Nancy Kates

Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
Nancy Kates

Photo by Mitch Tobias

Name: Nancy Kates
Location: Berkeley, California
Contribution: Gay and Lesbian Sierrans (GLS) Governing Committee secretary

Does your work as a documentary filmmaker and a volunteer with GLS ever overlap? No, not really. But they are both highly entertaining!

Are there any especially entertaining things you've done while hiking? When John Muir was taking people out at the very beginnings of the Sierra Club, they would put on skits, called follies. And GLS is kind of amused by the fact that the men on these trips would cross-dress for the skits. So there is this sort of tradition of gender-bending in the Sierra Club. We also do follies.

And you're working on a documentary about writer, filmmaker, and activist Susan Sontag? Correct. It will be broadcast on HBO. We are in postproduction and trying to complete the film by early 2014. It feels a little like what I imagine it is like to climb Everest. It is a large, complex, time-consuming, and, at least occasionally, glorious endeavor.

Sontag reminds me of Rogue from X-Men because of the strip-of-white hairstyle she wore later in life. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I think I would most like to be a wizard . . . à la Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. Barring that, being able to read minds (selectively) would be helpful, but perhaps it would be more fun to be able to talk to animals. It's hard to choose! We used to have more Wonder Woman references in the film—I think there is only one left, but your point is well taken.

In your film Brother Outsider, civil rights leader Bayard Rustin says, "We need, in every community, angelic troublemakers." Have you ever gotten into trouble in GLS? Well, we certainly do our share of skinny-dipping! Other members of GLS have gotten into trouble because that's not allowed in national parks. —Ailsa Sachdev

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