Love's Gay Fool. Autobiography of John Alan Lee.


Chapter 14. Franzi 1967-70

Franz Helmut Leitner.





Franz at the Toronto gay beach.




Posing for Franz on the rooftop of Bedford Road.

If I could turn back the clock, and choose any ex-lover to live with in my final years, it would be Franz Helmut Leitner. He died fifteen years after we broke up, without finding a new lover. Had I been content with Franz, he might not have contracted AIDS and died at 46. I owe much to Franz in my later years, especially my love of ballet and performance dance, which he taught me to enjoy.

If I'd stopped at Franz, I might not be single in my old age. But I would never have met Dane, my longest-term partner. Besides, we can never go back. "What if" is a waste of time.


March 2. Only days after George fled to Hong Kong, Helmut has moved in. My housemates are in shock, and, I think, do not heartily approve. They liked George, but it seems pointless to live in shame and regret over the way I treated him. I must get on with life – and try never to behave that way again.

I've asked Helmut if I can call him by his first name, which I prefer: Franz. In lovemaking, it's Franzi.

Franz is stereotypical German, with thick, lustrous blond hair atop a rectangular head, a sunburst smile and a firm chin. At 28, his body is tall, slim, lightly muscled, smooth. He has shapely thighs and a firm, prominent ass. His everyday movement is as graceful and sensuous as his ballet-dancing on stage. He is a Scorpio.

March 15. A few months ago I arranged to visit Chris at Yale. Now I'm back from four days with him. It was such a relief to see his body again, and realize I have no, no, no attraction to him. Even the body of poor George is erased from memory. All that burns in me now is the hot flesh of Franzi. He’s met the children and they like him too.

March 24. Great news! I've been accepted for the Ph.D. program at Sussex University, Brighton, England. My supervisor will be Zevedai Barbu. I chose him by an unusual method. After deciding my thesis must be done in England, on the subject of romantic love, I looked up English academics who'd published anything on love, and found eighteen. I wrote each, outlining my proposed study. I included my history as an experienced and mature person. In polite language I asked each if he would like the privilege of supervising my research.

Five replied, but four sent formal letters, accepting me and referring me to the Registrar. Only one, Barbu, took time to write a letter discussing his own thoughts on love and warmly inviting me to work with him.

English students are not put through the humiliation rituals imposed on grad students by North American universities. No courses are required after the Master's degree. There are no comprehensive exams. In England you are a gentleman scholar, apprentice to a master. You’re encouraged to produce your own book, your first masterpiece.

Franz is very ambivalent about my news. He can see this is what I want and need but it means periods of separation between us.

April 21. Jean wants a divorce. To her great credit she has no desire to tell the court the true reason. The only other reasons available in Canada are insanity or adultery. She tried to find a girl friend who would spend the night (so to speak) with me, then she could accuse me of adultery.

No luck. Next I asked my male friends, and Larry agreed. A true friend! (He works at Bob Miller's bookshop and we share an interest in classical music). Collusion is illegal under our antiquated divorce laws. We got the advice of a lawyer specializing in divorce. He coached us on what to say and do. He leads a stressful life – he's drinking Scotch in his office before noon.

Larry spent a Friday night at Jean's place. Every Saturday morning I arrive at 10 to pick up the children. On the day arranged, I arrived "unexpectedly" at 9 AM, and caught Larry and Jean in flagrante delicto.

April 30. Canadian divorce proceedings are a farcical soap opera. Today's papers carry the story of a woman who appeared as correspondent in several divorces in the past year. She makes a living that way!

A social worker assigned by the court has interviewed Jean and me. A summary is worth reciting: 1) Jean: "Husband sees children every week; has paid $200 a month since May 1964. Ruth seems a happy child, but Peter is aggressive and has problems relating to others. He is in therapy at the Clarke Institute. Jean worked as a social worker until just before Ruth's birth, and again starting Sept 1964, until Sept 1966, when she returned to university to complete her MSW. Her assets total $2000 in furniture. She was happy in the marriage until about one month after the birth of Peter in 1962. She states the basic problem is incompatibility; her husband has difficulty relating to one person over an extended period of time in a close relationship. She left home in May 1964, taking the children."

2. John plans to attend Sussex University to obtain his doctorate. He was happy until after Ruth's birth. He states they are sexually incompatible, and have different attitudes toward life. His income is $486 a month, of which rent is $110, payment to wife $200. His assets total $1630 (a used car and $300 in furniture)."

May 24. Franz and I spent the holiday weekend eating out, dancing, and coming back for extravagantly sensual sex. Franzi gives his whole body with incandescent enthusiasm. He adores being fucked.

I have so much to be thankful for! I have a matchless lover. I live with good friends. I am every day more fully alive, more nearly free. Old habits die hard, of course. I still feel vague fears, but my present study for the Commission on the Healing Arts, on the use of suggestion in healing [later my first book, Sectarian Healers ] has brought personal benefit. I’ve learned how to perform self-hypnosis to relax myself.

July 10. One of the more curious aspects of my work for the Healing Arts is my research into a “new religion” called Scientology . It claims to offer personality “auditing” but when I tried to interview their officials they got very secretive about what actually goes on. This organization has already created controversy elsewhere. [It would cause me some problems in 1975, after my research was published].

August 5. Montreal: I'm seeing Expo with Ruth and Peter. What a splendid exhibition! The children are agog at all the sites and activities. Franz will join us on the weekend.

Franz with my children.

August 12. I'm at Centre Island with Franz and the children. Ruth and Peter, now seven and five years old, romp in the wading pool in blistering sun, alternately dashing into the water and back to me, seeking reassurance of my presence. I’m enraptured by the wonder of being alive.

August 23. On the eve of my 34th birthday I am jubilant, reaping the full glory of my summer of life, harvesting warmth for the long winter of old age.

August 29. Jean and I have signed an agreement to postpone my alimony until I have employment. Payments are up to date to December. Once again Jean is very kind.

September 12. Dear Franzi: Beloved friend, pure of heart, glamourous, romantic, awkward, hopeful, talented, worried, kind, grateful, generous, sexy, loyal, and jealous.

September 22. Franz drove me to the airport, kissed me in tears, and gave me an orchid, "the longest lasting of cut flowers." I'm absolutely confident that he will be here for me when I return. I wish my love could be complete and unconditional.

September 29. Brighton, England. One week here, and I’m terribly blue and lonely in my digs in a working-class home.

October 28. Sussex University: I'm sitting under a dramatic sky, surrounded by rambling redbrick and concrete pavilions, moated walkways and green park. The autumn sun is warm but the air chilly. Students scurry from class to class.

I’m already blessed with good fortune by meeting Harry Mycock at a gay bar. We're not sexually attracted, but he needed a roommate, so I’ve moved to his flat on Vernon Terrace. Harry is a public-school teacher who takes the train to a suburban school each morning. On his way home from the station he stops briefly at each "tearoom" (public lavatory) to check it out for action. I never know who he might bring home.

November 4. Last night Harry brought home a handsome young man: Bill Hewlett, age 23 – met on the train. Bill is also a public-school teacher. After dinner, the three of us went to a gay dance club. Harry does not dance, so I danced with Bill. When Bill excused himself from our table for a few minutes, Harry winked: "I think he likes you more than me. Feel welcome to make a move if you want him"

"Are you sure? I don't want to upset our situation as roommates."

"Go for it" Harry urged, and I did. Bill returned to my bed. He’s a candyass fuck, and this morning he promised we'll meet again.

Gowan, at the beach in Brighton, England.




Peter, my son, in grade school.

November 11. Bill has Remembrance Day off. We've spent it together, seeing the Royal Pavilion built here by the Prince Regent almost two centuries ago. Bill is Welsh and his real name is Gowan.

"That's a lovely, poetic name!" I enthused. "Why are you called Bill?"

"When I came to university in England, no one had ever heard "Gowan" so I changed it to Bill."

"Bill? A common English name. You're too special. Can I call you Gowan?"

November 25: Twelve lengths of the municipal swimming pool have made me wonderfully chipper. I'm back to my Toronto swimming pace, and to top it all, a fine letter from Franz has arrived. I wrote a six-page answer and later, not content, went to the local post office to talk with him long distance. (Harry, like many in England, has no phone).

December 1. I’ve been attending the Quaker Meeting in the Brighton Lanes. It’s a warm friendly group and provides a welcome stabilizing ballast in my turbulent life.

December 15. Toronto. Home for the holidays. A joyful Franz met me at the airport bearing flowers. Happy reunions with Jean and children too.

December 25. Christmas Eve with Franz, then once again, Christmas dinner with the McIntoshes. They were all cheerful and welcoming.


January 8. Brighton. Back in England for Spring Term. Gowan met me at Victoria station, exactly as we'd arranged a month ago. I was as elated to see him, as I was to see Franz when I returned to Canada. O dear! A lover on each side of the Atlantic!

Barbu has approved my thesis proposal (30 pages, including methodology) and I must set to work in earnest. In twelve weeks Franz will arrive and we will visit his parents in Austria.

January 13. Facing realities: can I love and care about two men, or is this a way to avoid full commitment? One of the common themes of my dream life is being hunted down by someone. I manage to hide, am flushed out, run and hide again. Eventually I escape by flying – flapping my arms. Again I am discovered, and again I escape until finally I wake exhausted.

March 22. Franz arrived today. It's his first time in England, and he's overjoyed to see me. Tonight we had dinner with Harry and Gowan. Franz knows I've slept with Gowan, but he's slept with a few guys in Toronto while I've been gone. Gowan was superbly tactful and did not betray me.

Meeting Franz’s parents in Munich.




Franz in Italy.




One of the stories I wrote for my children.

March 24. Munich. We’re here to meet Franz's parents from Vienna. It turns out Franz is not safe in Austria– he’s never done military service and might be arrested. His parents are charming, and quite comfortable with their gay son and his lover.

March 27. Florence. We're basking in the glories of this wondrous city. After standing in awe of the David, I spent half a day searching tourist shops for a reasonably artistic copy to take home. I finally found one that catches the pose, the face, the hand, the curve of the ass, all lovingly.

April 5. Brighton. Franz has returned to Canada, stifling tears at the airport. I assured him I'll be home soon. I had a clever idea last year when I wrote my proposal: a comparative study of love in England and Canada. This gives me a legitimate reason to fly back and forth across the Atlantic at Canada Council (taxpayers') expense. It's duplicitous, but done in the name of love – I can see Ruth and Peter as well as Franzi.

April 10. London. I'm bleary but satisfied with my first day of research at the British Museum. I can't believe that some nineteenth-century books on love are still locked in the Special Access rooms, when paperback copies can be bought a few blocks away. I'm required to present a letter from Zev Barbu to get at the books.

May 2. I have 32 complete interviews from Brighton residents! I accost people in the street and ask if they will give me an interview. Some keep walking; others listen but refuse. About one in ten agrees.

June 2. Toronto. Home again to teach summer courses at Trent – a chance to make very good money. Franz is euphoric to have me back for the summer.

July 5. When I'm not teaching, I'm conducting interviews, recruiting from the streets. I've induced the Peterborough newspaper to run a story on my research. Pedestrians find a copy of the paper more reassuring than my official letters.

August 2. Today the Dean scolded me after two students complained. They were offended by my classroom joke: I derisively labelled the Pope "a man in a dress." Why am I so sensitive to criticism? I must expect my provocative manner and strong personality to create problems.

Am I too brash, too flamboyant? It would be a good idea to tape one of my lectures and listen to it. An incident like this is a useful reminder that I am not secure at Trent; I have enemies in the faculty, and many students have a small-town view of the world.

August 16. I'm busy soliciting interviewees from the sidewalks of Toronto. Again, arranging a news story helps. The Toronto Star has run a full page with photos. Headline: He wants to know all about love:

"John A. Lee doesn't look like an impertinent young man. He's slim, clean-cut, 35 but looks younger, conservatively dressed.... Yet John Lee has been approaching strangers in four cities in two countries asking them to tell him about their love lives. It's a tribute to his appearance that not one of the roughly 900 people he's approached so far has slapped his face...."

August 24. How’s this for a birthday gift: I’ve got syphilis, or at least a wretched chancre. Dear old Dr. Russell gave me a hefty shot of penicillin, but it seems I’m allergic. My face has blown into hideous hives. In my mirror, I see myself as I will probably look when old and flabby. Most unwelcome prophecy!

September 7. Thank heavens, well again and able to travel. And even more fortunate, I did not infect Franz.

September 12. Brighton. Harry didn't replace me; I'm back in his flat. Gowan is "very happy to see me," as Mae West put it – in other words, we're sleeping together again.

December 5. Toronto. Home for the holidays. My enemies at Trent have been busy. I expected to return there on tenure track. Just three weeks ago I was assured the job was mine. Now the virulence of my foes has erupted, though their charges are ludicrous. I'm accused of promoting sexual promiscuity and the use of drugs. I'm charged with offending older, Catholic women students at summer school.

December 20. I lead a charmed life. Yesterday I went to see Del Clark about the situation at Trent, and he told me of an opening at the new Scarborough Campus of U of T. He arranged for me to meet Bob James, the senior professor there. Bob was friendly and receptive. He has offered me one course, and Clark will offer me a course on the downtown campus.

December 23. Trent finally came through with a job offer. My former colleagues defeated my enemies in the administration. But once again timing has guided my life. I much prefer to stay in Toronto, near Ruth, Peter, and Franz. I can legitimately refuse the Trent job because of the delay leading to a counter-offer from U of T.


Franz as I drew him in 1967.




Gowan as I drew him in 1968.





The first photo Gowan gave me of himself.




Visiting Hampton Court.


January 1. I enter this year with a new job, an unequalled lover, great friends living in a fine communal home, fabulous children, good health – everything I could possibly ask for.

January 4. Over the Atlantic; flying back to London for another term at Sussex. Behind me is a heavyhearted Franz; he's also a little angry. He fears I’m too eager to return to England and Gowan. He knows I'll be living with Gowan, who has found a flat on Chanctonbury Road. Gowan can’t afford the ten pounds a week on his own and he's invited me to share.

I’m excited at the prospect. Yet I also need the stability of Franz's love. To reassure him, I took a rosy apple to the airport with us, and cut it in half. I promised I'd be eating my half in Brighton at five this afternoon. “You eat your half at noon and we’ll both be eating the same apple at the same time.”

February 10. Franz has sent me a copy of Weekend magazine. They interviewed me before I left Canada, and now they’ve printed a four-page spread on my love theories. It’s a national insert into many Sunday papers. First-rate publicity!

February 17. It's the Chinese new year: The Year of the Cock (more prudish people would say The Rooster). Life at Chanctonbury has not been going well. We have very different energy levels. I'm a morning person; Gowan loves to sleep in. Gowan is dating someone new, while I pick up guys at the bars.

February 24. One of my cutest tricks yet is Andrew, age 22, from London: blond, slim, smooth, with a candy face and a sugary ass. We met at the 42 Club on the Brighton Parade (seaside boardwalk). It’s a private club with a membership that includes prominent people like Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears– whom I had the pleasure of meeting last weekend.

Andrew invited me to stay with him in London. We attended a gay party given by an affluent couple in a fine Georgian house. After drinks and socializing, our hosts started dancing. When the barman stopped the music, our hosts split and each chose a new partner. As they danced, each host took the above-waist garments off his partner and threw them aside. The barman stopped the music again, and now four men, nude to the waist, asked another four men to dance – and relieved them of their clothing. Soon all of us were dancing, skin to skin from the belt up. Very nice!

