Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Dancing for the Stars: Mark Turbyfill
Part of the Chicago Gay History Project
by Marie J. Kuda
2008-04-09

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


As part of the ongoing Chicago Gay History Project, Windy City Times will present a series on Chicago gay history events and people over the coming months. This essay is about a Chicago cultural pioneer. Authors of Evaporation, Mark Turbyfill ( left ) and Samuel Putnam. Photo by Jun Fujita in 1923. Image courtesy M. Kuda Archives, Oak Park, Ill.

Mark Turbyfill ( 1896–1991 ) —poet, dancer, artist—was truly a Renaissance man. Adjudged by many as 'unsung and unappreciated,' he is past due for rediscovery. Born in Indian Territory in what is today's Oklahoma, he moved to Chicago with his family as a teenager. His father was an architect who traced his family back to a liegeman of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. Turbyfill was handsome, with the grace of a dancer, and always welcome in 'polite society' as an 'extra' man, the stereotypical lifelong bachelor.

While a student at Lake View High School, Turbyfill approached Margaret Anderson of The Little Review with one of his poems. She would eventually publish some of his poetry in her magazine, and she and her partner, Jane Heap, would become his lifelong friends. Later, for the first and only time, Harriet Monroe would devote an entire issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse to one poem, Turbyfill's magnum opus ( five years in the making ) , 'A Marriage with Space' ( May 1926 ) . His poems appeared in nearly a dozen issues.

It was at Poetry that he met Chicago novelist Henry Blake Fuller, who described himself as 'an old satyr' and would be Turbyfill's mentor and friend until Fuller's death in 1929. Pascal Covici published A Marriage with Space, and Other Poems, in Chicago in 1927. A new edition was published here in 1974.

Turbyfill's first book of poetry, The Living Frieze ( 1921 ) , was published in Evanston in a limited edition by Monroe Wheeler ( later of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and lover, in a long-standing ménage à trois, of writer Glenway Wescott and photographer George Platt Lynes ) . Wheeler and Wescott had met as students in Chicago in 1919 and would remain Turbyfill's lifelong friends.

Turbyfill was co-author of Evaporation: A Symposium ( 1923 ) with his good friend, journalist and author Samuel Putnam. In 1924, while Putnam was working as a reporter for the Chicago Herald and Examiner, he managed to get Turbyfill ( posing as a cub reporter ) into the Loeb and Leopold trial; they were seated directly behind defense attorney Clarence Darrow and the two boys. Putnam heeded the advice of Henry Blake Fuller and moved to Paris, where he edited The New Review and This Quarter ( Turbyfill contributed to both ) and wrote Paris Was Our Mistress: Memoirs of a Lost & Found Generation ( 1947 ) .

Turbyfill had a second passion: the ballet. He studied under partners Andreas Pavley and Serge Oukrainsky, and he danced in the Chicago Grand Opera Company corps de ballet on opening night when Mary Garden sang in Pierre Lou├┐s' Aphrodite at the Auditorium Theatre. He studied in New York with Michel Fokine and later, 1924–26, became premier danseur with Chicago Allied Arts ( under former Diaghilev star Adolph Bolm ) , the first full-fledged ballet company in the United States. According to dance critic and historian Ann Barzel ( who also studied with Bolm ) , Turbyfill was often paired with Chicago legend Ruth Page in avant-garde productions such as Chicago composer John Alden Carpenter's The Birthday of the Infanta, based on a story by Oscar Wilde.

In 1929, Turbyfill was introduced to the 'dashingly beautiful' Katherine Dunham, 'an ambitious Negro girl, who had never had a lesson in her life in the art, but who wanted to become a ballet dancer.' He took her on as a student, opening a small studio of his own for Dunham and other Black students in one of the tiny East 57th Street buildings left over from the 1893 World's Fair ( his friend Margaret Anderson and other Chicago literati met in another ) . He put together an advisory board for a proposed Ballet Négre, commissioned a score and began work on the choreography. Some of the people ( such as Robert S. Abbott, later of the Chicago Defender ) whom he approached evinced little interest in supporting a Black ballet company. Dunham eventually debuted in a production choreographed by Ruth Page, with an all-Black supporting cast, at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition. She went on to become a legend on stage, in film and as a choreographer, teacher and doyenne of West Indian and Afro-American dance.

Through the influence of his friend Mark Tobey, Turbyfill worked at becoming an artist. His poetry found its way into his abstract expressionist oil paintings. Critics dubbed one series of watercolors using a calligraphic white-writing technique on black backgrounds as 'Turbyfiligrees.' He had a modest success from his first solo exhibition in 1948 throughout the 1960s.

In his mature years Turbyfill would return to dance, using the spoken word to replace music as an accompaniment for dance. His book The Words Beneath Us: Balletic Poems ( 1951 ) has a few photographs of the experimental performance interwoven with his poems, ending with commentary by critics Claudia Cassidy and Ann Barzel.

