Tomorrow night at the MOMA, KTLO contributor Jim Hubbard will open the annual Documentary Fortnight series with his exciting new documentary United In Anger. Perfectly timed for last year’s 30th anniversary of AIDS, and this year’s 25th anniversary of ACT UP, the film tells the story of the legendary activist group who fought tirelessly to change government definitions of AIDS, force scientists and the government to excel their development of life-saving drugs, and change the public perception of AIDS from a gay-disease to one that affected us all. The film examines the nuts and bolts of what made ACT UP’s successes and failures come to pass, with a special attention paid to the culture and camaraderie behind the scenes as well as the role of women in the group. I spoke to Hubbard last night about creating the film, the connections between ACT UP and Occupy Wall Street, and whether New York would be ready for another AIDS crisis.
Adam: Hi Jim, are you excited for the premiere?
Jim: Yeah. It’s started to keep me up night.
I know you were a member of ACT UP, both a longtime activist and longtime documenter of the movement, but how did this film come together?
It either took me 25 years, 10 years, or 3 years depending on how you count. I started filming ACT UP in June of 1987 at the Gay Pride March. I continued to film ACT UP for years afterward and make films about it. Elegy in the Street would be the most prominent of the films. But I was shooting 16mm and processing the footage myself, so I stood in contrast to all the people videotaping it, many of whom made dozens of tapes about ACT UP in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Then in 1995, at the behest of the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS I convinced 30 or 40 AIDS activist videomakers to donate work to the New York Public Library, for the resources there. And then ten years ago when Sarah Schulman and I started the ACT UP Oral History Project, I always had it in my mind that I would make a film based on the project, and I started seriously editing what became United In Anger, about three years ago. More…
If you’ve been keeping up with our Gay New York section, you’ll know that we get pretty excited over any event that explores the forgotten or unexplored history of life as a gay person in New York. So when we heard the news that the Museum of the City of New York were planning to hold a “Gay New York” conference this Saturday (2/11) devoted to the ways that gay New York artists influenced the cultural life of the city from the 1920′s through the 1960′s – well, I mean, can you imagine what paroxysms of delight went roaring through our thin apartment walls?
Presented in conjunction with the MCNY’s remarkable exhibition Cecil Beaton: The New York Years, the conference will cover topics such as the gay artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance, E.M. Forster and the West Village, Cecil Beaton’s relationship with actress and famed New York recluse Greta Garbo, art dealer Sam Green, and Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Leonard Bernstein. Speakers include George Chauncey, Wendy Moffat, Lynn Garafola, and more. Tickets start at $25 for members, and $35 for non-members, and are available at boxoffice.mcny.org. Don’t miss this rare treat. We’ll see you there!
Truman Capote and Cecil Beaton, ca. 1952
© Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
Courtesy Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
It’s hard to believe that the AIDS activist-artist collective Gran Fury have never been given a full retrospective in a New York art gallery or institution before, but then again, part of the group’s agenda was to display their work in public places where it would have the most impact on people. In pieces like “Read My Lips”, “Kissing Doesn’t Kill”, “Women Don’t Get AIDS”, the group worked to create angry, potent propaganda to counter the murderous effects of AIDS misinformation by politicians, the media, and hatemongers. This week, a comprehensive exhibition of the collective’s work opened at the 80WSE gallery on Washington Square, and for anyone interested in the history of AIDS, gay life in New York, Act-Up, protests and civil disobedience, its a must-see. Timed perfectly for the rise of the Occupy movement, the show –along with two excellent forthcoming documentaries on Act-Up– offers a lesson in how one group effected change and saved lives, even in the face of massive public disapproval. Don’t miss it!
One of the brightest moments during our Sundance screenings of Keep The Lights On was when the brilliant filmmaker James Bidgood appeared onscreen as an interview subject of the lead character Erik, played by Thure Lindhardt. Bidgood’s frankness and wit when interviewed elicited roars of laughter from the audience. This month Out Magazine offers a more tender side of the experimental auteur in their article “The Secret Garden”, one of a series of stories about lasting love for a Valentine’s themed issue. The article tells the story of Bidgood his great love Alan and their meeting at a sex theater in the East Village. As usual Bidgood’s wonderful frankness about wild sex practices, mixed with tender honesty makes this piece a must-read. Click here for the story.
This month’s entry of Mr. James Bidgood’s friend Biddy’s advice column is appropriately Sundance Film Festival related. A fellow filmmaker writes in to ask Biddy a common question about rejection, eliciting one a lengthy and brilliant response. Read on….
Dear Biddy B,
I’m very upset because a film that I worked very hard on didn’t get into one of the major film festivals that I was hoping it would. I can’t get over feeling bad about myself even though I know that the odds are not in my favor with this festival. Can you offer some words of wisdom to help me feel better?
Well Mister Unsigned, Dahling, rejection is always to some degree quite devastating and often rather humiliating, whether it is via a response from a Guggenheim committee or loitering at the urinals in a men’s room. In both instances a glimmer of kindness might make the cold shoulder less glacial but what care those with notions stuck in the ice age. No one hits only home runs and some of us strike out every time we reach for a bat or whatever! More…
We’re pleased to bring you the third and final section of William Leo Coakley’s autobiographical essay (part one, part two) tracing his life and experiences in the poetry world from the mid-20th century to today. When we last left off — as they used to say on the soaps — Willie and his partner Robin were in Italy, staying with one of the stars of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, and appearing as extras in spaghetti westerns to pay for their extended stay!
When we returned to New York, we had to get back to regular work. Robin decided to concentrate more on his writing, translating for the theatre, coaching, and teaching speech. I was off to the New York Public Library as Managing Editor of Publications, able to publish interesting books from the archives, including, it turned out, many by queer authors: Whitman, Wilde, Woolf, and Auden, among them. And Robin and I started the poetry publishing press: Helikon Press. More…
The second installment of poet William Leo Coakley’s autobiographical essay about his life with actor and writer Robin Prising takes us from the couple’s move to West 4th street to Jane street, then from New York to Rome. Along the way scores of legends make appearances – Jack Wrangler, George Barker, Djuna Barnes, James Merrill, Franz Kline and Iris Tree, to name but a few. Check back next week for the conclusion!
When I first came down from Harvard to the Village I lived at the corner of West 4th and West 12th (only in New York, I thought). I remember sauntering hand in hand through the pre-Stonewall Village with my charismatic mentor and friend the English poet George Barker. He was 99% straight, having many mistresses and more children, but the soldiers and sailors of World War II had been his lovers too and he was the body in Willard Maas’ 1943 film Geography of the Body. He had such dynamic energy that just walking and talking with him was a sexual experience. “Go and do it, Baby,” he urged me on to poetry, “Go and do it, Dirt.” He said that to strengthen my poetry I must listen to the “compulsive recurrence in the little matter of fucking.” I later found out that Robin had independently known him in the 1950s in London. There is a fabulous picture of the two of them in the 50s staring at each other over cigarette smoke (that lost aphrodisiac), the sexual vibrations, never consummated, alive in the air between them. When we lived in London and Europe in the mid-60s George was amazed to discover we had found each other and that cemented our life-long friendship with him. When he visited us in New York around 1966 we stopped by the writers’ bar the White Horse Tavern for a drink—and were barred at the door by a bruiser of a bouncer: we were not accompanied by “ladies.” The police were cracking down on gays in bars. George told him to go fuck himself, pulled out his wallet with pictures of his was it 13? children—and put a curse on the dive. It must have worked: the place is foolishly known as the bar where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death and now only tourists congregate there to stare at tourists. More…
One of the big moments of 2011 was February’s massive blizzard that dumped mammoth amounts of snow all over the North East and kept many New Yorkers huddled inside for days on end waiting for Mayor Bloomberg to finally get around to clearing the snow. Colombian artist Juan Betancurth kept his composure by projecting X-Tube videos on a large screen in his Bushwick loft. When he saw the way the reflection of the video appeared in his window, he made this short video documenting it. As an unnamed hunk disrobes and starts his show, people scurry by below, desperately trying to make it home in one piece. We’ll feature an interview with Betancurth about his other work this week. Stay tuned.
A few months ago we were delighted to receive a Tell Your Story entry from New York-based poet William Leo Coakley. Poignant and dishy, in the vein of Edmund White’s memoir City Boy, the five paragraphs Coakley sent us whetted our appetite for a larger untold tale of gay life amongst the avant-garde artists of the 1950′s and 1960′s. We asked Coakley if he would be up to the task of expanding his story and only last week we received a sprawling and wonderful memoir which we will publish in a three-part series over the next two weeks. Apart from the details about the lives of the artists Coakley knew, the most poignant story told is that of the author’s relationship with his partner Robin Prising.
James Merrill, the richest American writer (thanks to his father’s Merrill Lynch millions) had a personal foundation during his lifetime that helped his fellow poets. One of them was my friend Helen Adam, the traditional Scots balladeer who somehow was taken up in San Francisco by the Beats and other poets there like Robert Duncan. The grant helped her take her popular ballad-opera San Francisco’s Burning to New York where it had a beautiful performance at the Judson Church Theatre in Washington Square with a new score by its gay minister-composer Al Carmines and Helen’s reprising her bewitching role as the Worm Queen. But a bitchy ex-lover of Carmine’s, then the reviewer for the Village Voice, published his nasty review that killed the opera’s chances.
I was already living with the actor, writer, and pacifist Robin Prising (we would stay together until his death three years ago). Helen was introduced to us by Robin’s previous lover, who had lived in San Francisco on his way to teach in Japan, and she soon became our fast friend. Helen introduced us to many queer writers and film-makers of interest, notably the poet Marilyn Hacker and the novelist and hotly gay memoirist Samuel “Chip” Delaney. Their queer marriage understandably didn’t last, but it brought forth a remarkable daughter.
I had first seen Robin, gloriously all in white, leading an anti-capital punishment protest march he had organized in the spring of 1960 with Elaine de Kooning and the great American Socialist and pacifist David McReynolds. More…
San Francisco-based video artist Bill Domonkos does an exceedingly festive Jack and Jill-esque lipsync to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme’s classic Christmas carol. I have watched it seven times in 24 hours. You may too. Be warned. (t/y Kevin Killian!)