before stonewall documentary transcript
The mayor of New York City, the police commissioner, were under pressure to clean up the streets of any kind of quote unquote "weirdness." Detective John Sorenson, Dade County Morals & Juvenile Squad (Archival):There may be some in this auditorium. And Dick Leitsch, who was the head of the Mattachine Society said, "Who's in favor?" And I ran into Howard Smith on the street,The Village Voicewas right there. Narrator (Archival):Note how Albert delicately pats his hair, and adjusts his collar. Before Stonewall, the activists wanted to fit into society and not rock the boat. Jerry Hoose:The open gay people that hung out on the streets were basically the have-nothing-to-lose types, which I was. They really were objecting to how they were being treated. Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD:And they were, they were kids. It said the most dreadful things, it said nothing about being a person. They raided the Checkerboard, which was a very popular gay bar, a week before the Stonewall. John O'Brien:All of a sudden, the police faced something they had never seen before. Vanessa Ezersky I mean it didn't stop after that. But you live with it, you know, you're used to this, after the third time it happened, or, the third time you heard about it, that's the way the world is. Your choice, you can come in with us or you can stay out here with the crowd and report your stuff from out here. Narrator (Archival):Richard Enman, president of the Mattachine Society of Florida, whose goal is to legalize homosexuality between consenting adults, was a reluctant participant in tonight's program. Available on Prime Video, Tubi TV, iTunes. William Eskridge, Professor of Law: The 1960s were dark ages for lesbians and gay men all over America. But I was just curious, I didn't want to participate because number one it was so packed. In 1969 the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village, leading to three nights of rioting by the city's LGBT community. Martin Boyce:And then more police came, and it didn't stop. But I gave it up about, oh I forget, some years ago, over four years ago. It eats you up inside. A word that would be used in the 1960s for gay men and lesbians. Danny Garvin:He's a faggot, he's a sissy, queer. Howard Smith, Reporter,The Village Voice:And I keep listening and listening and listening, hoping I'm gonna hear sirens any minute and I was very freaked. It was narrated by author Rita Mae Brown, directed by Greta Schiller, co-directed by Robert Rosenberg, and co-produced by John Scagliotti and Rosenberg, and Schiller. The documentary "Before Stonewall" was very educational and interesting because it shows a retail group that fought for the right to integrate into the society and was where the homosexual revolution occurred. William Eskridge, Professor of Law:The Stonewall riots came at a central point in history. And a couple of 'em had pulled out their guns. If that didn't work, they would do things like aversive conditioning, you know, show you pornography and then give you an electric shock. Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt 400 Plankinton Ave. Compton's Cafeteria Raid, San Francisco, California, 1966 Coopers Do-Nut Raid, Los Angeles, California, 1959 Pepper Hill Club Raid, Baltimore, Maryland in 1955. It was not a place that, in my life, me and my friends paid much attention to. Mayor John Lindsay, like most mayors, wanted to get re-elected. You gotta remember, the Stonewall bar was just down the street from there. and I didn't see anything but a forest of hands. And they wore dark police uniforms and riot helmets and they had billy clubs and they had big plastic shields, like Roman army, and they actually formed a phalanx, and just marched down Christopher Street and kind of pushed us in front of them. That was our world, that block. Jerry Hoose:I remember I was in a paddy wagon one time on the way to jail, we were all locked up together on a chain in the paddy wagon and the paddy wagon stopped for a red light or something and one of the queens said "Oh, this is my stop." Danny Garvin:There was more anger and more fight the second night. Not able to do anything. Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen Gay History Papers and Photographs, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt:We would scatter, ka-poom, every which way. But it was a refuge, it was a temporary refuge from the street. Sign up for the American Experience newsletter! But we're going to pay dearly for this. John DiGiacomo National History Archive, LGBT Community Center Howard Smith, Reporter,The Village Voice:I had been in some gay bars either for a story or gay friends would say, "Oh we're going to go in for a drink there, come on in, are you too uptight to go in?" Mary Queen of the Scotch, Congo Woman, Captain Faggot, Miss Twiggy. They pushed everybody like to the back room and slowly asking for IDs. John O'Brien:Whenever you see the cops, you would run away from them. Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter,The Village Voice:TheNew York TimesI guess printed a story, but it wasn't a major story. Frank Simon's documentary follows the drag contestants of 1967's Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant, capturing plenty of on- and offstage drama along the way. I was celebrating my birthday at the Stonewall. Martha Shelley:When I was growing up in the '50s, I was supposed to get married to some guy, produce, you know, the usual 2.3 children, and I could look at a guy and say, "Well, objectively he's good looking," but I didn't feel anything, just didn't make any sense to me. They were getting more ferocious. Dan Bodner John O'Brien:And then somebody started a fire, they started with little lighters and matches. Lauren Noyes. They were not used to a bunch of drag queens doing a Rockettes kick line and sort of like giving them all the finger in a way. Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement. But we had to follow up, we couldn't just let that be a blip that disappeared. Martin Boyce:It was another great step forward in the story of human rights, that's what it was. There was all these drags queens and these crazy people and everybody was carrying on. They'd think I'm a cop even though I had a big Jew-fro haircut and a big handlebar mustache at the time. Fifty years ago, a gay bar in New York City called The Stonewall Inn was raided by police, and what followed were days of rebellion where protesters and police clashed. Martin Boyce:I heard about the trucks, which to me was fascinated me, you know, it had an imagination thing that was like Marseilles, how can it only be a few blocks away? The history of the Gay and Lesbian community before the Stonewall riots began the major gay rights movement. They call them hotels, motels, lovers' lanes, drive-in movie theaters, etc. The music was great, cafes were good, you know, the coffee houses were good. Jerry Hoose Do you understand me?". ", Martin Boyce:People in the neighborhood, the most unlikely people were starting to support it. Lilli M. Vincenz The most infamous of those institutions was Atascadero, in California. When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests that lasted for the next six days. Narrated by Rita Mae Brownan acclaimed writer whose 1973 novel Rubyfruit Jungle is a seminal lesbian text, but who is possessed of a painfully grating voiceBefore Stonewall includes vintage news footage that makes it clear that gay men and women lived full, if often difficult, lives long before their personal ambitions (however modest) If there's one place in the world where you can dance and feel yourself fully as a person and that's threatened with being taken away, those words are fighting words. We were winning. And Vito and I walked the rest of the whole thing with tears running down our face. Except for the few mob-owned bars that allowed some socializing, it was basically for verboten. It meant nothing to us. Finally, Mayor Lindsay listened to us and he announced that there would be no more police entrapment in New York City. Martin Boyce:You could be beaten, you could have your head smashed in a men's room because you were looking the wrong way. So in every gay pride parade every year, Stonewall lives. Howard Smith, Reporter,The Village Voice:At a certain point, it felt pretty dangerous to me but I noticed that the cop that seemed in charge, he said you know what, we have to go inside for safety. Revealing and. Activists had been working for change long before Stonewall. Danny Garvin:With Waverly Street coming in there, West Fourth coming in there, Seventh Avenue coming in there, Christopher Street coming in there, there was no way to contain us. Somebody grabbed me by the leg and told me I wasn't going anywhere. This is every year in New York City. It gives back a little of the terror they gave in my life. And there was tear gas on Saturday night, right in front of the Stonewall. Dick Leitsch:You read about Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal and all these actors and stuff, Liberace and all these people running around doing all these things and then you came to New York and you found out, well maybe they're doing them but, you know, us middle-class homosexuals, we're getting busted all the time, every time we have a place to go, it gets raided. Gay people were not powerful enough politically to prevent the clampdown and so you had a series of escalating skirmishes in 1969. And then they send them out in the street and of course they did make arrests, because you know, there's all these guys who cruise around looking for drag queens. William Eskridge, Professor of Law:The federal government would fire you, school boards would fire you. John van Hoesen Genre: Documentary, History, Drama. I was never seduced by an older person or anything like that. Diana Davies Photographs, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations We had no speakers planned for the rally in Central Park, where we had hoped to get to. Dick Leitsch:Mattachino in Italy were court jesters; the only people in the whole kingdom who could speak truth to the king because they did it with a smile. And I think it's both the alienation, also the oppression that people suffered. We ought to know, we've arrested all of them. Narrator (Archival):We arrested homosexuals who committed their lewd acts in public places. And the Village has a lot of people with children and they were offended. Franco Sacchi, Additional Animation and Effects At least if you had press, maybe your head wouldn't get busted. They are taught that no man is born homosexual and many psychiatrists now believe that homosexuality begins to form in the first three years of life. Just let's see if they can. Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt:The police would zero in on us because sometimes they would be in plain clothes, and sometimes they would even entrap. And, you know,The Village Voiceat that point started using the word "gay.". Martin Boyce:Mind you socks didn't count, so it was underwear, and undershirt, now the next thing was going to ruin the outfit. Narrator (Archival):This is one of the county's principal weekend gathering places for homosexuals, both male and female. Director . Maureen Jordan We had been threatened bomb threats. They'd go into the bathroom or any place that was private, that they could either feel them, or check them visually. Geoff Kole That's it. David Huggins Howard Smith, Reporter,The Village Voice:All of a sudden, in the background I heard some police cars. The Chicago riots, the Human Be-in, the dope smoking, the hippies. Bettye Lane My last name being Garvin, I'd be called Danny Gay-vin. Judy Laster That summer, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village. John O'Brien:If a gay man is caught by the police and is identified as being involved in what they called lewd, immoral behavior, they would have their person's name, their age and many times their home address listed in the major newspapers. The award winning film Before Stonewall pries open the closet door, setting free the dramatic story of the sometimes horrifying public and private existences experienced by gay and lesbian Americans since the 1920s.