WASHINGTON — A new book contends that former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover was a homosexual who was blackmailed by the Mafia into denying the existence of organized crime for decades.
Author Anthony Summers writes in his book, "Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover," that top organized crime figures Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello obtained photos of Hoover's alleged homosexual activity with longtime aide Clyde Tolson and used them to ensure that the FBI did not target their illegal activities.
There long have been rumors that Hoover was homosexual, often arising from his sharing a bachelor house with Tolson for years. Hoover was FBI director from 1924 until he died in 1972. Tolson is also dead.
Another Hoover biographer who heard the rumors of homosexuality and blackmail, however, said he was unable to corroborate them.
As head of the FBI, Hoover obtained information about the sexual lives of Washington's power elite, including John and Robert Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and others, according to a number of biographers.
Summers' book, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, is excerpted in the March edition of Vanity Fair and is the subject of a documentary scheduled to air on PBS' "Frontline" program.
This is the fifth book written by Summers, a former British Broadcasting Corp. journalist.
The new book quotes two former Office of Strategic Services officials who said they saw pictures of Hoover engaged in a sexual act with Tolson. One, John Weitz, said he could not recognize anyone in the photo he was shown at a dinner party in the 1950s but was told by his host, whom he would not identify, that it depicted Hoover and Tolson.
Summers writes that electronics expert Gordon Novel said that CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton, now deceased, showed him several photos, including one of Hoover engaged in sexual activity with Tolson.
Summers writes that the Mafia may have obtained the photos from the OSS, the forerunner to the CIA. He offers the theory that OSS chief William Donovan and Hoover, while feuding over control of foreign intelligence, investigated each other and Donovan came up with the photos.
The Summers book quotes Susan Rosenstiel, the fourth wife of alleged mobster and liquor distributor Lewis Solon Rosenstiel, as saying she saw Hoover dressed in women's clothes and involved in homosexual play at sex parties at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
At one such party in 1959, she recalled seeing Hoover with "a red dress on and a black feather boa round his neck. . . . After about a half an hour, some boys came, like before. This time they're dressed in leather. And Hoover has a Bible. He wanted one of the boys to read from the Bible, and he read, I forget which passage."
She said the other boy engaged in sexual activity with Hoover.