BROWNIE LADY

Dennis Peron is the one person in San Francisco best known for his advocacy of marijuana decriminalization. Brownie Mary briefly shared the media spotlight during the AIDS crises when she was arrested for providing chocolate baked edibles.

Home Baked by Alia Volz published 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tells the story of a lesser known purveyor of magic brownies who managed to operate surreptitiously in the city for several decades. The book focuses primarily on her mother Meridy Domnitz Volz, an aspiring artist who moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee.

Meridy Volz cautiously began selling Sticky Fingers Brownies in the 70s to street artists along Fishermen’s Wharf, a primarily tourist area on the northern part of San Francisco. But a decade later when the AIDS pandemic was devastating the gay male population, her brownies not only provided a tasty treat but helped many overcome wasting syndrome by stimulating appetites.

What went on behind the scenes was much more complicated both in terms of the personal dynamics and the unexpected business challenges. The author reveals a part of San Francisco history that comes as a surprise even to a native and long-term resident like myself.

copyright © 2020 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

http://www.nikosdiaman.com/

History Tour

In 1989 I was impressed by the extensive LGBT exhibition at the 42nd Street New York Public Library, which included several items related to organizations or projects I was involved with nearly two decades earlier.

Returning thirty years later I felt very removed from three Stonewall 50 exhibits I visited at Leslie-Loman Gallery, New York Public Library, and New York Historical Society Museum. Having returned to San Francisco nearly half a century ago, my East Coast ties are now in the distant past.

historytour

We Are Everywhere by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown published 2019 by Ten Speed Press covers more than a century of LGBTQ activism in the US. The huge collection of photos immediately drew my attention. More than a few are of people I know or knew starting with the one of Marsha P. Johnson on the front cover.

Reading the four-part history was a more demanding experience. I felt I was in a queer studies class. Interested in new material, impatient to get through the parts I already knew, and saddened by the reoccurring instances of infighting and acrimony documented. This isn’t unique to our struggle by any means.

I recommend We Are Everywhere for anyone wanting to learn about the setbacks and progress of queer liberation in the US, in a book profusely illustrated with images of individuals associated with that struggle.

copyright © 2019 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Family Values

Mama’s Boy by Dustin Lance Black, (2019) Knopf is a compelling memoir by the screenwriter of the award-wining film Milk.

familyvalues

It ranges over three generations, including the author’s maternal grandmother, who barely managed to overcome poverty and an all but hopeless future, through the courageous and exemplary life of his mother, who rose above a physically debilitating chronic condition to give birth and nurture three children, as well as his own rise as both a creative artist and dedicated activist for justice.

Lance’s mother shines in this loving portrayal of her and his admiration for her amazing courage and resolve. Aware of his homosexuality at an early age, he knows it distances him from the traditional Southern values of the one person whose love and acceptance he fears losing.

The key to understanding and compassion lies in the many personal stories of both him and his friends. It’s where connections are made and healing begins. Mama’s Boy is a rare gem of a book!

copyright © 2019 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Homosexual Purge

The Lavender Scare, a documentary by Josh Howard (USA) 2017 based on the book by historian David K. Johnson, premieres nationwide on PBS 18 June 2019.

homoxesualpurge

In 1953, soon after taking office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the firing of all homosexuals from government jobs. Most left quietly when confronted by investigators.

One man waged a life-long battle to regain employment as an astronomer and end the discriminatory policy for all while another committed suicide because he didn’t want to bring shame to his family.

It was indeed a very dark time for gays and lesbians, leftists, nonwhites, and independent-minded women excluded from fulfillment of their human potential and the promised benefits of the American dream.

Copyright © 2019 by N. A. Diaman.

http://nikosdiaman.com/

Got Milk!

Harvey Milk: His Lives And Death by Lillian Faderman. (2018) Yale University Press is a concise, well-written biography. A more satisfying work than either the Randy Shilts book or the Gus Van Sant feature film.

gotmilk!

Faderman’s book chronologically follows each phase of Milk’s life beginning with his childhood in an upper middle-class Jewish family on Long Island.

Intergenerational differences and conflict are there at the very start and remain as unresolved elements throughout his life.

Milk’s realization that he wasn’t quite like other boys and young men was a factor he dealt with in numerous ways. Homosexuality was almost universally condemned when he first realized he was gay. It was one of several important aspects that defined who he was and how he related to the world around him.

He tried various approaches in pursuit of a career he hoped would bring an overall sense of purpose in his life before settling on the one that was most challenging, satisfying numerous parts of himself, and leading eventually to his tragic death.

Harvey Milk is Lillian Faderman at her best and a valuable resource of LGBT history alongside her previous hefty publication, The Gay Revolution (2015) Simon And Schuster.

copyright © 2018 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

http://www.nikosdiaman.com

 

What’s Left

Has The Gay Movement Failed? by Martin Duberman, University of California Press, 2018 evaluates the status of Gay Liberation Front radical politics today.

what'sleft

Duberman is an academic with a prodigious body of work but this book begins with three dubious assertions. He says that Gay Liberation Front spread to a half dozen cities and college campuses, that the Gay Revolution Party began in London, and Gay Activists Alliance broke from GLF in November 1970.

Out Of The Closets edited by Karla Jay and Allen Young, Douglas Books, 1972 lists over 75 Gay Liberation Front groups. I was one of the founding members of Gay Revolution Party in New York. And Wikipedia marks 21 December 1969 as the founding date of Gay Activists Alliance.

Fortunately none of these errors are necessary for the main thesis of Has The Gay Movement Failed? Duberman correctly cites Gay Liberation Front that began in New York following the Stonewall Riots of June 1969 as a touchstone of gay left politics.

Marriage equality is certainly the antithesis of the ideals espoused by GLF because it involves acceptance of and inclusion into a flawed institution rather than demanding its dismantling and replacement by a more just and equitable social arrangement.

The book concludes with examples of current straight left attitudes relating to LGBTQ issues that seem not to have changed much over nearly half a century. Ignored, trivialized, denigrated. And at the end the question in the title remains unanswered.

Has The Gay Movement Failed? Is an interesting read but not the definitive work about an important subject that merits more comprehensive study.

I’d like to see a closer look at Gay Liberation Front politics and strategies, including both its successes and failures. Also a more detailed analysis of other radical and progressive LGBTQ groups and individuals outsides the mainstream.

It’s obvious to me that within weeks of its founding, there were individuals in GLF eager to abandon the ideals of transformative personal and societal liberation for the comforts of mere rights and acceptance of the status quo.

Our current challenge remains how to achieve the benefits of a better world for everyone instead of continuing to privilege just a few.

copyright © 2018 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Tale Teller

The author of the popular series, Tales Of The City, tells his own story in Logical Family by Armistead Maupin, HarperCollins, 2017.

taleteller

Maupin has talked about his conservative family upbringing at book signings, radio and TV interviews, and also in films about him. Much of the material in his memoir is already public knowledge.

But for his many fans that have either never seen him in person nor been exposed to recorded interviews, the book offers an additional opportunity to be entertained by his writing.

What began as a conventional life rooted in Southern tradition and politics took an unexpected turn after the author’s move to the West Coast and eventual acceptance of his sexual orientation.

Maupin, a vocal promoter of his adopted city of San Francisco, has made a successful career for himself not only through his writing and speaking engagements but also with ancillary sales. These include television shows, films, theatrical productions, musical presentations, etc.

copyright © 2018 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

http://www.nikosdiaman.com

Summer Romance

Call Me By Your Name directed by Luca Guadagnino (USA) 2017 begins with the arrival of a summer intern in Northern Italy in 1983.

summerromance

Each year a Greco-Roman culture professor invites a grad student to help him with his research. This year it’s a tall, striking grad student named Oliver, who immediately captures the attention of the professor’s teenage son, Timothée.

Much of the film, and the novel by André Aciman it’s based on, is about the prolonged longing and unfulfilled physical contact of the two young men.

I put aside the book after reading perhaps the first third but the film held my interest from beginning to end.

Call Me By Your Name is now playing at The Landmark, Los Angeles and Paris Theatre, New York.

It opens 15 December 2017 at Century Centre Cinema, Chicago; Embarcadero Center Cinema and Kabuki 8, San Francisco; and E Street Cinema, Washington.

Also 22 December 2017 at Violet Crown Cinema, Austin; Shattuck 10, Berkeley; Houston 8, Houston; Hillcrest Cinema Five, San Diego; Monica Film Cener, Santa Monica; and Camelview At Fashion Square, Scottsdale;

copyright © 2017 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

http://www.nikosdiaman.com

Black Lives

This Bitter Earth by playwright Harrison David Rivers is having its world premier at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco 22 September – 22 October 2017.

blacklives

I invited someone I didn’t know well to accompany me. I waited in the theater lobby for him while he stood outside the building waiting for me. I thought he knew the theater is located in the sub basement of an office building while he assumed I had a mobile. Our agreement to meet there meant different things to each of us.

This Bitter Earth is a two-man drama that deals with the complexities of a black-white gay relationship rooted in the painfully tragic realities of the present. One of them is a Black Lives Matter activist while the other remains politically unengaged.

The play is especially relevant to inter-racial couples. It touches on situations and feelings familiar to anyone who’s been in an intimate relationship: joy, doubt, pleasure, disappointment, irritation, satisfaction, understanding, and confusion.

There is much to praise in the play, its production, the acting, and the set design. However, the audience is key to its success. I had trouble imagining the two actors cast as a believable couple. Aside from that, I think it’s well worth seeing.

Contact New Conservatory Theatre Center for more information and tickets.

copyright © 2017 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Lucky Alive

The Untold Tales Of Armistead Maupin directed by Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber (USA) 2017 is the opening night film of Frameline 41.

luckyalive

Armistead Maupin and his Tales Of The City books are local pop icons in San Francisco. Nearly as familiar as the Golden Gate to residents of Castro Street and beyond. This ninety-minute documentary will likely be a crowd-pleaser during its screening at the Castro Theatre 15 June 2017.

While the movie fleshes out some details of Maupin’s life and provides numerous images of him at various stages of his life, there are few revelations.

The theme of this year’s San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival (15 – 25 June 2017) is Genre Queer. Venues include the Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater, and Victoria Theatre in San Francisco, Rialto Cinemas, Elmwood in Berkeley, and Landmark Theatres Piedmont in Oakland.

More information and tickets available at www.frameline.org

copyright © 2017 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com