Showing posts with label Hollywood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hollywood. Show all posts

February 23, 2020

In The Never Ending Hollywood Fantasy They Saved for Real A Gay Russian Teenager


This page is a posting of  BBC Edited and translated into American English by Adamfoxie blog
As a gay teenager in post-Soviet Russia, Wes Hurley breathed a sigh of relief when his mother married an American and they moved to the US - but he soon discovered his stepfather, James, was violently homophobic. This led to strained relations until James underwent an unexpected transformation.
Wes Hurley's earliest memory is of his drunk father hitting his mother. He was only four years old and too young to really understand what was going on, but sometimes he would daydream that he was watching a movie. He'd put his hands up into a square frame, imagining that through the lens he created with his fingers, his life was a movie. 
"My parents would be dancing and singing, and I'd imagine a fun, eccentric movie version of my life. Or they're fighting in a fun movie way. Not really fighting," Wes remembers. 
His parents soon separated, and he was brought up singlehandedly by his mother, Elena, a young prison doctor.

Wes and ElenaImage copyrightWES HURLEY 
Image captionWes and Elena

Elena was unconventional. She wasn't shy about voicing her anti-communist views, she was the only member of her family who wasn't anti-Semitic, and couldn't understand the virulent hatred people around her felt towards gay people. She always stood up for what she believed was right and made her opinions known. This rubbed off on her son as he grew up in the late 1980s in the port city of Vladivostok, on Russia's Pacific coast.
"It was a dark time, but it was a really exciting time for me too. Our country was broken. They were teaching us Communist propaganda, and I'd stand up and say, 'You're teaching us lies,'" Wes later recalled.
Nobody had seen the break-up of the Soviet Union coming, but in 1991, when Wes was 10, it began to unravel, collapsing for good at the end of December. 
"It was amazing," Wes says. "I remember we were at a neighbor's apartment. They had a color TV. Everybody was just glued to TV and radios because it was like a thriller. Nobody knew what was going on exactly. It was an exciting, inspiring, scary moment."
At first, things started to improve. There was more freedom, more food, and to Wes and Elena's delight, an influx of pirated American movies.  

Wes remembers the night he switched on the TV and Ghost appeared on the screen - a film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg, where the ghost of a murdered man stays on Earth, with the help of a psychic, to protect his girlfriend from danger. 
"It was unlike anything I'd seen before," Wes says. "Russian films were mostly depressing and dark at the time. We hadn't seen anything like that that was so fun and enjoyable and escapist. I was obsessed with Whoopi Goldberg."

Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg (right)Image copyrightALAMY
Image captionDemi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg (right) on the set of Ghost
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One of the movies that inspired Wes and Elena, even though he's embarrassed to admit it now, was Curly Sue - a "terrible movie" starring Jim Belushi, as a homeless man, Alisan Porter as a young girl he took under his wing when her mother died, and Kelly Lynch, a lawyer who gives them a temporary home. All were dubbed by a single actor, who sounded as though he was pinching his nose - perhaps to disguise his voice so he wouldn't get caught.
"It's kind of like a reverse Cinderella story," says Wes. "And I think it really spoke to us, because they go from being really poor to living in this luxury New York apartment and taking bubble baths and eating nice food, so it felt very 'I hope that happens to us.'
"It made us fall in love with the US we saw in the movies, for sure. Everything we saw was just so different from our reality. That's what started our dream of coming to the United States."
Of course, Wes and Elena knew that the movies were fictional, but the positive stories that they told became vitally important to them, giving them hope when they felt hopeless.

Wes and Elena in VladivostokImage copyrightWES HURLEY

Vladivostok had always been a "post-apocalyptic landscape of unfinished construction sites, decay, extreme poverty and violence" at least in Wes's lifetime. And after the fall of the Soviet Union, it became even more notorious as a haven for corruption and crime. Violent drug dealers and gang members were a perpetual danger for Wes on the city's streets and his school was barely any less violent.
It was in this forbidding environment that he came to the realization that he was gay. 
"At the time [being] gay was something sub-human, monstrous, exotic, something that 'doesn't really exist' in Russia. At the time I wasn't even sure if gay people were real or if they were made up monsters," Wes says.
He didn't mention it to Elena, who was already worried enough about him. But when he started skipping school, and even sometimes carrying a butcher's knife for protection, she took a decision to escape to the world they saw in the movies - by becoming a mail-order bride.

In the 1990s, an emerging industry of catalogues and dating services was developing to match women from countries like Russia with men from countries such as the US, Japan and Australia. 
Elena provided profile information and some photos, as you would on a dating website today, and paid a small fee to be matched with American men.
She corresponded with a few of them over the next couple of years, and eventually travelled to the US to meet a man about 15 years older than her, called James - a wonderfully "exotic" name to the teenage Wes (or Vasily as he was then).

Media captionWes's mother, Elena, explains why she became a mail-order bride in this clip from the film, Little Potato

When she came back, she was glowing and showed Wes a ring. Elena and James had got married, so she and Wes could finally go to America. It was like a dream coming true. They flew from Vladivostok, one side of the Pacific, to a new home in Seattle, on the other.
"Obviously there was so much to learn, and our English was very very bad, but we were so excited to become American and learn English that those were really fun challenges," Wes says. 
Going to a high school "where you don't think you're going to get murdered" was also a huge change.
Everything about their new life was different, from the food in the supermarket to the cleanliness of the city and people smiling at them on the street. But tension soon began brewing at home.
"James was a really conservative Christian fundamentalist. He was a Russian Orthodox convert, and he wanted a Russian Orthodox wife. My mum was technically Russian Orthodox, but she wasn't conservative or fundamentalist," Wes says.

James / Janis and Elena
Image captionJames and Elena

Elena's liberal beliefs were a surprise to James - and likewise James's conservatism was a challenge for Elena. James didn't understand how Elena could support legal abortion. He was opposed to gay rights, didn't believe in secular schools, hated the Clintons, and was appalled by Halloween - believing it to be Satanic holiday.
Wes remembers James as being very intense - often ranting and raving. He would be kind and caring one moment, the next he would fly into an awful rage. At times like this, he often hinted at the possibility of sending Elena and Wes back to Russia, because they weren't Christian or conservative enough for him. They both felt extremely vulnerable. 
At the same time, during their first year in the US, thanks to TV, movies, and discussions at school, Wes came to realize that he wasn't the only gay person in the world. At the age of 16, he came out to his mum.
"It was actually a funny conversation because I was brooding and moody all the time. And finally, I told her I was gay and she was like, 'What, that's it? Everybody's a little gay.'" Wes says.
"And I was like, 'No mum, what do you mean?' And she said, 'Sometimes I notice good-looking women.' And I was like, 'Do you want to have sex with them?' and she said 'No'. And I was like, 'No, I'm actually really super gay.' And she said, 'I don't care if you're super gay.' 
"I thought there would be more sadness or drama but she was so nonchalant about it. It was amazing."

Wes, Elena and James / JanisImage copyrightWES HURLEY
Image captionWes, Elena and James

They both knew, though, that if they revealed Wes's sexual orientation to James, he would definitely send them back to Russia - and this really bothered Wes.
"I was already kind of moody and angry, and now learning about gay rights, thanks to the internet, I was realizing how much gay people had been erased from history, and it made me so angry. I felt like James was pretty much the personification of this evil oppressive presence, so I really started to hate him," Wes says.
He would do everything that he could to avoid James while trying not to upset him. When he was 18, he moved out and got a job. And even then, he still hid his sexuality from James.

Elena's relationship with James remained difficult, but slowly things started to change.
One year James bought a pumpkin to carve and horror movies to watch for Halloween. He had always denounced Halloween as Satan's holiday, so this represented a shift. But James had a much bigger surprise in store.
One night Wes received a phone call from his mother, and she was crying. 
"Not sad crying, just cathartic crying," Wes says. "She told me she'd come home to find a strange woman sitting on her sofa, and after looking at the woman for a second, she recognized James."

JanisImage copyrightWES HURLEY

The woman on the sofa introduced herself to Elena as Janis. She explained she had struggled with her assigned gender her whole life. She had even converted to Russian Orthodoxy because she thought it would help. Marrying a Russian woman had been part of the same plan, even though Elena - "the least conservative woman in Russia", as Wes likes to call her - hadn't quite been the kind of person Janis had originally had in mind.
While Janis had, at first, been frustrated by Elena's open-mindedness, it had also helped her build up the courage to come out as a trans woman.
"I cannot say it was easy finding out that my husband was a woman. In some sense, he was the first real man in my life - the man I could count on. But it was not about me. Janis needed support and unconditional love," Elena says in Little Potato, an award-winning film that Wes has made about his experiences. 
Wes was absolutely blown away to learn about Janis. The discovery instantly turned a "really scary oppressive situation" into one that was "fun and exciting".
"I was dating my first boyfriend," Wes remembers, "and Janis was totally open and was hanging out with all these trans girlfriends she had. It was really special to see her blossom in the later years of her life."
Janis and her girlfriends did, however, become a new problem for Elena, principally because of their love for karaoke, which they asked her to film and take photographs of.
"There was karaoke night after night after night. That's when I decided it was time to divorce and move out," Elena says in Little Potato. "Transgender was fine with me but karaoke? Nobody wants karaoke every night."

A signed photograph from Janis to ElenaImage copyrightWES HURLEY
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Over the years, Janis also became a devotee of Wicca, a modern pagan religion. She remained in contact with Elena and Wes but they would only see each other occasionally.
"Years later, I would see Janis on Facebook or she'd come to my film screenings. We weren't close, but she was still an important person for me," Wes says.
"Janis was every bit as loony as James in many ways. Once she became Wiccan, she would tell me how she'd used spells to move Hurricane Katrina out of the way of her hometown. She was an anti-fluoride enthusiast and was searching for towns to live in that didn't have fluoride. 
"Talking to her was always awkward because I didn't know how to react to her crazy ideas, but part of me was proud of her, for just always doing whatever she wanted to do."

Wes HurleyImage copyrightLITTLE POTATO
Image captionWes Hurley in his film, Little Potato

In 2015, Wes received a message from Janis's daughter from a previous marriage to say that Janis, now 70, was fading away. So he and his mum went to visit her in the hospital.
"She wasn't responding because she was in a coma. So we told her how much we loved her and that she rescued us, and how grateful we were. We were there for a couple of hours talking to her, talking to each other and crying, thinking how much our lives had changed." 
Wes and Elena are still extremely close, talking several times a day on the phone.
Elena is living her American dream. One of her favorite movies is Frankie and Johnny, where Michelle Pfeiffer plays a waitress, Frankie, who resists the advances of a cook, played by Al Pacino, even though she's lonely. Elena would always say that if she could have Frankie's life she would be happy without Al Pacino - "just live in the States, have my own little apartment and job and I'd be happy."

Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino in Frankie and JohnnyImage copyrightALAMY

"And that's what she has now, and she's happy," says Wes.
Wes has brought their love of movies full-circle and become a film-maker. Little Potato even caught the attention of one of his biggest idols, Whoopi Goldberg, who told him she was touched by his story. He was left struggling to find the words to respond. "I was like, 'I'm so sorry I sound like an idiot, I just love you so much - you changed my life.'"
Wes Hurley has just finished shooting a feature-length version of his film, called Potato Dreams of America.  

Micah's birthdayImage copyrightRACHEL MASON

It wasn't the most obvious career choice for Karen and Barry Mason and not one they could talk about openly. Outwardly they were a respectable family, but for years the couple ran LA's best-known gay porn shop, and distributed adult material across the US.

July 12, 2019

Gay History Shows Hollywood Marrying Off Their Gay Stars Out of Fear They Might Not Make as Much $

During the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1920s, actors and actresses shot to fame—but only if they tailored their images to the demands of the big studios. For LGBT actors, that often meant marrying a person of the opposite sex.
The early 20th century represented a unique time for LGBT people in the country. Throughout the Roaring Twenties, men dressed as women and gender non-conformity and queerness weren't as taboo in big cities as they would be years later.
Queerness could be appreciated on stage but in the everyday lives of major stars it was often hidden in sham unions known as "lavender marriages," according to Stephen Tropiano, professor of Screen Studies at Ithaca College and author of The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV.
These marriages were arranged by Hollywood studios between one or more gay, lesbian or bisexual people in order to hide their sexual orientation from the public. They date back to the early 20th century and carried on past the gay liberation movement of the 1960s.
Lavender marriages were a solve in part for “moral clauses” issued by big studios at the time. The clauses, first introduced by Universal Film Company, permitted the company to discontinue actors' salaries "if they forfeit the respect of the public.” The kind of behavior deemed unacceptable ranged widely from criminal activity to association with any conduct that was considered indecent or startling to the community. The clauses exist to this day.
“We have to remember that a lot of these decisions that were being made, they were economic decisions,” says Tropiano. “It was about a person holding on to their career.” 
One of the earliest speculated lavender marriages was the 1919 union of silent film actor and early sex symbol Rudolph Valentino and actress Jean Acker, who was rumored to have been a lesbian. On the couple’s wedding night, Acker apparently quickly regretted the marriage and locked her new husband out of their hotel room, according to a November 8, 1991 The New York Times article. Soon after, they got divorced.

Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker
Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker, circa 1920s.
Valentino also married costume designer Natacha Rambova in 1923, at a time when his career was starting to take off and the roles he played were seen as less typically masculine, such as in the film “Monsieur Beaucaire” in 1924. His marriage to Rambova ended in 1925, which left some speculating that the marriages of the “pink powder puff” (a nickname Valentino acquired after playing effeminate roles on screen) were coverups to keep the sex symbol’s reputation intact
Identifying how many Hollywood couples tied the knot to cloak their sexuality is, of course problematic since it’s primarily based on speculation.
“I think the hardest thing for a historian is to kind of sift through what the rumor [is] and what is actually factual," says Tropiano.
One commonly cited source for speculation is the memoir of Scotty Bowers, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Bowers’ account details sexual encounters, gay and straight, that he claims he both arranged and took part in, beginning in 1946. Bowers wrote that he had been sexually involved with leading actor Cary Grant and his roommate, Randolph Scott, for more than a decade. At the time, Grant was cycling through five marriages with women. Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, has disputed the allegations, through her spokeswoman, saying in 2012 that her father as “very straight,” according to The New York Times.   Actor Cary Grant and his roommate, Randolph Scott, for more than a decade. At the time, Grant was cycling through five marriages with women. Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, has disputed the allegations, through her spokeswoman, saying in 2012 that her father as “very straight,” according to The New York Times.

Cary Grant and Randolph Scott
Actors Cary Grant and Randolph Scott lived together in the 1930s.

Grant died in 1986, and many of the subjects whose lives Bowers describes are also deceased. Some have questioned whether Bowers' accounts in the autobiography, and the corresponding 2017 documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, are accurate. But the self-proclaimed “fixer” includes details and photographs that he argues back up his claims. 
Among the most speculated lavender marriages was between the famed actor Rock Hudson and his secretary Phyllis Gates. They married in 1955 and separated two years later, after rumors of his homosexuality and infidelity began to pile up. 
Waves of rumors and speculation around Hudson’s affairs became so widespread that they even helped foster the growth of celebrity tabloid journalism. The publication Confidential became popular in the mid-1950s by featuring salacious celebrity news. The tabloid outed popular figures like Hudson before outing was even a thing. Despite the coverage, Hudson never addressed his sexual orientation publicly before he died of AIDS in 1985. 

 Image result for rock hudson phyllis gates
Rock Hudson and his bride Phyllis Gates at their 1955 wedding.

Even with the common—yet unspoken—knowledge that the two men were romantically involved, Haines’ popularity didn’t take a hit until years later. That’s when he was given an ultimatum, either get married to a woman or he would be dropped by MGM, according to Tropiano.

William Haines
William Haines, circa 1932.
“[Haines] had to make a choice between getting rid of his male partner and having a career,” says Tropiano. “And he actually chose the male partner.”
Haines then left the silver screen behind to create a successful interior design business with his partner. He’s now often considered one of Hollywood’s first openly gay stars.
Lavender marriages became less prevalent in the 1960s and ‘70s as the gay rights movement gained momentum following the Stonewall Riots of 1969
Although representation in film and on television was still scarce, the actual lives of the stars on screen—straight, gay or bisexual—weren’t dictated by studios as much as they had been in the past

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