Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (1935) was built for the Kaufmann family, owners of Pittsburgh’s leading department store. The unsung hero of Fallingwater is the son, Edgar jr who first introduced his parents to Wright and inherited the house in 1955. Edgar jr lived there until 1963 then gave it away to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. His gift of Fallingwater was one of the most meaningful gestures of architectural philanthropy of the 20th century. Edgar jr shared his life with Paul Mayén, who designed the stunning visitor center. So often, as gay people, our stories get sanitised or totally erased from the history books. The guide today was explicit about Edgar jr being a gay man and I am grateful for that factoid. 5 million people have visited since the doors opened in 1964. fallingwater.org
Through the 50’s and 60’s, a wealthy industrialist named J. Irwin Miller invited the world’s leading architects to remake Columbus, Indiana into an unlikely headquarters for the avant-garde. Acting as patron, Miller became the Medici of the Midwest, and single-handedly transformed remote little Columbus into a mecca of modern architecture. Show-stopping buildings include The North Christian Church (1964), above, by Finish-American architect Eero Saarinen, most famous for the TWA terminal building at JFK, as well as Miller’s own house (1957), a modernist masterpiece with gardens by Dan Kiley and interiors by Alexander Girard.
A true pioneer, Miller was an activist as well as a philanthropist. Working with Martin Luther King Jr, he was a strong advocate for the Civil Rights Act (1964). He was someone who felt change and improvement was something to be embraced rather than feared. Thanks to his dedication to fine architecture and his understanding of the importance of civic art, this small Midwestern town is ranked alongside architectural heavyweights New York and Chicago. To honor and protect that legacy, an annual event called Exhibit Columbus aims to inspire other communities to invest in design to make people and cities stronger.
National Symposium, 26-29 September 2018; exhibitcolumbus.com
I am staying at a fabled hotel where the debauchery and nihilism of the 1970s rock scene reached its zenith when it became the go-to destination for touring rock groups due to its close proximity to the clubs on Sunset Strip. It was often referred to at the time as the Riot House, a play on the hotel’s former name Hyatt House.
In fact, Room 1015 bears the distinction of being where Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards dropped a TV out the window in 1972. The Who's Keith Moon was also reported to have dropped a TV out of one of the hotel's windows. This is where Jim Morrison lived when the Doors were the house band at the Whiskey a Go-Go until he was reportedly evicted by management for hanging out a window by his fingertips, dangling over the pavement. The infamous balconies are now, alas, glass-enclosed sunrooms that overlook Sunset Boulevard.
The storied hotel, which came to life in 1963 as Gene Autry's Hotel Continental, was reborn in 2009 as Andaz West Hollywood. New York-based architecture and interior design firm Janson Goldstein LLP handled the renovation. Looking out on Sunset Strip and the purple haze of Jacaranda trees beyond, it’s amazing to think that Elton John would have shared this view when he and his entourage stayed at the then-Hyatt House on Elton's first trip to America in August 1970. It's kind of cool that as mere mortals, we get to sleep where rock gods once rampaged through the hallways getting no sleep at all while we deliberate on important things like which factor sunscreen to use.
Exploring the post industrial ruins and abandoned neighborhoods of Detroit is a humbling experience. To marvel at the muted beauty of these artifacts is also an act of mourning. Where I stayed in Pole Town had a "returning-to-prairie" feel, with tall grasses and urban farms mixed with guerrilla art projects serving as models for revitalizing decaying neighborhoods. But you might want to brace yourself for an apocalyptic vision of what happens when the system breaks down. Empty factories and cottages still haunt the landscape in what were once stalwart working-class communities.
A century ago, Detroit was the engine of the American dream. The hometown of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Madonna, it is also the place where Henry Ford’s Model T mass production methods revolutionized American society and molded the world we live in today. The motorcar came to represent the American dream by offering independence and adventure to the average man. Just as Ford changed the way Americans live, work and travel, Motown founder Berry Gordy’s vision was to replicate the mass production methods of companies like Ford within the pop industry. Motown is a portmanteau of motor and town.
How could such an economic powerhouse, such a uniquely American city, utterly collapse? While Detroit and LA essentially boomed at the same time, Detroit put all its eggs in the corporate caretaker basket. In less than five decades the once vibrant Motor City lost more than half its population and gained a reputation as a failed metropolis in part due to the growth of the suburbs in the 1950s, race riots in 1967, the decline in auto manufacturing, and the 2008 financial crisis. Some neighborhoods have remained vibrant, some are being revitalized, and some are approaching the point of no return.
Start your visit with a trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts where you’ll find Diego Rivera’s magnificent Detroit Industry Murals, a series of frescoes by the Mexican artist consisting of twenty-seven panels depicting industry at the Ford Motor Company. Painted between 1932 and 1933, at the center of his work, Rivera placed the industrial working class, portrayed not as a gray mass but an immense, living, social power, which probably didn’t go down too well with the famously anti-union Ford.
Next head over to Corktown where Michigan Central Station remains a painful symbol of the city's collapse for many Detroiters. When the station was built in 1913, it was intended to be a key gateway to the Midwest. By the late 1970s, however, the massive depot southwest of Detroit's downtown had fallen into disrepair, and the last train left the station in the late 1980s. Now it's shuttered, a failed modern Greek temple. Graffiti covers the train station and its 18-story tower. Nearly all the windows are blown out but plans are afoot for the station to be rehabilitated.
Make sure you join one of Pure Detroit’s awesome tours, in particular catch Jake on the Guardian building tour whose curiosity and eagerness knows no bounds. And it's free at 1pm on Saturdays. The aztec-deco masterpiece was where the region’s auto industry money was housed until 1932 when the industrial colossus was laid low by the Great Depression. They’ll also guide you around the Packard Automotive Plant—the reigning king of Detroit's abandoned factories designed by famed architect Albert Kahn and completed in 1911. The majority of the factory closed in 1958, with some businesses using the property through the 1990s and finally dwindling to the final tenant who packed up in 2010. The crumbling behemoth has been a scrapper’s paradise, a home for vagrants, a canvas for installation artists, and the site of a recent tiger escape. Purchased in 2013 for $405,000, construction’s beginning on turning it into living, retail, and office spaces.
Downtown Detroit’s pivot toward the fashionably adroit continues apace. Have a coffee in the lobby of The Siren hotel (opened Jan, 2018), an early 20th century Renaissance Revival building, which once housed the famous Wurlitzer Company. Next door the 14-story neo-gothic Metropolitan Building is soon to open as the Element hotel. Designed by the Detroit firm of Weston and Ellington, it opened in 1925 as a jewelry emporium, housing diamond cutters, goldsmiths, and silver workers on the upper floors and retail on the lower levels. Much like the recently opened Aloft Detroit at The David Whitney (also redeveloped by the Roxbury Group), this project will include the restoration of the hotel’s exterior and a top-to-bottom renovation of the interior, while preserving elements of the Metropolitan Building’s original ornate lobby and mezzanine.
How radically our shopping habits have changed since the Austrian architect Victor Gruen built the first enclosed mall in suburban Minneapolis in 1956. He designed it to be a pedestrianised experience much like urban Vienna. What started as a social and economic idea facilitated by the interstate highway system led to a climate-controlled ecosystem for consumption. Malls defined the way we were, how we used to interact. Tiffany’s 1987 mall tour helped her reach number one: they were the place to be.
Back in the early to mid-1980s, when the Valley Girl was in her glory, the Galleria was an icon, the mall of malls for teenagers. Celebrated in Moon Unit Zappa's 1982 satirical single "Valley Girl," the Galleria raged with the hormones of teen-agers drawn in from all over the San Fernando Valley and beyond. They cruised the shops, hung out near the video arcade and partied in the food court. The Galleria was part of Valleyspeak, like ohmygawd! (oh, my God!) and fershur (for sure). High school cognoscenti knew that "the Galleria" meant the Sherman Oaks mall; the Glendale Galleria required the full name.
By 2022, analysts estimate that 1 out of every 4 malls in the U.S. could be out of business, victims of changing tastes, a widening wealth gap and the embrace of online shopping. The mall has been America's public square for 62 years, where a huge swath of middle-class America went for far more than shopping. The mall can no longer compete with the frictionless experience of e-tail. Malls, created for ease and comfort, have been replaced by the ruthless efficiency of digital shopping.
Seph Lawless portrays these abandoned malls as apocalyptic ruins that were at one time a nexus of daily life. They serve as haunting reminders of a pre-digital age before cell phones and the internet created a 24/7 insta-culture of wanting everything now.
There is something deeply spiritual about New Mexico in the quiet of winter. The majesty of this sacred land of American Indians and their mountains, their beautiful Pueblo and coyotes, helped me come to terms with the loss of my Dad. It was like a spiritual shock absorber being there to receive the news, surrounded by the stillness of the winter-stark landscape.
We stayed in Taos which is meant to be so spiritual you could land in Tibet if you bore a hole through the bottom of it. The thickness of adobe walls were like a warm blanket trapping all the heat inside. I felt cocooned by the architecture and the history of the hotel which was originally built as an artists’ colony by a pioneering woman called Mabel Dodge Luhan. During the 1930s, Georgia O’Keeffe, Carl Jung and DH Lawrence found inspiration that would shape their lives’ work there.
In the late 1960s at the height of his career, Dennis Hopper left Hollywood for artistic bohemia in New Mexico. He stayed at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House while editing Easy Rider (1969), prompting Taos’s hippie invasion. The artists’ colony was bought by Hopper in 1970 and named The Mud Palace, which he filled with a collection of interesting and beautiful people. Artsy beatnik women from New York, Hollywood celebrities and starlets, rock stars and artists, producers and poets mingled with locals from Taos’ Native American community. Mabel would have loved it.
We visited the Taos Pueblo nearby, with adobe structures that are estimated to be over a thousand years old. It stirred the emotions and connected me to something ancient and eternal. Dad would have loved New Mexico. He was happiest when connected to the earth with man’s oldest four-legged companion by his side. I learned how the simple act of walking in nature can be a tonic for the soul from him. It’s primal.
As my friend and I were wandering around the grounds of St Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe on Christmas Day, a man gave me a conker. He talked about his love for the tree it came from. He seemed like he was part of the original tribe of artist thinkers who migrated there for light and peace. An old soul. I cherish those moments of pure human kindness from a stranger when traveling. It felt like a life-giving blessing. Like the tendrils from the other side as my father rode off into the sunset for good.
The mission of Modernism Week, an 11-day event in Palm Springs with 100,000 people expected to attend, is to celebrate and foster appreciation of midcentury architecture and design. The breakout star this year is the Aluminaire House, Albert Frey’s modernist masterpiece which is finally finding its forever home in Palm Springs.
As the first all metal pre-fabricated house in the US, it was a sensation that helped launch a new architectural movement when it was designed in 1931. The home, which was transported in a truck to Palm Springs last year after living in a shipping container in New York, was intended to be an example of the possibilities for mass-produced affordable housing using inexpensive materials.
Palm Springs is where its architect honed his desert modernism style and lived from 1934 until his death in 1998. “Frey is our patron saint; even if he’s not that well-known across America, in Palm Springs he’s beloved,” says Modernism Week’s Mark Davis. “I thought Aluminaire was a myth, or that it was long gone.” Now the orphaned house will be resurrected in a new park near the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Aluminaire was designated in 2016 by “Architectural Record” as one of 125 (#30, right after Corbusier’s 1931 Villa Savoye) most important works of architecture worldwide in the 125 years since the magazine’s founding in 1891. More information about the park, designed by Mark Rios and Nate Cormier of Rios Clementi Hale Studios, as well as the site for the reassembled steel and aluminium house slated for installation in 2020, will be shared on Friday February 23.
Modernism Week runs until Feb 25, 2018; modernismweek.com
New York City’s Stonewall riot in 1969 is widely regarded as the genesis of the modern LGBT rights movement. But resistance started here in Los Angeles with the formation of the Mattachine Society in 1950, the nation's first homosexual political organization. Several members of the Mattachine, including devoted bibliophile and science fiction fan Jim Kepner, met to discuss creating a magazine for homosexuals. In November 1952 they formed ONE Inc. and in January 1953 published the first issue of ONE Magazine, which would become the first widely distributed publication for homosexuals in the United States.
An avid hoarder, Kepner’s collection included other individuals' most intimate possessions, often things their families would have destroyed. In 1994, ONE and Kepner's archive merged, becoming solely a repository for LGBTQ materials. Under the strong directorship of Joseph Hawkins, ONE’s unwavering mission to preserve rare documents that mainstream institutions have historically deemed uncollectable or lacking merit can be traced back to the pioneering spirit of Kepner, who was operating in a time when loving the wrong person could make you a criminal.
Today, ONE Archive is the oldest continuing LGBTQ organization in the United States and the largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world. ONE encompasses a collection of two million items, including pathos-driven letters which give a poignant insight into the lives of gay Americans of yesteryear. “There’s a particular aspect of actually coming here and touching the hem of the skirt, so to speak, that makes it a completely different thing,” explains Hawkins. “Just touching the letters written on onionskin by Esther Herbert to her girlfriend Marvyl, you sense that these are from a long time ago and the penmanship is completely different; so it’s not only the fact that we are a repository it’s the idea that in coming here there is an almost spiritual experience of being able to connect yourself to something that is so far removed.”
In the digital age, when ‘likes’ matter more than letters, analog data is disappearing fast. The need to protect queer cultural memory is more important then ever. Standout letters include one sent by the U.S. government to two men who were applying for a visa in 1975 that uses the word “faggots”, which is horrifying enough. But the physical act of holding a cultural touchpoint in your hand is transformative. “When you're really touching documents that have deep meaning for you as a member of this culture, it transcends all things and makes you connected to that event in a way that I don't think anything else does,” says Hawkins.
What’s fascinating is the secret language and pennames that many queer authors were forced to cultivate to protect their identities. Jim Kepner, one of the founders of this institution, had “Dr Fecal de Chevaux” as one of his pennames, which in French means, “Dr Horseshit”. Bailey Whitaker, an African-American man who gave this organization its name, went by “Guy Rousseau” at the time. Edith Eyde, who created the first lesbian magazine “Vice Versa” in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, went under the penname “Lisa Ben”, an anagram for lesbian.
“They were not only making up names they were making fun of things,” explains Hawkins, who is currently studying early science fiction fan clubs in the United States. Eyde also served as secretary of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society under the name ‘Tigrina’. Her fan letters throw light on the allure of imaginary realms for LGBT folk in an era when publications addressing homosexuality were automatically deemed obscene under the Comstock Act until 1958. “One of the really fantastic things here is that many people had to have pseudonyms because you couldn't have the same name to go to work because you’d be blacklisted,” says Hawkins. Eyde produced Vice Versa secretly at her job as a secretary at Hollywood's RKO Studios. If caught she could have lost her job, been arrested, and had her life destroyed.
While the public is encouraged to visit the Archive, Hawkins is keen to point out that this is not an immediate experience. “There’s all this deciphering that has to go on. So they have to be willing to sit here for a while to get it and be respectful of the materials that they’re touching,” he says. “It takes a kind of romance to get the information out.” Also, be prepared for an intense emotional and physical reaction. For some visitors, the smell of glue that they haven’t smelt in 25 years or just the mustiness of old paper can be a transportive experience. For others it can trigger memories of a lonelier time when modes of entry into the gay world were limited. Pre-internet, often the only lifeline people had was the naughty section of the local bookstore, which opened up alternative universes of perception (and occasionally chance encounters). That sense of catharsis, stored in the palpable fibers of these materials, gets carried into the present. “This creates a safe space. Right after the elections, people came here and hung out because it seemed like they could just be.”
What’s so striking is that these letters, filled with longing, were never meant to be read. Indeed many of them were going to be thrown away and lost forever. “We are nothing, we are horrible people who are supposed to be thrown away, pushed out, ignored. This space is actually where you come to find out that’s not true at all,” says Hawkins. “We as a group of people have been banned from having our own heroes, our own forebears, our own great leaders. They've been erased from history. This place is to correct that erasure. We’re allowing people to find their history that has been taken away from them,” explains Hawkins. “Being here and being with that gives you a sense of the world that you just don't get any place else.”
Los Angeles—the land of make believe where even the palm trees are transplants—thrives on an escapist-aspirational energy generated by the Hollywood dream factory. While the birthplace of cinema often plays somewhere else—Haddonfield, Illinois in the case of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), for example—the buildings and houses that feature in our favorite horror movies are often located here in Los Angeles.
Laurie Strode is stalked through the Doyle’s house on North Orange Grove in West Hollywood, which is actually across the street from the Wallace’s house, where her friend Annie was babysitting (until her murder). The house in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is a block away on North Genesee Ave, also in West Hollywood. Silverlake’s Canfield-Moreno Estate played the Stab 3 movie producer’s house in Scream 3 and Hillcrest Academy High School in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. The Victorian used for exteriors in the John Landis-directed music video for Michael Jackson's Thriller is located in the historic Angelino Heights neighborhood near Echo Park. You’ll find the Charmed house on the same street (Carroll Ave).
But in the Upside Down world of LA, where fantasy and reality often become blurred, things are seldom as they seem. Underneath that relentlessly blue Californian sky lurks a haunting history of horror far worse than fiction. 1969 is widely considered to mark the end of innocence for Los Angeles's bucolic canyons, Topanga, Laurel, Benedict and Coldwater, when beauty turned to brutality with the Manson Family murders. The serpentine canyons are beguilingly beautiful, but out of bounds and lawless. Like somehow the rules don't apply. The ghosts of the past are very much alive in a town that wants more than anything to forget. Lock your doors, bolt your windows, turn off the lights. And grab the popcorn.
Also known as the “Jewish Alps,” the area commonly called the “Borscht Belt” was home to more than 1,000 hotels, resorts, summer camps and bungalow colonies in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Resorts such as the Concord, Nevele, Laurels and Kutscher’s attracted some of the biggest names in show business and hotels were so vast, many boasted their own golf courses, salt water pools and air strips. With the advent of affordable air travel in the post WW II era, destinations like Miami Beach, the Caribbean and Hawaii began to divert travellers from the Catskills. Tastes were changing and by 1965, the glory days of the Catskills were coming to a close. Over time, the pleasure palaces of the 1950’s have been gently reclaimed by the forests of the Catskills.
Still, the area is dotted with hundreds of abandoned dwellings where once guests in the high spirits of summer vacations dined and danced the night away. Today there is only the silence. The resort that inspired the movie Dirty Dancing, Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel, has sat empty and dilapidated for over 30 years (pictured). It began its operations in the 1910s and was once considered one of the most glamorous resorts in the Catskill Mountains. The resort was so prestigious that Elizabeth Taylor married Eddie Fisher there. Alas it too fell victim to the three A’s that contributed to the demise of the Catskills’ golden era: air conditioning, assimilation and airfare. It closed its doors in 1986.*
Incidentally, the fictional resort of the film, Kellerman’s, is indeed inspired by Grossinger’s, but the movie was actually shot at two locations hundreds of miles south, at Mountain Lake Lodge in southwest Virginia and Lake Lure in western North Carolina. Dirty Dancing was made on a shoestring and New York State’s work rules would have made it expensive to film there. The much-loved movie came out 30 years ago this August.
*Update October 2018: Sadly, this abandoned borscht belt resort has been demolished.
Dia Art Foundation presents Walter De Maria’s Truck Trilogy in Dia:Beacon. Begun in 2011 and completed posthumously, the Truck Trilogy consists of three classic Chevrolet pickup trucks, which have been stripped of all extraneous elements and details. Placed vertically in the trucks’ flatbeds are circular, square, and triangular polished-stainless-steel rods. Similar to De Maria’s Bel Air Trilogy (2000–11), the Truck Trilogy juxtaposes the elegant lines of mid-century American industrial design with the geometric vocabulary that underscores more than fifty years of the artist’s practice. This installation is organized as part of a year of programming in celebration of Walter De Maria’s art, marking the fortieth anniversary of The Lightning Field, The New York Earth Room, and The Vertical Earth Kilometer, each commissioned by Dia and completed in 1977. Walter De Maria was born in Albany, California, in 1935. He died in Los Angeles in 2013. Opens September 22, 2017, Dia:Beacon.
From LSD to surfboards and iPhones, California has long been defined by an audacious, experimental energy. This summer, London's Design Museum will celebrate the Golden State’s influence on contemporary design culture with a new exhibition, California: Designing Freedom. The central premise is that California has pioneered tools of personal liberation, and that the roots of today’s techno utopia can be traced back to the free-wheeling counterculture of the 60’s and 70’s.
California has its own history of enabling freedom of expression, from new graphic languages to social media. Perhaps no place on earth has done more to democratise access to industrial technology than California. I am a direct beneficiary of that. In December 2010, I joined the 21st century by investing in my very first MacBook Air. That laptop facilitated my leap from print to digital publishing, and my hop across the pond to carve out a career for myself as a freelance journalist. Through that instrument I was able to build a website and craft my own story, my own artifact in the digital realm.
With individualism and self-empowerment being emblematic of the State, the idea of personal liberation is intrinsic to a Californian attitude. It’s no coincidence that this is also home to Hollywood, the centre of myth making in the West. “That’s the amazing thing about Los Angeles,” says artist Doug Aitken. “Anyone can go there and carve out their own world and create their own reality.” And if the iPhone is the pinnacle of Californian ingenuity, then taking a selfie and posting it on Facebook is a quintessential Californian behaviour. Californian products have affected our lives to such an extent that in some ways the entire world has essentially become Californian.
California: Designing Freedom runs until 17 October. design museum.org
Ojai, California is the crown jewel in the hippy kingdom, which has for the better part of a century lured dreamers, doers, and thinkers pursuing spiritual enlightenment and artists seeking inspiration and calm.
Now a new crop of hipster makers and merchants is traveling the 80 miles north of Los Angeles to bask in Ojai's groovy, quirky sensibility. Brad Steward is one of the six founders of Caravan Outpost—a beautifully hand-crafted Airstream hotel which embraces a small space, sustainable lifestyle.
The former apparel designer has worked between Geneva, Switzerland, Annecy, France, Helsinki, Finland and Portland, Oregon for the last 25 years. He believes that, as a travel company, a certain minimalism and utility necessarily drives what they do – Airstreams by nature lend themselves to sustainability. With that in mind, he is appealing to the type of people who consciously choose to have ‘fewer, nicer’ things in their life. But don't let that put you off investing in a Caravan Outpost emblazoned hoodie from the onsite store which has a fine range of clothing, vinyl, blankets and enamelware.
For the ultimate outdoorsy experience head to the Ojai Hot Springs, a non-profit run by a handful of locals who love the springs and want to see them preserved. It’s a hot natural spring, one that you can soak in for hours before the time comes to mosey back to your hammock at the Airstream Park. There, you'll be cooking dinner alfresco under the stars while connecting with a community of environmentally conscious like-minded folks around a crackling log fire.
It’s something the posh crowd up at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa probably won’t get to experience, but that’s not to say you shouldn't sample their signature Kuyam treatment which means “a place to rest together" in the language of the Chumash people who originally inhabited the Ojai Valley. Combining the therapeutic effects of cleansing mud, dry heat, inhalation therapy and guided meditation, you’ll return home feeling enlightened and inspired.
caravanoutpost.com; ojaihotsprings.com; ojairesort.com
Featuring around 500 works, the exhibition Autophoto examines the history of photography’s relationship with the automobile, from 1900 to the present day. For much of the last century, the automobile represented something glamorous and exciting. Indeed, for many people, cars remain potent status symbols today.
Driving along empty highways still evokes a sense of freedom and the evolution of this idea can be traced back to the Beat generation of the 1950s, epitomized by Jack Kerouac’s epoch-defining novel, On The Road (1957).
The following year witnessed the publication of The Americans, a seminal photography book – indeed, arguably the most influential of the 20th Century – by the US photographer Robert Frank. To create this epic work, which documented every echelon of US society, Frank secured a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955 to fund a series of road trips across the United States over the following two years. During his travels, he took 28,000 shots, before selecting just 83 for the final series of The Americans. One of them recorded an assembly line in a Ford Motor Company factory known as the River Rouge Plant in Detroit.
Perhaps no city on earth has such a symbiotic relationship with the automobile as Los Angeles. US artist Ed Ruscha’s series of 34 black-and-white aerial photographs of vacant car parks within Los Angeles looks at the impact of the motorcar upon the landscape. Thirtyfour Parking Lots was one of 17 artist’s books that Ruscha published during the ‘60s and ‘70s (“I want to be the Henry Ford of book making,” he once said).
Another brilliant work tackling this theme is a project called Vector Portraits by the American photographer Andrew Bush. After settling in Los Angeles in 1985, Bush took photographs of cars and their passengers taken while he was driving in the city’s streets and freeways. With the help of equipment installed on his passenger seat, Andrew Bush captured drivers framed by their car windows and the surrounding landscapes, either stopped in traffic or traveling, lost in their thoughts or interacting with other passengers. The portraits reveal how connected drivers and cars are; just as we tend to say how much dogs and their owners look alike, it seems as though cars and drivers also share a close identity.
To kick off LGBT Pride month, I am extraordinarily proud to present the legendary gay rights activist Troy Perry, co-founder of the world’s first gay pride parade, which took place in Hollywood on June 28, 1970. We stand on the shoulders of giants like Troy.
You’ve just returned from Cuba—what was happening there?
I was the first American citizen to receive Cuba's CENESEX award in front of almost 5000 people at the 10th Cuban Gala Against Homophobia at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana. The National Center for Sex Education [Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual] is directed by Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, a champion of gay rights in Cuba.
Do you have a history with Cuba?
My dad was the biggest bootlegger in all of Florida, but he owned a tobacco farm too. The only country he went to outside the U.S. was Cuba. There’s a picture of him taken in the 1930s sitting in a wicker chair waiting for a ship to take him to Havana. He wanted to know what the Cubans were doing to be the gold standard of tobacco in the world. I’ve been honored by all sorts of groups, but little Cuba meant a lot to me.
What kind of obstacles did you face as an openly gay man in the 60s?
In 1965 I was drafted when I was 25 years old into the U.S. army and sent to Germany. I was a cryptographer, and openly gay. I had no problems with the military but back then in the 60’s, under tuberculosis and cancer they asked the question do you have ‘homosexual tendencies’. I said no I don't have homosexual tendencies I am a homosexual! They would ask are you are practicing homosexual and I would answer “I have it down pat”. It was like that until don't ask don't tell in the early 90s.
When did homosexuality become legal in California?
Back then if you were a lesbian you had to have three pieces of female clothing, if you were a man you had to have three pieces of male clothing under your drag or you’d be carted off to jail. That's how stupid the laws were in California. I wanted allies. The only African American in the room was Mervyn Dymally, California’s first black lieutenant governor. In 1975 Governor Jerry Brown [with the support of Assemblyman Willie Brown who first introduced the bill in 1970] then signed the Consenting Adult Sex Bill that legalized homosexuality in California. It said that whatever we did in the privacy of our own bedroom is nobody’s business.
Where did gays and lesbians go to meet back then?
Huntington Park, where I founded MCC, had two gay bars. Our Chief of Police in the little town of Huntington Park, a separate City at the edge of LA, had a lesbian sister as it turned out. He would not even let his officers come in the gay bar. There was a hall there where the big GGRC drag ball took place every year, purposefully because the LAPD could not make any arrests that were out of their jurisdiction. We had a lesbian bartender and if anyone came in trying to cause trouble she took a pool cue and would wait outside with the person for the cops to come pick them up. They didn't come into the bar. It was called the Islander. The other bar was called the Little Tokyo.
Anywhere else good?
I’d been to a private bar called Canyon Club in Topanga Canyon where you went to the front door and you buzzed. They had a window and they would decide if you were gay or not. An ex vice officer of the LAPD opened the bar because he had a gay nephew who had invited me. Then they buzz you through the second door. The nephew told me if the police come the lights will go up and there will be a red light that will twinkle for a little bit. If there is a lesbian couple here grab one of them as they won’t arrest you if you were dancing with a woman.
Did you have an inkling that you might be gay while married to your wife?
When we were married I went into a bookstore in Santa Ana where I pastored. I saw "Physique" magazine. I had known I was different but couldn't face it. My church had told me if I would just marry a good woman that would take care of that so I married my pastor’s daughter. Two children later here we are in Santa Ana. I asked the lady if she had anything on homosexuality. It was an education. I believe today that she was a lesbian. When I got back I threw everything away except “The Homosexual in America" which said there were millions of people just like me. I hid the books between the mattress of the bed.
What was your childhood like?
We didn't dance or drink although of course my father was a bootlegger. My mother was Southern Baptist, my father’s family were Pentecostals. I was sexually raped when I was in my teens. He was an alcoholic. My mother remarried a man when my Dad died. She said to me “you have to help me raise your brothers”. My father died being chased by the police in Tallahassee Florida. My Uncle Howard, who was married to my father's sister, was the grand dragon of the Klu Klux Clan for the state of Florida. This is my history.
What are your earliest religious memories?
I have an interesting story some of which I have never told. When I was eight years old Uncle Howard died and I was taken to his funeral at a little Methodist church in the woods. After the funeral we went out to the graveside, the Pastor nodded towards the woods and hundreds of ghosts started coming out of the woods. After it’s over with we get in the car and mother says to my father I can't believe what we just saw and he said we could never talk about this.
What was it like growing up in the segregated South?
Many years later I was passing through Tallahassee and visited my Aunt Bessie. I went to her home. I’m 27 years old. She goes into the kitchen and moves a rug and pulls out her Klan robes and Klan bonds. She said I guess I’ll never get the money out of this and I said I hope you never do.
Was there racial segregation in your town?
I was one of those Southern kids that grew up with black kids. In the South, before puberty, white and black kids played together. When I was a little kid we were so poor we were the end of the line of white families closest to Frenchtown, the segregated neighborhood. I believe this with all my heart that what happened were life lessons.
How did things change after your Dad died?
When my Dad died and I was trying to help my mother. She had five boys In the South you got married again very quickly as a widow. Her new husband was an alcoholic and there was always tension in the house. He’d put a gun in my mother’s mouth and said if you ever leave me I’ll kill you. He moved us away from Tallahassee and would not let me go to church because someone might find out what’s going on at the house. He tried to force my little brother to eat liver, stuffing it down his throat. My mother jumps up, screaming at him to stop, and she picked up a beer bottle and broke it over his head. He knocked my mother down on the floor. I’m 13 years old. He pulls the phone out of the wall. I ran out of the house over the hill to a neighbour's house. I told them my stepfather was trying to kill my mother. She pulled out a pistol because the law in a lot of Southern states was that if you come on our property, they can shoot you. She walked me back home and mother was sitting there crying with a black eye.
How did that make you feel?
I loved my mother. To this day if I have a vision of God, it'd be my mother. She loved me and all her boys unconditionally. When I came out her biggest fear was that someone would hurt me. I begged my mother to not let him back. When he came home I knew from his look he’s going to murder me. He hates me because I reminded my mother of my father, Troy Senior. He announced a week later that his brother was visiting but it wasn't his brother, it was some guy he’d met on a shrimp boat. And he brought him in to teach me a lesson.
This man crawls in my bed in the middle of the night, puts his hand over my mouth.…I had never had anal sex. And it hurt so bad. I thought this is God doing this to me because he knows my secret feelings that I’m different somehow. I was such a sad child. The woman who drove the school bus was probably a lesbian, she wore comfortable shoes and had a baseball bat. She could tell that day I got on the bus. I justified it by telling her that he’d stolen my tip money so I put $10 in my pants, along with my toothbrush. I was so broken. I walked into the school, walked out the back door to the Greyhound bus station in Daytona. That was 1953. I said I wanted a ticket to Moultrie, Georgia where my aunt and uncle lived.
What do you remember about that journey as a 13 year old kid?
The buses back then acted as city buses too so if you were country people you’d just wave it down. A person gets on and was in male clothes but with lipstick. A very rough looking male wearing makeup. It got deathly quiet and h/she was going to the next little town. We dropped the person off and everyone started talking again.
Did you ever tell your Mom what happened?
I found out later, after I ran away, that my mother ended up screaming at her husband “if you’ve done anything to him I will kill you”. She became a tiger and scared him to death. I could never tell me mother what happened. Even as an adult.
What impact did that have on you, running away and moving to Georgia?
My aunt said “you have a calling to the ministry don't you”. I love church. And I knew I loved the Lord. They were Pentecostals. She started the snake handling churches. I was not into any of that. My other relatives were Trinitarian which was ‘Jesus Only’. She said “God is going to use you but not in the way you think.” Women weren't allowed to cut their hair. Men couldn’t wear jewellery.
They packed a little suitcase for me and I moved to El Paso Texas to live with my Aunt Bessie, my father’s sister where I was the only white boy in a school of mostly Mexicans. I ended up going back home and my mother is Baptist. I was licensed to preach at the age of 15. I had clergy in my family. I was tall for my age. When I was 18 I was already evangelizing. My Uncle Roy, the shortest Mason in America, he could tell that something was wrong. By now it’s two years later and we went to pick up my goods. He had a gun with him, he was a Baptist minister but people are afraid of short people. In the South the women’s rights went through the husband, didn't matter if she was a widow.
How did these experiences impact your politics today?
Before Trump was elected I really thought all the things are going to come together. We won marriage, the big enchilada. But I discovered very quickly that we have to fight for the refried beans and the little enchiladas too. Of course I voted for Hillary Clinton and we went to bed early on Election Night, I didn't see any way that he could win. I woke up the next morning in shock. Americans forget we’re a Republic, and there’s a very small group of people that elect the President. Even though she won 3 million more votes the Electoral College voted him.
What are your views on LA Pride becoming Resist?
Brian Pendleton called me and said we need to reset what we’re doing. We feel like we need to do something different this time. We can go back next year but our community needs to hear again that we are going to resist, like the early demonstrations here in LA. Black lives do matter, Hispanic lives matter, union groups, women, trans lives matter.
Will you be attending?
My partner Philip and I absolutely will. I will speak at the start of the march with the Mayor of LA. This is my home. When I moved here I adopted Los Angeles and I love my city.
The first annual Lambda LitFest Los Angeles is a celebration of contemporary voices honoring and expanding on the rich, diverse tradition of LGBTQ writers and readers in Southern California.
LitFest at large will run at satellite locations all week. Tonight I heard Los Angeles based writer, musician, filmmaker, and former porn actor Christopher Zeidschegg, aka Danny Wylde, read an excerpt from his book.
On Wednesday, Emmy-award winning writer Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) will be joined in conversation with film critics Dave White and Alonso Duralde while speaking about his epic career at an event in West Hollywood.
The main event, however, is LitFest Saturday on March 11 at Barnsdall Art Park — a full day of back-to-back panels with esteemed members of the LGBTQ literary community including Justin Torres (We the Animals) who lives in Los Angeles, where he is Assistant Professor of English at UCLA.
“Queer Truth: Nonfiction & Journalism in a Post Truth World” will bring together journalists and essayists to discuss the importance of telling our stories at a time when the very concepts of objectivity and truth in the media are under scrutiny.
Peter Paige (co-creator and executive producer of the award-winning, critically-acclaimed hit Freeform series The Fosters) will be joined by four other writers to discuss their approach to crafting queer characters in their work from novels to screenplays and everything in between.
Part of Lambda LitFest’s mission is to celebrate underrepresented authors born in L.A. To that end, Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park presents the best and brightest writers of Chicanx culture, defined as “a new, radical, decolonized, inclusive identity” (beyond Chicano/Chicana and Latino/Latina) “forged on the streets of L.A. for LGBTQ and non-binary familia.”
LAMBDA LitFest Los Angeles March 6-12; lambdalitfest.org
Every city reaches a point when its arts and cultural institutions need more than just a lick of paint. Such was the case when Frank Gehry was brought in to breath life back into the once thriving port town of Bilbao. The Guggenheim Museum seemed to put the city on the world map. But could commissioning a 'starchitect' to wave a magic wand and thereby create a ripple-like revenue boost, also known as the 'Bilbao Effect', work in somewhere like, say, Saskatchewan? With the opening of Remai Modern Art Gallery in Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, by Canadian architectural firm KPMB (Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects) and Smith Carter Architects and Engineers, we might be about to find out.
As it turns out, the birthplace of abstract minimalist painter Agnes Martin has a legacy of progressive support for the arts. In the 1940’s, Saskatchewan was the only place in North America to elect a socialist government. Established in 1948, the Saskatchewan Arts Board is the oldest public arts funder in North America, and second oldest in the world after the Arts Council of Great Britain. In the era of McCarthyism, the political dimension was one thing that attracted luminaries such as Clement Greenberg, Barnett Newman, Donald Judd and John Cage to lead workshops here in the 1950s.
The socialist government, which funneled money into health research, is the reason why little ol’ Saskatchewan is not only the birthplace of Canadian medicare but also where the term ‘psychedelic’ was first coined in 1951. But had it not been for German Jewish exile by the name of Frederick Mendel who came to Saskatoon in the late 1930s, we might never have heard of this little prairie town. Partly advised by his daughter who was an artist herself, he brought world-class art to the city. With the opening of the Mendel Art Gallery in 1964, it suddenly had paintings by leading European and Canadian modernists such as Georges Braque, Francis Picabia and Emily Carr.
Then in 1982 Sir Anthony Caro founded the Triangle Network which brought together 25 emerging and mid-career artists from the US, Canada and the UK, who spent 2 weeks making work alongside each other. The triangle consisted of London, New York and Saskatoon. Today, Gregory Burke, Remai Modern’s CEO & Executive Director, aims to provide a forum for artists to explore urgent questions surrounding climate change, globalization, technological advances and the continuing aftershocks of colonization across the world.
Slated to open to the public in late 2017, the museum will house a permanent collection of more than 8,000 works, including the world’s most comprehensive collection of Picasso linocuts (405 total) and 23 rare Picasso ceramics, as well as works by contemporary indigenous artists, a series of rotating exhibitions, and the works that once resided inside famed local cultural center, the Mendel Art Gallery, until it closed its doors in 2015. Fancy a trip to Saskatoon?
On this day exactly 50 years ago, protestors gathered at The Black Cat Tavern in the first documented LGBT civil rights demonstration in the U.S. February 11, 1967 often gets eclipsed by June 28, 1969, the day of the famous Stonewall riot in New York City, which is widely regarded as the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement. But in truth the 1967 Black Cat protest is where it all began. Located on Sunset Boulevard, the modest Art Deco building that houses The Black Cat attracted a largely working class clientele and was nestled among a number of businesses friendly to gay men and lesbians. This is back in the days of a pre-hipster Silverlake, long before ordering artisanal cocktails and kale salad became de rigueur. Following a police raid, hundreds gathered outside the bar on February 11, 1967 in peaceful protest. To celebrate this milestone, L.A. Conservancy has commissioned a series of short films about The Black Cat and other lesser-known places that tell the stories of Los Angeles’ rich LGBTQ heritage. Despite the growing awareness of these places, many significant community anchors have been lost before their stories could be told. “Anything that happens that’s not documented we are destined to forget," says Alexei Romanoff, who helped organize the first P.R.I.D.E (Personal Rights In Defense and Education) demonstration. "If we stop telling our story, if we stop educating our own community, that’s when we make the big mistakes,” says Romanoff. “We are a tribe. By being close and united we don't give up hope and that’s what these films are teaching us.”
To watch the movies visit laconservancy.org/lgbtq-films
The Tailwaggers store, which first opened its doors back in 2003 in Hollywood, has become a cornerstone of the Los Angeles doggy community, with a second store in West Hollywood. Spearheaded by its CEO Todd Warner, pictured here with his dogs Buddy and Henry, the stores do a top job of providing the community with healthy, natural pet care products that are consistent with a holistic approach to pet health.
The Tailwaggers name itself has a fine pedigree, dating back to the Tail-waggers club created in 1915 in England. Bette Davis put the organization on the map in the US when she was elected as President of Southern California’s branch in 1929. Her dedication to animal welfare was a powerful force in raising awareness in Hollywood. In 1938, Life magazine covered one of her fund raising events, which enlisted the likes of Howard Hughes as a generous donor and Walt Disney, who personally designed the place cards.
Todd Warner (note that the initials T and W align beautifully with the name of his store), is building on that legacy by carrying the baton with The Tailwaggers Foundation which serves as a financial resource for non-profit animal rescue groups who are struggling to cover the cost of medical care for sick and injured animals. Recognizing that healthy dogs and cats stand the best chance for finding a loving home, his donations directly facilitate the adoption process and improve animal welfare in general.
His heartfelt devotion to his four legged friends, necessary for the protection and care of animals without voices, culminates in the Waggy Awards on March 19. Bringing together the great and the good of the animal welfare community, Warner likes to think of these awards as 'our furry little Oscars'. Crusaders, activists and pioneers dedicated to the protection of animals will collect awards for their service alongside Oscar™-nominated actress and well-known animal activist Linda Blair as well as Tippi Hedren and Moby. The confluence of Hollywood, community spirit and animal welfare harks (or should that be barks?) back to those early days when Bette was fighting on behalf of humanity's most devoted companion.
Listening to George Michael’s lyrics were like therapy for me. I remember when 'Older' came out in 1996, it gave voice to my own closeted yearnings. ‘You Have Been Loved’ was a secret homage to his Brazilian lover Anselmo Feleppa who died from an HIV-related illness in 1993, although you could miss that if you weren't paying attention. I was hanging on every word. Closeted George was a master at placing an ambivalent pronoun that could fly under the radar. 'Fastlove' was loaded with subtle and not so subtle linguistic backflips: “Stupid Cupid keeps on calling me, And I see lovin’ in his eyes”. This ode to sexual adventure worked on another level too. Throughout it you hear a sample of a disco track with the haunting refrain “sending you forget me nots, to help you to remember, baby please forget me not I want you to remember." Only a gay man would understand why that resonates. The thrill of the chase, the dangers of promiscuity, the wild intoxication of anonymous sex is blended beautifully with that sad, melancholy ache that comes from being physically fulfilled while spiritually and emotionally there is still a void.
Of course George was yet to come out, and this track foreshadowed his toilet tango in Beverly Hills for which he was arrested in 1998. Careers have been sunk by a lot less than a lewd act, but George threw caution to the wind with 'Outside', the monster hit that became my own coming out anthem. In the video he deftly turned the judgement-laden narrative on its head. By transforming a men’s bathroom into a disco of policemen kissing, he challenged hypocrisy and created musical alchemy. What could have been his cue to crawl under a rock became a transcendent moment of glorious triumph. YAAS!
George was no angel, nor was he a stranger to cruising on Hampstead Heath, but he had the humility to poke fun at himself (see his cameo on Ricky Gervais’s Extras). That he had self destructive tendencies which got him into dicey situations is undeniable but you might do too if you had grown up in a culture that criminalises your basic instincts. As Alan Downs says in his book 'The Velvet Rage', “any person that grows up in an environment that is essentially invalidating struggles with shame.” And like too many gay men, George began to rely heavily on substances to numb the pain.
“Gay people are more than two and half times more likely to become alcohol or drug dependent, over two and half times more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression disorders,” Downs continues. Last year it was reported that George underwent three months of treatment near Zurich for depression. Not all gay men have depression or substance abuse problems. And you don't have to be gay to be an addict, but it helps. Throw global pop superstardom into the mix (Amy, Whitney, Michael Jackson et al) and you’re left with a volatile pressure cooker waiting to explode (or implode). Perhaps being caught with his pants down was exactly what George wanted to burn the house down. Trouble is when you light that match it’s not always easy to stop, especially when you have some faulty wiring that prohibits the ability to start or stop an activity in spite of destructive consequences.
My own coming out story ran concomitantly with and was facilitated by George’s. I still have all the press clippings. I wonder if there would be such a hoopla today? Back then, it was still considered acceptable to mock gay people in the media. Things have progressed but it’s interesting to observe how public toilets are still such a hot topic, albeit more for trans people. You don't hear too many stories of entrapment these days, which is essentially what happened. I had the honour of meeting him at Attitude’s 10 year anniversary party in 2004. He was with his ‘American angel’ Kenny at the time. Shortly after things started to go wrong. In 2006 he pleaded guilty for driving while unfit through drugs and in 2008 was cautioned for possession of class A drugs including crack cocaine. In 2010 he crashed his Range Rover into a shop in North London and again admitted to driving under the influence of drugs. Clearly George did not have his shit together, but to say that this was due to his fading career is incorrect . His “25 Live” tour (2006-8) grossed more than $200 million. Anyone who battles with mental illness or addiction knows that it’s an inside job; no amount of success is going to quell the demons, if anything it will exacerbate them.
George is part of a generation of gay men that lived through an awful storm. After a decade of death and shame he got to see gay marriage being legalised which is awesome, but it doesn't undo all those years plagued by worry, fear, heartache and pain. George crafted the soundtrack to our lives. Through his music he allowed us to find our common humanity: on 'Outside' he reminds us that “there’s nothing here but flesh and bone.” I stand on the shoulders of men like George who fought my battles for me. But I remain vigilant: shame, fear, and prejudice have not vanished. In an era when basic battles for legal recognition have been won, more insidious forms of homophobia are still very much alive. Maybe he flew a little too close to the sun, but in doing so he saved me from living a lie. Growing up gay is a lonely experience, or at least it was in the 90s. Thank you George for making me feel less alone. I hope you're happy up there in gay heaven. You brushed my eyes with angel's wings.