June is Gay History Month.
Actor William 'Billy' Haines (Charles William Haines)
was born in Staunton, Virginia on January 2, 1900. His father was a cigar maker, and Billy had four younger siblings. He sang in the choir of the Trinity Episcopal Church, became interested in performing and obsessed over watching movies. At 14 years old, he ran away from home with a young boyfriend to Hopewell where they worked at the DuPont factory and opened a dance hall that catered to gays. His parents sent the police for him, but he refused to return home. In 1915, he moved to New York City.
His father suffered a mental breakdown, and Billy returned home to help the family until his dad recovered.
In 1919, Billy moved back to New York City and settled into gay friendly Greenwich Village. He took odd jobs, worked as a "model" and was kept by a rich older woman for a time. A talent scout found him in Samuel Goldwyn Company's "New Faces of 1922." He was offered a studio contract and moved to Hollywood in 1922. He worked at several studios before ending up at MGM. The first of his 51 films was Brothers Under the Skin, in 1922. His early silent films include Souls for Sale, Three Wise Fools, The Desert Outlaw, The Gaiety Girl, A Fool and His Money, Little Annie Rooney, Sally Irene and Mary, Show People, and Mike. Brown of Harvard (1926) made him a star. He played the handsome, arrogant, wise-cracking young man - which became the character he would play for most of his career. Billy became one of the biggest and most popular leading men in films. Hits continued with Tell It to the Marines, Spring Fever, and West Point. He successfully transitioned to talking pictures in Alias Jimmy Valentine and Navy Blues in 1928/29.
Billy was "openly" gay. On a trip to NYC in 1926, he met a young man named James "Jimmy" Shields. He brought Jimmy back with him to Hollywood and the two shared Billy's house. In 1933, Billy was arrested for having sex in the Los Angeles YMCA with a sailor he had picked up on the street. MGM covered up the scandal, but studio boss Louis Mayer demanded Billy enter into an arrange "lavender marriage" or give up his lover, Jimmy Shields. Billy refused, and was fired. He made several more films for small, "poverty row" studies before retiring from acting in 1934. His final films included Young and Beautiful, and The Marines Are Coming.
Billy and Jimmy began a successful interior design and antique business. Billy was a popular figure in Hollywood, and many Hollywood stars engaged his services to redecorate their homes. The business prospered (Billy served during WWII), and the couple moved to Brentwood. The men were favorites within the rich social circles of Los Angeles and Hollywood, and lived in comfort.
On December 26, 1973, Billy died in Los Angeles after a short battle with lung cancer. Billy Haines was 73 years old. A short time later, his lifelong partner, Jimmy, committed suicide. His suicide note famously read, "Goodbye to all of you who have tried so hard to comfort me in my loss of William Haines, whom I have been with since 1926. I now find it impossible to go it alone, I am much too lonely." Billy and Jimmy are buried side by side at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica.
Joan Crawford, Billy's close friend and decorating client, said Billy and Jimmy were "the happiest married couple in Hollywood."
repost courtesy- Michael Michaud