Monday 21 May 2018

Brando's wild drug-fuelled orgies included lots of gay sex

Quincy Jones dished the dirt on so many celebs last week - and Brando got star billing, writes Stephen Armstrong

Easy Rider: A young Marlon Brando pictured at the height of his fame in ‘The Wild One’ (1953). Photo Getty
Easy Rider: A young Marlon Brando pictured at the height of his fame in ‘The Wild One’ (1953). Photo Getty

Stephen Armstrong

When Vulture magazine interviewed Quincy Jones last week, they weren't expecting a scoop - but they got them by the bucket load as Jones dished the dirt on Michael Jackson, insulted The Beatles and, almost in passing as he praised cha-cha music, claimed that Marlon Brando had a fling with comedian Richard Pryor.

"Marlon Brando used to go cha-cha dancing with us," Jones recalled. "He could dance his ass off. He was the most charming mother***ker you ever met. He'd f**k anything. Anything! He'd f**k a mailbox. James Baldwin. Richard Pryor. Marvin Gaye..."

The interviewer did a double take - he slept with them? How do you know that?

Jones just frowned. "Come on, man…"

Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee believes it's true, seemingly confirming the story when asked about it. "It was the Seventies," she explained. "Drugs were still good, especially Quaaludes. If you did enough cocaine, you'd f**k a radiator and send it flowers in the morning."

Pryor's daughter Rain, conversely, has denied the story, posting on Facebook that "Daddy did NOT have relations with Brando."

But why should anyone be shocked? Brando himself was open about his bisexuality. Susan Mizruchi, author of a biography, Brando's Smile, says "One of the things he was clear about was that he slept with men now and then. His sex addiction was so intense and his friendships so close that they would run into the erotic - but no label fits him. He was an amorous womaniser and I'm not sure he had the energy to keep a comparable equivalent rate with men."

Brando enjoyed teasing fans about his proclivities - he didn't object when American underground experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger told a gay magazine that he had a very explicit Polaroid shot of a young Brando and once, during a live interview, he kissed American chat show host Larry King on the mouth. "I have never paid much attention to what people think about me," Brando told Gary Carey, author of his 1976 biography The Only Contender. "But if someone is convinced that Jack Nicholson and I are lovers, may they continue to do so. I find it amusing."

What is true is that Quincy Jones knew Brando very well - they met in the 1950s and "partied their ass off", in the 1960s and 1970s in a blizzard of sex, drugs and celluloid that makes today's celebrity hedonists seem like clumsy amateurs. With the likes of Steve McQueen in tow, their favourite dive was a club called Maverick's Flat in Leimart Park, the cultural heart of black LA. They even had a pet name for each other - Leroy, a reference to the night they met, as Jones said: "I came out of Birdland when I was 18 years old and met Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Marlon. He had a red fedora on, had just smoked a joint. He'd just done a Streetcar Named Desire, and he was going up to Harlem that night." They went to a club - "he was the only white dude in the whole place", Jones remembers - where Brando mistook a pimp for a boyfriend or brother, danced with a hooker and freaked out when the pimp got angry.

"He'd smoked a joint so he got paranoid," according to Jones. "So he went back over to the guy and said, 'Look, I was a gentleman, man, I came and asked you first, man, right?' And the guy said: 'The name ain't "man," it's "Leroy." L-E-R-O-motherf*****g-Y.' At that, Marlon turned around and freaked out. He got outside and ran 15 blocks, nobody after him. So we called each other Leroy 'til the day he died."

Though, as Jennifer Lee points out, 1970s Hollywood was soaked in booze, sprinkled in cocaine and numbed by Quaaludes, Brando himself had a huge appetite for sex - and food.

Even in the early years of his success he would binge eat between jobs and diet like mad to slim down for the screen. He scoffed junk food - usually take-out Chinese, and peanut butter, which he consumed by the jarful.

By the mid-1950s, he was renowned for eating boxes of Mallomars and cinnamon buns, washing them down with a quart of milk. He always lost the weight in the early years - in his extensive book collection, the single largest section was diet books.

"Brando was a troubled man - he knew he had issues with his impulses," says another biographer. "He said on one tape that he'd spent 70 years trying to reverse the effects of his childhood.

"He adored his mum but she'd abandoned him, which I think he projected on to women who he always felt would leave him - fast love was a way around intimacy issues."

The star's childhood was violent and unsettling. Both parents were alcoholics - "his mother was the town drunk and he hated watching her get so out of control", says Mizruchi.

"She preferred getting drunk to caring for us," Brando wrote in his autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me. His father - Marlon Snr - beat her, Brando and his two sisters Jocelyn and Frances.

"Nothing I did ever pleased or even interested him," he wrote. "He had a habit of telling me I would never amount to anything."

As a result, when fame and success came his way in 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire - where Brando channelled his father for the violent drunk Stanley Kowalski - and rebellious roles in motorcycle gang flick The Wild One and dockyard thriller On the Waterfront, he was ill-equipped to deal with it, hated and distrusted it and did everything he could to mock Hollywood.

He used his Oscar for Waterfront as a doorstop, and this played out in his eccentric and libidinous behaviour. At one dinner party in the 1960s he asked everyone to strip - joining in so enthusiastically that he took a lily from a nearby vase and placed it where the sun never shines.

His womanising was legendary - he fathered at least 16 children with several women, was one of the first Hollywood names to sleep with Marilyn Monroe, and had affairs with Pier Angeli, Shelley Winters, Nancy Qwan and Katy Jurado. He slept with so many women that, while writing his autobiography, he phoned Ursula Andress to ask if they had ever had sex. One thing he avoided was becoming an alcoholic.

"He dabbled in various stuff - he smoked weed, I'm pretty sure he tried LSD and had more than a few boozy sessions," says Riley. "I could tell he was drunk on some of his recordings, but he was explicit about his fear of alcohol and losing control."

"He was profoundly at odds with the celebrity culture that we're obsessed with today," adds Mizruchi. "He used to make up anecdotes for his official biographies to keep his life private. All of these stories are the antithesis of what he wanted - he hated labels on sexuality because he experienced every possible kind."

Telegraph.co.uk

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