Anthony Perkins’ role of “Norman Bates” in Psycho (and its sequels) was among the most iconic to come out of thriller director Alfred Hitchcock’s canon and an overwhelming presence in the actor’s life. Perkins had already been a theater actor and won awards for both stage and screen, like the part of a young Quaker man in Friendly Persuasion, a movie President Reagan later offered to Mikhail Gorbachev as a model of conflict resolution. Perkins also had a respectable singing voice, acting in several musicals and releasing three pop albums, though he never managed a career from it.
Perkins’ sexual orientation is subject to some interpretation. Although he allegedly had affairs with a number of male celebrities, he did marry and had at least one encounter with a different woman earlier in his life. He is popularly referred to as both homosexual and bisexual though he never openly called himself either; in fact, he suggested in one interview that psychotherapy had enabled him to have relationships with women.
Although Anthony Rapp, the queer stage and screen actor, is best known for originating the role of “Mark Cohen” in the musical Rent, his career began when he was six years old with a title part in the Broadway production of The Little Prince and the Aviator. Along with several Rent revivals and numerous other small roles, Rapp has written original music and a memoir (which he’s since transformed into a production of its own); taken director roles; and gone on a musical tour with another Rent actor. Rapp consistently takes on the roles of queer characters, including a gay man in the short film Grind and a bisexual man in the Broadway production If/Then.
Rapp’s prolific Twitter feed is available here.
Stephen Sondheim penned the lyrics and music for some of the 20th century’s most iconic musical theater productions over a career spanning more than five decades, from Company to Sweeney Todd. His mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, was a theatrical master himself, and his early tutelage involved writing entire musicals for critique. West Side Story, Sondheim’s Broadway debut, earned numerous awards and spawned a film adaptation. In later years Sondheim took on darker projects that have been criticized as “inappropriate” for musical theater but won him accolades and an enduring impact on the genre (and enough uses in film and television to fill an IMDB page).
When gay Jewish playwright Martin Sherman’s controversial piece Bent premiered in 1979, gay persecution during the Holocaust was virtually absent from historical discussions; in fact, due to the continued enforcement of Paragraph 175 of the German penal code which criminalized homosexuality, gay men liberated from concentration camps were forced to serve out the full terms of their imprisonment and denied compensation. Although Bent wasn’t Sherman’s first production (or even his first to feature a queer storyline), it caught the public’s attention for its portrayal of gay men tortured during the Holocaust, and is now credited with having helped raise awareness of Nazi homophobia.
Outside of Bent, Sherman has more than a score of theater productions, films, and television programs to his name, along with a sizable number of awards. Per his own words, he prefers to write “about people who are marginalized from society.”
Tony Kushner (short for Anthony Robert Kushner) is an American playwright and screenwriter known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America, a seven-hour epic thematic melting pot of AIDS, religion, gay rights, and political and philosophical groundings of the United States that has been adapted into both a miniseries and an opera. His full curriculum vitae at the time of this writing includes dozens of plays, books, essays, and movie scripts, stretching back through the 1980s. A full list (or even a summary) of his numerous awards, nominations, and critical praise would be impossible to include here; it is easier to simply check Wikipedia’s list. He is involved in queer politics, Middle Eastern politics (for which he has clashed with members of his Jewish family), and socialism.
Kushner’s commitment ceremony with Mark Harris, an editor with Entertainment magazine, was the first to be featured in the New York Time‘s “Vows” column; the two were later married in Massachusetts. To kick off a 2009 festival celebrating his plays, Minneapolis declared a city-wide “Tony Kushner Day”.
Maurice Sendak, a writer and illustrator known for the classic of children’s literature Where the Wild Things Are, made a point of refusing to inject innocence into his stories. His fantastical creatures resembled his memories of his immigrant extended family, whose features struck him as monstrous; however, he attributes his grim outlook to the deaths of his father’s family in the Holocaust. Among his more cheerful influences he names a visit to the 1939 World’s Fair a source used for In the Night Kitchen, a popular children’s book that remains controversial for the protagonist’s dream in which he appears as nude. In the later part of his life Sendak also received recognition for his work on theatrical sets.
Sendak, a gay man, never came out to his parents during their lifetimes, though he did introduce them to his partner of fifty years: Eugene Glynn, a psychoanalyst.
Edward Gorey was a man blessed with a serendipitous name. The delightfully morbid author, illustrator, and theatrical jack-of-all-trades was known for his Edwardian/Victorian styling and tales of humorous misfortune. Although he is often compared to Tim Burton, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) might be a better approximation given the similarity between their quirky, slightly upsetting storytelling; even Brett Helquist‘s gangly gothic figures bear a striking resemblance to Gorey’s cross-hatching.
Gorey began his career with only two semesters of formal art education and initially worked for a publishing company before splitting off to pursue his own interests. From his ancient house in Cape Cod he worked on the PBS show Mystery! and more than seventy books of drawings, including the weird and wonderful alphabet classic The Gashlycrumb Tinies, in which every letter illustrates a child perishing in an absurd fashion. (For example: “‘F’ is for Fanny sucked dry by a leech/’G’ is for George smothered under a rug”.)
As macabre as his creative talents may have been, Gorey himself was reportedly a good-natured fellow who adored his cats and would slip into a falsetto voice during conversations just to entertain. When he was asked if he was gay, he responded that he was “neither one thing or the other particularly,” and that he was “reasonably undersexed or something”; he also attributed the sexlessness in his work to his asexuality.