[Right: Tyrone Power in Jesse James.]
The other thing that cracks me up – and I’ve done a study of this – if someone is outed as gay in a book, the next tell-all that comes out lists that person as someone’s gay lover, whereas in previous books, that liaison was never mentioned. A great example is Marlon Brando. A book comes out about him and now he has slept with absolutely every single man who ever walked the earth. Absolutely no discretion on Marlon’s part – if an author said someone was gay, Marlon got into bed with him. If I were gay, I’d be so insulted. Is this what gays want people to believe about them? Wikipedia is a great one for this. Every movie star in it is a gay person who did a little acting on the side.
Here’s another thing no one thinks of. If I had a gay lover who was world famous, why would I go and tell some author about it? Why wouldn’t I get the $500,000 advance or whatever it is for myself? Why wouldn’t I sell the story to a tabloid and collect even $20,000? Elvis’ girlfriends tripped all over themselves to cash in. Where are all these people’s secret lovers? Where are the Hollywood hustlers? I can tell you, I’d have beat a path to a publisher’s door. Why would I let Darwin Porter have all the money?
I’m a journalist and I’m a writer. I have a strong regard for correct facts. It’s as wrong to label someone as gay who isn’t as it is to label someone straight who isn’t, because that’s just not who they were. And I don’t care how “out” someone is or isn’t, their private life is still private, and there is always going to be a lot that we don’t know. I believe the spirit goes on after death – I believe that Tyrone’s did, just like I believe it about members of my own family. But let’s face facts – in Tyrone’s case, the body in question has been six feet under for 51 years! What right did anyone have to make up anything about him? Why wasn’t the truth enough?
You know, after the panel discussions at the tribute with his co-stars, family, friends, some friends of mine told me later – how could he have been gay? When would he have found the time?
Mai Zetterling lived with him for several years and writes quite graphically about their love affair and his opinions of lots of things. It’s very telling. I will say this: a man who likes to have sex with a woman while the lights are on is, in my opinion, straight. A man who calls women “broads” and says they ruined his life, who talks about a woman’s body parts – that’s a straight man. Mai and Tyrone were on the set of The Sun Also Rises and talked about Errol Flynn. Ty said that Flynn’s big problem was he couldn’t keep his hands off of young girls. A lot of people have said that. I haven’t met a lot of gay men who went after teenaged girls as well. You can put a lot on Errol Flynn, but now it’s become excessive.
Sonja Henie, Tyrone Power
I could find no reference in Tyrone’s letters (many of which I own) or private papers or even an autobiography he started writing as a young man, or in the studio papers, about him being attracted to men. His letters to [wives] Linda Christian, to Debbie Ann Minardos (right), to Annabella, to [lover] Sonja Henie, are quite heartfelt and romantic. Christopher Plummer worked with him in the ’50s and says that Power always was with high-class hookers and fixed Plummer up with a couple; Anita Ekberg followed him the entire tour of John Brown’s Body – I could go on and on.
I think Tyrone was highly sexual, I think he may have indulged in group sex, I think he tried it with guys, and I think the majority of it probably took place when he was younger. But I only know one thing for sure: he loved women. Passionately.
A friend’s mother dated him – she was an usher at the Pantages theater – and another friend told me that when his father worked at a restaurant, Tyrone asked him the name of the pretty hat-check girl. He was always checking out women, and Bob Buck, who flew with him on his tour to South America, verifies this. Matthew Kennedy, who recently wrote a book on Joan Blondell [who has a supporting role in Power’s Nightmare Alley], was asked about Power being gay, and he said he had not been able to find any evidence. Romina Power wrote Cerca Mia Padre about her dad, and said the same thing. After forty years, I haven’t come up with a thing.
This includes my reading the roman a clef, Quicksilver [by Fitzroy Davis], about a tour of Romeo and Juliet that Power was on in 1935, a tour that included stage star Katharine Cornell, Orson Welles, Basil Rathbone, Brian Aherne, and the author, of course. The people in the book, including Power, are easy to identify. The author himself was a gay man, and again, there wasn’t anything [about Power being gay] in the book. There were definite incidents in the book that were written up in the fan magazines about Power later and are in Power’s biography – for instance, he had a larger part until possibly Aherne joined the cast; then they had to give him a smaller one, and his swordsmanship held him in good stead. He gets a screen test – all true, and all attributed to a character in Quicksilver.