Just when you
thought every facet of John Lennon's life had been
mined in the 25 years since his murder, a new gay
twist has come to light. A report in the Liverpool
Daily Post & Echo details how Beatles
manager Brian Epstein was outed to Lennon by a friend and
how Epstein threatened to take the friend to court
over the "highly malicious and
It was 1962, the
Beatles did not yet have a record contract, and gay sex
was still illegal in the United Kingdom. So when John
Lennon's art-school acquaintance, Ian Sharp,
outed the Beatles' new manager, Brian Epstein,
to Lennon and fellow Beatle Paul McCartney, Epstein's
lawyers sent Sharp a letter demanding a retraction.
The acquaintance said he had heard of Epstein's
sexual orientation from a club owner he knew.
According to the
Daily Post, Sharp asked Lennon and McCartney,
"Which one of you does [Epstein] fancy?"
Sharp, who later
changed his name to Richard Tate in order to pursue an
acting career, told the newspaper, "I was just
joking. There was nothing malicious, nor homophobic,
about it. John and I were just 21, and that was the
way we spoke."
"Thankfully, they didn't use my other line.
John had said, 'He's not like that, is
he?' and I replied, 'Don't bend down to
pick up the contract.'"
Epstein was gay,
but like Oscar Wilde before him, he could not allow a
public disclosure of his sexuality to stand without putting
his career and reputation at risk. So his attorneys
drafted a letter to Sharp demanding a retraction. The
letter, dated February 28, 1962, called Sharp's
remark "unwarranted innuendo" and said Epstein
"takes the gravest possible exception"
Tate told the
Liverpool newspaper, "There was no debate about what
I was to do--I had visions of courtrooms and
paying out a huge amount of money, so we quickly put
together a mealy-mouthed letter of apology."
Epstein fancied Lennon has been kicked about for
decades. It inspired the acclaimed 1992 film The Hours and
Times, in which gay writer-director Christopher Munch
imagined what might have happened between the two late
cultural icons during a 1962 vacation they shared in
Barcelona. Ian Hart, who went on to play a Hogwarts teacher
in the first Harry Potter movie, played John Lennon in
Tate said he
believes Epstein was being blackmailed over his sexuality at
the time the letter was written by Epstein's
solicitors. Tate is discussing the incident now both
because of the upcoming 25th anniversary of
Lennon's assassination, on December 8, and because he
is performing in an upcoming BBC Radio 4 radio play
about Lennon called Unimaginable, playing a
reporter and an old friend of Lennon's.