Category Archives: Current Affairs

So It Goes: 1922 – 2007

He wasn’t a Gay man. Sardonic I think would be the word. Mordant. And while he wasn’t Gay he did suggest that the next best thing was to go into the arts if you wanted to annoy your parents….if you didn’t have the guts to be Gay.

Kurt Vonnegut died last night at the ripe old age (a phrase he embodied…I mean, look at that picture…) of 84.

In my life Kurt Vonnegut work played an integral role — not unlike one of his own fictional characters — in my coming out to say nothing of his writing’s effect on me as a reader and my imagination.

When I first told all my family that I was a gay man, the responses ranged from thoughtful to ignoring it to200pxthesirensoftitan1959
loving and embracing. Probably one of the most interesting responses, though, was my brother Tom’s comment, in writing, that his thoughts on the subject of homosexuality were formed by none other than Mr. Vonnegut. In his books, famously in the estimable Slaughterhouse Five, and earlier in The Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut had invented the planet Tralfalmadore. Tralfalmadore actually appeared regularly, as did the character Kilgore Trout. It would be easy to simply go down the Swiftean rabbit hole of Kurt Vonnegut’s imagination, and get lost in his invented worlds which he used to talk about the world we live in.

But back to my brother Tom…

Tom explained to me…because somehow it had escaped me…that on the Planet Tralfalmadore, it took all kinds of people to make babies…it took men and it took women…it took gay men and it took old women…it took four dimensions and it happened in a continuum of Time that was incomprehensible to mere Earth people. That made sense to my brother…so he just added that if I was happy, it was fine with him. And, for all intents and purposes, we never spoke of it again.

Here’s the quote from Slaughterhouse Five:

One of the biggest moral bombshells handed to Billy by the Tralfalmadorians, incidentally, had to do with sex on Earth. They said their flying saucer crews had  identified no less than seven sexes on Earth, each essential to reproduction. Again: Billy couldn’t possibly imagine what five of those seven sexes had to do with the making of a baby, since they were sexually active only in the fourth dimension.

The Tralfalmadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him there could be no Earthling babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn’t be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty five. There could be no babies without babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on. It was gibberish to Billy.

I would, now, have to take issue with the assumption that the highest good that humankind can aspire to is the making of babies. I think even Mr. Vonnegut, a father of seven himself (four of his own…three of his brother’s that he took in when his brother and his wife died within days of one another) would agree. But there was a time when that was the poser for me: if the purpose of heterosexuality was the continuation of the gene pool…then was there any purpose to homosexuality?

Of course, in true Kilgorean fashion, I came to realize, as every Traldalmadorean surely knew, that if the purpose of straight people was to continue the gene pool, then our purpose as Gay people was to make sure it was Olympic-sized, with nicely marked lanes, and big, warm, color-coordinated towels.

We’re not the "quantity-of-life" people…we’re the "quality-of-life" people. And Vonnegut proves that this is not an impossible concept for straight people to grasp. If they can get past their own navel-gazing…I am reminded of another great writer, Joan Didion, who seems to have imagined that she has invented grief and loss and death in her Year of Magical Thinking…they might find that Gay people have something to bring to the table other than more mouths to feed and more consumers to use…just as we always have, across cultures, throughout time of however many dimensions.

Kurt Vonnegut was one of the treasures of my youth. He enabled me to look at this planet Earth from another point of view. An absurdist one, at times…but this is a world that needs a vision of, nay, an appreciation of, the absurd. Reading his work is a rite of passage, I think, still. I hope his work will live forever…surely Slaughterhouse Five will stand alongside One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Catch-22 as literature from the late 20th century that will inform generations to come. This was a wise man. Here is some of his wisdom:

  • "Television is now a form of government."
  • "Science is magic that works."
  • "Anyone unable to understand how a useful religion can be founded on lies will not understand this book either."


What do W.H.Auden, Aaron Copeland, Langston Hughes, Vladimir Nabokov, Wendy Wasserstein, Derek Wallcott and Eudora Welty (ok…and Henry Kissinger, but we’re going for "upbeat" and "celebratory" here) have in common with author and White Crane friend Fenton Johnson?John_guggenheim_2

They’re all Guggenheim Fellows. (portrait to the right: John Simon Guggenheim)

This morning it was announced that Fenton Johnson is a 2007 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship for his work on a new work of nonfiction entitled Desire in Solitude.

Johnson is currently an Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arizona, and readers of White Crane will remember a wonderful conversation with Fenton in Issue #62. Fenton Johnson is the author of five other books including two time Lammy awards for Geography of the Heart: A Memoir (1996) and Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey (2004). He has received numerous other literary awards and has also been a Wallace Stegner Fellow and a James Michener Fellow.

