The Daily Agenda for Monday, July 23
July 23rd, 2012
On June 27, 1969, a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar, took a surprising turn when patrons decided it was time to fight back. As a riot erupted in Greenwich Village, a new era in the gay rights movement was born. Among the crowd that day was 23-year-old film student Vito Russo. In the aftermath of the infamous rebellion, a raid on an after-hours bar he frequented ended with a young gay man impaling himself on a fence while trying to escape the police. This is when Vito found his voice as a gay activist and critic of homosexual representation in the media. Over the next 20 years, until his death from AIDS in 1990, Vito Russo was one of the most outspoken and inspiring activists in the LGBT community’s fight for equal rights.
Russo would go on to become active in ACT-UP, found GLAAD, and write The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies, which itself would become the inspiration for a 1995 Peabody-winning HBO documentary by the same name. Vito, directed by Jeffrey Schwartz, includes period footage and film clips, and archival interviews with Russo as well as new insights from those who new him, including Larry Kramer, Gabriel Rotello, Lily Tomlin (she recalled her decision to come out via a 1975 interview that Russo wrote for The Advocate), Bruce Vilanche, Armisted Maupin, family members, and many more. Vito will air tonight on HBO at 9:00 p.m. EDT and PDT, and will be repeated July 26 (4:00 p.m., 12:50 a.m.), 29 (8:30 a.m., 5:10 a.m.) and 31 (12:45 p.m.), and Aug. 4 (3:00 p.m.) and 8 (9:15 a.m.). It will also air on HBO2 July 25 (8:00 p.m.) and Aug. 12 (11:45 a.m.) and 17 (2:30 p.m.).
Charlotte Saunders Cushman: 1816. The American stage actress began her career as an opera singer at the age of thirteen, following the death of her father. She had learned to sing from a friend of her father, who was also a foreman at a Boston piano factory, and she is said to have possessed a remarkable contralto range. But when her singing voice suddenly failed due to strain, she switched gears and became a noted drama actress, with a particular flair for Shakespeare. She and her sister, Susan Webb Cushman, became famous for playing Romeo and Juliet together, with Charlotte playing the role of Romeo to Susan’s Juliet.
In 1848 while in Europe, Charlotte met journalist and sometime actress Matilda Hays, and they began a ten year affair, during which they became known for dressing alike. Charlotte retired from the stage in 1852, and the couple moved to Rome, where they immersed themselves an expatriate community consisting mainly of lesbian artists. Hays and Cushman split in 1857, and Cushman became involved with the sculptor Emma Stebens. She returned to the U.S. for a tour, and before returning to Italy in 1861 she was offered a farewell performance of the title role of Hamlet in Washington, D.C., the first of at least seven different so-called farewell performances over the next seven years. Her final final performance on the stage wouldn’t be until May of 1875 at Boston’s Globe Theater, nine months before she died at the age of 59 of pneumonia.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?