Monday, February 28, 2011

Thomas Adès

Thomas Adès born 1 March 1971

Thomas Adès is a British composer, pianist and conductor.

London-born Adès studied piano and composition at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. After attending University College School, he graduated in 1992 from King's College, Cambridge. His degree was classified as 'double starred first', indicating outstanding academic distinction. He was made Britten Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, and in 2004 was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Essex.

In 2007 a retrospective festival of his work was presented at the Barbican Centre in London and he was the focus of Radio France's annual contemporary music festival, 'Présences' and Helsinki's 'Ultimo' festival. The Barbican festival, 'Traced Overhead: The Musical World of Thomas Ades', included the UK premiere of a new work for Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, Tevot.

In 1993, at the age of twenty-two, Adès gave his first public piano recital in London as part of the Park Lane Group series of recitals.

Asyla, for orchestra, was premiered in Symphony Hall, Birmingham in October 1997 by Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the 1997 BBC Proms. This work also received the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2000.
Adès conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the London premiere of the work while, in September 2002, Simon Rattle gave his first concert as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Asyla and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5, both of which have also been released on CD and DVD by EMI. Asyla has since been performed across the world, including on a recent tour of the Far East by Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Arcadiana, a seven-movement, 20-minute string quartet (Op. 12) was recorded in 1998 along with other work from the 1993 to 1994 period. America: a Prophecy was commissioned for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's Millennium Messages in November 1999 and it received its UK premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival in June 2000. Concentric Paths, Adès' violin concerto, received its premiere in September 2005 to critical acclaim.

Adès has composed two operas, Powder Her Face (1995) a chamber opera with a libretto by Philip Hensher, won both good reviews and notoriety for its musical depiction of fellatio. The opera was commissioned by Almeida Opera, and has since been given new productions by chamber opera groups around the world. The Duchess depicted in the opera is the notorious Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll whose scandalous behaviour in Britain in the early 1960s was revealed during her divorce trial with the introduction into evidence of photographs of her various sexual acts. The Tempest, adapted from Shakespeare's play, was premièred to critical acclaim at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in February 2004, followed by several productions around the world. The opera was revived by Covent Garden in March 2007 to great acclaim.

Adès was Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1999-2008 and Musical Director of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. In 2000, he was composer-in-residence of the Ojai Festival in California (along with Mark-Anthony Turnage).

Adès is also a noted pianist, having been a runner-up in the BBC's Young Musician of the Year competition in 1990.

He was resident with the Los Angeles Philharmonic during their 2005/6 and 2006/7 seasons as part of the orchestra's 'On Location' series.

In 2007 a retrospective festival of his work was presented at the Barbican Arts Centre in London and he was the focus of Radio France's annual contemporary music festival, 'Présences' and Helsinki's 'Ultimo' festival. The Barbican festival, 'Traced Overhead: The Musical World of Thomas Adès', included the UK premiere of a new work for Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, Tevot. In 2009, he was the focus of Stockholm Concert Hall's annual Composer Festival.

In 2006, he entered a civil partnership with Tal Rosner.

Oliver Baldwin

Oliver Baldwin born 1 March 1899 (d. 1958)

Oliver Ridsdale Baldwin, 2nd Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, known as Viscount Corvedale from 1937 to 1947, was a British politician who had a quixotic career at political odds to his father, three-time Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

Baldwin was educated at Eton College, and grew up in the shadow of his father's political career. He joined the Irish Guards in 1916 and served in France through the remainder of World War I. After the war he travelled extensively and worked as a journalist and travel writer. He was in Armenia with the job of an infantry instructor; there the Bolsheviks imprisoned him for two months and later he was imprisoned by the Turks for a further grim five months. Despite his Conservative family, he gradually grew to adopt left-wing views and eventually announced that he was a Marxist and joined the Labour Party. He frequently addressed crowds from a socialist platform at Hyde Park Corner.

At the 1924 elections Baldwin contested the seat of Dudley for Labour. By this time his father was leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, and his candidacy naturally attracted press comment. At the 1929 election he won Dudley, and served as a backbench member of Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government, facing his defeated father across the House.

He remained on personal good terms with his father despite their different politics, as each regarded their differences as being of principle and not personality. Baldwin refrained from personally attacking his father, and when he visited him, there was a tacit agreement that politics was not a suitable subject for discussion. Lucy Baldwin, who was also a strong Conservative, came from a background where questioning received opinion was regarded as a good thing, supported her son - although she did not like to attend the House of Commons to see her son and husband on opposite sides.

Like other young left-wing Labour MPs, Baldwin was critical of MacDonald's insistence on strict financial management and refusal to launch large Keynesian public works programmes. Early in 1931 Baldwin resigned from the Labour Party and briefly associated with Oswald Mosley's New Party, but repudiated Mosley after one day and rejoined Labour. When MacDonald formed the National Government Baldwin remained with the opposition Labour Party and inevitably lost his seat in the 1931 general election. He returned to journalism.

Baldwin fought Paisley at the 1935 election. In 1937 Stanley Baldwin retired from politics and was created Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. As a result Oliver Baldwin acquired the courtesy title Viscount Corvedale, although he remained a commoner. In 1939 he rejoined the army, becoming a major in the Intelligence Corps and serving in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Eritrea and Algeria.

Baldwin was homosexual, a fact well known within the family but not to the public (his mother was again supportive and both parents acknowledged his long term relationship with John Boyle).

At the 1945 general election, when Labour returned to power under Clement Attlee, Baldwin was elected for Paisley. In 1946 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary for War, a post he held until 1947. But there was little chance that he would hold high office. His homosexuality was well-known, and Attlee held puritanical views on this issue: he kept Tom Driberg out of the government for the same reason.

When Stanley Baldwin died in 1947, Oliver succeeded him as Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. It was not possible at this time to renounce a peerage, and Baldwin had no choice but to leave the Commons and take his seat in the House of Lords. Later that year, presumably to give him a dignified exit from politics, he was appointed Governor of the Leeward Islands, a British colonial territory in the Caribbean. He created a minor scandal by taking John Boyle with him.

Partly for this reason, and partly because he made no secret of his continuing socialist views among the British planter elite in Antigua, Baldwin was recalled in 1950. He died in 1958 and was succeeded in the earldom by his brother.

A biography of Oliver Baldwin was published in 2003 Oliver Baldwin: A Life of Dissent by Christopher J Walker

Simon Sainsbury

Simon Sainsbury born 1 March 1930 (d. 2006)

Simon Sainsbury was part of a remarkable fourth generation that transformed a medium-sized family business, based in the South-East of England, into a public company that became the most profitable retailer in Britain. The personal wealth that resulted from the rapid expansion of Sainsbury's in the 1980s and early 1990s enabled him to become one of the country's most generous and thoughtful philanthropists.

The scale of the Sainsbury family's philanthropy became well known in 1987 when Simon, and his brothers John and Tim, donated the Sainsbury Wing to the National Gallery. Equally significant, if far less well known, were the many charities that Simon Sainsbury supported over 40 years, ranging from the preservation of historic buildings to the improvement of conditions within prisons and the funding of services for those diagnosed with HIV/Aids.

His business career and his philanthropy were marked by a thoroughness of approach and a determination to ensure that whatever plan had been decided upon would be successfully achieved. For the institutions and causes with which he was associated, and which were the recipients of (literally) millions of pounds a year, he did a great deal more than sign the cheque.

He was born in 1930, the middle son of Doreen and Alan Sainsbury (later the Labour peer Lord Sainsbury), and he grew up in Chelsea, before moving during the Second World War to Dorney, near Windsor. He went to Eton, where he was a gifted sportsman and pianist, and became President of the Eton Society, or 'Pop'. Unlike many others who have held that post, he was naturally self-effacing.

