‘Rainbow Lounge’ documentary to screen at UNT film fest Saturday

It’s been nearly a year since North Texas filmmaker Robert L. Camina first screened his documentary feature Raid of the Rainbow Lounge for Texas audiences. The 103-minute documentary, narrated by out TV star Meredith Baxter, chronicles the raid by TABC and Fort Worth police on the newly opened gay club, which happened to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the raid of the Stonewall Inn, which sparked the modern gay-rights movement.

Along the way, the film has been back a few times to Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as 20 film festivals (some gay, some mainstream), winning awards in the process: Audience Choice awards in Fort Worth, Cincinnati and Indianapolis; Best GLBT Film from the Breckenridge Festival of Film, the Platinum Reel Award from the Nevada International Film Festival and a host of others. In addition, it has been shown at special screenings for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the North District of Texas and at the request of the U.S. State Department.

Now, it’s latest local screening — and who knows, perhaps final — will be at UNT on the Square in Denton. Camina will be in attendance at the screening, which will take place Saturday, Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. on the campus of the university. You can get tickets at the festival’s website. ThinLineFilmFest.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

NY gay bar closed by health department

Julius on Waverly Place at 10th Ave in The Village

New York’s oldest (sort of) gay bar — Julius — was closed by the board of health this week. Julius is located one block up and one block over from the Stonewall Inn.

The bar opened in 1867. Not until 1966 was it officially a gay bar. But for years, gay men hung out at Julius, even though they were subject to constant harassment.

As Greenwich Village became more and more gay during the 1950s and ’60s, its gay residents hung out at this friendly neighborhood bar. People like Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote used to go to Julius.

Nearby Stonewall was not nearly as nice (or historic) as Julius and Stonewall was known more as a hangout for drag queens (and people like Dallas’ Phyllis Guest who was at Stonewall the night of the raid).

Owners of Julius resisted having the bar turn gay, so they enforced the New York State Liquor Authority rule that prevented bartenders from serving the disorderly. Homosexuals were included in the liquor authority’s definition of disorderly — which makes this a good place to insert that this is one of the first gay bars I ever hung out in after I came out in college and hung out in Greenwich Village in the early ’70s. I was probably attracted to this bar at the time because scenes from the film Boys in the Band — the only gay film out there at the time — were filmed at Julius.

In 1966, in a final attempt to keep gays out, Julius hung a sign after a police raid that said, “This is a raided premises.” The hope was that gays who were afraid of being arrested, exposed as gay and fired from their jobs would stay away.

The Mattachine Society had filed a lawsuit challenging the liquor authority’s rules, claiming a right to assemble. That was followed by an investigation by the city’s Human Rights Commission. Mattachine won its suit and sometime that year, Julius’ owner realized his clientele was gay, had been gay and the neighborhood was becoming more gay. It’s been a gay bar — officially — since then.

Owners said they plan to clean up the mouse and roach problem that caused the health department to close the place and, after a new inspection this week, be reopened by the weekend.

Big news for Dallas? Not at all. But when I saw a news item about Julius, it brought back memories of being a kid hanging out in the Village.

And many people think gay history— and gay people — began with Stonewall on June 28, 2008. We were actually around — and going to bars, protesting, organizing and living our lives — long before that.

—  David Taffet

Scenes from the Stonewall Inn — THIS June

This week 42 years ago, the Stonewall Inn was the crucible where the gay rights movement was ignited. But on Friday night — just before New York City Pride — it was a very different but raucous scene.

Ray Robert Lee, who lives in Hell’s Kitchen, took these photos. He was meeting a friend for dinner in the West Village, and they decided to walk over to Sheridan Square and Christopher Street. At 10L31 p.m., as they hit the intersection where the Stonewall is, Lee’s iPhone flashed: The state senate had passed same-sex marriage.

“The streets erupted,” he says. “Christopher Street had been cordoned off and thousands were flocking and cheering and celebrating.”

The scene overwhelmed him, he says, filling him with pride over the diversity of the community and the historic moment he was a part of, but also remembering those friends who did not make it to this day.

Thanks to our friend, Dallas’ Gordon Markley, who put Lee in touch with us. More pics below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Before we was fab

 

40 YEARS OF GAY | ‘Stonewall Uprising,’ above, tracks the gay rights movement; ‘American Family,’ below, revisits the original reality TV series.

PBS gets its gay on (retro-style), revisiting Stonewall and the Louds

Watching documentaries like The Stonewall Uprising almost always make me feel anger more than Pride. At least at first. That’s because they wisely use old footage of news reports and instructional videos to let you know what the temperament of the nation was at the time. It’s easy to laugh at the outdated ideas about pot in Reefer Madness; it’s quite another to hear Mike Wallace explain how the concept of a “happy homosexual” is insane. After all, it’s a sickness that ruins lives. Like syphilis. “Homosexuals may appear normal” warns one cautionary narrator, but you shouldn’t be fooled.

It’s angering because we’re not talking about the Dark Ages, but America as recently as the mid-1960s. We still fight myths every day from the right, but it’s dispiriting knowing that, back then, this bigotry was mainstream.

But Pride does wind its way in during this doc, airing this week (and again in June) as part of the American Experience series on PBS, when the queers and queens finally fight back at the Stonewall Inn on a sweltering summer night in 1969. The resulting march — and movement — are still with us.