White Crane offers the warmest congratulations to Fenton Johnson. It is a richly deserved honor for a wonderful writer and a very nice man.

Malcolm Boyd at the hungry i

Over the past couple of years, I have had the delight and pleasure of becoming friends with two legends of our community who happen to be a couple, Mark Thompson and Malcolm Boyd…and who just happen to be really sweet gentle men.

So I wanted to give a shout out to our readers and friends in San Francisco about an event that is happening next Tuesday evening, March 27, 2007 at 6PM at the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum celebrating the legendary nightclub, the hungry i, that will feature, among others, Malcolm.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the hungry i in North Beach was considered to be the hippest spot in the country, introducing some of the greatest performing talents of the era. Under the inspired ownership of Enrico Banducci, this unique theater-restaurant introduced or headlined such pioneering talents as Woody Allen, Orson Bean, Shelley Berman, Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby, Professor Irwin Corey, Phyllis Diller, Dick Gregory, Tom Lehrer, Bob Newhart, Nichols & May, Mort Sahl and Jonathan Winters…and yes, Malcolm Boyd (shown at the left, here, performing at the hungry i.)

The San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum will be presenting a new exhibition celebrating theHungry_i_logo
history of the hungy i and will hold an opening night celebration on Tuesday, March 27 that will include a reception and exhibition preview. The opening night will also feature guest of honor, Enricop Banducci, as well as live tributes to some of the most distinguished alumni, including the Rev. Malcolm Boyd, Shelley Berman, Orson Bean, the Kingston Trio and many many more.

Advanced tickets are required. Admission is $75 – $250. Call 415-255-4800 or click on the SF Performing Arts Library & Museum link provided above. SFPALM is located in the Veteran’s Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue @ McAllister, 4th floor. The exhibition is open to the public from March 28 to August 25, 2007.

Congratulations Malcolm!…it’s just one more honor richly deserved.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Lemme see if I got this straight….

Invading a country that didn’t invade us.
Lying about why we did it.
Slaughtering innocent civilians in the process of that invasion and occupation and calling it "collateral damage."

This is moral.            

Making love to the man I love.  Immoral.

Donald Trump and the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff as the moral compasses of the U.S.

Well…that answers a lot of questions.

Fellow Travelers

Ft_invite_frontMark Thompson’s "Fellow Travelers"
exhibit now at the Center in New York!

For those of you who live in or near New York City, we wanted to give a
heads up announcement about this exhibit sponsored by White Crane Institute in collaboration with the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center: Fellow Travelers: Liberation Portraits by our good friend, Mark Thompson.

Ft_invite_back_1The show went up March 26th and has received an enthusiastic reception.  If you haven’t been out to see this inspiring exhibit time is running out so get there while you still can.

We’re also happy to announce that Mark will be attending the closing reception next week on April 26th.

We hope to see you there.

Lambda Literary Award Nominations

White Crane is proud to announce that Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling is among the 14 finalists for the 2007 Lambda Literary Foundation’s Lammy Awards. Charmed Lives is nominated in the anthology category.Lambdaaward

The nominees for Anthology are:

> Charmed Lives, edited by Toby Johnson, Steve Berman [White Crane Books]
> Confessions of the Other Mother , edited by Harlyn Aizley [Beacon]
> From Boys to Men , edited by Ted Gideonse & Rob Williams [Carroll & Graf]
> Love, Bourbon Street, edited by Greg Herren & Paul J. Willis [Alyson]
> No Margins: Writing Canadian Fiction in Lesbian , edited by Catherine Lake & Nairne Holtz [Insomniac]

    Charmed Lives is the first book in the White Crane Wisdom Series.

    We’re proud to be among such distinguished company and accomplishment.

The awards will be announced on May 31, 2007 at the Lambda Literary Awards Ceremonies in New York City. Visit the Lambda Literary Foundation’s website to see the full listing of nominees and finalists. Among them are many White Crane Contributors including bear activist,  Ron Jackson Suresha, actor/playwright, Tim Miller, historian and biographer, Stuart Timmons, and theologian, Daniel Helminiak

Warm congratulations to all the nominees and finalists. 

The Irish Sports Pages – Hattoy

Next to the crossword puzzle, it’s the reason I buy the New York Times every morning.

Call it morbid if you like…but I read the obituaries, or as my mother called them "the Irish Sports Pages" every morning. I have no idea from where that reference derives, aside from the trenchant wit the Irish bring to everything and a sort of philosophical resignation to the tragedies of life. Was it Ben Franklin who said he checked them every morning, and if he wasn’t in them, he carried on as usual?

