Other Events This Weekend: Polari Film Festival, Austin, TX; Louisville LGBT Film Festival, Louisville, KY; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; , Phoenix, AZ; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Henry Hyde Slurs Barney Frank During House Debate: 1990. It was just another one of those ordinary debates taking place on the floor of the House of Representatives which would have otherwise passed into history unnoticed. One congressman accused another congressman from the other party of flip-flopping, this time a Democrat accusing a Republican of changing his stance on taxes. Barney Frank (D-MA) remarked that he wasn’t in the chamber earlier when the subject came up but read in the Congressional Record that ten days earlier “someone passing himself off as the Republican leader” urged a vote on new taxes, but then eight days later said that taxes should not be raised. Frank said, sarcastically, that there must be a security problem in the house that allowed an impostor to speak for the Republican leader Robert Michel (R-IL). Henry Hyde (R-IL) leaped to the defense of his fellow Illinoisan and said that the reason Frank hadn’t heard Michel was because “he (Frank) was in the gymnasium doing whatever he does in the gymnasium and he wasn’t available.” The remark was made in reference to an unsubstantiated allegation by a male prostitute (and former roommate, who Franks kicked out three years earlier when he learned the roommate was still escorting) that he had sex with Frank in the House gym.
Rep. Craig Washington (D-TX) called out Hyde, saying he was appalled at Hyde’s remark. “Great minds think about ideas, average minds think about things, and small minds think about people,” he said. A few minutes later, Hyde apologized to Frank: “What I said was in anger. One should never speak in anger. It was out of line.” Frank accepted the apology.
Montgomery Clift: 1920-1966. His on-screen reputation was for playing what The New York Times described as “moody, sensitive young men.” You know what that means. Despite that, his riveting performance opposite Elizabeth Taylor in A Place In the Sun, which is regarded as one of his finest performances as a Method actor, fueled rumors that he and Elizabeth were dating. His next movie, Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess, was less successful. Clift played a priest who was romantically involved with a woman, and that proved too controversial. But he rebounded in 1953 with From Here to Eternity. He lost the Academy Award for Best Actor to William Holden (for Stalag 17), which surprised everyone, including Holden.
The major turning point in his life was in a 1956 car accident, which severely injured his face, requiring plastic surgery. His looks were different because of the accident, but that’s not what led to his career’s down downward spiral. The accident exacerbated his alcoholism and left him addicted to pain killers, which affected his health and led to what some observers called “the longest suicide in Hollywood history.”
He did keep working though, making as many movies after the accident as he did before. He appeared in Lonelyhearts, The Young Lions, Suddenly Last Summer, and The Misfits with Marilyn Monroe who, recocgnizing her own emotional problems, described Clift as “the only person I know who is in ever worse shape than I am.” Director Stanley Kramer recalled that in 1961, during filming for a twelve-minute part in Judgment at Nuremberg Clift kept forgetting his lines. Kramer finally told Clift to ad-lib them if he had to. It worked, and Clift was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor. He died in 1966 of a heart attack in New York City.
Rebecca Wight: 1959-1988. She would have turned fifty-four years old today, but she didn’t even live to see her twenty-ninth birthday. She was murdered on May 13, 1988, by Stephen Roy Carr while camping along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania with her partner, Claudia Brenner. Carr, described as a “mountain man” who often lived in a cave in Michaux State Forest, ran into Wight as she walked into a restroom near the couple’s campground. Thinking that no one was around, she was nude except for her shoes. After a brief conversation — he asked her for a cigarette although she clearly didn’t have one on her — she ran back to the tent to tell Brenner that someone else was there.
They got dressed, packed up, and decided to hike to a more secluded spot. During the hike, they stopped to look at a map. They kissed, and Carr appeared from behind them with a rifle slung over his shoulder and asked if they were lost. They said no and went on. By evening, they found a more secluded spot — after looking around to make sure they were alone — pitched their tent, had dinner, and then began to have sex. But they weren’t alone. Carr watched from about 80 feet away, and fired eight shots from his rifle. Brenner was shot five times but survived. Wight was shot twice, but was more seriously wounded. Carr, believing that both women were dead, left. Brenner hiked three miles to the nearest road where she was able to get a ride to the police station, where she gave a quick statement and was airlifted to Hershey Medical Center. But while she was gone, Wight died from her wounds. Police found her body that night.
Carr fled to a Mennonite community and hid. Because that particular community didn’t read the news or watch television, they didn’t know they had a murder suspect in their midst until one member happened to recognize Carr while surreptitiosly watching a news broadcast and called police. In court, he claimed that he had been enraged at the sight of the two women having sex. Prosecutors sought the death sentence, but after the judge ruled that the nature of the two women’s relationship was irrelevant, the defense accepted a plea deal and Carr was sentenced to life without parole.
Brenner went on to write a book about the shooting in 1995. Titled, Eight Bullets: One Woman’s Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence, she describes the shooting, and her experiences with the medical system, the courts, and the media in the aftermath. She also became a public speaker against anti-gay violence.
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