January 6, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 01
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SEATTLE'S GAY HISTORY: Poor little rich boy visits Seattle, ca. 1959
SEATTLE'S GAY HISTORY: Poor little rich boy visits Seattle, ca. 1959
by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

No doubt the most famous and notoriously Gay New York archetypal playboy of the 20th century was Jimmy Donahue, grandson of Frank Woolworth, chain Store millionaire. Seattle Gays would have been stunned if they knew of his full, super-indulgent, controversial and unapologetic lifestyle.

Jimmy grew up with immense wealth and privilege. He knew he would never need to work and set about carving for himself a career of mischief, while others say, evil. He was spoiled, protected and had no idea the true value of money and spent ridiculous amounts on travel with a valet, lavish suites and his cafe society friends.

High society, movie stars and royalty admired him for his good looks, high intelligence, generosity and chrisma. The gossip columnists also found a new darling. Jimmy was a brilliant gossip, prankster and jokester and often a flaming queen high society justified as eccentricity. There was never a dull moment when he was around! But he was attached to a dominant mother's purse strings, which killed his ability to be a part of show business, the one place he could feel comfortable as a homosexual in the 1930s and get his mothers approval, which never came. He felt his only course was to abandon himself to a life of unabated hedonism, ceaseless rounds of laughter, pleasure and wicked ways; cries for attention.

His antics were shocking. Only his wealth and social position kept him out of jail. Dressed as a Nun he instructed his chauffeur to stop in the middle of the Lake Worth Bridge, pulled up his Nuns habit and squatted. Two passing cars collided. A parachutist and skilled pilot, he flew under the same bridge and buzzed an aircraft carrier, which got him in trouble. You never knew when he would take off his clothes in public or pee in a dish at elegant dinner parties. At other times, he would dress as a prostitute or act out the life of a male hustler or pad a dress with pillows and pretend to be the grand society hostess Elsa Maxwell.

In Italy, Jimmy stood on the balcony of his hotel and mimicked fascist Mussolini, then peed on a crowd below. He was kicked out of the country. In Germany during the rise of Hitler, he repeated the same thing and screamed, "Down with Hitler!" He almost landed in a concentration camp. At Hardenburg Castle in Germany he was relegated to a lavish guest cottage. Alone and without an audience he began to burn all the furniture in the fireplace. By this time Jimmy was something of a national celebrity an in all the gossip columns. His mother paid off any offending parties.

Most of his time was spent with the straight super rich. His love for the theater offered a string of chorus boys on tap, but there was a dark side. He shocked everyone when he said he once slept with a cadaver and enjoyed it. It is also rumored he murdered his lover and participated in a horrible stabbing. His good friend was New York Cardinal Francis Spellman, an atrocious homosexual and sexual predator.

The most curious chapter in his life was a four year affair with Wallis Simpson, after she married would be King of England, Edward the 8th, the Duke of Windsor, had he not given up the throne to be with the woman he loved and depended on... The Duke, a straight repressed foot fetishist with an interest in masochism, was into sexual self abasement such as nanny child scenes; he wore diapers, she was the master, etc. While Jimmy, who liked older women and the Duchess had non-penetrative and principally oral sex, the Duke looked the other way. [All this in Christopher Wilson's book, "Dancing with the Devil.']

When Jimmy Donahue arrived in Seattle, a social whirlwind took Seattle's Gay elite by storm. Bill McClane remembers: "I first met Jimmy at the Mocambo, where we all hung out. He was a class act, rich and famous and very likeable. The maitre d' was offered money to be seated at Jimmy's table, where he would buy rounds and rounds of drinks for everyone.

"He was on a national inspection tour of all the Woolworth stores. His cousin, Barbara Hutton, asked, 'Will $5000 a week be enough pay?' 'Oh, I think so,' he replied, 'but you never know.' As was his custom, he rented a suite and all the rooms surrounding his at the posh Olympic Hotel [because he doesn't like to be crowded] and so he can entertain and be flamboyant and amaze his guests with burning gossip of the rich and famous.

"It was a non-stop week of alcoholic dinner parties and social engagements. He absolutely loved Madame Peabody's and couldn't believe its freedom. Jimmy was way out there and didn't care. I had a Chrysler convertible and he would stand on the seat, hold onto the windshield and let his scarf blow in the wind. I told him he could be arrested or his scarf may get tangled in the wheels and break his neck like what happened to Isadore Duncan.

"One night on our way to Peabody's he asked, 'Can you get me an Eskimo? I've always wanted an Eskimo.' 'What age?,' I asked. 'What age?! I didn't think I could get that much service here!' he replied. Jimmy had tricked all over the world and I mused that an Eskimo was probably the only person left he hasn't gone to bed with.

"When we got to Madame Peabody's I started looking for an Eskimo, but I only saw local Indians. Finally, I went up to a good looking Indian and asked, 'I'm looking for an Eskimo.' He replied, 'Well, I used to live in Alaska.' I said, 'Fine, are you Gay?' 'No, but I'll do anything for a price,' he replied.

"I asked, 'Do you know how to rub noses?' He replied, 'Why would I want to rub noses? You mean rub some guys nose on the floor?' 'No, rub noses, that's how Eskimos kiss,' I said. 'You want me to rub noses with you for a price?, he replied. 'No not me, I want to introduce you to someone. You'll like him and he's very rich,' I said. 'Do I have to pay you a commission?' he asked. 'No, it's all yours,' I replied.

"He asked, 'Well, what do I have to do with this man, he won't do anything except blow me or poke me in the butt will he?' I said, 'Don't worry about whips or anything like that, it's okay - think, ice cubes.' 'Ice cubes?' he repeated. 'Yes, ice cubes. Eskimos live in ice cubes," I pointed out. 'Okay, I'll be a good Eskimo,' he said. 'Well then, mush Nanook!' I said.

"Jimmy got his Eskimo and they had a good time.'

Jimmy died in 1966.

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