Thursday, 29 May 2014

Stravinsky's Craft-y Outing

Last year a new biography of the composer Igor Stravinsky was published. It became the latest in a long line of biographies in which the subject’s sexuality was “outed”. For Stravinsky the word used to describe this sexuality was “ambisexual”.
The biography, titled “Stravinsky: Discoveries and Memories”, was written by Robert Craft who for 23 years acted as the composer’s collaborator on many projects. The two first met in 1948 when Craft was 24 and Stravinsky was 65. Their relationship was purely professional, though they became close friends. Craft collaborated on many of Stravinsky’s works and recordings, though he also had his own career as a conductor and writer. Their close friendship meant that Craft was privy to many of Stravinsky’s private thoughts and memories, and these formed the basis of the new biography.
The ambisexual revelations came from the period in Stravinsky’s career before Robert Craft was born. During a short period beginning in 1910 it appears that the composer found himself falling in love with several men, and enjoying the company of other composers, musicians and dancers who all dabbled in same-sex relationships.
The first of these relationships which Craft mentions is that of Stravinsky’s love for Andrei, the son of another famous composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The Rimsky-Korsakov family were to become almost like his own. Stravinsky came to regard Nikolai, at that time the greatest living Russian composer, as his second father after the death of his own from cancer in 1902.
It was during his time studying under Rimsky-Korsakov that Stravinsky fell in love with Andrei, as he told Robert Craft. Stravinsky was actually married by this time and had two children. It was also at the start of his “Russian Period” when he was writing ballets for the impresario Sergei Diaghilev (incidentally, the two men are related – their great-great-grandmothers were sisters).
The first of these ballets for Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes was “The Firebird”. It was an overnight success and shot Stravinsky to stardom. He dedicated the ballet to Andrei, but he was bitterly disappointed by Andrei’s absence from the premiere of “The Firebird” in Paris. Almost immediately afterwards Stravinsky began writing his next ballet, “Petrushka”.
After the rejection of Andrei, according to Robert Craft, the composer’s romantic attentions were turned towards another composer, the Belgian Maurice Delage. During Spring 1911 they spent three weeks at the latter’s Paris home. Also invited was Prince Vladimir Argutinsky-Dolgorouki, described in several sources as “notoriously homosexual”. Exactly what went on will be a subject of speculation for a long time, but I think the fact that Stravinsky sent Delage a photo of himself – in the nude – gives us just a tantalising hint.
“Petrushka” premiered a couple of months later, again in Paris. And, once again, it was a huge success, due in so small part to dancer taking the lead role, the great Vaslav Nijinsky.
Working closely in the homosexual circle of Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes for several years must have had some influence on Stravinsky’s work. Yet it is strange how his third and final ballet for Diaghilev, “The Rite of Spring”, has been described as “the epitome of masculinity in music”. Whether it is or not, there is no doubt that it created something of a shock to the ballet-going public when it premiered in 1913. In the words of another gay associate in Paris, Jean Cocteau, “All the elements of a scandal were present”. Afterwards Stravinsky, Diaghilev and Nijinsky went to a restaurant where Diaghilev commented “Exactly what I wanted”.
Much has been written about Nijinsky’s performance as the lead dancer. A more detailed account of the ballet would be better left for a separate article in the future. Stravinsky’s music was one of the elements which stood out as innovative.
Stravinsky’s relationship with Diaghilev produced some of the greatest music of the early 20th century, yet the need to speculate on any romantic relationship seems immaterial. Working with such a close group as the Ballet Russes Stravinsky found a kind of love which helped to create innovative pieces, whether his love for fellow men was platonic or otherwise. Before and after this brief three-year period he lived a vigorously heterosexual life.
Many musicologists and critics have questioned Robert Craft’s interpretation of Stravinsky’s words and letters. What it really boils down to is who was most closely associated with Stravinsky and in the best position for make an informed opinion?

Monday, 26 May 2014

Heritage Spotlight - Queer Music Heritage

One of the biggest resources for historians is the internet, and for the music industry this provides an ideal means of preserving its aural heritage.

QueerMusic Heritage (QMH) is one of the best online resources for anyone interested in the history of lgbt popular music of all genres. What isn’t covered by QMH is classical music. It is the brainchild of J. D. Doyle (b.1947). Although he didn’t start collecting records seriously until the 1970s the music of his childhood provided the basis for his first collection. The 1950s saw the start of the modern pop music industry and the charts, but Doyle also collected records of all genres during this period – musicals, international artists, cabaret, etc.

In the 1990s Doyle began to concentrate on collecting music with lgbt connections – queer music – by sexuality of the recording artist or content of lyrics. Selling most of his collection, the part which had no queer connections, he began to amass what could be considered to be the world’s biggest collection of queer music in private hands. Added to this are almost 15 years of monthly broadcasts and other archive material. He also extended his range of collection to include recordings from the 1920s right up to the most recent MP3 file.

