Today in Gay History

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February 05

Born
William S. Burroughs with a pumpkin he carved with an axe.
1914 -

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS, American author born (d. 1997); The outline of his life is known to almost everyone: the flight from the riches of the Burroughs Adding Machine Company family to jobs as newspaper reporter, private detective, exterminator; the tragic but grimly comic death of his wife when he tried to shoot a champagne glass off her head, à la William Tell and missed; the escape into drugs and the fifteen-year addiction that led to his first novel, Junkie, and The Naked Lunch, which twenty odd years ago was thought to be required reading.

But time seems to be working against the avant-garde writer. What once seemed new is now seen to be a pastiche of techniques borrowed from surrealism, science fiction, goth. And yet…and yet…there’s something in Burroughs that holds one, that resists too easy dismissal. Read the instructive pages given him in Gay Sunshine Interviews, in which he is questioned by a Gay writer, some twenty years his junior. It is the meeting of a giant and a pygmy that makes one want to reread his books while simultaneously fearing for the future of language.


Lighting designer Gil Wechsler
1942 -

GILL WECHSLER was the first resident lighting designer at the  New York Metropolitan Opera. He lit his inaugural show in 1977 and, over the next 20 years, made days dawn, rain fall and cities burn in 112 Met productions, 74 of them new.

His career also took him to London, Paris and other international centers of opera and ballet. Wherever he was designing, he knew that audiences often didn’t take much notice of his contributions to a production — which was usually the point.

“If lighting is good, you really shouldn’t notice it often,” he told Opera News in 1987. “In some operas, however, such as ‘Die Walküre,’ the lighting becomes the show. It should seem natural — it shouldn’t jar, but you should be moved by it.”

He graduated from Midwood High School in Brooklyn and studied for three years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., before realizing that a career in business or finance was not in his future. In 1964 he earned a theater degree at New York University, and in 1967 he received a master of fine arts degree at Yale.

Upon graduating he found work as an assistant to the prominent set and lighting designer Jo Mielziner, and in 1968 he received his first Broadway credit, as lighting designer on the Charles Dyer play Staircase. He would have one more Broadway credit, in 1972, for Georges Feydeau’s There’s One in Every Marriage. Before coming to the Met, he also designed for the Stratford Festival in Ontario, the Harkness Ballet, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and other leading regional theaters and festivals.

At the Met, Mr. Wechsler worked with Otto Schenk, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, David Hockney and many other leading directors and designers. Lighting for the Met is particularly challenging because — unlike on Broadway, for instance — the shows change on a weekly or even daily basis. One of Mr. Wechsler’s accomplishments, Mr. Sardo said, was to develop accurate records of the lighting schemes for each production, so that one show could be swapped for another more efficiently.

Wechsler died on July 9, 2021 at a memory-care facility in Warrington, Pa. He was 79. His husband, the artist Douglas Sardo, said the cause was complications of dementia.


1950 -

Today's the birthday of American politician RONALD JASON PALMIERI.  He was born in New York City, New York and in 2003 was a Democratic candidate for governor of California, making him the first out gay candidate for that office. He was born in New York City.


Died
1916 -

Félix Rubén García Sarmiento (b: 1867) died.  Born in Metapa, Matagalpa, Nicaragua in 1867. he achieved renown as RUBÉN DARÍO. Dario was a Nicaraguan poet who initiated the Spanish-American literary movement known as modernism (modernism) that flourished at the end of the 19th century. Darío has had a great and lasting influence on 20th century Spanish literature and journalism. He has been praised as the "Prince of Castilian Letters" and undisputed father of the modernismo literary movement

In November, 2012, the University of Arizona acquired a privately-held collection of manuscripts and letters created by Dario. This distinctive collection of archival material contained documents pertaining to Darío’s life and work as a poet, journalist and diplomat. Several of the manuscripts are signed transcripts, written in Darío’s hand, of some of his most important works including “Coloquio de los Centauros,” two versions of “Los motivos del lobo” and “Canto épico a las glorias de Chile,” a manuscript of 76 pages, which was one of Darío’s first long poems. 

