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, August 8, 2011

Howard Hughes

Bisexual Billionaire, Film Maker & Aviator

A recent magazine article made mention of the whitewashed version of the life of Howard Hughes as depicted in the movie, Aviator. I decided to go digging for a bit of dirt, and believe me, there was plenty -- too much for one post.  I was astonished by the sheer quantity of homosexual activity, so here goes:

Hollywood 1921: Bisexual film director William Desmond Taylor, Mexican born film star Ramon Novarro, Spanish born star Antonio Moreno, and a teenaged Howard Hughes were all involved with each other sexually – sometimes all at the same time. Taylor was mesmerized by Hughes, who was attending a private school east of Santa Barbara, and planned to star him in a film custom tailored for him. Howard’s uncle, Rupert Hughes, a powerful Hollywood screen writer, was to write the script. It was Uncle Rupert who had introduced Howard to William Desmond Taylor.

Included in their circle was silent film star Blanche Sweet, who regularly gave Howard blow jobs, marveling at the young man’s generous endowment. But it was Taylor who became completely obsessed with Howard. He knew he could make Hughes the biggest star in all of Hollywood, and he couldn't keep his hands off him. Unfortunately, Taylor was murdered in 1922, and the case remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of Hollywood.

Immediately after Taylor’s funeral, Hughes abandoned plans to become a movie star. He told Sweet and Moreno that he had decided to become a producer, a field in which he could be the boss. He also continued to pursue his passions for horses and airplanes. Howard was a magnificent rider and a fearless aviator.

He was also handsome, tall (6'3"), well-endowed and rich – and accustomed to getting his way. Howard lived a warped reality of instant gratification. He played by no one’s rules, sampling whatever drugs, alcohol, women and men he fancied. Hughes, the son of a fabulously wealthy father, lived on an open-ended allowance, enabling him to buy cars and wildly expensive clothes for his boyfriends. One of the most important of them, Dudley Sharp, was later involved in an affair with Howard’s doting mother, who became pregnant by Dudley. Based in Houston, Allene (Howard’s mother) died from complications of the pregnancy, and a day later Dudley, Howard's boyfriend from just a few years before, attempted suicide. Howard and his father took these unsavory complications in stride and immediately returned to California to live their lives of unbridled excess. Hughes Sr. continued his torrid affairs with Gloria Swanson and Eleanor Boardman, and had Howard moved into a private bungalow at a Pasadena polo club – all paid for by his father, of course. Howard was sixteen.

Howard’s father bribed officials at Cal Tech to accept his son, who did not have a high school diploma, as an uncredited student. Such was the power of money. Its corrupting influence was not lost on Howard. After accepting a blow job from silent film star Billy Haines (see post on August 5), Howard bragged to Haines that he had received intimate invitations from both Eleanor Boardman and Charlie Chaplin. Haines felt he should warn Howard that Boardman was one of Howard Sr.’s mistresses. Howard told Haines that he was aware of that, and “it would make taking her all the sweeter.” When Howard Sr. found out about it, he actually encouraged the affair, even telling Boardman that he was pleased by his son’s brazenness. Unknown to Boardman was the fact that Howard Sr. wanted to move on, focusing his attentions on Gloria Swanson. Morality of convenience – thanks, son!

Haines and Hughes forged a close friendship, even though Billy Haines was 100% gay and Hughes was bisexual. Billy knew everybody in Hollywood and made sure Hughes was invited to all the right parties. Haines was also a close friend of Eleanor Boardman. In fact, both Haines and Boardman had been winners of their respective divisions of the “New Faces of 1922" contest sponsored by Goldwyn Pictures. Both were sent from New York to Hollywood for screen tests, and both became big stars. Upon arrival in L.A., Boardman was already an established stage actress, but Billy Haines was 100% raw talent.

Note: Some readers might doubt that these photos are of Howard Hughes, since his appearance changed so radically from his mid-thirties. Both photographs in this post are from 1930-1931, when Hughes was 25-26 years old, before the plane crash and resulting plastic surgery.

At a New Year’s Eve party in Houston, Howard’s father had humiliated him in front of other guests. After a heated argument about aviation (it was Howard’s passion, but his father refused to support his son’s desire to fly), Hughes Sr. yelled at his son, “Just like your Uncle Rupert, you’re nothing but a queer.” Turns out Hughes Sr. knew all about both his son’s and brother’s sexual dalliances with men. Howard collapsed into tears as his father slammed the door and stormed off. It is important to note that the person into whose arms Howard collapsed was none other than Dudley Sharp*, father of his mother’s unborn child, as well as being Howard’s boyhood lover. For two weeks Hughes Sr. and his son kept an icy distance from each other. On January 14, 1924, Howard’s father died suddenly of an embolism while working in his Houston office. When Howard was approached on the golf course to be told that his father had died, the first thing he did was call the family attorney. He asked the lawyer to read him his father’s will. Howard had just turned eighteen.

*Sharp later suffered the humiliation of having to ask Howard for money in order to continue his studies at Princeton. Hughes refused. Dudley Sharp later married and became U.S. Secretary of the Air Force under Eisenhower.

To be continued...

Sources:
Howard Hughes: The Secret Life (1993) by Charles Higham
Howard Hughes: Hell’s Angel (2005) by Darwin Porter

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