cover image The Tall Boy

The Tall Boy

Jess Gregg. Permanent Press (NY), $18 (230pp) ISBN 978-1-57962-119-3

An air of melancholy, but not bitterness and jealousy, permeate this meandering, sentimental memoir of a struggling gay writer who never quite broke through the way many of his contemporaries did. Gregg (Baby Boy) begins with his 1943 arrest for lewd vagrancy on Hollywood Boulevard, and it quickly becomes clear his memoir was designed as a cautionary tale about how disapproving society was toward homosexuality in decades past. What saves the memoir from Gregg's litany of injustices are his accounts of his friendships with other artists, which provide surprising glimpses of well-known figures like Marge and Gower Champion, the director and choreographer couple who created a string of Broadway hits (Bye Bye Birdie, Hello Dolly and 42nd Street), and choreographer Agnes de Mille. Gregg, meanwhile, toils in near obscurity, bounces from tryst to tryst and has several near-misses with success (his play, The Seashell, was produced in London and starred Dame Sybil Thorndike, but it never took off).