Happy Birthday Carol Doda

Today is the 77th birthday of Carol Doda.  She is the subject of a cherished family story. She plays a very important role in the story of how Susie met her soon-to-be brother-in-law Waldie. She was originally going to take him to a classical music concert, but got the days mixed up and the tickets were for a different night. Waldie being Waldie, he said he knew a place he wanted to go and off they went. It turns out the places that Waldie was talking about was the Condor Club, a topless (and for a while, bottomless) bar in North Beach, San Francisco. It was the 1960s. The music started, and Carol Doda was lowered from the ceiling.

At Waldie’s memorial service this past summer, Susie spoke and included the story of how they first met. She referenced Carol Doda by saying “She was the most well-endowed woman I had ever seen” and received laughter and cheers from the family and friends that filled the Chapel at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

NAME: Carol Ann Doda
BORN: 29-Aug-1937
GENDER: Female
ETHNICITY: White
OCCUPATION: Performance Artist
NATIONALITY: United States
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Stripper at San Francisco’s Condor Club

Carol Ann Doda (born August 29, 1937) was a topless stripper in San Francisco, California in the 1960s through 1980s, one of the first of the era.

In 1964 Doda made international news, first by dancing topless at the city’s Condor Club, then by enhancing her bust from size 34 to 44 through silicone injections. Her breasts became known as Doda’s “twin 44s” and “the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco.”

Carol Doda attended the San Francisco Art Institute and worked as waitress and lounge entertainer at the Condor Club, at the corner of Broadway and Columbus in the North Beach section of San Francisco. Doda’s act began with a grand piano being lowered from the ceiling by hydraulic motors; Doda would be atop the piano dancing, as it descended from a hole in the ceiling. She go-go danced the ‘Swim’ to a rock and roll combo headed by Bobby Freeman as her piano settled on the stage. From the waist up Doda emulated aquatic movements like the Australian crawl. She also did the Twist, the Frug, and the Watusi.

On June 19, 1964, when Doda was approximately 23 years old (actually 26), the Condor’s publicist, “Big” Davy Rosenberg gave Doda a “monokini” (topless swimsuit) designed by Rudi Gernreich. She performed topless that night, the first noted entertainer of the era to do so. The act was an instant success. Two months after she started her semi-nude performances, the rest of San Francisco’s Broadway was topless, followed soon after by entertainers across America. Doda became an American cultural icon of the 1960s. The Republican National Convention was held in San Francisco, during the summer of 1964; many of the delegates came to see Carol Doda. She was profiled in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book The Pump House Gang and appeared that same year as Sally Silicone in Head, the 1968 film created by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, and featuring The Monkees. The movie was produced by Columbia Pictures. She appeared in a Golden Boy parody with Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, and Davy Jones.

Encouraged by her success, Doda soon decided to enhance her breasts with silicone injections, going from size 34 to 44. Doda became renowned for her big bust, and was one of the first well-known performers to be surgically enhanced. She had 44 injections, a large dose of silicone,[4] at a cost of $1,500.

For the topless and waterless Swim, Doda wore the bottom half of a black bikini and a net top which ended where a bathing suit generally began. Doda performed 12 shows nightly so that management could keep crowds moving in and out. The large lit sign in front of the club featured a cartoon of her.

Nicaraguan dictator General Anastasio Somoza Debayle paid an unexpected visit to the Condor Nightclub in November 1973 as seven limousines pulled up before starled parking attendants. About two dozen U.S Secret Service agents accompained the general Somoza’s party of nine and guarded each door. Somoza sent to Doda a word backstage as he departed that he considered her performance “most outstanding”.

From the late-1960s through the late-1970s, Doda was the spokesmodel for what is now the San Jose, California television station KICU-TV Channel 36, then known as KGSC-TV. Filmed from the waist up and wearing clothes which amplified her most prominent physical attributes, she would coo “You’re watching the Perfect 36 in San Jose.” She would also occasionally appear on-air to do editorial commentary on the issues of the day.

In 1982 Doda was again dancing at the Condor three times a night. She was 45 and performed to rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and ragtime. Each act was the same, with Doda appearing in a gold gown, traditional elbow-length gloves, and a diaphanous-wraparound. Her clothing was removed until she wore only a g-string and the diaphanous wraparound. In the final portion she was attired in only the wraparound. Her small body looked slimmer without clothes, a perception which was emphasized by the dwarfing effect of her breasts. At the time she was taking dance and voice lessons but had no definite plans for her future.

Doda retired from stripping in the 1980s and now runs “Carol Doda’s Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique“, a lingerie shop in San Francisco.

As of 2009 Doda had been performing (fully clothed) for several years at several North Beach (San Francisco) clubs, including Amante’s and Enrico’s Supper Club.

Happy Birthday Esther Williams

Today is the 93rd birthday of Esther Williams.

NAME: Esther Williams
OCCUPATION: Swimming, Pin-up, Film Actor/Film Actress, Athlete
BIRTH DATE: August 8, 1921
DEATH DATE: June 6, 2013
PLACE OF BIRTH: Los Angeles, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Esther Williams, nicknamed “America’s Mermaid,” was an American actress who helped popularize synchronized swimming through a string of hugely popular films in the 1940s and ’50s.

Born in Los Angeles, California, on August 8, 1921, actress Esther Jane Williams, sometimes called “America’s Mermaid,” helped popularize synchronized swimming through a string of hugely popular films in the 1940s and ’50s. The youngest of five children, Williams suffered a great personal at an early age when her older brother, Stanton, a promising actor, died at the age of 16. Soon after her brother’s death, Williams found a respite from her sadness by learning to swim. She even got a job at a local swimming pool near her house to earn free swimming time.

As a teenager, Esther Williams was a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club swim team. She won several national swimming competition events in 1939 and hoped to compete at the 1940 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, the Olympics were canceled that year due to the onset of World War II. Disappointed, Williams took a job at an upscale department store, but she wouldn’t stay there for long. Shortly after she took the new job, producer Billy Rose asked Williams to audition for his swimming and diving show, Aquacade, in San Francisco. She landed the lead role opposite Johnny Weissmuller, best known as Tarzan in the popular film series of the same name.

After the show ended, Williams returned to Los Angeles and eventually landed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. Around this same time, her brief marriage to first husband Leonard Kovner ended. In 1942, Williams made her film debut in Andy Hardy’s Double Life, co-starring with Mickey Rooney.

Williams made a bigger splash, however, with her first swimming movie: 1944’s Bathing Beauty with Red Skelton. To film the elaborate synchronized swimming scenes, a special pool was built with all sorts of cranes and lifts to capture the action on film. Bathing Beauty went on to become one of the most popular films that year.

The following year, Williams married singer and actor Ben Gage. The couple would have three children—Benjamin, Kimball and Susan—before divorcing in 1958.

Though not an especially good actress, Williams was a sight to see in the water. She starred in a number of aquatic Technicolor musicals, including Thrill of a Romance, Neptune’s Daughter and Million Dollar Mermaid. People around the world flocked to movie theaters to see the graceful Williams work her magic on screen, making her an international superstar. Unfortunately, her life—both professionally and personally—hit a rocky period in the late 1950s: Her marriage to Gage ended in divorce, and she had some misses at the box office.

In the 1960s, Esther Williams had almost completely stepped out of the limelight. At the request of her third husband, actor Fernando Lamas, she stopped acting. (The couple stayed together until his death in 1982.) Instead of performing, Williams focused on a number of business interests. After endorsing swimsuits in the 1940s and ’50s, she designed her own swimsuit line, the Esther Williams Swimsuit Collection. She also put her name on a line of backyard swimming pools. Both businesses are still thriving today.

