Jack Larson



Jack Larson (left) as “Jimmy Olsen” and George Reeves (r)| CNN | 15364

Gay Actor Jack Larson has died, age 87. Mr Larson became well known for playing Jimmy Olsen of “Superman” on American television in the 1950s. The Washington Post describes him as a gifted writer and gay man whose talents and personal struggles were overshadowed by his role as Superman’s flunky, “Jimmy Olsen”, which he commenced in 1951 age 18.

“I didn’t want to do it,” Larson said, ”but my agent said, ‘Look, you want to get to New York. You don’t have any money. Nobody will ever see this show so take the money and run.”’

Larson did. For $350 an episode, he completed the show and went to the Big Apple. And he was living there when the show he had dismissed became one of the most iconic in TV history — even though it was pretty bad. … “To me, it was a nightmare,” he said in 2006. “Everywhere I went, it was, ‘Jimmy! Jimmy! Hey, Jimmy, where’s Superman?’ Suddenly, I couldn’t take the bus or the subway anymore. It absolutely freaked me out.”

While in Hollywood, he became involved with screen legend Montgomery Clift, and met his future longtime companion, director James Bridges.

In the end, though, the Superman role became something he began to enjoy, and it made him famous.

“Everywhere I go, I get the warmest feelings from people about Jimmy,” he said. “They love him, and I grew to feel that I could never have done anything more special than be Jimmy Olsen.”

Jack Larson was born on February 8, 1928 and died on September 20, 2015. Gay History sends condolences to family, friends and colleagues.




Brian Sewell



Brian Sewell | Getty | 15363

Brian Sewell, art dealer, writer and television personality, was born in London on 15 July 1931 and died on 19 September 2015 from cancer. Famed for his voice, which he described as

the voice of an Edwardian lesbian

he became a well known broadcaster and art critic who was not usually impressed with modern art. He was also well known for his fondness of old fashioned words such as “callipygian” and “panjandrum”.

He became art critic on the London Evening Standard in the mid-1990s, his insistence that most contemporary art was rubbish made him a pariah in that powerful part of the art world he dubbed “the Serota tendency”. He was well qualified to comment, having worked first for the Courtauld Institute and then Christies. The ruder and more retardataire Sewell became with his criticism, the more his audience loved him.

He called the first volume of his two-part autobiography “Outsider” which became famous for its recounting of a lurid homosexual past – Sewell confessed to having had “easily a thousand sexual partners in a quinquennium” in his thirties. One day I will look up that word.

In 2014 Sewell wrote in the Daily Telegraph:

At school, 70 years ago, it hardly mattered until we were in the Upper Sixth and authority was thrust on some of us, but National Service would have been impossible had the Army known – and it was while I was in the Army that I was made terrifyingly aware of what could happen were I ever foolish enough to be open about my homosexuality.

His article dismissed the advent of gay marriage.

We have wasted our resources on the wrong campaign – the battle still to be won is against prejudice, the most insidious of enemies.

Charles Darwent notes in the Independent:

Sewell’s mother had had him out of wedlock in 1931, at a time when such things mattered. Worse, in her son’s own snobbish telling, she had then married a middle-class man whose surname Sewell was tricked into taking, and who had sent him to an undistinguished London day school.

Of his criticism:

When Naked Emperors, a collection of his contemporary art reviews, was launched at the Standard in 2012, Charles Saatchi sent a message thanking the critic for “always being so Brian Sewelly”. The Turner Prize-winning potter, Grayson Perry, often the object of Sewell’s vitriol, reviewed the book in a Sunday newspaper: “When he is not writing about my exhibitions,” Perry wrote, good-naturedly, “Mr Sewell can be sweet.”

Gay History notes with sadness the passing of one of the principal gay characters of the 20th and 21st century.




The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London



Chris Helgren/Reuters | 15362

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern was built in 1863 at Spring Gardens, Kennington Lane, on land which was originally part of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and was originally a music hall. It seems to have been a local gay pub ever since it opened as a public house. After the second world war it became associated with drag acts, with performances from Hinge and Bracket, Regina Fong and Lily Savage. On one occasion Princess Diana went there dressed as a man.

On 8 September 2015, in an attempt to save it from being closed by new owners and the site re-developed, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was made a grade II listed building – the first building in the UK to be listed in recognition of its importance to LGBT community history. This followed a campaign supported by Boris Johnson, Sir Ian McKellen, Paul O’Grady and others.




Gay history sort of rubs off on you…



Christian Gooden | St Louis Metro | 15360

Steven Reigns, pictured, has created a display of rubbings taken at gay landmarks around the world. 150 rubbings have been taken from landmarks, signs, tombstones, plaques and other monuments. They represent what Reigns says are integral pieces of “queer” history.

The idea for the exhibit began more than five years ago, when Reigns walked past a plaque in a small park in his neighborhood. It was placed there in November 2009 as a “Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial.”

Included in the exhibit is Leonard Matlovich, an Air Force sergeant and veteran of the Vietnam War who challenged the ban on gays serving in the military, and Ivy Bottini, who helped found the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, but was expelled because she was a lesbian.


Christian Gooden | St Louis Metro | 15361

“I began to wonder: ‘Are there others? What do they look like?’” Reigns said. He found that there was no comprehensive listing of markers noting places, people or events that help document gay history. He created a website listing markers and encouraged others to participate.

Many of the pieces in the collection by Reigns are done by friends or supporters of the project who were traveling to or lived in a place where a marker is situated. In turn, Reigns would send them a piece of fabric and a black crayon to do the rubbing.

Reigns is a poet and has taught writing workshops around the country to LGBT youths and people living with HIV.



Remembering Emile Griffith



Benny Paret (left) and Emile Griffith (right) during weigh-in at the Garden in New York | March 1962 | John Lindsay/Associated Press | 15353

Emile Alphonse Griffith was a world champion boxer at both welterweight and middleweight who was born on 3 February 1938. His enduring reputation hinges on the night of 24 March 1962, when he regained his world welterweight championship from the Cuban fighter Benny “Kid” Paret, unfortunately killing him in the process, live on television.

Earlier at the weigh in, Paret had taunted him with homophobic comments.

Griffith was about to step off the scales when he heard his trainer Gil Clancy shout: “Hey, watch it!” He wheeled round. A smirking Paret feigned intercourse with him as his trainers whooped hysterically. He waggled a finger at Griffith. “Hey maricón,” Paret said in a cooing lisp, “I’m gonna get you and your husband.”

1962 was no easy time to be homosexual in America, and Griffith was not out, although it was an open secret to journalists covering the sport. So how did they report it? A single journalist noted that “the challenger had been subjected to a slur about his sexuality.”

It was no easy time to be black in America, either: just days earlier Paret had taken his young son Benny Jr and wife to the zoo in Miami but, at the entrance, they’d been refused entry. His wife Lucy had been stunned when her husband, rather than their small son, had cried. The injustice reminded Benny that, rather than being a world champion, he still looked like a Cuban sugarcane cutter.

Michael Carson writes in Griffith’s obituary about the fateful televised fight. Earlier Paret felt ill and had forebodings about the fight but was afraid to pull out of the fight.

Paret floored Griffith for an eight-count in round six before Griffith took control. In the 12th, he landed a number of telling punches before a right staggered the Cuban, who retreated into the corner. Referee Ruby Goldstein stood directly behind Griffith, inexplicably slow to stop the beating. Paret was known for his ability to take a punch and Griffith was not a big puncher, but Paret was clearly out long before Goldstein stepped in.

Griffith always denied he intended deliberate punishment, and watching his concern as he moved to Paret immediately after his hand was raised in victory, it is easy to believe he was telling the truth. But the fight haunted him – and the whispers about his sexuality trailed him – for the rest of his life.

New York’s then Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered an investigation which cleared both Griffith and Goldstein of blame. However Goldstein never refereed another fight, and the television network dropped prime time boxing for the next 20 years.

Griffith was born in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands, one of eight children, abandoned by their father, and was raised by relatives while his mother found work in New York, sending for him when he was 12. He got a job in a garment factory whose owner, a former boxer, gave him permission to work shirtless in the heat. Taking one look at Griffith’s narrow waist and broad shoulders, he sent the boy to trainer Gil Clancy. By 1958, Griffith was the Golden Gloves champion at welterweight, and he turned professional.

In 1971, Griffith married Mercedes Donastorg, with Joe Frazier as best man. The marriage lasted less than two years. After retiring, Griffith coached the Danish Olympic team, worked as a corrections officer at a juvenile facility in New Jersey, where he met Luis Rodrigo, who became his life time companion, publicly called an “adopted son”. The relationship cost him his job, and he became a bartender in Jersey City while also training fighters, most notably Wilfred Benítez.

One night in 1992 he fought back after being attacked by a gang as he left Hombre, a gay bar near New York’s port authority terminal. The savage beating he received left him close to death from kidney failure, while the trauma to his head would exacerbate the damage he had received while boxing.

It is evident from the film and from a biography, Nine Ten and Out: The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith, made in 2008, that Griffith struggled to define himself as others would see him. In 2005 he said:

“I’ve chased men and women. I like men and women both. But I don’t like that word: homosexual, gay or faggot. I don’t know what I am.”

Griffith died from kidney failure on 23 July 2013 after suffering from dementia. He is survived by his seven siblings, and by Luis.

Emile Griffith obituary, Guardian, 24 July 2013

Guardian, 10 September 2015