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Dick Button Becomes 1st American to Win Olympic Gold in Figure Skating (Feb. 3,1948)

 

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In the world of men's figure skating, Dick Button is a Babe Ruth-like figure.  Between 1944 and 1952 he won all but one of the twenty-one competitions he competed in.  And on Feb. 3, 1948 he became the first American to win a gold medal in figure skating at the Winter Olympics, doing so at St. Moritz.  He repeated in 1952, a feat not matched until Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu won gold in 2014 and 2018.  Five American men have since joined Button as Olympic gold medalists in the sport: Hayes Alan Jenkins (1956); Hayes' brother David Jenkins (1960); Scott Hamilton (1984); Brian Boitano (1988); and Evan Lysacek (2010).  However, Button is the only one to win the gold twice.  Dick, long an astute and lively figure skating commentator for ABC, CBS and NBC (beginning with the 1960 Olympics), turned 92 in July 2021.

 

 

 

 

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Like Broadway show tunes and Sex in the City, men's figure skating is often associated with gay men, largely because of today's stars' flamboyant showmanship, plus the glittery Vegas-style outfits that they often wear.  However, the fact that I've written about Dick Button on this blog doesn't necessarily mean that he's gay.  (But eyebrows were raised in 1975 when he was mugged in Central Park near the notorious gay cruising area, known as the Ramble.) 

 

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(For whatever reason, the three used copies of Button's autobiography available on Amazon, Edge Is a Lean of the Body: A Memoir of Skating, are going for $890 apiece!  More reasonable, at $23, is Figure Skating's Greatest Stars.) 

 


Kinsey Report on Male Sexuality Published (January 3, 1948)

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The landmark Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was released on Jan. 3, 1948 (a report about women was published five years later).  Based on information gathered during face-to-face interviews by Dr. Alfred Kinsey (right) and his staff from the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, it reported on sexual practices not usually spoken about in "polite" company.  Using a scale of 0-7, Kinsey classified the degree of heterosexual and homosexual orientation.  From this famous "Kinsey Scale" it was determined that 10% of men were homosexual - for a period of at least three consecutive years.  This qualifier was largely overlooked and the 10% is the headline that stuck.  It's long been questioned and studies over the past decade report figures in the 5% to 8% range (higher, of course, in certain cities and neighborhoods).

 

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Alfred Kinsey

 

In addition to the famous 10% finding, another was that 37% of men claimed to have had at least one homosexual experience in their lifetime.  However, despite Kinsey's figures showing homosexual experiences weren't uncommon, they had no impact on how homosexuals were viewed by the public during the conformist 1950s.  Individuals found to be homosexual were often institutionalized, blackmailed or lost their jobs - all in an attempt to keep them marginalized from mainstream society. 

 

In autumn 2004 the movie Kinsey came out, starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney (who received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress).  Though Kinsey was ostensibly heterosexual, in one scene he has sex with one of his male assistants (played by Peter Sarsgaard.)  It was named Outstanding Film of the Year by GLAAD.  However, like many critically acclaimed films, it wasn't a hit, grossing just $17 million.

 

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