Howard, Hughes, Syphilis discussed on Fresh Air

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He had overtime. He got an into a lot of plane crashes and a lot of car accidents, and he hit his head a lot. And so you really see his behavior is starting to become more shall we say unconventional after his major plane crash in nineteen forty six in which he should have died. And I just feel like knowing what we know now about concussions and head injuries. And how that impacts the brain. I think that it can maybe help us understand some of his Radic behavior. You I have to say reading your book, I was happy. I was not an actress in in the thirties or forties or fifties. During the studio system. It sounds like I don't know how much you can generalize about what actresses. When through during that period, but these actresses seem to at least during part of their lives have careers that were out of their control and their sexuality was controlled by how men including Howard us one to to have these women perceived. Absolutely. And I mean, I think that was just part of what the studio system was all about one of the ways it functioned as an economy had to do with taking stars who had no power and keeping them under contract and paying them basically just enough to keep them on contract. There's a quote from Ava Gardner in the book where she talks about how the average contract starlet because she was forced to always look good always be wearing new clothes and have her hair done and all of that they'd get to the end of the month. And they'd realize that they needed to kind of find a sugar daddy to help them out just to continue to survive to the next month. One of Howard uses problems that had a big effect on his personality and his life was he was a germaphobe. And it's interesting to me that he engaged in so much sexual activity with so many different women while being germophobic which isn't to say oh like women carry germs, but there's so many sexually transmitted diseases. And even then like in the euro before HIV, I mean, you know, syphilis was a pretty big deal. And and there there is some speculation that Hughes might have contracted syphilis at some point. I haven't seen any documentation that makes me think that that was definitely true. But it it is certainly something that people talk about in some books about him. I guess germaphobe has its own logic. Like, you write that even though he was this like full-blown germophobic. There was a period of his life. When he was just a miss. You know, physically he was on. He was unclean. He wasn't taking care of himself. But that didn't figure into his own personal hygiene didn't figure into his larger germanophobia, right? I mean, I think that a lot of his germaphobe oh was tied to a kind of xenophobia. He was afraid of of outsiders, and he could be in a contained space, and he could be as dirty as he felt he needed to be within that space, but he didn't want anybody. Introducing any outside germs into that space. You tell a horrifying story horrifyingly racist story in the book where there's a period where he screening movies in a screening room and finds out it had just been used for a screening party for the cast of Porgy and Bess and he doesn't wanna ever go in that room again. Yeah. And that was at Goldwyn studios, which had been a studio lot where he had held an office for I think at that point over thirty years, and he never set foot on that studio lot again. Was he typically that racist in real life? Yes, I believe. So there's quite a bit of documentation of him not wanting to have black people around him not wanting to have them working for his company. He personally traced it back to an incident when he was a child, and there was a race riot in Houston where he grew up and he developed what seems to have been a mortal fear of black people after that. But I mean, it was a lifelong racism, my guess is Karina Longworth author of the new book seduction sex lies and stardom and Howard uses Hollywood she hosts the podcast, you must remember this. We'll talk more after a break and will listen back to my nineteen Ninety-one interview with Stanley he died yesterday. He co created marvel superhero characters like spider man, the x men and Black Panther. This is fresh air support for this podcast and the following message..

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