Friday, December 31, 2010

E M Forster

E M Forster born 1 January 1879 (d. 1970)

Edward Morgan Forster was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He is most famous for his novels, most of which have been filmed. Forster is also known for a creed of life which can be summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End, 'only connect'.

Born in London, the son of an architect. As a boy he inherited £8,000 from his paternal aunt, which was enough to live on and enabled him to become a writer. He attended Tonbridge School in Kent as a day boy.

At King's College, Cambridge between 1897 and 1901, he became a member of the Apostles, a discussion society. Many of its members went on to constitute what came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group, of which Forster was a peripheral member in the 1910s and 1920s. There is a famous account of Forster's Cambridge and that of his fellow Apostles at the beginning of The Longest Journey.

After leaving university he travelled on the continent with his mother and continued to live with her until her death in 1945. His early novels, set in England and Italy, were praised by reviewers but did not sell in large quantities. Howards End (1910) made him famous.

He travelled in Egypt, Germany and India with the classicist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson in 1914. Doing war work for the Red Cross in Egypt, in the winter of 1916-17, he met in Alexandria a tram conductor, Mohammed el-Adl, a youth of seventeen with whom he fell in love and who was to become one of the principal inspirations for his literary work. Mohammed died of tuberculosis in Alexandria in spring of 1922. After this loss, Forster was driven to keep the memory of the youth alive, and attempted to do so in the form of a book-length letter, preserved at King's College, Cambridge. The letter begins with the quote from A.E. Housman: 'Good-night, my lad, for nought's eternal; No league of ours, for sure' and concludes with an acknowledgement that the task of resurrecting their love is impossible.

He spent a second spell in India in the early 1920s as the private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas. The Hill of Devi is his non-fictional account of this trip. After returning from India he completed A Passage to India (1924) which became his most famous, most widely-translated, and last novel.

Forster wrote little more fiction apart from short stories intended only for himself and a small circle of friends. People have speculated about his decision to stop writing novels at the age of 45.

In the 1930s and 1940s Forster became a successful broadcaster on BBC radio. He also became a public figure associated with the British Humanist Association.

Forster had a happy personal relationship beginning in the early 1930s with Bob Buckingham, a constable in the London Metropolitan Police. He developed a friendship with Buckingham's wife May and included the couple in his circle, which also included the writer and editor of The Listener J R Ackerley, the psychologist W J H Sprott and, for a time, the composer Benjamin Britten. Other writers Forster associated with included the poet Siegfried Sassoon and the Belfast-based novelist Forrest Reid.

After the death of his mother, Forster accepted an honorary fellowship at King's College, Cambridge and lived for the most part in the college doing relatively little. In 1969 he was made a member of the Order of Merit. Forster died in Coventry the following year at the age of 91 at the home of the Buckinghams.

Forster had five novels published in his lifetime and one more, Maurice, appeared shortly after his death although it was written nearly sixty years earlier. A seventh, Arctic Summer, he never finished.

His first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), is the story of Lilia, a young English widow who falls in love with an Italian, and of the efforts of her bourgeois relatives to get her back from Monteriano (based on San Gimignano). Where Angels Fear to Tread was adapted into a film in 1991.

Next, Forster published The Longest Journey (1907). Forster's third novel, A Room with a View (1908) is his lightest and most optimistic. It was started before any of his others, as early as 1901, and exists in earlier forms referred to as 'Lucy'. The book is the story of young Lucy Honeychurch's trip to Italy with her cousin, and the choice she must make between the free-thinking George Emerson, and the repressed aesthete Cecil Vyse. George's father Mr Emerson quotes thinkers who were influential on Forster including Samuel Butler. A Room with a View was memorably filmed by Merchant Ivory in 1987.

Where Angels Fear to Tread and A Room with a View can be seen collectively as Forster's Italian novels. Both include references to the famous Baedeker guidebooks and concern narrow-minded middle-class English tourists abroad. Many of their themes are shared with some of the short stories collected in The Celestial Omnibus and The Eternal Moment.

Howards End (1910) is an ambitious condition of England novel concerned with different groups within the Edwardian middle classes represented by the Schlegels (bohemian intellectuals), the Wilcoxes (thoughtless plutocrats) and the Basts (struggling lower-middle-class aspirants). Howards End was also turned into a multi-award (Oscars, Baftas, Golden Globes) winning film by Merchant Ivory in 1992

Forster achieved his greatest success with A Passage to India (1924). The novel is about the relationship between East and West, seen through the lens of India in the later days of the British Raj. In it, Forster connected personal relationships with the politics of colonialism through the story of the English Adela Quested and the Indian Dr Aziz and the question of what did or did not happen between them in the Marabar Caves. A Passage to India was turned into another multi-award-winning film by David Lean in 1994

Maurice (1971) was published after the novelist's death. It is a homosexual love story which also returns to areas familiar from Forster's first three novels such as the suburbs of London in the English home counties, the experience of being at Cambridge, and the wild landscape of Wiltshire. This novel, coupled with Forster's famous What I Believe essay, also published posthumously, created controversy as Forster's sexuality was not previously known or widely acknowledged. Today's critics continue to argue over whether Forster's sexuality and even alleged personal activities were relevant or influenced his writings.

Forster's views as a secular humanist are at the heart of his work, which often features characters attempting to understand each other, in the words of Forster's famous epigraph, across social barriers. His humanist views are expressed in the non-fictional essay What I Believe.

Forster's two most noted works, A Passage to India and Howards End, explore the irreconcilability of class differences. Although considered by some to have less serious literary weight, A Room with a View is also notable as his most widely read and accessible work, remaining popular for the just more than a century since its original publication. His 1914 novel Maurice, published posthumously in 1971, explores the possibility of reconciling class differences as part of a homosexual relationship - as Forster did himself with Bob Buckingham.

Sexuality is another key theme in Forster's works and it has been argued that Forster's writing can be characterised as moving from heterosexual love to homosexual love. The foreword to Maurice expresses his struggle with his own homosexuality, while similar themes were explored in several volumes of homosexual-themed short stories. Forster's explicitly homosexual writings, the novel Maurice and the short-story collection The Life to Come, were published shortly after his death.

Joey Stefano

Joey Stefano born 1 January 1968 (d.1994)

Joey Stefano was an American pornographic actor who appeared in gay adult films. He was popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His real name was Nicholas Anthony Iacona, Jr.

Joey Stefano grew up in the Philadelphia area (Chester, Pennsylvania). His father died when he was 15. After several years of prostitution and drug use in New York City, Stefano moved to Los Angeles and enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom in gay pornography. A notable reason for his popularity, besides his smouldering good looks, was his early mastery of the 'hungry bottom' (sexually submissive but verbally demanding) persona. He was HIV positive.

His image and success caught the attention of Madonna, who used him as a model in her 1992 book Sex.

