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.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Cesar Romero

Tall, suave and sophisticated Cesar Romero (1907-1994) was a star of Hollywood films and television. At the start of his career he was known as the "Latin lover/gigolo" type in  a string of  film musicals and romantic comedies, but he was also famous as the rogue bandit, The Cisco Kid, in a spate of low-budget western movies. However, to a younger generation reared on television, Romero was best recognized for his role in the campy 1960s Batman TV series as the white-faced, cackling villain called The Joker. As well, he starred as a bumbling corporate villain in a series of Walt Disney comedies, such as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969). Fans and critics alike agreed that Romero was a major talent who proved himself an enduring and versatile star in a variety of roles during his more than 60-year career as an actor, dancer and comedian.

He was also a deeply closeted gay man to his fans. When he was interviewed by author Boze Hadleigh, Romero gave a revealing, often comic account of what life was like in the Golden Age of Hollywood for a closeted gay man (in Romero's instance, also Catholic and Latino). Because he was "out" to all his entertainment industry colleagues, it was often stated that Romero's homosexuality was Hollywood's worst kept secret. That interview is included in Hadleigh's book, Hollywood Gays.

Cesar Romero was born to wealthy parents in New York City in 1907. His Italian-born father had made a fortune as an importer/exporter of sugar refining machinery, and his Cuban mother was a concert singer. Romero’s first job after attending Collegiate and Riverdale County Schools was as a ballroom dancer, and for years he served as the dancer/escort of major stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Carmen Miranda, Lucille Ball and Ginger Rogers.  Romero first appeared on Broadway in Lady Do (1927), and his first film role was in The Shadow Laughs (1933).

His life was a full-out pursuit of superficial social events such as art exhibit openings, movie premieres and fashion shows. At the time there was a running joke that Romero would attend the “opening of a napkin.” He was uniquely equipped for this lifestyle, since he was handsome, tall (6-ft. 2-in.), suave, wealthy, witty and a real fashion plate. His wardrobe contained more than 30 tuxedos, 200 sport coats and 500 tailored suits. He practically lived at the Ambassador Hotel’s Coconut Grove nightclub (Los Angeles), dancing and flirting the night away. Romero’s signature trimmed moustache was so identified with his persona that he refused to shave it off for his TV role as the Joker in the Batman series. Makeup artists grudgingly applied the heavy white facial makeup on top of his moustache.

He took a break from his acting career during WW II to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific (at left) but immediately returned to his acting career. Ever charming and discreet, Cesar Romero earned the reputation as the quintessential "confirmed bachelor," although Hollywood insiders knew all about his long-term relationship with Tyrone Power (photo at end of post) , Gene Raymond and other actors of screen and stage. As an interesting aside, Romero’s Hollywood social nickname was “Butch.” I’m not making this up.

Critics and fans generally agree that Romero's best performance was as Spanish explorer Cortez in Captain from Castile (1947). In 1953 he starred in the 39-part espionage TV serial Passport to Danger, which earned him a considerable income from a lucrative profit-sharing arrangement. Although Romero became quite wealthy and had no further need to work, he could not stay away from the cameras. He surprised everyone in Hollywood by taking on the role of The Joker in the hugely successful TV series Batman (from 1966). He also guest-starred on dozens of TV shows, including Rawhide (1959), 77 Sunset Strip (1958), Zorro (1957), Fantasy Island (1978), Falcon Crest (from 1985) and Murder, She Wrote (1984).

Romero died of a pneumonia-related blood clot on New Years Day in 1994 in Santa Monica, California, just six weeks shy of his 87th birthday. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: at 1719 Vine St. (for television) and at 6615 Hollywood Blvd. (for motion pictures).


Tyrone Power (left) and Romero on a trip to South America (shown below).



Note from your blogger: In researching Romero’s life, I was surprised how many writers used the words, “rumors of homosexuality.” Romero’s sexual orientation is based on fact, not rumor or speculation – he freely admitted his homosexuality during his lifetime and allowed writer Boze Hadleigh (Hollywood Gays) to write about his dalliances with other gay or bisexual men. Many fans of Hollywood stars dismiss reports of their favorites’ homosexual activity, but they fail to realize that, for most stars, a public “outing” would have been the end of their careers. Those who knew about a star’s true sexual orientation waited until the actor/actress was deceased to speak about it, out of respect for their colleagues’ careers. Hollywood is disproportionately populated by gays and bisexuals, on both sides of the camera.

Cesar Romero sings and dances his way through Romance and Rhumba (1941) co-starring Alice Faye and John Payne. Such roles were typical of his early movie career. Many examples of Romero's TV and film appearances may be found on YouTube.com


 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Allen Klein & Bliss Hebert

Long-time partners Allen Klein (left) and Bliss Hebert were married on October 15, 2013, at the ages of 73 and 82, respectively. The couple resides in Miami.

Opera scenery/costume designer Klein and opera stage director Hebert have worked together since 1962. They have collaborated on more than 100 productions since they met while working at the Washington Opera in DC, where Hebert was General Manager from 1960-1964.

Allen Klein created productions for the Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, La Fenice in Venice, the Scottish Opera, the Edinburgh Festival and the Glyndebourne Festival. Bliss Hebert, who earned a master’s degree in piano performance from Syracuse University, worked with Igor Stravinsky on three of his operas, including five productions of “The Rake’s Progress.” According to Rosalie Radomsky of the New York Times, Klein and Hebert encountered Stravinsky and his wife Vera, along with conductor Robert Craft, in front of Carnegie Hall after a screening of Disney’s film “Fantasia,” which included an excerpt from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”

“They greeted Bliss with great happiness and many kisses,” Allen Klein said, adding that, “Stravinsky was tiny and glowing with electricity.” Bliss then introduced Allen to Stravinsky. While Bliss was speaking with Robert Craft, Allen remained alone with Stravinsky. At one point, Stravinsky took Allen by the arm and asked, “Tell me, my dear, do you love our Bliss very much?”

“I recall being rather shocked by such a question,” Allen said. “Remember, this was 1964. I stuttered out, ‘Yes, I do,’ to which the composer responded, ‘Well then, my dear, you must take very good care of our Bliss.’ ”

Allen added, “ I’ve tried to do that ever since.”


Source:

Rosalie R. Radomsky, The New York Times

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis

Dateline 1979, Bavaria. Openly bisexual Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis (1926-1990) was the richest man in Germany and its largest land owner. His fortune cast a web of banks, breweries, enormous land holdings in Brazil, vast private forest lands (80,000 acres) in Germany, extensive fine art collections and eleven palaces and castles. The 53-year-old bachelor prince resided in his 500-room St. Emmeram Palace in Regensburg, some 60 miles northeast of Munich, where his family had lived since 1748.

In the fifteenth century his ancestors had developed a European postal system that earned them a great fortune. Soon the postal coaches began accepting paying passengers, so we get the term “taxi” from the family enterprise. For over 300 years the family held a monopoly on the postal system of the Holy Roman Empire.

The 12th-century Italian Dukes de la torre, based near Bergamo, were the ancestors of the Thurn und Taxis dynasty. Emperor Ferdinand III recognized the Thurn und Taxis line as successors to the Torriani dukes. The Italian word Torre (tower) became Thurn, and Tasso (badger) became Taxis, and their family tree dates back to 1445.

During WW II Prince Johannes served in German intelligence and was imprisoned by the British from 1945 to 1947. For the next 35 post-war years he kept a relatively low profile among his royal and noble peers. But after the death of his father in 1982, the prince became head of the Thurn und Taxis family as full inheritor, and he began to spend money like a Vanderbilt. His 210,000 sq. ft. palace was furnished with 400 clocks, maintained by a full-time servant whose only task was to wind them in perpetual rotation. All the windows were washed weekly. Johannes retained 70 liveried footmen and parked 20 cars in his garage. But his idea of a fun night out was to troll the gay bars in Munich.

Imagine then the surprise when he announced he was ready to settle down with an impoverished  distant aristocratic cousin, Countess Gloria Schönburg-Glachau, a high school dropout and onetime waitress some 34 years his junior. Upon their marriage she was 20 years old and three months pregnant with their first daughter. A second daughter arrived two years later, but Prince Johannes could not breathe a sigh of relief until Albert, their only son, arrived the next year.


Prior to the birth of a son, Johannes had a pressing inheritance problem. According to tradition, his wife had to be a noble descendant of the Holy Roman Empire who would bear him a son. Otherwise his fortune would be splintered into numerous fractions of its $2.5 billion value. When the prince ran into his distant cousin Gloria in a Munich café, a lightbulb went off. Gloria not only fit the bill of proper lineage, she was willing to accept his sexual preference for men. It was a win-win; she was rescued from poverty, and he would be able to keep his vast estate intact. Young Prince Albert II would be full-inheritor.

The couple lived a life of debauchery, a wild, hedonistic jet-set lifestyle. Gloria drove around town on a lipstick red Harley-Davidson. She sported outrageous clothing, makeup and hairdos, and she proudly bore the moniker “Princess T-N-T.”



Encouraged by her husband, Princess Gloria enjoyed a lifestyle of extreme decadence. In 1986 she spent $20 million on a three-day 60th birthday party for Johannes, crowned by a costume ball held at their St. Emmeram palace, where Gloria appeared as Marie-Antoinette.  She ordered a birthday cake lit by 60 pink, phallus-shaped candles, a not-so-subtle hint at her husband’s sexual preference. 500 guests had been flown in on private jets to enjoy days of over-the-top debauchery. Mick Jagger, J. Paul Getty Jr. and Saudi Arabian businessman Adnan Khashoggi were among the guests.

Prince Albert was just seven years old when his father died of complications following two heart surgeries in late 1990. That day Albert became the 12th Prince of Thurn und Taxis and the youngest billionaire in the world. The 6'4" tall bachelor (and to this day still a bachelor) Prince Albert turned 38 years old a few days ago, on June 23. He is an extraordinarily rich business man and professional race car driver (he has crashed a Lamborghini or two). Albert became full-inheritor of the Thurn und Taxis fortune (est. 3 billion dollars) on his 18th birthday in 2001. Should you bump into him during your travels, his correct form of address is His Serene Highness the Prince of Thurn und Taxis (you're welcome).

Princess Gloria stands above her two daughters and son Prince Albert.




Today Princess Gloria spends two months each year at her loft apartment in Chelsea (NYC), enjoys her beach compound in Kenya, keeps an apartment in Rome and has a sprawling lake house in Bavaria. Prince Albert today makes his home at the ancestral Schloss St. Emmeram (below) in Regenburg. At 500 rooms and 210,000 sq. ft., give or take, it is the largest home in Europe still maintained by a princely family. It even contains a throne room and a riding hall for the practice and performance of extreme dressage.

 




19-century palace addition: bowling lane






Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis, full inheritor,
photographed in his throne room.



Sources: Gloria, die Fürstin (Peter Seewald, 2004), Wikipedia & Tim Allis for People Magazine (1991)