Alice Austen, at age 19.

The legacies of ancient Greek writer Sappho (circa 630570 BC) of the Greek island of Lesbos, and of an obscure photographer named Alice Austen (1886 – 1952) of New York's Staten Island, are remarkably similar. Although the bulk of their respective life's works have been lost, what remains transcends artistic medium, time and space to endure as vastly important and poetic testaments o to"love between the ladies". Of the two women, of course Sappho is the much more famous. Indeed, the adjectives deriving from her name and place of birth are now associated with female homosexuality. But only a single complete work, Hymn to Aphrodite, remains of her nine-volume corpus which was read so much in antiquity. Of Alice's oeuvre, only 3,500 of the 9,000 glass plate negatives produced in her lifetime, and made exclusively for her own enjoyment, are still in existence today. Very few of these glass print negatives have been examined or printed by scholars. To follow, a sampling of Alice’s unprecedented record of gay Americana at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Alice's seventeenth century cottage,
Cold Comfort, now a house museum.

Alice, snappin' away.

Alice and her lover Violet, puffin' away, en déshabillé.

Suffragettes sure did love to ride bicycles.

Alice and the boys, er, um, girls.

A few boys from Alice's circle, dressed as girls. Note the scarf over the lampshade. Electricity had just been invented. The gays figured out that trick pretty quick!


Despite the unprecedented discovery, nearly fifty years ago, of what appears to be documentation of the gay life and times of history’s first same-sex couple, attempts are still being made to keep the nature of their apparent relationship under wraps.

NIANKHKNUM and KHNUMHOTEP, whose names translate respectively as “joined to life” and “joined to the blessed state of the dead” were manicurists to the court of King Niuserre during Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty (about 2,400 B.C.) In 1964, archaeologists discovered a warren of chambers fabulously decorated with reliefs of two men hunting, banqueting, and most surprisingly, in a series of intimate poses reserved for hetero-normative couples in the canon of Egyptian art.

Despite this evidence, homophobic historians have classified the two men as being merely “friends” or brothers. Even as recently as 2009, a professor of Egyptology at the NYU Institute of Fine Arts constructed a hypothesis about the relationship of NIANKHKNUM and KHNUMHOTEP to suggesting that the two men were “…conjoined twins, and it was this physical peculiarity that prompted the many depictions of them hand-holding or embracing in their tomb-chapel.”

All I have to say is HELLO! These two old queens were manicurists! What more evidence do you need?


"Lord Love a Duck" is an old Cockney euphemism that waddled its way in to some highfalutin' literature*, fersure; and it's also the title of a nineteen-sixties black comedy starring an equally-luscious-looking couple of actors, Tuesday Weld and Roddy MacDowall.

Methinks just about anyone can relate to this clip from the movie. 'Cause
after perusing the plethora of Pantone palettes at, say, Saks cashmere counter, wouldn't it be fun to disregard impecunity -- purloin a purse, even -- and purchase 'em all?

1. P.G. Woodhouse,
The Coming of Bill: "'Well, Lord love a duck!' replied the butler, who in his moments of relaxation was addicted to homely expletives of the lower London type."

2. James Joyce,
Ulysses: "Paddy Leonard eyes his alemates. Lord love a duck, he said. Look at what I'm standing drinks to!"

3. T.S. Eliot,
The Rock: "Lor-love-a-duck, it's the missus!"


Don't exchange cross words with your mate. Instead, wear them out on the town to your favorite restaurant or nightclub. Its a much more attractive way to be. Talk about something frivolous!


Every time I ride the subway, I crack up. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the commute that much. It's what comes over the intercom that makes me laugh, whenever I hear it:

"Ladies and Gentlemen... If you see a suspicious package on the platform or train, do not keep it to yourself. Tell a police officer or an MTA employee. Remain alert, and have a safe day."

Let's clarify a few things:

1. Webster's defines suspicious as "tending to arouse suspicion."

2. I define package as a "present".

3. If you were to find a nicely wrapped package on the subway, would you really want to give it away to a cop, or the token booth lady?

As the train approached Union Square Station, I looked over towards the handsome guy sitting next to me. In his lap, he held the current issue of Newsweek. Aroused, and suspicious, I read the headline. KING TUT'S DNA REVEALS A MORE MANLY PHARAOH. The article briefs a recent analysis published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, how DNA extracted from the bones of 11 royal mummies, including Tut's, has changed perceptions of genetics and also the artistic conventions during this period in time. Called the Armana art-style, it's unique for more realistic depictions of the figure which broke away from the strict formalism universal in Egyptian art. The boy king, who died at age 19 in about 1324 B.C., the 10th year of his reign, and others male royals from this period are seen in quite feminized representations, which led to speculation that the family tree was riddled with hormonal diseases like gynecomastia (excessive breast development in men). But Tut's CT scans show no signs of it. Perhaps this "feminization" of the male figure is another sort of stylistic convention?

And, well, another sentence really piqued my interest: "...the penis of Tutankhamen, which is no longer attached to the body, is well developed."


Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, Count Sumarokov of Russia (1887- 1967), seen here at age sixteen in a dazzling portrait by Valentin Serov, was a pretty and privileged and precocious poufster, fersure. Heir to one of the world’s largest private fortunes at the outbreak of The Great War, he lost it all, and continued to metamorph -- an extraordinary character.

Felix’s two volume memoirs Lost Splendour and En Exil are his enduring treasure, a veritable Golden Horde of the Tatars that begins with fourteenth century khan ancestors and ends in mid-twentieth century Paris. What happens in-between is the most interesting part: a coming-of-age story
rich with candor and wit, in a strangely detached voice -- equal parts De Profundis, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Wizard of Oz. Now put that in your pipe, and smoke it!

And meet a very young man of Byzantine beauty who wears his mother’s Worth dresses and famous jewels to dine in Saint Petersburg’ chicest restaurants and perform in its cabarets;
gets cruised by King Edward VII at the opera; hangs out with bands of gypsies; creates a startling lavender, orange and black décor in his apartment at Oxford; marries the Tsar’s only niece Princess Irina (a union that lasts fifty years); and with his lover Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich masterminds the plot to murder Rasputin, in a desperate measure to save the monarchy.

(Felix is tormented by recurring nightmares of the mad monk's murder for the rest of his life, and Dimitri involved with the creation of Chanel No. 5, and then a champagne salesman in New Jersey.)

Civil War necessitates that Felix’s spectacular fortune, its palaces, paintings and objects d’art are to be left behind, save two Rembrandts and a bag of diamonds which pavé the way to safety in Paris. Re-establishing themselves in a house on the Bolougne-sur-seine, the Yusupov’s are renowned for financial generosity to fellow Russian immigrants, and cause a sensation with a short-lived couture house Irfé as well as a £25,000 award for libel in connection with MGM’s Rasputin and the Empress.

The disclaimer which now screens at the end of every American film, "The preceding was a work of fiction, etc.," is due to the legal precedent set by the Yusupov case. Life is stranger than fiction, indeed!

Felix, and his wife Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia


Rasputin and the Empress, 1932