Throughout much of the 1970s, the club remained highly closeted, with its gatherings continuing to take place in members’ homes, and later in the decade at gay-friendly Hollywood area restaurants. Because at that time, the club included members who lived in Lancaster, San Diego, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas, meetings would sometimes occur at these locations, often accompanied by a weekend full of activities. By the end of the decade, the club was organizing lavish and formal holiday dinners that were also celebrations of the club’s founding and the settings for the installation of officers for the coming year. Initially, these dinners were put on in the homes of members but by the late 70s, they started occurring at restaurants, like David’s, then at 7013 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, where these dinners took place in 1978 and 1979.
During this decade, the world outside the club was starting to change, creating internal pressures for the club to become less closeted and more outward-facing. In the early 1970s, the B&B was joined by two additional uniform clubs that emerged on the LA scene — the Corps of Rangers, formed in 1973, and the Regiment of the Black and Tans, formed in 1974. The Black and Tans, in particular, had an orientation to public events. In the 1993 club history, Neil Cowan describes the club’s activities in the 1970s and its internal tensions in this way:
With a membership of about fifteen, many of whom were associated in some capacity with law enforcement, we found ourselves secretive and vigilant. During this time many of our members were involved in the AUA (the American Uniform Association), which gave us more contacts with the gay uniform scene. The B&B Corps developed along the lines of private dinner parties, and began a string of annual events: Daffodil Festival in Spring, Photo Shoots anytime, Pool Parties, and one official meeting in San Francisco and one in Las Vegas.
While the B&B Corps and the Corps of Rangers operated by invitation-only participation, the ever-frisky Regiment of the Black and Tans began an unequaled record of public events designed to bring out the uniform in all of us. Their up-front public stance blossomed in a series of parties known as Maneuvers, and other events, we all looked forward to, but never envied the immense amount of work put into such events. It was at one of these events that one member of the B&B found out what Scotsmen wear under their kilts.
The B&B Corps hit a happy humming harmony of hospitality and homey bonhomie, flitting into party after party, but not appearing in a public sense except for one group, the Golden State Cowboys, a rugged posse of cowpokes who asked us to form an honor guard for their anniversary (An invitation to this event found in the One Archives indicate that it occurred on May 1, 1971 at Troupers Hall in Hollywood). They soon disbanded, but we went on. Those in our group who had an interest in motorcycles continued in their Motorcycle Clubs, riding their cycles down the road dressed in full leathers and Tall Boots. Recruitment went on, but a curious thing developed as we got older, the recruits got younger. Their interests were to appear as often and as publicly as possible in uniform. Such brazen behavior seemed anathema to the Corps, and frantic efforts were made to control appearances in uniform: however one of our chipper youths was “M” of the Month in a double page spread. We were being led by a young upstart to accept the idea that we should go public in wearing our uniform.
We were lucky to have at this time a bar catering to our needs. The Headquarters Bar was around for some years, and there are shoulder patches and a few badges out there somewhere if you’re lucky to find them (The Headquarters was a uniform-themed bar located on Hyperion Boulevard in the building that later became Cuffs. Those who were there recall that a radio playing in the men’s room was tuned to the police scanner). A restaurant called the Academy was open for a few years (at 6236 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood) and offered a place to dine where the waiters were dressed in uniform and the menu had all kinds of entrees with uniform oriented names, for example; Plebeburgers. We were hosted by the restaurant for many events.
We also had to deal with career and love breezes blowing our members to the far quarters of the planet. At one time, we had at least one member in all of the major love centers of the West; San Francisco, Reno, Las Vegas, San Diego, Lancaster, Palm Springs and even a carpeted post office box in Wrightwood, CA. Seeing the world through the eyes of our younger members gave us a new perspective on visibility. As we became more august in our demeanor, and September in our median age, we looked to the diaper brigade for refreshment. They had not the hangups that we had, they saw a newer and more congenial reality. They all wanted to be seen in uniform at the bars.
In the mid-70s, the tensions over whether the club should stay closeted or should put on public events led some members to leave and join other clubs that were more public. Although the club held the line on public events throughout much of the 70s, by the late 70’s, the club had succumbed and started to put on public events. The first club sponsored bar event for which evidence has been found was a beer bust titled “Beer at Boots” that took place on August 27, 1978 at Boots, a bar which was then at 12319 Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. The hand- drawn flyer for this event advertises “Beer, Peanuts, Prizes, Men, Beer” and includes the slogan that became a standard element of all subsequent flyers for B&B beer busts: “Uniforms Welcomed”.
Just about the time that the club was inching its way to become more public, it was indirectly and adversely affected by a series of heinous crimes that were occurring in Los Angeles. Between October 1977 and February 1978 two serial killers, who were known as the Hillside Strangler or the Hillside Stranglers, kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered ten women. Their modus operandi was to wear uniforms to impersonate police officers. During the manhunt for the perpetrators, who were not caught until January 1979, the B&B became a target of interest for the investigators, and out of fear of police scrutiny, the club’s members destroyed the club records. Neil Cowan recalls that: “During the time that the Hillside Strangler was operating, the police were checking out every group they could find. They came after us. Eventually, one of our members, Bill Gableman, talked to the police and explained to them that we are a club of men and are not interested in women. Between the time the police started coming after us and the time that Bill Gableman talked to them, the club records were destroyed. But the Strangler thing is what caused the records to be shredded. Everybody felt that they were somehow in jeopardy.”
Meetings at members’ homes often consisted of barbecues or pool parties. This photo was taken on May 4, 1977 at the party that took place at the estate in San Marino where Neil Cowan lived at the time.
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