The Daily Agenda for Sunday, February 3

Jim Burroway

February 3rd, 2013

Events This Weekend: Winter Pride, Killington, VT; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland; Regenbogenball (Rainbow Ball), Vienna, Austria; Gay Whistler, Whistler, BC.

Portriat of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Piccaso

Gertrude Stein: 1874. I guess you could say she was a bon vivant’s bon vivant. She would say a “rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” She was, in any case, the embodiment of a life of art, and the art of life. The novelist, poet, and art collected literally defined — and named — the “Lost Generation” of illuminati who frequented the Parisian salons of the early twentieth century. Her art collection was particularly bold, including works by Renoir, Mattise, Picasso, Gauguin, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and many other notable impressionists, post-impressionists and other contemporary artists. In 1903, she wrote one of the first personal coming-out stories in her autobiography QED, although it wasn’t published until 1950, four years after her death. Her longtime relationship with Alice Toklas however was nobody’s secret. They met in 1907 and remained together for the rest of Stein’s life. Ernest Hemingway, who himself was among the glitterati at Stein and Toklas’s salons, wrote of Toklas as Stein’s wife, and remarked that when Hemingway and his wife visited, Stein and Hemmingway would visit together and leave the “wives” to chat with each other.

If the pre-war year brought out the best of Stein’s contributions to the arts, her politics during World War II brought out the worst. Her politics always included progressive feminism and anti-patriarchal ideals, but she was also, simultaneously, stridently conservative and reactionary. She hated F.D.R. and publicly supported Generalissimo Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. In 1934, she said in a New Yorker interview that Hitler deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. When Hitler invaded France, she became a supporter of the Vichy leader Philippe Pétain. When she agreed to translate Pétain’s speeches into English, she wrote an introduction comparing him to George Washington. All this, despite Stein’s Jewish parentage. Some have defended her support for Vichy France as a tactic to preserve her own life, yet Stein continued to praise Pétain after the war.

That praise however didn’t last long. Stein died in 1946 from stomach cancer at the age of 72. Toklas survived her by another twenty-one years. They are buried next to each other in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Nathan Lane: 1956. He’s been in a few films and television shows, but he’s mainly known for his work on Broadway, with roles in The Producers, Guys and Dolls, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. His big break though was in film, playing opposite Robin Williams in The Birdcage. He also reprised his Broadway role for the film version of The Producers. When Lane came out to his mother at age 21, she responded, “I’d rather you were dead.” Lane replied, “I knew you’d understand.” When a reporter asked if he was gay, Lane said, “I’m 40, single and work a lot in the musical theater. You do the math.”

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?

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