New information behind that unusual turn of events emerged this week from one of the parties in a dispute over ownership of the planned interment site for Kameny‚Äôs ashes in D.C.‚Äôs historic Congressional Cemetery.
Marvin Carter, executive director of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), said his attorney told him an agreement reached about two months ago in which HOBS would transfer ownership of the cemetery plot to the Kameny estate was awaiting the signature of Timothy Clark, Kameny’s friend, housemate and¬†principal heir to the estate.
‚ÄúThe last update I got was we are all in agreement but Ackerman Brown cannot find Clark to sign the paperwork,‚ÄĚ Carter told the Blade.
Carter was referring to the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown, which has represented Clark in legal matters pertaining to the estate since shortly after Kameny died in his home of natural causes on National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, 2011. In his will, Kameny left his house and all other possessions except his voluminous gay rights papers to Clark. He bequeathed his papers to the Library of Congress. Kameny’s house sold last year for $725,000.
Glen Ackerman, managing partner of Ackerman Brown, emailed a statement to the Blade this week disputing Carter‚Äôs assertion that Clark can‚Äôt be found.
‚ÄúAckerman Brown is in regular contact with Timothy Clark, the personal representative of the Estate of Frank E. Kameny and all negotiations on behalf of our client have been in good faith,‚ÄĚ the statement said. ‚ÄúThe decision regarding interment of Frank Kameny’s ashes rests solely with Mr. Clark and he is discharging his duties with full knowledge of the past negotiations. Neither Marvin Carter nor his attorney have ever discussed the placement of a monument in lieu of the cemetery plot with Ackerman Brown.‚ÄĚ
Ackerman noted that the status of the negotiations between Ackerman Brown and HOBS over the ownership transfer of the cemetery plot had not changed since July. At that time, Ackerman‚Äôs law partner, Christopher Brown, said a ‚Äútentative agreement‚ÄĚ had been reached to end the dispute that has prevented Kameny‚Äôs ashes from being interred for nearly two years.
‚ÄúThe tentative agreement was reached on July 9 and the estate is awaiting further input from HOBS‚Äô counsel that is necessary to finalize the transaction,‚ÄĚ Brown said in a July 24 statement to the Blade.
‚ÄúThe estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,‚ÄĚ Brown said in his July statement.
Earlier this year, Carter said HOBS dropped a previous condition that called for the Kameny estate to pay HOBS for the cemetery plot that HOBS purchased with money donated by members of the LGBT community.
‚ÄúWe are not asking for a dime from the estate,‚ÄĚ Carter told the Blade in an Oct. 4 interview. ‚ÄúThe delay is not on our end.‚ÄĚ
Carter said that once the tentative agreement was reached the two parties asked Congressional Cemetery President Paul Williams to draft the documents needed to finalize the ownership transfer of the cemetery plot.
When contacted by the Blade last week, Williams said he could not provide details but suggested the long-awaited resolution to the dispute was in the hands of Clark and his attorneys.
‚ÄúWe have put forth a proposal to the estate and we‚Äôre waiting to hear back,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs about all I can say. We‚Äôre just waiting to hear back.‚ÄĚ
Timothy Clark (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Clark said in August, one day prior to Brown‚Äôs statement to the Blade, that he understood an agreement had been reached over the cemetery plot. He said he was thinking about when to arrange for a burial ceremony and that he would welcome suggestions from Kameny‚Äôs friends and fellow activists about the details for such a ceremony.
Clark didn‚Äôt respond to a phone message from the Blade this week.
HOBS and a group of Kameny‚Äôs friends and colleagues in the LGBT rights movement initially scheduled an interment ceremony for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery for March 3, 2012. At the time, Charles Francis, a Kameny friend who helped Kameny organize his papers to facilitate their donation to the Library of Congress, arranged for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a military headstone for the gravesite that recognized Kameny‚Äôs service in the Army in World War II.
With money raised by HOBS, Francis and Kameny‚Äôs friends and fellow activists Rick Rosendall and Bob Witeck also arranged for the purchase of a separate headstone for the gravesite bearing the inscription ‚ÄúGay is Good.‚ÄĚ Kameny, who coined that slogan in the 1960s to advance the cause of gay rights, said it was something for which he wanted to be remembered as much if not more than any of his other accomplishments.
But just as both stones were placed at the gravesite, Witeck announced that the burial of Kameny‚Äôs ashes had been cancelled after the estate told the cemetery it would not release Kameny‚Äôs ashes until it obtained legal ownership of the burial plot from HOBS. Cemetery officials later removed the headstone and ‚ÄúGay is Good‚ÄĚ marker and placed them in storage, saying it was inappropriate for them to remain in place while the ownership of the gravesite was in dispute.
Michael Bedwell, a longtime friend and gay activist colleague of Kameny‚Äôs who helped select the gravesite, said the removal of the two stones displaced an important and historic site where people could go to reflect on Kameny‚Äôs accomplishments, which he said improved the lives of LGBT people.
‚ÄúIt is a disgrace that people don‚Äôt have a place to pay homage to him two years after his passing,‚ÄĚ Bedwell said. ‚ÄúI feel those stones should be returned to the site even if the ashes are not interred there at this time.‚ÄĚ
Tension between the Kameny estate and Carter, Francis, Witeck and Rosendall increased in the months following the cancellation of the burial when the estate sued the four men on grounds that they removed without permission items from Kameny‚Äôs house shortly after his death. The four said they removed the items for safekeeping at a time of confusion following Kameny‚Äôs death when Clark, who was living in the house at the time, gave them permission to enter the house to sort through Kameny‚Äôs belongings. They said they planned to return the items, some of which were papers slated to go to the Library of Congress.
Rosendall said this week that the men were accompanied by local attorney Michele Zavos when they entered Kameny‚Äôs house shortly after his death. Zavos had worked for Kameny and prepared his will, Rosendall said.
Zavos on Wednesday confirmed that she was present during that visit. She said Clark gave them¬†permission to enter the house and that he understood that Rosendall and the other men¬†wanted to look through Kameny’s papers and other historic items to take steps to preserve them.
According to Zavos, it was during that visit that Rosendall, Francis and Witeck found the original signed copy of Kameny’s will and turned it over to Zavos, who read and explained its provision to Clark.
“Tim was completely aware of what we were doing,” she said.
Rosendall added that he was especially troubled when Clark told the Blade in an interview in March 2012 that someone placed an anonymous letter in the mail slot at Kameny‚Äôs house where Clark was living that used a racial slur and denounced him for being the beneficiary in Kameny‚Äôs will.
‚ÄúAnd that‚Äôs just horrible for anybody to say,‚ÄĚ Clark said in the 2012 interview. ‚ÄúIt said, ‚ÄėThe nigger got everything.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
When the Blade asked to see the letter, Clark claimed it was so upsetting to him that he discarded it in the trash before realizing it may have been better to keep it and have others help him discover the person who wrote it.
Rosendall, however, said Clark‚Äôs disclosure of the letter at a time when the Kameny estate was making public statements accusing him, Carter, Witeck and Francis of improperly taking items from the house could have raised suspicions that they may have been responsible for the anonymous hate letter.
‚ÄúI was not under any impression that he had made an explicit accusation,‚ÄĚ Rosendall said this week. ‚ÄúThe whole point was he throws that out there as red meat and there is an implication that somebody else that he was talking about was to blame for it.‚ÄĚ
The Blade requested a response from Ackerman to Rosendall‚Äôs statements about the hate letter. The Blade further asked Ackerman if anyone besides Clark saw the letter and could corroborate its existence. Ackerman emailed the following statement: “The questions you ask regarding the letter are not relevant to this firm’s representation of the Estate of Franklin E. Kameny and any comment on this topic would be inappropriate.”
Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and gay former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Robert Raben will be among a cast of prominent attorneys participating in a “mock trial” in D.C. of the late U.S. Senators Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.), Styles Bridges (R-N.H.), and Herman Welker (R-Idaho).
The three deceased senators are to be ‚Äúcharged‚ÄĚ at the trial with blackmailing and causing the suicide of fellow Sen. Lester Hunt (D-Wyo.) over a 1954 gay sex scandal involving Hunt‚Äôs son, who was arrested for allegedly soliciting an undercover D.C. police officer for sodomy. The mock trial, to be performed as a ‚Äúreaders‚Äô theater‚ÄĚ play, is scheduled to take place Oct. 23 at All Souls Unitarian Church at 16th and Harvard Streets, N.W.
According to a newly published book on which the mock trial is based, ‚ÄúDying For Joe McCarthy‚Äôs Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt,‚ÄĚ McCarthy and the other two senators hatched a scheme to force Hunt¬†to resign and withdraw from running for re-election to the Senate. The book says the senators threatened to publicize the arrest of Hunt’s son at a time when homosexuality was considered taboo and a mental disorder.
Hunt emerged as a vocal critic of McCarthy and his notorious crusade in the 1950s against what he claimed were communists working in prominent roles in the U.S. government, including the State Department and the Army, to subvert the government. In a less publicized crusade, McCarthy also pushed hard for exposing and expelling gays who worked for the government, according to historians that have studied McCarthy‚Äôs career as a senator.
Author Rodger McDaniel reports McCarthy and the other two senators wanted to force the highly popular Hunt into dropping out of his re-election bid at a time when Democrats controlled the Senate by just one vote. Hunt‚Äôs ouster was expected to result in the appointment and later the election of a Republican to replace him, enabling Republicans to gain control of the Senate and strengthen McCarthy’s hand at what critics called communist witch hunts.
In addition to Simpson and Raben, others scheduled to participate in the mock trial are gay Republican attorney and U.S. elections finance expert Trevor Potter, who will play the prosecutor; D.C. lesbian attorney Mindy Daniels, who will act as the defense attorney; retired Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden, who will preside over the mock trial; and Verizon legislative affairs executive Ed Senn, who will play McCarthy.
The Mattachine Society of Washington, co-founded by the late D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, is sponsoring the event at the direction of gay rights advocate Charles Francis. Francis and gay activist Rick Rosendall reinstated the corporate charter for the Mattachine Society of Washington as a new organization after Kameny allowed the charter to expire shortly before his death.
Gay and lesbian military service members participated in a Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony on Monday. (Photo by Patsy Lynch)
A contingent of¬†active-duty and retired gay and lesbian military service members and their supporters participated in a Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony on Monday in D.C.‚Äôs Congressional Cemetery to honor LGBT service members, including those who lost their lives while serving their country.
The event took place at the gravesite of Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who in 1975 became the first active duty service member to challenge the military‚Äôs ban on gays. The Air Force provided a formal military burial for Matlovich in Congressional Cemetery at the time of his death in 1988 as LGBT activists recognized his role as a champion in the cause of lifting the ban on gays in the military.
Lt. Col. Todd Burton, a member of the Army National Guard who organized the Veterans Day tribute, said the Matlovich gravesite was selected because Matlovich intended the site to be used as a tribute to all LGBT service members. Burton organized the event on behalf of Outserve/Service Members Legal Defense Network, a national group representing LGBT service members.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a privilege to gather here with fellow service members to honor one of our own,‚ÄĚ Burton said. ‚ÄúWhat an honor to be able to do this together.‚ÄĚ
About 20 participants gathered around the gravesite as Burton told of Matlovich‚Äôs role as a leading force in the movement to end the military‚Äôs ban on gays. Although Matlovich didn‚Äôt live to see that happen, Burton said he became an inspiration for succeeding generations of LGBT service members.
Burton noted that the ashes of D.C. gay rights leader Frank Kameny, who counseled Matlovich during¬†Matlovich’s challenge of the military‚Äôs gay ban, would soon be buried at a site in the cemetery close to the Matlovich gravesite. Kameny,¬†a World War II combat veteran, died in 2011.
As Burton completed his tribute, Sr. Master Sgt. Kevin Murphy of the Air Force and Sr. U.S. Navy Chief Dwayne Beebe-Franqui ‚ÄĒ both wearing military uniforms ‚ÄĒ placed a wreath behind the Matlovich gravesite‚Äôs internationally recognized headstone.
Matlovich anonymously arranged for the headstone‚Äôs placement at the cemetery prior to his death. He¬†told friends and associates that he wanted it to be used to honor all LGBT service members.
The stone is made of the same black granite used in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall located on the National Mall. Matlovich arranged for pink triangles to be embedded into the headstone in reference to the symbol used to identify gay men in Nazi concentration camps and which later became an international symbol for gay rights.
As a veteran who served in combat during the Vietnam War, Matlovich also had inscribed in the headstone a statement now widely known in the LGBT rights movement: ‚ÄúThey gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.‚ÄĚ
Matlovich‚Äôs name was placed in a separate footstone at the gravesite shortly after his death.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm honored to stand here right now,‚ÄĚ said Beebe-Franqui shortly after placing the wreath at the gravesite.
‚ÄúI survived the entire ordeal of ‚ÄėDon‚Äôt Ask, Don‚Äôt Tell,‚Äô‚ÄĚ he said, noting that’s he’s been in the Navy 21 years. ‚ÄúI never thought it was going to go away and when it finally did it was just an amazing day for everyone. And that‚Äôs why for all those years of having to hide, I decided to not hide anymore and stand and be a leader in the Navy and to support LGBT troops.‚ÄĚ
Beebe-Franqui, who was accompanied at the ceremony by his husband, Jonathan Beebe-Franqui, said the two¬†live together on a Navy base in Nashville, Tenn., where he‚Äôs currently stationed.
During the ceremony, Burton called on the gathering to observe a moment of silence to honor four gay male service members and one lesbian service member who died in action while serving in the military.¬†The five are Lloyd Darling, who was killed in Vietnam in 1968; Alan Rogers, killed in Iraq in 2008; Andy Wilfahrt, killed in Afghanistan in 2011; Donna Johnson, killed in Afghanistan in 2012; and Reid Nishizuka, killed in Afghanistan in 2013.
Christopher Brown, an attorney with the gay-owned law firm Ackerman Brown, said the tentative agreement was reached on July 9 with Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), a local LGBT charitable group that bought a plot for the burial of Kameny‚Äôs ashes at Congressional Cemetery after soliciting donations from the community to pay for it following Kameny‚Äôs death on Oct. 11, 2011.
Brown‚Äôs comment came one day after Ackerman Brown‚Äôs client, Timothy Clark, Kameny‚Äôs longtime friend and heir to his estate, told the Blade that he understood that an agreement between the two parties over the cemetery plot had been reached.
‚ÄúWe reached an agreement on that so I‚Äôm going to keep the burial plot,‚ÄĚ Clark said in a telephone interview.
‚ÄúI just have to decide on when I want to have something,‚ÄĚ he said in referring to a burial ceremony at the cemetery. ‚ÄúI just don‚Äôt know. But I‚Äôm open to any suggestions that anybody wants to have because that was Frank‚Äôs life. The gay community was Frank‚Äôs life. That‚Äôs what he fought for.‚ÄĚ
HOBS and a group of Kameny‚Äôs friends and colleagues in the LGBT rights movement initially scheduled an interment ceremony for Kameny at the cemetery for March 3, 2012. But they abruptly cancelled it after the estate reportedly told the cemetery it would not release Kameny‚Äôs ashes until it obtained legal ownership of the burial plot from HOBS.
For more than a year, HOBS and Ackerman Brown have declined to publicly disclose specific details of the nature of the dispute between the two parties over the burial plot other than to say they were negotiating an agreement to enable HOBS to transfer ownership of the plot to the estate.
‚Äú[W]e would point out that HOBS has never stood in the way of or delayed the burial of Dr. Kameny‚Äôs ashes,‚ÄĚ said HOBS President Marvin Carter in an email to the Blade earlier this month. ‚ÄúHOBS has made numerous proposals and overtures to the Kameny estate to have Dr. Kameny‚Äôs remains buried at Congressional Cemetery.‚ÄĚ
Brown told the Blade in an email on Wednesday that the estate, which is in possession of Kameny‚Äôs ashes, also is interested in moving ahead with the burial.
‚ÄúThe estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,‚ÄĚ Brown said in his email.
In response to a request from the Blade last month, HOBS on Wednesday released information about the money it raised and spent both for Kameny‚Äôs personal needs in the last years of his life and for expenses related to Kameny‚Äôs funeral and planned burial.
HOBS‚Äôs IRS 990 finance reports filed with the IRS for 2010 and 2011 ‚Äď the most recent such reports publicly available for HOBS ‚Äď don‚Äôt include specific information about money raised for Kameny-related projects.
But the reports show that HOBS‚Äôs income increased dramatically in 2010 and 2011 during a period when the non-profit, tax-exempt group and its supporters appealed to the LGBT community for Kameny-related donations ‚ÄĒ initially to help Kameny pay household expenses and property taxes and later for Kameny‚Äôs funeral and burial.
The 990 reports, which all tax-exempt organizations are required to file, show that HOBS‚Äôs income was $2,125 in 2008, the first year for which such figures are reported, and $6,544 in 2009. The reports show that in 2010, HOBS‚Äôs income rose to $61,480 and in 2011 its income increased to $115,440.
In an op-ed column published in the Blade just before the Thanksgiving holiday in November 2011, Carter discussed efforts by HOBS and other groups and individuals to arrange two separate memorial services for Kameny, one of which was held at the Carnegie Library building in downtown D.C.
‚ÄúThus far, with the generosity of many friends, we have covered expenses for Kameny‚Äôs viewing at Carnegie Library and his essential funeral costs, too,‚ÄĚ which Carter later explained involved paying for Kameny‚Äôs cremation and the rental of a casket and the service of a funeral hearse for the viewing ceremony.
‚ÄúIn addition, we have now paid the deposit on a fitting, public gravesite for Kameny at the historic Congressional Cemetery,‚ÄĚ he said in the op-ed. ‚ÄúFor all who wish to help raise the remaining $4,000 anticipated; you may make your tax-deductible contribution online‚Ä¶or simply mail a check to HOBS‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
One effort organized by local gay activist Ben Carver in 2010 was billed as the ‚ÄúBuy Frank a Drink‚ÄĚ campaign, which Carver promoted on a Facebook page.
HOBS‚Äôs 990 report for 2012, which would include that year‚Äôs income, has yet to be released by the charitable watchdog group Guidestar.com, which obtains 990 reports for nearly all U.S. non-profit groups each year from the IRS. HOBS‚Äôs 990 report for 2010 was filed in November 2011, and its 2011 report was filed in November 2012. This suggests that its 2012 990 report will likely be filed in November of this year.
