Lance Loud and his family were household names in the 1970sthey were the focus of the first reality show decades ahead of the reality swarm we now see on television 24/7. PBS ran the 12-part series in 1973, and in it Loud became one of the first openly gay people on television. Loud met Christopher Makos in the 1970s, and Makos, now a world-renowned photographer, helps document his life for the new book Lance Out Loud (Glitterati Inc.), by Lance's mom Pat Loud, and edited by Makos. Photos by Chris, Pat and Lance illustrate this extensive collection of the Loud family's life. Friends of Lance are generous with their own memories: David Keeps, Rufus Wainwright, Cherry Vanilla and early comments by Andy Warhol. As the book's PR states: "Pat Loud is the well-known and beloved mother of Lance Loud, who through her collection of his papers, artworks, and memorabilia and continuing contact with Lance's closest circle of friends, has been able to compile this important document of one life that represents an era of American popular culture."
Jack Robinson: On Show, Portraits 1958—72 (Palazzo Editions) is a beautiful coffeetable book filled with the work of 1960s photographic legend Robinson. As a fashion and celebrity photographer for Vogue, Robinson, who was gay, captured some of the most iconic individuals of the era. My only quibble is that they chose one of the weakest images, of Warren Beatty, for the cover. There were many more incredible shots to choose from. Among celebs inside the pages are Liza Minnelli (including a lovely shot with Peter Allen), Nina Simone (now that would have made a cover!), Carly Simon, Sonny and Cher, Daniel Barenboim, Beverly Sills, Jerry Herman, Dirk Bogarde, Julie Christie, Cybill Shepherd (who wrote the foreword), Julie Harris, Anthony Perkins, Lily Tomlin, Tina Turner, Elton John, Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Joni Mitchell, Ralph Lauren and Andy Warhol. Robinson died at age 69 in 1997. This book, which also includes a brief biography of Robinson and his work, captures some of his greatest images. Definitely a great holiday gift.
Martin Duberman is one of the most important writers in our gay universe, winner of numerous prizes, and founder and former director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY. His newest book is Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left (New Press), a biography of the late social activist (Zinn died in 2010). It draws on extensive materials to paint a comprehensive portrait of a complex man who was at the center of many of the most important social movements of the last century. Duberman notes that Zinn's politics were equally interesting for their omissions and contradictions. As the press release for the book notes, though Zinn "was close to the epicenter of second-wave feminism and the gay and lesbian movement, Zinn did not embrace either, omitting them from the original text of his seminal work, A People's History of the United States."
Keith Boykin's newest book, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Still Not Enough (Magnus), is a collection of personal stories on coming of age, coming out and coming home. It has 45 essays and poems from 43 authors, including African-Americans, Latinos, Jamaican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and one British writer. Writers include Boykin, James Earl Hardy, Wade Davis, Mark Corece, Rod McCullom and Tim'm T. West. This is an essential reader from this important national gay writer and leader.
Bishop Gene Robinson has a new book coming out, God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage (Knopf). This issue is both political and personal for Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop, and he takes readers on a journey of religious history. He tells straight people to understand that gay marriage is their issue, too. He believes Jesus would approve of gay marriage, so this might be a good gift for the right side of your family (Christmas) tree.
Another book tackling religious issues is Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays (NYU Press), by Bernadette Barton. She explores both passive and active homophobia in the South, and how gays negotiate homophobia, the ex-gay movement, the creationism debate, and the often-unbearable heaviness of religion.
This is one of the crazier descriptions of a memoir I have come across, which is what makes it work: Gay author Michael Menzies believed he was the love child of film legends NoÃĞl Coward and Marlene Dietrich. He traveled the world trying to prove his theory, but even though he lost the argument, he used the opportunity to explore these legends' lives, and his own. The result, Deeply Superficial: NoÃĞl Coward, Marlene Dietrich, and Me, is available from Magnus Books. It is a fun romp around the worldand around some famous Hollywood names. Menzies worked with rock 'n' roll promoter Bill Graham, impresario Sol Hurok, choreographer Agnes de Mille, Broadway producer Saint-Subber, and in film with the de Laurentiis family. He lives in Los Angeles with his companion of 30 years, Eduardo de la Grana.
Here is a very fun idea for a book, Who's Yer Daddy? Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners (Terrace Books), edited by Jim Elledge and David Groff. A wide range of gay writers discuss their literary mentors, including Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, André Gide, James Baldwin and Edmund White. And of course they have also been inspired by non-gay-male creative types, from Bette Midler to Captain Kirk. Among the essayists are Mark Doty, Dale Peck, Kenny Fries, Tim Miller and Thomas Glave. Now where's Who's Yer Mama?
