Click Here To Purchase and/or find out more about Hollywood Bohemians: Transgressive Sexuality and the Selling of the Movieland Dream

Brett L Abrams
McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-7864-3929-4

In this comprehensive overview of the development of Hollywood (particularly between 1917-1941), author Brett Abrams demonstrates how those who crossed the boundaries of the society’s sexual norms had a unique role to play in creating the image we have today of Tinseltown. Today most people’s image of Hollywood is one of a laissez faire, “anything goes” town dedicated to the movie business. Yet it wasn’t always that way.

Cross-dressers, gay and lesbian actors and actresses, as well as those who engaged in adulterous affairs all challenged the societal norms of early Hollywood, and in many ways, those attitudes remain unchanged even now. Yet these individuals helped to form Hollywood into the city it is today, known around the world for its daring, exciting milieu of glamour and stardom.

This outsider behavior allowed the middle class to get a glimpse into the exotic, then retreat back to their comfortable world. It began with “slumming,” when average folks would visit the highly charged nightclubs of early Hollywood, enjoying the titillation of seeing these “sexual deviants” from a distance, then returning to the safety of their homes. This exposure to performers, wrapped up in the glamorous veneer of clubs like the Coconut Grove or hotels like the Ambassador, gave ordinary citizens a chance to be daring without truly altering their own life styles. In fact, there was even a popular guidebook called “How to Sin in Hollywood” that served as a Fodor’s to these very Hollywood hangouts.

Movie stars and studios similarly used this daring lifestyle (if not outwardly endorsing such outlandish behavior) to gain attention for upcoming movies or make stars’ lives into more dramatic (and attention-getting) activities than they might otherwise be. Coupled with coverage in movie magazines, industry newspapers, and eventually TV coverage, it all helped build an image to sell the Hollywood product.

In his book, author Brett Abrams has done an incredible job of laying out the story of early Hollywood and detailing just how sexual transgression (whether through homosexuality, adultery, or other taboo behavior) helped to challenge society‘s boundaries and build an image for the movie business of excitement and daring.

As an archivist at the National Archives, Abrams’s research for this book is impeccable, with 35 pages of notes and bibliography alone. From White House inaugurations to newspapers’ society pages to the cross-dressing stars of early Hollywood, he has painted a fascinating portrait of an industry (the movie business) and city (Hollywood) that most of us take for granted. It’s a stunning effort to go inside a historical experience rarely covered by the general media, one that can be enjoyed by all.


Click Here To Purchase and/or find out more about Hollywood Bohemians: Transgressive Sexuality and the Selling of the Movieland Dream