The documents have already begun to alter the scholarship on Darío. The peer-reviewed “Bulletin of Spanish Studies,” a prestigious academic journal from the United Kingdom, has published an article by Professor Acereda in its August 2012 issue based on letters found in ASU’s collection. The article, “‘Nuestro más profundo y sublime secreto’: Los amores transgresores entre Rubén Darío y Amado Nervo,” ("Our Most Profound and Sublime Secret: the Transgressive Love of Ruben Dario and Amado Nervo") reveals for the first time a secret romantic relationship between Darío and famed Mexican poet AMADO NERVO (1870-1919) the Mexican Ambassador to Argentina and Uruguay, journalist, poet, and educator. Acereda said,“The exact nature of this relationship is evidenced in a series of intimate letters exchanged between the two poets and they help us to better understand the respective works of these modernist authors, as well as to establish a re-reading of certain texts.” 


Today's Gay Wisdom
Gay Sunshine
2018 -

TODAY'S GAY WISDOM

An excerpt from William Burroughs on Sexual Morality in the Western World from Gay Sunshine Interviews, Volume One, 1978

Sexual morality in the Western world is based on the Bible and especially on the teachings of St. Paul. Which presume to impose one arbitrary and dogmatic standard of sexual behavior on all people everywhere and forever. The teachings of St. Paul are now dead and unworkable. Dead since a pill has separated sexual pleasure from reproduction. Dead since overpopulation has made reproductive sex something to be curtailed rather than encouraged. Dead since experiments have shown that sexual desire is a matter of stimulating certain brain areas and that such stimulation is purely arbitrary. Admittedly homosexuals can be conditioned to react sexually to a woman, or to an old boot for that matter. In fact, both homo- and heterosexual experimental subjects have been conditioned to react sexually to a boot — to an old boot. You can save a lot of money that way.

In the same way heterosexual males can be conditioned to react sexually to other men. Who is to say that one is more desirable than the other? The latter day apologists for St. Paul who call themselves psychiatrists have little to recommend them but their bad statistics. Psychiatrists say they need more money and personnel to deal with the ever-growing problem of mental illness, and the more money and personnel channeled into this bottomless pit, the higher the statistics on mental illness climb. It is indeed an ever-growing problem at this rate. Personally I think that mental illness is largely a psychiatric invention.

On December 3, 1973, the American Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality would no longer be considered a mental deviation. Well, if they have more mental patients now than they can handle, it would seem to be a step in the right direction to remove homosexuals from this category. But the decision has caused a storm of protest. One psychiatrist compared the decision to “a psychiatric Watergate which we hope won’t be our Waterloo…” They just don’t like to see any prospective patients escaping: it could start a mass walkout! Doctor Charles Socarides, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Albert Einstein Clinic, staunchly opposes the new APA approach: “The APA has done what all civilizations have trembled to do…tamper with the biological role between the sexes.” Fancy that! And in a letter to Playboy in June of 1970 Dr. Socarides says, “Five hundred million years of evolution have established the male/female standard as the functionally healthy pattern of human sexual fulfillment.”

Just a minute here, Doctor — the human species is not more than one million years old, according to the earliest human remains so far discovered. Other species have had a long run. Three hundred million years have established a big mouth that can bite almost anything off and a gut that can digest it as a functionally healthy pattern for sharks. One hundred thirty million years more or less established large size as functionally healthy for dinosaurs. What may be functionally healthy at one time is not necessarily so under altered conditions, as the bones of discontinued models bear silent witness. But sharks, dinosaurs and psychiatrists don’t want to change.

The sexual revolution is moving into the electronic stage. Recent experiments in electric brain stimulation indicate that sexual excitement and orgasm can be produced at push-button control or push button choice, depending on who is pushing the button’s control. Buttons to the people. None of these bits of technology are in the future. The knowledge and most of the hardware exist today. In terms of human sexuality what could it mean? It could mean you can plug in anything you want.

Experiments in autonomic shaping have demonstrated that subjects can learn where the neural buttons are located. Just decide what you want and your local sexual adjustment center will match your brain waves and provide a suitable mate of whatever sex, real, or imaginary, while you wait. It is now possible to provide every man and woman with the best sex kicks he or she can tolerate without blowing a fuse.

Any candidate running on that ticket should poll a lot of votes and bring a lot of issues right out into the open.


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