John Herbert dies in Toronto

Gay playwright John Herbert, who wrote the controversial prison drama Fortune and Men’s Eyes, died at his home in Toronto, according to He was 74. Although he wrote 16 other plays, Fortune and Men’s Eyes was the one that cemented Herbert’s reputation as a provocative public figure. Fortune was completed in 1964, but the unabashed way in which it dealt with gay life behind bars made it too hot a commodity to stage until the Actor’s Playhouse mounted a 1967 production in New York. The source material for the play was in large part personal experience, since Herbert was arrested in his youth for dressing in drag. Once, he was imprisoned after being mugged when his muggers accused him of soliciting. Herbert had undergone a biopsy for prostate cancer a month ago and had been ill ever since. A memorial service will be held July 17 at Toronto’s Gay Village.

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