Stephanie Donald—LGBT-Today Publisher
President Obama declared June as being “National Gay Pride Month” as we all wait anxiously for the United States Supreme Court will announce their decisions on California’s Proposition 8 ruling from the 9th District Court of Appeals and the much larger issue of the repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.
As I look back across the divide that spans the many years of adversity the LGBT community has faced—from taking the extreme risk of simply meeting and drinking in a gay or lesbian bar up until the Stonewall Rebellion—through the heartbreak of seeing so many friends die of AIDS through the 1980s and 1990s.
We faced total darkness and malice toward our issues from the time the Congress and Senate flipped from Democratic controlled to Republican controlled in 1995 and in 1996 when their first order of business was to pass DOMA which we’re now finally, most probably, going to be rid of.
The one thing that grabs my mind and shines like a lighthouse during the dingy early years of the 1990s when I was living in the worst place I ever could imagine; Norfolk, Virginia (pronounced by the locals as No-fuk and genuinely lives up to its name) was a friend who told me about a movie playing at the local Avant Garde movie theater called, Claire of the Moon.
The first few minutes of the film didn’t impress me much, but then the story started to weave in and out of the lead character, Claire’s, psyche and her sexuality, which appears to be heterosexual. At first she just seemed like a “common garden variety slut”, as the other lead character, Dr. Noel Benedict, describes to Maggie, the good-natured, if not cantankerous, foil.
The story unfolds and you can see the sexual tension build between Claire and Noel as we learn more about the characters.
To me, the resulting momentum between Claire and Noel caused me to become transfixed and I felt as if I was just suspended as a non-entity—watching the passion build like a volcano. Not only was I not disappointed with the ending; I positively melted as Claire and Noel consummated their passion. Sure it was naughty but not obscene and like a symphony, at the bridge of the melody, the two women’s arms slid slowly until their hands met and held, then the scene dissolved to a soft and romantic picture of Claire and Noel walking down the beach hand-in-hand. In an age where our relationships fell towards us and then away, it gave us hope that passion and permanence was actually attainable.
The woman who was responsible for this intricate and passionate rescue of the 1990s was Nicole Conn who has since written, directed and produced films like A Perfect Ending, Elena Undone (Which righteously holds the record for the longest on-screen kiss—period—not to mention the fact that it’s between two women!), little man (An award winning documentary about the premature birth of Nicole’s son done for Showtime television network), Cynara: Poetry in Motion(Short film) and her ground-breaking 1991 Claire of the Moon as well as the companion making-of documentary, Moments. Claire of the Moon stands the lone distinction of being the first lesbian motion picture to be released in the form of a novelization.
Recently, I had the honor of meeting Ms. Conn online and we began to exchange correspondence. I told her of my admiration for her work (not to mention the sexual fantasies that Claire of the Moon gave me 22 years ago!) and we corresponded about our both being film fanatics (we both agree that some of the best films were made in black and white and used innuendo as plot-ploys rather than being so graphic) and the importance of motion pictures today in the vacuum of the public’s unwillingness to read.
I guess I made a positive impact on Nicole because she introduced me to her Executive Producer, Elaine Sturgess (a woman with the most marvelous deep voice and a formal British accent) and her Co-Producer, Melanie Rice (a curiously quiet woman with a very powerful and wonderful singing voice) and I was asked to be Associate Producer for their next film project on the proviso that at some future point I could also write and direct my own projects and everyone agreed.
Nicole’s current project is to convert her complex novel, She Walks in Beauty into a screenplay that will be commencing production sometime in 2014. As an Associate Producer, one of my many functions is to raise production funds. For those of you who have enjoyed Nicole’s films for the past 22 years (and I know plenty of gay men who enjoy the romantic aspects and gay male characters she writes and directs so skillfully), please be sure to donate, which you can do by clicking on the link here. Even $5-10 would help.
Sometimes we can view the advancements we’ve made in terms of our relationships and while I can’t speak first-hand of the gay world, I can speak about the evolution of lesbian relationships between Claire of the Moon in 1991 when Nicole’s not very subtle heterosexual and homophobic character, Tara O’Hara, the romance novelist (which I share the same sentiments as Nicole does about the trash writing of straight romance novels) turned to the other straight women and declared how “unnatural” homosexuality was.
But when you place Nicole Conn’s films into a historical perspective with our community, when Claire of the Moon was released in 1991, public opinion polls placed marriage equality at only 27% of Americans in favor of it.
Nicole might not have single-handedly changed American’s minds but her novels and films appeal not only to the LGBT community but cut straight to the heart of every woman and reach the hearts of many male romantics as well. She might not have done it alone but she was definitely the first and with her inner drive, beauty and innate romanticism, she will definitely lead the way for some time to come, especially now that she has helped usher in an age where more than 57% of Americans now approve of not only marriage equality but equal rights for the LGBT community.
I’m not only honored to be working on her team but most of all; I’m honored to be her friend.
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