Tag Archives: closeted

Joel Grey, now unburdened and emboldened, tells his story

At a cafe the other day, Joel Grey was drawn to an item on the menu that was both confusing and intriguing.

He called over a waiter and asked: “What is this thing? The herbed goat cheese with chili flakes and pomegranate syrup?” The waiter was stumped. “OK, I’m going to take a chance,” said the Tony-and Oscar-winning actor.

Grey, 83, was in high spirits this day, which marked the publication of his memoir, “Master of Ceremonies.” For a performer who hid who he was for decades, Grey is now unburdened and emboldened.  

“Let’s put it this way: I really feel good. But I have been feeling good for a long time. I don’t think I could have written this book if I’d had axes to grind,” he said. “I don’t like that in a book.”

The memoir traces his childhood in Cleveland, his rise as a nightclub performer and his breakthrough both on stage and film as the Emcee with rouged cheeks and cupid’s-bow lips in “Cabaret.”

It also examines his 24-year marriage to actress Jo Wilder and a long internal struggle with his attraction to men, which triggered feelings of self-loathing and proved his mother’s love was not unconditional.

Grey, who loved men and women, tentatively calls himself a “closeted bisexual” but language comes up short: “I never really thought that any of the names were exactly right for me,” he said.

A complex portrait emerges of Grey in black and white. He reveals he’s had a nose job, slept with a stripper, fought with legendary director Bob Fosse and once lugged his dirty laundry on a plane.

“I’m not that good. I’m just like the rest of you,” he said. “Maybe worse.”

Colin Dickerman, the editorial director of the Macmillan division Flatiron Books, which published the 230-page book, said it’s not a tell-all or a collection of funny stories, but an attempt to explore the roots of the man behind some beloved characters.

“He wanted to be as honest as he could be and I think the book really reflects that,” said Dickerman. “It really goes into some personal places and I think does so remaining incredibly respectful to everyone in his life.”

Grey’s story also mirrors the evolution of American entertainment, from vaudeville to nightclubs to Broadway and Hollywood, weaving both his personal and professional lives. It reaches a peak in 1985 when Grey started thinking about coming out while starring in the AIDS play “The Normal Heart.”

The book was written over 2 1/2 years with the help of Rebecca Paley and Grey consulted with his brother and his daughter — “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey — on parts of the manuscript. He said he was inspired, in part, by reading Andre Agassi’s very honest 2010 memoir “Open: An Autobiography.”

“I didn’t see that I could tell the story of my career and not my life because they were so intertwined. And I also saw myself as maybe an example and maybe, in some small way, helping one person,” he said. “I like that idea.”

Grey writes that he was attracted to boys as early as 8 — one of his first crushes was a 16-year-old bellboy — but being openly gay wasn’t an option. Physical violence and closed doors would have been his life.

“The price was very high,” he said. “There would be no career. Look how long it’s even taken for there to be a few out gay people. In the last 10 years, maybe. The last five, maybe.”

His embrace of his sexuality was also complicated by the fact that he desperately wanted to be a father. “It was something I was meant to do along with acting. However, it was a strange time,” he said. “Now gay people are having babies all over the place.”

Grey has since forgiven his mother, restored cordial relations with his ex-wife and is next focusing on his fifth book of photographs. The parts of his life that were volatile and complicated have gone.

“It seems to have all very much quieted down,” he said with a wry smile. 

Study: 53 percent of LGBT employees are closeted at work

About 53 percent of LGBT employees nationwide are closeted on the job, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest gay civil rights group.

HRC noted that consistent legal protections are not afforded to LGBT people state to state: There are no statewide laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 29 states and gender identity in 33 states.

“While LGBT-inclusive corporate policies are becoming the norm, the fact is that LGBT workers still face a national patchwork of legal protections, leaving many to hide who they are for fear of discrimination in the workplace and in their communities,” said Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s workplace equality program. “Even among those private sector employers with laudable, inclusive policies and practices, these are necessary but not wholly sufficient for creating a climate of inclusion. Employees are getting married without telling their coworkers for fear of losing social connections, or they’re not transitioning even though they know they need to for fear of losing their jobs. The inclusive policies coming from the boardroom have not fully made it into the everyday culture of the American workplace.”

To prepare the report, HRC surveyed more than 800 LGBT workers across the country, and also added a survey of non-LGBT workers.

The research showed that

• Fifty-three percent of LGBT employees hide who they are at work.

• More than 80 percent of non-LGBT workers report that conversations about social lives, relationships and dating come up weekly and often daily and 81 percent feel that LGBT people “should not have to hide who they are at work.” However, less than half would feel comfortable hearing an LGBT coworker talk about dating.

• One in four LGBT employees report hearing negative comments such as “that’s so gay” while at work.

• One-fifth of LGBT workers report looking for a job specifically because the environment wasn’t accepting of LGBT identities.

• Twenty-six percent of LGBT workers have stayed in a job because the environment was accepting.

“Employers must go beyond policies to a truly inclusive practice,” said Fidas. “By implementing training aimed at improving the day-to-day climate for LGBT employees, workplaces can make significant improvements in the lived experience of their employees, whether in the corner office or on the factory floor.”

Book delves into lives of gay Indiana steelworkers

Two women who worked at a local steel mill hid a secret from their co-workers — they lived together and were romantically involved.

But one sunk deeper into depression until her partner returned home one night to find her with a gun in her mouth.

She pulled the trigger.

The steelworker frantically tried to resuscitate her partner, but it was too late.

Though grief-stricken, she still had to show up for her shift the next day because no one at the mill knew they were a couple or even that they were lesbians, and she feared being exposed. She could not let on that anything was wrong.

That was one of the stories Indiana University Northwest English professor Anne Balay gathered while interviewing 40 gay steelworkers for her book, “Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Steelworkers,” which was recently published by the University of North Carolina Press.

The first-of-its-kind book was written for a wide readership, and has won praise. Author E. Patrick Johnson, who wrote “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South,” called it “a fascinating and insightful look into the lives of queer steel mill workers.”

Balay, who lives in the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary, Ind., had been a car mechanic before she became an English professor and knew what it was like being gay in a blue-collar and traditionally male workplace. When she started to teach in Gary eight years ago, she became fascinated by the steel mills — by how they hulked majestically like prehistoric dinosaurs and yet were mysterious. She wondered what it was like for gay and lesbian steelworkers who toiled inside.

She could not find any academic literature on the subject. She scoured local libraries and a Pittsburgh library with an extensive collection of research on the steel industry, but to no avail.

Since Balay could not find any book on the subject, she decided to write one herself.

Balay wanted to let people know that gay steelworkers exist and suffer harassment, ostracism and isolation despite progress made with gay rights. She also wanted to let gay steelworkers know they are not alone.

“We have a picture of what it’s like to be gay in America and often perceive gay people as affluent, as white architects who live in Boystown,” she told The Times. “But there’s a growing body of scholarship that shows what it is like to be gay wherever you are, in rural areas or elsewhere. Not everybody moves to the city. They might be attached to the area or their family might all live there. It’s hard not to go to a city where it’s easier for gay people to live, but they should be able to figure out who they are wherever they are.”

Clad in her auto mechanic jacket, Balay sought out subjects to interview in steelworker bars and gay bars throughout northwestern Indiana. The university required they sign consent forms even though she protected them with aliases and by avoiding any identifying details, such as race or which mill they worked at.

“It was hard. It’s not like they have rainbow stickers on their cars,” she said. “They were trying to be invisible. I was looking for people who were trying not to be found.”

The steelworkers were used to hiding their sexuality but wanted to be heard after years of silence, Balay said.

“I showed up to one steelworker’s home and he just hemmed and hawed, and asked me to tell him what he was supposed to say,” she said. “I asked him just to talk about what the job is like, and he talked about his life for eight hours. The thing about the steelworkers is that they’re storytellers. They live exciting and dangerous lives. It isn’t boring – there’s always something happening, always danger and excitement. Being gay isn’t boring. There’s love, excitement and fun.”

Steelworkers opened up about how they were alienated at work, and about how they had to be careful about what they said and watch what pronouns they used if they were asked about their weekends. They talked about how they were harassed, beaten up and sexually assaulted. They recounted how they would find their tires slashed or their lug nuts loosened.

The steelworkers told Balay about how they fended off abuse, such as a woman who swung around and knocked off her harasser’s hat with a pipe, telling him next time it would be his head. Another got up on a catwalk, lowered a noose around a man’s neck, pulled him up on his tiptoes and told him she would pull tighter if he ever bothered her again. He didn’t.

They talked about the stress of being guarded all the time at work and how hard it was on their partners.

“It’s a dangerous, stressful job,” she said. “The partner knows the risk, but wouldn’t get notified if anything happened because they’re not legally recognized. What would that feel like, if your partner just didn’t come home and no one called to tell you what happened?”

Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

FBI: Anti-gay New York pol used secret boyfriend to launder bribes

The FBI charges that an anti-gay, closeted New York state senator used his secret, live-in boyfriend to launder the bribes he received.carl_kruger--

Sen. Carl Kruger, D-Brooklyn, turned himself into the FBI on March 10, reported the New York Post under the headline “Bribe & Groom.” Kruger faces corruption charges for allegedly trading political favors for more than $1 million in bribes over a five-year period.

Kruger’s arrest was part of a sweeping pay-to-play investigation that has resulted in the arrest of eight men. His boyfriend, gynecologist Michael Turano, is charged with laundering Kruger’s bribes.

The Post reported: “Kruger’s constant companion, Turano, is accused of using bribe money he deposited in two shell companies for Kruger to pay the lease on a Bentley luxury sedan, credit-card bills and the mortgage on the garish, multimillion-dollar Mill Basin home where the two men for years have shacked up with Turano’s mom and brother, authorities and neighbors said.

“Sen. Kruger had a close and intimate relationship with the entire Turano family, which includes one of the defendants, Michael Turano, along with his mother and brother,’ U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters yesterday.

“A press release from Bharara’s office noted, ‘(Kruger) spent his free time with the Turanos, shared holidays with them, went shopping for them, and managed the affairs of their residence.’

“Kruger was closest with Michael Turano. The two men were in nearly daily contact, Kruger picked Turano up from work, and people even called Kruger’s cellphone in order to reach Turano,” Bharara noted. A source close to the investigation told The Post that Kruger – who voted against a state gay-marriage bill last year – was particularly ‘intimate’ with Michael Turano.”

Although Kruger lived at the Mill Basin mansion, his registered address was in his senate district in Brooklyn.

 

DiCaprio will not do drag in Hoover biopic

Leonardo DiCaprio will not dress in drag in his upcoming biopic about J. Edgar Hoover, reports Michael Musto on his Village Voice blog.

Hoover, a staunch conservative who served as the first head of the FBI, is widely believed to have been a closeted gay man who enjoyed dressing as a woman in private. Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for “MilK,” is scripting the film, which will be directed by Clint Eastwood.

Arnie Hammer, who starred in “The Social Network,” has reportedly been cast to play Hoover’s reputed lover Clyde Tolson. The two lifelong bachelors were inseparable, and Tolson was appointed to a high-level position at the FBI despite the thinness of his resume.

Tolson was also Hoover’s heir, and the two men are buried near each other.

Hoover is said to have hunted down and threatened anyone who made insinuations about his sexuality. At the same time, he spread false rumors that his political adversaries, including Adlai Stevenson, were gay.

Hoover had surveillance ordered on Eleanor Roosevelt, reportedly for purposes of blackmailing her for being a lesbian. He also wiretapped Martin Luther King Jr.’s hotel rooms to find evidence that he was a communist and had extramarital affairs.

There’s no word yet on when the film will be shot or released.