Today in Gay History

RSS  FEED OF September 27

October 19

Philanthropist Henry van Ameringen
1930 -

HENRY P. van AMERINGEN was a retired American businessman, real estate developer, philanthropist and advocate for gay rights and marijuana legalization born on this date (d: 2020). Van Ameringen worked for the International Flavor and Fragrance company, founded by his father, Arnold Louis van Ameringen.

He was a board member of the family’s van Ameringen Foundation and president of his personal foundation, the H. van Ameringen Foundation. He  began funding gay rights and HIV/AIDS organizations in 1987 following the beginning of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. He was also known as a major donor to Democratic and marijuana legalization causes.

After college, van Ameringen worked for the company founded by his father, International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) as European vice president in charge of fragrance marketing. IFF became a billion-dollar company. In 2014, IFF was listed as the third largest flavor and fragrance company in the world.

Van Ameringen and business partner and husband T. Eric Galloway  created the Lantern Organization, the Galvan Group, and the Galvan Initiatives Foundation which purchased properties in Hudson, New York, where Galloway owns a part-time residence. As of 2015, the Galvan Initiatives Foundation owned 60 parcels of land in the city with an assessed value of more than $12 million.

Van Ameringen was the president of the van Ameringen Foundation, a family foundation that deals with mental health and mental illness in New York and Philadelphia. He is also president of the H. van Ameringen Foundation, a personal foundation that concentrates on HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues.

He also served as co-chairman of the board of directors of In the Life Media and was on the board of Fountain House, an organization in New York for people with mental illness.

He was more than a checkbook, though. It wasn't unusual to see him in an apron in the kitchen of God's Love We Deliver (to which he was a major donor). He was also a major donor to In The Life, an LGBT newsmagazine on PBS that featured another Gay Wisdom post today, Andy Humm..

Mr. van Amerignen died at home on September 9, 2020 in his home in Manhattan.


Robert Reed
1932 -

ROBERT REED, American actor, born (d. 1992); Like many actors of the time, Reed was secretive about being Gay. Reed was briefly married to Marilyn Rosenberg (1957-1959). The union produced one daughter, Caroline Reed, who was born 1958. Caroline had a small role in an episode of The Brady Bunch entitled, "The Slumber Caper." Her character's name was Karen and she is credited as "Carolyn Reed". This episode also reunited Reed with his co-star from The Defenders, E.G. Marshall. Robert Reed contracted AIDS and died in 1992 at age 59 in Pasadena, California, from cancer. He is buried in Skokie, Illinois.

Divine AKA Glenn Mistead
1945 -

DIVINE, American actor born (ne Glenn Milstead) (d. 1988); best known for his drag persona, Divine. In the 1970s, Milstead starred as Divine in a number of New York City theater pieces, including Tom Eyen’s classic camp women's prison drama, Women Behind Bars, which was a major off-Broadway hit in 1976, playing the lead role of the evil matron, Pauline. Divine returned to the stage in another Tom Eyen off-Broadway play, The Neon Woman, where he played the role of Flash Storm, the owner of a sleazy strip club plagued by a series of murders.

Eyen's play was loosely based on famed burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee's book, "The G-String Murders". He appeared with the Cockettes in San Francisco. After their New York bomb, the Cockettes came back to San Francisco and performed their final show in the summer of 1972, "Journey to the Center of Uranus." Divine, joined the group, in her San Francisco debut, performing her song, "A Crab On Your Anus Means You’re Loved." [lyrics by Martin Worman, music by Scrumbly Koldwyn.]

In 1988, the British film The Fruit Machine, also known as Wonderland in the United States, used Milstead's songs in a nightclub disco dance sequence that showcased an early Robbie Coltrane in drag as "Annabelle", the club's owner (a cross between Divine and Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz).

Late in his career, Milstead also played in non-drag roles in his last three films: Trouble in Mind, Hairspray, and Out of the Dark. In Hairspray he played two roles, one male and one female (which he had first done in the earlier Female Trouble).

