1. Troyhand said:

    Are you two– together?: a gay and lesbian travel guide to Europe
    Lindsy Van Gelder
    Random House, Jun 1, 1991

    [Pages 87-93]

    At the Taveerne de Pul, an Irish tourist at the next table to ours is getting depressed because he has to leave tomorrow. He has a suitcase full of porn, to tide him over until his next trip — which, he assures us, will be as soon as possible, unless he’s busted by Irish customs. Meanwhile, he is draped over his chair on the sidewalk cafe outside the tavern, watching the passing parade of men — less in cruising gear than with a sort of reverent expectancy that something wondrously nonrepressive might happen any second. “It’s such a crazy city,” he smiles dreamily.

    We’re here on this particular night with ****Peter Glencross****, the British-born editor of the English-language Top Guide to Amsterdam, one of the best and most meticulously researched local European gay guides we know. Since Amsterdam has such a huge number of gay night spots, Peter has offered to squire us around to some that he thinks are the cream of the crop. First, he wants to introduce us to the owner of the de Pul, an older, fat, hearty, typical blond Dutchman who, Peter adds, is straight, and runs the place with his wife. We’re puzzled, our New York reference point for straight owners of gay bars being with diamond pinkie rings and access to cement shoes.

    Peter laughs, calls the owner over, and asks him how he feels about having so many gay people as patrons. The man grins broadly. “Well, it depends.” He twinkles at us. “If they’re under fourteen, I don’t want them, and if they’re over eighty, there’s a problem going up to the top step.” Then he cheerily wishes all of us and the already home-away-from-homesick Irish guy a lovely evening.

    Our next stop is across the street in geography but a few centuries away in decor: Route 66, a small modern bar with a jukebox. On this particular evening it seems to be frequented entirely by very young, very blond Dutch guys who could pass for California disco bunnies, or possibly California disco chickens. One baby-surfer type puts his hands lasciviously underneath the T-shirt of an “older” guy in his early twenties, who looks at him mock-askance and says, “Go back to grade school.”

    He makes this joke in English, so that all of us can be in on it. Since Amsterdam seems to be on the itinerary of every gay tourist, the gay scene here is the most international of any urban center in Europe. English is absolutely the lingua franca, which is just one more reason Amsterdam is such a relaxing stopover for anglophones. The Dutch themselves are historically a nation of linguists, a legacy of their role as a nation of traders, and most of them seem to speak not only excellent English but also fluent German and at least a Romance language or two. Be prepared for lots of bilingual puns, most of them with punchlines involving fingers stuck in dykes. For the record, “dyke” in Dutch, that is, the lesbian-type as opposed to the seawall-type, is “pot.” The operative word for men, aside from “homo” and “gay,” is “flikker.”

    The host at the next bar on our itinerary is in fact a fellow American, Tony De Rosa, owner of De Spijk, a.k.a. the Spyker Bar. The clientele is overwhelmingly male and butch. “The Spyker is the only bar in the world to host jack-off parties,” proclaims a sign, this one put up by the Amsterdam Jacks, the local JO Olympic team. It adds: “Don’t you want to be part of history?”

    ***Peter*** pops into the backroom for a second to make some quick notes for inclusion in the next edition of his guide. He’s a balding man with soulfully deep blue eyes, a gentle smile, and both the crisp demeanor and the organizational skills of ****the British Rail manager he used to be**** before he got into the gay-guidebook business.

    But his customary English manners desert him completely as he comes yelping out of the cavelike space where the Jacks have their safe-sex parties several times a month, with the official approval of the Dutch Ministry of Health. “There’s some graffiti on the wall that says, ****”Peter Glencross knelt here,” he reports indignantly****, “but I’ve never been in there before in my life!”

    While Peter recovers his aplomb, Tony, who looks like your basic teddy bear, tells us that before he was a born-again jack-off party host from Amsterdam he was an old hippie from San Francisco turned middle-aged screenplay editor from Los Angeles. In 1985, he took what was to be a two-month trip to Europe. He didn’t like Britain, his first stop. His next destination was Amsterdam, and as he was exiting Central Station, he knew in a flash that he wanted to live here. He never got any farther. Today he says he only misses two things about the United States: American aspirin, and yellow legal-sized pads.

