Tag Archives: Birthdays

Happy Birthday, Beatrice Arthur

13 May

BeaArthur2-smBea Arthur, born Bernice Frankel in New York City on this date in 1922, would become an American icon from the 1960’s through the 21st Century.  She would have been 91 today.

My first introduction to Arthur was in the early 1970’s when she was starring as Maude, the loud mouthed, opinionated, liberal taking on topics like race, gender, power, sexual orientation, and even abortion.  I loved this show.  Who knew I would grow up to become Maude.  Maude was a true pioneer in addressing equity and the disparities in how we treat other people.  I loved her voice of social justice, even when she would get it wrong.

When we first moved to Oregon, I was horribly depressed and hated living in Salem.  My first job here, I was accosted by a Mormon woman who came into my office and said with great sincerity: “Michael, I just want you to know I pray for your sin.”  I would like to say I handled this with grace and dignity, but I didn’t.  My reply was: “Tammy, I pray that you will stop wearing brown double knit polyester everyday.” Not a shining moment for as a social worker.

The only highlight in moving to Salem was that my husband bought us tickets to see Bea Arthur live at the Elsinore in Salem.  She made me forget my miseries, my woes, and my temporary misanthropy.  She was authentic, kind, generous, and had a mouth like a sailor — I know I had to clutch my pearls many a time during her show.

Arthur had the power to transform us all and make us laugh at our selves, laugh at the world, but yet charged us each with the obligation to make the world a better place for all marginalized and targeted people after we left the theatre. As a true feminist/social worker should, she acknowledged that everything is political: “”I’ve been a Democrat my whole life. That’s what makes Maude and Dorothy so believable, we have the same viewpoints on how our country should be handled.”  Seeing her live is one of my top 10 memories, for which I will be forever grateful.

She channelled her phenomenol energy into so many worthy causes. She was an animal rights activist and an active advocate for civil rights for the elderly and the LGBT community. Three days after her death, all the marquees on Broadway were dimmed at 8pm. What a fitting tribute to a woman whose passing left the world a little less bright.

Advertisement

Happy Birthday, Leslie Jordan

29 Apr

LJordanToday I want to celebrate a person who makes the world more delightful by his presence. Fifty-eight years ago today, Leslie Jordan was born in Chattanooga, TN. Growing up small — his adult height is 4’11” — and effeminate in the South was no picnic, so he learned to use humor to cope. With a personality and sense of joy far larger than he looks, he eventually burst free and moved to Hollywood where he began his very successful career.

Jordan is notable for being openly gay since he got started, something pretty unusual in the early 80s. He’s also been happy to portray gay characters, preferring to have fun with a role than worry about stereotyping. By being himself, he’s made a wonderful success based on integrity as well as talent, thus opening the door for LGBT youth to see themselves represented in the media.

As with many, my first encounter with Jordan was in his Emmy-winning role as Beverly Leslie on Will & Grace. As Karen Walker’s charming, co-dependent nemesis, he was one of the brightest spots on the series. He and Karen traded barbs in an amazing style; one of my favorite lines is this greeting:

Why Karen Walker! I thought I smelled gin…and regret.

Jordan amazed and amused me again when my husband and I saw Sordid Lives, one of our favorite films. His turn as Brother Boy is a testament to the challenges of being true oneself. That he manages to make the character strong rather than pathetic is a testament to Jordan’s talent (and perhaps his love of Tammy Wynette).  If you have not seen Sordid Lives, I strongly urge you to rent it from the Netflix. It also stars Olivia Newton-John and Delta Burke.

I was fortunate enough to see his delightful one-man show, Like A Dog On Linoleum, in Atlanta a few years ago. I laughed ’til I cried and then had a chance to meet him in person. He is gracious and witty with or without a script.

In his many wonderful performances, his autobiography (and second one-man show) My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, and his willingness to be honestly and unabashedly himself, Leslie Jordan has made the world a better place. Happy Birthday, Leslie, and thank you!

Happy Birthday, Husband…

15 Feb

I know this is a bit self-indulgent but I wanted to wish my husband a Happy Birthday today.  He shares a birthday with Susan B. Anthony and Galileo.  I am always in awe of my husband, for he possesses so many talents and attributes that I lack.

He is wholehearted.  He shares his whole heart with me, which ties into his amazing courage.  He is able to move through life with optimism and without fear or panic, even during times of distress or injustice, Robert moved forward with the same love of life.  He has an amazing capacity for joy, which ties into his ability to be vulnerable.  He dances in our kitchen without being self-conscious.  He puts strange hats and holiday bows on top of his head.

There are so many reasons I love Robert, but today I love him for his whole heart, his courage, and his vulnerability.

Women’s History: February 27

27 Feb

The Legendary Elizabeth Taylor

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Taylor. The legendary Taylor, known for her blockbuster films and series of successful marriages, is also known for her activism within the LGBT community. Taylor was one of the first celebrities to step up to the plate during the AIDS crisis, which Ronald Reagan ignored. Taylor helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research, as well as starting her own AIDS Foundation. By 1999, Taylor raised over $50 million dollars for AIDS research.

My two favorite movies of Ms. Taylor are: Suddenly Last Summer and of course, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Happy Birthday, Ms. Taylor.

Happy Birthday, Lotte Lehmann. Lehmann was a famous German soprano that discovered the Trapp Family Singers while in Salzburg. The Sound of Music is based on the Trapp Family Singers.

Happy Birthday, Marian Anderson. Click here to see full story on our Marian.

Happy Birthday, Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Click here to see full story on our Charlayne.

    Women’s History, February 9

    9 Feb

    The Last of the Red Hot Mamas

    February 9, 1966 Sophie Tucker passed away. Tucker, known as “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” earned what I would call a delightful reputation for her loud boisterous voice and risque songs. Tucker briefly appeared with the Ziegfield Follies, but her popularity with audiences made her unpopular with the female stars, who refused to go on stage with her. I’m also afraid she suffered from some bullying for her non-conformist appearance, which seems to have made her a stronger person and someone I admire, albeit I would have probably clutched my pearls at one of her shows.  Tucker’s stage image emphasized her “fat girl” image but also a humorous suggestiveness. She sang songs like “I Don’t Want to Be Thin,” “Nobody Loves a Fat Girl, But Oh How a Fat Girl Can Love.” My guess is that the gays must have loved her. Here is Tucker singing I aint takin’ orders from no one!

    Happy Birthday, Amy Lowell. Lowell is credited for her series of lesbian erotic love poems. While evidence has been destoryed it is largely believed that Lowell and Ada Dwyer Russell were lesbian partners. Lowell’s great wealth allowed her to be a great champion and supporter of libraries and education.

    Happy Birthday, Alice Walker. I am just one of your many fans that loves you.

    %d bloggers like this: