Forty years ago today, bisexual Italian actor Sal Mineo died after being stabbed once in the heart in an alley behind his West Hollywood home. Most folks remembered him as his but for two years after his murder no one had any idea who had killed Mineo or why. Police surmised it might have something to do with his same-sex relationships, but that line of thinking proved inconclusive.
Popshifter has a pretty good article outlining Mineo’s career, the gay rumors that dogged him most of his life as well as his struggles trying to break out of typecast thug and Native American film roles — it’s definitely worth a read.
The article also hits on Mineo’s sexuality and relationship with the LGBT community. Mineo was bisexual, not gay: he dated actress Jill Haworth for many years and is rumored to have dated “some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood and New York”, but he came out as bi in a 1972 interview with author Boze Hadleigh.
During the interview, Hadleigh asked Mineo, “Was your bisexuality a problem, as far as your family was concerned, Sal?” and Mineo responded:
As long as you don’t wear a dress or sound like Marilyn Monroe, there’s no problem that can’t be worked out. One time, when my Ma wondered how come I turned out gay, I asked her, “Ma, how come my brothers didn’t?” You get me?
Hadleigh also asked Mineo, “Why do you think so many gay men are turned off by bisexual men?” And Mineo replied…
Listen, they ain’t turned off by them sexually. Maybe politically. Because half the gays in Hollywood pretend they’re bi. And I guess so far that’s a matter of survival. Some don’t even have the guts to say they’re bi.
“By the same token,” Hadleigh continued, “some straight men, mostly younger, trendy ones, like to say they’re bisexual.” Mineo said:
That’s cool. Even if it ain’t true, some of them try it, once or twice, and that’s healthy. It lets them find out if they really got no taste for men, or if they’re really bi or gay, but they’ve been fooling themselves- like the “straight” guy in Boys in the Band.
Mineo had also become a celebrity among the LGB community for a few reasons. Mineo also had lots of very sexy photographs taken of himself and was the model for Harold Stevenson’s 40-foot-male nude unveiled in 1963 entitled The New Adam (NSFW). In 1969, Mineo directed and starred in a very sexual play entitled Fortune and Men’s Eyes. At the time of his death, Mineo was playing the role of a bisexual burglar in the comedy P.S. Your Cat Is Dead and was in a six-year live-in relationship with male actor Courtney Burr III.
Two years after his murder, police charged a local pizza deliveryman named Lionel Ray Williams with Mineo’s slaying and 10 other local area robberies. Williams allegedly bragged about the killing, according to authorities, and was sentenced to 57 years in prison.