Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tom Robinson

Tom Robinson born 1 June 1950

Although he was never really a proper 'punk', the Tom Robinson Band emerged on the back of the punk movement and enjoyed some success. Notably his ground breaking 1978 anthem Sing If You`re Glad To Be Gay, which was a Top 20 hit in the UK. His other notable hits were 2-4-6-8 Motorway (1977) and War Baby (1983)

Tom enjoyed some solo success and then Britain's first openly gay pop star 'ruined' it all by getting married and having children - which attracted some amusement from the press and the ire of some sections of the gay community.

He now sings that he's glad to be bi and continues to be an advocate for the LGBT community.

He finally retired as a full-time musician in 2002 and works as a broadcaster for BBC 6 Music. He occasionally appears in concert for fan events and for causes he supports.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Rainer Werner Fassbinder born 31 May 1945 (d. 1982)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a German film director, screenwriter and actor. A premier representative of the New German Cinema.

Famous for his frenetic pace in film-making, in a professional career that lasted less than fifteen years Fassbinder completed 35 feature length films; two television series shot on film; three short films; four video productions; twenty four stage plays and four radio plays directed; and 36 acting roles in his own and other’s films. He also worked as an actor (film and theatre), author, cameraman, composer, designer, editor, producer and theatre manager.

Fassbinder was distinguished for the strong provocative current underlying his work and the air of scandal surrounded his artistic choices and private life. His intense discipline and phenomenal creative energy when working were in violent contrast with a wild, self-destructive libertinism that earned him a reputation as the enfant terrible of the New German Cinema, as well as its central figure. He had tortured relationships in his personal life with the people he drew around him in a surrogate family of actors and technicians. However, his pictures demonstrate his deep sensitivity to social misfits and his hatred of institutionalised violence. He ruthlessly attacked both German bourgeois society and the larger limitations of humanity. His films detail the desperate yearning for love and freedom and the many ways in which society, and the individual, thwarts it. A prodigiously inventive artist, Fassbinder distilled the best elements of his sources — Brechtian theatrics, Artaud, Hollywood melodramas - especially 'women's pictures', classical narrative, and a gay sensibility into a complex body of work.

His most notable films include The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972), Fox and his Friends (1974), The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978) and his final film, his extraordinary vision of Jean Genet's Querelle (1982) [pictured left].

Fassbinder died at the age of 37 from an overdose of cocaine and sleeping pills. There is debate as to whether the overdose was accidental or not. His death is often considered to mark the end of New German Cinema.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman born 31 May 1819 (d. 1892)

Walter Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.

Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War in addition to publishing his poetry. Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842). Whitman's major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. After a stroke towards the end of his life, he moved to Camden, New Jersey where his health further declined. He died at age 72 and his funeral became a public event.

Whitman's sexuality is sometimes disputed, although often assumed to be bisexual based on his poetry. The concept of heterosexual and homosexual personalities was invented in 1868, and it was not widely promoted until Whitman was an old man. Whitman's poetry depicts love and sexuality in a more earthy, individualistic way common in American culture before the 'medicalisation' of sexuality in the late 1800s. Though Leaves of Grass was often labelled pornographic or obscene, only one critic remarked on its author's presumed sexual activity: in a November 1855 review, Rufus Wilmot Griswold suggested Whitman was guilty of 'that horrible sin not to be mentioned among Christians'. Whitman had intense friendships with many men throughout his life.

Some biographers have claimed that he may not have actually engaged in sexual relationships with men, while others cite letters, journal entries and other sources which they claim as proof of the sexual nature of some of his relationships.

Biographer David S. Reynolds described a man named Peter Doyle as being the most likely candidate for the love of Whitman's life. Doyle was a bus conductor whom he met around 1866. They were inseparable for several years. Interviewed in 1895, Doyle said: 'We were familiar at once — I put my hand on his knee — we understood. He did not get out at the end of the trip — in fact went all the way back with me.'

A more direct second-hand account comes from Oscar Wilde. Wilde met Whitman in America in 1882, and wrote to the homosexual rights activist George Cecil Ives that there was 'no doubt' about the great American poet's sexual orientation — 'I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips,' he boasted. The only explicit description of Whitman's sexual activities is second hand. In 1924 Edward Carpenter, then an old man, described an erotic encounter he had had in his youth with Whitman to Gavin Arthur, who recorded it in detail in his journal. Late in his life, when Whitman was asked outright if his series of Calamus poems were homosexual, he chose not to respond.

There is also some evidence that Whitman may have had sexual relationships with women. He had a romantic friendship with a New York actress named Ellen Grey in the spring of 1862, but it is not known whether or not it was also sexual. He still had a photo of her decades later when he moved to Camden and referred to her as 'an old sweetheart of mine'. In a letter dated August 21, 1890 he claimed, 'I have had six children - two are dead'. This claim has never been corroborated. Toward the end of his life, he often told stories of previous girlfriends and sweethearts and denied an allegation from the New York Herald that he had 'never had a love affair'.

In any case, Whitman is one of the first truly working-class poets and an iconic figure in gay literature.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen born 30 May 1903 (d. 1946)

Countee Cullen was an American Romantic poet. Cullen was one of the leading African American poets of his time, associated with the generation of black poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

Cullen was born with the name Countee LeRoy Porter and was abandoned by his parents at birth. He was raised by his grandmother, Mrs Porter, but because he was very secretive about his life, it is unclear where he was actually born. Scholars state he was either born in Louisville, Kentucky, or Baltimore. Later in his life, Cullen said he was born in New York City. It is known that he attended Townsend Harris High School for one year and then transferred to DeWitt Clinton High School in New York and received special honours in Latin studies in 1922.

In 1918 his grandmother died. Cullen was subsequently adopted by Reverend Frederick Ashbury Cullen, minister at Salem Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem, and thus Cullen was raised a Methodist. Throughout his unstable childhood his birth mother never attempted to contact Cullen, and would not attempt to do so until sometime in the 1920s, after he'd become famous.

Cullen won many poetry contests from a very young age and often had his winning work reprinted. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, mainly consisting of all white, male students. He became Vice President of his class during his senior year, was also involved in the school magazine as an editor, and was affiliated with the Arista Honor Society.

After completing his secondary education, Cullen attended New York University. While an undergraduate, he published works in various literary magazines, including Harper's, Century Magazine, and Poetry. Also, his writing exceptional faculties were acknowledged with prizes from The Crisis, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, and Opportunity of the National Urban League. He graduated in 1925. Soon afterwards, he produced his first volume entitled Color and pursued graduate studies at Harvard University.

In April 1928, Cullen married Nina Yolande Du Bois, daughter of the famous W. E. B. Du Bois. Two months after the wedding, Cullen left for Europe with his father and Harold Jackman; his wife followed after a month. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1928.

Nina Yolande Du Bois divorced Cullen two years later, saying that he told her that he was sexually attracted to men.

In 1940, he married Ida Mae Roberson and they enjoyed a seemingly happy marriage.

On January 9, 1946, Cullen unexpectedly died of uremic poisoning and complications from high blood pressure. After his death, for a few years, Cullen was honoured as the most celebrated African American writer. A collection of some of his best work was also arranged in On These I Stand.

The West 136th Street branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem is named after Countee Cullen

Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín born 30 May 1955

Acclaimed Irish novelist and journalist Colm Tóibín is the author of a number of non-fiction books and five novels. His writings are infused with keen political insights and shrewd analyses. While same-sex desire is not overtly addressed in his early work, his most recent novels are astutely observed, unsentimental explorations of gay men trying to fit into an unwelcoming, and often openly hostile, world.

Tóibín received his secondary education at St Peter's College, Wexford, where he was a boarder from 1970 to 1972. He then progressed to University College Dublin, graduating in 1975. Immediately after graduation, he left for Barcelona. His first novel, The South (1990), was partly inspired by his time in the Spanish city, as was, more directly, his non-fiction Homage to Barcelona (1990).

