a chicken, a drag and 96

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Sep 19 14:18:28 UTC 2003

On Thu, 11 Sep 2003 12:08:15,  George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>

>This was a series of stories in the LATimes from November 14, 1914 and
after.  The >headline to the original story was:
>Thirty Men Heavily Fined or Given County-jail Sentences -- Church and
Business >men Included in List of Guilty Ones who, Police Say They Have Evidence to
Show, >were Organized for Immoral Purposes.  [from the story:] Officers Warren
and Brown >say that Lowe unfolded to them before his arrest a story of the
existence of a >society of "social vagrants," called the "606," whose members
were all men and >who met weekly.  ***  At the functions of this peculiar
society all the members, on >arriving, changed street clothes for kimonos, silk
underware and hosiery, and some >wore women's wigs.  The members made up with
powder and paint as for the stage, >according to the recital by the officers, and
the orgies were attented by at least fifty >at each meeting.

>Los Angeles Times, November 14, 1914, section II, p. 8  I do not find
"social >vagrant" in the on-line OED.

>[A police officer testifies:]  [Lowe] came [into the room] again, while I
was lying on >the bed.  He asked me if I had ever heard of the Six-O-Six Club
and the Ninety-six >Club.  I said I had not.  He said that the Ninety-six Club
was the best; that it was >composed of the 'queer' people, that got together
every week.  I asked Lowe why >they called it the Ninety-six Club, and he said
someting about turning the letters >around, before and behind.  He said that
the members sometimes spent hundreds >of dollars on silk gowns, hosiery, etc.,
in which they dressed at sessions of this >club.  He said that at these 'drags'
the 'queer' people have a good time, but no one >could get in without being
introduced by a member in good standing.

M-W, both 10th and 11th Collegiates, dates "606" as 1910.  "606" is one of
the names of the drug arsphenamine, the first drug specific against
syphilis---it refers to it being the 606th drug tested for activity against syphilis.

Is it possible that this group of transvestites named their organization "The
Anti-Syphilis Club"?

M-W 10 and 11 both date "sixty-nine" as from 1924.  In an apparent violation
of policy, the first sense is for the number but the 1924 date refers to the
second sense, that of mutual oral-genital sex.  In any case, you have an
indirect antedating, via the reversal to "96", of the sexual meaning of "69".

In 1969 (of course) I saw a book in which mutual oral-genital sex (in this
case, between women) was referred to not as "sixty-nine" but by the French term
"soixante-neuf".  Is the French term widely used in English?  (Perhaps among
lesbians?)  Or (my suspicion) was the author trying to add a high-brow tone to
what was really a piece of pornography?

>HDAS has "drag", noun, 4b, "Homosex., a party held for transvestites and
male >homosexuals", with quotations from 1927 (2), 1930, 1933, &c.  It has
"ninety-six", >"Homosex., homosexual anal intercourse", with quotations from 1925,
1949, and >"1947-51".  The 1949 passage reads "California term for reciprocal
anal >intercourse".

I find it difficult to believe that "reciprocal anal intercourse" is
physically possible.

                   - James A. Landau

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