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Hollywood Babylon, It’s Back
by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince
Book Review by Steven LaVigne
© July 2008, Steven LaVigne

What books do you have sitting on your toilet tank? The new edition of “Hollywood Babylon” deserves a place in your bathroom, because it’s a trashy tome that’s perfect for the commode or bathtub. It’s also tough to put down.

However, because Darwin Porter’s writing is always questionable, the gossip published here will raise eyebrows, and on occasion, the reader will shout “Oh, come on, now!”

His biography of Marlon Brando is so charged with Brando’s sexual encounters that it’s difficult to believe he had time to become such a renowned actor. Porter and Prince don’t exactly mine a lot of new territory here.

The overall theme of this volume is penis size. The endowments of Keith Haring, John Malkovich, Gary Cooper, Charles Chaplin, David Niven, Errol Flynn, Howard Hughes, Milton Berle, John Emery, Rory, Calhoun, Anthony Quinn and Victor Mature are discussed. The bisexuality of these men is affirmed, but this is one dubious element here. In the late 1970s, the late actor Oliver Cliff told me that Roddy McDowell had “the biggest cock in Hollywood,” which is affirmed here.

Lana Turner, Fernando Lamas, Johnny Weissmuller, Forrest Tucker, Chuck Conners, Warren Beatty, Don Johnson and Rudolf Nureyev all have chapters detailing their sex lives, but there are long sections that explore, extensively the early years of several icons.

Eight chapters of gossip about Lucille Ball reveal that, when she first arrived in New York, our favorite redhead was a good time girl, the kind of woman Truman Capote would later name Holly Golightly in his novella, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Porter and Prince tell us that Desi Arnaz was bisexual, and along with all those women, had an affair with Cesar Romero. Lucie Arnaz, who is the keeper of the family legends probably doesn’t have this information on display at the Lucille Ball Museum!

Judy Garland’s marriage to Mickey Deans and the aftermath of her death are scrutinized, as is Elvis’ sex life. Marilyn Monroe, who is more famous after her death than she was in life, gets four chapters. Hasn’t enough been written about her? Let the poor woman rest!

Porter and Prince reveal incestual relationships between Errol Flynn and his son, Cary Grant and his stepson. They also reveal that James Dean had a relationship with a pubescent boy, now a successful gay Hollywood businessman.

“Hollywood Babylon, It’s Back,” covers the strange death of Bette Davis’ second husband; Tony Randall’s sexuality and friendship with Rock Hudson; and gay sex inside Parliament with Winston Churchill, and in the Vatican with Pope Paul VI. Of course, all of the above celebrities are dead, so there’s very little possibility of libel suits, but the tiresome sexuality debate about Tom Cruise gets seven chapters, and the authors don’t let Ewan McGregor, Jake Gyllenhaal, Matthew McConaughey, or Lance Armstrong escape scrutiny. Knowing Tom Cruise’s publicity machine, there could be another lawsuit on the horizon.

The original “Hollywood Babylon” was published in 1975 by underground filmmaker, and gay icon, Kenneth Anger. It was followed by “Hollywood Babylon II” in 1984. Sadly, Anger is dying of prostate cancer and predicts that his death will be on Halloween 2008.

In the origianl Anger volumes, gossip and scandal are written in a sophisticated and stylish manner. It was a lot of fun to read about Chaplin’s paternity suits, Rudolph Valentino’s unconsummated marriages to lesbians, and James Dean’s S&M activities. That snappy journalism is lacking from the new volume. As captivating as it is, “Hollywood Babylon, It’s Back” never rises above bathroom reading.

Hollywood Babylon, It’s Back
by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince
Blood Moon Productions, 408 pages, $24.95

© 2008, Steven LaVigne

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