Tag Archives: The 1980′s

Gay New YorkNews & Updates

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP by

united in anger featured img

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is a unique feature-length documentary that combines startling archival footage that puts the audience on the ground with the activists and the remarkably insightful interviews from the ACT UP Oral History Project to explore ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) from a grassroots perspective – how a small group of men and women of all races and classes, came together to change the world and save each other’s lives.

Keep the Lights On spoke with director Jim Hubbard a few months ago, just before the premiere of United in Anger at the MOMA. Tomorrow, July 6, it will open at the Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village.


Art & Autobiography

Jesus Days 1978 – 1983 by


During my twenties, I was fervent Believer in Christ and an in-the-closet gay young man.  I worked for a national evangelical organization called InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I traveled to college and university campuses where I met Christian students, lead prayer meetings and taught Born Again students how to witness for Jesus to their non-believing peers. I was involved in evangelistic outreach on the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida during spring break, summer camps and weekend conferences, witnessing on campuses, and missionary trips to Central America. By 1983, after many years struggling with my sexual identity, I left the ministry, came out as a gay man, moved to New York City and entered the graduate film program at Columbia University. I was thirty years old.

Jesus Days, 1978-1983 are photographs (originally Kodachrome/Ektachrome slides) that I took of my own circle of friends. At that time, I was an untutored photographer with no ambition to make pictures other than my own pleasure and as a record of my friends and the world in which I lived. More…

Gay New York

Walking With Ghosts by


The meatrack is a small forest tucked behind the beach and sand dunes of Fire Island. It bridges the gay and queer summer communities of The Pines and Cherry Grove. It is where people go to meet, have sex and make art. It is a place where dry bones breathe.

The first time I went through the meatrack I followed the sunburned neck of pioneering contemporary artist AA Bronson. I was working as his assistant; accompanying him and artist Ryan Brewer as they scouted locations for an art project they were doing involving rituals, and the use of a long black, Victorian Comme Des Garcons skirt AA had recently acquired.

As I kept on eye on AA’s long white luminescent beard, I struggled to take in everything. I had been hearing about Fire Island my whole gay life – the adventures of Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and Christopher Isherwood, as well as how, according to Larry Kramer, the island and it’s hedonistic vibe was the sign of the gay man’s demise. It was heady to be walking on the shifting ground, moved by the intense weight of emotions washing over me. As soon as I stepped into the rack I felt very unalone. More…

Gay New York

The Beginnings of MIX by

To mark the occasion of the opening night of the 24th New York Queer Experimental Film Festival, the festival’s co-founder Jim Hubbard has generously allowed us to reprint the following essay detailing the origins of the festival, first published in French to mark the 15th anniversary of Scratch Cinema in Paris in 1999. Much has changed within the festival since this article was first written, but the history of its birth remains the same.

Sarah Schulman and I were smoking pot one cold night in February 1987. As Sarah passed me the joint, she said, “We should do a lesbian and gay experimental film festival.” I said, “I’ve always wanted to do one. When should we do it?” “September.” “Do you think we could do it for two weeks?” “No, one week is more than enough work.” And so, the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film Festival was conceived.

When we approached Howard Guttenplan, director of Millennium, to rent the space for the festival, he asked us if we thought there was an audience for this work. I replied that I had no idea, but we were going to find out. More…

Gay New York

The World According to Tusk by

RNR Fag Bar Go-Go Dancers

Tuesday nights in the late ’80s meant Dean Johnson’s Rock and Roll Fag Bar at the World. Getting near the corner of Avenue C on 2nd Street back then involved passing a gauntlet of thin, aggressive guys offering heroin and it’s accoutrements: “need works?” they asked, “horse?” Or, “scag?” It wasn’t uncommon to see society’s dregs lying in doorways with a syringe dangling from their arm, blood dribbling out of the puncture. Dodge a crack head or two on the way, some beggars, a guy pissing against a tenement, and for your effort a gay paradise awaited. More…

