Magazine article Out

Anything You Can Do

Magazine article Out

Anything You Can Do

Article excerpt

Christopher Isherwood was 48 when he met Don Bachardy in California in 1952. The writer, famous for his Berlin novels (adapted into Cabaret) was aristocratic and worldly, whereas Bachardy was just 18, a workingclass ingenue with an open smile and an ass to match. Even Bachardy admits he was probably intended as a "gift" to the writer, but what should have been a one-night stand lasted until Isherwood's death in 1986. The relationship, depicted in Guido Santi and Tina Mascara's new documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story, caused some scandal in Isherwood's elite circle ofwriters, artists, and Hollywood figures. The pair were openly gay at a rime when the celluloid closet was even more tightly shut than now, and then there was the age difference, which lent Bachardy the appearance of a kept companion. But most shocking was the degree to which Bachardy allowed himself to be remade by Isherwood, adopting his clothing and mannerisms and even his accent. One wishes Guy Ritchie had been half as successful at teaching Madonna how to speak.

In addition to home movies and Isherwood's diaries (narrated, in a nice touch, by Cabaret?s Michael York), the film relies mainly on Bachardy to tell us how the relationship unfolded in the face of such adversity. He doesn't mention what sort of models-heterosexual or homosexual-the pair looked to as they built their life together, but the educational and edifying pursuits he describes reminds one more of a salutary Victorian marriage between a middle-aged man and a younggirl than a 20th-century love match. Yet it clearly was love, tinged by paternalism on Isherwood's part and hero worship on Bachardy's, but no less erotic and sustaining for that. In both the home movies and his contemporary interviews, Bachardy's eyes light up when he looks at or talks about Isherwood, and he makes it clear that he was having the time of his life. There were strains too, largely centered around their different ages and stations, and to defuse these the pair sometimes drew cartoons of an old, tired "Horse" and a rambunctious "Pussy," in which they apologized for some bit of curmudgeonliness on the part of the former or mischief on the latter (the filmmakers animate a few of these in vignettes that are simultaneously goofy and touching). Though the elder man was a talentless draftsman, by the early '60s the younger man had a thriving career as a portraitist, drawing everyone from W. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.