Showing posts with label Gay History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay History. Show all posts

September 20, 2019

They Call It Clandestine Gay Culture, I Call it The Piers by The Hudson



                                             


Alvin Baltrop’s photograph of sunbathers at the abandoned West Side piers in Manhattan. During the 1970s and ’80s, the piers drew an ever-shifting population of homeless people, teenage runaways, artists and sexual adventurers.CreditCreditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz
Holland Cotter
By Holland Cotter
Published Sept. 19, 2019
Updated Sept. 20, 2019, 12:07 a.m. ET


 

New York City is a gateway for fresh art talent but it’s also an archive of art careers past. Some are visible, in the “active” file. Most are buried deep. A few surfaces only after artists have departed, as is the case with the American photographer Alvin Baltrop, who was unknown to the mainstream art world when he died in 2004 at 55, and who now has a bright, tough monument of a retrospective at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

The show, “The Life and Times of Alvin Baltrop,” is also a monument to New York itself during the 1970s and ’80s, when Mr. Baltrop did his major work. During those decades, the city was physically falling apart. At the same time, it radiated creative energy. Among other things, in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, it was home base for a new gay consciousness.

Disintegration and rebellion dovetailed in a line of derelict shipping piers that stretched the Hudson River between Chelsea and Greenwich Village. Isolated from the rest of the city after the collapse of the southernmost section of the elevated West Side Highway, the piers became a preserve for gay sex and communion, and the primary subject of Mr. Baltrop’s surviving photographs. These include architectural studies of the piers, but also shots of their semi-residential population of homeless people, teenage runaways, sexual adventurers, criminals and artists, a company that Mr. Baltrop, in effect, joined. 

At a glance, he might have seemed an outsider to the adjacent West Village world. Bronx-born, working-class, African-American, bisexual, he came to the scene directly from a three-year stint as a Navy medic. The earliest pictures in the show, which has been organized by Antonio Sergio Bessa, director of curatorial and education programs at the Bronx Museum, were taken aboard the destroyer William K. Pratt, where he was stationed at the height of the Vietnam War.

               
 

ImageA Baltrop photograph (1969-1972) taken during his stint as a Navy medic during the Vietnam War.
A Baltrop photograph (1969-1972) taken during his stint as a Navy medic during the Vietnam War.Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz


                  
 
Mr. Baltrop’s photographs of his fellow sailors show images of domestic life at sea (1969-1972).



Mr. Baltrop’s photographs of his fellow sailors show images of domestic life at sea (1969-
1972).Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz
Some shots are of the ship itself as a functioning war machine, which, although it never actually went to Southeast Asia during Mr. Baltrop’s time, kept its crew busy with on-deck drills. Far more interesting and experimental are images of domestic life at sea: sailors sunbathing; napping on deck, and rubbing shoulders in tight living quarters. And most daring, are dramatically posed and lighted studies of nude male bodies: torsos, buttocks, genitals. In these images, the mood is erotic without being furtive. These are clearly collaborations with willing models.

After discharge from the service, Mr. Baltrop returned to New York City, where he lived on the Lower East Side with a woman named Alice and made a living as a taxi driver. By this point, just a few years after Stonewall, the piers had become the main stage for an openly expressed gay sexuality, and they drew Mr. Baltrop in. Initially, he used his flexible hours as a cabby to visit and photograph them. Then, to gain more time, he quit driving, bought a van and, supporting himself as a freelance mover, camped there for days and nights on end.

There’s no question that he considered his photographs — particularly of Pier 52, then located at the end of Gansevoort Street, just beyond where the Whitney Museum of American Art now stands — a long-term project, a mix of historical documentation, insider anthropology, and autobiography. Life on the piers, with its definable demographics and culture of confinement, was not so different from that on board a ship, and Mr. Baltrop viewed it both from afar and up close. The more than 200 pictures in the Bronx show are very much about pulling back for the broad view, then zeroing in.


             

 
A section of the crumbling West Side piers, (1975-1986), silver gelatin print.
A section of the crumbling West Side piers, (1975-1986), silver gelatin print.Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz
 
Mr. Baltrop’s photo of a man walking amid the ruins, (1975-1986) silver gelatin print.
Mr. Baltrop’s photo of a man walking amid the ruins, (1975-1986) silver gelatin print.Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz


  

 
Mr. Baltrop viewed life on the piers both from afar and up close. Here, an image of a man lying down on a ledge (1975-1986).
Mr. Baltrop viewed life on the piers both from afar and up close. Here, an image of a man lying down on a ledge (1975-1986).Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz
He was careful to give the piers a context. He shot the waterfront neighborhood with its bars (The Ramrod, Badlands, the Stud), its transient hotels, and its commercial truck parking lots (which also served as nocturnal trysting places). And he photographed, at varying distances, the abandoned shipping depots and warehouse sheds on the piers themselves.

As a group, these images are invaluable contributions to American urban visual history, but also to art history. A lot of new art was happening on the piers. In 1975, the New York artist Gordon Matta-Clark sliced a huge crescent-shaped, light-flooded hole in a west-facing wall on Pier 52 and titled it “Day’s End”; a painter named Tava (Gustav von Will) was doing murals, as were younger contemporaries like Mike Bidlo and David Wojnarowicz. Mr. Baltrop recorded some of this work, though it seemed incidental to his true interest. What really gripped him was the grandeur and danger of structural ruin and the people who occupied it.

Look closely at his panoramic views of pier exteriors and you’ll see, in many, the presence of tiny figures, clothed or nude, leaning from windows, lounging around, having sex. And the majority of his shots were of populated interiors. In Pier 52, he used a homemade version of a window-cleaner’s harness to suspend himself from the ceiling and survey activities below. At the same time, because he became a regular, unthreatening presence, he was able to photograph on-the-ground action, much of it sexual, from an intimate vantage.

The piers were not benign places, and Mr. Baltrop knew it. Muggings were common. Murders happened. He took chilling pictures of the police fishing bodies from the Hudson. (One locally famous waterfront habitué, the drag queen and activist Marsha P. Johnson, of whom Mr. Baltrop made a wonderful portrait, was found dead in the river in 1992.) He spoke, later in his life, of “the frightening, mad, unbelievable, violent, beautiful things that were going on” at the piers. He was aware that his own attraction to them had a pathological element. “It became an addiction,” he said. “It was like a drug. It was a drug.” 

                    
 
Mr. Baltrop’s portrait of the drag queen and activist Marsha P. Johnson, (1975-1986).
Mr. Baltrop’s portrait of the drag queen and activist Marsha P. Johnson, (1975-1986).Creditvia The Alvin Baltrop Trust; Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz

Yet you find little sense of menace in the photographs, most of which are black and white, with a few in color. Raw, cavernous interiors have a church-like luminosity. And, despite repeated images of bare flesh, the work can feel erotic but chaste, the way Thomas Eakins’s paintings of adolescent boys at a swimming hole do. Much has been made of the “classical” poise of explicitly sexual images by Baltrop’s celebrated contemporaries Peter Hujar and Robert Mapplethorpe. But Mr. Baltrop’s a classicist too, just a less self-conscious one.

So why has he been all but ignored until fairly recently? Again, his outsider status as a queer working-class African-American is a big part of the answer. (He had two small shows, one in a bar where he moonlighted as a bouncer, but one gallery owner who saw the pictures referred to him as “a real sewer rat type”; another accused him of stealing work by a white photographer.) Fortunately, toward the end of his life, he met the painter Randal Wilcox, who immediately saw the value of his photography and, after Mr. Baltrop’s death from cancer in 2004, rescued it from what could easily have been obliteration.

In addition to a cache of personal items — identity cards, medical records, cameras — that are in the Bronx show, Mr. Baltrop left behind a handful of beat-up photographic prints and thousands of rolls of film that he couldn’t afford to have processed. In 2008, an Artforum essay by the writer and curator Douglas Crimp (reprinted in the exhibition catalog) put Mr. Baltrop’s name into circulation, and his reputation continues to grow. This fall his work will be included in the rehanging of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. He’s also in Whitney’s collection. (On the site of Pier 52, which served for more than a decade as his studio and sometimes home, a public art project by the artist David Hammons, organized by the Whitney and the Hudson River Park Trust, began construction this week.)

Mr. Baltrop himself might well be hard-pressed today to recognize the part of the city he once recorded. Among the show’s latest images is one of a pier engulfed in flames and smoke. The picture may well date from around 1986, when the “sex piers” began to be demolished by the city, to be replaced by the luxury condos, entertainment centers, and the transplanted uptown museum there today. It’s gratifying to think of Mr. Baltrop, brilliant, persistent, and fully resurrected in the Bronx show, as the true phoenix rising from the ashes.

The Life and Times of Alvin Baltrop

Through Feb. 9 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse; 718-681-6000, bronxmuseum.org.


