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, August 4, 2017

Arthur C. Clarke

Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) was a visionary whose works, which blended scientific expertise and imagination, led to tantalizing ideas and possibilities about outer space and our relation to it. When he died in Sri Lanka, where he had lived since 1956, he was an out gay man, having posted particulars on his own web site (arthurclarke.org) in 2004.

He and film director Stanley Kubrick gave us the classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey; they were jointly credited with the screenplay. Astronomer Carl Sagan, cosmonauts and media producers alike credited Clarke with influencing the public’s attitudes toward space exploration. Gene Roddenberry acknowledged Clarke’s influence for the courage it took to pursue his “Star Trek” project in the face of ridicule from television executives. Clarke is almost universally proclaimed the preeminent science fiction writer of the 20th century. He delighted in confronting his fictional characters with obstacles they could not overcome without help from forces beyond their comprehension.

“I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books,” he admitted. Yet he did not acknowledged his sexual orientation until 2004, even though he was known to host orgies with young Sri Lankan men for nearly fifty years. Many commented that he thus did a disservice to gay writers throughout the world who admired his work. However, it should be noted that the main character of Imperial Earth was bisexual and lived in a futuristic society in which exclusive heterosexuality and homosexuality were not practiced. Also, the main character of his novel Firstborn was gay.

Among his output of nearly 100 books are some, such as Childhood’s End, that have been in print continuously. His works have been translated into 40 languages. In 1962 he suffered an attack of poliomyelitis, which returned in 1984 as post-polio syndrome, a progressive condition characterized by muscle weakness and fatigue, forcing him to spend the last years of his life in a wheelchair. Still, he kept writing, and accolades continued unabated. English born, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.

In an effort to keep his homosexual proclivities private, he married an American diving enthusiast named Marilyn Mayfield in 1953. They separated after a few months. An important relationship was with male diver Leslie Ekanayake, who lived with him in Sri Lanka; in fact, the two are buried next to each other. As well, many of Clarke’s young male partners were installed as servants in his Sri Lankan household. Although Clarke was likely spooked by the traumatic false accusations of pedophilia by an English tabloid, his efforts to remain closeted were so successful that few acknowledgments of his homosexuality are extant, even after his 2004 self-outing and subsequent death in 2008. Kubrick biographer John Baxter cites Clarke's homosexuality as a reason why he left England, due to more tolerant laws with regard to homosexuality in Sri Lanka. Fellow science fiction writer Michael Moorcock commented, “Everyone knew he was gay. In the 1950s I'd go out drinking with his boyfriend” (Clarke himself was a teetotaler).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Jean-Michel Basquiat


New York City graffiti prodigy Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) had honed his signature painting style of obsessive scribbling, elusive symbols and diagrams alongside mask-and-skull imagery by the time he was 20. He sold his first painting in 1981. Although he received extraordinary exposure and acclaim as a painter, the Brooklyn-born artist was also an accomplished poet and musician. But his meteoric rise as a multi-genre artist was cut short when he died from a heroin overdose at age 27*.

In the early 1980s he fell under the spell of Andy Warhol, with whom he collaborated on a series of paintings. Some say he entered into an intimate relationship with Warhol, his idol and mentor,  but Basquiat’s sexual relationship with fellow East Village artist David Bowes is better documented. However, no matter how fluid his sexual orientation has been described by art historians, most of his sexual relations were with women.

Although Basquiat’s Caribbean heritage provided ample subject matter (his father was Haitian and his mother of Puerto Rican descent), his art incorporated influences from African-American, Aztec and African cultures. Contemporary heroes such as musicians and athletes factored into his paintings, as well. Basquiat was often associated with Neo-Expressionism, and his works were shown at NYC’s most prestigious galleries and events. Tragically, a rapid descent into drug culture eventually stunted his creativity and artistic output. 


Untitled (1982): $10.5 million at auction
 

At a Sotheby’s art auction two months ago (May 18, 2017) Basquiat's “Untitled 1982" painting depicting a face in the shape of a skull, created with oil stick and spray paint, set a new record high for any U.S. artist at auction, selling for $110,500,000. Not a typo. The pre-sale estimate had been $60 million, aligned with the previous Basquiat record that had been set last year at $57.3 million, also for a skull painting. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maesawa now owns both.

A 2009 documentary film, “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child” was shown at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and on PBS television in 2011.

*Basquiat is buried at Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery, alongside other gay and bisexual luminaries Leonard Bernstein, Dr. Richard Isay, Jean Moreau Gottschalk, Fred Ebb (of the Kander & Ebb song-writing team) and Paul Jabara. See their individual posts in the sidebar.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Paul Jabara


 Paul Jabara and Donna Summer



You might not know the name, but you know the music. Songwriter, producer, singer and actor Paul Jabara (1948-1992), of Lebanese ancestry, won an Academy Award in 1979 for writing the Donna Summer disco hit "Last Dance" (Oscar for best original song for 1978's “Thank God It’s Friday”). A native of Brooklyn, NY, he made his Broadway debut in the original cast of “Hair,” going on to create the role of King Herod in the original London production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Although he wrote songs for Barbra Streisand (“The Main Event”), Bette Midler (“Jinxed”) and a duet for Streisand and Summer (“Enough Is Enough”), he is perhaps better known as the author of “It’s Raining Men” (The Weather Girls). Jabara also produced Streisand’s Grammy Award-winning “Broadway Album.” As a singer himself, he released seven albums. “Paul Jabara and Friends” (1983) featured a 19-year-old Whitney Houston.


The incomparable WEATHER GIRLS:



Paul’s movie career included roles in "Midnight Cowboy," "The Lords of Flatbush," "The Day of the Locust," "Honky-Tonk Freeway," "Star 80," "Legal Eagles" and "Light Sleeper." He also appear on television in "Starsky and Hutch," "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," "The Equalizer" and the made-for-television movies "The Last Angry Man" and "Out of the Darkness."

Jabara died from AIDS at just 44 years old. He is buried at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, alongside such gay luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Fred Ebb (of Kander & Ebb), Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Dr. Richard Isay (see separate posts in sidebar).


LAST DANCE video -- Donna Summer


Sources:
Wikipedia
New York Times obituary (1992)