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escaped police custody handcuffed to a drag queen named Blond Frankie
July 13, 2012 12:12 AM   Subscribe

"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."

William McGowan writes in Slate about how a routine arrest of a chickenhawk led to parallel investigations by the NYPD and the FBI into perhaps the largest blackmail and extortion ring of gay men ever uncovered. Dozens of prominent men -- senators, admirals, pop singers -- were blackmailed by gangsters posing as cops, threatened with exposure at a time when open homosexuality was still largely criminal. It caused at least one suicide and ruined several marriages, but there is a happy ending of sorts as one of the blackmailers, Edward “Skull” Murphy, transformed himself into a thoroughly respected gay activist in his later life.
posted by MartinWisse (19 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's something truly mind-blowing about the idea that detectives would eventually uncover extortion by people posing as corrupt vice-squad detectives victimizing people posing as heterosexuals to accuse them of moral corruption.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:27 AM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Amazing article.
posted by empath at 12:54 AM on July 13, 2012


An amazing article indeed. Although I was shaken by the fact that Kaminsky appears to have my mother's family nose.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:34 AM on July 13, 2012


Fantastic article.
posted by Karmeliet at 5:31 AM on July 13, 2012


Murphy and Blond Frankie allegedly hopped a cab to another bar further downtown called Keller’s, which was popular with by seaman by day and with gay men by night, where an S&M drag queen got them out of their restraints.
posted by This Guy at 5:35 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


ugh, posting fail. what was meant to follow that quote:

I definitely never thought I'd see those words, put together in that order, in a mainstream publication.

Great article, and it's chilling to realize exactly how far we've come as a society. Thanks MartinWisse.
posted by This Guy at 5:37 AM on July 13, 2012


Fascinating article, great post.

This kind of leapt out at me:
What would be remarkable about the Chicken and Bulls case, as it developed, was the way cops and prosecutors set aside their own prejudice. If Hogan’s men did have any distaste for the proclivities of the victims, those personal feelings were eclipsed by sympathy for the men and their families, disgust at the cruelty of the criminals, and professional outrage that the good name of the NYPD was being sullied by extortionists carrying their gold shields. “We had all these big people around the country thinking our guys were really doing this, and it was starting to make us all look bad,” former rackets investigator Tobias Fennel explains. The class backgrounds of the victims certainly didn’t hurt, helping to get the attention of well-placed members of the judicial and law enforcement establishments who controlled the police. [emphasis mine]
I suspect that middle part is what really mattered the most to these guys. If the operation had been run by men impersonating US Postal Workers and had targeted people who weren't rich, would the NYPD have bothered?
posted by hippybear at 6:08 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great reading!

Although: Intrigued by Murphy's rollercoaster-ride-of-a-life, I did some googling to find out some more about him but it turns out that the professional wrestler nicknamed Villainous Skull Murphy is not the Ed Murphy the article is talking about at all. He was, according to Wikipedia, a certain Canadian wrestler named John Joseph Murphy, who died in 1970 when he was only 39 years old, whereas Ed Murphy died of AIDS in early 1989 at the age of 64 (according to the Slate piece).

Is this really a factual error, or am I missing something?
posted by procrastinator at 6:13 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess it really is a factual error. Another reader in the comments section of the piece points out the same thing.
( I couldn't find the permalink to the comment—if there's any—so here's a screenshot )
posted by procrastinator at 6:24 AM on July 13, 2012


Nthing the 'great story' comments. Read like a James Ellroy novel.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:22 AM on July 13, 2012


If the operation had been run by men impersonating US Postal Workers and had targeted people who weren't rich, would the NYPD have bothered?

Probably not, to be honest, as the article sort of acknowledges.

the professional wrestler nicknamed Villainous Skull Murphy is not the Ed Murphy the article is talking about at all.

Oh, that's a shame if true. An understandable mistake, but shows the importance of doing research first.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:38 AM on July 13, 2012


“We had all these big people around the country thinking our guys were really doing this, and it was starting to make us all look bad,”

Like above posters, I imagine this is the real reason that the police became so suddenly interested in "doing right" by these people.

I can't help but notice that while the ring was shut down (and thus, the police department looked good again), two of the three main guys mentioned basically got off free of punishment. Once the press-coverage was over, they had no reason to follow through on sentencing.
posted by Urban Winter at 7:51 AM on July 13, 2012


Once the press-coverage was over, they had no reason to follow through on sentencing.

How involved would the police have been at that point, anyway?
posted by kenko at 7:58 AM on July 13, 2012


Wow, what an awesome article. The part of the story that fascinates me the most is that the FBI and NYPD more or less helped keep the extortion victims' secrets safe. Not entirely, as in the case of the Congressman who loses his committee position. But not only did the cops go after the thugs pretending to be cops, but they actually showed some kindness to the "fairies". I'm genuinely surprised.
posted by Nelson at 9:12 AM on July 13, 2012


hippybear: I suspect that middle part is what really mattered the most to these guys. If the operation had been run by men impersonating US Postal Workers and had targeted people who weren't rich, would the NYPD have bothered?

I was all ready to make a crack about this until I remembered that J. Edgar was always eager to use whatever tools he had at his disposal, whether it was agents, the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service. NYPD may not have reacted, but I imagine the FBI would have been all over a postal scam of this nature in a heartbeat.

It is even possible he might have had an emotional stake in it.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 10:04 AM on July 13, 2012


Yeah, the FBI had its own racket of blackmailing gays.
posted by empath at 11:32 AM on July 13, 2012


Every time I think I've seen it all about the history of persecution of gay people, something like this comes up. This is beyond unbelievable. That you had a gang of people who could blackmail congressmen, and admirals and generals and really, the highest reaches of society, and all of this happening right here, in a democratic country. How powerless must have felt the faceless tens of thousands of less privileged gay people persecuted by cops in countless vice operations. This is all still within living memory.

And as to the vice "stings" designed exclusively to ensnare gay people, vicious police homophobia and trumped up charges against gay people ? It's happening TODAY, and it's happening everywhere even in the supposed mecca of gay lifestyle, like Palm Springs, California and it's happening in Los Angeles, and it's happening in New York. When are we going to put in prison the psychopaths populating the police forces in this country and their commanders who order shit like this? I don't even know why the cops took such umbrage at impersonating a police officer, considering the vice cop scum that carry those hallowed badges - maybe they hate the competition.
posted by VikingSword at 1:46 PM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


And as to the vice "stings" designed exclusively to ensnare gay people, vicious police homophobia and trumped up charges against gay people ? It's happening TODAY, and it's happening everywhere even in the supposed mecca of gay lifestyle, like Palm Springs, California and it's happening in Los Angeles, and it's happening in New York.

Thanks, VikingSword. I knew I'd heard about modern day stings which were targeting gay people, but didn't have time in my limited morning pre-work MeFi session to do adequate research.

Cops suck, and people hate the queers. Put the two together, and you find shit like this happening.
posted by hippybear at 6:25 PM on July 13, 2012


Really great article. Thanks for posting it. Murphy's story is surprising enough without the wrestling angle, pity that the author got that wrong.
posted by latkes at 1:24 PM on July 14, 2012


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