Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 2002

Three Queer Lives ..., by Paul Bailey

reviewed by Stephen Blake

This book, which has the subtitle An Alternative Biography of Fred Barnes, Naomi Jacob and Arthur Marshall, presents amusing biographies of three fascinating people: Fred Barnes, a camp 1920s music-hall star; Naomi Jacob, a 1930s and 40s novelist; and the radio and TV personality Arthur Marshall.

Of the three, Arthur Marshall is the only one I can remember personally. However, I hasten to add, not from the period that the majority of this account covers! My own fond recollections of him are of his days as a captain on Call My Bluff, though I was unaware at the time that we were both batting for the same team. I’m not surprised to learn here, therefore, that, although he (unlike the other two) lived into the era of gay rights, he never espoused them.

Known as Micky or Jake to her lovers and friends, Naomi Jacob set up a female ménage à trois in Italy but lived as a man. She was a prolific writer and, in her day, her novels were bestsellers. Alas, nowadays, they are all but forgotten.

Fred Barnes was the only one of the three to flaunt his sexuality, and was known as Freda among his theatre associates. Sadly, he committed suicide at the age of 53 in 1938.

Introducing the reader to a time when it was still illegal to be gay, Paul Bailey goes on to vividly bring three former queer lives back to life in fascinating, often funny, accounts.

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Created : Sunday, 2002-05-05 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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