December 22nd, 2013

andrew potter

Ma Rainey (April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939)

From 1904 until she retired in 1935, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey toured the nightclubs and juke joints in the southern and midwestern states, belting out a newfangled meld of black spirituals and folk music known as "the blues." There was one brief interruption during those three decades: in 1925 Rainey was arrested at a Chicago party where the women—to the feigned shock of the Chi-town cops—were completely nude. The next morning Rainey’s friend Bessie SMITH bailed her out, and the history of music barely missed a beat.

Rainey’s "Prove It on Me Blues" includes the notorious (and surely autobiographical) lines: "Went out last night with a crowd of my friends. They must’ve been women, ’cause I don’t like
no men."

Ma Rainey (April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) was one of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. She was billed as The Mother of the Blues.

She began performing at the age of 12 or 14, and recorded under the name Ma Rainey after she and Will Rainey were married in 1904. They toured with F.S. Wolcott’s Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group called Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. From the time of her first recording in 1923 to five years later, Ma Rainey made over 100 recordings. Some of them include, Bo-weevil Blues (1923), Moonshine Blues (1923), See See Rider (1924), Black Bottom (1927), and Soon This Morning (1927).

Ma Rainey was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing similar to folk tradition. Though her powerful voice and disposition are not captured on her recordings (due to her recording exclusively for Paramount, which was known for worse-than-normal recording techniques and among the industry's poorest shellac quality), the other characteristics are present, and most evident on her early recordings, Bo-weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues. Ma Rainey also recorded with Louis Armstrong in addition to touring and recording with the Georgia Jazz Band. Ma Rainey continued to tour until 1935 when she retired to her hometown, Columbus, Georgia, where she ran two theaters, "The Lyric" and "The Airdrome", until her death from a heart attack in 1939 in Rome, Georgia.

In 1983, Rainey was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.


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andrew potter

Martin Sherman (born December 22, 1938)

A longtime resident of London, Philadelphia-born playwright Martin Sherman made his move to the big screen in the late 1990s with his original script Alive and Kicking/Indian Summer and the adaptation of his stage success Bent. Sherman has been published in two volumes of the collection Gay Plays, and many of his works focus on homosexuality.

Sherman is an openly gay Jew, and many of his works dramatize "outsiders," dealing with the discrimination and marginalisation of minorities whether "gay, female, foreign, disabled, different in religion, class or color."

Bent was first performed in a workshop at the O’Neill Theatre Centre in Waterford, Connecticut, in 1978, before premiering in London (with Ian MCKELLEN and Tom Bell in the lead roles) and on Broadway (with Richard Gere, who won the Tony Award, and David Dukes) in 1979. The play was the first to deal with the internment of homosexuals by the Nazis during World War II. Set primarily in a concentration camp, it garnered controversy for a scene in which the gay inmates, unable to touch each other, achieve climax through words.

The 1997 film version, directed by Sean MATHIAS, starred Clive Owen, Lothaire Bluteau, McKellen, and Mick JAGGER, and featured early performances by Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, and Paul Bettany.

Sherman has had a number of stage successes in London (where he permanently settled in 1980). A Madhouse in Goa focused on the deceptive relationship between a young man and the woman he encounters on a Greek island. Vanessa Redgave played Isadora DUNCAN in Sherman’s When She Danced, and Rupert EVERETT won praise for his turn as the object of the affection of a British Army officer in North Africa in Some Sunny Day.

Sherman wrote the book for the Broadway smash Boy from Oz, starring Hugh Jackman and based on the life of Peter ALLEN.

Stern, Keith. Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals. Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

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andrew potter

Michael Harmon (born 1969)

"I was born in Los Angeles in 1969, and spent my pre-teen years skateboarding, racing my BMX bike around the block, going to the beach, playing baseball, eating bologna sandwiches, hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, hunting and four wheeling at our cabin in the Mohave Desert with my brothers, uncles, cousins and father, and reading everything from The Hobbit to the Hardy Boys to Curious George.

As a teen, my parents moved us from the suburbs of Los Angeles to Spokane, Washington. Culture shock ensued. Snow. More trucks than I could count. Dust instead of smog. Pine trees instead of palm trees, farms instead of sprawl. Where we had to drive for hours in California to reach the outdoors, Spokane was a small island in an ocean of outdoor opportunity, and our family fit right in.

Hunting, shooting, dirt biking, backpacking, fly fishing, and once again, reading, were a mainstay and a salvation in my life through the dark years of high school before I dropped out, with the one gleaming jewel found in those busy halls being my then girlfriend and now wife of sixteen years, Kimberly. You’ll find her referenced in just about every book I write; an ode to a woman with the stamina and love to put up with a guy like me for so dang long.

At 37 and with two teenagers, I write novels, backpack, fish, target shoot with compound bow and pistol, and love woodworking. The outdoors is my peace, and our cabin, named The River, is my sanity.

My other hobbies include spending time with my children, cooking, building half-pipes with my son, gaming first person shooters with him, trying to keep up with the overwhelming schedule of my fifteen year old daughter, reading, listening to Ted Nugent, old school Kiss, Metallica, Judas Priest, Van Halen and all the other good stuff, playing poker and sitting on the front porch with my wife talking about life as the dusk shadows itself with the night. Things that make my life complete."

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Further Readings:

The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Laurel Leaf (September 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 044023994X
ISBN-13: 978-0440239949
Amazon: The Last Exit to Normal
Amazon Kindle: The Last Exit to Normal

“An excellent read.”—School Library Journal, Starred

It's true: After 17-year-old Ben’s father announces he’s gay and the family splits apart, Ben does everything he can to tick him off: skip school, smoke pot, skateboard nonstop, get arrested. But he never thinks he’ll end up yanked out of his city life and plunked down into a small Montana town with his dad and Edward, the Boyfriend. As if it’s not bad enough living in a hick town with spiked hair, a skateboard habit, and two dads, he soon realizes something’s not quite right with Billy, the boy next door. He’s hiding a secret about his family, and Ben is determined to uncover it and set things right. In an authentic, unaffected, and mordantly funny voice, Michael Harmon tells the compelling story of an uprooted and uncomfortable teenaged guy trying to fix the lives around him—while figuring out his own.

*“Tracking Ben’ transformation from rebellious city boy to hardworking cowboy, Harmon digs beneath the stereotypes. . . . Skillful, often witty insights into human nature.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred

More Spotlights at my website:, My Lists/Gay Novels

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