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’sThe 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.
On this day in 1956, WRCA-TV (now WNBC) aired an award-winning weekly panel discussion program called “The Open Mind”. The program, hosted by Richard Heffner, was not only well ahead of its time when it first went on the air in May 1956, it is still an acclaimed syndicated program on American Public Television,
Heffner and The Open Mind hosted the first televised discussion on the East Coast on homosexuality. The Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder featured a review of the program by Sten Russell (real name: Stella Rush).
“The moderator asked if the homosexual could accept himself if society didn’t accept him. The conclusion was that it was very difficult, indeed. The moderator asked if there were cultural factors in the present making for more homosexuality. Miss Kelley asked if homosexuality were [sic] growing or just being more talked about. She cited Kinsey’s books as examples. The moderator said that the matter of national “security” had focused attention on this problem. He mentioned blackmail potential as part of the “security problem”.
Laidlaw said that a homosexual was not necessarily neurotic or psychotic, but that he was more likely to be in certain ways, due mainly to the pressures of public opinion which caused him to have to hide and cover up his actions and desires. Dean Swift was concerned as to the shock children experienced when approached by adult males. Laidlaw said that that depended on the predisposition of the child. Miss Kelley said that she was not worried about the “predisposition of the child,” but that the American Law Institute wished to protect any child from the traumatic shock of any sexual attack.”
Despite the misinformation and prejudices,the show was as even handed as it possibly could have been at the time which outraged the New York Archdioceses of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Francis Spellman started a war with the station and threatened to go to the FCC to have the NBC affiliate’s broadcasting license revoked.
That didn’t stop Heffner or WRCA. They scheduled another program on homosexuality just two months later which was followed by another in January. The episodes covered topics including whether homosexuality should be treated as a criminal or a medical matter, nature vs. nurture as the cause of homosexuality and how society indoctrinates young people into gender roles
Unfortunately no surviving tape of this episode still exists just this one still shot below.
In England until 1861, the penalty of “buggery” was reduced to “merely” life imprisonment but that change came almost thirty years too late for British Army Captain Henry Nichols who was sentenced to death and executed.
In 1833, the London Courier printed the following:
Captain Henry Nicholas Nicholls, who was one of the unnatural gang to which the late Captain Beauclerk belonged, (and which latter gentleman put an end to his existence), was convicted on the clearest evidence at Croydon, on Saturday last, of the capital offence of Sodomy; the prisoner was perfectly calm and unmoved throughout the trial, and even when sentence of death was passed upon him. In performing the duty of passing sentence of death upon the prisoner, Mr. Justice Park told him that it would be inconsistent with that duty if he held out the slightest hope that the law would not be allowed to take its severest course. At 9 o’clock in the morning the sentence was carried into effect. The culprit, who was fifty years of age, was a fine looking man, and had served in the Peninsular war. He was connected with a highly respectable family; but, since his apprehension not a single member of it visited him.
A first-person narrative poem written* in 1833 under the name of *Lord Byron titled *Don Leon” was a signal piece of literature: the first overt literary defense of homosexuality in English.
It opens with a scene said to be inspired by Captain Nicholls:
Thou ermined judge, pull off that sable cap! What! Cans’t thou lie, and take thy morning nap? Peep thro’ the casement; see the gallows there: Thy work hangs on it; could not mercy spare? What had he done? Ask crippled Talleyrand, Ask Beckford, Courtenay, all the motley band Of priest and laymen, who have shared his guilt (If guilt it be) then slumber if thou wilt; What bonds had he of social safety broke? Found’st thou the dagger hid beneath his cloak? He stopped no lonely traveller on the road; He burst no lock, he plundered no abode; He never wrong’d the orphan of his own; He stifled not the ravish’d maiden’s groan. His secret haunts were hid from every soul, Till thou did’st send thy myrmidons to prowl, And watch the prickings of his morbid lust, To wring his neck and call thy doings just.
*NOTE: Don Leon is a 19th-century poem attributed to Lord Byron celebrating homosexual love and making a plea for tolerance. At the time of its writing, homosexuality and sodomy were capital crimes in Britain, and the nineteenth century saw many men hanged for indulging in homosexual acts. But unfortunately its narrative and notes several incidents that happened after the poet the Lord Byron’s 1824 death it obviously could not have been written by him.
1905: Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations (1953-1961), is born in in Jonkoping, Sweden. Hammarskjold will die in a plane crash in what was then the Belgian Congo under mysterious circumstances in 1961 . Secretary General Hammarskjold is the first SG to die while holding office. President John F Kennedy referred to him as “The greatest statesman of our century,” and he was posthumously awarded the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize. While it is rumored that Hammarskjold was homosexual, it never seems to have been proven in any consequential way. Still, we honor his birthday here for the amazing leaps he made toward world peace as the Secretary General.
1967: Ian Campbell Dunn writes to Antony Grey, secretary of the Homosexual Law Reform Society in London, about establishing a chapter in Scotland. Grey refuses because of problems with another branch.
1975: The Annual Conference of the Metropolitan Community Church is held in Dallas, Texas. Among the speakers was Elaine Noble, who was the first person to be elected to public office while running openly as a lesbian. Noble was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for two terms starting in January 1975. She was the first openly lesbian or gay candidate elected to a state legislature
1981: Tennis player Martina Navratilova is outed by reporter Steve Goldstein of the New York Daily News. But comes out publicly through a column written by Skip Bayless. After all is said and done very few are surprised she’s a lesbian. And very few actually care.
1984: John O’Connell is brutally murdered by five men who drove to San Francisco looking for “some fags to beat up.” The assailants were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to prison terms of 15 years to life.
A 9 p.m. in the Polk Street district, a favorite area of homosexuals, two men walking along the street were accosted by four of the Vallejo group, one of them shouting anti-homosexual epithets.
John O’Connell, 42, suffered two blows and fell to the pavement. The medical evidence was that it was the fall, not the blows, that produced the cerebral trauma that caused death.
The defendants left the scene laughing
In 1989 a California Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, reduced the convictions to involuntary manslaughter, ruling that the two bare-handed blows struck by the assailants in a 1984 sidewalk attack were not sufficiently life-threatening .
“The appeal court said correctly that a slap and a punch do not make a murder,” said Maureen R. Kallins, a San Francisco lawyer. “This was a classic example of a hysterical jury verdict . . . and a classic example of being tried by the press.”
1986: Chicago’s city council defeats a gay rights bill by a vote of 30-18.
1987: U.S. President Ronald Reagan nominates homophobic judge Robert Bork to the US Supreme Court. He would be rejected by the senate 58-42.
1987: The International Lesbian and Gay Association’s 9th annual conference begins in Cologne, West Germany.
1993: Seven years after legalizing gay sex, New Zealand’s parliament amends the Human Rights Commission Amendment Act, outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation (“heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or lesbian”) or HIV, passing Parliament after only 1 1/2 days of debate but intensive lobbying. It exempted the Government until December 31, 1999.
1998: Famed choreographer and director Jerome Robbins (pictured above), dies at age 79, four days after suffering a stroke. Among the numerous stage productions he worked on during his career were On the Town, Peter Pan, High Button Shoes, The King And I, The Pajama Game, Bells Are Ringing, West Side Story, Gypsy: A Musical Fable, and Fiddler on the Roof. Robbins was a five time Tony Award winner and a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. Robbins also received two Academy Awards, including the 1961 Academy Award for Best Director with Robert Wise for West Side Story.
But not all was success and high-points for Robbins. In the 1950’s, Robbins found himself swept into the whirlwind of the McCarthy era and, as a former Communist, pressured by the FBI to name the names of party associates at hearings held by The House Committee on Un-American Activities. (HUAC). For three years he resisted. But threatened by exposure of his homosexuality, he at length agreed to testify before HUAC and named eight people. Robbins himself never spoke of his testimony publicly; in his journal he wrote, “Maybe I will never find a satisfying release from the guilt of it all.”
1998: The U.S. House of Representatives votes 214-212 in favor of a bill to withhold federal housing money to San Francisco because of the city’s policy welcoming private companies contracting with the city that offer domestic partner benefits equal to those offered to married employees.
2002: The federal government of Canada decides to appeal an Ontario Superior Court ruling which supported gay marriages. Less than a year later the government loses the appeal and introduces legislation legalizing gay marriage.
2003: Bishop Fred Henry of the Catholic diocese of Calgary, Alberta, in Canada, warns Canada’s (straight) catholic Prime Minister that the PM risks jeopardizing his “eternal salvation” by introducing legislation legalizing gay marriage. Prime Minister Jean Chretien ignores the warning and introduces the legislation anyway.
2006: The first World Outgames opens in Montreal, Quebec, with about 18,600 participants from 111 countries as conference delegates, athletes, volunteers or participants. About a half million spectators attended the Outgames, an athletic event set up after a quarrel with the long-established Gay Games.
Jacopo Bonfadio was born in Garda, Italy in 1508 and was educated at Verona and Padua.
Beginning in 1532, he worked as secretary for various members of the clergy in Rome and Naples. In 1540, he gained employment in Padua with the son of Cardinal-humanist Pietro Bembo. While working for Bembo’s son, he met and became friends with notable humanists of the time and was a contemporary of Annibal Caro.
In 1541, Bonfadio among others, coined the term una terza natura, meaning ‘nature improved by art’, and subsequently, many designers utilized the concept. Large-scale views of the Medici villas, the grand vistas of Louis XIV, and the planning of 16th-century and later English country houses show how this idea was incorporated.
Bonfadio’s humanist views earned him some powerful enemies in Genoa. In 1550, after he had completed Annales Genuendis, ab anno 1528 recuperatae libertatis usque ad annum 1550 (his history of the Republic of Genoa from 1528 to 1550), his writings angered the powerful Genoese families the Dorias, the Adornos, the Spinolas, and the Fieschi, who sought revenge against him for daring to record and judge their actions. They proceeded to accuse him of sodomy, for which he was arrested, tried, and condemned to death.
Bonfadio was beheaded, and his body was burnt.
Unfortunately the minutes of his trial have been lost forever.
1939: Ludwig Alexander Hirtreiter, aka Rex Gildo, German singer of ‘schlagers’, born in Munich. Hirtreiter aka Gildo reached the height of his popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, selling over 25 million records and also starring in film and television roles.
Gildo died in 1999 aged 63, having spent three days in an artificially-induced coma after attempting suicide by jumping from the window of his apartment building. He was said to have been suffering “psychological problems”. After his death, it was reported that he had been gay and involved in a relationship with Dave Klingeberg, his secretary with whom he lived, for seven years.
1953: The Los Angeles Herald-Express reports that the state department in California had fired 531 sex perverts and other security risks. The number of homosexuals fired was 425. Note: during the McCarthyist period from 1947 to 1953 more people lost their jobs for being homosexual than for involvement with the Communist party in which McCarthy was aided by the ice cold sleaze queen and deeply closeted homosexual Roy Cohn.
1969: Responding to the fourth and final night of ongoing Stonewall riots on Christopher Street New York police arrived and beat the demonstrators with nightsticks, leaving many many victims bleeding but in the end more then double the amount of police were injured during the riots than LGBT activist.
1970: A group of American Lutheran leaders issues a statement calling for an end to sodomy laws and the passage of legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
1974: In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Derksen Printers refuses to print Understanding Homosexuality, an educational publication by Gays for Equality. Group pickets printing plant.
1975: During a joint meeting of the National Organization of Women, the Austin Women’s Political Caucus and Women’s Equality Action League, the Austin Lesbian Organization is invited to give a presentation on lesbianism.
1986: By only a single vote New Zealand’s parliament allows final debate to begin on a proposed law to lower the age of consent for gay sex to 16 and legalize gay sex. The bill eventually passes.
1989: Employees of the US Internal Revenue Service who were members of the National Treasury Employees Union receive a new contract which included protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. But to this day it does not appear in internal ethics material.
1994: Italy’s “First National Demonstration of Gay and Lesbian Pride” takes place in Rome.
In the early 1950’s, the entire country was in the grips of the Red Scare as Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy was conducting his witch hunts. One of his main platforms would be the Senate’s Subcommittee on the Investigation of Loyalty of State Department Employees. While McCarthy’s main targets were imaginary Communists in the State Department, gay employees were also seen as “subversives” in need of rooting out.
Both homosexuals and Communist Party members were seen as subversive elements in American society who all shared the same ideals of antitheism, rejection of the middle-class morality, and lack of conformity. In the eyes of the Government they were seen as scheming and manipulative and, most importantly, would put their own agendas above others in the eyes of the general population. McCarthy also associated homosexuality and communism as “threats to the ‘American way of life’.” Homosexuality was directly linked to security concerns, and more government employees were dismissed because of their homosexual sexual orientation than because they were left-leaning or communist. George Chauncey noted that, “The specter of the invisible homosexual, like that of the invisible communist, haunted Cold War America,” and homosexuality (and by implication homosexuals themselves) were constantly referred to not only as a disease, but also as an invasion, like the perceived danger of communism and subversives
Among the more high-profile targets was Samuel Reber, a twenty-seven year career diplomat who announced his retirement in May of 1953 after McCarthy charged that he was a security risk — which was a barely-concealed code for homosexual. By then, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had already responded to McCarthy’s witch hunt by signing an executive order mandated the firing of all federal employees who were deemed guilty of “sexual perversion,” whether proven or not. Eisenhower also announced a re-organization of the State Department. Rep. Charles B Brownson, an Indiana Republican with his own lesser-known witch hunt underway in the House Government Operations Committee, asked the State Department for a progress report in rooting out homosexuals.
March 24, 1987 – ACT UP stages its first major demonstration on Wall Street in New York City.
Outraged by the government’s mismanagement of the AIDS crisis, LGBT and straight allies unite to form the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. ACT UP.
ACT UP’s first demonstration takes place three weeks later on March 24th, 1987 on Wall Street, the heart of the the financial center in NYC, to protest the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies (especially Burroughs Wellcome, manufacturer of AZT). Over 250 people participated in the protest and seventeen were arrested.
ACT UP’s flyer for the event listed its demands:
NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL!
Come to Wall Street in front of Trinity Church at 7AM Tuesday March 24 for a
MASSIVE AIDS DEMONSTRATION
To demand the following
1. Immediate release by the Federal Food & Drug Administration of drugs that might help save our lives.
These drugs include: Ribavirin (ICN Pharmaceuticals); Ampligen (HMR Research Co.); Glucan (Tulane University School of Medicine); DTC (Merieux); DDC (Hoffman-LaRoche); AS 101 (National Patent Development Corp.); MTP-PE (Ciba-Geigy); AL 721 (Praxis Pharmaceuticals).
2. Immediate abolishment of cruel double-blind studies wherein some get the new drugs and some don’t.
3. Immediate release of these drugs to everyone with AIDS or ARC.
4. Immediate availability of these drugs at affordable prices. Curb your greed!
5. Immediate massive public education to stop the spread of AIDS.
6. Immediate policy to prohibit discrimination in AIDS treatment, insurance, employment, housing.
7. Immediate establishment of a coordinated, comprehensive, and compassionate national policy on AIDS.
President Reagan, nobody is in charge!
AIDS IS THE BIGGEST KILLER IN NEW YORK CITY OF YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN
The first few minutes of the clip below from Fight Back Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP and the tweet from ACT UP below is the only remaining footage of the first protest.
Today is the anniversary of our first-ever action on Wall Street in March 24, 1987. 32 years later, we are STILL fighting for access to costly HIV treatment and prevention drugs. pic.twitter.com/nt9AOQT2LH
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 Rent‘s 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.
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 rightsactivist, considered a father of Uganda’s gay rights movement[ and 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.
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.
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.”
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.