Monday, November 03, 2003

Giving your gaydar a tuneup

Wikipedia is one of those incredibly useful sites that has a real shot at becoming something like a real-life version of the book-within-a-book Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (Of course there already is one of those.) That is, an instantly assessable encyclopedia covering virtually everything, written and maintained by a small nucleus of organizers and a vast corps of volunteers.

One section that I stumbled across -- and try finding this in the Encyclopedia Britannica -- is a great dirt-dishing list of famous gay and lesbian people.

All the usual personages are there, along with a few I'd long suspected (Nathan Lane, Lily Tomlin) and a few outright revelations (Samantha Fox, Danny Pintauro.)

Here's the interesting one: It turns out Sir Alec Guinness was arrested in 1948 for the very same thing George Michael was later nabbed for, which is something the British refer to, quaintly, as cottaging, but which we Canadians refer to as "having anonymous sexual relations in a public washroom with a member of the same gender." (To my ears, the British term is easier to say, but far more likely to lead to confusion when vacationing in the Muskokas.) The reason you never heard about Sir Alec's bust was that he cunningly gave his name as "Herbert Pocket", the character he had recently played in the film version of Great Expectations. He was prosecuted and fined under that name, but avoided scandal because the police didn't figure it out until years later.

Now imagine if how it would have worked out if he'd been busted for cottaging 30 years later and given his name as Obi-Wan Kenobi.


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