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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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Robert Osborne's passing


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#1 jaragon

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 05:23 PM

O'sborne wanted to keep his private life private.  He could have come out during Alec Baldwin interview. It was after watching this that I first started questioning his sexuality.   They even mention his favorite pet but there is never a mention of any significant other.  The gay film festival was another time when O'sborne could have come out and talked about his personal reaction to these films as gay man.   But this was his choice and we should respect that


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#2 Jlewis

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 07:06 AM

Being older, Robert may have felt more comfortable keeping that part of his life private. In a way it is kind of sad that he felt he couldn't be open about that aspect of his life although I'm sure close friends and family knew. 

 

Many of us get "comfortable" in our old ages and what has worked for many years is kept that way. Our opinion is "why fix what isn't broken?" Keeping it all private likely bothered David more than him, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered coming public about it after his death. Robert might have been happy with just a select few closest to him knowing. He was, after all, born under a "fixed" sign (Taurus). Lol!

 

I think what bothers some of us is that, while he was not ashamed to admit he wasn't a fan of My Fair Lady for fear of what TCM fans would think, he was definitely ashamed of David's existence on a public level. Sometimes you have to defend yourself regardless of what others think simply because they will continue to hold their opinions until they croak and it is better to just be yourself than trying to please them all. I mean... do you think those bothered about the existence of a David even "bothered" to watch any TCM airings of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Mind you, I am not suggesting that he should have stopped discussing movies in the middle of an interview and start discussing how he and David slapped suntan oil on each other on the vacation beach.



#3 ChristineHoard

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 02:32 AM

I certainly understand why Robert wouldn't want to reveal his sexuality especially considering when he came of age.  As a young man in the 1950's, with all the hysteria about witch hunts, blacklisting, etc., it was easier to just go along with the conservative establishment especially if you were looking for a job.  Even in movies from the early 1960's like ADVISE AND CONSENT, being gay is portrayed as a terrible sickness and you might as well kill yourself if you're going to be outed.  Let's remember homosexuality was considered a mental illness until the 1970's.  As a society, we have come a long way since then (and we still have a ways to go, in my opinion).  Even President Obama was not for equal rights for marriage at first and then he came around.  Being older, Robert may have felt more comfortable keeping that part of his life private. In a way it is kind of sad that he felt he couldn't be open about that aspect of his life although I'm sure close friends and family knew.  On the other hand this is what he was comfortable with publicly and it was his own business and we need to respect that.  I would have liked to have told him, "Robert, nobody cares.  We love you and we thank you for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm about movies and the people who made them with us."  One's sexuality is only part of who we are.


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#4 Jlewis

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 11:35 PM

Your nice lengthy post, TopBilled, reminded me of a couple odds and ends of unrelated interest.

 

I guess one reason I made a big deal about the 1950s (the decade after Robert graduated from high school, entered his adulthood and made career choices) is because so much has been written about how that decade and the 1980s were very repressive with so many in society trying to act as heterosexual as possible. The 1930s and war years and the post-Stonewall 1960s-70s and the post Ellen DeGeneres '90s were more open, if not nearly so as today. Yet, even today, I am not sure if we are there yet if even Robert getting "outed" upon death is still a huge concern to TCM viewers.

 

Cary Grant built a movie image as the ultimate romantic lead with women. However it is pretty obvious, in hindsight, that he and Randolph Scott were more than just "bro-buddies". Also his first two wives, but not the later ones, questioned his orientation. He was, however,  a good and faithful husband to the women who married him, producing a child with Dyan Cannon. Yet he sued those who suggested he might be gay during that final decade before his death in 1986. It just wasn't the right time to be considered bisexual (since he certainly was attracted to women besides Scott) or as you would label it, "sexually fluid".

 

Not that Robert had to deal with what Cary had to in terms of public image.

 

You mentioning how David was not involved in any tours or cruises is sad to read, since he probably would have preferred their relationship to be more open. Yet I do find the situation a trifle humorous since so many old movie and TV "plots" involve families only finding out your "significant other" at the very end. One in particular that jumps in my mind is the 1947/48 RKO film I REMEMBER MAMA with that zany uncle and the woman who is only revealed as his wife while he is literally dying in bed and enjoying his last bottle of liquor.



#5 jaragon

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 10:14 PM

I thought about this while I was watching the Private Screenings with Osborne and Alec Baldwin. During the interview, Osborne mentioned how TCM had provided a cinematic safe haven for people who were put off by modern film's darker stories or more "morally objectionable" subject matter. I think one reason Osborne may have kept his "private life private" may have been him not wanting to risk alienating some of the older, more conservative audience of TCM. You saw the reaction his orientation had in the memorial thread. 

I agree - the TCM audience seem to be older more conservative who prefer the classic films not just because they are old but they reflect a safer reality that of course only existed in the movies


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#6 TopBilled

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 10:11 PM

From what I've read, Robert and his partner became a couple in the early 90s. Which means he was in a committed relationship with his partner the whole time he hosted on TCM. Yet he did not bring any of that part of his personal life to the job. Most of his work related duties (including the festivals and cruises) seem to have occurred without the presence of his partner, even on the sidelines or in the background. If so, that seems kind of sad to me-- and I think it explains why when he died, his partner kind of made a point of "outing" him. And I don't mean this in a negative way, but by granting interviews about his death to certain media outlets and not letting a publicist do it, the partner was basically claiming their relationship and making it go public without Robert there to say "no, don't do that, let's continue to keep it private." Again, I don't think it's a negative thing, it's the partner defining it as something legitimate, while also honoring his passing.

 

But when we look at what keeps a person in the closet all his life, at least to his fans and the general public, I wouldn't say it's as much a generational thing as it is a personal comfort issue. Usually people do not go public with their sexuality because they are fluid and can't define it in one direction (which doesn't seem like the case with Robert); because they are afraid and it's an internal fear and form of cowardice; or they are trying to compartmentalize and keep their private life separate from their public persona to avoid conflicts with others; or maybe they are just still in denial and do not consider it a legitimate part of who they are, even though they may be in a relationship (which seems complicated). There is also the whole media image thing-- if you have spent years ensuring people take you serious as a reporter, you might worry that your credibility would be undermined if you were out. 

 

Not long ago I read an autobiography written by a daytime soap actress. One of her costars in the 80s was gay and he died of AIDS. It's easy to look this stuff up online. But in her book, she tried to play him up as straight-- saying he played with her kids when they visited the set; saying he was a great kisser on screen; and then when it came to addressing his death, she said he had been on a trip overseas and picked up an exotic disease. That's how she described AIDS. "Exotic disease" was a metaphor about how he really died, because she was afraid, all these years after his death of outing him. So in addition to people who are afraid to come out of the closet, we have straight people/allies who help perpetuate the closet though they think they are helping. And I would imagine the women who went to public events with Robert as a "beard" were doing their part in keeping him closeted, though at the time, they thought they were helping.

 

Going back to Larry's earlier comment on whether the conservative TCM audience had to be protected or shielded from the truth about his private life, that seems to give homophobes a form of power they don't deserve. I'm not saying all of the channel's conservative viewers are homophobic, but protecting them from the truth or trying to keep it out of general conversations to ensure everyone is more comfortable is ultimately a whole lot more unsettling.


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"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#7 Jlewis

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 09:29 PM

Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with that contingent at all (as you probably have noticed). I've always been amused (saddened) by what most Americans find objectionable (sexuality, coarse language) and what is fine with them (violence, greed). I wish Osborne had been open about his life (as much as he needed to be; I also don't need to know everything about everyone in the public eye), but I was making a guess as to why he wasn't.

 

I know.

 

I again watched Joan Crawford's famous interview for the BBC (black & white, 1966) and her words were less "darker" and just "more angry" in regards to "modern" movies. She also went into detail about her battles with a tabloid journalist a decade before about exposing people's private lives. She felt her personal life was nobody's business. (Of course, Mommie Dearest after her death did plenty there.)

 

With Robert, I think all of the 1950s homophobia (spurned by the Cold War hysteria when it was important for everybody to be as much alike as possible) had a long lasting impact. Yes, in more recent years, he had an image he wanted to project that was not determined by your "orientation". We don't know details of his private life or even when he first met his boyfriend. He may have also struggled determining what his "orientation" was for many years due to all of the conditioning he had from family and environment, much like married men who have children just as their families expect them to, but later divorce or are widowed from their wives and are finally, thanks to changing times and stronger independence as you age, able to explore where their true desires lay.

 

Obviously Robert, for all of his personal reasons, kept intensely private throughout the gay liberation movement in the seventies (although, again, he might have still been struggling with no real "gay" experience at that time) and had to deal with renewed homophobia in the 1980s when AIDS gave conservatives added ammunition and created an equally un-inviting environment.

 

In the 1984 documentary and 2008 fictional movie on Harvey Milk, we see him as a politician pushing many gay men and lesbians "out of the closet" in 1977, declaring who they were in front of family and co-workers. This was NOT a good idea at the time since many would become homeless when employers, landlords and families were told. Yet his reasoning was two-fold:

1.) to show that being gay did not define who you are and your friends need to know so they will stop being prejudiced a.k.a. Anita Bryant style and now see you as no threat to school children

2.) to unite many people into a cohesive group with the motto of "power is determined by numbers". United "we" stand, divided "we" fall.

 

Yet everybody must operate at their own pace. He just had to wait until the end.


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#8 LawrenceA

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 07:23 PM

I look at many old movies aired on TCM and find plenty that is "morally objectionable" such as constant killings, constant playing with guns, heavy smoking and drinking, chaotic car driving, stereotypes of minorities (and who must always address the Caucasians in power as Mister or Mrs while answering to their first names as children) and a long laundry list of other things that only "the older, more conservative audience of TCM" would not be disturbed by. Granted, when TCM aired I Am Curious, Yellow in the wee hours of the night, there was plenty of commentary among that group even though it was way past their bed time.

 

Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with that contingent at all (as you probably have noticed). I've always been amused (saddened) by what most Americans find objectionable (sexuality, coarse language) and what is fine with them (violence, greed). I wish Osborne had been open about his life (as much as he needed to be; I also don't need to know everything about everyone in the public eye), but I was making a guess as to why he wasn't.



#9 Jlewis

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 07:12 PM

I look at many old movies aired on TCM and find plenty that is "morally objectionable" such as constant killings, constant playing with guns, heavy smoking and drinking, chaotic car driving, stereotypes of minorities (and who must always address the Caucasians in power as Mister or Mrs while answering to their first names as children) and a long laundry list of other things that only "the older, more conservative audience of TCM" would not be disturbed by. Granted, when TCM aired I Am Curious, Yellow in the wee hours of the night, there was plenty of commentary among that group even though it was way past their bed time.


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#10 LawrenceA

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 06:34 PM

 

However I do feel... and this is just my personal feeling... that he could have "come out" during the last decade or so. You reach a certain age when most of the family members whom you are most concerned about are either too old or already deceased for it to even matter. Who is going to attack you when you are in your seventies and eighties?

 

I thought about this while I was watching the Private Screenings with Osborne and Alec Baldwin. During the interview, Osborne mentioned how TCM had provided a cinematic safe haven for people who were put off by modern film's darker stories or more "morally objectionable" subject matter. I think one reason Osborne may have kept his "private life private" may have been him not wanting to risk alienating some of the older, more conservative audience of TCM. You saw the reaction his orientation had in the memorial thread. 


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#11 Jlewis

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 06:20 PM

He would have just entered his twenties at the height of the Cold War witch hunts when Eisenhower/McCarthy's "pink scare" in Washington DC started having a trickling effect on Hollywood. This was the era when all the tabloids were greedy for gossip and even Rock Hudson had to marry for convenience. Since he wanted some success as an actor, he had to be very cautious.

 

However I do feel... and this is just my personal feeling... that he could have "come out" during the last decade or so. You reach a certain age when most of the family members whom you are most concerned about are either too old or already deceased for it to even matter. Who is going to attack you when you are in your seventies and eighties?


