Category: a life in the cloest

Halfway Through Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet

I posted about this biography earlier, here. It’s been taking me longer to read for two reasons: I’ve been busy reading other manuscripts, and I’m purposely making this bio last because I’m enjoying it so much.

I’ve also been following the reviews of this biography more closely than I do with other books I read. I’m still stunned by the negative reviews, which even go so far as to say the book was poorly written. Maybe these folks have different copies than I have. I’m reading the e-book. I haven’t come across any mistakes that would cause me to leave a bad review.

The thing that interests me is that all the negative reviews almost sound as though they are coming from personal disappointment and hurt instead of valid, constructive criticisms. In other words, I can’t help get the feeling that many who have read this book feel as if they’ve been told there is no Santa, no Easter Bunny, and no Good Fairy…pardon the very bad pun.

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to all biographies I’m always a skeptic. I don’t think it’s possible to list every single aspect of anyone’s life, especially not a complicated man like Merv Griffin who worked so hard to maintain a successful public persona. But I also believe that his public persona was very different from his private life. In a general sense, even though I doubt all the things I’m reading actually happened that way, I do believe they either could have happened or that it’s very close to what might have happened.

There are certain segments of our society that always have, and still do, cover up anything gay related. It’s most prominent in Washington, DC and in Hollywood. I once knew, personally, a senator who would come to New Hope on weekends with his very young gay lover and frequent the gay bars. He was a Democrat, a married man with children, and led a double life no one ever knew about. He’s not the only one. As for Hollywood, the cover ups with gay men and women have been going on for years. The press knows about it and never reports it. Rock Hudson was a good example of this. And I’m sure there are still people out there who question all the things that have been written about his real life since his death.

I actually do, indeed, understand the need for this cover up. I’m not fond of it and I don’t do it. But I understand it. There’s still this weird judgment about gay people out there. And the reviews I’m reading about Merv Griffin’s bio are classic. It’s like people don’t want to believe that he was a closeted gay man, who lived in private like all gay men live, and that he wasn’t the sweet old bachelor we all were led to believe he was. And that’s the part that bothers me the most. I don’t blame Merv for keeping his gay life a secret. He did what he had to do in order to survive and keep his career.

I’ve read too many reviews about this bio that suggest there’s something wrong with Merv’s life in the closet. I’m getting the feeling that the disappointed that he was gay is so upsetting to some they don’t want to believe it’s true. And after reading these reviews, and seeing how disgruntled people are when they learn that Merv was gay and that he did have an active gay life that included plenty of sex, I can fully understand why he didn’t come out of the closet. It would have been career suicide, especially in his day.

There are a few well known performers today that we suspect are gay and yet remain in the closet. I once saw one of them being discussed on a talk show and someone said, “He’s not gay. If he were it wouldn’t make sense to be in the closet nowadays.” The audience laughed, the host agreed. But I know why a performer would prefer to remain in the closet, and most other gay men know this, too. Because once you come out of the closet there’s no going back. And your life is going to change completely.

I’m still not sure how I’m going to review this bio. I’m waiting to see how the author wraps it up before I form any strong opinions. But I would suggest that all the readers who love m/m romance check it out. It’s not escapism. It’s not fantasy. But it will give you a realistic take on what it’s like to be a gay man who can’t come out of the closet. And, why some gay men don’t come out of the closet and never will.