Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Today In 1920, Harvard Forms Secret Court to Investigate Homosexual Activity by Students

The Secret Court of 1920, which was an ad hoc disciplinary tribunal of five administrators at Harvard University formed today, May 23, in 1920. The Secret Court investigated charges of homosexual activity among the student population. During two weeks in May and June 1920, the Court headed by Acting Dean Chester Noyes Greenough conducted more than 30 interviews behind closed doors and took action against eight students, a recent graduate, and an assistant professor. They were expelled or had their association with the university severed, told to leave the city of Cambridge and were blacklisted. The affair went unreported until 2002.

On May 13, 1920, Cyril Wilcox (right), a Harvard undergraduate, completed suicide by inhaling gas in his parents' house in Fall River, Massachusetts.  At the time Wilcox had been warned about his poor academic performance and had withdrawn from school for reasons of health. The night before his death, Wilcox had confessed to his older brother, George Wilcox, himself a graduate of Harvard, that he had been having an affair with Harry Dreyfus, an older Boston man.

George, shortly after his brother's death, intercepted two letters to Cyril, one from Ernest Roberts, a Harvard student, and another from Harold Saxton, a recent graduate. Their candid and detailed gossip convinced him that Harvard was harboring a network of homosexual students. On May 22, George Wilcox located Dreyfus, extracted from him the names of three other men involved, and beat him. Later that day, he met with Harvard's Acting Dean Greenough and shared what he knew: his brother's admission, the contents of the letters, and what Dreyfus had told him.

Greenough promptly consulted with Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell and the decision was made to obviate the normal and relatively slow-moving student disciplinary process before the Administrative Board made up of faculty members and the Dean. Instead, just a day after listening to Wilcox, Greenough formed a special five-man tribunal which has come to be called the "Secret Court."

Acting Dean Greenough was to head the Court. Another senior member was Professor of Hygiene Robert I. Lee, the doctor responsible for the students' annual physical examinations, who had experience posing intimate questions about sexual activity. A third was Regent Matthew Luce, whose responsibilities included student discipline and conduct, especially housing and dormitory proctors. Two young Assistant Deans, Edward R. Gay and Kenneth Murdock, both just a little older than the undergraduates, filled out the Court's membership. The Court reported to President Lowell, and his rulings were final.

At this point Greenough could identify Ernest Roberts, the author of one of the letters to Cyril Wilcox, as the principal target of his inquiry. The same day the Dean formed the Court, he spoke to a graduate student in business, Windsor Hosmer. He expected Hosmer, as proctor of Perkins Hall, to be a source for information about Roberts, but he proved unhelpful, either because he was an inattentive proctor or because he preferred not to be candid. He told the Dean he knew that Roberts hosted parties, but caused no disturbance and broke no rules. He was given 3 days to monitor visits to Roberts' room and report both current and past visitors. On May 26, Hosmer gave Greenough a list including Kenneth Day and Keith Smerage, noted as frequent visitors, and Eugene Cummings and Nathaniel Wolff. 

An unsigned, typed letter dated May 26 now confirmed and enlarged upon what Greenough had learned from George Wilcox. It probably reached the Dean just as the Court began interviewing students. The author, identifying himself as a Harvard College junior, described how Cyril Wilcox in his first year fell in with a set of his classmates who "committed upon him and induced him to commit upon them 'Unnatural Acts'" and when he determined he lacked the "strength of character" to stop participating in such activity he completed suicide. Roberts was "the leader of this group and directly responsible" for the suicide, he continued:
"Roberts rooms at Perkins 28 where he and more of his type have, during the past year, conducted "parties" that beggar description and how in the World such parties "got by" the Proctor is quite beyond me. At these parties were sailors in uniform whom Roberts and friends of his type picked up in the streets of Boston and used for his dirty immoral purposes. At the parties were notorious young male degenerates such as Harold Hussey, and Ned Courtney and many others of the type and many of them dressed in womans [sic] clothes which they brought with them and appeared in public hallways and entrys [sic] of Perkins so dressed."
Then he named as regular participants three students—Kenneth Day, Edward Say and Eugene Cummings—as well as the tutor Saxton, who was already known to Greenough. He pressed home his point by describing the parties where "the most disgusting and disgraceful and revolting acts of degeneracy and depravity took place openly in plain view of all present." Finally he urged the Dean on with a rhetorical question: "Isn't it about time an end was put to this sort of thing in college?"

