WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson was investigated numerous times throughout the 1960s by the Justice Department’s Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in an attempt to deport him back to his native Canada over suspicion that he was gay.
Patterson was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1941.
Previously unreleased documents show the INS’ attempts at booting the wrestler out of the country, as compiled by David Bixenspan in his new feature for MEL Magazine.
“This was at the tail end of the Lavender Scare, a systematic persecution of government employees who were gay or perceived as gay,” Bixenspan wrote. “But as San Francisco State University history professor Marc Stein explains, ‘The deeper story goes back to the era when the U.S. government first formulated those kinds of immigration restrictions, going all the way back to Chinese exclusion in the 1870s and 1880s.'”
If any gay immigrants (or even if they were simply suspected as being gay) got in trouble with the law, they were often put into the exclusion categories of “afflicted with psychopathic personality” and “sexual deviation.” This would be a way for the INS to come in and say they were deportable at any time due to being excludable the moment they entered the country.
After moving from Boston to Portland, Patterson worked on a more flamboyant gimmick — wearing lipstick, a beret, among other items. This, in-part, drew the INS’s attention.
“The documents in Patterson’s INS file aren’t 100 percent clear on the impetus for the investigation into his personal life,” Bixenspan continued. “But an April 14, 1965 summary of witness interviews points to what appear to be the likely flash points — one of which was an investigation of the local gay community by the Portland Police Department’s morals squad.”
Later on, Patterson was even asked by the INS during a deportation proceeding (based on the pretext of Patterson giving them a fraudulent work itinerary) about the wrestling gimmick he chose.
“I asked [Patterson] on the record why he had dyed his hair blond and why he used some of the rather effeminate mannerisms which he affected.” According to the memo from those hearings. “His response was that when he was starting out as a wrestler the promoters told him that he was colorless; that besides being a good wrestler he had to be different and that in his case they suggested the blond hair, cigarette holder and other effeminate mannerisms, saying that while the people would not like it, it would draw them to the bouts. He was asked point-blank if he was a homosexual and denied it. He was also asked if he molested little boys and denied that. He volunteered the information that because he was a ‘good’ wrestler, other people were jealous and were trying to get him into trouble. As I had no evidence with which to confront him, I let the matter drop there.”
According to the records in the mid 60s, apparently the INS had plans of getting Patterson to leave the country and then wouldn’t allow him to renter.
“Basically, it looks as if the INS was attempting to trick Patterson into leaving the country with the expectation that he would be able to easily secure a green card, only to use a psychological exam to declare him unfit to enter the U.S. as a homosexual,” Bixenspan wrote.
That deportation attempts seem to end in late 1966/early 1967. Patterson received his U.S. citizenship in 2002 and passed away at the age of 79 in December of 2020.
Again, you can check out the full feature here.