Twenty Who Made Their Mark under Thirty: A Historical Look at the Great Gay and Lesbian Prodigies in the Arts

By Weir, John | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), August 19, 1997 | Go to article overview

Twenty Who Made Their Mark under Thirty: A Historical Look at the Great Gay and Lesbian Prodigies in the Arts


Weir, John, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


A historical look back at the great gay and lesbian prodigies in the arts

Gertrude Stein may have been the first artist to pinpoint 30 as the age at which true creativity initially can be expressed. Or, rather, 29. "A person either reaches his 29th birthday, or he does not," she said, meaning that sooner or later an artist sets aside influences and inhibitions and creates something new, a work of art distinctly his or her own. Here are 20 gay and lesbian writers, musicians, filmmakers, artists, dancers, and choreographers who met Stein's deadline: They achieved their first success before turning 30.

The original British bad boy

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

The original bad boy of English literature, Marlowe was a brilliant, snide rebel who ran drunk through London pubs claiming that Jesus had sex with his disciple John. "Christ did love him with an extraordinary love," Marlowe insisted. He wrote his first play, Tamburlaine the Great, when he was 23 and created a string of successful tragedies for the Elizabethan stage, including Edward II, which is about the 14th-century British king who was killed in part because he lavished so many royal favors on his boyfriend.

Like Edward II, Marlowe met a bad end as well. He "died swearing," stabbed in a bar brawl, possibly in a fight over the drink tab. But there were rumors of foul play. After all, he'd been a government spy, an atheist, and an accused heretic. Perhaps he was being silenced for remarks like "All they that love not tobacco and boys are fools."

She lit up the City of Light

Colette (1873-1954)

Twenty-four when she wrote her first novel, Claudine at School, Colette originally published under her husband's name, Willy. Claudine sold 40,000 copies in two months. Later she said her marriage was "a morbid thing, akin to the neuroses of puberty, the habit of eating chalk and coal, of drinking mouthwash, of reading dirty books, and sticking pins into the palm of your hand."

After splitting from Willy, Colette became a music-hall performer, hung out with Paris lesbians, and fell in love with a woman named Missy. They were together until Colette married an editor, had a daughter at 40, and wrote her popular novel Cheri. By the time she died, she'd been a wife, lover, mother, actress, writer, and grand officer in the Legion of Honour. She even discovered Audrey Hepburn, whom she picked to star in the stage version of her most famous novel, Gigi. Yet she never forgot that "she had been one of those half-naked dancing girls whose naughty photographs are still preserved in certain albums."

Harlem's renaissance man

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Hughes's first volume of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published in 1926 when he was 24. Suddenly he was one of the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance, which was at its height in the late 1920s. The child of a white father and a black mother, Hughes was a mix of French, Indian, and African blood. As a young man he was vague enough about his sexuality to make everyone fall in love with him. He carried on a long (perhaps unconsummated) flirtation with fellow Harlem poet Countee Cullen, who sent Hughes a number of poems, including one titled "To a Brown Boy" with the dedication "For L.H." Still, Hughes was coy about his sexuality throughout his life, though African-American filmmaker Isaac Julien controversially claimed him as a fellow homo, in his 1989 documentary, Looking for Langston.

High society's child

Truman Capote (1924-1984)

"I'm an alcoholic. I'm a drug addict. I'm a homosexual. I'm a genius," Capote wrote not long before his death. He died a self-parody, more famous as a celebrity than as the author of the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's and the classic nonfiction crime suspense novel In Cold Blood. But Capote was a literary sensation at age 24 with the 1948 publication of his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Twenty Who Made Their Mark under Thirty: A Historical Look at the Great Gay and Lesbian Prodigies in the Arts
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.