Hollywood’s all straight A-list
EXCLUSIVE: ‘When I wake up the first thing I think about is who am I going to f**k today.’ How sex-obsessed Marlon Brando broke binary rules and felt no shame sleeping with both women and men – including Richard Pryor
- Marlon Brando was not a guilt-ridden homosexual but utterly at ease with sleeping with men or women, writes author William J. Mann in The Contender
- Girls and boys, straight and gay were besotted with Bud, as he was known, who exuded raw sexuality from an early age
- Actress Rita Moreno met Brando on the 20th Century Fox lot and found him ‘swaggeringly irresistible’.
- She was his type – dark, vibrant, earthy, sensual and they quickly became lovers
- ‘To say that he was a great lover’, said Moreno, ‘sensual, generous, delightfully inventive’ would be gravely understating what he did’
- Brando and Marilyn had a romance in 1955 following the divorce from Joe DiMaggio and before her marriage to Arthur Miller
- ‘Monroe was hardly Marlon’s type but she had an earthy sense of humor that he would have liked’, writes Mann
Marlon Brando changed the way actors thought about their craft, but The Godfather star was never beloved because he was a rebel who thumbed his nose at Hollywood.
His real passion was for social justice, women and sex.
‘When I awake in the morning, the first thing I think about is, ‘Who am I going to f*ck today’? — even if there was a woman sleeping beside him’, writes author William J. Mann in The Contender, The Story of Marlon Brando, published by Harper.
Brando needed different girlfriends for different days of the week.
Girls and boys, straight and gay were besotted with Bud who exuded raw sexuality from an early age.
While at Shattuck Military academy, Bud slept with another young man on campus.
‘The relationship was nothing extraordinary; sexual play between cadets at military schools was not uncommon’, writes Mann.
‘Let’s say sex has no sex’, Brando later stated acknowledging sex with men.
Living was sex with whom and when you wanted – girls, gay men and he preferred inconsequential sex and took advantage of it.
Occasionally escaping the city for Provincetown, an artist colony out on the tip of Cape Cod where ‘gender and sex were rather fluid’, Marlon slept with men.
Back in New York, he was juggling three girlfriends: the tall willowy Ellen Adler, Celia, a window dresser who seemed like a mother substitute, and Blossom Plumb, a gorgeous petite blonde in Brando’s acting
But Ellen understood that no woman would be first in Brando’s heart. There would be no proposal.
‘There was a lot of f**king going on and I was in the thick of it’, Brando remembered about that time.
Now calling himself Marlon, he acted to survive but sex made him happy and that’s all that mattered to him as he compulsively pursued sex.
‘He’d make his women indulge him in ways that his mother never did and then punish them for doing so by rejecting them’, writes the author.
It was a pattern that almost destroyed him and damaged the women.
He chased girls, slept with gay men. He spent weekends with Ellen but during the week, led a wild life.
He began an affair with a window dresser, Celia, who became pregnant but agreed to an abortion.
Looking back on Rock Hudson’s movies with Doris Day, they seem infused with a camp sensibility, derived not least from the fact that Hollywood’s main romantic icon of the 1950s was, in real life, a gay man. But in 1984, when the world first learned that Hudson was dying from an AIDS-related illness, the truth about his sexual orientation came as a shocking bolt from the blue.
Although the fact was well known in Hollywood society, the publicity machine that stood between him and the movie-going public had created an impenetrable smoke screen, preserving his ideally heterosexual image for almost 40 years.
That same smoke screen protected other romantic leads such as Cary Grant, who lived with his lover Randolph Scott for a decade; James Dean, who was a regular in LA’s gay bars; Montgomery Clift, who often used the services of male prostitutes; Marlon Brando and Spencer Tracy, who both had several bisexual affairs; and Laurence Olivier, who had a relationship with Danny Kaye.
If so many of the embodiments of Hollywood manhood over the years were gay or bisexual, but kept safely in the closet by studio PR merchants, can we be absolutely sure that all of today’s leading men are bona fide heterosexuals? Mega-publicists like Pat Kingsley would have us believe it. She represents, among other A-listers, Tom Cruise, who on Monday filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit against a Los Angeles man who allegedly offered to sell nonexistent videotapes of the actor having sex with another man to news organisations. Cruise said in the suit that the claims were “unequivocally false” and that no such tape exists. It was the second time in just over a month that Cruise had to move to quash rumours about his sexuality. On May 2nd, he filed a law suit against male porn star Kyle Bradford, again for $100 million, for allegedly giving an interview to a French gossip magazine saying he’d had a sexual liaison with the actor
The suit claimed that rumours of Those same gay rumours have been dogging Tom Cruise since the early days of his career, despite his two much-publicised marriages. As American columnist Jeannette Walls described in her book, Dish, one of Pat Kingsley’s tasks for years has been to make sure that journalists do not ask the actor about the gay rumours surrounding him – often, it’s alleged, by threatening magazine editors’ access to other stars. For the industry’s titans, public discussion of the Cruise gay rumours, even if they are not true, would raise the issue of why Hollywood is so afraid of having openly gay leading men, and that’s a discussion they do not want to have.
Ironically, as the publicists who package and sell Hollywood stars’ images get stronger and stronger, the off-screen lives of their star clients become ever more restricted. The public fascination with celebrity has fuelled the growth of a now-enormous media machine devoted to scrutinising actors’ private personae, and as a result, Hollywood actors’ closets have become virtual prisons. For many actors, the advent of “outing” in the 1980s sealed the closet door shut by prompting a denial that the closet even existed.
In 1994, Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford paid more than $100,000 for a full-page ad in the London Times, stating that they were both heterosexual. Other A-list actors who have categorically and repeatedly denied that they are homosexual include Keanu Reeves, whose alleged “marriage” to gay movie mogul David Geffen re-surfaces in the gossip rags every so often; John Travolta, who tried to shake off recurring gay rumours by entering the world of Scientology; and Kevin Spacey, who once replied to questions about his sexuality, but now refuses to even broach the subject.
All this takes place in a Hollywood we are expected to believe has lightened up on homosexuality. We see more films with gay characters and plots, and several actors have come out over the past few years and still enjoyed a modicum of success in their careers. But the likes of Rupert Everett, Harvey Fierstein and Ellen DeGeneres have all hit a glass ceiling. Even in an age of increasing lesbian and gay visibility, coming out adversely affects an actor’s career. All three actors are likely to play character parts for the rest of their careers.
In 1995, a poll commissioned by the magazine, Entertainment Weekly found that 29 per cent of Americans would be “less interested” in seeing their favourite actor perform in a movie or TV show if they learned that he or she was gay. Not coincidentally, the article that accompanied the poll reported that for every lesbian or gay Hollywood celebrity who agreed to speak on the record, dozens asked that their name not be mentioned.
The A-list is reserved for actors who appeal to the lowest common denominator, and in Hollywood terms that means sexual identification. Tom and Keanu, John and Richard appear on screen and in a fashion become subconsciously sexually available for female viewers, while becoming transient gender role models for male fans.
It is difficult for a man who is perceived as homosexual to be accepted as either. At the centre of this circle of denial stands the dollar sign. The mega-stars who light up our screens are nothing more than Hollywood’s glittering cash cows. To make sure the big bucks keep rolling in, the coteries of lawyers and publicists sitting at the centre of Hollywood’s power-base will not stray from a tried and tested formula.
After all, if idealised, heterosexually-identified stars have pulled in the punters since the founding of the industry, why change the parameters or challenge public perceptions? You better believe it: not one of today’s Hollywood A-list is, was or ever has been, a homosexual. And if, by chance, some of them are, you’ll never know it for sure.