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.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pierre Boulez

Mr. Boulez in 1971.
Photo by Larry Morris


When the great French composer, conductor and pianist Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) died at the age of 90 at his home in Baden Baden last month, there was much Internet chatter about his sexual orientation. Obituaries in major newspapers and journals mentioned that Boulez was “tightly guarded” about his personal life, but music critic Norman Lebrecht, who knew him for decades, stated that Mr. Boulez was gay. Boulez was extremely closeted, often introducing Hans Messner, his German lover of more than fifty years, as his “valet.” That Boulez (the “z” is not silent) was homosexual was one of the music world’s worst kept secrets.

Mr. Boulez enjoyed a first tier international career, holding conducting positions in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England and the United States, and his numerous recordings earned him twenty-six Grammy Awards. Boulez did not use a baton, using only his hands to conduct, in the fashion of Dimitri Mitropoulos, Leopold Stokowski and fellow Frenchman  Georges Prêtre.

As an opera conductor, Pierre Boulez was most famously associated with Bayreuth, conducting Parsifal and the Ring Cycle. In Paris he founded the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) at the Centre Pompidou and the Ensemble Intercontemporain (EIC). In the United States he was conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic and was composer-in-residence at Carnegie Hall (1999-2003).

As a composer, he was a champion of the avant-garde, writing atonal, electronic and serial music, although in later years composition took a back seat to conducting. He championed twentieth century composers, programming major works by Berg, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern and Varèse.

After a 2012 eye operation left him with impaired vision, he cancelled conducting engagements, and a shoulder injury from a fall kept him from attending the many 90th birthday celebrations held throughout the world in 2015. Both Columbia Records and Deutsche Grammophon issued limited edition box sets (67 CDs and 44 CDs, respectively) of his recordings in honor of his 90th birthday. Last month BBC Four broadcast an hour-long documentary, “Pierre Boulez at the BBC: Master and Maverick.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Steven Saylor a.k.a Aaron Travis

Steven Saylor (b. 1956, photo above) is a Texas-born gay author of popular historical novels about ancient Rome. He studied history and classics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated with honors in 1978. From 1979 he wrote heavy S/M gay erotic fiction under the pen name Aaron Travis. This year fourteen of the Aaron Travis books have been re-published in Nook and Kindle e-reader formats. One of the short stories, “Blue Light”, a psychological mind-bender, has become an S/M classic. Every gay man should acquaint himself with this 35-page tale of erotic seduction fantasy; trust me, this story will remain in your head for days and weeks: $.99 in Kindle format.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0076F14KC/stevensaylorwebsA

In the early 1980s, following a move to San Francisco, Saylor became an editor at Drummer magazine, a popular gay S/M publication at the time. He explained in a later interview that the erotic fiction he wrote in his twenties emphasized the seriousness with which he undertook the task, stating, “I probably did more actual rewriting on those stories than anything I've done since, because for me, writing erotic fiction is like writing a piece of music, because if one note is wrong, you lose the audience.”

His porn writing is highly intelligent and atmospheric, but also brutally sadistic at times. His characters come together not just for intercourse, but to play mind tricks on one another (as well as on the reader). He dives into your subconscious, grabs hold and completely wrings it out – a rape not of the body, but of the mind.

In his short story “Eden”, a young man has a fantasy about a reunion with a classmate named Bill. Even this short sample indicates that Travis is head and shoulders above the average male porn writer:

“Bill would open the door, smiling. I would step inside and throw down my duffel bag. Then he would take me in his arms and kiss me – for the first time, because we had never kissed. He would undress me, and when I was naked, he would push me to my knees. I would look up at his face, so happy to be back – he would take out his cock and tell me to suck it. I could close my eyes and see it. After such a long time apart, he would want to reclaim my ass. I could tell him, honestly, that no one else has had it, as I walked naked to his bed to lie face down, spreading my legs for his cock....

It wasn’t really Bill’s cock I was lusting for. It was Bill. His cock was just the part of him that he gave me to love.”

“Blue Light”, a BDSM tale in which a top loses control of a scene, is a psychological terror, the equal of an Edgar Allan Poe horror story. Proof that Saylor/Travis could wrote porn of high literary quality lies in this description of a penis from “Blue Light”:

“It hovered over me, white and thick. It was perfect, like the rest of his body. Alabaster white and enormously thick, tapered slightly at the base. The head was huge. The skin was pearly white and translucent, as smooth as glass, showing deep blue veins within. The circumcision ring was almost unnoticeable, the color of cream. The shaft looked as hard as marble, but spongy and fat, as if it were covered by a sheath of rubbery flesh. I could feel its heat on my face.”

The Aaron Travis erotic novel “Slaves of the Empire” gave glimpses of his later (non-erotic) historical novels published under his own name. The best known of them is Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series of thirteen novels set in ancient Rome. The first was published in 1991, and the most recent earlier this year. The hero is a detective named Gordianus the Finder, active during the time of Sulla, Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra. He has also written two epic-length historical novels about the city of Rome: Roma (2007) and Empire (2010). These books have been published in 21 languages and have earned numerous awards, including Lambda Literary Awards, the Crime Writers of America Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award, the Herodotus Award from the Historical Mystery Appreciation Society, and the Hammett Award of the International Association of Crime Writers.

Saylor has lived with fellow University of Texas student Richard Solomon since 1976; they registered as domestic partners in San Francisco in 1991 and later legally married in October, 2008. The couple shares residences in Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas.

The Seven Wonders, a prequel to the Roma Sub Rosa series, will be released next month on June 5. Synopsis: In the year 92 BC, Gordianus has just turned 18 and is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime: a far-flung journey to see the Seven Wonders of the World. Gordianus is not yet called “the Finder” – but at each of the Wonders, the wide-eyed young Roman encounters a mystery to challenge his powers of deduction. Gordianus travels to the fabled cities of Greece and Asia Minor, then to Babylon and Egypt. He attends the Olympic Games, takes part in exotic festivals, and marvels at the most spectacular constructions ever devised by mankind – encountering murder, witchcraft, and ghostly hauntings along the way.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Roger Edens

Multi-talented Roger Edens (1905-1970) was a key player in the creation of classic MGM musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Edens was a part of Arthur Freed’s production unit derisively called “Freed's Fairies”: director George Cukor, prop master Edwin Willis and Roger Edens (although Freed himself was not gay). Edens brought a unique combination to MGM's movie musicals as an arranger, songwriter, musical supervisor, composer and producer.

Although born in Texas, Edens grew up in Richmond, VA. He worked as a pit pianist in NYC during the 1920s. When Ethel Merman’s pianist left Girl Crazy in 1932, Edens was hired as his replacement. Merman was so impressed that she hired Edens as pianist/arranger for her nightclub act and brought him to Hollywood; but when Merman returned to Broadway, Edens stayed on in Los Angeles. Hired by MGM as Arthur Freed’s musical supervisor and associate producer, he became part of the legendary "Freed Unit", creating some of the finest ever Hollywood musicals: An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, Meet Me in St. Louis, Babes in Arms, Easter Parade, On the Town, Showboat, Royal Wedding and The Bandwagon.

At a time when known homosexuality was a death blow to a career in Hollywood, Edens managed to keep his under wraps. After a brief marriage ended in divorce, Edens appeared in public with his talented friend and co-worker Kay Thompson in an effort to throw others off the scent. Kay Thompson was a vocal arranger at MGM. By the time he worked with Judy Garland (shown in photo with Edens), he was living as a gay man.

Edens also appeared on screen opposite Eleanor Powell in a cameo role in Broadway Melody of 1936, and he continued to compose, score, and arrange MGM musicals throughout the 1940s. His most visible projects from this era included Easter Parade (1948), for which he earned an Academy Award; On the Town (1949), for which he wrote several new songs and won a second Academy Award; and Annie Get Your Gun (1950), for which he received his third Academy Award. During his career he was nominated eight times for an Academy Award.

Roger Edens became the musical mentor to Judy Garland and was an uncredited coach in almost all of her musical films. Because of his exclusive contract with MGM, Edens was not credited with Garland's “Born in a Trunk,” the landmark sequence in the Warner Brothers production of A Star Is Born (1954). Edens nurtured and established a creative relationship and friendship with Garland that would last for more than three decades.

Photo at right: Audrey Hepburn, Richard Avedon, director Stanley Donen, screenwriter Leonard Gershe and producer Roger Edens arriving in Paris to film Funny Face, 1956.

When MGM cut back on musical productions, Edens continued to work at other studios, producing Funny Face (1957) and Jumbo (1962) while breaking into television work. His final screen assignment was as associate producer of Hello, Dolly! (1969), directed by Gene Kelly. Edens coached Katherine Hepburn for her Broadway musical stage debut in Coco (1969).

A year later Roger Edens died of lung cancer at the age of 64. He was interred in a columbarium at Westwood Memorial Park’s Sanctuary of Remembrance, a resting place for Hollywood royalty in Los Angeles (just off Wilshire Boulevard, east of I-405 [San Diego Freeway]). His eternal neighbors include Eddie Albert, Burt Lancaster, Eve Arden, Fanny Brice, Janet Leigh, Sammy Cahn, Jack Lemmon, Truman Capote, Oscar Levant, Eva Gabor and Merv Griffin (and on and on). Not to mention Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder.