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Vintage publications attempt to diagnose transvestism, masturbation & other sexual ‘deviations’
01.06.2017
10:20 am
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The cover of the 1960 book ‘Transvestism Today: The Phenomenon of Men Who Dress Like Women.’
 
According to a note on the back cover of the 1960 book Transvestism Today: The Phenomenon of Men Who Dress Like Women, viewing the book was only for the eyes of those affiliated with the medical community, psychoanalysts or students currently pursuing degrees in “psychology or social studies.” Written by the rather prolific Dr. Edward Podolsky and noted “hack” Carlson Wade, the duo authored many books together on sexuality and psychology. Including The Modern Sex Manual in 1942 which divulged some rather stunning revelations such as the “abnormal” act of masturbation can “dull” the feeling of intercourse:

Masturbation, if it has been indulged in excessively before marriage maybe be a cause of lack of orgasm during coitus. In women, masturbation brings into play abnormal channels of nerve stimulation, and as these are not stimulated during the normal act, the woman fails to achieve and orgasm. In most cases if masturbation is dropped completely and normal sexual activity substituted for it, the normal channels of nerve stimulation will in time bring about a normal enjoyment of the act.

It seems all that is missing from the good doctor’s assessment is that you might also go blind while pleasuring yourself. Podolsky and Wade’s Transvestism Today book is chock full of photographs of famous drag queens such as the alluring Parisian “Coccinelle” (born Jacques Charles Dufresnoy). Coccinelle was notable for many reasons including being the roommate of Salvador Dali muse Amanda Lear and the first French-born man to undergo sexual reassignment surgery which was performed in Casablanca in 1958.

When it comes to Wade’s contributions to the literary world, in addition to to his many collaborations with Dr. Podolsky (including six manuals from 1963 referred to as their “Epic Sexual Behavior Series”) he is also responsible for a series of sleazy pulp paperbacks such as a book on Coccinelle published in 1963 titled She-Male: The Sex-Reversal True Life Story of COCCINELLE. There was also a claim made by Bob Blackburn, the executor of Ed Wood’s estate (on behalf of his second wife Kathy O’Hara) that Wood was actually Carlson Wade and had written the 1958 book by Wade Conquering Goddess. And just because I love to throw our DM readers a good old-fashioned curveball, Wade also penned loads of trash under the name of “Ken Worthy” among other pseudonyms. But as I often do, I digress. Why don’t we take a look at the table of contents from Worthy/Wade/not-Wood 1967 book The Queer Path, shall we?:
 

The Table of Contents from Wade Carlson’s book ‘The Queer Path,’ 1967.
 
Moving on, here’s more anti-gay rantings from Worthy/Wade as published in 1965’s The New Homosexual Revolution lest you have any doubt of the author’s feelings about the gay community of the 1960s:

As the ranks of the homosexual is constantly swelling by greater and greater acceptance of this condition as an ‘illness,’ the ranks of the male prostitute is also swelled.

I’ve included images of both pages from both authors’ books as well as other salacious imagery that I’m sure will make you wonder if Dr. Podolsky perhaps got his degree out of a box of Cracker Jacks.
 

A page from ‘Transvestism Today: The Phenomenon of Men Who Dress Like Women.’
 

An illustration accompanying Carlson Wade’s article on the ‘strange erotic impulse’ of ‘Vampirism.’
 
More after the jump….

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.06.2017
10:20 am
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‘What’s The Matter With Helen?’ (or remembering Debbie Reynolds the DM way!)
01.03.2017
02:09 pm
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Okay, where do I begin?

First my respects to the amazing and kooky Miss Debbie Reynolds, a great and truly iconic Hollywood star.

Although most obituaries chose to skip over this (in every sense of the word) incredible moment in Reynolds’ career, What’s the Matter with Helen? is definitely worth a look. The film was directed by the bizarre Curtis Harrington, who began and ended his career by making the same short film version of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. The first when he was just sixteen years old in 1942, and the second at age 73 in 2000. Like Kenneth Anger, Harrington started making short experimental films in his teens in the 1940s. He befriended Anger and was featured in his 1954 film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome playing Cesare, the Somnambulist. Harrington would later shoot Anger’s Puce Moment.

The young Curtis Harrington was a charter member of the Hollywood underground which revolved around people like Anger, witchy artist Marjorie Cameron (the subject of Harrington’s short film “The Wormwood Star”), silent movie actor Samson De Brier and other druggy, gender-bending, rule-breaking free thinkers. Satanists, homosexuals, witches, freaks, drag queens, artists, murderers, millionaires and bums, the whole gamut of Hollywood Babylon as we know it today long before things of the sort became popular in the sixties. In the 1950s this was as far underground as Hell itself. The most amazing part of this is, of course, that so many of the biggest stars of the day were enamoured with these people, had to have them at their parties and had different levels of social (and sexual) involvement that will provide facts, info and weird stories to obsess on for decades to come. Unlike Kenneth Anger, Curtis Harrington headed for the hills (Hollywood, that is), and had a decent career making mostly odd horror films (and TV shows like Dynasty) while continuing to do his short experimental art films. What’s The Matter With Helen? is one of the best of his feature films.
 
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By 1971 there was a already an established trend in Hollywood horror films, dubbed the “Grande Dame Guignol Cinema,” it’s something that has also been called the “hagsploitation” or “psycho-biddy” genre. I refer to films like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte and What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?. Although Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard could technically be said to be the first, the advent of the hag genre exploded of course with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starring the aging Bette Davis and Joan Crawford letting their hair (and their faces) down. Way down. Which was the entire professional requirement other than being a former leading lady. Since Curtis Harrington knew so many big stars from the 1930s and 40s who were growing into their fifties and wondering what to do with their careers, he made a few hagsploitation movies himself.
 
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Another thing Curtis Harrington had in his pocket by 1971 was his choice of the cream of the crop of old Hollywood’s wildest, weirdest and campiest actors, as well as some of new Hollywood’s most annoying child freaks, especially since the plot of What’s The Matter With Helen? included Reynolds playing a children’s tap dance teacher in 1930’s Hollywood. So many cheese-eating hamster hambones in this one.
 

 
To quote Shelley Winters:

It’s about two women during the thirties who run a school to turn out Shirley Temples, and in my next scene I have to stab Debbie Reynolds to death. Poor Debbie — they’d better not give me a real knife.”

Harrington’s cream of the crop, being the eccentric that he was, was just incredible. A who’s who of a pop culture obsessive’s dreams. On the top end of What’s The Matter With Helen?‘s credits we have, of course, Reynolds, Winters and future McCloud actor Dennis Weaver joined by the very old time super actor Michael Mac Liammóir (whose name had at least three different spellings), described in a IMDB bio as:

... a theatrical giant who dominated Irish theatre for over 50 years. Actor, designer, playwright and brilliant raconteur he was very much his own creation. He cut an imposing figure under the spotlight and in real life dressed flamboyantly wearing full make-up at all times and a jet black hairpiece. When he died in 1978 aged 79 The Irish Times wrote that ‘Nobody can assess the contribution that Micheal MacLiammoir made to Irish theatre’....Sir John Gielgud commented “Designer, wit, linguist and boon companion as well as actor, he was a uniquely talented and delightful creature.”

 
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As What’s The Matter With Helen?‘s credits roll they further reveal a string of incredible characters: Agnes Moorehead (who had an unforgettable Hollywood career but is mostly remembered as Endora on Bewitched), wild fifties (very) bad girl Yvette Vickers (Attack of the Giant Leeches, Reform School Girl, Juvenile Jungle, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and more), and Timothy Carey (possibly the single most out there Hollywood actor in the history of film, who saved his money from movies like The Wild One, East of Eden, The Killing, Naked Gun, Rumble on the Docks, Poor White Trash/Bayou, Beach Blanket Bingo, Head and so many more, to make his masterpiece, The World’s Greatest Sinner with soundtrack by a young Frank Zappa. [Carey spent his later years going on TV talk shows and shooting a movie with his son Romeo called The Devil’s Gas about the importance of farting. Yes that’s what I said]. But beyond them, it also features Pamelyn Ferdin, the most annoying fingernails-on-the- blackboard child actress of the sixties and seventies (who turns up in odd films like The Christine Jorgensen Story and was seemingly on every TV show ever made back then such as My Three Sons, The Monkees, The Paul Lynde Show, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and too many more to mention.)

What’s The Matter With Helen? was written by Henry Farrell who wrote both What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (most of these Hollywood hag films had titles that were full sentences or questions) the plot concerns a Leopold and Loeb-type thrill murder committed by the sons of two women who are drawn together by these horrible events. Destroyed by the trial, the shame and being attacked mentally and physically, they decide to run away to Hollywood, where they can change their names, reinvent themselves and start all over. There are quite a few amazing twists and turns in the story, gory murders (even a few bunny murders, the shame!), plus beautiful and weird cinematography that make it worth seeing more than once.
 

 
The insanity of some of the goings on behind the camera are legendary and hilarious. At first they couldn’t find a big name star to take the lead, but Debbie Reynolds eventually took the role of Adele. To quote her biography Unsinkable:

Eventually, Debbie Reynolds took the role of Adelle. She had a contract with NBC to be an uncredited producer of a film, so she chose this, taking no salary. “They put up $750,000 and hired Marty Ransohoff to be on the set, but I actually produced it.”

Incredibly—or not so incredibly considering who we’re talking about—Shelley Winters was in the middle of a nervous breakdown:

According to Reynolds, Winters’ psychiatrist advised her not to portray “a woman having a nervous breakdown because she was having a nervous breakdown! But nobody knew that, and so all through the film she drove all of us insane! She became the person in the film.” Reynolds witnessed Winters’s questionable mental status off of the set. The two had been friends many years before, and Reynolds offered to chauffeur Winters to and from the set. “I was driving one morning on Santa Monica Boulevard and ahead of me was a woman, wearing only a nightgown, trying to flag down a ride,” recalled Reynolds. It was Winters, who claimed, “I thought I was late.” According to a Los Angeles Times article published while the film was in production, Winters was so difficult on the set that the studio threatened to replace her with Geraldine Page.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Howie Pyro
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01.03.2017
02:09 pm
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Lou Reed and John Cale’s soundtrack to Andy Warhol’s ‘Hedy,’ 1966
12.22.2016
08:45 am
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Andy Warhol and Mario Montez filming Hedy (via Continuo)
 
On the night of January 27, 1966, the actress Hedy Lamarr was arrested for stealing $86 worth of merchandise from the May Company department store in Los Angeles. She was not driven to crime by a condition of need: police told reporters she had $14,000 in checks when she was arrested.

Andy Warhol and screenwriter Ronald Tavel knew a good story when they saw one, and Hedy (1966)—with Lupe and More Milk, Yvette, part of the “Hollywood trilogy” about movie actresses Warhol made that year—advanced down the Factory’s film production line. The lovely Mario Montez starred in the title role, while on the soundtrack, Lou Reed and John Cale dramatized Hedy’s inner life with an ominous, bottomless noise.
 

via Toronto International Film Festival
 
Richie Unterberger’s authoritative White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day by Day files the Hedy soundtrack under February 1966:

Only Lou Reed and John Cale are heard on the soundtrack to Hedy, a Warhol film inspired by press reports of the arrest for shoplifting of 30s and 40s actor Hedy Lamarr. None of the Velvets appear in the film, but the cast does include the two most celebrated dancers of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable – Gerard Malanga and Factory newcomer Mary Woronov – as well as another EPI dancer, Ingrid Superstar, and Cale’s old friend Jack Smith.

The Hedy score is closer in spirit to the avant-garde recordings Cale and Angus MacLise appeared on during 1963-1965 than anything The Velvet Underground are currently playing. The music builds around an instrumental storm of shrieking, rumbling viola, guitar, and a rickety piano that sounds like it hasn’t been played since doing time in a 19th century saloon, while Cale’s ‘thunder machine’ – the sound made by the head of a Vox Super Beatle amp being dropped on the floor – occasionally cuts through everything else with hair-raising, high pitch bursts of feedback. This might be the closest approximation of how the nascent Velvet Underground sounded when they played, with Angus MacLise, behind the screen at Piero Heliczer’s ‘happenings,’ but those days are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Hear ‘Hedy’ after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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12.22.2016
08:45 am
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Wigs, waxing and song: Meet the drag pioneers of the 1920s ‘Pansy Craze’
12.21.2016
10:55 am
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Francis Renault, famous female impersonator from ‘The Pansy Craze.’
 
