Archive for the ‘actors’ Category


St. Louis, Mo.

Statue of Beatrice Cenci (1856)
St. Louis Mercantile Library
Thomas Jefferson Library Building
One University Blvd.

Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908) applied to study anatomy – as preparation for sculpting the human body – at Boston Medical School and other eastern schools and was refused admittance. Wayman Crow, the father of one of her school friends, got her into the Missouri Medical College in St. Louis, where Hosmer lived with his family while she was a student. Crow, a prominent St. Louis businessman, became a lifelong benefactor of Hosmer, and his influence helped obtain important commissions for her. Among her public sculptures in the city are the Senator Thomas Hart Benton statue, Lafayette Park, and “Beatrice Cenci” at the Mercantile Library.

Back in Boston, Hosmer ran with a lesbian crowd, including Charlotte Cushman, the actress and art patron, and her lover, sculptor Emma Stebbins. While touring the country, Cushman was invited to visit the Crows, Hosmer’s second family, and became infatuated with Emma Crow, Wayman’s daughter, addressing her in letters as “my darling little lover,” much to Wayman’s dismay. When Cushman traveled to Rome, Hosmer went with her to study sculpture, writing to her worried benefactor: “I shall keep a sharper lookout on Miss Cushman and not allow her to go on in this serious manner with Emma – it is really dreadful and I am really jealous….” Knowing Wayman would disapprove, Hosmer used the convenient excuse of “keeping a lookout” on Cushman to justify living with her in Rome.

Throughout her life, Hosmer claimed that all she wanted to do was get married, but she never did. In a letter to Wayman, she joked, “I have been searching vainly for Mr. Hosmer.” In 1858, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife visited Hosmer at her studio in Rome, and the writer gave a telling description of her: “She had on a male shirt, collar, and cravat…. She was indeed very queer….”


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Handsome Monty


Brooklyn, N.Y.

Montgomery Clift grave
Brooklyn Friends Cemetery
Prospect Park

Born in Omaha, Montgomery Clift (1920-1966) began his career as a stage actor, before becoming a leading film star of the late 1940s and 1950s. He starred in such now-classic movies as A Place in the Sun, Suddenly Last Summer (both with Elizabeth Taylor, who was unrequitedly in love with him), Red River, Judgment at Nuremberg, and From Here to Eternity.

But an automobile accident in 1956 nearly ended his career, and Clift underwent massive reconstructive surgery on his handsome face. In the middle of filming Raintree County, again with Taylor, Clift had to take months off before he was able to resume work on the film. Mentally and physically affected by his ordeal, Clift continued to make movies but more and more mourned his “disfigurement” through alcohol and drug abuse and died at the early age of 45 of a heart attack.

Clift’s homosexuality was well known in Hollywood, though he tried to keep it from becoming public knowledge for fear it would hurt his career. He had the reputation for being a loner, and most of his sexual encounters were one-night-stands with male hustlers. In 1949, he was arrested for trying to pick up a hustler on 42nd Street in Manhattan, but the incident was hushed up by his handlers. In the early ’50s, he seems to have had a quiet romance with the playwright Thornton Wilder, another gay man who prized “discretion” and suffered from internalized homophobia.

Clift’s primary residence was in Manhattan from 1951 until his death, first at 209 East Sixty-first Street (destroyed by fire in 1960), and then at the elegant three-story brownstone down the block at 217, a house with four bedrooms and six baths. After a funeral service at the Friends Meeting House, East 15th Street, he was buried at this Quaker cemetery in Brooklyn, and his grave was planted with crocuses by his friend, actress Nancy Walker.

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Salt Lake City, Utah

Ada Dwyer Russell home
W. North Temple Street

Born in 1863, actress Ada Dwyer (later Russell) was raised as a Mormon. Her father, James Dwyer, had come west in a covered wagon and opened the first bookstore in the far west. He also helped found the Latter Day Saints University. The Dwyers’ residence is listed at this location on North Temple Street beginning in 1867, when Ada was four, but the building is no longer extant.

Ada grew up to be an actress who first performed at the Salt Lake Theater (corner of South First and State) and later on the Broadway and London stages. She married the British actor Harold Russell, and was later widowed. In 1912, she met poet Amy Lowell, a cigar-smoking butch 11 years her junior, at a women’s luncheon club in Boston. The two were instantly smitten; Lowell wrote that “between us lept a gold and scarlet flame.” Two years later, after much coaxing on Lowell‘s part, Russell moved into the Lowell family estate, Sevenels, in Brookline, Mass. She gave up her own career for Lowell‘s, organizing her partner’s life, and became the subject of Lowell‘s explicit lesbo-erotic poetry. Lowell died in 1925, leaving her fortune to Russell; still, Russell maintained until her own death in 1952 that the two of them had only been “friends.”

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Grand Rapids, Minn.

Judy Garland home
2727 US Highway 169 South

This house in Grand Rapids was the first home of Frances Gumm/Judy Garland (1922-1969), the singer/actor/gay icon whose death has occasionally been credited with setting the flame that ignited the Stonewall Rebellion. Garland‘s father was reportedly gay, as was her second husband, director Vincente Minnelli, and there have been rumors about her own bisexuality.

The Gumms owned the New Grand Theater on Pokagama Avenue in Grand Rapids in the 1920s. Baby Gumm gave her first public performance there at age 2, singing “Jingle Bells” with her two older sisters. When she was 4, her parents moved the family to California to pursue their show business ambitions – and also apparently to escape the rumors of Frank Gumm’s sexual inclinations.

Judy’s best-loved role is undoubtedly as Dorothy Gale in the classic 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz. Every June since 1975, Grand Rapids has celebrated its most famous resident with a Judy Garland Festival, complete with bands and floats. In 1989, the 50th anniversary of the movie, the town dedicated its very own Yellow Brick Road, a pathway of 5,000 bricks, about one-fifth of which have been engraved with personal messages (at an average cost of about 50 dollars).

The Gumm house has been restored to look like it would have in the 1920s, and is open to the public, with family items and photographs and Wizard of Oz memorabilia on display.

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Los Angeles, Calif.

Rock Hudson home – “The Castle”
9402 Beverly Crest Drive (private)

Situated on a ridge overlooking Beverly Hills, “The Castle” was home to actor Rock Hudson (1925-1985) from 1962 until his death. At the height of his career, Universal Studios purchased it for him as part of his contract renewal. Made of Spanish-style stucco with a red tile roof, the house was protected by a massive gate in the front and high cliffs on three sides, which ensured the closeted actor’s privacy. Oddly, though, the gate to the house and the front door were never locked. A friend explained, “He liked the excitement of the unknown.”

In his authorized biography, Hudson gave a detailed description of the house he loved and spent 23 years meticulously restoring. The interior included two living rooms, a steam room and gym, a theater with stage and footlights, and four fireplaces. Hudson liked to name the rooms of the house, and he christened his bedroom “the blue room” because it was carpeted in a rich royal blue. His bed was an immense wooden fourposter carved with a nude male figure. One of his favorite spots was the “playroom,” or theater, which had originally been a garage. It housed a vast collection of films and all the best in projection equipment. A collection of rare records filled one wall. On the wooden stage, he rehearsed upcoming roles.

The Castle was decorated in what one of Hudson‘s friends termed “early butch” – dark wood, pewter candlesticks, zebra skins, and an assortment of wrought iron. On the red-tiled patio stood sculptures of naked boys. The patio led to a 40-foot pool with jacuzzi and lion’s head fountain, and a 20-foot barbecue that could cook enough meat to feed a hundred people. Also on the three-and-a-half acres was a greenhouse overflowing with orchids.

For most of his years at The Castle, Hudson lived alone with his female housekeeper and seven dogs. But occasionally, he had a live-in lover. When he did, he was careful to maintain two separate phone lines for “appearances,” and to make sure he was never photographed with the other man.

After his death from complications of AIDS, Hudson‘s memorial service was held at The Castle, attended by several hundred guests who were treated to chili, margaritas, and a mariachi band. If Hudson‘s life in Beverly Hills had screamed ostentation, then so did his death.

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