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Tag: Clyde Tolson

Column: The Truth About the FBI’s Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s Confidante

 

J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson/fbi photo

By Larry Wack
Retired FBI Agent

In a Jan. 5, 2012 Los Angeles Times article, reporter Amy Dawes asked Armie Hammer a series of questions regarding his role as the FBI’s Clyde Tolson in the movie “J. Edgar.”

In commenting on Tolson, Hammer is quoted by Ms. Dawes saying, in part:

“But he was also very smart and confident; he was a hotshot, and he could get away with things. Like putting on his FBI application that he had no interest in women — that was brazen, for back then.”

But Hammer didn’t just mention Tolson’s FBI application to the LA Times. He used the subject matter with others. For one example, in a November, 2011 interview with “New York Movies” reporter David Keeps quotes Hammer stating:

“Back then, to be publicly gay, you were done for. But even in his application to the FBI, Tolson said he had no interest in marrying or being with a woman,” Hammer says. “While not fully out, he knew who he was and almost embraced it.”

In reality, there wasn’t anything “brazen” about Tolson’s entry on his application as Hammer tells the LA Times. Furthermore, Tolson was not really embracing who he was as Hammer alleges.

That’s because Tolson didn’t write anything of the sort on his Bureau application. Tolson’s 1928 Bureau application which I have reviewed, and long available and on the internet since at least 2002, reveals there is no such wording as “no interest in women; no interest in marrying or being with a woman” as Hammer claims. In fact, there’s nothing even remotely close. In section nine of his application the only thing Tolson entered about his marital status at the time was that he was “Single.”

However, in the interest of “full disclosure,” although Tolson made no such statements, a further review of his background investigation does reveal an FBI interview with a “reference” listed by Tolson. That reference was one John Martyn, Executive Secretary for the Secretary Of War.  The FBI interview of Martyn in 1928 reveals him mentioning what Hammer says were Tolson’s words.  Martyn stated in part to Bureau agents:

“Mr. Martyn states it is his understanding that applicant is making his own way through school; that he has shown no particular interest in women; that his habits and associates have always been of the best.”

We know from reading the entire Martyn statement that Tolson’s drinking habits (of which he had none) are discussed within the same paragraph.  (Report of SA C. D. White, Washington Field Office, 2/7/28, Vol. 2, serial 15 of Tolson’s released file)

It is well known that early FBI applicant investigations (much like today) covered four areas of concern; Character, Ability, Reputation and Qualifications. Public FBI documents reveal these exact four words being utilized in “form letter” communications directed from FBI headquarters to the Field with regard to agent applicant investigations and are readily seen in Tolson’s file.

Now that we know the truth as to the origin of “no particular interest in women,” the totality of the content and the investigative areas being discussed with Martyn, the phrase takes on a far different meaning than the one we’re expected to accept from Hammer.

Clearly, Martyn is discussing with Special Agent White (above) Tolson’s habits, associates, his drinking and the investigative questioning no doubt involved what type of women Tolson entertained. No doubt SA White was attempting to determine if Tolson had any particular interests in “certain women.” This line of questioning regarding Tolson’s “habits and associates” would have been consistent with Hoover’s demands for men of high moral standards.

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that Tolson was employed by the War Department when he submitted his FBI application in 1928. As Martyn mentions, “he (Tolson) was putting himself through [law] school.” No doubt working full time, Tolson didn’t have much time for dating. Tolson’s application reveals that at the time of submission, he was studying for his LL.M academic degree at Georgetown University. ( background summary 2/23/28)

We now know that Hammer’s claims about what Tolson said on his application are wrong, but what about the insinuation the claims entail? From the context of that time-period, it is clear that Martyn was not making any allusions to Tolson’s sexual preferences.  Had this been the case, it would have been immediately recognized by the interviewing agent and further questioning about Tolson’s sexuality issues would have been made for fear of him being a security risk inside the FBI.

Tolson’s file reflects there was no further questioning along those lines with Martyn or any of Tolson’s numerous personal references. Furthermore, it’s painfully obvious from Tolson’s file that those reviewing SA White’s report, including his Special Agent In-Charge and those at FBI headquarters, didn’t see Martyn’s comment as a reference to Tolson’s sexual preferences. If they had, it would have been a red flag to them and duly noted in the file.

Hammer’s claims about Tolson’s FBI application are without merit and a severe distortion of the historical record.

Copyright 2012, Larry E. Wack. Mr. Wack spent twenty eight years as a Special Agent with the FBI. Now retired, he researches the early Bureau and the “G-Men” of the 1930’s. Mr. Wack is not a spokesman for the FBI or the Society of Former Special Agents Of The FBI. The term “FBI” is utilized herein to maintain clarity although in 1928, its name was the “Bureau Of Investigation.”

Contact Info: Larry Wack can be contacted direct at: rypublish@verizon.net

A website on his research, above, is maintained at: http://historicalgmen.squarespace.com

 

Retired FBI Employee Who Helped Crew in “J. Edgar” Reflects on Movie and Power of Hollywood

Rex Tomb served in the FBI from 1968 until his retirement in 2006. For most of his career he served in the Office of Public Affairs, retiring as Chief of its Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit.
 

Rex Tomb

By Rex Tomb
for ticklethewire.com

About a year ago I received a telephone call from my former boss at the FBI. No biggie. Usually they call to tell me that a former colleague is retiring or that maybe someone I know is ill or transferring. This call however, was different. He told me that some people were coming to town and that they were producing a feature film about the life of J. Edgar Hoover. Would I give them a tour of Mr. Hoover’s old office? I immediately agreed to do so.

I am not a historian, nor can I claim to have known Mr. Hoover, though in a couple of those “my brushes with fame” moments, I did catch glimpses of him and even exchanged a few words with the man (very few). To say however, that I knew him? When he was alive, I worked in the mail room and conducted FBI tours. We weren’t on a first name basis. I served under him for the first four years of my FBI career which, by the way, stretched from 1968 until my retirement in 2006.

In the early 1970s, I was given an assignment that enabled me to obtain a very good knowledge of how Mr. Hoover’s office had been laid out: Who sat where, where the entrances were, where some of the furniture stood, etc. Mr. Hoover’s office was in the Department of Justice Building which is located in Washington, D.C. Several years ago the building underwent an extensive renovation. Much of the building’s interior was gutted and rebuilt, making it much harder for newer people to know exactly where things were. Since I live only a few miles away and was available, I was called.

While some parts of Mr. Hoover’s office suite no longer exist, I was still able to show them Mr. Hoover’s old conference room, his working office as well as his secretary’s office. The movie production people that I met with could not have been nicer. I liked them then, and I still do. They were intelligent, courteous and very kind. I also tried to recommend that they telephone some people who actually knew Mr. Hoover. Believe it or not, there are still a few around. They were appreciative, but it was obvious that they had already been in touch with some of them. Researchers who work on major film productions are notoriously efficient.

After the tour, I eagerly anticipated the film’s release, and several weeks ago, “J. Edgar” which was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer, came to Washington area movie theaters. The night I went to see it the theater was packed.

Read more »

Wall Street Journal Says of “J Edgar” Film: It’s a “Mixed Bag”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Expect in coming days the to see some reviews on the upcoming move “J Edgar”. Some folks got a sneak preview of the film this week that opens nationwide on Nov. 11, and Nov. 9 in selected cities.

Yes, in the movie, Hoover kisses his trusted sidekick Clyde Tolson and yes, Hoover even pops on a dress.

Here’s a review that appears on the “Speakeasy” webpage of the Wall Street Journal:

“The movie was a mixed bag, showcasing J. Edgar Hoover’s seminal role as the dude that brought the FBI to life. But on the flip side, a conundrum – a man completely dedicated to his career, let alone the betterment of his country, without a personal life, yet striving to connect with those closest to him. These include his mother (Judi Dench), his secretary (Naomi Watts) and his 2nd in command, not to mention his ‘closest’ friend (left to interpretation) Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). The good thing about the film is that it leaves the relationship ambiguous. There is a genuine love and respect between the characters of J. Edgar and Clyde, but Eastwood tap-dances around just what that may be.”

“To recap (without spoilers): Okay. Leo does put on a dress. That doesn’t make him Ed Wood. He does kiss Hammer. Does that make him gay? Maybe. But realistically, does it matter? This is the guy who managed to expand our fingerprinting system and better equip us to divide the guilty from the innocent. Hammer (aka, the duo known as Winklevoss in “The Social Network”) said this of kissing Leo vs. Lily Collins in the upcoming Tarsem-directed “Snow White”: “The kiss with Leo was a lot messier because there was blood and glass involved.” Sounds a little “Twilight”-ish. Hammer shrugged and said , “NEVER.”

Clint Eastwood: “I Don’t Give a Crap if (Hoover) Was Gay or Not.”

DiCaprio as a young J. Edgar Hoover/ mtv photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Leonardo DiCaprio and director Clinton Eastwood for J. Edgar seem to be very circumspect when discussing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s sexuality and their film on Hoover that is set to be released in November.

The film is called “J. Edgar.”

USA Today reports that in an interview in GQ magazine with Mark Harris, Eastwood says:

“I’d heard all the various controversies and gossip—that he wore dresses at parties. Everybody was saying, maybe he’s gay because he’d never gotten married. But that’s the way they did it back in the ’40s. If a guy didn’t get married, they always thought, Oh, there’s something wrong with him.”

Harris then asked: “But didn’t he have something approaching a long-term marriage with Clyde Tolson, associate director of the FBI (played by Armie Hammer)?’

“Well, they were inseparable pals,” says Eastwood. “Now, whether he was gay or not is gonna be for the audience to interpret. It could have been just a great love story between two guys. Or it could have been a great love story that was also a sexual story.”

DiCaprio explains, “What we’re saying is that he definitely had a relationship with Tolson that lasted for nearly fifty years. Neither of them married. They lived close to one another. They worked together every day. They vacationed together. And there was rumored to be more. There are definite insinuations of—well, I’m not going to get into where it goes, but…”

Interrupts Eastwood: “It’s not a movie about two gay guys. It’s a movie about how this guy manipulated everybody around him and managed to stay on through nine presidents. I mean, I don’t give a crap if he was gay or not.”

Adds Leo: “If I were a betting man, I actually don’t know what I would bet [regarding his sexuality].”

 

Movie Depicting Hoover as Having Gay Affair Rankles Some in FBI

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

The bulldog-like mug of J. Edgar Hoover has long been synonymous with the FBI, a world-renowned law enforcement agency forever hyper-sensitive about its public image. Still, Hoover’s legend has taken its lumps over the years.

Now comes the latest: an upcoming movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover, in which the iconic G-man reportedly has a romantic affair with FBI Associate Director Clyde Tolson, his constant companion and alter ego.

Word of the movie — with the working title “J. Edgar” and slated for release later this year — is already stirring feelings among current and former FBI agents and employees, and raises the question: What does the legacy of J. Edgar Hoover mean to today’s FBI?

“Obviously it upsets me when he’s commonly portrayed wearing a dress or having an alleged relationship with Clyde Tolson,” says Terry Booth, a retired FBI agent who works for the bureau as a contract employee for its Law Enforcement Online program. “There are those who choose to believe it and those who choose not to. I think 99 percent of the agents don’t believe it.”

Some agents don’t care how Hoover is sexually portrayed in the movie. But there are plenty of others who do, who admire Hoover and feel his reputation is being unfairly besmirched as head of an agency that is still considered conservative and male dominated.

Whatever the case, there are those who say the FBI has moved on.

Leonardo DiCaprio/photo from his website

“There are certainly people who are protective of his image,” says former FBI official Mike Mason, who left the bureau in 2007 as executive assistant director at headquarters. “As to his entire legacy, I don’t know how much time agents today think about it. I think the FBI has grown beyond the shadow of Mr. Hoover.”

It is certainly not the first time agents have seen Hoover portrayed in a fashion they find less than flattering. There have been articles and books and YouTube videos portraying him as a sexist and carrying on an affair with Tolson — and yes, even being a cross-dresser. In his later years, he was accused of overstepping his bounds, harassing political dissidents, building files on enemies and becoming far too powerful.

But a movie — which can sometimes have broader impact these days than print in shaping public opinion — has some current and former agents and employees uneasy.

Greg Stejskal, a retired 31-year veteran of the FBI and a columnist for the website ticklethewire.com, says Hoover should get credit for creating a first-rate law enforcement agency that lives on today.

“I think most of my generation and prior to that think Hoover has been done a disservice,” said Stejskal, who concedes that Hoover was far from perfect.

“He’s been vilified in the media, in Hollywood,” Stejskal said. “Unfortunately, he’s not around to defend himself. I think he’s blamed for a lot of things. But people forget things like the wiretaps on Martin Luther King were signed off by Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the Kennedy brothers sat around and listened to some of the tapes, and they didn’t complain then.

“If in fact the reports are based on fact and he’s going to be portrayed as having a sexual relation with Clyde Tolson — or alluding to it — I don’t think that’s fair. There’s no evidence. I suspect Hoover was asexual and married to the bureau. I hate to see the new generation take this as fact.”

Hoover first became director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924 and 11 years later helped found the FBI, which he headed up until his death on May 2, 1972, at age 77.

Some agents and former agents referred to him as a trail blazer in law enforcement, a man who created a sophisticated machinery that relied on science and a world-class fingerprint collection and electronic listening devices.

“The guy was probably the founding father of modern law enforcement,” Stejskal said. “Did he do some things wrong? Probably. But there were a lot of good things. I think the FBI is what it is because of Hoover. I think we owe him. The American citizens owe him a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices he made. The worst crime is that he stuck around too long.”

Most agents agreed that the tactics Hoover used early on in his career did not play well, particularly in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the time he left, the FBI had no female employees and relatively few African-Americans.

Former agent Terry Booth says that even though he arrived at the FBI in 1983 after Hoover had long passed, his presence was felt.

“He was a legendary figure we heard about during our entire career,” Booth recalled. “When I was a new agent, I would see an older agent who worked under Hoover and had an autographed picture of him or a letter of commendation signed by Hoover; I was in awe.”

But some agents dismiss concerns about the new movie.

Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry

“First off, who cares?” said one veteran FBI agent who asked not to be named. “I thought a little higher of Mr. Eastwood than that. But I don’t think it hurts the FBI. To me it’s just silliness. Why do it? The guy has been dead since 1972.”

Another agent simply said: “I think the bureau takes the good part of what he did. Without him we don’t have an FBI. He was kind of a visionary. That’s the backbone of how we got started. I think certainly some of the people still in the FBI who worked for him (support staff) drank the Kool-Aid and support him to the end. But I don’t care what he did in his free time. I could care less.”

Added another fellow agent said, “If he were gay today, everyone would applaud it.”

“Is he important? Yes, as the founding father. Is he George Washington? No,” said William M. Baker, who worked under Hoover, was former assistant director of the FBI at headquarters and is a director of the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation.

As for the movie, Baker said: “I think it could do damage to his reputation more than the FBI.”

But he dismisses suggestions that Hoover had a romantic tie to Tolson.

“It would be wrong I think if (Clint Eastwood) goes in that direction in any explicit detail. It would be imagination. I worked with agents who protected him and many who were close to him, and no one ever saw anything between the two men that one could use to jump off to depict a sexual relationship. I believe he was truly married to the FBI.”

It’s Official: DiCaprio to Play Hoover in Clint Eastwood Film

Leonardo DiCaprio/photo from his website

Leonardo DiCaprio/photo from his website

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s official: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio will play J. Edgar Hoover in director Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film on the legendary FBI director.

Eastwood told Reuters news service that “it’s a great role for” DiCaprio and that he was in the process of signing a contract with the popular actor.

Eastwood Monday shot down rumors that actor Joaquin Phoenix would be in the film and play Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s right hand man.

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

Commenting on Hoover, Eastwood told Reuters:

“He was a very complex person. The homosexual aspect is just one of many. I would say that’s the least of his problems. But he was also very clever, whether rightfully or wrongfully, he was very clever about keeping himself in a certain position in life, so it is an interesting study.”

Should be interesting– and controversial.

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