The 2011 report shows that HOBS during that year spent $66,413 on ‚Äúdirect support to qualified individuals,‚ÄĚ $20,222 on ‚Äúmentoring programs,‚ÄĚ and $11,605 on ‚Äúeducational programs.‚ÄĚ
Those three programs, which came to a total of $98,240, accounted for the bulk of HOBS‚Äôs expenditures for that year. The 2011 report shows that all other expenses were under $4,000 and were for administrative and overhead expenses such as supplies ($3,727), board meetings ($1,007), Internet ($1,555), meals and entertainment ($505), and telephone ($1,494). More detail on those reported expenses wasn‚Äôt available.
Carter discussed HOBS‚Äôs mission in an email he sent the Blade on July 24, which also provided information about money HOBS raised and spent on Kameny-related projects.
The late Frank Kameny (left) standing next to Marvin Carter at a HOBS benefit dinner in 2010. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
HOBS ‚Äúis an all-volunteer micro-charity that helps marginalized LGBT individuals in our community to meet short-term and often life-sustaining needs,‚ÄĚ Carter said. ‚ÄúWe focus on helping those who often do not fit the criteria for help from other organizations or agencies ‚Äď filling gaps in human distress here in Washington, D.C.¬† A sizable portion of our work involves discrimination cases too, many involving torture and asylum,‚ÄĚ said Carter, referring to cases noted on the group‚Äôs website in which HOBS assists LGBT foreign nationals seeking U.S. political asylum to escape persecution in their home country.
‚ÄúBefore his passing, HOBS assisted Dr. Kameny frequently with some of his essential needs, including transportation for doctor‚Äôs appointments, the use of a mobile phone, groceries and meals, urgent bathroom plumbing repairs, repair of his eyewear, and the payment of past property tax bills to prevent his home foreclosure ‚Äď spending in total thousands of dollars in the years before his death,‚ÄĚ Carter said.
Carter provided these figures and related information in connection with the contributions HOBS received and expenditures it incurred for Kameny-related projects in 2010 and 2011:
Contributions earmarked by donors for Kameny‚Äôs burial expenses totaled about $800.
Other donors ‚Äúmake clear that their donations may be used for HOBS‚Äô general mission,‚ÄĚ were silent about how to use the donations.
During this period, ‚Äúapproximately $15,000 was raised in connection with our general fundraising efforts.‚ÄĚ
HOBS incurred expenses totaling approximately $8,500 related to the purchase of a cemetery plot for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery, cremation expenses and ‚Äúother expenses of the funeral home (including rental of a casket and hearse for transporting Dr. Kameny‚Äôs ashes to the memorial service‚Ä¶and a gravesite marker reading ‚ÄėGay is Good.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
There was no surplus of funds from contributions for Kameny‚Äôs burial and memorial service efforts. HOBS used money from its general operating account to cover the Kameny funeral and burial expenses not covered by earmarked donations.
HOBS did not solicit funds for payment of Kameny‚Äôs property taxes in 2011. It did raise money for and contributed to Kameny‚Äôs property tax payments in 2010.
Lilli Vincenz¬†was a pioneer in the gay rights movement beginning in the early 1960s. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Lilli Vincenz, 75, a D.C.-area resident who worked with Frank Kameny as a pioneer in the gay rights movement beginning in the early 1960s, has donated to the Library of Congress some 10,000 papers, photographs, 16-mm films and memorabilia collected over a period of 50 years.
In a statement released on July 25, the Library of Congress said the papers and other items, which document Vincenz‚Äôs ‚Äúpersonal biography and the larger gay rights movement,‚ÄĚ will be available to researchers and the public once the materials are organized and catalogued.
The statement notes that Vincenz was one of the first lesbian members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the nation‚Äôs first full-fledged gay civil rights organization co-founded by Kameny and then D.C. gay activist Jack Nichols.¬†It says Vincenz became the first editor of the organization‚Äôs newsletter, The Homosexual Citizen.
In that capacity, Vincenz and lesbian activist Nancy Tucker co-founded in 1969 an independent gay newspaper as a spinoff of the Mattachine newsletter called the Gay Blade, which later evolved into the Washington Blade
‚ÄúShe marched in the historic [gay rights] picket of the White House on April 17, 1965, participated in annual July 4th gay rights demonstrations in Philadelphia, and was part of the delegation that met with U.S. Civil Service Commission officials in 1965 to discuss the continued federal ban on hiring homosexuals,‚ÄĚ the Library of Congress statement says.
‚ÄúVincenz was also an early member of the Daughters of Bilitis, a national lesbian rights organization, wrote a bi-weekly column for the New York-based Gay magazine, and was interviewed often by the media with other lesbian leaders,‚ÄĚ the statement says.
The Library of Congress statement says the donation of Vincenz‚Äôs papers was made through her agent, Charles Francis, the co-founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which donated Kameny‚Äôs papers to the Library of Congress in 2006.
Vincenz and her partner Nancy Davis live in Arlington, Va.
Frank Kameny‚Äôs plaque will be exhibited at the Chicago Legacy Walk. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
The late D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny will be inducted on Oct. 11, the second anniversary of his death, into Chicago‚Äôs Legacy Walk, an outdoor LGBT history exhibit that commemorates the lives of historically significant LGBT people.
Victor Salvo, founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Legacy Project, which operates the Legacy Walk, told the Blade that among the others to be inducted into the exhibit this year along with Kameny is American poet Walt Whitman.
In what some have described as a unique outdoor museum, the Legacy Walk consists of at least 17 25-foot-tall decorative ‚ÄúRainbow Pylons‚ÄĚ placed along a half-mile section of North Halsted Street in Chicago‚Äôs Lake View neighborhood, which is known for its high concentration of LGBT residents and visitors.
Attached to each of the pylons are between one or more 18-inch by 24-inch bronze plaques that include a photo image and written description of one of the LGBT people inducted into the Legacy Walk exhibit. Eighteen of the plaques were installed on the pylons in October 2012 in the first phase of the exhibit, according to a write-up on its website. New plaques are to be added each year, with some of the existing ones rotated into an indoor exhibit hall scheduled to open in 2014, the write up says.
