That House on Catalina Drive

That house on Catalina Drive

Catalina Drive epitomized the post-war American dream. Low-slung ranches on quiet streets, with large yards, green grass and thirsty palm trees — this was the stuff that transformed the desert between Phoenix and Scottsdale into a suburban paradise.

Who knows what actually went on behind those closed doors on Catalina Drive. A lot, probably. Divorce rates were edging up. Beer bottles in the trash cans and raised voices heard from back yards hinted at other troubles in paradise. So did the rumors about affairs, the bread man or the milk man who lingered at that house a little too long.

That house. Every neighborhood seemed to have one. For Catalina Drive, it was 4042. That house, on the outside, looked more or less like every other house on Catalina Drive. But inside, well, let me tell you…

The woman who lives there is really young. Only 21 and already she’s divorced and with two young boys. She inherited more than $20,000, enough to buy it just a little while ago. She’s already in trouble for bringing marijuana in from Mexico at Nogales. Now she’s got parties going on there every single weekend. Wild parties, with thirty, forty people maybe. And here’s the thing: almost all of them are men. Weird men, some of them with makeup and curly eyelashes. The kind you don’t want anywhere near your children.

So the neighbors on Catalina Drive did something about it. They called the police. And just to be sure, they also called the mayor. Mayor Jack Williams asked Police Lt. Charles Hodges to keep a good watch on this “influx of homosexuals.” Vice-squadders kept an eye on that house for the next two week. Four more parties took place during those two weeks in that house.

Finally, it’s Saturday night, February 8, and another party is underway.  It’s time to act. Police raided the place and found 31 people there: 27men and only four women. According to the Arizona Republic, “there were Negroes, Spanish-Americans, and whites at the party, which was raided at 5 a.m.”

But as Lt. Hodges admitted later, there is no law against homosexuality itself. And they didn’t find that anyone at the party that had committed any “overt act which are illegal (sic).” So all he could do was arrest eleven of them on misdemeanor charges, for being drunk or for drinking under the age of 21. Police also found marijuana in the home. That was the homeowner’s. Her problems just kept piling up.

“Something should be done about such orgies,” said Lt. Hodges, of this particular non-orgy. “Laws should be enacted to deal with such homosexuals.” One neighbor said he was going to organizing a vigilante group to “deal with these persons in our own way.” These “twisted personalities,” he said, were a threat to children.

The raid was a hot topic at the City Council meeting on February 24. The council members wanted to “declare war on Phoenix sexual deviates,” reported the Republic. Eight Catalina Drive residents were there. One of them said that police might have to arrest him for “shooting somebody up” if one of those people came near his children. He asked council to find “ways and means to deal with all people like those.”

But city attorney William C. Eliot said you can’t just arrest people suspected of being homosexual because it’s like arresting someone with tendencies to commit burglaries. You can only arrest people if they actually commit a crime. Mayor Williams grumbled that the law doesn’t even allow for running suspects out of town.


Mayor Williams, a former radio announcer, later served as Arizona Governor from 1967 to 1975. He had entered politics as a member of the city school board, where he helped to integrate the city’s schools. He joined the City Council in 1954 when fellow councilman Barry Goldwater nominated him to fill an empty seat.

On the Timeline:

February 8, 1958: Phoenix police arrest 11 in a raid on a private party.


For February 8, 1958:
President: Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
Vice-President: Richard M. Nixon (R)
House: 233 (D) 196 (R) 0 (Other) 6 (Vacant)
Southern states: 99 (D) 7 (R)
Senate: 49 (D) 47 (R)
Southern states: 22 (D)
Inflation: 3.3%
Unemployment: 6.4%

Headlines: The Defense Department says sending a satellite to the moon may be possible this year. A severe winter storm on the East Coast brings heavy snow, high winds and freeze warnings as far south as central Florida. An Air Force Atlas rocket blows up in a test firing. Police in five stages search for the kidnappers of a Flagstaff man who was forced at knifepoint to drive to Gallup, where he was tied up and left at the side of the road. Two days earlier, a Holbrook man was kidnapped and released in Benson; his kidnappers were captured in El Paso, Texas.

On the radio: “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors, “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes, “Short Cuts” by the Royal Teens, “Don’t” by Elvis Presley, “Sail Along Silvery Moon” by Billy Vaughn and his Orchestra, “The Stroll” by the Diamonds, “Sugartime” by the McGuire Sisters, “I Beg of You” by Elvis Presley, “Great Balls if Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly.

Currently in theaters: Peyton Place, starring Lana Turner, Hope Lange, Lee Philips, and Lloyd Nolan.

On television: Gunsmoke (CBS), The Danny Thomas Show (CBS), Tales of Wells Fargo (NBC), Have Gun, Will Travel (CBS), I’ve Got a Secret (CBS), The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (ABC), General Electric Theater (CBS), The Restless Gun (NBC), December Bride (CBS), You Bet Your Life (NBC), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (CBS).

New York Times best sellers: Fiction: By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens, Rally Round the Flag, Boys! by Max Shulman, Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver. Non-fiction: Please Don’t eat the Daisies by Jean Kerr, Baruch: My Own Story by Bernard Baruch, Kids Say the Darndest Things! by Art Linkletter.


“Neighbors aroused: 11 nabbed in raid by anti-vice squad.” Arizona Republic (Phoenix, February 9, 1958): section 2, page 2.

“City Council seeks potent weapons in war on Phoenix sexual deviates.” Arizona Republic (February 25, 1958): 7/

“My Mask Never Slipped”: When Invisibility Was Something To Be Proud Of

Gay history, especially before the rise of the women’s movement in the 1960s, tends to be centered on the experiences of gay white men. We can all imagine what it was like to be a gay man fifty-five years ago thanks to the early homophile magazines ONE and The Mattachine Review. The Review dealt almost exclusively with male concerns, while ONE, in its early days, mostly relegated women’s concerns to a segregated column called “The Feminine Viewpoint.” In 1956, the Daughters of Bilitis began publishing The Ladder, to provide women with a voice separate from men. And thanks to The Ladder, we have, preserved like a time capsule, a collection of voices from, well, the feminine viewpoint.

A very brief essay that appeared in the March 1958 issue of The Ladder illustrates the pervasive invisibility of lesbians. Much of that invisibility was cultivated by lesbians themselves. Butch lesbians, like effeminate men, were the visible side of homosexuality, and it represented a specific set of dangers to whose who were not open about their sexuality. Drawing attention, as this very visible group of people did by their modes of dress and behavior, was dangerous to those who weren’t prepared to deal with the consequences. This kind of visibility meant lost jobs, scornful neighbors, and angry landlords.

And drawing attention in a decade that prized conformity meant losing access to that most prized commodity, respectability. Which is why so many lesbians and gay men were obsessed with “fitting in.” They prided themselves on their ability to pass as straight, more or less. “No one would suspect,” they’d tell themselves. Their invisibility made their respectability possible. And respectability represented the  highest achievement they could hope to gain in a society that rewarded conformity to social norms. Without it, they’d just be a bunch of queers.

It’s a sad sort of pride where one is proud of not showing others who they really are. This troubled, contradictory essay perfectly illustrate what this cheerless sort of pride looks like. It’s signed Sandra Price, although the name  is almost certainly a pseudonym, given its message.

Yes, I Am!

I wish it were possible for me to wr1te this on my letterhead, but my “world” would be too shocked if they were to learn their perfectly proper and “normal” appearing friend, business and professional member of their society were any different than she appears. And more shocked to know that she is secretly glad to be a Lesbian.

I’ve never consulted a psychiatrist (but many have with me) as I am not emotionally disturbed nor suffering from a guilt complex. I am perfectly healthy, have no need or use for drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. Although I move in a society that uses them with the rest of their problems, I’m not concerned with their use.

I’ve only had one “friend”. Fifteen years ago we “discovered” one another at a rather boring society tea and instantly we knew there was a tie that bound us. We’ve been true. There is nothing “cheap” about the deep love that we have shared. We are both very prominent women. There has never been the slightest finger of suspicion pointed at us. Our manners in public are such as not to attract any undue attention. We are both attractive, well groomed, fashionably dressed, completely feminine.

If occasionally our hands meet under the table when dining out it is with complete fulfillment and security. We have found what few individuals ever do — that is complete compatibility and understanding, without jealousy or distrust.

I am always secretly amused when some wise person says “I can tell one a mile away”. When my secretary, a clever young woman who has been with me for 10 years, said to me recently when she accidentally saw my copy of THE LADDER: “What do you want with that stuff — you’re no homosexual” I knew my mask had never slipped, and I was secretly proud of the fact. But I long f or the day when I could say “I am a Lesbian” with the same ease I say “I am a Republican”.

My friend and I do not and never have lived together. We have conventional families who never even guess we are  “different”. We manage to have a day a week together. We meet at social affairs and quite often we weekend, or take a vacation somewhere, even Europe.

I would not change my way of life, even if I could. Of course, we all should come out in the open and proclaim our status, but the world is not quite ready for that. While I’m not afraid of men, mice, snakes or storms, I’m just not brave enough — yet — to say “Yes, I am!”

