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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dimitri Mitropoulos

Greek-born orchestra conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960) had a distinct style while on the podium – he didn’t use a baton, he conducted without a printed musical score in front of him, and he displayed an intense, vigorous physicality (later mimicked by Leonard Bernstein and Gustavo Dudamel – all three of them criticized for it).

Born into a deeply religious family, he trained to be a monk, but abandoned that plan when he learned that the church would not allow him to keep a musical instrument in his cell. His musical career rose to the very heights of his profession, most notably as principal conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra for twelve years, followed by his appointment to the New York Philharmonic in 1950, a position regarded as the most prestigious in classical music in the United States. A talented pianist and composer in his youth, Mitropoulos championed difficult, complex newly-composed music, but it was during the time of his studies in Berlin that he redirected his focus from performing and composing to conducting.

But for all his international success and acclaim, he was victimized for his homosexuality.  During the time that Mitropoulos and Bernstein were having an affair in NYC, Mitropoulos advised the much-younger Bernstein to get married if he wanted to better his chances at leading a major symphony orchestra. Bernstein, a gay man, took his advice and married an actress – and went on to succeed Mitropoulos as conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

Photo below: Mitropoulos as both soloist and conductor with the Minneapolis Symphony.



At the height of his success as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Mitropoulos became the subject of rumor and innuendo spawned by the open secret of his homosexuality, and he became a victim of McCarthy-era homophobia. He invariably dodged questions about his bachelor status by claiming "I married my art." Fear of being outed publicly forced Mitropoulos to sublimate his sexual desires, and he claimed that music making was a substitute for his “unlived sex life.”

Mitropoulos always lived modestly, even while being one of the highest paid conductors in the country; he gave away most of his money to assist struggling musicians and orchestras. He was sweet natured and kind, showing great professional respect for his orchestra members, but he was criticized for that, as well.

As support for Mitropoulos waned in NYC, the NY Philharmonic board looked for a replacement that would epitomize the masculine, heterosexual ideal. Ironically, they settled on Leonard Bernstein and named him co-conductor with Mitropoulos for the 1957-58 NY Philharmonic season. Bernstein took over as sole musical director in the fall of 1958. Although Mitropoulos bowed out gracefully, championing Bernstein’s talent, the loss of that job created a wound from which he never fully recovered. During the last years of his life Mitropoulos toured the world as guest conductor of major orchestras, but he succumbed to a third and fatal heart attack in late 1960 while rehearsing Mahler's Third Symphony with the La Scala Opera Orchestra in Milan. He was sixty-four years old.

Note: principal sources for this post are Linda Rapp and Geoffrey Bateman.

This video gives an up-close view of his “baton-less” conducting style – excerpts from a rehearsal and performance with the New York Philharmonic.

Third movement (Mephistopheles) of Franz Liszt’s A Faust Symphony:

Monday, December 24, 2012

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:



Friday, December 21, 2012

Military Recruitment Art of Leyendecker and Barclay

I have already written a post about gay commercial artist J.C. Leyendecker (see sidebar), but a regular reader sent me this Leyendecker image used for Navy recruitment. Although I had not seen it before, I knew that Leyendecker took a back seat to McClelland Barclay (1891–1943) in the realm of military recruitment art, as the following images attest.














Barclay was a commercial artist born in St. Louis, and he had early success. By the time he was 21 years old his work had appeared in magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal, and Cosmopolitan.



During World War I one of his military art posters won a prize given by the Committee on National Preparedness. He achieved great fame for Hollywood movie poster art beginning in the 1930s, but it was during World War II that his work for Navy recruitment posters allowed him to reach the height of his popularity and fame.



Barclay painted sailors who were notable for their handsome faces and well-defined physiques, and most of the posters were emphatically homoerotic. Although it is not known if Barclay had same sex relationships (he was married to a woman), he created some of the sexiest commercial male images, thus establishing a new military masculine ideal. The largest collection of his military recruitment posters is housed at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, DC (Navy Yard); 202-433-4882.



Theron MacKay, a gunner's mate who was sketched by Barclay in early 1943 recalls, "Me and another crew member were cleaning a gun, so we were bare from the waist up. Barclay had his sketch pad out and was drawing us. Being an amateur artist myself, I took an interest in what he was doing and asked if I could look over his shoulder. Well, he made us look like the finest human specimens that ever were! Really, we were skinny kids with our ribs hanging out. I said to him, 'I don't look like that!' and he answered, 'Well, if I sketched you like you are, it wouldn't make much of a recruiting poster, would it?'"



Barclay also achieved success with portrait painting and other commercial clients such as General Motors. His paintings for their Body by Fisher advertising campaign were instantly recognizable the world over. Barclay also designed women's jewelry, as well as utilitarian objects such as ashtrays.

A Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, he also worked on airplane and ship camouflage designs. Barclay went missing in the Solomon Islands after his tank landing ship was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1943.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Frank Ocean

When the Grammy Awards nominations were announced earlier this month, openly gay/bi singer/songwriter Frank Ocean was nominated in six categories:

1. Best new artist
2. Album of the Year (Channel Orange)
3. Best Urban Contemporary Album (Channel Orange)
4. Record of the Year (Thinking Bout You)
5. Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (No Church in the Wild)
6. Best Short Form Music Video (No Church in the Wild)

The Grammy Award winners will be announced on February 10, 2013.



