AS IS OUR CUSTOM, we reflect on members and friends of the GLBT community who died during the last twelve months. All deaths were in 2013 unless otherwise indicated.
Richard Adams, a gay activist in the fight for marriage equality, died in Hollywood after a brief illness on December 17, 2012, at age 65. Born in Manila, his family moved to the U.S. when he was twelve. He was raised in rural Minnesota, where he attended college, after which he moved to L.A., where he fell in love with Australian Tony Sullivan, his partner of 43 years. Motivated by the desire to obtain permanent U.S. residency status for Sullivan, their public life began when they heard about a county clerk in Boulder, Colorado, who gave marriage licenses to gay couples. Sullivan’s residency was denied, and Adams’ attempt to have that decision overturned became the first federal lawsuit seeking gay marriage recognition. Adams and Sullivan are the subjects of an upcoming documentary, Limited Partnership, scheduled for release in 2013.
Saul Bolasni, dancer, artist, and designer, died at age 96 on December 17, 2012, in Manhattan. Born in Cleveland, he arrived in New York in 1936 and worked as an illustrator while designing costumes for film, ballet, and TV. Some of his works are held by the Museum of the City of New York and the Lincoln Center Library. His portrait of Lotte Lenya as Pirate Jenny in The Threepenny Opera is held by the National Portrait Gallery. He is frequently cited for the costumes he designed for the Slavenska-Franklin Company’s ballet, A Streetcar Named Desire, in the early 1950s. Frederic Franklin (see obituary below) portrayed Stanley Kowalski in that production.
Barbara Brenner, leader of the Breast Cancer Action group for fifteen years, died at age 61 of ALS (which she adamantly refused to call by its popular name, Lou Gehrig’s disease) on May 10, in San Francisco. Beginning with her protests against the Vietnam War when she was a college student, she went on to work on women’s rights, employment discrimination, and civil rights issues. At Breast Cancer Action, she focused on research into the causes of breast cancer, especially environmental chemicals and pollution. She graduated from Smith College and received her law degree from U-Cal Berkeley. She is survived by her partner, Suzanne Lampert.
Barrett Brick, lawyer and gay rights advocate, died of cancer on September 22 at age 59 in Bethesda. Noted for his successful campaign to include antigay violence as a standard part of the State Department’s annual human rights report, he was active in a wide variety of GLBT associations, notably the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations. He also lobbied to include a memorial to gay Holocaust victims at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and worked for GLBT immigration rights. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from Columbia University and founded the Columbia Gay and Lesbian Law Students Association in 1979. He is survived by his spouse, Antonio Ruffini.
Michael Brown, known as one of the longest-lasting GLBT activists in the UK, died at age eighty on June 29. Born in London, he graduated from Christ’s College, Cambridge. In 1954, he began a pseudonymous letter-writing campaign to legalize homosexuality, and four years later he joined the Homosexual Law Reform. In the ’70s, he joined the Gay Liberation Front and worked tirelessly all his life for gay rights. He also helped found various Jewish gay and lesbian organizations. In 2011, he received a British award for his work for gay rights. At various times in his life he lived in the U.S. and Canada, making his living as a dentist and, later, as a market research interviewer.
Brandon Lacy Campos, writer and political activist, was found dead on November 9, 2012, age 35, in his New York home. He had been HIV-positive for about a decade. Born in Minnesota and related to Carter Woodson, the second African-American person to receive a doctorate from Harvard, Campos was a founding member of the Green Party LGBT Caucus. He wrote extensively both about his mixed-race heritage and his struggle with crystal meth. His anthology It Ain’t Truth If It Doesn’t Hurt was published in 2011. His debut novel is scheduled to be published in 2014. He is survived by his boyfriend Nicolas Gerard.
Van Cliburn (born Harvey Lavan Cliburn, Jr.), internationally famed pianist, died of cancer on February 27, at age 78, in Fort Worth. Cliburn shot to stardom at age 23 when he won a gold medal at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow during the height of the Cold War. On his return to the U.S., he received a ticker-tape parade, the first musician to be so honored. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, he began playing the piano as a young child, winning competitions from an early age. He withdrew from the concert stage in 1978, making a comeback in 1987 and performing intermittently after that. He had a number of well-known but discreet same-sex relationships throughout his life, and is survived by Thomas L. Smith.
Jazzie Collins, transgender activist and community organizer, died of AIDS-related causes on July 11, age 54, in a San Francisco hospital. Born in Mississippi, she moved to San Francisco in 1988 and transitioned from male to female a few months later. She began community organizing in 2002. She was described in the San Francisco Bay Guardian as an “African American transgender woman and tireless fighter for social and economic justice for tenants, seniors, people with disabilities, the homeless, those without healthcare, LGBT folks, and so many others.”
Spencer Cox, AIDS activist, died in New York of AIDS-related causes on December 18, 2012, at age 44. Born in Atlanta, he came out in high school and enrolled in Bennington College, where he studied literature and theater. Before his senior year, he moved to New York and joined ACT UP. Later, he helped form the Treatment Action Group (TAG), focusing on accelerating treatment research and designing a clinical trial for ritonavir. He wrote about AIDS for POZ and other publications, and was the founder of the Medius Institute for Gay Men’s Health. He can be seen in How to Survive a Plague, the Oscar-nominated documentary.
Gray Foy (né Frederick Gray Foy, Jr.), bon vivant, died in New York on November 23, 2012, at age ninety. He and Leo Lerman (a writer for Condé Nast publications before his 1994 death) lived together for almost fifty years, a life that was recounted in The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman (2007). Called “the last of a breed,” Foy partied with luminaries ranging from Susan Sontag to Edith Sitwell, Leonard Bernstein to Paul Bowles. Foy was born in Dallas, attended Southern Methodist University, and studied art at Columbia. Foy created book jackets and album covers and won a 1961 Guggenheim Fellowship. He is survived by his spouse Joel Kaye.
Frederic Franklin, British dancer, died in Manhattan of complications from pneumonia, age 98, on May 4. Born in Liverpool, he was taken to see Peter Pan at age four, catalyzing his lifelong career. He was still dancing mime roles into his nineties. He worked with virtually every dancer and company, notably the Sadlers Wells Ballet, the Slavenska-Franklin Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. He helped found the National Ballet of Washington and advised the Dance Theater of Harlem, among others. He was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2004 and is survived by his partner, William Haywood Ausman. Frederic Franklin: A Biography of the Ballet Star was co-authored with Leslie Norton and was published in 2007.
Claude Fredericks, diarist, playwright, and printer, died on January 11 in Pawlet, Vermont, at age 89. Born in Springfield, Missouri, he began keeping a diary at age eight, continued through the two years he spent at Harvard, where he studied Greek, and kept on throughout his entire life. At 65,000 pages, it’s considered one of the longest personal narratives in English. The first three volumes have been published, and the Claude Fredericks Foundation plans to publish the entire diary. When Fredericks lived in New York, he wrote plays and stories and worked at Anaïs Nin’s Gemor Press. In 1947, he founded his own company, Banyan Press, and printed books and broadsides for almost a half-century. In 1961, he began teaching at Bennington College. Three of his plays were produced Off-Broadway.
Damon Intrabartolo, stage and screen composer, died on August 13, in Phoenix, at age 39. He studied music composition at the USC School of Music and was writing movie music before he graduated. He was perhaps best known for Bare, a musical about two gay Catholic school students, which ran in New York in 2004 and was revived at New World Stages in 2012. He was the orchestrator and conductor for many film scores and had composed a new musical, RIDE… A Pop Fable, shortly before his death. He was featured in the 2001 documentary On the Bus, about six gay men attending the Burning Man festival.
Doug Ireland, a gay activist, journalist, and commentator, died on October 26 at age 67 at his New York home. He began his career in the 1960s as a teenager with Students for a Democratic Society and later became an organizer for progressive causes. He went on to write for New York- and Paris-based journals, including The Village Voice, The New York Observer, and Libération, and was a contributing editor to Gay City News. In his earlier years, he was involved with the post-Stonewall organizations the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front. Ireland was quoted as saying, “My phone is always on. I never sleep.”
Louis Killen (later, Louisa Jo Killen), celebrated English folk singer, died of cancer at age 79 in Gateshead, England, on August 9. Killen was a pioneer of the British folk revival of the 1950s, acclaimed both in the U.K. and the U.S. for recording what are still considered definitive versions of traditional ballads. He began to live as a woman at the age of 76 and underwent sex-change surgery at 78. Killen, who contributed to over sixty albums, came from a musical family and began his working life as a carpenter. He moved to the U.S. in 1966. As Louis Killen, he was married and divorced three times.
Ed Koch, former mayor of New York who died on February 1, was remembered by Matthew Hays in the May-June 2013 issue.
Laurier LaPierre, controversial cohost of Canadian TV’s current affairs program This Hour Has Seven Days in the mid-1960s, died in Ottawa on December 16, 2012, at age 83. Born into abject poverty in provincial Quebec, he first studied for the priesthood but took a doctorate in history at the University of Toronto, and later taught at McGill University. He was active in gay and lesbian causes after coming out in 1988. He was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 2001 and received the Order of Canada in 1994. He is survived by his partner Harvey Slack.
Charles Lisanby, artist, theatrical entrepreneur, and early member of Warhol’s circle, died of sepsis on August 23, in L.A., at age 89. Born in Princeton, Kentucky, where he used to listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio, he came to New York as a teenager to study art and apprenticed with Cecil Beaton. He met Warhol before either had become famous, collaborating on the art book 25 Cats Name [sic]Sam and one Blue Pussy, privately printed in 1954. Some sources have stated that Warhol was in love with Lisanby, though it was unrequited. Lisanby worked in the early years of TV with every major star, received many Emmy nominations, and won three. His musical Family Free became the basis for Stephen Schwartz’ Children of Eden. He is survived by his partner, costume designer Richard Bostard.
Jeanne Manford (born Sobelson), founder of the organization now known as PFLAG, died on January 8 at age 92 in Daly City, California. In 1966, she lost her first son to suicide, reportedly due to his inability to accept that he was gay. Several years later, she and her husband helped their second son Morty to find a gay-positive therapist. Morty, who became very active in gay rights, was beaten up in a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration in April 1972. Soon thereafter, Jeanne Manford decided to form a support group, which was originally called Parents of Gays. The “mother of the straight ally movement” was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2012. Her son Morty died of AIDS-related causes in 1992.
Darren Manzella, a prominent activist in the battle against “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), died at age 36 after an auto accident in Pittsford, N.Y., on August 29. Raised in rural upstate New York, he was later a resident of Rochester. After being discharged from the military for discussing his sexual orientation in a TV interview, he served as a combat medic. In an open letter to President Obama, he wrote: “I gave voice to the tens of thousands of men and women who serve every day under the fear of DADT.” He had recently rejoined the military as a reservist. He is survived by Javier Lapeira-Soto, whom he had married a month before his death.
Taylor Mead, a poet and actor whose career dated to the days of the Beat poets, died of a stroke on May 8, in Denver, at age 88. He appeared in some 130 films and was called the “first underground movie star” by critic J. Hoberman. One of his earliest films, The Flower Thief (directed by Ron Rice, 1960) broke attendance records for experimental films. Born in Grosse Point, Michigan, he worked as a stockbroker in Detroit, wrote poetry, studied acting, and moved to New York. Warhol was a fan of Mead’s openly gay poetry and starred him in many of his films. Mead had been deeply affected by Howl and On the Road, hitching across the U.S. several times, and he became Warhol’s link to the Beats. Mead won an Obie in 1963 for his performance in Frank O’Hara’s The General Returns from One Place to Another. He was the author of several books, including A Simple Country Girl (2005) and Son of Andy Warhol (1986), and he was the subject of the 2005 documentary Excavating Taylor Mead.
Larry Mitchell, novelist and publisher, died of cancer on December 26, 2012. He was remembered by Matt Brin in the May-June 2013 issue of this magazine.
John Mitzel, writer, publisher, co-founder of The Fag Rag, and founder of Calamus Books in Boston, died on October 4, at age 65, at his home in Arlington, Massachusetts. He is remembered by Michael Bronski in this issue (page 10).
Mario Montez (né René Rivera), considered to be Warhol’s first drag superstar, died of a stroke at age 78 on September 26, in Key West. Montez was discovered by underground filmmaker Jack Smith, who gave him his stage name in honor of B-movie star Maria Montez. Montez appeared in Warhol’s first sound film, Harlot (1965), and in over a dozen others, including 1966’s Chelsea Girls. Born in Puerto Rico, he and his family moved to New York when he was a child, and he honed his acting skills by watching movies on TV. In the late 1970s, he moved to Florida and lost touch with the Warhol crowd. In 2006, however, he resurfaced in the documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis and began making public appearances. The Berlin International Film Festival presented him with a lifetime achievement award in 2012. He is survived by his partner David Kratzner.
