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Whatever happened to filmmaker Dick Martin?

A roundabout recovery of gay cinematic history

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Dick Martin, gay news, Washington Blade
(D.C.-area ads circa 1970-1973)

In the recent past a number of filmmakers of significance to the LGBTQ community, such as gay activist and filmmaker Pat Rocco, have passed away. However, gay cinema from the 1960s and 1970s was largely adult cinema, and many of the pseudonymous filmmakers go unremembered. 

While undertaking research on gay film from that era, I felt compelled to investigate a nearly forgotten filmmaker named Dimitri. He was known by numerous pseudonyms including Spartacus, Dick Martin, and Demitri Alexis (a variation on his legal name Dimitri Alexis Svigelj). Dimitri was born on May 8, 1910 in the city of Ljubijana, Austria-Hungry. He lived through a tumultuous period in the city; it was split from Austria-Hungry, annexed by Italy and then Nazi Germany, and became part of Yugoslavia at the close of WWII.

After emigrating to the U.S. on June 5, 1939, Dimitri distributed drawings of nude muscular men through mail-order companies called Wessart and West Coast Art Studios, based in Portland, Ore. Under the name Spartacus, his drawings were eventually featured in physique magazines, including Trim Studio Quarterly and Physique Pictorial.

By 1968, Dimitri lived in Los Angeles and under the companies Taurus and Art West sold mail-order short films featuring fit young men’s physiques. Eventually, Dimitri ventured into production of feature-length gay films for Shan Sayles’ Continental Theatres, the chain that owned the famous Park Theatre on Alvarado Boulevard. 

Tom DeSimone, filmmaker and pioneering figure in early gay adult film, explained to me that the features Dimitri shot for Continental would have had a budget of $3,000. During this time, Dimitri’s movies employed a quirky use of classical music that was sometimes contrapuntal to the films’ content. As DeSimone recalled, “Shan and I used to get a kick out of the fact that he always used old recordings of classical music for background in his films. Most of the time, it didn’t lay in quite well. That was Shan’s biggest peeve.” 

By March 1969, the Park would dedicate an entire program to Dimitri’s movies, a status only attained by big name directors like Pat Rocco. Filmmaker Toby Ross originally met Dimitri outside the Gold Cup in Hollywood and remembers him as a “jolly older man with a very strong almost funny touch of sleaze.” Reflecting on Dimitri’s filmmaking persona, Ross recalled Dimitri’s excitable directing style, which included exhilarated hollering and arm flailing. In comparison to Pat Rocco, Ross considered Dimitri “a bit less pretentious than Rocco who regarded himself as a great auteur… Rocco was 95% ego and 5% talent; Dimi was extremely talented.”

For patrons of gay theaters in D.C. during the early 1970s, Dick Martin, one of Dimitri’s pseudonyms, was among the most recognizable name in overtly gay cinema, rivaled only by Wakefield Poole and Lancer Brooks (the pseudonym of Tom DeSimone). The introduction of Dimitri’s films to D.C. occurred within months of the opening of the area’s first gay theater, the Mark II, a joint operation between physique magazine entrepreneur H. Lynn Womack and legendary West Coast showman Shan Sayles. During the theater’s first months Dimitri’s “One Touching One” was held over as long as more remembered gay films like “Song of the Loon” and “Happy Birthday, Davy.” From August 1972 to March 1973, the Metropole Cinema Club featured six of Dimitri’s films.

If feature-length films under all his pseudonyms are included, then Dimitri had at least 12 in circulation across the U.S. from 1970 to 1972. Given that number, he was among gay cinema’s most prolific directors from that period, beside contemporaries like J. Brian and Tom DeSimone. The magazine In Touch for Men mentioned that Dimitri suffered a series of strokes later in life. Dimitri died on Sept. 3, 1981 in Los Angeles.

For the discussions and sharing of resources, I thank Tom DeSimone, Toby Ross, Michael Oliveira of the ONE Archives, and Tim of timinvermont.com.

Finley Freibert is a Ph.D. candidate in visual studies at the University of California, Irvine. He researches the histories of bisexuality, LGBTQ culture, and media industries. Reach him @FinleyFreibert.

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Democrats, including the LGBTQ community, must stick together to win

Ensuring our campaigns resound with the most general election voters

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(Photo by chrisd2105/Bigstock)

As we watch with revulsion what Republicans are doing, both in Congress, and in state legislatures, it is clear the diverse members of the Democratic Party must stick together if we are to have any chance of winning in 2024.

To do that will require we understand, and accept, that in 2024 it will not be only about us individually, rather about ALL of us, collectively. All of us who are being demonized by Republicans. That includes the LGBTQ community, the African-American community, and Asian and Latino communities. It includes women who are being stripped of their right to control their own healthcare by Republicans. Republicans who are trying to take away voting rights, and pretend climate change doesn’t exist. Republicans like Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, who want us to return to isolationism and retreat from world leadership. 