Longtime lesbian novelist Lee Lynch has another contribution to the genre: The Raid (Bold Stroke Books). She states: "Before Stonewall, having a drink with friends or your girl could mean jail. In 1961, The Old Town Tavern is more than just a gay bar. It's a home to strangers who have become family. They drink, they dance, they fall in lust and in love. They don't even know who the enemy is, only that it is powerful enough to order the all-too-willing vice squad to destroy the bar and their lives. Would these women and men still have family, a job, a place to live after … The Raid? This was how it was done then, this was the gay life, and this is the resilient gay will." Take a journey with Lynch to a time not long ago in a galaxy very close to home.
Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance is a wonderful new book by Marsha Aizumi and her son Aiden. Marsha's child first came out as a lesbian, then transitioned to male. Marsha writes of her own transition as a mother of an adopted girl, offering unconditional love as this child makes a journey through sexual orientation and gender identity. A great book for any parentor child. Can you say "Happy holidays, mom … here's a gift for your heart"? See www.marshaaizumi.com .
Coming Around: Parenting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Kids (New Horizon Press) is a guide for parents navigating the post-coming out of their child. Anne Dohrenwend, PhD, addresses parents' fears regarding bigotry and social prejudice, including religious, as well as what not to say and what to say to your child.
And here's a third book on the parenting track, Gay Dads: Transitions to Adoptive Fatherhood (New York University Press), by Abbie E. Goldberg. She explores the different issues faced by gay fathers, including psychological, social and legal landmines. She interviewed 70 gay men and "analyzes how gay dads interact with competing ideals of fatherhood and masculinity, alternately pioneering and accommodating heteronormative 'parenthood culture.'"
Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation, a collection of personal essays by Jewish 20- and 30-somethings, is available from Academic Studies Press. Edited by Oy! Chicago blogger-in-chief and JUFdigital communications manager Stefanie Pervos Bregman, the anthology probes a wide range of topics, including Orthodox dating; same-sex, interfaith relationships; discovering personal Jewish identity; connectionor lack thereofto Israel; conversion; and what it means to be a young Jew in America today. I love it when mainstream books like this include LGBTs matter-of-factly as part of their mosaic. Essays of interest include David Levy's "Anatomy of an Activist," Brian Judd's "My Jewish Journey: How Being Catholic Helped Make Me Jewish," "Volition" by Tera "Nova Jade" Greene, and "My (Jewish-Interfaith-Lesbian) Wedding by Chai Wolfman. On the first day of Hanukah, you can give this book to your family. See www.livingjewishlybook.com .
You know you love them, admit it. The Carpenters. Chicago Review Press has published a newly revised and expanded edition of Yesterday Once More: The Carpenters. Singing siblings Karen and Richard had a phenomenally successful partnership that ended when Karen died in 1983. The book is by Randy L. Schmidt, author of the bestselling biography Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter, so he does know his Carpenters, inside and out. An excellent book to read while crying listening to Carpenters classics. I would have liked more photos, but it is still a worthwhile book for Carpenters fans.
Blue Star Books' published Wax by Therese Ambrosi Smith this year, more than 70 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America's engagement in World War II. "While we are often reminded that we are losing our veterans at a rapid rate, less is said of the mothers, sisters and lovers who equipped the troops and made essential contributions on the home front," Blue Star states. Smith drew upon the oral histories of 'Rosies' who built Liberty ships in the Kaiser shipyards for her debut novel: "I wanted a book that would engage, entertain and inform. Our grandmothers were the home half of the Greatest Generation." Wax is a story of female friendship, sexual discovery and long-held secrets. A lesbian-inclusive fictional look at the women of WWII.
Jayson is one of the earliest ongoing gay cartoon strips of the modern gay movement. Jayson Gets a Job! from Ignite is the newest graphic novel about Jayson Callowhill's life, as first imagined by Jeff Krell in 1982. He copes with the modern-day issues of a "jobless recovery," meeting a wide array of fun characters along the way. See ignite-ent.com .
Another longtime part of the gay creative world is the Benson series by Michael Carson. Benson at Sixty (Cutting Edge Press) is the fourth of the Benson novels. As the press release states: "More than thirty years agoamidst the hysteria and confusion surrounding the newly publicized AIDS epidemic[the book] Sucking Sherbet Lemons introduced readers to Martin Benson, a chubby 14-year-old torn between his deep Catholic faith and his budding homosexuality. Through the years and two sequels, readers traveled alongside the charming hero as he survived university, international travel, tumultuous relationships and hedonistic trysts. Approaching 60, a mature and reflective Benson has returned home to Merseyside and is considering whether it is finally time for him to settle down and tie the knot."