The Court began its interrogations on May 27, 1920. Dean Greenough summoned each witness with a brief note. Only the Court's notes survive, not transcripts, so it is difficult to ascertain the tenor of the exchanges, whether these were conversations, interviews, or interrogations, or perhaps changed in the course of each session. Clearly the Court pressed witnesses and challenged them with conflicting facts, since the Court's notes record admissions followed by attempts to recant, as well as denials followed by admissions. For example, the Court's note for Harold Saxton says "when pushed he practically confessed to one act, but later retracted." And Kenneth Day "confessed to H.S. [homosexual] relations with Roberts, after denial at first."

Many of those interrogated were never charged and have not been identified. That suggests that the Court, despite its secrecy, was prepared to reveal its mission to innocent students as it attempted to identify those more closely involved. As the Court proceeded, it had increasing amounts of information to use to question witnesses and challenge their statements. Some were called back for follow-up questioning. Nor did the Court restrict itself to people with a Harvard affiliation. At least two witnesses lacking a Harvard connection responded to its summons, though it is unclear whether they participated voluntarily or under some threat. One was Ned Courtney, a Boston boy whose name was mentioned in testimony as the "main annoyance" for his frequent telephone calls to Perkins. Another was Harry Dreyfus, who was connected through his relationship with Cyril Wilcox and his employment at the Café Dreyfus, a known homosexual gathering place.

No subject was too personal for the Court's inquiry. It posed questions about masturbation practices and engaging in sexual acts with women or men, cross-dressing and entertaining overnight guests. Less intrusive questions addressed friends and associates, parties attended and what was seen and who was present, reading habits and familiarity with homosexuality, theories about it as well as slang used to describe its practitioners and their activities ("faggoty parties," "tricks"). Soon the Court had a list of business establishments to inquire about as well, starting with the Café Dreyfus and adding The Lighted Lamp, The Golden Rooster, and Green Shutters.

Many witnesses found it difficult to lie effectively when the Court already had enough circumstantial evidence to use in probing their answers. Others may have decided that the best course was to answer honestly or with relatively honest answers that minimized their involvement. The Court's notes say that Kenneth Day "admits he is probably a little tainted. Mind poisoned." Ernest Roberts claimed he was "led astray" by Cyril Wilcox and that Kenneth Day, too, had been "led into it by Wilcox–but not of his own free will." 

Joseph Lumbard described parties where men danced together and others dressed in women's clothes. The Court noted: "some kissing witnessed." Asked why he did not leave such a party, he allowed that he "stayed because he was interested." He had not masturbated for 6 years. Nathaniel Wolff detailed mutual masturbation with Keith Smerage, but claimed to have ended such behavior. "He was fighting hard and felt that he had overcome the habit. Says he is 90 percent OK." Keith Smerage in turn said he had not masturbated in 9 months and in college "had not slept with men in the unnatural sense." Later the Court recorded that he said he had "'fooled' around with the homosexual business" once or twice at Harvard. Stanley Gilkey defended reading Havelock Ellis: "I think a man should know everything." 

Assistant Professor of Philosophy Donald Clark "denied any connection with homosexualism, and he denied talking about it except to help some students to cure themselves." He later admitted to have propositioned a student, as the Court already knew from an earlier interview with the object of Clark's attentions.

Eugene Cummings was a 23-year-old student just 3 weeks from completing a program in dentistry. He was an active homosexual and thoroughly embedded in the group of students the Court was targeting. Soon after he faced the Court's questioning, he became ill and checked himself into Harvard's Stillman Infirmary. A few days later, on June 11, before being notified that he was expelled, he used his medical knowledge to commit suicide using drugs available there. 

The Court punished 10 it found guilty of some offense and the punishments varied with their status and their degree of culpability. It expelled seven College students (Day, Gilkey, Lumbard, Roberts, Say, Smerage, Wolff) and one student in dentistry (Cummings). 

