Police Department, Mansfield, Ohio, Bathroom Surveillance Film: July-August 1962
Jones, William E. Mansfield 1962. Video, black and white, silent, 9 minutes, 2006.
- Description: In the summer of 1962, the Mansfield, Ohio Police Department photographed men having sex in a public restroom under the main square of the city. A cameraman hid in a closet and watched the clandestine activities through a two-way mirror. He filmed over a three week period, and the resulting movie was used to obtain the convictions of over 30 local men on charges of sodomy. With some of this footage the Mansfield Police later produced Camera Surveillance, an instructional film circulated in law enforcement circles. It showed how to set up a sting operation to film and arrest “sex deviants.” William E. Jones found a degraded version of the film on the internet, then reedited the footage to make Mansfield 1962, a haunting, silent condensation of the original.
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Jones, William E. Tearoom [book]. 2nd Cannons Publications 010 2008, 2nd printing, edition of 1000. 8.5x11" 43 pages $24.00
- Description 1:
- Tearoom is a companion piece to Jones’s video of the same name. A work of appropriation, the video Tearoom is a police surveillance film – presented virtually unaltered – of men having sex in a public rest room in Mansfield, Ohio during a three week period in the summer of 1962. This film, used as evidence in court, led to the conviction of over 30 men on charges of sodomy, which at that time carried a minimum sentence of one year in the state penitentiary.
- In the book Tearoom, William E. Jones presents the results of research on these cases and on the production of the surveillance film. The book includes a number of historical texts, as well as two new essays by Jones. Tearoom is extensively illustrated with more than 100 film stills, most of them in color. These stills show men from all walks of life who met for furtive sex under the central square of Mansfield, and who went to jail as the result of a law enforcement sting. Tearoom provides a unique view of the clandestine sexual life of a small Midwestern city at the beginning of the 1960s. www.williamejones.com
- Description 2:
- The book Tearoom, published by 2nd Cannons, contains many historical texts relating to the Mansfield cases, as well as over 100 frame enlargements from the video. [Note: The first edition of the book has gone out of print; a second edition is now available.]
Jones, William E. Tearoom [video]. 16mm film transferred to video, color, silent, 56 minutes, 1962/2007.
- Description: Tearoom consists of footage shot by the police in the course of a crackdown on public sex in the American Midwest. In the summer of 1962, the Mansfield, Ohio Police Department photographed men in a restroom under the main square of the city. The cameramen hid in a closet and watched the clandestine activities through a two-way mirror. The film they shot was used in court as evidence against the defendants, all of whom were found guilty of sodomy, which at that time carried a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in the state penitentiary. The original surveillance footage shot by the police came into the possession of director William E. Jones while he was researching this case for a documentary project. The unedited scenes of ordinary men of various races and classes meeting to have sex were so powerful that the director decided to present the footage with a minimum of intervention. Tearoom is a radical example of film presented “as found” for the purpose of circulating historical images that have otherwise been suppressed.
Wikipedia: Mansfield, Ohio, Film Industry
- From the 1950s through the 1970s, Mansfield was the home of the infamous Highway Safety Foundation, the organization that created the controversial driver's education scare films that featured gruesome film photography taken at fatal automobile accidents in the Mansfield area.
- The films include Signal 30 (1959), Mechanized Death (1961), Wheels of Tragedy (1963), and Highways of Agony (1969). In addition, the Highway Safety Foundation produced other controversial education films including The Child Molester and Camera Surveillance (both 1964).
- In 1962, The Highway Safety Foundation loaned camera equipment to the Mansfield Police Department to film the sex acts of some of the city's homosexual men, who met in an underground public restroom deep in the bowels of Central Park. An ugly chapter in the city's history, the men filmed were charged under Ohio's sodomy law, and all served a minimum of one year in the state penitentiary. The resulting footage, combined with overdubbed audio commentary by officials of the Mansfield Police Department, was eventually compiled by HSF as the film Camera Surveillance.
- Video artist William E. Jones of Massillon, Ohio, obtained copies of the original footage shot by the Mansfield Police Department. Jones transferred the grainy color footage of the original police surveillance films to video and removed the police commentary, presenting it as a silent piece entitled Tearoom (2007). Jones' film was featured in an exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2008.
- Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansfield,_Ohio#Film_industry. Excerpted February 18, 2013.
Responses to William T. Jones' Tearoom
- Otto, Dean. “Artists of the Year: William E. Jones,” City Pages (Minneapolis) January 2, 2008.
- News of Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest by an undercover police officer in a public-toilet sex sting at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport exploded in the press in late August. Newscasters were befuddled as they reported the details. Later, Craig’s explanation that his “wide stance” in the stall was misunderstood by the officer became a pop euphemism for gay. Public-bathroom sex became fodder for late-night monologues, and the site of Craig’s bust turned into a tourist attraction.
- All of that gives remarkable weight and context to the work of Los Angeles filmmaker William E. Jones, who exhibited at Walker Art Center last summer, just before the scandal broke. Jones’s films often rework footage from the nonsexual moments in gay porn, and addresses the lines between fandom and obsession. In the process of mining images of gay sexuality in film, he uncovered an instructional film called Camera Surveillance, produced by the Highway Safety Foundation, that taught officers techniques to covertly film illegal sexual activity in public toilets. In this case, the footage shot in 1962 in the small town of Mansfield, Ohio, led to charges and convictions of more than 30 men. Jones’s reworking of the footage, Mansfield 1962, which showed at the Walker, contains many levels of irony. The surveillance tapes were shot by police hiding in a closet—natch—and the explicit footage shows the sexual abandon and joy, but not the horror and humiliation that soon followed. The restroom in the film is a cultural and social equalizer, ensnaring men of various classes. In this case, most served several years in jail and had their lives ruined.
- We will be hearing more from Jones soon. Next up is a spot in the coveted Whitney Biennial—the holy grail of emerging artists—where he will be presenting Tearoom, another found film on gay sex in bathrooms.
Schwärzler, Dietmar, “More Than One Way to Watch a Movie!” in Smell It! (Vienna: Kunsthalle Exnergasse, 2009) pp. 74-79. [Interview with William T. Jones.]
Supanick, Jim. “Last Year at Mansfield: William E. Jones’s Tearoom,” Film International, issue 37, pp. 12-15.