The zenith of sophistication, Cole Porter wrote the wittiest, worldliest love songs ever recorded and a good part of his genius emanated from his experience as a gay man. Born to a rich family in Indiana, a graduate of an East Coast prep school and Yale, married to a famed, older socialite for thirty-four years, Porter was utterly at ease in the highest society, yet his constant sexual relationships with men allowed him permanent outsider status. His art depended on his double life. Unable to express gay love openly, his lyrics are far more original and memorable for their necessary codes and double entendres. If you still don't understand You're the Top with its refrain "But if, Baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top," please see me after class. Porter is peerless at hiding in plain sight, subverting the scandalous into showstopping "innocent" fun, as in Let's Do It (1928), You Do Something To Me (1929), Love for Sale (1930), All Through the Night (1934), Anything Goes (1934), I've Got You Under My Skin (1936), Let's Misbehave (1937), My Heart Belongs to Daddy (1938), I've Got My Eyes on You (1939) Well Did You Evah! (1939) Let's Be Buddies (1940) You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To (1942), Something for the Boys (1943), He's a Right Guy (1943), I'm In Love With a Solider Boy (1943), Too Darn Hot (1948), All of You (1954) Mind If I Make Love To You? (1955) and You're Just Too, Too (1956), among countless others.
Openly closeted, Porter enjoyed affairs with Ballets Russes librettist Boris Kochno, Boston hotshot Howard Sturges, architect Ed Tauch, actor Robert Bray, choreographer Nelson Barclift, and director John Wilson, as well as innumerable shorter interludes with servicemen and chorus boys at weekend all-male parties. Remarkably, he kept his spirits up (ditto his libido) despite a crippling leg injury from a 1937 riding fall which necessitated thirty-four operations over the rest of his life and ended in amputation. When he died in 1964, Porter left half his royalties to the children of his longtime friend and ex-lover Ray Kelly. He was decidedly de-gayed in the Kevin Kline movie De-Lovely, but not in William McBrien's "complex and groundbreaking" biography, whose "most startling scholarship is on the subject of Porter's homosexuality."
Sandy Leonard offered this illuminating comment: "I wonder if 'Love for Sale' informed in any way his later masochistic attraction and ongoing (if not "constant") sexual relationship with actor, husband (Shirley Jones) and father (David, Shaun, et al.), Jack Cassidy. Capote's got a story about this in his Gerald Clarke biography."
All this, and now he's a Tony nominee, too, for his debut, a one-woman show adapted into the novella, The Testament of Mary. Despite favorable reviews and several nominations, the Broadway show closed prematurely. If ticket sales were sluggish it may be because ticket prices were ridiculous. Early in its run, when I tried to order online two normal, non-premium orchestra seats on a week night, the total was $418. For a monologue. I didn't go. Anyway, here's hoping he wins on June 9 and that NPH kisses him.
Predicting future Nobel Prize honorees is a thankless, pointless pastime, yet everything the Nobel winners in literature have, Colm Tóibín has too: an impressive body of novels illuminating an overlooked group of people, many books of nonfiction, journalism, history, and travel (try Bad Blood: A Walk along the Irish Border or Homage to Barcelona), a staggering and seemingly effortless range of important critical essays, vision, verve, and gravitas (some of which are collected in All a Novelist Needs: Colm Tóibín on Henry James, New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families [Kindle], and Love in a Dark Time: And Other Explorations of Gay Lives and Literature).
After being rejected by twenty publishers over two and half years, Tóibín’s debut novel The South was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and won the Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize for first novel. Two years later his second novel, The Heather Blazing, won the Encore Prize. His third novel, the widely-prized The Story of the Night, set in Argentina, is included on Publishing Triangle’s list of the 100 best lesbian & gay novels. The Blackwater Lightship, his fourth, exploring the fractious family relations as a young man with aids comes back to die in County Wexford, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was adapted for a tv movie starring Angela Lansbury and Dianne Wiest. The Master, his revelatory novel about Henry James, was an international bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, named one of the New York Times’ ten best books of the year, won the LA Times Novel of the Year award, and won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, worth 100,000 Euros.
His sixth novel Brooklyn was a highlight of 2009, when it was a bestseller and won a Costa award. (No update on the film, adapted by Nick Hornby, which was to have begun shooting this spring with Rooney Mara, and didn't.) Tóibín's Lammy winner The Empty Family is flat-out magnificent, and some readers insist his previous story collection Mothers and Sons is even better. Amazon and Amazon UK list his Untitled Novel on Ireland as releasing in February or March 2014.
(photo by Joshua Bright via)
Interesting artistic decision or blatant sell-out? Broadway is not my thing so you be the judge of Harvey Fierstein's comments on Michelangelo Signorile's radio show confirming that "no one's gay" in the new musical version of the movie Kinky Boots about big men who do drag. Sure, it's based on a true story but a gay character could be there somewhere. Perhaps the more compelling dynamic would have been to depict a mix of sexualities on stage, to highlight their differences and surprising similarities, etc etc. I'm skeptical that the choice to exclude and erase is really all that brave and progressive. But the establishment loves it -- Kinky Boots is the most-nominated show (13!) at the Tonys three weeks from tonight.
Signorile recaps on HuffPost:
"Fierstein says he wrote and clearly portrays Lola as heterosexual, yet not one critic or reviewer has picked up on it, assuming that the character must be gay because he’s doing drag.
“I mean, he’s not gay,” Fierstein said in an interview on my SiriusXM radio program about the character based on a true story which was made into a 2005 British film of the same name. “I wrote this character as a heterosexual transvestite. He’s very clear that that is what he is. I thought this was a really interesting character to put up on the stage...rather than arguing the same arguments I’ve argued in 'La Cage,' to do something different. The really interesting thing to me is that not one critic -- not the gay critics, not the straight critics, -- not one critic picked up on him being straight. Not one. They all talked about, ‘Harvey’s gay liberation message or whatever.’ There’s no gay liberation message in this! No one’s gay in this! It’s so interesting to me that our prejudices are so strong that we hear what we think we hear.”
Much of Alan Bennett’s career as a playwright, screenwriter, author and actor been devoted to wry or gently comic emotional cripples, inhabiting worlds where happiness is as suspect (very) as it is unlikely (highly) and where unrequited love is a redundancy. His best known works are the adaptation of Prick Up Your Ears (gay playwright Joe Orton murdered by his lover), An Englishman Abroad (gay traitor Guy Burgess), The Madness of George III (crazy king), A Question of Attribution (another gay traitor, Anthony Blunt), and of course The History Boys. In 2011 reader Gary reminded me about Bennett's highly successful series of humorous and touching monologues, Talking Heads, which can be seen online. (Lovingly spoofed by Stephen Fry in drag.) The son of a Northern butcher, Bennett was accepted at Cambridge but, following a boy who didn’t like him, switched to Oxford where he took a first in history and, in 1960, joined Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Jonathan Miller to appear in the instantly famous comedy revue Beyond the Fringe. He also performed in The Secret Policeman’s Ball and The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball. Although he has been with his current partner, Rupert Thomas, for nearly 20 years, only recently has he felt comfortable discussing his gay life. And he's begun to create unqualified delights, such as the one even Michiko called “a completely charming entertainment: a small gem,” his novella The Clothes They Stood Up In, about a middle-aged married couple who return from the theatre to discover their flat has been robbed of absolutely everything, down to their last thumbtack and thimble. His hugely praised novella The Uncommon Reader, about the Queen's newfound love of literature thanks to a gay teenager, is a slender perfection. Since then he's published a memoir about his parents, A Life Like Other People's, and a pair of gay-inclusive tales in a short book wittily titled Smut [Kindle]. The same week that the British Library paid half a million pounds for Ted Hughes' papers, Bennett announced he is donating all his papers -- including decades of diaries and unpublished manuscripts -- to Oxford's Bodleian Library, in gratitude for his state scholarship.
By coincidence, Douglas Carter Beane's new play The Nance, which brings to life the era of pansy acts and burgeoning antigay blacklash described in Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey, is about a nelly performer named Chauncey Miles (Nathan Lane). Chauncey, a middle-aged Republican actor, plays a superswish character in a fading New York burlesque lifted by the sudden popularity of his pansy act beloved by both gay and straight audiences. It is 1937 and in advance of the coming World's Fair and a tight mayoral race, officials want to clean up the city: Police raids on gay bars expand to theaters, with fines, raids, and ultimately a ban on degenerate performers. In typically twisted tradition, the city official leading the ban on pansy performances is himself a closet case, and the law he's pushing to ban gay performers will still allow cross-dressing. I don't think The Nance mentions it, but of course the spreading antigay sentiment was also enshrined in Hollywood's infamous Hays Code of 1934 banning, among other things, "sex perversion."
Offstage, either from this growing repression, his long self-hatred, or simple preference, Chauncey prefers one night stands, yet he agrees to a relationship with Ned, a much younger naive newcomer he picks up in a lavender automat. The untenable imbalances of their situation (Chauncey wants an open relationship; Ned needs monogamy) combined with the stress of neverending fear of police raids and the probability of Chauncey losing his career are juggled with other plot strands emphasizing hopes raised and dashed -- notably unions, strikes, and Communism. Already groaning with too much material, the play is constantly interrupted by burlesque performances that overstay their welcome. Corny routines compete with unsexy strip numbers. Even without the edits it craves, The Nance has some powerful moments and makes important points about a forgotten era in our history.
The oddball joy of his movies extends to real life: Last May, at 66, John Waters hitchhiked alone from Baltimore to San Francisco. Fifteen rides with total strangers took him eight days, and he says of his drivers, “Pot smokers, cops, I got everybody. And everybody was lovely.” An exercise in giving up control from his over-scheduled life, the trip will be the heart of his next book, tentatively titled Carsick. He explains, "The first half is a little novella. I imagine the 15 best rides that could ever happen, and I did the 15 worst rides that could ever happen."
His trashy yet sweet movies are part of the permanent collection at MoMA, but beyond the films John Waters has written four books, published three volumes of photographs, and his artwork has been shown in many museums and galleries internationally. As for the movies, he's made sixteen, with his best work clustered from 1972 to 1988: Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living, Polyester and Hairspray starring the incomparable Divine [also pictured] who was his special ally since their shared childhood in Maryland. Johnny Depp fans might insist on including 1990's Cry Baby, but the four movies since then seem like lesser efforts, or at least they are more mainstream. His children's Christmas movie starring Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey, endearingly titled Fruitcake, has been canceled, as has the sequel New Line convinced Waters to write, Hairspray 2: White Lipstick, imagining Tracy in the late 60s during the British Invasion and Vietnam. His wonderful memoir Role Models was the best LGBT book of 2010 according to Bill Clegg and Sebastian Stuart.
Typically mixing the meritorious, the mediocre, and the misguided, GLAAD today announced nominations in 33 queer categories of TV, movies, music, theater, journalism, blogs, and comic books (but no real books). Eight awards honor media work in Spanish. For every worthy and important nominee like Rachel Aviv's recent Netherland profile of homeless queer youth for The New Yorker, there is a grandstanding canard like that nonsensical piece calling Obama the first gay president which exists solely to grab attention for its author.
As America grows ever more accepting of gay equality, Hollywood reduces our visibility in mainstream features. Again this year, GLAAD's five nominees for best wide-release film are straight movies with only marginal lgbt characters. Some of these perpetuate the worst tropes, including The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel's sad old bugger who, of course, is the only one of the jaunty elderfolk to die. The lesbian in Your Sister's Sister has sex with her sister's boyfriend. The indies are better, led by Ira Sachs' Spirit Award nominee Keep the Lights On; Sundance's Mosquita y Mari; the Tribeca, Chicago, and Seattle film fests audience award winner Any Day Now starring Alan Cumming; the twink love drama North Sea Texas and the hetero wheelchair ballroom dancing romcom Musical Chairs directed by Susan Seidelman of Desperately Seeking Susan.
