John Lahr discusses Prick Up Your Ears, his superb biography on playwright Joe Orton, with actor and friend, Kenneth Williams and theater critic, Michael Billington, on the book’s release in 1978.
The cherubic Orton was arguably the most exciting and original playwrights to break through in the 1960s—his first play Entertaining Mr. Sloane was an influence on Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, while his last What the Butler Saw led to political controversy and questions being raised in parliament—in reference to the size of Winston Churchill’s cock. Sadly, Orton’s life was cut short by murder—he was working on a film script for The Beatles (Up Against It) when he died (the Fabs made Magical Mystery Tour instead)—and one can only imagine what works of brilliance he would have concocted had he lived.
The quality of this interview is iffy, but it is a marvelous and important piece of cultural history for those with an interest in Orton (or even Williams). It’s also fascinating to hear some of the “politically correct” language used by presenter, Valerie Singleton, and interviewer Billington, where Orton is described as a “practicing homosexual”—as if he was in training for an examination. All jolly good fun.
I was going to post a short notice about these two sure to be interesting evenings at NYU this week, but I thought the story told by the press release was worth presenting here in full.
Of mild interest to DM readers, my own tape-recorded recollections of the late Nelson Sullivan are part of this archive (I knew Nelson and rented a tiny room from him for about 6 months in his ramshackle house at 5 Ninth Ave. when I was 21). Robert Coddington, who valiantly cataloged this amazing collection and kept it together, is a friend of mine and someone I hold in high regard. It’s really a tribute to his scholarship and tenacity that this collection is going to be housed at NYU, where it belongs, for future scholars who want to understand what happened “downtown” during the 1980s (I can’t help but to add “...before NYU drove up the property values and forced all of the bohemians out!”). Robert, and the wonderful Dick Richards, the real hero of this story (and a man who should have a documentary made about him) have done history a big favor, they really have.
The 1980s were the plague years in NYC, make no mistake about it. A lot of us had close friends who died. But it was also a fun, decadent and deeply weird time to have been young. Sullivan’s tapes capture that time like literally nothing else could.
Long Days’ Journey Downtown—Nelson Sullivan’s Video Archive Back in NYC After 23 Years
Completing a trek across many miles and more than two decades, a remarkable trove of video tapes chronicling the golden age of New York’s 1980s club scene is back where it was created—in downtown Manhattan. In October, New York University’s Fales Library & Special Collections accepted the Nelson Sullivan Video Archive as a donation from Atlantans Dick Richards and David Goldman, and Robert Coddington of Durham, N.C.—operating collectively as the 5 Ninth Avenue Project.
On April 25, the Fales Library will host a panel discussion to mark the archive’s official entry into its collections. Coddington will talk about Sullivan’s body of work, and how he and his partners worked to preserve it. Several artists featured in the video tapes also are expected to attend and add their recollections of Sullivan and the scene he documented. The event begins at 6 p.m. on April 25 at the Fales Library, third floor, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South. This event is free and open to the public.
In the early 1980s, Nelson Sullivan began using then-newly available portable video technology to document the highs and lows of downtown’s world of invites, catfights, train wrecks and rising stars. The equipment was heavy and expensive, but night after night Sullivan lugged it along from SoHo to Coney Island and all points inbetween—from huge discos (like Limelight and Tunnel) to tiny dives (like the Pyramid) and private parties (where he circulated with Warhol-era superstars and freshly minted celebrities like RuPaul and Deee-Lite).
Sullivan’s video archive grew rapidly, taking up shelf after shelf in the creaky three-story townhouse he rented in the Meatpacking District (at 5 9th Ave. and Gansevoort, today site of the restaurant 5 9th). And while he accommodated friends’ requests for copies, he jealously guarded the original tapes—confident he would one day devise a way to present them to the world. Finally, in the spring of 1989, Sullivan decided to make the collection his life’s work: He quit his job at the famous Joseph Patelson Music House (just across from Carnegie Hall’s stage door) and set out to launch a public access cable program showcasing his tapes. But tragically, after completing just one episode, he died of a sudden heart attack in the early morning hours of Independence Day. Seven years after it began, Sullivan’s quest to document the downtown scene was over.