After returning to Ireland in 1978, he began studying for a Masters. He never handed in his thesis and left academia, at least partly, for a career in journalism. The early 1980s were an especially bright period in Irish journalism and the heyday of the monthly news magazine Magill. Tóibín became editor of that magazine in 1982, remaining in the position until 1985.

The Heather Blazing (1992), his second novel, was followed by the award-winning The Story of the Night (1996) and The Blackwater Lightship (1999). His fifth novel, The Master (2004), was a fictional account of portions in the life of author Henry James. In 2006 his first collection of short stories was published as Mothers and Sons. In January 2010, Tóibín was named the winner of the Costa Novel Award for his novel Brooklyn.

He is the author of other non-fiction books: Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border (1994), (reprinted from the 1987 original edition) and The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1994). He has written a play that was staged in Dublin in August 2004, Beauty in a Broken Place.

He has continued to work as a journalist, both in Ireland and abroad. He has also achieved a reputation as a literary critic: he has edited a book on Paul Durcan, The Kilfenora Teaboy (1997); The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999); and has written The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English since 1950 (1999), with Carmen Callil; a collection of essays, Love in A Dark Time: Gay lives from Wilde to Almodóvar (2002); and a study on Lady Gregory, Lady Gregory's Toothbrush (2002).

Tóibín's work explores several main lines: The depiction of Irish society, living abroad, the process of creativity and the preservation of a personal identity, focusing especially on homosexual identities — Tóibín is openly gay — but also on identity in front of loss.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Helmut Berger

Helmut Berger born 29 May 1944

Helmut Berger is an Austrian actor.

Berger (whose real name is Helmut Steinberger) was born in Bad Ischl, Austria, into a family of hoteliers and although he had no interest in gastronomy or the hospitality industry, he initially trained and worked in this area. At the age of 18, he moved to London, where he did odd-jobs whilst simultaneously taking acting classes. After studying languages in Perugia, Berger moved to Rome.

In 1964, he first met Luchino Visconti, whose life partner he later became. Visconti gave him his first acting role in the movie Le Streghe (1967) (in the episode La Strega Bruciata Viva), but he attained international fame playing Martin von Essenbeck in Visconti's The Damned (1969). In this film, in what is perhaps his best known scene, he mimics the role of Lola, as played by Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel . However, the role of Ludwig II of Bavaria in Visconti's Ludwig can be considered the pinnacle of his acting career: here he portrays the monarch from his blooming youth, to his dissolute final years – and in the process reveals a nervous and paranoid lord of decay drawn from his own weaknesses and psychological depths.

Visconti also introduced him to new people. Musicians and models first (in London), and then Berger was introduced to international artists - conductor Leonard Bernstein, opera singer Maria Callas, ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev - with whom Berger had an affair; Nureyev was sexually hyper-active, but Berger disliked the Russian's passion for garlic and vodka. Nureyev wanted to live with Berger but he could not give him the security of Visconti. For a short time, Nureyev was his lover, but Visconti was his husband and his father-figure.

Visconti's death in 1976 plunged Berger into a deep personal and financial crisis. Visconti's will, in which Berger was apparently named as heir, could not be found. A former friend and companion of Visconti, the director Franco Zeffirelli, has subsequently castigated Berger publicly, accusing him of exploiting his mentor. In addition to a suicide attempt on the first anniversary of Visconti's death, Berger has also had alcohol and drug-related problems.

He has made appearances in various B-movies and smaller prestige pictures such as Ash Wednesday (1973) with Elizabeth Taylor. Berger has also worked in television, most notably in the role of Peter De Vilbis on Dynasty. Since Visconti's death no director has been able to fulfill Berger's potential again.

Berger, with his dissipated lifestyle and openly acknowledged bisexuality, has been a welcome guest on talk shows telling for example of erotic adventures with Marisa Berenson, whom he supposedly wished to marry, and Mick Jagger.

In 2004, to the great interest of the Austrian media, Berger moved from Rome to Salzburg to live with his mother; he denied rumours of financial difficulties, explaining he was merely looking for a new apartment in Rome. He also declared he had come off all drugs.

In 2007, he received the honour of a Special Teddy at the Berlin Film Festival for his overall professional achievements.

Rupert Everett

Rupert Everett born 29 May 1959

Rupert James Hector Everett is an English actor. He is perhaps the first Hollywood movie star to have a long, mainstream, and successful acting career while being openly gay, and blasé about it.

Rupert Everett was born in Norfolk, England. From the age of 7 he was educated at Farleigh House preparatory school and later was educated by Benedictine monks at Ampleforth College, but dropped out of school at 15 and ran away to London to become an actor. In order to support himself, he worked as a male prostitute, or rent boy, as he later admitted to US magazine in 1997. After being dismissed from the Central School of Speech and Drama for insubordination, he travelled to Scotland and got a job in the avant-garde Citizens' Theatre of Glasgow.

His break came with the 1982 West End production of Another Country, playing a gay schoolboy opposite Kenneth Branagh, followed by a film version in 1984 with Colin Firth. He began to develop a promising film career, until he co-starred with Bob Dylan in the huge flop Hearts of Fire (1987).

In 1989 he moved to Paris, writing a novel Hello, Darling, Are You Working? and coming out as gay, a move which some at the time perceived as damaging to his career. Returning to the public eye in The Comfort of Strangers (1990), several films of variable success followed. In 1995 he released a second novel, The Hairdresser of St. Tropez.

Everett's career was revitalised by My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), playing Julia Roberts's gay friend. In 1999, he played Madonna's gay best friend in The Next Best Thing (he also sang backup on her cover of American Pie, which is on the film's soundtrack). He has since appeared in a number of high-profile film roles, often playing heterosexual leads. He is also a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

In 2006 Everett published his memoir, Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins. In it he revealed he had had a 6-year affair with British television presenter Paula Yates. 'I am mystified by my heterosexual affairs — but then I am mystified by most of my relationships,' he said, with the article describing him as bisexual as opposed to homosexual.

But in a radio show with Jonathan Ross, Everett described his heterosexual affairs as resulting from adventurousness: 'I was basically adventurous, I think I wanted to try everything.'

In recent years Everett has expressed the view that his career has been negatively affected by his having come out and gone so far as to advise younger actors against doing so. Whilst his career has seen him achieve varying levels of critical and commercial success through the years, this may be as much due to his limitations as an actor - posh, brittle, slightly camp - as to the industry's view of him as a gay actor.

T H White

T H White born 29 May 1906 (d. 1964)

Terence Hanbury White was an English writer born in Bombay (Mumbai), India. After graduating from Cambridge with a first-class degree in English, he taught for a few years at Stowe School before becoming a full-time writer.

He is most famous for writing The Once and Future King, a sequence of novels based on Sir Thomas Malory's 15th-Century romance Le Morte D'Arthur reinterpreting the legend of King Arthur. The Broadway musical Camelot and the Disney film The Sword in the Stone are both based on The Once and Future King. We probably owe much of our 'historical' knowledge of King Arthur to White's work.

He was also a closeted homosexual, turning first to psychotherapy and, when it failed, alcohol as a way out of what he perceived as a problem.

A rather private and solitary man, he eventually retired to the island of Alderney, one of the Channel Islands, but died from heart failure on a ship in Piraeus, Greece, while returning from a lecture tour in America.

White's work was an influence on science-fiction writer Michael Moorcock, and J K Rowling has acknowledged the influence of White's work on the Harry Potter novels.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mark Feehily

Mark Feehily born 28 May 1980

Mark Feehily is one of the two lead singers - along with Shane Filan - of Irish boyband Westlife who have enjoyed a record-breaking succession of number 1 singles and hit albums.

In August 2005, Mark announced in an interview with The Sun that he was gay:
'I want people to know the truth. I am gay and I'm very proud of who I am.
'I'm not asking for sympathy, or to be a role model for someone else.
'I simply felt it was the right time to tell the truth.'