Some of the most popular stage shows in New York and San Francisco in the 1920s and early 1930s routinely featured a wide variety of talented representatives from the gay community. In addition to live vaudeville house performances there were also a large number of extravagant soirees that featured drag costume competitions and attendees, regardless of their sexual orientation, would often arrive decked out in gender-bending fashions. It also wasn’t unusual for these kind of affairs to be covered by mainstream newspapers and wasn’t particularly considered to be an unacceptable practice. As a matter of fact, one of the era’s biggest stars, the great Mae West was an avid supporter of homosexual actors and in addition to penning the controversial play The Drag (which attempted to define the role of a homosexual man in society) she actively often provided roles to them in her productions. West’s shrewd timing of The Drag also played upon a popular movement that was a part of this wonderful time in New York and San Francisco known as “The Pansy Craze.”

Men who enjoyed bringing their inner drag queen to life during The Pansy Craze were called “Pansies” (as well as “fairies”). The Pansy Craze was HUGE and shows featuring female impersonators were attended by thousands of people who packed into bohemian clubs in Greenwich Village and drank like sailors despite the fact that prohibition was then in full effect. One of the city’s highest paid performers during the 1920s was Gene Malin who also went by the name “Jean Malin.” Malin also put out a couple of albums and had a bit of a hit with his tongue-in-cheek tune “I’d Rather be Spanish than Manish.” He was a champion of the gay community as well as one of its most celebrated members. Sadly, Malin was killed in a freak car accident after errantly putting his car into reverse sending it plunging into the water off a pier in Venice, California at the age of 25.

Another star of the Pansy Craze was “Rae Bourbon.” Born Hal Bardell, Bourbon was once a part of the boozy-sounding drag stand-up duo “Scotch and Bourbon.” Rae spent a lot of time in the slammer on charges of “lewdness” and “impersonating a woman” during his career and would often write to Vanity Fair magazine asking the publication to send him money in order to make bail. Toward the tail end of the Pansy Craze, Bourbon stepped away from the stage and did modeling work for Weill’s, a department store in Bakersfield, California. In the ad for Bourbon’s appearance he was billed as “Mr. Rae Bourbon” a “popular actor and female impersonator.” Apparently in the 1920s nobody thought it was that weird or that controversial to have a man modeling women’s clothing in the window of a department store on a Saturday. (And that’s because it really isn’t.) Bourbon also produced a number of racy albums before ending up in prison after being convicted of being an accomplice to murder after falling on hard times in the 1960s.

Though I could probably break this post into a series as there as quite a few notable historical “pansies” I’d like to jaw about, I’ll leave you with a few interesting tidbits on Francis Renault, a female impersonator who had a penchant for pricey clothing and jewellery. Born Antonio Auriemma (or perhaps Auriema) in Naples, Italy in 1893 his family moved to the future gay-friendly east coast destination of Providence, Rhode Island when he was young. Renault would perform in 43 different countries as “Francis Renault” and his drag image of Francis even appeared on the cover for the 1913 sheet music to Irving Berlin’s At the Devil’s Ball. As I mentioned, Renault was a huge connoisseur of designer duds and in a magazine ad for a show featuring a performance by him it was said that he would be wearing $5000 dollars worth of costumes straight from the couture houses of Paris. It’s probably important to note that this kind of figure was astronomical for the time and this kind of stocked closet would be worth somewhere in the range of $65K in modern times. Zowie. I’ve included numerous photos of the famous pansies I’ve featured in this post as well as some of their recordings for you to check out below.
 

 

Rae Bourbon (far right) and Mae West (center).
 

Rae Bourbon.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.21.2016
10:55 am
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Fabulous ‘Mermen’ Christmas ornaments to make your tree gay & bright this year!
12.20.2016
10:24 am
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‘Bear Merman’ glass ornament. Get it here.
 
If you’re still looking for the perfect holiday gift I have good news for you. While I was finishing up my own shopping I came across these absolutely fabulous ‘Merman” tree ornaments that totally made my day.

Made by a Florida-based company called Diamonds of the Sea there is a nice variety of glass Mermen for you to choose from such as a Lumberjack carrying some (ahem) wood, a cop, and a my personal favorite a “bear” complete with a hairy chest, mustache and beard. If this all sounds good to you then I have even better news because many of the Mermen can still ship out in time to be the greatest Christmas gift ever.

I’ve posted loads of pictures of the adorable, shirtless Mermen for you to consider below along with links to where they can be purchased. Because if you don’t know anyone that would appreciate a gay Merman ornament then you’re probably hanging out with the wrong people. Merry Christmas!
 

‘Lumberjack Merman.’ Get it here.
 

‘P-Town Merman.’ Get it here.
 
More merry Mermen after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.20.2016
10:24 am
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Finland has made a movie about Tom of Finland—and it looks pretty good
12.19.2016
12:47 pm
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Dome Karukoski, one of Finland’s most successful movie directors, has completed a biopic of one of the country’s most distinctive exports, a man whose name isn’t just synonymous with Finland, it IS Finland. That’s right, Karukoski has made a movie about the life of Tom of Finland, the erstwhile Touko Laaksonen, whose bulging drawings of muscular sailors and leather enthusiasts did so much to define the gay aesthetic of the 20th century.

Playing the role of Tom is Pekka Strang, a Finnish actor who has been the artistic director of Lilla Teatern in Helsinki since 2005. The movie, which is simply titled Tom of Finland, tells the story of his days as a soldier in the Winter War against the Soviet Union and his later artistic career, with emphasis on the success his work would find in the United States.

Of course, Laakonsen’s wartime experiences not only exposed him to men in uniform, which would become one of his major fetishes, but it also placed him in close proximity to Nazis, which would also become a significant motif in his work. Years later, Tom of Finland would be quoted as follows: “The whole Nazi philosophy, the racism and all that, is hateful to me, but of course I drew them anyway—they had the sexiest uniforms!”
 

 
The movie appears to make the case that after tussling with the Soviets and the Nazis (and even the prudish Finns), Tom had a hard time developing any particular fears of the censors that would threaten him with imprisonment. As the movie depicts him saying (referring to Finland), “I would have an easier time publishing these in the Vatican.” The movie also has Tom saying of his work, “If I have a hard-on, then I know it’s good.”

It’s safe to say that this is one of the few biopics that has ample justification for combining the World War II movie genre with coke’d-up and sexy scenes from the swinging ‘70s that would be at home in Boogie Nights.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.19.2016
12:47 pm
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Sassy political buttons from the frontlines of the fight for LGBT rights
12.12.2016
06:10 pm
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“NOT TONIGHT, DEAR ... IT’S A FELONY” pinback, c. 1990
 
One of the most invigorating struggles of our time has been the fight to secure dignity and legal protection from the law for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT). In the modern era, the history of gay awareness can be said to start with Oscar Wilde, and the progressive engagement for human rights has had many ups and downs, the rambunctious disco/bath-house 1970s followed by the harrowing advent of AIDS in the early 1980s.

The last 12 years or so has seen AIDS somewhat corralled by the medical community as well as the institutionalization of gay marriage in the federal legal code. A wide array of figures played key roles over the decades, including Quentin Crisp, Harvey Milk, Rock Hudson, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, Divine, Brad Davis, Martina Navratilova, Andy Warhol, Ron Vawter, Ellen DeGeneres, Ru Paul and Keith Haring.

The LGBT History Archive keeps active accounts on Instagram and Tumblr, and even the briefest perusal of either yields an emotionally resonant wave of memories and associations. Only a small percentage of the images posted there are buttons, but over time it adds up—there are many more where these came from

The struggle continues to this day, as legal rulings are issued addressing the right of trans people to use restrooms of the appropriate gender (unfortunately largely as backlash to the progressive position). As I say, the fight continues.
 

“BATMAN & ROBIN” pinback, design by Randy Wicker, c. 1969
 

“FUCK YOU I’M GAY” pinback, c. 1974
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.12.2016
06:10 pm
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This web oracle cuts up text and audio of William S. Burroughs’ ‘Naked Lunch’
12.08.2016
09:56 am
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Collage by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, c. 1965 (via Print)
 
What’s that, friend? You say you’d like to consult the I Ching, but it doesn’t have enough erotic hangings, aftosa infections, hot shots, or horrible “schlupping” sounds to speak to your personal situation? Well, the internet might have fucked up a few other things you could name, but it’s “got your six” this time.

Every time you visit this page, it displays 23 randomly selected paragraphs from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Press the “play” button at the top and you’ll also hear Burroughs read 23 randomly selected sentences from the novel. Here’s what the oracle just told me:

1 “Don’t look so frightened, young man. Just a professional joke. To say treatment is symptomatic means there is none, except to make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. And that is precisely what we attempt to do in these cases.” Once again Carl felt the impact of that cold interest on his face. “That is to say reassurance when reassurance is necessary… and, of course, suitable outlets with other individuals of similar tendencies. No isolation is indicated… the condition is no more directly contagious than cancer. Cancer, my first love,” the doctor’s voice receded. He seemed actually to have gone away through an invisible door leaving his empty body sitting there at the desk.

2 “They say somebody pushed him.”

3 The boy shied. His street-boy face, torn with black scars of junk, retained a wild, broken innocence; shy animals peering out through grey arabesques of terror.

4 “‘Doc, she sure is a dry hole…. Well, thanks for the paregoric.

5 “Brilliant chap Schafer… but…”

6 “Jesus! These ID’s got no class to them.”

7 “And I say unto you, brothers and sisters of the Anti-Fluoride movement, we have this day struck such a blow for purity as will never call a retreat…. Out, I say, with the filthy foreign fluorides! We will sweep this fair land sweet and clean as a young boy’s tensed Hank. …I will now lead you in our theme song The Old Oaken Bucket.”

8 “We sure did. And you know those citizens were so loaded on that marijuana they all wig inna middle of the banquet…. Me, I just had bread and milk… ulcers you know.”

9 The Embassy would give no details other than place of burial in the American Cemetery….

10 CAMPUS OF INTERZONE UNIVERSITY

11 “Oh say do that Star Spangled Banner yet wave…”

12 The old junky has found a vein… blood blossoms in the dropper like a Chinese flower… he push home the heroin and the boy who jacked off fifty years ago shine immaculate through the ravaged flesh, fill the outhouse with the sweet nutty smell of young male lust….

13 “Know Marty Steel?” Diddle.

14 Marvie does buy himself a shot glass of beer, squeezing a blackened coin out of his fly onto the table. “Keep the change.” The waiter sweeps the coin into a dust pan, he spits on the table and walks away.

15 All streets of the City slope down between deepen-ing canyons to a vast, kidney-shaped plaza full of darkness. Walls of street and plaza are perforated by dwelling cubicles and cafes, some a few feet deep, others extending out of sight in a network of rooms and corridors.

16 He paces around the boy like an aroused tom cat.

17 “With that milk sugar shit? Junk is a one-way street. No U-turn. You can’t go back no more.”

18 “Just two seconds,” I said.

19 “So long flatfoot!” I yell, giving the fruit his B production. I look into the fruit’s eyes, take in the white teeth, the Florida tan, the two hundred dollar sharkskin suit, the button-down Brooks Brothers shirt and carrying The News as a prop. “Only thing I read is Little Abner.”

20 Pigs rush up and the Prof. pours buckets of pearls into a trough….

21 Hauser had been eating breakfast when the Lieutenant called: “I want you and your partner to pick up a man named Lee, William Lee, on your way downtown. He’s in the Hotel Lamprey. 103 just off B way.”

22 “And all them junkies sitting around in the lotus posture spitting on the ground and waiting on The Man.

23 More and more static at the Drug Store, mutterings of control like a telephone off the hook… Spent all day until 8 P.M. to score for two boxes of Eukodol….

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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12.08.2016
09:56 am
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‘Jean Cocteau speaks to the year 2000’ (or Jean Cocteau is dead, long live Jean Cocteau!)
11.30.2016
03:50 pm
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Prior to his death in 1963, Jean Cocteau, the great French artist, filmmaker, novelist, playwright and poet, made his cinematic last will and testament, a time-capsule titled Jean Cocteau s’adresse… à l’an 2000 (“Jean Cocteau speaks to the year 2000”). Cocteau, seen seated in front of his own work at Francine Weisweiller’s Villa Santo-Sospir (where his Testament of Orpheus was shot), offers advice and perspective to a generation just being born. Cocteau gives his definition of genius and of the poet, “an intermediary, a medium of that mysterious force that inhabits.” He also discusses the technical progress of science and how it must not be impeded by intolerance and religion.

In his Cocteau biography James S. Williams wrote:

Just a couple of months before his death, in August 1963, he made one last film: a 25-minute short entitled Jean Cocteau s’adresse à l’an 2000 (Cocteau addresses the year 2000). The film comprises one still and highly sober shot of Cocteau facing the camera head-on to address the youth of the future. Once recorded, this spoken message for the 21st century was wrapped up, sealed and posted on the understanding that it would be opened only in the year 2000 (as it turned out, it was discovered and exhumed a few years shy of that date). If in The Testament Cocteau portrays himself as a living anachronism, a lonesome classical modernist loitering in space-time in the same buckskin jacket and tie while lost in the spectral light of his memories, here he acknowledges explicitly the irony of his phantom-like state: by the time the viewer sees this image, he, J. C., our saviour Poet, will long be dead.

Temporality is typically skewed: speaking from both 1963 and 2000 Cocteau is at once nostalgic for the present that will have passed and prophetic about the future. There is thus both a documentary aspect and projective thrust to the film, another new configuration of ‘superior realism’ and fantasy enhanced by Cocteau’s seamless performance as himself and his now ‘immortal’ status as a member of the Académie Française. He reiterates some of his long-standing artistic themes and principles: death is a form of life; poetry is beyond time and a kind of superior mathematics; we are all a procession of others who inhabit us; errors are the true expression of an individual, and so on. The tone is at once speculative and uncompromising, as when Cocteau pours vitriolic scorn on the many awards bestowed upon him, which he calls ‘transcendent punishments’. He also revels in the fact that he can say now what he likes with absolute freedom and impunity since he will not be around to suffer the consequences.

The status of Jean Cocteau s’adresse à l’an 2000 remains ultimately unclear. Is it a new testament or confession, or a heroic demonstration of the need for human endurance, or a pure ‘farce of anti-gravitation’ as he puts it? Or everything at once? It is entirely characteristic of Cocteau to leave us hanging on this suspended paradox. What is certain, however, and what we have consistently seen, is that Cocteau’s life and body are his work, and his work in turn is always mysteriously alive. This is Cocteau’s final gift to his fellow human beings. Let us retain and celebrate the force of that gesture. He is resurrected before our eyes, ever-present, defiant and joyfully queer.

Jean Cocteau is dead, long live Cocteau!

If you are a Cocteau aficionado, the film is a delight. Here are a few transcribed moments:

We remain apprentice robots.

I certainly hope that you have not become robots but on the contrary that you have become very humanized: that’s my hope.

But I have no idea who you are or how you are thinking, or what you are doing. I don’t know the dances you are dancing.

The dance of our time is called “The Twist.” Maybe you have heard
about it.

You most certainly have your own dance.

I wonder what Cocteau would have made of The Beatles, hippies, gay liberation, punk, Internet pornography, Facebook, the iPhone, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, but this we’ll never know.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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11.30.2016
03:50 pm
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Love Saves the Day: An interview with the legendary NYC club pioneer and DJ David Mancuso
11.18.2016
07:02 am
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As if 2016 didn’t suck enough already, Monday night saw the passing of one of the most influential (yet unheralded) figures in late 20th century popular culture. That man’s name was David Mancuso, and if you’ve ever danced to great records on a great sound system in a room full of smiling people and thought “could Heaven ever be as good as this?” then David Mancuso is the person you have to thank.

Mancuso, a one-time follower of LSD guru Timothy Leary structured his parties into three stages, and borrowing from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead (as Leary had for his guided LSD sessions) he termed them “Bardos”:

“The first Bardo would be very smooth, perfect, calm. The second Bardo would be like a circus. And the third Bardo was about re-entry, so people would go back into the outside world relatively smoothly.”

The parties Mancuso started throwing in his Manhattan home in 1970–which eventually picked up the moniker “The Loft”—are the absolute ground zero for dance culture as we know it today. This isn’t some hyperbolic statement: practically every one of the great NYC DJs who emerged during the 1970s and 80s—from Larry Levan to Frankie Knuckles to Danny Krivit to Kool Herc to Afrika Islam to David Morales to Junior Vasquez to Danny Tenaglia—are indebted in one way or another to Mancuso’s work (many being regular attendees at his Loft parties). And that’s just the DJs. Plenty of club owners were inspired to open their own nightclubs after visiting The Loft, often with the same shared values as Mancuso’s: peace, love, unity and diversity. While music was the main focus, socially the Loft was incredibly mixed. From day one the majority of the patrons were both homosexual and non-white. The freedom that could be found on The Loft’s dancefloor helped attendees fully express their (often marginalized) personalities, bond with people from both their own social circles and further afield, and helped them shape a vision together of the kind of world they would like to live in once the party had ended and they had left Mancsuo’s home. All to a spellbinding soundtrack carefully chosen by Mancuso himself, music that would later be classified as “disco,” but which was, in reality, simply the very finest in funk, soul, jazz, rock and electronica.

