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literature

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Halliburton, Richard (1900-1939)  
 
page: 1  2  

What book did he "fling away"? One of the primary texts of letters, Oscar Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray. Halliburton credits the book with inspiring his romantic attitude toward life: "I began to recite lines from it that had burned themselves into my memory: 'Realize your youth while you have it . . . Don't squander the gold of your days.' Let those who wish have their respectability--I wanted freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice struck my fancy. . . . Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing. . . . The romantic--that was what I wanted."

In New Worlds To Conquer Halliburton claims to have ended one of his champion swims in the arms of a "lovely senorita," a character he undoubtedly created to mold his public persona as appropriately heterosexual. But his actual erotic interests surface in descriptions like this one from The Royal Road. "[A] dugout appeared . . . manned by an extraordinarily fine-looking young Dyak. He wore only the usual red cotton cloth, wrapped tightly about his loins. His trim muscular body, shining in the sun and extravagantly tattooed on arms and legs, made a perfect picture of natural grace and strength. Thick, straight, jet-black hair hung in bangs across his forehead."

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In 1989, popular science lecturer and writer David M. Schwartz "outed" Halliburton to contemporary readers in the Smithsonian Magazine. He notes that "though it was a fairly well kept secret during his lifetime, he was evidently homosexual. He took pains to conceal this in his books, but he had numerous gay contacts around the world and at home in California."

Halliburton's "home in California" was both a landmark of contemporary architecture and an emblem of his interior life. The early modernist house sits on a promontory in Laguna Beach, and was dubbed "Hangover House" by Halliburton himself, both for its craggy position and for the obvious alcoholic pun. The name also suggests the carefree, fun-loving character of Laguna at that time.

The house was designed in Mies van der Rohe's International Style by William Alexander Levy, then a 28-year-old student of Frank Lloyd Wright's and involved in a ménage-à-trois with Halliburton and his lover, editor, and ghostwriter Paul Mooney. As architectural critic Ted Wells has reported, Levy "met Paul Mooney in 1930 and the two men became lovers. By that time, Mooney had a prolific professional and personal relationship as editor and ghostwriter to Richard Halliburton, the world-traveling adventurer, who at the time was as famous as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart." Hangover House thus served as exterior emblem of the private, interior Halliburton by physically securing the ménage-à-trois of Levy, Paul Mooney, and Halliburton under one roof.

Mooney and Halliburton apparently died together in the typhoon that sunk their ship. Levy survived until 1997, but produced no other architectural design as successful as Hangover House.

The choice of Laguna as the site for the stunning home was probably due to factors in addition to its spectacular views. The area was sufficiently far from Los Angeles to afford Halliburton privacy, and it had become known as a gay haven. According to the Orange County L/G/B/T Timeline Project, which includes Halliburton in its survey of notable county queers, as early as 1920 Laguna made "a great [film] shooting location, and Laguna's first wave of gays arrive[d] as members of these early crews."

That Mooney and Halliburton were romantically involved is confirmed by Gerry Max in his 2007 book, Horizon Chasers, and by Winston Wilde in his forthcoming Haworth Press volume on "Queer Bonding." Allan Ellenberger's biography of Ramon Novarro also posits an erotic bond between the adventurer and the film star.

While the gay explorer-adventurer-writer may seem an unusual phenomenon, that persona itself figures prominently in American and British letters: Halliburton maintained the tradition exemplified by Herman Melville, Charles Warren Stoddard, Richard Henry Dana, and the late Tobias Schneebaum, to say nothing of Sir Richard Burton, T. E. Lawrence, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, and Bruce Chatwin.

The very names of these men may conjure the contemporary distaste for what Edward Said termed "Orientalism," the objectification of a sexually-desired, remote "native." Indeed, one reason for Halliburton's decline in popularity after his death was that his writings were perceived as racist, even as they glorified the exotic. Perhaps, however, contemporary gay culture has matured to a point where it can appreciate the gay travel romance as a legitimate historical genre, and appreciate Halliburton as an artist who wished to expand human understanding and to unite men through universalized desire.

Mark Staebler

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   Related Entries
  
literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Although largely invisible to the general public, a large body of twentieth-century gay male literature by American authors was published prior to Stonewall, some of it positive but most of it tinged with misery or bleakness as the price of being published and disseminated.

arts >> Overview:  Architecture

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual people have contributed significantly to the field of architecture and to the creation of queer space.

social sciences >> Overview:  Los Angeles

The glbtq history of Los Angeles, the U.S.'s second largest metropolis, is replete with cultural, social, and political firsts.

literature >> Overview:  Travel Literature

Travel has afforded gays and lesbians both freedom from the restraints of their own cultures and the erotic stimulus of exotic sexual customs and partners.

social sciences >> Burton, Sir Richard F.

Although evidence of his own homosexual leanings is inconclusive, in his lifetime Sir Richard Burton was regarded with suspicion because of his knowledge and understanding of same-sex sexual activity.

literature >> Byron, George Gordon, Lord

The bisexual Lord Byron treated many of his homosexual love affairs in his poetry, encoding them by the use of classical references or by purporting that they were affairs with women.

literature >> Chatwin, Bruce

The acclaimed prose style of travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin, a secretive bisexual, may have been developed as a means of hiding the truth of his sexuality.

literature >> Lawrence, T. E.

Although he chose celibacy, Lawrence of Arabia formed close romantic attachments to young men.

literature >> Melville, Herman

The most important American novelist of the nineteenth century, Herman Melville reflects his homosexuality throughout his texts.

arts >> Novarro, Ramon

The romantic idol of Hollywood silent films in the 1920s, Ramon Novarro has been perceived as a distinctly effeminate performer.

literature >> Stoddard, Charles Warren

A pioneering California writer, Charles Warren Stoddard is best known for his homoerotic tales collected as South-Sea Idyls and The Island of Tranquil Delights.

literature >> Thesiger, Sir Wilfred

Although there is some question as to whether travel writer, explorer, photographer, and cult figure Sir Wilfred Thesiger can be labeled as homosexual, his most powerful emotional ties were with the young male companions of his famous journeys.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.


    Bibliography
   

Ellenberger, Allan R. Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1999.

Max, Gerry. Horizon Chasers: The Lives and Adventures of Richard Halliburton and Paul Mooney. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2007.

Muirhead, B. I. "The Orange County L/G/B/T Timeline Project." 3rd ed. (2004): www.lgbtrc.uci.edu/timeline/timeline_1800-1969.pdf

Schwartz, David M. "On the Royal Road to Adventures with 'Daring Dick.'" Smithsonian Magazine 19.12 (March 1, 1989):159-160, 162-164, 166, 168, 170, 172, 174-178.

Wells, Ted. "Hangover House: An Obscure Modern Masterpiece." Ted Wells' Living Simple: Architecture, Design, and Living (March 7, 2007): http://twls.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=190016>

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Staebler, Mark  
    Entry Title: Halliburton, Richard  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated April 15, 2007  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/halxliburton_r.html  
    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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