Ocean, who was born Christopher Breaux (known as Lonny to close friends), is twenty five years old. As a teenager in New Orleans he washed cars, mowed lawns and walked dogs to save up enough money to rent studio time. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina destroyed his recording facility, so he dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles, where he made a living writing lyrics for Justin Bieber, Beyoncé and John Legend. Just a year ago he conceived and recorded his singing debut album – Nostalgia, Ultra – inventing a new persona. Songwriter Lonny Breaux became singer Frank Ocean (a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Ocean’s 11). Nostalgia, Ultra, an R&B album, was released in February, 2011 as a free download.

With the mid-2012 release of his first studio album – Channel Orange – Ocean came out on his blog, making reference to an unrequited love for a man (Ocean was nineteen at the time of this same sex longing). Ocean says he “cried like a baby” when he made the July, 2012 Tumblr blog post revealing his gay past: “I don't know what happens now, and that's alrite. I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore... I feel like a free man.”

On the songs Bad Religion, Pink Matter and Forrest Gump, Ocean sings about being in love, but the word used to identify the lover is “him” and not “her.” Thus Ocean became one of the first major African-American music artists to announce that he had fallen in love with someone of the same sex, notable because the industry is known for expressions of homophobia. In this instance, however, Ocean's sexual revelations were met with praise and support from throughout the music industry.

Channel Orange debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, selling 131,000 copies in its first week, The album garnered rave reviews from music critics, who praised its idiosyncratic production, musical scope, and Ocean's songwriting. It was promoted with four singles, including Ocean's highest charting single "Thinkin Bout You", and his North American supporting tour in July 2012. At present the album has sold approximately 400,000 copies.

Bad Religion (Channel Orange) is a makeshift therapy session about unrequited love, taking place in the back seat of a taxi:

(sampling of lyrics)

It's a bad religion to be in love with someone who could never love you.
This unrequited love – to me it's nothing but a one-man cult & cyanide in my styrofoam cup.
I can never make him love me, never make him love me.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Louis Moreau Gottschalk

Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869 was an American composer and pianist, best known as a virtuoso performer of his own piano compositions. He spent most of his career outside of the United States.

His father was an English Jew working in New Orleans as a real estate speculator, and his mother was of French descent. She had grown up in Haiti and fled to Louisiana after a slave uprising threatened the ruling class. By the age of thirteen, Gottschalk’s talent had become so prodigious that he was sent to Paris to study at the Conservatoire. Denied entrance to that august institution*, he studied piano and composition privately, culminating in his public debut in Paris at the famed Salle Pleyel in 1845. The precocious sixteen-year-old’s performance won the admiration of Chopin.

* The Conservatoire rejected Gottschalk’s application without hearing him on the grounds of his nationality. Pierre Zimmermann, the head of the piano faculty, derisively commented that "America is a country of steam engines".

During the summer of 1848 Gottschalk wrote two piano pieces based on Louisiana Créole tunes, La Savane and Bamboula. He introduced them into the salons of Paris in early 1849, and the strongly syncopated Bamboula (the title refers to Afro-Caribbean drums) quickly became an underground sensation. In April of that year he performed it at a public concert, where it was received with wild enthusiasm. Dedicated to Isabella II of Spain, Bamboula became one of his signature pieces. Gottschalk disliked performing the standard repertoire (Bach, Mozart and the like), but very much liked performing his own compositions, which were entertaining works of a unique voice that, unfortunately, were subsequently relegated to the category of “novelties.”  Some of his pieces found popular use in silent movie houses, and the public eventually identified his music as clichéd, and within a few decades, Gottschalk was condemned as hopelessly old-fashioned.

Gottschalk's first piano works appeared in print in the late 1840s. These syncopated pieces based on Creole melodies gained international popularity. Gottschalk left Paris in 1852 to settle in New York City, where in 1855 he signed a contract with a publisher to issue several piano pieces, including The Banjo and The Last Hope. The latter is a mawkishly melancholy piece that nevertheless achieved great popularity. Gottschalk found himself obligated to repeat it at every piano concert, writing, "even my paternal love for The Last Hope has succumbed under the terrible necessity of meeting it at every step."

Pianist Cyprien Katsaris performs his embellished version of “The Banjo.” Gottschalk’s music lends itself perfectly to this sort of treatment.



Gottschalk’s primary physical and emotional relationships were with men, and he had a particular fondness for young boys. On a concert tour of Spain he “adopted” a very young boy who accompanied him thereafter. Unlike many nineteenth century high profile homosexual or bisexual performers, Gottschalk never married. His extensive tours abroad protected him from the condemnation of America’s puritanical standards and judgment. 

At the age of twenty six at a concert in Dodsworth Hall, on Broadway at 11th Street, an area which was then the nerve center of New York City’s musical life, Gottschalk at last found his niche with an audience. Even with his new-found success and popularity, Gottschalk was a nervous nail-biter who bloodied his fingers before recitals, gnawing away at them anxiously. After his mother’s death in 1857 he left for a concert tour of the Caribbean that stretched out to five years. Upon his return, his country was in the midst of the Civil War, and Gottschalk became a Union sympathizer, in spite of his southern roots. He was a superlative showman, presenting flamboyant musical spectaculars. He once placed on a single stage forty pianos played by eighty pianists. All in a day’s work for Gottschalk.

After a tour of California in 1865, he once more left the U.S., this time for Panama City. Once there, Gottschalk decided not to return to NYC, instead pressing on to Peru, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina, staying just one step ahead of revolutions, rioting, and cholera epidemics. He was greatly influenced by the melodies and rhythms of these countries, and they were echoed in his compositions. At the height of his success and popularity, Gottschalk contracted malaria in Brazil in 1869. During a concert in Rio de Janeiro later that year, Gottschalk collapsed at the keyboard, and on December 18, 1869, Gottschalk died at the tender age of 40. His body was returned to the United States for interment at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

American pianist Eugene List (1918-1985) and Irishman Philip Martin (b. 1949) both championed the works of Gottschalk and performed and recorded most of the extant piano solo repertoire of 200 pieces. A 1995 biography by A. Frederick Star, Bamboula! The life and times of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, brought Gottchalk’s sexuality to the forefront.

"Fiesta criolla" from Gottschalk's Symphony no. 1, "La nuit des tropiques" (Symphonie romantique). The Basel Festival Orchestra conducted by Thomas Herzog in 2008.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Craig Claiborne

Craig Claiborne (1920-2000) was an American restaurant critic, food writer and cookbook author. Born in Mississippi, he was raised on the region's cuisine in the kitchen of his mother's boarding house. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he decided his passion lay in cooking, and he used his G.I. Bill benefits to attend the famed École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Upon returning to the U.S., Claiborne became a contributor to Gourmet magazine, a food-products publicist and most notably the food editor of The New York Times newspaper in 1957, where he created the four-star system of rating restaurants still used today. He quickly rose to the very top of his profession. His writings exposed the American public to ethnic cuisines, especially Asian and Mexican foods. He had a long-time professional (but not personal) relationship with the French-born NYC based chef, author and television personality Pierre Franey, with whom Claiborne collaborated on many books and culinary projects.

Claiborne (left) with professional collaborator Pierre Franey:


Claiborne was a gay man who was born too soon to be able to live openly in the public eye, causing major frustration in his life. Although he was out to most of his friends and colleagues, he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality. He also drank way too much and ignored his deteriorating health as time went on. Claiborne left his books and papers to the Culinary Institute of America and a few other things to friends. However, he bequeathed his house in East Hampton, his apartment in NYC and everything else not specifically named in the will to his (married) lover, James Dinneen, a physician. The tale of their meeting is related in Thomas McNamee’s new book (2012), “The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat (Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance)”:

"The two were strolling past each other in Manhattan when they locked eyes, and it was love at first sight. Dinneen was married, with six children, and living in Florida. Yet in Claiborne style, the two had countless trysts over the next two decades in choice hotels throughout the world and dined exquisitely until age and illness parted them. Dying nearly a decade later, Dinneen left behind no acknowledgment of their even having met."

Claiborne wrote a memoir, "A Feast Made for Laughter" (1982), in which he detailed a dark and disturbing youth, despite the book’s lighthearted title. He took solace in the company of his mother’s African-American household staff as an escape from the taunts of his straight schoolmates, a difficult, doting mother (Claiborne didn't attend her funeral) and sexual involvement with his father.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Keith Haring

Pop culture artist Keith Haring (1958-1990), was a gay man whose simplistic images were influenced by New York City graffiti artists. His art had a strong graphic quality, with figures or objects drawn in outline form with rays emanating from them – instantly recognizable the world over. Unfortunately, his short life was halted by AIDS, and he succumbed to the disease at the age of thirty-one.

Keith Allen Haring was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and he was raised in a nearby rural farming community. He showed artistic promise from his childhood years, when he was an avid drawer of cartoons. As a teenager he became aware of Andy Warhol’s work and was fascinated by the prospect of mass-produced pop art that celebrated common objects. He moved to Pittsburgh after graduating from high school and it was there that he realized his homosexuality and art were interconnected, prompting a move to NYC, the center of both the art world and gay culture.


In the early 1980s he began creating his iconic graffiti drawings in the city’s subways. Haring worked at the Tony Shafrazi gallery, and in 1982 his employer launched his first major show, in which many of the works displayed homoerotic content. His images, bereft of detail, were ideal for social awareness campaigns, and his designs were soon used for UNICEF causes, AIDS prevention, literacy campaigns and even to fight apartheid in South Africa.

Within five years of his arrival in NYC, Haring’s popularity and unique artistic expression made him a rich man and a cultural celebrity. Madonna, one of his biggest fans, explained that Haring’s art had such a vast appeal because, "there was a lot of innocence and joy that was coupled with a brutal awareness of the world."

Among his projects included a mural created for the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, on which Haring worked with 900 children,  a mural on the exterior of Necker Children’s Hospital in Paris, France in 1987, and a mural painted on the western side of the Berlin Wall three years before its fall. Haring also held drawing workshops for children in schools and museums in New York, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo and Bordeaux, and produced imagery for many literacy programs and other public service campaigns.

Influenced by Andy Warhols’ commercialism, Haring opened the Pop Shop in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood, where products bearing his images could reach a mass market. Responding to critics who said he had “sold out” his art, Haring explained that fine art was an expensive commodity beyond the reach of the middle class, and his retail outlet allowed ordinary people to own his work. More than twenty years after his death, the Pop Shop lives on and has expanded to encompass Internet operations.

Portrait of Haring (at left)



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Laurence Harvey

 
Film actor Laurence Harvey (1928-1973) was married three times, but he was actually a gay man who was trying to get the public off the scent of his true nature. His career stalled, and he did not become what anyone could call a major star. In spite of that, he got a lot of work, especially during the 1960s. Neither the public, critics nor friends said anything positive about his acting ability. He was in only one film that can be called a classic – "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), with Frank Sinatra – but Harvey had little to do with its success.

George Jacobs, Frank Sinatra’s valet, wrote “Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra,” a memoir in which he relates that Harvey often made passes at him while visiting Sinatra. Jacobs says that  Sinatra was aware of Harvey's sexuality but did not mind, passing it off as a joke: “He has the handicaps of being a homo, a Jew, and a Polock*, so people should go easy on him.”

*Harvey was actually born to a Jewish family in Lithuania.

British actor John Fraser , author of “Close Up,” also wrote that Harvey was gay, pointing out that Harvey’s long-term partner was James Wolfe, his manager who "discovered" Harvey in the 1950s. Harvey’s marriages to and dalliances with women were usually with females about twice his age.

Laurence Harvey (photographed in 1954, at right) was a master of deception. While he maintained his entire life that his birth name was Laruschka Mischa Skikne, it was actually Zvi Mosheh Skikne. His Jewish family moved from Lithuania to South Africa when he was five years old, and while living in Johannesburg he took the name of Harry Skikne. While in his teens he served with the entertainment unit of the South African Army during WW II. After moving to London, he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he became known as "Larry." Dropping out of the academy, he began to perform on stage and in films, simultaneously adopting the stage name "Laurence Harvey." At last a name he liked.

Dame Judi Dench (currently appearing in Skyfall in yet another terrific turn as M) appeared on stage with Harvey in Shakespeare’s Henry V in 1959. She later talked of being bewildered at how Harvey never actually looked at her during his speeches. At the time, Joss Ackland was quoted as saying, “Americans seemed to think Harvey was some sort of great actor, which his colleagues certainly did not.” * Harvey was regularly dismissed by critics. In his posthumously published autobiography, “Knight Errant,” actor Robert Stephens described Harvey as "an appalling man and, even more unforgivably, an appalling actor.” He was often accused of being unprofessional, as many commented on the frustration that resulted from his chronic late arrival on the set. Harvey played out his career largely in undistinguished films, TV work and the occasional supporting role in a major production.

*Incredibly, Harvey received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his leading role in "Room at the Top" (1959), a British film. Although he did not win, he was more or less type cast; he played a conniving, ruthless, heartless social-climber.

David Shipman wrote of Harvey in 1972: “Laurence Harvey's career should be an inspiration to all budding actors: he has demonstrated conclusively that it is possible to succeed without managing to evoke the least audience interest or sympathy - and to go on succeeding despite unanimous critical antipathy and overwhelming public apathy. His twenty year career of mainly unprofitable films is a curiosity of film history.”

Although the British-made film "Darling" (1965) was one of the earliest films to depict gay characters in a sympathetic light, the closets were bursting on the set. There was Harvey, of course, but also Dirk Bogarde, who although deeply closeted, was having an affair with director John Schlesinger. Bogarde, who carried on a 40-year relationship with his agent, Tony Forwood, invested considerable energy in trying to portray himself publicly as a heterosexual. John Schlesinger hoped that his friend, Roland Curram, might be inspired enough by his role in "Darling" to come out of the closet. Curram always insisted he was heterosexual and went on to marry and later sire two children. In 1985, on the occasion of his divorce and ultimate coming out to his family and friends, Curram stated, “Of course, John was right.”

Well, there you have it.

Update from your blogger: I am aghast at some of the comments from my blog readers. This is not a personal attack. I am not "very young" (in fact, I'm close to retirement). I am certainly not antisemitic (I have been employed by a synagogue for 26 years). Before I wrote this entry for my blog about influential gay and bisexual men, I had known Laurence Harvey only as a second-tier movie actor, and his name was on a list of gay and bisexual actors. There are many gay and bisexual film and stage actors on this blog. But when I started to do research on Harvey, I was astonished at how much negative information had been written about him by those who worked with him during his film career. If you re-read this entry, notice how those comments are referenced and credited to those who wrote or commented about Harvey's less than charming traits. I have never met the man, and I have seen only four of his films. I have no grudge against him. I just related what I found out in my research on the man and cited those who wrote or spoke about him.

A scene from "The Magic Christian" (1969) in which Harvey recites Hamlet's soliloquy while stripping before an astonished audience (I'm not making this up):


Oh, I nearly forgot. Scottish-born actor John Fraser called Harvey "a whore" in his 2006 memoir, mentioned above. A very heavy drinker (for good reason, it would appear), Harvey died from stomach cancer at the age of just forty-five. He is buried in Santa Barbara, California, next to his daughter (by his third wife), who died at the age of thirty-five.

