Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

Insider on Corporate Cronyism and Government Ties

Last week I discussed the endless binds among corporations as one aspect to the economic down turn and the lack of innovation in new products and R&D. This insider to both corporations and international government agencies points that out and illuminates the problems of debt, personal, corporate, and government.

As many do he mentions the need to cut Social Security and Medicare but provides no plan. Furthermore, he does not state the hard fact that unless the US grows, many people will not be able to sustain the lifestyle that they have gone into debt in order to sustain.

That is unless, we opt toward a truly more socialist path and increase the safety net.


African American Museum

The competition is on for the national African-American Museum in Washington, DC. The Smithsonian Castle is showing how the story of Black history will be told for the future.

My architect husband and two friends and I took a long look around the exhibit of the top six finalists for the museum. Three agreed that there were two that they hope would not be built because they did not respect the environment in which they would be placed. Another was eliminated due to the hard concrete wall that pedestrians would see as they walked past. A fourth, the Diller Scofidio and Renfro, in association with KlingStubbins, submitted a table-shaped building wrapped in glass, did not please half the crowd. Everyone thought the design too adventurous for the tastemakers of Washington, DC).

The top two were the Moshe Safdie and Associates’ hull design and the design by Sir Norman Foster and The Freelon Group.

Lebian & Gay In Hollywood

My presentation to the Rainbow History Group in DC

A Different Light: Gays and Lesbians in Hollywood Media

Those familiar with our history know that during the twentieth century the vast majority of gays and lesbians depicted in the mass media led desperate, unhappy lives. Whether you saw the documentary The Celluloid Closet or you read old books and newspapers, in the movies and in the novels, gays and lesbians were victims of murder or suicide, or depicted derisively. As scholars ranging from Richard Dyer to George Chauncey have noted all of these images in popular culture strengthened the dominant gender and sexual norms of US culture.

Not everywhere. Gossip columns, novels and movies set in the Hollywood movie colony during the 1920s and 1930s showed complex and generally positive depictions of gays and lesbians as well as adulterers. Similar to other Hollywood publicity and gossip items the stories and publicity items linked these gays and lesbians to specific locations in Hollywood. These Hollywood Bohemians titillated audiences and made Hollywood nightclubs and restaurants, public and private parties, star homes, and the studio lots appear very unique because they associated these locations with a taboo sexuality.

Readers of gossip columns learned that director Dorothy Arzner favored man-tailored suits when she dined out at restaurants in Hollywood. They learned that actress Marlene Dietrich created a mild sensation when she arrived at the El Mirador hotel…She wore masculine attire for all occasions….

Paramount’s publicity department framed the Dietrich image as the start of a fashion trend but others saw the image hinting at Dietrich’s lesbian interests. Director Josef Von Sternberg noted he used Dietrich’s tailored image to touch lightly on lesbianism and Rogers and Hart included the line “I go to the tailor that Marlene employs because no dresses from France are so modern as these. And under my Pants are B–V–D’s —… in their song, I’m One of the Boys.

One industry columnist stated, “The truth about that masculine attire which Marlene Dietrich affects these days is this. She liked wearing that sort of clothes–trousers. Paramount objected. Marlene insisted on trotting about in pants. Finally they gave up. ‘Oh well,’ sighed Paramount, ‘then we’ll make a cult of it exploit Marlene in men’s clothes.’”

The Dietrich campaign proved successful because audience members remembered it years later. When readers visited Hollywood a few years later they regularly asked whether Miss Dietrich really wore trousers. Guides told visitors that the Brown Derby would be a good place to see the star for their self. The guides’ advice confirmed the accuracy of the Dietrich publicity campaign. They also gave the visitors the chance to experience the Hollywood nightlife fantasy themselves.


One of the early scenes from R-K-O’s 1932 movie, What Price Hollywood? is set in the Brown Derby where movie types, such as the egotistical actor and the demanding studio head, dined. The waitress, who aspires to be a movie star, serves these customers. The movie switches outside to the entrance of a big-time movie director.

[show clip of Sherman entering Brown Derby from What Price Hollywood?] (9:33-12:50)

The image indicated the ubiquity of the mannishly-dressed lesbian in Hollywood nightlife. This Bohemian represented another Hollywood type at the restaurant, with the requisite wealth and stature to eat in the notable place. Yet the scene introduced the cross-dresser differently, exposing her in a surprise to heighten the exposure of a person who engages in taboo behavior.

This Hollywood Bohemian image became so widely known that a guide book told tourists where to go to find them. The book, How to Sin in Hollywood appeared in 1940 and provided descriptions about Hollywood restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs. The author divided the book into sections based on the type of nightlife experience the reader wanted. Each section contained a page of details including the nightclub’s location, entertainment, and food and drink offerings to help tourists find and experience Hollywood nightlife.

The book included a visual presentation of this Hollywood bohemian world. Opposite the descriptive information, a cartoonist drew two women in tuxedos above the caption, “the little girl customers.” One is smoking a cigar and the other wore prominent lipstick, images reminiscent of the women in men’s clothing discussed earlier.

Cafe International

“When Your Urge’s Mauve,” [go to] the Cafe International on Sunset Boulevard. The location offered supper, drinks, and the ability to watch boy-girls who necked and sulked and little girl customers who … look like boys.

Certainly some of the people interested in visiting were little more than what historians have labeled as “slummers,” people who went to see the taboo as an exotic other then resumed their everyday life. Others could use the book to find like minded souls. The Café International’s existence demonstrated that during a time when historians found state liquor authorities closing down gay and lesbian clubs, Hollywood had this viable location.

The public had less access to Hollywood private parties than restaurants and relied on Hollywood sources to know what happened at them. Gossip columns listed names of the attendees and often mentioned the exciting environs of the party. Hollywood novelists provided more details about the activities inside these affairs.

A popular author of the era, Nina Putnam included a few Hollywood private party scenes in her novel Laughter Limited. The scenes depicted the private parties as locations that offered attendees a place where they could express their most intense emotions. According to her book, movie stars and their guests used parties to seize the opportunity to pursue their romantic interests regardless of the marital status or biological sex of the person they pawed.

Other authors agreed. A movie critic and non-fiction writer Tamar Lane picked up on this in his novel, Hey Diddle Diddle. At a party readers learned that chatting together in a group were Raymond Cauldwell, William Pearson and Rudolph Norman. Although famous throughout the world as romantic heartbreakers, the fair sex seemed to hold no attraction for them off the screen- they appeared always far more interested in one another.

Lane used a tactic that enhanced the audience’s belief in the truth of his Hollywood private party image. Partygoers included the names of living stars as well as Lane’s fictional characters. This was the only scene in the book where Lane did this, marking his intention to illustrate the truth of the scene including its trio of homosexual actors.

Hollywood star homes publicity emphasized that the size, stature, and décor of the house had the best of civilization, similar to the depictions of other wealthy Americans’ houses in magazines and books since the late nineteenth century. The images also linked the star home to the personality of its owner more so than images of other houses. Hollywood Bohemian images added a good twist to that personality in their expensive home.

Two actors in the 1930s enjoyed a charmed life at the Malibu Beach house. The first publicity images containing information about Cary Grant and Randolph Scott began after they became friends while filming the movie, Hot Saturday in mid-1932. Press reports during the first two years described the actors’ shared celebrity homes and domestic life through phrases including, “Hollywood’s twosome” and “the happy couple.” The innuendos provided details about the two actors’ personal lives which thrilled fans, but also added the excitement of making the actors appear to be two men sharing more than lodgings.

The pair continued their domestic relationship even after Grant’s marriage to Virginia Cherrill in early 1934. Reporters noted, “The Grants and Randolph Scott have moved, all three, but not apart.” Indeed, this choice for living arrangements appeared preplanned. An item from two weeks prior to Grant’s marriage observed that Scott would not seek any permanent quarters until he heard from Grant. Innuendoes continued later that year. Shortly after Grant’s divorce from Cherrill, an article proclaimed that Randolph Scott had moved back in with Grant. This article’s title, “A Woman is Only a Woman,” suggested that the two men formed a home life with one another that they probably could not have with a woman.

Paramount publicity department shot over thirty photographs of Grant and Scott within different rooms of their Santa Monica beach house. The studio focused its interpretation of these pictures on the stars’ personalities, bachelorhood, and use of the house. The caption stamped on the back of each photograph highlighted that the actors were two of filmland’s most eligible bachelors who shared quarters but lived independent lives.

However, readers of Hollywood Babylon have seen the photograph of Scott and Grant sitting in their bathing suits on the end of the diving board with Scott’s hands hovering over Grant’s back. They took this provocative photograph as well.


Scott and Grant stood on their patio in the early evening. They appeared in silhouette, as Pacific Ocean waves crested behind them. Scott touched his lit cigarette against the cigarette dangling from Grant’s mouth. The image of a male and female couple lighting cigarettes within a beautiful night scene at home appeared most frequently in cigarette advertising since the mid-1920s. These images linked smoking cigarettes to romance.

