This Weekend In Gay History
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2012
1868 - WASSILY SAPELLNIKOFF, Russian pianist, born (d: 1941); Sapelnikov, who became one of the foremost Russian pianists of his day, knew a good thing when he saw it. His teacher was the renowned composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, twenty-eight years his senior, who was known to enjoy performing duets with his students. Natural talent notwithstanding, young Sapelnikov made his way to the composer’s bed and to instant patronage.
1906 – on this date LUCHINO VISCONTI, the Italian director and Duke of Modrone was born (d. 1976). The Italian theater and cinema director and writer was best known for films such as The Leopard (1963). It was not until his 1969 film, The Damned, that Visconti received a nomination for an Academy Award, for “Best Screenplay”. He did not win. The film, one of Visconti’s best-known works, is about a German industrialist family that slowly begins to disintegrate during World War II. The decadence and lavish beauty were archetypes of Visconti’s aesthetic. Visconti’s final film wasThe Innocent (1976), which has the recurring theme of infidelity and betrayal.
Visconti made no secret of his sexuality. His last partner was the Austrian actor Helmut Berger, who played Martin in The Damned. Berger also appeared in Visconti’s Ludwig in 1972 andConversation Piece in 1974 along with Burt Lancaster. Other lovers included Franco Zeffirelli.
1916 – on this date JOHN LYON BURNSIDE, inventor and Gay American activist was born (d: 2008). John, or as he was known in Faerie circles “n’John” for his longterm relationship with Harry Hay – as in “Harry n’John”, was the inventor of the Teleidoscope and the Symmetricon, and was the partner of Mattachine and Radical Faerie founder, Harry Hay for 39 years.
Burnside was sent to an orphanage while still a child because he was caught in sexual play with another little boy. He served briefly in the Navy, and settled in Los Angeles in the 1940s. He married, but had no children. Burnside met Harry in 1962 at ONE Incorporated. They fell in love and became life partners. They formed a group in the early 1960s called the Circle of Loving Companions that promoted Gay rights and Gay love. In 1966 they were major planners of one of the first Gay parades, a protest against exclusion of Gays in the military, held in Los Angeles. In 1967, they appeared as a couple on the Joe Pyne television show. In the late 1970s, they were instrumental in founding the Radical Faeries.
John died of brain cancer in San Francisco, where he had been tended to by members of the Circle of Loving Companions that had taken care of Harry in his final days.
1942 – on this date CASEY DONOVAN, the American Gay porno star, was born John Calvin Culver (d: 1987). In 1971, Cal played a supporting role in a low budget sexploitation thriller film, Ginger. This in turn led to an offer to appear in Casey, a Gay porn film in which Cal played the title role, a Gay man who is visited by his fairy godmother Wanda (Cal playing a dual role in drag), and is granted a series of wishes which make him sexually irresistible to other men. Cal later took the character’s name, Casey, and that of the popular singer (Donovan) to create the pseudonym under which he would appear in all his other erotic roles.
Cal first appeared as Casey Donovan in Boys in the Sand, directed by Wakefield Poole, in 1972. The film was an instant success, with even big name mainstream celebrities going to the premiere. Today the film is considered one of the great classics of male erotic cinema, although stricter obscenity guidelines in some states forced a change of the title to Men in the Sand. He was also the star of Score (1972), The Back Row, with George Payne, LA Tool & Die, with Bob Blount and Richard Locke, The Other Side of Aspen, with Al Parker and Dick Fisk, Boys in the Sand II, and Inevitable Love, with Jon King and Jamie Wingo. He also featured in a number of heterosexual porn films, notably The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1975).
Outside his adult film career, Casey Donovan had a successful off-Broadway run in the play Tubstrip, written and directed by director Jerry Douglas. He had an intimate relationship with actor/writer Tom Tryon. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to run a bed and breakfast, Casa Donovan, in Key West. By 1985, Casey had contracted HIV. He worked with many HIV/AIDS charities and counseled his fans to practice safe sex and get tested for HIV. He performed in a safe sex film for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, although he himself lived in denial that he had the syndrome, even as his health got worse. Donovan died from an AIDS-related pulmonary infection in Inverness, Florida, aged 43.
