Reminiscent of The Boys of Boise and The Scarlet Professor, today's Slate essay by William McGowan examines another antigay scandal of the 1950-60s, an exortion ring preying on rich closeted men who hired young hustlers. Awful as the societal attitudes were -- paving the way for successful threats of exposure -- this story highlights a remarkable turnaround for extortionist Ed Murphy, who "fairy shaking" closeted men for money to lobbying for gay rights and organizing NYC pride's street festival. He died of aids in 1989.
The whole piece is 7,000 words, and worth it:
"Impersonating corrupt vice-squad detectives, members of this ring, known in police parlance as bulls, had used young, often underage men known as chickens to successfully blackmail closeted pillars of the establishment, among them a navy admiral, two generals, a U.S. congressman, a prominent surgeon, an Ivy League professor, a prep school headmaster, and several well-known actors, singers, and television personalities. The ring had operated for almost a decade, had victimized thousands, and had taken in at least $2 million. When he announced in 1966 that the ring had been broken up, Manhattan DA Frank Hogan said the victims had all been shaken down “on the threat that their homosexual proclivities would be exposed unless they paid for silence.”
"Though now almost forgotten, the case of “the Chickens and the Bulls” as the NYPD called it (or “Operation Homex,” to the FBI), still stands as the most far-flung, most organized, and most brazen example of homosexual extortion in the nation’s history. And while the Stonewall riot in June 1969 is considered by many to be the pivotal moment in gay civil rights, this case represents an important crux too, marking the first time that the law enforcement establishment actually worked on behalf of victimized gay men, instead of locking them up or shrugging."