The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 31

Jim Burroway

December 31st, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

Andy Warhol’s The Flesh, the film that introduced actor Joe Dallesandro to a wider audience. The Village Voice, January 9, 1969, p. 51.

 

TODAY IN HISTORY:
LIFE Magazine’s “Homosexuals In Revolt”: 1971. In Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part I (1981), there is the famous pun in which the Count de Monet tells King Louis XVI, “It is said that the people are revolting.” The king replies, “You said it. They stink on ice.” Ten years earlier, Life magazine found homosexuals revolting all over the place, in its year-end photo essay covering “the year that one liberation movement turned militant”:

It was the most shocking and, to most Americans, the most surprising liberation movement yet. Under the slogan “Out of the closets and into the streets,” thousands of homosexuals, male and female, were proudly confessing what they had long hidden. They were, moreover, moving into direct confrontation with conventional society. Their battle was far from won. But in 1971 militant homosexuals showed they were prepared to fight it.

…They resent what they consider to be savage discrimination against them on the basis of a preference which they did not choose and which they cannot — and do not want to — change. And while mist will admit that “straight” society’s attitudes have caused them unhappiness, they respond to the charge that all homosexuals are guilt-ridden and miserable with the defiant rallying cry “Gay is Good!” … Never before have homosexuals been so visible.

The photo essay consisted of eleven pages of angry gays, fists clenched and raised in the air, confronting police, marching in the streets, organizing, and, of course, wierding people out. Later in the essay came mentions of early gay rights groups and activists, including Frank Kameny (May 21), Jack Baker (see May 18), Rev. Ray Broshears (see Sep 27), Merle Miller (see Jan 17), and Rev. Troy Perry (see Jul 27) — each and every one of them a “militant.” As for the younger and more nameless “militants”:

Most of the young militants shown here are members of homosexual liberation’s most effective organization, New York City’s Gay Activists Alliance. …GAA has developed a form of protest called a “zap,” which is part picket line and part sit-in. … The activists claim that demonstrations offer them the best therapy for the humiliations inflicted by anti-homosexual society. “One good zap,” they say, “is worth six months on a psychiatrist’s couch.”

Life‘s follow-up article asked the burning question, “Is Homosexuality Normal or Not?”, and they tackled it pretty much the way everyone did back then: by talking to a lot of straight people about gay people, but without quoting from a single gay person. Featured in the article was noted anti-gay therapists Edmund Bergler (despite being dead for nearly ten years), Lawrence Hatterer (who conducted electric shock aversion therapy), Irving Bieber, and Charles Socarides — who would later go on to co-found the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). The article tried to present a rundown on what makes gay men gay (there was virtually no mention of lesbians in the article), and then, without quoting from a single “homosexual militant”, asserted that these militants opposed all research on homosexuality. All of this led to the article’s final two paragraphs:

Whether liberationists choose introspection, militancy, or violence as a course of action, the basic stumbling block remains the same: heterosexual antipathy to homosexuality. Will this ever change? Dr. Hatterer has observed that society’s tolerance of homosexuality is increasing but he doubts that we will ever accept it as a desirable “alternative lifestyle.” Nonetheless he and virtually all other psychiatrists advocate repealing the laws that violate this minority’s civil rights.

On the question of “normality,” much remains to be learned. In opposing all inquiry, the militants expose fears of what science might find out about them. Dr. (Evelyn) Hooker’s task force on homosexuality makes the sensible recommendation that the National Institute of Mental Health fund a center for the study of all sexual behavior. “It is essential,” says the report, “that a study of homosexuality be placed within the context of the study of the broad range of sexuality, normal and deviant.”

[Source: “Homosexuals In Revolt” Life 71, no. 26 (December 31, 1971): 62-71. Available online via Google Books here.

“Is Homosexuality Normal or Not?” Life 71, no. 26 (December 31, 1971): 72. Available online via Google Books here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Joe Dallesandro: 1948. His father was in the Navy and his mother just sixteen when Joe was born, and by the time he was five his mother was serving time for auto theft. The younger Dallesandro ended up on foster care before being reunited with his father in Queens. By age fifteen Dallesandro was expelled for punching the school principal and began to follow in his mother’s footsteps steeling cars. After wrecking one stolen car in the Holland Tunnel, he was stopped by police and shot in the leg. He was sentenced to a boy’s rehab center in 1964.

