Do Writers Deserve Respect? Some Say Yes – The New York Times

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The New York Public Library celebrated the foundational texts of the American gay rights movement, and also writers were rewarded with awards for writing at the 71st Annual Writers Guild Awards.

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“I would like to see a Pen-Pal Club initiated?” That was question eleven on confidential survey sent to members of the Mattachine Society, a midcentury gay and lesbian rights group. Reflecting the risk of being openly L.G.B.T. in the 1960s, an anonymous respondent circled “no,” adding, by typewriter: “Could lead to blackmail.”
The questionnaire is one of 160 documents on display at the main branch of the New York Public Library as part of “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50,” which opened Thursday night. The exhibition is tied to this summer’s fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, which launched the modern L.G.B.T. rights movement.
Among the thousand guests enjoying plastic cups of white wine and cheese straws in the library’s marble corridors were Wilson Cruz, the actor; Gayfryd Steinberg and Kwame Anthony Appiah, who are library trustees; Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander from the New York City Council; Alison Bechdel, the writer and artist; Tony Marx, the library’s chief executive, and Jason Baumann, the assistant director responsible for the exhibition, as well as Rita Mae Brown and Edmund White, pioneering queer writers who were present at the riots.
“When the cops came down Christopher Street, a whole bunch of boys ran back around on Gay Street, and came out in a chorus line, kicking,” said Mr. White. “At the end of Christopher Street on Greenwich Avenue was a women’s prison, which was full of lesbians. And they were all shouting down encouragement.”
“Somehow they got their mattresses on the fire escapes and they were all on fire,” said Ms. Brown. “They were screaming, and the paddy wagons were coming from all directions. I thought everything was going to blow up.”
Documents in the exhibition, including photographs by Kay Tobin Lahusen and Diana Davies, chronicle the spectrum of gay activism, relationships and media in the 1960s and 70s.
Question five on the Mattachine survey, by the way, asks whether its weekly singles’ dances should have go-go boys. The respondent typed in: “Go-go boys sometimes. Cost might be too high.”
“I agreed to do this show, not realizing it was the same night as the N.B.A. all-star game,” joked Roy Wood Jr., a “Daily Show” correspondent, on Sunday. “But, that’s what D.V.R. is for.”
Mr. Wood was hosting the 71st Annual Writers Guild Awards, given to members of the Writers Guild of America East, a union representing scribes for film, television, news and new media.
The event was held at the Edison Ballroom, a Times Square venue with red lighting, tufted pleather wall-panels and gold-fringed, red velvet curtains. It’s a room where you wouldn’t be surprised to find Hugh Hefner, lying in state.
Among the mix of guests, presenters and nominees were Jimmy Fallon, the “Tonight Show” host; Michael Moore, the documentarian; Mj Rodriguez, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski and Julianna Margulies, the actors, plus Alfonso Cuarón, Tarell Alvin McCraney, James Schamus, Gillian Flynn and Kenneth Lonergan, who — among other things — write.
None of them won. But among the dozens of guild-members who did go home with a trophy were writers for “General Hospital,” “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and Kotaku, a website for gamers and their friends.
“Writers don’t get the respect they deserve,” Mr. Wood said over cocktails before the show.
Amy Sedaris, a nominee who was passing by, chimed in: “They are the bottom of the heap! And that’s where they belong!”
Mr. Wood went on: “The problem is, writers don’t brag enough. Actors brag, they get in fights in bars, but writers just write — then they go home and rest. Tonight, we need a fight. For the kids, for the young writer that’s watching this: fight.”
It’s true the ceremony — which ran for three hours and six minutes, just five minutes shorter than “Gandhi” — was substantially less gripping than the work it celebrated. To close the show, Mr. Wood appeared bedraggled, like a marathon runner finally at the finish line.
“I want you to remember the way you feel right now when you make the decision to put an extra scene in your movie,” he told the assembled writers. “Cut that bit.” Except he didn’t say “bit.”


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