Like so many true originals who create art ahead of their time, James Bidgood was in danger of being forgotten by a canon that favors the next generation he inspired, great artists very much of their time, in this case the dazzling gay duo Pierre et Gilles and the immensely successful commercial gay photog David LaChapelle. Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Bidgood escaped to New York, attended Parsons, and worked as a window dresser where he would borrow fabric and props to use for his own photo shoots in his tiny Hell's Kitchen apartment. Like Georges Méliès he made enchantments from next to nothing: crinkled wax paper becomes a cave wall. In the over-the-top spirit of the Ziegfeld Follies, he celebrated lavish, luxurious eroticism -- without any money and without any girls. In the early and mid-1960s his homespun gay art was destined for the fringe. In that same cramped apartment, for seven years Bidgood filmed his wordless gay fantasy of a kept hustler's daydreams, Pink Narcissus, which was taken from him by investors, edited, and released without his consent in 1971. He removed his name. Bruce Benderson unraveled the story in the 90s, sparking a Bidgood revival, and the movie was finally re-released with his director credit in 2003. He's enjoyed solo or group shows nationwide and in Spain and Italy. Last year his work was the final image in Musée d'Orsay's Masculin / Masculin. You can still buy his vintage prints for $5000 or glorious big new C-prints for $1750. (To compare, a 1976 Pierre et Gilles print recently sold at Christie's for $215,888.) Eighty-one today, Bidgood is as sharp as ever: read his interview with Michael Kowalinski for Butt in which he says, "because of all that sissy scenery in that ‘Narcissus’ thing, I guess people expect me to be lounging around in a silk caftan, face powdered and rouged with twenty yards of orchid chiffon draped around my neck with my bong and a few boys by my pool! Very often guests like yourself think I only work in this slum dwelling, but I live here!." Get Taschen's big book James Bidgood.
Is it the mild gay content that prevents the international literary community from adding Håkan Lindquist to the working list of great living Nothernish writers like Gerbrand Bakker, Peter Stamm and Per Petterson (all of them indebted to the magnificent simplicity of lesbian Tove Jansson)? Or is it merely because only two of Håkan's six novels are available in English, and those two were long-distance efforts from a German publisher? His time will come. Until then, you can pride yourself on getting to know the dashing Swede (who splits his time between Stockholm and Berlin) before IMPAC Dublin discovers him. His short, domestic novels tackle eternal themes of family secrets, the nature of love, and the passage of time, with a fresh perspective and a modern, gay naturalism. My Brother and His Brother follows Jonas as he tracks down and uncovers surprising details about Paul, his older brother who died at sixteen the year before Jonas was born. On Collecting Stamps is a beautiful look back, from middle age, as Mattias reconsiders his unconventional friendship, starting at twelve, with a lonely
After distinguished service as an intelligence officer in the Queen's Royal Regiment during WWII, Dirk Bogarde tried acting and became Britain's top box office draw of the 1950s. So it was big news in 1961 when he chose to play a closeted, married gay barrister in Victim, especially considering he was closeted himself. (He and his manager Anthony Forwood lived together for decades.) In 1963, Bogarde played the creepy, closety valet in The Servant, and later played the tragic gay lead of Death in Venice. Today, the courage of these choices can hardly be imagined. Even in 1971, two years after Midnight Cowboy, Warner Brothers was so terrified of Death in Venice being charged with obscenity in the U.S. they wanted to drop the movie altogether. They relented after Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne attended the London premiere; it won an Oscar. Yet offscreen in his own life, Bogarde lacked the same bravery. After the anguish of watching his partner suffer a prolonged battle with Parkinson's and liver cancer, he became a vocal proponent of euthanasia. That was 1988, coincidentally the same year that John Gielgud came out quietly and Ian McKellan came out blazingly. Bogarde never did. He retired in 1990 and lived till 1999, by which time he had written something like eight volumes of autobiography, none of which tells the full truth of his life. In fact, he destroyed much of his personal archives.