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J. Edgar Hoover.

J. Edgar Hoover * A&E's Biography * Premiering May 3, 8 P.M. Eastern (check local listings)

They called one another "Speed" and "Junior." They flew to Miami for vacations in the sand and spent weekends at home in Washington, D.C., playing with Speed's dogs. Unmarried men, they went everywhere together and even dressed alike. They're buried only yards apart.

And if any of Speed's subordinates ever suggested he was homosexual, an FBI agent would show up at that person's office door and demand a retraction.

Welcome to the bizarre world of J. Edgar "Speed" Hoover, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 until his death in 1972, and his constant companion, assistant FBI director Clyde "Junior" Tolson. Rumors of Hoover's homosexuality--which this special two-hour Biography episode reports were rampant but suppressed during his lifetime--have blossomed into popular legend, tabloid fodder, and bad jokes since his death. A favorite unverifiable stow is that Mob-friendly lawyer (and deep closet case) Roy Cohn possessed a photograph of Hoover in drag, which he used to blackmail the FBI director into denying the existence of the Mafia. (The unchallenged assumption that cross-dressing equals homosexuality is this Biography's only visible slipup.)

But even Biography doesn't really have the goods on Junior and Speed, so nicknamed because of his rapid speech. Despite a mountain of convincing circumstantial evidence, the only "proof" comes from the wife of a psychiatrist who claims Hoover once confided his homosexuality to her husband. The man who amassed buildings full of documents on the intimate lives of millions of Americans left behind no documentation to explain his own lifelong partnership with Tolson.

What this jazzy and jam-packed Biography installment does document is Hoover's other manias: his insatiable ego; his hunger for fame and power; his retribution against young male agents who either stole his limelight or had the audacity to get married; and, most prominently, his eternal quest to expose and destroy Communists, which made him an ally of Cohn and the secret power behind Senator Joe McCarthy. And through it all--in news reels, gossip columns, Senate hearings, nights at New York City's Stork Club--there stands Tolson, at his man's side.

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Title Annotation:Review; television
Author:Steele, Bruce C.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:May 11, 1999
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