Monday, July 26, 2010

Hiding Lorenz Hart

Last night at Guild Hall in East Hampton, we attended “Heart to Hart,” another performance in the American Musical Theatre series, hosted by Lee Davis. The program sung beautifully by the cabaret stars Anna Bergman and Malcolm Getz, highlighted the funny, sad, insightful lyrics of Lorenz (Larry) Hart, set to the music of Richard Rogers, his longtime collaborator. They wrote many of the great classics of the ‘20s and ‘30s, including “There's a Small Hotel,” “I Wish I Were In Love Again,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Where Or When,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Spring Is Here,” “Falling In Love With Love,” “Sing For Your Supper,” “This Can't Be Love,” “I Didn't Know What Time It Was,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “I Could Write a Book,” and, of course, “Way Out West on West End Avenue.”
Lee Davis outlined Hart’s life in his usual amiable style, pointing out that Hart, as productive as he was, struggled all his adult life with alcohol, which led to long disappearances and erratic behavior that frustrated Rogers who had very regular work habits. Unfortunately, Davis didn’t mention the signal aspect of Hart’s life that helps explain much of that difficult, sad life: He was a closeted homosexual. As far as is known, Hart never formed a loving relationship with either a man or a woman. Although Davis said he never got the girl, it seems unlikely that he tried very hard. One of those “girls” was Vivian Siegel, the star of “Pal Joey,” a Rogers and Hart hit in 1940. She turned him down when he proposed, saying she already had a difficult husband.
Instead of women, Hart had sex with men, primarily compliant chorus boys and male prostitutes. However, according to “Musicals 101” (, “…Hart found little enjoyment in his homosexual liaisons. Terrified of intimacy, he would wait for sex partners to fall asleep, then creep out of bed and curl up on the floor of his bedroom closet to get some sleep.” And as “glbtq Arts” points out (, “…despite having written lyrics as witty as any sung on the Broadway stage before or since, Hart is best remembered for his songs of unfulfilled desire and failed romance.”
So, as with so many artists, his sad homosexual life was a major source of the art that has given us words to express our joy and our sadness. Too bad that Lee Davis hid this major aspect of Hart’s life. In 2010, we and those we love, including Larry Hart, don’t have to be in the closet.