Monday, 13 August 2012

Sister Boom Boom has died, aged 57

Sister Boom Boom, 1984
Jack Fertig, one of the first Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, died on the evening of 5th August of liver cancer, aged 57. He died at home with his partner, Elias Trevino, and other members of his family at his side.
Jack Fertig speaking at a 9/11 memorial in 2010.
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)
A detailed obituary appears in San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter: has a number of images tagged for Sister Boom Boom here:

A previous post on this blog:

The Sisters' website:
The websites for the London & Manchester Orders: - although it appears to be abandonned (and not in a good way)

UPDATE 11/11/13: However, the Manchester Sisters did manage to upload a Polari translation of the Bible, which is now available from here:

If that has peaked your curiosity about Polari, this recent post might help:

BTW - this is my
100th post
to the LGBT History Project Blog!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Go TeamLGBT!!!

GayStarNews reports today that 10 of the 23 out gay athletes in the London Olympics have won medals - with a haul that would place Team LGBT at no. 19 in the official rankings, ahead of countries like Spain, Brazil & Canada.

London 2012 Olympics: an LGBT legacy?

London bids to host the 2018 Gay Games/OutGames

More than 40 percent of the out LGBT athletes at the London Olympics took home medals, a better medal-winning percentage than Team USA

For information on LGBT sports in Europe:

The European Gay & Lesbian Sport Federation:

The 2011 and 2012 editions of Past2Present followed the LGBT History Month theme of Sport:
2011 -
2012 -

Saturday, 11 August 2012

US Army: Newly promoted Brigadier General is highest ranking serving officer to come out

Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith receives her stars from wife Tracey Hepner
"Army reserve officer Tammy Smith calls her recent promotion to brigadier general exciting and humbling, saying it gives her a chance to be a leader in advancing Army values and excellence.

What she glosses over is that along with the promotion she is also publicly acknowledging her sexuality for the first time, making her the first general officer to come out as gay while still serving. It comes less than a year after the end of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.

“All of those facts are irrelevant,” she said. “I don’t think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”"

Updated 14 April 2013:
At the 6th annual gala of US workplace advocates Out & Equal on 25th April 2013, Brigadier General Tammy Smith will receive the organisation’s Advocacy Award.

For more about this, go to:

Thanks to Towle Road (the 'site with homosexual tendencies'!) for bringing this to my attention:

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Wellcome Library

Beth & I spent yesterday exploring the Wellcome Library to see what they had that would suit our researches for future editions of Past2Present. The 2012 edition is available for download from here:

We left about 7 hours (including a delicious lunch in the cafe) later, barely having scratched the surface. There is a wealth of information and material for us here.

There's also the image collection:
It's useful to note that images are available under creative commons license for non-commercial use.

Your Story - a look back at gay Manchester on Gaydio

A Gaydio item with Manchester locals talking about their experiences as LGBT people in Manchester as far as the 1960s. (Lasts 1hr 3mins.)


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Birth of Gay’s The Word

This link takes you to a piece on the Polari Magazine website by Ernest Hole, who set up one of my favourite bookshops in London (and probably the world, actually) Gay's The Word, in Marchmont Street, London WC1 (near Russell Square).

My association with the shop goes back to 1980, so not all that long after it first opened. I was only just out to myself at that point and remember walking hurriedly past the door on several occasions before I managed to go in.

It was there that I used to buy my copies of Gay News and where I still buy many of my LGBT-related books. Between about 2003 to 2008, I even managed to spend hundreds of pounds of the Department for Constitutional Affair's money to set up a resource library for the Rainbow Network (the department's support group for its LGBT staff) and its members and allies.

I still go there occasionally to check for the latest LGBT literature and non-fiction. It's a gay bibliophile's paradise.

The shop's website:

More information:

Choreographer Nigel Charnock has died

Nigel Charnock, the performer, director and choreographer and founder member of DV8, has died, aged 52, of stomach cancer. He is survived by his two older brothers, Andrew and Peter, and his partner, Luke Pell.

Here are a variety of articles celebrating his life and work:

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Polari, the secret gay language

Yesterday I found a link from a tweet that reminded me of one of my favourite presentations from those I used to do at work for LGBT History Month.

It's a piece from the Manchester Evening News (known also as 'MEN', which I rather like) about a new iphone app about Polari:

Polari, as you may well know, was a form of gay slang popular among gay men in the 1950s and 60s. It was important in those dark days, as it allowed gay men to talk to each other, usually about other gay men and their sex lives, without betraying the details to non-Polari speakers. For some reason, speaking Polari seems to encourage a certain campness (well, it does in me!), so I'm guessing it didn't totally hide that you were 'queer'.

As part of my work as the lead of the Rainbow Network (LGBT staff support group) at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (later part of the Ministry of Justice), I and a team of helpers used to run events for staff around the country to celebrate LGBT History Month. Several times I ran a workshop (1-2 hours, depending on the time/place/people) setting Polari in context and teaching a little. I even set them a mock 'GCSE' paper and gave them chance to practice their new language skills.

The workshop was always well received and the older participants sometimes talked about their own experience. When I ran it for Morden Council a few years ago, one of the participants told about a time when he had been crew on the QE2. One of the female passengers liked to dress up to the nines. One of the other waiters whispered behind her back, 'Vada the naff drag on her!' The woman turned to him and said, 'Nish the cackle, dear.' It turned out she'd run several hair salons with many gay men working for her; she knew some Polari. Oops!

Also, interestingly, quite a lot of the younger participants proved to be unaware that homosexuality had been criminalised until 1967 (when it was only partially decriminalised by the Sexual Offences Act 1967). They were really shocked, bless them.

I've attached links to some of the material I used and added a few more for interest:-

Updated 16 August 2012:
A piece aimed principally at the American audience.

UPDATED 6 August 2012:
Thanks to my friend Tony Booth, I found a couple of links on YouTube:
Kenneth discusses "Polari" talk on a chat show, then some clips of Julian & Sandy on Wogan in 1987 -
 - Sadly, this link no longer works.
A Julian & Sandy sketch, 'Bona Bookshop' -


The Polari bible:

Friday, 3 August 2012

Bristol's hidden history to be revealed

From the press release:

A Bristol community group is hot on the trail of the city's secret gay and lesbian history thanks to a grant of £20,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. OutStories Bristol, a not-for-profit community group, is working to track down the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people in the city since the 1930s.  Now it wants more LGBT people in the city to come forward to tell its volunteers about their lives.

Until legal restrictions were eased in the late 1960s, the great majority of LGBT Bristolians had to be very discreet and many led double-lives. OutStories Bristol is training its volunteers to gather the tales, from the mundane to the outrageous, of LGBT people across the city. The stories they collect will feature in a major exhibition at the city's M Shed Museum in February 2013.

OutStories Bristol has already collected many fascinating stories via its volunteers and its website and Facebook group. These include:
  • The story of the woman who founded Bristol Gay Switchboard in 1975 when she realised the need for an information and help service. For over three years she ran the service from her Totterdown home before an office and dedicated phone line were set up.
  • The first person in Britain to complete female-to-male gender surgery.
  • Tales of the Radnor Hotel, probably Bristol's earliest gay pub.
Appealing for LGBT Bristolians of all ages to come forward with their stories, OutStories Bristol Co-Chair Andy Foyle said:

"This project is important because it's the hidden history of around ten percent of Bristol’s population.

"It’s vital people see that we didn't just pop out of the woodwork in the 'permissive 1960s'. We've been around a long time and our history says much about the changing attitudes of society in general.

"It's vital that we collect the stories of LGBT people, especially older ones whose adult lives spanned the years before 1967.

"But we also want the everyday stories and those that bring things up to date: your friend's civil partnership last year, the chap you worked with whom everyone accepted was gay; the lesbian couple who raised a family, and so on."

Commenting on the grant award, HLF’s acting Head of South West, Richard Bellamy said:
“Everyone has a story to tell about their life that is unique to them; that’s why we are so keen to support projects like the one that OutStories is running, which enable people who might have been hidden from history to have their voices heard. The story of the UK’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities has only begun to emerge in recent years, but it is providing a vital insight for present and future generations into the beliefs and attitudes of the past."

Whatever your sexual orientation or gender identity, if you have a story about Bristol's LGBT communities, OutStories want to hear from you. You can email or write to OutStories c/o LGBT Bristol, Create Centre, B Bond, Smeaton Road, Bristol BS1 6XN. Information will be treated in strict confidence.

For further information see and the OutStories Bristol Facebook page:

96 years ago today...

On 3rd August 1916, Sir Roger Casement was executed in Pentonville Prison, London. An Irish nationalist, he was convicted of treason.

There is still some controversy over his sexual orientation. Photographs of the 'Black Diaries', meant to be his own, were circulated shortly before his execution. Taken at face value, they show him as a promiscuous homosexual with a liking for yonger men. Given contemporary attitudes towards homosexuality, they would have greatly reduced public sympathy for him.

Whether the diaries are genuine or forgeries has been much debated. However, a detailed forensic investigation in 2002 concluded that the diaries had been written by Casement. The diaries were declassified for public inspection in August 1959 and may be seen at the  National Archives in Kew (

More information:

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Crime Against Europe, by Roger Casement

Thanks to LGBT History Month (@LGBTHM) for the tweet that reminded me of this date.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Gore Vidal has died

Gore Vidal in 2009
Gore Vidal, American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist, died on 31 July aged 86 of complications from pneumonia.

He is known to have had affairs with both men and women. His third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality.

He was interviewed for The Celluloid Closet (a documentary, based on Vito Russo's book, surveying the various Hollywood screen depictions of homosexuals and the attitudes behind them throughout the history of North American film). He explained how in Ben-Hur (1958), for which he was an (uncredited) writer, he got the director to agree that a scene between Ben-Hur (played by Charlton Heston) and Massala (Stephen Boyd) should be played as if they were ex-lovers seeing each other for the first time in years. Needless to say, the somewhat right-wing Charlton Heston was not told of this; Stephen Boyd seems to have been happy to do it that way. With this knowledge, the scene takes on a new character entirely.

BTW, it may have helped with Stephen Boyd that he appears to have been gay. In February 2012 Raquel Welch said that Boyd had hinted to her that he 'preferred the company of men', when she showed interest in him during filming of Fantastic Voyage in 1966. Gore Vidal also mentioned that Boyd was gay in his 1995 book Palimpsest.

Added 7 November 2012:
"Just Lucky": An Interview with Gore Vidal

Added 16 August 2012:
The Legacy of Gore Vidal

Added 8 August 2012:
Gore Vidal and his approach to sexuality and gender by Michelangelo Signorile:

Added 7 August 2012:
From This Way Out, a series of LGBT podcasts, the 6 August 2012 edition included a feature on Gore Vidal:
More This Way Out podcasts available here:

Added 5 August 2012:
An article in The Observer by Rachel Cooke, telling of her close encounter with Gore Vidal in 2008:

Polari Magazine -
The Guardian -
More information: