Born a count in one of northern Italy's six richest families, Luchino Visconti was adrift until he was thirty, when Coco Chanel decided he should work in movies and got him a job as third assistant director on a film by Jean Renoir. His own debut as a director came after seven years, during which time he learned the trade and dated the photographer Horst. Of his twenty films, most praised are The Leopard, The Damned, The Stranger, Rocco and his Brothers, with its open subplot of the boxing coach who pays young fighters for sex, and Death in Venice, from Thomas Mann's #1 of the all-time 100 best lgbt books. At sixty-nine, Visconti died of a heart attack in Rome, survived by his partner of more than ten years German actor Helmet Berger, who appeared in four of Visconti's films, most notably The Damned and Ludwig. (And here bare.) Sandy Leonard, who knows about such things, says Visconti worked through his opening-night jitters at Covent Garden by making out in an elevator with Alain Delon.
Before Melissa, before Ellen, before George Michael, before Adam, before Ricky, k.d. lang came out way back in 1992. Although that was fairly groundbreaking at the time, her coming out did nothing to hinder the sales of her multi-platinum album Ingenue, nor did it prevent her from winning another Grammy, being made an officer of the Order of Canada, or getting named to VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock n Roll and CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music. In fact, she sparked a much angrier backlash in rural areas by supporting a vegetarian campaign called Meat Stinks. From 1997 to 2000 she took a break, fell in love with The Murmurs singer Leisha Hailey, moved to Los Angeles, and came back with her happiest album, Invincible Summer. Three years later she won her fourth Grammy for her collaboration with Tony Bennett and also released an album of covers by Canadian composers. Last year she released Sing It Loud, a cd with her Siss Boom Band, and appeared on Tony Bennett's Duets II, doing "Blue Velvet."