Dallesandro escaped a few months later, robbed a theater in Brooklyn, and fled to Mexico before eventually hitchhiking to Los Angeles. There, he took to hanging out at the bus station where, among the many lucrative offers, was one for modeling for Bob Mizar’s Physique Pictoral as part of Mizar’s Athletic Model Guild. After getting into more trouble in L.A., Dallesandro made his way back to New York, where he appeared in his first Andy Warhol film in 1967, the experimental 25-hour Four Stars. Dallesandro’s work with Warhol and Paul Morrissey changed everything:

“There’s no rhyme or reason why I wound up where I wound up,” says Joe, still sounding vaguely incredulous about his fate. “I walked into that place and everything changed. It wasn’t until Paul and Andy came into my life that I got what you might call ‘direction’. It was only then that I started to know what I wanted to do with my life. If I hadn’t met them I’d probably have ended up in prison because I kept making the same mistakes over and over again. When I got connected with Paul and Andy I got some good direction.”

The following year, his nude scenes in his role as a hustler in Warhol’s Flesh brought Dallesandro to somewhat more mainstream audiences. His comfortable nonchalance with nudity and his laid-back film presence made him the first explicitly-eroticized male sex symbol of the 1970s. His onscreen comfort in his beautiful skin extended to both genders, on screen and off. The New York Times‘ Vincent Canby nodded to Dallesandro’s bisexual appeal when he wrote, “His physique is so magnificently shaped that men as well as women become disconnected at the sight of him.” Warhol said simply, “In my movies, everyone’s in love with Joe Dallesandro.” Fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo called Dallesandro “one of the ten most photogenic men in the world.” Dallesandro’s crotch served as the cover art for the Rolling Stones’ 1971 album Sticky Fingers, and Lou Reed immortalized him as “Little Joe” in his 1972 hit “Walk on the Wild Side.”

Dallesandro’s collaboration with Warhol and Paul Morrissey continued, with Lonesome Cowboys (1968), Trash (1970), Heat (1972), and Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula (both in 1974). Those last two were shot in Europe, where Dallesandro remained for the rest of the decade and appearing in a string of low-budget and alternative films. While abroad, Dallesandro’s foster mother died, his brother committed suicide (or died of auto-erotic asphyxiation, according to some accounts), his second wife sued for divorce, and he sank into a quagmire of drug and alcohol abuse.

By 1980, Dallesandro decided to move to New York, kick the drugs, and eventually dry out. Dallesandro’s movie career then received its second breath with minor roles in The Cotton Club (1984, as the mobster “Lucky” Luciano), Sunset (1988), and Cry-Baby (1990). He also appeared in several guest roles on television, including Miami Vice and Matlock. But since the 1990s, Dallesandro had been semi-retired from acting. At last report, he and his third wife were happily managing an apartment complex in Los Angeles.

Jennifer Higdon: 1962. Who says playing flute in a Tennessee high school band is a dead end? It certainly wasn’t for Jennifer Higdon, who majored in the instrument at Bowling Green State University where she also began composing. After graduation, she served as Composer-in-Residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Green Bay Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Fort Worth Symphony. Her one-movement tone poem blue cathedral, inspired by her brother’s death from cancer, has become among the most performed modern orchestral works by a living American composer. Her Violin Concerto, which premiered in 2009 in Indianapolis, was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. That same year, her Percussion Concerto won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Higdon lives with her high school sweetheart, Cheryl Lawson, in Philadelphia, where Higdon teaches at the Curtis Institute, where she holds the Milton L. Rock Chair in Compositional Studies.

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?

Jim Hlavac

December 31st, 2013

Happy New Year to you folks – I look forward to another year of fantastic tidbits from our history on your site.

As for “militant” gays — hahahaha — asking for a rational and decent word is very militant indeed. Ahem.

Stephen

December 31st, 2013

I know Mr Dallesandro’s son. He works for local plumbing company and has been here to supervise various jobs. When I first reacted to the name he was a very proud of his famous dad. I was touched and impressed.

FYoung

December 31st, 2013

It was Bob Mizer, not Mizar, who founded the Athletic Model Guild.

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