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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Twenty Days in the City of Angels: The 15th Day (Sexual Liberation)



Some of the guests

As I have mentioned several times in these cultural memoirs, my companion Howard Fox and I have experienced disdain or mockery of our gay sexuality only once or twice in our years together. Throughout what will soon be a 40-year relationship, nearly all of our friends (and any enemies we might unknowingly have accumulated) completely accepted us as a couple.

Of course, as individuals immersed in various art worlds and living in a large city, that might be expected. But it appears to me that our relationship has not simply been "permitted" or graciously overlooked by our mostly heterosexual friends, but quite often embraced. Perhaps that has never been made more apparent than on February 6, 2000, two days after our 30th anniversary, by museum acquaintances Bea Cooper, Linda and Reese Polesky, and Barbara and Armin Sadoff, who brought together a large group, many from the Modern and Contemporary Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at the Barefoot Bar and Grill in Los Angeles to celebrate the event.

Although I cannot be certain, I believe we were the only gay beings at that event. Yet the friendship of our various acquaintances—which included Museum trustee Michael G. Smooke and his wife Terri, curators Carol Eliel and her lawyer-husband Tom Muller, Mary Levkoff (now curator of European Sculpture at the National Gallery) and Stephanie Barron, artists Sandy and Ed Martin, collectors Linda and Jerry Janger, our close friend Roz Leader, and numerous other council members—could not have been made more apparent.

When asked to speak, Howard described me as his first—and last—"pick up." "There I was at the end of the 1960s without having participated in any of the sexual liberation of the age. I'd had a few relationships with both women and men, but had none of the open and free sex so seemingly available to everyone else. So one day, I decided to do something about that, and attended the first gay liberation meeting at the University of Wisconsin. There I saw this young blond boy, and when they asked for volunteers for a newsletter, he put up his hand. So I put up my hand. And we met afterwards, going out for a drink, and ending up in bed. But then it continued the next night and the night after that, and again the next night. By the end of the week Douglas had moved into my apartment. The first evening we were apart was more than a year later, when he was visiting my parents in Baltimore! So much for sexual liberation!"
I described Howard as my first "relationship," although, as I have noted elsewhere [see My Year 2005], I did have a short-lived affair with a young man in New York. "I had only had one-night stands," I proclaimed, "and I wasn't particularly seeking to change that. But then Howard raised his hand, and we had to do something about this supposed collaboration. Although Howard later did publically speak on a panel with several others involved in gay politics, I don't believe we ever went to a meeting again. And we never did produce that newsletter! Maybe they're still waiting for it."

The group of mostly elderly men and women, many the ages of our parents, heartily laughed.

Strangely, no gay friends ever feted us so brilliantly. But then, we have fewer gay friends, never having felt the need to separate ourselves from any group of individuals we met.

Perhaps Howard and I had experienced a kind of true liberation at that 1970 Wisconsin meeting, one that transcended even sex.


Los Angeles, July 15, 2009

1 comment:

Mike Messerli said...

Doug,

You're looking a lot like your dad every day.

It was also very interesting to read your story.