The story of the spectacular rise of
America's most powerful openly gay politician will be on sale soon.
But for political gossip hounds awaiting the release of Stuart E.
Weisberg's Barney Frank: The Story of America's Only Left-Handed,
Gay, Jewish Congressman the book's October release will most
likely disappoint. Weisberg's biography is a well-researched account
of Frank's life, ambitions and political career that stays clear of
the 69-year-old's personal life.
Still, the personal does slip in where
appropriate. Weisberg dedicates an entire chapter to Frank's coming
out process in the late 80s. Frank's sexuality was, by the book's
account, a well-known secret among reporters and Washington insiders.
An understanding between Frank and Boston Globe reporter Bob
Healy drives home this point. Healy, the paper's chief political
correspondent, was promised the story of Frank's coming out years
before the paper published its May 30, 1987 front page headline Frank
Discuses Being Gay.
“U.S. Representative Barney Frank,
after years of ambivalence about disclosing the nature of his private
life, has decided to acknowledge that is he gay,” the paper
published above the fold.
Frank decided to come out publicly at
the age of 47, during his fourth term as congressman. He said the
catalyst was the death of Stewart McKinney, a closeted bisexual
Republican representative from Connecticut.
“This is crazy,” he later told the
Washington Post. “It touched off something. An
unfortunate debate about 'Was he or wasn't he? Didn't he or did he?'
I said to myself, I don't want that to happen to me.”
Whether Frank's life inside his
gigantic walk-in closet served his ambitions – allowing his
political career to flourish first in Massachusetts and later in
Washington – is debatable. Early on Frank says he felt strongly
that a public life could only come at the sacrifice of a personal
life. But as the years wore on, his sustaining closet turned on him,
and the lie took an emotional toll.
Two years before Frank came out
publicly, he paid Stephen Gobie to have sex with him. The
relationship turned platonic and Frank hired the 28-year-old to run
errands. He said he wanted to help Gobie straighten out his life,
but, according to Frank, he soon realized that he was being used and
terminated the friendship.
Gobie took his story to the press in
1989, telling the conservative paper the Washington Times that
he ran a prostitution ring out of Frank's basement apartment with his
knowledge and approval. He said the pair had sex in the
congressional gym. Allegations Frank denied.
Conservatives delighted in the scandal
and pressed to have Frank sacked. It didn't happen because Gobie had
talked too much. He made allegations that could easily be disproved.
And ultimately hung himself.
Barney Frank was first elected to
Congress on the same night that Ronald Reagan won the White House,
making the story of how the unabashedly liberal politician remained
popular as conservatives surged throughout the nation thoroughly
fascinating. Voters decidedly returned Frank to Congress at the same
time fellow Democrats fell victims to the Reagan Revolution.
But while Weisberg does an excellent
job assessing Frank's political highs and lows, his book, perhaps out
of respect for Frank, stays clear from the politician's personal
life. More ink is spilled in the book's 500 plus pages on the women
Frank dated than the men he loved. An 11 year relationship with Herb
Moses gets little more than a footnote, and his current boyfriend,
Jim Ready, is mentioned only once in passing.
Barney Frank: The Story of America's
Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman is available now for
preorder at Amazon.com.