Publishers Weekly, 1998-09-21 The history of gay Hollywood cannot be summed up in one book any more than straight Hollywood can, but Ehrenstein's exhaustively researched tome comes close to being the definitive account. It is a superb companion to Vito Russo's Celluloid Closet (which documented the history of gay and lesbian characters in films, rather than who's working in the industry). Beginning in the late 1880s with the invention of cinema and the terms "homosexual" and "heterosexual," Ehrenstein examines the very open secret of homosexuality in the entertainment capital, validating Michelangelo Signorile's theory (in Queer in America) that the Hollywood closet has always been maintained by studio producers, publicists, the tabloid press (who continue to create heterosexual romances for gay/lesbian celebrities because they sell papers) and the stars themselves. In short, everyone knows except the public. The chapter on scandal magazines vividly demonstrates that the same publicity machine that denied, obscured and repackaged stars' reputations in the 1940s and '50s is still working overtime in the '90s. Profiles and conversations with gay/lesbian studio heads, producers, directors, screenwritersand publicists, as well as firsthand narratives by those from earlier eras (including Gavin Lambert, Gloria Stuart and Armistead Maupin), flesh out Ehrenstein's study (to his credit, he doesn't use any anonymous sources). It's all here: Liberace's two libel suits against newspapers for saying he was gay (he won?twice!); how AIDS changed the political and social landscape of same-sex life; the press backlash to Ellen DeGeneres's coming out; and even that gerbil rumor. So knowledgeable and articulate a tour guide is Ehrenstein that these stories come fully alive after decades of meticulous cover-ups and public facades. Eight pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
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