In 1960, when Mercedes de Acosta published her tell-all memoir Here Lies the Heart revealing her affairs with Marlene Dietrich, Great Garbo, Ona Munson, and Isadora Duncan, none was an angrier, exposed ex than the English/French/Danish actress Eva Le Gallienne. They had a five-year affair, beginning in 1920 when Eva was 21 and making a splash on Broadway, and Mercedes was 27. Four years after being outed by that book, Eva was given a special Tony Award, celebrating her 50th year of acting and her extensive theater work, founding and sustaining several rep companies. In 1977 she won an Emmy for playing Fanny Cavendish in George Kaufman's comedy The Royal Family, and in 1980, she became the world's oldest Oscar nominee in acting for her role in Resurrection starring the also- nominated Ellen Burstyn. She died of natural causes at 92. Six years later her record was broken when 87 year-old Gloria Stuart was nominated for Titanic.
Author of the cult favorite comedic novel How I Paid for College [Kindle] and its sequel Attack of the Theater People [Kindle], Marc Acito hasn't published a new book since 2008, so what did he do all last year? In March, the Old Globe in San Diego premiered his and Jeffrey Stock's musical adaptation of A Room with a View. In April, he won a Helen Hayes Award in Washington DC for his play about gay penguins, Birds of a Feather. In September, the premiere of his musical Allegiance, starring George Takei and Lea Salonga as Japanese-Americans held in US internment camps during WWII, broke the all-time box office record at the Old Globe. And in December, he saw the premiere run of his one-man-monologue-with-songs adaptation of How I Paid for College. This year he preps Allegiance for Broadway. A former opera singer, Marc sometimes performs singing commentaries on NPR. He is married to Floyd Sklaver and lives in New York City, of course.
The hero of the week is Cheever biographer Blake Bailey for his roaring criticism of Penelope Niven's decision to degay her biography of Thornton Wilder. Although Bailey doesn't mention him, the disgraceful omission is also a stain on the distinguished, 50-year career of Niven's editor Hugh Van Dusen (Jacques Barzun, Howard Zinn) who ought to have had the moral strength to insist on an open and accurate portrayal of Wilder's life. To say nothing of Harper's gay publisher Jonathan Burnham. Great as Bailey's critique is, readers will notice the NYT Book Review buried his review two months after the book's release, when it might have had a more significant impact on how the mainstream received this whitewashed work. Bailey writes:
"The gorilla in the room, of course, is Wilder’s sexual orientation, around which Niven does some very fancy dancing. The first explicit mention of homosexuality occurs on Page 99, in reference to a “young ballet dancer” named Hubert whose letters “suggest an overt interest in the Thornton of the vivid blue eyes,” though Wilder “appeared to be innocently unaware.” Fifty-some pages later, an actor named Gareth Hughes piques a dawning awareness in Wilder, who considers Hughes “the divinest thing to look upon that I have ever seen.” Lest we leap to rash conclusions, however, Niven is keen to remind us — over and over, a veritable mantra — that Wilder was a very private man and this is a very private matter. Meanwhile, she concedes, in so many words, that the lives of Wilder’s siblings were also blighted by sexual repression. Charlotte was the most forthcoming on the subject: a promising poet before the onset of mental illness and an eventual lobotomy, she hinted at her predicament in five “Monologues of Repression,” while admitting elsewhere that she’d never managed a “homosexual consummation” because she was “too frigid” even to kiss. The bleakness of such a life — a bleakness her brother doubtless knew only too well — was perhaps “one significant root of her breakdown,” according to Niven.
"So why is Niven reluctant to discuss this root in Thornton’s case? Let her tell it: “Opinions diverge as to whether a writer’s sex life is a legitimate field for public examination unless it serves as subject matter and/or thematic matter for the artistic work, or unless it has, with the writer’s complicity, emerged into public view as a defining force in the life and work. A very private man. . . . ” — and so on. The occasion for this oracular windup is the only piece of real evidence we have that Thornton himself enjoyed a consummation or two (albeit fleeting and skittish) with one Samuel Steward, who wrote of the encounter in a 1981 memoir. Niven goes after Steward like a stern nun wielding a ruler with germproof gloves. First she impugns his credibility, pointing out that he got his facts “slightly askew,” to wit: 43 years after the fact, Steward claimed that he and Wilder had spent “six or seven” days together in Zurich, rather than the two and a half that both men claimed in contemporaneous accounts. Other hard things are said against Steward’s general character until, grimly, Niven allows that “a case can be made” in favor of Wilder’s bisexuality. That said — and never mind Niven’s previous assertion that sexual frustration may well have led to actual schizophrenia for poor Charlotte — Thornton Wilder was (wait for it) “a deeply private man,” and one should protect his privacy in the same spirit that he would have protected the privacy of his partners: “not out of hypocrisy but out of affection, out of courtesy, out of propriety, out of respect for others, and himself.”
"Where to begin? First of all, “a case can be made” that on a certain level Wilder was not an especially “private” man at all; he was a lonely man, and there’s a difference. To put a finer point on it: Wilder was a man with hundreds of friends but no real intimates, and to the former he was willing to tell pretty much all there was to tell about his life. What he was “private” about, very specifically, was his all but nonexistent sex life, perhaps because he couldn’t find words to convey the matter even to himself. Whom is Niven appeasing with all her cant about privacy? Wilder? Wilder’s dead, and you relinquish a certain degree of privacy by dying (or so thought Voltaire: “To the dead we owe only the truth”). She reminds me of nothing so much as the would-be biographer in Wilder’s “Bridge of San Luis Rey,” Brother Juniper, who despite an exhaustive investigation misses the “central passion” of his subjects’ lives. “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? — every, every minute?” the dead Emily wonders, plaintively, at the end of “Our Town.” In that line one hears something of Wilder’s personal tragedy, and (it was his genius to suggest) that of humanity at large."
Thanks to Stephen Motika for sending me this review on vacation. Buy his book Western Practice.
SIlver-tongued sourpuss Rupert Everett can't abide gay marriage, can't stand gay parenting, can't believe he's not a movie star, and can't forgive the Tonys for ignoring his performance in Blithe Spirit, but he can write. Exceedingly well. I liked his novels Hello Darling, Are You Working? and The Hairdressers of St.Tropez.
The Independent named his brand new Vanished Years [Kindle] one of the best memoirs of 2012: "Rupert Everett surprised us with his ability to string beautiful sentences together in the first volume of his autobiography. Vanished Years, his second, can be defined simultaneously as a celebrity memoir and a meta-memoir on the transient – and silly - nature of celebrity. Almost every sentence is worth savouring with one great anecdote after another. In one near-miss with reality TV, Everett accidentally signs up for The Apprentice without knowing of the much-feared Sir Alan Sugar... 'Imagine my surprise when I saw Sid James sitting on one side of a large table'. A no-holds-barred memoir with everything a fan of the genre could wish for: humour, honesty, self-deprecation, sharp observation and his friend, Madonna."
Although many of his sophisticated, camp comedies play peekaboo with the closet, especially the threesome in Design for Living (1932) and less popular later works like Song at Twilight (1966), the urbane Coward never actually came out. A friend of King George, Coward traveled widely to perform for WWII troops and secretly worked as a spy, hiding behind his high life persona. The press attacked him for his excesses during wartime. The king suggested a knighthood, but Churchill disliked his "flamboyance" and blocked it. After the war, Coward fell in love with the actor Graham Payn and they stayed together nearly thirty years. In 1956 they became tax exiles, landing first in Bermuda then in Jamaica where they were neighbors to the constantly bickering Mr. & Mrs. Ian Fleming. Coward enjoyed a revival in the 1960s and finally was knighted in 1970. He died in Jamaica in 1973, still with Payn. You can read his biography or go right to his diaries, letters, plays, or the The Noël Coward Reader.Born in Kobe in 1974, Kanako Otsuji was a junior karate champion in Asia, opting to attend university in Korea to study tae kwon do. Although she failed to make the Japanese olympic team in 2000, three years later she became one of only seven women -- and the youngest person ever -- elected to the 110-member Osaka Assembly. She came out the day before Tokyo Pride in 2005 by publishing her memoir. That same year she succeeded in changing the law that previously allowed only married couples to rent public housing in Osaka; now lgbt couples can too. In April 2007 she did not stand for re-election and two months later she married her partner Maki Kamura in an outdoor, public ceremony, although Japan does not recognize same-sex marriage. (Adorable wedding photos here and here.) In 2009, filmmaker Naomi Hiltz premiered her documentary about Otsuji at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Ruminating on his new play People, about the much-reduced former owner of a National Trust house, Alan Bennett writes of England's demise, "Less and less are we a nation and more and more just a captive market to be exploited." First though, a memory of some queer fun; then three paragraphs on the 30-year collapse of his beloved country.
