"MORE THAN A HOMOSEXUAL"
GEORGE FLEUTI WAS A POLISHED, mild-mannered man with a slight build and a light complexion. He had the demeanor of a front desk clerk at a fairly posh hotel. And that's exactly what he was by the time he ran into trouble with U.S. authorities.
Before immigrating to this country at age 40, Fleuti had worked in hotels all over Switzerland. Since his mid-20s, he'd been having sex with other men "whenever the opportunity would present itself, and one of my friends felt the same way at the same time," he once recalled. When he was admitted to the United States as a permanent resident on October 9, 1952, there was nothing in U.S. immigration law that could have been construed as making him ineligible to enter simply for being homosexual.
In early 1954, Fleuti settled into a permanent job as a valued and trusted employee at the Ojai Valley Inn and Country Club, a resort in Ojai (pronounced "Oh-hi"), California. Sixty miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, Ojai was a lush and peaceful valley overflowing with avocado and lemon trees. Hollywood's idea of utopia, the Ojai valley starred as the mythical "Shangri-La" in the 1937 film Lost Horizon. The idyllic valley then became Fleuti's American Shangri-La. Within four years of his arrival he'd been promoted to the inn's front office manager, supervising eight workers and personally handling at least $500,000 in cash a year.
The Supreme Court's voluminous record on Fleuti fails to pinpoint the moment the INS set its sights on deporting him. But it seems likely