Julia and Paul Child’s travel to San Francisco for the former’s appearance on a public television station is depicted in the fifth episode of HBO Max’s biographical drama series ‘Julia.’ Julia runs into a friend and fellow chef James Beard during her visit. Julia is led to a pub by the latter, which is packed with gay men and drag performers who are celebrating Julia’s success as a television star.
When Julia tells Paul about her experience in the pub, he refers to gays as “fairies,” a derogatory slang term, raising the question of whether the Childs were homophobic in real life. Let’s see what we can find out!
Paul and Julia Child: Were They Truly Homophobic?
Paul and Julia Child were frequently accused of being homophobic throughout their lifetime. During their lifetime, the pair, according to Julia’s biographer Laura Shapiro, practised homophobia. Julia had used phrases like “pedal” or “pedalo” French slang words, to allude to gay males in her correspondence to a friend and co-author Simone Beck. The letters are said to contain insulting terms such as “pansies,” “homovipers,” and “fags.” According to Shapiro, the opposite of homosexuals is referred to as “genuine manly guys.”
Julia’s great-nephew, Alex Prud’homme, also wrote about Julia’s and Paul’s alleged homophobic statements. Prud’homme said in his book ‘The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act,’ that the pair had been calling each other “fairies” for years.
He sent a letter Julia wrote to Beck in which she voiced her concern that the presence of gays in the kitchen might inhibit “genuine male males” from participating in fine cooking. Their homophobia, according to Prud’homme, is “a result of their generation, ignorance, and experience.”
Daniel Coulter launched a complaint against Julia in 1992, accusing her of being homophobic for reportedly rejecting him a job at the American Institute for Wine and Food, which was co-founded by the famed chef. Julia reacted to the lawsuit by saying she didn’t know Coulter and wasn’t involved in the institute’s employment policies.
Several members of the LGBTQ+ community were included in Paul and Julia’s friendship group. One of the couple’s best friends, James Beard, was homosexual. Julia, according to Shapiro, rarely discussed Beard’s sexuality. Craig Claiborne, a restaurant reviewer, and chef Richard Olney, a well-known figure in the couple’s community, were both gay.
Julia’s friend and acclaimed culinary writer M. F. K. Fisher, was bisexual. Regardless of the couple’s claimed bigotry, the aforementioned persons were major figures in Julia and Paul’s lives.
In the 1980s, Julia underwent a transformation as a result of the AIDS epidemic, which claimed the health and lives of several acquaintances. The situation was a setback for her supposed discrimination, prompting her to participate in an AIDS fundraiser. She expressed her sorrow at seeing friends go through the misery of the disease.
In 1986, the couple witnessed Julia’s lawyer Bob Johnson’s death from AIDS-related pneumonia, which had a serious impact on her. Julia was taken aback when she discovered Bob was a “closeted gay” man, according to Prud’homme’s book.
There were rumours about Paul and Julia’s sexual orientation during their lifespan. Prud’homme revealed in the aforementioned book that some individuals accused Julia of being a lesbian.
Jennet Conant wrote in ‘A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS,’ that Paul was suspected of having “gay tendencies.” Julia and Paul had a tumultuous relationship, rife with disagreements over how they viewed sexuality.