Saturday, April 30, 2011

Julian Mitchell

Julian Mitchell born 1 May 1935

Julian Mitchell is an English screenwriter and occasional novelist.

Mitchell is best known as a playwright and screenwriter for TV, producing many original plays and series episodes, including at least ten for Inspector Morse. He has written nine produced plays, including Another Country, which won the SWET (now Oliviers) award for best play of the year (1981). He has also written the screenplay for five movies, starting by co-writing Arabesque (1966), and including the 1984 film adaptation of Another Country, Wilde and Vincent & Theo.

After leaving school, Mitchell performed national service in submarines 1953-55. He then went to St Antony's College, Oxford, where he received a BA with first class honours. This was followed by a period as a Harkness Fellow in the USA (1959-61). Since 1962 has been a freelance writer.

In the late 1960s, Mitchell co-wrote the teleplay Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) with Ray Davies of The Kinks. It was never produced, though it gave rise to the band's concept album. Originally intended to be a full 'rock opera', the project got to final planning stages before collapsing through lack of proper financing.

In 2007 he wrote for BBC4 the drama Consenting Adults about Sir John Wolfenden and his celebrated 1957 report.

Julian Mitchell has lived with philosopher Richard Rowson since the late 1960s.

Julian Mitchell in The Guardian on 50 years of gay liberation in Britain.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mark Morrisroe

Mark Morrisroe born 1959 (d. 1989)

Mark Morrisroe was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1959 and was a photographer.

His mother was a drug-addicted prostitute. He left home at the age of 13 and began hustling. One of his disgruntled contacts shot him and he carried a bullet in his chest for the rest of his life.

He won a place at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but he was disruptive as his lifestyle involved drugs, cross-dressing, and exhibitionism.

Many of his photographs were self-portraits and formed a visual diary of his life. He photographed himself, friends and lovers in dark, grainy, distressed colour, integrating Super 8 stills and black and white Polaroids. His work is 'decadent' and his subject matter inseparable from his life. His work is technically experimental and takes on a sketchbook quality which includes titles and comments scrawled on the edges of his images.

Morrisroe used a 195 Polaroid Land camera and a film donated by the Polaroid company.

He assumed various identities including Mark Dirt, fanzine editor, and Sweet Raspberry, a maudlin drag queen down on her luck.

In 1997 an exhibition of Morrisoe's work My Life. Mark Morrisroe: Polaroids 1977-1989 was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. The exhibition included 188 portraits. Captured over a twelve-year period, Morrisroe's naked body in these photographs depicts the changes to his body cased by HIV infection as he transforms from youthful beauty to near-skeletal wasting. The photographs carry great self-awareness and poignancy.

Towards the end of his life he spent so much time in hospital he set up a dark room in the ward shower.

When he died 2000 Polaroids were found along with Super-8 films.

The estate of Mark Morrisroe (Collection Ringier) is currently located at the Fotomuseum Winterthur

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Michael Alig

Michael Alig born 29 April 1966

Michael Alig (born South Bend, Indiana) was a founding member of the notorious Club Kids, a group of young clubgoers led by Alig in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Alig came to New York and started out at as a busboy at Danceteria in 1983. A natural at throwing parties with little or no resources he soon began to rise in New York's party scene. Alig was mentored by socialite James St James and club owner Peter Gatien, while rising in popularity and prominence in the national underground club scene. Alig was also influential in the early promotion of Superstar DJ Keoki (whom he dated on and off). Other protegés included Gitzie, Jennytalia, Freeze, Richie Rich, Amanda Lepore and many other Club Kid personalities. The Club Kids' outrageousness resulted in their appearing on the news and the television talk show circuit.

Alig's most notorious parties were held at The Limelight, owned by Gatien and designed by Ari Bahat. The Limelight was closed by the police for supposed drug trafficking, but subsequently reopened several times during the 1990s.

He found a whole new level of notoriety in 1996 when, increasingly affected by substance abuse, Alig and his friend Robert 'Freeze' Riggs murdered their drug dealer Andre 'Angel' Melendez.

Melendez was murdered by Alig and Riggs after going to Alig's apartment to collect on a longstanding drug debt. After getting into a struggle with Alig he was hit on the head with a hammer, restrained with duct tape and either injected with or forced to drink Drano, a highly caustic drain cleaner. Later - after the body had begun to decompose in their apartment - they attempted to dismember it by cutting off Melendez's legs. They then put the body in a cardboard box and threw it into the Hudson River.

Alig 'jokingly' mentioned the murder while filming a documentary, presumably to shake off persistent rumours of the yet unproven incident. The media presumed it was a publicity stunt until Melendez's body washed ashore. In December 1996, Alig was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for Melendez's murder. Alig was eligible for parole in November 2006, but was denied. He was again denied in September 2008, and was not eligible again until his conditional release date in March 2010. Due to him receiving another ticket for prescription drug use, Michael Alig could not be released in March, 2010. Alig is next eligible for parole in 2012.

The events of Alig's years as a club promoter up to his arrest were portrayed in the 1998 documentary Party Monster, and recreated in a 2003 film of the same name starring Macaulay Culkin as Alig and Seth Green as St James. The events are also covered in St James's memoir, Disco Bloodbath. Alig is reportedly working on an autobiography called Alig-ula.

Party Boy in a Cage

Leslie Jordan

Leslie Jordan born 29 April 1955

Leslie Allen Jordan is an Emmy Award-winning American actor.

Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee and at a height of just 4 ft 11 in (1.50 m), Jordan has become an instantly recognisable face in film and television. He is most well known for his television work - including guest appearances on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Star Trek: Voyager and Boston Legal.

He is best known for his memorable appearances as Karen's pretentious rival, Beverley Leslie on the hit series Will & Grace. For that role he received an Emmy Award for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (2006).

He is also an accomplished stage actor and playwright.

In 2007 Jordan toured the States performing his one-man stage comedy Like a Dog on Linoleum to rave reviews. In the show, Jordan tells stories of the high and low points of his life; from his father's death in a plane crash when he was just 11 years old, to his battles with substance abuse and weakness for street hustlers.

Leslie Jordan, who is openly gay, has recently starred in the pilot episode of Laugh Out. Laugh Out is the world's first interactive, gay-themed comedy show.

Rod McKuen

Rod McKuen born 29 April 1933

Rod McKuen is a bestselling American poet, composer and singer, instrumental in the revitalisation of popular poetry in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Born in Oakland, California, he ran away from home at an early age to avoid an alcoholic stepfather and after a series of drifter jobs throught the West and a spell with the army in Korea, began to find an audience with his poetry in the 1950s, eventually appearing with Beat poets such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

After moving to New York in 1959, he found great success in the 1960s with his poetry and songs. He spent much time in France working with and translating the work of his friend Jacques Brel.

In the late 1960s, McKuen managed to capture in verse the feelings of the student generation in opposition to the Vietnam war and his readings were attended like rock concerts.

He has written many hundreds of songs, including two albums for Frank Sinatra, and collaborated with many including Henry Mancini and John Williams. He has sold millions of albums and written orchestral and film music - his scores for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) and A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1970) were Oscar nominated.

A major spell of clinical depression in the 1980s made him withdraw from the limelight. He has long since returned to activity but in a more low-key way and now making full use of the Internet.

Always a performer with a social conscience, he has gone from fighting the Vietnam war and apartheid and on to work for AIDS awareness.

Rod McKuen has a partner of 45 years standing.

"It doesn't matter who you love, or how you love, but that you love." - Rod McKuen

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

John Paul Hudson

John Paul Hudson born 28 April 1929 (d. 2002)

John Paul Hudson was a longtime activist and a pioneering gay journalist. He is the author of numerous books including Superstar Murder and The Gay Insider USA.

A member of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) who was formerly with the Mattachine Society, Hudson wrote the 1971 book The Gay Insider, a guide to New York's gay scene. The following year he published one of the first nationwide gay travel guides, The Gay Insider USA.

Hudson was the organiser of New York City's first gay pride march in 1970 in the wake of the Stonewall riots.

Obituary on Gay Today

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jack Cole

Jack Cole born 27 April 1911 (d. 1974)

Jack Cole was an American dancer, choreographer, and theatre director known as the father of theatrical jazz dance.

Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Cole virtually invented the idiom of American Show Dancing known as 'Theatre Dance'. He developed an entirely personal mode of jazz-ethnic-ballet that prevails as the dominant look of and technique for dancing in today's musicals, films, nightclub revues, television commercials and music videos.

Early on he decided to pursue dance with the Denishawn Dance Company led by Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn. Cole also performed with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, but eventually left the modern dance world for commercial dance career in nightclubs, performing with Alice Dudley, Anna Austin and Florence Lessing.

Cole is credited with choreographing and/or directing the stage musicals Alive and Kicking, Magdalena, Carnival in Flanders, Zenda, Foxy, Kismet, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Kean, Donnybrook!, Jamaica, and Man of La Mancha. His film work includes Moon Over Miami, Cover Girl, Tonight and Every Night, Gilda, The Merry Widow, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, There's No Business Like Show Business, Kismet (1955 film), Les Girls, and many others. He was most famous in Hollywood for his work with Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.

Cole's unmistakable style endures in the work of Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Gower Champion, Peter Gennaro, Michael Bennett, Tommy Tune, and countless other dancers and choreographers.

He was reportedly a demanding and relentless taskmaster in his pursuit of dance excellence.

Russell T Davies

Russell T Davies born 27 April 1963

Russell T Davies is an award-winning British television producer and writer. He is best known for writing ground-breaking and sometimes controversial drama serials such as Queer as Folk and The Second Coming, and for spearheading the revival of the popular science-fiction television series Doctor Who.

Davies is 6' 6" tall. He divides his time between his home in Manchester, England and a flat in Cardiff Bay, where he stays while Doctor Who is filming. He has been with partner Andrew Smith, a customs officer, for several years.

He is also a Patron of the Cardiff-Wales Mardi Gras.

In May 2007, the Independent on Sunday Pink List named him the most influential gay person in Britain from the 18th position the previous year.

Davies was included in the Independent on Sunday's 2010 'Happy List' for giving pleasure to many by re-establishing Doctor Who.

Russell T Davies - official website

Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim

Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim born 27 April 1906 (*)

Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim, born in Lübeck, Germany was an ordinary German man who was imprisoned by the Nazis for the (then) crime of homosexuality.

Von Groszheim was one of 230 men arrested in Lübeck on suspicion of being gay by the SS in January 1937 under paragraph 175, which outlawed homosexuality. He was imprisoned for ten months, during which he had to wear a badge emblazoned with a capital A, for Arschficker (arse-fucker):

They beat us to a pulp. I couldn't lie whole back (was) bloody. You were beaten until you finally named names.

Von Groszheim was held in a cell with no heating, very little food, and no toilet facilities. He was rearrested in 1938 and tortured. Von Groszheim was eventually offered the 'alternative' of castration or Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He 'chose' castration. Terrible as it may seem, it was a decision that probably saved his life. He was then released.

Because of the castration, von Groszheim was rejected as physically unfit for military service in 1940. In 1943 he was arrested a third time, this time as a supporter of the former Kaiser Wilhelm II, and imprisoned as a political prisoner at Neuengamme concentration camp.

After the war, he settled in Hamburg.

Von Groszheim was never acknowledged as a victim of the Nazi regime, and due to on-going persecution of homosexuals in Germany, it took nearly half a century before he broke his silence. Eventually he explained why he began to speak out: 'I'm living proof that Hitler didn't win. I'm aware of that every day. If I don't tell my story, who will know the truth?.' He only told his story in 1992, on We Were Marked with a Big "A", a film in German with English subtitles.

*I can find nothing to indicate when Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim died, but as he would now be over 100 years-old I can only assume that he is no longer with us - but his memory is important.

Luis Zapata

Luis Zapata born 27 April 1951

Luis Zapata is Mexico's most prominent gay author. He rose to popularity in the 1970s with books about the youth subculture of Mexico City. His novels examine the connection between daily life and the popular culture of radio, television, and film.

Born into an upper middle-class family in rural Mexico, Zapata escaped the restrictions of his background by losing himself in the cinema. Popular culture, cinema, melodrama and soap opera have all played a significant influence on his writing. Unusually for a Mexican writer, most of his novels, and stories feature gay and bisexual characters prominently. Where heterosexual characters appear they are usually within the context of the family and there is some element of hypocrisy and concealment, so the happiness of the normal social order is in some way seen as a smokescreen for more interesting goings on beneath the surface - as is the case with much popular drama and soap opera. His style is very heavily reliant on representing convincing dialogue and conversation - often between people of different social classes.

His work includes Hasta en las mejores familias (Even in the Best Families, 1975), Las aventuras, desventuras y sueños de Adonis García, el vampiro de la colonia Roma (1979), Melodrama (1983), En jirones (In Shreds, 1985) and La hermana secreta de Angélica María (The Secret Sister of Angelica María, 1989)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Charles Shannon

Charles Shannon born 26 April 1865 (d. 1937)

Charles Haslewood Shannon, English artist, was born at Sleaford in Lincolnshire, the son of the Rev Frederic Shannon.

He attended the Lambeth school of art, and was subsequently considerably influenced by his friend and partner Charles Ricketts and by the example of the great Venetians. In his early work he was addicted to a heavy low tone, which he abandoned subsequently for clearer and more transparent colour. He achieved great success with his portraits and his Giorgionesque figure compositions, which are marked by a classic sense of style, and with his etchings and lithographic designs.

The Dublin Municipal Gallery owns his circular composition The Bunch of Grapes and The Lady with the Green Fan (portrait of Mrs Hacon). His Study in Grey is at the Munich Gallery, a Portrait of Mr Staats Forbes at Bremen, and a Souvenir of Van Dyck at Melbourne. One of his most remarkable pictures is The Toilet of Venus in the collection of Lord Northcliffe. Several of his portrait works are on display in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Shannon taught himself lithography, realising that lithography could be used for original artistic expression, not merely as a means of reproducing images. Shannon's skill was such that he was described as 'one of the most gracefully accomplished and scholarly lithographers of the day'. He is regarded in particular as the master of lithographic portraiture.

Complete sets of his lithographs and etchings have been acquired by the British Museum and the Berlin and Dresden print rooms. He was awarded a first-class gold medal at Munich in 1895 and a first-class silver medal in Paris in 1900.

Shannon and Ricketts founded The Dial, a magazine, which had five issues from 1889 to 1897, and the Vale Press, named after their house, The Vale, in Chelsea, London. The pair came to the attention of Oscar Wilde with the publication of their magazine. He visited them at their home and they become great friends. Ricketts and Shannon were among the few to remain faithful to Wilde when he was disgraced.

Throughout their careers Shannon and Ricketts were collectors of art and over time built up a valuable collection. Charles Shannon was particularly interested in Japanese art and they bought a number of Hokusai drawings. In their joint will they left their collection to public bodies such as the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the British Museum.

Charles Shannon was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1911 and a full member in 1920.

In January 1929 Shannon was re-hanging some pictures on the staircase of his studio when he fell and hit his head on the marble floor. From then on he was a physical and mental invalid, and unable to recognise and communicate with Charles Ricketts. Charles Ricketts died of a heart attack two years later, and Charles Shannon lived for a further six years.

Shannon and Ricketts spent their entire adults lives together but were very discreet as a couple. It is generally accepted that Charles Ricketts was a homosexual but there are those who believe that Shannon was bisexual. One particular friendship with a woman caused an anxious Ricketts to record in his diary his fears that Shannon might marry.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein born 26 April 1889 (d. 1951)

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in the foundations of logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. His influence has been wide-ranging and he is generally regarded as one of the twentieth century's most important philosophers.

Before his death at the age of 62, the only book-length work Wittgenstein had published was the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Philosophical Investigations, which Wittgenstein worked on in his later years, was published shortly after he died. Both of these works are regarded as highly influential in analytic philosophy.

