Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, July 17

Left to right: David Foreman, Tim McCaskell, Ed Jackson, Merv Walker, David Gibson, Michael Riordon.

Left to right: David Foreman, Tim McCaskell, Ed Jackson, Merv Walker, David Gibson, Michael Riordon.

40 YEARS AGO: On February 12, Bill Holloway and Tom Field were in front of a Hudson Bay store in Toronto, posing for photos for an article on homophobia. The photos were to depict the two of them kissing, right there out in the open, on the streets, where anyone could see them. When a police officer saw them, right there out on the street, he arrested the two and charged them with committing an indecent act: kissing. On July 12, they were found guilty of committing an indecent act, kissing, and fined $50 each (CAN$210 today).

Gay leaders were outraged. “Gay people can kiss their rights good-bye,” said Tom Warne, president of the Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE). “It looks as if there’s now a legal precedent that can be used against gays who want to express their affection in public. I feel certain that a straight couple in the same situation would not have been charged.” As Tim McCaskell explained in 2015:

The two arrested men were part of this “Alternative to Alienation” collective, which was kind of flaky. They weren’t particularly a gay group, but they were sexual liberation, psychological stuff, anti-capitalist. It was all this primeval muck of that 1970s period.

But when it actually came down to it, they hired a lawyer who said we don’t want any kind of politics around this at all. So they were found guilty. And they said they were going to appeal. And they didn’t appeal, just paid the fine. And it was over. But for those of us in the gay liberation movement, that left this precedent on the law books that two men kissing in public was a crime, because they hadn’t fought it. So in order to be able to try to challenge that, we organized a kiss-in.

On July 17, GATE and The Body Politic, Toronto’s gay newspaper, went back to the scene of the crime, and committed that same crime again. As The Body Politic reported:

About 20 gays paraded in couples and triples, kissing as they walked. Occasionally, the group would stop and create a small circle of kissers

Reaction from passers-by was mixed. The group had prepared an attractive hand-bill which explained the situation, and those who look the time to read it seemed convinced of the injustice. Others were offended, a few were outraged. Although about a half dozen police arrived on the scene during the course of the hour-long event, they merely watched from the sidelines and did not interrupt. The kissers were careful to keep moving so that no one could be charged with obstructing the sidewalk.

Gerald Hannon was one of the kissers:

It’s hard to imagine now, when it’s pretty easy. You were supposed to be ashamed of yourself. This was a good way of showing that we weren’t. … U think we felt mostly exhilaration that we were doing it. You know, the exhilaration you get when you go out on the edge of a building, where you’re both excited and you feel slightly in danger. It was that kind of mix of feelings. We didn’t really expect anyone would come and beat us up. (But) the police (charging us was) also a possibility. I mean, they’d already done it once.

No one was arrested, but because there was now documented evidence that police did not intervene to bring a halt to those indecent acts, kissing, it established a kind of precedent that would make any more such prosecutions difficult. A week later, protesters were back again, this time for an old-fashioned picket in front of old City Hall, which housed the court room where the convictions took place. “Again, the event attracted a crowd of interested bystanders,” reported The Body Politic. “Ironically, the demonstration played itself out against a background of wedding parties being photographed on the steps of the historic building.”

[Additional source: “Kiss-In Protests Conviction of Kissers.” The Body Politic (September 1976): 3. Available online here.]

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 16

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), December 1976, page 13.

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), December 1976, page 13.

Lambda Rising opened in 1974 in a tiny 300 square foot space with 250 titles, and it quickly became a kind of an informal community center for Washington, D.C.’s gay community. From those humble beginnings, it moved in 1984 to a larger 4,800 square foot, two-story space on Connecticut Avenue and expanded to three other locations in Baltimore, Richmond, and Rehoboth Beach. In 2003, Lambda Rising bought the venerable Oscar Wilde Book Shop in New York and saved it from certain closure. But the rise of Amazon.com and the willingness of general bookstores to carry LGBT titles cut into Lambda Rising’s business. Lambda Rising sold Oscar Wilde in 2006, and closed its three expansion bookstores between 2007 and 2009. The main store on Connecticut Avenue finally closed its doors for good on December 31, 2010.

Reinaldo Arenas(d. 1990) His background would have made him  tailor-made for Fidel Castro’s revolutionary Cuba. Arenas was born to a destitute family in the rural Oriente province, Castro’s native province and the cradle of the revolution that Arenas joined as a teenager. Arenas moved to Havana in 1961, and became a researcher at the José Martí­ National Library from 1963 to 1966. His 1965 semi-autobiographical novel, Singing from the Well, was the first novel of his five-part Pentagonia (The Five Agonies) series, which he described as “the secret history of Cuba.” Singing From the Well was awarded a first honorable mention by a committee of Cuban writers, and the Prix Médicis in France four years later.

Singing From the Well would be Arenas’s only novel to be published in Cuba. And because of his open homosexuality, its printing in Cuba never extended beyond its initial run of 2,000 copies. Cuba’s benefactor, the Soviet Union, saw homosexuality as a product of a decadent capitalist society, ideas which easily took root in Cuba which already had its own entrenched homophobic qualities. Castro regarded regarded homosexuality as a bourgeois decadence. “In the country, there are no homosexuals,” he once said, and declared that “we would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true Revolutionary, a true Communist militant.” New laws were passed and concentration camps were opened to house Cuba’s homosexuals, particularly effeminate men, who were believed to have violated the ideal of Cuba’s “new man.” Those prison camps were supposed to turn these men into the New Man through forced labor, scarce food, shaved heads, and physical mistreatment.

Arenas avoided that fate and managed to find work as a journalist and editor for the literary magazine La Caceta de Cuba. Meanwhile, he was prohibited from publishing any more novels abroad while the government refused to publish his books at home. His second novel, Hallucinations, published abroad in 1968, violated that ban. In 1970, Arenas was officially branded a “social misfit” and sentenced to a labor camp to cut sugar cane. When he still managed to get his works smuggled out of Cuba and into the hands of foreign publishers, the Cuban government branded him a counterrevolutionary and sent him to the notorious El Morro Prison from 1974 to 1976. But Arenas kept writing, both in and out of prison. He wrote Farewell to the Sea three times because the authorities kept confiscating it. He dedicated his epic poem, El Central, to “my dear friend R., who made me a present of 87 sheets of blank paper.” He tried to escape Cuba, but the attempt ending in failure and more imprisonment. He was finally able to escape during the 1980 Mariel boatlift thanks to a bureaucratic snafu.

On arriving in the United States, he settled to New York and launched a frenzied period of writing: novels, short stories, poetry, essays, and newspaper articles. The two decade saw the publication of the rest of Pentagonia, with The Palace of the White Skunks (1982), Farewell to the Sea (1987), The Color of Summer, (1990), and The Assault (1992). The last major work he wrote was his autobiography, Before Night Falls, which was posthumously published in 1992. Mario Vargas Llosa, the Nobel Prize-winning Peruvian author, praised Before Night Falls and Arena’s uncompromisingly frank — some may say explicit — depiction of his homosexuality in defiance of the homophobia of his Spanish-speaking audience: “This is one of the most moving testimonies that has ever been written in our language about oppression and rebellion, but few will dare to acknowledge this fact since the book, although one reads it with an uncontrollable appetite, has the perverse power of leaving its readers uncomfortable”

Weak with AIDS, without health insurance and living in poverty, Arenas killed himself in his Hell’s Kitchen apartment on December 7, 1990. He titled his final poem Self-Epitaph:

A bad poet in love with the moon,
he counted terror as his only fortune:
and it was enough because, being no saint,
he knew that life is risk or abstinence,
that every great ambition is great insanity
and the most sordid horror has its charm.

He lived for life’s sake, which means seeing death
as a daily occurrence on which we wager
a splendid body or our entire lot.
He knew the best things are those we abandon
— precisely because we are leaving.
The everyday becomes’ hateful,
there’ s just one place to live, the impossible.
He knew imprisonment offenses
typical of human baseness;
but was always escorted by a certain stoicism
that helped him walk the tightrope
or enjoy the morning’s glory,
And when he tottered, a window would appear
for him to jump toward infinity.

He wanted no ceremony, speech, mourning or cry,
no sandy mound where his skeleton be laid to rest
(not even after death he wished to live in peace).
He ordered that his ashes be scattered at sea
where they would be in constant flow.
He hasn’t lost the habit of dreaming:
he hopes some adolescent will plunge into his waters.

60 YEARS AGO: He is most acclaimed for his Pulitzer prize-winning play, Angels In America, the seven-hour epic about the AIDS crises in the Ed Koch-era of New York. Kushner wrote the play for eight actors, but stipulated that each of the actors was to play multiple roles (including multiple genders) throughout the production. When he adapted the play for an HBO miniseries starring Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, the same construct was applied. In addition to the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Kushner won the Tony Awards for Best Play in 1993 and 1994 (Angels In America is actually in two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, each having its own separate Broadway debut.)

After the turn of the new millennium, Kushner began writing for film, co-writing the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Most recently, he was the screenwriter for Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, for which Kushner won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and a Writers Guild award for best adapted screenplay. In 2013, Kushner was one of twenty-four recipients for the National Medal of Arts and Humanities from President Barack Obama.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, July 15

From The Dallas Voice, July 13, 1984, page 12. (Source.)

From The Dallas Voice, July 13, 1984, page 12. (Source.)

Randolfe Wicker

Randy Wicker

There had long been an inherent tension among the various local chapters of the Mattachine Society between those who, because of their experience with the McCarthy-led Lavendar Scare witchhunt in the early 1950s, feared public scrutiny and exposure, and those who argued for greater visibility. Randy Wicker (see Feb 3) was among the latter. To get around some of the group’s objections, Wicker established a separate entity he called the Homosexual League of New York, an organization that consisted solely of himself, and which gave him the freedom to act independently while giving others a sense that there was an organization behind him.

Earlier in 1962 WBAI, New York’s listener-supported progressive Pacifica radio station, aired an hour-long special, “The Homosexual In America.” It was typical for its day, featuring a panel of psychiatrists describing gay people as sick and in need of a cure — a cure that they could provide with just a few hours of therapy. Wicker was incensed, not only at the ignorance of these so-called “experts,” but also because, once again, there was a panel of straight people talking about gay people with nary a gay person in sight.

Wicker marched into the WBAI studios and confronted Dick Elman, the station’s public affairs director. “Why do you have these people on that don’t know a damn thing about homosexuality? They don’t live it and breathe it the way I do. … I spend my whole life in gay society.” Wicker demanded equal time and Elman agreed, as long as Wicker could find other gay people willing to go on the air as part of a panel.  When plans for the program were announced, the New York Journal-American went ballistic. Jack O’Brian, the paper’s radio-TV columnist, wrote that the station should change its callsign to WSICK for agreeing to air an “arrogant card-carrying swish. …We’ve heard of silly situations in broadcasting, but FM station WBAI wins our top prize for scraping the sockly barrel-bottom.”

WBAI went ahead despite the controversy and the program, titled “Live and Let Live,” featured Wicker and seven other gay men talking for ninety minutes about what it was like to be gay.  They talked about their difficulties in maintaining careers, the problems of police harassment, and the social responsibility of gays and straights alike. The program’s host guided the programs with questions to the panel. “Is there harassment?” he asked. One panelist described a policeman who “roared up, jumped out of the car, grabbed me, and started giving me this big thing about ‘What are you doing here, you know there are a lot of queers around this neighborhood.’ He said, ‘You know, there’s only one thing worse than a queer, and that’s a nigger’.”

The following morning, The New York Times’s Jack Gould called the program “the most extensive consideration of the subject to be heard on American radio” — a statement that betrays his own unawareness of several similar programs which had already aired on radio and television in San Francisco and Los Angeles years earlier. Nevertheless, he wrote that “it succeeded, one would think in encouraging a wider understanding of the homosexual’s attitudes and problems.” Newsweek called the program “96 minutes of intriguing, if intellectually inconclusive listening.” A group of listeners lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission and challenge the station’s broadcast license. When the FCC recognized the broadcast as a legitimate exercise in free speech, it signaled to other radio and television stations that homosexuality was an acceptable topic for broadcast (see Jan 23).

(d. 1971) He was a well-regarded American diplomat with twenty-seven years’ experience in the Foreign Service. During World War II, Reber scored a significant diplomatic win by getting Vichy France to agree that French colonies and possessions, ships and planes in the Caribbean would not be used by the Axis powers, an agreement which underscored Vichy’s weakness as a French power. Reber then joined the Allied Control Commission in Italy, and from there he served as the U.S. representative to the Allied French government in 1944. By 1946, he was a political adviser to the U.S. delegation at the Council of Foreign Ministers Conference in Paris. In 1947 he was director of the State Department’s Office of European Affairs, and in 1950 he joined in the Allied High Commission as an adviser for the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany.

