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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Anthony Perkins: sexually conflicted actor

Anthony Perkins was an actor who had affairs with A-list male celebrities: Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Troy Donahue, Rudolf Nureyev, Paul Newman, Leonard Bernstein, James Dean, and Stephen Sondheim. The one that lasted, however, was with dancer/choreographer Grover Dale, with whom Perkins had a six-year relationship before his 1973 marriage to photographer Berry Berenson, the sister of actress Marisa Berenson. Dale, who had been Perkins’ understudy in the stage musical Greenwillow, also married in 1973 (must have been something in the water that year). Perkins was 41 years old at the time of his marriage and said he had sex with a woman for the first time just a year before that, at age 39, with his co-star Victoria Principal during filming of The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.

Perkins was a veteran of stage, screen and TV, even earning an Oscar nomination for Friendly Persuasion, but he lived in utter fear that Confidential magazine would out him, as it did with Tab Hunter, one of his early lovers. Perkins had two sons with Berenson, but he died of AIDS in 1992 at age sixty; according to the Los Angeles Times obituary, Perkins did not acknowledge that he had the disease until he released a statement shortly before his death, even though the National Enquirer had broken the story two years earlier. According to author Shawn Levy (The Castle on Sunset, 2019) during the 19 years of his marriage and while being a father, Perkins kept a hotel room on hold for himself at Chateau Marmont so that he would have a place for trysts with young men. Hmmm...

Before his marriage Perkins met influential gay men who resided at Chateau Marmont at various times -- Gore Vidal, Christopher Isherwood (and his partner Don Bachardy) among them. Earlier, Perkins had been introduced to Tab Hunter at the hotel's pool. Moments later, Perkins invited Hunter up to his room. Thus began a two-year sexual relationship between Perkins and Hunter. Studio executives tried to quash rumors by "allowing" Perkins and Hunter to go on double dates with studio-provided starlets.

His performance as Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s film Psycho* is unforgettable, but his career went into decline soon afterward. Perkins was known to frequent gay porn stores and gay movie houses in Times Square, NYC, where he watched men have sex in the stairwells.

*Note: Perkins was not filmed in the infamous Psycho shower scene. A double was used. On the day that scene was shot, Perkins was in rehearsals for Greenwillow, a Broadway musical. Source: Stephen Rebello, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.

For over a decade Perkins lived in a platonic relationship with photographer Helen Merrell, a dominating force of a woman fourteen years his senior. Merrell went on to become an influential theatrical agent and philanthropist.

In the late 1950s, Perkins released three pop song albums, but a career as a singer never materialized, although he did have a starring role in Greenwillow, a Broadway musical (closed after 97 performances). Perkins also worked as a stage actor. In 1958, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor for his performance in the Broadway play Look Homeward, Angel. During this time he also starred in Green Mansions (1959) with Audrey Hepburn and the college comedy Tall Story (1960) with Jane Fonda.

His widow, Berry Berenson, was tragically killed while aboard American Airlines flight 11 as it crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

In a role that forever defined him: Perkins (as Norman Bates) with Janet Leigh in Hitchcock's masterpiece PSYCHO: