The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 11
July 11th, 2012
AIDS Walk This Weekend: San Francisco, CA.
Dorothy Wilde: 1895. She was born in London three months after her uncle Oscar Wilde’s arrest for homosexuality, and she inherited her uncle’s talents for witty conversation and charm, talents which held her in good stead in the salons of Paris between the wars. She first traveled to France in 1914 to serve as an ambulance driver during World War I, and it was during the war that she had an affair with another ambulance driver, Standard Oil heiress Marion “Joe” Carstairs, who after the war become a renowned speedboat racer (“the fastest woman on water”). Her longest relationship though began in 1927 and lasted until her death, with the American writer Natalie Clifford Barney. Dolly was a gifted storyteller and writer, but she never pursued a career in writing. Her drinking and addiction to heroin may have gotten in the way. In 1939, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but refused surgery. The next year when Germany invaded France, Dolly fled to London, where she died in 1941 of “causes unascertainable,” a possible allusion to a drug overdose or to alternative treatments she sought for her cancer.
Tab Hunter: 1931. Born Arthur Gelien in New York, he was given his stage name by his first agent. His good looks quickly made him a teen idol in the 1950s as he appeared in more than forty films throughout his career. That career was threatened however when, in 1955, Confidential magazine reported Hunter’s 1950 arrest in an innuendo-laden article, but Hunter’s studio-arranged “romances” with Natalie Woods and Debbie Reynolds succeeded in rescuing his reputation. In his 2005 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Hunter talks about his relationships with Anthony Perkins, Rudolph Nureyev and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson, along with many anecdotes about the stars that he met: Roddy McDowell, Tallulah Bankhead, Robert Mitchum, Fred Astaire, Linda Darnell. But by 1959, his career was on the downhill slope towards spaghetti westerns and dinner theater. His career was revived when he co-starred with Divine in John Water’s Polyester and my favorite, Lust In the Dust, making him a new kind of icon. “Making out with Divine, that’s beyond the bravery of coming out,” he said. “But he had a sense of humor about the glamour he was caught in. He’s a great sport, and a great star.” He described his work with John Waters and Divine as “a high point in my professional life.” He now lives near Santa Barbera with his longtime partner of more than thirty years.
Yevgeny Kharitonov: 1941. Born in Novosibirsk, he embarked on a very brief career as an actor, but went from there to playwriting. Although none of his works were published in his lifetime by the Soviet press, he is now recognized as a founder of modern Russian gay literature. His sexuality, which was criminalized at the time, mirrored the Soviet experience in which the mere existence of a lot of people was grounds for state repression. . His dissident writing and his sexuality made him a double target, and he was placed under close surveillance by the KBG. When he was called to the KGB for his first “interview,” he fainted. When he died of a heart attack in 1981, many believed that his death was hastened over the pressure of official scrutiny. When he died, he was carrying a manuscript for “Under House Arrest,” which scattered and blew down the street when he collapsed. Other versions of the manuscript survived and was published several years after his death.
Kharitonov claimed his sexuality as a gift that gave him special insight into the human condition. In his brief gay manifesto, The Leaflet, Kharitonov compares the repression that gay people experienced in Russian society to the anti-Semetism experienced by Russia’s Jews. He also saw the artistry of Russia’s Jews and gays as being the product of that repression. “The best flower of our shallow people is called like no other to dance the dance of impossible love and to sing of it sweetly.”
Vito Russo: 1946. He was an LGBT activist and film historian, best known as the author of the 1981 book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. The book was the result of a live lecture with film clips that he had presented at colleges, universities and small art-house cinemas throughout the 1970s. His concern over how LGBT people were presented in the popular media led to his becoming a co-founder for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). He became involved as a gay rights activist immediately following the Stonewall uprising — in fact, he was among the crowd as the rebellion broke out. He went on to become a leading figure in the Gay Activists Alliance, one of the early pro-gay groups to form in New York City in Stonewall’s wake. In the 1980s, he became involved in ACT-UP as a result of increasing frustration over city, state, and federal government inaction and footdragging in the face of a mounting AIDS epidemic. He died in from AIDS in 1990 but his work continued to gain a wider audience when HBO created a documentary film version of The Celluloid Closet narrated by Lilly Tomlin. In 2011 a family-authorized biography by Michael Shiavi, Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press. And two weeks from now, HBO returns with another feature about Russo, this time a documentary titled simply Vito, which will premiere on July 23.
Esera Tuaolo: 1968. The Samoan from Hawaii was an NFL defensive lineman for nine years, beginning with the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. After a stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997, he went to Atlanta, where he reached the Super Bowl in 1999. He ended his career the following season with the Carolina Panthers. In 2002, he announced that he is gay on HBO’s Real Sports, making him the third NFL player to come out (after David Kopay and Roy Simmons). In 2006, he released his autobiography, Alone in the Trenches: My Life As a Gay Man in the NFL, and he has actively campaigned on ending homophobia in sports. In 2010, he was arrested on a domestic violence charge with his boyfriend, but those charges were dropped with his boyfriend saying it was all a misunderstanding.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?