Monthly Archives: August 2011

Cary Grant

Yesterday on Tuner Classic Movies’s Summer of the Stars, Cary Grant was the feature star.  I love Cary Grant. In my opinion, there has never been, before or since, an actor as handsome and with such charisma as Cary Grant. In honor of Grant, I wanted to write a post about him.

A master of the screwball comedy.

Archibald Alexander Leach, better known by his stage name Cary Grant. With his distinctive mid-Atlantic accent, he was noted as perhaps the foremost exemplar of the debonair leading man, not only handsome, but also witty and charming. He was named the second Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute. Grant starred in some of the classic screwball comedies. His popular classic films include The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Suspicion (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), To Catch A Thief (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963).  From the beginning of his career to the end, I have never seen a bad or even mediocre, Cary Grant movie.  They have all been some of my favorite movies.

With Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday

At the 42nd Academy Awards the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him with an Honorary Award “for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues”.

Cary Grant embodied the elegance, charm, and sophistication of Hollywood in its golden years. His good looks, charisma, and ambiguous sexuality enchanted women and men alike. As the star-struck comedian Steve Lawrence once said, “When Cary Grant walked into a room, not only did the women primp, the men straightened their ties.”

Grant was married five times. He wed Virginia Cherrill on February 10, 1934. She divorced him on March 26, 1935, following charges that Grant had hit her. In 1942 he married Barbara Hutton, one of the wealthiest women in the world, and became a father figure to her son, Lance Reventlow. The couple was derisively nicknamed “Cash and Cary”, although in an extensive prenuptial agreement Grant refused any financial settlement in the event of a divorce. After divorcing in 1945, they remained lifelong friends. Grant always bristled at the accusation that he married for money: “I may not have married for very sound reasons, but money was never one of them.”

On December 25, 1949, Grant married Betsy Drake. He appeared with her in two films. This would prove to be his longest marriage, ending on August 14, 1962. Drake introduced Grant to LSD, and in the early 1960s he related how treatment with the hallucinogenic drug—legal at the time—at a prestigious California clinic had finally brought him inner peace after yoga, hypnotism, and mysticism had proved ineffective. (In 1932, Grant had also met the Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba.) Grant and Drake divorced in 1962.

Grant and Cannon

He eloped with Dyan Cannon on July 22, 1965 in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jennifer Grant, was born prematurely on February 26, 1966. He frequently called her his “best production” and regretted that he had not had children sooner. The marriage was troubled from the beginning and Cannon left him in December 1966, claiming that Grant flew into frequent rages and spanked her when she “disobeyed” him. The divorce, finalized in 1968, was bitter and public, and custody fights over their daughter went on for nearly ten years.

On April 11, 1981, Grant married long-time companion Barbara Harris, a British hotel public relations agent, who was 47 years his junior. They renewed their vows on their fifth wedding anniversary. Fifteen years after Grant’s death, Harris married former Kansas Jayhawks All-American quarterback David Jaynes in 2001.

With Randolph Scott

Some, including Hedda Hopper and screenwriter Arthur Laurents have said, that Grant was bisexual, the latter writing that Grant “told me he threw pebbles at my window one night but was luckless”. Grant allegedly was involved with costume designer Orry-Kelly when he first moved to Manhattan, and lived with Randolph Scott off and on for twelve years. Richard Blackwell wrote that Grant and Scott were “deeply, madly in love”, and alleged eyewitness accounts of their physical affection have been published. Alexander D’Arcy, who appeared with Grant in The Awful Truth, said he knew that Grant and Scott “lived together as a gay couple”, adding: “I think Cary knew that people were saying things about him. I don’t think he tried to hide it.” The two men frequently accompanied each other to parties and premieres and were unconcerned when photographs of them cozily preparing dinner together at home were published in fan magazines.

