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Thursday, September 13, 2007


Raymond Burr. Robert Reed. Roddy McDowall. Agnes Moorehead. Paul Lynde. Dick Sargent. Tyrone Power. Cesar Romero. Danny Kaye. Both of the grandparents on The Waltons. What do all these stars have in common?

Well, the names of Agnes Moorehead, Paul Lynde, and Dick Sargent--all stars of Bewitched--should have been a dead giveaway. (Though even I was surprised at Will Geer and Ellen Corby of The Waltons.) All of these stars were Family. That is, figuratively speaking, my Family. They were gay or lesbian.

This really shouldn't be news to anyone. But this week I had an amusing E-mail exchange about this with my friend Danny B., who lives in the Saratoga/Adirondacks region. Daniel is a straight-but-not-narrow type, a "friend of the Family," if you will. As a little enterprise, Daniel likes to sell vintage movie star photos on eBay. This week, he E-mailed me about his research on his subjects, and how many of them turn out to be gay. I don't think he's really that surprised to find that the entertainment industry is filled with gay and lesbian talent; after socializing with us since he was in college, he's well aware that we're everywhere--and that we're more ubiquitous in some quarters than in others, especially in any creative profession. I just think he's been struck lately with how truly omnipresent we are--and how many of us have not, or do not, declare ourselves.

To the gay and lesbian community, the memo on this is so old that it's turned yellow and brittle and has to be kept hermetically sealed like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The story of gay talent being used, exploited, and profited from, but gays themselves being obliged to remain culturally and socially invisible--passing for heterosexual as some fair-skinned African-Americans were once given to passing for white, and many Jews used to pass for Gentile--is the most ancient text of our history. It was never truer than in Hollywood, the town and the industry that creates and sells American mythology and expects its players to embody the myths. And the most vigilantly guarded of myths has been the one about manly leading men wanting and being with only women in their off-screen lives, and actresses having only men for lovers and husbands. Acting is a profession that attracts homosexuals the way illicit sex seems to attract politicians, but the true identities of many of our screen idols remain cloaked like a Romulan Warbird. If they weren't, it's feared people would flee from the cinemas and turn off their TVs in droves, and vast fortunes would be in jeopardy. It's an empty, needless, futile, and wholly untrue fear, but there it is and it never goes away.

I shouldn't even have to be talking about this. It's the world's greatest non-secret, especially in these days of George Takei and John Barrowman and Ellen DeGeneres and T.R. Knight and Elton John and Dave Koz and Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang and Rupert Everett and Lance Bass and Reichen Lehmkuhl and Chad Allen and Rosie O'Donnell and...see, the list goes on. Even Vicki, the woman in Jay Leno's band, is a lesbian! It's the elephant in the room of the entertainment industry, the thing everyone knows and no one talks about. This very weekend, my science fiction posse, The Alternate Universe (see my links), is planning to gather at Albany's Lesbian and Gay Community Center and invite the Center's patrons to a game of "Name That Homosexual." This little invention of ours is based on the "Bid-a-Note" round of the game show Name That Tune, in which opposing teams bid to see in how few clues they can guess the identity of a famous gay or lesbian person, and not just from show business. ("I can name that homosexual in five clues...I can name that homosexual in two clues...NAME THAT HOMOSEXUAL!" We really ought to pitch this to Game Show Network, but all things in time, I guess.) Over the years, we've had plenty of material to work with, and the list has only grown longer. The secret remains open, very open--but in many quarters, the secrecy persists.

Much progress has been made with the cultural and social visibility of our people, and much progress remains to be desired. As I was telling Daniel, it reminds me of a song parody I wrote for the Alternate Universe Newsletter back in the early 90s. The lyrics remind us of the strides we've taken since then, and the strides we've yet to take. Want to know exactly what kind of twisted intelligence you're dealing with when you come to this Blog? Warble this one, if you so desire, to the tune of Lerner and Loew's Camelot:

The Bible Belt says Armageddon's nearing

And homosexuality's no good.

And we'll give in to everything they're fearing

In Hollywood.

The fundamentalists are all complaining

That loving one's own sex one never should.

So we'll keep closet doors locked and restraining

In Hollywood.

Hollywood! Hollywood! No queers in films or on TV.

Hollywood! Hollywood! As hetero as can be.

Appearances must stay close to the mainstream.

In private it's a fairy neighborhood.

So this is our refrain: My friend, we must maintain

That dykes and fags are nonexistent

Here in Hollywood!

Same-sex attraction can't be seen by children.

We think the public's mind is made of wood.

We'll play it straight and keep on making millions

In Hollywood.

Our stars, they never sleep with their own gender.

Be lesbian or gay, they never could.

And that's the way we make our legal tender

In Hollywood.

Hollywood! Hollywood! We're heterosexual through and through.

Hollywood! Hollywood! That's Tinsel Town to you.

So homosexuals with eyes on show biz,

Invisible you'll stay or it's no good.

For we perpetuate the image that we're straight,

So homophobes will line our pockets

Here in Hollywood!

Yep, we just love our show tunes, don't we...?


  1. I can't speak for any of the other people on your list, but Tyrone Power was if anything bisexual. I know from first-hand experience - he lived with me and my mother (I was a teenager) in the mid'-50s and we traveled with him to Ireland where he did "Devil's Disciple." He and my mother were crazy about each other. He proposed to my mom any number of times, but she didn't like the fact that every time she turned around, Anita Ekberg showed up. Everyone kept telling her that he was through with Anita and that she was arriving uninvited, but my mom decided it was all too much for her. He became involved with Mai Zetterling toward the end of his relationship with my mom.

    Later on, my mother told me he would only make love with the lights on, and would only have a serious discussion with her with the lights off. I recently read "All Those Tomorrows" by Mai Zetterling, who devotes several chapters to him, and she said the same thing.

    In my work I've met many people who knew Ty and worked with him. They all speak very highly of him, as my mother still does, and none of them, including his stand-in, Mike Steckler, knows anything about relationships with men. I have a suspicion, quite frankly, that if it moved, he slept with it. I've heard too many stories to think otherwise from too many women, and to date I've met one illegitimate child - it wasn't the child that was born due to a liaison during Jesse James, so that's two that I know of. I suspect there are others. I used to be surprised he died so young. Now I wonder how he lived so long. By the way, the Guiles biography is much better researched and comes to quite a different conclusion from Arce. The truth I believe is in the middle.

  2. Joe- Ya got a comment! From an unnamed source, but still interesting.
    Your Technorati score is already 2, not booming, but given all the blogs out there, it's a start.
    I was glad to link to you, and I think Eddie did, too.

  3. Ah yes. I probably should have been a little more specific about some of the names I mentioned. I'm sure Tyrone Power actually was bisexual, as I'm sure bisexuality is a lot more prevalent than many people would like to admit. Thanks for the clarification, Mrs. R.