Four students (Day, Gilkey, Lumbard, Wolff) were invited to reapply to Harvard in a year or two. The Court also told those expelled to leave Cambridge promptly and complained to the families of those who did not move quickly. All were told that Harvard would reply frankly to requests for recommendations or for explanations for their separation from the school. Refusing to provide a positive reference was all the Court could do to Saxon, the tutor, and Clark, the young professor. It identified four others unconnected to Harvard as "guilty" but could not directly punish them. It would try to see that one would lose his job as a waiter at the Café Dreyfus.

Dean Greenough also ordered a letter placed in the files of those it punished to prevent the college's Alumni Placement Service from "making any statement that would indicate confidence in these men." The Placement Service proved efficient in following those instructions. Lumbard found himself blocked by negative responses from Harvard when he applied to Amherst, the University of Virginia, and Brown. Dean Otis Randall of Brown even replied sympathetically to praise Harvard's actions: "I feel your action in the matter was wise and just and that you deserve the support of the colleges to which young Lumbard may make application. How frequently we uncover messes of this sort, and how disagreeable it is to deal with such matters." 

The Court warned the students not to delay contacting their families because the Court was going to write them promptly. Dean Greenough wrote to Roberts: "The letter that I am sending to your father this morning, although it does not tell him everything, necessitates your telling him everything." To Kenneth Day he wrote: "It would be better for them to hear it from you than from me." The Dean's letters about students who had committed no overt act explained the circumstances at length and provided the Court's rationale for expulsion in such cases: "The acts in question are so unspeakably gross that the intimates of those who commit these acts become tainted." He made a clear distinction by not criticizing such a student's character, but his judgment, calling him "no worse than ignorant, over-curious, and careless." When it came to those who had engaged in homosexual sex, Greenough withheld details yet tried to underscore the significance of the violation. To Roberts' father, Greenough wrote that his son "has promised to tell you all about the matter, and I hope he will tell you the whole truth. His offense has nothing to do with low scholarship; it is not gambling, or drink or ordinary sexual intercourse. If he does not confess to something worse than these things, he will not have told you the whole story."

The students' parents were troubled, supportive, and forgiving. Responses to Greenough, while always respectful, varied from pleading to polite challenges to the Court's judgment. Lumbard's father protested his son's "extremely unjust treatment." Gilkey's father hoped his son would be readmitted to erase the impact of a "penalty out of proportion to his delinquency," Roberts' father noted "how this dreadful news has upset me" and sought assurances from Greenough that his son had terminated his "evil practices" some months before. Others engaged in protracted correspondence and had employers send testimonials. In Day's case, since he was an orphan, his cousin undertook a long correspondence detailing his cousin's work habits and social contacts. Say's father, a Connecticut grocer, asked to see the evidence against his son, and Greenough replied that he could not send "the great mass of evidence" through the mail, though the actual evidence against Say consisted of a few sentences of testimony that mentioned him. Say's mother wrote as well and indicated she felt that others of greater means like Lumbard were not being treated as harshly as her son: "My son's father is not a doctor, but he is a good, honest working father."

Smerage's mother learned of her son's expulsion when she opened Greenough's letter and the next day initiated a yearlong series of letters on his behalf. She spoke of her "stricken home" and her son's history of illness. Ultimately, she questioned the Court's entire approach: "I feel now that you men could have done much good had you perhaps had a little less sense of justice and a little more of the spirit of Jesus in your hearts." 

Wolff's father asked the Dean to recognize that helping his son to reform was more important than punishment: "I am taking the liberty of appealing to you, not in your official capacity, but as a man, to do what you can to assist him. You know all are subject to mistakes, and the blessing is in those who can aid and advise in correcting and saving rather than otherwise."

Given the number of interviews, and the consequent expulsions, the undergraduate population must have become aware of the Court's work in a matter of days. Yet the Court's work escaped public attention. The Court itself in its communications with the students' parents and guardians gave assurances that "Every effort has been made to prevent any knowledge of this affair from becoming public."

Yet a few students must have spoken with a reporter. On June 19, the Boston American ran a news story that connected the few public facts: two Harvard students, friends, both from Fall River, Massachusetts, had died within a month of one another: Cyril Wilcox "accidentally killed by gas" at home on May 13 and dentistry student Eugene Cummings a suicide in the infirmary on June 11. Cummings, the story went on, had told friends about "an alleged inquisition, which he claimed was held in the college following Wilcox' death." He had been taken to a room "shrouded in gloom" and "questioned exhaustively." College authorities denied his story and said it was the product of his "disordered mind." Finally, Court member Dr Roger I. Lee put an end to further inquiries. Cummings, he told the Boston American, "had been acting in a queer manner," using an adjective that indicated Cummings' underlying condition was not fit for public discussion. Contemporary press coverage ended with that one article.

