THIS DAY IN GAY HISTORY NOVEMBER 19 « MasterAdrian’s Weblog
THIS DAY IN GAY HISTORY NOVEMBER 19
November 19, 2012
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THIS DAY IN GAY HISTORY
1828 – FRANZ SCHUBERT, died; TheAustrian, classical composer, born (1797) as Franz Peter Schubert in Vienna was, arguably, one of the great masters of 19th century classical music. Not much about Schubert’s life would immediately suggest anything resembling a modern gay man. But so what? An entire book in 1998 by musicologist and theorist, Lawrence Kramer, Schubert: Sexuality, Subjectivity, Song, is, if not entirely devoted to the subject, addresses it at length with chapter titles like: The Ganymede Complex: Schubert’s Songs and the Homoerotic Imagination, and Mermaid Fantasies: Schubert’s Trout and the “wish to be woman.” No, seriously. As NY Times writer, Edward Rothstein wrote in 1992:
“By the end of the all-day symposium on Schubert at the 92d Street Y … the audience was getting feisty. The last two hours of discussion on “Schubert the Man: Myth vs. Reality,” were concerned with Schubert’s possible homosexuality. The historical evidence was made available throughout the weeklong Schubertiade festival in a carefully argued 1989 paper by Maynard Solomon. … The second movement of the “Unfinished” Symphony had been analyzed to show its possible homosexual character by the feminist musicologist Susan McClary. And the “marginalization” of Schubert in 1820′s Viennese society had been debated by the panel.
So by the evening’s end, comments were getting more heated. One frustrated listener asserted that “heterosexuals are more repressed than homosexuals.” Another, speaking with irony, asked whether the fact that Schubert was a “short, fat man” had affected the way he wrote music.
On the stage, a few of the seven panelists exchanged barbs as well. But controversy was to be expected; this type of discussion is among the most important of our time; musical analysis is becoming less abstract, and critical interpretation steadily draws the most innocent of compositions into the hothouse world of contemporary politics. Crucial questions were raised, though not satisfactorily addressed: Is there any musical importance to a composer’s homosexuality? Can we generalize about homosexual taste? If so, do we risk imposing contemporary notions on a different era?
The only thing agreed upon, probably, was that Schubert’s personality is not well understood. As for me, I sat through most of Sunday’s talks with a consistent mixture of interest and strong disagreement. Joseph Horowitz, who planned [the 1992] festival, began by summarizing the ambition of the Schubertiade itself. Schubert, he argued, has been trivialized; he has been turned into an innocent, sweet-tempered melodist. But his early music was actually “daring” and “extreme,” Mr. Horowitz said, and he was a promiscuous homosexual who died of syphilis.“
Aren’t we really saying something like, “If you have to ask…”?
1889 – CLIFTON WEBB (d: 1966) was an American actor, dancer and singer born Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck in a rural part of Marion County, Indiana, which would, in 1906, become Beech Grove, a self-governing city entirely surrounded by Indianapolis. Webb’s parents were Jacob Grant Hollenbeck, the son of a grocer from a multi-generational Indiana farming family, and Mabelle A. Parmelee, the daughter of a railroad conductor. In 1892, Webb’s formidable mother, Mabelle, moved to New York City with her beloved “little Webb,” as she called him for the remainder of her life. She dismissed questions about her husband Jacob, a ticket clerk who, like her father, worked for the Indianapolis-St. Louis Railroad, by saying, “We never speak of him. He didn’t care for the theater.”
Webb was in his mid-fifties when actor/director Otto Preminger chose him over the objections of 20th Century Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck to play the classy, but evil, radio columnist Waldo Lydecker, who is obsessed with Gene Tierney’s character in the 1944 film noir, Laura. His performance was showered with acclaim and made him an unlikely movie star. Despite Zanuck’s original objection, Webb was immediately signed to a long-term contract with Fox. Two years later he was reunited with Tierney (with whom he shares this birthdate) in another highly praised role as the elitist Elliott Templeton in Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge (1946). He received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for both. Webb received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 1949 for Sitting Pretty, the first in a three-film series of comedic Mr. Belvedere features with Webb portraying the snide and omniscient central character.
Webb’s elegant taste kept him on Hollywood’s best-dressed lists for decades. Even though he exhibited comically foppish mannerisms in portraying Mr. Belvedere and other movie characters, his scrupulous (read “deeply closeted, highly repressed”) private life kept him free of scandal. The character of Lynn Belvedere is said to have been very close to his real life — he had an Oedipal devotion to his mother Mabelle, who was his companion and who lived with him until her death at age ninety-one. Webb’s mourning for his mother continued for a year with no signs of letting up, prompting Noël Coward to remark of Webb, “It must be terrible to be orphaned at 71.”
Among the many stories, once, he and Tallulah Bankhead were smitten with the same handsome Austrian army officer and vied for the uniformed stud’s favors. While Tallulah did her stuff vamping him, Webb retreated for a moment, and returned with an armload of roses. To Tallulah’s amusement and the officer’s shock, Webb danced around the man and began pelting him with flowers. Tallulah won.
1942 – CALVIN KLEIN, American clothing designer, born; Calvin Richard Klein was born in The Bronx to Jewish-Hungarian immigrant parents. He attended the High School of Industrial Arts and matriculated, but never graduated, from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, receiving an honorary Doctorate at the graduation ceremony in 2003. He did his apprenticeship in 1962 at an old-line cloak-and-suit manufacturer, and spent five years designing at other New York shops. He later launched his first company with a childhood friend, Barry K. Schwartz.
Klein was one of several design leaders raised in the Jewish immigrant community in the Bronx, New York along with Robert Denning and Ralph Lauren. Cal became a protégé of the ever-so-flaming editor of Town & Country Baron de Gunzburg, through whose introductions he became the toast of the New York elite fashion scene, even before he had his first mainstream success with the launch of his first jeans line. Later, speaking in an interview with Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol for Interview magazine, published shortly after the Baron’s death, Klein said: “He was truly the greatest inspiration of my life… he was my mentor, I was his protégé. If you talk about a person with style and true elegance — maybe I’m being a snob, but I’ll tell you, there was no one like him. I used to think, boy, did he put me through hell sometimes, but boy, was I lucky. I was so lucky to have known him so well for so long.” Calvin Klein was immediately recognized for his talent after his first major showing at New York Fashion Week. Klein was hailed as the new Yves Saint-Laurent, and was noted for his clean lines.
His wildly homoerotic advertisements transformed the men’s fashion advertising and fashion industry. Married twice, he has never actually come out. But come on…does anyone really think this man is heterosexual? Even a little?
1953 – THOMAS LOUIS VILLARD (d: 1994) was an American actor best known for his television role in the 1980s series We Got It Made as Jay Bostwick. His best known film role was in the 1986 film One Crazy Summer, as Clay Stork. He also starred in the 1991 horror film, Popcorn, and the 1992 movie Shakes the Clown with his One Crazy Summer” co-stars Joel Murray and Bob Goldthwait. Villard also appeared in the 1994 comedy movie In The Army Now.
Villard made numerous guest appearances on TV shows as well and was a panelist on two weeks’ worth of To Tell The Truth in the early ’90s. He was a celebrity guest on Super Password and The Match Game as well as appearances in episodic television on CHiPS, Taxi, The Golden Girls, The A-Team and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Villard was out gay and died of complications of HIV-AIDS November 14, 1994 in L.A..
1962 – JODIE FOSTER, American actress, born; Foster began acting in commercials at 3 years old, and her first significant role came in the 1976 film Taxi Driver as the preteen prostitute, Iris, for which she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She won for Best Actress in 1989 for playing a rape survivor in The Accused. In 1991, she starred in The Silence of the Lambs as Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee assisting in a hunt for a serial killer. This performance received international acclaim and her second Academy Award for Best Actress. She received her fourth Academy Award nomination for playing a backwoods hermit in Nell (1994). She has also won three Bafta Awards, two Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Award and a People’s Choice award as well as two Emmy nominations.
Foster is, as the phrase goes, “intensely private” about certain aspects of her personal life, notably her sexual orientation, which has been the subject of speculation. She has two sons but has never revealed the identity of the children’s father(s).
In December 2007, Foster made headlines when, during an acceptance speech at Hollywood Reporter’s “Women in Entertainment” event, she paid tribute to film producer Cydney Bernard, referring to Bernard as “my beautiful Cydney, who sticks with me through the rotten and the bliss.” Some media interpreted this as Foster coming out, as Bernard was believed to be her girlfriend since both met in 1992 during the filming of Sommersby. Foster and Bernard never attended premieres or award ceremonies together, nor did they ever appear affectionate with one another. Bernard, however, was seen in public with Foster’s children on many occasions. In May, 2008, several news outlets reported that Foster and Bernard had “called it quits. Oh Jody, Jody Jody…are you really going to let Ellen be the “It” Lesbian in town?