For six years in his twenties Michael Feinstein was personal assistant / cataloger / surrogate son to Ira Gershwin and his wife, and now, at 56, he's written The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs [Kindle]. Feinstein is a noted archivist and surely the highlight of the new book must be the trove of Ira's memories from the heydey of The Great American Songbook, some of which are captured here for the first time. On yesterday's Fresh Air, Feinstein discussed another aspect of his memoir:
"There have always been rumors circulating about George's sexuality, and I addressed it because so many people have asked me about it, and it's important to the gay community to identify famous personalities as being gay. In the case of George, it's all rather mysterious because I never encountered any man who claimed to have a relationship with George, but a lot of innuendo.
"Yet Simone Simon said that she thought that Gershwin must be gay because when they were on a trip together, he never laid a hand on her, she said. Cecelia Ager, who was a very close friend of George's and whose husband Milton Ager was George's roommate, once at the dinner said, well, of course, you know, George was gay.
"And Milton said: Cecilia, how can you say that, how can you say that? And she just looked at him and said: Milton, you don't know anything."
Feinstein also says that although Ira was perfectly accepting of his friends, including Michael, being gay, the first recording he heard of the SF Gay Men's Chorus performing "The Man I Love" made him "very uncomfortable" and he asked for it to be turned off.
The hardcover of Michael's book comes with a CD of him singing the twelve songs of the subtitle, which include "Strike Up the Band," "'S Wonderful," "I've Got a Crush on You," "They All Laughed," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Embraceable You," "Who Cares?," "I Got Plenty of Nuthin'," "They Can't Take Than Away from Me," "I Got Rhythm," and "Love Is Here to Stay."
His book is currently outselling Tuesday's other big gay releases, Camille Paglia's Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars [Kindle] and Daniel Mendelsohnn's Waiting for the Barbarians [Kindle].