Category Archives: Arts

A Lesbian Pioneer

Jane_rule_2 Author Jane Rule has died at the age of 76.

Jane Rule’s books, including "Desert of the Heart," and the film version ("Desert Hearts") were, in 1986, pretty much some of of the first truly Lesbian affirming literature and film. It may be hard to believe now, but twenty years was an Ice Age ago in terms of media, culture, and Gay people. If you grew up seeing stuff like The Children’s Hour (the message being that if you are a female and realize you are in love with another woman you need to hang yourself), Desert Hearts was way more than a breath of fresh air, it was revolutionary.

And how’s this for an exit? From The Globe and Mail: "Ms. Rule retreated to her bed in the middle of November with a bottle of Queen Anne whisky and a bar of good chocolate on her bedside table, hundreds of love letters from friends and admirers and a circle of friends and family who cared for her physical needs."

The Globe and Mail has a lovely tribute and obit.

White Crane in Philadelphia

Pa041258 A great crowd of Philadelphians gathered last night at the William Way Center for the unveiling of Mark Thompson’s exhibition of portraits "Fellow Travelers."  The remarkable photographs of Gay cultural pioneers were part of the Gay center’s first Gay History month celebrations.

Adding to the excitement of the evening was the presence of Gay pioneers like Daughters of Bilitis member (and partner to Barbara Gittings) Kay Tobin Lahusen.  Also present to show his collection of early Philadelphia Gay publishing material was Mark Segal of the Philadelphia Gay NewsAlso present was famed Gay songwriter and cabaret performer Tom Wilson Weinberg.

Many thanks to Dolph Ward Goldenburg, Executive Director of the William Way Center for his efforts in making the exhibition and the evening possible.

The exhibit will be there through the end of October so if you get a chance to visit, do!

Here are a few photographs from the wonderful evening.



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Herbert Muschamp is Dead

20071004_muschampHerbert Muschamp, best known as the architecture critic for the New York Times, died late Tuesday night after a fierce and unpleasant battle with cancer. He was 59

“We were the children of white flight, the first generation to grow up in postwar American suburbs. By the time the ’60s rolled around, many of us, the gay ones especially, were eager to make a U-turn and fly back the other way. Whether or not the city was obsolete, we couldn’t imagine our personal futures in any other form. The street and the skyline signified to us what the lawn and the highway signified to our parents: a place to breathe free.” Herbert Muschamp

"A city is never more fully human than when expertise — our own or someone else’s — allows us access to ebullience, lightness and delight." Muschamp’s review of Santiago Calatrava’s design for a building at 80 South Street, written in 2004

Philadelphia born, Muschamp studied art at the University of Pennsylvania before dropping out to move to New York.  He was enmeshed in the burgeoning arts scene and, according to Elaine Woo’s obit in the LA Times, was a regular fixture around Andy Warhol’s "the Factory."  Muschamp went back to school, studying architecture at Parsons where he eventually taught.  He wrote for Vogue, Art Forum, the New Republic and of course The New York Times where he was architecture critic starting in the early 1980s.

His writing ranged across many fields.  His first book File under Architecture, is a, sadly out of print, classic.  He wrote Hearts of the City, and the introduction to Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Complete Flowers.  In his Man About Town : Frank Lloyd Wright in New York City, Muschamp deflated Wright’s "city hating" posturing as a conceit and looked critically (and at times favorably) at Wright’s urban projects — like Broadacres and Million person skyscraper.  It makes for great writing.  In an essay on the Viennese architect Adolf Loos in Visions of Utopia, Muschamp wrote a great working philosophy for one’s individual work:

"…utopianism, for me, has come to represent the concept of taking local, idealistic actions in an imperfect universe.  I can’t think about this subject in any other way.  The conventional utopia–the imaginary ideal city or world — seems to me a transitional state between belief in an almighty dignity, a supreme being capable of bending the laws of nature, and the acceptance of personal responsibility in whatever sphere life happens to place us."  Herbert Muschamp "Service Not Included"  Visions of Utopia

I loved his writing.  It was incisive, funny, and educational.  I appreciated his passion (a word that keeps coming up in all the obits about him).  You could tell that architecture and the way that people live in the city mattered.  20071004_shelter A few years ago I came across a great piece of Muschamp’s 1970s-era criticism in an old volume of Lloyd Kahn’s Shelter book (recently reprinted).  The book, sort of a relic of hippie DIY building (it was recently reissued), was a wonder.  But I was amazed to see Muschamp in its pages.  I remember doing a sort of double take.  Of course this was years before his New York Times days, but as I read the piece, titled "Medieval NYC" I realized Muschamp was a perfect fit for this book about building authentically.  I found it just as fitting and fresh for the current era.  I always found his work to be about a deep humanism and a desire for authenticity.  He championed then largely unknown architects like Frank Gehry.

The obituary in the Los Angeles Times quotes Muschamp’s once writing about his agenda:

"If I have an agenda," he wrote, "it is to peek beneath the mantles of authority with which architecture needlessly cloaks itself, and reveal the fishtails and horses’ behinds."

Shouldn’t this be the agenda of every curious living person?

This was published on my blog Wondermachine.

Beebo Brinker Chronicles — Live On Stage!

Beebo_brinker I don’t think there are books in the Gay men’s community that compare to Ann Bannon’s 50s and 60s Lesbian bodice rippers…Odd Girl Out…I Am A WomanWomen in the Shadows…and Journey to A Woman…but while the stories are women’s stories, there is a universal truth in them, about the coming out process in another time, when shame and shadows and anguish — what the Radical Religious Right would call "The Good Old Days — were the words that ruled Gay and Lesbian lives.

Bannon’s Odd Girl Out was the second biggest selling paperback of 1957…something she didn’t learn until 30 years later! The books were popular when they were first released, and have proved a remarkable longevity especially for pulp fiction, being reprinted in three different issues, and several languages. That iconic longevity, the characters and the books themselves earned her the title of "Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction." When depictions of Lesbians in written literature were quite rare, and what there was was dismal and unhappy, her books set her apart from other authors who wrote about Lesbianism. She has been described as "the premier fictional representation of US lesbian life in the fifties and sixties," and that her books, "rest on the bookshelf of nearly every even faintly literate Lesbian."

Last night we went to see the Hourglass Group’s production of Kate Moira Ryan and Linda Chapman’s  The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, an adaptation of three of Bannon’s books. Ms. Bannon was in attendance, looking stunning, and receiving the adulation of her fans. All of us. It was marvelous. Can’t recommend this play highly enough. If your first thought is "I’m not a Lesbian, what would this have to say to me?" you couldn’t be more mistaken. The writers could have easily played this for camp, but they didn’t. It is poignant, witty, thoroughly entertaining, smart, funny theater. There’s a fine cook’s hand at play, with just a soupçon of camp…enough to make you laugh out loud, partly from the humor, partly from the buzz of recognition. The writers (and Bannon) are word perfect in capturing the early Lesbian and Gay "zeitgeist," all the lies we all bought into before we knew we were more than the only queer on the planet.

If Logo was programming like this, instead of the dreck like "Rick and Steve" I’d probably be watching Logo a helluva lot more. This material could…should…easily be translated into one hot television series…Desperate Lesbians!

If you are, as they say, "of a certain age," Lesbian or Gay, you will see yourself up on the stage ( there is a bravura performance by Obie winner, David Greenspan, the likes of which we haven’t see since Take Me Out…as well as the marvelous performance…and buff body…of Bill Dawes, the cuckolded husband Laura leaves.)

If you’re lucky enough to have been born "post Stonewall" you need to know these stories. This is your heritage. This is where Stonewall came from.

There is something incredibly important about the "particularity of voice"…which is why we continue to insist that White Crane remains for and by Gay men. Welcoming, as they say, but we only purport to speak for ourselves as Gay men. Last night was an opportunity to hear the Lesbian voice…and it was proud and clear and true. For all of us. Brava to everyone who had anything to do with this play. By the way….Beebo playwright, Linda Chapman and her partner, Obie-award winning actor, Lola Pashalinski, have a featured article inthe fall White Crane, Lovers.

A limited run…through October 20. Tickets available here.

A Goddess Speaks…and sings…

There are very few artists who we revere as much as Joni Mitchell. In her complete and utter disgust with the music industry, a few years ago, she walked away and announced that she would never record again.

Maybe there’s something in those cigarettes? Or maybe there’s something in Starbucks coffee…we’re going to have to rethink our preference for Peet’s on the basis of this alone, I would say…but Joni has returned. And in this wonderful video, she speaks of her new multi-media project. Give a listen…this is the kind of truth telling that makes steel dance and glass sing. The music is available tomorrow, September 25.

Fellow Travelers — On the Road Again…

White Crane Institute has been presenting Mark Thompson’s Fellow Travelers photography exhibit for the past few months at the New York LGBT Community Center. In October it will move to the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia. While it was here, Out At The Center, the LGBT Center video project, interviewed Mark and Bo about the show. Ok…so they misspelled Kilheffner, Monette and Ram Dass…the photos are stunning and the history is deep.

In November, Fellow Travelers will move to Salt Lake City in support of the Queer Spirit Retreat work Jerry Buie is doing. If you are interested in Fellow Travelers coming to your city, contact us at .