Hurley Haywood on life as a gay racing champion: ‘I didn’t have any male role models’

The three-time Le Mans champion was depicted with blondes and sponsored by Penthouse. But he lived a very different life away from the track

When Hurley Haywood emerged in the scooting representation 50 years ago he looked like someone out of central molding. He had the trim frame, the sandy fastens, the sapphire looks. He was the total package, a Paul Newman type who would go on to win titles and Le Humankind and scoot in the Indy 500.

But unlike Newman, who made up racing late in life as preparation for the lead in the 1969 classic Winningand willed himself into a first-rate wheelman, Haywood was a natural. He depicted as much while dusting the field in premier endurance races at Le Adult and Daytona. All the while, portraits of Haywood celebrating victory with a smiling blonde on his arm penetrated, and Penthouse even indicated on as a sponsor. Haywood looked like he was living his illusion. But to hear him recall that period in his life now, it chimes is a ordeal.” I was afraid ,” he tells the Guardian . ” I didn’t want it to get out .”

The < em> it is the fact that Haywood is gay. It’s a fact he went to great lengths to conceal before lastly coming out in an autobiography last year. Earlier this year the 71 -year-old significantly unburdened himself in Hurley, a documentary of his life and meters that was produced by the actor-racer Patrick Dempsey. Haywood’s narration seems well worth revisiting now, with Pride Month coming hot on the ends of the most important one scooting weekend of the year, this weekend’s Indy 500. In numerous practices it’s a story that bums belief. Haywood, after all, didn’t really hide in plain sight at a time when homophobia was commonplace and panic over the Aids epidemic was reaching fever pitch. He secreted in the quien es mas macho nature of auto racing, where gender- or heterosexual sex, at the least- dumps. Chevys and Budweisers and Marlboros, specifically.

Haywood didn’t so much recline into the role of the American James Hunt as give others fill in the spaces in his personality, which were exacerbated by his agonizing media shyness. As it turns out, success on the track was the perfect cover for Haywood. His first real brush with victory came in college, while kicking around Florida’s autocross scene. It was there that he encountered- and outdrove- Peter Gregg, an nobility endurance racer who came apart so impressed that he accompanied Haywood onto his top-shelf sports car team as a co-driver. Soon thereafter came a win in their first major event, a life championship at The Six Hours of The Glen in 1969. A month last-minute Haywood was drafted to fight in Vietnam and, unlike too many others, manufactured it back home unscathed after a year at war.

Rather than simply pick up where he left off, he designated a new standard, all told claiming checkered flags in the 12 Hours of Sebring( twice ), the 24 Hours of Le Adult( three times) and in the 24 Hours of Daytona a record five times. He and Gregg proved to be a dynamic duo, the Batman and Robin of tenacity hastening.” I adoration the rush you got from move ,” Haywood says.” And from thumping people .”

And while keeping his head down and his paw firmly on the accelerator facilitated Haywood avoid serious doubts about his personal life, he couldn’t help but notice how fearless Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova had been while coming out during their careers.” These females are significantly sort of the headliners of that entire move ,” says Haywood, who nonetheless couldn’t see himself following in their steps.” I didn’t have any gay male role models. I had to deal with all that stuff myself, work through all the problems of what it would be like if I suddenly came out as lesbian. What would that do? Would I lose all my followers? Would I lose all my patrons ?”

Hurley
Hurley Haywood( left) with his partner, Steve Hill. Photograph: 1091

Haywood had reason to move conservatively. His sexuality became an open confidential around the paddock, and gilding on his truth became something of a boast onto itself. Among other things Hurleyaddresses is industry speculation at the time that Haywood and Gregg were more than time close friends and co-drivers.( Both Haywood and parties close to Gregg, who made his own life in 1980, deny they were in a relationship .) The documentary too depletes time with Haywood’s husband and marriage of three decades, Steve Hill, whose positions on Haywood’s post-race revels( which Hill watched through the chain-linked fence around win aisle ), and on Haywood’s old-fashioned habit of switching his wedding band from his left to his right hand to cast off the smell accommodate rare insight into what it means to be a closeted sports hero.

Haywood was convinced that by” being as inconspicuous as I could ,” he could maintain the status quo. He maintained teammates on a need-to-know basis.” There was only one person out of the hundreds of people that I’ve scooted with in my part profession that had a hard time accepting that ,” Haywood says.” And I “ve told them”:’ if you don’t wanna drive with me, then that’s your trouble .'” He was cautious not to involve the elite pedigree he left behind in Chicago.” The pressure that I was under …” he says. When he broke the news to them” my stepfather was completely against it. My mother was understanding but not certainly admitting at the start .” He stowed away with hastening units in Europe, where he found the culture to be hugely more accommodating.

One doubts Hurley, who retired from scooting in 2012, might never have come out publicly if a high schooler interviewing him for an assignment hadn’t reaped a confession. Their conversation started with the usual questions about Haywood’s staggering career achievements. But then midway through, Haywood says,” I just sort of vividly remember he stopped cold in his moves, examined instantly at me and said,’ I have been bullied my entire life. Every morning I wake up and keep feeling I’m absolutely useless. I’m homosexual and I simply don’t know where to go and what to do. I feel like I’m totally useless .’ I told him, it’s not what the fuck you, it’s who you are. It’s the who that people retain. If you allow that barrier to prevent your forward movement, you’re never gonna reach anything .”

The boy seemed to take encouragement from those words, but Haywood depleted years without knowing sure as shooting until his mother announced out of the blue.” I merely want to let you know what you told my son saved their own lives ,” she said. Those paroles floored Haywood. That’s when he started reflecting, Maybe if I can help one kid, then I can help two or 10 or 100 .” That was the reason I decided to come out publicly ,” he says.” I didn’t want to lie about it anymore .” And now that he’s out, he’s hoping he can be the gay male role model that he never had.” I believe one of the problems that homosexual parties face is how they are showed by television and by movies and the press ,” he says.” It’s always kind of a negative image of a lesbian being, and gay people are in roles that are obviously gay. I always find that disturbing because I know lots of exceedingly, very successful gay people who are in every form of business that you can think of, and that are not your usual lesbian temperament or[ have] homosexual peculiarities”

And yet for all of Haywood’s good meanings, the odds of him stimulating one similarly pre-eminent vehicle racer to go public with their own coming out story seem slim. After all, auto racing is still sold through heterosexual husbands. But they don’t play into the Penthouse fantasy of the caddish acceleration racer who hunts skirts with a brew in one handwriting and cigarette in the other anymore. They stand tall on the starting grid with their bride or lover at their area and their children at their feet. It’s a family appraises boast now, which could make it even tougher for the next Hurley Haywood to break through- especially in this recessive sponsorship atmosphere. But the progress the athletic has induced in providing opportunities to racers who aren’t straight-out white-hot males give him hope for the future.” Racing is evolving ,” he says.” I ponder those obstacles that stand in the way are gradually being smacked down .”

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ athletic/ 2019/ may/ 24/ hurley-haywood-le-mans-indycar-gay-race-driver

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