Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Autumn 2003

Warren Allen Smith

Gossip from Across the Pond

by Warren Allen Smith

The 34th annual gay parade in June lasted more than five hours and went from Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street past St Patrick’s Cathedral (“Shame, shame!” many marchers shouted, pointing at the structure) to the Hudson River in Greenwich Village.

Marchers were jubilant about Canada’s just-announced decision to allow same-sex marriages. Their placards had much to say about the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling that struck down laws against sodomy in all 50 states. Joked freethinker John Waters, the filmmaker whom William Burroughs once dubbed “the pope of trash”, “It’s amazing to me that the court even had to rule on sodomy. Middle America is now going, ‘Wow, we never did that. Want to try that tonight?’ ”

My article, Gay in the 1960s – the time was ripe for revolution, was featured in The Villager (18 June 2003) and discussed the uprising at the Stonewall bar that inspired others to fight back against homophobia. To see a rare photo of the Stonewall Inn’s 1969 bar price list of $1 drinks, go to

Katharine Hepburn – who once told a reporter, “I’m an atheist, and that’s it” – might have been, even probably was, a double-gater. Tabloids are writing that the late lover of Spencer Tracy likely had a sexual connection with Cynthia McFadden, an NBC news correspondent who now is executor of Hepburn’s estate.

There was a 50-year difference in their ages, however, leading Daily News gossip columnists George Rush and Joanna Molloy to claim that Cynthia was more like Hepburn’s daughter. Just the same, throughout her life rumors abounded about the slacks “Jimmy”, as she called herself when young, wore and the women companions she had. Meanwhile, most considered that her husband (a college beau, Ludlow Ogden Smith) was more like a brother, one who knew about her affairs with Howard Hughes, George Stevens, John Ford and her agent, Leland Hayward.

A. Scott Berg’s just-published Kate Remembered, dedicated to his companion, Kevin McCormick, is not particularly liked by Robert Gottlieb, a former editor of the New Yorker, who complains that “surely the world doesn’t need to know what Hepburn felt about her friend’s personal life. And – far more serious – was it a favor to his beloved Hepburn to expose to the world Irene’s [Irene Mayer Selznick, the wife of David O] late conclusions about ‘Sister Kate’s’ sexual nature?” Selznick had once found Hepburn in an exchange “that suggested a level of intimacy she had never allowed herself to believe”, and speculates about Dorothy Arzner, Phyllis Wilbourn, Laura Harding, and Nancy Hamilton.

Berg reports that Hepburn drank King William IV Scotch, first filling the glass beyond the brim with ice, then pouring a shot slowly over the cubes, then topping it with soda. When Cole Porter visited, Hepburn remembered fondly, he “used to come to this house, and he’d straighten pictures for five minutes before he’d even sit down”. On the mantel of her East Side apartment she had a pair of small figurines for which she once had posed – in the nude!

She once complained about Stephen Sondheim, her neighbor, who had many gentlemen callers and played the piano too loudly. Her father was a urologist who treated venereal diseases, her mother an activist for legal birth control who battled for women’s suffrage in Connecticut.

Accounts of Hepburn’s death failed to mention her atheism or that, when she was thirteen, she discovered her teenage brother, Tom, had hanged himself. She had said, “In a state of numb shock I cut him down and laid him on the bed.” The police, however, said the brother’s feet had hit the ground and he had had to pull hard against the torn bed sheet to deliberately strangle himself, that Hepburn had attempted to hold the body upright, that she was supporting his body in her arms when the doctor arrived.

“I had heard that maybe a girl had rejected him – who knows, maybe a boy. Whatever it was, he simply could not cope,” Kate wondered. Dr Hepburn, in an attempt to get journalists not to call it a suicide, said this son’s death was the result of an extremely unfortunate boyish stunt.

Two days later, the doctor’s brother was found dead in a garage where his car’s engine was running. Hepburn downplayed the suicide of her mother’s father, of her father’s brother, of her father’s own oldest brother and of her brother with, “They simply did not believe in moaning about anything.”

Hepburn’s “love” for the married and Catholic Spencer Tracy was public knowledge, even to Tracy’s Episcopalian wife. When Tracy in 1963 had a pulmonary crisis, the two women took turns sitting at his bedside. Hepburn once described their “twenty-seven years together in what was to me absolute bliss”. Her living to the age of 96 at least proves that any genetic disposition towards committing suicide was not in her script.

Marlon Brando, the 79-year-old actor and freethinker, is said to have had a one-nighter with novelist Paula Fox in the 1940s. Their allegedly illegitimate daughter, psychologist Linda Carroll, is claiming in a forthcoming book that Brando’s DNA will prove the liaison. If so, Brando has a Love grandchild, for Carroll’s daughter is Courtney Love.

In the past, Brando has admitted to siring nine children (uh, none with Wally “Mr Peepers” Cox), the youngest being around eight years old. Rush and Molloy, in a New York Daily News column, write, “If the claim is true, Brando would be the great-grandfather of Frances Bean, 11, Love’s child with her late husband, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain.”

Meanwhile, Doubleday Books claims there is nothing in Carroll’s book proposal about Brando, and that there “is no truth to the suggestion that she is related to Brando”. Love, whose credit card was stolen and maxed out in August because a thief spent $15K at Chanel without her knowledge, has reportedly signed a $10 million deal with Virgin. That’s Virgin Records, not the airline on which she was arrested last February for allegedly being “verbally abusive” to the crew.

Alan Cumming, the freethinker who had been living in a 430-square-foot second-floor studio on 14th Street, has purchased a $1.925 million 2,254-square-foot condo with an additional 974-square-foot wraparound terrace in the area north of Greenwich Village known as Chelsea. He bought it with his former longtime boyfriend, Nick Philippou, but the two have separated (see our Summer 2003 issue) and only Cumming is moving in.

Gays cannot legally get married here. Cartoonist Ward Sutton (Greenwich Village Voice, 12 August 2003) notes, however, that heterosexuals have no trouble getting hitched. These include strangers who have had sex once; drunks who marry in the Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas and don’t remember the ceremony; reality game show contestants who have just been introduced; wealthy elderly men and shapely young women; and repressed, self-hating gay men and oblivious women who are eager to have babies. Sutton concludes that the sacred institution of marriage clearly is not meant for loving, committed, same-sex couples.

Brigitte Bardot, in her new book called A Cry of Silence, detests gay men who “jiggle their bottoms, put their little fingers in the air, and with their little castrato voices moan about what those ghastly heteros put them through”. Comedians, including Manhattan drag queens at Bar d’O, complain that the ageing sexpot is wigging ‘em out.

Philip Johnson, still gay, a nonbeliever, and 97, has signed up to construct an as-yet-unnamed nightclub on 10th Avenue and 26th Street. The dean of American architects is designing a club that will have a 50-foot-wide curved-glass wall to separate two rooms in the 6,500-square-foot former garage. No dark back rooms, of course, which no longer exist in Manhattan!

Joan Rivers, the acidic comic, is not mellowing in her old age. In June upon Bob Hope’s death, she told the audience at Fez, “At least now his wife knows where he is.” As for Liza Minnelli’s and David Gest’s separation, “I hope she has eggs left,” meaning David, Village Voice columnist Michael Musto clucks. And as for her own daughter Melissa’s having turned down Playboy, “I told her, ‘Ask for another $100,000 and show pussy!’ I’m still paying off her wedding, and they’ve been divorced for a year and a half!”

Nonbelievers who dislike labels such as atheist, agnostic, freethinker, secularist, and humanist have come up with a new description: bright. If you’re a bright (zoologist Richard Dawkins and Duke U philosopher Daniel C Dennett say they’re brights), you are a naturalist rather than a supernaturalist and not a believer “in a physical god or heaven or angels or mysticism or theistic nonsense”. The label is now drawing international interest on the Web: and

“He’s on the Down Low” is a slang expression that is understood mainly by a few in the subculture. It is code for “he’s black and has a secret sexual life with men”. Those who are DL identify themselves not as gay or bi but as black and inherently masculine. Benoit Denizet-Lewis in Double lives on the down low (New York Times, 3 August 2003), describes men who lead double lives, making their wives and friends think they’re straight but, to the men they’re having sex with, “they’re forging an exuberant new identity”.

The closet, they feel, is a stifling place where fearful white people hide, whereas they don’t consider themselves gay so there is nothing to “come out” to. The author points out, of course, that they’re only kidding themselves. Health officials and gays everywhere fear they are spreading AIDS throughout the black community. To balance the story, a reporter might well pen the lowdown on middle- and upper-class bisexual white and Asian men who are married and who tryst with their boy-toys.

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Created : Sunday, 2003-11-23 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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