Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot

On this day in 1975 the 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board...

The event was famously sung about by Gordon Lightfoot in his classic song The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.
share on: facebook

Remembering... Norman Mailer

When I was a little queerling (this was fifteen years ago now - okay, twenty...) Norman Mailer was considered the enemy of the gay community; always a macho posturer, Mailer had once allegedly made some offhand comment about how gay men had somehow taken the easy way out by opting not to be with women. Given the humourless tone of gay officialdom in those days (unlike today, he wrote, rolling his eyes so hard he almost gave himself a stroke) Mailer's comment wasn't even permitted enough context in which to grow, let alone be understood...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFast forward a dozen years, when what should cross my desk but an old paperback copy of Advertisements for Myself (1959), a collection of many of Mailer's earliest essays. Among them was an article he wrote in 1955 entitled The Homosexual Villain regarding a pair of homophobic characters (among others) he had written - General Cummings, in his famous bestseller The Naked and the Dead (1948) and Teddy Pope in his forthcoming book The Deer Park (1955); the essay was unique in at least two respects.

Firstly, it was written specifically for the pioneering gay publication One (which had split from the early gay rights group the Mattachine Society in 1952) and when the article appeared Mailer's was far and away the most famous name ever to appear in its masthead. Secondly, the essay offered a profound apology for the laziness that went into making these characters, and for his own attitude, which had previously equated homosexuality with evil reflexively and without any introspection.

At the time, Mailer was the pre-eminent man of American letters, whose lofty fame offered an inbuilt protection from attacks by the lowly and oppressed. Although he later disdained the article as the worst he'd ever written the fact is that at least he wrote it; not only that, when the time came, he republished it. His own bravado meant that he was willing to say something poorly rather than not saying anything at all. Mailer's excoriation of homophobia - however mild - was well-publicized, and stands today as one of the earliest works by a straight man defending his gay brothers.

Mailer had a conflicted relationship to homosexuality at best; he was relatively comfortable with individual homosexuals and was an early defender of James Baldwin, to the extent of supplying Baldwin's explicitly gay novel Giovanni's Room (1956) with a quote for its jacket; he later even admitted to being a 'latent homosexual' himself, qualifying the statement by saying that he 'chose to be heterosexual' - a pretty provocative statement, then as now.

The fact is, he may have only said it to rile up the women's libbers, whose goat he loved to get at the height of their 1970s humourlessness. That they had already branded him an utterly masculine writer - 'without any spark of the female in him' - ought to have made him a kind of icon for the all-male world, rather than its sworn enemy. Unfortunately, centuries of relentless anti-gay violence have rendered the gay community immune to any comment by straight men, a situation which endured up to an indeed beyond this day in 2007, the day Norman Mailer died...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

share on: facebook

'Torchin' For Bill" by Ann Reinking

Here we see birthday gal Ann Reinking vamping it up as 'Troubles' Moran, in a little number called Torchin' for Bill, from the 1978 movie Movie Movie, directed by Stanley Donen and starring George C. Scott, his wife Trish Van Devere, and featuring a very scrummy young Harry Hamlin.

Movie Movie doesn't appear to be available on DVD DVD - sorry, I couldn't help myself - and more's the pity, since from watching this clip I am so plotzing! I think I ultimately chose it for its obscurity and the fact that it carries echoes of another favourite of ours, Marlene Dietrich's performance of Hot Voodoo from Blonde Venus.
share on: facebook

Happy Birthday Ann Reinking

Born on this day in Seattle in 1949, Ann Reinking originally trained for the ballet; she later took Broadway by storm, though, both as a dancer and as a choreographer - first as protege, then later as lover, and finally as heir of Bob Fosse...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBeginning with a part in the chorus in Coco (1969) Reinking gradually rose through the ranks through a combination of hard work, talent, and bendiness. Early roles in Pippin (1972), Over Here! (1974), and Goodtime Charley (1975) led to bigger roles in the original run of Chicago (1975), A Chorus Line (1975), and a revival of Sweet Charity (1986).

Reinking made her film debut in All That Jazz (1979), which was a thinly veiled account of the life of Bob Fosse; she also appeared onscreen in Annie (1982) and Micki and Maude (1984).