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#12 jaragon

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 04:25 PM

Re-watching the Osborne tribute I really do wish he had written an honest biography- perhaps he was too classy to air his celebrity friends dirty laundry- but his personal story as gay man growing up in a small town to Hollywood must have been fascinating



#13 Hibi

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 09:50 AM

Like it somehow sullies the discussion of his life and career. There are still plenty of people who are "OK" with others being gay as long as they themselves don't have to go on record and be part of the discussion.

 

LOL. True.


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#14 jaragon

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 06:44 PM

Great post.    With regards to 'and who happened to be gay';   I do wonder if RO being gay made actresses like Lucile Ball,  Olivia de Havilland and others feel more comfortable with him and this lead to their close friendship.     Yea, this is a rather cliché and dated concept but it might apply here.    Of course RO was such a decent and compassionate individual so maybe this cliché' had no impact.

He really was unique


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#15 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 01:59 PM

When I discovered TCM and started watching, I found myself enjoying movies I never thought would interest me. I credit Robert Osborne for making the viewing experience more than just about watching a film. His presentation of a films development, actors, director, backstory, etc. gave films meaning, casting them in a new light for the viewer. I have missed his insight over the last couple of years. He was always upbeat and had something positive to say about every film whether it be an Oscar winner or a B short. That his personal life was his own shouldn't be an issue, nor should it matter to the TCM followers that he was gay. We should all send best wishes to his partner David. Robert was an encyclopedic film historian who excelled at his craft, who made viewers interested in films, and who happened to be gay.  He left some big shoes to fill at TCM.

 

Great post.    With regards to 'and who happened to be gay';   I do wonder if RO being gay made actresses like Lucile Ball,  Olivia de Havilland and others feel more comfortable with him and this lead to their close friendship.     Yea, this is a rather cliché and dated concept but it might apply here.    Of course RO was such a decent and compassionate individual so maybe this cliché' had no impact. 


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#16 likesnoir

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 09:40 PM

When I discovered TCM and started watching, I found myself enjoying movies I never thought would interest me. I credit Robert Osborne for making the viewing experience more than just about watching a film. His presentation of a films development, actors, director, backstory, etc. gave films meaning, casting them in a new light for the viewer. I have missed his insight over the last couple of years. He was always upbeat and had something positive to say about every film whether it be an Oscar winner or a B short. That his personal life was his own shouldn't be an issue, nor should it matter to the TCM followers that he was gay. We should all send best wishes to his partner David. Robert was an encyclopedic film historian who excelled at his craft, who made viewers interested in films, and who happened to be gay.  He left some big shoes to fill at TCM.


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#17 Jlewis

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 09:28 PM

I hadn't realized that there was some sort of controversy in the Tribute thread. I missed that section of the discussion, and went back and read it after seeing this thread. The reaction was sad, to say the least. People acted like mentioning Osborne being gay was some sort of bad-taste insult. Pathetic, and a few of the offended people are regulars around here that I would have expected more from. 

 

Robert was still the same Robert regardless of whom he enjoyed comfort and affection with. He didn't suddenly change into Mister Potato Head just because there was a David involved.


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#18 LawrenceA

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 08:45 PM

I hadn't realized that there was some sort of controversy in the Tribute thread. I missed that section of the discussion, and went back and read it after seeing this thread. The reaction was sad, to say the least. People acted like mentioning Osborne being gay was some sort of bad-taste insult. Pathetic, and a few of the offended people are regulars around here that I would have expected more from. 


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#19 jaragon

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:10 PM

Mr Osbourne came from an older generation which kept their private life private- but I do wish he would have come out when he was still living.  He will be missed- interesting in the NY Times obit not surviving family members are listed but in the Daily News his partner is mentioned from the start. Mr Osbourne will be greatly missed I hope he is having a good time reuniting with all the Hollywood royalty in heaven


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#20 rayban

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 11:18 AM

Like it somehow sullies the discussion of his life and career. There are still plenty of people who are "OK" with others being gay as long as they themselves don't have to go on record and be part of the discussion.

Only a genuinely gay man could have appreciated film in the way that he did - and only a genuinely gay man could have known so much about film.


"I was born the day she kissed me.  I died the day she left me.  I lived a few weeks while she loved me." - Humphrey Bogart in "In A Lonely Place".





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