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In his “Petite bibliographie biographico-romancière” (1821) the publisher Pigoreau commented on the novels of Madame Grandmaison Van-Esbecq and noted that they were “interesting and well-written,” and that by saying so, he was free of resentment. In the past, she had treated him with little elegance. He did not give any details. We know nothing about this author, not even her first name, her date of birth and death. Her debut appeared in 1797 and showed courage.

Mar 2016       
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What do a barrister, an actress, the virtuous, sensitive housewife, the courtesan, the sanctimonious lady, the shop keeper, the woman farmer, and the shoe polisher have in common? A chronicler asked himself this question in 1801, when the economy in consular France revived. The answer: they read - no, they devour - novels (the sanctimonious lady in secret). The supply of novels saw a strong increase; the book trade had become a goldmine, also because of the lending libraries that were springing up everywhere. They brought the novel in reach of those with less capital, as books were expensive. Only the rich could afford them, and they had their octavos and duodecimos beautifully bound. Mr Average had to settle for a more austere edition of his easy reading.

Feb 2016       
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One does not make the emperor wait, especially if he is the first in the Bonaparte house. His arch chancellor humbly apologized this way when he arrived late in the halls where the Council of State was gathering. “My apologies, Sire,” he said, “I was attending to a lady.” He was lying, and Napoleon knew it. “Next time, tell him,” he snapped at the latecomer, “get your walking stick and hat and leave.”

Jan 2016       
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“Greek philosophers, risen from the dead, desired ephebes, a rain of rose petals, poetry... Orgies in the manner of the Marquis de Sade... Fusion and release. The angels of Sodom celebrated their obscene rituals by means of lengthy and varied pleasures.”

Nov 2015       
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The rise of the porn movie closely coincided with that of television. Around 1945, about seventy-eight million cinema tickets were sold in a week. A quarter of a century later, the number had dropped to sixteen million because of competition from this new medium. Cinema owners wondered how they could turn the tide, and understood that they had to offer something audiences could not see on television: sex. Gay productions were only a fraction of what was being produced in this line of business; films such as “Boys in the Sand” didn’t get many viewings from straight people, of course, and would not have contributed a lot to the positive revision of the average American’s perception of homosexuals. This educational task had to be performed by television.

Aug 2015       
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In 1971 Wakefield Poole, director and former ballet dancer, talked about the casting of a film he was about to shoot with a friend. “I’ve got the perfect person for you,” his friend said. “He’s blond, six feet tall, and handsome. He’s got a nice dick, a beautiful ass, and he does everything.”

Jun 2015       
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One can’t accuse Bob Mizer of being gutless. 1947 was the year he had his first run-in with the law when he had sold the pictures he had made of almost naked bodybuilders to enthusiasts. They were found to be “obscene.” Bob’s barrister advised him to plead guilty in order to avoid a trial. The 25-year-old didn’t listen.

Jun 2015       
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William Wellman’s epos “Wings” (1927) is remarkable in more than one way. It was the first picture to receive an Oscar in the category Best Motion Picture; one of the first pictures with nudity (medically examined recruits were naked with their backs to the camera); it was also one of the first in which a man passionately kisses another man.

Apr 2015       
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Shortly after World War I, Father Mathias Marinus van Grinsven traveled the recently proclaimed Weimar Republic. A catholic trade unionist poured his heart out on a train compartment. Ever since the emperor had been kicked out, Germany had not been doing well.

Mar 2015       
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“We made love like tigers until dawn.” The thousands of more or less hysterical ladies who attended the funeral of Rudolph Valentino in 1926 in New York, would have been horrified by this diary entry, in which their idol describes a courtship with a young man. “The hero of millions of women and girls” (as Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf described him), the star of films as “The Sheikh” and “A Rogue’s Romance,” was bisexual.

Mar 2015       
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Most of us are likely to have a list of favourite gay movies. To mine (which includes “Maurice,” “Beautiful Thing,” “Latter Days” and “Grande École”) a short film from 2007 has recently been added: “Heartland” by Mark Christopher.

Dec 2014       
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One of the most beautiful shops in Haarlem, a city teeming with beautiful ones, is Gentle, the men’s underwear store in Anegang 25, in the centre of town. The premises date from about 1900. Cotex opened its doors there in 1945. They sold old-fashioned lace corsets — the merchandise was downstairs, the ladies could go upstairs to try on —, but the demand for this breath-taking article decreased, and when in 1988 Elly Koelman took over Cotex, it was clear to hear that things should change.

Sep 2012       
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Ernest Boulton, painter. You won’t find his name in the biographical dictionaries. There is no museum where you can admire his works. No student has chosen him as subject for his thesis. Yet he did get a lot of publicity during his lifetime, publicity he did not like in the slightest and which proved fatal to him in the literal sense of the word. This Englishman, born in London and a graduate of the University of Oxford, aged 32 when he got in the news, had settled at Paris in 1902.

Aug 2011       
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Montague Summers, born in 1880, looked back in his memoirs with nostalgia on his youth during the fin-de-siècle. Art, he wrote, was still taken seriously in those days, just as the way people dressed. It was equally unthinkable that you left the house without your trousers as without gloves. A gentleman uncovered his right hand when meeting a friend or acquaintance in the street; shook his or her hand, drew on the glove again, only to take it off after the conversation for the handshake at parting.

Jul 2011       
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The Adventures of Alix and Enak (II)

“They have become a kind of couple, which is a bit embarrassing.” Jacques Martin gives the impression that the homo-erotic image of Alix and Enak bothers him. If so, it would be logical henceforth to avoid all reference to homosexuality. But whoever reads the albums with attention cannot fail to remark that they contain ever more allusions, sometimes veiled, to this passion. And not just in the historical series we are scrutinizing here.

May 2010       
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The Adventures of Alix and Enak (Part I)

A cat has got nine lives, Alix Gracchus at least a hundred. In the story in which the comic hero makes his debut he escapes death exactly eighteen times. His enemies (and their name is legion) go for him with pointed weapons and sticks, a collapsing building threatens to pulverize him, wolves and crocodiles wish to devour him and ferocious mountaineers try to blind him using a red-hot poker.

May 2010       
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According to data from the Foundation for Authors’ Literary Rights, one in fifteen Dutchmen dreams of a writer’s career. You may smile about this - only one percent of the manuscripts publishers receive appear in print -, but you can also rejoice in the fact that the love of literature has not been extinguished in this our super-swift and shallow time. José Buschman from The Hague belongs to the happy few who did not find a standard rejection letter on her doormat when she asked Bas Lubberhuizen Ltd. to issue “Een dandy in de Oriënt. Louis Couperus in Afrika” (A Dandy in the Orient.

Nov 2009       
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During the Empire and the Weimar Republic gay prostitution flourished in Germany despite very restrictive legislation. In the first part of this article Caspar Wintermans described the social situation, and the attention prostitutes received from journalism and (popular) science. In the second part he focuses on some belletristic works.

Oct 2009       
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Alfred Schuler opened his eyes wide in 1903 when in the “Blätter für die Kunst” he came across a poem which had been written and dedicated to him by Stefan George. In it, the twentieth century was criticized by the spirit of Manlius, a boy who around 300 AD had applied himself to “the lowest profession you hardly dare to mention”: “Anointed with Persian perfumes I used to go about this gate by night, and give myself to the soldiers of the emperors!”

Sep 2009       
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Whoever likes to be guillotined? The royalist painter Élisabeth Vigée Lebrun didn’t relish the prospect which is why she precipitately left Paris after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. She remained abroad for a long time, where she was received with open arms. In her memoirs she described a summery boat trip she made with some friends near Saint Petersburgh shortly before the turn of the century.

Apr 2009       
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‘Trembling With Fear, Elated With Joy’

On 2 February 1905 a drama was enacted in Bonn which hit the headlines. Jules-Marie Malbranche, an eighteen-year-old student from Paris, shot himself through the head, not once, but twice, in broad daylight in a park. Miraculously, he survived this act of despair, which he had previously explained in a letter to his parents: he could not come to terms with his homosexuality, was unhappily in love, and had been strengthened in his resolution to end his life by the perusal of Dédé, a novel by Achille Essebac in which he had seen the reflection of his own conflict.

Oct 2008       
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Among the curiosities treasured in the Royal Library in The Hague is found a pamphlet of 32 pages which the parson’s son and former parson Hubertus Johannes Schouten issued in 1908 in the same place. Not under his own name; the subject he discussed was much too risky for that. The author had set himself the task to refute a number of prejudices against gays which were current at the time.

Feb 2009       
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