RICHARD HALLIBURTON, American adventurer and author, born (d: 1939) If Halliburton was alive today he would be the guy in “The Most Fascinating Man in the World” ads. Halliburton was the quintessential preppie. And in the Ivy League of yore, preppiness and Gayness often went hand-in-hand. When Halliburton’s Chinese junk, Sea Dragon, was lost in the Pacific in 1939, he still looked very much as he had at Lawrenceville and Princeton – trim, muscular, and innocently handsome.
His athletic prowess and world-wide adventures had titillated a generation of vicarious thrill seekers and had been happily exploited by both the media and Halliburton’s many best-selling books. And it’s easy to see why. He climbed the Matterhorn in 1921; swam the Hellespont in 1925 and the Panama Canal (from the Atlantic to the Pacific) in 1928; and flew over 50,000 miles around the world in his own airplane, The Flying Carpet, between 1928 and 1931, thereby milking the adoration of an aviation-mad public.
Halliburton starred in his own documentary films and lectured, for stiff fees, to large audiences throughout the world. Between times, he managed to find time for men. As Roger Austen writes in Playing the Game, Halliburton “had a special fondness for YMCAs, spend the night with Rod La Roque, went flying with Ramon Navarro, and settled down with another bachelor in Laguna Beach.” And how was his adoring public to know? Hadn’t his books been filled with his appreciation of “Kashmiri maidens, Parisian ballerinas and Castillian countesses”? “Halliburton,” writes John Paul Hudson with acute insight, “certainly did a lot of straight-approved things, though his exploits were self-stretching and not competitive – which is the Gay way.”