New home for gay collection

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Heather Rousseau/Roanoake Times | 18304

The Roanoake Times reports that the local collection of gay books and artifacts has a new permanent home, after many years of being hidden from public view and moving around. The Roanoke LGBT Library has found a new home as a research collection in Roanoke Diversity Center, Roanoake, North Carolina.

Established in 2000, the collection now has a wide array of subjects, from medical and psychology books from the 1960s and ’70s, to mid-20th century lesbian pulp fiction novels. The collection was originally the personal collection of 1,200 volumes of Jim Ricketson, a gay man and retired book editor. The collection has since more than doubled to nearly 3,000 volumes, which have now been catalogued. Much of the collection is long out of print.

Members of Roanoke’s LGBT community continued to donate books, and some books came from a now-closed gay bookstore called Outward Connections.

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Last baths in Chicago

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Brittany Sowacke | 18301

Man’s Country was a Chicago bathhouse open since 1973, but it closed on New Year’s Eve 2018 following the death in 2017 of its founder, Chuck Renslow, of the city’s leather community. Mr Renslow was the founder of the International Mr. Leather contest.

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Chuck Renslow, 1977 | Quentin Dodt/Tribune | 18302

Vice sent a photographer to record the premises before it was cleared and redeveloped.

Man’s Country wore its history on its walls, with portraits of famous patrons, nude men, and other artwork throughout reminding visitors that this wasn’t some staid, humorless bathhouse. In the basement (dubbed “The Pit,”) a huge sauna—once billed as the largest in the Midwest—sat opposite a shower and wet area modeled after Parisian sewers. In its past, part of the cavernous Man’s Country space was transformed into a dance club called Bistro Too, where acts like Boy George, Divine, and major disco stars performed, shifting some focus away from sex in the wake of the AIDS crisis. It also played host to a leather bar called the Chicago Eagle.

Following its final night, everything and anything inside, from architectural elements to artwork to the disco balls that patterned its dance floors for decades, was auctioned.

Mr. Renslow died on 29 June 2017 of heart problems and pneumonia.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wjpzg5/taking-the-last-tour-of-chicagos-most-historic-gay-bathhouse

Chuck Renslow obituary

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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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Pierre Bergé

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Pierre Bergé | Agence France Press | 17156gh

The French fashion tycoon Pierre Bergé – the business brains behind the Yves Saint Laurent empire – has died aged 86.

The longtime partner of the late designer Yves Saint Laurent died in his sleep early Friday at his country home at Saint-Remy-de-Provence in southern France.

The passionate bibliophile and art collector was a tireless campaigner for gay rights and donated a large part of his fortune to AIDS research.

Gay Activist sends condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

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Mae West and “The Drag”

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Copyright control | 17137

In 1927 Mae West wrote a play called “Drag” which was swiftly banned.

The play, subtitled A Homosexual Comedy in Three Acts and written under the pseudonym Jane Mast, was about a young society man, Rolly Kingsbury, who prefers feminine young men, and presented a sympathetic medical view of homosexuality as a natural thing. Oh, it also staged a flamboyant drag queen ball, with largely improvised dialogue and a jazz band on stage. Well, what else would you expect from Mae West?

The Drag was shut down after 10 out-of-town performances, and never made it to Broadway, but sold lots of tickets.

Mae West herself had been a male impersonator early in her career.

The Drag was inspired by her many gay friends; she knew their daily struggles to be open about their relationships, and to be accepted for who they were.

When casting the play, she actively sought out gay actors. That caused trouble as well. The actors’ union barred gay men from parts with speaking lines. She auditioned them at a gay bar in Greenwich Village. In her autobiography, she claimed to have “helped a lot of gay boys along” by casting them at a time when “producers never gave speaking parts to homosexuals”.

The play opened in Connecticut. It was a success with audiences, although Variety called it “an inexpressibly brutal and vulgar attempt to capitalise on a dirty matter for profit”.

One Broadway producer said it was “the worst possible play I have ever heard of contemplating an invasion of New York” and that it “strikes at the heart of decency”.

West rewrote the play a year later as “The Pleasure Man”, making the lead character straight, but she still faced criticism for it being too explicit, and ended up in court.

Mae West was born on August 17, 1893 and died on November 22, 1980.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jul/05/polly-stenham-mae-west-gay-pride-the-drag-national-theatre

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/five-gay-plays-changed-world/

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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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The British Library’s gay secrets

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A scene from “My beautiful laundrette” | Oliver Stapleton | 17102

A new exhibition at the British Library, London, “Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty” explores Britain’s evolving attitudes towards homosexuality. Original literary manuscripts and rare prints of newspapers and novels document the “transformation in society’s attitudes towards gay love and expression”.

A memo from the lord chamberlain’s office, dated October 1958, proposed marginally greater freedom for gay playwrights. “For some time the subject of homosexuality has been so widely debated, written about and talked about, that it is no longer justifiable to continue the strict exclusion of this subject from the stage. … I therefore propose to allow plays which make a serious and sincere attempt to deal with the subject.”

The exhibition includes a manifesto from the Gay Liberation Front, notebooks and journals from writers including Sarah Waters, Kenneth Williams and WH Auden, a never-before-seen annotated script by Hanif Kureishi for the Oscar-nominated film “My Beautiful Laundrette”, and the first edition of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/01/british-library-explores-changing-attitudes-to-gay-love-in-exhibition

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