Williams remained an active businesswoman in her later years, despite suffering a stroke in 2007. The health setback didn’t slow Williams down for long. In time, she recovered and returned to swimming.

Williams spent the last years of her life in Beverly Hills, California, with fourth husband Edward Bell. She died on June 6, 2013, at the age of 91, in Beverly Hills, California, and was survived by her three children from second husband Ben Gage.

Happy Birthday Randall Shilts

Today is the 63rd birthday of Randy Shilts, the author of the Harvey Milk biography and the book And The Band Played On, of which I can see my copy as I type this.  You absolutely have to read the book and/or watch the film, it is your job as a human to understand, empathize, and learn.  Always strive for more understanding.  I first read And The Band Played On one Summer in Interlochen, it was before I had any direct connection to HIV/AIDS.  Since then, I have worked with, befriended, and loved people living with HIV.  I have volunteered hundreds of hours and raised thousands of dollars to support people living with HIV/AIDS, to educate youth about HIV/AIDS, and to research a cure for HIV/AIDS.  I have lost friends and mentors along the way to it.  As I have often said:  Every birthday wish, every coin in the fountain…

randy shilts

NAME: Randall Martin Shilts
BORN: 8-Aug-1951
BIRTHPLACE: Davenport, IA
DIED: 17-Feb-1994
DEATH LOCATION: Guerneville, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: AIDS
REMAINS: Buried, Redwood Memorial Gardens, Guerneville, CA
GENDER: Male
RELIGION: Methodist
RACE: White
OCCUPATION: Journalist, Author
NATIONALITY: United States
BEST KNOWN FOR: Chronicler of AIDS, biographer of Harvey Milk

Randy Shilts was the first openly gay reporter at a mainstream metropolitan newspaper, and the author of three landmark books: the biography of his assassinated friend Harvey Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street; the definitive account of the early years of the battle against AIDS, And the Band Played On; and the study of the US military’s “Stalinesque” discrimination against gay soldiers, Conduct Unbecoming.

Shilts grew up in Aurora, Illinois, where as a young man he organized a local chapter of the conservative/libertarian group Young Americans for Freedom. Attending college in Oregon, he came out as gay at 19 years of age in 1971, and became a leader in the newly-formed Gay People’s Alliance. After earning a degree in journalism he went to work to The Advocate, and later covered San Francisco news on local radio, television, and in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. He covered the first outbreaks of the new “gay cancer”, first called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) but now knows as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). As the pandemic developed, Shilts became the Chronicle‘s lead reporter on the disease, and battled editors over both the explicit language necessary for covering AIDS and the paper’s early tendency to hide his reports deep in the Chronicle‘s inner pages.

By the time AIDS made the front pages, Shilts had criticized both the Reagan administration and some prominent gay groups for effectively pretending AIDS did not exist. He was called “a gay Uncle Tom” for reporting on common but dangerous sex practices in the city’s infamous bathhouses, but his call for safer sex practices has since come to be accepted as simply common sense. A frequent patron of the bathhouses himself before the danger was understood, Shilts was only 42 when he died of AIDS on 17 February 1994. He wrote the last chapters of his third book from his hospital bed, and in a pre-publication interview told the New York Times, “HIV is certainly character-building. It’s made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I’d rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character.”

Father: Bud Shilts (prefabricated housing salesman)
Mother: Norma Shilts (alcoholic)
Mother: Patricia Shilts (stepmother)
Brother: Gary Shilts
Brother: Reed Shilts
Brother: Dennis Shilts
Brother: David Shilts (fetal alcohol syndrome)
Boyfriend: Barry Barbieri (b. circa 1970, comm. 31-May-1993)

High School: West Aurora High School, Aurora, IL (1969)
University: BS Journalism, University of Oregon (1975)

Young Americans for Freedom
The Advocate (reporter, 1974-77)
KQED Radio (reporter, 1977-79)
KTVU-TV (reporter, 1979-81)
The San Francisco Chronicle (reporter, 1981-93)

