Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27

Closeted Gay Financier with Money to Burn

Homoerotic art was splashed liberally on the walls of his Manhattan townhouse. He had a penchant for handsome young men hired as servers for his catered parties and dinners. Before the guests arrived he would lure one of them into his Jacuzzi and give him a blow job – followed by a $100 tip – and then send him back out to work his party. Same deal with the houseboys, bodyguards and chauffeurs. He often gave blow jobs to his male employees at his magazine office, with the door wide open, so others would not suspect what was going on. His son Steve was in an office not thirty feet away. His secretary, seated near the open door, but out of sight of his desk, knew never to just walk in. She always called first. Smart gal.

His preference in gay porn was any video produced by Colt Studios. A reflection of this super-masculine and macho lifestyle was his penchant for motorcycles, especially Harleys. His other forms of private transportation were private yachts (see photo of Highlander V, below) and airplanes (his private Boeing 727 was named Capitalist Tool). He was one of the richest men in the world. His name was Malcolm Forbes.

His closeted gay life prevented him from mingling with prominent gays, but that didn’t keep him from picking up hot leather dudes and squiring them around NYC on the back of one of his Harleys.

Some described his lifestyle as “Medieval.” He was king, who married a queen to sire offspring, then went about having one promiscuous affair after the other. Only his affairs were always with men. No one ever recalled his talking about having sex with women.

Forbes and best pal Elizabeth Taylor, both looking glamorous in skirts.

Forbes was famous for making money, and he knew how to throw serious parties. He spent $2.5 million on his own 70th birthday party in Morocco; he chartered a Boeing 747, a DC-8 and a Concorde to fly in eight hundred of the world's rich and famous from New York and London. The guests included his friend and co-host Elizabeth Taylor, Gianni Agnelli, Robert Maxwell, Barbara Walters, Henry Kissinger, half a dozen US state governors, and the CEOs of scores of multinational corporations likely to advertise in his magazine. The party entertainment was on a grand scale, including 600 drummers, acrobats and dancers and a fantasia – a cavalry charge which ends with the firing of muskets into the air – by 300 Berber horsemen.

Malcolm Forbes bought this French chateau in Normandy in 1970. An early masterpiece by the architect Fran├žois Mansart, the pink and grey chateau was built in 1626 for Jean de Choisy, chancellor to the brother of French king Louis XIII.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 23

Gay Singer and Media Billionaire

He was a young singer who gladly accepted $500 to sing at high school proms, yet went on to become a media billionaire. In his youth he had a crush on Errol Flynn. For a year and a half his roommate was Montgomery Clift. He lived with Roddy McDowall at the Dakota on Central Park West. He dated Rock Hudson, who encouraged him to keep his homosexuality quiet. As well, he had liaisons with Tom Drake, James Dean, Peter Lawford, Robert Walker, Gordon Scott (Tarzan), not to mention Marlon Brando. He was a regular at Liberace’s all-male orgies.

He neither confirmed nor denied his homosexuality, but Eva Gabor, his long-time beard, provided enough cover that he had access to the Reagan White House (he was particularly close to Nancy, with whom he shared a birthday, July 6), and he was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of President Ronald Reagan in 2004.

As a teenager he was a church organist and piano prodigy, but at was his smooth singing voice that launched a career as an entertainer. During the 1960s he hosted his own TV talk show, usually crooning a song or two between guests. He created wildly popular TV game shows, such as Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. He wrote the theme music used on Jeopardy. He also owned casinos, hotels and resorts. He raised thoroughbred horses. He owned Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

But there was a dark side. Like most high profile gay men of his era, he married, but his severely closeted gay life produced a paranoia that kept his team of lawyers busy shooting down rumors and threatening those who spoke or wrote about his lurid gay life, which often included prostitutes. He was particularly threatened by openly gay men, more often than not firing his own employees who dared live openly and honestly gay lives. Two same-sex palimony and sexual harassment lawsuits in 1991 brought questions about his sexuality to national prominence. He dealt with them by beginning a high profile relationship with actress Eva Gabor, making sure photographs of them as a couple appeared everywhere. Nice try.

The man about whom I’m writing was Merv Griffin, of course. He died in 2007 at the age of 82.

Shown with beard-for-hire Eva Gabor in the early 1990s, at the height of the media frenzy over the same-sex palimony and sexual harassment lawsuits.