Thor (thornyc) wrote,

The Homosexual Faces Arrest, Disgrace - Life magazine’s “Homosexuality in America,” part 4

(In previous installments I had used pink to highlight some of the biased and sensationalistic reporting by the reporter and the Life magazine editors. In this section the reporting is largely objective, so pink is used to highlight some of the more maddening or outrageous historical details.)

Life magazine, June 26, 1964


By Paul Welch
Photographed for LIFE by Bill Eppridge

In a Constant Conflict with the Law, the Homosexual Faces Arrest, Disgrace


Actually, there is no law in California -- or in any other state -- against being a homosexual. The laws which police enforce are directed at specific sexual acts. For the most part, these laws make it a crime to engage in any sex activity which could not result in procreation.

It is also unlawful in California to solicit anyone in a public place to engage in a lewd act. Under these laws, the police are able to make arrests. In many cases, a conviction results in a homosexual being registered as a "sex offender" (along with rapists) in the state of California.

Inspector James Fisk says that the 3,069 arrests for homosexual offenses made in Los Angeles last year represent merely a "token number" of those that should have been made. "We're barely touching the surface of the problem," Fisk says. "The pervert is no longer as secretive as he was. He's aggressive and his aggressiveness is getting worse because of more homosexual activity.”

As part of its antihomosexual drive the Los Angeles police force has compiled an “educational” pamphlet for law enforcement officers entitled “Some Characteristics of the Homosexual.” The strongly opinionated pamphlet includes the warning what the homosexuals really want is “a fruit world.”

In their unrelenting crackdown on homosexuals, the Los Angeles police use two approaches: one is an effort to deter homosexual activity in public, and the other is an arrest effort. The first includes patrolling, in uniform, rest rooms and other known loitering places, such as Selma Avenue. Then the police go the rounds of the "gay" bars to make their presence felt. To arrest homosexuals, the police have an undercover operation in which officers dressed to look like homosexuals -- tight pants, sneakers, sweaters or jackets -- prowl the streets and bars. The officers are instructed never to make an overt advance; they can only provide an opportunity for the homosexual to proposition them. Arrests are made after the officer has received a specific proposition.

In a typical arrest effort in Hollywood this spring, a plainclothes officer loitered under the streetlight at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Stanley Avenue. Soon a car slowly turned the corner only Stanley and the officer drifted into the darkness down the block. When the car pulled over to the curb, the officer (“Jim”) approached it. After a few minutes of idle talk the driver established that his name was Jerry. He lived many blocks away, but Jim indicated that he himself had a “place on Wilcox” (actually the police station). Part of the conversation, which the officer hoped would enable him to make an arrest, went like this:

Officer: What’s on your mind after we get home? That’s what I want to know.
Jerry: Well, what’s on your mind?
Officer: Well… I don’t know.
Jerry: You don’t?
Officer: Well, that is to say [laughs]… there isn’t anything to drink at my place, you know.
Jerry: Well, I can always drink coffee. I don’t drink anything stronger.
Officer: Uh huh… Well, anything else…?
Jerry: Anything else?
Officer: I said, is there anything else?
Jerry: To drink?
Officer: No.
Jerry: No?
Officer: I was just wondering… maybe… what else you had in mind, if anything.
Jerry: (sighs deeply) At this point I don’t care.
Officer: Well, I don’t exactly know how to take that.
Jerry: Well… how do you want it to go?
Officer: Like I say, it’s up to you, Jerry.
Jerry: Well, you call it and… we’ll go from there. I’m your guest… self-invited.
Officer: Well… I know, but… I wouldn’t want to be a presumptive host, you might say. In other words, a good host always looks out for the welfare of his guests. You understand? So… I’ll leave it up to you.
Jerry: Well… we can just let the chips fall where they may or forget it.
Officer: I always say, if you know what you want and aren’t man enough to ask for it, why then to heck with it. You know? (laughs)
Jerry: Yeah, I know.
Officer: Well, there’s no use wasting any more of your time… or mine, I guess. Jerry?
Jerry: Well? I don’t know. It’s up to you.
Officer: You don’t know? What’s the matter, are you afraid?
Jerry: Well, isn’t everybody?
Officer: I’m not afraid of you.
Jerry: I don’t know you and you don’t know me.
Officer: Well, that’s true, but… still and all, like I say, I’m not… although maybe I should be. I don’t know. You’re not a policeman, are you?
Jerry: No.
Officer: Well, you could be.
Jerry: So could you.
Officer: Well, that’s true. I understand they got a whole lot of plainclothesmen then use, so I don’t know what to think sometimes. But that’s why you got to be kind of careful.
Jerry: Uh huh… it pays.
Officer: You understand of course.
Jerry: So, maybe we just better drop it at that.
Officer: Oh? Well…
Jerry: I mean (laughs), we’re both getting a little on the leery side.
Officer: Yeah… Well, so long.
Jerry: I won’t take any more of your time.

The police officer had decided that the encounter was not going to reward him with an arrest. Jerry drove away and the officer went back to work on the corner.


[caption 1] A policeman in tight-pants disguise waits on a Hollywood street to be solicited by homosexuals cruising by in cars.

[caption 2] Decoy officer and partner lead handcuffed homosexual away in Hollywood. When arrested for soliciting, he burst into tears.

To read the entire series:
The Way We Were (Reported) - Part 1
When gay was in quotation marks - Part 2
The bitterness of individual homosexuals - Part 3

Tags: history
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