Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Benno Thoma


Benno Thoma (b. 1956) is a Dutch photographer who has always been fascinated by the male body, as can be seen from his popular photos for Bel Ami. Born in Maastricht, the Netherlands, Thoma has also established a career as a travel and hotel photographer for some of the world’s leading companies, magazines and private clients. Thoma’s work for Kempinski and W Hotel groups is particularly noteworthy.




Five of Thoma’s books of male photography have been published by Bruno Gmünder, a German publishing house specializing in gay media:

Around the Globe (men of Bel Ami 2007)
Thoma shot the boys of male porn company Bel Ami, framing Lukas, Tommy and others in perfect glory. Set against lavish backdrops and masterfully composed erotic settings, these images evoke an emotional response. Benno Thoma's sense of style makes this 224-paged large format book a high point of Bel-Ami photo books, as the well-built boys pose for grandiose solos and group portraits.

Somos Cubanos (We Are Cubans, 1998)
A large format art book of photos shot on location in Cuba, containing more than 60+ sensual  male images.

Absolute Sweden (2001)
Since the Bear Pond (1990) of Bruce Weber, no photo album has appeared that merges erotic male photography so convincingly with scenic photography. An atmospheric and erotic Scandinavian travel report in pictures.

Young Companions (2002)
Thoma's best-selling masterpiece, depicting gorgeous young men in atmospheric surroundings. All photos are printed using the duotone process.

...and the eponymous Benno Thoma (1996).
An atmospheric tour-de-force, these young men are presented in 47 duotone photos (16 of them depict frontal nudity). His use of natural, soft light is remarkable.

In his photo series “WET” (below), Thoma manipulates light and the element of water to present his vision of the male body – vulnerable and innocent. His work uses movement and composition to capture the beauty of male anatomy. The “WET” series consists of large black and white images printed on aluminum.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Joe Orton


Joe Orton (1933-1967), was an English playwright and author. His prolific three-year public career was cut short by a tragic murder-suicide by his lover, when Orton was only thirty-four years old. During this brief period he shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies.

Born in Leicester (East Midlands) to working class parents, Joe began acting in local productions at the age of sixteen. He determined to improve his appearance and physique by engaging in bodybuilding and elocution lessons, while trying to redress his lack of education and culture. Joe applied for a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London) in November of 1950 and was accepted as a seventeen year old.

Joe met fellow student Kenneth Halliwell (1926-1967) in 1951 at the Royal Academy, and the two became roommates and lovers. Halliwell was seven years older than Orton and of independent means through a substantial inheritance. After graduation, they collaborated on a number of novels, put none found a publisher*. From that point they worked at writing independently. They settled in the Islington neighborhood of London, living off Kenneth’s inheritance, unemployment benefts and brief stints as workers for Cadbury’s chocolatier.

*Two of them – Lord Cucumber and The Boy Hairdresser – were eventually published in 1999.

The couple amused themselves by stealing books from the local library and modifying the covers before returning them. A volume of poems by John Betjeman, for example, was returned to the library with a new dust jacket featuring a photograph of a nearly naked, heavily tattooed, middle-aged man. In 1962 they were eventually discovered and prosecuted for stealing and damaging library books (example at left), charged with five counts of theft and malicious damage. They admitted to defacing more than 70 books and were jailed for six months and fined £262. Orton and Halliwell stated that the sentence was unduly harsh "because we were queers"*.  However, prison would be a crucial formative experience for Orton, and the isolation from Halliwell would allow him to break free of his lover creatively. Orton developed a cynicism of the corruptness, priggishness and double standards of a purportedly liberal country.

As Orton put it, “It affected my attitude towards society. Before I had been vaguely conscious of something rotten somewhere, prison crystallized this. The old whore society really lifted up her skirts and the stench was pretty foul... Being in the nick (jail) brought detachment to my writing. I wasn't involved anymore. And suddenly, it worked.” He had found his literary voice.

*The book covers that Orton and Halliwell vandalized have since become a valued part of the Islington Local History Centre collection. Some are exhibited in the Islington Museum.

Orton began writing plays, and it was as a playwright that he met with success. In 1963 the BBC paid £65 for a radio play that was broadcast the following year. This play, The Ruffian on the Stair, was substantially rewritten for the stage in 1966. Orton reveled in his achievement, and new works poured forth. He had completed Entertaining Mr. Sloane by the time Ruffian was broadcast. He sent a copy to a theatre agent in 1963, and it was produced on the stage in 1964 under the direction of Michael Codron. Reviews ranged from praise to outrage.

Portrait of Orton by Lewis Morley: 1965



Entertaining Mr. Sloane lost money in its initial three-week run, but critical praise from playwright Terence Rattigan ensured its survival. The play was transferred to Wyndham's Theatre in the West End and later to the Queen's Theatre. Significantly, Entertaining Mr. Sloane tied for first place in the Variety Critics' Poll for "Best New Play" and Orton himself won second place as "Most Promising Playwright." Within a year, Entertaining Mr. Sloane was being performed in New York, Spain, Israel and Australia. As well it was soon made into a film and a television play.

Orton's next performed work was Loot, a wild parody of detective fiction, peppered with the blackest farce and jabs at establishment ideas on death, the police, religion and justice. However, the performances in regional theatres met with scathing reviews, and it was obvious the play needed extensive reworking. Instead, Joe and Kenneth took a head-clearing 80-day holiday in Tangier, Morocco, after which Joe finally did the work necessary to improve the play. A completely revamped Loot opened in London’s West End in late September, 1966, to rave reviews. Loot went on to win several awards and firmly established Orton's fame. In January 1967, Loot was awarded the London Evening Standard award for Best Play of 1966. Much to Halliwell’s disappointment, Orton took his agent Peggy Ramsay to the awards ceremony. Orton went dressed in Halliwell’s striped suit, and Orton and Ramsay were announced as ‘Mr. & Mrs. Orton’. Ramsay had said to Orton, “I’ll be your wife for the afternoon”. The incident left Halliwell vexed and aggrieved.


The problem was, less than a year later Orton (shirtless in photo) was dead.  Halliwell (at right) had been unable to deal with his own failure when measured against Orton’s new-found fame. Halliwell became increasingly depressed, argumentative and plagued by mystery ailments. He had felt threatened and isolated by Orton's success and had come to rely on anti-depressants and barbiturates. On August 9, 1967, Kenneth Halliwell bludgeoned 34-year-old Orton to death at his home in Islington with nine hammer blows to the head. He then committed suicide by an overdose of Nembutal. Investigators determined that Orton died first, because Halliwell's body was still warm when the police arrived. The two bodies were discovered the following morning when a chauffeur arrived to take Orton to a meeting with director Richard Lester to discuss filming options on one of his plays.

Four days before the murder, Orton went to a pub to meet his friend Peter Nolan, who later gave evidence at the inquest that Orton had told him that he had another boyfriend and wanted to end his relationship with Halliwell, but did not know how to go about it. As for Halliwell, the last person to speak with him was his doctor, who arranged for a psychiatrist to see him the following morning. He spoke to Halliwell three times on the telephone, the last call at 10 o'clock. Halliwell took down the psychiatrist's address and said, "Don't worry, I'm feeling better now. I'll go and see the doctor tomorrow morning."

Halliwell left a suicide note, informing police that all would be explained if they read Orton's diaries, "especially the latter part". The diaries have since been published. Nevertheless, Orton’s star continued to shine in posthumous first performances of Funeral Games (1968) and What the Butler Saw (1969).

What the Butler Saw (BBC production)




John Lahr (son of Bert Lahr, of The Wizard of Oz fame) wrote a biography of Orton titled Prick Up Your Ears. The 1987 film adaptation is based on Orton's diaries and Lahr's research. It starred Gary Oldman as Orton, Alfred Molina as Halliwell and Vanessa Redgrave as Peggy Ramsay, Orton’s theatrical agent. Alan Bennett wrote the screenplay.

All agree that the light of a supremely talented playwright had been prematurely and tragically extinguished.

Trivia: The adjective “Ortonesque” is sometimes used to refer to works characterized by a dark yet farcical cynicism.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

George Quaintance

George Quaintance (1902-1957) was a gay American painter, photographer and sculptor who produced a large body of homoerotic art of an exaggerated macho, muscular quality. He was a major influence on later artists such as Tom of Finland.

