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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Klaus Mann

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Klaus Mann | Public domain | 15438

Klaus Heinrich Thomas Mann was born on 18 November 1906 and died on 21 May 1949 in Cannes of an overdose of sleeping tablets. Born in Munich, Klaus Mann was the son of German writer Thomas Mann. He began writing short stories in 1924 and the following year became drama critic for a Berlin newspaper. His first book appeared in 1925.

In 1932 Klaus wrote the first part of his autobiography, which got him in trouble with the Nazis. Apolitical cabaret, the Pepper-Mill, in 1933, also came to the attention of the Nazi regime. To escape prosecution he fled to Paris, then Amsterdam and Switzerland, where his family had a house. In November 1934 he was stripped of German citizenship and became a Czechoslovak citizen.

Mann’s most famous novel, Mephisto, was written in 1936 and first published in Amsterdam. His novel Der Vulkan is one of the 20th century’s most famous novels about German exiles during World War II.

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Thomas Quinn Curtiss | Public domain | 15439

Not long after he moved to the US where in 1937, he met his partner Thomas Quinn Curtiss, who was later a film and theater reviewer for Variety and the International Herald Tribune. Mann became a US citizen in 1943.

During World War II, he served as a Staff Sergeant of the 5th US Army in Italy (picture) and in summer 1945 he was sent by the Stars and Stripes to report from postwar Germany.

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German gay literature’s use of suicide to make political points

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A still image from the 1919 German film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others) depicting a concert violinist who killed himself because of adverse publicity about his homosexual orientation | 15436

Historian Samuel Clowes Huneke has discovered that gay suicide is a historical phenomenon, with a distinct and varied past. Huneke is the first scholar in the field of modern German history to examine the relationship between suicide and gay identity. He is also the first to historicize gay suicide and trace the ways in which it pervades the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“A striking trend of gay suicide evolved in German culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” he said. Through a close examination of German suicide notes, letters, diaries, medical records, gay literary magazines and novels, Huneke has identified clear connections between the suicide trope and the development of gay identity in modern Germany.

“In the late 1860s, just at the moment when the earliest texts on homosexuality began to appear, German doctors, activists, and writers also began to discuss and depict gay suicide with increasing frequency.” This phenomenon of linking homosexuality with suicide sparked the beginning of what he sees as a trend in poetry, plays and novels in which suicide is a recurring theme. This group “pointed to a handful of gay suicides in order to claim that there was an epidemic of gay men killing themselves because of anti-sodomy laws and fear of exposure.”

Klaus Mann, the first prominent German gay novelist in Western history, was the son of writer Thomas Mann. Klaus Mann published in the 1920s, and his work treated homosexuality openly. The suicide of gay characters recurs in most of Mann’s books. In his novel Treffpunkt im Unendlichen (Meeting-Point at Infinity, 1932), the unrequited love of a gay man for a heterosexual man leads the gay character to take his own life. Mann chose to make the suicide appear romantic and gentle: The gay man committed suicide in the straight man’s bed, in what Mann describes as a wedding-night scene. “It’s seen as a romantic fulfillment of life … instead of depicting something like suicide as a brutal, tragic act, it is depicted as a grand capstone to a miserable life. As if the best thing this character has done with his life is to kill himself.”

Klaus Mann himself committed suicide in a hotel in Cannes, in 1949.

http://phys.org/news/2015-11-historian-uncovers-historical-insidious-gay.html

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Paul Monette

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Paul Monette (left) and his partner Roger Horwitz (right) | The Monette-Horwitz Trust | 15191

Writer Paul Monette, whose autobiography, “Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story,” a memoir of suppressing and then celebrating his homosexuality, won the US 1992 National Book Award for nonfiction, died at home of complications from AIDS on February 10, 1995 aged 49. New York Times writer Esther B. Fein observed that

Mr. Monette’s memoir and a previous book about nursing a lover who died of AIDS humanized the tragedy of the disease and the torment of denying one’s homosexuality, but it also brought to life the rich relationships that some gay men enjoy.

