by Eric Resnick
Toledo--A second openly gay man is seeking election to one of the city’s at-large council seats, bringing the number of Ohio gay candidates to seven.
Dennis Lange, 48, says his broad knowledge of city government and how things are done qualify him to become the second openly gay man to hold an at-large council seat.
Currently, one of Toledo’s six at-large seats is held by openly gay Louis Escobar, who is seeking re-election.
There are currently 15 candidates seeking the six seats. A third openly gay man, Scott Robinson, is seeking a District 4 seat.
The field of at-large candidates will narrow to the 12 top vote-getters after the September 11 primary. Of that field, the top six vote-getters of the November 6 general election will be seated.
Lange, a Republican, was elected to the village council of his hometown, Mantua, Ohio, north of Kent, from 1972 to 1979. He says that when he was first elected at age 28, he was the youngest office holder in Ohio. He served as the council president from 1976 to 79.
Lange, who has been the owner and operator of Pumpernickels Deli and Cafe for six years, says he decided to run this year because "the time was right for me."
Prior to his own candidacy, Lange has been active in the campaigns of other Republicans. He worked on the U.S. house campaigns of Ken Brown in 1992 and Dwight Bryan in 2000, as they attempted to unseat Rep. Marcy Kaptur. He was also the volunteer coordinator for Paula Pennypacker’s 1989 mayoral campaign.
Lange has been seated on the Lucas County Republican Central Committee since 1988, and on the executive committee since 1990. His a charter member of the Log Cabin Republicans of Lucas County, and noted that their first meeting was held at his home.
According to Lange, the most important issues facing Toledo are centered around small businesses, planning, and cleaning up the city.
"Toledo has to pay more attention to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees," said Lange, "We have to get out of the 100-percent reliance on auto manufacturing."
Lange said that Toledo has not had good planning in many years, and has no policies on how to use empty lots and vacant box stores.
"That would help with what I call the beautification of our city," said Lange. "It would help stop the sprawl and clean up the blighted areas, and also help clean up the drugs and the gangs."
Lange said he expects to need $40,000 to run his campaign. He has already raised $7,000.
In addition to the Log Cabin Republicans, Lange’s connection to the area lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has been through involvement with the Good Samaritan Metropolitain Community Church and David’s House, which provides housing for people with AIDS. He also says his business has provided prizes for other organizations to use to raise money.
Lange says people in the Republican Party and the around the community know he is gay, but he doesn’t see it as an issue at all in his campaign. He also indicated that there is not much openly gay support for his campaign and only "one or two have written checks."
"I have never stood on the corner wearing high heels and waving a rainbow flag," said Lange. "It has just never been me."
"There are no big issues facing gays in Toledo now," said Lange. The city currently has an ordinance barring discrimination by sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
But Lange promises to work for anything benefiting the LGBT community that might come before council. "I have the ears of a lot of communities," said Lange. "The gay community is one of them."
Lange hopes the LGBT community will appreciate what he has done so far, and want him to represent all of Toledo.
Because of the way Toledo elects council members at-large, Lange is a competitor to openly gay incumbent Democrat Louis Escobar.
Currently, seven openly gay men are seeking council seats in Ohio cities. Lange, Escobar and Robinson are joined by three candidates for Cleveland city council, Edward Hudson-Bey in Ward 8, Joe Santiago in Ward 14, and Buck Harris in Ward 17.
James Moore-McDermott is seeking an at-large seat on the Bucyrus city council.
Ohio’s only other openly gay office holder, Dayton City Commissioner Mary Wiseman, said in January that she will not seek re-election this November.
by Eric Resnick
Washington D.C.--The vote was close and the drama was intense, but President Bush was able to persuade the House of Representatives to pass his "faith-based" initiative with its dodge around gay and lesbian job bias laws intact.
The July 19 vote to pass the bill to expand federal funding of religious charities occurred a day after the Republican leadership temporarily withdrew it. Nineteen moderate Republicans had joined House Democrats July 18 opposing a provision to allow the charities to ignore state and local civil rights laws if they get federal money.
