Tag Archives: An American Family

Gay History – January 18: The Gay King of America, Anita Bryant Wants to “Save The Children” and An American Family

Today in Gay History – January 18th.

1726, Germany – The man who might have been the first gay king of America was born in Berlin. Prince Heinrich of Prussia (pictured right above) was the brother of Frederick the Great who tried have him made King of America. The fledgling US even considered it during the period ruing the Article of Confederation, but, by the time the fickle prince agreed, the equally fickle American public had opted for the Constitution and a republic.

While it might seem far-fetched that a Prussian man would be accepted by the American people as their leader, it must be recalled that without the military leadership of the Prussian Baron von Steuben, our continental army would likely not have prevailed against the British. 

Three of Prince Heinrich’s affairs with younger men are documented: the 17-year-old French émigré Count of Roche-Aymon, Major Christian Ludwig von Kaphengst (1743-1800) and an actor known as Blainville.  

1928 – Betty Berzon (January 18, 1928 – January 24, 2006) is born. She was an American author and psychotherapist known for her work with the gay and lesbian communities. She was among the first psychotherapists to assist gay clients. After coming out as lesbian in 1968, she began providing therapy to gays and lesbians. In 1971, during a UCLA conference called “The Homosexual in America,” Berzon became the first psychotherapist in the country to come out as gay to the public. Also in 1971, she organized the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center as well as an organization of gays and lesbians within the American Psychiatric Association (the Gay Psychological Association, now known as the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues); the APA declassified homosexuality as a mental illness two years later. She is survived by Teresa DeCrescenzo, the president of Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services, whom Berzon met in 1973 and married during a mass wedding ceremony at the 1993 March on Washington.

In 2007, Ventura Place in Studio City was renamed Dr. Betty Berzon Place in her honor, making it the first street ever officially dedicated to a known lesbian in California. Also in 2007, the LGBT magazine The Advocate named Berzon one of 40 “heroes.” The Betty Berzon Papers (1928-2006) are at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.

1936 – Rev. James Lewis Stoll (January 18, 1936 – December 8, 1994) is born. In 1969, he becomes the first ordained minister of an established denomination to come out as gay. He led the effort that convinced the Unitarian Universalist Association to pass their first gay rights resolution.

1958 – Marci Lee Bowers (born January 18, 1958) is a US gynecologist and surgeon who specializes in gender confirmation surgeries. Dr. Bowers’ practice is at the San Mateo Surgery Center in Burlingame, California. From 2003 to 2010, she practiced in the town of Trinidad, Colorado, where she had studied under Stanley Biber before his retirement. Bowers married eleven years prior to her surgery, and remains married to her female spouse.

1973 – Viewers of An American Family 12-part television documentary shown on PBS about the lives of an “average” American family, the Louds, discover that son Lance (June 26, 1951 – December 22, 2001) is living as an openly gay man in New York City. Lance was an American television personality, magazine columnist and new wave rock-n-roll performer.

Lance Loud died of liver failure as a result of hepatitis C and a co-infection with HIV in 2001. He was 50 years old.

1975, Canada – The founding conference of the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario (CGRO) opens at Don Vale Community Center in Toronto. 

1977 – In Miami, Florida: Anita Bryant, a former beauty queen, launches a nationwide crusade against gay and lesbian rights in response to Dade County’s new municipal rights ordinance forbidding housing and employment discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Accusing lesbians and gay men of corrupting the nation’s youth, Bryant dubs her crusade the “Save Our Children” campaign. Miami-Dade County commissioners passed the ordinance with a vote of 5-3. Anita Bryant vows to defeat the ordinance at the ballot box. On June 7, 1977, Bryant’s hateful promise is fulfilled. Nearly 70 percent of voters opt to repeal the ordinance.

1996 – The wedding of Ross’s ex-wife Carol and her girlfriend Susan airs on Friends. Candace Gingrich (born June 2, 1966) guest stars as the minister. Candace is an American LGBT rights activist at the Human Rights Campaign. She is the half-sister of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is more than 20 years their senior.

1999, Zimbabwe – the first president of Zimbabwe, Canaan Sodindo Banana (5 March 1936 – 10 November 2003), already retired from the post, is convicted on 11 counts of sodomy. At the time, president Mugabe is scapegoating homosexuals as the reason for Zimbabwe’s ills. Banana serves six months of a 10-year sentence and moves to the UK for political asylum.

2004 – The L Word premieres on Showtime. The L Word is an American/Canadian co-production television drama series portraying the lives of a group of lesbians and their friends, connections, family, and lovers in the trendy Greater Los Angeles, California city of West Hollywood. The series originally ran on Showtime from January 18, 2004 to March 8, 2009, and subsequently in syndication on Logo and through on-demand services. 

Gay History – January 15, 1973: Remembering Lance Loud. America’s First OUT Gay Man On Television

Decades before Matt Bomer, Neil Patrick Harris, and Zachary Quinto there was a young man named Lance Loud who brought gay awareness, lifestyle and culture to millions of homes across America at a time when it was unheard of.

On January 15, 1973 Lance Loud came out on the PBS “series” An American Family. He was the first person to come out on national television.

Am American Family” An American Family, was a 12-episode reality documentary series broadcast in 1973 on PBS. The directors, Alan and Susan Raymond, were the first to install cameras into a real-life situation. They documented hundreds of hours of the lives of the Loud family of Santa Barbara, California. During the course of the filming, the marriage of Bill and Pat Loud imploded, they separated, and Pat filed for divorce. The documentary became a real-life soap opera and the progenitor of ”reality television,” in which private lives were captured for a national audience.

An American Family also delved into the lives of the Loud children, Delilah and Michele and brothers Kevin, Grant and oldest son Lance.

Lance was the first openly gay person depicted on television, and was shocking to an audience that had rarely witnessed frank portrayals of homosexuality on television. Lances scenes were of his true self, wearing blue lipstick, moving to the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, and introducing his mother to the gay underground music and art world of transvestites, hustlers and types of  gritty New Yorker’s that were never seen on television before and made an American Family a groundbreaking series first. (In 2001 Pat Loud  stating that the family were all probably aware of Lance’s sexual orientation beforehand. )

After the show ended Lance remained in New York for 10 years living in a Lower East Side apartment writing for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine and performing in a semi-successful rock band called the Mumps.

In 1981, Lance moved back to California, where he studied journalism. He was a regular contributor to such publications as the Advocate, Details and Interview. . He was a presence in Los Angeles’ gay community but shed his earlier flamboyance, saying he had “gone back into the closet; no more blue lipstick.” Over the years, he spent time working with animal rescue organizations.

Whenever “An American Family” was rebroadcast, Lance was cast back into the spotlight. A one-hour sequel, “An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later,” appeared on HBO in 1983. His mother reviled the original series, telling an interviewer once that she felt disgraced by it–”like letting your pants down in public.”

Lance himself always seemed puzzled by the notoriety accorded him by the series, which, he wryly observed, had “raised my family to the status of a recurring question on ‘Hollywood Squares.’

Four years later in 1987 Lance learned he had HIV.  He remained in good health except for occasional bouts with Hepatitis C  before his untimely death to AIDS

”It seemed like a medical miracle,” said friend Kristen Hoffman said. ”He just kept bouncing back.”

But in the end the years of partying and drug abuse took its toll..  After being told that his hepatitis C was now terminal  Lance wrote one last piece “a cautionary tale” about the health risks of his partying ways for The Advocate.

At the age of 50, Lance Loud passed away on December 22, 2001

As his final request, Lance wanted his parents to reunite. Bill and Pat honored his wish and are living together again.”

After Lance’s PBS presented  Lance Loud: Death in An American Family“>Lance Loud! A Death In An American Family, that commemorated the 30th anniversary of the original series broadcast and explored Lance’s legacy by looking back at scenes from the original documentary, examining the intervening years of Loud’s life and spending time with him in his final months.

Below is an interview Lance gave to Dick Cavett in 1973 after An American Family had aired.

