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

For the author of “Dracula”—sex was monstrous

A Victorian horror novelist with one hit — that one about vampires — Bram Stoker died in 1912. He was on track for obscurity.

It wasn’t readers who made him immortal, but moviegoers. A German art film based on Dracula was released in 1922. A phenomenon was born, and biographers went to find out who Stoker had been.

Bram Stoker c.1906 (public domain, colorized)

Abraham Stoker was born in 1847, in Dublin.

He’d been somehow sickly as a boy, but pushed himself to be an athletic young man. He married at age 31, and had one child.

To learn about him has been a tug-of-war with the blanks and silences. The first major break was in 1975, when Daniel Farson, a journalist who was Stoker’s grand-nephew, published a biography. It had facts the family hadn’t planned to share.

Did the famous Welsh poet have a secret?

His poetry is famous, like, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light”—but less is known about the poet.

If the average person knew one thing about Dylan Thomas, it was that Bob Dylan had gotten his ‘Dylan’ from him. To know two things, it’d be that Thomas was a womanizing alcoholic.

There wouldn’t be much talk of his ‘sexuality’—or if he was queer.

Is that because he wasn’t?

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

There’s details one doesn’t expect? As a boy he lisped. He was tiny, 5'6". His father didn’t much care for him.

In 1888, age 13, he was so excited to decorate his room at boarding school. “I am making my room very pretty & ‘chic’ with lots of silk ‘draperies’,” he writes his mother. “We want it to be the prettiest room in the house.”

He loved silk, especially for his underwear.

Winston Churchill (1864–1965) at age 21 (public domain; colorized)

The famous Prime Minister of England isn’t said to be ‘queer’ at all.

The pink silk underwear he wore throughout his life seems not to be mentioned in regular biographies, only in scholarly studies—like Barry Singer’s 2012 book Churchill Style: The Art of Being Winston Churchill.

Churchill’s wife, we learn, had written to a friend that her husband “was most extravagant about…

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. …


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