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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Erasmus

The Dutch humanist Erasmus (1466-1536) fell madly in love with a tall young monk named Servatius Roger. Erasmus wrote him scores of passionate, love-sick letters, to which Roger reacted by asking him to tone it down – way down, lest there be a scandal. Roger never gave in to the constant, overwrought advances. Here is a typical exchange:

Erasmus: Don’t be so reserved. I have become yours so completely that nothing of myself is left...I have wooed you both unhappily and relentlessly.

Roger: What is wrong with you?

This portrait of Erasmus by Hans Holbein the Younger (1523) hangs in London's National Gallery.

While later teaching in Paris, Erasmus instructed a 21-year-old English-born student, Thomas Grey, who later became Marquis of Dorset. Erasmus was abruptly dismissed as Grey’s teacher, for making unwanted advances towards him. It seems Erasmus had a thing for straight men.

Erasmus was born Gerrit Gerritszoon (Dutch for Gerard Gerardson) in Rotterdam as the illegitimate son of a physician's daughter and a man who later became a monk. On his parents' death his guardians insisted he enter a monastery, where he adopted the name Desiderius Erasmus. After taking priest's orders, Erasmus went to Paris, where he earned a living as a teacher. His life-long clashes with theologians and clergy took root while in France. Among his pupils was English Lord Mountjoy, who invited Erasmus to visit England in 1498. He lived chiefly at Oxford, and through the influence of John Colet, his contempt for theologians was heightened. He returned to Paris and later made a much longed for trip to Italy, but returned to England from time to time.

While residing at Cambridge Erasmus served as professor of Divinity and Greek. In 1519 the first edition of Colloquia appeared. Usually regarded as his masterpiece, Colloquia critiqued the abuses of the Church with audacity and incisiveness, preparing men's minds for the subsequent work of Martin Luther. In future works Erasmus promoted a more rational conception of Christian doctrine, emancipating men's minds from the frivolous and pedantic methods of contemporary theologians. Members of the clerical establishment became his sworn enemies, driving him to live out the rest of his days in Basel, Switzerland. Fortunately, during his last years Erasmus enjoyed great fame, fortune  and high regard.

Erasmus stands as the supreme example of cultivated common sense being applied to human affairs. He rescued theology from the pedantries of theologians, exposed the abuses of the Church, and did more than any other single person to advance the Revival of Learning.

A popular European student exchange program, established in 1987, is named after him. The Erasmus Programme is a major European Union higher education initiative; there are currently more than 4,000 higher education institutions participating in 33 countries, and more than 2.2 million students have already taken part.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Federico García Lorca

Lorca was an avante-garde homosexual Spanish poet and playwright who had a serious and scandalous affair with Salvador Dalí. Lorca, born near Granada, was considered the greatest Spanish poet of the twentieth century. He trained as a classical pianist, but also studied law, literature and musical composition. From his friendship with homosexual Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, Spanish folklore became his muse. Lorca’s early anthologies of poems were stylized imitations of the ballads and poems that were told throughout the Spanish countryside. When Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads, 1928) was published, it brought him fame across the Hispanic world.

From 1925 to 1928 he was passionately involved with Salvador Dalí. Their sexual relationship was portrayed in the recent film Little Ashes (2009). As Lorca’s reputation increased, however, he became estranged from Dalí. When a collapse of a love affair with sculptor Emilio Soriano Aladrén followed, Lorca moved to New York, where his homosexuality would perhaps be more accepted. At a time when in Spain hardly anyone traveled, Lorca prospered in New York, where he wrote his acclaimed work, "Poet in New York". He then went to Argentina, and even spent time in Cuba, where he was inspired to write "In a coach of black water I will go to Santiago". However, Lorca’s heavily homoerotic Sonnets of Dark Love (1935) were not published during his lifetime (see excerpt at end of post).

