Boys of Boise Author Dies

Aug 6, 2012

Author John Gerassi has reportedly died.  Gerassi wrote the book “The Boys of Boise,” about the city's 1955 scandal involving homosexual men. 

The scandal began in late October that year. “On Halloween night, the police in Boise arrested several men on charges of having sex with teenage boys," says Alan Virta, a retired archivist from Boise State University.

Virta says the story quickly turned into a media firestorm.  It was published in the Idaho Statesman, and even picked up by Time magazine.  Citizens panicked, gay men were terrified.  Over the next few months, the case evolved into a crackdown on men who were having consenting sex with other male adults, not with teenagers.  

Police questioned hundreds of people.  Around a dozen men were arrested and charged with crimes against nature.  “There were a number of other homosexual crackdowns in other cities but the Boise incident in 1955 got the most publicity and become the most notorious.”   

Ten years later, an aspiring journalist, John Gerassi wrote the book “The Boys of Boise: Furor, Vice, and Folly in an American City.  Virta says it re-opened the media controversy and took a look at the scandal in a different way. “His book really did portray homosexuals in somewhat of a sympathetic light.  He believed it was a big conspiracy, a big witch hunt and he wrote about it quite bluntly in those terms.” 

Gerassi went on to write several books, on topics like Fidel Castro, North Vietnam, and the Spanish Civil War.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports Gerassi died in New York. 

Margaret Leahy was a close friend of Gerassi for 45 years.  She says he was sick for about a month before he died July 26.  She says he liked football, loved movies, and had a great sense of humor.  Whether through his writing or in person, she says, "he got you by the gut, as well as by the head."  John "Tito" Gerassi was 81.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio