Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Johann Rosenmüller



2019 is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Johann Rosenmüller (1619-1684), an important baroque composer of instrumental and sacred vocal music in Germany and Italy at the middle of the seventeenth century. He was an organist, trombonist, teacher and composer who survived a homosexual scandal in Leipzig and escaped to Italy, where he resurrected a major career in Venice.


After graduating from the University of Leipzig, he became the assistant to the Thomasschule Cantor (director of music). Working his way up, he was next appointed organist at the Nicolaikirche, one of the three important churches in the city. As his boss became increasingly ill, Rosenmüller was assured he would be next in line for the position of Cantor at the Thomasschule, the same position that Johann Sebastian Bach would assume seventy years later. In 1655, however, Rosenmüller was arrested on charges of seducing several of his choir boys; he subsequently escaped from jail and fled to Venice, where he supported himself by playing trombone at St. Mark’s Basilica.



Some years later, he attained a position as maestro di coro (master of the chorus), at the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage school that featured an acclaimed all-girl* choir and orchestra that performed liturgical functions and gave concerts on Sunday afternoons. A generation later Antonio Vivaldi famously directed the musical activities at this orphanage school, elevating the female choir and orchestra to world-wide fame, attracting many tourists. Today the Metropole Hotel is the former music building, and guides point out (erroneously) that the church to the left of the hotel was the church where Vivaldi’s girls performed. In fact, the church was built many years after Vivaldi’s death.



*Many of these girls were the illegitimate children of Venetian nobles, who lavishly supported the school. The girls performed behind screens so that their “comeliness would not distract those in attendance”. Your blogger surmises that a more plausible cause might have been to hide any physical resemblance of the orphans to their noble (actual) parents. Scandal!



Rosenmüller’s sacred compositions reflected an obvious Italian influence, and students who came from Germany to study with him took these works back to their homeland, thus introducing Italian musician idioms to Germany. In 1682, considering that the coast was clear after an interval of nearly 30 years, he left Italy and returned to his homeland, Germany, where he became court composer for a duke at Wolfenbüttel in Lower Saxony. He died there in 1684, at age 65. In the annals of classical music history, Rosenmüller is hardly a household word, but his name is frequently mentioned as the man who held two posts eventually filled by much more famous men, J. S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi. Not to mention the well-documented homosexual scandal.

Sources:

Graeme Skinner: “Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to World War II”.

Robert A. Green, Professor at the School of Music, Northern Illinois University. GLBTQ Archive.

Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Frank Kameny

Kameny picketing in front of the White House in 1965 (he is second in line, immediately to the right of the policeman's elbow, his face partially obscured).


Gay rights activist Frank Kameny (1925-2011) died eight years ago at age 86, in Washington, DC, not far from your blogger's home. He was crusty, in-your-face stubborn and possessed of a one track mind: equality for homosexuals. He was out, loud and proud 24 hours a day. I consider him the most important person I’ve ever entertained in my home, although he was a difficult guest. Frank was not capable of chit-chat or polite discourse. Nevertheless, we all owe this man, big time.

Born and raised in NYC, Kameny saw combat as an Army soldier in Europe during WW II. After earning a doctorate degree in astronomy from Harvard University, he went to work as an astronomer for the US Army map service in the 1950s and was fired in 1957 after authorities discovered he was homosexual. Kameny fought the firing and appealed his case to the US Supreme Court, becoming the first known gay person to file a homosexual-related case before the high court. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling against Kameny and declined to hear the case, but Kameny’s decision to appeal through the court system motivated him to become a lifelong advocate for LGBT* equality.

*Actually, he disliked the moniker LGBT. He used the word "gay" as an all inclusive term. An article in the current issue of The  Atlantic magazine ("Don't Call Me LGBTQ" by Jonathan Rauch) proposes using the single letter "Q" as a replacement for LGBTQ, countering that the procession of letters has become too unwieldy. So stay tuned.

1961: Kameny and Jack Nichols co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, an organization that embraced aggressive action for the civil rights of homosexuals. In 1963 the group was the subject of Congressional hearings over its right to solicit funds.

1968: He gave us the phrase ''Gay is Good'' back when homosexuality and shame were partners. The Library of Congress archives contain this original example.

1973: The American Psychiatric Association stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, and Kameny had played a major role in that change. Kameny “crashed the APA conference in Washington DC, seized the microphone and shouted, ‘We’re not the problem. You’re the problem!’” He and lesbian activist Barbara Gittings were the first recipients of the American Psychiatric Association's John M. Fryer, M.D., Award, recognizing their contribution to fighting against that association’s earlier homophobia.

2006: the Human Rights Campaign presented him with the National Capital Area Leadership Award. That same year the Library of Congress accepted 77,000 items from his collected papers.



2009: President Obama signed an executive order that granted benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees; Kameny was by his side in the Oval Office and received a pen from Obama. Also that year, he received a formal apology from the U.S. government for his treatment all those years ago, and Kameny’s home in Washington DC was designated a Historic Landmark by the District of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Review Board.