A second anonymous letter reached the Court as it concluded its work. The author upbraided the Court for failing to identify "most, if not all" of those students guilty of homosexual activity. The Court, according to the author, mishandled its investigation by concentrating on the Roberts group, which encompassed only half of the 50 students the Court should have identified. The others disliked the Roberts set and had "little cliques of their own." They now "continued their practices within the student body and continued spreading it." The letter also said that the Court's methods, such as the grilling Cummings described and using expulsion as its consistent punishment, were not well considered. It argued that offering more lenient treatment like "probation, etc." in return for additional names of associates would have accomplished more. The identity of the letter's author remains unknown. The Court took no action in response to this critique.

In 2002, a researcher from The Crimson, the school's undergraduate daily newspaper, came across a box of files labeled "Secret Court" in the University Archives. After a protracted campaign on the part of the paper's staff, the university released 500 documents relating to the Court's work. An article by Amit R. Paley in The Crimson's weekly magazine Fifteen Minutes reported the 1920 events on November 21, 2002. Though the University insisted on redacting the names of those under investigation, six researchers at the paper were able to identify most through research in other records.

A book-length study of the Court's work Harvard's Secret Court (St. Martin's Press, 2005) was written by William Wright. More of a popular dramatization than a history, the book recounts the Court's work in considerable detail, but also includes imagined conversations and considerable speculation. Where only the notes of an interrogation survive, the author reconstructs the questions and even characterizes the tone of voice of the questioners.

In 2008, Michael Van Devere wrote, produced, and directed a different kind of dramatization: a film based on the Court's work called Perkins 28: Testimony From the Secret Court Files of 1920. The film consists of re-enactments of nine of the Court's interrogation sessions and uses a cast of Harvard undergraduates. The screenplay uses the Court's documents as its starting point. The film can be accessed online here.

In 2010, a movement called "Their Day in the Yard," aiming to petition Harvard University to grant posthumous honorary degrees to the expelled students, launched a Facebook page and a website. On February 28, 2012, the University said in a statement that it "does not award posthumous degrees except in the rare case of a student who completes all academic requirements for the degree but dies before the degree has been conferred." The Harvard Crimson reported that at least 28 posthumous degrees were granted to former students who did not complete their academic requirements before dying in World War I.
Still from the play "Unnatural Acts" (photograph by Joan Marcus, Classic Stage Company)
Two stage works dramatizing the Court and the affected students have been presented in New York. In 2010, VERITAS, by Stan Richardson, was presented at the New York International Fringe Festival, and in 2011 Classic Stage Company presented Unnatural Acts: Harvard's Secret Court of 1920, conceived by Tony Speciale and created by members of the Plastic Theatre.

Born Today In 1955, 'The Body and Its Dangers' Author Allen Barnett

Allen Barnett was a writer born today, May 23, in 1955.  Although he published only one volume of short stories, The Body and Its Dangers, during his lifetime, the book is widely regarded as one of the most artistically significant depictions of gay life at the height of the AIDS crisis.

Born near Joliet, Illinois, Barnett studied theatre at Loyola University Chicago. He later moved to New York City to work as an actor, pursuing further studies at The New School and Columbia University, where he earned his MFA in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts. 

He was also a cofounder of GLAAD, and an educator with Gay Men's Health Crisis. He worked for Herbert Breslin in the late 1980s, and after Barnett published his first short story, "Succor", in Christopher Street in 1986, Breslin forwarded Barnett's short stories to a friend who worked for St. Martin's Press. The firm placed one of his stories, "Philostorgy, Now Obscure", in The New Yorker, and published The Body and Its Dangers in 1990.

The book won a Ferro-Grumley Award and a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction in 1991. It was also a nominee for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award; while it did not win, it was given a special citation as one of the year's best works.

Barnett died on August 14, 1991, of AIDS-related causes.