He served his National Service with the Life Guards, where he was 'sports officer', and went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read History. After training as a chartered accountant, he joined the family business in 1956, working in the finance department. He became a director in 1959. The three brothers had distinct areas of expertise: John (later Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover) was in charge of trading, Simon was in charge of finance, administration and personnel, and Tim (later a Conservative minister, now Sir Timothy) was in charge of development.

Sainsbury's father Alan and his uncle Robert retired as chairmen in 1967 and 1969, respectively. It was a hundred years after their great-grandparents had opened the first J. Sainsbury dairy shop in Drury Lane. Sainsbury's elder brother, John, became chairman and Simon became deputy chairman.

Business analysts at the time commented on how improbable it was that the fourth generation of a family business should produce four directors of such calibre and commitment (the three brothers and their cousin David, now the Science minister Lord Sainsbury of Turville). By the time his elder brother retired as chairman in 1992, the company had a turnover of £9.2bn.

Simon Sainsbury's most significant role in these years was handling the transition from a private company to a publicly listed one. His job was to add the letters 'plc' to 'J. Sainsbury'. In terms of capitalisation it was the biggest flotation ever mounted by the London Stock Exchange. A million shares were set aside for staff, which led to many staff members' buying shares that shot up in value. The company went public on 12 July 1973. Within one minute the list of applications was closed: £495m had been offered for £14.5m available shares. The feverish press that surrounded the flotation greatly enhanced the company's new dynamic image.

In 1965, Sainsbury set up the Monument Trust and his approach to grant-making was businesslike, proactive and (when possible) discreet to the point of anonymity. He maintained a daily interest in the trust's affairs and took a clear-headed view of charities, their financial plans, the strength of their personnel, and their long-term strategies. The Monument Trust took a lead in many areas: for instance, providing essential funding for the development of services for those diagnosed with HIV/Aids before statutory funding became available. (The trust's level of support for this remains high.)

Two areas left him frustrated. One was the many obstacles facing projects that attempted to make the lives of prisoners more hopeful and productive. The other was the huge growth in regulations governing the ways that a charitable trust could give money. He believed the process of giving money should be a simple one. One of his last substantial donations was to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

He supported many institutions from the British Museum, Royal Academy, Tate Modern and V&A to the Council for the Protection of (now Campaign to Protect) Rural England, the Landmark Trust and Christ Church, Spitalfields, with which he was closely involved. His donation to the new Cambridge Judge Business School was decisive in securing its future.

For 40 years Sainsbury shared his life with Stewart Grimshaw, a successful restaurateur and, later, bookseller. Together they leased a Georgian house from the National Trust, restored it to its full glory and created a beautiful garden in its surroundings.

Sainsbury possessed an exceptional eye for art and design, a quality he shared with his uncle Robert, who had endowed the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, in East Anglia. His principal interests lay in English furniture, early English pottery and late-19th-century and early-20th-century paintings. He was a trustee of the National Gallery (1991-98) and Chairman of the Wallace Collection (1992-97), where he set in place the biggest programme of changes since the museum had opened in 1900. He also returned to Sainsbury's to chair the arts sponsorship panel, whose activities included the popular Sainsbury's Choir of the Year competition.

Urbane and often funny, Sainsbury was also very private. He accepted no honours or high-profile jobs, though there were rumours that he had been offered both. Characteristically, he had no listing in Who's Who. Early in 2006 he celebrated his civil partnership with Grimshaw in a ceremony which, considering the enormous shift in the law during the time they had known one another, was powerful and affecting. (Both had campaigned over the years for changes in the law that disadvantaged same-sex couples.)

His seventies were clouded by the onset of Parkinson's, but it never diminished the depth of his interest in friends, family and good causes.

A year after his death, it was revealed that Simon Sainsbury has made one of the most significant art bequests to the nation, a collection worth about £100 million. The Tate and National galleries have received 18 paintings, including works by Monet, Degas, Gauguin and Bacon, each one a masterpiece, from a benefactor who preferred anonymity during his lifetime.

Simon Sainsbury's Obituary in The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph.

Lytton Strachey

Lytton Strachey born 1 March 1880 (d. 1932)

Giles Lytton Strachey was a British writer and critic. He is best known for establishing a new form of biography in which psychological insight and sympathy are combined with irreverence and wit.

At Cambridge, he found his niche and made lasting friends, including those who would later form the nucleus of the Bloomsbury Group. It was in this milieu that Strachey wrote about and spoke openly of his homosexuality.

From 1904 to 1914 he contributed book and drama reviews to The Spectator magazine, published poetry, and wrote an important work of literary criticism, Landmarks in French Literature (1912). During World War 1, he was a conscientious objector, and spent much time with like-minded people such as Lady Ottoline Morrell and the 'Bloomsberries'.

His first great success, and his most famous achievement, was Eminent Victorians (1918), a collection of four short biographies of Victorian heroes. With a dry wit, he exposed the human failings of his subjects and what he saw as the hypocrisy at the centre of Victorian morality. This work was followed in the same style by Queen Victoria (1921).

Though Strachey spoke openly about his homosexuality with his Bloomsbury friends (he had a relationship with John Maynard Keynes, who also was part of the Bloomsbury group), it was not publicly revealed until (1967-8), in a biography by Michael Holroyd.

His unusual relationship with the painter Dora Carrington (she loved him, but Strachey was much more interested in her husband Ralph Partridge, as well as various other young men) was portrayed in the film Carrington (1995). Jonathan Pryce won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance as Strachey in this film.

He died of (then undiagnosed) stomach cancer at age 51 at his country house near Hungerford in Berkshire.

Painting of Giles Lytton Strachey by Vanessa Bell

Michael Sundin

Michael Sundin born 1 March 1961 (d. 1989)

Michael Sundin was a television presenter, actor, dancer and trampolinist, who was best remembered for his short spell as a Blue Peter presenter.

He was born in Low Fell, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. After winning five British titles and one World title in British & World Trampolining tournaments, he first entered showbusiness in 1980 when he appeared in the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, with Barbara Windsor. He went on to make various television and theatre appearances, both as an actor and dancer, which led to a long run in the Cameron Mackintosh musical Cats, in which he played Bill Bailey in its West End run from 1982-83. He also appeared in the video for Culture Club's video for I'll Tumble 4 Ya in 1982.

In 1984, he began rehearsing the character Tik-Tok for the Walt Disney film Return to Oz, and this was covered by the long-running BBC children's magazine programme Blue Peter. Sundin impressed the editor, Biddy Baxter, and was invited to audition for the presenting vacancy left by Peter Duncan; it was his fortune that one of the audition items was to interview someone on a trampoline, and he presented his first programme on 13 September 1984.

After fronting 77 episodes, the editors and production team decided not to renew Sundin's contract after the summer break, because they felt that he had little rapport with the viewers and some parents complained about his perceived effeminacy - in fact he was sacked because Biddy Baxter thought he was gay. He presented his last show on 24 June 1985. Sundin was very unhappy about this decision, and made his feelings known in the tabloid press. In October 1985, The Daily Mirror printed photographs of him taking part in what was exaggeratingly described as a videotaped gay sex show, at London’s Hippodrome Theatre.

Sundin subsequently appeared in the 1987 film Lionheart (in which he was incorrectly credited as 'Michel Sundin'). After a UK theatre tour of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and a Japanese/Australian tour of Starlight Express from 1987-88, Sundin fell ill.
At the age of just 28, he died in the Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne. The Times newspaper reported (on 26 July 1989) that he had died of liver cancer, but in fact his death was AIDS-related, and a decision had been made that this information would not be released to the press.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stephen Spender

Stephen Spender born 28 February 1909 (d. 1995)

Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work.

Born in London to a journalist father, Spender went to University College, Oxford, where he met W H Auden. He did not finish his degree and went to Germany. Around this time he was also friends with Christopher Isherwood (who had also lived in Weimar Germany), and fellow Macspaunday members Louis MacNeice, and C Day Lewis. He would later come to know W B Yeats, Allen Ginsberg, Ted Hughes, Joseph Brodsky, Isaiah Berlin, Mary McCarthy, Roy Campbell, Raymond Chandler, Dylan Thomas, Jean-Paul Sartre and T S Eliot, as well as members of the Bloomsbury Group, in particular Virginia Woolf.

His early poetry, notably Poems (1933) was often inspired by social protest. His convictions found further expression in Vienna (1934], a long poem in praise of the 1934 uprising of Viennese socialists, and in Trial of a Judge (1938), an anti-Fascist drama in verse. His autobiography, World within World (1951), is a re-creation of much of the political and social atmosphere of the 1930s.

Spender began work on a novel in 1929, which was not published until 1988 under the title The Temple. The novel is about a young man who travels to Germany and finds a culture at once more open than England — particularly about relationships between men — and showing frightening anticipations of Nazism, which are confusingly related to the very openness the main character admires.

When the Spanish civil war began, he went to Spain with the International Brigades (who were fighting against Francisco Franco's fascist forces) to report and observe for the Communist Party of Great Britain.

A member of the political left wing during this early period, he was one of those who wrote of their disillusionment with communism. It is thought that one of the big areas of disappointment was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, which many leftists saw as a betrayal. Like fellow poets W H Auden, Christopher Isherwood and several other outspoken opponents of fascism in the 1930s, Spender did not see active military service in World War II. He was initially graded 'C' upon examination due to his earlier Colitis, poor eyesight, varicose veins and the long term effects of a tapeworm on 1934. However, he contrived by pulling strings to be re examined and was upgraded to 'B' which meant that he could serve in the London Auxiliary Fire Service.

Spender sued author David Leavitt for allegedly using his relationship with 'Jimmy Younger' in Leavitt's While England Sleeps in 1994. The case was settled out of court with Leavitt removing certain portions from his text.

Spender's sexuality has been the subject of debate. Spender's seemingly changing attitudes towards homosexuality and heterosexuality have caused him to be labelled bisexual, repressed, latently homophobic, or simply someone so complex as to resist easy labelling. Many of his friends in his earlier years were gay. Spender himself had many affairs with men in his earlier years, most notably with Tony Hyndman (who is called 'Jimmy Younger' in his memoir World Within World). Following his affair with Muriel Gardiner he shifted his focus to heterosexuality, though his relationship with Hyndman complicated both this relationship and his short-lived marriage to Inez Maria Pearn (1936-39). His marriage to concert pianist Natasha Litvin in 1941 seems to have marked the end of his romantic relationships with men. Subsequently, he toned down homosexual allusions in later editions of his poetry.

Tommy Tune

Tommy Tune born 28 February 1939

Tommy Tune is an award-winning American actor, dancer, singer, director, producer, and choreographer.

Born Thomas James Tune in Wichita Falls, Texas, he attended Lamar High School in Houston. In 1965, he made his Broadway debut as a performer in the musical Baker Street. His first Broadway directing and choreography credits were for the original production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1978.

Off-Broadway, Tune has directed The Club and Cloud Nine.

Tune's film credits include Hello, Dolly! and The Boy Friend.

Tune is the only individual to win Tony Awards in the same categories (Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical) in consecutive years (1990 and 1991), and the first to win in four different categories.

In 1997, Tune published Footnotes, a memoir. Despite the disjointed nature of the autobiography, Tune offers an insightful look into his then thirty-year career. It is here that he writes intimately about what drives him as a performer, choreographer and director. His obsession and desire to find everlasting love is prominent in the memoir, offering many personal stories about being openly gay and being hurt by other lovers. Ultimately though, it is his passion for theatre, dance, and people that carry him through a fruitful career full of many successful projects.

Two years later, he made his Las Vegas debut as the star of EFX at the MGM Grand Hotel.

In 2003, Tune was presented with the US's highest honour for artistic achievement, the National Medal of Arts.

The Tommy Tune Awards are awarded for outstanding work in high school theatre in Houston.

At 6'6½", Tune is unusually tall for a dancer. When not performing, he runs an art gallery in Tribeca that features his own work.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Peter Christopherson

Peter Christopherson born 27 February 1955 (d. 2010)

Peter Martin Christopherson, aka Sleazy is a musician, video director and designer, and former member of the influential British design agency Hipgnosis.

He was one of the original members of the infamous Industrial Records band, Throbbing Gristle. Along with Chris Carter, Christopherson claims to have custom made a keyboard-triggered sampler before the first sampler (Fairlight) was available in UK. He's also participated in two other famous industrial bands, Psychic TV and Coil.

Peter Christopherson was a founding member of Throbbing Gristle and created the genre industrial music along with the group. Throbbing Gristle disbanded in 1981. Throbbing Gristle members Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti formed their own group while Peter Christopherson and TG's other member Genesis P-Orridge formed Psychic TV along with other musicians.

John Balance met Christopherson as a Throbbing Gristle fan and the two became a couple. Christopherson worked on the first two Psychic TV albums, Force The Hand Of Chance and Dreams Less Sweet, joined by Balance on the second one. The two played several times live with Psychic TV then decided to collaborate on their own personal project, forming Coil, who lasted 23 years until Balance's death.

Despite Christopherson's long and extensive history as a musical artist, he has only released a single track under the name Peter Christopherson. The song, In My Head A Crystal Sphere Of Heavy Fluid, appeared on the compilation Foxtrot, a benefit album for former partner John Balance's alcohol addiction.

In 2005, Christopherson relocated from England to Krung Thep, Thailand and undertook the project The Threshold HouseBoy's Choir. Since Christopherson's relocation he has released the final Coil CDs: The Ape Of Naples, The Remote Viewer, Black Antlers, and reissued Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 1 and Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 2, which were formerly being manufactured in England.

2005 also marked the reuniting of Throbbing Gristle for a few concerts. Throbbing Gristle announced a new album Part Two. The group announced several additional concerts in 2007 to promote the album.

In 2007 Christopherson released the debut album of his solo effort The Threshold HouseBoys Choir. The album, Form Grows Rampant, is broken down into five 'parts' or songs, and includes a DVD of the album set to video of Thai rituals in Krung Thep.

He was a guest and jury head of the 2007 Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

In 2008 Christopherson and Ivan Pavlov (aka COH) started a new project called Soisong. The band officially premiered in Tokyo on 9 March 2008 and later toured Europe with several shows, having self-released their debut EP. In April of the same year Christopherson and Pavlov, alongside David Tibet, Othon Mataragas and Ernesto Tomasini, performed a live soundtrack for Derek Jarman's The Angelic Conversation in Turin, Italy.

Christopherson died in his sleep on November 24, 2010.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Christopher Gillis

Christopher Gillis born 26 February 1951 (d. 1993)

Christopher Gillis was an important gay male dancer and choreographer and member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of the late Gene Gillis, a US Olympic skier, and Rhona Wurtele, a Canadian Olympic skier who competed in the 1948 Winter Olympics along with her twin sister Rhoda. His sister, Margie Gillis, is also a dancer and choreographer; they were dance partners from childhood and collaborated on numerous shows. His brother, Jere Gillis, played professional hockey from 1977 to 1987.

