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Archive for the ‘actors’ Category

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Gladys Bentley

For your reading pleasure, Buzzfeed brings you “17 Badass Historical LGBT Women Who Absolutely Gave No Fucks.” I love Gladys Bentley! Who is your favorite on this list?

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Me (left) and Katie

In looking through some old photos, I found one of me and my partner Katie in 1992, when we were newly a couple and took our first trip together, to visit friends in L.A. Apparently, I was crazy for queer sites even then, as my friend snapped a shot of us paying homage to the cement hand- and footprints of Joan Crawford in the famous forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Click here for a guide to other stars’ signatures at Grauman’s.

I love playing bitches. There’s a lot of bitch in every woman – a lot in every man.”

-Joan Crawford

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“I Won’t Grow Up”

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Weatherford, Texas

Mary Martin birthplace
414 West Lee Avenue

Broadway legend Mary Martin (1913-1990) was born at this address – “a big, rambling house,” as she called it; it’s now a B&B – to a father who was a lawyer and a mother who taught violin. Martin attended elementary school right up the hill from the house. The family later moved to 314 West Oak Street. When Martin was an 18-year-old wife and mother, starving for meaningful work, her older sister encouraged her to open a dance school, and her supportive parents built her a studio at 311 West Oak. There she ran the popular “Mary Hagman’s School of Dance” for three years, serving several hundred students during that time.

While growing up in Weatherford, Martin was a tomboy who preferred “boxing gloves, punching bags, [and] bicycles” to the dolls her mother kept buying for her. An avid reader, she claimed to have read the lesbian classic The Well of Loneliness at age 11. (Not possible, since it wasn’t published in this country until 1928. She also claimed that she didn’t have “the remotest idea what [it was] all about.”)

Married twice, the first time at age 16, Martin left her first husband and young son (actor Larry Hagman) to pursue a career in Hollywood and on the stage. Her second husband, Richard Halliday, liked to shop for antiques with his mother and decorate their home and Martin’s various dressing rooms – you figure it out. Martin enjoyed a lifelong companionship with actress Janet Gaynor, whom she called her “closest, most special friend” and who was in a lavender marriage with costume designer Adrian. Martin’s intimate circle included other queer theater figures, such as Katharine Cornell and Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne.

One of the greatest Broadway musical stars of all time, Martin created the roles of Maria Von Trapp and Nellie Forbush on the stage, but is probably best remembered for her portrayal of the boy who refused to grow up, Peter Pan. In the 1950s and ’60s, she flew into our living rooms in a televised taping of the stage play, singing such classics as “I Won’t Grow Up” and quickly becoming a lesbian icon. She epitomized the popular lesbian aesthetic of resistance to gender norms. In her honor, a statue of Peter Pan sits in front of the Weatherford Public Library. Martin is buried in the East Greenwood Cemetery in town.

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Ladies’ Man

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Los Angeles, Calif.

Cary Grant/Randolph Scott home
2177 West Live Oak Drive (private)

Though he married women five times, movie star Cary Grant (1904-1986) enjoyed several gay relationships during his early career in New York and Hollywood. His most famous same-sex romance was with fellow actor Randolph Scott (1898-1987), the rugged star of numerous westerns. Grant and Scott met at Paramount Studios in 1932 and were immediately attracted to each other. Soon after, they moved in together, sharing this house near Griffith Park. The move was disguised by studio P.R. agents as a way for two young actors to “cut costs” and share expenses, even though both made ample salaries and could afford their own homes. Even after Grant’s marriage to Virginia Cherrill, the two men continued co-habiting; Cherrill simply moved into the house with them.

Between liaisons with other men and women, Grant and Scott’s relationship persisted, well known to their colleagues in the industry. (If for some reason you’ve never seen it, don’t miss the two as co-stars in the outrageous My Favorite Wife.) In the late 1930s, Grant and Scott occupied a Santa Monica beach house at 1019 Ocean Front (now 1039). In fan magazines, they were  photographed together in domestic bliss, wearing aprons and cavorting poolside or on the patio. According to Grant’s biographer, they believed their public flamboyance would raise them above suspicion of homosexuality. They must have been right, because Grant enjoyed a screen career as a suave ladies’ man for the next three decades.

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Cambridge, Mass.

Mt. Auburn Cemetery
580 Mount Auburn Street

A guide map is available at the entrance to this historic cemetery, which will steer you to the many famous historical figures buried here. Among them, of course, are lesbians and women-identified women. You can visit the grave of actress Charlotte Cushman (who made a dashing cross-dressed Romeo in 1846, opposite her sister Susan’s Juliet – see above) and that of one of her many intimates, sculptor Harriet Hosmer. Also in the park is a statue, by lesbian sculptor Edmonia Lewis (one of Cushman’s and Hosmer’s circle), of Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health, which was commissioned in 1875 for the grave of pioneering physician Harriot K. Hunt. Poet Amy Lowell also rests at Mt. Auburn.

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Santa Monica, Calif.

Greta Garbo/Mercedes de Acosta meeting place
165 Mabery Road

In 1931, the young Swedish film sensation Greta Garbo met and fell for Mercedes de Acosta, a dramatic-looking writer with pale skin and raven black hair who habitually sported white flannel trousers, silk shirts, berets, and boyish haircuts. Both women had been invited to tea at this address on Mabery Road, which was the home of their mutual friend Salka Viertel. A playwright and stage manager for Eva LeGallienne (who was also her lover), de Acosta had come to Hollywood from New York two years earlier to write a treatment for actress Pola Negri.

After de Acosta and Garbo met, the proverbial sparks flew, and they spent six weeks sequestered at Silver Lake, swimming naked and walking in the mountains. There they “honeymooned” on an island in the middle of the lake, in a small log cabin that belonged to actor Wallace Beery.

Garbo later credited de Acosta with giving her the foundation on which she based the wonderfully androgynous character Queen Christina. While lovers with de Acosta, Garbo began her habit of wearing trousers in public. The two women would stroll boldly along Hollywood Boulevard in similar attire, flaunting their relationship. The same year they met, the lovers moved to adjoining homes on North Rockingham Road in Brentwood. Over the years, their relationship ran hot and cold, each taking numerous lovers. In 1960 came the final split, though, when Garbo – the queen of privacy – became upset by the publication of de Acosta’s tell-all memoir, Here Lies the Heart.

She used to climb ahead of me, and with her hair blown back, her face turned to the wind and sun, she would leap from rock to rock on her bare Hellenic feet…looking like some radiant, elemental, glorious god and goddess melted into one.

–Mercedes de Acosta, writing about her 1931 “honeymoon” with Garbo

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Brookline, Mass.

Amy Lowell home
“Sevenels”
70 Heath Street

Poet Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was born in Brookline to a wealthy and prominent New England family. Her father, Augustus, was, among many other things, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here at the Lowell’s 10-acre estate, young Amy – who was born late in her parents’ lives and was much younger than her siblings – had a lonely childhood, roaming beautiful gardens landscaped by her father (see photo). She lived in the elegant mansion all her life, redecorating many of the rooms according to her own taste after the death of her parents. For example, she combined the front and back parlors to create a magnificent library with built-in bookshelves and imported carved paneling. There in a plush leather chair with matching hassock she would spend hours reading and thinking.

Lowell has been painted by critics as a homely, obese, cigar-smoking spinster who never knew passion. But in fact, she met the love of her life, Ada Dwyer Russell, in 1912, and the two were constant companions for a dozen years. It took Lowell two years to convince Russell (whom she called her “very intimate friend”) to come and live with her at Sevenels, which Russell finally did in 1914. Forsaking her own career as an actress, Russell concentrated instead on Lowell’s – she read the proofs for all of Lowell’s books and listened to all of her compositions in the evenings, serving as both audience and critic. Lowell often stated that she wanted to put a sign over the door at Sevenels that would read: “Lowell & Russell, Makers of Fine Poems.” Russell was not only Lowell’s critic, she was also the inspiration for much of her poetry. Lowell was always careful, though, to make her love-themed poems gender-neutral. Only those who knew both the women suspected the identity of Lowell’s “muse.”

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