Meet William Haines

March 25, 2013

Welcome back to the Tarnished Gold Blog Tour. As promised, I want to introduce you to William Haines, the first openly gay man in Hollywood.

As I researched old Hollywood, the name of William Haines surfaced in my reading over and over again. I had read much about him over many years, but without the focus of research, he was one name among many stars that captured my interest.

Charles William “Billy” Haines was born on January 2, 1900 in Staunton, Virginia. At 14, he left home for Hopewell, Virginia, where he and the young man he referred to as his boyfriend, found jobs at the local Dupont plant. They also opened a dance hall, which later burned down.

Several years after having been discovered in Hollywood in 1922, Billy went to New York, where he met Jimmie Shields, the man with whom he would build his life for the next 46 years. When Billy returned to Hollywood, he convinced Jimmie to join him.

Billy entered Hollywood at a time when gays were revered, they were even considered chic. Following the scandals involving Fatty Arbuckle, the unsolved deaths of William Desmond Taylor and Thomas Ince, the drug deaths of Wallace Reid and Olive Thomas, and many others that rocked Hollywood to its foundations, public outcry demanded that Hollywood clean up its act.

Jimmie Shields, Billy Haines, Joan Crawford & her husband, Alfred Steele 1955

Billy had a long career, which came to abrupt end in 1933, when Louis B. Mayer, who never liked Billy, confronted the actor with the ultimatum that either he enter into a lavender marriage or else. Billy told Mayer that he was already married (a testament to the depth of his love for Jimmie,)  and walked out, after which Mayer cancelled Billy’s contract and effectively ended his career.

However, Billy had an ace in the hole–he had a talent for interior design. With the opening of William Haines Designs, Billy created a career that sustained him throughout the rest of his life, which ended on December 26, 1973. William Haines Designs thrives to this day.

While the circumstances of Jack Abadie’s life are vastly different, I created Jack with Billy Haines in mind. It is with the same love of live that Jack pursues his career, and Wyatt.

Life was rich in the early days of Hollywood, but like all good things, the frivolity had to come to an end. The difference between Billy, and many others, was that Billy was prepared and he came out on tip of the game.

Find out how Jack Abadie handles his life in Hollywood. You can purchase Tarnished Gold at Dreamspinner Press.

Wisecracter, by William J. Mann is a wonderful rendition of the life of William Haines.

Leave a comment and you will be entered in the drawing for a Kindle, awarded on April 10th. Each comment throughout the tour is an entry.

The blog tour schedule can be found on my website.

Come on back here from 6pm to 9pm central time, for another excerpt.

3 Responses to “Meet William Haines”

  1. Juliana says:

    I’ve read a few things about Billy Haines, I really think he must have been such a strong person to do what he did. I’ve was of others that bowed to the pressure for marriage but he wouldn’t. He took back the power Hollywood was trying to take.

  2. Brita Addams says:

    Billy was an amazing man, he truly was.

  3. Carolyn says:

    Wow. Thanks for that look back. I knew nothing about him. So wonderful to know he made it out with his self-respect and a wonderful future.

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