Turbyfill had been living in western Rogers Park and attending Metropolitan Community Church services since the 1970s. He confirmed that he was gay and that he had lovers among his male dance students. The only woman he had had relations with was Georgette Leblanc Maeterlinck ( Margaret Anderson's partner after Jane Heap ) because, he said, that was as close as he could get to his idol, Maurice Maeterlinck. His Chicago neighborhood became too much of a challenge, and a young gay friend from MCC, Ken Frank, helped him pack and move.

In the late 1960s, Turbyfill placed 242 letters from 126 correspondents ( 1906–66 ) with the Gotham Book Mart in New York. Southern Illinois University purchased that correspondence, and it now rests in the Special Collections Research Center at Carbondale. Most of his other papers, including books inscribed by authors and a few copies of his unpublished autobiographical memoir, Whistling in the Windy City, went to the Newberry Library in 1988. The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is repository for approximately 100 of his paintings and watercolors, most recently exhibited in 2006.

Copyright 2008 Marie J. Kuda


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Inclusive curriculum tools offered to schools during LGBTQ History Month 2020-10-20
--From a press release - October is LGBTQ History Month, and a coalition of LGBTQ organizations are celebrating by making tools available to school administrators, educators, youth, and families to help implement the state's new Inclusive Curriculum Law. The Illinois Inclusiv ...


Gay News

LGBT HISTORY: Surviving the Silence, The Unexpected Story of Col. Pat Thompson 2020-10-17
- In 1989, U.S. Army Col. Margarethe (Grethe) Cammermeyer was undergoing a routine security clearance interview when she said four simple words, "I am a lesbian." At the time, she was a highly decorated nurse and war ...


Gay News

LGBT HISTORY: QAnon's 'SaveOurChildren' slogan has long anti-LGBT history 2020-10-17
by Christiana Lilly - Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen recently shared devastating news with her social media followers: she and her husband, singer John Legend, had lost their child halfway through her pregnancy. She shared heartbreaking black-and-white photos of ...


Gay News

LGBT HISTORY MONTH: SF supe vows to landmark Lyon-Martin house 2020-10-17
- A San Francisco supervisor has vowed to landmark the home where the late lesbian pioneering couple Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin lived throughout most of their 54 years together. Historic preservationists, friends of the couple, and ...


Gay News

Legacy Walk inducts singers Mercury and Sylvester 2020-10-13
- Musicians Freddie Mercury and Sylvester became the latest inductees onto the Legacy Walk, the Northalsted landmark functioning as an open-air museum paying tribute to notable members of the LGBTQ community. Thanks to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, ...


Gay News

History initiative pairs NYC and LA LGBTQ groups 2020-10-05
--From a press release - Organizations from two cities rich in LGBT history, New York City and Los Angeles, are teaming up for the annual social media event #MuseumInstaSwap. Tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 6), the NYC LGBT ...


Gay News

LGBTQ HISTORY MONTH: United States Naval Academy evolves with LGBTQ acceptance 2020-10-01
By Jeremy Rodriguez - Before graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1985, Paula Neira had difficulties accepting she was trans. "I was fighting this internal battle, but asking for help would've gotten me kicked out," Neira said. ...


Gay News

LGBTQ HISTORY MONTH: Nizah Morris case a seventeen-year saga for transparency 2020-10-01
- This month marks the 65th birthday of Nizah Morris. It's difficult to believe that Nizah would be a senior citizen if she were alive today. She was born on Oct. 19, 1955. So much has changed since her tragic death in ...


Gay News

LGBTQ HISTORY MONTH My Notorious RBG moment 2020-10-01
- In the 1990s, the U.S. Senate was attempting in every possible way to censor this new thing called the internet. The senators soon came up with an idea to stop information that might be objectionable to ...


Gay News

Windy City Times: Quite the ride 2020-09-30
- The information superhighway… That old synonym for the internet (conjuring up days of AOL Instant Messenger and really loud modems) served as my entry into Windy City Times—way back in 1995. Two friends suggested that I ...


Gay News

30 Under 30 Awards 2000-2019 2020-09-30
- Honoring local LGBTQ people 30 and younger who excelled in entertainment, politics, health, activism, academics, sports and other areas, Windy City Times' 30 Under 30 Awards ceremonies, which started in 2000, were held during Pride Month. ...


Gay News

Windy City Times: Making 35 2020-09-30
- The internecine battles of the gay community are legendary. They are not limited to Chicago, or to any one segment of the community. And the gay media have certainly not been immune to these growing pains ...


Gay News

LGBTQI Media: The Long Haul 2020-09-30
- Working in the LGBTQI press should probably be measured in dog years. Right-wing threats, death and destruction, physical assaults, robberies, property destruction, and that's not to mention the internal struggles ...


Gay News

Windy City Times: Serving a community 2020-09-30
- Our ship will come in. Those are the words Tracy and I used to say all the time. Well, she'd say it and later during a particular rough time, I'd ask: "So, where's the damn ship??" I started with the company ...


Gay News

My life at Windy City Times 2020-09-30
- I came into LGBT media completely by accident, having begun as editorial assistant at Windy City Times' competitor Chicago Free Press in 2005. I had done a favor for CFP's managing editor, Louis Weisberg, and he ...


 



Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs     
Privacy Policy      Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.