Role models of greatness.
Friday, November 27, 2020
He and film director Stanley Kubrick gave us the classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey; they were jointly credited with the screenplay. Astronomer Carl Sagan, cosmonauts and media producers alike credited Clarke with influencing the public’s attitudes toward space exploration. Gene Roddenberry acknowledged Clarke’s influence for the courage it took to pursue his “Star Trek” project in the face of ridicule from television executives. Clarke is almost universally proclaimed the preeminent science fiction writer of the 20th century. He delighted in confronting his fictional characters with obstacles they could not overcome without help from forces beyond their comprehension.
“I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books,” he admitted. Yet he did not acknowledged his sexual orientation until 2004, even though he was known to host orgies with young Sri Lankan men for nearly fifty years. Many commented that he thus did a disservice to gay writers throughout the world who admired his work. However, it should be noted that the main character of Imperial Earth was bisexual and lived in a futuristic society in which exclusive heterosexuality and homosexuality were not practiced. Also, the main character of his novel Firstborn was gay.
Among his output of nearly 100 books are some, such as Childhood’s End, that have been in print continuously. His works have been translated into 40 languages. In 1962 he suffered an attack of poliomyelitis, which returned in 1984 as post-polio syndrome, a progressive condition characterized by muscle weakness and fatigue, forcing him to spend the last years of his life in a wheelchair. Still, he kept writing, and accolades continued unabated. English born, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.
In an effort to keep his homosexual proclivities private, he married an American diving enthusiast named Marilyn Mayfield in 1953. They separated after a few months. An important relationship was with male diver Leslie Ekanayake, who lived with him in Sri Lanka; in fact, the two are buried next to each other. As well, many of Clarke’s young male partners were installed as servants in his Sri Lankan household. Although Clarke was likely spooked by the traumatic false accusations of pedophilia by an English tabloid, his efforts to remain closeted were so successful that few acknowledgments of his homosexuality are extant, even after his 2004 self-outing and subsequent death in 2008. Kubrick biographer John Baxter cites Clarke's homosexuality as a reason why he left England, due to more tolerant laws with regard to homosexuality in Sri Lanka. Fellow science fiction writer Michael Moorcock commented, “Everyone knew he was gay. In the 1950s I'd go out drinking with his boyfriend” (Clarke himself was a teetotaler).
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Back in the days when your blogger was a university piano performance major, I knew nothing about Richter’s personal proclivities, but most of my fellow students repeated the rampant (and true) gay rumors about Horowitz and Shura Cherkassky, another Russian keyboard titan.
Richter, who was stunningly handsome as a young man, suffered from many personal demons. He was withdrawn and not given to interviews, and often he insisted on performing in completely darkened halls illuminated by a single light bulb above the keyboard. Subject to periods of keen depression, he went through a period during which he had to travel with a plastic lobster in order to cope with the rigors of constant performing to unrealistic public expectations. I’m not making this up.
Nevertheless, Richter left us with recordings that remain benchmarks of certain repertoire. His vast repertoire encompassed eighty-odd recital programs, everything from Bach and Handel to Gershwin. He was also a quick study. He learned Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7, which was dedicated to him, in four days, thus able to meet the deadline for its premiere.
But enough words. Let’s listen to his music while we marvel at his astonishing technique.
Friday, October 30, 2020
The Emmy-nominated star’s role on TV’s popular Modern Family (2009-2020) gave him the opportunity to reshape public perception of same-sex relationships and their families. Ferguson played Mitchell Pritchett, an uptight gay lawyer raising an adopted Asian-American baby with his excitable, over-the-top screen partner, Cameron.
At left: Ferguson with husband Justin Mikita.
In an Advocate magazine interview, he said, “I feel like there are a lot of people who still aren’t comfortable with gay characters on television, but what I admire about our show is that it has a plethora of characters for people to attach to, and slowly those people are becoming attached to Mitchell and Cam...It’s kind of like a Trojan horse. We sneak into a lot of people’s living rooms when they aren’t expecting it and maybe change some minds through the back door.
Mitchell is basically me, so when people tell me I’m stereotypical and cliché in that role, then Jesse Tyler Ferguson is stereotypical and cliché, because I’m basically doing no acting at all.”
Nonetheless, his performance as Mitchell earned him five consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
Jesse and his fiancé Justin Mikita, a lawyer, were married in New York in July, 2013. They met in a gym, where Justin recognized Jesse and came over to say he enjoyed Jesse’s portrayal of Mitchell on the hit television show. They started dating several months later and became engaged in late 2012. Their son, Beckett Mercer Ferguson-Mikita, was born a few months ago, on July 7, 2020.
At about the same time the couple became engaged they launched Tie the Knot, which sells custom bow ties and donates all proceeds to various organizations fighting for marriage equality and LGBT civil rights in general.
Says Ferguson, “Justin came up with the idea. I’ve definitely become more of an advocate, philanthropist, and do-gooder because of him. He has really ignited the civil rights passion within me.”
The couple says they would have loved to have gotten married in California, which is where they reside, but, “unfortunately it was not legal there. We spent a lot of money on the wedding, and that’s money California did not get. But congratulations to New York!”
Currently Jesse hosts Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the revival of a television reality show on the HGTV channel (premiered February 16, 2020). In each episode a family facing hardship receives a makeover of their home.