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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Now it can be told

There is an astonishing story in today's Salon. An 88 year old former Hollywood bartender claims that he had an affair with Spencer Tracy -- who, we learn, was gay. The bartender insists that Hollywood image-polishers concocted the story that the very married (and very Catholic) Tracy lived "in sin" (as they used to say) with Katharine Hepburn.

I was startled to discover that the studios, in the uptight world of 1940s America, fabricated and promoted the tale of Tracy's adulterous affair with Hepburn. Previously, I had been under the impression that the studios did everything they could to conceal their romance. Now we learn that the PR flacks concocted the entire story, and then falsely told the press that the concocted story was false.

Talk about devious...! Emperor Palpatine himself not have concocted so convoluted a ploy.

Feminists may not want to hear that Hepburn, a woman noted for her independence, spent 26 years acting as a beard. Not only that: She maintained the pretense even after Tracy passed away in 1967. In fact, she kept it up until her own death in 2003.

Strangely enough, she gave a detailed account of her fake love affair with Tracy in her autobiography, which was published in 1991. She maintained the lie even though her own acting career was over by that point. She maintained the lie even though she no longer had any reason to give a damn about the studios. She maintained the lie even though the studio publicists had stopped giving a damn about either Katharine Hepburn or Spencer Tracy. She maintained the lie even though telling the full, gay truth about Tracy probably would have transformed her book into one of the top bestsellers of all time.

Some of you may feel tempted to question the bartender's account. To do so is unthinkable. Anyone who doubts his word must be a homophobe.

In light of the bartender's brave revelation, the time has come for another shocker. I have decided to reveal that I once had a tempestuous 13-month affair with Whitney Huston.

It all happened a very long time ago -- and it ended well before she first achieved fame. At the time I knew her, she was a backup singer for Jermaine Jackson. How many times did I try to convince her of the obvious...? "You're far too good for him, Whitney. He should be singing backup for you."

I encouraged her to sing opera. Alas, our divergent views on this issue became a major cause of friction between us. I still think that she might have been a remarkable Isolde.

Our intimate lives together contained many moments of high drama, especially after we performed the Tantric maithuna ritual on Halloween night in the seance room of the Winchester Mystery House. The experience affected her so profoundly that she stayed curled up in a fetal position and wept uncontrollably for two full days.

I cannot say more.

Maybe one day, but not now. I'm simply too distraught.

She called me just a week ago, begging me to come back to her. She told me that I was the only man who ever made her feel like a real woman. "No, Whitney," I told her. "It's over. It ended decades ago. I've moved on. So should you. I'm glad that you've ended your pattern of destructive relationships, but what we had together is in the past."

She didn't take it well. The tragic results are known to all.

If you don't believe my claim, then you obviously must be a bigot who cannot stomach the thought of interracial romance.
I think the revelations of the intern who supposedly had ongoing coerced sex with JFK fit this category too.
Didn't Salon come out of the closet for Obama?

Or was it Slate?

Either way they're two sites I don't read.
You do realize that you are 48 dasy early, right?
Anybody can make up anything about a public figure--as long as that public figure and any of his or her associates are dead.

That "intern/JFK" story is also a load of crap. Wait fifty years to "tell all" when all of the principals are dead. How courageous.
But Susan,

The reason that particular story came out is because a historian found a reference to her implying a sexual daliance in a memo from a third party to JFK. She didnt come forward - she was outed.

Plus, the story doesnt really show her in a good light. The only plus point for her that I came across was that she refused to perform oral sex on Ted Kennedy. The rest of it is hardly flattering to her.

And since all the principals are dead, whats the harm? Surely it would be worse if they were alive?

I find it amazing that you fall for one bizarre conspiracy theory after another, but suddenly when it comes to this story you don't believe it.

Famous gay actors, such as Tracy and Hepburn were closeted in the 40s and 50s. How difficult is that to understand given the rampant homophobia of the time?

I'm scratching my head as to why you find this so hard to believe. Unless of course you have an emotional investment in Spencer Tracy being straight for some reason.

What an odd reaction you.
Maybe she did not 'out' him, because he was her beard. The pants suits, way before their time, maybe she was also undercover.
"Famous gay actors, such as Tracy and Hepburn..."

Petitio principii.

"Unless of course you have an emotional investment in Spencer Tracy being straight for some reason."

You don't believe that I dated Whitney Houston? Obviously, you must have an emotional investment in your objection to interracial romance. There can be no other possible reason for you to disbelieve my unverified claim. I suggest that you take sensitivity classes to help you overcome the scourge of bigotry.
Cannon, you're a wretched excuse for a human being! ('cause I just peed myself laughing...)
I believe the reason Hepburn covered for Tracy was that it was also a cover for her. Several of her biographers mention this.
Several of her biographers are trying very hard to sell books, DK.

If you listen to some writers, everyone who ever did anything noteworthy was gay. Even you won't be immune, if you ever gain a certain level of fame.

Isn't there a photo, floating around somewhere out there on the net, of you smoking a big fat see-gar...? Well. What more proof do we need...?

A woman who admits to incest, as Hepburn did, is not going to keep quiet about something so relatively inoffensive as lesbianism or bisexuality -- certainly not as late as 2003. Her great love was her own brother; she even claimed his birthday as her own. He committed suicide; if I recall aright, she discovered the body.

That's pretty damned weird. But it's not gay.
I, on the other hand, am merely the love child of JFK and Princess Margaret. Now that they're both deceased, the truth can be told at last.
I believe it
people are Freaks and deviants
look at Anthony Wiener
Lets not forget the great communist hunt of the 50's. Surely being unheterosexual might be viewed in the same light as being a communist.

Aren't there several leading men who were bisexual or gay from the last century?
"Aren't there several leading men who were bisexual or gay from the last century?"

Of course there were, Alessandro. That's undeniable.

It's also undeniable that lots of famous people have been called gay who really weren't.

I can't say that I was really in the industry, but I got close enough to it to know that there's an awful lot of faux knowingness in Hollywood. Believe only about a third of the rumors you hear. If THAT much.

And I'm not talking only about stories involving sexuality.

Let's get back to your point about studio flacks covering for the stars during the age of McCarthyism. Sure, that sort of thing happened. A lot.

But it has been ages since the studios felt obligated to provide "beards" for actors. Hell, the studio system pretty much died out in the late 1950s!

Actors are free agents now -- have been for ages.

So yeah, as you note, it's true that a studio -- I forget which one -- arranged a fake marriage for Rock Hudson. But by the time Richard Chamberlain became well-known, that sort of thing just was not done any longer. He was on his own. It was his decision to come out or not. His homosexuality was pretty much an open secret in the early '70s.

That's why I think it is ridiculous to argue that Hepburn was covering for herself and for Tracy as late as 2003.

I mean, are you really going to argue that she was upfront about incest -- about a passionate love affair with her own brother! -- yet skittish about talking about bisexuality? You really think her priorities ran that way? As late as 2003?

Come on. It's absurd.

We can say something similar about Tracy. At the time he took up with Hepburn, the studios went to great lengths to prevent anyone from knowing that he and Hepburn were an item. Why? Because he was Catholic and would not divorce his wife.

Are you really going to argue that that the studio flacks invented a fake adulterous romance and then did everything they could to squash the romance rumors which they invented?


To make matters even more ridiculous: There were no gay rumors about Tracy while he was alive. I didn't hear anyone make that claim in the '70s. Back then, I heard wild allegations involving Clark Gable and James Dean and Marlon Brando and Bogart and Cagney and, hell, just about everyone this side of Lee Marvin. But not Tracy.

(For what it is worth, my unbeloved stepfather used to room with Brando. Brando was straight, despite what you may have read on the internet.)

If you look at the evidence for all the "Tracy was gay" rumors, what does it come to?

Lauren Bacall says that Tracy didn't like to talk about his private life with Hepburn. Well, that's the reaction you would expect from a religious man who felt guilty about being involved in an affair contrary to his faith.

Tracy did, in fact, make statements indicating that he liked females in general and Hepburn in particular. He once said of her: "There ain't much meat there, but what's there is choice." Which was a mildly racy comment by 1940s standards, and mildly sexist by modern standards.

(For what it is worth -- I always felt that Spencer Tracy was an over-rated actor. Not bad; just boring. Always liked Kate, though.)

Do we have any further evidence?

Gore Vidal allegedly said that "everyone knew" Tracy was gay. Here's my problem with that statement: Vidal has also written that AT LEAST one third of the male population is gay.

Is there any science to back up that notion? Nope.

By this point, you may be wondering: Why is all of this important?

Well, as long as matters stay on the level of rumor about golden age Hollywood luminaries, I suppose you could argue that these non-issues really are not very important at all. If you want to believe that everyone famous is/was gay, go ahead. You have a right to be silly.

On the other hand, I'm unnerved by the increasingly popular presumption that one should be allowed to make statements without evidence. THAT attitude is dangerous.

Let's take, for example, Vidal's assertion that one-third of the population is gay. Does any science back up that bizarre assertion? Nope. It's wishful thinking on his part.

Granted, at some point during the past sixty years, there may have been one scientist -- somewhere -- who made that dubious claim. In scientific matters, you can always find an outlier who will tell you what you want to hear, if that's what you're looking for.

So what, I ask you, is the difference between Gore Vidal saying that 33 percent of the population is gay and the Heartland Institute saying that global warming is a myth?

Another example:

I recently saw a documentary which devoted about 20 minutes to the claim that Paul "Pee Wee" Reubens was caught masturbating at a theater showing gay porn. Now, if you recall the facts of that particular pseudo-scandal, you'll know that he was caught in a theater showing a production featuring one Sandra Scream.

Ah. Sandra. I knew her, Horatio. Her figure may be called "boyish" only in the same sense that thermonuclear warfare may be called "gentle."

What is the difference between the people who made that absurd documentary and the people who make absurd documentaries promoting creationism?

Is there a difference between the people who tell you that all famous people are gay and the people who told you that only a racist would vote against Obama?

You can't insist on living in a reality that makes you feel good. You can't demand a reality that flatters your preferences. There is only one reality. We have to acclimate ourselves to it; it will not change shape to please our whims.
I believe in double realities. There have been hundreds of instances where I could view a series of events as both total happenstance, or a plot of some kind.

So I accept that there are situations where more than one reality can exist.

I've heard rumors about Brando as well. His kids appeared to have been pretty messed up, no doubt a parent with a lot to hide could lead to that.

Rock Hudson came out, but apparently it was his choice to come out. In other words, Rock Hudson could have died of aids and the media may have never reported on him being a homosexual until he agreed to come out.

So how do we really know who the media "protected" over the past 50 years?

I do agree that one 88 year old man making a claim should not be enough to change a famous person's image, but if the accusation is not publicized, then how could anyone else come out if they exist but were to afraid to come out?
Joseph, your last comment......brilliant. I couldn't care less about Hollywood rumors and such, but your point in all this is well worth noting. I wish more people followed your logic.

My condolences on Whitney's death. Wow, that is quite a story that she became so depressed after you turned her down that drowned herself.

Do you have any reason to suspect that someone had a hand in her death besides herself? Any ideas on why she got so hooked on drugs?

Whitney was quite a looker, so you must have been a hunk when you were younger. Obviously, you were quite an influence on her.

Any ideas of when Israel will finally provoke Iran to start a war with them (and blame it on Iran)?
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