The filmmakers spend surprisingly little time on the actual uprising (there’s little photographic evidence of it). Rather, they lay the groundwork for the need for gay liberation, culling stories from actual witnesses to the riot (and, most unexpectedly, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who has never been very open about being gay). Instead of simply explaining a moment in time, The Stonewall Uprising does something greater: It forces us to reevaluate what Pride is and why we still have, and still need, to march ever so often, and it reminds us how fragile our rights are, and how hard-fought they were by some very heroic gay people.

Less than five years after Stonewall, television had its first openly gay recurring character — and he wasn’t acting. When An American Family aired in 1973, it basically invented what we now call reality TV, following not attention hungry publicity whores like the Kardashians or the Hogans or the Gottis, but an upper middle class Southern California family named the Louds.

Lance Loud was only 20 and living the gay life in New York when the 12-part series first aired, showing Americans a world never seen on TV — and no doubt giving gays in middle America a belief, long before Dan Savage said it, that it does get better.

KERA World will rebroadcast the entire series in two marathons this weekend — something that hasn’t been done in 20 years. Like some of the news shows in The Stonewall Uprising, there are outmoded techniques and assumptions that make it look dated, but if you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to look past the fashions and the cheesy graphics and think instead about how some things haven’t changed (family is still awkward about gay stuff) and some things, mercifully, have.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

The Stonewall Uprising airs on Ch. 13 April 25 at 9 p.m.; An American Family airs on Ch. 13.2 April 24 and again April 25 from 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

—  John Wright

2 arrested in anti-gay beating at famed gay bar

JENNIFER PELTZ  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — A patron at the Stonewall Inn, a powerful symbol of the gay rights movement since protests over a 1969 police raid there, was tackled to the floor and beaten in an anti-gay bias attack over the weekend, authorities said Monday, Oct. 4.

Two men were arrested in the early Sunday beating, which came little more than a day after a group of male friends bidding an affectionate good night to each other were attacked in another anti-gay assault elsewhere in Manhattan, prosecutors said.

The attacks came amid heightened attention to anti-gay bullying following a string of suicides attributed to it last month, including a New Jersey college student’s Sept. 22 plunge off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was secretly streamed online.

But the attack prosecutors described at the Stonewall Inn especially galled and saddened gay rights advocates, some of whom wondered whether a place known for a defining moment in the history of gay rights might spur a new push for tolerance.

For the Stonewall’s owners, the episode was a sharp and upsetting contrast to its legacy.

“We at the Stonewall Inn are exceedingly troubled that hate crimes like this can and do still occur in this day and age. Obviously the impact of these men’s violent actions is even deeper given that it occurred on the premises of the Stonewall Inn,” an owner, Bill Morgan, wrote in an e-mail.

The victim was using a restroom at the Greenwich Village bar around 2 a.m. local time Sunday when a man at the next urinal, Matthew Francis, asked what kind of an establishment it was, prosecutors said. On being told it was a gay bar, Francis used an anti-gay slur and told the victim to get away from him, assistant district attorney Kiran Singh said.

“I don’t like gay people. Don’t pee next to me,” Francis added, according to the prosecutor.

Francis, 21, then demanded money, punched the victim in the face and continued beating him after a co-defendant blocked the door, tackled the victim and held him down, Singh said. The victim was treated at a hospital and was released, she said.

Francis said nothing at his arraignment Monday. A defense lawyer said that Francis wasn’t the aggressor and that the episode wasn’t motivated by bias.

“Mr. Francis is not a violent person. Nor did he try to rob anyone,” said the attorney, Angel Soto. “There may have been a fight, but it certainly wasn’t a hate crime.”

Francis was held on $10,000 bond. His co-defendant was awaiting arraignment.

Just before midnight Friday, Oct. 1 several male friends hugging and kissing each other good night in Manhattan’s gay-friendly Chelsea neighborhood were confronted by a group of more than five people who used an anti-gay epithet and told them to go home because “this is our neighborhood,” according to a court document filed by prosecutors. Two other men lashed out with fists as Andrew Jackson hurled a metal garbage can into one victim’s head, prosecutors said.

Jackson, 20, was arraigned over the weekend on hate crime assault and other charges. His lawyer, Anne Costanzo, declined to comment Monday.

The Stonewall Inn became a rallying point for gay rights in June 1969, when a police raid sparked an uprising in an era when gay men and women were often in the shadows. Stonewall patrons fought with officers, and several days of demonstrations followed, in an outpouring that became a formative moment in the gay rights movement.

“The riots at Stonewall gave way to protests, and protests gave way to a movement, and the movement gave way to a transformation that continues to this day,” President Barack Obama said at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month reception at the White House in June 2009.

The Stonewall riots’ influence also is reflected in the names of some gay resource organizations, including student groups at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

For the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which works to combat attacks on gays and others, assaults like this weekend’s remain all too common problems. But the attack at the Stonewall Inn reverberates with a particularly disturbing resonance, executive director Sharon Stapel said.

“Even in a bar like the Stonewall Inn, which started a huge part of the gay rights movement — even the Stonewall Inn is not immune to this sort of violence, despite all of the work that they do to create a safe and tolerant atmosphere,” Stapel said. “It’s incredibly sad.”

But she said she hoped the incident and the atmosphere of concern about anti-gay harassment would spark new conversations about how to respond.

The Stonewall Inn has raised money for the Anti-Violence Project and other groups, and managers strive to make the bar inclusive, Morgan said.

“We do our best to run a nice, welcoming establishment where anyone can and should feel safe,” he said.

—  John Wright