06 December 2010

Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture

Jonathan Katz has co-curated Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, which is currently on until February 13, 2010.

Incoming Speaker John Boehner and the Catholic League objected and achieved a partial censorship.

Some images of interest (Click on the link below for more details):

Romaine Brooks.  Self Portrait, 1923.

Janet Flanner, aka Genet, by Berenice Abbott, 1927

Dancing Sailors, 1917, by Charles Demuth.

Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, NYC, 1991, by Nan Goldin

I Look Just Like My Daddy, 2003, by Cass Bird

16 August 2010

Serp i Molot

English title: Hammer and Sickle

Directed by Sergei Livnev
Script by Sergei Livnev & Vladimir Valutsky
93 minutes 1994

Aleksei Serebryakov as Evdokim Kuznetsov

Country of finance:  Russia
Nationality of director: Russian
Location of story: USSR


As part of a experiment to meet the demand by Stalin that the Soviet Union have more soldiers, Evdokiia Kuznetsova is taken from the gulag and is transformed into a man, Evdokim. He then becomes a Stakhanovite building the Moscow underground in the 1930s, marries a female fellow worker, and adopts a child, Dolores, who had been orphaned in the Spanish Civil War.

They became the models for Vera Mukhina's famous sculpture that adorned the 1937 Paris World's Fair and became the emblem of Mosfilm. The athletic male representing the Hammer (Heavy Industry). After posing for the statue, the Kuznetsovs became celebrities, living in luxury, Kuznetsov a member of the Supreme Soviet.

However Kuznetsov became angry and attacked Stalin. He was shot in the scuffle. Paralysed and unable to speak, Evdokim was turned into a hero once more: he had supposedly saved Stalin's life and was exhibited as a museum piece. His wife commanded his thoughts, and even wrote his book "Hammer and Sickle."


03 August 2010

The End of the World

Episode 1.2 of Doctor Who

Directed by Euros Lyn
Script by Russel T Davies
45 minutes 2005

Christopher Eccleston plays the Doctor
Billie Piper plays Rose
Zoë Wanamaker voices Cassandra

Country of finance: UK
Nationality of director: Welsh
Location of story: a spacestation
Filming location: Cardiff
Channel: BBC Wales


The Doctor takes Rose billions of years into the future to witness the end of the Earth as the Sun expands and destroys it.  Observation is from a space station, and the guests are the super-rich.  One of the guests is Cassandra, who has had 708 operations and is now just a stretched face.  She is described as the last Earthling (which of course ignores the two minions who move her frame and frequently moisturize her). 

Cassandra is also the bad guy.  She releases robot insects which destroy the station's protections so that all will die and she will make a killing having bet against the other guests on the stock exchange.  She teleports out at the last minute, but is brought back by the Doctor.

Incidentally, Casandra who uses makeup and mentions various ex-husbands is obviously to be taken as female, started out as  boy.  This makes her one of the more rococo specimens of the old film favourite, the transy killer.


Zoë Wanamaker was unable to be in Cardiff when the episode was filmed.  Cassandra was originally voiced by Eve Myles, and Zo's voice added later. 

Of course referring to this series as number 1 is high revisionism.  The original season 1 of Dr Who was back in 1963.

06 June 2010


Novel by Herman Hesse.  Berlin: G. Fisher Verlag 1927.  English translation by Basil Creighton.  London: Martin Secker.  New York: Henry Hold & Co. 1929.  Many other editions.

Film produced by Melvin Fisherman & Richard Herland.
Directed by Fred Haines
Script by Fred Haines based on the novel by Herman Hesse
106 minutes 1974
Max von Sydow plays Harry Haller
Dominique Sanda plays Hermine
Pierre Clémenti plays Pablo
Country of finance:  USA/Switzerland/UK/France/Italy
Nationality of director: US
Location of story: Germany
Filming location: Basel, Hamburg.


Harry Haller, a man devoted to the high culture of Goethe and Mozart but alienated by the shallow bourgeois pretence of admiring that culture, sees himself as having a second animalistic nature, a wolf of the steppes.  However he is in despair and on the verge of suicide when he encounters Hermine in a chance visit to a dance bar.  She offers him friendship and teaches him to value the little things in life, to dance and to take drugs.  From the start he notices that her features have a masculine aspect, and feels that she reminds him of his childhood friend Hermann.  He eventually fully falls in love with her at the costume ball where she is dressed as a man. She and Pablo, a jazz saxophonist, take Harry to a magic theatre where he is able to encounter some other of his myriad personalities.

Who are they?

