The Daily Agenda for Sunday, June 3
June 3rd, 2012
Pride Celebrations This Weekend:Birmingham, UK; Boston, MA; Davenport, IA; Detroit, MI; Dresden, Germany; Gothenburg, Sweden; Kansas City, MO; Los Ranchos, NM; Pittsburgh, PA; Queens, NY; Salt Lake City, UT; Santa Cruz, CA; Sonoma Co, CA; Springfield, MA; Tulsa, OK and Winnipeg, MB.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Morals Raids” Staged in Tampa: 1961. Deputies staged a series of raids in what Hillsborough County Sheriff Ed Blackburn called “the biggest morals crackdown, to my knowledge, in the history of the state of Floria.” Thirty-six gay people were arrested in the dragnet, with another 100 to 300 more expected to be taken into custody once the raids were finished. The crackdown was the result of a year long investigation. Among those arrested was a thirty-five year old principal of Citrus Park Elementary School, who was being held on a $1,000 bond. Another person taken into custody was a sixty-seven year old retired psychology professor who had operated a school for mentally-retarded boys at Brooksville, Florida, about 45 miles north of Tampa. The names of both educators were emblazoned on Associated Press reports nationwide.
Aversion Therapy in Management of 43 Homosexuals: 1967. An article under that title by M.J. MacCulloch and M.P. Feldman appeared in the June 3, 1967 edition of the British Medical Journal. While electric shock aversion therapy was an expensive form of therapy, it was surprisingly common. The authors reported the results of 41 men and two lesbians who they treated at Crumpsall Hospital in Manchester, U.K. The treatment consisted of administering painful electric shocks while projecting photos of attractive men (or women, in the case of the two lesbians). Of the 43 subjected to this torturous treatment, five were between the ages of 15 to 20. Eighteen were being treated under court order. Seven dropped out without completing the treatment, and 11 were “unimproved.” That left 25 who claimed that they were “improved” after twelve months. The “failures,” they said, tended to have a higher Kinsey rating — in other words, they didn’t have a basis in bisexuality to work with.
The authors concluded that “In our opinion the approximately 60% rate of improvement achieved in our series (over other reported studies) is mainly due to the use of an aversion therapy technique which has been carefully designed to make the most effective use of the findings of the experimental psychology of learning.” As far as other therapists were concerned, this paper confirmed the value of electric shock aversion therapy as a relatively highly effective means for “curing” homosexuality.
That confirmation however fell apart ten years later, whenDr. Sheelah James and colleagues from Hollymoor Hospital in England published the results of their own study which failed to replicate MacCulloch and Feldman’s findings. Among the second group’s problems was a very high dropout rate, one which was much higher than what MacCulloch and Feldman reported. “It appears that the Feldman and MacCulloch group had undergone some clinical preselection before referral,” they wrote, a process which would have inflated Feldman and MacCulloch’s so-called “success” rate. Ten years later still, aversion therapy would finally be largely abandoned — not just for ethical reasons, but also as the result of the growing realization that it simply didn’t work.
MacCullough and Feldman’s 1967 paper can be downloaded for free from the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
Alla Nazimova: 1879. The larger-than-life Russian-born Hollywood silent film star was as exotic and flamboyant off the screen as on. Her screen debut in 1916 led to eleven more films in two years. Her specialty was outrageously exotic yet tragic characters. Her most famous role was that of the title character Camile, a 1921 film which featured Rudolf Valentino. It was at about that time that she became a producer, specializing in experimental artistic masterpieces which, unfortunately, were commercial flops. 1923’s Salome was particularly scandalous, as was her thinly concealed bisexuality off screen. Her “marriage” with gay actor Charles Bryant didn’t fool anyone. Her home, which she named “Garden of Allah,” was the scene for many glamorous private parties, and her name was connected with several Hollywood starlets and women of the arts. She is the credited with coining the phrase “sewing circles” to refer to lesbian or bisexual actresses who concealed their true sexuality. Her career ended in 1925 with the advent of the Hayes Code, although she had some minor film appearances in the 1940s (she was Doña Maria in The Bridge of San Luis Rey). She died in 1945.
George Quaintance: 1902. “My ancestors were all farmers,” he later wrote of his family in Shenandoah Valley hamlet of Luray, Virginia. “There were no artists or talented people among them, yet I drew, painted and modeled in clay as early as I can remember, and I did it with the assurance and the ability of experience, while the mysteries of running a farm… are still very great mysteries to me, after all these years.” Quaintance — he later became one of those artists known only by his last name — left Luray for New York City to become a dancer in 1920, but not before leaving behind a mural for his mother’s church, that of a spectacularly broad-shouldered (though fully clothed) Christ being baptized in the River Jordan by a similarly handsome John the Baptist. While in New York, he became a vaudeville dancer, women’s hair designer, and commercial illustrator.
