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Harold Leland "Hal" Call (September 1917–December 18, 2000) was an American businessman and LGBT rights activist. Born and raised in Grundy County, Missouri, Call enrolled in the University of Missouri in 1935 on a scholarship. He studied journalism. Call enlisted in the United States Army in June 1941 as a private. He was promoted to sergeant within the year and, after completing Officer Candidate School was promoted to lieutenant. He saw combat in the Pacific Theater, where he was wounded and received the Purple Heart. Returning to the United States in 1945, Call left the Army at the rank of captain and returned to the University of Missouri to complete his journalism degree.

After graduating Call worked for several news outlets, including the Kansas City Star. In August 1952, while working for the Star, Call was arrested for "lewd conduct" and paid an $800 bribe to have the charges dismissed. Call resigned his job and he and his lover Jack moved to San Francisco.

With his arrival in the city, Call became involved with the Mattachine Society, the first sustained gay rights group in the United States. Following the resignations of the original leadership in 1953, Call became president of the Society. Call frequently appeared on local television programs in the 1950s, one of the few openly gay men who spoke about gay issues, and appeared both in The Rejected, the first-ever television documentary on homosexuality, and "CBS Reports: The Homosexuals", the first network broadcast on the subject.

In 1955 Call co-founded Pan Graphic Press, which printed The Mattachine Review, The Ladder and other homophile publications. He also founded Dorian Book Service, a gay and lesbian literature clearinghouse. With the liberalization of obscenity laws beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Call began marketing gay erotica through the Adonis Bookstore, the first gay adult shop in San Francisco. He later expanded the business to include peep shows, eventually opening the Circle J club as a venue for screening pornographic films and hosting "circle jerk" parties. Call also began filming pornographic "loops" of men masturbating on a gold couch in his office. These Gold Couch Capers became collector's items.

Hal Call died in San Francisco on December 18, 2000, at the age of 83.


Hal Call, 1999, by Robert Giard (
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (

Further Readings:

Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (Haworth Gay and Lesbian Studies) by John Dececco Phd
Paperback: 630 pages
Publisher: Routledge (November 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1560231874
ISBN-13: 978-1560231875
Amazon: Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation

Take a revealing look at gay sex and gay history—and the man who helped kick-start gay activism in today’s society

The Mattachine is the origin of the contemporary American gay movement. One of the major players in this movement was Hal Call, America’s first openly gay journalist and the man most responsible for the end of government censorship of frontal male nude photography through the mail. Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation, the Hal Call Chronicles travels back to the times before Stonewall and its aftermath, to the beginnings of the modern homosexual movement and the lesser-known individuals who started it. This stunning chronicle boldly goes beyond the standard whitewashed/desexualized history usually provided by other gay historians, to give the unexpurgated—and sexually charged—history of the activists who organized homosexuals, using the biography of the controversial Hal Call as its springboard.

Behind the Mask of the Mattachine provides a revealing illustration of gay life and gay sex in the past through an intergenerational history of the early gay men’s movement. Noted author James T. Sears generously weaves oral history, seldom seen historical documents, and rare photographs to provide a rich behind-the-scenes look at the first wave of Mattachine activists and the emerging gay pornography industry. This historical chronicle of a previously neglected era is packed with details of Call’s personal struggles, his celebration of the phallus, and his assertion linking homophobia and heteronormativity to our culture’s sex-negative tradition. The reader is transported to the sexual underworld of youthful hustlers, porno kingpins, spurned lovers, sex clubs, cruising grounds, secretive societies, and personal in-fighting over the direction of gay activism. This enthralling narrative is impeccably referenced.

Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 by Nan Alamilla Boyd
Paperback: 333 pages
Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (April 13, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0520244745
ISBN-13: 978-0520244740
Amazon: Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965

Wide-Open Town traces the history of gay men and lesbians in San Francisco from the turn of the century, when queer bars emerged in San Francisco's tourist districts, to 1965, when a raid on a drag ball changed the course of queer history. Bringing to life the striking personalities and vibrant milieu that fueled this era, Nan Alamilla Boyd examines the culture that developed around the bar scene and homophile activism. She argues that the communities forged inside bars and taverns functioned politically and, ultimately, offered practical and ideological responses to the policing of San Francisco's queer and transgender communities. Using police and court records, oral histories, tourist literature, and manuscript collections from local and state archives, Nan Alamilla Boyd explains the phenomenal growth of San Francisco as a "wide-open town"--a town where anything goes. She also relates the early history of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement that took place in San Francisco prior to 1965.
Wide-Open Town argues that police persecution forged debates about rights and justice that transformed San Francisco's queer communities into the identity-based groups we see today. In its vivid re-creation of bar and drag life, its absorbing portrait of central figures in the communities, and its provocative chronicling of this period in the country's most transgressive city, Wide-Open Town offers a fascinating and lively new chapter of American queer history.

More Particular Voices at my website:, My Ramblings/Particular Voices


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