Mickey and the Faggots

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The story goes back at least as far as 1983 in the following Kaus piece in The New Republic (not on Google):

There I was, moping in my beer, because Barney's Beanery (a famous old hangout on Santa Monica Boulevard) was forced to stop distributing matchbooks bearing its ancient motto, 'Fagots Stay Out,' and to take down a similarly misspelled sign tacked over the bar. The restaurant had since been sold and did not actually exclude homosexuals. The matchbooks and sign were kept as part of the place's heritage.

But Barney's had the misfortune of being located in West Hollywood, a sliver of miscellaneous L.A. County land incorporated last November after a petition drive by gay and tenant activists. About a third of the area's residents are gay, and three of five members of the new city council are openly homosexual. Their first official acts were to roll back rents and to ban antihomosexual discrimination. (As James Wolcott once said of the politics of The Village Voice, "We're for fistfucking and against gentrification.")  Attorneys for the city threatened to turn over the Barney’s matchbooks to the D.A.'s office. After a brief period of pleading the First Amendment, Barney's owner caved in. The city's mayor (yes, one of the three) removed the offending sign from above the bar in a brief ceremony on Martin Luther King's birthday.

Civil rights march on. So why did I find myself sympathizing with Barney's? Was it that the slogan was unenforced? Partly. I certainly don't sympathize with the Jonathan Club, an oceanfront resort in Santa Monica that seems to actually exclude blacks, women, Jews and Hispanics. But I'd be offended if the matchbooks said 'Nigers Stay Out,' even if the policy was unenforced. I guess I have two arguments. First, while homosexuals certainly have a history of oppression, it seems clear that, at least in West Los Angeles, they are no longer the oppressed group. They've won, politically and, more important, economically, in a way that blacks haven't. There is something inflated, and unnecessarily defensive, in the gay politicos' righteous invocation of the elaborate and (necessarily) humorless mechanisms of racial equality.

Second, the Barney's sign wasn't really designed to keep out homosexuals so much as to keep out the homosexual life-style, which was taken over virtually every other bar in the area (except one called The Raincheck Room which responded to the Barney’s Crisis with a mysterious sign warning 'Farraguts Stay Out'). The difference seems important. Sexuality may not be a matter of choice for many people, but 'life-style' is. And some discrimination on the basis of life-style is, I think, both unavoidable and ultimately healthy. What the Barney's sign implied was that, no matter what your sexual preference, you were expected to act a certain way inside. You were supposed to feel uncomfortable if you didn’t. I am made to feel uncomfortable in most gay bars, if they don't stop me right at the door. So what? One of the ways the gay life-style is defined is by excluding 'breeders' like me. Should I be able to sue if I can't get in to Studio 54 because the doorman thinks I look like a nerd?

Does the 2007 Kaus still believe what the 1983 Kaus believed? On just one point of information. I know of no gay bars anywhere that exclude straight guys. We have no issues with straight guys, nerds included.

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2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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