What a shocker. And what a pity that David Pitts’ book attracted little attention when it was released. Perhaps it now will. At Princeton in the fabled ’60s, the consequences of coming out were as described in David Walter ’11’s article. But as always, the rules were easily circumvented, though with some risk. On the day of the Dallas shooting, a friend and I were staying at the Biltmore in New York and saw that tragedy televised as we made love. Where was Lem Billings on that particular day and place?
Lem was the one person with whom Jack could actually be honest about sex, it would seem, and without censure. I don’t agree with Mr. Walter, however, when he writes, “it figures that Jack’s closest relationship of all would be with a man unburdened by the demands of married life or fatherhood ... a closeted, unmarried homosexual like Lem.” I think, as the ever-more-complex history of gay love is revealed, that this was a love affair of the very sort we find in ancient Greece and elsewhere: Male bonding with or without sex, an understood intimacy and an absolute loyalty, particularly in fights, not to be found with female friends or lovers — or not then.
In this regard, times have changed. The media can’t leave anything alone. The delicate, the intimate, and the private are eviscerated. All the more reason to admire this piece by Walter, who gives the facts, the preppy context, but leaves the relationship to stand within a personal and necessary ambiguity.