Between The Covers

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, October 2019 Issue.

Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan & William Rufus King by c.2019,
Oxford University Press $34.95 / higher in Canada 337 pages

Tethered by a cord.

That’s what people think when they see you

and your closest pal: that you’re tethered by some sort of invisible cord. You

think alike, talk alike, you sometimes mirror each other’s actions. Where

there’s one, there’s the other even, as in the new book Bosom Friends by

Thomas J. Balcerski, when you’re often poles apart.

In the years prior to the Civil War, our

nation’s capital was “very much a work in progress”: roads were little more

than mud, neighborhoods were far apart and, indeed, Washington, D.C. was a

swamp to which most Congressmen had to travel. Since nearly all were landowners

elsewhere, few elected officials brought their families to the city with them;

those who came solo needed places to live, so boardinghouses — called “messes”

— sprung up to house the politicians.

Thomas J. Balcerski

It was at one such “mess” that William King

met James Buchanan.

King was born to be a politician: educated

at the University of North Carolina, he almost immediately went into politics

after graduation. He was a social man, and very charming, but he never married,

blaming it on a broken heart over a princess who was angered by a perceived

insult. Balcerski hints that the princess story was a convenient ruse.

Buchanan was also educated and

politically-minded but his personal life differed: he was engaged to be married

but a misunderstanding caused his fiancé to call off the nuptials. Before

Buchanan could patch things up, she fell ill and died. For the rest of his

life, he, too, claimed that a broken heart kept him from marrying.

At that time in history, says Balcerski,

homosexuality was strictly forbidden but deeply “intimate” friendships between

men were common and even encouraged; it seems likely that King and Buchanan

formed one of these while living at the “mess,” partaking in debates together,

and working at the capital. Their “bosom friendship,” however, appeared exceptionally

close: tongues wagged and others publicly teased the politicians for their

particular bond.

But were they lovers, as rumors have

claimed for over 170 years?

Inconclusive, as you’ll see in Bosom

Friends. There are many reasons to think either way; although author Thomas

J. Balcerski says they weren’t, evidence otherwise is tantalizing.

To get there, though, will take some


To understand the lives of King and

Buchanan, one must inherently understand politics, of which much of this book

consists. This is necessary, since it also shows division between the two men,

ultimately both physically and emotionally; the scrappy political competition

in which they engaged; and an untraversable gulf of disagreement — facets that,

individually and together, are fascinating. Readers will clearly see the

affection between the two men here, though we’ll never completely know the true

nature of it: possibly-argument-settling written communication between the two

disappeared shortly after the Civil War.

That sets up a

delicious double-mystery that leaves you to make up your own mind: letters lost

or tossed? Bosom Friends, or more than that?  If you’re curious to know, this book will

keep you tethered to your chair.

A Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir by Edie Windsor
with Joshua Lyon
c.2019, St. Martin’s Press $27.99 / $37.99 Canada 274 pages

There’s a long line

of people behind you.

Some are

afraid to be seen, to speak up, or to show up. Others don’t want to get

involved, so they’re sitting this one out. One thing, though: they’re all

watching to see what you do next because, as in the new memoir, A Wild and

Precious Life by Edie Windsor with Joshua Lyon, someone’s got to be first.

There was never any doubt that little Edie

Schlain was fiercely adored.

The youngest child of the family, Edie grew

up wanting to be like her big sister, protected by her big brother, and the

apple of her parents’ eyes. She admits that she was “spoiled” then, not in a

bad way but just enough to give her the confidence and brass a child of the

Depression might need.

She remembered the beginning of World War

II, although not in the sense that most did: her recollections were of a

houseful of boys, her brother’s friends, laughing and eating and gathering in

her parents’ home before going off to war, and mourning when word arrived of

those who’d never come home. Edie always liked boys and as she matured, she

bantered with her brother’s friends although she occasionally thought it odd

how much she liked watching other girls.

“The idea that anything physically intimate

with a girl could happen simply did not exist,” she said.

Edie Windsor

But eventually, it did, with a tennis partner in college, then with a

female roommate she loved before realizing that there was “no other available

reality” than to fall into lockstep with other young women of the 1950s, settle

down, and marry a nice man.

The marriage lasted six months.

At the end, Edie, who’d convinced her

husband to adapt the surname “Windsor,” realized that she needed to tell him

the truth. Pondering how to tell him, she immersed herself in Judy

Garland “fantasy” musicals, and she planned: “Guess what, Judy? I’m a


“If you’re looking to read about Edie’s

Supreme Court case, put this down …” says co-author Joshua Lyon in his preface.

But don’t be too hasty: A Wild and Precious Life has enough to offer,

all by itself.

Indeed, though he still touches upon the fight that helped achieve

marriage equality, Lyon says that Windsor “desperately wanted” readers to know

about her pioneering work in computers and technology, which was a “core part

of her identity” and of which she was enormously proud. In her words here,

which Lyon indicates that she edited herself, Windsor also woos readers with

breezy wit, racy love stories, and seemingly casual-not-casual, semi-nonchalant

depictions of being a lesbian in the mid-twentieth-century, and what it was

like living in the shadows but flirting hard with the light.

Early in this book, Lyon says he fretted about how to finish it after Windsor died, but he needn’t have worried. Though its ending feels a little rushed, A Wild and Precious Life flows perfectly and entertains delightfully, making it a book you’ll want in front of you. 

WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less