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Gay History – February 1: Tom of Finland, Robert Opel and Tennessee Williams Terrorized in Key West

February 1st.

1978: Tom of Finland has his first U.S. exhibit at Robert Opel’s Fey Way Gallery in San Francisco.

Robert Opel was not only famous for being the man who streaked the 1974 Academy Awards. He also opened the first erotic art gallery in San Francisco called Fey-Way Studios (1978- 1979)

While Tom of Finland’s work went on to become famous worldwide. Tragically things did not turn out the same way for Robert Opel.

On the night of July 7, 1979, a crazed gunman by the name of Maurice Keenan assassinated Robert Opel in his own gallery shortly after putting on a stage performance entitled The Mock-Execution of Dan White (Harvey Milk’s murderer).

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1979: A gang of teenage boys stands outside Tennessee Williams’s home in Key West, Florida, and begins throwing beer cans and firecrackers at the house while chanting “Come on out, faggot!” The incident is just the latest in a string of bizarre homophobic attacks aimed at the openly gay playwright.

Via The Washington Post:

Tennessee Williams’ life now on Key West in a way resembles the plot of one of his plays: an injured innocent in a honky-tonk town pitted against uprovoked malice, deliberate cruelty. Since January, his gardener has been murdered, his house ransacked twice. He has been mugged twice on the street, once reported, once not. His dog has disappeared. One winter evening some kids stood outside his house and threw beer cans on the porch, yelling at America’s greatest playwright, “Come on out, faggot.” The only person home at the time was a house-guest, writer Dotson Rader, and when the kids set off some fire-crackers, Rader remembers thinging: “This is it. They’ve resorted to guns.”

Yet Williams has reacted with the resiliency of one of his heroines, dismissing it all as “ridiculous.” He uses the same cliche to explain it away as does the Key West Police Department: “There is voilence everywhere.” What has happened is enough to “shatter faith in essential human goodness,” as Williams himself once put it, but he has insisted on a brave front, as if through “enduring the devil, he will earn, if nothing else, its respect.”

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's well known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story, Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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