Jeremy, The Magazine for Modern Young Men, 1969

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Jeremy, vol. 1, no. 1.

To note the 50th anniversary this month of the (partial) decriminalisation of homosexual acts in England and Wales I thought I’d write something about Jeremy magazine, a short-lived publication launched in the UK in 1969. The magazine is notable not for the quality of its contents, which seem slight considering the high cover price of six shillings, but for being the first British magazine aimed at an audience of gay men that wasn’t either porn, a dating mag or a political tract. I had planned to write something about Jeremy at least two years ago when the blog was still a daily thing but detailed information about the magazine’s history is hard to find. This is frustrating but not too surprising. The anniversary of the change in the law has prompted a number of exhibitions and events devoted to Britain’s gay history but little of that history ever seems to travel beyond academic circles unless a notable life story—Quentin Crisp or Alan Turing, say—is involved. As with so many aspects of British culture, the conversation is dominated by America: the main campaigning organisation in the UK, Stonewall, is named after an American riot; the LGBT initialism is an American invention, as is the rainbow flag (the latter, as I’ve said before, being fine as a flag but—with its multiple colours—hopeless as a symbol). More Britons will know the name Harvey Milk than they do Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) or Allan Horsfall (1927–2012) even though Carpenter and Horsfall devoted years of their lives campaigning for gay men to be treated equally under the law in the Britain. Horsfall’s Campaign for Homosexual Equality pioneered the push for gay rights in Britain, the first official meeting taking place in Manchester in 1964. The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 seemed in later years like a poor compromise but when the alternative being offered was celibacy or the risk of a prison sentence it was a start. (Scotland, however, had to wait until 1980 for the same change in the law while in Northern Ireland sex between men was illegal until 1982.) Two years after decriminalisation, not only was Jeremy being launched but OZ magazine devoted a portion of its 23rd issue (September, 1969) to gay material. Jeremy advertised its early issues in OZ and IT (see below).

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Jeremy, vol. 1, no. 2.

Jeremy‘s status as the first gay magazine in Britain might be more acknowledged if its origins weren’t so obscure. The magazine is mentioned in books such as British Queer History (edited by Brian Lewis) and The Culture of Queers by Richard Dyer but never in any detail. Dyer refers to the title as a bisexual magazine which it may have appeared to be from the covers but this is contradicted by the ads. Peter Burton, editor of the later issues, claimed that everyone involved knew that gay men were the primary audience. Using bisexuality as a kind of fig leaf was less a case of cold feet than a means by which the magazine might be smuggled under the radar of those who would otherwise object to its existence. Britain may have been slightly ahead of the US in its tolerance of gay men but the lack of a written constitution meant that publishers, especially those regarded as subversive or disreputable, needed to tread carefully in the 1960s and 70s as OZ and Nasty Tales discovered.

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Jeremy, vol. 1, no. 3.

The precarious legal position means that Jeremy‘s visuals are relatively innocuous, with sporadic nudity but nothing that might be regarded as pornography. The magazine’s features were also relatively innocuous although the novelty of publishing anything overtly gay meant that a piece about entertaining at home would carry a frisson that would be absent in other magazines. Later issues included encounters with minor celebrities including an early interview with David Bowie which has at least preserved the magazine’s name in Bowie histories. Bowie had the opportunity to be open about his sexuality but wisely waited until his profile had risen and he could make a declaration to a larger audience.

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Jeremy, vol. 1, no. 5.

A few more covers and some interior pages follow. As usual, if anyone has further information to contribute then please leave a comment. My thanks to Rex for sending the information about Peter Burton’s editorship of the magazine.

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Oz magazine online

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Oz 4. Cover art by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat.

From a television series out of time to a magazine very much of its time. The Prisoner and Oz magazine are exact contemporaries: issue 4 of Oz (June 1967) would have been on sale when Patrick McGoohan and co. were busy turning Portmeirion into The Village. In the past anyone interested in Oz had to either scour eBay for expensive paper copies or content themselves with the incomplete scans made available several years ago. But no longer, thanks to the University of Wollongong and editor Richard Neville who have made the entire run available as downloadable PDFs. These are much better quality than the previously available copies, and they also have poster inserts available as separate downloads. The wonderful set of Tarot designs created by the late Martin Sharp for issue 4 were faded and torn in the old scans so it’s a real pleasure to see this and other artwork looking so good.

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Tarot designs from Oz 4 by Martin Sharp.

