“Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr”– No Secret to Me”

Starr, Michael Seth. “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr”, Applause, 2008.

No Secret to Me

Amos Lassen

Michael Seth Starr has written the “complete” story of actor Raymond Burr’s career which includes his “secret” gay life. However I am not so sure his gay life was such a secret. Burr was a frequent visitor to New Orleans when I was out and about and we all knew him and saw him in the gay bars so it was no surprise to me. In other places he may have covered his steps but in New Orleans he was just another face. With that said let’s have a look at the book.

Burr was a film noir star as well as a television personality. His two shows, “Perry Mason” and “Ironside” were hits and received high ratings and we saw Burr on our small screens for a twenty year stretch. At the time he was popular being gay was a career ender so he had to keep his secret life out of the headlines or he would have committed career suicide. Burr manages to have a convenient life story ready which covered his lifestyle by claiming to be a “heartbroken husband and father” and there were rumors of an affair with Natalie Wood who was two decades younger than him. Here was a man who, on our TV screens, fought for truth but was not honest about who he really was. He lived with another man, an actor by the name of Robert Benevides and they shared their lives for thirty-five years, attempting to keep their secret away from everyone but their inner circle of friends.

The book is a quick and easy read but for me had really nothing new to say. Burr’s sexual escapades are barely dealt with and there is mention of one affair that really was not explicit. Starr does, however, do a fine job of reporting Burr’s life in an easy, readable style but the title on the book leads the reader to believe that he is going to get some really hot and juicy information which is not there. It is fun to read about how Burr tried to his sexuality but that is only part of the story. Burr does come across as a kind, loving and generous man but I had the feeling of “so what”? Does anyone really care?

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