Beginning in 1948, Reber faced his greatest diplomatic challenge while working for an Austrian peace treaty after enduring years of threats and insults from the Soviet Union. His work ultimately laid the groundwork for an independent Austria remaining outside of the Soviet block. But the treaty guaranteeing that independence wouldn’t come about until two years after Reber was forced out of the State Department in 1953. That’s when Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare — and the accompanying Lavender Scare — was in full force in the U.S. Senate. McCarthy charged that the upper ranks of the State Department were filled with communists and homosexuals, prompting a wide-ranging witch hunt within the department. Reber was called in for a polygraph test and interrogations on March 17 and 19, 1953. That investigation uncovered “a lot of admissions” about homosexuality. When McCarthy threatened to reveal allegations of Reber’s homosexuality, Reber announced his retirement in May 1953, effective July 15 when he turned 50.

Because of Reber’s high profile, the reasons for his sudden resignation quickly spread through diplomatic and political circles. In 1954, McCarthy used Reber’s resignation against Reber’s brother, Major General Miles Reber, who was called to testify on the first day of the Army-McCarthy hearings. According to Time magazine:

Returning to twist the dirk already thrust into the Reber brothers, McCarthy asked General Reber: “Are you aware of the fact that your brother was allowed to resign when charges that he was a bad security risk were made against him as a result of the investigation of this committee?” Jenkins roared in protest. McClellan roared in protest. McCarthy talked on, stuck to his question. General Reber sat in silence, gripping the edges of the witness table until his knuckles showed white. Finally, McCarthy, having made his point over radio and television, dismissed the entire question as unimportant, and grandly said he would withdraw it.

But West Pointer Reber would not have it so. In a voice thick with emotion, he asked to be allowed to answer the “very serious charge” made against his brother. After another long argument, Reber said simply: “. . . As I understand my brother’s case, he retired, as he is entitled to do by law, upon reaching the age of 50 … I know nothing about any security case involving him.” With a sigh of relief, Chairman Mundt dismissed Reber, thanking him for his frank manner—a remark to which McCarthy, who seemed determined to resent any civility, made a formal objection.

After retirement, Reber served as Executive Secretary of the New York City Goethe Haus, a German cultural exchange association. In 1958, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) warded him its Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit. He died in Princeton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day of 1971.

David Cicilline

55 YEARS AGO: When he was elected mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, in a landslide in 2002, David Cicilline became the first openly gay man to become mayor of a state capital. He held that position until 2011, when he went to Congress to represent Rhode Island in the U.S. House of Representatives after a surprisingly close race against his Republican opponent in what was supposed to be a safe Democratic seat. When he joined Congress, he became one of four openly gay representatives in the House. Cicilline was re-elected in 2012, despite falling approval ratings which were partly due to Providence’s near bankruptcy in the wake of Cicilline’s eight years as mayor.

In Congress, Cicilline has been a strong advocate for gun control, so much so that the National Rifle Association gave him an F- lifetime score. He has also declared his support for veterans access to health care, mental health services, housing and education. He co-sponsored the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act which provides trained therapy dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 14

From Bay Area Reporter, July 15, 1971, page 25.

From Bay Area Reporter, July 15, 1971, page 25.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, Fr. Robert Nugent

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, Fr. Robert Nugent

New Ways Ministry, founded in 1977 by Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, was (and still is) “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities.” The ministry’s name was inspired by a 1976 pastoral letter by Bishop Francis J. Mugavero of Brooklyn which, while emphasizing “chastity is a virtue which liberates the human person,” nevertheless “pledge[d] our willingness to help you bear your burdens, to try to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ because we believe it will make you free.”

Free from what, exactly, the letter didn’t say. (This was before the religious ex-gay movement was founded in 1976.) But Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent saw that the clearest path to freedom was to create wider acceptance for gay and lesbian Catholics within the Catholic Church. Sr. Gramick came by her advocacy for gay people a few years earlier while working on her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where she befriended a gay man and began ministering to those who had left the Church because of its stance toward gay people. Fr. Nugent had been involved with pastoral ministry and counseling to gay Catholics since 1971. When Fr. Nugent and Sr. Gramick co-founded New Ways Ministry at Mt. Rainier, MD., they attracted almost immediate attention from the Church’s hierarchy. Archbishop of Washington James Cardinal Hickey’s criticisms led the Vatican in 1984 to order Fr. Nugent’s and Sr. Gramick’s resignation from New Way. They complied, but continued speaking and writing about gay and lesbian issues within the church.

On July 14, 1999, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a “Notification regarding Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent“, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which is charged with enforcing adherence to Catholic doctrines. The CDF, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who would later become Pope Benedict XVI), “permanently prohibited” Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent “from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.”

Fr. Nugent responded with a lengthy statement describing his experience with Vatican officials during the previous two decades. That prompted a further order from the Vatican prohibiting him from speaking any further “about the Notification itself, about the ecclesiastical processes that led to it or about the issue of homosexuality.” Fr. Nugent then decided to return to parish-based ministry. He retired at age 75 in 2014, and passed away the following year.

Sr. Gramick refused to complying with the silencing. “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right [to speak]. To me this is a matter of conscience.” She then transferred from the School Sisters of Notre Dame to the Sisters of Loretto, where she has continued her work for social justice and outreach to LGBT people. In 2004, Sr. Gramick became the subject of a documentary film, In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith, directed by Albert Maysles of Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter fame. New Ways Ministry continues its work of independent advocacy for LGBT Catholics.

(d. 2011) The three-time Tony-winning playwright, director and screenwriter started out by writing scripts for radio shows and training films for the U.S. Army during World War II. One photograph of GIs in the South Pacific jungle inspired him to write Home of the Brave about anti-Semitism in the military. The play opened on Broadway in 1945 and ran for sixty nine performances. (When the play was adapted for the 1949 film, the topic switched from anti-Semitic to anti-black bigotry.) That first run wasn’t a long one, but its controversial subject would come back to haunt him when he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and placed on the infamous entertainment blacklist during the McCarthy red scare.

His tenure on the list was relatively brief, and by the mid-1950s Laurents was back on  Broadway and in Hollywood’s good graces again. Good thing, because he went on to write West Side Story and Gypsy, and the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Rope. He also wrote the scripts for the films The Way We Were and The Turning Point, and directed the 1983 stage production of La Cage Aux Folles. Laurents died in 2011 in New York of pneumonia at the age of 93. His partner of more than fifty years, Tom Hatcher, had preceded him in 2006. In honor of Laurents’s career, the lights on Broadway were dimmed at 8:00 p.m. the following evening.

Charles Pierce90 YEARS AGO: (d. 1999) The self-styled “male actress” was very clear about what he was and what he was not. “You can call me an impersonator, an impressionist, a mimic, or a comic in a dress. But not a drag queen! A drag queen is someone who dresses up and goes to a ball! I’m an entertainer.” And what an entertainer he was. His impersonations included Bette Davis, Mae West, Talulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Joan Collins and Carol Channing, who said, “He did Carol Channing better than I did.” He titled his 1990 show, “The Legendary Ladies of the Silver Screen: All Talking, All Singing, All Dancing… All Dead.”

Pierce began his male actress career after another drag performer rejected Pierce’s suggestions about how to better impersonate Bette Davis and Talulah Bankhead. Pierce then decided he could do a better job. In some of the clubs in the early fifties, Pierce performed while wearing a tuxedo because of laws banning cross-dressing, but by the time he moved to San Francisco and was a regular performer at the Gilded Cage, he was performing in ever more elaborate costumes. Eventually, he caught the attention of Hollywood producers and got guest roles in movies and television, including a guest stint on Designing Women, where he impersonated Joan Collins and Bette Davis. He died in 1999, following a long battle with cancer.

Here he is impersonating Joan Crawford.

Nobody does bitter sarcasm like Jane Lynch. Since 2009, she has played the role of Sue Sylvester on Glee, where her Emmy-, People’s Choice- and Golden Globe-winning performance is the only rational reason why anyone would want to watch Glee (in my opinion at least). She also appeared in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and had a recurring role in The L Word. In 2010, Lynch married clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Embry in Sunderland Massachusetts — you can see their video for Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project here — but the couple divorced in January 2014. Lynch is currently hosting the NBC game show, Hollywood Game Night, for which she won an Emmy in 2014 and 2015.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 13

From The Washington Blade, July 12, 2016, page A-8.

From The Washington Blade, July 12, 2016, page A-8.

MVA80015_grandeThe first American television program featuring a gay lead character finally debuted on Showtime. The show, set in Philadelphia, centered around the three Waters brothers: Lou was a typical blue-collar construction foreman, Joe was a retired placekicker for the Philadelphia Eagles and owner of a sports bar, and Cliff, who in the first episode left his bride at the altar and came out to his family as a gay man. ABC and NBC had already turned down the series out of fear of portraying homosexuality on prime time, but when Showtime decided to begin producing original television programs, they saw Brothers as a perfect fit. After a successful first season, Showtime decided to pick up the series for a second season. Showtime also offered the series for syndication to over-the-air broadcast stations, and the fledgling Fox network jumped on that deal. Brothers would go on for a full five seasons and 115 episodes.

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