Thursday, October 19, 2017

Transgender Activist Fran Fried Competes on Jeopardy!

From the Bridgeport Daily Voice:
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The fourth time’s a charm for former WPKN-FM radio host Fran Fried, who had a quartet of auditions over 13 years before she finally snagged a spot as a contestant on TV’s “Jeopardy!”
“It’s all been like an out-of-body experience,” said the Prospect [Conn.] resident who spent 13 years as a host of WPKN’s “The Sleep Deprivation Experiment” and “Franorama.”
While the cast and crew knew Fried was transgender, she was happy to see it was never mentioned on or off the air. When Trebek asked her an introductory question, it was about “The High School That Rocked,” a documentary about Westport’s Staples High School that she recently narrated, not her gender identity.
“Either people know and don’t care or they don’t know,” she said. “I’m just out and about in the everyday world.
Fran was only the third transgender contestant in the show's history. Though Fran did not win the show that aired Tuesday, October 17, 2017, she tied for second when both her and another contestant bet all their money and got the Final Jeopardy question wrong.  The winner, who also got that question wrong, won with only $1.

Celebrate "Spirit Day" by Going Purple

Though it may sound like something related to Halloween, it addresses something far more scary.  

According to GLAAD, Spirit Day is celebrated to speak out against LGBTQ bullying and to stand with LGBTQ youth. They disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to "go purple" on Spirit Day is a way for everyone -- forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends -- to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.

Spirit Day is observed on the third Thursday in October. Started in 2010 by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan, it was initially created in response to a rash of widely publicized bullying-related suicides of gay school students in 2010, including that of Tyler Clementi. 

The name "Spirit Day" comes from the purple stripe of the Rainbow flag, whose creator Gilbert Baker defined it as "representing 'spirit.'"

Also, watch the excellent video below from Burger King.

Click here for more information.


Born Today in 1932: Actor, Brady Bunch Dad Robert Reed

Here's the story of a lovely actor, Robert Reed, who was born today, October 19, in 1932, in Highland Park, Illinois. He is best known as the father Mike Brady, opposite Florence Henderson's Carol Brady, on The Brady Bunch, which aired from 1969 to 1974. He reprised the role of Mike Brady in several later reunion programs.

Reed in 1961 with E.G. Marshall in The Defenders.
In 1961, Reed landed his first television starring role in The Defenders alongside E. G. Marshall, with the two playing a father-and-son team of defense attorneys. Marshall was also one of the founding members of the Actors Studio in New York; around this time, Reed himself became a member of the Studio, of which he would remain a member for the next 30 years. The Defenders was a hit with audiences and earned a total of 22 Primetime Emmy Award nominations (E.G. Marshall won two Emmys for his performance while the show won twice for Outstanding Drama Series).

While appearing on The Defenders in 1964, Reed made his Broadway stage debut as Paul Bratter in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, replacing Robert Redford.

This led to Reed getting his role in The Brady Bunch. Reed was the producers' second choice for the role of Mike Brady, after Gene Hackman was rejected because he was too unfamiliar at the time. 

Despite earning poor reviews from critics and never cracking the Top 30 during its five-season run, The Brady Bunch remained an audience favorite of the 1970s. Since its cancellation in 1974, the series has led a healthy afterlife in syndication and spawned several spin-off series and two television reunion movies.

From the sitcom's debut in September 1969, Reed was unhappy with his role as Mike Brady. He felt that acting in the often silly sitcom was beneath his serious Shakespearean training. Producers and directors found Reed difficult to work with both on and off the set. 
Despite his discontent with the show, Reed genuinely liked his co-stars and was a father figure to the younger cast members. 

After the end of The Brady Bunch in 1974, Reed won critical acclaim for his portrayal of Pat Caddison, a doctor who comes out as transgender, in a two-part episode of the television drama Medical Center in 1975. The episode also earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. 

Reed also appeared in the television film Boy in the Plastic Bubble, the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man, and the miniseries Roots. Reed was again nominated for an Emmy Award for his work in Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots.

Reed was bisexual but kept this fact private, fearing it would damage his career. In July 1954, Reed married fellow Northwestern student Marilyn Rosenberger. The couple had one daughter, Karen, before divorcing in 1959.

In November 1991, Reed was diagnosed with colon cancer. When he became ill, he allowed only his daughter and a few close friends visit him. Weeks before his death, Reed called Henderson and asked her to inform the rest of The Brady Bunch cast that he was terminally ill. He died on May 12, 1992, at age 59.

Reed's death was initially attributed solely to cancer, but details from his death certificate were made public revealing that Reed was HIV positive. While Reed did not have AIDS at the time of his death, his doctor listed his HIV-positive status as a "significant condition[s] that contributed to death" on the death certificate.

Born Today in 1945, Harris Glenn Milstead, AKA "Divine"

Divine's high school
yearbook photo at age 17

Described by People magazine as the "Drag Queen of the Century," Divine has has achieved cult status, particularly within the LGBTQ community.

Harris Glenn Milstead, better known by his stage name Divine, was born today, October 19, in 1945.  Divine was an American actor, singer, and drag queen closely associated with the independent filmmaker John Waters. Divine was a character actor, usually performing female roles in cinematic and theatrical appearances, and adopted a female drag persona for his music career.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, to a conservative middle-class family, Milstead developed an early interest in drag while working as a women's hairdresser. By the mid-1960s he had embraced the city's countercultural scene and befriended Waters, who gave him the name "Divine" and the tagline of "the most beautiful woman in the world, almost."

After starring as the lead role in Waters' pictures Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, Divine moved on to theater, appearing in several avant-garde performances alongside San Francisco drag collective, The Cockettes. He followed this with a performance in Tom Eyen's play Women Behind Bars and its sequel, The Neon Woman. Continuing his cinematic work, he starred in two more of Waters' films, Polyester and Hairspray, the latter of which represented his breakthrough into mainstream cinema. 
The final scene in the film Pink Flamingos was particularly infamous, involving Divine's character Babs eating fresh dog feces. Divine told a reporter, "I followed that dog around for 3 hours just zooming in on its asshole," waiting for it to empty its bowels so that they could film the scene. The scene became one of the most notable moments of Divine's acting career and in film history, and he later complained of people thinking that "I run around doing it all the time. I've received boxes of dog shit – plastic dog shit. I have gone to parties where people just sit around and talk about dog shit because they think it's what I want to talk about." In reality, he only ate excrement that one time because it was in the script.

In 1974, Divine returned to Baltimore to film Waters's next motion picture, Female Trouble, in which he played the lead role. Divine's character, teenage delinquent Dawn Davenport, embraces the idea that crime is art and is eventually executed in the electric chair for her violent behavior. In the film, Divine did his own stunts, including the trampoline scene, for which he had to undertake a number of trampolining lessons. Divine also played his first on-screen male role in the film, Earl Peterson, and Waters included a scene during which these two characters had sexual intercourse as a joke on the fact that both characters were played by the same actor. 

Female Trouble proved to be Divine's favorite of his films, because it both allowed him to develop his character and to finally play a male role, something he had always felt important because he feared being typecast as a female impersonator. Divine was also responsible for singing the theme tune for Female Trouble, although it was never released as a single. Divine remained proud of the film, although it received a mixed critical reception.

Divine again became involved with a John Waters project, the film Hairspray released in 1988. Set in Baltimore during the 1960s, Hairspray revolved around self-proclaimed "pleasantly plump" teenager Tracy Turnblad as she pursues stardom as a dancer on a local television show and rallies against racial segregation. As he had in Waters's earlier film Female Trouble, Divine took on two roles in the film, one female and one male.

The first of these, Edna Turnblad, was Tracy's loving mother; Divine would later note that with this character he could not be accurately described as a drag queen, proclaiming "What drag queen would allow herself to look like this? I look like half the women from Baltimore." His second character in the film was that of the racist television station owner Arvin Hodgepile. In one interview, Divine admitted that he had hoped to play both the role of mother and daughter in Hairspray, but that the producers had been "a bit leery" and chose Ricki Lake for the latter role instead. 

Divine considered himself to be male, and was not transgender or transsexual. He was gay, and during the 1980s had an extended relationship with a married man named Lee, who accompanied him almost everywhere that he went. They later separated, and Divine went on to have a brief affair with gay porn star Leo Ford, which was widely reported upon by the gay press. 

According to his manager Bernard Jay, Divine regularly engaged in sexual activities with young men that he would meet while on tour, sometimes becoming infatuated with them; in one case, he met a young man in Israel whom he wanted to bring back to the United States, but was prevented from doing so by Jay. 

Divine died on March 7, 1988, three weeks after Hairspray was released nationwide. He died in his sleep, at age 42, of an enlarged heart

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Media Round-Up for October 18, 2017, Gay Crackdowns Around the World

From The Guardian: Tajikistan authorities draw up list of gay and lesbian citizens

Authorities in Tajikistan have drawn up a register of 367 allegedly gay citizens, suggesting they would be required to undergo testing to avoid “the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases”.

Details of the move was unveiled in Zakonnost, a newspaper published by Tajikistan’s state prosecutor, which said the official list of “gay and lesbian” citizens was compiled following research into the LGBT community.

Rights activists in this authoritarian central Asian nation have in the past raised fears over discrimination faced by LGBT individuals in this conservative country that is mainly Muslim but has secular authorities.

See full story here.

From the Washington Post: With midnight raids and chat-room traps, Egypt launches sweeping crackdown on gay community

CAIRO — A crackdown on gay people in Egypt intensified in recent days as security forces raided cafes in downtown Cairo and courts delivered harsh prison sentences, further driving the nation’s LGBT community underground.

More than 60 people have been arrested, human rights activists said, since a concert last month by a rock group where some members of the audience waved a rainbow flag — photos of which went viral on social media and caused public outrage.

Security forces have also detained people at their homes in the middle of the night, and have used apps and online chat rooms to entrap those believed to be gay. Some cafes frequented by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have been shut down.

See the full story here.


Maxim Lapunov said he was picked up by police and held for 12 days. / AFP
From BCC News: Chechen 'gay purge' victim: 'No one knows who will be next'

Six months after reports emerged that gay men were being detained illegally and tortured in the Russian republic of Chechnya, a young man has spoken publicly for the first time about his ordeal.

Maxim Lapunov has described being held for 12 days in a blood-soaked cell, beaten with sticks, threatened and humiliated by police.

But despite reporting what he endured to the authorities, his lawyer says no proper investigation has been conducted.

Mr Lapunov, who is 30 and from Siberia, had been working and living in Chechnya for two years when he alleges he was grabbed and dragged into a car one night in March by two men he didn't know.

See full story here.


From The Daily Mail: Tanzania arrests 12 for "homosexuality" in Dar es Salaam

Tanzanian police said Wednesday they had arrested 12 men, including two South Africans and a Ugandan, for presumed homosexuality as part of an ongoing crackdown against gays.

"We arrested the criminals at (the hotel) Peacock -- they were promoting homosexuality. Two are South Africans, one Ugandan and nine Tanzanians," Dar es Salaam police head Lazaro Mambosasa said at a weekly press conference.

He said the 12 were being questioned ahead of being sent before a court and did not say when they had been arrested.

"Tanzanian law forbids this act between people of the same sex, it is a violation of our country's laws," said Mambosasa. He added the hotel manager was among those arrested for "providing a room" for the others.

See full story here

Born Today in 1753: French Nobleman Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès

Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès was born today, October 18, in 1753. He was a French nobleman, lawyer, and statesman during the French Revolution and the First Empire. He is best remembered as one of the authors of the Napoleonic Code, which still forms the basis of French civil law and French-inspired civil law in many countries.

Cambacérès was a member of the Committee of General Defence from 1793 until the end of 1794, and later became a member of its infamous successor, the Committee of Public Safety after the fall of Robespierre. In the meantime he worked on much of the legislation of the revolutionary period. During 1795, he was employed as a diplomat and negotiated peace with Spain, Tuscany, Prussia and the Netherlands. His remarkable debating skills gave him a spot as a councilor of the Five Hundred from 1795-1799.

Cambacérès was considered too conservative to be one of the five Directors who took power in the coup of 1795 and, finding himself in opposition to the Executive Directory, he retired from politics. In 1799, however, as the Revolution entered a more moderate phase, he became Minister of Justice. He supported the coup of 18 Brumaire (in November 1799) that brought Napoleon Bonaparte to power as First Consul, a new regime designed to establish a stable constitutional republic.

He was second consul with Bonaparte and then archchancellor of the empire. As Napoleon’s principal adviser on all juridical matters from 1800 to 1814, he was instrumental in formulating the Napoleonic Code, or Civil Code (1804), and subsequent codes. Often consulted on other matters of state, he tried to exert a moderating influence on the emperor.

Cambacérès was gay, his sexual orientation was well-known, and he does not seem to have made any effort to conceal it. He remained unmarried, and kept to the company of other "bachelors." Napoleon is recorded as making a number of jokes on the subject.

Cambacérès' colleagues also didn't fail to poke fun at his gluttony. When he met with the Council while Napoleon was away, everyone knew that the meeting would be over before lunch. He was known for having the best dinners in France and for his extravagant lifestyle. According to him, "a country is governed by good dinner parties."

Born Today in 1947: Cult Novelist James Robert Baker

Writer James Robert Baker was born today, October 18, in 1947. He wrote sharply satirical, predominantly gay-themed transgressional fiction. After graduating from UCLA, he began his career as a screenwriter, but became disillusioned and started writing novels instead. Though he garnered fame for his books Fuel-injected Dreams and Boy Wonder, after the controversy surrounding publication of his novel, Tim and Pete, he faced increasing difficulty having his work published.

Baker was born in Long Beach, California and raised in what he considered a "stifling, Republican Southern Californian household". Rebelling against his parents, he became attracted to the fringe elements of society, including beatniks, artists, and gays. In high school during the 1960s he explored his sexuality at underground gay teen nightclubs, while living in fear that his abusive father would find out. At one point, his father hired a private detective to follow him, when he suspected Baker was having an affair with a male neighbor. This family dynamic would be used in many of his novels, most extensively in Boy Wonder.

Baker began taking drugs, and became, in his own words, "an out of control, teenage speed freak." He also began drinking heavily, attributing it to the fact that he was closeted. However, even after coming out, his substance abuse remained excessive and "still had a life of its own."

His first book, Adrenaline, was published under the pseudonym James Dillinger. A story of two gay fugitive lovers on the run, it presaged the satire and drug fueled violence so prominent in his later books. Here Baker began developing the themes that dominated his following works: anarchy; angry, and somewhat paranoid gay men; the dark underside of Los Angeles, juxtaposed with its sunny outward image; the hypocrisy of organized religion; anonymous sex and its implications in the age of AIDS; and homophobia and the oppression of gays in a Republican dominated America.  

The modest success of this novel encouraged him to devote himself to what have become his best known works, Fuel-Injected Dreams (a novel revolving around a character loosely based on record producer Phil Spector) and the 1986 release Boy Wonder. After the novel was published, he stopped screenwriting in order to solely concentrate on books. He spent the bulk of each day writing and researching, and acted out characters and scenes of his novels on videotape to perfect the dialogue.

A self-described anarchist, Baker has been categorized as a writer of transgressional fiction, in that his novels are frequently populated by sociopathic, nihilistic characters who engage in taboo behaviors such as heavy drug use, incest, necrophilia and other practices; and often commit acts of extreme, surrealistic violence.

Baker's work received mixed reviews. His only two books not specifically gay themed (though containing gay characters and a somewhat gay sensibility), Boy Wonder and Fuel-Injected Dreams, were better received by critics, and more popular with readers, though he was never a bestselling novelist. His following book, however, Tim and Pete, met with hostile reviews, primarily for its advocacy of political assassination and terror tactics in combating AIDS discrimination. Baker himself was ambivalent on the subject. "I think assassination does change things ... But I'm not really calling for violence," he said. "It's a novel, not a position paper."

There were also charges of racism, due to his portrayals of blacks and Hispanics. Baker also denied those charges.

The book caused a great deal of controversy among critics, with some calling it "irresponsible," and saying it was "determined to give offense" and "appears to endorse violence." 

After the reception of Tim and Pete, with several critics calling him "The Last Angry Gay Man," Baker faced increasing difficulty finding a publisher for his work and his financial position became precarious. He was only able to publish one novella, Right Wing, and that was self-published on the Internet.

Baker's life partner, Ron Robertson, believes that this difficulty led Baker on a quick, downwards emotional spiral. Baker killed himself at his home on November 5, 1997, by asphyxiation in his garage.

Since his death, Baker's reputation has steadily increased among critics and the reading public; and his works now have cult status in the literary community. First editions of Adrenaline, Boy Wonder, Fuel-Injected Dreams and Tim and Pete have become collector's items and command high prices at rare book stores.

Three of Baker's books have thus far not been published: White Devils, Proto Punk, and Crucifying Todd. Additionally, he wrote two screenplays which have not as yet been filmed: Inez and Desert Women.

Happy Birthday to Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova  was born today, October 18, in 1956. She is a former Czechoslovak and later American tennis player and coach. In 2005, Tennis magazine selected her as the greatest female tennis player for the years 1965 through 2005 and she is considered one of the best, if not the best, female tennis players of all time.

Navratilova was World No. 1 for a total of 332 weeks in singles, and a record 237 weeks in doubles, making her the only player in history to have held the top spot in both singles and doubles for over 200 weeks. She was year-end singles No. 1 seven times, including a record of five consecutive years, as well as year-end doubles No. 1 five times, including three consecutive years during which she held the ranking for the entire year.

She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 major women's doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 major mixed doubles titles, combined marking the open-era record for the most number of Grand Slam titles won by one player, male or female. She reached the Wimbledon singles final 12 times, including for nine consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and won the women's singles title at Wimbledon a record nine times.

Navratilova holds the records for most singles (167) and doubles titles (177) in the open era. Her record as No.1 in singles (1982–86) remains the most dominant in professional tennis to date. Over five consecutive seasons, she won 428 out of 442 singles matches, averaging fewer than 3 losses per year to 87 wins, for a sustained winning percentage of 96.8%. She also recorded the longest winning streak in the open era (74 consecutive matches) as well as three out of the six longest winning streaks in history.

In women's doubles, Navratilova and Pam Shriver had one of the most successful partnerships in women's doubles and won 109 consecutive matches including all four major titles, the doubles Grand Slam, in 1984. The pair set an all-time record of 79 titles together and tied the record set by Louise Brough Clapp and Margaret Osborne duPont of 20 major women's doubles titles as a team. 

Originally from Czechoslovakia, she was stripped of her citizenship when, in 1975 at age 18, she asked the United States for political asylum and was granted temporary residency. At the time, Navratilova was told by the Czechoslovak Sports Federation that she was becoming too Americanized, and she should go back to school and make tennis secondary. Navratilova became a US citizen in 1981.

Navratilova with her wife, Julia Lemigova
In 1981, shortly after becoming a United States citizen, Navratilova gave an interview to New York Daily News sports reporter Steve Goldstein, coming out as bisexual and revealing that she had a sexual relationship with Rita Mae Brown. She asked the reporter not to publish the article until she was ready to come out publicly. However, the New York Daily News published the article on July 30, 1981. Navratilova has since identified herself as a lesbian.

From 1984 to 1991, Navratilova had a long-term relationship with Judy Nelson, whom she met at a tournament in Fort Worth in 1982. Their split in 1991 included a much-publicized legal wrangle.

On September 6, 2014, Navratilova proposed to her longtime girlfriend Julia Lemigova at the US Open. They married in New York on December 15, 2014.

Born Today in 1947, Songwriter, Singer Laura Nyro

Rolling Stone magazine caller her "one of the most important female singer/songwriters of the '60s and '70s." Laura Nyro was born today, October 18, in 1947. She achieved critical acclaim with her own recordings, particularly the albums Eli and the 13th Confession and New York Tendaberry, and had commercial success with artists such as Barbra Streisand and The 5th Dimension recording her songs.

Her style was a hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes, rock, and soul.

Between 1968 and 1970, a number of artists had hits with her songs: The 5th Dimension with "Blowing Away," "Wedding Bell Blues," "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Sweet Blindness," "Save the Country," and "Black Patch;" Blood, Sweat & Tears and Peter, Paul, and Mary with "And When I Die;" Three Dog Night and Maynard Ferguson with "Eli's Comin';" and Barbra Streisand with "Stoney End," "Time and Love," and "Hands off the Man (Flim Flam Man)." Nyro's best-selling single was her recording of Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Up on the Roof."

Nyro had a relationship with singer/songwriter Jackson Browne in late 1970 to early 1971. Browne was Nyro's opening act at the time.

Nyro married Vietnam War veteran David Bianchini in October 1971 after a whirlwind romance. The marriage ended after 3 years. In 1975, Nyro split from Bianchini and it was also the year her mother died from ovarian cancer at the age of 49.

In the early 1980s, Nyro began living with painter Maria Desiderio, a relationship that lasted 17 years, the rest of Nyro's life.

In late 1996, Nyro, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died of of the disease on April 8, 1997, at 49, the same age at which her mother died. 

In 2012, Nyro was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Born Today in 1899: Jeb Alexander, Author of Gay Diary

Jeb Alexander is the pseudonym of Carter Bealer, who was born today, October 17, in 1899. His life is recounted in Jeb and Dash: A Diary of Gay Life 1918-1945. The book is the diary of Bealer (Jeb) edited by his niece, Ina Russell. Dash is the pseudonym of Isham W. Perkins.

In 1908 Jeb moved with his family from Atlanta, Georgia, to Washington, D.C. From 1918 to 1922 Jeb attended Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, where in 1919 he met Dash (aka Isham).

Jeb worked as proofreader and editor at the Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
From 1912 to 1964, he kept diaries chronicling his life and his relationship with Dash and others. He wrote in fascinating detail about his life in DC, and what it was like being a gay man in the early 20th century. 

Among some of the events chronicled in those diaries, while at Washington and Lee University, Dash had another boyfriend, Harry Agneau, who committed suicide when he and Dash were expelled due to their relationship being unveiled. In that period, Jeb's boyfriend was Randall Hare, a married man.

The book also chronicles the time when Jeb and Dash took a trip to France at the outbreak of World War II--not the best of timing.

Jeb died on May 11, 1965, in Washington, D.C.