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, December 21, 2012

Military Recruitment Art of Leyendecker and Barclay

I have already written a post about gay commercial artist J.C. Leyendecker (see sidebar), but a regular reader sent me this Leyendecker image used for Navy recruitment. Although I had not seen it before, I knew that Leyendecker took a back seat to McClelland Barclay (1891–1943) in the realm of military recruitment art, as the following images attest.

Barclay was a commercial artist born in St. Louis, and he had early success. By the time he was 21 years old his work had appeared in magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal, and Cosmopolitan.

During World War I one of his military art posters won a prize given by the Committee on National Preparedness. He achieved great fame for Hollywood movie poster art beginning in the 1930s, but it was during World War II that his work for Navy recruitment posters allowed him to reach the height of his popularity and fame.

Barclay painted sailors who were notable for their handsome faces and well-defined physiques, and most of the posters were emphatically homoerotic. Although it is not known if Barclay had same sex relationships (he was married to a woman), he created some of the sexiest commercial male images, thus establishing a new military masculine ideal. The largest collection of his military recruitment posters is housed at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, DC (Navy Yard); 202-433-4882.

Theron MacKay, a gunner's mate who was sketched by Barclay in early 1943 recalls, "Me and another crew member were cleaning a gun, so we were bare from the waist up. Barclay had his sketch pad out and was drawing us. Being an amateur artist myself, I took an interest in what he was doing and asked if I could look over his shoulder. Well, he made us look like the finest human specimens that ever were! Really, we were skinny kids with our ribs hanging out. I said to him, 'I don't look like that!' and he answered, 'Well, if I sketched you like you are, it wouldn't make much of a recruiting poster, would it?'"

Barclay also achieved success with portrait painting and other commercial clients such as General Motors. His paintings for their Body by Fisher advertising campaign were instantly recognizable the world over. Barclay also designed women's jewelry, as well as utilitarian objects such as ashtrays.

A Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, he also worked on airplane and ship camouflage designs. Barclay went missing in the Solomon Islands after his tank landing ship was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1943.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Frank Ocean

When the Grammy Awards nominations were announced earlier this month, openly gay/bi singer/songwriter Frank Ocean was nominated in six categories:

1. Best new artist
2. Album of the Year (Channel Orange)
3. Best Urban Contemporary Album (Channel Orange)
4. Record of the Year (Thinking Bout You)
5. Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (No Church in the Wild)
6. Best Short Form Music Video (No Church in the Wild)

The Grammy Award winners will be announced on February 10, 2013.

Ocean, who was born Christopher Breaux (known as Lonny to close friends), is twenty five years old. As a teenager in New Orleans he washed cars, mowed lawns and walked dogs to save up enough money to rent studio time. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina destroyed his recording facility, so he dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles, where he made a living writing lyrics for Justin Bieber, Beyoncé and John Legend. Just a year ago he conceived and recorded his singing debut album – Nostalgia, Ultra – inventing a new persona. Songwriter Lonny Breaux became singer Frank Ocean (a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Ocean’s 11). Nostalgia, Ultra, an R&B album, was released in February, 2011 as a free download.

With the mid-2012 release of his first studio album – Channel Orange – Ocean came out on his blog, making reference to an unrequited love for a man (Ocean was nineteen at the time of this same sex longing). Ocean says he “cried like a baby” when he made the July, 2012 Tumblr blog post revealing his gay past: “I don't know what happens now, and that's alrite. I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore... I feel like a free man.”

On the songs Bad Religion, Pink Matter and Forrest Gump, Ocean sings about being in love, but the word used to identify the lover is “him” and not “her.” Thus Ocean became one of the first major African-American music artists to announce that he had fallen in love with someone of the same sex, notable because the industry is known for expressions of homophobia. In this instance, however, Ocean's sexual revelations were met with praise and support from throughout the music industry.

Channel Orange debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, selling 131,000 copies in its first week, The album garnered rave reviews from music critics, who praised its idiosyncratic production, musical scope, and Ocean's songwriting. It was promoted with four singles, including Ocean's highest charting single "Thinkin Bout You", and his North American supporting tour in July 2012. At present the album has sold approximately 400,000 copies.

Bad Religion (Channel Orange) is a makeshift therapy session about unrequited love, taking place in the back seat of a taxi:

(sampling of lyrics)

It's a bad religion to be in love with someone who could never love you.
This unrequited love – to me it's nothing but a one-man cult & cyanide in my styrofoam cup.
I can never make him love me, never make him love me.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Louis Moreau Gottschalk

Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869 was an American composer and pianist, best known as a virtuoso performer of his own piano compositions. He spent most of his career outside of the United States.

His father was an English Jew working in New Orleans as a real estate speculator, and his mother was of French descent. She had grown up in Haiti and fled to Louisiana after a slave uprising threatened the ruling class. By the age of thirteen, Gottschalk’s talent had become so prodigious that he was sent to Paris to study at the Conservatoire. Denied entrance to that august institution*, he studied piano and composition privately, culminating in his public debut in Paris at the famed Salle Pleyel in 1845. The precocious sixteen-year-old’s performance won the admiration of Chopin.

* The Conservatoire rejected Gottschalk’s application without hearing him on the grounds of his nationality. Pierre Zimmermann, the head of the piano faculty, derisively commented that "America is a country of steam engines".

During the summer of 1848 Gottschalk wrote two piano pieces based on Louisiana Créole tunes, La Savane and Bamboula. He introduced them into the salons of Paris in early 1849, and the strongly syncopated Bamboula (the title refers to Afro-Caribbean drums) quickly became an underground sensation. In April of that year he performed it at a public concert, where it was received with wild enthusiasm. Dedicated to Isabella II of Spain, Bamboula became one of his signature pieces. Gottschalk disliked performing the standard repertoire (Bach, Mozart and the like), but very much liked performing his own compositions, which were entertaining works of a unique voice that, unfortunately, were subsequently relegated to the category of “novelties.”  Some of his pieces found popular use in silent movie houses, and the public eventually identified his music as clichéd, and within a few decades, Gottschalk was condemned as hopelessly old-fashioned.

Gottschalk's first piano works appeared in print in the late 1840s. These syncopated pieces based on Creole melodies gained international popularity. Gottschalk left Paris in 1852 to settle in New York City, where in 1855 he signed a contract with a publisher to issue several piano pieces, including The Banjo and The Last Hope. The latter is a mawkishly melancholy piece that nevertheless achieved great popularity. Gottschalk found himself obligated to repeat it at every piano concert, writing, "even my paternal love for The Last Hope has succumbed under the terrible necessity of meeting it at every step."

Pianist Cyprien Katsaris performs his embellished version of “The Banjo.” Gottschalk’s music lends itself perfectly to this sort of treatment.

Gottschalk’s primary physical and emotional relationships were with men, and he had a particular fondness for young boys. On a concert tour of Spain he “adopted” a very young boy who accompanied him thereafter. Unlike many nineteenth century high profile homosexual or bisexual performers, Gottschalk never married. His extensive tours abroad protected him from the condemnation of America’s puritanical standards and judgment. 

At the age of twenty six at a concert in Dodsworth Hall, on Broadway at 11th Street, an area which was then the nerve center of New York City’s musical life, Gottschalk at last found his niche with an audience. Even with his new-found success and popularity, Gottschalk was a nervous nail-biter who bloodied his fingers before recitals, gnawing away at them anxiously. After his mother’s death in 1857 he left for a concert tour of the Caribbean that stretched out to five years. Upon his return, his country was in the midst of the Civil War, and Gottschalk became a Union sympathizer, in spite of his southern roots. He was a superlative showman, presenting flamboyant musical spectaculars. He once placed on a single stage forty pianos played by eighty pianists. All in a day’s work for Gottschalk.

After a tour of California in 1865, he once more left the U.S., this time for Panama City. Once there, Gottschalk decided not to return to NYC, instead pressing on to Peru, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina, staying just one step ahead of revolutions, rioting, and cholera epidemics. He was greatly influenced by the melodies and rhythms of these countries, and they were echoed in his compositions. At the height of his success and popularity, Gottschalk contracted malaria in Brazil in 1869. During a concert in Rio de Janeiro later that year, Gottschalk collapsed at the keyboard, and on December 18, 1869, Gottschalk died at the tender age of 40. His body was returned to the United States for interment at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

American pianist Eugene List (1918-1985) and Irishman Philip Martin (b. 1949) both championed the works of Gottschalk and performed and recorded most of the extant piano solo repertoire of 200 pieces. A 1995 biography by A. Frederick Star, Bamboula! The life and times of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, brought Gottchalk’s sexuality to the forefront.

"Fiesta criolla" from Gottschalk's Symphony no. 1, "La nuit des tropiques" (Symphonie romantique). The Basel Festival Orchestra conducted by Thomas Herzog in 2008.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Craig Claiborne

Craig Claiborne (1920-2000) was an American restaurant critic, food writer and cookbook author. Born in Mississippi, he was raised on the region's cuisine in the kitchen of his mother's boarding house. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he decided his passion lay in cooking, and he used his G.I. Bill benefits to attend the famed École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Upon returning to the U.S., Claiborne became a contributor to Gourmet magazine, a food-products publicist and most notably the food editor of The New York Times newspaper in 1957, where he created the four-star system of rating restaurants still used today. He quickly rose to the very top of his profession. His writings exposed the American public to ethnic cuisines, especially Asian and Mexican foods. He had a long-time professional (but not personal) relationship with the French-born NYC based chef, author and television personality Pierre Franey, with whom Claiborne collaborated on many books and culinary projects.

Claiborne (left) with professional collaborator Pierre Franey:

Claiborne was a gay man who was born too soon to be able to live openly in the public eye, causing major frustration in his life. Although he was out to most of his friends and colleagues, he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality. He also drank way too much and ignored his deteriorating health as time went on. Claiborne left his books and papers to the Culinary Institute of America and a few other things to friends. However, he bequeathed his house in East Hampton, his apartment in NYC and everything else not specifically named in the will to his (married) lover, James Dinneen, a physician. The tale of their meeting is related in Thomas McNamee’s new book (2012), “The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat (Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance)”:

"The two were strolling past each other in Manhattan when they locked eyes, and it was love at first sight. Dinneen was married, with six children, and living in Florida. Yet in Claiborne style, the two had countless trysts over the next two decades in choice hotels throughout the world and dined exquisitely until age and illness parted them. Dying nearly a decade later, Dinneen left behind no acknowledgment of their even having met."

Claiborne wrote a memoir, "A Feast Made for Laughter" (1982), in which he detailed a dark and disturbing youth, despite the book’s lighthearted title. He took solace in the company of his mother’s African-American household staff as an escape from the taunts of his straight schoolmates, a difficult, doting mother (Claiborne didn't attend her funeral) and sexual involvement with his father.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Laurence Harvey

Film actor Laurence Harvey (1928-1973) was married three times, but he was actually a gay man who was trying to get the public off the scent of his true nature. His career stalled, and he did not become what anyone could call a major star. In spite of that, he got a lot of work, especially during the 1960s. Neither the public, critics nor friends said anything positive about his acting ability. He was in only one film that can be called a classic – "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), with Frank Sinatra – but Harvey had little to do with its success.

George Jacobs, Frank Sinatra’s valet, wrote “Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra,” a memoir in which he relates that Harvey often made passes at him while visiting Sinatra. Jacobs says that  Sinatra was aware of Harvey's sexuality but did not mind, passing it off as a joke: “He has the handicaps of being a homo, a Jew, and a Polock*, so people should go easy on him.”

*Harvey was actually born to a Jewish family in Lithuania.

British actor John Fraser , author of “Close Up,” also wrote that Harvey was gay, pointing out that Harvey’s long-term partner was James Wolfe, his manager who "discovered" Harvey in the 1950s. Harvey’s marriages to and dalliances with women were usually with females about twice his age.

Laurence Harvey (photographed in 1954, at right) was a master of deception. While he maintained his entire life that his birth name was Laruschka Mischa Skikne, it was actually Zvi Mosheh Skikne. His Jewish family moved from Lithuania to South Africa when he was five years old, and while living in Johannesburg he took the name of Harry Skikne. While in his teens he served with the entertainment unit of the South African Army during WW II. After moving to London, he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he became known as "Larry." Dropping out of the academy, he began to perform on stage and in films, simultaneously adopting the stage name "Laurence Harvey." At last a name he liked.

Dame Judi Dench (currently appearing in Skyfall in yet another terrific turn as M) appeared on stage with Harvey in Shakespeare’s Henry V in 1959. She later talked of being bewildered at how Harvey never actually looked at her during his speeches. At the time, Joss Ackland was quoted as saying, “Americans seemed to think Harvey was some sort of great actor, which his colleagues certainly did not.” * Harvey was regularly dismissed by critics. In his posthumously published autobiography, “Knight Errant,” actor Robert Stephens described Harvey as "an appalling man and, even more unforgivably, an appalling actor.” He was often accused of being unprofessional, as many commented on the frustration that resulted from his chronic late arrival on the set. Harvey played out his career largely in undistinguished films, TV work and the occasional supporting role in a major production.

*Incredibly, Harvey received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his leading role in "Room at the Top" (1959), a British film. Although he did not win, he was more or less type cast; he played a conniving, ruthless, heartless social-climber.

David Shipman wrote of Harvey in 1972: “Laurence Harvey's career should be an inspiration to all budding actors: he has demonstrated conclusively that it is possible to succeed without managing to evoke the least audience interest or sympathy - and to go on succeeding despite unanimous critical antipathy and overwhelming public apathy. His twenty year career of mainly unprofitable films is a curiosity of film history.”

Although the British-made film "Darling" (1965) was one of the earliest films to depict gay characters in a sympathetic light, the closets were bursting on the set. There was Harvey, of course, but also Dirk Bogarde, who although deeply closeted, was having an affair with director John Schlesinger. Bogarde, who carried on a 40-year relationship with his agent, Tony Forwood, invested considerable energy in trying to portray himself publicly as a heterosexual. John Schlesinger hoped that his friend, Roland Curram, might be inspired enough by his role in "Darling" to come out of the closet. Curram always insisted he was heterosexual and went on to marry and later sire two children. In 1985, on the occasion of his divorce and ultimate coming out to his family and friends, Curram stated, “Of course, John was right.”

Well, there you have it.

Update from your blogger: I am aghast at some of the comments from my blog readers. This is not a personal attack. I am not "very young" (in fact, I'm close to retirement). I am certainly not antisemitic (I have been employed by a synagogue for 26 years). Before I wrote this entry for my blog about influential gay and bisexual men, I had known Laurence Harvey only as a second-tier movie actor, and his name was on a list of gay and bisexual actors. There are many gay and bisexual film and stage actors on this blog. But when I started to do research on Harvey, I was astonished at how much negative information had been written about him by those who worked with him during his film career. If you re-read this entry, notice how those comments are referenced and credited to those who wrote or commented about Harvey's less than charming traits. I have never met the man, and I have seen only four of his films. I have no grudge against him. I just related what I found out in my research on the man and cited those who wrote or spoke about him.

A scene from "The Magic Christian" (1969) in which Harvey recites Hamlet's soliloquy while stripping before an astonished audience (I'm not making this up):

Oh, I nearly forgot. Scottish-born actor John Fraser called Harvey "a whore" in his 2006 memoir, mentioned above. A very heavy drinker (for good reason, it would appear), Harvey died from stomach cancer at the age of just forty-five. He is buried in Santa Barbara, California, next to his daughter (by his third wife), who died at the age of thirty-five.

Trivia: In 1963, Laurence Harvey built a house in Beverly Hills (designed by Buff & Hensman) that came to have an incredible “gay” pedigree. Musical comedy composer Jerry Herman went on to own it, followed by Max Mutchnick, the co-creator of the TV hit Will & Grace. The 9,200 sq. ft. house was next sold to Ellen Degeneres, for $29 million in 2007. It was purchased six months ago from Ms. Degeneres by Ryan Seacrest (no comment, and nothing implied, naturally, but I do hear some choking noises off in the distance).

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Film score composer Richard Robbins

Richard Robbins, the film score composer who collaborated for 25 years with director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, died November 7 from Parkinson’s disease at age 71. At the time of his death he was at home in Rhinebeck, NY, attended by his long-term partner, painter Michael Schell.

I must say that I am somewhat spooked by his death. My readers likely don’t know that I usually work on three or four blog entries at a time, and after my earlier post about life partners Merchant and Ivory, I did some initial research on Richard Robbins, who provided outstanding scores for  "A Room With a View," "Howards End" and "The Remains of the Day", among many others. Just today I began further Internet research for information about Mr. Robbins, in order to devote an entire entry to his musical contributions to film. You can imagine my shock when I found out he had died two weeks ago.

Robbins was nominated for an Oscar in 1992 for his score for “Howards End” and in 1993 for “The Remains of the Day”. He created the score for nearly every Merchant Ivory film from "The Europeans" in 1979 to "The White Countess" in 2005.

His creative partnership with Merchant and Ivory came about in 1976, when he was serving as acting director of the preparatory school at the Mannes College of Music (NYC). Robbins was the piano teacher of the youngest daughter of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the screenwriting collaborator of partners Merchant and Ivory. Richard and Ruth became friends, and she introduced him to Merchant and Ivory, who produced a documentary on the school’s young musicians. He served as Mr. Merchant’s assistant on Ismail’s next project, a film about ballroom dancers set at the Roseland dance hall in New York City. The creative quartet of Jhabvala, Merchant, Ivory and Robbins became close, and Robbins eventually became a composer, a move that outshone his original intention of a career as an educator.

The first score Robbins developed for a Merchant-Ivory film was for "The Europeans" (1979) a period drama based on the Henry James novel. He wrote a romantic, lush score for "Maurice," (1987), a film based on the E.M. Forster novel. That score won a top award at the Venice Film Festival, and Robbins considered it his favorite.

In 1994 Robbins collaborated with his partner, painter Michael Schell, on "Via Crucis" (Way of the Cross), a musical and visual collage representing the Stations of the Cross.

Richard “Dick” Robbins was born in Massachusetts in 1940 and studied music at the New England Conservatory in Boston, followed by a year of study in Vienna, Austria. His subsequent job at the Mannes College of Music in NYC brought him into the circle of Jhabvala, Merchant and Ivory, and the rest is cinematic history.

Here is a sampling of the score for “Maurice”, one of the great films about homosexual love and attraction:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Joe Saunders and David Richardson

On Tuesday, November 20 (2012), Florida representatives Joe Saunders and David Richardson became the first openly gay members to be sworn into Florida’s state legislature. Richardson represents District 113 (Miami) and Saunders District 49 (Orlando). You should not be shocked to learn that both are Democrats.

Saunders and Richardson took their oaths with more than 50 state legislators in Tallahassee. Until now, Florida was the largest state in the union to have never elected an openly gay candidate to its state legislature. Richardson, a CPA and former auditor for the U.S. Department of Defense, had never before run for public office.

29-year-old Saunders was accompanied in the legislative chambers by his partner, Donald Rupe (on right in photo, below). "Standing there with him was a dream realized and a memory I'll have for the rest of my life," Saunders told the Orlando Sentinel.

Michael Kenny, Executive Director of Florida Together, a statewide LGBT advocacy coalition commented yesterday, "For the first time in the history of our state, we have openly gay State House Representatives. David Richardson will not only be representing the residents of State House District 113 in Miami Dade County - he will be a voice for all of Florida's LGBT residents, (and) congratulations to Joe Saunders on his victory as State Representative in District 49. There is no doubt that the people of Florida will be well served by Joe Saunders being in the legislature."

"Before you can participate in the conversation, change hearts and minds, and impact policy, you must first have a seat at the table. Until today, LGBT Floridians were shouting from the spectators section."

Florida's statehouse in Tallahassee:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Duncan Grant

Duncan Grant: Bathing (1910)

Scottish born artist Duncan Grant (1885-1978) accomplished much more than the homoerotic nudes for which he is best remembered. He also worked in interior design and forged a career in costume and stage set design.  At age 28, along with art critic and fellow Bloomsbury figure Roger Fry, Grant founded the Omega Workshops, which changed the course of applied art and design in Britain. In this capacity Grant made major contributions to pottery and textile design.

One of his greatest commissions, however, was never realized. Hired to decorate the interiors of the great ocean liner, the Queen Mary, he completed the task, submitted his designs and was paid for his work. Although he was offered no explanation as to why his designs were not used, it was commonly understood that his work was too avant garde for tastes of the time.

Self portrait in mirror (1920)

Grant grew up an only child in Scotland, Burma and India, where his father served in British military regiments. Duncan’s English nanny encouraged his painting and took delight in his juvenile designs for wedding dresses. The young Duncan was influenced by the spectacle of the weekly regimental ceremonies and parades that took place in the numerous cities in India where his family was stationed at the close of the 19th century. They enjoyed a life of privilege, strictly maintaining British customs while living in the Subcontinent. At age nine Grant returned to Britain to attend boarding school. Although he won awards for art and music, he was otherwise a poor student. Coupled with his father’s financial difficulties, Grant  was unable to attend the prestigious schools his mother had hoped for. Instead, he settled into the Westminster School of Art (London). From that time forward, he never strayed from pursuing a career as an artist.

Duncan studied in Paris in 1906, and later at the Slade School of Art. He moved to 21 Fitzroy Square (London) in 1909 and thereafter became a regular at gatherings of members of the Bloomsbury group. Sharing with Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell a commitment to the decorative arts, he became co-director of the Omega Workshops in 1913.

Duncan Grant: textile design for embroidered firescreen, 1913

By all accounts a handsome, kind and charming person, Grant’s lovers included Adrian Stephen, Maynard Keynes and David Garnett, as well as his cousin Lytton Strachey. Though his sexual orientation remained homosexual throughout his life, he was the father of Vanessa Bell's daughter Angelica, and lived for many years at Charleston farm with the Bell family.

Charleston manor house

1930s photograph of the drawing room at Charleston, decorated by Duncan Grant

Herself an accomplished artist, Angelica grew up believing that Clive Bell was her father; she bore his surname and his behavior toward her never indicated otherwise. Angelica had sexual relations with two of Duncan Grant’s lovers, the Russian painter George Bergen and David Garnett, whom she married, unaware that her husband had been her father’s lover. I’m not making this up. In 1994 Angelica donated more than 8000 sketches and drawings by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell to The Charleston Trust. Some of Grant’s major works hang in London’s prestigious Tate Gallery and National Portrait Gallery.

Duncan Grant: Interior with the Artist’s Daughter (oil on canvas, 1935)
In Grant's later years, poet Paul Roche (1916–2007), whom he had known since the mid-1940s, took care of him and enabled Grant to maintain his accustomed way of life at Charleston for many years. When Grant had been commissioned to decorate the Russell Chantry in Lincoln Cathedral in the late 1950s, Grant used his lover Paul Roche, youthful, blond and handsome, as the model for the face and body of Christ (below). The murals have recently been restored and the chantry reopened. Roche was made co-heir of Grant's estate, and Grant eventually died in Roche's home in 1978.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Evan Darling

This turns out to be my 300th post - with no end in sight! 

43-year-old Evan Darling has been a race car driver for 17 years and has won multiple divisional titles. As a kid he raced BMX bikes, transitioning to motorcycles for a while, then graduating to cars, where he was able to make good use of his heavy foot. He is a member of the racing body known as the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA, founded in 1944). Darling’s record includes wins at Daytona, Sebring, and a top 10 placement at the Koni Grand Am Challenge. Darling, who is also an ASE certified master technician, is also openly gay. His web site declares that he is an “Out, proud racer.” In fact, Darling is the only openly gay professional race car driver in the nation.

Although he has never made a big deal out of his sexual orientation, Darling has been out since he was 18. It wasn’t an easy admission. His parents sent him to psychological counseling in order to “fix” him, and his brother Ryan joined anti-gay organizations while at college. His brother continues to oppose LGBT rights as a leader in the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.  In 1995 there were protests against homosexuals participating in Boston’s Veterans Day Parade, and Darling’s father, an attorney, represented the Irish American War Veterans against Boston’s LGBT community. Disheartened, Darling left the sport for a while to attend college in NYC but dropped out due to lack of support from his parents.

He eventually found his way back to racing cars. He began his amateur racing career in 2002, becoming the 2005 NASCAR Grand Am champion in his division. In 2007 he turned pro when he landed a job at Ferrari. Although NASCAR is the largest and fastest growing sport in the country, it isn’t exactly known for the progressive attitude of the drivers or the fans, so being a gay driver was a serious strike against him. In an interview Darling said, "It’s a good old boy network and the last couple of years it’s been tough to get cars and sponsors. I’m hoping that by telling my story, some folks in the gay community will step up and support my team." It takes upwards of a million dollars a year to support a car, driver and a technical team, so Darling has had to take the year off from racing for lack of funding.

Darling Races in Grand Am Road Racing (owned by NASCAR), which uses a track with many curves and banks. A Grand Am race can last as long as 24 hours, with multiple drivers taking shifts in one car during these endurance races. The cars themselves are stock cars which have been modified within certain rules.

Despite the challenges he faces, Darling continues to do what he loves and perhaps makes a difference in the lives of people who may not have any other LGBT role models. It’s possible that kids who grow up in NASCAR-loving families may not have access to cable networks like LOGO. He’s aware of the impact he may have as a role model for LGBT kids and teens, and that’s why The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization targeting LGBT youth, has become one of his sponsors.

Darling has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, chief among them Out Magazine, The Advocate, The Miami Herald and Auto Week. Click the following link to visit his personal web site:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nicholas Ray

Bisexual American film director Nicholas Ray, best known for Rebel without a Cause (1955) and Johnny Guitar (1954), was a talented, undisciplined renegade whose Hollywood career lasted a mere sixteen years. Wisconsin-born Ray directed many films that explored the lives of lonely outsiders who refused to conform to the rigors of mainstream society.

Actor Farley Granger and writer Gore Vidal, Ray’s gay neighbors at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood during the mid-1950s, both reported that Ray was simultaneously involved in affairs with lead actors Sal Mineo, James Dean, and Natalie Wood during the filming of Rebel without a Cause. Although he identified as heterosexual, Ray could be seen dancing with other men at the Chateau Marmont. Ray said he wasn’t gay because he had more affairs with women than men. Ray was also in denial about his crippling alcohol and drug abuse.

British-born screenwriter Gavin Lambert (1924-2005) met Nicholas in England while publicizing Rebel without a Cause. Seduced by Ray the night they met, Lambert was swept off his feet and accepted Ray’s invitation to follow him back to the United States, where he moved in with Ray at the Chateau Marmont. Nicholas found a job for Gavin as a screenwriter at Twentieth-Century Fox, and Ray and Lambert lived together for eight months. Lambert, who characterized Ray as a possessive and erratic lover, broke off the affair because of Ray’s alcohol abuse and infidelity with both men and women.

After dropping out of college, in 1933 Ray joined the first fellowship of participants at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin (Wisconsin). After eight months, the intensely moralistic Wright expelled Ray for homosexual activity. Ray relocated to NYC and met writer Jean Evans, with whom he had a son, Anthony (Tony), in 1937. By 1941 the FBI had opened a file on Ray, because of his socialist leanings and association with African Americans. In 1944 Ray was forced to resign his position with Voice of America on the basis of further damning FBI reports of leftist political sympathies and homosexual activity.

In 1946 Ray got a huge break when RKO assigned him to direct the filming of They Live by Night, a film-noir project for which Ray had written a screenplay based on Edward Anderson’s novel Thieves Like Us. Ray cast the film from a group of unknown contract players, chief among them Farley Granger (in photo above). Although previews of the completed film garnered positive reviews in 1947, distribution was delayed until 1949, due to marketing dilemmas. During this gap RKO’s new chief, bisexual Howard Hughes, protected Ray from appearing before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which would have damaged his personal reputation as well as the reputation of the studio.

In 1948 Ray married actress Gloria Grahame, even though Nicholas had gambled away everything in the days leading up to their wedding in Las Vegas. In 1950 Ray directed In a Lonely Place, starring his wife Gloria and Humphrey Bogart. During filming of In a Lonely Place, Ray found his wife in bed with his teenaged son (Tony) by his previous marriage. Gloria and Nicholas divorced in 1952, and Gloria Grahame eventually married Tony Ray in 1960, an act that incited a public scandal that ended her movie career. Gloria had children by both father and son. I’m not making this up.

In 1953 Ray bought out his contract at RKO, but went to work for MCA when he was unable to establish his own production company. It was there that Ray made a success of Johnny Guitar (1954), in spite of Joan Crawford’s attempts to thwart the production. Intensely jealous of supporting actress Mercedes McCambridge, Crawford insisted that McCambridge’s scenes be reduced in favor of an expanded part for herself. Crawford destroyed McCambridge's costumes and threatened to leave Sedona, Arizona, where the film was shot. Although Crawford prevailed, and Ray was forced to make the adjustments, he delivered a brilliant film with strong gender-bending leanings. Its critical and commercial success was exceeded by Rebel without a Cause, released the following year.

Homosexual actor Sal Mineo portrayed Plato, a character that was perhaps the first gay teenager shown on the screen. Ray had wanted to include a scene showing James Dean and Mineo kissing each other, but cautious Warner Bros. executives nixed that idea.  Released shortly after the tragic death of James Dean, Rebel without a Cause was one of the highest grossing films of the decade, and by far the most commercially successful film of Ray's career.

Ray seemed on track to become one of Hollywood’s greatest directors, but his personal demons of gambling and drug and alcohol abuse thwarted his career. Astonishingly, by 1958 his Hollywood career was over, and Ray moved to Europe, where he experienced both success and failure for eleven years. Ray suffered a heart attack in 1962 while working on 55 Days at Peking (1963), his last studio project.

Settling in Chicago in 1969, Ray met Susan Schwartz, a student who eventually became his unofficial fourth wife. During the 1970s Ray settled down and taught film in New York. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer in 1977, which took his life two years later. During the summer of 2010, the Harvard Film Archive presented a month-long film series featuring the work of Nicholas Ray. Hosted by Susan Ray, Nicholas Ray’s “fourth wife”, with whom he shared the last ten years of his life, the festival showcased all of Ray’s twenty-odd pictures. The following link includes an excellent bio, commentary and descriptions of all the films:

Martin Scorsese introduces Nicholas Ray and his film, Johnny Guitar:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Néstor Almendros

Cuba’s government is not just homophobic – the anti-gay climate is legally institutionalized. Spanish-born cinematographer Néstor Almendros (1930-1992) followed his father to Cuba in 1948 in order to flee Franco’s government. Even though he was himself a closeted gay man (his autobiography made no mention of his private life), when Almendros had the opportunity to direct his own film project in 1984, he made a documentary about Cuba's persecution of gay men, Mauvaise conduite (Improper Conduct), a blistering indictment of Castro’s oppression of homosexuals. From 1965 to 1967, the Cuban government engaged in an anti-gay pogrom, rounding up locas (loosely, “queens”) for confinement in labor camps. Néstor’s documentary featured 28 interviews with these men. Critical response was wildly positive, and Almendros went on to co-direct another documentary, titled Nadie escuchaba (Nobody Listened – 1988), again about repression in Cuba. Like the first documentary, Nobody Listened drew its power from the directness of real people telling their tragic stories in their own words.

Almendros built a career that encompassed a great body of work as a cinematographer: Days of Heaven (1978), for which he won an Academy Award, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), The Blue Lagoon (1980), The Last Métro (1980) for which he won a Cesar award, Sophie's Choice (1982), Pauline at the Beach (1983), Places in the Heart (1984), Heartburn (1986), Imagine: John Lennon (1988 documentary) and Billy Bathgate (1991), among scores of others. He was known for his many successful collaborations with famed directors Eric Rohmer, François Truffaut and Robert Benton.

Néstor Almendros was born on this day, October 30, in Barcelona in 1930. He died of AIDS-related lymphoma in 1992 at age sixty-one. In a fitting tribute Human Rights Watch gives an annual film award named in his honor.

Stills from Days of Heaven:

Production began in the fall of 1976. Though the film was set in Texas, the exteriors were shot in Whiskey Gap on the prairie of Alberta, Canada. Jack Fisk designed and built the mansion from plywood in the wheat fields and the smaller houses where the workers lived. The mansion was not a facade, as was normally the custom, but authentically recreated inside and out with period colors: brown, mahogany and dark wood for the interiors. Patricia Norris designed and made the period costumes from used fabrics and old clothes to avoid the artificial look of studio-made costumes.

According to Almendros, the production was not “rigidly prepared”, allowing for improvisation. Daily call sheets were not very detailed and the schedule changed to suit the weather. This upset some of the Hollywood crew members not used to working in such a spontaneous way. Most of the crew were used to a “glossy style of photography” and felt frustrated because Almendros did not give them much work. On a daily basis, he asked them to turn off the lights they had prepared for him. Some crew members said that Almendros and Malick did not know what they were doing. Some of the crew quit the production. Malick supported what Almendros was doing and pushed the look of the film further, taking away more lighting aids, and leaving the image bare. Due to union regulations in North America, Almendros was not allowed to operate the camera. With Malick, he would plan out and rehearse movements of the camera and the actors. Almendros would stand near the main camera and give instructions to the camera operators.

