I look for where culture gets ‘queer’, where it goes off the rails. This is an effort to see how eroticism really plays out.

A genius inventor has to keep secrets

He said he “never touched a woman” and needed to be single for his work. “I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.”

Did Nikola Tesla have a sexuality? A 1981 biography, Tesla: Man Out of Time, by Margaret Cheney notes “the pressures upon him to marry were unrelenting” and there were “whispers that he was a homosexual.”

Tesla is typically written about by science writers, who seem uneager to explore his sexuality.

He remains in the mind’s eye a mysterious, future-thinking scientist who is vaguely…asexual?

I’m reading an 1891 newspaper profile of him.

“He is slender in body, nervous in his movements and intense in his application to the mysteries of electricity. His Greek face lights up and his black eyes gleam when he discourses on his favored theme.”

Interviewers beat around the bush. “Have you ever…

A 1960s rock legend keeps secrets

I’m looking into the sexual history of Jim Morrison, the rock singer of the late 1960s—which begins when he’s molested as a boy.

The 2001 biography Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend by Stephen Davis reports that Jim had mentioned the abuse to his lawyer, Max Fink—only revealing it was a man close to his family.

1961 yearbook photo, George Washington High School in Alexandria, Virginia (colorized)

Davis writes:

“When Jimmy tried to tell his mother, Fink claimed, she had gotten angry, called him a liar, and insisted such a thing never could have happened. Fink said that Jim began to cry as he told him the story, and claimed Jim had said that he could never forgive his mother for this.”

The Morrison family, Davis notes, denied it.

He wet the bed a lot…

A shocking sex accusation against the world’s most cited scholar — 37 years after he died

There were some odd features to the career of Michel Foucault, the scholar of sexuality. He’d argued that adult-child sex be legalized.

In the 1977 ‘French petition against age of consent laws’, he was a leader in arguing that children are able to consent, and to say—if they had sex—whether it had been rape. So why not legalize it?

As he says in an interview in 1978, “an age barrier laid down by law does not have much sense. Again, the child may be trusted to say whether or not he was subjected to violence.”

He’d spent two years in Tunisia, 1966 to 1968.

This was long a favored vacation spot for European men interested in much younger ones. …

The painter John Singer Sargent meets a magical man in a hotel elevator

Hotel Vendome, Boston, c.1904 (Library of Congress; colorized)

In 1916, famed painter John Singer Sergeant, age 60, came to Boston to do a series of murals for the city’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Staying at the luxurious Hotel Vendome, he met Tom, a 26-year-old who worked as a bellhop and ran the elevator. Sargent was the type to notice a handsome, muscular man. He hit Tom up to work as a model.

The murals at the museum were to include the gods and goddesses of the classical Greek pantheon. Tom would have to work nude.

And before long—he was posing as Apollo.

He’s a queer little rodent?

“I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I’ve ever known,” Walt Disney would say. It was the strangest romance in the world? A titan of industry, and his manic little mouse.

It’s not easy to locate the sexuality of Walt Disney. “I don’t think Walt was that much interested in the female sex,” a colleague says.

It’s not easy to locate Mickey’s sexuality either.

Walt Disney didn’t invent Mickey Mouse. We listen to him fabricate accounts.

He was a lowly cartoonist in Kansas City. “I kept several in a cage on my drawing board and enjoyed watching their antics,” he recalls in 1935. He grows fond of one. “Mortimer gave me the idea to start a series of cartoons with a mouse as the central character. I decided to call him Mickey Mouse.”

Other times he gets the idea on a train. “The…

The British Prime Minister wasn’t so fond of his wife

Stories would follow him around for years. In 1896, his abusive treatment of a peer led to a lawsuit in which a certain detail was mentioned. At age 21, the story went, while in the military, he’d done “acts of gross immorality of the Oscar Wilde type.”

The other guy was punished, but not Winston Churchill, who was an aristocrat. The lawsuit was settled out of court for £500.

Famously misogynist, he had one relationship with a woman—his wife. As the conservative politician in Britain, he was a force for decades, and served as Prime Minister from 1951 to 1955…

His comedy was legendary. But who was he?

We see actors perform him. Dustin Hoffman does in a movie, Lenny, in 1974. In the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the actor Luke Kirby is celebrated in the role. From the mid-1950s to August 3, 1966, the world saw Lenny Bruce playing it better than anyone. There he was in person, live—but did anyone know much about his reality?

I’ve been researching Lenny on and off for awhile, and I sure don’t. I can talk about his cultural influence. …

As a feminist and queer sex educator, the Holocaust heroine is still out ahead of us

Sometimes I think people are too primitive or sexually deranged to bother with—then I try to focus on the teachers who made a difference.

Like Anne Frank? It’s not widely known that she was one of the great sexual teachers of the 20th century. Really, she taught herself to be free. And then she taught the world.

Anne Frank in 1942 (public domain; colorized)

After the War that killed her, Anne’s diary sold 35 million copies. It was like a new message from God.

She was a bright spark, an angel, full of hope and encouragement. “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart,” she writes. Or: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Her message was multi-layered. One part was that adults have clearly messed up. “Aren’t the grownups…

Does the musical keep some secrets?

In 1965, the reviews were horrific. It’s “schmaltz,” they said. But the world fell in love with a strange nun with a boyish haircut.

What was the appeal of The Sound of Music? Even with the Rogers and Hammerstein soundtrack, it wasn’t expected to become the biggest movie in history. I’m thinking over the themes of gender. Is it a lesbian story?

It started out as a vehicle for Mary Martin

Little recalled now, she was the 1950s Broadway star who’d become a celebrity from roles ranging to Annie Oakley to Peter Pan. In 1954, her performance as Peter was broadcast on NBC and became one of the biggest events in T.V. history.

Her unusual talent, however, didn’t translate well to film. She was pretty, and charismatic, but not in a traditionally ‘feminine’…


Looking into the different.

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