Ralph Meeker is Gay, or rather, Ralph Meeker is Gay?




Yesterday, at the Festival, someone was telling an anecdote about the actor Ralph Meeker. The anecdote itself is not worth repeating but the takeaway for me was that Ralph Meeker, according to this person’s mother, was gay and struggled with playing the course, virile Hal in the original Broadway production of Picnic. Obviously, as an actor who often plays heterosexuals (though usually less course, virile ones) I was reminded of the on going challenge for the gay actor playing straight. I suppose in some ways it was easier and then in some ways more difficult. And then, I thought I would do a little google sleuthing to find out more stories about Meeker’s sexuality. I found nothing. Nothing on IMDB, nothing on Wikipedia, even gayorstraight.com said he was heterosexual. So, who knows. I will say that looking at old pictures, I do wish he was gay, he is a heartthrob. Maybe it’s a little inappropriate to out an actor who does not seem keen on being outed from his grave, but I suppose at the end of the day, Ralph Meeker was an actor. I’m sure he’s just glad people are still talking about him.


20 thoughts on “Ralph Meeker is Gay, or rather, Ralph Meeker is Gay?

  1. He certainly is (was) a heart throb of a MAN — Maybe he could have been swayed to dally if the moment had been right !

  2. “struggled with playing the course, virile Hal in the original Broadway production of Picnic.”

    There’s your clue that the story is probably not true. Even in his earliest film roles, before Picnic, Meeker is virile to the point of being macho, and, while I wouldn’t call any of his roles “coarse”, he was very masculine indeed in everything I’ve seen him do. While he was a very good actor, I don’t think the masculinity in his performances was acting. It’s too consistent.

    I don’t mean that gay men can’t be masculine, but if that part of the story is false, why would the rest of it be true?

    In his prime, Meeker was extremely attractive, so we also have to consider the tendency of many gay men to claim that every handsome actor is homosexual or at least bisexual.

    Putting those two things together, I think this guy’s claim sounds like wishful thinking, conveniently attributed to his mother to be less obvious.

      • Michael, well, the fact of marriage doesn’t necessarily equate with any facts of one’s sexual predisposition (or fidelity). And really persuasive homosexual actors can lead one to think they’re heterosexual, or (in rare instances) vice versa. Need we mention Rock Hudson, for example? As we know, his disclosure of having had complications of AIDS had him out himself, toward the end of his life. Still, more perceptive viewers, could discern hints on screen that Hudson (or other actors) was likely gay. As for Mr. Meeker, I think it not likely, but who really knows? It’s none of my business anyway, since he himself didn’t make the question anyone else’s public business. I regard, admire, and respect the man’s work. That’s all that matter to me. But, with anyone one regards in that way, how can we not hope for that person’s well-being and happiness. That that person is not being beaten down by life and/or is beating himself/herself down?

  3. Unfortunately, Ralph had problems with too much alcohol which would have made him, probably, hard to deal with in real life. Such a shame that booze probably not only made him less desirable as an actor, but seemed to mar his once striking physique and very good looks. In the 1950s he looked like the type you would just want to snuggle with in bed. Whether or not he went both ways while he was living, as we remember him now I don’t think it’s doing any disservice to that memory by thinking of him in the ways we would have wanted to know him personally. If there is life after death and he is aware of all of how we still remember him, I hope and am fairly sure he wouldn’t have any objection at all.

    • You have it right ! . . Ralph was a terrific actor very effective portraits in many movies, one of my favorite actors . . . You can imagine how excited I was to meet him , I told him how happy I was to meet him and loved his movies. That’s it!
      I knew he was a serious alcoholic, but he put me down like I was a damn cockroach. . I met lots of celebs of the old days never got such rudeness from any except maybe Kevin Kennedy also a nasty one . . Aside from my disillusionment , I felt he was a very unhappy guy , it was 1971 or so . . . The unhappiness just oozed from that guy , too bad . . . Maybe he hated me because I was the one who sold him booze when I worked in the classy liquor store on Madison Ave. NY . . . Don’t know if he was gay or not . . . Regards to all. . .

  4. Eileen Heckart said he was gay. Her son is a gay writer. She told him Ralph “stuffed” his crotch with whatever to give the impression he was virile in “Picnic”. – Good material for his book, is all. Eileen Heckart’s son’s gossip is nothing more than that. Meeker was as heterosexual as they come.

  5. In that context, ‘stuffing’ one’s crotch could be considered a costume choice, much as anything else an actor might choose to do in their interpretation of a character they’re portraying. If that was the only, or primary, basis of Eileen Heckart’s conclusion, with all due respect to her as an actress, that would be laughable.

    Side note: In the comments section of Heckart’s son’s YouTube channel, I actually took polite issue with him, for a cavalier statement made by him, to a video of Meeker’s performance in the live-stage production of “Picnic.” Basically, his statement presumed that Meeker was a homosexual. His conjecture and tone, to me, was inappropriate and amounted to gossip. I asked him to name the source, if any, for his presumption that Meeker was gay (he did not answer that question). I also asked him if his presumption of Meeker’s alleged homosexuality was anyone’s business, if it had any relevance to one’s appreciation of Meeker’s exceptional artistic talents and his body of work. I also asked him how might he (Heckart’s son) feel if someone had made such a public presumption, about something very private, about him or someone he cared about, no matter what the subject matter might entail. To his credit, the son did respond promptly. And receptively. He said my point was taken, and he did remove his inappropriate comment from the comment thread then and there. Unfortunately, he removed all of that particular thread, thus having censored all the statements in it, including others’ and mine. That, of course, saved face for him, but, in my mind, he shouldn’t have done it. Instead, I think he should’ve placed an apology, for his comment, in that same thread. But it’s his channel, so his choice. His mother was a terrific actress. And, though I appreciate some of the videos he uploads on his channel, he does seem to use his channel, at least in part, for blatant self-promotion for his book: on his mother and her acting career (and whatever other gossip, and facts, are contained in it). I sincerely wished him well, but I can’t say much as to his integrity, at least in that context. Which is unfortunate. So, grain of salt, as to Heckart’s claim? At the least, I’d say so.

  6. I don’t believe Ralph was gay. He was madly in love with my mother, at one time, actress Neva Patterson. I have his love letters he sent her and the photo book he created for her. It would appear they almost married.

  7. Does anyone know if Ralph had children? There’s an actor who’s probably in his late 50’s or early 60’s by now who used to be on One Life To Live(I forget which character he played) who strongly resembles him in my honest opinion.

    • In the book Just Outside The Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart, 2021, her son Luke wrote the biography of his famous mother. The book was based on all the conversations with his mother.

      Eileen Heckart appeared on Broadway in Picnic with Meeker. See the photo above of her dancing with Meeker. On page 48 of the book she had stated that Ralph Meeker was gay and how he felt insecure in playing Hal. Plus she mentioned what he did to overcome his insecurity. Frankly, I don’t understand the basis of his insecurity. In 1948 Meeker understudied for Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway!! Directed by Kazan. When Brando left the show in 1949, Meeker took over the leading role. Talk about a macho role.

      If you look under Youtube and search under Ralph Meeker you will see that the cast of Picnic performed one scene on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s good.

      Ralph Meeker has been called an actor’s actor. If you’ve seen the film Something Wild, 1961, his performance is outstanding.

      I would like to have known him

  8. No, Meeker was NOT gay. According to a well known lady who slept with many well known celebrities, and who chronicled it the modern update of Hollywood Babylon, Liz Renay described his lovemaking skills. HOWEVER, she also describes how he offered to let Bi Paul Newman to service him in an early play.

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