Trivia: In 1963, Laurence Harvey built a house in Beverly Hills (designed by Buff & Hensman) that came to have an incredible “gay” pedigree. Musical comedy composer Jerry Herman went on to own it, followed by Max Mutchnick, the co-creator of the TV hit Will & Grace. The 9,200 sq. ft. house was next sold to Ellen Degeneres, for $29 million in 2007. It was purchased six months ago from Ms. Degeneres by Ryan Seacrest (no comment, and nothing implied, naturally, but I do hear some choking noises off in the distance).

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Film score composer Richard Robbins

Richard Robbins, the film score composer who collaborated for 25 years with director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, died November 7 from Parkinson’s disease at age 71. At the time of his death he was at home in Rhinebeck, NY, attended by his long-term partner, painter Michael Schell.

I must say that I am somewhat spooked by his death. My readers likely don’t know that I usually work on three or four blog entries at a time, and after my earlier post about life partners Merchant and Ivory, I did some initial research on Richard Robbins, who provided outstanding scores for  "A Room With a View," "Howards End" and "The Remains of the Day", among many others. Just today I began further Internet research for information about Mr. Robbins, in order to devote an entire entry to his musical contributions to film. You can imagine my shock when I found out he had died two weeks ago.

Robbins was nominated for an Oscar in 1992 for his score for “Howards End” and in 1993 for “The Remains of the Day”. He created the score for nearly every Merchant Ivory film from "The Europeans" in 1979 to "The White Countess" in 2005.

His creative partnership with Merchant and Ivory came about in 1976, when he was serving as acting director of the preparatory school at the Mannes College of Music (NYC). Robbins was the piano teacher of the youngest daughter of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the screenwriting collaborator of partners Merchant and Ivory. Richard and Ruth became friends, and she introduced him to Merchant and Ivory, who produced a documentary on the school’s young musicians. He served as Mr. Merchant’s assistant on Ismail’s next project, a film about ballroom dancers set at the Roseland dance hall in New York City. The creative quartet of Jhabvala, Merchant, Ivory and Robbins became close, and Robbins eventually became a composer, a move that outshone his original intention of a career as an educator.

The first score Robbins developed for a Merchant-Ivory film was for "The Europeans" (1979) a period drama based on the Henry James novel. He wrote a romantic, lush score for "Maurice," (1987), a film based on the E.M. Forster novel. That score won a top award at the Venice Film Festival, and Robbins considered it his favorite.

In 1994 Robbins collaborated with his partner, painter Michael Schell, on "Via Crucis" (Way of the Cross), a musical and visual collage representing the Stations of the Cross.

Richard “Dick” Robbins was born in Massachusetts in 1940 and studied music at the New England Conservatory in Boston, followed by a year of study in Vienna, Austria. His subsequent job at the Mannes College of Music in NYC brought him into the circle of Jhabvala, Merchant and Ivory, and the rest is cinematic history.

Here is a sampling of the score for “Maurice”, one of the great films about homosexual love and attraction:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Joe Saunders and David Richardson

On Tuesday, November 20 (2012), Florida representatives Joe Saunders and David Richardson became the first openly gay members to be sworn into Florida’s state legislature. Richardson represents District 113 (Miami) and Saunders District 49 (Orlando). You should not be shocked to learn that both are Democrats.

Saunders and Richardson took their oaths with more than 50 state legislators in Tallahassee. Until now, Florida was the largest state in the union to have never elected an openly gay candidate to its state legislature. Richardson, a CPA and former auditor for the U.S. Department of Defense, had never before run for public office.

29-year-old Saunders was accompanied in the legislative chambers by his partner, Donald Rupe (on right in photo, below). "Standing there with him was a dream realized and a memory I'll have for the rest of my life," Saunders told the Orlando Sentinel.



Michael Kenny, Executive Director of Florida Together, a statewide LGBT advocacy coalition commented yesterday, "For the first time in the history of our state, we have openly gay State House Representatives. David Richardson will not only be representing the residents of State House District 113 in Miami Dade County - he will be a voice for all of Florida's LGBT residents, (and) congratulations to Joe Saunders on his victory as State Representative in District 49. There is no doubt that the people of Florida will be well served by Joe Saunders being in the legislature."

"Before you can participate in the conversation, change hearts and minds, and impact policy, you must first have a seat at the table. Until today, LGBT Floridians were shouting from the spectators section."

Florida's statehouse in Tallahassee:


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Duncan Grant


Duncan Grant: Bathing (1910)

Scottish born artist Duncan Grant (1885-1978) accomplished much more than the homoerotic nudes for which he is best remembered. He also worked in interior design and forged a career in costume and stage set design.  At age 28, along with art critic and fellow Bloomsbury figure Roger Fry, Grant founded the Omega Workshops, which changed the course of applied art and design in Britain. In this capacity Grant made major contributions to pottery and textile design.

One of his greatest commissions, however, was never realized. Hired to decorate the interiors of the great ocean liner, the Queen Mary, he completed the task, submitted his designs and was paid for his work. Although he was offered no explanation as to why his designs were not used, it was commonly understood that his work was too avant garde for tastes of the time.