Doyle’s move into broadcasting began in 2000 after he made several requests to a producer at the KPFT radio station in Houston, Texas, to play more queer music. The producer gave him a slot on his lgbt “After Hours” programme, and this led to Doyle being offered a regular slot co-hosting a programme called “Queer Voices”.

Queer Music heritage began as a 30-minute segment on “Queer Voices” but has since been extended and has occasionally lasted several hours. QMH airs once a month and takes a specific theme for each broadcast.

Most of Doyle’s broadcasts also include interviews with artists, and this provides an authoritative record of their work. Interviewees have included Janis Ian, Tom Robinson, RuPaul, and Randy Jones of The Village People.

If you want to get a good idea of the range of genres and periods QMH covers go to this index page, or go to the chronological list of broadcasts here.

Queer Music Heritage has provided inspiration for many of my past and future articles for this year’s celebration of music, and I hope you find QMH as informative and entertaining as I do.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Out Of Their Trees : An Asia-Pacific Family Heritage

In over 30 years of researching family trees most of the work has been concentrated on Europe-based ancestries. I didn't think it would be easy to find an lgbt musician whose ancestry I could look into to celebrate both this Asia-Pacific Heritage Month and my 2014 theme of music. By researching the ancestry of songwriter and rock guitarist June Millington I not only found hundreds of ancestors on her American father's side but also quite a lot of information on her mother's Asia-Pacific ancestry.

June Millington found her first taste of musical success in a girl band she formed at high school. After several name changes the band got their first recording contract under the name of Fanny. They were the first all-female rock band to release an album with a major record label, Reprise Records. In 1986 June and her partner Ann Hackler founded the Institute for the Musical Arts, a non-profit organisation which supports women's involvement in the musical arts.

June's father, John Millington, was a lieutenant-commander in the US navy. During World War II he served in the Far East and the Philippines. As mentioned in my article last week the Philippines were occupied by the Japanese during the war and John was part of the liberating forces in 1945. He married Yolanda Leonor Limjoco in 1947. Like other Filipinos Yolanda and her family suffered through the Japanese occupation. Unlike Willem Nijholt (see that previous article) who was an Allied nation citizen Yolanda's family weren't made prisoners of war but still suffered hardship.

June Millington probably got most of her musical talent from her mother. After the family had moved to the US in 1961 Yolanda became an active member of several local folk dance groups. I don't think there's many people around who, like June Millington, can say that thier mother was a keen belly dancer!

Yolanda's family were well-connected before the Japanese occupation and afterwards their friends and relations became senior figures in national, regional and ecclesiastical circles.

Yolanda's maternal grandfather, Francisco Lejano (1868-1954), was leader of the municipal government of Nasugbu between 1914 and 1917. During this time he acquired the nickname "Kapitan Isko". Before the invasion of 1942 Francisco, by then well into his 70s, was still a leading community figure, as was Angel Limjoco who was married to his daughter and was Yolanda's father.

Angel's family had impressive connections. They were a wealthy family and many of them attended university in the Philippines, as did Yolanda before the war. Angel's older brother Gregorio studied medicine and became close friends with another student, one Manuel Quezon, who went on to become President of the Philippines between 1935 and 1944. President Quezon became godfather to Gregorio's daughter. Several members of Angel's family fought in the guerilla war against Japanese occupation.

Angel Limjoco's mother, Hospicia Trivinio, came from a more modest family, one with solid working-class roots in the Philippine jungle. Hospicia's own mother may even have a connection to another Philippine president. The Magsaysay family is a large one, and its not impossible that Hopsicia's mother, Marcela Magsaysay, was related to Ramon Magsaysay, President from 1953 to 1957, whose own ancestors came from the same area.

Returning to the Limjoco family their roots can be traced as far back as 1770 in the Batangas region where there are still many of June Millington`s cousins living today.

As with most families there are legends. One Limjoco family legend tells how they descend from a Chinese pirate called Lim Ah Hong.

Lim Ah Hong was something akin to a privateer of Elizabethan England in that he attacked Spanish galleons and "relieved" them of their Aztec gold. Some people would call him a pirate. He settled in the Philippines and had many wives and mistresses and countless children. Through the Spanish influence on the islands his name gradually altered from Lim Ah Hong to Limjoco (Spanish pronunciation making "j" sound like "h"). Whether or not this is the true origin of June Millington's mother's family, I wouldn't be surprised it there was a line of descent from the pirate, given that he had so many children and so many descendants.

So that's June Millington's Asia-Pacific ancestry through her mother. At some stage in the future I may write about her father's ancestry and his own links to 2 presidents (of the USA).

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Flower Power : Flowers Fit For The Queen

This week the annual Chelsea Flower Show is taking place. Today's article is another in which I turn the focus away from flowers and onto someone who has exercised his own Flower Power.