August 22, 2019

The 1957 Gay Wedding Photos Buried in The Holly Homophobia Soil



(To be able to show all of the pictures that the BBC showed on their site, I will post them at the bottom of this report. These pictures come from the archives of USC)
The pictures are very moving, they take you to a generation before gay marriage was completely outlawed, some said you will not discriminate just because someone said I was a monster who should not get united with others alike. But the only monsters are always the ones that want to take away the human rights of their fellow man so these photos were buried on homophobia holly ground.       Adam Gonzalez
Decades before gay marriage became legal anywhere in the US, same-sex couples were committing themselves to each other in front of friends and loved ones. Few records of these ceremonies existed - until now, writes Jonathan Berr.
In 1957, a man dropped off a roll of film at a pharmacy in Philadelphia. But the developed photos were never returned to their owners.
The pictures appear to depict a gay wedding, nearly 50 years before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere in the US and almost 60 years before it became a federally-recognized right.
Now, a trio of gay producers and writers are trying to identify the grooms to learn their story and to find out whether a pharmacy employee balked at providing the snaps because they objected to their subject.
The writers are documenting their efforts in a reality show The Mystery of the 1957 Gay Wedding Photos.
The program, which doesn't yet have a platform to call home, is being produced in conjunction with Endemol Shine Group, whose shows include Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, and Extreme  "It's a passion project for us," says Michael J. Wolfe, a Los Angeles-based writer. "We are turning over every stone, interviewing dozens of people in the Philadelphia area and beyond, and consulting with investigators, historians, and experts across many different fields."
The photos were acquired by a collector a few years ago who had bought them at an online auction. He realized their significance and donated them to ONE Archive at the USC Libraries in Los Angeles and at the Wilcox Archives in Philadelphia.
The couple in the pictures appear to be in their 20s or 30s, so they would be in their 80s or 90s if they were alive today. The grooms and their guests are dressed up in dark suits with flowers in their lapels.
The celebration took place in a modest flat with the blinds drawn. It featured a ceremony officiated by someone who appears to be a member of the clergy. The grooms are shown kissing, cutting their wedding cake and opening presents.
WeddingImage copyrighted ARCHIVES AT USC
Mr. Wolfe and his partners, filmmaker PJ Palmer and TV writer/producer Neal Baer, have not identified the mystery couple yet.
They request any tipsters to contact them through their website and Facebook page.
Two grooms kiss at their wedding image copyrighted ARCHIVES AT USC
For Palmer, the pictures were especially moving.
"We are recovering amazing, important stories all sorts of them... and more gay history that's been buried," he says.
"There is a very rich history that's been suppressed… I wish as a child [that] I had seen family photos of a marriage like this... I would have felt more normal as a kid. I would have known that I was okay."
Stonewall: A riot that changed millions of lives
'Why our fight for gay rights in Kenya isn't over'
Twenty years of key US gay rights milestones
Couples who fell in love sometimes committed themselves to one another in unions that were not acknowledged by either governments or religions.
The US Supreme Court didn't recognize the right for gay people to marry the person of their choice until 2015, 11 years after Massachusetts did so.
(Men open gifts at a wedding image copyrighted ARCHIVES AT USC)
"We don't know how common or uncommon it was for couples to hold ceremonies to marry each other [because] there is so little photographic or film record of how people actually lived," says Eric Marcus, host of the Making Gay History podcast.
"It's important to remember that people found ways to live their lives quietly away from the prying eyes of the straight world."
Of course, that was easier said than done.
 Several years before the wedding took place, President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order banning gays from working for the federal government.
In 1952, The American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a "sociopathic personality disturbance" in the first edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the listing of known psychiatric disorders.
After considerable lobbying by activists, the APA removed homosexuality from the second edition of the DSM in 1973.
The Stonewall Riots, considered to be the birth of the modern gay rights movement, had happened a few years before that in 1969 - 12 years after the wedding. 
It's not just the passage of time that will hinder the search for the grooms. The filmmakers believe the Aids crisis may also be a factor - about 700,000 Americans have died since the start of the epidemic in the 1980s, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"We are talking about a generation of people who were decimated by Aids," Mr. Wolfe said. "There are a lot of missing people who otherwise would have made a search like this much easier. All of that happened before social media."
If the couple is ever identified, they would certainly add another chapter in the history of gay rights for doing something extraordinary that is now becoming increasingly ordinary.
1.  Two men cut wedding cake
2.  Couples dance at a 1957 wedding
3.  Wedding
4.  Two grooms kiss at their wedding
5.  Men open gifts at a wedding
Two grooms at their wedding6.  A group of wedding guests
7.  

July 12, 2019

Gay History Shows Hollywood Marrying Off Their Gay Stars Out of Fear They Might Not Make as Much $

During the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1920s, actors and actresses shot to fame—but only if they tailored their images to the demands of the big studios. For LGBT actors, that often meant marrying a person of the opposite sex.
The early 20th century represented a unique time for LGBT people in the country. Throughout the Roaring Twenties, men dressed as women and gender non-conformity and queerness weren't as taboo in big cities as they would be years later.
Queerness could be appreciated on stage but in the everyday lives of major stars it was often hidden in sham unions known as "lavender marriages," according to Stephen Tropiano, professor of Screen Studies at Ithaca College and author of The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV.
These marriages were arranged by Hollywood studios between one or more gay, lesbian or bisexual people in order to hide their sexual orientation from the public. They date back to the early 20th century and carried on past the gay liberation movement of the 1960s.
Lavender marriages were a solve in part for “moral clauses” issued by big studios at the time. The clauses, first introduced by Universal Film Company, permitted the company to discontinue actors' salaries "if they forfeit the respect of the public.” The kind of behavior deemed unacceptable ranged widely from criminal activity to association with any conduct that was considered indecent or startling to the community. The clauses exist to this day.
“We have to remember that a lot of these decisions that were being made, they were economic decisions,” says Tropiano. “It was about a person holding on to their career.” 
One of the earliest speculated lavender marriages was the 1919 union of silent film actor and early sex symbol Rudolph Valentino and actress Jean Acker, who was rumored to have been a lesbian. On the couple’s wedding night, Acker apparently quickly regretted the marriage and locked her new husband out of their hotel room, according to a November 8, 1991 The New York Times article. Soon after, they got divorced.


Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker
Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker, circa 1920s.
Valentino also married costume designer Natacha Rambova in 1923, at a time when his career was starting to take off and the roles he played were seen as less typically masculine, such as in the film “Monsieur Beaucaire” in 1924. His marriage to Rambova ended in 1925, which left some speculating that the marriages of the “pink powder puff” (a nickname Valentino acquired after playing effeminate roles on screen) were coverups to keep the sex symbol’s reputation intact
Identifying how many Hollywood couples tied the knot to cloak their sexuality is, of course problematic since it’s primarily based on speculation.
“I think the hardest thing for a historian is to kind of sift through what the rumor [is] and what is actually factual," says Tropiano.
One commonly cited source for speculation is the memoir of Scotty Bowers, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Bowers’ account details sexual encounters, gay and straight, that he claims he both arranged and took part in, beginning in 1946. Bowers wrote that he had been sexually involved with leading actor Cary Grant and his roommate, Randolph Scott, for more than a decade. At the time, Grant was cycling through five marriages with women. Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, has disputed the allegations, through her spokeswoman, saying in 2012 that her father as “very straight,” according to The New York Times.   Actor Cary Grant and his roommate, Randolph Scott, for more than a decade. At the time, Grant was cycling through five marriages with women. Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, has disputed the allegations, through her spokeswoman, saying in 2012 that her father as “very straight,” according to The New York Times.


Cary Grant and Randolph Scott
Actors Cary Grant and Randolph Scott lived together in the 1930s.











Grant died in 1986, and many of the subjects whose lives Bowers describes are also deceased. Some have questioned whether Bowers' accounts in the autobiography, and the corresponding 2017 documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, are accurate. But the self-proclaimed “fixer” includes details and photographs that he argues back up his claims. 
Among the most speculated lavender marriages was between the famed actor Rock Hudson and his secretary Phyllis Gates. They married in 1955 and separated two years later, after rumors of his homosexuality and infidelity began to pile up. 
Waves of rumors and speculation around Hudson’s affairs became so widespread that they even helped foster the growth of celebrity tabloid journalism. The publication Confidential became popular in the mid-1950s by featuring salacious celebrity news. The tabloid outed popular figures like Hudson before outing was even a thing. Despite the coverage, Hudson never addressed his sexual orientation publicly before he died of AIDS in 1985. 

 Image result for rock hudson phyllis gates
Rock Hudson and his bride Phyllis Gates at their 1955 wedding.


Even with the common—yet unspoken—knowledge that the two men were romantically involved, Haines’ popularity didn’t take a hit until years later. That’s when he was given an ultimatum, either get married to a woman or he would be dropped by MGM, according to Tropiano.


William Haines
William Haines, circa 1932.
“[Haines] had to make a choice between getting rid of his male partner and having a career,” says Tropiano. “And he actually chose the male partner.”
Haines then left the silver screen behind to create a successful interior design business with his partner. He’s now often considered one of Hollywood’s first openly gay stars.
Lavender marriages became less prevalent in the 1960s and ‘70s as the gay rights movement gained momentum following the Stonewall Riots of 1969
Although representation in film and on television was still scarce, the actual lives of the stars on screen—straight, gay or bisexual—weren’t dictated by studios as much as they had been in the past

July 4, 2019

Gay Culture Roared Through The Roarrrring Twenties





 Gay Berlin 1922


On a Friday night in February 1926, a crowd of some 1,500 packed the Renaissance Casino in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood for the 58th masquerade and civil ball of Hamilton Lodge.

Nearly half of those attending the event, reported the New York Age, appeared to be “men of the class generally known as ‘fairies,’ and many Bohemians from the Greenwich Village section who...in their gorgeous evening gowns, wigs and powdered faces were hard to distinguish from many of the women.”

The tradition of masquerade and civil balls, more commonly known as drag balls, had begun back in 1869 within Hamilton Lodge, a black fraternal organization in Harlem. By the mid-1920s, at the height of the Prohibition era, they were attracting as many as 7,000 people of various races and social classes—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight alike.

Stonewall (1969) is often considered the beginning of forward progress in the gay rights movement. But more than 50 years earlier, Harlem’s famous drag balls were part of a flourishing, highly visible LGBTQ nightlife and culture that would be integrated into mainstream American life in a way that became unthinkable in later decades.  

“In the late 19th century, there was an increasingly visible presence of gender-non-conforming men who were engaged in sexual relationships with other men in major American cities,” says Chad Heap, a professor of American Studies at George Washington University and the author of Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940.


In addition to these groups, whom social reformers in the early 1900s would call “male sex perverts,” a number of nightclubs and theaters were featuring stage performances by female impersonators; these spots were mainly located in the Levee District on Chicago’s South Side, the Bowery in New York City and other largely working-class neighborhoods in American cities.

By the 1920s, gay men had established a presence in Harlem and the bohemian mecca of Greenwich Village (as well as the seedier environs of Times Square), and the city’s first lesbian enclaves had appeared in Harlem and the Village. Each gay enclave, wrote George Chauncey in his book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, had a different class and ethnic character, cultural style and public reputation.

Image result for gay roaring 20's



As the United States entered an era of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity in the years after World War I, cultural mores loosened and a new spirit of sexual freedom reigned.

 The flapper, with her short hair, figure-skimming dresses and ever-present cigarette and cocktail, would become the most recognizable symbol of the Roaring Twenties, her fame spreading via the new mass media born during that decade. But the ‘20s also saw the flourishing of LGBTQ nightlife and culture that reached beyond the cities, across the country, and into ordinary American homes.


Though New York City may have been the epicenter of the so-called "Pansy Craze," gay, lesbian and transgender performers graced the stages of nightspots in cities all over the country. Their audiences included many straight men and women eager to experience the culture themselves (and enjoy a good party) as well as ordinary LGBTQ Americans seeking to expand their social networks or find romantic or sexual partners.

“It gave them many more possible places they could go to meet other people like themselves,” Heap says of the Pansy Craze and accompanying lesbian or Sapphic craze, of the ‘20s and early to mid-‘30s. “At its height, when many ordinary heterosexual men and women were going to venues that featured queer entertainment, it probably also provided useful cover for queer men and women to go to the same venues.”

At the same time, lesbian and gay characters were being featured in a slew of popular “pulp” novels, in songs and on Broadway stages (including the controversial 1926 play The Captive) and in Hollywood—at least prior to 1934, when the motion picture industry began enforcing censorship guidelines, known as the Hays Code. Heap cites Clara Bow’s 1932 film Call Her Savage, in which a short scene features a pair of “campy male entertainers” in a Greenwich Village-like nightspot. On the radio, songs including "Masculine Women, Feminine Men" and "Let’s All Be Fairies" were popular.

The fame of LGBTQ nightlife and culture during this period was certainly not limited to urban populations. Stories about drag balls or other performances were sometimes picked up by wire services, or even broadcast over local radio. “You can find them in certain newspaper coverage in unexpected places,” Heap says.


Image result for 1939 police arrest cross dresser

A cross-dresser being taken away in a police van for dressing like a woman, circa 1939. 
“Pansy Craze” Comes to an End

With the end of Prohibition, the onset of the Depression and the coming of World War II, LGBTQ culture and community began to fall out of favor. As Chauncey writes, a backlash began in the 1930s, as “part of a wider Depression-era condemnation of the cultural experimentation of the 20's, which many blamed for the economic collapse.”

The sale of liquor was legal again, but newly enforced laws and regulations prohibited restaurants and bars from hiring gay employees or even serving gay patrons. In the mid- to late ‘30s, Heap points out, a wave of sensationalized sex crimes “provoked hysteria about sex criminals, who were often—in the mind of the public and in the mind of authorities—equated with gay men.” 

This not only discouraged gay men from participating in public life, but also “made homosexuality seem more dangerous to the average American.”

By the post-World War II era, a larger cultural shift toward earlier marriage and suburban living, the advent of TV and the anti-homosexuality crusades championed by Joseph McCarthy would help push the flowering of gay culture represented by the Pansy Craze firmly into the nation’s rear-view mirror. 



Drag balls, and the spirit of freedom and exuberance they represented, never went away entirely—but it would be decades before LGBTQ life would flourish so publicly again. 

June 19, 2019

The Riot That Changed Millions of Lives



When half a dozen police officers raided a Mafia-run gay bar on a hot New York night 50 years ago, little did they know their actions would spark a movement that reshaped the lives of generations to come.
Mark didn't throw a brick that night. And he didn't confront a policeman. But he had something that was perhaps as potent as any projectile - he had chalk. 
It was handed to him with instructions by his friend Marty as chaos unfolded outside the Stonewall Inn, the police being pelted with coins and bottles.
The homeless teenager set off up the street to scribble three words on the pavement. Then he did the same on a brick wall further up the road. 
Three words. "Tomorrow night Stonewall"
That simple message written by Mark was an attempt by Marty Robinson to spread the word, to ensure that a spontaneous act of defiance was transformed into something bigger. An hour earlier, the police had raided the bar in Greenwich Village for the second time that week, but this time on a Friday night at 1am when it was packed.
About 200 customers - lesbians, gay men, transgender people, runaway teenagers and drag queens - were thrown out on to Christopher Street. A crowd turned on the officers who retreated inside for their safety. Gay people were used to running from the police, but this time they were the ones on the advance and the men in uniform on the retreat.
The gay rights movement didn't start that night but it was invigorated by what happened in the hours and days after the first coin was thrown. And all the strides made since, like marriage equality and a more accepting society, owe something to the youths who fought the police and the activists who organised afterwards.
Stonewall has been described as the Rosa Parks moment for gay rights. And just as Ms Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama to a white man had the effect of animating the civil rights movement 14 years before, so Stonewall electrified the push for gay equality. 
In 1960s America, gays and lesbians were effectively outlaws, living in secrecy and fear. They were labelled insane by doctors, immoral by religious leaders, unemployable by the government, predatory by TV broadcasts and criminal by police.
So what was it that made them suddenly fight back on the night of 27 June 1969? 
A fury years in the making
At the time of the uprising, consensual sexual relations between men or between women were illegal in every US state except Illinois. Gay people could not work for the federal government or the military, and coming out would deny you a licence in many professions including law and medicine. 
The laws in New York state were particularly punitive despite - or perhaps partly in response to - a growing number of gay men and women moving to New York City from across the US. Thousands were arrested each year in the city for ''crimes against nature", solicitation or lewd behaviour. Some had their names published in newspapers, which meant they lost their jobs. Even what you wore was policed - fewer than three pieces of clothing deemed appropriate to your gender could put you in handcuffs.
There was a huge amount of anger because gay people had no political power to prevent this, says William Eskridge, a professor at Yale Law School. "It was like a keg of dynamite waiting to ignite." 
Young gay men and women didn't want to write letters to councillors to enact change or sign petitions, he says. Instead, they took their cue from the anti-war movement, from black power and those pushing for women's liberation. Their strategy was simple. "Go to the streets and make trouble. Attack, attack, attack."
The Stonewall Inn, a week after the uprising and in 2009Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe Stonewall Inn, a week after the uprising and in 2009
There was no refuge for them in bars or nightclubs. The local liquor laws in New York City were interpreted in a way that meant serving alcohol to gays and lesbians could close down any licensed premises because that made the venue "disorderly". Dancing with someone from the same sex could be interpreted as a "lewd" offence.
A crackdown on the city's gay bars began in the early 1960s. The Mafia stepped in to run many of them, charging more for watered down drinks and paying off the authorities. Despite this exploitation by the Mob, patrons of the Stonewall Inn regarded it as a sanctuary, a rare place for self-expression and affection. Uniquely, it had a dancefloor. 
As the raids increased in frequency in the summer of 1969, with a mayoral election looming, the Stonewall became an obvious target. It was run by criminals and it sold alcohol without a licence. There were also rumours the Mafia was blackmailing its wealthy customers. But as the police closed in, they had no idea what they were walking into - the sense of injustice was palpable, not just from the recent raids but a number of vigilante attacks.
On the hottest night of the summer, all this tinderbox needed was a spark. 
'We were fighting back'
About six officers - including those who led the NYPD's public morals division - walked across Christopher Street and went into the bar, where undercover colleagues were already inside. The lights came up, the music stopped and the police instructed people to show their IDs as they left. 
Ejected patrons spilled out on to the street. At first the atmosphere was festive, says Robert Bryan, who was 23 at the time. He arrived on the scene soon after the raid. "There was laughing and joking. People were coming out of the bar striking poses and bowing."
The mood changed, he says, when a drag queen was attacked by one officer after she hit him with her purse. People started throwing coins at police. It deteriorated further when a lesbian came out of the bar and struggled as police tried to put her in a car. Instead of cents and quarters, the missiles became stones and bottles.
Marsha P Johnson in 1970Image copyrightPHOTO BY DIANA DAVIES, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
Image captionBlack transgender woman Marsha P Johnson, pictured here a year later, is held up as a Stonewall hero for confronting police that night
As the police retreated inside, they began grabbing people and beating them, says Bryan, who aimed a kick at one officer before running away with another policeman in vain pursuit. When he returned, the police were trapped inside the building and - they later revealed - fearing for their lives. They were only a handful in number and by now several hundreds of protesters had gathered outside.
A rubbish bin was hurled at the window and lighter fluid used to ignite projectiles. A parking meter was uprooted and used as a battering ram on the front door.
"It was just this emotional, adrenaline-crazed moment, completely irrational," says Bryan. There was a mob spirit, he says, and he felt like he was in a dreamlike state, acting without restraint. "God knows I would never have kicked a policeman if I were alone. We were finally fighting back and it was exhilarating."
Riot police arrived to rescue their colleagues but the violence went on before it eventually subsided. At least one police officer was treated in hospital for a head wound and 13 demonstrators were arrested.
That battle was over but some of those present knew nothing would be the same again. The following night saw a larger crowd - helped partly, perhaps, by Robinson's chalk but also a leafleting campaign during the day. It was more violent and police took a more muscular approach, using tear gas. Rubbish cans were set on fire and thrown at them. The protests continued for another four nights, particularly violent on the Wednesday.
But the question on many minds when the uprising ended was - what next? 
First steps to freedom
When Martha Shelley, 25, climbed on top of a water fountain in a park near Stonewall exactly one month after the riot, she feared for her life. But she had an important message to tell the crowd of a few hundred - come out of the shadows and "walk in the sunshine".
"It was scary," she says, now aged 75 and looking back to that day. "I was in Harlem when MLK was shot and it went up in flames. I was aware that I could get shot." 
At her urging, and after a stirring speech from Marty Robinson, they had all marched to Stonewall Inn, some wearing lavender-coloured sashes, holding hands and chanting "Gay Power!" Once there, she told the crowd to disperse as she feared more violence.
This was the first time gay people had openly marched in New York, demanding equality. There had been an annual picket in Philadelphia in front of Independence Hall for a few years, led by the Mattachine Society, the first major gay rights organisation. But that was a courteous affair, says Shelley.
"I went to Philadelphia. Women had to wear dresses. I hated it from the bottom of my heart. We walked around with our signs and the tourists were looking at us like we were something out of the zoo as they ate their ice cream. I thought 'This isn't me, it's fake.'"
Gay picket in PhiladelphiaImage copyrightPHOTO BY KAY TOBIN, ©THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
Image captionAn annual picket was held on 4 July in Philadelphia. This photo is part of a Stonewall exhibition at New York Public Library
Before Stonewall, the activists wanted to fit into society and not rock the boat. But after the uprising, polite requests for change turned into angry demands. The rally organised by Shelley and Robinson does not get the same billing in the history books as the big gay rights march the following year, which has become known as the first Pride march.
But it was hugely significant. The first, courageous step had been taken.  Getting organised
This new mood was best embodied in what became the most important driving force to emerge from Stonewall - the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). It was formed within weeks, and was as much a loose alliance of groups as a single entity.
The name was a nod to the National Liberation Front fighting the US in Vietnam. When it was suggested at a meeting, Shelley was so enthusiastic she banged her hand hard on her beer bottle, drawing blood. "The riots would've done nothing if we hadn't organised afterwards," she says.
The GLF only lasted a few years but burned brightly in that time, with a gamut of issues to fight. 
"Control over your own body was primary," says Shelley. "That includes sexual liberation, freedom from the draft, women's reproductive rights, freedom to take drugs without being imprisoned for it, and economic freedom." And anti-racism, she adds - all those freedoms had to apply to everyone, regardless of race, religion, or citizenship status.
Martha Shelley holding Come Out!Image copyrightPHOTO BY DIANA DAVIES, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
Image captionMartha Shelley produced and sold Come Out!
The GLF made alliances with some of the leading insurgent groups of the time, like the Black Panthers. Its members organised the first Pride march and set up a newspaper called Come Out! which Shelley sold on the street. 
GLF meetings were chaotic and there were deep disagreements over the best way forward. But its creation marked the start of a new era, leading to a wave of new activist groups like the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and the radical lesbian group Lavender Menace of which Shelley was a founder member.
A year later there was a GLF in London and the movement became a global one. 
The first Gay Pride march
There are now thousands of Pride events around the world. But it had humble beginnings - it was over dinner with three friends soon after Stonewall that the idea of a more radical march demanding rights came about, says Ellen Broidy.
Christopher Street Liberation Day, exactly one year after Stonewall, began at Greenwich Village and went 51 blocks up Sixth Avenue to Central Park. Reports at the time estimated between 3,000 and 15,000 people took part.
The most exciting thing about it was the number of people who joined along the route, says Broidy. "The core message was 'We're here. We're queer, get used to it.' But I sensed it was more than that. It was about reaching out and playing our part in the revolution. 
"I don't think any of us were marching for the right to serve in the military or to get married." It was less about legal change and more about overturning the systems of oppression, she says. 
The Christopher Street Gay Liberation DayImage copyrightPHOTO BY DIANA DAVIES, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
Image captionThe annual march was not called Pride until years later
Some people took self-defence classes, so certain were they of violence. But there wasn't any. Other US cities soon did the same and London had its first two years later. 
"It was natural and necessary," says Broidy. "If it hadn't happened first in New York in 1970, it would have happened in London or in Madrid or in Mexico City."
Today, the political message is still there but Pride is more a celebration of gay culture, with music and corporate sponsors.
Broidy thinks something has been lost in the process. "I think it's much more powerful without the floats and without Citibank and American Airlines. Yes, it's a sign of progress but in a distinctly capitalist market."  
Making strides
After that first Pride march, the speed of progress went up a notch. In the decade that followed, the federal exclusions on gays and lesbians were lifted, and the medical profession reversed its long-held belief that homosexuals needed psychiatric treatment.
Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected official in the US, in 1977 in San Francisco. Two years later, about 100,000 people took part in a national march on Washington - probably at that point the biggest gathering of gay people in history.
Many of the anti-sodomy laws were struck down in the 1980s, making homosexuality effectively legal, although it was decades before gay marriage became a federally-recognised right in 2015. The legal progress was matched by a change in attitudes - three-quarters of Americans are today accepting of gay relations.
Gallup graphic showing rising approval for gay relations
In 2019, there are still battles to fight - gay people can still be fired from their jobs in many states. And campaigners say the Trump administration is taking the country backwards again by rolling back some of their hard-fought freedoms. 
But the arrival of the first openly gay candidate for president suggests the general direction of travel is still one way. Perhaps the biggest sign of progress is that it's Pete Buttigieg's unusual surname and his Norwegian language skills that seem to provoke more curiosity than his sexuality.
No one fighting the police that night or marching on the streets could have predicted the strides made since. It's therefore worth reflecting on how much came out of that police raid on a Mafia bar, says David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, a book regarded as the definitive account of what happened.
"It's very unexpected and very rare in human history that something that's a totally spontaneous act changed the course of human history for the better."
The National March On Washington filled the famous mallImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe National March On Washington filled the famous mall
It wasn't the first gay uprising against the police - as the LA Times recently recalled, the police were pelted with donuts 10 years earlier - but it was the most consequential. 
"It went from being microscopic in size to a mass movement - that's the historical significance of Stonewall," says Carter. But it has a deeper meaning too, he thinks. "These moments take on inspirational meaning so in terms of US history it's when MLK was giving his 'I have a dream' speech at the Lincoln Memorial. It's the Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima." 
But unlike the other famous stories, the story of Stonewall is not taught in many schools. It is, however, remembered in other ways - in film, book and even in heritage. In 2016, the area around Stonewall was designated a national monument, and last week, the New York Police Department apologised for the raid. 
What Mark did next
So what happened to Mark Segal, the teenager handed the chalk by his friend Marty?
When the Stonewall was raided, he had only been in New York for six weeks and was staying at the YMCA for $6 a night. Defiance was nothing new to him - his first act of rebellion was as a young Jewish boy refusing to sing Onward Christian Soldiers at school in Philadelphia. His grandmother had taken him to his first civil rights rally when he was 13. 
And outside Stonewall that night, he thought: "We are fighting for our rights, just as women, African Americans and others had throughout history." The police that night were a symbol, he says. "They were the synagogue, the family I couldn't tell, the reason I had to leave the city I loved to move to New York. They represented religion, the media, the government. All the people that shoved us away."
But Stonewall wasn't just a fight, it was a spirit and it gave him a purpose, he says. He vowed to spend the rest of his life on a new vocation. It took him first to the GLF where he helped run their youth outreach. And he also took on another mission - to make gay people as visible as possible to mainstream America. He did this through a strategy of public disruption. Or, as they were known, "zaps". 
In 1973, he crashed the CBS primetime news show hosted by broadcasting legend Walter Cronkite and watched by 60 million people, holding a placard saying: "Gays protest CBS prejudice". 
He went on to launch a gay newspaper in Philadelphia and become a pioneer in gay journalism, and his work on equality earned him an audience with President Barack Obama. 
Before he was given that piece of chalk 50 years ago, as a penniless teenager, he could never have imagined the path ahead - in the country or in his own life.
"I wouldn't have known I would one day be dancing with my husband in the White House. So what I would say to someone who's young and thinking of coming out is 'Dream big'."

Featured Posts

Gay Couples Find A Way to Get Married in Israel

  79% of Israelis back gay marriage. But the religion that is supposed to protect those that love each other and wish to be a c...