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PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2015 6:49 am 
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'Turkey's Liberace': gay icon celebrated at Istanbul show
By Dilay Gundogan
January 4, 2015

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A picture of the late Zeki Muren at the "Here I am, Zeki Muren" exhibition on December 20, 2014, in Istanbul (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

Istanbul (AFP) - Touted as the "Turkish Liberace", late singer Zeki Muren adored women's clothes, outrageous makeup and was held up as a gay icon -- an unlikely hero for modern-day Turkey.

Yet a new show on his life is pulling in record crowds in Istanbul.

Muren bucked all trends in a country known for its conservatism. He was considered a national treasure by the time of his death in 1996, as dear to the hearts of Turks as Frank Sinatra was to Americans. He neither confirmed nor denied suggestions he was gay, yet became a hero for the country's homosexuals. Oddly, this never dented his popularity even in Turkey's often homophobic society.

A consummate entertainer, Muren was a beloved movie star as well as a prolific songwriter and eccentric vocalist, a master of sentimental "Turkish art music," which has its origins in the court music of the Ottoman Empire. This -- and his extravagant clothing, baubles and oversized rings -- earned him the nickname "Turkish Liberace" after the flamboyant US entertainer who died in 1987.

Entitled "Here I am, Zeki Muren" after one of his big hits, the Istanbul exhibition offers a rare look at his extraordinary life. Dozens of photos -- from early childhood to flashy stage shows, films, world travels and nights out with stars -- along with letters and shimmering artifacts pay hommage to his legacy.

Part of our DNA

In its first 40 days, the show drew a record of 42,000 visitors to the Yapi Kredi Culture Centre in the city's cosmopolitan Beyoglu district, the most for any exhibition held at the site. Many said this was a sign that Istanbul cultural life remains vibrant, despite complaints that non-Islamic arts are being squeezed out under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "He's just a part of our DNA," Veysel Ugurlu, one of the curators, told AFP. "Everyone has heard a Muren song. Visitors say, 'This is an exhibition about my life'."

Muren, who never married nor had children, donated all his possessions to the Turkish Educational Foundation and the Turkish Armed Forces prior to his death. Ugurlu said the material filled 15 trucks and took organisers six months to sort out -- dresses, shoes, letters, records, handwritten lyrics -- in chronological order to capture the nostalgia. One room has letters from Muren's mother Hayriye, addressed to "my one and only, darling son". "You are the world's sweetest fruit," a missive reads.

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Costumes worn by the late Zeki Muren on display in the "Here I am, Zeki Muren" exhibition on December 20, 2014 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

In another, she compares Muren to "a wingless angel brought to this earth from the moon by the Apollo 11 spaceflight". Other rooms show his sky-high platform boots, sequined jumpsuit, bejewelled capes and boldly patterned mini-skirts, most of them designed by Muren himself. Known as the first Turkish man to wear a skirt on stage, the star gave affectionate names to his outfits, like "Moon Prince", "Purple Nights" or "Hero's Dream". "As you know, the gravity on the Moon is low. This makes it difficult for astronauts to walk on the moon. That's why I'm wearing these boots," he once said.

OK to be different

One of the biggest draws in the show is a hand-written recipe for a special "Muren Cocktail" of lemon, vodka and cognac, invented by the singer for "long and cold winter nights". "But don't drink to much," Muren warned. "One glass is enough to make you forget about all your troubles and bring you the sweetest of sweet dreams."

After a life in front of cameras, Muren even died on stage, suffering a heart attack in 1996 at age 65 while recording a show for TRT national television in the western city of Izmir. The channel had just given him the microphone he had used in his first radio broadcast in 1951. Overcome with emotion, the singer collapsed a few minutes later. His death plunged Turkey into mourning. "He was a groundbreaker. He taught us it's OK to be different, to think differently, to express yourself differently," Ugurlu said. "He will remain forever in our memory."

The show, already extended twice, is now set to run until January 15.



Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 3:33 pm 
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British actor Stephen Fry marries boyfriend
January 17, 2015

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Elliott Spencer and Stephen Fry

London (AFP) - British actor Stephen Fry announced on Saturday that he married his boyfriend, posting the couple's photo on Twitter to his nearly 8.5 million followers and saying: "Amazing."

The 57-year-old, who made his name in cult television shows "Blackadder" as well as "Jeeves and Wooster", wed 27-year-old Elliot Spencer in a register office.

Fry, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing gay writer Oscar Wilde in the 1997 movie "Wilde", also used Twitter earlier this month to confirm his engagement. In his message on Saturday, he wrote: "Gosh. @ElliotGSpencer and I go into a room as two people, sign a book and leave as one. Amazing."

A photograph of the couple showed Fry in a grey suit with a multicoloured tie and Spencer in a black suit with a blue tie, both with matching flowers in their buttonholes. The Twitter message gave no other details, but the pair had registered their intention to marry in Dereham in Norfolk, eastern England, near where Fry grew up.

Fry, who currently hosts the BBC panel show "QI", gave his occupation as "actor" and Spencer was listed as a "writer" in official documents. Confirming media reports of his engagement on January 6, Fry said: "I'm very, very happy of course but had hoped for a private wedding. Fat chance!"

Same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales in March last year, and Scotland followed suit in December.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 5:18 am 
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Elton John urges Dolce and Gabanna boycott after duo's IVF remarks
15 March 2015

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Elton John and David Furnish - © Daniel Deme, EPA

London (dpa) - Elton John called for a boycott of the famous Italian fashion house Dolce and Gabbana after the designers called children conceived through in-vitro fertilization "synthetic" and said they were opposed to gay adoptions.

The legendary British singer and his husband, David Furnish, have two children born to the same surrogate mother. "How dare you refer to my beautiful children as 'synthetic,'" Elton John posted on Instagram on Sunday. "Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again," he continued, adding the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana.

The row began after Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who are both gay and once were a couple, told the Italian magazine Panorama that IVF babies are "synthetic" and rejected surrogate mothers as "rented wombs." The fashion duo went on to say they were opposed to gay couples adopting and that they only believed in traditional families. "I'm gay, I cannot have children. I guess you can't have everything in life," Dolce said. "Life has a natural course, there are things that can not be changed - and one of them is the family."

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Source: dpa.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 5:36 am 
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Elton John: boycott Dolce & Gabbana over 'synthetic' IVF babies comment
Sunday, 15 March 2015

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Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, have two children through IVF. Photograph: PA

Elton John has called for a boycott of fashion brand Dolce and Gabbana after he said the designers labelled children born through IVF “synthetic”.

The singer and songwriter, 67, who has two children with his husband, David Furnish, angrily rebuked the Italian designers for criticising same-sex families and the use of fertility treatment.

Business partners Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who were once a couple, have previously voiced their rejection of same-sex marriage, but in an interview with an Italian magazine this weekend they extended their objection to include same-sex families.

In an Instagram post on Sunday morning, John said: “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic’. And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana.”

The Czech-American former tennis star Martina Navratilova, who married her girlfriend in December, tweeted in support: “Wow – I had no idea. It will be interesting to see if this ridiculousness hurts them in the bank. BoycottDolceGabbana.”

Singer Ricky Martin, the father of twins born by a surrogate mother, called on the pair to "wake up" in a message on Twitter, admonishing the designers that their voices were too powerful to spread hate.

Courtney Love tweeted that she wanted to burn all her D&G clothes.

Stefano Gabbana, responding on his Instagram account Monday morning, called the boycott "craziness" and an example of intolerance. "It's as if I'd boycott Elton John because he had two children with in vitro!! I'm not an idiot!!!" Gabbana wrote on his Instagram page.

In an interview in 2006, Gabbana revealed that he had approached a woman to be the mother of his baby but made it clear that he struggled with the idea of a same-sex family. “I am opposed to the idea of a child growing up with two gay parents,” he said. “A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.”

Source: Press Association via Guardian UK.

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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 11:59 am 
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Graham Chapman

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Graham Arthur Chapman (8 January 1941 – 4 October 1989) was an English comedian, writer, actor, and one of the six members of the surreal comedy group Monty Python.

In 1959, Chapman began to study medicine at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, Chapman joined the Footlights, where he first began writing with John Cleese. Following graduation, Chapman joined the Footlights show "Cambridge Circus" and toured New Zealand, deferring his medical studies for a year. As part of the tour, he began his writing partnership with future Python Cleese. Following the tour, he continued his studies at St Bartholomew's Medical College, but became torn between whether to pursue a career in medicine or acting.[12] His brother John later said, "He wasn't ever driven to go into medicine ... it wasn't his life's ambition."

Chapman and Cleese wrote professionally for the BBC during the 1960s, initially for David Frost, but also for Marty Feldman. Frost had recruited Cleese, and in turn Cleese decided he needed Chapman as a sounding board. During this time, he completed his studies at St Bartholomew's, and became professionally registered as a doctor. Chapman and Cleese also wrote for the long-running television comedy series Doctor in the House. Chapman also co-wrote several episodes with Bernard McKenna and David Sherlock.

In 1969, Chapman and Cleese joined the other Pythons including Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin for their sketch comedy show Flying Circus. In David Morgan's book Monty Python Speaks, Cleese asserted that Chapman, although officially his co-writer for many of their sketches, contributed comparatively little in the way of direct writing. Rather, the other Pythons have said that Chapman's biggest contribution in the writing room was an intuition as to what was funny. Cleese said in an interview that one of Chapman's great attributes was "his weird takes on things". In writing sessions Chapman "would lob in an idea or a line from out of left field into the engine room, but he could never be the engine", Cleese said. In the Dead Parrot sketch, written mostly by Cleese, the frustrated customer was initially trying to return a faulty toaster to a shop. Chapman asked "How can we make this madder?", and then came up with the idea that returning a dead Norwegian Blue parrot to a pet shop might make for a more interesting subject than returning a toaster.
In Monty Python Live at Aspen, Cleese said that the original idea came from a man Palin bought a car from, who had endless excuses for everything that went wrong with it. Cleese said that he and Chapman believed that "there was something very funny there, if we could find the right context for it".

Nicknamed "the late Graham Chapman" by his fellow Pythons (due to his constant tardiness), Chapman enjoyed pipe-smoking, mountaineering and rugby. Chapman was once invited to address the Oxford-Cambridge Union; he arrived dressed as a carrot. When Chapman was called up to speak, he proceeded to smile and say nothing at all (much to the amusement of his audience) resulting in "the only time in history a silent man has incited a riot."

Chapman played the lead roles in both of the Pythons' two feature films Holy Grail and Life of Brian. Cleese complimented Chapman by saying that he was "very possibly the best actor of all of us". In the late 1970s, Chapman moved to Los Angeles, where he guest-starred on many television shows including Hollywood Squares, Still Crazy like a Fox, and The Big Show. Upon his return to Britain, Chapman became involved with the Dangerous Sports Club (an extreme sports club which introduced bungee jumping to a wide audience). Chapman and Douglas Adams wrote a pilot for a TV series in 1975, Out of the Trees, but it never went beyond the initial episode. In 1978, Chapman co-wrote (with Bernard McKenna) and starred in The Odd Job alongside David Jason who had previously appeared on Do Not Adjust Your Set with Idle, Jones, and Palin. The film was only moderately successful. Chapman's memoir, A Liar's Autobiography, was published in 1980 and, unusually for a work of this type, had five authors: Chapman, his partner David Sherlock, Alex Martin, David Yallop and Douglas Adams.

Although writing had begun in the late 1970s, Chapman was finally able to secure funding for his much cherished pirate project Yellowbeard in 1982. Once again, Chapman collaborated with writer Bernard McKenna and for the first time with Peter Cook. The film, which starred Chapman as the eponymous pirate, also featured appearances from Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Cleese, Idle, Spike Milligan, and Cheech & Chong. It marks the last appearance of Feldman, who suffered a fatal heart attack during shooting. It was released in 1983 to mixed reviews. In a 2001 interview, Cleese described Yellowbeard as "one of the six worst films made in the history of the world". Eric Idle also later dismissed the film although he remembered his participation fondly.

Chapman kept his sexuality a secret until 1967, although he did allude to it in some Monty Python sketches. He disclosed his homosexuality on a chat show hosted by British jazz musician George Melly, becoming one of the first celebrities to do so publicly. Several days later, he also disclosed it to a group of friends at a party held at his home in Belsize Park, where he officially introduced them to his partner, David Sherlock, whom he had met in Ibiza in 1966.

Chapman later told a story in his college tour that when he went public, a member of the television audience wrote to the Pythons to complain that she had heard a member of the team was gay, adding that the Bible said any man who lies with a man should be taken out and stoned. With other Pythons already aware of his sexual orientation, Idle replied, "We've found out who it was and we've taken him out and had him killed." In his book Graham Crackers, Chapman said that this took place just before Cleese left the show, and he wondered what the woman thought about his disappearance after getting Idle's response.

Chapman was a vocal spokesman for gay rights, and in 1972 he lent his support to the fledgling newspaper Gay News, which publicly acknowledged his financial and editorial support by listing him as one of its "special friends". In 1971, Chapman and Sherlock adopted John Tomiczek as their son. Chapman met Tomiczek when the adolescent was a run-away from Liverpool. After discussions with Tomiczek's father, it was agreed that Chapman would become Tomiczek's legal guardian, and Tomiczek later became Chapman's business manager.

Chapman died on October 4, 1989 from complications of metastatic tonsil cancer and secondary spinal cancer. Those present at the time of Chapman's death in Maidstone Hospital included his partner David Sherlock, brother, sister-in-law, and the other Pythons Cleese and Palin, who had to be led out of the room to deal with their grief. Jones and Peter Cook had visited earlier that day. Chapman's death occurred on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus, and Jones called it "the worst case of party-pooping in all history". It was reported that Chapman's last words were: "Sorry for saying fuck", to a nurse who accidentally stuck a needle in his arm moments before he died.

The five surviving Python members had decided to stay away from Chapman's private funeral to prevent it from becoming a media circus and to give his family some privacy. They sent a wreath in the shape of the famous Python foot with the message: "To Graham from the other Pythons. Stop us if we're getting too silly". A private memorial service for Chapman was held at St. Bartholomew's Hospital two months after his death, with a chorus of the "Chinese" (Engrish) version of the hymn "Jerusalem" ("… Bling me my speal, oh crowds unford, bling me my chaliot of file…"). Cleese delivered his eulogy to Chapman, which began as follows:

Graham Chapman, co-author of the "Parrot Sketch", is no more. He has ceased to be. Bereft of life, he rests in peace. He's kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky. And I guess that we're all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, of such capability for kindness, of such unusual intelligence, should now so suddenly be spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he'd achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he'd had enough fun. Well, I feel that I should say: nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries. And the reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn't, if I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him, but mindless good taste. …

Cleese continued after a break from the laughter in the audience and claimed that Chapman had whispered in his ear the night before while he was writing the speech, saying:

"All right, Cleese, you say you're very proud of being the first person to ever say 'shit' on British television. If this service is really for me, just for starters, I want you to be the first person ever at a British memorial service to say 'fuck'!".

In the years since Chapman's death, despite the existence of the "Graham Chapman Archive", only a few of his projects have been released. One of these projects is a play entitled O Happy Day, brought to life in 2000 by Dad's Garage Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia. Cleese and Palin assisted the theatre company in adapting the play.

n June 2011, it was announced that most of the surviving Python members (everyone except Idle) will perform in a 3-D animated version of Chapman's memoir A Liar’s Autobiography: Volume VI. The film, titled A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman has a running time of 85 minutes. It was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012 and premiered in the UK on 16 October 2012 as part of the BFI London Film Festival. The voices of Cleese, Gilliam, Jones, and Palin were spliced into commentary recorded by Chapman reading from his memoir and taped shortly before his death and the story of Graham Chapman's life is told in 17 different animation styles by 14 different animation studios. The film's official trailer claims that Graham Chapman said, "This is the best film I've been in since I died."

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 3:55 pm 
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In September 1981, Bobbi Campbell became the 16th person in San Francisco to be diagnosed with Kaposi's sarcoma. He was the first to come out publicly as a person living with the then unnamed disease. He became known as the "KS Poster Boy" or the AIDS Poster Boy.

32 years ago Bobbi Campbell and his partner Bobby Hilliard became the AIDS cover story of Newsweek magazine (on August 8, 1983). This was the first time in U.S. history that two gay men appeared embracing on the cover of a national mainstream magazine.

Campbell wrote a column for the San Francisco Sentinel from January 1982 describing his experiences. Campbell, who was also a registered nurse, joined the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the time of the health crisis in early 1982; in his "sister" persona as Sister Florence Nightmare, he co-authored the first San Francisco safer-sex manual, "Play Fair!", written in plain sex-positive language, offering practical advice and adding an element of humor.

In 1983, Campbell and Dan Turner, who had been diagnosed in February 1982, founded the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement or PWA Movement.

On July 15th 1984, Bobbi gave a speech at the National March for Lesbian and Gay rights at the Democratic National Convention which is embedded below.

phpBB [video]


Bobbi Campbell died of AIDS complications on August 15, 1984, just one month after making the DNC speech.

Bobbi Campbell was one of the most important HIV/AIDS activists of his time ... He is a true hero of the LGBT community.

The name "Bobbi Campbell" and the names of several other key figures of the time were featured in the 2007-08 American Mock Trial Association National Case Problem. The fictional case was used by over 300 colleges and universities throughout the United States and was dedicated to the social and scientific pioneers in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Bobbi Campbell (January 28, 1952 – August 15, 1984)


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2015 4:21 pm 
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Rob Halford Discusses Sexuality Publicly For The First Time
2 May 1998

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Former Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford is back with a new band, a new album, and a new openness about rumors and speculation that have long surrounded him.

“I think that most people know that I’ve been a gay man all of my life, and that it’s only been in recent times that it’s an issue that I feel comfortable to address, and an issue that has been with me ever since recognizing my own sexuality” [400k Audio], Halford told MTV News recently, addressing the subject publicly for the first time.

“It’s something that I’ve been comfortable with forever, something that I feel has a moment, and this is the moment to discuss it and to go into the reasons, and the whys and the wherefores as to the statement, the so-called coming out phase.”

Halford reaches this phase just as his career is taking yet another turn. The singer, who helped to shape the face and sound of heavy metal during the 70s and 80s with Judas Priest,
will soon release the fruits of his latest endeavor, the group Two. As we reported earlier this week, Two will release its first album, “Voyeurs,” on Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records next month (the album even boasts an executive producing credit for Reznor).

“A lot of homophobia still exists in the music world, in all kinds of music,” Halford said. “I wouldn’t say it’s any more phobic in metal or rap or whatever this music is that I’m doing now, but that¹s just something that I think we all have to address in our own lives. If we have a problem with it, I think we should seek help and find out why we do have a problem with it” [300k Audio].

In openly discussing his sexuality now, Halford said that he hopes he’s helping others to do the same.

“I think it’s difficult for everybody, you know, in making the decision to come forward and be who you are, based on peer pressure, especially if you’re a teenager,” Halford said. “That’s where a lot of the anxiety begins, and so maybe people like myself and others that do step in front of a camera and let the world know, maybe it’s of some help, where there’s an individual that’s been successful, that’s been able to achieve dreams and visions and goals in life and not let the issue of sexuality be something to hold them back, so I think it’s an important thing”.

Source: MTV.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2015 4:27 pm 
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Jean Marais

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photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1947

Born Jean-Alfred Villain-Marais
11 December 1913
Cherbourg, France
Died 8 November 1998 (aged 84)
Cannes, France
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1933 - 1996
Spouse(s) Mila Parély (1942-1944)
Partner(s) Jean Cocteau (1937-1963; his death)

Jean-Alfred Villain-Marais, also known as Jean Marais (French pronunciation: ​[ʒɑ̃ maʁɛ]; 11 December 1913 – 8 November 1998), was a French actor, director and sculptor.

Life and career

A native of Cherbourg, France, Marais was a son of Alfred Emmanuel Victor Paul Villain-Marais and his wife, the former Aline Marie Louise Vassord.

Marais starred in several movies directed by Jean Cocteau, for a time his lover and a lifelong friend, most famously Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Orphée (1949). Marais played over 100 roles in film and on television, and also was known for work in other areas of artistic expression, such as writing, painting and sculpture.

In the 1950s, Marais became a star of swashbuckling pictures, enjoying great box office popularity in France. He performed his own stunts. In the 1960s, he played both the famed villain and the hero of the Fantômas trilogy. In 1963, he was a member of the jury at the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival.

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"Le passe muraille" (The Walker Through Walls), a sculpture by Jean Marais

After 1970, Marais's on-screen performances became few and far between, as he preferred concentrating on his stage work. He kept performing on stage until his eighties, also working as a sculptor. His sculpture "Le passe muraille" (The Walker Through Walls) can be seen in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris.

In 1985, he was the head of the jury at the 35th Berlin International Film Festival. He was featured in the 1995 documentary "Screening at the Majestic", which is included on the 2003 DVD release of the restored print of Beauty and the Beast.[5] Marais appears on the cover sleeve of The Smiths single This Charming Man.

Personal life

Though he was engaged during World War II to the actress Mila Parély, the couple split after around two years.

Marais, who was gay, was the muse and lover of Jean Cocteau until Cocteau's death.[7] After Cocteau's death, Marais wrote a memoir of Cocteau, L'Inconcevable Jean Cocteau, attributing authorship to "Cocteau-Marais". He also wrote his own autobiography, L'Histoire de ma vie, published in 1975. From 1953 until 1959, his companion was the American dancer George Reich.

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Marais died from cardiovascular disease in Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes, in 1998. He is interred there at Vallauris cemetery.

In the early 1960s, Marais learned that he had a biological son, Serge Ayala, whom he recognized in 1962 and who eventually took the name Serge Villain-Marais. This son, who became a singer and an actor, committed suicide in 2012 at age 69.

Source: Wikipedia.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2015 6:52 pm 
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Searching for Vadim Kozin, the Soviet tango king
By Monica Whitlock
26 December 2015

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Vadim Kozin was one of the most famous singers in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, but in 1944 he disappeared - banished to Siberia.

Half a century later the British singer, Marc Almond, heard some surviving recordings and became a devoted fan. Together, he and I set out to discover the story of Kozin's long and strange life.

Marc Almond knew nothing of Kozin when he first encountered his music during a concert tour of Russia in 1992. "I had no idea about Russia, or the Soviet Union then," he says. "We went to Siberia and Omsk and Novosibirsk. It was winter and I played in these freezing places with paint peeling off the walls, a ropey piano and one overhead lightbulb. But the audiences were just wonderful. People would come up after the show and give me what they had - a jar of jam or a bunch of flowers, or a cassette. It was magical - it opened up a new world to me."

On one of these cassettes he heard crackly recordings of Vadim Kozin's pure, distinctive tenor.

Kozin sang tango and romance - what we might call torch songs. He made his name as a stage performer but the coming of recorded music spread his fame through radio and gramophone to a vast audience and wove his songs into the cultural fabric of the USSR.

Born in St Petersburg in 1903, Kozin came from a merchant family that went out of business during the Russian revolution. His mother, Vera, was a singer of gypsy origin and Kozin became the family breadwinner at about 19, when his father died. He got a job as a cinema pianist and began to compose his own gypsy-style ballads.

We know that Kozin began to keep a journal around 1929 although almost all of it is missing, and there are very few clues left to these early years. We did find some photographs, however, in a family album. They show Kozin at the centre of a jazz line-up headed by Leonid and Boris Zhukov in the 1920s. The photos give us a glimpse of the exciting musical world that flourished before the ascent of Stalin. Society was more relaxed than it would soon become and Kozin, it seems, lived openly and legally as a homosexual man - something that remained possible until male homosexuality became a crime in 1934.

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Music and words of Vadim Kozin

With his light, intimate singing style, Kozin was so sought-after by the mid-1930s that mounted policemen held back the crowds from the concert halls. The new Soviet recording companies spotted him as a rising star. The labels on these early shellac discs show Kozin singing with some of the most original musicians of the time - like Boris Krupeshev and his Hawaiian slide-guitar orchestra. In 1937, Kozin took a chance and headed for the capital, Moscow.

He was an instant success.

"My grandmother went to hear Kozin in 1938, she was lucky to get tickets," recalls record collector Mikhail Kunitzen. "He sang at the Metropol hotel - a very stylish venue. Afterwards they drank coffee together and Kozin sent grandmother some records as a gift. I still have them."

Mikhail digs among his hundreds of shellac discs, and winds his gramophone to play us Kozin's playful love song, Masha, still warm and bright 75 years later.

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When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, popular singers got behind the war effort. They travelled vast distances to starving cities and went right to the battle front. Kozin sang the much-loved classic, The Blue Scarf, and composed a cycle of songs about Leningrad, where two-and-a-half million people were trapped under a bitter siege from 1941. His mother and sisters were still in the city.

Kozin was now so famous that, like the celebrated singer Alexander Vertinsky, he moved into the Metropol hotel to live. He was probably staying at this glamorous address when he heard that his mother and little sister had starved to death in Leningrad. "Last night I saw my sick mother in my dreams," Kozin would write later. "I feel so sorry for her. A life of suffering, a horrible death. I will never forgive myself that I didn't get them out. Forgive me, my dear mother… Nadia and my little dog Mosechka."

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Again and again he would return to their deaths in the few pages of the diary that survive.

The secret police, the NKVD, came for Kozin just months before the end of the war. "Anybody could be arrested for anything at that time," says Sergei Lukashevsky, director of the Sakharov Centre in Moscow. "You could be a minister or a farmer, anybody at all. The court took about 15 minutes to convict you. There was no hearing or proper records."

It is impossible to know how many men were arrested for homosexuality at this time. The records that do remain are open only to a former convict's descendants, meaning that the files on an unmarried person often remain closed.

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Listen to Marc Almond on the trail of Vadim Kozin, on the BBC World Service, on 27 December. You can check transmission times or listen online here.

It seems likely that Kozin was charged with homosexuality and anti-Soviet activity, and sentenced to eight years in the prison city of Magadan, in eastern Siberia, part of an immense region called Kolyma, most of which lies inside the Arctic Circle. Kozin's records were pulled. His photographs disappeared from the shops, his voice from the radio. He simply ceased to exist as a public person. "Grandmother thought he was dead," recalls Mikhail Kunitzen. "Everyone thought so. He just vanished."

At this point in our search for traces of Kozin, Marc and I had a stroke of luck - an old friend of Kozin's, Boris Savchenko, agreed to meet us. Savchenko is from Siberia and he first met Kozin there in the 1960s. It is Boris who owns the surviving volumes of Kozin's diary. "He arrived on the steamer in 1945," said Boris. "They'd march the prisoners off, five by five, with guard dogs standing by."

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But when Kozin arrived, Alexandra Gridasova, the wife of the general in charge of Kolyma, was there to meet him. "She drove Kozin off in her car, and put him in his own cabin and that saved him," says Savchenko. As Stalin's labour camps were supposed to reform prisoners, camp commanders were encouraged to stage improving musical shows and plays. Rival camp leaders would even compete for the best entertainers. But Alexandra Gridasova had better connections than any of them, and gathered a constellation of stars to entertain the upper ranks of the camp administration.

Purges of musicians after the war, when jazz and other light music fell out of favour, meant that many pre-eminent popular musicians ended up in the Magadan theatre, including the celebrated trumpet player Adi Rosner, sometimes referred to as the "white Louis Armstrong".

Kozin's sentence expired in about 1953, the year of Stalin's death. He was forbidden to live again in European Russia, like thousands of ex-convicts, and moved instead into his own one-room apartment in Magadan. He stayed with the theatre troupe, touring immense distances from the Arctic, to the edges of China to the Volga. He sang his greatest hits from the old days for prisoners and guards, herdsmen and miners in railway towns, in factories, and camps.

Kozin was free, but not free.

The surviving volumes of his diary document his hundreds of concerts in 1955 and 1956.

14 July 1955

    They say sing. Sing where we tell you to sing. You can sing here, but not there. To which I say - go and [get lost]... Rulers come and go. I will not grovel in front of them and belittle myself. I am not guilty of anything.


Kozin's diary is a rare guidebook to the Soviet hinterland in the 1950s. It is filled with trenchant criticism of the political system.

12 September 1955

    Kemerovo. What a desolate place. Water is in short supply though the river Tom runs nearby. There are shortages of bread! Butter appears very rarely. Big queues form whenever basic foods appear. It's the same in many Siberian cities…There's no doubt that the Soviet Union produces enough food, but the people are not getting it.


When the secret police - by now called the KGB - found and read the diary, Kozin was re-arrested.

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Kozin's 1956 diary

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On 8 October 1956 Kozin lists BBC radio broadcasts from London, and summarises a report from Belgrade

"It was this second arrest that was the point of no return, I think," said Boris Savchenko. "Before that, he believed he might one day return to Moscow or Leningrad - but then he just stopped. He said, Magadan is where I live now and where I'll die."

Kozin remained hidden in Siberia, through the Cold War, through the Brezhnev era. When the Soviet army rolled into Afghanistan in 1979 he was still there. Then, as the Soviet Union began to heave and split in the 1980s, Kozin suddenly became visible again. Celebrities beat a path to Magadan to meet him, sing with him and have their photograph taken with the frail little old pensioner, a scrawny figure in huge boots and an old sweater stuck with safety pins. He had become the last man standing among a generation of persecuted musicians.

In 1993, the Magadan authorities prepared a magnificent 90th birthday party for Kozin, a grand six-hour concert at the theatre, complete with celebrities flown in from Moscow and St Petersburg on specially chartered aeroplanes. Choirs sang and officials prepared to present birthday gifts to a throne set up on stage.

Kozin had sung on thousands of stages in every corner of the country, under every Soviet government for three generations. He'd sung as rising star, celebrity, prisoner, and pensioner. But this time he decided not to come. He preferred to stay at home, having a little drink with friends, uncompromising to the end.

In the same year, Russia decriminalised homosexuality. Kozin died not long afterwards, at the end of 1994. Born before the Soviet Union, he had witnessed its every permutation and finally outlived it.

Source: BBC.

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'Yep, I'm Gay': Happy 20th out anniversary, Ellen DeGeneres
By LEANNE ITALIE
April 27, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) -- With a headline of "Yep, I'm Gay" on the cover of Time magazine and the same declaration on her sitcom, Ellen DeGeneres made history 20 years ago as the first prime-time lead on network TV to come out, capturing the hearts of supporters gay and straight amid a swirl of hate mail, death threats and, ultimately, dark times on and off the screen.

The code-named "The Puppy Episode" of "Ellen" that aired April 30, 1997, was more than just a hit. It was one of those huge cultural "where were you" moments for anybody remotely interested in TV, or the advancement of LGBTQ people working in TV, or who were itching to come out of their closets at home at a still-perilous time.

Variety summed it up this way: "Climaxing a season of swelling anticipation, Ellen Morgan (the bookstore-managing alter ego of Ellen DeGeneres) finally acknowledges her lesbianism tonight in an 'Ellen' hour that represents television's most-hyped coming out since Little Ricky came out of Lucy 44 years ago."

The hype was real, fed by DeGeneres' personal desire to end her secret-keeping at age 38 and to bring her TV character along for the ride. The off-screen act came first in Time by slightly more than two weeks, but "Puppy" was months in the making under lock and key, something that failed to matter when the script leaked and the world then waited.

Why risk it all? Because DeGeneres, one of America's sweethearts then and now, was done with the lying and the hiding. "It became more important to me than my career," she said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. "I suddenly said, 'Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society's eyes?'"

The hate was also real. There was pulpit-pounding from conservatives, including full-page newspaper ads (the late Rev. Jerry Falwell called her "Ellen DeGenerate"). There was nasty mail all around, including some for guest star Oprah Winfrey suggesting that she "go back to Africa." After "Puppy" wrapped, cast, crew and live audience were hustled out of the Burbank, California, studio because of a bomb threat.

Winfrey, who played Ellen's therapist, told the AP she had no clue that "I would get the worst hate mail of my career." She praised DeGeneres for having the courage to produce a "seminal moment for anybody who was hiding behind anything."

The episode was watched by an estimated 44 million viewers. It won an Emmy for writing, a Peabody as a landmark in broadcasting and numerous other accolades. The attention coincided with a new and very public relationship for DeGeneres with her girlfriend at the time, Anne Heche, herself new to the out life.

The following season, DeGeneres' fifth, was the last. It was a failure in terms of ratings. The network took to slapping "adult content" warnings on the show, something DeGeneres knew nothing about ahead of time. The season was bashed by some as unfunny and "too gay," as was the out-and-proud DeGeneres herself as she lived life big with Heche offscreen. Sponsors fled and the show was canceled.

DeGeneres went into a "hole," a deep depression, where she stayed without work for more than three years. Laura Dern, among the guest stars on "Puppy" and happy to be included, didn't work for a year after she played the out love interest to whom Ellen Morgan finally came out. (Both Dern and Winfrey join DeGeneres on Friday on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to mark the anniversary).

Ellen Garcia in San Pedro, California, is a gay, 47-year-old office administrator for a mental health nonprofit. She was 27 and out to just close friends and co-workers when she watched. "How you feel about yourself, and how you feel about how society views you, plays a huge factor and that's why this show was so significant, because it brought all those things out," she said. "It made me feel normal."

So what made it the right time for DeGeneres? Well, nothing, she said. "There was every indication that I should not do it. My publicist at the time said, 'Don't do it.' The studio, the network, everyone said (it)," she recalled. "I said, 'You know, look, you may lose a show but you have thousands of other shows revolving through this door that come to you and you'll have another show. This is my career. If I'm willing to lose my career for this, you have to let me do this.'"

The doing wasn't easy. The first draft of "Puppy" was rejected by the show's Disney point person. It took forever for script approval, with "Puppy" finally hitting air as the fourth season's third-to-last show, a full hour as opposed to the usual half-hour. DeGeneres had thrown a bash at her California house for cast members and writers months earlier, at the top of the fourth, declaring then that she wanted to come out, but nobody was sure how it would all play out. "I remember these walks from our offices to the Disney offices to see the big guys," recalled Dava Savel, one of the executive producers and writers. "We walked with her and it was kind of like the Bataan Death March. We were like, 'Ohhh, here we go.' I remember Ellen crying on the way back when Disney finally gave her the OK."

History was made. Friends gathered around TVs. The gay rights advocacy group GLAAD organized watch parties after an ABC affiliate in Alabama declined to air "Puppy."

DeGeneres herself made a spectacular comeback, eventually, now the host of her own daytime talk show and still America's sweetheart at age 59. (President Barack Obama awarded her the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, last year.) Numerous gay leads followed on TV, yet advocates hope for still more diversity and accuracy in story and character development.

None of that mattered the night of April 30, 1997. Eric Marcus, creator and host of the podcast "Making Gay History" and author of a 2002 collection of oral history of the same name, put it this way: "For everyday people, Ellen made gay OK."

Associated Press television writers Lynn Elber in Los Angeles and Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this report.
Source: AP

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Gay Lebanese film-maker explores 'hidden places,' taboos
By Basma Elmahdy
22 August 2017

Rising Lebanese film-maker Selim Mourad addresses one of the Arab world's biggest taboos in his latest film: homosexuality.

Berlin (dpa) - "This Little Father Obsession," a documentary by 29-year-old gay film-maker Selim Mourad, brought to a close Berlin's first Arab independent film festival this weekend.

The 103-minute film, banned in his native Lebanon, has received accolades from prominent film festivals in the Arab world. It was screened in Berlin in the presence of Mourad, who wrote, directed and stars in the film, along with his parents. The documentary follows the demolition of an inherited home and traces old family secrets, all tied up with Mourad's obsession about not having a child of his own. dpa caught up with him after the showing.

dpa: What led you to make movies?

Mourad: I grew up loving storytelling and going to the cinema on a regular basis with my father, who was passionate about movies and acting. I used to be a top student at school, expected to be a doctor or engineer. But all of a sudden, my life was turned upside down as a result of figuring out my homosexuality, being different. Afterwards, I started my journey of self discovery which led me to recognize my passion for cinema as a profession.

dpa: Why did you tackle your sexual identity in a documentary?

Mourad: It is a 10-year-old promise to myself that I finally fulfilled. The script was developed from my diary as a teenager who couldn't share his thoughts about being gay. At that time, as I was hiding all these questions about having a family, raising kids, homosexuality, I promised myself that I would reveal my inner conflicts and tell those stories one day. By screening this film, I hope that gay youngsters will feel less conflicted.

dpa: What about choosing your parents as the main characters?

Mourad: The storyline stretched from a teenager revealing his homosexuality to ontological questions about family, death and reality in Beirut between 2013 and 2015. Later, my parents became the main characters of the story when I decided to use a dispute over the demolition of an inherited family house to embody visually my concerns about not being capable of extending our family line.

dpa: How did you introduce the project to them?

Mourad: My father knew about the theme of the documentary but I did not reveal the interview questions until we started to shoot the film. However, he didn't like the movie when he watched it recently. My mother didn't express her opinion.

dpa: At both the Cairo international film festival and the Carthage Cinema Days festival, the film was labelled as 18+. Did that affect your target audience?

Mourad: I don't think that the audience of film festivals is kids or teenagers; they are adults. There is no offensive content. Despite the nude scene of intimate moments between me and my love [referring to his now former partner], no sexual organs are shown on screen. I don't care if the defenders of public morals consider intimacy between two men to be offensive. The bourgeoisie is annoyed about swear words used by my father, but I see it as a way of expressing anger.

dpa: Sex is a taboo subject in the Arab world. Do you challenge it on purpose?

Mourad: The answer to this question could be 'Yes' and 'No.' On the one hand, I am not so stupid that I would stalk taboos just in order to break them. On the other hand, I am eager to dig into human nature and reveal untold stories. Therefore, the camera must shed light on these hidden places.

dpa: Did you try to screen the film in Lebanon?

Mourad: We were aware of Lebanese anti-homosexuality laws that could lead to my imprisonment, so we haven't screened the film in the theatres. Instead, there have been private screenings.

dpa: Do you anticipate any changes for the gay community in Lebanon and their acceptance in society?

Mourad: I am optimistic. The [anti-homosexuality] law that dates back to the French colonial period has not been frequently enforced since Lebanese LGBT rights groups worked on suspending it. However, such a fundamental change [social acceptance] will not take place soon in the light of serious threats from Daesh [Islamic State] as well as more urgent issues in the Arab world like the war in Syria.

dpa: How did you feel when you received Carthage's Special Jury Award?

Mourad: I was delighted at receiving such recognition. I always look forward to the feedback from the audience and critics since I don't make films only for my own pleasure.

dpa: Do you face any obstacles from Lebanese film-makers in connection with your sexuality?

Mourad: The Lebanese film-makers' community is quite open-minded, and accepts a variety of human natures. I am not the only one who has an alternative sexual identity.

dpa: Will your next film tackle homosexuality?

Mourad: I am interested in the conflict between sex and religion. In other words, lust and law from an anthropological perspective. I am co-writing a long-format fictional film which will touch on this conflict. However, it does not address homosexuality.

Source: dpa

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Spacey under fire over teen 'sexual advance' claim
by Jennie MATTHEW
October 30, 2017

NEW YORK (AFP) - Coming out as gay, Kevin Spacey sparked a furious backlash Monday over accusations, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, that he made sexual advances on a 14-year-old boy more than 30 years ago.

The 58-year-old stage and cinema actor, double Oscar winner and most recently star of the American version of "House of Cards" has been widely considered one of the finest actors of his generation with a glittering stable of career credits. But on Monday he came under a torrent of fire on social media over claims from fellow actor Anthony Rapp that he tried to molest him at a party 31 years ago while Rapp was a teenager, and was accused of trying to deflect the story by finally confirming what has been an open secret in Hollywood for years -- that he is gay.

Rapp, 46, told Buzzfeed that in 1986, while both he and Spacey were performing on Broadway, Spacey invited the then 14-year-old to a party at his New York home. Spacey would have been 26 at the time. Rapp said he was in Spacey's bedroom watching TV when Spacey, "kind of swaying" and apparently drunk, came in after all the other guests had left, picked him up, put him on the bed and lay on top of him. "He was trying to seduce me," Rapp told Buzzfeed. "I don't know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually."

Rapp said he squirmed away after a brief period of time and went into the bathroom. Shortly after, he left Spacey's apartment and went home.

Spacey responded within hours, posting on his Twitter account at midnight East Coast time that he was "beyond horrified" by Rapp's account. He claimed he did not remember the encounter but that "if I did behave... as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior."

He went on to say that Rapp's accusation "encouraged me to address other things about my life." "I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior."

The online backlash was swift from celebrities, commentators and members of the LGBT community. "Bye bye, Spacey goodbye, it's your turn to cry, that's why we've gotta say goodbye," tweeted Rose McGowan, one of the first actresses to accuse disgraced Hollywood producer Weinstein of rape.

"No no no no no! You do not get to 'choose' to hide under the rainbow!" said comedian and actress Wanda Sykes, who came out as lesbian in 2008. "Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out," said comedian, actor and television host Billy Eichner, calling his statement "truly disgusting, irresponsible and dangerous."

The lawyer, editor and activist Glenn Greenwald, best known for his reporting on US surveillance and whistleblower Edward Snowden, was also critical. "Kevin Spacey has immense wealth (and) fame, and yet never came out as a gay man until he needed a distraction from this story - (and) sympathy," said Greenwald, who is gay.

"Nope to Kevin Spacey's statement. Nope. There's no amount of drunk or closeted that excuses or explains away assaulting a 14-year-old child," tweeted advice columnist and LGBT activist Dan Savage.

Rapp, who is best known for being part of the original cast of hit Broadway musical "Rent," stressed that at the time a young teen going alone to a party at an adult actor's home was not considered a cause for concern. "It was a different era," he said, adding that he felt compelled to speak out after a recent deluge of accusations against Weinstein sparked an examination of abuses committed by powerful men in the entertainment industry. Accusing Spacey was "not to simply air a grievance," he said, "but to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent."

Since early October nearly 60 women, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, have accused Weinstein of misconduct including rape, sexual abuse and harassment. He denies non-consensual sex but his career is in tatters.

Source: AFP

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Ellen Page marries New York dance teacher Emma Portner
January 3, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ellen Page is now a married woman.

The 30-year-old star of "Juno," ''Inception" and the recent remake of "Flatliners" wed Emma Portner, who teaches contemporary jazz at the Broadway Dance Center in New York. Page first posted the news Wednesday on Instagram in a photo of the couple's hands showing off wedding bands on their ring fingers. Her publicist later confirmed the union. In addition to teaching dance, Portner has choreographed for Justin Bieber.

Source: AP

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Royal family's first gay wedding: The extraordinary story of the Queen's cousin Lord Ivar Mountbatten and the 'gorgeous beast' he's set to marry, as he is given away by his very understanding ex-wife
By Rebecca Hardy
16 June 2018

Lord Ivar Mountbatten, son of the 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven and cousin to the Queen, is in a reflective mood. He picks up a photograph taken 24 years ago on the day of his wedding to his former wife Penny, the mother of their three daughters. 'That was the best day of my life,' he says. 'I loved it.'

Two years ago, Lord Ivar created quite a stir when he confessed to having struggled with his sexuality throughout most of that 16-year marriage. Finally, he admitted he was gay after finding contentment with his new love James Coyle, whom he met in the swish Swiss ski resort of Verbier.

Later this summer, the two men will marry in the private chapel on his magnificent country estate in Devon. It will be the first ever same-sex marriage in the extended Royal Family.

For the sake of their daughters, Ella, 22, Alix, 20, and 15-year-old Luli, Lord Ivar, Penny and James, who now considers the girls to be his children, too, want the announcement to be handled with dignity. This is why we are all here in this, shall we say, rather unconventional family's Grade I listed home near the village of Uffculme in Devon.

'We really are a funny threesome,' quips Lord Ivar as he shows me into the drawing room. Penny and James both look bemused. 'Not in that way.' He roars with laughter but knows he is enormously fortunate in the way life has turned out for him and his family.

For not only is Penny, from whom he was divorced eight years ago, incredibly supportive of the union, but she is actually going to give her former husband away at the ceremony.

'It was the girls' idea,' says Penny in her first interview on this most sensitive of subjects. 'It makes me feel quite emotional. I'm really very touched.' Touched? Many women would be trashing the family pile.

Penny is the sort of attractive, sparky woman that most red-blooded males would be falling over themselves to whisk up the aisle. Isn't it, well, a little odd to be handing over the husband she once loved with all her heart to another man?

'Not at all. You and I have got on from the first ten seconds of meeting each other, haven't we?' she says to James, the man who is due to become her former husband's husband.

'What I don't think Ivar realises is how much he has changed as a man since he 'came out'. James is hugely responsible for that because he's so much fun.

'Ivar is so much more relaxed these days. He's so much kinder. He's become a great cook. I now call him Fanny Cradock. He probably wasn't even aware that by keeping his sexuality a secret it was really quite tormenting him. Now it's 'out' he's a completely different person. Everybody says they've never seen him happier.'

This impending marriage, indeed, has the full blessing of their extended family and those closest to them, including Lord Ivar's lifelong friend Prince Edward, to whose eldest child he is a godparent. The Earl and Countess of Wessex are also godparents to his two eldest daughters.

'Sophie and Edward know of our plans and are really excited for us,' says Lord Ivar. 'Sadly they can't come to the wedding. Their diaries are arranged months in advance and they're not around, but they adore James. Everyone adores him.

'All my good friends have accepted James. I basically told everyone: 'I've found somebody — it's a bloke.' They just started laughing. Then they met James and one particular mate said: 'If I was gay, I'd certainly go for him.' He lowers his voice conspiratorially as Penny and James disappear together to sort out lunch.

'Now they're both out of the room, I can say they are both so similar. James hates it when I say that, but, oh God, they're so caring and so giving.

'Growing up in Glasgow was challenging for James. He once overheard his father, who was a strict Catholic, calling him 'the queer one'. He wondered who he was referring to.

'James was once dangled by his ankles from a bridge, 40ft over the River Kelvin, by a bunch of thugs. When one of the thugs said, 'Let him go,' he assumed they were going to allow him to escape. They were actually going to drop him in the river. He's so sweet. He just thinks the best of everybody.'

He replaces the photograph of his earlier wedding, attended by Princess Margaret and Prince Edward, on the side. 'I loved Penny when we were married, as I still do very much, and I loved our family unit,' he says. 'I never thought this would happen. It's brilliant, but I never thought I'd marry a man.

'When I mentioned it to our eldest daughter, Ella, she said, 'Oh Pap, it's not a big deal. It's so normal nowadays'. Of course that generation, they're completely cool about the concept of this — maybe not so cool about their own father, which is completely understandable.' He sits forward on the sofa.

'Being completely truthful, it doesn't sit comfortably with me that I'm going out with a man,' he confides. 'I've lived my whole life as a heterosexual. So, all of a sudden, having a bloke around is unusual — even now. It's brilliant but I suppose in an ideal world I would prefer to have a wife because that has always been the norm.

We were talking with friends in Bermuda about this nature-nurture business not so long ago. I knew from the age of eight I was more attracted to men. I definitely think it's in the genes. You're either gay or you're not.'

Penny and James, an airline cabin services director, return to the room. 'Everything all right?' he asks James. The two men are clearly inordinately fond of one another. Intriguingly, it is Lord Ivar who insisted upon marriage. 'I really wanted to do it for James,' he says. 'He hasn't been married.

'For me, what's interesting is I don't need to get married because I've been there, done that and have my wonderful children; but I'm pushing it because I think it's important for him.

'James hasn't had the stable life I have.' He turns to his partner. 'I want to be able to give you that.'

James returns his smile. 'It's a very modern marriage,' says James. 'There was no proposal, just an acceptance of this great love. He cares. I care. The girls are very accepting. Three years ago [they met in March 2015] they were saying: 'Wow. Are you guys going to get married?'

'We said: 'Don't be ridiculous. It's absolutely not on the radar at all.' But gradually it has become something that makes sense. Now we've started to get a plan in place, I'm getting a lot more excited. We went to a wedding a couple of weeks ago and said: 'We're not doing that. We're not cutting cakes. We're not having a first dance.'

'We'll be pronounced partners in marriage, but the ceremony itself will be very small. It's just for the girls and close family and friends.

'Everyone else — about 120 friends — will arrive for the party afterwards. We'll have lovely food and really good music, but there won't be two men in tuxedos on a cake, white doves or anything twee or contrived like that, will there?'

Lord Ivar looks appalled at the very thought of it. 'We'll probably have cheese, instead of cake.'

Penny, who now shares her life with her partner of two years, IT consultant David Hurst, in central London, is helping James with the wedding arrangements, because, she teases, 'Ivar will just delegate, won't you darling?'

With a flourishing career as a brand ambassador, she has, she says, 'never been happier'. This is the only interview she has given since her former husband came out and she is determined to do so with absolute honesty.

'I married Ivar with a completely open heart and an open mind about sexuality. Ivar had told me he was bisexual before he proposed. I didn't have any fears about it because I loved him, and love conquers all, doesn't it?

'What I hadn't realised is how jealous I would feel down the line when he was finding men attractive and how, ultimately, that made me feel that I wasn't good enough.

'When I started feeling lonely and depressed, I dulled those feelings with alcohol and of course that made me more depressed. That was difficult for Ivar. If there were two things Ivar and I could have changed about ourselves in our marriage, I wouldn't have drunk so much and you would, perhaps, have changed your sexuality?'

Lord Ivar nods. 'Certainly, without doubt, most gay blokes my age would prefer to be heterosexual. The hassle of having to keep it a secret, the . . .' He looks truly anguished. James does too. 'First of all there's the suppression of it and disbelief. Then there's denial. Thankfully, attitudes have changed.

'I had a really happy childhood but I could never tell my parents I was gay. Where I grew up, gay men were called poofs, queers, everything derogatory under the sun.

'In 15, 20 years' time people will struggle to understand how we came to be having such conversations. People will look back and say, 'What's the big deal?' But for our generation it was.'

Penny, the daughter of a Sotheby's representative, was 27 years old and had known Lord Ivar for two months before he confessed to her about his attraction to men.

After studying to be a geologist, he told her he'd had a brief relationship with a man in Venezuela before returning to in his late-20s to run the family's huge Grade 1 listed Elizabethan country house, Moyns Park, in Steeple Bumpstead, Essex.

'I didn't want to get married and have a secret,' he explains today. 'It would be unfair to trap someone into a marriage and then tell them you're bisexual,' he says. 'I hadn't really told anybody else. It was a little secret that a lot of men had at that time. My fling in Venezuela just felt . . . how do I describe it? Right. But I sort of had to suppress those feelings, particularly in my position.

'I didn't want to go and have assignations that might cause controversy. It was the convention of our generation that you got married — to a woman.'

Penny says she was deeply touched by his confession.

'When I met Ivar he seemed so alone, so I kept inviting him to all the parties and events I was organising,' she says. 'We were in Hampshire, where I was renting a cottage, and we went for a long walk when we had a chat about the fact he thought he might be bisexual — at least he said he was attracted to men as well as women — and never thought he would get married.

'I could sense he was quite relieved sharing his secret, particularly with someone who was so receptive. Because I have lots of gay friends and cousins, I'm very open-minded about sexuality. He seemed like he'd offloaded a huge burden. It definitely made us closer from that moment onwards because he trusted me.'

Over the following months their friendship deepened. 'We first got together when Ivar invited me up for his 30th birthday party at Moyns. I stayed on afterwards to help him start his event management business and sort of never left after that.

'I guess we fell in love while organising Moyns as a business and riding horses daily around the estate — making plans.

'Then, one day, Ivar said, 'If I ask you to marry me would you say yes?' ' She said she would.

And did. Penny gestures to the photograph of that very proper wedding back in April 1994. 'I was wearing the heavy family tiara which made my hair flop forwards. I remember Princess Margaret was sticking in the pins to hold it on when we signed the register.'

Those early years of marriage were blissfully happy times: glamorous trips around the world, family holidays in Bermuda, long weekends spent with Joan Collins in the South of France.

Lord Ivar readily admits the Mountbatten name opens doors, but it comes with a responsibility too. 'I think you're always aware of that,' he says. 'I mean you can't run naked down the High Street, can you?' They left Moyns for

Bridwell when their daughter Ella was nearly two and Penny was pregnant with Alix. 'It was idyllic,' says Penny. 'Bridwell is the most wonderful family home. The girls learnt to ride their bikes on the drive and every evening we'd have plays or they'd be swimming in the pool. We used to fill this house every weekend with house parties and entertain all the time, didn't we?'

On the face of it, the Mountbattens had one of the happiest marriages in the aristocratic circles within which they mixed. But, privately, Lord Ivar was discretely exploring his sexuality.

'Penny accepted me for who I was, so perhaps I relaxed and felt I could explore that part of me as our marriage matured. Maybe what happened is, with me being so open, I'd mention it to Penny and that would make her upset.

'Perhaps, on reflection, I shouldn't have said anything but, again, I don't want ever to hide anything from anybody.'

Penny interjects: 'But I always asked for and demanded complete honesty from Ivar. Perhaps that is a self-destructive part of me, but I wanted to know. I gave him his freedom because I wanted him to be happy.'

Lord Ivar considers this. 'I was never unhappy in our marriage,' he says. 'I adored Penny — really loved her. But I always describe it as trying to get a square peg into a round hole. Deep, deep down, since her childhood, Penny hasn't valued herself very highly and couldn't accept I loved her.'

Happy as each of them is now, their regret is a palpable thing.

'Ultimately, I remember you saying I want to have someone who wants me for me, and I couldn't give you that,' says Lord Ivar.

Fifteen years after that joyous wedding day, Penny left him.

'I gave back all the chattels, all the Mountbatten jewels and left with nothing,' she says.

'There was quite a lot of judgment — 'Why has she done this?' — because hardly anyone knew about Ivar's sexuality, which was hard to swallow.

'But I was approaching 40 and thought, 'It's now or never. I'm going to stay in this marriage, where I don't feel our relationship can ever be whole, or leave.' I knew Ivar couldn't be his authentic self unless I left. We both had to take wing and be the people we needed to be.'

Today, Bridwell is on the market. Lord Ivar wants to begin his married life in a new, smaller home where each of his daughters has a bedroom, but he is able to travel at whim with James.

'As you get older you want an easier life,' he says.

'A big house can be a real burden. I think I'd have done a lot more with my life if I hadn't had to come back from South America to look after my family home, Moyns, which was vast.

'I'm a geologist by profession and would have been really happy to continue living in South America. Once Penny and I parted company I knew I didn't want to keep up the pretence. Then when I met James, I thought, 'This is exactly the route I want.' We want to grow old together.'

Meanwhile, Penny spends her time in London where she can concentrate on her new business, Penny Mountbatten London. Her career, she says, 'became my lifeline' in those first difficult years of her life apart for Lord Ivar.

'I said to James this morning, 'I don't think I've ever felt as happy as I do right now.' I've always loved Ivar wholeheartedly and he knows me better than anyone else on this planet, he often tells me how proud he is of what I've achieved.

'I'm proud too. Finally I am able to love myself and the reason this marriage is acceptable to all of us, particularly our lovely daughters, is because of the character of James, the nature of the beast — the gorgeous beast.'

Source: Daily Mail UK

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