Michael Goulding (1933-2013) was, like Ian Cooke, a judge at the Chelsea Flower Show, but it was his flower arrangements for the Royal Family which were Michael's forte. His father, Stephen Goulding, was an insurance agent, so perhaps he hoped his son would have a career in the financial sector. However, a hint to Michael's actual career path can be found in his grandfather Edward. Edward Goulding was a park-keeper for a municipal council, and he eventually ended up as Superintendent of Parks to some of the Victorian London parks.

Michael's first job after leaving school was as a messenger for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London. Indeed, when in suit and tie Michael looked every inch a stockbroker himself.

Floristry was something he took up after his National Service. Horticulture was his starting point, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. Michael started working for a friend, Thomas Rochford, at his plant nurseries in Cheshunt Wash in Hertfordshire. It was Rochford who encouraged Michael to enrol in the country`s oldest specialist institutes which offered courses in horticulture and agriculture, Writtle College.

At Writtle Michael`s tutor, Harold Piercy, himself a highly respected florist, recognised his natural ability for flower arranging. Also at Writtle Michael met Sheila Macqueen, the "first lady of flower arranging". They remained friends until Sheila's death in 2008. Sheila had been a royal florist whose career spanned from the Queen`s coronation in 1953 to the wedding reception of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981. Michael would, no doubt, have been greatly influenced by Sheila`s own "Flower Power" and gave him an insight into designing grand displays for royal occasions.

Michael`s royal wedding connection stretches to the most recent. Michael began working for Pulbrook and Gould, a floral business on Sloane Street, London. He was tutor to Shane Connolly. Using his own experiences in royal occasions and drawing on influences from Sheila Macqueen Michael was instrumental in shaping Shane`s own floral displays and avenue of trees in Westminster Abbey for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

Michael left Pulbrook and Gould to set up his own business. His talents were in high demand from many clients, including some of the leading stately homes and historic buildings in the country - Blenheim Palace, Woburn Abbey and York Minster, for example. For one commission, an international government summit, he closed the whole of the Tower of London for three days to decorate the Jewel House with flowers. He also provided displays for nine successive Prime Ministers.

It is acknowledged that Michael`s first major achievement were the floral displays he produced for the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral in 1977, the Queen`s Silver Jubilee year. It is considered to be the best he ever designed.

In 1990 Michael received an OBE for services to floristry. He continued to work up to 2000 when his last commission was to decorate the private apartments at Windsor Castle for the Queen Mother`s 100th birthday.

Michael loved to share his passion for flowers with others. He wrote several books on flower arranging which have been published in many editions. Together with his partners, first Stuart Hamilton and later with his Civil Partner Michael Coates, he opened his own gardens to the public for over 40 years. The UK has an annual event where thousands of private gardens open to the public for a while to raise funds for charity. Michael`s gardens often raised more than any other in the region.

From the Queen`s Silver Jubilee to the wedding of William and Kate the work and influence of Michael Goulding has brought a splash of colour and a wave of floral fragrance to many major royal occasions and special places, and his own garden brought joy to many people for over 50 years. Michael truly had Flower Power.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Queer Achievement : Recent News

A significant event in the history of equality took place last week. Its not something which most people will care about much, but for heraldists like myself it is one of the most important changes in tradition to have occurred in recent years. In a way, though, it could also be seen as a return to previous practice.

The change of which I write is the manner in which a same-sex married couple can now display their coats of arms together. This follows another change which regular readers of my Queer Achievement articles will already know about. Several years ago the heralds began using pink triangles and the rainbow Pride colours in new coats of arms to indicate the lgbt community. Its a recent change which I have been using in my own artwork.

So, getting back to the point, what is the new change all about? For this we need to look at how a husband and wife have displayed their marital coats of arms since Medieval times. First of all both of them must have their own coat of arms, either by inheritance or grant. Their arms are placed side by side on the same shield - the husband`s on the left and the wife`s on the right (described heraldically, left and right are reversed, as if you are holding the actual shield from behind). The rules are different if the wife is an heiress, but we won`t go into that today.

From last week same-sex married couples have been allowed to display their arms in this manner. Civil Partnerships are not covered by heraldic rules yet.

Way back in the first months of this blog in 2011 I wrote about one same-sex couple, Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe. They are one of only 4 or 5 same-sex couples who displayed their arms in this manner in the Medieval period, indicating a close personal or romantic relationship that was accepted as a form of marriage.

In the above photo of the gravestone of Sir William and Sir John (taken from you can see their joint coat of arms on the shields. I`ll return to these arms in a future Queer Achievement article.