During his lifetime, he was the subject of rumours (some of them spread by himself) regarding his relationships with prominent entertainment industry figures who were known to be gay. At a May 1990 dinner and interview with Jess Cagle (Entertainment Weekly) and Rick X (Manhattan Cable TV's The Closet Case Show), Stefano discussed an alleged series of 'dates' with David Geffen, who at one point implored Stefano to quit using drugs. After the videotaped interview appeared on Rick X's show, OutWeek Magazine 'outed' Geffen, who went on to proudly announce his homosexuality at an AIDS fundraiser.

According to a subsequent biography, Stefano died of an overdose of cocaine, morphine, heroin and ketamine at age 26 in the shower of a motel on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. His body was taken back to Pennsylvania where he was buried next to his father.

Joe Orton

Joe Orton born 1 January 1933 (d. 1967)

Joe Orton was a satirical modern playwright.

In a short but prolific career from 1964 until his death, he shocked, outraged and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies. Ortonesque became a recognised term for 'outrageously macabre'.

John Kingley Orton was born in Leicester to a working class family. He failed the eleven-plus exam after extended bouts of asthma, and attended the private Clark's College from 1945 to 1947 before starting menial work as a junior clerk on £3 a week.

Orton became interested in performing in the theatre around 1949 and joined a number of different dramatic societies, including the prestigious Leicester Dramatic Society. While working on amateur productions he was also determined to improve his appearance and physique, buying body-building courses, taking elocution lessons, and also trying to redress his lack of education and culture. He lost his job and, still 'stage-struck', applied for a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in November 1950. He was accepted, and left the East Midlands for London with little regret. His entrance into RADA was delayed by appendicitis and he only joined in May 1951.

Orton met Kenneth Halliwell [left] at RADA in 1951, moving into a West Hampstead flat with him, and two other students, in June of that year. Halliwell was seven years older than Orton and of independent means, having a substantial inheritance. They quickly formed a strong relationship and became lovers, despite Orton's claims of sexual incompatibility. Neither did well in their two years at the academy although Orton gained a better qualification than Halliwell.

After graduating, both went into a regional repertory work; Orton spent four months in Ipswich as an assistant stage manager, Halliwell in Llandudno, Wales. Both returned to London and 'their dreams shifted from the stage to the page'. They collaborated on a number of unpublished novels (often imitating Ronald Firbank), and had little success, but some encouragement. The rejection of their great hope, The Last Days of Sodom, in 1957 led them to solo works.

They refused to work for long periods, confident of their 'specialness'; they subsisted on Halliwell's money, (as well as the dole), and were forced to follow a quite ascetic life in order to restrict their outgoings to £5 a week. From 1957-59, they worked in six-month stretches at Cadbury's to raise money for a new flat; they moved into the small and austere flat on Noel Road in Islington in 1959.

A lack of serious work led them to amuse themselves with pranks and hoaxes. Orton created Edna Welthorpe, an elderly 'outraged of-' whom he would later revive to stir controversy over his plays.

In another episode, Orton and Halliwell stole books from the local library, and would subtly modify the cover art or the blurbs before returning them to the library. A volume of poems by John Betjeman, for example, was returned to the library with a new dustjacket featuring a photograph of a nearly naked, heavily tattooed middle-aged man. The couple took many of the prints to decorate their flat. They were eventually discovered, and prosecuted for this in May, 1962.

The incident was reported in the national newspaper the Daily Mirror as 'Gorilla in the Roses'. They were charged with five counts of theft and malicious damage, admitted damaging more than seventy books, and were jailed for six months (released September 1962) and fined £262. The books that Orton and Halliwell vandalised have since become the most valued of the Islington Library service collection.

In the early 1960s Orton began to write plays. He wrote his last novel in 1961 (Head to Toe), and soon afterward had his writing accepted. In 1963 the BBC paid £65 for the radio play The Boy Hairdresser, broadcast on 31 August 1964, as The Ruffian on the Stair. It was substantially rewritten for the stage in 1966.

Orton revelled in his achievement and poured out new works. He had completed Entertaining Mr Sloane by the time The Ruffian on the Stair was broadcast. He sent a copy to the theatre agent Peggy Ramsay in December 1963. She was quick to appreciate its qualities and sent it to Michael Codron of the New Arts Theatre, who took up the play for an April/May run in January 1964. It premiered on 6 May 1964, reviews ranging from praise to outrage. Certain influential theatre figures such as Terence Rattigan ensured that Orton's work was performed, however, and there was a clear expectation of good things to come.

Entertaining Mr Sloane lost money in its three week run, but Rattigan invested £3,000 and the play transferred to Wyndham's Theatre in the West End at the end of June and to the Queen's Theatre in October. Sloane tied for first in the Variety Critics' Poll for Best New Play and Orton came second for Most Promising Playwright. Within a year, Sloane was being performed in New York (it did very poorly)and elsewhere, as well as being made into a film, and a television play.

The chronology of Orton's works thereafter becomes confusing, as his next major success, Loot, was written later, but performed earlier, than the two television plays, The Good and Faithful Servant and The Erpingham Camp. Hence material that seems less Ortonesque, a backwards step in development and skill, is misleadingly positioned.

Orton's next performed work was Loot. The first draft was written between June and October 1964 and entitled Funeral Games, a title Orton would drop for Halliwell's suggestion but would later reuse. The play is a wild parody of detective fiction, adding the blackest farce and jabs at established ideas on death, the police, religion and justice. Orton offered the play to Codron in October 1964 and it underwent sweeping rewrites before it was judged fit for the West End.

Codron had manoeuvred Orton into meeting his colleague Kenneth Williams in August 1964. They were 'immediately sympatico' and Orton reworked Loot with Williams in mind for Inspector Truscott.

With the success of Sloane evident, Loot was hurried into pre-production, despite its obvious flaws. Rehearsals began in January 1965 with a six-week tour culminating in a West End debut planned. The play opened in Cambridge on 1 February to disastrous and scathing reviews, not for the content but for the plot, the acting, the bright white set, the entire quality of the piece.

Orton, at odds with director Peter Wood over the plot (or lack of same), still tore at the play, producing 133 pages of new material to replace, or add, to the original ninety. The cast were demoralised in rehearsal and uneven and tentative on stage. They were, however, impressed by Orton's energy and efforts. The play staggered on to more poor reviews in Brighton, Oxford, Bournemouth, Manchester, and finally Wimbledon in mid-March. 'Loot was a dead horse, but it continued to be flogged.' Orton retired from the fray for a promiscuous, hashish-filled, eighty-day holiday in Tangier, Morocco.

In January 1966 Loot was revived in Manchester. Orton's growing experience led him to cut over six hundred lines, raising the tempo and improving the characters' interactions.

Directed by Braham Murray, with a more sympathetic and less abstract set, the tuned play garnered more favourable reviews. Lewenstein was still a little cool, however, and put the London production in a 'sort of Off-West End theatre'.

Orton continued his habit of clashing with his director, but the additional cuts agreed to further improved the play. The London premiere was 27 September 1966, the reviews producing 'stunned delight' in Orton. Loot moved to the Criterion Theatre, Holborn in November, raising Orton's confidence to new heights, 'a weird, thrilling, slightly unnerving state of grace', while he was in the middle of writing What the Butler Saw.

