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, October 21, 2016

U.S. Ambassador Gifford as reality TV star

My regular blog readers may recall a post from exactly a year ago reporting the marriage of Rufus Gifford, the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, to his partner, a veterinarian named Stephen DeVincent, at Copenhagen’s city hall. Denmark just sort of yawned – no big deal.*

The front page of Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, however, carried a feature article reporting the viral sensation of the ambassador’s reality TV show, “Jeg er ambassadøren fra Amerika” (I Am the Ambassador from America), which averages about 200,000 viewers per episode. So far there have been 10 installments. Ambassador Gifford won the Danish equivalent of an Emmy for his role, in which he muses about being a gay ambassador and his regrets at not seeing more of his husband, who spends long stretches of time stateside to attend to his job.

Contributing to the success of the show is that Gifford, 42 years old and Hollywood handsome, makes sharp, witty comments about what is essentially a boring job – there is virtually no strife between the two nations. The show has followed him around the grand ambassador’s residence, traveling home to Boston to see his parents, making sojourns to Greenland, celebrating a birthday, even spending a night with the elite Danish Frogmen Corps. Gifford steps into his limousine, he steps out of his limousine, he goes to the gym, etc. The series culminates with the ambassador’s wedding to his male partner. A 35-year-old Danish female fan of the show says she isn’t looking for false drama, like that of other reality shows, but that she savors the scenes when Gifford is at home with Mr. DeVincent and their dog, Argos. But there is that one time when Gifford strips down to his Calvins to change into a SWAT suit (not disappointing).

As a result of this show, Gifford’s celebrity in Denmark is such that people on the streets shout, “Hey, Rufus!” and ask him to stop for a selfie, completely forsaking the honorific of his office. And that’s the way he likes it.

All 10 episodes are available for streaming on Netflix: “I Am the Ambassador”. Note from your blogger: Ambassador Gifford is charming beyond description.

*Note: last year six gay male ambassadors currently representing our country gathered for an event at D.C.’s Newseum: Ambassador to Australia John Berry, Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James Brewster, Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Daniel Baer, Ambassador to Spain James Costos and Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius. All were appointed by President Obama and approved by congress. Amazing, since homosexuality was until recent times grounds for dismissal from foreign service. When President Bill Clinton nominated openly gay James Hormel for ambassador to Luxembourg in 1997, Hormel was strongly opposed by some Republican members of congress for his sexual orientation, and the appointment was thus stalled. Clinton then used a recess appointment to install Hormel as ambassador in 1999, making him the first openly gay ambassador to represent the U.S.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cesar Romero

Tall, suave and sophisticated Cesar Romero (1907-1994) was a star of Hollywood films and television. At the start of his career he was known as the "Latin lover/gigolo" type in  a string of  film musicals and romantic comedies, but he was also famous as the rogue bandit, The Cisco Kid, in a spate of low-budget western movies. However, to a younger generation reared on television, Romero was best recognized for his role in the campy 1960s Batman TV series as the white-faced, cackling villain called The Joker. As well, he starred as a bumbling corporate villain in a series of Walt Disney comedies, such as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969). Fans and critics alike agreed that Romero was a major talent who proved himself an enduring and versatile star in a variety of roles during his more than 60-year career as an actor, dancer and comedian.

He was also a deeply closeted gay man to his fans. When he was interviewed by author Boze Hadleigh, Romero gave a revealing, often comic account of what life was like in the Golden Age of Hollywood for a closeted gay man (in Romero's instance, also Catholic and Latino). Because he was "out" to all his entertainment industry colleagues, it was often stated that Romero's homosexuality was Hollywood's worst kept secret. That interview is included in Hadleigh's book, Hollywood Gays.

Cesar Romero was born to wealthy parents in New York City in 1907. His Italian-born father had made a fortune as an importer/exporter of sugar refining machinery, and his Cuban mother was a concert singer. Romero’s first job after attending Collegiate and Riverdale County Schools was as a ballroom dancer, and for years he served as the dancer/escort of major stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Carmen Miranda, Lucille Ball and Ginger Rogers.  Romero first appeared on Broadway in Lady Do (1927), and his first film role was in The Shadow Laughs (1933).

His life was a full-out pursuit of superficial social events such as art exhibit openings, movie premiers and fashion shows. At the time there was a running joke that Romero would attend the “opening of a napkin.” He was uniquely equipped for this lifestyle, since he was handsome, tall (6-ft. 2-in.), suave, wealthy, witty and a real fashion plate. His wardrobe contained more than 30 tuxedos, 200 sport coats and 500 tailored suits. He practically lived at the Ambassador Hotel’s Coconut Grove nightclub (Los Angeles), dancing and flirting the night away. Romero’s signature trimmed moustache was so identified with his persona that he refused to shave it off for his TV role as the Joker in the Batman series. Makeup artists grudgingly applied the heavy white facial makeup on top of his moustache.

He took a break from his acting career during WW II to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific (at left) but immediately returned to his acting career. Ever charming and discreet, Cesar Romero earned the reputation as the quintessential "confirmed bachelor," although Hollywood insiders knew all about his long-term relationship with Tyrone Power (photo at end of post) , Gene Raymond and other actors of screen and stage. As an interesting aside, Romero’s Hollywood social nickname was “Butch.” I’m not making this up.

Critics and fans generally agree that Romero's best performance was as Spanish explorer Cortez in Captain from Castile (1947). In 1953 he starred in the 39-part espionage TV serial Passport to Danger, which earned him a considerable income from a lucrative profit-sharing arrangement. Although Romero became quite wealthy and had no further need to work, he could not stay away from the cameras. He surprised everyone in Hollywood by taking on the role of The Joker in the hugely successful TV series Batman (from 1966). He also guest-starred on dozens of TV shows, including Rawhide (1959), 77 Sunset Strip (1958), Zorro (1957), Fantasy Island (1978), Falcon Crest (from 1985) and Murder, She Wrote (1984).

Romero died of a pneumonia-related blood clot on New Years Day in 1994 in Santa Monica, California, just six weeks shy of his 87th birthday. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: at 1719 Vine St. (for television) and at 6615 Hollywood Blvd. (for motion pictures).

Tyrone Power (left) and Romero on a trip to South America (shown below).

Note from your blogger: In researching Romero’s life, I was surprised how many writers used the words, “rumors of homosexuality.” Romero’s sexual orientation is based on fact, not rumor or speculation – he freely admitted his homosexuality during his lifetime and allowed writer Boze Hadleigh (Hollywood Gays) to write about his dalliances with other gay or bisexual men. Many fans of Hollywood stars dismiss reports of their favorites’ homosexual activity, but they fail to realize that, for most stars, a public “outing” would have been the end of their careers. Those who knew about a star’s true sexual orientation waited until the actor/actress was deceased to speak about it, out of respect for their colleagues’ careers. Hollywood is disproportionately populated by gays and bisexuals, on both sides of the camera.

Cesar Romero sings and dances his way through Romance and Rhumba (1941) co-starring Alice Faye and John Payne. Such roles were typical of his early movie career. Many examples of Romero's TV and film appearances may be found on


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Earl Kage and Hamilton Driggs

Out in the office place at Eastman Kodak (Rochester)

By the 1950s the Eastman Kodak Company (Rochester, NY) had a number of gay male employees who,  although not "out" by today’s standards, did not keep their sexual orientation secret. Two examples were Earl Kage (1919-2008) and his partner, Hamilton “Bud” Driggs (1925-2008), who shared a home on Lafayette Park and a 100-acre country estate in the Bristol Hills, both in the Rochester area. After their deaths in 2008, the estate was donated to the University of Rochester.

Kodak photographer and arts patron Earl Kage  (photo above) was a one man cultural institution in his native Rochester. Distinguished by his pure white handlebar moustache, he was recognized as a sponsor of opera, dance, fine arts and numerous other cultural institutions. He worked at Eastman Kodak for 44 years, from youth to retirement. In 1987 he received the Culture and Arts Civic Award from the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and in 1989 a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arts and Cultural Council. Kage became head of Kodak Camera Research after attending The University of Rochester and serving in the U.S. Army in England during World War II as a photographer for the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

His dedication to the arts resulted in his serving on boards of the Friends of Eastman Opera, Garth Fagan Dance Company, the Rochester City Ballet, The Aesthetic Education Institute, Friends of School of the Arts and affiliations with the George Eastman House of International Photography, Rochester Children's Theater and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. He often served as a judge for many art-related shows over the years.

Hamilton “Bud” Driggs worked for Eastman Kodak for 30 years as head of Exhibits and Displays, following employment at the Atomic Labs at the University of Rochester. He assisted Kage in setting up a photographic studio in Rochester. Driggs was also a talented silversmith who won prizes for his craft work. A professional photographer, he recorded his travels to such remote spots as the Arctic Circle, Nepal and New Guinea. Both Driggs and Kage enjoyed an atmosphere of acceptance while working at Eastman Kodak.

In fact, some historians purport that George Eastman (1854-1932), the father of modern photography and founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, was himself a gay man.  In the late 19th century homosexuality was a major taboo, so Eastman never went public with his sexual orientation. However, his private correspondence of over 700 letters and general accounts of Eastman’s personal life confirm that he was not heterosexual. Eastman was a generous philanthropist, and he established and supported the Eastman School of Music, one of the nation’s preeminent institutions of music. During the 1920s, Eastman was listed as the fifth-largest individual donor in the United States, and by his death he had given away about $100 million.  His total donations to the University of Rochester totaled $50 million. Using the name "Mr. Smith," Eastman gave $20 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) over many years. He also donated to several colleges for African Americans. At the onset of a nerve disorder and general failing health, Eastman took his own life with a pistol in 1932.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Carl Austin-Behan, Lord Mayor of Manchester

Last week openly gay Carl Austin-Behan was sworn in as the new Lord Mayor of Manchester, a city in northwest England. Manchester is the second most populous English city after London. Austin-Behan made history not only for being Manchester’s first openly gay Lord Mayor in the position’s 124-year history, but at 44 years old he is also the youngest.

Carl Austin (he has used a hyphenated surname only since his marriage last year) had recently built a career as a Labour Party councillor on the Manchester City Council and was named earlier this year as that party’s choice to be the city’s new ceremonial Lord Mayor. Prior to entering politics, he had served as a firefighter in the Royal Air Force, from which he was discharged in 1997 for being homosexual (the discriminatory ban was lifted in 2000). Nevertheless, during his time in the RAF, Mr. Austin was awarded the Good Show Award for Bravery, The Royal Humane Society Bronze Award for rescuing a pilot from a burning Hawk Aircraft, and a special mention in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List (1996) with a Commander in Chief’s Commendation. After his discharge he entered the Greater Manchester Fire Service. Shortly thereafter he won the title of Mr. Gay UK in 2001 (photo below) during which time he was working as an events manager.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “I thought it was time we had an openly gay Lord Mayor. We have already had different races and cultures doing it, so this is a recognition of the LGBT community.” Manchester is known for its large gay population and social culture. The city has hosted an annual gay pride event since 1991.

Last year the new Lord Mayor married Simon Behan, his partner of 12 years, and they are currently in the process of seeking to adopt a child. Officially, Simon Austin-Behan is referred to as "The Lord Mayor's Consort." Carl told reporters that he will not be wearing the traditional uniform of black and grey trousers sported by previous Lord Mayors, and he commented that he has only one white shirt in his wardrobe. “I want people to feel like they can relate to the Lord Mayor.”

Note from your blogger: In the United Kingdom “Lord Mayor” is the title of the ceremonial mayor of a major city with special recognition bestowed by the sovereign, in this instance Queen Elizabeth. The proper style of address for the office is “The Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Manchester.” I kid you not.

For an extended bio, click on this link to visit the official web site of Manchester's Lord Mayor:

So there you have it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Guido Westerwelle

Germany's former Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, died from leukemia last Friday at age 54. As vice chancellor (2009-2011) he was the first openly gay man to hold high office in Germany. He “came out” when he attended Angela Merkel’s 50th birthday party with his male partner, Michael Mronz. They entered into a civil partnership in 2010. In a recent statement on the Westerwelle Foundation website, the couple said they were "thankful for an unbelievably good time together. Love remains."

Westerwelle, a former chairman of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), saw his party form a coalition with Angela Merkel’s government. He went on to serve as a deputy in her cabinet. A lawyer by profession, Westerwelle was a member of the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament) from 1996-2013.

Among the controversies that peppered his political career, Westerwelle announced in 2010 that he would not be taking his civil partner Michael Mronz along with him to countries with anti-gay policies. Other official trips as foreign minister, however, included Mronz, who is an events manager.

Guido Westerwelle became ill with leukemia just months after leaving government in 2014. His last public appearance was in November, 2015, when he was promoting his book about his battle with acute blood cancer, “Between Two Lives.”

Westerwelle with partner Michael Mronz:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pierre Boulez

Mr. Boulez in 1971.
Photo by Larry Morris

When the great French composer, conductor and pianist Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) died at the age of 90 at his home in Baden Baden last month, there was much Internet chatter about his sexual orientation. Obituaries in major newspapers and journals mentioned that Boulez was “tightly guarded” about his personal life, but music critic Norman Lebrecht, who knew him for decades, stated that Mr. Boulez was gay. Boulez was extremely closeted, often introducing Hans Messner, his German lover of more than fifty years, as his “valet.” That Boulez (the “z” is not silent) was homosexual was one of the music world’s worst kept secrets.

