Carter, David 1954(?)-
CARTER, David 1954(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1954, in Jesup, GA. Education: Emory University, B.A.; University of Wisconsin, M.A.
CAREER: Writer, editor, and director. Directed film Meher Baba.
(Editor) Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews, 1958–1996, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Author of biographies of Salvadore Dali and George Santayana.
SIDELIGHTS: David Carter is a writer and filmmaker, as well as the editor of Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews, 1958–1996, a collection of the letters of Beat poet Alan Ginsberg (1926–1997). Ginsberg is best known as the author of the 1956 poem, which survived censorship trials to become one of the most-read poems of the Beat oeuvre. Raj Ayyar, interviewing Carter on the Gay Today Web site, noted that Ginsberg "saw the interview as an art form, a teaching tool and as a way of touching people across time and space. In fact, he believed that the interview was a mode of transmitting the artist's consciousness through time, even beyond his own death."
Carter first met Ginsberg in the mid-1970s when the poet was giving a reading at Emory University and interviewed him for a gay cable show in Wisconsin in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, Carter talked to Ginsberg's secretary about editing these interviews for a book, and Ginsberg gave the project his blessing. Carter told Ayyar that Ginsberg's "honesty, courage, and sense of principle permeate his life and work. Which is why there is a sense of congruence and continuity about all the decades of his work. He was someone who was always alive to the present instead of beating the same old drum for thirty years, which is one of the reasons that the evolution of his thought is genuine, organic, and has integrity."
Carter is also the author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, a history of the six days of riots that began on June 28, 1969, after police raided a Mafia-owned gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called his account "a complete, full-bodied portrait, with lots of flesh on the bones of a strong narrative structure." At the time of the riots, homosexual sex was illegal in every state except Illinois, and New York's laws were among the most severe. As Carter writes, "By 1961, the laws in America were harsher on homosexuals than those in Cuba, Russia, or East Germany, countries that the United States criticized for their despotic ways." Stonewall led to the gay-rights movement and the formation of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance and sparked the beginning of activism that changed laws and broke down barriers.
Carter researched Stonewall for more than ten years, interviewing ninety-one people, including seventy witnesses to the riots, and delving into the history of the time. Don Gorton noted in Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide that Carter "has produced the first work that can be considered a comprehensive factual rendering of the Stonewall riots." In the book Carter provides a history of the Stonewall Inn, from its beginnings in the 1930s as a horse stable and bakery to its place in Beat culture. He describes how Greenwich Village evolved into a bohemian enclave and Christopher Street, where the Stonewall Inn is located, establishing itself as the center of gay culture. He notes the cross-section of patrons, and the welcoming atmosphere the street provided for street youth, many of them homeless and living in Greenwich Village. A major draw of the Stonewall Inn was same-sex dancing, rare at the time. There were a substantial number of men who openly wore makeup and feminine clothing, and according to reports, the drag queens were the first to resist during the raid, since under law, they were subject to genital inspection by policewomen to determine their gender. Reportedly, it was the resistance of a brawny lesbian that extended the length of the riot; fighting the police, she created outrage in the primarily male crowed over the beating of a woman by the police. "Carter singles out the street youths as most responsible for the conduct of the riots," said Gorton. "The most effeminate gay men consistently demonstrated the greatest physical courage." They sang and danced and darted through the neighborhood as they were pursued by police.
That this group of mostly gay men was able to evade riot police was viewed with amazement. By July 2, other groups, including the straight New Left, joined the protest, but the street queens continued to put up the strongest resistance. Carter includes the perspective of Inspector Seymour Pine, who was in charge of the raid. Pine, who had written the U.S. Army's manual on hand-to-hand combat during World War II, admitted to his fear at being inside the club as the strength of the rioters gained momentum outside. Rioters threw whatever they could find and rammed the heavy doors of the Inn with a parking meter. When Pine and his men radioed for help, a voice on the police radio would say to "disregard that call." Pine ordered his men not to fire into the crowd.
Pine explained that one of the key reasons for shutting the bar down had nothing to do with the clientele. The Stonewall was the base of a Mafia blackmail operation targeting wealthy gay men that had been set up as far back as the 1930s. Ed Murphy, who managed the Stonewall, conducted his operation with impunity, because he had ensnared FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. According to Carter, the police were less interested in breaking up the party and more interested in breaking up the Mafia's extortion of influential gay people.
Gorton concluded by saying that Carter "has written what is likely to become the definitive history of this event in the struggle for [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered] … liberation. Both scholarly and highly readable, the book deserves attention from all who have benefited from the historical events it so faithfully recounts." "This is a terrific piece of nonfiction," wrote Noel Alumit in the "Advocate," "a satisfying, illuminating document that will be referred to time and time again when the issues of Stonewall and gay liberation are raised. It should be read by younger generations who may need reminding that we're a privileged lot. Before we danced freely under a hot sun, we danced in darkness for fear of being arrested—or worse."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, June 22, 2004, Noel Alumit, review of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, p. 100.
American Prospect, July 2, 2001, Julie Ardery, review of Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews, 1958–1996, p. 45.
Booklist, March 1, 2001, Ray Olson, review of Spontaneous Mind, p. 1219; June 1, 2004, Whitney Scott, review of Stonewall, p. 1675.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, November-December, 2004, Don Gorton, review of Stonewall, p. 37.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2004, review of Stonewall, p. 372.
Lambda Book Report, August-September, 2004, Ken Cimino, review of Stonewall, p. 14.
Library Journal, May 15, 2004, Richard J. Violette, review of Stonewall, p. 104.
New York Times Book Review, January 23, 2005, Phillip Lopate, review of Stonewall, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, March 5, 2001, review of Spontaneous Mind, p. 68; May 31, 2004, review of Stonewall, p. 67.
Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association Web site, http://www.galha.org/ (December 25, 2005), Warren Allen Smith, review of Stonewall.
Gay City News Onlin, http://www.gaycitynews.com/ (June 24, 2004), interview with Carter.
Gay Today Web sote, http://gaytoday.badpuppy.com/ (March 8, 2005), Raj Ayyar, interview with Carter.
Gotham Gazette Online, http://www.gothamgazette.com/ (June 18, 2004), interview with Carter.