Hollis Hempstead (1900-?) « Michael Byers

Hollis Hempstead (1900-?)

painter, socialite

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Hollis Hempstead was a known companion of Scotty MacAllister, one of the founders of the Napoleon Club, Boston’s first and best-known gay nightspot. Hempstead moved to the Boston area around 1918. The details of his early life in Boston are not known; at some point during the early 1920s he made his way into the semi-clandestine circle of gay Boston life, especially that part associated with the older families. During his association with Scotty MacAllister, Hempstead took up painting, often using his sister Mary Hempstead as a model. Some of his paintings survive in private collections, but the circumstances of Hempstead’s later life are unknown.

He has worked at Weber’s, stealing paints, and they have lolled in bed, Scotty posing for paintings, casting arch looks over his shoulder, his white flesh glowing in the dim when he dares to remove his shirt. “Oooh, hurry,” he cries, “I’m going all icy!“—vamping for Hollis, who has been pressed by Scotty’s enthusiasm into an ever-more serious version of himself, extending his lower lip and stabbing at his work with the same old goddamned embarrassed obligingness. Those clouds out on that lawn. One after another. The rich boy’s mascot painter. And parties with Scotty’s bunch. And they have gone to the movies like a couple of old chums, The Circus and The Docks of New York (twice, because Hollis does like George Bancroft, actually), and The Farmer’s Wife; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Our Dancing Daughters, West of Zanzibar. But it was only the other day, during The Guns of Mexico, that Hollis began to feel a thrill of something else. Something in the vast sky reaching huge and pale above the soldiers—the rocky desolation—the great fields unrolling beneath their boots—entranced him. California light, he supposed. Something giant, on the other side of the country. Away from it all. Something that stirred him.