In the early 1940s, Quaintance became increasingly focused on male figurative art in the style of the emerging “physique” magazines. His lover (and later business partner) Victor Garcia and his friendship with photographer Lon Hanagan (a.k.a. Lon of New York) supplied him with a steady stream of models, and Canadian bodybuilding publisher Joe Weider signed him to illustrate the covers of several of his physique magazines. In 1946, Weider appointed Quiantance art director of Your Physique, Wieder’s best-selling magazine, where Quaintance’s paintings became regular fixtures on the magazine’s covers. In 1947, Quaintance left Weider, and he and Victor moved out west, first to Los Angeles and then Phoenix. There, Quantance branched out into physique photography — he had always photographed his models as portrait studies, so selling those photographs wasn’t that much of a stretch for him. But he remained focused on his paintings.
It was during this time that his paintings took on a distinctly western flair. Quaintance’s exaggerated form of the ideal male dressed in denim and boots would define an esthetic for an entirely new subculture of Levi aficionados. He would also influence other artists like Tom of Finland, who would become something of a Quaintance of Leather. After Quaintance died in 1957, Victor kept the business going, but the business fell off in the late 1960s after full male nudity and porn became legal. After that, he simply disappeared.
In 1988, Durk Dehner of the Tom of Finland Foundation tried to track him down, but the trail ran cold at Victor’s last known address near West Hollywood, where he found several of Quaintance’s scrapbooks and paintings abandoned in an otherwise empty carport. Fifty-five canvases are believed to have been created, but eighteen of them are list. A diptych turned up at an antique store in Dallas in the early 1990s, but now its whereabouts are unknown. In 2010, Taschen published Quaintance, a lavish monograph is his known work including dozens of examples of his early commercial art for Procter and Gamble and several New York dance companies.
Josephine Baker: 1906. The Jazz Age icon and Art Deco chanteuse was born in St. Louis, but after a brief stint in New York during the Harlem Renaissance, she quickly moved to Paris where her career as actress, dancer and singer achieved instance success. Everything about her was made for Paris, and Paris for her. Her erotic dancing and nearly-nude performances were appreciated by her French audiences, and her exotic beauty as an African-American posed far fewer challenges in France than in the U.S. She become a French citizen in 1937 when she married a Frenchman, Jean Lion, who was Jewish. During World War II, she left Paris and went to her home in the south of France and, later, Morocco, where she provided assistance to the French Resistance. As an entertainer, she was able to continue touring Europe, particularly non-combatant nations like Switzerland and Purtugal. In her travels, she smuggled secrets for the French Resistance by writing them in her sheet music with invisible ink.
After the war, she supported the American civil rights movement, and whenever she toured the U.S., she refused to perform before segregated audiences. But through the rest of her life, her home remained in France. She married four times, and had twelve children — all of them adopted. She also had a string of female lovers, including the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Her son, Jean-Claude Baker, interviewed over 2000 people for Josephine: The Hungry Heart, his biography of his mother. He described her in one interview:
“She was what today you would call bisexual, and I will tell you why. Forget that I am her son, I am also a historian. You have to put her back into the context of the time in which she lived. In those days, Chorus Girls were abused by the white or black producers and by the leading men if he liked girls. But they could not sleep together because there were not enough hotels to accommodate black people. So they would all stay together, and the girls would develop lady lover friendships, do you understand my English? But wait wait…If one of the girls by preference was gay, she’d be called a bull dyke by the whole cast. So you see, discrimination is everywhere.”
Allen Ginsberg: 1926. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by / madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn / looking for an angry fix…” Those were the opening lines of what is arguably the most infuential American poem of the twentieth century. Most Americans however have never read past those lines, but Allen Ginsberg’s Howl unleashed several forces which have had a lasting impact in American culture.
Howl was birth not in print but at a celebrated 1955 public reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco, where Ginsberg’s dissenchantment of American materialism, his identification with the outcasts of American society, and especially his frank discussion of sex — and most especially of homosexuality (one line described those “who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy”) caught the attention of Customs officials when when City Lights Press published Howl and Other Poems in 1956. Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao were arrested and charged with disseminating obscene literature. At the trial, nine literary experts testified on the poem’s behalf. California State Superior Court Judge Clayton Horn decided that the poem was of “redeeming social importance.” As to the poem’s explicit language, Horn asked, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”
Ginsberg was one of the defining figures of the Beat Generation. He also became an integral part of the the next generation’s hippie movement. He was sympathetic for the ideals of communism, but disdained its repression of free speech. He was invited to visit China, Cuba and Czechoslovakia when authorities believed his anti-capitalist statements would be propaganda coups, only to discover that this was the least of his concerns. He was unceremoneoulsy deported from Cuba and Czechoslovakia after wearing out his welcome there, but the ideas he left behind in Czechoslovakia inspired another generation of artists, including playwright Václav Havel, to strive for freedom of expression. In 1974, his collection The Fall of America: Poems of These States 1965-1971 shared the annual U.S. National Book Award for Poetry, and he was awarded the National Arts Club gold medal in 1979, the same year he was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1995 his book Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992 was named a Pulitzer prize finalist. Ginsberg died of liver cancer and complications from hepatitis in 1997. You can hear Ginsberg reading Howl here.
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