Edgar Hoover led a deeply repressed sexual life, living with his mother until he was 40, awkwardly rejecting the attention of women and pouring his emotional, and at times, physical attention on his handsome deputy at the FBI, according to the new movie, "J. Edgar," directed by Clint Eastwood.
Filmgoers never see the decades-long romance between the former FBI director, and his two, Clyde Tolson, consummated, but there's plenty of loving glances, hand-holding and one scene with an aggressive, long, deep kiss.
So was the most powerful man in America, who died in -- three years after the Stonewall riots marked the modern gay civil rights movement -- homosexual? I am agnostic about it. I don't really know and nobody really knew. In public, Hoover waged a vendetta against homosexuals and kept "confidential and secret" files on the sex lives of congressmen and presidents.
But privately, according to some biographers, he had numerous trysts with men, including a lifelong affair with Tolson. Dissociation -- denying homosexuality, but displaying sexual behavior -- is "not uncommon," according to Dr. Jack Dreschera New York City psychiatrist who is an expert in gender and sexuality.
Men with strong attractions to other men can have different degrees of acceptance from being fully closeted to being openly gay. And even if they are homosexually self-aware, they can embrace it or reject it publicly. Roy Cohn, the lawyer who served as chief counsel to Sen.
Joseph McCarthy in his anti-communist campaign of the s and who successfully convicted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg of espionage, denied he was gay, despite an attraction to men. Cohn, who died of AIDS inwas a contemporary of Hoover and according to one biography, the two attended sex parties together in New York in the s. Cohn was characterized in a scene from Tony Kuschner's play, "Angels in America," speaking to his doctor: " You think these are names that tell you who someone sleeps with, but they don't tell you that Hoover's degree of self-awareness may have been the same as Cohn's.
Despite his same-sex dalliances, he occasionally sought a "Mrs.
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Hoover" and even courted -- albeit uncomfortably -- actress Ginger Rogers' mother and actress Dorothy Lamour. Hoover's neuroses were likely rooted in childhood: He was ashamed of his mentally ill father and was dependent on his morally righteous mother, Annie, well into middle age. Until her death inHoover had no social life outside the office. In the film, Annie chastises her powerful son as he wilted before some of his FBI critics, telling him, "I'd rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son. In a biography by Richard Hack, "Puppetmaster," which was culled from the notes of Truman Capote, who had begun interviews on Hoover and Tolson's relationship, the author says Hoover was not gay, but suggests the man was vicariously turned on by the smut he collected on others.
One secret document was on the extracurricular activities of Capote himself, who was openly gay. Edgar Hoover," said there was no ambiguity about the FBI director's sexual proclivities.
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Summers collaborated with historians and conducted interviews for the book, including nieces and those who were young enough at the time to have known the man personally. With interest in the Eastwood film, publishers in the U. One medical expert told Summers that Hoover was "strongly predominant homosexual orientation" and another categorized him as a "bisexual with failed heterosexuality.
Hoover often suppressed his urges, but would break out in lapses that could have destroyed him -- alleged orgies in New York City hotels and affairs with teenage boys in a limousine, according to interviews conducted by Summers. Edgar Hoover, let go on occasion," he said.
One short scene in the film showed the FBI director in anguish over his mother's death, putting on her dress and be, Women want sex Edgard nod to Summers expose that Hoover had been a cross-dresser. The Washington Post recently dismissed that because of a discredited source, but Summers maintains he had two other independent sources from different periods in Hoover's life. Hoover often frequented New York City's Stork Club and one observer -- soap model Luisa Stuart, who was 18 or 19 at the time -- told Summers she saw Hoover holding hands with Tolson as they all rode in a limo uptown to the Cotton Club in And I remember asking Art [Arthur] about it in the car on the way home that night.
And he just said, 'Oh, come on. You know,' or something like that. And he told me they were queers or fairies the sort of terms they used in those days. Hoover promoted men inclined to homosexual indiscretions, including Tolson, who had barely 18 months experience with the FBI when he became Hoover's deputy. The pair used to make "saucy jokes" about some of the other agents, like Melvin Purvis, who was a hero for arresting John Dillinger, according to Summers.
Purvis's son shared his father's letter correspondence with Hoover, who teased the good-looking, blond-haired agent as "the Clark Gable of the FBI," even though he was heterosexual.
Many were intimate and one was highly charged with innuendo, as Hoover referred to himself as the "Chairman of the Moral Uplift Squad. Ethel Merman, who had known Hoover sinceknew his sexual orientation, according to Summers. In when the actress was asked to comment on Anita Bryant's anti-gay campaign, Merman told the reporter, "Some of my best friends are homosexual. Everybody knew about J. Edgar Hoover, but he was the best chief the FBI ever had. Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations, confirmed that Hoover and Tolson sat in boxes owned by and used exclusively by gay men at their racing haunt Del Mar in California.
Another FBI agent who had gone on fishing trips with Hoover and Tolson revealed that the director liked to "sunbathe all day in the nude. The author interviewed the widow of respected Washington, D. Marshall de G. Ruffin, who treated Hoover in after his general practitioner had been "puzzled by a strange malaise in his patient. Monteen Ruffin told Summers that Hoover was "very paranoid" about anyone finding out, and he eventually stopped seeing the psychiatrist.
She said her husband burned the evidence. I might stir a kettle of worms by making that statement, but everybody then understood that he was a homosexual, not just the doctors. As the movie depicts, after Hoover's death, his loyal secretary Helen Gandy destroys the "official and confidential" files. But when they arrived, someone had taken "drastic action," said Summers. Nothing but tables and chairs remained.
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Summers said he is often asked, but rarely answers the question about what he personally thought of Hoover as a human being. Psychiatrists have concluded that Hoover "no doubt" had a narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps because of his dependency on a forceful mother who had "great expectations for her son," he said.
However, Eastwood, who is a Republican, contends that J. Edgar Hoover was "probably good for the country," and whether he was homosexual or not makes no difference. You can love a person and whether it goes into the realm of being gay or not, is here nor there. A younger generation of gays was moved by the film precisely because it portrayed such an iconic figure's struggle with his sexuality. Still, he said, the film is a "tragic story that should hopefully teach society lessons about how dangerous sexual repression is.
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