Born Today In 1910, Author of 'Goodnight Moon' and Other Children's Classics, Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown was born today, May 23, 1910. She was a writer of children's books, including Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, both illustrated by Clement Hurd.

Brown was the middle child of three whose parents suffered from an unhappy marriage, in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.  In 1923 she attended Chateau Brilliantmont boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland, while her parents were living in India and Canterbury, Connecticut. In 1925 she attended The Kew-Forest School. She began attending Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1926, where she did well in athletics. After graduation in 1928, Brown went on to Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia.

Brown was a lifelong avid beagler and was noted for her ability to keep pace, on foot, with the hounds.

Following her graduation with a B.A. in English from Hollins in 1932, Brown worked as a teacher and also studied art. While working at the Bank Street Experimental School in New York City she started writing books for children. Bank Street promoted a new approach to children's education and literature, emphasizing the real world and the "here and now." This philosophy influenced Brown's work; she was also inspired by the poet Gertrude Stein, whose literary style influenced Brown's own writing.

Brown's first published children's book was When the Wind Blew, published in 1937. Brown went on to develop her Here and Now stories, and later the Noisy Book series while employed as an editor at W. R. Scott. As editor at Scott, one of Brown's first projects was to recruit contemporary authors to write children's books for the company. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck neglected to respond, but Brown's hero Gertrude Stein accepted the offer. Stein's book The World is Round, was illustrated by Clement Hurd, who had previously teamed with Brown on W. R. Scott's Bumble Bugs and Elephants, considered "perhaps the first modern board book for babies." (Brown and Hurd later teamed on the children's book classics The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon, published by Harper.) 

From 1944 to 1946, Doubleday published three picture books written by Brown under the pseudonym "Golden MacDonald" (coopted from her friend's handyman) and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. (Weisgard was a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal in 1946, and he won the 1947 Medal, for Little Lost Lamb and The Little Island. Two more of their collaborations appeared in 1953 and 1956, after Brown's death.) The Little Fisherman, illustrated by Dahlov Ipcar, was published in 1945. The Little Fur Family, illustrated by Garth Williams, was published in 1946. Early in the 1950s she wrote several books for the Little Golden Books series, including The Color Kittens, Mister Dog, and Scuppers The Sailor Dog.

While at Hollins she was briefly engaged. She dated, for some time, an unknown "good, quiet man from Virginia," had a long running affair with William Gaston, and had a summer romance with Preston Schoyer. In the summer of 1940 Brown began a long-term relationship with Blanche Oelrichs (nom de plume Michael Strange--at right), poet/playwright, actress, and the former wife of John Barrymore. The relationship, which began as a mentoring one, eventually became romantic, and included co-habitating at 10 Gracie Square in Manhattan beginning in 1943. As a studio, they used Cobble Court, a wooden house later moved to Charles Street. Oelrichs, who was 20 years Brown's senior, died in 1950.

Brown went by various nicknames in different circles of friends. To her Dana School and Hollins friends she was "Tim," as her hair was the color of timothy hay. To Bank Street friends she was "Brownie." To William Gaston she was "Goldie," in keeping with the use of Golden MacDonald as author of The Little Island.

In 1952, Brown met James Stillman 'Pebble' Rockefeller Jr. at a party, and they became engaged. Later that year, while on a book tour in Nice, France, she died at 42 of an embolism, shortly after suffering from appendicitis. Kicking up her leg to show the doctor how well she was feeling caused a blood clot that had formed in her leg to dislodge and travel to her heart.

By the time of Brown's death, she had authored well over one hundred books. Her ashes were scattered at her island home, "The Only House" in Vinalhaven, Maine.

Brown bequeathed the royalties to many of her books including Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny to Albert Clarke, the son of a neighbor who was 9 years old when she died. In 2000, reporter Joshua Prager detailed in The Wall Street Journal the troubled life of Mr. Clarke, who has squandered the millions of dollars the books have earned him and who believes that Wise Brown was his mother, a claim others dismiss.

Brown left behind more than 70 unpublished manuscripts. After unsuccessfully trying to sell them, her sister Roberta Brown Rauch kept them in a cedar trunk for decades. In 1991, her future biographer Amy Gary of WaterMark Inc., rediscovered the paper-clipped bundles, more than 500 typewritten pages in all, and set about getting the stories published.

