Today in Gay History

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April 22

Born
Madame de Staël
1766 -

MADAME DE STAËL, French author (d. 1817); When old editions of the staid Encyclopedia Britannica say that someone’s sex life is “unconventional,” it can sometimes mean little more than the subject enjoyed something other than missionary position with his clothes on and the lights off.

When a woman’s sex life is even mentioned, no less described as “unconventional,” then, man, you better sit up and take notice. Madame de Staël liked not only men, but (gasp) women, too.

In 1798 the French novelist, separated from her husband and living with a male lover, met Juliette Récamier, the most celebrated beauty of her time. Mme. de Staël was 31, Juliette ten years younger. “She fixed her great eyes upon me,” wrote Juliette, “and paid me compliments about my figure which might have seemed exaggerated and too direct had they not seemed to have escaped from her. From that time on I thought only of Mme. de Staël.” They lived together for the next nineteen years, until the novelist died. Her final words to Juliette, to whom she had once written, “I love you with a love that surpasses that of friendship,” were “I embrace you with all that remains of me.”


Emile Norman and Brooks Clement
1918 -

EMILE NORMAN, American artist, born; an iconoclastic California artist known for mosaics, panels, jewelry and sculpture with a meticulous attention to detail. Norman grew up on a San Gabriel Valley walnut farm and from an early age exhibited artistic talent. He began his professional career fashioning window displays for Bullocks Wilshire in Los Angeles and later Bergdorf Goodman, Bonwit teller, and other New York department stores. In New York, Norman's work was featured in Vogue — and he first displayed an affinity for working in plastic.

Norman was featured in a November1944 New York Times article, Plastics Shown in Decorative Role, covering the opening of his exhibit at the Pendleton Gallery. His lifetime body of work includes sculpture, mosaic, jewelry and other forms — and most prominently the large mosaic window for the Masonic Center in San Francisco along with an assemblage of exterior stone sculptures.

Norman often uses an innovative technique bringing together his own admixture of epoxy-resin, crushed glass, plastic or wood — creating an effect not dissimilar to cloisonné or stained glass. The effect is especially unusual when Norman crafts the layered effect over a wax form which when later melted away leaves behind a three-dimensional sculpture.

Since 1946, Norman lived and worked at his studio-home in Big Sur on Pfeiffer Ridge — where he lived and worked with his partner Brooks Clement until his death in 2009 from cancer. Norman lived at his ranch in Big Sur, along with his nephew and his nephew's partner, who took care of him.

Norman is the subject of a 2008 PBS documentary, Emile Norman: By His Own Design, produced by L.A. Law actors Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry, directed by Will Parrinello.


Died
Will Geer
1978 -

WILL GEER, American actor died (b. 1902); In addition to his acting, for which he is best known as the iconic “Grandpa Walton” Geer was a ardent social activist, touring government work camps in the 1930s with folk singers like Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie, and participating in the 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike. In his biography, fellow organizer and Gay rights pioneer Harry Hay details Geer's involvement in these strikes, and their intimate relationship while organizing for the strike. Geer is credited with introducing Guthrie to Pete Seeger at the Grapes of Wrath benefit Geer organized in 1940 for migrant farm workers.


Noteworthy
2000 -

EARTH DAY : a name used for two different observances, both held annually during spring in the northern hemisphere, and autumn in the southern hemisphere. These are intended to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the Earth and its environment. The United Nations celebrates Earth Day, which was founded by John McConnell in 1969, each year on the March equinox, while a global observance originated by Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, and since January 1970 also called Earth Day, is celebrated in many countries each year on April 22.


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