The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 25
September 25th, 2012
TODAY IN HISTORY:
J. Edgar Hoover’s Personal Interest in Gay Movements Revealed: 1984. An earlier cache of secret files detailing FBI surveillance on gay people had been released two years earlier (see September 9), but that release offered only a small glimpse of the magnitude of governmental spying. It would take an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Archives (now the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives) for the more important cache to be released under the Freedom of Information Act. That later release consisted of more than 5,800 papers, most of it very boring details of gay pride picnics and parades, and photocopies of magazines that were publicly sold on newsstands. Most documents focused on the Mattachine Society and ONE Magazine, the first openly gay magazine in America.
But one interesting set of papers revealed J. Edgar Hoover’s interest in the gay movement. According to a memo dated January 26, 1956, the Los Angeles field office had been asked to check on the November 1955 issue of ONE, which talked about gay people who worked for Time and The New Yorker. The LA field office concluded that the articles statement was “baseless” and recommended that “no reply be made.”
But scrawled in handwriting below the typewritten recommendation was the sentence, “I think we should take this crowd and make them ‘put up or shut up’.” Markings indicated that the handwritten statement was made by Hoover’s chief aide and lifelong special “friend” Clyde Tolson. Hoover and Tolson worked closely together in the day, ate all their meals together in the evening, were seen socializing in nightclubs, and took vacations together. When Hoover died in 1971, Tolson inherited Hoover’s estate, and accepted the flag that draped Hoover’s coffin. Tolson’s grave is just a few discrete yards away from Hoover’s in Congressional Cemetery.
Hoover also weighed in on the 1956 memo. Next to Tolson’s recommendation to keep the case files open and continue investigating was another inscription. “I concur,” it read, with the single letter “H” underneath. The next day, a telegram went to the Los Angeles office. “You are instructed to have two mature and experienced agents contact Freeman (the pseudonym for the article’s author), in the immediate future and tell him the bureau will not countenance such baseless charges appearing in this magazine, and for him to either ‘put up or shut up’.” It was signed, simply, “Hoover.”
Pedro Almodóvar: 1952. Born in a small town in La Mancha, the trajectory of his life was rather unremarkable in the late Franco era. He went to Catholic boarding school in preparation for the priesthood, but instead found his education in the local cinema. In 1967, he moved to Madrid with the goal of becoming a film director, but since Franco had just closed the National School of Cinema, Almodóvar got a job at the state telephone company where he worked for the next twelve years. But they weren’t wasted years; he also became involved with the underground experimental theater and cinema, learning his craft using a Super-8 camera he bought from his first paycheck from the phone company.
His first feature film didn’t come until 1980. Pepi, Luci, Bom y Otras Chicas del Montón (Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap) was filmed on a shoestring budget by a team of volunteers working on the weekends. He later described the film as “full of defects. When a film has only one or two, it is considered an imperfect film, while when there is a profusion of technical flaws, it is called style. That’s what I said joking around when I was promoting the film, but I believe that that was closer to the truth.” Seventeen more films followed, most of them celebrating the sexy exhilaration of modern Spain. International fame came with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which established Almodóvar as a “women’s director” for his ability to solicit powerful performances from his actresses, which has brought about comparisons to George Cukor. It also introduced the world to Spanish actor Antonio Banderas. Banderas was featured again in 1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, a controversial film for its sadomasochistic theme which earned a controversial X-rating in the U.S.
The decade’s end brought increasing critical acclaim, with 1999’s All About My Mother (with Penélope Cruz) earning an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 2002’s Talk to Her winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and 2009’s Broken Embraces (this time starring Penélope Cruz) and 2011’s The Skin I Live In (starring Antonio Banderas) earning Golden Globe nominations. His next film, I”m So Excited, which Almodóvar describes as “a light, very light comedy,” is due for release in 2013.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?