Speaking of Hank Stuever, there’s a great interview of Stuever by Sean Bugg in MetroWeekly about Stuever’s upcoming book, Tinsel, and thoughts on journalism in general and his transition to WaPo television critic. Here’s the most interesting point:
MW: As someone who works for a major media outlet, why do you think we still have issues with news stories, obituaries and other pieces that leave out basic information about people’s orientation?
STUEVER: I was on a panel about this once, when the obituary thing was just out of control — it was Luther Vandross, Susan Sontag, Ismail Merchant. There was a spate of them where the gayness had been left out, for various reasons. I said that the problem with the obituary thing is that we’re talking about the ends of people’s lives when, really, what we’re bad at is covering gay life. The living, not the dead.
I’m much more worried about how the Post and other mainstream outlets still approach gay with caution. We still haven’t learned about just covering everyday gay, except in the food section and the home section. Washington was sort of the closet capital, and still is in a lot of ways. But the people have changed enough that the Post can at least not look completely unaware of the fact that there are lots and lots of influential, interesting and totally newsworthy gay people and gay things going on in town.
But here’s the thing, and I think this transcends media, and I hate saying this: Straight people, they’re not so interested in us. They really aren’t. And part of it is that to them gay equals a sexual act. The other part of the problem is gay equals not them, therefore not interested. I find this with my extremely enlightened straight friends, they still don’t quite have a handle on the best reason for legalizing gay marriage, which is those thousand civil rights that just automatically transfer with a heterosexual marriage license from state to state. It takes some explaining to them to show how ludicrous it is to set up a crazy quilt America where some states have gay marriage and some states don’t, because if I get married and then by some misfortune move back home to Oklahoma, my rights don’t come with me.
But broadly, people don’t view gay as a culture, they view it as a sex act. And so the Washington Post gets hinky on it, all mainstream media get hinky on it, because they don’t know anything about it. All they know is the idea of gay sex still makes them uncomfortable. Well, the idea of straight sex makes me uncomfortable, but there’s a lot of it in our newspaper. We will always need our gay media to make sure that the fullest experience is represented.
As a Style section writer, Stuever has always been able to find interesting things to say about LGBT people in DC and about their lives. I still talk about one of my favorite Stuever stories, where he talks about the last days of D.C’s infamous Southeast gay neighborhood, full of strip bars, drag shows, and sex clubs, which was bulldozed for the new baseball stadium
No amount of Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton and Mariah Carey songs could mask the pain. One by one, until the wee hours Monday morning, the reigning drag queens of Half Street SE descended the stairs at Ziegfeld’s cabaret to strut their last, blowing kisses to admirers and making a few more sweepingly glamorous gestures — all of it a farewell to the shabby but perfect place they called home for three decades.
Ziegfeld’s, and four other establishments on the same forsaken industrial block at Half and O streets, closed yesterday in a cruelly predictable high school metaphor: The jocks win.
Far from the happy, let’s-walk-the-Labrador-to-Whole-Foods realm of Logan and Dupont circles, the O Street scene was the real deal: grubby, hidden even within sight of the Capitol, and just plain ugly-gorgeous.