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Calling Attention to Cukor

November 26, 2000

I was not surprised to read that the creators of PBS' new George Cukor documentary relegated his homosexuality to a minor role ("The Invisible Director Gets His Due," by Tom Gilbert, Nov. 19). That's what most people in the West do--relegate sexuality to some minor, back-burner position while emphasizing the mind and the creativity . . . as if they can be so neatly separated. On paper, maybe, but not in real life.

As they point out, Cukor chose not to do any interviews that might call attention to himself. Of course he didn't! He might get fired. And since he decided early on to submerge himself in his career, any threat to that career had to be eliminated--including anything that might call attention to the fact he was a gay man, particularly during the period of time in which he worked when being gay was nearly as bad as being a Communist, murderer, child molester or rapist. (Some in power today still voice this opinion, but fortunately not as many people are listening.)

It would be nice if, just for once, documentarians could admit that gay or lesbian artists' sexuality is central to their work, either by its denial and suppression or by its acknowledgment and celebration. As we honor artists such as Cukor and Aaron Copland, we must acknowledge that in the most intimate parts of their lives they lived on the outskirts of social acceptability. But they overcame this prejudice and marginalization by becoming artists of the highest caliber who contributed to the American consciousness. And our lives are, ironically, better for their having been oppressed.

BARRY SIMON

Studio City

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