Weekend links 581

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The back cover of Oz 33, February 1971. Art by Norman Lindsay.

Walker Mimms looks back 50 years to the trial of the editors/publishers of Oz magazine, in which the trio were accused of “conspiracy to corrupt public morals” following the appearance of Oz 28, the “Schoolkids Issue”, in May 1970. Elsewhere: corrupt your own morals by reading the offending issue; then see Hugh Grant in a hippie wig in The Trials of Oz, a BBC dramatisation of the courtroom drama; after which you can watch the real editors—Richard Neville, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis—discuss the whole affair with other interested parties 20 years on (and also see Germaine Greer shame Jonathan Dimbleby into saying the word “cunt” on live TV).

• New music: Caves – A Compilation Of Silences by Other People (“This collection of silences and music can be used as timers for cooking, meditation, running, walking, sleeping or anything you want”), and Vaganten by ToiToiToi, the next release on the Ghost Box label.

Chris Carter‘s favourite albums. I think I own more of the albums listed here (including the ABBA) than any other entry in this long-running series. Which isn’t really surprising…

What I would say about that in general is what I’ve written in the new introduction to Teenage, which is that the 60s youth culture that we’ve been talking about, the progressive, critical side of it came as a complete surprise to adults. And once they identified what was going on, they were incredibly hostile, and authorities were incredibly hostile to it. And from the Thatcher government in the 80s you have a series of measures, a series of laws, a series of attitudes, a series of structures put in place to make sure that that never happens again. So youth itself has been deliberately depoliticised and also had a lot of the opportunities for any kind of autonomy taken away from it. That is, it has been a deliberate government policy right the way through, including Blair, and definitely with the current lot.

Echoes of the Oz debate in this discussion between Jon Savage and Owen Hatherley

• At Perfect Sound Forever: RIP Jon Hassell: honouring a one-of-kind musician/composer.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Edward Luper’s 36 Views of the BT Tower (after Hokusai).

• At Unquiet Things: Doorways into Awareness: An interview with Century Guild.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXIV by David Colohan.

• Ghost notes: Michio Kurihara‘s favourite guitar solos.

• “Future space travel might require mushrooms.”

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Alexander Hammid Day.

Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 FIVE STAR is live.

Like A Tear (1968) by The World Of Oz | Return To Oz (2004) by Scissor Sisters | Il Pavone Di Oz (Praslesh Remix) (2014) by Verrina & Ventura

Heartbreak Hotel

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Number One: Teen Angels in Anguish. Cover by Barry Kamen.

Among the recent uploads at the Internet Archive is a complete run of Heartbreak Hotel, a British magazine six issues of which were published in 1988. (More or less…I think the first issue may have appeared at the end of 1987.) Heartbreak Hotel differed from other bi-monthly publications by being predominantly a comics magazine, but it also differed from other comics magazines by a) having the contents of each issue themed to follow a different musical genre, b) running articles by and interviews with people who had little or no connection to the comics world, and c) being a lot more openly sympathetic towards gay men and lesbians than any other magazine aimed at a general readership. The latter stance was a political one in 1988. This was the year when the Thatcher government, growing hubristic after a third election win, passed a Local Government Act whose notorious Section 28 prevented authorities from “promoting homosexuality”. The clause was designed to prevent Labour-run councils from funding gay and lesbian support groups, as well as to stop teachers from mentioning homosexuality in sex education lessons. The editors of Heartbreak Hotel, Don Melia and Lionel Gracey-Whitman, were a gay couple, so the magazine stood against the repressive atmosphere of the time without being too polemical or too serious. The polemic was more overt in affiliated publications Strip AIDS, a benefit comic for the London Lighthouse (a residential and daycare centre for people with AIDS), and AARGH (or Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia), a collection of comics taking a stand against Section 28 which was the first publication from Alan Moore’s Mad Love imprint.

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The other notable feature of Heartbreak Hotel was the attention it gave to new artists, to women artists, or to people who weren’t drawing generic action/adventure strips. The first two issues appeared while I was working on the last pages of my adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu so I sent the magazine some sample pages and was subsequently invited to meet the editors at the launch of the next issue in London. I spent a somewhat nervous weekend in the capital; this was my first introduction to the wider comics world, and my introversion in those days was a lot more pronounced among strangers than it is today. I met Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie for the first time (separately—they weren’t a couple at that time), and was amused when Don made a point of telling me that he and Lionel were gay, something he evidently felt he had to declare even though it had been (for me, at least) quite obvious from the editorial stance of Heartbreak Hotel, as well as the camp graphics scattered throughout the magazine’s pages, and the fact that the publisher was co-named “Willyprods”.

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Dave Gibbons spills the beans in issue one.

The format of the magazine was established in the first issue: five or six strips based on songs that suited that issue’s theme, together with interviews or features, some of which also matched the theme. “Spill It!!” was a regular feature in which a different artist had a page to create an autobiographical piece in strip form, and there was also a column about comics and related matters by artist/writer Trina Robbins. I’d initially hoped to draw something for the psychedelic issue but by the time I posted my photocopies that number was already being prepared for print. I did turn up in the fourth issue, however, in a short news piece which announced the publication of the Caemaen Books edition of my Haunter of the Dark strip.

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Also from issue one, Alan Moore recounts his trip to the USA.

A more important outcome from my journey to London was Lionel’s offer to run The Call of Cthulhu in BLAAM, a spin-off comic that Willyprods/Small Time Ink was planning. Heartbreak Hotel had been inundated with work by talented newcomers so rather than make them wait for a slot in the parent magazine the editors decided to launch another title to provide an additional outlet for new creators. Lionel had been very impressed with my Lovecraft story, and also assisted with its conclusion when he suggested that I add an extra page to help the pacing near the end, something I did, and which I’ve been grateful for ever since. The first issue of BLAAM, printed on tabloid-size newsprint sheets, came bundled with issue five of Heartbreak Hotel. The idea was that BLAAM would continue separately as a free publication thanks to a combination of low production costs, advertising, and Don Melia’s contacts at Titan Distribution. This was all very exciting, especially when two more issues of BLAAM appeared soon after. My strip was slated to run in number four or five but Willyprods/Small Time Ink didn’t publish anything more after December 1988. I was disappointed by this but not for long. A year later I’d started working on the Savoy comics, and Steve Bissette offered to publish the Cthulhu strip in Lovecraft Lives, a book he was planning for Kevin Eastman’s new enterprise, Tundra Publishing. That one didn’t work out either—the stars weren’t right for a variety of reasons—but all this attention, and the enthusiasm shown by everyone involved with Heartbreak Hotel, made the comics world seem like a good place to be. For a while, anyway.

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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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