His work became known to his niche market when published in male physique magazines, championed by Bob Mizer of the Athletic Model Guild, publisher of Physique Pictorial (1951-1990). Many of Quaintance’s photographs and paintings depict idealized muscular semi-nude males in an American West setting.

Quaintance was born in northwest Virginia, surrounded by the Blue Ridge mountains, where he grew up on a farm near Luray, 90 miles west of Washington DC. He displayed a strong aptitude for art while still a youth. By the age of 18 he was studying painting and drawing at the Art Students League in New York City (Norman Rockwell and Jackson Pollock were students there), where he also explored dancing, a skill he utilized in numerous stints as a vaudeville performer of classical ballet, tap and the tango. He was briefly married to Miriam Chester, even though he was actively homosexual. In the 1930s he became a hairstylist, perhaps as a way to explore solutions to his own thin, limp hair. From his early 30s he wore wigs to further his macho image as a handsome, youthful body builder (photo of Quaintance at top of post and below). George was one of the most sought-after women's hairstylists of the 1930s, with star clients the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Jeanette MacDonald, Lynne Fontanne and Helen Hayes.


His first work in the field of art was in (unattributed) advertising, but by the mid 1930s he had begun to sell freelance cover illustrations to pulp and movie fan magazines, sold at burlesque halls and under the counter at discreet newsstands. These illustrations of pinup girls were usually signed with the pseudonym "Geo. Quintana." By 1937 he was the highest-paid illustrator for Gay French magazine, earning more than $50,000 a year. As such, he was a forerunner to later masters of the female pin-up genre, such as Vargas. During this time he also painted portraits of Washington DC diplomats, society wives and his friends.


In 1938, George teamed up with Victor Garcia, who became his model, life partner and business associate. Victor, the subject of many of George’s photographs, and George were not sexually faithful to one another, each openly taking on other lovers. In 1951, Quaintance's art was used for the first cover of Physique Pictorial, a homoerotic magazine edited by Bob Mizer. George wrote articles and provided artwork for a slew of magazines catering to the burgeoning bodybuilding cult of the 1940s and 50s. During this time George often judged bodybuilding competitions.

Because of the mores of the day, his published work did not include full-frontal nudity, which was depicted only in private commissions. Within a year of George’s death, however, Tom of Finland, who cited Quaintance as a major influence, broke through the barrier of full frontal male nudity.

George and Victor moved to an Arizona home they dubbed Rancho Siesta, the headquarters of Studio Quaintance, a business venture to produce and promote Quaintance's artwork, which began to fetishize the macho cowboy look. His paintings from this era also depicted Mexican, Native American and Central American men, and for a time George took a Mexican lover. Quaintance's Arizona “ranch”, as touted in the pages of Physique Pictorial magazine, was described as a landed estate in Paradise Valley. The setting was described as a place populated by livestock, models, staffers, ex-lovers and a coterie of followers who were young, handsome, built like gods and clad in little more than 501 Levis and boots. It was all a ruse. In reality this Arizona studio/residence was a modest 1950s ranch style house in the Loma Linda neighborhood of east Phoenix. The house, built on a small suburban lot, still stands.




In 1953, Quaintance completed a series of three paintings about a matador, modeled by Angel Avila, another of George’s lovers. By 1956, the Studio Quaintance business had become so successful that George could not keep up with the demand for his works, often working through the night, taking pep pills to remain awake.



George died of a heart attack on November 8, 1957, at the age of fifty-five, but he will not be forgotten. Ken Furtado and John Waybright are soon publishing a biography titled Quaintance: The Short Life of an American Art Pioneer. Stay tuned.

 
This George Quaintance photograph of model Harry Hambley appeared in the magazine Physique Pictorial in the 1950s. Although Quaintance was a skilled and prolific photographer, it is his paintings that form the bulk of his legacy.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Leo Lerman

Leo Lerman (1914-1994) was a magazine writer/editor, critic and legendary bon vivant who worked in New York City for more than 60 years. He is remembered foremost for being friends with famous and influential people in the arts, acting as their confidant – often effecting introductions of famous and influential people to one another. Both Marlene Dietrich and Maria Callas had expressed interest in meeting each other to Leo (their mutual friend), so he invited them both to his apartment for a face-to-face. Leo’s account of that incident is alone worth the price of the book I just finished reading, The Grand Surprise (2007, 688 pages; available in digital formats).

From the dust jacket: “His personal accounts and correspondence reveal him also as having an unusually rich and complex private life, mourning the cultivated émigré world of 1930s and 1940s New York City, reflecting on being Jewish and a homosexual man, and intimately evoking his two most important lifelong relationships.”

Leo was openly gay his entire life and exhibited a buoyant personal style. He also nurtured generations of young editors, who examined and often imitated his work for Vanity Fair, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Harper’s Bazaar and Playbill magazines as well as the New York Herald Tribune newspaper.  He wrote on theater, dance, music, art, books and movies. Leo launched careers and trends, thus exposing the American public to new talents, fashions and ideas.

Leo achieved great success during his career, which made him well off enough to purchase a nine room apartment in 1967 at the fabled Osborne apartment house on West 57th Street, diagonally across from Carnegie Hall. He didn’t have to leave the building to be able to name drop. Among his neighbors were Leonard Bernstein, Van Cliburn, Lynn Redgrave, Gary Graffman, Charles Osgood, Fran Lebowitz, Shirley Booth, Andre Watts, Vera Miles, Imogene Coca, Clifton Webb, Virgil Thompson, Ethel Barrymore and Bobby Short, along with assorted judges, senators and even a Baroness. Leo’s partner of 47 years, artist Gray Foy, still lives there at age 90 (seated next to the fireplace in the lavender salon, photo above), much at home amid the tasteful clutter of art objects, books and furniture placed in rooms resplendent with inlaid parquet floors, staggeringly high ceilings, carved moldings, paneled pocket doors and wood-burning fireplaces. At today’s market value, the apartment is worth over $4 million.

Residing at the legendary Osborne was a huge step up from his humble roots as the son of a Jewish house painter in East Harlem. As a boy, Leo would often accompany his father to work, delighting in the surreptitious peeks inside the homes of the upper class. Leo recalls that he tagged along with his father when he was painting the penthouse of playwright Clare Brokaw (who was soon to marry Henry Luce, the publisher of Time, Life and Fortune magazines). His father introduced Leo as his son, and Leo was awestruck. She was the first woman Leo had ever seen wearing a Chanel suit. This fascination with high society later manifested itself into a career that enabled Leo not only to break into that social strata, but actually to direct much of it. Decades later, true to form, Clare Boothe Luce and Leo became fast friends. His great wit and charm enabled him to collect high-profile friends the way those around him collected wealth or accolades.


Interior: Leo Lerman (1953) by realist society painter John Koch (1909-1978)
National Academy Museum (Museum Mile: Fifth Ave. at 89th Street; closed Mon/Tue)

A true confession: until I read The Grand Surprise, a compendium of his journal entries and letters to friends (and lovers), I had never heard of Leo Lerman, most likely because he was only famous for being the friend of celebrities. The journal entries found in The Grand Surprise were to serve as notes for a long-planned memoir that never came to fruition, even though Lerman lived to the age of 80.

Leo and Truman Capote were both students at a writing seminar at the onset of their careers, and from an early age Leo was drawn to celebrities, who knew Lerman’s name from his high-profile magazine writing. Lack of money didn’t prevent Leo from entertaining New York City’s glitterati, and soon he was fielding calls from the likes of Cary Grant (quite the flirt, according to Leo), Ruth Gordon, Philip Johnson and Jackie Onassis. For decades he hosted Sunday afternoon salons in his ramshackle Lexington Avenue walk-up apartment, offering his guests only what he could afford – rock-gut wine, cheddar cheese and crackers. Marlene Dietrich would help her pal Leo by emptying ashtrays. When Leo was a bit more flush, he would set out a buffet of Chinese take-out, much to the delight of his guests, who stood in line and helped themselves. Often the crush to enter Leo’s apartment resulted in a line that went out the door, into the hallways and down the steps to the street. Those Sunday afternoons became legendary among NYC’s social circles. This book contains guest lists for several of his parties, along with many pages of photographs.



Even his death was extraordinary. As he had instructed, Leo’s body was returned to his apartment at the Osborne House (lobby above), where he lay on his bed for two days dressed in lavender socks, a night shirt and one of his trademark Turkish skull caps. A stream of friends visited him, surrounded by his collections of antique pill boxes, Tiffany lamps and pictures of erupting volcanoes. A memorial service was subsequently held in an auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before a capacity crowd of 1,000 mourners.

Among the hundreds of anecdotes and observations contained in The Grand Surprise, Leo wrote of regularly allowing Maria Callas, one of his closest companions, to polish off his dessert.  "Maria was a prodigious eater who believed she never really ate anything." Of Marlene Dietrich, another cohort-muse, on whose behalf he once delivered doughnuts to a married Yul Brynner, he wrote, "Adoration nourished her the way health food sustains others."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dan Kloeffler

Following on the heels of Zachary Quinto's footsteps, ABC News anchor Dan Kloeffler (b. 1976) came out of the closet professionally – while on the air reporting the Quinto coming out story in October, 2011. Kloeffler off-handedly stated that he would ignore his ban on dating actors to date Mr. Quinto. “The response has been one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had,” Kloeffler said. “ABC has been incredibly supportive, and I am blown away by all the people saying how courageous it was. I’m lucky in that I’ve been out to my family and friends since my sophomore year in college, and much like when I came out to them, my fears were unfounded.”

Later, the 35-year-old newsman wrote, "...for the same reason that Zach decided to come out, I too, no longer want to hide this part of my life. There have been too many tragic endings and too many cases of bullying because of intolerance...as a journalist, I don't want to be the story, but as a gay man I don't want to stand silent if I can offer some inspiration or encouragement to kids who might be struggling with who they are."

From Kloeffler’s blog post later that day:

“So why’d I do it? To fulfill a promise I made to myself a few years back. Like a lot of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, I knew pretty early that I was “different” from everybody else. In grade school, I was an easy target for teasing: a little chunky, glasses, and painfully awkward at sports. So to avoid being someone’s prey, I usually ate by myself, hid in the bathroom or stayed in the safety of the classroom during lunch and recess.

To be clear, I had a tremendously supportive family. And when their words of encouragement didn’t work, Mom usually stuffed a candy bar in my hand to help me forget about being a little out of place. I learned “comfort food” at an early age. Throughout high school, I hid from reality, dating girls and knocking down rumors that I was gay. Despite struggling to hide a part of me, high school was a lot of fun. I built solid friendships, gained some confidence and even worked my way into the “cool” cliques.

It wasn’t until college that I’d finally had enough of the battle. I was ready to wave the white/rainbow flag and declare my sexuality to the world. The support and love was overwhelming, and it’s grown stronger ever since, which is why it’s time to finally make good on the vow I made years ago. As I was growing up, I swore that if I ever enjoyed any kind of visibility or success, I was going to somehow help break down the walls of hate that hold others captive. I was fortunate to be surrounded by loving family and friends, but as we too often hear, not everyone is so lucky.

I’m looking forward to working with Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the “It Gets Better” project. Some might say I’m a little late to the party, so I’ve got to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of work to be done to show kids it’s what inside their hearts that really counts. I might not be Oprah, but if I can help just one person, I’ll have kept my word.”

Since 2010, Kloeffler has been an anchor of ABC World News Now, a cable-news channel of the ABC broadcasting network. A digital correspondent for ABC News based in New York, Kloeffler reports for ABCNews.com, ABC News Now and “Good Morning America Weekend.” In addition to on-air reporting, he also blogs for ABCNews.com. Prior to his job at ABC, Kloeffler worked for MSNBC and NBC news shows. Since Kloeffler’s coming out, his fellow World News Now alum Anderson Cooper has also come out publicly.

Kloeffler, who grew up in Michigan, had came out to his family and friends while a student at the University of New Hampshire (Durham) in 1997.

Here’s the 2011 broadcast that caused all the commotion:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dr. Alfred Kinsey

Alfred C. Kinsey (1894-1956), a bisexual professor of biology at Indiana University, began research for his landmark Kinsey Report in 1938 as a response to questions about sex and sexuality raised by his students. Kinsey had petitioned Herman Wells, Indiana University's progressive president, for permission to offer a noncredit "marriage course", and his request was granted. Kinsey was appalled to find how little they knew about sex and how much they feared it. At the time, 96% of young Americans didn't know the word "masturbation", and when told what it meant, 40% believed it caused insanity, impotence and/or blindness. The most popular marital guide of the day called oral sex within marriage "the hell gate of the realm of sexual perversion".

Kinsey's students asked him if their habits and desires were normal, but he had no answers, since there was no data available. Prior to that time, leadership and authority on matters of sex and morality had come from clergy. Kinsey decided to conduct scientific research himself to find out what was “normal”. He devised a questionnaire of 300 questions about people’s sex lives and then traveled across the country with four colleagues, recording 18,000 sexual histories. He had a knack for gaining people's trust and keeping them honest, and he approached sexuality as a biologist studying "the human animal", without imposing any moral judgements. This was a new direction, using science, and not religion, to approach issues involving sex.

Their initial report, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” was published in 1948. Kinsey researchers established a simple rating from 1 to 6 to classify sexual behavior, with “1” indicating exclusive heterosexuality and “6” exclusive homosexuality – since known as the Kinsey Scale. It was revealed that American men were far more sexually adventurous than anyone had previously been willing to admit. Kinsey reported that 92% of the men interviewed masturbated, 85% had engaged in premarital sex, 50% had participated in extra-marital sex and 69% had had sex with a prostitute at least once. The Kinsey Report sold 270,000 copies, and Alfred became a celebrity. Five years later, a follow-up report on the human female revealed just as shocking results.

In particular, his findings on male homosexual behavior resulted in great controversy. His research found that 37% of men had engaged in at least one homosexual experience, that 10% had been more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years, and that 4% were exclusively homosexual their whole lives. Fully half of the men interviewed admitted to having some erotic response to other men. Moral traditionalists were outraged, accusing Kinsey of deliberately promoting homosexuality. That charge was reexamined years after Kinsey's death, when biographer James Jones revealed that Kinsey, though married, routinely had sex with men.

Kinsey had earned America’s respect in part because he looked the very model of a conservative academic. While Kinsey and his wife were both virgins when they married, his work transformed them both into sexual adventurers. Kinsey had sex with men in his inner circle – outside of any  research – and encouraged others to have sex with his wife. Further, Kinsey’s staff and their wives had sex with one another in various combinations. He used his attic to film hundreds of people engaged in a wide variety of sex acts, including much gay S&M activity.

"It's impossible to estimate the damage this book will do to the already deteriorating morals of America," said evangelist preacher Billy Graham. The backlash included congressional hearings, obscenity charges and an FBI investigation. Kinsey was branded a communist out to destroy the American family. However, one by one, states undid laws against fornication, adultery, and sodomy – usually citing Kinsey as their authority – and schools began to teach sex education based on his principles.

An Eagle Scout who aspired to become a concert pianist, Kinsey had grown up poor in New Jersey, the son of devout Christian parents. They approved of the Boy Scouts because it was an organization heavily grounded on Christian principles. His father wanted Alfred to study engineering, but was finally convinced to allow him to study biology at Bowdoin College in Maine (photo at left, 1916). He soon became an authority on gall wasps. Such a background seemed an unlikely foundation for a career as America’s first and foremost sexologist. However, observing the sexual activity of wasps led him to the realization that humans knew more about sex in the animal kingdom than they did about themselves. Kinsey’s subsequent research forever changed how humans regarded themselves in sexual terms, leading to an open discussion of sexuality, which until that time had been taboo.

Kinsey continued his work up until the time of his death. He died on August 25, 1956, at the age of 62, from a heart ailment and pneumonia. His obituary in the New York Times included this passage:

“The untimely death of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey takes from the American scene an important and valuable, as well as controversial, figure. Whatever may have been the reaction to his findings—and to the unscrupulous use of some of them—the fact remains that he was first, last, and always a scientist. In the long run it is probable that the values of his contribution to contemporary thought will lie much less in what he found out than in the method he used and his way of applying it. Any sort of scientific approach to the problems of sex is difficult because the field is so deeply overlaid with such things as moral precept, taboo, individual and group training, and long established behavior patterns. Some of these may be good in themselves, but they are no help to the scientific and empirical method of getting at the truth. Dr. Kinsey cut through this overlay with detachment and precision. His work was conscientious and comprehensive. Naturally, it will receive a serious setback with his death. Let us earnestly hope that the scientific spirit that inspired it will not be similarly impaired.”

Fortunately, Kinsey’s pioneer work has continued to the present at Indiana University's Morrison Hall, where The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction is housed. Ongoing research topics include condom usage, sex in long-term relationships, hormones and reproduction.



“Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior the sooner we will reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.”

  – Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Richard Halliburton

Renowned thrill-seeker and global adventure writer Richard Halliburton (1900-1939) went rogue in his private, as well as professional life. Richard’s partner was his ghostwriter, Paul Mooney (1903-1939), but neither of them gave even a fleeting thought to fidelity. Mooney had another lover, William Alexander Levy (1909-1997), a twenty-something architect and interior designer. Movie-star handsome Halliburton commissioned a house from William to be built high on a cliff above Laguna Beach, CA, with three master bedrooms, one for each of the men – a cozy, if somewhat offbeat arrangement. The result was a stunning cantilevered Modernist structure of concrete, glass and steel dubbed Hangover House, built for $36,000 – a huge sum for 1937.


Halliburton, while forgotten today, was a household name during the 1920s and 1930s, as famous as Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. He was the idol of every schoolboy, and his popular radio broadcasts supplemented his adventure books, such as the Book of Marvels, which fueled the imaginations of countless youths. The Book of Marvels was published in two volumes (The Occident 1937, the Orient 1938), each filled with photographs and text that hooked armchair travelers who grew up in the days before Indiana Jones.

Raised in Tennessee as a small, sickly boy, Halliburton over-compensated as an adult with an action packed life of extreme adventures. In 1931 the whole world followed with interest his circumnavigation of the globe in an open cockpit single engine plane dubbed the Flying Carpet, the title of his fourth book. In it he described his outsized feats during that adventure, such as flying upside down over the Taj Mahal, photographing Mt. Everest and encountering head hunters in Borneo.

Always lusting after fame and fortune, Halliburton was aware that his high public profile required a heterosexual emphasis, so he embellished his writings with entirely fabricated female love interests. Nevertheless, his travel narratives included lingering accounts of male beauty, and his private letters were explicitly gay.

Halliburton was not above breaking the law or stretching the truth to achieve his goals. Just months after his graduation from Princeton in 1921, Richard climbed the Matterhorn. His wanderlust took him to Paris and on to the Rock of Gibraltar, where taking photographs of defense weapon emplacements landed him in jail; nevertheless, he published a dozen of his forbidden photos along with a breathless account of the escapade.

Richard continued to Egypt, sleeping on top of a pyramid and swimming the Nile. He hid himself on the grounds of the Taj Mahal, so that he could swim in its pools by moonlight. Traveling through the Malay peninsula, he steamed to Singapore as a stowaway, survived an attack by pirates, and trekked through Manchuria. When he reached Japan, he climbed Mt. Fuji in winter. Halliburton's books achieved enormous popularity, and he became one of the highest paid celebrity authors to appear on the lecture circuit between the two world wars.

A master of publicity and self-promotion, Halliburton shrewdly exploited his escapades in order to increase interest in his books and lectures. In one such stunt, he registered himself as a ship, paid a toll of 36 cents, based on his weight of 140 pounds, and swam the Panama Canal. He remains the only person to have swum all 48 miles of the waterway.

In March 1939, the famous Halliburton-Mooney duo and their experienced crew left Hong Kong in a commissioned Chinese junk, the Sea Dragon, to sail eastward for the San Francisco Golden Gate International Expo. Three weeks into the journey they encountered a typhoon and perished; their bodies were never recovered.

In a letter written to his father, Halliburton expressed his carpe diem philosophy:

“And when my time comes to die, I’ll be able to die happy, for I will have done and seen and heard and experienced all the joy, pain and thrills – any emotion that any human ever had – and I’ll be especially happy if I am spared a stupid, common death in bed...”

My kind of hero.