    The easiest way for a gay American to stay in Amsterdam is to hook up with a Dutch lover. Although the Dutch were beaten to the punch by the Danes on gay marriage, they support gay relationships in every area from family discounts on bus passes to official status at embassies around the world for the lovers of gay diplomats. If Tony had had a Dutch boyfriend, he could have applied for permanent residency after five years. He didn’t have a steady, and anyway, he notes with distaste, “Your passport is stamped housewife.”

    The other way for a gay (or straight) American to stay in Amsterdam is to prove that he or she is engaged in a job that no Dutch or European Community citizen is qualified to hold. So Tony opened a gay American brown cafe, from whose ceiling hang such items as an upside-down inflatable Statue of Liberty, a strand of New Orleans Mardi Gras pearls, six boxes of Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and a rubbing of Rock Hudson’s signature from the sidewalk outside Graumann’s Chinese Theater.

    The bar serves American cocktails, plays American music (“from Billie Holiday to Leon Redbone to the Grateful Dead, and absolutely no disco”), and shows Hollywood cartoons and old movies (King Kong, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Laurel and Hardy) every night before the porn loops start. “I’d love to show Oklahoma! and A Chorus Line,” Tony enthuses. Then there’s the sign over the bar that flashes “OINK ALERT!” whenever a particularly hot man walks in.

    Tony has even introduced the concept of American holidays to his patrons. No one thought his Halloween-party idea would work, but when he offered cash prizes for the most unusual costumes, people quickly got into the spirit. Ethnic joke alert. For those of you who didn’t catch that: The term “Dutch treat” doesn’t come out of nowhere. In Belgium, we heard one about how you squeeze a dozen Dutch people into a Volkswagen: You throw a guilder into the backseat.
    For tourists, the most visible ramification of the Dutch desire to hold onto cash is the dearth of places that accept credit cards. “Here,” Tony beams, thrusting glossies of the Halloween party in full swing. We are especially struck by the shot of the prizewinner in a guaze fairy-princess number from the waist up, and not much of anything from the waist down. He is standing by a pool table, and is indeed playing pool. Sort of. Robert Mapplethorpe would have admired the fellow’s pool cue, we’re certain.

    Even more heavy-duty than the Spyker is the Old Harbour, a mostly- men’s leather/rubber bar with an all-men’s hotel upstairs. The place used to be a hooker-addict hotel, although street hooking and hard drugs are among the things the Dutch government seriously does crack down on. Out of sentiment, the women still return to the Old Harbour to shoot up in the ladies’ room. The new owner, an Englishman whose couture is so studded and spiked that he clanks when he moves, explains that he has recently tried to discourage these old-timers by installing red lights in the johm, so they won’t be able to see their veins.

    At some point during our tour of the town, ****we asked Peter Glencross about the many “houses with boys”**** we’d seen ads for. Were these male brothels licensed in the same way as the hetero bordellos? Did they encourage safe sex? He suggested we go to the source for the answers, and before we knew it, we were bounding up the stairs to the Blue Boy Club, the oldest male whorehouse in the city, established in 1973. After an initial double-take, a sinuous little Mediterranean philosophically assumed we were potential clients and slithered up behind one of us to describe his qualifications in a feverish, moaning stage whisper.

    The Blue Boy is actually part of a sleek modern complex that also includes several bars and theaters. A flyer tells us that the club sells poppers, souvenirs, and videos starring the staff (“Eight horny youngsters strip down and oil up their smooth young bodies for your home entertainment”), and that you’re welcome to stop by for a beer, with no obligation to hire a hustler. On the other hand, if you want takeout to your hotel, that’s available, too. Live sex shows are featured several nights a week, and there’s a free nightly strip show.

