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On This Gay Day | Writer E. M. Forster was born

E. M. Forster was born on this day in 1879

Writer Edward Morgan Forster was born on January 1st, 1879. He would go on to write many best selling novels that often explored themes of class difference and hypocrisy. His best known works include A Room with a View (1908), Howards End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924). He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 16 separate years.

During his life time Forster was open about his homosexuality to his close friends, but kept it a secret from the public. In 1913 he completed the first draft of his novel Maurice which was a same-sex love story. He revised the novel several times during his life, and left strict instructions that it could not be published until after his death. Forster passed away in 1970 and the age of 91, and the book was released posthumously the following year.  

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Ethel Merman releases a disco album

Disco and old-school Hollywood came together in 1979 when star of screen and stage Ethel Merman released a disco album. It’s been credited as one of the campest records of all time and original pressings are now highly sought after by collectors.

The screen star went into the studio and laid down the vocals for some of her favourite show tunes including There’s No Business Like Show Business, Everything’s Coming Up Roses, I Get a Kick Out of You, Alexander’s Ragtime Band and I Got Rhythm. Later a disco orchestration was added.

One of the artists playing on the record is esteemed percussionist Paulinho da Costa who would go on to work with Michael Jackson, Madonna, Donna Summer, Celine Dion and many others.

The death of Cesar Romero

During his career actor Cesar Romero was described as a ‘confirmed bachelor’. At public appearances the actor, singer and dancer was often accompanied by some of Hollywood’s leading ladies including Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball and Jane Wyman.

It was only after his death on January 1st 1994 that an interview was posthumously published where he spoke about his homosexuality and Hollywood’s “gilded cage”.

His death at 86 brought the curtain down on a Hollywood career than spanned decades, and hundreds of appearances in films and on television. While he is remembered for his camp performances playing The Joker on the 1960s Batman TV series, Romero played lots of other roles in his long career.

He the 1950’s played Latin lovers, and cowboy The Cisco Kid in a series of films, he danced opposite Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda. In the 1960s he appeared on TV shows including The Man From U.N.K.L.E and Batman. Later in his career he made a guest appearance on The Golden Girls and had a role on soap opera Falcon’s Crest.  

The birth of Joe Orton

Warning: This story contains details of violence

January 1st 1933 saw the birth of English playwright Joe Orton. Orton would go on to become a well known playwright for his scandalous black comedies which included Entertaining Mr Sloane, Loot, Funeral Games and What The Butler Saw. 

Orton’s theatrical career, and life, was cut short in August 1967 when he was murdered by his long term boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell. Halliwell bludgeoned Orton to death before taking his own life. Orton was just 38 years old when he was killed.

The pair met as students at the Royal Institute of Dramatic Art in London in the 1950’s. They moved into together and lived off Halliwell’s inheritance. They pair lived on a tight budget and spent most of their time writing novels together or playing pranks.

Orton created an alter-ego Mrs Edna Welthorpe, and he often wrote letters into newspapers claiming to be outraged about the moral decay of society. When he began to find success as a playwright, he often wrote in letters of complaint about his own works under this guise.

Over a period of three years Orton and Halliwell began defacing books at two local libraries, often pasting provocative images from arts works into the books dust jackets. When they were caught the pair were sentenced to six months in prison. The books they damaged are now held in high regard by the library.

Orton’s life came to a tragic end when Halliwell murdered him, repeatedly hitting him with a hammer. Shortly afterwards Halliwell took his own life. Friends later reported that Orton had been planning to break-up with his long term partner.

After their deaths, Orton’s diaries were published given an insight into their lives, battles and celebrations.

A film Prick Up Your Ears was made about their lives. Based on a biography of the same name by John Lahr, the screenplay was written by Alan Bennett and it was directed by Stephen Frears. Gary Oldman played Orton, while Alfred Molina depicted Halliwell.

Sir Ian McKellen was offered the part of Halliwell and turned it down, saying he needed a break, later he said he greatly regretted the decision.

Citizens in Sweden who were in a same-sex relationship were able to officially record their relationships from 1st January 1995. Sweden became the third country to allow for an official register of same-sex relationships following Denmark and Norway. Same-sex couples who had registered relationships could apply to adopt children.

Marriage equality came to Sweden in 2009.

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