Harassment at the Wigwam, April 1972

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Harassment at the Wigwam


Mask201.jpg The Cast - Major players identified. Actual historical figures on left.

Steve Allcock, Disabled Activist C-U Gay Liberation Front Steve Hancock
Jeff Graubart, Activist/Treasurer C-U Gay Liberation Front, Narrator Dave Rosen
Kathy McCabe, Activist C-U Gay Liberation Front Gloria McMaster
William Stanley, Activist C-U Gay Liberation Front Winston Stanfield III
Roger Walther, Activist/President C-U Gay Liberation Front Roger Hamilton

Incident at the Wigwam

In light of the recent repeal of the cross-dressing laws in Champaign and Urbana, power in the local GLF had shifted from the "consciousness-raisers" to the direct-action activists. Kathy McCabe and Ed Lisowski were out. William Stanley and I were in. My censure by the organization was quickly forgotten on the heels of the Champaign victory. I was elected treasurer and my roommate, Roger Walther, elected president.

On March 31st, 1972, management of a campus bar called the Wigwam which catered to hippies, radicals and growing number of gays and lesbians began a campaign of harassment against its gay and lesbian clientele. Ash trays and beers were dumped on patrons by the manager, accompanied by homophobic slurs.

When we found out, our new militant GLF called an emergency meeting.


Dramatization of GLF emergency meeting in response to Wigwam harassment [1] Roger Walther, president of GLF was never actually called El Stooge. Otherwise, the dramatization is how I remember it.

Stonewall in Champaign?


The Gay Liberation Front voted to have a "Stonewall" at the Wigwam. I found this cool yellow helmet at the Woolworths with the word GAY printed across the front that I wore for the occasion. Why it was made and for whom, I have no idea. It was the only helmet on the toy shelf.

On April 8th, over 20 of us marched over from the Illini Union to the Wigwam and took up four or five tables. As it turned out, the manager responsible for the attacks was not present and we were all treated with the utmost courtesy. Slowly we began to filter out, considering it a victory, until there were just four of us left. And then, it happened.


Dramatization of late night April 8th at the Wigwam [2] The second paragraph beginning "A blond student..." is fictional. Conversation at the bar that is not directly related to the demonstration itself should be treated as fictional. Everything following Gloria McMaster joining Fenton, Steve and me at the table is accurate to the best of my recollection.

Picket, Boycott and the Attack

Press release issued by the Gay Liberation Front Whether it was deliberate that the release failed to mention that I punched the manager in the nose after he threw beer at me or whether it was my bravado in imagining that I punched him, is uncertain. Also, the release mentions our altercation being resolved at the police station, while the dramatization and my memory have the dispute being resolved by the Champaign police in the Wigwam itself. Steve is treated less violently in the release than the dramatization, but this point in the dramatization is not intended to be fictionalized, so the extent of the battery against Steve remains uncertain. I never did commit civil disobedience at the Wigwam because other events, described below, intervened.

The anti-gay attacks that occurred late that night outraged all of us in the Gay Liberation Front. We decided to call for a boycott of the Wigwam and scheduled a picket for Thursday, April 13th, Saturday, April 15th and Sunday, April 16th, 1972. The picket on Thursday night went without incident. But we got a lot of favorable publicity. On Friday April 14th, the Student Senate voted to support the boycott. On Saturday, April 15th, The Daily Illini, the student newspaper wrote an editorial supporting the boycott.[3]

Wigwam protest participants. Note misspelling of famed financial advisor Suze Orman at number 22[4]

The picket on Saturday night, April 15th, would lead to events that changed my life and had repercussions for the nationwide gay liberation movement.


Dramatization of April 15th picket of the Wigwam [5] Intended to be an accurate portrayal of the exact sequence of events. According to the text of a speech I gave at the Urbana City Council a year later, the Champaign cops found the idea of jocks beating up fags humorous. This might have been an exaggeration of the two cops laughing in the squad car afterward.

As described, our picket was attacked by two jocks. Two of our members were injured. I felt guilty for not using the picket sign as a weapon when one of the thugs was attacking Bill Stanley.

Police Deal With the Assault at the Wigwam

The picket on Sunday night was cancelled as anti-war riots broke out in campus town and a curfew was ordered. The two assailants who attacked the Wigwam picket had escaped and I almost felt bad for not stabbing the blond headed guy as he beat up my friend Bill Stanley.

But what happened on Monday, April 17th, turned that feeling into an obsession that haunted me for years.

Although the link is to a dramatization of those events, I made every effort to be as historically accurate as possible.


Dramatization of April 17th encounter with Wigwam assailant[6] There are two important discrepancies between the actual history and the dramatized account. The cops indicated the blond-haired thug was an athlete at the U of I, but there is no evidence other than his build that he was a member of the football team, let alone a linebacker which was used in the novel because of Nixon's Operation Linebacker the same night. Secondly, neither Winston (William Stanley) nor I noticed the nametag of the cop who committed this miscarriage of justice. Although his identity is dramatically revealed later in the novel (and in this exhibit) the novel uses the device of the shirt torn in the previous night's riots to cover up for our stupidity in failing to notice his name. The hateful speech used by the Urbana cop is very accurately represented. Words I have never forgotten.

The experience Bill Stanley and I had at the Urbana police station was a defining moment that will be reflected in the remainder of this exhibit.

I was a naive, secretly patriotic middle-class white boy. Here is an audio reenactment of the ugly words used by the Urbana cop that shattered my world.

Click on the captions to hear audio

x x x x x

Exhibit Page Links


  1. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,3:33-36
  2. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,3:39-44
  3. Editorial 1972, The Daily Illini, April 15th, Editorial page
  4. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1972-3, Participants at Wigwam protest
  5. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,3:50-52,4:1-2
  6. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,4:7-12

Contact Person

Jeff Graubart jeffgrau@rcn.com


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