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March 2012

Barbra Streisand's Second TV Special, "Color Me Barbra", Airs (March 30, 1966)

Barbra_streisand_colormebarbara One year after her first acclaimed TV special, titled My Name is Barbra, 23-year old Barbra Streisand starred in her second CBS special.  Coinciding with the release of her new album by the same name, Color Me Barbra was filmed largely at the Philadelphia Museum of Art over one weekend during off-hours.  A big difference from the first special was that this one was in color. 


Color_me_barbra_1966 I finally got around to watching the telecast when I rented it during the winter of 2007.  I was especially enchanted by the opening song, Draw Me a Circle, which I'd never heard before - and I immediatedly bought it on iTunes.  (However, it wasn't a track from Color Me Barbra, but an earlier album). 





This special and four others is available on Barbra Streisand: The Specials and the CD Color Me Barbra is available on Amazon.   Here's another great segment from the special.   



President Bush Speaks Out Against HIV/AIDS Discrimination in the Workplace (March 29, 1990)

ADA_signingOn March 29, 1990 President George H. W. Bush addressed the National Leadership Coalition on AIDS and advised businesses not to discriminate against employees with HIV/AIDS.  (However, he never mentioned the word "homosexuals".)  To drive home this message he threw his support behind passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  ADA was signed into law four months later (pictured) and took effect in 1992.  Specifically, here is what the president said that morning about AIDS discrimination: 


"Today I call on the House of Representatives to get on with the job of passing a law, as embodied in the Americans With Disability Act, that prohibits discrimination against those with HIV and AIDS.  We're in a fight against a disease, not a fight against people.  And we will not, and must not, in America tolerate discrimination."


Actup_protestOf course, in the eyes of the burgeoning community of AIDS activists the federal government's response was due to its realization that AIDS was also aflicting the general public (personfied by high school student Ryan White who died a few weeks after Bush's address) - and not because it cared for the plight of AIDS sufferers who were gay or minoirty intravenous drug users. 


Mario Lopez Portrays Greg Louganis in TV Movie "Breaking the Surface" (March 26, 1997)

Mario_lopez_greg_louganisGreg_louganis2In 1995 diving legend Greg Louganis' autobiography Breaking the Surface was published and it became a best seller.  In it he discussed how he developed into a champion diver; his torturous coming out process; and his revelation about being HIV+.  Two years later the book was made into a TV movie that aired on March 26, 1997 on cable's USA Network.  Starring 23-year old cutie pie Mario Lopez (far right), his portrayal was somewhat wooden - but this was easily forgiven, or not even noticed, because of the many scenes where he wore a Speedo!    




Mario_lopez_niptuckMario_lopez_dancing_with_starsAfter Breaking the Surface Lopez had a number of other roles that brought further attention to his physique, e.g. on Nip/Tuck - featuring a classic shower scene (left); on Broadway in A Chorus Line - a story made the rounds that he was furious that fellow actor Nick Adams also got to show off his hot body; and as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars - where he and his dance partner finished second.  He's now a correspondent for the entertainment show Extra, which doesn't give him any opportunities to strip down or shake his hips.  Interestingly, according to his Wikipedia entry Lopez is a conservative Republican who attends church every week. 

Gay Activists Meet in White House for First Time (March 26, 1977)

Gay_activists_at_whitehouse_1977 In April 1965 gay protesters picketed in front of the White House for the first time.  Twelve years later on March 26, 1977 more history was made when a group of fourteen community leaders was invited to meet inside the White House for the first time.  At this meeting they aired their grievances over various forms of discrimination practiced by the federal government.  The group met with the director of President Carter's Office of Public Liaison. 



At the same time other gay issues were also gaining national attention thanks to Harvey Milk's election to San Francisco's board of supervisors; Anita Bryant's spearheading of an anti-gay ballot initiative in Florida; and actor Billy Crystal's portrayal as TV's first recurring gay character on ABC's sitcom Soap.   




Then in June 1995 the Clinton administration created the post of White House liaison to the gay and lesbian community.  Two years later Bill Clinton became the first president to speak before a gay & lesbian organization when he delivered the keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign Dinner.




And in 2011 the White House named Jeremy Bernard as the first openly gay Social Secretary for the White House.  Presently, there are more than 150 openly gay and lesbian staffers working in the Obama administration, one third of whom are in senior/director level positions.



