Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Bellingham, WA; Bournemouth, UK; Green Bay, WI; Leipzig, Germany; Lincoln, NE; Rapid City, SD; San Luis Obispo, CA; Santa Barbara, CA; Staten Island, NY; Tacoma, WA; Valletta, Malta.
Other Events This Weekend: Aomori International LGBT Film Festival, Aomori, Japan; Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo, Denver, CO; Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Durban, South Africa; Outfest Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA; Bear Week, Provincetown, MA; Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Tokyo, Japan.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
David, a photographic and lifestyle magazine based in Jacksonville, Florida, described Peaches’ Back Door in Atlanta this way in 1972:
PEACHES’ BACK DOOR in Atlanta continues to swing with lively go-go boys who really work out. In addition to the beautiful boy pictured above, Jim-Jim and Ernie stop all traffic with their wild routines. There’s practically nothing they won’t do up there on the go-go stands and they certainly get the attention. Owner John is especially proud of his Tricia Marie. Although Tricia has only been entertaining for three months, she was able to bring back the title of Miss Florida from the contest in Miami last month.
In 1975, Peaches closed and that space became famous disco, Backstreet (see Mar 3), which closed in 2004 to make way for a high rise condo development.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► Twenty-Six Oklahoma City Teachers Forced to Resign: 1966. Oklahoma County Attorney Curtis Harris revealed that 26 teachers and school administrators in Oklahoma City have resigned following a six month investigation into “alleged homosexual activity.” Harris said that his office was being “pressured” by prominent citizens to cut back on his investigation, but he was defiant. “It won’t work,” he said. “The investigation will continue.” He did say though that his investigation of late had been hampered when his assistant, investigator Albert J. Hock, suffered a heart attack over the weekend.
Alex Higdon, Executive Assistant for Oklahoma City schools had a different set of figures, saying that as far as he knew only twelve had resigned, “but of course we may not have known about it when they resigned.” He also said that the school board conducted its own investigations rather than work in tandem with the County Attorney. “If evidence substantiates the charges, the person is asked to resign,” he said.
[Source: UPI. “26 Resign in Teacher Deviate Quiz.” The Washington Post (July 12, 1966): A3.]
► Editor of “Gay News” Convicted of Blasphemy: 1977. In the United Kingdom, private citizens can, with the permission of the court, initiate a private prosecution for criminal offenses if public prosecutors decline to do so. Mary Whitehouse, co-founder of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, had appointed herself the guardian of the nation’s morals in 1963. She began her campaign by directing her ire at the BBC for allowing the words “bloody” and “bum” to be uttered over the airwaves. At one point she declared that the BBC’s director-general was “the one man who more than anybody else who had been responsible for the moral collapse in the country.” In 1976, the NVALA announced plans to revive prosecutions under Britain’s archaic blasphemy laws, which hadn’t seen a successful prosecution since 1921. Most people thought the law was effectively dead, including just about everyone in the legal system.
In June of that year, the London-based Gay News published a poem by James Kirkup titled “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name.” Kirkup’s poetry had appeared in the paper before, but this one, about a Roman centurion who had sex with Jesus after the crucifixion and which described Jesus as having had sex with a number of other male figures before his death, caught Whitehouse’s attention sometime in November. After failing to get the backing of church leaders for a blasphemy trial, she applied for permission to prosecute Gay News and its editor, Denis Lemon, for blasphemy. Permission was granted, and the trial began on July 4, 1977 in Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) before Judge Alan King-Hamilton.
Over the course of the week, the Judge ruled on a number of motions that systematically stacked the entire proceedings against Gay News and Lemon. He disallowed expert witnesses in literature and theology, and he even prohibited Lemon from explaining why he published the poem. The judge later wrote in his autobiography that during the trial he felt “half-conscious of being guided by some superhuman inspiration.” His inspiration left the defense with only two witnesses, a novelist and journalist, and their testimony was limited to the good character of the paper. On Monday, July, Lemon and his paper were found guilty. The next day, the Judge fined Gay News Ltd £1,000 and ordered it to pay four-fifths of Whitehouse’s legal bills, which came to another £7,763. Lemon was personally fined £500 and given a suspended sentence of nine months’ imprisonment. Lemon appealed, and the Appeals Court tossed out his suspended sentence, but kept the rest of the verdict and fines intact. Lemon then appealed to the House of Lords, but lost.
Fortunately for Gay News, the whole episode resulted millions of pounds of free publicity and little financial cost, thanks to the donations which poured in to the Gay News Fighting Fund, a separate trust fund set up specifically to fight the charges. Gay News‘ readership ended up growing from 8000 to 40,000. but it ended up folding anyway in 1983 due to other financial pressures separate from the blasphemy trial. The blasphemy law was finally abolished in 2008, although it remains a criminal offense in Northern Ireland.
► Dorothy Wilde: 1895-1941. She was born in London three months after her uncle Oscar Wilde’s arrest for homosexuality. Known as Dolly, she inherited much from her uncle: her good looks, her cutting wit, her charms, her poise, and her artful turn of a phrase. Those talents held her in good stead in the salons of Paris between the wars. She first traveled to France in 1914 to serve as an ambulance driver during World War I, where she had an affair with another ambulance driver, Standard Oil heiress Marion “Joe” Carstairs, who after the war become a renowned speedboat racer (“the fastest woman on water”).
Her longest relationship though began in 1927 and lasted until her death, with the American writer Natalie Clifford Barney. Dolly was a gifted storyteller and writer, but she never pursued a career in writing. Her drinking and addiction to heroin may have gotten in the way. In 1939, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but refused surgery. The next year when Germany invaded France, Dolly fled to London, where she died in 1941 of “causes unascertainable,” a possible allusion to a drug overdose or to alternative treatments she sought for her cancer.
► Tab Hunter: 1931. Born Arthur Gelien in New York, he was given his stage name by his first agent. His good looks quickly made him a teen idol in the 1950s as he appeared in more than forty films throughout his career. That career was threatened however when, in 1955, Confidential magazine reported Hunter’s 1950 arrest in an innuendo-laden article, but Hunter’s studio-arranged “romances” with Natalie Wood and Debbie Reynolds succeeded in rescuing his reputation. In his 2005 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Hunter talks about his relationships with Anthony Perkins, Rudolph Nureyev and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson, along with many anecdotes about the stars that he met: Roddy McDowell, Tallulah Bankhead, Robert Mitchum, Fred Astaire, Linda Darnell. But by 1959, his career was on the downhill slope towards spaghetti westerns and dinner theater.
His career was revived when he co-starred with Divine in John Water’s Polyester and my favorite, Lust In the Dust, making him a new kind of icon. “Making out with Divine, that’s beyond the bravery of coming out,” he said. “But he had a sense of humor about the glamour he was caught in. He’s a great sport, and a great star.” He described his work with John Waters and Divine as “a high point in my professional life.” He now lives near Santa Barbara with his longtime partner of more than thirty years.
► Yevgeny Kharitonov: 1941-1981. Born in Novosibirsk, he embarked on a very brief career as an actor, but went from there to playwriting. Although none of his works were published in his lifetime by the Soviet press, he is now recognized as a founder of modern Russian gay literature. His sexuality, which was criminalized at the time, mirrored the Soviet experience in which the mere existence of a lot of people was grounds for state repression. His dissident writing and his sexuality made him a double target, and he was placed under close surveillance by the KBG. When he was called to the KGB for his first “interview,” he fainted. When he died of a heart attack in 1981, many believed that his death was hastened over the pressure of official scrutiny. When he died, he was carrying a manuscript for “Under House Arrest,” which scattered and blew down the street when he collapsed. Other versions of the manuscript survived and was published several years after his death.
Kharitonov claimed his sexuality as a gift that gave him special insight into the human condition. In his brief gay manifesto, The Leaflet, Kharitonov compares the repression that gay people experienced in Russian society to the anti-Semitism experienced by Russia’s Jews. He also saw the artistry of Russia’s Jews and gays as being the product of that repression. “The best flower of our shallow people is called like no other to dance the dance of impossible love and to sing of it sweetly.”
► Vito Russo: 1946-1990. He was an LGBT activist and film historian, best known as the author of the 1981 book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. The book was the result of a live lecture with film clips that he had presented at colleges, universities and small art-house cinemas throughout the 1970s. His concern over how LGBT people were presented in the popular media led to his becoming a co-founder for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). He became involved as a gay rights activist immediately following the Stonewall uprising — in fact, he was among the crowd as the rebellion broke out. He went on to become a leading figure in the Gay Activists Alliance, one of the early pro-gay groups to form in New York City in Stonewall’s wake. In the 1980s, he became involved in ACT-UP as a result of increasing frustration over city, state, and federal government inaction and footdragging in the face of a mounting AIDS epidemic.
He died in from AIDS in 1990 but his work continued to gain a wider audience when HBO created a documentary film version of The Celluloid Closet narrated by Lilly Tomlin. In 2011 a family-authorized biography by Michael Shiavi, Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press. In 2013, HBO returned with another feature about Russo, this time a documentary titled simply Vito.
► Esera Tuaolo: 1968. The Samoan from Hawaii was an NFL defensive lineman for nine years, beginning with the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. After a stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997, he went to Atlanta, where he reached the Super Bowl in 1999. He ended his career the following season with the Carolina Panthers. In 2002, he announced that he is gay on HBO’s Real Sports, making him the third NFL player to come out (after David Kopay and Roy Simmons). In 2006, he released his autobiography, Alone in the Trenches: My Life As a Gay Man in the NFL, and he has actively campaigned on ending homophobia in sports. In 2010, he was arrested on a domestic violence charge with his boyfriend, but those charges were dropped with his boyfriend saying it was all a misunderstanding.
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?