The Secrets of J. Edgar Hoover

FBI chief for (astonishingly) almost half a century (from 1924-1972), hypocrite, paranoid, autocrat, malevolent power-broker, J. Edgar Hoover (John Edgar Hoover), rabid right-wing ideologue, virulent anti-Communist, died fifty years ago, May 2nd, on this day.

Hard to convey the political impact of his singular reign – the mountain of “files” that accrued, the creation of a climate of fear and suspicion, unwarranted investigation of private lives, monitoring dissent, the perpetuation of the Cold War, flagrant and abiding intrusion of civil liberties.

Allen Ginsberg’s files (pages of which were released in 2015, following a Freedom of Information request filed by Shawn Musgrave and the tenacious and invaluable MuckRock)
may be surveyed here

Allen was, of course, wise to Hoover and Hoover’s nefarious corruption early on – and its basis in potential blackmail and hypocrisy.

Recollecting (in 2004, for David Carter’s ground-breaking  book Stonewall)

“I dreamed that J. Edgar Hoover groped me in a silent hall of the Capitol…”  (Allen, improvising on the soundtrack to Jonas Mekas’ 1962  film, Guns of The Trees)

“There was one rather tall young guy, rather portly, who later became an insurance executive who went down to Washington and was wandering through the upper corridors of some very good hotel right near the White House and was accosted for erotic purposes by J Edgar Hoover no less, and told me about that in 1947.  So I always had Hoover’s number though it was difficult to prove, Like Cardinal Spellman, another gent who was supposed to be a closet queen and supposedly had young men accompany him on his trips. This was of course never breathed in the newspaper, although both of those guys were fervent anti- Communists and heavy moralists and all in favor of all sorts of censorship….”

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, speaking in 1961: “Ever since the war, the Communist fronts and the beatniks (sic) and the eggheads (sic) have conducted a national chorus of denunciation…”

Then there were these lines (from “Hadda Be Playing on The Jukebox” (1975):

“It had to be FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and Frank Costello syndicate mouthpiece meeting in Central Park, New York weekends, reported Time magazine..’

The Time magazine news-clip from that year alluded to runs as follows:

“During the 1940s Hoover was reluctant to move against organized crime. Some FBI agents think they know why. They tell stories of Hoover sometimes traveling to Manhattan to meet one of the Mafia’s top figures, Frank Costello. The two would meet in Central Park. Costello apparently convinced Hoover that there was no organized Mafia—merely a loose collection of independent racketeers. (Some agents figure that Hoover also picked up some choice incidental tips from Gambler Costello on the Director’s passionately pursued avocation—laying $2 bets on the horses.) Hoover did not get cracking on the Mob until Attorney General Robert Kennedy insisted that he do so in 1961.”

Allen again (to Obie Benz, director of the movie Heavy Petting in 1989):  “(He) insisted there was no organized crime. In fact in those years, (the 1940’s) I had the fantasy that the Mafia might have secret movies of J.Edgar Hoover in the basement with some big hairy Mafia Lothario and were blackmailing him so he’d lay off organized crime, because he insisted there was no organized crime.”

turns out that Allen’s dark and entirely logical fantasies weren’t so very far from the truth – not “secret movies”  but compromising stills – of Hoover giving his lover, Clyde Tolson oral sex (one source reveals “there was more than one shot but the startling one was a close shot of Hoover’s head. He was totally recognizable. You could not see the face of the man who he was with but (James) Angleton (CIA Counter-Intelligence chief at the time, and one of a number who had viewed them) said (unequivocally) it was Tolson”).

Clyde Tolson and J.Edgar Hoover

and regarding the gambling and bribery accusation:

Chicago Mafioso,  Chuck Giancana:  “(Frank Costello) worked the whole thing out. He knew Hoover was just like any other politician or copper only meaner and smarter than most. Hoover didn’t want an envelope each month…so we never gave him cash outright. we gave him something better – tips on fixed horse-races. He could bet ten thousand dollars on a horse that showed twenty-to-one odds, if he wanted…and he has”

Hoover was able to maintain his blackmailed and blackmailing power right up until his death.

The publication in 1993, however, of Anthony Summers’  “Official and Confidential –  The Secret Life of J.Edgar Hoover broke something of the spell.

See Summers’ updated note on his revelations – here

Allen’s response to the revelations in that (deeply-researched and definitive) book can be seen in a contemporaneous report –“Poet Wants Media To Probe Hoover”

Robert Medley in The Oklahoman, March 10 1993:

Allen Ginsberg wants to see a picture of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wearing a dress on The New York Times’ front page.”

Allen was serious about the playing-down of Hoover’s duplicity

“The poet and political activist complained Hoover’s rumored cross-dressing has been treated only as a tabloid story, since it has been printed as supermarket fodder, instead of New York’s finest news fit to print.
Ginsberg espouses an opinion that Hoover’s own closet secrets were used as blackmail by the Mafia during Hoover’s 48-year-long tenure.
He also blames the alleged Hoover blackmail as the reason America now does not have an organized left-wing party as France does.
He said the Mafia used pictures of Hoover in a dress to force the FBI director into targeting Communists and crushing the labor union uprisings of the 1930s, instead of going after organized crime.
Current and former FBI officials have said the rumors about Hoover are false..”

Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

“Ginsberg also said The New York Times has buried the story in book review sections. He also criticized local newspapers.. for not carrying the Hoover rumors. The Oklahoman ran the book review in February. The New York Times editors “are not treating it as a legitimate story. They are treating it just as a book,” he said during a reception in the Oklahoma Memorial Union Ballroom after his (recent) reading..”

Power-plays and secrecy – arrogance and corruption – reverberations – Fifty years have passed since the death, aged 77, from heart-disease, of this once all-powerful, much-feared, much-detested man (he died, fittingly, with the Watergate affair just about to explode onto the national stage)

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