‚ÄúSome of the plaques will commemorate significant events in GLBT history, but most will posthumously memorialize the lives and work of notable gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals whose achievement have helped shape the world ‚Äď but whose contributions, sexual orientation or gender identity have been overlooked, minimized or censored entirely from most historic texts,‚ÄĚ the Legacy Walk website says.
Kameny has been credited with playing a key role in shaping the U.S. LGBT rights movement beginning in the early 1960s as co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the city‚Äôs first gay rights organization. Kameny became the first known gay person to contest in the federal courts his dismissal from his job as an astronomer for the federal government because of his sexual orientation.
Others inducted into the Legacy Walk in 2012 include African-American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin; writer and novelist James Baldwin; British artificial intelligence¬†researcher Alan Turing; British writer and novelist Oscar Wilde; U.S. lesbian activist and 1960s era gay rights pioneer and Kameny colleague Barbara Gittings; and San Francisco Supervisor and gay rights leader Harvey Milk.
The LGBT museum has collected nearly 5,000 artifacts from figures such as Greg Louganis, Bayard Rustin, Tyler Clementi, and Frank Kameny. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
By CHRIS KANE
There is an abundance of artifacts that represent the history and culture of the LGBT communities. Items like the walking stick that once belonged to gay civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin, or foundational documents that established the first gay rights organization, the Mattachine Society, are scattered throughout the country.
Many of these artifacts have already been discarded, lost or destroyed. But the National LGBT Museum, which is making strides toward acquiring a building to house the first national historical institution for the community, was created to redress this problem‚ÄĒand also to celebrate, showcase and share our history through these artifacts. The museum has reached a milestone by completing the preliminary work of establishing a business model, creating a fundraising/development plan, collecting market research, and assembling a team of experts who comprise the board and leadership councils.
So far, the museum has collected nearly 5,000 artifacts from figures such as Greg Louganis, Bayard Rustin, Tyler Clementi, and Frank Kameny. These objects (many of which were destined for the landfill) will have the platform afforded by a cultural institution in our nation‚Äôs capital, because they document episodic moments in LGBT history. For example, when Greg Louganis‚Äô head collided with the diving platform during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, misinformation about HIV led to concern over whether other divers risked infection by the virus. This story, told through artifacts donated by the diver, is an integral part of LGBT history, and Louganis‚Äô two gold medal-winning dives were a momentous Olympic victory for the United States.
The value of artifacts owned by LGBT figures or organizations is incalculable. The National LGBT Museum is in the process of collecting artifacts from all over the country in order to preserve and share them with the public. Its Collections Committee, comprised of museum professionals who have worked for institutions like the Smithsonian and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, emphasizes the importance of collaborating as a community to preserve objects that represent our history and culture. And because the project is national in scope, the museum aims to represent, with these objects, stories and narratives from cities and small towns alike‚ÄĒincluding, especially, those which involve women, people of color, and other constituencies that are often neglected or underrepresented within the community and political movements.
The museum provides another corollary reason for which it is important to collect and safeguard artifacts: to contend with the political and social forces that seek to set the community back. One function of cultural institutions is to protect and showcase the difficult aspects of history respective to politically disenfranchised communities to guard against oppression, marginalization, intolerance and prejudice in the future. Contributions from individuals and organizations play an integral part in helping the National LGBT Museum accomplish this objective. An institution that elucidates our country‚Äôs history of homophobia can reach both those who have lived this history and those who have not.
It is often the case that people undervalue the items they own or do not understand their contextual significance. For this reason, the National LGBT Museum is looking for any and all artifacts, and its permanent collection includes a breadth of objects ranging from letters/correspondence to musical instruments and protest signs. All materials are housed in a professional museum storage facility in Forestville, MD. Questions regarding the Museum‚Äôs collections and artifact storage/handling procedures can be directed to Jarrett Zeman at 616-717-2441 and donations can be shipped to Ely, Inc. at: 4110 Forestville Road, Forestville, MD 20747 (c/o National LGBT Museum).
Editors and publishers of the Washington Blade and the Bay Area Reporter, an LGBT newspaper in San Francisco, announced this week the terms of a bet for their respective teams playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl championship in New Orleans.
READ ABOUT THE BET FROM THE BAY AREA REPORTER’S POINT OF VIEW HERE
If the Ravens win, BAR will send the Blade staff a lunch of dungeness crabs and a $1,000 donation to the local LGBT charity of the Blade’s choosing. If the 49ers win, the Blade will send BAR’s staff a lunch of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and a $1,000 donation to a San Francisco LGBT charity of BAR’s choosing.
“When Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. When New York legalized marriage in 2011, the Giants won the Super Bowl. In 2012, Maryland passed marriage equality, so it’s our turn,” said Blade editor Kevin Naff, who lives in Baltimore. “Go Ravens!”
The Bay Area Reporter, founded in 1971, is among the oldest LGBT newspapers in the nation, along with the Washington Blade, which was founded in 1969. Both San Francisco and Washington ‚ÄĒ which is about 35 miles from Baltimore ‚ÄĒ have prominent and active LGBT communities. Both were home to two of the best known American LGBT activists in history, the late Harvey Milk in San Francisco, and the late Frank Kameny in Washington.
“We are very enthused about this bet on the Super Bowl between the 49ers and the Ravens,” Bay Area Reporter publisher Thomas Horn told the Blade. “This continues a Bay Area Reporter tradition begun in 2010 when the San Francisco Giants played the Phillies in the National League Championship series. That was between the Bay Area Reporter and Philadelphia Gay News, and we won. Then in the World Series, we bet The Dallas Voice. Again the San Francisco team and paper won. We are hoping to keep this streak alive with the Super Bowl this year.”
According to the Times, Ayanbadejo wrote at 3:40:35 a.m.: ‚ÄúIs there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti- bullying [sic] over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?‚ÄĚ
For their part, the San Francisco 49ers themselves have broken new ground in the past year in terms of LGBT inclusiveness, becoming the first NFL team to contribute to the “It Gets Better” project.
“The Washington Blade and the Bay Area Reporter have been the longest LGBT-serving newspapers in America,” Horn continued. “We are each an important part of the fabric of our local communities. And that includes sports. Go Niners!”
