30 years without Anthony Perkins, the tormented star of ‘Psycho’ who made AIDS visible

Alex Anderson. Anthony Perkins entered cinema legend for his portrayal of a reserved and repressed adult in Psychosis (1960). Also the actor was a man with a tormented personality. And quite jealous of his private life. In fact, when a certain tabloid medium published in 1990 that he had AIDS, his representative took it upon himself to ensure that the information was “flatly false.” Even so, Perkins himself, who already had the fly behind his ear, chose to be tested for HIV, then known as the cancer of homosexuals. It was there that the American discovered that he was HIV-positive.

That diagnosis was devastating for both the actor and his wife, the photographer Berry Berenson, who in April 1992 organized a surprise party for her husband for his 60th birthday. When several of her friends told Perkins that he looked haggard, Berry pleaded with her to let him tell them. “I told her, ‘Look, I’m going to share this with some close friends that I trust, because if I don’t, I’m going to go crazy,” she claimed. “I’m not that good of an actress. I told Tony that he couldn’t do this charade. He was fine with telling one or two people, but then she said, ‘Oh, you’re telling too many.’

For a time, Perkins tried by all means to hide his true state of health from the press (he even registered several times at the hospital under a false name), but the constant harassment of reporters made his task difficult. A few days before he died in mid-September 1992, due to complications from AIDS, the dying actor dictated a statement to his two teenage children with the intention that it be read after his death.

To tell the truth, the New Yorker was never bad at pretending. His father was the prestigious stage actor Osgood Perkins, and he himself made his debut at the age of fourteen in summer theater. At sixteen, he was already doing his first tour and, while still a student at Columbia University, he had the opportunity to act in his first film, The actress (1953), directed by George Cukor. Shortly before graduating, Perkins auditioned with Elijah Kazan for the leading role in east of eden (1955), although the character ended up in the hands of a still unknown james dean. Even so, the director asked him to replace John Kerr in Tea and Sympathy. His performance in that play caught the attention of Hollywood, who suddenly saw in this attractive and lanky actor of almost 1.90 meters tall one of the new teen idols.

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the film the big testPerkins gained some fame as a character actor for his way of embodying guys with emotional distress and mental health disorders.

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the film the big test, Perkins gained some fame as a character actor for his portrayal of guys with emotional distress and mental health disorders. The culmination came in 1960, when he placed himself under the orders of Alfred Hitchcock to roll Psychosiswhere he gave life to Norman Bates, a charming but sinister man who runs a motel, practices taxidermy and lives with his dead mother in an old Victorian house. At one point, in what is considered one of the best sequences in film history, a female figure bursts into the bathroom where the character from Janet Leigh he’s taking a shower, and he stabs her to death.

More than one will think that the unbalanced Norman Bates suited Perkins like a glove. Like his most famous character, the actor was quite introverted (he barely related to his co-stars), had grown up under the influence of a possessive mother (as an adult, he continued to be dominated by women like Helen Merrill, who gave up her career as a photographer to support the actor), and had been suffering from mental health problems for some time. However, she did not have homicidal tendencies. “I like meetings with the press,” she once said. “They give me the opportunity for journalists and people to get to know me a little better and start thinking that I’m not a maniacal killer who goes out at midnight to kill the first person who crosses his path.”

Psychosis It launched its protagonist to international fame, but it also made him a typecast actor. After the premiere of that masterpiece of the genre, Perkins lived through the odd dry spell, had several musical successes, appeared in a few plays and starred in films such as the exciting The processby Orson Welles, or Murder on the Orient Expressfilm adaptation of a mystery of Christie Agatha. Although the truth is that he never again achieved the success that the most famous psychopath of the seventh art earned him.

The actor even commented that he needed to get rid of Norman Bates. But the behavior of a human being is contradictory by nature. Thus, in 1983 he shot Psycho II, which according to some critics lacked the depth and darkness of the master of suspense, but still became one of the highest grossing films of that year. then appeared in Psycho IIIwho only agreed to star in exchange for directing it, and in Psycho IV, who digs into the dark past of the troubled motel manager. He even took advantage of his status as an icon of horror films by traveling to various cities in Spain to promote the horror show of some amusement parks. “I only consider myself an actor who works hard,” he once explained, “who has to support a wife and two children, who is not a millionaire because he has not done great television series, who is what makes money, and who even He is a cook and driver for his children».

Before marrying his best friend at school, the actor acknowledged that he had had relationships with someone of the same sex (although the meeting had seemed “unsatisfactory”).

Before marrying his best friend from school, the actor acknowledged that he had had relationships with someone of the same sex (although the meeting had seemed “unsatisfactory”), and that he did not manage to sleep with a woman until the 39 years. Apparently, among his male lovers were the actor and dancer Grover Dalewith whom he shared an apartment for six years, or the extremely blond Tab Hunter, icon of golden Hollywood and one of the few interpreters of that time who, over time, became visible as gay. «Life was difficult for me, because I lived two lives at the same time. My private life, which I never told anyone about. And then my Hollywood life, in which I focused on my work and being successful », he confessed in his autobiography Hunter, to whom the agent who discovered him, henry wilsonalso homosexual, pushed out of the closet after leaking in 1955 to Confidential his arrest at a gay party, in exchange for that sensationalist magazine not taking another of his clients out of the closet, rock hudson.

It’s easy to understand why Perkins was so reluctant to openly discuss his sexual orientation, or why he found it so difficult to overcome the internalized homophobia he had suffered from for years. By the time he reached adolescence, his country’s anti-sodomy laws harshly punished homosexuality. During his time at the university, one of his gay friends ended up hospitalized after receiving a beating from another student and his minister’s father. The funniest thing is that the only one who was charged with a crime was the poor victim of the beatings. Upon landing in Hollywood, Perkins came under pressure from an industry that, to the gallery, advised gay actors to fake straight romances so that (in the best case) his reputation would not be damaged.

I decided not to make this topic public. [mi enfermedad] because, misquoting ‘Casablanca’, I’m not very noble but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of an old actor don’t have too much importance in this crazy world”, read the posthumous text of an actor who, in a way, helped make HIV visible and combat the enormous stigma of a disease that then caused panic. “There are many who believe that this disease is a revenge from God, but I believe that it was sent to teach people how to love and understand each other, and to have compassion for others. I have learned more about love and human understanding among the people I have encountered in this great adventure in the world of AIDS than from the people in the cutthroat and competitive world I have lived in.”

30 years without Anthony Perkins, the tormented star of ‘Psycho’ who made AIDS visible