Herman Hesse (1877 – 1962) was an influential German-Swiss novelist with interests in Buddhism and Jungianism.

Melvin Fishman produced only this film.  He was a student of Jung and Alchemy and wanted Steppenwolf to be the first Jungian Film.  The film was in pre-production for seven years as Fishman built up a relationship with the Hesse family to obtain the film rights.  He did lots of drugs and had a heart attack shortly after the film was finished.  Two years later another heart attack killed him.  He died with 20 Swiss Francs in his pocket, and no other money.

Richard Herland produced one television series and four films between 1964 and 1986.  He raised the money for Steppenwolf.

Peter Sprague, the major financier, was a scion of US industrial wealth who thought of himself as radical.

Fred Haines (1936 – 2008), from Los Angeles, fluent in French and German, did a degree in literature.  He met film director Joseph Strick and together they wrote the script of James Joyce’s Ulysses, 1967.  It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.  He was a co-writer of Strick’s Tropic of Cancer, but took his name from the credits after a disagreement.  Steppenwolf in the only film that he directed.

Max von Sydow has been in over 140 films.  He is one of Sweden’s most distinguished actors.  He has played both God and the Devil.

Dominique Sanda is a French actress who was especially known for her roles in Italian films.  She has been in 54 films.

Pierre Clémenti, also French, had just completed a two-year sentence for drug charges.


The post-Zabriskie-Point Michelangelo Antonioni was approached to direct, but he thought that the book was unfilmable.  John Frankenheimer and actor James Coburn were also approached to direct.

Timothy Leary, on the run from prison, was considered for the part of Harry Haller, but he gave two acid tabs to Sprague who then had a bad trip.

Conrad Rooks, a heir to the Avon cosmetics fortune, who had made the druggie film Chappaqua, was also courting the Hesse family for Steppenwolf, but ended up with Siddhartha instead.

While the film was made in English, none of the actors are native English speakers.

Peter Sprague, the major financier ended up owning the rights.  He put the film on a shelf for two years.

The colours were wrong when the prints were made.

The special effects were cutting edge for 1974.

Mati Klarwein (1932 – 2002), who did the album covers for Santana’s Abraxas and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, painted the images in the corridors of the Magic Theatre.

The Czech artist, Jaroslav Bradac , did the animated sequence.

Decades earlier than the Terminator films and The Matrix, Steppenwolf includes a sequence where humans are fighting a war against the machines.

The entire film is available on YouTube.

“…it seems to me that of all my books Steppenwolf is the one that was more often and more violently misunderstood than any other, and frequently it is actually the affirmative and enthusiastic readers, rather than those who rejected the book, who have reacted to it oddly…”–Hermann Hesse in the 1961 prologue to Steppenwolf.

I was one of very few people who saw the film on the big screen.


Do we have one personality? Or is it an illusion?  Early in the book, Harry sees himself as having two personalities: the spiritual, high-culture snob; and the wolf from the steppes who loathes the bourgeoisie.

When he enters the Magic Theatre the illusion, his fake personality are fractured and he finds that he has thousands of personalities.  Significantly he does not have any female personalities, or perhaps he merely fails to acknowledge them.

There is a suggestion in the text that somehow Hermine is not real - as such she would be Harry's Anima (Hesse was influenced by Carl Jung at the time he wrote the book).  This idea is supported by the fact that 'Hermine' is the feminine form of the Hesse’s first name.  As Harry is not able to recognize his feminine selves, his anima is projected outwards. and takes the form of an independent person.   The ‘fact’ that he maybe/maybe not kills Hermine at the end would constitute a further refusal to accept his inner woman.

27 March 2010

Bert Horgson (1911-2001) FBI agent.

The tale goes thus:

Bert was an FBI agent from Minnesota. He joined the FBI in 1935 to fight Nazi spies.

When FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover saw him he was re-assigned as a special agent en femme using the name Bettina.

Hoover kept him from quitting by a mixture of promises and intimidation. He even had Horgson’s legal identity changed to ‘female’, so that it would be illegal for him to wear men’s clothes. Hoover gave orders that after his own death, Horgson was to be confined to a high-security nursing home as a national security risk.
  • Katrum Schultz. “J. Edgar Hoover Ordered Agents To Impersonate Women”. Weekly World News. 11/11/2002. Online at: http://bit.ly/cKKASn.

19 March 2010

Cecil Beaton (1904 - 1980) photographer, set & costume designer.

Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton was the son of a prosperous timber merchant. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, where he read history, art and architecture but left without a degree.

The first photograph that he sold was of the Shakespearean scholar, George Rylands, in drag as the Duchess of Malfi. It was published in Vogue. Beaton worked regularly for Vogue from 1927 in addition to having his own studio. He became known for his fashion, society and royalty photographs.

In 1934 Gerald Berniers, under the name Adela Quebec, published his spoof novel, The Girls of Radcliff Hall, which featured himself, Beaton and others as lesbian schoolgirls at an institution named after the famous writer. Beaton attempted to have all the copies destroyed and it became a very rare book until reprinted in 2000.

Five years later Beaton published his own spoof of the memoirs by minor royals that were popular at the time. My Royal Past, By Baroness von Bulop as told to Cecil Beaton features photographs of Beaton and some of his friends crossdressed as the characters in the book.

During the war Beaton worked for the Ministry of Information. Later he photographed many Hollywood and Broadway stars. He expanded into set and costume design for both stage and film, and won Oscars for the costumes in Gigi, 1958 and My Fair Lady, 1964. He was an influence on photographers Angus McBean and David Bailey. He had affairs with Gary Cooper and Greta Garbo.

He was knighted in 1972, and two years later was paralysed on the right side of his body after a stroke. He died in his sleep at age 76.

14 March 2010

Noël Coward (1899 – 1973) and Gerald du Maurier (1873 - 1934) …

at a theatrical garden party in the late 1920s.

This photograph is found on page 40 of Terry CastleNoël Coward & Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits.  New York: Columbia University Press 1996.

28 February 2010

Earthlings Welcome Here

Episode 2.13 of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (SCC)

Directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá.
Script by Natalie Chaidez
60 minutes 2008

Lena Headey plays Sarah Connor
Dinah Lenney plays Eileen/Alan Park

Country of finance: USA
Nationality of director: USA
Location of story: USA
Filming location: USA


Sarah, chasing the image of three dots, goes to a UFO convention where she hears about a blogger, Abraham, who has written of the three dots.  She is approached by Eileen who says that she knows about Abraham.  Her trailer contains maps of sighting of Abraham and of UFOs.   At a restaurant, Sarah follows Eileen into the ladies room and demands that she must meet Abraham.  Eileen takes off her wig and confesses that she is Abraham.  Her real name is Alan Park, and as an MIT graduate was employed on a secret project with an unknown metal.  Park fearing for his life went into hiding and disguised as a woman so as not to be recognized.  Park never knew where he worked for he taken there each day in a closed van.  Sarah takes Park to a regression therapist to go over memories of noises etc.  She records the session, and although an assassin kills both Park and the therapist, Sarah is able to deduce the location of the plant.

Who are they?

This is the only episode of SCC directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá.  He has directed episodes for a lot of television serials.

Natalie Chaidez wrote 30 SCC episodes.

Dinah Lenney is in only this episode of SCC but is a regular as Nurse Shirley in ER, and has played small parts in many television series, almost all female parts.


A cross-dressing drama for the cis-gendered.   Passing in gender role creates problems of its own, extra problems that a person hiding from bad guys does not need.  How did Eileen rent a car without a drivers license in her female name?  The script avoids these problems.

27 February 2010

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20

This, probably the best known of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, is central to discussions of homosexuality in Shakespeare.  It is possibly addressed to a cross-dressed young man, or at least a young man with androgynous beauty.

'A woman's face, with Nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false woman's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hew all Hews in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prickt thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.'   
Proposed identifications of the young ‘master-mistress’ include Willie Hughes and Henry Wriothesley, to both of whom we will return.

23 February 2010

Wanda Koolmatrie (1949 - ) writer.

Koolmatrie, an aboriginal Australian, was born to the Pitjantjatjara people but taken from her mother in 1950 and raised by white foster parents. She finally expressed herself in an aboriginal acting troop. Her 1994 autobiography, My Own Sweet Time, won the $5,000 Dobbie award for women’s life writing.

When she proposed a sequel to the book in 1997, the publisher insisted on meeting her, and it came out that she is the female persona of Leon Carmen (1950 - ) and John Bayley, two white men with a grudge that white men cannot get published. Carmen admitted that he had not ever met an aboriginal woman.

10 February 2010

Hot Peaches

Here is a video retrospective of the Hot Peaches.

Many persons of interest passed through Hot Peaches, including Marsha P Johnson, Bette Bourne, International Chrysis, Hapi Phace and so on.

07 February 2010

Fellini’s La dolce vita

Directed by Federico Fellini.

