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.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hermes Pan

Born to a family of Greek immigrants in Memphis, TN, choreographer Hermes Panagiotopoulos (1910-1990) began his career as a teenager performing in New York City, where he got jobs in speakeasies and on Broadway as a chorus boy. Abbreviating his surname to a more manageable single syllable, Hermes Pan headed to Hollywood and found himself working on the dance sequences for the Fred Astaire film Flying Down to Rio. Pan was 23 years old.

Because he resembled Astaire physically, Pan sometimes doubled for him. A lifelong friend of Astaire, Pan’s greatest fame came from the nine 1930s musicals he choreographed for RKO-Radio Pictures, each of them starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcée, Roberta, Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, Swing Time, Shall We Dance?, Carefree and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle.  Astaire has been quoted as saying, “He (Pan) was the only person I ever saw who could dance like I did.''

Hal Borne, Astaire's arranger and rehearsal pianist, said, ''Hermes was terribly instrumental in everything that Fred did. He was really Fred's alter ego. His ideas for choreography were exactly what Fred wanted.'' In 1988, Pan recounted his collaboration with Astaire. While the choreographer was shaping the ensemble numbers, Astaire started working out his dances with Miss Rogers. Then, the two men would refine them together, and Pan would then introduce them to Miss Rogers. Finally, ''Fred and Ginger would rehearse and perform them.'' Laughing, he recalled, ''With Fred I was Ginger, and with Ginger I was Fred.''

Pan was also a deeply closeted gay man who had trouble squaring his sexual desires with his Roman Catholic faith and a disapproving mother. He eventually entered into a relationship with dancer Gino Malerba, as revealed in John Franceschina’s biography, Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire. Like many gay men of the era, he seldom appeared in public with male partners, and he never lived with Malerba. However, Pan was a frequent escort of Rita Hayworth.

Over the course of his career, Pan went on to choreograph some fifty musicals. He earned an Oscar in 1937 for Damsel in Distress, starring Fred Astaire and Joan Fontaine. This was the first ever Oscar for choreography (then called Dance Direction), and Pan got a raise and bought a brand new yellow Buick convertible to reward himself. He also appeared on screen with Betty Grable (photo at top of post and video below) and Rita Hayworth. Pan won an Emmy in 1961 for Astaire Time: An Evening With Fred Astaire, as well as a Joffrey Ballet citation in 1986.

Pan died at his Beverly Hills home in September, 1990, at age 79.

Footlight Serenade (1942)
Betty Grable and Hermes Pan: Land on Your Feet


Band of Thebes

Peter B. Flint


  1. This is OUTSTANDING! Please post more! Thanks!

  2. great Info about Hermes Pan. Maybe you should contact Christopher Riordan on FB who did know him and worked with him

  3. He was my great uncle and Godfather. I can't say I agree with your statement, nor do I think you should say this without having it been confirmed when he was alive. He was deeply private, that's for sure, and he would NEVER want anything like this to be in print, true or not. Either way, you don't know his private, sexual struggles, so out of respect, I think you should edit this out.
    "Hermes Pan was... a deeply closeted gay man who had trouble squaring his sexual desires with his Roman Catholic faith and a disapproving mother. He eventually entered into a relationship with dancer Gino Malerba."

    1. Family members and relations of those featured here are often "touchy" on matters relating to the sexual orientation of their loved ones. But it seems to me you should direct this sort of comment to his biographer, not me. I merely took a quote from the book. It is not an original comment or opinion. Pan's talent and fame produced a public persona, and during his lifetime it is understandable that he wanted to keep his sexual orientation private, because of the severe stigma of the times. But these days homosexuality has lost much of its negative impact, and the purpose of this blog is to CELEBRATE the sexual orientation of people who were at the top of their fields and influence -- as opposed to continuing the stigma of shame. For young homosexuals who might shy away from following their dreams because of bullying or censure, Mr. Pan should serve as a shining example of success not diminished by his sexual orientation.
      -- your blogger.