Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal born 5 October 1925 (d. 2012)

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal is a prolific and versatile American writer of novels, stage plays, screenplays, and essays.

As a novelist, playwright, essayist, mystery writer (under the pseudonym Edgar Box), screenwriter, social critic, literary critic, congressional candidate, political activist, and actor, he has been a public and often controversial figure on both the American literary and political scenes for nearly sixty years.

He is important for the gay literary heritage because of the straightforwardness with which he has pursued gay themes and included gay characters in his work, beginning in his teens when he wrote his first novel, Williwaw (1946).

He has also steadily upped the ante about what sorts of gay material could be included in his mainstream works and as a result has made it easier for a wide range of other writers to find public acknowledgement of their material.

Although the grandson of a United States Senator, Vidal felt uncomfortable in America because of his sexuality and lived mostly in Italy from the mid-1960s, sharing his life with his partner Howard Austen. He decided to sell his villa in Ravello for health reasons in 2003. He spent most of his later living in Los Angeles. In November 2003, Howard Austen died. In February 2005, Vidal buried Austen's remains in a tomb maintained for the two of them at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Vidal died of complications from pneumonia on July 31, 2012.

The City and the Pillar (1948), Vidal's third novel, is the story of professional tennis player Jim Willard, a man who never outgrows a boyhood crush on his best friend Bob Ford. The idea that men who enjoy sex with other men circulate among ordinary people undetected is implicit everywhere in this novel and outraged some original readers.

Although Vidal argues here and in many places in his non-fiction that there is no homosexual identity and everyone is bisexual, the plot of the book proves the contrary. For The City and the Pillar is, despite itself, the first mainstream coming-out novel.

At the insistence of the publisher, the original book ended with a violent death. In 1968, in light of changed social values, Vidal was able to publish The City and the Pillar Revised, a substantially altered version of the book with a different, and possibly more shocking, ending.

Most of Vidal's works have more or less prominent gay characters, and he is important for the consistency with which he has continually expanded gay visibility in mainstream fiction and, to some extent, drama. He is , for example, largely responsible for the gay subtext in the film epic Ben-Hur (1959).

In addition to fiction and drama, Vidal has written a large number of essays, often disputatious ones. He has a broad range of insightful but usually not very comforting comments to make about American politics and the American character in general, but is always entertaining and provocative.

Gore Vidal

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Angus McBean

Angus McBean born 8 June 1904 (d. 1990)

Angus McBean was a Welsh photographer, associated with surrealism.

McBean was born in Newbridge, Monmouthshire, the son of a coal mine surveyor. He bought his first camera and tripod as World War I was ending. Fascinated by the apparently magical properties of photography, he wanted to be able to take pictures of people and sold a gold watch left to him by his grandfather to raise the five pounds necessary for the equipment.

In 1925, after his father's early death, McBean moved with his mother and younger sister to Acton, London. He worked for Liberty's department store in the antiques department learning restoration, while his personal life was spent in photography, mask-making and watching plays in the West End theatre. In 1932 he left Liberty and grew his distinctive beard to symbolise the fact that he would never be a wage-slave again. He then worked as a maker of theatrical props, including a commission of medieval scenery for John Gielgud's 1933 production of Richard of Bordeaux.

McBean's masks became a talking point in social columns, and were much admired by the leading Bond Street photographer Hugh Cecil. Cecil offered McBean an assistant's post at his Mayfair studio, and having learnt the secrets of Cecil's softer style and after using the studio at night, McBean set up his own studio 18 months later in a basement in Belgrave Road, Victoria, London.

The artist McBean as he was still known as a mask maker, gained a commission in 1936 from Ivor Novello for masks for his play The Happy Hypocrite. Novello was so impressed with McBean's romantic photographs that he commissioned him to take a set of production photographs as well, including young actress Vivien Leigh. The results, taken on stage with McBean's idiosyncratic lighting, instantly replaced the set already made by the long-established but stolid Stage Photo Company. McBean had a new career and a photographic leading lady: he was to photograph Vivien Leigh on stage and in the studio for almost every performance she gave until her death thirty years later.

McBean resultantly became one of the most significant portrait photographers of the 20th century, and was known as a photographer of celebrities. In the Spring of 1942 his career was temporarily ruined when he was arrested in Bath for committing homosexual acts. He was sentenced to four years in prison and was released in the autumn of 1944. After the Second World War, McBean was able to successfully resume his career.

There were in effect two periods to McBean's career, his pre- and post-war phases. Pre-war he was a lot more confident in himself and experimented successfully with surrealism, indeed his work with the likes of Vivian Leigh are some of the most accessible surrealist photographic images known. Post-war he reverted to a more regular style of portraiture photography, nearly always working with the entertainment and theatre profession.

In 1945, not sure whether he would find work again, McBean set up a new studio in a bomb-damaged building in Covent Garden. He sold his Soho camera for £35, and bought a new half-plate Kodak View monorail camera to which he attached his trusted Zeiss lenses. McBean was commissioned first by the Stratford Memorial Theatre to photograph a production of Anthony and Cleopatra, and all his former clients quickly returned. Through the late 1940s and 50s he was the official photographer at Stratford, the Royal Opera House, Sadlers Wells, Glyndebourne, the Old Vic and at all the productions of H.M. Tennent, servicing the theatrical, musical and ballet star system.

Magazines such as the Daily Sketch and Tatler vied to commission McBean's new series of surreal portraits.

Two figures have prevented McBean from gaining the full fame he deserves - the first being Cecil Beaton, whose lavish lifestyle and work for Vogue and the British Royal Family made him a huge star. And secondly that of David Bailey who though coming much later (1960s) was also close to Cecil Beaton both personally and in terms of style. Bailey is an iconic figure in the world of fashion photography just as Beaton was before him - McBean sadly did not enjoy this level of fame either in his life or after death, even though he was arguably the better technically and perhaps artistically. Additionally McBean's focus on the world of theatre (particularly London's West End) did not give him the international recognition that he probably deserved.

McBean's later works included being the photographer for The Beatles' first album, surrealist work as well as classic photographs of individuals such as Agatha Christie, Audrey Hepburn, and Noel Coward. Both periods or his work (pre- and post-war) are now eagerly sought by collectors and his work sits in many major collections around the world.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Mark Ravenhill

Mark Ravenhill born 7 June 1966

Mark Ravenhill is one of England's leading contemporary playwrights.
His most famous plays include Shopping and Fucking (first performed in 1996), Some Explicit Polaroids (1999) and Mother Clap's Molly House (2001). He made his acting debut in his monologue Product, at the Edinburgh Festival in 2005. He often writes for the The Guardian arts section.

Mark Ravenhill grew up in West Sussex, England and cultivated an interest in theatre early in life, putting on plays with his brother when they were children. He studied English and Drama at Bristol University from 1984-1987, and held down jobs as a freelance director, workshop leader and drama teacher.

In 1997, Ravenhill became the literary director of a new writing company, Paines Plough. In 2003, when Nicholas Hytner took over as artistic director of the National Theatre, Ravenhill was brought in as part of his advisory team. In the mid-nineties, Ravenhill was diagnosed as HIV+, his partner of the early 1990s having died with AIDS.

Although he was at the heart of new British playwriting in the 1990s and 2000s, Ravenhill is very respectful of historical theatre and has claimed that he would like to see directors focus more on the classics and stop producing new plays that don’t have as much substance or meaning. In the same article, Ravenhill posits that directors have forced themselves into the 'eternal present', rather than expanding their reach to the many different cultures and genres of the past that they have to choose from. Further evidence of his interest in traditional theatre forms lies in Ravenhill's love of pantomime; he presented a Radio 4 documentary about the form and wrote Dick Whittington for the Barbican Theatre in 2006.

Ravenhill's work has transformed and developed in the 2000s. While his work in the 1990s - Shopping and Fucking, Handbag, and Some Explicit Polaroids for example - may be characterised by directly attempting to represent contemporary British society, his work has become more formally experimental and abstract.

His one-man show, Product, which toured internationally after its premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005, is both a satire on our post-9/11 attitudes to terrorism, and also a minutely observed reflection on the limits of language and form to capture contemporary reality. His play, The Cut, opened in 2006 at the Donmar Warehouse starring Sir Ian McKellen and divided critics with its portrait of a world dominated by the administering of a surgical procedure: the country, the year and the procedure are all unspecified. A similarly ambiguous and politically indirect style characterises the seventeen short plays that make up Ravenhill for Breakfast.

Ravenhill's former style continues to get an airing in the short plays he has written for young people, Totally Over You and Citizenship, both written for the National Theatre's National Theatre Connections Programme.

In November 2007, he announced in the Guardian that for the moment, he would concentrate on writing about heterosexual characters.


In 2008 the Royal Court, The Gate Theatre, the National Theatre, Out of Joint, and Paines Plough collectively presented the seventeen short plays Ravenhill wrote for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007 under the title Ravenhill for Breakfast retitled as Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat.

Ravenhill was appointed Associate Director of London's Little Opera House at The King's Head Theatre in September 2010. He played an active role in the venue's relaunch as London's third Opera House along with patron Sir Jonathan Miller, Robin Norton-Hale and Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher[

James Ivory


James Ivory born 7 June 1928

James Francis Ivory is an award-winning American film director, best known for the results of his long collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions, which included both Indian-born producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Their films won six Academy Awards.

Ivory was born in Berkeley, California. He was educated at the University of Oregon, majoring in Architecture and Fine Arts and then at the University of Southern California Film School. He wrote, photographed, and produced Venice: Theme and Variations a half-hour documentary submitted as a thesis film for his degree in cinema at USC. The film was named by The New York Times in 1957 as one of the ten best non-theatrical films of the year.

In 1961, Ivory created the film production company, Merchant Ivory Productions, with Indian-born producer Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala who served as the screenwriter for many of their productions. Until Merchant's death in 2005, the company produced a number of award winning films. Merchant was also Ivory's long-term life partner. Their professional and romantic partnership lasted from the early 1960s until Merchant's death in 2005.

In 1985 A Room with a View, based on the E. M. Forster novel, was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, for Jhabvala’s adaptation of Forster’s novel as well as for Best Costume and Best Production Design. A Room With a View was also voted Best Film of the year by the Critic’s Circle Film Section of Great Britain, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the National Board of Review in the United States and in Italy, where the film won the Donatello Prize for Best Foreign Language Picture and Best Director.

In 1987, Maurice received a Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival as well as Best Film Score for Richard Robbins and Best Actor Awards for co-stars James Wilby and Hugh Grant.

This was followed in 1990 by Mr and Mrs Bridge, which was adapted by Ruth Jhabvala from the novels by Evan S. Connell. This film received an Oscar nomination for best Actress (Joanne Woodward), as well as Best Actress and Best Screenplay from the New York Film Critics Circle.

In 1992 Ivory directed another Forster-adapted film, Howards End. The film was nominated for nine Academy awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three: Best Actress (Emma Thompson), Best Screenplay - Adaptation (Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration. The film also won Best Picture at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, as well as awards for Best Picture, Best Actress for Emma Thompson and Best Director for Ivory from the National Board of Review. The Directors Guild of America awarded the D.W. Griffith award, its highest honor, to Ivory for his work.

Howards End was immediately followed by The Remains of the Day, which in turn was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

The final Merchant Ivory film was 2005's The White Countess.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann born 6 June 1875 (d. 1955)

Paul Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and mid-length stories, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernised German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer.

Thomas Mann was born in Lübeck, Germany to German and Brazilian parents. His mother was Roman Catholic, but Mann was baptised into his father's Lutheran faith. Mann's father died in 1891, and his business was liquidated. The family subsequently moved to Munich. Mann attended the science division of a Lübeck gymnasium, then spent time at the University of Munich and Technical University of Munich where, in preparation for a journalism career, he studied history, economics, art history, and literature. He lived in Munich from 1891 until 1933, with the exception of a year in Palestrina, Italy, with his novelist elder brother Heinrich. Thomas worked with the South German Fire Insurance Company 1894–95. His career as a writer began when he wrote for Simplicissimus. Mann's first short story was published in 1898.

In 1905, he married Katia Pringsheim, daughter of a prominent, secular Jewish family of intellectuals. They had six children who became literary, artistic figures in their own right.

In 1929, Mann had a cottage built in the fishing village of Nidden (Nida, Lithuania) on the Curonian Spit, where there was a German art colony, and where he spent the summers of 1930-32 there, working on Joseph and his Brothers. In 1933, after Hitler assumed power, Mann emigrated to Küsnacht, near Zürich, Switzerland, in 1933, but received Czechoslovakian citizenship and a passport in 1936. He then emigrated to the United States in 1939, where he taught at Princeton University. In 1942, the Mann family moved to Pacific Palisades, California, where they lived until after the end of World War II; on June 23, 1944 Thomas Mann was naturalised as a citizen of the United States. In 1952, he returned to Europe, to live in Kilchberg, near Zürich, Switzerland.

He never again lived in Germany, though he regularly travelled there. His most important German visit was in 1949, at the 200th birthday of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, attending celebrations in Frankfurt am Main and Weimar, a statement that German culture extends beyond the new political borders.

In 1955, he died of atherosclerosis in a hospital in Zürich and was buried in Kilchberg. Many institutions are named in his honour, most famously the Thomas Mann Gymnasium of Budapest.

Mann's diaries, unsealed in 1975, tell of his struggles with his sexuality, which found reflection in his works, most prominently through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio in the novella Death in Venice (Der Tod in Venedig, 1912), which was famously filmed in 1971 by Luchino Visconti starring Dirk Bogarde, and turned into an opera by Benjamin Britten, his last, in 1973.

Hugh Laing

Hugh Laing born 6 June 1911 (d. 1988)

Hugh Laing was a British ballet dancer and actor, and lifelong partner of choreographer Antony Tudor.

Hugh Laing, whose original name was Hugh Skinner, was born in Barbados in the then British West Indies. He moved to London in 1931 to study art, but soon became interested in ballet. After taking ballet classes with Marie Rambert, Margaret Craske and Olga Preobrajenska, he joined Miss Rambert's experimental Ballet Club in 1933, and it was there that he met Antony Tudor.

He remained Tudor's artistic collaborator and 'friend' until the choreographer's death in 1987. For the Ballet Club, Tudor created roles for Laing in The Planets, The Descent of Hebe, Jardin aux Lilas and Dark Elegies.

In 1938, Laing became a member of Tudor's London Ballet, a short-lived troupe for which he danced in Tudor's Gala Performance and Judgment of Paris.

Hugh Laing accompanied Tudor to New York in 1939 to participate in the first season of Ballet Theater, as American Ballet Theater was originally known. Just as Tudor soon was recognised as a great choreographer, so Laing was hailed as one of the company's finest artists.

At Ballet Theater, Tudor choreographed several of the roles for which Laing was famous - the handsome, but corrupt, Young Man from the House Opposite in Pillar of Fire (1942), Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (1943), a sophisticated gentleman in Dim Lustre (also 1943) and a murderer in Undertow (1945). He was also admired for his portrayals of the gypsy lover in Leonide Massine's Aleko, a neurotic young man in Jerome Robbins' Facsimile, Albrecht in Giselle and the title role of Petrouchka.

[Left] Hugh Laing, Maude Lloyd, Antony Tudor, and Peggy van Praagh in Tudor's Jardin aux Lilas (1936)

He danced with the New York City Ballet from 1950 to 1952, appearing in a revival of Jardin aux Lilas and in such new works by Tudor as The Lady of the Camellias (1951) and La Gloire (1952). In addition, he won praise in the title role of Balanchine's Prodigal Son and Robbins's Age of Anxiety. He later made guest appearances with Ballet Theater, then embarked upon a new career as a commercial photographer in New York continuing to assist Tudor with restagings of his ballets. Laing appeared as Harry Beaton in the film of the musical Brigadoon (1954)

Laing's relationship with Tudor was briefly interrupted when he married the American ballerina Diana Adams in 1947; they were divorced in 1953.

Known for his good looks and the intensity of his stage presence, he was never considered a great technician, yet his powers of characterisation and his sense of theatrical timing were considered remarkable. His profile as a significant dancer of his era was almost certainly enhanced by Tudor's choreographing to his undoubted strengths and Laing is generally regarded as one of the finest dramatic dancers of 20th-century ballet.

He died of cancer, aged 77, in New York City in 1988.

Harvey Fierstein

Harvey Fierstein born 6 June 1952

Harvey Fierstein is a Tony Award-winning and Emmy Award-nominated American actor, playwright, and screenwriter.

Born Harvey Forbes Fierstein in Brooklyn, New York, the gravelly-voiced actor perhaps is known best for the play and film Torch Song Trilogy, which he wrote and in which he starred. The 1982 Broadway production won him two Tony Awards, for Best Play and Best Actor in a Play, two Drama Desk Awards, for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Actor in a Play, and the Theatre World Award, and the film earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination as Best Male Lead.

Fierstein also wrote the book for La Cage aux Folles (1983), winning another Tony Award, this time for Best Book of a Musical, and a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Book. Legs Diamond, his 1988 collaboration with Peter Allen, was a critical and commercial failure, closing after 72 previews and 64 performances. His other playwriting credits include Safe Sex, Spookhouse, and Forget Him.

Fierstein made his acting debut in Andy Warhol's only play, Pork's. In addition to Torch Song Trilogy, Fierstein's Broadway acting credits include Edna Turnblad in Hairspray (2003) [left], for which he won another Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (joining Tommy Tune as the only people to win the award in four different categories), and Tevye in the 2005 revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

Fierstein's film roles include Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway, Robin Williams' maskmaker brother in Mrs Doubtfire, a Parade of Hope spokesman in Death to Smoochy, Garbo Talks, Duplex, and the blockbuster hit Independence Day. He also narrated the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk and voiced the role of Yao in Walt Disney's Mulan (1998), a role he later reprised for the video game Kingdom Hearts II.

On television, Fierstein was featured as the voice of Karl, Homer's assistant, in the Simpson and Delilah episode of The Simpsons, and the voice of Elmer in the 1999 HBO special based on his children's book The Sissy Duckling, which won the Humanitas Prize for Children's Animation.

Additional credits include Miami Vice, Murder, She Wrote, the Showtime TV movie Common Ground (which he also wrote), and Cheers, which earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Fierstein is an occasional columnist writing about gay issues. His careers as a stand-up comic and female impersonator are mostly behind him.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes born 5 June 1883 (d. 1946)

John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes CB was a British economist whose ideas, called Keynesian economics, had a major impact on modern economic and political theory as well as on many governments' fiscal policies. He advocated interventionist government policy, by which the government would use fiscal and monetary measures to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions, depressions and booms. He is one of the fathers of modern theoretical macroeconomics.

Born in Cambridge, John Maynard Keynes was the son of an economics lecturer at Cambridge University and a successful author and a social reformer.

Keynes' early romantic and sexual relationships were almost all with men. Homosexuality was not unusual in the Bloomsbury group in which Keynes was avidly involved. One of his great loves was the artist Duncan Grant, whom he met in 1908, and he was also involved with the writer Lytton Strachey. Keynes appeared to turn away from homosexual relationships around the time of the first World War. In 1918, he met Lydia Lopokova, a well-known Russian ballerina, and they married in 1925.

After studying Mathematics at Cambridge, where his interest in politics lead him to switch to economics, Keynes accepted a lectureship at Cambridge in economics, from which position he began to build his reputation. Soon he was appointed to the Royal Commission on Indian Currency and Finance, where he showed his considerable talent at applying economic theory to practical problems.

His expertise was in demand during the First World War. He worked for the Adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the Treasury on Financial and Economic Questions. Among his responsibilities were the design of terms of credit between Britain and its continental allies during the war, and the acquisition of scarce currencies.

His successes in this field led eventually to the appointment that would have a huge effect on Keynes’ life and career: financial representative for the Treasury to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

Keynes' career lifted off as an adviser to the British finance department from 1915 – 1919 during World War I, and their representative at the Versailles peace conference in 1919. His observations appeared in the highly influential book The Economic Consequences of the Peace in 1919, followed by A Revision of the Treaty in 1922. Using statistics provided to him by the German delegation, he argued that the reparations which Germany was forced to pay to the victors in the war were too large, would lead to the ruin of the German economy and result in further conflict in Europe. These predictions were borne out when the German economy suffered in the hyperinflation of 1923. Only a fraction of reparations were ever paid.

By 1942, Keynes was a highly recognised economist and was raised to the House of Lords as Baron Keynes, of Tilton in the County of Sussex, where he sat on the Liberal benches. During World War II, Keynes argued in How to Pay for the War that the war effort should be largely financed by higher taxation, rather than deficit spending, in order to avoid inflation. As Allied victory began to look certain, Keynes was heavily involved, as leader of the British delegation and chairman of the World Bank commission, in the negotiations that established the Bretton Woods system. The Keynes-plan, concerning an international clearing-union argued for a radical system for the management of currencies, involving a world central bank, the International Clearing Union, responsible for a common world unit of currency, the Bancor.

Keynes was ultimately a successful investor, building up a substantial private fortune. He was nearly wiped out following the Stock Market Crash of 1929, but he soon recouped his fortune. He enjoyed collecting books: for example, he collected and protected many of Isaac Newton's papers. He was interested in literature in general and drama in particular and supported the Cambridge Arts Theatre financially, which allowed the institution to become, at least for a while, a major British stage outside of London.

Keynes' personal interest in Classical Opera and Dance focused on his support of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Ballet Company at Sadlers Wells. During the War as a member of CEMA (Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts) Keynes helped secure government funds to maintain both companies while their venues were shut. Following the War Keynes was instrumental in establishing the Arts Council of Great Britain and was the founding Chairman in 1946. Unsurprisingly from the start the two organisations that received the largest grant from the new body were the Royal Opera House and Sadlers Wells.

He also had a less laudable interest in eugenics.

Keynes died of a heart attack at his holiday home in Tilton, East Sussex, his heart problems being aggravated by the strain of working on post-war international financial problems. He died soon after he arranged a guarantee of an Anglo-American loan to Great Britain, a process he described as 'absolute hell'.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Sam Harris

Sam Harris born 4 June 1961

Sam Harris is an Oklahoma-born singer, actor, songwriter and theatre director. 'Discovered' in the first season of US TV talent show Star Search at the age of 22, he has gone on to forge a successful career touring, on record and especially as a Broadway musical performer.

Harris is a Tony nominated actor in musical theatre, starring in Broadway productions of Grease, The Life, Cabaret, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Jazz Singer, among others. He has also appeared in films and TV shows.

Although encouraged several years ago to lend his talent to AIDS benefits, Sam Harris began to speak about his sexuality in the late 1990s and the recent ultra-conservative trend in America has inspired him towards greater openness and activism.

Harris and Danny Jacobsen, who is a director and presentation coach for numerous Blue Chip companies and also film producer, have been together since 1994. They adopted a son, Cooper Atticus Harris-Jacobsen, in April 2008 and the couple married on November 1, 2008.

When Sam sings, I'm perfectly all right, except for the fact that I can't breathe! I find myself crying and laughing and applauding and knowing why I went into this business. [Liza Minnelli]

Friday, June 03, 2011

George Quaintance

George Quaintance born 3 June 1902 (d. 1957)

George Quaintance was a man of many of talents - dancer; designer of stage sets, interiors and New York department store windows; he also designed women's make-up and hairstyles for Hollywood stars and New York socialites, and was a sought-after portrait artist. But George Quaintance's main contribution to gay life and culture and the key to his true significance is his long career as a male physique photographer and, more especially, his extraordinary paintings, which are now highly collectible and hold a unique place in the story of gay sensibility and imagery in the twentieth century. His art helped define the now-familiar iconography of male erotica.



Although now obscure, George Quaintance was one of the most influential figures in a unique American style of art and one of the most flamboyant and interesting gay characters for four decades of the twentieth century.

Though few people outside the gay world know it, Quaintance was a pioneer of male physique painting. This genre heralded a new American gay consciousness in the early 1950s.
John Waybright - GLBTQ Encyclopedia

A more detailed biography of this extraordinary man and his life and work is available at the GLBTQ Encyclopedia.


Quaintance, the first major biography of George Quaintance, by John Waybright and Ken Furtado, is due to published soon.

The Quaintance Collection

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg born 3 June 1926 (d. 1997)

Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American Beat poet. Ginsberg is best known for Howl (1956), a long poem about the self-destruction of his friends of the Beat Generation and what he saw as the destructive forces of materialism and conformity in United States at the time.

Ginsberg was born into a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey. His father Louis Ginsberg was a poet and a high school teacher. Ginsberg's mother, Naomi Levy Ginsberg (who was affected by epileptic seizures and mental illnesses such as paranoia) was an active member of the Communist Party USA and often took Ginsberg and his brother Eugene to party meetings. Ginsberg later said that his mother 'Made up bedtime stories that all went something like: "The good king rode forth from his castle, saw the suffering workers and healed them."'

As a teenager, Ginsberg began to write letters to The New York Times about political issues such as World War II and workers' rights. While in high school, Ginsberg began reading Walt Whitman; he said he was inspired by his teacher's passion in reading.

In Ginsberg's freshman year at Columbia he met fellow undergraduate Lucien Carr, who introduced him to a number of future Beat writers including Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and John Clellon Holmes. They bonded because they saw in one another excitement about the potential of the youth of America, a potential which existed outside the strict conformist confines of post-WWII McCarthy-era America. Ginsberg and Carr talked excitedly about a 'New Vision' (a phrase adapted from Arthur Rimbaud) for literature and America. Carr also introduced Ginsberg to Neal Cassady, for whom Ginsberg had a long infatuation. Kerouac later described the meeting between Ginsberg and Cassady in the first chapter of his 1957 novel On the Road. Kerouac saw them then as the dark (Ginsberg) and light (Cassady) side of their 'New Vision'. Kerouac's perception had to do partly with Ginsberg's association with Communism (though Ginsberg himself was never a Communist); Kerouac called Ginsberg 'Carlo Marx' in On the Road. This was a source of strain in their relationship since Kerouac grew increasingly distrustful of Communism.

Also in New York, Ginsberg met Gregory Corso in a bar and introduced him to the rest of his inner circle.

In 1954 in San Francisco, Ginsberg met Peter Orlovsky, a young man of 21 with whom he fell in love and who remained his life-long lover, and with whom he eventually shared his interest in Tibetan Buddhism.

Also in San Francisco Ginsberg met members of the San Francisco Renaissance and other poets who would later be associated with the Beat Generation in a broader sense.

He met Michael McClure at a W. H. Auden reading where they struck up a conversation about William Blake. McClure was planning a poetry reading at the Six Gallery where Robert Duncan's play Faust Foutu had previously been performed. But McClure handed the duties off to Ginsberg. Ginsberg advertised the event as 'Six Poets at the Six Gallery'. One of the most important events in Beat mythos, known simply as 'The Six Gallery reading' took place on October 7, 1955. The event, in essence, brought together the East and West Coast factions of the Beat Generation. Of more personal significance to Ginsberg: that night was the first public reading of Howl, a poem that brought world-wide fame to Ginsberg and many of the poets associated with him.

Ginsberg's principal work, Howl, is well-known to many for its opening line: 'I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.' Howl was considered scandalous at the time of its publication due to the rawness of its language, which is frequently explicit. Shortly after its 1956 publication by San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, it was banned for obscenity. The ban became a cause célèbre among defenders of the First Amendment, and was later lifted after a judge declared the poem to possess redeeming social importance.

Though 'Beat' is most accurately applied to Ginsberg and his closest friends (Corso, Orlovsky, Kerouac, Burroughs, etc.), the term 'Beat Generation' has become associated with many of the other poets Ginsberg met and became friends with in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A key feature of this term seems to be a friendship with Ginsberg. (Friendship with Kerouac or Burroughs might also apply, but both writers later strove to disassociate themselves from the name 'Beat Generation') Part of the dissatisfaction with the term 'Beat Generation' came from the mistaken identification of Ginsberg as the leader. Ginsberg never claimed to be the leader. He did, however, claim many of the writers with whom he had become friends in this period shared many of the same intentions and themes.

Later in his life, Ginsberg formed a bridge between the beat movement of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s, befriending, among others, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Rod McKuen, and Bob Dylan.

Ginsberg's willingness to talk about taboo subjects is what made him a controversial figure in the conservative 1950s and a significant figure in the 1960s. But Ginsberg continued to broach controversial subjects throughout the 1970s, '80s, and '90s.

One contribution that is often considered his most significant and most controversial was his openness about homosexuality, including his love of youths. Ginsberg was an early proponents of freedom for men who loved other men, having already in 1943 discovered within himself 'mountains of homosexuality'. He expressed this desire openly and graphically in his poetry. He also struck a note for gay marriage by listing Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong companion, as his spouse in his Who’s Who entry. Later homosexual writers saw his frank talk about homosexuality as an opening to speak more openly and honestly about something often before only hinted at or spoken of in metaphor.

Also, in writing about sexuality in graphic detail and in his frequent use of language seen as indecent he challenged — and ultimately changed — obscenity laws. He was a staunch supporter of others whose expression challenged obscenity laws (William S. Burroughs and Lenny Bruce, for example).

He continuously attempted to force the world into a dialogue about controversial subjects because he thought that no change could be made in a polite silence.

Allen Ginsberg died on April 5, 1997, surrounded by family and friends in his East Village loft in New York City. He succumbed to liver cancer via complications of hepatitis. He was 70 years old.

Maurice Evans

Maurice Evans born 3 June 1901 (d. 1989)

Maurice Herbert Evans was an English actor who became a US citizen in 1941.

Maurice Evans was born in Dorchester, Dorset. He first appeared on the stage in 1926 and joined the Old Vic Company in 1934, playing Hamlet, Richard II and Iago. His first appearance on Broadway was in Romeo and Juliet opposite Katharine Cornell in 1936, but he made his biggest impact in Shakespeare's Richard II, a production whose unexpected success was the surprise of the 1937 theatre season and allowed Evans to play Hamlet (1938) (the first time that the play was performed uncut on the New York stage), Falstaff in Henry IV, Part I (1939), Macbeth (1941), and Malvolio in Twelfth Night (1942) opposite the Viola of Helen Hayes, all under the direction of Margaret Webster.

When World War 2 arrived, he was in charge of an Army Entertainment Section in the Central Pacific and played his famous 'G.I. version' of Hamlet that cut the text of the play to make Prince Hamlet more decisive and appealing to the troops, an interpretation so popular that he took it to Broadway in 1945. He then shifted his attention to the works of Shaw, notably as John Tanner in Man and Superman and as King Magnus in The Apple Cart. He was also a successful Broadway producer of productions in which he did not appear, notably Teahouse of the August Moon.

American television audiences of the 1960s will remember Evans as Samantha's father, Maurice (the character was originally named Victor when he was introduced), on the sitcom Bewitched. He also played "The Puzzler" on Batman. Many viewers were unaware of Evans' extraordinary Shakespearean pedigree. His real-life insistence that his first name was pronounced the same as the name 'Morris' was ironically at odds with his Bewitched character's contrasting stance that it be pronounced 'Maw-REESE'.

As of 2006, Evans had appeared in more American television productions of Shakespeare than any other actor. In bringing Shakespeare to television, he was a true pioneer. Evans also brought his Shakespeare productions to Broadway many times, playing Hamlet in 4 separate productions for a grand total of 283 performances, a Broadway record that is not likely to be broken.

Evans had great impact onscreen as well, memorably in two 1968 films: as the evolved orang-utan, Dr Zaius in Planet of the Apes and as Rosemary's friend Hutch in the thriller Rosemary's Baby.

In his later years, Evans returned to the English country of his birth and died of cancer in East Sussex, England, aged 87.

Patrick Cargill

Patrick Cargill born 3 June 1918 (d. 1996)

Patrick Cargill was a British actor.

Patrick Cargill was one of the West End's most distinguished actors and a brilliant farceur. His sense of timing was excellent, an essential part of comedy acting. Although it was television that brought him fame.

He made his first West End appearance in 1953 in Ian Carmichael's revue, High Spirits at the London Hippodrome. He also co-wrote the stage play Ring For Catty, with Jack Beale. The second of the Carry On films, Carry On Nurse (1959) was based on this play. He appeared in Hancock's The Blood Donor as the long-suffering doctor in charge of the blood transfusion.

After a number of other West End roles he landed that of Bernard in Boeing Boeing at the Apollo Theatre in 1962. The farce, which was almost tailor made for him, attracted major producers to him and he went on to star in Say Who You Are at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1965 and to direct Not Now Darling by Ray Cooney and John Chapman at The Strand Theatre in 1968. In that year, Cargill had his big break when he was offered the chance of his own sitcom on ITV.

Father, Dear Father was written specifically for him and his unique off-beat farcical talent, and he was cast as Patrick Glover, a thriller writer, but an inept father of two teenage daughters. The show ran until 1973 and showcased many other stars, such as Leslie Phillips, Ian Carmichael, Tony Britton, Jeremy Child, Joyce Carey, Donald Sinden, Rodney Bewes, June Whitfield, Richard O'Sullivan, Bill Fraser, Dandy Nichols, Bill Pertwee, Peter Jones, Joan Sims, Richard Wattis, Jack Hulbert, Hugh Paddick, Roy Kinnear and Beryl Reid. The series was produced and directed by William G. Stewart, later to be the presenter of Channel 4 quiz show Fifteen to One.

In 1976 Cargill returned to the TV screens with The Many Wives of Patrick, playing a middle-aged playboy who is trying to divorce his sixth wife in order to remarry his first. This series again showcased many famous stars.

A resurgence in the popularity of farce in the 1980s saw him return to the theatre for the remainder of his career.

Patrick Cargill made a number of films, notably two Carry Ons and The Beatles' Help!

Patrick Cargill was born of middle-class parents living in Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex. He was a commissioned officer in the army during the war and spent most of his active service in India. From the mid 1960s he lived near Richmond, Surrey. He spent his time 'resting' at Spring Cottage, his country retreat situated in Sussex. For many years his 'companion' was Vernon Page, an eccentric landscape gardener, poet and lampoon songwriter, until he married in 1984 with Cargill's blessing.

Cargill was not a private man who quietly disliked his TV fame. He would shun the awards ceremonies and star galas in favour of a quiet evening at home playing Mah Jong. He never made any public acknowledgment of his private life as he felt that to admit to being gay would damage his professional image. Notwithstanding his reluctance to come out in this respect, Cargill was happy being gay in his private life and his wit when not in the spotlight reflected that. Once, whilst lunching with Ray Cooney, the theatrical impresario, Cargill wittily observed, when a particularly handsome waiter mistakenly removed his soup spoon, 'Ah look Ray, the dish has run away with the spoon.'

In the later years of his life, Cargill lived in Henley with his last companion, James Camille Markowski.

He died in Richmond, London, aged 77. He had been suffering from a brain tumour.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

John Lehmann

John Lehmann born 2 June 1907 (d. 1987)

John Frederick Lehmann (born Bourne End, Buckinghamshire) was an English poet and man of letters, and one of the foremost literary editors of the twentieth century, founding the periodicals New Writing and The London Magazine.

The son of journalist Rudolph Lehmann, and brother of actress Beatrix Lehmann and novelist Rosamond Lehmann, he was educated at Eton and read English at Trinity College, Cambridge, his time at both of which he considered 'lost years'.

In 1928 he had a slim volume of his poems privately printed , but the next volume of verse was published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press. The Woolfs offered him an 'apprenticeship' - as dogsbody and secretary - an experience he later caustically documented in Thrown To The Woolfs. In August 1932, he turned his back on the Hogarth Press and departed for Vienna. Part of the legendary Auden generation, he spent the early 1930s in a politically precarious but sexually liberated central Europe, engrossed in leftist politics, artistic pursuits and gay hedonism.

He returned to England to found the popular periodical in book format, New Writing (1936-1941) which proved of great influence on literature of the period, and an outlet for writers such as Christopher Isherwood and W H Auden.

After re-establishing relations with the Woolfs, he returned as managing director of Hogarth Press between 1938 and in 1946 he created his own firm John Lehmann Ltd with his sister Rosamond, publishing new works by authors such as Sartre and Stendhal, and discovering talents like Thom Gunn and Laurie Lee. The venture was not a commercial success however.

In 1954 he founded The London Magazine, remaining as editor until 1961, following which he was a frequent lecturer in the US in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and completed his three volume autobiography, Whispering Gallery (1955), I Am My Brother (1960), The Ample Proposition (1966).

In The Purely Pagan Sense (1976) is an autobiographical record of his homosexual love life in England and pre-war Germany, discreetly written in the form of a novel. He also wrote the biographies Edith Sitwell (1952), Virginia Woolf and Her World (1975), Thrown To The Woolfs (1978) and Rupert Brooke (1980).

In the long run, Lehmann is not so much remembered as a poet as for his influential editorship, his memoirs of inter-war literary life and his volumes of autobiography.

He died in London on 7 April 1987.

Christopher Bernau

Christopher Bernau born 2 June 1940 (d. 1989)

Christopher Bernau (born Herbert Augustine Bernau) was an American actor.

Bernau trained in the drama department at the University of California before getting his big break, appearing in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Antony and Cleopatra in 1962. He continued in that role until 1964, when he toured nationally in the production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? These roles, in addition to performing at Canada's Stratford Festival, led to an appearance in a story arc on cult Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows in 1969 and 1970.

His most famous role, however, was that of villain Alan Spaulding on the soap opera Guiding Light, a role he played from 1977 to 1984 and again from 1986 until shortly before his death in 1989.

Bernau is considered to be one of the only truly 'out' soap opera actors, as it was fairly well known by both the actors he worked with, and the soap press at large, that he was gay.

Bernau was diagnosed with AIDS but continued to work on Guiding Light. He left the show when he became too ill to show up at work, and he died of a heart attack brought on by complications from AIDS. He is buried at Santa Barbara Cemetery, Santa Barbara, California.

Crawford Barton

Crawford Barton born 2 June 1943 (d. 1993)

Crawford Barton was a notable gay photographer. His work is known for documenting the blooming of the openly gay culture in San Francisco, in the 1960s and 1970s.

Born and raised in a fundamentalist community in rural Georgia, Barton was a shy, introspective boy — a 'sissy'. His artistic interests and fear of sports alienated him from his father, a struggling farmer. He escaped family tensions by creating a world of his own imagination, which eventually led him to receive a small art scholarship at the University of Georgia.

It was here that Barton fell in love with a man for the first time. His feelings weren’t reciprocated, and after one semester, he dropped out and returned to the farm.

A couple years later, at age 21, he enrolled in art school in Atlanta. He made new friends and found outlets for his pent-up sexual energy in that city’s gay bars and clubs. It was during this time in Atlanta that Barton received a used 35mm camera as a gift, and learned basic darkroom techniques. He found his true calling in life — photography.

Barton moved to California in the late 1960s to pursue his art and life as an openly gay man. By the early 1970s he was established as a leading photographer of the 'golden age of gay awakening' in San Francisco. He was as much a participant as a chronicler of this extraordinary time and place.

Many of his images documenting long-haired freaks dancing in the street, love-ins in the park, 'dykes on bikes', cross-dressers in the Castro, and leather men prowling at night have become classics of the gay world. He photographed some of the first Gay Pride parades and protests; Harvey Milk campaigning in San Francisco; and celebrities including poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and actors Sal Mineo and Paul Winfield.

But it was his circle of friends and acquaintances that inspired his most intimate erotic photography, especially his lover, Larry Lara [left and below]. Crawford described Larry as the 'perfect specimen, as crazy and wonderful and spontaneous and free as Kerouac, so I’m never bored and never tired of looking at him'. Considered as a single body of work, his photographs of Lara dancing in the hallway of their flat on Dorland Street, a bearded hippie in the door of a cabin in Marin, a sensual nude in the hills of Land’s End, suggest the fullness, richness and complexity of the man he loved most.

In 1974, the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum featured Barton's prints in a show entitled 'New Photography, San Francisco and the Bay Area'. His bold, unapologetic work was praised by The New York Times reviewer. Other critics labelled it 'shocking' and 'vulgar'.

In addition to his fine art photography, Barton worked on assignment for The Advocate, and the Bay Area Reporter as well as The Examiner, Newsday, and the Los Angeles Times. A book of Barton's work, Beautiful Men, was published in 1976 and his photographs were used to illustrate a collection of short stories of Malcolm Boyd. Crawford Barton, Days of Hope was published posthumously in 1994 by Editions Aubrey Walter.

Days of Hope features more than 60 of Barton's black and white photographs which capture the look and optimistic spirit of '70s gay San Francisco: the freedom and joy of the sexual revolution (pre-AIDS), the intimate bonds of lesbian and gay couples, and like Beautiful Men, homoerotic portraits of the hottest men.

'I tried to serve as a chronicler, as a watcher of beautiful people - to feed back an image of a positive, likable lifestyle ― to offer pleasure as well as pride,' he explained.

By the early 1980s this period was over. San Francisco and the gay community were devastated by the onset of the AIDS epidemic. Barton’s lover of 22 years, Larry Lara, died of complications from AIDS before Barton himself succumbed at the age of 50 in 1993.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Tom Robinson

Tom Robinson born 1 June 1950

Although he was never really a proper 'punk', the Tom Robinson Band emerged on the back of the punk movement and enjoyed some success. Notably his ground breaking 1978 anthem Sing If You`re Glad To Be Gay, which was a Top 20 hit in the UK. His other notable hits were 2-4-6-8 Motorway (1977) and War Baby (1983)

Tom enjoyed some solo success and then Britain's first openly gay pop star 'ruined' it all by getting married and having children - which attracted some amusement from the press and the ire of some sections of the gay community.

He now sings that he's glad to be bi and continues to be an advocate for the LGBT community.

He finally retired as a full-time musician in 2002 and works as a broadcaster for BBC 6 Music. He occasionally appears in concert for fan events and for causes he supports.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman born 31 May 1819 (d. 1892)

Walter Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.

Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War in addition to publishing his poetry. Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842). Whitman's major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. After a stroke towards the end of his life, he moved to Camden, New Jersey where his health further declined. He died at age 72 and his funeral became a public event.

Whitman's sexuality is sometimes disputed, although often assumed to be bisexual based on his poetry. The concept of heterosexual and homosexual personalities was invented in 1868, and it was not widely promoted until Whitman was an old man. Whitman's poetry depicts love and sexuality in a more earthy, individualistic way common in American culture before the 'medicalisation' of sexuality in the late 1800s. Though Leaves of Grass was often labelled pornographic or obscene, only one critic remarked on its author's presumed sexual activity: in a November 1855 review, Rufus Wilmot Griswold suggested Whitman was guilty of 'that horrible sin not to be mentioned among Christians'. Whitman had intense friendships with many men throughout his life.

Some biographers have claimed that he may not have actually engaged in sexual relationships with men, while others cite letters, journal entries and other sources which they claim as proof of the sexual nature of some of his relationships.

Biographer David S. Reynolds described a man named Peter Doyle as being the most likely candidate for the love of Whitman's life. Doyle was a bus conductor whom he met around 1866. They were inseparable for several years. Interviewed in 1895, Doyle said: 'We were familiar at once — I put my hand on his knee — we understood. He did not get out at the end of the trip — in fact went all the way back with me.'

A more direct second-hand account comes from Oscar Wilde. Wilde met Whitman in America in 1882, and wrote to the homosexual rights activist George Cecil Ives that there was 'no doubt' about the great American poet's sexual orientation — 'I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips,' he boasted. The only explicit description of Whitman's sexual activities is second hand. In 1924 Edward Carpenter, then an old man, described an erotic encounter he had had in his youth with Whitman to Gavin Arthur, who recorded it in detail in his journal. Late in his life, when Whitman was asked outright if his series of Calamus poems were homosexual, he chose not to respond.

There is also some evidence that Whitman may have had sexual relationships with women. He had a romantic friendship with a New York actress named Ellen Grey in the spring of 1862, but it is not known whether or not it was also sexual. He still had a photo of her decades later when he moved to Camden and referred to her as 'an old sweetheart of mine'. In a letter dated August 21, 1890 he claimed, 'I have had six children - two are dead'. This claim has never been corroborated. Toward the end of his life, he often told stories of previous girlfriends and sweethearts and denied an allegation from the New York Herald that he had 'never had a love affair'.

In any case, Whitman is one of the first truly working-class poets and an iconic figure in gay literature.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Rainer Werner Fassbinder born 31 May 1945 (d. 1982)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a German film director, screenwriter and actor. A premier representative of the New German Cinema.

Famous for his frenetic pace in film-making, in a professional career that lasted less than fifteen years Fassbinder completed 35 feature length films; two television series shot on film; three short films; four video productions; twenty four stage plays and four radio plays directed; and 36 acting roles in his own and other’s films. He also worked as an actor (film and theatre), author, cameraman, composer, designer, editor, producer and theatre manager.

Fassbinder was distinguished for the strong provocative current underlying his work and the air of scandal surrounded his artistic choices and private life. His intense discipline and phenomenal creative energy when working were in violent contrast with a wild, self-destructive libertinism that earned him a reputation as the enfant terrible of the New German Cinema, as well as its central figure. He had tortured relationships in his personal life with the people he drew around him in a surrogate family of actors and technicians. However, his pictures demonstrate his deep sensitivity to social misfits and his hatred of institutionalised violence. He ruthlessly attacked both German bourgeois society and the larger limitations of humanity. His films detail the desperate yearning for love and freedom and the many ways in which society, and the individual, thwarts it. A prodigiously inventive artist, Fassbinder distilled the best elements of his sources — Brechtian theatrics, Artaud, Hollywood melodramas - especially 'women's pictures', classical narrative, and a gay sensibility into a complex body of work.

His most notable films include The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972), Fox and his Friends (1974), The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978) and his final film, his extraordinary vision of Jean Genet's Querelle (1982) [pictured left].

Fassbinder died at the age of 37 from an overdose of cocaine and sleeping pills. There is debate as to whether the overdose was accidental or not. His death is often considered to mark the end of New German Cinema.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín born 30 May 1955

Acclaimed Irish novelist and journalist Colm Tóibín is the author of a number of non-fiction books and five novels. His writings are infused with keen political insights and shrewd analyses. While same-sex desire is not overtly addressed in his early work, his most recent novels are astutely observed, unsentimental explorations of gay men trying to fit into an unwelcoming, and often openly hostile, world.

Tóibín received his secondary education at St Peter's College, Wexford, where he was a boarder from 1970 to 1972. He then progressed to University College Dublin, graduating in 1975. Immediately after graduation, he left for Barcelona. His first novel, The South (1990), was partly inspired by his time in the Spanish city, as was, more directly, his non-fiction Homage to Barcelona (1990).

After returning to Ireland in 1978, he began studying for a Masters. He never handed in his thesis and left academia, at least partly, for a career in journalism. The early 1980s were an especially bright period in Irish journalism and the heyday of the monthly news magazine Magill. Tóibín became editor of that magazine in 1982, remaining in the position until 1985.

The Heather Blazing (1992), his second novel, was followed by the award-winning The Story of the Night (1996) and The Blackwater Lightship (1999). His fifth novel, The Master (2004), was a fictional account of portions in the life of author Henry James. In 2006 his first collection of short stories was published as Mothers and Sons. In January 2010, Tóibín was named the winner of the Costa Novel Award for his novel Brooklyn.

He is the author of other non-fiction books: Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border (1994), (reprinted from the 1987 original edition) and The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1994). He has written a play that was staged in Dublin in August 2004, Beauty in a Broken Place.

He has continued to work as a journalist, both in Ireland and abroad. He has also achieved a reputation as a literary critic: he has edited a book on Paul Durcan, The Kilfenora Teaboy (1997); The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999); and has written The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English since 1950 (1999), with Carmen Callil; a collection of essays, Love in A Dark Time: Gay lives from Wilde to Almodóvar (2002); and a study on Lady Gregory, Lady Gregory's Toothbrush (2002).

Tóibín's work explores several main lines: The depiction of Irish society, living abroad, the process of creativity and the preservation of a personal identity, focusing especially on homosexual identities — Tóibín is openly gay — but also on identity in front of loss.

Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen born 30 May 1903 (d. 1946)

Countee Cullen was an American Romantic poet. Cullen was one of the leading African American poets of his time, associated with the generation of black poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

Cullen was born with the name Countee LeRoy Porter and was abandoned by his parents at birth. He was raised by his grandmother, Mrs Porter, but because he was very secretive about his life, it is unclear where he was actually born. Scholars state he was either born in Louisville, Kentucky, or Baltimore. Later in his life, Cullen said he was born in New York City. It is known that he attended Townsend Harris High School for one year and then transferred to DeWitt Clinton High School in New York and received special honours in Latin studies in 1922.

In 1918 his grandmother died. Cullen was subsequently adopted by Reverend Frederick Ashbury Cullen, minister at Salem Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem, and thus Cullen was raised a Methodist. Throughout his unstable childhood his birth mother never attempted to contact Cullen, and would not attempt to do so until sometime in the 1920s, after he'd become famous.

Cullen won many poetry contests from a very young age and often had his winning work reprinted. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, mainly consisting of all white, male students. He became Vice President of his class during his senior year, was also involved in the school magazine as an editor, and was affiliated with the Arista Honor Society.

After completing his secondary education, Cullen attended New York University. While an undergraduate, he published works in various literary magazines, including Harper's, Century Magazine, and Poetry. Also, his writing exceptional faculties were acknowledged with prizes from The Crisis, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, and Opportunity of the National Urban League. He graduated in 1925. Soon afterwards, he produced his first volume entitled Color and pursued graduate studies at Harvard University.

In April 1928, Cullen married Nina Yolande Du Bois, daughter of the famous W. E. B. Du Bois. Two months after the wedding, Cullen left for Europe with his father and Harold Jackman; his wife followed after a month. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1928.

Nina Yolande Du Bois divorced Cullen two years later, saying that he told her that he was sexually attracted to men.

In 1940, he married Ida Mae Roberson and they enjoyed a seemingly happy marriage.

On January 9, 1946, Cullen unexpectedly died of uremic poisoning and complications from high blood pressure. After his death, for a few years, Cullen was honoured as the most celebrated African American writer. A collection of some of his best work was also arranged in On These I Stand.

The West 136th Street branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem is named after Countee Cullen