March 21. - Franz has sent a telegram, brief and endearing: “Much love” (in German). His recent letters have included photos of the calendar he is creating, one painting a month. It looks most impressive.

April 28. A ripping dinner tonight at the home of my supervisor, Zev Barbu, together with other grad students. Such civilized conversation! Franz arrives tomorrow and we leave for Scandinavia..

May 15. What good timing: we’re in Oslo for their national day, and the city is awash in festive decoration and celebrative crowds. The Vigeland sculpture park is vibrant with the brute physical power of massive nude statues.

Tonight Franz and I had a bad quarrel because I saw a perfect Nordic "type" at the bar and wanted to bring him back with us for a threesome. Franz goes crazy when he's jealous.

May 21. Copenhagen. We spent a completely diverting day at the Tivoli Gardens, a vast amusement park, and this evening visited the notorious Pink Club. Very very gay! Soon Franz returns to Canada and I complete my English-based research.

June 20. Toronto. Home again for the summer, furiously writing my thesis. Franz is behaving badly – he quails with anxiety any time I notice another guy at a disco or on the street.

June 30. Disaster! Franz got into a violent argument with me this evening, and I had to call for Paul's assistance to get Franz off me. It started because I felt horny this afternoon, and masturbated. Carelessly, I left the Vaseline jar by the bed, and Franz saw it when he came home. He instantly impeached me with having a trick here during the day.

July 1. Paul is apprehensive – he claims he's witnessed the kind of outburst Franz showed yesterday, and it later led to murder. "If you ever have sex with another guy, and he finds out, it's only a matter of time until Franz really hurts you. It was one thing while you were on the other side of the Atlantic, but it’s another when you're back living together."

I confess that I can't give up the prospect of sex with other men. I love Franz dearly, but sex with one man – even very good sex – is simply not enough. I don't see why intelligent people can't take the same attitude today as in societies where having a lover or mistress was the done thing.

What skilled pianist would limit himself to one piano for his whole life? The same tune sounds different when played on different instruments, and identical sex acts with different partners stimulate different sensations of pleasure

July 7. Tonight I tried to broach the subject of "open marriage" with Franz. He refused to consider a threesome, let alone allow me to have sex with anyone else alone. I've never seen him this stubborn.

July 10. Franz was visiting his friends tonight and I slipped out to a bar, where I met a cute 20-year-old, Peter M. I got his number. Dare I use it?

July 15. I dared, and we had a most antic liaison. I've been very careful to leave no clues.

July 17. Great gods! Someone saw me at the bar chatting up Peter M and told Franz, who has spent the evening interrogating me. I hate lying! I've got to face a fearsome fact: it's Franz for the rest of my life, with no other sex, or loss of my loyal lover in order to enjoy sexual freedom.

July 21. Over dinner tonight I tried to have a sane discussion about sex with Franz, but he quickly erupted into violence. Again Paul separated us, and this time he insists that I ask Franz to leave the house.

July 23. Conclusion of a remarkable romance: Franz will move out. We are both in tears, but he claims he simply cannot endure without sexual fidelity: "That's why I left Vienna to come here!"

August 10. Peter M. is a boyish man with a baby face, but he is too young; I won't ask him to move in. His family has no idea he's gay. When I drive him home – out in the suburbs – I let him off a couple of blocks from his house. [I met him again thirty years later and he fondly recalled that I "was always so polite."]

Ruth and Peter camping in the back yard.

August 14. My children are spending the month with me. They adore Peter M, who is great with children. But what can they think of me, changing partners many times in their short lives?

August 24. What a splendid birthday: a Shaw festival play and dinner with seven friends, at the Oban Inn. Like a Greek chorus they gave me one piece of birthday advice: "Stop living so fast. You're sure to come to some terrible fate."

October 5. Our communal group (Paul, his partner Neil, Rod, and myself) has invited George Niven, a dry-witted Scot, to move in to Franz's old room. He's an excellent cook.

October 8. Today I visited Franz in the house he's bought in Toronto’s east end. We had sex. That might be a mistake.

November 6. This was a lamentable day in my downtown campus course, Interpersonal Relations. I try to be friendly and "on their level" – asking them to call me John, not Sir or Professor, but it isn't working. It seems that distance is essential for respect.

November 8. Zev Barbu writes from Kenya, where he is helping to set up a Sociology department. He's read my thesis draft and suggests that I’ve used my own preferred lovestyle, eros, as the benchmark for comparing other styles "as deviations from it." I'll have to rewrite, to make it clear that each lovestyle is equally valid.

November 15. As always, I took Ruth and Peter to see the annual Santa Claus parade. They are such adorable children! Of course, I’ve always told the kids that Santa is “just an ordinary man in costume, like I dress up to go with you at Hallowe’en.” I never lie to the children.

December 13. One great advantage of living with a group of gay men is the social connections. Today I have three party invitations. I've finally found a good gay doctor, Scott R, and he's agreed to take me as a patient.

December 23. Franz invited me for a pre-Christmas dinner. I'm trying to be kind, yet not give him any false hope.

My brother David, his wife, myself and my children.

December 24. My brother David and his wife joined all of us in the house for dinner. He's finally getting used to the idea that he has a queer brother, but he is looking very ill. No diagnosis yet.

December 26. Once again a heartening Christmas dinner with the McIntoshes. Now the children are with me until the new year.

Franz on the rooftop of Bedford Road.




Franz, after we broke up. I continued to see him, and he changed addresses several times to be near me.


January 2. Jean came for dinner, and took the children home. Just before she left, Peter engaged me in a wrestling match. Jean wondered out loud: "Do you think every boy would like to beat up his Dad?" Ruth, always sensitive to my feelings, gave me a long hug goodbye.

Jean is looking quite beautiful, and I longed to hug her, but feared to tamper with her feelings. I contented myself with brushing her as I put her coat over her shoulders: "Thanks for still being my friend." Both kids kissed me goodbye. As I cleaned up the dishes I burst into tears. It's so wearying to start over again.

January 18. My first book, Sectarian Healers, is published. Many find its recommendations controversial. I advocate that the study of hypnosis be included in medical school and that hypnotherapy become legal. [ This eventually happened].

April 17. I'm dating a gorgeous guy named Gary (not his real name). He's physically perfect: 21, slim, smooth, blond, with a flower face.

May 15. Gary spent a rapturous day with the children and me. He's almost a kid himself and Ruth (mature for her age of ten) is quite taken with him. But I don't have Gary all to myself –he's also dating an artist.

Labour Day. Gary has chosen his artist friend over me. I'm back to square one. I've visited Franz often this summer; he sold his house in the east end and bought one just a block from here. He wants to be nearby.

November 10. My love life has been relentless turmoil since breaking up with Franz. The desperate, lonely, yearning drive for love is a style I have named mania, from the ancient Greek. This is the lovestyle I am suffering. [ See my book, Lovestyles ]. I invent unwarranted hopes with any new date I meet – only to see them dashed a few weeks or months later – sometimes a few days!

November 24. Chris Larkin warns in a letter: "You are too formidable as an intellect; you scare off many possible friends, let alone lovers."

November 26. How reassuring it is to Jean and me that our son Peter –who originally suffered more from our divorce – is now, at eight years old, performing well in school, though a little shy. His report card shows "no difficulties in English; he excels in math; he always listens but never enters into class discussion; he is very creative in art; has excellent work habits, works independently, and gets along well with others."

Christmas Eve Friends of each house member are about to arrive for a blow-out party. Tomorrow as always, Christmas dinner with the McIntosh family, Jean and the children.


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