Friday
May 11, 2007
SGN.org
Volume 35
Issue 19
 
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Part I: Gay shared housing (ca. 1940s-1960's)
Part I: Gay shared housing (ca. 1940s-1960's)
by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

It wasn't until after the second world war that Seattle's small Gay community realized they were not the only faggots in the world -- it was time to crawl out of the belly of the beast, due largely to a 'Gay miracle,' when Gay bars began to open all over America and Europe. Out Gays were looking for companionship, matters of the heart and low rent. Enter Gay shared housing (mostly male) and their legendary open parties! This represents Seattle Gay community's first major step toward an identity and liberation, even though it was party `till you drop!

In the 1950s, Seattle's middle and upper classes began to move to the suburbs, made easy by the new freeways. They left many large houses and mansions behind that Gays -- in all their ingenuity -- rented for Gay shared housing. The earliest Gay shared housing in Seattle is lost in time, but 'Alder House' and the Govenor Hotel in the 1940s set a pattern.

There are three catagories of Gay shared housing: Gays who rent a large house and share expenses such as 'Peterson House', 'Skippy LaRue's' and the elusive 'Moldy Manor; a Gay who owned or rented a house and rented out rooms such as the 'Lolly Parkins House for Wayward Girls' and 'Harmony House,' which was not so harmonious; or a Gay or Gay-friendly person who owns an apartment house and rented out units to Gays such as 'Sodomy Flats', 'Starlight Hotel' in Ballard, 'Mercer Street Sorority House', and others not identified. Rents for a large house ranged from $200 to $400 for a mansion such as 'Peterson House.' It was for sale in the 1960s for $60,000. In 2005, it was up for sale for 3 million.

'Lolly Parkin's Home for Wayward Girls' was the Queen of all Gay shared housing/party houses run by Bill Parkin, owner of the Pike Street Tavern. "I became known as the red headed Elsa Maxwell; 'Hears all, sees all, knows all and tells all.' There were parties constantly at my parent's house on Lake Ballinger and my three houses on Highland Drive, Olympic Place and the uproarious 'Frat House' in the Denny Blain neighborhood. By the time of 'Frat House,' I was completely burned out with party houses so, in 1961, I bought a house on 25th and rented out rooms. I have had over 100 Gay renters in 45 years and still counting.

"I remember renting my basement apartment on Oympic Place to George who had two Russian Wolf Hounds who walked them so elegantly in Kinnear Park and drove them around in his big Chrysler convertible when he wasn't picking up sailors and bringing them home. He was a genius at picking up sailors. The Queensborough Apartment House across the street took notice of all these sailors. One day the whole building tilted toward my house when George piled the whole Queen's Navy into that convertible and parked in front. We had a hell of a party that night. I came home one night and there were six English Navy neck scarves hanging from the chandelier. You couldn't do better in 1960 than to violate a willing homesick or party animal sailor in his tight white summer uniform."

'Alder House' in 1957 was a large house rented by Eddy, Link, George and Scott and the site of many wild parties -- Gay bar owners would announce a BYOB party at closing time and people would show up and party 'till the cock crowed three times. Nothing was ever stolen until later when the Gay community got much bigger. George's room was painted red with black trim and Scott's room was painted forest green with tatami mats and lots of candles with a large poster of handsome movie actor Farley Granger on the wall.

Scott was going with Farley when he was just starting out in films and came to Seattle to visit Scott. Bill Parkin recalls: "If you saw Farley at the house, you 'don't know who he is and you haven't seen him.' In those days it was a death knell for your movie career if you were Gay.

"Residents of 'Alder House' played a lot of jokes on everyone, like a trick on Eddy. He was always bringing home cute tricks. He had a night stand next to his bed where he placed his Vaseline. Someone switched it with Vicks vapor rub. Oh my god we heard this screaming and cursing and we thought Eddy was going to kill us and probably should have."

'Kinnear Hilton' was a large house next to Kinnear Park on Queen Anne Hill rented by five Gay men. Most colorful resident Jack Mayo who had an incredible wit was the 'Pope' of Kinnear Hilton -- when he wasn't 'Mai Ling', and other camp roles. His costumes were improvised beads, bedspreads and curtains without the rods. Jack was a recovering Catholic so his muse was accurate, bittersweet and hilarious. Female impersonators and gal pals usually made a theatrical appearance at these parties and others got into camp drag for the fun of it. David as the virgin Mary in pregnant camp drag: "What's got into me?!" Pope Jack, as god, replied: "Me stupid!, I bring you glad tidings!"

Ray Lamb recalls: "Harold got a Turtle named 'Rococo' that he kept in a bathtub but it died. I was at 'Lolly Parkin's House for Wayward Girls' and they suggested we have a funeral for Rococo and invite people to view the body -- any excuse for a party. We draped black cloth around a section of the stairwell and made it into a funeral parlor and dressed it up with flowers. We put Rococo on a red velvet pillow and placed him in the chapel for viewing. Marvin was the official grave digger in the garden and the Pope blessed the burial site with all his incense, rituals and sacred utterings. Glenn found a piece of marble for a tombstone and made a sign reading, 'Saint Rococo, patron saint of Turtles.'

"During the service, heavy with somber Bach on vinyl, several of the thirty people who came to the party and brought flowers made absurd testimonials: 'Underneath that hard shell was a heart of gold, the sweat of the sun,' etc. Everyone was playing the grief role but Jack made it hilarious comic theater and you had to laugh. It was a great party. Visitors Don and David necked all night on the couch, someone got laid in the broom closet, DHC had an inebriate reputation for stripping naked at these house parties and taking a bath while others cruised Gay active Kinnear Park between cocktails and someone danced nude in the moonlight."

Glenn adds: "Awhile later, the Parks Department planned to do some work near Rococo`s buriel sight. We thought we'd have to organize a protest party if Rococo`s grave was desecrated -- make signs, chant slogans and throw ourselves in front of heavy equipment. As it turned out the plans did not threaten the grave, so, what the hell, we had a party anyway and danced to Pat O'Day's KJR Radio program to such hits as 'Great Balls Of Fire', 'All Shook Up', 'Volare', 'Can't Help Falling In Love With You', 'Save The Last Dance For Me', etc. Those were the days when we were young and Gay and romance was in the air. The world has changed but we're still fabulous!"
 

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