Rock and roll is so so gay!



Martin Aston | The Writing Disorder | 16472gh

Martin Aston writes in The Guardian over the contribution the gay community made to rock and roll music. Many of the rock pioneers were gay and in the closet at the time.

It seems there was a brief flowering of gay culture within the main culture of music in America almost one hundred years ago.

… Talking about sex is hardly new for gay artists. They were doing the dirty in song almost 100 years ago, in 1920s Harlem, when blues singers such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith sang about same-sex affairs. Even gay men, less documented than the women, took advantage of a brief new social permissiveness following the first world war – George Hannah wrote and sang Freakish Man Blues in 1930. Away from the blues, there was the first gay pride anthem in 1920, Das Lila Lied (aka The Lavender Song), written by Berlin-based duo Spoliansky and Schwabach, through to the stars of the so-called Pansy Craze, popular in New York from 1930. From this came Gene – sometimes spelled Jean – Malin, whose 78rpm single I’d Rather Be Spanish Than Mannish predated Noël Coward’s none-more-camp delivery and innuendo. But the Pansy Craze was quickly snuffed out when 1929’s economic crash snowballed into the Great Depression, unleashing a new wave of religious bigotry and social repression.

Martin Aston’s book Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out was published by Constable on 13 October.


Wayne Friday



San Francisco Chronicle/Uncredited photographer | 16469gh

Wayne Friday, pictured in 1979, a former city police commissioner, bartender, and a political columnist who chronicled the coming-of-age of San Francisco’s gay community, died on Wednesday aged 79.

A native of Michigan, Mr. Friday moved from New York to San Francisco in 1970 and began tending bar at gay bars. He became president of the Tavern Guild, an association of gay bars that also provided health services and social support in the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

“It was total freedom out here, for everybody,” Mr. Friday recalled in a 2001 interview with The San Francisco Chronicle. “I had just come out of the closet. … The city was a fantasy for grown-ups, gay and straight alike.” One of his friends was Harvey Milk, the gay community leader who was then political columnist for the Bay Area Reporter.

Gay History sends condolences to family, friends and colleagues.


Islington gets a gay archive



Highbury Fields, 1971. Picture: Islington Local History Centre | 16460ga

A new LGBT archive is being created in Islington, London, a borough steeped with LGBT history. Today Islington council launched an appeal for people to scour their homes for LGBT memorabilia – photos, posters, flyers etc – to build the archive, which is likely to be housed at Islington Museum in St John Street.

150 brave campaigners held Britain’s first ever gay rights protest in November 1970 in Highbury Fields. A torchlight rally was organised by the Gay Liberation Front in response to the arrest of Louis Eakes in the Fields. Mr Eakes, of the Young Liberals, was detained for cruising several men in a police entrapment operation. Mr Eakes claimed he was asking them for a light.


German victims of Paragraph 175 to get compensation at last



Gay prisoners in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen with pink triangles. Germany, December 1938 | Unknown photographer | Socialist Worker | 16448gh

Germany is set to compensate up to 50,000 men convicted under a historic law which was still in effect until the late 1960s. “Paragraph 175” was part of Germany’s criminal code from 1871 to 1994, and made homosexual acts between men a criminal offence.

Thousands of gay and bisexual men were arrested and incarcerated in NZI concentration camps. Those who managed to escape the camps were often arrested again under Paragraph 175. The persecution continued well after the end of World War II. Gay men were often socially ostracised as well as losing their homes and jobs.

Since the end of World War II, a total of over 140,000 men were convicted, and 50,000 were prosecuted under Paragraph 175.

€30m will be made available in compensation to survivors, depending on individual cases, and taking the length of sentence into consideration.


Heiko Maas | Heiko Maas | 16449gh

Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the draft law, which will be formally announced later in October, will offer “relatively uncomplicated” individual claims, as well as allowing for collective claims.


Edward Albee



Edward Albee | Charles Hopkinson | 16409gh

Widely regarded as “America’s Greatest Living Playwright” following the death of Arthur Miller, Edward Albee died Sept. 16 after a short illness. He was 88. Albee’s partner of 34 years, sculptor Jonathan Thomas, died in 2005.

Albee enjoyed a meteoric rise to international success in the late 1950s and 1960s, winning the 1963 Best Play Tony Award for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice for A Delicate Balance ( 1967 ) and Seascape ( 1975 ).

Jonathan Abarbanel notes that

Three Tall Women was his most autobiographical work in which he created an openly homosexual character for the only time in his career, although one who does not speak. It’s a son dealing with his formidable mother who is seen as three different women at different ages. Nonetheless, a gay undercurrent can be detected in a number of his works, sometimes bordering on the overtly homo-erotic.

A generous and supportive man, he established a foundation in 1967 which still functions in support of The Barn, a center in Montauk, New York, providing residential support for artists of all disciplines. Albee was at The Barn when he died.


Oscar’s home gets relisted



Derek Kendall/The Historic England Archive | 16407ga

The homes of Oscar Wilde (pictured), Benjamin Britten and Anne Lister are being relisted as part of a gay history project undertaken by Historic England, Pride of Place.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said buildings and places were witnesses to events that shaped society, but lesbian and gay stories had often been neglected. “Too often, the influence of men and women who helped build our nation has been ignored, underestimated or is simply unknown, because they belonged to minority groups. Our Pride of Place project is one step on the road to better understanding just what a diverse nation we are, and have been for many centuries. At a time when historic LGBTQ venues are under particular threat, this is an important step.”


Bob Mizer’s photos and The Athletic Model Guild



Model: Mike Diaks | Photo: Bob Mizer/Bob Mizer Foundation | 16297gh

Male nude photographer Robert Henry “Bob” Mizer was born on March 27, 1922 and died on May 12, 1992. His first photographs appeared when he was 20 years old. He specialised in male nude pictures especially of bodybuilders, and sold his photos through the mail, which got him into trouble with the US Postal Office in 1947, who did not like photographs of men wearing scanty posing pouches being sent through their system.

He is famous for establishing the influential studio, the Athletic Model Guild, in 1945, and for founding the magazine Physique Pictorial. Over 1,100 men were willing to pose for his photographs. There were so many models, in fact, he needed assistance to cope with the workload – and was joined in the venture by his brother Joe and Mother Delia!

Other photographers also entered the field, but subsequent photographers and artists including Robert Mapplethorpe and David Hockney cited Mizer as a key influence on their own careers.

The Guardian have published a collection of some of Mizer’s more famous photographs, and there are more at the Bob Mizer Foundation website.

Bob Mizer Foundation

Beefcakes and Monkeys – The Guardian


Mark Thompson



Thompson, right, in 2013. Photo by Cleo Dubois via Facebook | 16293ga

Gay Activist is sad to record the passing of Mark Thompson, the author and former senior editor of The Advocate, who died on Friday evening from natural causes.

Thompson, 63, was raised in Northern California and lived in San Francisco.

Thompson’s husband, Malcolm Boyd, an Episcopal priest and author, was one of the Freedom Riders during the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Mr Boyd died 18 months ago.

Gay Activist sends condolences to friends, family and colleagues.