange Street, run by a man known simply as "Lennie". It was an upstairs establishment with a horseshoe bar and on the floor above was another, straight membership club called The Roundabout, but I don't know anything about its clientele. It appeared to be businessmen and attractive ladies . . .  The building was later razed and The Carousel moved to Panton Street, next to the Comedy Theatre and opposite The Stockpot, which is still there, but changed in decor, atmosphere and ownership! 

Off of St Martin's Lane, in an alley behind the Coliseum, was The Festival Club, run by Ted Rogers who I think later went to Australia. In Soho was the long running A&B Club (Arts and Battledress), the premises of which are now offices. The Rockingham Club (which apparently catered to the well-to-do, older gay men) was somewhere near the Windmill Theatre but I was never invited! (and there's nothing on the internet about it either.) 

On the other side of Shaftesbury Avenue in one of the streets running off it (toward the Chinatown part) was an upstairs bar which we visited only rarely, name forgotten. The Salisbury was, as mentioned, a theatrical pub with a big gay clientele at lunch time (closing was 2 o'clock in those days) but in my memory it was not a popular evening destination in the same way as the clubs. The Coffee House in the Haymarket (also noted) was divided into straight and gay areas; a corridor led from the street and the corner immediately to the left as one entered was predominately gay. (I wonder whatever happened to the huge waterfall/fountain that was in the middle - very "Festival of Britain"!)

A cinema which I do not see mentioned was the air-conditioned newsreel/cartoon cinema in Piccadilly Circus and which was very cruisey, next to what was then Saqui and Lawrence, the jewelers. The programme ran an hour and one could move from seat to seat!! Same of course with The Biograph in Victoria which showed it's films in almost total darkness, save for the light of the exit signs and what was reflected from the screen. Admission around 1964 was 2/6 (half-a-crown), about 13p in today's money and coinage. And very good value too!! The lighting was changed after an article in the News of the World wrote about the activity there.

Before the advent of the John Stephen "His" boutiques and the popularity of Carnaby Street in the sixties, there was Vince, which over time had two locations, one in Foubert's Place. Definitely aimed at gay men and with gay staff, as I was to discover myself. It may not seem possible now, but forty plus years ago, Levis and blue jeans in general were not available in Britain. There was a shop in the World's End area of Chelsea/Fulham which could get them, and when I first visited New York (in 1964) they were on my list of things to bring home, along with US cast albums. I was fortunate to have wide shoulders and a narrow waist (good lats) and a Levi jacket fitted perfectly, as did the rest. Having left the Coleherne in Earls Court, a new friend asked me if I was not embarrassed to wear such well fitting clothes, denim being relatively rare and only seen in films and on Americans!

The Pink Elephant was one of the first "cabaret" clubs and was run by two Americans who were appearing at The Talk of The Town (now once again The Hippodrome) with their puppet act. They had an American-style mirrored baby grand piano and the mirror of the bar back was tinted pink, so that everyone looked wonderful! In an upstairs room they presented live drag shows, the recorded overture for which was from the album of "Gypsy" which was not seen in London until many years later - and this contributed to the American atmosphere. At the time it seemed very glamourous! Real glamour could be later be found at Danny La Rue's (club) in Hanover Square, and although not strictly a gay establishment, had it's fair share of gay members.

On a visit home a few years after I moved here, probably early seventies, I walked with a friend along Old Compton Street, which was not then the gay centre it is today. A lady of evening across the road called to me "lookin' for a good time, dearie?" Of course, I said no. Her reply was " 'ow about me bruvver then?"

I had a brief relationship with a member of the CID (who had the same first name as myself) and asked him how the police viewed gays, in general. He told me that they preferred that they were off the streets and in clubs, and to my knowledge, there were never any raids on clubs. Those who "cottaged" would get arrested but those of us who were in clubs were never harassed. A problem for them was drug trafficking, but that did not occur in mainstream gay clubs. 

Although there is a lot written about arrests and entrapment, between 1959 and 1967 I never knew anyone who experienced such things and gay life seemed perfectly normal. It may appear that there was less tolerance then (and probably so in the provinces) but London itself seemed very safe - far more so than here in Los Angeles. The slightly secretive atmosphere gave an air of exclusivity, since in the clubs could be seen stars of stage, screen and television, all of whom felt protected by a common bond. Interestingly, other than the Boltons and Coleherne in Earls Court, which catered to a leather crowd, there was not the great divide between interests as there was in Los Angeles, where there were two distinct types of bars (not clubs) and one had to choose between "sweater" and "leather" bars. There were "sweater queens" and "leather queens" and little in between!