Sullivan’s one-of-a-kind archive might have been picked apart by souvenir-hunters—or worse, left on the curb—had it not been for Dick Richards. Though grief-stricken at the loss of his lifelong friend—the two grew up together in rural South Carolina—Richards acted quickly, flying to New York, securing the collection, and shipping it to the Atlanta home he shared with his domestic partner David Goldman and his business partner Ted Rubenstein (co-founder, with Richards, of Funtone USA, which released RuPaul’s first three recordings).
“The video archive Nelson had created was so extraordinary that I knew I had to do whatever I could to save it,” Richards recalls. “What Nelson was doing was entirely unique. When you watch the tapes, you’ll search in vain to find another person who’s video taping these events. With AIDS ravaging the community and changing it forever, his was basically the only personal video testimony of a scene that was rapidly disintegrating.”
Back in Atlanta, Richards publicized the tapes by showing selections on “The American Music Show,” the weekly public access cable program he co-produced with Potsy Duncan and Bud “Beebo” Lowry.
Then, on a 1993 trip to tape the show at Foxy’s Lounge in Chicago, Richards and Goldman met Robert Coddington, who was involved in the Windy City’s club scene and burgeoning Queercore movement. Coddington, 23, longed to learn about the wild days that had preceded his own coming of age in the gay community, and upon hearing about the archive was eager to learn of the lost landscape it revealed.
“As a young gay man at the time, I had this acute sense that I was arriving at a fabulous party—five minutes after the lights came on,” Coddington says. “I knew that AIDS was ripping apart the gay culture that had existed before. I began to ask myself What was that world and what were those people like? Upon experiencing Nelson’s tapes, I began to learn the answers to those questions.”
Beginning in 2001, Richards and Coddington worked together to organize and chronicle the collection, producing four highlight DVDs (“Mad About Manhattan,” “The Club Kids,” “Nelson Sullivan’s Fabulous Friends,” and “Legends of New York”). In 2004, Coddington edited Sullivan’s “My Life In Video” for the New Museum’s East Village USA exhibition, which also featured works by Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring and Nan Goldin. In 2007, Coddington presented and discussed archive highlights at Atlanta’s Eye-Drum Gallery. Richards launched a YouTube channel dedicated to the collection: To date, it has logged more than 750,000 views.
Sullivan’s videos have been shown in more than 20 solo and group shows and film festivals across Europe, Australia, South America and North America. Videographers from Switzerland and France produced short documentary films on Sullivan for Europe’s ARTE channel. Los Angeles-based World of Wonder created a film on Sullivan for Britain’s Channel 4.
But as the collection’s fame spread, its ultimate survival was far from certain. The archive of more than 600 tapes remained boxed in a back room at Richards’ and Goldman’s century-old house in Inman Park (site of the 1864 Battle of Atlanta). Without an institutional “forever home,” the three partners feared the tapes’ initial escape from the dumpster might have been only temporary.
That’s when Sullivan’s videos got a powerful champion in the form of the Fales Library. The addition of the archive brought an exciting new dimension to Fales’ Downtown Collection, which already included the papers of such influential entities as the Gay Cable Network, the Red Hot Organization, Dennis Cooper, Michaelangelo Signorile, Richard Hell and Ande Whyland.
“Nelson Sullivan was the chronicler of the demimonde downtown New York scene,” said Marvin J. Taylor, director of the Fales Library. “He was everywhere that was important at just the right time. But, he was more than that. When Nelson turned his video camera on himself as flaneur of downtown, he found his own artistic, queer, postmodern voice. We’re honored to have Nelson’s videos here at NYU.”
“Seen on the Scene”
Here are a few of the personalities of note featured in the Nelson Sullivan Video Archive. Click on the links to view selected clips.
A lecture/screening presented by Robert Coddington will take place on Wednesday April 24 at the Einstein Auditorium in NYU’s Barney Building on Stuyvesant Street. It is free and open to the public and will feature videos of Keith Haring, Rock Steady Crew, RuPaul, Leigh Bowery, Ethyl Eichelberger, Fran Lebowitz, Michael Musto, Lady Miss Kier and more…
The following evening, Thursday April 25th, at the third floor Fales Library at the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library on Washington Square South, there will be a celebration of the life and work of Nelson Sullivan with Michael Musto, Lady Miss Kier, Robert Coddington, drag historian Joe E. Jeffreys, performance artist Flloyd and photographer Paula Gately Tillman.