Loot went on to win several awards — which had a pleasing effect on the box office — and firmly established Orton's fame. He sold the film rights for £25,000, although he was certain it would flop; it did, and Loot on Broadway repeated the failure of Sloane. Orton was still on an absolute high, however, and over the next ten months revised The Ruffian on the Stair and The Erpingham Camp for the stage as a double called Crimes of Passion, wrote Funeral Games, the screenplay Up Against It for the Beatles, and worked on What the Butler Saw.

The Good and Faithful Servant was a work of transition for Orton. A one-act television play, it was completed by June 1964 but first broadcast in 1967. With its low-key bitterness and regret, and its genuine poignance, it is tame and naturalistic compared to the joyful, macabre heights of his later modern farces, including those which premiered earlier.

Funeral Games is the real linking work between Loot and What the Butler Saw. It was written and re-written (four times) in July - November, 1966. Created for a Yorkshire Television series, The Seven Deadly Virtues, Orton's play dealt with charity — especially Christian charity — in a mad confusion of adultery and murder.

In March 1967 Orton and Halliwell had intended another extended holiday in North Africa – Libya on this occasion, but the relationship between them had deteriorated so far that they returned home after barely a day. Orton was working hard, energised and happy; Halliwell was increasingly depressed, argumentative, and plagued with mystery ailments.

Orton's controversial farce What The Butler Saw debuted in the West End after his death in 1969. It opened at the Queen's Theatre with Sir Ralph Richardson, Coral Browne, Stanley Baxter, and Hayward Morse. It was booed so loudly by gallery first nighters that the critics could not hear the lines.

During the night of August 9, 1967, Halliwell bludgeoned the 34-year-old Orton to death with nine hammer blows to the head, and then committed suicide with an overdose of Nembutal tablets.

The Sunday Times magazine issue November 22, 1970 reported that on Saturday, August 5, four days before the murder, Joe went to the Chelsea Potter pub in the King's Road. He met friend Peter Nolan who later gave evidence at the inquest that Orton told him that he had another boyfriend, that he wanted finally to get rid of Halliwell but didn't know how to go about it.

The last person to speak to Halliwell was his doctor. He had arranged for a psychiatrist to see him the following morning. He spoke to Halliwell three times on the telephone. The last call was at 10 o'clock. Halliwell took the pyschiatrist's address and said, 'Don't worry, I'm feeling better now. I'll go and see the doctor tomorrow morning.'

Halliwell had felt increasingly threatened and isolated by Orton's success, and had come to rely on anti-depressants and barbiturates. The bodies were discovered the following morning when a chauffeur arrived to take Orton to a meeting to discuss a screenplay he had written for The Beatles.

Halliwell left a suicide note, informing police that all would be explained if they read Orton's diaries, 'especially the latter part'. The diaries have since been published, but do not offer the promised insight, unless Halliwell was referring to Orton's tireless promiscuity.

A biography, entitled Prick Up Your Ears, a title Orton himself had considered using was published in the 1970s by John Lahr (son of cowardly lion Bert Lahr).

The 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears is based on Orton's diaries and Lahr's research. Directed by Stephen Frears, it starred Gary Oldman, Alfred Molina, and Vanessa Redgrave. Alan Bennett wrote the screenplay.

Joe Orton Official Website

Maurice Béjart

Maurice Béjart born 1 January 1927 (d. 2007)

Maurice Béjart was one of the most influential choreographers of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries who attracted huge audiences to ballet.

Maurice Béjart was born in Marseilles, the eldest of three children of the distinguished philosopher Gaston Berger and his wife, Germaine.

Because of his slight physique as a child a doctor recommended that the 11-year-old boy should take some form of exercise or sport. With two great interests in life, reading and the theatre, young Maurice thought dancing might be a good idea. And so it proved.

As soon as he could, he moved to Paris to study with such celebrated teachers as Leo Staats, Lubov Egorova, Nora Kiss and Madame Rousanne. Later, on the recommendation of Margot Fonteyn, he moved to London to study with Vera Volkova.

Having adopted the stage name Maurice Béjart – a homage to Molière's wife the actress Armande Béjart – he toured with several small companies. In 1949 he joined Mona Inglesby's International Ballet and danced a number of important roles, including the virtuoso Bluebird pas de deux in that company's Sleeping Beauty. The following year he joined the company of the Swedish choreographer Birgit Cullberg, where he had his first experience of modern dance. He also worked with the Royal Swedish Ballet for a time, which led to his first film choreography and his first Stravinsky ballet, The Firebird (1952).

Although he had been choreographing since an early age it was not until 1953, after a break caused by ill-health and obligatory military service, that Béjart formed his own small company in association with the actor and writer Jean Laurent, based at the Théâtre de l'Etoile in Paris. The most important work of this period was Symphonie pour un homme seul, danced to the musique concrète of Pierre Henry. Béjart's musical tastes were eclectic, and he could just as happily make dances to scores by Albinoni or Gerry Mulligan, or mix electronic sound with Tchaikovsky, as he did later in Nijinsky, Clown of God (1971).

His breakthrough came in 1959 when he created his version of Rite of Spring for a season of dance at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. The cast was made up of dancers from his own small company, Western Theatre Ballet and Les Ballets Janine Charrat, plus the troupe from the Monnaie. The mix of theatricality and eroticism proved an instant hit and Béjart was invited to become resident choreographer at the Monnaie with a greatly enlarged company which he renamed Ballet of the Twentieth Century.

It was here that forged his reputation, making small works like Webern Opus Five and his homage to Marius Petipa, Ni fleurs ni couronnes (a deconstructed version of the Rose Adagio) as well as monumental works for the vast Forest National arena in Brussels. The company toured widely in Europe.

Béjart attracted some exceptional dancers, notable among them Paolo Bortoluzzi, Shonach Mirk, Maina Gielgud and the Argentinian Jorge Donn who for more than two decades was a central focus of Béjart's life, both professionally and personally. Dancers loved working with him. Many remained with him throughout their careers, despite the modest salaries paid even to principal dancers.

Other famous dancers were happy to work with Béjart for short periods or in specially created works. For Rudolf Nureyev he made a duet, Songs of a Wayfarer, to the Mahler song cycle, which Nureyev danced for many years. Balanchine's muse, Suzanne Farrell, was a member of the company for a period and when she left to rejoin New York City Ballet, Balanchine is said to have remarked that 'she left him as a girl and came back a woman'. Certainly her remarkable technique had not declined during her years in Brussels, since Béjart insisted on a very high standard of teaching for his dancers.

Despite the adulation surrounding him, Béjart remained entirely level-headed, living quite simply. He had a keen and often earthy sense of humour. He made no secret of his homosexuality, and he generally lived alone, even when in long-term relationships. Nor was he backward in expressing his admiration for other choreographers.

In 1987, following a dispute with Gérard Mortier, the new director of the Monnaie, Béjart moved his base from Brussels to Lausanne in Switzerland. In Lausanne he had good working conditions, complete artistic freedom and the possibility of re-establishing the dance and theatre school he had set up in Brussels. (A similar school, Mudra Afrique, operated in Dakar between 1977 and 1985).

He continued working, creating and touring widely. In all, Béjart made more than 200 ballets, besides directing operas, plays and films. Most of his work was for his own company, but he made several ballets for the Paris Opéra (he was offered the directorship there on more than one occasion but always declined). For the Deutsche Oper Berlin, he made an ambitious full-evening work, Ring around "The Ring", which encapsulated all four of the Wagner operas.

Béjart wrote prolifically, including several volumes of autobiography and a novel, Mathilde (1963), plus copious programme notes for his ballets.

Béjart received numerous awards and prizes during his life.

At his best, Béjart produced some of the most exciting dance theatre of our time. Among his astonishingly large output of about 220 creations, the three most likely to survive in the repertoire are his devastatingly simple but gripping Bolero and his highly original treatments of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and The Firebird. In both of these latter, characteristically, he gave more importance than usual to male dancing. His Firebird was the leader of a partisan troop, shot and killed in battle but returning in spirit to inspire continued resistance. For Rite, he abandoned the original idea of a single female sacrificial victim in favour of showing a man and a woman chosen to save their tribe through ritual copulation and death.

Advancing years, and sorrow at the death of some close friends, did not interrupt his activity and originality. He continued making new ballets right up to his death in late-November 2007, in spite of illness (exhaustion plus heart and kidney problems) that required his frequent admission to hospital. His final ballet, Around the World in 80 Minutes, was premiered in Lausanne in December 2007.

Obituary in The Times
Obituary in The Independent

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ron Athey

Ron Athey born 16 December 1961

Ron Athey is an American artist associated with body art and with extreme performance art. He has performed in the US and internationally (especially in the UK and Europe).

As an artist, Athey uses his body to explore controversial subject matters such as the relationship between desire, sexuality, and self-mutilation. Much of his work uses the dynamics of S&M in order to confront pre-conceived ideas about the body in relation to masculinity and religious iconography. Athey's emphasis on sexuality and the queer body made him a target for the Far Right in the 1990s.

Even though Athey had received only $150 of financial support for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts via his 1994 performance at the Walker Art Center, during the 1990s his name was raised in public debates about state sponsorship of art about sexuality and AIDS. In many ways, these events continue to shape public perception of his work, even though he has not since been the recipient of public funding in the United States.

Athey's work is informed by his pentecostal upbringing and frequently explores religious subjects.

Athey engages with the ideas of queer philosophers and artists like Georges Bataille, Pierre Molinier and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Athey's performance Solar Anus refers directly to one of Bataille's essays, and in 2002 Athey curated an endurance/performance festival inspired by Pasolini's films. The Solar Anus performance is included as part of Athey's starring role in the Danish feature film HotMen CoolBoyz (2000), directed by Knud Vesterskov and produced by Lars von Trier's company Zentropa. The film was nominated for five GayVN Awards, including a Best Solo Performance nomination for Ron Athey.

He has also, with Vaginal Davis, curated performance art festivals in the US and in Europe.

Athey has been a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers including Honcho and the L.A. Weekly, and occasionally teaches performance studies.

After spending 47 years in California, Athey is now based and living in London, teaching, mentoring and creating new performance works.

In 2010 Athey created a performance piece with a larger cast called Gifts of the Spirit: Automatic Writing Study and A Score) focused upon notions of channelling through automatic writing, at the Queen Mary, University of London. In June 2011, he created a new version of this piece performed at the University of Manchester, featuring 16 automatic writers with a team of editors and typists, a musician and an ecstatic choir. I was one of those automatic writers.

Friday, September 24, 2010

C K Scott Moncrieff

C K Scott Moncrieff born 25 September 1889 (d. 1930)

Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff MC was a Scottish writer, most famous for his English translation of most of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, which he published under the Shakespearean title Remembrance of Things Past. Scott Moncrieff's Proust translation (volumes one through six of the seven) has earned him a place as one of the greatest translators of all time.

He attended Winchester College and while still a schoolboy, became associated with the Wildean circles of Robert Ross and Christopher Millard, with whom he began a sexual relationship which was to last into his twenties.

In 1907, he published a short story, 'Evensong and Morwe Song', in the pageant issue of New Field, the literary magazine that he edited, while at Winchester College. The story deals explicitly with sex between boys at public schools. The magazine was hastily suppressed, although not before copies of the offending edition had been mailed to parents. The story was republished in 1923 in an edition of fifty copies for private circulation only. It was never published again in the author's lifetime. Although it is commonly claimed that Scott Moncrieff was expelled for this act of rebellion, this fact is disputable: Scott Moncrieff's letters, published posthumously, mention his returning there before the war as an 'old boy', which would have been unlikely had he left in disgrace.

After Winchester, Scott Moncrieff attended Edinburgh University, where he undertook a degree in English Literature, a novel and somewhat flamboyant choice for the son of an eminent magistrate. Thereafter, he began an MA in Anglo-Saxon under the supervision of the respected man of letters, George Saintsbury. He graduated in 1914 with first class honours, winning a prestigious prize for his translation of Beowulf.

During his time at Edinburgh, Scott Moncrieff made the acquaintance of Philip Bainbrigge, a schoolmaster at Shrewsbury and the author of miscellaneous homoerotic odes to Uranian Love. He was also a close friend of Vyvyan Holland, younger son of Oscar Wilde.

He fought in the World War I, serving on the Western Front from 1914 until 1917, when he was seriously wounded in the right leg after being thrown into the air by a shell explosion from behind. He walked with a limp for the rest of his days.

While convalescing in London in 1918, Scott Moncrieff worked in the War Office in Whitehall. He supplemented his income by writing reviews for the New Witness, a literary magazine edited by the great man of letters G K Chesterton. During this time he befriended the young poet Robert Graves. He also succeeded, inadvertently, in earning the life-long enmity of Siegfried Sassoon whose The Old Huntsman he had given a mixed review.

It was at the wedding of Robert Graves in January 1918 that Scott Moncrieff met another poet, Wilfred Owen, with whom he maintained a difficult relationship for several months. Biographers of Owen disagree over whether or not this relationship was sexual. Coded sonnets by Scott Moncrieff, addressed to a 'Mr. W. O.,' suggest that his love for Owen was unrequited. However, rumours of an affair were enough for Graves to cut off correspondence with both men.

On the day of Graves' wedding Scott Moncrieff testified as a character witness at the trial of his erstwhile lover, Millard, at great personal risk to himself.

The last months of the war dealt a cruel blow. His closest friend, Bainbrigge, was killed in September 1918, and another ex-lover, the poet Ian Mackenzie, died of pneumonia the following month. Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918, Scott Moncrieff arriving at the Front too late to be reunited with his beloved.

After Owen's death, Scott Moncrieff's failure to secure a 'safe' posting for Owen was viewed with suspicion by his friends, including Osbert Sitwell and Sassoon. Sitwell reportedly told one biographer that Scott Moncrieff had 'as good as murdered' Owen. Scott Moncrieff was subsequently cut out from the attempt by Edith Sitwell and Sassoon to publish Owen's poetry, despite being in possession of some original drafts. During the 1920s, Scott Moncrieff maintained a rancorous rivalry with Sitwell, who depicted him unflattering as 'Mr. X' in All At Sea.

In 1919, Scott Moncrieff published a translation of The Song of Roland, dedicating it to his three fallen friends. The poem addressed to Owen, the last in his series of sonnets, expresses a hope that their 'two ghosts' will 'together lie' in the next life.

During this time, he also developed an interest in spiritualism after an experience at Hambleton, the country home of Lady Astley Cooper, to whom he dedicated the first volume of his translation of Proust.

After the war, Scott Moncrieff worked as private secretary to the press Baron, Alfred Harmsworth or Lord Northcliffe, owner of The Times, until Northcliffe's death in 1922. Soon after, his health compelled him to move to Tuscany, Italy, where he divided his time between Florence and Pisa, and later, Rome.

He subsequently supported himself with literary work, notably translations from medieval and modern French.

Scott Moncrieff died of cancer at Calvary Hospital in Rome in 1930 and was buried in that city. He has no grave since his remains were interred in a communal ossuary.

Although his translations of Proust's masterpiece have been revised and updated in subsequent years there is debate in literary circles as to whether these have actually improved on Scott Moncrieff's originals.

Robert Wright

Robert Wright born 25 September 1914 (d. 2005)

Robert C. Wright, born Daytona Beach, Florida, was an American writer of musical theatre.

Throughout his career he worked exclusively with his partner, the writer George Forrest, all their musicals being joint works. Most of their famous works were classical music adapted for the musical stage. They are best known for the musical Kismet (1953) based on the music of Alexander Borodin and Song of Norway (1944) based on the work of Grieg.

Prior to their career in musical theatre, the pair were contract songwriters at MGM and were Oscar-nominated three times for their songs, when their contract ended in 1942, they turned to the stage.

Forrest's death in 1999 brought to an end a loving and creative partnership of over seven decades. Wright and Forrest's professional career included work in film, television, radio, the cabaret circuit, and most notably the stage, rightfully acknowledged when they were given the 1995 ASCAP/Richard Rodgers Award for their contributions to American musical theatre.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole born 24 September 1717 (d. 1797)

Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, more commonly known as Horace Walpole, was a politician, writer, architectural innovator and namesake of his cousin Horatio Nelson.

He was born in London, the youngest son of British Prime Minister Robert Walpole. He was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge. His homosexuality revealed itself early, and he is believed to have had affairs with the poet Thomas Gray, and with Henry Fiennes Clinton, 9th Earl of Lincoln (later 2nd Duke of Newcastle). Gray accompanied Walpole on the Grand Tour, but they quarrelled, and Walpole returned to England in 1741 and entered parliament. He was never politically ambitious, but remained an MP even after the death of his father in 1745 left him a man of independent means.

Following his father's politics, he was a devotee of King George II and Queen Caroline, siding with them against their son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, about whom Walpole wrote spitefully in his memoirs.

Walpole's home, Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, was a fanciful concoction of neo-Gothic which began a new architectural trend. In 1764, he published his Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, setting a literary trend to go with the architecture. Strawberry Hill is undergoing a major restoration project.

From 1762 on, he published his Anecdotes of Painting in England. His memoirs of the Georgian social and political scene, though heavily biased, are a useful primary source for historians. In one of the numerous letters, from January 28, 1754, he coined the word serendipity which he said was derived from a 'silly fairy tale' he had read, The Three Princes of Serendip. He also authored the often-quoted epigram, 'Life is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel'.

His father was created Earl of Orford in 1742. Horace's elder brother, Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford (c.1701–1751), passed the title on to his son George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford (1730–1791). When George died 'unmarried', Horace Walpole became the 4th Earl of Orford. When Horace Walpole died in 1797 the title became extinct.

[Painting Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford (1717-1797), ca 1759 by Allan Ramsay (1713-1784)]

Pedro Almodóvar

Pedro Almodóvar born 24 September 1951

Pedro Almodóvar Caballero is a Spanish film director, screenwriter and producer. He is the most successful and internationally known Spanish film maker of his generation, having won numerous Academy Awards, BAFTAS, Golden Globes and many more both as writer and director.

His films, marked by complex narratives, employ the codes of melodrama and use elements of pop culture, popular songs, irreverent humour, strong colours and glossy décor. Almodóvar never judges his characters actions, whatever they do, but he presents them as they are in all their complexity. Desire, passion, family and identity are the director's favourite themes. Almodóvar’s films enjoy a worldwide following and he has become a major figure on the stage of world cinema. The success of his movies has brought awareness to the cause of equal rights.

Against his parents' wishes, Pedro Almodóvar moved to Madrid in 1967. After completing the compulsory military service, the young man from rural Spain found in Madrid of the late 60s the city, the culture and the freedom. His goal was to be a film director, but he lacked the economic means to do it and besides, Franco had just closed the National School of Cinema so he would be completely self-taught. To support himself, Almodóvar worked a number of odd jobs, including a stint selling used items in the famous Madrid flea market El Rastro. He eventually found full-time employment with Spain's national phone company, where he worked for twelve years as an administrative assistant. Since he worked only until three in the afternoon, he had the rest of the day to pursue his own interests.

In the early seventies, Almodóvar grew interested in experimental cinema and theatre. He collaborated with the vanguard theatrical group, Los Goliardos, where he played his first professional roles and met Carmen Maura. He was also writing comics and contributing articles and stories to a number of counter-culture magazines.

Madrid’s flourishing alternative cultural scene became the perfect scenario for Almodóvar social talents. He was a crucial figure in La Movida Madrileña (Madriliene Movement), a cultural renaissance that followed the fall of the Franco regime.

Around 1974, Almodóvar began making his first short films on a Super-8 camera. By the end of the 1970s they were shown in Madrid's night circuit. These shorts had overtly sexual narratives and no soundtrack.

After four years of working with shorts in Super-8 format, in 1978 Almodóvar made his first Super-8, full-length film. In addition, he made his first 16 mm short, Salome. This was his first contact with the professional world of cinema. The film's stars, Carmen Maura and Felix Rotaeta, encouraged him to make his first feature film in 16 mm and helped him raise the money to finance what would be Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón.

Since then he has made 16 cinematic films including Matador (1986), his first major international success Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), All About My Mother (1999), Talk To Her (2002), Bad Education (2004) and Volver (2006).

He can also be credited with bringing two Spanish stars to an international audience - Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz.

A theatrical version of All About My Mother was staged in the West End in 2007.

His next film, Broken Hugs, will star his most recent muse, Penelope Cruz.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Richard Fairbrass

Richard Fairbrass born 22 September 1953

Richard Fairbrass is an English singer and television presenter, born in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey and raised in East Grinstead, West Sussex. He is the singer with the band Right Said Fred alongside his brother Fred Fairbrass, who became very popular for a short time in the UK in 1991 with their number 2 hit I'm Too Sexy, which they followed with the number 3 Don't Talk Just Kiss and in 1992 Deeply Dippy, which was a number 1. Since then they have only occasionally troubled the lower reaches of the charts although they have had success in Europe and elsewhere.

I'm Too Sexy has entered popular culture and is often spoofed or parodied in shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy.

He is very open about his sexual orientation (bisexual) and once co-hosted (with Rhona Cameron) a TV series aimed at a lesbian and gay audience called Gaytime TV on BBC2.

In 1994 he was joint winner of Rear of the Year with Mandy Smith.

In 2001 he co-presented the television game show The Desert Forges for channel Five.

Right Said Fred returned with a new album in 2007 following a successful appearance in a Daz 'soap opera' commercial.

Ironically [or not] brother Fred was always sexier...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pavel Tchelitchew

Pavel Tchelitchew born 21 September 1898 (d. 1957)

Pavel Tchelitchew was a Russian-born surrealist painter.

Tchelitchew was born near Moscow on the estate of his aristocratic family. He was educated by a series of French, German, and English governesses, who encouraged his interest in the arts.

His father, a follower of Tolstoyian principles, supported his desire to become a painter. In spite of his father's liberal views, however, the family was expelled from its property in 1918 following the revolution of 1917.

Tchelitchew joined the White army, and the family fled to Kiev, which was not yet under Communist control. While in Kiev he continued his studies and produced his first theatre designs.

By 1920 he was in Odessa, escaping the advancing Red armies. He went on to Berlin via Istanbul. There he met Allen Tanner, an American pianist, and became his lover. In 1923 they moved to Paris and Tchelitchew began painting portraits of the avant-garde and homosexual elite. His work was much admired and bought by Gertrude Stein.

In addition to becoming an accomplished painter, he also became one of the most innovative stage designers of the period and designed ballets for Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes in Paris.

His first US show was of his drawings, along with other artists, at the newly-opened Museum of Modern Art in 1930.

In 1934, he moved from Paris to New York City with his then partner, writer Charles Henri Ford. He and Ford were at the centre of a social world of wealthy, artistic homosexuals, such as Lincoln Kirstein, for whom he also designed ballets. He also designed for Balanchine's fledgling American Ballet.

From 1940 to 1947, he provided illustrations for the Surrealist magazine View, edited by Ford and writer and film critic Parker Tyler.

Tchelitchew's critical reputation declined in the 1950s and 1960s along with the decline of interest in figurative art.

In 1952 Tchelitchew became a US citizen, but shortly afterwards moved to Frascati, Italy. He suffered a heart attack in 1956 and died on July 31, 1957 in Rome, with Ford by his bedside.

[Centre picture: Charles Henri Ford reads as Tchelitchew paints Peter Watson's portrait]

Luis Cernuda

Luis Cernuda born 21 September 1902 (d. 1963)

Luis Cernuda, born Luis Cernuda Bidón in Seville, was a Spanish poet and literary critic.

The son of a military man, Cernuda received a strict education as a child, and then studied law at the University of Seville, where he met the poet and literature professor Pedro Salinas. In 1928, after his mother died, Cernuda left his home town, with which he had all his life an intense love-hate relationship.

He briefly moved to Madrid, where he quickly became part of the literary scene. His mentor and former professor Salinas arranged for him to take a lectureship for a year at the University of Toulouse. From June 1929 until 1937 Cernuda lived in Madrid and participated actively in the literary and cultural scene of the Spanish capital. Cernuda collaborated with many organisations working to support a more liberal and tolerant Spain. He participated in the Second Congress of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals in Valencia.

The central concerns of this poet are evident in the title of his life's major opus: La realidad y el deseo ('Reality and Desire'). He published his first collection of verse, Perfil del aire ('Profile of the Air'), in 1927. Several books followed, and he collected new and already published poetry under this title in 1936. Subsequent editions would include new poetry as new books inside La realidad y el deseo. Expanded on almost until his death in 1963, in this work the poet explores desire, love, subject, object, history and sexuality in poems which draw influences from romanticism, classicism, and the surrealist avant-garde.

Cernuda is known as a member of the Generation of '27, a group of Spanish poets and artists including Federico García Lorca. He broke new ground with Los Placeres Prohibidos ('Forbidden Pleasures'), an avant-garde work in which the poet used surrealism to explore his sexuality.

Deeply influenced by André Gide, Cernuda embraced his homosexuality at an early age and made homosexual desire and love the core of his poetry. Or, at least, unlike other gay poets at the time, in his poetry he was never ambiguous about the fact that the objects of his desire and love were men. One of the most influential poets in contemporary Spanish poetry, he is definitely a crucial ground-breaking figure for homosexual writing in Spanish.

During the Spanish Civil War, Cernuda fled to England, where he began an exile that later took him to France, Scotland, Massachusetts, California and finally settling in Mexico; he never returned to Spain.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chuck Panozzo

Chuck Panozzo born 20 September 1948

Chuck Panozzo (born Charles Salvatore Panozzo in Chicago) is a bass player. A longtime member of the rock band Styx, he founded the group with his fraternal twin brother, drummer John Panozzo, who died in July 1996. After three decades as a Styx mainstay, Chuck Panozzo left the band shortly thereafter, though he has reappeared with the band occasionally.

Styx is an American arena rock band that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, with such hits as Come Sail Away, Babe, Lady, Mr Roboto, and Renegade. They were the first band to have four consecutive multi-platinum albums. After a hiatus during which several band members were involved in solo and other group projects with varying success Styx reformed in 1995 and have continued to record and tour with some success, although failing to match their 80s heyday.

In 2001, Panozzo announced he was gay and living with HIV, having been diagnosed in 1991. A serious illness in 1998 gave him the determination to get well, return to performing and come out as a gay man with HIV. Since his coming out he has been involved in campaigning for AIDS awareness and gay rights. He has also survived prostate cancer.

Chuck Panozzo's Official Website

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brian Epstein

Brian Epstein born 19 September 1934 (d. 1967)

Perhaps few individuals were less likely to create the public image and oversee the career of the world's most famous rock group than Brian Epstein. Born into a family of affluent Liverpool Jewish furniture merchants, Epstein seemed destined for a career in their business. He was attracted, however, to such 'unmanly' pursuits as fashion design and the stage, which, along with his closeted homosexuality, put him at odds with his family's aspirations.

Epstein left school at sixteen to work at one of his family's stores until he was called up for military service in 1952. After only a year of active duty, he was discharged for unspecific psychiatric reasons - actually he had been arrested for impersonating an officer in a club and referred to a psychiatrist who uncovered Epstein's homosexuality. Epstein subsequently enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, but before completing his studies he returned to his family's business, where he became the manager of the store's record department.

It was in this capacity that, in October 1961, he first heard of the Beatles, a Liverpool band whose fans were seeking their recordings. Epstein was unable to locate these records and, intrigued by the mystery, ventured into the Cavern Club, where he encountered John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and then-drummer Pete Best.

Within two months, although he had no entertainment or managerial background, Epstein had signed the group to a contract. Over the next year, he transformed the group's image from that of leather-clad ruffians to 'Mods' attired in fashionable suits with longish hairstyles, creating, in effect, an androgynous look for his protégés.

Epstein also successfully negotiated the Beatles' first recording contract with EMI Parlophone, replaced Best with Ringo Starr, and became the manager of various other successful Liverpool acts, including Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, and Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas.

By 1964, when the Beatles and his other acts took America by storm, Epstein seemed to personify worldly success. He was, however, living in an almost constant state of anxiety lest his homosexuality - and his attraction to rough and often abusive young men - become public knowledge, as male homosexual acts were still illegal in Britain and any scandal might negatively affect the Beatles' career.

It has often been suggested that Epstein's devotion to the Beatles was based on an unrequited love for John Lennon. Speculation about a possible affair between them has existed since the two holidayed together in Spain in 1963.

In 1966, the Beatles decided to stop performing live and concentrate solely on studio recording. Although this decision resulted in such breakthrough recordings as Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), Epstein felt that he had effectively lost control over the band and suffered from acute depression, exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse.

On August 27, 1967, Epstein was found dead in his London home from a barbiturate overdose. Although his death was ruled accidental, many have presumed it was a suicide. Ironically, he died a month to the day after legislation decriminalising homosexual acts between adult men went into effect in Britain.

For three decades following his death, Epstein was vilified by the popular music world as a controlling figure who tried to suppress the Beatles' creativity - and who was accused, falsely, of having cheated the group out of millions in income. All the while, the fact that the world would not have heard of the Beatles had it not been for Epstein's relentless efforts on the group's behalf was blithely overlooked.

In recent years, however, his reputation has been reconsidered and perhaps he will at last receive the honour due to the creator and manager of the group who permanently changed perceptions of popular culture. Paul McCartney summarised the importance of Epstein to the Beatles when he was interviewed, in 1997, for a BBC documentary about Epstein. He stated: 'If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.'

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jack Robinson

Jack Robinson born 18 September 1928 (d. 1997)

Jack Robinson was an American photographer famous for 1960s celebrity and fashion photography and documenting the New Orleans of the 1950s.

Jack Uther Robinson, Jr. was born in Meridian, Mississippi. He grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, an area famous for racial injustice, the Blues, and social and religious conservatism. His father was a mechanic and auto parts dealer.

Robinson attended Clarksdale High School, from which he graduated in 1945. He then enrolled at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he completed five semesters before dropping out in 1948.

In 1951, he began his professional career in photography, working as a graphic artist for an advertising agency in New Orleans. He took numerous photographs of the city and his friends, many of them artists and photographers. His early work captured the charm of the French Quarter and documented New Orleans night life. It also preserved valuable glimpses into the New Orleans gay subculture of the 1950s.

Among Robinson's most fascinating images are photographs of the Mardi Gras festivities in the years between 1952 and 1955. Some of these document the celebrations in the gay area of Bourbon Street, especially around Dixie's Bar of Music, then one of the most prominent gay bars in the country.

In addition to architectural photographs, society portraits, and Mardi Gras pictures, Robinson also took a number of photographs of young gay couples, romantically posed. These photographs are striking because of their rarity, and touching because of their sincerity. At a time when there were few precedents for posing gay couples, Robinson conveyed homoerotic attraction in a number of ways, including having the young men stare deeply into each other's eyes and touch tentatively. The very awkwardness of these embraces conveys a profound sense of commitment.

During the New Orleans period, Robinson fell in love with a young man named Gabriel, whom he photographed incessantly, often in the nude. The Gabriel photographs are especially distinguished by their play of light and shadow and by their sensuality.

In 1954, Robinson and Gabriel travelled to Mexico. There the artist captured Mexican scenes in large and medium format photographs.

In 1955 Robinson and Gabriel moved to New York where he quickly became noted for his fashion photography. He was sought out by many of the top designers and others in the fashion industry. By 1959, one of his photographs graced the cover of Life magazine, signalling his arrival as a top commercial photographer.

Carrie Donovan, then a fashion reporter for the New York Times, commissioned Robinson to shoot several fashion layouts in the early 1960s and continued to work with him when she became editor of Vogue in 1965. Robinson's work appeared in Vogue over 500 times between 1965 and 1972.

Vogue's legendary editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland recognised Robinson's particular gift for portraiture. In addition to commissioning fashion photography from him, she also commissioned portraits of celebrities, especially the rising stars of music, film, television, and literature.

By 1970, Robinson had established himself as one of the leading commercial photographers in the world. He travelled to Europe to record the fashion innovations of the great design houses. His work was regularly featured in the most prestigious fashion and celebrity magazines of the day.

Robinson's art documents the social changes that occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s as reflected by the new stars of the worlds of fashion, art, literature, film, the stage, and, especially, music. He photographed virtually every musician that we think of when we think Woodstock and the Summer of Love.

Robinson documented the Nixon White House, the unbridled decadence of New York's club scene, and the unequalled elegance of Jacquelyn Kennedy in full formal regalia. In addition, he captured both the era's haute couture, as epitomised in the fashion of designers such as Emilio Pucci, Pierre Cardin, Yves St Laurent, and Bill Blass, and also the casual look that is perhaps even more representative of the time.

He also made particularly sensitive family portraits. His photographs of the wedding of Peter Allen and Liza Minnelli, with mother-of-the-bride Judy Garland, reveal a particular gift for family portraiture.

But even as Robinson succeeded professionally, his personal life became increasingly problematic. His relationship with Gabriel failed. He suffered from the stigma associated with homosexuality. He increasingly turned to drugs and alcohol for solace. Frequently in the company of Andy Warhol and his entourage, he became part of New York's frenetic club scene.

Such fast living soon affected Robinson's work. His daybooks and list of commissions reflect the deterioration of his life. As jobs dwindled, he was forced to move from his fashionable studio at 11 East 10th Street. Finally, in December of 1972, he retreated to Memphis, where his parents and older brother lived.

Broken and addicted to alcohol, Robinson sought help from a long-time friend, who sponsored his membership in Alcoholics Anonymous and helped him recover his emotional health.

In Memphis, Robinson abandoned his career as a commercial photographer. He began painting and soon took a job as assistant to noted artist Dorothy Sturm, who designed stained glass windows for churches at Laukauff Studio, one of the largest stained glass studios in the country. Although he was undoubtedly lonely, and in the words of a friend 'full of anger and angst,' he seemed to enjoy his anonymity and seldom revealed that he had once been a leading photographer in New York City.

In 1976, Robinson left Laukauff Studio to work at another glass studio, Rainbow Studio, where he was to remain for the rest of his career.

Robinson fell ill in November 1997 and was soon diagnosed with cancer. He died on December 15, 1997.

Robinson left his estate to his employer, Dan Oppenheimer, owner of Rainbow Studio. Oppenheimer was surprised to discover in Robinson's small and spartan apartment over 140,000 negatives. In 2002, Oppenheimer opened the Jack Robinson Gallery and Archive in Memphis. It is dedicated to preserving and promoting Robinson's legacy.

Although Robinson soon slipped into obscurity, his work has recently been rediscovered, thanks to the efforts of the Robinson Gallery and Archive and to several recent exhibitions in Memphis, London, and New Orleans.

