Stephan Jaray:
Vom Speakeasy zur schwulen Herrenbar

Stephan Jaray:
From "Speakeasy" to a Gay Bar

Stories and Legends on the Zurich Mary’s Old Timers Bar (1935–1975) and its owner Mary Lang (1884–1977)

English abstract

A 1945 executive order of the Swiss Bundesrat, known under the designation "American Swiss Leave" or "Swiss Leave Tour 1945", did not relate to homosexuality in any specific way. This notwithstanding, it helped the Zurich bar Mary’s Old Timers Bar – later known as a gay bar – attract an increasing number of gay-identified men from abroad. In 1942, the federal government had de-criminalized consensual sex among adult men.

The 1945 order allowed for a tourist program which, financed by the US military, served to recognize US soldiers’ merits in the course of WW II by offering them a one-week vacation in Switzerland. Historians today assume that more than half a million GIs used the program for a short trip to the alpine country.

Ensuing from this particular event, Stephan Jaray provides an answer to the question when exactly Mary’s Old Timers Bar evolved into a "gay" establishment. Persistent tales and legends about the bar and its owner, however, make it difficult even for historians to come to an unambiguous conclusion.

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