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, September 29, 2011

Corey Johnson

Out High School Jock & Gay Activist

In the spring of 2000 the New York Times and Sports Illustrated profiled a gay athlete, a seventeen-year-old high school football player from Massachusetts named Corey Johnson. The story told how, with the help of his supportive school and parents, co-captain Johnson had come out to his teammates during his senior season in 1999.

What was amazing about this instance is what happened after he came out: nothing. His classmates and fellow athletes reacted with rare tolerance and respect for Corey’s difference. He waited a year to discuss his story with the media, because he was afraid the attention would detract from the task at hand: winning games.

Granted, it helped that Johnson was hardly the stereotypical gay teenager. None of his teammates suspected he was gay, so they were surprised at his announcement. Besides football, he had played sports all his life – baseball, basketball, wrestling and lacrosse. It also helped that his teachers, coaches and parents were uniformly supportive. When he came out to his father, he told Corey, “I'm glad you finally made the decision to tell us, and I hope you'll feel a lot better now.”

Johnson told his best friend Sean, who said, “I thought I knew everything about you. And I'm sorry you couldn't tell me this part you've been hiding.” Sean, who broke down in tears, remained his best friend. The few negative reactions came from parents of his fellow athletes, some of whom suggested that the team re-vote for captain. The coach and his teammates would have none of it. His team, the Chieftans, went 25-8 during Johnson's three seasons as middle linebacker.

Johnson has helped other young gay men who love sports feel that there is a place for them on their school teams, and helped straight athletes learn that having a gay teammate is not wrong or bad or weird. It just happens. Corey accomplished plenty on the football field and a whole lot more off it.

Corey spoke at the Millennium March in Washington, DC (late April 2000), and now lives and works in New York City. He is highly involved in gay activism, and for years has reported for, a gay issues-related web site.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Christopher Rice

Author of best-selling mysteries & thrillers

Christopher Rice, born in 1978, is a 33-year-old gay American writer who has penned five best-selling novels over a ten-year period:

A Density of Souls
The Snow Garden
Light Before Day
Blind Fall
The Moonlit Earth (published a year ago)

They belong to the mystery/thriller genre, and each has gay characters who play prominent roles. His first novel (A Density of Souls) was published when he was just twenty-two years old. After Blind Fall, his novel about a gay marine, was published, Rice received death threats in reaction to his YouTube video about the book, in which he criticized the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Here’s the video that caused all that fuss:

For years Rice wrote a column in The Advocate, and most of them are archived on his literary web site:

He is the son of Anne Rice, author of all those “Vampire” novels and a notable S&M “Beauty” fairy tale trilogy (published in the 1980s under the pseudonym “A.N. Roquelaure”). After the death of her husband, Anne Rice moved to California to be closer to her son, who makes his home in West Hollywood, Los Angeles.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Etienne (aka Domingo Stephen Orejudos)

Leather-culture illustrator and painter

Chicago native Domingo Stephen Orejudos (1933-1991) was a principal dancer with the Illinois Ballet Company, a dance instructor, choreographer and bodybuilder who led a double life as Etienne*, creator of all-male erotic illustrations, many of them published by his partner Chuck Renslow. Orejudos was too short and muscular to continue a career in ballet, so he turned to a second career as an artist whose works depicted graphic sexual activity by butch, muscular gay men.

Many of his erotic drawings graced the pages of the leather culture magazine, Drummer, and the male physique magazine, Tomorrow’s Man. Another pseudonym often used by Orejudos was “Stephen.

He was still in high school when his first erotic drawings were published. Orejudos was known to friends as Dom, and along with Renslow, his partner from 1950-1991, established Chicago’s gay leather scene. Renslow ran a Chicago-based beefcake photo physique mail order business known as Kris Studio (1950-1979); he also published the male physique magazine, Tomorrow’s Man, and produced bodybuilding competitions. For a long time the two lived in a back room of a Chicago gym owned by Renslow.

In 1958 the couple founded Chicago’s first (and legendary) gay leather bar, Gold Coast, and Orejudos provided erotic murals for the interior. They ventured into gay bath-house territory with Man’s Country Baths, and they founded the International Mr. Leather competition.

Dom was a brilliant illustrator of the gay leather underground, often compared to Tom of Finland, who became a good friend. Dom’s drawings and illustrated books are today highly collectible. Dom died of AIDS related causes in 1991.

*Etienne is French for Stephen, Dom’s middle name; curiously, he did not use the requisite French accent on the initial “E” - Étienne. He used the pseudonym “Stephen” for his illustrated story books (basically gay comic books with a rough sex theme, as in the example above), “Dom” for his more serious oils, and “Etienne” for nearly everything else.

Oil painting by Etienne now on display at the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago.

This mural was displayed at the Gold Coast at 2265 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago. The murals in the first Gold Coast were actually painted on the walls of the bar, which opened in 1958, making Chicago the first city in the country to have a leather bar. When Chuck Renslow and Dom (Etienne) lost their lease, they had to remove the murals with paint remover or by painting over them. Some fine pieces were thus lost forever. When the Gold Coast moved, Chuck and Dom decided to paint the murals on 4'x8' panels, so if they ever had to move the bar again, they could save the artworks. This was fortunate, because the Gold Coast operated at five locations before closing in 1988.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

James Baldwin, exile writer

Novelist and essayist
James Baldwin (1924-1987):

"I think Americans are terrified of feeling anything, and homophobia is an extreme example of the American terror that's concerned with growing up. I never met a people more infantile in my life. It's a way of controlling people. Nobody really cares who goes to bed with whom...I mean the nation doesn't really care. They care that you should be frightened of the consequences of what you do. As long as you feel guilty about it, the state can rule you. It's a way of exerting control over the country, by terrifying people."

In 1979, when African-American novelist/essayist James Baldwin addressed a forum sponsored by the New York chapter of Black and White Men Together (BWMT-NY), he opened up for the first time about his own homosexual orientation. Speaking with candor, Baldwin claimed that his life-long sexual orientation had never been a secret, but he had not felt it was necessary, "or anybody's business," to affirm it. "Before I was seven years old," he said, "there were already multiple labels on my back, beginning with 'nigger.' By the time I was 14, I went through a kind of nervous breakdown, when I was a Pentecostal youth preacher in Harlem, and by the time I was 17, 1 had survived all those bigoted labels, including 'faggot.' It wasn't, and it isn't, easy." Baldwin mentioned that, while he was gay, he did not necessarily identify with the institutionalized and "ghettoized" homosexual community. Gays, like blacks, he stated, were being used as scapegoats for white society's own fears. He claimed that, by and large, white gays practiced the same racism against black gays. He mentioned that Gore Vidal, the celebrated gay writer, had referred to him as a "jungle bunny."

In answer to a question from the audience, Baldwin seemed to indicate that his own political consciousness as an open gay advocate had evolved over a period of time. It began with the writing of his book, Giovanni's Room (1956). "That was something I had to do; I had to work through it," he said, in reference to writing the book. It was no secret that it was partly autobiographical.

More recently, he admitted, his consciousness had brought him to the point where in his latest novel, Just Above My Head (1979), he was able to write freely about the homosexual relationship of two blacks. His previous works dealt with sex between whites, or between blacks and whites but not between blacks.

During his teenage years in Harlem and Greenwich Village, Baldwin began to recognize his own homosexuality. In 1948, at the tender age of 24, disillusioned by American prejudice against blacks and homosexuals, Baldwin left the United States and departed for Paris, France, with $40 in his pocket. His flight was not just a desire to distance himself from American prejudice. He fled in order to see himself and his writing beyond an African American context and to be read as not "merely a Negro or even a Negro writer". Baldwin noted shortly after he first arrived in France, "I didn't go to Paris. I left New York."

He left the United States also desiring to come to terms with his sexual ambivalence and flee the hopelessness that many young African American men like himself succumbed to in New York. In Paris, Baldwin was soon involved in the cultural radicalism of the Left Bank. His work started to be published in literary anthologies, notably Zero, which had already published essays by Richard Wright, whom Baldwin called "the greatest black writer in the world". Wright and Baldwin became fast friends, and Wright helped Baldwin get published and ultimately secure numerous literary awards.

Baldwin would live as an expatriate in France for most of his later life. Baldwin came to be seen not only as an influential African American writer but also as an influential exile writer. He became a close friend of the singer, pianist, and civil rights activist Nina Simone. Along with Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry, Baldwin helped awaken Simone to the civil rights movement then fomenting. Among Baldwin’a circle of friends were Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet, Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan, Rip Torn, Alex Haley, Miles Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr., Margaret Mead, Josephine Baker, Allen Ginsberg and Maya Angelou.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Billy Sipple, Heroic Marine & Vietnam Vet

The Gay Ex-marine Who Saved a President's Life

Thirty six years ago this week Sara Jane Moore tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford outside the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Oliver "Billy" Sipple, a gay former Marine and Vietnam veteran, was standing next to her as she raised a gun and fired it at the president. Sipple grabbed Moore's arm as she made the shot, saving Ford’s life. Her shot missed the president’s head by just six inches.

Afterward, he refused to call himself a hero and said that anyone would have done the same. He lived a deeply closeted life, well beneath the radar in San Francisco's gay community. He was involved with a few gay activist causes, but was careful that his sexuality was not revealed.

That all changed when San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen and Harvey Milk disclosed Sipple’s homosexuality in 1975 in an unwitting attempt to show that gay people can do heroic things.

Sipple was a decorated U.S. Marine who was wounded by shrapnel during combat in Vietnam.That he risked his life to save his commander in chief, even though he was not on duty, has added to his legacy. Yesterday, Thursday, September 22, 2011, was celebrated as Billy Sipple Day in San Francisco. For decades Sipple has been honored as a hero – the gay Vietnam vet who saved a president’s life.

At the time, however, the disclosure of Sipple's homosexuality backfired in a big way. Sipple had not yet come out to his family, and his mother disowned him. Sipple filed a $15 million dollar invasion-of-privacy lawsuit (later dismissed) against the newspapers that outed him. His parents were tracked down and ridiculed about their gay son. His brother stated, "There were a lot of times Billy wished he had never saved the president's life, for all the anguish it caused him. He only spoke that way when he was drinking. He said life would have been so much simpler if he hadn't have done it."

Billy’s father and two brothers all worked for GM in Detroit, where they were met with taunts and jeers at the factory. Sipple’s mother was harassed by neighbors, and soon the family became estranged.

