Tuesday, May 29, 2012
double life - a book

I just finished reading the most wonderfully touching book. It is called, "Double Life: A Love Story From Broadway To Hollywood". I read about it in one of my 'trade' papers---Daily Variety or The Hollywood Reporter....and I was drawn to it for a number of reasons. It is written by two men, Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine, who have been together as a committed loving couple for over 50 years---An extraordinary accomplishment for any couple, but for two gay men, even more of an extraordinary accomplishment considering the tenor of the times when they first met....They have been together since 1958---a time when gay men were not accepted as a couple in any way, even in 'show business', except by a few people who's humanity surpassed their prejudices.What drew me to this really special and moving book was the fact that I had met Alan Shayne back in 1963-64, when he was a business partner of the casting director, writer, and later, teacher, named Michael Shurtleff. I had produced a play of Michael's "Call Me By My Rightful Name", here in Los Angeles, (It was The West Coast Premiere) in 1962, at The Coronet Theatre. Then, quite a few years later---in the 1970's, I believe, I saw Alan Shayne again. He was, by this time the Head of Casting at CBS---he would later go on to be President of Warner Bros. Television, and he was with Norman Sunshine that evening, (who, by the way is an extremely talented artist/painter/sculptor). We were at a small dinner party given by a fantastically special and brilliantly dear woman named Else Blangsted---she was, during her working life, (she is now 92 years old)----the 'Premiere' Music Editor in films, and has been honored for her amazing contributions to film many times over. I had met her many years before when she and her late husband Folmar Blangsted, a great great film editor, became patrons of Theatre West. Else was a very close friend of Mary Cobb, the great great actor Lee J. Cobb's wife and then widow, who I originally met back in 1949-50 through my sister Gene---Mary and Gene had been roommates in college at USC....(Oh my Lord...how many lovely threads all come together sometimes, making a very beautiful tapestry of ones life....)... So...though my connection to Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine was minor in the greater scheme of things, I was very interested to read this book. It is written in a really wonderful way. Alan writes a chapter and then Norman writes a chapter after that, each covering their own experiencing of the same incidents in many ways. We get to know each man separately and then together, as well...(And, by the way, each of these men has achieved great success in their chosen professions...) This is the way the entire book is structured and I found it deeply satisfying.....So many people I know of are talked about in this book, and so very many people I actually knew or know personally are talked about, too....I was particularly interested in Alan's view of Michael Shurtleff because of my own experiences with him. After "Call Me..."....I got involved in trying to produce another play of Michael's in 1966---but my mothers very serious illness and eventual death, took me away from that project. I don't think Michael ever forgave me for choosing my mother over his play....To me, there was no choice, so I was very interested in Alan Shayne's feelings about Michael Shurtleff....And, that was very very interesting to me......What is so truly wonderful about this very readable book is the deep love these two men have for each other....For anyone who has any doubts about gay people marrying and/or being in a truly "committed relationship" this is the perfect book to read. Alan and Norman eventually got 'married' in 2004. They actually had a marriage ceremony--not because they felt the need for this 'commitment' to one another---they really already had that---but more because of the rights that married people are afforded......By the time they actually had this marriage ceremony, they had already been together for close to 50 years....The marriage is important to them because of the legal rights. If one of them were to get very very sick, the other one has all the "rights" of any married couple. Without that paper, neither of them has any "rights". Decisions about doctors and hospitals and other very important decisions cannot be made without them being legally married----At least, in Massachusetts, where the ceremony was held...and/or in the few other states where gay marriage is legal now........What brought me to tears was their marriage vows. It was such a simple and lovely ceremony. What each of them said in their vows---one to the other, after almost 50 years of being together, was so very beautiful---so very loving and so deeply touching. These men have lived through such incredible changes in attitudes about homosexuality---from a time when Norman, having been nominated for an Emmy, had to go to the Awards with a woman 'date' because it was so not okay to go with his partner and loved one, Alan---to seeing a gay woman being the Host of the Emmy's and seeing people kiss their significant other when they won, to the winner telling his partner, 'I love you' from the stage in front of 80 million people. Yes.....they have lived through incredible changes in their 50 years. And No, not everywhere---there are still people and places in our country that view homosexuality as an abomination---I feel really sorry for these people and for these states that feel this way. It is out and out blatant racism......Here below is one of Norman Sunshine's stunning paintings....I'd love to own this, myself!This is an inspiring book, on so very many levels.....It makes us believe that love can conquer all and that true love can weather just about anything. This is a book to read and to treasure.

More To Come........

Note: I'll be back to San Francisco-1973, next time.....

