“I ran across this one on the shelf at work, and it seemed like it would be interesting. This is actually a reprint of a book with additional content added. The original book was also called "Gay Bar" and was written by Helen Branson, the straight owner of a gay bar called Windup on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in the 1950s. The book, originally published ONE (an aspect of the Mattachine Society), presents her views on homosexuality.
One of the really interesting things she highlighted was that she preferred to call gay men homophiles rather than homosexuals because she thought they were defined by more than just their sexual activities. She also believe that it was important for both the men and their families to accept that being gay was normal and should just be accepted by all, rather than trying to fix the condition, which she didn't think ever turned out well.
One of the horrifying things to me was that Helen. like many gay men of the time apparently, really didn't like gay men who were obviously effeminate. She would purposely be rue to them when they entered her bar. Apparently, this was because she thought they were a danger to her establishment. At the time, the California Supreme Court had ruled that gay bars were technically illegal. The local police, though, did not target Helen's bar because she kept her establishment clean of sex and not obviously gay. While a practical approach for the time, I find it so hurtful. The feminine nature is just as innate as the gayness she was professing was normal.
Outside of that, Helen was definitely a protective mother hen, which was on the cover of the original printing of the book, for her boys. She genuinely enjoyed spending time with gay men, thus her ownership of the bar, and she often provided an ear, some advice, and a safe space for them. It sounded like her bar effectively became a home for the regulars.
Between the original chapters, Will Fellows provides academic research to support what Helen was saying in the past. This included more information about who she was as a person as well as more information about the views of gays at the time, views of sex and sexuality of the time, and historical information about the gay movement.
The result was a really clear view of what it must have been like to be a gay man during the latter 1950s. It was not easy, but it was also not impossible to be happy. Many of the boys Helen knew "married" and lived good lives as a couple. At the same time, there was a constant fear of what would happen if the basis of their love and happiness were to become known by their bosses, the public, and their families. It was very touching.”