Jesse Monteagudo

A Conversation with Author & Actor David Leddick

Filed By Jesse Monteagudo | January 22, 2012 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History
Tags: David Leddick, Miami Beach

david-leddick.jpgDavid Leddick lives in a beautiful home on the Venetian Isles off Miami Beach, surrounded by some of the beautiful art objects that he collects. After years in the business and professional worlds, Leddick now enjoys a personal renaissance as both an author and an actor.

"I think you should change careers every ten years," he says. "And I figure I am in my sixth career about now. My life has always been focused around my personal life more than anything else. I am very romantic and being gay I always like to be in love with somebody, somewhere."

Originally from Michigan, Leddick was never in the closet.

"I had a boy friend when I was four. And all through my school years the boys were always interested in me. And I don't think people put it together or cared too much about it. So I was brought up not feeling guilty about being gay which I think by chance and luckily I never felt guilty about it.

"I went to the University of Michigan and I went to the Navy because that was what everybody did. And I met my first real major romance at Bikini Atoll during the hydrogen bomb test."

Leddick's artistic career began in the fifties when he moved to New York and became a dancer at the Metropolitan Opera.

"I made my debut with Maria Callas in Norma. We always did Aida on Christmas and New Year and it was freezing in there. And we had nothing on except a big headdress. They always called the dancers the Sex Squad and they would open the door when it was time for us to go on stage and they would yell Sex Squad! Because we had nothing on! We were naked! The Sex Squad was all these people with no clothes on. This was the 1950s."

Leddick spent much of his professional life in advertising, as creative director of Revlon or as manager for the Robert Joffrey Ballet before he retired to South Florida. But Leddick's "retirement" was not a typical one.

"I was not going to play golf, so what will I do? And I thought as you approach 70, no one can say you ruined your life, so you may do as you please. So by chance I got into the nude photo thing because of my interest in photographer George Platt Lynes."

Leddick's coffee table collection of George Platt Lynes photos was followed by other collections: Naked Men (1997), The Male Nude (1998) and, more recently, The Nude Male: 21st Century Visions (2008).

At the same time, Leddick started to write novels. Leddick's first novel was My Worst Date (1996), about a gay teenager living on South Beach. "People said to me that no 16 year old is like that," he says. "But I got a phone call from a young man who told me that this is exactly what it was when he was 16." Leddick followed My Worst Date with several autobiographical novels: The Sex Squad (1998), Never Eat In (1999), The Handsomest Man in the World (2004) and The Millionaire of Love (2005).

David Leddick also wrote several non-fiction books. His first, Intimate Companions (2000), was a joint biography of George Platt Lynes, Lincoln Kirstein and Paul Cadmus.

"They all knew each other and George Platt Lynes and Lincoln Kirstein were in boarding school together," Leddick says. "And then Kirstein married Cadmus's sister. And Lynes photographed Kirstein's New York City Ballet and Cadmus did sets for it. And I met Lincoln a number of times," he adds.

Leddick also wrote The Secret Lives of Married Men (2003), interviews with 40 gay men who married women, and Escorts: 40 Profiles with Photographs of Men Who Sell Sex (2011).

While all this was going on, Leddick became a performer. As he recalls, "My trainer, David Sexton, was producing a Miami Gay Men's Chorus show. And they needed an older performer. But when we went into rehearsal I noticed my character didn't have any numbers! I got to have a song! So I got a finale song. And then he wrote a sequel to that show. I died in the first show so I came back as an angel. david-leddick-drag.jpgIt was a Christmas show called "It's a Fabulous Life."

Leddick followed that with a series of one man shows where he told stories and sang songs accompanied by pianist Andrew Sargent. Leddick even did drag in some of his shows - "Mexico City" and "Presenting Gilda Lilly" - though he assures us that he does drag "only on stage." Leddick also wrote and starred in a tribute to the late Quentin Crisp; a musical based on his Escorts book; and a musical based on his new book, How to be Gay in the 21st Century.

How to Be Gay in the 21st Century: There's nothing wrong with being gay but a lot of people do it wrong (White Lake Press), is David Leddick's latest and wittiest book. In this book, Leddick muses about the ups and downs of being gay, accompanied by photos taken by the renowned South Beach photographer David Vance.

"Being gay is just like being Swedish. It's a little different, but in no important way," he writes. "There are a lot of people in my age category who are still living in the 20th century," Leddick notes. "And other people live in a very different gay environment. My generation is primarily concerned about what other people thought of them whereas in this century people are much more concerned about being fulfilled; who I am and what kind of life I should have so that I really live my life. Whatever I want to do I actually do it. And I think that's the big difference."

How to Be Gay in the 21st Century, like other Leddick books, is available through Leddick also writes about being gay today in his column at the Huffington Post and his blog, "David's Gay Dish."

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