Queer Places:
Meeting St / Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29401

Murray Bennet (1896-1973) was an American stage actor, director, and poet.

Born in 1896 in Charleston, South Carolina, he graduated from Newton Military Academy in 1913, and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1921. Bennett made his first broadway appearance in The Green Goddess with George Arliss that same year. From that time on his acting career was assured and he appeared throughout the twenties and thirties in such plays as Roseanne, Hamlet, Love in a Mist, and The Vinegar Tree. By the 1940's Bennett was a veteran actor. One of his greatest roles was in Rain, which appeared in 1945. Two years later he bought a small farm on the Carolina coast. However, he continued to pursue his career, appearing in summer stock, directing various community theatres and a radio program. In 1956, he again appeared on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

In addition to his acting career, Bennett also was a poet. He published many sonnets, as well as a volume of poems titled Invisible Pursuit, and was an active member of the Poetry Society of America.

While not known traditionally as a gay cruising spot, in Charleston there was a bus stop on the Meeting Street side of the park, across from Citadel Square Baptist Church, where military men would catch the bus back to their bases in North Charleston. It is said to have been a pick up spot and one for meeting for casual sex. As if to confirm this, there are some cryptic lines about men meeting here in a poem by a Charleston poet, Murray Bennett (1896-1973). The volume has the suggestive title Invisible Pursuit and carries an epigram by Elinor Wylie: “The Love that speech can never render plain” — close to Oscar Wilde’s “the love that dare not speak its name”. In “Marion Square” the poem starts with Walt Whitman (a gay icon) meeting Timrod, a reference to Charleston poet Henry Timrod. And it ends with “A guardian intervened to keep things right: Where are you boys from? Move on! It’s night.”

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