Here’s what Divine had to say about his “Edna Turnblad” (and honey...he ain’t no John Travolta!):

“For all those people who always thought I was nothing more than a drag queen, wait until they see what I agreed to look like in Hairspray! Drag queens are supposed to be hung up on glamooouur. Meanwhile, on my first day on location, I came out as Edna Turnblad--in my flip-flops and hideous housedress, with varicose veins drawn on my nubble-shaved legs and everything that is wrong with me accentuated, schlepping along in these pin curls and barely any makeup--and I walked right by the crew. Just kept going. Not one person on the set recognized me or even noticed me, because I looked like half the women in Baltimore. I had to go up to John and stand face-front for him to realize who I was. He was thrilled. I was crushed.”

Divine was the inspiration for the design of Ursula the Sea-Witch in the Disney classic The Little Mermaid.

Patricia Ireland
1945 -

PATRICIA IRELAND, President of the National Organization of Women (NOW), born; Ireland served as president of the National Organization for Women, from 1991 to 2001 and published an autobiography, What Women Want, in 1996. She has advocated extensively for the rights of poor women, Gays and Lesbians, and African women. She has also advocated electing female candidates, and training people to defend clinics from disruptive anti-abortion protesters around the United States.

On December 17, 1991 she became the very thing NOW had feared from it's inception. She gave an interview with The Advocate, in which she stated that she had a husband and a female partner, Pat Silverthorn, a longtime activist in the Socialist Workers Party. Lesbians had "infiltrated" NOW. This writer would wager they were probably the ones doing most of the work, anyway. Good work, Patricia!

Journalist and activist Andy Humm
1953 -

ANDY HUMM is a journalist, activist born on this date. He is currently co-host, with Ann Northrup, of TV news program Gay USA

Humm began hosting gay news programs with Pride and Progress, aired on the Gay Cable Network (GCN), in 1985. He co-anchored GCN's nightly coverage of the 1988 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Humm also did floor coverage of the 1992 Democratic National Convention. From 1986 to 1995, Humm was Director of Education at the  Hetrick-Martin Institute for Lesbian and Gay Youth.

Following Pride and Progress, Humm became the host of Gay USA.  In 1996, he began co-hosting the show with veteran journalist and activist Ann Northrup. In 2000, Humm provided floor coverage of the Republican National Convention.

Humm has interviewed numerous people from both the public and private sectors. Politicians interviewed by Humm, titled according to their political position at the time of the interview, include Governors Bill Clinton and George Pataki; Senators Bill Bradley, Joe Lieberman, Chuck Schumer, and Bob Dole; Representatives New Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Richard Gephardt; Activists interviewed by Humm include Jesse Jackson, Gloria Steinem, Al Sharpton, and Larry Kramer. Humm has interviewed actors Matthew Broderick, Ian McKellen and authors Alan Hollinghurst, Ned Rorem and Martin Duberman.

Humm has been interviewed on the CBS Evening News,, the Geraldo Show, Charlie Rose, and  Fox TVs Hannity & Colmes, America's Talking with Chris Matthews, The Maury Povich Show, the Alan Colmes and Barry Farber radio shows, all New York City TV newscasts, and is a frequent guest on NY-1 TVs Inside City Hall. Humm's opinion-editorials have appeared in The New York Times, New York Post, Daily News and Newsday

From 1977 to 1991, Humm served as a spokesperson for the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights which helped guide New York City's LGBT rights law through the City Council. He was a New York City Human Rights Commissioner from 1991 to 1993.

Humm’s work in the LGBT and AIDS Communities has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign, New York University,, the  AIDS and Adolescents Network, Advocates for Youth, PFLAG, the Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Coalition, the Office of the Public Advocate, the Bar Association for Human Rights of Greater New York, and the Arkansas Lesbian and Gay Task Force. In 1990, Humm was named an Arkansas Traveler by then-Governor Bill Clinton

Edna St. Vincent Millay
1950 -

EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY, American poet (b.  1892); an American lyrical poet and playwright and the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She was also known for her unconventional, bohemian lifestyle and her many love affairs. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work. Millay, who was bisexual, had relationships with several other students during her time at Vassar, then a woman's college. In January 1921 she went to Paris, where she met sculptor Thelma Wood, with whom she had a romantic relationship. During her years in Greenwich Village and Paris she also had many relationships with men, including the literary critic Edmund Wilson, who unsuccessfully proposed marriage to her in 1920.