Manuel Pardo, artist, died in New York in November 2012 at age sixty. He had been asthmatic much of his life, and it worsened after exposure to post-9/11 dust in his Lower Manhattan neighborhood. Born in Havana and sent to the U.S. in 1962 as a child as part of “Operation Peter Pan,” he was placed in a home in Racine, Wisconsin, where he was ill-treated. After four years, his mother was allowed to leave Cuba, and he was reunited with her. His career began in 1976 as a self-taught figurative painter, inspired by his mother, who went from being a physician in Cuba to a blue-collar worker in New York. Much of Pardo’s work features glamorous, 1960s-style women. He is survived by his partner, Medardo Clavijo.
Stephen Porter, Broadway director, died in Manhattan on June 11 at age 87. Born in Ogdensburg, N.Y., he received an MFA from Yale Drama School, taught at McGill, and directed for the Montreal Rep. He was noted for bringing classical French theater to New York, and he received Drama Desk and Tony nominations. He directed over 125 plays, of which thirty were on Broadway, and was prominent in the early years of the regional theater movements. He was particularly praised for his 1970 Broadway revival of Harvey with James Stewart. He is survived by his partner Arnold Somers.
José Julio Sarria, a gay activist and the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in North America, died of cancer on August 19, at age 90, at his home in New Mexico. Born in San Francisco, he served in World War II. When he returned to the U.S., planning to become a teacher, he was arrested on a morals charge. Unable to pursue his intended career, he became one of the best known drag queens in San Francisco. Inspired, in part, by the 1960 “gayola” scandal, when gay bar owners revealed that they were being extorted by city officials, he ran as a candidate for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, finishing in ninth place in a field of over thirty candidates. He ran under the watchword of “Equality!” and garnered over 5,000 votes. That same year, he helped to form the League for Civil Education, California’s first gay non-profit, and in 1963 he cofounded the Society for Individual Rights (SIR). In 1965, he declared himself “Empress José I” at a drag ball competition, after which the International Court System (a benevolent, charitable, and extravagant organization) was established.
Jim Schneider, early gay rights pioneer, died of pneumonia on November 11 at age 80 in Norwalk, California. Born on a Nebraska farm, he moved to California, eventually settling in the Los Angeles suburb of Huntington Park. A sympathetic young therapist told him about the pioneering gay publication, ONE magazine, and Schneider contacted the editor, soon becoming involved with the magazine. In 1968, he cofounded the Homosexual Information Center in L.A. His life and contributions have been recounted in two recent books: C. Todd White’s Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (2009); and Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (2002), edited by Vern Bullough.
Michael Triplett, gay journalist, died of cancer on January 17 at age 48 at his family’s home in Alabama. At the time of his death, he was the president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (nlgja). Born in Missouri and based in Washington, D.C., he was the assistant managing editor at Bloomberg-BNA and was instrumental in helping the nlgja to join Unity: Journalists for Diversity, in 2011. He worked to help Unity incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity into its mission. A graduate of American University Washington College of Law, he is survived by his partner, John “Jack” Squier.
On-line: Advocate.com, Broadway.com, Cbc.ca, Dancelines.com.au, Democratandchronicle.com, Erickoch.ca, facebook.com/pages/The-Claude-Fredericks-Foundation/644527685564714, Filmreference.com, Gaycitynews.com, glad.org, Guardian.com, Gvshp.org, huffingtonpost.com, Latimes.com, Legacy.com, Leslielohman.org, Newyorktimes.com, nlgja.org, Ottawacitizen.com, Pinknews.co.uk, Sdgln.com, Sfgate.com, Sfbg.com, tangentgroup.org, Washingtonblade.com, Washingtonpost.com.
Books: Wolf, Reva. Andy Warhol: Poetry and Gossip in the 1960s (Chicago, 1997); Aldrich, Robert and Wotherspoon, Garry, eds. Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History (Routledge, 2001).
Magazines: ArtScope (July/Aug. 2013); Provincetown Magazine (July 5-11, 2012).