For many, Vincent Price is Hollywood’s definitive master of the macabre—star of the original Fly, House of Wax,, Laura, , The House on Haunted Hill and The Pit and the Pendulum. (You youngins might recall him as the sinister narrator on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or the old inventor in Edward Scissorhands.)
Price was married three times, but rumors circulated that he was secretly gay or bisexual. His over-the-top voice and mannerisms, his love of art and cooking—in those days it added up to “not straight” in many people’s minds.
Now his daughter, Victoria Price, is confirming the rumors—and cluing us in that, more importantly, he was a great father.
In an interview with #Boom Magazine celebrating the 50th anniversary re-release of her parents’ cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes, Price recalls her actor father coming out to her when she came out to him as a lesbian.
“He said to me, ’You know, I know just how you feel, because I have had these deep, loving relationships with men in my life—and all my wives were jealous,'” she recalls.
Victoria admits she’s been pestered about her father’s sexuality her whole life. One time, at a West Hollywood nightclub in the late 80s, cemented how disquieting she found the chatter.
A blond woman with a wry expression came over to me and said, “You’re Vincent Price’s daughter. Your father’s gay, isn’t he?”
I don’t remember my mumbled reply—except that, sadly, it wasn’t very witty—”I don’t know” or “He was married three times.”
But I do remember that I was shocked. Not because it was the first time someone had suggested that he might be gay or at the very least bisexual.
But because, until that moment, I hadn’t really understood the degree to which my 78-year-old father’s sexuality, whatever it might be, had become public property to be discussed, analyzed, bandied about, as one might share a recipe or chat about the weather.
Vincent Prince married Edith Barrett in 1938. They divorced a decade later and he was married to Mary Price, Victoria’s mother, from 1949 to 1973.
His last marriage was to actress Coral Browne. They remained together until her death in 1991, two years before his own at age 83.
“As I’ve learned more about my dad’s sexuality… I’ve had the choice of what to reveal and what not to reveal,” Victoria explains.
“Since I didn’t hear it from his mouth, I think that everything I hear comes with a measure of hearsay. But I would like to say… I am as close to certain as I can be that my dad had physically intimate relationships with men.”
One thing that Victoria’s 100% certain about, though, is that Vincent loved and supported the LGBT community.
Gay friends were regular guests at the Price home in the Hollywood Hills, where Victoria grew up. “’Uncle Rupert’ and ’Uncle Frank’ came to every dinner party and it was very clear that they were together,” she recalls.
“And while the word [gay] was never mentioned, it was very much the norm.”
Ironically, closeted matinee idol Rock Hudson was their across-the-street neighbor.
“I remember at 9-years-old going to drop something off at Rock Hudson’s house,” says Victoria. “This absolutely beautiful man came to the door and, in my 9-year-old mind, I thought, Oh… that’s his ’Uncle Frank’ or ’Uncle Rupert,’ right?”
He didn’t broadcast his sexuality, but Vincent Price stood up and was counted when it mattered—attacking Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade in the 1970s, joining PFLAG as an honorary board member, and shooting one of the first celebrity PSAs to allay public fears about AIDS.
“He married a bisexual woman [Coral Browne] and everybody assumed their marriage was a fraud,” says Victoria.
“It wasn’t a fraud. It was a totally sexual relationship but they were two people with very open minded approaches as to what life should look like. And for that—people who lived this truth in all aspects of their lives—they should be heroes to every community.”
Price was already middle-aged when he had Victoria—and 73 when she came out—but she says “he understood me at 22 better than I understood myself then.”
The horror legend just got it.
“He understood that, at the end of the day, it’s about who and what and how we love.”