The Advocate published Lance Loud’s final article after passing  in their January 22, 2002 issue.

Preface: Why Me?
What Did I Learn Last Year?

When The Advocate invited me to participate in its roundup of people sharing accomplishments in 2001, guilt bubbled right next to the pride I felt to be included in such an honor. Who was I to be included in an issue where everyone else presumably would be expounding about triumphs won over the past year? But my triumph came completely by coincidence. Like the recognition that had given me a voice in the public arena in the first place (I was in An American Family—PBS’s controversial 1973 TV documentary in which, still a teenager and more out of laziness than activism, I made no secret of my homosexuality, a “feat” considered brave at the time), this recognition is coming to me completely by accident.

And so I rationalized that in a sea of Advocate winners, some loser’s musings on his own mortality might just provide a fitting reflective glory to further flatter our issue’s winners. I don’t mind that; I am glad to help out. I have a lot in common with Lewis Carroll’s Alice (my favorite female literary heroine, besides Becky Sharp). I’ve been sent on a journey to places even bleach can’t reach. I know that I shall be very lucky indeed if Death looks like the Cheshire Cat, and even if I lose contact with my audience before his entrance, my audience—such as it is—will get as much death dirt as possible. I was, after all, a gossipy old pencil pusher in the bloom of health; no sense in letting that strong suit go.

So for a short part of this journey, you are there.

This year, you see, I not only got diagnosed with terminal hepatitis C but got checked into a local men’s hospice to await its final curtain. Though for years I had told myself that all my unbridled drinking, drugging, and unsafe sex were going to lead exactly here, I’d never really believed it.

But when the big showdown came, instead of laughing maniacally and swigging my tequila from one of my old Beatle boots, I had a response that was 180 degrees off. When I was told in the early summer that it was indeed just such outlaw ways that had been responsible for bringing me to my knees, I crumpled without any “damn the torpedoes” tribute to Billy the Kid or Bonnie and Clyde. I became a shadow, hunched over, round-eyed from fear, shuffling as I took my place in the long line of customers who are gathered here, part of a group with the same things in our mind, each of us grimly waiting to be served.

The bulk of my learning—if I may call it such—has come within the past three months, after I became a part of the fragile body of patients who make up an AIDS hospice. Here, surrounded by teams of supportive nurses, attentive doctors, and interns, one gently comes upon his own strengths and shortcomings.

So what was my “triumph” this past year? As with my “feat” on An American Family, I was, once again, merely myself. But over the course of 2001, my dormant hepatitis C and my HIV—both “silent partners” in governing my health till now—suddenly decided to step out from behind the curtain and take the spotlight. Check out uridine monophosphate for more information. I lived 18 years with HIV and 10 with hep C with very little more than a fleeting case of thrush. Now I find myself in a hospice with a limited-time warranty on my life.

“Dubious achievement,” anyone? Till now, yes. But the hep C–HIV numbers among gay men and women look to be far larger than originally expected and are rising every day. The fact that many gay men who carry the dual diagnosis are feeling fairly great, not feeling or showing signs of illness thanks to their drug cocktails or gym regimens, misleads many of those infected. I don’t know if hep C is called “the quiet killer,” but it easily could be, so unnoticeably does it nestle into your body before crankin’ up the screws and letting you race to figure out what’s going on.

Now I’m asked to put pen to paper and, in so many words, take you on a brief tour of the Rabbit’s hole that is swallowing me up. A peep into my own private dying process and what I’ve noticed over the past year as my surroundings get curiouser and curiouser. It’s not wild, but it is mysterious, and you’ll encounter some of the strangest thoughts en route to the main tunnel going straight down.
My “accomplishment” of being one of the first wave of gays to deal with the messy last stages of this dreary road to death speaks for itself. Despite this writer’s basic clumsiness and dull-wittedness, I will now tell the tale. Let’s break my list of “accomplishments” down into the four seasons, shall we? Think of it as a cautionary tale.

Part I: Winter ’01
Is There a Michelin Man in My Family Tree, or What?