Grant and Scott

Barbara, Grant’s widow, has disputed that there was a relationship with Scott. When Chevy Chase joked about Grant being gay in a television interview Grant sued him for slander; they settled out of court. However, Grant did admit in an interview that his first two wives had accused him of being homosexual. Betsy Drake commented: “Why would I believe that Cary was homosexual when we were busy fucking?”

In 1932 he met fellow actor Randolph Scott on set, and the two shared a rented beach house (known as ‘Bachelor Hall’) on and off for twelve years. Rumours ran rampant at the time that Grant and Scott were lovers. From 1933 onwards, Cary Grant occasionally shared a house with Randolph Scott. There were many rumors about their relationship. Scott often referred to himself, jokingly, as Grant’s wife. Many studio heads threatened not to employ them unless they lived separately.

Grant and Scott

In their biographies of Grant, Marc Eliot, Charles Higham and Roy Moseley contend that Grant was bisexual. Higham and Moseley claim that Grant and Scott were seen kissing in a public car park outside a social function both attended in the 1960s. In his book, Hollywood Gays, Boze Hadleigh cites an interview with homosexual director George Cukor, who commented on the alleged homosexual relationship between Scott and Grant: “Oh, Cary won’t talk about it. At most, he’ll say they did some wonderful pictures together. But Randolph will admit it—to a friend.” (It should be noted that there is substantial disagreement as to the veracity of Hadleigh’s works.) It has even been suggested that Grant and Scott were married in a secret ceremony in Mexico. Randolph Scott’s son Christopher refuted these rumors. Following the death of his father in 1987, Christopher wrote a book, Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?

Grant and Scott

According to screenwriter Arthur Laurents, Grant was “at best bisexual”. William J. Mann’s book Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969 recounts how photographer Jerome Zerbe spent “three gay months” (his words) in the movie colony taking many photographs of Grant and Scott, “attesting to their involvement in the gay scene.” Zerbe says that he often stayed with the two actors, “finding them both warm, charming, and happy.” In addition, Darwin Porter’s book, Brando Unzipped (2006) claims that Grant had a homosexual affair with Marlon Brando.

Grant and Scott

Whether Cary Grant was heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual doesn’t really matter to me, he was a great actor.  His former wife, Dyan Cannon was thrust into the Hollywood celebrity whirlpool in 1965 when, at 28, she married superstar Cary Grant who was 35 years her senior. It was Cannon’s first marriage and Grant’s fourth. She has always been adamant when asked about Grant’s sexuality saying “I can tell you there isn’t an iota of truth to those ugly rumors. They would never have written that drivel when Cary was alive. He’d have sued the pants off those cowards. Cary can’t defend himself from the grave but I will go to mine insisting he was every ounce a straight man.”


Laziness

I have to admit something to you guys, I have been pretty damn lazy today.  It’s been a long tiring week of getting back into the schedule of things with school starting back, and since I was not able to sleep in on Saturday, I have used today to catch up on my sleep.  So I am just now waking up.  I know there are people out there, who have natural alarm clocks and wake up at a certain time each day, generally go to bed at a certain time each night, but I have never been one of those people.  Part of it is because I have always found it hard to fall asleep at night, then when I do, I find it difficult to wake in the morning.  Today, I really had nothing to do, not that couldn’t wait until the afternoon, so I slept in.

Considering my own laziness today, I wanted to ask my fellow educators out there how they deal with lazy students.  I think that part of this has to do with the lack of manners and courteousness that I spoke of on Friday, but I have noticed in the first week of school that no matter what I try to do, my students begin to complain as soon as I give them an assignment.  I try to make my classes fun and interesting, and I rarely give “busy work”  just so they will have something to do.  I find it particularly vexing with my 12th grade class.  Senioritis shouldn’t start until later in the year, but these kids have caught it way too early. By the way, for those who don’t know what I mean by Senioritis, Urban Dicitonary describes it as thus:

Senioritis: noun. A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as Graduation.

Though most of it is very accurate, especially for Urban Dictionary, I hope that the only cure is not ” a phenomenon known as Graduation.”  If that is the only cure, I am afraid that some of these kids will not graduate.  They have required classes that they must pass this year, and even those they do not want to take seriously.  I hope this will change soon, but I would love to hear your advice, dear reader, on what I can do.  TIME Magazine published an article titled “How to Combat Senioritis” in May 2006, but this article did not seem particularly helpful. Kevin Quinn, a counselor at South Kingstown High School said, “Seniors need something to gravitate to and be re-energized by.”  So South Kingston High School began offering dual college enrollment.  My students are far too lazy at this point for dual enrollment with a college.  At least one last year during his senior year took some online courses with a state university, but I do not think that he is doing so this year. In this same article, TIME Magazine wrote: “The best cure for some cases of senioritis is a strong dose of reality. More than 50% of students entering college in the U.S. require remedial course work once on campus.”  The problem with this is that my students do not care about reality.  Most of them are quite spoiled rich kids (I teach at a private school), and they firmly believe that their parents’ money can literally buy them an education whether they do the work or not.  I have tried to explain to them the reality of this, and the reality of not going to college for the few who do not plan on furthering their education, but they are too stubborn to see reality.

So, what have you done to combat Senioritis?  How have you found the most effective way to motivate your students?  My past techniques of making class more interesting and interactive, do not seem to be working this semester, so I would love to hear any suggestions from my readers.


Moment of Zen: Man of Steel

More so than most anything, I have a bit of a Superman fetish.  Maybe it is the dream of being swept off my feet by a strong, handsome man, but it probably has more to do with the fact that the actors who play Superman in TV and movies are consistently some of the hottest men in Hollywood.  This nameless cutie is not different, he is just freakin’ hot and that smile/smirk is my “Moment of Zen” today.


Where is Miss Manners?

One of the things about blogs is that they allow comments. I love comments, as it lets me know my readers better. However, blogs occasionally get angry people who leave comments. Sometimes, they leave those comments anonymously, sometimes not. I rarely get negative comments, but I do on occasion. They always make me think about what I have written, and whether or not I could have written it better, but often I have found that people will nitpick about little things and more often than not take a statement completely out of context. It is when these comments twist my words to mean something that they were never my intent that generally makes me a little angry. I know that it should not bother me, but….

Nearly all blogs get negative comments at some point or another. What I do not understand is why people cannot be civil with their comments. Were they never taught manners? Or, do they just not care? And this is not a phenomenon with just blogs, where people can be anonymous through the technology of the internet. I have come to realize that some people just seem to be angry at the world and take that anger out on whoever they can. These angry people should realize that striking out with their anger is not productive. Disagreements and debates are healthy for all of us to see different views, but does someone have to be so vitriolic in their criticisms? Why can’t a simple I disagree and this is why I disagree not be sufficient? Instead, these people often attack and attempt to make their attack personal.  A good example of this comes from a recent blog post “What Is Your Christianity Used to Justify?” on the blog for Believe Out Loud.  I have noticed that many of the more harsh criticisms come from people who comment on my posts about Christianity/Religion and those about my opinions of Queer Theory.  I have my opinions, and this blog is a place for me to write about them.  I always welcome comments, but why are people not able to give their opinions in opposition without turning to attacks?

It’s not just on blogs that these kinds of things happen  People in everyday life are getting ruder. I was raised to be a good Southerner (at least that is what my mother wanted); good manners were taught and reinforced in my early life and have continued to be a part of who I am. Even the simplest things such as opening and holding the door for someone can make the difference in someone’s day. It only takes a few more seconds to do so, but so many people will almost purposefully shut the door in your face instead of holding the door for you. I have seen people speed up their walking just so that they can step in front of you in line. The other day, I was sitting waiting for someone to pull out of a parking space, when someone actually drove around me, blocked my way and took that parking space.

I also see it more and more with students. They have a distinct lack of courtesy when speaking to people in authority. They are often rude and think it is cute and funny. I find nothing cute or funny about being rude. I have one student, whose family is fairly wealthy, and she is one of the meanest people I have ever met. She is the epitome of a “mean girl.” Such people are so inconsiderate of those around them, that they actually think that the world revolves around them alone. With my students, they will one day have a rude awakening. They will find that manners really do matter, and that simple, random acts of kindness can go a long way.

I have often talked on this blog about the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. For me, this is not a hard concept. The nice guy may not always finish first, but I urge all of us, including myself, to work harder each and every day to think of those around you and with whom you interact. The simplest acts of kindness can make someone’s day. It shouldn’t be that difficult to give someone a smile, to hold open a door for someone, to ask someone how there day is going, etc.

My main question is this: where has chivalry and manners gone? Why is rudeness considered en vogue today? Are we really that self-centered as humans? Where is Miss Manners?


William (Billy) Haines

William Haines was born in Virginia in 1900 and in 1914, opened a nightclub in Hopewell, Virginia. Destined for entertainment and high style, he arrives in Hollywood in 1922 after winning a talent contest. He appeared in over twenty films as a leading man to Hollywood’s most famous stars including Joan Crawford, Marion Davies and Constance Bennett. He was a star of the silent era until the 1930s, when Haines’ career was cut short by MGM Studios due to his refusal to deny his homosexuality. Haines never returned to film and instead started a successful interior design business with his life partner and supported by friends in Hollywood.

Haines redefined the way movie stars lived. He lived large and played the role of a successful movie star to the max with the encouragement of his partner, Jimmie Shields. He defined style and his passion for grand automobiles was no exception.

When Haines ran away from home at 14 with his first boyfriend, the fun was only just starting. Next stop: Greenwich Village, New York, where he worked as a model and lived with Cary Grant. A talent scout landed him a contract in Hollywood where he became a top box office draw in silent films. In 1926 he met Jimmie Shields who became his life-long partner.

Then in 1933 he was arrested for being caught with a sailor in the Y.M.C.A.. MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer gave Haines an ultimatum: break up with Jimmie Shields, or get out.

Haines got out. Shields took his lover’s Y.M.C.A. scandal a lot easier than Mayer did. In fact, Haines and Shields had a legendarily open relationship, often sharing tricks and cruising Los Angeles’ Pershing Square together. Joan Crawford described them as “The happiest married couple in Hollywood.”

The young men went on to become some of the most influential designers and antique dealers for the glitterati of Hollywood and Beverly Hills. His BFF was Joan Crawford, and his influence over her look, career, and even her behavior is inestimable— she was one of his greatest creations. His design studio continues to this day and his furniture designs are in constant reissue.

Their lives were disrupted in 1936 when members of the Ku Klux Klan dragged the two men from their home and beat them, because a neighbor had accused the two of propositioning his son. Crawford, along with other stars such as Claudette Colbert, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Kay Francis, and Charles Boyer urged the men to report this to the police. Marion Davies asked her lover William Randolph Hearst to use his influence to ensure the neighbors were prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but ultimately Haines and Shields chose not to report the incident.

The couple finally settled into the Hollywood community in Brentwood, and their business prospered until their retirement in the early 1970s, except for a brief interruption when Haines served in World War II. Their long list of clients included Betsy Bloomingdale, Ronald and Nancy Reagan when Reagan was governor of California, and Walter and Leonore Annenberg with their 240-acre estate “Sunnylands.”

Haines never returned to film. Gloria Swanson, another lifelong friend, extended him a personal invitation to appear with her in the film Sunset Boulevard (1950), but he declined.  Haines and Shields remained together for the rest of their lives. Joan Crawford described them as “the happiest married couple in Hollywood.”

Haines died from lung cancer in Santa Monica, California at the age of 73, a week short of his 74th birthday, which was on the new year of 1974. Soon afterward, Shields, who suffered from what many believe to be Alzheimer’s Disease, put on Haines’ pajamas, took an overdose of pills, and crawled into their bed to die. They were interred side by side in Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery.

William Haines Designs remains in operation, with main offices in West Hollywood and showrooms in New York, Denver and Dallas. Haines’s life story is told in the 1998 biography Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star by William J. Mann, and his designs are the subject of Peter Schifando and Haines associate Jean H. Mathison’s 2005 book Class Act: William Haines Legendary Hollywood Decorator. World of Wonder produced Out of the Closet, Off the Screen: The Life of William Haines, which aired on HBO in 2001.

Sources:


How To Explain Sexuality Using Pens

For the rest, please click “more” below.


On His Queerness

On His Queerness

When I was young and wanted to see the sights,
They told me: ‘Cast an eye over the Roman Camp
If you care to.
But plan to spend most of your day at the Aquarium –
Because, after all, the Aquarium –
Well, I mean to say, the Aquarium –
Till you’ve seen the Aquarium you ain’t seen nothing.’

So I cast my eye over
The Roman Camp –
And that old Roman Camp,
That old, old Roman Camp
Got me
Interested.

So that now, near closing-time,
I find that I still know nothing –
And am still not even sorry that I know nothing –
About fish.

— Christopher Isherwood

For a biography of Christopher Isherwood, click on “Read More” below.

Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) was a British-born American writer who worked in many genres, including fiction, drama, film, travel, and autobiography. He was especially esteemed for his stories about Berlin in the early 1930s.


The son of a career military officer, Christopher Isherwood was born in High Lane, Cheshire, England, on August 26, 1904. He attended the Repton School from 1919 to 1922 and Cambridge University from 1924 to 1925. His university year was significant because it was at Cambridge that he met Wystan Hugh Auden, with whom he later collaborated on several literary projects, and because it was there that he became a practicing homosexual, an orientation which played an important role in his personal and artistic life.

Leaving the university without a degree, Isherwood worked for a year as the secretary to French violinist Andre Mangeot and as a private tutor in London. In his spare hours he worked on his first novel, which was published as All the Conspirators in 1928.

Scenes of a Crumbling Germany

In 1929 he went to Germany to visit Auden, who was living there, and was attracted to life in the crumbling Weimar Republic, and particularly to the sexual freedom that existed. As he so succinctly put it in his 1976 book Christopher and His Kind 1929-1939, “Berlin meant Boys.” He was not long in establishing a liaison with Berthold “Bubi” Szczesny, a bisexual ex-boxer, which lasted until Szczesny was forced to leave the country. Among the young men he met subsequently was one from the working class section of Berlin; he took a room with this boy’s family for a time and so became familiar with day-to-day living among the urban proletariat.

At first his stay in Germany was financed through an allowance provided by his only wealthy relative, his uncle Henry Isherwood. His uncle was also homosexual and seemed happy to assist his nephew in the quest for companions. Eventually, however, Uncle Henry stopped his remittances, and Isherwood paid his way by tutoring in English; in this way he met Berliners from the upper classes.

All this provided background for his most successful work, The Last of Mr. Norris (1935), Sally Bowles (1937), and Goodbye to Berlin (1939), all collected under the title The Berlin Stories in 1945. In these novellas and short stories he presented an in-depth portrait of life in Germany’s capital as the republican center collapsed, the Communists tried desperately to stem the rightist tide, and the Nazis came to power.

He began in “A Berlin Diary (Autumn 1930)” with an almost offhand observation about Fráulein Hippi, a student whom the narrator is tutoring in English: “Like everyone else in Berlin, she refers continually to the political situation, but only briefly, with a conventional melancholy…. It is quite unreal to her.” In “Sally Bowles,” he mentioned the closing of two major banks and noted: “One alarmist headline stood out boldly, barred with blood-red ink: ‘Everything Collapses’.”

In “The Nowaks,” about a working class family, he described their neighborhood in this way: “The entrance to the Wassertorstrasse was … a bit of old Berlin, daubed with hammers and sickles and Nazi crosses and plastered with tattered bills….” The political pressures are seen increasing in “The Landauers,” about a well-to-do Jewish family: “One night in October 1930, about a month after the Elections, there was a big row on the Leipzigerstrasse. Gangs of Nazi toughs turned out to demonstrate against the Jews. They … smashed the windows of all the Jewish shops.” Finally, in “A Berlin Diary (Winter 1932-33),” the narrator observes: “Schleicher has resigned. Hitler has formed a cabinet…. Nobody thinks it can last until the spring.”

The Berlin stories were picked up by playwright John van Druten, who was struck by a sentence in “A Berlin Diary (Autumn 1930)”: “I am a camera, with its shutter open, quite passive, recording not thinking.” He wrote the play I Am a Camera, centering on Sally Bowles, of whom Alan Wilde wrote: “Sally’s charm is her naíveté, … her total capacity for self-deception and self-contradiction, … her ability to accommodate herself to each new situation….” I Am a Camera in turn became the musical Cabaret (1967), with book by Joe Masteroff and lyrics by Fred Ebb, which was produced both on stage and in film.

Isherwood of course became fluent in German and got acquainted, as did Auden, with the expressionist drama of such important figures as Ernst Toller, Georg Kaiser, and Bertolt Brecht. This led the two British artists to collaborate on three expressionist plays: The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F6 (1937), and A Melodrama in Three Acts: On the Frontier (1938), of which the first two are generally considered the more successful.

Move to the United States

Isherwood and Auden travelled to China in 1938 and in 1939 worked together on Journey to a War. In that same year, the year World War II began, both came to America, a move which made them anathema to many Britons. Indeed, even three years later in Put Out More Flags novelist Evelyn Waugh, christening them Parsnip and Pimpernell, commented, “What I don’t see is how these two can claim to be contemporary if they run away from the biggest event in contemporary history.”

During World War II Isherwood wrote scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Brothers, and 20th Century Fox film studios; worked for a year in a refugee center in Haverford, Pennsylvania; and became a resident student of the Vedanta Society of Southern California and co-editor of the group’s magazine Vedanta and the West.

He became increasingly involved in the Vedantist religion, editing the volumes Vedanta for the Western World in 1945 and Vedanta for Modern Man in 1951 and writing An Approach to Vedanta in 1963, Ramakrishna and His Disciples in 1965, and Essentials of Vedanta in 1969. He explained its basic tenets in the 1963 work as follows: “We have two selves – an apparent, outer self and an invisible, inner self. The apparent self claims to be an individual and as such, other than all other individuals…. The real self is unchanging and immortal.”

Isherwood did not confine himself solely to religious writings, however. He authored such novels as Prater Violet (1945), The World in the Evening (1954), A Single Man (1964), and A Meeting by the River (1967), which he dramatized in 1972. He also wrote the travel book The Condor and the Cows (1949), autobiographical volumes, and the collection of stories, articles, and poems titled Exhumations (1966). Additionally, he taught at Los Angeles State University, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of California at Los Angeles and wrote film scripts.

Isherwood’s status in modern literature was best summarized by G. K. Hall: “Christopher Isherwood has always been a problem for the critics. An obviously talented writer, he has refused to exploit his artistry for either commercial success or literary status…. Isherwood was adjudged a ‘promising writer’ – a designation that he has not been able to outrun even to this day. It is still a clicheé of Isherwood criticism to say that he never fulfilled his early promise….In any case, five decades of Isherwood criticism present a history of sharply divided opinion.”

Isherwood, who became an American citizen in 1946, lived and worked in southern California until his death from cancer January 4, 1986.

Further Reading

Much personal information is in his autobiographical Christopher and His Kind (1976). In G. K. Hall’s Christopher Isherwood: A Reference Guide (1979) the reader will find a comprehensive listing of all works by and about the subject.

Additional Sources

Finney, Brian, Christopher Isherwood: A Critical Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Fryer, Jonathan, Isherwood, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1978, 1977.

Fryer, Jonathan, Isherwood: A Biography of Christopher Isherwood, London: New English Library, 1977.

