J. Edgar Hoover  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

John Edgar Hoover (January 1, 1895 – May 2, 1972), generally known as J. Edgar Hoover, was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States.

Hoover was highly regarded by much of the U.S. public, but posthumously he became an increasingly controversial figure. His many critics asserted that he exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI.

According to President Harry S. Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force. Truman stated: "we want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him."

Sexuality

Since the 1940s, rumors had circulated that Hoover was homosexual. The historians John Stuart Cox and Athan G. Theoharis speculated that Clyde Tolson, who became an associate director of the FBI and Hoover's primary heir, may have been his lover. Hoover reportedly hunted down and threatened anyone who made insinuations about his sexuality.

Some associates and scholars dismiss rumors about Hoover's sexuality, and his relationship with Tolson in particular, as unlikely, while others have described them as probable or even "confirmed".

Hoover described Tolson as his alter ego: the men worked closely together during the day and, both single, frequently took meals, went to night clubs, and vacationed together. This closeness between the two men is often cited as evidence that they were lovers, though some FBI employees who knew them, such as W. Mark Felt, say the relationship was "brotherly". The former FBI official Mike Mason suggested that some of Hoover's colleagues denied that he had a sexual relationship with Tolson in an effort to protect Hoover's image.

Hoover bequeathed his estate to Tolson, who moved into Hoover's house after Hoover died. Tolson accepted the American flag that draped Hoover's casket. Tolson is buried a few yards away from Hoover in the Congressional Cemetery.

Hoover's biographer Richard Hack does not believe the director was gay. Hack notes that Hoover was romantically linked to actress Dorothy Lamour in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and that after Hoover's death, Lamour did not deny rumors that she had had an affair with him in the years between her two marriages. Hack further reported that, during the 1940s and 1950s, Hoover attended social events with Lela Rogers, the divorced mother of dancer and actress Ginger Rogers, so often that many of their mutual friends assumed the pair would eventually marry.

In his biography Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993), the journalist Anthony Summers quoted "society divorcee" Susan Rosenstiel as claiming to have seen Hoover engaging in cross-dressing in the 1950s, at homosexual parties. Summers also said the Mafia had blackmail material on Hoover, which made Hoover reluctant to pursue organized crime aggressively. According to Summers, top organized crime figures Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello obtained photos of Hoover's alleged homosexual activity with Tolson and used them to ensure that the FBI did not target their illegal activities. Additionally, Summers claimed that Hoover was friends with Billy Byars, Jr., an alleged child pornographer and producer of the film The Genesis Children. Another Hoover biographer who heard the rumors of homosexuality and blackmail, however, said he was unable to corroborate them, though it has been acknowledged that Lansky and other organized crime figures had frequently been allowed to visit the Del Charro Hotel in La Jolla, California, which was owned by Hoover's friend, and staunch Lyndon Johnson supporter, Clint Murchison. Hoover and Tolson would frequently visit the Del Charro Hotel as well. Summers quoted a source named Charles Krebs as saying, "On three occasions that I knew about, maybe four, boys were driven down to La Jolla at Hoover's request."

Although never corroborated, the allegation of cross-dressing has been widely repeated. In the words of author Thomas Doherty, "For American popular culture, the image of the zaftig FBI director as a Christine Jorgensen wanna-be was too delicious not to savor." Biographer Kenneth Ackerman contends that Summers' accusations have been "widely debunked by historians."

Skeptics of the cross-dressing story point to Susan Rosenstiel's poor credibility (she pleaded guilty to attempted perjury in a 1971 case and later served time in a New York City jail). Recklessly indiscreet behavior by Hoover would have been totally out of character, whatever his sexuality. Most biographers consider the story of Mafia blackmail unlikely in light of the FBI's investigations of the Mafia. Truman Capote, who helped spread salacious rumors about Hoover, once remarked that he was more interested in making Hoover angry than determining whether the rumors were true.

The attorney Roy Cohn, who served as general counsel on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations during Senator Joseph McCarthy's tenure as chairman and assisted Hoover during the 1950s investigations of Communists—and who was generally known to be a closeted homosexual —opined that Hoover was too frightened of his own sexuality to have anything approaching a normal sexual or romantic relationship. During the Lavender Scare, Cohn and McCarthy further enhanced anti-Communist fervor by suggesting that Communists overseas had convinced several closeted homosexuals within the U.S. government to leak important government information in exchange for the assurance that their sexual identity would remain a secret. A federal investigation that followed convinced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to sign an Executive Order on April 29, 1953, that barred homosexuals from obtaining jobs at the federal level. In his 2004 study of the event, historian David K. Johnson attacked the speculations about Hoover's homosexuality as relying on "the kind of tactics Hoover and the security program he oversaw perfected—guilt by association, rumor, and unverified gossip." He views Rosenstiel as a liar who was paid for her story, whose "description of Hoover in drag engaging in sex with young blond boys in leather while desecrating the Bible is clearly a homophobic fantasy." He believes only those who have forgotten the virulence of the decades-long campaign against homosexuals in government can believe reports that Hoover appeared in compromising situations.

Some people associated with Hoover have supported the rumors about his homosexual tendencies. Actress and singer Ethel Merman, who was a friend of Hoover's since 1938, said in a 1978 interview, "Some of my best friends are homosexual. Everybody knew about J. Edgar Hoover, but he was the best chief the FBI ever had." According to Anthony Summers, Hoover often frequented New York City's Stork Club. Luisa Stuart, a model who was 18 or 19 at the time, told Summers that she had seen Hoover holding hands with Tolson as they all rode in a limo uptown to the Cotton Club in 1936.

The novelist William Styron told Summers that he once saw Hoover and Tolson in a California beach house, where the director was painting his friend's toenails. Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations, said Hoover and Tolson sat in boxes owned by and used exclusively by gay men at the Del Mar racetrack in California. One medical expert told Summers that Hoover was of "strongly predominant homosexual orientation," while another medical expert categorized him as a "bisexual with failed heterosexuality." Cox and Theoraris also alleged that "the strange likelihood is that Hoover never knew sexual desire at all."

Portrayals

J. Edgar Hoover has been portrayed by numerous actors in films and stage productions featuring him as FBI Director. Some notable portrayals (listed chronologically) include:




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "J. Edgar Hoover" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools