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, September 9, 2013
UPDATED POST (original version published on Nov. 12, 2011):
Ukranian-born pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) was a twentieth-century pianist who embodied the grand piano style of the late nineteenth century. His legendary technique and artistry remain a source of inspiration for generations of pianists and listeners.
His solo career began in the Soviet Union, where he quickly established himself as a bravura performer possessed of an astonishing technique. He was allowed to leave Russia in 1925 as part of a mission to propagate Soviet culture abroad. However, he decided not to return and accepted the honorary citizenship of Haiti in 1929, in order to facilitate international travel. In 1945 he became a citizen of the United States.
During his early performing years Horowitz developed a reputation as an eccentric who dressed in lurid, extravagant clothing (mostly in pink and red) and hung out in sailors' bars in port cities, often seen wearing make-up. His homosexual activities fed the gossip and rumor mills.
Kenneth Leedom, who still lives in lower Manhattan, relates that long ago he answered Horowitz’s newspaper ad for a personal assistant and became his lover for five years, although Horowitz was married at the time. Leedom recalls that Horowitz had an uncontrollable temper, often yanking a corner of a tablecloth so that everything on the table crashed to the floor. Emphasis on OFTEN. In spite of frequent tantrums, Leedham said that Horowitz also had a sweet, lovable side. “He really adored me.”
In 1940, Horowitz began psychoanalytic treatment with Dr. Lawrence Kubie, a psychiatrist who specialized in "curing" homosexuals, especially celebrities. Among Kubie’s other patients were Moss Hart and Tennessee Williams. Horowitz separated from his wife in 1949 after failing to change his sexual orientation and underwent electroshock therapy to cure depression.
Later in life Horowitz was seen in New York City's gay bars and discotheques, where he displayed a more relaxed attitude toward his homosexuality. Eventually reunited with her husband, Wanda learned to tolerate and accept his eccentricities, including his sexual attraction to men.
Horowitz's legacy is preserved through his outstanding recordings. Although Horowitz was a leading interpreter of Liszt, Schumann, and Rachmaninov, he was an insecure performer who often suffered debilitating episodes of stage fright. On many occasions he had to be literally pushed onto the stage. He was a major promoter of music by composers relatively unknown in the United States at the time: Prokofiev, Szymanowski, Scriabin, Kabalevski, Scarlatti and Clementi (example below). As well, he championed American gay composer Samuel Barber.
Note: I remember stumbling upon his grave quite by accident in Milan, Italy, about ten years ago. I was looking for the family crypt of Arturo Toscanini in the enormous Cimitero Monumentale. When peering through the metal gates of the crypt, I noticed the gilded carved letters that indicated Horowitz was buried in the tomb of his father in law, alongside wife Wanda and daughter Sonia.
Horowitz was a great promoter of the piano sonatas of Muzio Clementi (1752-1832), at a time when Clementi was considered passé. Here Horowitz performs a movement from Clementi’s Op. 25, No. 5: