Monday, November 28, 2011

Also in the New York Times!

This was another interesting piece that appeared in the New York Times. I saw the film J. Edgar and found it to be an interesting tale about a very complicated individual. It sensitized me to the life Hoover led...and that some now say included the fact that he, too, was gay. I also saw what a purely evil man he was. As I visit his grave at Congressional Cemetery from now on, it will give me pause.

J. Edgar Hoover, ‘Sex Deviates’ and My
In 1956, the tabloid magazine Confidential published a lurid exposé on Arthur H. Vandenberg Jr., the writer's godfather.
Published: November 25, 2011

A new film on J. Edgar Hoover is a reminder that his persecution of gay people destroyed thousands of lives and careers.

JUST before Christmas in 1952, J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the F.B.I., let President Dwight D. Eisenhower know that the man Eisenhower had appointed as secretary to the president, his friend and chief of staff, my godfather, Arthur H. Vandenberg Jr., was a homosexual. It was part of a pattern of persecution that would destroy thousands of lives and careers. Earlier that year, the American Psychiatric Association’s manual had classified homosexuality as a kind of madness, and Republican senators had charged that homosexuality in the Truman administration was a national security threat. Hoover — the subject of Clint
’s new film — was determined to stave off such threats.

A public Puritan with a compulsively bureaucratic and controlling personality, he built an intricate system of files on people of influence — personal and confidential, official and unofficial, and all full of dirt. The most damning were the voluminous “Sex Deviate” files on famous actors, syndicated columnists, senators, governors, business moguls and princes of the Roman Catholic Church, just to name a few.

There was one on Adlai E. Stevenson, the Democratic nominee for president, because some college basketball players being investigated by the F.B.I. for game-fixing claimed that Stevenson, one of “the two best-known homosexuals in the state,” was nicknamed “Adeline.” There was even a file on Eisenhower himself, recording rumors of an affair with Kay Summersby, his driver in Britain during the war.

One was devoted to my godfather because, while he had years of experience in politics and foreign affairs and working for his father, Arthur H. Vandenberg Sr. — a Republican senator from Michigan with a mistress and a file of his own — he also drank, and he wasn’t discreet. Apparently, the file held reports of some incidents with two enlisted men at Camp Lee, Va., in 1942, before he served with and became friends with my father. Worse, at the time Eisenhower appointed him to the White House, he was sharing an apartment in Washington with another man. This was not uncommon. But the other man had been arrested on some morals charge. That was enough for Ike, whom Hoover later described, to an aide to Richard M. Nixon, as “astounded.”

Arthur wasn’t a fighter. He folded. He checked into a hospital, complaining of stomach problems, and resigned the appointment for “health reasons” three months after Eisenhower’s inauguration. He was a pale, fleshy, thin-haired man — sort of like Hoover, actually. And he was a bachelor. Like Hoover. He had never had a girlfriend, or seriously dated women. Like Hoover, Arthur seemed to spend all his free time with men. Hoover, after all, had lived with his mother until she died in 1938, and by then, he was practically inseparable from the natty, lean, quiet Clyde Tolson, whom he had hired in 1928 and promoted meteorically, making him associate director, the No. 2 position in the F.B.I., in 1947.

J.Edgar and Clyde had separate offices and separate houses, but they had lunch together, dinner together, rode to work in Hoover’s car together, attended private dinners and receptions in Washington together, went to the horse races together, and vacationed in the same hotel suites together. By Hoover’s standards, if they hadn’t been the director and associate director of the F.B.I., they would have been in its Sex Deviate files together, because there sure was a lot of talk about them. Hoover sent agents to squash the talk and threaten the talkers wherever it occurred.

But at least they had each other. Eastwood’s film imagines a violent kiss between them, but my guess, as someone who loves men, is that they were never lovers. They weren’t built for it. They were too prim, too rigid, too Victorian. The only way Hoover could be comfortable in such a public relationship, I think, was because he knew it wasn’t sexual in private, whether he desired it to be or not. Hoover was too aware of the power of a secret. How could he permit anyone — even Clyde — to have something on him?

As far as I know, Arthur Jr. never had a full relationship, either. What he had was an F.B.I. file. He left Washington, moved to Coconut Grove, Fla., bought a house, drove a convertible, made extensive foreign policy visits to the Middle and Far East and Asia, and became a popular lecturer on American foreign policy at the University of Miami.

And Eisenhower had stayed in touch, including Arthur at a White House stag dinner, having him in again to talk about his conversations with foreign leaders and suggesting to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that they ought to find a place for him. Arthur seemed on the verge of resurrection. That ended in late 1956, when Confidential, a smut and scandal tabloid probably fed by the F.B.I., published a lurid exposé about him.

Arthur resigned from the university, and disconnected his phone. The couple of times my parents saw him in that period, he seemed unfocused, drinking too much, and restless to be out of their company. In 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson’s close friend and aide, Walter Jenkins, was arrested for performing oral sex in a men’s room, L.B.J. reminded reporters that the Republican, Eisenhower, had had a problem, too, and his name was Arthur Vandenberg.

It must have seemed as if it would never end. But then, on Jan. 18, 1968, Arthur died at the age of 60. My father was then editor of The Tampa Tribune, and friends at The Miami Herald told him that Arthur had killed himself. But there was no such public report, and when, years later, I asked an investigative reporter friend of mine in Miami to look for the coroner’s report or death certificate, he could find nothing. I had a feeling growing up — and later, as I realized I was gay, and came to terms with it in my 40s — that something must have happened to my godfather. He had disappeared from my childhood. The only memory I have is of him driving away, in a convertible. I was just 8 when Hoover outed him. I didn’t know what had broken the relationship. It wasn’t until the early ’90s, when I asked if my parents thought he had been gay, that they told me of his death, and of one night, in a Spanish restaurant in Tampa, when they were shocked to see Arthur emerge from behind the curtain of a private dining nook with a tipsy young airman. In all those years, they had never spoken of it, even to each other.

Two weeks after Arthur resigned in 1953, Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450, which mandated the firing of any federal employees guilty of “sexual perversion.” But apparently, he felt badly about Arthur. The Kameny Papers Project, an archival project named for Franklin E. Kameny, a major gay rights leader who died in October, has found a series of personal notes and letters from Ike and Mamie to Arthur, regretting that he wasn’t with them. “I feel very distressed about your health,” the president wrote in one. “I feel in some respects guilty.”

When Hoover died in May 1972, his personal secretary shredded a mass of his private files. In December 1973, the board of the American Psychiatric Association voted to rescind its 1952 decision to classify homosexuality as insanity.

They had been wrong, the directors of the association said. It had been a mistake.

Dudley Clendinen is a former national correspondent and editorial writer for The New York Times, and author of “A Place Called Canterbury.”

In the Pit With the New York Times


This weekend -- a bit dicey given the fact that this is the first major holiday I've had to celebrate without either of my parents -- fell into a bottomless pit when I read an article that appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 24. It hit kind of close to home....closer than I like for these things to fall....

I run it here for your perusal. How does it make you feel?

Keeping Marital Secrets Closeted
Published: November 24, 2011

THIS summer, soon after gay marriage became legal in New York, my sons held a wedding for my former husband and his partner of over 30 years. The grandchildren were flower girl and ring bearers. The wedding thrust me back to the time when we faced a terrible choice and decided to stay married for the children. That’s what motivated my then husband and me to carry on our incomplete marriage for its last nine years, and that’s how we explained our actions after the divorce. It was a convenient truth, and also a self-serving one.

The year was 1980. I was waiting for my husband of 15 years to return from the last party of a psychiatry convention. I could hear voices from down the hall, happy men enjoying their time together. When he came in, his face was grave. He sat down on the bed and said, “I have something I need to tell you.” He took a deep breath. “I’m homosexual.” At that moment I saw my future collapse before my eyes. I got the chills and ran to take a hot bath. It gave me time to think and warmed me, but not for long. We spent the night talking and lamenting. On the plane home, we held each other and sobbed and planned. By the time we landed, we had decided to keep his sexual orientation a secret and stay married for the sake of the children.

Of course we both wanted to protect our sons, who were 10 and 14. Divorce was not uncommon then, but the circumstances surrounding our relationship were controversial and would have created a scandal in our small university town, so staying married for the children helped us both feel better about ourselves and our lies. We thought they didn’t notice any change, and we were mistaken. Secrets have a way of seeping into the atmosphere. Kids are natural observers. They watch parents like hawks, and they know when something is wrong, even if they don’t know what. I desperately wanted the charade to work at home — we were doing this for the children. So covering for my husband on his two nights a week out, and his two vacations a year became second nature — he was a busy man with many meetings.

I paid a price for my silence with my closest friends, because a secret of this magnitude builds barriers. I just couldn’t bear to show them the spot I was in. And I was leery of advice. When I felt so alone, I could always remind myself what a good person I was being, sacrificing for the children.

The other reasons for staying married were not so charming. If I had thought, I’m staying for the money, I might have questioned the lies I told my sons about where their father was on the nights he spent with his future husband. Or if he had thought, I’m staying to promote my career as a psychoanalyst, he might have felt a little heavy on the ambition scale. Or if we both had realized that we were just too scared to face the world alone, I might have given up some of the pretending, and he might have realized the gravity of his original secret.

But never mind. We had an explanation that made people admire us when we finally went public. Other truths might have evoked pity or suspicion: what’s the matter with her radar? How could she accept a half a marriage instead of a whole one? Who is she, really? To say we stayed married for the children put an end to uncomfortable questions.

If I had faced the other reasons to stay in the marriage, the burden of our lies would probably have been harder to bear. But the burden on our sons might also have been lightened. It’s not so great for kids to be told they are the cause of their parents’ behavior, especially when that’s only part of the story. When they finally learned the truth, our sons were more disturbed by our deception than by the facts. Our reasons didn’t seem to matter anymore. Truth trumps lies every time.

The phrase “we stayed married for the children” is like a silk duvet on a complicated and imperfect marriage bed. Nobody really wants to turn back the covers, the unhappy spouses least of all.
The author of “Walking on Eggshells,” who is working on a book about family secrets.


Reading this article forced me to revisit my not-so-happy place of a few years ago. You see, back then I felt like it was all my fault and I believed that I had caused all my wife's problems and unhappiness. A few wives jumped on the bandwagon and made it seem like my disclosure to my wife had been one grand scheme of deception to, in my wife's vernacular, "make her life hell." I soon noticed that many wives in this situation turn the tables and make the disclosure become all about them. Although I will dare the fates to say that yes, they are involved...and to some degree collateral damage, but this is not all about them.

Now, before everyone circles the wagons, and hurls arrows at me please remember that I am speaking from my own experience and the experiences I have observed in some of my more close friends' lives.

The struggling gay guy did not set out and rub his hands together one day and say...."Gee, let's see what poor woman we can hoodwink into marrying us so that one day in the future I can, after having lots of mindless gay sex, come home to say, 'Honey, I think I'm queer!' Golly gee...I sure am sorry that it's gonna upset your apple cart and plans for a long and blissful life together."

No, I did not feel that way in the least. I did not use my wife in anyway to conceal the truth. I genuinely thought I could change...or that all that needed to happen was for someone to mash the magic reset button to launch me onto the road of wanton straightness.

I was mistaken and fell for what I had been told by my clergyman. That God hated fags....and that in order for Him to not hate me, I must marry and cast all this aside.

He never told me the mechanics of how that was supposed to work. Better yet, how I was supposed to deal with the biological urges the ebbed and flowed with my raging hormones on a daily basis.

I loved men.

Plain and simple.

I needed to be with one.

I still do.

But the way that gay life is constructed, I am finding that a lot of men have very unrealistic expectations of what that looks like. Generally speaking, it's about 6'2", young, blond, buff, and hung. It even helps to have just stepped off the set of a male porn movie.

In the real world, it does not work like that.

Gosh...I wish my guy would show up.....FINALLY.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What Is It?

Meanwhile, there is another man in the wings...

I actually think he could be "the one." I mean, I have some real deep feelings for him. He is the one guy that makes me think "marriage" again.

But there are some problems.

His name is Bob.

But that's not one of the problems.

First, he is a pastor of a very large affirming church here in the area. He is single and he is out....and everyone is cool with that.

I met him at a Gay Pride Event in 2010. I liked him as a friend...and we've talked a bit...and emailed....and all that. After about a year, I felt this little tug at my heart strings. So, rather than pine away like have done in the past, I decided to man up and just tell him how I felt. To my dismay, he thanked me but he just doesn't date people in his church.

I pointed out that I'm not in his church....and have no plans of joining his church....that I only came to visit a couple of times to hear him....and support him. He grew wistful...then alluded to how he met the love of his life at church....and since that relationship ended....that's probably why he has not found the caliber of relationship he's looking for because he's looked outside his faith.


But I took the hint....told him that I could love him from a distance....and that was that. I felt stupid...and told myself..."Well, that we certainly did a good job at wrecking that friendship."

Since that time a few interesting things have happened:

We have gone from having dinner every other month, to monthly, to weekly, to now several nights per week...we talk about everything under the sun....He used to email perhaps once a week....then that moved to texting once every few days to once per it is several times per day. We exchange texts all during the day. The last thing at night he tells me good night or to rest well or to have pleasant dreams.

We have gone from shaking shaking hands with a hug to outright fullbody bearhugs with a slight hold. When we part after dinner it has gone from a simple goodbye to a handshake and goodbye to a handshake with a hug cheek to hug and a kiss on the cheek that keeps migrating to my mouth.

We have a special place we go to along the river to sit and talk....and to pray together.

He came to my house for Thanksgiving....and brought me a small gift. He satayed for over 8 hours....and made himself totally at ease. We've planned a getaway following Christmas. He's given me various stuff...including a book of poetry that he likes.

Finally, the most interesting thing is whenever I am at his church...we are always very one knows about our friendship. I gave him a rainbow stole and journal for his birthday....and he goes on and on about that.....and at very special events...he has the stole on! At the conclusion of the service, the church has a theme song they like to close with. It's one that encourages holding the hand of your neighbor....before dismissal. Well, two times now, when the music for that theme song starts, he comes down of the stage and seeks me out. He will then hold my it several squeezes before breaking free and offering a closing prayer.

So, even though I am not sure what the destination is....I am certainly enjoying the journey with him.

But nothing physical.....nothing talked about.......our friendship has not been labeled. I am not forcing that issue. It just feels so good to be in his presence.

So we shall see.

I don't know what to call this that I have with him.

A Little Romance?

In traveling back and forth to WV I met someone.

He's about my age....he's cute....he's an only child. Never married...partnered several times.

He gave me flowers.

The first time I have been given flowers.

He gave me mom and daughter's favorites.

The second time he gave me roses in a deeply crimson vase.

It felt good to have someone make a fuss over me.

But for all that good just didn't seem right. After all he lives back there....and I live here.

He is jobless....and strikes me as somewhat of a low achiever.

I found myself feeling exceedingly drained when he was around me for a great period of time.

So it seems to have faded.

Like the fall leaves....


Hello everyone!

You have not been forgotten...I have just been incredibly busy trying to work on getting things settled on my parents' estate. Mother's probate finally closed....and the way dad had his affairs in order, I was not required to go through the probate stuff.

Still it has been so busy...I just can't begin to tell you about everything.

First and foremost, I have been working on the house -- my house. It is 111 years old...and appears to have been a Sears Craftsman house. Always before I just sort of took the place for granted...but now as I have had to plunder and pillage....and look at it with a critical eye, I must say it is a cute building.

So, I am in the process of making it a lot cuter.

This is because I have made some serious decisions. I plan to rent the place so that it gives me a new revenue stream. So to increase the curb appeal, I have had new windows installed (it immediately killed all the drafts)....and I am currently in the process of having new siding installed. This will change the color of the place....from basic WHITE aluminum 50yo siding, to pale yellow vinyl. It has a new green roof...and the yellow just sets it off.

While I was there, there was an electrical fire...which leads me to believe that the electrical system needs to be revamped or updated or something. I've painted the inside...and put in new rugs.....and updated the kitchen.

It turns out that Daddy had 5 weapons. I sold all of them this last trip. I am certainly not a fan of firearms. Supposedly there are handguns somewhere in the arsenal too that I have yet to come across.

I ventured into one of the two attics. Amazing stuff there. Went into the crawl space below the place....and there are all my old toys....still intact. Unbelievable.

Another the very top of the house is one that I have not yet gotten to climb into. Primarily because it looks like the opening is super tiny....and I'm a rather big man. I think the old 1960s era Christmas Decorations are there.

While cleaning Daddy's closet (home of the weapons), I came across 5 leisure pristine condition. The last time Dad wore them, he had them drycleaned...and so there they were, in the back of his plastic....just waiting to be discovered by "me."

Also found my highschool yearbooks.....and my highschool jacket. While there, I met up with about 20 of my old classmates....and they loved the stuff I found....and they posed in the jacket for our Facebook page!

For all the positives....the one abiding negative is that my parents are gone. In the words of someone famous...."they belong to the ages"...and I miss them. It hurts like hell....and there is nothing I can do to change that.

On my last day there, I went to the cemetery to pay my respects...and to decorate the gravesite for Christmas. If you have a loved one that has left, do yourself a favor...and take it from me: do not go to the cemetery on an early, gray, rainy, foggy morning. It plays with your mind.

I got there and cleaned the monument off and got rid of the fall decorations. I had picked up some nifty decorates at Wal-mart.... and proceeded to decorate -- me....with my little baseball hat and jacket -- the one lone person in this cold desolate cemetery in the middle of no where. I had nothing with me but my memories of how things used to be.....and the sound of the downpour I was enveloped in. I hurried and made my adjustments....put in fake poinsettias into the flower vases....with the fake holly and the fake berries. On each bench over the niche where my parents are, I fastened fake festive holiday packages...that shimmered red and gold in the drizzle.

I stood back to admire my work....

I stood there.

I did not move.

For the longest time...

My eyes flooded over.

I the cold pouring rain.

Every fiber of my being was doused with the cold autumn rain.

Finally I moved.

I got in my car. Cold to the bone.

I drove back to my house in WV -- a good 30 minutes away.

It took me even longer to drive to my home in Alexandria, VA.

I made it there at 2am.