Because of the stress brought on by his outing, Sipple began drinking to excess. When he received a delayed note from President Ford thanking Sipple for his “selfless actions,” Billy saw it as an unpleasant reminder of bitterness at being outed and as a too stand-offish form of thanks. His brother said that Billy was upset that there was no invitation to the White House, not even a commendation, just a short note of thanks. The White House had waited for days before publicly thanking Sipple, while staff debated an appropriate response after learning that the heroic Sipple was gay

Sipple was found dead on top of his bed in 1989 with a bottle of bourbon at his side. He had died of pneumonia, but had been dead for 2 weeks when his body was discovered. When his family later collected his effects from his San Francisco residence, they discovered a framed letter from President Ford hanging on the wall. A few days later President Ford sent a note of condolence to the family.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vincente Minnelli

Caricature by Paul Moyse

Film and stage director Vincente Minnelli (1903-1986) was born into a family of traveling entertainers. Although his early years were spent on the road learning show business, he settled in Chicago at age sixteen, where he took a job as a window decorator for Marshall Field’s department store. His originality and sharp eye for design details soon led him to the Broadway stage, where he was a successful costume and set designer.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer Arthur Freed discovered Minnelli on Broadway and brought him back to Hollywood to design dance numbers for movie musicals.

According to his biographer, Emanuel Levy (Hollywood's Dark Dreamer*), Minnelli lived as an openly gay man in New York prior to his arrival in Hollywood. He comported himself among the Dorothy Parker/Gershwin brothers crowd, and no one in those circles cared that he was gay. Unfortunately, Hollywood was another story, so he was pressured back into the closet when he moved to the west coast. He made the decision to repress his homosexuality by living as a bisexual.

Early on, sometime in the 1920s, Minelli became an effete, a dandy, a snob. He modeled himself after the flamboyant British painter James McNeill Whistler; he became sophisticated and self-consciously cultured, all of which came across when he met Judy Garland, who was the polar opposite. By the way, there was documented bisexual activity in Garland’s career, as well, but it was not a major part of her life.

During filming of "The Pirate", Garland accused Minnelli of being in love with Gene Kelly, her costar, and favoring him over her. She threatened her husband with suicide when she caught him in compromising positions with men (in particular their gardener). However, during her marriage to Minelli she slept with Frank Sinatra and other men, as well; fidelity was not a cornerstone of this union.

He worked on several films, including “Strike up the Band” (1940) and “Babes on Broadway” (1941) with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, before he was given the directorship of an all-Black musical called “Cabin in the Sky” (1943). The stylish and inventive “Cabin in the Sky” was a success, and the window dresser from Chicago was now a Hollywood director.

Minnelli's next film, “Meet Me in St. Louis,” was a tour de force and a milestone in American filmmaking. Not only was it a textured look at turn-of-the-century Americana that spoke poignantly to a country in the midst of World War II, but it was also a showcase for Minnelli’s flamboyant camera techniques and powerful use of color. The film was child star Judy Garland’s first adult film and led to the star’s marriage to her director from 1945 until 1951; they were the parents of Liza Minnelli. Although he married four times, Minnelli was widely known to be gay by Hollywood insiders. However, in the deeply closeted world of 1950's Hollywood, he kept his sexual orientation guardedly private.

In young adulthood Lester (his given name) was pathologically shy and suffered from a stammer. He had a penchant for trying on his mother’s clothes, which likely came in handy when he worked as a window dresser.

In his 1956 film version of Robert Anderson’s exploration of masculinity and homophobia, “Tea and Sympathy,” Minnelli worked around the restrictions of the Motion Picture Association of America's production code to recreate the play’s ambiguities without ever using the word “homosexual.” The film is about a sensitive boy of 17 whose lack of interest in the manly pursuits of sports and girls labels him “sister-boy” at the college he is attending. The head-master’s wife sees the student’s suffering at the hands of his school mates (and her husband) and tries to help him find himself. Trivia: Actor John Kerr starred as the misfit student in both the stage production, for which he won a Tony Award, and film version of this play. Kerr went on to portray Lt. Cable in the 1958 film version of “South Pacific.” Really.

Minnelli received an Oscar nomination as Best Director for “An American in Paris” (1951) and later won the Best Director Oscar for “Gigi” (1958). The Minnelli family is unique in having father, mother and child who all won Academy Award Oscars, not to mention mother and daughter who both married gay men. Minnelli was awarded France’s highest civilian honor, the Commander Nationale of the Legion of Honor, only weeks before his death in 1986.

Photographed here with daughter Liza Minelli. Their resemblance is astonishing.

*Emanuel Levy's biography of Vincente Minelli was published in 2009:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fred Hersch: Pianist & Composer

Fred Hersch (b. 1955 in Cincinnati, Ohio) is a well-known contemporary American jazz pianist and composer who ranks high on the international jazz scene. He is also openly gay and HIV positive. Hersch began his career in the jazz clubs in Cincinnati and later graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He moved to New York City in the late 1970s where he soon found a place playing with established artists such as Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and Art Farmer.

Hersch began recording his own records and composing music. Although Hersch plays in a number of different jazz instrumental combinations, he also performs as a solo pianist and accompanist to singers and instrumentalists. In 2006 he was invited by club owner Lorraine Gordon to perform the first-ever solo piano booking at the legendary Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City.

In 1986 Hersch was diagnosed with HIV. Since then, he has campaigned and performed for several AIDS-related charities and causes. Along with Gary Burton (vibes), Dave Koz (sax) and Andy Bey (singer/pianist), Hersch is one of the few openly gay jazz musicians performing today.

For first timers who are distracted by Hersch’s quirky keyboard mannerisms, turn your monitor off and just have a listen to this solo piano performance. Simply beyond brilliant.

Aria by Fred Hersch

Every time I perform a Fred Hersch piece in public, there are always fresh converts to his compositions. This video below explains why. Superb, original and accessible.

