Today in Gay History

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John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
1644 -

JOHN WILMOT, Earl of Rochester, British poet, born (d: 1680); was an English libertine, a friend of King Charles II, and the writer of satirical and bawdy poetry. He was the toast of the Restoration court and a patron of the arts. If you’ve never read the poetry of Rochester, run, don’t walk, to the nearest library and, after leafing through the pages, order a copy of your very own. He is easy to read, witty, very funny, and delightfully obscene.

He’s also proof positive that the world didn’t begin with Queen Victoria, his age being almost as unzipped as he. Rochester was an incomparably dissolute rake whose sexual philosophy was clearly “any port in a storm.” Consequently his poetry extols the joys of every possible type of human coupling.

One poem, possibly unique in the language, is about two men entering a woman fore and aft, but obviously making love to each other. Other poems are about the pleasures of boys: “If by chance then I wake, hot-headed and drunk, / What coyle do I make for the loss of my Punck? / I storm and I roar, and I fall in a rage, / And missing my Whore, I bugger my Page.”

Rochester was once banished from the court of Charles II for smashing the king’s clocks and dials when they refused to answer his drunken question, “Dost thou fuck?” He was like that; he was also burned out at age 33. The film "The Libertine", based on Stephen Jeffreys's play, was shown at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival and was released in the UK in 2005. While taking some artistic liberties, it chronicles Rochester's life, with Johnny Depp as Rochester, Samantha Morton as Elizabeth Barry, John Malcovich as King Charles II, and Rosamund Pike as Elizabeth Malet.

Augustus Montague Summers
1880 -

On this date the eccentric English author and clergyman AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE SUMMERS was born (d. 1948). Known primarily for scholarly work on the English drama of the 17th century, as well as for idiosyncratic studies on witches, vampires, and werewolves, in all of which he professed to believe. He was responsible for the first English translation, published in 1928, of the medieval witch hunter's manual, the Malleus Maleficarum.

Despite his conservative religiosity, Summers was an active member of both the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology, to which he contributed an essay on the Marquis de Sade, and of the Order of Chaeronea, a secret society which cultivated a homosexual ethos. Summers' gay interests also show in his edition of the poems of the sixteenth century poet Richard Barnfield, which partly are openly homosexual.

Olympic fencer, Kin Hoitsma
1934 -

Kinmont "KIN" HOITSMA  was an American fencer born on this date (d:  2013); Hoitsma competed in the individual and team epée events at the 1956 Summer Olympics. He later became a teacher. He was a long time lover of photographer and designer, Cecil Beaton.

Hoitsma met Beaton in 1963, when the photographer was in Hollywood creating costumes and sets for the film of My Fair Lady. It was an unhappy time for Beaton because he liked to move on swiftly from one project to the next, but on this occasion he was held in Hollywood by contract ; he fell out with the director, George Cukor, and there was a period when the two men refused to speak to one another.

One weekend in March, Beaton escaped to San Francisco, where he wound up at a bar called the Tool Box and met the handsome, 6ft 3in Kin Hoitsma . “His apartment had dried grasses on the windowsill and eight daffodils were very charming in a black pot,” Beaton noted.

An unlikely friendship formed, and soon Beaton was to be found hiking in Big Sur and camping out under the stars in the Yosemite Valley. Hoitsma was able to discuss art, but he had never heard of Chanel — or, for that matter, of Beaton. The relationship was greatly encouraged by Christopher Isherwood , and Truman Capote reportedly told Beaton he had never looked better.

On his return to Britain, Beaton invited Hoitsma to move in with him. Hoitsma arrived in London in June 1964 to study at the Slade and was given modest accommodation at 8 Pelham Place, Beaton’s London home, and the smaller spare room at Reddish House, Broadchalke.

Hoitsma met Princess Margaret and became fond of Pauline de Rothschild and Countess Brandolini. But after a year he told Beaton that he had to leave: he was yearning for the hills around San Francisco. For his part, Beaton, though devoted to Kin, was not cut out for domesticity; but he was still devastated . The two men remained friends to the end.

Kinmont Trefry Hoitsma was born in Cooperstown, New York, the son of Ralph Hoitsma, a salesman in the paper trade, in turn the son of a cattle rancher in Wyoming who had emigrated from Holland.

The family was peripatetic, moving between the East Coast and the Midwest. Kin graduated from Shaker Heights High School in Ohio, and went on to Princeton University where he studied Greek and majored in French.

In 1956 he competed in the Ivy League Fencing Championship, losing narrowly in the final match, against Columbia. He went on to the collegiate finals, and in November that year, aged 22, fenced for the United States at the Melbourne Olympics. The men’s epée team did not make it beyond the first round, though in the individual men’s epée Hoitsma reached the quarter-finals, defeating the eventual gold medallist, Carlo Pavesi.

On his way back from the Games Hoitsma stopped off in San Francisco, and liked it so much that he settled there, studying Architecture at Berkeley before taking a variety of jobs. He then took an Art History degree at San Francisco State University. It was during this period that he met Beaton.

After his return from London, Hoitsma settled back into academic life, contentedly teaching history, literature, philosophy and religion at Chabot Community College for the next 30 years. On one occasion Beaton even dropped in on one of his English Literature classes, and became absorbed watching Hoitsma dashing “from one end to the other of a blackboard – an Olympic athlete of the mind at work”. In 1967 Hoitsma published The Real Mask, a dissertation on Edward Albee’s play Tiny Alice.

Hoitsma lived on Potrero Hill, where he cultivated old-fashioned roses and was visited in 1967 by Christopher Isherwood. In later life he retired to a home in Oakland, California. He died in September 2013.

Evelyn Waugh
1966 -

EVELYN WAUGH, English writer, died (b. 1903); an English writer best known for such satirical novels as Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, Scoop, A Handful of Dust and The Loved One, as well as for broader and more personal works, such as Brideshead Revisited and the Sword of Honour trilogy, that are influenced by his own experiences and his conservative and Roman Catholic viewpoints.

Many of Waugh's novels depict British aristocracy and high society, which he satirizes but to which, paradoxically, he was also strongly attracted. In addition, he wrote short stories, three biographies, and the first volume of an unfinished autobiography. His travel writings and his extensive diaries and correspondence have also been published.

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