Blogger Pat
had this to say:

That does sound an inspiring book to read. Thank goodness they have lived long enough to see such changes and they can love each other and have a secure future together.
There will always be some people against marriage for the same sex but they have to accept life as it is now, in the 21st century.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 4:02:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, this sounds fascinating and one I want to recommend to several gay couples I know who also have wonderful relationships, albeit not so long as these two! It sounds as though both men were fortunate to find their match long ago and survive the challenges that came with that -- particularly years ago. Thanks for sharing it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 5:06:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow what a couple! And what a journey they must have had because they certainly must have faced terrible homophobia over the years. 50 years together is remarkable for any relationship.

I love that painting too.

I bet the book is fascinating. :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 5:36:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

ok you convinced me to get this book and I have a friend who I know would like to read this!

it will never cease to amaze me how people can condemn someone because of how they were born. Be it gay/ transvestite etc.. no one asks to be born different in any way... be it sexual orientation or to be born with a disease or no arms or legs... you live with what life gives you and it will always be wrong to deny any human being any rights that are given to others.

ok.. i am off the soap box and going to find this book! lol

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 7:44:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Very touching.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 7:56:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Wonderful review Naomi and I will go check it out. To have survived so many years with all the outside forces battering them is remarkable. Truly a love story.
With all your links to show business, I think you should replace Kevin Bacon in the 7 degrees game.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 3:47:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Great post! They look so happy on the beach -- love shines through this everyday activity picture. I'd love to read this book -- it was fun reading your 'inside story' too. It is gratifying that this couple are here to celebrate the changes for the better. And gratifying to know that sometimes, at last, good things do happen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 1:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I'm definitely going to read this!!! Thanks!!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 2:31:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

oh this makes me think of my uncle Johnny and his partner Lee
they met in the late 50s and stayed together for a very long time until the pressure of dealing with professional and family prejudices causes them so much pain

I love a story of surviving and thriving

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 5:10:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Just getting back (slowly) into Blogdom. So glad I read your last post. My partner and I have a story to tell and we are so different from each other, yet we both are published writers, so the idea of each of us making a chapter, our view of an event, would make (I think) for a good read. It warms my heart when these walls crumble and another barrier to love and equality is broken down. For those in their later years it is especially poignant. I'll be reading this book. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 6:58:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow Naomi what a wonderful review. I want to get this book now. My daughter interviewed a High Court Judge here in australia that has been with his partner over 50 years too. We need to hear more of these stories and then perhaps people would not be so judgemental and understand why everyone needs to be on an equal footing. We all deserve that. You are such a wonderful writer. I am always stuck like glue to your posts from beginning to end.

And I have added Chocolate Souffle to my list thank you, its a safer past time then sky diving lol.

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 1:36:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Lovely post ... Brought tears to my eyes. You have such a beautiful way with words and such a wide open heart to love and understanding. Of course your work always expresses that. Too bad the whole world doesn't think like you do.

And what a memory! Just reading your prev post... Fascinating!

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 7:32:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow - two handsome men and how wonderful that they have gotten to be legally married after all this time. I love to hear about long years of commitment.

And that picture of them on the beach chairs is great. Loved this post!

Friday, June 1, 2012 at 2:51:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I loved your review of this book Naomi. It does sound very interesting! Being together so long certainly shows their love for each other. I love that painting!!! Very unique! Hugs!!!

Friday, June 1, 2012 at 10:22:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

It sounds like a very interesting book, Naomi. Unfortunately, it probably wouldn't change the minds of bigots.

Friday, June 1, 2012 at 12:29:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I've not heard of these two, but this certain sounds like an interesting read... even more so for yourself what with knowing some of the people in it.

Friday, June 1, 2012 at 2:10:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

It sounds like a great book-- a real love story of the lasting sort as well as about each following their calling. Beautiful and if more people knew more gay couples, there'd be less of this bigotry and fear-- even from Christians.

Friday, June 1, 2012 at 4:39:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

There are so many untold stories of such "ordinary" people that when couples like these two can have their story receive such public exposure with this book, hopefully, others will benefit from attitude changes toward them.

The issues of health care decisions and various rights are so important in couple relations whatever the genders that denying marriage with all it denotes is simply so intolerant.

Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 3:10:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a lovely post Naomi. I just opened my computer which has been shut for several days while we were away and I enjoyed reading this as my first post reading. These men are truly outstanding – 50 years – this is a rarity for any couple. Unfortunately there is still so much bigotry out there. A great review Naomi about a book to be read.

Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 1:03:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Alan Shayne
had this to say:

Naomi: How can we reach you? We have just read your beautiful column about our book "Double Life" and we want to thank you. You write so brilliantly and that you even included pictures and one of Norman's paintings. You are amazing. We were so happy to see that people wrote in and wanted to read the book. Unfortunately in May and June, Amazon and many bookstores ran out of copies but a second printing has just gone to warehouses so it should be available. I remember our dinner at Elsa's and I am glad she's well. I wonder if she's read our book. She is not in it but she had a creative effect on Norman's life. Please contact us

Alan and Norman

Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 1:12:00 PM PDT 

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