Greta Garbo, for some of you who may not know, was a stunning beauty whose talent on-screen in Hollywood could have sustained her well into her elder years; however she left the biz and lived her life in relative seclusion in Manhattan,her penthouse apartment in a building that overlooked the East River.
While in our teens me and my two best friends, Michele and Fran, would make a holy pilgrimage every now and then to Garbo’s apartment building. She never knew we were there, three young women, struggling with depression, hormones, the angst of youth; we stood across the street from her building hoping that somehow her greatness would rub off onto us, just to be in the presence of the brick and mortar edifice she called home was enough to lift our spirits.
How we longed for a glimpse of Garbo. But she never appeared, the Irish doorman, who was really a retired cop, shooed us away from getting too close; this in an era innocent of terrorism, stalking etc; but it was his job, after all, to keep the masses away from such privilege and wealth.
I think about Greta Garbo, how years later we read in the press, that she hid her female lover from the world’s prying eyes; rumors swirled then too, about Katherine Hepburn and her female companion; bisexual Kate? who knows? Did Spencer Tracy?
Knowing I was different from my friends, since I too, loved women, maybe my depression would have lifted had Greta come out as lesbian or at least as bisexual. No role models existed back in the dark ages of the 1960’s and into the decades beyond. I certainly suspected tennis pro, Billy Jean King, but she never came out willingly.(outed by another, not her own admission).
Today the Boy Scouts are allowing openly gay boys to be scouts; it’s a start, since openly GLBTQ adults are not being invited to come out of hiding; The world is changing, at least in most Western countries; I want to reach back in time to comfort that young woman, to let her know, eventually, her torment would be over, that the closet door would swing wide open. I am deeply happy for the youth of today having light on their path to coming out. I am wondering about those Brownies and Girl Scouts, next on the list?
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Yes, sometimes when I look around at how terrorism is on the rise and the backlash of fear and hate and bigotry is vilifying innocent people, I could almost despair. But then I see something like the nation’s open-armed embrace of the people in Orlando last week, and I see Out GLBTQ people being free and accepted now in ways not possible even 20 years ago, and I know the world is not to be given up on.