Before we was fab

 

40 YEARS OF GAY | ‘Stonewall Uprising,’ above, tracks the gay rights movement; ‘American Family,’ below, revisits the original reality TV series.

PBS gets its gay on (retro-style), revisiting Stonewall and the Louds

Watching documentaries like The Stonewall Uprising almost always make me feel anger more than Pride. At least at first. That’s because they wisely use old footage of news reports and instructional videos to let you know what the temperament of the nation was at the time. It’s easy to laugh at the outdated ideas about pot in Reefer Madness; it’s quite another to hear Mike Wallace explain how the concept of a “happy homosexual” is insane. After all, it’s a sickness that ruins lives. Like syphilis. “Homosexuals may appear normal” warns one cautionary narrator, but you shouldn’t be fooled.

It’s angering because we’re not talking about the Dark Ages, but America as recently as the mid-1960s. We still fight myths every day from the right, but it’s dispiriting knowing that, back then, this bigotry was mainstream.

But Pride does wind its way in during this doc, airing this week (and again in June) as part of the American Experience series on PBS, when the queers and queens finally fight back at the Stonewall Inn on a sweltering summer night in 1969. The resulting march — and movement — are still with us.

The filmmakers spend surprisingly little time on the actual uprising (there’s little photographic evidence of it). Rather, they lay the groundwork for the need for gay liberation, culling stories from actual witnesses to the riot (and, most unexpectedly, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who has never been very open about being gay). Instead of simply explaining a moment in time, The Stonewall Uprising does something greater: It forces us to reevaluate what Pride is and why we still have, and still need, to march ever so often, and it reminds us how fragile our rights are, and how hard-fought they were by some very heroic gay people.

Less than five years after Stonewall, television had its first openly gay recurring character — and he wasn’t acting. When An American Family aired in 1973, it basically invented what we now call reality TV, following not attention hungry publicity whores like the Kardashians or the Hogans or the Gottis, but an upper middle class Southern California family named the Louds.

Lance Loud was only 20 and living the gay life in New York when the 12-part series first aired, showing Americans a world never seen on TV — and no doubt giving gays in middle America a belief, long before Dan Savage said it, that it does get better.

KERA World will rebroadcast the entire series in two marathons this weekend — something that hasn’t been done in 20 years. Like some of the news shows in The Stonewall Uprising, there are outmoded techniques and assumptions that make it look dated, but if you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to look past the fashions and the cheesy graphics and think instead about how some things haven’t changed (family is still awkward about gay stuff) and some things, mercifully, have.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

The Stonewall Uprising airs on Ch. 13 April 25 at 9 p.m.; An American Family airs on Ch. 13.2 April 24 and again April 25 from 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

—  John Wright

ANNIVERSARIES: Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong, George Amerson and Mike Grossman

ARMSTRONG-YOUNG  | Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong celebrated their 40th anniversary Monday, April 18. The couple met on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1971 through the Gay Liberation Front organization there. They had a civil union in Vermont in 2000 and were legally married in California in August 2008.

 

GROSSMAN-AMERSON  | George Amerson and Mike Grossman marked their 40th anniversary Wednesday, April 20, after celebrating the event with a gathering of family and friends the previous weekend. Grossman is a Minneapolis native who had lived in Dallas a year when he met Amerson, a native of west Texas who had already lived in Dallas several years when they met. The couple say they are most proud of their children, Laura and Devon Cloud and Barney and Stephanie Grossman, and their grandchildren, Miles and Rachel. The two work in residential real estate, Grossman for 50 years and Amerson for more than 35 years.

—  John Wright

Russian LGBT leader Nicolai Alekseev speaks tonight

A true international male

Nikolai Alekseev has become the face of Russia’s LGBT community. He comes to Dallas to discuss the plight and triumphs of gays worldwide and how today’s community can work toward equality everywhere. Gay Liberation Network’s Andy Thayer from Chicago joins Alekseev talking about his experiences in Russia.

DEETS: Interfaith Peace Chapel, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. 7 p.m. InterfaithPeaceChapel.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 03.04

A true international male
Nikolai Alekseev has become the face of Russia’s LGBT community. He comes to Dallas to discuss the plight and triumphs of gays worldwide and how today’s community can work toward equality everywhere. Gay Liberation Network’s Andy Thayer from Chicago joins Alekseev talking about his experiences in Russia.
DEETS: Interfaith Peace Chapel, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. 7 p.m. InterfaithPeaceChapel.org.

Saturday 03.05

Let’s try this again, shall we?
Caven celebrates Mardi Gras across its clubs with Carnivale VI. With Ricky Sinz at TMC: The Mining Company and aerial artist Amber Monson at Sue’s, the night is highlighted by the return of Cazwell at Station 4. We’re not expecting the same Super Bowl party debacle that canceled his last show here. We are expecting a major crowd, if it’s anything like his last S4 gig.
DEETS: Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. $15–$20. PartyatTheBlock.com

Thursday 03.10

Denton deals a pair of queens
The NX35 Music Conferette gets underway for a four-day music conference in little ol’ Denton. Little D’s answer to SXSW, NX35 gets way impressive with some pretty familiar names on the roster. The fest begins with legendary soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples and ends with outrageous sissy bouncer Big Freedia on Saturday.
DEETS: NX35 event grounds, 110 W. Hickory St., Denton. 35Conferette.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Update on Alekseev in Dallas

As we reported last Friday, Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev is will be making two appearances in North Texas this week.

On Thursday, March 3, at 3 p.m., Alekseev will speak at Brite Divinity School, and we just received some updated information on his Friday, March 4 appearance in Dallas.

Alekseev will speak Friday, at 7 p.m. at the Interfaith Peace Chapel, and for that appearance he will be joined by Andy Thayer, the co-founder of Gay Liberation Network who is accompanying the Russian activist on his U.S. tour, as well as several local LGBT leaders who will take part in a panel discussion to compare and contrast the fight for LGBT equality in Russia with the movement in North Texas.

Panelists will include moderator Blake Wilkinson, Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas, Agape MCC pastor the Rev. David Wynn and Dawn Meifert of MergeMedia Group.

Both events are free and open to the public.

—  admin

Russian gay leader Alekseev coming to Dallas

Nikolai Alekseev

According to information I received this morning Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev is coming to the U.S. at the end of February for a short tour that will include a stop in Dallas. He will be in Dallas March 3-4, but speaking venues have not yet been finalized.

Alekseev is probably best known to Americans as the man who organized Moscow’s first gay Pride parade, which city officials then banned that year and each subsequent year, threatening organizers and marchers with arrest when they persist in marching anyway. Alekseev himself has been arrested several times, including once last year when he was taken from an airport as he was leaving for a visit to Switzerland and held for three days. He was released after a flood of international protests against what his supporters called a kidnapping.

One of his primary opponents in his activism has been Moscow’s rabidly homophobic former mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who once called gay Pride marches “satanic.” Since Russian President Dmitri Medvedev fired Luzhkov last year, Alekseev and other activists hope that they will be able to hold a Pride march this year without threat of violence or arrest. Moscow’s gay Pride march this year is scheduled for May 28.

Alekseev has also been instrumental in organizing LGBT activists around Russia and in other countries, and has used the European court system to fight back against anti-gay oppression. Last year, Alekseev won the battle when the European Court issued a sweeping ruling in his favor.

Alekseev’s U.S. tour was organized by the Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network, and he will be accompanied by GLN’s Andy Thayer. Supporters hope the tour will raise Alekseev’s profile here in the U.S. and bring more international scrutiny to the plight of LGBT Russians, thereby providing even more protection for them by increasing international scrutiny on the way Russia treats its LGBT citizens and activists.

Watch Dallas Voice for an interview with Alekseev at the end of February.

—  admin