Wait… Dusty Springfield appeared on The Dating Game? Apparently so!
Wonder why she seems so disinterested? Such a distinguished set of cheeky chappies to choose from. I do hope Dusty wasn’t really obliged to go on a skiing vacation with “Bachelor # 2. I kinda doubt it. That might have gotten awkward (During the credits a voice over says “Celebrity dates are subject to availability.”)
Of historical note, “Bachelor #1” was Milt Kamen, a stand-up comic who was Sid Caesar’s TV stand-in and who allegedly invented many of the bits Caesar is famous for.
Has Hedwig And The Angry Inch entered the annals of the ‘classic musical’ yet? If not, then why not?
I can’t think of another original musical from the last 10/15 years to have gained such a strong cult following and had so much niche AND crossover appeal (no mean feat considering the subject matter.) Shows with people throwing themselves around to Abba or Queen songs don’t count.
Here is a rare treat for fans of Hedwig, it’s a taping of the original cast performing the show Off-Broadway in 1999, featuring what is very obviously a star-making turn for John Cameron Mitchell. The quality’s not all that bad, and of course the music is great. Which is important for a musical. Here’s a little more info via YouTube uploader Antoine Granger (and Wikipedia):
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. The text is by John Cameron Mitchell, and the music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask. The musical premiered in 1998 and has been performed throughout the world in hundreds of stage productions.
The story draws on Mitchell’s life as the son of a U.S. Army Major General who once commanded the U.S. sector of occupied West Berlin. The character of Hedwig was originally inspired by a German divorced U.S. Army wife who was a Mitchell family babysitter and moonlighted as a prostitute at her Junction City, Kansas trailer park home. The music is steeped in the androgynous 1970s glam rock era of David Bowie (who co-produced the Los Angeles production of the show), as well as the work of John Lennon and early punk godfathers Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.
The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on February 14, 1998. The theater was located in the ballroom of the Hotel Riverview, which once housed the surviving crew of the Titanic (a fact which figured in the original production). Originally directed and produced by Peter Askin, the play won a Village Voice Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. The Off-Broadway production ran for two years, and was remounted with various casts by the original creative team in Boston, Los Angeles, and London.
“Tear Me Down”
“The Origin of Love”
“The Angry Inch”
“Wig in a Box”
“Wicked Little Town”
“The Long Grift”
“Wicked Little Town (Reprise)”
This is the original cast performing on stage in 1999, awesome performance if you ask me. I took the liberty to do a small noise reduction over the original source. If you liked the show I strongly advise you to also check out the movie.
There’s another update in the story of Barronelle Stuztman, the florist in Washington state who is being sued by the state’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a consumer protection lawsuit for refusing to “participate in the marriage,” as she put it, of two gay men because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ.” Now the couple disrespected by the proprietor of Arlene’s Flowers, who would not sell them flowers for their wedding due to her belief that the Bible teaches “marriage is between a man and a woman” is fighting back. Via The Stranger:
Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed’s lawyers, working with the legal powerhouse at the ACLU of Washington, sent a letter today to Arlene’s Flowers owner Baronelle Stutzman saying she has two options: (1) She can vow to never again discriminate in her services for gay people, write an apology letter to be published in the Tri-City Herald, and contribute $5,000 to a local LGBT youth center, or (2) she can get sued for violating the Washington State Civil Rights Act.
Stutzman’s law firm, Gourly Bristol Hembree, responded to the AG on Monday with a letter promising “an immediate challenge in federal court” and contend that their client is entitled to act according to her religious convictions and that discrimination isn’t the issue. Furthermore, from what I can understand, they’re saying that the art of floral arrangement is an act of personal expression so that any demand or limitation on those expressive flower arrangements is a violation of Baronelle Stutzmans’s First Amendment rights to free speech.
Good luck with that floral arrangement defense, boys, you’ll be laughed out of the fucking courtroom for that one.
Naturally this will be portrayed in the conservative media as anti-religious bigotry, as opposed to the regular, straight-up bigotry bigotry that Barronelle Stutzman inflicted on the same-sex couple. As if bigotry becomes somehow okay when it’s justified by the words of desert-dwelling nomads in a supposedly magic book from 2000 years ago.
“I don’t know what the symbol would be, I’d have to think about that. [A cross? The vesica pisces? A sheep? Alfred E. Neuman? Just some thoughts] We’re getting to the point where these homofascists are going to force us to wear on our sleeves some kind of identifying marker so people will know who the racists and the homophobes and the bigots are, and can stay away from them.”
Irony deficient Fischer is, of course, conveniently forgetting that homosexuals were made to wear inverted pink triangles armbands and patches in Nazis concentration camps. But when has being an idiot ever stopped Bryan Fischer from flapping his lips? Never!
Rising GOP star Dave Agema, neither a hater or bigot, just a good, clean-living, God-fearing conservative Republican
The humiliating self-immolation of Dr. Ben Carson apparently wasn’t enough, so the comedy gods must be demanding another GOP sacrifice. Dave Agema, the Republican National Committee member from Michigan—a small-minded dumbass whose anti-gay Facebook posting that suggested gays were responsible for “half the murders in large cities” (among other things, but Agema didn’t write it, he just posted it) made national news last week—isn’t going to go away quietly as he proved during a remarkably idiotic conservative talk radio interview.
Move over Louie Gohmert, you’ve got some brain-damaged competition in the “Male Michele Bachmann” sweepstakes!
“It’s not about hate, folks,” he says of warnings about purported physical and mental health risks of homosexuality. “What it is, is hey, if you’re in this lifestyle, if you really love somebody that’s in this lifestyle, you want to ask them and try to get them out because they’re not going to live as long. It’s going to hurt them emotionally and physically.
“That’s what it’s about. So it’s really more about caring than it is hate,” Agema adds during an outspoken, defiant conversation Monday with sympathetic hosts at WPIQ in Manistee in northern Michigan.
That talk-format station airs syndicated shows from Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Comfortable turf, in other words.
Comfortable turf for unhinged morons like Agema who don’t know when to quit and detestable Republican fuckwits, in other other words…
A bigot? Where’s the proof? Ahahahahahahahah. This guy’s fucking funny!
The Republican National Committee-man had this to say during his time on air with WPIQ’s Morning Breakfast Show hosts, Davin Lawrence and Doug Sedenquist, a Republican activist:
School messages: “I don’t want my kids – my grandkids, I should say – taught in school that this is an alternate lifestyle, [that] you should accept it. I would rather have them taught, hey look, here’s what happens in this lifestyle. Here’s what’s going to happen to you physically. Here’s what’s going to happen to you emotionally. Instead we’re going to teach just the opposite..”
Personal experience: “I’ve been involved in this issue for years, way back when I worked for American Airlines this became an issue, because we had, you know obviously we had a lot of homosexuals in the flight attendant realm, and, uhh, we had issues.”
Social change: “Society in general has been tolerant of any behavior that doesn’t affect others in a general stance. But this does affect others. . . . When you look at this stuff, it’s just amazing what’s happening in our society, how fast it’s happened, I mean just 20 years ago, you wouldn’t think this would happen, or 25 years ago, and look where we are now—we’re just like they are in Europe. And some of those studies over there show the same thing: This is not a good thing for us, folks. And all I want to do is maintain our principles, and I want to stay on the conservative side, not on the liberal side.”
Critical response: “They’re trying to say you’re a bigot if you’re bringing it up and I think that’s what bothers me more than anything. I never heard such amount of name-calling, threats and bigotry on their part, calling me a bigot, for bringing up this information. I have never seen anything like it. . . . I’ve been threatened just by speaking out. And that’s the key, they are trying to shut anyone and everyone down from saying anything, that’s what they do. . . . What you get thrown back in your face is nothing but hate.”
Threat to churches: “The next thing I fear is they’ll come to your churches and say oh, you won’t marry same-sex couples? Well that’s interesting. This is a hate crime, you just lost your tax-exempt status. This is going to go from one step to the next, it’s part of the plan.”
Challenge to party: “I just wish our leadership would get behind this, and stand, have backbone, and stand for what our core principles are in the Republican Party.”
I have to agree with Agema on that last point. Don’t ever change GOP!
Was it entirely predictable that Dr. Ben Carson, the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and rightwing media darling would implode this publicly and this fast?
You’d think—or at least I did—that a man intelligent enough to run a department at a prestigious medical university would be… you know… well… smarter than the average conservative. Less prone, perhaps, to making idiotic comments when there’s a live microphone around?
You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. Dr. Ben Carson is a fucking idiot, as he proved on Fox News’ Hannity program last week when he compared marriage equality with bestiality and sex with children, and as he continued to demonstrate Monday on conservative talk radio troll Mark Levin’s show. Via TPM:
Carson, who is the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, said he represents an existential threat to liberals. “They need to shut me up, they need to get rid of me,” Carson said. “They can’t find anything else to delegitimize me, so they take my words, misrepresent them and try to make it seem that I’m a bigot.”
“And you’re attacked also, in many respects, because of your race,” Levin said. “Because you’re not supposed to think like this and talk like this. A lot of white liberals just don’t like it, do they?”
“Well, you know, they’re the most racist people there are,” Carson said. “Because, you know, they put you in a little category, a little box, you have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?”
Um… sorry Dr. Carson, you might see yourself that way, but it seems rather obvious, based solely on, hey, your own words, that clear-thinking people, be they white, liberal or whatever else they may be, think you’re a plank. You and ANYONE else, of any race, who would say such nasty, ignorant and petty things. In public.
Dr. Carson, this is not a black thing or a white thing, this is a stupidity thing. YOUR stupidity. To imply otherwise is preposterous!
No one needs to look any further than your own words to conclude that YOU are the bigot in this equation. It’s got everything to do with the actual words that came out of your mouth, on national television!
You say that your words were twisted? HOW?Where is the nuance in comparing civil rights for America’s LGBT population to sex with animals and children?
Quite a leap to compare the reaction to what you said to, well, you know… actual bigotry!
If you were white, Dr. Carson, not a whole lot would change—you might even still be invited to come on Fox News, for instance, if you weren’t black—but people would still still be perfectly justified to call you an idiot. Because you are one.
The students at Johns Hopkins who want you out as their commencement speaker aren’t racists, but you sir, are most certainly an asshole.
HOW DARE these liberal bigots speak the truth to you…
UPDATE: I just read the following on Huffington Post in a piece by Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert on Carson’s travails and found it quite amusing:
“You know, intelligent people tend to talk about the facts,” Carson recently said, condemning those who reduce political disagreements to the kind you find on a “third grade playground.” He urged partisans to “find some accommodation” and to “tone down the rhetoric a little bit.”
He said these things while appearing on Fox News, the cable bastion of name-calling and blind partisanship. (Emphasis added)
Here’s a link to yesterday’s Hannity, where one of the whitest men in America discusses supposed “racism” directed at black conservatives and gets his dumb ass handed to him on a platter by LA-based civil rights attorney (and talk radio host), Leo Terrell.
A cross-dressing, gay priest buys an adult bookstore and uses it as a front to sell meth? You couldn’t make it up!
And before you ask, no, it’s not an April Fool’s joke. From Irish Central:
Monsignor Kevin Wallin, a Connecticut priest now being nicknamed Monsignor Meth, is expected to plead guilty next week to participating in a conspiracy to distribute crystal methamphetamine in Connecticut.
The Connecticut Post reports that court papers filed on Tuesday show that 61 year old Monsignor Wallin is expected to enter a guilty plea, which will have him facing a mandatory 10 years in federal prison.
The Associated Press reports that Connecticut authorities said the Wallin had meth mailed to him from co-conspirators in California, and made more than $300,000 in drugs sales out of his Waterbury apartment in the second half of last year.
Wallin had also purchased a bookstore - one that sold primarily pornography and sex toys - which he used as a front to launder money.
Wallin served as the pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport for nine years until he resigned in June 2011 citing health and personal problems. Prior to that, he served six years as pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Danbury until 2002.
While still serving as a priest, many noted his “off-kilter” behavior in early 2011. One church worker said that Wallin had grown “disillusioned with the bureaucracy of the Church.” The same worker, along with others, said the priest had long had sex with men and was a cross dresser.
On January 3, federal agents arrested Wallin, and on January 15 a grand jury indicted him and four other people on drug charges. All are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing meth and 50 grams of actual meth, a crime that carries 10 years to life in prison upon conviction. Wallin plans to plead guilty to that charge.
This would be funny if it weren’t also creepy and sad. As if the Catholic church needed any more scandal!
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favorite distraction.