John Gerassi

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The 2007 scandal with Larry Craig, not to mention those slightly less recent with Bob Allen and Mark Foley, have been directing my memory toward John Gerassi's 1966 masterpiece The Boys of Boise, about the Boise Sex Scandal in 1955 and 1956.

In Boise, three men were arrested for having sex with teenagers, and citizens were led to believe by local officials that these first three were just the tip of an insidious iceberg, the first step in uncovering and dismantling a massive child sex ring threatening every one of Boise's children. Though these allegations were completely bogus and were eventually shown to be so, the ensuing witch hunt saw dozens of men arrested and numerous lives ruined.

"Written in 1965 about a same-sex sexual scandal that occurred in 1955 in Boise, Idaho, John Gerassi's classic study depicts both middle America's traditional response to homosexuality and an era in the country's history before the modern gay rights movement really got underway. Because much of what Gerassi wrote about persists in today's struggles over gay and lesbian issues, his book still has much to tell us about how contemporary society reacts to, and misunderstands, homosexuality." (From Peter Boag's introduction to the 2001 reprint, taken from The UW Press Website)

Larry Craig is a Boise native. He was ten years old when the scandal broke, and a student at the University of Idaho when Gerassi's book came out.

Gerassi has led a rather amazing life, as the short bio taken from the Guide to the John Gerassi Papers website shows below. He has written on topics diverse and wide-ranging, including Sartre (his non-godfather), Fidel Castro & Che Guevara, American Crime, North Vietnam, and of course the sex scandal that rocked middle America. His parents were in the vanguard of European art and philosophy of their day, and Gerassi himself has studied in America and Britain, taught here and abroad, raised children, and remained an admired professor at Queens College of New York, where he had been teaching for over thirty three years by 2012.

Last year a film, The Fall of '55, researched and directed by Boise native Seth Randal, re-introduced the scandal to the public eye. Using Gerassi's book and years worth of his own original research, Randal has put together a fascinating documentary which attempts to bring to life the people, times, and climate of Boise during this debacle. "I didn't simply set out to 're-hash' or re-try these cases," he said. "Instead, I wanted to know more about what it was like to live in Boise at the time. I wanted to understand what caused the prosecutions to grow to be so widespread. And I wanted to learn about ongoing consequences – to share the stories of the people whose lives continue to be touched by these events." (taken from the Fall of '55 website)


Bio

Taken from Guide to the John Gerassi Papers

Journalist and scholar John ("Tito") Gerassi was born in France in July 1931, to Fernando Gerassi, a Turkish-born artist of Sephardic Jewish heritage, and Ukranian born Stepha Awdykowicz. Moving between Barcelona and Paris, the couple belonged to the cosmopolitan circle of artists and intellectuals who congregated in cafes to argue art and politics, and counted Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir as close friends. When civil war broke out in Spain in 1936, Fernando Gerassi joined the Loyalist forces. He served as a general in the Spanish Army and became the inspiration for the figure of Gomez, the artist and revolutionary in Sartre's trilogy Roads to Freedom. Following the Fascist victory in Spain, the Gerassi family emigrated to the United States in 1940.

John Gerassi was raised in New York City and attended Columbia University. He spent a decade in journalism, worked as an editor for Time and, later, Newsweek before serving as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times. He left journalism to pursue a career in academia and earned his doctorate at the London School of Economics. He was an instructor at the John Kennedy Freedom School in Berlin and at the University of California at Irvine before joining the faculty of Queens College of the City University of New York in 1978. Among his publications are The Great Fear in Latin America (1965); The Boys of Boise (1966); the biography Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century (1989); and "The Comintern, the Fronts and the CPUSA," in New Studies in the Politics and Culture of U.S. Communism (1993).

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