Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Autumn 2005

Warren Allen Smith

Stateside Gossip

by Warren Allen Smith

Kwame Anthony Appiah, born in Britain in 1954, is the son of Joseph Appiah, the late Ghanaian patriot, lawyer and intellectual who figured in the independence movement that saw the Gold Coast colony become Ghana in 1957.

His mother, Peggy Cripps, is daughter of Sir Stafford Cripps, who died in 1952 after an illustrious career that included being expelled from the Labour Party in 1939 for his “popular front” opposing Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, being ambassador to the Soviet Union (1940-2), and in 1948 becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer, where he earned a reputation for his austerity policies in an attempt to rescue a bankrupt Britain after World War Two.

Raised in Ghana, Appiah earned his PhD in philosophy at Clare College, Cambridge. After a career of teaching at Cornell, Duke and Harvard, he currently is an American citizen on the faculty of Princeton University.

Appiah’s In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (1992) makes the case for “a vigorous defense of a multicultural approach to philosophy”, adding that there “is no reason to deny other cultures in the world an equal right to develop their own ways of doing and expressing their ideas about what philosophy is and should be”.

One of Appiah’s controversial views is that race “has been proven false on both scientific (genetics) and cultural grounds and therefore should be banished from halls of debate and the vocabularies of languages”. Culture, not race, should define any people’s identity, says the author whose parents were of different races.

Appiah’s just-issued The Ethics of Identity (Princeton) focuses on the ethical question (“What should I make of my life?”) rather than the moral question (“What do I owe to everyone else?”) or the political question (“What are the proper functions of the liberal state?”). For Appiah, we all need a sense of who we are, what we think, hope, admire and detest, and this is what it is to have identity. Like John Stuart Mill, who admitted Harriet Taylor’s influence in her role of steadying his thinking and curbing his eclecticism, Appiah thanks his partner, Henry Finder, a New Yorker editor, for having a place in his own life similar to the one Mrs Taylor occupied in Mill’s. How humanistically appropriate a statement from one who shows he knows about identity!

For an online African school of philosophy that I have just founded, Dr Appiah has agreed to being on an advisory committee.

The gay spots have successfully hidden themselves from the hoi polloi but not from the cognoscenti. Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto tells how The Slide, a bar, recently had customers “slurping a bit of booze out of the foreskin of a go-go boy”, adding, alas, that he’s on a no-alcohol, no-cheese diet.

Meanwhile, at the Octagon, a sperm contest involved spooge samples that were based solely on their visual personality, not their flavor. Dr Spunk, dressed in a lab coat on opening night, dispensed plastic cups. Few took part, but some non-expecting lesbians reportedly were seen eyeing the cups.

Here! and Logo, two new gay New York City cable channels, have movies, travel tips, a reality show, sexy music videos, raunchy comedy routines and a wedding makeover show.

What they lack, a New York Times reporter notes, is the depicting of straight men’s hidden fear of homosexuality. Meanwhile, only 2 per cent of the characters on network TV are gay or lesbian.

Hets are so promiscuous! Karrine Steffans, in Confessions of a Video Vixen, dishes about her various lovers. Basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, for example, feared she would find him too big but “compared to other men, he was nothing to complain about”. Actor Vin Diesel was “blessed with an enviable eight-pack and an even more enviable [bleeped]”.

Sex with producer Irv Gotti was more like a boxing match, and he lent her to his friends ... Bobby Brown, husband of Whitney Houston, told her he was a member of al-Qaeda and President Bush was out to get him ... She describes her back-of-the-limo tryst with Usher ... And she described the tiresomely publicized Sean (P Diddy) Combs as being only “average”.

Meanwhile, gossips are spreading the word that boxer Mike Tyson will be seen in a porn movie and will display something that is fourteen inches long. A boxing glove?

Eva Le Gallienne (1899-1991), the grande dame of the theater whose lovers included freethinker and poet May Sarton, is cited in the new Joel Lobenthal biography, Tallulah! The Life and Times of a Leading Lady. Tallulah Bankhead’s first affair was with Le Gallienne, according to Lobenthal.

Bankhead liked to boast about her irregular love life, telling one stranger at a party, “I’m a lesbian. What do you do?” To a friend, however, she said, “I could never become a lesbian, because they have no sense of humor!” Le Gallienne made it clear the church was not to be involved in her funeral. Bankhead failed to be so explicit.

Gay Catholic Michelangelo Signorile, in The Advocate (September 13, 2005) claims that gays are worse off now than ever before, and that two of our major news sources – The New York Times and The Washington Post – may appear to cover gay issues but they “can’t look at anything regarding homosexuality in a complex way. It becomes ‘icky’ and ‘gross’, and they try to simplify it in a way that ultimately winds up being homophobic”. He describes the Bush Republicans’ strategy as being “that if you lie and keep lying, nobody really will point it out. And if they do, you destroy them, and that’s the end of that”.

In Cruising the Deuce, I wrote about the gay grind movie houses that made Manhattan so colorful before it became Disneyfied. I’ve just found The Fair (90-18 Astoria Boulevard, Jackson Heights), the last of its kind and rumored to be shutting down soon.

Out in the boondocks about an hour away from Times Square by subway and bus, it has six different rooms with screens. But, unlike the case with Variety Photoplays and other gay houses of the past, sex in public is not allowed. After you’ve bought the $15 ticket, however, you pass a dozen cubicles, and behind their closed doors action is rampant. Porters, when the cubicle doors open, rush in with mops.

Lance Armstrong, the Yank who won the Tour de France cycling competition seven times in succession (from 1999 to 2005), is not a believer. Except a believer in the oncologists who helped him win out over testicular cancer. As for the supernatural, he says, “If there was a god, I’d still have both nuts.”

Some wags are saying that Armstrong, when quizzed by police who found three banned substances in his hotel room following the race, apologized because he had not realized that in France toothpaste, deodorant and soap are illegal.

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Created : Sunday, 2005-12-04 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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