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.
Tag Archives: Gay New York
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…
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…
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…
I met Chloe Dzubilo for the first time at Blacklips Performance Cult at Pyramid Club the night they staged her play “Vagina.” I found it to be a hilarious, mystical and transformative piece, beautiful and transgressive all at once. Chloe herself was beautiful and transgressive, mystical and hilarious. We became famous friends in blue walled dingy basements, in various apartments, parks and diners. Once, at brunch, really early in our friendship I witnessed a healing between Chloe and her father. She shared that intimate moment with me and she cried. I felt like I’d found a sister. I would call her when I was freaking out; with compassion and humor, she would talk me through.
I photographed Chloe a lot. With her band, with lovers, with friends who looked like her, with her dog, alone, nude, clothed, with writing on her body: “precious diva” “family” “love tummy.” When I finally decided to make a film, she had to be in it. It was a girl gang movie, Gang Girls 2000 Betsy came up with the gang name, Blades, which I elaborated to the Famous Blades of Chinatown, prompted by the freely given use of Chloe’s Chinatown apartment as the gang headquarters. Chloe was to play the leader of the gang. I said, “What should your gang name be?” She didn’t hesitate. “Transella Coutorture,” she replied. More…
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…
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…
Our girl Biddy B- aka the magnificent photographer, filmmaker and wit James Bidgood – is back this week to tackle two problems, one of etiquette and the other of sexual appetites. Have a problem that needs a-solvin’? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you an answer!
During a recent excursion to avoid the perils of hurricane Irene, I stumbled upon an instance of disastrous host/guest etiquette. This rainsoaked affair involved a small cluster of early-20s blond girls who invited my friend and I (both gay men) to seek shelter in their “food and booze stocked” abode. We entered baring gifts, as any gracious guest would, and proceeded to construct a veritable cornucopia of food upon their table. They asked us to tape their windows for them, as their short arms prohibited them from doing, what they intoned, was a man’s job. Back in the kitchen, they stared quietly out at us, as they nibbled hungrily on the food that we had supplied. They proceeded to prepare a lavish meal and then as I watched in silent horror sat at the table before us and slowly ate without once offering us either food or beverage. After their meal had been consumed, our main host related, “I have a bottle of wine that’s been open in the fridge for a few days, now. I’m not sure if it’s any good.” I naturally passed. I am from the south, as was our blond host and I was fundamentally flummoxed by such behavior. —–(edited) —–Do I need to keep better company? Is old fashioned etiquette dead? Or does it just go home to Paris for the spring? Well, I am not.
Faithfully yours, Bradford
Well, Dahling, it would be equally cheeky of me to impugn any person or persons level of intelligence. Lord knows I myself am by no meter’s measure the brightest bulb in the chandelier and you convey the impression of being a very well educated fellow, although perhaps a mite loquacious. However, Dahling, I can not help but wonder —can you spell c.u.n.t.? More…
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…
It’s been 16 years since the documentary version of The Celluloid Closet, activist Vito Russo’s landmark book about gay representation in film, was released in theaters. Vito spent nearly his whole life watching films, screening them for others and helping to explain how film perpetuated stereotypes about gay and lesbian people in film. Tonight, Vito returns to theaters as the star of the film, rather than a spectator. Jeffrey Schwartz’s eagerly-anticipated documentary Vito, which explores Vito’s life as a cinephile activist as well as an important AIDS activist will screen at 6PM and 9:15PM at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the New York Film Festival. The screening is sold out, but there are rush tickets available for both screenings. The film features interviews with Lily Tomlin, Armisteaud Maupin, and many of Vito’s closest friends and colleagues. Don’t miss it.