Disreet Presences

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Solomon Hursey of the GLBT Student Support Services Office has had the opportunity to interview many older gay men in Bloomington. He provides the following information based on informal interviews with individuals who wish to remain anonymous:

On the courthouse square in the 50's and 60's, where Malibu Grill is now, there was a restaurant called Sully's Oaken Bucket. It was one of the nicest (and most expensive) places to eat in town. The restaurant was divided into two sections: a large bar and lounge area and a surprisingly small dining area. Because the dining area was so small, people would often go to the lounge while they waited for a table to open up in the dining area.

While there were no "official" gay bars in Bloomington at the time, the lounge at Sully's Oaken Bucket was known among gay men as a cruising spot, especially among older gay men. This was possible because (a) due to a larger gendered income gap and not (usually) having a wife and children to support, single older men could afford the more upscale restaurant, and (b) the large lounge and habit of waiting there made it possible for one to cruise many people in a night.

Sully's Oaken Bucket was not the only cruising spot in Bloomington, but it is a good example of the kinds of spaces used and strategies employed by gay men at the time. Public, "hetero-friendly" spaces were commonly used, and gay men developed a silent language of wearing certain items and a way of looking that identified them as gay when they wanted to be identified as such.

After contact was made, intimate acts (not just sex, but a broad range of things that were "inappropriate" for men to do in public at the time) were usually done at the home of one of the men involved. These sorts of arrangements were ideal because many of the men were professors, businessmen, politicians, and other "white-collar" professionals who had the potential of losing their jobs by being "out" or "outed" in public, especially at a time when being fired for homosexuality was common practice.