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.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sydney Guilaroff

Hollywood hairstylist Sydney Guilaroff (1907-1997) was the chief stylist at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the studio's golden years, from 1934 until the late 1970s, and he worked on over a thousand film and stage projects. Generally regarded as the greatest hair stylist in the history of Hollywood, he was the first ever hair stylist to receive movie credits.

His services were demanded by such stars as Greta Garbo, Greer Garson, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Liza Minelli, Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Shirley MacLaine, Natalie Wood, Lana Turner, Lena Horne, Grace Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Kathryn Grayson, Ann-Margret and Marilyn Monroe. Not to mention Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Robert Wagner and Robert Taylor.

Guilaroff (pronounced GHILL-er-ahf, with a hard “G”) was more than a stylist to the stars. He was the confidant summoned by Grace Kelly to Monaco to style her hair for her wedding to Prince Ranier, the man who sat with bed-ridden Joan Crawford the night she won an Oscar for ''Mildred Pierce'', the ''surrogate father'' to whom Elizabeth Taylor turned for comfort when her husband Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash, and the friend a distraught Marilyn Monroe called the night she died in August 1962 (he was one of the pallbearers at her subsequent funeral).

An elegant and charming man, he was also extremely popular with those stars, not least because of his reputation for discretion. In a position where he became privy to gossip and private facts, he could be relied upon to maintain confidentiality. "Sydney knew everyone and all their secrets," said Debbie Reynolds, "and was totally trustworthy."

Born in London to Jewish Russian immigrants, his family later settled in Canada. At age 14 he left Montreal to take a job as a beautician’s assistant in New York City, sweeping the floor of the salon. Two years later he was so adept and creative at hair dressing that he had already established his own clientele.  By the age of 18 most of the salon’s customers were requesting his services.

Claudette Colbert discovered the 21-year-old ''Mr. Sydney'' in 1928 at Antoine's, an elegant Saks Fifth Avenue salon in Manhattan, and walked out with the bangs that would be her trademark for the rest of her life. Likewise, Sydney created the iconic bob hairstyle for Louise Brooks, which she retained throughout her career; a few months after he gave Brooks her signature haircut, he saw her a while later appearing in a film with his hairdo. It was the first time a film star had worn one of his creations on screen. Since Joan Crawford came to insist that he be her only hairdresser, she made the studio fly her to New York for a hair styling before she started each new film, MGM ultimately decided it was cheaper to relocate Sydney to Hollywood. Once working for the film industry, he became known as the man who transformed Lucille Ball from a blond to a redhead, and the bubble cut he created for Ingrid Berman in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943) became a world-wide craze, copied by millions of women. He was able to keep the hairdos of Esther Williams intact while underwater by applying a touch of Vaseline.

Among his film projects were “The Wizard of Oz,” ''Ben-Hur,'' ''Quo Vadis,'' ''Camille,'' ''The Philadelphia Story,'' ''Some Like It Hot,'' ''Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,'' “The Misfits.” “Gone with the Wind,” “North by Northwest,” “The Women,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Graduate”, “Rosemary’s Baby,” and what he called his greatest challenge, the 1938 production of ''Marie Antoinette,'' which required 2,000 court wigs (some with actual birds in cages), lesser wigs for 3,000 extras and Norma Shearer's monumental bejeweled and feathered artists' ball creation. For that project Sydney and costume designer Adrian traveled to Paris to research costumes and wigs during the time of Marie Antoinette.



Incidental to his career was the fact that in 1938, Guilaroff became the first unmarried man in the U.S. allowed to adopt a child, a one-year-old boy named Jon. The adoption was opposed by the state of California, which took legal means to prevent it. Guilaroff, however, ultimately prevailed and subsequently went on to adopt another son, Eugene, and some years later a third son, who had been a former employee.

His memoir, ''Crowning Glories'' (1996), is filled with insider Hollywood tales and secrets. He claimed that Marilyn Monroe told him that she planned to reveal to the public her affair with Robert Kennedy. A rather tall tale he perpetrates is his attempt to fashion himself as a straight man who bedded or had relationships with many of Hollywood’s biggest female stars. In Hollywood, where image is everything, Sydney never wanted anyone to know that he was a homosexual or a Jew. However,  recently departer Esther Williams outed Guilaroff as a gay man (not bisexual) in her autobiography, and Scotty Bowers, in his tell-all memoir “Full Service,” also claimed to have had a homosexual relationship with Guilaroff. Sydney was so paranoid about his sexual orientation that he often passed off boyfriends as relatives.


After a 40-year career as a famous studio hairstylist, he began doing television and documentary work. Guilaroff died in Beverly Hills of pneumonia in 1997, six months shy of his 90th birthday.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rob Halford

Rob Halford (b. 1951) is an English-born heavy metal singer who is best known as the lead vocalist for the band Judas Priest. He is one of the pioneers of the operatic vocal style later to be adopted by power metal vocalists and regularly appears near the top in lists of the greatest rock vocalists/front-men of all time. Significantly, Halford came out in 1998, making him the first openly gay heavy metal musician.

Judas Priest was formed in 1974, and their first album was released that same year. A dozen albums later the band changed its appearance and sound. In 1990, with the release of Painkiller, the band dropped its synthesizer sound, and Halford unveiled his new look: tattoos, a shaved head and studded leather biker/S&M outfits. He claimed that this was an attempt to find an outlet for the angst caused by his hidden sexuality, while giving him a professional reason to frequent S&M shops. No stranger to shock value, Halford was known to ride a motorcycle on stage and fire a machine gun into the crowds (loaded with blanks, of course).

He later confessed that hiding his sexuality during his career with Judas Priest caused him a lot of depression and isolation, leading to alcohol and drug abuse. His personal struggles are reflected in the gay and S&M themes of some Judas Priest songs, such as "Raw Deal" and "Pain and Pleasure".

In 1992 Halford and Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis left the band to form Fight, eventually moving on to other projects. By 2003 Halford had rejoined Judas Priest and participated in their around the world tour (2005) to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary. In 2011 at age 60, Halford participated in what was billed as Judas Priest’s final tour. The band has sold more than 30 million albums and won numerous Grammy Awards along the way.

Halford has been clean and sober since successfully completing rehab in 1986 for a painkiller overdose. These days he resides in homes in Amsterdam, Phoenix, San Diego and his native England. Although he did not acquire a drivers license until he was 38 years old, he is an avid collector of classic cars, including a prized 1970s-era Aston Martin DBS.

Note: Thanks to blog reader André for suggesting a post on Mr. Halford.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Somerset Maugham

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was an English writer of novels, short stories and plays. His best-known novel is "Of Human Bondage" (1915), an early semi-autobiographical work which has never gone out of print since its initial publication. The female character in "Of Human Bondage" was actually based on a feckless young man who had humiliated the author all over Paris and London, breaking what there was of Maugham's heart.

When an early literary effort sold out within a few weeks of publication in 1897, Maugham gave up medical studies at age twenty three to become a full-time writer. He became so successful that by the 1930s he was the highest paid writer in the English-speaking world, and his literary career lasted sixty-five years until his death at age 91.

Born at the British Embassy in Paris, his first language was French, and he was later teased for his bad English by his classmates at Canterbury. They also taunted him for his short stature, and Somerset ultimately developed a troubling stammer that stayed with him his entire life. He so hated his English school that he relocated to Germany, where he studied at Heidelberg University. While in Germany he had a sexual affair with John Ellington Brooks, an Englishman ten years his senior. Soon thereafter he returned to London to study medicine.

After switching to writing, he met with stupendous success. In 1907 “Willie,” as he was known to his friends, had four plays running simultaneously in London, and by the age of forty he was famous, having already published ten plays and ten novels. He was so prolific and successful throughout his career that he became extremely wealthy from his craft. Charming, suave and dignified, Willie always dressed in fine, tailored clothing of the highest quality, as he could well afford, and he was ferried about via chauffeur-driven limousine.

During the First World War, he served with the Red Cross in an ambulance corps, before being recruited into the British Secret Intelligence Service. While driving an ambulance in Flanders he met Gerald Haxton (1892-1944), eighteen years his junior. Haxton was a San Francisco native who became Maugham's companion and lover for thirty years. During and after the war, Somerset and Gerald traveled to India and Southeast Asia, and all of those experiences were reflected in his later writings. Willie lived for a time on the island of Capri, where many celebrated homosexuals pursued their careers and one another.

However, Maugham (photo at right) carefully avoided homosexual themes and gay characters in his works. As American novelist Glenway Wescott, pointed out, Willie's generation lived in mortal terror of the Oscar Wilde trial, which had taken place when Maugham was 21 years old. Before his relationship with Gerald, Maugham had fallen deeply in love with a man named Harry Philips, a failed Oxford divinity student. They were so paranoid of their relationship being exposed that they feared returning to England, living instead as a couple in Paris. Gerald Haxton had himself been deported from England in 1919 for being caught committing a homosexual act. Thus, in order to be together, Maugham had to travel outside England for Haxton's companionship. And travel they did.

It was not until Maugham became famous that he courted women. Although he had been brought up with the understanding that his homosexuality was a “defect,” his real reason for involvement with women was because a reputation as a gay man would have ruined his chances of continued success. He had a child, Liza, with his "mistress," Syrie Wellcome, whose husband sued for divorce over the illicit affair. Somerset did the noble thing and asked Syrie to marry him. But he had already met Gerald by this time, and when Somerset wavered on getting married, Syrie tried to kill herself. The couple married in New Jersey, shortly after her divorce in 1917, and she became a celebrated interior designer with a clientele culled from high society. Tragically, the pair had nothing in common in taste, temperament or sexual orientation. Although she loved being "Mrs. Somerset Maugham," she eventually agreed to a divorce in 1929, finding her husband's relationship with Gerald Haxton too difficult to cope with. The terms were expensive for Somerset – Syrie received the house in London with all its contents, a Rolls Royce and 2,400 pounds a year for her and 600 pounds a year for Liza. Syrie never remarried and died in 1955 at age 76.


On his many travels Somerset was always accompanied by Haxton (photo at left), whom Maugham regarded as indispensable to his success as a writer. Somerset was painfully shy and had to cope with his stammer, so the extrovert Haxton went out to gather material which the author converted to fiction. Haxton possessed what Maugham lacked. Haxton’s outwardness, amiability and popularity compensated for Maugham’s shyness, reserve and stiffness. Acquaintances were often astonished at how spoiled and controlling Haxton appeared, demanding that Maugham fetch drinks for him, cover his gambling debts and the like.

Haxton had a love affair with alcohol, and one drunken evening in 1930 he dove head-first into a half-empty swimming pool at a neighbor's house and cut his head open, dislocated his spine and broke a vertebrae, from which he recovered enough to walk about independently, although his posture was forever affected, and he could no longer turn his head. For all the trouble he was, Somerset's friends came to realize that Haxton was nevertheless exactly what Maugham desired. He virtually lit up inside whenever Haxton entered the room.

In 1926, three years prior to his divorce from Syrie, Somerset bought the 19th century Villa Mauresque, a 9 acre property on the French Riviera at Cap Ferrat, between Nice and Monaco. While Maugham described the French Riviera as "a sunny place for shady people," Cap Ferrat was his home for most of the rest of his life (his tax status stipulated that he could spend no more than 90 days a year in England). In 2005 the property was converted into a boutique hotel of eleven rooms and suites (below).






This villa was the scene of one of the great literary and social salons of the 1920s and -30s, but it was also host to all-male nude bathing parties, drugs, an over-abundance of alcohol and nightly seductions of the local lads. Visitors were invariably astonished at the level of debauchery.  Photo below: poolside at Villa Mauresque. Maugham (lying under the lad seated atop the wall) enjoys nude sunbathing with his younger male guests:



In late middle age Maugham spent most of WW II in the United States, first in Los Angeles, where he worked on many scripts, becoming one of the first authors to make significant money from film adaptations. To date 35 film adaptations have been made of his works. For a time he also lived in South Carolina, where his publisher had an estate, to wait out the European war. Nelson Doubleday custom built a cottage for Maugham's exclusive use, staffed with a cook, maid and gardener. Located two miles from the main manor house, this private cottage provided a hideaway perfect for writing, away from the interruptions and obligations of city life.

After his companion Gerald Haxton was able to join him in the United States, Gerald suffered an attack of pneumonia. When he died of pulmonary edema in 1944 at age 52 in New York City, Maugham returned to England. Willie never really recovered from Gerald's death, and it was a grief-stricken Maugham who returned to his villa in France, where he lived out his days.

Soon after Haxton's demise, Maugham ratcheted up his relationship with the much younger Alan Searle (at left in photo), whom he had known since 1928. A young "rough trade" man from a London slum area, Alan had already been kept by older men. One of Maugham's friends described the difference between Haxton and Searle: "Gerald was vintage, Alan was vin ordinaire." Both men had ostensibly been hired to be Maugham's secretaries, a euphemism that reflected the mores of the times. "Searle was more pussycat," recounted a friend, "whereas Haxton had been bristlingly abrasive, like a bulldog about to break his leash." Maugham himself once told David Horner, "Alan is never what you would call the life and soul of a party." However, Alan supplied the plot outlines for many of Maugham's later novels and eventually performed secretarial duties with efficiency. Maugham treated the graceless Alan, whose main pastime was reading pornographic magazines, as a servant, not the companion that Gerald had been, and Willie taunted him ruthlessly.

In 1962 Maugham sold a collection of several dozen valuable paintings, a few of which had been  purchased  in Liza's name, knowing that they would become a valuable inheritance. However, Alan detested Liza and her husband, fearing that they would stand in the way of an inheritance that would allow him to be able to live independently after Maugham's death. Tragically, Alan drove a wedge between Liza and her father, ruining what had become a treasured relationship. Alan convinced Maugham that Liza was amiable toward her father only because of the money and property she was to inherit, and Alan prevented Liza from speaking to or visiting her father during his final years. She then sued her father for selling her rightfully owned paintings and won a judgment of £230,000, an enormous sum at the time.

At Alan's urging Maugham publicly disowned her and claimed she was not his biological daughter, since Syrie had been married to her former husband at the time of Liza's birth. In retaliation for her lawsuit, Somerset sued Liza in 1962 for the return of all gifts bestowed upon her in previous years, legally adopted Alan and made changes to his will to elevate Alan to principal heir. Liza contested the changes to Maugham's will, won the case and had Alan's adoption nullified by the French government. To make matters worse, Alan encouraged Maugham to publish a further volume of autobiography, which was serialized in an English newspaper. In its columns Maugham cruelly vilified his former wife, and in doing so broke the Englishman's code of civility. Old friends vanished, and Maugham was ostracized whenever he appeared in public. Maugham was a broken man, devastated to have his reputation ruined, and he lived his last years tortured by guilt and overcome with remorse.

Nevertheless, Maugham lived to the ripe old age of 91. His long life, which had begun just a decade after the American Civil War, had witnessed the inventions of the telephone, automobile, radio, films and television. He was already 51 years old when Al Jolson thrilled audiences with his talking film, The Jazz Singer (1927). His life span of nearly a century took him from the days of horseback to jet airplane travel.

In December of 1965 he suffered a fall and was hospitalized in Nice after coming down with pneumonia shortly thereafter. Lying in a semi-comatose state for a week, he died quietly during the very early hours of December 16, five weeks shy of his ninety-second birthday. Under cover of darkness his body was returned to Villa Mauresque, where Alan announced to the world that Maugham had died in his bed at home, thus avoiding an autopsy that would otherwise have been required by French law.

When Maugham's will was read, it was revealed that Liza was to inherit Villa Mauresque, but not the contents. Within weeks of Maugham's death, his nephew Robin published a series of memoirs about his uncle, outing Somerset as a gay man and airing other unsavory family matters. Maugham's reputation thus took additional hits.

In spite of Liza's doings, Alan Searle still ended up inheriting £50,000 in cash, the contents of Villa Mauresque, Maugham's manuscripts and most importantly, a lifetime revenue from royalties. Alan lived out his final years as a wealthy, lonely man, traveling from luxury hotel suite to luxury hotel suite with his own manservant. He spent Maugham's inheritance on boys, clothes and rich meals to the point that he grew enormously fat. He suffered from arthritis and Parkinson's disease and was eventually confined to a wheelchair. Before his death he confessed to one of Somerset's friends that he regretted having caused such trouble between Liza and her father.

"The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham" is a juicy, gay-drenched highly readable biography by Selina Hastings (Kindle and other e-reader formats). Her biography of Evelyn Waugh won the Marsh Biography Award.

1941 portrait of Somerset Maugham by George Platt Lynes:


Primary sources:
Wikipedia
Geoff Puterbaugh: p.783/4 Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (ed. Wayne Dynes)
Selina Hastings: The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham: A Biography

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jack Cole

Jack Cole (1911-1974) was the most influential choreographer you’ve never heard of. As a dancer, choreographer and director, Cole’s relative obscurity today belies the major influence he had on stage and cinema musicals of the 1940s-50s and -60s. Considered the father of modern jazz dance, his many disciples became much more famous than their muse – Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Tommy Tune, Matt Mattox, and Alvin Ailey, among others. According to Agnes de Mille, “They all stole from Cole,” a sentiment shared by his greatest interpreter, the sassy redhead Gwen Verdon – Cole’s protégée.

A New Jersey native, Cole ventured far beyond his modern-dance roots. Entranced by the Asian influences of the Denishawn Dance Company, he studied bharata nātyam with master instructor Uday Shankar (Ravi's uncle). As a dynamic, powerhouse solo dancer, Cole projected tough masculine energy. Photos show the elegant, muscular young Cole striking sphinx-like poses dressed in harem pants and jewels, captivating audiences at NYC’s Rainbow Room with exotic, weird, entrancing movements. In many ways, he was America’s Nijinsky. He was also homosexual, but he remained closeted during his entire career. Even though the field of choreography is not exactly overly populated by heterosexuals, such were the times.

Entering the Manhattan nightclub scene, he infused Afro-Caribbean, Spanish and Asian dance motifs into floor shows. During the late 1930s the Jack Cole Dancers headlined at leading nightclubs, including regular stints at NYC’s Rainbow Room and Ciro's on the Sunset Strip in L.A. He then became a master choreographer for Broadway. stage. Among his many hits were Kismet (1953), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), and Man of La Mancha (1965).

His greatest fame came from his work in nearly 30 films. Miraculously, he was able to coach stellar performances from untrained dance novices: Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and, most notably, Marilyn Monroe. He made Rita Hayworth sizzle in “Put the Blame on Mame” in Gilda (1946). Cole was responsible for Grable’s astonishing “No Talent Joe” number in Meet Me After the Show (1951). Perhaps his greatest triumph was “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” a show-stopping performance by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). That was the role that made her a famous sex symbol, and Cole was responsible for every shimmy, strut, arm gesture, shoulder shrug and hip bump. Monroe, a complete dance novice at the time, was so impressed by his coaching that she insisted he work with her on five more of her film projects.

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend
(YouTube)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ndSDeIH2yw

20th-Century Fox does not allow embedding, so you’ll have to click the link above to see the production number that made Marilyn Monroe a star. Her every gesture is Cole’s creation; he was even responsible for her breathy singing delivery. Knowing her limitations, he made of showcase number out of her available talents.

Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love

(Jane Russell – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)
Can there be any question that it was a gay man who choreographed this number?



"Marilyn and I had never danced before; we were a pair of klutzes," Russell told Cole biographer Glenn Meredith Loney of Dance magazine. "Jack was horrible to his own dancers, but with us, the two broads, he had the patience of Job. He would show us and show us and then turn us over to Gwen Verdon." Russell said she fled several sessions in exhaustion, while Monroe begged Cole and Verdon to continue into the night. Cole not only choreographed the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes dance numbers, he directed them, as well. Russell revealed that “Gentlemen” director Howard Hawks was not even on the set when the dance sequences were being shot.

Much of Cole's choreography reflected the hip, cool-Daddy flavor of the Beat generation. His infamous knee glides were a trademark, but famously hard on the knees of the dancers. Cole was a slave driver, notoriously demanding of his dancers. He was a known terror in the dance studio, a force to be respected and feared. He cussed a blue steak, sparing no one, and his technique classes were brutal. When a female dancer fainted in rehearsal, others were afraid to stop, hopping awkwardly over her body. He harangued bandleaders who didn't swing and scolded chatting customers during his nightclub performances. Wearing harem pants and sporting a bare chest, he once chased a belligerent client down Wilshire Boulevard wielding a kitchen knife.

In his 1984 Cole biography, "Unsung Genius," Dance magazine writer Glenn Meredith Loney relates that, although Cole purported to loathe Los Angeles (keeping a Manhattan pied-a-terre for Broadway work), his primary residence was in an isolated location in the Hollywood Hills, way up on Kew Drive on a precipice reachable only by a dangerous, narrow twisting road, barely wide enough for one car. This was the perfect place for a closeted gay man to hang out, and Cole lived here from 1943 until his death from cancer at 62 in 1974. In his last two years of life, he was a treasured UCLA dance instructor and a scholar with an impressive private dance library.

Jack Cole: Jazz Dancing

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ed Lyon

English tenor Ed Lyon is an out gay man who, at the drop of a hat, poses without his shirt on, much to his fans’ delight. The 34-year-old singer, one of Britain’s leading young tenors, is extremely easy on the eyes, and his body shows evidence of all the time he spends in the gym while following a strict, healthy diet. Lucky us.

He is also outspoken about where he thinks opera needs to go. He recently told Time Out magazine, "Telly and cinema have made a big impact on the way we view other forms. The idea that opera is just fat people getting up to sing is a complete fallacy. The days of ‘park and bark’ are over – we don't just waddle up and sing from where we're standing, we also have to act convincingly."

Lyon did not at first pursue a career in opera. “I did a lot of acting at school, and I found out that I could sing. I was in choirs. I was an alto until I was 18, then I started singing tenor. Opera was an obvious solution to wanting to be an actor but also having a singing voice.”

He has always been completely open about his homosexuality. “Let's be honest,” he said. “Opera isn't known as the most homophobic of industries.”

Lyon got his first big break when baroque specialist William Christie cast him in Handel's opera “Hercules”, and he has had an extraordinary career so far. Among the many highlights, he cites “Pygmalion” with The Trisha Brown Dance Company, Freddy in “My Fair Lady” and singing at La Scala in Milan.



His piercing blue eyes and stubbly beard push all the right buttons. Click the “photos” link on his official web site, and you’ll see that he’s partial to bare skin.
Go on. You know you want to:
http://www.edlyon.info/Tenor_Ed_Lyons_Website/Welcome.html

Now have a look at our tenor in action. Here he sings an early opera (Monteverdi) clad in only a sleeveless tunic. Note that the audio and video are slightly out of sync. For you impatient types, Mr. Lyon starts singing at the 2:05 timing mark.



His Twitter page identifies himself as:
“Tenor, undercover Yorkshireman, architecture and gym bore. Proud to be in #teamgay - bf of the wonderful Harry McIver.”
https://twitter.com/ed_lyon

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mike Connolly

While most of us are too young to remember him, Hollywood reporter Mike Connolly (1914-1966) was an influential and popular gossip columnist who was closeted his entire life. His homosexuality was not made public until ten years ago, thirty-seven years after his death, with the publication of “Mike Connolly and the Manly Art of Hollywood Gossip” (2003), a biography penned by Val Holley.

Connolly’s life partner was hair salon owner Joseph Russell Zappia. As Connolly’s fame grew, Zappia had to close his shop, since Connolly could not afford to be linked to a man working in a “gay” field. When Connolly eventually hired Zappia as a legman (an assistant, as he had no journalistic experience), Zappia had to be rechristened Joe Russell, to further obscure any association with his former profession. Such was the paranoia of gays in Hollywood during the 1950s, even those in behind-the-scenes roles.

Although theirs was a true love match, living and working together resulted in bumps along the way. Joe, who took care of household details, would frequently have to rectify disturbances Mike created, often taking heat for troubling things Mike had written. As well, Joe was constantly trying to rein in Mike’s over consumption of alcohol. Gore Vidal said, “Connolly was your typical drunk Irish Catholic queen when he was in his cups, but good company otherwise." His inebriation nonetheless resulted in such unseemly spectacles as public urination into potted plants, being carried out of restaurants and evicted from parties. Essentially, he drank himself to death.

As Connolly became a more prominent figure, there was stress about appearing together at public events, such as weddings, in which case it was necessary for both men to have dates. They could appear as a male couple only when entertaining in their own home. This system of escorting worked both ways, however. During the time when actress Terry Moore was the secret mistress of Howard Hughes, Connolly frequently stepped forward to appear on her arm as a date.

To be mentioned in Connolly’s “Rambling Reporter” trade paper gossip column in The Hollywood Reporter delivered much-coveted status, and Connolly’s coterie of influential gay friends became frequent suppliers of items about themselves. Because of his cleverness, he was able to convey a great deal of gay information in his column to those who could read between the lines. The Hollywood Reporter*, based in Los Angeles, was then a powerful daily entertainment newspaper dealing with film and television productions. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had the paper airmailed daily to his desk at the White House.

*A chief rival to Variety, today The Hollywood Reporter publishes a daily PDF edition and a weekly glossy magazine.

Although Connolly’s gay friends loved seeing their own names in print, they were also forthcoming with details of gay Hollywood insider gossip. Thus Connolly’s friends, publicist Stanley Musgrove and agent Bob Raison, who were both close with Cole Porter, supplied Mike with tidbits from Porter’s weekly Sunday parties (Connolly himself worked on Sundays).

A grateful Jane Mansfield sent Connolly this postcard from Rome thanking Connolly for sending press clippings:



Connolly’s gossip column in The Hollywood Reporter began in 1951 and lasted until his death in 1966, and it was not without controversy and drama. In 1963, actress Shirley MacLaine was so angry with what Connolly had written about her career that she marched into Connolly’s office and physically assaulted him. The incident was reported in the New York Post newspaper.

According to biographer Val Holley, “Connolly could outwrite all the other columnists, and he was fun to read. He had the talent for what he did, and loved doing it. He was college-educated, well-read, and had a background in cinema, theater, and vaudeville history. All that informed what he wrote." According to Holley, "If you can imagine gossip as literature, Connolly achieved it. Everybody read Connolly’s columns. Not everyone read Hedda Hopper or Louella Parsons, who wrote nationally syndicated columns.” Holley makes a distinction between trade paper gossip columnists and syndicated columnists. Connolly was a principal source for Hopper and Parsons. He also wrote a syndicated column, and Holley commented, “I found it interesting to compare the ‘Rambling Reporter’ with what Connolly wrote for his syndicated column a day or two later. He removed most of the inside jokes. He dumbed down a lot of it. And he always took out anything that might have brought shame on Hollywood.”

Connolly was also known for his 1937-38 crusade against prostitution in Champaign, Illinois, although he himself was quite promiscuous and thought nothing of paying for sex with hustlers on Hollywood Boulevard. He was seen visiting gay bath houses in both New York and Los Angeles. At the height of his powers, he later battled against communism in Hollywood. According to biographer  Val Holley, these campaigns were attempts by a homosexual to feel more a part of the mainstream. Connolly’s political beliefs were extremely conservative and could perhaps be compared to today’s Log Cabin Republicans. Joe McCarthy was one of his heroes, and Connolly wrote drunken mash letters to Richard Nixon.

At the age of 52 Connolly died from a kidney malfunction following open-heart surgery in 1966. He had suffered from a heart condition as a child, and he was later rejected for military service because of that same condition. Connolly was described by Newsweek as "probably the most influential columnist inside the movie colony," the one writer "who gets the pick of trade items, the industry rumors, the policy and casting switches." Indeed, he was a witness to and participant in fifteen years of sometimes tumultuous Hollywood history, and he was privy to most of Hollywood's secrets during that time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jared Allman

Growing up Southern, Mormon, and Gay


Twenty-nine-year-old gay actor Jared Allman was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, and grew up in a Mormon family on a 500-acre farm in East Tennessee.

OK, that’s already three strikes against him.

After earning a business degree from Tusculum College, a private Presbyterian-affiliated institution in Greeneville, TN, Jared's first job was in the music business doing merchandising for various touring artists. He later worked for a talent agency in Nashville, then moved on to pursue his passion for acting. He appeared in several country music videos on CMT as well as in a couple of docu-series on the Travel and Disney channels.

His first film appearance was in "Figure/Ground" (2011), a short by Daniel Henry that was featured at the Nashville Film Festival. The same year Jared was a key player in season 2 of the Sundance Channel's popular reality series "Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys: Nashville," the highest rated original series ever for the network. His next role was his feature film debut, the Indie hit "Scenes from a Gay Marriage" by Matt Riddlehoover. Filmed in Nashville, the movie premiered in 2012. Another Riddlehoover film, "West Hollywood Motel" (2013) followed.

Another of Jared's acting projects, a comedy called "Daughter" (2013), is currently in post-production. Jared is collaborating with Riddlehoover on a romantic comedy in pre-production titled "You Could Have Called First" (2014). He will also appear in the sequel to "Scenes from a Gay Marriage," set to be released in 2015.

Jared, who is beyond photogenic, now lives in Lawrenceville, GA, having relocated to the Atlanta area last year. He's also working on a new project, penning his first book, "Kinda Good at Everything: Growing up Southern, Mormon, and Gay."

Stay tuned for future updates about this up-and-coming man of influence. I leave you with another bit of eye candy.

You're welcome.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Brian Sims (update)

On June 27, out and proud Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims (182nd Dist.) joined Rep. Steve McCarter (D-154th Dist.) In stating that they would introduce a bill to allow Pennsylvania to join the 13 states and Washington, DC, that now have marriage equality (at present Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the only northeastern states that do not allow gay marriage). Anti-gay legislator Rep. Daryl Metcalfe sought to silence Sims on the House floor when Sims tried to speak about the Supreme Court decision on DOMA and Prop. 8. Metcalfe said Sims was acting in “open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law*.” Sims states that the bipartisan support he saw after that incident was encouraging. With the legislature now in recess, Sims and McCarter plan to introduced the marriage equality bill in early fall.

Three things you don’t know about Brian Sims:

“I play the harmonica...I can walk on my hands, and I still hold Pennsylvania’s bench-press record. I pressed 500 pounds in college and every year I get a call from a school saying that somebody’s going to break my record, but so far they’ve all failed.”

*Note from your blogger: While I support Mr. Metcalfe’s right to his religious beliefs and opinions, shouldn’t this guy be at least familiar with the U.S. Constitution and its intentional separation of church and state in the First Amendment? As authors of the constitution, both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson wrote and spoke of the “total separation between church and state,” and their writings were used in the first legal test cases. As far back as 1797, the U.S. Senate ratified a treaty with Tripoli that stated in Article 11:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen (ed.: Muslims); and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan (ed.: Muslim) nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

To this day I keep this quote stored on my cell phone, and I have cited it many times when conversing with ignorant right-wingers. I just ask if they are aware of the language of our nation's Treaty with Tripoli of 1797, then I whip out my phone and read it. Shuts them up every time. Just a suggestion.

It was not always so. Myself a native Virginian, I know from studying history that the official church of the State of Virginia was the Anglican Church, to which tithes had to be paid during the 17th and 18th centuries. Presbyterians, Baptists and so forth were allowed to gather for worship, so long as they continued to pay tithes in support of the Anglican Church. These tithes were suspended in 1776 and never restored, and today, of course, Virginia has no state religion.

That said, legislative and religious bodies continue to react to one another. Although I live in Virginia along the shores of the Potomac, I can see the great mass of National Cathedral from Lynn Street upon exiting my building’s parking lot. Situated high atop Mount St. Alban, the cathedral pealed its bells for an hour beginning at noon on June 26, celebrating the Supreme Court’s decisions on DOMA and Prop. 8. Take THAT, Rep. Metcalfe.

My original blog post about footballer turned lawyer turned activist turned politician Brian Sims can be found here:

http://gayinfluence.blogspot.com/2013/01/brian-sims.html

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Richard Chamberlain


Note: this is a much updated version of my original post back in October, 2011.

Deeply closeted for most of his life, actor Richard Chamberlain was outed by the French women’s magazine Nous Deux (We Two) in December 1989, and the American tabloids took up the story, plastering the news on their front pages. But Chamberlain steadfastly denied his homosexuality. It wasn’t until 2003, at the age of 69, that he publicly acknowledged the truth in his memoir, Shattered Love. The press generated by the book gave Chamberlain a boost in popularity, and he was greatly relieved to find his fans supportive and positive.


Chamberlain, born in Los Angeles in 1934, is a star of television, films, stage and (like Tab Hunter) pop music. An unknown Richard Chamberlain was inducted into the Army in 1956, becoming a sergeant in Korea. Three years after his military service his name was already a household word.

Those of a certain age might remember a TV show called Dr. Kildare (1961-66; clip at end of post), which made Chamberlain an overnight sensation. He played a young intern who wrangled with the medical and personal problems of his patients. He also recorded the song, "Three Stars Will Shine Tonight" (clip at end of post), with the music from the show's familiar opening theme.

After the hit TV series ended, he went to England to pursue a successful stage career. In 1969 Chamberlain performed the title role of Hamlet with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, becoming the first American to play the role there since John Barrymore in 1929. He earned excellent reviews and reprised the role the following year for television, for The Hallmark Hall of Fame.

Chamberlain had a significant live-in affair with a younger TV actor, Wesley Eure (pronounced “your”), who went on to appear on the NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives for almost ten years. Eure was fired from the show when his homosexuality became known to his employer, even though Earl Greenburg, head of NBC Daytime, was himself a gay man. In those days being outed as gay meant no work as an actor.

Wesley Eure recently spoke of the social atmosphere at the time he was dating Chamberlain. “We'd go to parties at private homes, because we couldn't go anywhere in public. I remember being told about set designer Jacques Mapes (Singin in the Rain) and movie producer Ross Hunter. They were at a big private party in pre-1950s Hollywood. One was Tyrone Powers' lover, and the other was Errol Flynn's lover, and they were the two handsomest boys in town on the arms of important closeted celebrities.” Ross recounted to Wesley, "I remember I was at the top of the stairs, and there was Jacques. Our eyes met, and we left the party, dumped our famous boyfriends, and we've been together ever since." Wesley added, “There was this whole subculture, a hidden culture of gay socializing. I used to go to those parties, and the most famous people you can imagine were there. If the public had any idea...”



Soon after Chamberlain ended his relationship with Eure, he took up with handsome actor-writer-producer Martin Rabbett, who became his partner for almost 40 years. Chamberlain had legally adopted Rabbett to protect his assets. In the spring of 2010 Chamberlain moved from Maui to Los Angeles because of work possibilities, leaving Rabbett behind at their luxury home in Hawaii (above, listed for sale in mid-2010 for $19 million). Later that year, responding to gossip about a split, Chamberlain said in an interview with Advocate, “Well, we haven’t really split. In other words, we’re still very, very close. The essence of our relationship has remained the same; we just don’t happen to be living together. I went home for Thanksgiving and had the most wonderful time, and we’ll be spending Christmas together with friends in New York. So we’re not split, really. I just moved to L.A. because I wanted to work more. Martin, unfortunately, doesn’t like L.A. at all, but he’s thinking of moving to San Francisco.”

In the film Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), a bearded Chamberlain and his real-life lover Martin Rabbett played brothers. In this still, a kneeling Chamberlain has a firm grip on Sharon Stone. Rabbett is in white.


After the Maui house sold, Rabbett did indeed move to San Francisco, and in April of 2012 Chamberlain said, “We’re curiously not living together at the moment, but we’re better friends than we’ve ever been.”

In May, 2012, Chamberlain appeared in a Pasadena Playhouse production of The Heiress (left), taking the role of the unyielding Dr. Austin Sloper, who was portrayed by Basil Rathbone in the original 1947 Broadway production.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Two decades after Dr.Kildare, Chamberlain appeared in some of the most widely-seen television miniseries in history, including the epic Shōgun (1981) and The Thorn Birds (1984). Around 110 million television viewers watched The Thorn Birds (nude clip at end of post!). In the period spanning the years from 1975 to 1989 he was nominated for four Emmy Awards and six Golden Globe Awards, winning three of them. Chamberlain received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000.

His more recent television appearances include Desperate Housewives, Chuck, and Leverage. At the age of 76 Chamberlain signed on to take a role as a gay man on Brothers and Sisters (2010)

In early 2013 Chamberlain published "My Life in Haiku," and on July 13 (next week) he will sign photographs, dedicate books and pose for photographs at the Westin Los Angeles Airport, 10 am - 5 pm. If you're in Los Angeles, this will be a great time to meet Chamberlain in person.

To learn about his career as a painter (a talent he shares with Tony Bennet, Duke Ellington and Henry Fonda), and for up-to-the-minute updates on Mr. Chamberlain's current projects, visit:

www.richardchamberlain.net


Dr. Kildare: Flaming Youth
A clip from Dr. Kildare. Richard Chamberlain appears at the 1min 40sec mark, and this is fairly typical of the series, which made Chamberlain a star.




Red Skelton Variety Hour: Haven't We Met?
TV clip from 1967, as a guest on the Red Skelton variety hour. This was just after Dr. Kildare ended its run, and it was the custom at the time for TV and film stars to be invited as participating guests on variety shows. He sings (sort of) and dances (sort of), but he is handsome as hell throughout, as everyone agreed.



“You Are the Most Beautiful Man I Have Ever Seen...”
This clip from the 1984 miniseries The Thorn Birds is beyond creepy. The best part is that Richard Chamberlain is naked and wet. A much older Barbara Stanwyck paws a nude priest, sending millions of TV viewers straight to confession.




Richard Chamberlain sings! 
He had several hits albums and singles in the 1960s.
Three Stars Will Shine Tonight (1962; theme song from Dr. Kildare)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Frank McCarthy & Rupert Allan

You have likely never heard of Frank McCarthy or Rupert Allan. Both were WW II military leaders who became movers and shakers among the top echelons of Hollywood’s elite. They even included presidents and European royalty among their personal friends. Publicist Rupert Allan (1913-1991) had many star clients, chief among them Bette Davis, Rock Hudson, Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, Deborah Kerr and Marlene Dietrich. A Rhodes scholar and a lieutenant commander for intelligence in the U.S. Navy during WW II, Mr. Allan went on to establish a career in journalism, working for the St. Louis Dispatch and Look magazine. In 1955 he forged a new career as a publicity agent, rising to the top of that profession. He was a popular and respected publicist, and invitations to his Beverly Hills home were highly coveted.

As West Coast editor for Look magazine, one of Rupert’s first interviews was with Marilyn Monroe, who asked him to represent her.

Below: Rupert and Grace Kelly at sea.



Also among his clients was Grace Kelly, and when she left Hollywood to marry Prince Ranier of Monaco in 1956, Rupert was a press representative to the high profile wedding. Notably, he defused a potentially explosive situation when 1,600 journalists showed up in Monaco to cover the event, when only 40 had been expected. So thankful was Princess Grace for his skill in controlling an unanticipated difficulty that she appointed him Monaco’s consul general in Los Angeles. Later, in 1989, Prince Rainier made Allan a Chevalier of the Order of Grimaldi in honor of his service.

Mr. Allan had a house on Sea Bright Place in Beverly Hills, and his life partner, film producer Frank McCarthy (1912-1986), resided in a somewhat grander, larger house right next door. Through his association with Rupert, Frank got to know Grace Kelly well, and when Princess Grace visited Los Angeles, she and her children would invariably stay in Frank’s home. She loved the two men like brothers, and to her credit, Princess Grace always admonished anyone who made disparaging remarks about homosexuals. By today’s standards it seems an unnecessary caution that two men had to maintain separate homes to keep the nature of their relationship from the press, but such were the times.

McCarthy was a retired brigadier general who had served as an aide to General George C. Marshall during WW II. At age 33 he was the youngest man ever appointed Assistant Secretary of State (1945), and he became personal friends with Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Frank had a diverse career as a journalist, press agent and war hero, but he eventually became a film producer.

At age 58 he won an Academy Award for producing the film Patton (1970), a project he had worked on for nearly 20 years. It was Frank who went to the podium to accept the award for best picture. For his portrayal as Gen. Patton in this film, George C. Scott won the Academy Award for best actor, but he refused to attend the Academy Award ceremony, so Frank accepted on Scott’s behalf. The next day Scott refused his Oscar, and Frank returned it to the Academy.


"Patton" producer Frank McCarthy, above center, holds two Oscar statuettes, for best film and best actor, on April 16, 1971. Left to right: Karl Malden, who played General Bradley and accepted the award for director Frank Schaffner, with Goldie Hawn, Steve McQueen, and Jeanne Moreau.

Note: Patton's Oscar statuette is on display at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) museum in Lexington, Va., where generations of Pattons received a military academy education. VMI is known as the West Point of the South, and interestingly enough, Frank McCarthy himself had attended VMI, graduating in 1933. An honors graduate, Frank later taught English at the institute before becoming a newspaper reporter.




McCarthy had left VMI with the goal of breaking into show business, and he was able to secure work as a press agent, but with the outbreak of war in 1941, he reenlisted, becoming an aide to Gen. Marshall and attaining the rank of major by the age of thirty. His honors from World War II included the Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit, and Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In 1976, McCarthy donated his war-time papers to the George C. Marshall Research Foundation, which is located on the VMI campus. Frank served on the foundation’s Board of Trustees. The 33 boxes of documents covered the years 1941-1949 and include correspondence with the likes of Irving Berlin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller, Frank Capra, President Eisenhower, Jose Ferrer, Dean Acheson, Darryl Zanuck, Henry Cabot Lodge and George Patton – an eclectic mix of military, political and entertainment royalty. It should be noted that the collection contains eight letters between Frank and his partner Rupert Allan.

McCarthy was being groomed for a cabinet position in the Truman administration when he abruptly withdrew his name from consideration due to an undefined "illness." At the time, it was not possible for even a completely closeted homosexual to serve in such a high-profile capacity, even though he had the protection of powerful friends – his ex-boss, Gen. George C. Marshall, had lobbied strenuously to end the prosecution of gay servicemen. McCarthy's “retirement” was in fact a sad act of political self-sacrifice. However, he returned to Hollywood and worked as the head of public relations for 20th-Century Fox, acting as an in-house censor to trouble-shoot problematic material during production.

It was about this time that Frank and Rupert’s relationship was cemented. It was relatively easy for the couple to “hide,” since both were completely masculine in appearance and demeanor – and utterly discreet. Even though they lived for decades as lovers and next door neighbors, details of their personal relationship were known only to Hollywood insiders. When they attended the same party or business function, they invariably escorted female companions to counter any speculation about their personal relationship. When Frank died of cancer in 1974, Rupert issued a press release in which he stated only that Frank was “unmarried” – an act of self-censorship. In 1991 Rupert died in his sleep at his home in Beverly Hills from age related complications.