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Gay History – February 22: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Andy Warhol Dies, and Roy Cohn’s Birthday at Studio 54

February 22nd.

1892: Popular openly bisexual poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is born. Milay received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was also known for her feminist activism. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work.

Millay’s 1920 collection A Few Figs From Thistles drew controversy for its exploration of female sexuality and feminism. In 1919, she wrote the anti-war play Aria da Capo, which starred her sister Norma Millay at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City. -Weaver”; she was the third woman to win a Pulitzer.

What wasn’t widely publicized is that Milay also identified herself as bisexual, having many affairs with both women and men before her marriage.

During her years at Vassar, she was said to have begun her exploration into relationships with women, some of which were deeply passionate. This included English actress Edith Wynne Matthison, who was twice her age.

They wrote to each other. In one of the letters, Millay wrote: “You wrote me a beautiful letter. I wonder if you meant it to be as beautiful as it was. I think you did; for somehow I know that your feeling for me, however slight it is, is the nature of love.”

“When you tell me to come, I will come, by the next train, just as I am. This is now meekness, be assured; I do not come naturally by meekness know that it is a proud surrender to You,” she added.

When she got married in 1923, Millay and Eugen Boissevain, her husband, had an agreement that their marriage would be sexually “open.”

Millay once claimed her husband allowed her personal freedom, and that they lived like two bachelors.

Learn more about Edna St. Vincent Millay HERE

1979: Studio 54 throws a gala fifty-second birthday party for the despicable closeted gay attorney and former McCarthyite Roy Cohn. The event draws several hundreds of the city’s luminaries – including Donald Trump, Barbara Walters, members of both Democratic and Republican parties and most of the city’s elected officials.

If you’re indicted, you’re invited!’ comedian Joey Adams joked. ‘Cohn invited 150. Three thousand to four thousand showed up,’ said Steve Rubell, owner of Studio 54 and a principal client of Roy Cohn’s.(Cohn defended Rubell after the raids at Studio 54) His exclusive guest list included all his influential clients and the powerful people that had open accounts in his ‘favor bank.’ 

The evening unraveled like most debauched nights under the legendary disco ball. Rubell commissioned a custom birthday cake that bore the image of Roy crowned with a halo.

7 years later Roy Cohn would be dead of AIDS denying he was gay to his very last breath.

Learn more about the most hated and feared closeted gay man in America Roy Cohn by clicking HERE

1987: Andy Warhol dies at the age of 58.

Lesbian anarchist and man-hater Valerie Solanas entered Andy Warhol’s sixth-floor office at 33 Union Square West on June 3, 1968, carrying two guns and a massive, paranoid grudge, and shot Warhol. No one would have guessed it would kill him 19 years later.

Two bullets from Solanas’ gun tore through Warhol’s stomach, liver, spleen, esophagus and both lungs. He was briefly declared dead at one point, but doctors were able to revive him. He spent two months in the hospital recuperating from various surgeries, and would be forced to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life to hold his organs in place.

The shooting had a major impact on Wahol’s life and work, even beyond the considerable physical scars it left. He became much more guarded, abandoning much of his filmmaking and more controversial art and focusing more on business, founding what became Interview magazine in 1969.

The shooting intensified Warhol’s fear and loathing of hospitals, though he embraced alternative health treatments like healing crystals. This reticence produced fatal results on February 21, 1987, when Warhol died of cardiac arrest suffered after gallbladder surgery, a procedure that he had delayed for several years due to his fear of hospitals. 

Learn more about the shooting of Andy Warhol by Valerie Solanas by clicking HERE

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's best 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 on such notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story. Back2Stonewall has been recently added to the Library of Congress' LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive. Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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