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Archive for April, 2009

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Washington, D.C.

Leonard Matlovich grave
Congressional Cemetery
1801 E Street, S.E.

Air Force Sergeant Leonard Matlovich’s (1943-1988) tombstone reads “Never Again, Never Forget — A Gay Vietnam Veteran — When I was in the military they gave me a metal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” Matlovich, who did three tours of duty in Vietnam and earned a bronze star, was discharged from the Air Force in 1975 when he publicly declared his homosexuality. After three years of fighting the decision, Matlovich won his case and was given the opportunity to be reinstated in the USAF or settle. He chose to settle and donated some of his money to lesbian and gay organizations, including the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. The rest he used to open a pizza parlor in Guerneville, the gay resort on the Russian River north of San Francisco, which he operated until illness made it impossible for him to work.

Matlovich succumbed to AIDS in 1988 and received a veteran’s burial in Washington, D.C., complete with caisson, eight-member honor guard, and an Air Force bugler playing taps. But gay activists were his pallbearers, and his mourners carried lavender flags. “I’ve always been gay,” Matlovich once said, “and for most of my life I prayed not to be that way…. However, the harder I prayed the queerer I got. That must have been God’s response.”


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Gay Key West

I received the following press release today about an upcoming film that looks kind of interesting, on the history of gay Key West. A friend of mine – a gay male architect – once pointed out the fact that queer resorts often tend to be at the tips of land: Key West, Provincetown, Fire Island. Similarly, the gay part of any regular old beach tends to be the furthest point you can go – for privacy, I’m sure, but also possibly because of sodomy laws, when those were in existence.

Anyway, here’s the release (or most of it anyway – I cut the begging for money part for space):

Gay History Film To Begin Production in Key West

KEY WEST, Fla./EWORLDWIRE/April 19, 2007 — “I didn’t come out of the closet, I came out of an armoire,” quipped over 40-year Key West resident Larry Harvey in a pre-interview for the upcoming film, No Closet Space, the History of Gay Key West.

No Closet Space, the History of Gay Key West will be the first-ever film about the impact the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community has had on the city of Key West, and, in turn, about Key West’s impact on American LGBT history in general.

“There is quite a story here,” says local filmmaker Tim Dahms. “Key West just wouldn’t be Key West without the LGBT community, and American LGBT history in general wouldn’t be nearly as rich and interesting if not for Key West.”

Notables such as Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Leonard Bernstein spent leisure time there, and their stories are the stuff of local legend. [My note: Hm, they seem to have forgotten about Elizabeth Bishop…]

“In my research for this film, I’ve found many, many people who have lived much of the rich LGBT history of the island and who have wonderful stories to tell,” added Dahms, “and they tell them with such color and panache.”

“I’m very excited about what the final film will be like – it will be definitely entertaining!”

No Closet Space, the History of Gay Key West will combine the stories of notable locals and historians with old photographs, film, and especially music, to tell the fascinating tale of the history of LGBT Key West.

“It’s a project whose time has definitely come,” said Dahms.

CONTACT:
Tim Dahms
FLV Hosting
PHONE. 239-405-3316
EMAIL: tvpro1@comcast.net
http://noclosetspace.com

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Hamden, Conn.

Thornton Wilder gravesite
Mt. Carmel Cemetery
3801 Whitney Avenue

If you’ve visited my other blog, “A Very Gay Play,” you know that I wrote a play called Their Town on the topic of same-sex marriage that was inspired by Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town. It seemed to me the height of irony that the most-produced play in this country – one considered quintessentially American – was written by a closeted gay man.

Though he spent the early part of his life in Wisconsin, California, and Shanghai, Wilder (1897-1975) called Hamden, Conn., home from 1929 on (his home at 50 Deepwood Drive is still standing), and it is in this town that he’s buried.

Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize three times, for The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), Our Town (1938), and The Skin of Our Teeth (1942). A lifelong bachelor who as a young man described his own walk and mannerisms as “queer,” Wilder was intensely homophobic. He commented to Gore Vidal that “a writer ought not to commit himself to a homosexual situation of the domestic sort” because it would damage his career. As a result, Wilder experienced only arm’s-length infatuations, often with actors (including Montgomery Clift), and brief, clandestine sexual encounters. He would have hated this website (and my play!) – he believed that to speculate on the sexuality of famous writers was simply to “whip up a prurient oh-ha! in millions of people.”

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Monroeville, Ala.

Old Courthouse Museum
31 North Alabama Ave.

I’m currently reading Mockingbird, a portrait of writer Harper Lee, and enjoying the bits and pieces of her life that match up with her classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. That novel is a favorite of mine, as is the movie of the same name – I even have much of the dialogue committed to memory. (“Miss Jean Louise – Miss Jean Louise, stand up! Your father’s passing!”)

Scout Finch is, of course, the quintessential queer kid, along with her friend Dill (based on Lee’s childhood friend and neighbor Truman Capote). I dissected the queerness of Lee’s story and the film a few years back – on the occasion of Gregory Peck’s death – in an article called “To Queer a Mockingbird.”

The town of Monroeville – where Lee still lives part of the time – boasts Lee as its claim to fame. The town hosts an amateur performance of a play based on Lee’s novel every May (billed as “Alabama‘s hottest theater ticket”). The play is staged in the Old Courthouse, which was the inspiration for the Maycomb County Courthouse of Lee’s story – the place where Atticus Finch makes his impassioned defense of Tom Robinson (see photo above). The courthouse is also a year-round museum with three permament exhibits, including one on Lee and another on Capote. In town, there is also a guided tour, pointing out local spots of note to fans of Lee and Capote.

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