    Tonight’s stripper has just finished his routine as we arrive. He’s a hunky blond with an enormous basket, by then reencased in green short shorts of approximately the same dimensions as an airmail stamp. Peter asks how old we guess the fellow is. Twenty-five? Twenty-eight? In fact, he’s forty-five, and works by day as a lawyer with a big bank. However, this day job leaves him only partially fulfilled. We ask, jaws dropping, if the bank has any idea that he moonlights as a rent boy. “Oh, they could care less,” says Peter. This is Amsterdam, silly. Tommy, a clean-cut high-school-swim-team type with curly black hair, offers to show the visiting journalists his room. “This … is where it all happens,” he exclaims dramatically, flipping on the mood lighting. In fact, the place is nicer than most hotels: about the size of a small airfield, designer-modern, and spotlessly tidy, with a pink tub for two next to the bed, a separate bathroom, and porn flickering discreetly on the VCR/TV.

    We ask how the house finds the boys, but Tommy insists that it’s the other way around. The boys find the house. The important thing is to have many types, from British bulldog skinheads to Oriental flowers. “Today, we had a Russian boy come by,” he adds proudly. Most of the clients are American or British gay male tourists, though there’s a small but steady stream of local married men, and occasionally a straight woman. Peter points out a fiftyish, chubby, bald, very middle-class man who is adjusting his tie in the main reception room. The man is Swiss, and he’s been a client of the banker-with-the-basket for as long as anyone can remember. Once a year, the two sit down with their calendars and plan out their twice-a- month weekend trysts together.

    All credit cards and foreign currency are thoughtfully accepted, and condoms are free. Getting men to go along with safer sex was a problem a few years ago, according to Tommy, but now it’s assumed. Finally, he shows us the brand-new upstairs “SM Loft,” with its slings and wall-manacles. We inspect a large open tub, which, presumably, will be used for scat and golden-showers scenes, although Tommy can’t bring himself to say so. “It’s for . . . whatever,” he punts. “This isn’t my scene,” he adds. “I’m a romantic, myself.”


  2. Troyhand said:

    Now!, Volumes 68-84
    J. Goldsmith, 1981

    [Pages 32, 36-37]

    As Tuesday’s Budget focuses attention on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Julian Critchley traces the career of his deputy, Chief Secretary Leon Brittan, widely tipped as a future leader of the Conservative Party

    Leon Brittan, probably the next Prime Minister but two, sits in a large corner room on the second floor of the Treasury overlooking Whitehall, worrying about the Government’s spending. “My job,” he declares, “is simply to do everything I can to make sure that the Government’s economic policy succeeds,” which is a tall order. His touch is evident in his choice of pictures. The sombre landscapes and gloomy portraits tolerated by his predecessor as Chief Secretary, John Biffen, have been banished and the room is brilliant with modern art: Kerry Richards, Graham Sutherland, Patrick Heron and Robin Denny. Mr St John-Stevas is not the only Tory who can spell “culture”. And Mr Brittan loves opera, too.

    Leon Brittan is that rare bird in politics – a man without enemies. At 41 he is the youngest member of the Cabinet and the only one, save for John Biffen, to have gone to a state primary school, although you would never know it. His task is to keep £70 billion of public spending under control, and, in particular, to twist, once a year, the arms of the Government’s “big-spenders”, and to prepare himself for a third round of public spending cuts.

    Mr Biffen did his best but public spending is likely to account for a higher percentage of the gross national product in the coming year than in any year since 1976/7, particularly after the recent handouts to the Coal Board, British Steel and BL. But despite the worst recession since the war, the reduction of Governement spending remains at the heart of the Government’s economic policy. There is nothing “wet” about Leon. “I have strongly supported the path the Government has been supporting since May 1979.”

    In its present state of disharmony the Government and members of the party speak in code, protaggonists of one point of view or another using a form of words to convey their partisanship. The code should not be too difficult to crack. For example, a Conservative who would call himself a “pragmatist” is saying that he is less than enthusiastic about Mrs. Thatcher. But Mr Brittan has no such doubts. He rejects the label “pragmatic”, “because I have principles – and a pragmatist as I understand it has no principles at all”. He is wrong, but we will let it pass. What are his principles? “I tend to the Liberal wing on social questions – liberty rather than authority – and to the free market wing on economic matters.”

    His views mirror those of his elder brother Sam, whose pungent advocacy of monetarism has been so strong a flavour of his weekly column in The Financial Times. Sam is the pundit: Leon the politician. Together they make a formidably powerful intellectual team, strengthening the links that already bind the Treasury to Bracken House.

    Their father was a GP who left Lithuania to come to England in 1927. He practised medicine in Willesden and Cricklewood and brought up his sons in the orthodox Jewish tradition. After the state primary, Sam went to Kilburn Grammar School and then to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he took a first in economics. Leon, born six years later in September 1939, went to Haberdasher’s Aske in Hampstead, a direct grant school, and then to Trinity College, Cambridge from 1957 to 1961. He began by reading English (“Cambridge did have the best English school”) but then switched to law and took a double first. At 18 he had joined the Conservatives and politics took up his spare time at the university. He became chairman of the Conservative Association, and President of the Union, later going on a debating tour of the United States. Canvassing for office in the Union was forbidden but “l can remember John Nott and l removing a pile of bicycles which was hiding the statutory notice of the union elections.”

    The late Fifties were vintage years for the Cambridge Conservatives. Besides Leon Brittan there was John Nott, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Defence, Norman Fowler, the Minister of Transport, and Christopher Tugendhat, the senior of our two Commissioners in Brussels. Other prominent Conservatives up at that time included John Biffen, Kenneth Clarke, John Gummer and Peter Lloyd. The “Cambridge Mafia” which also includes David Howell, the Energy Secretary, is putting Oxford in the shade. Kenneth Clarke describes Leon Brittan as “the most dazzling figure of my time at Cambridge”. Brittan was elected to the leadership of both the party and the Union in the second of his three years of residence.

    After Cambridge, Leon went to Yale as a Henry Fellow and then returned for a time to Cambridge as a sub-lector to teach law. His career at the bar prospered. ****By the last election he was a QC, specialising in libel, “half the Commons has consulted me unofficially”, says Brittan****, and it is true that many of his friends have gained appreciably from his advocacy; the occasional libel being one of the regular hazards of public life.

    In London Leon determinedly pursued a political, social and legal career. In the early Sixties the Bow Group of younger Conservatives was at a height of its reputation. Founded some years previously by ****Geoffrey Howe, who was to become Brittan’s closest friend****, it provided a collective political inspiration for a brilliant generation of Tories which included Howe, Howell and David Windlesham as well as Brittan, who, at the age of 24 was elected its chairman. After his chairmanship he edited the Group’s magazine Crossbow for two years.

    The Bow Group provided a platform from which to leap into a winnable seat, a feat that Leon Brittan surprisingly found more difficult than many of his less gifted contemporaries. After a false start he was picked by the North Kensington Tories to fight that Labour-held seat in 1966. The North Kensington Tories, who were a lively lot, devised a written examination for their prospective candidates. The aspirants were asked the names of the Prime Ministers of the EFTA countries (Leon got the answers wrong) and were then invited to imagine themselves addressing the annual general meeting of the local women’s association. Such shenanigans made a change from the customary question and answer session (“are you a member of the Church of England?”) and Brittan, as might have been expected, came up, beating Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler who is now a Norfolk MP.

    Brittan lost in 1966, but was invited by North Kensington to stay on using the constituency as a base while he looked elsewhere. He was unsuccessful in attempting at least six seats.

    There is just the touch of the cold-eyed lawyer about Leon. It could be that he lacks passion – among some of his friends he is known as “Leon Bland”, and that he treats every issue strictly on its merits. But there can be no gainsaying his popularity. He has an almost old-fashioned courtesy and he is a very private man whose interests include both cricket and opera – “Opera has got everything, hasn’t it?” – and who can be seen striding over muddy fields at weekends, often at other people’s great houses, dressed somewhat unsuitably in city clothes. His brother Sam is, if anything, more introverted. His weekly column is obligatory reading in the Treasury and his views must have influenced those of his brother, who has had no economic training.

    After his failure to get a safe seat Brittan returned to North Kensington to fight the 1970 election. Once more he was defeated. In 1972 he was adopted for Cleveland and Whitby in North Yorkshire, a marginal seat which he won and held in the second election of 1974 and which he turned into a safe seat by May 1979. A popular MP, he now faces the hazards of redistribution and possibly constituency selection all over again. This time he is likely to find life easier.

    Leon Brittan arrived in the Common four years later than his friends had prophesied. That was not without advantage; for he had missed becoming tainted with Heathism. Central Office had used him to cross-examine Callaghan and Scanlon on television in defence of the Government’s Industrial Relations Act, but, even so he was free of guilt by association within the party’s ancien regime. Within two years of his election, Mrs Thatcher, whose new economic policies – based on Friedmanite economics and the control of the money supply – were being powerfully advocated by Sam in The Financial Times, took Leon from the backbenches and made him an Opposition spokesman on Devolution, an issue of some complexity which threatened to divide the party. As could have been foretold, he showed flexibility and a lawyer’s ability to think coherently on his feet. He earned golden opinions.

    When Mrs Thatcher took office in May 1979 she tried to reward him with a junior post at the Department of Employment but this was resisted by the new Employment Secretary, James Prior, on the grounds that Brittan’s image was too unyielding towards the unions.

    ****Instead he was sent as Minister of State to the Home Office, where he piloted the Broadcasting Bill, setting up the fourth channel, on to the statute book, and specialised in civil defence and young offenders.****

    A civil servant says his manner was “a curious mixture of intellectual arrogance and personal shyness”. What is true is that he had a series of rows with his civil servants over matters of policy, rows that were invariably settled in his favour on the intervention of the Home Secretary, Willie Whitelaw.

    lt is overdramatic, Brittan insists, to say that there was ever a serious rift with the Home Office civil servants. “I don’t believe all this rubbish about civil servants’ obstructiveness. The trouble is caused when Ministers don’t understand what they are being advised or are not prepared to make their minds up.”

    Leon Brittan and his predecessor, John Biffen, have more in common than just Cambridge and the Bow Group. They are both somewhat sceptical about the Government’s defence policy and its ever-increasing cost. Leon Brittan and Defence Secretary John Nott, will meet in May to argue and decide upon the cash limits for the year 1981-82, an exercise in which the Ministry of Defence will have to find a further cut (on top of the £200 million already found) of nearly £400 million, thanks to the Ministry’s overspending. Given the ever-increasing Soviet threat, Tory backbenches are keen to protect defence spending from Treasury cuts, and Mr Nott is regarded with some suspicion. Too rigorous a desire to cut defence spending would make enemies for Brittan in the party regardless of how sensible, given the country’s straitened circumstances, his suggestions may be. Contrary to the popular belief among Conservative backbenchers, it is Conservative governments that have cut defence spending since the war…

    The post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, particularly at a time of retrenchment, is one of the most difficult in the Government. There is not much glory to be attained from begging, cajoling or armtwisting one’s colleagues into spending less. It will be especially difficult to do so after two rounds of spending cuts have failed to make much impression and the recession, despite Sir Geoffrey Howe’s boast, shows no sign of “bottoming out”. Brittan has little choice but to say that he is looking forward “enormously” to his new duties. He will need to draw upon the credit he has accumulated in the bank. He is universally well-liked and he possesses the intellectual equipment not only to master the frequently boring and finicky detail of Treasury life but also to meet the party’s “big-spenders” on equal terms. He can rely upon his close friendship with the Chancellor and the admiration of the Prime Minister.

    For 20 years Leon Brittan’s career has followed a course of almost uninterrupted progress – a progress that culminated in January when, at his wedding reception at the Chancellor’s house, Sir Geoffrey Howe announced his elevation to the Cabinet. If that progress is to continue Leon Brittan will need all his brains and a bit of luck.

    Leon Brittan (front row, centre)
    and his Cambridge Union
    committee pose with
    Anthony Wedgwood Benn
    and Lord Gladwyn, who were
    the principal speakers in his
    Presidential debate in 1960.
    Brittan’s contemporaries
    included Transport Secretary
    Norman Fowler (back, second right)
    and MP Peter Temple-Morris (back,right)


  3. Troyhand said:

    Links to snippets of above article















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