Saturday, June 25, 2005

Degaying (and undergaying) of public figures

A few days ago I read the NY Times obituary of a Hollywood starlet from days gone by, Lon McAlister, who died at Lake Tahoe at the age of 82. He retired from acting at the age of 30 to pursue a career in real estate. The notice mentioned a brother and a sister, but no wife or offspring. It is possible, of course, that McAlister may have been a womanizer who just never got married.

Yet I was alerted by the mention that the boyish actor was a close friend of George Cukor, the gay director. From such little clues, historians (s t i l l) have to work. Old habits of "protecting" reputations die hard.

Another obituary, a more complete one from the Washington Post, offers some confirmation. << After retiring from acting, he plowed his film earnings into property in Malibu, Calif., and ran a lodge in Northern California. He also made travel films with a companion [N.B.], actor and producer William Eythe, who died in 1957. He maintained close relations with Carol Channing, who had an early part in an Eythe Broadway show, as well as with 1940s stars Jane Withers and Deanna Durbin.>>

Here is another instance, belonging to the "undergaying" category. Robert Smithson was the Buddy Holly of art, as he died in a plane crash at the age of 35. He is best known for one work, the Spiral Jetty in Salt Lake. During his later years Smithson was married, and we rarely hear about his gay side. However, the art review in the NYTimes Arts Section does note that as a teenager he clipped photos from beefcake magazines, producing homoerotic works. Evidently conflicted, Smithson's early work oscillates between Catholic religious imagery and gay-related themes.

As I have long maintained, detection of such clues is only the first step in determining the sexual orientation of a public figure. A superficial examination of the personal traits of British heartthrob footballer David Beckwith might suggest that he is gay. Alas, he is not.

By the way, the term "degaying" has been ascribed to the British scholar Simon Watney, who used in relation to Andy Warhol. If Warhol could be degayed, who next? Carson Kressly? Stranger things have happened, I suppose.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The author of this article is an old poofter with a long probing nose and a tiny little cock.

1:25 AM  

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