Christopher Gillis joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1976 in New York City. He lived and worked in New York for the next seventeen years. His major roles with Taylor included the detective in Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal), as well as leads in Profiles, Arden Court, and Speaking Tongues. He also danced with the O'Donnell and José Limón companies while making frequent appearances with his sister Margie Gillis, for whom he also choreographed. He began making and showing his own dances in the early 1980s, contributing to the repertories of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, the Repertory Dance Theater, and the Fairfax Ballet.

Having been one of the Paul Taylor Dance Company's leading dancers and showing every sign of becoming a great choreographer - he choreographed more than twenty works - he was designated Taylor's heir-apparent. Unfortunately, this was not to be as he died from AIDS complications at the age of 42 in 1993.

The Taylor Foundation in New York City, which provides finding to support the Paul Taylor Dance Company's work, will house the Christopher Gillis / Alumni Dancers Lounge from 2010, in memory of the beloved dancer who performed with the Taylor Company for so many years.

Peter Hujar

Peter Hujar born 1934 (d. 1987)

Peter Hujar was an American photographer known for his black and white portraits.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, United States Hujar later moved to Manhattan to work in the magazine, advertising, and fashion industries. His subjects also consisted of farm animals and nudes.

His most famous photograph is Candy Darling on Her Deathbed, strikingly used as the cover of Antony and the Johnson's 2005 album I Am A Bird Now.

A one-time partner of artist David Wojnarowicz, Hujar died of AIDS complications on November 26, 1987.

The Estate of Peter Hujar is represented by Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

Photographs from top: Self-Portrait, 1980; Candy Darling on Her Deathbed, 1974; Bruce, 1976; Larry Ree; Self-Portrait, 1980; David Wojnarowicz, 1981

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jorge Donn

Jorge Donn born 25 February 1947 (d. 1992)

Jorge Donn was an internationally-known ballet dancer, he was best known for his work with the Maurice Béjart's Ballet company, and his participation as lead dancer in Claude Lelouch's film Les Uns et les Autres.

Jorge Donn was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He began to dance when he was 4 or 5 years old, then studied at the Colon Theatre school. In 1963, he arrived in Brussels to work in the Maurice Béjart company and soon became its principal dancer, entering into a twenty-year professional and personal relationship with Béjart.

Many of Béjart's works were created expressly for him: Bhakti (1968), Nijinsky, Clown of God (1971), Golestan, or The garden of roses (1973), Ce que l'amour me dit (1974), Notre Faust (1975), Léda (1978), Adagietto (1981) and others.

In 1976, Jorge Donn became artistic director of the Béjart's Ballet of the Twentieth Century company. In 1988, he founded his own company, L'Europa Ballet, which existed for a short time.

Jorge Donn died of AIDS on 30th November 1992 in Lausanne. Many choreographers created ballets as a tribute to him: Maurice Béjart (Ballet for Life), Denys Ganio (Tango... a rose for Jorge Donn), Carolyn Carlson (Homage for Jorge Donn), Grazia Galante (Masticando Sueños)

Jorge Donn

Monday, February 21, 2011

Billy Name

Billy Name born 22 February 1940

Billy Linich, known as Billy Name and more recently Billy Goat, is an American photographer, artist, filmmaker, lighting designer, and the main archivist of the Warhol era from 1964-70.

His brief romance and subsequent close friendship with Andy Warhol fostered substantial collaboration on Warhol's most influential work, including his films, paintings and sculpture. Linich became Billy Name among the coterie known as the Warhol Superstars, and he is considered one of the most significant. He was responsible for 'silverizing' Warhol's New York studio the Factory, where he lived until 1970.

When Andy Warhol decided, during the last months of 1963, that he was too busy making films to take pictures at The Factory (and, besides, the camera was too complicated and it had too many buttons), he turned the task over to Billy Name. Prior to his association with Andy, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Linich had been involved in theatrical lighting design.

Within a short time, Linich became a permanent fixture at the Factory, having taken up residence in the back of the studio at 231 East 47th Street during his trademark silvering of its interior from January to April 1964. With the gift of Andy’s 35-mm single-lens reflex Honeywell Pentax camera and the operating manual in hand, Billy Name taught himself the technical aspects of photography. He had soon converted one of the Factory’s bathrooms into a darkroom where he mastered the methods of processing and developing film. These newly acquired skills, combined with his background in lighting, his innate sense of artistry and his desire to experiment, resulted in the production of an intensive body of work that captured for posterity his 'silver years' at the Factory (1963-70).

Billy Name’s close friendship with Andy Warhol and his role as a trusted player in the making of Warhol’s artistic environment gave him the opportunity to focus his keen eye on the scene at the Factory, created by a core group of participants who largely improvised before the camera’s eye, evolving a lively, cutting-edge mise-en-scene. Billy contributed immensely to this atmosphere, as his understanding of theatre and lighting was important as was the essential look itself of the transformed space and silvered walls of the factory. The unique position that Billy assumed gives his photographs a particular immediacy, intimacy and knowledge.

Billy Name left the Factory in early 1970 because he felt 'isolated' and thought he should 'find out what was going on the world'. He felt that Paul Morrissey and Fred Hughes had pretty much taken over the operations and that Warhol didn't 'need' him anymore.

Billy Name lives in his native New York state and continues to do photography. As one of the key survivors of the classic Factory era, he is regularly sought out for documentaries and interviews.

Billy Name - Official Website

Kenneth Williams

Kenneth Williams born 22 February 1926 (d. 1988)

Kenneth Charles Williams was an English comic actor, star of twenty six Carry On... films and notable radio comedies with Tony Hancock and Kenneth Horne, as well as a witty raconteur on a wide range of subjects.

Kenneth Williams was born in Bingfield Street, King's Cross, London, the son of a hairdresser (Charles Williams). His relationship with his parents — he adored his vivacious mother, Louisa (Lou), but hated his morose and selfish father — was key to the development of his personality.

Williams became an apprentice draughtsman to a mapmaker and joined the army aged 18. He was part of the Royal Engineers survey section in Bombay when he had his first experience of going on stage with Combined Services Entertainment along with Stanley Baxter and Peter Nichols.

After the war, his career began with a number of roles in repertory theatre, but few serious parts were to lend themselves to his style of delivery. His failure to become established as a serious dramatic actor would disappoint him, but it was his potential as a comic performer that gave him his big break. He was spotted playing the Dauphin in George Bernard Shaw's St Joan in 1954 by the radio producer Dennis Main Wilson, who was casting Hancock's Half Hour. He would lend his distinctive voice and amazing vocal talent to the radio series to almost the end of its run, five years later. His nasal, whiny, camp-cockney inflections (epitomised in his famous 'Stop messing about....' catchphrase) would endure in popular lore for many years.

When Hancock tired (or grew jealous) of him, Williams joined Kenneth Horne in the series Beyond Our Ken (1958–1964), and its sequel Round the Horne (1965–1968). In the latter, his roles included Rambling Syd Rumpo, the eccentric folk singer; The Amazing Proudbasket, human cannonball; J. Peasemould Gruntfuttock, professional telephone heavy breather and dirty old man; and Sandy of the extremely camp couple, Julian and Sandy (Julian was played by Hugh Paddick), notable for their double entendres and use of the underground gay slang, Polari.

In 1959 Williams appeared in his own West End revue, One over the Eight, for which he commissioned sketch material from Peter Cook who was still a student at Cambridge. The revue included a number of Cook sketches such as 'One Leg Too Few' that would become classics. Williams later starred opposite Jennie Linden in the stage hit My Fat Friend in 1972. He also appeared with Ingrid Bergman in a highly successful stage production of George Bernard Shaw's Captain Brassbound's Conversion in 1971.

