Daily Archives: April 2, 2006

From a profile of Gore Vidal in today’s L.A. Times:

“Trimble and Vidal were inseparable for a while, sexually and otherwise, and then fate intervened in the guise of Vidal’s shrill and beautiful mother, Nina, who, concerned about her son’s mediocre grades, transferred Vidal from St. Albans into yet another boarding school, Exeter, near Boston. Vidal saw Trimble one last time, at a dance in 1942, and they fled the hall together briefly, doing what teenagers in love are apt to do, leaving behind Vidal’s fiancée, a young woman named Rosalind. Of course, Vidal never married Rosalind. And Trimble joined the Marines at the height of World War II and was killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima.”

Love the “doing what teenagers in love are apt to do.” It goes on —

“Vidal has written that he never again felt unity with another sexual partner ­ at least, he hasn’t yet. “It’s not something you look for,” he says sharply. “Things happen or they don’t.” He’s been sliding down into the comfort of his armchair during conversation, and now a bit of his midriff peeks between his white button-down and his slacks. He’s dallied with plenty of men, and some women, over the years ­ more than plenty ­ but none, except that first, was of lasting import. His relationship with Auster was platonic; which is exactly why it endured, says Vidal.

In any country on Earth but the United States, people would understand this,” he says. “

Indeed. We (all of us) have all kinds of relationships — long and short, close and far, living and dead. Yet it is the Marriage Imperative that weighs us all down, even when other circumstances explicate themselves in great detail

As the years go by (and we’re well into our fourth decade) it’s become increasingly difficult to describe my relationship with Bill Reed (whose 65th Birthday is being celebrated today in lavish world-wide ceremonies) , save to say he is not my “partner.”

Law Firms have partners. We are not a law firm.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in cyberspace Lee Siegel pontificates on David Hockney

“For a gay English artist born in 1937, growing up in England in the 1950s, sexuality must have played a very different role in his life than it would have had he been born and raised, say, in the Bronx, like Larry Rivers. After all, homosexuality was not decriminalized in England until 1967; coming out is still more difficult there, even in cosmopolitan London, than it is in the United States. In the States, the Stonewall riots and the birth of the Gay Liberation Movement happened two years after homosexuality was legalized in England. And so building plentiful, interconnected friendships amid a hostile society must have been very important for a young gay man such as Hockney.”

Oh Prunella! David Hockney always has been, and always will be more emotionally, intellectually and artistically free than anyone hailing from the Bronx, much less Larry Rivers! That he refused from day one to live in fear and, in point of fact, blatantly flaunted his same-sex desires in art as well as life, is the reason he’s always been, and always will be, one of my heroes. Read his “My Early Years” for all the thrilling details.

Back to Siegel —

“For Hockney, making art is a social activity. His portraits aren’t studies in character. They are documents of social bonding. Hockney surrounds most of his subjects with empty space. But this is not some banal declaration of contemporary meaninglessness and alienation. The space surrounding Hockney’s sitters is like a blank invitation waiting to have the names of guests inscribed on it. The moment captured is simply a pause between social gatherings. Indeed, making portraits seems to be a formal ritual for Hockney, like Japanese businessmen presenting their cards. The almost manic intensity with which Hockney paints people, the sheer vast number of his portraits, are like an attempt to fill the empty spaces around his subjects by painting more and more of them, with more and more empty space that needs to be filled with further subjects, etc. Critics often say that Hockney’s couples have an air of crisis around them, as if they were waiting for the final explosion and then separation. On the contrary. They are waiting for other people to join them. For Hockney, couplehood is insufficiently social.”

Who on earth is this Siegel character writing about? Hasn’t he seen Hockney’s famous couples portraits of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy or Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott? They’re sublimely social — and gorgeous, and witty. There’s nothing mysterious about them, and in no way does Hockney resent his friends’ state of coupledom.

“Why does Hockney feel so at home in Los Angeles? The singular quality of Southern California. The very colors of Divine’s clothes, and the bright, loud gladness of the background, imply that both the sitter and his environment are eliciting the attention of other people. Yet Divine, a performer, fits neatly in with Hockney’s other intensely socialized figures precisely because Hockney casts all of his subjects in a social role.”

The “singular quality of Southern California” is its abundance of male beauty. Again in “My Early Years” Hockney is quite clear about what he liked about the place — observing how shadows fell in Laurel and Hardy comedies, clearly indicating that sunshine was plentiful. What could be more inviting for a bright young gay man in darkest, wettest England? And there were all those AMG Studios models to go searching for. When he got here, however, Hockney discovered he had no need of AMG. In his drawings and paintings he evoked a male harem of his own devise, brilliantly caputred by Jack Hazan in his highly singular documentary-drama A Bigger Splash — which is coming out on DVD this month

While nominally tracing the break-up of Hockney’s affair with Peter Schlesinger, the film deals with a great deal more — taking in his circle of friends of the time, and the art work he was creating. More important it doesn’t offer any simplistic formula for anyone to divine who Hockney “really is” or what his work “means.”

As for love, well what is there to say? Like anyone and everyone he’s had it, lost it, found it, again, and kept moving.

Love’s great when you can hold on and make a go of it. But then there are relationships of other kinds that defy definition.

Just try to get as much of it as you can.

Good grief, I’m turning into Auntie Mame!