Sunday, April 10, 2011
Giving Credit Where it Is Due
To the editors, New York magazine
Molly Young’s article on Freeman Gunter in the current New York magazine (April 11), makes a sad and dismissive mistake. She lists magazines that Freeman Gunter worked for, describing them as gay porn. She may be right about Playguy and Honcho, but she does a huge disservice to Mandate and Michael’s Thing. It was an era when publications like New York magazine dismissed the culture coming from the queer community with a sneer and a snicker. The New York Times refused to even use the word “gay,” and only mentioned our community if the article was derogatory.
Michael Giammetta published Michael’s Thing between 1970-2000 as a guide to cultural and social happenings of the GLTB community. It was the one of the main and most reliable sources of information. It also was a handy guide to the most important institutions of the early days of liberation, the gay bar. The covers of Michael’s Thing may have featured pretty boys almost in their all together but inside the focus was theater, dance, cabaret. They were all there, all the early voices of what would become queer culture. Freeman Gunter was an excellent critic. There are careers in the arts still going full force that began thanks to his taking notice of them.
Mandate magazine was started as an “out” version of After Dark in the early 1970s. It featured some of the early stars of GLBT photography, John Michael Cox, Jr., Jürgen Vollmer, and first and foremost, Roy Blakey. Under the editorship of John Devere, it contained thoughtful reviews covering all of the arts, and essential articles on the emerging gay liberation movement. John Devere’s coverage of the protests surrounding the filming of Cruising is still a high-water mark of gay journalism. Mandate did eventually deteriorate into a gay porn publication, but initially, it was a main source of considered reviews and serious reportage.
Plays of mine from the 1970s have become central to the gay literary canon and are still being performed all over the world. A Perfect Relationship is a huge hit in India where it is credited with recent political gains. Street Theater, my play about the Stonewall uprising, is presented yearly. Freeman Gunter, Michael Giammetta, and my good friend John Devere are real heroes of the movement, and were it not for publications like Mandate and Michael’s Thing, neither of these plays would have survived let alone prospered. Not when magazines such as yours and newspapers like the Times treated the queer community like a dirty little secret.
Doric Wilson, playwright