Author of books:
The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982, biography)
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1987, social studies)
Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military (1993, social studies)

Happy Birthday Phyllis Diller

“My mother-in-law had a pain beneath her left breast. Turned out to be a trick knee.” – Phyllis Diller

NAME: Phyllis Diller
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Comedian, Pianist
BIRTH DATE: July 17, 1917
DEATH DATE: August 20, 2012
EDUCATION: Chicago‘s Sherwood Music Conservatory
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lima, Ohio
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Originally: Phyllis Ada Driver

Best Known For:  First noticed as a contestant on Groucho Marx‘s game show in 1955, Phyllis Diller went on to become a successful comedian, actress and author.

Today is the birthday of actress and comedian Phyllis Diller was born in Lima, Ohio in 1917. She was first noticed as a contestant on Groucho Marx’s game show, and went on to become a successful comedian, actress and author, recognizable by her eccentric costumes, overdone makeup and trademark laugh. In 1992, she received the American Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Diller was also an accomplished pianist and author. She died on August 20, 2012, at age 95,  at her home in Los Angeles.

Comedian, actress and author Phyllis Diller was born as Phyllis Ada Driver on July 17, 1917, in Lima, Ohio. Diller was the only child of Frances and Perry Driver. After graduating high school, she continued her studies at Chicago’s Sherwood Music Conservatory for three years, before eloping with Sherwood Diller in 1939. The couple soon moved to California, where they had six children (one of their children died in infancy).

In 1955, while working as a journalist for the San Leandro News-Observer, Diller appeared as a contestant on Groucho Marx’s game show, You Bet Your Life. Her memorable performance on the show sparked the advent of her national exposure. She received an offer to make her comedic debut at The Purple Onion Comedy Club in San Francisco, where she floored the audience with her dynamic one-liners and comical costumes. This success led to future bookings at New York’s Blue Angel, as well as an appearance on The Jack Paar Show.

In her monologues, Diller adopted the stage personality of a typical housewife and spoke of topics that affected American suburbia—kids, pets, neighbors and even mothers-in-law. Her most notable routines were filled with anecdotes about her fictitious husband, “Fang,” and her numerous face-lifts. Diller’s delivery was accentuated by her animated facial expressions, eccentric costumes, overdone make-up and signature loud, cackling laugh. During performances, she would often flaunt a cigarette and laugh at her own jokes with her trademark cackle.

In 1961, Diller acquired her first minor film role, as Texas Guinan in Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass. She also co-starred in a few low-budget movies with longtime friend and fellow comedian Bob Hope, including Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (1966), Eight On the Lam (1967) and The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell (1968). Additionally, Diller made recurring appearances on Hope’s annual Christmas Special (1965-94).

Diller’s first stage acting appearance was in The Dark Top of the Stairs (1961). However, her most notable theatre performance was in 1970, when she replaced Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in Broadway’s Hello, Dolly!. After Hello, Dolly!, Diller would not return to the stage until 1988, when she played the vivacious Mother Superior in San Francisco’s Nunsense.

In 1965, Diller ended her 26-year marriage with Sherman Anderson Diller. The two were divorced in September of that year, and Diller hastily married Ward Donovan just one month later. In the late 1960s, Diller focused her creative efforts toward television. She created two poorly received television series: the sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton in 1966, and the variety show The Phyllis Diller Show two years later, in 1968.

In addition to her comedic talents, Diller could boast that she was both an accomplished concert pianist and author. Over a 10-year period, from 1972 to 1982, under the pseudonym “Dame Illya Pillya,” Diller performed as a solo pianist throughout America, with more than 100 symphony orchestras. She published five best-selling books throughout her career, including 1963’s Phyllis Diller Tells All About Fang, 1966’s Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints, 1967’s Phyllis Diller’s Marriage Manual, 1969’s The Complete Mother and 1981’s The Joys of Aging and How to Avoid Them.

In 1992, Diller received the American Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Diller died on August 20, 2012, at her home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, where she had briefly served as honorary mayor. She was 95 years old, and was survived by three children and several grandchildren. According to an Associated Press article, Diller’s longtime manager, Milton Suchin, said that Diller “died peacefully in her sleep, and with a smile on her face.”

Isadora Duncan – Style Icon

Today is Isadora Duncan’s 17th Birthday.  Ever since a winter scarf I was wearing was briefly caught in the handrail of the transit tunnel escalator, I have felt a connection to her.

NAME: Isadora Duncan
OCCUPATION: Choreographer
BIRTH DATE: c. May 27, 1877
DEATH DATE: September 14, 1927
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Francisco, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Nice, France
ORIGINALLY: Angela Duncan

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Isadora Duncan was a dancer who taught and performed in a new and less restrictive form. Many regard her as the mother of modern dance.

Although Duncan’s birth date is generally believed to have been May 27, 1878, her baptismal certificate, discovered in San Francisco in 1976, records the date of May 26, 1877. Duncan was one of four children brought up in genteel poverty by their mother, a music teacher. As a child she rejected the rigidity of the classic ballet and based her dancing on more natural rhythms and movements, an approach she later used consciously in her interpretations of the works of such great composers as Brahms, Wagner, and Beethoven. Her earliest public appearances, in Chicago and New York City, met with little success, and at the age of 21 she left the United States to seek recognition abroad. With her meagre savings she sailed on a cattle boat for England.

At the British Museum her study of the sculptures of ancient Greece confirmed the classical use of those dance movements and gestures that hitherto instinct alone had caused her to practice and upon a revival of which her method was largely founded. Through the patronage of the celebrated actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, she was invited to appear at the private receptions of London’s leading hostesses, where her dancing, distinguished by a complete freedom of movement, enraptured those who were familiar only with the conventional forms of the ballet, which was then in a period of decay. It was not long before the phenomenon of a young woman dancing barefoot, as scantily clad as a woodland nymph, crowded theatres and concert halls throughout Europe. During her controversial first tour of Russia in 1905, Duncan made a deep impression on the choreographer Michel Fokine and on the art critic Serge Diaghilev, who as impresario was soon to lead a resurgence of ballet throughout western Europe. Duncan toured widely, and at one time or another she founded dance schools in Germany, Russia, and the United States, though none of these survived.

Her private life, quite as much as her art, kept her name in the headlines owing to her constant defiance of social taboos. The father of her first child, Deirdre, was the stage designer Gordon Craig, who shared her abhorrence of marriage; the father of her second child, Patrick, was Paris Singer, the heir to a sewing machine fortune and a prominent art patron. In 1913 a tragedy occurred from which Duncan never really recovered: the car in which her two children and their nurse were riding in Paris rolled into the Seine River and all three were drowned. In an effort to sublimate her grief she was about to open another school when the advent of World War I put an end to her plans. Her subsequent tours in South America, Germany, and France were less successful than before, but in 1920 she was invited to establish a school of her own in Moscow. To her revolutionary temperament, the Soviet Union seemed the land of promise. There she met Sergey Aleksandrovich Yesenin, a poet 17 years younger than she, whose work had won him a considerable reputation. She married him in 1922, sacrificing her scruples against marriage in order to take him with her on a tour of the United States. She could not have chosen a worse time for their arrival. Fear of the “Red Menace” was at its height, and she and her husband were unjustly labeled as Bolshevik agents. Leaving her native country once more, a bitter Duncan told reporters: “Good-bye America, I shall never see you again!” She never did. There followed an unhappy period with Yesenin in Europe, where his increasing mental instability turned him against her. He returned alone to the Soviet Union and, in 1925, committed suicide.

During the last years of her life Duncan was a somewhat pathetic figure, living precariously in Nice on the French Riviera, where she met with a fatal accident: her long scarf became entangled in the rear wheel of the car in which she was riding, and she was strangled. Her autobiography, My Life, was published in 1927 (reissued 1972).

Isadora Duncan was acclaimed by the foremost musicians, artists, and writers of her day, but she was often an object of attack by the less broad-minded. Her ideas were too much in advance of their time, and she flouted social conventions too flamboyantly to be regarded by the wider public as anything but an advocate of “free love.” Certainly her place as a great innovator in dance is secure: her repudiation of artificial technical restrictions and reliance on the grace of natural movement helped to liberate the dance from its dependence on rigid formulas and on displays of brilliant but empty technical virtuosity, paving the way for the later acceptance of modern dance as it was developed by Mary Wigman, Martha Graham, and others.

Isadora Duncan’s life has been portrayed most notably in the 1968 film, Isadora, starring Vanessa RedgraveVivian Pickles played her in Ken Russell’s 1966 biopic for the BBC, which was subtitled ‘The Biggest Dancer in the World’ and introduced by Duncan’s biographer, Sewell Stokes.

Most notably, Duncan was the subject of a balletIsadora, written and choreographed in 1981 by the Royal Ballet‘s Kenneth MacMillan, and performed at Covent Garden.[17] When She Danced, a stage play about Duncan’s later years by Martin Sherman, won the 1991 Evening Standard Award (best actress) for Vanessa Redgrave. A Hungarian musical based on this play was produced in Budapest in 2008.

Robert Calvert recorded a song about Duncan on his Revenge LP. The song is called “Isadora”. Salsa diva Celia Cruz sang a song titled “Isadora” in Duncan’s honor. Finnish musician Juice Leskinen recorded a song called “Isadora Duncan”. Russian singer Alexander Malinin recorded a song about the death of Isadora Duncan. Russian band Leningradhave a song about her on their Pulya (Bullet) album. American post-hardcore group Burden of a Day has a song titled, “Isadora Duncan” on their 2009 album OneOneThousand.

The children’s gothic book series, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, includes a set of fraternal triplets named Isadora, Duncan, and Quigley Quagmire.

And Then There’s Maude, the theme song to the 1970s American TV sitcom Maude contains a reference to Duncan with the line “Isadora was a bra burner.”

In his song Salome, British singer Pete Doherty makes a reference to Isadora Duncan by saying: “As she dances and demands, the head of Isadora Duncan on a plate”.

2003 in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, the necklace Andie wears is named after Isadora Duncan

In a deleted scene of Titanic (1997), Rose talks about her dreams, saying “I don’t know what it is, whether I should be an artist or a sculpter or a, I don’t know, a dancer like Isadora Duncan, or wild pagan spirit!”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Happy Birthday Dorothea Lange

NAME: Dorothea Lange
OCCUPATION: Photographer
BIRTH DATE: May 26, 1895
DEATH DATE: October 11, 1965
EDUCATION: Columbia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hoboken, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: San Franciso, California

Best Known For:  Dorothea Lange was a photographer whose portraits of displaced farmers during the Great Depression greatly influenced later documentary photography.

One of the preeminent and pioneering documentary photographers of the 20th century, Dorothea Lange was born Dorothea Nutzhorn on May 26, 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her father, Heinrich Nutzhorn, was a lawyer, and her mother, Johanna, stayed at home to raise Dorothea and her brother, Martin.

When she was 7, Dorothea contracted polio, which left her right leg and foot noticeably weakened. Later, however, she’d feel almost appreciative of the effects the illness had on her life. “[It] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me,” she said.

Just before Dorothea reached her teen years, her parents divorced. Dorothea grew to blame the separation on her father and eventually dropped his surname and took her mother’s maiden name, Lange, as her own.

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”

Art and literature were big parts of Lange’s upbringing. Her parents were both strong advocates for her education, and exposure to creative works filled her childhood.

Following high school, Lange, who’d never shown much interest in academics, decided to pursue photography as a profession. She studied the art form at Columbia University, and then, over the next several years, cut her teeth as an apprentice, working for several different photographers, including Arnold Genthe, a leading portrait photographer.

By 1918, Lange was living in San Francisco and soon running a successful portrait studio. With her husband, muralist Maynard Dixon, she had two sons and settled into the comfortable middle-class life she’d known as a child.

Lange’s first real taste of documentary photography came in the 1920s when she traveled around the Southwest with Dixon, mostly photographing Native Americans. With the onslaught of the Great Depression in the 1930s, she trained her camera on what she started to see in her own San Francisco neighborhoods: labor strikes and breadlines.

In the early 1930s, Lange, mired in an unhappy marriage, met Paul Taylor, a university professor and labor economist. Their attraction was immediate, and by 1935, both had left their respective spouses to be with each other.

Over the next five years, the couple traveled extensively together, documenting the rural hardship they encountered for the Farm Security Administration, established by the U.S. Agriculture Department. Taylor wrote reports, and Lange photographed the people they met. This body of work included Lange’s most well-known portrait, “Migrant Mother,” an iconic image from this period that gently and beautifully captured the hardship and pain of what so many Americans were experiencing.

The work now hangs in the Library of Congress.

As Taylor would later note, Lange’s access to the inner lives of these struggling Americans was the result of patience and careful consideration of the people she photographed. “Her method of work,” Taylor later said, “was often to just saunter up to the people and look around, and then when she saw something that she wanted to photograph, to quietly take her camera, look at it, and if she saw that they objected, why, she would close it up and not take a photograph, or perhaps she would wait until… they were used to her.”

In 1940, Lange became the first woman awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Following America’s entrance into World War II, Lange was hired by the Office of War Information (OWI) to photograph the internment of Japanese Americans. In 1945, she was employed again by the OWI, this time to document the San Francisco conference that created the United Nations.

While she battled increasing health problems over the last two decades of her life, Lange stayed active. She co-founded Aperture, a small publishing house that produces a periodical and high-end photography books. She took on assignments for Life magazine, traveling through Utah, Ireland and Death Valley. She also accompanied her husband on his work-related assignments in Pakistan, Korea and Vietnam, among other places, documenting what she saw along the way.

Lange passed away from esophageal cancer in October 1965.

While Lange sometimes grew frustrated that her work didn’t always provoke society to correct the injustices she documented, her photography has endured and greatly influenced generations of documentary photographers.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Happy Birthday Harvey Milk

Today is the 84th birthday of Harvey Milk.

harvey-milk

NAME:  Harvey Milk
OCCUPATION:  Activist
BIRTH DATE:  May 22, 1930
DEATH DATE:  November 27, 1978
EDUCATION:  New York State College for Teachers in Albany, Bayshore High School
PLACE OF BIRTH:  Woodmere, New York
PLACE OF DEATH:  San Francisco, California

Best Known For: Harvey Milk became one of the first openly gay officials in the United States in 1977, when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Tragically, he was killed the following year.

Harvey Milk was born on May 22, 1930, in Woodmere, New York. Reared in a small middle class Jewish family, Milk was one of two boys born to William and Minerva Milk. A well-rounded, well-liked student, Milk played football and sang in the opera at Bayshore High School. Like his brother, William, he also worked at the family department store, “Milks.”

After graduating from high school in 1951, Milk joined the U.S. Navy, ultimately serving as a diving instructor at a base in San Diego, California, during the Korean War. Following his discharge in 1955, Milk moved to New York City, where he worked a variety of jobs, including as a public school teacher, production associate for several high-profile Broadway musicals, stock analyst and Wall Street investment banker. He soon tired of finance, though, and befriended gay radicals who frequented Greenwich Village.

In late 1972, bored with his life in New York, Milk moved to San Francisco, California. There, he opened a camera shop called Castro Camera on Castro Street, putting his life and work right in the heart of the city’s gay community.

For much of his life, Milk had stayed quiet about his personal life. He had known since high school that he was gay, and even in the wake of an emerging gay rights movement, the deliberate and careful Milk chose to remain on the sidelines. But things had started to turn for him toward the end of his time in New York, as he befriended a number of gay radicals who frequented Greenwich Village.

In San Francisco, his life and outspoken politics evolved even further. As Castro Camera increasingly became a neighborhood center, Milk found his voice as a leader and activist. In 1973, he declared his candidacy for a position on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. A novice politician with little money, Milk lost the election, but the experience did not deter him from trying again. Two years later, he narrowly lost a second election for the same seat. By then, Milk had become a political force; an outspoken leader in the gay community with political connections that included San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, Assembly speaker and future city mayor Willie Brown, and future United States Senator Dianne Feinstein.

In 1977, Milk, who was known affectionately as the “Mayor of Castro Street,” finally won a seat on the San Francisco City-County Board. He was inaugurated on January 9, 1978, becoming the city’s first openly gay officer, as well as one of the first openly gay individuals to be elected to office in the United States.

While his campaign certainly incorporated gay rights into his platform, Milk also wanted to tackle a wide variety of issues, from child care to housing to a civilian police review board.

Milk’s ascension had come at an important time for the gay community. While many psychiatrists still considered homosexuality a mental illness at this time, the liberal Moscone had become an early supporter of gay rights and had abolished the city’s anti-sodomy law. Moscone had also appointed several gays and lesbians to a number of high-profile positions within San Francisco.

On the other side of Moscone was Supervisor Dan White, a Vietnam veteran and former police officer and fireman, who was troubled by what he perceived as a breakdown in traditional values and a growing tolerance of homosexuality. Elected to the San Francisco City-County Board in 1977, he frequently clashed with the more liberal Milk on policy issues.

A year after his election, in 1978, White resigned from the board, citing that his salary of $9,600 wasn’t enough to support his family. But White was prodded on by his police supporters, and subsequently changed his mind regarding his resignation and asked Moscone to reappoint him. The mayor refused, however, encouraged by Milk and other progressives to fill White’s spot with a more liberal board member. For White, who was convinced that men like Moscone and Milk were driving his city “downhill,” it was a devastating blow.

On November 27, 1978, White entered City Hall with a loaded .38 revolver. He avoided the metal detectors by entering through a basement window that had been negligently left open for ventilation. His first stop was at the mayor’s office, where he and Moscone begun arguing, eventually moving to a private room so that they could not be heard. Once there, Moscone again refused to re-appoint White, and White shot the mayor twice in the chest and twice in the head. White then went down the corridor and shot Milk, twice in the chest, once in the back and twice again in the head. Soon after, he turned himself in at the police station where he used to work.

White’s trial was marked by what came to be known as the “Twinkie Defense,” as his laywers claimed that the normally stable White had grown slovenly prior to the shootings due to abandoning his usually healthy diet and instead indulging in sugary junk food such as Coke, doughnuts and Twinkies. In a surprising move, a jury convicted White of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder, and White would subsequently serve just six years in prison. In 1985, a year after his release, a distressed White committed suicide.

As a result of White’s downgraded conviction, peaceful demonstrations by Castro’s gay community outside City Hall turned violent. More than 5,000 policemen responded by entering nightclubs armed with truncheons and assaulting patrons. By the riots’ end, 124 people were injured, including 59 policemen. This episode is known in history as “The White Night Riots.”

In the years since the killings, Milk’s legacy as a leader and pioneer has endured, with numerous books and films made about his life. In 2008, Sean Penn starred as Milk in the acclaimed biopic Milk. Penn ended up winning the 2009 Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of the slain politician.

Enhanced by Zemanta