Scott and Grant appeared within that similar type of romantic setting. One lit the other’s cigarette as the man lit a woman’s cigarette for her in the advertisements and popular culture of the era. Scott gingerly touched the cigarette as it dangled from Grant’s mouth, demonstrating a comfort with close physical proximity. This photograph hinted at a shared intimacy between the actors.

You might have suspected Hollywood heartthrobs of same-sex interest, you expected this from the men who made the glamour happen. These make-up artists and dress designers worked on the studio lots in the inner sanctum, a factory workplace unlike any other. Gossip pieces described the lavish dressing rooms and hinted at outlandish behaviors of the stars. Time magazine provided this snippet about Adrian, one of the premiere dress designers.

Tall, twittering Gilbert Adrian…inhabits an oyster-white office, works furiously chewing gum, deep in an overstuffed chair which is disconcertingly set on a dais to keep him from dripping paint on the oyster-white carpet…At parties Adrian keeps a keen eye peeled for signs of dowdiness, can be convulsing about it afterwards. Of Tallulah Bankhead he once remarked: ‘She can wear one more silver fox than any other woman and still look underdressed.’.

The image of Adrian’s office contained the glamour and mystery that appeared in other publicity of behind the scenes on the movie lot. His flitting and emotive nature, along with his wise cracks over the lack of style of the stars, added a style and taboo behavior. Adrian, the other dress designers, and the top makeup artists, ran their own departments, earning high salaries, working with near autonomy, and forging names for their selves that enabled several to open up their own businesses.

A few movies during the mid-1930s depicted Hollywood and the activities on studio lots. These movies included gay males in positions as head of makeup and the chief dress designer. In these positions, these Bohemians’ skills and stature enabled them to insist upon their vision and autonomy in the workplace as can be seen in this clip from Warner Brother’s Hollywood Hotel.

[clip of star’s fitting from Hollywood Hotel] (14:44-17:55) Title 1, chapter 5

(19:42-20:00 ), title 1, chapter 6,

The carnation and cigarette holder, mannerisms and punch line signaled the dress designer’s gayness to the audiences. He showed a desire to play with the star’s look and promoted camp style through helping the actress portray her life as theater and herself as an exaggeration of femininity.

Even when Hollywood’s artifice drove the author of a Hollywood novel crazy, their critique demonstrated the successful lives of gays and others in the movie colony. In Liam O’Flaherty’s Hollywood Cemetery, producer Mortimer wants to keep a director happy so he agrees to make an art movie called The Emigrant so long as it stars a female siren he could turn into a box office star. Mortimer goes to Ireland, encounters a lass having sex in the woods, and brings her back with him to his hotel. The pair enter the room and find studio assistant Larry Dafoe draped in a white sheet preening in front of a full-length mirror. “I am Queen Victoria.” Mortimer laughs and entrusts Dafoe to train the newly christened Angela Devlin to become a woman and an actress.

Despite training she rates as neither an actress nor a sex object and Angela escapes with the screenwriter to marry in Mexico. Mortimer had no movie and no star and faced pressure from the studio executives to show them the product.

Dafoe proposed they hire his friend Jesse Starr, whose effeminate manners and features made him only able to be a chorus boy in the movies. With the help of Dr. Karl Zog they remade Starr physically, and Dafoe became the new Devlin’s agent. The studio execs were won over and the pair watched as the new Angela Devlin met the public. The crowd let out a thunderous cry and chanted, “She is. She is.”

The critique of Hollywood dealing in surfaces and false images is clear. However, the success of the movie and the creation of a new star ensured Dafoe and Starr/Devlin’s place in the industry. The book marked the first time a female impersonator and transsexual became anti-heros.

The gays and lesbians among the Hollywood Bohemians formed a unique group of images during their era and up through the beginnings of the Gay Rights Movement. They were stars living the high life in the most glamorous industry. They forged successful careers and good friendships. They presented examples of what could be to all readers of the movie industry’s publicity and other depictions of the Dream Factory.

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Lesbian Movies

Two commenters sent me suggestions for two good movies. One is set in South Africa, where I last went on our yearly big vacation. The exposure to the Apartheid system at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg ranked with the Holocaust Museum for stirring up powerful emotions.

The second movie they recommended is set in the Middle East. Shamim Sarif wrote the screen play for this one and directed the other.

Arts in Washington

Here’s another of the Washington Post arts pieces about how New York is the place to be.

Local theaters sometimes got frustrated when the newspaper’s critic reviewed shows in New York City rather than DC shows.  Similarly, some galleries and museums grew tired of Gopnick’s features on the Met and the Whitney shows.

This time the piece focuses on the potential futures of painter Ian Whitmore and glass artists Graham Caldwell.

Most intriguing to me was this quote: In this city’s small scene “you can establish a niche pretty quickly.” Anything new and good really stands out, and quickly gets picked up by dealers, collectors, critics and art lovers.”

Rampant Capitalism

Oh poor capitalism. Two recent editorials in the Washington Post express fear that the  system will  be compromised and we will get the worst of capitalism and the worst of government regulation. In this one, Robert Samuelson charts all the great progress our country has made in subordinating unrestrained profit-seeking to other cultural values.

Where has he been over the last eight years? As Kevin Phillips would add in Bad Money where has he been over the last 35 years with the bailouts of the financial industries after their greediness?

I agree that there have been numerous advances corporate income tax (1909), Securities and Exchange Commission (1934) and Environmental Protection Agency (1970). However, how many times do corporations pay little taxes? We all know the SEC has been snoozing and was undercut by the change in the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.

In order to work reform must be vigilant. Government agencies need to keep up with changes and modify their operations in order to remain effective. Corporations can’t be bound by interlocking boards of directors if companies are to invest properly in new product development and research and development. Why do we have to wait until things come crashing down in order to act in their ways?

Excellent Environmental Film Festival

DC is fortunate to have the embassiess and other organizations that put on such a successful environmental film festival these last two weeks.

The movies were mostly very good and the events are frequently nice with food and drink.

This year, the festival added a section on wildlife films   from the Wildscreen festival. My favorite appears below:


EYE OF THE LEOPARD (Botswana / USA, 2006, 90 min.)
An enthralling journey deep into the rarely seen lives of leopards, this film captures a remarkably intimate and gripping story of a leopard’s survival in wild, unspoiled Africa over a period of three years. It’s a journey of birth, life and death as a mother leopard and her first surviving cub fight off marauding baboons and elude scavenging hyenas in a constant struggle for survival. Through tragedy and triumph, the camera is there to document it all.Narrated by Jeremy Irons. Directed by Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Produced by Wildlife Films Botswana for National Geographic Channel. Winner of the Granada Award for Animal Behavior.

Hollywood Awards

During the Academy Awards I rooted hard for Viola Davis to win the Supporting Actress award for her short but amazing performance as the boy’s mother in Doubt. I would have enjoyed a Marisa Tomei win for her great performance in The Wrestler.

Saw Vicki Christina Barcleona last night. Penelope Cruz was astounding in the role.

I have long since lost my admiration for Woody Allen as a person. The admiration as a film maker has declined more slowly and I can even enjoy movies that he does not act in. The hystericism of the women and the ability of most of the women to sublimate their selves for the men were big problems for me in the movie. However, that did not take away from her performance.

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Soccer in Washington, DC

Where will the Major League Soccer United play?

The inability of the United ownership and area developers to create a complex with a stadium on Popular Point drove the United to look for a stadium in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  While some are displeased with the move it appears that the team and most of its fans are ready to go.

The team retains the D.C. name and maybe they’ll end up like their football relative Redskins and keep the Washington identification despite playing in a suburb in the region.

My question if they keep the name what does the city lose? What does the team lose? When will Robert Francis Kennedy stadium be blown up?

Jon Stewart Scapegoating

Columnist Richard Cohen claims Stewart took a cheap shot by interviewing Jim Cramer.

Cohen acknowledges mocking authority is good but thinks Stewart rides the zeitgeist of finding a scapegoat for the current economic mess. He thinks for Stewart the scapegoat is the media.

So what if Cramer and others lost some of their money in the stock market because they really believed in companies like Bear Stearns and AIG. They’re supposed to be knowledgable in the financial area above and beyond the general public and general reporters. Many of us saw the housing bubble and mortgage problems many months ago, asking the simple question: who is buying these houses at these prices and how much longer can it go on.

This zeitgeist is rightfully outraged over the bonuses at AIG. What Stewart shined a light on is that the country wants the Wall Streeters and bankers who created these derivatives and made these loans to take responsibility for this mess.

They want the people to beg to have the chance to fix the mess they created not profit from the mess that they created.  Stewart’s interview made that feeling clear.