Self portrait in mirror (1920)



Grant grew up an only child in Scotland, Burma and India, where his father served in British military regiments. Duncan’s English nanny encouraged his painting and took delight in his juvenile designs for wedding dresses. The young Duncan was influenced by the spectacle of the weekly regimental ceremonies and parades that took place in the numerous cities in India where his family was stationed at the close of the 19th century. They enjoyed a life of privilege, strictly maintaining British customs while living in the Subcontinent. At age nine Grant returned to Britain to attend boarding school. Although he won awards for art and music, he was otherwise a poor student. Coupled with his father’s financial difficulties, Grant  was unable to attend the prestigious schools his mother had hoped for. Instead, he settled into the Westminster School of Art (London). From that time forward, he never strayed from pursuing a career as an artist.

Duncan studied in Paris in 1906, and later at the Slade School of Art. He moved to 21 Fitzroy Square (London) in 1909 and thereafter became a regular at gatherings of members of the Bloomsbury group. Sharing with Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell a commitment to the decorative arts, he became co-director of the Omega Workshops in 1913.

Duncan Grant: textile design for embroidered firescreen, 1913







By all accounts a handsome, kind and charming person, Grant’s lovers included Adrian Stephen, Maynard Keynes and David Garnett, as well as his cousin Lytton Strachey. Though his sexual orientation remained homosexual throughout his life, he was the father of Vanessa Bell's daughter Angelica, and lived for many years at Charleston farm with the Bell family.



Charleston manor house


1930s photograph of the drawing room at Charleston, decorated by Duncan Grant


Herself an accomplished artist, Angelica grew up believing that Clive Bell was her father; she bore his surname and his behavior toward her never indicated otherwise. Angelica had sexual relations with two of Duncan Grant’s lovers, the Russian painter George Bergen and David Garnett, whom she married, unaware that her husband had been her father’s lover. I’m not making this up. In 1994 Angelica donated more than 8000 sketches and drawings by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell to The Charleston Trust. Some of Grant’s major works hang in London’s prestigious Tate Gallery and National Portrait Gallery.


Duncan Grant: Interior with the Artist’s Daughter (oil on canvas, 1935)
   
In Grant's later years, poet Paul Roche (1916–2007), whom he had known since the mid-1940s, took care of him and enabled Grant to maintain his accustomed way of life at Charleston for many years. When Grant had been commissioned to decorate the Russell Chantry in Lincoln Cathedral in the late 1950s, Grant used his lover Paul Roche, youthful, blond and handsome, as the model for the face and body of Christ (below). The murals have recently been restored and the chantry reopened. Roche was made co-heir of Grant's estate, and Grant eventually died in Roche's home in 1978.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Evan Darling

This turns out to be my 300th post - with no end in sight! 

43-year-old Evan Darling has been a race car driver for 17 years and has won multiple divisional titles. As a kid he raced BMX bikes, transitioning to motorcycles for a while, then graduating to cars, where he was able to make good use of his heavy foot. He is a member of the racing body known as the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA, founded in 1944). Darling’s record includes wins at Daytona, Sebring, and a top 10 placement at the Koni Grand Am Challenge. Darling, who is also an ASE certified master technician, is also openly gay. His web site declares that he is an “Out, proud racer.” In fact, Darling is the only openly gay professional race car driver in the nation.

Although he has never made a big deal out of his sexual orientation, Darling has been out since he was 18. It wasn’t an easy admission. His parents sent him to psychological counseling in order to “fix” him, and his brother Ryan joined anti-gay organizations while at college. His brother continues to oppose LGBT rights as a leader in the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.  In 1995 there were protests against homosexuals participating in Boston’s Veterans Day Parade, and Darling’s father, an attorney, represented the Irish American War Veterans against Boston’s LGBT community. Disheartened, Darling left the sport for a while to attend college in NYC but dropped out due to lack of support from his parents.

He eventually found his way back to racing cars. He began his amateur racing career in 2002, becoming the 2005 NASCAR Grand Am champion in his division. In 2007 he turned pro when he landed a job at Ferrari. Although NASCAR is the largest and fastest growing sport in the country, it isn’t exactly known for the progressive attitude of the drivers or the fans, so being a gay driver was a serious strike against him. In an interview Darling said, "It’s a good old boy network and the last couple of years it’s been tough to get cars and sponsors. I’m hoping that by telling my story, some folks in the gay community will step up and support my team." It takes upwards of a million dollars a year to support a car, driver and a technical team, so Darling has had to take the year off from racing for lack of funding.

Darling Races in Grand Am Road Racing (owned by NASCAR), which uses a track with many curves and banks. A Grand Am race can last as long as 24 hours, with multiple drivers taking shifts in one car during these endurance races. The cars themselves are stock cars which have been modified within certain rules.

Despite the challenges he faces, Darling continues to do what he loves and perhaps makes a difference in the lives of people who may not have any other LGBT role models. It’s possible that kids who grow up in NASCAR-loving families may not have access to cable networks like LOGO. He’s aware of the impact he may have as a role model for LGBT kids and teens, and that’s why The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization targeting LGBT youth, has become one of his sponsors.

Darling has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, chief among them Out Magazine, The Advocate, The Miami Herald and Auto Week. Click the following link to visit his personal web site:

http://www.edarlingenterprises.com


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sviatoslav Richter

Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997), like Vladimir Horowitz, was a closeted gay man who had a life-long female companion. Richter was a Soviet sponsored cultural ambassador who had everything to lose if his sexual nature reached the public eye. Consequently, many biographies ignore or gloss over anything about his personal relationships. While we know few details, we are left with a towering musical legacy, especially through recordings and videotaped performances. Most critics agree that Richter was one of the greatest pianists of all time.

Back in the days when I was a university piano performance major, I knew nothing about Richter’s personal proclivities, but most of my fellow students repeated the rampant (and true) gay rumors about Horowitz and Shura Cherkassky, another Russian keyboard titan. Aside from his brilliant piano recordings and performances, when we spoke about Richter, our conversations were mostly related to his role in insisting that Van Cliburn, an upstart American pianist, receive first prize in the Tschaikovsky International Piano Competition that took place in Moscow in 1958.

Richter, who was stunningly handsome as a young man, had many personal demons. He was withdrawn and not given to interviews, and often he insisted on performing in completely darkened halls illuminated by a single light bulb above the keyboard. Subject to periods of keen depression, he went through a period during which he had to travel with a plastic lobster in order to cope with the rigors of constant performing to unrealistic public expectations. I’m not making this up.

Nevertheless, Richter left us with recordings that remain benchmarks of certain repertoire. His vast repertoire encompassed eighty-odd recital programs, everything from Bach and Handel to Gershwin. He was also a quick study. He learned Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7, which was dedicated to him, in four days, thus able to meet the deadline for its premiere.

But enough words. Let’s listen to the music.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Nicholas Ray

Bisexual American film director Nicholas Ray, best known for Rebel without a Cause (1955) and Johnny Guitar (1954), was a talented, undisciplined renegade whose Hollywood career lasted a mere sixteen years. Wisconsin-born Ray directed many films that explored the lives of lonely outsiders who refused to conform to the rigors of mainstream society.

Actor Farley Granger and writer Gore Vidal, Ray’s gay neighbors at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood during the mid-1950s, both reported that Ray was simultaneously involved in affairs with lead actors Sal Mineo, James Dean, and Natalie Wood during the filming of Rebel without a Cause. Although he identified as heterosexual, Ray could be seen dancing with other men at the Chateau Marmont. Ray said he wasn’t gay because he had more affairs with women than men. Ray was also in denial about his crippling alcohol and drug abuse.

British-born screenwriter Gavin Lambert (1924-2005) met Nicholas in England while publicizing Rebel without a Cause. Seduced by Ray the night they met, Lambert was swept off his feet and accepted Ray’s invitation to follow him back to the United States, where he moved in with Ray at the Chateau Marmont. Nicholas found a job for Gavin as a screenwriter at Twentieth-Century Fox, and Ray and Lambert lived together for eight months. Lambert, who characterized Ray as a possessive and erratic lover, broke off the affair because of Ray’s alcohol abuse and infidelity with both men and women.

After dropping out of college, in 1933 Ray joined the first fellowship of participants at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin (Wisconsin). After eight months, the intensely moralistic Wright expelled Ray for homosexual activity. Ray relocated to NYC and met writer Jean Evans, with whom he had a son, Anthony (Tony), in 1937. By 1941 the FBI had opened a file on Ray, because of his socialist leanings and association with African Americans. In 1944 Ray was forced to resign his position with Voice of America on the basis of further damning FBI reports of leftist political sympathies and homosexual activity.


In 1946 Ray got a huge break when RKO assigned him to direct the filming of They Live by Night, a film-noir project for which Ray had written a screenplay based on Edward Anderson’s novel Thieves Like Us. Ray cast the film from a group of unknown contract players, chief among them Farley Granger (in photo above). Although previews of the completed film garnered positive reviews in 1947, distribution was delayed until 1949, due to marketing dilemmas. During this gap RKO’s new chief, bisexual Howard Hughes, protected Ray from appearing before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which would have damaged his personal reputation as well as the reputation of the studio.

In 1948 Ray married actress Gloria Grahame, even though Nicholas had gambled away everything in the days leading up to their wedding in Las Vegas. In 1950 Ray directed In a Lonely Place, starring his wife Gloria and Humphrey Bogart. During filming of In a Lonely Place, Ray found his wife in bed with his teenaged son (Tony) by his previous marriage. Gloria and Nicholas divorced in 1952, and Gloria Grahame eventually married Tony Ray in 1960, an act that incited a public scandal that ended her movie career. Gloria had children by both father and son. I’m not making this up.

In 1953 Ray bought out his contract at RKO, but went to work for MCA when he was unable to establish his own production company. It was there that Ray made a success of Johnny Guitar (1954), in spite of Joan Crawford’s attempts to thwart the production. Intensely jealous of supporting actress Mercedes McCambridge, Crawford insisted that McCambridge’s scenes be reduced in favor of an expanded part for herself. Crawford destroyed McCambridge's costumes and threatened to leave Sedona, Arizona, where the film was shot. Although Crawford prevailed, and Ray was forced to make the adjustments, he delivered a brilliant film with strong gender-bending leanings. Its critical and commercial success was exceeded by Rebel without a Cause, released the following year.

