Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What I Saw (and Sang)
At Arthur Evans' Memorial

(The late Arthur Evans in December 2010. Credit: Rick Gerharter.)

The celebration of Arthur Evans' life and legacy on Sunday afternoon in the Castro, on a very hot day, was facilitated by his longtime friend Hal Offen and he was just the best emcee we could have asked for. Hal printed up an essay that he half read and ad-libbed, about the incredible pioneering work of Arthur and the lives he touched.

Due to technical difficulties, the service started half-an-hour late but it was good to have the microphone system in perfecting working order. Too bad the auditorium in the Eureka Valley Recreation Center has such terrible acoustics, even with the latest sound equipment, because I missed a lot of what was said.

We were treated to a ten-minute snippet of Arthur's appearance in the new documentary "Vito", that was provided by Jeffrey Schwarz who is the producer of the well-reviewed film about gay film scholar and all-round fabulous queer Vito Russo. Hal said the movie will soon play at the Castro theater, so be sure to catch it when it opens.

Murray Edelman, who I last saw in the winter of 1987 in Manhattan when we were involved with co-founding ACT UP, spoke about his times with Arthur, but he didn't properly adjust the mike in front of his mouth. Hal got up to arrange the mike closer to Murray's lips, and he seemed afraid of the mike. "Pretend that it's a penis!" shouted yours truly from the back of the room. That got a laugh.

Sitting the back row, in a blue blazer but not sweating as he took notes with a pen and pad was Adam Nagourney, the New York Times reporter who co-wrote "Out For Good" which of course included Arthur, and who was friends with him. That's Adam on the left and Hal has his arm around his shoulder. Adam was just observing, not reporting on the memorial.

I pushed them both to endorse an idea I have about Arthur's papers, and that is to donate them to the San Francisco Public Library. Arthur left no directions about what to do with his papers, but he sent me a note in January seeking my advice on the matter, which is part of the reason why I'm being a nudge about his archive.

Two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence attended in full regalia, and like Adam, were full of sweat. They made heartfelt tributes to the Arthur they knew who embraced faerie spirits and costumes and masking one's personality, then blessed him and all he accomplished for gays and queers for so many decades.

A solid one-hundred folks showed up over the course of the two-hour celebration, where a few tears fell from our eyes, a lot of laughs and applause erupted, some anger was recalled, a bit of cruising and schmoozing kept the boys happy, and fabulous reminiscing was shared.

Great to see everybody who was there, and big thanks to Hal for organizing the event.

The highlight for me was Hal leading us in singing a re-worked spiritual that was sung in Gay Activist Alliance days. I liked it so much I plan to print up the lyrics and make sure we sing this tune at future street actions. Lifting our queer voices in unison, warbling new words to "Amazing Grace" was moving and I felt the spirit of Arthur smiling down upon us, in that knowing glance he was well-known for. Rest in peace, my friend.

Amazin' Gays
by Larry Wisch of the Choral Majority

Amazin' gays, how sweet we sound when we sing harmony.
We seek a world where justice reigns,
where people can be free.

We're many races, creeds and types.
We're many, yet we're one.
In every land, in every age,
we may be anyone.

Yes, we've been queer 10,000 years,
bright shining as the sun.
Our movement's progress has been great
and more is still to come.


DavidEhrenstein said...

So nice that Arthur got such a great send off. No one remotely like him.

Michael said...

i think we had the best celebration of arthur's life on sunday and glad i attended the service. he will be missed.

jayboy said...

Thank you for a heartfelt account of this send-off of this veteran firebrand. A good reminder for all activists to dictate where their papers should be donated! New Yorkers: consider The Downtown Collection at New York University! Thanks, Mikey. Xo