The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, January 2
January 2nd, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Governor vows to rid islands of homosexuals: 1963. The following item appeared below the fold of the front page of the Virgin Islands Daily News:
Action to Rid Here of Deviates Begins
Governor Paiewonsky today declared that his Administration has no intention of permitting the Virgin Islands to become a haven for homosexuals in which to spread their peculiar perversions.
To this end he has directed Commissioner of Public Safety, Otis L. Felix to undertake an immediate investigation into the extent of the problem in the Virgin Islands simultaneous with an all out drive against offenders.
If existing law is inadequate, says the Governor, the Attorney General will prepare legislation designed to eliminate this offensive activity in the Islands.
Noting that a large number of such persons are reported to have come to the Virgin Islands from other places, the Governor stated that the public interest required that our children be protected from the spread of homosexual practices.
The U.S. Virgin Islands repealed its sodomy law on October 18, 1984, with repeal going into effect on January 16, 1985.
William “Billy” Haines: 1900. Throughout his life, Haines refused to deny his homosexuality. At the age of 14, he ran way from home with his boyfriend. Five years later he became a top model, and from 1924 through 1930, he was one of Hollywood’s most dashing leading men during the Silent era. He was already starting to successfully transition to talkies when he picked up a sailor in Los Angeles’s Pershing Square and took him to a room at the YMCA. The police raided the Y and Haines was arrested. MGM head Louis B. Mayer demanded that Haines enter into a sham marriage to salvage his career, but Haines refused to leave his longtime lover Jimmie Shields. Haines was fired and his name was entered into the so-called Doom Book, the blacklist maintained by Hays Commission.
Haines and Sheilds turned their attentions to each other and to interior design. Their design business took off quickly, thanks to Haines’s connections in Hollywood which allowed them to become the designers to the stars. Clients included Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Carole Lombard, George Cukor, Betsy Bloomingdale, the Annenbergs and the Reagans. Haines and Shields remained together for nearly fifty years, prompting their friend Joan Crawford to dub them the “the happiest married couple in Hollywood.” Gloria Swanson tried to get Haines back into the movie studio for Sunset Boulevard in 1950, but Haines declined. Haines died on December 26, 1973 of cancer. Soon after, Jimmie Shields put on Haines’s pajamas, crawled into their bed, and took an overdose of pills. They are buried together at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery. In 1999, Haines was the subject of a biography, Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star, by William J. Mann. You can see examples of Haines’s interior design work here.
Michael Tippett: 1905. Britain, in some respects, is a small island, very nearly not quite big enough to simultaneously host two acclaimed openly gay classical composers who were pacifists during WWII. And so Michael Tippett has often been overshadowed by his contemporary, Benjamin Britten (see Nov 22). Tippett was imprisoned as a conscientious objector (Britten avoided imprisonment), and that, with his broader interest in humanitarian work, often influenced his music. His wartime premiere of his pacifist oratorio, A Child of our Time, (with Britten’s partner, Peter Pears, cast as soloist) received wide acclaim. The Times of London called it “strikingly original in conception and execution,” and The Observer hailed it as “The most moving and important work by an English composer for many years.”
The premier of his First Symphony, Third Quartet, and Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli — one of his most popular and frequently performed works — soon followed. But audiences and performers alike found his 1955 opera The Midsummer Marriage confusing. Modeled after Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Tippett’s work recast it as a Jungian manifesto where, as he put it, “a warm and soft young man was being rebuffed by a cold and hard young woman to such a degree that the collective, magical archetypes take charge.” The music, however, was well received, and he re-used the Four Ritual Dances from the opera as a separate concert work. Controversy surrounded premieres of two following works, the Piano Concerto (1955, its first appointed soloist backed out after declaring it unplayable), and the Second Symphony (1957). During the symphony’s premiere, the BBC Symphony orchestra actually broke down live on air a few minutes into the first movement and had to be restarted.
In 1965, Tippet visited America for the first time, and that experience marked a major turning point as he began incorporating jazz and blues into his music. His third opera The Knot Garden not only explored the complex themes of the Sexual Revolution, but also incorporated electric guitar and a drum set in the orchestra. His Third Symphony (1973) also was influenced by American blues, with the solo soprano’s part becoming a tribute to the late blues singer Bessie Smith. But his fourth opera The Ice Break was roundly criticized for its hackneyed use of American slang and the inclusion of race riots and a psychedelic trip giving what The Telegraph calls “toe-curling results.” Nevertheless, Tippett’s popularity grew through the 1970s and 1980s. He died in 1998, just six days after his ninety-third birthday.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?