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From a 21st-century perspective, 1950s bar owner Branson wasn't particularly progressive. The 60-something matron barred "the obvious homosexual" from her modest tavern, strongly preferred patrons who could pass for straight, and didn't allow sexual touching. But the onetime palm reader's spunky memoir about running a gay bar on a crime-prone stretch of L.A.'s Melrose Avenue, first published in 1957, is filled with warm affection for "my boys" and with an uncommon understanding of (and sympathy for) gays, at a time when California law prohibited "inverts" from gathering in bars, and vice squad entrapment of "deviates" was commonplace. By pairing this new edition of Branson's insightful memoir with a study of 1950s America, Fellows (A Passion to Preserve) clarifies how ahead of her time Branson was: she believed, for example, that being gay was about more than sex and that gay men living together could consider themselves married. This stimulating account of support for gay rights pre-Stonewall is an eye-opener.
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ISBN-10:  029924850X
ISBN-13:  978-0299248505
Author:  Will Fellows
Publisher:  University of Wisconsin Press
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review by . August 21, 2010
Fellows, Will and Helen P. Branson. "Gay Bar: The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s", University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.    A Welcome Treasure    Amos Lassen    Every once in a while a book comes along that makes the reader sit up and take notice. Will Fellows's "Gay Bar" is one such book as it gives us a look at an aspect of gay history and is so well written that it is hard to stop reading.  Helen …
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