WRITING IN 1956, the novelist Saul Bellow declared “that in Los Angeles all the loose objects in the country were collected, as if America had been tilted and everything that wasn’t tightly screwed down had slid into Southern California” (1964, 14–15). Prejudicial as this observation may be, it speaks to the nontraditional lifestyles Southern California has welcomed.
To take one example, early in the twentieth century, gays and lesbians from across the nation found refuge along the Pacific shore in a homosexual colony centered in Long Beach. In 1914, an investigative journalist reported the existence of a “society of queers” given to lavish parties, cross-dressing, and participation from every origin and social class. These parties included, according to the reporter, “some of the wealthy and prominent men of the city, politicians, prominent business men, and even prominent churchmen” (Ullman 1995, 599). Terms now well-known, with specific meanings for this community, have their first documentation in the reporter’s notes: chicken, go down on,