The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 17
September 17th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
First Openly Gay Judge Appointed to Bench: 1979. The news wires across the country buzzed with news that California’s Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Stephen M. Lachs, “an avowed homosexual“, as a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. He had searched as a Superior Court commissioner for nearly five years, while also serving as a board member fothe Los Angeles Gay Community Services Centre. Lachs recognized his appointment as “an important step” for gay rights. “There probably are millions of lesbians and gay men in the country who are performing their jobs very well and yet are in positions where they feel they cannot allow their sexual preference to be known. This is hopefully something we will tart seeing the end of.”
He also recognized that his appointment on the bench might be controversial. “I feel that it could present problems. Judges come up for reelection and surely it could be an issue. I wold hope that when I stand for re-election, (voters) would consider my work on the bench.” His hope was well-founded, and he remained on the bench until his retirement in 1999.
President Reagan Mentions AIDS For The First Time: 1985. According to urban legend, President Ronald Reagan never mentioned AIDS during his presidency. Or, according to another version of urban legend, he he did mention it, but not until 1987. The truth is that Reagan didn’t talk much about AIDS during his administration after so many thousands had suffered such early and agonizing deaths — in sharp contrast to the government’s vigorous and immediate response when 34 military veterans (and presumably not homosexual ones) were sickened with Legionellosis — Legionaries Disease — at an American Legion convention in 1975. And the truth is that it was on this date in 1985 when Reagan finally mentioned AIDS, briefly, during a news conference when he was asked about the budget allocation for research:
Q: Mr. President, the Nation’s best-known AIDS scientist says the time has come now to boost existing research into what he called a minor moonshot program to attack this AIDS epidemic that has struck fear into the Nation’s health workers and even its schoolchildren. Would you support a massive government research program against AIDS like the one that President Nixon launched against cancer?
President Reagan: I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It’s been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for ’86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I’m sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it’ll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there’s no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.
The mother of Ryan White, the 13-year-old teen with AIDS who was forced to attend classes via telephone because his Kokomo, Indiana school district prohibited him from going to school, was disappointed that Reagan didn’t take the opportunity to tell parents they shouldn’t fear that their children could catch AIDS through casual contact. And Rep. Gary Studds (D-MA) disputed Reagan’s statement that AIDS research was a top priority:
“… The president said last night it is one of the top priorities of the last four years,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview Wednesday. “Under those circumstances, it is more than a little difficult to imagine why he has never mentioned it once before in public.”
…At his news conference Tuesday night, Reagan, responding to reporters’ questions, said more than $500 million had been spent to try to find ways of combatting AIDS, a fatal virus which attacks the body’s ability to fight disease. But Studds said Reagan’s requests to Congress for fiscal years 1982 through 1986 were far less than that amount, and the money was appropriated only because Congress went beyond administration requests. “The administration’s request for the five fiscal years in question, ’82, ’83, ’84, ’85 and ’86, adds up to $213.5 million,” Studds said. “The way I read that, it’s less than ‘over half a billion’ by a substantial amount.”
85 YEARS AGO: Roddy McDowall: 1928. The child actor began appearing in British films at the age of ten, but the bombing of London during World War II interrupted his career when McDowall was among thousands of British children sent to the safety of America. A year later, his role as Huw Morgan in How Green Was My Valley made him a household name. He followed that success with 1943’s Lassie Come Home, where he met lifelong friend Elizabeth Taylor. That same year, he appeared as the son of Wyoming ranchers who was given a colt to raise in My Friend Flicka of the two films, McDowall later recalled, “I really liked Lassie, but that horse, Flicka, was a nasty animal with a terrible disposition. All the Flickas – all six of them – were awful.”
By his late teens, McDowall began the tricky transition from teen idol to adult actor. He did this by leaving Hollywood and going to New York to study acting. After winning a Tony award for Best Supporting Actor as Tarquin in Jean Anouilh’s The Fighting Cock, he returned to Hollywood. In 1963, he played Octavian in Cleopatra for which he was an early favorite for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, he was disqualified when Fox studios mistakenly submitted his nomination under the Best Actor category. He most famous role is one in which no one sees his face — under heavy makeup as Cornelius in four of the five original Planet of the Apes
films. But that didn’t prevent him from being one of Hollywood’s more recognizable faces, thanks to television appearances including The Twilight Zone, The Carol Burnett Show, Columbo, Hollywood Squares, and as “The Bookworm” in the 1960s camp classic Batman.
McDowall never married, and died of lung cancer in 1998. Like most actors of his generation, he also never came out. He was probably one of Hollywood’s most trusted celebrities; he was known among his friends as a man of kindness and who could keep a secret (his disdain for Flicka notwithstanding). Besides one rumor of his having a relationship with Montgomery Clift, the nicest man in Hollywood managed to avoid the most intrusive (and career-limiting) aspects of the rumor mill during his lifetime
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