The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 19
September 19th, 2011
TODAY IN HISTORY:
An Ex-Gay Leader Walked Into A Bar: 2000. In 1998, the supposedly “ex-gay” John Paulk and his “ex-lesbian” wife Anne were the centerpieces of a massive publicity push by Focus On the Family to promote the pray-away-the-gay therapy offered by Exodus International. They appeared on 60 Minutes and Oprah, as well as in full-page newspaper ads and on a 1998 cover of Newsweek. Their 1999 book, Love Won Out, became the title for a series of promotional ex-gay conferences put on jointly by Focus and Exodus International. Paulk was an employee at Focus, serving as manager of the organization’s Homosexuality and Gender division, and he had also served as Board Chairman of Exodus International since 1995.
On September 19, 2000, Paulk traveled to Washington, D.C. on Focus business when he walked into a dark and seedy gay bar known as Mr. P’s in the heart of D.C.’s Dupont Circle gayborhood. A few of the patrons there, employees at the Human Rights Campaign, recognized him immediately and watched as Paulk ordered a drink and struck up conversations with other bar patrons. One of the HRC staffers called Wayne Besen, who was also working at the HRC at the time and who had already written about the ex-gay movement. When Besen finally arrived at the bar 20 minutes later, he found Paulk on a barstool chatting with patrons. Besen confronted Paulk and tried to photograph him, but the bar’s bouncer, citing house rules prohibiting photography, stepped in and asked Besen to leave. Besen waited outside the bar and when Paulk finally came out the front door, Besen snapped another photo as Paulk was leaving.
Besen immediately called several reporters. The first to express an interest was Southern Voice’s Joel Lawson, who broke the story two days later. In Paulk’s first public statement, he claimed that he only went into the dark and seedy bar to use the restroom, despite the presence of brightly lit coffee shops and hotels with public restrooms on the very same block. Besen countered, “I didn’t know that using the bathroom involved 40 minutes of socializing in a bar and offering drinks to strangers.” Paulk was called back to Focus headquarters in Colorado Springs where he was placed on probation and removed as Board Chair at Exodus International (although he remained a member of the board on probationary status). But he somehow managed to weather the controversy. Paulk remained in his position at Focus, and he continued to be the principle organizer and featured speaker at Love Won Out conferences until 2003, when he finally decided to step down from Focus. The John and Anne Paulk are still married today. While Anne Paulk continues to write and advocate for ex-gay ministries, John no longer works in the ex-gay industry. He is instead a catering chef in Portland, Oregon.
Brian Epstein: 1934. He was already well on the way to becoming a successful businessman while managing the record departments at his father’s chain of radio and hi-fi stores in Liverpool when he began to hear the buzz surrounding a local band known as the Beatles. He decided to attend a lunchtime concert at the Cavern Club and was taken in by what he heard. “I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humor on stage — and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm. And it was there that, really, it all started.” Epstein signed on as the Beatles’ manager, and within five months he had paid Decca records out of his own pocket to record a studio demo. He shopped it around, but none of the major labels were interested until George Martin at EMI’s tiny Parlophone label heard them. He liked what he heard and signed the Beatles. The rest, as they say, is history.
Epstein’s sexuality wasn’t generally known until several years after his death in 1967. The band, of course, figured it out right away, probably owing to Epstein’s interest in the band’s appearance on stage. Epstein is credited for creating the early Beatles’ look — the collarless suites and ties, the mod haircuts, the synchronized bow at the end of their performances. John Lennon was known to make a few sarcastic comments about Epstein’s sexuality, but the band mostly accepted him as one of their own. Rumors later swirled that Lennon and Epstein had an affair while vacationing in Barcelona in 1963, but Lennon denied it in a Playboy interview in 1980. “It was never consummated, but we had a pretty intense relationship,” he said. Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia, (Eptstein had been John’s best man when they married in 1962) have always maintained that the relationship was platonic.
When Epstein died in 1967 from an overdose of the barbiturate Carbitral, the band began its downward spiral. Much of that downfall was attributed to tensions between McCartney and Lennon, who argued over who should take over the band’s management. They were never able to come to an agreement on that point, and the relationship between the two men continued to deteriorate.
Eighteen years after the Beatles broke up, they were were among the earliest entrants into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But to this day, Epstein is still not included in the Hall’s Non-Performer’s Section. Paul McCartney credits Epstein for making the Beatles one of the most successful bands in the world. “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian,” he told a BBC documentary in 1997.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?