The Daily Agenda for Thursday, May 29
May 29th, 2014
Today is Fag Day, or at least it was in 1917. I haven’t been able to find any information about what Fag Day was supposed to be, but it appears to have been a day when free cigarettes (“fags” in British slag) were distributed to wounded soldiers and sailors. Or it may have been a fundraising or donation day — here are some Fag Day fundraising badges. Reproductions of the posters are available in the U.K. and stateside.
[Thanks to BTB commenter TomTallis who alerted us to this last year.]
Pride Events This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Asbury Park, NJ; Bergen, Norway; Birmingham, AL; Bradford, UK; Buffalo, NY; Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo, ON; Dresden, Germany; Düsseldorf, Germany; Göteborg, Sweden; Guerneville, CA; Karlsruge, Germany; Kiel, Germany; Lorraine, France; Los Ranchos, NM; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Queens, NY; Santa Cruz, CA; Washington, DC; Winnipeg, MB.
Other Events This Weekend: Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; Film Out San Diego, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON; AIDS Life Cycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The Golden Calf, located just south of Thomas Circle, operated from 1963 to 1970. It was a popular meeting place for the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. The entire 14th Street corridor has been redeveloped over the past few decades, with the entire block now taken up with high-rise apartment buildings, condos and offices.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► Second White House Protest: 1965. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there, does it make a sound? That’s the kind of question that may have been on the minds of members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. following the first ever gay rights protest in front of the White House the month before (see Apr 17). The group decided not to publicize the hour-long protest in advance because they didn’t want to give the police time to invent a reason to block their demonstration. But that also meant that there were no reporters or news cameras there either. As far as everyone outside the little group knew, it simply didn’t happen. But as Frank Kameny, co-founder of the Washington chapter recalled, the protest “went so well that we immediately decided to do a repeat, with advance publicity.” This time, they decided on a three-prong approach to get the word out: they sent a news release to major news outlets, handed out a mimeographed leaflet to passersby during the demonstration, and sent a follow-up release to news media after the protest ended.
Thirteen people showed up with picket signs, and this time there was considerable press coverage, including brief mentions in The New York Times, The Washington Star, the Associated Press, United Press International, and ABC television, whose East Coast viewers saw a line of respectable men (in jackets and ties) and ladies (in heels and skirts), protesting according to the dictates handed down by Kameny (“If you’re asking for equal employment rights, look employable!”). This protest would establish a pattern for future gay rights protests for the next four years.
► “Polyester” Premieres: 1981. The John Waters film Polyester made its debut on the silver screen. Divine (see Oct 19) once again starred, this time as Francine Fishpaw, a suburban housewife whose world is thrown into chaos when her pornographer husband declares he’s been unfaithful, her daughter becomes pregnant, and her son is accused of breaking local women’s feet as part of his fetish. Nineteen-fifties heartthrob Tab Hunter (see Jul 11) appeared near the end as lounge-suit-wearing Todd Tomorrow who swept Francine off her sweep and proposed marriage — only to plot with Francine’s mother to embezzle her divorce settlement and drive her insane.
The film was notable for a unique technological breakthrough: it was presented in “Odorama,” in which theatergoers were handed scratch-and-sniff cards so they could smell along with the action. One of those odors was feces, leaving Waters delighted with the thought that his audiences actually “pay to smell shit.” Despite the film’s positive reception — it even got a positive review at The New York Times — it remains a scandal that Polyester has yet to earn any major cinematic awards.
► Barney Frank Comes Out: 1987. Barney Frank became only the second member of Congress to confirm that he was gay, and the first to do so wholly voluntarily, when he told a Boston Globe reporter:
“If you ask the direct question: ‘Are you gay?’ the answer is yes. So what? I’ve said all along that if I was asked by a reporter and I didn’t respond it would look like I had something to hide and I don’t think I have anything to hide.”
Rep. Frank said that the disintegration of Gary Hart’s presidential campaign earlier that month over reports of his extra-marital relationship with a young model, and the recent revelation that Rep. Stewart B. McKinney of Connecticut had died of AIDS, had prompted his decision to come out. Of McKinney, Frank said there was “an unfortunate debate about ‘Was he or wasn’t he? Didn’t he or did he?’ I said to myself, I don’t want that to happen to me.” On May 31, the Globe reported that most of his constituents were unperturbed by his announcement, and many were unsurprised.
► 80 YEARS AGO: Nancy Cárdenas: 1934-1994. The poet, playwright, journalist, theater director and social activist was born in Parras, Coahuila in Mexico. She became a noted radio announcer at the age of 20 before turning to the stage. Her interest in literature became apparent in the 1950s when she participated in a public reading program, Poetry Out Loud followed in the 1960’s with the publication of her one-act play El Cántaro Seco (The Empty Pitcher).
In the 1970s, she became an acclaimed theater and film director. Her 1970 film, El Efecto de los Rayos Gamma Sobre las Caléndulas (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Marigolds), was a critical hit, earning the Theatre Critics Association Award. It was also very controversial for being gay themed. She drew death threats and the film was protested by the brother of then-President Luis Echeverría, which was no small thing: President Echeverría had been the hardline Interior Secretary during the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, when the Mexican government opened fire on protesting students ten days before the 1968 Summer Olympics. But such was Cárdenas’s influence that not only was the film shown in the Mexican capital, but in a theater on Insurgentes no less — Insurgentes being one of the principal boulevards in Mexico city. It was a huge success.
She came out as a lesbian in 1974 during an interview on the public affairs television program 24 Horas. That act made her the first publicly declared lesbian in Mexico. That year she founded El Frente de Liberación Homosexual (FLH, the Gay Liberation Front). In 1975, she co-wrote with Carlons Monsivais the Manifiesto en Defensa de los Homosexuales en México. On October 2, 1978 as part of a commemoration of the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre, she headed the first Gay Pride march in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. She continued her advocacy throughout the 1980s through her plays, poetry and public statements. She died in 1994 of breast cancer.
► Gene Robinson: 1947. When he was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of New Hampshire in 2004, he became the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be elevated to the episcopate. His election was so controversial, he wore a bullet-proof vest during his consecration. In a BeliefNet interview the day after he gave a prayer at the opening of President Barack Obama’s inaugural celebrations, he talked about his journey toward coming to terms with his sexuality:
I’ve been the reparative therapy route. I did that. My own experience is it doesn’t work. I think what it does it that it teaches gay and lesbian people to become so self loathing that they are willing to not act in a natural way, and deprive themselves of the kind of love and support that makes life worthwhile, that makes sense of our own lives and being. I can’t be supportive of that. It only underscores the way the church has gotten this wrong. God doesn’t ever get it wrong but the church often does.
Bishop Robinson formally retired in January, 2013.
► 55 YEARS AGO: Rupert Everett: 1959. His 1981 role as a gay schoolboy in the stage version of Another Country proved to be his break, opening the way for his screen appearance in the 1984 film version with Colin Firth. In 1989, Everett moved to Paris and came out as gay, which he said may have damaged his career. Wags would say that the 1987 flop Hearts of Fire may have been a factor. But his appearance in the 1997 film My Best Friend’s Wedding and 2000’s The Next Best Thing showed that his career wasn’t entirely over — although it did appear that he would forever be typecast as the heroine’s gay best friend. In 2009, he told the British newspaper The Observer:
The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off… Honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.
In recent years, Everett has remained active in British television and in the lead role of a London production of The Judas Kiss, about Oscar Wilde’s downfall and 1895 gross indecency conviction. And as a former sex worker himself, he has lately championed the decriminalization of sex workers and their clients. And ever the iconoclast, he criticized those who advocated for marriage equality in Britain, saying, “I find it personally beyond tragic that we want to ape this institution that is so clearly a disaster.”
► Melissa Etheridge: 1961. Her debut album was completed in just four days after her record label rejected her first effort as too polished. That stripped down album, titled simply Melissa Etheridge, not only defined her sound, but it yielded a hit single, “Bring Me Some Water” and a Grammy nomination. In 1992, she won her first Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance on the strength of her third album, Never Enough. Her breakthrough album, 1993’s Yes I Am, was certified Platinum and garnered her a second Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for her single “Come to My Window”. Her 2006 song “I Need to Wake Up” was recorded for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
She came out publicly in 1993 and has been a committed gay rights advocate ever since. She is also a committed advocate on behalf of the environment and breast cancer research, having herself undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2004 and 2005. In an interview with Dateline NBC, she discussed her recovery and her use of medical marijuana while undergoing chemo. In 2011, she announced her separation from her wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, after seven years together. They have two children, fraternal twins, who were born in 2006. Etheridge also has two children from her previous long-term relationship with Julie Cypher. In 2013, she announced her engagement to television producer Linda Wallem, although no date has been set.
► David Burtka: 1975. He began as an actor, first on the stage, and then in guest roles on The West Wing, Crossing Jordan and in seven episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Those appearances in Mother led to rumors that Burtka was romantically involved with one of the series’ stars, which finally prompted Neil Patrick Harris to publicly acknowledge in 2006 that he was gay. In 2010, Burtka and Harris, who have been together since 2004, became fathers to fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. Birtka has cut back on acting to run a Los Angeles catering company and work as a full time chef.
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?