The measure would override gay and lesbian equal rights laws in 12 states and most major cities, including Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Youngstown and seven other Ohio towns.
Democrats also raised issues about the constitutionality of the bill, claiming it violates the separation of church and state.
The bill passed on a near party-line vote the next day, 233 to 198.
How Ohioans voted
All Ohio Republicans voted to pass the bill with its anti-gay language intact. They were joined by two Ohio Democrats, Tony Hall of Columbus, who co-sponsored the bill, and James Traficant of Youngstown. All other Ohio Democrats voted against the bill.
Traficant, who was endorsed for re-election by the gay and lesbian Human Rights Campaign in 1998, doesn’t see his vote at odds with Youngstown’s civil rights ordinance.
Traficant spokesperson Charlie Straub denied that the "faith-based" bill skirts local civil rights laws.
"[Traficant] doesn’t see it that way," said Straub. "He just sees it as a way to increase opportunity for religious charities."
"I think there are protections against discrimination in the bill," Straub argued, "and the congressman believes the city of Youngstown will benefit from it."
An attempt to remove the provision
During the July 18 debate, Republican Mark Foley of Florida led 19 from his own party and most Democrats in offering a "motion to recommit," a move to re-open the bill to amendment following the Rules Committee vote to close it.
Within the motion were two measures spearheaded by openly gay Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. They prohibited religious discrimination against people hired or served using federal money, and required recipients of federal funds to follow state and local equal rights laws that include sexual orientation.
When it appeared that Foley had the votes to pass his motion, the GOP leadership temporarily withdrew the bill and began an all out lobbying effort.
During the next 24 hours, countless calls were made between the moderates and Vice President Dick Cheney. House leadership held an emergency caucus meeting and other closed-door meetings, in an attempt to unify its members.
Insiders describe that meeting as "heated."
The anti-gay Family Research Council issued an emergency action request of their members headlined: "Homosexuals to hijack faith-based bill." In that release, the group erroneously claimed that "Those opposed to [the bill] will attempt to add ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act--Special Rights to Homosexuals) into [it]."
The next day, 15 of the 19 Republicans dropped their support of Foley’s amendment, and it failed a floor vote 234-195.
Openly gay Republican Jim Kolbe of Arizona voted for the Foley amendment, but then later voted to pass the bill with its anti-gay provisions.
Kolbe’s office distributed, as part of his official press statement, a copy of a July 21 Congressional Quarterly article that describes Kolbe as one of the leaders of the negotiations that caused the Republican moderates to change their minds on the Foley amendment.
Kolbe and the other Republicans that switched all issued statements saying they decided to vote with their caucus because they were promised that their concerns about state and local non-discrimination laws would be removed when the House version and a Senate version, if passed, was in conference committee.
The Congressional Quarterly story said that promise came from Oklahoma Republican J.C. Watts, who sponsored the bill and is virulently anti-gay.
But what Watts actually said on the House floor was that he would "address their concerns."
Kolbe spokesperson Neena Moorjani refused to comment on why Kolbe, a gay man, thought it was more appropriate to settle for a promise that concerns might be addressed later, rather than remove anti-gay provisions while the bill was on the floor.
This sequence of events marks the first time in history that a major White House initiative was nearly defeated over concern for civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Difficulty in Senate
The measure now moves to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where passage may be difficult.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said he will not likely set a date for Senate debate this year, and if he sets one for next year, it will not pass with the anti- gay provisions.
"I can’t imagine that we could pass any bill that would tolerate slipping back into a level of tolerance that would be unacceptable in today’s society," said Daschle.
Rep. Barney Frank praised the House Democratic leadership for standing firm against anti-gay discrimination.
"I’m pleased that the Democratic leadership and so many of my Democratic colleagues rallied to this cause," he said.
Still, Frank warned of a new effort against local and state LGBT equal rights laws.
"What the Boy Scout and ‘faith-based’ measures show us is that there is a new right-wing assault, supported by the Bush administration and Republican leadership, to undermine state and local efforts aimed at ending anti-gay discrimination," Frank said.
Judge: Requiring workers to abide by Baptist beliefs on gays is not religious discrimination
Louisville, Ky.--A judge dismissed accusations that a state-funded Baptist agency committed religious discrimination when it fired a woman because she is a lesbian, a ruling that could affect the president’s faith-based initiative.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit against the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children in April 2000 on behalf of Alicia Pedreira, a social worker fired from the home in October 1998.
The decision to fire her came after Baptist Homes officials saw a photograph of Pedreira and her partner taken at the Kentucky State Fair. Baptist Homes said her "admitted homosexual lifestyle is contrary to" Baptist values.
The ACLU asked the court to rule that Baptist Homes does not have the right to require employees to share their religious belief that homosexuality is wrong.
U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson III ruled July 23 that the lawsuit failed to fulfill the requirements of religious discrimination.
"While Baptist Homes seeks to employ only persons who adhere to a behavioral code consistent with its religious mission, the absence of religious requirements leaves their focus on behavior, not religion," Simpson wrote.
But Simpson said the lawsuit could continue on the question of whether government money should go to religious institutions to provide social services. President Bush is making a strong push for legislation that makes it clear that any religious group getting government money may consider religion in making hiring decisions.
The courts have said this includes one’s religious practices--and for many religions that could mean rejecting job applicants because they are gay.
Ken Choe, staff counsel with the ACLU in New York City, said the agency hasn’t decided whether to appeal Simpson’s ruling. Pedreira could not be reached for comment.
"This decision is a stark example of taxpayers seeing their dollars used for discrimination," Choe said. "This says that, basically, religious organizations can discriminate even if they’re getting money from taxpayers."
Bill Smithwick, the president and chief executive officer of Kentucky Baptist Homes, said he was relieved by Simpson’s ruling.
"We’re very pleased," Smithwick said. "This allows us to continue serving children based on the principles and standards we’ve always had."
Baptist Homes receives more than half of its $19 million annual budget from the state and has a contract with the state that runs through next June.
by Anthony Glassman
Roanoke, Va.—Ronald Gay, who killed Danny Overstreet and wounded six other people when he shot up the gay Backstreet Café last year, was sentenced July 23 to four consecutive life sentences.
The 55-year-old Gay, described as a mentally unstable Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress, claimed that God had ordered him to kill gays. Gay also was frustrated with people making fun of his name, and that his sons had changed theirs.
Gay pleaded guilty to the charges against him, including the murder of Overstreet and three counts of aggravated malicious wounding.
Evan Nelson, a psychologist testifying on behalf of Gay, told the court that the shooting stemmed from Gay’s hatred of the world, not his hatred of gay men and lesbians, and that the shootings did not constitute a hate crime.
The case could not have been prosecuted as a hate crime, since Virginia law does not include sexual orientation in hate crime provisions.
In court and in interviews with police, Gay said he was on a mission to kill gay people, however.
On September 22, 2000, Ronald Gay checked into a motel in the afternoon, and then gave away some tapes, his glasses, whiskey and his room key. Gay told a friend that, if he wasn’t back by 8 am the following morning, to turn on the news.
Less than an hour before midnight, Gay asked an employee outside a downtown restaurant where the nearest gay bar was. The employee directed Gay to the Park, about six blocks away. Gay then showed the worker his 9mm handgun, said that he was going to "go waste some faggots," and left.
The employee called Roanoke police, who issued an alert with Gay’s description. The police then headed to the Park, but Gay had stopped three blocks short at the Backstreet, Roanoke’s other gay bar.
After entering the club, Gay ordered a beer at the bar, where he stayed until he saw Overstreet hugging his friend John W. Collins, who was leaving. Gay pulled out his gun and shot Collins, then shot and killed Overstreet and fired six more shots into the crowd.
Jim Anger, an old friend of Gay’s, told the Roanoke Times that he had a lot of animosity towards gays.
"Gay said there’s nothing worse than a feminine-speaking man and a masculine-looking woman with tattoos on her arms," Anger said. "It only stands to reason, and the Bible says it isn’t right."
Jeannie Gay, one of Ronald Gay’s ex-wives, was with him in 1999 when he purchased the gun he used to kill Danny Overstreet.
"I asked him please, don’t buy that gun," she said. "He told me that was his right, to buy that gun and have it in his home and protect himself and others, if that’s what he needed to do."
"I didn’t know what he would need to be protected from. That was his right, and he exercised that rights, and as a result of that right, some young man is dead."
According to Jeannie Gay, both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Secret Service have files on her ex-husband, and she was critical of a system allowing a man with so many red flags to purchase a handgun.
"In my mind, it was just too easy," she said.
Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Donald Caldwell said that, although Gay will be eligible for geriatric parole in ten years, it is unlike he will be let out of jail unless his health is very bad at that time.
Fairmont, W. Va.—A teenager who drove over a gay man because he threatened to reveal their sexual relationship pleaded guilty July 19 to first-degree murder.
David Allen Parker, 18, was sentenced to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years.
Arthur "J.R." Warren, 26, died of massive injuries after he was beaten, kicked with steel-toed boots, then run over four times with a Camaro. He died July 3, 2000 in a gravel pullout near his home in Grant Town, W.Va.
A second teen-ager, 18-year-old Jared Wilson, is also charged with murder and will be tried in August.
Police said Parker had been drinking beer, huffing gasoline and snorting tranquilizers the night of the murder. He was angry with Warren, who had apparently told others about their sexual relationship.
When Warren came to a vacant house in Grant Town that Parker and Wilson were painting, a fight ensued.
Parker said he and Warren had 30 sexual encounters fueled by drugs and alcohol since he was 12. The men were neighbors.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," the 18-year-old told Marion County Circuit Judge David Janes. "I do not try to blame anyone or anything else for what I have done."
Wilson, in a statement to police, blamed Parker for initiating the attack and said he, too, would have been beaten if he hadn’t briefly taken part.
by Anthony Glassman
Annapolis, Md.—State election officials certified July 19 that opponents of the Maryland’s new gay equal rights law have collected enough signatures to force a 2002 referendum on it.
The measure, passed this spring, was to take effect in October. It will be halted until the vote.
The law’s opponents gathered 56,557 signatures, of which 47,539 were deemed valid by election officials, almost 1,500 more than were required for a referendum.
The law would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.
The signatures were turned in last month amid allegations that petitioners misrepresented what the petitions were for. Pro-gay voters were told it would allow voters to decide on a gay equal rights measure, said the law’s supporters, but not that it was to repeal a law already passed.
Opponents of the law claim that it is the first step to requiring gay marriage and teaching kids "how to do homosexual sex in school," according to Doug Stiegler, executive director of the anti-gay Maryland Family Protection Lobby.
Stiegler’s comments, according to supporters of the law, are misleading, since the law specifically states that it does not affect marriage or schools, simply extending current anti-discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation.
The battle to win the referendum is expected to affect the races for the state’s General Assembly and governor, which will also be decided in 2002. Depending on the media attention to the issue, politicians will likely be forced to take sides on the law.
A statewide poll indicated that 60% of Marylanders favor the law. However, a Maine poll last November showed 65% of likely voters supported that state’s gay equal rights law, days before they rejected it 51 to 49 percent. Polls have been off by a similar amount in other anti-gay referendums.
"What we have to do is build a clear link between this law and the potential for a greater homosexual agenda in the state of Maryland," Matthew Sine, one of the founders of TakeBackMaryland.org, told the Washington Post. "We have to do that with honesty and integrity to sell the idea. And we have to make clear that this is not just about discrimination."