Now people like Sir Elton John can display his arms with that of his husband David Furnish. That is, when David Furnish applies for his own arms he can. At the moment the way they will be allowed to display the full achievement (Sir Elton's full achievement shown below, granted in 1986) is by displaying Sir Elton`s coat of arms without all the badges and insignia of the honours he has received, because, as yet, English law does not permit a husband (like David Furnish) to assume the rank and precedence of a titled spouse. If David was a woman he would be called Lady, but since he isn't a woman he can`t yet share Sir Elton's honours, only his shield, the Pan crest and the motto.

Back to the new rule - when and if David gets a coat of arms he will be able to do what Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe did in 1391 and show his marital coat of arms in the way that women have had the right to use since heraldry began.

I`m sure there`s a same-sex married couple somewhere who have their own coats of arms and can take advantage of the new rule. I'll keep looking and let you know if I find any.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Star Gayzing : Out Of This World VI

Continuing my series on asteroids named after lgbt people we reach those asteroids discovered between 1990 and 1994. As before I’ve quoted from the original citations and added extra information were necessary. The numbers before the names are the asteroids’ official number.

(7015) Schopenhauer           Discovered 16 Aug. 1990. Name published 22 Feb 1997. “Named for the celebrated German philosopher of pessimism, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)…His main work was ‘The World as Will and Idea’ (1819), wherein he develops the fundamental idea that ‘the world is my representation’. The world is only comprehensible with the aid of the constructs of man’s intellect—space, time and causality.”

(9342) Carygrant       Discovered 6 Aug 1991. Name published 20 Nov 2002. “Cary Grant (Archibald Leach, 1904—1986), born in Bristol, England, was much appreciated in the movie ‘To Catch a Thief’ (1955)...”. There is a lot of speculation about his sexuality, and his relationship with Gary Cooper in particular.

(11061) Lagerlöf        Discovered 10 Sept. 1991. Name published 24 Jan. 2000. “Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) wrote beautiful stories, using popular tales of her Vaermlandian homeland... Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1909, she was the first female member of the Swedish Academy.”

(79144) Cervantes Discovered 2 Feb. 1992. Name published 18 Sept. 2005. “Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) was a Spanish novelist best known for ‘Don Quijote’ (1605). In his eight comic sketches ‘Entremeses’, he introduced elements from the novel, creating clear pictures of the everyday life of his time...” Cervantes wrote about the joys of boy love in northern Africa.

(7020) Yourcenar      Discovered 4 Apr. 1992. Name published 27 Sept 1996. “Named in memory of the French-Belgian-American writer Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987). Well known for her novels, essays and short stories, she also did translational work. In the historical novel “Mémoires d’Hadrien” (1951), she explored the world and thoughts of the fascinating 2nd-century Roman emperor… In 1980 she became the first woman writer to be elected to the prestigious French Academy.”

(39557) Gielgud         Discovered 2 May 1992. Name published 9 Nov. 2006. “Renowned for his portrayal of Hamlet in 1936, British actor John Gielgud (1904-2000) later played all the major Shakespearean roles. Also known for his more popular performances, he won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony, these last two awards for Best Supporting Actor in ‘Arthur’ (1981) and for directing ‘Hamlet’ (1961).”

(22341) Francispoulenc        Discovered 8 Aug. 1992. Name published 22 July 2013. “French composer Francis Poulenc (1899–1963) put to music poetry from the avant-garde poets Apollinaire, Eluard and Aragon. His most popular song is ‘Les Chemins de l’Amour’ (1940). Poulenc’s religious devotion led to compositions such as ‘Sabat Mater’ (1950) and ‘Dialogues des Carmelites’ (1953).”

(8382) Mann               Discovered 23 Sept. 1992. Name published 10 June 1998. “Named in memory of Heinrich (1871-1950) and Thomas Mann (1875-1955), born in Lübeck, both prominent German writers and social critics. In 1930, Heinrich became director of the section ‘Art of Creative Writing’ of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Thomas received the 1929 Nobel Prize for literature. After emigrating in 1933, they later settled in the United States.”

(11298) Gide  Discovered 2 Sept. 1992. Name published 20 Mar. 2000. “André Gide (1869-1951), the French writer, humanist and moralist, is well-known for his novel ‘Les Faux-Monnayeurs’ (1926). Gide’s lifelong emphasis was on the self-aware and sincere individual as the touchstone of both collective and individual morality. In 1947 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.”

(6871) Verlaine          Discovered 23 Jan. 1993. Name published 3 May 1996. “Named in memory of the well-known French poet-symbolist Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)… In his early work he declared himself as doomed, a “poète maudit”, torn between a mystic search for pureness and demonic sensuality. Alcohol ruined his health and mind, during a libertine and bohemian existence with his friend, the poet Arthur Rimbaud.”

(27792) Fridakahlo                Discovered 20 Feb. 1993. Name published 26 Sept. 2007. “Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican painter who depicted the indigenous culture of her country in a colourful realistic, symbolistic and surrealistic way.”

(9617) Grahamchapman       Discovered 17 Mar. 1993. Name published 20 Mar. 2000. “Graham Chapman (1941-1989) was a member of ‘Monty Python's Flying Circus’, the internationally popular British television series of the 1970s known for its pioneering irreverent comedy.” All of the other members of the Monty Python team have asteroids named after them, as does Monty Python itself (no. 13681).

(7307) Takei               Discovered 13 Apr. 1994. Name published 26 Sept. 2007. “George Takei (b.1937) is an actor best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in the original ‘Star Trek’ television series. He also has a lengthy record of public service through his involvement with organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League and the Human Rights Campaign”


Asteroids that are not named after lgbt people but have lgbt links.

(5405) Neverland       Discovered 11 Apr. 1991. Name published 1 Sept 1993.Named after the world famous play ‘Peter Pan’, written by Sir James M. Barrie (1860—1937) and later adapted into an animated film by Walt Disney. Never Land is a fantastic island floating among the stars, where Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and many others dwell...” J. M. Barrie was particularly fond of (and attracted to) the Llewellyn-Davies children. One of them, Michael, was the role model for Peter Pan. Michael died aged 21 in a suicide pact with his boyfriend.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Remembering the Far East

As the US celebrates Asia-Pacific Heritage Month I turn to the Far East for May's entry in my Year of Remembrance. Today we'll look at several war veterans who, although they survived the war, saw and endured suffering in the Far East during World War II. This is a lengthy article, and I decided not to split it up over several days as I feel it deserves to be complete.

The article features 3 gay men who experienced that war from 3 different perspectives - invasion, capture/internment, and liberation.

Willem Nijholt was born on Java in what is now called Indonesia, and what was then called the Dutch East Indies, in 1934. His parents were Dutch and his father was a sergeant in the Royal Netherlands East Indian Army. When he was aged 8 the Japanese invaded the islands. This was at the beginning of 1942 just a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Java was the last of the Dutch Indies to be captured, the inhabitants having lived in fear of the formidable might of the Japanese advancement through the islands.

The neighbouring Philippines fell to the Japanese in May 1942. Consequences of this will be related in a couple of days in relation to the ancestry of an lgbt singer.

As nationals of an enemy country the Nijholt family were interned in a concentration camp. Willem's father, however, was soon sent to work on the infamous "Death Railway", the Thai-Burma railway. It was the last Willem would see of his father until 1948.

The Thai-Burma Railway was one of the worst horrors of the war in the Far East. Not only was the jungle environment overbearingly hot and humid for the non-stop labour enforced upon the prisoners, but disease was hardly dealt with. If a prisoner had a nasty and painful puss-filled ulcer on his leg a Japanese guard would kick it. If the prisoner didn't cry out in pain he was sent back to work. If he DID cry out in pain he was shot. Only very few escaped this treatment.

The railway was built to complete the supply route from the bottom of Malaya to Rangoon in Burma. Construction began in June 1942 and thousands of POWs were transported as slave labour, including Willem Nijholt's father. One British POW who also laboured on the railway was Dudley Cave.

Dudley was serving the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and was captured at the fall of Singapore in Febrary 1942, just a month before the invasion of the Dutch East Indies. He was one of many lgbt service personnel in the British army. At the time there was no forced discharge of known homosexuals, and Dudley later recalled how gay men, even though subjects of verbal abuse, were tolerated in times of war. Dudley was sent to work on part of the railway 10 miles north of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.

Most of the men in Dudley's sections died from exhaustion, malnutrition or disease. Dudley himself caught malaria and only the forceful persuasion of a POW doctor saved him from the type of execution I mentioned earlier. Dudley found himself back in Singapore in Changi Prison.

The distance from Europe and the speed with which the Japanese conquered the Far East was an important factor in the time it took for the Allies to come up with an effective co-ordinated response, bearing in mind there was still the war against the Nazis in Europe to deal with.

During 1944 the Allies broke through the Japanese sea defences and were advancing. They now has the upper hand. The USA did a remarkable feat of mobilising their forces after Pearl Harbor. Their main focus of attack was on the occupied Asian-South Pacific islands. In the Philippines this began at New Year 1945 with the attempt to liberate the main north island and the capital Manila.

HQ I Corps of the US army moved south from the Lingayen Gulf encountering heavy bombardment from two sides.  They were forced to dig trenches in the sand with their helmets. Technical Sgt. Elmer Lokkins was serving with I Corps as it landed at Lingayen Gulf pushed towards Manila, giving up a post as clerk in the Adjutant General's office to join the invasion force. Manila was reached on 22nd February 1945 and fell to the Allies a few days later. The liberation of the Philippines was achieved, and Elmer earned the Philippine Liberation Medal. The liberation also saw many American servicemen remaining on the isalnds for a while. One was to marry a local girl and was the father of the subject of my "Out Of Their Trees" article in a couple of days.

