Letters to the Editor

Published in: March-April 2023 issue.


The Back Story to Queen Christina

To the Editor:

            May I offer an interesting addendum to Irene Javors’ article, “How Garbo Complicated Queen Christina,” in the September-October 2022 issue? According to my mother, Paramount screenwriter Anne Froelick, it was Salka Viertel’s screenplay and Garbo that complicated the 1933 movie Queen Christina. Garbo and Viertel were lovers at the time and must have had fun with the full-lip kiss between Queen Christina and Countess Ebba (played by Elizabeth Young) that occurs in the film.

            In the late 1940s, every Sunday my mother attended Salka Viertel’s famous Santa Monica soirées for notable European Jewish émigrés in Hollywood. She received special attention from her hostess because of her physical beauty and glamor, her intelligence, and her left-wing politics. Since Mom was married to Dad and parenting me, she declined same-sex intimacy. However, due to their mutual passion for the American Communist Party, Salka and Anne would stay in touch for the rest of their lives.

            In 1951, Viertel was put on an FBI “Watch List” and fled Hollywood to live in Klosters, Switzerland. That same year, my mother was “named” and then blacklisted. Twenty years later, my theatrical self visited eighty-year-old Salka in Klosters. I auditioned with a Shakespeare monologue in her living room. She assured me I could be an actress “if I wanted it enough.”

Frolic Taylor, Crowheart, WY



The Background Was Real, and Spectacular

To the Editor:

            In the January-February [2023] issue, it was nice to put faces with your names, Richard Schneider and Stephen Hemrick, with the photo of you both at Arches National Park. After looking at your faces, I was drawn to what could have been your shadows of the monumental spires behind you. A scenic destination pose or a metaphorical effect?

Leon White, Seattle, WA


Reply from the Editor:

            I was initially alarmed by Mr. White’s suggestion that perhaps the backdrop was only a computer-generated effect. Rest assured, Stephen and I really did travel to the American Southwest last summer, and a passing stranger was kind enough to snap that photo with Balanced Rock (Arches National Park) in the background.

            That being clarified, Mr. White has since informed me that he wasn’t doubting the veracity of the shot but instead commenting on the phallic object in the background. In my defense, let me point out that there are other formations in the park that look even more like giant todgers (a word we have just learned from Prince Harry)—so much so that I’m surprised the religious Right hasn’t tried to have them banned.

Richard Schneider Jr., Boston, MA



Someone Else to Remember

To the Editor:

            I always appreciate your annual tribute to the important LGBT figures who died in the past year [Jan.-Feb. 2023 issue]. One conspicuous omission this time was writer Doris Grumbach—possibly because she lived such a long life (1918–2022) that people have forgotten her. Doris was a prolific novelist and memoirist who published over a dozen books, including groundbreaking works that dealt with lesbian themes in the 1950s and ’60s. She was also a personal friend, and I hope to write about her life and work at greater length later this year.

Margaret Cruikshank, Scarborough, ME


Editor’s Note: Ms. Grumbach died on Nov. 4th, days after our Nov. 1st cutoff. She will be included in next year’s obit roundup.



The Other APA

To the Editor:

            Just a short notice of a slight error way back in the May-June 2022 issue. In your “From the Editor” column (page 4), when referring to Malcolm Lazin’s article on the 1970s declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness, you cite the “American Psychological Association.” Actually, it was the “other” APA—the American Psychiatric Association—that made the decision to declare us sane. (The article itself does not contain this error.)

Gerald Jones, Sun City, CA



Where the Surname Comes First

To the Editor:

            The article on Magnus Hirschfeld [Sept.-Oct. 2022 issue] was a great read. However, I was jolted toward the end when Li Shui Tong came up, and then subsequent mentions of him referred to him as Tong rather than Li. That would be like referring to the current president of China as Jinping rather than Xi, or to Chairman Zedong rather than Mao.

Daniel Lowen, New York, NY




In the Jan.-Feb. 2023 issue, in a review of Lonneke Geerlings’ I Lay This Body Down, the author’s gender was given correctly (as “she”) throughout the piece, until the final paragraph, where an editorial intervention introduced the error.


In the Jan.-Feb. 2023 issue, in a review of Michael Snyder’s biography of James Purdy, the novelist’s 1964 work Cabot Wright Begins contains a misspelling (“Write” is wrong).


In the Sept.-Oct. 2022 issue, in Colin Carman’s review of the film Fire Island, Alice Munro’s name was misspelled (as Monroe).