HOWARD HUGHES by Charles Higham


The Secret Life
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 An outing of the billionaire closet bisexual by Higham, whose bios include lives of Cary Grant, Brando, Orson Welles, the Duchess of Windsor, and L.B. Mayer, among others. Higham does his research an injustice by insisting on printing much sexual hearsay as fact (and hinting that Hughes died of an AIDS-like disease), especially since he has done as much homework on Hughes's business and monetary activities as he did on Wallis Windsor and Mayer. The first half of Hughes's life fascinates with his immense network of seductions as he forms one movie company to assuage his voyeuristic needs and buys another to continue them- -while also running Hughes Tool, TWA, and other businesses--and meanwhile breaking an around-the-world aircraft speed record and building the gigantic Spruce Goose military transport (a white elephant of no use whatsoever). This is all before his psychic collapse into fear of large-scale germ warfare via Kleenex, a mental illness that Higham suggests Hughes picked up from his mother, a monumental cleanliness nut. As for the bisexual hearsay, Higham says he got it from Lawrence Quirk, nephew of Photoplay publisher James Quirk, who got it straight from Hughes's bisexual uncle Rupert Hughes, who got it from Hughes himself during a confessional outpouring. Higham says that Hughes's ``sexual partners were not so much lovers as hostages, prisoners or victims of his will; he had to dominate in everything.'' The author tells of Hughes's descent into Hollywood S&M, and as for his news about Hughes paying off Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon: It may not be new, but it comes strongly documented. The recluse's last years are...ripe--he even takes to storing his urine in Mason jars. Undeniably a hypnotic portrait of a great American monster.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-399-13859-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993


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