Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Aiden Shaw

British-born model, writer and former porn star Aiden Shaw (b. 1966) had a traditional upbringing in England. He came from respectability and has returned to it again, but there’s no ignoring that wild detour in the early 1990s when he established himself as a popular star of gay porn. What set him apart from his adult film peers was that he was a man of intellect.

Shaw made over 50 pornographic films, earning several industry awards along the way. He stood out from the pack of blonds and their smooth all-over-tanned bodies. Shaw didn’t shave his chest and obviously didn’t sunbathe in the nude – in fact, his sharply defined tan line became a trademark. He was further distinguished by his British accent, although his porn roles required limited use of his speaking voice. Shaw’s screen persona was that of a traditionally handsome natural man possessed of a spectacularly generous endowment (and a rose tattoo on his arm). In fact, his penis was as much discussed in the 1990s as international playboy Porfirio Rubirosa’s(*) was in the 1930s (we're all of us too young to remember – just Goggle him). Many of Shaw’s fans noticed a startling facial resemblance to Richard Gere (see photo below).

*OK, I've received numerous E-mails about this, so here's a hint. To this day in Paris, if a restaurant patron wants one of those tall wooden peppermills, he says, "Waiter, may I please have a Rubirosa?" I kid you not.

He became one of the most popular global adult male stars before retiring from the porn industry in 1999 (he was diagnosed HIV positive in 1997). Although a car accident brought a hiatus to his porn career – for a time he was paralyzed and in a wheelchair – he made a return with four more adult videos in 2003/2004.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to reconcile his current appearance as a classically handsome, mature man with salt and pepper hair and a beard with his actual age – 52. He looks years older, in a good way. Talk about aging gracefully.

He comes across as a confident, worldly man, the perfect type for promoting luxury goods. He has modeled for GQ Magazine in Berlin, Le Figaro and El Pais, as well as in other print venues. That his present appearance renders him nearly unrecognizable from his days as a porn star is surely to his advantage, although the rose tattoo is an identity giveaway.

Shaw has worked in diverse fields, as an editor of an interior design magazine, a poet, an HIV activist, vocalist, producer, escort, composer and writer. Print modeling is merely his latest career turn. He undertook formal studies in film, television, photography and video, subsequently taking post- college jobs directing and art directing music videos. Shaw wrote and produced two albums of music, performing lead vocals with his band "Whatever". Individual tracks are available on iTunes.

The first chapter of his autobiography, My Undoing: Life in the Thick of Sex, Drugs, Pornography and Prostitution (2006), begins: “All I could see were pretty shapes and colours, my dick going in and out of his white cheeks.” From his days as an escort, his comment on how to have sex with men who repulse him: “Well, the thing is, very few men physically repulse me. Like a good whore, I can always find something about a man that I like.”

From an interview with Daniel Lee in NYC in 2003:

DL: What makes you laugh hardest?
AS: Getting treated special because I have a big dick.

DL: Would you prefer not to be treated special because you have big dick?
AS: No way!

Well, there you have it.

Shaw’s writing is described by Michael Musto of The Village Voice as prose that “can tug at your heartstrings and your crotch at the same time.” His first novel, Brutal, appeared in 1996, the same year he published a collection of poems titled If Language at the Same Time Shapes and Distorts Our Ideas and Emotions, How Do We Communicate Love? (it sold out), followed by two more novels, Boundaries (1997) and Wasted (2001).

Shaw completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing in 2007 at Goldsmiths University of London, followed by publication of a second autobiography, Sordid Truths (2009). In 2011, Shaw completed training to become a qualified English teacher.

Shaw was recently profiled in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Hercules Universal One Last Colony, the Havana Affair – in which he models luxury men’s clothing (click on link).

http://models.com/mdx/?p=14427

At present Mr. Shaw divides his time between residences in London and Barcelona. In 2016 he reverted to his birth name: Aiden Brady. Here is a sampling of his recent modeling work. You're welcome.





Monday, December 3, 2018

Ray Hill

1940-2018




Before Houston, TX, native Ray Hill became a galvanizing gay activist, he had been a Baptist evangelist and a convicted burglar who served four years in prison. Not a typo.

Mr. Hill, who died November 24,  was a larger-than-life character who said, "I was born to rub the cat hair the wrong direction." He described his occupation as a "journeyman-quality hell raiser, and on his business cards the words "Citizen Provocateur" were printed under his name. He partnered with San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk to organize the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. 80,000 activists showed up. But the second national march he helped organize drew more than 200,000 people in 1987, the largest gay rights demonstration in history.

A renowned radio broadcaster, he co-founded KPTF-FM in Houston, where he started a program on LGBTG issues. In 1980 Texas prisoners could not call home to speak to immediate family or close relatives. Although Hill lobbied for a 2007 state law allowing such, his prior efforts resulted in radio's "The Prison Show" with a call-in segment that allowed families to update inmates with greetings, family details and news of births and deaths and such trivialities as children's soccer game scores.

He bullied Anita Bryant in 1977 but campaigned for several female politicians, most notably Annise Parker, who became Houston's first gay mayor in 2010. But that's not all. When his sister died in an automobile accident in 1977, Mr. Hill raised her two children. In fact, his entire life became a legacy of service to others. 

After losing his left leg and right foot to diabetes, he resided at Omega House in Houston, a hospice center he helped establish in the 1980s. He had been hospitalized earlier this year with heart problems. His funeral was held yesterday on the steps of Houston's City Hall, where Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered a statement that called Mr. Hill a warrior in the fight for gay rights, human rights and criminal justice reforms.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Steel Magnate Friedrich Alfred Krupp

The multimillionaire German steel industrialist F. A. Krupp (1854-1902) loved the Italian island of Capri, off the coast of Naples, where he resided for several months each year at the Hotel Quisisana*. He kept two yachts there, Maya and Puritan, from which he entertained and pursued his hobby of oceanography. He could well afford to, since his father – Alfred, the Cannon King – had amassed the largest personal fortune in Germany. Alfred's power was so great that crowned heads negotiated directly with him.

While on the island, Krupp (known all his life as Fritz)  indulged his homosexual leanings in a big way. He set up a lavish private pleasure club in a grotto, where he entertained underage Italian boys, mostly the sons of local fishermen. Man on man sex was performed to the accompaniment of a live string quartet, and orgasms were celebrated with bursts of fireworks. Solid gold pins shaped like artillery shells or two crossed forks, both designed by Krupp, were given to the boys if they performed well. I'm not making this up.

When Krupp's wife, back home in Germany, heard rumors of what was going on, she went straight to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who promptly had her committed to an insane asylum in Jena. The thinking was that the Krupp industrialist empire (steel and arms manufacturing) was too vital to German national security to be compromised, even if such lurid stories were deemed true. Besides, Fritz was an important philanthropist who advanced the study of eugenics, which was later to become associated with the Nazis. The company lives on today as Thyssen-Krupp AG, the result of a controversial merger completed in 1999. The new company operates worldwide in steel manufacture, capital goods (elevators and industrial equipment) and services (specialty materials, environmental services, mechanical engineering, and scaffolding services).

But I digress. Krupp’s homosexual tastes predated his holidays on Capri. Conrad Uhl, proprietor of the Hotel Bristol in Berlin, related that he was charged with supplying Fritz with young boys when he stayed there. However, the German press eventually found out about Krupp's illicit private affairs, and printed the whole story, complete with damning photographs taken by Krupp himself inside the grotto on Capri. On  November 15, 1902, the Social Democratic magazine Vorwärts reported that Friedrich Alfred Krupp was homosexual, that he had a number of liaisons with local boys and men, and that his principal attachment was to Adolfo Schiano, an 18-year-old barber and amateur musician who lived on Capri. A week later, Krupp requested a meeting with his close friend, Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose circle of friends included many prominent gay men. On the day he was to meet the emperor, November 22, 1902, Krupp was found dead in his home. Rather than face disgrace, Krupp had committed suicide; he was 48 years old at the time.

The suicide was covered up, and his body was concealed in a casket with no autopsy, even though law required it. No one, not even close relatives, was allowed to see the body. After three days, Germany had a great memorial ceremony involving the Kaiser, who was closely allied to the family. When Fritz was laid to rest in the Krupp family cemetery in Essen, his tomb was guarded day and night.

Ten years ago, when I first visited Capri**, I looked down in wonder from the Gardens of Augustus to the switchback paved footpath known as the Via Krupp, a scenic walkway constructed by Fritz in 1900. Ostensibly Via Krupp was a connection for Fritz between his rooms at the Hotel Quisisana and Marina Piccola, the small port where his marine biology research ship (ironically named the Puritan) lay at anchor. Secretly, however, this path conveyed him to Grotta di Fra’ Felice, the grotto where sex orgies with local boys took place. When the scandal surfaced, Krupp was asked to leave Italy in 1902, and a week  after his return to Germany his life was over.

*The Grand Hotel Quisisana is today a member of Leading Hotels of the World.
www.quisisana.com/en/index

**At the time I had no knowledge of this lurid tale. Today there is a small family-run three star hotel called Villa Krupp on Capri which many people mistakenly believe was built by Fritz Krupp. However, this structure was built as a private villa in 1900 by Eduardo Settanni. By the way, Capri was then known as the gay capital of Europe, hosting hordes of lesbians and gay men, who could pursue their interests openly. Tip: remember to pronounce Capri with the accent on the first syllable (KAH-pree).

The Via Krupp descends 300 feet from the Gardens of Augustus to Marina Piccola, where Fritz hosted all male sex orgies in the nearby Grotta di Fra’ Felice. The iron gate pictured below leads to the grotto. He referred to this grotto as the "holy place of a secret fraternity," and he gave out golden keys to the private gate to waiters and fisherman. He wasn’t even trying to be discrete. This stone path, which had been closed for thirty years because of the danger of falling rocks, was reopened to foot traffic in 2009.


Photo below: On Capri Fritz Krupp satisfies his "needs," which leads to disaster (Auf Capri geht Fritz Krupp den Bedürfnissen nach, die ihm schließlich zum Verhängnis werden) – a scene from the 2009 three-part German TV miniseries, Krupp – Eine Deutsche Familie. In this scene Krupp (center) brings one of the local boys back to his hotel to "satisfy his needs."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Dirk Bogarde

Handsome British film actor Dirk Bogarde’s lawyer, Laurence Harbottle, said, “I share the view of every friend of his whom I have ever known – that Dirk’s nature was entirely homosexual in orientation.

Well, there you have it.

Dirk Bogarde (1921-1999), who portrayed numerous gay and bisexual men on the screen, spent his entire career sublimating or denying his true sexual orientation. He wanted more than anything to be regarded as a straight leading man. He was called the British Rock Hudson for his good looks and appealing on-screen persona, but the two actors had more than beauty and acting style in common.   

English actor John Fraser wrote in his memoir, Close Up (2004):

“But (Dirk) could not accept, could not understand, and could not see when he watched his own performances, that he was effeminate.”

Bogarde aspired for an international film career, not one limited to British audiences. Yet he blamed the utter failure of his sole Hollywood film, Song Without End, in which he portrayed Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt, on anyone other than himself. He blamed his contract with the Rank Organization for limiting him to a long stream of British films, and he complained that he was grossly underpaid.

He was a gifted painter and art restorer, a talented interior decorator and a successful writer, authoring six novels and multiple volumes of autobiography in which not a word about his true sexual orientation appeared. His lover of 50 years, Anthony Forwood (left), was referred to as “Forwood”, in an attempt to portray their relationship as merely one of employer and employee (everyone else called him Tony). Forwood had left his actress wife, Glynis Johns, and their son to move in with Bogarde to become his “manager.” Rare photo of Forwood and Bogarde together (below):










Bogarde’s talent as a writer was often put to good use in embellishing screenplay dialogue.

From The Victim (1961):

In the film Dirk’s character, lawyer Melville Farr, is confronted by his beautiful wife, Laura (portrayed by Sylvia Syms*), who demands an explanation of who this boy Barrett was, how they knew each other, and why Mel stopped seeing him.

Dirk’s character responds:

Alright – alright, you want to know. I’ll tell you – you won’t be content until I tell you, will you? – until you’ve RIPPED it out of me. I stopped seeing him because I WANTED him. Can you understand – because I WANTED him. Now what good has that done you?”

The dialogue as it appeared in the original script went this way:

You won’t be content till I tell you. I put the boy outside the car because I wanted him. Now what good has that done you?


*Younger readers might recall Ms. Syms as the Queen Mother to Helen Mirren in “The Queen” (2006).

The powerful scene starts at the 4:39 timing mark, and the above bit of dialogue is at 8:35
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am9xWQrvnRA&list=PL692D14268C966A3C

Well, this was a film in which a real life gay man was portraying a gay character, a lawyer who tries to right an injustice involving blackmail for being gay. The Victim was the first movie in which the word "homosexual" was spoken on screen, and Bogarde later took credit for writing-in the scene that was the first instance of a man saying "I love you" to another man. Unfortunately, this film all but ended his career as a leading man, yet it opened the door to later brilliant film portrayals as a character actor. Bogarde was knighted in 1992 for his contributions to acting.

The impact of this film cannot be overstated. As American film makers were struggling to make homosexual material acceptable to the Hays Code** and the Legion of Decency***, this British film appeared in which an explicitly gay character actually stood up to fight a system that oppressed homosexuals. In "Victim," Dirk Bogarde was the screen's first gay hero.

**Hays Code (1930-1968): film censorship standards named after Presbyterian elder Will Hays of Indiana, who served as Postmaster General in the cabinet of President Warren Harding. Hays had also served as head of the Republican National Committee. The Supreme Court had already decided unanimously in 1915 that free speech did not extend to motion pictures, and the Hays Office codified objectionable material. Enforcement began in 1934, when the release of any film was held up until the movie studio acquired a certificate of approval from the Hays Office. If a gay character was allowed in a film, that character was open to scorn and ridicule, and most often died by the end of the movie. It was not until after the Hays Code was replaced by the current rating system in 1968 (G, PG, R, N17) that a movie appeared in which gays celebrated their sexual orientation, not to mention that all the gay characters were still living when the end credits rolled – Boys in the Band (1970).

***Legion of Decency was established by the American Catholic Church in 1933, with even stricter standards. Their clout was the constant threat of massive boycotts against films that did not meet their moral standards.

The entire film can be seen on YouTube in 10 installments:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7Nzrq1jKNM&list=PL692D14268C966A3C

Three stages of Dirk Bogarde: early, middle and late:



Monday, September 24, 2018

Langston Hughes

Born February 1, 1902, Langston Hughes, a deeply closeted gay man, was an African-American poet, novelist, lecturer, columnist and playwright who became one of the foremost interpreters of racial relationships in the United States. Born in the south, he dropped out of Columbia University to experience the world of jazz and nightclubs and went on to become a major component of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. He was one of the innovators of the new literary art form called jazz poetry. He worked menial jobs, and was “discovered” as a poet while working as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. The story goes that Hughes dropped his poems beside the poet Vachel Lindsay's dinner plate, and Lindsey included several of them in his next poetry reading. Lindsay’s interest and support launched a major career for Hughes.

This event spawned a local chain of restaurants in the Washington, DC area called “Busboys and Poets” (your blogger has enjoyed many evenings there drinking, dining, playing cards, watching films and taking in live shows and poetry readings). Hughes, who went on to become one of the first black authors who could support himself by writing, became a friend of Ernest Hemingway, with whom he attended bullfights. He wrote lyrics for “Street Scene,” an opera by Kurt Weill and Elmer Rice, as well as screenplays for Hollywood films. His original works portrayed people whose lives were impacted by racism and sexual conflicts; he often wrote about southern violence. However, he felt he had to remain sexually closeted in order to maintain the financial support and respect of various black churches and other cultural institutions.

Hughes had more life experience to draw upon than most, and his world view was vast. Having been born in the segregated deep south of Joplin, Missouri, he later lived in Mexico, Paris and Italy. He worked as a seaman on jaunts to Africa and Europe, spent a year in the Soviet Union, and served as a Madrid correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American.

His career successes helped break the chains of poverty into which he had felt trapped. For the last twenty years of his life he owned his own home in Harlem, a brownstone at 20 E. 127th Street. 

In 1967, Hughes died at the age of 65 from complications after abdominal surgery, related to prostate cancer. He left an enduring legacy.

A poem written when Hughes was 18 years old:

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I danced in the Nile when I was old
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

– from "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," 1920

Sources: Wikipedia, Charles H. Hughes, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997), Out Magazine

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Erasmus

The Dutch humanist Erasmus (1466-1536) fell madly in love with a tall young monk named Servatius Roger. Erasmus wrote him scores of passionate, love-sick letters, to which Roger reacted by asking him to tone it down – way down, lest there be a scandal. Roger never gave in to the constant, overwrought advances. Here is a typical exchange:

Erasmus: Don’t be so reserved. I have become yours so completely that nothing of myself is left...I have wooed you both unhappily and relentlessly.

Roger: What is wrong with you?

This portrait of Erasmus by Hans Holbein the Younger (1523) hangs in London's National Gallery.

While later teaching in Paris, Erasmus instructed a 21-year-old English-born student, Thomas Grey, who later became Marquis of Dorset. Erasmus was abruptly dismissed as Grey’s teacher, for making unwanted advances towards him. It seems Erasmus had a thing for straight men.

Erasmus was born Gerrit Gerritszoon (Dutch for Gerard Gerardson) in Rotterdam as the illegitimate son of a physician's daughter and a man who later became a monk. On his parents' death his guardians insisted he enter a monastery, where he adopted the name Desiderius Erasmus. After taking priest's orders, Erasmus went to Paris, where he earned a living as a teacher. His life-long clashes with theologians and clergy took root while in France. Among his pupils was English Lord Mountjoy, who invited Erasmus to visit England in 1498. He lived chiefly at Oxford, and through the influence of John Colet, his contempt for theologians was heightened. He returned to Paris and later made a much longed for trip to Italy, but returned to England from time to time.

While residing at Cambridge Erasmus served as professor of Divinity and Greek. In 1519 the first edition of Colloquia appeared. Usually regarded as his masterpiece, Colloquia critiqued the abuses of the Church with audacity and incisiveness, preparing men's minds for the subsequent work of Martin Luther. In future works Erasmus promoted a more rational conception of Christian doctrine, emancipating men's minds from the frivolous and pedantic methods of contemporary theologians. Members of the clerical establishment became his sworn enemies, driving him to live out the rest of his days in Basel, Switzerland. Fortunately, during his last years Erasmus enjoyed great fame, fortune  and high regard.

Erasmus stands as the supreme example of cultivated common sense being applied to human affairs. He rescued theology from the pedantries of theologians, exposed the abuses of the Church, and did more than any other single person to advance the Revival of Learning.

A popular European student exchange program, established in 1987, is named after him. The Erasmus Programme is a major European Union higher education initiative; there are currently more than 4,000 higher education institutions participating in 33 countries, and more than 2.2 million students have already taken part.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Federico García Lorca

Lorca was an avante-garde homosexual Spanish poet and playwright who had a serious and scandalous affair with Salvador Dalí. Lorca, born near Granada, was considered the greatest Spanish poet of the twentieth century. He trained as a classical pianist, but also studied law, literature and musical composition. From his friendship with homosexual Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, Spanish folklore became his muse. Lorca’s early anthologies of poems were stylized imitations of the ballads and poems that were told throughout the Spanish countryside. When Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads, 1928) was published, it brought him fame across the Hispanic world.

From 1925 to 1928 he was passionately involved with Salvador Dalí. Their sexual relationship was portrayed in the recent film Little Ashes (2009). As Lorca’s reputation increased, however, he became estranged from Dalí. When a collapse of a love affair with sculptor Emilio Soriano Aladrén followed, Lorca moved to New York, where his homosexuality would perhaps be more accepted. At a time when in Spain hardly anyone traveled, Lorca prospered in New York, where he wrote his acclaimed work, "Poet in New York". He then went to Argentina, and even spent time in Cuba, where he was inspired to write "In a coach of black water I will go to Santiago". However, Lorca’s heavily homoerotic Sonnets of Dark Love (1935) were not published during his lifetime (see excerpt at end of post).

Lorca (below on left) shown with Salvador Dalí (on right) in 1926:


Lorca described himself as "Catholic, communist, anarchist, libertarian, traditionalist, monarchist." His works challenged the accepted role of women in society and explored taboo issues of homoeroticism and class distinctions (he was a passionate social activist). These outspoken liberal views led Franco to ban all of Lorca’s works. In fact, it was only after Franco's death in 1975 that Lorca's life and circumstances of his death could be openly discussed in Spain.

Lorca was envied for his talent, he had money and was successful. When the military took power, his execution was only a matter of time. A successful, liberal homosexual could not be tolerated in Franco's Spain, and he was shot by Franco’s anti-communist death squads during the Spanish Civil War.

Lorca had taken refuge in the home of poet Luis Rosales (now the Hotel Reina Cristina in Granada) from where he was abducted. They came for him on August 19, 1936, and loaded him into a truck with other political suspects. He was shot a few kilometers from Fuente Vaqueros, Spain (where he had been born), but his body has still not been found.

Footnote: Manuel de Falla, who had become disillusioned with the Franco regime, tried but failed to prevent the murder of Lorca, his close friend. As a result, de Falla left Spain in 1939 for Argentina, never to return to his native country.

Lorca, who was assassinated at the tender age of 38, was a man whose crime was to be free at a time in Spain's history when to call for freedom was to knock on the executioner’s door.

This scene from the film Little Ashes shows the first kiss between Salvador Dali (Robert Pattinson) and Frederico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran). For you impatient types, the kiss takes place at the 1:43 mark.



*****************************************************************

The Poet Speaks by Telephone with His Lover
– from Sonnets of Dark Love (1935)

My chest was dune and drought, your voice was water;
that wooden cabin ceased to be my coffin.
At the south pole of my feet the crocus sprang,
at the north pole of my brow the bramble bloomed.
A pine of light sang through each crack and corner,
sang with no seed sown in the earth nor dawn;
for the first time my cry flew like an arrow,
pinning a crown of hope upon the roof.
Sweet and distant voice coursing toward me,
sweet and distant fountain of my pleasure,
distant and sweet like a sunken river!
Distant as a half-hidden, wounded faun,
sweet as a sobbing draught from snowy fields,
distant yet sweetly lodged in my own marrow!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Siegfried Wagner's Homosexual Circle

Siegfried Wagner (1869-1930), son of the great German opera composer Richard Wagner (father and son in photo at right), displayed a feminine demeanor while growing up and was greatly attached to his mother. During his student days he often dressed up as a ballerina, and he had affairs with several of his fellow male students.

Siegfried, who was also the grandson of pianist/composer Franz Liszt, became part of a circle of high-profile closeted homosexual men, including English composer Clement Harris, tenor Max Lorenz, writer Oscar Wilde, illustrator Franz Stassen and Prince Philipp of Eulenburg. In 1892 Clement Harris and 23-year-old Siegfried set off on an around-the-world tour together, and the two fell deeply in love. Wagner kept a portrait of Harris on his desk for the rest of his life.

When journalist Maximilian Harden later accused Prince Philipp of Eulenburg and others close to Kaiser Wilhelm II of homosexuality (Harden-Eulenburg Affair), Siegfried either had to get married or be exposed for what he was. So it was that in 1915 at the age of 46, after strong prodding from his mother, Siegfried Wagner married an 18-year-old Englishwoman named Winifred Klindworth, with whom he had four children, thus providing heirs for the continuation of the Wagner dynasty. His sexual orientation, however, became the source of both scandal and concerted attempts to erase it from the history of the Wagner family.


Siegfried Wagner in his twenties (left).





When the Wagner dynasty’s papers were bequeathed to Bayreuth’s Richard Wagner Foundation in 1973, Winifred Wagner included Siegfried’s musical scores but withheld her husband's correspondence. This was consistent with the family’s notorious stalling and purging of any revelations that would taint the legacy of Richard Wagner.


In response to Harden’s insinuations about his sexual nature, Siegfried replied, “There was ugly gossip about Frederick the Great, too, the greatest king of all time – and he made Prussia great and strong! So don't worry. I won't defile the House of the Festival.” The irony in that statement is that all the rumors and gossip about Frederick the Great were true.

Siegfried did not give up social and sexual relations with homosexuals, however, and he and Franz Stassen (1869-1949), a gay artist who had served as the best man at Siegfried’s wedding, continued a social and artistic relationship that lasted for decades. Stassen (at left) was a noted Art Nouveau painter and illustrator who also married. Siegfried introduced Stassen to Wagnerian tenor Max Lorenz (1901-1975), much admired by Hitler, even though Lorenz was a gay man married to a Jewish woman. For a time Stassen and Lorenz were involved in an affair. When Hitler, who was a financial supporter of the Bayreuth Festival, could no longer publicly endorse Lorenz, it was Siegfried’s wife Winifred who used her influence to rescue Bayreuth’s star heldentenor from public disgrace, exile and possible imprisonment over a charge of homosexuality.

Most historians concede that Hitler and Winnifred (below) carried on an affair after Siegfried’s death in 1930; there were even rumors of a possible marriage. Although Winifred was proud of her association with Hitler, when he visited her at Bayreuth, she took pains to conceal the connection. Hitler would register at the Hotel Bube in nearby Bad Berneck, and Winnifred would send her own car to pick him up, so that Hitler's ostentatious Mercedes would not be seen pulling into the driveway at Wahnfried, the Wagner family's villa built for Richard Wagner by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.





















Following in his father’s footsteps, Siegfried Wagner was also a composer, but his operas, although popular during his lifetime, never entered the standard repertoire. In 1896 Siegfried began conducting at the Bayreuth Festival and from 1906-1930 was the festival’s sole artistic director. In Siegfried’s controversial 1930 staging of his father’s opera Tannhäuser, he boldly embellished several scenes with scantily clad male teenagers. In the opening bacchanal scene their costume consisted of ballet slippers and loincloths -- nothing else. Your blogger is convinced this must have been from pressure over costume budget concerns. Hmmm...

Siegfried dedicated one of his eighteen operas to Franz Stassen, who designed illustrations for the programs for Wagnerian opera productions at Bayreuth (example at right). Franz also published homoerotic drawings and paintings and went on to become a major player in the Teutonic Art Nouveau style. During the last decade of his life Stassen wrote recollections about his male "soul mate", thus publicly hinting at his own homosexuality.

In the previous decade Stassen had also become associated with the Nazi Party. He created four important tapestries for Hitler's Reich Chancellery in Berlin that illustrated motifs of the Germanic Edda sagas. In gratitude, Hitler awarded him the title of professor in 1939.

After 1941 Franz lived openly with his male partner and professed his homosexual orientation, but the Third Reich generously overlooked and ignored this declaration. In the final phase of World War II, Hitler included Stassen in the Gottbegnadeten (Gifted by God) list of important artists most crucial to Nazi culture.



Wagnerian tenor Max Lorenz (right) was homosexual as well, but in 1932 he married Lotte Appel, a Jewish singer who was aware of his sexual orientation going into the marriage. Max’s homosexuality was tolerated by the Nazis as a well-known secret, because Lorenz was a favorite of Hitler. When Lorenz was dragged into court because of an affair with a young man, Hitler advised Winifred Wagner, the director of the Bayreuth Festival after Siegfried’s death in 1930, that Lorenz would not be suitable for the Festival. She replied that in that case she would have to close the Festival, because, “...without Lorenz, there can be no Bayreuth.” Lorenz was thus retained.

As for his Jewish wife Lotte, Max insisted on being open about his marriage of convenience, which was taken as a provocation by the Nazis. Once when Lorenz was away from his house, the SS burst in and tried to take Lotte and her mother away. At the last moment Lotte Lorenz was able to make a phone call to Hermann Göring’s sister, and the SS was ordered to leave their residence and not bother the women. Göring stated in a letter dated March 21, 1943, that Lorenz was under his personal protection, and that no action should be taken against him, his wife, or her mother.

Siegfried Wagner -- Violin Concerto in One Movement (1915):



Second Movement (1927) of Siegfried Wagner’s Symphony in C (in the 1925 first version of the symphony, the slow movement was recycled from the prelude to Der Friedensengel, an opera written in 1914, but not premiered until 1926 in Karlsruhe):

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Lynn Riggs

Born on a farm outside Claremore, Oklahoma, gay poet and playwright Rollie Lynn Riggs (1899-1954) had once worked as a day laborer, a movie cowboy, a reporter, a Hollywood screenwriter, a proofreader at the Wall Street Journal and a school teacher in Chicago. His father was a cattleman turned bank president, and his mother was 1/8th Cherokee. Lynn grew up during Oklahoma’s territorial days.
 
His first poem was published in 1919 in the Los Angeles Times, where he was working as a proof reader. Before relocating to NYC in 1926, he had worked on a chicken ranch, in a glass factory, and had sung in a Chautauqua quintet. Now he was setting his sights on Broadway.

