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It was a very hot night, it was June, it was one of those nights that the street was mobbed and crowded to begin with on Christopher Street. I had decided I wasn't going to the bar that night, I wasn't even going to the city that night, I was in Brooklyn visiting my mother and the phone rang and it was my very best friend, John Goodman, who I was like to mention, co-sees, no longer with us, and his exact words were, miss who's get down here right now, there's a riot at the Stonewall and I was there in about 40 minutes. And when I got to the bar, my most vivid memory and I wish there were pictures of it was a kick line of drag queens that I know, Zazoonova,
Queen of Sex, Martha P. Johnson, Harmonia, doing like a rocket's kick line, being faced down by the New York City TPS, the tactical police force, which was the riot squad at the time. And when I got there, the queens were doing a rocket dance, kicking like the rocket's singing, we all the Stonewall girls, we wear our hair and curls, we wear our dungarees above our knees, I remember the tack words, and there was the tactical police force facing them down. And it was such an incredible sight because they didn't know how to deal with this. I mean, the riots squad was used to riots, they were not used to a bunch of drag queens doing a rocket's kick line and sort of like giving them all the finger in a way, giving them all the showing them all, you know, we're not going to be
intimidated by you anymore. I was so happy. I immediately got into it. If there were rocks to be thrown, I grabbed them through them. I remember throwing one rocket, the window of the bar, and I thought that the cop was going to get me. But there was so much going on around, around that they didn't know where to go first. The patty wagon, I remember being caught in front of the bar, and I remember as each person came out, they would do little show and everybody would scream and carry on. It went around the corner to 10th street where Julius's bar was. And at one point, I went with a crowd around the corner, and in front of Julius's bar, I personally witnessed a patron from Julius's bar, self-loathing gay man, come and grab one of us, one of the demonstrators, and hold them for the police. I'll never forget that. That's ingrained in my head, too. At one point, I said to myself, this is great. We have so much energy. Let's direct it in some sort of direction where
we can do something important. And I started screaming, let's march to City Hall. Let's march to City Hall. Well, it was a riot. A riot not many people are listening, and people around me started chanting that, but it didn't get anywhere very far, and I stopped chanting that. And that night, I spent the whole night with the crowds, and the next four nights, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday night, and the following Wednesday night, it grew. Each night, it was a little angrier, a little more violent. I think on the second night is when the car got turned over, which I was right there, when the car got turned over. We tried to turn a cab over. I remember we couldn't turn the cab over. I remember ripping caulking meters out of the streets and throwing them. It was wonderful nights. I have great memories of it, but I always felt during those four nights, when the nights ended and
we're no more riots. I was very, very, very let down because I felt it was wonderful, but it wasn't going to change things. And that got me very upset. I went to a very bad depression after the rioting stopped on the fourth night. I was very sad because it didn't look like we were going to get anywhere. It was going to be a bleep in history, maybe. We're going to go back to the same kind of stuff, not having a place. That was a bad time for me. Going back before we get to the after, what is the first night? Do you have any memory that you've been trapped inside? Do you have any memory that you've been trapped inside? You know, if you ask eight different people, you're going to get eight different answers. I just had an argument with somebody about this a few weeks ago that the police, there's
an issue whether the police hit inside because they were scared to come out during the beginning of the riot and all of that. Personally, I can't say. I don't know. I don't think really looking back on it really matters much because everything that night was unheard of. If the police got locked in there because they were scared to leave, that was unheard of at the time. Everything was unheard of. Dread Queens doing a kick-line was unheard of. People gave people a fighting back. It was all new territory for all of us. That's another reason that it was so invigorating because we just all went, we went, it was sort of like nothing to lose and I don't care anymore. This is going to change. I wouldn't have cared if I got arrested, if I got killed really that night. I really think that if there was any kind
of real danger, it wouldn't have changed anything. If anybody was really in danger, they would have continued with it. It wouldn't have mattered. We were fed up. We were angry. The sixties had been awful for us. We were all young people. We were energetic. We were mad. We were tired of taking the crap and it all exploded that night and we weren't going to take it anymore. At least that's the way. Look, that night, you know, that all four of those nights don't get into the duty-gallon thing. This had nothing to do with duty-gallon. We died. A lot of gay people liked her. I liked her too. She didn't. Her death did not cause the riot. Her funeral wasn't why people were upset because I know that a lot of people bring that part up. I think that's a little bit insulting to gay people. So then to you, what did? I always answer this the same way. It was time. It was time.
Every other group was at the point of demonstrations, standing up for your rights. The women were doing it. The black people, the civil rights movement. It was time. That's really the easiest way to describe why it happened that night. It was time. There had been a riot in San Rich's go a year or so earlier. Got nowhere. It wasn't time. It was time. It was hot. We were mad. We were very, very angry at everybody. The world, we had no friends. And it was time. Time had come. It's the only way I can explain it because there is no other reason why I certainly wasn't defending the bar itself. I was defending my people. We were all, I like to think most of us weren't defending the bar. We were defending our rights as people and human.
Did you have a look around during this chaos and feel like, whoa, I've never felt that. Was there something you felt during that you had never felt before? I was thrilled. It was like somebody uncorked a champagne bottle in my head. I just, because I said earlier, I didn't think this kind of thing was ever going to happen. I really, really expected. I would live out my whole life in this very oppressive kind of a situation where I have no rights and I'd not have the ability to be proud of what I was openly. This was the first time that I saw a glimmer of hope that that night might not be the case. That we might actually take a stand and do something to change that. Up until then there was none of that. And that's why the night was so spectacular and the time was so spectacular. But why that night? It was time. There's no other way to explain why that night.
Because there had been many raids on many bars, many nights. We had been in Barristan. Did you take those and I was supposed to take them in advance? There had been many nights, many bars, many nights that we were humiliated and thrown into padding wagons. Nobody objected. Nobody carried on. We all took it like the Jews getting into the trains and being taken off to the concentration camps. It was just time. Do you think there was just a mounting frustration not that people were talking about it like they were some part of some revolution groups, but revolutionary political groups? But do you think there was something that was mounting people like the men? It wasn't a revolutionary political group kind of thing that night. It was plain and simple. Anger, frustration, anger. Anger is the only way I could describe it and it was time.
And the anger took hold. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that there were so many of the gay people and lesbians that night that when they were getting arrested, they put on this whole big show. They'd get us all more and more crazed up when the kick line was going on. The anger became like gay people. When we have a riot, it's a riot. And it's a riot. So it can be, we turned it into a riot. It was sort of a combination of serious and carnival. It's a way I've described it often. Because how many riots do you have a kick line of people dancing and taunting the riot police? That's not a usual riot. So as gay people, even when we had a riot, we did it differently.
And you talked earlier about being angry at the gay person in 60. But then I was kind of wondering, how did you express that? What is your angry point of view? We had no reason to express it. Well, you know, like I mentioned earlier, we would go down on the trucks and have sex in public places and things like that. But there really was no way to express your anger because there was no recourse. You couldn't win. You know, we didn't want to fight a battle that you couldn't win. And the first night of Stonewall, a lot of us begin to realize that there might be a battle to fight that possibly we could win. Or at least we could give it a good try. And that had never happened before. There had never been that kind of a feeling before. So was it like, but there was something, I mean, what did you say about anger? There's no outlet for you. So if you're angry, man, I'm hearing all these stories and having your buddies and, you know, going to trucks and having a blast in a way, you know.
So what happens if you're never able to express yourself through? Well, it, it, it, it builds up. And it's like I described like popping a champagne cork out of the champagne bottle. We had a lot of pentapanger. And that anger was never really expressed until that night. And why wasn't it expressed that until that night? Because it wasn't time until that night. It was time. Throw in the mix. It's hot. We were, I wasn't in the ball when they first got there. But from what I'm told, it was a fun night. People were having a good time. It's probably cooler in there. And then the police come. And as usual, we have to stop our fun. We have to stop having a good time. We have to walk out and get arrested and be humiliated. And you just mix all that together and throw it, throw in the fact that it was time.
And that's when the anger exploded. Next day. I don't think this could have happened in December. Could you mention something that really got to be taken by what makes this time? You said when you were running on the corner for the Julius, you know, the more the more straight, the more establishment kind of gay guy pulled you aside. Right. What's going on with that? That's your generational thing or some people have everything to do with other people. It's, that's it totally. Right. And I agree. I didn't quite get what do you mean by having nothing? Well, there were the gay people who had good jobs, who had everything in life to lose and basically lived very closeted. Those people had bars that they went to where they sat around on suit and ties and they were very conservative and Julius's at the time was one of those bars. And they almost identified or tried to identify more with the straight population. They didn't, like I said, there was no gay community. Didn't exist. And the people at Julius's bar were the time that would want to show the police.
Look, I'm not part of this here. Take this drag queen. And whereas you tell me, what do you mean have nothing to lose? Well, what were you willing to give up? Well, we had nothing really to give up. Most of us lived from place to place to place. A lot of us, not me, but a lot of us were homeless. A lot of us had been thrown out of our families and had no family to speak of. We hung out in Sheridan Park most of the time, slept in Sheridan Park sometimes. There was nothing to look, what could they do to us, put us in jail? To a lot of the people going to jail was a place to sleep that night. You know you're going to get out the next day. So there was really nothing to lose. So we were experiencing that sort of freedom that allowed us to do what we were doing.
