Category Archives: Malcolm Boyd

The LAmmys

Broughton_all_cover I loved every minute of the Lammy’s evening of awards. Congratulations to the Lammys, which have moved to Los Angeles (along with Charles Flowers, the real loss for New York). Twenty years is no small accomplishment. May you continue forever.

Alas, White Crane’s ALL: A James Broughton Reader was, inexplicably, not a finalist for the LGBT Arts and Culture category. I have to admit…all sour grapes aside…I don’t understand how this important collection of one of the leading voices of queer writing and film could be so blatantly ignored. Winning would have been gravy. But it should have been a finalist. There…I got that off my chest.

Friend, Kitt Cherry, was nominated for her boook Art That Dares was one of five books chosen in the LGBT Arts and Culture category. Unfortunately it didn’t win, but congratulations Kitt. You do wonderful work and we’re proud to feature your work in White Crane. [2008 Lammy winners]

It was a wonderful evening. It was a delight to be in an auditorium with all the hardworking GLBT authors. I think the Lambda Literary Foundation needs to rethink the process and break down and let the winners know they’ve won. Too many of them opted not to fly cross country (when flying is nothing short of a penance!) only to find out that they hadn’t won. Personally I think we owe it to our own institutions to support them, whether we’re winners or not (or…ahem…finalists!) But practical is practical and if the Lammys really want to be the important award they are, it sort of undercuts that end when the winners aren’t present to receive their beautiful crystal book award. And there’s far too much attention to the big publishers…[and they wonder why Gay publishers are folding left and right?]

I’m not quite sure what our sisters made of all the “penis humor” which was…shall we say…somewhat flaccid? But equal time for bad Lesbian humor was well-represented by a Lesbian comic troupe called "The Gay Mafia" performed a Lesbian science fiction scene that was, at best, sort of obligatory. And why is it that Lesbians get to make penis jokes and if Gay men said anything about women’s genitalia we would lose ours? Let it be duly noted: Lesbians can be as embarrassingly bad as Gay men.

For the most part, this is a graying (if eminent) crowd. Youth was represented, but there was, overall, a nice balance of age. The President of the LLF has been handed off (in another series of penis allusions with a "baton") from the eminent and splendid Terry Decrescenzo to best-selling author (and son of newly-minted Christian, Anne Rice) Christopher Rice in a clear play for the Los Angeles celebrity and youth crowd. I get it. Lambda needs to do this. The whole publishing world needs to get connected with the short-attention span crowd. At least he’s out-Gay. For the Los Angeles Gay scene, this is not always a given (see "Hilton, Paris/Gay Pride 2005").

There was a moving (if somewhat overlong) "In Memoriam" slide show, that had all the authors who had died in the past 20 years — 1988 to 2008, since it was the 20th anniversary of the Lammys. Tears and fond sighs were the order of the day as all our literary heroines’ and heroes’ faces looked out at us from the silver screen. Even Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist who wrote "Scum Manifesto" and who shot Andy Warhol, was up there. The obligatory applause response sort of faded away long before the slide show was over. Maybe some of the authors in the slide show were not well-known to everyone in the audience. But my suspicion was more along the lines that the reaction was “Why are we doing this?” Is it really necessary to parade this dirge-like presentation? I’m all for acknowledgment of our elders and our ancestors, to be sure…but it seems to me it might have been a little more celebratory in tone as opposed to the somber tone it took.

Ann_bannon Mystery pioneer Katherine V. Forrest presented a Pioneer award to Ann Bannon, Beebo who wrote the  Lesbian Beebo Brinker novels in the 1950s, which has recently been staged by our friend Linda Chapman (The Beebo Brinker Chronicles), and whom every Lesbian of a certain age has read and revered. Her character Beebo Brinker is nothing short of legend. Forrest attested, as she struggled not to cry, she that Ann Bannon’s books had saved her life. This is what all this publishing is all about. And we must never forget that. Every day, somewhere, there is some Gay kid looking to find some reflection of himself or herself in the world. Like most people, the only place I ever found it was in the dictionary. Ann Bannon is a lovely woman, whose warm smile lit up the room. Her books saved lives. I had the pleasure of meeting her in New York when The Beebo Brinker Chronicles opened and she couldn’t have been more delightful then, and more deserving of this acknowledgment now. Congratulations to Ms. Bannon.

Malcolm_and_kitt Finally, the other Pioneer awards went to our dear friends Malcolm Boyd, who is Mark going to be 85 years young this very weekend, and his lion-hearted partner, Mark Thompson, both White Crane authors and contributors. They’re both grand old gay men of letters. White Crane has published the essential Malcolm Boyd reader in recognition of his 85th year, A Prophet in His Own Land: A Malcolm Boyd Reader.

In all…a lovely event. On a personal note, Mark and Malcolm hosted me in their beautiful home for a very smart (in every sense of the word!) cocktail party with the literati of Los Angeles in attendance. I must admit it was a real honor to have such an illustrious and accomplished crowd assembled…to say nothing of it being in my honor (and Malcolm’s, too). To return to the City of Angels after 25 years and receive such a welcome was gratifying, humbling and sweet. Thank you M & M!

WC76 – Malcolm Boyd

76_boyddavebystevenmillerDigging Up Old Bones

By Malcolm Boyd

This is only an excerpt…

There are so many secrets about our lives, especially our families, that makes digging for truth a highly questionable enterprise. This is one reason “living archives” are so important. In the past a dead person’s secrets contained in letters and other documents were routinely destroyed by family member’s intent on maintaining reputations. Recently pioneering archivists like the late Howard Gotlieb at Boston University have asked living persons to start their own archives while they are still alive and here.

I am one of those with an archive at Boston. Over the past 50 years I’ve sent the archive countless letters, notes, memorabilia and documents of every kind. My life isn’t secret; it’s revealed over and over again for any scholar or writer interested in exploring it. Once I complained somewhat bitterly to Dr. Gotlieb over the telephone that I’d given away all my secrets. “They don’t belong to me anymore,” I almost cried. “But,” he said — laughing and in the most positive tone —“you’ve gained an archivist.” I’d also gained a lifelong friend.

A key role of an archive, or archivist, is to explore who our immediate ancestors are and reveal information about them. This doesn’t mean turning the clock back a thousand years, but perhaps fifty or a hundred. My American Heritage Dictionary isn’t particularly helpful in defining “ancestor.” It says: “Any person from whom one is descended, particularly if more remote than a grandfather; a forefather.” This doesn’t work too well when one looks up “forefather” and finds “An ancestor.”

Does this leave me back at square one? Not exactly. As a Gay man, I have two sets of ancestors. The first is “legal” or official: this includes my grandparents. The second has no legality or official status at all; it includes those Gay people who have become role models or heroes for me. Generally I never met them because they were before my time. (Archives assume great importance when they provide needed information about them).

Let’s look for a moment at both sets of ancestors in my own life. We can begin with my grandfathers. I never met either of them. One was an Episcopal priest in Brooklyn around 1890 who fathered five children, including my dad, and died in his thirties. The other was Harry Joseph, a Conservative Jew, who married my grandmother Ruth. My mother Beatrice was their only child. Divorces and early deaths were factors that prevented me from knowing them.

My maternal grandfather, Harry Joseph, has touched my life strongly in his Jewishness. Growing up, I encountered the anti-Semitism of the ‘20s and ‘30s in the U.S. It both shocked and revolted me. Then it exploded in Nazi Germany into the Holocaust. As a young Episcopal priest in the ‘50s, my first parish was in an inner-city neighborhood of Indianapolis.

An Orthodox synagogue was located across the street from St. George’s, the parish which I served. On the Jewish Sabbath I became the one who turned on the light in the synagogue because no one Jewish was supposed to do it. This became a ritual for me. It wasn’t until a decade later that I paid my first visit to Israel. I had no idea what awaited me when, one night, I stood before the ancient Western (“Wailing”) Wall, a holy site of Judaism. I placed my forehead on a cold stone in the wall. I prayed for my grandfather. But the impact came when, suddenly, I realized he was never able to visit Jerusalem and stand in this place himself.

He got to stand before the Western Wall, and say his prayers, only through the medium of his goy grandson who did so. I found this a somewhat overpowering spiritual experience. Across a lot of time and space, Harry Joseph and I had surely bonded. I marveled at what we innocently call the mystery of life. Yet I couldn’t help wondering: what in the world would Harry Joseph make of his goy grandson? Would he want an Episcopal priest on the premises? More to the point, a Gay one?

There’s a story about Harry Joseph forever etched in my memory. It was a secret shared by mother, Beatrice, concerning her father. He and my grandmother Ruth had divorced. A teenager, Beatrice was visiting her father in Pennsylvania. Beatrice had a date with a young guy. Her father, a strict disciplinarian, had demanded they be back home by a certain time. They weren’t. When they got there, Harry Joseph was pacing back and forth, enraged. He believed Beatrice and her date had had sex. (They hadn’t). He ordered the young guy off the premises and said Beatrice could never see him again. Apparently a pre-feminist, Beatrice felt both outrage and betrayal. She decided not to accept this treatment.

That night she packed her trunk, called the young guy to come and pick her up and drive her to an early morning train. She departed for New York where she shortly became a top fashion model, met and married my father. Her sense of right-and-wrong had been violated. She had done nothing “wrong” and refused to accept punishment for what she had not done. This “secret” is not in my archive at Boston University but it is one of the strongest and most indelible stories of my life.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

The Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd began his career in the production company of Mary Pickford and was the first president of the Television Producers Association of Hollywood. He is now, of course, Poet/writer-In-Residence of the Los Angeles Episcopal Archdiocese and an advisor to White Crane Institute. This spring White Crane Books will release a compendium of Boyd’s writing in The Malcolm Boyd Reader.

"Dave" by Steven Miller Courtesy of the artist. Visit his website to see more of his amazing work at

WC74 – Malcolm Boyd – Moments Between Lovers

74_malcolmboyd Moments Between Lovers
By Malcolm Boyd

Your eyes are closed in sleep.

You look relaxed, happy and content to be with me. You share my time and space, being and heart.

I like to sit quietly with you; share a meal, friends, laughter, a film; shop with you Saturdays at the market; hold you in my arms.

Now I look away from your face because I have no wish to intrude on your private dreams or startle you with my intensity if you should awaken.

But the clock radio by our bed tells me I must get up to start a new day.  I don’t stir.  I am grateful you are warm and dear, sweet and sharing, and love me.  I am happy to start this new day with you.
We are in the kitchen.

You are making what appears to be a postmodern salad that has bright colors.  I am readying a sauce.
The only sound is my butter and oil simmering.  I’ll sauté mushrooms before adding them.  You are about to cook asparagus.

My task requires total concentration, and I must confess you are bothering me slightly by getting in my way.
Nevertheless, it is a lovely moment with rich smells, stove warmth, shared physical involvement, and a mutual purpose.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

The Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd began his career in the production company of Mary Pickford and was the first president of the Television Producers Association of Hollywood. He is now, of course, Poet/writer-In-Residence of the Los Angeles Episcopal Archdiocese and an advisor to White Crane Institute.  His Gay Classic Take Off the Masks was recently republished by White Crane Books which will publish the Malcolm Boyd Reader in 2008.

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 .

White Crane #70 – EXCERPT Malcolm Boyd’s Superchrist

Excerpt from White Crane Issue #40

In A Superstate

by Malcolm Boyd

Editors Note: In the waning days of the 1950s, in the heyday of Marilyn Monroe and Doris Day and Bishop Sheen, Malcolm Boyd was embarking on a 30-book writing career that would span the next four decades, beginning with two books Crisis in Communication (1957) and Christ and Celebrity Gods (1958).

In an earlier, lay career, Boyd had been at the very pinnacle of show business, producing films and working with no less than the legendary Mary Pickford, rubbing elbows with the glitterati of the day. We all know the prolific Boyd from his many books, not the least of which is Are You Running With Me Jesus…but were you aware that he was also the very first president of the Television Producers Association of Hollywood? Oh yes, boys and girls, Boyd knows intimately whereof he speaks — then and now  — and then he brought a unique insight into matters of celebrity and snake oil and “cheap grace.” It is no surprise that this is where his first spiritual commentary might start, his teacher at Union Theological Seminary, Reinhold Niebuhr, coined the phrase.

Both these books, and the later Christian: Its Meaning in an Age of Future Shock, in which he writes a chapter entitled “Superchrist of a Superstate: Political Manipulation of Christian” are nothing less than prescient, even prophetic, in their intuitions of the insidious culture of celebrity that was just then building steam, and the breakdown of the separation of church and state, a demagoguery whose fruition we are witnessing today. It is startling — maybe even a little bracing — to read passages of Crisis in Communication, and realize that, with the simple change of names from, say, “Marilyn” to “Madonna,” that Boyd could as easily have written the piece yesterday as he did 40 years ago.

White Crane asked our friend, the Reverend Canon Boyd, poet/writer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Episcopal Archdiocese, to revisit these writings and reflect on them here.

The whole problem began when I was a kid in school. My education got all screwed up. I was taught a pack of lies.

  • I was taught that patriotism meant “my country, right or wrong.” (But how, it was suggested, could it ever be wrong?)
  • I was taught war was justified if my country fought it.
  • I was taught that black people were a bit lesser than human and called “niggers.” (If they don’t like this country, why don’t they go back to where they came from?)
  • I was taught that Native Americans had killed kind and courageous (white) troops fighting for “our country,” and deserved to be punished and isolated.
  • I was taught Latinos were meant to do manual labor and be treated as children. (Are they too lazy to learn English?)
  • I was taught modern civilization was essentially good, incapable of committing horrors such as those of the past described in history books.
  • I was taught homosexuals (the word wasn’t really supposed to be spoken in polite society) were social lepers, degenerates, intrinsically evil, damned by God.

My actual education commenced long after I left school — and unlearned a lot of things. And, learned new ones.

I learned there is a brand of fundamentalistic Christianity which tells the rest of the world that it awaits the Second Coming of Christ to solve pressing “social problems” such as hunger, starvation, war, racism, sexism, colonialism, grinding poverty, environmental destruction. It basks in the ineffable sort of prestige bestowed upon docile religion by seasoned manipulators of caesaro-papism—which means to say, the state using religion for its own purposes.

Theocracy provides well-trained clergy who publicly mouth politically supportive caricatures of prayer at government ceremonies or public assemblies, plead with a partisan god to let “our” side win our wars, and distort the gospel of Christ in mealy-mouthed “sermons” to the mighty in palace chapels and White House East Rooms.

All this would not be so dangerous were it not for today’s sophisticated technology. But — with almost insuperable irony—technology brings the McLuhan prophecy full circle so that the medium is the message. Take, for example, a giant revivalist rally—the lonely crowd flaunting religious symbols, and in the distance a superstar-cum-evangelist performing under bright lights. But where did JEEE-sus go? The betrayal of Jesus is perpetrated in his own name even as his own words are read aloud.

Against the backdrop of yet another American success story, I’ve discovered — to my genuine surprise — that there’s a commonly accepted belief in some form of encroaching doom. It may take the form of the death of a city, the destruction of a nation, or the end of human life in a part of the world. It may come from insoluble problems or inexorable forces within one’s own environment rather than from any form of enemy attack. It may be linked indissolubly to mounting violence as a way of life.

Indeed, Stanley Kubrick’s archetypal film “A Clockwork Orange” went so far as to depict modern worship of a god of violence. As ancient Aztecs tore human hearts from living bodies for a holy sacrifice, so young men in the film ran with verve as they stomped a helpless old man, gang-raped a woman while kicking to a pulp the face of her watching husband, and crushed the skull of another woman. This worship of a god is passionate, self-immolating, taut with commitment. These extremely devout youths are absolutely caught up in the liturgies and rites of worshiping their deity. 

I must observe that such adherence to a creed represents far more profound communion with a god than the lukewarm, lifeless travesty of worship to be found in countless piously conventional churches. It seems to me that the god of violence is honored and loved more in American society than is the God of love and peace. Casual acceptance of such violence means that our humanity is seriously threatened. Writing in “The Day of the Locust,” Nathanael West warned that people consumed by the fury of an “awful, anarchic power…had it in them to destroy civilization.”

America’s soul is troubled. People feel betrayed, frustrated, restlessly anxious and scared to death. The gap between people’s unfilled spiritual needs and organized religion’s failure of nerve is soil for a demagogic, chauvinistic national religious movement linked to super patriotism and endless engagement in global warfare. This, I believe, is one of the most frightening prospects Americans will face if steps to prevent it are not taken now. I speak of religion with conformity built in and the most rigid doctrinal allegiance enforced.

At first subtly, then quite obviously, add patriotism to religion as a prime good of the nation. Then a mass-structured organization can more openly take on a quasi-military form. Leaders of state-sponsored religion can address masses of people in great arenas or on TV.  Church and state move closer and closer together. In the early ‘70s we saw this take place. Government surveillance of private citizens was unprecedented in scope up to that time. We saw the emergence of “enemy lists” of citizens. At White House “prayer breakfasts” invited guests bowed their heads in unison for photo ops even as they knew bombs were falling on heads of innocent people abroad and, at home, the poor were being betrayed. So the corporate sins of an aggressive, imperialistic America went unacknowledged. No one confessed them. Who is confessing them now?   

I do not want church and state to draw close together in a tragic misuse of religion. I want to be saved from Superchrist in a Superstate.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are reader-supported and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!