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Arthur Bell & Arthur Evans

Arthur Bell (November 6, 1939 – June 2, 1984) was a journalist, author and LGBT rights activist. (picture: Jill Johnston and Arthur Bell at a Gay Pride march, 1971)

Bell, an early member of the Gay Liberation Front and a founding member of the Gay Activists Alliance in New York City, wrote two books. Dancing the gay lib blues: A year in the homosexual liberation movement was published in 1971 and he published Kings Don't Mean a Thing: The John Knight Murder Case in 1978. Bell wrote his first piece for the Village Voice in 1969, an account of the Stonewall riots, a confrontation between police and the patrons of a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn that became a flashpoint of the Gay Liberation movement. He became a regular columnist in 1976 with his column "Bell Tells".

Bell wrote a series of columns about a string of unsolved murders of gay people; these columns, along with the novel Cruising by Gerald Walker, were the inspiration behind the William Friedkin film Cruising. Ironically, Bell wrote additional columns condemning Friedkin and Cruising after reading a leaked early screenplay, deploring what he viewed as its negative depiction of gay people and claiming that it would inspire violence against homosexuals. At Bell's urging, gay activists disrupted the filming of Cruising and demonstrated at theatres where the film was playing.

Bell met author Arthur Evans (1942 - September 10, 2011), at the time a film distributor, and the two entered into a relationship in 1964. They parted on bad terms in 1971 and Bell included an unflattering portrait of Evans in his book Dancing the Gay Lib Blues. The two reconstructed their friendship and Bell dedicated his second book, Kings Don't Mean a Thing, to Evans.


Gay Activists Alliance march, 1970. Its first president, Jim Owles, is on the right of the row of men linking arms. To the left is Phil Raia, Arthur Evans, Marty Robinson is behind the photographer in the foreground. To the left of the photographer is Tom Doerr who designed the lambda symbol that they are all wearing. (http://counterlightsrantsandblather1.blogspot.it/2009_06_01_archive.html)
Arthur Evans was an early gay rights advocate and author, most well known for his 1978 book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. In 1963, Evans discovered gay life in Greenwich Village, and in 1964 became lovers with Arthur Bell who later became a columnist for The Village Voice. By the end of 1971, Evans had become alienated from urban life and the academic world. With a second lover, Jacob Schraeter, he left New York in April 1972 to seek a new, countercultural existence in the countryside.


GAA-NY's Founders, (Arthur Evans, left, Tom Doerr & Marty Robinson, right) 1969, Photo: Courtesy GAA Reunion Newsletter #6

Bell died June 2, 1984 at the age of 44 from complications related to diabetes.

Playwright Doric Wilson based a character in his play The West Street Gang on Bell.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Bell_(journalist)

Arthur Scott Evans (October 12, 1942, York, Pennsylvania – September 11, 2011, San Francisco, California) was an early gay rights advocate and author, most well known for his 1978 book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture.

When Evans graduated from public high school in 1960, he received a four-year scholarship from the Glatfelter Paper Company in York to study chemistry at Brown University. While at Brown, Evans and several friends founded the Brown Freethinkers Society, describing themselves as "militant atheists" seeking to combat the harmful effects of organized religion.

The society picketed the weekly chapel services at Brown, then required of all students, and urged students to stand in silent protest against compulsory prayer. National news services picked up the story, which appeared in a local York newspaper.

As a result, the paper company informed Evans that his scholarship was cancelled. Evans contacted Joseph Lewis, the elderly millionaire who headed the national Freethinkers Society. Lewis threatened the paper company with a highly publicized lawsuit if the scholarship were revoked. The company relented, the scholarship continued, and Evans changed his major from chemistry to political science.


Arthur Evans in Board of Education picket line (Photo Rich Wandel, New York Public Library)

Evans withdrew from Brown and moved to Greenwich Village, which he later described it as the best move he ever made in his life.

In 1963, Evans discovered gay life in Greenwich Village, and in 1964 became lovers with Arthur Bell who later became a columnist for The Village Voice. In 1966, Evans was admitted to City College of New York, which accepted all his credits from Brown University.

Evans participated in his first sit-in on May 13, 1966, when students occupied the administration building of City College in protest against the college's involvement in Selective Service. A picture of the students, including Evans, appeared the next day on the front page of The New York Times.

In 1967, after graduating with a BA degree from City College, Evans was admitted into the doctoral program in philosophy at Columbia University, specializing in ancient Greek philosophy. His doctoral advisor was Paul Oskar Kristeller, one of the world’s leading authority on Renaissance humanist philosophy. Kristeller had studied under Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger in Germany but fled to the US after his parents were killed in the Holocaust.

Evans participated in many anti-war protests during these years, including the celebrated upheaval at Columbia in the spring of 1968. In 1967, Evans signed a public statement declaring his intention to refuse to pay income taxes in protest against the U.S. war against Vietnam. He also participated in the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. While at Columbia, Evans joined the Student Homophile League, founded by Nino Romano and Stephen Donaldson, although Evans himself was still closeted. On December 21, 1969, Evans, Marty Robinson, and several others met to found the early gay rights group Gay Activists Alliance.

In November 1970, Robinson and Evans, along with Dick Leitsch of the Mattachine Society, appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, making them among the first openly gay activists to be prominently featured on a national TV program. In 1971, Evans and Bell separated. Bell died from complications of diabetes in 1984.

By the end of 1971, Evans had become alienated from urban life and the academic world. With a second lover, Jacob Schraeter, he left New York in April 1972 to seek a new, countercultural existence in the countryside.

Evans, Schraeter, and a third gay man formed a group called the "Weird Sisters Partnership". They bought a 40-acre spread of land on a mountain in Washington State, which they named New Sodom. Evans and Schraeter lived there in tents during summers.

During winter months in Seattle, Evans continued research that he had begun in New York on the underlying historical origins of the counterculture, particularly in regard to sex. In 1973, he began publishing some of his findings in the gay journal Out and later in Fag Rag. He also wrote a column on the political strategy of zapping for The Advocate, the gay newspaper.

In 1974, Evans and Schraeter moved into an apartment at the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets in San Francisco, in which Evans remained until he died. Schraeter returned to New York in 1981 and died from AIDS in 1989.

In the fall of the 1975, Evans formed a new pagan-inspired spiritual group in San Francisco, the Faery Circle. The Circle combined countercultural consciousness, gay sensibility, and ceremonial playfulness.

In early 1976 he gave a series of public lectures based on his research on the historical origins of the gay counterculture; these "Faeries" lectures took place at 32 Page Street, an early San Francisco gay community center. In 1978 he published this material in his groundbreaking book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. The book offered evidence that many of the people accused of "witchcraft" and "heresy" in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were actually persecuted because of their sexuality and ancient pagan practices.

Evans also was active in Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL) and the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club, which later became the vehicle through which Harvey Milk rose to political prominence.

In the late 1970s, Evans became upset at the pattern of butch conformity that was then overtaking gay men in the Castro neighborhood. Adopting the nom de plume "The Red Queen", he distributed a series of controversial satirical leaflets on the subject. In a leaflet titled Afraid You’re Not Butch Enough? (1978) he skewered those who pursued hypermasculine bodies and wardrobes as "zombies" and "clones", presaging the "Castro clone" moniker.

In 1984 Evans directed a production at the Valencia Rose Cabaret in San Francisco of his own new translation, from ancient Greek, of the Euripides play The Bacchae. The hero of Euripides' play is the Greek god Dionysos, the patron of homosexuality. In 1988, this translation, with Evans' commentary on the historical significance of the play, was published by St. Martin’s Press as The God of Ecstasy: Sex-Roles and the Madness of Dionysos.

As AIDS began to spread in 1980s, Evans became active in several groups that later became ACT UP/SF. Evans was HIV-negative. With his close friend, the late Hank Wilson, Evans was arrested while demonstrating against pharmaceutical companies making AIDS drugs, accusing the companies of price-gouging.

In 1988, Evans began work on a nine-year project on philosophy. Thanks to a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, it was published in 1997 as Critique of Patriarchal Reason and included artwork by San Francisco artist Frank Pietronigro. The book is an overview of Western philosophy from ancient times to the present, showing how misogyny and homophobia have influenced the supposedly objective fields of formal logic, higher mathematics, and physical science. Evans' former advisor at Columbia University, Dr. Kristeller, called the work "a major contribution to the study of philosophy and its history."

