The Daily Agenda for Sunday, May 29
May 29th, 2011
TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Polyester” Premieres: 1981. The John Waters film Polyester made its debut on the silver screen. Divine once again stared, this time as Francine Fishpaw, a suburban housewife whose world is thrown into chaos when her pornographer husband declares he’s been unfaithful, her daughter becomes pregnant, and her son’s accused of breaking local women’s feet as part of his fetish. Nineteen-fifties heartthrob Tab Hunter appeared near the end as lounge-suit-wearing Todd Tomorrow who swept Francine off her sweep and proposed marriage — only to plot with Francine’s mother to embezzle her divorce settlement and drive her insane. The film was notable for a unique technological breakthrough: it was presented in “Odorama,” in which theatergoers were handed scratch-and-sniff cards so they could smell along with the action. It remains a scandal that Polyester earned no major cinematic awards.
Barney Frank Comes Out: 1987. Barney Frank became only the second member of Congress to confirm that he was gay, when he told a Boston Globe reporter:
“If you ask the direct question: ‘Are you gay?’ the answer is yes. So what? I’ve said all along that if I was asked by a reporter and I didn’t respond it would look like I had something to hide and I don’t think I have anything to hide.”
Rep. Franks said that the disintegration of Gary Hart’s presidential campaign earlier that month over reports of his extra-marital relationship with a young model, and the recent revelation that Rep. Stewart B. McKinney of Connecticut had died of AIDS, had prompted his decision to come out. On May 31, the Globereported that most of his constituents were unperturbed by his announcement, and some not unsurprised.
Gene Robinson: 1947. When he was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of New Hampshire, he became the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be elevated to the episcopate. His election was so controversial, he wore a bullet-proof vest during his consecration. In a BeliefNet interview the day after he gave a prayer at the opening of President Barack Obama’s inaugural celebrations, he talked about his journey toward coming to terms with his sexuality:
I’ve been the reparative therapy route. I did that. My own experience is it doesn’t work. I think what it does it that it teaches gay and lesbian people to become so self loathing that they are willing to not act in a natural way, and deprive themselves of the kind of love and support that makes life worthwhile, that makes sense of our own lives and being. I can’t be supportive of that. It only underscores the way the church has gotten this wrong. God doesn’t ever get it wrong but the church often does.
Rupert Everett: 1959. It was his 1981 role as a gay schoolboy in the stage version of Another Country that proved to be his break, opening the way for his screen appearance in the 1984 film version with Colin Firth. In 1989, Everett moved to Paris and came out as gay, which he said may have damaged his career. Wags would say that the 1987 flop Hearts of Fire may have been a factor. But his appearance in the 1997 film My Best Friend’s Wedding and 2000’s The Next Best Thing showed that his career wasn’t entirely over — although it did appear that he would forever be typecast as the heroine’s gay best friend. In 2009, he told the British newspaper The Observer:
The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off… Honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.
Melissa Etheridge: 1961. Her debut album was completed in just four days after her record label rejected her first effort as too polished. That stripped down album, titled simply Melissa Etheridge, not only defined her sound, but it yielded a hit single, “Bring Me Some Water” and a Grammy nomination. In 1992, she won her first Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance on the strength of her third album, Never Enough. Her breakthrough album, 1993’s Yes I Am, was certified Platinum and garnered her a second Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for her single “Come to My Window”. Her 2006 song “I Need to Wake Up” was recorded for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
She came out publicly in 1993 and has been a committed gay rights advocate ever since. She is also a committed advocate on behalf of the environment and breast cancer research, having herself undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2004 and 2005. On an interview with Dateline NBC, she discussed her recovery and her use of medical marijuana while undergoing chemo. Last year, she announced her separation from her wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, after seven years together. They have two children, fraternal twins, who were born in 2006. Etheridge also has two children from her previous long-term relationship with Julie Cypher.
David Burtka: 1975. He began as an actor, appearing in a guest role on The West Wing and How I Met Your Mother. It was that appearance which fed rumors that Burtka was romantically involved with one of the series’ stars, leading Neil Patric Harris to publicly acknowledge in 2006 that he was gay. Last October, Burtka and Harris, who have been together since 2004, became fathers to fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. Birtka is no longer acting, and is now running a Los Angeles catering company and working as a full time chef.
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