The July 1964 cover of The Ladder. (Image from the Washington Blade archive)
The Smithsonian Institution‚Äôs American History Museum is currently displaying an original issue of the nation‚Äôs first lesbian magazine called The Ladder as part of the museum‚Äôs American Stories exhibit.
The Ladder, believed to be the first nationally distributed lesbian publication, was first published in 1956 by the Daughters of Bilitis, the nation‚Äôs first known lesbian organization. It was launched by pioneer lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin and later edited by Barbara Gittings, another LGBT rights pioneer.
Bob Witeck, a founding member of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian to acquire D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny‚Äôs papers and political artifacts, such as gay rights picket signs. Witeck said the copy of The Ladder magazine now on display at the American History Museum came from the Kameny paper‚Äôs collection.
According to the Smithsonian, items from Kameny‚Äôs collection, including The Ladder, are being displayed as part of an exhibit that includes such historic items as a fragment of the Plymouth Rock and a section of the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable.
Van Cliburn (Photo by David Eldan via Wikimedia Commons)
It was publicly acknowledged in obituaries in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and at a funeral held last weekend that concert pianist Van Cliburn, one of the most famous classical musicians of the 20th¬†century, was gay, but the references ‚ÄĒ the ‚Äúg‚ÄĚ word was not used ‚ÄĒ were as discreet and low key as the keyboard virtuoso was in his lifetime.
Cliburn, whose triumph at the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at age 23 was the crowning achievement of what had been a white-hot track record of competition winning and concertizing after a lauded three-year stint at the famous Juilliard School, died Feb. 27 at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, at age 78 following a battle with bone cancer. The story of his win in Moscow at the height of the Cold War when he was exalted as a symbol of overcoming the fear and paranoia of the era with great art, has been oft told, especially over the last week as his life has been remembered and celebrated. The long decades since it happened have cemented its mythic status and though Cliburn‚Äôs return to performing in the late ‚Äė80s and ‚Äė90s after nearly a decade-long hiatus drew mixed reviews, the fire and talent he brought to his early career is pretty much universally acknowledged by critics.
Cliburn plays Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 Mvt III
‚ÄúWith the iconic nature of his rise to fame so to speak, he really became this symbol because what really happened there in Moscow was about so much more than the music,‚ÄĚ says Scott Beard, a gay concert pianist and professor at West Virginia‚Äôs Shepherd University. ‚ÄúIt wasn‚Äôt like Glenn Gould with the ‚ÄėGoldberg Variations,‚Äô it was a highly politicized thing and to [Nikita] Khruschev‚Äôs credit, he said, ‚ÄėHe‚Äôs the best, he should win.‚Äô I think with that came a lot of pressure.‚ÄĚ
And while one wouldn‚Äôt expect Cliburn to have been out at the time ‚ÄĒ it was, after all, only a year after gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny was fired by the U.S. government for being gay and years before Stonewall ‚ÄĒ Cliburn‚Äôs low-key handling of his homosexuality has been so understated that, at times, the references to it in mainstream media outlets are almost, one might argue, comically opaque.
The Los Angeles Times mentioned ‚ÄúThomas L. Smith, his friend and manager who survives him.‚ÄĚ The New York Times said he was ‚Äúsurvived by [Smith], with whom he shared his home for many years.‚ÄĚ A 2008 New York Times article commemorating the 50th¬†anniversary of his Tchaikovsky win, mentioned ‚Äúhis home in Fort Worth, which he shared with a longtime friend.‚ÄĚ (Smith spoke briefly at Cliburn‚Äôs funeral saying, ‚ÄúVan‚Äôs death is a crater-sized void that is felt around the world but for me, it is the loss of my soul mate, the deepest friendship ‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ)
A sunny 1993 biography from Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich is more than 400 pages long yet includes not one mention of Cliburn‚Äôs love life. (Reich wrote in an e-mail to the Blade this week regarding Cliburn that ‚Äúmy area of study is really the music itself.‚ÄĚ)
There was one episode the papers did dutifully report ‚ÄĒ a former boyfriend, Thomas Zaremba, sued Cliburn in 1996 seeking millions in palimony. The suit was eventually dismissed. Cliburn did briefly comment on the matter at the time, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram it was ‚Äúabsolutely a shocking surprise.‚ÄĚ Cliburn said there was no way he could have exposed Zaremba to HIV, as Zaremba had claimed, as Cliburn himself was negative.
If anything, though, the lawsuit did break the ice for acknowledgement of Cliburn‚Äôs being gay in the press. Although friends and associates who knew him early in his career say he was never particularly closeted, it was not a topic ever publicly discussed. Aside from the fact that more gays were in the closet in the ‚Äė50s, ‚Äė60s and ‚Äė70s than today, the near-constant presence of Cliburn‚Äôs mother, the famous Rildia Bee O‚ÄôBryan Cliburn, who had been his first piano teacher, is generally acknowledged as a factor in his low-key lifestyle.
‚ÄúWhen I first knew him, I knew he was gay from the very beginning, but I can‚Äôt remember quite how I knew,‚ÄĚ says Robert Croan, a former classical music critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who‚Äôs gay. ‚ÄúHis mother, whom I met many times, was sort of a grand dame type, but very down to earth. She had a great sense of humor but she watched over him very carefully. I think he had his excursions with various men but she traveled with him and was just there all the time. ‚Ä¶ She was very proprietary with him and the father was sort of invisible as far as the public really knew.‚ÄĚ (Cliburn‚Äôs father died in 1974.)
Croan says although he and Cliburn were not close friends, they were friendly over many years and saw each other multiple times, including when Croan covered the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, a highly regarded quadrennial contest Cliburn started in the late ’60s in Fort Worth, for the Post-Gazette. Croan helped facilitate an honorary doctorate for Cliburn from Pittsburgh‚Äôs Duquesne University, where Croan previously taught.
Fans inevitably wondered to what degree ‚ÄĒ if any ‚ÄĒ Cliburn was out to his mother. Cliburn never publicly commented on the matter.
‚ÄúI would say she had to have known,‚ÄĚ Croan says. ‚ÄúWhether they actually discussed it, I have no way of knowing but she couldn‚Äôt have been around him all that time and not known. This was not a stupid woman. ‚Ä¶ I would guess at the very least she closed her eyes to what was going on or maybe acknowledged it privately.‚ÄĚ
But it‚Äôs unlikely Rildia Bee, who died in 1994 at age 97, was the only factor. Cliburn spent his later years living in his native Texas (in a swanky suburb of Fort Worth), was a lifelong Baptist, member and regular attendee at Fort Worth‚Äôs large Broadway Baptist Church and was also a Republican. Former President George W. Bush, also from Texas, spoke at Cliburn‚Äôs funeral. (In 2009, Cliburn‚Äôs church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in a disagreement over the church‚Äôs welcoming of LGBT members.)
And for all his musical achievements, Cliburn ‚ÄĒ at least so far as is publicly known ‚ÄĒ was not involved in LGBT advocacy work of any kind.
Philip Johnson, an 87-year-old Fort Worth gay activist who worked with Kameny and was involved in LGBT work for decades, says, ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think he ever associated with the gay movement at all.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI used to see him sometimes at the Highland Park Cafeteria, this place where wealthy people ate that had really excellent food,‚ÄĚ Johnson says. ‚ÄúBut we never crossed paths at any sort of gay rights rally or anything like that.‚ÄĚ
Darren Woods, general director of the Fort Worth Opera, agrees.
‚ÄúI did not know him well outside of his attending operas occasionally and the occasional hello at a restaurant,‚ÄĚ Woods, who‚Äôs gay, wrote in an e-mail. ‚ÄúHe and his long-time partner, Tommy, were deeply involved with many straight married couples who were big arts patrons.‚ÄĚ
The degree to which Cliburn was out at various periods of his life, while interesting enough in and of itself, also raises a bounty of other questions. Were many classical pianists of Cliburn‚Äôs day ‚ÄĒ Liberace, for the record, was considered more of a pop entertainer and was never taken seriously by the classical establishment ‚ÄĒ gay? If so, how many were out? Are the numbers any different today? How does it compare to other classical professionals such as orchestra players, conductors and composers? And did the classical world warm to out gays more quickly than pop culture? Or the world at large? Or did the blue-blooded, elderly art patron types keep gays in the closet longer? And with so much emphasis in pop culture with who‚Äôs sleeping with whom and the personal lives of celebrities, why do such questions seldom get asked of classical artists?
Nobody has numbers, but the anecdotal assessments are entertaining.
‚ÄúGenerally it‚Äôs thought that a lot of concert pianists were gay,‚ÄĚ says David Patrick Stearns, a classical music critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer, who‚Äôs gay. ‚ÄúNobody really knows why, but it seems to be somewhere around 50 percent. Violinists? Almost never. Again, nobody really knows why. Cellists? That‚Äôs a little up for grabs. Organists? Almost all of them. Countertenors? Most of the American ones are gay, but the non-American ones are not. ‚Ä¶ Opera is kind of a separate thing. Opera, I mean talk about queer energy, though. I‚Äôve heard people talk about there being straight opera queens but I don‚Äôt know.‚ÄĚ
Croan says more American composers have traditionally tended to be gay than pianists.
‚Äú(Fellow Cliburn Juilliard pianist) John Browning was out,‚ÄĚ Croan says. ‚ÄúSamuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti, certainly a large number of American composers of the mid-20th¬†century were gay. Aaron Copland is another. They weren‚Äôt out in the sense that there was any public announcement about it and the media wouldn‚Äôt have touched on it unless there was some sort of a scandal, but it was kind of quietly acknowledged. I met a lot of gay performers of that generation. Some got married but most didn‚Äôt. Ned Rorem was gay and was very open about it in his memoirs.‚ÄĚ
One wonders the degree to which this was acknowledged among the musicians themselves. Was anybody hosting pool parties on Sunday afternoons the way gay director George Cukor famously did in Hollywood?
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know about pool parties, but I think there was a large degree of socializing,‚ÄĚ Croan says. ‚ÄúClassical music is a pretty small world to begin with so you have a smaller pool of people. ‚Ä¶ The difference from then and Van Cliburn is they didn‚Äôt all travel with their mothers, that‚Äôs a big difference. I think he stayed a bit more to himself in that way. ‚Ä¶ And I also think these groups could be very productive. It wasn‚Äôt all just drinking and carousing. Their interactions were very artistically productive. You had a lot of interaction and influence and a lot of good artistic results, ramifications.‚ÄĚ
Stephen Hough, a highly regarded classical concert pianist who‚Äôs released many recordings, remembers a ‚Äúwonderful evening‚ÄĚ of dinner and a recital Cliburn gave at Tanglewood, an estate and music venue in Lenox and Stockbridge, Mass., in the ‚Äė90s.
‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt know him well but I found him to be a completely charming person at dinner,‚ÄĚ Hough, who‚Äôs gay, says. ‚ÄúHe was very humble and modest and always interested in what other people were saying. ‚Ä¶ He was a lovely person and I wish I‚Äôd been able to meet him more.‚ÄĚ
Hough says many factors likely contributed to Cliburn‚Äôs discretion.
‚ÄúHe had a huge female audience,‚ÄĚ Hough says. ‚ÄúWomen always found him very attractive. He was sort of the perfect bachelor everyone wanted to marry. There were older women who simply fell at his feet. There‚Äôs a story I‚Äôm told where an older female fan greeted him once and told him with tears, ‚ÄėYou‚Äôve made my life worth living.‚Äô He took her hands in his and held her to him and said, ‚ÄėThis is such a special moment in my life, you‚Äôve touched my heart deeply.‚Äô Back in the earlier years, I don‚Äôt think his audience would have even known what homosexuality was much less accepted it. It was a much different era.‚ÄĚ
Hough says he‚Äôs seen the matter handled in many different ways by classical performers over the years.
‚ÄúJorge Bolet was a pianist of the same generation as Cliburn,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúHe had a partner for decades who traveled with him always. He was just always there but it was never really laid out clearly who this was. You could think he was a boyfriend, you could think he was a secretary, a manager or whatever you chose, but there he was. We really shouldn‚Äôt demand too much heroism in the past because it was so different.‚ÄĚ
As to how quickly the classical world warmed to the idea of its heroes being out, many say it pretty much mirrored the rates of society at large. It was never particularly unwelcoming, insiders say, but the seriousness with which its fans and artists approach their work made it perhaps an easier topic, historically, to avoid dealing with head on.