"As is made plain in the play, Dorothy is not shocked by porn being filmed under her (leaking) roof. As she points out, she is a peeress in her own right: ‘The middle classes – they’re the respectable ones.’ Which is a cliché but I’d have thought no less true for all that. But then, what do I know? My experience of high life is limited, but years ago, I think through George Melly, I used to be invited to parties given by Geoffrey Bennison, the fashionable interior decorator. He lived in Golden Square (‘Above Glorex Woollens, dear’) and there one would find Geoffrey in full drag, and very convincing drag it was too, as he made no attempt to seem glamorous, instead coming across as a middle-aged duchess not unlike Lady Montdore in Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate. It would be a very mixed bag of high life and low life – Diana Duff-Cooper dancing with a well-known burglar sticks in the mind – respectability and the middle classes nowhere."
Now, the politics:
"The notion that the 1980s in England marked a turning point keeps recurring, a time when, as Dorothy is told, we ceased to take things for granted and self-interest and self-servingness took over. Some of this alteration in public life can be put down to the pushing back of the boundaries of the state as begun under Mrs Thatcher and pursued even more disastrously thereafter, though in regretting this (and not being able to be more specific about it) Dorothy in her fur coat and gym shoes is thought by her sister the archdeacon to be pitiably naive, as perhaps I am in feeling much the same. The state has never frightened me. Why should it? It gave me my education (and in those days it was a gift); it saved my father’s life as it has on occasion saved mine by services we are now told have to be paid for.
"What is harder to put one’s finger on is the growth of surliness in everyday behaviour and the sour taste of public life. There has been a diminution of magnanimity in government both central and local, with the public finding itself rebranded as customers, supposedly to dignify our requirements but in effect to make us available for easier exploitation. The faith – which like most ideologies has only a tangential connection with reason – is that everything must make a profit and that there is nothing that cannot be bought and sold.
"These thoughts are so obvious that I hesitate to put them down, still less make them specific in the play. Dorothy is asking what is different about England, saying how she misses things being taken for granted. We were told in the 1980s and pretty constantly since that we can’t afford to take anything for granted, whereas to my mind in a truly civilised state the more that can be taken for granted in terms of health, education, employment and welfare, the better we are for it. Less and less are we a nation and more and more just a captive market to be exploited. ‘I hate it,’ says Dorothy, and she doesn’t just mean showing people round the house."
The play stars Frances de la Tour, formerly of The History Boys, the half-giant Olympe Maxime in Harry Potter, and soon to co-star in that McKellan - Jacobi gay sitcom. All perfs to February 9 are sold out.
Thornton Niven Wilder was gay. He enjoyed an affair with Sam Steward while writing Our Town. He was great friends with Gertrude and Alice in Paris when their salon was dominated by their "seconde famille" of gay men, including Carl Van Vechten, who photographed him at left. One link that gave deeper meaning and context to his numerous other friendships with people like Willa Cather and Montgomery Clift was their unvoiced common queerness.
So it's a sour surprise to read that Penelope Niven's 832-page biography released this week from Harper apparently erases Wilder's private life just because he was reticent in his own time. The sourness turns rancid upon seeing the NYT praise a biographer for whitewashing an enormous, relevant aspect of her subject's life.