Ludwig Wittgenstein was born the youngest of eight children, into one of the most prominent and wealthy families in the Austro-Hungarian empire. His father's parents were born into Jewish families but later converted to Protestantism, and after they moved from Saxony to Vienna in the 1850s, assimilated into the Viennese Protestant professional classes.

Ludwig grew up in a household that provided an exceptionally intense environment for artistic and intellectual achievement. His parents were both very musical and all their children were artistically and intellectually educated. Karl Wittgenstein was a leading patron of the arts, and the Wittgenstein house hosted many figures of high culture — above all, musicians. The family was often visited by musicians such as Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler. Ludwig's older brother Paul Wittgenstein went on to become a world-famous concert pianist, even after losing his right arm in World War I. Ludwig himself had absolute pitch, and his devotion to music remained vitally important to him throughout his life: he made frequent use of musical examples and metaphors in his philosophical writings, and was said to be unusually adept at whistling lengthy and detailed musical passages.

His family also had a history of intense self-criticism, to the point of depression and suicidal tendencies. Three of his brothers committed suicide.

Until 1903, Ludwig was educated at home; after that, he began three years of schooling at the Realschule in Linz, a school emphasising technical topics. Adolf Hitler was a student there at the same time, when both boys were 14 or 15 years old. Wittgenstein was only a few days Hitler's junior but, instructed by private tutors, was two grades ahead of him. It is a matter of controversy whether Hitler and Wittgenstein knew each other personally.

In 1906, Wittgenstein began studying mechanical engineering in Berlin, and in 1908 he went to the Victoria University of Manchester to study for his doctorate in engineering, which led to an interest in pure mathematics and the philosophy of mathematics, and in 1912 he moved to Cambridge to become a pupil of Bertrand Russell.

His work from 1914-18 led to the writing of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which was published in Germany in 1921 and in London in 1922. Wittgenstein served in the Austrian army in World War I and was captured in Italy, and on his release after the war he gave away a considerable fortune he had inherited.

From 1920-26 he went to work as an elementary schoolmaster in Austria, then returned to Cambridge in 1929. During the next few years he came to a new position in philosophy, which was first stated in the Blue and Brown Books, a set of lecture notes from 1933-35 and published posthumously in 1958, and later in his Philosophical Investigations (published 1953). He became Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge in 1939.

In 1947 he resigned to devote himself to research, but his health soon deteriorated and he died of prostate cancer in 1951.

Although Wittgenstein was involved in a relationship with Marguerite Respinger (a young Swiss woman he had met as a friend of the family), his plans to marry her were broken off in 1931 and he never married. Most of his romantic attachments were to young men. There is considerable debate over how active Wittgenstein's homosexual life was, inspired by W. W. Bartley's claim to have found evidence of not only active homosexuality but in particular several casual liaisons with young men in the Wiener Prater park during his time in Vienna. Bartley published his claims in a biography of Wittgenstein in 1973. Wittgenstein's estate and other biographers disputed Bartley's claims and asked him to produce the sources that he claims. What has become clear, at least, is that Wittgenstein had several long-term homoerotic attachments, including an infatuation with his friend David Pinsent - who was killed in a military flying accident in 1918 - and long-term relationships during his years in Cambridge with Francis Skinner and Ben Richards.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Andy Bell

Andy Bell born 25 April 1964

Andy Bell was born in Peterborough, England and moved to London at the age of nineteen. He was working in a meat factory and playing in a band 'going nowhere' when he responded to an ad placed by Vince Clarke, a former member of Depeche Mode and Yazoo, seeking a musician to form a new band. Bell, the forty-first singer auditioned, was Clarke's choice, and Erasure were formed in 1985.

Erasure initially struggled to achieve the same level of sucess as Clarke's earlier bands but soon went on to achieve a string of hit singles, albums and highly theatrical sell-out tours. Staying true to their original formula, Erasure have been in and out of fashion at various times but their appeal has endured, although they are no longer in the mainstream, having more of a cult following.

Andy Bell has been significant in pop music for being one of the first artists to be openly gay throughout his career, allowing his sexuality to colour his writing and performance. He proved his courage a second time in 2004, when he announced that he has been battling HIV since 1998.

In 2005 he released his debut solo album Electric Blue. A second solo album Non-Stop was released in 2010.

Andy Bell - Official Website

Graham Payn

Graham Payn born 25 April 1918 (d. 2005)

Graham Payn was born in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. He was a British actor and singer, gay and the life partner of the late Sir Noel Coward for thirty years.

Payn moved with his family to England when he was eleven years old (circa 1928). He became a boy soprano in concerts and in boy's choirs. He made his first stage appearance at thirteen at the Palladium, as 'Curly' in Peter Pan. At the age of fourteen he appeared in Noel Coward's revue Words and Music. Payn's audition consisted of a tap dance routine which he performed while singing 'Nearer, My God, to Thee'.

In 1945, Coward wrote a leading role in Sigh No More specifically for Payn.

Payn appeared nearly continuously in the West End for the next twenty years of his life. He appeared on Broadway in Coward's Tonight at 8:30, and in films including The Italian Job.

Payn died at the couple's home in Switzerland, aged 87 on 4 November 2005.

After Coward's death in 1973, with Sheridan Morley and Cole Lesley, Payn wrote Noel Coward and His Friends (1979) and was one of the editors of The Noel Coward Diaries that he dedicated to Lesley. Graham Payn wrote his own autobiography in 1994.

Edward II

Edward II born 25 April 1287 (d. 1327)

Edward II of Caernarfon, was King of England from 1307 until deposed in January 1327. His tendency to ignore his nobility in favour of low-born favourites led to constant political unrest and his eventual deposition.

Edward lacked the drive and ambition of his overbearing father, who was a notable military leader. His main interest was in entertainment, though he also took pleasure in athletics and mechanical crafts. He had been so dominated by his father that he had little confidence in himself, and was often in the hands of a court favourite with a stronger will than his own.

Edward is perhaps best remembered for his murder - the details of which are unsubstantiated by contemporary accounts - and his 'alleged' homosexuality and relationship with his 'favourite', a Gascon knight named Piers Gaveston. Edward also managed to produce an heir - Edward III - another son and two daughters with his wife, Isabella of France, and even produced an illegitimate son.

Edward II was the first monarch to establish colleges in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge; he founded Cambridge's King's Hall in 1317 and gave Oxford's Oriel College its royal charter in 1326.

The most famous fictional account of Edward II's reign is Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II. Edward has long been regarded as something of a gay martyr, and Derek Jarman's cinematic version of the play utlilised 20th century clothing and gay rights marches as an aspect of the story.

James Fenton

James Fenton born 25 April 1949

James Fenton has been, at various times, a journalist, poet, literary critic, and professor.

Fenton grew up in Lincolnshire and Staffordshire. He was educated at Repton School, where he grew fond of the work of W H Auden, who proved to be the greatest influence of Fenton's own output. After graduating from Repton, Fenton attendended Magdalen College, Oxford to study English. He was already experimenting with and winning prizes for his poetry. He earned a BA from Magdalen in 1970.

His first collection, Terminal Moraine (1972) was well received and won a Gregory Award. He used the money to travel to the Far East where he witnessed the aftermath of America's withdrawal from Vietnam and the collapse of the Lon Nol regime in Cambodia which presaged the rise of Pol Pot. In 1976 Fenton returned to London and became political correspondent for the New Statesman. The Memory of War (1982), drawing on his experience in the Far East, secured his reputation as one of the finest poets of his generation and marked the climax of a new generation of English poets. He won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1984 for Children in Exile: Poems 1968-1984 and in 1994 Fenton became Professor of Poetry at Oxford, a position he held until 1999. He is currently a regular contributor to the The New York Review of Books and The Guardian.

Fenton's unsettling use of traditional form to confront contemporary events, combined with images of comedy and violence is evident in poems such as Out of the East and The Ballad of the Shrieking Man. Nonsense verse has always formed a part of Fenton's output and in these poems he employs its metrical and linguistic energy to explore the nightmarish scenarios of war; the jaunty rhythms of Kipling turned into the hysteria of apocalypse. Alongside these are more personal poems of love and regret such as In Paris with You which teeters beautifully between irony and romance.

Fenton worked on the New Statesman with Martin Amis, Christopher Hitchens and Ian McEwan during the 1970s. He remains friends with them all.

Fenton's Selected Poems was published in February 2006 by Penguin and in October 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He also recently edited The New Faber Book of Love Poems.

On 23 April 2007 it was announced from Buckingham Palace that he had been awarded The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry for 2007. In May 2007 he was placed on the list of the 100 most influential gay and lesbian people in Britain by The Independent.

His partner is Darryl Pinckney, a writer.

James Fenton - Official Website

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean-Paul Gaultier born 24 April 1952

Gaultier never received formal training as a designer. Instead, he started sending sketches to famous couture stylists at an early age. Pierre Cardin was impressed by his talent and hired him as an assistant in 1970.

His first individual collection was released in 1976 and his characteristic irreverent style dates from 1981, and he has long been known as the enfant terrible of French fashion. Many of Gaultier's following collections have been based on street wear, focusing on popular culture, whereas others, particularly his Haute Couture collections, are very formal yet at the same time unusual and playful.

Jean-Paul Gaultier produced sculptured costumes for Madonna during the nineties with her infamous cone-bra for her Blond Ambition Tour and designed the wardrobe for her Confessions Tour in 2006, as well. Gaultier has also worked in close collaboration with Wolford Hosiery. He promoted the use of skirts, especially kilts for men - with little lasting success.

Gaultier caused shock by using unconventional models for his exhibitions, like older men and full-figured women, pierced and heavily tattooed models, and by playing with traditional gender roles in the shows. This earned him both criticism and enormous popularity.

At the end of the 1980s, Gaultier suffered some personal losses, including his lover and business partner Francis Menuge, who died of AIDS-related causes.

Gaultier has designed costumes for many films, including Luc Besson's The Fifth Element, Pedro Almodóvar's Kika, Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's La Cité des enfants perdus (The City of Lost Children).

He currently designs for three collections: his own couture and ready-to-wear lines, as well as the newly relaunched clothing line for Hermès, a French leather goods company well-known for their equestrian background, scarves, and expensive and difficult to obtain handbags.

Gaultier has designed a number of the costumes and outfits worn by rocker Marilyn Manson, including the outfits for Manson's Golden Age of Grotesque album.

In addition to being a fashion designer, Jean-Paul Gaultier is known for a popular line of perfumes distinctively packaged in bottles referencing his love of corsetry for women and the matelot image for men.

Brian Paddick

Brian Paddick born 24 April 1958

Brian Paddick is a British politician, and was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the London mayoral election, 2008, coming third behind Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. He was, until his retirement in May 2007, Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police Service and the United Kingdom's most senior openly gay police officer.

Paddick was educated at Sutton Grammar School, Sutton then went on to study at Queen's College, Oxford (BA), the University of Warwick (MBA), and the University of Cambridge (Postgraduate Diploma in Criminology). When he was at Oxford, he was Captain of the University Swimming Team and Vice-Captain of his college’s Rugby team.

Paddick was a sergeant on the front line during the 1981 Brixton riots, an experience which undoubtedly shaped his attitudes about confrontational police action and strengthened his belief in community policing. He was later in charge of CID at Notting Hill and responsible for policing the Notting Hill Carnival. He was promoted to commander in December 2000, and fulfilled his ambition of becoming head of policing in Brixton.

In November 2003 Paddick was promoted to Deputy Assistant Commissioner, and in April 2005 he took over management of Territorial Policing across all 32 London Boroughs, with responsibility for 20,000 police officers and support staff. He was accountable for reducing 'volume crime' in London (all offences up to and including rape in terms of seriousness) and increasing the number of offenders brought to justice. He was the national lead for the police service on disability and mental health issues for a year and a half. He was also in the media spotlight as the senior Metropolitan Police Service spokesman for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales and after the 7 July 2005 London bombings.

Following a widely-publicised disagreement with Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, over the wrongful shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station on 22 July 2005, Paddick was assigned the position of group director of information management, which he considered a 'non-job'. Claiming that the Home Office had intervened for political reasons to ensure that Blair would not have to resign over the incident as it had occurred in the aftermath of 21 July 2005 London bombings, Paddick says he came to accept that his police career was over and that he would never achieve his goal of becoming a chief constable.

Between 1983 and 1988, Paddick was married. According to Paddick, it was 'a fairly conventional marriage' and his former wife said it was 'a wonderful marriage'. She did not know he was gay. He struggled with his sexuality until towards the end of his marriage in 1988. Since then he has been a vocal and visible advocate for gay rights and diversity.

He had a knack during his police career of attracting controversy over his policies, outspokenness and his sexuality but this seems to have done him no harm and has given him much credibility and popularity in his post-police political career, as he seems to a confident and charming man of integrity. Being somewhat handsome has probably not hurt either.

Paddick was a contestant on the eighth series of the ITV1 reality television show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in 2008. On 1 December 2008, he became the sixth celebrity to be voted off the show. Interviewed by the show's hosts Ant & Dec after leaving the jungle, he explained his reasons for participating: "For a long time I've been doing serious stuff. Thirty years in the police and running for mayor. It's all bad news that they want me to comment on. So I thought why not come and do something trivial ... It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, anything after this is a breeze."

In 2008, Paddick was ranked number 101 in the annual Pink List of influential gay and lesbian people in Britain published by The Independent on Sunday, down from number 83 in 2007.

Paddick presently lives in Vauxhall, London, with his husband Petter Belsvik, a civil engineer from Oslo, Norway; they met in a bar while on holiday in Ibiza. They married in Oslo 9 January 2009.

He is a second cousin once removed of British comedy actor Hugh Paddick - best known for his 1960s Julian & Sandy radio partnership with Kenneth Williams.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jón Þór Birgisson

Jón 'Jónsi' Þór Birgisson born 23 April 1975

Jón 'Jónsi' Þór Birgisson plays guitar and sings lead vocals for the Icelandic band Sigur Rós.

Sigur Rós are an Icelandic post-rock band with melodic, classical, experimental, and minimalist elements. The band is known for its ethereal sound and lead singer Jónsi’s falsetto voice.

Obscure and highly artistic, the band have nonetheless developed a huge international following without either compromising their integrity or achieving mainstream commercial success. They could best be described as the Icelandic Radiohead.

In January 2010, the band announced that they will be on hiatus until further notice in order to pursue solo careers and to spend time with their families. Jónsi and Alex Somers released an instrumental album Riceboy Sleeps in 2009. His first 'proper' solo album Go was released in April 2010.

Brigisson's trademark is playing an electric guitar with a cello bow and using distortion and reverberation to get an ethereal and ambient sound. His vocal style includes the frequent use of falsetto. His first language is naturally Icelandic but he also speaks English, although the band avoid this compromise. Most songs are sung in Icelandic but Birgisson has developed a made-up language called 'Hopelandic' - a kind of gibberish vocal that functions as another instrument as opposed to a conventional lyric-based vocal.

He is gay and is blind in his right eye. The two facts are unrelated.

His boyfriend Alex Somers does much of the graphic design for Sigur Rós and Amiina.

Sigur Rós


Halston born 23 April 1932 (d. 1990)

Roy Halston Frowick, also known as Halston was an iconic clothing designer of the 1970s.

He was born in Des Moines, Iowa. He began his career as a milliner (designing the pillbox hat Jacqueline Kennedy wore to her husband's 1961 Presidential inauguration) and when he moved to designing women's wear, Newsweek dubbed him 'the premier fashion designer of all America'. His designs were worn by Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Anjelica Huston, Lauren Bacall and Elizabeth Taylor, setting a style that would be closely associated with the international jet set of the era.

As 'the first [American] designer to realise the potential of licensing himself,' his influence went beyond style to reshape the business of fashion. Through his licensing agreement with US retailer JC Penney, his designs were accessible to women at a variety of income levels. Although this practice is common today, it was a controversial move at the time and cost him more couture customers.

Despite his achievements, his increasing drug use - he enthusiastically embraced the jetset lifestyle of his celebrity friends and clients - and failure to meet deadlines (he was reluctant to hire junior designers to design licensed products) undermined his success. In October of 1984 he was fired from his own company and lost the right to design and sell clothes under his own name.

Halston was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. He died of AIDS-related lung cancer in San Francisco, California on March 26, 1990.

According to, Halston was 'the first international fashion superstar - and possibly the best designer America has ever had.'

In the Sister Sledge disco hit He's The Greatest Dancer Halston is memorably mentioned in a description of a well-dressed man: 'Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci - he looks like a still, the man is dressed to kill'.

Halton is often mentioned in songs, films and TV shows - usually as a yardstick for a certain kind of style.

The Halston label was resurrected in 2008 with London-based designer Marios Schwab.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Simon Napier-Bell

Simon Napier-Bell born 22 April 1937

London-born Simon Napier-Bell has undertaken many jobs in the music industry, including manager, producer, songwriter, journalist and author. But he is best-known as manager, particularly of The Yardbirds, John's Children, Marc Bolan, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Japan, London, Wham! and Blue Mercedes.

After becoming involved in music at school and heading off the the United States and Canada to become a professional musician, after two years Napier-Bell decided he wanted to pursue other directions.

When he returned to England he worked as an assistant film editor. With a thorough knowledge of music, he soon progressed to being a music editor and landed the job of working with Burt Bacharach on What’s New Pussycat, re-editing the score Burt had written for it. Later, he also scored, wrote and edited music for Clive Donner's Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush.

In 1966, Dusty Springfield approached Vicki Wickham and Simon Napier-Bell to write English lyrics for a song she’d heard at the Sanremo Festival. The result was You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, which became Dusty’s first number one.

His friend Vicki Wickham, who booked all the acts for the TV show Ready Steady Go, persuaded him to move into the music management. He started by putting together an act of his own – Nicky Scott & Diane Ferraz – a boy from London and a girl from the West Indies. The inter-racial mix was a first for the British music business.

On the back of the publicity Napier-Bell generated for Scott and Ferraz, The Yardbirds asked him if he would manage them. Napier-Bell then co-produced the Yardbirds’ first studio album. He then oversaw the entry of Jimmy Page into the group and produced the group’s next single, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, considered one of the most avant-garde rock records of the time.

Napier-Bell went on to manage John's Children, who were known more for their ability to shock than for their music. Napier-Bell then teamed up with ex-comedian Ray Singer to produce records for various artists including the Scaffold (a group which included Paul McCartney's brother, Mike McGear), Peter Sarstedt, Forever More (who became The Average White Band) and other lesser known acts. He also spent a year in Australia where he discovered and produced John Paul Young.

Following this, Napier-Bell worked in Spain and South America for two years, managing one of Spain’s biggest stars, Junior, with whom he co-wrote several Spanish hits, in particular one of the biggest selling Spanish language singles of the seventies, Perdoname.

In 1976, Napier-Bell came back to London and returned to management with two new groups, London, a group in the then-current punk vein, and Japan [pictured]. London was a short lived project but Japan involved him for the next seven years. Napier-Bell persevered with them through five lean years to eventually help make them one of the most influential groups of the early eighties, both musically and fashion-wise.

He then teamed up with manager Jazz Summers and together they took on the management of Wham!. The group had already had three hit singles in the UK but wanted to terminate their contract with their record company. Napier-Bell and Summers led them through four months of legal complications (during which they were unable to record), and finally settled the case by signing a new contact with CBS.

Napier-Bell spent eighteen months travelling backwards and forwards to China negotiating for Wham! to become the first ever Western pop artist to play in communist China. They eventually played a concert there in April 1985 at the Worker's Stadium in Beijing.

At the end of 1985, Wham! ended its relationship with Napier-Bell and Summers when George Michael left Wham! for a solo career. Napier-Bell went on to manage the duo Blue Mercedes, who had one worldwide hit, I Want To Be Your Property (1987). Napier-Bell also arranged for the defunct pop group Boney M to reform and had all their old tracks remixed by Stock Aitken Waterman. The result was an album that stayed at number one in the French charts for four months but sold little elsewhere.

Following this, Napier-Bell teamed up with another manager, Sir Harry Cowell, and they took on the management of two once major groups looking to revive their careers – Asia and Ultravox. Asia fared better than Ultravox but eventually Napier-Bell gave up on both of them. After taking time out to write Napier-Bell chose to go back to management, this time working in Russia. Initial success in Russia was not followed up with success in the rest of the world.

When Japan broke up, Napier-Bell wrote his first book, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, about his experiences in the music business in the 1960s. When he ceased managing Asia and Ultravox he wrote another book, Black Vinyl White Powder, about the British music business which was received with favourable reviews. In March 2005 he published another book, I’m Coming To Take You To Lunch, the story of how he took Wham! to China.

Simon Napier-Bell - official website

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

James Kirkup

James Kirkup born 21 April 1918 (d. 2009)

James Kirkup was a prolific English poet, Japanese scholar, translator, and travel writer. He was brought up in South Shields, and educated at Durham University. He wrote over 30 books, including an autobiography and plays.

During World War II he was a conscientious objector, and worked on the land in the Yorkshire Dales. He taught at The Downs School in Colwall, Malvern, where W H Auden had earlier been a master. Kirkup wrote his first book of poetry, The Drowned Sailor at the Downs, which was published in 1947. From 1950 to 1952 he was the first Gregory Poetry Fellow at Leeds University, making him the first resident university poet in the United Kingdom.

In 1952 he moved south to Gloucestershire and became visiting poet at Bath Academy of Art for the next three years. Moving on from Bath, he taught in a London grammar school before leaving England in 1956 to live and work in Europe, the Americas and the Far East. In Japan, he found acceptance and appreciation of his work, and he settled there for 30 years, lecturing in English Literature at several universities.

His poem The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name, which describes a sexual fantasy of a homosexual soldier for the dead Christ, was banned in 1979 under the UK's rarely invoked blasphemy laws after it was published by Gay News in 1976.

The blasphemous libel charge named Gay News Ltd and the publisher, Denis Lemon and was brought by self-appointed media watchdog, Mary Whitehouse, founder and first president of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association. Following the trial Lemon received a nine-month suspended jail sentence.

This still genuinely shocking poem is accessible via the Internet but is still technically banned in the UK. In 1996, the NVLA attempted to prosecute Lesbian and Gay Christian Association when it posted a hyperlink to the poem on its website. In 1997, the charges against the Lesbian and Gay Christian Association were formally dropped.

Amongst his honours, Kirkup held the Atlantic Award for Literature from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1950; he was elected the Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1962; he won the Japan PEN Club Prize for Poetry in 1965; and was awarded the Scott Moncrieff Prize for Translation in 1992.

In 1997 he was presented with the Japan Festival Foundation Award and invited by the Emperor and Empress to the Imperial New Year Poetry Reading at the Palace in Tokyo.

In the early 1990s Kirkup settled in Andorra. He continued his prolific work and correspondence, notably becoming a frequent contributor to the obituary section of the British newspaper The Independent until 2008.

Kirkup died in Andorra on 10 May 2009.

John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell born 21 April 1963

John Cameron Mitchell is an American writer, actor, and director.

Mitchell was born in El Paso, Texas. The son of a retired general in the US Army, he grew up on army bases and in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he attended Catholic schools. His mother is from Scotland and emigrated to the United States as a young woman.

In 1998, Mitchell wrote and starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, an off-Broadway musical with songs by Stephen Trask about Hedwig, a transgendered rock musician chasing after an ex-lover who plagiarised her songs. Three years later, he directed the feature film version of the play, reprising his role as Hedwig. Both the play and the film were critical hits and have spawned cult followings.

Mitchell has also appeared as Dickon in the Broadway musical The Secret Garden, as well as in the acclaimed off-Broadway musical Hello Again, for which he received a Drama Desk nomination in 1994. He can be heard on the original cast recordings of both shows.

After the success of Hedwig, Mitchell expressed an interest in financing, writing, and directing a film which would be of high quality, but would incorporate explicit sex in a naturalistic way. After a two-year talent search and shooting process, Shortbus was presented in May 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival.

Mitchell was the executive producer of the 2004 film Tarnation, a critically praised and award-winning documentary about the life of a gay man named Jonathan Caouette. In 2005, he directed the music videos for Bright Eyes' First Day of My Life and the Scissor Sisters' Filthy/Gorgeous, the latter of which was banned from American MTV for its explicit ambisexual content. The openly gay Mitchell has appeared as a pundit on Politically Incorrect and various VH1 programs.

He directed the 2010 film Rabbit Hole, starring Nicole Kidman (in an Oscar-nominated performance) and Aaron Eckhart, adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name.

Mitchell lives in New York City.

Stephen Tennant

Stephen Tennant born 21 April 1906 (d. 1987)

Stephen James Napier Tennant was a British aristocrat known for his decadent lifestyle. It is said, albeit apocryphally, that he spent most of his life in bed.

Born in England, the youngest son of a Scots peer, Lord Glenconner. His mother was the former Pamela Wyndham and a cousin of Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945), Oscar Wilde's lover. Tennant's eldest brother Edward 'Bim' Tennant was killed in WWI.

During the 1920s and 30s, Tennant was an important member - the 'Brightest', it is said - of the 'Bright Young Things'. His friends included Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, the Sitwells, Lady Diana Manners and the Mitford girls. He is widely considered to be the model for Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford's novel Love in a Cold Climate; one of the inspirations for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, and a model for the Hon. Miles Malpractice in some of his other novels.

When he was nineteen, Tennant became the lover of the poet Siegfried Sassoon. Prior to this he had proposed to a friend, the novelist Elizabeth Bowen, but had been rejected. (allegedly Tennant discussed plans with Bowen about bringing his Nanny with them on their honeymoon.) His relationship with Sassoon, however, was to be his most important: it lasted some four years before Tennant off-handedly put an abrupt end to it. Sassoon was reportedly depressed afterwards for 3 months, until he got into a short-lived and unhappy marriage.

For most of his life, Tennant tried to start or finish a novel - Lascar. It is popularly believed that he spent the last 17 years of his life in bed at his family manor at Wilsford, Wiltshire, which he had redecorated by Syrie Maugham. Though undoubtedly idle, he was not truly lethargic: he made several visits to the United States and Italy, and struck up many new friendships, despite his later reputation as a recluse. This became increasingly true only towards the last years of his life. Yet even then, his life was not uneventful: he became landlord to V S Naipaul who immortalised Tennant in his novel The Enigma of Arrival.

When Tennant died in 1987, he had far outlived most of his contemporaries.

'The Bright Young Things' at Wilsford: William Walton, Cecil Beaton, Hon Stephen Tennant, Rex Whistler, Georgia Sitwell, Zita Jungman and Teresa Jungman, 1927