Liberation for the Dutch East Indies and Burma came with the surrender of Japan on 2nd September 1945. Allied troops from around the world converged on south-east Asia to start the clean-up and the restoration of order and legitimate government. My own father was one of these troops.

Dudley Cave and Willem Nijholt were released from their prisons and repatriated to Europe. Willem's mother suffered greatly from the experience and spent some time in hospital on the return to her home town in the Netherlands.

Despite the horror and trauma of experiencing the war in the Far East all gay men featured in this article went on to achive some significance in other fields in later years and there was a happy ending, of sorts, for all of them.

Willem Nijholt became a well-known Dutch entertainer and actor. In 2011 he was knighted by Queen Beatrix for services to the arts. Willem's memories of the war included those of friends and neighbours he lost touch with. Last year he traced a childhood friend who had also been a POW. Their reunion in Amsterdam after more than 70 years captured the attentin of the Dutch media (you can watch the reunion here).

Dudley Cave went on to become one of the leading figures of the gay rights movements in the UK during the 1960s. In 1955 he met his life-partner, and ex-RAF pilot, and they were together for over 40 years. Dudley encountered discrimination which led to the loss of several jobs which fuelled his zeal for change, and he saw the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK come to fruition in 1967. He was also a leading light in the fight for gay rights and equality within the Unitarian Church of which he was a lay preacher, and the church's belief in tolerance was instrumental in his own decision to promote peace and reconciliation with the Japanese.

Elmer Lokkins returned to the US in June 1945 and almost immediately met his life-partner Gus Archilla. They were together until Gus's death in 2012. In 2003 they married in Canada and became involved in the Marriage Equality movement in the US. They appeared together at many Pride events as role models for marriage equality, gay rights and lgbt veterans. Elmer died last year on 12th October, National Coming Out Day (UK), at the age of 94.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Medal Quest : Another Ozzie Opening.

Tomorrow night the 3rd Asia-Pacific Outgames in Darwin, Australia, begins with a lavish opening ceremony. We've become used to such things in recent decades. As I write this I'm deprived of my research. Both my PC and laptop with back-up file died on my lest weekend Rather than leave a gap in the schedule I'll fall back on my print material and archives and look back at a previous Australian opening ceremony, Sydney 2000, and what were undoubtedly the campest and gayest of all Olympic ceremonies.

I've mentioned these ceremonies very briefly before (here and here), particularly the closing ceremony, so today we'll have a closer look at the opening ceremony in celebration of tomorro night's event.

First of all a word about the organisation of Olympic ceremonies. Each ceremony is made up of several segments - usually: a welcome, arrival of dignitaries, several cultural segments, athlete's parade, Olympic flag raising, official speeches, and finally the lighting of the cauldron. In overall charge is the Director of Ceremonies, and next in line is the person most often recognised in reference to ceremonies, the Artistic Director (e.g. Danny Boyle for London 2012). Each segment is allocated to a second director with the Artistic Director having the final say on what is included. The Artistic Director may often direct some segments personally.
Director of Ceremonies for Sydney 2000 was Ric Birch, with David Atkins as Artistic Director. Neither men are gay, but throughout the opening ceremony there were many lgbt people who helped to create the spectacle.

Acting as overall Choreographic Director was Doug Jack, one of the greatest figures in Olympic ceremonies. Doug had been involved in Olympic ceremonies since Barcelona 1992 when he was chosen by Ric Birch (the Barcelona consulting director) to create the marshal role at the athlete's parade, and to direct the welcoming segment. Like David Atkins, Doug had several other people under his supervision who worked on the choreography of specific segments for Sydney 2000. Once again Doug directed the athlete's parade and also choreographed parts of several other segments (including the segment pictured above).

Moving from overall responsibility to the separate segments the most significant lgbt contributor was Ignatius Jones. Philippine-born Ignatius had lived in Sydney since 1963 and was a singer and performer before becoming an events organiser. Ignatius got the ball rolling in Sydney 2000 by directing the welcoming segment featuring 120 horsemen, and the arrival of the dignitaries and the Australian national anthem.

Ignatius and David Atkins became a formidable creative team and they were responsible for the ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Ignatius also directed the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2002 Gay Games.

Later in the 2000 Olympic ceremony the Australian-based dance troupe the Tap Dogs provided a raucous and vibrant segment involving many sparks and industrial construction. Segment director was Tap Dogs co-founder Nigel Triffitt (1950-2012). Who would have thought when Tap Dogs was created in the 1990s that tap dancing could be so macho? Openly gay Nigel was the person who created the factory/industrial concept for the other co-founder Dien Perry, who acted as Nigel's Tap Choreographer for the Sydney 2000 segment.

