Disney’s getting LGBTQ-friendly these days, what with its “exclusively gay moment” in Beauty and the Beast, and the same-sex kiss in its cartoon. But back in the 1960s, being gay killed Old Yeller star Tommy Kirk’s career.
Kirk played a wholesome, all-American boy in live-action Disney hits The Shaggy Dog, The Swiss Family Robinson and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones. But behind the scenes, he wrestled with loneliness and frustration.
In an interview with Filmfax, Kirk said:
I consider my teenage years as being desperately unhappy. I knew I was gay, but I had no outlet for my feelings. It was very hard to meet people and, at that time, there was no place to go to socialize. It wasn’t until the early ’60s that I began to hear of places where gays congregated. The lifestyle was not recognized and I was very, very lonely.
Kirk eventually came to terms with his sexuality, but Disney didn’t. The studio fired him in 1964 after they found out he was involved with another actor.
That was the end of Kirk’s career in the entertainment industry. He went on to run a carpet-cleaning business.
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