Last winter, ’01, was typical of any year in recent times for me. Six years earlier, my gig writing a regular column for The Advocate had to, regretfully, be put out to pasture thanks to a full-time career as a crystal addict. I’d finally rehabbed from the drugs and drink, and I was a lonely hermit, presiding over my nine stray cats in a small one-room kingdom on a hillside in Los Angeles’s Echo Park, where I took many naps and read English rock magazines. I was not in great health—big shock. But I was feeling well enough to still say yes when a girlfriend asked me to accompany her to the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the spring to move her 18-year-old son for summer break.

Shortly after the three of us set upon his dorm room to dismantle it, a small but sharp twinge of pain registered just under my left kneecap. And it would not stop. In fact, it got worse. For the duration of the weekend and through the trip home, it got worse and worse. Damn my friend, I said to myself as it throbbed away. How could she have forced me into so much work? But on returning to L.A. and going to the doctor that following Monday, I found out it had little to do with a twisted knee. It was a septic infection that had settled under my left knee. But I still believed I was invincible and continued my old lifestyle.

However, it was only a couple of days later that I awoke one afternoon in Cedars-Sinai hospital. I don’t know how the day started out, but I had been found in a mud puddle near Echo Park Lake at 4:30 in the morning. At the hospital, I had accosted the nurses and doctors. I ripped out the I.V. needles leading into both my arms. Blood. More blood. Then there was my left leg. Sometime during the previous 48 hours, it had swollen to at least four sizes larger than the right one. The skin was shiny and tight. God was partway through inventing a new Pokémon—me. Though doctors told me I should stay in the hospital, I was having none of it. I returned home; me, the cats, and my little wooden house in the wilds of Echo Park. Ready to stick it out to the bitter end, little did I know, in terms of my domestic setup, that finality was about as close as the nearest Starbucks.

Part II: The Summer of My Incontinence.

Actually, bona fide incontinence waited until fall to make itself known. Still, as we passed the halfway mark of the year, I was not without plenty of disillusion. But as we crawled toward that final quarter of the year, waves of human degradation began breaking over my body. Daily bouts of catastrophic diarrhea suggested my intestinal tract was undergoing some sort of Chernobylish meltdown. My belly—for that is the only word with which to adequately describe my stomach—had grown taut as a kettle drum. My leg was now not only swollen and unusable but had developed a needles-and-pins sensitivity that completely obscured any other feeling. While my leg still tingled constantly in a most uncomfortable manner, I could be standing on a tack and not notice it. All this plus the fact that it seemed I was now racing to the hospital every couple of weeks for a six-hour transfusion session to replace the blood my body was not replenishing. This was leaving large gaps in my energy and hollows where my cheeks had once been. I was, in short, beginning to look a little like a WeHo version of the Crypt Keeper. After a few haunted weeks spent lurking between the sheets in my mother’s bedroom, it was decided to get me back into the hospital.

Part III: Waiting, waiting, waiting…

I thus spent August and part of September in hospital rooms about town. Perhaps there is no agony worse than the tedium I then experienced waiting for Something to Happen. I should say that when you’ve grown sick of reading and bug-eyed from watching TV, when your friends are all visited out and there’s nothing else to do, no words can adequately praise the link to the outside world provided by your parents and family. I was going insane. There was no exact diagnosis. The unspoken one, everyone knew.

Suddenly…news. Word came along the hospital jungle that they were booting me out. With the newfound gusto that a minimum-wage earner gets shortly before his work day ends and his allotted amount of work still remains to be finished, I was packed up and told I had to find myself a rest home to stay in. They did not tell me what was wrong or what could be done about it. Suffice it to say that this did not give me much hope.

Part IV: Revelations, Anyone?

You know those people who tell you they’ve forgotten how to cry and that they can’t anymore? I was one of them—until I crash-landed at the Carl Bean hospice facility on the northern tip of south-central L.A. It’s not because the facility is bad—on the contrary. The food is the best I’ve had in an institution—and believe me, by the end of the summer I had become quite the hospital food gourmand. The nursing and doctoring staff? No words can do justice to their efficiency, thoroughness, and all-around human compassion above and beyond the call of duty.

But what I learned in this situation is how easy it is for me to cry. Having been one of those who didn’t cry at anything, I am now faced with mortality, finding myself on a deserted beach on the brink of a saline washout. And forget about my family; just a sidelong look at my mom while visiting her home and watching her prepare dinner struck a gusher. Or my giving a toast at a dinner for my brother and sister: Halfway through, yours truly simply kidnapped the situation by bursting into a massive crying jag that left my sisters frozen, silent, and with two long tear-stained trails on their cheeks. Definitely not the most generous move to inaugurate a “happy occasion.”

Epilogue: This is the end, my friend

I recently read that “a sentence of death concentrates the mind wonderfully.” True, but you’ve got to be able to excuse yourself from what you can and can’t concentrate on. Beware flights of fancy. Surely it sounds great to finally envision the perfect rock band, the script that is right in front of your nose, the inevitable volume of memories that the world must see.

And you must be prepared to handle those “What to do?” moments. My doctor told my already-hysterical mother, “Pat, you’ve got to face it. You’re going to outlive Lance, so you may as well get prepared!” Neither of us felt good about that moment. Or the fight between friends when a dear pal blurted out to me that he’d speak well of me at my wake.

When will it happen? That’s certainly got to be number 1 on the most-often-asked-questions-of-myself list that I usually break out at 4:12 a.m., when no one’s around to answer. All I can hear is my own breath pulling like cotton through my nostrils. Now that I’ve gotten up enough nerve to ask the kindly doctors and nursing staff for some illumination, most likely they’ll turn such queries back on me, asking how long I think I’m going to live or telling me it’s all relative.

Still, I got the truth, though it came in a variety of vague replies. And the truth was not pleasant. After the question “Am I dying?” was met with responses that ranged from “What do you think?” to “Lance, everybody dies sooner or later,” salty tears were running down my cheeks.

Such attempts on my part to sleuth out a departure date are suddenly replaced by one of the staff breezily telling me that my liver has completely stopped operating. The ammonia now racing around in my body (which must be urine, though I haven’t got the nerve to clarify that salient point) is causing me to have memory lapses, and by that time I’m about ready to get back to discussing the food, the weather, anything, as long as it is superficial.

Oh, yes, it has been a year full of dark revelations, but without the fame or glory that might help offer someone else some little shred of solace if they are on the same road.

Lance Loud was a TRUE gay hero and icon and he should always be remembered.

Thomas Dekker To Potray Lance Loud In HBO’s "Cinema Verite," A Behind The Scene Look At "An American Family"

Thomas Dekker (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street”) has signed on to HBO Films’ “Cinema Verite,” a behind-the-scenes look at the 1973 groundbreaking documentary “An American Family,” Dekker, who will play Lance Loud, joins Tim Robbins, Diane Lane and James Gandolfini. Robbins and Lane will play his parents, Bill and Pat Loud, while Gandolfini has the role of “American Family” producer Craig Gilbert.

In 1971, Gilbert and his crew shot more than 300 hours of 16mm color film of Santa Barbara couple Bill and Pat Loud and their five children. After over a year of editing, the 12-hour documentary series aired on PBS in 1973.

Lance, 20 at the time, was openly gay, and the series depicted his life in New York City. As the first out character on television, he created national controversy and became an early LGBT icon.

Following the show’s airing, Lance returned to New York, where we was befriended by Andy Warhol and played in a punk band. He later moved to Los Angeles and worked as a journalist. For decades, he struggled with a drug problem and the hollowness of the fame that was foisted upon him at such a formative age. In 2001, at the age of 50, Lance died from liver failure, brought on by a coinfection of HIV and hepatitis C. A few months before his death, Lance asked two of the series’ original filmmakers, Alan and Susan Raymond, to film a final episode of his family’s story. The entire Loud family, save for one brother, agreed to participate in “Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family.”

Watch this 1973 Dick Cavett interview with Lance Loud.