In his later years, Evans devoted much time to improving neighborhood safety in the Haight-Ashbury district. As part of that effort he wrote a series of scathing reports, "What I Saw at the Supes Today", which he distributed free on the Internet.

Diagnosed in October 2010 with an aortic aneurysm, Evans died in his Haight-Ashbury apartment of a massive heart attack on September 11, 2011.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Evans_(author)

Further Readings:

Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture by Arthur Evans
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Fag Rag Books; 1St Edition edition (June 1978)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0915480018
ISBN-13: 978-0915480012
Amazon: Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture

A seminal work on queer spirituality and historical interpretation

Arthur Evans was one of the earliest stalwarts of the gay liberation movement and one of the founders of New York's Gay Activist Alliance. Born in 1942, Arthur Evans studied at Brown University and received his doctorate from Columbia University (in philosophy). While at Brown, he and friends formed the Brown Freethinkers Society, describing themselves as 'militant atheists' with the objective of combating the harmful effects of organized religion. At Columbia, he was instrumental in the founding of the Student Homophlie League, one of the few campus gay organizations to precede the Stonewall uprising. He is the author of a 1997 3-volume work on queer perspectives on philosophy entitled "Critique of Patriarchal Reason" of which Volume 1 has been published.

"Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture" ("WAGC") is one of the seminal works of the queer spirituality movement.

The book opens with a recounting of the May 30, 1431 burning alive of a young French girl, a transvestite, named Joan of Arc. The book, while primarily "an exposé of the role of homophobia in the European witch hunts" is actually much more than that. It offers a thoroughly researched and well documented chronicle of the Christian Church's genocidal murders of heretics, women and queer folk, moving from the medieval near equation of heresy with sodomy and vice-versa ("How can you call me a Cathar - I, a married man with children!") through the suppression of same-sexed intimacy amongst the third world victims of European colonization through to what was the present day (which is to say, the 1970's).

What the author had to say thirty years ago is still relevant and appropriate today, though some have taken issue with his justification of the use of violence in over-coming oppression.

A careful reading, though, shows this not to be `justification' but simply `explanation' of why and how the then nascent gay movement might understandably have (but didn't) become violent in view of the fact that "Christian violence was responsible for the birth of the modern nation-state ..." and as witnessed by the contemporaneous rise of the radical fundamentalist Christian right and the presidential election of Ronald Reagan. The author of "WAGC" shared with many of us then the sentiment that "the other shoe was about to drop" and the decade of openness birthed by the Stonewall uprising would be ended, likely in a hail of bullets.

I recommend Arthur Evan's work for anyone interested in the history of the Christian Church, queer spirituality or queer history. --Amazon Review by By William Courson

Cruising (1980)
Actors: Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, Richard Cox, Don Scardino
Directors: William Friedkin
Writers: William Friedkin, Gerald Walker
Producers: Burtt Harris, Jerry Weintraub
Amazon: Cruising (1980)

Al Pacino hunts for a serial killer in a lurid world of gay leather bars in Cruising. Because of his resemblance to the victims of a series of slayings, cop Steve Burns (Pacino) goes undercover as a gay man, wandering through wild, gyrating bacchanalias straight out of a Tom of Finland painting, hoping that the killer will be drawn to his dark, tormented eyes. Cruising is a peculiar movie, a gritty police procedural that director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) tried to push into a quasi-metaphysical dimension with some casting tricks and subliminal images. Due to the controversy the movie sparked in the gay community, Friedkin goes to great lengths in the commentary and featurettes to defend the authenticity of the movie's sources (about a bizarre scene where a muscular black man wearing nothing but a jock strap and a cowboy hat appears out of nowhere and slaps a suspect being interrogated by the police, Friedkin claims this actually happened, though no context is offered). The movie passes no apparent judgment on the overtly sexual scenes in gay bars...yet clearly these scenes are expected to provoke unease in the viewer. Cruising is sure to provoke arguments: Is Pacino's performance vulnerable or tentative? Is the movie about homophobia or homophobic itself? What does the ending mean? Yet there's no denying it's claimed a place in cinematic history; far more people know about it than have seen it. For that--as well as the stylish cinematography--Cruising is worth seeing. --Bret Fetzer

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