Almendros was beginning to deal with deteriorating eyesight by the time shooting began. To evaluate his setups, “he had one of his assistants take Polaroids of the scene, then examined them through very strong glasses”. According to Almendros, Malick wanted “a very visual movie. The story would be told through visuals. Very few people really want to give that priority to image. Usually the director gives priority to the actors and the story, but here the story was told through images”. 

Much of the film would be shot during “magic hour”, which Almendros called “a euphemism, because it’s not an hour but around 25 minutes at the most. It is the moment when the sun sets, and after the sun sets and before it is night. The sky has light, but there is no actual sun. The light is very soft, and there is something magic about it. It limited us to around twenty minutes a day, but it did pay on the screen. It gave some kind of magic look, a beauty and romanticism”. This “magic look” would extend to interior scenes, which often utilized natural light.

Almendros said, “In this period there was no electricity. It was before electricity was invented and consequently there was less light. Period movies should have less light. In a period movie the light should come from the windows because that is how people lived.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dsquared2: Twin gay brothers

Identical twin gay brothers Dean and Dan Caten, born with the surname Catenacci, are a Canadian creative design duo who are fashion designers. They are founders and owners of the high end international fashion house DSQUARED2.

DSquared2: not your grandmother’s runway show

Now in their late forties, Dean and Dan Caten say they started out by designing denim, because they weren't allowed to wear it when they were growing up. "Our Dad, like a lot of older people, thought denim is for poor people," said Dean in an interview. The twins were in a family of nine children, raised by a single father, a welder, in Toronto. They say their success in the fashion world is probably due to that modest background. "I think sometimes the less you have, the more creative you have to become," Caten said. "It's not having the things you want in the fashion sense. We didn't have great clothes growing up, and we didn't have fashion accessible to us."

DSquared is based in Milan, Italy, and it now has moved light years beyond denim, but the twin’s collections are still tinged with Canadian themes, Dan said. "Doing a collection, we start with a theme, and that gives us a point of departure – cowboys, matadors," he said. "We're telling a story. It's like making a short film. When it comes time for the runway, we have the set, the music, the lighting – will we make it rain or snow?"

Their clothing, the denim in particular, is a favorite among musicians like Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and Madonna, who asked the duo to create more than 150 pieces for her 2002 Drowned World Tour. The design duo did the costumes for a recent Usher world tour, as well. The brothers opened their flagship store in Milan in 2007, complete with an exclusive Champagne bar, and subsequently launched locations in Capri, Kiev, Istanbul, and Hong Kong. In 2010, they were the hosts of Launch My Line, a design competition reality show on Bravo. They have launched a signature fragrance, have designed football team uniforms and have collaborated with Fiat automobiles. In 2009 they launched Dsquared for Sirius Satellite Radio's BPM Channel, and somewhere in there I forgot to mention that they have a designer line of sunglasses. Their products may be purchased in the U.S. at high retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and at select fashion boutiques. A link to their on-line shopping site is at the end of this post.

Dean and Dan, who divide their life/work between Milan and London, create their collections in Italy: “Born in Canada, living in London, made in Italy”.

“We are the two simplest people on the face of the earth. We have come from nothing, have made something, and we’re giving back to everything that we ever came from, everything that we support.”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

John Horne Burns

Born the son of a wealthy Irish Catholic lawyer in Massachusetts, John Horne Burns (1916-1953) attended Andover Academy, where he studied music. His Phi Beta Kappa graduation from Harvard in 1939 resulted in a teaching position at a boys' boarding school, the Loomis School in Windsor, Connecticut. Answering his country’s call, he was drafted into the army in 1942. Thus a gay soldier found himself lucky enough to be stationed in Casablanca, Algiers, and Naples, spending WW II in a military intelligence job censoring the content of mail written by enemy prisoners. Burns used his war experiences, including pickups in gay bars in Naples, in his brilliant first novel, The Gallery (1947), a set of nine vignettes, reissued in 2004 by New York Review of Books Classics. The novel is a semi-autobiographical fictionalized account of his Italian war experiences.

The Gallery – "The first book of real magnitude to come out of the last war."
– John Dos Passos

Set in occupied Naples, Italy, in 1944, The Gallery takes its name from the Galleria Umberto, a bombed-out arcade where everybody in town comes together in pursuit of food, drink, sex, money and oblivion. A daring and enduring novel – one of the first to look directly at gay life in the military – The Gallery poignantly conveys the mixed feelings of those who fought the war that made America a superpower. The book captures the shock that war dealt to the preconceptions and ideals of the victorious Americans. Each of the stories gives the reader a glimpse into the social and sexual practices of American GIs during WW II, from a censorship office run by an egomaniac to an Italian girl finding love in an America officer's club to a gay bar. These portraits are linked by the narrator's own experiences from Casablanca to Naples and his realization of what love and the war mean to him. Upon publication in 1947, the book became a critically-acclaimed bestseller.

His literary debut launched him alongside James Michener and Irwin Shaw (photo above). Two years later, however, Burns suffered a second novel comedown with Lucifer with a Book (1949), a satire which drew on his experiences as a boarding school teacher. Lucifer with a Book was one of the most talked about new novels, because it dealt with the naughty goings-on at an all boys' prep school, something Americans could not handle in 1947. Burns was savagely attacked by the same critics who had praised him as a war novelist. Disappointed, disillusioned and disaffected with American culture, Burns moved to Florence, Italy, where he began drinking himself to death. A third novel,  A Cry of Children (1952), also garnered bad reviews. Supporting himself as a travel writer, he began working on a fourth novel, but died at age 36 of a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by alcoholism.

According to Gore Vidal, Burns once said "To be a good writer, one must be homosexual."

The Gallery: Burns has a brilliant facility for reproducing the sights, sounds, color, feel, and smell of the places he has seen. He uses this to startling effect to recapture what many Americans beyond the frontiers of their antiseptic homeland for the first time found in exotic and warped war centers as Casablanca, Fedhala, Algiers, and of course the twisted and diseased Napoli itself. – William Hogan, San Francisco Chronicle

No one will ever forget this book: a story torn from impassioned experience of modern wars in a shattered city of the ancient world. The Gallery is unique, unsparing, immediate; inextinguishable.
– Shirley Hazzard

The Gallery – John Horne Burns; 392 pages, paperback.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

George Nader

After appearing in small roles in forgettable films in the 1950s, a pair of strapping, handsome young gay actors were hungry for leading roles in higher quality films, and they were chasing the same dream. They were friends, but the competition did not always end up amicably. One of them, Rock Hudson, got lucky with Magnificent Obsession (1954), which turned him into a star and a hot commodity. The other, George Nader (1921-2002), was not so lucky. These two gay men with stunning physiques and charisma to spare were about to be involved in a Hollywood studio intrigue that left only one man standing.

According to insider reports at the time, Rock Hudson was a bit too indiscreet with a man he picked up, and their dalliance was photographed. Universal Studios bosses received a phone call from Confidential magazine saying they were about to expose Hudson’s homosexuality on their front page. The studio panicked at the thought of losing its hottest new star, so they cut a deal with the magazine. They made a decision that made Rock Hudson a Hollywood legend while simultaneously dashing the career of Nader to hopeless obscurity. The magazine agreed to ruin Nader's career by outing him as a homosexual in exchange for accepting a large cash payment to keep Rock Hudson's gay activities out of print forever. Another version of this story relates that Confidential was about to expose a relationship between Nader and Hudson himself, but both men later said they never had a sexual relationship. In fact, Nader and Mark Miller (Nader’s life partner) became Hudson’s de facto family and were especially supportive in the months leading up to Hudson’s death from AIDS in 1985. BTW: I can find no evidence that a magazine article exposing Nader as homosexual was ever published, although the threats may have been real. Photo below: Rock Hudson (left) wth fellow beefcake actor George Nader.

Nader’s Hollywood career sank, but he was not down for the count. Astonishingly, he became the second biggest film star in Germany, playing a James Bond type character by the name of Jerry Cotton in 8 films released in a five year span from 1965 to 1969. He continued working in B movies until 1974, but his career was thwarted a second time. An automobile accident resulting in a detached retina made it difficult and uncomfortable to work in front of the bright lights used on movie sets, so he switched to an entirely different career as an author. He wrote a popular science fiction novel titled Chrome (1978), in which two gay men were the principal characters.

Even more astonishingly, Nader and Hudson remained good friends. Nader began dating Mark Miller while the two were fellow actors at the Pasadena Playhouse, and Miller went on to work as Hudson’s private secretary. Nader and Miller became lovers and remained partners for 55 years, and Miller, Hudson and Nader became so close that Nader was included in Rock Hudson’s will, receiving the interest from his estate.

But we need to back up a moment. Miller had intended to study opera in NYC but abandoned his plans to stay in California to help Nader launch his career. Miller took odd jobs to provide income while Nader established himself as an actor. By 1952 Nader was successful enough that Miller became his business manager.

In 1953 Nader starred in a 3-D film called Robot Monster (at right), which grossed more than a million dollars on a $16,000 production budget. Nader played Roy, the often shirtless hero who saves the world from the clutches of a robot in a gorilla suit. Shot in just 4 days, it went on to become a camp cult classic. It also has the dubious distinction of being named one of the worst movies of all time.

In 1954 Nader won a Golden Globe award as Most Promising Male Newcomer of the year, but the Confidential gossip magazine incident in the early 1960s brought a premature close to his Hollywood career.

Universal Studios tried to protect Nader  by arranging dates with actresses such as Mitzi Gaynor, Martha Hyer and Piper Laurie, while suggesting he get married briefly to one of the studio secretaries to quell the gay rumors (neither Miller nor Nader publicly acknowledged their homosexuality until the mid-1980s). Nader couldn’t bring himself to participate in such a sham, and he left the studio in 1958 to work freelance. After some mediocre work in television, he and Miller moved to Germany in 1963, where Nader made eight successful films as a James Bond clone. By 1972, Nader decided to move back to Hollywood, and Miller joined him.

In 1978 Nader wrote his first novel, a homoerotic science-fiction book titled Chrome, which went into six printings. Conveniently, Nader had earned a degree in English from Occidental College in 1943, so he was able to put those skills to good use.

Nader finally came out of the closet in 1986, a year after Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS. Nader and Miller collaborated on a second novel, The Perils of Paul, which Nader didn't want published until after his death. Centering on the gay community in Hollywood with names changed to protect the guilty(!), it was published privately in 1999 (good luck acquiring a copy). In retirement, Nader and Miller lived in Palm Springs, California. Nader contracted a bacterial infection in Hawaii and died on February 4, 2002, at age 80, at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Country Home in Woodland Hills, CA.

 With Anne Baxter in Carnival Story (1954)

As Jerry Cotton (above), an FBI agent in German language films.

With actress Julie Adams in Four Girls in Town (1956)


With a young Maggie Smith (above) in Nowhere to Go (1958).

Sex kitten (and ex-blond Bond girl) Shirley Eaton disciplines George in Million Eyes of Su-Muru (1967). Frankie Avalon (!) was his co-star. George was still looking great at age 46.

George could really fill out a uniform (above). He was a U.S. Navy communications officer stationed on Johnson Island in the Pacific during WW II.

Pure, 100% Hollywood beefcake: