Today in Gay History

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August 08

Poet Sara Teasdale
1884 -

SARA TEASDALE, American poet, born (d: 1933); It used to be fashionable in speaking of the brevity, the simplicity, the rare musical quality and the technical perfection of her poems, to imply that Sara Teasdale, something of a grown child, “could not adjust to the demands of maturity.”

What was meant by this was that a “healthy” woman was expected to yield completely and utterly to a man, and this Sara Teasdale could not do. Although she married and made a conscious attempt to “surrender herself completely” as she was expected to do, she could not succumb to an “urge” that she could not feel.

The marriage endured, but it did not succeed. When the poet was forty-two, she fell in love with an admiring college student named Margaret Conklin, who became the friend for whom she had been waiting all her life. They two spent summers traveling together, and Teasdale even took rooms at a nearby inn so she could be near Conklin during her last two years in school.

After the poet’s divorce in 1929, they lived together until Teasdale’s death at 49 in 1933. Of her love for Margaret Conklin, she wrote, “There is a quiet at the heart of love, / And I have pierced the pain and come to peace.” As one critic has observed, the simple lyrics of Sara Teasdale are the work of “a Sappho in modest draperies.”

Rudi Gernreich
1922 -

RUDI GERNREICH, Austrian-born fashion designer  was born on this date (d. 1985); A fashion designer and early Gay activist. Born in Vienna, he fled Austria at age 16 due to Nazism. He came to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles. For a time, he had a career as a dancer, performing with the Lester Horton company around 1945.

He moved into fashion design via fabric design, and then worked closely with model Peggy Moffit and photographer William Claxton, pushing the boundaries of "the futuristic look" in clothing over three decades. An exhibition of his work at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2003 hailed him as "one of the most original, prophetic and controversial American designers of the 1950s, '60s and '70s."

He is perhaps most notorious for inventing the first topless swimsuit, or monokini, as well as the pubikini (a bikini with a window in front to reveal the woman's pubic hair) and later the thong swimsuit. He was also known as the first designer to use vinyl and plastic in clothes, and he designed the Moonbase Alpha uniforms on the television series Space: 1999.

Along with Harry Hay. Gernreich was an influential co-founder of the Mattachine Society, the USA's first Gay liberation movement. The group first met in L.A., on November 11, 1950, with Gernreich, Hay, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, and Dale Jennings in attendance. In his will, Gernreich established a defense fund for Gay men who were entrapped for sex by police.

In Jon Marans play The Temperamentals Rudy Gernreich was brought to flesh and blood life by MICHAEL URIE from television’s Ugly Betty, whose birthday also happens to be today.

1951 -

RANDY SHILTS, American journalist and author born (d. 1994) a highly acclaimed, pioneering gay American journalist and author. He worked as a reporter for both The Advocate and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as for San Francisco Bay Area television stations. In addition to his extensive journalism, Shilts wrote three best-selling, widely acclaimed books. His first, The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, is a biography of the first openly gay S.F. politician, Harvey Milk, who was assassinated by a political rival in 1978. The book broke new ground, being written at a time when "the very idea of a Gay political biography was brand-new."

Shilts's second book, And The Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic (1980-1985), published in 1987, won the Stonewall Book Award and brought him nationwide literary fame. And the Band Played On is an extensively researched account of the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. The book was translated into seven languages and in 1993 was made into an HBO film with many big-name actors in starring or supporting roles, including Matthew Modine, Richard Gere,, Angelica Huston, Phil Collins, Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda, among others. Historian Garry Wills wrote, "This book will be to gay liberation what Betty Friedan was to early feminism and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was to environmentalism."

His last book, Conduct Unbecoming: Vietnam to the Persian Gulf, which examined discrimination against lesbians and gays in the military, was published in 1993. Shilts and his assistants conducted over a thousand interviews while researching the book, the last chapter of which Shilts dictated from his hospital bed. Shilts bequeathed 170 cartons of papers, notes, and research files to the local history section of the San Francisco Public Library. At the time of his death, he was planning a fourth book, examining homosexuality in the Roman Catholic church.

Ralf König and some friends
1960 -

RALF KÖNIG, award-winning German comic book creator, born. Known for his early "coming out" strips that appeared in underground magazines and his books SchwulComix, Sarius and Kondom des Grauens.  His work has been translated into fourteen languages, and sold millions of copies.

In the German-speaking world, König's comics have a vast Gay fan base. Despite initial skepticism about the prospect of a broader audience due to his works' frequent setting within the Gay milieu, his comics have achieved considerable popularity among heterosexual readers as well. A few of his comics have been adapted into films, and several have translated into other languages. By 2008, his total publications exceeded 5 million copies. Since November 2017, König is an Ambassador of intaktiv e.V., an association against ritual circumcision of male children.

König's stories are drawn in an expressive cartoon style. Consistently written with humor, they occasionally deal with serious themes such as the tension between sexual freedom and the risk of HIV-AIDS infection. His work has repeatedly portrayed daily routines of Gay life, often based on personal experiences of himself and his friends. He has also written works that deal centrally with heterosexuals (Der bewegte MannHempels Sofa) and with religious themes, criticizing literalist readings of the bible (Prototyp and Archetyp) as well as Islamic fundamentalism 

Michael Urie
1980 -

MICHAEL URIE is an American actor, presenter, director, and producer born on this date. He is known for his portrayal of Marc St. James the ABC dramedy television series Ugly Betty.

While still a student at Juilliard, performed in the world premiere of Love and Happiness (2001) at the Consolati Performing Arts Center, starring as a sixteen-year-old trying to get rid of his mother's boyfriend. In addition to this, he appeared in student productions of Sylvia (1998) and Locked Away (1999) at Quad C Theatre.

He received the 2002 John Houseman Prize for Excellence in Classical Theatre from the Juilliard School. His classical credits include Shakespeare, Jacobean drama and , and commedia dell'arte.

Urie played the central character in the stage play WTC View as well as in the film adaptation. He is finishing a short documentary Two Down that centers on high school speech and debate tournaments, for Frontal Lobe Productions.

He is on the board of Plum Productions and serves as its casting director. With the same company he has produced and appeared in Prachtoberfest and lowbrow (and a little bit tacky). As a freelance producer, he has worked on Like The Mountains and The Fantasticks (Four Players Theatre). He also directed the latter production. 

Starting in 2006, Urie began appearing in ABC dramedy Ugly Betty appearing as Marc St. James, the assistant of Wilhemina Slater (Vanessa L. Williams). The show began with the concept that Wilhelmina would have a different assistant in each episode, thus Urie was originally billed as a guest star in the credits, However, Williams loved their chemistry, and Urie was signed on as a full-time regular midway through the first season. He and the cast were nominated for Screen Actors Guild awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2007 and 2008. The role earned Urie an Emmy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2009. He remained with Ugly Betty until the show's cancellation in 2010.

Urie originated the role of Rudi Gernreich in the 2009 off-Broadway play The Temperamentals, about the foundation of the early LGBT  rights organization the Mattachine Society for which Urie received a Lucile Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actor.

In January 2012, Urie made his Broadway debut, joining the cast of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying's second revival in the role of Bud Frump. 

In 2009, Urie referred to himself as "a member of the LGBT community" on his website. In a 2010 interview with The Advocate, he said that he was in a relationship with a man and identifies as "queer"

1980 -

General Council of United Church of Canada, largest Protestant denomination in country, meeting in Halifax, gives approval to "In God's Image... Male and Female," study document which advocates acceptance of Gays and Lesbians into ministry and which says premarital and extramarital sex are acceptable under certain circumstances.

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