Therefore, if we want to move forward, each of us must accept our Democratic candidates may not be highlighting every issue we want them to, every day, in their campaigns. They might not mention LGBTQ issues in every speech. They might not talk about the Equality Act in every speech. They might not talk about protecting drag queens in every speech. But we must understand if they lose, and we lose Congress, the presidency, state houses and legislatures, we will all lose. 

Some Democrats questioned the response of the president and senators to Republicans in Congress going after the D.C. crime bill, asking why a Democrat would not stand strong for D.C. home rule. I have spoken out saying while their response may be a threat to home rule, and one I objected to, crime is an issue across the nation. They saw what happened to Lori Lightfoot in Chicago and determined this action on their part was needed if they are to win in 2024. If Democrats lose the presidency and Senate in 2024, home rule for D.C. will only be one of the many things we could lose. 

So Democrats must play our cards right and ensure our campaigns resound positively with the most general election voters. Those voters are becoming more moderate and crime is striking fear in them. This is not about changing the minds of the 30% of Trump voters in the party of Trump. We will never get their votes. It is about making sure the voters we need will come out and vote for Democrats. Those voters in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Arizona. 

So yes, I want the Equality Act passed. After all, I was working for Bella S. Abzug (D-N.Y.) when she first introduced it in 1974. But even more important now is re-electing a Democratic president and holding the Senate. That will enable us to continue to nominate and confirm judges, who with lifetime appointments, will protect us for decades. 

We must focus on electing Democratic governors who will protect us from Republican legislatures we might not win. There are 11 states with gubernatorial elections in 2024. Only three with incumbent Democrats and one in a red state, Gov. Roy Cooper in North Carolina, is term limited. Keeping that seat will not be easy. There are 33 Senate seats up for election in 2024. Of those, 10 are currently held by Republicans, 20 by Democrats, and three by independents. Clearly, we are at a disadvantage. So, we must all recognize in the Senate it is often the first vote a senator casts that is the most important. That is the vote for Majority Leader. So even a Democrat you may not like, such as Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), can cast a vote for Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and give Democrats control of the agenda, and if we have 51, control of committees. So, I say to the LGBTQ community, and every other minority community and women voters: Even if you must hold your nose when you vote, vote for the Democrat. Life for all of us will be so much worse if Republicans take control.

This is a year in which Democrats, especially in close Districts, should not be running primaries against incumbents who have shown they can win. This is not the time for progressives in the party to show they can win a primary, but then see their candidate lose in the general election. 

It is the general election results that will determine how we can live our lives. Whether we will be able to move forward, even if not as fast as we want, instead of having Republicans take us back into the dark ages.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Judy Heumann helped so many of us with disabilities to be out and proud

‘Like the color of my eyes or the color of my hair, it is a part of who I am’

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Judy Heumann speaks in the TED Talk 'Our fight for disability rights -- and why we're not done yet.' (Screen capture via TED YouTube)

When I was growing up, people like me, who were disabled, were usually met with scorn, pity and exclusion. 

On March 4, Judith (Judy) Heumann, a founder of the disability rights movement,  died at 75 in Washington, D.C. 

For decades, Heumann, who contracted polio when she was 18 months old, was a leader of a civil rights movement that changed the lives of millions of folks like me.

Judy (so many of us, whether we knew or not, connected with her on a first-name basis), was known as the “mother” of the disability rights movement. She was the Harvey Milk of our struggle.

You might think: why should LGBTQ people care about the passing of a disability rights leader?

Here’s why: Nearly, 20 percent of people in this country have a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This includes LGBTQ+ people. An estimated three to five million people are queer and disabled.  

Studies, including a study by the Map Advancement Project, reveal that queer people are more likely than non-queer people to become disabled. We face the double-whammy of anti-queer and disability-based discrimination. The MAP study reported that of the more than 26,000 transgender people surveyed, 39 percent reported having a disability.

If you’re queer and have a disability (blindness, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, psychiatric disorder, etc.), you’ve likely run up against employers who don’t want to hire you or restaurants who don’t care to serve you. If you’re a queer parent of a disabled child, you’ve probably had to fight to get your kid the education they need.

These battles are hard. But, thanks to Heumann and the movement she led, there are ways — from the Americans with Disabilities Act to working the media — to fight this injustice.

Heumann, who at 29 led a month-long protest that was the Stonewall of the disability rights movement, and in her 70s was the star of the fab, Oscar-nominated documentary “Crip Camp,” was a powerhouse of energy, discipline, hard work and humor. She was a quintessential bad ass who worked for justice 24/7, and  kicked your butt if you didn’t.“Kathi, get your self together!” commanded the voice over the phone, “or you won’t get anything done.”

It was 1987, and I was writing my first news story. I was interviewing Heumann about an historic protest that she’d led a decade earlier. It was the 10th anniversary of what is believed to be the longest non-violent sit-in a federal building. 

In April 1977, more than 100 disabled people took over the (then) Health, Education and Welfare building in San Francisco. President Richard Nixon had signed the Rehabilitation Act into law in 1973. But, regulations, known as “504,” a section of the Act that prohibited discrimination against disabled people by institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.) receiving federal funding, hadn’t been signed. After protesting in the San Francisco building for a month and in Washington, D.C. (including at then President Jimmy Carter’s church), the “504″ regulations were signed.

Heumann, who was an official in the Clinton administration and a special adviser in the Obama State Department, was tough, kind, and proud of herself and the movement that she founded.

For Heumann, who is survived by her husband and brothers, disability was a normal part of life, not a tragedy.

“I never wished I didn’t have a disability,” Heumann wrote in her memoirs “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist.”

When Heumann was a child, disabled children were often institutionalized. Like being queer, being disabled wasn’t considered to be normal then. 

Doctors advised Heumann’s parents to send Judy to an institution when she was a child. But her parents, who were Jewish and had fled Nazi Germany, refused. This experience turned her mother and father against institutionalizing her, Heumann wrote in her memoir.

“If I’d been born just 10 years earlier and become disabled in Germany, it is almost certain the German doctor would also have advised that I be institutionalized,” Heumann wrote, “The difference is that instead of growing up being fed by nurses in a small room with white walls and a roommate, I would have been taken to a special clinic, and at that special clinic, I would have been killed.”

Just as it is if you’re queer, if you’re disabled, if you want to respect yourself, you need to be out and proud.

Judy more than anyone I’ve ever known, helped so many of us with disabilities to be out and proud. She taught us that being disabled isn’t something to be ashamed of. That it’s an important aspect of who we are.

Her disability, Judy often said,  is, “Like the color of my eyes or the color of my hair, it is a part of who I am.” 

I knew Judy only from interviewing her over the years and being on an episode of her podcast “The Heumann Perspective.” But Judy, whether you’d known for decades or just a few months, made you feel like you were a friend.  She’d advise you, cheer you on and challenge you over the phone, in texts and on Zoom.

She almost got me, a non-make-up wearing lesbian, to wear lipstick (so I wouldn’t look like a ghost on her podcast). Earlier this winter, Judy wondered why I didn’t put my disability on my resume. Being nervous could be good, she said, when I was scared of reading at a poetry festival.

“If you don’t respect yourself and if you don’t demand what you believe in for yourself, you’re not going to get it,” Judy said.

Thank you, Judy for teaching us to respect ourselves and to demand our rights! R.I.P., Judy!

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Latest Uganda anti-homosexuality bill incites new wave of anti-LGBTQ hate

Mbarara Rise Foundation appeals to international community for help

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(Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

To the international community, 

I write to you today on behalf of the organization I lead, Mbarara Rise Foundation.

Since the year began, our rural grassroots LGBTQI+ communities have faced life threatening problems including an increased number of mob attacks, individual threats, police arrests and non-stop fears and insecurities arising from the homophobic campaigns happening in Uganda. Sadly, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 was introduced on March 9, inciting a new wave of anti-LGBTQI+ hatred.

This anti-homosexuality bill is worse than previous bills because, under this new law, simply identifying as LGBTQI+ means you have committed a crime. Even before the bill has passed, this homophobic action in Parliament has encouraged more of the general population, bloggers, celebrities and politicians to increase their hate campaigns all over the country. More than ever, Uganda is not a safe environment for us now. 

Currently, attacks are happening all over Uganda. Our communities have faced mob “justice” scenarios, threats and arrests and we have no legal recourse. Many of our constituents have received death threats, and in fact some have gone into hiding. This all increased dramatically when the bill was read in the Parliament and homophobic people are using it as a new excuse to inflict harm upon us. In just one of many examples, a transgender woman associated with our organization was beaten, publicly, by a group of cis men and she now sustains serious wounds. The police do not care.

Your voices are needed to speak out against these human rights abuses in Uganda. Your kind support is crucial and timely for us because we need protection, visibility and defense of our basic human rights. Mbarara Rise Foundation is working tirelessly to help LGBTIQ persons through building the capacity of the LGBTQI+ community, by documenting and advocating against violence, and through providing safety and security where we are able. We are fighting to increase access to legal counsel and justice and working to repeal homophobic laws and transform the attitudes of duty bearers towards LGBTQI+ persons. We cannot do this work alone.

These matters are urgent because Uganda needs interventions to protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons amidst escalating violence and homophobia given the limited capacity of LGBTQI-led organizations, a shrinking civic space. In short, we need your outrage, your voices, and your support and we need it now.

Yours sincerely,

Real Raymond

Executive Director

Mbarara Rise Foundation

www.mbarararisefoundation.org

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