Double Life: A Love Story from Broadway to Hollywoodby Alan Shayne, Norman Sunshine, Mike Nichols (Foreword by)
Gay marriage is at the forefront of America's political battles. The human story at the center of this debate is told in Double Life: A Love Story, a dual memoir by a gay male couple in a 50 plus year relationship. With high profiles in the entertainment, advertising and art communities, the authors offer a virtual timeline of how gay relationships have gained acceptance in the last half-century. At the same time, they share inside stories from film, television and media featuring the likes of Marlon Brando, Katharine Hepburn, Rock Hudson, Barbra Streisand, Laurence Olivier, Truman Capote, Bette Davis, Robert Redford, Lee Radziwill and Frances Lear.
“We both grew up at a time when homosexuality was not even spoken about,” the couple writes. “There were certainly no books that could help a young person understand that two people of the same sex could build a happy, productive and loving life together. When we entered our 50th year, another same sex couple told us we were ‘an inspiration’, so we began to feel we had the responsibility to make what we’ve experienced available to others. We also wanted to show people who were not gay that our life was not unlike theirs. We are all pretty much the same, so we deserve equal protection under the Constitution.”
Alan Shayne retired as President of Warner Brothers Television in 1986, following a career that included Broadway, playing opposite Lena Horne and spanned forty years. As a leading casting director, he worked on such films as Catch 22, All the President’s Men and many others. At Warner Brothers, he shepherded such long-running television series as Alice, Night Court and The Dukes of Hazard.
Norman Sunshine was a successful magazine illustrator in New York who went on to be a painter and sculptor whose works are in museums and in important collections. In the early years of his career, he was vice president, creative director of an advertising agency, and coined the phrase, “What Becomes a Legend Most?” as well as “Danskins are not just for Dancing.” He interrupted his painting career when Frances Lear asked him to spearhead Lear’s Magazine in the 1980s.
Upon the two men meeting in New York in 1958, “We didn’t want to live together,” says Shayne. “We didn’t have any examples of what a good love relationship between two men could be. And there was always the problem of hiding so no one would know we were gay. There was no question that if I were known to be gay, living with another man, it would make it more difficult for me to get work as an actor.”
As an artist, Sunshine was able to maintain a moderately out lifestyle. But when the first exhibition of his paintings in New York brought on a profile in The New York Times in 1968, he was photographed in the apartment that he admitted sharing with Shayne. At both his advertising agency and Shayne’s television production company, the article was met with absolute silence.
Even in the 1970s, when Sunshine won an Emmy for the graphics and title design he had created for one of Shayne’s television productions, “Alan and I agreed it was not a good idea for us to be seen together at an industry event,” he remembers. “Alan, after all, was one of the very few homosexuals who had such a powerful, high profile job, and who lived openly with a man. Homophobia had its adherents and some ruthless climber up the executive ladder would certainly love an opportunity to use it…’Better to be seen with a woman,’ we were advised by a very trusted friend, ‘Makes everyone more comfortable.’”
Happily, in 2008, the State of Massachusetts allowed the opportunity for the couple to be married on a beach in Nantucket. “We were like a long, empty, closed-up house where the windows have just been opened,” writes Shayne. “The fresh air thrilled through us, and after years of only being who we were in the privacy of our homes or with a few friends, we were out in the world, under the sky, no longer pretending. We were at last free.”
Double Life is a trip through the entertainment world and a gay partnership in the latter half of the 20th century. As more and more same sex couples find it possible to say “I do,” the book serves as an important document of how far we’ve come.
“Though Double Life is a perfect plea for equal rights, it never preaches but merely looks candidly at the terrific, if at times turbulent, relationship of two fabulous, sexy men who dared love each other openly. I laughed and gasped at its inside-show-business stories and was intrigued by the cutthroat advertising and art worlds. Brilliantly written, filled with humorand occasional heartbreakDouble Life follows a fifty-year marriage, revealing its love and warts.”
“A love that once dared not speak its name sings freelyand beautifullyin Double Life, a fascinating, frank and page-turning memoir about the life-long love affair of two extraordinary men.”
"How exceptionally fine at this precarious moment in our history to be able to read the moving story of a lifelong love affair between two men, spanning some fifty years of faithful togetherness, utter and complete devotion and responsible and fulfilling achievement. Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine have written a valuable document to show the world that yes, we can do it too.”
“I read the Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine’s Double Life in one big gulp. This memoir becomes their legends most!”
"Anyone living in a long term relationship, gay or straight, will find him/herself in the pages Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine have written. They know what it's like to be together for a long time and they tell it like it is, with wit, courage, honesty and tenderness. From Broadway to the Village to Madison Avenue to Hollywood they have tales to tell and they tell them brilliantly. I love this book!”
Alfred Uhry, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning author of Driving Miss Daisy
“A life well lived does not always make a book well written, but here, in this truthful and affecting work, are two carefully maintained lives without a mortgage, paired by fate and synchronized from two points of view like a pair of mated butterflies. Reading about their lives has taught me a lot about my ownone riveting, wisely observed revelation after another by two extraordinary men with a lot to give. When I grow up, I want to be just like Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine.”
“What gives the book additional measure of depth is the consistently strong melody of the love story that plays underneath almost every incident, and provides the various pressures, cultural and otherwise, that challenge its survival.”
A.R. Gurney, author of the play Love Letters
This entertaining, invigorating story of Shayne and Sunshine's enduring relationship seems like something from off the silver screen. Their relationship began in 1958 when homosexuality was considered a disease; at the time of their first meeting, the divorced Shayne was trying to cure himself of his homosexuality via deep analysis. Shayne, an aspiring actor at the beginning of the book, became a casting director, and, eventually, the president of Warner Brothers Television. Sunshine started out as a freelance illustrator in New York and developed into an accomplished painter, media consultant, and Emmy Award winner. Despite their career successes, the couple lived a less-than open life. In 1968, when Sunshine admitted to a New York Times reporter that he lived with Shayne, they were met with deafening silence from colleagues and friends. The authors include entertaining stories about stars, from a young Marlon Brando, to a generous Rock Hudson, to a bitter Lena Horne. As much a love letter as a look at how society's views on homosexuality have changed over the last 50 years, this is a fascinating book. (Oct.)
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Highlights from Double Life
Lena Horne gave parties in her West End Avenue apartment frequently during the run of Jamaica, composed by Harold Arlen, in which Shayne understudied Ricardo Montalban. Horne graciously invited Sunshine to accompany him to the parties. But years later, Shayne went backstage to see Horne after her one- woman Broadway show and was greeted without any sign of affection. Rather, she berated him by saying, ‘Mr.Mogul how come you never got me a job, Mr. Mogul?’”
After Sunshine came up with the tagline for the Blackglama mink campaign, “What Becomes a Legend Most?”, the first ad featured Lauren Bacall and was photographed by Richard Avedon in 1960.
Shayne edged out Marlon Brando for the lead in Twelfth Night while a student at the New School studying with Stella Adler. Brando got back at Shayne by playing bongo drums during his short time on stage in the minor role of a priest. “He ruined the production,” Shayne remembers.
In 1961, Shayne went to work in David Merrick’s casting office. “I’ll never forget the first day I saw Barbra Streisand,” he recounts. “I watched as an unattractive girl, dressed in shapeless clothes a homeless person might wear, walked onto the stage chewing gum. She took the gum out of her mouth and parked it under the lid of the piano. The pianist played an introduction and the voice, that was to make history, sang Sleeping Bee.” Knowing that Merrick would never go for someone with her looks, Alan, his boss and the director Arthur Laurents conspired to cast her in I Can Get it for you Wholesale, her first Broadway show.
Shayne cast a young unknown in Carnival, and when she went on for the lead, Merrick, not liking her looks, had her fired. She went on to become the opera star Julia Migenes.
Working for David Susskind, Shayne was responsible for casting the television productions of Death of a Salesman with Lee J. Cobb and a young George Segal as Biff, A Case of Libel with Van Heflin, Hatful of Rain with Peter Falk, All the Way Home with Joanne Woodward and Look Homeward Angel with Geraldine Page.
In one remarkable chapter, Shayne recounts his work on the Truman Capote television adaptation of Laura, starring Princess Lee Radziwill. Although she had no experience as an actress, Susskind insisted on building a production around her. Shayne suggested a remake of the famous movie. “They talk about her all the time but she doesn’t appear until a third of the way into the picture,” he said at the time, “and then all she has to do is just stand there and look enigmatic.” The terrible script submitted by Capote had most likely been written, Shayne determined, by a would-be-writer gas station attendant in Palm Springs with whom Capote had fallen in love. The cast included Robert Stack, Farley Granger and Arlene Francis, all of whom, Shayne writes, “had written off the Princess. They thought she was terrible but they had all decided to do their jobs and just get it over with.” Stack even asked that Radziwill be replaced by Elizabeth Taylor. Despite Susskind’s last-minute attempts with editing wizardry, Laura got devastating reviews.
During his career in Hollywood, Shayne cast Barbara Feldon in Get Smart, created The Snoop Sisters with Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick, suggested Alice as a vehicle for Linda Lavin, signed Richard Chamberlain for The Thorn Birds and Katherine Hepburn for The Corn is Green with George Cukor directing, and championed Lynda Carter to play Wonder Woman. “The great thing that Lynda has is a sweetness,” he argued to the network at the time. “Her goodness will shine through and make the whole thing work.” Later, upon reflection, he writes, “As for sweetness and goodness, everyone changes with success and Lynda was no exception.” During that time, six of his television shows ran for more than five seasons: Alice, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Growing Pains, Head of the Class, Night Court and Dukes of Hazard.
In 1983, Sunshine and Shayne’s Los Angeles House burned to the ground. Their neighbor across the street, Rock Hudson, insisted that they stay in his home while they re-built. While they were there, Hepburn and Cukor surprised Sunshine while he was painting in his studio, and insisted on a tour. They came by to purportedly inspect the fire damage, but he soon realized that what Hepburn really wanted was to see Rock Hudson’s house.
“Rock’s goodness to us and our ensuing friendship gave us an unwanted privilege,” Sunshine writes. “We were on the list of friends who were permitted to visit him at UCLA Medical Center and watch him die of AIDS. It was a terrible time and we lost good friends, and more importantly, valuable human beings.”
Shayne signed Bette Davis to work opposite Helen Hayes as Miss Marple in Agatha Christie’s Murder with Mirrors. The first day on the set, after Hayes greeted Davis, Davis replied, “Listen, we’re going to be here for days and there’s no point in wasting our breath saying ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ every time we see each other. Let’s just do our work.”
In 1988 Frances Lear, starting her eponymous Lear’s Magazine, called Sunshine out of the blue and said, “I have this gut feeling about you and I know you will be right for me. Get on a plane immediately and come talk to me.” Sunshine put down his brushes and flew to New York. This began a whirlwind year in which Sunshine totally re-designed the magazine. “It seems that Frances was a manic depressive,” he writes, “and held in a precarious emotional balance with lithium. I was one of her ‘high’ inspirations. And somehow, I was letting myself be taken on one of her trips.”
Meet the Author
Alan Shayne retired as President of Warner Brothers Television in 1986. There he was responsible for launching the hit shows Wonder Woman, Dukes of Hazard, Alice, and Night Court, among others. He began his career in television with David Susskind’s production company, after heading the Broadway casting office for David Merrick. Prior to that, he was an actor on Broadway and in television.
Norman Sunshine is a painter and sculptor whose work is in permanent collections around the country. Earlier in his career, he was a fashion illustrator and Creative Director of the Jane Trahey Agency, where he coined the phrase “What Becomes a Legend Most?” for Blackglama Minks and “Danskins are not just for Dancing.” He won an Emmy for graphic and title design in the 1970s. In 1988, he served as Creative Director of Lear’s Magazine.
Mike Nichols is a television, stage and film director, writer, and producer who has won all the major American entertainment awards: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. In 2001, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. He received the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 2010.
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I bought this book on a hunch when I was browsing because the cover is so haunting and it made me curious. I could not put it down, I stayed up all night reading it. I lived someone else’s life, the way you do with a really great biography. I learned what more than 50 (!) years of a gay marriage is like. I read about houses, movie stars, work, and problems. I really laughed, the stories are funny. And at the end I cried. It is so well written. I decided to write this review and recommend this book because it is about an important issue that we all should know more about and think about. But it is also fun to read for anyone who enjoys a great story.
Alan Shayne (he was the head of Warner Brothers Television for many years) and Norman Sunshine (a talented artist who, when an advertising art director, wrote the slogan (”What becomes a legend most?”) have written a joint autobiography of their 50 (!) years together. It’s a story that spans the turbulence of the years when both men were growing up and discovering they were gay, the long period they had to hide their relationship (or risk loosing their enormously successful careers) and then their slow public emergence into one of the best (and most stable and creative) marriages I have ever encountered. Its fifty years span, in a highly personal and anecdotal way, tells the story of gay life in America - from hidden to normal. As such, the book is highly readable, witty, insightful (it describes dozens of close and hilarious encounters with the famous in Hollywood and New York) and in telling detail provides a wonderful accounting of just how many similarities there are between gay and heterosexual marriages. It also seems to me to be the moment for just such a book. While the book does not proselytize – it does, through anecdote and introspection (and sheer longevity of their relationship ) make an elegant and convincing plea for equal rights and same sex marriage far better than any essay or diatribe could do. It is, in short, a story of people struggling with love, career, and all the usual things people go through. But besides all this are the wonderful stories of the famous and talented people that both men encountered along the way during their 50 years together. I recommend it! James LG
I saw the two handsome men on the cover; one gazing towards the distance, the other staring intensely forward. I was intrigued by them and needed to read their love story that promised to be so candidly revealed. I wanted to find out how they navigated the early years when even Broadway and Hollywood whispered about gay relationships. I found that the authors related the same ups and downs, initial comic blunders and poignancy or all marriages yet with a backdrop of glamorous singers, theater icons and film stars. The stories shift from hilarious anecdotes to ones that will make you weep with the rawness of emotion. The voices of the two co-authors can be distinctly heard in the alternate chapters and by the end of book., they are two of the most fascinating friends you wish you had. This book is a great read!
I was fascinated to read this unusual book describing a relationship of a lifetime between two gay men. I've never encountered anything like this book and am glad I read it.Its a great story . I am giving it to my friends Kyle S