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.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Andrew Tobias

Born in 1947, Andrew Tobias is an American journalist, author, and columnist. He has written chiefly on investment, politics and insurance, but, using the pseudonym John Reid, published an autobiography titled The Best Little Boy in the World (1973), an early classic of gay coming-out literature. It has remained in print for over forty years and was reissued under his real name in 1998, when he was comfortable enough to reveal his sexual orientation to the general public. Subsequently, Tobias served as grand marshal of the 2005 New York City LGBT Pride Parade. An influential gay rights activist, he is also a member of the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign.

A staunch Democrat, since 1998 he has served as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, and he has been a strong opponent of Republican efforts to reduce taxes for high-income individuals.

Among his other accomplishments, Tobias created one of the most popular early financial computer programs, Andrew Tobias’s Managing Your Money, later sold to and subsumed by the makers of Quicken. Although a major voice in the financial industry, he has never been employed in that field. As well, he has written investment advice columns for New York Magazine, Esquire, Playboy and Time. One of his most controversial books proposes radical insurance reform. He has appeared numerous television shows, including Today, Good Morning America, Oprah, Tonight and Face the Nation.

For 7 years Tobias was in a relationship with journalist Scot Haller. Fashion designer Charles Nolan, Tobias’s subsequent partner of 16 years, died of cancer in 2011 at age 53. Nolan mixed politics and fashion, causing shock waves when he left as head designer of Ann Klein in 2003 to volunteer for the presidential campaign of Howard Dean.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ian Roberts

Out in Sports: Gay Australian Rugby Player

(Updated February 20, 2014) London-born Australian rugby player Ian Roberts came out in 1995, the first person in the sport’s history to do so. This admission surprised many, because Ian did not fit many stereotypes of gay men. It was noteworthy that there were minimal repercussions that resulted, and lucrative endorsements continued to pour in. He remains an inspiration to young gay men all over the world who see in him a brave, tough role model who stands against the clichés of what gay men are like. However, both epilepsy and recognition of his homosexuality nearly led to his giving up the game. Instead, by the mid-1990s he had become the highest paid rugby player in Australia.

Roberts forged a stellar career as an aggressive forward with Souths, Manly and North Queensland and represented both New South Wales and Australia. In 2005, he was named one of the 25 greatest ever New South Wales players.

Ian's first clear, public statement that he was gay was made to The Advocate magazine and then quoted in a Sydney newspaper without Roberts' permission. Regardless, he never denied it, and the press jumped all over the story. News of his sexuality was followed by photos of his male partner Shane Goodwin and mention of their intention to adopt children.

Having come out, Ian was called on by most gay charities and many youth charities to do fund raising work, appear in poster campaigns, and sit on Mardi Gras floats, among others. Acutely aware of his media position, Roberts kept up a busy charity schedule as well as his Rugby League career, shifting from the Manly Sea Eagles in Sydney to the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. During this period his biography, Finding Out, was released.

After retiring from Rugby League at the age of 34, Ian moved to Sydney and completed an acting degree at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA, the alma mater of Mel Gibson)) and began a second career as an actor. Ian drastically reduced his public visibility as a sports idol and concentrated on his new career.

In a 2000 father-son newspaper interview, Ian talked about his relationship with his dad:

“Most of the time my father and I talk about sport. We never stop fighting. We've always disagreed about everything, especially politics. Dad is a bit of a racist We'd also argue about the whole gay thing. He came from the old school, where everything was black and white and no grey. Now he's mellowed; he really believes that there should be allowances for gay couples, that they should have equal rights and they should be able to marry in some form...

...I was surprised how cool he was about it when I told him I was gay; it was my mum who freaked out. I was about 25 at the time. Dad said, 'Your mum's heard something at work today; we don't believe it, but we just want to hear you say it. Tell us you're not gay.' I said, 'No, Dad, I am gay.' He went white as a sheet. Mum started screaming. Dad said, 'Shut up, Jean, and talk to your son!' I was upset, so I went out to the car, and Dad followed me. He gave me a hug and said, 'This is still your home, boy.'

We didn't bring the subject up for a while, because Mum was still having a really difficult time accepting it. One day, Dad tried to have this safe-sex talk with me. I told him that I knew what I was doing, but I appreciated his concern. He was very inquisitive; he wanted to know all about it.”

From Ian’s father:

“One of the proudest moments of my life was when he finally did come out. That took a hell of a lot of guts. I think he was just fed up with living a lie, and he got to the stage where he didn't care what people thought about him. I'd go along to watch him at the football, and some of the crap I used to hear from the crowd made me very upset.

We argue about everything. That's what most of his friends could never understand. When they first meet us, they think we're forever fighting, but it's just the way we are. We talk about everything. Nothing is taboo. I just wish he'd told us earlier. It would have been easier for me, and for him.”

