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Burr, Raymond (1917-1993)  
page: 1  2  

Reports from Burr's closest associates cast doubt on the account. John Strauss, his publicist since 1953, said that Burr "never mentioned any wives or a son" and that he was in fact working steadily during the time when he claimed to have been on the road with his son. In addition, Burr's sister, Geraldine Fuller, said that neither she nor her mother ever saw Burr's son. None of Burr's longtime friends seems to have met any of his wives.

Despite the suspicious biography and occasional efforts to portray Burr as romantically linked to various actresses, including Natalie Wood, industry insiders were aware of his homosexuality. In 1961 Hedda Hopper, gossip columnist and mother of William Hopper, a co-star on Perry Mason, wrote to tell Burr that she had received a compromising letter about him but said that she would not divulge the information, promising to "stand up and swear anything for [him]."

In 1963 Burr and his partner, Robert Benevides, an actor whom he had met on the Perry Mason set, bought Naitaumba, an island in Fiji. There they pursued their shared interest in breeding orchids, a hobby that they turned into a successful business, Sea God Nurseries.

They also ran a cattle ranch and worked to improve the lives of the 150 residents of the island, building houses, a church, and a school. Burr sponsored the publication of the first dictionary of the Fiji language and also provided money to send the island's youngsters to school, a practice that he continued even after he and Benevides sold the island in 1983.

By 1980 Burr and Benevides had moved their orchid business to a farm in the Sonoma valley of California. In the early 1980s Burr donated two greenhouses and a portion of the orchid collection to the California State Polytechnic University-Pomona.

In the decade that followed, he and Benevides donated thousands more plants, and in 1992 they gave the university a collection of art and antique furniture valued at $1,100,000. Other gifts made by Burr and Benevides include theater and law school scholarships.

In the 1980s Burr and Benevides became interested in grape-growing and wine production. Vines were planted on their northern California farm in 1986, and their first vintage was produced in 1990.

At the same time both men were involved in the making of Perry Mason television movies, Burr as the star and Benevides as a producer. By the early 1990s, however, Burr was in failing health due to cancer. In August 1993 he completed his last film, Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss, after which he retired to the farm, where he died on September 12, 1993.

Although Burr had not wanted it, Benevides decided to name their business the Raymond Burr Vineyards as a tribute to his partner of thirty-five years.

Linda Rapp

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Bergan, Ronald. "Bruising Baddie to Invincible Goodie." The (London) Guardian (September 14, 1993): 15.

Biemiller, Lawrence. "From the Greenhouses of Cal Poly Pomona, Blooms of Rare Breeding." The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 23, 2001): A56.

Bounds, J. Dennis. "Burr, Raymond." Encyclopedia of Television. Horace Newcomb, ed. Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997. 1:260-262.

"Burr, Raymond (William Stacy)." Current Biography 1961. Charles Moritz, ed. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1961. 88-90.

"The Defense Rests." People Weekly (September 27, 1993): 40.

Grimes, William. "Raymond Burr, Actor, 76, Dies." The New York Times (September 14, 1993): B9.

Hodges, Ann. "Defense Rests." The Houston Chronicle (October 22, 1993): Houston section, 1.

Mann, William J. Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood 1910-1969. New York: Viking, 2001.

"No Trace Is Found of Howard's Plane." New York Times (June 4, 1943): 4.

"Raymond Burr." The Daily Telegraph (September 14, 1993): 19.

Raymond Burr Vineyards website:


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Burr, Raymond  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 14, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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