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Tom Jacobson’s The Twentieth Century Way does not refer to entrapment…

May 7, 2010

Nearly a century ago, two out-of-work actors came up with an idea to make money. They would pose as gay men looking for sex in public restrooms, thinking a police department would hire them as a way to cut down on vice. KPCC’s Steve Julian talks to playwright Tom Jacobson’s about his latest work, “The Twentieth Century Way,” which examines this lurid moment in California’s history.

The LAPD turned them down, but Long Beach Police officials liked the idea. Over the course of a month, the two actors helped police nab 31 men on sex charges.  

“This is the first instance of entrapment that I had ever read about, and it was two actors that were doing it,” said Jacobson. “It seemed ripe with metaphor.” 

For Jacobson, every metaphor led to a puzzle. “Were they acting when they were pretending to be homosexuals in the restrooms at the beach, or were they acting when they were being the policemen who were arresting them and entrapping them?”

Note: The following script was written for radio broadcast. “The twentieth century way,” Jacobson says, refers to oral sex. “It was only recently,” he says, “that people had become hygienically cleaner and oral sex became more palatable.” Read more and listen to the interview here.

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