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


Chapter 15. Every night fever. 1971–72

Playing with Ruth and Peter.

January 1. Over the holidays, all the churning emotions of my breakup with Franz welled up inside me. I'm not doing something right; in fact I seem to be my own worst enemy. A hidden contradiction lurks at the core of my personality.

In the language of Ibsen's Wild Duck , what is my vital lie, the truth about myself so menacing that I conceal it from my awareness? Now there's a goal for living: to unravel one's vital lie.

February 21. Today Gary moved into our house – as my lover, sort of! (He tired of his artist friend). He's given no solid commitment, just a "maybe." George continues to do the cooking and we have pleasant, comradely dinners for five.

March 22. I've bought a big Buick convertible. I love it, as does Gary. Ruth and Peter thinks it's "super."


An encouraging review from an expert.




Gary was a pretty boy. No wonder I had competition!




A one-week affair, “just passing through,” left this impression of me.




Minutes of Bedford gay commune meeting (censored because applicant was eventually rejected).







May 9. After publication of my second book, Test Pattern, (a study of why televised lectures failed), the Dean has appointed me chair of the TV instruction committee at the college, and the principal has made flattering comments in a letter, and in College Council. He calls the book "accurate, penetrating, persuasive, and tactful." The Senior Producer of the BBC's Open University calls my book "the most engrossing on the subject" he has ever read. My profile in the college is unusually high for a mere untenured assistant professor.

May 24. Gary has decided to go back to his artist friend. Another failed attempt. I really tried this time. I bit my lip whenever I felt critical. I flattered his looks and took him out often. But after all, he is only 21. How can I expect commitment?

June 17. My housemates are dazed that I haven't missed a beat between lovers. I met Gordon at a disco the very weekend Gary moved out. He's a graduate student at U of T. Now he's moved his things from the grad residence to our house. He's a sweet and gentle guy, bright, affectionate, apparently strongly attracted to me, and kind with the children. In short, a fine combination of intellect and character. My main reservation is his physique – he is pudgy and lacks muscle definition. But surely this is reparable, as are his sloppy domestic habits.

June 27. Gordon has flown west to visit his family and take the summer job he arranged before meeting me. He'll be gone two months. I miss him already, as I brood over Hemingway's edict that "if two people love each other, their story cannot end happily."

June 30. I think I'm closing in on my vital lie: I want to love and be loved in a lasting relationship, yet I'm afraid to become dependent on any person, in case he abandons me. Since childhood I have feared betrayal.

July 15. Calgary. I flew out to spend a week with Gordon. Yesterday we saw the dinosaur park, and now we're in Banff.

Today I gave him a poem; here's a synopsis: Seasons of a rose: The first bud is virgin love. Later come the glories of July bloom. Finally come the smaller flowers of autumn as the plant struggles to make seed. "My boastful days of June are gone; I revel still in yours, but also prove in August bloom that love still lives."

July 27. From a letter to Gordon: "Watching my 9-year old son at play, I thought: Eros is like a child upgrown enough to pull away from hugs too tight or clinging. Yet when I walk away: "Where are you going, Daddy? How long will you be gone?"

July 30. Sometimes I'm dumbfounded by the sensitivity of my children. Yesterday, walking from their aunt Margaret's apartment to the car, their uncle David was with them, while I walked singly. Suddenly Peter ran ahead to walk beside me, "so you're not alone." I’ll greatly miss their company after a month with them. They’re going to camp for August.

Just a few minutes ago Ruth turned on the tap while my hand was in the sink. The water was very hot and I jerked my hand back. She apologized and went on with the dishes, but I noticed she was sobbing. I held her tight and asked what was the trouble. She was worried about hurting me. I'm glad she can express these feelings. Peter is no less sensitive but in a boyish way has learned to hide it more, and give vent indirectly. He can be so kind and co-operative I am lost in wonder.

August 16. The children have written from camp and are both having a great time. Now that I'm alone I'm often out late at night, tricking. I'm a bit peeved at Paul: I arranged a trick to come by at 4 PM today, and I lay down for a nap at 2 PM. The trick arrived, Paul answered the door, thought I was out, and bedded my trick himself!

August 24 - A birthday card from Gordon: "May we share many more together." He also phoned to greet me. He's heading for Vancouver and thence back here.

August 29. It's no surprise that I have invented a theory of lovestyles. My partners and hoped-for partners have covered the spectrum in my new book, Colours of Love – from the most erotic passion (Gary) through mania (Chris) and ludus (Jonathan in Brighton) to storge (Tim) and pragma (Donny). Here’s a fairly complete list of my affairs each lasting at least three weeks: since 1964. Paul, Troy, Ken, Bart, Chris Larkin, Tim, Murphy, Jeff, Ron, Leslie, Alan, Alec, George, Franz, Gowan, Jonathan, Fred, Paul H, Donny, Ray, Erin, Jim M, Jim R, Gary, Gordon.

September 13. All is well. Gordon plays on the piano after a splendid dinner he cooked. The new school year has begun. My children are well and happy. My health is good. O spirit of life, let my gratitude flow in love to others.

October 10. I’m truly honoured that media guru Marshall McLuhan read my Test Pattern, and invited me to give a seminar at his institute. He even signed a note for my parking, a souvenir I will treasure.

November 10. Gordon and I are getting along well, except for sex. He’s not much of a turn-on for me, both because of his body, and his attitude to sex – he's as resigned as an English housewife! I can't trick because that makes him insecure. I've trapped myself again!

December 17. London, England. Gordon and I are here for a week of theatre and museums.

December 18. My first meeting with Gowan in two years is profoundly troubling. In May, 1969, when I left England, I expected to leave all memory of Gowan behind. The day of my departure, he was at work. I left a note on the mantel, together with the gold Virgo medallion he gave me. A few weeks later, Gowan returned the Virgo in the mail, urging that we "keep the bridges open." He is not a good writer, and in the following two years we have exchanged only four letters.

Now we have met again. Gowan came up from Brighton for the day, and Gordon generously went to the British Museum for a few hours. Gowan and I instantly felt a strong attraction and a delicious physical warmth. I was astonished at how much his body still pleases me: the narrow hips, the prominent buns, the smooth skin. We were soon making ecstatic love.

December 23. Toronto. Gordon and I struggled to talk openly with each other on our return flight. The saddest thing he allowed was that he would never have chosen me as a friend, had we not become lovers. This was perhaps spoken out of bitter gall, and even the need for revenge.

Christmas Day. Once again the reassurance of dinner with the whole McIntosh clan.

December 30. There is something pathetic about the fact that both Gordon and I want my love letters from our exchanges, but neither of us wants his.

December 31. I am easily bored by people. Gordon is gregarious; he actually likes people, while I withdraw in gruff isolation. Yet sexually I don't have Saturday Night Fever – I have every night fever!

Is there an unwitting curse on me from Jean's comment to the social worker? "The basic problem is that her husband has difficulty relating to one person over an extended period of time in a close relationship."


January 7. Our communal meals have become difficult, now that Gordon and I are no longer lovers. He's fine with the other housemates, especially George, but with me he goes moody. He fears he may never forgive my distaste for his body.


I got many publisher rejection letters for my third book, announcing a new theory of “lovestyles” which has since become widely established in psychology.




I built a “base” of magazine articles, which would eventually persuade a publisher my theory was worth a book.



Peter had a quick eye for spotting flaws at my newly rented house on Roehampton.


My sketch of my son at age 10.

February 13. Orca Shinaman died today, on the birthday of her only daughter, who died eight years ago. Coincidence?

I last saw Orca three nights ago. She seemed well enough, though very tired. Apparently she was up and joking, an hour before she died today.

When I got to the hospital I asked everyone to leave the room. I kissed her forehead, not yet cold, broke into deep gulping wails for several minutes, said "Goodbye Orca" – not Mom – and kissed her again, thanking her for the time when she said she kept David and me in spite of all the problems, because she "loved us."

February 27. I'll be able to paper a wall with the publishers' rejection letters I'm getting for Colours of Love.

March 24. The Toronto Star has published an article and photo about my experimental course: "200 students are neither spoon-fed nor force-fed. He describes his method as "freedom to learn without being taught."

May 8. Yesterday a three-year friendship ended when George Niven and I disagreed about his new dog using the garden as a toilet. He claims he was “never my friend” but just lived here for the cheap rent. Bitter!

With George leaving, Gordon is also moving out. He is full of anger over our breakup, and the fact that I continue to find new dates – the latest is Oliver. He's 30, with a moonshaped face, full lips, dark eyes and hair, and a slim, smooth body.

May 12. Our gay commune must now dissolve, and I must again live alone. Gordon left a last letter when he moved out. Here’s a digested paraphrase: “My sweet John: You shall never be forgotten and you shall be loved by me even though we never meet again. I shall miss your warmth, kindness, gentleness, for a very long time. Adieu. May this short note written with tears not make you bleed too much. Love, Gordon.

June 18. Oliver has simply dropped me, without explanation. What did I do wrong? He won't even say.

June 30. The fates are still kind to me. I've found a decent small house to rent on Roehampton, already vacant. Rent: $260. The landlady is happy to have a handy man as tenant and will pay for materials to redecorate.

July 1. Summer again, and the children are with me for the month. We're moving all my stuff in the convertible. Ruth and Peter are helping me to wallpaper and paint. Ruth is not nearly as handy as Peter despite my efforts to teach her. She burst into tears when I remonstrated about allowing paint to drip into the bathtub.

September 7. More surprises! Oliver has had another change of heart, and is moving into my house. He's already been visiting to help with redecoration. He'll split the rent with me; I can't afford this house alone.

October 1. When he left for work today, Oliver left a note: "Thank you for loving me and helping me become someone I can be proud of." He says he sees me "as a vital person eager to grab every ounce of life you can....”

October 20. Oliver's sexual repertoire is still limited to vanilla sex and I'm feeling confined by his insistence on monogamy. Over dinner we came to a more permissive arrangement. He'll let me go out for "occasional" sex-tricks. My favourite cruising site is a gay baths called The Library. Clever name! Just tell your jealous lover your absence was innocent; you were only at the library.

October 28. Ye gods – just when things seem to be fine with Oliver, he changed his mind again, and suddenly moved out with only an hour's notice. He had a long talk with Barbara and concluded that our interest in each other is largely sexual, though he recognizes that I have "released a lot" in him, and he is grateful.

He claims he can't "go through the anxiety" that I might be with someone else. "You're a fantastic person but I need someone who will be satisfied with only me."

Once again, I must start over.


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