Lyric Piece by Fred Hersch (Gramercy Trio)

The Gramercy Trio (violinist Sharan Leventhal, pianist Randall Hodgkinson, cellist Jonathan Miller) play “Lyric Piece” by Fred Hersch. The work was written for the Gramercy Trio in 2004. This video recording was made in concert at the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory on May 31, 2008.
Link to Part II:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Melvin Dwork's "Honorable" Discharge

It has been a good week for 89-year-old New York City resident Melvin Dwork. Seventy years after being booted from the Navy for being homosexual, his discharge papers were amended from “undesirable” status to “honorable.” The decision was made by the Board for Corrections of Naval Records in Washington. Even though the Navy had an outright ban on gays in place in 1944, Dwork has worked tirelessly for decades for the amendment. The board pointed out Dwork’s “exemplary period of active duty” and said that changing the terms of his discharge was done “in the interest of justice.”

As if Dwork were not already skipping down the sidewalk, today the Pentagon will formally repeal the ban on gays in uniform, a policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” that has been in place for almost eighteen years. Troops may for the first time reveal publically that they’re gay, without fear of official retribution. Enlistees who declare their sexual orientation to military recruiters or troops discharged under the ban who wish to reenlist will be eligible to join up if they are qualified. The Defense Department says it will have zero tolerance for anti-gay behavior within the military.

Unlike many men of his generation, Missouri native Melvin Dwork was never shy about his homosexuality. In his unfinished memoir, he recounts how he was thrown out of the Navy during World War II, after love letters he was exchanging with another hospital corpsman were intercepted. Dwork was horrified by the Navy’s reaction. “I was put into a brig ward until I was reassigned to a psychiatric ward for evaluation,” he recalled. “I was treated like a felon or murderer.”

After being discharged, he returned to New York and the Parsons School of Design, where he had been studying before being drafted. Mr. Dwork began work as an interior designer in 1956 and continues to work today, while well into his eighties. He has created distinguished interiors for both commercial and residential customers. Dwork was named one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 designers in 1990 and again in 2002. His clientele is decidedly A-list, such as film director Milos Forman.

This 1979 photograph shows an interior done for acclaimed soprano Anna Moffo and her husband Robert Sarnoff, a former RCA board chairman. Commercial clients include such power houses as Aetna Life Insurance and Shearson Lehman Hutton. His design projects have been published in Architectural Digest, Interior Design Magazine, The New York Times, House & Garden, Town & Country and Elle Decor.

John Butler (1918-1993), a celebrated ballet choreographer, was Mr. Dwork’s partner from 1961 to 1973. He was “the love of my life,” Mr. Dwork writes in the unpublished memoir he has been working on for several years. Dwork established The John Butler Foundation in 1997 to preserve and promote Butler’s legacy as a choreographer. Dwork currently serves as the foundation’s chairman. For years Butler choreographed world premiere operas for gay composer Gian Carlo Menotti. Dwork and Butler’s extensive knowledge of art and design led to associations with prominent painters, sculptors, musicians and writers, such as Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Alban Berg and Ezra Pound. Butler created choreography for famed dancers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova.

Melvin Dwork, representing the John Butler Dance Foundation, at a Symphony Space Gala, seated with Geoffrey Holder (shown here sipping wine, instead of 7-Up; I remember Holder's 1970s-era "un-cola" 7-Up TV commercial as if it were yesterday).

The first draft of his memoir focuses on his experiences as a gay man in postwar New York and Fire Island Pines in the 1960s, where one summer he shared a house with two other design stars – Halston and Donghia – before building his own house there in 1967. Dwork was a senior associate of the Burge-Donghia design firm in the 1960s.

His current apartment was photographed for the September 2007 issue of Architectural Digest. “I am very proud of that,” he said. He is also working on a furniture collection with a major manufacturer. “I don’t think I will ever retire completely,” he said. “Most of my friends now are half my age,” Mr. Dwork states.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Update: Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris, who has worked steadily as an actor since 1988, was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 15, 2011. During the ceremony, Harris said, “Thank you everyone for coming out, really, especially David Burtka (at left in photo), my better half, who I love more than anything in the world, except for this star.”

Harris is openly gay, announcing it in 2006 by saying, "I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest..." Harris, age 38, is a prominent and popular actor, singer and magician (!). His career has skyrocketed since coming out.

With his partner David Burtka (photo below), with whom Harris was been in a relationship since 2004, the men are raising fraternal twins, born October 12, 2010, via a surrogate mother. Black and white photo of Harris from Rolling Stone magazine.

This spring Harris hosted the 2011 Tony Awards. I was dumbstruck by how clever this opening number was. If we need proof that we've come a long way as homosexuals, consider that a national TV audience witnessed an openly gay entertainer poking fun at the fact that gays dominate the world of theatre arts -- and he has the audience in his pocket.

We, as gay men, should pay dues to this man for bringing long-overdue respectability to homosexuals. He is a child actor who did not grow up to have a career ruined by drugs; he has not been in and out of rehab; he and his long-time partner are raising children in a loving home setting. His career continues to skyrocket after coming out publicly. I can find not one instance of a disparaging word being uttered against him by anyone -- straight or gay. The icing on the cake was the fact that he had a birthday three days after hosting the awards (born June 15, 1973).

We're not worthy.

We owe this man -- big time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mark Feehily of Ireland's Westlife

Mark Feehily, one of the lead singers of the Irish boy band phenomenon Westlife, came out as gay in a British tabloid interview in which he announced his long-term relationship with Kevin McDaid, a member of the British boy band V (disbanded in 2005). Mark said, "My life has gotten umpteen times better. My sexuality doesn't define me as a person, but it's a huge part of anyone to be open about it. It's changed my life totally, as I feel much happier and more at ease. It's the best thing I've ever done." Unlike his Westlife band mates, for years Feehily did not discuss his private life. Westlife is HUGE in Europe, but virtually unheard of in the United States; their stock in trade is ballads.

The pair have dated since January 2005, after having met at a concert in Ireland. In yet another interview, Feehily (in plaid shirt in photo at left; Kevin in light blue shirt) told The Sydney Morning Herald that despite the fact that the majority of Westlife's fans are female, there has been no real negative reaction. "I am so much happier now, and I think our fans can see that," he said. "Through the years of getting to the point where I wanted to come out, I had to go through every kind of emotion, but I can honestly say that the day before I came out, I didn't care what the reaction was going to be."

Feehily said that while he did not intend on getting married right away, he is happy to know he could form a civil partnership in Britain with the recent passing of the Civil Partnership Act. The musicians say that when the time is right, they will look into having a civil partnership ceremony. Mark and Kevin, who now works as a photographer, got engaged on 28 January 2010, and Feehily confirmed the news via Twitter. Asked about his future plans with McDaid, Feehily replied, "We're best friends, we live together and we're going to get married soon. I can't wait, but we haven't finalized the date." Kevin did the still photography for Westlife’s album “Gravity,” their eleventh studio album.

Mark sings lead at the beginning of this Westlife video of “Smile,” before Shane takes over. Incidentally, the music for “Smile” was written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film “Modern Times.” Lyrics were added in 1954 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. Recordings of this perennial favorite have been made by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson (apparently his all-time favorite song), Michael Bublé, Lyle Lovett and scores of others.

In this acoustic video of their early super #1 hit (1999), Flying Without Wings, Westlife’s Mark Feehily takes over lead vocals from Shane at the 53 second mark. Note: don’t get your hopes up about Shane – he is married to his childhood sweetheart and became the father of his third child in January, 2010. In fact, all the other members of Westlife are married straight men.

From a 2004 tribute album to Frank Sinatra:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tim Cook, New CEO of Gay-Friendly Apple

50-year-old Tim Cook, the head of the $355 billion Apple company, is a gay man, although he does not publicly acknowledge his sexual orientation. He is destined, however, to become an icon for gay advancement. Cook has gone from being the most powerful gay man in Silicon Valley to the most powerful gay man in the world, if not one of the richest. His compensation in 2010, before being named CEO, was $58 million (unless my math is wrong, that's over $1 million a week). If he stays with Apple another ten years, he will receive a $389 million bonus in the form of restricted stock (if he stays five, he gets only half that amount). Wow. Talk about incentive.

Cook joined Apple in 1998 overseeing computer manufacturing and was later promoted to chief of worldwide sales and head of the Macintosh division. Cook made his mark early on by fixing Apple's storied manufacturing inefficiencies. He also kept the company on track as Apple's interim leader during Steve Jobs' 2004 two-month medical leave and during his six-month leave in 2009. His steady hand kept iPhone 4 and iPad development on track, grew Macintosh sales and strongly rallied the stock value. As Apple’s CEO, Cook has been running day to day operations since Jobs's most recent medical leave began in January, deferring strategic decisions and other CEO prerogatives to Jobs. Apple's growth and stellar financial performance have continued unabated under his watch.

Cook is known to be a "fitness nut," in the gym by 5 am, often on the hiking trail and even more often on his bike. After Cook was profiled as a "lifelong bachelor" and "intensely private," many wondered if he might be gay. That is indeed the case, and Cook's sexual orientation has been the topic of at least some discussion within the company. One tech executive who has spoken to multiple Apple management veterans about Cook was told executives would support Cook if he publicly acknowledged his orientation, and even would encourage him to do so as he steps up his leadership role. If that happens, Cook would be by far the most powerful openly gay executive in the tech industry.

The media has danced around this subject. Felix Salmon wrote: "Keeping Cook’s sexual orientation a secret is no longer an option, so the press shouldn’t treat it as though it’s something to be avoided at all costs. There’s no ethical dilemma when it comes to reporting on Cook’s sexuality; rather, the ethical dilemma comes in not reporting it, thereby perpetuating the idea that there’s some kind of stigma associated with being gay. While stigma does still exist in much of society, it’s not the job of the press to perpetuate it. Quite the opposite."

Apple has been rated among the top gay-friendly tech companies among brands, and is widely considered to offer a workplace and culture that is open to people regardless of their background and preferences. Randy Ubillos, one of Apple's most well known engineers as the creator of Final Cut, the man who redesigned iMovie for Mac, and who was introduced last year by Jobs to demonstrate his new iMovie app for iPhone, is openly gay. Randy Ubillos (left, holding cup) is the life partner of Rick Fath, shown here on their honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands in 2000. Their commitment ceremony took place in San Francisco aboard a yacht. They were married in San Francisco’s City Hall on June 20, 2008.

In this video, Randy is introduced by Steve Jobs and goes on to introduce video editing using the new iMovie 11 software. He demonstrates step-by-step video editing to create a movie trailer.

Apple has also recognized the achievements of its third party developers who happened to be gay, including Steve Demeter, who left his job at Wells Fargo to work for himself, becoming independently wealthy after creating the early iPhone game Trism. “I’m totally out in my private life, but I’m not sure about wanting to be out professionally. I’m not worried about a backlash or anything like that, I’m just not sure that my being gay has anything to do with my business and the kinds of games we’re creating. It’s not like we’re making ‘gay’ games. I’m proud of the fact that I’m gay and that some of the guys who work with me are gay, but at the end of the day all that matters is that we put stuff out there that’s high-quality and that makes people happy.”

Here’s a video of Steve talking about his creation TRISM.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Montgomery Clift, actor

Movie star Montgomery Clift struggled his whole life with his sexual orientation. He once said, “I love men in bed, but I really love women!” Nevertheless, Clift had affairs with choreographer Jerome Robbins and fellow actor Roddy McDowall, who attempted suicide after his breakup with Monty.

He kept his tormented sexuality a secret from most everyone he knew – making discreet trips to Ogunquit, Maine, where gay men could have trysts without being noticed, then to Fire Island, which was a well-known gay getaway. He had a taste for S&M homosexual activity. Little was published about his homosexual affairs, and he was fiercely determined to keep that aspect of himself under wraps. In 1940 he had his first regular male lover, who was a fellow actor. In 1949 he was arrested on 42nd Street in New York for soliciting, but his film studio intervened to ensure that the charge was dropped without publicity.

Montgomery (Monty) Clift’s mother, “Sunny,” was herself the child of southern aristocrats, but had been given up for adoption. She married a rich stock broker and spent her life treating Monty and his twin sister to the privileged life she never had. As young children, the Clift twins were taken on tours of Europe and tutored at home, but more than anything, they were victims of a severely controlling and manipulative mother.

At the age of 13, Monty appeared on Broadway and took stage roles in New York for over a decade before beginning to appear in films. By the time he was in his late teens, he’d acted on Broadway with Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontaine and Tallulah Bankhead. He earned excellent theatrical reviews and soon attracted the interest of numerous lovelorn actresses. While working in New York in the early 1940s, he met a former jazz singer and heiress to the Reynolds Tobacco fortune, Libby Holman. At 38 years old she developed an obsession with the 21 year old actor, financing a play for him. His relationship with bisexual Holman was likely the last heterosexual relationship of his life and caused him further anguish over his sexuality.

Montgomery Clift brought a new vitality and depth to his film roles. He was a talented, devastatingly handsome actor. When Elizabeth Taylor first saw him on the set of "A Place in the Sun," she said he took her breath away (see photo above and at end of post). Soon enough she fell in love with him, but her feelings were not reciprocated. He inspired Marlon Brando and James Dean, who emulated his naturalistic acting style. The characters Monty played on screen were lost, confused souls, a new, post-war image of the American male. Off-screen, he led a tortured life. His addiction to pills and alcohol and his complicated sexual identity have been widely publicized. Analytical books and documentaries place blame for Clift's psychological problems on his repressed homosexuality.

By the early 1950s he was exclusively homosexual, though he continued to maintain a number of close friendships with theater women. His movie debut was “Red River” (1948) with John Wayne, but his second film that year, “The Search,” is the one that brought real attention to his talent, and an Academy Award Nomination ensued (see clip below). He received further Academy Award Nominations for “A Place in the Sun” (1951), “From Here to Eternity” (1953) and “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961), but never won.

A 1956 tragic car accident, in which he drove into a telephone pole after leaving a dinner at Elizabeth Taylor’s home, severely damaged his facial features, and plastic surgery could not fully restore use of his facial muscles. This limited his range of expression and hurt his self-esteem. Subsequently, Clift took mostly unglamourous roles, only worsening his damaged public image.

A lawsuit with Universal Pictures and growing addictions forced him into a four-year retirement in 1962. In his final years, Clift plunged more deeply into drug and alcohol abuse and wild sexual behavior. He was considered unreliable by studio bosses. Sadly, by the time his companion Lorenzo James found him dead of a heart attack at their home in 1966, he was virtually unemployable. He was 45 years old.

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor (1951): A Place in the Sun

The Search (1948) In Post-War Berlin, Clift, who portrays an American private, helps a lost Czech boy, a survivor of Auschwitz, find his mother. In this scene, Clift (almost too handsome to watch) shows his finely honed acting chops. He won his first Academy Award nomination for this film.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tyrone Power, Hollywood Bisexual

Ohio-born movie star Tyrone Power (1914–1958) was the son of an actor. A practicing bi-sexual, Tyrone was involved with several men during his career, among them composer Lorenz Hart (lyricist of the Rodgers & Hart song writing team) and fellow actor Cesar Romero, who provided details about Power's same sex activity in interviews after Tyrone's death. Strikingly handsome Power had affairs with many of the attractive men on the movie lots. He was often seen in public with well known homosexuals, but he was so loved by the Hollywood community, that they turned a blind eye.

Power was liked and admired by men and women alike. His group of gay friends included director George Cukor and actors Clifton Webb, Lon McCallister (and his lover William Eythe), Cary Grant, Reginald Gardner, Van Johnson and bi-sexual billionaire Howard Hughes. Books and articles written about Power relate that the great gay love of Power's life was a lowly technician at 20th Century Fox, with whom he had a sexual and romantic relationship that lasted for decades.

Like most bi-sexual and homosexual Hollywood stars, Power lived in fear of being “found out.” Although studio head Darryl Zanuck liked Tyrone, he was afraid of losing Fox’s resident matinée idol and biggest moneymaker, should the truth of his homosexual activity become public. On the set of Suez (1939), Tyrone played opposite a French starlet named Annabella, who was older, self-assured and possessed of a frankness and down to earth attitude. Power liked her, and much to Hollywood's and his mother's surprise, they married. It was difficult to satisfy Zanuck, however, who was now worried that Power’s female fan base would be adversely affected by news of the marriage. Nevertheless, Power continued to have dalliances with both men and women alike. For a while in the early forties, he carried on a passionate affair with the young Judy Garland, which some felt led to the first of her many breakdowns.

With the advent of World War II, Power enlisted in the Marines and fought in the South Pacific, after which he negotiated a new contract with Fox. By 1946 he and Annabella had grown apart, and their marriage was over. He took a six week trip to South America with his on-again off-again male companion, gay actor Cesar Romero. Upon his return, he entered into a tempestuous relationship with Lana Turner, who was then the queen of MGM and between husbands. They made a striking couple, but Tyrone could see that life with Lana would be tempestuous and, instead, married Latin starlet Linda Christian, with whom he fathered two daughters before the marriage ended in the mid-fifties.

Reports of same sex relations continued. British comedian and actor Bob Monkhouse related in his 1994 autobiography Crying with Laughter that he had rejected sexual advances from Power. The fashion critic Mr. Blackwell had romantic moments in Power’s dressing room, as detailed in his 1995 autobiography From Rags to Bitches. In his book, Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, author Charles Higham reports that Power had a sexual relationship with Errol Flynn. According to William J. Mann, in his book Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969, Power was involved in numerous same sex relationships. In his book, The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's: A Gay Life in the 1940s, Ricardo J. Brown confirms that Tyrone Power and Tallulah Bankhead were among thespians and movie stars who were bisexual. In Oops, I Lost My Sense of Humor, Lois M. Santalo writes that "many stars of the silver screen, dating back to Tyrone Power," had been gay or bisexual. In Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon's (both of Sydney University) Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day, Power is listed among the "Top box office stars who were gay or bisexual". Your blogger has recently expanded this list of references for all those comments left by those who say I have no evidence, that I'm just repeating rumor. Read this post carefully -- I'm not saying Power was gay; I'm saying he was bisexual, engaging in sexual relations with both men and women.

Although Tyrone was only in his early forties, he was beginning to look older than his years. The busy Hollywood social life, the smoking, drinking, all night parties and other excesses were beginning to take their toll. He ignored the signs that he might have a weak heart like his father and continued to live as he always had. While filming Solomon and Sheba (1958), he did his own stunts and worked outside in the grueling sun, often in heavy armor. One afternoon on the set in Spain, during a dueling scene with George Sanders involving heavy swords, Tyrone collapsed. He'd suffered a massive heart attack and died before anything could be done. He was 44 years old.

In a brief career of 25 years, Tyrone Power had made 50 films. After his death those in the know began to speak openly of his homosexual dalliances. The women with whom he’d had affairs were incredulous, insisting that the rumors could not possibly be true. They proposed that the charges of homosexual relations were the work of jealous rivals who wanted to damage Power’s reputation. Sure. Why would they want to damage the reputation of a dead actor?

(above) Tyrone with popular harmonica player Jerry Adler, while serving in the South Pacific.

1936 photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Paul Cadmus, controversial artist

Cadmus was born in 1904 New York City into a family of commercial artists. At 15, before he finished high school, he was enrolled in art classes at the National Academy of Design, where he won numerous prizes and scholarships. Cadmus worked at advertising jobs until 1931 and studied at the Art Students League, where he met the painter Jared French, who became his lover and urged him to quit commercial art. In 1931, Cadmus made one of his first paintings depicting French. The painting, Jerry (illustrated above), remained in the French family until recently, when it was acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art. The painting is strikingly intimate;  French holds a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses, then banned in the United States for being obscene.

After hopping an oil tanker to Europe and cycling through France and Spain, Cadmus and French settled on the island of Majorca (1931-1933), where Cadmus painted two of his best-known early works, YMCA Locker Room and the Bicyclists (later bought by Cole Porter). After his return to New York in 1933, Cadmus became the center of a circle of gay artists including his brother-in-law, Lincoln Kirstein (who helped found the American School of Ballet), Pavel Tchelitchew, and photographer George Platt Lynes (for whom Cadmus frequently modeled). At the time, he worked for the Public Works of Art Project, which was later incorporated into the WPA. This experience was to help shape his style for the rest of his long career. Nearly illustrative, his paintings remained linked to a realist style found in many WPA works of the 1930s.
In 1934, Cadmus' painting, The Fleet's In, depicted the pleasures of uniformed sailors; it was removed from an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington because of complaints by Navy officials (the Corcoran also infamously removed Robert Mapplethorpe's pictures in the 1980s). This "disreputable drunken brawl" came from "the sordid, depraved imagination of someone who has no conception of actual conditions in our service", fumed Secretary of Navy Claude Swanson. Like a stealth cruiser, The Fleet was kept from public view until 1981 and is now temporarily displayed at the Navy Art Gallery in Washington, DC. The tight, butt and crotch clinging clothing on the soldiers leaves little to the imagination (click to enlarge).

In 1937 Cadmus’s lover Jared left him to marry a mutual friend, Margaret Hoening. The three of them remained close friends, however, and worked together on a number of photography projects. Throughout the late 1930s Cadmus continued to shock. Murals commissioned for a post office were rejected as "unsuitable for a public building", and in 1939 he once again depicted drunken sailors, causing “Sailors and Floozies” to be removed from the Golden Gate International Exhibition in San Francisco. A mural hung in 1939 in a Richmond, VA, post office depicted an event important in the state's history, The Rescue of Capt. John Smith by Pocahontas; while it contains an image of Pocahontas with a bared breast, and the bare buttocks of a male Indian, Cadmus was ordered to retouch the prominent and suggestive crotch area of another male Indian figure (figure below; click to enlarge).

Despite the stream of rejections and controversies, the 1930s and 1940s were Cadmus' most successful years. Professionally, he was at his peak, and his social life was an endless whirl of glamorous Manhattan parties with friends, including W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Edith Sitwell,  George Platt Lynes, and  E.M. Forster. In the post-war 1940s he had been involved with artist George Tooker but the relationship was over by 1949. Cadmus once again found love in 1964 when he met Jon Andersson, a singer and actor who became his partner for the next 35 years.

Manikins (1951)
The Bath (center)
Stone Blossom: A Conversation Piece (1939)

Cadmus was a slow, meticulous worker who favored the complicated, time-consuming medium of egg tempera. He finished an average of only two paintings a year. He was more prolific in other media, including drawing, printmaking and photography. Although Cadmus stopped painting toward the end of his life, he continued to draw at his home in Weston, Connecticut, particularly portraits and figure studies of his partner Jon Andersson. Paul Cadmus died in his home in Weston in 1999, just five days short of his 95th birthday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mark Bingham, Gay American Hero

Mark Bingham (1970-2001) lost his life at the age of 31 while helping to defend our nation against a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The openly gay rugby player was one of the heroic passengers who led a revolt against the terrorists on board United Flight 93. The hijackers planned to slam the plane into the White House or the U.S. Capitol. Instead, the plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., killing the terrorists and passengers, but no one else. We will never know how many other lives were spared by this selfless, brave act.

Mark boarded Flight 93 at the last minute, on his way from NYC to California to be an usher in his fraternity brother's wedding. Flight 93 passengers soon learned from cell phone conversations that the World Trade Center and Pentagon had already been attacked. Bingham and other passengers formulated a game plan to overtake the hijackers, according to accounts from the phone calls. Bingham stood 6-foot-4, weighed 225 lbs., and played rugby. His three other on-board accomplices were also athletes. Mark’s mother is convinced their ability to think quickly, along with their physical strength, made a difference in stopping the plane from hitting its target.

Mark Bingham was survived by his partner of six years, Paul Holm, who said this was not the first time Bingham had risked his life to protect the lives of others. Mark was the only child of Alice Hoagland, who has since become a tireless advocate for issues that were important to her son. A retired flight attendant, she promotes aviation safety, supports rugby, and is a spokesperson for the gay community at large. It is at once heart rending and inspirational to witness her efforts and those of the gay rugby community as they develop a wonderful legacy that honors his memory. The Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament (Bingham Cup) is a biennial international rugby union competition, predominantly for gay and bisexual men, that was established in 2002 in his memory.

The Flight 93 Memorial is being dedicated today in Shanksville. Please take six minutes this weekend to remember Mark by watching his mother’s video (click link below). She is inordinately proud of her gay son, his bravery and his accomplishments.

A 17-ton boulder marks the site of the crash of United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

Two U.S. Senators honored Mark Bingham on September 17, 2001, in a ceremony for San Francisco Bay Area 9/11 victims, presenting a folded American flag to Mark’s partner, Paul Holm.

The California Alumni Association of the University of California (Berkeley) now annually awards the outstanding achievement of a young alumnus or alumna with the Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement at its Charter Gala each spring.

Friday, September 9, 2011

George Cukor, celebrated movie director

Born in NYC to Hungarian Jewish immigrants, fabled film director George Cukor (1899-1983), shown at right with a radiant Elizabeth Taylor, was known for his film work on witty comedies and dramatic literary adaptations. His Hollywood career began at the onset of “talkies” and flourished at RKO and later MGM studios, where he directed Dinner at Eight (1933), Little Women (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Romeo and Juliet (1936) and Camille (1936). He was notoriously replaced (by Victor Fleming) as the director of Gone with the Wind (1939), but he went on to direct The Philadelphia Story (1940), Adam's Rib (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), A Star Is Born (1954) and My Fair Lady (1964).

By the mid-1930s, Cukor was not only established as a prominent director but, socially, as an unofficial head of Hollywood’s gay subculture. His six-acre estate at 9166 Cordell Drive in the Hollywood Hills above Sunset Strip, famously decorated in 1935 by actor-turned interior designer William “Billy” Haines (see August 5 post), was the scene of many gatherings for the industry's homosexuals.

Cukor's celebrated "Oval Room" designed by William "Billy" Haines, with its copper clad fireplace surround and grid patterned floor.

The close-knit group included Haines and partner Jimmie Shields, Alan Ladd, writer Somerset Maugham, director James Vincent, screenwriter Rowland Leigh, and costume designers Orry-Kelly and Robert Le Maire. For years, Cukor and composer Cole Porter held competing soirees at their mansions on Sunday afternoons, earning them the nickname “the rival queens of Hollywood.” Cukor remained at his fabled Brentwood home for the last 50 years of his life, making few changes to the original Billy Haines interiors.

It’s now a long-held Academy Award tradition to award a great director for a so-so film, because he’d been passed over so many times before. The first known instance occurred in 1964, when George Cukor won the Best Director Oscar for My Fair Lady (a middling effort), after being snubbed for Born Yesterday, A Double Life, The Philadelphia Story, and Little Women.