Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Family" Men

The number of supposed "family men" who fool around sexually with guys is probably legion, but because there's only an occasional Jim McGreevey "scandal" outing these guys most of the public still thinks if a man's got a wife and kids he's straight.

Now let's talk about Paul Newman.

Years ago I tricked with a guy who said to me: "Paul Newman is gay."

"He is?" I said. "How do you know?"

He said: "I only say people are gay if I've had sex with them."

Now it's true that many people will say they have had sex with celebrities as a way of making themselves more fascinating and the like, but I found this guy completely credible. He was also an actor, one of the actors in The Boys in the Band, in fact, and I could certainly see him and Newman together.

Whether you believe this or not, if it's true, Newman would certainly not be the first family man who liked dick. Whether you want to call him a bisexual or a married homosexual, I wouldn't be surprised if, however he defined himself, he was attracted to men and suppressed it as much as he could because, after all, "fags" don't become superstars. In this Newman would not be the first or the last movie star to closet himself with a wife and children for the sake of a career. Newman was not known as a skirt-chaser. He built a private cottage for himself on his property which wife and children were not allowed to enter. If he occasionally indulged in his passion for men while presenting a heterosexual front, it would make him no different from tens of thousands of other men over the decades. It's ironic that he played the conflicted "Brick" in the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

When it came to Gay Rights Newman could be quite contrary. On one hand, he and wife Joanne Woodward were liberals who presumably supported Gay Rights. Newman gave serious thought to playing the gay coach in the film version of Patrica Nell Warren's gay novel The Front Runner. On the other hand he decided to make the film Slapshot instead of Front Runner, and while the homophobia of the hockey players and fans in the movie was hardly unrealistic, the script also had him telling a woman that her son would grow up to be sucking dick (the old domineering mother creates faggots nonsense). He also taunted a hockey player that his wife was a "dyke, dyke, dyke!" which some dumb-ass New York Post critic, writing about the "best" scenes in Newman's movies, seemed to think was hilarious (it wasn't). Many gay activists thought Newman's guilt or fear over his own activities so panicked him that he chose the macho, homophobic role of Slapshot over the sympathetic gay role of The Front Runner coach.

Whatever the true story with Newman, his legacy will be that of the typical heterosexual family man whose wife and kids meant everything to him. Of course, men who love dick can certainly love their children and (in their own way) care deeply about their wives, but it's not the whole story. Had he come out at least as a bisexual -- had he only appeared in The Front Runner -- it might have done a lot of good but he chose not to. Those heterosexual privileges, even when he was wealthy and essentially retired, clearly meant too much to him. Some men in this position don't come out because they don't want to hurt or embarrass their wives, but in Newman's case I bet it was more about his image. So the "family man" legacy, no matter how much of it is pure bullshit, will go on until some biographer or other person with solid, substantiated information tells the world otherwise, and even then much of the world won't want to believe it. Paul Newman a fag! We in the Gay Community have made great progress in the past few decades, but sometimes I think we haven't made any at all.

One last thing about Newman. As co-author of a book on Robert Redford, I can tell you that the rumors of an affair between Newman and Redford, no matter how delicious some people may find it, appear to be completely unfounded, and I've never uncovered any substantiated gay rumors about Redford.


Anonymous said...

Interesting read...there is much under the sun that will never be known...

Bill Samuels said...

You can say that again!

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of Darwin Porter's claims that Brando confirmed Newman was bi?

Bill Samuels said...

I'll be interested in reading Porter's new book on Newman. I just hope there are solid sources in the book to substantiate everything.