Gene “Jean” Malin

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Jean Malin in 1933’s film “Arizona to Broadway” | Copyright control | 17159gh

On 10 August, 1933, Jean Malin, his boyfriend Jimmy Forlenza and fellow actor Patsy Kelly piled into Jean’ss car to head off to a party at the Hollywood Barn.

Tired after finishing a fortnight-long booking, Malin accidentally put the car into reverse, driving it off Venice Pier into the water. Forlenza and Kelly escaped. Malin was trapped under the steering wheel. The brightest star of America’s Pansy parties was dead at 25.

An American actor, compére and drag performer during the jazz age, Victor Eugene James Malinovsky was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1908. He used the stage names Jean Malin and Imogene Wilson. He was one of the first openly gay performers, and in the Prohibition era.

In his teens he was already well known for his drag appearances and costumes, and for his stage work in various musical chorus lines. At the same time he was appearing in Greenwich Village clubs as a drag artiste.

Malin drowned in a car accident on August 10, 1933.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/sep/14/pansy-craze-the-wild-1930s-drag-parties-that-kickstarted-gay-nightlife

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David Is Homosexual

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A clip from the film | Dave Belton/CHE | 17122

The film “David Is Homosexual” was made for the Lewisham branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. The film was written by Wilfred Avery and filmed by Dave Belton.

An educational film, made in 1976, it tells the coming-out story of the titular David, a repressed office worker whose mum and dad scream abuse at the telly when gay rights marches appear on the news.

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During filming | Copyright control | 17123

“David Is Homosexual” had a long lifespan, touring the country until 1979. At a screening for trainee gas fitters and plumbers at a technical college, the filmmakers were greeted with a chorus of “Backs to the wall, lads” when setting up their equipment. After seeing the film, the quizzical apprentices had softened their tone. “Are you two lovers, then?” asked one, genuinely interested, from the back.

The Lewisham branch of the CHE and other groups helped raise funds for the film with jumble sales.

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2017/jun/18/glad-to-be-gay-the-story-of-the-filming-of-david-is-homosexual

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When we rise

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A scene from “When we rise” | ABC Television | 17038

“When we rise” is a four part television series made for American television by film producer Dustin Lance Black for ABC television, which was commissioned by ABC in 2012. When We Rise” is a 50-year history of the gay rights movement told through four characters who suffer — and often triumph over — family rejection, landlord discrimination, gay-bashing, police harassment, legislative defeats and AIDS.

The New York Times notes:

“We’ve reached the stage in the L.G.B.T. movement when a network not only feels comfortable taking this on — but doing so in a big way,” said Eric Marcus, a gay historian who produces the Making Gay History podcast and is preparing his own multipart documentary on the movement.

Torie Osborn, a longtime gay and lesbian rights leader who was active in San Francisco during struggles depicted in the movie, said, “I hope this is a moment for our allies to learn about our history and young gay men and lesbians to learn about their history.”

“This is a story that could have been told before,” she said, adding: “Better late than never.”

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San Francisco, 1983 | Bettman/Getty Images | 17039

Mr. Black focuses largely on San Francisco. New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, Minneapolis and other cities also played parts in the American gay story.

The four characters who form the frame of Mr. Black’s story are Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, Richard Socarides, and Dr. Charles W. Socarides, who helped to have homosexuality declassified as a mental illness.

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Dustin Lance Black | Andrew Testa/The New York Times | 17040

Mr. Black said that if he had learned anything from this work, it is that the gay rights movement is a story of triumphs followed by setbacks. Mr. Trump’s election, he said, is just another turn in this road.

“We are in a period of backlash right now,” he said. “I would give anything for this to be less topical. But this series shows our history is a pendulum, not a straight line.”


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Harold O’Neal and amateur gay films

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Still from “Vallejo,” 1947 | The Harold T. O’Neal Collection | The G.L.B.T. Historical Society | New Yorker | 16216gh

During the post war years and into the sixties, positive portrayals of gay men and lesbians living happy and successful lives were completely absent from films. During the British film boom from 1955 to 1965 there were a number of films which shed light on homosexual lifestyles (in Britain) but again the characters portrayed “had flaws”. For a more accurate reflection of what life was really like for gay men and lesbians, it is necessary not to look at the portrayals of mass media, but to look at the private films made on home movie cameras by amateur film makers of the time.

The New Yorker sheds more light on the matter.

Harold O’Neal was an amateur film maker who lived in San Francisco. Born in Stockton, California, in 1910, he was a reserved, somewhat shy man who worked for the Veterans Administration and in personnel for the Army Corps of Engineers. He kept his sexuality closely guarded, but made dozens of home movies which captured the rhythms and intimacies of gay social life long before it was allowed to flourish in the open.

One home movie shows a telegenic group of men on a getaway at a shoreline cabin in the Bay Area town of Vallejo, in 1947. The friends sunbathe, laugh together, mug for the camera with more than a touch of theatricality. A man picks some orange flowers and tucks them behind his ear; another wears a grass skirt and dances the hula.
Another movie, from 1946, shows a house party where guests in suits and ties smoke cigarettes and drink from dainty glasses. Men dance in pairs, hands clasped, a head against a cheek. One giddily air-claps to music the viewer cannot hear.

A fascinating article.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-moving-revelations-of-gay-home-movies

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Peter De Rome

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Peter De Rome | Uncredited and undated | 16170gh

The Guardian remembers the late Peter De Rome, pioneer of gay sex films. He is the subject of a new documentary film, “Grandfather Of Gay Porn”, being released tomorrow.

… Peter De Rome, the late British film-maker who served in the RAF during the second world war, worked as a publicist on The Third Man, campaigned for civil rights in the American south, and then became the Grandfather Of Gay Porn, as the film’s title enthusiastically dubs him. De Rome’s films were unpopular with the authorities in the 60s and 70s, but they struck a chord with audiences by documenting gay sexuality with unashamed vigour.

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The Fire Island Kids by Peter De Rome | Uncredited and undated | 16171gh

When British censors agreed to certify a compilation of De Rome’s work in 2010, they noted the “artistic, cultural and historical merit” that made the film “distinguishable from a sex work”.

Peter De Rome was born on 28 June 1924 and died on 21 June 2014. He became an American citizen in 1997.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/12/grandfather-of-gay-porn-peter-de-rome

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Patricia Highsmith and The Price of Salt

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“Carol” | The Weinstein Company – Rooney Mara, left, and Cate Blanchett | Wilson Webb/AP | 15489

Fans of the unsettling thrillers of Patricia Highsmith – and their many movie adaptations – should prepare for a new classic among Highsmith movies in Carol, Todd Haynes’s sombrely rapturous filming of the most atypical work in the author’s oeuvre, her early lesbian romance The Price Of Salt. Published in 1952 under a pseudonym, it enjoyed cult bestseller status with a largely lesbian readership for 30 years,

writes John Patterson in The Guardian reviewing the new film “Carol” which is an adaptation of her 1950s book “The Price of Salt”.

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The original edition | 15490

When The Price of Salt was first published in paperback in 1953, Highsmith was flooded with thousands of letters from readers. The letters came addressed to the author “Claire Morgan,” the pseudonym she had used for the book. Highsmith had been working in a department store while submitting mystery stories to digest-size magazines.

While by no means the first novel to tackle lesbian issues, the book became successful. Nathan Smith commented,

“The Price of Salt” was a landmark book for queer America, offering readers a powerful and hopeful ending.”

Moreover it started a publishing phenomenon.

As a 25-cent paperback with a lurid cover, The Price of Salt entered a growing market. A wave of lesbian pulp novels had first begun being published in the early 1950s, notably Women’s Barracks (1950) and Spring Fire (1952), both of which sold more of than a million copies each. Although these paperbacks were marketed as a cheap and tawdry form of entertainment, they offered many women solace and comfort in the knowledge that they were not the only ones struggling with their sexual identity. As an act of secretive reading, the lesbian pulp novel formed an invisible lesbian community,

explains Smith in New Republic.

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Patricia Highsmith | Uncredited/Denver Library | 15491

American novelist and short story writer Mary Patricia Plangman (Patricia Highsmith) was born on January 19, 1921 in Texas and died on February 4 1995. Her grandmother taught her to read and write and by the age of 9 she is said to have read and enjoyed The Human Mind by Karl Menninger, about Freudian analysis. Her short stories started appearing in print from 1942. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950 and became a famous Hitchcock film. The Price of Salt was her second novel, although she did not associate herself with it publicly for many years.

Patricia Highsmith was an unusual individual who was fonder of cats than other people yet had the ability to communicate so well with so many people. She may have been an alcoholic. Wikipedia records that

Highsmith had sexual relationships with women and men. She never married or had children.

Highsmith died of aplastic anemia and cancer in Locarno, Switzerland, aged 74, with her place and importance in gay history and gay literature, assured.

http://www.centredaily.com/entertainment/celebrities/article47542225.html

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/nov/23/carol-patricia-highsmith-todd-haynes

https://newrepublic.com/article/124220/patricia-highsmith-offered-gay-readers-hopeful-ending

https://www.denverlibrary.org/blog/patricia-highsmith

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Holly Woodlawn

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Holly Woodlawn | Getty Images | 15479

Holly Woodlawn, the transgender actress made famous by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey in their 1970s films Trash and Women in Revolt, has died after a battle with cancer at the age of 69 in Los Angeles. Holly was born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, in 1946.

At the age of 15, she took on the name Holly Woodlawn after running away from home and hitchhiking to New York City, where she became one of Warhol’s drag queen ‘superstars’.

These were a collection of New York personalities who appeared in Warhol’s artworks and accompanied him on social outings.
Holly’s story was immortalized in the first lines of the Lou Reed song Walk on the Wild Side.

‘Holly came from Miami, F.L.A. Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A. Plucked her eyebrows on the way. Shaved her legs and then he was a she. She says, “Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.”‘

She took her first name from Holly Golightly, the heroine in Truman Capote’s novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The last name came from the Woodlawn Cemetery.

Holly Woodlawn, actress, born October 26, 1946, Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico, died December 6, 2015, Los Angeles.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3349368/Transgender-actress-Andy-Warhol-muse-Holly-Woodlawn-69-dies-battle-cancer.html

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Ernst and Röbi’s story is now a film

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From “The Circle” | Stefan Haupt | 14465

The story of Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp—a couple since the ’50s and the first men to be married in Switzerland is used by the new film “The Circle” to reconstruct roughly a decade’s worth of gay Swiss history.

The film’s title has significance for Swiss gay history.

The Circle refers to a tri-lingual publication founded in 1932 as a lesbian-oriented periodical, one quickly converted by the pseudonymous “Rölf” (the actor Karl Meier) into a “homophilic” concern. As the couple and supporting interviewees explain, Switzerland never had the equivalent of Germany’s infamous Paragraph 175 or any codified, institutionally enforced homophobic legislation, meaning Zurich became a mecca for continental gay life: The Circle’s annual balls were the only large gay events of their era. That certainly didn’t mean an end to homophobia, with the publication cooperating with the police on self-censorship and gay life occupying a not-quite-public gray zone whose boundaries were increasingly encroached upon by the police.

…The romance between Ernst and Röbi acts as a microcosmic example of a larger debate whose broad terms remain familiar. A teacher from an intellectual family, Ernst remained closeted until his parents’ death, acutely aware they wouldn’t want to learn about his orientation, while Röbi was openly gay and lived in comfortable candor with his mother from an early age. As years pass, the debate takes on a more urgent tone, with Rölf (Stefan Witschi) exhorting monogamy and discretion while his younger staff members find his ideals increasingly outmoded. This split—between openness and closeted, and more broadly a debate about how to live gay life in a public, rigidly straight space—remains germane…


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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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