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SCREENING ROOM : 'Coming Out' Documents WWII Gays

July 19, 1994|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Arthur Dong's informative, consciousness-raising "Coming Out Under Fire" (at the Nuart Thursday through July 27) documents the experiences of nine gay and lesbian World War II veterans amid a plethora of archival footage and framed within the context of the recent and ongoing debate over gays in the military.

All the men and women state that they had no problems getting along with straights, many of whom assumed their sexual orientation and were not upset by it, but that they lived in constant fear of being denounced and subjected to the Draconian anti-gay regulations established early in the war.

Most left the service with well-earned honorable discharges, but several were not so fortunate, bearing scars from those experiences to this day. Yet if a gay male didn't lie to get into the service, the alternative was to be sent home bearing the stigma of "sexual pervert."

Dong, who based his film on Allan Berube's 1990 book of the same name, makes clear that World War II was the first time gays and lesbians were brought together in large numbers; this breaking down of isolation laid the foundation for the eventual gay liberation movement.

Since Dong's film is only 87 minutes long, he might well have interviewed straight World War II veterans as to their attitudes toward gays and lesbians in the ranks and also underlined the fact that ongoing discriminatory policies in the military provide impetus for other kinds of anti-gay legislation.

Information: (310) 478-6379.

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To Austin for Music: In a thoroughly captivating, laid-back way Tara Veneruso's "Janis Joplin Slept Here" (presented Thursday by EZTV at RESOLUTION Gallery, 6518 Hollywood Blvd.) chronicles the last three decades or so in the amazingly vibrant, varied and enduring music scene of Austin, Tex.

In the course of interviewing, in a mere two hours, 74 musicians, artists' managers, club owners, DJs, critics and even a simpatico retired cop, Veneruso reminds us of what a major music capital Austin has long been, cradle of everything from blues to punk rock to current alternative music.

"Janis Joplin Slept Here" makes you wish you had been to local landmark clubs, past and present, where you could enjoy everyone from Muddy Waters, the Sex Pistols, Johnny Winter, Bruce Springsteen ("when he was just a long name"), Stevie Ray Vaughn to Joplin herself--not to mention scores more. Joplin was just one of numerous Texas performers who would migrate to San Francisco in the late '60s; at that time Austin also produced several key masters of psychedelic poster art.

Information: (213) 466-6232.

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Malcolm X Documentary: "Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X" (at the Sunset 5 at noon only for one week starting Friday) is a powder keg of a documentary directed by Jack Baxter, a former private investigator, who co-produced and co-wrote the film with Jefri Aalmuhammed, a Black Muslim who was a consultant on Spike Lee's "Malcolm X."

In a series of interviews with Malcolm X's colleagues, coupled with much potent and often rare archival materials, the filmmakers raise many unanswered questions surrounding the assassination of Malcolm X in February, 1965, in Harlem's Audubon Ballroom, where the charismatic Black Muslim leader, who had broken from Elijah Muhammad and his Nation of Islam, was to speak to followers of his own Organization of Afro-American Unity.

"Brother Minister" brings considerable clarity to an exceedingly complex, highly charged event, pointing a lot of fingers along the way and suggesting that the death of the ever-evolving Malcolm was a tragic loss to the ranks of African American leaders. At the very least, the film makes a strong case for a congressional investigation into Malcolm's assassination.

Information: (213) 848-3500.

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