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5 Gay Celebrities and Heroes We Lost in 2018

Bob Smith the first OUT gay comic on the Tonight Show.

Bob Smith the first out gay comic to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Smith’s humor was gentle but smart, even when navigating the subject of his sexuality during a time when mainstream audiences were not accustomed to hearing such material.

Smith was also the first gay comic to star in his own HBO Comedy half-hour special.

He also appeared in a number of other TV shows, and wrote a collection of essays titled Openly Bob, which won the Lambda Literary Award for humor.

Smith died died after a long battle with ALS, on Jan. 20 at his home in Manhattan. He was 59.

Timmy Matley – Overtones singer

The Overtones star Timmy Matley died on April 9, after falling from a balcony.

The surviving members of The Overtones said in a statement: “‘It is with the greatest sadness that we have to announce that our dear friend and brother Timmy has passed away.

“We know this news will be as heartbreaking for you all as it is for us… We appreciate your love and support at this difficult time.”

Timmy was one of three band members who identified as gay.

Hubert de Givenchy – Fashion Legend

Hubert de Givenchy, aged 91, died in his sleep at his home near Paris on March 10.

The famed French fashion designer dressed many iconic women including Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich.

With his perfect manners and old-school discipline, Givenchy had a distinguished presence that colored the fashion industry for over fifty years. A consummate collector with an impeccable eye for objects as well as the interior decoration of houses, he left behind a fashion house that defined the very notions of refinement and elegance.

Givenchy was among those designers who placed Paris firmly at the heart of world fashion post 1950 while creating a unique personality for his own fashion label. In both prestigious long dresses and daywear, Hubert de Givenchy brought together two rare qualities: to be innovative and timeless,”

Tab Hunter – Movie Star

Hollywood legend Tab Hunter died on July 6, aged 86.

Hunter rose to fame in the 1950s, was known for starring in movies such as Track of the Cat, Battle Cry, The Burning Hills, and Damn Yankees.

He later became one of the few gay celebrities from the era to open up about his sexuality.

After decades of silence, Hunter confirmed long-standing rumors about his homosexuality in his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, published in 2005.

In a 2015 column written for THR, Hunter said that Louella Parsons of the Los Angeles Examiner and Hedda Hopper of the Los Angeles Times “would never openly discuss my sexuality — they couldn’t in those days — but both periodically made subtle references to it in their columns, wondering when I was going to settle down with a nice girl and then, after the studio began pairing me with my dear friend Natalie Wood on faux dates, asking if I was ‘the sort of guy’ she wanted to end up with.”

“If I had come out during my acting career in the 1950s, I would not have had a career,” Hunter said in an October 2017 interview. “Not much in Hollywood has changed in 60 years. I really didn’t talk about my sexuality until I wrote my autobiography.

“My film career had long since been over by then. I believe one’s sexuality is one’s own business. I really don’t go around discussing it. Call me ‘old school’ on that topic.”

Dick Leitsch – Gay Activist and Hero

Gay rights pioneer Dick Leitsch (pictured above) passed away on June 22 after a battle with liver cancer.

Leitsch was head of the New York Chapter of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group that was active in the 1960s prior to the Stonewall riots.

Inspired by the civil rights movement, the Society sought a policy of non-discrimination in New York City, and held a number of protests at bars seeking the right to be served.

During the 1966 ‘Sip In’ protests, Leitsch and fellow activists activists attempted to challenge state policy that could see venues’ licenses revoked if they served gay people, who were deemed to be “disorderly.”

Leitsch’s Sip-In led to a growing acceptance of gays at bars in New York and across the country. Perhaps most significantly, the publicity resulted in a Mattachine lawsuit in New Jersey, where in 1967 the state Supreme Court ruled that “well-behaved homosexuals” could not be barred from a drink.

The Sip-In is a milestone moment of American gay history.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's well known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the 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 BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story, Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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1 thought on “5 Gay Celebrities and Heroes We Lost in 2018”

  1. Thanx, Will, for an excellent article on the openly-Gay, very talented and really nice actor Tab Hunter! Most people even from decades ago do not know or forget that Tab had a hit song! Tab would’ve approved of your A-1 remembrance!

    Happy & Gay New Year to U!

    Willson/S.V.A.

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