Fab new play The Tailor-Made Man takes over the White Bear Theatre from Tuesday (7 Nov) with a 25th anniversary spectacular. Writer Claudio Macor explains more.
Hi Claudio, what’s the story of The Tailor-Made Man?
The story is of William “Billy” Haines, the silent screen MGM movie star, that was fired by Louis B Mayer because he was gay and refused to give up his life long partner Jimmie Shields and marry the silent screen vamp, Pola Negri. Billy then went on to become one of the greatest interior designers of the last century.
Can you tell us a bit about the true story which inspired you to write it?
I was given a copy of Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon” for my birthday 30 years ago and discovered the story. It resonated with me because it’s not only a story of Hollywood but more importantly a story of survival. Billy’s design business was far more successful than his movie career. His shop and company are still operating today and his designs are as popular now as they were back then. His designs have become part of modern day everyday furniture and it’s a testament to his talent. But it’s the love story that blew me away. A gay relationship that lasts over 50 years.
There must be loads of other men and women who hid their sexuality and have a sham marriage…
This is the tragedy of the situation. There are way too many people who refuse to be themselves and pander the whims of powerful people. It leads to torment. Billy refused to kowtow to any of that. Billy and Jimmie lived like a modern gay couple; open, free and couldn’t give a damn. They were known as the ‘happiest married couple in Hollywood’ – incredible for the era and very inspiring.
The story of a studio head basically bullying an actor has real resonance today, especially in light of what is happening right now. Do you think Hollywood has changed?
Hollywood is and will always be interested in the box office. As long as your movies make money, they don’t care. They’ll cover up for you, they will support you, but the moment you stop making money, they walk away and feed you to the wolves. It has nothing to do with being racist, homophobic, sexist, ageist etc, it has everything to do with money. However, while you are making money you have to kowtow to their rules. I’m sorry to say this has always been the case and always will. Mel Gibson was the pariah of Hollywood for a long time, but this year he made a very successful film that was nominated for a bunch of Oscars and all was forgotten. Hollywood will never change. What is happening now will change things in the short term, it’ll change certain attitudes, it may even stop certain actions, but overall nothing will change. The lure is too great.
What would you like people to take away from the play?
I would like the audience to see a great gay love story that is a beacon for the gay community. That love can survive, that a gay relationship can last over 50 years, but above all I want the message to be that no matter what you must survive. For me it’s a play of hope, of survival and being yourself, always. After all, it’s a true story.