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Gay History, Gay Celebrities, Gay Icons

Gay History celebrates the lives of famous gay men, gay celebrities and gay icons from the worlds of Film/TV, Art, Design, Music, Literature, Business and Politics. 200+ Intimate Profiles - Tchaikovsky to George Michael, Oscar Wilde to Truman Capote, Salvador Dali to David Hockney, Yves St Laurent to Gianni Versace, Rock Hudson to Stephen Fry to name but a few - they form a vast and exciting part of gay history.
Lionel Begleiter (Bart)
Life Span: 1st August 1930 - 3rd April 1999
Star Sign: Leo
Famous as: Composer, lyricist
Childhood: He was the youngest of seven surviving children of a Jewish family in the East End of London. His father worked as a tailor in a garden shed in London E1. The family had escaped the pogroms in Galicia which was then part of the Austrian Empire.
When Bart was six a teacher told his parents that he was a musical genius. His parents gave him an old violin, but he did not apply himself and the lessons stopped.

Education: At the age of 16 he obtained a scholarship to St Martin's School of Art but he was expelled for "mischievousness", and he gave up his ambition to be a painter. However, he took jobs in silk-screen printing and commercial art studios.

Work: He entered National Service in the Royal Air Force. After leaving this, he borrowed £50 and set up a printing business in Hackney with John Gorman who he had met in the RAF.He joined the Communist Party. Soon after, he began his musical career by arranging a cabaret for the left-leaning International Youth Centre. In 1952 he wrote, with John Gold, the annual IYC review with a story about Robin Hood. For the leftist Unity Theatre he wrote the lyrics for an agit-prop version of 'Cinderella'.
After seeing St Bartholomews hospital ("Barts") when passing by on a bus he changed his name to Bart. His work included writing comedy songs for the Sunday lunchtime BBC radio programme the Billy Cotton Band Show.
In September 1956 he saw Tommy Hicks performing guitar in a Soho coffee bar. He signed him up to perform in a group called the Cavemen. Bart persuaded John Kennedy and Larry Parnes to see Tommy Hicks perform. They were impressed and they signed him up and he adopted the stage name Tommy Steele.
The musical 'Twang!!' in 1965 was a flop but he tried to prop up its failing finances with his own money. He sold the rights to his past and future works, including those of 'Oliver!' to keep himself solvent but he still ended up declaring himself bankrupt in 1972. This led to a decade of drinking in his flat in Acton. He was banned from driving in 1975 for driving under the influence of drink, and he was banned again in 1983 for two years.
His old friend John Gorman reappeared to help Bart sort out his life. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous and gave up drinking. He also took his diabetes more seriously.
He gained attention again in the 1980s with a new version of 'Livin' Doll' with satirical words.
Cameron Mackintosh, who owned half the rights to 'Oliver!' revived a the musical at the London Paladium in 1994 in a version rewritten by Lionel Bart. Cameron Mackintosh gave Lionel Bart a share of the production royalties.
Although Lionel Bart was known to be gay by those in the theatre world he was often publicly romantically linked with Judy Garland or Alma Cogan. He did not regard himself to be publically out as being gay until the 1990s. On 3rd April, 1999, Bart died of cancer, aged 68.

Friends & Relationships: His friends included Noel Coward, Brian Epstein, Judy Garland, Alma Cogan, and Shirley Bassey. He spent weekends in Mustique with Princess Margaret. He was great friends with John Gorman, who wrote of their companionship in his autobiography. Here is a quote from the book's blurb:

"The roots of his lasting friendship with Lionel Begleiter, the Jewish lad from Stepney, who was to achieve world fame as the lyricist and composer, Lionel Bart, is told for the first time. From the moment of their first meeting in 1948, and their national service in the RAF, Gorman traces the formative years when they worked together, struggling to build a successful design and screen printing company."

Greatest Achievements: Bart won three Ivor Novello Awards in 1957, four in 1959, and two in 1960. In 1960 he was given the Variety Club Silver Heart for Show Business Personality of the Year. Bart's greatest success was the musical 'Oliver!'. It opened at the New Theatre (later to become the Albery Theatre) on 30th. June, 1960 and received 23 curtain calls. It ran for 2618 performances in London. It opened on Broadway in 1963 and ran their for 774 performances. The 1968 film version, directed by Carol Reed, won several Oscars, including Best Picture. In 1986 he received a special Ivor Novello Award for his life's achievement.

Comment: It was a great pity that Bart’s prodigality meant he sold off the rights to his greatest creation Oliver! As that meant his income dwindled. He was always a man of excess but in the later part of his life he did give up drink and drugs and lived a comparatively happy and contented life.


Work: Rock with the Caveman, 1957, a song written with Michael Pratt for Tommy Steele. A Handful of Songs, 1957, a song for Tommy Steele. Received the 1957 Songwriters Guild Ivor Novello Award for outstanding song of the year. Water, Water, 1957, a song.
Received the 1957 Songwr iters Guild Ivor Novello Award for best novelty song. The Tommy Steele Story, 1957, score for the film. Received the 1957 Songwriters Guild Ivor Novello Award for outstanding film score. Wally Pone, King of the Underworld, a musical . Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, 1959,a musical, written with Frank Norman.
Livin' Doll, 1959, a song written for Cliff Richard (Harry Webb) who had his first No 1 hit with it. Received the 1959 Songwriters Guild Ivor Novello Award for best selling song. LittleWhite Bull, 1959, a song for Tommy Steele. Received the 1959 Songwriters Guild Ivor Novello Award for best novelty song. Lock Up Your Daughters, 1959, a musical. Received the 1959 Songwriters Guild Ivor Novello Award for outstanding score of the year. Do You Mind, a song for Anthony Newley Oliver!, 1960, West End musical.
Received two Songwriters Guild Ivor Novello Awards. Received a Tony Award. Blitz!, 1962, a musical Sparrows Can't Sing, 1963, title song and theme music for the film. From Russia With Love, 1964, a song for Matt Monro, used as the title song of the James Bond film. Maggie May, 1964, a musical. Received the 1964 Songwriters Guild Ivor Novello Award for outstanding score of the year. Won the Critics' Poll as Best new British musical. Twang!!, 1965, a musical. La Strada, 1969, a musical. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, score for a television film starring Kirk Douglas (not shown in Britain).

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