Steptoe and Frankie Howerd. No more revelations please!

I was naively looking forward to watching “Frankie Howerd:Rather You than Me” on cable TV last night. Of course I should have known that if David Walliams of “Little Britain” fame was acting in the title role of the British comedian, that it might be a little strange. And it was.

Howerd was a very weird man who had terrible sexual problems. He was homosexual but was struggling against his urges since it was illegal to be homosexual before the late Sixties. He was also into paying people to give him manual relief, anywhere and anytime. It was pretty pathetic and Walliams’ portrayal left nothing to the imagination. So quite frankly, I can never look at Frankie again without wanting to puke.

That was last night, and so tonight I decided to watch “The Curse of Steptoe” about the relationship between Harry H. Corbett and Wilfred Brambell who acted as the father and son team of rag and bone men in the famous sitcom “Steptoe and Son”. As a production, it was quite superb, far superior to the Frankie Howard one.

But I was taken aback to discover that Wilfred Brambell who was Steptoe in “Steptoe and Son” was also battling with his homosexuality. When he was seen entering toilets for anonymous sex and even being arrested, I decided that the British novelist, George Eliot, was absolutely correct when she said that if you want to go on admiring your hero, then you must never meet him in person. You are bound to be disappointed.

Sometimes it is better not to know too much about the private lives of actors and other famous people. We need illusions and fantasies and we need heroes.

The truth is that nobody is perfect and we know that to be true and yet who of us wasn’t disappointed when we learned that President John F. Kennedy was off having affairs while his wife gave birth to their son?

Who of us wasn’t disappointed that Rock Hudson turned out to be totally not interested in women? And what about Mr Brady in “The Brady Bunch” who could never have been involved with Mrs Brady?

Of course, in our minds, we know that actors are only acting, but in this age of information, it would have been nicer not to know that it was all B.S. I certainly have no respect for Kennedy since discovering how promiscuous he was, and I can’t watch Rock Hudson in any romantic role any more. In a way, I feel that we women were conned and that’s an unpleasant experience.

Nowadays, actors don’t have to be secretive about their sexuality and that is certainly progress. It must have been stressful and even dangerous to live with all that subterfuge. Blackmail would have been a terrible reality as well.

So it’s good that people can be out of the closet and yet not suffer the consequences. Except in romantic leads, that is.

I can’t think of any actor who is openly gay and yet can play a romantic lead and be accepted for it. I suspect that Rupert Everett will never get a romantic heterosexual role in cinema ever again. There’s something about love scenes that make the audience want to relate to them. It’s part of our need to identify with the heroine. It’s quite ridiculous since we are prepared to accept that Superman can fly. But that’s the way it is.

I do wonder, however, what homosexual men thought of two heterosexuals acting in “Brokeback Mountain”? Did they feel the same way as women do about Rock and Rupert and countless others?

So please, no more revelations about the ins and outs of “icons”. It only spoils it, as George Eliot said.


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