Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 19 January 1998


Rough News—Daring Views, by the Legendary Visionary Jim Kepner
"On Kepner's shoulders rests what's best in gay news commentary!"

Book Review by Jack Nichols

Rough News—Daring Views: 1950s' Pioneer Gay Press Journalism, by Jim Kepner, The Harrington Park Press, 1998, 462 pages, available through in both paper ($19.96) and cloth ($49.95).

Last year I considered it a foremost honor to receive a request from the Harrington Park Press to write a pre-publication blurb for Jim Kepner's new book, Rough NewsDaring Views: 1950s' Pioneer Gay Press Journalism. As Badpuppy's GayToday editor, I affixed my signature to what I wrote and mailed it happily to the publisher.

I was happy to oblige because I knew that Jim Kepner, a gentle and quite modest pioneer of the gay and lesbian movement, had long deserved to be hailed as one of the movement's foremost minds. Oh, yeah, they trotted him out on special occasions, to be sure. But did they really know who he was and what he'd done? OUT ran his picture during a recent gay pride week. But who is this Jim Kepner, anyway?

He was the founder of the International Gay & Lesbian Archives now housed in the University of Southern California, and he was the granddaddy of American gay news journalism, that's who. I'd dimly hoped upon mailing it that my "praise-prose" might make it to the back cover of Kepner's collection of his 1950s gay news commentaries.

The astonishment I felt last week upon receipt of this new book, however, can hardly be put into words. Not only was my "praise-prose" chosen out of many others but its above-- at the cover's top-- the only other quote featured. This second quote is by the legendary lesbian activist/authors, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin.

I'm identified—under my quote-- as Senior Editor, Badpuppy's GayToday and as an author. This blurb has been taken from a longer appreciation I'd written and which appears inside the book next to those by the Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts; the Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies, University of Southern California; the Executive Director of the Mattachine Society, Inc; a SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus and a Distinguished Professor of History at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Hey, Mom, that's heady company for a sixth grade graduate like your son, no? Well, I guess I almost forgot that my journalist- hero, Jim Kepner, hardly went any further in school himself.

So what did I say about him? On the cover: "Puts Kepner in his proper context as that of a pioneering giant on whose shoulders much of what's best in American gay news coverage and commentary rests."

The full text of my appreciative blurb inside the book:

"When he was a baby, Jim Kepner—now a legend of American gay journalism—was found wrapped in a newspaper under an oleander bush, thus wrapping him also in a kind of Newspaperperson's Moses drag. Rough News, Daring Views puts this extraordinary man in his proper context as that of a pioneering giant on whose shoulders much of what is best in American gay news coverage and commentary rests. Kepner's philosophical interests are always broad, his fairness sound, and he is ever a tireless-artist-reporter, overflowing with punchy, inquisitive daring, while his erudition erupts in wide-ranging, thought-provoking pieces. This great book, an historic treasure, shockingly shows how far we've traveled since the social barbarism of the 1950s. Yet reportage today could be vastly improved if lesbian and gay media giants were to study the attitudes reflected by this gentle observer, Jim Kepner, thereby passing to the future the best to be plucked from his feisty spirit."

I wrote these lines in gratitude for the life of Jim Kepner while he still lived. He didn't, unfortunately, live to see his new book hit the stands nor to savor the praise of other reviewers. He died very suddenly—November 15, 1997—at the approximate age of 75.

I will miss my old comrade-in-arms but that he saw my short review of his work, and, perhaps, helped place it on his book's cover, returns his loving spirit regularly into my waking consciousness as I recall his kindly, ever-gentle bearing. That manner of his, no doubt, was his great strength. I am as proud of my appreciation of him there on his book as of anything I can think of.

© 1998 BEI; All Rights Reserved.
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