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Robert La Tourneaux
DiedJune 3, 1986 (aged 46)
Place of deathNew York City, New York, USA

Robert La Tourneaux (1940[1] – 3 June 1986) was an American actor best known for his role of Cowboy, the good-natured but dim hustler hired as a birthday present for a gay man, in the original Off-Broadway production and 1970 film version of The Boys in the Band.[2]


La Tourneaux made his Broadway theatre debut in the 1967 musical Illya Darling. In 1968, he was part of the ensemble for Mart Crowley’s play The Boys in the Band, which opened on April 14, 1968 at Theater Four in New York City.[3] The advertisement for the film version used head shots of Leonard Frey and La Tourneaux, with La Tourneaux identified as the "present" for Frey’s birthday-celebrating character. Many newspapers refused to run the advertisement.[2]

La Tourneaux’s career stalled after the film version of The Boys in the Band was released. His only other film performances were a supporting part in the Roger Corman film Von Richthofen and Brown (1971) and the independent film Pilgrimage.[4][5] He also had a small role in a 1974 made-for-television version of the Maxim Gorky play Enemies.

On stage, La Tourneaux appeared in a small role in a Broadway revival of The Merchant of Venice; he was slated to appear in the 1977 Broadway production of Tennessee WilliamsVieux Carré, but was dropped from the cast prior to the show’s opening.[2]

The openly gay La Tourneaux initially blamed his being typecast as a gay hustler for his inability to receive worthwhile roles, stating in a 1973 interview, "Boys was the kiss of death for me.”[2] In the 1978 anthology Quentin Crisp’s Book of Quotations, La Tourneaux compared his career to another gay actor by saying, "Charles Laughton played every kind of part, but never a homosexual. People knew he was gay, but his public image (which included a wife) never betrayed his public reality. So he was safe. I wasn’t safe."[2]

Unable to secure work as an actor La Tourneaux began nude modeling in gay men's magazines and in 1978 performed nude in a one-man cabaret act at the Ramrod, a New York City theater showing gay pornography films. He eventually became a prostitute.[6]

He also gave an interview to a gay magazine naming his famous married closeted bisexual lovers, alleging one of them to have been Academy award-winning actor Christopher Walken. He also accused Walken of having an affair with another married actor, Robert Wagner, on the night of actress Natalie Wood's (Wagner's wife) unexplained death.[2] In 1983, La Tourneaux was arrested for assault after trying to extract money from a client and was incarcerated at the Rikers Island prison.[2] While in prison, La Torneaux attempted suicide.[6]

In the early 1980s, La Tourneaux contracted AIDS, and received news coverage when he sought legal channels to prevent being evicted from his apartment when his landlord objected to the presence of a live-in caregiver. La Tourneaux won the court case, but died in Metropolitan Hospital on June 3, 1986.[7] Boys co-star Cliff Gorman and his wife cared for him during his illness until his death.[8]


  • The Doctors (1963 TV series)
  • Illya Darling (1967 Broadway production)
  • The Boys in the Band (1968 play)
  • The Boys in the Band (1970 film)
  • Von Richthofen and Brown (1971 film)
  • Pilgrimage (1972 film)
  • The Merchant of Venice (1973 Broadway production)
  • Enemies (1974 TV film)


  1. Headstone inscription, St. Paul Evangelical Cemetery in Columbia, Illinois. Also, he graduated from Lindbergh High School in St. Louis, Missouri in 1958, indicating a birth year of 1940, not 1945.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Hadleigh, Boze (2007). Broadway Babylon. New York: Back Stage Books, 19, 180–182, 339. ISBN 0-8230-8830-8. Retrieved on 2009-01-03. 
  3. Lortel Archives listing. Retrieved on 2009-01-03.
  4. Filmography for Robert La Tourneaux. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved on 2008-11-22.
  5. “Pilgrimage,” AllMovie Guide
  6. 6.0 6.1 Kaiser, Charles (2007). The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America. New York: Grove Press, 191. ISBN 0-8021-4317-2. 
  7. Michael Riedel. "Boys to Men Successes and Sorrows", The Daily News, 23 June 1996. Retrieved on 2008-11-23. 
  8. The Boys in the Band DVD, "The Film" special feature

External links

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