The Head Table Place Cards

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)

Known for his elegant society portraits — primarily of women and children — Sargent was a life-long bachelor. Fellow painter Jacques-Émile Blanche maintained that Sargent’s sex life "was notorious in Paris, and in Venice, positively scandalous. He was a frenzied bugger." Sargent’s charcoal renderings of nude men are unquestionably more sensuous than the standard academic exercises of that genre.

Margaret Cho (1968- )

The Korean-American actress and comedian has appeared frequently in movies and on television (including starring in her own series, All American Girl), but she is best known for her controversial stand-up comedy, which deals frankly with issues of ethnicity, body image, and her own bisexuality.

José Sarria (1922- )

In the 1950s and 1960s Sarria’s musical performances at the Black Cat Café in San Francisco made him one of the gay community’s earliest leaders. With his entrance into the race for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961, he became the first openly gay candidate for public office in the U.S. He is the founder of the Imperial Court System and still performs in his character as the Widow Norton.

James Baldwin (1924-1987)

After his semi-autobiographical novel about African Americans in Harlem, Go Tell It On the Mountain, and his book of essays, Notes of a Native Son, Baldwin in 1956 confounded all expectations by publishing the gay-themed novel Giovanni’s Room. Not only was the novel about the unhappy lives of homosexuals, but all of the main characters were white. Throughout his life Baldwin sought to avoid labels that would limit him as a writer and as an activist.

Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967)

A native San Franciscan, Alice Babette Toklas was living a fairly common upper-middle class American life when in 1907 in Paris she met Gertrude Stein. In an oral history interview recorded for the University of California, she remembered that first meeting: "She sat there and said nothing — as usual. She didn’t talk until she commenced to talk, you see. She sat there and smiled a little bit. Just a small smile. She had such wonderful eyes. I had an impression of her eyes."

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

In her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Gertrude Stein gathered the avant-garde of European painters and the Lost Generation of American writers. Stein’s love for the English language led her to develop a writing style of her own that pushed the limits of sound, meaning, and rhythm to unsurpassed creative heights. Her work is in turns obscure and enlightening, innocently playful and intellectually challenging.

Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989)

Born George William Jorgensen, Jr., Christine Jorgensen was one of the first Americans to undergo sex reassignment surgery. After hormone therapy and a series of operations in Denmark, she returned to the US in 1952 in a blaze of publicity. Jorgensen became an entertainer and the first American activist for transsexual issues. Her very public and very successful transition gave hope to thousands who sought gender reassignment.

Ruth / Arroh-ah-och (circa 1880-circa 1920)

Little is known about the potter named Ruth or Arroh-ah-och, other than s/he was a berdache, a gender-variant member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe who was biologically male but who adopted a female gender role (considered a third gender, neither male nor female). Ruth is believed to have learned to make pots at Zuni, and to have brought a unique style to Laguna Pueblo pottery. The pot on display was collected for the University of California in 1903 by P.M. Jones, who also took the portrait photographs of Ruth; while the identity of the potter is uncertain, the pot is in Ruth’s style.

Ma Rainey (1886?-1939)

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey was known as The Mother of the Blues. Under contract with Paramount Records during the 1920s, she became one of the earliest and most successful African American recording artists. Rainey’s "Prove It On Me Blues" includes the explicit lyrics: "They say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me / Sure got to prove it on me / Went out last night with a crowd of my friends / They must’ve been women, ’cause I don’t like no men."

Ramón Novarro (1899-1968)

Born José Ramón Gil Samaniego in Durango, Mexico, Novarro revolutionized the concept of the Hollywood leading man. At a time when the masculine ideal in America was the blond Arrow Shirt Collar Man, Ramón Novarro and Rudolph Valentino together embodied the Latin Lover — and audiences swooned. Though he remained in the closet, Novarro resisted studio efforts to force him into a sham marriage to cover his homosexuality.