Born in Lawrence, Mass., on Oct. 16, 1945, he described in “Becoming a Man” growing up in an ordinary middle-class world in which he became obsessed with his homosexual yearnings but had to suppress them: “Never lost my temper, never raised my voice. A bland insipid smile glazed my face instead, twin to the sexless vanilla of my body.” He went to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Yale, then taught English at Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., and Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. He noted that his background was frighteningly similar to many of the “conservative homophobes” with whom he crossed political swords.

Mr. Monette came out in 1974 when he met Roger Horwitz and the two set up home in Los Angeles, where they lived together for 10 years while Mr. Monette wrote what he described as “glib and silly little novels,” many with gay protagonists, including “Taking Care of Mrs. Carrol” and “The Gold Diggers.”

Mr. Horwitz died of AIDS in 1985 which Monette chronicled in the best-selling and acclaimed “Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir” (1988). In a review in The New York Times, William M. Hoffman praised the book, saying,

“Mr. Monette has etched a magnificent monument to his lover’s bravery, their commitment to each other and the plague of hatred and ignorance they had to endure.”

A few years later, Monette lost a second companion to AIDS, Stephen F. Kolzak, a casting director for several television shows, including “Cheers” and “Starsky and Hutch.” When he was found to have full-blown AIDS he wrote his last book, “Last Watch of the Night,” while hooked up to three intravenous tubes and taking a mound of tablets every day.

Paul Monette mentored many aspiring writers. He said that the torment of suppressing his sexuality for so long and the inescapable threat of AIDS inspired him to become active in gay politics and to encourage young writers, whenever his health allowed.

The Monette-Horwitz Trust founded in his and Rogers’ names, honours individuals and organizations making significant contributions toward eradicating homophobia.

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/12/obituaries/paul-monette-49-who-wrote-of-aids-dies.html


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Berlin: “150 Years of Homosexual History” Exhibition opens

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SV-Bilderdienst | 15156

The German Historical Museum in Berlin has opened an exhibition tracing 150 years of gay history in the country. The exhibition includes the first uses of the term “homosexual,” the brutal Nazi-era repression of gays and gradual moves toward legal equality starting in the 1960s.

The exhibition is a joint production with Berlin’s Gay Museum and has been four years in the planning.

“Homosexuality_ies,” runs through to Dec. 1, 2015. It features photo and film material, an electric shock device used for “aversion therapy” in the 1950s, other artifacts, and an “A to Z” section exploring issues ranging from gay marriage to censorship.

One of the earliest exhibits is a handwritten 1868 letter from Vienna-born writer Karl Maria Kertbeny to a German advocate of legal reform, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, which is believed to be the oldest written record anywhere of the words “homosexual” and “heterosexual.”

It also features the work of scientists such as sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld, whose pioneering Institute for Sexual Research was shut down and looted shortly after the Nazis took power in 1933. The Nazi regime toughened the 1872 law criminalizing sex between men; West Germany changed the so-called “paragraph 175” to decriminalize it only in 1969.

In the words of Visit Berlin, the exhibition

puts the political contribution the homosexual liberation movements made toward the development of our democratic society in the visual range of a broader public for the first time.

http://www.startribune.com/german-museum-launches-show-on-150-years-of-gay-history/309500731/

https://www.dhm.de/en/ausstellungen/preview/homosexuality-ies.html

http://www.visitberlin.de/en/event/09-20-2015/guided-tours-with-curators-homosexualityies-guided-tour


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Long Beach, 1914: When actors entrapped cruisers and cottagers

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A scene from the play | O&M Co | 15147

A new play, “The twentieth century way” by Tom Jacobson is reviewed by The Daily Beast.

In 1914 the Long Beach Police Department recruited the services of two actors – one rugged, one more delicate – to act as bait to entrap men who had sex with men.

The actors recruited for the job were W.H. Warren and B.C. Brown.

The two would encourage their targets to show their penises through ‘glory holes’ between walls or stalls, after which they would score a cross on the men’s penises with a permanent marker. The men and their marked penises, indicative of their ‘guilt,’ would then be hauled down to the police station, and the men would be prosecuted for ‘social vagrancy.’

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/19/the-actors-who-trapped-gay-men-into-having-illegal-sex.html


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The Boys In The Band

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The Boys In The Band | Video cover | Amazon | 15051

Time remembers the seminal stage play and film “The Boys in The Band”, which made its film debut 45 years ago on 17 March 1970, making history because it was one of the first American films to focus on gay characters. Adapted from Mart Crowley’s 1968 off-Broadway play, and directed by William Friedkin, the movie, funded by the CBS television network, was a candid illustration of gay life in New York at the time, and its’ realism helped it succeed.

The original 1968 Off-Broadway, New York stage cast and production | Unknown photographer | San Francisco Sentinel | 15052

The film featured Kenneth Nelson, Leonard Frey, Cliff Gorman, Frederick Combs, Keith Prentice, Robert La Tourneaux, Reuben Greene, Peter White, Maud Adams and Elaine Kaufman (the last two uncredited on the movie titles).

Sascha Cohen puts the film into context:

To the generation of gay Americans who came of age amidst the positive imagery of the contemporary LGBT rights movement — pride, love, rainbows and the message that “It Gets Better” — the plight of these men can look unrecognizable. With its bitter angst and grim outlook (the film’s most famous line is “show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse”) The Boys in the Band feels like something of a relic.

But in 1970, it was a milestone for gay representation in Hollywood. For decades, homosexuality did not appear onscreen at all; the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code, enforced until 1968, prohibited the portrayal of “sex perversion.” Although a handful of characters from classic films — Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, the “sissy” cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz and the murderous aesthetes in Hitchcock’s Rope — managed to slip past the censors, those who would interpret such figures as gay are stuck reading subtext. In The Boys in the Band, on the other hand, gay desire and identity are explicit; each character announces his presence as a “fairy” or a “queen.” The film helped make the gay community culturally visible during a moment in which openly discussing homosexuality was still taboo, and many Americans had yet to encounter an “out” gay man in person.

Mart Crowley’s commented, “What did I have to lose?” to explain how a fey Hollywood failure wrote the play in a week, won a five-day workshop way off-off Broadway that turned into the event absolutely Everybody Had to See, then turned down big Tinsel town money to insist the 1970 film be made with its original, very brave, cast of unknowns,

wrote Seán Martinfield of the San Francisco Sentinel, reviewing the event “The Making of The Boys” which took place at San Francisco’s 33rd Frameline Film Festival, in an undated article.

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Remembering Brendan Behan

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Brendan Behan | Public Domain | 15011

Irish Central remembers Brendan Behan, the bisexual writer.

Brendan Behan’s … image of ex-IRA man, saloon-loving iconoclast, contrasts almost violently with his affection for young boys, revealed first by Ulick O’Connor in his Behan biography, Brendan. Despite having a devoted wife and fathering a child, Behan’s homosexuality, which first blossomed when he was serving time in a British borstal for young boys, frightened and disturbed him until his premature death in 1964.

Brendan Francis Aidan Behan (Irish: Breandán Ó Beacháin) was born on 9 February 1923 and died on 20 March 1964. He is best remembered for his 1954 play “The Quare Fellow” which, when produced at Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in Stratford, London in 1956, gave him recognition and success. Behan’s autobiographical novel, Borstal Boy, was published the same year and became a worldwide best-seller.

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1953 – Gay magazine for homosexuals finds itself in court

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The 1953 and 1954 magazines | One.USC.Edu | 15003

1953, an era when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was routing out “sex deviates” from the government and homosexuality was a crime in every state, and … Los Angeles, where volunteer writers and editors launched a new “magazine for homosexuals”.

ONE, as it was called, offered thoughtful articles, defiant editorials and none of the racy photos or sex ads often found in today’s gay press. “The first issue was sold in bars in the Los Angeles area for 25 cents, about the price of a draft beer,” said Michael C. Oliveira, an archivist at the magazine’s archives housed at the USC Library.

The magazine was immediately banned by the U.S. Post Office as “obscene.” The cover story of the first issue censored by the postmaster, asked “Homosexual Marriage?”

ONE vs. Olesen was largely forgotten until recently, but nevertheless scored the first gay rights victory at America’s highest court. Now, the high court is expected to revisit the gay rights issue, deciding soon whether to hear a case to determine whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

Eric Julber, now 90 and living with his wife in Carmel, Calif., is a surprising hero in the ONE saga. A new attorney with an interest in civil liberties, he was asked to write an article for ONE about the threat of government censorship and how to avoid it. His piece, titled “You Can’t Print It!,” became the cover story of the October 1954 issue — and the second target of a postal service seizure.

Julber, who was 30 at the time, promptly agreed to represent the magazine’s editor pro bono.

“I said I would take their case, and I wouldn’t charge a fee,” said Julber, who grew up in Los Angeles, where his musician father worked at a Hollywood studio. “I thought they had a strong case. They were not running a night club. They were writing a magazine. It was a very conservative magazine. It was just the subject matter — homosexuality — that made it ‘obscene.'”

Julber filed suit against Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen, contending the seizure of the magazine violated the constitutional principles of free speech and equal protection. His suit contended ONE was subjected to discriminatory treatment because of prejudice against gays.

The case looked unwinnable in 1953-6. Federal judges in California were not ready to approve this type of magazine. U.S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke in Los Angeles handed down a two-page opinion in March 1956 upholding the Post Office’s decision that ONE was “non-mailable matter.” As evidence of obscenity, he cited one piece of fiction in which a woman recalls an affair with her college roommate and decides to live with the woman rather than marry a high school boyfriend.

Well at least Judge Clarke did actually read the magazines in front of him, even if they were not entirely to his taste. He found as “filthy” a bawdy poem called “Lord Samuel and Lord Montagu” and an ad for a Swiss magazine which could, he said, “lead to the obtaining of obscene matter.” “The suggestion advanced that homosexuals should be recognized as a segment of our people and be accorded special privilege as a class is rejected.”

ONE, whose circulation had reached 2,000, was having trouble delivering issues to its readers. To get around the postal ban, ONE continued to sell copies on news stands and sent copies in brown envelopes from various post offices in other locations.

Julber persuaded ONE’s founding editors, Dale Jennings and Don Slater, to appeal the 9th Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court. “They agreed to pay my expenses to travel back to Washington. That’s the way you had to do it then. I took along a copy of the magazine,” he recalled.

He told them the rulings by the California-based judges reflected an intense prejudice against homosexual people and predicted the Supreme Court would take a “rational view of the matter.”

His petition was filed on June 13, 1957. The Supreme Court was struggling at the same time with the question of obscenity in a case involving Samuel Roth, a New York book dealer, who was appealing his conviction for selling sexually explicit books. In a 6-3 decision, the justices upheld his conviction, but also sharply narrowed the definition of what is considered obscene. In a landmark ruling, “All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guaranties” of the 1st Amendment, said Justice William J. Brennan in Roth vs. United States, handed down on June 24, 1957. “Sex and obscenity are not synonymous.”

With that ruling fresh in their minds, several Supreme Court law clerks read Julber’s petition — as well as the magazine itself — and advised the justices it was not obscene.

Julber said he was delighted to win, but disappointed the court had not issued a written opinion explaining its reasons. He was honored at a banquet sponsored by ONE, and he went on to have a long career as a personal injury lawyer, but he never again had a case go to the Supreme Court. He remains proud of his achievement.

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Stephen Spender

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Stephen Spender | Location: Berlin | 1934 | Unknown photographer | National Portrait Gallery, London | 14478

Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was born on 28 February 1909 and died on 16 July 1995. During his life he became one of the most celebrated poets of his generation. His sexuality remains obscured by a cloud.

Wikipedia notes that in his formative years

his closest friend and the man who had the biggest influence on him was W. H. Auden, who introduced him to Christopher Isherwood.

In 1929 he moved to Hamburg. Isherwood invited him to visit Berlin.

Also in 1929 he began writing his novel “The Temple” about a young man who travels to Germany and finds a culture at once more open than England’s — particularly about relationships between men. “The Temple” was not published until 1988.

In 1933, Spender fell in love with Tony Hyndman, and after a short affair with a woman, Spender and Hyndman lived together between 1935 and 1936. Then Spender married Agnes Maria “Inez” Pearn, his first wife. However he continued to have affairs with men.

Hence the speculation and debate over his sexuality, which remains clouded to this day.

During World War II, Spender was in the UK, playing an active part in the war against Germany: then he was appointed to the Allied Control Commission, restoring civil authority in Germany.

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