Events This Weekend: AIDS Walk, Belmont, NC; Brighton Marathon, Brighton, UK; Belgian LGBT Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium; Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR; Sunshine Stampede Gay Rodeo, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Dinah Shore Weekend, Palm Springs, CA; Phoenix Pride, Phoenix, AZ.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The two-story industrial brick building that housed the Warehouse in 1978 had begun life in 1887 as the American Manufacturing Co., a maker of wood gunstocks and other handcrafted wood products. But more recently, the property was owned by the Knutson Metal Co. which operated a salvage yard on its grounds. City officials considered the property, located between a proposed city amphitheater and a park along the Cedar River, a “blight to the neighborhood and a drag on development,” while the Historic Preservationist Commission listed the building itself as one of eleven most endangered buildings in the city. In 2012, the city agreed to buy the property for $1.5 million. At last report, the city was putting the building up for sale in hopes that a private developer would preserve and renovate the historic building, possibly for residential use.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
5 YEARS GO: Iowa Supreme Court Declares Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional: 2009. In a unanimous ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling which held that the state’s marriage statute was unconstitutional. The Court concluded that:
We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy issued a joint statement welcoming the court’s decision. Citing Iowa’s long tradition in being a leader in civil rights, they congratulated “the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.” Iowa’s same-sex couples began marrying on April 27.
Anne Lister: 1791-1840. Her father was a veteran British soldier who fought with the Redcoats at the Battles of Lexington and Concord during the American War for Independence. (He later wrote a book about it). After the war, he married and became a wealthy country gentleman in Yorkshire. His eldest daughter, Anne, was brought up with all of the advantages of education and erudition, the latter resulting in an intense interest in classical literature. In 1826, she inherited the family estate, Shibden Hall, and with it a steady income from the estate’s tenants. That modest wealth was enough to afford her a measure of independence and deference from those who might otherwise criticize her “masculine appearance.” She was sometimes referred to as “Gentleman Jack,” for her business (she was a major player in the very male-dominated coal mining business) and recreational affairs (she was the first woman to climb Mont Perdy in the Pyrenees in 1830). These interests were certainly not considered normal for a woman of her standing.
What’s more, her private life wasn’t considered normal for a woman of any standing. Lister had a long term relationship with Marianna Belcombe, which lasted lasting several years including a period of time when Belcombe was married. In 1832, Lister met and fell in love with a wealthy landowner Ann Walker, and the two of them would remain together for the rest of Lister’s short life. Their relationship was as close to a marriage as was possible, given the times. Lister died in 1840, at the age of 49, while traveling with Walker in Eastern Europe.
Lister left behind a 26-volume diary covering the years 1806 to 1840. Most of the diary covered various mundane topics — the weather, social events, business concerns, her travels — but about a sixth of the diary was encrypted in a simple code. Those coded sections describe her lesbian nature and affairs. When a relative, John Lister, who was the last to inhabit Shibden Hall, decoded the diaries and discovered the contents, he was advised to burn them. He didn’t, but he did hide them.
A century later, Helena Whitbread published portions of the diaries in two volumes in 1988 and 1992, and issued a re-release of selected excerpts as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister in 2012. As Shibden Gall curator Claire Shelby observed, the diaries reveal a complicated woman who was very frank about her sexuality. “She talks about her tactics for wooing women. She talks about how she likes a particular woman, how she is interested and how she has spoken to tem. It’s almost like you can see relationships developing as they go along. And, though she doesn’t refer to it in the sort of language we use today, it is clear to see a sexual element in her relationships. … She approached an awful lot of women, including married women, and it doesn’t sound like she was rejected very often. She could be very charming when she wanted to be.” In 2010, BBC Two aired a dramatization and a documentary of Lister’s life. Between the books and the television programs, Lister’s reputation as “the first modern lesbian” has been firmly cemented.
George Copeland: 1882-1971. The Massachusetts-born concert pianist is best known for his devotion to the work of notoriously heterosexual Claude Debussy. Their meeting in 1911 in Paris marked a huge turning point for Copeland, who had already performed the American debut of Debussy’s Deux Arabesques in Boston seven years earlier. Copeland spent four months studying with Debussey, discussing and playing each of Debussy’s piano works. Copeland later said that at the end of those four months, Debussy told him, “I never dreamed that I would hear my music played like that in my lifetime.”
Whether Debussy really said that or not, it’s hard to say. Nevertheless, Copeland became the leading expert on Debussey’s piano works. He gave several U.S. premieres as well as several world premiers, including La Boîte à joujoux in 1914 and numbers X and XI of the Etudes in 1916. From 1904 until his final performance in 1964, Copeland played at least one Debussy work in each of his recitals. Copeland also had a fondness for Spanish music from the likes of Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, and Manuel de Falla. In 1909, he performed the American debuts of three of Albéniz works. At the start of his career, Copeland was known as part of the avant-garde, often performing new works by contemporary composers, although he became considerably less adventurous as time went on.
Copeland was also rather iconoclastic in his private life. He was open about his homosexuality, telling a Cleveland paper in 1913 that “I don’t care what people think of my morals. I never think anything about other people’s morals. Morals have nothing to do with me.” He also had a passion for wearing exotic jewelry and perfume. His openness reportedly caused problems for composer Aaron Copland (see Nov 14), who was considerably more circumspect. During a tour of Latin America, the composer was received with a frosty reception by local officials. After discreetly asking around, Copland learned that Copeland-with-an-”e” had been there on a concert tour and had gotten into trouble on a “morals charge.” Copland explained the difference, and the concert went on with considerably more cooperation with the locals. Meanwhile, Copeland, in 1936, met a young German, Horst Frolich, in Barcelona, who became Copeland’s “secretary” and partner for more than thirty years.
Copeland’s career suffered an interruption in 1958 when he broke his shoulder in a fall and was unable to play for several years. He thought his career was over, but he made a comeback in 1963 when he re-entered the recording studio and gave several small concerts. He performed what would be his final concert at Yale in 1964. He talked about returning to the concert hall in 1966, but he never followed through. He died of bone cancer on June 16, 1971.
55 YEARS AGO: David Hyde Pierce: 1959. He took up acting in high school, but he went to Yale to study classical piano. He soon grew bored with it, and decided to switch his major to English and Theatre Arts. He moved to New York, where he struggled to find acting jobs. His big break came in 1993 when he was cast as Niles Crane, Frasier Crane’s younger brother for the Cheers spin-off Frasier, which lasted eleven seasons. Pierce earned eleven consecutive Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor, and won in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2004.
Pierce has appeared in Jody Foster’s Little Man Tate (1991), Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995), as Meg Ryan’s brother in Sleepless in Seattle (1992) and as Ewan McGregor’s boss and best friend in Down With Love (2003). That’s in addition to voicing several animated features and a couple of episodes of The Simpsons. On stage, he starred in the Kander and Ebb musical Curtains, which won him a Tony for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical Ffor 2007. Pierce, who had formally come out as gay earlier that year, thanked his partner, television writer/director/producer Brian Hargrove, when accepting his Tony “because it’s 24 years of listening to your damn notes — that’s why I’m up here tonight. They married in October, 2008 in California, just days before voters approved Proposition 8.
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