The Smithsonian Institution’s “Treasures of American History” exhibit includes Kameny's picket signs carried in front of the White House in 1965. The Smithsonian now has 12 of the original picket signs carried by homosexual Americans in the first-ever White House demonstration for gay rights. 

By his example, perseverance and sacrifice, he showed Americans what courage looked like.


Note: Controversy followed Kameny even after his death. After cremation, his legal heir Timothy Clark took possession of the ashes. Because the estate did not have financial resources to purchase a memorial, a gay charitable group known as Helping Our Brothers and Sisters purchased a plot at DC's Congressional Cemetery* and erected head and foot stones, which have become a gay tourist attraction. But Clark would not allow interment of the ashes to take place until ownership of the plot was signed over to Kameny's estate. To this day the grave remains empty, and Clark interred Kameny's ashes at an undisclosed location, requesting the public to respect his "wishes and privacy."

*The grave's location is right behind that of Leonard Matlovich, a gay Vietnam veteran whose tombstone bears the epitaph: When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one. Other gay rights activists and members of American Veterans for Equal Rights have chosen to be buried in this cemetery.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Aiden Shaw

British-born model, writer and former porn star Aiden Shaw (b. 1966) had a traditional upbringing in England. He came from respectability and has returned to it again, but there’s no ignoring that wild detour in the early 1990s when he established himself as a popular star of gay porn. What set him apart from his adult film peers was that he was a man of intellect.

Shaw made over 50 pornographic films, earning several industry awards along the way. He stood out from the pack of blonds and their smooth all-over-tanned bodies. Shaw didn’t shave his chest and obviously didn’t sunbathe in the nude – in fact, his sharply defined tan line became a trademark. He was further distinguished by his British accent, although his porn roles required limited use of his speaking voice. Shaw’s screen persona was that of a traditionally handsome natural man possessed of a spectacularly generous endowment (and a rose tattoo on his arm). In fact, his penis was as much discussed in the 1990s as international playboy Porfirio Rubirosa’s(*) was in the 1930s (we're all of us too young to remember – just Goggle him). Many of Shaw’s fans noticed a startling facial resemblance to Richard Gere (see photo below).

*OK, I've received numerous E-mails about this, so here's a hint. To this day in Paris, if a restaurant patron wants one of those tall wooden peppermills, he says, "Waiter, may I please have a Rubirosa?" I kid you not.

He became one of the most popular global adult male stars before retiring from the porn industry in 1999 (he was diagnosed HIV positive in 1997). Although a car accident brought a hiatus to his porn career – for a time he was paralyzed and in a wheelchair – he made a return with four more adult videos in 2003/2004.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to reconcile his current appearance as a classically handsome, mature man with salt and pepper hair and a beard with his actual age – 52. He looks years older, in a good way. Talk about aging gracefully.

He comes across as a confident, worldly man, the perfect type for promoting luxury goods. He has modeled for GQ Magazine in Berlin, Le Figaro and El Pais, as well as in other print venues. That his present appearance renders him nearly unrecognizable from his days as a porn star is surely to his advantage, although the rose tattoo is an identity giveaway.

Shaw has worked in diverse fields, as an editor of an interior design magazine, a poet, an HIV activist, vocalist, producer, escort, composer and writer. Print modeling is merely his latest career turn. He undertook formal studies in film, television, photography and video, subsequently taking post- college jobs directing and art directing music videos. Shaw wrote and produced two albums of music, performing lead vocals with his band "Whatever". Individual tracks are available on iTunes.

The first chapter of his autobiography, My Undoing: Life in the Thick of Sex, Drugs, Pornography and Prostitution (2006), begins: “All I could see were pretty shapes and colours, my dick going in and out of his white cheeks.” From his days as an escort, his comment on how to have sex with men who repulse him: “Well, the thing is, very few men physically repulse me. Like a good whore, I can always find something about a man that I like.”

From an interview with Daniel Lee in NYC in 2003:

DL: What makes you laugh hardest?
AS: Getting treated special because I have a big dick.

DL: Would you prefer not to be treated special because you have big dick?
AS: No way!

Well, there you have it.

Shaw’s writing is described by Michael Musto of The Village Voice as prose that “can tug at your heartstrings and your crotch at the same time.” His first novel, Brutal, appeared in 1996, the same year he published a collection of poems titled If Language at the Same Time Shapes and Distorts Our Ideas and Emotions, How Do We Communicate Love? (it sold out), followed by two more novels, Boundaries (1997) and Wasted (2001).

Shaw completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing in 2007 at Goldsmiths University of London, followed by publication of a second autobiography, Sordid Truths (2009). In 2011, Shaw completed training to become a qualified English teacher.

Shaw was recently profiled in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Hercules Universal One Last Colony, the Havana Affair – in which he models luxury men’s clothing (click on link).

http://models.com/mdx/?p=14427

At present Mr. Shaw divides his time between residences in London and Barcelona. In 2016 he reverted to his birth name: Aiden Brady. Here is a sampling of his recent modeling work. You're welcome.