Roberts finished playing professional rugby league in 1999, and began studying at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. Roberts had a brief cameo part in the Australian film “Little Fish,” starring Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, playing an ex-rugby league star. He appeared in the 2006 motion picture “Superman Returns” as Riley, a henchman of Lex Luthor, and the highly acclaimed Australian television series “Undervelly: A Tale of Two Cities.” Roberts also won second place in the Australian version of "Dancing with the Stars" competition.

This video features highlights of his rugby days, acting career and even some clips from "Dancing with the Stars." Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Edgar Bowers

Curiously, openly gay American poet Edgar Bowers (1924-2000) is little known today, even though he was the recipient of several important prizes and fellowships, including the prestigious Bollingen prize and two Guggenheim fellowships. Poet and critic Yvor Winters thought the poems in Bowers’s early books were among the best American poems of the 20th century, and distinguished colleagues included his works in British anthologies. Among his advocates were Richard Wilbur, Robert Lowell, Harold Bloom and Tony Tanner.

The title of a 1990 collection of poems was For Louis Pasteur, and every year Bowers celebrated the birthdays of three of his heroes: Louis Pasteur, Paul Valéry and Mozart. According to Clive Wilmer (The Guardian), those three all “suggest admiration for the life of the mind lived at its highest pitch – a concern for science and its social uses, and a love of art that is elegant, cerebral and orderly.” Although a rationalist, Bowers's poems are marked by aesthetic refinement and an intense feeling for the mystery of things. He rarely engaged with homosexuality as a literary theme.

Born in Rome, Georgia, Bowers had to leave the University of North Carolina in 1943, when he was called up for military service during World War II, serving in the Counter Intelligence Corps as a translator. At the age of 21 he traversed the ruins of Europe and for a while was stationed at Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden, where he participated in the de-Nazification campaign. The impact of those experiences on a sensitive and ethical consciousness influenced his poetry.

After the war, Bowers returned to his studies, earning a doctorate at Stanford University. His subsequent academic career included teaching positions at Duke University, Harpur College and the University of California at Santa Barbara. According to Wilmer he “fought against political compromises (over Vietnam, for instance) and the exploitation of young, untenured teachers. He sometimes suffered from sneering suggestions about his homosexuality, and, despite being the most radical and egalitarian of men, stood accused of elitism.” Throughout his career Bowers suffered from bouts of depression and alcoholism. Until 1965 he wrote in immaculately constructed rhymed stanzas, but changed to blank verse for the following decades.

After the death of his aged mother, Bowers left his beach front house in Montecito, CA, and moved to San Francisco, where he enjoyed the love and support of an openly gay community. Bowers remained in San Francisco until his death at age 75, fourteen years ago this month.

This poem is typical of Bowers, a writer who lived brightly but wrote darkly:

Living Together (from Collected Poems, 1997)

Of you I have no memory, keep no promise.
But, as I read, drink, wait, and watch the surf,
Faithful, almost forgotton, your demand
Becomes all others, and this loneliness
The need that is your presence. In the dark,
Beneath the lamp, attentive, like a sound
I listen for, you draw near -- closer, surer
Than speech, or sight, or love, or love returned.


Clive Wilmer for The Guardian

Literary critics Donald Justice and David Rigsbee

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale

Duo-pianists Arthur Gold (1917-1990) and Robert Fizdale (1920-1995) made their professional debut in 1944 when they premiered two works by John Cage for prepared pianos. During subsequent decades they transformed duo-pianism through their increasing international acclaim and contributions of new repertoire by commissioning 23 two-piano works from renowned composers such as Francis Poulenc (Sonata for Two Pianos), Samuel Barber (Souvenirs), Darius Milhaud, Ned Rorem, Virgil Thomson, John Cage, and Paul Bowles. They also revived neglected works, most notably the two early duo concertos by Felix Mendelssohn.

The photo above dates from 1967.

The pianists created a dynamic and emotional experience for their audiences through their artistry, dazzling virtuosity, impeccable ensemble skills, and thorough attention to musical details. Because of their mass public appeal, Gold and Fizdale became the first duo-piano team to sign a recording contract with a major label, Columbia Records.

Both Gold and Fizdale were of Russian Jewish descent, and they met while they were students at Juilliard, forming a lifelong gay partnership based around their common interests of music, travel and cooking. Gold, who was born in Toronto, Canada, moved to NYC to study at Juilliard, and Chicago-born Fizdale arrived at the school three years later. They became important fixtures in New York City's artistic community and were known as “The Boys” by their close friends. They spent many months in Europe, notably Paris and Rome, and befriended composers of the group known as “Les six.” The French Government appointed Mr. Fizdale a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

When Gold began having problems with arthritis in his hands in the late 1970s, the duo turned their attention to literary projects, publishing biographies of Misia Sert (1981) and Sarah Bernhardt (1991). The couple began writing food articles for Vogue magazine and launched a television cooking show. They were also contributing editors of Architectural Digest magazine. In 1984 they published "The Gold and Fizdale Cookbook", dedicated to their friend George Balanchine, "In whose kitchen we spent many happy hours..."

Gold and Fizdale perform
Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos
New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein: