18 Famous Women Who Unknowingly Married Gay Men
by Rachel Weeks
During a time where homosexuality was not as accepted, it was not uncommon for famous women to unwittingly wed a gay man—or gay men, as a few women found. Some couples stayed together, some immediately separated, but all of them went through their fair share of trials.
The Wizard of Oz actress married five times, with the first four ending in divorce. Garland’s second husband, director Vincente Minnelli, reportedly lived as a gay man before entering Hollywood but felt he had to hide his sexuality from the public. The couple divorced in 1951 after five years together. Garland’s fourth husband Mark Herron was also reportedly gay.
Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher married talent agent Bryan Lourd in 1991, but the couple divorced in 1994 when Lourd came out as gay. Fisher wrote in her memoir Wishful Drinking that Lourd blamed Fisher’s drug habit for his sexuality: “He told me later that I had turned him gay … by taking codeine again. And I said, ‘You know, I never read that warning on the label.’ I thought it said ‘heavy machinery,’ not homosexuality—turns out I could have been driving those tractors all along!”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Like her mother Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli also married a gay man. Wed in 1967, Minnelli and musician Peter Allen underwent a divorce after seven years together. He came out as gay later in life, but it was rumored that Allen had an affair with Mark Herron long before coming out. Minnelli’s fourth husband David Gest also was rumored to be gay.
In 2011, real housewife Porsha Stewart married NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart in an elaborate wedding ceremony featured on Platinum Weddings. The ceremony was all for naught, though, when the couple divorced in 2013 after suspicions arose about Kordell’s sexuality.
The Nanny actress Fran Drescher was married to the show’s creator Peter Marc Jacobson from 1979 to 1999. It was, in fact, Drescher who broke off the marriage, leaving Jacobson devastated but free to explore his sexuality. Despite the separation, the couple stayed close friends. Drescher has said, “When I wrote the New York Times bestseller Cancer Schmancer, that was when he came out. He told me that he had been dating men, and I said, ‘Okay, well whatever makes you happy.'”
Best known for her roles alongside her then-husband Cary Grant, Betsy Drake was the second of Grant’s four wives. Despite his many marriages to women—Barbara Hutton and Dyan Cannon included—it is now widely believed Grant was gay. For more than 10 years, the silver-screen actor lived with fellow actor Randolph Scott.
British actress and singer Angela Lansbury married actor Richard Cromwell in 1945. While his homosexuality wasn’t revealed until much later, the two didn’t stay married long—they divorced in 1946—but they stayed close friends up until his death in 1960.
The multi-talented Carol Channing married her manager Charles Lowe in 1956 and stayed married for what appeared to be a functional 41 years. But in 1998, Channing filed for a divorce, citing physical abuse and a nonexistent sex life. She also revealed that Lowe had cheated on her with photographer Wallace Seawell, but Lowe vehemently denied the claims.
Actress Vanessa Redgrave was married to director Tony Richardson from 1962 to 1967, despite many of Richardson’s friends believing he was gay. Richardson carried on many affairs with both men and women, leaving Redgrave to conclude he was secretly bisexual. Richardson died in 1991 of AIDS-related complications.
Best known for her role as the mother on the sitcom Sister, Sister, Jackée Harry married Elgin Charles in 1996. The marriage only lasted until 2003, but the couple stayed friends long after the divorce. Charles went on to create a short-lived reality TV show called Beverly Hills Fabulous about his hair salon in Beverly Hills.
Despite staying married from 1929 to 1962, British actress Elsa Lanchester was well aware that her husband, actor and director Charles Laughton, was gay. In her autobiography, she claims this was the reason they hadn’t had children.
Actress Berry Berenson married Remember My Name costar Anthony Perkins in the early ’70s, and the two continued their marriage until Perkins’ AIDS-related death in 1992. He was well-known to have carried on many relationships with men throughout his life.
Famed silent movie actress Janet Gaynor was married to the openly gay costume designer Adrian—who went only by his first name—for 20 years. Their marriage was considered a “lavender marriage” because Adrian was openly gay and Janet herself was rumored gay. Even so, they stayed together until Adrian’s death in 1959.
Singer Margaret Whiting took adult film star Jack Wrangler to be her fourth husband in 1994, despite his being openly gay. While he recognized his homosexuality, Wrangler admitted that he didn’t want to live “a gay lifestyle.” The two stayed married until his death in 2009.
Ruth St. Denis
Modern dance pioneer Ruth St. Denis worked with and eventually married fellow modern dancer Ted Shawn, but their partnership ended 16 years later after St. Denis and Shawn both had an affair with their male business manager. The couple never formally divorced.
Legendary comic actress and singer Martha Raye married a man 30 years her junior in 1991. Her husband Mark Harris, who would inherit Raye’s $3-million estate after her death in 1994, was thought to be gay but later revealed that he was bisexual.
Rebecca de Alba
Mexican model and TV personality Rebecca de Alba carried on a tumultuous relationship with Latin pop sensation Ricky Martin for a nearly 14 years. The couple never married officially but were very much in love; de Alba said she had no idea Martin was gay until he came out in 2010.
Former co-host of The View Star Jones married investment baker Al Reynolds back in 2004 in a very public and very corporate-sponsored wedding. But in 2008, the couple began the proceedings for an equally public divorce, during which rumors about Reynolds’s sexuality flooded the media, though they have never been substantiated.