Sunday 29 July 2018

Star-Gayzing : The Chariot of the Gods

What have Pierre de Coubertin, Tom Waddell, Hercules and Erichthonius all have in common? You may know that Pierre de Coubertin founded the modern Olympic Games, or that Tom Waddell founded the Gay Games. You may even know that Hercules is reputed to be the founder of the ancient Olympic Games, so you may have guessed why I listed Erichthonius. He is said to be the founder of one of Greece’s oldest sporting festivals, one that I wrote about just after starting this blog 7 years ago. I call his games the Gayest Games in Ancient Greece, but the proper name is the Panathenaean Games.

To learn more about the Panathenaean Games go to the first article I wrote on the games here and follow the successive posts. Since I wrote them in 2011 I’ve done more research and am in the process of putting everything together in a book on the games.

In anticipation of the Gay Games in Paris which start a week today I thought it would be appropriate to write about Erichthonius and how he came to found the Panathenaean Games and be honoured by Zeus as the constellation Auriga the charioteer (star map pictured below).
The Panathenaean Games took place every year after the harvest in late July of early August – just around now, in fact. They were expanded, according to legend, by the hero Theseus after his return from defeating the Minotaur when he introduced the larger 4-yearly Greater Panathenaean Games.

Erichthonius was a minor god of ancient Greece. His link to Athens comes through his mother, the warrior goddess Athena, after whom the city is named. She needed some weapons and approached the blacksmith god Hephaestus to make some for her. Hephaestus was smitten with desire and tried to seduce Athena. Athena, protecting her virginity, fought against him. Some of Hephaestus’s semen fell onto her thigh which she wiped off with some wool and flung to the ground. From the ground was born the baby Erichthonius, whose name translates into English as “he came from the earth”.

A side note to this is the theory that this encounter between Hephaestus, who was also the god of fire, and Athena is symbolised in the torch relay that took place on the final day of the Panathenaean Games – the fire of the torch being taken from one of the city gates to Athena’s temple on the Acropolis. The modern Olympic torch relay takes this as its inspiration from which, in its turn, it has influenced the creation of other pre-games relays such as the Queen’s Baton relay at the Commonwealth Games, and the International Rainbow Memorial Run at the Gay Games (the route of Paris run will be given on Friday).

Athena wanted to keep and raise her child, but in order to protect her reputation as a virgin she kept to the baby a secret and raised it in a covered basket. She gave the basket to the safekeeping of the daughters of the king of Athens with the warning that they should never open it (shades of Pandora).

This guardianship of the baby Erichthonius was recreated during the religious procession of the Panathanaean Games. Two girls were given baskets by the priestesses of Athena. The contents of the baskets were kept secret from the girls, who carried them in the procession around Athens and back to the Acropolis. To this day scholars aren’t sure what was in those baskets, if there was anything at all. How one girl who was banned from being a basket carrier led to a gay couple indirectly creating democracy can be read here.

Needless to say, the temptation to open the original basket was too great for the Athenians princesses. What they saw inside drove them mad and they threw themselves off the top of the Acropolis. Various legends say that they saw snakes, or Erichthonius as half-human, half-snake, a common depiction of him, as in the illustration below.
“Erichthonius Released From His Basket” by Antonio Tempesta (1606),
showing the baby Erichthonius as half-man, half-snake.
After the basket was opened Athena chose to raise Erichthonius with her on the Acropolis. She taught him all the skills of a warrior. Naturally he became Athena’s biggest fan and put up a huge wooden statue of her on the Acropolis and started the Panathenaean Games to honour her on her birthday, just after the harvest. Erichthonius overthrew a usurper king of Athens and became king in his place, thus founding a line of legendary rulers.

Whether Erichthonius followed the tradition of being the young lover of an older soldier during his training isn’t likely if he was trained alone by Athena on the Acropolis. Besides, if he was half-serpent, or crippled like his father, as most legends say he was, then he wouldn’t have been admitted to the Athenian gymnasium anyway. Anyone with any visible physical “defect” (as they considered it) would not be allowed to train. Erichthonius may, however, have taken a young lover of his own a few years later. Nothing is recorded to say one way or the other. All we know is that he had a wife, a nymph, by whom he had an only child, his son and successor as king of Athens.

The reason Erichthonius was placed in the night sky as Auriga is because he is the traditional inventor of the 4-horse chariot, the quadriga, the type of chariot you can see on top of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. This he invented because of his physical disadvantage and couldn’t fight on foot. He got the idea from the chariot of the sun god Helios (also known as Apollo is later myths). The supreme god Zeus thought Erichthonius was so skilled with the chariot in both war and sport that he turned him into Auriga.

One interstellar fact of note concerning Auriga is that if you stand on top of the Sun (ouch!) and look at the centre of our galaxy, then turn around 180 degrees, you’ll see Auriga. More precisely you’ll see the point I’ve marked with a cross on the star map above. It marks the direct opposite position in the sky to the galactic centre.

I hope there are clear night skies above Paris during the Gay Games. Athletes will be able to look up at Auriga and give a salute to the para-athlete founder of the Gayest Games in Ancient Greece.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 23) Flying Down to Rio

In the previous "Another 80 Gays" : Czech publisher 46) Markéta Navratilova (b.1975) is a member of the Prague Pride committee with 47) Czeslaw Walek (b.1975) who ran for election in Prague, as did 48) Václav Fischer (b.1954), the first openly gay Czech politician who was also an airline boss with links to Lufthansa, as was 49) Sir Michael Bishop, Baron Glendonbrook (b.1942).

49) Michael, Lord Glendobrook was Chairman of the airline BMI (British Midland International). As with 48) Václav Fischer’s Fischer Air in the Czech Republic, BMI was one of the leading airlines in the UK.

Lord Glendonbrook joined Mercury Airlines in 1963 and was its ground handling manager when it was taken over by British Midland Airways (BMA) in 1964. In 1969 he became BMA’s general manager. Under his leadership the airline grew and expanded its markets in Europe. When BMA’s parent company decided to sell the airline Lord Glendonbrook led a management buy-out with money from an American entrepreneur and he became the company chairman. By the 1990s BMA was the biggest independent airline in the UK. In 1991 he was knighted. Lord Glendonbrook had also expanded his own interests and had become chair of Channel 4 television in 1993.
In 2001 BMA became BMI. Lord Glendonbrook had the majority share stake in BMI and in 2008 sold it to Lufthansa who already had 30% shares. In 2009 Lufthansa assumed full control of BMI. In 2011 Lord Glendonbrook was created a life peer, a non-hereditary title, and Lufthansa continued to own BMI until 2012.

Lufthansa has been one of the leading airline companies to employ and market to the lgbt community. In 2002 they launched their GaySummer campaign, formed with the advice and support from various leading lgbt venues in Germany, USA and UK.

To handle the sell-off of BMI Lufthansa turned to its highest-ranking lgbt executive, the Senior Vice President of Network, Fleet and Airport Relations, 50) Sadiq Gillani. He joined the company as Chief Strategy Officer in 2011 when Lufthansa announced it would sell-off BMI. Sadiq was one of a group of specialists brought in by the CEO of Lufthansa. Most of them, like Sadiq, were non-German and traditionalists inside and outside the company expressed concerns over the direction the company would take. Sadiq had the trust of the CEO from the start and over the next few years he was named as one of the top international executives.

Sadiq Gillani has appeared on the Financial Times list of the Top 100 OUTstanding (lgbt) Business Leaders in 2014 and 2015, and in their 2015 list of Top 100 Ethnic Minority Business Leaders.

Sadiq’s experiences in the airline industry goes back to 2006 when he joined Skybus and became its Vice President of Network Planning. At the same time he was Senior Vice President of the Seabury Group, an aviation consultancy.

Between them 48) Václav Fischer (b.1954), 49) Sir Michael Bishop, Baron Glendonbrook (b.1942) and 50) Sadiq Gillani can take us “Around the World in Just 3 Gays”. Their airlines have taken passengers to virtually every country on the planet. To continue our particular journey today, however, we’ll visit a city well-known to Sadiq Gillani – Rio de Janeiro.

In 2010 Sadiq became Executive Director and Chief Commercial Officer for WebJet Linhas Aéreas, a domestic airline in Brazil based in Rio. He transformed the company into the most profitable airline in the country. I may be only guessing, because I haven’t looked that deeply into the matter, but it may have been Sadiq’s successes with WebJet that caught the attention of Lufthansa. He left Webjet in 2011 to go directly to them. This was the same year (as well as announcing the BMI sale) that Lufthansa announced that it was going to restart its direct non-stop flights to Brazil, using Rio as the main final destination.

Lufthansa’s reasons for restarting the flight was influenced by two events – the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, both of which were held in Brazil. Rio was seen as the key to the Brazilian market and many European companies also saw this as an opportunity for expansion and investment.
As a partner of the German Olympic Sports Association and official airline of the German Olympic and Paralympic teams Lufthansa took the entire team, with its coaches, officials, equipment and media teams down to Rio in 2016.

Germany’s lgbt 2016 Olympians included footballer Isabel Kerschowski, discus thrower Nadine Müller, pole vaulter Martina Strutz, and beach volleyball player Kira Walkenhorst. No doubt Sadiq Gillani would have been involved in the arrangements to get them there. Flying over the city the teams from around the world would have had a spectacular aerial view of most of the sporting venues. Some, like the marathon runners, cyclists and race walkers, would have seen their race routes through the city.

In their races the cyclists and marathon runners went through the picturesque Flamengo Park, the biggest public park in Rio. Lgbt Paralympic cyclists Allison Jones (USA) and Megan Giglia (GB) competed in both the individual time trial and the road race in Flamengo Park. The Park has been the venue for many marathons, cycling events and race walks over the years (though Olympic race walk was held elsewhere during Rio 2016).

I’ve mentioned quite a few lgbt athletes, but to continue our 80 Gays journey we’re going to stay in Flamengo Park because it was designed by an lgbt landscape designer, 51) Lota de Macedo Soares (1910-1967).

Next time : We run through the park and pick up a Pulitzer prize before putting on our laurels.

Saturday 21 July 2018

Out of Her Fantastic Tree : Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

The subject of today’s genealogical analysis is one of the biggest talents the young lgbt community has produced. The world of literature is blessed with teenage talent and one of the most successful is Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (b.1984).

Amelia had her first fantasy novel published when she was 14 years old and she has gone one to write over 20 more since then. Most of Amelia’s novels feature the supernatural and fantasy with vampires and witches dominating the list of protagonists. It would have been perfect if I could have found a family link back to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, but the only link I have found so far is to one of the chief judges at the trials, Waitstill Winthrop, who was son of John Winthrop the Younger (1606-1676), Governor of Connecticut colony, Amelia’s direct ancestor.

Nearer home, the influence of fantasy fiction can be found in Amelia’s childhood. Both of her parents, William and Susan, were avid fantasy readers and fans of Anne Rice, the most famous female fantasy-horror writer living today. Amelia became a fan of Anne Rice and the genre though her parents. Again, it would be perfect if I could have found a blood link between Anne Rice and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes but, alas, the closest link I can find (so far) is a shared geographical location of their unrelated colonial ancestors in Connecticut.

The colonial ancestry of the Atwater family goes back to David Atwater (1615-1692). With his brother and sister he migrated to America in 1637 on the ship “Hector”. David founded the settlement of New Haven in Connecticut with several other passengers. David Atwater’s descendants became a leading families in New Haven and they married into other leading colonial families such as the Averys who brought into Amelia’s ancestry the Denison family.

The Denisons migrated to the American colonies in 1632 as part of the Great Migration led by the Winthrop family mentioned above. Capt. George Denison (1620-1694) was not yet a teenager when his father William took him and the family to America. George married twice. His first wife was Bridget Thompson (1622-1632) whose mother was descended from the Anglo-Saxon King of England, Ethelred the Unready (d.1016). She also has an unproven line of descent from King Henry I (1068-1135). Bridget’s sister, Dorothy, is an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.

By Bridget, Capt. Denison became the direct bloodline ancestor of members of the lgbt community such as singer Rufus Wainwright, actor David Hyde Pierce, Olympian Mark Chatfield and mountaineer Cason Crane. They are all half-relatives of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (though several are full relatives through other more distant bloodlines). One other Denison half-relative is L. Frank Baum, creator of the Wizard of Oz.

After Mrs. Bridget Denison died Capt. Denison came back to England and fought in the English Civil War. He fought for the Parliamentary army of Oliver Cromwell (an army commonly called the Roundheads) and was wounded at the Battle of Naseby, one of the most famous battles of the war, in 1645. It was in England that George met and married his second wife, Ann Borodell. George returned to Connecticut with her, and it is from this second marriage that Amelia Atwater-Rhodes descends.

The Atwater and Denison families lead directly down to Susan Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia’s mother. Susan is a teacher and high school vice principal. Her maternal grandmother, Martha deRaismes Warrin (1887-1962), provides a link to a French writer and an inheritance scandal.

Martha’s grandfather was a French millionaire, Jean François Joseph deResmais (1803-1866). He was a successful international merchant and settled in Brooklyn and married a widow called Mrs. Martha Dunham. Jean left his fortune to his wife, children and stepson, Robert Dunham, who was also his executor. Robert was actually married his own step-sister, Jean’s daughter, and wasn’t a very pleasant man by all accounts. He tried to deprive several younger heirs from receiving their inheritances on reaching adulthood and tried to claim expenses from the estate. The family stopped him by going to court, by which time his wife had divorced him.

Jean deRaismes was uncle of another writer in Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ family, Maria DeRaismes (1828-1894), who was also a famous suffragist in France. The American activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a major figure in the suffrage movement in the USA, met her in Paris in 1882 and was influenced by her. Maria was buried in a magnificent tomb with her parents and grandparents (those grandparents are Amelia’s ancestors). There’s even a street in Paris named after her.

The DeRaismes family can be traced back to the 1600s. Through them it is possible to trace Amelia’s ancestry further back to the early medieval period. Through several seigneurial and noble families Amelia is descended from King Louis VI of France (1081-1137) and his contemporaries King Stephen of England and King David I of the Scots.

So far we have looked at the ancestral lines of Amelia’s mother Susan. Her father’s ancestry is no less interesting but cannot be traced as far back (so far). Dr. William Rhodes, an eminent economist, also has lots of colonial ancestors, though the Rhodes family can only be traced back 200 years in America. Thankfully, his other ancestral lines go back further.

William’s great-grandmother was Mrs. Mary Lovina Fuller Rhodes (1855-1936) who belonged to one of the Mayflower families. Her ancestors Samuel and Edward Fuller were both Mayflower passengers.

One ancestor which gives me a connection to Amelia Atwater-Rhodes comes with her father William’s grandfather. His name was Oliver Wayland Winch of South Glens Fall, New York State. Oliver was born in 1873 and was a sickly child. In fact, his own grandfather didn’t believe he would reach the age of 5. But Oliver did survive and went on to be a teacher. He became District Principal of South Glens Fall Schools, and then Superintendent of the 3rd Saratoga County District. He was prominent in the education system in Saratoga County until he retired in 1950. The middle school in South Glens Fall was renamed Oliver W. Winch School in his honour.

After having been predicted as not being healthy enough to reach the age of 5 Oliver actually lived on for 102 years beyond that, dying in 1980 at the age of 107. Like myself, Dr. William Rhodes was blessed with a grandfather who was a member of the “centenarian club” (my grandfather was 101 years old).

I don’t know if there’s a centenarian gene but while I hope that Amelia Atwater-Rhodes and myself live a long life I also hope that neither of us emulate the main character of her first published novel and “live” to become a 300-year-old vampire.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 22) Pride Takes to the Skies

Previously :  42) The Dance of The 41 (1901) gave its name to the derogatory term for a gay man in Mexico which was used by 43) Alberto B. Mendoza (b.1971) in the name of his lgbt organisation which annually honours 41 lgbt Hispanics, one of whom was 44 ) Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba (b.1958), a writer of a lesbian mystery novel, a genre pioneered by 45) Katherine V. Forrest (b.1939), a former editor of Naiad Press whose books were published in Czech by 46) Markéta Navratilova (1975).

46) Markéta Navratilova (no relation to the more famous Martina, as far as I know) founded LePress in 2007. It was the first lesbian publishing house to be established in the Czech Republic. Markéta had lived in the UK for a couple of years and was impressed by the amount of lesbian literature that was available in mainstream book stores.

Back home in the Czech Republic Markéta’s friends expressed an interest in reading lesbian fiction but none of the publications were available in Czech. This led Markéta to found LePress as a way of expanding the lesbian literature market into eastern Europe. Looking at the back catalogue of Naiad Press which had been sold to Bella Books Markéta selected two romantic novels which she published as the first Czech language lesbian novels in the Czech Republic. From such small beginnings LePress has grown to include other lgbt publications and genres, including children’s books like the famous “And Tango Makes Three”.

Markéta Navratilova is also an activist. She is a member of the organising committee of the 2019 International Gay and Lesbian Association Europe conference to be held in Prague, and of the organising committee of Prague Pride.

Another member of both committees, and the core team manager of the 2019 conference, is 47) Czeslaw Walek (b.1975). His involvement with Prague Pride came about through his career as a lawyer and human rights campaigner. Between 2009 and 2011 he was Deputy Minister of Human Rights and Minorities. In late 2010 Czeslaw was approached by a group of people who wanted to organise the first Prague Pride. They asked him to draw up a constitution for their committee. His position as a Deputy Minister meant that he had established contacts with the government and police and he attended the committee meetings to offer advice.

By January 2011 the committee was looking for a Chair. Czeslaw was persuaded to accept the position. “Let’s try for a month”, he is reported to have said. Seven years later, in July 2018, he’s still Chair of Prague Pride.

Czeslaw’s appointment as Deputy Minister came during an unstable period in Czech politics. Just two months into the job the Czech government collapsed, and two years later the Human Rights Minister resigned and Czeslaw was put in charge of the department.

One of the areas in which Czeslaw is particularly pleased to have made an impact was the increase in the rights and attitudes towards the Roma community. In 2003 he was appointed Director of the Office of the Governmental Council for the Roma Community. It was in collaboration with Roma groups and the Equal Opportunities Party that Czeslaw campaigned as the Green Party candidate in the 2013 Czech parliamentary election.

His appointments were, so far, non-elective, and during his time in office there was only one openly lgbt member of the Czech government, Gustav Slamečka, the non-elected Minister of Transport (2009-10). Czeslaw didn’t win his Prague seat in 2013 and so didn’t earn the honour of being the first openly elected member of the lower house of the Czech parliament.

However, there had already been an openly lgbt member of the upper house, the Senate. He was 48) Václav Fischer (b1954). He was elected as an independent, openly gay, Senator for Prague’s municipal district 1 in 1999 with a massive 71% of the vote. During his three-year term of office he worked on the European Integration Committee. He decided not to seek re-election at the end of the three years.

Part of the reason for his success in the election was due to him being a successful and popular businessman. In 1999 his airline company, Fischer Air, was (after Skoda and Budweiser) the most recognised corporate brand in the Czech Republic. The origin of the company went back to 1980 when Václav, then living in Germany, founded the Fischer Reisen travel agency.

Following the Velvet Revolution and the long-overdue collapse of the Communist Czech dictatorship Václav leapt into the growing tourism markets. This was the basis of his success. By 1995 his business had become so successful that he was able to sell the original German part of Fischer Reisen to Lufthansa, and with the money bought a fleet of planes and set up Fischer Air.
Despite this success Václav Fischer and his company were declared bankrupt in 2003. The Czech economy was not stable enough to sustain the demand of his services. In 2005 Václav returned to Germany and set up other travel/tourism ventures and currently runs Aircraftleasing Meier and Fischer.

Vaclac Fischer is one of very few lgbt businessmen to run an airline. Another, who also has links to Lufthansa, is 49) Sir Michael Bishop, Baron Glendonbrook (b.1942).

Next time : We fly down to Rio with Lufthansa.

Friday 13 July 2018

Questions of Identity

One of the direct consequences of the homohoax called the Popish Plot, about which I wrote earlier this week, was to whip up anti-Catholic frenzy in England to such as extent that parliament banned Catholics from the House of Commons and House of Lords, and changed the laws of succession to the throne to exclude Catholics.

King James II of England (James VII of Scotland) was deemed to have abdicated when he fled the country during the Glorious Revolution on 1688 and he set up a court in exile in France. His Protestant daughter became Queen Mary II and her husband (and cousin, himself third in line of Protestant succession to the throne after her) became joint sovereign as King William III.

Supporters of the exiled King James II became known as Jacobites (after Jacobus, the Latin for James) and over the next 57 years aided James’ Catholic son and grandsons in their attempts to regain the British throne.

The most famous of the Jacobite claimants was Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788), better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was James II’s grandson. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s younger brother was Prince Henry Stuart (1725-1807) who later became a Catholic cardinal we have met before on this blog. He is generally known today as Cardinal York.

The first Question of Identity is the Jacobite belief that these two princes were the rightful kings of England under the titles Charles III and Henry IX. The second Question of Identity concerns the royal portrait shown below on the left.
The portrait is by the French artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour and was bought by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1994. It is a pastel portrait on paper of Bonnie Prince Charlie dating to about 1747. Or is it? It was the basis of several portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie over the succeeding years, even being reproduced by the Scottish Gallery on postcards and souvenirs as being him. But ten years ago serious doubts about who the man really was began to make ripples in the art world.

Eminent art detective Dr. Bendor Grosvenor put forward the evidence to support his theory that the pastel portrait was actually of Cardinal York. Grosvenor’s original paper on the subject can be found here. Despite scepticism from the leading expert on Jacobite portraiture, who said in 1997 that there was no doubt that the portrait was of Bonnie Prince Charlie, it is now accepted that it depicts Cardinal York. The Jacobite expert has since agreed with this new identification.

How the portrait was re-identified involved (among other scientific methods) comparing the face to that of known portraits of both Bonnie Prince Charlie and Cardinal York. One portrait in particular was used for comparison, the one I’ve shown above on the right which depicts Cardinal York. The faces are identical. There is no doubt about the portrait on the right was painted from life, so one face cannot be that of someone else.

The next question to be answered is when was the portrait made? Scottish National Portrait Gallery originally put a date of 1746 or 1747 to it. At that time Cardinal York was living in Rome and was preparing to be created a cardinal in July 1747.

Michael Nevin, Chair of the 1745 Association, researched into the question of the date and, obviously, ruled out any date in or around July 1747. He also excluded the previous months in 1747 as it would have been very unlikely that Cardinal York would be portrayed in armour while preparing for entry the cardinalate.

In 1746 the Jacobite rebellion was effectively over. At the Battle of Culloden in 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated and returned to France. His brother York was in France to help drum up support from the French king, but the Jacobites blamed York for not doing enough and he left France for Rome after serving in the French army for a few months.

So, if the Jacobite rebellion was over by 1745 and Cardinal York had returned to Rome in 1746 there would be little point in showing him in armour after that.

There is no record of the artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour travelling to Rome to carry out this portrait. It is most likely that it was done when York was in Paris in 1745 gathering support for his brother prior to the battle of Culloden.

Michael Nevin also came up with an interesting theory to explain why it was painted. When Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army were on their campaigns in England and Scotland during 1745 the Jacobites felt that the dynasty was on the verge of regaining the throne. There was much optimism and, perhaps, York had his portrait done during this time of optimism in anticipation of Bonnie Prince Charlie becoming king.

Whatever the reason, and whenever it was done, this portrait remained in Cardinal York’s possession. In 1842 his executors sold it to the Townley Balfour family. Whether they knew who the subject in the portrait was is not known, but between then and 1994 when it was bough by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery the man in armour became confused with similar portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Happily, this portrait of Cardinal York, the last to show him in armour before him entering the Church, fills the gap in the pictorial representation of the last true Jacobite claimant to the throne.