The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, April 22
April 22nd, 2014
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
TODAY IN HISTORY:
State Department Fires One Homosexual Every Two Days On Average: 1953. In testimony before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Undersecretary of State Donald B. Lourie testified that the State Department was firing upwards of five employees a week on grounds that they were security risks. Of those, he said, about one every two days were fired on grounds of homosexuality. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who had been leading a three year Red and Lavender Scare campaigned, commended Lourie and Scott McLeod, department security chief, for “doing a good job.” He added, “I think it’s unfortunate that the public doesn’t know what a painstaking job of housecleaning is being done.” Sen. Allen Ellender (D-LA) asked why the State Department seemed to have so many more homosexuals on its payroll than other departments. Lourie replied that maybe they wanted “to get away from home” and go abroad to countries where homosexuality is “condoned.” Lourie didn’t explain which countries in 1953 condoned homosexuality.
“Conquering AIDS” Op-Ed in the New York Times: 1983. The epidemic was coming on its two year anniversary, and as of April 13, 1983, 1,339 people had been diagnosed with AIDS, with 505 known deaths recorded. Nearly half of them were in New York City. Dr. Kevin M. Cahill, director of the tropical disease center at Lenox Hill Hospital, became alarmed at the lack of action, both on the part of federal officials as well as New York’s City Hall under Mayor Ed Koch. Cahill attributed that lack of urgency to “politicians (who) handled the epidemic with unaccustomed wariness. Almost without exception, public leaders evaded the epidemic issue, avoiding even the usual expressions of compassion and concern. The victims’ sexual orientation apparently made involvement risky, and the politicians directed their courage and energies elsewhere.” Cahill wondered why the medical community was “strangely absent” as the disaster escalated:
When a fatal infection struck down veterans attending an American Legion convention, health professionals across America joined in the search for a solution. When women using tampons became ill with toxic-shock syndrome, medical centers immediately focused their enormous talents on that problem. But when the victims were drug addicts and poor Haitian refugees and homosexual men, no major research programs were announced. Until it became clear that the disease could spread to the general population through blood transfusions, organized medicine seemed part of a conspiracy of silence.
Cahill applauded the “many instances of individual courage” by physicians, nurses and technicians who took up the fight with “a quiet dignity and decency that deserves special respect.”
John Waters: 1946. The auteur of such film classics as Pink Flamingos (1972), Female Trouble (1974), Desperate Living (1977), Polyester (1981), and Hairspray (1988) grew up in the Baltimore suburb of Lutherville, the son of respectable upper-middle class Catholics and the product of a private education at Baltimore’s Calvert School, Calvert Hall College High School, and Boys’ Latin School of Maryland. He got his first 8mm camera from his grandmother for his sixteenth birthday. After quickly abandoning a short stay at NYU, Waters returned to Baltimore and began making low budget films with his childhood friend Glenn Milstead (later known as Divine, see Oct 19), Mink Stole, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, and several others that made up his company, the Dreamlanders. His influences included such figures as Walt Disney, B-movie producer Edward D. Wood, Jr., Frederico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Andy Warhol. His campy films with outlandish characters pushed the envelope of propriety and taste, out-exploiting exploitation films, out-trashing trashy films, and sailing under the budgets of Drive-in “B” movie fair.
His Trash Trilogy — Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living became art house favorites and set him up for his first mainstream crossover hit, Polyester, starring Divine, former teen heartthrob Tab Hunter (see Jul 11) and Ricki Lake. From then on, his films became somewhat less controversial — Divine would never again be seen eating dog shit — but they remained the same off-beat celebrations of the bizarre and outrageous as his earlier work. Only now, he could attract bigger name actors like Johnny Depp (Cry Baby, 1990), Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston (Serial Mom, 1994), Melanie Griffith (Cecil B. Demented, 2000), and Tracy Ullman and Johnny Knoxville (A Dirty Shame, 2004). In 2003, Hairspray was adapted as a hit Broadway musical which won eight Tonys, eight Drama Desk Awards, and four Laurence Olivier Awards. That Broadway musical was then adapted for the 2007 film remake, starring Michelle Pfeiffer Christopher Walken, Zac Efron, Queen Latifah, with John Travolta in drag for Divine’s role as Edna Turnblad.
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