KInd regards - David


1967 and all that

In 1967 I had just got married, wanting companionship, fearing the law and just approaching 30 years of age. The same year the law in Britain changed to exempt from prosecution any two consenting adults over 21 so long as their perverted acts only took place within the four walls of their own home.
The law changed but attitudes did not. The name calling did not stop, even the Thatcher led Conservative party used the latent hostility to gays to help win their re-election. The harrasment of gay bars and clubs by the Police continued right into the eighties.

People were still being entrapped by under cover police officers and charged with the crime of importuning for an immoral purpose even though no crime had actually been committed and any sexual act which followed may well have been legal.

The hope that the act would end blackmail was false. being exposed as gay was still something many feared especially the famous whose appeared month after month in tabloid headline. But not only the famous. The year after I married, a local man threw himself in front of a train after being exposed and I too holding down a responsible job employing some 200 young male staff could not afford even a suggestion that I might find a man sexually attractive.

Male prostituion continued to thrive, mostly seedy as seen on the meat racks of Picadilly Circus but also refined and well organised for the upper class queer. Men were still being sent to prison for sex with underaged 'boys'.A friend of mine fined £100 for inviting another man to his home for a 'coffee' after the man turned out to be a policeman who had been exposing his very large erect sexual organ in a deserted public toilet. persuaded to plead guilty, the police then gave his name and address to a local newspaper which published it causing him to lose his job and caused havoc with his relationship with his family.

Although interpretation of the law relaxed a little many years later, initially it did not legalise gay bars, men dancing together, sex in hotel rooms or public signs of affection. In fact in the late eighties two men were prosecuted for kissing in the street in West London. Such an act was considered capable of provoking public disorder.

For relaxation gay men continued to seek out the more relaxed attitude of places such as Tangiers or Amsterdam but for most these places were just too expensive to visit and they ran risks every time they approached a man. Risks of blackmail, arrest, violence or just verbal abuse. 

In 1977 I had managed to take a young man, under age as it happened, to my hotel in a small town, escaping the dreaded receptionist as he had been one of a group at dinner with me. With no en suite toilet, he had left the room while I was asleep and had been stopped in the hotel corrider by a hotel manager. he was evicted from the hotel and although I escaped that fate, perhaps because I had not paid my bill which included dinner for four people,  the manager's face when he told me that my room had been booked as a single and 'my friend' had been asked to leave did not hide his distaste.

Afterwards, I lived in fear for days, would the manager tell the police, or my Company in whose name I booked the room, would my wife find out, how would I cope in prison. 1967 was a victory, but a small one and the battle still is being fought.  Older gay men may have settled back and just got on with their lives tired of fighting, younger ones may not even appreciate that there is still a battle. But battle there is and  total equality in all matters legal is the only acceptable goal.

Keith
 

FROM THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER, 2ND NOVEMBER 2002

The admiralty ordered a secret crackdown on homosexuality in the fleet in the late 60's after "officials discovered that half of all sailors had indulged in gay sex acts and no ship was immune from the threat of blackmail "  reported the Times

The security concerns were revealed in documents released by the public records office under the 30 year rule.

Admiral Sir John Bush, the Commander in charge of the western fleet wrote to his commanding officers that although many of his men were not 'perverts' their behaviour as 'thorughly lax'

Now turn to our pages on the seventies and eighties for more information 
on how the gay world changed post 1967

DID 1967 CHANGE YOU LIFE / PLEASE SEND US YOUR STORIES TO THE ADDRESS BELOW.

Top of Page



Our Pink History 
A series of articles about our past (OTHER PAGES IN THIS SECTION)
.
Tarzan
Fuck the story, look at that bona  body !

The nineteeth century
Section 11 and the aftermath

London in the eighties
A trip around some long gone venues

The Seventies
Three years on and things start to move

.
Between the wars and after
Now you see it, now you don't.

The cottages of merrie england

Hankie Pankie
The coloured hankie craze.

Pin Ups
More Pin ups
Pictures from the past

.
   .
MAIN
INDEX PAGE
STRADIVARIUS
INDEX 
PAGE
STORIES
HUMOUR
CONTACTS
LINKS
ARTICLES
TRISH

www.Stradivarius-London.co.uk
Material copyright Stradivarius 2006
.