J. Edgar Hoover
*******The Real J. Edgar Hoover?
By Paul Kengor
July 29, 2013
Edward S. Miller, a lifetime FBI man of high rank and stature, recently passed away at the age of 89. A good man and good American, Miller, who was also a veteran of World War II (Okinawa), faithfully served his family, country, and God. He also faithfully served the agency that hired him in 1950, as well as the longtime head of that agency, J. Edgar Hoover.
I was fortunate to spend a long Saturday afternoon with Ed Miller back in March, at long last meeting him after previously only corresponding with him. (He was an alumnus of Grove City College, where I teach.) It was a time I won't forget, and Miller had some things he wanted me not to forget -- and to share with the public. Foremost among them was his take on J. Edgar Hoover. He wanted the world to know what he insisted was the real J. Edgar Hoover -- a man totally contrary to the hysterical left-wing Hollywood portrayal that frames the FBI director as a mix between lunatic anti-communist, power-hungry Napoleonic authoritarian, and closet homosexual and cross-dresser. According to Ed Miller, none of it was true."He was terrific," Miller told me of Hoover, instantly knowing that such isn't the typical take on the man who was the face of the FBI for parts of six decades. During our detailed and varied conversation, few subjects lit up Miller quite like his old boss. Hoover was "great." He was "sharp." He was "absolutely brilliant." He was "wonderful."
Miller proceeded to give me example after example. Among them, here's one that will throw liberals for a loop, clashing as it does with their ideological prejudices:
"We needed black agents," said Miller of the FBI of the 1960s. "We needed them badly. I went out and hired 13 black agents in one fell swoop, and he [Hoover] approved every single one of them. I put together a new group of 56 agents altogether, 13 of them black. And Hoover said, 'This is the finest class of agents I've ever seen.' They were really well educated, athletic, great shape. And Hoover, as director, personally shook the hands of all 56 in his office."
Hoover didn't discriminate among white men or black men. He wanted good men. He wanted men who were good for his agency and his country.
To Ed Miller, J. Edgar Hoover was the antithesis of a demeaning, brooding, bossy dictator. He was a model of integrity and truth who "always" and "totally" backed his men. He wanted his men to give him the information straight, to be "entirely objective." This was likewise true for the men that his men hired. Miller recalled an episode in which none other than Lyndon Johnson (speaking of demeaning, brooding, bossy) repeatedly pushed Hoover to hire some political job-seeker from New Jersey. It was vintage LBJ, who was all about patronage and corruption. Ed Miller saw right through it, and refused to hire the man, who, Miller judged, simply wasn't a good fit. When Hoover called Miller to get an explanation, Miller explained that the man wasn't right for the job. Hoover stood by Miller -- and against LBJ.
Miller shared with me several such instances. In each case, Miller gave Hoover what he thought was best for the FBI and America. Hoover respected that. That's what he wanted.
In the course of our conversation on Hoover, I couldn't avoid the elephant in the living room: the sensational stories about the FBI director's sexual/gender interests and issues. Among them, Ed Miller told me that the claims of Hoover having Clyde Tolson as a "gay lover" were "absolutely false." He said that Hoover was a heterosexual who had love affairs with beautiful women such as the glamorous actress Dorothy Lamour. Their romance, in fact, almost led to marriage. Hoover, however, was married to his job. "She dumped him because he was married to his job!" said Miller. "He had one hell of an interesting job, Paul. And he was always very busy."
If Ed Miller is correct, then where did the rumors about Hoover come from?
Here, Miller's thesis is most convincing. He chalked up the sexual gossip to the nature of Hoover's political work -- specifically, to the political enemies he earned. Hoover had devoted decades to dutifully and carefully pursuing a domestic network of American communists who were devoted heart and body and soul to Stalin's Soviet Union. Hoover and his men not only looked into Communist Party USA members but homegrown agents of Soviet influence. That trail also often swerved into the huge numbers of duped liberals who didn't realize when and where and how these so-called "progressive" pals of theirs were secretly using them to advance Moscow's aims and agenda.
And so, argues Miller, Hoover's political enemies on the soft left and (especially) the hard left smeared him with false claims. No one excelled at disinformation and blatantly vicious lies and character assassination quite like the Communist Party. American communists had a campaign for anything and everything. In fact, the single best exposé on communist campaigns was a remarkable June 1959 report done by Hoover's FBI, authorized and signed by Hoover himself, titled, "Communist Propaganda in the United States, Part VIII, Campaigns." I have that report. It's an eye-opener.
Interestingly, in retrospect, it looks like America's communists might have had a campaign aimed at Hoover himself -- who wouldn't have been surprised. All of these campaigns, as the FBI noted, had one thing in common: they sought to enlist a wider swath of duped liberals into the campaign. The orchestrators of the campaign concealed their hand.
Did that happen with Hoover? Perhaps so.
The left tried to frame J. Edgar Hoover as another Joe McCarthy, but with a new wrinkle. Whereas McCarthy was portrayed as an irresponsible anti-communist who was a reckless drunk, Hoover was portrayed as an irresponsible anti-communist who cross-dressed and lusted after men.
Pause for a moment to chew that one over. Think about it. It's funny, but at one point in time, the American left peddled such stories to cook up a view of Hoover that they'd today denounce as viciously "homophobic." Once upon a time, they merrily framed him as a wild "pervert," a sexual sicko/weirdo. That was when such an image served liberals' interests. Now, however, Hoover's alleged homosexual/bisexual pursuits would surely conflict the left. In modern liberal/progressive eyes, such pursuits ought to make Hoover a complicated and even sympathetic, laudatory character, perhaps a hero. That is, if not for Hoover's unflagging anti-communism, which earns him eternal demon status in the left's moral universe. There are few things that make liberals recoil quite like a strident, God-fearing anti-communist.
Ed Miller, for one, wasn't surprised by the sliming of Hoover. He followed these people for years. He knew of their smear campaigns. He knew them well. He studied them. He documented them. And he knew that CPUSA had good reason to loathe the FBI. As Miller said, it was Hoover and his boys who "killed Communist Party USA." And so, in turn, they "really went after" Hoover.
For the record, I'm no expert on J. Edgar Hoover. I cannot confirm all that Ed Miller told me about the man. The sexual material certainly isn't my area of expertise. The communist/CPUSA material, however, is -- and makes perfect sense.
I can further confirm that Ed Miller's eyes swelled with tears and he choked up as he talked glowingly about his old boss. It was an intense admiration for a man who did not deserve the trashing he received in life and (even more so) in death, when he couldn't defend himself. In fact, that's another thing typical of the left, and especially communists: they destroy the reputations of the dead, who can't defend themselves. (On that, see the terrific new book by Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ron Rychlak, where they expose the communist campaign against Pope Pius XII and other figures.)
Sure, Miller's view on Hoover is one man's opinion, but it was a very informed opinion from a lifetime FBI insider of high rank and stature who worked with Hoover, and didn't just "learn" about him from some movie or scandal sheet. Ed Miller saw and knew a J. Edgar Hoover that none of the rest of us could or did. Is Ed Miller's J. Edgar Hoover the real J. Edgar Hoover? Or is Hollywood's?
I know where I'd put my money.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor. His other books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
*******The secret life of J Edgar Hoover
For half a century, the FBI director waged war on homosexuals, black people and communists. Now, a controversial film by Clint Eastwood is set to reveal some of the explosive truth about him. Here, his biographer Anthony Summers tells all
Sunday 1 January 2012
J Edgar Hoover was a phenomenon. The first Director of the FBI, he remained in office for 48 years, from his appointment after the First World War to his death in 1972, achieving fame and extraordinary power. For public consumption when he died, President Richard Nixon eulogised him as: "One of the giants… a national symbol of courage, patriotism and granite-like honesty and integrity." He ordered flags to fly at half-mast and that Hoover's body lie in state in the Capitol.
In private, on hearing that he had died, Nixon had responded merely: "Jesus Christ! That old cocksucker!" Months earlier, closeted with key advisers, he had held forth on the need to persuade the elderly Hoover to resign. "We have on our hands here a man who will pull down the temple with him, including me."
Nixon, soon to be disgraced and forced to resign, was of course himself no paragon. Most presidents before him, though, had had cause to fear Hoover or been troubled by what his FBI had become. Harry S Truman wrote during his presidency: "We want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail… Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him."
Hoover himself, meanwhile, had a personal secret that – in his era – could have destroyed him if revealed. Clint Eastwood referred to it this year before the launch of his movie, when he assured the J Edgar Hoover Foundation that J Edgar would not "portray an open homosexual relationship" between Hoover and his long-time male companion, Clyde Tolson.
Eastwood stretched the truth. Though there is just one passionate kiss between Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer, the two actors portraying them in the movie, the relationship with Tolson is a central theme. In real life, all Washington knew was that the pair dined daily together, vacationed together, did everything but move in together, and the whispers flew. When a magazine article in the 1930s referred to Hoover's "mincing" gait, and a diplomat commented on his "conspicuous perfume", Hoover struck back. He gathered derogatory information on the offending journalist, and asserted – falsely – that he did not use perfume. Real information on the Hoover-Tolson relationship surfaced only long after both men were dead, during research for my book.
A surprising find was the account by Luisa Stuart, once a celebrated model, tracked down because she featured in a droll photograph taken with Hoover and Tolson one New Year's Eve in the late 1930s at the Stork Club – the place to be seen in New York at the time. In the photo, Hoover is shown holding his hands up as Stuart, armed with a toy shotgun, "threatens" him. Later that night, in the dark of a limousine when they left the club, she remembered: "I noticed they were holding hands all the way, just sitting there talking and holding hands with each other… I was so young and those were different times. But I'd never seen two men holding hands."
Joseph Shimon, a former Washington police inspector, recalled a taxi driver reporting the pair had been "kissing and ass-grabbing" during a cab journey. Harry Hay, founder of America's first gay rights group, remembered that on vacation in California, in "a circle in which they didn't have people who weren't gay… They were nodded together as lovers."
The Eastwood movie includes a bizarre scene that depicts Hoover, after his mother's death, donning one of her dresses. It is a nod towards allegations I first reported, that he on occasion cross-dressed. I had information from three sources, two men who said an "easily recognisable" photograph of Hoover in an evening gown circulated in the gay community in 1948, and an account by a millionaire's former wife of secret sex parties that she claimed to have witnessed in the late 50s. Hoover, the woman said, had been "dressed like an old flapper, like you see on old tintypes".
Other accounts of the Director's alleged sexual activity, if true, would certainly have destroyed him had they become public. A former Bureau inspector and trusted associate named Jimmy Corcoran said years later that Hoover, youthful at the time, had once asked him to deal with a serious "problem". He had been arrested on sex charges involving a young man during a trip to New Orleans. Corcoran, who had powerful contacts in the state, said he intervened to hush the matter up.