1948 - today’s the birthday of fantastic Gay rights advocate and activist MANDY CARTER.
Worked with War Resister’s League, beginning c. 1969; North Carolina Lesbian and Gay Pride marches, served on planning committees, 1986-91; March on Washington for Lesbians and Gays, national steering committee, 1987, 1993; Rhythm Fest (musical festival for southern women), coproducer; North Carolina Senate Vote ’90 and North Carolina Mobilization ’96 (initiatives to defeat N.C. senator Jesse Helms), director; Our Own Place (a lesbian center), founding member; UMOJA (black gay and lesbian organization), founding member; Stonewall 25, executive committee; Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, board of governors; Human Rights Campaign Fund, board of directors; member-at-large of the Democratic National Committee, serving on both the DNC Gay and Lesbian Caucus and DNC Black Caucus; member of the boards of the International Federation of Black Prides, the National Stonewall Democratic Federation, the Triangle Foundation, Equal Partners in Faith and Ladyslipper Music.
Her latest work is in spearheading a commemoration of this year’s birth centennial of Civil Rights hero Bayard Rustin.
1960 – on this date Penguin Books is found not guilty of obscenity in the Lady Chatterley’s Lovercase
1961 – K.D. LANG, Canadian musician, born; Lang won the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her 1989 album, Absolute Torch and Twang. The single “Full Moon of Love” that stemmed from that album became a modest hit in the United States in the summer of 1989 and a number 1 hit on the RPM Country chart in Canada. Her cover of Cole Porter’s “So In Love” appears on the Red Hot + Blue compilation album and video from 1990, a benefit for AIDS research and relief.
The album Ingénue in 1992, a set of adult contemporary pop songs that showed comparatively little country influence, contained her most popular song, “Constant Craving”. That song brought her multi-million sales, much critical acclaim, and the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Another top ten single from the record was “Miss Chatelaine”. The salsa-inspired track was ironic; Chatelaine is a Canadian women’s magazine which once chose Lang as its “Woman of the Year”, and the song’s video depicted Lang in an exaggeratedly feminine manner, surrounded by bright pastel colours and a profusion of bubbles reminiscent of a performance on the Lawrence Welk show.
Lang contributed much of the music towards Gus Van Sant’s soundtrack of the film Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993), and also did a cover of “Skylark” for the 1997 film adaptation of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. She also performed “Surrender” for the closing titles of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, having previously worked with Bond composer David Arnold on his album Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project.
In addition to her well-known musical talents, k.d. lang, who came out as a Lesbian in a 1992 article in The Advocate, has actively championed Gay rights causes. She has performed and supported many causes over the years, including HIV/AIDS care and research. In 1996, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. She performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” live at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Previously, she had performed at the closing ceremony of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Lang possesses the vocal range of a mezzo-soprano.
1975 - on this date PIER PAOLO PASOLINI, Italian film director, died (b. 1922); Pasolini distinguished himself as a philosopher, linguist, novelist, playwright, filmmaker, newspaper and magazine columnist, actor, painter and political figure. He demonstrated a unique and extraordinary cultural versatility, in the process becoming a highly controversial figure. Though openly Gay from the very start of his career (thanks to a sex scandal that sent him packing from his provincial hometown to live and work in Rome), Pasolini rarely dealt with homosexuality in his movies. The subject is featured prominently in Teorema (1968), where Terence Stamp’s mysterious God-like visitor seduces the son of an upper-middle-class family; passingly in Arabian Nights (1974), in an idyll between a king and a commoner that ends in death; and, most darkly of all, in Salò (1975), his infamous rendition of the Marquis de Sade’s compendium of sexual horrors, The 120 Days of Sodom.
2006 - on this date former megachurch pastor, counselor to American Presidents (George W. Bush) and president of the National Association of Evangelicals TED “I Am Not a Homosexual” HAGGARD stepped down amid sex allegations.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2012
1500 - on this date the Italian goldsmith, sculptor, painter, soldier and musician BENVENUTO CELLINI was born (d. 1571). Cellini may be best remembered for his autobiography (translated by the Victorian Uranian scholar John Addington Symonds). Cellini was a superb goldsmith and sculptor, whose artistic creations, like his “Perseus Holding the Head of Medusa” brought him acclaim and the patronage of popes and cardinals. He worked for the Vatican Mint under Popes Leo X, Clement VII and Paul III. During Cellini’s long life, these friendships were of great value, protecting him in many misadventures with the law. Cellini was constantly hounded by authorities on complaints of sexual misconduct and stealing from his clients. Three times he was accused of murder, and in 1557 he received a four year prison sentence for sodomy, which was commuted to be served under house arrest, so the artist would be able to continue his work on a sculpture of the Crucifixion. A great saying of his is worth remembering and noting here: “Men who want to do things in their own way had better make a world in their own way, because in this world things are not done like this.”
1933 - On this date the English actor JEREMY BRETT was born (d. 1995). Although Brett appeared in many different roles during his 40-year career, he is now best remembered for his performance as Sherlock Holmes in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a series of Granada Television films made between 1984 and 1994. These were adapted by John Hawkesworth and other writers from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Even though he reportedly feared being typecast, Brett appeared in 41 episodes of the Granada series, alongside David Burke and, latterly, Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson. After taking on the demanding role, Brett made few other acting appearances, and he is now widely considered to be the definitive Holmes of his era, just as Basil Rathbone was during the 1940s.
Brett was briefly considered by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli for the role of James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service after Sean Connery quit the series in 1967, but the role went to Australian George Lazenby instead. Lazenby lasted a whole film. So much for that selection. A second audition for the role of 007 for Live and Let Die was also unsuccessful, and Roger Moore won the coveted part. One can wonder what would’ve happened if…
Brett was intensely private about his personal life. In 1958 he married his first wife, the actress Anna Massey (daughter of Raymond Massey), but they divorced in 1962 after she claimed he left her for another man. Brett was then married to Joan Sullivan Wilson from 1976 until her death from cancer in 1985. Brett also enjoyed a close relationship with the actor Gary Bond [Bond died exactly one month after Brett’s death].
Brett died in 1995 at his home in Clapham, London, from heart failure. His heart valves had been scarred by rheumatic fever contracted as a child. Mel Gussow wrote in a New York Times obituary that “Mr. Brett was regarded as the quintessential Holmes: breathtakingly analytical, given to outrageous disguises and the blackest moods and relentless in his enthusiasm for solving the most intricate crimes.” One of Brett’s dearest possessions on the set was his 77-page “Baker Street File” on everything from Holmes’ mannerisms to his eating and drinking habits. Brett once explained that “some actors are becomers — they try to become their characters. When it works, the actor is like a sponge, squeezing himself dry to remove his own personality, then absorbing the character’s like a liquid.”
1939 - the four time Tony-winning playright TERRANCE McNALLY was born on this date. Born in St. Petersburg, Florida and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, McNally moved to New York City in 1956 to attend Columbia University. In his early years in New York, he was a protégé and lover of the noted playwright Edward Albee. He would become truly successful with works such as his off-Broadway play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.
His many brilliant plays include Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Kiss of the Spider Woman (based on the novel by Manuel Puig), Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class, and the controversial Corpus Christi. In March 2010, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC presented three of McNally’s plays that focus on his works involving opera. The pieces included a new play, Golden Age, Master Class(starring Tyne Daly), and The Lisbon Traviata starring Malcolm Gets and John Glover.
He has been a member of the Council of the Dramatists Guild since 1970 and has served as vice-president since 1981. McNally was partnered to Thomas Kirdahy following a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2003, and they subsequently married in Washington, D.C. in 2010
2006 - on this date “Doogie Howser” and “How I Met Your Mother” star NEIL PATRICK HARRIS came out as a “content Gay man.” His career has simply soared!
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2012
1896 - the influential BBC arts editor J.R. ACKERLEY was born on this date. Openly Gay at a dangerous time for open homosexuality in Great Britain. Born in London, Ackerley was educated at Rossall School, a public and preparatory school in Fleetwood, Lancashire. While at this school he discovered he was attracted to other boys. His striking good looks earned him the nickname “Girlie” but he was not sexually active, or only very intermittently, as a schoolboy.
Failing his entrance examinations for Cambridge University, Ackerley applied for a commission in the Army, and as World War I was in full swing, he was accepted immediately as a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, part of the 18th Division, then stationed in East Anglia. In June 1915 he was sent over to France. The following summer he was wounded at the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. He was shot in the arm and an explosion caused shards of a whiskey bottle in his bag to be imbedded in his side. He lay wounded in a shell-hole for six hours but was eventually rescued by British troops and sent home for a period of sick-leave. He soon volunteered to go back to the front. He had been promoted to captain by now and so, in December 1916, when his older brother Peter arrived in France, Ackerley was his superior officer. Reportedly the cheerful and kind-hearted Peter was not resentful and saluted his brother “gladly and conscientiously.” In February, 1917, Peter was wounded in action on a dangerous assignment, heading into No man’s land from a dangerous ditch (where Ackerley said goodbye to him) ominously called the “Boom Ravine.” Though Peter managed to get back to the British lines, Ackerley never saw him again. In May 1917 Ackerley led an attack in the Arras region where he was again wounded, this time in the buttock and thigh. Again he was obliged to wait for help in a shell-hole, but this time the Germans arrived first and he was taken prisoner. Being an officer, his internment camp was located in neutral Switzerland and was rather comfortable. Here he began his play, The Prisoners of War, which deals with the cabin fever of captivity and the frustrated longings he experienced for another English prisoner. He was not repatriated to England until after the war ended.
On August 7, 1918, two months before the end of hostilities, Peter Ackerly was killed in battle. His brother’s death haunted Ackerley his entire life. Ackerley suffered from survivor’s guilt and thought his father might have preferred his death to his brother’s. One result of Peter’s death was that Roger and Netta got married in 1919, reportedly because Peter had died “a bastard.”
After the war Ackerley returned to England and attended Cambridge. Scant evidence remains from this time in his life as Ackerley wrote little about it. He moved to London and continued to write and enjoy the cosmopolitan delights of the capital. He met E. M. Forster and other literary bright lights, but was lonely despite a plethora of sexual partners. With his play having trouble finding a producer, and feeling generally adrift and distant from his family, Ackerley turned to Forster for guidance. Forster got him a position as secretary to a Maharaja he knew from writing A Passage to India. Ackerley spent about five months in India, still under British rule, and met a number of Anglo-Indians for whom he developed a strong distaste. The recollections of this time are the basis for his comic memoir Hindoo Holiday. The Maharaja was also a homosexual, and His Majesty’s obsessions and dalliances, along with Ackerley’s observations about Anglo-Indians, account for much of the humor of the work.
Back in England, Prisoners of War was finally produced to some acclaim. Its run began at The Three Hundred Club on July 5, 1925, then transferred to The Playhouse on August 31. Ackerley capitalized on his success, carousing with London’s theatrical crowd, and through Cambridge friends met the actor John Gielgud, and other rising stars of the stage. In 1928, Ackerley joined the staff of the BBC, then only a year old, in the “Talks” Department, where prominent personalities gave lectures over the radio. Eventually he moved on to edit the BBC’s magazine The Listener, where he worked from 1935 to 1959, discovering and promoting many young writers, including Philip Larkin, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and Christopher Isherwood.
Ackerley worked hard to plumb the depths of his sexuality in his writings. He was openly Gay, at least after his parents’ deaths, and belonged to a circle of notable literary homosexuals that railed against the homophobia that kept Gay men in the closet or exposed openly Gay men to persecution. While he never found the “Ideal Friend” he wrote of so often, he had a number of long-term relationships. Ackerley was a “twank,” a term used by sailors and guardsmen to describe a man who paid for their sexual services, and he describes in detail the ritual of picking up and entertaining a young guardsman, sailor or laborer. My Father and Myself serves as a guide to the understanding of the sexuality of a Gay man of Ackerley’s generation. W. H. Auden, in his review of My Father and Myself, speculates that Ackerley enjoyed the “brotherly” sexual act of mutual masturbation rather than penetration. (Ackerley described himself as “quite impenetrable.”)
His sister Nancy found him dead in his bed on the morning of June 4, 1967. Ackerley’s biographer Peter Parker gives the cause of death as coronary thrombosis.
Toward the end of his life, Ackerley sold 1075 letters that Forster had sent him since 1922, receiving some £6000, “a sum of money which will enable Nancy and me to drink ourselves carelessly into our graves,” as he put it. Ackerley did not live long enough to enjoy the money from these letters, but the sum, plus the royalties from Ackerley’s existing works and several published posthumously, allowed Nancy to live on in relative comfort until her death in 1979. The annual J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography was endowed by funds from Nancy, starting in 1982
1918 – on this date the English poet and soldier WILFRED OWEN died (b. 1893). One of the leading poets of the First World War, Owen’s shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare was heavily influenced by his friend Siegfried Sassoon and sat in stark contrast to both the public perception of war at the time, and to the confidently patriotic verse written earlier by war poets such as Rupert Brooke. Some of his best-known works—most of which were published posthumously—include “Dulce et Decorum Est,” “Insensibility”, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, “Futility” and “Strange Meeting”. His preface intended for a book of poems to be published in 1919 contains numerous well-known phrases, especially “War, and the pity of War”, and “the Poetry is in the pity”.
He was killed in action at the Battle of the Sambre a week before the war ended. Ironically, the telegram from the War Office announcing his death was delivered to his mother’s home as her town’s church bells were ringing in celebration of the Armistice when the war ended.
Robert Graves and Sacheverell Sitwell (who also personally knew him) have stated Owen was homosexual, and homoeroticism is a central element in much of Owen’s poetry. Through Sassoon, Owen was introduced to a sophisticated homosexual literary circle which included Oscar Wilde’s friend Robbie Ross, writer and poet Osbert Sitwell, and Scottish writer C. K. Scott-Moncrieff, the translator of Proust. This contact broadened Owen’s outlook, and increased his confidence in incorporating homoerotic elements into his work. Historians have debated whether Owen had an affair with Scott-Moncrieff in May 1918; Scott-Moncrieff had dedicated various works to a “Mr W.O.”, but Owen never responded. The account of Owen’s sexual development has been somewhat obscured because his brother, Harold Owen, removed what he considered discreditable passages in Owen’s letters and diaries after the death of their mother. Owen also requested that his mother burn a sack of his personal papers in the event of his death, which she did.
1946 – ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE, American photographer was born on this date (d. 1989); Known for large-scale, highly stylized black & white portraits, photos of flowers and male nudes, the frank, erotic nature of some of the work of his middle period triggered a more general controversy about the public funding of artworks. He attended (but did not graduate from) Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he majored in graphic arts.
Mapplethorpe took his first photographs soon thereafter, using a Polaroid camera. In the mid-1970s, he acquired a large-format press camera and began taking photographs of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, including artists, composers, socialites, but it wasn’t until he met porn star Benjamin Green that he truly became inspired to push the envelope of sexuality and photographing the human body. Mapplethorpe was once quoted as saying, “Of all the men and women that I had the pleasure of photographing, Ben Green was the apple of my eye, my unicorn if you will. I could shoot him for hours and hours and no matter the position, each print captured the complete essence of human perfection” (New York Times). It was this relationship that inspired him during the 1980s, to refine his photographs with an emphasis on formal beauty. He concentrated on statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and formal portraits of artists and celebrities.
Longtime lovers (and sexual adventurer) with curator, Sam Wagstaff, of the Wadsworth Atheneum of Art in Hartford Connecticut, the two cut an erotic and artistic swath through the New York glitterati and art scene in the 1970s and 80s the likes of which have rarely been seen before or since. Wagstaff was Mapplethorpe’s senior by precisely 25 years, having been born on exactly the same day in 1921. Both Mr. Wagstaff and Mr. Mapplethorpe died of AIDS, Mr. Wagstaff in 1987 and Mr. Mapplethorpe in 1989.
1961 - today’s the birthday of JON ROBIN BAITZ, the American playwright, screenwriter, television producer and actor. Perhaps most recently well known as the creator and executive producer of the ABC drama Brothers & Sisters, which premiered in September 2006 and ran for five seasons, ending in May 2011.
Baitz was raised in Brazil and South Africa before the family returned to California, where he attended Beverly Hills High School. After graduation, he worked as a bookstore clerk and assistant to two producers, and the experiences became the basis for his first play, a one-acter entitled Mizlansky/Zilinsky. He drew on his own background for his first two-act play, The Film Society, about the staff of a prep school in South Africa. Its 1987 success in L.A. led to an off-Broadway production with Nathan Lane the following year, which earned him a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding New Play. This was followed by The End of the Day starring Roger Rees, and the Substance of Fire with Ron Rifkin and Sarah Jessica Parker.
In 1991, Baitz wrote and directed the two-character play Three Hotels, based on his parents, for a presentation of PBS’s “American Playhouse”, then reworked the material for the stage, earning another Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding New Play for his efforts. In 1993, he co-scripted (with Howard A. Rodman) The Frightening Frammis, which was directed by Tom Cruise and aired as an episode of the Showtime anthology series Fallen Angels. Two years later, Henry Jaglom cast him as a gay playwright who achieves success at an early age – a character inspired by Baitz himself – in the film Last Summer in the Hamptons; the following year he appeared as Michelle Pfeiffer’s business associate in the screen comedy One Fine Day. In 1996, he was one of the three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for his semi-autobiographical play A Fair Country.
Subsequent stage works include Mizlansky/Zilinsky or “Schmucks”, a revised version of Mizlansky/Zilinsky directed by Baitz’s then-life partner JOE MANTELLO (1998), a new adaptation of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (at L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse with Annette Bening in 1999, then at Long Island’s Bay Street Theater with Kate Burton in 2000, followed by a Broadway production with the same star the following year), Ten Unknowns (2001), starring Donald Sutherland and Juliana Margulies and The Paris Letter (2005) with Ron Rifkin and John Glover. His screenplays include the adaptation of his own Substance of Fire (1996), with Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Hutton joining original cast members Rifkin and Parker, and People I Know (2003), which starred Al Pacino.
Baitz was the New School for Drama’s’s artist in residence for the 2009-2010 school year. Recent plays include Other Desert Cities, which opened at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York on January 13, 2011, starring Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin and Stacy Keach. As of 2011 Baitz is reportedly set to pen the stage adaptation of film producer Robert Evans’ memoirs, The Kid Stays in the Picture and its sequel, The Fat Lady Sang, with award-winning Sir Richard Eyre set to direct.
2001 - on this date the openly Lesbian comedienne ELLEN DEGENERES hosted the Emmy Awards-TV show. It was the first awards show after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. DeGeneres received several standing ovations for her performance that evening which included the line: “We’re told to go on living our lives as usual, because to do otherwise is to let the terrorists win, and really, what would upset the Taliban more than a Gay woman wearing a suit in front of a room full of Jews?”
2008 – on this date California’s PROPOSITION 8 passes, representing the first ever elimination of an existing right to marry for LGBT couples in the United States. The vote and the proposition is winding its way through the courts still four years later.