In 1923, she married Eugene Jan Boissevain, then the 43-year-old widower of labor lawyer and war correspondent Inez Milholland. Boissevain greatly supported her career and took primary care of domestic responsibilities. They lived near Austerlitz, New York, at a farmhouse they named Steepletop. Millay's marriage with Boissevain was an open one, with both taking other lovers. Millay's most significant other relationship during this time was with the poet George Dillon, fourteen years her junior, for whom a number of her sonnets were written. Millay also collaborated with Dillon on Flowers of Evil, a translation of Charles Baudelaire’s's Les Fleurs du Mal. Boissevain died in 1949 of lung cancer. Millay was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in her house on October 19, 1950, having broken her neck in a fall.

Rudy Rae Moore, aka "Dolomite"
2008 -

RUDOLPH FRANK MOORE, also known as known as Rudy Ray Moore, was an American comedian, singer, actor, and film producer died on this date (b: 1927). He created the character DOLOMITE, the pimp from the 1975 film Dolemite and its sequels, The Human Tornado and The Return of Dolemite. The persona was developed during his early comedy records. The recordings often featured Moore delivering profanity-filled rhyming poetry, which later earned Moore the nickname "the Godfather of Rap." Actor and comedian Eddie Murphy portrayed Moore in the 2019 film Dolemite Is My Name.

Moore was born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and eventually moved to Akron, Ohio, and then Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Milwaukee, he preached in churches and worked as a nightclub dancer. He returned to Akron, working in clubs as a singer, dancer, and comedian, often appearing in character as Prince DuMarr. He joined the US Army and served in an entertainment unit in Germany, where he was nicknamed the Harlem Hillbilly for singing country songs in an R&B style. He developed an interest in comedy in the Army after expanding on a singing performance for other servicemen.

After his honorable discharge he lived in Seattle, Washington and then Los Angeles, where he continued to work in clubs and was discovered by record producer Dootsie Williams. He recorded rhythm and blues songs for the Federal, Cash, Ball, Kent, and Imperial labels between 1955 and 1962, and released his first comedy albums, Below the BeltThe Beatnik Scene, and A Comedian Is Born.

During the mid-1960s, Moore continued to work in nightclubs as a comedian. He began incorporating toasting and Dozens into his comedy act, and began adapting Dozens into a form of storytelling. He became regionally known in southern California. His style was widely considered far raunchier than that of more famous comedians like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. Moore was working in the famous Dolphin's of Hollywood record store when, in 1970, a local man who often shopped at the store began telling obscene stories about a local character named "Dolemite". The stories were funny, but Moore was fascinated by Dolemite. Moore created a comedy character named Dolemite, and put out three incredibly raunchy, sexually explicit, scatological comedy-musical albums in 1970 alone: Eat Out More Often, The Dirty Dozens, and This Pussy Belongs to Me. Sold under-the-counter at record stores and at live performances, each sold spectacularly well. Moore spent most of his earnings from these records to finance production of a comedy film titled Dolemite (1975). Considered one of the greatest blaxploitation movies of all time, the title character is a pimp, comedian, and nightclub owner who works to clear his name with the help of a group of kung-fu fighting prostitutes and a madam named Queen Bee.

Made for $100,000, Dolemite made $12 million and spawned a sequel, The Human Tornado. American International Pictures then cast Moore in their own blaxplotation film, The Monkey Hu$tle. He had only a small part, and the film bombed. Moore used his salary from that film to finance Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-Law. It was based on a 1971 comedy bit from Moore's album.

Disco Godfather, released in 1979, had a budget of just $100,000 like its predecessor, but it did poorly at the box office. Blaxploitation films were dying off, their blend of raunch, fantasy, and martial arts a poor fit with the increasingly bitter, violent, and gritty Black experience of the late 1970s.

Moore's career largely derailed after this. By the end of his life, he had released a whopping 31 comedy albums. He revisited the Dolemite character in two short films in 1995 and 1996, and in the direct-to-video feature films Big Money Hustlas and The Return of Dolemite , but the character never caught on again. He tried to boost his comedy career with three live-performance concert films in 2002, but these did not sell well. Moore's comedy albums, however, proved immensely influential. During the Golden Age of early rap, artists such as Snoop Dogg, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Big Daddy Kane, Old Dirty Bastard, and the Beastie Boys not only sampled his works but modeled their own styles and songs on Moore. Comedians like Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac mimicked him early in their careers.

Moore never married. He had a succession of girlfriends, and a daughter. But in 2012, his manager revealed that blaxploitation film and comedy legend Rudy Ray Moore was actually gay and had a number of male lovers over the years.

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