Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So What Do Gay Organizations Do Anyway?

"So what does the Human Rights Campaign do? What does The Task Force do? The name doesn't tell us who it serves. And who knows what the professional glbt groups do. Do we know what the gay/lesbian journalists do? The gay physicians? And do we hear anything from the groups for sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, politics???"--Gay activist Billy Glover, on his blog, "Billy's Musings," March 31, 2009.

Those are good questions. What in deed do these groups do? I've never heard the executive directors of any of these groups interviewed in the major media. What is their agenda? Who are their constituents? What are their operating budgets? What progress have they made over the years?
This is why I've been advocating for a nationally syndicated GLBT terrestrial radio program so that questions like these can be answered. And so that GLBT people and others can have a fruitful dialogue with these leaders.
If such a program or programs existed, Billy Glover's questions could get an immediate response.
In the same blog post, Glover complains about the salaries of the leaders of these organizations. "I suggest that income for these leaders be ended and let's see how many of them are still willing to give some of their spare time--as they earn a living elsewhere as some of us did--to the cause."
First of all, I don't think it would be possible to run such complex organizations in anyone's spare time. It was comparatively easy to set up a group in Glover's heyday. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to fund-raise that way today. You didn't have to have a board of directors, a charter, or a fund-raising committee back then. Plus, times have changed. The world Glover and his friends operated in was a much simpler time. Gays and lesbians were much more on the fringe than is the case today and couldn't be so open.
I don't begrudge gay organizations paying their CEOs a salary. You need competent, knowledgeable, experienced people. And that comes with a price tag, whether we like it or not.
I'm all for organizations being upfront about their finances and their goals, but it takes dollars and expertise to run an organization and we shouldn't demonize or criticize them for that.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Reading

"I always read the last page of a book first so that if I die before I finish, I will know how it turned out."
---Nora Ephron, American screenwriter and film director
from The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners, edited
by Geoff Tibballs (Carroll & Graf, 2004)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rescuing History From the Trash Heap

While walking up Central Park West around 108th Street on my way home one Sunday afternoon, I found a huge coffee table book sitting atop some trash in a street corner trash can. On the cover, in large letters, was the title: The Story of America As Reported By Its Newspapers From 1690 to 1965.
I flipped through the pages and saw reproductions of front pages from such papers as the San Francisco Examiner, the Atlanta Constitution, the New York Times, and newspapers I'd never heard of like the Wheeling Intelligencer in West Virginia, chronicling famous events in American history.
Being a staunch newspaper buff (even in these times of dwindling newspapers and out of work journalists) rescuing that book from the trash heap was for me a no-brainer. Looking at those front pages with huge headlines like the 1944 one that announced ROOSEVELT WINS REELECTION reminded me of some bubble gum cards I once owned as a kid. On one side was an artist's drawing of some historical event like the assassination of Gandhi or the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the reverse side, the actual front page of an American newspaper about that event. I wish I still had those cards. They were a big reason I came to love history.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sixty at Sixty

A few months ago, I received a press release from a choreographer who, to commemorate her 60th birthday, created sixty dance works. That sounded like an interesting idea. On May 30, I will be celebrating my own 60th birthday. And I thought it would be a challenging project to do a literary equivalent, to write 60 articles (of various types) over a 12-month period. I will discuss this project in more detail later.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Dark In There

I'm probably one of the few people in the New York City area to have listened to the film reviews of Karel via his podcasts. After all, he is not a household name in this part of the country. Karel is openly gay and is based in Los Angeles, where his reviews are also heard on KNX News Radio1070, a CBS radio affiliate.
I stumbled on one of his podcasts while browsing the KNX website. (I used to listen to the station when I lived in Southern California in the '60s.)
I had a feeling that he was gay by his voice and his irreverent, campy reviews but I wasn't sure. Then on one of his podcasts he mentioned his late lover and how his death had affected him. That confirmed it. Each podcast contains reviews of five or six movies and are fun to listen to even though they can run about ten to fifteen minutes long.
Although he is on the west coast, the Internet breaks down that geographic barrier. He deserves to be better known across the country.
I think he does his reviews from home because in the background on some of the podcasts I can hear a dog barking or a plane flying overhead.
Karel reminds me voicewise of Rex Reed, one of my favorite movie reviewers. (I wish both of them would put out a CD of their reviews. They would be worth listening to over and over again.)
Finally, I like the humorous way Karel signs off his podcasts: "I won't be seeing you at the movies because it's dark in there."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Eight Million Stories

I am a long-time fan of The Naked City television series (1958-1963) and its motion picture progenitor of the same name, released in 1948. The character-driven TV show featured such up and coming actors as Robert Duvall, William Shatner, and Jon Voight.
But I have always been curious about the origin and the meaning of this strange title. It certainly had nothing to do with nudity. On the DVD of the movie, it was explained that the title came from a book of photographs by the New York photographer known as Weegee. Mark Hellinger, the producer of the film, borrowed the name from the book.
James Sanders, an architect and the author of Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies (Knopf, 2003), offers the following interpretation on one of the DVD's bonus features. Aside from being eloquent, it puts in a nutshell what the movie and the subsequent TV series were all about:

"The city is a body. It has been stretched out for us naked on the table. And the idea is that the city is an organism. It's basically a healthy organism. But like any [other] organism it can catch a disease. In this case, the disease is crime. When it does, the doctors go to work. And the doctors
are the police. They'll make it better again."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Obama Chicken, Anyone?

It should come as no surprise that some business establishments--like the fried chicken restaurants--would use Barack Obama's name for commercial purposes. This is America, where just about everything's a candidate for the bottom line, including Christmas and Thanksgiving.
I was in the Times Square area last weekend and saw a guy selling Obama Condoms--one for five dollars and three for ten dollars. Talk about bad taste.
AMNew York, the free daily paper ("Finger-lickin' debate," April 3-5), quoted a 16-year-old boy who thought that changing the name of a restaurant in Brownsville, Brooklyn to Obama Fried Chicken was "showing respect" for "Obama's name in the community."
This is a comment from a young person who probably thinks the word "nigga" is a show of respect by his peers.
A better show of respect would be to have a wall mural of the president painted or having a window display of print media about Obama's election put up, like the one inside my local public library branch. Anything else is just about the dollar.
Although local black politicians like city councilman Charles Barrone of Brooklyn have expressed outrage at the misuse of Obama's name, there is very little that can be done about it, except mount a campaign of shame, which seems to be working. A couple of the restaurants have taken down or altered their signs.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Few Words From Alexander Woollcott

"War is born of greed and vanity and fear. It is nourished by hate and its end result is bitterness. We cannot glorify force and set men to killing each other and then by ordering the guns to cease firing--by merely blowing a whistle--expect them suddenly to act with sweet reasonableness."
--Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943), American critic and commentator