Friday, February 5, 2010

This Day in Queer History

Friday, February 5th


1907 - on this date the iconic Cuban-American film and television actor CESAR ROMERO was born (d. 1994). Best known for his campy portrayal of The Joker in the television series Batman. In 1966 the show was transferred to movie theaters, and Romero became the first actor to portray the Joker on film, before the role was passed to Jack Nicholson and lastly to Heath Ledger.

Romero's acting career began with his playing "Latin lovers" in films from the 1930s until the 1950s, usually in supporting roles. Initially, he attracted attention in Hollywood when he starred as The Cisco Kid in six westerns made between 1939 and 1941. Romero's skill at both dancing and comedy can be seen in the classic 20th Century Fox films he starred in opposite Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable, such as Week-End in Havana and Springtime in the Rockies, in the 1940s. As well as being an accomplished ballroom dancer, Romero was also a fine dramatic actor, as he demonstrated in The Thin Man (1934), in which he played a villainous supporting role opposite the film's main star William Powell. Many of Romero's films from this early period saw him cast in small character parts, such as Italian gangsters and East Indian princes. He also appeared in a fine comic turn as a subversive opponent to Frank Sinatra and his crew in Ocean's Eleven.

20th Century Fox's mogul, Darryl Zanuck, personally selected Romero to co-star with Tyrone Power in the 1947 historical epic, Captain from Castile in which Romero played Hernan Cortez. It was produced on a scale that would not be eclipsed as a visual epic until years later by the likes of The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur or Lawrence of Arabia. Romero became a major star with the film's success.

In 1966, Romero again achieved icon status when he played The Joker in ABC's television series, Batman. He refused to shave his mustache and so it was covered with white makeup when playing the super-villain throughout the series' run, and in the spin-off 1966 film.

Romero was never married. Romero made regular appearances on the Hollywood social circuit, usually in the company of an attractive actress, and he was almost always described in interviews and articles as a "confirmed bachelor." Romero discussed his sexuality in a series of interviews with author Boze Hadleigh, with the understanding that they would not be published during his lifetime. Romero wore a man's tennis bracelet inscribed with his favorite nickname: "Butch." The term was reportedly bestowed on Romero by his one-time dancing partner Joan Crawford, who teased Romero by telling him: "You're so butch!" While Romero's sexuality was an "open secret" in Hollywood, the movie-going public was unaware of his sexuality and there was never any embarrassing scandal surrounding his male liaisons.

Romero was a mainstay of the Hollywood social circuit until his peaceful death in 1994. He was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery in South-Central Los Angeles community of Inglewood, California.

1914 - on this date the American author WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS was born (d. 1997). The outline of his life is known to almost everyone: the flight from the riches of the Burroughs Adding Machine Company family to jobs as newspaper reporter, private detective, exterminator; the tragic but grimly comic death of his wife when he tried to shoot a champagne glass off her head, à la William Tell and missed; the escape into drugs and the fifteen-year addiction that led to his first novel, Junkie, and The Naked Lunch. Twenty years later it was thought to be required reading. By the time he died he was a celebrated author and an iconic member of the Beat generation.

1950 - today's the birthday of American politician RONALD JASON PALMIERI. He was born in New York City, New York and in 2003 was a Democratic candidate for governor of California. He was born in New York City, New York.

1999 - Gay and Lesbian Holocaust victims were first recognized by German government on this date.

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