The Daily Agenda for Saturday, January 12

Jim Burroway

January 12th, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Arosa Gay Ski Week, Arosa Switzerland; Aspen Gay Ski Week, Aspen, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Utah Gay and Lesbian Ski Week, Park City, UT; Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, Washington, DC.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gay Men’s Health Crisis Founded: 1982. Several dozen men gathered in writer Larry Kramer’s New York apartment to discuss the mysterious “gay cancer” that had been claiming the lives of their friends and lovers, and to figure out how to raise money for research. The group originally thought they were coming together for a one-time thing: persuade a club to hold a benefit, invite a bunch of A-listers to come and donate, give the money to a suitable research organization, and go home. But it quickly became apparent that there was much, much more work to be done. Forced by widespread apathy on the part of the news media, city officials, local health authorities, and even “confirmed bachelor” and barely closeted Mayor Ed Koch, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) quickly went from being an ad-hoc group to organize a fundraiser to a full-fledged charitable service organization to fill the void that the city refused to fill.

GMHC would go on to raise money to provide services and assistance for people with HIV/AIDS, including assistance from a large army of volunteers to meet day-to-day needs like cooking, housecleaning, dog-walking, and transportation to medical appointments, as well as help in navigating the apathetic bureaucratic maze. They also, just as critically, hounded the news medial trying to get attention to the disease. When that mostly failed, GMHC started a crisis hotline, which became one of the organization’s most important avenue for distributing AIDS information in the pre-Internet era. They also distributed material to help educate the general public on the need for safer sex. In these areas, GMHC worked hard to meet the needs which had been, at best, ignored by local and national health authorities and charities (most shockingly, including most faith-based charities). GMHC also battled the overt stigmatization and hostility which grew among well-known public figures, nationally as well as locally.

GMHC quickly established itself as a well-regarded authority for HIV/AIDS education and service. By 1984, the Centers for Disease Control called on GMHC’s help in planning public conferences on AIDS. As the epidemic continued to grow, GMHC expanded its reach by assisting heterosexual men and women, hemophiliacs, intravenous drug users, and children. Today, the GMHC continues its work as one of the nation’s leading non-profit, volunteer-supported AIDS service and educational organizations.

John Singer Sargent, Self Portrait, 1906.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
John Singer Sargent: 1856. Was he or wasn’t he? Scholars have scratched their heads over that question. He was born in Florence to American parents, who were well off enough to casually travel throughout Europe. Sargent’s drawing skills developed early, and at the age of eighteen he went to Paris to study painting. His early masterpiece, El Jaleo (1882), which portrayed a bare-armed Spanish Gypsy dancer in full movement, was both sensual and exotic — and, therefore, scandalous in the closing days of the Victorian era. Other portraits were similarly controversial. His full-length portrait of New Orleans-born Parisian socialite Virginie Gautreau (1884), depicting her in a strapless gown and a plunging neckline, had much of Europe clutching its pearls.

Almost immediately, Sargent established himself as the defining painter of what would soon become known as the Edwardian era. He worked on the edge between respectability and sensuality. But he also had a commercially-successful knack for finding beauty in everyone he painted while simultaneously preserving a candid honesty to his portraits. And just about everyone who was anyone sat for a portrait.

John Singer Sargent, portrait of Nicola D’Inverno, 1892.

For all of Sargent’s notoriety through his paintings, he was profoundly circumspect in his private life. He was flirtatious with women, but had no significant romantic attachments. He formed deep friendships with men — including Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Montesquiou, and perhaps most significantly, his assistant of twenty-six years and sometimes model Nicola d’Inverno — but there is no evidence that his relationships went beyond deep friendship.

And yet, the talk has always been there, and it was only amplified when, upon his death in 1925, his family destroyed his personal papers. And that talk centered on his male nudes, much of which were created for his own personal study and enjoyment, and not for public exhibition. In Donna Hassler’s preface in John Esten’s John Singer Sargent: The Male Nudes, she writes:

John Singer Sargent, Thomas E. McKeller as Apollo, 1921-25.

To Sargent, however, rendering the nude male figure was more than just an academic pursuit… He showed a strong preference for portraying the masculine form throughout his career (few Sargent drawings or paintings of the nude female figure are extant), and his work ranges from a straightforward student study of an unidentified male model wearing an posing strap to an emotionally charged, fully nude drawing of an identifiable male model, Thomas E. McKeller.

As Esten points out, “Like beauty, homoeroticism is in the eye of the beholder.” And many beholders have seen it in Sargent’s paintings. Several of his male nudes made their way into the famous mural in the Rotunda of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, some of them, including his sketch of McKeller as Apollo, refashioned into female figures.

Felipe Rose: 1954. You know him as “the Indian” for his appearance as a founding member of the Village People. The son of a Puerto Rican mother and Lakota Sioux father, Rose grew up in Brooklyn where he took up dancing at a very young age. When he was sixteen, he studied dance with the Ballet de Puerto Rico and participated in a Lincoln Center dance recital with the Ballet Company. At the urging of an aught, he began dressing in tribal regalia and exploring Native American influences in dance as an homage to his father’s heritage. He also, at about the same time, began exploring New York’s gay nightlife. Soon after French producer Jacques Morali saw him working as a go-go dance in his “Indian” get-up at a New York gay bar, he recruited Rose into a new singing group in which members wore costumes representing different “masculine” occupations. The Village People scored their first major disco hits, “Macho Man” and “Y.M.C.A” in 1978.

There have been numerouls personnel changes in the Village People over the years, but there has only been one Indian. Rose is one of only two only Village People to have never left the group, and with Alex Briley (the G.I/Sailor), he remains one of only two original members.

While the Village People is all camp, Rose takes his Native American heritage seriously. In 2000, he recorded the single “Trails of Tears,” Which was nominated for 3 NAMMYs (Native American Music Awards). He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Native American Music Association.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

F Young

January 12th, 2013

Ironically, the pioneering work of the gays and lesbians of the GMHC, was the model for AIDS organizations all over the world.

However, in Africa, they stripped it of gay and lesbian content, with the result that gays there are widely ignorant that AIDS can be transmitted through anal intercourse and have no free access to lubricants, since they are not usually necessary for penis-vagina sex.

Ben in Oakland

January 12th, 2013

Correction. Plunging necklines, not headlines.

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