Monday, June 20, 2016

Tommy's Joint/Tommy's Place

Jeannie Sullivan & Tommy Vasu (far right) taken at Mona’s.
Tommy's Joint (Later known as Tommy's Place)

Location: 299 Broadway (1948-1952), 529 Broadway (1952-1954), San Francisco, California, USA

Opened: 1948

Closed: 1954

Tommy's, along with Mona's, was one of the classic lesbian bars of that era. For some reason, I just never got around to posting on Tommy's earlier. Remedying that now.

From Before the Castro: North Beach, a Gay Mecca by Dick Boyd:

Tommy’s Joint, 299 Broadway, 1948 to 1952, Tommy’s Place, 529 Broadway, 1952 to 1954 (Now the Garden of Eden)
Tommy Vasu was the first known lesbian to legally own a bar in San Francisco. When out on the town she dressed like a man in double-breasted suits, wide tie and a fedora hat. She used the men’s room, had a beautiful blond girlfriend and loved to gamble. In short, she was a risk taker. She often came into Pierre’s for high stakes prearranged liar’s dice games with artist/entrepreneur Walter Keane.
The 299 Broadway site was where businessmen from the nearby financial district could find a willing hooker out of sight of prying eyes at places like Paoli’s. Stevedores from the docks close by also partook of the hookers on paydays. The hookers were the girlfriends of the butches who hung out there.
Adjoining Tommy’s Place was 12 Adler (now Specs) accessible by a back staircase. It was a lesbian pick-up rendezvous. Upstairs was entertainment pretty much by whoever cared to perform. During a purge of gay bars in the early 50’s, 12 Adler lost its liquor license in what appeared to outsiders as a set-up. Drugs were found taped to the drain under the sink in the ladies room.
Tommy ran the Broadway Parking concession and was around Broadway until the mid 60’s. Tommy’s high maintenance blond was a heroin addict and Tommy became a dealer to supply her needs. She got busted and sent to Tehachapi where she was murdered shortly after her release.

From It's a Raid by Michael Flanagan:
Bartender Grace Miller (left) at
Tommy's Place before it was raided.
Tommy's Place & 12 Adler
Spec Twelve Adler Museum Cafe (12 Saroyan Place) is on the alleyway (formerly Adler Street) across from City Lights. A colorful North Beach bar with enough bric-a-brac and curios on the walls to keep you entertained for hours, it's also full of North Beach characters.

But in the 1950s it was a lesbian bar, owned by the openly lesbian Tommy Vasu (and attached to Tommy's Place on 529 Broadway, now the Garden of Eden strip club, by a back stairs). The bars were the site of a sensational raid that resulted in a trial and months of hysteria in San Francisco.
A newspaper clipping of the
Tommy's Place and 12 Adler Place busts.

Boyd's Wide Open Town puts it this way: "...when Tommy's Place was raided on 8 September 1954, it was part of a much larger police agenda. Because the arrests involved a handful of underage girls, the event escalated into a multifaceted investigation into juvenile delinquency that fleshed out the ostensible connection between organized 'sex deviates' and the corruption of minors." Two bartenders and a patron, Jessie Joseph Winston, were put on trial. Winston and bartender Grace Miller served jail time and both bars were shut down.

Dave Cullen provides even more details on the 1954 raid:

Sept. 8, 1954 - Tommy's Place (a lesbian bar in San Francisco) is raided after an article in the S.F. Examiner about the 'marked influx of homosexuals' into San Francisco.  Because the arrests involved a number of underage girls there was an investigation into connections between 'sex deviants' and the corruption of minors.  There were accusations of benzedrene and barbituate use and that the girls were 'taught to smoke marijuana.'  Two bar owners were arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Another bar owner was not arrested, but her name and address were printed in the paper.  The raid led to a Grand Jury investigation and a U.S. Senate sobcommittee hearing.  The young women involved were forced to publicly testify at the hearings and eventually the two owners were convicted of serving alcohol to a minor and served six months in prison.  Mr. Jesse Winston, an African-American man who was arrested for furnishing marijuana to a minor and possession of marijuana was sentenced to one to 20 years in San Quentin.

Wide-Open Town by Nan Alamilla Boyd also has several passages on Tommy's--too many to quote here.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Edmonton (1980s)

Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Opened/Closed: 1990s

Shakespeare's is one of those lesbian bars that once existed, but there is so little information (readily) available on it, it might as well be from ancient times.

The ONLY reference to this lesbian bar I can find is a list that Queer Edmonton keeps called Yeg's Gay Club Past:

SHAKESPEARE'S (199?-199?)
In the mid-'90s Shakespeare's was a downtown Edmonton lesbian bar. (10805-105 Avenue).