The climax of the opening ceremony was the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. Most people will remember the event - Kathy Freeman standing in a pool of water with the torch in her hand as the cauldron rose above her and shuddered to a halt! This caused several moments of dread for David Atkins, but more so for the cauldron's segment director, Richard Wherrett (1940-2011).

The segment began with the entry of the torch into the stadium. The first torch bearers were two legendary Ozzie athletes, Betty Cuthbert being pushed in her wheelchair by Raelene Boyle (who came out in her 2008 autobiography). All went well until the cauldron was lit. Apparently, the computer which controlled the cauldron's movements decided to reboot itself and there was nothing anyone could do but wait. To Richard it must have seemd like hours. He and David Atkins probably gave a huge sigh of relief when the cauldron was finally in place. For David Atkins history was to repeat itself in Vancouver 2010 when one of the 4 supporting legs of the Winter Olympic cauldron refused to rise into position.

The Sydney opening ceremony was to be the pinnacle of Richard Wherrett's career. The hitch in the cauldron didn't really blight what was a magnificent opening ceremony, and was an appropriate final event for Richard to direct. Fifteen months later he died of an AIDS-related illness.

While it would be impractical to show footage of all the various contributors mentioned above, this video shows the contribution made to the opening (and closing) ceremony by another lgbt designer, Peter Morrissey.

And finally, good luck to everyone at the Asia-Pacific Outgames.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

To the Core of Queer Music

At the beginning of March I looked at Riot Grrrl music. I mentioned how that movement developed out of Queercore. But where did Queercore come from?

The name of the genre tells you a little about its original concept. “Queer” was chosen above “Homo” because of its more inclusive sexual and gender definition. Homocore was a term used very early on but it didn’t reflect the genre’s attempts to rebel within the “mainstream” gay community. That’s where “core” comes in. Being influenced by the hardcore punk scene of the 1980s Queercore was seen as a rebellious, anarchistic alternative to Gay Pride, political activism and gay dance music.

Punk rock was a rebellion against the ubiquitous glam rock of the 1970s. As such it rejected the gender ambiguity of most of the glam rock bands. It seemed that no gay or effeminate straight man would be interested in such aggressive rebellion, but they were.

If there is a point and place where Queercore is said to have been born it is in Toronto, Canada, in 1985 with the first edition of a homo-punk fanzine called “J D’s”. Its producers were G. B. Jones and Bruce LaBruce (more well-known as a film-maker). They coined both “Homocore” and “Queercore”, and created an imaginary community based on the small underground queer-punk scene. As the fanzine became distributed across America, Jones and LaBruce received letters from people who were living their own isolated queer-punk lives. Realising there were many fans of the Queercore and queerpunk scene other fanzines found an audience and were produced in other cities.

That’s how it all started. How it developed from there is the same old story of new people coming along with their own ideas and the genre beginning to split. Jones and LaBruce went their separate ways after more anarchic Queercore elements took hold, with direct personal attacks on Queercore leaders and fanzines offering free condoms with holes in them during the early days of the AIDS crisis.

During the 1980s many Queercore bands were established in major American cities and the new musical genre emerged to dominate Queercore which, up until then, was essentially based on fanzines and their message of rebellion against the mainstream lgbt community. The point which brought them together on an equal standing was the first meeting of the major players in Queercore and the bands and their fans at an event called SPEW in Chicago in 1991.

The growth of Queercore and the emergence of new leading figures saw San Francisco develop into the major centre. It was there that the term “Homocore” re-emerged as a sub-culture that was less anarchic and more music centred. Homocore events and concerts were arranged by many Queercore communities across America.

It was also crossing international borders. In 1990 the then editors of “J D’s” produced a compilation cassette of international Queercore music, including tracks by Canada’s Fifth Column, the UK’s The Apostles, and New Zealand’s Gorse, beside many US bands.

The next “generation” of Queercore performers were discovering the music in high school. Performers I mentioned in the Riot Grrrl article, such as Donna Dresch, were moving into the Queercore scene while still at school and eventually forming their own bands, leading to the emergence of sub-genres including Riot Grrrl and synth-punk.

Perhaps the most well-known of the early Queercore bands to reach international recognition was Pansy Division. Formed in 1991 by Jon Ginoli, the band’s style appealed to both the Queercore and emerging Pop-punk communities. There was less anger and rebellion in Pansy Division’s music which also found a market in mainstream music. With the band Green Day (soon to eclipse them in both popularity and mainstream appeal) Pansy Division was one of the bands signed up to the first Queercore record label, Outpunk.

The decline of punk in general found Queercore just about hanging on after its first blast of energy, and it survives today in various styles.  Band members of the pioneer Queercore bands continue to play in new bands as well as reunited line-ups. New bands continue to form as new performers find their Queercore voice, which has been shifting against rebellion within the lgbt community to challenging homophobia in the wider community in general.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Medal Quest : Diving into History

The countdown to the Gay Games in Cleveland and Akron has now reached 100 days. This article takes a look at some lgbt athletes who have competed at the Olympics, Gay Games and/or Outgames and who make up an unusual record.
During the London 2012 Olympics I often recorded live coverage while I was at work and looked at it later. I’m glad I did, and especially glad that I decided to save my recording of the men’s 10m platform diving preliminaries - you never know which one of them would turn out to be a future out lgbt champion (see also Matthew Mitcham below), and little did I know at the time that Tom Daley would come out afterwards. During those preliminaries I noticed that several lgbt diving champions were involved in one way or another. I thought it was remarkable that in that one event on 10th August 2012 there were at least 4 lgbt diving champions in the Aquatics Centre (3 openly gay, and a probable 4th, even without counting Tom Daley), and not one of them was there merely to watch, they each had a job to do. I don’t think there’s been that many occasions before, not where athletes are competing in a non-team event (though I’m still checking previous diving, figure skating and equestrian events). Of course, it is safe to say that most of the divers were their own national champions anyway.
1) Matthew Mitcham was the defending Olympic champion. He was the surprise gold medallist of Beijing 2008, where so much hope has been put in the Chinese diver Zhou Luxin. Winning the gold with a record-breaking Olympic score Matthew was turned into an instant international lgbt celebrity, having come out publicly before the Beijing games. I remember him from years back when he competed at the Commonwealth Games. In fact while I was planning this article I just had to dig out an old video tape of those games and remind myself of his performance. I would never have thought that the spotty, teenaged ugly duckling I watched would one day turn into such an international celebrity hunk! Although Matthew hasn’t actually competed at either the Gay Games or the Outgames he was appointed a Gay Games Ambassador and went to the Cologne games of 2010 and made appearances at many events.
2) Greg Louganis, a previous Olympic diving champion, is considered by many to be the greatest competitive diver of all time. He broke 2 records in 1988 at the Seoul Olympics by being the first man to win gold in both platform and springboard events at 2 consecutive games. However, it was what happened in the preliminary round which most people remember. Banging the back of his head on the springboard during his dive made a gasp of horror go around the pool. I needn’t go into the ins and outs of later developments in that particular incident and return to London 2012. Greg was appointed as Diving Mentor to Team USA, and was seen most days sitting in the team stand with his ipad, making notes and discussing the divers’ performances. Like Mitcham, Greg is a Gay Games Ambassador, and he chose the opening ceremony of the 1994 Gay Games in New York to come out publicly as gay.
3) Simon Latimer was one of the judges for the 2012 diving competition. You see the judges sitting in their high chairs beside the pool. If you get chance to see a recording of the 10m preliminary of 10th August 2012 you’ll see Simon sitting at the extreme left of the 4 judges during rounds 4 to 6. A New Zealander by nationality Simon was also the youngest diving judge at the 2012 Olympics at the age of 30. He has been a judge since 2008 and judged Tom Daley at the Youth Olympics, and Tom and Mitcham at the Dehli Commonwealth Games, both events in 2010. As a competitive diver Simon attended the first World Outgames in Montréal in 2006. He won 3 gold medals. His experience at the Outgames is recounted in this article on Outsportscom.
4) Tom Daley wasn’t an out diver at London 2012 (though I was one of many who thought he was likely to be gay). Perhaps being the big hope and poster boy of Team GB at the home Olympics was pressure enough. Even though he was obviously happy to only win a bronze he was already a “veteran” champion of diving having been British Junior Champion in 2005 at the age of 10. He was also the youngest ever British or European senior diving champion. In fact this year is the only one since 2005 when Tom hasn’t won a championship or gold medal – but then it’s only the beginning of May and he’s got the Commonwealth Games in July (do we dare hope he’ll follow that with the Gay Games in Cleveland 2 weeks later?)
5) Scott Cranham acted as High Performance Director for the Canadian divers at London 2012. After a few years away from diving he returned to become head coach of Dive Calgary in 2001. A 3-time Olympian (if, as with Greg Louganis, you also count a place on a team that was forced to boycot the 1980 Moscow games) Scott didn’t win an Olympic medal, but he did win 4 at 2 Commonwealth Games – a silver and bronze at each. Scott has also competed at the Gay Games winning 3 gold medals in Vancouver in 1990. The coverage of the 2012 10m preliminaries doesn’t show clearly whether Scott was at the poolside with the other international coaches. He was certainly clearly seen during the final, when he was one of the first people to congratulate the new Olympic champion. It would be unusual if he wasn’t at the poolside on 10th August.
So 4 out of 5 out lgbt diving champions isn’t a bad record for an Olympic event. In my own perfect little world I dream of meeting them all to chat about their diving achievements. It’s only a dream, but perhaps it's an idea for the organisers of the Gay Games in August to get them all on one stage.