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.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
In order to be accepted in Hollywood, bisexual Mexican-born actor Luis Antonio Damaso de Alonso (1905-1994) not only had to anglicize his name to Gilbert Roland, he also married a woman in order to maintain his commercial appeal as a "Latin Lover." Roland was one of the most handsome icons of the silent screen and one of the lucky ones whose career flourished in the subsequent sound era. Not only that, he was able to retain his looks and youthful physique well into old age.
His father owned a bull fighting ring in Juarez, where five-year-old Luis helped out by selling seat cushions, handing out programs and attending the matadors. However, his family fled to El Paso, Texas, to escape the violence of Pancho Villa, and Luis’s fascination with bull fighting was soon replaced by an obsessive interest in Hollywood films. Inspired by Rudolph Valentino, at the age of fourteen Luis hopped a freight train with just three dollars in his pocket and headed to Hollywood, sure he could become the next big movie star. Instead, he had to work unloading boats on Catalina Island in order to support himself. He found other menial jobs in Los Angeles, and his family followed him to make their home in California.
By 1925 Luis had become a stunningly handsome six-foot tall 20-year-old who began to be noticed around town. He played a small part in the silent film The Lady Who Lied (1925) with Nita Naldi and next appeared in producer B. P. Schulberg’s The Plastic Age (1925), starring Clara Bow. Schulberg wanted Luis to change his name to John Adams. Instead, Luis chose a combination of the last names of his two favorite screen stars, John Gilbert and Ruth Roland.
It was not long before Gilbert Roland realized that, in order to get ahead in Hollywood, he needed to do more than anglicize his name. His heavily accented English and homosexual proclivities were standing in his way, so he began a short affair with the promiscuous Clara Bow, followed by a fling with Norma Talmadge, eleven years his senior and very much married to produced Joseph Schenck, who cast Roland with Talmadge in the important role of Armand in Camille (1927), and two other silent films with Talmadge – The Dove (1927) and The Woman Disputed (1928) . When Talmadge and Roland premiered as co-stars in their first talking picture, New York Nights (1929) , Roland's voice captivated the audience, while the glamorous Talmadge was laughed at and ridiculed for her Brooklyn accent, effectively destroying her career. Keeping his eye on the prize, Gilbert moved on and ended his relationship with Norma.
During the 1930s Gilbert Roland distinguished himself in films starring Hollywood A-list actors such as Mae West, Constance Bennett, Don Ameche, Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. In 1940 Roland married his co-star Constance Bennett (sister of Joan), who had already been married three times, but their stormy union ended five years later. Gilbert’s good looks, on-screen charisma and youthful physique helped him maintain a solid career into his forties and well beyond, highlighted by starring
as The Cisco Kid in six films.
His role in The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952) led him to be invited to Fatima, Portugal, to participate in the annual religious services commemorating the miracle that occurred in 1917. In 1954 he wed Mexican-born Guillermina Cantu to form a childless union that nevertheless lasted the rest of his life. Roland expanded his career with many successful television appearances and maintained his film career until 1982 (Barbarosa, a western), twelve years before his death in Hollywood at age eighty-nine.
No Sound, No Tell. Gay Cinema in the Silent Era (2009) – Eric Brightwell
The Gossip Columnist (2010) – Bill Dakota