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KEY WEST, City of Colors DVD
"In Key West, nobody cares who you want to sleep with." "You have gays, straights, Europeans, Latin Americans, Blacks, Cubans, and White folks all living together on a 2 by 4 mile island. When you put people that close together, they tend to find ways to get along." And on this amazing island only 90 miles from Cuba, this very diverse community celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Rainbow Flag by stretching the longest Rainbow Flag in history -- 6600 feet in all -from one end of the island to the other.
Reviewer: Grady Hrp (Los Angeles, CA)
An Homage to an Island of Understanding
KEY WEST: CITY OF COLORS is a fine little documentary meant by its creator Talmadge to focus on the unraveling of a 1 and 1/4 mile long Rainbow Flag down Duval Street connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico. The beauty of the film is not just the documentation of this 2003 event marking the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Rainbow Flag by Gilbert Baker, it is also a celebration of the little island of Key West and the people who live there.
Creator Talmadge presents a brief history of this isolated island at the far southern tip of the United States (closer to Cuba than to Miami!), showing old photographs of the sponge business, the piracy, the smuggling, and the ever present cohabitation of African Americans, Hispanics, famous artists, wealthy, poor, gay and straight citizens. He then spends a great deal of the film in interviews with many of the residents - some lifelong some newly transplanted - who explain in warm and simple terms why this oasis for acceptance is an oasis for human kind.
The colors are rich, the parade of the flag unfolding from ocean to gulf is magnificent and inspiring, and the message of peaceful coexistence serves as a goal for us all.
Gilbert Baker Bio and History of the Rainbow Flag
By Gilbert Baker
Gilbert Baker, known as the gay Betsy Ross, is the creator of the Rainbow Flag. He designed the flag in San Francisco in 1978 as a positive alternative to the Pink Triangle -- a symbol first used by the Nazis to identify homosexuals.
Baker, born in Kansas in 1951, arrived in San Francisco as an Army draftee in 1970. Like Dorothy in Oz, he found himself in a different and more colorful world. He dreamt of being an artist and, at the same time, fell in love with drag. He quickly learned to sew in order to create the costumes he couldn't afford to buy.
He came out of the closet in 1971 and received an Honorable Discharge from the Army in 1972. In 1975, he met activist and budding politico Harvey Milk, whom Baker credits with getting him involved in gay activism and with changing his life. Milk was elected as San Francisco's first openly gay supervisor on November 7, 1977.
Throughout the early 70's, Baker was known to work day and night sewing banners and creating bold visuals for gay protests and marches. When actress Anita Bryant publicly labeled all gay men child molesters in 1977, Harvey Milk convinced Baker to create a symbol that would call the gay movement to action.
Baker immediately got to work on the project, and, in the spirit of Betsy Ross, Baker hand-sewed and dyed the strips of fabric that would later become the Rainbow Flag. The original Rainbow Flag had eight stripes: fuchsia; red; orange; yellow; green; turquoise; blue; and, purple -- which represent sex, life, healing, sunlight, nature, magic serenity and spirit.
The Rainbow Flag first flew during the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. Two eight-color Rainbow Flags, each measuring 30 feet by 60 feet, flew from the flagpoles at United Nations Plaza.
In the wake of Harvey Milk's tragic assassination later that year (November 1978), Baker was moved to create a flag display for San Francisco's Market Street for the 1979 Gay Freedom Day Parade. When he discovered there was no fuchsia fabric readily available from commercial flag makers (he was creating far too many flags for the fabric to be hand-dyed), he simplified the Rainbow Flag by eliminating fuchsia and then turquoise in order to keep the flag design evenly balanced. The six-color flag gained popularity steadily. Baker then began working with the Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco to produce the first commercial Rainbow Flags in six colors.
Baker began designing flags for other events including State visits to San Francisco by: the President of Italy; the President of France; the Premier of China; the President of the Philippines; the President of Venezuela; and, the King of Spain. He designed flags for the 1984 Democratic National Convention, the 1985 Super Bowl, San Francisco Symphony Black and White Balls and stage and street decorations for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parades from 1979 through 1993. In 1994 Baker created the history making mile-long Rainbow Flag for Stonewall 25 in New York to mark the 25th anniversary of the gay civil rights movement. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized the mile-long Stonewall 25 Rainbow Flag as the world's largest flag.
Baker has mounted exhibitions illustrating the history of the flag for World Pride Rome in 2000 and in 2002 he brought his exhibition to the New York City LGBT Community Center. This year his work and historical collections are being presented in two San Francisco exhibits at the LGBT Center and the Hormel Collection at the San Francisco Public Library.
Currently, Baker is sewing the world's longest Rainbow Flag -- restored to its original eight colors -- to celebrate the Flag's Silver Anniversary: Rainbow25 presented by ABSOLUT VODKA (www.rainbow25.org). The Rainbow25 Sea-to-Sea Flag -- a mile-and-a-quarter long -- will be unfurled in Key West, Florida on June 15, 2003. Parts of the Flag will then be shared with more than 100 cities around the world.
Gilbert Baker lives in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
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