Tom Sanford spoke to me Thursday morning while standing across the street from where the works are installed, in front of a dormant rowhouse. All seven "saints" are drawn in Christian-iconography-influenced poses bearing personal symbols that resemble familiar iconography. Weegee holds a cigar and a camera, surrounded by police tape. Nearby, Charlie Parker resembles the Christ Pantocrator, substituting a saxophone for a bible and wearing a poppy to symbolize his addictions.
"With gay books by James Baldwin and Gore Vidal that were bestsellers in the past, it's usually assumed that they were crossover hits, and succeeded with straight audiences as well as gay audiences, but we just don't know if that's true," he said. "I'll make a bet that a huge percentage of those readers were gay, and there was nothing else for them to read, so they gobbled up Myra Breckinridge. I assume most of the readers were gay."
Nonetheless, even if just a few thousand gay readers were sufficient to push Myra Breckinridge—Vidal's 1968 novel with a transgender heroine—onto the bestseller lists, that was also enough to get Vidal on television talk shows, where he reached millions who hadn't actually bought his books.(3)