Isherwood, Christopher, Christopher and His Kind, 1929-1939, London: Eyre Methuen, 1977; New York: Farrar, Straus Giroux, 1976.

Isherwood, Christopher, My Guru and His Disciple, New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1981.

King, Francis Henry, Christopher Isherwood, Harlow Eng.: Published for the British Council by Longman Group, 1976.

Lehmann, John, Christopher Isherwood: A Personal Memoir, New York: H. Holt, 1988, 1987.

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/christopher-isherwood#ixzz1V3BQq8vY


May-December Romances

The term “May-December Romances” refers to a romantic pairing where one person is significantly older than the other. The age difference is at least a decade, but often more. The phrase comes from the younger person being in the “spring” of his or her life (i.e., May), while the older partner is in his or her “winter” (i.e., December). In the gay community there often seems to be  a focus on youth, but when a gay man is out of their twenties, does age really matter anymore?

Several weeks ago someone requested a commentary on age differences. There are no real moral or ethical implications of dating a person older or younger than yourself. Most people do find an attraction to someone a few years older or younger. However, in this email that I received the man was referring to age differences of 10, 20, or 30 years. He is in his sixties and his partner is in his forties.

The first thing that needs to be determined is if there is an unhealthy reason for not choosing a person of ones similar age. This would be true of the predatory adult who needs to control and manipulate another person and therefore seeks a weaker type of person who sometimes is also younger. This type of predatory person is dangerous and may be violent. Though I don’t know a great deal about their relationship, the man that emailed me seemed very happy with his relationship and did not give any indication that there were any unhealthy reasons for their relationship, and I can’t see any reason that there should be.

I have no experience myself with a May-December relationship, but I know several men who are older than me, that if they lived closer to me, I would be all over them. An intelligent, cultured is the type of relationship that I have always wanted. I have no desire to be a gold-digger or a boy-toy (which I am too old for anyway), but to have a mature relationship that is not all about sex (though sex is a consideration in the equation) is the type of relationship I have always desired. Whether the person is older, younger, or the same age as I am, it is the connection of the minds that means more to me.

One of the most famous gay May-December romances is probably that of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. At forty-eight years old and already an esteemed British writer, Christopher Isherwood met 18-year-old Don Bachardy at Will Rogers State Beach in October 1952 and by early the next year, the two had begun an intimate relationship that lasted until Isherwood’s death in 1986. They were a high-profile, openly gay couple whose meeting coincided with one of the most homophobic decades in American history, the era of McCarthyism, when homosexuals were being driven out of the State Department.

Yet to the gay community at large, as well as those who were casually acquainted with the couple, Isherwood and Bachardy seemed to live an enviably idyllic existence in their hillside Santa Monica home, where they entertained the leading figures of the world of arts and letters, and the movie stars that Bachardy once sought out for autographs. For all that seeming perfection, Guido Santi and Tina Mascara’s loving yet clear-eyed documentary, “Chris & Don: A Love Story,” reveals that the couple worked hard and long to achieve their bliss.

Nowhere in this fine, quiet, richly-sourced documentary is the phrase “gay marriage” ever uttered. But then, the relationship at hand spanned three pre-political decades until 1986, when Christopher Isherwood died in L.A. Today, in the same gloriously sunny, cozy Santa Monica cottage they shared, his surviving partner Don Bachardy, a portrait artist, leafs through dozens of often nude sketches made during Isherwood’s last days—and even after his death. It seems perfectly natural, and the film includes even more dazzling visual records—photos and color home movies from Venice in the ’50s and of mingling with the stars back home (including Igor Stravinsky, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Aldous Huxley, David Hockney, and John Boorman). And in a nice nod to Cabaret, which made Isherwood’s fortune, Michael York reads from the author’s letters and diaries. Chris and Don met at ages 49 and 18, respectively, on the beach, where Don and his older brother (also gay) were trolling for sugar daddies. Was that so wrong? Their relationship—and this movie—prove otherwise. Boorman comments, “Isherwood had succeeded in cloning himself.” To which Bachardy, speaking in the third person, agrees: “It was exactly what the young boy wanted.”