A long time ago, in a California galaxy far, far away, I worked for the Los Angeles City Council as an assistant to Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson. I replaced Steve Schulte who had moved on to become the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center. It was 1979 if memory serves. I was 29 years old. Not long after starting the job, I met a large and voluble figure in the hallways who worked for Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky. He was 29 too. And we became fast friends. His name was Bob Hattoy and this morning I opened the Irish Sports Pages to find my friend’s name there on page C13. The headline on his obit: Bob Hattoy, 56, Clinton Aide And Powerful Voice on Gay Issues.

Hattoy_obit_1_1  While I don’t dispute that, it isn’t how I remember Bob. Bob and I would commute to work together most mornings, driving from West Hollywood (in those ancient days only a neighborhood in Los Angeles, not a separate city) to downtown Los Angeles, braving the Hollywood Freeway. There was the time we arrived at the downtown parking lot where council employees parked, a short walk from the offices in the iconic Los Angeles City Hall building, and it was just too beautiful a day…we decided that we just couldn’t cope with angry constituents and boring committee meetings this morning. We called my boyfriend at the time, the one with the ’76 red Corvette…let’s call him RC…and had RC meet us downtown and took off, the three of us, loaded into the Vette, and drove up the coast to Santa Barbara for the day. Bob was the kind of person who could talk you all the way to Santa Barbara and make you laugh the whole way. He had a facility for saying the outrageous thing that made you slack jaw…but also made you think.

Later, RC and I moved out to Rancho Mirage and were doing the reverse commute back and forth to L.A. Hattoy would come out and spend most weekends with us. The Times says "he found his calling" and went to work for the Sierra Club at age 28, but that can’t be right. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s flat out wrong. Here’s how I know: The No On Six Campaign…the despicable Briggs Initiative to ban gay people and their friends from teaching…was in 1978, and it was immediately after that that I started working for Peggy Stevenson and that’s when I met Hattoy. We were still working for the L.A. City Council at 28 and ditching work and driving red Corvettes to Santa Barbara. The NY Times has that wrong.

Anyway, what I remember most about Bob was laughing. He was one of the funniest people, one of the sweetest people, I ever knew.Hatt2

Then life happened…and I moved to the East coast and I didn’t see Hattoy again for a long long time.

Bob was the kind of friend who would suddenly show up on the news…and not in a bad way…and you weren’t really surprised. So when Bob showed up speaking at the Democratic Convention that nominated Bill Clinton it just seemed, well, normal. Bob had always been a force to reckon with…funny…witty, even…clever…maddening more often than not. But this was a moment that Bob Hattoy had been born to…a national audience for someone who knew precisely where to hit with righteous language. This wasn’t "funny Bob" …this was "a big bite of the reality sandwich" Bob, as he used to put it. Here’s what he said: "We are part of the American family," he said, speaking to Bush senior. "And Mr. President, your family has AIDS, and we’re dying, and you are doing nothing about it." It wasn’t "funny Bob." It wasn’t even "outrageous Bob." I can’t even imagine what he’d have to say about Shrub. Or the Iraq. Or VA Hospitals. The thing is, I more expected Bob Hattoy to show up on The Daily Show than in the NY Times obituaries. I actually gasped when I opened the paper and saw his name there.

He came to my home one more time after that, before disappearing into the ether of Washington D.C. politics and the Clinton administration and then back to California. I had a cocktail party in honor of my old friend and then I never saw him again. I tried several times over the past few years…since my own diagnosis…to find him. I Googled him to no avail. Oh there were stories, but nothing I could track…and I’ve tracked down and found old friends.

I read the obituaries every morning because in many ways they are some of the best mini-biographies out there, but this morning I saw how much they could miss. Some of the best parts of my friend’s life, his activism, his Vietnam War protesting, his work on the Los Angeles City Council, his work for the Sierra Club…even his stint as…was he one of the Seven Dwarves?…that would be ironic considering how big a man he was…I can’t remember now…there was always something just completely insane thinking of Hattoy as a Disneyland animated character…I think he said he was fired for insulting Snow White. How truly incisively smart Bob Hattoy was, how outrageously funny this man could be…all of this…reduced to a paragraph.

And of course, every Gay man has a scrapbook of obituary clippings…too many obituary clippings…Howard, Kip, David, Alan, Mark, Greg…

I’ll add one more this morning. It never gets any easier.

Tim Hardaway Comes Out!

20070215_194741_1News arrives that one of the highest paid basketball players has come out.  Yes, dear readers, Tim Hardaway has revealed to the world that he doesn’t care what people think.  He wants the whole world to know his truth.  He’s a crazed homophobe. 

Actually, perhaps that’s not news.  What’s really newsworthy is Hardaway’s willingness to vocalize that gay people shouldn’t even exist.

Here’s the exact quote:

"I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States."

Let’s diagram this paragraph shall we?  The first statement is his right I guess.  He doesn’t like gay people.  I don’t care much for hateful troglodytes.  I guess that’s my right.   His second statement is a declaration of position.  He’s a homophobe.  Also a right I guess.  He then reiterates his first statement of not liking gay people.  He reveals himself a bit repetitive but I guess that too is a right.

But his last statement is the real bit of hydrochloric acid in an otherwise acrid blurtation.  And it’s also more revealing.   

"It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States."

This statement has more of a wish tone to it.  It’s that "shouldn’t" in there.  It reeks of lawmaking.  Truth be told it has a bit of a genocidal ring to it.  A desire to wipe out all gay people. 

Taken all together Hardaway has, in one fell swoop, assumed the place of definitive textbook bigot.  That he comes from a historically disenfranchised racial minority and not only holds but speaks these words just reminds us of the scope of the problem.  Reprensible knuckle-dragging misanthropy is not confined by race.

Columnist Jason Whitlock puts it well when he writes:

Hardaway is too stupid to realize that racism and hate denied black people inalienable, American rights for hundreds of years. People with Tim Hardaway’s mindset tried to keep 070215_amaechibk_1people who look like Tim Hardaway out of professional sports and every other highly sought profession.

If anyone needed an example of why John Amaechi‘s book about being gay in the NBA and on homophobia in professional sports is so important, Hardaway has provided it.  I hope Amaechi’s Man In The Middle gets more readers as a result of Hardaway’s ignorant excrementary comments.

Perhaps we should all add it to our reading lists.

Change in Editors Leaves Gannon Behind

For over a year I’ve been on a personal media boycott against the Washington Blade, DC’s largest gay news weekly. Why? Because of executive editor Chris Crain’s continued, pigheaded printing of editorial commentator Jeff Gannon. Gannon, a former gay-escort-service-boy-turned-right-wing-political-sockpuppet has been spewing vitriolic, self-loathing, gay-baiting garbage all over the editorial pages of the Blade for over a year. His columns were so foul that I would always walk away from them with anger written all over me.

There were dozens of other reasons to hate the Blade, repeated transphobic comments among them. To me, however, seeing Jeff Gannon’s bald head in the paper made me want to vomit all over it and shove it back in the box. I couldn’t believe that a gay newspaper would print something so wrong, by someone so virulently opposed to the gay rights movements that he would actively work against it. It was like having Roy Cohn as a guest writer. 

Hundreds of people complained, and complained regularly.  But for whatever reason (maybe Crain liked hate mail?) Gannon continued to be printed.  The letters to the editor would pour in and Crain would say that they just couldn’t get anyone better.  In one editorial he even went so far to say that if he could sign on an ex-gay writer to the staff he would do so in a heartbeat.  It was more than gross irresponsibility, it was a full on assault upon the readers of the paper.

However, all of that is changing. Last Friday, September 15th, Chris Crain announced his departure from his executive editor position at the Blade. He seems to be moving on to the greener pastures of Rio de Janeiro with his partner. Good for him, and good for the Blade. Kevin Naff, formerly managing editor, will take his place. In an article published today on Media Bistro Kevin says that his first action will be to drop Jeff Gannon. Even better!

So for me, the boycott is over, and as of this week I’ll be picking up the Blade once more. Let’s hope that Kevin does more work to turn the paper around and up the quality of the editorial page.


Circle Voting

We wanted to call particular attention to White Crane contributor and Advisory Board member Murray Edelman’s newest project, Circle Voting. To quote the site:

    "The circle is an important symbol in the lives and ceremonies of traditional people as it refers to the connectedness of all life. When we meet in a circle we are all at the same level and interdependent.

    "The important policy issues of today are also about circles, living in balance with the environment and respecting circles of different peoples (human rights, education, social justice) and honoring the value of life (affordable healthcare); these can be called the "Circles of Life."   

    "In politics today, these issues are objectified and manipulated to be used as weapons for gaining power in a campaign, and the issues are often used for pitting one group against another. For politicians it is about getting elected and re-elected — raising large amounts of money and getting the right people to vote. But these are issues about our hearts and lives. It is no wonder many of us are alienated from politics today."


Murray Edelman is one of the innovating elders of the gay community, going back to his early work in gay bathhouses, as a faerie, his support of Arthur Evans’ seminal writings and many years of service and support with Clyde Hall, now as the President of the Board, for the Naraya Preservation Council. We urge you to check out Circle Voting.