"I remember a man who did get out while I was still in basic training," Posthorn continued. "A man from Cincinnati, who got out based on family need. He said, `Sure I want to avenge Pearl Harbor.' But he wanted out. He was not gay; he was a straight man who was a coward, who wanted to make money, and who didn't want to be in the army. I thought he was awful."
Posthorn had been in love with a man named Alan for four years before he went into the army: "There was no one ever more beautiful in my whole life. Ever! I always felt very lucky to have attracted that man. He was Nijinsky and I was Diaghilev. I was very lucky to have that leaper." After Posthorn enlisted, he and Alan got together one more time when Posthorn came home to Cincinnati for a twelve-day leave.
"We spent three days in a hotel room-a rather seedy hotel-and I couldn't leave because if I were seen, I would be in terrible trouble with my folks, who didn't know I was home yet. So I stayed in there with my clothes off for three days, and he'd go down and sneak a sandwich. It was just heaven! It was like being enslaved to this thing we were doing constantly. It was a total cure.
"The war was on now: it was 1942. I think there was a radio in the room, but I don't think we listened. We had so much to talk about. We were very idealistic. You know, it was Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart time-Casablanca. We're going off, and we might never see each other again."
Two years later Alan was posted to Iceland and he sent Posthorn a Dear John letter. "I was in France," said Posthorn. "Alan loved this person, and what was he going to do? The man didn't even know about it. I was so hurt. You know, saving myself! My eggs were all in his basket. I didn't write him for a long time, but I kept getting letters. And then I got sick and I wrote him. And I just wished him luck. I said, `I can't talk to you. I just can't!' All I wanted to do was to go back to big Al. And now I had nothing to go back to."
Posthorn became a captain by the end of the war, but unlike some other veterans he never felt pride in his success as a gay man in the army. "Pride? No. There was fear, uncertainty; also the feeling of not being quite fit for what you were doing. You're softer; you didn't have the macho. I felt in danger. I felt in jeopardy. I always felt vulnerable, that somebody might catch up with me. I thought I was passing: softly passing. I couldn't drill as well as anyone else, I wasn't as good on the athletic field or in the morning exercises. I could do other things. I excelled where I could excel. Here's a smart Jew-but he can't down the beers in the canteen, you know. I was considered snobbish-which I didn't really want to be. I didn't play craps; I didn't get into big poker games; and I didn't go out and fall down drunk. I felt I really didn't belong there in the army because I didn't have the muscles and I didn't have the mind-set for it. And I think maybe that's why I worked so hard-to stay with it, to hang in." Those who got in generally fell into one of two categories: either they had long ago learned to mask their sexual identity in civilian life, or they were too young to have realized that they were gay. And despite the elaborate new regulations developed to discriminate against gays in the army, the only obstacle many of them encountered at the induction center was the "Do you like girls?" question. George Buse remembered, "One of the worst of the stereotypes was the lie that all homosexuals are effeminate-and you're not really a man, you're more like a girl. So a lot of us at that time who were gay had to prove our manhood. So I joined the toughest, most masculine military organization in the country -and that was the Marine Corps. `The Marine Corps builds men.
Of the eighteen million men examined for military service, fewer than five thousand were excluded because of their sexual orientation. No records were kept on the exclusion of lesbians. Once inside, many gay soldiers were astonished to discover how common their orientation was. Charles Rowland's first assignment was in the induction station at Fort Snelling, which was "instantly called the seduction station," he said. "I found that all of the people I had known in the gay bars in Minneapolis-St. Paul were all officers who were running this `seduction station.' Recruits would be lined up by the thousands every morning outside our windows. All of us would rush to the windows and express great sorrow that all these beautiful boys were going to be killed or maimed or something in the war."
Posthorn had met only one other gay man (besides Alan) during his first four years in the army. But then he visited Seventh Army Headquarters in Deauville, France, in 1945. "I never saw so many gays in my life as that weekend in Deauville," he recalled. "When I went to the theater, they were yoo-hooing and waving. It was incredible! A flaming crew of gays running that outfit." But he did not identify with them at all; their flamboyance made him uneasy. "I resented them. I did not want to be considered their equal. I'd been in the field. They'd been living a very soft life, probably with boas in their closet.
"On my way back I stopped to see Liechtenstein. I went to the movies and I met a beautiful soldier, who really didn't know I was after him. But we went for a walk in this gorgeous park. And I scored. Yeah. I got even with Alan again." Posthorn's first gay experience with a stranger in uniform had taken place earlier when he was posted in California. "I was a second lieutenant and I took a four-day pass by myself to get laid. I went to Carmel, California. So lovely. And there was a whole crew of guys there from the cavalry. Which never went overseas because there was no need for a cavalry. But they looked great: jodhpurs and the boots and the whole thing. And there was one who eyed me and I eyed him, and he said he had a room.
"When we got there, he said he had to have ten dollars. I said, `Oh?' He said, `Well, I have a date tonight with a girl, so give me ten bucks. Okay?' And I said, `All right'-because he was very attractive. And then he said, `I'm not taking my boots off.' And I felt really cheap. He just lowered his trousers. And it was not mutual at all. I just did it and I hated it. And I had to wash afterward, and he said, `Hey, if you want to go again, I'll get undressed for fourteen.' And I said, `Not for two dollars.' And I left. I felt very demeaned. And I never paid again. Ever."
On leave in Paris, Stanley Posthorn was astonished when he found himself inside the Boeuf sur le Toit: "It was a great gay nightclub. Beef on the roof! You walked in, and suddenly you realized the size of homosexuality-the total global reach of it! There were hundreds of guys from all over the world in all kinds of uniforms: there were free Poles dancing with American soldiers; there were Scotsmen dancing with Algerians; there were Free French; there were Russians. It was like a U.N. of gays. It was just incredible. I mean there were men dancing with each other! I had never seen that before in my life! There was lots of singing at the bar, and lots of arms around each other's shoulders. For me, it was sort of like a V-E Day for gays-before the real V-E Day."
Stanley Posthorn met a man who had been hospitalized for six months because he had "gone down" on a private-"and it was very important to him to get the boy off. The boy was straight, very beautiful, and very amenable to being seduced. I don't think he felt remorse about what he had done. They decided not to court-martial" the man who had seduced the private. "But he got a dishonorable discharge." All those who received a dishonorable discharge paid a huge price when the war was over, because they were automatically denied the lavish benefits of the GI Bill, which financed the education and subsidized the mortgages of millions of other veterans. However, at least in the case of Posthorn's friend in the hospital, his dishonorable discharge had no effect at all on his employment prospects. "Nobody asked to see it," said Posthorn, who received an honorable discharge. "Nobody asked him and nobody ever asked me. But it was an ugly thing to have done to you."
Source: Charles Kaiser. The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America. Kindle Edition.
Stanley Posthorn (24 December 1915 - 31 October 2009) was a prominent public relations and marketing executive at Time Inc. who established a marketing presence for Fortune Magazine and was responsible for the innovative celebrity marketing campaigns at the then newly founded People Magazine that featured artists, politicians and celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Paul Newman, Joe Namath, Dinah Shore and many, many others. His efforts were largely responsible for People achieving the premier position in celebrity reporting that it still commands today. He died at the age 93 following a protracted illness according to his nephew Alan Dine.
Posty, as he was to become known to his close friends, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He served with honor for over four years with the military, rising to the rank of captain. While serving in the conflict in France, he received a medal for bravery in action. After the war, Posty moved to New York and through his love of the theater and the fine arts he befriended artists such as Andy Warhol, Joe Brainard, Jim Dine, Ellsworth Kelly Rex Lau, Diane Mayo and Esteban Vicente, whose early work he collected. His art collection also included the works of Frank Stella, Robert Youngblood, Robert Rauschenberg and others. Over the years, he donated art works from his collection to numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton. His Joe Brainard collection, donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was publicly shown in 2008.
In addition to his volunteer leadership and philanthropy in the art world, Stanley actively supported the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where he provided gifts in the memory of his partner Norman Mann, and where his estate will create the Stanley Posthorn-Norman Mann Discovery Endowment Fund to support cutting edge research in perpetuity. His love for "Ojay" a Lakeland terrier, prompted him to include various animal shelters as major beneficiaries of his estate. Posty was also a founding member of the East End Gay Organization (EEGO) which fought back attempts to restrict Gays and Lesbians from congregating at Fowler Beach in Southampton.
Posty will be remembered for his innovative and witty mind, for his readiness to share his personal views and opinions, his knowledge and experience in art and theater and for living a life that knew no boundaries.
The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (June 10, 2007)
Amazon: The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of a Lambda Literary Award, The Gay Metropolis is a landmark saga of struggle and triumph that was instantly recognized as the most authoritative and substantial work of its kind. Filled with astounding anecdotes and searing tales of heartbreak and transformation, it provides a decade-by-decade account of the rise and acceptance of gay life and identity since the 1940s. From the making of West Side Story, the modern Romeo and Juliet tale written and staged by four gay men, to the catastrophic era of AIDS, Charles Kaiser recounts the true history of the gay movement with many never-before-told stories. Filled with dazzling characters — including Leonard Bernstein, Montgomery Clift, Alfred Hitchcock, and John F. Kennedy, among many others — this is a vital telling of American history, exciting and uplifting.
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