Jun 2, 2014

Ramon Novarro and the Gay Hustlers

Ramon Novarro (1899-1968) was one of the great beefcake actors of the silent movie era.  He was cast mostly as "exotic" Middle Easterners (The Arab,  A Lover's Oath, The Barbarian, The Sheik Steps Out) or Mediterranean types (The Road to Romance, In Gay Madrid, Call of the Flesh), plus an occasional Native American.

Almost always as romantic leads.  He was advertised as "a new Valentino."  He was gay, but stayed strictly closeted, although he refused a "screen marriage."

Very few photos have survived of Novarro with his lovers.

In those days before the Hays Code, you stripped your stars out of their clothes as much as possible.  Novarro has semi-nude scenes in Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ (1925), The Pagan (1929), The Barbarian (1933), and probably lots of other movies that haven't survived.

With the rise of talkies and new 1930s models of masculinity, roles became scarce, but Novarro continued to work in movies and on stage, and later on television.  In the 1960s, he had guest roles on Dr. Kildare, Combat, The Wild Wild West, and Bonanza, in addition to appearing as himself in various nostalgia programs.

On October 30, 1968, he invited Physique Pictorial model Paul Ferguson and his brother Tom to his North Hollywood home for sex.  Believing that Novarro had a lot of money hidden away, they tried to beat him into revealing its location, and finally choked him to death with a large art-deco phallus.

They both received sentences of life in prison, but were paroled within seven years.  You didn't do much time for killing gay men in the 1960s.

See also: Ben Hur, a Gay Tale of Christ.