Script by Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi & Pier Paolo Pasolini (uncredited)
174 minutes 1960
Marcello Mastroianni plays Marcello Rubini
Anita Ekberg plays Sylvia
Anouk Aimee plays Maddalena
Alain Cuny plays Steiner
Annibale Nichi plays Marcello’s father
Walter Santesso plays Paparazzo
Nico plays herself
Dominot and Carlo Musto play transvestites
Country of finance: Italy/France
Nationality of director: Italy
Location of story: Rome
Filming location: Rome & Cinecittà


Marcello is a hack journalist chasing celebrities, religious stories and the local aristocracy.  He encounters Steiner, an established writer with a loving wife and children, and an attractive apartment, all that Marcello aspires to.  Later Steiner kills his children and commits suicide.  

Who are they?

Marcello Mastroianni (1924 – 1996) acted in 143 films.  La Dolce Vita made him famous.  He was married to Flora Carabella from 1948 until his death.  He famously had an affair and a daughter with Catherine Deneuve.  He died of pancreatic cancer.  It is also rumoured that he was the young boyfriend of Giovanni Montini (1867 – 1978) whose stage name was Pope Paul VI.

Nico (Christa Päffgen 1938 – 1988), related to the Päffgen brewery in Cologne, went on to appear in the Morrisey-Warhol film Chelsea Girls and to sing with The Velvet Underground.  She died aged 40 after a minor heart attack while cycling.

Dominot continued as a female impersonator and performer and has his own club in Rome.

Carlo Musto is otherwise unknown.

Steiner was based on the novelist Cesare Pavese(1908 – 1950) an anti-fascist and award-winning novelist who committed suicide.  Co-screenwriter Tullio Pinelli had gone to school with Pavese and felt that he had become burnt out.

Religious aspects

The film divides into seven episodes, which reflects the seven hills of Rome, the seven sins, seven sacraments, seven days of creation etc.  See the Wikipedia article for details.

The film opens with a parousia, an arrival of Jesus as a statue carried by a helicopter.  It ends with a parousia of the sea monster that can still look at you after being dead for three days (the fish symbolism of Jesus is hinted at here).  Both the opening and the ending have a non-communication because of distance or of noise.   Thus like Mark’s gospel the end reflects the beginning.  Click here for an essay by David Ulansey comparing the beginning and end of Mark’s gospel.

The centre of Mark’s gospel is the transfiguration where Jesus goes up a mountain to gain an epiphany.  At the centre of La Dolce Vita Marcello goes up to Steiner’s apartment and finds that what he believed in does not exist.  Steiner says: "Sometimes at night the darkness and silence frightens me. Peace frightens me. I feel it's only a facade, hiding the face of hell".

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano condemned the film as a parody of Jesus’ second coming.  The film was banned in Catholic Spain until 1981 after the death of Franco.   The Vatican also disliked the film for its portrayal of Rome’s aristocracy which of course is very dynastically intertwined with the Church hierarchy.

The trans bits

The famous sequence of bathing in the fountain was suggested by Giò Stajano (who became Maria in 1983) who had himself done the fountain thing, and had written novels about the café society scene in Rome, of which La Dolce Vita can be seen as a sequel.  His novels, of course, have a lot more gay characters.

When Marcello’s father visits and they go to a nightclub, he tells of his visit to Paris where he saw a stripper who revealed herself to be a man.  Probably he had been to Le Carousel, but it is not named.

In the last party scene, optimistically called an ‘orgy’ in some accounts, there are suddenly two young men who change upstairs, come down in drag and do a dance routine.  The others refer to them with male pronouns.  IMDB lists three transvestites:  Domino, Carlo Musto and Antonio Jacono (uncredited).  Close watching of the film fails to reveal a third transvestic character, but the mystery is resolved when one discovers that Domino’s birth name was Antonio Iacono.

Sexual politics

La Dolce Vita was made between two great scandals.  The heterosexual  Montesi Affair of 1953 began with a dead young woman washed up on a beach near Ostia (a second hint from the sea monster at the end of the film) and expanded into police and political cover-ups and tales of drugs and orgies.  The gay Ballete Verdi scandal, 1960 came right after La Dolce Vita opened, and unlike the Montesi Affair included no murder, but like it expanded to include celebrities.

24 January 2010

Barbarian Venus by Paul Klee

Paul Klee (1879 –1940) painted this in 1921.

Lanier Graham says:
Barbarian's Venus by Paul Klee (1879-1940) is one of the most "barbaric" Androgyne images of the era.  She is a Venus with a penis. Klee was not a member of the Surrealist circle, but sometimes exhibited with them. He was associated with Kandinsky and Marc in Munich in 1911 and 1912, then took from Cubism and Orphism the concept of fluctuating planes. Klee was thought by some to be an Alchemist when he discussed the Absolute, Nothingness, and the Ground of Being. His students at the Bauhaus (only half in jest) called him "Heavenly Father." He was one of the first modern artists to explore Androgyny in tribal art. 
The painting is owned by The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, but is not currently on view.  They describe the painting:
This androgynous Venus, with her direct gaze confronting and challenging the viewer, displays both female and male organs, thereby engaging us by flaunting her dual and "barbaric" sexuality.

