Screenshot from the film Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson, 2012, directed by Michael Kasino and Richard Morrison, which you can watch here.
Author Bobby Miller read the following poem (Bobby Miller, “Marsha P. Johnson March,” circa 1992) in a taped interview, which can be found in the John J. Kearns Papers at the National Archive for LGBT History. It is copied below from this forum post.
Miss Marsha P. Johnson could march. A true 1 2 3 4 step in place step march. She marched that march out of Hoboken and into the big apple when it was still called the big mary. She marched that march up Christopher Street to Sheridan Square where she carved out her place in history.
Where she sat morning to night and panhandled asking in that familiar rasp of a voice, ” Got any spare change for a dying queen?” Miss Marsha P. Johnson marched across 8th Street, down St. Marks Place headed to Club 82 , now the Bijoux, but back then was when feathers and sequins were the rule. Marsha P. Johnson dressed casual on Easter Eve wearing pink and white Easter Bunny ears, Easter basket in hand, marching that march, wearing big rubber rabbit teeth and smiling a big Easter Bunny smile. The sidewalk parted in awe. Behold Miss marsha P. Johnson.
She marched that march up 11th Avenue into the parked cars of lonely married men from New Jersey who were looking for a taste of something special and she was it.
Miss Marsha P, as in pay it no mind, free as the wind at her back. On even the coldest of winter eves she would march that march onto the stage of life singing a simple song and speaking a simple tale to the people.
A tale of hope in darkness. A tale of love and acceptance. A tale about the importance of charity.
Miss Marsha P. Johnson spent the day and early evening working the crowds at Sheridan Square only to walk a block and find a sister of the streets in greater need than she, ” How ya doin’ kid?” she’d ask. “Not to good Miss Marsha , I been here all day and I only got a buck fifty.” Marsha would empty her cup into her sister’s and return back to her spot on the sidewalk and start over working the late shift.
Miss Marsha P. Johnson marched that march into the lives of those who knew and loved her.
Miss Marsha P. Johnson found floating face down in the Hudson River one hot July morning. No one knows for certain what happened. But you can place your bets that she went out the same way she came in, with a fight, with a faith that carried her over to the other side where she marchs still.
And those streets, so paved with gold, will hear the glorified click of her high heels forever, while she watches over the children of the streets and marching her way into history.
From the Poetry Lectures podcast episode titled “Oral History Initiative: On Frank O’Hara,” the rest of which is just as entertaining.
John Ashbery reads a letter Frank O’Hara sent him about his poetry reading at the Living Theater in 1959. Gregory Corso makes a fool of himself and everyone grows furious with Jack Kerouac, “who, alas, was there.”
Frank O’Hara, “At the Old House,” 1955. From Frank O’Hara: Selected Poems, ed. by Mark Ford.
A boy’s night out. Queer family dance party.
John Button [using a timer], Frank O’Hara, John Button, James Schuyler, and Joe LeSueur watching TV at John Button’s house, 1955.
A boy’s night in. Queer family dinner.
David Wojnarowicz, House (from the Sex series), 1988-89.
From "Out of the Safety Zone," by Lucy Lippard, in Art in America Magazine's December 1st, 1990 issue:
The “Sex series” began with an accident in the darkroom Wojnarowicz inherited from Hujar, where he began to print many years’ worth of his own old blanc-and-whit negatives. The eight 18-by21 ½-9nch photomontages are printed as negatives and usually consist of a principle image framed or punctuated by small circular insets, which Wojnarwowicz has related to surveillance photos, to suppressed information and to cells seen through a microscope Most of the circular cameos contain explicit homoerotic or occasionally heterosexual scenes. The reversal to negative suffuses them with a nocturnal glow and generates unexpected sources of light and energy, haloing heads, cocks, bony hands. The larger underlying images are often quite ordinary to begin with— a speeding train, a plane disgorging parachutes, a house next to a water tower— but they take on, through the inversion of light and dark, a menacing oneiric aura. Wojnarowicz has a formal, highly idiosyncratic camera eye, but the tonal reversal provides an eerie distance that makes these photographs look “appropriated” whether they are or not.
From an interview titled “IDOL WORSHIP: TALKING WITH DAVID WOJNAROWICZ,” conducted in 1991 by Owen Keehnen. Read the rest here.
The anecdote about Macy’s alligators seems to be pulled from the Thomas Pynchon novel V.
David Wojnarowicz: I started running away from home periodically for different lengths of time and ended up living on the streets sometime in my mid-teens. I came close to dying there. I was a walking skeleton and had no access to any kind of healthcare. I remember, at 17, trying everything I could in terms of city agencies and not being able to obtain health anywhere. Eventually I got off the streets when some guy picked me up in Times Square who let me live with him for a month in this cheap apartment in that area. He was an ex-con man. He worked as a counselor with fake degrees at a halfway house for ex-cons. He got tired of me being around because I was always stealing animals from pet shops and I turned his place into a zoo - giant African frogs and lizards and turtles. It was something I just always did as a kid. I used to steal alligators out of Macy’s and let them go in Central Park Lake thinking they were going to eat ducks and survive. I didn’t realize issues like winter.
From the essay “POSTCARDS FROM AMERICA X Rays from Hell,” in David Wajnarowicz, Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration, 1991, which reads like a paranoid, dystopian fantasy - AMERICA as HELL - except every bit of it is Real and True:
A boxed cassette of someone’s interview with me in which I talk about diagnosis and how it simply underlined what I knew already existed anyway. Not just the disease but the sense of death in the American landscape. How when I was out west this summer standing in the mountains of a small city in New Mexico I got a sudden and intense feeling of rage looking at those postcard-perfect slopes and clouds. For all I knew I was the only person for miles and all alone and I didn’t trust that fucking mountain’s serenity. I meant it was just bullshit. I didn’t buy the con of nature’s beauty; all I could see was death. The rest of my life is being unwound and seen through a frame of death. And my anger is more about this culture’s refusal to deal with mortality. My rage is really about the fact that WHEN I WAS TOLD THAT I’D CONTRACTED THIS VIRUS IT DIDN’T TAKE ME LONG TO REALIZE THAT I’D CONTRACTED A DISEASED SOCIETY AS WELL.
Winona Ryder, shoplifting.
“Either way, dying sucks.”
- Shigesato Itoi’s catch copy for Koukoku Hihyo Magazine’s anti-war campaign in 1982.