19. Paul Lynde
By Mike Albo
�I�m Liberace without a piano,� Paul Lynde once said. It could have been on one of his TV specials, or a �70s talk show like Dinah Shore�s, or during his legendary stint as the center square on Hollywood Squares.
He was not kidding. The comedian and actor was full of tongue-in-cheek one-liners, usually delivered with a withering voice, his hand fluttering up to his ascot. Except for Liberace, and maybe Snagglepuss, there was no one else on TV that shamelessly gay.
Lynde was something rare: A popular gay man on TV who wasn�t a punch line. Instead, he made them:
Host: Why do Hell�s Angels wear leather?
Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.
While he is most recognizable for his stint as the center square, Lynde had a long career in theater, film, and television. He wasn�t out of the closet, but he certainly wasn�t trying to butch it up. The man appeared in People magazine in a caftan.
�He was so blatantly gay that nobody believed it. This is the world that thought Rock Hudson and Rip Taylor were straight,� says Michael Airington, an actor who portrays the comedian in his show Oh My Goodness�it�s Paul Lynde. �He was a total fruitcake, but that was partly what made you laugh. A straight man couldn�t do that kind of biting comedy.�
Lynde, like most funny people, had a challenging childhood. An overweight kid who longed to be famous, he grew up poor and lost his mother, brother, and father
in one year.
�At Halloween Mom would hand me the shower curtain. And it didn�t fit. So she let it out and I went as the Hindenburg. It was a disaster,� he said on his 1976 Halloween special with guest stars KISS, Florence Henderson, Donnie and Marie Osmond, and Roz �Pinky Tuscadero� Kelly. Do yourself a favor and YouTube the disco finale (see above).