Monthly Archives: January 2014

“Pink Triangle: The Feuds and Private Lives of Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Famous Members of Their Entourages” by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince— I Am Just Not Sure

pink triangle

Porter, Darwin and Danforth Prince. “Pink Triangle: The Feuds and Private Lives of Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Famous Members of Their Entourages”, Blood Moon Productions, 2014.

I Am Just Not Sure….

Amos Lassen

I must start this review with a disclaimer—I hate yellow journalism almost as much as I hate defaming the dead (especially if the defamed are heroes of mine) and this book does just that. Blood Moon productions has written several books that do just that—biographies of Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Merv Griffin and Raymond Burr all focus on tawdriness and rumor rather than on research on fact. Porter and Prince capitalize on the sordid and the nasty and I actually confronted the publishers on this last year at the Rainbow Book Festival and they were nice considering that I have never given them a favorable review.

Here we first focus on Gore Vidal and get “an overview of Vidal’s hot, then glacial, relationship with the fabled diarist Anaïs Nin”, and the drawn-out slugfests which followed. We then move on to Truman Capote who became the pet puppy of the women of the jet set who seemed to always be amid those fashionable women and he could  not keep his mouth shut. He eventually fell out of favor when they realized that he was using them for fodder for his books.

He had famous feuds with Vidal who when asked what was the best career step that Capote ever made, Vidal answered “to die”. The two were not exactly friends. Capote had a public fight with Jacqueline Susann as he struggled to have a best seller. He described her as “a truck driver in drag.”  He spent much time researching “In Cold Blood” which indeed put him on the bestseller list.  We get the impression that he fell in love with a killer who was a character in that book as well as one of the main characters in it. We read about his very famous party and how he spiraled downward to drugs, self-destruction and alcohol.

According to the writers, Tennessee Williams was “incurably decadent” and he became famous just as his plays had done. We learn of his private life. Then are the rumors that were about these people and rather writing about them in simple prose, the authors put them in the form of questions—“Did Tennessee really perform fellatio on JFK at his Palm Beach compound? Did Warren Beatty really have sex with him as a means of procuring his role as the gigolo in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone? What really happened to a then-unknown actor, Warren Beatty?

It is impossible to know what was true and what were the fabrications about the three authors here. There is no documentation and I learned long ago that rumor is nothing more than rumor. 

Note: I could not decide whether this is fiction or nonfiction so it is in both categories.

 

“ERIC CLAPTON: THE 1970s REVIEW”—A Musical Journey

eric clapton

Eric Clapton – The 1970s Review”

A Musical Journey

Amos Lassen

Eric Clapton reached a crossroads in 1968. He was regarded as the premier guitarist while he played with the band Cream and he rose quickly to the top but he began to lose faith in the band and undertook a solo career. We follow that journey from when he immersed himself in musical collectives—Delaney & Bonnie & Friends and Derek and the Dominos. By 1974 he was a phenomenally successful solo artist and onwards across a series of critically acclaimed albums and tours in the latter half of the decade which cemented his reputation as not just an extraordinary musician but as a  composer of majestic material and a performer of quite startling intensity.

The documentary is a collection ofnew and archive interviews, rare performance footage, contributions from the likes of Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock, The Albert Brothers , George Terry, Willie Perkins, Bill Halverson, Clapton biographer Marc Roberty and more, plus a host of other features.

For anyone who loves music and especially the guitar, this is a film that you do not want to miss.

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Jewish Female Impersonators Discover Comedy in Their Heritage

Why Being Barbra Streisand Can Be a Drag

Jewish Female Impersonators Discover Comedy in Their Heritage

Berle-Esque: The Kinsey Sicks label themselves as a ‘Dragapella Beauty Shop Quartet.’

Courtesy of the Kinsey Sicks
Berle-Esque: The Kinsey Sicks label themselves as a ‘Dragapella Beauty Shop Quartet.’

 

By Simi Horwitz

Published in The Forward, January 31, 2014, issue of February 07, 2014.

 

Steven Brinberg does not want to be called Ms. Streisand, Barbra or Babs before he steps onto the stage fully transformed into the singing icon. Until that moment, address him as Steven, please.

Indeed, it takes 90 minutes for the metamorphosis to be completed, starting with layers of makeup, followed by dress and wig. The last bit of costuming is the long nails. “The nails really make me feel very Barbra!” he said.

Brinberg is undoubtedly the premier Streisand impersonator. “It’s Barbra at prices you can afford,” he quipped during an interview with the Forward. “I always had an affinity for Barbra. She’s our leader. Now she’s played Israel.”

Along with performing on the cabaret circuit and trendy hot spots across the country, Brinberg frequently does his shtick at temple and Jewish Community Center events. Being Jewish shapes his humor while at the same time forces him to avoid Jewish caricatures that might be construed as anti-Semitic. And as a gay man, he is able to view Streisand from the outside, but identify with her in a way that a straight man could not. “I’m once removed,” he said.

Female impersonators — though some prefer to think of themselves as actors — may be playing real life divas, while others inhabit fictional creations. They may not reference their ethnicity at all, or they may lightly incorporate it into their stage personas or make it their act’s centerpiece. The most notable example is Amichai Lau-Lavie’s Rebbetzin Hadassah Gross, who was a motivational speaker and life coach and used biblical stories as object lessons. The act has now been retired.

Jewish cross-dressing goes back to medieval performances; early Purim shpiels routinely featured men playing all the female roles, including Queen Esther, says David Shneer, author of “Queer Jews,” and the Louis P. Singer chair in Jewish history at the University of Colorado Boulder.

In the 1950s, Milton Berle was legendary for his drag performances. “Though I can’t help thinking of it as burlesque, more than drag,” said Shneer, suggesting that cross-dressing straight men emerge from a somewhat different sensibility than their gay counterparts.

Drag, as we know it today, was defined by such vaudevillians as Julian Eltinge and Bert Savoy, who made their mark in the early 20th century. Lesser known names of the era created a more sexualized genre that continues to influence contemporary performers.

According to Shneer, Jewish drag entered the public imagination with Harvey Fierstein’s 1982-83 Tony Award-winning “Torch Song Trilogy,” whose gay protagonist Alan Beckoff made his living as a female impersonator.

Fierstein’s newest play, “Casa Valentina,” slated to be produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club this spring, is inspired by the real-life but little known community of cross-dressing Jewish heterosexuals who gathered each weekend to don women’s clothes at a 60s-era Catskills resort.

Like good burlesque, successful drag is comic, flamboyant and subversive. It’s arguably an expression of rebellion, but the artists we interviewed say their Jewish heritage is not a target. Keith Levy, aka Sherry Vine is pure Borscht Belt with a campy overlay. “I’m a little sassy, a little trashy, but not cheap. I’m Barbie on crack,” she says in her act.

“It’s heightened theater and the humor is self-deprecating,” she told the Forward. “I’ve never been told I’m offensive.”

All the artists come from homes that are accepting of their homosexuality and careers. Alexander Heimberg, who was formerly a drag performer by the name of Miss Understood and runs the 20-year-old booking agency, Screaming Queens, says that gentile drag queens tend to have a harder time because Jews aren’t subject to Christian dogma and its concept of hell. “No one ever told me I was going to burn in hell,” he said.

Brinberg says he understands that a man in drag could make some people uncomfortable without knowing exactly why. “It forces them to think about sexuality,” he said.

Discomfort can exist on several levels, not least watching a performer who is twice marginalized (as a Jew and as a gay man) and often over-the-top in his presentation of self, especially on stage.

“Jewishness is visible in gestures, in the voice, in the body’s compartment, and it’s often seen as excessive — too much, too big, too loud,” said Stacy Wolf, professor of theater at the Lewis Center for the Arts and director of Princeton Atelier at Princeton University. “Similar descriptions can be made about drag performance.”

“Drag brings together Jewish irony and homosexual camp,” added Shneer. “Satire and irony are a deep part of drag and one could say that comes from Jewish humor. The seams are supposed to be visible.”

Gay men and Jews also have similar relationships with their audiences, Shneer said. They both seek community with theatergoers who share with them common experiences, values, references and language.

“It’s a chance for all of us to drop the mask,” said writer, actor and drag artist Charles Busch who, early on in his career, was known for playing wild Hollywood divas and even one raging Upper West Side Jewish matron, Miriam Passman, who had her sights set on a cabaret career. “You loosen up when you’re with your own,” he said.

But Busch also suggests that as a Jew he brings an inherent “gravity” to the proceedings despite the hilarity.

Ira Siff, founder of the now defunct legendary drag opera company, La Gran Scena, says that through parody he and his colleagues were protesting what they saw as the homogeneity of art at the time. “We were poking fun in an affectionate way, but it came out of deep caring,” he stressed. “That’s Jewish.”

Even his comically grotesque diva persona, Vera Galupe-Borszkh, hinted at a certain dark side. Though the comedy emerged from a Catskills universe, her one-liners were invested with an unspoken backstory, according to Siff. Vera never stated that she was Jewish, he says, but she was conceived as such, starting with her generic Eastern European accent. “The audience understood she wasn’t a sunny gen tile,” recalled Siff, who now serves as a commentator on Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast. “There was that element of loss.”

Similarly, the Kinsey Sicks, a Beauty Shop Quartet,” are constantly driving home political or cultural commentary with such songs as “Christmas Carols and Other Jewish Music.” Diversity and tolerance are built into the material, says Irwin Keller, who is one of the founders of the 20-year-old troupe and plays a controlling, prim lesbian.

But Jewish mothers, “Jewish American Princesses,” the Holocaust and Israel are off-limits. “Israel is just too painful to Jews, whatever side they’re on,” noted Irwin, who also serves as a Reconstructionist rabbi. Most of the quartet’s audiences are Jews of all stripes, he says.

Indeed, the drag artists interviewed all have large Jewish followings, even among the Orthodox. Brinberg recalls performing at a birthday party for an Orthodox Jewish woman whose husband hired him because even in drag, Brinberg was still a man and therefore the husband could watch him perform.

The fact that Brinberg is a gay man prancing about as a female was either not acknowledged, or simply considered low on the blasphemy scale compared with a biological woman strutting her stuff on stage.

So what are female impersonators saying about gay men in general and Jewish gay men in particular? The effeminate Jewish man is not a new stereotype. Now add the homosexual/drag element.

The performers insist stereotypes are not necessarily negative and that if anything, their schtick is an expression of homage to women. They own, embrace and celebrate the stereotypic image. They also vehemently deny the existence of any misogyny in their performance, asserting that drag gives them permission to have fun with their own femininity by, at least in some instances, playing women sporting overstated makeup and cartoonishly large boobs that resemble bookshelves.

Shneer does not entirely agree. “Misogyny is built into the performance,” he admitted. “But because it is embedded in a gay context the misogyny has gone away. It is misogyny without the teeth.”

He says it’s no fluke that the gay man’s icon is Judy Garland — not simply because she was a larger-than-life fabulous singer, but because of the underlying pathos of her story.

Brinberg sees no underlying pathos in either Streisand or himself, just a strong New York Jewish connection. They could be pals, he says, and only half-kiddingly speculates that should he ever meet her, he’d ask her where in New York he could get good old-fashioned chow mein, suspecting she would have the answer and might even join him on a trip to some obscure outer borough Chinese restaurant that still serves grandma’s fare.

Streisand has not yet come to see him perform, but Brinberg is sure she knows who he is. He says he’d like to believe he has become a role model for her.

A former writer for Backstage, Simi Horwitz writes frequently about show business for the Forward.

“PUNK JEWS”: Los Angeles Premiere 2/8

punk-jew-film_original

PUNK JEWS: Los Angeles Premiere 2/8

By Tera Greene

PUNKJEWSphoto-main350

GET EXCITED

 PUNK JEWS is finally premiering in Los Angeles!!!

 Let me just say that I am SO happy to be back in LA right now. The energy of Los Angeles is vibrant with Arts, Music, Film and media that is worth engaging with.  PUNK JEWS (Dir. Jesse Zook Mann) is a film that fits this vibe.

 

The current Los Angeles Moishe House is hosting the screening for this documentary on February 8, 2014 at 8pm, with producer, Evan Kleinman, in attendance for a talkback following the film. I can honestly say that I am excited that I have planted roots in the city and will be around for this premiere.  For me, the timing could not be better.

 

For starters, I have been excited about this project since being in fellowship with Evan Kleinman at ROI in 2011.  Secondly, I am looking forward to seeing how my past If I Were A Rich Man tourmate, Y-Love, is portrayed in the film.  Getting to spend time with Y-Love on a national tour while raising awareness about Fair Share Taxation in 2012 really made me see into his soul on a different level than most other people, and because of this, I’m very interested to see more about this very deep, passionate individual on screen. (Little known fact: It was Y-Love who came up with the tour name that our group decided to go with for the campaign. He joined us about halfway into the experience and I tell ya, he was a link that was needed.)  Lastly, I am a Moishe House alumna from waaaay back in 2009, and I’ve been looking to re-connect with the young Jewish adult community since moving back permanently to Cali. 

 

It will be nice to re-meet my community at this event on many levels.

 

I have gone through much change since first meeting Evan in 2011 and even since living in a Moishe House in 2009… Not to mention just in the short year and a half since hopping from state to state, city to city with Y-Love in 2012.

 

I’m excited because, though much has changed within me and around me, the one thing that remains true is that I am a PUNK JEW through and through and I am damn proud. Looking forward to wearing my PUNK JEW button to the event.  Definitely one of my most beloved pins in my vast collection.

 Below are the details for the 8th!

~Tera*

punk-jew-film_original

Please join the Los Angeles Moishe House for the Los Angeles Premier of the new documentary Punk Jews. Evan Kleinman, Punk Jews producer will be joining us to have a post show talkback.

Punk Jews profiles Hassidic punk rockers, Yiddish street performers, African-American Jewish activists and more, Punk Jews explores an emerging movement of provocateurs and committed Jews who are asking, each in his or her own way, what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century. Jewish artists, activists and musicians from diverse backgrounds and communities are defying norms and expressing their Jewish identities in unconventional ways. In the process, they are challenging stereotypes and breaking down barriers. Meet Yishai, lead singer of Moshiach Oi; Radical performance group, the Sukkos Mob; the renegade Orthodox participants of Cholent; the Amazing Amy Yoga Yenta; Kal Holczler, founder of Voices of Dignity; and African American Jewish hip hop sensation Y-Love.

watch the trailer at: http://www.punkjews.com/video/

Please see here for more information on the film.

Location: Moishe House LA
www.moishehouse.org – Los Angeles
www.facebook.com/lamoishehouse

Moishe House Los Angeles is generously sponsored by The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, and the Kallick Family.

TLA Entertainment Group Sold

tlareleasing_com
Great news!  Please note that Matt Johnstone is taking the publicity lead for anything in regards to this merger.  Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Happy Chinese New Year Eve!
Best,
Lewis

Media Contact:
Matt Johnstone / Matt Johnstone Publicity
Los Angeles / New York
323.938.7880 mattjohnstone-pr@sbcglobal.net

TLA Entertainment Group Sold to New York-Based Investment Firm Sterling Genesis International 

New York (January 30, 2014) – TLA Entertainment Group, Inc. (TLAEG) announced today that the company has been acquired by New York-based investment firm Sterling Genesis International, LLC. The sale includes direct-to-consumer brands and all digital properties, including tlamovies.com, tlavideo.com, tlagay.com, tlacult.com and tlaondemand.com.

G. Sterling Zinsmeyer, Chairman of Sterling Genesis International, will become Chief Operating Officer of TLAEG. Said Zinsmeyer, “TLA’s powerful worldwide brand awareness, together with fresh capitalization, will enable us as a company to continue to flourish, build upon a strong infrastructure, and seize new opportunities for digital expansion in the current marketplace.’

Derek Curl, Chief Executive Officer and President of Sterling Genesis, will take on the position of Chief Executive Officer and President of TLAEG. “With this acquisition’s potential for consolidation and global expansion, we will be able to realize even further the tremendous value TLA Entertainment Group has in the entertainment world,” said Curl.

TLA Entertainment Group’s current General Manager, Brian Sokel, will move into a Senior Executive management position and Jo Borasky, current Controller, will serve as CFO to aid in a successful transition for the company. TLA Releasing, owned separately by Curl, will be reintroduced into the TLAEG as part of the acquisition.

Raymond Murray, former president of TLAEG said, “Zinsmeyer and Curl are highly regarded veterans in finance and film production, with a proven track record of experience, financial savvy, and forward thinking approaches to film distribution. We look forward to a smooth transition and a bright future at TLAEG’

About TLA Entertainment Group
TLA Entertainment Group, based in Philadelphia, is a privately held corporation founded in 1981. The company began as owners of the Theatre of the Living Arts, a repertory cinema as well as the Roxy Screening Rooms. In 1985, it opened the first of several award-winning video stores in the Philadelphia area and in New York City. In 1996 it launched www.tlavideo.com, a direct-to-consumer movie site that has since expanded into the sale of DVDs and most recently, VOD. In 2000 it launched TLA Releasing, a film and video releasing company for North America. In 2005 it opened a British distribution company based in London. Today, TLA Entertainment’s primary business remains as a DVD and VOD e-tailer through its many sites including www.tlamovies.com, www.tlagay.com, www.tlaraw.com and www.tlacult.com. Films TLAEG has distributed include Latter Days, Another Gay Movie, and Mysterious Skin.

About Sterling Genesis International
Founded in 2013, Sterling Genesis International, LLC, is a private investment firm based in New York City focused on global media, entertainment, distribution and communications investments. The company is led by Chairman & COO G. Sterling Zinsmeyer, and President & CEO Derek Curl. In addition to a background in finance, Zinsmeyer has executive produced several films, including Latter Days, Adam & Steve, and The Deception.

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“THE KING FAMILY: CLASSIC TELEVISION SPECIALS COLLECTION VOLUME 1”— Remembering the Kings

the king family

THE KING FAMILY: CLASSIC TELEVISION SPECIALS COLLECTION VOLUME 1”

Remembering the Kings

Amos Lassen

For those of you who remember the sixties (I slept through most of them), you will remember the singing and dancing King family. They were known as television’s first “real life” musical family and they were multigenerational and truly represented what the sixties were all about. In 1967, following the success of their hit television series “The King Family Show”, they began a series of popular monthly syndicated TV specials which would spawn a show business phenomenon.  Over the next five years the Kings produced and starred in 17 specials (most of which re-aired annually for nearly a decade), released 6 top-selling albums, headlined a second TV series, and appeared in concert at the nation’s top venues including The Hollywood Bowl.  There was even a “King Family Day” at the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair.

The King Family Classic Television Specials Collection Volume 1” showcases the trademark musicality and warmth of this real-life family and is sure to delight both lifelong fans and those discovering their talents for the first time. This DVD consists of four hour long specials and special features that include: a featurette: ‘Valentine’s Day with the King Family: The “Lost” Special’, rare on-set home movies from Mother’s Day and September specials including a brief tour of the backlot at MGM Studios, multiple performances from the “Graduation Day” episode of The King Family Show (1965) and an 8 page booklet filled with archival photos, behind-the-scenes notes and more.

The four specials are “Easter with The King Family “, “Mother’s Day with The King Family”, “September/Back-to-School with The King Family ” (all from 1968) along with “June with The King Family” (from 1969). There are songs you will remember from their Grammy-nominated LP Imagination (1959-Best Performance by a Vocal Group) – the sizzling sounds of the Alvino Rey Orchestra – pop hits by The Four King Cousins with Tina Cole (My Three Sons) – powerhouse ballads from Mame andCarousel by Alyce King – Broadway tunes from Cabaret andFunny Girl by Marilyn King – the swinging jazz vocals of Kent Larsen, producer of the Grammy-winning classic Stan Kenton’s West Side Story (1962-Best Jazz Performance-Instrumental) – plus showstopping hits from Gigi, West Side Story, Hello Dolly, The Music Man, Little Me and Great American Songbook Classics such as “April in Paris,” “Easter Parade,” “September Song,” “Over the Rainbow” and much, much more with the 39 members of The King Family.

