It's a dog day afternoon: today's episode profiles the bank robber John Wojtowicz, who infamously (and as memorialized in Sidney Lumet's 1975 film DOG DAY AFTERNOON) held up a bank in 1972 to pay for gender-affirming surgery for Elizabeth Eden, his trans girlfriend. Or did he? We take a look, using the story to think through 1972 as a fault line for emerging attitudes about homosexuality and trans femininity, Wojtowicz' surprising involvement in early gay liberation activism in New York City, the DOG DAY AFTERNOON phenomenon and what it says about growing distinctions between gay men and trans women and how they were represented and compensated, and the ethical complications of Wojtowicz as a figure in history and in historical memory.
Thanks to listener Ziz for pointing out that trans actress Elizabeth Coffey –– one of the legendary ensemble of Dreamlanders who starred in the films of extremely good gay John Waters –– was up for the role of the character in Dog Day Afternoon based on Eden and was turned down for looking ‘too feminine.’ This adds important context regarding the filmmakers’ transphobia and questions of representation and compensation in the film.
Check out trans historian Zagria’s three part series on Eden and Wojtowicz, with links to some fantastic digitized primary sources at the end:
Zagria, "Liz Eden and Dog Day Afternoon,” (three-part series), Gender Variance Who's Who.
Check out Morgan M. Page’s show One From The Vaults, you might want to start here with her three-part series on Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries:
Morgan M Page, “OFTV 3: STAR House, STAR People,” accessed March 1, 2022, https://soundcloud.com/onefromthevaultspodcast/oftv-3-star-house-star-people-1.
Anthony Macias, “Gay Rights and The Reception of Dog Day Afternoon (1975),” Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal 48, no. 1 (2018): 45–56.
Arthur Bell, “Littlejohn & the Mob: Saga of a Heist,” The Village Voice, Vol. XVII, No. 35, August 31, 1972, https://www.villagevoice.com/2011/03/11/the-bank-robbery-that-would-become-dog-day-afternoon/.
“The Boys In The Bank,” LIFE Magazine September 22, 1972, LIFE Magazine
Garance Franke-Ruta, “The Prehistory of Gay Marriage: Watch a 1971 Protest at NYC’s Marriage License Bureau,” The Atlantic, March 26, 2013, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/03/the-prehistory-of-gay-marriage-watch-a-1971-protest-at-nycs-marriage-license-bureau/274357/.
Lisa Photos, “The Dog and the Last Real Man,” Journal of Bisexuality 3, no. 2 (March 1, 2003): 43–68, https://doi.org/10.1300/J159v03n02_04.
Liz Eden Papers, Collection 6, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center Archive, New York City, New York (digitized) Morgan M. Page, “It Doesn’t Matter Who Threw the First Brick at Stonewall,” June 30, 2019, https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/trans-black-stonewall-rivera-storme/.
“The Man Who Robbed a Bank for Love,” BBC News, February 16, 2015, sec. Magazine, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31457718.
Regan Reid, “Talking To the Directors Who Made a Doc About the Real Guy Behind ‘Dog Day Afternoon,’” Vice (blog), August 18, 2014, https://www.vice.com/en/article/bn3pd5/talking-to-the-directors-who-made-a-doc-about-the-real-guy-behind-dog-day-afternoon-342.
Susan Stryker, Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution second ed., (New York: Seal Press, 2008).
Our intro music is Arpeggia Colorix by Yann Terrien, downloaded from WFMU's Free Music Archive and distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Our outro music is by DJ Michaeloswell Graphicsdesigner.