You could lose your job in a minute if it came out that you were gay. There were a lot of people like in Julius' who had careers and things like that. They had a lot to lose. And I don't give them credit for being what they were, but I have to say that I can understand why they didn't get involved because they were afraid. John, fear. It was all day. It built all day. I stayed with my friends at 55 West 14th Street that night. I went out like about three in the afternoon and there were like little crowds of people here and little crowds of people there. And there was like a tension in the air that was, I'm getting a chill as I'm talking about this, because I was afraid it was over. And it was like this tension in the air and people, again, anger. Anger is the basic feeling that most of us had. And as it got dark that night, little groups started doing things, throwing things, and the police were all over the place because I think they expected it to blow up again.
And I think it was that Saturday night was, I'm not sure if it was Saturday night or Sunday night, that was the most violent that I recall with the turning over of the cars. I think of Volkswagen and we tried to turn over a cab. But it just like built and built and built and built and I remember Saturday night and Sunday night and Wednesday night being much louder and more sort of crazy than even Friday night. Friday night got off to a good start. And it was in the daytime too. There was no riot in the daytime, but there was like crowds of people and people were just mad. We were mad and we were in everybody's face also. As I described, the gay community basically stayed on Greenwich Avenue and we walked up and down Greenwich Avenue. That whole weekend, we were everywhere. We were all over the village. We were in crowds here and if the cops came and moved us, we moved to another place.
And I remember it just being, and I also remember feeling that some of the people that did have stuff to lose were starting to join in and be part of it. People that lived in the village, even non gay people who were tired of, you know, a lot of people were mad at the police for a lot of different reasons. I think that added into it too. The police had been very vile and vicious through the 60s, through the Wagner administration, very bad. And I think just basic dislike of that and the police added to it even amongst the heterosexuals at that time. So there were even just neighbor. Well, it was for nights. A lot of people don't remember Wednesday night. I remember it. Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I remember it being a pretty big night.
And why did they end? That's a good question. And I didn't really have an answer for it. I guess we got petered out. And like I said earlier, that put me into a really bad state of mind. So what did you do with that and how did you make something out of it? All right. Well, about a week later, as I said, I was really, really in a bad mood, very depressed. And I was standing around Christopher Street in 7th Avenue when a couple of people I knew came over to me and they were handing out leaflets. It was Charlie Pitts, Michael Brown. Possibly Martha Shelley, I think.
And they had been part of this thing called the Action Committee of Manishing. Manishing was a gay organization before Stonewall. It was a very establishment kind of thing. If they did a demonstration, you had to wear a tie and assume once a year they went down to Philadelphia and they marched. You couldn't march with them unless you were dressed in proper attire. And it was a very mainstream kind of thing. Manishing did not appeal to the majority of the street kind of gay people that I was part of. But they had a militant group that had formed part of the group and they called it the Action Committee. And they wanted to pursue more militant kinds of forms of protest. And they were handing out literature that they wouldn't have a meeting that night to try to form a more militant organization that we were going to take the energy from what had gone on and build on it. When they came out with me with the literature, and I took it, I said, oh God, yes, give me some. And I started handing it out with them.
The meeting was to be held a couple of blocks up the street at a place called alternate university, alternate U, as we called it. And it was this weird place at the corner of 14th Street in Sixth Avenue that was sort of a meeting place for all the counterculture groups, the Yippies and the Guppies and the Guppies and the Women and the Civil Rights people that had no other place to meet. And we were having a meeting that night at 630 and we gathered up as many people by handing out literature as possible. And we all marched up there and had one of the most insane meetings I've ever been to in my life. And I've been in some pretty insane meetings. What was this group going to do? What were we going to fight for? What were we going to call it? Was it going to be homosexual something? Was it going to be gay something? Is it going to be men and women? It was a very chaotic meeting. At one point the meeting broke off and half of us went into one room and half of us went into another room.
And it got down before the end of the night. The argument was, what are we going to call ourselves? We decided we had to decide that first. And we decided on gay liberation front. Liberation front based after the Women's Lib. And gay was our word. Not homosexual, gay. And that's what we decided we were going to call it. You wanted to ask me something. I was just, can you also try to find sort of like, is it fair to say that this, can you try to lead us from the rise to like what happened after in a summary form? Did it lead to a whole new way of looking at people? You mean that we, after the war? What did it end up being? Well, I'll tell you one of the first things that seemed to come out of it is the police were a little more, they didn't jump so fast to raids. Because they knew there might be some sort of a problem. They didn't, it made them very, a little more reticent to be as brazen as they were with us.
Did the organizations, how did it lead to the police? You got about five hours. All right, GLF was the first group that came out of the riots. GLF, about halfway through the year, I credit Craig Rodwell with coming up with the idea of having a ceremony one year after Stonewall to celebrate the Stonewall riot and what had come out of it. And we formed a committee called the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee. That committee's job was to put on a commemoration of the first march. Now, at the point, at that time, it wasn't even an idea to have it yearly. This was going to be something, a one time thing. Again, we didn't know what to call it. Can I just say something off the camera? You can cut it, right? I know that we're running out of time here.
But I got to say, if you ever want to do something in the future and talk about this kind of stuff more, I'm open to that. This isn't the stuff I'm most interested in. All right, we'll go back to filming. Where was I? I can't do 10 minutes of that. Okay, so let's go right to that first parade. What did it feel like and what were your expectations? All right, well, the first parade was in many ways a very frightening event. We had been threatened. We had been all sorts of threats that had come into us. We had sent some people to train with the, what was it? There was an organization that trained Quakers. Did I hear a voice there? We had been trained by the Quakers how to keep things from getting out of hand and had a hold back violence and stuff like that. I didn't do the training.
I just wanted to be part of the parade. The march. Excuse me. The parade now used to be a march. I call it a march slash parade. First of all, we didn't know how many people were going to show up. We were very fearful that no one would show up. We were worried that we'd be an embarrassing kind of thing. Nobody would show up and we'd look foolish for even trying it. We had a lot of concerns. Mainly the violent part. That day, we were also worried about the weather. Was it going to be 100 degrees? Was it going to be pouring? It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. Low 70s temperature. We formed at Christopher Street by 7th Avenue, like a black down from the Stonewall, as will we form. When we got started, it was maybe, and this is, you get different estimates from different people. I remember being maybe 100 to 100 people when we started. We went up Christopher Street and then up 6th Avenue. We had one lane on 6th Avenue. Traffic was still running and we had one lane that they had blocked off. And as we kept going up 6th Avenue and we were going fast, people that were involved in it, like me, referred to it as the first run.
Because we went from Christopher Street to the sheet metal in about an hour. Now the same thing takes us hours and hours and hours. And we go in the other direction now. But as we were going up 6th Avenue and with our chance out of the sidewalks and into the streets and all that, it kept growing and growing. We kept looking back and it got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. And as we got to the park and I remember turning around and whenever I tell this story, I do get chills, turn around and it was endless. It was thousands of people. It was one of the two or three great, I'm getting a chill, two or three greatest moments of my life. It was just pure happiness. We had finally. And that's the day I consider the gay community became real. The riot was like the conception. The year between the riot and the first march was the gestation period.
And the day of the first march was the birth of the gay community. That's the way I see it. It's really nice. Why was it a run? Why were you going fast? Because we were scared. We were trying to get it up there as fast as possible. We had been threatened bomb threats. People could take shots at us. We had to move it quickly and we were scared. We weren't scared for ourselves personally, people that were running it. We just didn't want anybody to get hurt. We didn't want it to boil down to that. We wanted to get it up there to the park where we thought it was safer to our gay end as we called it. The police, I think, took us as a big funny joke. And whenever they could, they could make sneering faces and sort of like put down.
But they were okay. I can't say that I can recall any problem with the police other than the sneering and the general put down. No, we had a... I've heard people say we didn't have a permit. We did have a permit. We had a permit from the city. We had a permit for the park and for the march. That was part of that whole year when we worked on putting this all together. So, you know, we had supposed police protection, but gay people didn't really have police protection. We had no protection. Are we growing not? I have...
Series
American Experience
Episode
Stonewall Uprising
Raw Footage
Interview with Jerry Hoose, 2 of 3
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/15-924bbmwg
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Description
Episode Description
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Such raids were not unusual in the late 1960s, an era when homosexual sex was illegal in every state but Illinois. That night, however, the street erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Raw Footage Description
In this interview, Jerry Hoose talks about being gay in the 1950's, the Mafia, Greenwich Village, the trucks, Stonewall, raids, and arrests.
Date
2011-00-00
Topics
History
LGBTQ
Rights
Copyright 2011 WGBH Educational Foundation
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
00:31:39
Embed Code
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Credits
Interviewee: Hoose, Jerry
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
WGBH
Identifier: 041 (WGBH Item ID)
Format: DVCPRO: 50
Generation: Original
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Citations
Chicago: “American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Jerry Hoose, 2 of 3,” 2011-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-924bbmwg.
MLA: “American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Jerry Hoose, 2 of 3.” 2011-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-924bbmwg>.
APA: American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Jerry Hoose, 2 of 3. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-924bbmwg