Today in Gay History

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December 26

Thomas Gray
1716 -

THOMAS GRAY, English writer was born (d. 1771); “My life is now but a perpetual conversation with your shadow – The known sound of your voice still rings in my ears. I cannot bear this place, where I have spend many tedious years within less than a month, after you left me…”

So wrote Thomas Gray to a young man when he was 54. Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University and one of the best known poets of his time, he was also more than likely still a virgin. The author of “An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” Gray had lived most of his life with his mother, but was known to have cultivated the Platonic friendship of handsome young men.

One of Professor Gray’s young men introduced him to the Swiss charmer, Charles de Bonstetten – and Gray was hooked. He was profoundly, deeply in love. When Bonstetten left Cambridge a year later, the poet was devastated. But the friends exchanged letters, and the young man suggested they take a walking tour together in Bonstetten’s native Switzerland. Gray was overjoyed. The trip was scheduled for the summer of 1771 and Gray wrote tireless letters of devotion while counting the ticking minutes. Finally, the time was near. He would be leaving to see his handsome young man again. The poor poet dropped dead before he had one step out the door.

David Sedaris
1956 -

DAVID SEDARIS, American essayist, born; a Grammy-Award nominated American humorist and radio contributor. Sedaris came to prominence in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay “SantaLand Diaries"

He published his first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, in 1994. Each of his four subsequent essay collections, Naked (1997) Holidays on Ice (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004), have become New York Times Best Sellers. As of 2004, his books had collectively sold 2.5 million copies.

Much of Sedaris' humor is autobiographical and self-deprecating, and it often concerns his family life, his middle class upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, NC, Greek heritage, various jobs, education, drug use, sexuality and his life in France with his partner, Hugh Hamrick.

Sedaris released Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, a collection of fables "detailing animals in strange adult situations", in September 2010. His ninth book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, was released in April 2013. He participated in Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary film by David Thorpe about stereotypes of gay men's speech patterns. And he appeared along with his sister, Amy Sedaris, as special guest judges on season 8 episode 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

William Haines
1973 -

Actor and interior decorator WILLIAM HAINES died on this date (b: 1900); Young William Haines ran away from home at the age of fourteen with his "boyfriend" and worked in a dance hall which may have also served as a brothel. He was an assistant bookkeeper at a New York bond house when he sent in his photograph to a "New Faces" contest sponsored by movie producer Samuel Goldwyn in 1922.

After a successful screen test, he was signed as a contract player; and in 1922 he departed for California. It was in Brown of Harvard (1926) that he crystallized his screen image, a young arrogant man who is humbled by the last reel. "He has never been in love with any girl yet, and doesn’t intend to", stated fan magazines.

Indeed, in 1926, Bill Haines fell in love for twenty-one-year-old Jimmie Shields, who he met in New York probably as a pick-up on the street. They moved in together and became, as Joan Crawford once said, "the happiest married couple in Hollywood". Shields was put on the MGM payroll as Bill's secretary and stand-in. The two stayed together for nearly fifty years, until Bill's death.

Haines was the perfect male flapper for the latter half of the 1920s. While Valentino represented the dangerous love and John Gilbert played noble, tortured heroes, Haines exemplified the sunny, collegiate self-confidence of jazz Age. His screen heroes were the happy-go-lucky fellows his fans thought themselves to be.

And Bill's generally cheery off screen personality fitted perfectly with this. In 1933, Billy Haines picked up a sailor in Pershing Square in Los Angeles and took him to the YMCA where he had a room. The house detective and L.A. Vice Squad burst in and arrested and handcuffed both men. Losing his boyish good looks after age 30, Haines accepted the decline of his star with grace. Battles with Louis B. Mayer over his "scandalous" love life finally ended his career in 1934. After that, tasteful Haines became a famous interior decorator.

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