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Gay slang from the 1970s

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Browsing through the available back issues of Oz magazine recently I noticed a guide to gay slang which I didn’t recall seeing before. The underground magazines and newspapers of the 60s and 70s were a lot more tolerant of the nascent gay rights movement that their “straight” (ie: non-freak) counterparts. Oz magazine published pieces about gay rights, notably so in issue 23 which ran an extract from The Homosexual Handbook (1969) by Angelo d’Arcangelo among a couple of other features; the UK’s first gay magazine, Jeremy, advertised regularly in Oz and IT; later issues of Oz carried ads for another gay mag, Follow Up, and there’s a letter in one issue from a gay freak complaining about the state of the few gay pubs in London where the clientele was apparently not freaky enough. (His solution was to try and persuade them all to drop acid.) Arguments which still circulate today, between those who want to assimilate and those who prefer to remain separate from general society, go back a long way.

The gay slang guide was extracted from The Queens’ Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon by Bruce Rodgers (1942–2009), published in the US by Straight Arrow Books in 1972. Straight Arrow was affiliated with Rolling Stone magazine, later publishing two volumes of Wilfried Sätty’s art, and Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon. Rodgers’ book was reissued in 1979 as Gay Talk: A (Sometimes Outrageous) Dictionary of Gay Slang (Formerly entitled The Queens’ Vernacular) but has been out-of-print since, unsurprisingly since so much of it is now completely outmoded. That doesn’t make the content uninteresting, however. The phraseology may be ribald, obscene and offensive (misogynist, especially) but the book has been described as “the first serious dictionary of gay slang and the definitive gay American jargon resource”. Rodgers was a serious researcher with an interest in all forms of slang. Just as the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) by Francis Grose gives a more-or-less unmediated insight into the lives of the working and criminal classes of 18th-century London, so Rodgers’ dictionary tells us something about the way gay people, especially gay men in the US, were talking to each other for much of the 20th century. What’s striking now about this truncated list is the degree to which so much of the language is obsolete—nobody under the age of 60 would use the term “queen” with such frequency—while the wider acceptance of porn has made once-esoteric terms like “golden shower” much more common. Notable by its absence is “queer” as a purely positive description (not reclaimed until the 1980s), and no mention of “twink” (which goes back to the early 60s) or “bear” (another term from the 80s).

There’s a tendency when looking at lists such as this to imagine a group of people using most of the terms all the time, but as with any form of slang this would be unlikely. The same goes for Polari or the handkerchief codes of the 1970s. As you’d expect from a document that’s 42 years old, some of the language that Rodgers collected tramples over many current sensitivities.

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Illustration by Rod Beddall.

THE QUEEN’S VERNACULAR, Oz 46, Jan–Feb 1973

Gay slang has been coined and used by those within the gay subculture who themselves feel the most oppressed—the flagrant wrist benders, the screaming queens, the men who look like women, the women who don’t shave their moustaches.

It is a form of social protest, aimed at the establishment; it is also self-protective and self-defeating. Gay militants would like to see it go, and argue rightly that gay jargon is yet another link in the chain which holds the homosexual enslaved and oppressed—yet its widespread use and complex vocabulary indicate that gay liberation has still along battle in front of it. The selections which follow are taken from a Straight Arrow publication, The Queens’ Vernacular by Bruce Rodgers. The words are mostly American. Even the classic English phrase, “queer basher” is not included.

* * *

advertising 1. to dress in a sexually provocative manner. Gay maxim: “It pays to advertise.” 2. (camp) to pluck and then paint the eyebrows.

army style (mid ’60s) beating the cocksucker after the act.

bumping pussies the embarrassment of two homosexual men who find themselves too passive, active, or in other ways too similar to create a sexual situation. “He thought you and I were carrying on together—what would we do, bump pussies?”

cash-ass (from cautious) cynically applied to hustler who feigns coyness until assured of material gain. “He’s not shy, he’s cash-ash. Mention money and watch his cheeks light up.”

catalogue queen homosexual who collects physique magazines for masturbation purposes.

cheesy having the foreskin lined with smegma. Stale and musky smelling. “The sailor was so cheesy that I felt like asking him where be hid his crackers.”

chic the latest craze. Cruising the busy streets after the bars close is chic. Getting invited to an orgy is chic. Sucking men off in a public lavatory is not chic. Wearing pearls with grey flannel is not chic either, unless one is serving tea in a closet.

