Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lionel Bart

Lionel Bart born 1 August 1930 (d. 1999)

Lionel Bart was an English composer of songs and musicals, best known for Oliver!

Bart was born Lionel Begleiter the youngest of seven surviving children in East London to Galician Jews, and grew up in Stepney. His father worked as a tailor in a garden shed in London E1. The family had escaped the pogroms in Galicia, which was then part of the Austrian Empire.

Lionel later changed his name to Bart derived from the name of the silk screen printing firm he and one John Gorman created (G & B Arts, for Gorman and Begleiter) after completing his National Service.

As a young man he was quite an accomplished painter. When Lionel Bart was six years old a teacher told his parents that he was a musical genius. His parents gave him an old violin, but he did not apply himself and the lessons stopped.

At the age of 16 he obtained a scholarship to St Martin's School of Art but he was expelled for 'mischievousness', and he gave up his ambition to be a painter. However, he took jobs in silk-screen printing works and commercial art studios. He never learned to read or write musical notation; this did not stop him from becoming a highly significant personality in the development of British rock and pop music.

He started his songwriting career in amateur theatre at The International Youth Centre in 1952 and at London's Unity Theatre the following year. While at Unity he was talent spotted by Joan Littlewood and so joined Theatre Workshop.

He first gained widespread recognition through his songwriting, which includes the hits Livin' Doll (written for Cliff Richard) and several hits including Little White Bull (for Tommy Steele). In 1957, he won three Ivor Novello awards, a further four in 1958, and two in 1960.

He wrote the theme song for the 1963 James Bond movie From Russia With Love.

His first professional musical was the 1959 Lock Up Your Daughters, based on an 18th century play by Henry Fielding. Following that, Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be produced by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, was notable for encouraging the use of authentic Cockney accents on the London stage.

Oliver! (1960), based on Dickens' Oliver Twist was a huge hit from the very beginning, and has sustained its popularity to the present day. The musical spawned such song hits as As Long As He Needs Me (a smash for Shirley Bassey) and Consider Yourself. In 1968 it was made into a film which won several Oscars, including best film.

Bart's next two musicals, Blitz! (1962) and Maggie May (1964), had respectable West End runs but Twang! (1965) was a notorious flop and La Strada (1969), which opened on Broadway in New York City, closed after only one performance. Bart used his personal finances to try to rescue them, selling his rights to others of his works, including Oliver!, in order to generate capital. By 1972, Bart was bankrupt. He turned to drink, and a twenty-year period of depression ensued, from which he ultimately recovered, attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

He continued writing songs and themes for films, but his only real success in his later years was Happy Endings, a 1989 advertising jingle for Abbey National.

In 1986 Bart received a special Ivor Novello Award for his life's achievement. Cameron Mackintosh, who owned half the rights to Oliver!, revived the musical at the London Paladium in 1994 in a version rewritten by Lionel Bart. Cameron Mackintosh gave Lionel a share of the production royalties.

Although Lionel Bart was known to be gay by those in the theatre world he was often publicly romantically linked with Judy Garland or Alma Cogan - a dead giveaway to a practiced eye.

Bart died in 1999 after a long hard struggle with cancer.

A musical play based on Bart's life and using his songs, It's a Fine Life was staged at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch in 2006.

I'd Do Anything, a TV talent show to cast the roles of Oliver and Nancy for a new Cameron Mackintosh West End production of Oliver! was a huge ratings hit for the BBC in 2008 and the ensuing production enjoyed a successful two-year run in the West End.

James St James

James St James born 1 August 1966

James St James (born James Clark) is a Club Kid of the Manhattan club scene in the late 1980s/early 1990s and the author of Disco Bloodbath (now published under the title Party Monster). He was notorious for a lifestyle of excess that included constant heavy drug use, partying, and bizarre costumes.

Michael Alig looked to St James as a role model when he was first entering the club scene, but soon became the 'leader' of the Club Kids by combining St James's flamboyant style with self-promotion and innovative, themed parties. Alig's murder of the Club Kid drug dealer, Angel Melendez is documented in St James's book Disco Bloodbath. A documentary titled Party Monster (1998) was based on the events leading up to and surrounding the murder, and a feature film of the same name was released in 2003, which starred Seth Green as St James and Macaulay Culkin as Alig.

St James wrote a column for the New York City-based gay publication OutWeek in the early 1990s.

St James currently resides in Los Angeles, working for the production company World of Wonder Productions, makers of Party Monster. His second book, Freakshow, was published in 2007.

St James makes occasional appearances on American TV shows such as America's Next Top Model as a 'freak' guest expert.

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves St Laurent born 1 August 1936 (d. 2008)

Born in Algeria to French parents, Yves Saint Laurent had a difficult childhood. Although taunted at school, he found solace at home in his drawing and painting and occasional designs of dresses for his mother and two sisters.

He first came to the fashion world's attention when he was seventeen and studying in Paris. He won 1st prize in a dress design competition sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat.

When Christian Dior saw Saint Laurent's designs, he was so impressed that he offered the young man a job as an assistant and was soon referring to Saint Laurent as his 'dauphin'. When Dior died in 1957, Saint Laurent took over the house. His first collection for Dior in 1958 was greeted enthusiastically and his 1960 collection for Dior appropriated the Left Bank style, with black leather jackets, knitted turtlenecks, and crocodile jackets with mink collars. The fashion world watched with fascination as street fashion was redesigned at the hands of a couturier.

In the same year Saint Laurent was called up to fight in the Algerian war. When he was discharged several months later, he discovered that he had been replaced as head designer at Dior - so he created his own house.

Under his own name, Saint Laurent continued to produce elegant wearable clothes that drew on a huge range of influences and he successfully tapped into the vogue for androgynous dressing that spread throughout Europe and America in the mid-1960s. By feminising the basic shapes of mens fashion, he can be credited with transforming evening wear and the working woman's wardrobe - as Armani was to do again in the 1980s.

In 1993, Yves Saint Laurent , which was by now also a major perfume house, was sold to a major company and has changed hands a number of times since, becoming part of the Gucci NV group in 1999 with Tom Ford as designer and creative director for couture and Yves Saint Laurent Perfumes, as well as designer for the YSL Rive Gauche label.

In 1958, Saint Laurent met Pierre Bergé, who was at the time the manager and lover of the Parisian painter Bernard Buffet. At a weekend party Buffet met his future wife, and Saint Laurent and Bergé commenced a romantic relationship that lasted until 1976. After their breakup Bergé continued to serve as Saint Laurent's business manager and remained living in their jointly owned home until 1986.

Although his sexuality was hardly a secret in the fashion world, Saint Laurent did not publicly acknowledge his homosexuality until 1991, in an interview in the French daily newspaper Le Figaro.

Almost any other leading designer will cite him as their idol. Marc Jacobs refers to him as god. Tom Ford and Jean-Paul Gaultier called him their mentor.

In 2002, dogged by years of poor health, drug abuse, depression, alcoholism, criticisms of YSL designs, and 'problems' with lead designer Tom Ford, Saint-Laurent and Gucci closed the illustrious couture house of YSL. While the house no longer exists, the brand still survives through its parent company Gucci.

The pret-a-porter line is still being produced under the direction of Stefano Pilati after Tom Ford retired in 2004, while the boxer briefs sold all over the world still carry the brand name.

After his retirement, Saint Laurent became increasingly reclusive and spent much of his time at his house in Marrakech, Morocco. He died 1 June 2008 in Paris, aged 71, after a long illness.

Friday, July 30, 2010

George 'Chet' Forrest

George Forrest born 30 July 1915 (d. 1999)

Born George Forrest Chichester Jr and also known professionally as Chet Forrest, Brooklyn-born George Forrest was a writer of musical theatre. Throughout his career, he worked exclusively with his musical and life partner Robert Wright.

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, which won the 1954 Tony for Best Musical 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.

Robert Wright died in 2005.

Ian Roberts

Ian Roberts born 31 July 1965

Although born in London, England, Ian Roberts' family moved to Australia when he was aged one and he is best known for his career as an Australian rugby league player - although he is now pursuing a career as an actor.

During his very successful Rugby career - he played in 13 test matches for Australia - he took the still unusual step for the world of professional sport and came out publicly as gay, gaining much attention in Australia and elsewhere as a result. Surprisingly, the rugby league world was mostly supportive and Roberts was praised for challenging myths about gay men and sport. He continued his career until 1998 when the weight of injuries told him it was time to quit.

Following his retirement, he studied acting in Sydney and has since appeared as one of Lex Luthor's henchmen in Superman Returns (2006).

He appeared on the front cover of the August 2007 edition of US gay magazine The Advocate.

Like Dave Kopay and a few others before him, his coming out did not open any floodgates in professional sport and can still be considered a courageous act even in this day and age.

Henry Willson

Henry Willson born 31 July 1911 (d. 1978)

Henry Willson was an American Hollywood talent agent who played a large role in popularising the beefcake craze of the 1950s.

Willson was known for his stable of young, attractive, oddly-named, sometimes marginally talented clients, including: Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Nick Adams, Guy Madison [pictured below left], Troy Donahue, Rory Calhoun [pictured bottom right], Clint Walker, Ty Hardin, Robert Wagner, and Chad Everett.

Willson was born into a prominent show business family in Lansdown, Pennsylvania. His father Horace was the vice-president of the Columbia Phonograph Company and advanced to the presidency when the company was renamed the Columbia Gramophone Mfg. Co. in 1922. He came in close contact with many Broadway theatre, opera, and vaudeville performers, and Will Rogers and Fred Stone numbered among the family friends once they moved to Forest Hills, an upscale neighbourhood in the New York City borough of Queens.

Concerned about his son's interest in tap dance, his father enrolled Henry in the Asheville School in North Carolina, where he hoped the school's many team sports and rugged weekend activities such as rock climbing and backpacking would have a positive influence on the boy, not realising the all-male atmosphere would more likely stimulate his budding homosexuality. He later attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, spending weekends in Manhattan, where he wrote weekly gossip columns for Variety.

In 1933, Willson emigrated to Hollywood via a cruise ship through the Panama Canal. On board he cultivated a friendship with Bing Crosby's wife Dixie Lee, who introduced him to the Hollywood elite and secured him a job with Photoplay, where his first article was about newborn Gary Crosby. He began writing for The Hollywood Reporter and The New Movie Magazine, became a junior agent at the Joyce & Polimer Agency, moved into a Beverly Hills home purchased by his father, and became a regular at the Sunset Strip clubs, where he wooed young men for both professional and personal reasons. One of his first clients (and lovers) was Junior Durkin, whose promising career was cut short by an automobile accident in which he was killed.

Willson joined the Zeppo Marx Agency, where he represented newcomers Margery Bell, Jon Hall, and William T Orr. He was introduced to Hollywood High School student Judy Turner, who he rechristened Lana and got cast in small roles, finally introducing her to Mervyn LeRoy. In 1943, David O Selznick hired Willson to head the talent division of his newly formed Vanguard Pictures. The first film he cast was the World War II drama Since You Went Away with Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, and Shirley Temple. He placed Guy Madison, Craig Stevens, and John Derek (billed as Dare Harris) in small supporting roles.

Willson eventually opened his own talent agency, where he nurtured the careers of his young finds, frequently coercing them into sexual relationships in exchange for publicity and film roles.

His most prominent client was Rock Hudson, whom he transformed from a clumsy, naive, Midwestern truck driver named Roy Fitzgerald into one of Hollywood's most popular leading men. The two shared an occasional sexual relationship and were teamed professionally until 1966.

In 1955, Confidential magazine threatened to publish an exposé about Hudson's secret homosexual life, and Willson disclosed information about Rory Calhoun's years in prison and Tab Hunter's arrest at a gay party in 1950 in exchange for the tabloid not printing the Hudson story. At his agent's urging, Hudson married Willson's secretary Phyllis Gates in order to put the rumours to rest and maintain a macho image, but the union dissolved after three years.

In his later years, Willson struggled with drug addiction, alcoholism, paranoia, and weight problems. Because his own homosexuality had become public knowledge, many of his clients, both gay and straight, distanced themselves from him for fear of being branded the same. In 1974, the unemployed and destitute agent moved into the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, where he remained until he died of cirrhosis of the liver. With no money to cover the cost of a tombstone, he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Edgar de Evia

Edgar de Evia born 29 July 1910 (d. 2003)

Edgar Domingo Evia y Joutard, known professionally as Edgar de Evia, was a Mexican-born American photographer.

De Evia was born in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. His mother was a French-born concert pianist and his father was a wealthy landowner who was a member of two families that have been prominent in the politics and culture of Yucatán since the mid-19th century.

On 30 June 1912, at the age of two, Evia arrived with his family in New York City aboard the liner Progreso. He graduated from The Dalton School in 1931.

Edgar served as the research assistant to Dr. Guy Beckley Stearns, a homeopathic physician with whom he wrote and published articles and one book about homeopathy. The doctor gave Edgar his first camera and taught him to use it.

He is best known for his Tissot-like effects using soft focus and diffusion. His career was long - from the 1940s through to the 1990s -and took in a full range of commercial and fashion photography for various newspapers, magazines and advertising campaigns for corporate clients.

For almost two decades his home and studios were on the top three floors of 867 Madison Avenue in the Rhinelander Mansion, which he shared with his partner Robert Denning. and which is now Ralph Lauren's Madison Avenue flagship store.

Later in his career he founded and was the creative director for a company that took all of the photographs for a number of department store catalogues.

During the last decade of his life he wrote several novels and many short stories. He also applied his artistry to digital artwork on his Power Mac. The only common denominator was that none of his drawings looked like computer art. He died just short of his 93rd birthday when pneumonia set in after a fractured hip.

In the 1950s, de Evia's companion and business partner was Robert Denning, who worked in his studio and who would become a leading American interior designer and partner in the firm Denning & Fourcade. From 1966 until de Evia's death, his companion and business partner was David McJonathan-Swarm.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor born 29 July 1930

Paul Taylor is one of the foremost American choreographers of the 20th century.

He was born Paul Belleville Taylor, Jr. in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. After his parents divorced he was shuttled between various friends and relatives as his mother worked full-time in a restaurant.

Taylor attended Syracuse University on an athletic scholarship as a swimmer and majored in sculpture and painting. He left school during his junior year to study with Martha Graham, Antony Tudor, and José Limón, among others.

He then danced with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (1953-1954), Pearl Lang (1955), and then the Martha Graham Dance Company (1955-1962).

Taylor established his own company in 1964. After appearing at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, the company began to tour all over the world. Several of his company's tours have been sponsored by the United States State Department.

At 6' 3" Taylor is tall for a dancer, but he danced with a startlingly fluid movement. His lyrical approach gave barefoot modern dance a neo-classic style with a virtuosic edge.

When Taylor retired from dancing in 1974 at the age of 44, many felt that this very good choreographer was on his way to becoming a great one.

Many of his dances have been performed by major ballet and modern companies around the world, especially Aureole (1962), Esplanade (1975), Airs (1978), and Arden Court (1981). No other modern dance choreographer is so popular with ballet companies and their audiences: over fifty ballet troupes have performed his pieces.

Taylor's fertile imagination has created over 100 dances. Perhaps most impressive is the expressive range of his work, which extends from the despairing Last Look (1985) to the critical social commentary of Cloven Kingdom (1976) and Big Bertha (1971) to the exuberant comedy of Ab Ovo Usque Ad Mala (1986).

While Taylor has collaborated with such established visual artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Gene Moore, John Rawlings, and Alex Katz, another designer of his dances, 'George Tacet', is Taylor himself. Since the 1960s, Jennifer Tipton has lit almost all of Taylor's dances.

From its beginning the Paul Taylor Dance Company was distinguished by the look of its male dancers. Typically, they are larger than men in other companies. Their size gives Taylor's choreography a muscular weight.

With rare exceptions, Taylor has treated his company as a true ensemble, equally distributing solo roles among them.

Several former members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company have gone on to establish their own companies, which is another indication of Taylor's influence on the shape of twentieth-century modern dance. Among them are Laura Dean, Pina Bausch, Daniel Ezralow, David Parsons, Twyla Tharp, and Dan Wagoner.

In 1987 the company's concerts began to include work by choreographers other than Taylor; and in 1992 Taylor established a junior company, Taylor 2.

In his chatty autobiography Private Domain (1987), Taylor mentions sexual encounters with both men and women, yet concludes that 'As far as romance goes, I can forget it'. He seems to find his responsibility for his 'family' of dancers a satisfying substitute.

Same-sex partnering appears in works such as Esplanade (1975), Kith and Kin (1987), Company B (1991), and Piazzolla Caldera (1997). Still, these works may not indicate much about Taylor's private life. As he has warned many interviewers during his career, 'I'm not trying to do autobiographical dances, that's not my thing.'

Among Taylor's honours are a Guggenheim Fellowship (1961), an Emmy Award (Speaking in Tongues, 1991), a Kennedy Center Award (1992), and a National Medal of Arts (1993).

Paul Taylor Dance Company

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins born 28 July 1844 (d. 1889)

Essex-born Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Victorian poet and Jesuit priest.

Although a brilliant scholar, Hopkins failed his final theology exam which limited his career in the clergy, although ordained. Short (5ft 2in.), gloomy and odd, he was not an effective teacher either, although he was a professor of Greek literature at University College, Dublin; but he was a lifelong poet of considerable brilliance (if a gloomy kind of brilliance) and influence. He was particularly influential in creating a new form of rhythm by combining different traditions of poetry into something completely new, which effectively pre-dated the free verse of 20th century poetry.

Little known during his lifetime, he had an enthusiastic audience of motley fellow poets but it was his university friend and supporter Robert Bridges who brought Gerard Manley Hopkins work to prominence when he, by then Poet Laureate, published the first collected edition of his late friend's work.

Plagued by ill health for much of his life, Hopkins died of typhoid fever aged only 45, and is buried in Dublin.

Although it is unlikely that the sexually-repressed Catholic priest, Hopkins would have considered himself to be homosexual, his poetry reveals that he considered male beauty to be one of the most splendid witnesses of the divine; his diaries reveal something of a tortured obsession with actual male beauty.

Richard Newman

Richard Newman born 28 July 1972

Richard Newman was a contestant on Channel 4's seventh series of Big Brother in 2006.

He is a former-waiter from London who moved to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at an early age, and returned to the UK ten years ago. An out gay man, Richard described himself as a 'sexual terrorist' when he entered the Big Brother house for BB7 in May 2006. He took on the role of the 'father figure' in the House. Richard often mediated during fights between other housemates. He is also something of an agony uncle and was always giving advice to other housemates - ironic for a man in his thirties wearing a series of vests, naval caps and assorted diamanté jewellery.

He holds a record of surviving eviction 6 times, the most in Big Brother UK history. On the night of the Final, Richard came fourth.

From October 2006 Richard worked on the award-winning digital station GaydarRadio, hosting his own weekend show and co-hosting the Dickie & Dolly Show with former BB housemate and now good friend, Lea. Richard left the station after a shake-up of the schedule of Gaydar Radio was announced in July 2008 .

Richard has since become an accomplished freelance writer contributing mainly to the gay press in the UK, Europe and his native Canada. He has written for Boyz, QX, Scene 24/7 and Winq Magazine. Richard also writes his own blog, Richard Says! Musings From a Former Reality Star.

John Ashbery

John Ashbery born 28 July 1927

John Ashbery is an American poet who has won nearly every major American award for poetry and is recognised as one of America's most important, though still controversial, poets.

Ashbery was born in 1927 near Rochester, New York. He is author of more than fifteen books of poems, beginning with Turandot and Other Poems in 1953, and is considered one of the leading contemporary American poets. His works range in length from two-line poems and haiku to the book-length Flow Chart.

Ashbery is often referred to as a philosophical poet. He is clearly concerned with the nature of language and its connection to thought. He is also concerned more specifically with the nature of poetry and its boundaries in the second half of the twentieth century, as well as with the relationship between poet and reader.

Although Ashbery's poems often have the feel of autobiography, he does not include his own life in his poetry in a recognisable way. His claim to being a gay poet depends more on his friendship with Frank O'Hara and his inclusion in O'Hara's poems than it does on anything in his own writing.

The critic and poet Richard Howard makes a distinction between "homosexual writers" and "writers who are homosexual." Although most Ashbery criticism places him in the latter category, ignoring questions of sexual preference either in his life or the poems, there have been a few attempts to read Ashbery as a gay poet.

Despite the lack of explicit gay content, for example, his work shares concerns with other late twentieth-century gay writing. Ashbery probes the nature of identity, how a person constructs his own identity and that of others, and the degree to which that identity depends on the culture around us.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Anton Dolin

Anton Dolin born 27 July 1904 (d. 1983)

Anton Dolin was the stage name of Sydney Francis Patrick Healey-Kay, an English ballet dancer and choreographer.

Born in Slinfold in Sussex, the young Sydney Healey-Kay started his ballet studies in Brighton with Serafina Astafieva and Bronislava Nijinska. He worked as a child actor and when Sergei Diaghilev produced The Sleeping Princess in London in 1921, Dolin, under the name of Patrikief, was hired as a member of the corps de ballet. At this time Russia did not let their dancers emigrate to the West, so Diaghilev was forced to hire dancers from many countries and give them Russian names.

Dolin left the company after The Sleeping Princess only to rejoin the Ballets Russes in 1924 and was swiftly promoted to soloist. He created roles in Nijinska's Le Train bleu in 1924, and Balanchine's The Prodigal Son and Le Bal, both in 1929. Dolin became one of Diaghilev's lovers, in competition with Sergei Lifar and Boris Kochno, Diaghilev's secretary and librettist. Kochno accepted the situation and turned a blind eye to Diaghilev's other amours. It would be impossible to write about the male stars of the Ballets Russes without revealing that many of them were lovers of the great impresario. The competition between Dolin and Lifar lasted until Dolin left to form his own company with Vera Nemtchinova in 1927. During the brief existence of the Dolin-Nemtchinova company he choreographed Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and Chopin's Revolutionary Etude.

Dolin returned to Diaghilev's company in late 1927 and remained until Diaghilev's death in 1929. He then choreographed a number of musical revues and became co-founder of the Camargo Society in 1930. The Camargo Society was founded in London to further the cause of ballet. Dolin created the role of Satan in Ninette de Valois' Job in 1931, and during that same year he joined the Vic-Wells Ballet (later called Sadler's Wells and then The Royal Ballet).

Dolin became the first premier danseur with Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) in 1940. For Ballet Theatre he restaged Swan Lake, Giselle, Princess Aurora, and choreographed Quintet, Pas de Quatre, Capriccioso, and Romantic Age. In 1935 Dolin and Alicia Markova founded the Markova-Dolin company which performed until 1938, and was reorganised in 1945.

Anton Dolin danced and choreographed for most of the major ballet companies in the West. Dolin was knighted in 1981 and was involved in ballet until he died in Paris on November 25, 1983.

Dolin wrote several books, including the autobiography Ballet Go Round (1938) and Alicia Markova: Her Life and Art (1953). For many years he lived with the ballet dancer John Gilpin.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reverend Troy Perry

Rev. Troy Perry born 26 July 1940

Involved in the church since he was a boy, as a young man, Troy Perry entered full-time ministry in a Pentecostal Church and married a pastor's daughter, with whom he had two sons. He was unable to ignore his homosexual feelings which ultimately brought an end to his marriage and his ministry. He thought that was where his involvement in the church had come to an end but ...

In 1968, before the Stonewall Riots and the Christopher Street Parades, the Reverend Troy Perry founded the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles to serve the spiritual needs of gay and lesbian people. His action was revolutionary - and transformational - and not without difficulty.

Ever since , the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches has served as a safe haven for those rejected by other religious communities. Rev Perry retired as Moderator of the MCC in 2005, but has remained active as a writer, public speaker and activist and advocate.

Troy Perry married his longterm partner Phillip Ray De Blieck in Canada at the Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto. On their return to Los Angeles, they sued the State of California for recognition of their marriage and won. The State appealed and the ruling was overturned but the law has since changed in California to allow gay marriage.

In addition to his work as a gay religious leader and human rights activist, Rev. Perry has found time to write an autobiography, The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay. Rev. Perry also completed a sequel to this book, titled Don't Be Afraid Anymore, published by St. Martin's Press and Profiles in Gay and Lesbian Courage also published by St. Martin's. He is a contributing editor for the book Is Gay Good? and the subject of another book, Our God Too. In 2003, he completed the text of his latest book, 10 Spiritual Truths For Gays and Lesbians* (*and everyone else!).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Danny La Rue

Danny La Rue born 25 July 1927 (d. 2009)

Born Daniel Patrick Carroll in County Cork, Eire, young Danny followed in his father's footsteps and served in the Royal Navy, but his career was to take a quite different direction. As Danny La Rue, he became probably the most famous female impersonator in the UK - or 'comic in a frock' - of the 20th century. Danny's very successful career extended to theatre, film, TV and records. He owned his own club at one time, and appeared in the West End in 1982 as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!

At the height of his fame in the 1960s, he was one of Britain's highest paid entertainers, although his impersonations of stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich were little more than immaculate wig and costume changes. His tastefully bawdy camp humour was the epitome of British comedy. He was made an OBE in 2002.

For many years, Mr La Rue pretended to be a perfectly heterosexual bloke under the wigs, sequins and padding - he would often appear in masculine attire during his shows - but the drag went deeper than that, and as attitudes have changed in recent years, La Rue became more open about being gay. Danny lived for many years with his partner and manager, Jack Hanson, until his death in Australia following a major stroke.

Danny La Rue suffered a mild stroke in 2006 and cancelled all his work commitments, but he issued a statement in tribute to the late-John Inman in March 2007.

In late-2007 La Rue appeared in Spain in a tribute show called Hello Danny in which for the most part he was played by Jerry Lane with a full cast to recreate his early career, with La Rue appearing as himself to perform some songs and for an interview section.

Danny La Rue died on 1 June 2009 after a short illness.

Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas born 25 July 1974

Gareth Thomas, born in Sarn near Bridgend, is a Welsh rugby union legend who currently plays at fullback, wing or centre for Crusaders and most recently played as a fullback for Cardiff Blues and Wales. On 26 May 2007, he surpassed Gareth Llewellyn as the most-capped Wales player with his 93rd appearance.

During the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Thomas created history when becoming the first Welshman to win 100 caps in rugby union. In this game he scored a try and prevented another but Wales lost to Fiji and were eliminated from the tournament. He therefore became the first player to lose on his 100th international appearance.

A prolific try scorer at international level, Thomas is listed ninth in the world on the all-time Test try scoring list.

Thomas has been championed as one of the few players who successfully negotiated rugby's transition from an amateur to a professional sport.

In 2005 Thomas was found guilty of assault whilst playing rugby in France and in 2007 was banned for four weeks for misconduct charges. Thomas was also implicated in the circumstances surrounding the departure of Six Nations-winning Wales coach Mike Ruddock and was involved in an explosive televised interview with BBC Scrum V pundit Eddie Butler about the issue.

Thomas suffered a major health scare after the resignation of Welsh coach Mike Ruddock in February 2006 was blamed on player power from senior players. He had received a blow to his neck during a match then later on whilst watching a televised recording of an interview he had given regarding his part in the Mike Ruddock affair, he fell ill and was rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke, which was brought on by a ruptured artery in his neck. It was feared this could lead to retirement but he somewhat miraculously resumed playing at the start of the 2006–07 French rugby season.

From 2002 to 2006, Thomas was married to childhood sweetheart Jemma. The couple married in St Brides Major, near Bridgend, and divorced in 2007; during the relationship, Jemma suffered three miscarriages.

Having struggled with his feelings since he was a teenager and having initially confided in Wales coach Scott Johnson and team mates Stephen Jones and Martin Williams in November 2006, in December 2009 Thomas came out in public that he is gay. This was seen as a surprising move given the taboo nature of homosexuality within team sports. Thomas's public confirmation of his sexuality makes him the first openly gay professional rugby player still playing the game.

That such a powerfully masculine sportman in probably the most masculine and physical of all major team sports should come out as gay is highly significant, as the world of sport - particuarly team sports - is one of the final closets. Gareth Thomas is sure to become a powerful role model for young sportmen - and other young people - questioning their sexuality. That his announcement was generally received positively is a sign of how far society has come in its acceptance of homosexuality; that his coming out can genuinely be regarded as significant is a sign of how far there is still to go. A true hero.

Since his coming out Gareth Thomas has become an increasingly confident spokesman and advocate for LGB rights and campaigned against homophobic bullying, whilst still playing professional rugby.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thomas Eakins

Thomas Eakins born 24 July 1844 (d. 1916)

Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins was a painter, sculptor, photographer and fine arts teacher. He is associated with realism, and is often regarded as the father of American painting.

Raised and educated in Philadelphia, he studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and then spent several years studying in Paris and Spain. He returned to the Pennsylvania Academy to teach in 1876, and in 1882 became its director. His teaching methods were controversial at the time, notably his interest in instructing his students in all aspects of the human figure, including the nude. Though there were tensions between him and the Academy's board of directors throughout his teaching career, he was ultimately fired in 1886 for removing the loincloth of a male model in a class where female students were present. The majority of Eakins's students liked his teaching methods and encouraged him to continue teaching them at Philadelphia's Art Students League.

Deeply influenced by his dismissal, his later painting concentrated on portraiture - usually of friends and family, and done with a realistic but psychological approach, rather than pure representation.

In the 1880s, Eakins became aware of the photographic motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge and enthusiastically embraced photography, making nude motion studies of his own and even developing a method of early motion capture. Photography also became an influence on his painting, although his photographs were then regarded as source material and a personal interest and not as art in themselves.

Eakins was unsuccessful as an artist in his lifetime, but has come to be regarded as one of the most influential and important figures in American painting. His work has also been significant for its homoeroticism, and his teaching methods, for his insistence on teaching men and women together and in the same way, which was ground breaking and controversial at the time.

Eakins was married and his sexuality remains a matter of dispute, but his body of nude work, his close friendship with Walt Whitman and his belief that a naked woman was the most beautiful form in nature - 'except a naked man', give some clues.

Probably Eakins' best known work The Swimming Hole (1884-5)

The Wrestlers (1889)

Photographic motion study (1884 or 5)

John Partridge

John Partridge born 24 July 1971

John Partridge is a Manchester-born English actor, who has worked predominantly as a singer and dancer in musical theatre, and was best known for his portrayal of the character Rum Tum Tugger in the official film production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats. He has appeared twice in productions of Cats, as well as several other musicals including, Tommy, Grease, RENT [as Roger], Taboo [as Marilyn], Miss Saigon and Starlight Express.

Since January 2008, Partridge has been a cast member of the long running BBC television soap opera EastEnders playing Jane Beale's gay brother Christian Clarke. Partridge is openly gay.

In 2010 Partridge brought his musical theatre experience to the fore as a judge on the popular BBC TV reality talent show Over the Rainbow, a search to find a new West End leading lady to play Dorothy in a new production of The Wizard of Oz.

In April 2010 Partridge revealed he planning to marry his long-term boyfriend Canadian Jon Tsouras after seven years together.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gavin Lambert

Gavin Lambert born 23 July 1924 (d. 2005)

Gavin Lambert was a British-born screenwriter, novelist and biographer who lived for part of his life in Hollywood.

Lambert was educated at Cheltenham and Oxford, where he became friends with filmmakers Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson. At Oxford he also founded, together with Reisz and Anderson, the short-lived but influential journal, Sequence, which he co-edited with Anderson. From 1949 to 1955 he edited the periodical Sight and Sound, with Anderson as a regular contributor. He also wrote film criticism for The Sunday Times and The Guardian. In 1957 he moved to Hollywood, California, in order to work there as a screenwriter and personal assistant to director Nicholas Ray, whose movie Bitter Victory (1957) he co-wrote. He claimed he became Ray's lover for a period of time.

Lambert became a notable screenwriter of the Hollywood studio era. In 1954, while still living in England, he wrote his first screenplay, Another Sky, about the sexual awakening of a prim English woman in North Africa. In 1955, he also directed Another Sky in Morocco. This was followed in 1958 by the Hollywood screenplay, Bitter Victory and in 1960 by Sons and Lovers. The latter, for which Lambert gained an Academy Award nomination, based on the novel by D. H. Lawrence. The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1961), adapted a novella by Tennessee Williams on the affairs of an older actress with a young Italian gigolo.

As, from the 1920s through the late 1960s, homosexuality was rarely portrayed on the screen, gay screenwriters like Lambert learned to express their personal sensibilities discreetly between the lines of a film. It was not until 1965 that Lambert adapted his own Hollywood insider novel Inside Daisy Clover (1963) for the screen. Clover, starring Natalie Wood and Robert Redford, tells the cautionary tale of a teenage movie star involved in the Hollywood studio system of the 30s and her unhappy marriage to a closeted gay leading man. However, in the film version he was not fully identified as gay because at Redford's request, the husband he played was changed from homosexual to appear as though he might be bisexual.

Later, the author also wrote the scripts for some TV movies such as Second Serve (1986) on transgender tennis player Renee Richards and Liberace: Behind the Music (1988). In 1997, he contributed to Stephen Frears's film A Personal History of British Cinema. He was heavily quoted in William J. Mann's book, Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969.

Lambert was also a noted biographer and novelist, who focused his efforts on biographies of gay and lesbian figures in Hollywood. He wrote biographies on some Hollywood stars, such as George Cukor and Norma Shearer. His book, Nazimova: A Biography (1997) was the first full-scale account of the private life and acting career of lesbian actress Alla Nazimova. He was the author of the memoir Mainly About Lindsay Anderson (2000) and wrote seven novels primarily with Hollywood settings including Inside Daisy Clover (1963), The Goodbye People (1971) about Hollywood's beautiful people, and Running Time (1982), a portrait of a woman from child starlet to screen goddess, but also a unique life history of the American film industry. In 1996, Lambert wrote the introduction to 3 Plays, a collection of works by his longtime friend, Mart Crowley.

His final biography, Natalie Wood: A Life (2004) supplied an insider's look at actress Natalie Wood and chronicled everything concerning her life, as Lambert was a Wood friend for 16 years. In his book, Lambert controversially claimed that Wood frequently dated gay and bisexual men, including director Nicholas Ray and actors Nick Adams, Raymond Burr, James Dean, Tab Hunter and Scott Marlowe. Lambert said he was also involved with Ray and that Wood supported gay playwright Mart Crowley (a later lover of Lambert's) in a manner that made it possible for him to write his play, The Boys in the Band (1968). Lambert's final book was The Ivan Moffat File: Life Among the Beautiful and Damned in London, Paris, New York and Hollywood (2004).

Gavin Lambert became an American citizen in 1964. From 1974 to 1989, he chiefly stayed in Tangier, where he was a close friend of the writer and composer Paul Bowles. He spent the final years of his life in Los Angeles, where he died of pulmonary fibrosis on July 17, 2005. He named Mart Crowley executor of his estate.

Samuel M Steward aka Phil Andros

Samuel M Steward born 23 July 1909 (d. 1993)

Samuel Morris Steward, also known by the pen name Phil Andros, was a novelist and tattoo artist based in Oakland, California. He was born in Woodsfield, Ohio and attended the Ohio State University. He began teaching English at OSU as a university fellow in 1932 during the final year of his PhD and was given his first post as a university professor in 1934 at Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

In 1936 he was dismissed from a position at the State College of Washington due to the portrayal of prostitution in his novel Angels on the Bough. He moved to Chicago, teaching at Loyola until 1946 and then at DePaul University. In 1954 he left teaching and, oddly, began tattooing in Chicago under the professional name Phil Sparrow.

Steward met famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey around 1949 and became an unofficial collaborator, helping Kinsey find new contacts. In 1949, he participated in a BDSM scene for Kinsey to film, with a sadist that Kinsey flew in from New York. He said Kinsey was 'as approachable as a park bench' and described him as a liberating influence.

In the early 1950s he made pornographic drawings, many of them based on his own Polaroid photographs.

Steward maintained friendships with Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, and Lord Alfred Douglas (the lover of Oscar Wilde). His 1981 memoir Chapters from an Autobiography detailed these relationships, as well as other experiences. He also edited the book Dear Sammy: Letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and wrote two 'Gertrude Stein-Alice B. Toklas Mysteries' featuring the famous couple as detectives. Steward was also introduced to Thornton Wilder by Gertrude Stein, who at the time regularly corresponded with the both of them. Wilder famously drafted the third act of Our Town during a brief affair with Steward in Zurich on their first meeting.

In the 1960s Steward began writing gay erotica under the name Phil Andros. His works dealt with rough trade and S&M sex. The name Phil Andros, which he used both as a pen name and the name of his protagonist, comes from the Greek words for love and man.

Steward uniquely regarded his skills as a man of letters, pornographer and tattoo artist with equal merit, symbolising some of the contradictions of gay male life as he made his contribution to defining the gay male identity in the twentieth century.

Steward died at age 84 of chronic pulmonary disease in Berkeley, California.

Chris Smith (Baron Smith of Finsbury)

Chris Smith (Baron Smith of Finsbury) born 23 July 1951

Christopher Robert 'Chris' Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury, PC is a British Labour Party politician and former Member of Parliament and Cabinet minister.

Born in Barnet, Chris Smith attended Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he gained a first class honours degree in English and a PhD with a thesis on Coleridge and Wordsworth, and was president of the Cambridge Union Society. He worked for a housing charity and became a councillor in the London Borough of Islington before narrowly winning the seat of Islington South & Finsbury at the 1983 General election, defeating George Cunningham.

In 1984 he became Britain's first openly gay MP. There had been several gay MPs before this where their homosexuality had been common knowledge in some circles, including their constituents in some cases but they had not been completely open about it. During a rally in Rugby, Warwickshire against a possible ban on gay employees by the town council, he began his speech: 'Good afternoon, I'm Chris Smith, I'm the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury and I'm gay.'

He became an opposition whip in 1986, a shadow Treasury minister from 1987 to 1992, and shadowed the environment, heritage, pensions and health portfolios between 1992 and 1997. In 1997 he was appointed to Tony Blair's Cabinet as the first Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. As a Minister known to have a close connection with the UK arts scene his time at DCMS is generally regarded as a success as many projects funded through the National Lottery came to fruition. There were controversies most notably his approval during his first week as minister of the appointment of Mary Allen to the Royal Opera House in which case a Select Committee report found that he had exceeded his authority and failed in not seeking advice from his Permanent Secretary. In 2000 he managed to secure a tax rebate that enabled many museums to give free admission. He held this position throughout the Labour government's first term, but was sacked and returned to the back benches after the 2001 election, replaced by the up-and-coming Tessa Jowell. Tony Blair later hinted at his regret at losing Smith's services, particularly his strong relationship with the arts world.

On 30 January 2005 Chris Smith revealed to the Sunday Times that he had HIV and was first diagnosed in 1987. He stated that he had decided to go public following Nelson Mandela's announcement of his son's death from AIDS. Private Eye, however, maintained that the genuine reason for Smith's decision to go public was taken in light of the fact that The Mail on Sunday had contacted him and told him it was preparing a story about his condition.

After over 20 years in Parliament, Smith stepped down from the House of Commons at the 2005 general election. It was announced on 30 April 2005 that he was to be created a life peer, as Baron Smith of Finsbury, of Finsbury in the London Borough of Islington. He took up a position as Director of the Clore Leadership Programme, an initiative aimed at helping to train and develop new leaders of Britain's cultural sector. He is also currently a board member of the Royal National Theatre and Chairman of the Wordsworth Trust. In November 2006, he was appointed as Chairman of The Advertising Standards Authority.

Smith is a keen mountaineer and in 2004 he was elected as the Ramblers' Association President. He is also a patron of London-based HIV charity, The Food Chain.

On the 8th May 2008 he was announced as the new Chairman of the Environment Agency.

Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant born 23 July 1952

Gus Van Sant Jr. (Louisville, Kentucky) is an American Academy Award-nominated film director, photographer, musician, and author. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

His early career was devoted to directing television commercials in the Pacific Northwest. Openly gay, he has dealt unflinchingly with homosexual and other marginalised subcultures without being particularly concerned about providing positive role models.

His filmography as writer and director includes an adaptation of Tom Robbins' novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993), which features a diverse cast (Keanu Reeves, Roseanne Barr, Uma Thurman, and k.d. lang, with cameos by William S. Burroughs and Heather Graham, among others); and My Own Private Idaho (1991), also starring Reeves as well as the late River Phoenix.

He is perhaps best known for directing Good Will Hunting (1997).

The unprecedented success of Good Will Hunting allowed Van Sant to pursue whatever project his heart desired, which ended up being an unusually faithful remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho. As opposed to reinterpreting the 1960 film, however, Van Sant opted to recreate the film shot-for-shot, in colour, with a cast of young Hollywood A-listers. His decision was met with equal parts curiosity, skepticism, and derision from industry insiders and outsiders alike, and the finished result met with a similar reception. If not exactly a failure, it wasn't much of a triumph, either.

Van Sant fared somewhat better with 2000's Finding Forrester, a drama about a high-school student from the Bronx who becomes unlikely friends with a crusty, reclusive author (Sean Connery).

In any event, Van Sant—longing to return to more-intimate production methods—decided to leave behind big-budget studio filmmaking for his next two features Gerry (2002) and the Columbine-themed Elephant (2003), which unexpectedly won the Palme d'Or and a Best Director award for Van Sant at Cannes.

In 2005, Van Sant released Last Days, the final component of what he refers to as his 'Death Trilogy', (the other parts being Gerry and Elephant). It is a fictionalised account of what happened to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in the days leading up to his death.

Van Sant's most recent film is something of a return to the mainstream. Released in 2008, the feature film Milk is a biopic of openly gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978, played by Sean Penn. The film was released to much acclaim and earned numerous accolades from film critics and guilds. Ultimately, it received eight Oscar nominations at the 81st Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning two for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Penn and Best Original Screenplay for writer Dustin Lance Black. Van Sant was nominated for Best Director.

As an actor, Van Sant has appeared in a cameo on screen in Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back playing himself. In the movie, he is counting wads of money which was made during Good Will Hunting. As an added joke, they were filming a fake sequel to the movie, called 'Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season'.

He has written the screenplays for most of his early movies, and has written one novel, Pink. A book of his photography has also been published called 108 Portraits. He also makes the occasional music video and has released two albums in his own right.