There is, too, a claim that as late as 1969, when Hoover was in his early 70s, he dallied with teenage boys during his habitual summer break in California. An element of corroboration came from Don Smith, an officer on the Los Angeles police vice squad, who told me of interviews he conducted with youngsters during a paedophile investigation. "The kids," Smith said, "brought up several famous names, including those of Hoover and his sidekick".
For me, the most significant, credible information on Hoover's sexuality came with the discovery that Hoover for a while consulted Marshall de G Ruffin, a Washington psychiatrist who became president of the Washington Psychiatric Society. De Ruffin's widow Monteen recalled learning from her husband that his distinguished patient was "definitely troubled by homosexuality". After several sessions, however, "Hoover got very paranoid about anyone finding out he was a homosexual, and got scared." As if to compensate, Hoover lashed out at and sought to expose other homosexuals. For years he had his agents infiltrate and monitor homosexual-rights groups, while he sounded off publicly about "sex deviates in government service".
My conclusion after five years' research was that while Hoover may have spent much of his life repressing his private urges while building an image of himself as the acme of sexual purity, he did sometimes lapse – risking catastrophe every time. Having studied the information I assembled, two noted specialists in psychiatry and psychology said they believed Hoover's sexual torment was very pertinent to his use and abuse of power as America's top law-enforcement officer.
Dr John Money, professor of medical psychology at Johns Hopkins University, thought Hoover "needed constantly to destroy other people in order to maintain himself. He managed to live with his conflict by making others pay the price." Dr Harold Lief, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded that Hoover suffered from "a personality disorder, a narcissistic disorder with mixed obsessive features… paranoid elements, undue suspiciousness and some sadism. A combination of narcissism and paranoia produces what is known as an authoritarian personality. Hoover would have made a perfect high-level Nazi."
The eight decades of Hoover's life tell their own story. As early as his teen years, his mind was closing on issues that were to dominate his era. In the school debating society, he argued against women getting the vote and against abolition of the death penalty. He could never bear to come second in anything. When his father began to suffer from mental illness, a niece told me, Hoover "couldn't tolerate the fact. He never could tolerate anything that was imperfect." Another relative said: "I sometimes have thought that he really had a fear of becoming too personally involved with people." William Sullivan, a close FBI associate, thought his boss "didn't have affection for one single solitary human being".
Hoover joined the Bureau – at that time just the Bureau of Investigation (the word "Federal" was only added in the 1930s) – as America's first great Communist scare was getting under way, and handpicked as his assistant a man named George Ruch. One of two key associates to name their own sons J Edgar, Ruch expressed astonishment that left-wingers should even "be allowed to speak and write as they like". Hoover and Ruch favoured deporting people merely for being members of radical organisations, and used the Bureau to spy on lawyers representing those arrested in the infamous Red Raids of 1920. One of them, on whom he was to keep tabs for half a century and deem "the most
Hoover never joined a political party and claimed he was "not political". In fact, he admitted privately, he was a staunch, lifelong supporter of the Republican party. He secretly aspired to be president and considered running against Franklin D Roosevelt, whom he thought suspiciously left-wing. Hoover publicly expressed support for Senator Joe McCarthy shortly before McCarthy claimed Truman's State Department was harbouring 200 members of the Communist party. His agents slipped file material to the senator for use in his infamous inquisition, while publicly denying doing so.
The favourable publicity Hoover enjoyed was partially deserved. He cleaned up a Bureau that had been notorious for corruption and inefficiency, replacing it with an agent corps that became a byword for integrity. One veteran defined the ideal new recruit as a man who had to represent "the great middle class", who "will always eat well and dress well, but will never get that sleek Packard or sumptuous house. He belongs to the Bureau body and soul".
Hoover brought modernity and co-ordination at a time of disorganisation. He built the first federal fingerprint bank, and his Identification Division would eventually offer instant access to the prints of 159 million people. His Crime Laboratory became the most advanced in the world. He created the FBI National Academy, a sort of West Point for the future elite of law enforcement.
While all this was positive, Hoover's Division 8, euphemistically entitled Crime Records and Communications, had a priority mission. Crime Records pumped out propaganda that fostered not only the image of the FBI as an organisation that spoke for what was right and just, but of the Director himself as a champion of justice fighting "moral deterioration" and "anarchist elements". Hoover used the department to preach the notion that the political left was responsible for all manner of perceived evils, from changing sexual standards to delinquency.
Crime Records portrayed Hoover as the dauntless scourge of serious crime. In the movie J Edgar, long sequences are devoted to his supposed role in tracking down the murderer of the aviator Charles Lindbergh's baby son. In real life, while Hoover postured as the Sherlock who led the probe, the case was in fact broken thanks to work done by another federal agency. Similar phoney self-promotion featured in the fight against the bandits of the 30s, Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, John Dillinger and Alvin Karpis. Hoover hogged the limelight when the thugs were killed or captured and was jealous and vindictive when it fell instead on one of his proteges.
Late in the Eastwood movie, his companion, Clyde Tolson, peruses a memoir Hoover has just completed about his life and career. Then, reproachfully, he remarks that the account is a pack of lies. There was no real-life memoir, but the line is perceptive. Issues of fact versus fabrication and distortion, truth versus outright lie or self-delusion, dominate Hoover's story.
Hoover's public position on race, Southerner that he was, was that of the paternalistic white nativist. Less openly, he was racially prejudiced. He shrugged off the miseries of black Americans, preferring to claim they were outside his jurisdiction. "I'm not going to send the FBI in," a Justice Department official recalled him saying testily, "every time some nigger woman says she's been raped." FBI agents paid more attention to investigating black militants than pursuing the Ku Klux Klan.
In the 60s, Hoover went to extreme lengths to establish that Martin Luther King and his movement were under Communist control. When surveillance established only that King was having sex with women other than his wife, FBI aides worked to "neutralise" him by slipping prurient information to the press. When the civil rights leader was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Hoover was enraged. When thousands mourned King's assassination, Hoover went to the races. He later tried to prevent King's birthday being declared a national holiday.
All this took place against a personal background of which few are today aware – a rumour that Hoover himself had black ancestry. Early photographs do show him looking somewhat negroid, with noticeably wiry hair. Gossip along those lines was rife in Washington and – true or not – Hoover must have been aware of it. Did anxiety on that front shape the way he behaved towards blacks – just as he lashed out at homosexuals while struggling with his own homosexuality?
Research into the sex angle, meanwhile, may explain why – at the very time in US history that organised crime was on the rise and could have been effectively countered – Hoover failed to act. The man who had found fame for hunting down the bank robbers and bandits of the 30s let the Mafia flourish.
It seemed at first, before the Second World War, that Hoover would clamp down on the mob. Then, abruptly, he turned off the pressure. In the 50s, he actively obstructed the Kefauver Committee, which concluded there was indeed "a nationwide crime syndicate known as the Mafia". Not so, said Hoover. When a 1958 report by his own agents also said the Mafia was real, he dismissed it as "baloney". The FBI would take vigorous action only very belatedly, in the 1960s, under pressure from Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
Former officials I interviewed, including three former attorney generals and several former assistant directors of the FBI, were at a loss to explain why Hoover refused to tackle the threat of organised crime. "Hoover's attitude," said Neil Welch, a senior former agent who eventually distinguished himself fighting the Mafia, "was so contrary to reality as to be a reason for great speculation."
Hoover himself, it is now clear, had contacts with organised criminals or their associates in circumstances that made it possible – likely even – that they learned of his sexual proclivities. More than one top mobster claimed the outfit had a hold on Hoover. Meyer Lansky, the syndicate's co-founder, was said to have "pictures of Hoover in some kind of gay situation" and an associate quoted Lansky as claiming, "I fixed that sonofabitch." Carmine Lombardozzi, who was known as "the Italian Meyer Lansky", said: "J Edgar Hoover was in our pocket."
Blackmail was the tactic that worked for Hoover, too, in his dealings with politicians. The title of my biography of him, Official and Confidential, derives from the name of a file group that was held in locked cabinets in Hoover's office. By an official count after his death, the Director held 883 files on senators and 722 on congressmen. Many documents were shredded after Hoover's death, but those that survive speak for themselves. An example is this 1959 report:
You may be interested in the following information… (NAME WITHHELD) [said] she had spent the afternoon of 3 June 1959, with Senator (NAME WITHHELD) in his private office. She also said she had sexual intercourse with the senator during the afternoon "on the couch in the senator's office…" Sincerely yours, James H Gale, Special Agent in Charge
Such reports, I learned, were used to bend politicians to Hoover's will. He might need their co-operation to procure funds, to gain political muscle, or to avert investigation of operations he preferred kept hidden. An aide to Senator Edward Long, the Democrat from Missouri, was to swear an affidavit describing what occurred when Long was planning hearings on the FBI – with a special focus on electronic eavesdropping. A senior Hoover aide came to call, and the conversation went as follows: "Senator, I think you ought to read this file that we have on you. You know we would never use it, because you're a friend of ours… We just thought you ought to know the type of stuff that might get around and might be harmful to you… They handed him the folder… Long read it for a few minutes. [Then] they went on their way. The next thing I knew we had orders to skip over the FBI inquiries."
Hoover snooped not just on politicians but on officials high and low, on Supreme Court justices – at least 12 of them – even on presidents. He built files on writers, actors, on citizens across the spectrum who caught his malignant eye. Many feared what the Director might have found – whether he had compromising information on them or not.
In life, Hoover denied time and again that there were such "secret dossiers". Acting Attorney General Laurence Silberman, the first person to peruse the secret files after Hoover's death in 1972, learned otherwise. "J Edgar Hoover," he told me, "was like a sewer that collected dirt. I now believe he was the worst public servant in our history."
The Director more than got away with his excesses. He was showered with honours. Even today, in spite of the ugly truths that have surfaced since his death – an official probe found that on top of everything he had also been personally corrupt – the sign on the façade of FBI headquarters in Washington proclaims, in gold lettering, that it is the "J EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING".
"American society", mused Dr Lief, the psychiatrist who thinks the facts indicate Hoover would have made a perfect high-level Nazi, "has a strangely polarised attitude towards its heroes. On the one hand people love to find the idol has clay feet, to find the flaw in the famous man. On the other, they are reluctant to take the hero off his pedestal. This is a curious contradiction in our society, and sometimes a dangerous one."
Anthony Summers is the author of eight non-fiction books; the most recent is The Eleventh Day, on 9/11. A new edition of Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J Edgar Hoover, is published this month (Ebury, £8.99). The movie J Edgar is out on 20 January
J. Edgar Hoover: Gay or Just a Man Who Has Sex With Men?By Susan Donaldson James via Good Morning America
Nov. 16, 2011
Clint Eastwood: The Mind Behind 'J. Edgar'
J. Edgar Hoover led a deeply repressed sexual life, living with his mother until he was 40, awkwardly rejecting the attention of women and pouring his emotional, and at times, physical attention on his handsome deputy at the FBI, according to the new movie, "J. Edgar," directed by Clint Eastwood.
Filmgoers never see the decades-long romance between the former FBI director, and his number two, Clyde Tolson, consummated, but there's plenty of loving glances, hand-holding and one scene with an aggressive, long, deep kiss.
So was the most powerful man in America, who died in 1972 -- three years after the Stonewall riots marked the modern gay civil rights movement -- homosexual?
"He was a man of mystery," he told ABC's "Good Morning America" last week. "He might have been [gay]. I am agnostic about it. I don't really know and nobody really knew."
In public, Hoover waged a vendetta against homosexuals and kept "confidential and secret" files on the sex lives of congressmen and presidents. But privately, according to some biographers, he had numerous trysts with men, including a lifelong affair with Tolson.
Dissociation -- denying homosexuality, but displaying sexual behavior -- is "not uncommon," according to Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist who is an expert in gender and sexuality.
Men with strong attractions to other men can have different degrees of acceptance from being fully closeted to being openly gay. And even if they are homosexually self-aware, they can embrace it or reject it publicly.
"We confuse sexual orientation with sexual identity," said Drescher. "Some men do not publicly identify as gay, regardless of their sexual behavior."
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks a group that is not labeled "gay" but "men who have sex with men."
Cohn, who died of AIDS in 1986, was a contemporary of Hoover and according to one biography, the two attended sex parties together in New York in the 1950s.
Cohn was characterized in a scene from Tony Kuschner's play, "Angels in America," speaking to his doctor: "...you are hung up on words, on labels, that you believe they mean what they seem to mean. AIDS. Homosexual. Gay. Lesbian. You think these are names that tell you who someone sleeps with, but they don't tell you that ... Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man, Henry, who f****s around with guys."
Hoover's degree of self-awareness may have been the same as Cohn's. Despite his same-sex dalliances, he occasionally sought a "Mrs. Hoover" and even courted -- albeit uncomfortably -- actress Ginger Rogers' mother and actress Dorothy Lamour.
Hoover's neuroses were likely rooted in childhood: He was ashamed of his mentally ill father and was dependent on his morally righteous mother, Annie, well into middle age. Until her death in 1938, Hoover had no social life outside the office.
In the film, Annie chastises her powerful son as he wilted before some of his FBI critics, telling him, "I'd rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son."
In a 2004 biography by Richard Hack, "Puppetmaster," which was culled from the notes of Truman Capote, who had begun interviews on Hoover and Tolson's relationship, the author says Hoover was not gay, but suggests the man was vicariously turned on by the smut he collected on others.
But Anthony Summers, who exposed the secret sex life of Hoover in his 1993 book, "Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover," said there was no ambiguity about the FBI director's sexual proclivities.
"What does Clint Eastwood know about it?" he asked ABCNews.com. Summers collaborated with historians and conducted 800 interviews for the book, including nieces and those who were young enough at the time to have known the man personally.
"We were able to get a close view of the man as an individual and as a human being -- as close as anybody who had not been afraid of him since he died," said Summers.
With interest in the Eastwood film, publishers in the U.S. and in Britain are issuing a remake of the book.
One medical expert told Summers that Hoover was "strongly predominant homosexual orientation" and another categorized him as a "bisexual with failed heterosexuality."
Hoover often suppressed his urges, but would break out in lapses that could have destroyed him -- alleged orgies in New York City hotels and affairs with teenage boys in a limousine, according to interviews conducted by Summers.
"He was a sadly repressed individual, but most people, even J. Edgar Hoover, let go on occasion," he said.
Hoover as a Cross-Dresser Is Controversial
One short scene in the film showed the FBI director in anguish over his mother's death, putting on her dress and beads, a nod to Summers expose that Hoover had been a cross-dresser.
The Washington Post recently dismissed that account because of a discredited source, but Summers maintains he had two other independent sources from different periods in Hoover's life.
Hoover often frequented New York City's Stork Club and one observer -- soap model Luisa Stuart, who was 18 or 19 at the time -- told Summers she saw Hoover holding hands with Tolson as they all rode in a limo uptown to the Cotton Club in 1936.
"I didn't really understand anything about homosexuality at the time," said Stuart. "But I'd never seen two men holding hands. And I remember asking Art [Arthur] about it in the car on the way home that night. And he just said, 'Oh, come on. You know,' or something like that. And he told me they were queers or fairies --- the sort of terms they used in those days."
Hoover promoted men inclined to homosexual indiscretions, including Tolson, who had barely 18 months experience with the FBI when he became Hoover's deputy.
Purvis's son shared his father's 500-letter correspondence with Hoover, who teased the good-looking, blond-haired agent as "the Clark Gable of the FBI," even though he was heterosexual.
Many were intimate and one was highly charged with innuendo, as Hoover referred to himself as the "Chairman of the Moral Uplift Squad."
Ethel Merman, who had known Hoover since 1938, knew his sexual orientation, according to Summers. In 1978 when the actress was asked to comment on Anita Bryant's anti-gay campaign, Merman told the reporter, "Some of my best friends are homosexual. Everybody knew about J. Edgar Hoover, but he was the best chief the FBI ever had."
Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations, confirmed that Hoover and Tolson sat in boxes owned by and used exclusively by gay men at their racing haunt Del Mar in California.
"They were nodded together as lovers," he told Summers.
Another FBI agent who had gone on fishing trips with Hoover and Tolson revealed that the director liked to "sunbathe all day in the nude." Even novelist William Styron told Summers that he once spotted Hoover and Tolson in a California beach house -- the director painting his friends toenails.
But, according to Summers, "Nobody dared say anything, he was so powerful."
The author interviewed the widow of respected Washington, D.C. psychiatrist Dr. Marshall de G. Ruffin, who treated Hoover in 1946 after his general practitioner had been "puzzled by a strange malaise in his patient."
Monteen Ruffin told Summers that Hoover was "very paranoid" about anyone finding out, and he eventually stopped seeing the psychiatrist. She said her husband burned the evidence.
"He was definitely troubled by homosexuality," she said in 1990, "and my husband's notes would have proved that ... I might stir a kettle of worms by making that statement, but everybody then understood that he was a homosexual, not just the doctors."
When Hoover died in 1972, President Richard Nixon ordered his "dirty tricks man" Gordon Liddy to scour the FBI director's office for files. But when they arrived, someone had taken "drastic action," said Summers. Nothing but tables and chairs remained.
Summers said he is often asked, but rarely answers the question about what he personally thought of Hoover as a human being.
"Yes, I had sympathy for somebody who has to bury their real preferences through a long life in the public eye," he said. "But not sympathy for the way in which he was dictatorial, the way he behaved politically and personally to people right from the beginning in his late teens and early 20s.
"He was totally self-serving and the way in which he was a repressed homosexual didn't require him to abuse individual rights and human liberties the way he did," said Summers. "It does not begin to justify his behavior toward blacks and concoct an anonymous letter to Martin Luther King and suggest he end it all and kill himself."
Psychiatrists have concluded that Hoover "no doubt" had a narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps because of his dependency on a forceful mother who had "great expectations for her son," he said.
"Studies suggest that people with such backgrounds block their feelings and cut meaningful relationships," according to Summers, who said Hoover would have been a "perfect high-level Nazi."
However, Eastwood, who is a Republican, contends that J. Edgar Hoover was "probably good for the country," and whether he was homosexual or not makes no difference.
"I don't really know and nobody really knew," he told ABC. "It's definitely a love story. You can love a person and whether it goes into the realm of being gay or not, is here nor there."
A younger generation of gays was moved by the film precisely because it portrayed such an iconic figure's struggle with his sexuality.
"The audience I was in clearly rooted for Hoover to be gay and to have happiness in his sex and love life," said Ben Ryan, a 33-year-old novelist from New York City. "In a pivotal scene between DiCaprio and Hammer in which the two men engage in the classic brawl-leads-to-furious-kiss, everyone got so excited when they finally locked lips."
"Anyone in their right mind would see this movie and say, 'Oh, well, of course Hoover was gay,'" he said. "The more suspicious among us might think that the filmmakers were still afraid of Hoover's ghost suing them for libel if they just put it right out there that he was gay."
Still, he said, the film is a "tragic story that should hopefully teach society lessons about how dangerous sexual repression is."
Hoover’s Secret Files
By Ronald Kessler
August 2nd 2011
The FBI director kept famous files on everything from Martin Luther King’s sex life to never-before-reported secret meetings between RFK and Marilyn Monroe, as a new book reveals. An exclusive excerpt from Ronald Kessler’s 'The Secrets of the FBI.'
The FBI director kept famous files on everything from Martin Luther King’s sex life to never-before-reported secret meetings between RFK and Marilyn Monroe, as a new book reveals. An exclusive excerpt from Ronald Kessler’s 'The Secrets of the FBI.'
Complex man that he was, J. Edgar Hoover left nothing to chance. The director shrewdly recognized that building what became known as the world’s greatest law enforcement agency would not necessarily keep him in office. So after Hoover became director, he began to maintain a special Official and Confidential file in his office. The “secret files,” as they became widely known, would guarantee that Hoover would remain director as long as he wished.
Defenders of Hoover— a dwindling number of older former agents who still refer to him as “Mr. Hoover”—have claimed his Official and Confidential files were not used to blackmail members of Congress or presidents. They say Hoover kept the files with sensitive information about political leaders in his suite so that young file clerks would not peruse them and spread gossip. The files were no more secret than any other bureau files, Hoover supporters say.
While the files may well have been kept in Hoover’s office to protect them from curious clerks, it was also true that far more sensitive files containing top-secret information on pending espionage cases were kept in the central files. If Hoover truly was concerned about information getting out, he should have been more worried about the highly classified information in those files.
Moreover, the Official and Confidential files were secret in the sense that Hoover never referred to them publicly, as he did the rest of the bureau’s files. He distinguished them from other bureau files by calling them “confidential,” denoting secrecy. But whether they were secret or not and where they were kept was irrelevant. What was important was how Hoover used the information from those files and from other bureau files.
“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” said William Sullivan, who became the number three official in the bureau under Hoover, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”
Lawrence J. Heim, who was in the Crime Records Division, confirmed to me that the bureau sent agents to tell members of Congress that Hoover had picked up derogatory information on them.
“He [Hoover] would send someone over on a very confidential basis,” Heim said. As an example, if the Metropolitan Police in Washington had picked up evidence of homosexuality, “he [Hoover] would have him say, ‘This activity is known by the Metropolitan Police Department and some of our informants, and it is in your best interests to know this.’ But nobody has ever claimed to have been blackmailed. You can deduce what you want from that.”
Of course, the reason no one publicly claimed to have been blackmailed is that blackmail, by definition, entails collecting embarrassing information that people do not want public. But not everyone was intimidated.
Roy L. Elson, the administrative assistant to Senator Carl T. Hayden, will never forget an encounter
he had with Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, the FBI’s liaison with Congress. For twenty years, Hayden headed the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and later the Senate Appropriations Committee, which had jurisdiction over the FBI’s budget. He was one of the most powerful members of Congress. As Hayden, an Arizona Democrat, suffered hearing loss and some dementia in his later years, Elson became known as the “101st senator” because he made many of the senator’s decisions for him.
In the early 1960s, DeLoach wanted an additional appropriation for the new FBI headquarters building, which Congress approved in April 1962.
“The senator supported the building,” Elson said. “He always gave the bureau more money than they needed. This was a request for an additional appropriation. I had reservations about it. DeLoach was persistent.”
DeLoach “hinted” that he had “information that was unflattering and detrimental to my marital situation and that the senator might be disturbed,” said Elson, who was then married to his second wife. “I was certainly vulnerable that way,” Elson said. “There was more than one girl [he was seeing]. . . . The implication was there was information about my sex life. There was no doubt in my mind what he was talking about.”
Elson said to DeLoach: “Let’s talk to him [the senator] about it. I think he’s heard about everything there is to hear about me. Bring the photos if you have them.” At that point, Elson said, “He started backing off. . . . He said, ‘I’m only joking.’ Bullshit,” Elson said. “I interpreted it as attempted blackmail.”
Commenting on Elson’s allegation, DeLoach says, “It never happened.”
Reading the Official and Confidential files that survived makes it clear they could have been gathered for no other purpose than blackmail. For example, on June 13, 1958, the head of the Washington field office informed Hoover that, prior to marrying a member of Congress, the member’s wife had been “having an affair with a Negro [and] also at one time carried on an affair with a House Post Office employee.” More recently, the report said, the congressman’s wife “endeavored to have an affair with [an] Indonesian, who declined.”
In response to this tidbit, Hoover wrote back on June 25 that it was “certainly thoughtful of you to advise me of matters of current interest, and I am glad to have the benefit of this information.”
“This was a way of putting congressmen on notice that we had something on them and therefore they would be more disposed to meeting the bureau’s needs and keeping Hoover in power,” says John J. McDermott, who headed the Washington field office and eventually became deputy associate FBI director.
Hoover let presidents know that he had dirt on them as well. For example, on March 22, 1962, Hoover had lunch with President Kennedy. Hoover told him that through bugs and wiretaps, the FBI had learned that Jack was having an affair with Judith Campbell Exner, a twenty five-year-old divorcée. Hoover informed the president that Exner was also having an affair with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. Because Hoover knew such tidbits, no president would fire him.
As President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “I would rather have him [Hoover] inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”
Many of the confidential files were destroyed after Hoover’s death. One such item that never came out previously was a teletype sent to headquarters from William Simon, who headed the Los Angeles field office, just after the August 5, 1962, death of Marilyn Monroe at her Brentwood, California home. According to DeLoach, who saw the teletype, it said that then Attorney General Robert Kennedy had borrowed Simon’s personal car to see Monroe just before her death.
Confirming this, Simon’s son Greg says, “My father said Robert Kennedy would borrow his white Lincoln convertible. That’s why we didn’t have it on many weekends.” Simon’s daughter Stephanie Branon also confirmed that her father lent his car to Kennedy and remembered that the attorney general once left his Ray-Ban sunglasses in the glove compartment.
As attorney general, Kennedy was entitled to be driven by an FBI security detail. The fact that he chose to use Simon’s personal car is consistent with William Simon’s report to headquarters that he lent his car to Kennedy for the purpose of clandestine meetings with Monroe. Whether his last meeting with her, possibly to break up with her, may have contributed to her suicide is legitimate speculation.
While there is ample evidence that Hoover used the information in his files for blackmail, there was usually no need for it. Simply the perception that he had such information was enough to keep politicians in line.
In the end, the answer to why Hoover did not go after organized crime until he was forced into it is the same reason he maintained files on members of Congress. Above all, Hoover wanted to keep his job. Many members of Congress—not to mention powerful local politicians—had ties to organized crime and might try to unseat him if he went after the Mafia. The Mafia was as powerful as the president. Moreover, as a perfectionist, Hoover did not want to risk losing a case against a powerful figure.
For the same reasons, for purposes of prosecution, Hoover would not investigate corrupt politicians. As FBI director, Hoover had an obligation to go after both Mafia figures and corrupt politicians. Yet until he was pressured into investigating organized crime, those two targets were sacrosanct.
On May 1, 1972, Helen Gandy, Hoover’s personal secretary, handed him the first in a series of exposés by ++Jack Anderson++[http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/09/15/nixon-white-house-plot-to-kill-journalist-jack-anderson.html], whose column appeared in The Washington Post. Previously, Anderson had enraged Hoover by assigning a reporter to rummage through his trash at home. The resulting column revealed that on Sundays, Hoover ate a hearty breakfast of poached eggs and hotcakes. It also revealed that he brushed his teeth with Ultra Brite, washed with Palmolive, and shaved with Noxzema shaving cream. Now, in his latest column, Anderson revealed that the FBI had conducted surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s sex life.
Besides attending sex orgies, King was having an affair with a young woman in his office, says an agent who monitored wiretaps on King’s office and home phones.
“Besides his home, King had an apartment,” the former agent says. “On Tuesdays, he’d go to the apartment, ostensibly to meditate and write sermons.” In fact, King’s girlfriend would meet him there for sex.
For a man whose lifelong mantra had been “Don’t embarrass the bureau,” the continuing stream of unfavorable disclosures had to be unnerving. Yet Hoover rarely revealed his true personal feelings. Sphinx-like, he projected the same persona to his friends and family as he did to the general public. The only difference was that in person, he showed a sense of humor.
Occasionally Hoover cracked a smile or played a prank. James H. Geer, who would later head the Intelligence Division, recalled the time when a nervous new agent went to shake Hoover’s hand after graduating from training, and mistakenly introduced himself as “Mr. Hoover.”
“Very nice to meet you, Mr. Hoover,” the director responded, smiling.
Shortly before six in the afternoon of May 1, 1972, Tom Moton, Hoover’s FBI chauffeur, drove him to Associate Director Clyde Tolson’s apartment, where the two had dinner. Moton drove Hoover home at 10:15 p.m.
By 8:15 the next morning, Annie Fields, Hoover’s housekeeper, became concerned. By then, she should have heard the sound of the shower. Hoover’s toast, soft- boiled eggs, and coffee were getting cold. James Crawford, Hoover’s previous FBI chauffeur, had come over to plant some roses. Checking on him, he found Hoover’s body sprawled on the oriental rug next to his bed. He touched one of his hands; it was cold.
After examining Hoover’s nude body and consulting with his doctor, the District of Columbia medical examiner, Dr. James L. Luke, attributed the director’s death to “hypertensive cardiovascular disease.” As part of the speculation about his love life, a rumor had gone around that Hoover had an underdeveloped sex organ. That was not true, Dr. Luke tells me.
When Hoover’s will was probated, it turned out that Tolson received his estate, estimated at $560,000, including his home. It was the equivalent of $2.9 million today. Gandy received $5,000, Annie Fields $3,000, and James Crawford $2,000. The bequest to Tolson was the final word on the closeness of their relationship.
Hoover preached that even the appearance of impropriety must be avoided. He disciplined agents for losing their handcuffs. Yet after the death of the imperious FBI director, a Justice Department and FBI investigation found that over the years, Hoover had FBI employees build a front portico and a rear deck on his home at 4936 30th Place, NW, in Washington. They installed a fish pond, equipped with water pump and lights, and they constructed shelves and other conveniences for him. They painted his house, maintained his yard, replaced the sod, installed artificial turf, and planted and moved shrubbery. They built a redwood garden fence and installed a flagstone court and sidewalks.
FBI employees also reset Hoover’s clocks, retouched his wallpaper, and prepared his tax returns. Many of the gifts Hoover received from FBI employees, such as cabinets and bars, had been built by them on government time. Hoover also ordered FBI employees to write Masters of Deceit for him under his name. He pocketed part of the proceeds.
When the FBI and Justice Department finally investigated the abuses in the mid- 1970s at the direction of FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley, “a number of these agents had already retired from the bureau, and we were running all over the country interviewing them,” says Richard H. Ash, who headed the FBI task force. “The agent being interviewed would say, ‘Wait a minute.’ And he would go over to his files, pull out a log about all these things they had done, because it was eating at them that they were being used that way.”
“Hoover [and some of his aides] would be prosecuted under today’s standards. No question of it. And should have been,” Buck Revell, formerly the bureau’s associate deputy director over investigations, says. “Hoover for the money he kept from the books he supposedly wrote but didn’t write. Using government funds and resources for personal gain. And use of government employees to maintain his residence. Again, that is fraud against the government. Taking vacations and putting in vouchers for expenses. Agents have been prosecuted for that. Those things that were somewhat taken for granted back then would be prosecuted today.”
“Hoover did a good job for many years,” says John McDermott, the former Washington field office special agent in charge who became deputy associate FBI director. “He went wrong along the way. He became a martinet. In seeking to prevent embarrassment to the bureau, he equated the bureau with himself. Everyone told him how good he was. He came to believe the exorbitant praise he was receiving. Anybody who can be conned by a flatterer has a character weakness.”
Hoover ran the FBI for forty-eight years. Never again would one man so dominate the bureau.
In 1975 and 1976, the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, headed by Senator Frank Church, held hearings on FBI and CIA abuses. These included surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr., illegal wiretapping and mail openings, and surreptitious entries or “black-bag jobs.”
Prior to that, members of Congress took the position they did not want to know what the FBI and CIA were doing. The Church Committee hearings, as they became known, exposed real abuses and a lack of focus that undercut the mission of those agencies. The hearings ultimately improved both agencies and established an effective oversight mechanism.
When creating the FBI on June 29, 1908, as an unnamed investigative bureau of thirty-four special agents within the Justice Department, Congress had been leery of creating a national police force. Because of that, agents initially were not even empowered to carry weapons.
Despite limitations on its power, questions arose very quickly about the extent of the bureau’s authority and methods. Yet whenever a new threat arose, those questions would be set aside, and Congress would entrust the bureau with new powers.
Reproduced with permission from Crown Publishers.