More on open secrecy

In a Morning Names posting today, I drifted onto Ivor Novello and his widely known (sometimes even celebratory) but still quite secret homosexuality, and the similar situation of other celebrities — until a significant number of public persons came out and demonstrated for gay rights and until legal sanctions on homosexuality were lifted (quite recently) in the West.

My posting elicited several Facebook comments about other public persons, from several eras. Selected and edited here.

From Julian Lander

Related to gay life at that time, although not to Ivor Novello: I’m reading Patrick McGilligan’s Young Orson, about the early part of his life (I think it ends with Citizen Kane). While Welles was apparently straight, there were lots of gay men among his colleagues. It seems they were fairly open about their sexual preferences and partners [at least to close acquaintances], although that could be authorial license. Among them were the Irish actor Micheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards, who were a long-term couple. According to McGilligan, they were sometimes referred to as “Sodom and begorrah,” (I can’t find the exact reference, but I think it was meant pejoratively) and later dubbed themselves “The Stately Homos of Ireland” (p. 195)

Wikipedia on Edwards and Mac Liammóir:

Hilton Edwards (2 February 1903 – 18 November 1982) was an English-born Irish actor, lighting designer and theatrical producer. … Along with his romantic partner, Micheál Mac Liammóir, Edwards co-founded the Gate Theatre in Dublin.

Micheál Mac Liammóir (25 October 1899 – 6 March 1978), born Alfred Willmore, was an English-born Irish actor, dramatist, impresario, writer, poet and painter.

Then from Rod Williams:

Somerset Maugham used to tell a story about Winston Churchill having once had sex with Ivor Novello, “to see what it was like with a man.” When asked how it was, Churchill allegedly replied, “Musical.” [like Novello!]

Now, Somerset Maugham, another openly secret man. From Wikipedia, picking out the material of gay interest from a life story of great accomplishment:

William Somerset Maugham CH (… 25 January 1874 – 16 December 1965) was a British playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author during the 1930s.

… During this time [early in World War I], he met Frederick Gerald Haxton, a young San Franciscan, who became his companion and lover until Haxton’s death in 1944. [Maugham had a complex and unhappy marriage to Syrie Wellcome, who became a noted interior decorator.]

… [after World War II] Maugham began a relationship with Alan Searle, whom he had first met in 1928. A young man from the London slum area of Bermondsey, Searle had already been kept by older men. He proved a devoted if not a stimulating companion. One of Maugham’s friends, describing the difference between Haxton and Searle, said simply: “Gerald was vintage, Alan was vin ordinaire.”.

Maugham’s love life was almost never smooth. He once confessed: “I have most loved people who cared little or nothing for me and when people have loved me I have been embarrassed … In order not to hurt their feelings, I have often acted a passion I did not feel.”

Themes of otherness are all over Maugham’s work, something I picked up on when I read a lot of his work as a teenager.

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