“For two weeks in the summer of 1962, using a two-way mirror, police in the central Ohio town of Mansfield secretly filmed the activity in a public men’s room in the town square. The surveillance recorded dozens of men having sex, resulting in more than 30 prosecutions for sodomy, with at least a year in prison time for each. Decades later, acclaimed filmmaker William E. Jones — his Massillon is an autobiographical documentary about growing up in a nearby town — acquired the Mansfield footage while working on another project. The images so fascinated him that he’s been screening it, unaltered by further editing, as the 56-minute Tearoom. Shot without sound, in grainy color 16 mm, it’s a stunning document. The men range in age from their 20s to their 60s. They are white and black, fat and thin, in a banker’s suit or name-patched mechanic’s uniform. Faces humorless, eyes on the door, they masturbate, give handjobs and blowjobs, and perform anal sex; a few exchange money. Michael Sicinski, in Cinema Scope magazine, called Tearoom ‘one of the most soberingly revelatory political films of recent years’ and “a cinematic document of vital importance to the history of gay culture in the United States.”
And in a roundabout way, of the U.S. Senate.
There’s a book available as well.
A Holiday Visit to the Larry Craig Men’s Room [tr]