Barney Frank to retire after 30 years in Congress

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Barney Frank | Unknown photographer | Public domain | 14427

After thirty years, Barney Frank, often called the US’ most prominent gay politician, announced he does not plan to stand for re-election in 2012. Mr Frank is 71. Mr Frank came out in 1987, telling the Washington Post he had been prompted by the death of Stewart McKinney, a bisexual Republican representative.

There had been “an unfortunate debate about ‘Was he or wasn’t he? Didn’t he or did he?’ I said to myself, I don’t want that to happen to me.” Gerry Studds was the first Congressman to be publicly known to be gay; he had been forced to come out as part of a 1983 investigation into a relationship with a 17 year old congressional page. Frank was the first US Congressman to come out voluntarily.


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Oscar gets an upgrade

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Oscar Wilde’s tomb | Peter Horree/Alamy | 14428

Wilde died in Paris in 1900, aged 46. His restored tomb in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery – the work of sculptor Jacob Epstein – will finally be unveiled this week, newly protected from his devotees who in recent years have been leaving lipstick kisses on it, damaging the tomb because the grease sinks into the stone.

“From a technical point of view, the tomb is close to being irreparably damaged. Each cleaning has rendered the stone more porous necessitating a yet more drastic cleaning,” says Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson.

The Irish government have paid for a radical cleaning and “de-greasing” of the tomb, and a glass barrier to surround it and prevent further damage.

Holland explained that when Wilde died he was bankrupt and his friends could offer him only a sixth-class burial at Bagneux, outside the city. His friend and literary executor, Robert Ross, managed over the next few years to annul Wilde’s bankruptcy and purchase a burial plot “in perpetuity” at Père Lachaise. Helen Carew anonymously offered £2,000 to erect a monument by the young Epstein. The commission, a flying naked angel inspired by the British Museum’s Assyrian figures, was unveiled in 1914, surviving intact until the early 1960s, when the angel was vandalised, its genitals hacked off and stolen.

The unveiling of the monument will take place on Wednesday, which is the anniversary of Wilde’s death. Holland hopes that the barrier will deter loving vandals. Designed to be unobtrusive and aesthetic, it could only discourage rather than be preventative and he says: “Some determined kissers will no doubt try to find ways of kissing the upper extremities.”

Well they do, don’t they.


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We Were Here documents the impact of HIV Aids on San Francisco’s gay community

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A participant at an HIV/AIDS demonstration | Undated | Unknown location | Marie Ueda | 14429

David Weissman has released his new documentary film “We Were Here,” a documentary profiling the earliest days of the HIV/Aids Crisis at its epicenter, San Francisco. Your Activist has seen a trailer for the film and the trailer is impressive – so here it is, below.

“The disease ravaged the city and its gay-popular Castro St. neighborhoods. By 1979, one “We Were Here” interviewee estimates, close to 10 percent of the city’s gay population was already infected with HIV. By the time HIV tests became possible near the mid-1980s, nearly 50 percent or more of the city’s gay men had already been infected”,

writes Go Q Notes.

Weissman remarks:

“I remember the very first article in Bay Area Reporter. In April 1981, there was a cluster of rare cancer found among gay men. In June of that year, another article originating from the Centers for Disease Control saying a cluster of rare pnuemonia had been found among gay men. So, I saw the very first press on it. I also remember seeing those photographs posted on the Star Pharmacy on Castro St. So, I was aware from the very beginning.”


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Shelagh Delaney’s legacy

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“A taste of honey” | Mod Culture | 14430

Playwright Shelagh Delaney died of cancer on 20 November 2011. Her legacy is commented on in The Guardian Letters. Nicholas De Jongh writes:

“At the time, and until 1968, the lord chamberlain was responsible for licensing and censoring plays. Delaney was the first dramatist successfully to overcome the ancient, censorial veto on stage plays that openly depicted gay characters or discussed homosexuality. Her sympathetic portrayal of the play’s young, gay student was, therefore, ground-breaking. Until then playwrights tried to evade the censor’s veto by resorting to subterfuge and innuendo. When A Taste of Honey was submitted for licensing it caused a furore. The lord chamberlain’s assistant comptroller, Brigadier Norman Gwatkin, commented: “I think it’s revolting, quite apart from the homosexual bits … To me it has no saving grace whatsoever. If we pass muck like this, it does give our critics something to go on.” “

Shelagh Delaney | Unknown photographer | Channel 4 | 14431

“But the lord chamberlain’s chief play-reader, Charles Heriot, judged: “It is concerned with the forbidden subject in a way that no one I believe could take exception to.” The lord chamberlain inclined to Heriot’s view and licensed the play. It is highly probable that Delaney’s treatment of the subject and the favourable critical and public response to A Taste of Honey played a significant role in persuading the lord chamberlain partially to relax his ban on homosexuality and gays a few months later. Shelagh Delaney ought to rank as a gay heroine.”

She is, Nicholas.


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The Fire Island Fire

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The fire | Unknown photographer | Death and Taxes | 14432

Fire Island lived up to its name on Monday evening, 14 November 2011, when fire broke out in the community known as “The Pines” destroying a number of gay premises. The fire engulfed and destroyed much of the Pavilion, C.F. LaFountaine, Sip N’ Twirl, the Pines Bistro and a bay front home. Nineteen fire engines attended the conflagration.

Fire Island has been gay for a long time, Oscar Wilde having holidayed there. The businesses and homes are expected to be rebuilt.

After the fire | Uli Seit/New York Times | 14435

The Pines in 1998 | Robert Zash | 14433

THE Pavilion dance club, a hedonistic playground for three generations of gay men in Fire Island Pines, was destroyed, stirring memories in gay communities in New York City and elsewhere. Even with gay marriage legal in New York, its dance floor is still held with mythic regard, a “gay utopia,” in the words of Andrew Kirtzman, the former television newsman who recently bought the club with two business partners, and has vowed to rebuild it.

The New York Times has been getting gay A list quotes.

Andrew Holleran, author, “Dancer From the Dance”:

“It was about cruising. Going there on the most ordinary nights was like going to your prom times 10. Before the place was soundproofed, the music was so loud that a friend and I would sit home in our house and wait to hear Barry White’s ‘Love’s Theme’ come on and then run around the harbor to get on the dance floor.”

Michael Musto, Village Voice nightlife columnist:

“This past summer, I went to the Pavilion for low tea with cable star Robin Byrd, her husband, and some friends. It was so hot the dogs were sticking to the boardwalk. And it was even more broiling inside the Pavilion because of the intense body heat and the lack of any kind of overpowering air-conditioning system. But Byrd started performing a flag dance, waving the banners around like mad, and she got so aggressively into it, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was still doing it as we speak.”

Larry Kramer, writer, AIDS activist:

“You don’t separate the Pavilion from the other parts that burned down. It’s like St.-Tropez: it’s one of the great watering spas of social culture. It is the gay place to go during the summer, and it has been for many years, since I was very young. I hope they can get it ready for next summer.”

The Pavilion is being reconstructed.

Text updated 12 January 2013


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Peter Burton

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Peter Burton | Mark Vessey | 14436

Gay Activist is sad to note the passing of pioneer gay journalist Peter Burton who died earlier this week aged 66. In a career which began in 1960s and continued for over forty years, Burton was at the forefront of gay journalism. Born in 1945, Burton became an openly gay journalist when homosexuality was still illegal, writing for Spartacus, Jeremy, and Gay News as literary editor when it famously published the poem “The Love that Dares to Speak Its Name”.

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