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Ray, Johnnie (1927-1990)  
 
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Before his record was released, however, he was arrested by a Detroit vice squad officer who was targeting men who entered the restroom of the Stone Theater burlesque house. Ray did not engage a lawyer or request a jury trial. He simply pled guilty. When offered the choice of thirty days in jail or a twenty-five dollar fine, he paid the fine. The arrest of an unknown singer drew little attention at the time, but in later years tabloids occasionally dredged up the story.

Ray's next record was extremely successful. "Cry" topped the pop charts in late 1951, and the song on the flip side, "The Little White Cloud That Cried," reached number two.

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An appearance on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town television program in early 1952 added to Ray's popularity. He put out a string of other top-selling records and began playing at prestigious venues such as the Copacabana in New York City.

In the spring of 1952 Ray married Marilyn Morrison, the daughter of a Los Angeles club owner. Morrison had avidly pursued the handsome young singing star. She was aware of Ray's homosexuality but told a friend of his that she would "straighten it out."

Her resolution was doomed, as was the marriage. The couple separated within a year and were divorced in 1954.

Ray's career, meanwhile, was flourishing. He made his first foreign tour in 1953, going to Britain, where fans went wild whenever they saw him, even ripping off pieces of his clothing for souvenirs. Ray would return to Britain on numerous occasions. His tours in 1955, 1980, and 1987 featured command performances for the royal family. He also had great success with concerts in Australia.

Among those at Ray's first appearances in England was Sir Noël Coward, who also attended one of his 1955 shows, of which he wrote in his diary, "Squealing teenagers and mass hysteria, quite nauseating, but [Ray] gave a remarkable performance both on stage and later at the Embassy, where he fondled [actress] Terry Moore for the cameras. Poor boy."

Ray and Coward developed a friendship. They socialized when their schedules brought them to the same city, and Ray was an occasional guest at Firefly, Coward's home in Jamaica.

Ray's long-held dream of being in a film was realized when he appeared in Walter Lang's There's No Business Like Show Business (1954). Ray hoped that more movies would follow, but when producer Darryl Zanuck, who had praised Ray's performance, left Twentieth Century Fox to form his own company, neither studio offered him any further projects.

When Ray appeared as the "mystery guest" on the What's My Line? television show in 1956 he met journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, who was a regular panelist on the program, and the two began an affair.

The romance was an unlikely one. Married and fifteen years Ray's senior, Kilgallen embodied cosmopolitan sophistication, while Ray had the image of a country boy turned pop singer. Kilgallen remained with her husband, and Ray took one man after another as lovers. Nevertheless, the affection between the pair was genuine, and the affair lasted for years. Ray was devastated by Kilgallen's mysterious death in 1964.

Ray had a gold record (i.e., one that sold a million copies) with "Just Walking in the Rain" in 1956, his first big hit in several years, but a series of less than successful disks followed. Ray, who had by that time stopped writing his own material, relied on Mitch Miller for song selections even though he did not always like them. Record-buyers were evidently not too impressed with some of Miller's choices either.

Ray underwent two ear operations in early 1958 with disastrous results. He lost all the hearing in his left ear and sixty percent in his right.

Despite the setback, Ray quickly returned to the concert stage and briefly hosted his own CBS radio program, The Johnnie Ray Show.

Although Ray's 1951 arrest had been alluded to in various scandal sheets over the years, the general public was unaware of it. That changed in 1959, when he was once again arrested by the Detroit vice squad on a charge of soliciting an undercover police officer in one of the city's gay bars, the Brass Rail.

This time Ray hired an attorney and fought the charges. Kilgallen stood by him, even calling the judge in the case to insist that that he receive a fair trial.

After hearing the testimony, the jury took less than an hour to find Ray not guilty, apparently concluding that he had been entrapped. Ray promptly left Detroit and never set foot in the city again.

The hard drinking in which Ray had indulged since his teens caught up with him in 1960. Weakened and exhausted, he contracted tuberculosis. He recovered after several months of treatment and resumed his career. He did not give up alcohol, however, and landed back in the hospital in 1963, suffering from cirrhosis.

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