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Paul Baker, Jo Stanley: Hello Sailor!

Paul Baker, Jo Stanley: Hello Sailor!

The Hidden History of Gay Life at Sea. UK/USA/AUS 2003, 257 pp., cloth,  31.99
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When homosexuality was illegal and gay men were closeted there were few safe places to be. Apart from the theatre, passenger ships provided the only space where gay men could be not only out, but outrageously camp. Efficient, able-bodied seamen by day, queens and butches strutted their stuff below deck at night, dressed up as their favourite Hollywood stars. »Hello Sailor!« opens up a secret world of bold young men having a ball as they sashayed and minced across the world's oceans. Gay seamen recount their stories and reveal the hidden history of life in the merchant navy. Homosexuality might have been illegal in both the Royal Navy and Merchant Marine, but life on land in the middle of the 20th century was far more restrictive than on the ships. The thousands of gay seafarers often out-numbered straight men in the catering departments of the gleaming vessels that were the pride of the British fleet - great cruise liners like the QE2 and the Canberra. Communicating in their own secret language - Polari - they were comfortably queer at sea at a time when life on land demanded compulsory straightness.
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