Monday, July 22, 2013

William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star, talks about his 45 year relationship with Jimmy Shields

Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star by William J. Mann Review

William Haines was one of MGM's biggest stars in the late 1920s, playing cocky but sympathetic wise guys in movies such as Brown of Harvard. He was as self-assured in real life: 

dropped by the studio In 1933 because he refused to hide his homosexuality, Haines became a successful interior decorator. Journalist William J. Mann perceptively links Haines's story to shifting attitudes in the movie industry, the gay community, and America as a whole. 
Jimmy Shields and William Haines
In 1933, Haines was arrested in a YMCA with a sailor he had picked up in Los Angeles' Pershing SquareLouis B. Mayer, the studio head at MGM, delivered an ultimatum to Haines:

 choose between a sham marriage (also known as a "lavender marriage") or his relationship with Shields. Haines chose Shields and they remained together for almost 50 years. Mayer subsequently fired Haines and terminated his contract.  Haines and Shields, remained a couple
 from 1926 until Haines's death in 1973. 

Jan Antaya shared this very telling letter from her collection of Jerome Zipkin's personal letters.  Jan read my book and was moved by the accounting of William Haines and Jimmy Shields story as it relates to Tom Lyle Williams and his partner, Emery Shaver, in The Maybelline Story.

The letter was written by William Haines, to his friend, Socialite Jerome Zipkin, in 1971, two years before Haines death.  Haines refers to Shields as JS and remarks about their 45 year Anniversary.  He calls Zipkin by the nickname, HEM and goes on to mention many famous friends including

 Estee and Joe Lauder (Estee Lauder Cosmetics.)

 Doris Stein of the Stein Eye Institute.)
 George Frelinghuysen, Socialite.
Eadie Goetz, LB Mayer's sister
 Louie B. Mayer, Head of MGM
 and many more.  

Haines signs the  letter... 

cona·mo·re [Italian: conwith + amorelove,] Hattie Mc Daniels mother, Willee. Hattie Mc Daniel was MGM's Gone with the Wind Star and the first African American to win an Oscar. (Maybe Haines was refering to him being as excited as Mc Daniel's mother must have been when her daughter won the Oscar.)

Jerry Zipkin with Nan Kempner at an AIDS benefit in 1990. Mr. Zipkin was the confidant of many grande dames including First Lady Nancy Reagan.  People Magazine review of Zipkin

Estee and Joe Lauder with Helen Gurley Brown

 Photo By: irv Steinberg/Globe Photos, Inc Esteelauderretro

Jules and Doris Stein (center) are shown in an early photograph with their grown children (from left), Lawrence Oppenheimer, Susan Stein, Gerald Oppenheimer, and Jean Stein.

Gstaad 1973 ( l. to r.:) — George Frelinghuysen, Mary-France Pochna, Cecil Everley, Ann Rapp, and Gordon Taylor

Louie B. Mayer with his wife, Lorena Mayer

Bill and Edie Goetz,(Louie B. Mayer's sister,) known as the Diamond Duchess  (according to William Haines letter.) 

William Hines home at 601 Lorna Lane, was built in Brentwood - 1942 - and is owned today, interesting enough, by the Lidia Rubinstein  Trust.
(Helena Rubinstein Cosmetic family?)

Haines and Jimmy Shields were a devoted couple for almost 50 years.....Jimmy Shields, committed suicide a few months after William Haines, death. 

Tom Lyle Williams and Emery Shaver were together for close to 50 years and after Emery's unexpected death in 1964, Tom Lyle sold the Maybelline Company in 1967. Unlike Haines and Shields who openly flaunted their relationship, Williams and Shaver lived a very private life.

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