Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin' for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo
You should've seen 'em go go go
They said, Hey sugar
Take a walk on the wild side
Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side - 1972
The Sugar Plum Fairy referred to in Reed's song above is Joe Campbell. Joe is one of the many fringe characters in the Andy Warhol crowd. He starred in a 1965 film called My Hustler playing the "Sugar Plum Fairy", a man competing for the affections of a "Dial-a-Hustler" (played by Paul America). The movie was filmed on location on Fire Island.
Campbell is more of a curiousity due to the relationships he had with two men who would later become quite famous outside of Warhol's circle.
In 1955 Campbell was 19 years old with and hanging out in the "gay section" of Riis Park Beach in New York with some friends. An older man of 26 years old named Harvey Milk met him and instantly fell in love. Harvey at this time had been out of the army for a few years and working in the New York financial district. To Harvey's surprise the much younger and more attractive man fell in love with him too. Soon Joe and Harvey were sharing Harvey's apartment at 69th Street and Central Park West. They lived together as a couple for nearly 7 years. (Harvey was an avid photographer and he captured numerous photos of the Sugar Plum Fairy).
After they seperated Harvey Milk moved to San Francisco's Castro district in 1972 and become a prominent figure in local politics -- eventually in 1977 winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors -- becoming the first openly gay male to hold such a prominent political position. On November 27, 1978 another supervisor on the board named Dan White murdered Milk and the Mayor of San Francisco George Moscone. The story become infamous when White was able to convince the jury that he was mentally unstable due to eating junk food -- the infamous "Twinkie Defense" (that's how it was reported in the media anyway, but the junk food eating was mentioned in the trial as a symptom of his mental illness not the cause). White was only convicted of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder. Joe provided a lot of background information for Randy Shilts's The Mayor of Castro Street.
Joe Campbell had another lover (after Milk) in the late 60s named Oliver "Billy" Sipple. Sipple was an ex-Marine. He became famous on September 22, 1975. He went to hear President Gerald Ford speak in Union Square. He just happened to be standing next to Sara Jane Moore when she pulled out a revolver and aimed it at the President. Sipple knocked away her gun and a bullet went wild and lodged in a building. Ford was whisked away to safety.
Before this incident Sipple had been living as a closeted gay male. Harvey Milk thought this would be a great time to "out" Sipple -- it would show America that gay males could be heroes - and even marines. The San Francisco Chronicle "outted" him in a newspaper article and soon the national press was beating down on his parents door in Detroit asking what they thought about their homosexual son. Sipple was disgraced. He sued the paper for invasion of privacy and lost. In 1989 Sipple, the former marine, had ballooned to 300 lbs and was found dead with a half gallon of bourbon at his side. The "outing " of Billy Sipple has since been a favorite topic for journalism students -- questioning the ethics of releasing the private sexual details of a man that never wanted to be in the spotlight in the first place.
In March, 1993 Campbell donated some of his collected writings of Harvey Milk to a gay and lesbian rights museum in San Francisco.
He died 2 October 2005 at his home in Forest Knolls, Marin County, California, with his companion of 29 years, Stanley Jensen, at his side.
Marin Independent Journal, 1 Dec 2005