This post celebrates nearly three dozen accomplished gay and lesbian individuals who are at least 75 years of age. In their formative years, mostly during the 1950s and 1960s, life posed many challenges because of their sexual orientation. However, they managed to excel in their careers even if it required hiding their true nature. Most are now open about their orientation and are beacons of inspiration for young LGBTs. What follows are some top-line findings. (The list can be found at the end of the post.)
- The oldest of the group is gossip columnist Liz Smith, who is 91, ten days older than director Franco Zeffirelli. Prolific composer Ned Rorem is 90. (Deceased gay icons who lived beyond 90 include architect Philip Johnson, who died at 98; actor John Gielgud, who lived to 96; and artist Paul Cadmus, who was 95 when he died in 1999.)
- Probably the most famous are composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim (84) and fashion designer Giorgio Armani (78).
- Only four of the thirty-four persons on this list are women: Liz Smith; same-sex marriage activist Edie Windsor (84); director/producer Jane Wagner (79) and author Patricia Nell Warren.
- Only one person on the list is Black, singer Johnny Mathis (78) and just one is of Asian heritage, actor George Takei. None are Hispanic (the oldest is Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is 66).
- This seasoned group has worked in sixteen different occupations, with fashion designers and playwrights represented the most, by four names each. Arnold Scaasi; Valentino; Karl Lagerfeld; and Giorgio Armani are the designers (all foreign born), while Edward Albee; John Glines; Mart Crowley; and Terrence McNally are the playwrights. In addition, there are three directors, three composers and three authors.
- Ian McKellen will join this group next month when he turns 75 on May 25 ) and Lily Tomlin on Sept. 1. Three more will turn 75 next year: author Edmund White, fashion designer Bob Mackie and former Congressman Barney Frank. The most recent death of someone in the 75+ group was pianist Van Cliburn who was 78 when he died in February of 2013.
- If there lives weren't cut short by AIDS some well-known gay men would no doubt be part of this group, including choreographers Robert Joffrey and Alvin Ailey; athlete Tom Waddell; dancer Rudolf Nureyev; actors Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins, Larry Kert and Robert Reed; pianist Liberace; and French philosopher Michel Foucault.
|NOTEWORTHY GAY PERSONALITIES AGE 75+|
|(Ages as of May 1, 2014)|
|Profession||Age||Best Known For|
|Franco Zeffirelli||Movie & Opera Director||91||Worked with Maria Callas|
|Liz Smith||Gossip Columnist||91||New York Post|
|Ned Rorem||Composer||90||Prolific composer of 300+ pieces; Fullbright Scholar; Pulitzer Prize for Music|
|Edward Albee||Playwright||86||"Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?"|
|James Ivory||Director||85||Merchant Ivory Productions has produced 50+ films|
|Arnold Scaasi||Fashion Designer||84||Designed gowns for four First Ladies|
|Stephen Sondheim||Composer/Lyricist||84||8 Tony Awards, 8 Grammys, 2 Oscars, 1 Pulitzer Prize|
|Jasper Johns||Artist||84||"Three Flags"/Partnered with Rob't Rauschenberg|
|Edie Windsor||Mathematician/Activist||84||Lawsuit led to Supreme Court striking down DOMA|
|John Rechy||Author||84||"City of Night"/"Numbers"/"The Sexual Outlaw"|
|Martin Duberman||Historian/Professor||83||Founded Center for Lesbian/Gay Studies at CUNY|
|Paul Taylor||Choreographer||83||Worked with Martha Graham|
|Clive Davis||Record Executive||82||Managed Whitney Houston|
|Jerry Herman||Composer/Lyricist||82||"Hello, Dolly!"/"Mame"/"La Cage aux Folles"|
|Valentino||Fashion Designer||81||Last name is Garavani/Documentary: "Valentino - The Last Emperor"|
|Jim French||Photographer||81||Founder of Colt Studios|
|James Hormel||Diplomat||81||1st openly gay US ambassador (Luxembourg)|
|Richard Chamberlain||Actor||80||"Dr. Kildare"/"Shogun"/"The Thornbirds"|
|Don Bachardy||Portrait Artist||80||2008 documentary about life w/Christopher Isherwood: "Chris & Don: A Love Story"|
|John Glines||Playwright/Producer||80||Tony winner for "Torch Song Trilogy"|
|Karl Lagerfeld||Fashion Designer||80||Chanel/Fendi|
|Jane Wagner||Writer/Producer/Dir||79||Partnered w/Lily Tomlin for 40+ years|
|Mart Crowley||Playwright||78||"Boys in the Band"|
|Larry Kramer||Writer/Activist||78||Co-founded GMHC/"The Normal Heart"|
|Giorgio Armani||Fashion Designer||78||Personal worth of $8.5 billion|
|Johnny Mathis||Singer||78||"Chances Are"|
|George Takei||Actor||77||"Star Trek's" Mr. Sulu|
|Patricia Nell Warren||Author||77||"The Front Runner"|
|David Hockney||Artist||76||Born in England, fell in love with So. Calif.|
|Tommy Tune||Choreographer/Director/Actor||75||Nine Tony Awards/Twiggy/Known for his height (6'6")|
|Terrence McNally||Playwright||75||"Love! Valour! Compassion!"/"Master Class"/"Ragtime"/4 Tonys|
|Rex Reed||Film Critic||75||Lives in The Dakota/pals with Liz Smith|
|Jonathan Ned Katz||Queer Studies/Historian||75||Created OutHistory.org website|