"This has nothing to do with a teacher standing up and saying, ‘Here’s what you need to know to be gay.’ That’s simply alarmist propaganda," countered Baltimore Activists Coalition media coordinator David M. Baker, whose group lobbied to pass the law.
The law was amended by conservative lawmakers to prevent it from justifying same-sex marriage, requiring benefits for same-sex partners or changing school curricula.
Opponents of the law are expecting to raise $1.5 million; as a fundraising effort, they have already begun selling $20 phone cards online, as well as sought support from national arch-conservative groups like Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council.
"This will be a big fundraising issue for the religious right," Baker noted.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
The show will go on
Fort Wayne, Ind.—A federal judge July 20 refused to block a state-supported university from staging performances of a play with a gay Christ-like character.
A group of 11 local residents and 21 state lawmakers had filed a lawsuit seeking to prohibit Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne from putting on Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi at a university theater.
They argued that taxpayer money should not be used to help subsidize a production that "attacks religion."
U.S. District Judge William C. Lee ruled the plaintiffs failed to show how the production would violate the separation of church and state. He also dismissed all but three of the plaintiffs, ruling that only those three demonstrated that they altered their behavior because of the play.
Further, Lee decided that the school cannot be a defendant in the case, because it is not a corporate entity that can be sued under Indiana law.
Lee ruled the campus is not taking a position on religion by staging the play. He said holding the production on state university property is not the same as posting a religious monument at the seat of government--a reference to other cases involving the Ten Commandments.
The play, set in modern-day Texas, features a hard-drinking gay man named Joshua and 12 other gay male characters, most of whom bear the names of Christ’s apostles.
The play drew protests when it opened in New York last year. It is slated to open at the Fort Wayne university’s theater, an hour southwest of Toledo, on August 10.
Both sides said that they would appeal whatever decision was made to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. An appeal must be filed within ten days of the ruling.
Slain cop’s partner gets victim money
Tampa, Fla.—State Attorney General Bob Butterworth last week made the first move in a brewing battle over the pension of lesbian police officer Lois Marrero.
Marrero, an 18-year veteran officer, was killed in the line of duty July 6 by a bank robber. Butterworth authorized a $25,000 payment from the state crime victims’ compensation fund—separate from the pension—to Marrero’s life partner of ten years, Detective Mickie Mashburn.
Mashburn will receive the money taken from Marrero’s paychecks for her pension fund as the designated beneficiary. However, because she was not married to Marrero, Mashburn will not receive the matching funds supplied by the police department. Mashburn’s attorneys are looking into legal action on the matter.
Butterworth however, has the responsibility of making payments from the state victim’s compensation fund. Its guidelines allow payments to anyone dependent on the income of the victim.
Man pleads guilty to airborne rant
Miami—A man who said he was only trying to spread the word of God pleaded guilty July 17 to interfering with a flight crew by shouting at a flight attendant.
Curtis Garrett, a former Los Angeles chiropractor, called the male attendant "a demonic homosexual" on an American Airlines flight from Miami to the Dominican Republic in October 1998.
Garrett, 55, acknowledged he intimidated the flight crew and the co-pilot who left the cockpit to calm everyone down.
The crime he pleaded guilty to carries a possible 20-year prison sentence, but Assistant U.S. Public Defender Donnal Mixon hopes Garrett will be sentenced to time served since his arrest in Los Angeles last March.
Egypt jails 52 in gay party raid
Cairo—Fifty-two men arrested at an alleged gay gathering in May pleaded innocent July 18 at the opening of a case that has shocked conservative, deeply religious Egypt and attracted the attention of international human rights groups.
Occupying one side of the packed courtroom, the handcuffed men screamed and cried as the prosecutor read the charges. Two were accused of a range of religious offenses and others with debauchery and having gay sex.
Egyptian law does not explicitly refer to homosexuality, but a wide range of laws covering obscenity, public morality and "contempt of religion" are punishable by jail terms.
Amnesty International said it feared "these men are detained purely on the grounds of their alleged sexual orientation.''
Amnesty added that "contempt of religion,'' a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, has been used by Egyptian officials in the past "as the legal pretext for the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience.''
When the defendants were arrested on a Nile River boat restaurant, police said they were holding a sex party. Prosecutors later changed tack and said the group was meeting with a self-styled preacher.
Mohammed Ibrahim, one of the accused, said he was beaten by police during his arrest. While in custody, he also underwent a medical examination to test if he had gay sex, he told reporters.
Man gets 50 years for killing activist
Green Bay, Wis.—A Brown County judge sentenced the murderer of an AIDS activist and youth outreach worker to 50 years in prison, one year for each time the killer stabbed his victim, on July 18.
Paul Foss will be 78 by the time he is eligible for parole for the 1997 murder of Jeff Wahlen. Brown County Circuit Judge Donald Zuidmulder set the date of Foss’ parole hearing for April 19, 2051. April 19 was Wahlen’s birthday.
Foss and Daniel Chipman, who was sentenced to 25 years in May, met Wahlen outside of an adult bookstore, and went to a motel to drink beer. Foss came out of the bathroom and began stabbing and kicking Wahlen until he stopped moving.
Foss confessed to the crime last year while in a mental hospital for observation stemming from an unrelated robbery.
Student can expand suit
Erie, Pa.—U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin ruled July 6 that a gay teenager can expand his federal civil rights lawsuit against his former school district.
Timothy Dahle will be allowed to claim that the Titusville, Pa. school district violated his rights by not providing him with special education, in addition to the original claim that the district failed to take action to stop his classmates from harassing him.
The school district claims that Dahle was argumentative and contributed to the harassment through his behavior.
The new charges stem from a psychologist’s deposition in the original suit. That showed the district might have violated Dahle’s rights to special education under the Americans with Disabilities Act, since no attempt was made to determine whether Dahle might be entitled to special education classes to help him cope with the emotional stress of the harassment.
Psychiatrist appeals tuition ruling
San Francisco—A gay psychiatrist ordered to repay the U.S. Air Force $71,000 for his education appealed the decision to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 20.
John Hensala, 36, who sued last May, said he shouldn’t have to repay the money because he wanted to serve, but the Air Force refused to let him because he is gay.
Hensala was honorably discharged after telling his superiors in 1994 that he’s gay. He said he had no reason to believe he would be automatically discharged after his announcement.
The Air Force contends Hensala announced he was gay simply to avoid active duty.
A federal judge ruled in May that Hensala should be required to pay back the government because he voluntarily came out as gay and should have known the consequences of violating the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.
In his appeal, Hensala said the Air Force’s recoupment order was discriminatory.
Gay American music club
by Milla Rosenberg
The word punk in punk rock refers to a passive gay male, but the punk and indie scenes have not always welcomed their gay artists. Witness that it took twelve years for punk legend Bob Mould to come out in the rock press.
The understandable fear for musicians is that coming out will encourage the media to pigeonhole them or change their audience's expectations. Well, if singer Mark Eitzel's music is any indication, he has shown that coming out is not just another way to sell records.
On "The Boy With the Hammer," the leadoff track from Eitzel's new disc The Invisible Man, he relates the story of an illegal underground party filled with hipsters, strippers, and pornographers who ignore a growing blaze in their neighbor's home. The song, which opens with gentle piano notes, soon picks up into a fierce, mid-tempo vamp.
It is Eitzel's ability to convey stories of desire and loss with such subtlety which makes him a remarkable musician. All of his songs tell stories; indeed, as he noted, true stories about lovers he has held, his experiences in living in San Francisco, and friends he has lost to AIDS.
Eitzel has taken a prominent role in AIDS work within the indie rock world. He did guest vocals with Paula Frazier for a compilation to benefit Shanti, a San Francisco HIV support organization. Also, he recently played a set at New York's Housing Works, a non-profit organization that provides housing, health care, job training, and advocacy for homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS.
The former front man for the legendary band American Music Club (1985-1994), Eitzel's solo work has mined new territory; his latest album experiments with electronic sounds and samples.
Eitzel's tour brought him to Columbus, his former home, on July 16. He is touring with a new four-piece band, including Brian Gregory, of the Adults, Andrew Plourde and longtime collaborator Kristin Sobditch.
I spoke with Eitzel by phone at a tour stop in Boston.
Milla Rosenberg: What was the recording process like for The Invisible Man? Did you work with different instrumentation on this record than in past releases?
It started off in a friend's studio two years ago. I had made a covers record, and I began work on a new album, of which only three songs appear on The Invisible Man. From these sort of demos, I pulled samples using Pro-tools on a Mac G-4 computer. I finished the record in my home in San Francisco.
How is the tour going so far?
It's going okay--it is long and rough.
What artists and songs were you listening to when you decided that you wanted to become a songwriter and musician?
The Damned and the Sex Pistols.
How has living in San Francisco affected your musical style?
San Francisco is a really beautiful place. I think it has influenced me, but not always in the best ways. When I lived in Columbus in the early ’80s, the musical community was strong and extended to photographers and dancers. San Francisco is a lot more fractured. Once I moved there, I knew that I had to really slog away on my own in order to make it.
In some respects, the courage of artists to come out is a positive sign. Clearly, things have changed since the days of Dusty Springfield, and it can make a difference for young people to know that musicians from Rob Halford to Jill Sobule have not shied away from sexuality.
Has the increased openness about sexuality, particularly within the rock world, affected your work? Also, have you experienced the support of other queer musicians?
Let me take it in reverse. No, I have not had support from any other queer artists. And about sexuality, I only came out musically when I knew it would not undermine my own writing. It kills a love song when it becomes just another political action. I only began to write gender-specific songs when I felt that it would not hurt my music.
What was your response to the release of Come On Beautiful, the American Music Club tribute album?
I was really negative at first. I did not know what it would sound like, and I told Paul from Willard Grant Conspiracy: "Make only 500 copies."
Paul kept sending me these very kind e-mails asking me who I thought should play on which song, and I just would not respond. But when I heard it, I loved it. I was so happy, and I am really proud of that. Also, about the book they wrote about me [Sean Body's biography Wish the World Away], it's pretty good. He certainly did his homework.
What books have you been moved by?
Lately, I have been really into John Fante's books. When I was a kid, it was Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett. Plus, the usual suspects: Rimbaud and [Jean] Baudrillard.
Songs soar and reveal
The Invisible Man
Reviewed by Milla Rosenberg
Mark Eitzel's greatest skill is an uncanny ability to combine sensuous sounds with sometimes biting, always poetic lyrics that make you blush. The new record is no exception. The song "Can You See?" examines our capacity to see the truth beyond our own reflections. Over a light, quivering Wurlitzer organ, Eitzel croons the refrain: "If the truth won't make you happy, what will you do?"
"Christian Science Reading Room" weaves a story of Eitzel exploring this medically skeptical faith on a cold day in New York. A slow plodding snare rhythm is overlaid with beautiful acoustics, as he sings, ". . . every question that I asked was suddenly profound."
The intense "To the Sea" is a tribute to an unnamed singer--probably Jeff Buckley--who passed away; an intense track, Eitzel's vocals here are raspy but confident: just before the song breaks toward the ending, he slyly declares, "Grace is always forgotten but never forgiven." Grace was the title of Buckley's only release.
On the gentle, chiming "Sleep," a grooved bass guitar picks up the rhythm, and queer references abound: "Altar boys look good in lace, but they're not known for their guts or their good nature."
The album closes with the raucously upbeat, stream-of-consciousness track, "Proclaim Your Joy." It is a fitting ending to a beautiful record.
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