Nelly Power: When Coming Out Isn't a Choice

These men — both real and fictional — who could never 'pass' might be considered the pioneers of gay visibility.

BY Christopher Harrity

November 05 2013 5:00 AM ET



Paul Lynde: Mean Queen


Lynde was best known for acerbic sexual double entendres on the game show Hollywood Squares. His career started on Broadway in shows like New Faces of 1952 and Bye Bye Birdie. He took the role in Birdie to the big screen with Ann-Margret. And he played Uncle Arthur on the long-running series Bewitched with Elizabeth Montgomery and the Dicks, York and Sargent.

Throughout his career his orientation was thinly veiled, and his stock-in-trade was the nelly, campy Lynde that we know from all his characters. And while Lynde made money and a legacy from his swishy ways and gay humor, he kept his sexual identity a secret.

Lynde also had substance abuse problems and was most certainly an alcoholic, reputedly a mean-mouthed one who would verbally abuse his friends when drunk. His drinking resulted in an arrest record and even a narrow escape from scandal when his young drinking partner and companion fell out a San Francisco hotel room window eight stories up after a drinking binge with Lynde. The event was witnessed by two policemen, but kept out of the papers.

The stories surrounding Lynde's death are varied. Some report that he was found dead in a swimming pool. Others report that the listed cause, massive heart attack, is not confirmed and hint at darker reasons. Wikipedia, a source that is sometimes creative rather than factual, tells of Paul Barresi, a porn star and personal trainer, finding Lynde dead in his home.  

The closest the press got to revealing his sexuality was when People magazine featured an article on Lynde and his “suite mate/chauffeur-bodyguard” Stan Finesmith in 1976.

Below, Paul Lynde in a Halloween special.

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