Jane Jones singing in “Port of Missing Girls”
This blurry still is from the video of the B movie “Port of Lost Girls,” from 1938 — see the video below the fold. The film offers a rare view of Jane Jones, proprietor of Jane Jones’ Little Club at 8740 Sunset Blvd., one of two lesbian-centric nightclubs on the Sunset Strip — the other was Cafe Internationale, at 8711 Sunset Blvd., owned by Elmer and Tess Wheeler — mentioned in Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics and Lipstick Lesbians, by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons.
Faderman and Timmons describe the womens’ nightclubs on the as “in the tradition of the upscale nightclub, and they promoted an exotic glamour, much like the lesbian bars of Weimar Berlin.” Jones, they said, “was a big woman with a basso profundo voice who’d been a signer in movie musicals.”
(Read more about Jane Jones’ Little Club here and the closing of Tess Wheeler’s Cafe Internationale by the Navy during World War II here.)
Here’s the movie:
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.
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.
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