Sodomy and the States

Eight years after the US Supreme Court ruled Texas’ sodomy laws unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas (2003)—a decision that technically made all sodomy laws invalid—eighteen states still continue to enforce legislation designed to criminalize any form of non-vaginal sex—butt, mouth, eye and nose—between consenting same-sex adults.

Some states push these anti-gay statutes through tight-lipped loopholes in the Lawrence ruling, while others decide to completely ignore it altogether.

For instance, Michigan can prosecute gay men under “Abominable and Detestable Crimes Against Nature” and “Gross Indecency” laws, which carry 15 year maximum prison sentences. Montana can issue a $50,000 fine to any penis inside anything but a vagina. And Virginia and South Carolina can hand those same penises a fat felony charge, as if to prove to the moral majority that oral and anal gay sex stands equal to aggravated assault, arson, battery, grand theft, rape and murder.

Over at Equality Matters, Alexis Agathocleous—staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights—says: “Laws actually criminalizing the community, many people assumed, were a relic of the past. And accordingly, the LGBT rights movement shifted gears. Litigation, lobbying, advocacy, and resources, in the years since Lawrence, have overwhelmingly focused on civil institutions such as marriage and visibility in the mainstream media. In short, the mainstream LGBT community stopped talking about criminal justice.”

Despite whatever reasons these states would love to make you believe, they all bleed the same color of homophobia from their twisted, judicial hands.  Notice that in four states, sodomy is a felony punishable of up to 15 years.  The worst penalty, however, is Massachusetts which has a 20 year prison term for sodomy.  In a state where gay marriage is legal, apparently gay men cannot have sex.

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In Alabama, the penalty for breaking sodomy laws is a Class A Misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine.  This particular law on the books in Alabama, though no longer valid because of   Lawrence v. Texas is still on the books because it takes a statewide vote to repeal an amendment, of which all Alabama statues are.  Only in the last few years did the state of Alabama vote to repeal laws prohibiting interracial marriage (2000); however, the Constitution still requires racially segregated education in the state. Section 182 of the Constitution of Alabama disenfranchizes all “idiots and insane persons,” men who interracially married and those convicted of “crime against nature” (homosexuality).  Since the statute in Alabama states that only missionary position vaginal sex is legal in the state, my sister who is married to a 350 lb man (she is only about 125 lbs.) used to joke that they could only have sex by breaking the law.  As she says, “If we had sex in the missionary position, he would crush her.”  Yet it is still just as illegal to have sex with her husband with her on top as it is for me to have sex with a man.

At 340,136 words, the document is 12 times longer than the average state constitution, 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution, and is the longest still-operative constitution anywhere in the world. (The English translation of the Constitution of India, the longest national constitution, is about 117,369 words long, a third of the length.) There is a growing movement for democratic reform of the Alabama constitution. It is spearheaded by the non-profit organization Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform (ACCR), which was formed out of a rally in Tuscaloosa in 2000. Alabama is not unique in having outdated and obsolete laws as part of its Constitution, but because of its length, there is just too much to correct without writing a new constitution. The ACCR has found little success in its efforts at reform.


Moment of Zen: A Day With A Book

I just finished Robert Harris’s Conspirita, (which was a great book, but I wish I had read the first book in the trilogy Imperium first) and now I can’t decide what to read next.  Now that school has started back, I don’t have as much time to read, but on many nights, it’s reading a book that allows me to fall asleep at night.  All of those worries of the day disappear as I transport myself to another world in a book.  I have a few choices for what to read next: Donna Leon’s Drawing Conclusion, Greg Herren’s Who Dat Whodunnit or his book Sleeping Angels, or Steve Berry’s The Jefferson Key.  I will probably decide sometime today what to read, but since I know that many of you are readers also, do you have any recommendations?  What are you currently reading?