Gay & Bisexual Men of Importance. Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.
Gay Rust Belt Mayor Pete Buttigieg Qualifies for First Presidential Debate; Pinch Yourself
For the first time in history, an openly gay man will participate in a Democratic party presidential debate. South Bend (Indiana) Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced on Saturday, March 16 that he had reached the 65,000* individual donor goal which qualifies him to be invited to the first DNC debate (June 2019) before the 2020 presidential election. He also met the requirement that donors must come from at least 20 states.
*76,025 donors as of Saturday morning, March 16, 2019
Buttigieg is competing for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2020 national election. If successful, he would be the first openly gay president, as well as the youngest (39 on inauguration day 2021). Mayor Pete, as he likes to be called, considering that tongue stopping last name (BOOT-edge-edge), turned in a star performance March 10, 2019, on a live CNN Town Hall held in Austin, TX. If you have not listened to this broadcast, see the YouTube link below.
Your blogger was born (and continues to live) in the Washington DC suburbs, so I have been saturated with politics my entire life, yet I have never heard a politician speak so calmly and eloquently, with a quiet determination and assurance. He answers every question! No deflections! He mentions solutions and policies that need to be explored, all delivered with a refreshing candor and vision. And relatable. I’m still pinching myself. Consider it your civic duty to listen to the entire broadcast of 43 minutes. If nothing else, he should be hired by any candidate on how to handle an interview or town hall session.
My favorite quote from the CNN Town Hall:
When asked how he would respond to criticism from Trump:
"I'm a gay man from Indiana. I know how to handle a bully."
[FULL] CNN TOWN HALL WITH PETE BUTTIGIEG 3/10/19 | CNN BREAKING NEWS TODAY MAR 10, 2019 - YouTube
This man is only 37 (born January 19, 1982), openly gay (married public school teacher Chasten Glezman in June 2018; photo below), informed and eloquent. A Harvard graduate (BA) and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford (MA), where he received a “first” in economics. Not to mention a veteran of the war in Afghanistan; he remains a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. Mayor Pete speaks English, Arabic, Dari, Spanish, Norwegian, French, Italian and Maltese (his father emigrated from Malta, where Buttigieg is a common name). When he ran for reelection for mayor as an out gay man in 2015, he won with more than 80% of the vote. In red state Indiana. Believe it.
P.S.: Interested in learning more about Mayor Pete? He has a new book out, a memoir -- Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future (pub. Feb. 12, 2019). The Guardian (British daily newspaper) stated that Buttigieg “has written the best political autobiography since Barack Obama”.
(Buttigieg met his husband online, and their first date included a visit to the South Bend Cubs. They made it to the sixth inning before they ditched the game for a walk by the river.)
“I felt the slight brushing of his hand coming closer to mine,” he writes, “and I took hold of it. Nothing in my life, from shaking hands with a president to experiencing my first rocket attack, matched the thrill of holding Chasten’s hand for the first time. I was electrified. We got back to the car just as the post-game fireworks began, and as the explosions and lit colors unfolded over us, he went in for a kiss … It only took a few weeks for me to acknowledge the obvious: I was in love.”
Photo below: Buttigieg upon returning from deployment in Afghanistan.
Allegro from Sonata terza à 2 by Johann Rosenmüller - YouTube
2019 is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Johann Rosenmüller (1619-1684), an important baroque composer of instrumental and sacred vocal music in Germany and Italy at the middle of the seventeenth century. He was an organist, trombonist, teacher and composer who survived a homosexual scandal in Leipzig and escaped to Italy, where he resurrected a major career in Venice.
After graduating from the University of Leipzig, he became the assistant to the Thomasschule Cantor (director of music). Working his way up, he was next appointed organist at the Nicolaikirche, one of the three important churches in the city. As his boss became increasingly ill, Rosenmüller was assured he would be next in line for the position of Cantor at the Thomasschule, the same position that Johann Sebastian Bach would assume seventy years later. In 1655, however, Rosenmüller was arrested on charges of seducing several of his choir boys; he subsequently escaped from jail and fled to Venice, where he supported himself by playing trombone at St. Mark’s Basilica.
Some years later, he attained a position as maestro di coro (master of the chorus), at the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage school that featured an acclaimed all-girl* choir and orchestra that performed liturgical functions and gave concerts on Sunday afternoons. A generation later Antonio Vivaldi famously directed the musical activities at this orphanage school, elevating the female choir and orchestra to world-wide fame, attracting many tourists. Today the Metropole Hotel is the former music building, and guides point out (erroneously) that the church to the left of the hotel was the church where Vivaldi’s girls performed. In fact, the church was built many years after Vivaldi’s death.
*Many of these girls were the illegitimate children of Venetian nobles, who lavishly supported the school. The girls performed behind screens so that their “comeliness would not distract those in attendance”. Your blogger surmises that a more plausible cause might have been to hide any physical resemblance of the orphans to their noble (actual) parents. Scandal!
Rosenmüller’s sacred compositions reflected an obvious Italian influence, and students who came from Germany to study with him took these works back to their homeland, thus introducing Italian musician idioms to Germany. In 1682, considering that the coast was clear after an interval of nearly 30 years, he left Italy and returned to his homeland, Germany, where he became court composer for a duke at Wolfenbüttel in Lower Saxony. He died there in 1684, at age 65. In the annals of classical music history, Rosenmüller is hardly a household word, but his name is frequently mentioned as the man who held two posts eventually filled by much more famous men, J. S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi. Not to mention the well-documented homosexual scandal.
Graeme Skinner: “Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to World War II”.
Robert A. Green, Professor at the School of Music, Northern Illinois University. GLBTQ Archive.
British-born model, writer and former porn star Aiden Shaw (b. 1966) had a traditional upbringing in England. He came from respectability and has returned to it again, but there’s no ignoring that wild detour in the early 1990s when he established himself as a popular star of gay porn. What set him apart from his adult film peers was that he was a man of intellect.
Shaw made over 50 pornographic films, earning several industry awards along the way. He stood out from the pack of blonds and their smooth all-over-tanned bodies. Shaw didn’t shave his chest and obviously didn’t sunbathe in the nude – in fact, his sharply defined tan line became a trademark. He was further distinguished by his British accent, although his porn roles required limited use of his speaking voice. Shaw’s screen persona was that of a traditionally handsome natural man possessed of a spectacularly generous endowment (and a rose tattoo on his arm). In fact, his penis was as much discussed in the 1990s as international playboy Porfirio Rubirosa’s(*) was in the 1930s (we're all of us too young to remember – just Goggle him). Many of Shaw’s fans noticed a startling facial resemblance to Richard Gere (see photo below).
*OK, I've received numerous E-mails about this, so here's a hint. To this day in Paris, if a restaurant patron wants one of those tall wooden peppermills, he says, "Waiter, may I please have a Rubirosa?" I kid you not.
He became one of the most popular global adult male stars before retiring from the porn industry in 1999 (he was diagnosed HIV positive in 1997). Although a car accident brought a hiatus to his porn career – for a time he was paralyzed and in a wheelchair – he made a return with four more adult videos in 2003/2004.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to reconcile his current appearance as a classically handsome, mature man with salt and pepper hair and a beard with his actual age – 52. He looks years older, in a good way. Talk about aging gracefully.
He comes across as a confident, worldly man, the perfect type for promoting luxury goods. He has modeled for GQ Magazine in Berlin, Le Figaro and El Pais, as well as in other print venues. That his present appearance renders him nearly unrecognizable from his days as a porn star is surely to his advantage, although the rose tattoo is an identity giveaway.
Shaw has worked in diverse fields, as an editor of an interior design magazine, a poet, an HIV activist, vocalist, producer, escort, composer and writer. Print modeling is merely his latest career turn. He undertook formal studies in film, television, photography and video, subsequently taking post- college jobs directing and art directing music videos. Shaw wrote and produced two albums of music, performing lead vocals with his band "Whatever". Individual tracks are available on iTunes.
The first chapter of his autobiography, My Undoing: Life in the Thick of Sex, Drugs, Pornography and Prostitution (2006), begins: “All I could see were pretty shapes and colours, my dick going in and out of his white cheeks.” From his days as an escort, his comment on how to have sex with men who repulse him: “Well, the thing is, very few men physically repulse me. Like a good whore, I can always find something about a man that I like.”
From an interview with Daniel Lee in NYC in 2003:
DL: What makes you laugh hardest? AS: Getting treated special because I have a big dick.
DL: Would you prefer not to be treated special because you have big dick? AS: No way!
Well, there you have it.
Shaw’s writing is described by Michael Musto of The Village Voice as prose that “can tug at your heartstrings and your crotch at the same time.” His first novel, Brutal, appeared in 1996, the same year he published a collection of poems titled If Language at the Same Time Shapes and Distorts Our Ideas and Emotions, How Do We Communicate Love? (it sold out), followed by two more novels, Boundaries (1997) and Wasted (2001).
Shaw completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing in 2007 at Goldsmiths University of London, followed by publication of a second autobiography, Sordid Truths (2009). In 2011, Shaw completed training to become a qualified English teacher.
Shaw was recently profiled in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Hercules Universal – One Last Colony, the Havana Affair – in which he models luxury men’s clothing (click on link).
Before Houston, TX, native Ray Hill became a galvanizing gay activist, he had been a Baptist evangelist and a convicted burglar who served four years in prison. Not a typo.
Mr. Hill, who died November 24, was a larger-than-life character who said, "I was born to rub the cat hair the wrong direction." He described his occupation as a "journeyman-quality hell raiser, and on his business cards the words "Citizen Provocateur" were printed under his name.He partnered with San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk to organize the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. 80,000 activists showed up. But the second national march he helped organize drew more than 200,000 people in 1987, the largest gay rights demonstration in history.
A renowned radio broadcaster, he co-founded KPTF-FM in Houston, where he started a program on LGBTG issues. In 1980 Texas prisoners could not call home or close relatives. Although Hill lobbied for a 2007 state law allowing such, his prior efforts resulted in radio's "The Prison Show" with a call-in segment that allowed families to update inmates with greetings, family news and news of births and deaths and such trivialities as children's soccer game scores.
He bullied Anita Bryant in 1977 but campaigned for several female politicians, most notably Annise Parker, who became Houston's first gay mayor in 2010. But that's not all. When his sister died in an automobile accident in 1977, Mr. Hill raised her two children. In fact, his entire life became a legacy of service to others.
After losing his left leg and right foot to diabetes, he resided at Omega House in Houston, a hospice center he helped establish in the 1980s. He had been hospitalized earlier this year with heart problems. His funeral was held yesterday on the steps of Houston's City Hall, where Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered a statement that called Mr. Hill a warrior in the fight for gay rights, human rights and criminal justice reforms.
The multimillionaire German steel industrialist F. A. Krupp (1854-1902) loved the Italian island of Capri, off the coast of Naples, where he resided for several months each year at the Hotel Quisisana*. He kept two yachts there, Maya and Puritan, from which he entertained and pursued his hobby of oceanography. He could well afford to, since his father – Alfred, the Cannon King – had amassed the largest personal fortune in Germany. Alfred's power was so great that crowned heads negotiated directly with him.
While on the island, Krupp (known all his life as Fritz) indulged his homosexual leanings in a big way. He set up a lavish private pleasure club in a grotto, where he entertained underage Italian boys, mostly the sons of local fishermen. Man on man sex was performed to the accompaniment of a live string quartet, and orgasms were celebrated with bursts of fireworks. Solid gold pins shaped like artillery shells or two crossed forks, both designed by Krupp, were given to the boys if they performed well. I'm not making this up.
When Krupp's wife, back home in Germany, heard rumors of what was going on, she went straight to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who promptly had her committed to an insane asylum in Jena. The thinking was that the Krupp industrialist empire (steel and arms manufacturing) was too vital to German national security to be compromised, even if such lurid stories were deemed true. Besides, Fritz was an important philanthropist who advanced the study of eugenics, which was later to become associated with the Nazis. The company lives on today as Thyssen-Krupp AG, the result of a controversial merger completed in 1999. The new company operates worldwide in steel manufacture, capital goods (elevators and industrial equipment) and services (specialty materials, environmental services, mechanical engineering, and scaffolding services).
But I digress. Krupp’s homosexual tastes predated his holidays on Capri. Conrad Uhl, proprietor of the Hotel Bristol in Berlin, related that he was charged with supplying Fritz with young boys when he stayed there. However, the German press eventually found out about Krupp's illicit private affairs, and printed the whole story, complete with damning photographs taken by Krupp himself inside the grotto on Capri. On November 15, 1902, the Social Democratic magazine Vorwärts reported that Friedrich Alfred Krupp was homosexual, that he had a number of liaisons with local boys and men, and that his principal attachment was to Adolfo Schiano, an 18-year-old barber and amateur musician who lived on Capri. A week later, Krupp requested a meeting with his close friend, Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose circle of friends included many prominent gay men. On the day he was to meet the emperor, November 22, 1902, Krupp was found dead in his home. Rather than face disgrace, Krupp had committed suicide; he was 48 years old at the time.
The suicide was covered up, and his body was concealed in a casket with no autopsy, even though law required it. No one, not even close relatives, was allowed to see the body. After three days, Germany had a great memorial ceremony involving the Kaiser, who was closely allied to the family. When Fritz was laid to rest in the Krupp family cemetery in Essen, his tomb was guarded day and night.
Ten years ago, when I first visited Capri**, I looked down in wonder from the Gardens of Augustus to the switchback paved footpath known as the Via Krupp, a scenic walkway constructed by Fritz in 1900. Ostensibly Via Krupp was a connection for Fritz between his rooms at the Hotel Quisisana and Marina Piccola, the small port where his marine biology research ship (ironically named the Puritan) lay at anchor. Secretly, however, this path conveyed him to Grotta di Fra’ Felice, the grotto where sex orgies with local boys took place. When the scandal surfaced, Krupp was asked to leave Italy in 1902, and a week after his return to Germany his life was over.
**At the time I had no knowledge of this lurid tale. Today there is a small family-run three star hotel called Villa Krupp on Capri which many people mistakenly believe was built by Fritz Krupp. However, this structure was built as a private villa in 1900 by Eduardo Settanni. By the way, Capri was then known as the gay capital of Europe, hosting hordes of lesbians and gay men, who could pursue their interests openly. Tip: remember to pronounce Capri with the accent on the first syllable (KAH-pree).
The Via Krupp descends 300 feet from the Gardens of Augustus to Marina Piccola, where Fritz hosted all male sex orgies in the nearby Grotta di Fra’ Felice. The iron gate pictured below leads to the grotto. He referred to this grotto as the "holy place of a secret fraternity," and he gave out golden keys to the private gate to waiters and fisherman. He wasn’t even trying to be discrete. This stone path, which had been closed for thirty years because of the danger of falling rocks, was reopened to foot traffic in 2009.
Photo below: On Capri Fritz Krupp satisfies his "needs," which leads to disaster (Auf Capri geht Fritz Krupp den Bedürfnissen nach, die ihm schließlich zum Verhängnis werden) – a scene from the 2009 three-part German TV miniseries, Krupp – Eine Deutsche Familie. In this scene Krupp (center) brings one of the local boys back to his hotel to "satisfy his needs."
Handsome British film actor Dirk Bogarde’s lawyer, Laurence Harbottle, said, “I share the view of every friend of his whom I have ever known – that Dirk’s nature was entirely homosexual in orientation.”
Well, there you have it.
Dirk Bogarde (1921-1999), who portrayed numerous gay and bisexual men on the screen, spent his entire career sublimating or denying his true sexual orientation. He wanted more than anything to be regarded as a straight leading man. He was called the British Rock Hudson for his good looks and appealing on-screen persona, but the two actors had more than beauty and acting style in common.
English actor John Fraser wrote in his memoir, Close Up (2004):
“But (Dirk) could not accept, could not understand, and could not see when he watched his own performances, that he was effeminate.”
Bogarde aspired for an international film career, not one limited to British audiences. Yet he blamed the utter failure of his sole Hollywood film, Song Without End, in which he portrayed Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt, on anyone other than himself. He blamed his contract with the Rank Organization for limiting him to a long stream of British films, and he complained that he was grossly underpaid.
He was a gifted painter and art restorer, a talented interior decorator and a successful writer, authoring six novels and multiple volumes of autobiography in which not a word about his true sexual orientation appeared. His lover of 50 years, Anthony Forwood (left), was referred to as “Forwood”, in an attempt to portray their relationship as merely one of employer and employee (everyone else called him Tony). Forwood had left his actress wife, Glynis Johns, and their son to move in with Bogarde to become his “manager.” Rare photo of Forwood and Bogarde together (below):
Bogarde’s talent as a writer was often put to good use in embellishing screenplay dialogue.
From The Victim (1961):
In the film Dirk’s character, lawyer Melville Farr, is confronted by his beautiful wife, Laura (portrayed by Sylvia Syms*), who demands an explanation of who this boy Barrett was, how they knew each other, and why Mel stopped seeing him.
Dirk’s character responds:
“Alright – alright, you want to know. I’ll tell you – you won’t be content until I tell you, will you? – until you’ve RIPPED it out of me. I stopped seeing him because I WANTED him. Can you understand – because I WANTED him. Now what good has that done you?”
The dialogue as it appeared in the original script went this way:
“You won’t be content till I tell you. I put the boy outside the car because I wanted him. Now what good has that done you?”
*Younger readers might recall Ms. Syms as the Queen Mother to Helen Mirren in “The Queen” (2006).
Well, this was a film in which a real life gay man was portraying a gay character, a lawyer who tries to right an injustice involving blackmail for being gay. The Victim was the first movie in which the word "homosexual" was spoken on screen, and Bogarde later took credit for writing-in the scene that was the first instance of a man saying "I love you" to another man. Unfortunately, this film all but ended his career as a leading man, yet it opened the door to later brilliant film portrayals as a character actor. Bogarde was knighted in 1992 for his contributions to acting.
The impact of this film cannot be overstated. As American film makers were struggling to make homosexual material acceptable to the Hays Code** and the Legion of Decency***, this British film appeared in which an explicitly gay character actually stood up to fight a system that oppressed homosexuals. In "Victim," Dirk Bogarde was the screen's first gay hero.
**Hays Code (1930-1968): film censorship standards named after Presbyterian elder Will Hays of Indiana, who served as Postmaster General in the cabinet of President Warren Harding. Hays had also served as head of the Republican National Committee. The Supreme Court had already decided unanimously in 1915 that free speech did not extend to motion pictures, and the Hays Office codified objectionable material. Enforcement began in 1934, when the release of any film was held up until the movie studio acquired a certificate of approval from the Hays Office. If a gay character was allowed in a film, that character was open to scorn and ridicule, and most often died by the end of the movie. It was not until after the Hays Code was replaced by the current rating system in 1968 (G, PG, R, N17) that a movie appeared in which gays celebrated their sexual orientation, not to mention that all the gay characters were still living when the end credits rolled – Boys in the Band (1970).
***Legion of Decency was established by the American Catholic Church in 1933, with even stricter standards. Their clout was the constant threat of massive boycotts against films that did not meet their moral standards.
Prussian naturalist, explorer of Central and South America, author of a 23-volume work on his travels, and of the seminal Cosmos, which laid the foundations for modern physical geography and meteorology, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a leading European figure of his day, considered second only to Napoleon in influence. A major Pacific current, numerous cities, counties, and other landmarks bear his name. In fact, more places and species are named after Humboldt than any other person. To this day things continue to be named after him. When the grand, rebuilt City Palace in Berlin opens next year (September 14, 2019), it will be named the Humboldt Forum. Humboldt was born and died in Berlin, and the forum’s opening will be exactly 250 years since the day Humboldt was born. It will be the German equivalent of the British Museum.
During his lifetime Humboldt’s same sex attraction was widely noted. While some biographers say that there is no “proof” that he was gay, there is plenty of incriminating evidence. When he died, his sister burned all of his love letters. Humboldt left his entire estate to his male “servant,” Johann Seifert, who was some thirty years younger. During the nineteenth century, a common way to “hide” a same sex relationship was to pass off one’s lover as a servant, especially if the two were of different social classes. Humboldt was of the monied class; Seifert was not. Humboldt was also somewhat effeminate and masochistic. Seifert was domineering and bullying by nature. To your blogger, this seems a perfect fit.
When Humboldt was 25 years old he met a 21-year-old Lieutenant named Reinhard von Haeften. Humboldt was so besotten with von Haeften that he desired his presence at all times, so Humboldt invited him to live under his own roof. At Humboldt’s invitation and patronage, the two traveled extensively. Humboldt used the code letter “R” when referring to von Haeften in letters to colleagues and friends. This went on for two years, and after von Haeften married his pregnant fiancée, Humboldt lived with the newlyweds for six months. Must have been cozy. In fact, Humboldt was so brazen that, before the marriage, he contacted von Haeften’s fiancée to tell her that he had found the perfect house in Switzerland for the three of them to live in. As if.
Likewise with esteemed French botanist Aimé Bonpland, another favored male companion who lived and traveled with Humboldt for five years. In attentive detail they wrote descriptions of the masculine beauty of South American Indians. From 1799-1804 they explored the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, the Andes mountains and parts of Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia and Mexico, collecting specimens of rocks and plants. They investigated volcanoes, ocean currents, the earth’s magnetism, climate and animal life. Humboldt funded this five-year exploration with his own inheritance.
Humboldt died from a stroke at age 89, but he was still publishing scientific works right up to the time of his death. When biographers started poking around, they discovered letters written to friends and travel companions that revealed that Humboldt had been amorously corresponding with men. But further "proof" went up in flames, literally, when Humboldt's sister burned all his love letters. And why might that have been? Hmmm.....
Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (Wayne Dynes)
Vincent Gabrielle (California-based gay scientist and blogger)
The Humboldt Society lecture, Philadelphia, 1996
The Life of Alexander von Humboldt (Maren Meinhardt)
Alexander von Humboldt: A Metabiography (Nicolaas Rupke)
NOGLSTP (National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals)
Born February 1, 1902, Langston Hughes, a deeply closeted gay man, was an African-American poet, novelist, lecturer, columnist and playwright who became one of the foremost interpreters of racial relationships in the United States. Born in the south, he dropped out of Columbia University to experience the world of jazz and nightclubs and went on to become a major component of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. He was one of the innovators of the new literary art form called jazz poetry. He worked menial jobs, and was “discovered” as a poet while working as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. The story goes that Hughes dropped his poems beside the poet Vachel Lindsay's dinner plate, and Lindsey included several of them in his next poetry reading. Lindsay’s interest and support launched a major career for Hughes.
This event spawned a local chain of restaurants in the Washington, DC area called “Busboys and Poets” (your blogger has enjoyed many evenings there drinking, dining, playing cards, watching films and taking in live shows and poetry readings). Hughes, who went on to become one of the first black authors who could support himself by writing, became a friend of Ernest Hemingway, with whom he attended bullfights. He wrote lyrics for “Street Scene,” an opera by Kurt Weill and Elmer Rice, as well as screenplays for Hollywood films. His original works portrayed people whose lives were impacted by racism and sexual conflicts; he often wrote about southern violence. However, he felt he had to remain sexually closeted in order to maintain the financial support and respect of various black churches and other cultural institutions.
Hughes had more life experience to draw upon than most, and his world view was vast. Having been born in the segregated deep south of Joplin, Missouri, he later lived in Mexico, Paris and Italy. He worked as a seaman on jaunts to Africa and Europe, spent a year in the Soviet Union, and served as a Madrid correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American.
His career successes helped break the chains of poverty into which he had felt trapped. For the last twenty years of his life he owned his own home in Harlem, a brownstone at 20 E. 127th Street.
In 1967, Hughes died at the age of 65 from complications after abdominal surgery, related to prostate cancer. He left an enduring legacy.
A poem written when Hughes was 18 years old:
“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”
I've known rivers: I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I danced in the Nile when I was old I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I've known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
– from "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," 1920
Sources: Wikipedia, Charles H. Hughes, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997), Out Magazine
The great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was of half Jewish and half Catholic heritage. He was also a homosexual. One of eight children sired by an Austrian millionaire steel industrialist, Ludwig sought simplicity and solitude, rejecting the privileged and highly cultured lifestyle of his father and sister. Margaret, his sister, helped arrange Freud’s escape to England in 1938, and his father took a violin with him on business trips.
House guests at the Viennese home of the Wittgensteins included Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss, Clara Schumann, Gustav Mahler and Bruno Walter, and private musical performances in the Wittgenstein's city palace in Vienna (staircase shown in photo) were coveted invitations. Ludwig was himself an accomplished musician and had perfect pitch. There were seven grand pianos in this house, just one of thirteen mansions they owned in downtown Vienna. The palace interior's Red Salon (below) affords a glimpse into the level of opulence Wittgenstein experienced while growing up. Unfortunately, the city palace was demolished by developers in the early 1950s. There was also a summer palace, of course, called the Hochreith, located in the countryside outside Vienna. At the time, the Wittgensteins were second in wealth only to the Rothschilds.
Ludwig’s brother Paul became a famous concert pianist, but three other brothers committed suicide. His brother Rudolph (Rudi), took his own life in a very public way. He mixed a packet of potassium cyanide into a glass of milk and drank it while having dinner in a Berlin restaurant. Two minutes later he was dead. Rudi killed himself because he was petrified that he would be identified in a case report by famous sexologist, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (himself a homosexual), describing in detail the problems of a homosexual student in Berlin. Rudi, a homosexual student in Berlin, was not at all comfortable with his sexuality. Their brother Johannes, also homosexual, took his own life, as well. Their father, Karl Wittgenstein, was humiliated by these acts and thereafter forbade family members to mention the name of either Johannes or Rudolph. A third brother, a military officer, shot himself when his troops deserted him. Paul, who lost an arm during the war, later settled in New York to teach music. Paul commissioned a piano concerto for the left hand only from composer Maurice Ravel. This photo shows Ludwig (on the left) with his brother Paul, the pianist (wearing glasses), before the tragic loss of Paul's right arm.
After serving in the Austrian Army during WW I, Ludwig Wittgenstein gave away his considerable fortune, always refused to wear a tie, furnished his rooms with simple deck chairs, played the clarinet, and wolfed down plates of cream doughnuts while watching his favorite John Wayne films. Wittgenstein gave up philosophy and taught in elementary schools in Lower Austria from 1920 to 1926. For a time he even took up a job as a gardener's assistant at a monastery. From 1926 to 1928 he became involved in the design of a modernist mansion for his sister, a testament to the aesthetic austerity that he championed (no baseboards, bare light bulbs for illumination). The house still stands in Vienna and serves as the Bulgarian Cultural Institute. I forgot to mention that Ludwig also took up sculpture – a true polymath.
Extraordinarily handsome as a youth, he counted Adolph Hitler among his classmates. They were the same age, but Wittgenstein was two grades apart from Hitler (Ludwig had been advanced a grade and Hitler held back one); there has been much speculation as to whether or not they were friends. At the age of nineteen Ludwig took up aeronautical studies in Manchester, England, where he designed a jet engine; the complex mathematics needed for such an endeavor led him to explore the foundations of mathematics. While at Cambridge he studied with an influential teacher, Bertrand Russell, and it is difficult to discern which had the greater impact on the other. Wittgenstein’s work was primarily in the philosophy of mathematics, the foundations of logic, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. His two great published philosophical works are densely crafted and thus difficult to read and comprehend. Nevertheless, Wittgenstein is generally regarded as one of the twentieth century's most important philosophers.
In November 1912, on the recommendation of fellow student John Maynard Keynes (with whom Wittgenstein shared a male lover), Ludwig was elected to the elite Cambridge society known as the Apostles, which at that time maintained an aura of homoeroticism. An atmosphere that teetered on the brink of male/boy worship made Wittgenstein so uncomfortable that he stopped attending meetings. Ludwig was unsettled by his homosexuality and quite secretive about his sexual interests and activities. He wrote his diary in code, identifying the males with whom he had relations by a letter (Ben Richards was code named “Y”). This was perhaps to be expected, given the fact that homosexuality was illegal in Austria and Britain at the time. Historian Julie Anne Taddeo wrote, "The Cambridge Apostles transformed the definition of sodomy from an illegal and sinful act to an alternative creed of manliness and transcendental love and hoped to spread the gospel of the Higher Sodomy among their enlightened contemporaries."
During his student days in Vienna, Wittgenstein was known to cruise the Prater, a large public park where he hooked up with rough trade youths. He also frequented a café that was a chess club during the day, but a raucous gay bar by night. However, Wittgenstein went on to have several serious affairs with Englishmen of his own class – mathematics student David Pinsent, philosopher Frank Ramsey, the much-younger medical student Ben Richards, and architect Francis Skinner (at left in photo, shown walking with Wittgenstein). In 1929 Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge, where he became a professor in 1939. He resigned that post in 1947 to move to Ireland, where he hoped he’d find the solitude to complete his second great work, Philosophical Investigations. This plan didn’t come to fruition, unfortunately. It was published in its incomplete form in 1953, two years after his death from prostate cancer at the age of sixty two.
Ludwig died in Cambridge, housed in his doctor's home, since he did not wish to die in a hospital. He celebrated his 62nd birthday by taking a walk. Three days later, he was dead. His last words were, "Tell them I've had a wonderful life."
The Dutch humanist Erasmus (1466-1536) fell madly in love with a tall young monk named Servatius Roger. Erasmus wrote him scores of passionate, love-sick letters, to which Roger reacted by asking him to tone it down – way down, lest there be a scandal. Roger never gave in to the constant, overwrought advances. Here is a typical exchange:
Erasmus: Don’t be so reserved. I have become yours so completely that nothing of myself is left...I have wooed you both unhappily and relentlessly.
Roger: What is wrong with you?
This portrait of Erasmus by Hans Holbein the Younger (1523) hangs in London's National Gallery.
While later teaching in Paris, Erasmus instructed a 21-year-old English-born student, Thomas Grey, who later became Marquis of Dorset. Erasmus was abruptly dismissed as Grey’s teacher, for making unwanted advances towards him. It seems Erasmus had a thing for straight men.
Erasmus was born Gerrit Gerritszoon (Dutch for Gerard Gerardson) in Rotterdam as the illegitimate son of a physician's daughter and a man who later became a monk. On his parents' death his guardians insisted he enter a monastery, where he adopted the name Desiderius Erasmus. After taking priest's orders, Erasmus went to Paris, where he earned a living as a teacher. His life-long clashes with theologians and clergy took root while in France. Among his pupils was English Lord Mountjoy, who invited Erasmus to visit England in 1498. He lived chiefly at Oxford, and through the influence of John Colet, his contempt for theologians was heightened. He returned to Paris and later made a much longed for trip to Italy, but returned to England from time to time.
While residing at Cambridge Erasmus served as professor of Divinity and Greek. In 1519 the first edition of Colloquia appeared. Usually regarded as his masterpiece, Colloquia critiqued the abuses of the Church with audacity and incisiveness, preparing men's minds for the subsequent work of Martin Luther. In future works Erasmus promoted a more rational conception of Christian doctrine, emancipating men's minds from the frivolous and pedantic methods of contemporary theologians. Members of the clerical establishment became his sworn enemies, driving him to live out the rest of his days in Basel, Switzerland. Fortunately, during his last years Erasmus enjoyed great fame, fortune and high regard.
Erasmus stands as the supreme example of cultivated common sense being applied to human affairs. He rescued theology from the pedantries of theologians, exposed the abuses of the Church, and did more than any other single person to advance the Revival of Learning.
A popular European student exchange program, established in 1987, is named after him. The Erasmus Programme is a major European Union higher education initiative; there are currently more than 4,000 higher education institutions participating in 33 countries, and more than 2.2 million students have already taken part.