‚ÄúYes, you had all these staid, wealthy board members but they weren‚Äôt stupid people,‚ÄĚ Croan says. ‚ÄúThey put a blind eye to it in some ways, but they also liked socializing with the stars, just like they do in Hollywood. I‚Äôd say it was acknowledged on Broadway long before it was in Hollywood or in the classical music world. Broadway, I think, has always been pretty gay. I think Hollywood was probably the last. It was a medium for more people, more democratic and thus perhaps more conservative. You‚Äôd have children watching movies whereas classical music was pretty much an adult group.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄėAn old-fashioned institution‚Äô
Stearns says other arenas of performing lend themselves more easily to issues of sexuality.
‚ÄúMovie stars and rock stars, too, they‚Äôre presented as these sexual objects so of course the public is interested in their sex lives,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúBut then you have people like [late gay pianist] Vladimir Horowitz and even gay people don‚Äôt want to know what he was doing in the bedroom. It‚Äôs a completely different playing field.‚ÄĚ
The inherent formality in classical music is also a factor, it is widely thought.
‚ÄúClassical music is a more old-fashioned institution,‚ÄĚ Hough says. ‚ÄúYou have Rufus [Wainwright] and he‚Äôs on stage singing songs he just wrote last year. I‚Äôm playing with a whole different flavor and a much longer time frame. It‚Äôs just generally a more formal art form. Some say they‚Äôd like us to come out in torn jeans and talking to the audience, but there‚Äôs also something about that formality that provides its own kind of theater in a way. When the lights go down and the conductor or soloist comes out, it‚Äôs a very theatrical moment and I think a certain amount of mystery can be a good thing.‚ÄĚ
Hough says he experienced no backlash after coming out several years into his career. “A couple youngsters wrote to tell me I’d encouraged them,” he says. “Otherwise nothing good or bad really.”
Patricia Racette, currently on stage in the opera ‚ÄúManon Lescaut‚ÄĚ at the Kennedy Center, writes in an e-mail (she‚Äôs saving her voice, understandably, for the stage) that the demands placed on classical musicians are also a factor. Racette is in a lesbian relationship and has been out for years.
‚ÄúWe now live in a world inundated by reality TV,‚ÄĚ she writes. ‚ÄúAnd the reality for a classical musician is the demand of a continually honed skill, never-ending study, preparation and execution of all of the above in order to sustain this unrelenting art form. While so many artists are indeed fascinating in their personal lives, the emphasis on the work (in classical music) is the most relevant.‚ÄĚ
Racette, who earned her music degree from the University of North Texas, says she can relate to the conservative nature of the state being a factor in Cliburn‚Äôs quiet life.
‚ÄúI was so buried in my music and working to pay for my school that I honestly did not tap into a specific LGBT community there,‚ÄĚ she writes. ‚ÄúThe campus itself was quite conservative making it a bit of a scary place to come into one‚Äôs own as it were.‚ÄĚ
Others say too much personal information is sometimes seen as a distraction in classical music.
‚ÄúI think it‚Äôs just the issue of let the music speak for itself,‚ÄĚ Beard says. ‚ÄúMaybe on some level it helps to be out to help you build an audience ‚Ä¶ so I don‚Äôt know if it‚Äôs taboo per se, but ‚Ä¶ I think the focus is much more on the craft which I why maybe in a marketing sense you don‚Äôt see it more often. You want the music critics to take you seriously so you can imagine them thinking, ‚ÄėOK why are you telling me this, tell me how you play Beethoven,‚Äô or whatever. It‚Äôs just kind of this unwritten thing of, ‚ÄėOK, you‚Äôre gay, you have your life, but the focus is not on your personal life.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Others are delighted to see how quickly the classical world and the world at large are changing in their acceptance.
Stearns says he and others at the Inquirer were debating how to address or broach the topic of the personal life of Yannick Nezet Seguin, who‚Äôs gay and last September became music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
‚ÄúWe were all thinking, ‚ÄėOK, how do we handle this?‚Äô‚ÄĚ Stearns says. ‚ÄúPeople are always curious. They want to know who the wife is but we don‚Äôt out people at the Inquirer so, the mayor was there and said, ‚ÄėWe welcome Yannick and his partner,‚Äô and it was like, ‚ÄėOK, thank you.‚Äô‚ÄĚ ‚Ä¶ Three or four years ago, I would have said yes, there might have been some squeamishness, but nobody batted an eye. Now he‚Äôs the first conductor of one of the five biggest orchestras in the country to be out. And, you know, Philly isn‚Äôt known to be the most progressive town on the planet. I think people were just really glad to just sort of snag this really wonderful up-and-coming talent. He‚Äôs very extroverted and a real people person and people are just really drawn to him and his boyfriend.‚ÄĚ
Charles Miller, organist and music director at Washington‚Äôs National City Christian Church, says it‚Äôs up to each public figure to decide how to handle it depending on his or her comfort level.
‚ÄúI think there are some good examples even in pop culture,‚ÄĚ Miller, who‚Äôs gay, says. ‚ÄúYou think of someone like David Hyde Pierce. We all know now and he‚Äôs never really shied away from it, but he‚Äôs not flaunting himself or his partner or activities in every magazine. In some cases, it‚Äôs the artist sort of preserving something of their lives under wraps so that it doesn‚Äôt detract from the art form. ‚Ä¶ [With Cliburn], you wouldn‚Äôt just have expected, now it‚Äôs the 2000s we‚Äôre gonna see him come flying out of the closet and jump up on a float. It‚Äôs really the individual‚Äôs preference of how they want to live their life.‚ÄĚ
Cliburn did eventually tire of public life and for much of the ‚Äė70s, lived quietly. He eventually returned to public life and performing and is widely acknowledged for starting the Cliburn Competition, but even so, there was an unexpected gay side to him in addition to his many eccentricities such as staying up all night, running late for recitals, hoarding antiques, opening recitals with ‚ÄúThe Star-Spangled Banner‚ÄĚ and saving dead flowers.
‚ÄúIf you really wanted to engage him and get him talking, you brought up Cher,‚ÄĚ Stearns says with a hearty laugh. ‚ÄúHe absolutely loved Cher.‚ÄĚ