Was the late Jack Valenti -- famous Houstonian, former Lyndon Johnson aide, former head of Hollywood's MPAA, namesake of the Valenti School of Communications at UH -- as gay as a Sondheim song?
We don't care one way or the other, but it appears the FBI did.
The Washington Post reports this morning that through a Freedom of Information Act request, they got their hands on files showing J. Edgar Hoover (Irony Alert? Self-loathing gay alert?) investigated rumors that Valenti hosted gay parties in Houston and had an affair with a gay photographer here.
They appeared to decide he was straight or, as Johnson told them, he was "attracted to the women and not to the men."
Such allegations were serious stuff in the 1960s. (And probably today, too, sadly.) LBJ thought he might lose the 1964 election, which he won in a landslide, when his aide Walter Jenkins was found a few days before the vote in a compromising position in a YMCA bathroom.
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Some highlights from the Post report:
In Valenti's case, agents located the photographer and he confirmed that he had attended parties with Valenti and stayed at his apartment on two occasions. But he stressed that Valenti was strictly a platonic friend, records show....
The agents learned that Valenti was a frequent party host in Houston, and the photographer often attended. An FBI memo dated Nov. 12, 1964, stated that the photographer "has the reputation of being a homosexual."
The photographer and "Valenti have allegedly been having an affair for a number of years," the memo said.
Six days later, Hoover reported the allegations to the president. Johnson spoke to Hoover lieutenant Cartha D. DeLoach and asserted that "Valenti was all right; however, his judgment was faulty inasmuch as he felt Jenkins had been all right," files show.
The photographer told the agents that Valenti had "never engaged in homosexual activities and he does not have these tendencies," according to an FBI memo sent to Moyers.
"He said that he enjoyed Valenti's company very much on a social basis inasmuch as Valenti possessed a dynamic and very interesting personality. He said that he could never under any circumstances consider Valenti as 'sexually attractive,' but merely thought of him as a very charming and intelligent individual."
The photographer said he was sure that Valenti did not know he was attracted to men. At the end of the interview, the photographer was so distraught that he was "unable to make available a signed statement."
The photographer was not named.
-- Richard Connelly