Life is hard enough; throw “love” into the mix and it becomes much more complicated.Â Love itself is never easy, then again anything worth its salt is not a cakewalk, as much as we wish it were.Â To make this thing we call life even more challenging, try having to carry on a love affair (a real love affair, not a cheesy cheating affair or a mid life crisis fleeting moment) when it goes against societal norms; when it could ruin your career; when it could destroy your life.
I personally couldn’t imagine having to live a secret life for 50 hours much less 50 years.Â I’m not that brave.Â But, for fifty years two men, Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine, were truly devoted to one another and shared a love for one another in a “remarkable, rich, fulfilling and decent relationship that helped them build their careers and at the same time gave them happiness in a disapproving world.”Â Welcome to being gay back in the day.
Alan was in the entertainment business whose career started from scratch and carried through the decades from acting to casting to producing, eventually landing him as President of the prestigious Warner Brothers Television.Â Norman, who happens to have artwork up on the Harman Center for the Arts today, began as as starving artist, then his career blossomed and flourished, paralleling his private life’s leading man’s.Â His works were shown as exhibitions in the most elite galleries and museums.
But as successful as their careers became, during these “dark ages” of homosexuality, they were forced to stay in the closet.Â “Double Life” is a love story and the two men, who with their witty charm and humor, told a small group on Monday night in the Patrons’ Lounge of Sidney Harman Hall, they ended up learning even more about each other than they’d ever expected (the good, the bad and the ugly).Â The process all began, tells Alan, during a Thanksgiving dinner years ago held at host and neighbor Joan Rivers’ home.Â She asked the group to go around and say for what they are thankful.Â This of course, was met with groans, but one by one, each shared for what or why or whom they were thankful.Â From babies to dogs, to other “normal” reasons for giving thanks, they went. When it came Alan’s turn, he declared, “I’m thankful Norman and I have been in a relationship for 5o years!” They were met with dead silence and shocked faces.Â Apparently, it was more of surprise of how old they were.Â Truly, this was a moment of openness and joy, because their friends were so happy for them. But to know they had to keep this relationship a secret?Â Devastating.
And so, the book idea began.Â It’s no easy feat to accomplish, particularly when you have two different personalities, backgrounds, talents, and POV’s.Â As they say, there’s three sides to every story.Â His side, his side and the truth.
I have not yet read the book, but cannot wait to dig into it as there are tales told involving their intertwining and clandestine lives in New York, Malibu and more which involve Marlon Brando, Lena Horne, Marlon Brando, Richard Chamberlain, Laurence Olivier, Linda Lavin, Lee Radziwill, Frances Lear, David Susskind, Helen Hayes, Bette Davis, Mike Nichols, Robert Redford, and Dustin Hoffman.Â Surely these anecdotes will have the same humbleness and sense of humor (the two really could do a comedy road show, their energy and cadence is pure entertainment, their adoration for each other, palpable) as they displayed Monday evening.Â Michael Kahn, Dorothy and Bill McSweeney, Kevin Naff, Eden and Jerry Rafshoon and Peter Rothstein, whom are all friends of the gents hosted the function and one could tell how proud they were to be able to welcome them and celebrate this “Love Story: From Broadway to Hollywood” with us.
Photos by Jason Kampf
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.