Jan 30, 2013

Gomer Pyle: Out at Age 82

Gomer Pyle, USMC (1964-1969) was one of CBS's popular "hayseed comedies," getting laughs from the foibles of colorfully backward hicks (others included The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and The Andy Griffith Show).  In this case, gawky stringbean Gomer (Jim Nabors) cut his teeth as a small-town gas station attendant on Andy Griffith, then joined the marines, where his ineptness drew the wrath of gruff bulldog Sergeant Carter (Frank Sutton).

Or did it?

Gomer "takes to" Sgt. Carter immediately, following him around with a puppy-dog grin, doing everything he can to make the Sgt. hug -- um, I mean manhandle -- him. In one episode he even sends Sgt. Carter anonymous love letters.

Sgt. Carter takes longer to warm up to Gomer, but by the second season, they are comrades in arms rather than antagonists.  Both date girls, of course, and get steady girlfriends by the end of the series -- but only as fodder for plot complications.  The two are partners -- permanent, exclusive, emotionally intimate.

After the series ended, Frank Sutton and Jim Nabors remained close friends.

Before Gomer, Frank Sutton had a number of other roles in movies and on tv, includig Tom Corbett Space Cadet, The Satan Bug, and Marty.  Afterwards, he did mostly live theater, including the homophobic comedy Norman, Is That You?, before he died of a heart attack in 1974.  He never married.

Jim Nabors moved to Hawaii and became famous as a singer.  He met his partner, Stan Cadwallader, in 1975, and finally married him in 2012.  For 40 years he was quick to yell "slander" at anyone who implied that he might be gay.  When a rumor made the rounds that he had married Rock Hudson, he was careful to never come within a thousand miles of the movie star again.

So let's sum up:  for at least 38 years, he knew that he was gay, yet he screamed "I'm straight!" over and over, and threatened to sue anyone who implied that he might be gay.

He kept on insisting that being gay was something shameful through the Moral Majority, AIDS, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Proposition 8, It Gets Better...

Then, at the end of his life, he says "Oh, I was gay all along."

I can't think of any response to that.  It's just unimaginable.

3 comments:

  1. He came from a generation where you never came out, if you could help it. Liberace never came out.

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  2. I'm not sure being in the closet is a generational thing. Jodie Foster was born in 1962 and it was only just last week that she came out. Well, kind of, sort of...

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  3. Being born back in those days and the upbringing made a lot of gay men feel that it was wrong even though it was not and it was hard to let go of that lifetime feeling or belief. I feel that is probably what happened with Jim. He was in denial publicly because he apparently was taught growing up that it was shameful and he was brainwashed into believing it. It took him his entire life to finally come to terms with it. I am just guessing at that possibility because of my own experience.

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