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November 2012

World AIDS Day Observed for 1st Time (December 1, 1988)

WorldAIDSDay Ways to memorialize AIDS victims and raise awareness among the general public began in 1985 with the first AIDS Walk in Los Angeles followed by New York City's in 1986.  In 1987 the National AIDS Memorial Quilt was unveiled in D.C.  And on December 1, 1988 the effort continued with the first observance of Worlds AIDS Day.  It is now held every Dec. 1, with proclamations issued by the president as well as the pope.  Additionally, candlelight vigils and the reading of names are held worldwide while in New York the lights of Broadway and other city landmarks are turned off in observance. 


EntertainmentWkly_logo In 1991 Entertainment Weekly observed World AIDS Day by publishing "Faces of AIDS", mini-obits of people in the entertainment industry who had died in the previous 12 months.  67 names were listed - their average age was only 44.  Seeing all of the year's deaths amassed together was sobering and impactful.  Three years later the number had doubled.  EW published this as an annual feature through 1997 - when the number of persons listed fell significantly - to 24 (due to protease inhibitors and changed sexual habits). 


WorldAIDSDay_globeinhand A few weeks after the 1st World AIDS Day was observed ABC World News Tonight anchor Max Robinson and disco icon Sylvester would be the next personalities to succumb to the disease.  And the following year famed choreographer Alvin Ailey's death from AIDS coincided with the second World AIDS Day.  




The Vatican Bans Gay Seminarians (November 29, 2005)

SeminariansTo quell outrage over the cover-up of child abuse in the US by Roman Catholic priests, the Vatican scapegoated gay men by banning their admission to seminaries.  However, the ban that was announced on Nov. 29, 2005 was akin to rescinding an invitation to a club that lost its popularity long ago.  Even before this edict was issued only half as many men were entering seminaries as they were in 1965 (while the number of Roman Catholics increased by 41%.)  After peaking in 1975 the number of ordained priests had fallen by more than 30%.  Today the typical priest is older than 60, with those over the age of 90 outnumbering clergy younger than 30.  


To address this decline the Vatican thought it wise to bar a contingent of young men who historically comprised a significant portion of priests - while continuing to refuse ordination of women or married men.  And despite findings to the contrary, the Church has knowingly deceived its faithful by conflating homosexuality with pedophilia.


Decline_in_seminaries The Roman Catholic Church has been greatly impacted by gay liberation.  Previously, as long as homosexuals were pariahs they provided a steady supply of seminarians as they looked to the priesthood as a refuge.  (Shortly after I came out to my dad he told me I would have made a great priest.  That's when I realized that for those of his generation gay men were viewed as being useful if they became priests.)  But as gay men began to live more openly the priesthood was no longer the only viable career option to consider.  To help fill this void more and more priests are being brought from Africa, home to virulently homophobic forms of Christianity.





Movie_priest The 1995 movie Priest looked at the various conflicts encountered by a young, questioning priest (with a penchant for sneaking out to a nearby leather bar).  Although set in Ireland the issues are similar to those encountered in the US.  

West Hollywood Incorporated As Gay-Friendly City (November 29, 1984)

Westhollywood_logoOn November 29, 1984 the gay enclave of West Hollywood joined neighboring Beverly Hills as an independent city.  Like Beverly Hills, West Hollywood is completely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles.  Its population of 35,000 is down slightly from its peak in the 1990s.  This is comparable to the population of Beverly Hills as well as New York City's West Village zip code of 10014 (the three zip codes of Greenwich Village/SoHo have a population of approximately 82,000 residents.)


Chateau_marmontRagebar_westhollywoodThis gay-flavored city also has the distinction of having a majority gay city council.  Besides being a gay mecca West Hollywood is also famous for having within its borders the Sunset Strip, the Pacific Design Center, the Chateau Marmont Hotel (far left), Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard (home to more than ten bars and clubs).  And although the Beverly Center mall is just south of the city it merits honorary mention.  Finally, WeHo is the place Angelenos gather to celebrate Gay Pride Day and Halloween.   


SilverlakeAlthough they may not have as high a concentration of gays as West Hollywood, quite a few LA neighborhoods have a healthy representation of gay men and lesbians.  The first that comes to mind is Silver Lake, situated about six miles east of WeHo.  It has a few thousand fewer residents than West Hollywood.     


A more comprehensive history of West Hollywood can be found here.




Harvey Milk & San Francisco's Mayor Murdered at City Hall (November 27, 1978)

1978_button_briggs Jimjones.timemagazineNovember 1978 was a month like few others for the city of San Francisco.  First, on Nov. 7 voters in California rejected the anti-gay Briggs Initiative which called for a ban on hiring gay teachers.  It was an emotional victory for openly gay San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk who had put much energy campaigning against it.  A week-and-a-half later People's Temple cult leader Jim Jones forced more than 900 of his followers to commit suicide in his Jonestown settlement in Guyana.  Jones and many of the victims were former residents of the Bay Area.


Harveymilk_georgemoscone Then on the Monday after Thanksgiving (11/27), disgruntled former city supervisor Dan White snuck into City Hall that morning and shot mayor George Moscone (pictured, near left) at point blank range and then walked down the hall and did the same to Milk (far left).  In a bizarre coincidence it turned out Moscone and Milk had a connection with Jim Jones who a few years earlier was chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority.


Mayor_of_castrostreet Seanpenn_harveymilk At the time I was in my senior year at Penn State and in the early stages of coming out so Milk's murder was especially sobering for me.  Back then having an openly gay man in such a high profile government position was unheard of, compounding the loss.  In 2009 Sean Penn won the Oscar for his portrayal of Milk in the movie Milk.  The film was based on the biography The Mayor of Castro St. - The Life & Times of Harvey Milk


Lesbian Drama "A Question of Love" Airs (November 26, 1978)

Question_of_loveIn 1972 That Certain Summer aired, a landmark TV movie about a father revealing his homosexuality to his teenage son.  Six years later, on Nov. 26, 1978, ABC again aired another critically acclaimed movie about gay issues, A Question of Love.  It told the story of a lesbian couple drawn into a child custody battle by an ex-husband who disapproves of their lifestyle.  The lesbian couple was played by the illustrious Gena Rowlands and Jane Alexander.  The next high profile movie about lesbians would be 16 years later when Glenn Close and Judy Davis starred in Serving in Silence.




Harvey_milk_sfThe day after this critically acclaimed movie aired would turn out to be a dark one in gay history as Harvey Milk, an openly gay city supervisor in San Francisco was shot dead (along with mayor George Moscone) by a disgruntled former co-worker.   

Ron Reagan Jr. Gets Married, Eyebrows Are Raised (November 24, 1980)

Ronreaganjunior.joffreyballetSpeculation was rife that Ron Reagan Jr. just had to be gay.  After all, he was a willowy dancer with the Joffrey Ballet who grew up among his parents' Hollywood friends, many who were gay.  So, eyebrows were raised among the chattering classes when the 22-year-old son of the newly elected president was married in New York City on November 24, 1980.  He wed Doria Palmieri, whom he had met at a dance studio she managed in Los Angeles.  She was six years older than Ron.




Ronreagan_jr After his father left office Ron's liberal political leanings became known and he even addressed the 2004 Democratic Convention.  (He also makes occasional appearances on MSNBC.)  In that same year he was interviewed by the Advocate and addressed the gay rumors head on.  Unlike some other figures in the public eye I've never heard reports of any sightings of him in clubs or walking hand-in-hand with another man at a gay resort.  The rumors and hubbub have long since dried up.  Meanwhile Reagan and wife Doria are still married, they have a daughter and live in Seattle.  


Piazza_not_gay Similar speculation surrounded New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza who felt compelled to call a news conference in the spring of 2002 to deny he was gay.  And married couple Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford took out a full page ad in the Times of London in 1994 to deny rumors that they were splitting up (which they did six months later) and that both were gay.  Curiously, the fact that President Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, studied ballet and attended Sarah Lawrence College (after turning down a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet - the same dance company Reagan performed with) didn't cause speculation about his sexuality.  A sign perhaps that metrosexuals had become fully integrated into society - and that Reagan was ahead of his time.    

Highlights of LGBT History During 2012



Feb 5, 2012 - Madonna can check off "Performing during halftime at the Super Bowl" from her bucket list.




April 5, 2012 - Despite tepid reviews, Ricky Martin is a big draw in the Broadway revival of Evita.  He plays the role of the hip-swiveling narrator, Che.

May 9, 2012 - In an interview with ABC News President Obama announces his support of same-sex marriage.  It followed by a few days Vice President Joe Biden's support, expressed during an appearance on Meet the Press.




May 15, 2012 – Gay gossip-blogger Perez Hilton makes a cameo on tonight’s episode of Glee, appearing as a judge at the Nationals competition for acapella groups.

May 17, 2012 - Disco queen Donna Summer dies from cancer at the age of 63.

May 17, 2012 - The off-Broadway play Cock opens.  Newspaper ads for the showrequire its title to be listed as either C**k or Cockfight Play.




June 7, 2012 - Moscow's City Court upholds a lower court's ruling banning all gay pride events in the city for the next hundred years. 

June 24, 2012 - Gad Beck, the last known gay Holocaust survivor, dies one week before his 89th birthday.

July 2, 2012 - CNN reporter and talk show host Anderson Cooper finally comes out, but it is more or less a non-story.




July 7, 2012 - Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank marries his male partner, James Ready.




July 15, 2012 - The mini-series Political Animals, starring Sigourney Weaver as a Hillary Clinton-like Secretary of State with a drug-addled mess of a gay son, debuts on USA Network. 

July 23, 2012 - Former astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to be launched into space, dies at the age of 61.  Upon her death it is revealed that she was a lesbian with a partner of 27 years.  

July 31, 2012 - Writer and political gadfly Gore Vidal dies at the age of 85.




Sept 16, 2012 - For the second time in three years Eric Stonestreet, the straight actor who plays one of the gay daddies on the ABC sitcom Modern Family, wins the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor.

Sept 29, 2012 - California is the first state to ban reparative therapy on minors to "cure" them of their homosexuality.

Oct 1, 2012 - Three months after receiving FDA approval, the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test goes on sale over-the-counter.  Priced at $40, it provides results in 20-40 minutes.

Oct 5, 2012 - Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion comes out on the air and announces his engagement to his Brazilian partner.

Oct 15, 2012 - 24-year-old Rob Wilson is the first piece of male eye candy to show off prizes on CBS's long-running game show The Price is Right.




Oct 18, 2012 - On tonight's episode of Glee Sarah Jessica Parker leads the gang at Rachel and Kurt's loft in a delightful rendition of Scissor Sister's song Let's Have a Kiki mashed up with Turkey-Lurkey Time from the Broadway musical Promises, Promises.




Nov 6, 2012 - A momentous election day for LGBT Americans as voters in three states - Maine, Maryland and Washington - vote in favor of same-sex marriage.  Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin becomes the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the U.S. Senate.




Nov 8, 2012 - The new James Bond movie Skyfall, which opens today, starts with a homoerotic exchange between Bond and gay villain Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem. 

Nov 14, 2012 - On tonight's episode of Modern Family, Matthew Broderick makes a guest appearance as a gay man who meets metrosexual Phil at the gym and thinks Phil's invitation to watch football at his home is a date.




Nov 20, 2012 - Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who was the voice of popular Sesame Street character Elmo for 28 years, resigns amidst a sex scandal involving two young men he had relationships with in the past when they were teens.    

Dec 1, 2012 - West Point's military chapel hosts its first same-sex wedding.

Dec 9, 2012 - The first same-sex marriages take place in Washington state, joining six other states and DC.




Dec 9, 2012 - CBS's reality competition Amazing Race: Season 21 is won by gay couple, Josh and Brent.

Dec 18, 2012 - Nate Silver, the gay stats guru who made a name for himself for accurately predicting the outcome of the presidential election in his FiveThirtyEight column in the New York Times, is named Out Magazine's Person of the Year.




Dec 29, 2012 - Three weeks following the state of Washington, the first same-sex marriages take place in Maine


(To read about LGBT history and pop culture from other years, double click here.) 




Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli Perform Together for 1st Time (November 17, 1963)

Judy_liza Judy Garland starred in a variety show during the 1963-64 season that aired Sundays on CBS.  On tonight's November 17 telecast one of her guests was her very own daughter, 17-year old Liza Minnelli.  This was the first time they performed together professionally and they sang Together, Bob White and The Best is Yet to Come.




Judy_liza_christmas_showThe telecast aired five days before the assassination of President Kennedy.  A month later Liza also appeared on Judy's Christmas show (airdate: December 22) and performed a dance number with her "beau" (as Judy referred to him) Tracy.  The following year, also in November, mother and daughter performed at the London Palladium.


Happily, a number of DVDs of Judy's show are available, including one titled Judy Garland: Duets, which includes some of the numbers she sang with Liza.

Olivia Newton John Muscles "Physical" to the Top of the Charts (Nov. 16, 1981)

81_physical_98 Olivia Newton John has had a kangaroo's pouch worth of hits during her career.  And by far the biggest was Physical, which began its first of 10 weeks atop Billboard's "Hot 100" the week of Nov. 16, 1981.  The song created controversy because, despite its catchy bubblegum beat, its lyrics were suggestive - at least by 1981 standards (this was the same year Sheena Easton's saccharine-sweet Morning Train was a big hit!).


Sure, salacious songs weren't uncommon in the R&B, disco or rock genres, but top-40 pop was a different matter.  Some parents were a bit unsettled to hear little Sally innocently singing lyrics like, "there's nothin' left to talk about unless it's horizontally".  But despite the song being stigmatized as "raunch pop" by some, Billboard Magazine reported it was the most popular song of the 80s.  (Nearly 30 years later ONJ appeared in an episode of Glee in its first season and performed Physical with Sue Sylvester.) 


A part of the song that still sticks with me was a wolf howling in the background as Olivia sang "let's get animal, animal".  However, after buying the album I was surprised to discover that the howling was added by the radio station I listened to, New York's WKTU.  In addition to the racy lyrics the accompanying video had a gay twist at the end.  This didn't create much of a stir, probably because cable penetration was still very low (MTV had been on the air for just four months) and 24/7 digital media (such as You Tube) was still a generation away. 





Xanadu And although I like the song just fine, it's not one of my favorite ONJ efforts.  So what are my top 5?  They are: Deeper Than the Night (it just missed the top-10 on the Billboard Hot 100); Xanadu (a cheesy delight); A Little More Love (sexy but not blatantly so like Physical); If You Love Me Love Me Know (one of her first); and Hopelessly Devoted to You (always brings back memories from the movie Grease of Sandy singing it while looking into the wading pool as the face of John Travolta's character Danny appears - ah, young love!). 


Diana_ross_muscles A year later Diana Ross released the single Muscles (written and produced by Michael Jackson), which also had masculine physicality as its theme.  However, unlike Physical, it was slinkier and more sensual - and nowhere near the mainstream hit Physical was (it peaked at #10).  But its "camp" factor made it very popular among "the gays".