Script for October 23, 2000, QMH:
I'm starting off tonight's show with two songs from a compilation album from 1980 called "Gay & Straight Together". The collection was produced by Ginni Clemmins and was first released on a very small Chicago label called Open Door Records. The album was quickly picked up by Folkways, which also released it that year. Some of the other artists on the compilation are Charlie Murphy and Malvina Reynolds. Starting off is Kristin Lems singing "How Nice" followed by Paula Walowitz, with "Surprise".
- how nice (1980)
Kristin Lems also released the song "now nice" on her own album in 1980 called "In The Out Door", and Paula Walowitz included "surprise" on a cassette called "Last Night At School Street" in 1990.
Since there will be so many obscurities heard on this show, I thought those of you on the internet would like to be able to see photos of the artists and recordings, and view the playlist.
Next up, we're going back to the San Francisco of around 1960, to the world of Jose Sarria. You've probably never heard of Sarria, but he was one of the main drag queen activists of that time. In the late 40s he started doing drag shows at a club called the Black Cat, one of the most famous gay bars of that era. His signature piece was a tune with which he would nightly close the bar via a sing-along with the bar's patrons. Together they would sing "God Save Us Nelly Queens". If you've seen the 1978 documentary "Word Is Out" you may recall one of the men named George telling about the singing of that song, and how it became a song of pride against the police harassment and oppression of that time. From the film, here is George's memory of it, followed by Jose leading a group singing that song, taken from the 1985 documentary "Before Stonewall."
"Word Is Out" & "Before Stonewall" clips
Taking activism to its limit, in 1961 Sarria ran as the first openly gay candidate for public office, predating Harvey Milk's run for City Supervisor by 16 years. He came in last in a large slate of candidates, but his 5600 votes demonstrated that there was a sizable vocal gay community in San Francisco. In 1965 Jose and various gay bar owners established the Tavern Guild to combat the police harassment and they sponsored San Francisco's first large, public drag ball. Over 500 gay men and lesbians bravely crossed police lines, flood lights and police photographers to attend the event, at which Jose was named Queen of the Ball, and he soon proclaimed himself Empress of San Francisco.
Out of the activities held by the Tavern Guild, Jose developed the bylaws and functions of the Imperial Court of San Francisco. The Royal Court System that evolved around Jose has been described as a kind of Shriner's Club for drag queens, where funny hats are replaced by fabulous gowns, big hair, and flamboyant makeup, and titles. From the start, the System began raising money for various gay charities through benefit drag performances. This court system eventually spread over the country, to include a chapter in Houston. Today Jose is still busy with imperial court activities, and he had a cameo in the movie "To Wong Foo" and his biography "The Empress Is A Man" was published in 1998. Around 1960 Jose Sarria released a very rare drag album called "No Camping". You're going to hear him do a little monologue and then his own version of "A Good Man Is Hard To Find."
Jose Sarria - monologue / a good man is hard to find (1960)
From the San Francisco drag bars of the 60s, we're going to go back to the New York night club scene of 1939 for a song by a singer simply called Spivy. Spivy had a large repertoire of songs, many of them poking fun at the blasé café society of New York, and they loved her for it. She entertained nightly in her own club called Spivy's Roof through the 40s. An author of that era described her as follows:
This was Spivy. Her hair was combed and lacquered into a pointed pompadour with a white streak running through it, and she often wore a black dress with shoulder pads and sequined lapels. Spivy was squat and looked like a bulldog. We used to call her the bulldog bulldyke.
In the 50s she went on to run nightclubs in Rome, Paris and London, and worked as a character actress on Broadway, and in such films as "The Manchurian Candidate," and "Requiem for a Heavyweight", and on television's "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." She retired in 1967 and died in 1971 at age 64. In the song you're going to hear, please allow for a little surface noise, as it was copied from an old 78. She talks about Oscar Wilde. It's called "I Brought Culture To Buffalo In The 90s".
Spivy - I brought culture to buffalo in the 90s (1939)
Okay, as promised here's that website address again for this show, where you'll see photos of Jose Sarria, Spivy and all the artists heard tonight: http://www.queermusicheritage.com.
Now we're going to bring things up to date, with three queer country songs. First is Jamie Anderson singing "Wynona, Why Not". It's from her 1993 CD "Bad Hair Day", and it's followed Jeff Miller singing "a little on the leather side," which will be on his upcoming CD. And last will be Doug Stevens & the Outband doing "git while the gittin's good". That's from their 1993 CD, "Out In The Country."
- wynona, why not (1993)
Once again, that was Jamie Anderson, Jeff Miller, and Doug Stevens.
This would be a good time to take a break and remind you that you are listening to Queer Music Heritage, a part of Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT, Houston. Also, be sure to listen to KPFT every Saturday night at midnight for After Hours with Jimmy Carper. It's Queer Radio With Attitude.
Spotlight Segment: Tribute to Matthew Shepard
There have been few events in our recent gay history that have been so moving and have had as much impact as the tragic death of Matthew Shepard. That happened in October of 1998. I'm honoring Matthew in my spotlight segment tonight, by playing some of the songs that he inspired. His death has moved many songwriters to write their own tributes. They were written with a variety of emotions, ranging from anger, to questioning the senselessness, to promising not to give in to the hatred. I could have filled the whole hour with just the songs in my collection.
The first one I'm playing is from this year by a new group called Stain'd Glass, with vocals by Steven Kerry, from the album "Family Values." It's called "Matthew 21:22". And it's followed by a song not yet commercially released. It's from the MP3 website of Greg Klyma, and is called "Human, Like You."
- michael 21:22 (2000)
Next up is a song by Garrin Benfield called "What You're Hiding". It was nominated for a GLAMA award last spring in the category of Out Recording. It lost to the song that follows it. That one is the most well-known of the songs about Matthew Shepard. It is called "scarecrow" by Melissa Etheridge, from her "Breakdown" album.
- what you're hiding (1999)
I want to thank you for listening to Queer Music Heritage. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, including maybe where to track them down, I'd be glad to help, so please email me. This is JD Doyle for Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the 4th Monday of next month with another installment of Queer Music Heritage. For my last song I'm playing one more tribute song, which alludes to the deaths of Matthew Shepard, and others by hate crimes. It's "How Many Candles" by Mark & Dean, from their album "Man Of My Dreams."
Mark & Dean - how many candles (1999)