“If we turn our back, she will die.” - Sam Bassett
New York, N.Y. Storme, a documentary by Sam Bassett based on the life and times of Stonewall Veteran Storme DeLarverie screened last week to a receptive audience in Manhattan. Storme’s story has recently been featured by the New York Times and Huffington Post. She is the Rosa Parks of my LGBT community, having reportedly thrown the first punch in the Stonewall Riot that sparked Gay Rights.
The Storme film is a triumphant tribute to a great American original. The screening featured a Tape Sculpture Monument dedicated to Storme along Eleventh Street in the East Village. The film’s producer and director Sam Bassett described the significance of the momentary Monument to me:
The Tape Monument is dedicated to Storme, as well as the past, present, and future. United we stand for greatness, creativity, compassion, and follow through. It means to me ‘Rosa Parks equals Viva Storme DeLarverie equals Martin Luther King equals Barack Obama equals our united future.’ I say, ‘History makers stepforward. Support and respect!’
Sam had hoped to have Storme present, but she is not able to leave her new home in a senior center in Brooklyn, after recently vacating her decades-long home in the Hotel Chelsea. The director spoke with me after the screening, stating:
I am feeling so drained from not being able to do more to get Storme out of that home. She is very sane. The people around her in the home in Brooklyn are ‘gone.’ I do not believe Storme has dementia. She is just a bit old, but there. NOT dementia.
I think this diagnosis is shocking and wrong. They give that diagnosis in this case because Storme is just too cool to bother with certain memories. She is a true artist, and that’s how true great artists roll.
After the screening, Sam spoke to those gathered to reflect on Storme’s legacy about freedom. The Chelsea Hotel’s legendary Stanley and Phyllis Bard then spoke of the importance of protecting special people that through their sensitivity change, and shape the world.
Sam told me:
I have directed, produced, and edited seven feature films. The Storme film I completed in 2008. Last week was the first time I screened it for the public which was very lovely to see the film on the big screen.
My film work is all about thinking and understanding life to a higher degree. Because of this, the film work has been slow to be excepted. As I said, the Storme film I finished in 2008.
One man doing everything in his power to create history for the people by the people. Ahead of the curve.
Sam has a vision for Storme’s future, which entails getting her out of the public nursing home and back to the Chelsea Hotel, surrounded by her community. He told me in his artistic style:
We can do this. We will do this. Will require a meal service, nurse visiting. Possible a nurse that’s stays with her at times. I made a feature film of the poet, filmmaker, photographer Ira Cohen. He now has a full time nurse who takes care of him and is rock and roll. Life saving and elegant creating.
Storme returns to the Hotel Chelsea. We set her up proper. Allow her to sit in the lobby and have polite conversation. Meals delivered. Let people cherish her. Let her history spread to the people. We create history and our civil rights legend will live until 115 years old. Miracles happen. Let’s make as many beautiful miracles as possible.
The Hotel Chelsea truthfully is very much like a nursing home. Very similar in truth to the nursing home she is in now. It’s just the rules and style of the Brooklyn nursing home are for death, not life. Not civil rights legend status characters.
It is not dignified and its heart breaking. Storme would never complain in this moment. She is too selfless. Too elegant to complain. She is so rare, a beautiful butterfly. But like all beautiful butterflies they are delicate. If we turn our back, she will die.
I believe it’s in our power to pull this off and then sit back and enjoy the golden years, properly supported and taken care of. Elegantly marching in dignity to our golden age.
Sam wrote me after my story in The Huffington Post, “Storme sends her love and thanks you for your efforts. Big moment in history. Torch holders step forward.”
See other stories by Jim Luce on Gay and Lesbian issues:
Originally published in The Daily Kos, July 13, 2010.