In 1928 he went to Europe on a Guggenheim Fellowship, arriving in Paris to work on a new play. Settling in at the famed Les Deux Magots café, Lynn Riggs wrote about life on the Oklahoma Indian territory, relating the loneliness, isolation and violent emotions of life on the frontier before Oklahoma became a state. Many of the characters were based on his own family and friends. As work progressed, he relocated to a $2-a-night rented room in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the French Riviera west of Nice. He titled his play Green Grow the Lilacs, after a nineteenth-century folk song, and it became the source material for the 1943 landmark Broadway musical Oklahoma!, the first ever collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. 

The first production of Green Grow the Lilacs was a 1931 presentation by the Theatre Guild in NYC, and the cast included Lee Strasberg and a troupe of real cowboys from a rodeo that had just closed at Madison Square Garden. While Rodgers and Hammerstein began crafting their musical version of Riggs’s play in 1942, Lynn was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving his country at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. He did not know that Hammerstein was frequently lifting melodious dialogue from his play verbatim for use as lyrics for the musical’s songs.

Some of Lynn’s postwar scripts achieved success in NYC, where he lived out his days with a series of male companions. Riggs was described as a slight man with fine brown hair and gentle manners. While living in Los Angeles he became a confidant of both Betty Davis and Joan Crawford, functioning as their frequent public escort. In an affectionate gesture Crawford presented him with a Scottish terrier he named The Baron.

Riggs died in NYC of stomach cancer in 1954 at age 54, but his body was returned to his hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma, for interment. A park in Claremore is named in his honor, and a museum in the same town displays photographs that chronicle his lifetime. Also on display are artifacts from the film version of Oklahoma!, including the “Surry with the Fringe on Top” and Laurey’s honeymoon dress. 918.342.1127.

Sources:
Something Wonderful by Todd Purdum (2018)
Thomas Erhard, Oklahoma Historical Society (2009)
A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers by Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan (1939)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Richard Olney

Chef, 
food writer 
& oenophile










There was a trio of influential gay male American chefs whose lives overlapped, spanning the entire twentieth century:

James Beard (1903-1985)
Craig Claiborne (1920-2000)
Richard Olney (1927-1999)

The least well-known of the three was Richard Olney. He was an advocate of  French cooking, but not in the grand manner. He promoted a far more relaxed country French cuisine. Olney was also a noted promoter of French wine from the Provence region. But unlike Beard and Claiborne, Olney directed his culinary empire from his home in Sollies-Toucas in Provence, France. An Iowa native, Mr. Olney left Brooklyn for France at the age of 24 and never moved back.

Two books published in the early 1970s established his career, “Simple French Food” and the “French Menu Cookbook”. Richard was obsessive about cooking with seasonal ingredients and making correct wine pairings with food. Olney was also the editor of Time Life’s influential series “The Good Cook”, the first cookbooks that used minimalist step-by-step photographs to explain traditional cooking technique. Published from 1978-1980, the complete set numbered 28 volumes, each edited by Olney.

Olney’s best known disciple is Alice Waters (b. 1944) of the famed Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California. She claimed that, without Richard's mentoring, she would not exist. As to his closely guarded personal life, Mr. Olney was the one-time lover of celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower (b. 1942), who worked for many years as chef at Chez Panisse before opening his own restaurant. 


For the most part, however, Olney lived a hermit’s life on a hillside in a village inland from Toulon, where he dug a wine cellar by hand and built a brick cooking hearth in his kitchen. He slept in a tiny alcove off the kitchen (where his gardener confirmed that Olney had died in his sleep) and ate and entertained in good weather on a stone terrace under a grape arbor. To keep it "simple", he had no telephone, no car (didn't drive), no radio, no television. 

He was a neighbor of Lucie “Lulu” Peyraud, a petite chef and vintner who just turned 100 last month. In 1994 Olney published “Lulu’s Provençal Table”, a book that extolled her masterful, earthy cooking and wine production from her Domaine Tempier vineyard. Lulu promoted French cuisine as a way of living – not just eating. Food writer Steve Hoffman said that Olney “wished to teach us how cooking could be a path to well-being, a blessed pagan state of sensual, aesthetic and intelligent fulfillment.” Olney learned what he knew about French country cooking from Lulu, and his book about her has become a collector’s item.