Liberace was a “flaming fag,” as we used to say in the 80’s. He wasn’t married to a woman, he didn’t try to hide being gay by the way he dressed or acted on stage or in real life. While he didn’t come right out and say “I am gay,” or in his day – a homosexual because saying gay would mean he was giddy or happy, it is safe to say that he wouldn’t be upset that we all know he was gay. Likewise, we could safely say this about Oscar Wilde or Lord Byron and countless others who didn’t take great pains to make sure we didn’t know.
On the other hand, focusing on Cary Grant’s love life or Katherine Hepburn’s or Spencer Tracy’s or even Eleanor Roosevelt’s is inexcusable. It is disrespectful of their families, their husbands and wives, of their name and of their legendary status. If something is not written in their will or if they have taken great pains to hide their love life; than it is none of our business. Yet magazines and their sensationalist journalists take great pains to “expose” them as if they have abused children or animals and need to have their life paraded around the town square for the entire world to see and know.
Life was different in their time period. People had class and very high expectations of themselves and others. Men and women dressed elegantly and went out to dinner with gloves on and hats. They wore fur stoles or full length coats or capes that were left in a cloak room with a “hat check girl.” They drew nicotine from long stems and cocked their heads back when they let out the smoke in a very graceful way. They ate lavish meals and watched performances, which included full orchestras with singers and maybe dancers as well. When they left, they went onto parties or home or somewhere else. The story ended there.
Recently, Scotty Bowers a celebrity pimp at 94 years old, has decided he needs to ruin the reputations of some really wonderful people that we all grew to love and adore. These were people whom we romanticized and fantasized about when we thought of their relationships, or their movies, or their place in office. The meaning of legendary is someone that no one can replace. It is someone who was unique, a valuable contribution to the world, stellar, intelligent, and larger than life.
When they are then exploited for being gay behind closed doors, you are taking away that legendary status by turning them into a common person. You are saying that they had flaws like the rest of us. That beneath that smile was nothing but lies. You are taking away the image we have of them and turning them into nothing more than a Jimmy Saville. And for what purpose? Why do we need to know who was gay and who wasn’t gay? Who does this help? Do we need to meet a quota in today’s society to validate ourselves in the lifestyle we are now living?
“Women He’s Undressed,” sounds demeaning just hearing the title. As I watched this documentary about an Australian designer by the name of Orry-Kelly, I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable as he began to rat out Archie Leach’s lifestyle and then tell us that Cary Grant took great pains to shut him up before he died. Naturally, it is hard to have any respect for Orry-Kelly; as a result of watching this. I began to understand why Cary walked away from him because he was a spineless prick; like most people in the fashion industry. Always out to stab people in the back and then curtsy, while blushing on their way out the door. It’s supposed to be seen as charming and yet it made me want to vomit; which is why I got out.
As I am in the psychology world now, I am equally insulted by fools who focus on the fact that Freud was a cocaine addict or that Jung screwed his clients. None of this was taboo in their time period because they were the fathers of psychology and had not yet determined ethics and laws that are relevant today. Doctors handed out cocaine, heroin, and many other substances that are considered illegal today but weren’t then. It is because therapists or psychoanalysts did what they did that we now know better. But to focus on their behaviors that were inconsequential in their day, takes away from the valuable contributions that they made to psychology.
When I watch an old film, I don’t want to think about the fact that he or she was a dyke or a fag. I want to think about their wit, their je ne sais quois. Yet when someone puts something into my mouth, I can’t get rid of the taste of it. The memory is stuck. When we see these people on screen, it is important to leave them with their clothes on. We want to keep their voice resonating in our head. We want to recall their walk across the room. We want to envy their wives/husbands, children and imagine what it must have been like to be in the room with them.
If these people were alive today, more than likely they would sue the rags that printed them just as Tom Cruise used to do with National Enquirer. Now all magazines and newspapers, the Internet as a whole, seem focused on becoming trashy, smutty, tell-alls who have nothing better to do with their life than to ruin others. When you do this to a dead man, you are essentially spitting on their grave and that of their kin. Allow these people to rest. Allude to their behind the scenes arrangements but really and truly, if they aren’t Jimmy Saville, let it rest. Keep them a legend, a mystery, a well-loved hero/heroine.