Homosexual actor Sal Mineo portrayed Plato, a character that was perhaps the first gay teenager shown on the screen. Ray had wanted to include a scene showing James Dean and Mineo kissing each other, but cautious Warner Bros. executives nixed that idea.  Released shortly after the tragic death of James Dean, Rebel without a Cause was one of the highest grossing films of the decade, and by far the most commercially successful film of Ray's career.

Ray seemed on track to become one of Hollywood’s greatest directors, but his personal demons of gambling and drug and alcohol abuse thwarted his career. Astonishingly, by 1958 his Hollywood career was over, and Ray moved to Europe, where he experienced both success and failure for eleven years. Ray suffered a heart attack in 1962 while working on 55 Days at Peking (1963), his last studio project.

Settling in Chicago in 1969, Ray met Susan Schwartz, a student who eventually became his unofficial fourth wife. During the 1970s Ray settled down and taught film in New York. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer in 1977, which took his life two years later. During the summer of 2010, the Harvard Film Archive presented a month-long film series featuring the work of Nicholas Ray. Hosted by Susan Ray, Nicholas Ray’s “fourth wife”, with whom he shared the last ten years of his life, the festival showcased all of Ray’s twenty-odd pictures. The following link includes an excellent bio, commentary and descriptions of all the films:

http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2010julsep/ray.html

Martin Scorsese introduces Nicholas Ray and his film, Johnny Guitar:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Néstor Almendros

Cuba’s government is not just homophobic – the anti-gay climate is legally institutionalized. Spanish-born cinematographer Néstor Almendros (1930-1992) followed his father to Cuba in 1948 in order to flee Franco’s government. Even though he was himself a closeted gay man (his autobiography made no mention of his private life), when Almendros had the opportunity to direct his own film project in 1984, he made a documentary about Cuba's persecution of gay men, Mauvaise conduite (Improper Conduct), a blistering indictment of Castro’s oppression of homosexuals. From 1965 to 1967, the Cuban government engaged in an anti-gay pogrom, rounding up locas (loosely, “queens”) for confinement in labor camps. Néstor’s documentary featured 28 interviews with these men. Critical response was wildly positive, and Almendros went on to co-direct another documentary, titled Nadie escuchaba (Nobody Listened – 1988), again about repression in Cuba. Like the first documentary, Nobody Listened drew its power from the directness of real people telling their tragic stories in their own words.

Almendros built a career that encompassed a great body of work as a cinematographer: Days of Heaven (1978), for which he won an Academy Award, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), The Blue Lagoon (1980), The Last Métro (1980) for which he won a Cesar award, Sophie's Choice (1982), Pauline at the Beach (1983), Places in the Heart (1984), Heartburn (1986), Imagine: John Lennon (1988 documentary) and Billy Bathgate (1991), among scores of others. He was known for his many successful collaborations with famed directors Eric Rohmer, François Truffaut and Robert Benton.

Néstor Almendros was born on this day, October 30, in Barcelona in 1930. He died of AIDS-related lymphoma in 1992 at age sixty-one. In a fitting tribute Human Rights Watch gives an annual film award named in his honor.

Stills from Days of Heaven:

Production began in the fall of 1976. Though the film was set in Texas, the exteriors were shot in Whiskey Gap on the prairie of Alberta, Canada. Jack Fisk designed and built the mansion from plywood in the wheat fields and the smaller houses where the workers lived. The mansion was not a facade, as was normally the custom, but authentically recreated inside and out with period colors: brown, mahogany and dark wood for the interiors. Patricia Norris designed and made the period costumes from used fabrics and old clothes to avoid the artificial look of studio-made costumes.


According to Almendros, the production was not “rigidly prepared”, allowing for improvisation. Daily call sheets were not very detailed and the schedule changed to suit the weather. This upset some of the Hollywood crew members not used to working in such a spontaneous way. Most of the crew were used to a “glossy style of photography” and felt frustrated because Almendros did not give them much work. On a daily basis, he asked them to turn off the lights they had prepared for him. Some crew members said that Almendros and Malick did not know what they were doing. Some of the crew quit the production. Malick supported what Almendros was doing and pushed the look of the film further, taking away more lighting aids, and leaving the image bare. Due to union regulations in North America, Almendros was not allowed to operate the camera. With Malick, he would plan out and rehearse movements of the camera and the actors. Almendros would stand near the main camera and give instructions to the camera operators.


Almendros was beginning to deal with deteriorating eyesight by the time shooting began. To evaluate his setups, “he had one of his assistants take Polaroids of the scene, then examined them through very strong glasses”. According to Almendros, Malick wanted “a very visual movie. The story would be told through visuals. Very few people really want to give that priority to image. Usually the director gives priority to the actors and the story, but here the story was told through images”. 


Much of the film would be shot during “magic hour”, which Almendros called “a euphemism, because it’s not an hour but around 25 minutes at the most. It is the moment when the sun sets, and after the sun sets and before it is night. The sky has light, but there is no actual sun. The light is very soft, and there is something magic about it. It limited us to around twenty minutes a day, but it did pay on the screen. It gave some kind of magic look, a beauty and romanticism”. This “magic look” would extend to interior scenes, which often utilized natural light.


Almendros said, “In this period there was no electricity. It was before electricity was invented and consequently there was less light. Period movies should have less light. In a period movie the light should come from the windows because that is how people lived.”