Category Archives: Television

Bea Arthur – We Loved You.

I was sad to read that Bea Arthur passed this weekend. Over the years I've heard rumors that she was a Lesbian, and it isn't hard to believe. But I don't know it for a fact. It would fit, though, with my remembrance of this strong, smart, brave woman. I had personal history with her.

In 1976 I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco, where I had just been "the naked guy" in Clint Eastwood's The Enforcer. I had no lines, but because I was required to be naked in the scene, I was given my Screen Actors Guild card, the holy grail for a budding actor. Much to my chagrin, you won't find me in the credits, but I'm the naked guy on the bed in the scene when the bad guy, whose being chased by Dirty Harry, falls through the skylight and crashes into the midst of a porn movie being shot. My mother was so proud. All I see when I watch it now is that I once had a beautiful head of hair.

But I digress…I moved to Los Angeles (as crew with A Chorus Line, another story), and, as is my wont, got involved with SAG union activities. I was serving on the SAG Morals & Ethics Committee in 1977 when Anita Bryant announced that she was bringing her pitiful, small-minded ignorance, intolerance and fear to California in the form of support for State Senator John Briggs' Proposition 6, the Prop 8 of the day, that would have forbid Gay people…or any of their supporters…from holding teaching jobs in California. Nice, huh?

I decided that the Screen Actors Guild needed to be the first industry union to come out against Prop 6, and that the only way to accomplish that was to get some big star power to appear before the Morals & Ethics Committee and demand it.

Beatrice-Arthur Enter Bea Arthur. Ms. Arthur had just made a splash in Norman Bea Arthur - Mame  Lear's Maude, and would receive the first of two career Emmy's (the other for Golden Girls) that year for her groundbreaking work as the title character. On television, there just wasn't a bigger star. And if the only role she'd ever played was Vera Charles opposite Angela Lansbury in Mame, she would forever be a star in my firmament, (and opposite Lucille Ball in the film even if Lucille Ball was miserably miscast).

But I digress, again…It was just about this time of the year that I sat down and wrote a letter to Ms. Arthur, outlining my idea. I mailed the letter and didn't think anything more about it. It was a shot in the dark.

Weeks later, May 16th was my birthday, and I was getting ready to go out on the town with friends. Literally, just as we were heading out the front door, the phone rang (cell phones were still a Dick Tracy fantasy…I could still decide whether or not I was going to stop and answer). I picked up, said hello, and heard the unmistakable, gravelly contralto of Bea Arthur,

"Is Bo Young there?"

"Speaking," I said, my heart pounding out of my chest, my wide eyes popping out of their sockets as I pantomimed to my friends at the door, who were wondering what was going on.

"Well hello," she growled on, "I just wanted to let you know that I received your letter and I wanted you to know I'll do whatever you want me to do."

To which I responded, with breathless gratitude, "Oh god bless you Ms. Arthur!"

To which she responded, "What's this 'god bless you' shit?…I didn't sneeze."

The surprise was finding out, later, just how shy a woman this powerhouse actor was. When I met with her she insisted that I write something for her to say when she came before the committee because she was sure she would become tongue-tied and not be effective. Maude. Not effective. Right. She did everything I asked, just as promised, to perfection. Reading my lines to the committee, which immediately came through with the required vote, which then went on to the larger Steering Committee of the Screen Actors Guild, which was the first industry union to oppose the Briggs Initiative. As a result I was brought into the campaign as "assistant state press secretary" to Sally Fisk.

Later, I had cause to call Ms. Arthur again, to see if she would appear at a fundraiser we were holding for No On Six. Unbeknownst to me, she had undergone a face lift just weeks before, and as a result her face was still puffy and black and blue.

She still had bandages on her face, albeit small ones…and she appeared at our fundraiser.

She said it was more important than what she looked like.

That's the kind of person Bea Arthur was.

 

Some Community News

  The Gates and The Sisters The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have been a colorful and important part of the LGBT community on both coasts for three decades. Now the divine theater of these highly effective and colorful provocateurs will be officially enshrined in a special exhibit at the San Francisco Public Library.

Entitled "Under a Full Moon: 30 Years of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence," the show traces the sacred and profane activities of these men in nun's habits. The display features photographs, internal records like their holy vows and "Pink Saturday Handbook," and artifacts like the habit of founding member Sister Missionary Position (now known as Sister Soami).

The Sisters began in 1979 with three men borrowed habits from retired nuns and ventured out into the Castro District on a moonlit eve. Since then, the group has grown to include 600 sisters in eight countries. They have raised money to fight AIDS with bingo games and other theme events, served as security guards at the Castro District's Halloween fete, combatted hate crimes and promoted safe sex. In 2007, they drew the ire of right-wing talk show hosts when two members in full drag received the Eucharist from Archbishop George Niederauer.

I love how, in this video, they are identified as "mocking" the Catholic Church (as if!). Watching it, it seems like they are nothing less than quite respectful to this observer. Their avowed mission: to "promote universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt." Their motto: "go forth and sin some more."

Along the way, they have become an indelible part of San Francisco. The show runs March 20 through May 7 at the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, Third Floor, Main Library.

HarryHayApril1996AnzaBorego And on Another Coast altogether, some interesting news involving Ugly Betty actor, Michael Urie, who  Michael%20urie plays "Marc St. James," the catty, ambitious and hilarious assistant to Vanessa Williams delicious "Wilhemina Slater"…word in today's papers that he will star in The Tempermentals, a play by Jon Marans starting April 30 at the Barrow Group Studio Theater. The play is about the origins of the Mattachine Society, started by Harry Hay in 1950 when "tempermental" was a code word for Gay.

The Temperamentals tells the story of two men – the communist Harry Hay and the young Viennese refugee and designer Rudi Gernreich, weaving together the personal and the political to tell a sadly relatively unknown (to some) chapter in Gay history. It explores the deepening love between two complex men, while they build the first Gay rights organization in the United States pre Stonewall.

If I am not mistaken, we actually saw an early version of this play as part of a small theater festival featuring new work a couple of years ago. It was wonderful then. Maybe, like the rest of us, it's only gotten better with age?

That's all the word we have on it. Will report more when we know it!

And now…a little history courtesy of the Sisters:

WE WILL NOT BE ERASED

 Bishop_Gene_Robinson-1 As many of you know, the Right Rev. Gene Robinson, the out Gay Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, gave the opening prayer at yesterday's Lincoln Memorial event. It was the first event in the inaugural festivities this year. HBO, which had paid for exclusive rights to the event chose not to broadcast Bishop Robinson's prayer. 

So if you watched there you wouldn't have caught it or even known that it occurred. To his ever-lasting credit, Brian Lehrer at WNYC in New York aired the first two minutes of the prayer on his morning show. But shamefully, there's no record of it in images placed on the sites of Getty Images, New York Times and the Washington Post.

It's a complete erasure of his ever having delivered the prayer. 

As if that wasn't enough, the chorus appearing behind Josh Groban, was none other than the Washington D.C. Gay Men's Chorusalso unidentified in the chiron, unlike virtually every other performer.   DC Gay Men's Chorus

Such is the continuing policy of silence and erasure we have to live with from people who should know better.  We are used to this. If you know your Gay history this has happened again and again. In fact White Crane is really about recovering the truth in our history and celebrating it.

So we're going to celebrate it by providing here the full text of Bishop Robinson's prayer. We suggest you forward this around so that everyone has a chance to enjoy it.

Lincoln memorial
   Opening Inaugural Event

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

January 18, 2009

Delivered by the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson:

"Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMEN."