Thursday, 12 April 2018

Casey Donovan and Sal Mineo: The Not So Divine Feud.


Casey Donovan was the greatest adult star of his generation. His abilities and talent, however, went far beyond the realms of gay porn. He scored hits with "legitimate" films and on the Broadway stage. He appeared in musicals. He was an A-list fashion model. As an escort, he mixed with the glitterati of the show business world. He was a celebrity tour guide, organising trips to locations then rarely visited by the regular tourist. It was during a trip to Egypt in 1983 that he contracted the lung-disease which took his life. Casey did not die of AIDS. This is part of the legend that sprung up after his death. 

Sal Mineo rose to prominence when starring opposite James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. He triumphed in Exodus and, like Casey, on the stage. By the time he propositioned Casey to work with him, however, his career had taken a nosedive. In short, he needed a star of Casey's magnitude and ability to return him to popularity. Sadly, this did not happen.



The following is an extract from Casey Donovan: Blond Bombshell:

Casey was once again thinking of giving up porn...To this end, when The Merchant of Venice closed, he responded to a call from Sal Mineo, who in the wake of a career hiatus had taken to producing and directing stage plays. In 1969, he had directed a Los Angeles production of the gay-themed Fortune and Men's Eyes featuring himself and Don Johnson, unknown at the time. This had included a graphic, extended prison rape scenario which had not gone down too well with the critics. Casey, in his Calvin Culver guise, was invited to audition for a part in Mineo's forthcoming off-Broadway production of The Children's Mass, by Frederic Combs, who had appeared in the stage and film versions of Boys in the Band, and was now trying his hand at play writing. This was scheduled to open at the Theatre de Lys on 5 May. Casey was successful in acquiring the part of Dutchie, and flung himself into learning his lines at home, with Mineo and Tom Tryon putting him through his paces. Much was made of the casting, which was announced in After Dark and several tabloid newspapers.
   Casey and Mineo were among the guests invited to After Dark's annual Ruby Awards ceremony, at New York's Delmonaco Hotel on 23 April, where Bette Midler was presented with the Entertainer of the Year Award. Here, he rubbed shoulders with Ethel Merman, Mick Jagger, Carrie Fisher, An  Miller, and dozens of other luminaries. Then, five days into rehearsals, Mineo fired him and replaced him with Gary Sandy, seemingly without giving him an explanation.
   Casey had always been aware of his own value, and when the play bombed after just seven performances, he was not surprised:

A lot of people are going to be very disappointed, because of course I was in the big ad in After Dark. They realised when they let me go that they were losing a great box-office potential, because you know my name has a certain draw and was going to sell tickets. Anyway, it's very chic this season to have your contract terminated. Everyone I talked to, agents and people who read the play and whatever, they all said they were glad I wasn't doing it after all. It's probably the best thing that happened to me, because evidently it's just not working. If it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be. [7]

After Dark's Robb Baker fervently denounced it:

The show pretty much falls apart, a sketchy plot bogged down with muddled religiosity, one-dimensional characterisations, and even two young children on stage...I was also irritated by the ploy of having what was basically a gay theme filtered through the viewpoint of a playwright-character who happens to be "respectfully" straight. Didn't that kind of normality-by-association liberalisation go out with 1950s attitudes towards Negroes and other nice quiet minority groups? [8]

Casey's feelings were hurt when, soon after the play closed, he learned that Mineo had told friends that had dropped him from the play because, in his "professional" opinion, he could not act. According to one source, who asked not to be named:

Mineo broadcast to all and sundry that Cal was a useless actor, incapable of learning his lines. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Mineo wanted Cal to hop on to the casting couch, and also boasted about that. I'm sure that they would have ended up having sex at some stage, had they gone out on a date or something like that. But being expected to drop his pants to get a part was not Cal's style. He refused, and Mineo took offence and felt humiliated at being rejected. He fired him, then made up a story. [9]

***

End of quote.

In conclusion, Casey Donovan could act, and unlike Sal Mineo went from strength to strength. He worked with Ingrid Bergman on Broadway, and was pencilled in to do a film with Maggie Smith. He triumphed in Radley Metzger's Score, and caused a sensation in Misty Beethoven. In 1979, he was guest of honour at the Edinburgh Festival where my wife and I, then with Marian Montgomery and Richard Rodney Bennett, presided over a supper-party and had the pleasure of meeting him.

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