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“Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS” by Martin Duberman—- A Memorial to Those We Lost

hold tight gently

Duberman, Martin. “Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS”, New Press, 2014.

A Memorial to Those We Lost

Amos Lassen

It was not until December, 1995 that the FDA approved the use of protease inhibitors that were the first effective treatment for AIDS. For many, the drug was a reprieve from the death sentence but for others it came too late. In this country alone, more than 318,000 had already died from complications from AIDS and among them were Michael Callen, a singer and AIDS activist and Essex Hemphill, a poet.

Callen was from the Midwest. He moved to New York and became one of the leading figures in the movement to increase awareness about AIDS and he fought as others were hateful and homophobic. It was the time of the presidency of Ronald Reagan where the word AIDS was not spoken aloud in the government. Hemphill was an African American gay man in Washington, D.C. who regularly contributed to the black gay and lesbian scene through his poetry. Martin Duberman is an eminent historian who has shared his life with us through his numerous writings and now he now gives us an exploration “of race, sexuality, class, identity and the politics of AIDS activism beyond ACT UP”. In this new book we read of the generation that fought and struggled to deal with AIDS and to stay alive. This is also the story of Callen and Hemphill who refused to give in to despair.

Duberman is not only a brilliant writer but also an activist and with this book he takes us back to the years from 1981-1995, the early years of the AIDS epidemic when we lost so many as others fought to live. Using the personalities of Callen and Hemphill, he builds his human story. Both Callen and Hemphill died when they were 38 years old. There were deaths that did not have to be and they were caused as much by ignorance, chaos and uncertainty. Duberman looks at the sexual culture in which AIDS thrived and he also writes of the fear that was felt in this county and the political contradictions that went along with it.

Based upon interviews, personal recollections and Hemphill’s poetry, he gives us a look at the gay community then that was broken and conflicted as it faced what seemed to be certain death. This was a sobering time and sexism, racism, homophobia and false and incorrect leads were everywhere. Duberman focuses on AIDS as a gay disease and shows the differences in the white and black communities in the ways they responded to the epidemic. Here is a book about two men who were doomed and a society that was afraid that it would join them.

As a graduate student in history I was always told that if we do not study the past, we can expect to repeat it. There is great danger in forgetting what was even though we have made tremendous advances against HIV/AIDS which tend to hide the politics and the pain that was. By tracing the lives of Callen and Hemphill, we once again see “the pain, despair, panic, heroism, and moral bravery that defined the generation of women and men who first faced this modern plague. Daringly imagined and beautifully written, “Hold Tight Gently” is a major work of modern history that chills us to the bone even as it moves us to tears.” (Michael Bronski).

Racism was certainly a part of the epidemic and it was complex personalities like Callen, Hemphill and others who brought about the changes but gained nothing from them as their lives needlessly ended. If we, the members of the gay community, want to understand what happened here is a place to start. What makes this book so important is that it can teach those who were not there what it was like during the first ten years of AIDS and for those who were there, it reminds us of the intensity of the period. Unlike other studies of the epidemic, this is a very personal look. Duberman brings back the sensitivity to the issue by using the lives of the two activists and personally I can only hope that the new generations will become empowered because of them.

Here are several blurbs about the book:

 

It can teach those who weren’t there what that first decade of AIDS was like and remind those of us who were how intense those years were. And all this through the life stories of two compelling individuals.”John D’Emilio, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies & History at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Hold Tight Gently is a deeply moving work of largely hidden history. Martin Duberman not only brilliantly chronicles grassroots AIDS organizing in the early days of the epidemic, but the vibrant black lesbian and gay political and cultural movement that flowered during the same period. Through the lives of two remarkable men, Hold Tight Gently illuminates how race and class are inextricably linked to the struggle for sexual freedom and that against all odds people can fight for justice every day. A wonderful and important book.”Barbara Smith, author of The Truth That Never Hurts and co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press

“Through his probing and insightful chronicle of the lives two very different gay men who were early voices in the fight against AIDS, Martin Duberman has again brought light to shine in a personal way on the role of progressives in LGBT struggles and the importance of addressing how race, class, and gender impact this epidemic and who survives it. Sadly, these perspectives are still urgently needed in today’s world where those facing the devastation of AIDS are often invisible to mainstream politics. A poignant and politically potent tribute to those who have died from AIDS and who fought to make a difference even as their lives were cut short.”Charlotte Bunch, Distinguished Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University

Hold Tight Gently is an absorbing read. It’s a necessary introduction to the uninitiated, and a profound challenge to the collective amnesia concerning the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, one that shimmers with insights and lessons about race, sexuality, and class. Duberman’s take on these seminal figures illuminates their singular and collective triumphs and struggles, and critically how the pandemic profoundly impacted political and social organizing by gays in the eighties and nineties. The biographer renders Hemphill and Callen with respect and grace—just the way they should be.”Steven G. Fullwood, co-editor of Black Gay Genius

“Marty Duberman’s profoundly moving reconsideration of Michael Callen and Essex Hemphill is much needed now, as AIDS continues to ravage so much of our world. This marvelous book, filled with surprising connections, will be read by activists everywhere and empower the future.”Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt

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“Dare Me!: The Life and Work of Gerald Glaskin” by John Burbidge— Pushing the Limits

dare me

Burbidge, John. “Dare Me!: The Life and Work of Gerald Glaskin” (Gay and Lesbian Perspectives), Monash University Publishing, 2014.

Pushing the Limits

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I had never heard of Gerald Glaskin before I got a copy of John Burbidge’s wonderful biography of him and now I am determined to read anything and everything I can about him.

Gerald Glaskin lived from 1923-2000 and for most of his life, he pushed the limits and boundaries of acceptability in what he wrote about and how he wrote. His twenty publications included novels, short stories, travelogues, memoirs, plays, and more – tackled such taboo subjects as homosexuality, incest, and parapsychology. He always seemed to be several steps ahead of everyone else and I can’t help but wonder how he would feel, were he alive today, about the progress that has been made in gay rights. After all, he played a part.

“After World War II ended, Glaskin challenged white Australians to re-examine their attitudes toward Asians and Aboriginal people; and his 1965 novel, “No End to the Way” which, was initially banned in his home country of Australia, he gave a frank and honest portrayal of a homosexual relationship. Outside Australia, Glaskin’s books were translated into multiple languages and garnered praise from critics and readers alike. He was hailed as ‘the ace of Australian story tellers.’ Yet, in his home country, he was and remains a virtual nonentity”.

Why did Australia turn its back on Glaskin? Was it due to his delight in provoking people? Was it because of his audacious, belligerent, and, at times, overbearing manner? Was he a victim of a provincial publishing industry? This insightful biography explores his life and his work and gives him the respect that he is due. John Burbidge brings us a very important and compelling read with “Dare Me”.

I usually never quote in my review but with this book, I found that others, especially Australians say it so much better and more concisely than I can. I understand that Burbidge has dedicated himself to learning all that he can about Glaskin and for that alone he should be commended but now there is this book which is a product of his research and it is wonderful. This is the kind of book that should win the Lambda Literary Award all the time. Not only is it readable, it is about something new and it is a huge contribution to the gay canon. (Yes guys, this review is going to be a gusher). Aside from Burbidge probing the life of Glaskin, he also attempts to answer the questions posed above.

Already in the first chapter we learn how much Glaskin loved his home even though his home did not much care for him. He loved the beaches at Perth even though they provided trouble in his life. He was a body surfer until an accident forced him to quit and then he was charged with exposing himself on a Scarborough Beach and this indeed revealed a great deal about him and about the forceful character that he was—and we must remember that this was before there was any sign or talk of gay liberation. He was who he was with no excuses or explanations. He wrote that first novel based on his own experiences but was never able to duplicate its success. He became bitter yet with a certain charm.

Glaskin remained one of Australia’s most successful authors for more than 20 years and this was based on productivity, overseas sales and the number of languages into which his novels were translated. Even so the literary establishment and Australian publishers ignored him. Between 1955 (the publication of “A World of Our Own”) and 1974 (the publication of “Windows of the Mind”), Glaskin published ten novels, an anthology of short stories and a travelogue (“The Land that Sleeps”). Barrie & Rockliff published all but two in London. Only one of his works became a film(“A Waltz Through the Hills”, and it was a movie made for television ). In his book, it seems to me that Burbidge is really trying to establish Glaskin as a wonderful storyteller who was the benchmark for some of the themes now enjoying popularity in Australia and the world. He was one of the first authors to write about Australia’s relations with Asia and with the Aborigines. He poignantly wrote about loneliness and he went head to head with writing about sexuality, specifically homosexuality.

A compelling read, it looks to establish Glaskin not as a literary novelist but as a wonderful storyteller who benchmarked a number of themes current in Australian literature.

In fact, Glaskin was so open about sexuality that he had to publish “No End to the Way” (1965) under a different name (Neville Jackson). In this book he wrote of a homosexual relationship in Perth in the 1960s and it is compared to Gore Vidal’s “The City and the Pillar” and James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” for what all there books brought to society (the love that dared not speak its name).

Because Burbidge shares Glaskin’s sexuality, he has a relatively easy time writing about the complexities of Glaskin’s multi-faceted life and work and he is able to tell us about it candidly, something a straight writer might not succeed in doing. Burbidge has the energy and the knowledge to share Glaskin with us and he does not let his research cloud his writing. We learn that Glaskin had one overriding problem and that was that he was his own worst enemy. He fought with everyone, it seems but he still emerges as a major figure in this biography.

Glaskin was his own worst enemy – he fell out with just about everybody and spread himself too thinly. Burbidge recues Glaskin from obscurity and through his life he sheds light on Australian history. I cannot say enough about how fantastic of a read this is and we get the extra bonus of learning something at the same time.

 

 

 

2014 Stonewall Book Awards List— American Library Association

2014   Stonewall Book Awards List— American Library Association

(those marked with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamoslassen.com)

Barbara Gittings Literature Award

*Art on Fire, by Hilary Sloin (Ann Arbor, MI : Bywater Books); ISBN: 9781612940311

Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award

*American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men, by David McConnell (New York : Akashic Books); ISBN: 9781617751325

 

*Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son, by Lori Duron (New York : Broadway Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing, a division of Random House, Inc.); ISBN 9780770437725

Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (Woodbury, Minn : Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.); ISBN: 9780738732510

 

Fat Angie, by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press); ISBN: 9780763661199

Stonewall Honor Books in Literature

Stonewall Honor Books in Non-Fiction

Stonewall Honor Books in Children’s and Young Adult Literature

  • Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle (New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.); ISBN: 9781442446892 
  • *Branded by the Pink Triangle, by Ken Setterington (Toronto, Ont. : Second Story Press); ISBN: 9781926920962
  • *Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan (New York : Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York.); ISBN: 9780307931900

“STARRED UP”— Jack O’Connell & Ben Mendelsohn Go tor Prison

STARRED-UP-quad

“Starred Up”

 Jack O’Connell & Ben Mendelsohn Go tor Prison

Jack O’Connell may not be a name you know well now, but he may be a lot more famous by the end of the year thanks to major roles in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and 300: Rise Of An Empire. Before then he’s got Starred Up, which also stars Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend in a prison drama.

Here’s the synopsis: ‘In STARRED UP, Jack O’Connell gives a star-making performance as 19 year-old Eric Love, a violent and troubled teenager making the difficult transition from a young offenders’ institute to adult prison. He seems to be destined for a life behind bars, but the prison’s unconventional therapist (Rupert Friend) is determined to help Eric find a way through, assisted by of one of the prison’s longest serving inmates – Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) – who just happens to be Eric’s father.’

rainbow

 

olympics