Today in Gay History

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February 09

Poet Amy Lowell
1874 -

AMY LOWELL, American poet, born (d: 1925); Lowell was born into Boston's prominent Lowell family. Her brother, Percival Lowell, was a famous astronomer who predicted the existence of the dwarf planet Pluto; another, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, served as President of  Harvard University. She herself never attended college because it was not deemed proper for a woman by her family, but she compensated for this with her avid reading, which led to near-obsessive book-collecting. She lived as a socialite and traveled widely, turning to poetry in 1902 after being inspired by a performance of Eleanor Duse in Europe.

Her first published work appeared in 1910 in The Atlantic Monthly. The first published collection of her poetry, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, appeared two years later. Lowell was Lesbian, and in 1912 she and actress Ada Dwyer Russell, whom she called “Peter” were lovers. Russell was Lowell's patron. Russell was the subject of her more erotic work.

The two women traveled to England together, where Lowell met Ezra Pound, who at once became a major influence and a major critic of her work. Lowell has been linked romantically to writer Mercedes de Acosta, but the only evidence that they knew each other at all is the brief correspondence between them about a memorial for Duse that never took place.

Acosta is said to have said that Lowell could spit a cigar tip into a spittoon fifteen feet away. Forgotten for years, there has been a resurgence of interest in her work, in part because of its focus on lesbian themes and her collection of love poems addressed to Ada Dwyer Russell, but also because of its extraordinary, almost frightening, ability to breathe life into inanimate objects, such as in The Green Bowl, The Red Lacquer Music Stand, and Patterns.

Sheila Kuehl
1941 -

SHEILA KUEHL, American actress, born; an American politician, and a former child actress she is best known, as an actress, for her portrayal of the "irrepressible" Zelda Gilroy in the long-running 1950s TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. She is currently a Democratic member of the California State Senate, representing the highly urbanized 23rd district in Los Angeles County and parts of southern Ventura County. A former member of the California State Assembly, she was elected to the senate in 2000. Term limits prevented her seeking a third senate term in 2008.

Kuehl was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1994, becoming the first out LGBT person elected to the California legislature. She served as Speaker pro tempore during the 1997-98 legislative session, becoming the first woman in California history to hold the position. After three terms in the Assembly, she was elected to the California State Senate in 2000, beating Assemblyman Wally Knox in the Democratic primary. Re-elected in 2004 with 65.7% of the vote, she has repeatedly been voted the "smartest" member of the California Legislature by the California Journal.

In 2006, she sponsored a bill that would prohibit the adoption by any school district in California of any instructional material that discriminates against persons based on their gender or sexual orientation. Throughout her career as a legislator, Kuehl has taken a leadership role on healthcare policy. Her foremost objective has been securing passage of legislation to establish a single-payer healthcare system in California. SB 840 passed both houses of the legislature in 2006, but was vetoed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; it was reintroduced in 2007 and again passed the state Senate, with a vote pending in the Assembly.

Term-limited from running for the Senate again, Kuehl ran for and became the first openly LGBT member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and took office in December 2014. The 3rd District covers western Los Angeles County, including the Westside, San Fernando, Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains.

Since joining the LA County Board of Supervisors, she has championed efforts to reduce homelessness, raise the minimum wage, establish LA County’s first affordable housing trust, and develop measures that will bring long-term environmental sustainability to the region.

In the past Kuehl had a ten-year romantic relationship with Torie Osborn and while admitting publicly that she was hurt at first over the break-up, she was over time able to gain perspective and became best friends with Osborn. Osborn went on to support Kuehl's run for Supervisor and (having previously served as a deputy mayor in L.A.) joined her staff as principal deputy for strategy and policy.

L to R: Tammy Faye Baker and Jim J. Bullock
1955 -

JIM J. BULLOCK, American actor, born; An out Gay personality, Bullock became a notable entertainment figure in the 1980s when he co-starred on Too Close for Comfort, and was a regular "square" on John Davidson's updated version of Hollywood Squares (1986-89). After the sitcom went off the air, Bullock remained active with theater, TV, and film work.

He briefly hosted a syndicated talk show with ex-televangelist, Tammy Faye Baker Messner. The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show debuted in 1996, but Messner exited the program a few months later following a cancer diagnosis. Bullock continued with new co-host Ann Abernathy, and the show became The Jim J. and Ann Show until it was cancelled soon after. Bullock was the voice of Queer Duck in the animated series of cartoons of the same name which have appeared on both the Internet and the TV channel Showtime.

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