Gay Bar: The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s
Gay Bar: The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s
Gay Bar: The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s
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Price: $9.99 FREE for Members
Type: eBook
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Page Count: 188
Format: pdf
Language: English
ISBN-10: 029924850X
ISBN-13: 9780299248536
User Rating: 5.0000 out of 5 Stars! (2 Votes)

Gay Bar: The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s download


Helen P. Branson, Will Fellows free


From a 21st-century perspective, 1950s bar owner Branson wasn't particularly progressive. The 60-something matron barred "the obvious homosexual" from her modest tavern, strongly preferred patrons who could pass for straight, and didn't allow sexual touching. But the onetime palm reader's spunky memoir about running a gay bar on a crime-prone stretch of L.A.'s Melrose Avenue, first published in 1957, is filled with warm affection for "my boys" and with an uncommon understanding of (and sympathy for) gays, at a time when California law prohibited "inverts" from gathering in bars, and vice squad entrapment of "deviates" was commonplace. By pairing this new edition of Branson's insightful memoir with a study of 1950s America, Fellows (A Passion to Preserve) clarifies how ahead of her time Branson was: she believed, for example, that being gay was about more than sex and that gay men living together could consider themselves married. This stimulating account of support for gay rights pre-Stonewall is an eye-opener.
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Body Blows and 1001 Beds



Travels in a Gay Nation.



Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest) intersperses her narrative with contextualizing historical and political information that greatly aids readers’ understanding. ­Verdict: Donald Vining’s multivolume A Gay Diary and Ricardo J. Brown’s compelling The Evening Crowd at Kirmser’s: A Gay Life in the 1940s are related titles, but these were first published long after the fact. General readers of memoir or LGBT lit, as well as historians, will find Gay Bar to be a charming, informative read."—Library Journal



Publishers Weekly



Modern Tonic



Bay Area Reporter



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| 5 out of 5 Stars!


What a fascinating, eye-opening read. The author frames Helen Branson's original memoir, Gay Bar - a long-forgotten time capsule of gay life in the 1950s - with his own, thoughtfully written historical background. The back-and-forth between Branson's writing and Fellows' commentary makes for a lively conversation (and very good company); both reveal the tremendous pressure to conform that gay men faced -- and enforced -- in the 1950s, and the ways these men managed to subvert stereotypical expectations. Fellows' frequent references to gay periodicals like One and the Mattachine Review perfectly complement Branson's account; they offer the reader a broader view of this period, and bring in the voices of the very men Branson writes about. For me, it was a revelation to see how conservative these magazines (and readers) sometimes were, and also how refreshingly contemporary their readers' concerns could be. It was fascinating to read that, nearly half a century before the establishment of Don't Ask Don't Tell, some believed military life itself "turned" men gay -- and I found Branson's treatment of gay marriages in the 1950s both prescient and sympathetic. A fantastic read, and a must for anyone interested in this critical, pre-Stonewall era.

| 5 out of 5 Stars!


More than a decade before the uprising at the Stonewall Inn, gay bars existed in most major cities, but were often poorly-run establishments targeted by homophobes, mobsters and police entrapment. Helen's bar was different, a 1950's oasis located in a crime-riddled area of Los Angeles, where quiet, closeted gay men could meet, drink and socialize with their peers. With her intuition and experience working in other bars, Helen screened new customers, tipping off her regulars through various methods when she was unsure whether they were legit. She became their protector, friend, occasional advisor and confessor, and they were very loyal to her in return.

The late Helen P. Branson released her memoir "Gay Bar" in 1957, and it became one of the first books by a heterosexual to portray gay men with empathy, love and respect. In this re-issue, Will Fellows takes Branson's original chapters and interleaves updates, subsequent research and commentary to put them in perspective. While Branson's observations occasionally mimic the stereotypes about gay men at the time, it's clear that she had only admiration for "her boys" and was thankful for the chance she had to be with them. The book is really a "time capsule" of gay history, not a scholarly work, but a look at a time and place one would otherwise not discover. It is both enchanting and enlightening reading for open-minded people of any age or sexual orientation, and I give it a full five stars out of five.

- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine

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