May 18, 2008 in Nation/World

In passing: Ruth Simpson, gay rights activist

The Spokesman-Review
 

Ruth Simpson, a leader in the gay liberation movement who wrote a well-regarded critique of social and political attitudes toward lesbians in the 1970s, died May 8, in Woodstock, N.Y., after a series of illnesses. She was 82.

Simpson became prominent in 1970, when she led the New York chapter of Daughters of Bilitis, the oldest U.S. lesbian rights organization. As president, she began to steer it in a more activist direction, which included establishing one of the first lesbian community centers in the United States.

She also wrote “From the Closet to the Courts,” a book that examined discrimination against lesbians in various arenas, including religion, psychiatry, the legal system and the women’s and gay rights movements. Originally published in 1976 by Viking Press and reissued last year by Take Root Media, it was unusual for its time, not only because few major publishers were interested in works about lesbianism but also because it blended personal history with analysis.

“It was a pioneering book. In some ways it was a very brave book, personal and also political,” said Lillian Faderman, a scholar of lesbian literature and history who teaches at California State University, Fresno. “I think women in the lesbian community found it very exciting and liberating.”

Simpson was born March 15, 1926, in Cleveland.

John Phillip Law, ‘Barbarella’ actor

John Phillip Law, a tall, blond actor who cut a striking figure as the blind angel opposite Jane Fonda in 1968’s “Barbarella” and in other film roles, has died. He was 70.

Law died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home, said his ex-wife, Shawn Ryan. The cause of death was not announced.

Born in Los Angeles on Sept. 7, 1937, to Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff John Law and actress Phyllis Sallee, Law decided to become an actor after taking drama classes at the University of Hawaii.

He moved to New York in the early 1960s, studied with Elia Kazan at the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater and landed bit parts on Broadway. Law got a break in the form of Roger Vadim’s science-fiction fantasy starring Fonda, who was then married to the director. Equipped with oversize, feathery wings, Law’s bronzed angel Pygar shields Fonda’s gun-toting, go-go-boot-wearing heroine in her intergalactic adventures.

Law, who mastered Italian and Spanish in his European travels, worked steadily in Hollywood and abroad. He also had a stint playing Jim Grainger on the daytime television drama “The Young and the Restless.”

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