Monday, June 04, 2018

Death of a 'Cowboy'

Having recently fallen in love with Charlie Carver as Cowboy Tex in the Broadway revival of "Boys in the Band," reading on The AIDS Memorial about the tragic death of the man who originated the role off-Broadway and on film (Robert La Tourneaux) was that much more heartbreaking. 

. . Robert La Tourneaux (November 22, 1941 - June 3, 1986) was an actor born in St Louis, Missouri as Robert Earl LaTurno. He was best known for his role of Cowboy, in the Off Broadway production and film version of the @boysbandbway. . In the early 1980s, La Tourneaux contracted HIV. He received news coverage when he sought legal assistance to prevent being evicted from his apartment. His landlord objected to the presence of a live-in caregiver. La Tourneaux won the court case, but later died of AIDS in Metropolitan Hospital aged 44. . After the film version of the @boysbandbway (1970) was released La Tourneaux’s career declined. He claimed that all doors in Hollywood had remained closed to him. . "I was too closely identified with homosexuality, with @boysbandbway. I was typecast as a gay hustler, and it was an image I couldn't shake." . La Tourneaux landed bit parts in low-budget films made in Europe. He began nude modeling in gay men's magazines. He became a sex worker and worked in a male porno theater in Manhattan, doing a one-man “cabaret act” between showings of X-rated films. . In 1983, La Tourneaux was arrested for assault after trying to extract money from a client and was confined to Rikers Island prison where he survived a suicide attempt. . In the early 1980s, Murray Gitlin, a former dancer and stage manager who in 1994 also died of AIDS, went to visit La Tourneaux, who was seriously ill, recalled: . "He was in a private room with leg shackles. And the guard guarding 24 hours a day, wearing a gown and mask. It was just awful. And Bob just kept getting sicker and sicker. It was just such a waste: he was so sweet and so beautiful and had so much going for him. . I saw him a couple of weeks before he died. He was in Metropolitan Hospital, he was out of prison. And the nurse who was assigned to him had seen the @boysbandbway on television the night before. And he died in her arms. And to her, he was a star." . ⏺ The 50th anniversary production of the @boysbandbway returned to New York on May 31, 2018 at the Booth Theatre. @charliecarver stars as Cowboy. .
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Devastating piece of trivia: Did you know that nearly every one of the principals in the original version who was gay in real life ended up dying of AIDS? Kenneth Nelson (Michael) died at 63 in 1993, Leonard Frey (Harold) died at 49 in 1988: Frederick Combs (Donald) died at 56 in 1992; Keith Prentice (Larry) died at 52 in 1992; and, as detailed above, La Tourneaux died at 44 in 1986. Cliff Gorman (Emory) and his wife reportedly took care of La Tourneaux until his death on June 3, 1986. (Gorman died of leukemia in 2002 at 65.)  Laurence Luckinbill (Hank) is alive and well at 83, married to Lucie Arnaz. 

 Peter White (Alan) is also straight/alive, having recently attended the Broadway debut of "Boys." (Still looks good at 80.) Reuben Greene, who played Bernard, was supposedly M.I.A. for a number of years, although now I'm reading he's just "reclusive" and living in Philadelphia. Not sure about his sexuality, but he will turn 80 in November.


mcfrank said...

Depends on who you call "principal". Laurence Luckinbill is still alive and married to Lucy Arnaz. Cliff Gorman (Emory!) was actually straight -- he and his wife cared for Robert LaTourneaux when he was dying of AIDS.

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

Right. He wasn't "gay in real life." :-)

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