Skip to comments.Richard Chamberlain Has Been Married For Twenty Years (To a Guy)
Posted on 05/30/2003 7:58:18 PM PDT by dogbyte12
Richard Chamberlain sure knows how to keep a secret. He's a master at it. In the public eye for over 40 years, he has been defined almost entirely by his roles. On screen he was this devastatingly handsome heartthrob, the star of Dr. Kildare and the dreamy king of such exotic miniseries as Shogun and The Thorn Birds. Yet Chamberlain remained a distant figure whose private life was always off-limits. Until now.
In an interview with TV Guide, Chamberlain admits that he's gay and that almost 20 years ago he wed another man, Martin Rabbett, who is now his manager. They met in 1975 when Chamberlain, then 41, was starring in the Tennessee Williams play The Night of the Iguana. Rabbett was a production assistant 19 years his junior. On the eve of the publication of Shattered Love: A Memoir (ReganBooks), Chamberlain, now 69, talks about his fear that knowledge of his sexual orientation would ruin his career. It is the first time a romantic leading man of his stature has ever outed himself. But in doing so, Chamberlain says he is finally at peace.
When you were on Dr. Kildare, you were a romantic hero and hiding the fact that you were gay. Were you afraid people would find out?
Desperately afraid. I used to get chased by hot teenage girls. I got 12,000 fan letters a week. And all the fan magazines would ask me about my love life. And I felt somewhat besieged. But I was good at the game. I felt my career depended on a certain image.
Were you ever able to talk to your parents about it? Never once. Not in my whole life.
Anybody in Hollywood?
No. But it was assumed that I was gay. I remember going to see a comedian who worked on our show maybe he didn't know I was there and he made a joke about "Dr. Kildare, that blond faygeleh." Whoa. Was I shocked.
After Kildare went off the air, you went into a funk.
I realized I was just another out-of-work actor. So [the musical] Breakfast at Tiffany's came along. I had a great time until we were on Broadway. The audience just hated it. I had a line, "Oh, I'll never sing again." And voices came back, "Good. You can't sing, anyway." And then people would go up the aisles and leave the theater.
Luckily, you found the miniseries. Tell me about Shogun.
The network wanted me, but James Clavell [the author of the novel] didn't. He wanted Sean Connery. So I started taking voice lessons to get a lower tone and I put six T-shirts under my shirt because I wanted to look bulkier [for the first meeting with Clavell]. It was so hot I was sweating like a pig. But I got on with April, Clavell's wife, and Clavell relented and gave me the part.
In your book, you say the character you identify with a great deal is Father Ralph, the priest in The Thorn Birds.
My public image, my private life and then my spiritual concerns made me realize that we had something in common.
In fact, it was after a spiritual retreat that you met Martin.
The minute I saw him, I thought, "There is someone special." But it wasn't until Night of the Iguana played [on Broadway] that we got into a love relationship.
How many years have you been together?
Twenty-six. I can't imagine how Martin had the guts to live with me because my career was everything. There was no one I would have thrown my career over for. And he knew it.
What are you up to now?
I am doing a play this summer, The Stillborn Lover, which Martin is directing at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.
Can you sum up your career?
I had looks, talent, ambition. And yet I was afraid of relying on myself Marlon Brando could rely on himself. I didn't want to be seen as even remotely gay. Remember, I grew up in the '30s, '40s and '50s, when being effeminate was verboten. I ingested all of this. I was as homophobic as anyone else.
When did you get over it?
I've only dropped the last vestiges of that, like, three months ago. And I'm practically stepping into my grave.
USA / NBC/ x60m-e and x30m-e / 1961-66
First Episode: Thursday 28 September 1961 / 8.30pm
|Based on a long running and popular movie series of the 1940's Dr Kildare helped propel Richard Chamberlain to stardom. The show, a medical dram obviously, followed Dr James Kildare as he rose from a fresh faced intern to (by season three) a resident doctor at Blair General Hospital.
Dr Kildare had a mentor helping him along his way in the form of the often cantankerous Dr Leonard Gillespie. Popular with the female viewing public who found Kildare very "swoonsome" the show moved from hour long episodes to twice weekly half hour ones during the 1965-66 season giving the show more of a soapy feel as stories were often now carried over several episodes.
There was a brief syndicated revival in 1972 called Young Dr Kildare with Mark Jenkins as Kildare and Gary Merrill as Gillespie.
RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN as Dr James Kildare / RAYMOND MASSEY as Dr Leonard Gillespie / EDDIE RYDER as Dr Simon Agurski (1961-62) / JUD TAYLOR as Dr Thomas Gerson (1961-62) / JOAN PATRICK as Susan Deigh (1961-62) / LEE KURTY as Nurse Zoe Lawton (1965-66)
Ummm, paging Mr. Hudson, Rock Hudson?
I spent some time in one of those castles in Japan as a kid - my strongest memory of the movie is that the footage was reversed - they kept saying they were in the castle of X, when it was clearly the castle of his archenemy, Y.
Sorry, I forget the names. I just remember the confusion.
The one in the frumpy housecoat...