Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Love Is Like A Cigarette! A Joint About Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson!

Back in the 1920's and 30's, cigarettes were a dime a dozen. They were lit afire, enjoyed, and gone through one after another. Sometimes they were used as embellishment; a glamourous adornment just for show. After the pleasure was over, they were estinguished and forgotten just like any other fag. Isn't that what the British called them? Ask Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson. It seems that he burned and enjoyed the pleasure of many a fag in his day. And ever so cavalier, when he was done with them, it is said that he promptly smashed them underfoot.

Leslie Hutchinson, commonly known as "Hutch" in his heyday of the 20's and 30's, immigrated to the UK by way of Harlem by way of Grenada to become one of Britain's most popular and highest paid cabaret entertainers. While in Harlem, Hutch immersed himself in the renaissance and the jazz of the age as a peer alongside Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

Legend has it that he was run out of America on a rail and into expatriate status by a Ku Klux Klan rally in Florida. Heading off to Paris in 1924, he hung out with Josephine Baker and found a gay lover in composer Cole Porter. Reaching London in 1927, his rise to fame (and notoriety) was extraordinary. Sexy mellow yellow and immaculate in white tie and tails, his smooth velvet crooning and skilled improvisation on the piano seduced many fans in the upper echelons of society both male and female. Appearing at the most exclusive clubs throughout Europe, his savoir faire allowed him to almost transcend the era's racial attitudes and bias. Hutch launched a most successful recording career, kicked it with the Prince of Wales and knocked up society debutantes. He was satirized in literature, fluently bi-lingual and fragrantly bisexual. He had forgotten his black wife, and was now moving almost exclusively among white high-society, living on grand scale. They coveted his exoticism, and he frequently and freely satiated their thirsts. Among those with the fever for the flavor were the legendary British actor Ivor Novello, and Hollywood mulatto temptress Merle Oberon.

If you've never heard of Leslie Hutchinson you are not alone. His musicianship has all but been erased from recent memory. Hutch's skills, however, were not confined to the cabarets. His bedroom talents were as equally efficient and enjoyed as well. Mr. Hutchinson carried an instrument in his pants that he played as as well as he did the ivories. Described as "like a tree trunk" his lack of control over something that provided him with so much pleasure would ultimately end up destroying him socially and professionally. There were dalliances here and there with British royalty (the Queen's aunt, Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, and later Princess Margaret, sister of the Queen, may have been notches on Hutch's bedpost). But right in between was a notorious and nearly 30-year affair that demanded Hutch pay a heavy price for; the affections of Lady Edwina Mountbatten, wife of the Queen's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten were equally bisexual, and their ten-year "open marriage" was the subject of gossip and scandal ever since it had begun. A local paper alleged that Lady Mountbatten was whoring all over town with a well-known "colored" singer and that Buckingham Palace had issued orders for her to leave town and let the steam from the affair die down. It just so happened that at the same time, the Mountbattens were out of town when the headlines broke. King George V ordered them home immediately to address the brewing scandal to clear the Royal Family of the allegation that Edwina had been ordered out of Britan, and the suggestion that she had a black male lover. The papers had it only half-right and Edwina sued; they identified the man as the world-renowned concert singer Paul Robeson. The truth was that it was Hutch Hutchinson. She showered him in luxury and with jewelry. It's claimed that she commissioned Cartier to design a diamond-encrusted sheath to protect those famous family jewels of his. And then, locked literally in the heat of passion, they were rushed to the hospital for vaginismus, a rare sexual phenom which led to them being whisked in flagrante delicto from the Mountbatten residence, and to a private hospital where they were seperated by doctors. Buckingham Palace had had enough! Backlash was imminent and severe! They issued orders that his name was never to be mentioned again in the local press, and he was forbidden to appear on any of the Royal Command Performance bills, and his World War II contributions were never officially recognized. Add to this the decline of the music hall style that he'd become famous for, and his own extravagances and excesses. Leslie Hutchinson performed well into his last days, but his peak years were behind him by the end of the 1940's.

All official biographies of Lord and Lady Mountbatten are Establishment-friendly and omit clear evidence of their own sexual proclivities and antics. But then in 1999, Charlotte Breese wrote the definitive biography on Hutch, and there was a renewal of interest.

Folks started to remember, so well in fact, that by 2008, a sensational documentary called High Society's Favorite Gigolo aired on British television. It was the profile of a beautiful, brilliant but profoundly insecure black man with a callous love 'em and leave 'em mentality. Comprised of vintage footage, wonderful photographs, and re-enactments, there were interviews with the many children he left behind. By 1967, with his bloated, heavily made-up face and dyed hair, Hutchinson was a caricature of the once beautiful black Adonis that conquered the heights of British society and stardom. He died in 1969 of 'overwhelming pneumonia' and virtually penniless. Only 42 mourners showed up for his funeral.

Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson is no longer forgotten and Black Gay History continues on I'll Keep You Posted! Thanks Richard for turning me on!


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