I was lucky enough to meet and interview David Mancuso, for my Discopia fanzine, back in 2003. He had recently come out of a period of relative inactivity, and was touring the world, trying to set up each and every venue he played in to be as close as possible to his New York home. I met him in Glasgow’s CCA, in between testing out the specially-hired audiophile event PA and beginning to blow up the hundreds of balloons that would become his party’s’ signature decoration. What follows is an abridged version of that interview, and while I would have liked for there to have been a happier occasion for digging this talk out and dusting it off, it’s still a fitting tribute to a man who changed not just my own life, but the lives of countless others. Rest in peace, David!

Dangerous Minds: You’ve been DJing for a long time. What is it that makes you still want to do it?

Mancuso: Well, actually, that was the last thing I wanted to do! And to this day it’s the thing that scares me the most.

What, DJing?!

Mancuso: Yeah. I mean it’s not something I fantasized about or wanted to do. But as I started doing my own parties I sort of found where I could be the most help. Also I was into sound systems, so there was a whole relationship there. But the DJ part of it really, and not to be vague, but the music really plays us. Really it’s an opportunity where one can shed their ego. Sort of like having an out of body experience. So I feel there’s a responsibility with the sound, with certain aspects and so forth, that I can contribute to.

Is it still going in New York?

Mancuso: Yeah, I’m about to do my 33rd anniversary. I don’t do it as frequently, as I don’t have a permanent location. The last four or five years the rents and things have gotten so astronomical and the parties are not designed to make a lot of money, okay? And I’m not into having a bar. It’s a very private, very personal thing that’s me and my friends. That’s what this is all about, it’s not about being a club. It’s not out there in the commercial world. The music relates to all these situations, yes, but it’s a very personal thing.

Can you tell me a bit about the sound system and how it is set up?  

Mancuso: Well basically it’s set up around the fundamentals of physics, of sound. And this is not magic, some kind of formula for having, you know, a really great sound system. It’s not about that at all. It is set up and designed to be honest and respectful to the music. You wanna hear the music not the sound system. Usually what happens is, you’ve probably seen this yourself, they put four stacks up, then face them toward the middle.

Right.

Mancuso: Well that’s just not how things work. Your voice is coming from there, my voice is coming from here… You get my point? It’s not coming from [over there], there’s not two more of us. But that’s a formula people have used and in some cases they just don’t know, but it’s got nothing to do with music standards. I mean if you take two flashlights and you switch two beams at each other they cancel.

So you start with the centre ‘cos there’ll be three speakers. The centre channel is mono. It has a lot to do with the vocals. You come down the room, and there’s two more, one in each corner. Then two on the sides which are delayed, but reinforce the sound. So whatever the artist is doing [it replicates], just as my voice is travelling from this point down that room as if you were sitting down there and vice versa. You relay exactly what’s happening. It’s all mathematics. So it’s set up to be as though there people, standing there playing instruments.
 

An action man styled as David Mancuso by Reggie Know
 
Over here [UK] we get told a lot about certain clubs and the Loft is one of them…

Mancuso: Correction, it’s not a club, please! Sorry, I got a little out of hand…

That’s okay.

Mancuso: ...but once you start going in that direction you start getting away from what the Loft is all about. I mean I’m here on a tour, but this is not the Loft. First of all the Loft is a feeling. While there are certain aspects that reflect the Loft and how it develops, it’s not the same. The name “The Loft” itself is not a name I gave it, it’s a given name. People eventually started saying that, ‘cos what is it? Oh, it’s my house! This is not about the club scene. I find some of them are really good, but that’s not what this is about. Sorry, I’m not trying to give you a hard time.

No that’s cool, it is a distinction that need to be made. But in terms of the clubs that people hear about over here, especially the New York stuff like the Paradise Garage and the Gallery, did you go to any of them?

Mancuso: Yeah, of course. I mean, I know Nicky [Siano] very well,  I knew Mike Brody very well, I knew Larry [Levan] very well, and the bar for quality as far as a sound system goes was much higher. Part of what the Loft did was contribute to that. People started, in about ’73, opening up other lofts and things, and they had to have a good sound system ya’know. So that’s one of the things the Loft has done. But these days the quality has gone down, in a lot of situations.

In terms of general quality?

Mancuso: Yeah, be it musical, or less musical. I mean you ever go into a place and you can’t make out the words, or you can make out some of them? It should be very precise.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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11.18.2016
07:02 am
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