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The Trials of Oz

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If it’s a surprise to see Cockney geezer Phil Daniels masquerading as the erudite (and non-Cockney) Thomas De Quincey in The Art of Tripping, it’s even more of a surprise to see Hugh Grant in wig and hippy gear as Richard Neville in this 1991 dramatisation of the obscenity trial against Neville’s Oz magazine. Grant wasn’t exactly unknown when this was made but it was prior to Four Weddings and a Funeral so the casting didn’t seem very notable at the time.

The play was written by Geoffrey Robertson QC from the trial transcripts to observe the 20th anniversary of a lengthy and very public trial. Robertson in 1971 was an assistant to John Mortimer, the magazine’s lawyer, so the reconstruction may be taken to be an accurate one. In addition to Grant as Neville, Simon Callow plays Mortimer, Nigel Hawthorne is prosecutor Brian Leary, and Leslie Phillips is Judge Michael Argyle. Among the witnesses there’s Alfred Molina as George Melly (yet again; see yesterday’s post), and Nigel Planer as DJ John Peel, both of whom were called to testify that the notorious “School Kids” issue of Oz wasn’t an obscene publication. The trial, like the earlier drug busts against the Rolling Stones, was as much about the State trying to clobber a bunch of anarchist upstarts as anything that involved the pros and cons of antiquated laws. The three defendants—Neville, Felix Dennis and Jim Anderson—were also accused of “conspiring to corrupt public morals”; the obscenity issue was merely a pretext for getting the longhairs into the dock.

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Oz 28 (1970). Art by Raymond Bertrand.

This isn’t a lavish production—it’s stylised to the extent that the public gallery is made up of cardboard figures—but it’s good to know that there’s a (rough) copy out there after my tape of the original broadcast developed a fault. Not available, unfortunately, is the live studio discussion that followed in which Jonathan Dimbleby spoke to Geoffrey Robertson, Germaine Greer and others about the trial. The discussion featured a delicious moment when Dimbleby referred to Greer’s feminist issue (no. 29) as “C-Power Oz“. “Come on, Jonathan,” said Greer, “it was Cunt Power Oz!” Dimbleby then spluttered “Anyone can say ‘Cunt Power Oz‘…” and hastily moved on the discussion.

A year after his TV appearance Geoffrey Robertson was in Manchester Crown Court appealing an earlier ruling of obscenity against David Britton’s Lord Horror (1990) novel. I was in the public gallery on that occasion, and it was an education seeing how little had changed since the Oz trial, with a similarly Philistine and deeply ignorant judge presiding. Robertson overturned the ruling against the novel but a ruling against one of Savoy’s Meng & Ecker comics was upheld. In 1995 we were back in court attempting to argue for a jury trial against further rulings of obscenity, this time against one of my own comics, Hard Core Horror 5. (That issue is now the opening section of the Reverbstorm book.) We failed that time thanks to a magistrate who was even less inclined to listen to any argument.

The Oz trial may seem quaint and farcical today but the issues remain pertinent: some forms of art will always be in conflict with laws that are out-of-date, badly written or maliciously applied. And once you’re standing in a courtroom your opinion about the situation is of no consequence; you’re at the mercy of the people who make the rules.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Martin Sharp, 1942–2013
Raymond Bertrand paintings
Raymond Bertrand’s science fiction covers
The art of Bertrand
Oz magazine, 1967–73

Martin Sharp, 1942–2013

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Oz magazine no. 15, October 1968.

The psychedelic art of Australian artist Martin Sharp has featured here on several occasions. Unlike his British and American contemporaries who maintained a single graphic style, Sharp was a versatile artist whose work could range from loose, often cartoony drawing and painting to very detailed collage designs; he was also as happy as any other artist of the period to plunder art history, as the cover for issue 15 of Oz demonstrates. The Mick Jagger figure from that cover was later reworked as a poster for “Turner’s Purple Orchestra”, one of a number of pieces of Sharp art which can be glimpsed throughout Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970).

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Performance (1970): Michele Breton and a Martin Sharp collage.

Sharp’s involvement with Oz magazine, and the creation of a handful of endlessly reproduced designs—the Bob Dylan Mr Tambourine Man poster, Jimi Hendrix in a Jackson Pollock explosion, the sleeve art for Cream’s Disraeli Gears—makes his art some of the most visible of the period. People may not necessarily know the name but they’ll recognise the work.

In 2009 Sharp’s Oz colleague Germaine Greer wrote a warm appraisal of the artist and his work. A few more examples follow. There’s a great selection of posters and other art and design here.

The GuardianMartin Sharp, Australian artist who came to symbolise the ’60s | Martin Sharp in pictures

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Mister Tambourine Man (1966).

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