Paul Lynde was an iconic comedic actor that was best known for his performances in the film Bye Bye Birdie and on the television series Bewitched. Paul was a closeted homosexual throughout his career, though his sexuality was an open secret due to his flamboyantly gay persona. Sadly, Paul’s career was cut short due to an unfortunate incident that occurred during a liaison the actor was having with a 24-year-old “muscle boy”. Join Facts Verse as we explore the night that destroyed Paul Lynde’s career forever.
Throughout Paul Lynde’s career, the beloved comedic actor was hiding his homosexuality in plain sight. Nowadays, people might look at the iconic actor’s many performances and pick up that he was gay in the blink of an eye. Even back in the days of Paul’s peak success, many in the audience likely had at least a feeling that the actor may have had some unique sexual preferences. Amongst Paul’s peers, his gayness was an open secret. However, social stigmas of the time made the actor feel as if he needed to keep the absolute truth about his sexuality a secret from audiences.
Paul had made the move to New York City and started up a career in the entertainment industry after graduating from Northwestern University in the state of Illinois. Today, Paul is best known for the roles that he played on the sitcom Bewitched and in the film adaptation of Bye Bye Birdie. As well, he became memorably known for his tenure on the celebrity game show Hollywood Squares, where he occupied the center square for a number of years. Besides his work on film and television, Paul also appeared on Broadway.
Paul had always been a natural performer, and his friends always considered him to be the kind of guy who couldn’t handle the attention being on anyone else. This proved perfect for the world of performance, where Paul’s desire to be the center of attention paid off in spades. After numerous roles that saw Paul take the backseat to bigger characters, it looked like the actor was finally about to catch his big break with his own sitcom when tragedy struck.
Producer William Asher had a presented a pitch for a pilot to Paul that was to be titled Sedgewick Hawk-Style: Prince of Danger. The campy series was to follow Paul as a flamboyant detective during the Victorian era. Paul was incredibly excited about the idea, believing it would be the perfect vessel for his unique comedic abilities. Paul had yet to become the household icon that he desired to be, and believed William’s show might be the way to change that.
If Sedgewick Hawk-Style: Prince of Danger was an idea that had the power to make Paul Lynde a bigger name than he ever was before, the world never got the opportunity to find out. Paul was a notorious alcoholic at the point that he was being offered the role in William Asher’s new show, and he had already been involved in numerous public incidents that had been caused by his excessive drinking. While these incidents had been notable, none of them had been quite as serious as the one that was about to end Paul’s career.
William Asher had successfully pitched his show to both the ABC network and Paul Lynde. The ABC network had proved just as interested as Paul, and they subsequently tasked Paul with doing some publicity to promote his upcoming role on the series. It was during one of these bits of publicity that Paul found himself at a gay bar, where he met a 24-year-old “muscle boy” by the name of James Davidson.
Paul and James hit it off and drunkenly flirted throughout the night. During their flirtations, James bragged to Paul about the fact that he could supposedly do 100 chin-ups. Either Paul found this claim to be a bit too remarkable, or he simply wanted to see the young man do some chin-ups, because he subsequently went about tasking him with doing them on the spot. Since the two couldn’t find a proper chin-up bar, James was forced to use the fire escape outside the window of Paul’s hotel room. Perhaps because the young man was drunk, James ended up losing his grip on the fire escape and falling to his death. A stunned Paul was unsure of what to do, deciding to call William Asher instead of the police.
If Paul had chosen to call the police first instead of William Asher, he might not have looked so suspicious in the eyes of the public. Either way, Paul ended up losing the opportunity to appear in William Asher’s upcoming show on ABC, and was therefore never give the chance to see if it could’ve truly turned him into a star whose fame was worthy of his talents. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Paul Lynde had called William Asher instead of the police after witnessing the murder of 24-year-old “muscle boy” James Davidson because he wanted to be sure that he was going to be able to keep his upcoming series with ABC. Perhaps Paul would’ve decided to try and cover the death up if he had known that it was going to result in him losing the show. After Paul called William, William called ABC, and it was ABC that ended up informing the police. Although Paul was not charged with any crimes, he was greatly impacted by the event both due to the loss of his promising upcoming role and the negative reputation it gave him.
Paul Lynde had worked tirelessly to get to where he was in the entertainment industry at the point of James’ death, and it all came crashing down due to the unfortunate incident. Although Paul wasn’t really at fault, his reputation never recovered for a variety of reasons. Paul had been born in Mount Vernon, Ohio. His father had been a butcher, and Paul had played the bass drum during his early schooling.
Paul’s time playing the bass drum had been his only experience performing up until the point that he enrolled at Northwestern University. Paul was enrolled in the school in 1944, and soon took up with the school’s theater troupe. He would impress his fellow drama enthusiasts with monologues that he had written for himself, and it seemed as if the young man was quickly developing a talent for performing.
It was after Paul’s graduation that he decided to take off to New York City in the hopes of striking it big in the entertainment industry. His breakout role came in the 1960 Broadway play Bye Bye Birdie. Paul was cast in the role of Harry MacAfee. Both the play and the character became big successes, and Paul was asked to reprise the role for the play’s 1963 Hollywood adaptation.
Although Paul’s time on Broadway had brought him a great deal of attention amongst theatergoers, it was his performance in the film adaptation of Bye Bye Birdie that truly brought him to the attention of audiences everywhere. The film adaptation was an even bigger success than the play that had preceded it, and Paul’s reprisal of his iconic role brought him to new heights. From his success in the film adaptation of Bye Bye Birdie, Paul attained further film roles, such as in the comedic beach film Beach Blanket Bingo. However, it was Paul’s role in the 1960s sitcom Bewitched that was to become his most iconic ever.
Paul was hired onto the series Bewitched in 1965. He was given the recurring role of Uncle Arthur, and he became a big hit. According to many, this represented the first gay-coded character on television that audiences were meant to laugh with instead of at. The subtle yet flamboyant persona that Paul used in his comedic roles was sassy and charming, and was often seen making jokes at the expense of others.
Although Paul received a modest amount of fame and recognition for his roles on television, film, and Broadway up until the point of him receiving the role of Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, nothing had ever been enough for the comedic actor. This is why he had been so excited upon being offered the starring vehicle on ABC by William Asher. Paul blamed his lack of success and recognition on his closeted homosexuality, and many believe that this is what led the actor to suffer from problems with alcoholism.
Paul developed a reputation for being a vicious drunk not too long into his Hollywood career. Paul’s drunkenness often led to public incidents, such as a racist tirade that Paul had gotten into at a Burger King in Chicago. Paul’s personal life had also been plagued with rumors of promiscuous affairs, some of which related to his ambiguous sexuality. Despite the plethora of negative attention that Paul had already been subject to up until that point in time, nothing had quite as negative of an effect on the man’s reputation as the incident that occurred with 24-year-old James Davidson.
Paul himself died in January of 1982. The actor had been meant to make an appearance on television that was to be filmed at his house. When the crew that was to film the appearance came knocking on Paul’s door, no one answered. The crew became suspicious, and ended up driving to a phone booth down the road to call the authorities. The cops told the crew that they didn’t have the ability to take any action until Paul had been missing for 48 hours. Believing that something was wrong, the crew decided to break into Paul’s home themselves and do a welfare check. Paul was found dead from a heart attack.
Despite the fact that Paul Lynde never got the starring vehicle that he had been hoping for, he still left behind plenty of memorable turns in film and on television! Comment down below to share what your favorite role from Paul’s career is, or if you were shocked to learn about the incident that ended the closeted comedic actor’s time in the spotlight. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!