News Remarks by John Scagliotti
I'd like to thank President McCulloch-Lovell and Marlboro College for according me this honor. I was pleased to see that Marlboro College was recognizing me not only for my work in film and television but also for my role on behalf of the LGBT and allied community.
I am accepting this honorary degree in the memory of Ron Squires, an eighth-generation Vermonter, a neighbor and friend from my hometown in Guilford, who, as the first openly gay legislator in 1990, led the way to passage of legislation that would stop discrimination in the workplace and housing for gay and lesbian Vermonters. It was pioneering work, as Vermont became only the sixth state in the nation at the time to pass such civil rights legislation.
Ron died from complications of AIDS early in his life, at 41, right after winning his first re-election campaign. Ron's work inspired many of us, including his mother, Shirley. Each May she has participated in the Brattleboro AIDS Walk in honor of her son. She walks again for the 19th time next Saturday. Over these past years, she has raised close to $200,000 for the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont.
The struggle for human rights has been hard fought, and my presence here is an indication of how far it has brought us. An old-timer from the black struggle in the South likes to say, "You can learn about history, you can read history, but when you've lived history, you can talk about it." I guess I've done all three--and I could tell you stories--but, in the end, what's driven me is the belief that if we really want a world fit to live in, if we have any hope of a just society in the future, we need to know our history of struggle, and we need to be vigilant in preserving it.
For all our sakes, I hope the students graduating this year never stop learning history, and take the chance to live it. On this important occasion for me, I asked my neighbor, the poet Verandah Porche, to write a few words to end my acknowledgement of the honor you bestow on me today. Verandah writes:
When the world hurts
and Death holds court with the patriarchs, in the hinterland are
loaves and fishes.
Love throws a pot luck.
About John Scagliotti
John Scagliotti, the award-winning filmmaker, television producer and radio broadcaster, was the creator and executive producer of In the Life. This historical breakthrough was the first gay and lesbian national
series on PBS, which began in 1991 with only six stations; today the 20th season of In the Life is carried by more than one hundred PBS stations, including the top twenty-five markets in the nation as well as Vermont's
Public Television Station. Overseeing In The Life's programming and expansion, Scagliotti emphasized the importance of projecting the gay community's contribution to culture, politics and entertainment in America.
"The gay community touches every aspect of contemporary life, influencing styles, attitudes and the arts. "In the Life" is for anyone willing to accept the challenge that gay realities are human realities," said Scagliotti at the time the series was launched on PBS.
As News and Public Affairs Director of WBCN-FM in Boston in the early 1970s, Scagliotti was one of the pioneers in multi-sound mix documentaries and received two Major Armstrong Awards ("FM's Oscars") for
his work. In 1973, with his late partner, the journalist Andrew Kopkind, Scagliotti produced The Lavender Hour the first gay and lesbian variety program on American commercial radio.
The Stuff of Dreams (1978), his documentary chronicle of a Vermont community's development through a summer with Shakespeare, was shown on Public Television and won first prize at the New England Film Festival and received a red ribbon in the American Film Festival. He created the film with Marlboro residents Alan Dater and Susan Dater.
In 1985 Scagliotti released the documentary film, Before Stonewall, A History Of The Making of the Gay and Lesbian Community in America , which was the first documentary concerning gay and lesbian issues ever to receive major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. After its national broadcast on PBS in December of 1986, the film went on to win two Emmy Awards as well as other honors including first place at FILMEX in Los Angeles.
In 1987 as program director of WBAI, the Pacifica Foundation's network outlet in New York City, he made national news with the programming of an artistic reading of James Joyce's "Ulysses," starring Ann Meara as the passionate Molly Bloom. This special eight-hour live uncensored program was seen as a test case of the FCC's restrictive rulings on so-called indecent programming on radio and television.
In 1997 Scagliotti began work on the sequel to Before Stonewall. After Stonewall chronicles the history of the lesbian and gay movement from the riots at Stonewall to the end of the 20th Century. Narrated by
musical artist, Melissa Etheridge, it captures the hard work, struggles, tragic defeats and exciting victories experienced in the three decades following the riots. The documentary had a national PBS release on June
23rd, 1999 during prime time, the first for a documentary covering gay and lesbian history.
The film also won the Outfest Film Festival Audience Award and the Cine Golden Eagle and has been shown in numerous festivals including Britain's Sheffield International Documentary Festival and QueerDoc in
Sydney, Australia. Major Funders included Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Soros Documentary Fund, Suburu of America, Inc, and Citibank.
In 2001 he finished a documentary on gender differences in children entitled Oliver Button is a Star! based on the book by the well known children's author, Tomie dePaolo. The program was broadcast on PBS and has been shown to hundreds of teachers and educators in school systems throughout the nation. The film was honored by the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Journalists at its 10 anniversary convention in San Francisco in 2001.
His next documentary in 2003 was Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World. That film covers the Cairo 52 entrapment of gay men on the Queen boat on the river Nile. It also chronicles the lives and
struggles of gays and lesbians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The film won the silver plaque from the Chicago International Television Awards and audience awards at Alternatives Hartford Film Festival, Barcelona and Brussels Film Festivals. It has been seen in more than 60 festivals including London, New York, San Francisco, Turin, Sydney, Manila, Miami, Toronto, Vancouver and Barcelona. It was broadcast on Canadian television and had a cable premiere in the United States on Here!TV in 2004 and is now presently playing on Viacom's LOGO television cable system. It was also screened at the first gay film festival in an Arabic country (Beirut, Lebanon) in 2004.
Scagliotti speaks with his films at many universities and colleges around the world. In 2008 he was the guest lecturer of the "George Mosse Lecture" at the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.
For the past two years, Scagliotti has been working on his new documentary Before Homosexuals, the prequel to Before Stonewall which covers same-sex expressions from ancient times to the beginning of the 20th century.
He is also currently the Administrator of the Kopkind Colony, a living memorial to the journalist Andrew Kopkind. In that capacity since 1999, he administers and programs a number of resident journalist and independent filmmaker seminars at his farm (and film and editing studio) in Guilford, Vermont during the summers. He has for the last six years programmed "CineSLAM", Vermont's LGBT Festival of Shorts for Pride month in Brattleboro and the Organ Barn in Guilford.
Scagliotti received his Master of Fine Arts Degree from New York University's Graduate School of Film and Television in 1983. He and his partner, David W. Hall, reside at their home in Guilford, VT with their son, David Michael Hall.