Williams worked extensively in television and British films, most famously the legendary Carry On... series for which he along with the rest of the cast were very poorly paid. Williams' diaries claimed he earned more in a British Gas commercial he did during the 1970s than he made out of the entire Carry On series put together — although that might only be considered true if one adds in the considerable fee he earned from the highly successful spin-off cartoon series Willo the Wisp. Despite making a good living in his later years, he lived in a series of small flats in north London.

Particularly in the theatre, he was famous for breaking out of character and talking to the audience. He was a regular panelist on the BBC radio panel game Just a Minute from its second season in 1968 until his death and regularly presented the children's story-reading series Jackanory. He was also a 'professional' talk-show guest, able to regale an audience with amusing (and often risqué) anecdotes on every subject. He was extremely well read and occasionally used to stand in as host on the popular early evening Wogan (talk) show.

Williams publicly insisted that he was celibate, but in private found his homosexuality difficult to deal with. His diaries contain many references to unconsummated or barely consummated relationships, described in code as 'traditional matters' or 'tradiola', probably because homosexuality was still a criminal offence in the United Kingdom for much of the period covered by the diaries.

He befriended Joe Orton who wrote the role of Inspector Truscott in Loot (1966) for him and enjoyed holidays with Orton and Kenneth Halliwell in Morocco. Other close friends included fellow thespians Maggie Smith, Stanley Baxter, Gordon Jackson and his wife Rona Anderson, Beverly Cross and Sheila Hancock. By turns gregarious and reclusive, Williams was also fond of the company of fellow Carry On regulars Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Hattie Jacques and Bernard Bresslaw.

In later years Williams' health declined, along with that of his elderly mother, and his depression deepened. He died on 15 April 1988 from an overdose of barbiturates. An inquest recorded an open verdict into his death as it was not possible to establish whether his death was the result of suicide or an accident. Williams' father had died after drinking a bottle of disinfectant in 1962.

The main protagonist for the 'suicide' theory was Gyles Brandreth, a friend of Williams for many years (and who edited two editions of Acid Drops for him) mainly centring on his dread of hospitals (despite being a self-confessed hypochondriac) and on the last sentence Williams wrote in his diary:

'By 6.30 pain in the back was pulsating as it's never done before … so this, plus the stomach trouble combines to torture me — oh — what's the bloody point?'

Surviving friends continue to maintain that, because of Williams' devotion to Lou (for whom he bought the flat next to his), he would never — in her lifetime — have seriously contemplated suicide. The best-selling posthumous publication of his diaries and letters, both edited by Russell Davies, not only caused some controversy over their contents (particularly Williams' often caustic remarks about many of his fellow professionals), but also revealed the periodic bouts of despondency (often primed by feelings of isolation and underachievement) that marked Williams' life.

Williams' flat was later bought by Rob Brydon and Julia Davis for the writing of their dark comedy series, Human Remains. The building was due to be demolished in a controversial regeneration scheme agreed in 2006 and finally demolished in May 2007.

In April 2007, Williams' line 'Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me', was voted the greatest one-liner in movie history by a poll of a thousand comedy writers, actors, impresarios and members of the public for the launch of Sky Movies Comedy Channel

Sunday, February 20, 2011

David Geffen

David Geffen born 21 February 1943

David Lawrence Geffen is a record executive, film producer, and theatrical producer, and philanthropist. Geffen is most noted for creating Geffen Records in 1980, and being one of the three founders of Dreamworks SKG.

Born in New York, Geffen attended the University of Texas at Austin but soon dropped out.

He began his entertainment career in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency, where he quickly became an agent. He left William Morris to become a personal manager and was immediately successful with Laura Nyro and Crosby, Stills and Nash. In the process of looking for a record deal for young Jackson Browne, Ahmet Ertegun suggested that Geffen start his own record label. Geffen founded Asylum Records in 1971, which signed artists such as Browne, The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.

Asylum was acquired by Warner Communications and merged with Elektra Records in 1972 to become Elektra/Asylum Records. Geffen remained in charge until 1975, when he resigned as director. He worked briefly as Vice Chairman of the Warner Bros. film studios before retiring for a few years (during which he taught business at Yale University.

In 1980, he founded Geffen Records. After releasing John Lennon's album Double Fantasy in December of that year (because, Lennon said, Geffen Records was the only label with enough confidence in him to agree to a deal without hearing the record first), Geffen found themselves with a massive seller, albeit in tragic circumstances, when Lennon was murdered later that month. This helped bring the new label a mass of attention. Geffen Records/DGC became well known also for releasing works by the likes of Cher, Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, Neil Young, and Weezer.

Through the Geffen Film Company, David Geffen produced dark-tinged comedies such as (the 1986 version of) Little Shop of Horrors, Risky Business and Beetlejuice. Geffen was the Broadway backer for the musicals Dreamgirls and Cats. In 1994, Geffen co-founded the DreamWorks studio with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Geffen, who is openly gay, was the subject of a persistent but false 1990s rumour that he had married actor Keanu Reeves. Before he came out as openly gay, he dated Cher and Marlo Thomas in the late 1970s.

Geffen is a prominent philanthropist, renowned for his support to medical research, AIDS organisations, the arts and theatre.

According to Forbes Magazine (The 400 Richest Americans of 2004) and other sources, Geffen has pledged to give whatever money he makes from now on to charity (although he has not specified specific charities or the manner of his giving). In 2002, he announced a $200 million unrestricted endowment for UCLA Medical School.

Geffen is a keen collector of American artists' work, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. In October 2006 he sold two paintings by Jasper Johns and a De Kooning from his collection for a combined sum of $143.5m. In November 2006, the New York Times reported that Geffen had sold Pollock's 1948 painting No. 5, 1948 from his collection for a world record price of $140m (£73.35m) to a secretive Mexican financier David Martinez.

Geffen is the subject of Joni Mitchell's song Free Man in Paris. Mitchell and Geffen were close friends, and in the early 1970s made a trip to Paris with Robbie and Dominique Robertson.

Geffen can be heard on Barbra Streisand’s The Broadway Album, released in 1985. The track Putting It Together features Geffen, Sydney Pollack, and Ken Sylk portraying the voices of record company executives talking to Barbra. He resides in Malibu, California. He, along with other celebrities including Steven Spielberg and Brad Pitt donated money to stop Proposition 8 from becoming law in California.

David Geffen was named one of the 2010 recepients of Ahmet Ertegun Award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Peter Hitchener

Peter Hitchener born 21 February 1946

Peter Hitchener is an Australian television presenter. He has been chief newsreader for Melbourne's edition of National Nine News since 1998, and prior to that was weekend newsreader.

Originally from rural Queensland, Hitchener began his media career as a journalist and presenter in 1965 at the Brisbane 4BH radio station, before moving on to ABC Brisbane where he undertook roles as a television and radio presenter. Still at the ABC, he moved to Sydney in 1973 where he was a relief presenter for evening news presenter James Dibble.

Hitchener moved to Channel Nine after one year at ABC Sydney, presenting National Nine News first in Sydney and then in Melbourne. In 1977, Hitchener began hosting the breakfast show on 3AW before moving to 3AK in 1979. At about this time, Hitchener also became chief weekend newsreader and understudy to first-choice newsreader Brian Naylor, until Naylor retired in 1998.

Since then, Hitchener has presented Nine's evening news broadcasts on weeknights and has become one of Melbourne's most respected newsreaders. Hitchener has become one of the most respected newsreaders in Victoria.

In addition to his television presenting, Hitchener is also an avid patron for the Deaf Blind Society of Victoria and a guest speaker for many charity and community events held across Melbourne.

In April 2008, he revealed that he is gay in an interview with a Melbourne newspaper.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen

Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen born 20 February 1880 (d. 1923)

Baron Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen was a French aristocrat, a novelist and poet. In 1903, after a scandal involving Parisian schoolboys had made him a persona non grata in the salons and dashed his marriage plans, he took up residence in Capri, where he lived with his longtime boyfriend and 'secretary', Nino Cesarini [pictured below, photographed by Guglielmo Plüschow], until his death in 1923.

D'Adelswärd-Fersen's grandfather had founded a steel empire, which was profitable enough that it made d'Adelswärd-Fersen exceedingly wealthy when he inherited at age 22. Consequently, he was much sought-after in the higher circles, as families hoped to marry him to one of their daughters.

Apart from joining the military, d'Adelswärd-Fersen had already travelled extensively and published some poems. At around this time, his homosexual leanings became apparent to him, which are also relatively clearly addressed in his poetry. Unfortunately for him, he was not sexually interested in adult men (which at the time in France would not have brought him into legal trouble) but in teenage boys between about 15 and 17 years old. This inclination eventually caused his undoing in French society.

In 1903, accusations surfaced that the Baron had held Black Masses in his house at 18 Avenue de Friedland. Supposedly these orgiastic feasts were attended by local Parisian schoolboys and involved sexual misconduct between the Baron and the boys. He was charged with indecent behavior with minors and served a six-month prison sentence, was fined 50 francs and lost his civil rights for five years.

The scandal bears some similarities with the trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895, who also experienced great social degradation after a public trial finding him guilty of 'gross indecency with other male persons'. Perhaps d'Adelswärd-Fersen was lucky in that his feasts were also attended by other notable figures of Parisian high society, which more or less forced the court to drop some charges to minimise the impact of the scandal.

After his marriage plans were foiled, d'Adelswärd-Fersen remembered the island of Capri from his youth and decided to build a house there.

Lord Lyllian, published in 1905, is one of d'Adelswärd-Fersen's novels and perhaps his most important work, satirising the scandal around himself in Paris, with touches of the Oscar Wilde affair thrown in for good measure.

The hero, Lord Lyllian, departs on a wild odyssey of sexual debauchery, is seduced by a character that seems to resemble Oscar Wilde, falls in love with girls and boys, and is finally killed by a boy. The public outcry about the supposed Black Masses is also charicatured. The work is an audacious mix of fact and fiction, including four characters that are alter egos of d'Adelswärd-Fersen himself.

Akademos. Revue Mensuelle d'Art Libre et de Critique was d'Adelswärd-Fersen's short-lived attempt at publishing a monthly journal promoting pederastic love. When the premiere issue of Akademos came out in 1909, it was the first publication of its kind in the French language. Thematically, it trod somewhat similar ground as the German journal Der Eigene, published between 1896 and 1931 by Adolf Brand. This is not a coincidence, as d'Adelswärd-Fersen studied the German publications that tried to push for the social acceptance of homosexuality before launching Akademos. Also, he corresponded with both Brand and Magnus Hirschfeld.

D'Adelswärd-Fersen frequently organised parties in his splendid villa, to which all the intellectuals and 'eccentric' travellers staying on the island of Capri were invited. The Baron lived for twenty years on the island; his death there, possibly through suicide, is thought to have been caused by an overdose of cocaine. His ashes are kept in Capri’s non-catholic cemetery.

Roy Cohn

Roy Cohn born 20 February 1927 (d. 1986)

Roy Marcus Cohn was an American lawyer who came to prominence during the investigations by Senator Joseph McCarthy into alleged Communists in the US government, especially during the Army-McCarthy Hearings. A highly controversial figure, he wielded tremendous political power at times.

Born Jewish in Queens, New York, Cohn's father was a New York judge who was influential in Democratic Party politics. He lived with his parents until his mother's death in 1969, after which he lived in New York, the District of Columbia, and Greenwich, Connecticut.

A 1946 graduate of Columbia College, Cohn graduated from Columbia Law School at the age of 20, and began working for the office of United States Attorney Irving Saypol in Manhattan, a position many have attributed to his politically connected father.

Although he was registered as a Democrat, Cohn was widely considered a 'Democrat In Name Only' (DINO), as he supported most of the Republican presidents of his time and Republicans in major seats across New York.

As Saypol's assistant at the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, Cohn helped to win a number of high-profile anti-Communist cases. But Cohn was most famous for his prominent role in the 1951 espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Cohn's direct examination of Ethel's brother produced the testimony (in which the brother later claimed he perjured himself) that was mostly responsible for the Rosenbergs' conviction and execution.

Cohn took great pride in the Rosenberg case, and claimed to have played an even greater part than his public role: he said in his autobiography that his own influence had led to both Saypol and Judge Irving Kaufman (a family friend) being appointed to the case, and that Kaufman had imposed the death penalty on Cohn's personal advice.

The Rosenberg trial brought the 24-year-old Cohn to the attention of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who recommended him to McCarthy. McCarthy's hired Cohn as his chief counsel, choosing him over Robert Kennedy, reportedly in part to avoid accusations of an anti-semitic motivation for the investigations. Cohn soon gained power nearly equal to McCarthy's in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, becoming known for his aggressive questioning of suspected Communists. Cohn tended to be disinclined to hold the hearing in open forums. This mixed well with McCarthy's preference for holding 'executive sessions' and 'off-the-record' sessions far away from the Capitol in order to minimise public scrutiny and to question witnesses with relative impunity. Cohn was given free rein in pursuit of many investigations, with McCarthy joining in only for the more publicised sessions.

Cohn arranged for a close friend, G. David Schine, to join him on McCarthy's staff as an advisor. When Schine was drafted into the army in 1953, Cohn made repeated and extensive efforts to procure special treatment for Schine. Contacting military officials from the Secretary of the Army down to Schine's company commander, he demanded that Schine be given light duties, extra leave and not be assigned overseas. At one point Cohn is reported to have threatened to 'wreck the Army' if his demands were not met. This conflct led to the Army-McCarthy Hearings of 1954, in which the Army charged Cohn and McCarthy with using improper pressure on behalf of Schine, while McCarthy and Cohn counter-charged that the Army was holding Schine 'hostage' in an attempt to squelch McCarthy's investigations into Communists in the Army. Although the findings of the hearings placed the blame on Cohn rather than McCarthy, they are widely viewed as a key element in McCarthy's fall from power. After the Army-McCarthy Hearings, Cohn resigned from McCarthy's staff and went into private practice.

After leaving McCarthy, Cohn built a 30-year career as a high-powered attorney in New York City. His clients included Donald Trump, Mafia figures Tony Salerno and John Gotti, Studio 54 owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, and the Archdiocese of New York. He was known for his active social life, charitable giving, and combative personality. He maintained close ties with conservative politics, serving as an informal advisor to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Federal investigations in the 1970s and 1980s charged Cohn three times with professional misconduct, including perjury and witness tampering, and he was accused in New York of financial improprieties related to city contracts and private investments. He was never convicted. In 1986, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court disbarred Cohn for unethical and unprofessional conduct, including misappropriation of clients' funds, pressuring a client to amend his will, and lying on a bar application. He lost his license to practice during the last month of his life.

Rumours of Cohn's homosexuality began to spread throughout Washington shortly after McCarthy appointed him chief counsel to McCarthy's subcommittee. When he brought on the wealthy and handsome G. David Schine as chief consultant, it became widely speculated that Schine and Cohn had a sexual relationship.

Cohn and McCarthy targeted many government officials and cultural figures not only for suspected Communist sympathies but also for alleged homosexual tendencies, sometimes using sexual secrets as a blackmail tool to gain informants. The men whose homosexuality Cohn exposed often lost jobs, families, and homes: some committed suicide.

During debates over New York City's first gay rights law, Cohn said homosexuals should not be allowed to be schoolteachers.

