Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Life of Crime


In the interests of full disclosure, should I have any hope of having my application for sainthood approved, I feel I must confess my criminal past, shameful though it is.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, in 1966 (and yes, there
was a 1966 once upon a time) its police department was notorious for its storm trooper harassment of gays under the leadership of its rabidly right-wing chief Ed Davis. Gay bars were routinely raided without reason, and anyone or everyone inside was subject to arrest for “lewd and lascivious conduct”…a practice which ended only when a patron of a bar called the Black Cat was beaten to death by police during a raid.

Young, good looking plain-clothes officers were routinely assigned to the vice squad for the sole purpose of entrapping gays. Arresting gays was extremely lucrative for the city, and the police considered the city's gay bars and parks equivalent to fishing the Outer Banks for hauling in a profitable catch. They were energetically proactive: if a gay man did not solicit them, they'd do the soliciting. Supposedly, if you asked someone coming on to you if they were the police, they had to admit to it. Sure.

Barnsdall Park is one of the better known in the city. Small and very hilly, it is the location of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses, and its elevation provides excellent views of the city, particularly at night. It was fairly close to where I lived and I went there from time to time. That it was also a popular cruising area didn’t hurt. Though I was hardly a regular, one night I arrived around 9 p.m., parked in the nearly empty parking lot, and took one of the trails leading to the highest point in the park. There is nothing more beautiful than a city at night as seen from above, and while I was certainly not averse to meeting someone, it was not my primary purpose for being there.

There were very few people around, and while climbing the narrow path I passed a guy whom I had to step into the brush to get around. I passed him and went to the top. After watching the city for a few minutes, I headed back down, and passed the same guy on the path. He struck up a conversation, and I knew immediately he was a policeman. But the conversation was totally innocent until he asked “What do you like to do?” Alarm bells ringing, I told him I liked movies and tv and books and the beach, and I figured I was safe because I said absolutely nothing about being gay. We kept on talking and he kept asking what I liked to do.

I asked if he were a cop, and he laughed and said “no way!” I told him I had to get going, and started down the path. He followed, talking all the while. When we reached the edge of the parking lot I asked if his car was there, and he said no, he’d parked further down the hill. He asked if I would give him a ride, and I stupidly agreed. When he asked yet again what I liked to do and like a fool, I told him....though I did not use specific words. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than he nodded, and another man I’d not seen came toward me. I was placed under arrest and taken to the police station, where I called a friend to come bail me out, which he did within an hour.

I immediately made an appointment with one of L.A.’s best known gay attorney (upon whom the character of Glen O’Banyon in my Dick Hardesty books is based), and explained exactly what had happened. I told him I had not said one single word that I could not have said on national TV or at a D.A.R. luncheon. He merely looked bemused. He defended innumerable entrapment cases and became a very rich man as a result. He said he would represent me, but that I shouldn’t harbor any wild illusions of the outcome of the court hearing.

When I met with him again just prior to going to court, he had obtained a copy of the police report, which he showed me. If the arresting officer wasn’t gay, he certainly should have been… and he could have made a fortune writing gay porn. I apparently had told him I wanted to engage in just about every sex act known to the human species…all of which he lovingly detailed.

When I protested to the lawyer, he simply pointed out that it came down to the word of a minion of public decency against that of a disgusting pervert, and I agreed entirely, except that the roles were reversed in this case. I wanted to fight the charge in court, but he pointed out that that would cost far more money than I could ever afford, and that I'd lose anyway.

So I went to court with about 75 other entrapment cases, pleaded Nolo Contendre, was fined $365, and sent on my way. The L.A. police were happy. The city treasurer was happy. Even my lawyer, whose fees were in addition to my fine, was happy. I was not happy, but who cared?

And there you have it…the sordid story of my debauched life of crime. Move over, John Dillinger.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).





3 comments:

Lloyd Meeker said...

Poignant story, Dorien, thanks for posting. On the good side, it shows we've made some progress since then. Not enough, though. And certainly not enough in many other places around the world.

Kage Alan said...

I wonder how those officers feel about their actions today. I wonder if they feel any remorse.

Dorien/Roger said...

You're right about our progress in the U.S. and the problems still plaguing other places in the world. But it's coming...slowly but inevitably.

And, Kage, I doubt those on entrapment detail feel much if any remorse. They were doing what they were paid to do. Though I am sure that there were many who secretly enjoyed it. I heard many stories of arrests not being made until AFTER having sex.