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Hollywood’s Bisexual Closet: Queer Film Historian Boze Hadleigh Kicks the Door Open

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A small crowd of around a dozen people gathered at the GLBT History Museum in the Castro recently for Hollywood’s Bisexual Closet: Marilyn Monroe and More, a talk given by openly gay Hollywood historian and author Boze Hadleigh. Hadleigh’s books include Conversations With My Elders and Hollywood Lesbians.

Many Hollywood stars of the Golden Age were found to be gay after their time in the spotlight had faded. The most notable examples of this are William Haines, a top box office star who gave up his career in 1932 in order to live with his partner. Perhaps the best example is that of gay movie star Rock Hudson, who’s homosexuality was common knowledge for decades–Hudson was officially outed by the press shortly before his death from AIDS in 1985.

Hollywood historian Boze Hadleigh

While homosexuality in Hollywood has long been a topic of discussion, the topic of bisexuality has often been kept quiet.

“Indeed bisexuals are largely ignored in a polarized media and society that imagines everything is either-or instead of and-but,” Hadleigh told BAS after the talk. “Rock Hudson told me he didn’t ‘believe in bisexuals.’ Same with most heteros and gays,I’d say.”

Yet Hadleigh shared stories he’s uncovered of stars who apparently were bisexual, even if they never came out as such. He notes that three of gay icon Liza Minnelli’s four husbands were bisexual–including singer/songwriter Peter Allen, who died of AIDS. Allen wrote the song Quiet Please, There’s A Lady On Stage, a heartfelt tribute to Minnelli’s mom, gay icon Judy Garland.

One attendee at the talk was a fan of actor Farley Granger, who’s best remembered as the star of Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Strangers on A Train (1951).

“Granger came out as bi, but he may have been gay,” Hadleigh said. “If there were no homophobia in the world, would there be bisexuals? I think there would be some. But many who believe or say they’re bi are saying it to be inclusive or for a certain self-image.”

Hadleigh’s research indicates that Marilyn Monroe was not heterosexual, though she did have several marriages to men. “She had a close five-year relationship with lesbian drama coach Natasha Lytess,” Hadleigh said. “Whether they had sex, no one can know but them. Marilyn questioned her own sexuality. While she was filming in London she was analyzed by Dr. Anna Freud–Sigmund Freud’s daughter–who concluded that Marilyn was not heterosexual.”

Was Marilyn Monroe bisexual?

Other actors named during the talk include Richard Gere and Marlon Brando, the latter of whom loved many women but was quite open about being bisexual. Brando’s son Cristian, according to Hadleigh, was named after actor Christian Marquand, Brando’s male lover. Hadleigh noted that 1930s movie queen Marlene Dietrich, who’s career continued into the 1970s, was perhaps the best known among Hollywood’s female bisexuals.

Marlene Dietrich, bisexual movie Goddess

Hadleigh told BAS that he prefers books to the internet when researching his subjects. “The internet is not edited and abounds with myths and fabrications,” he said. “For a celeb-quotes book like my Marilyn Forever, it helps that I speak five languages and travel a lot. Often the media outside the US is more frank about sexual topics–I get quotes from books, magazines, newspapers, and from personal interviews.”

Hadleigh is currently promoting his latest books: Marilyn Forever and his updated Hollywood Lesbians: From Garbo to Foster.

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David Elijah Nahmod

David Elijah Nahmod

I, David-Elijah Nahmod am a Queer, American/Israeli dual national of Syrian descent who has lived in New York City and Tel Aviv.
Currently in San Francisco, my eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications (news and entertainment) and monster magazines. In 2012 I was voted Film Reviewer of the Year at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.
Look for me in Bay Area Reporter, Hoodline.com, South Florida Gay News, Echo Magazine, Outfront, Scary Monsters Magazine, Videoscope, and, of course, Broke Ass Stuart, (I'm so broke it's SCARY!)
Now, let's watch a horror movie!