Friday, June 03, 2011


June 3, 2011

In honor of Allen Ginsberg's birthday today, I bring up his favorite bar, the Black Cat on Montgomery Street. Its owner, Sol Stoumen, was constantly being threatened with the loss of his license, since he insisted on serving "disorderly" patrons who frequented Jose Sarria's satirical operas which he always closed out with the refrain: "God Save us Nelly Queens, united we stand, divided they'll catch us one by one."

Stoumen took his case to the California Supreme Court and won the right to legally operate a gay bar - which is a basic freedom of association. It wasn't a slam dunk success, however, since a few years later, the California Alcohol Beverage Control Bar asserted its right to shut down bars catering to "sexual perverts." A detailed account of this battle and others is to be found in the penultimate chapter of America Walks into a Bar, available for pre-order here.