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Pixies Homosexuality, Anti-Communism, and the Army-McCarthy Hearings Thomas Doherty During the Army-McCarthy hearings, broadcast live on television from April 22 to June 17,1954, a risque exchange provoked gales of laughter from the unruly gallery packed into Senate Caucus Room 310. While examining a doctored photograph offered into evidence by the McCarthy staff,Joseph N. Welch, attorney for the U.S. Army, made the sardonic suggestion that perhaps "pixies"were the culprits responsible for the alterations. McCarthy snidely asked Welch to define "pixie" because "I think [you] might be an expert on that." "A pixie," the lawyer snapped back, eyeing McCarthy's side of the table, "is a close relative of a fairy."1 The testy banter made oblique reference to an unspoken suspicion hovering over the official charges and countercharges between the army and McCarthy: that a homosexual liaison between Roy Cohn, special counsel for the McCarthy subcommittee, and G. David Schine, former unpaid consultant for the subcommittee and current private in the U.S. Army, was at the root of Cohn's obsession with Schine's welfare in uniform. After all, upon Schine's induction into the army in the fall of 1953, Cohn had pressured, badgered, and abused army officials, from the Secretary ofthe Army on down to Schine's company commander, to provide Schine with special privileges and choice assignments. His irrational outbursts and vituperative language were the catalyst for the Army-McCarthy hearings, America's first nationally televised political spectacle—and the stage, ultimately, for the downfall ofJoseph R. McCarthy.2 In an age when sexuality of all kinds is not just a fit but an incessant subject for televisual discourse, when sitcoms and soap operas showcase gay 194 | Thomas Doherty Joseph N. Welch was the attorney for the Army during the Army-McCarthy Hearings , which were telecast live from April 22 to June 17,1954. Author's collection. characters and talk shows chatter frankly about sexual orientations of gymnastic variety, the discretion and ignorance over matters of non-missionary position sexuality in America in the 1950s may be difficult to credit. For many Americans, an awareness of the existence, much less the mechanics, of homosexual activity was beyond the scope of imagination. To read back a homosexual subtext onto the Army-McCarthy hearings is thus an act of interpretation that drifts perilously near the shoals of historical presentism, the logical fallacy of seeing the past through the lens of the present. The methodological risks are underscored by the fact that pioneering televiewers who witnessed the hearings characteristically aver that it simply never entered their minds, that the very notion of homosexuality—so quick to bubble to the service in any discussion of close male friendship todays—was seldom a thought that reached conscious awareness in 1954. The postwar cultural context militated against homosexual insinuations in other ways. During World War II, close male friendships forged in combat served as survival mechanism and emotional sustenance. Whether in Yank magazine's cartoon buddies Willie and Joe or real-life duos like Guadalcanal heroes Al Schmid and Lee Diamond, intimate male bonding Pixies I 195 The Army-McCarthy Hearings set the stage for the eventual downfall of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy from Wisconsin. Author's collection. was seldom fraught with suggestive undertones. The recent findings of the Kinsey Report in 1949—that one in three American men had engaged in some kind of homosexual activity—gave the psychologists pause, but virile commingling between adult males was more apt to be configured as a normal refuge from intrusive females than an aberrant desire for same-sex contact. At the same time, a gender contractwritten in concrete seemed to be cracking around the edges. The immutability of sexuality was being challenged by medical science (in the case ofthe pioneering transsexual ChristineJorgensen) and in television programming. Concurrent with the Army-McCarthy hearings was the strange and meteoric rise of Liberace, the "telepianist marvel" who became a sensation brandishing the fashion trademarks ofa raging queen: flamboyant outfits, Louis XIV decor, candelabra, and lisping. "When will Liberace marry?" queried a 1954 cover story in TV Guide, as if the effeminate mama's boy was a hot marriage prospect for white-gloved coeds.3 Certainly the sexual politics of the day situated homosexuality as doubly beyond the pale. The link between homosexuality and communism—of perversion and subversion, fag baiting and red baiting—was overt in American law and culture in the 1950s. Like domestic communists, homosexuals met 196 | Thomas...


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