— Sandra Pine


Sandra Pine’s situation may not have been necessarily typical, although certainly was not all that rare. In July, Pine’s contradictory essay boasting of her invisibility elicited a response from Jule Moray, who challenged Pine to consider the price she has paid for her invisibility.

Open Letter to Sandra Pine

I was touched by your article, “Yes, I Am” in the March edition of THE LADDER; touched, and a little terrified.

I see two well dressed women, perfeotly groomed, at whom the finger of suspicion has never pointed; their hats fashionably perched above masks that never slip. Two perfect ladies, completely feminine. Miss Pine, might I ask what are you being feminine for? Whom are you trying to deceive? Yourself, or the well dressed, well groomed, completely masculine men you meet every day? Or your conventional families, who trust you and would never guess? Is it not possible that these normal business and professional friends are as afraid of showing you that they know, as you are afraid of knowing they know? Let us by all means keep our personal lives as private as can be; but if we are lucky enough (and many are not) to have private lives why not let them be as full and satisfying as we can possibly make them? A hand touched beneath the table; one day in seven alone; the occasional week-end; even a trip to Europe in fifteen years — is that the best you can do for your love life, Miss Pine?

Would you lose your job, your mother’s love or your right to vote Republican if you let slip just a couple of small hairpins, took a flat with you friend [sic], and started to make up for all the time you two have lost? Who is going to worry? Not your secretary — you haven’t made a pass at her in ten years — we know that. Not those professional and business gentlemen — you’ve been giving them the red light all along. Who else is there? The ladies at your social gatherings — they’ll be only too thankful you’re not after their men. And at the very worst, if the whole town knows you’ve left home and are sharing with a roommate; is that going to rock anybody?

My friend and I have been together for twenty years; it took us eight years, owing to the war before we were able to live together. We’re not at all smart or well groomed, and I don’t honestly know if you’d say we are feminine or not. Probably in every plaoe we’ve ever lived everyone has known we are Lesbians. We rarely think about it, and we never worry about it. Certainly no one has ever hinted that our relationship is at all strange. Most of our friends are married and no one has ever refused to come to our house. We, in fact, think ourselves liked, sometimes well-liked, very rarely disliked.

Miss Pine, you are not afraid of men, mice, snakes or storms? All right; why don’t you take that flat? A comfortable one, serviced, you can afford it. Let yourselves go a bit over the decor, be bold, but cosy; and, before it’s too late, see to it that there’s only one bedroom with a full size double bed. You won’t, either of you be so well groomed in the future — but it will be worth it.

— Jule Moray

On the Timeline:

March 1958: A lesbian describes her pride in being invisible.


For March 1950:
President: Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
Vice-President: Richard M. Nixon (R)
House: 233 (D) 197 (R) 0 (Other) 5 (Vacant)
Southern states: 99 (D) 7 (R)
Senate: 49 (D) 47 (R)
Southern states: 22 (D)
Inflation: 3.6%
Unemployment: 6.7%

Headlines: The Army launches a second Explorer satellite, but its final stage fails to ignite and the satellite falls back to earth. President Eisenhower opts against accelerating development of nuclear-powered aircraft. The U.S. Navy mothballs the U.S.S. Wisconsin, leaving the U.S. without a battleship on the seas for the first time since 1895. B-47 bomber accidentally drops an unarmed atom bomb on a farm near Mars Bluff, South Carolina. Cuban President Fulgencio Batista suspends Constitutional freedoms and imposes censorship on domestic and foreign media. The U.S. Navy successfully launches its second satellite, Vanguard 1. Elvis Presley is inducted into the U.S. Army.

On the radio: “Don’t” by Elvis Presley, “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes, “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry, “Short Shorts” by the Royal Teens, “Oh Julie” by the Crescendos, “26 miles (Santa Catalina)” by the Four Preps, “Who’s Sorry Now” by Connie Francis, “The Walk” by Jimmie McCracklin and His Band, “Tequila” by the Champs, “The Stroll” by the Diamonds, “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors, ,”Lollipop” by the Chordettes, “Breathless” by Jerry Lee Lewis.

Currently in theaters: Witness for the Prosecution, starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton.

On television: Gunsmoke (CBS), The Danny Thomas Show (CBS), Tales of Wells Fargo (NBC), Have Gun, Will Travel (CBS), I’ve Got a Secret (CBS), The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (ABC), General Electric Theater (CBS), The Restless Gun (NBC), December Bride (CBS), You Bet Your Life (NBC).

New York Times best sellers: Fiction: Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver, By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens, Rally Round the Flag, Boys! by Max Shulman. Non-fiction: Please Don’t Eat the Daisies by Jean Kerr, Kids Say the Darndest Things! by Art Linkletter, Baruch: My Own Story by Bernard Baruch.


Sandra Pine. “Yes, I Am!” The Ladder 2, no. 6 (March 1958): 12-13.

Jule Moray. “Open Letter to Sandra Pine.” The Ladder 2, no. 10 (July 1958): 16-17.

The Hidden Homosexual and the Silent Lesbian on New York TV

It had been about a year and a half since WRCA-TV, NBC’s flagship in New York City, first aired a panel discussion on homosexuality. That program featured a psychologist, a lawyer, and a liberal-for-1956 clergyman, all of them straight. The program was (for 1956) relatively evenhanded and balanced — as balanced as a program like this could be where people were talking about another group of people who weren’t in the room.

But it did ruffle some prominent feathers. New York’s Francis Cardinal Spellman threatened to go to the FCC to have WRCA’s broadcasting license revoked. WRCA reacted by scheduling two more programs in September and January.

In 1958, WABD, the former flagship station of the defunct DuMont network, decided to host a discussion of homosexuality on its half-hour afternoon public affairs program, Showcase. Its producer decided it might be interesting to have a real live homosexual on live television. He contacted Tony Segura, the New York chapter president of the Mattachine Society. Segura agreed to appear, on the condition that his name wasn’t mentioned and he could wear motorcycle goggles while on the air to hide his face. Those precautions were important: homosexuality was a felony in New York, punishable with up to twenty years in prison.

The Showcase panel also included psychiatrist Albert Ellis, a so-called ally of the homophile movement. Ellis was popular among a segment of homosexuals who had fully absorbed society’s blanket condemnations. According to Ellis, homosexuals were mentally ill, but so where heterosexuals who were 100% straight. This made him, for the 1950s, even-handed in a still-condemnatory fashion — even though Ellis saw no particular need to try to cure those heterosexuals he found so neurotically straight.

The program dealt mainly with dispelling some of the stereotypes about gay people, a task that was undoubtedly made more difficult by Segura’s relative invisibility. Ellis’s presence didn’t help much either. He repeated his suggestion that homosexuals adjust themselves to a “heterosexual mode of living.” Segura used his half-hour of near-fame to carefully lay out the Mattachine Society’s purpose and history.

Unlike the previous WRCA program, this program generated little public reaction. Even so, the program proved highly contentious among the higher-ups at WABD. For the next day, Showcase had scheduled a follow-up program program about lesbians, with a member of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis participating. (I have been unable to discover her name.) But fifteen minutes before airtime, word came down that the topic was cancelled and the guests were to talk about something else — anything else.

The program’s host was Fannie Hurst, a popular novelist, short story writer, feminist, and civil rights activist. With the program about to go live, she scrambled to find a substitute topic that the assembled guests could talk about. As it happened, one of those guests, Helen King, had written a book about handwriting analysis. That would be the safe topic of the day. New York DoB member Lorrie Talbot described this program for The Ladder:

“Having received your letter yesterday morning — there I sat, pencil poised over a fresh white sheet of paper on my coffee table — my eyes glued to the face of the bearded gentleman who apparently introduces the program, SHOWCASE. He was saying in soft, promising tones that we were about to he ar a discus sion of a ‘very interesting’ subject. I lifted my pencil higher…

“Anyhow, poor Miss Fannie Hurst came on and introduced her guests, and with remarkable restraint, advised us viewers that the program which had been promised for today had undergone severe censorship some 15 minutes before show time. Severity in this case meaning that she had been directed to simply drop the topic. I swear, as I was dropping my ready pencil, I truly did see the stenciled letters swim across my eyes — VERBOTEN.

“So that was kind of that — except for some rattier courageous remarks made by Miss Hurst (indirectly) on censorship of valid social questions. She is a writer, you know, and inclined to metaphor, but in this case, well put! She said something to the effect that we (society) have not as yet come out of that ‘strange, dark jungle of fear’. And with marvelous diplomacy, I thought, made it quite clear to all viewers that the responsibility did not lie with her. … She referred to the previous day’s discussion … thusly: ‘After the high plateau reached yesterday’ she regretted that ‘the station feels we are a little premature.'”

And with this, the discussion about handwriting analysis began, although King did manage to squeeze one mention of homosexuality. “To my amusement,” wrote Talbot, “at Miss Hurst’s prodding, Miss King chose an example of her experiences in her work from a matter that had to do with a homosexual personality. Probably innocent, but l imagine it must have made some exeoutive itch a little.”

