HBO Premieres “The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – Midnight, 9/20

Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Make a date with HBO as it airs the truly outstanding documentary, THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL. Directed by Emmy winners Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, it will have a sneak preview on Monday, September 19th (midnight–1:30 a.m. ET/PT) on HBO, followed by the documentary’s first prime-time play on Tuesday, September 20th at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT). The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a masterful compilation of intricate historical detail. The documentary is completely riveting as it uncovers the deepest levels of homophobia, political posturing, religious hypocrisy, and Traditional American injustice.

“When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men
and a discharge for loving one.”

— Tombstone, U.S.A.F. Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich —
Congressional Cemetery

On September 20th, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) goes into effect. HBO will tell the strange-but-true tale of the U.S. military’s ban on gays and lesbians from its implementation, through the passionate protests and debates, and finally to its 2011 repeal. The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a timely and historical look at the legacy of gays and lesbians in the military, illustrating the tumultuous evolution of the controversial policy that fostered hate and intolerance within the military. By forcing these soldiers to lie and live in secrecy, DADT undermined the very freedoms that American forces defend.

Directed by Emmy winners Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will have a sneak preview on Monday, September 19th (midnight–1:30 a.m. ET/PT) on HBO, followed by the documentary’s first prime-time play on Tuesday, September 20th at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT).

There are an estimated 60,000 gay Americans currently on active duty, and at least one million living gay veterans in the U.S. In 1993, President Bill Clinton encountered vehement opposition when he tried to deliver on his campaign promise to lift a 50-year ban on gays in the military. The result was the compromise legistlation – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – which allowed gays to serve in the military provided they didn’t disclose their sexual orientation.

In this atmosphere of suspicion, gay soldiers on active duty have had to avoid even the simplest questions: “How was your weekend?” or “Do you have kids?” just to keep their jobs. The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell examines the consequences of the policy and the fight to overturn it, a battle that would last 17 years, span three presidencies and result in the discharge of 13,368 active service members.

As the documentary shows, the history of DADT is strange indeed, from the “Queen for a day” presumption that is written into DADT, which allows straight men to have gay sex as long as thay could prove they were not gay, to the 54 gay Arabic linguists who were discharged prior to 2003, while intercepted terrorist conversations were left un-translated, to the port cities where gay soldiers were discharged during World War II, becoming the gay-friendly meccas of today.

Filmed during the final 15 months of the law, The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell interweaves archival news footage and interviews with key players, from policy experts to Pentagon personnel, as well as personal accounts by a number of actively serving gay soldiers who are obscured from the camera because speaking about their sexual orientation violates Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The featured subjects include:

PATRICK MURPHY – Former Pennsylvania Congressman, a Bronze Star Iraqi war veteran, who led the fight in Congress to repeal DADT. Straight and married, he feels strongly that if you are willing to take a bullet for your country, you should be allowed to serve.

Patrick Murphy — Aubrey Sarvis

AUBREY SARVIS – Executive Director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the most imfluential national organization dedicated to the repeal of DADT.

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach — Barney Frank

LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH – Distinguished 20-year military career, including missions against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets. Recipient of 30 awards and nine air medals, publicly battled DADT for years during active service.

BARNEY FRANK – A member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts since 1981, and considered by many thge most prominent gay politician in the United States.

Joe Lieberman – Jeh C. Johnson – Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer

JOE LIEBERMAN – Senior Senator from Connecticut, strong and vocal supporter of the rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces.

JEH C. JOHNSON – General Counsel, Department of Defense

COL. MARGARETHE CAMMERMEYER – The highest-ranking service member to be discharged for being a lesbian. In 1993 she testified at the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing regarding the military ban on homosexuals.

Filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have produced a variety of acclaimed nonfiction programming, including 24 documentaries for HBO and CINEMAX. Their work includes Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal; Monica in Black and White; The Eyes of Tammy Faye; and most recently, the Emmy-nominated Wishful Drinking.

Additional playdates for The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

HBO — Sept. 20th (12:30 pm and 8:00 pm); Sept. 24th (1:00 pm); Sept. 28th (6:30 pm and 4:05 am); Oct. 3rd (9:30 am); Oct. 9th (8:30 am)

HBO2 — Sept. 26th (10:30 am and 11:00 pm); Oct. 5th (8:00 pm); Oct. 7th (3:00 pm); Oct. 19th (8:00 am)


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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:


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