Westlife have sucessfully avoided several boyband curses - they lost a popular member, made a disastrous Rat Pack album and have survived the self-outing of a gay member.

Mark is in a relationship with Kevin McDaid, a former member of defunct boyband V.

Westlife continue to be successful and show no signs of splitting.

Henry Kendall

Henry Kendall born 28 May 1897 (d. 1962)

Henry Kendall was an English stage and film actor, theatre director and an immaculately stylish revue artiste.

Kendall was educated at the City of London School, and made his first appearance on the stage in September 1914 at the Lyceum Theatre. He had a distinguished war career, serving as a Captain in the Royal Air Force from 1916 to 1919, and on demobilisation was awarded the Air Force Cross.

He played the leading role of Reggie Ogden in the film The Shadow in 1933, and also starred in Alfred Hitchcock's 'bravest failure', Rich and Strange, US title East of Shanghai (1931).

Kendall dismissed his own cinematic work, although he appeared in a number of films in the 1930s and after. His appearances on the London stage were many however throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

As a gifted West End revue artiste he appeared in Charlot's Revue at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1924 and Charlot's Masquerade at the Cambridge Theatre in 1930. He also enjoyed great success co-starring with Hermione Gingold in the three long-running Sweet and Low revues; this was followed in June 1948 by the A la Carte revue at the Savoy Theatre.

But a greater contribution in this field was his appearance with Hermione Baddeley and Hermione Gingold ('The Two Hermiones'), Walter Crisham and Wilfred Hyde-White, in Leslie Julian Jones's revue Rise Above It, first at the Q Theatre in January 1941, when Hedley Briggs was nominally directing; then in two West End editions of the show which ran for a total of 380 performances at the Comedy Theatre opening in June 1941 and again in December 1941, when he was both starring and directing show.

As he reports in his autobiography: 'Of all forms of theatrical entertainment, revue is the most bitchy. The material is bitchy, the artists are bitchy and, strangely enough, the average revue audience is bitchy.'

In addition to a busy career as an actor and entertainer, he was frequently engaged as a director, notably staging the first productions of See How They Run (Peterborough Rep, tour and Q Theatre 1944; Comedy Theatre 1945), and The Shop at Sly Corner (St Martin's Theatre 1945).

He also directed numerous plays at the Embassy Theatre and Q Theatre.

Patrick White

Patrick White born 28 May 1912 (d. 1990)

Patrick Victor Martindale White was an Australian author widely regarded as one of the major English-language novelists of the 20th century. From 1935 until his death, he published 12 novels, two short story collections and eight plays. His fiction freely employs shifting narrative vantage points and a stream of consciousness technique. In 1973, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

White was born in London to Australian parents, who settled in Sydney when he was six months old. As a child, he, with his sister, nanny, and maid, lived in one flat, while his parents lived in an adjoining flat. White remained distant from his parents throughout his life. At the age of four, White developed asthma and his health was fragile throughout his childhood, which, while it precluded his participation in many childhood activities, stimulated his imagination. He would perform private rites in the garden, and would dance for his mother’s friends. He loved the theatre, which he first visited at an early age.

At the age of ten, White was sent to Tudor House School, a boarding school in the New South Wales highlands, in an attempt to abate his asthma. It took him some time to adjust to the presence of other children. At boarding school he started to write plays. Even at this early age, White wrote about noticeably adult themes. In 1924, the boarding school ran into financial trouble, and the headmaster suggested that White be sent to boarding school in England, a suggestion which his parents accepted.

White struggled to adjust to his new surroundings at this new school, Cheltenham College. He was later to describe it as 'a four-year prison sentence'. White withdrew inside himself and had a limited circle of acquaintance. Occasionally he would holiday with his parents at European locations, but their relationship still remained distant. While in London, White did make one close friend, Ronald Waterall, an older boy who shared similar interests. White’s biographer, David Marr, wrote that the two men would walk arm in arm to London shows, stand around stage doors to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars, and give practical demonstrations of chorus girls’ high kicks, with appropriate vocal accompaniment. When Waterall left school, White again withdrew into himself. He asked his parents if he could leave school to become an actor. They compromised, allowing him to finish school early, on the condition that he first come home to Australia, to try life on the land.

White spent two years working as a stockman at a station on the edge of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, Australia. His parents felt that he should work on the land rather than become a writer and hoped that his work as a jackaroo would cause his artistic ambitions to fade. Although White grew to respect the land, and his health started to improve, it was clear that he was not cut out for this life.

From 1932 to 1935, White lived in England, studying French and German literature at King's College, Cambridge. He struggled in his first term, in part because he developed an attraction to a young man who had come to King's to become an Anglican priest. White dared not speak of his feelings for fear of losing the friendship and, like many homosexual men of that period, feared that his sexuality would doom him to a lonely life. Then one night, the student priest, after an awkward liaison with two women, admitted to White that women meant nothing to him sexually. This became White’s first love affair.

While at Cambridge University, a collection of White's poetry was published under the title The Ploughman and Other Poems, and he wrote a play that was performed by an amateur group. He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1935, and briefly settled in London, where he lived in an area that was frequented by artists. Here, the young author thrived for a time, writing several unpublished works, and reworking a novel, Happy Valley, that he had written while jackarooing. In 1937, White’s father died, leaving him ten thousand pounds. This enabled him to write full-time in relative comfort. Two more plays followed, before he succeeded in finding a publisher for Happy Valley. The novel was received well in London, but poorly in Australia. He wrote another novel but abandoned it after receiving negative comments, which he later spoke of regretting.

Towards the end of the 1930s, White spent some time in the United States, including Cape Cod, Massachusetts and New York City, where he wrote The Living and the Dead. By the time World War 2 broke out, he had returned to London and joined the Royal Air Force. He was accepted as an intelligence officer, and was posted to the Middle East. He served in Egypt, Palestine, and Greece before the war was over. While in the Middle East, he had an affair with a Greek Army officer, Manoly Lascaris, who was to become his life partner.

After the war, White once again returned to Australia, buying an old house in the semi-rural outskirts of Sydney. Here he settled down with Lascaris, the officer he had met during the war. They lived there for 18 years, selling flowers, vegetables, milk, and cream. During these years, he started to make a reputation for himself as a writer, publishing The Aunt's Story and The Tree of Man, which was published in the United States in 1955 and shortly after in England. The Tree of Man was released to rave reviews in the US, but, in what was to become a typical pattern, was panned in Australia. White had doubts about whether to continue writing, after his books were largely dismissed in Australia (three of them having been called ‘un-Australian’ by critics), but, in the end, decided to persevere. His first breakthrough in Australia came when his next novel, Voss, won the inaugural Miles Franklin Literary Award.

In 1961, White published Riders in the Chariot. This was to become both a bestseller as well as a prize-winner, garnering him a second Miles Franklin Award. Soon, he had clearly established his reputation as one of the world's great authors, but remained an essentially private person, resisting opportunities for interviews and public appearances, although his circle of friends had widened significantly.

In 1968, White wrote The Vivisector, a character portrait of an artist. Many people drew links to his friend, the painter Sidney Nolan, but White always vehemently denied any connection. Around this time, he decided that he would not accept any more prizes for his work, and declined both the $10,000 Britannia Award and another Miles Franklin Award. White was approached by Harry M. Miller to work on a screenplay for Voss, but nothing came of it. He became an active opponent of literary censorship and joined a number of other public figures in signing a statement of defiance against Australia’s decision to participate in the Vietnam War.

In 1973, White became the first Australian to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, 'for an epic and psychological narrative art, which has introduced a new continent into literature'. White enlisted Sidney Nolan to travel to Stockholm to accept the prize on his behalf. The award had an immediate impact on his career, as his publisher doubled the print run for The Eye of the Storm and gave him a larger advance for his next novel. White used the money from the prize to establish a trust to fund the Patrick White Award, given annually to established creative writers who have received little public recognition. White was also made Australian of the Year, but, in typically rebellious fashion, his acceptance speech encouraged Australians to spend the day reflecting on the state of the country.

White supported Gough Whitlam's Labour government and, following the 1975 constitutional crisis, became particularly anti-royalist, making a rare appearance on national television to broadcast his views on the matter.

During the 1970s, White’s health began to deteriorate — his teeth were crumbling, his eyesight was failing, and he had chronic lung problems. In 1979, his novel The Twyborn Affair was short-listed for the Booker Prize, but White requested that it be removed in order to give younger writers a chance to win. Soon after, White announced that he had written his last novel, and that in the future, he would write only for radio or for the stage.

In 1981, White published his autobiography, Flaws in the Glass: A Self-Portrait, which explored several issues about which he had publicly said little beforehand, such as his homosexuality, and his refusal to accept the Nobel Prize personally. On Palm Sunday, 1982, White addressed a crowd of 30,000 people, calling for a ban on uranium mining and for the destruction of nuclear weapons.

In 1986 White released one last novel, Memoirs of Many in One, though it was curiously published under the pen name "Alex Xenophon Demirjan Gray" and edited by Patrick White. In the same year, his novel Voss was turned into an opera. White refused to see it when it was first performed at the Adelaide Festival, because Queen Elizabeth II had been invited, and chose instead to see it later in Sydney. In 1987, White wrote Three Uneasy Pieces, with his musings on ageing and society's efforts to achieve aesthetic perfection. When David Marr finished his biography of White in July 1990, his subject spent nine days going over the details with him.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

John Cheever

John Cheever born 27 May 1912 (d. 1982)

John Cheever was an American novelist and short story writer, sometimes known as the 'Checkhov of the suburbs'. His The Stories of John Cheever won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1979.

He was a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and was considered one of the purest examples of 'the New Yorker writer'.
Cheever's main theme was the spiritual and emotional emptiness of life. He especially described the manners and morals of middle-class, suburban America, with an ironic humour which softened his basically dark vision.

Cheever died from cancer in 1982, and his posthumously published letters and journals revealed his bisexuality - although he enjoyed a long marriage and fathered 3 children, he had numerous affairs with both men and women.

His attitude towards his own bisexuality is reflected in his novels and short stories, moving from ambivalence and stereotypical portrayal in his earlier works to later acceptance and redemption.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reg Bundy

Reg Bundy aka HIH Regina Fong born 26 May 1945 (d. 2003)

Reginald Sutherland Bundy was a British dancer, actor and television presenter best-known for his drag as HIH (Her Imperial Highness) Regina Fong.

Reginald Bundy was originally trained as a dancer. He worked on numerous West End shows as a dresser and eventually in the 1970s became a dancer in a variety of stage musicals. He also appeared in a dancing role in Bryan Forbes' film The Slipper and the Rose (1976).

In the early 1980s he teamed up with Rosie Lee (Roy Powell) & Gracie Grab it all (Graham) to form the now legendary drag trio The Disappointer Sisters, who performed across the London pubs and clubs.

Bundy first developed Regina Fong in 1985, and quickly achieved a regular spot at the Black Cap gay pub in Camden Town, London and also the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. The Fong character was a Russian princess who had escaped to Britain following the Russian Revolution, a conceit which formed the basis of Bundy's show The Last of the Romanoffs, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival and later ran at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London - 'Her Imperial Highness was born to the Imperial Russian family of Saint Petersburg in 1905, but was almost immediately hidden away on the orders of the Czar due to her startling mane of red hair.'

Regina's stage act entailed audience participation, and used a variety of songs, jingles, and sound effects, and was one of the regular hosts of London’s Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival.

Bundy appeared in the Edinburgh and London productions of playwright Neil Bartlett's A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep and Night After Night, and also appeared in the BBC Radio Four adaptation of Night After Night.

His act, alongside that of other true originals, and close friends, like Lily Savage and Adrella, was instrumental in the rehabilitation of drag as a significant part of gay culture, where once it had been banished to the non-PC margins by critics who deemed it as irretrievably misogynist.

In 1993, Reg Bundy appeared at the Criterion Theatre in London alongside Kim Criswell, James Dreyfus, Sean Mathias, and Simon Fanshawe, in Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, a verse and musical celebration of lives lost to AIDS.

Throughout his career, he devoted endless evenings to hosting charity events to raise money for emerging AIDS charities.

And perhaps one of the greatest measures of his ability came when, alongside the likes of Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry and other luminaries, he showed he was easily able to hold the attention of the audience in the vast auditorium of the Albert Hall at the annual Equality Show to raise funds for the lesbian and gay campaigning organisation Stonewall.

Reg Bundy - and HIH Regina Fong, the last of the Romanoffs - died of cancer on 15 April 2003, aged 56.

John Dall

John Dall born 26 May 1918 (d. 1971)

John Dall was an American actor born in New York City.

He is best remembered today for the part of the cool-minded intellectual killer in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, but first came to fame as the young prodigy who comes alive under the tutelage of Bette Davis in The Corn is Green, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. He made a number of other films but worked primarily in theatre.

Rope was inspired by the notorious Leopold and Loeb murder case, Dall and co-star Farley Granger - also gay -were cast as two affluent young men who strangle an acquaintance merely as an intellectual challenge to commit the perfect murder.

Although the two men's sexuality is never made explicit in the film, the relationship between Granger's and Dall's characters has a strong homoerotic subtext, skilfully engineered by Hitchcock and his actors through staging, art direction, and nuance. 'It was just a thing assumed,' Granger said many years later of his character's homosexuality. 'Either you got it or you didn't.'

As the film's screenwriter, Arthur Laurents, who was Farley Granger's lover at the time, explained, 'There wasn't a word of dialogue that said [the two men] were lovers or homosexual, but there wasn't a scene between them where it wasn't clearly implied.'

After a long absence from the screen, Dall returned in 1960 to character roles in the costume dramas Spartacus (1960) and Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961).

John Dall died in Los Angeles from a heart attack in 1971 aged 52.

Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst born 26 May 1954

Alan Hollinghurst is a British novelist, and winner of the 2004 Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty.

He was born in Stroud, Gloucestershire, the only child of a bank manager.

He studied English at Magdalen College, Oxford. While at Oxford he shared a house with Andrew Motion, and was awarded the Newdigate Prize for poetry.

In the late 1970s he became a lecturer at Magdalen, and then at Somerville College and Corpus Christi College. In 1981 he moved on to lecture at the University of London.

In 1981 he joined the Times Literary Supplement and from 1982 to 1995 he was deputy editor.

His acclaimed first novel, The Swimming-Pool Library (1988), gives a vivid account of London gay life in the early 1980s through the story of a young aristocrat, William Beckwith, and his involvement with the elderly Lord Nantwich, whose life he saves. It was followed by The Folding Star in 1994, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction).

The Spell (1998), a gay comedy of manners which interweaves the complex relationships between 40-something architect Robin Woodfield, his alcoholic lover Justin, and Justin's ex, timid civil servant Alex, who falls in love with Robin's son Danny. The action moves between the English countryside and London where Danny introduces Alex to ecstasy and the club scene.

Alan Hollinghurst's translation of Racine's play Bajazet was first performed in 1990. His most recent novel, The Line of Beauty (2004), traces a decade of change and tragedy and won the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. It was adapted for BBC Television by Andrew Davies in 2006.

A new novel The Stranger's Child will be published in 2011.

Alec McCowen

Alec McCowen born 26 May 1925

Alec McCowen is an English actor, best known for classical roles including Shakespeare.

He was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the son of Mary and Duncan McCowen. He was educated at the Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells and a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

McCowen made his film debut in 1953 in a British film, The Cruel Sea, but achieved his greatest successes on stage. He made his London debut at the Arts Theatre in Ivanov in 1950, and had rising success as Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge (1954), Barnaby Tucker in The Matchmaker (1954), and appearances at the Old Vic Theatre in 1959/60 in many Shakespearean plays, notably as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. His breakthrough came as Friar William Rolfe in Hadrian the Seventh, for which he won an Evening Standard Award for the London production and a Tony nomination after taking it to Broadway. His next big successes were in Molière's The Misanthrope opposite Diana Rigg (1973) and the role of psychiastrist Martin Dysart in the world premire of Peter Shaffer's Equus (1973), but his greatest achievement was his one-man performance of the complete text of Saint Mark's Gospel (1978), for which he received worldwide acclaim and another Tony nomination.

McCowen has appeared in the films Never Say Never Again (as Q), Cry Freedom, Frenzy , The Age of Innocence, and Travels With My Aunt, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. He notably appeared in the film based on the life of Cynthia Payne Personal Services (1987) with Julie Walters. He starred in the lead role of the 1980s TV series Mr Palfrey of Westminster.

His partner, the actor Geoffrey Burridge died in 1987 from an AIDS-related illness.

In 1989 he was selected to appear on the celebrity surprise show This Is Your Life but was aghast at the programme's complete failure to mention Geoffrey Burridge, who had died less than two years previously and McCowen - bravely for the time - insisted that his late partner be acknowledged.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Julian Clary

Julian Clary born 25 May 1959

Julian Clary (born as Paul Ross McNamara) is an English comedian who is known for his camp style, with a heavy reliance on innuendo and double entendre.

Clary was born in Teddington, Middlesex and went to St Benedict's School, a Catholic school in Ealing, London. He studied English and Drama at Goldsmith's College, part of the University of London.

Clary's comedy career started on the alternative comedy scene in the early 1980s as The Joan Collins Fanclub. He wore heavy draggish make-up and dressed in outrageous fashions, usually involving leather and hinting at bondage. His pet dog 'Fanny the Wonder Dog' featured in performances.

After a number of appearances on Friday Night Live, he presented the gameshow Sticky Moments with Julian Clary. This was a light-hearted gameshow, with Clary often awarding points because he liked the contestants rather than for any particular skill or aptitude. He later featured in the sitcom Terry and Julian with June Whitfield, and in the studio-based All Rise for Julian Clary in which he played a judge in a mock courtroom setting.

Clary appeared in the film Carry on Columbus (1992), an unsuccessful attempt to revive the Carry On series of films. It was widely panned by critics.

Clary was cast into the show business wilderness after making a sexually explicit joke about politician Norman Lamont ("I've just been fisting Norman Lamont") during a live broadcast of the 1993 British Comedy Awards ceremony, before the 9 o'clock watershed. The audience reaction was sufficiently raucous that his intended punchline ("Talk about a red box!") was almost entirely drowned out. His career was adversely affected by this event as he was no longer trusted on live television, but he has been largely rehabilitated in recent years.

In 1999, he became a team captain on the quiz show It's Only TV... But I Like It along with Phil Jupitus and Jonathan Ross.

In 2004, Clary took part in the BBC series Strictly Come Dancing, finishing third with his partner Erin Boag.

In 2005, Clary hosted Come and Have A Go for the National Lottery.

On 1 February 2006, he appeared on the BBC 2 programme Who Do You Think You Are? a genealogy series which traced his ancestors to a World War I flight engineer and a German immigrant. In May 2006 Clary hosted the topical quiz show Have I Got News For You.

In November 2006, Clary joined the panel of QI, a panel game/comedy show hosted by Stephen Fry, and also appeared on an episode of The New Paul O'Grady Show.

In 2007, he made a cameo appearance in the Australian soap opera, Neighbours, in scenes filmed in London. In March and April 2007 Clary presented a brand new show for the BBC called Underdogs, which paired up celebrities with rescued mongrels and set them training and obedience challenges.

Since 2005, Clary has written a fortnightly column for New Statesman magazine - 'A look at the week through the eyes of a camp comic and renowned homosexual.'

Clary published an autobiography in 2005 A Young Man's Passage, which covers his life and career up until the Norman Lamont incident.

His first novel Murder Most Fab was published in 2007 and he has also narrated a selection of childrens books. His second novel Devil In Disguise was published in 2009

From October 2007 to April 2008, Clary played the much coveted role of 'Emcee', in Rufus Norris’s Olivier Award winning production of Cabaret, now in its second year in the West End of London.

In January 2008, Clary was drafted in as a relief presenter for This Morning, co-presenting alongside Fern Britton and Ruth Langsford during Phillip Schofield's absence. Both he and Michael Ball appeared throughout 2008 year when Schofield was on holiday.

His career continues to be a varied mix of presenting, guest appearances, acting, stand-up and writing.

Donald Maclean

Donald Maclean born 25 May 1913 (d. 1983)

Donald Duart Maclean was a career British diplomat turned Soviet intelligence agent. Maclean was one of the Cambridge Five, members of MI5, MI6 or the diplomatic service who acted as spies for the Soviet Union during WWII and in the early-Cold War era. His actions are widely thought to have contributed to the 1948 Soviet blockade of Berlin and the onset of the Korean War. As a reward for his espionage activities, Maclean was brevetted a colonel in the Soviet KGB.

Educated at Gresham's School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was the son of the Liberal politician Sir Donald Maclean, who was Leader of the parliamentary Opposition in the years following WWI.

From Gresham's, Maclean won a place at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, arriving in 1931 to study modern languages. While there, he joined the Communist Party. In his second year at Cambridge, his father died, and in his last year he was recruited into Soviet intelligence by Anthony Blunt, ultimately becoming one of the Cambridge Five.

All of the Cambridge Five came from privileged backgrounds, and two of the others, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, were known to be homosexuals. It is sometimes stated that Maclean was, too, and Guy Burgess claimed to have seduced him, but it seems more likely that he was bisexual.

In 1934, Maclean passed the Civil Service examination and started work at the Foreign Office in London. While there, he was under the operational control of the Russian secret service.

Maclean was later posted to the British Embassy in Paris, where he was when the Second World War broke out. In 1940 he married the American-born Melinda Marling in Paris shortly before the Germans captured the city. They escaped to the coast and got back to England on board a Royal Navy warship.

Maclean continued to report to Moscow from London and signalled in 1941 that a uranium bomb might be constructed within two years through the efforts of Imperial Chemical Industries with the support of the British government. Maclean sent Moscow a sixty-page report with the official minutes of the British Cabinet Committee on the Uranium Bomb Project.

He was transferred to Washington, where he served from 1944 to 1948, as Secretary at the British Embassy and, later, Secretary of the Combined Policy Committee on Atomic Development. For the Soviets, this was his most fruitful period, and he was Stalin's main source of information about communications and policy development between Churchill and Roosevelt, and then between Churchill or Clement Attlee and Harry S. Truman.

Although Maclean did not transmit technical data on the atom bomb, he reported on its development and progress, particularly the amount of uranium available to the United States. As the British representative on the American-British-Canadian council on the sharing of atomic secrets, he was able to provide the Soviet Union with minutes of Cabinet meetings. This knowledge alone gave the Soviet scientists the ability to predict the number of bombs that could be built by the Americans. Coupled with the efforts of Alan Nunn May and Klaus Fuchs, who provided scientific information, Maclean's reports to his KGB controller helped the Soviets not only to build their own atomic bomb, but also to estimate their nuclear arsenal's relative strength against that of the United States.

Armed with this information, Stalin was able to conclude that the United States did not possess a sufficiently large stock of atomic weapons or bomb production capacity to attack the Soviet Union or its allies in either Europe or the Pacific in the near future. This knowledge played a central role in Stalin's decision to institute a blockade of Berlin in 1948, as well as his decision to extensively arm and train Kim Il Sung's North Korean army for an offensive war (a conflict that would later claim the lives of over 30,000 U.S. and Allied troops).

In 1941 Maclean was tentatively identified by Walter Krivitsky, a Soviet defector, who is rumoured to have been assassinated by Soviet agents in the Bellevue Hotel in Washington D.C.. It was said that Krivitsky had claimed there was a mole in British intelligence who was "a Scotsman of good family, educated at Eton and Oxford (sic), and an idealist who worked for the Russians without payment."

Maclean's continual monitoring of secret messages between Truman and Churchill allowed Stalin to know how the Americans and the British proposed to occupy Germany and carve up the borders of Eastern European countries.

Maclean reported to Moscow that the goal of the Americans was to ensure American economic domination in Europe - the so-called Marshall Plan. The new international economic organisation to restore European productivity would be under the control of American financial capital. At that time the Soviet Union had no export earnings, war reparations were the sole source of foreign capital to rebuild the war-torn Soviet economy. Yalta and Potsdam agreements allowed German reparations in the form of equipment, manufacturing machinery, cars, trucks, and building supplies to be sent to Russia for five years. The flow of goods was unregulated by international control, and could be used for whatever purposes the Soviets chose. Six months after the Marshall Plan was rejected by the Soviet Union, multiparty rule in Eastern Europe ended.

In 1948, Maclean was transferred to the British Embassy in Cairo. Undoubtedly, Maclean's information was significant in assisting Stalin in his strategy for the Cold War.

The story of the Burgess and Maclean defection, and the subsequent implication of Philby, is a fascinating one of code-breaking, detection, and discovery. In 1949, Robert Lamphere, FBI agent in charge of Russian espionage, along with cryptanalysts, discovered that between 1944 and 1946 a member of the British Embassy was sending messages to the KGB. The code name of this official was 'Homer'. By a process of elimination, a short list of three or four men were identified as possible Homers. One was Maclean.

Shortly after Lamphere's investigation began, Kim Philby was assigned to Washington, serving as Britain's CIA-FBI-NSA liaison. As such, he was privy to the decoding of the Russian material, and recognised that Maclean was very probably Homer. He confirmed this through his British KGB control. He was also aware that Lamphere and his colleagues had found that the encoded messages to the KGB had been sent from New York. Maclean had visited New York on a regular basis, ostensibly to visit his wife and children, who were living there with his in-laws.

The pressure on Philby now began to grow. If Maclean was unmasked as a Soviet agent, then, were he to confess, the trail might lead to the other Cambridge spies. Philby, now in a very important position in his ability to provide information to the Soviets, might be implicated, if for no other reason than his association with Maclean at Cambridge. Concerned that Maclean would be positively identified, interrogated, and confess to MI5, Philby and Burgess concocted a scheme in which Guy Burgess would return to London (where Maclean was now the Foreign Service officer in charge of American affairs). Burgess would then warn Maclean of the impending unmasking.

Before Burgess left, Philby was explicit in his instructions to Burgess. He was not to defect with Maclean.

The Philby-Burgess plan was for Burgess to visit Maclean in his Foreign Office quarters, give him a note identifying a place where the two could meet - it was assumed that Maclean, now under suspicion and denied sensitive documents, had a bugged office - and Burgess would explain the situation. They met clandestinely to discuss Maclean's imminent exposure and necessary defection to Russia. Yuri Modin, the controller at the time, made arrangements for Maclean's defection. Maclean was in an extremely nervous state, and reluctant to leave alone. Modin was willing to serve as his guide, but KGB Central demanded that Burgess escort Maclean behind the Iron Curtain.

In the meantime, MI5 had insisted that Maclean be questioned. They had decided that he would be confronted with the FBI and MI5 evidence on Monday, 28 May 1951.

On Maclean's 38th birthday, the Friday before the Monday when he was to be interrogated, Burgess and Maclean fled to the coast, boarded a ship to France, and disappeared. Had Blunt learned of the impending questioning of Maclean, and warned Burgess that the time had come? Blunt never admitted to that, and it is possible that Burgess and Maclean had selected Friday to flee whatever the current circumstances. Both Modin and Philby assumed that Burgess would deliver Maclean to a handler, and that he would return. For some reason, the Russians insisted that Burgess accompany Maclean the entire way. Perhaps Burgess was no longer useful to the KGB as a spy, but too valuable to fall into the hands of MI5.

Maclean, unlike the self-indulgent Burgess, assimilated into the Soviet Union and became a respected citizen, learning Russian and serving as a specialist on the economic policy of the West and British foreign affairs. He worked for the Soviet Foreign Ministry and the Institute of World Economic and International Relations. Maclean was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and the Order of Combat.

While living in Moscow, he spoke up for Soviet dissidents, and gave money to the families of some of those imprisoned. His American-born wife, Melinda, joined him in Russia with their children, but they were soon divorced and she had a brief affair Kim Philby in 1966. Later she and the children returned to the United States.

Maclean died of a heart attack in 1983, at the age of sixty-nine. He was cremated and some of his ashes were scattered on his parents' grave in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Penn, Buckinghamshire, England.

Robert 'Robbie' Ross

Robert 'Robbie' Ross born 25 May 1869 (d. 1918)

Robert Baldwin Ross was a journalist and art critic. He is best known, however, as the executor of Oscar Wilde's estate. He was also responsible for bringing together several great literary figures and acting as their mentor.

Ross was born in Tours, France but came to Britain at an early age. His father originally came from Northern Ireland and his mother from Canada. His father had been the attorney-general of Upper Canada and his grandfather was the Canadian Prime Minister Robert Baldwin.

While working as a journalist and critic, he is alleged to have been Oscar Wilde's first male lover, and remained loyal to Wilde through thick and thin, eventually becoming his literary executor. This was not an easy task. It meant tracking down and purchasing the rights to all of Wilde's texts, which had been sold off along with all of Wilde's possessions when he was declared bankrupt. It also meant fighting the rampant trade, following Wilde's arrest, in black market copies of his books and, in particular, books, usually erotic, that Wilde did not write but which were published illegally under his name. The rights to all of Oscar's works along with the money earned from their printing/performance while he was executor was given by Ross to Wilde's sons.

Ross was also responsible for commissioning Jacob Epstein to produce the tomb for Wilde. He even requested that Epstein design a small compartment into the tomb for Ross’s own ashes.

In 1908, some years after Wilde's death, Ross produced the definitive edition of his works. Following Wilde's disgrace and imprisonment, Ross went abroad for safety's sake, but returned to offer support, both financial and emotional, to Wilde during his last years. Ross himself did not escape scandal. A few years before Wilde's imprisonment, Ross was involved in a scandal over his sexual relationship with a boy of fourteen, the son of friends, and his best-friend, aged fifteen. Both boys confessed to their parents that Ross had made love to them, and the fourteen year old boy also admitted that Lord Alfred Douglas had also made love to him while he was a guest at Ross's house. After a good deal of panic and frantic meeting held with solicitors, Douglas and Ross convinced the parents not to go to the police.

As a young man, Ross moved to England to go to university. He was accepted at Cambridge but was the victim of bullying, probably due to his sexuality (of which he made no secret) and his, perhaps, outspoken journalism in the university paper. Ross caught pneumonia after a cruel dunking in a fountain by a number of students with, according to Ross, the full support of a don. After recovering he fought for an apology from his fellow students, which he received, but more fiercely, for the dismissal of the don who, he argued, had known about and supported the bullying. The university refused to punish the man and Ross dropped out of university.

Following this Ross tried his hand at a number of careers, as writer, art critic, and literary executor. He was able to rely on an allowance and inheritance from his wealthy family to support himself. His literary output is small, with only one book worth a mention; Masques and Phases is a collection of previously published works by Ross, short stories and reviews. Ross's main contribution to literature lies in his work as Wilde's executor, and as Wilde's friend in reading Wilde's texts, making suggestions, and, if Ross is to be believed, frequently suggesting changes and improvements. As an art critic, Ross was highly critical of the post-impressionist painters. He worked unpaid for many years for a small art gallery run by friends, for whom he travelled purchasing works. At one time he hoped to be selected for a royal position but was rejected probably due to his connection to Wilde.

Ross is also of interest in his decision to 'come out' to his family, whom he gathered to hear the announcement not long after he left university.

As a result of his faithfulness to Wilde even in death, Ross was vindictively pursued by Lord Alfred Douglas, who repeatedly attempted to drag him into court, and attempted to have him arrested as a homosexual.

During the First World War, he drew around him a coterie of young artists, mostly homosexuals, including Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. He was also a close friend of Wilde's son Vyvyan Holland, and a friend of his other son Cyril until his death in the First World War. In early 1918, during the German Spring Offensive, Noel Pemberton Billing, a right-wing M.P., published an article entitled The Cult of the Clitoris, in which he accused members of Ross's circle of being at the centre of 47,000 homosexual traitors who were betraying the nation to the Germans. The incident brought much embarrassing attention to Ross and his associates.

Later in the same year, Ross was preparing to travel to Melbourne, Australia to open an exhibition at the National Gallery when he died suddenly, an event which caused great grief to his many friends. In 1950, on the 50th anniversary of Wilde's death, Ross's ashes were added to Wilde's tomb in the Le Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Greg Berlanti

Greg Berlanti born 24 May 1972

Greg Berlanti is an American television writer and producer.

Born in New York, Berlanti studied writing at Northwestern University. He was a writer and producer on Dawson's Creek and its short-lived spin-off Young Americans. He became known as the creator, show runner and executive producer of Everwood. He also co-created the short-lived series Jack & Bobby.

Berlanti also wrote and directed the film Broken Hearts Club, about young gay friends in West Hollywood which he based on his own circle of friends at the time.

In August 2006, Berlanti announced a new deal with Touchstone Television and ABC to create new pilots. At the same time, news surfaced that Berlanti was acting as a consultant for the new ABC series Brothers & Sisters. The previous executive producer, Marti Noxon, had left the show after conflict with creator Jon Robin Baitz. Berlanti now serves as an executive producer for the series.

Berlanti was also executive producer of Dirty Sexy Money which debuted on ABC in late 2007.

Berlanti has been involved as a writer and was at one time mentioned as director for the upcoming 2011 film, Green Lantern.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gabriel Atkin

Gabriel Atkin born 1897* (d. 1937)

Gabriel Atkin was a British artist.

Born William Park Atkin, Gabriel Atkin was born in South Shields, Durham, the son of a builder. Before the First World War he showed promise as a water-colourist and he studied briefly at Armstrong College in Newcastle with tutor Richard George Hatton.

With the start of the war he enlisted and was based mostly on the south coast. In the summer of 1915 he was sent to Cambridge for officer training. While there he got to know the circle of gay men including the academics Edward Dent and A. T. 'Theo' Bartholomew. Although Atkin could be charming he was also prone to drunkenness and riotous behaviour, which caused those around him embarrassment and anguish. They engaged in some matchmaking and encouraged Siegfried Sassoon to meet Atkin. The meeting took place when Siegfried Sassoon travelled to Margate, where Gabriel Atkin was staying, on 20 November 1918. The meeting went well and they immediately fell for each other. They spent that Christmas together at Siegfried Sassoon's family home at Weirleigh and at Robert Ross's rooms in Half Moon Street in London. Gabriel Atkin almost certainly provided Siegfried Sassoon with his first sexual encounter.

After this Siegfried Sassoon became a minor literary celebrity and got to know a number of well-known people. This meant that Gabriel Atkin also got to know them. Sacheverell Sitwell introduced Siegfried Sassoon to Ronald Firbank. Although Siegfried Sassoon did not find Ronald Firbank's work appealing they met a couple more times mainly because Atkin was a devotee. They had also got to know some of the Bloomsbury Set including Lytton Strachey, Mark Gertler, Duncan Grant, and John Maynard Keynes.

Gabriel Atkin had a show at the London Salon in 1919. He also sent work to the Artists of the Northern Counties exhibits.

In 1920 Atkin was living in a studio flat in Tite Street in Chelsea, London, and Siegfried Sassoon gave him an allowance of £300 so that he could continue painting. They began to see much less of each other, although Siegfried Sassoon continued to send money for some years.

Gabriel Atkin travelled to France and for a while was a male prostitute in Lyon and then the south of France.

In 1928 he met the minor writer Mary Butts, and they married in London in 1930. For the first two years of their marriage they lived in London and Newcastle. They then settled in Sennen in Cornwall and bought a cottage that they called Tebel Vos. They both relied on drink and drugs. The marriage was troubled and Gabriel Atkin left in 1934. By 1937 they were both dead.

*actual birthday unknown

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mark Bingham

Mark Bingham born 22 May 1970 (d. 11 September 2001)

Mark Kendall Bingham was an American public relations executive who founded his own company, the Bingham Group. He died at age 31 in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on board United Airlines Flight 93.

Bingham is believed to have been among the passengers who attempted to storm the cockpit to try to prevent the hijackers from using the plane to kill hundreds or thousands of additional victims. He made a brief mobile phone call to his mother, Alice Hoagland, shortly before the plane went down. Hoagland, a former flight attendant with United Airlines, later left a voice mail message on his mobile, instructing Bingham to reclaim the aircraft after it became apparent that Flight 93 was to be used in a suicide mission.

Bingham was survived by his former boyfriend of six years, Paul Holm, who says this was not the first time Bingham risked his life to protect the lives of others. In fact, he had twice successfully protected Holm from attempted muggings, one of which was at gunpoint. Holm describes Bingham as a brave, competitive man, saying, 'He hated to lose — at anything.' He was even known to proudly display a scar he received after being gored at the running of the bulls in Pamplona.

Bingham attended Los Gatos High School. He was a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also president of his fraternity, Chi Psi. In college, he played for the UC Berkeley rugby team and helped them win a string of national championships.

A large athlete at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) and 225 pounds (102 kg), he also played for the San Francisco Fog, a rugby union team.

The Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament (Bingham Cup), an annual international rugby union competition predominantly for gay and bisexual men, was established in 2002 in his memory.

He is portrayed in the 2006 movie United 93 by gay actor Cheyenne Jackson.

Tom Driberg

Tom Driberg born 22 May 1905 (d. 1976)

Thomas Edward Neil Driberg, Baron Bradwell was a British journalist and politician who was an influential member on the left of the Labour Party from the 1950s to the 1970s. He was revealed as a spy for the Soviet Union by Vasili Mitrokhin.

Tom Driberg was born at Crowborough, Sussex. Having studied Classics at Christ Church, Oxford (1924-1927) without taking a degree, Driberg worked on the Daily Express from 1928 and created the William Hickey diary and gossip column. He was also connected to the intelligence services of both the United Kingdom and Soviet Union, as demonstrated in the Mitrokhin archives.

In the autumn of 1935 he gave two unemployed miners a place with him in his bed, but when his hands began to wander the men went to report him at the local police station. On 12 November 1935 Tom Driberg ended up in court at the Old Bailey on a charge of indecent assault, but he was found not guilty. His boss at the Express, Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken), ensured that there was no press coverage, although Tom Driberg had to go to see the editor of The News of the World. Despite rumours on Fleet Street the story never made the papers.

He was first elected as a Member of Parliament for Maldon in a by-election in June 1942 as an independent candidate. He took the Labour whip in January 1945 and continued to sit for the seat until his retirement at the 1955 general election. He was MP for Barking from 1959 to February 1974. In 1957 he became chairman of the Labour Party.

He left the Express in June 1943 after being sacked by the editor who thought that his parliamentary activities conflicted with his journalism. He was then given a job by the editor of a left-wing Sunday newspaper belonging to the Co-operative movement. He wrote a column under his own name which was more political. The paper became the Sunday Citizen in 1962, but in 1966 Tom Driberg was sacked because the paper could no longer afford his salary. The paper closed in 1967. He subsequently worked freelance and contributed to the 'London Diary' of the New Statesman, and wrote book reviews.

He had a lucky escape when caught with a Norwegian sailor in an air raid shelter in Edinburgh. Fortunately the policeman was an avid reader of the William Hickey column and let him off. In fact the policeman and Tom Driberg became friends and exchanged letters. Tom Driberg related the story to his friends Harold Nicolson and Bob Boothby. It seems that Compton Mackenzie also heard about the story and used it as inspiration for his novel Thin Ice about the life of a homosexual politician.

He was created a Life peer, as Baron Bradwell, of Bradwell-juxta-Mare in the County of Essex, shortly before his death. His autobiography, Ruling Passions, was published posthumously and disclosed the conflict between the three passions that drove his life: his homosexuality (he pursued casual and risky encounters compulsively, going cottaging and using rent boys), his left-wing political beliefs, and his allegiance to the High Church tendency of the Church of England. His will insisted that at his memorial service, the reader excoriate him for his sins rather than praise him for his virtues.


Morrissey born 22 May 1959

"I don't recognise such terms as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and I think it's important that there's someone in pop music who's like that. These words do great damage, they confuse people and they make people feel unhappy, so I want to do away with them."

"Artists aren't really people. And I'm actually 40 per cent papier mache."

"I lost myself to music at a very early age, and I remained there."

Paul Winfield

Paul Winfield born 22 May 1939 (d. 2004)

Paul Edward Winfield was an Academy Award-nominated American television and film actor. Winfield was openly gay in his private life, but remained discreet about it in the public eye.

Winfield was born in Los Angeles, California. He first became well-known to audiences when he appeared for several years opposite Diahann Carroll on the US television series Julia. He also starred as Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1978 miniseries King. In 1973, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1972 film Sounder, becoming the third African American to ever earn a nomination for a leading role, after Dorothy Dandridge and Sidney Poitier. Though it should be noted that Sounder co-star Cicely Tyson was also nominated that year for a leading role, for Best Actress. He appeared in the 2003 Disney-produced television remake of Sounder. Winfield played the part of 'Jim the Slave' in Huckleberry Finn (1974) which was a musical.

Winfield also starred in more recent miniseries, including Roots: The Next Generations, Queen: The Story of an American Family and Scarlett.

Winfield gained many fans for several of his brief but memorable roles in science fiction TV programs and movies. He was Captain Clark Terrell in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and a friendly but crusty cop partnered with Lance Henriksen in The Terminator. On the small screen, he appeared as General Richard Franklin, father of regular character Dr Stephen Franklin, on Babylon 5 and as an alien captain in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. He also provided voices on the cartoons Spider-Man, The Magic School Bus, Batman Beyond, and The Simpsons, on the latter voicing the Don King parody Lucius Sweet. He was 'The Mirror' on the TV show The Charmings (1987-1988). He also played the long-lost father of Harriette Winslow and her sister Rachel Crawford on Family Matters. At the time of his death, he was a narrator for the A&E show City Confidential.

He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance in the King and Roots: The Next Generations. He won an Emmy Award, in 1995, for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for his appearance in an episode of the CBS drama Picket Fences.

Throughout his career, Winfield frequently managed to perform in the theatre. His only Broadway production, Checkmates, in 1988, co-starring Ruby Dee, was also the Broadway debut of Denzel Washington. He also appeared in productions Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Winfield died of a heart attack in 2004; he was 64. His long-time partner of 30 years, architect Charles Gillan Jr., preceded him in death in 2002.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fred Barnes

Fred Barnes born 21 May 1885 (d. 1938)

Fred Barnes was an English music hall artist.

He experienced extremes of success and failure, and as a young gay man escaped to London from his father and his father's lifestyle.

Barnes was born in a bedroom above his father's butcher's shop at number 219 Great Lister Street, Saltley, Birmingham, England.

Aged ten, after seeing Vesta Tilley, first visiting her sister who lived close to the shop, and later playing the lead in Dick Whittington at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Fred became interested in the stage. His first notable performance was playing the Duke of Solihull in Cinderella at the Alexandra Theatre, in 1906. It was while starring in the pantomime that Fred acquired his first agent and attracted the attention of another Birmingham-born music hall artist, George Lashwood, who, in Fred's own words, 'took me in hand... [placed] at my disposal, free and unasked, the lessons of his long and brilliant career'. It was following Cinderella's fourteen week run that Fred first performed in London, persuaded by fellow cast members, the Eight Lancashire Lads, to travel with them. Upon his arrival, Fred found himself playing the hated first slot on the bills. However, this was to change when he decided to try out a new song that he'd written, The Black Sheep of the Family, at the Hackney Empire in 1907. It was a huge success and was to remain Fred's most popular song.

As Fred says in his account of his life ('How success ruined me'), his name was 'made in a single night'. With this impressive start to his career he spent the next few years establishing himself. By 1911 he was top of the bill on all of the major circuits and principle boy in a number of pantomimes.

In 1913 his father committed suicide. Two weeks later, Barnes performed at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 'a place full of memories of my father. To this day I don't know how I got through that week'. The Birmingham Gazette of August 30 commented, 'Fred Barnes has this week proved the hollowness of the old saying that an artiste is never appreciated in his own town. He has gone a long way towards packing the house at every performance at the Hippodrome'. Following his father's death Fred's career continued to improve.

In an Era interview from 1914 he stated that he had no vacant dates for the next three years and held contacts for the next ten. It was when his personal problems, namely spending and drinking too much, began. He attributed these to dealing with both the death of his father and his new found success and popularity. The large sums of money he was earning and which he inherited led him to begin spending extravagantly - a habit he found hard to break when he was no longer earning any money. But it was drinking which was to ruin Fred's career. He missed performances, went on stage incapable of singing or dancing and generally put less and less care into his performances. This led to his being moved down the bills until he was finally back at first turn. Managers grew wary of him and soon his outstanding contracts were paid off and he was without work altogether.

During the twenties Fred was arrested (and later sentenced to one month in jail) for driving while drunk, in a dangerous manner and without a licence. Following the arrest, Fred, deemed a 'menace to His Majesty's fighting forces' (almost certainly because of the topless sailor who had been travelling with him at the time of the accident), was banned from attending the Royal Tournament, an annual military tattoo; he returned each year and each year successfully evaded discovery.

He was also open about his sexuality, and was one of the well-known 'twanks' of his period, unsurprisingly since he was known to pick up sailors and guardsmen in his Rolls-Royce.

It is for these reasons rather than his musical achievements (he only made ten recordings during his career), that only two biographies exist.

By the mid 30s Fred was suffering from tuberculosis. His failing health led him and his lover and manager John Senior to move to Southend-on-Sea. By this time any work consisted of playing the piano in pubs while John collected tips. Luckily for Fred and John a past manager, Charles Ashmead Watson, paid their rent, lighting and clothing costs, as well as giving them a weekly allowance of 30 shillings. Fred had made a number of attempts to return to the stage, most of which were unsuccessful; a final job in the summer of 1938, playing his songs in the lounge of a local hotel restored some of his confidence in his own ability. But by that winter he could no longer live with the pain he constantly suffered. Two and a half years after he was told he had only three months to live, Fred Barnes committed suicide.

When the Jury at the inquest into Fred's death commented that Watson had been 'wonderful' to Fred, he replied 'He was a great man'. He was not the only person who thought so. Naomi Jacob said 'he had one of the kindest hearts in the world. Moreover he was a fine artist and no mean dancer'. An Era interviewer in 1911 commented on his 'singularly pleasing popularity'. Fred's funeral on the second of July 1938, was attended by hundreds, the St Saviour's Churchyard and nearby streets crowded with mourners.

He was free with facts in interviews and in his own account of his life; his numerous publicity stunts which included announcements of his 'near-death' in a fire and a fake marriage. His appearance, he was known to walk around London at the height of his success with a marmoset perched on his shoulder (later, playing the pubs in Southend-on-Sea, he made do with a chicken).

Footlight Notes - profile of Fred Barnes with photographs

Barnes' life is featured in Three Queer Lives by Paul Bailey.