picture should look happy, someone in a movie once said. Certainly not
pathetic. Many photographs were published of the more than four thousand
marriages that were so famously performed at City Hall during that false spring.
But, among all the joyous faces smiling at their same-sex spouses, the only
ones that struck me with pathos were those of Peter Hart and Andy Stone.
The obviously, gravely sick Peter, though barely fifty-five, showed not a
trace of the handsome man he had been. With his scraggly white beard and almost
bald head, he might as well have been thirty years older. Seated in his
wheelchair, he seemed barely able to keep his head up, and his attempted smile
seemed the result of a painful effort.
Behind the wheelchair stood a beaming Andy, glowing with youth and vigor,
his blond mane blowing in the wind. He had his hands on Peters shoulders and
was looking down on him affectionately.
The pictures were pathetic enough; they reminded me of some of Goyas Caprichos, or other depictions
contrasting youth with decrepit old age. But even more pathetic were the
captions in which Peter was variously referred to as former playboy or erstwhile
man-about-town or onetime society squire.
Labels of this sort seem
benign when they describe a man who has given up the frivolous life and settled
into one of religious contemplation, like Augustine of Hippo, or into one as a
happy family man, like Warren Beatty. They betoken mature wisdom taking the
place of youthful folly. But in the case of Peter Hart they came across like a
form of condemnation, like a Goya caption, as though some moralizing voice were
saying, this is what happens when
I knew Peter
Hart. He had, in fact, been my friend. I should say, rather, that he was
my friend, since nothing had intervened to end the friendship. True, once Margo
and I separated, the active friendship phone calls, social get-togethers and,
more recently, hospital visits continued only with her. But whenever Peter
and I happened to meet, our relation was invariably that of old friends.
In the nineteen-seventies, when I was first an undergraduate and then a
law student at Berkeley, Peters name was often to be found on the society
pages and in the gossip columns of the local papers, typically linked to that
of some beautiful woman whom he was said to be escorting or squiring.
He might have been taken for a gigolo had he not been known to be an heir to a
large Midwestern industrial fortune.
I had no interest in the society pages, and while I enjoyed reading Herb
Caen, the names of the people that he gossiped about were, to me, just names.
Margo comes from a
thoroughly middle-class, liberal family, with whom I always felt very
comfortable, including her two older married-with-children-and-then-divorced
sisters, Cathy and Jeanne. But she is descended from a French forty-niner all
the girls in the family are named for French queens and is distantly related
to a good number of the of the people appearing in those pages. And she did in
fact scan them for names of her relatives. She would then duly point these out
to me, with a precise explication of the family relationship. With her help I
came to know some of the other names, including that of Peter Hart.
Peter Hart was also my first
client, or, to be exact, the first client of the firm that Margo and I formed,
foolhardily but in the end successfully, after we passed the bar. I was the one
who did most of the work for Peter; it involved untangling some provisions of a
trust fund that his grandmother had left him and that had come under his
control when he turned thirty. The trust had been set up in Ohio, and later
amended in Florida when the grandmother had moved there. The legal bases and
the terminologies used in those two jurisdictions differed from each other as
well as from what was used in California, and the work was exhausting
numerous times I had to get up before dawn in order to call lawyers working on
Eastern time but ultimately rewarding: In a short time I learned a lot about
the drudgery of real legal work, and decided that I liked it after all. Also,
it brought us a fee in the form of the biggest check either one of us had ever
Most of Peters personal contact, though, was with Margo and not with me.
We had agreed in advance that the division of labor in our firm would be of
that nature: I would be the solicitor, and she the barrister. Margo not only
had charm and wit by the bucketful, but also the skill to explain complex legal
issues to lay people simply yet accurately. Later on, as we took on cases
requiring litigation, Margo did most of the courtroom work, especially with
juries, though I could hold my own in dealings with fellow attorneys.
Peter one night at the Opera House, at the time when symphony orchestras still
played there; Davies Symphony Hall was still under construction. We had been
married for a year, and had just finished our last semester at Boalt; orchestra
seats for the New York Philharmonic under Bernstein were our mutual
graduation-cum-anniversary present. I got involved in reading the program
notes, but when my attention strayed from them I noticed that Margo was
chatting with a very handsome, seemingly unaccompanied man who was sitting next
to her. His hair and neatly trimmed beard were light brown, and he was wearing
a beige corduroy blazer over a white turtleneck. I overheard him saying to
Margo, You always read about me dating so-and-so, but when theres something
Im really interested in, like listening to Mahler, then Id much rather be
alone. He noticed me looking his way, and reached out his right arm above
Margos lap, carefully avoiding contact with her far-from-ample chest. Hi, he
said, Im Peter Hart.
I shook his hand and said, Im Gary Einhorn.
Pleasure to meet you, he said. Your lovely wife seems to know all
about my public persona.
Just what I read in the papers, Margo interjected.
The oboe sounded its A, and the orchestra began tuning. Lets continue
this at intermission, Peter Hart said. Let me invite you for some drinks.
At intermission, over drinks at the bar, I noticed that Peter was quite
tall, and his eyes were blue. After an exchange of comments about how
magnificent Bernsteins Mahler had been, Margo told Peter about our plan to
open a small law practice in the city after passing the bar. In response to his
question, I told him that our specialty would be family law in all of its
aspects divorce, custody, inheritance and so on.
Would that include trusts? he asked.
Of course, I answered.
In that case, he said, I would like the opportunity of being your
first client. He paused to let us overcome our amazement. I have a matter
thats not urgent, he went on, but will require the utmost discretion, and
Im not sure I can trust the big established firms that way.
But we wont even get the bar results until November, Margo said.
Thats okay. As I said, it isnt urgent. And, by the way, if you need
financial help in setting up your office, Id be glad to give you an advance on
your retainer. Heres my phone number, he said, suddenly seeming hurried as he
pulled a card from an inside pocket of his blazer and handed it to Margo.
Lets keep in touch. But theres someone here that I need to talk to. Bye! He
rushed toward a corner where a bearded, slightly older man seemed to be waiting
Intermission was over, and we returned to the hall for the second half of
the concert. Peters seat remained empty.
As we were walking back to our car, Margo suddenly said, Peter Hart is
What? I exclaimed. He told you?
He didnt have to. The guy who was waiting for him, and the way he
walked over, and the fact that he didnt come back
came out publicly about a year later, after doing so privately, to Margo and me
his attorneys a month before, when he told us that he expected to be
disinherited by his parents. The expectation came true amid great publicity.
The trust on which we had worked was now his only asset, but he was still a
very wealthy man.
I suddenly understood why he had wanted to keep its existence secret. I
guess he wouldnt be such a gay hero, I said to Margo, giving up family
wealth for his sexual preference, if it were known that hes still rich.
Youre such a cynic! she said. As a matter of fact I agree with you,
but Ill bet all heroes have secrets that, if they were known, would make them
Thats why I dont believe in heroes
Not the ones of the heroic type. My heroes, as you know, are the people
who just do what theyre good at in spite of hardships
Like Rembrandt or Bach, she finished for me with a smile. I smiled back
as I opened the passenger door for her.
take long for Peter Hart to transfer his playboy habits to the homosexual
world, but, with his looks, social position, articulate personality and heroic
status, he also became a leader in the gay community. It was the time of the
first inroads of AIDS, and Peter emerged as a champion of those opposed to the
closing of the bathhouses. At the end of the decade, on publicly acknowledging
that he was HIV-positive, he became an advocate for safer sex. Later still,
when he announced that he had AIDS, he was prominent in the campaign for the
development of anti-retroviral drugs.
It was about that time that Margo left me, having found herself in love
with our friend Joyce, with whom she is still living. Our divorce was amicable;
she left me our house in the Sunset, and let me have effective custody of Greg,
who was fourteen. When we separated our practices, we more or less split our
client list evenly, with the clients consent, to be sure. Peter Hart,
naturally, became Margos client, though after our work on the trust there was
no longer much lawyering to do on his behalf; management of the trust, once it was
under Peters control, was given to the trust department of a small bank whose
president was a friend of Peters. Margo also got to keep the firms name,
Dufresne Einhorn, since she intended to go on styling herself Margo Dufresne
Einhorn something she did for a year or so (until, as my friend and
fellow-attorney Jerry Brucker joked, she ran out of stationery).
barely a year and a half after the wedding, Peter Hart was dead.
After a long illness. Champion of gay causes. Survived by his long-time
companion. Andy Stone had been Peters companion for barely three years,
but by Peters standards that was a long time.
Peters wealth was no longer a secret; it was Margo who announced it to
the media. Oddly enough, he had left no will, an absence that she explained as
due to the fact that, after Peters friends bank had been bought by a very
large one (Wells Fargo, to be precise), its trust department was merged with
the latters, with the result that Peters account no longer received the
personal attention it needed. (The friend, who had been one of the small banks
chief stockholders, received a great deal of money and became a Silicon Valley
venture capitalist.) Margo, as she reported, had over the years urged Peter
several times to write a will, but had been met with evasion on his part.
Now Margo declared that she would fight for Andys right to inherit, as
Peters spouse, the bulk of his estate.
After the scattering of Peters ashes over Corona Heights Park, a
memorial gathering was held at the Randall Museum, one of Peters pet causes.
Here the straight including the mayor and other politicians mingled with
the gay, and among the gay, those who were ostentatiously so with those
displayed their orientation only by their choice of companions. Margo and Joyce
were of this second category, while the bereaved Andy was, most flamboyantly,
of the first.
Not much seemed to be known about Andy Stone, except that he was from the
South. Even Margo, who was now his lawyer, was evasive when I asked her how
much she knew about him. No one seemed to remember him before the time that he
suddenly showed up, seemingly out of nowhere, accompanying Peter Hart in
Peters manifold activities at a time when Peter, though already ill, could
still participate in them. But it did not take long for Andy, displaying the
charm and humor of a genteel Southerner, to become a popular figure in the
community. His devotion to Peter was exemplary, and I wished him the best of
luck in inheriting Peters wealth. When I told him so at the gathering, he
sighed deeply, and then smiled, saying, With Margo on my side Im halfway