FRANCIS CARDINAL SPELLMAN, Roman Catholic Cardinal and self-loathing theocrat born (d: 1967); Francis Cardinal Spellman, the late Prince of the Church known as “Franny” to assorted Broadway chorus boys and others, who was New York’s prelate from 1939 until his death in 1967. And we, for a long time, we couldn’t – or is that didn’t? — talk about him, did we?
Spellman was the epitome of the self-loathing, closeted, evil queen, working with his good friend, the equally closeted homosexual McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn, to undermine liberalism in America during the 1950s’ communist and homosexual witch hunts. He, in many ways, is almost single-handedly responsible for ushering in the American Catholic church’s more punitive, authoritarian stances and reactions to the sexual revolution, feminism and Gay rights. [You got that Archbishop Dolan? Better change the sheets.]
Gore Vidal long alluded to Spellman’s, homosexuality, once commenting that, “the serious crimes of Spellman were not sexual,” implying of course that the most serious crime was the arrogant and reckless hypocrisy, just as in the case of Monsignor Clark, who was Spellman’s right-hand man during the years he was getting some on the side, obviously teaching Clark a thing or two.
The original bound galleys of former Wall Street Journal reporter John Cooney’s Spellman biography, The American Pope — published in 1984 by Times Books, which was then owned by The New York Times Company — included four pages on Spellman’s homosexuality. (In a hideous example of the church’s power and The New York Times’ fears in those days, these pages were removed, the details of which are recounted in the piece in Hitting Hard).
Cooney had included interviews with several notable individuals who knew Spellman as a closeted homosexual (we reserve the honorific “Gay” for individuals who have come out proudly.). Among Cooney’s interview subjects was C.A. Tripp, the noted researcher affiliated with Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey of the Institute for Sex Research – and author of the controversial book published recently, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, which brought forth evidence of the former president’s same sex relationships.
Tripp, who died in May of 2003 gave a telephone interview to Michelangelo Signorile a year before his death. Tripp told Signorile that his information about Spellman came from a Broadway dancer in the show One Touch of Venus who had a relationship with Spellman back in the 1940s; the prelate would have his limousine pick up the dancer several nights a week and bring him back to his place. Tripp related that when the dancer once asked Spellman how he could get away with this, Spellman answered, “Who would believe that?”
The anecdote is also recounted in John Loughery’s history of Gay life in the 20th century, The Other Side of Silence. “In New York’s clerical circles, Spellman’s sex life was a source of profound embarrassment and shame to many priests,” Cooney had written in the original manuscript of his book. The archdiocese exploded after it got wind of the information, and became determined to stop it from being published.
Finally, there is an urban legend that Talullah Bankhead slipped up and actually attended high mass at St. Patrick’s. As Spellman made his way up the center aisle of the cathedral in his regal robes and swinging a censer, Talullah turned and in a stage voice commented, “Darling…I love your dress, but your purse is on fire!”
Moving right along…