Friday, April 27, 2012

A News Columnist With His Own Secret

Terry Teachout at the Wall Street Journal offers a look back at newspaper columnist Joseph Alsop, the subject of a new play called The Columnist.

Nobody remembers Joseph Alsop now, but in his day he was as famous as a journalist could be. A white-shoe-leather political columnist who went from Groton to Harvard to the New York Herald Tribune in three easy steps, he spent the whole of his life rubbing elbows with powerful pols whom he flattered assiduously, then wrote about in his widely read newspaper column. He was also a closeted homosexual who mistakenly supposed that no one knew of his after-hours inclinations. In fact, Mr. Alsop's friends were well aware that he was gay—and so were his enemies.

David Auburn's "The Columnist," which opened on Broadway this week, hinges on something that happened to Mr. Alsop when he visited Moscow in 1957, at the height of the Cold War. It seems that he picked up a young man at a party and spent the night with him, not knowing that the fellow in question was a KGB operative and that he had inadvertently stumbled into what is known to intelligence agents as a "honey trap." Mr. Alsop and his companion were secretly photographed having sex, and the next day the columnist was informed that if he didn't agree to serve as an "agent of influence" for the Soviet Union after returning to America, he would be exposed as a homosexual, thrown in jail and left to rot.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: The above photo is of Joseph Alsop and the below photo is of actor John Lithgow, who portray Alsop in The Columnist.

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