Like everyone else, I suppose, I’m not terribly surprised yet very sad today after the death of Whitney Houston, once a super-talented singer, gone way too young at 48. I had the pleasure of seeing her in person three times, very early on. The first time was before she even had a record deal. I think it was Eliot Hubbard, one of the music business’s eagerest early adopters, who encouraged me to check her out when she sang with her mother at a tiny club right around the corner from my apartment in the West Village. I wrote a tiny review of the show for the Village Voice. When her first album came out, I reviewed it for Rolling Stone, and Stephen Holden and I saw her perform at Sweetwater’s, a now-defunct nightclub near Lincoln Center. Probably not even a year later, Stephen reviewed her Carnegie Hall debut, by which time her meteoric ascent had begun — what I remember most from that concert was that she tore up “I Am Changing” (from Dreamgirls), getting a standing ovation in the middle of the song. After that, I was content to keep my distance and enjoy that glorious voice on record — my favorite memory being dancing on a party boat in Hamburg and hearing several thousand German leathermen sing along to “I’m Every Woman.” Those were the days, my friend….
Archive for the 'R.I.P.' Category
I only just yesterday learned by chance that the great Romanian-born theater director Liviu Ciulei died October 25 at the age of 88 at his home in Munich. I met him in 1984 when he was artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and brought his countryman Lucian Pintilie over to make his American debut staging the best production of Chekhov’s The Seagull I’ve ever seen. He also invited Peter Sellars to the Guthrie to mount Hang On To Me, a beautiful mash-up of Gorky’s Summerfolk with Gershwin songs. I had the pleasure of interview Liviu several times, including for an article that ran in the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times (Bruce Weber picked out all the best quotes for his obituary). He and his wife Helga were very smart, very sophisticated, very modest, and yet also not afraid to register sharp, witty criticism. Liviu was very much a product of the culture in which he created his career. On the one hand, he once told me with quiet outrage that under the Communist Ceauşescu regime in Romania, he was not allowed to stage Hamlet because it was forbidden to portray ghosts onstage. (He got to put on an excellent production at the Public Theater with Kevin Kline in the title role and the legendary Jeff Weiss as the Player King.) On the other hand, he insisted that story be off-the-record, lest it somehow get him in trouble. (Granted, this was before Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu were driven from power and summarily executed on Christmas Day, 1989.)
Pioneer gay activist Frank Kameny (above center) died last week. We’ve all benefited from his courage and determination to be treated as a first-class citizen and his willingness to fight back after being fired for being job in 1961. Read a thoughtful remembrance on him on Towleroad.
I just heard the news that Jim Strahs died October 1. He was an amazing, highly original writer who contributed texts to several Wooster Group pieces (most notably North Atlantic and the “Rig” section of Point Judith) and wrote a few hard-bitten novels, one of which — Wrong Guys — Mabou Mines adapted for the stage. I interviewed him for the Village Voice at the time that his novel Queer and Alone was published. My article was headlined “Not Rich and Not Famous,” which is accurate — but I want to say “Not Forgotten,” not by me anyway. Many of his works are available for free download from his website.
A mailing from Short Mountain Sanctuary, the Radical Faerie enclave back in the hills of Tennessee, informs me of the passing of Charles Emerson Hall, aka Crazy Owl, whom I met briefly at the first Gay Spirit Visions conference in North Carolina in 1990 (see below) and perhaps one or two other occasions when I was communing regularly with the faeries.
This unsigned remembrance from the Short Mountain Goatzette offers a peek into a realm that I treasure, even if I encounter it seldom in my life these days:
“Crazy Owl, boyish beauty and land lover, passed away on April the 4th of this year. His body was laid to rest in the green hillside of the Barefoot Farmer in whom he found companionship and kin.
“Crazy Owl began his healing work in psychotherapy in Massachusetts, yet his work in statistics caused him to radically shift his priorities to the land. Crazy Owl returned to his childhood love of the land, entymology, botany, and bare bottomed hiking among his many passions, taking on a bold quest of learning traditional Chinese medical approach and integrating that wisdom into the world growing around him. Fostering communities near Atlanta and carrying this tradition on wild Missionary Delight tours, the wisdom of this walker of the wild brought hope and healing with mischief while finding welcome in many communities. His pilgrimages to Serpent Mound evoked the spirit of community and tribe while demonstrating that he had found a sustainable path in reconciliation with his whiteness and privilege.
“Many stewards receiving this letter come to Short Mountain for the herbal wisdom walks that the barred Owl facilitated at gatherings. Perhaps the statistician kept a record of the many lives he touched yet surely the number is great. The stories that live on in remembrance of Crazy Owl continue to inspire all those seeking a radical way of life.
“The body loving, sex positive liberation movement generated by Crazy Owl is remembered in his written legacy, including an illustrated book. Coming Out by Chuck Hall is a piece on the subject of coming out, expanding its definition to include body love, sharing love, self love and self acceptance.
“Those with access to the net interested to find out more about this fascinating man can visit his website: http://crazyowlsperch.com.”