Mr. Boulez enjoyed a first tier international career, holding conducting positions in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England and the United States, and his numerous recordings earned him twenty-six Grammy Awards. Boulez did not use a baton, using only his hands to conduct, in the fashion of Dimitri Mitropoulos, Leopold Stokowski and fellow Frenchman  Georges Prêtre.

As an opera conductor, Pierre Boulez was most famously associated with Bayreuth, conducting Parsifal and the Ring Cycle. In Paris he founded the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) at the Centre Pompidou and the Ensemble Intercontemporain (EIC). In the United States he was conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic and was composer-in-residence at Carnegie Hall (1999-2003).

As a composer, he was a champion of the avant-garde, writing atonal, electronic and serial music, although in later years composition took a back seat to conducting. He championed twentieth century composers, programming major works by Berg, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern and Varèse.

After a 2012 eye operation left him with impaired vision, he cancelled conducting engagements, and a shoulder injury from a fall kept him from attending the many 90th birthday celebrations held throughout the world in 2015. Both Columbia Records and Deutsche Grammophon issued limited edition box sets (67 CDs and 44 CDs, respectively) of his recordings in honor of his 90th birthday. Last month BBC Four broadcast an hour-long documentary, “Pierre Boulez at the BBC: Master and Maverick.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Steven Saylor a.k.a Aaron Travis

Steven Saylor (b. 1956, photo above) is a Texas-born gay author of popular historical novels about ancient Rome. He studied history and classics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated with honors in 1978. From 1979 he wrote heavy S/M gay erotic fiction under the pen name Aaron Travis. This year fourteen of the Aaron Travis books have been re-published in Nook and Kindle e-reader formats. One of the short stories, “Blue Light”, a psychological mind-bender, has become an S/M classic. Every gay man should acquaint himself with this 35-page tale of erotic seduction fantasy; trust me, this story will remain in your head for days and weeks: $.99 in Kindle format.

In the early 1980s, following a move to San Francisco, Saylor became an editor at Drummer magazine, a popular gay S/M publication at the time. He explained in a later interview that the erotic fiction he wrote in his twenties emphasized the seriousness with which he undertook the task, stating, “I probably did more actual rewriting on those stories than anything I've done since, because for me, writing erotic fiction is like writing a piece of music, because if one note is wrong, you lose the audience.”

His porn writing is highly intelligent and atmospheric, but also brutally sadistic at times. His characters come together not just for intercourse, but to play mind tricks on one another (as well as on the reader). He dives into your subconscious, grabs hold and completely wrings it out – a rape not of the body, but of the mind.

In his short story “Eden”, a young man has a fantasy about a reunion with a classmate named Bill. Even this short sample indicates that Travis is head and shoulders above the average male porn writer:

“Bill would open the door, smiling. I would step inside and throw down my duffel bag. Then he would take me in his arms and kiss me – for the first time, because we had never kissed. He would undress me, and when I was naked, he would push me to my knees. I would look up at his face, so happy to be back – he would take out his cock and tell me to suck it. I could close my eyes and see it. After such a long time apart, he would want to reclaim my ass. I could tell him, honestly, that no one else has had it, as I walked naked to his bed to lie face down, spreading my legs for his cock....

It wasn’t really Bill’s cock I was lusting for. It was Bill. His cock was just the part of him that he gave me to love.”

“Blue Light”, a BDSM tale in which a top loses control of a scene, is a psychological terror, the equal of an Edgar Allan Poe horror story. Proof that Saylor/Travis could wrote porn of high literary quality lies in this description of a penis from “Blue Light”:

“It hovered over me, white and thick. It was perfect, like the rest of his body. Alabaster white and enormously thick, tapered slightly at the base. The head was huge. The skin was pearly white and translucent, as smooth as glass, showing deep blue veins within. The circumcision ring was almost unnoticeable, the color of cream. The shaft looked as hard as marble, but spongy and fat, as if it were covered by a sheath of rubbery flesh. I could feel its heat on my face.”