An Appreciation of Kenneth Cole (March 23, 1954)




March 24 is fashion designer Kenneth Cole's birthday; he was born in Brooklyn in 1954.  Although he's not gay (he's married to one of Mario Cuomo's daughters) he's been a true friend of the gay community.  Since shortly after starting his company in 1982, Cole has supported gay causes, especially those dealing with AIDS research and prevention.  He's done this through fund raising as well as advertising messaging.  He's presently chairman of amfAR, which is dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education and the advocacy of AIDS-related public policy.




I was very familiar with Cole's store at Grand Central Station/42nd St. (pictured, below) because it was in my work neighborhood.  Over the years I had bought shoes, ties, a couple of suits and a briefcase there.  (His product line reminds me of Banana Republic's.)  Earlier in 2011 the company closed two of its Manhattan stores in prime locations, at Rockefeller Center and on Columbus Ave.  And then in the spring of 2016 the Grand Central location also closed its doors.  It presently has locations in SoHo and on 5th Ave. and 57th St. 




Rather than dripping with sex, or using high profile celebrities, Cole's ads are better known for their clever wordplay and commentary about world events.  And, unlike Calvin Klein, the ads aren't homoerotic in the least (but the pro-same-sex marriage ad, below, is very touching - and powerful).









Barbra Streisand Makes Her Broadway Debut (March 22, 1962)

Wholesale_streisand Barbra Streisand, one month shy of her 20th birthday, made her Broadway debut in a supporting role in the musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which opened on March 22, 1962.  Originally the part of Miss Marmelstein was a minimal one, but after her audition the producers beefed it up.  The show starred Elliot Gould, who would become her first husband (who she had her only child with, gay son Jason). 



Streisand_time_magazine_coverAt the show's premiere Leonard Bernstein gave Streisand a standing ovation after her number Miss Marmelstein.  The following month she was the subject of a TIME Magazine cover story.  And although the show received mixed reviews Streisand was nominated for a Tony for Supporting or Featured Musical Actress - the show's only nomination (she lost to Phyllis Newman for the show Subways Are for Sleeping).




Interestingly, Babs would appear on Broadway just one more time, in Funny Girl which premiered almost two years to the date after Wholesale.    

Academy Awards Televised for 1st Time (March 19, 1953)

First_televised_academyawards52264123 The bane of Hollywood's existence, television, was embraced tonight as the Academy Awards was televised for the first time - on the occasion of Oscar's 25th anniversary.  With Bob Hope serving as master of ceremonies, it aired on March 19, 1953 on NBC at 9:30PM on a Thursday evening.  Some awards were presented in Hollywood, others in New York.   


Gary Cooper won his second Best Actor Oscar, this time for High Noon (John Wayne accepted for him), Shirley Booth won Best Actress for Come Back, Little Sheba and Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth won for Best Picture (many film buffs consider it one of most undeserving movies to get an Oscar).


Today, the Academy Awards is jokingly referred to as the Gay Super Bowl, but it's doubtful a playful moniker such as that was attached to the Oscar telecast back in the 1950s, a time when homosexuals were hardly a topic of everyday conversation. 



A Gay Son's Struggle Depicted In TV Movie "Doing Time on Maple Drive" (March 16, 1992)

Doing_time_maple_driveThe TV movie Doing Time on Maple Drive aired on Fox on March 16, 1992.  Much of the publicity surrounding it was due to the casting of comic Jim Carrey in his first dramatic role.  He portrayed an alcoholic son in a tightly wound family.  Meanwhile, the family's younger son, Matt, their pride and joy, attempts suicide rather than reveal that the reason he and his fiance broke their engagement was because he's gay.



Doing_timeThe father was the parent who was more understanding of his gay son but mom was in vehement denial - despite the fact she had once walked in on Matt and his college roommate - and they weren't studying.  At the movie's end she's still unaccepting.  Matt, meanwhile, reaches out to his spurned college boyfriend (pictured).  What made Maple Drive somewhat unique from other TV movies that touched upon gay issues was the fact that its gay storyline here was just one of a number of plot points.  It was nominated for an Emmy as Best TV Movie but lost to Miss Rose White (a Hallmark Hall of Fame production.)




The actor who played the gay son, William McNamara, later portrayed Montgomery Clift in a 1995 TV movie on NBC about Elizabeth Taylor.  And much later, in 2009, Jim Carrey portrayed a gay man in the movie I Love You, Phillip Morris.

Remembering My First Broadway Show (March 16, 1979)




Every card-carrying homosexual remembers his first Broadway show.  Mine was On the 20th Century, which I saw on March 16, 1979, a few days before it closed (the show was winner of the Tony for Best Musical in 1978.)  I saw the show with my older brother, and our orchestra seats were $17.50 apiece.  Since I'm not a native New Yorker, it wasn't until I was 21 that I saw my first show.  However, once I moved to New York, I went to the theater on a regular basis.  And while I don't consider myself a "theater queen", I manage to see about four or five shows every year (and I have the Playbills and ticket stubs as proof).  My peak year was 2002 when I saw thirteen.  And of the 150+ shows I've seen, On the Town was the only one I walked out of.


My most favorite shows: Evita; Anything Goes; Damn Yankees (a great shower scene); The Music Man; and 42nd St.  Off-Broadway productions I've really enjoyed include Oil City Symphony; Take Me Out (an even hotter shower scene than Damn Yankees); Eurycides; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; Oil City Symphony; and Musical of Musicals: The Musical (which I saw three times). 


Evita_playbill Musicalofmusicals



Some memories that stick with me:

  • During a July 1995 performance of Hamlet a rainstorm during the second half was so torrential that water steadily dripped onto the stage. 
  • The haunting scene in the very short-lived Coram Boy (which closed after just 30 performances in May 2007) where dead babies were exhumed from little graves scattered around the stage under trap doors. 
  • Sideshow's awkward scenes in which the Siamese twin sisters discussed how to coordinate sex with their fiances.
  • The night I saw How to Succeed in Business (the '95 revival with Matthew Broderick) was Sign Language Night and I became distracted by the signer who I could see from the corner of my eye.
  • I was seated in the front row at a performance of Xanadu and at one point in the show Cheyenne Jackson's character (pictured, below) came down from the stage and did a little dance in front of me.    



  • Not until I sat down and opened my Playbill did I discover that Amadeus wasn't a musical! 
  • The heartbreakingly beautiful last story of Metamorphoses in which the elderly couple became two intertwined trees.
  • The audience's excited anticipation before the curtain went up at a preview performance of The Producers a week before it opened.


Most of us have experienced the heartache of discovering the little white slip in their Playbill announcing a featured actor isn't appearing in that day's performance.  My disappointments have included: no Jennifer Holliday in Dreamgirls; no Sutton Foster in The Drowsy Chaperone; no Kristin Chenoweth in Wicked (at least Idina Menzel performed) and no Douglas Hodge in La Cage.


I'm not a big fan, but I've seen Nathan Lane in six shows: The Lisbon Traviata; Guys & Dolls; Love, Valour, Compassion!; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; The Producers; and Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus . Patti LuPone has starred in five: Evita; Anything Goes; Pal Joey; Gypsy; and War Paint.  And although I've seen nine Steven Sondheim musicals, I never saw Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods or A Little Night Music.





Finally, "huzzah!" to gay-themed shows I've greatly enjoyed: Angels in America: Millennium Approaches; Love, Valour, Compassion!; Take Me Out; Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (in 1995 and 2020); Whoop-De-Doo!; End of the World Party; March of the Falsettos; Naked Boys Singing; Torch Song Trilogy; and The Temperamentals. 










Madonna, Good Housekeeping Cover Girl (March 15, 2000)

Madonna_goodh_housekeepingWhen thinking of Madonna it's doubtful the word "mainstream" comes to mind.  Yet, there she was on the cover of the April 2000 issue of Good Housekeeping that hit newsstands in mid-March.  (To be honest, not a very flattering cover.)  Who knows the reason behind M's decision - it's not as if she were following in Linda Ronstadt's or Rod Stewart's footsteps and doing a CD of standards that needed to be promoted to Middle America (her CD Music came out later in the year).  However, for Good Housekeeping it was an attempt at reaching a younger reader, sending the message that "we're not your mother's Good Housekeeping". 


Madonna_and_family At the time Madonna had a 3-year old daughter, Lourdes, and was pregnant with British film director Guy Ritchie's child - a boy they named Rocco, born on August 11 (five days before his mother's birthday).  She and Ritchie would marry at the end of the year.  (She's since adopted two other children from Africa and divorced Ritchie in 2008.)



Madonn_britney_kiss Despite this cover, it didn't mean Madge had put her provocative ways behind her as three years later she caused a stir at the MTV Music Video Awards by French kissing Britney Spears on stage.  No word on whether her "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" was revoked.  


Previous posts I've written about Madonna's career: