Containing Multitudes Since 2004
Roy Cohn,what a strange man he was. Must confess I knew nothing of him until I saw the late Ron Vawters one-man show Roy Cohn/Jack Smith.It seemed initially a bizarre combination. Cohn denied his homosexuality at every turn and publically opposed Gay Rights whilst Smith the flamboyant performer and filmmaker but as Vawter pointed out in an interview:"they both express very different ways of dealing with a hostile society, with a society that told them their sexuality was wrong. One by trying to pass and the other by taking his sexuality and blowing it up in extreme opposition"Vawters performances of these two men (which were great BTW)mean that it is now impossible for me to think of Cohn without also thinking of Smith and vice versa. A bracketing together which I'm sure Cohn,at least,would hate.
Cohn was an unparalleled hater, that's a fact, and deep down inside, more than anything else, he prolly hated himself the most...and would deny that, too.
I'm no great admirer of Roy Cohn, believe me, but I think Yawter's analysis is a bit off. For starters, Cohn only hid his sexuality as an admitted public matter, and there was a degree of logic to that. In the 1950s and 60s (even into the 70s to some degree), no attorney could have represented, as Cohn did, the Archdiocese of New York . . . or the New York mob's five families, for that matter . . . while being an out and proud homosexual at the same time. It just wasn't possible then. Privately he flaunted it (in fact, his homosexuality could be said to have been the worst kept secret in America), but there was no question of admitting it to the press.Where I think Cohn's critics are on target, in this respect, is when they take him to task for a lot of the anti-gay public stances he took. Forget about playing into the homophobia of a nation, it was, if nothing else, flagrantly unnecessary. I don't know what his motivation was (perhaps he was trying to squelch all the talk his private behavior had been fuelling for decades), but he need not have said anything. He was a fixer, not a pundit.
Tom, you're wrong. Roy Cohn was a disease. A contagious disease.
I agree. Cohn was slime in a thousand different ways. My only point was that any lawyer with his client list in those days would have been forced to conceal his orientation almost by default; no more than that.
Isn't that what Vawter is saying? that Cohn survived in a culture hostile to his sexuality by publically denying it and passing as 'straight', whilst Smith chose always to flaunt his sexual orientation, both different strategies however are the result of the societys intolerance.
Tom, never mind "any lawyer with his client list" ... in those days, any corner greengrocer, any lowly clerk, any anonymous factory worker had to conceal his/her homosexuality for fear of losing job, home, family, even life, because of people like Cohn and those he supported or represented.To this day, his one-time "girlfriend" Barbara Walters maintains a dizzying double standard: in private, she's close to lots of gay people, but on the air she talks about gays as if they were strange, exotic "others".
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