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The Capitol

The Capitol


Hayes was 19 when he worked as an intern for an Alabama congressman in 1975. He learned how to answer phones and open mail as well as how to live a double life from one closeted gay Republican.

I was a 19-year-old student at the University of Alabama in 1975 when I received a letter from my congressman's chief of staff with this offer: "If you'll quit writing asking for a job, I'll hire you this summer as an intern." Eager and idealistic, I set off by car from Mobile to Washington, D.C. I can still feel the thrill of seeing the dome of the Capitol pop into view.

That summer offered an unusual education. I hadn't come out yet but I was intrigued by the flamboyant chief of staff who hired me. During the workweek he wore conservative pin-striped suits and wing-tip shoes, but on Friday evenings his conservative Republican ensemble disappeared. He slipped into a wild tropical shirt and a pair of white linen shorts, complemented by couture sandals, sunglasses, and a hat. And then he invited all of the interns out on his yacht on the Potomac where dinner was provided, as were cocktails. We drifted up and down the river with the panache of Cleopatra and her entourage, often past midnight.

I really had no idea at the time just how flamboyant and high-camp this spectacle was. After the chief had downed a couple of drinks, he became very fey. This, combined with his outfits, campy wit, and flamboyant manner, instilled within all of us the notion that this man was "way gay."

At the time he never made an improper remark or physical overture. Years later--when I was well past the age of 21--I returned to D.C. on business, and he took me out for a drink and made a move on me. It was creepy. But back in 1975 we were in awe of him; for us, he represented not only the high life but also the centers of power. He seemed to hold the world in his hands. He was Washington.

I've thought of him of late, as the Foley scandal continued to unfold. I wondered for years what difficulties my former chief must have encountered by leading his double life. Foley reminds me of him because he was so obviously in thrall to the glamour of the job that he allowed the accoutrements of power to trump all other considerations. I'm talking about the age-old dilemma of the closet. At what point does a gay individual in a high-profile public position of responsibility become tainted if he remains silent about being gay? n

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