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December 2012

Madonna Marries Guy Ritchie (December 22, 2000)

Madonna_guy_ritchieMadonna's first marriage was to actor Sean Penn in 1985 and it took place on her 27th birthday (and the day before his 25th).  They were married for a little more than two years.  Her second marriage was to British movie director Guy Ritchie, ten years her junior, and the ceremony was held on December 22, 2000 at a castle in Scotland.  It was during this time Madge fashioned a British accent that was widely ridiculed on both sides of the Atlantic.





Madonna_rocco_lourdes_davidMadonna_mercyMadonna and Ritchie divorced in 2008.  Commenting on the marriage, Ritchie reportedly confided that he had "stepped into a soap opera".  They had two children together: son Rocco was born four months before the wedding and son David was adopted from the African nation of Malawi.  After their divorce Madonna adopted a second child from that country, daughter Mercy (both adoptions were steeped in controversy).  Madonna also has a 17-year-old daughter, Lourdes, fathered by her former personal trainer, Carlos Leon.


Other Madonna-centric posts:

Her 1st #1 Hit

Hosting SNL

Making Her Broadway Debut

"Truth or Dare" Documentary

A Golden Globe Winner for "Evita"


"Dreamgirls" Opens on Broadway (December 20, 1981)

Dreamgirls_broadway The musical Dreamgirls had its Broadway opening on December 20, 1981.  It would win six Tony Awards, including Best Choreography and three acting awards, but it lost out to Nine for Best Musical.  It ran for nearly four years, closing in August 1985.  25 years later the movie version opened, also at Christmastime.


Dreamgirls_broadway The show is probably best known for 20-year- old Jennifer Holliday's powerful star turn singing the gut-wrenching And I Am Telling You.  It received extensive airplay on the New York radio stations I listened to, WBLS and WKTU, and I repeatedly saw the video of her performance from the 1982 Tony Awards at Uncle Charlie's bar.  Unfortunately, she sat out the performance on the night I took my boyfriend to see the show for his birthday in the summer of 1982 (it was his first Broadway show).  I stewed for the entire show.  




Two years after Dreamgirls closed its acclaimed director/choreographer, Michael Bennett, died at the age of 44 from AIDS.  In the 1990 movie Longtime Companion, about the impact of AIDS on a group of friends,the title song Dreamgirls was featured in one scene, playfully lip-synched by one of the characters. 


Dreamgirls_movie The movie Dreamgirls starred Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), Eddie Murphy & Jamie Foxx.  It took years of twists and turns before the movie reached theaters. (It took even longer for Nine to make it to the silver screen - three years longer than Dreamgirls.)  I didn't like it nearly as much as the Broadway production and found the ending (when Jamie Foxx's character realized he had fathered a daughter - which wasn't in the Broadway version) particularly ludicrous.  At least when I saw it I didn't have to worry about whether Jennifer Hudson would be in the show! 



"Like a Virgin" is Madonna's First #1 Song (December 18, 1984)

Like_a_virgin Madonna's first single, Borderline, peaked at #16 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1983.  The next, Holiday, went to #10 and was followed by Lucky Star which rose to #4.  Then during the week of Dec. 18, 1984 her fourth single, Like a Virgin, went all the way to #1 (on Billboard's Hot 100) - where it stayed for six weeks.  Virgin was the first of her twelve singles to top the charts in the U.S. (Altogether she's had 37 top-10 hits - more than any female artist).  It was her risque live performance of Like a Virgin at MTV's 1st Music Video Awards in 1984 (she rolled about the stage wearing a wedding dress) that propelled her to superstardom.  (Click here to watch it.)  Three other singles from the Like a Virgin LP were top-5 hits:  Material Girl (#2); Angel (#5); and Dress You Up (#5).  


Homosexuality Declassified As Mental Illness (December 15, 1973)

Dsm_volumes A landmark event in gay history occurred on December 15, 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in its Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, aka DSM.  I was 16 at the time and not yet aware of my sexual orientation so I didn't know what it was like to live with this stigma, but it could hardly have been good for self esteem - and probably contributed to mental health problems.  However, despite this step forward society would still find plenty of ways to continue the stigmatization of gay men and lesbians.  But wave upon wave of activism by homosexuals on multiple fronts (assisted by straight supporters) has eroded and broken down a multitude of barriers.


American_psychological_association To appease those in the mental health profession who disagreed with this declassification, a new disorder was classified in 1980 - Ego Dystonic Homosexuality.  Individuals suffering from this disorder were homosexuals who wished their sexual orientation was different (the way some in society still would like us to feel).  It would be de-listed in 1986.


Finally, in 2006 the Pentagon announced that it no longer deemed homosexuality a mental disorder - but it would still be another five years before the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was ended.


A more comprehensive discussion of this topic can be found at: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_mental_health.html  




A Gay Nightlife Milestone: Flamingo Disco Opens Its Doors (December 14, 1974)




Before iconic clubs such 12 West (1975), Paradise Garage (1977), Studio 54 (1977) or the Saint (1980) opened their doors, there was Flamingo.  Although the Sanctuary (1969-72) laid claim as the first gay disco, it attracted a good number of heteros as well.  By contrast, Flamingo was promoted as the first discotheque for an exclusively gay clientele; it opened on Dec. 14, 1974.  It was located on the 2nd floor of a nondescript building at the corner of Houston St. and Broadway in New York's SoHo neighborhood.  It closed in the winter of 1980-81 shortly after The Saint opened its doors.


Disco, and its many iterations, was the lifeblood of gay clubs in the 1970s/80s, and for a while it even attracted a mainstream audience.  But after a brief flirtation, the general public rejected disco at the close of the '70s.  The gay community's strong allegiance, however, never wavered; after all, it was our music to begin with.  Gays embraced disco culture for the escape into fantasy it provided, while straights gravitated to rock and country (and later to rap) to immerse themselves in the grim reality of their world.   




Martha Stewart's First Christmas Special Airs (December 12, 1995)

Martha_stewart_christmasMadonna wasn't the only diva with "blonde ambition" during the 1990s.  There was also Martha Stewart, goddess of the domestic arts, who rose to icon status during the decade.  Five years after her wildly popular magazine Martha Stewart Living began publishing, Martha starred in her first holiday special, "Home for the Holidays", which aired on CBS on December 12, 1995. 


Martha_juliaOne of Martha's guests was Julia Child, and it was the first time the two worked together (Julia was 83 at the time).  Then Miss Piggy helped Martha construct a gingerbread house.  They used white Necco wafers for the roof's shingles and as I watched I shuddered thinking how an assistant probably was ordered to go through countless packages of wafers in order get the white ones ready.




Topless_martha_stewart_snlA year later Saturday Night Live aired a parody of Martha's holiday special.  The skit was called Martha Stewart's Home for the Holidays Topless Christmas Special and it became a classic.  Cast member Ana Gasteyer (right) portrayed Martha. 



Three other Christmas-themed posts you may enjoy: 

"Jingle Bells" or "Jingle Balls"?  Kmart Decks the Halls with Risque TV Ad  

Bette Midler Stars in Honda Holiday Commercial 

Favorite Toys of Christmases Past 

Christmas Ads That Bring Holiday Cheer

ACT UP Disrupts Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's (December 10, 1989)




December 1989 was one of the coldest months on record in the New York area.  The month is also remembered for an audacious protest organized by the AIDS activist group ACT UP whereby thousands of its members disrupted Sunday morning Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on December 10 to protest the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York's stand on sex education and condom distribution in the wake of the AIDS crisis. 


And although this demonstration was perhaps the boldest of any ACT UP protest, others generated considerable publicity as well, e.g. on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange; at the FDA in Washington; at Hearst Publications (protesting an article in Cosmopolitan); at Grand Central Station; and on the sets of CBS Evening News w/Dan Rather and PBS' MacNeil-Lehrer Report.


To learn more about the vital role ACT UP played in the fight for improved healthcare and medications for HIV/AIDS sufferers the book Moving Politics: The Emotion & ACT UP's Fight Against AIDS is a worthwhile read.  

"Brokeback Mountain" Opens (December 9, 2005)

BrokebackBrokeback Mountain was a landmark movie - a gay romance that was not only critically acclaimed but successfully crossed over to the general market.  It opened in very limited release in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 9, 2005.  What a beautiful, tragic, passionate and haunting story.  My friend Tom and I had the good fortune of seeing it opening weekend, going to a noontime showing on Sunday in Chelsea. During its 4-month run Brokeback grossed nearly $180 million, more than half of which came from foreign markets.  It was the most nominated film during awards season and won three Oscars (Director, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score).  However, it lost Best Picture to Crash.  



UndertowBy coincidence, on the same evening I originally wrote this post in 2010 I saw a beautiful gay romance from Peru called Undertow which reminded me a lot of Brokeback Mountain.  It tells the story of a married fisherman,with a child on the way, who is carrying on a homosexual affair with a visiting artist.  Very touching and the two actors have a beautiful chemistry together.  And the photo to the left suggests a scene from Brokeback.   


Undertow movie (Contracorriente)
Uploaded by newamericanvision. - Classic TV and last night's shows, online. 




"Angels in America" Airs on HBO (December 7, 2003)

Angels_in_america_streep_pacinoTen years after its successful run on Broadway Tony Kushners' AIDS drama Angels in America conquered television when it aired on HBO in December 2003.  It was shown in two three-hour installments, with the first airing on December 7, followed one week later by Part 2.  It starred Meryl Streep (pictured here as the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg), Emma Thompson and Al Pacino as the vile Roy Cohn (pictured with Streep).  Jeffrey Wright was the only actor from the Broadway run who also appeared in the TV production.  Streep, Thompson and Wright played multiple roles. 



Emmathompson_angelsinamericaHBO's production was critically acclaimed and won a slew of awards.  At the time its eleven Emmy Awards was the most ever awarded one show.  Angels joined other acclaimed TV movies such as And the Band Played On (also on HBO, ten years earlier), Andre's Mother (PBS) and An Early Frost (NBC) in bringing the tragedy of AIDS into America's living rooms.






Highlights of Gay History During the 1940s



Nov 14, 1943 - 25-year-old Leonard Bernstein becomes the first American to conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Jan 11, 1944 - Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, starring Tallulah Bankhead, opens in theaters.

June 15, 1945 - 23-year-old Judy Garland marries closeted movie director Vincente Minnelli, nineteen years her senior.  It's her second marriage and it would last six years.




Feb 12, 1947 - 22-year-old Christian Dior shows his first collection, dubbed by the fashion press as the "New Look."

Jan 3, 1948 - Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male is published and reports that 10% of American males surveyed were "more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55.  It also introduces the public to the Kinsey Scale, whereby a rating of zero indicates someone exclusively heterosexual while a '6' was assigned to those exclusively homosexual.




Sept 29, 1948 - Rope, an Alfred Hitchcock film with a gay subtext, opens in theaters.  The screenplay was written by Arthur Laurents and two of the actors, Farley Granger (below, left) and John Dall, were also gay.




Nov 20, 1948 - Tallulah Bankhead appears on the cover of this week's TIME Magazine.

July 29, 1949 - 3-year-old Liza Minnelli makes her screen debut in the closing moments of her mother's movie In the Good Old Summertime, which opened today.




Oct 10, 1949Newsweek publishes an article titled “Queer People” in which the writer opines that all homosexuals are perverts

Dec 8, 1949 - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes opens on Broadway and makes 26-year-old Carol Channing a star.




(To read about gay milestones from other years, double click here.)