A Modern Man

When one of our friends told us he was gay I said, “I would be so disappointed if one of the boys…” and before I could finish he said, “was gay.”  “No. Was gay and felt like he couldn’t tell me.”

Ten years later what strikes me is that there is a need for any telling at all.  That the gender of the person to whom you are attracted is news.

Born in 1922, interior designer Melvin Dwork, grew up in Kansas City.  I have no idea if there was a discussion or not, but he notes that his family took his homosexuality in stride.  This is remarkable not only for its day, but for this city where coming out stories of forty and fifty year old married men are not uncommon even now.

As a few local designers have done, he loved the Nelson, attended the Kansas City Art Institute and furthered his design education at Parsons.  He enlisted for service in the U.S. Navy’s Hospital Corp during WWII.

Upon suspicion of his homosexuality, the Navy confined Dwork to the Brig for a month, breaking his confinement only for interrogation and psychoanalysis.  The Navy eventually released Dwork from service with an undesirable discharge.  He returned to New York and Parsons allowed him to attend on scholarship.

Seventy years later, after decades of work, the Pentagon changed the status of his discharge from undesirable to honorable and reinstated his benefits.

Filmmaker, Mike Jacoby, is making The Undesirable, a film of Dwork’s story.  Much work has been done, but they are still raising money to complete the production.  I have made a small donation and I am inviting you to donate, too.

Dwork has had a successful and celebrated career in design.  His work has been featured in nearly every major shelter magazine and the New York Times.  He has been a member of the AD100 and Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame.  That should be his story.  Being persecuted for being gay shouldn’t be anyone’s story.  If we tell these stories enough, maybe they won’t be.

More information on The Undesirable, here.  To donate, here.  And, my latest piece in Spaces KC profiling Dwork is here.

Top two images from House & Garden, next, via Blue Remembered Hills, the New York Times image of Dwork’s apartment follows, then one from The Peak of Chic.  

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15 thoughts on “A Modern Man

  1. I wish I could donate $20K! Not because of a 'Producer's' title, but because stories such as these need to be told! Best of luck with production. I will repost this on my FB page and encourage others to read this. THANK YOU!!!

  2. I believe Dwork's amazing design career should be his story too, and I'm honored to make a donation – looking forward to seeing the film.

  3. Brava Mrs. Blandings! This gay man is grinning from ear to ear. What a great post. Happy to donate. Wishing you Wonderful Things in the New Year.

  4. Hi Patricia, Thank you! Some of the people I cherish most in life happen to be gay. Even using this definition makes me uneasy as it denotes judgment–I do not describe some one as heterosexual, so why do I or any one else need to describe some one as gay? (Except that he/she is probably not going to be romantically linked to me) It is time that all labels be dropped–whether they are "good" or "bad" labels–all labels denote a bias or prejudice and cloud our perceptions. I can't wait to see this movie –Dwork seems to have been a very talented, multi-faceted individual. thanks. Mary

  5. Thanks so much for helping to spread the word. And I agree with Barbara, the work is quite a legacy. That last bedroom — just perfection.

  6. Patricia an amazing story to be told! I will be very interested to watch the movie about Dwork's life and career.! Thank you!

    Art by Karena

  7. Thank you so much for shining the light! I have posted this to my FB as well and let's hope we can all say "Amen" to the end of senseless persecution!

  8. What an interesting story. I would think it will make a great movie. Sorry it is still an issue…live and let live already.

  9. What a wonderful article. Mel Dwork is a very talented designer and a courageous man. His triumph speaks not only to the gay population but to anyone who has fought discrimination no matter how hard or how long it takes. We are proud to be donators for the film

  10. I've always admired Dwork as a designer. As the story of his military service became known in the last few months, I've had even more reason to admire him.

    And for this post, I have (yet more) reason to admire Mrs. Blandings too.

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