Join us for a conversation with Jim Elledge, author of The Boys of Fairy Town: Sodomites, Female Impersonators, Third-Sexers, Pansies, Queers, and Sex Morons in Chicago's First Century, and June Sawyers!
A history of gay Chicago told through the stories of queer men who left a record of their sexual activities in the Second City, The Boys of Fairy Town: Sodomites, Female Impersonators, Third Sexers, Pansies, Queers, and Sex Morons in Chicago’s First Century paints a vivid picture of the neighborhoods where they congregated while revealing their complex lives. Some, such as reporter John Wing, were public figures. Others, like Henry Gerber, who created the first “homophile” organization in the United States, were practically invisible to their contemporaries. But their stories are all riveting. Female impersonators and striptease artists Quincy de Lang and George Quinn were arrested and put on trial at the behest of a leader of Chicago’s anti-“indecency” movement. African American ragtime pianist Tony Jackson’s most famous song, “Pretty Baby,” was written about one of his male lovers. Alfred Kinsey’s explorations of the city’s netherworld changed the future of American sexuality while confirming his own queer proclivities. What emerges from The Boys of Fairy Town is a complex portrait and a virtually unknown history of one of the most vibrant cities in the United States.
Jim Elledge is the author of twenty-four books. His most recent nonfiction book, Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist, received the Georgia Author of the Year Award in biography and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Randy Shilts Award for gay nonfiction.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, June Sawyers is a writer and editor of many books ranging in topics from Scotland and Celtic music to Springsteen and Dylan. Her latest book is CabaretFAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Broadway and Cinema Classic. In addition, her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, New City, Booklist, The Common Review, Sing Out!, and Stagebill, among other publications. She is the founder of the Phantom Collective, an arts group that presents dramatic readings, theatre pieces, and music programs around town. She teaches at the Newberry Library.