Friday, July 31, 2009

Know your lgbt history - Cleopatra Jones and her lesbian drug lords

I am a serious fan of the Cleopatra Jones movies from the early 1970s.

Cleopatra Jones, portrayed by the late Tamara Dobson, was an African-American secret service agent who fought drugs in her community and overseas.

It's a shame that only two movies, Cleopatra Jones and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, were made. They were landmarks in motion picture cinema because it was one of the few times that a black woman took centerstage in a movie and probably the first time a black actress played an action hero.

However, there were some problems, particularly with the choice of villain Cleopatra Jones had to combat.

They were both lesbian drug lords. A lesbian villain in one movie wouldn't be bad, but the makers of the Cleopatra Jones made it a point to include a lesbian as the villain in both.

And to me that sends a bad message. Why not a man? Why not a heterosexual woman?

However again, there is a silver lining to this cloud. The actresses who played the drug lords did a rather good job, proving that talent can always transcend stereotyping and bad parts.

Two-time Oscar and Emmy award winner Shelley Winters plays Mommy in Cleopatra Jones.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I loved her performance. Winters (whose career was not damaged at all by this movie) is having fun with the role. She comes on the screen with all of the subtlety of a speeding train.

The following scene (beginning at 6:21) displays best what I mean as she berates a henchman for missing a chance to kill Jones. A fun game to play while watching this movie is to count how many costume changes and wigs Dobson and Winters go through.

Now in Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, actress Stella Stevens takes a more serious tone with her role of the Dragon Lady and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Whereas Winters went for superbutch extreme, Stevens is played her character as a sensuous woman equally adept at binding up her hair and leading her army in pursuit of doublecrossers or putting on a cocktail dress and charming patrons of her casino.

Subsequently, she and Dobson engage in a long drawn out fight scene, unlike Winters who has a short fight with Dobson before her demise.

Unfortunately I can only provide the trailer of the movie in the following clip. But it gives you a good impression of the Dragon Queen.

Now the only problem I had with Stevens's character is the relationship between her and her Asian adopted daughter. It is obvious the Stevens's character has taken a, shall we say, less than maternal interest in the girl. Particularly when she has her brutally murdered for helping Cleopatra Jones.

Editor's note - The fight scene from Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold is here for anyone who wants to view it.

Past Know Your LGBT History postings:

Know your lgbt history - Norman, Is That You?

Know your lgbt history - The 'Exotic' Adrian Street

Know your lgbt history - The Choirboys

Know your lgbt history - Eddie Murphy

Know your lgbt history - The Killing of Sister George

Know your lgbt history - Hanna-Barbera cartoons pushes the 'gay agenda'

Know your lgbt history - Cruising

Know your lgbt history - Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones

Know your lgbt history - I Got Da Hook Up

Know your lgbt history - Fright Night

Know your lgbt history - Flowers of Evil

The Jeffersons and the transgender community

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Black minister fighting for lgbt rights, mess in Maine, and other Friday midday news briefs

Minister Wants the Black Church to Help Fight for LGBT Rights - One of the reasons why there seems to be a problem in the black community with lgbts is because we never hear positive stories like this one.

Photo: Even Pandora is like, 'Whoa, these boxes are unsavory!' - Using outside help, some folks in Maine are trying to deny equality to their fellow citizens.

Christian Civic League of Maine's Heath on the 'insidious methods' of the Homo Agenda - One of the most unfortunate thing about the Maine situation is that this nut may gain a degree of legitimacy. Perfect. Another religious right talking head.

DP Bill Passes House Subcommittee - How about some good news for today.

Maderazo: A Transgender Person is Murdered Every 3 Days in the World…Mostly in Latin America - What kind of mess is this? No one deserves to be murdered for who they are.

U.S. military accused of atrocities against Iraqi gays - I continue to be impressed by the Washington Blade. Stay on this story!

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Let the Harvey Milk bashing begin courtesy of Focus on the Family

Sadly,(Harvey) Milk and his many partners could be poster boys for an analysis produced by authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows the widespread degree to which men who have sex with men were abused as children.

. . . Milk and his partners live tumultuous, painful lives, rife with anonymous sex, public sex, bathhouses, prostitution, drugs, depression, alcohol abuse, suicide attempts and multiple partners. The pain and confusion of childhood sexual abuse festers on as their lives unfold

Later in life, Milk condemned child predators. But he evidently never made the connection with his own childhood sexual abuse or that of his partners. Nor does he ever question the brokenness that surrounds him – drugs, risky sexual behavior, alcohol abuse, depression and suicide – except to blame society.

And it begins.

Jeff Johnston of Focus on the Family has written an irresponsible piece on Harvey Milk that is all over the map. It looks like the piece was created to criticize the movie Milk but tailored to include talking about Milk's recent selection as a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

Johnston is clearly trying to imply that Milk was "introduced into gay sex" by older men.

He is also pulling the "gays lead lives full of promiscuous sex and other risky behavior" factoid in an effort to denigrate Milk and create the idea that President Obama erred in giving Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For the record, Johnston is being highly deceptive when he invokes the Centers for Disease Control's name because he isn't even citing the organization's work but a link to another Focus on the Family piece, Childhood Sexual Abuse and Male Homosexuality.

The irony is that piece freely cites work from Straight and Narrow which was written by Thomas Schmidt. Schmidt is not a doctor but a theologian who freely cited Paul Cameron in Straight and Narrow.

Now about Johnston's other assertions, I will be honest. I don't know if Milk was promiscuous and I don't really care.

I don't know if Milk was "introduced to sex by an older man" and again I don't care.

What Johnston is doing is blaming Milk for the something he could not control but worked to end.

We know how things were back then for lgbts. Gay men were not free to be out or open abou their lives for fear of reprisals. There is a lot of shame in secrecy and with shame comes bad behaviors.

Also, lgbt children could not be open either. So when they found enclaves where they could be open (be it Fire Island or whatever), they went full speed ahead.

The only implication Johnston and I agree on is the fact that this is not a way to live.

But if Johnston or Focus on the Family in general feel that there was something wrong with the decisions that Milk and other lgbts made in light of the world they had to deal with, then they would stop trying to hinder the progression of lgbt rights.

Every time Focus on the Family and other so-called moral groups attack lgbt clubs in our schools or any other thing that would help lgbts, they work to create the unfortunate world where there is shame and secrecy for those who don't fit the heterosexual orientation.

Johnston's and Focus on the Family's attack on Milk clearly reinforces the fact that he is highly deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

They exploit a world of shame and fear.

Milk worked to destroy it.

He taught lgbts to stand up and demand our respect, to not hide in dark corners, and not let the world define us.

Harvey was an American hero.

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