The Jack Robinson Archive

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bryan Singer

Bryan Singer born 17 September 1965

Bryan Singer is an American film director. Singer won critical acclaim for his work on The Usual Suspects, and is especially popular among fans of the sci-fi and comic book genres, for his work on the first two X-Men films and Superman Returns.

Singer was born in New York City. He was adopted by Norbert and Grace Singer and grew up in a Jewish household in New Jersey. He attended West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, then studied film making at New York's School of Visual Arts and later the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. Actors Lori and Marc Singer are his cousins. He is Jewish and openly gay, and has said that his life experiences of growing up as a minority influenced his movies.

Singer is also executive producer and directed the pilot and first episode of highly regarded TV medical drama House.

Singer is said (or rumoured) to be involved in a number of possible or 'in development' projects at present including: a Superman Returns sequel; a remake of Logan's Run; a Warner Bros. film called U Want Me 2 Kill Him? about a 14-year old British boy who was charged with inciting his own murder, a reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, and a film of Augusten Burroughs' Sellevsion.

Sir Frederick Ashton

Sir Frederick Ashton born 17 September 1904 (d. 1988)

Sir Frederick William Mallandaine Ashton began his career as a dancer but is largely remembered as a choreographer.

Ashton was born at Guayaquil in Ecuador, in the artistic neighbourhood called Las Peñas, the original founding site of the city.

When he was 13 he witnessed a life-changing event when he attended a performance by the legendary Anna Pavlova in the Municipal Theatre in Lima, Peru. He was so impressed that from that day on he knew he would become a dancer.

In 1919 he went to England to attend Dover College and then to study under the famous Leonide Massine and established a working relationship with the ballet troupe belonging to Marie Rambert and Ninette de Valois. Rambert discovered Frederick's aptitude for choreography and allowed him to choreograph his first ballet, The Tragedy of Fashion [left] in 1926, starting a tremendously successful career as a choreographer.

He began his career with the Ballet Rambert which was originally called The Ballet Club. He rose to fame with The Royal Ballet, becoming its resident choreographer in the 1930s. His version of La Fille mal gardée was particularly successful. He worked with Margot Fonteyn among others. His broad travesti performances as one of the comic Ugly Stepsisters in Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella were annual events for many years. [Ashton pictured in rehearsal with fellow 'sister' Robert Helpmann]

The choreographer's emotional life focused on the unattainable and the unsuitable, and it often wreaked havoc in his ballet company, as when, in the case of the heterosexual Michael Somes (Fonteyn's principal partner), the beloved enjoyed and exploited favoritism to the point that other dancers signed a petition of protest.

Ashton, like so many other famous gay men of his epoch, including Cecil Beaton and Noël Coward, was necessarily discreet, but he was not closeted. The British high society in which he moved enjoyed the scintillating company

Ashton was a member of the circle of gay men who surrounded Queen Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother, whom he taught to tango. When she heard that Ashton, a formidable mimic, did imitations of her, she allegedly retaliated by imitating his own queenly manners.

Ashton was a great friend of the Paget family and was a frequent visit to the family seat at Plas Newydd; it was here that one of the Paget daughters, Lady Rose fell hopelessly in love with him; he rebuffed her advances and at one point returned her letters - after having corrected her spelling! Despite this, they remained friends.

In 1962, he was knighted for his services to ballet. He died in 1988 at his home, Chandos Lodge, in Eye, Suffolk, England.

Roddy McDowall

Roddy McDowall born 17 September 1928 (d. 1998)

Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall was born in London on to a Scottish father and an Irish mother. His mother, who had herself aspired to be an actress, enrolled him in elocution lessons at the age of five; and at the age of ten he had his first major film role as the youngest son in Murder in the Family (1938). Over the next two years he appeared in a dozen British films, in parts large and small.

McDowall's movie career was interrupted, however, by the German bombardment of London in World War II. Accompanied by his sister and his mother, he was one of many London children evacuated to places abroad.

As a result, he arrived in Hollywood in 1940, and the charming young English lad soon landed a major role as the youngest son in How Green Was My Valley (1941). The film made him a star at thirteen, and he appeared as an endearing boy in numerous Hollywood movies throughout the war years, most notably Lassie, Come Home (1943), with fellow English child star and lifelong friend Elizabeth Taylor, and My Friend Flicka (1943).

By his late teens, McDowall had outgrown the parts in which he had been most successful. Accordingly, he went to New York to study acting and to hone his skills in a wide variety of roles on the Broadway stage.

McDowall was praised for his performance as a gay character in Meyer Levin's Compulsion (1957), a fictionalised account of the Leopold-Loeb murder case; and he won a Tony award for best supporting actor as Tarquin in Jean Anouilh's The Fighting Cock (1960).

After a decade's absence, McDowall returned to Hollywood, and over the last four decades of his life he appeared in more than one hundred films, encompassing a wide range of genres from sophisticated adult comedy to children's fare, from horror to science fiction, usually as a character actor. He also made regular character appearances on TV in such series as the original Twilight Zone, The Carol Burnett Show, Fantasy Island and Quantum Leap.

[McDowall pictured with Natalie Wood. Any Hollywood star pictured with Natalie Wood is quite likely to be gay]

His best known appearances include those in The Subterraneans (1960), Midnight Lace (1960), Cleopatra (1963), The Loved One (1965), Inside Daisy Clover (1965), Planet of the Apes (1968) and its various sequels, Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), The Poseidon Adventure (1973), The Legend of Hell House (1973), Funny Lady (1975), Fright Night (1985), Fright Night II (1987), Only the Lonely (1991), Last Summer in the Hamptons (1993), and It's My Party (1995). His last film role was the voice of Mr Soil, an ant, in A Bug's Life (1997).

Although McDowall never officially came out, the fact that he was gay was one of Hollywood's best known secrets.

[Pictured: Roddy is offered a hot sausage by Tab Hunter]

McDowall died of cancer at his home in Studio City, California, on October 3, 1998. At the time of his death, he held several elected posts in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was a generous benefactor of many film-related charities.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

George Chakiris

George Chakiris born 16 September 1934

George Chakiris is an American dancer and Academy Award winning film actor.

Chakiris was born in Norwood, Ohio to Greek immigrants. He made his film debut in 1947. For several years he appeared in small roles, usually as a dancer or a member of the chorus in various musical films. He was one of the dancers in Marilyn Monroe's Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and also appeared as a dancer alongside Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas. He can also be seen in the 'Chop Suey' number in the musical film Flower Drum Song.

His biggest success came with the film West Side Story (1961), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Bernardo. He also acted (along with Gene Kelly) in Jacques Demy's French musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967).

Chakiris has also appeared on Broadway and television. In the early 1960s, he embarked on a career as a pop singer which resulted in a couple of minor hit songs (In 1960, he recorded one single with legendary producer Joe Meek).

After film work dried up, he worked steadily through the 1970s and 1980s, appearing on such shows as Medical Center, Hawaii Five-O, Dallas, Murder, She Wrote and the TV daytime drama Santa Barbara. Chakiris last acted in a 1997 episode of the sitcom Last of the Summer Wine and has given occasional television interviews since then. He is mostly retired and has taken up jewellery-making as an occupation.