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Perkins, Anthony (1932-1992)  
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But 1960 was also the year in which he was offered the role that would change his career forever, transforming him into a character actor of the first order, but also severely limiting his range: director Alfred Hitchcock, unable to secure Dean Stockwell for the part, cast him as the creepy murderer Norman Bates in the film Psycho.

The same nervous shyness that had made Perkins engaging as a misunderstood teenager in earlier roles made him disturbingly believable as a mentally unbalanced slasher in Hitchcock's thriller. Perkins delivered a consummate performance, all tics and twitches, so memorable as to forever alter the American public's perception of him.

Indeed, immediately after the success of Psycho, Perkins found it difficult to get other roles, since studio heads believed that American audiences would continue to view him as Norman Bates. To continue his career, he was forced to go to Europe, where less impressionable audiences appreciated his performances in many French films, including Anatole Litvak's Goodbye Again with Ingrid Bergman in 1961 (for which Perkins won a Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival) and Jules Dassin's Phaedra with Melina Mercouri in 1962. He received critical plaudits for his performance as Joseph K. in Orson Welles' film of Kafka's The Trial (1962).

When he returned to the U.S. during the late 1960s, Perkins still found himself typecast in the horror genre. This time, he sought to capitalize on the identification and made a series of thrillers, including Noel Black's Pretty Poison (1968) with Tuesday Weld and several Psycho sequels, one of which he directed himself.

Although for the rest of his career Perkins would be identified in the public imagination with Norman Bates, he did perform in other roles, including a striking cameo in Sidney Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express (1974). He even camped it up as a gay photographer in Berry Gordy's vehicle for Diana Ross, Mahogany (1975). He also directed and starred in the off-Broadway production of Bruce Jay Friedman's Steambath (1970).

With Stephen Sondheim, he wrote the screenplay for the Herbert Ross film The Last of Sheila (1973), for which he and Sondheim received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.

In 1972, at the age of 39, while filming John Huston's The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, in which he had a small part, he had what is reported to be his first sexual experience with a woman, an affair with co-star Victoria Principal.

In 1973, determined to hide, if not eradicate, his homosexuality and to achieve what he thought of as a "normal" family life, Perkins married Berry Berenson, a photographer and actress sixteen years his junior, whom he met at a cast party for Frank Perry's Play It As It Lays (1972), in which he appeared opposite Tuesday Weld. Berenson, the sister of actress Marisa Berenson, had fallen in love with Perkins as a pre-teen watching his early films. She actively pursued a relationship with him once they met as adults.

Following their marriage, the couple soon had two sons, Elvis and Osgood, and appeared to live happily together.

Although the marriage was greeted with considerable skepticism by many of Perkins' gay friends, such as Don Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood, it was seen by others as the happy culmination of the actor's long and torturous quest to "cure" his homosexuality.

Although Perkins might have become the poster boy for the "ex-gay" movement, there was one problem with this possible scenario. Despite his heterosexual marriage, and his apparent ability to perform heterosexually, he continued to have sex with men. For example, author and publisher Felice Picano revealed that he had a sexual encounter with Perkins during his marriage. Indeed, Perkins' biographer, Charles Winecoff, through interviews with employees of sex shops, hotel bell boys, and street hustlers, details at considerable length the actor's "double life" after his marriage.

During the last phase of his career, Perkins was a staple in low-budget movies and in movies made for television. Although he occasionally appeared in small parts in major motion pictures, and kept active in theater, his public persona became more and more intertwined with that of Norman Bates. He even served as host of the short-lived television horror anthology series, Chillers (1990).

In 1990, Perkins was as surprised as anyone to see a headline in the National Enquirer proclaiming, "Psycho Star Has AIDS Virus." Stunned, he quickly had himself tested and discovered that he was indeed HIV-positive. (Earlier in 1990, Perkins had given a blood sample as part of a treatment for a palsy on the side of his face. The National Enquirer illegally obtained the sample and had it tested for the AIDS virus.)

Fearing that revelation of his diagnosis might prevent him from working again, he kept the information private. He also never acknowledged his homosexuality, but he did spend the last two years of his life working to support others with the disease in organizations like Project Angel Food, which supplied meals for people with AIDS.

Perkins died on September 12, 1992. In his final statement, released after his death and quoted in the September 28, 1992 People Weekly, he said, "There are many who believe this disease is God's vengeance. But I believe it was sent to teach people how to love and understand and have compassion for each other. I have learned more about love, selflessness and human understanding from the people I have met in this great adventure in the world of AIDS than I ever did in the cutthroat, competitive world in which I spent my life."

Shortly before his death, Perkins recorded an epilogue for Roger Spottiswoode's television film version of Randy Shilts's history of the early years of the AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On (1993).

Berry Berenson Perkins died on September 11, 2001. She was a passenger on one of the planes hijacked in the attack on New York City's World Trade Center. Anthony Perkins' son Osgood, also an actor, made his film debut as the young Norman Bates in the 1986 film Psycho III and has since appeared in several films; his son Elvis is a musician.

Tina Gianoulis

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Mixed-orientation marriages--those in which one partner is straight and the other is gay or lesbian--often end in divorce, but such an ending is not inevitable.

social sciences >> Overview:  Reparative Therapy

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arts >> Overview:  Screenwriters

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arts >> Overview:  Stage Actors and Actresses

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arts >> Bachardy, Don

American artist Don Bachardy, the long-time companion of novelist Christopher Isherwood, has achieved renown in his own right for his nudes and celebrity portraits, which honestly convey the personalities of his sitters.

arts >> Cukor, George

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arts >> Dean, James

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arts >> Hunter, Tab

Actor Tab Hunter's blond good looks made him a movie idol in the 1950s, but his romantic heterosexual roles concealed his identity as a gay man.

literature >> Isherwood, Christopher

A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.

arts >> Nureyev, Rudolf

The greatest dancer of his time, Rudolf Nureyev also gave the world a new and glamorous image of a sexually active gay man.

literature >> Picano, Felice

Prolific author Felice Picano, a founding member of the Violet Quill, is also a pioneer in gay publishing, having founded two publishing houses.

literature >> Shilts, Randy

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arts >> Sondheim, Stephen

One of the most innovative talents of the musical theater in the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim has only indirectly reflected his homosexuality in his work.


Fairbanks, Brian W. "Actor Profile: Anthony Perkins." Brian W. Fairbanks, Writer.

Goodman, Mark. "One Final Mystery." People Weekly 38.13 (September 28, 1992): 38-44. 

Hunter, Tab, with Eddie Muller. Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books, 2005.

"In His Father's Footsteps: Oz Perkins." People Weekly 56.7 (August 13, 2001): 88.

Patterson. Troy. "Tony Perkins Dies." Entertainment Weekly No. 449  (September 11, 1998): 144.

Picano, Felice. "Tab Talks."  The Advocate (October 11, 2005): 70-77.

Thomson, David.  "Anthony Perkins, 1932-92: 'Let Them See What Kind of Person I Am.'" Film Comment 28.6 (November-December 1992): 78-80.

Warnor, Andy. "Berry & Tony: A Love Story." Interview 31.11 (November 2001): 147-50.

Winecoff, Charles. Split Image: The Life of Anthony Perkins. New York: Dutton, 1996.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Perkins, Anthony  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated January 9, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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