Tag Archives: Today In Gay History

Gay History – January 26: Nikola Tesla Was Hot, The First Gay Wedding License, and RENT Opens Off B’Way

Today in Gay History – January 26

1886 – Serbian Nikola Tesla (July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was issued nearly 300 patents in the US for his ground-breaking career focusing on electricity. He was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current(AC) electricity supply system. Likely asexual, Tesla never married, explaining that his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities. Tesla chose to never pursue or engage in any known relationships, instead finding all the stimulation he needed in his work.

1958 — Comedian Ellen Degeneres (born January 26, 1958) is born. Degeneres is the first star of a television sitcom ever to come out — in 1997 — to the public, an act many see as having dramatically improved the climate for LGBT actors, though she almost instantly lost her show. Her current success in daytime talk television was unforeseeable at the time and she had no reason to think she would not have to go back to stand-up comedy clubs forever at the time she risked her television career.  In 2008, she married her longtime girlfriend Portia de Rossi (born 31 January 1973),  Australian and American actress, model, and philanthropist.

1971 –Look Magazine includes a gay couple from Minnesota, Jack Baker and Mike McConnell, as part of that week’s cover article on “The American Family.” Baker and McConnell are also noteworthy as they are the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to be granted a marriage license.

Jack Baker and Mike McConnell were married by a young Methodist minister in Mankato, MN in 1971. Baker had legally changed his name to the gender-neutral Pat Lynne McConnell to get the marriage license. By the time the state of MN figured  out that the bride was actually a male it was already too late. The two were officially married.

While Minnesota did try to null and void their marriage Baker and McConnell fought back furiously and predicted they would win eventually, but the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that their marriage was illegal. However, their license was never revoked

1996 – Rent opens off Broadway in the New York Theater Workshop for a six-week run. The creator, Jonathan Larson (February 4, 1960 – January 25, 1996), died unexpectedly the morning of Rents first preview performance Off Broadway. He suffered an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, in the early morning on January 25, 1996. 

Rent is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini‘s opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City‘s East Village in the thriving days of bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of poverty and HIV/AIDS.

2011, Uganda – David Kato Kisule (c. 1964 – 26 January 2011), founding member of Sexual Minorities Uganda, is murdered. He was the founder and leader of the LGBT rights movement in Uganda where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. He was a Ugandan teacher and LGBT rights activist, considered a father of Uganda’s gay rights movementand described as “Uganda’s first openly gay man”. He served as advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Kato was murdered in 2011 allegedly by a male sex worker, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine which had published his name and photograph identifying him as gay and calling for him to be executed.

Gay History – January 19: Alexander Woolcott and the Algonquin Round Table, Janis Joplin, and Hubert Humphrey

Today in Gay History – January 19

1887 – American theatre critic Alexander Woollcott (January 19, 1887 – January 23, 1943) is born in Phalanx, New Jersey. He was an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine, theater critic for the New York Times and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table.

Woollcott was one of the most quoted men of his generation. Among Woollcott’s classics is his description of the Los Angeles area as “Seven suburbs in search of a city”—a quip often attributed to his friend Dorothy Parker. Describing The New Yorker editor Harold Ross, he said: “He looks like a dishonest Abe Lincoln.”

Woollcott was renowned for his savage tongue. He dismissed Oscar Levant, the notable wit and pianist, by observing, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with Oscar Levant that a miracle can’t fix.” He often greeted friends with “Hello, Repulsive.” When a waiter asked him to repeat his order, he demanded “muffins filled with pus.”

His judgments were frequently eccentric. Dorothy Parker once said: “I remember hearing Woollcott say reading Proust is like lying in someone else’s dirty bath water.’ 

The origin of the 10-year lunches lies in a June 1919 gathering at the Algonquin Hotel. The occasion was to welcome columnist Woollcott home from the war, but the tribute, studded with barbs, quips, puns, wisecracks, and repartee, was something more akin to a roast. A tradition was established. The round table replaced a long rectangular one a year later, though the group always preferred to call their clique the Vicious Circle

Members of the Round Table included:

Wollcotte was the inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside, the main character in the play The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939) by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and for the far less likable character Waldo Lydecker in the film Laura (1944). Woollcott was convinced he was the inspiration for his friend Rex Stout’s brilliant, eccentric detective Nero Wolfe, an idea that Stout denied.

1901 – New York Times reports story of Tammany Hall politician Murray H. Hall (1841 – January 16, 1901). Murray (born Mary as it turned out) lived as a male for decades, married women twice, and was found to be female-bodied only after he died of breast cancer. Murray Hall was a New York City bail bondsman . The headline reads: “Murray Hall Fooled Many Shrewd Men – How for Years She Masqueraded in Male Attire – Had Married Two Women.”

Hall was buried in women’s clothes in an unmarked grave in Mount Olivet Cemetery.

1943 – Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) is born in Port Arthur, Texas. She was an American rock singer and songwriter and one of the biggest female rock stars of her era.

Friend and neighbor Peggy Caserta claims to have had an affair with Janis over several years.

Peggy on her relationship with Janis Joplin:

“It worked for what it was. We had a lot of fun. We made a lot of love. It wasn’t a relationship that people think of or look at today as a ‘lesbian relationship.’ It was not like that at all. We were compatible and young and wild and interested in each other.

Joplin’s official cause of death was a heroin overdose, possibly compounded by alcohol. On August 8, 2014, the United States Postal Service revealed a commemorative stamp honoring Janis Joplin, as part of its Music Icons Forever Stamp series during a first-day-of-issue ceremony at the Outside Lands Music Festival at Golden Gate Park.

1974 – A Lesbian Conference is organized by Gay Women’s Collective and held at the Montreal Women’s Center. The small group of women who take part agree to hold a major conference for lesbians in North America the following year. 

1976 – Campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey becomes one of the first nationally known politicians to endorse gay and lesbian rights.

Via PBS:

Humphrey left behind a legacy few presidents can match. As a soldier of the New Deal and the Great Society, he amassed one of the most prolific legislative records in senate history, sponsoring hundreds of bills—from Medicare to the Peace Corps to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. But Humphrey’s most enduring achievements were in the areas of civil and human rights. Propelled to party prominence during the 1948 Democratic National Convention, the 37-year-old mayor of Minneapolis delivered an historic speech directly challenging the racist leadership of the U.S. Senate. Almost two decades later, Humphrey’s extensive network of church and civil rights leaders helped him to break the longest filibuster in senate history, resulting in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

*Many thanks to Ronni Sanlo for compiling this timeline from multiple sources including Back2Stonewall.com, Quist, Lavender Effect, DataLounge.com, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm, Safe Schools Coalition, and/or Wikipedia.

Fictional Gay History – January 6, 1854: Happy Birthday Sherlock! – The Mysterious Gay (Closet) Case of Sherlock Holmes & Watson

January 6, 1854 –  On this is the date, Arthur Conan Doyle tells us his most famous character Sherlock Holmes was born.  Although a figment of Doyle’s imagination, and despite many denials by literary historians Holmes friendship with his assistant Dr. Watson leaves very little to the reader’s imagination in many of his famous adventures. 

EXHIBIT 1:

We have these quotes which are taken verbatim from Dr Watson’s narrations.

The Yellow Face, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

One day in early spring he (Holmes) had so far relaxed as to go for a walk with me in the Park, where the first faint shoots of green were breaking out upon the elms, and the sticky spearheads of the chestnuts were just beginning to burst into their fivefold leaves. For two hours we rambled about together, in silence for the most part, as befits two men who know each other intimately

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

“This gentleman,” said he, with a wave in my direction. “Is it discreet? Is it right? “Dr Watson is my friend and partner.” [said Holmes].

The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

“I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again, Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and the last time in my life. Certainly a grey mist swirled before my eyes, and when it cleared I found my collar-ends undone and the tingling after-taste of brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending over my chair, his flask in his hand.”

EXHIBIT 2:

And let us not forget the Holmes story “The Three Students” where Watson states that he and Holmes had left London quickly and secretly for reasons which could not be gone into. This story is set in 1895 which is the same year that Oscar Wilde was on trial for “gross indecency”.  Some people argue that Doyle had Holmes fled London for fear of being dragged into the scandal.

VERDICT:

Is elementary my dear Watson.

GAY!

Happy Birthday Sherlock you old Queen!

Today In Gay History: January 5th. – Feminist Lesbians and the Body Politic & Pink Triangle Press

The Body Politic (magazine) - Wikipedia

January 5, 1925Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the first female governor inaugurated in the U.S. She may not have been a lesbian, but she was one of the first feminists to gain political office.

January 5, 1977The Lesbian Organization of Toronto moves to new center at 342 Jarvis Street, sharing with feminist publication The Other Woman and coffeehouse called Three of Cups.

January 5, 1978 – In 1971 Pink Triangle Press, as we know it today, is born as The Body Politic Collective.

In 1978 the Toronto Police brought charges against The Body Politic/Pink Triangle Press (which is still in existance today and specializes in LGBT media including publishing, online interactive media, and television and the LGBT magazine, Xtra! ) was charged with “publishing immoral, indecent and scurrilous material” because of an issue of The Body Politic which included Gerald Hannon‘s article “Men Loving Boys Loving Men” under Criminal Code section 159 (“possession of obscene material for distribution”) and section 164 (“use of the mails for purpose of transmitting anything that is indecent, immoral or scurrilous”).

Four years later The Body Politic/Pink Triangle Press was brought up on similar charges again in May 1982, this time for “Lust With a Very Proper Stranger”, an article on fisting.

The Body Politic/Pink Triangle Press fought both charges and eventually won

In 1987 The 135th, and final, issue of The Body Politic is released in February.  The new publication Xtra  is released adapting to changing times and the void left by The Body Politic, the paper becomes increasingly politicized. Xtra becomes a place for discussion about the defeat of Ontario NDP Bill 167, criminalization of HIV/AIDS, and the censorship struggles of Vancouver’s Little Sister’s and Toronto’s Glad Day queer bookstores.

The Body Politic: a magazine for gay liberation; #69, December,  1980/January, 1981; Smile! You're on TV! by The Collective and Tim  McCaskell, David Mole, Gary Ostrom, Leo Casey, Martha Fleming, Michael  Lynch,

Historicist: I Sing The Body Politic

Gay History – January 2, 1857: Martha Carey Thomas Feminist Lesbian Educator and Suffragist Born

Martha Carey Thomas was born in Baltimore, Maryland January 2, 1857.

Thomas an American educator and suffragist went on to become the dean and later president of Bryn Mawr University.

Growing up, Thomas was strongly influenced by the staunch feminism of her mother and her mother’s sister Hannah Whitall Smith who became a prominent preacher in their Quaker religion. Her father, a physician, was not completely happy with feminist ideas, but his daughter was fiercely independent and he supported her in all of her independent endeavors. Though both her parents were orthodox members of the Society of Friends, Thomas’ education and European travel led her to question those beliefs and develop a love for music and theater, both of which were forbidden to Orthodox Quakers.

Thomas went to Sage College, a women’s school at Cornell University.

She graduated from Cornell University in 1877.  Cornell offered her both the position of professor of literature and dean of Sage College, but she did not consider either.

She did graduate work in Greek at Johns Hopkins University but withdrew because she was not permitted to attend classes. She did further graduate work at the University of Leipzig, but that university did not grant degrees to women. She then went to the University of Zurich and earned a Ph.D. in linguistics, summa cum laude, in 1882 for her dissertation which was a philological analysis of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This dissertation continued to be highly regarded by specialists eighty years later.She was the first woman and the first foreigner to receive such a doctorate from the university. She then spent some time in Paris, where she attended lectures by Gaston Paris at the Sorbonne, and then went back home to the United States.

In 1882, Thomas wrote a letter to the trustees of Bryn Mawr College, requesting that she be made president of the university. However, she was not granted the position as the trustee were concerned about her relative youth and lack of experience.  Instead, Thomas entered in 1884 as the dean of the college and chair of English.

Continue reading Gay History – January 2, 1857: Martha Carey Thomas Feminist Lesbian Educator and Suffragist Born

LGBT History – December 20, 1957: Frank Kameny Fired from Government Job For Being Gay.

 

In 1957 Frank Kameny was a Harvard educated, WWII veteran working for the Army Map Service until the Government found out he was gay and fired him which started the events that would make Kameny one of the greatest gay activist heroes of our time.

Kameny described the event in Making History

“When I was on assignment in Hawaii in November or December of 1957, I got a call from my supervisor in Washington, D.C., to come back at once. I told him that whatever the problem, it could wait a few days, and I returned to Washington at the end of the week. As soon as I got back, I was called in by some two-bit Civil Service Commission investigator and told, “We have information that leads us to believe that you are a homosexual. Do you have any comment?” I said, “What’s the information?” They answered, “We can’t tell you.” I said, well, then I can’t give you an answer. You don’t deserve an answer. and in any case, this is none of your business.” I was not open about being gay at that time — no one was, not in 1957. But I was certainly leading a social life. I went to the gay bars many, many evenings. I’ve never been a covert kind of a person, and I wasn’t about to be one simply because I was working for the government. I’ve never been one to function on the basis that Big Brother may be looking over my shoulder.

So they called me in, and ultimately it resulted in my termination. They did it the way the government does anything: They issued a letter. They said they were dismissing me for homosexuality. I was in shock.

Keep in mind I had been training all of my life for a scientific career, for this kind of occupation. I was not at all familiar with the job market. When I was thrown out, I had nowhere to go. Perhaps if this had happened five or ten years later, I would have had a professional reputation to fall back on, but in this case I didn’t. For a long time I applied for jobs in astronomy, but there was nothing. Ultimately, in 1959, I got a job doing something in physics. My bachelor’s degree is in physics, in the area of optics.

But meanwhile, I had decided that my dismissal amounted to a declaration of war against me by my government. First, I don’t grant me government the right to declare war on me. And second, I tend not to lose my wars.

And so the battle began.

Kameny went on to co-found the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., which in 1963 launched a long campaign to overturn the federal employment ban on gay people and to overturn the district’s sodomy law.

In April of 1965, Kameny organized the first picket line in front of the White House in support of gay rights and was also an instrumental player in the fight to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. In 1971, he became the first openly gay candidate for the U.S. Congress when he ran for D.C’s non-voting Congressional delegate. In 1975, the U.S. Civil Service Commission notified him that they had changed their policies and were now allowing gay people to work in federal jobs and  in 2009, the U.S. government officially repudiated Kameny’s firing when John Berry, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management who delivered a formal apology during a special OPM ceremony in his honor.

Upon receiving the apology, Kameny tearfully replied, “Apology accepted.”

Frank Kameny passed away in 2011 at the age of 86 in Washington, D.C.

Frank Kameny Childhood Residence – NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

Gay History Month- October 21, 1985: Dan White The Man Who Murdered Harvey Milk Commits Suicide – Read His Full Confession

Dan White and Harvey Milk

October 21, 1985Dan White, the man who murdered both Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, commits suicide.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay individual to be elected to office in California. White a fellow San Francisco supervisor assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Milk, on Monday, November 27, 1978, at San Francisco’s City Hall.  In a controversial verdict that led to the coining of the legal slang the”Twinkie Defense,” White was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. White served five years of an only seven-year prison sentence.

White’s release was carried out with great secrecy. The afternoon before his scheduled release, he was transferred 200 miles south to a facility in the Tehachapi mountains north of Los Angeles. The next morning, he was handed over to the Los Angeles Parole Department which had arranged for an apartment for him somewhere in LA. He was given $200 in cash, the standard amount given to released prisoners. The press was given no information other than that White had been secretly released and his parole was not to exceed one year. White remained in hiding for a period of nine months During that period, he contacted his old friend, San Francisco Detective Frank Falzon, whom he had not talked to since the trial. White invited Falzon to join him in L.A., saying that he wanted to explain the whole thing.

Falzon claimed that at that meeting, White confessed that not only was his killing of Moscone and Milk premeditated, but that he had actually planned to kill Carol Silver and Willie Brown as well. Falzon quoted White as having said, “I was on a mission. I wanted the four of them. Carol Ruth Silver, she was the biggest snake … and Willie Brown, he was masterminding the whole thing. (Meaning his not being to withdraw his resignation from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.)

Less than two years after his release, Dan White returned to San Francisco, methodically taped a garden hose to the tailpipe of his car , stuck the other end through a car window, turned on the ignition and died. In his hands, he clutched photographs of his three children and his wife.

Dan White did not kill himself out of guilt.  He did it because his killing Harvey Milk was going to follow him for the rest of his entire life.

Scott Smith, Milk’s lover and business partner, said he was “stunned” by White’s death but not upset. “He got away with murder,” Smith said. “I suppose what goes around comes around.”

Many refer to Dan White even today as ” The most hated man in San Francisco’s history.” 

And rightfully so.

Please take a few minutes to read Dan White’s confession to the murder of  Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk. Also watch the video below: Dan White News Footage Of Arrest, Trial & The White Night Riots.

Continue reading Gay History Month- October 21, 1985: Dan White The Man Who Murdered Harvey Milk Commits Suicide – Read His Full Confession

Gay History Month – October 24: Cole Porter, Paul Lynde and TIME Magazine’s 1969 Article “The Homosexual in America.”

Today In Gay History: October 24th.

44 B.C.:  Marcus Tullius Cicero; Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist when talking about his relationship with Mark Antony when he was younger, insinuated that he ‘established him (Mark Antony) in a fixed and stable marriage, as if he had given you a stola.’  A stola is the traditional garment of a married Roman woman. ‘Although Cicero’s sexual implications are clear, the point of the passage is to cast Anthony in the submissive role in the relationship and to impugn his manhood in various ways.  Please don’t tell Cleo. 

1926: The New York Times prints a book review of Dr. Joseph Collins’ The Doctor Looks at Love and Life.” Dr. Collins countered the claim that homosexual love is pathological and that homosexuals are psychopaths or neurotic, saying that he knew many well-balanced homosexuals of both sexes who have distinguished themselves in various fields from arms to the pulpit. He also stated that “Genuine homosexuality is not a vice, it is an endowment.”

1937: Legendary composer and songwriter Cole Porter’s legs are crushed when the horse he was riding while out in the Hamptons falls on top of him.

1966: Paul Lynde makes his first appearance on the game show Hollywood Squares and it becomes the gayest show on television without knowing it.  Or maybe they did.!

 1969 : Just a mere 4 months after the riots at the Stonewall Inn  TIME Magazine’s weekly cover story is “The Homosexual in America.”

It was not kind.

The article stated:

Homosexuals are present in every walk of life, on any social level, often anxiously camouflaged; the camouflage will sometimes even include a wife and children, and psychoanalysts are busy treating wives who have suddenly discovered a husband’s homosexuality. But increasingly, deviates are out in the open, particularly in fashion and the arts. Women and homosexual men work together designing, marketing, retailing, and wrapping it all up in the fashion magazines. The interior decorator and the stockbroker’s wife conspire over curtains. And the symbiosis is not limited to working hours. For many a woman with a busy or absent husband, the presentable homosexual is in demand as an escort –witty, pretty, catty, and no problem to keep at arm’s length. Rich dowagers often have a permanent traveling court of charming international types who exert influence over what pictures and houses their patronesses buy, what decorators they use, and where they spend which season.

The once widespread view that homosexuality is caused by heredity, or by some derangement of hormones, has been generally discarded. The consensus is that it is caused psychically, through a disabling fear of the opposite sex. The origins of this fear lie in the homosexual’s parents. The mother–either domineering and contemptuous of the father, or feeling rejected by him–makes her son a substitute for her husband, with a close-binding, overprotective relationship. Thus, she unconsciously demasculinizes him. If at the same time the father is weakly submissive to his wife or aloof and unconsciously competitive with his son, he reinforces the process. To attain normal sexual development, according to current psychoanalytic theory, a boy should be able to identify with his father’s masculine role.

Lack of procreation or of marriage vows is not the issue; even Roman Catholic authorities hold that an illicit hetero sexual affair has a degree of “authentication,” while a homosexual relationship involves only “negation.” Roman Catholic thought generally agrees that homosexuality is of and in itself wrong because, as New York’s Msgr. Thomas McGovern says, it is “inordinate, having no direction toward a proper aim.” Even in purely nonreligious terms, homosexuality represents a misuse of the sexual faculty and, in the words of one Catholic educator, of “human construction.

Even in purely nonreligious terms, homosexuality represents a misuse of the sexual faculty and, in the words of one Catholic educator, of “human construction.” It is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste—and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.

Ten years later Time would publish another gay-themed cover story, this one titled “How Gay is Gay”, which offered a  more positive and accurate portrayal.

1978: Diana Ross stars as Dorothy in the movie version of The Wiz, which opens in theaters. It’s not nearly successful as the Broadway musical.

1981: The first National Conference on Lesbian and Gay Aging took place in California. Sponsored by the National Association For Gay and Lesbian Gerontology, it sought to “dispel myths about older lesbians and gay men, advance research, establish programs and services for lesbian and gay elders, and encourage and provide support for lesbian and gay gerontologists.”

1987: Elizabeth Kirby Lewallen was named the new president of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays at the organization’s Sixth International convention in Washington DC.

1992: Thirty-five religious leaders in northwest Vermont joined to condemn two acts of hate-motivated violence, one anti-gay and one anti-Semitic.

LGBT History Month – The Life and Death of Rock Hudson and His Impact on the AIDS Epidemic (November 17, 1925 – October 2, 1985)

In the 1985 Rock Hudson, a leading Hollywood actor, became the first major hollywood celebrity to die of AIDS-related complications.

While his career developed in 1950’s Hollywood, Rock Hudson and his agent Henry Willson kept the actor’s personal life out of the headlines. In 1955, Confidential magazine threatened to publish an exposé about Hudson’s secret homosexual life. Willson stalled the article by disclosing information about two of his other clients. Willson provided information about Rory Calhoun‘s years in prison and the arrest of Tab Hunter at a gay party in 1950. According to some colleagues, Hudson’s homosexual life was well known in Hollywood throughout his career, and former co-stars Elizabeth Taylor and Susan Saint James claimed that they knew of his homosexuality, as did Carol Burnett.

Soon after the Confidential incident, Hudson married Willson’s secretary Phyllis Gates. Gates filed for divorce after three years in April 1958, citing mental cruelty. Hudson did not contest the divorce and Gates received alimony of $250 a week for 10 years. Gates never remarried.

An urban legend states that Hudson “married” Jim Nabors in the early 1970s. Not only was same-sex marriage not recognized under the laws of any American state at the time, but, at least publicly, Hudson and Nabors were nothing more than friends. According to Hudson, the legend originated with a group of “middle-aged homosexuals who live in Huntington Beach” sent out joke invitations for their annual get-together. One year the group invited its members to witness “the marriage of Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors”, at which Hudson would take the surname of Nabors’ most famous character, Gomer Pyle, becoming Rock Pyle.

The “joke” was evidently already in the mainstream by the very early 1970s. In the October 1972 edition of MAD magazine (issue no. 154), an article entitled “When Watching Television, You Can be Sure of Seeing…”, gossip columnist ‘Rona Boring” (a take on then gossip columnist Rona Barrett) states: “And there isn’t a grain of truth to the vicious rumor that movie and TV star Rock Heman and singer Jim Nelly were secretly married! Rock and Jim are just good buddies! I repeat, they are not married! They are not even going steady!”  Those who failed to get the joke spread the rumor and as a result, Hudson and Nabors never spoke to each other again.

Shortly after Hudson’s press release disclosing his illness, William M. Hoffman, the author of As Is, a play about AIDS that appeared on Broadway in 1985, stated: “If Rock Hudson can have it, nice people can have it. It’s just a disease, not a moral affliction.”

At the same time, Joan Rivers was quoted as saying: “Two years ago, when I hosted a benefit for AIDS, I couldn’t get one major star to turn out. … Rock’s admission is a horrendous way to bring AIDS to the attention of the American public, but by doing so, Rock, in his life, has helped millions in the process. What Rock has done takes true courage. Morgan Fairchild said that “Rock Hudson’s death gave AIDS a face. In a telegram Hudson sent to a September 1985 Hollywood AIDS benefit, Commitment to Life, which he was too ill to attend in person, Hudson said: “I am not happy that I am sick. I am not happy that I have AIDS. But if that is helping others, I can at least know that my own misfortune has had some positive worth.”

Hudson, a friend of Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy, made a simple plea to the White House for help to get him transferred to a hospital in France in his greatest hour of need. 

“Only one hospital in the world can offer necessary medical treatment to save life of Rock Hudson or at least alleviate his illness,” Dale Olson, Hudson’s longtime friend and publicist wrote. Although the commanding officer had denied Hudson admission to the French military hospital initially, Olson wrote that they believed “a request from the White House … would change his mind.”

First Lady Nancy Reagan denied Hudson’s the request.

On the morning of October 2, 1985, Hudson died in his sleep from AIDS-related complications at his home in Beverly Hills at age 59, less than two months before what would have been his 60th birthday. Hudson requested that no funeral be held. His body was cremated hours after his death and a cenotaph was later established at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cathedral City, California.

Hudson’s revelation had an immediate impact on the visibility of AIDS, and on the funding of medical research related to the disease. Among activists who were seeking to de-stigmatize AIDS and its victims, Hudson’s revelation of his own infection with the disease was viewed as an event that could transform the public’s perception of AIDS.

Rest in Peace Rock.

Gay History – August 21, 1983: La Cage aux Folles Opens on Broadway! [Video – Full Show]

On this day in gay history the musical La Cage aux Folles (Yea Theatre Queens!) with a book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman opened on Broadway in 1983.

Based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, it focuses on a gay couple: Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when Georges’s son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée’s ultra-conservative parents to meet them. La cage aux folles literally means “the cage of mad women”. However, folles is also a slang term for effeminate homosexuals (queens).

According to Playbill Radio program director Robert Viagas, La Cage aux Folles predated the widespread “Ellen,” “Will & Grace” and “Queer Eye”-type recognition. “La Cage opened in a time when gays were just starting to be accepted and homosexuality was just starting to be talked about openly,” Viagas said. “A Chorus Line opened the door and then [came] Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy. La Cage took it a step further showing to a general audience that gays could actually form stable, long-term relationships and even raise children. The message of La Cage could be phrased as ‘Honor your mother — even if she’s a man.’ That was a revelation at the time, at least in the mass media.”

The early-season musical would beat out the rest of the year’s competition — including shows like Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s The Rink and David Shire and Richard Maltby, Jr.’s Baby — taking home the top trio of musical prizes for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. Actor Hearn, director Laurents and costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge would bring the show to a topping tally of six awards.

The original production starred George Hearn as Albin and Gene Barry as Georges

Watch the full musical performed by the American Musical Theatre of San Jose starring: Lee Roy Reams, George McDaniel, Ray Reinhardt, and Steven X. Ward below.

Souces: Playbill