The half-hour program ended early, with Hurst apologizing again for the censorship imposed on the program. She then signed off with a “hail but not farewell.”


The following Labor Day weekend, the Mattachine Society held its national convention at the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel in New York City. Fannie Hurst moderated an afternoon panel discussion. Before the panel began, Hurst admitted that until the television programs the previous March, she had never heard of the Mattachine Society and knew almost nothing of homosexuality. The Ladder, the official publication of the Daughters of Bilitis, described her talk as the “emotional highlight of the convention”:

“I represent the man and woman on the street,” Miss Hurst said, referring to her scant knowledge. “I doubt if my mother ever heard the homosexuality, or would have known what it meant. It seems we have come far when we are even disposed to discuss it.”

Miss Hurst pointed out that the discussions at the convention were on a rather intellectual plane, stressing the legal and psychological aspects. “We can never hope,” she said, “until the masses of the people understand. The attitude here is good, but you must reach the people.

“Until the great, great gadgets of modern communication throw this message out to the people, with their slow compassions, their slow thinking, in their own idiom, we won’t get the understanding necessary. Attitudes being [sic] with the people, and they must be told through TV, magazines and the newspapers.”

It was pointed out from the floor that press releases on the convention had been sent to all New York newspapers with the result that one paper had sent a reporter who had written an article later killed by his editor as “not fit for a family newspaper.”

This did not surprise Miss Hurst. “This just shows the size of the job ahead,” she said. “It must be a slow process of erosion.” She pointed out that she fully expects her TV sponsors to present the second program on homosexuality previously cancelled. This through pounding and pounding away by herself and others connected with the program.

Despite Hurst’s best efforts, that second program never came about.

No film or transcript of either program is known to exist.

On the Timeline:

March 10, 1958: New York’s WABD-TV airs a discussion of male homosexuality.

March 11, 1958: New York’s WABD-TV cancels a follow-up program on lesbians.


For March 10-11, 1950:
President: Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
Vice-President: Richard M. Nixon (R)
House: 233 (D)
232 (D)
197 (R) 0 (Other) 5 (Vacant)
6 (Vacant)
Southern states: 99 (D) 7 (R)
Senate: 49 (D) 47 (R)
Southern states: 22 (D)
Inflation: 3.6%
Unemployment: 6.7%

Headlines: Rep. John J. Dempsey (D-NM) dies at the age of 78 from a viral infection; he had been hospitalized for two weeks. The unemployment rate reachers 6.7%, surpassing the peak unemployment rate of the 1953-1954 recession. Congressional representatives from both parties call for increasing unemployment insurance and accelerating public works spending to combat rising unemployment in the eight-month-old recession. Vice President Nixon says he favors a tax cut over increased spending if more anti-receission measures are needed. A B-47 bomber accidentally drops an unarmed atomic bomb onto a farm near Florence, South Carolina. Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista promises to hold fair elections on June 1 amid continuing violence with Fidel Castro’s armed rebels.

On the radio: “Tequila” by the Champs, “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry, “I Don’t” by Elvis Presley, “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)” by the Four Preps, “Oh Julie” by the Crescendos, “Who’s Sorry Now” by Connie Francis, “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes, “The Walk” by Jimmie McCracklin and His Band, “Sugartime” by the McGuire Sisters, “Good Golly, Miss Molly” by Little Richard.

Currently in theaters: Lafayette Escadrille, starring Tab Hunter and Etchika Choureau.

On television: Gunsmoke (CBS), The Danny Thomas Show (CBS), Tales of Wells Fargo (NBC), Have Gun, Will Travel (CBS), I’ve Got a Secret (CBS), The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (ABC), General Electric Theater (CBS), The Restless Gun (NBC), December Bride (CBS), You Bet Your Life (NBC).

New York Times best sellers: Fiction: Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver, By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens, Rally Round the Flag, Boys! by Max Shulman. Non-fiction: Please Don’t Eat the Daisies by Jean Kerr, Kids Say the Darndest Things! by Art Linkletter, Baruch: My Own Story by Bernard Baruch.


Magazines (in chronological order):

Philip Jason. “Mattachine Official Participates on New York Television on Homosexual Subject.” The Mattachine Review 4, no 4 (April 1958): 24-25.

Lorrie Talbot. “A Daughter Watches TV.” The Ladder 2, no. 6 (March 1958): 10-11.

“Mattachine Convention: Prognosis Is Hopeful.” The Ladder 3, no. 1 (October 1958): 11-15, 21-25.


Edward Alwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 34-35.