There were a number of words for homosexuals when I was growing up, but "gay" was not one of them. We called them fags, queers, homos, sissies and a lot of other unflattering things. You have to appreciate that although there were gays back in the Fifties, the lifestyle was not exactly embraced. People didn't come out of the closet, they locked it from the inside. I can only imagine how tough life was for them. They couldn't even divulge their secret to their families. The image most men cultivated was the strong, silent type...guys like Gary Cooper, John Wayne and Clark Gable. Ironically, some of Hollywood's most popular stars were gay or bi-sexual but could never admit it: Randolph Scott, Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Errol Flynn and Tab Hunter come to mind.
What young guy in the Fifties wouldn't have traded places with Rock Hudson or Cary Grant? Strong, handsome, rugged, yet with charm and a sense of humor. Who could blame Doris Day for "going all the way" with them...hell, I might have given it a shot myself! The lifestyle has a certain appeal, after all, men clearly don't understand women, but they understand other men. If only the relationship didn't have to be physical. I have seen the play "La Cage Aux Folles" a number of times and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is that they portrayed the gay lifestyle in a very sympathetic light. The characters are likeable and the author told their story in a way that aroused empathy and understanding.
As a kid, I had a couple of unlooked for gay encounters. Once in grammar school a Franciscan Brother kept me after school. He said he wanted to talk to me about something and I readily agreed. In my experience, when you weren't getting hit by these guys, everything else was OK. We were in an empty classroom and this creep sat down next to me and began talking in a very soothing voice. Soon his hand was on my knee and moving North. I was confused and angry that a trusted grownup would touch me this way. I just got up and ran out of the room. We never spoke of the incident.
Another time I was in high school and had fallen into the bad habit of skipping school and going to the movies. My usual truancy-mate, Paddy Jones, was out of school that day so I just went to our local movie theater, the Colonial, on Broadway. It was an early show during the week, so the theater was nearly empty. I was surprised when a man, who could have been the centerfold for Pedophile Magazine, came over and sat down next to me. I was annoyed but not suspicious until the guy put his hand on my inner thigh as casually as if he was reaching for his popcorn. Nobody ever warned us about these pervs back then; homosexuality was a taboo subject and I think Catholics thought they would go to H-E-L-L if they just uttered the word.
By the time I got into the army, I was wiser and warier. I had heard all the jokes about dropping the soap in the shower. We had a communal shower in the barracks, so if you wanted to be clean, you just took your chances. I can say though that if you look in the Guinness Book of Records under the category "Fastest Shower Ever Taken" you will find the name of yours truly.
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