Many of Brown's books have been re-issued with new illustrations decades after their original publication. Many more of her books are still in print with the original illustrations. Her books have been translated into several languages; biographies on Brown for children have been written by Leonard S. Marcus (Harper Paperbacks, 1999), Jill C. Wheeler (Checkerboard Books, 2006) and Amy Gary (Flatiron Books, 2017). There is a Freudian analysis of her "classic series" of bunny books by Claudia H. Pearson, Have a Carrot (Look Again Press, 2010).

A fictional version of Brown occurs in Sarah Jio's 2014 novel Goodnight June. In the book a series of letters between Brown and the character Ruby Crain are used to show how Crain's friendship with Brown and her Seattle, Washington bookstore were influential in the writing of Goodnight Moon.

Happy Birthday to Actress, Comic, Musician Lea DeLaria

Lea DeLaria turns 60 today! She was born today, May 23, in 1958. DeLaria is a comedian, actress, and jazz musician. She is credited with being the first out gay comic to appear on a late-night talk show with her 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. She is best known for her portrayal of inmate Carrie “Big Boo” Black on Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black.

DeLaria was born in Belleville, Illinois. She attended kindergarten through eighth grade at St. Mary's Elementary School in Belleville, and has referenced her Catholic upbringing in her performances.

DeLaria's stand-up career began in 1982 when she moved to San Francisco and performed raunchy stand-up comedy in the Mission District. Discussing her stand up, Delaria says, "This is who I am, when I'm up there. This is it. I'm a big butch dyke. That's who I am. And I'm a friendly one. I'm a big butch dyke with a smile on my face."

In 1986, DeLaria directed "Ten Percent Revue," a musical revue with songs related to homosexuality and most of which reflect pride in being gay. "Ten Percent Revue" was performed in Boston, San Francisco, Provincetown, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Many shows were sold out.

When DeLaria appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1993, she was the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk-show. DeLaria said, "I was the first openly gay comic on television, period, in America — late night or daytime. I was the first. I walked out and said, 'Hello everybody, it’s the 1990's, it’s hip to be queer and I’m a biiiiiiig dyke.'"
In December 1993, DeLaria hosted Comedy Central's Out There, the first all-gay stand-up comedy special.

DeLaria is also known for her touring "musical comedy about perverts", Dos Lesbos (1987–1989), as well as Girl Friday, a comedy she conceived, wrote, directed and starred in, and which won the 1989 Golden Gull for Best Comedy Group in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

DeLaria has released two CD recordings of her comedy, Bulldyke in a China Shop (1994) and Box Lunch (1997). She has also written a humorous book entitled Lea's Book of Rules for the World.

DeLaria appeared as Jane in the 1998 Off Broadway production of Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, "a gay retelling of the Bible." Entertainment Weekly said "a star is born with Lea DeLaria" of her "showstopping" performance as Hildy Esterhazy in the 1998 Broadway revival of On the Town.

DeLaria subsequently played Eddie and Dr. Scott in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show, and can be heard on the cast recording. DeLaria appeared in a number of films, including Edge of Seventeen and The First Wives Club.

DeLaria integrates musical performance into her stand-up comedy, focusing on traditional and modern be-bop jazz. In 2001 she released a CD of jazz standards called Play It Cool. This was followed by the album Double Standards in 2003, and by The Very Best of Lea DeLaria in 2008.

In 2001, DeLaria was the voice of Helga Phugly on the short-lived, animated sitcom, The Oblongs. In 1999 DeLaria played the recurring role of Madame Delphina on the ABC daytime drama One Life to Live, returning in 2008 as both Delphina and Professor Delbert Fina. She continued to portray Delphina on a recurring basis until 2011.

In 2008, Warner Records released The Live Smoke Sessions, DeLaria's first recording focused on "timeless pop standards" such as "Down With Love," "Night and Day," "Love Me or Leave Me" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." She noted, "I styled this CD on the old school live recordings ... It is my hope that this CD will take you back to 1948 and the Village Vanguard. So please let me invite you to mix a cocktail and enjoy a smoke while you sit back and soak up the swing."

On February 14, 2015, DeLaria received the Equality Illinois Freedom Award for her work as "a cutting-edge performer who has used her talent to entertain and enlighten millions of Americans," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. On receiving the award at the 2015 Equality Illinois Gala in Chicago, DeLaria said, "As an out performer for over 33 years who has made it her life's work to change peoples perception of butch, queer and LGBT, it is an honor for me to receive such recognition from my home state. I feel I’m doing Belleville proud. Go Maroons!" 

In January 2015, DeLaria became engaged to fashion editor Chelsea Fairless after two and a half years of dating. The two met through Fairless's friend, actress Emma Myles, who plays Leanne in Orange is the New Black. In January 2017, DeLaria confirmed she and Fairless had separated.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Born Today in 1970, Out Sept. 11th Hero Mark Bingham

Mark Bingham was born today, May 22, in 1970. He was a public relations executive who founded his own company, the Bingham Group. 

During the September 11 attacks in 2001, he was a passenger on board United Airlines Flight 93. Bingham was among the passengers who, along with others, formed the plan to retake the plane from the hijackers, which resulted in the crash of the plane into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The passengers thwarted the hijackers plan to crash the plane into a building in Washington, D.C., most likely either the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House.

Both for his presence on United 93, as well as his athletic physique, Bingham has been widely honored posthumously for having "smashed the gay stereotype mold and really opened the door to many others who came after him."

Mark Bingham was born in 1970, the only child of mother Alice Hoagland and father Gerald Bingham. When Mark was 2 years old, his parents divorced. Raised by his mother and her family, Mark grew up in Miami, Florida, and Southern California before moving to the San Jose area in 1983. 

Bingham was an aspiring filmmaker growing up, and began using a video camera as a teenager as a personal diary through which he expressed himself and documented his life and the lives of his family and friends. He accumulated hundreds of hours of video documenting the final decade and a half of his life. He graduated from Los Gatos High School as a 2-year captain of his rugby team in 1988. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Bingham played on two of Coach Jack Clark's national-championship-winning rugby teams in the early 1990s. He also joined the Chi Psi fraternity, eventually becoming its president. Upon graduation at the age of 21, Bingham came out as gay to his family and friends.

A large athlete at 6 ft 4 in (193 cm) and 225 pounds (102 kg), Bingham also played for the gay-inclusive rugby union team San Francisco Fog RFC. Bingham played No. 8 in their first two friendly matches. He played in their first tournament, and taught his teammates his favorite rugby songs.

Bingham had recently opened a satellite office of his public relations firm in New York City, and was spending more time on the East Coast. He discussed plans with his friend Scott Glaessgen to form a New York City rugby team, the Gotham Knights.

On the morning of September 11, Bingham overslept and nearly missed his flight, on his way to San Francisco to be an usher in his fraternity brother Joseph Salama's wedding. He arrived at the Terminal A at 7:40am, ran to Gate 17, and was the last passenger to board United Airlines Flight 93.

United Flight 93 was scheduled to depart at 8:00am, but the Boeing 757 did not depart until 42 minutes later due to runway traffic delays. Four minutes later, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower. Fifteen minutes later, at 9:03 am, as United Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, United 93 was climbing to cruising altitude, heading west over New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. At 9:25 am, Flight 93 was above eastern Ohio, and pilots Jason Dahl and LeRoy Homer received an alert, "beware of cockpit intrusion," on the cockpit computer device. Three minutes later, Cleveland controllers could hear screams over the cockpit's open microphone. Moments later, the hijackers, led by the Lebanese Ziad Samir Jarrah, took over the plane's controls and told passengers, "Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board." 

Bingham and the other passengers were herded into the back of the plane. Within 6 minutes, the plane changed course and was heading for Washington, D.C. Several of the passengers made phone calls to loved ones, who informed them about the two planes that had crashed into the World Trade Center. Bingham phoned his mother, reporting that his plane had been hijacked and relaying his love for her. According to Hoglan, Bingham said: "Hi mom, I love you very much, I'm calling you from the plane. We've been taken over. There are three men that say that they have a bomb."

After the hijackers veered the plane sharply south, the passengers decided to act. Bingham, along with Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, formed a plan to take the plane back from the hijackers. They were joined by other passengers, including Lou Nacke, Rich Guadagno, Alan Beaven, Honor Elizabeth Wainio, Linda Gronlund, and William Cashman, along with flight attendants Sandra Bradshaw and Cee Cee Ross-Lyles, in discussing their options and voting on a course of action, ultimately deciding to storm the cockpit and take over the plane.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, after the plane's voice data recorder was recovered, it revealed pounding and crashing sounds against the cockpit door and shouts and screams in English. "Let's get them!" a passenger cries. A hijacker shouts, "Allah akbar!" ("God is great"). Jarrah repeatedly pitched the plane to knock passengers off their feet, but the passengers apparently managed to invade the cockpit, where one was heard shouting, "In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die." At 10:02 am, a hijacker ordered, "Pull it down! Pull it down!" The 9/11 Commission later reported that the plane's control wheel was turned hard to the right, causing it to roll on its back and plow into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 580 miles an hour, killing everyone on board. The plane was 20 minutes of flying time away from its suspected target, the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. According to Vice President Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush had given the order to shoot the plane down had it continued its path to Washington.

Bingham's name is located on Panel S-67 of the National September 11 Memorial's South Pool, along with those of other passengers of Flight 93.
Bingham was survived by his family and his former partner of 6 years, Paul Holm, who said Bingham had risked his life to protect the lives of others on occasions prior to 9/11, having twice successfully protected Holm from attempted muggings, one at gunpoint. Holm described Bingham as a brave, competitive man, saying, "He hated to lose—at anything." He was known to proudly display a scar he received after being gored at the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

U.S. Senators John McCain and Barbara Boxer honored Bingham on September 17, 2001, in a ceremony for San Francisco Bay Area victims of the attacks, presenting a folded American flag to Paul Holm.

The Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament (referred to as the Bingham Cup), a biennial international rugby union competition predominantly for gay and bisexual men, was established in 2002 in his memory.

Bingham, along with the other passengers on Flight 93, was posthumously awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2002.

The Eureka Valley Recreation Center's Gymnasium in San Francisco was renamed the Mark Bingham Gymnasium in August 2002.

Singer Melissa Etheridge dedicated the song "Tuesday Morning" in 2004 to his memory.

Beginning in 2005, the Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement has been awarded by the California Alumni Association of the University of California, Berkeley to a young alumnus or alumna at its annual Charter Gala.

At the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, Bingham's name is located on one of the 40 8-foot-tall panels of polished, 3-inch thick granite that comprise the Memorial's Wall of Names.

The 2013 feature-length documentary The Rugby Player focuses on Bingham and the bond he had with his mother, Alice Hoagland, a former United Airlines flight attendant who, following his death, became a nationally known authority on airline safety and a champion of LGBT rights. Directed by Scott Gracheff, the film relies on the vast amount of video footage Bingham himself shot beginning in his teens until weeks before his death. The film's alternate title, With You, is a popular rugby term, and one of Bingham's favorite expressions.

Happy Birthday to 'Eating Out' Actor Chris Salvatore

Chris Salvatore was born today, May 22, in 1985. He is an actor, singer-songwriter, model, and gay rights activist, known for his performances as Zack in the Eating Out gay film series. In 2011, he was ranked at #41 on AfterElton's annual list of the top 50 gay and bisexual male celebrities.

Growing up in the small town of Richboro, Pennsylvania, Salvatore spent his days singing, acting, and performing for his family. By the time he was 15, he had already written his first song.

Chris Salvatore and Aaron Milo in Eating Out: Drama Camp (2011)
Salvatore attended the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. He was later cast as Zack in Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat (2009), within a week of moving to Los Angeles. He continued the role in two additional films in the series, Eating Out 4: Drama Camp (2011),and Eating Out 5: The Open Weekend (2012).

Salvatore released a single, "Dirty Love," in 2010. His later efforts include the singles "What You Do To Me" (2012) and the ballad "Hurricane" (2012). Salvatore's songs have been featured on MTV's Paris Hilton's My New BFF and in the movie credits of Eating Out 3. He has also uploaded short musical covers of songs he and his fans like to his YouTube channel, which in August 2017 had over 36.5K subscribers.

Salvatore appeared as himself in the 2017 Logo TV reality series Fire Island.

Salvatore also promotes equality in the LGBT community. Some of his videos include messages for the It Gets Better campaign.