“I did support myself in style via prostitution before I became a successful actor. It’s not at all unusual – for an actor or an actress – to have done that. What is extraordinarily unusual is to admit it.” – Rupert Everett (The Importance of Being Earnest).
This could be the best stocking stuffer for the celebrity gossip lovers on your Holiday shopping list…
INSIDE THE HOLLYWOOD CLOSET is Boze Hadleigh’s follow-up to his book IN OR OUT, published in 2000 and like this new book, a collection of quotes reflecting on queer life in the film and TV business. It has the unusual structure of being comprised almost entirely of quotes, though Hadleigh offers short introductions to each of his four chapters in addition to a preface. This technique offers us the opportunity to explore the topics at hand and form their own conclusions and narrative based on the observations of the Hollywood insiders quoted. Most of the quotes are attributed to celebrities, but many are from behind-the-cameras personnel such as press agents and who likely had knowledge of the situations described. The quotations are not sourced, so readers should probably view any of the quotes with a healthy critical eye, though many of the quotes contain information that has been previously reported. The celebrities quoted include Rock Hudson, Truman Capote, Cary Grant, Neil Patrick Harris, kd Lang, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Queen Latifah, Little Naz, Oscar Wilde, Sammy Davis Jr., Ellen Page, Rosie O’Donnell, Ian McKellen, Bea Arthur, Butterfly McQueen, Chaz Bono, Elton John, Rami Malek, and Wanda Sykes, among others.
The closet in mid-to-late- 20th Century Hollywood
“Who it hurts (coming out) is the actor with leading man potential. Studios won’t top-bill an openly gay actor. Particularly in action movies. Polls indicate the 40 to 60 percent of filmgoers will skip an action movie starring someone gay.” – film distributor Ted Sebahar.
Though each chapter is only loosely tied to a theme, the book’s first chapter is largely concerned with the restrictions – largely unspoken – that influenced LGBT opportunities in the film business in the second half of the 20th Century. We see through the quotes that actor and actors were uniformly expected to present as hetero, while those with a same-sex orientation behind the cameras were tolerated, but only in certain jobs. A gay director, such as George Cukor, might be allowed to shoot women-themed films, but not action films. Studios would plan publicity opportunities and even arrange marriages to maintain the image of sexy stars as hetero. Accusations of homosexuality were considered libelous. While little of this is likely to be news to most readers, many of the quotes included provide additional detail and a first-person perspective that this writer found informative.
“I finally put acting on the back burner for composing music. I tired of being considered ‘soft’ and the offers of nothing roles or no roles. The Hollywood preference is harsh men. If you’re not butch or angry, they cast you as funny goofballs or queer oddballs.” – Max Showalter (Niagara, Bus Stop).
The second chapter, called Out & Outing, builds on the first by providing comments on the choices of coming out or staying in the closet faced by film and TV industry professionals. There are coming out statements or comments on the merits of coming out by the likes of Ellen Page and Chaz Bono, deliberately vague statements by Queen Latifah, Madonna and Greg Louganis; as well as commentary on the refusal of some well-known performers to come out publicly.
INSIDE THE HOLLYWOOD CLOSET has a gossipy second half
“As they say, like mother, like daughter. Debbie (Reynolds) wasn’t fond of men, hated all three husbands. You know she wanted to be a gym teacher? That’s a stereotype, but… Carrie (Fisher) was very close to Penny Marshall. Carrie’s daughter, you know, is by an openly gay talent agent who now has a husband. Carrie pretended she didn’t know that, when they started going together – they never married. I think she just wanted to have the kid. That’s what Debbie wanted too."
“For years, I keep hearing that Penny’s very ill. But she’s still here and Carrie’s gone.” - Mary X, Lesbian friend of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.
Dishing in Private and Loving in Public are the titles of the last two of the book’s four chapters, and in this writer’s opinion found them to be more gossipy than insightful – the sort of reports one might find in click-bait journalism or tabloids. Much of it rehashes entertaining but well-worn stories of John Travolta and Cary Grant as well as another unnamed male star whose sexual orientation is much discussed speculatively.
Clearly the author is supportive of LGBTQIA rights and visibility, as are most of the people quoted in the book. You’ll get that most quotes are geared to urging people to live honestly and openly. That said, you won’t find much new thinking here--- it isn’t the best fit for LGBTQIA community members and allies (as well as this reviewer). It’s a better match for avid consumers of celebrity journalism who might enjoy the dishing of the second half of the book.
INSIDE THE HOLLYWOOD CLOSET: A BOOK OF QUOTES
$19.99 (e-book $9.99)
Author: Boze Hadleigh
Riverdale Avenue Books
More information at the Riverdale Avenue Books website
Book cover image courtesy of INSIDE THE HOLLYWOOD CLOSET: A BOOK OF QUOTES
About the Author:
John Olson is an arts carnivore who is particularly a love of music, theatre and film. He studied piano, trombone and string bass into his college years, performing in bands and orchestras in high school and college, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While working as an advertising agency account manager, he began a second career as an arts journalist and is now principal of John Olson Communications, a marketing and public relations business serving arts and entertainment clients.