Charles Isherwood writes, "Among the refreshing aspects of Penelope Niven’s new biography, Thornton Wilder: A Life, is its startling sexlessness, the paucity of the kind of dish that sometimes has seemed to drive the market in literary biography in recent decades. Ms. Niven, the author of books about Carl Sandburg and Edward Steichen, has dug deeply into the copiously documented life of her subject, drawing on access to substantial troves of previously undisclosed family papers. And yet, setting aside the dubious testimony of a single man who claims to have gone to bed with Wilder, Thornton Wilder: A Life tells of a life lived without the sexual relationships and romantic attachments that we sometimes falsely assume to be the most momentous passages in an artist’s — or anyone’s — life."
This is a preposterous leap of illogic for a critic to make. Sex need not be the "most momentous passage" to be worthy of inclusion in a lengthy examination of his life.
Possibly Isherwood is misrepresenting the book. Edward Albee calls it "a splendid and long-needed work."
A fourth generation Chinese-American, B.D. Wong made his Broadway debut in 1988 in M. Butterfly, for which he became and remains the only actor to win the five major theater prizes for the same role. But it was not enough to convince David Cronenberg to cast him in the movie version five years later, when he chose John Lone instead. Wong starred with Margaret Cho in her much praised, quickly canceled series All American Girl, then played a priest on Oz, and for ten years running Dr George Huang on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He and his ex-partner Richie Jackson, an agent, are parents of a son named Foo, the surviving child of twins born extremely prematurely. Wong wrote a book about the experience called Following Foo.
Montgomery Clift's life was defined by two crashes. After a charmed childhood of long vacations in Europe and the Caribbean, his financier father lost nearly everything in the stock market crash of 1929. The family moved to a modest house in Sarasota, and there Clift discovered acting. By the time he was thirteen he was on Broadway and by the time he was seventeen he was a star on stage. Hollywood wooed him for years and he finally agreed to make his film debut in Howard Hawks' Red River opposite John Wayne, when he was twenty-eight. His second movie, The Search, earned him his first Oscar nomination. He starred with Olivia de Haviland in The Heiress in 1949, the year he was arrested for gay soliciting near Times Square. Clift was nominated for another Oscar for his scorching pairing with Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun, and nominated yet again two years later for From Here to Eternity, the same year when he starred in Hitchcock's I Confess. He turned down Hitchcock's Rope, about a gay couple who kill a boy, and also turned down the starring roles in East of Eden and Sunset Boulevard. While filming another movie with his best friend Elizabeth Taylor, Clift drove into a telephone pole and nearly died, eight months after James Dean was killed in a similar crash. Much has been made of Clift's downward spiral after the crash, often called "the longest suicide in Hollywood," but he starred in eight movies before the accident and eight movies after. His fourth and final Oscar nomination came for his seven-minute role in Judgment at Nuremberg. Addicted to alcohol and pain pills, he died of a heart attack at forty-five, bitter and nearly unemployable. Yes, he is the inspiration of R.E.M.'s song "Monty Got a Raw Deal." Maybe Roddy McDowall got a raw deal too: Clift's biographer Patricia Bosworth says Roddy attempted suicide after Monty ended their affair.
Black, Jewish, lesbian, Republican Bush supporter...Gimme a Break! star Nell Carter fit a lot into her 4'11" frame. Her NYT obit quotes her wanting to be ''Judy Garland without the tragedy.'' She must have meant on stage, where she exuded a sunny, sassy, saucy persona in musicals like Ain't Misbehavin, for which she won a Tony and later an Emmy. Cast as Effie in the original production of Dreamgirls, she quit in preproduction to take a role on the soap opera Ryan's Hope, leaving all the accolades for Jennifer Holliday. Two months before that musical opened, Gimme a Break! debuted and lasted six seasons of Carter playing housekeeper and de facto mother to the white family of a widower police chief. Stephen Holden wrote it "revived the archetype of the mammy," and Carter had a fractious relationship with the show's producers who were eventually replaced. In the final season, the cast included a young Rosie O'Donnell, who was still closeted, and apparently things were quite frosty on set between the two lesbian comediennes. In the 1990s Carter was cast as Miss Hannigan in the revival of Annie and publicly suggested it was racism that caused the producers to use a television commercial featuring a white actress in her role.
In her private life, her struggles were vast. At sixteen she was raped and became pregnant, giving birth to her daughter Tracy. Later when she wanted to conceive, she had three miscarriages. Trying to adopt, she was twice thwarted at the very end of the process, once by a young woman who changed her mind and wanted to keep the baby, once by amateur extortionists. Finally, she succeeded in adopting two boys. She battled a cocaine addiction. In the early 80s, she attempted suicide. In the late 80s, her brother died of aids. All in 1992, she divorced her husband, had two aneurysms, and married her second husband, whom she divorced in 1993. In 1995 and again in 2002 she declared bankruptcy. She died of heart disease, complicated by diabetes, in 2003, at 54. She is survived by her partner Ann Kaser, who became guardian to Carter's children.
Butch lesbian ranchera singer Chavela Vargas has died at 93. Although she dropped hints all along and refused to change the female pronouns in love songs traditionally sung by men, she did not officially come out until she was 81. Responding to news of her death, Almodóvar, who used her music in his movies, wrote a long post called Adiós volcán: “Chavela Vargas made of abandonment and desolation a cathedral in which we all found a place.”
Tony winner for Hairspray, playwright, and infrequent New Yorker contributor, Mark O'Donnell collapsed in the lobby of his Upper West Side apartment building and died today at 58. I knew him briefly and very much admired his two sweet, quirky, gay novels Getting Over Homer and Let Nothing You Dismay. His two collections of comic pieces are Elementary Education: An Easy Alternative to Actual Learning and Vertigo Park and Other Tall Tales.
Ten days ago the actor who played George Jefferson died at 74 and he definitely didn't leave behind a Weezy of his own. Nor did he come out in his obituary, which called him a lifelong bachelor. Michael Musto writes a piece called "Sherman Hemsley Was A Gay! Deal With It!"
How nimble is that Fiona Shaw. Last year she appeared in Terrence Malik's The Tree of Life and twelve episodes of True Blood. Born in County Cork in 1958, she earned her degree from University College there, then trained at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Long a star of the West End, she broke out to select American audiences in a small role in the very best of all Jane Austen adaptations, Persuasion, in 1995 and the following year wowed New York with her one-person performance of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land for which she won a Drama Desk Award. The year prior she had amazed and angered London audiences when she played Richard II, directed by Deborah Warner, also a lesbian. Collaborating frequently with Warner, notably in the National Theatre adaptation of Jeanette Winterson's The PowerBook, Shaw co-starred with former model Saffron Burrows as lesbian lovers, just as they were in real life. And Warner was partners with Winterson. Both couples have since separated. Shaw still lives in Primrose Hill.
Years before Joyce, Woolf, and Faulkner’s novels, contemporary with Braque, Gris, and Picasso’s cubist paintings, and with Einstein’s shattering theories of physics, Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust created a work of art whose central concern is time. Published over fourteen years, the seven volumes of his epic novel A la recherche du temps perdu radically reshape conventional narrative to recreate the sensation of memory, the past co-existing in thought simultaneous with the present, as each moment of the present becomes the past. Many, many critics, including Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham, consider the work as a whole to be the greatest novel of the century or of all-time. It is also a landmark in gay literature. Volume Four is titled Sodom and Gomorrah and contains lengthy essays on homosexuality (often seen as a rebuttal to Andre Gide's recent Corydon), but every volume encompasses gay characters, observations, and experiences -- the majority of which are negative. One rationale for this dark view is that Proust had co-opted his own happy memories of gay love in trying to imagine heterosexual love for his characters, leaving him only bitter reminiscences when he wrote about aspects of gay life. Another theory is that he himself was uncomfortable with his sexuality, which manifested itself always with the lower classes and especially with his own servants. His deepest relationship was with his chauffeur, Alfred Agostinelli, who lived with his wife in Proust’s townhouse. Proust also had an affair with his secretary, Albert Nahmias, the namesake for the novel’s love interest, Albertine. When he went to sex clubs, Proust liked to be whipped and humiliated. Very, very rich from an inheritance, he typically slept during the day and wrote at night, both while lying in his blue bed, in his bedroom cork-lined for silence, now permanently on display in Paris’s Musée Carnavalet.