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, August 27, 2015

James Costos, Ambassador to Spain

Same-sex Partners Occupy
U. S. Ambassador's Residence

When former HBO executive James Costos (b. 1963) was named the United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra in 2013, his partner of 15 years, interior designer Michael Smith (Ambassador Consort?), moved in with him to occupy the ambassador’s residence in Madrid. Although they became one of the first same-sex couples to make their home in an embassy, Ambassador Costos says he and Smith were welcomed as any other ambassador would be, even though Spain is overwhelmingly Catholic (93%). In spite of religious cultural influence, same sex marriage was legal in Spain (since 2005) many years before it became law in the United States.

Costos was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate on August 1, 2013. When the Obama family spent a 3-day Father's Day weekend with Costos and Smith at their Palm Springs home last year, the press was mute. This is an indication of how much progress has been made regarding same sex couples. Imagine the hoopla that would have ensued if either the Bush or Clinton families had resided under the roof of a same sex couple.

In addition to the ambassador's residence in Madrid, Costos and Smith maintain a penthouse in New York City, a residence in Holmby Hills, CA, and a third abode in Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs). The well-heeled pair met by striking up a conversation on a commercial flight 15 years ago. They have since become an international power couple, and an invitation to their official residence in Spain is much coveted by anybody who is anybody. When they are together in Madrid, Smith refers to his partner as "the Ambassador," as in "Where is the Ambassador at the moment?"

Michael Smith (seated) and Ambassador Costos at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Madrid, with Glenn Ligon's neon art sign, "Double America." (Photo: James Rajotte)

High-profile designer Smith, whose business is based in Los Angeles, has been the White House decorator since 2008 and is responsible for the 2010 refurbishment of the Oval Office and the Obama’s private quarters (2009). At that time Smith was also appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. He spends one week a month in Madrid with Costos and works the rest of the time at his office in California, where he oversees a staff of 40. Smith has tweaked the embassy interiors, especially with artwork and decorative accessories, which the couple plans to leave behind for subsequent ambassadors to enjoy. Much of the refurbishment and entertainment expenses have come out of their own pockets.

Costos is concentrating his efforts on Spain’s economic recovery, stressing youth entrepreneurship as a path to tackle Spain's high unemployment rates.


  1. Terry--

    I stumbled upon your blog while doing some research for a semi-fictional story I am writing on James Deering, his relationship with Paul Chaflin, and the construction of Vizcaya. I noticed a post on this same subject some time back and was wondering if you'd be willing to connect or chat and add some color based on your observations. Would love your thoughts as I embark on this project. You can contact me via email at Thanks for your time!

  2. Hi..
    I didn't notice an email address.. to both thank you for the time you put into this blog and to tell you it is one of the best mix of LGBTI history sites.
    As a generation of men/women who survived a plague start to age, their stories, often hidden from view must be told..and I can only hope young men and women are among the many hits this site receives each day.
    Thank you, and Bravo