22 January 2010

Elémire Zolla’s The Androgyne: Reconciliation of Male and Female

Elémire Zolla (1926 – 2002) was born in Turin to an Italian-French father who was a painter and an English mother who was a musician. He was raised in Paris and London, but then settled in Italy.

In 1956 he won the Strega Prize for his first novel, Minuetto all'inferno. He married a poet, Maria Spaziani, 1958, but they were divorced in 1960. From 1966 to 1978 he was Secretary of the Istituto Accademico di Roma and from 1970 to 1973 Director of the Istituto Ticinesi di Alti Studi in Lugano. In 1970 he wrote an introduction to the Italian version of Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings. He was the long time director and editor of Conoscenza Religiosa, a leading Italian journal in religious studies. He taught Anglo-American and comparative literature at La Sapienza University in Rome and at the University of Genoa.

The Androgyne: Reconciliation of Male and Female, which was published first in English and only later in Italian, is an intriguing book that covers many of the aspects of the Androgyne in myth, but also features some items that readers may be puzzled about, such as decapitation and plunging into water.

Zolla proposes two paradigms of androgyny:
a) Suitors are slighted or a goddess is offended or mating is hindered, the hidden meaning possibly being that an esoteric use is made of sex;
b) A plunge is taken into transforming waters. Or contact is made with serpents. The currents of subtle inner energy may be alluded to in either case;
c) There follows a succession of switches in sex; one's self-reflection pivots on its axis of symmetry. In Tantric sex the two opposite currents are usually stimulated in turn;
d) The consequence is a loss of sight leading to the acquisition of spiritual or prophetic insight, or the granting of the gift of music, the mastery of rhythms. In the Narcissus myth the explicit discovery of the self-delusive quality of maya takes the place of the loss of sight. Tales such as Hermaphroditus, Teiresius and Narada fit into this paradigm, as does the Genesis tale of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, and the Buddhist tale where a chaste youth closes his ears to a woman's entreaties and she has him blinded out of spite.

a) A cosmic cavern or tree or anthill;
b) inside is concealed the androgyne, the Primal God, or the God who assumes the sex opposite to that of the worshipper;
c) violence of love blinds, bisects or beheads the androgyne;
d) The severed head or lost eyesight becomes a cause of trouble; a sacrifice has to be made;
e) Balance is restored, the androgyne made whole once more, the land healed.

His other books are: The Eclipse of the Intellectual, 1968. The writer and the shaman; a morphology of the American Indian, 1973. Archetypes: The Persistence of Unifying Patterns, 1981.

The application of any of this to real-life trans persons is not at all obvious; nor if this is indeed androgyny, what should a person do who wishes to be androgynous.  Nor do I perceive any system in Zolla’s archetypes of Androgyny.  Surely by emphasizing different myths of androgyny, one could arrive at different archetypes. 

Unlike Joseph Campbell or Mircea Eliade, Zolla’s approach is neither that of a scientist nor of a mythographer, but that of an artist.  You relate to his presentation or you do not.  But there is no dialectic or doxy that will accept or reject it.

11 January 2010

Madame X

This photograph is online at: http://www.photo.rmn.fr/cf/htm/CSearchZ.aspx?o=&Total=8&FP=46801092&E=2K1KTS6URHS5K&SID=2K1KTS6URHS5K&New=T&Pic=2&SubE=2C6NU0CVNJC3

It is exhibited at Toulouse, musée d'Art moderne et contemporain, les Abattoirs.

The author is Joël-Peter Witkin (1939 – ).

Title: Madame X.

While, of course it is a riff on the Venus de Milo, I think that it captures well the ambivalence of the male gaze with regard to androgyny.  The fact that it is a modified photograph, and thus more ‘realistic’ than a statue, that it combines ‘hermaphrodite’ in the art sense with body mutilation that accidentally happened to Greek and Roman statues over 2,000 years.   Wasn’t it the 1953 Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz with Marlon Brando, that featured armless statues of the Venus de Milo type as if the Romans actually created them like that?

04 January 2010

The films of Candy Darling

See the biographical entry on Candy.



Flesh 1968 








Women in Revolt 1972

There are no clips online from Women in Revolt.