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Jill Johnston obit


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#1 sandik

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 10:37 PM

Jill Johnston, former dance critic for the Village Voice and author of Lesbian Nation, died earlier this week. While she didn't really write about ballet, she was integral to the development of American dance criticism.

NYT obit

#2 dirac

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 05:27 AM

Thank you for posting the obit, sandik. I saw it, meant to post it in the Links, and forgot. Johnston was not a ballet critic but she did write for Ballet Review back in the day. Marmalade Me is great reading. Johnston's website, here.

I'm an old-timer gone reactionary and rheumy. That's what happens. I loved the Baryshnikov show. (I take it that his elderly Judson captives did too.) And far from expecting anything so democratic as the '60s revolutionary inclusiveness to happen again, I look forward to the enthronement of the next woman in the great line of Duncan, St. Denis, Graham and Humphrey. This is a heritage that Americans can be proud of. It carries the only creative medium in the world invented, evolved and heroized by the weaker sex. My present superannuation has its roots back in the 1950s while I was seated at the feet of Doris Humphrey, a choreographic genius who no longer danced due to an arthritic hip. By then the modernist movement was having its last hurrah.


An appreciation.

Thespian lemonist, dance cricket, and irrepressible funster, Jill Johnston seemed to be everywhere in the 1970s—in the Village Voice, on the Dick Cavett Show, in Time magazine. And then she wasn’t. And then she appeared again in a conversation with the sound poet Anne Witten in 1985 on an island off the coast of Maine.



#3 sandik

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 11:08 AM

Thanks so much for the links -- the article from the Vancouver Observer has an astonishing photo of Johnston and Dick Cavett -- two people who were so influential in the evolution of the culture.

#4 papeetepatrick

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 12:08 PM

This is so strange to hear about, and that she was 81! I hadn't heard a word about her for decades, and I do remember those years of the early 70s when she wrote in the Voice every week--I read every single thing she wrote. I never had read such wild ramblings, and they were thrilling. I guess she had read 'Naked Lunch', but I hadn't.

#5 bart

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Posted 25 September 2010 - 12:56 PM

Patrick, your post also speaks for me.

Johnston was an omnipresence in the Village (what was then the"downtown Manhattan art scene") when I moved there in the 60s. I shared her enthusiasms only occasionally, but I learned from them -- as indeed from so much in the old Village Voice -- and was very glad she had them.

The Far Right here in the U.S. is STILL having apoplexy about positions (cultural and political) like those professed by Johnston 4 decades ago.

Dirac, thanks for those links. Does anyone have an idea of what

Thespian lemonist

could possibly mean?

#6 dirac

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Posted 25 September 2010 - 03:06 PM

It's clearly a play on "lesbian feminist." Wouldn't surprise me if it's in Johnston's writings somewhere if it's not the writer's coinage. It rings a bell.

#7 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 September 2010 - 03:33 PM

It's clearly a play on "lesbian feminist." Wouldn't surprise me if it's in Johnston's writings somewhere if it's not the writer's coinage. It rings a bell.


Makes me wonder if she invented the term for 'Lithuanian' for Lesbian. I don't think so, though, because around 2004 I read this book 'Cherry Grove', which was a history (well, I know that's pretty arcane, but it was interesting), and they were talking about this usage. I don't think I recall Johnston's name ever coming up, although I imagine it should have (maybe did, I just can't remember).

I think it was after that that I read Susan Sontag's interview with Baryshnikov about his new arts center, and she brought up something about a hypothetical 'Lithuanian play'. I thought later she and he might have been in on using it for 'Lesbian', although I shouldn't imagine that there aren't Lithuanian literatures, just because I know nothing of it.

Johnston did lots of inventive word things, and it's something I see some people doing right now--usually pretty smart ones have these inventions.

#8 Paul Parish

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 07:19 PM

Lithuanian for Lesbian?

Thank you.

THe genius Karamazov sister Sarah Felder of SanFrancisco has a HILARIOUS juggling routine in which she tosses things in various orbits while telling a story about how she discovered she was a ...juggler. Ok, hte piece is called Lipstick Lesbian, and she spent the first 90 seconds painting her lips bright red with a very gooey lipstick while explaining how "Lipstick Lesbian" refers to a kind of dyke who does NOT exchew the feminine mystique and only then starteds tossing her balls, there's NO misunderstanding that juggler stands in for Lesbian as she worries about how she'll tell her parents, etc.

But I've never run into '0Lithuanian.'

There's a rich set of simple substitutions for "gay man' that have been and maybe still are in use among gay men -- starting with Urnian, or Uranian, or Bunburyist, from the Oscar Wilde era, through "friend of Dorothy" and "[he's] family" -- and of course, "poet" goes a long way back... But I haven't run into many such for Lesbians.

Johnston was clearly a genius. Last time I tried to buy "Marmalade me Now," it was out of print and Amazon had used copies stating at 125 dollars......

#9 sandik

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 09:13 AM

Johnston was clearly a genius. Last time I tried to buy "Marmalade me Now," it was out of print and Amazon had used copies stating at 125 dollars......


Oh dear, really? I'll be nicer to my copy...

#10 rg

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 09:16 AM

the maddening aspect of both the first publication and the later reprint is that neither includes an index.
maddening not be able to dip into Johnston's writings for specific subjects.


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