TagBruz Fletcher

Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons

Before World War II, there were quite a few nightclubs on the Sunset Strip where gay people were welcomed and accepted — which is not to say these were gay bars as we know them today. There are quite a few references to the presence of gays and lesbians on the Strip back then in Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons — including performers Bruz Fletcher and Rae Bourbon and club owners Jane Jones and Tess Wheeler.

Kirkus Review:

An exceptionally literate, overstuffed chronicle of gay Tinseltown.
In alternating sections on Los Angeles lesbians and gay men, historian Faderman (Naked in the Promised Land, 2003, etc.) and freelance journalist Timmons, respectively, deliver an exhaustive account. Beginning in the 1880s, both groups migrated in droves from less liberal locales to freewheeling, anonymous Southern California, and a supportive, unified community emerged even as laws against sodomy and “masquerading” (i.e., cross-dressing) kept guard over the city’s bedrooms. These enterprising pioneers were soon followed by vaudeville exiles who flocked to Hollywood and built its entertainment foundation. Post-Prohibition nightclubs catered to such “sexually flexible” entertainers as Marlene Dietrich, James Cagney and Mae West…
Vital intellectual fare brimming with fascinating history.

Publisher’s Description:

The exhortation to “Go West!” has always sparked the American imagination. But for gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, the City of Angels provided a special home and gave rise to one of the most influential gay cultures in the world. Drawing on rare archives and photographs as well as more than three hundred interviews, Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons chart L.A.’s unique gay history, from the first missionary encounters with Native American cross-gendered “two spirits” to cross-dressing frontier women in search of their fortunes; from the bohemian freedom of early Hollywood to the explosion of gay life during World War II to the underground radicalism set off by the 1950s blacklist; and from the 1960s gay liberation movement to the creation of gay marketing in the 1990s.

For more info: University of California Press

1935: Bruz Fletcher’s Camp Style

Bruz Fletcher

Bruz Fletcher

Bruz Fletcher was a society piano man in the 1930s who was known for lyrics that were laden with gay subtext, a style that would be known later as camp. He was bona fide society, the son of a wealthy family in Indianapolis, said to have been Boothe Tarkington’s model for “The Magnificent Ambersons.”

Bruz, popular with the sophisticated set, played a record-breaking four-year run at Club Bali, 8804 Sunset Blvd. [map]. The gig had been originally booked for just two weeks in 1935, but was so popular that it ran until early 1940. In 1938, Los Angeles Times columinst Hedda Hopper wrote that Bruz had the longest local run in nightclubs of anyone she could remember, and that was two years before it closed.

He was so closely associated with the nightspot that Club Bali was commonly referred to as “Bruz Fletcher’s.'” Waiters, wearing red sarongs, served Balinese cuisine to diners seated on coral red couches.

Hedda and her competitors regularly reported on celebrities who frequented the Hollywood nightspot. Silent era star Louise Brooks was noticed in the crowd for Bruz’ show five times in 1937 and 1938. Other names in the columns included Humprhey Bogart, David Niven, Monty Woolley, Beatrice Lillie, Laura Hope Crews, Norma Talmadge, Ronald Reagan, Howard Hughes, Gypsy Rose Lee, Margaret Hamilton, Jack Haley and Frank Morgan. Bruz was mentioned in the Los Angeles Times nearly two hundred times during his Club Bail run.

In addition to his recordings, Bruz Fletcher wrote two books and several plays. He is all but forgotten today, which is at least in part due to the fact that he committed suicide at the age of 34, in 1941. One of Bruz Fletcher’s records is included in Ernest Hemingway’s collection at his residence museum in Cuba.