Monday, November 06, 2017

Born Today in 1939: LGBTQ Rights Activist Arthur Bell

Arthur Bell was born today, November 6, in 1939. He was an journalist, author, and LGBTQ rights activist.

Bell, an early member of the Gay Liberation Front and one of the 12 founding member of the Gay Activists Alliance in New York City.  He wrote two books: Dancing the Gay Lib Blues was published in 1971 and he published Kings Don't Mean a Thing in 1978.
Jill Johnston and Bell at a
Gay Pride March in 1971

Bell wrote his first piece for the Village Voice in 1969, an account of the Stonewall riots, a confrontation between police and the patrons of a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn that became a flashpoint of the Gay Liberation movement. He became a regular columnist in 1976 with his column, "Bell Tells."

Bell wrote a series of columns about a string of unsolved murders of gay people; these columns, along with the novel Cruising by Gerald Walker, were the inspiration behind the William Friedkin film Cruising. Ironically, Bell wrote additional columns condemning Friedkin and Cruising after reading a leaked early screenplay, deploring what he viewed as its negative depiction of gay people and claiming that it would inspire violence against homosexuals. At Bell's urging, gay activists disrupted the filming of Cruising and demonstrated at theatres where the film was playing.

Bell met author Arthur Evans, at the time a film distributor, and the two entered into a relationship in 1964. They parted on bad terms in 1971. Bell included an unflattering portrait of Evans in his book Dancing the Gay Lib Blues. The two later reconstructed their friendship and Bell dedicated his second book, Kings Don't Mean a Thing, to Evans.

Bell died June 2, 1984 at the age of 51 from complications related to diabetes.

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