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This week in SGN History: 5-16-97

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This Week in SGN History 5-16-97
This Week in SGN History 5-16-97

Over 47 years, the Seattle Gay News has covered thousands of stories that still resonate today. This week we look back at Volume 25, Issue 20, published May 16, 1997.

Gay serial killer at large: A mere two months before the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace, his killer, Andrew Cunanan, was on the run after allegedly murdering four people in three different cities (Minneapolis, Chicago, and Pennsville, N.J.). As reported by Corri Planck of the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, "An arrest warrant was issued in a Minnesota county for the second-degree murder of victim number two, David Madson." According to a New York Times article published May 14, Cunanan appears from past photos to have "a hard, almost stern expression with a hint of dark stubble. And in another, he is clean-cut and wearing glasses. He is also smiling and looks very much like a man who could charm his way into someone's heart and wallet," which is exactly what his mother, Mary Ann Cunanan, told the Chicago Sun-Times what he did for a living. Mrs. Cunanan said her son was a 'high-class homosexual prostitute.'"

UPDATE: On the morning of July 15, 1997, Cunanan murdered the 50-year- old Versace on the front steps of Casa Casuarina, Versace's mansion in Miami Beach. Days later, Cunanan shot and killed himself, leaving no suicide note. Police were unable to find a motive, but the three-month killing spree was finally over.

Schoolbook uproar: Controversy was brewing between the Seattle School Board and then-Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski and youth advocates over the board's review of books "allegedly promoting the homosexual lifestyle." The school board endured a firestorm of criticism during the past week after questioning the legitimacy of a project to place children's books portraying families with Gay and Lesbian members into school libraries. School board president Linda Harris said she intends to apologize to Podlodowski on behalf of the board to
resolve the crisis.

Drag March blues: Before there was the Trans Pride March, there was an attempt to organize a "Drag March." Reader Trinda from Tacoma had issues with this effort, writing in a letter to the editor: "About this proposed first annual 'Drag March' — what the hell does drag have to do with actual transgender issues? Being born in the wrong gender has nothing in common with a preference for female attire. This whole do-dah sounds like a good way to keep the 'good folk' believing that being transgender is just like a 'lifestyle choice.' Won't a march with non- gender-dysphoric-disorder publicity hounds just make the general public a lot more sympathetic toward the real transgenders? Most transgenders would just as soon avoid the attention, and just become their actual selves. I fail to see where a 'Drag March' would help any transgender trying to assimilate. I think it's a dumb idea."

Savage(d): Another letter to the editor targets sex-advice columnist/provocateur Dan Savage regarding a comment he made about I-677. This initiative would have protected LGBTs in the workplace, but Savage was against it. "Dan Savage decries the lack of empirical evidence of discrimination in 1997, but out of the other side of his mouth asserts there was much more discrimination 25 years ago against gay and lesbian people. Pardon me, Mr. Savage, but where is your empirical evidence about the level of discrimination 25 years ago? I find Savage's display incredible chutzpah considering he works for a gay-friendly employer. I'd suggest Salvage [sic] come down from his Ivory Tower and try getting himself a non-journalistic job outside of Seattle and see how he does in most of Washington [where] if you don't have acceptable mannerisms and speech you are out of luck. The legislative tactics of [State Reps.] Cal Anderson and Ed Murray have failed, not because of an ineptness but because of the culture of the majority membership in the legislature. State legislators aren't going to do anything that threatens male heterosexual privilege." — Steven Kendall

UPDATE: Despite strong support in Seattle, the organizing work of Hands Off Washington and an endorsement from then-Gov. Gary Locke, I-677 failed. Savage continues to try to sway voters, with mixed results (anyone remember the Monorail Project?).

Pride drama: It seems so long ago when Pride was on Capitol Hill and not downtown, and this little drama seems dull compared to the problems the event has faced in the last decade. SGN staff writer Matt Nagle reported, "To dispel rumors and doubts stemming from the Freedom Day Committee's ups and downs over the past three months, the FDC formally proposed and voted to organize Seattle's Pride Parade/March this year in the traditional fashion of years past. Second, the rally will as usual be held at the Volunteer Park Amphitheater, and third, food and merchandise vendors and informational tables from local organizations will once again fill the east side of the park, even though the community got a late start this year which lessened its ability to conduct extensive fundraising.

"Today, FDC has approximately $3,000 on hand and in pledges. At last week's meeting Jim Detwiler, owner of the Timberline, donated $800 and the Seattle Gay News donated $200, pledging an additional $800. Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski, the Metropolitan Community Church, and several other organizations have made pledges and donations totaling $800."

UPDATE: The Freedom Day Committee (now Seattle Out & Proud, or SOAP) moved the Pride parade in 2006 from Broadway on Capitol Hill to Downtown's Fourth Ave. and the Festival to Seattle Center. Both events became too big and were split by 2007, with the PrideFest being organized by One Degree Events and the parade still organized by SOAP. Entry into the parade was free in 1997, but those days are long gone.

Signorile's Life Outside : SGN contributor Chris Thomas reviewed journalist Michelangelo Signorile's Lambda Literary Award-nominated book Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Sex, Drugs, Muscles and the Passages of Life . In a painfully timely twist, Signorile defines the subculture of Gay male circuit parties and body worship as a cult — one that exhibits classic cult properties and requires classic cult deprogramming. In a tell-all visit to a circuit party in Palm Springs, Thomas writes, Signorile exposes the "rabid drug use, unprotected sex, and a veritable bathhouse atmosphere that he says surrounds many of these events, which are widely publicized even in the legitimate gay media." Thomas later highlights a Signorile quote: "Just as much of heterosexual America objectifies women who endlessly pursue fashion beauty trends in a futile attempt to keep up with the Joneses, much of gay male America enforces a code of physical perfection which, thanks to computer-enhanced pornography, has become virtually unattainable."

In A&E news:

SIFF '97: SGN contributor Paula Nechak previewed LGBT fare at the 23rd annual Seattle International Film Festival. That year SIFF opened with the Matthew Broderick/Meg Ryan rom-com Addicted to Love and closed with the Oscar- nominated Judi Dench vehicle Mrs. Brown . Among the memorable LGBT-themed films that year were The Watermelon Woman, The Delta, Alive and Kicking, and Never Met Picasso.

The lavender tube: On the heels of Ellen 's famous coming-out episode, SGN contributor Maggie Bloodstone examined Lesbian and Gay television characters of the 1950s through the '70s, including Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks), Gale Gordon (The Lucy Show), Paul Lynde (Bewitched), Charles Nelson Reilly ( Match Game), and of course Alan Sues and Lily Tomlin ( Laugh-In)