Some thoughts arising from reading Allen Ellenzweig’s GEORGE PLATT LYNES

This is really a collection of facebook posts spurred on by reading Allen Ellenzweig’s George Platt Lynes, which I think might be of interest to others (and which I’d like to keep in one place)

Dan Callaghan’s excellent review reminded me I had the book in hand and I’ve been immersed in it ever since. A monumental work for those interested in 20th century American art and culture. The ménage à trois between Monroe Wheeler, Glenway Westcott and George Platt Lynes, which lasted for two decades and which ended partly because rumour threatened Wheeler’s job at MOMA, is an endless source of fascination. The honesty and clarity of feeling; the love, longing, and desire so freely expressed in the letters is very moving.

Last year’s obsession meets the current one: Burt Lancaster by George Platt Lynes:

I read David Leddick’s Intimate Companions alongside Ellezweig’s biography and found this on Platt Lynes declining years: ‘He continued to give great all-boy parties (liquor was frequently paid for by François Reichenbach, a rich rather fey Frenchman, nephew of Jaques Guérin, a quite talented documentary movie maker and heir to a French fragrance fortune; François was quite possibly the only unattractive person George tolerated’. Guérin had been the lover of Glenway Westcott, part of Platt Lynes’ ménage with Monroe Wheeler. Reichenbach is to me a most attractive and an important if still relatively under-appreciated figure in queer culture, whose work was recently highlighted by the Cinémathèque Française and the subject of several podcasts John Mercer and I did in the last year, of which a trailer below:

The above and this were filmed at this period in the early 50s, when he was ostensibly supplying the liquor for Platt Lynes’ parties:

The full film , discovered by Thomas Waugh at the Kinsey Institute, can be seen below:

Below, E.M Forster and his lover, Bob Buckingham, photographed by George Platt Lynes. Buckingham was a married policeman; and Foster lived out his last days in the Coventry home of the official couple. Another trio; another way people had to invent lives outside the mould and make the best of it:

I’ve now finished reading Allan Ellenzweig monumental work on George Platt Lynes, which I can’t recommend enough. The last connection to surprise me was that of Platt Lynes with Samuel Steward. I suppose it shouldn’t have. Steward had written novels and was also a friend of Gertrude Stein. But I hadn’t realised the extent of their correspondence, that both were close to Kinsey and contributed greatly to the archive, Steward even allowing himself to be filmed in an SM scenario getting beaten. Steward is at least as fascinating a figure as Platt Lynes, a novelist and professor of literature who left it all to become a tattoo artist in California and the writer of romantic porn under the name of Phil Andros (amongst other pseudonyms). Steward was himself the subject of a superb biography by Justin Spring (see below):

There’s a wonderful review of the Justin Spring biography by Geoff Nicholson that begins:

‘On July 24, 1926, Samuel Steward, one day past his seventeenth birthday, got word that Rudolph Valentino had just checked in to the best hotel in Columbus, Ohio. Grabbing his autograph book, he made his way to the hotel and knocked on Valentino’s door. The actor appeared, wearing only a towel, and after signing his autograph asked whether there was anything else the boy wanted. “Yes,” said Steward, “I’d like to have you.”
The Latin lover obliged. Steward performed oral sex on him and at some point procured a lock of Valentino’s pubic hair—a souvenir that Steward kept in a monstrance at his bedside for the rest of his life. He also entered the encounter in his “Stud File,” a card catalogue recording details of his sexual partners, eventually a few thousand over the course of his lifetime.’
Ken Monteith informs me that Steward wrote his own account of moving away from academia into tattoing and gay porn here:
So these links keep cropping up and revealing a whole now not so hidden culture.
José Arroyo


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