Gertrude & Alice & Ellen & Anne – famous lesbian couples – Brief Article

Judy Wieder


When Gertrude Stein wrote about her meeting with Alice B. Toklas in “Didn’t Nelly and Lilly Love You,” she said, “We were so wifely.” Nearly a hundred years later, Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche refer to each other as “wife.” What, if anything, has changed over the years?

Stein and Toklas met in Paris in 1907 and moved in together soon after, becoming part of an elite circle of celebrity friends that included many gay writers, musicians, and artists. While Paris at the time was filled with fascinating, experimental culture (the perfect place for gay artists and couples to gather and share their lives and work), the truth of the matter is, only one couple–Stein and Toklas–grabbed the spotlight and kept it burning over the years. Now, at the turn of another century, actor-comedian DeGeneres and actor-writer-director Heche have caught that spotlight and with it the spirit of Gertrude and Alice.

Like the Parisian duo who enjoyed separate creative lives while also supporting each other (Toklas’s “wifely” role didn’t inhibit her ability to serve as Stein’s muse and to score her own literary success with The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book), DeGeneres and Heche have taken the concept of “power lesbian couple” to the max. After shooting segments of DeGeneres’s live show for the comedian’s HBO special, Heche has also managed to finish up extensive acting chores in three upcoming major films: Prozac Nation, One Kill, and Auggie Rose. And DeGeneres, who starred with Sharon Stone in Heche’s original screenplay for If These Walls Could Talk 2, is about to see her second television series, The New Ellen Show, launch this fall on CBS.

Not unlike their famous forebears who were sometimes pitted against each other by the press (one headline taunted, “Someone Called Stein Sails With Alice B. Toklas: Bon Voyage Party Presents New Slant on Question of Who’s No. 1 of That Pair:), DeGeneres and Heche have spent many hours questioning the unsupportive role the media gleefully played at the beginning of their relationship. Nonetheless, the solidness of both lesbian couples over time is what will be remembered–along with the somewhat disconcerting question that shadows it: Where are the highly visible long-term gay male celebrity couples of the 20th or 21st century?

For links to the exclusive Advocate interview with Ellen as well as Anne’s “coming out” commentary in our Millennium March commemorative issue, go to

COPYRIGHT 2000 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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