An exceptionally literate, overstuffed chronicle of gay Tinseltown.
In alternating sections on Los Angeles lesbians and gay men, historian Faderman (Naked in the Promised Land, 2003, etc.) and freelance journalist Timmons, respectively, deliver an exhaustive account. Beginning in the 1880s, both groups migrated in droves from less liberal locales to freewheeling, anonymous Southern California, and a supportive, unified community emerged even as laws against sodomy and “masquerading” (i.e., cross-dressing) kept guard over the city’s bedrooms. These enterprising pioneers were soon followed by vaudeville exiles who flocked to Hollywood and built its entertainment foundation. Post-Prohibition nightclubs catered to such “sexually flexible” entertainers as Marlene Dietrich, James Cagney and Mae West. The years after WWII saw a boom in gay meeting places—beaches, bars, clubs, public parks for men, city streets and restaurant lounges for women—even though all of them were subjected to aggressive, relentless Vice Squad raids. Small neighborhood enclaves of gays and lesbians began to materialize, creating refuges that sparked the mid-’60s gay organization PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education), whose “Pride Night” meetings were all-encompassing gay-empowerment events. The interracial homophile group ONE, the social-justice-oriented Mattachine and the lesbian political equality organization Daughters of Bilitis proved worthy precursors and paved the way toward the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. The openly gay and lesbian population continued to skyrocket during the ’70s, and that lively era gives the book’s prose a shot in the arm as the authors describe the revitalized L.A. demographic, the pink neon discos of West Hollywood and a community center disseminating vital information about the AIDS epidemic. Among the timely issues affecting gay youth today that get spirited discussion are the questions of gender and identity. Both authors are Californians, and their love of Hollywood history and lore shines bright.
Vital intellectual fare brimming with fascinating history.