Monday, 30 November 2009
This is what I love about the internet; or, my fact for the day
This morning on The Today Programme, the racing tip at 8.30am was Dorothy's Friend in the 3.30 at Fakenham. I thought it was quite funny, because the racing world is possibly the most heterosexual environment in modern Britain, where many of the protagonists prove their heterosexuality day in, day out, by sleeping with each other's wives. So I was wondering if I could do a little friend of Dorothy riff for the blog, or just a line on Twitter, and I thought I might find out something more about the horse, so I went onto the Google, and that was when I got the good stuff. I vaguely knew that 'friend of Dorothy' started out of homage to Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. I did not know that it is also connected with my most beloved Mrs Parker and some of the camp fellows she ran around with in the Algonquin. I also did not know that it came into use most commonly in the post Second World War American navy, as a protective code against rabid homosexualist witch hunts. Churchill might have insisted that he, and the British people, KBO (keep buggering on) throughout the war, but those US naval top brass were not having anyone buggering anyone, if it was the last thing they did. The Naval Investigative Service was put on the case, and were so determined to hunt down every single bugger that when they heard of these friends of Dorothy's, they seized on it as the central clue they needed. I shall let Randy Shultz tell the full story, from his book Conduct Unbecoming: In the course of their investigation, NIS agents made a startling discovery - that homosexuals sometimes referred to themselves as "friends of Dorothy." This code term had originated in the 1940s and 1950s and referred to Judy Garland's character in the film The Wizard Of Oz. Ever since, gay men had identified themselves as "Friends of Dorothy." The NIS, however, did not know the phrase's history and so believed that a woman named Dorothy was the hub of an enormous ring of military homosexuals in the Chicago area. The NIS prepared to hunt Dorothy down and convince her to give them the names of homosexuals. In gay bars known to attract military personnel. NIS agents were asking pointed questions about someone named Dorothy. When one unfortunate sailor acknowledged he was gay in order to get out of the Navy, NIS agents sat him down and told him that they knew all about Dorothy. What they wanted to know from him was how to find her. The sailor, who was too young to know the code, was baffled. I love the picture of earnest Naval agents searching gay bars for a female named Dorothy. But what is truly amazing about this little anecdote is that it took place not in 1951, but 1981. Anyway, it is my thing of interest for the day. For some reason it pleases me very much that I learnt all this because of hearing one little racing tip on the radiophonic device. Oh, and a little bonus fact for you: Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm. You really do see why she changed her name.