Art & Autobiography

Untitled (The Istanbul Biennial, 2011) by

Vesna Pavlovic's "Search for Landscapes"

A mountain of 175 pounds of candies “individually wrapped in variously colored cellophane” piled up in the corner of a gallery. The candy is unguarded, so the viewer is encouraged to take some. Each and every day, the remaining candy is weighed and more is added until the pile goes back to the same 175 pounds. This is Untitled (Ross), one of the most poignant works by Felix Gonzales-Torres, the Cuban American artist who lived and worked in NYC in the ’80s and early ’90s. This beautiful installation underscores the process as an intrinsic part of the art piece, which is constantly being re-created, and never finished.

175 pounds corresponds to the “ideal” weight that a doctor established for his patient Ross Laycock, the artist’s partner, when he was diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-80’s. Gonzales-Torres was once asked who his ideal audience was, and he answered without skipping a beat; “My audience is Ross.” Ross died in ’91. The diminishing amount of candy parallels Ross’ suffering and weight loss prior to his death, but the replenishment stipulated by the artist metaphorically grants him eternal life. More…

Art & Autobiography

I Live With This Loss Everyday by

DAN_FISHBACK_[Allison Michael Orenstein]_1

Over the past few years Dan Fishback has made a name for himself as one of the most talented young writers and performance artists in New York. When reviewing Fishback’s 2009 play You Will Experience Silence, the Village Voice wrote that he displayed a “[Tony] Kushnerian sense for the complexities of historical memory,” even though Fishback’s piece was “sassier and more fun” than Angels in America. But at the same time that Fishback was experiencing success, an illness was in the process of changing his life drastically. Now Fishback is hard at work on a new show, titled thirtynothing, which will premiere at the end of September and run through October 22nd at Dixon Place. thirtynothing tells the story of Fishback’s quest to learn about unknown queer artists who who were lost to the AIDS epidemic – and how doing so changed his life for the better. Fishback has launched a fundraising campaign on Indie Gogo – which ends tomorrow, and is throwing a benefit tonight at Dixon Place featuring performances by future downtown legends like Molly Pope, Kim Smith, Max Steele, Max Vernon and The Lisps. I called Fishback at home on Sunday night to talk about his show, his health, and what it feels like to turn share a birth year with the most devastating plague in history. 

Adam Baran: Why did you decide to call your show thirtynothing?
Dan Fishback: I turn 30 as soon as this production is over. I’ve been looking forward to it for the past five years. When I was 25, I was in this arts fellowship and was the only person in their twenties. Most of the others were in their mid-thirties. So when I would complain about boys or whatever my problem was they would all just yell at me, “Dan, these problems aren’t real problems and as soon as you hit 30, you will see that everything that’s bothering you right now is really stupid and changeable and everything’s just fine. You’ll gain this cosmic wisdom and everything will just be easier.” I believed them so intensely that for the last five years, I’ve just been, like, killing time.

As someone in his 30s, now for about six months, I don’t know if I’ve gotten this newfound wisdom. Problems are problems are problems. Of course, they’re not going to go away when you turn 30. But I’m with you. Just waiting.
Yeah, waiting for the cosmic wisdom of age to descend upon you.

What about your Saturn’s return? That was another thing I didn’t experience.
Really? My Saturn return was fucking intense. It’s still going on. More…

Gay New York

The Precious Moments Are Really Precious: How Victor Hugo Changed My Life by

Ben & Victor by Maripol

Fun-loving veteran fashion show and events producer Benjamin Liu came to New York City in 1979 at the invitation of Victor Hugo, a Venezuelan artist with a larger-than-life personality  well known throughout the ’70s and ’80s in gay, arts and fashion circles as fashion designer Halston’s lover, muse and window display designer. Hugo was Liu’s tour guide on a rollercoaster ride through the heart of New York City’s most legendary creative period. The trip changed the course of Liu’s life and eventually led to him working for artist Andy Warhol from 1983 to 1986. Warhol passed away a year later and Hugo died in 1993, but Liu still remembers his mentors fondly and remains eternally grateful for the experiences that have shaped him. I met up with him to reminisce about his formative years. 

Michael: How did you come to New York?
Benjamin: I came to New York through one friend, Victor Hugo, and I always continually thank him. He signified a whole era. He was a Venezuelan hustler and makeup artist who became a muse to Halston, Andy Warhol and Elsa Peretti. He was Halston’s lover–boyfriend and also a great display person, an artist in his own right and a coke addict. He was famously photographed at Studio 54 in a jock strap, in a celluloid stripped top carrying a women’s purse. At the same time, so manly. He was really like a porn star.

He was sexy to you?
He was sexy to everyone. This was a person who lived at St. Mark’s Baths. More…

Art & Autobiography

The Diaries of Kevin Bentley by

Kevin Bentley circa 1978

In mid-July, 1977, after a violent confrontation with his father, young Kevin Bentley lit out for San Francisco, that famous territory that beckoned thousands of gay men seeking a place where they could be accepted and meet each other. Unlike many of his fellow travelers, he kept a detailed diary of his day-to-day experiences, which usually consisted of plenty of good, hot, dirty sex. In 2002, Green Candy Press released Wild Animals I Have Known, which contains Bentley’s journals from 1977 to 1996. The book is a sharp, incisive, fascinating, and very sexy chronicle of real life in San Francisco. Though his sexual experiences are at the forefront of the narrative, the book takes a dramatic turn in the early 1980′s when Bentley contracts HIV, along with many of his friends. Since he was an asymptomatic case, Bentley survived the decade, but eventually witnessed the deaths of many friends and two of his longtime partners. Today, Bentley lives in San Francisco with Paul, his partner of 15 years. He still enjoys his sex life, and is still writing about it. I called Bentley at home to talk about the construction of his diaries, his influences, and the unique pleasure of reading real stories of our gay lives.

Adam Baran: You started writing the diaries that became Wild Animals I Have Known in 1977, right?
Kevin Bentley: The book starts in ’77. I was keeping diaries full-time beginning in college. They’re good for going back and reminding myself of what I’d forgotten. There was a lot of sex in those. But I wasn’t a good enough writer then. More…

Art & Autobiography

Chinese Take Out by

Dominique and her brother

In the Art and Autobiography section, we’ll be regularly featuring interviews with artists from across the creative spectrum who create, or are attempting to create personal or autobiographical work. We’ll also be featuring examples of personal storytelling from many of these artists. For our first post, Obie award-winning playwright and one of the legendary Five Lesbian Brothers Dominique Dibbell has graciously agreed to share an excerpt from “Adam and Jane”, a memoir she is currently writing about her parents.  

After an hour or so, maybe more, my father stopped into one of those Chinese food shops in New York that are very bare bones. Thick, scratched, and dirty plate glass front, approach the counter, order from the menu on the wall above, order taker scurries back through a door to the kitchen and delivers order. Wait 5 to 10 minutes, order taker retrieves your meal from the back and gives it to you. It is in plastic containers, in a plastic bag, and included is a plastic fork, maybe a napkin, and soy sauce and hot mustard packets. If you’re lucky, it comes with a free egg roll.

So we go into this little Chinese food place with my father, and it smells bad. It smells more sad than bad. Like death, sickness, and loneliness are their fare more than lo mein and spare ribs. I am having a moment of disgust for this food and the people who eat it. On the other hand, it is around lunchtime on a cold winter day and I have probably eaten a bagel about four hours ago so I am hungry. I would like to eat some of this Chinese food. Because sometimes, of course, very good food can come out of very sad looking places. Not usually, but sometimes. Also, I am new to New York, so I don’t know that most likely the food from here will be terrible. Also, it might not taste terrible to me because my tastes are not fully matured. More…