The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, June 10

Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Albany, NY; Albuquerque, NM; Athens, Greece; Beaumont, TX; Blackpool, UK; Boston, MA; Brooklyn, NY; Chemnitz, Germany; Des Moines, IA; Edmonton, AB; Evansville, IN; Ft. Smith, AR; Göteborg, Sweden; Huntington, NY; Indianapolis, IN; Juneau, AK; Kalamazoo, MI; Key West, FL; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Los Angeles, CA; LuleÃ¥, Sweden; Maplewood/South Orange, NJ; McKinney, TX; Nanaimo, BC; Nantes, France; Napa, CA; Niagara Falls, NY; Nyack, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; Rockland, NY; Rome, Italy; San Mateo, CA; Saskatoon, SK; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China; Spokane, WA; Strasbourg, France; Tel Aviv, Israel; Thunder Bay, ON; Warsaw, Poland; Washington, DC; Weimar, Germany; Winnipeg, MB; Wuppertal, Germany; Youngstown, OH; Zagreb, Croatia.

Other Events This Weekend: Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel; Identities Queer Film Festival, Vienna, Austria.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 15, 1972, page 13.

Vincent Bugliosi died last Saturday at the age of 80. He’s best known as the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney who successfully prosecuted Charles Manson for the 1969 murders of Actress Sharon Tate and six others. His book about the trial, Helter Skelter, became the biggest selling true crime book in history.

That will forever be Bugliosi’s legacy. But there’s more to Bugliosi’s career worth remembering. In 1972, he ran as a Democrat for Los Angeles County District Attorney, and one very visible part of his campaign included courting the gay community. This was at a time when most candidates would consider such a move political poison, and where Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis made a career of constantly cracking down on the homosexuals. On April 27, 1972, Bugliosi toured sixteen gay bars, with reporter Rob Cole from The Advocate in tow:

Bugliosi chats with a customer at the Bunkhouse.

Bugliosi chats with a customer at the Bunkhouse. (Walt Blumoff/The Advocate)

He visited 16 of them, from a little neighborhood watering place where old friends drop in for a beer, to a hustler hangout where he couldn’t believe the painted “women” were men, to the leather places where there’s no doubt about who’s a man (and you better believe it, Mary), to the huge, crowded “Bitter End West,” where the kids pack in to gyrate to the frantic strains of acid rock and nobody much cares what sex you are. Along the way, the 37-year old Bugliosi learned a lot about the gay community, and the gay community learned something about him. …

It became clear almost immediately that Vince was no plaster saint. He was uneasy about the tour and its possible effect on the WASP bedroom communities whose support he so desperately needs, He was badly shaken at one point by the comment of a man in one of the leather bars that “You’ve got a lot of guts to come into a gay bar like this.”

That conversation took place at a place called the Bunkhouse, on Santa Monica near Silver Lake. Out in the car on the way to the next bar, Bugliosi turned to Cole and Dave Glascock, the former Gay Community Alliance president who organized the tour, and asked what the man’s comment was all about. That led to this lengthy exchange:

COLE: Vince. you’re giving me an interesting insight into your personality. … The question the guy asked you in the bar, I’m sure, was directed to the basic fear that the average straight male has of the homosexual in his haunts. I’m sure that’s what he meant.

BUGLIOSI: Why would anyone have a fear of a homosexual?

COLE: Well. let me ask you that question. Because this is telling me a great deal about you when you say this. The average man would know the answer. He would not be able to express it too well, but…

BUGLIOSI: The only thing I can think of, he would fear that the homosexual would approach him sexually, you mean? Because if that’s the answer. there’s no problem. He’s not interested , he says, ” I’m not interested .” What’s the problem? No, I’m serious… (Dave has begun to laugh.)

…COLE: I think the average male is terribly afraid of being somehow, branded…

BUGLIOSI: You mean, a third party might say, well, he’s in the company of homosexuals, ergo, he must be a homosexual?

…Vince’s response was to shake his head. He still didn’t really understand.

Bugliosi speaking at a stop at the Black Pipe. (Walt Blumoff/The Advocate)

Bugliosi speaking at a stop at the Black Pipe. (Walt Blumoff/The Advocate)

For decades, the LA Vice Squad had routinely raided gay bars throughout the city and entrapped people suspected of being gay on city streets. Chief Davis inherited those policies when he got the job in 1969, and he found those policies very much to his liking. Raids, harassment and bogus arrests continued unabated. At a stop at Woody’s Hyperion, Bugliosi had a few things to say about Davis, “who thinks that homosexuals are criminals.”

“And I was speaking to Davis a couple of weeks ago on the phone, and I told him that if I become DA, I’m not going to put up with hiSs nonsense, the LAPD coming into bars, y’know, and harassing people. I’m just not going to put up with it. And if they make those arrests, there’s not going to be any prosecution. And I’m going to get on television, and I’m going to bad-mouth Davis. This has got to end; there’s no question about it, no question about it …

Unfortunately, Bugliosi didn’t win that election. He narrowly lost to the longtime Republican incumbent Joseph Busch. Bulgiosi ran again in 1976, but lost again. The raids and arrests under Davis continued.

[Source: Rob Cole. “Touring the gay bars with the DA candidate.” The Advocate, no. 86 (May 24, 1972): 1, 2, 19.]

Michael Stark (L) and Michael Leshner (R)– later known as “the two Michaels” — kiss after marrying in Superior Court in Toronto on June 10, 2003.

Ontario Registers First Same-Sex Marriage in North America: 2003. Nearly a year earlier, on July 22, 2002, the Ontario Superior Court issued a 3-0 ruling in the case of Halpern et al. v. Canada, finding that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights. While also finding that current statutes didn’t prohibit same-sex marriage, the court stayed its ruling for two years to give the federal government time to pass legislation implementing same-sex marriage. The plaintiffs, seven same-sex couples who were suing for the right to marry, appealed the lower court’s stay and asked that the decision take effect immediately. On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeals for Ontario agreed, and struck down the lower court’s stay, and that afternoon Michael Stark and Michael Leshner became the first gay couple to legally marry.

The next day, the Attorney General of Ontario announced that he would comply with the ruling. But while the Ontario Appeals Court ruled on Canadian law, its jurisdiction was limited to Ontario. Nevertheless, the province was the first jurisdiction in North America to provide same-sex marriage. (Massachusetts wouldn’t begin marrying until almost a year later: see May 17.) On February 24, the provincial legislature enacted Bill 171, (“An Act to amend various statutes in respect of spousal relationships”) which cleaned up several Ontario laws to bring them into accord with the court rulings. Meanwhile, other provincial courts began issuing similar rulings — British Columbia in 2003; Quebec, Yukon Territory, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador in 2004; and New Brunswick in 2005. By the time Parliament enacted marriage equality nationwide in July of 2005, only Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and Northwest Territories had yet to act on marriage equality.

Anita Berber: 1899-1928. She lived fast and died young, and along the way came to epitomize the anything-goes attitude of the Weimar Republic. She moved to Berlin at the age of 16 to become a cabaret dancer and a film dancer by the age of 20. Audiences took her art quite seriously early in her career as one of the pioneers of modern expressive dance. Some of her dances were set to music by Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss, and Camille Saint-Säens, and she was known for her erotic gestures and exotic costumes — or no costumes at all.

Her nude dancing and androgynous-for-the-era looks — she bobbed her hair and died it fiery red — those things alone would have been the chatter classes plenty to chatter about. Klaus Mann described her this way: “One dances hunger and hysteria, fear and greed, panic and horror… Anita Berber — her face frozen into a garish mask under the frightening locks of the scarlet coiffure — dances the coitus.” Shocking the seen-it-all Weimar audiences wasn’t an easy thing to do, but Berber’s increasingly macabre performances soon earned her the nickname, “The Priestess of Depravity.” Her Dances of Depravity, Horror and Ecstasy included dances with such titles as “Byzantine Whip Dance,” Cocaine,” “Morphine,” and “Suicide.”

Otto Dix, The Dancer Anita Berber, 1925.

But after a while, audiences began dismissing her work as exhibiting nothing more than shock value. Her off-stage behavior only reinforced her notoriety, thanks to her enthusiastic bisexually, insatiable sexual appetite, legendary drug use, and the rough crowd of boxers, prostitutes and homosexuals who she partied with. She spent her evenings touring the city’s clubs wearing nothing but her trademark makeup and nothing more except a sable coat, which she would have a waiter ceremoniously  remove. Her antique brooch carried her nights’ supply of cocaine, but her favorite drug was a mixture of absinthe and ether, which she mixed in a bowl and swirled about with a white rose before eating the pedals. While dancing in Zagreb, she publicly insulted the Yugoslav King and spent six weeks in prison. Her three short (mostly sham) marriages only added to her provocative image. By the time Otto Dix immortalized her on canvas in 1925, he offered a searing portrayal of her dissipative lifestyle, showing a woman who looked much, much older than her twenty-six years. In the summer of 1928, she collapsed on the stage of a Beirut nightclub and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. With her body already ravaged by years of drug use, she didn’t last the year. When she died in November, a friend said that “she had the mask of a mad old hag.” She was buried in a pauper’s grave.

Judy Garland’s legendary 1961 Carnegie Hall concert.

Judy Garland: 1922-1969. A straight friend of mine, shortly after I came out to him, asked me to explain “the Judy Garland thing.” What was I to say? The Rainbow reference seemed obvious to me — Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the rainbow flag — but that didn’t explain why she meant so much to so many generations of gay men. (I would later learn that the rainbow flag was meant to symbolize diversity, not Judy Garland. Silly me.) I then turned to the song’s lyrics, but it turns out they are incredibly simple — almost a throw-away. So it’s not the song itself either. Instead, I think the explanation begins with how she sang about her yearning to find a land of happiness somewhere over there, where “the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” And if birds can fly overt there, “why then, oh why can’t I?”

Why can’t I? — that’s the plaintive refrain that every LGBT person has uttered at some of the most painful moments of their lives, at least for those who spent any significant time in the closet. Judy’s life also had its painful moments, including a marriage to the barely-closeted gay director Vincente Minnelli, a nervous breakdown, morphine addiction, alcohol problems, you name it. But her Carnegie Hall comeback concert in 1961 was called by many “the greatest night in show business history.” The resulting two-record recording, Judy At Carnegie Hall, spent thirteen weeks on Billboard’s number one spot and won four Grammies. If you’ve never heard it, you are missing out on a night of mutual love between Judy and a house full of “friends of Judy.” And it’s that resilience which, I think, explains the “Judy Garland thing” more than anything else.

That and those ruby shoes.

Maurice Sendak: 1928-2012. He was known for more than a dozen books he wrote and illustrated himself, most famously his 1963 best-seller Where the Wild Things Are, which revolutionized the children’s book genre and established his career. But that wasn’t his favorite book. That would be 1981’s Outside Over There. Nor was it his most controversial book. That would be his 1970 award-winning In the Night Kitchen, about a boy who dreams of flying to a magical kitchen. The boy also happens to lose his clothes early in the book, and images of a naked flying boy placed the book on the American Library Association’s list of “frequently challenged and banned books.” In September 2011, HarperCollins published Sendak’s Bumble-Ardy, his first new book in 30 years.

Sendak remained publicly closeted most of his life, despite a fifty year enduring relationship with his partner, psychoanalyst Dr. Eugene Glynn. Sandak wasn’t even out to his parents, Polish Jewish immigrants whose relatives died in the Holocaust. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,” he once said. “They never, never, never knew.” Glynn died in May 2007, and Sendak came out in a 2008 interview, saying that the idea of a gay man writing children books would have hurt his career when he was in his 20s and 30s. But when Sendak died in 2012 at the age of 83, he was hailed by The New York Times as “the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century.” Another picture book, My Brother’s Book, was posthumously released in 2013.

Dustin Lance Black: 1974. Growing up in a Mormon family, Black’s early childhood included fears of going straight to hell. “I had my first crushes on a boy neighbor when I was like six, seven. I knew what was going on, I knew I liked him, but what Texas did and what the culture of growing up Mormon, growing up military [reinforced], was, the very second thought I had, ‘I really like that boy, and it’s not just as a friend,’ the very second thought was, ‘I’m sick, I’m wrong, I’m going to hell. And if I ever admit it, I’ll be hurt, and I’ll be brought down.'” No wonder he became withdrawn, intensely shy, and had thoughts of suicide. “I was a pretty dark kid, because I had an acute awareness of my sexuality, and was absolutely convinced that I was wrong.”

He says that darkness lifted when he went off to college, came out during his senior year and graduated with honors from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. Much of his career as a screenwriter, director, and producer has touched on LGBT themes. In 2000, he wrote and directed the gay romance films The Journey of Jared Price and Something Close to Heaven, followed by the documentary, On the Bus, which followed six gay men on a road trip to Burning Man. But his own burning passion was the desire to bring the life of Harvey Milk to the screen. The problem for Black was how to convey the “emotional heartbeat” of the story:

“It was tough. It was clearly, in my mind, a gay movie. I wasn’t so interested in the politics, I wasn’t so interested in Dan White; I was interested in this man who, to me at least, was a father figure to his people — to people who lost their fathers, their parents and their families because of their sexuality. Here was this father figure, and it was something I craved!”

Milk was a critical and commercial success, and Black won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2009.

Black has turned his writing skills to other topics as well. He leveraged his Mormon background as one of the screenwriters (and the only Mormon writer) for HBO’s Big Love, and he wrote the sceenplay for 2011’s J. Edgar. In 2010, Black narrated the documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition, which portrays the heavy investment made by the LDS church in California’s Proposition 8. In 2011, Black wrote the play 8, which is based on the actual transcripts in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial (now Hollingsworth v. Perry), the federal court challenge against Prop 8. Black wrote the play after a federal court blocked the release of the trial’s video recordings. (Black is a founding board member for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought the suit against Prop 8.) Black has been in the news again lately, after Olympic diver Tom Daley came out in December because “I met someone and it made me feel so happy, so safe, and everything just feels great.” That someone was Black, and the two now live together in London.

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?

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