Francis Davis on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Dave Smey
Tue, 3 Sep 2002 13:50:36 -0400

> Has anyone managed to read Francis Davis' article in the latest NY Times
online where he discusses gay jazz musicians and a culture of silence?
Seems to confirm some of what Jeton Ademaj was saying on the list quite some
time ago about why sexuality is ignored and race noted with regard to jazz.
One of the people Davis discusses states that a kind of respect for privacy
of a musician masks some implicit homophobia.  Anyone care to comment
further?  Interesting article in any case.  You can find it in the arts
section at
Actually, I thought it was kind of significant that the panel (at least as
summarized by the journalist) sounded so boring.  (And the journalist is the
guy who organized the thing...)  The main complaint seemed to be that
"nobody wants to discuss our sexuality," yet the participants didn't seem to
come up with many details worth asking about.  (Gary Burton even made some
wierd comment about not wanting to "interview himself" -- like there's some
hidden wealth of information on how his sexuality influences his music, but
it's not his job to think about it.  If he can't come up with much, then how
should we?)

(The one interesting detail about Burton seemed entirely personal -- that he
decided he was "more gay than straight" around age 40.  Like David Geffen.
That IS interesting, but seems compelling just in a general, psychological
way.  If some random person were to reveal it (perhaps in a well-written
memoir) it would be just as interesting.)

(The maleness of the jazz audience and the pervasive machismo of the scene
is actually pretty interesting, too (not to mention frustrating).  The
"avant" scene seems somewhat more fluid in this area (as well as racially
and, um, genderly.)  Though the fans are still pretty male.)

I can understand that one might still feel like straight people are free to
talk explicitly about their love lives whereas gay people are censured, but
lack of interest in the personal lives of Andy Bey, Gary Burton (and I
forget the third person) isn't necessarily evidence of homophobia.  The fact
that gay people in the performing arts exist just isn't news.

Dave Smey
Brooklyn, NY

NP: The 6ths, Wasps' Nests