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John Lennon pal
recalls outing Brian Epstein

John Lennon pal
recalls outing Brian Epstein


A friend of John Lennon's reportedly outed Brian Epstein in 1962, and Epstein threatened to sue over the remark.

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 defamatory" remark.

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."

Tate added, "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" to it.

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."

Speculation that 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 the film.

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. (

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