In 1984, Cohn was diagnosed with AIDS, and he attempted to keep his condition secret while receiving aggressive drug treatment. He participated in clinical trials of new drugs. He insisted to his dying day that his disease was liver cancer.

He died on August 2, 1986, of complications from AIDS at the age of 59. He is buried in Queens, New York.

A dramatic, controversial man in life, Cohn inspired many dramatic fictional portrayals after his death. Probably the most famous is his role in Tony Kushner's Angels in America, in which Cohn is portrayed as an amoral, power-hungry hypocrite who vigorously denies his sexuality, while being haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg as he lays dying. In the 2003 HBO version of Kushner's play, Cohn was played by Al Pacino, and Rosenberg was played by Meryl Streep. Cohn is also a character in Kushner's one-act play, G. David Schine in Hell.

Cohn is portrayed in an episode of The X-Files, in which an elderly former FBI agent speaks to Agent Mulder about the early years of the McCarthy era and the beginning of the X-Files.

Cohn is mentioned in Billy Joel's song We Didn't Start the Fire.

Roy Cohn, Rock Hudson, and Michel Foucault are the main characters in Matias Viegener's story Twilight of the Gods. The three men meet in the American Hospital of Paris and a strange settling of scores and love triangle ensues.

The nasal voice of the unnamed but recurring 'Blue-Haired Lawyer' character on The Simpsons is based on that of Roy Cohn, according to DVD commentaries by show writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss. The Simpsons also mentioned Cohn during a 'Rest of the Story' parody where Paul Harvey concludes his segment with 'and that little boy who nobody liked grew up to be Roy Cohn'. A penny-pinching speaker also declared that he got his tuxedo cheap because 'Roy Cohn died in it'.

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp born 20 February 1872 (d. 1938)

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp KG, KCMG, PC, British politician, succeeded his father as Earl Beauchamp in 1891, and was mayor of Worcester at age 23. A progressive in his ideas, he was surprised to be offered the post of Governor of New South Wales in May 1899. Though good at the job, he was unpopular in the colony, and Beauchamp returned to Britain in 1900, where he joined the Liberal Party.

Beauchamp was Lord Steward of the Household to King Edward VII and was made a Privy Counsellor in 1906. He served in the Liberal Government as Lord President of the Council from June to November 1910, First Commissioner of Works from 1910 to 1914, Lord President again from 1914 to 1915, and was Liberal Leader in the House of Lords from 1924, supporting the failing party with his substantial fortune.

Beauchamp was made Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire in 1911, carried the Sword of State at the coronation of King George V, was made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1913 and a Knight of the Garter in 1914.

He was also Chancellor of London University, a Six Master (Governor of RGS Worcester) and Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms.

In 1931, he was 'outed' as homosexual (despite his 7 children) to the King and Queen by his violently-Tory brother-in-law, the Duke of Westminster, who hoped to ruin the Liberal Party through Beauchamp. Homosexuality was a criminal offence at the time, and the King was horrified, infamously observing, 'I thought men like that shot themselves'.

To those in the know Beachamp was notorious for his weakness for footmen, and his children would warn their male friends to lock their doors at night if they stayed at Madresfield, the family estate. His second son, Hugh Lygon, was a close friend, probably a lover, of Evelyn Waugh, and is generally accepted to be one of the main inspirations for Sebastian Flyte in Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited.

There was no public scandal, but Lord Beauchamp resigned all his offices, except Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and went into exile on the Continent. He died of cancer in New York City, aged 66.

Lord Beauchamp is generally supposed to have been the model for Lord Marchmain (who was also outed by his brother-in-law) in Brideshead Revisited.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dudley Cave

Dudley Cave born 19 February 1921 (d. 1999)

Dudley Cave was a British former soldier and pioneering gay rights activist.

He joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1941, aged 20, and was posted to the Far East. He was captured by the Japanese when Singapore fell in 1942 and was marched north to work on the Thai-Burma railway, 10 miles beyond the bridge on the River Kwai. He caught malaria and was imprisoned in Changi Prison in Singapore because he was unproductive. This may have saved his life. Three quarters of his company perished.

When back in Britain he had a job as manager of the Majestic Cinema, Wembley, but in 1954 he was sacked when it was discovered that he was gay.

Also in 1954 he met Bernard Williams, an RAF veteran and school teacher, and they became lovers and co-campaigners for 40 years until Bernard Williams died in 1994.

In 1971 Dudley Cave joined the Unitarian Church and helped in securing the ordination of lesbians and gay men. He also conducted same-sex weddings.

In 1974 he was on the launch committee of the London Gay Switchboard, and he was still answering the telephone right up to his death 25 years later.

He and his partner, Bernard Williams, founded the Lesbian and Gay Bereavement Project in 1980, and they ran its telephone helpline for many years. After a battle with the Charity Commissioners this became the first organisation with 'gay' in its title to be given charitable status.

In the 1980s he worked on reconciliation with the Japanese and travelled a number of times to Japan to speak on the subject.

In November, 1998 he was OutRage!'s keynote speaker at its Queer Remembrance Day vigil at the Cenotaph where he layed a pink triangle wreath honouring gay people who died fighting Nazism and in the concentration camps.

Dudley Cave dedicated most of his life to challenging and fighting prejudice and seeking justice and equality for gay people especially in the areas of military recognition and issues of bereavement for gay people of all ages; he did so with great eloquence, dignity and integrity.

Jackie Curtis

Jackie Curtis born 19 February 1947 (d. 1985)

John Holder Jr, better known as Jackie Curtis, was a famous transgendered film star, poet and playwright.

Curtis was born in New York City, and later died there of a drug overdose. He spent part of his life living and performing as a man (sometimes adopting a James Dean persona) and sometimes as a woman.

While living and performing in drag, she would typically wear lipstick, glitter around the eyes and in her frizzed-out red hair, and a dress, frequently ripped and torn, as were her stockings. This unique style, a combination of trash and glamour which Curtis pioneered in the late 1960s when frequenting such high profile nightclubs as Max's Kansas City, has prompted assertions that Jackie inspired the Glam Rock persona of the 1970s.

'Jackie Curtis is not a drag queen. Jackie is an artist. A pioneer without a frontier,' Andy Warhol said of his associate. Primarily a stage actor, Curtis debuted at the age of 17 in Tom Eyen's play Miss Neferititi Regrets. Curtis began to write his own plays immediately after this experience, often featuring famous transsexuals, such as his friend Candy Darling and, later, Holly Woodlawn, both of whom appeared in his productions which enjoyed successful runs Off-Off-Broadway and were well-reviewed in New York. Curtis's work is representative of the Theatre of the Ridiculous.

As writer and lead actress some of her plays include: Glamour, Glory and Gold, which also starred Candy Darling and Melba LaRose Jr; Amerika Cleopatra which featured Harvey Fierstein; Femme Fatale, with Patti Smith, Jayne County (at that time billed as Wayne County) and Penny Arcade; and Heaven Grand In Amber Orbit with Holly Woodlawn, produced by John Vaccaro's Playhouse of the Ridiculous in 1970.

These plays caught the attention of Andy Warhol and his director Paul Morrissey, who cast Jackie and Candy in Flesh (1968) and, with the addition of Holly Woodlawn, in Women in Revolt (1971); a hilarious spoof of the women's liberation movement in which all the female leads are played by transsexuals and transvestites. Warhol films directed by Morrissey were made in a completely improvised. Morrissey gave the actors the basic idea of the scene and line suggestions and then simply let the camera roll.

Apart from acting, Curtis also showed talent in poetry and singing. In 1974 Curtis and Woodlawn appeared in the successful and critically acclaimed Cabaret in the Sky at the New York Cultural Center. A CD of songs by Paul Serrato from the Curtis musicals Lucky Wonderful and Vain Victory, including the love ballad Who Are You which Curtis sang (as a man) to Candy Darling, was released in 2004.

Curtis was also the 'Jackie' in Lou Reed's song Walk On The Wild Side, which was about the 'superstars' Reed knew from Andy Warhol's studio The Factory. The verse speaks of his drug addiction and fascination with James Dean: '...Jackie is just speeding away - Thought she was James Dean for a day... then she just had to crash, valium would have helped that bash...'

Jackie Curtis made two more movies during the 1980s. Drug addiction, however, had taken control of Curtis's life, eventually leading to his death.

In 2004, a film based on Curtis's life, Superstar in a Housedress, brought Jackie Curtis back to the limelight, exposing some little known facts about the performer to the public.

Curtis's influence on a number of people, friends and associates such as Holly Woodlawn, Joe Dallesandro and Penny Arcade, and observers such as David Bowie, is noted in the film. As well, Jayne County writes of Jackie as being '...the biggest influence on me at this time.' Whether her influence was in the realm of style, with her use of glitter that predated the glam rockers, or her ripped and torn dresses and stockings that predated punk, employing the use of performance both on and off stage and screen; or in the more traditional arts of playwriting and poetry, both attest to her critique of glamour, fame and pop culture in America that she explored in several mediums. However, it was perhaps her bravery in gender transgressions that is Jackie Curtis's legacy.

Justin Fashanu

Justin Fashanu born 19 February 1961 (d. 1998)

Justinus Soni 'Justin' Fashanu was an English footballer.

Fashanu was the son of a Nigerian barrister living in England. When his parents split up he was sent, together with his younger brother John (who also became a professional footballer) to a Barnardo's home. When he was six, he and his brother were fostered by a family and brought up in Attleborough, Norfolk.

He began his career as an apprentice with Norwich City, turning professional towards the end of December 1978. He made his league debut in January 1979 and settled into the Norwich side scoring regularly and occasionally spectacularly. In 1980, he won the BBC Goal of the Season award, for a very spectacular goal against Liverpool. He subsequently became Britain's first £1m black footballer when he transferred to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in August 1981.

His career stalled as his professional relationship with Brian Clough deteriorated; Clough, it would appear, was disturbed by the rumours of Justin Fashanu's visits to gay nightclubs and bars. His goals and then confidence dried up as he failed to fit in with the playing and lifestyle demands of Clough, especially after Clough had discovered his homosexuality and barred him from even training with the side.

In August 1982 he was loaned to Southampton (scoring 3 goals in 9 appearances), and then in December that year was sold to local rivals Notts County for only £150,000. He scored 20 times in 64 games for the Magpies before moving to Brighton & Hove Albion in June 1985 for a fee of £115,000, where a knee injury looked to have finished his career. He went to the United States for surgery and began playing again, firstly with Los Angeles Heat and then with Edmonton Brickmen.

He returned to the UK and tried to resurrect his playing career, joining Manchester City in October 1989. He moved to West Ham United in November, before a trial with Ipswich Town. He joined Leyton Orient in March 1990 and subsequently joined Southall as player-coach before moving to Leatherhead.

In 1990, he publicly came out as gay in an interview with the tabloid press, becoming the only prominent player in English football so far to do so. Many former colleagues spoke out in anger against him, stating that homosexuals had no place in a team sport, and his brother John publicly disowned him. Although he claimed that he was generally well accepted by his fellow players, he freely admitted that they would often joke maliciously about his sexual orientation, and he also became the target of constant crowd abuse because of it.

He began a trial with Newcastle United in October 1991. In November 1991 he left Leatherhead to join Torquay United, apparently one of the few league clubs willing to give him a real chance. He hogged the limelight while at Plainmoor, with his lifestyle, in particular his relationship with Coronation Street actress Julie Goodyear spread over the tabloids, but he still managed to impress on the pitch and was made player-coach.

In February 1993, with Torquay battling against a second successive relegation, Fashanu applied for the vacant post of manager, but was turned down. Fashanu left to play for Airdrieonians soon after.

He left Airdrie in 1993, playing in Sweden with Trelleborg, before returning to Scotland, joining Heart of Midlothian in July 1993, but was sacked in April 1994 for 'unprofessional conduct' (he had attempted to sell false stories regarding him and a number of cabinet ministers to the press) and returned to the United States to coach a boys team in Georgia. He later moved to Australia to play for Adelaide City and then to New Zealand to play for Miramar Rangers in 1997, before joining Atlanta Ruckus in the spring of the same year, but was suspended for the playoffs for failure to comply with the terms of his contract. He then moved to Ellicott City, Maryland to coach Maryland Mania Club, a new professional team, following his officially announced retirement from the professional game.

He admitted in an interview with Gay Times that he wasn't fully prepared for the backlash that followed his coming out and that his career in football suffered 'heavy damage'.

In 1998 in the United States a 17-year-old claimed to police that on 25 March he found himself in Justin Fashanu's bed, after a drinking bout, being sexually assaulted. Justin Fashanu was questioned about this by the police on 3 April, but he was not held in custody. It was widely reported in the press that the police later arrived at his flat with a warrant to arrest him on charges of sexual assault. However, Justin Fashanu had already returned to England.

In May 1998, he hanged himself in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into, in Shoreditch, London, after visiting Chariots Roman Spa (a gay sauna in the area). In his suicide note, he stated: 'I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family ... I hope the Jesus I love welcomes me, I will at last find peace.'

An inquest in London held on 9 September, 1998, heard that there was in fact no warrant out for Justin Fashanu's arrest and that the American police had already dropped the investigation because of lack of evidence.

Justin Fashanu is still the only professional player in British football to have come out as gay.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Duane Michals

Duane Michals born 18 February 1932

Duane Michals is an American photographer. Largely self-taught, his work is noted for its innovation and artistry. Michals' style often features photo-sequences and the incorporation of text to examine emotion and philosophy, resulting in a unique body of work.

Michals grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In 1953 he received a BA from the University of Denver. In 1956 he went on to study design at the Parsons School of Design with a plan to becoming a graphic designer, however he did not complete his studies.

In 1958 while on a holiday in the USSR he discovered an interest in photography. The photographs he made during this trip became his first exhibition held in 1963 at the Underground Gallery in New York City. Duane Michals settled in New York in the late 1950s and became known as a commercial and fashion photographer.

For a number of years, Michals worked in commercial photography, working for Esquire and Mademoiselle, and he covered the filming of The Great Gatsby for Vogue (1974). He did not have a studio. Instead, he took portraits of people in their environment, which was a contrast to the method of other photographers at the time, such as Avedon and Irving Penn. In 1968 Michals was hired by the government of Mexico to photograph the 1968 Olympic Games. In 1970 his works were shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

He has published over twenty books of his work, including The Portraits of Duane Michals 1958-1988 (1989).

His early work became well known for its insistent, and often humorous, use of the narrative series. Many such works actually incorporated handwritten text onto the images. Thematically, Michals has a recurrent fascination with making tangible the intangible realm of love, death, dreams, and wishes. His works deal with human sexuality, both straight and gay, but always in a charmingly moving and innocent manner.

The portraits he took between 1958 and 1988 would later become the basis of his book Album.

In 1976 Michals received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Michals also produced the art for The Police album Synchronicity in 1983, and Richard Barone's Clouds Over Eden album in 1993.

Michals has been in a relationship with his partner for 50 years. Though he has not been involved in gay civil rights, his photography has regularly addressed gay themes and quietly added to the storehouse of twentieth-century gay imagery.