Lorca (below on left) shown with Salvador Dalí (on right) in 1926:


Lorca described himself as "Catholic, communist, anarchist, libertarian, traditionalist, monarchist." His works challenged the accepted role of women in society and explored taboo issues of homoeroticism and class distinctions (he was a passionate social activist). These outspoken liberal views led Franco to ban all of Lorca’s works. In fact, it was only after Franco's death in 1975 that Lorca's life and circumstances of his death could be openly discussed in Spain.

Lorca was envied for his talent, he had money and was successful. When the military took power, his execution was only a matter of time. A successful, liberal homosexual could not be tolerated in Franco's Spain, and he was shot by Franco’s anti-communist death squads during the Spanish Civil War.

Lorca had taken refuge in the home of poet Luis Rosales (now the Hotel Reina Cristina in Grenada) from where he was abducted. They came for him on August 19, 1936, and loaded him into a truck with other political suspects. He was shot a few kilometers from Fuente Vaqueros, Spain (where he had been born), but his body has still not been found.

Footnote: Manuel de Falla, who had become disillusioned with the Franco regime, tried but failed to prevent the murder of Lorca, his close friend. As a result, de Falla left Spain in 1939 for Argentina, never to return to his native country.

Lorca, who was assassinated at the tender age of 38, was a man whose crime was to be free at a time in Spain's history when to call for freedom was to knock on the executioner’s door.

This scene from the film Little Ashes shows the first kiss between Salvador Dali (Robert Pattinson) and Frederico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran). For you impatient types, the kiss takes place at the 1:43 mark.



*****************************************************************

The Poet Speaks by Telephone with His Lover
– from Sonnets of Dark Love (1935)

My chest was dune and drought, your voice was water;
that wooden cabin ceased to be my coffin.
At the south pole of my feet the crocus sprang,
at the north pole of my brow the bramble bloomed.
A pine of light sang through each crack and corner,
sang with no seed sown in the earth nor dawn;
for the first time my cry flew like an arrow,
pinning a crown of hope upon the roof.
Sweet and distant voice coursing toward me,
sweet and distant fountain of my pleasure,
distant and sweet like a sunken river!
Distant as a half-hidden, wounded faun,
sweet as a sobbing draught from snowy fields,
distant yet sweetly lodged in my own marrow!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Siegfried Wagner's Homosexual Circle

Siegfried Wagner (1869-1930), son of the great German opera composer Richard Wagner (father and son in photo at right), displayed a feminine demeanor while growing up and was greatly attached to his mother. During his student days he often dressed up as a ballerina, and he had affairs with several of his fellow male students.

Siegfried, who was also the grandson of pianist/composer Franz Liszt, became part of a circle of high-profile closeted homosexual men, including English composer Clement Harris, tenor Max Lorenz, writer Oscar Wilde, illustrator Franz Stassen and Prince Philipp of Eulenburg. In 1892 Clement Harris and 23-year-old Siegfried set off on an around-the-world tour together, and the two fell deeply in love. Wagner kept a portrait of Harris on his desk for the rest of his life.

When journalist Maximilian Harden later accused Prince Philipp of Eulenburg and others close to Kaiser Wilhelm II of homosexuality (Harden-Eulenburg Affair), Siegfried either had to get married or be exposed for what he was. So it was that in 1915 at the age of 46, after strong prodding from his mother, Siegfried Wagner married an 18-year-old Englishwoman named Winifred Klindworth, with whom he had four children, thus providing heirs for the continuation of the Wagner dynasty. His sexual orientation, however, became the source of both scandal and concerted attempts to erase it from the history of the Wagner family.


Siegfried Wagner in his twenties (left).





When the Wagner dynasty’s papers were bequeathed to Bayreuth’s Richard Wagner Foundation in 1973, Winifred Wagner included Siegfried’s musical scores but withheld her husband's correspondence. This was consistent with the family’s notorious stalling and purging of any revelations that would taint the legacy of Richard Wagner.


In response to Harden’s insinuations about his sexual nature, Siegfried replied, “There was ugly gossip about Frederick the Great, too, the greatest king of all time – and he made Prussia great and strong! So don't worry. I won't defile the House of the Festival.” The irony in that statement is that all the rumors and gossip about Frederick the Great were true.

Siegfried did not give up social and sexual relations with homosexuals, however, and he and Franz Stassen (1869-1949), a gay artist who had served as the best man at Siegfried’s wedding, continued a social and artistic relationship that lasted for decades. Stassen (at left) was a noted Art Nouveau painter and illustrator who also married. Siegfried introduced Stassen to Wagnerian tenor Max Lorenz (1901-1975), much admired by Hitler, even though Lorenz was a gay man married to a Jewish woman. For a time Stassen and Lorenz were involved in an affair. When Hitler, who was a financial supporter of the Bayreuth Festival, could no longer publicly endorse Lorenz, it was Siegfried’s wife Winifred who used her influence to rescue Bayreuth’s star heldentenor from public disgrace, exile and possible imprisonment over a charge of homosexuality.

Most historians concede that Hitler and Winnifred (below) carried on an affair after Siegfried’s death in 1930; there were even rumors of a possible marriage. Although Winifred was proud of her association with Hitler, when he visited her at Bayreuth, she took pains to conceal the connection. Hitler would register at the Hotel Bube in nearby Bad Berneck, and Winnifred would send her own car to pick him up, so that Hitler's ostentatious Mercedes would not be seen pulling into the driveway at Wahnfried, the Wagner family's villa built for Richard Wagner by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.





















Following in his father’s footsteps, Siegfried Wagner was also a composer, but his operas, although popular during his lifetime, never entered the standard repertoire. In 1896 Siegfried began conducting at the Bayreuth Festival and from 1906-1930 was the festival’s sole artistic director. In Siegfried’s controversial 1930 staging of his father’s opera Tannhäuser, he boldly embellished several scenes with scantily clad male teenagers.

Siegfried dedicated one of his eighteen operas to Franz Stassen, who designed illustrations for the programs for Wagnerian opera productions at Bayreuth (example at right). Franz also published homoerotic drawings and paintings and went on to become a major player in the Teutonic Art Nouveau style. During the last decade of his life Stassen wrote recollections about his male "soul mate", thus publicly hinting at his own homosexuality.

In the previous decade Stassen had also become associated with the Nazi Party. He created four important tapestries for Hitler's Reich Chancellery in Berlin that illustrated motifs of the Germanic Edda sagas. In gratitude, Hitler awarded him the title of professor in 1939.

After 1941 Franz lived openly with his male partner and professed his homosexual orientation, but the Third Reich generously overlooked and ignored this declaration. In the final phase of World War II, Hitler included Stassen in the Gottbegnadeten (Gifted by God) list of important artists most crucial to Nazi culture.



Wagnerian tenor Max Lorenz (right) was homosexual as well, but in 1932 he married Lotte Appel, a Jewish singer who was aware of his sexual orientation going into the marriage. Max’s homosexuality was tolerated by the Nazis as a well-known secret, because Lorenz was a favorite of Hitler. When Lorenz was dragged into court because of an affair with a young man, Hitler advised Winifred Wagner, the director of the Bayreuth Festival after Siegfried’s death in 1930, that Lorenz would not be suitable for the Festival. She replied that in that case she would have to close the Festival, because, “...without Lorenz, there can be no Bayreuth.” Lorenz was thus retained.

As for his Jewish wife Lotte, Max insisted on being open about his marriage of convenience, which was taken as a provocation by the Nazis. Once when Lorenz was away from his house, the SS burst in and tried to take Lotte and her mother away. At the last moment Lotte Lorenz was able to make a phone call to Hermann Göring’s sister, and the SS was ordered to leave their residence and not bother the women. Göring stated in a letter dated March 21, 1943, that Lorenz was under his personal protection, and that no action should be taken against him, his wife, or her mother.

Second Movement (1927) of Siegfried Wagner’s Symphony in C (in the 1925 first version of the symphony, the slow movement was recycled from the prelude to Der Friedensengel, an opera written in 1914, but not premiered until 1926 in Karlsruhe):