beamish14 wrote: ↑
Sun Jan 24, 2021 5:43 pm
I'm really interested to see if this book mentions Nichols' longtime, on/off affair with photographer Richard Avedon, which is detailed extensively in Norma Stevens and
Steven M.L. Aronson's Avedon: Something Personal
I just picked up my copy from the library - I've been heavily anticipating this coming out since I read Pictures at a Revolution
a few years back and learned Harris was working on the "official" biography. Flipping through it, I found a quarter-page footnote discussing the Avedon relationship (it's the only entry in the index under "Nichols, Mike...and homosexuality"), which Harris more or less dismisses as alleged and unconfirmed by facts or testimony beyond Avedon's assistant. He's not snidely dismissive of the possibility (and it would be quite odd if he was, since he's gay himself), and in fact writes the following:
Mark Harris wrote:In researching this biography, I remained open to any information about Nichols's history with men that was specific and/or confirmable; I found none. If I had, I would not have considered it to be embarrassing, scandalous, or necessary to suppress--nor was I ever asked to.
That last perhaps answering the call of any who would accuse his friendliness with Diane Sawyer as a factor that might lead to the biographical omission of any deviation from heterosexuality. He states outright at the start of the Acknowledgements that he began research only after seeking the consent of Sawyer and her children, who gave it with no conditions, and who didn't read the manuscript prior to publication.
I haven't read the Avedon bio in question, but both it and the Nichols book were published by divisions of Penguin Random House, making them both pretty trustworthy and also, one would think, fact-checked and vetted by teams of similar integrity. My suspicion is that the truth lies somewhere in between: no question, it seems, that he and Avedon were close. But sometimes (I think of Ratso and Buck in Midnight Cowboy
) the nature of intimacy and the peculiarity of the bond between two men can be ineffable and not satisfyingly described by the twin poles of "they were friends" or "they were lovers." I'm looking quite forward to reading the whole book, and, homo though I am, I can't confess to having any sort of horse in the race of whether or not Nichols was strictly straight (not that I'm casting aspersions upon those seeking definitive answers! And I would be curious to know what the Avedon bio contains) because his deft and un-skittish treatment of both The Birdcage
and Angels in America
indicates that, at the most unremarkable, he was, well, an ally. (I've always shuddered to think what Altman would have done with Angels
- that always seemed like an incompatible pairing to me.)
On a separate note, this is a truly gorgeous book, from the very effective cover to the layout to the two spreads of plates, some in color. It reminds me of Benjamin Moser's spectacular Sontag bio from a year or two back - they even share the same font and momochrome jackets.