The only other lesbian bar listed is Secrets, which became Prism Bar and Grill, which became the Junction Bar & Eatery. We've posted on that place here.
By an interesting coincidence, we have also posted on a place called the Shakespeare Inn Ladies CafĂ©, which existed in Boston in the early 1900s. Most of what we know about that place is that men tried to crash it, which just goes to show that nothing is really new in the history of womyn's space. Maybe all the "queer theorists" should try to base a theoretical analysis on the actual historical record for once, instead of just making up stuff.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Women-only cars on Chicago CTA?

That this conversation is even taking place in the USA is fascinating. Liberals have told us for years that these things can't be done (that's discriminatory!) and shouldn't be done, because, you know, we need more (male) education! And this women-only thing is only done in "backwards" countries! Oh, and Not All Men Are Like That (NAMALT)!

Uh huh.

And that's when it was brought up at all, which was almost never. It was practically taboo to even bring up the topic for discussion.

Adult males need to be taught that it's not nice to rape or grope women? Frankly if they never got the message growing up, I doubt they're going to get it now. So let's looks into real-life solutions that help women now.

And isn't it paradoxical that as womyn's spaces that used to seem non-controversial and benign--restrooms, locker rooms, domestic violence shelters--are increasingly threatened with elimination, we're seeing a RESURGENCE of interest in women-only public transportation options because of, shhh, male violence. The same thing we're not allowed to talk about when it comes to male voyeurs, cross-dressers, pedophiles and the like invading restrooms.

From Chicago Reader:

April 12, 2016

Could woman-only el cars prevent sexual harassment on the CTA?
It's worked in Mumbai and Tokyo, but the CTA says education is a better strategy.

By John Greenfield @greenfieldjohn

Last month, in the wake of hundreds of reported sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in Cologne, a German commuter train line announced it would offer railcars reserved for women and children.

Crowded transit systems in Japan, Indonesia, India, Egypt, Mexico, and Brazil already feature women-only rail cars in order to prevent harassment and assaults.

In response to that news, last week NPR commentator Rhitu Chatterjee wrote glowingly of the ladies' cars in her hometown of Delhi.

"It would be wonderful if men learned to accept women's presence in public spaces without feeling the need to harass them," Chatterjee wrote. "But until they do, the women's car is one good way for us to assert our right to public spaces."

Indonesian women board a women-only carriage of a commuter train on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia. - IRWIN FEDRIANSYAH/AP
Indonesian women board a women-only carriage of a
commuter train on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • Irwin Fedriansyah/AP
  • Her op-ed got me thinking about whether female-only cars might be a strategy to combat sexual intimidation and violence on the CTA.

    In 2015 there were eight reported sexual assaults on the CTA—a category that includes everything from groping to rape—according to spokesman Jeff Tolman.

    He characterized that as "extremely few instances," considering that 516 million rides were taken last year.

    While lesser offenses often aren't reported to the CTA or police, stories female friends and colleagues shared with me by for this article suggest that inappropriate behavior is all too common on the system.

    Jane, a 43-year-old urban planner (who like many women I spoke to asked that we not use her real name), reported that men have catcalled and exposed themselves to her on the el on multiple occasions.

    Alice, a 53-year-old legal assistant, told me she's tall and assertive enough to intimidate would-be offenders, but has petite friends who've endured so much harassment that they only ride the train alone at rush hour, or not at all.

    One of them is Blanca Robledo-Atwood, a Colombian-born graphic designer who's four-feet-11.

    One evening she was riding the Red Line when a tall, beefy guy sat down next to her and whispered in her ear, "You are so beautiful—I want to be your friend."

    After trying in vain to ignore his advances, she spoke loudly to him in Spanish, which he didn't seem to understand. "He got embarrassed and tried to hide," she recalls.

    Still, she feared the man would follow her off the train.

    After that she stopped riding the el by herself at night.

    The man who tried to hit on 34-year-old nonprofit worker Ellen on the Blue Line's Jackson platform at 2 AM was less polite.

    After she made it clear she wasn't interested, he snarled, "Well I'm a nice guy, but I hope your boyfriend continues to beat and rape you."

    Ellen held her ground in the ensuing shouting match, but she now thinks that was unwise.

    "I could have gotten stabbed that night-who knows," she says. After that she largely switched to commuting by bicycle.

    "I get high anxiety sometimes when I enter CTA trains, no matter how much I think I'm a strong and badass woman, and it pisses me off to feel that way."

    Brittany, 28, survived a sexual assault that occurred while she was riding the Blue Line out to Oak Park on a Tuesday afternoon in May 2014.

    As the train crawled through a slow zone west of the Kedzie-Homan station, a large man approached her in the otherwise empty car.

    The assailant held her down and attempted to rape her.

    She was able to snap his photo as he fled. (A few months later police apprehended the man, who'd been attacking other women for years, she says. He's now doing jail time.)

    Brittany rides the el less often nowadays, and when she does she tries to sit in the front car, with the driver.

    "I still have major issues taking trains," she says.

    Brittany and a few other women I spoke with thought women-only cars could be an effective way to address harassment and assault on the CTA, if the policy could be properly enforced.

    "I've heard enough of these stories that I think many women would welcome a female-only car," said the legal assistant.

    But there's skepticism as to whether such an approach is necessary in Chicago, even from transportation experts who take harassment seriously.

    “Putting men in a train car separate from me will not stop them from harassing me when we exit the train.” —Courage Project founder Kara Crutcher­

    Lauren Dean is an urban planning student at UIC who since 2011 has been doing research on the ladies' compartments of the Mumbai railway system.

    Gender-separated cars are crucial in India, she says, because "the crowding on the train makes it very easy for male commuters to grope or rub up against women who don't have any means of escape and often can't actually identify their assailant in such a huge crowd."

    In Chicago, street harassment is "absolutely an issue for female commuters," Dean says.

    But she adds that the physical space on the Mumbai trains is totally different—it's common for 14 to 16 passengers to be crammed into a single square meter of floor space.

    "Even at its most crowded, the CTA doesn't handle that kind of crushing passenger density," Dean says.

    The CTA's Tolman notes that 23,000 security cameras have been installed throughout the system in recent years to serve as a crime deterrent and aid police in catching offenders.

    But he dismisses the possibility of female el compartments in Chicago by pointing out that "no transit system in the United States uses women-only cars."

    Instead, the agency is addressing the problem through a new informational campaign.

    "If It's Unwanted, It's Harassment" warns would-be offenders that abusive behavior will not be tolerated.

    The centerpiece of the campaign is a new line of rail and bus advertisements encouraging riders who see a fellow passenger being hassled to speak up, contact CTA personnel via an onboard intercom, or call 911 if there's an immediate safety threat.

    But some of the credit for the new initiative should go to the Courage Campaign, a grassroots organization launched in 2014 by Uptown resident Kara Crutcher to fight harassment on the CTA.

    Last year the group successfully lobbied the agency to shift its focus from simply asking victims to report incidents to preventing abusive behavior by raising awareness of the problem.

    "We're happy to see a couple of CTA ads up regarding harassment," Crutcher said. "It is definitely a step in the right direction. . . . Personally, I hope that we can work with them to produce more educational ads, but we shall see."

    As for female-only cars, while Crutcher says these could provide a safe space for women suffering from post-harassment PTSD, she argues they're a Band-Aid solution that doesn't get to the root of the problem.

    "A cultural shift must occur," she says. "We must recognize and respect each other everywhere, but especially in these public spaces. . . . Putting men in a train car separate from me will not stop them from harassing me when we exit the train. But education, antistreet harassment advocacy, and courage might."

    John Greenfield edits the transportation news website Streetsblog Chicago.

    Monday, June 6, 2016

    Glastonbury festival's "The Sisterhood"

    As genuine women-only space is stripped away--even places as seemingly innocuous as bathrooms and locker rooms--we seem to be seeing mainstream, male-dominated culture introducing a faux or "lite" version of womyn's space, as if to confuse women further.

    An example of this is the Glastonbury festival, where they have oh so thoughtfully set aside a little corner for the ladies. Ladies, of course, meaning anybody who at that particular moment can say they "identify" as a lady. And at a festival where the leadership does not appear to be identifiably female at all.

    Meaning it's all bullsh**--completely meaningless, anemic, and non-threatening to men.

    Of course, some men won't be in on the joke and will object anyway. Which is roughly 90% of the comments following the article. Men just freaking out over one damn tent that's "women-only" for just a few days. The rest are getting the wink and the nudge. Just throw on a wig and you're in.

    Glastonbury 2016 to introduce women-only venue
    The Sisterhood, in the festival’s Shangri-La zone, will offer live music, workshops and DIY classes to female festivalgoers
    The Sisterhood, Glastonbury festival will open in 2016.
    The Sisterhood, Glastonbury festival will open in 2016.
    Photograph: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns via Getty Images
    The 2016 Glastonbury festival will feature its first ever women-only venue. Called The Sisterhood, it has been described by the organisers as a “revolutionary clubhouse” open to “all people who identify as women.” The Sisterhood will be an “intersectional, queer, trans and disability-inclusive space” and will be staffed entirely by people who identify as female, from performers to security staff. In a statement, the venue’s organisers said: “The producers of The Sisterhood believe that women-only spaces are necessary in a world that is still run by and designed to benefit mainly men. Oppression against women continues in various manifestations around the world today, in different cultural contexts." They continued: “In the UK, the gender pay gap in the workplace, cuts to domestic violence services and sex worker rights are current talking points that highlight this issue. Sisterhood seeks to provide a secret space for women to connect, network, share their stories, have fun and learn the best way to support each other in our global struggle to end oppression against women and all marginalised people, while showcasing the best and boldest female talent in the UK and beyond.” You’ll be able to find The Sisterhood in the festival’s Shangri-La zone, where there will be live music, DJs and workshops on intersectionality, diversity and inclusion. There will also be daily dance classes and, surely best of all, DIY power tools workshops with carpenter Rhi Jean.