Gay History Month – October 17th: Montgomery Clift, Pope Paul III, Liberace and The Advocate (When It Was Good)

Montgomery Clift

Did you know that on October 17 th……….

1535:  Pope Paul III wrote a letter to his son, Duke Pier Luigi Farnese, on this day that scolded him for “having male lovers with him on an official mission to the court of the Emperor.” This LGBT history app cites the book Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History as the source. Though the culture of the Catholic Church may slowly be changing, historically the religious faith hasn’t been the most tolerant of LGBT individuals.

1920: Actor Montgomery Clift is born in Omaha Nebraska. Clift often played outsiders and “victim-heroes” examples include the social climber in George Stevens’s A Place in the Sun, the anguished Catholic priest in Hitchcock’s I Confess, the doomed regular soldier Robert E. Lee Prewitt in Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity, and the Jewish GI bullied by antisemites in Edward Dmytryk’s The Young Lions.

After a disfiguring car crash in 1956, Clift became addicted to alcohol and prescription drug abuse, and became erratic. Nevertheless, he continued his acting career, playing such parts as “the reckless, alcoholic, mother-fixated rodeo performer” in John Huston’s The Misfits, the title role in Huston’s Freud.

In 1961, with the scars still visible from the 1956 car crash, Clift gave a stunning portrayal of Rudolph Peterson, an emotionally unstable and physically tortured concentration camp victim in the Stanley Kramer film Judgment at Nuremberg,” earning Clift a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.  Clift was gay and his sexuality was carefully guarded from fans but few in Hollywood did not know about it.

Montgomery Clift died of a heart attack brought on by “occlusive coronary artery disease” at the age of 46.

Following a 15-minute ceremony at St. James’ Church attended by 150 guests, including Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Walker, Clift was buried in the Friends [Quaker] Cemetery ,Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York City.  Elizabeth Taylor, who was in Paris and was a close friend of Monty’s sent flowers, as did Roddy McDowall, Myrna Loy and Lew Wasserman.

1980: The first Black Lesbian Conference took place in San Francisco, California. A development stemming from the first National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference held in Washington, D.C., the previous year, over 200 women were in attendance. One of the conference goals was reportedly to address the wide spectrum of needs for black lesbians and “to provide the courage and strength necessary to make those needs felt in places where it becomes necessary.” Angela Davis gave the conference’s keynote address.

1995: The Advocate published a ground-breaking interview with Barney Frank, Steve Gunderson and Gerry Studds — the three openly gay members of congress at that time. Barney Frank has consistently remained one of the most outspoken and influential gay politicians to this date. That was when of course the Advocate was a legitimate news source.

1998: The National Gay and Lesbian Law Association appointed Melinda Whiteway as co-chair of the organization, making her the first openly transgender person to hold the position. This is reportedly the only queer law association to be affiliated with the American Bar Association.

 2010: The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas closed after 31 years.

The Liberace Museum closed “indefinitely, but not forever” according to Liberace Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Jeffrey Koep. The closure was announced due to economic downturn and a decline in the number of visitors. The museum’s board of directors is continuing to seek a new home for the museum on Las Vegas strip, but the efforts have thus far been unsuccessful.

On the day of the closing, Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Doug Elfman noted that several overly enthusiastic fans attempted to remove some of the small mirrors decorating Liberace’s Rolls-Royce, and another tried to steal a hood ornament from a car on display.

Lee the old girl would not have been happy.

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. Ray says:

    Montgomery Clift…wow, those eyes. What a sexy man…

  2. There was no John Paul III. Check this name again. The Pope in 1535 was Gregory XIV.

What do you think?