Passages 2004

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We remember here some of the notable GLBT people—and one non-gay person—who contributed importantly to literature, the arts, and the sciences during their lives, and who died during the past year.

Gloria Anzaldúa was 61 when she died on May 16 of complications related to diabetes. She was perhaps best known as co-editor, with Cherrie Moraga, of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) and its follow-up, Making Face, Making Soul / Haciendo Caras : Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color. Her 1987 autobiography, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, which combined prose, poetry, history, and fiction, was written in both English and Spanish. Of Mexican heritage, Anzaldúa was raised in impoverished circumstances in South Texas and struggled against all odds to receive a college education. She was working on her doctorate at the time of her death. She described herself as a lesbian feminist, a Marxist, and a mystic, and she distressed some lesbian feminist writers by her refusal to elevate her sexual identity above her Chicana identity.

Thom Gunn died on April 25 at age 74, of a heart attack. The San Francisco-based, British-born and -educated poet was part of the Cambridge generation of writers known as “the Movement.” He won a Guggenheim in 1971, was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1993, and received myriad other writing and poetry prizes. His poems, some of which are explicitly gay-themed and some of which celebrated sex, drugs, and leather, often provoked controversy, and he was delighted to call himself a hedonist. He wrote over thirty books of poetry, beginning in 1954 with Fighting Terms. In 1992’s The Man with Night Sweats, he memorialized friends and acquaintances who had died of AIDS. His last collection was Boss Cupid in 2000. He is survived by Mike Kitay, his partner of 52 years. Thom Gunn was interviewed in the July-August 2000 issue of this journal.

Wally Harper died on October 8 of cardiac arrest, at the age of 63. Harper achieved lasting fame as Barbara Cook’s musical director since 1974, and propelled her comeback. As the New York Times noted, Cook went from being a “faded Broadway ingénue to a trailblazing cabaret star and solo concert performer.” Her 1975 Carnegie Hall concert is still a “cornerstone of modern cabaret singing.” Harper was also musical director and arranger for two dozen Broadway hits since 1961, including My One and Only and Nine. He is survived by his partner.

Bart Howard died on February 21 of complications from a stroke, at the age of 88. He was a songwriter whose works were popularized by Mabel Mercer, Johnny Mathis, Eartha Kitt, and many more. He was perhaps best known for “Fly Me to the Moon,” which first gained fame when Peggy Lee sang it on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1960. His show business career began in vaudeville, and he played piano in New York cabarets for decades, entering the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999. He is survived by his partner of 58 years.

Estelle Jussim died on March 1, at the age of 76, after a long illness. Her Slave to Beauty: The Eccentric Life and Controversial Career of F. Holland Day, Photographer, Publisher, Æesthete (1981) won the New-York Historical Society’s prize for a work in the history of photography. She was author of over a dozen other books of photographs and essays. The daughter of photographers, she received a doctorate in library science and began her teaching career in 1967. She taught at Simmons College in Boston starting in 1972, and retired twenty years later, having influenced several generations of students in the field of archives and library science. She is survived by her partner.

Judd Marmor died on December 16, 2003, at the age of 93, and is survived by a wife, a son, and grandchildren. Marmor, a psychiatrist, was the driving force behind having homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatry Association (APA)’s official list of disorders in 1974, reversing a century-long position. Later that year, Marmor was elected president of the APA. Born in London, he had lived in the U. S. from childhood. He was author or editor of a number of texts on psychiatry and homosexuality, and author of dozens of papers in the scientific literature.

Elaine (Elana Freedom) Mikels died on February 15 at the age of 82. A social justice activist ever since her teens, she led a tumultuous life that included frequent arrests for protesting the Vietnam War. She identified with the radical lesbian feminist movement, but at one time had been a member of the Mattachine Society and became the distributor for ONE magazine. She published her autobiography, Just Lucky I Guess: From Closet Lesbian to Radical Dyke, in 1993.

David Reimer died by his own hand on May 4 in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the age of 38. Following a botched circumcision, Johns Hopkins-based Dr. John Money, the world’s first pediatric psycho-endocrinologist, told Reimer’s parents that the baby should be raised as a girl, and sex reassignment surgery was carried out. A harrowing childhood and early adulthood of unremitting sadness ensued. Reimer was never able to cope with the gender to which he’d been assigned, and as a teenager refused to live as a female. His life story, As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was Raised as a Girl, by John Colapinto (2000), was written in the hope that other children in his situation would be spared his anguish. At the time of his death he was separated from his wife.

Francesco Scavullo died at the age of 82 on January 6. An internationally known photographer, his artwork is a who’s who of Hollywood and the jet set. He shot Madonna’s first Time magazine cover, discovered Brooke Shields when she was not yet a year old for an Ivory soap ad, made the lesbian model Gia a star, and shot every Cosmopolitan magazine cover for three decades. Several books of his photographs have been published, including 1997’s Scavullo: Photographs 50 Years. According to that book, Scavullo fell in love with Garbo when he saw her on screen as Queen Christina, and Beauty subsequently became his raison d’être. He leaves behind his partner of thirty years, with whom he collaborated professionally.

Ron Schreiber died on August 22, at the age of 70, of pancreatic cancer. Professor at U.Mass.-Boston for over three decades, where he came out in 1967 before coming up for tenure, he taught a survey course on homosexuals in Western literature, one of the first of its kind, starting in 1973. In 1963, he co-founded the publishing company and magazine that became known as Hanging Loose, and also co-founded Alice James Press. Well-known in Boston gay literary and political circles, Schreiber was one of the founders of the influential magazine Fag Rag, and was a founding member of the Good Gay Poets. A prolific poet and editor, his last collection, John: Poems (1989), was a memoir about his long-time partner, who died of AIDS in 1986.

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