As curator of Fosse's legacy, Reinking's greatest triumph to date remains her choreography (in the style of Fosse) and performance as Roxie Hart (based on real-life murderer Beulah Annan), opposite Bebe Neuwirth as Velma Kelly in the revival of Chicago (1996), which is still running on Broadway in addition to West End and touring productions. In 1999 Reinking conceived, co-directed, and co-choreographed the musical revue Fosse; in addition to a Tony Award and a Drama Desk award for Chicago, Reinking has also won a Bob Fosse Award for her work as a choreographer.
share on: facebook

In Memoriam: William Hogarth

The modern world owes much to William Hogarth; considered the first artist to create sequential drawings in pursuit of a storytelling aim, he can be considered as the father of the comic strip and thence the graphic novel. As skilled a painter as he was an engraver, his works staked out a place in the middle class where they could both entertain and enlighten the whole of the social strata...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn in London on this day in 1697, it was William Hogarth's good fortune to be born in interesting times. The rise of industrialization and urbanization gave his biting satire much on which to chew; they were prosperous times as well, and a burgeoning leisure class was willing to pay good money to be immortalized by him, even if it meant also being lampooned into the deal. When he was paid the then-exorbitant sum of £200 for a single portrait in 1746 - which represented several years' wages for a working man - it wasn't a royal or other aristocrat who ponied up the dough but one of the new aristocrats - an actor, David Garrick.

Hogarth's works (as all great art must) both commented upon and influenced society and its attendant culture; A Harlot's Progress and its companion A Rake's Progress (both 1731) demonstrate the corrosive effects of capitalism upon morality, while also functioning as a stern rebuke of the dangers inherent in a dissipated sexuality. Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751) shows the difference between the happy English society that was and the miserable one that replaced it when the public's favour shifted from beer to gin; in the same year The Four Stages of Cruelty limned one of Hogarth's favourite subject, namely man's inhumanity to man (and, by extension, animal and planet).

About the only field of endeavour in which he was not successful was as a history painter, although, in the years since his death in October 1764 these paintings of his have come to be well-appreciated, proving that not only were his works timeless but ahead of their time as well.
share on: facebook

POPnews - November 10th

[When David Livingstone was discovered alive by Henry Stanley - on this day in 1871 - their initial meeting was responsible for one of the Victorian era's most indelible catch-phrases...]

1444 - At the Battle of Varna the crusading forces of King Vladislaus III of Varna* and János Hunyadi were crushed by a Turkish army commanded by Sultan Murad II, during which action His Majesty was also killed - thus ending the Crusade of Varna, and eventually leading to the fall of Constantinople in May 1453.

*AKA Ulaszlo I of Hungary and/or Wladyslaw III of Poland!

1520 - Following his successful invasion of Sweden in September, soldiers loyal to Denmark's King Christian II executed some 82 high-ranking Swedes (many of them members of the Sture Party) over a three-day period, in what came to be known as the Stockholm Bloodbath.

1766 - The last colonial governor of New Jersey, William Franklin, signed the charter of Queen's College (which was later renamed Rutgers University).

1775 - The United States Marine Corps was founded.

1793 - A Goddess of Reason was proclaimed by the French Convention at the suggestion of Pierre Gaspard Chaumette; a statue of the goddess - modeled on and by Thérèse Momoro, wife of the printer Antoine-François Momoro - was then placed on the high altar of Notre Dame de Paris.

1821 - The so-called Gesture of Rufina Alfaro set into motion a revolt which eventually led to Panama's independence from Spain (which occurred just in time for Panama to immediately thereafter become part of Colombia).

1847 - The passenger ship Stephen Whitney was wrecked in thick fog off the southern coast of Ireland, killing 92 of the 110 on board; the disaster resulted in the construction of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse.

- Major Henry Wirz - the Confederate superintendent of Camp Sumter - became the only American Civil War soldier executed for war crimes.

1871 - Henry Morton Stanley located the missing explorer and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, in Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika, uttering the now-famous phrase 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?'

1898 - The Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 - the only instance of a municipal government being overthrown in US history - began in Delaware; originally considered a race riot, it is now more appropriately termed a coup d'etat.

1924 - Dean O'Banion, leader of the North Side Gang, was assassinated in his flower shop by members of Johnny Torrio's gang, sparking a bloody gang war which would dominate life in Chicago for the remainder of the 1920s.

1928 - Michinomiya Hirohito was crowned the 124th Emperor of Japan; since his January 1989 death he's been known by his posthumous name, Emperor Shōwa.

1938 - The founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, died.

1944 - 3,800 tons of ordnance on the ammunition ship USS Mount Hood (AE-11) exploded while the vessel was docked in Seeadler Harbor at Papua New Guinea's Manus Island; all 350 men aboard ship were killed in the blast, as well as 82 members of the crew serving on the USS Mindanao (ARG-3), and some 22 other boats moored nearby were either sunk or severely damaged.

1954 - US President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the USMC War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) in Arlington National Cemetery.

1958 - The Hope Diamond was donated to the Smithsonian Institution by New York diamond merchant Harry Winston.

1969 - Sesame Street - created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Jim Henson - made its television debut on National Educational Television, the precursor to PBS.

1995 - In Nigeria, playwright and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, along with eight others from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), were hanged by government forces.

2007 - The ¿Por qué no te callas? incident occurred, pitting Spain's King Juan Carlos I against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Try and guess whose side the Pop Culture Institute was on during this particular contretemps...
share on: facebook