The Aaron Travis erotic novel “Slaves of the Empire” gave glimpses of his later (non-erotic) historical novels published under his own name. The best known of them is Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series of thirteen novels set in ancient Rome. The first was published in 1991, and the most recent earlier this year. The hero is a detective named Gordianus the Finder, active during the time of Sulla, Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra. He has also written two epic-length historical novels about the city of Rome: Roma (2007) and Empire (2010). These books have been published in 21 languages and have earned numerous awards, including Lambda Literary Awards, the Crime Writers of America Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award, the Herodotus Award from the Historical Mystery Appreciation Society, and the Hammett Award of the International Association of Crime Writers.

Saylor has lived with fellow University of Texas student Richard Solomon since 1976; they registered as domestic partners in San Francisco in 1991 and later legally married in October, 2008. The couple shares residences in Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas.

The Seven Wonders, a prequel to the Roma Sub Rosa series, will be released next month on June 5. Synopsis: In the year 92 BC, Gordianus has just turned 18 and is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime: a far-flung journey to see the Seven Wonders of the World. Gordianus is not yet called “the Finder” – but at each of the Wonders, the wide-eyed young Roman encounters a mystery to challenge his powers of deduction. Gordianus travels to the fabled cities of Greece and Asia Minor, then to Babylon and Egypt. He attends the Olympic Games, takes part in exotic festivals, and marvels at the most spectacular constructions ever devised by mankind – encountering murder, witchcraft, and ghostly hauntings along the way.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Roger Edens

Multi-talented Roger Edens (1905-1970) was a key player in the creation of classic MGM musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Edens was a part of Arthur Freed’s production unit derisively called “Freed's Fairies”: director George Cukor, prop master Edwin Willis and Roger Edens (although Freed himself was not gay). Edens brought a unique combination to MGM's movie musicals as an arranger, songwriter, musical supervisor, composer and producer.

Although born in Texas, Edens grew up in Richmond, VA. He worked as a pit pianist in NYC during the 1920s. When Ethel Merman’s pianist left Girl Crazy in 1932, Edens was hired as his replacement. Merman was so impressed that she hired Edens as pianist/arranger for her nightclub act and brought him to Hollywood; but when Merman returned to Broadway, Edens stayed on in Los Angeles. Hired by MGM as Arthur Freed’s musical supervisor and associate producer, he became part of the legendary "Freed Unit", creating some of the finest ever Hollywood musicals: An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, Meet Me in St. Louis, Babes in Arms, Easter Parade, On the Town, Showboat, Royal Wedding and The Bandwagon.

At a time when known homosexuality was a death blow to a career in Hollywood, Edens managed to keep his under wraps. After a brief marriage ended in divorce, Edens appeared in public with his talented friend and co-worker Kay Thompson in an effort to throw others off the scent. Kay Thompson was a vocal arranger at MGM. By the time he worked with Judy Garland (shown in photo with Edens), he was living as a gay man.

Edens also appeared on screen opposite Eleanor Powell in a cameo role in Broadway Melody of 1936, and he continued to compose, score, and arrange MGM musicals throughout the 1940s. His most visible projects from this era included Easter Parade (1948), for which he earned an Academy Award; On the Town (1949), for which he wrote several new songs and won a second Academy Award; and Annie Get Your Gun (1950), for which he received his third Academy Award. During his career he was nominated eight times for an Academy Award.

Roger Edens became the musical mentor to Judy Garland and was an uncredited coach in almost all of her musical films. Because of his exclusive contract with MGM, Edens was not credited with Garland's “Born in a Trunk,” the landmark sequence in the Warner Brothers production of A Star Is Born (1954). Edens nurtured and established a creative relationship and friendship with Garland that would last for more than three decades.

Photo at right: Audrey Hepburn, Richard Avedon, director Stanley Donen, screenwriter Leonard Gershe and producer Roger Edens arriving in Paris to film Funny Face, 1956.

When MGM cut back on musical productions, Edens continued to work at other studios, producing Funny Face (1957) and Jumbo (1962) while breaking into television work. His final screen assignment was as associate producer of Hello, Dolly! (1969), directed by Gene Kelly. Edens coached Katherine Hepburn for her Broadway musical stage debut in Coco (1969).

A year later Roger Edens died of lung cancer at the age of 64. He was interred in a columbarium at Westwood Memorial Park’s Sanctuary of Remembrance, a resting place for Hollywood royalty in Los Angeles (just off Wilshire Boulevard, east of I-405 [San Diego Freeway]). His eternal neighbors include Eddie Albert, Burt Lancaster, Eve Arden, Fanny Brice, Janet Leigh, Sammy Cahn, Jack Lemmon, Truman Capote, Oscar Levant, Eva Gabor and Merv Griffin (and on and on). Not to mention Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder.