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.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Ray Hill

1940-2018




Before Houston, TX, native Ray Hill became a galvanizing gay activist, he had been a Baptist evangelist and a convicted burglar who served four years in prison. Not a typo.

Mr. Hill, who died November 24,  was a larger-than-life character who said, "I was born to rub the cat hair the wrong direction." He described his occupation as a "journeyman-quality hell raiser, and on his business cards the words "Citizen Provocateur" were printed under his name. He partnered with San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk to organize the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. 80,000 activists showed up. But the second national march he helped organize drew more than 200,000 people in 1987, the largest gay rights demonstration in history.

A renowned radio broadcaster, he co-founded KPTF-FM in Houston, where he started a program on LGBTG issues. In 1980 Texas prisoners could not call home to speak to immediate family or close relatives. Although Hill lobbied for a 2007 state law allowing such, his prior efforts resulted in radio's "The Prison Show" with a call-in segment that allowed families to update inmates with greetings, family details and news of births and deaths and such trivialities as children's soccer game scores.

He bullied Anita Bryant in 1977 but campaigned for several female politicians, most notably Annise Parker, who became Houston's first gay mayor in 2010. But that's not all. When his sister died in an automobile accident in 1977, Mr. Hill raised her two children. In fact, his entire life became a legacy of service to others. 

After losing his left leg and right foot to diabetes, he resided at Omega House in Houston, a hospice center he helped establish in the 1980s. He had been hospitalized earlier this year with heart problems. His funeral was held yesterday on the steps of Houston's City Hall, where Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered a statement that called Mr. Hill a warrior in the fight for gay rights, human rights and criminal justice reforms.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Steel Magnate Friedrich Alfred Krupp

The multimillionaire German steel industrialist F. A. Krupp (1854-1902) loved the Italian island of Capri, off the coast of Naples, where he resided for several months each year at the Hotel Quisisana*. He kept two yachts there, Maya and Puritan, from which he entertained and pursued his hobby of oceanography. He could well afford to, since his father – Alfred, the Cannon King – had amassed the largest personal fortune in Germany. Alfred's power was so great that crowned heads negotiated directly with him.

While on the island, Krupp (known all his life as Fritz)  indulged his homosexual leanings in a big way. He set up a lavish private pleasure club in a grotto, where he entertained underage Italian boys, mostly the sons of local fishermen. Man on man sex was performed to the accompaniment of a live string quartet, and orgasms were celebrated with bursts of fireworks. Solid gold pins shaped like artillery shells or two crossed forks, both designed by Krupp, were given to the boys if they performed well. I'm not making this up.

When Krupp's wife, back home in Germany, heard rumors of what was going on, she went straight to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who promptly had her committed to an insane asylum in Jena. The thinking was that the Krupp industrialist empire (steel and arms manufacturing) was too vital to German national security to be compromised, even if such lurid stories were deemed true. Besides, Fritz was an important philanthropist who advanced the study of eugenics, which was later to become associated with the Nazis. The company lives on today as Thyssen-Krupp AG, the result of a controversial merger completed in 1999. The new company operates worldwide in steel manufacture, capital goods (elevators and industrial equipment) and services (specialty materials, environmental services, mechanical engineering, and scaffolding services).

But I digress. Krupp’s homosexual tastes predated his holidays on Capri. Conrad Uhl, proprietor of the Hotel Bristol in Berlin, related that he was charged with supplying Fritz with young boys when he stayed there. However, the German press eventually found out about Krupp's illicit private affairs, and printed the whole story, complete with damning photographs taken by Krupp himself inside the grotto on Capri. On  November 15, 1902, the Social Democratic magazine Vorwärts reported that Friedrich Alfred Krupp was homosexual, that he had a number of liaisons with local boys and men, and that his principal attachment was to Adolfo Schiano, an 18-year-old barber and amateur musician who lived on Capri. A week later, Krupp requested a meeting with his close friend, Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose circle of friends included many prominent gay men. On the day he was to meet the emperor, November 22, 1902, Krupp was found dead in his home. Rather than face disgrace, Krupp had committed suicide; he was 48 years old at the time.

The suicide was covered up, and his body was concealed in a casket with no autopsy, even though law required it. No one, not even close relatives, was allowed to see the body. After three days, Germany had a great memorial ceremony involving the Kaiser, who was closely allied to the family. When Fritz was laid to rest in the Krupp family cemetery in Essen, his tomb was guarded day and night.

Ten years ago, when I first visited Capri**, I looked down in wonder from the Gardens of Augustus to the switchback paved footpath known as the Via Krupp, a scenic walkway constructed by Fritz in 1900. Ostensibly Via Krupp was a connection for Fritz between his rooms at the Hotel Quisisana and Marina Piccola, the small port where his marine biology research ship (ironically named the Puritan) lay at anchor. Secretly, however, this path conveyed him to Grotta di Fra’ Felice, the grotto where sex orgies with local boys took place. When the scandal surfaced, Krupp was asked to leave Italy in 1902, and a week  after his return to Germany his life was over.

*The Grand Hotel Quisisana is today a member of Leading Hotels of the World.
www.quisisana.com/en/index

**At the time I had no knowledge of this lurid tale. Today there is a small family-run three star hotel called Villa Krupp on Capri which many people mistakenly believe was built by Fritz Krupp. However, this structure was built as a private villa in 1900 by Eduardo Settanni. By the way, Capri was then known as the gay capital of Europe, hosting hordes of lesbians and gay men, who could pursue their interests openly. Tip: remember to pronounce Capri with the accent on the first syllable (KAH-pree).

The Via Krupp descends 300 feet from the Gardens of Augustus to Marina Piccola, where Fritz hosted all male sex orgies in the nearby Grotta di Fra’ Felice. The iron gate pictured below leads to the grotto. He referred to this grotto as the "holy place of a secret fraternity," and he gave out golden keys to the private gate to waiters and fisherman. He wasn’t even trying to be discrete. This stone path, which had been closed for thirty years because of the danger of falling rocks, was reopened to foot traffic in 2009.


Photo below: On Capri Fritz Krupp satisfies his "needs," which leads to disaster (Auf Capri geht Fritz Krupp den Bedürfnissen nach, die ihm schließlich zum Verhängnis werden) – a scene from the 2009 three-part German TV miniseries, Krupp – Eine Deutsche Familie. In this scene Krupp (center) brings one of the local boys back to his hotel to "satisfy his needs."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Dirk Bogarde

Handsome British film actor Dirk Bogarde’s lawyer, Laurence Harbottle, said, “I share the view of every friend of his whom I have ever known – that Dirk’s nature was entirely homosexual in orientation.

Well, there you have it.

Dirk Bogarde (1921-1999), who portrayed numerous gay and bisexual men on the screen, spent his entire career sublimating or denying his true sexual orientation. He wanted more than anything to be regarded as a straight leading man. He was called the British Rock Hudson for his good looks and appealing on-screen persona, but the two actors had more than beauty and acting style in common.   

English actor John Fraser wrote in his memoir, Close Up (2004):

“But (Dirk) could not accept, could not understand, and could not see when he watched his own performances, that he was effeminate.”

Bogarde aspired for an international film career, not one limited to British audiences. Yet he blamed the utter failure of his sole Hollywood film, Song Without End, in which he portrayed Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt, on anyone other than himself. He blamed his contract with the Rank Organization for limiting him to a long stream of British films, and he complained that he was grossly underpaid.

He was a gifted painter and art restorer, a talented interior decorator and a successful writer, authoring six novels and multiple volumes of autobiography in which not a word about his true sexual orientation appeared. His lover of 50 years, Anthony Forwood (left), was referred to as “Forwood”, in an attempt to portray their relationship as merely one of employer and employee (everyone else called him Tony). Forwood had left his actress wife, Glynis Johns, and their son to move in with Bogarde to become his “manager.” Rare photo of Forwood and Bogarde together (below):










Bogarde’s talent as a writer was often put to good use in embellishing screenplay dialogue.

From The Victim (1961):

In the film Dirk’s character, lawyer Melville Farr, is confronted by his beautiful wife, Laura (portrayed by Sylvia Syms*), who demands an explanation of who this boy Barrett was, how they knew each other, and why Mel stopped seeing him.

Dirk’s character responds:

Alright – alright, you want to know. I’ll tell you – you won’t be content until I tell you, will you? – until you’ve RIPPED it out of me. I stopped seeing him because I WANTED him. Can you understand – because I WANTED him. Now what good has that done you?”

The dialogue as it appeared in the original script went this way:

You won’t be content till I tell you. I put the boy outside the car because I wanted him. Now what good has that done you?


*Younger readers might recall Ms. Syms as the Queen Mother to Helen Mirren in “The Queen” (2006).

The powerful scene starts at the 4:39 timing mark, and the above bit of dialogue is at 8:35
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am9xWQrvnRA&list=PL692D14268C966A3C

Well, this was a film in which a real life gay man was portraying a gay character, a lawyer who tries to right an injustice involving blackmail for being gay. The Victim was the first movie in which the word "homosexual" was spoken on screen, and Bogarde later took credit for writing-in the scene that was the first instance of a man saying "I love you" to another man. Unfortunately, this film all but ended his career as a leading man, yet it opened the door to later brilliant film portrayals as a character actor. Bogarde was knighted in 1992 for his contributions to acting.

The impact of this film cannot be overstated. As American film makers were struggling to make homosexual material acceptable to the Hays Code** and the Legion of Decency***, this British film appeared in which an explicitly gay character actually stood up to fight a system that oppressed homosexuals. In "Victim," Dirk Bogarde was the screen's first gay hero.

**Hays Code (1930-1968): film censorship standards named after Presbyterian elder Will Hays of Indiana, who served as Postmaster General in the cabinet of President Warren Harding. Hays had also served as head of the Republican National Committee. The Supreme Court had already decided unanimously in 1915 that free speech did not extend to motion pictures, and the Hays Office codified objectionable material. Enforcement began in 1934, when the release of any film was held up until the movie studio acquired a certificate of approval from the Hays Office. If a gay character was allowed in a film, that character was open to scorn and ridicule, and most often died by the end of the movie. It was not until after the Hays Code was replaced by the current rating system in 1968 (G, PG, R, N17) that a movie appeared in which gays celebrated their sexual orientation, not to mention that all the gay characters were still living when the end credits rolled – Boys in the Band (1970).

***Legion of Decency was established by the American Catholic Church in 1933, with even stricter standards. Their clout was the constant threat of massive boycotts against films that did not meet their moral standards.

The entire film can be seen on YouTube in 10 installments:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7Nzrq1jKNM&list=PL692D14268C966A3C

Three stages of Dirk Bogarde: early, middle and late: