How Rudolph Valentino Became Gay

m46074This question is so pervasive it is reminiscent of how some Mormons baptizes the dead ‘by proxy’ (including Holocaust victims) to claim they are now Mormon.  A very similar thing has gone with pop culture aficionados ‘baptizing’ (long or newly) dead stars as ‘homosexual’, then base everything about that person’s life and work on whether they were shameful for hiding this new sexuality or not.

While sexuality is important in terms of understanding the life and work of any form of artist or public figure, its something very hard to prove (though with all the sex tapes these days maybe it won’t be in 50 years).  Now obscure stars from Lottie Pickford to Lilyan Tashman have been ‘baptized’ into homosexuality with very little to back it up.  I’ll never forget reading a Yahoo Q and A that went something like this:

Q: Was Rudolph Valentino gay?  Doesn’t matter just wondering.

A: Yes he was.  I mean look at him.

QA: Oh darn.  All the good ones are gay oh well I thought so…

Not only is it insulting to make gay a label that is now shameful or deviant in context (how dare he hide his sexuality!  Oooo scandalous what a queen!) its also insulting to make your justification ‘oh all hot guys are gay…whatevs.’  If a man is gay his attractiveness shouldn’t be dependent on that, well on the flip side just because a man is attractive he is not automatically gay.  Although in the last 10 years it seems more ‘you were in film once?  Gay!’ over ‘hot=gay.’

Very few biographies of Valentino were written before 1960 and they are not only harder to find today, but as biographies required little sourcing at the time they aren’t very desirable to obtain either.

The first ‘modern’ biography of Valentino came out in 1975, when nothing was hipper than to make your subject some sort of sexual ‘deviant’ never mind proving it had actually happened.  This book was “Valentino” by Brad Steiger and Chaw Mank and they had next to nothing to back up their claim that Rudy was not only gay, but gay for being a failure to please women.

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The first ‘real’ biography in a modern sense (with sourcing) of Valentino was “Dark Lover” by Emily Leider in 2003.  Though Leider essentially concludes he was straight, she waffles as if to not anger anyone who may wish him to be gay (her waffling was even odder; the man she claimed was a ‘maybe’ was a straight man with a girlfriend who wrote to his gf in French constantly while in the US with the Valentinos

Almost every other article, blog, wikipedia, whatever has always tried to throw in the ‘well maybe’ less they get the wrath of very ardent Valentino fans who maintain he was gay, usually for their own personal reasons.  What is odd is that baptizing Rudolph Valentino as gay seems like some hell bent missions by these types, never mind that William Haines or Ramon Novarro fellow…we want Valentino (and to back up a previous statement above: both those men are very handsome, and it doesn’t matter what they were…they’re dead, they aren’t having sex with anyone.)

What makes this so stunning in the end is how little information any of these authors of baptizers actually had about Valentino.  They had a rough press release like story, sexed it up with innuendo, and then they all had to try and back each other up…never let facts get in the way of a good story!

In a recent book it was revealed a very strong circumstantial case that Rudy had come to America because he had conceived a child out of wedlock, a child later presented as his nephew Jean Valentino.  While at first that might sound ‘grasping’ let me lay my cards out on the table: if an independent testing of DNA could be done I would bet all my money on it, Jean would be found to scientifically be his son.  While I am sure there are ways to do this without digging anyone up (or perhaps one and not the other) I will always maintain until the day testing has been done this story can not be ruled out.  And when that day comes I know it will be proven correct.  So as it stands: Rudolph Valentino had a son.  Which cuts a lot of gay theories off at the knees.

While the Valentino descendants have not commented on this revelation, they did finally comment on his sexuality after another author had done so.  While anything but gay news will not break the press for Rudolph Valentino, one press release and book release in August 2010 claimed Samuel Steward slept with Valentino.  While any serious historian would look at the claim and go ‘umm…so you got nothing to prove this?’ the press and various pop sites ate it up.  Jeanine Villalobos, Valentino’s great granddaughter, commented in this article “The Secret Historian and the Film Star: One Was Gay” by Thomas Gladsyz.  Her comments are as follows:

Steward’s story, vivid as it is, cannot be true. My great-granduncle Rudy was definitely in New York on July 24, 1926: He was seeing off my great-grandparents and grandfather who were returning to Europe after a lengthy stay at Falcon Lair. After their departure, he went to see the celebrated Italian aviator, General Umberto Nobile, who was also departing for Europe that day. I have the news clips to back this up. On July 25, Rudy was attending the New York premiere of Son of the Sheik at 2:00 in the afternoon. Again, I have clips for this. The autograph itself is certainly a fake: Rudy’s handwriting is distinctive and consistent. To my eye, the date on the alleged autograph looks more like 1925 than 1926. If so, Rudy was in Los Angeles at this time, shooting The Eagle and supervising the construction of Falcon Lair. I have many letters and other documents that also confirm this. I know that Valentino’s sexuality is a hotly contested matter, and I could be accused of bias.  So let me be clear that I was utterly agnostic when I first approached this issue, but there has been nothing in my subsequent research to support that he was gay, and much to support that he was straight.

Despite the subject finally being commented on by authors and descendants, you will still find enough erroneous information out there: IMDB has him on a list of ‘bisexual stars’ and Wikipedia has been defaced by authors like David Bret on several occasions.

Though we’ve finally reached a time where Valentino’s sexuality has not only been persuasively returned to ‘straight’ as it was before 1960, but we have authors examining the chain of events and the history behind each claim.  We can now, definitively, without a doubt, say Valentino was straight.  And as cited here there is several sources showing their work.   But there will still be those who claim he was gay, however they will generally cite faulty sources (like Steward or Bret or Mank) or just defy logic (hot=gay only).  Until the day someone can concisely prove to me Valentino had at least one homosexual encounter (and that would move him over to bi; to be gay you’d have to disprove all the evidence of straightness) with photos, reliable sources, eye witnesses that were not Alice Terry or fame whores…then I will not be able to change my research.

One observation on “How Rudolph Valentino Became Gay
  1. moodring

    Thank you Ms. Zumaya for your efforts to “out” those who did/would dispense blatant lies just to make a buck. I like to think that Valentino is smiling.