Daniel Callahan, who established the field of bioethics with the co-founding of The Hastings Center in 1969, has two new books: a memoir, In Search of the Good: A Life in Bioethics (MIT Press) and a collection of his writing, The Roots of Bioethics: Health, Progress, Technology, Death (Oxford University Press). These works "encompass a half century of Callahan's observations of and influence on how we are born, live, and dieand what it means to be humanthrough the prism of the impact of advances in science and medicine," according to a press statement. Callahan's achievements have "earned him recognition as one of a handful of thinkers who shaped the second half of the 20th century," writes Jonathan E. Moreno of the University of Pennsylvania. Callahan discusses his growing concern with the goals of medicine, particularly the focus on technology to prolong the lives of dying patients without adequate attention to quality of life, as well as the ethical and policy dilemmas posed by skyrocketing medical costs. Rational thought on these issues is a welcome addition to the heated debate over healthcare in America.
Music for your listening pleasure
Producers Eugene Dizon and Cory Goodrich have recorded a new holiday album Season of Carols which features more than 100 Chicago theater artists, singers and musicians. This CD was produced to raise funds for Season of Concern, which supports Chicago artists in need. It is available for sale at www.seasonofcarols.com and features the Chicago casts of A Little Night Music (Writers' Theater), The Christmas Schooner (Mercury Theater), Floyd Collins (BoHo Theater), Hairspray (Drury Lane Oakbrook), Hero (Marriott Theater), Hunchback Variations (Obleck), Million Dollar Quartet (Chicago Cast, Apollo Theater), Motherhood the Musical (Royal George), Starting Here Starting Now (Theo Ubique) and Violet (Bailiwick Chicago). It also includes Chicago cabaret stars Beckie Menzie, Tom Michael, Cheri Coons, The Lincoln Squares, Birdie Wing and Cory Goodrich.
Chicago blues singer Liz Mandeville is among my favorite artists. Her live-show energy is infectious, and her CDs are a pleasure to groove to. Clarksville is her newest recording, and it makes a great stocking stuffer for the holidays. Tracks include "Mama & Daddy Blues," about the state of women and men, the very fun "Sweet Potato Pie" featuring Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Eddie Shaw, and the hilariously fun "My Mama Wears Combat Boots." All the tracks are terrific, so just get the CD! Available from www.cdbaby.com/lizmandeville1.
Speaking of some of my favorite Chicago blues (and jazz) musicians, Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen came out with another terrific CD this year, We Get Along. This is another CD I highly recommend as a very fun balm against holiday stress and shopping fevers. Tracks include the powerful "Mother Nature," "Mean to Me," and the extremely fun "Queen's Blues," where she laments "the hanging around the queens too much and I can't get laid blues." It ends with the ballad, "My Declaration," a wonderful song to play midnight on New Year's Eve. See http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/amyfreddy.
For movie and TV fans
Audre LordeThe Berlin Years 1984 -1992 is the DVD version of the theatrical film, with more than 70 minutes of extra material, including Lorde reading her poetry and reflecting on her work, meeting with South African author and activist Ellen Kuzwayo, an interview with filmmaker Dagmar Schultz, a music clip by CorasÃ"n, and more scenes of Audre Lorde in Berlin. There are subtitles in German, French and Spanish. Distributed by DRAGA in the U.S. See www.dragadesign.com .
20th Century Fox has some great DVDs and Blu-rays out, just in time for holiday giving for your nieces, nephews, kids and adults of all ages. These include: Prometheus, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Homeland, American Horror Story, Glee, Modern Family, Terra Nova, New Girl, The Princess Bride: 25th Anniversary Edition, Bond 50 and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The last movie has a terrific gay storyline mingled amongst grand acting dames. The TV shows are a mixed blessing, with the standouts being Modern Family and Glee. As for Terra Nova: Some shows may get cancelled, but they live forever on video.
For your walls
Keith Haring was an important gay street artist who converted to the mainstream before his very untimely death from AIDS complications (in 1990). How appropriate that you can now have Haring artwork on your walls. Blik, the maker of self-adhesive surface graphics, launched Keith HaringPattern Wall Tiles, an eco-friendly take on Haring's repeating patterns. The black-and-white pattern, reminiscent of the mural from Haring's original Pop Shop, moves across two 28" x 48" tiles. Like all Blik Pattern Wall Tiles, Keith HaringPattern Wall Tiles are self-adhesive (no glue required), movable, reusable and eco-friendly (free of both PVCs and phthalates). The Keith Haring Foundation authorized the tiles. Bilk and the Foundation also authorized their use in the Chicago-made independent film Scrooge & Marley this year, so they can been seen in the background of the community center scenes. They are in the scenes with late Chicago AIDS activist Danny Sotomayor's large banner protesting against the Catholic church's opposition to condoms. See www.whatisblik.com .