This past September, The New York Times published an opinion piece by artist Norman Sunshine in which he recounted his experience of being nominated for an Emmy Award in 1976. Though he had been living with his partner, actor and Warner Brothers executive Alan Shayne, for more than eighteen years by that point, Norman attended the awards ceremony with a female friend instead. “We…decided it would be better if I went with a woman, and that was the end of it,” Norman wrote of his and Alan’s mutual decision. Norman won the Emmy that night, but his victory was bittersweet. “Instead of feeling excited, I felt angry,” he remembers. “Why wasn’t Alan there to share this with me? Why did we always have to hide?” The story of Norman and Alan, from a time when their relationship was kept private to their current lives as a married couple with fifty years of memories behind them, is told in their new co-written memoir, Double Life: A Love Story from Broadway to Hollywood.
Long before the creation of the GLAAD Awards, when most entertainment figures saw a successful career and coming out as mutually exclusive, Norman and Alan were building a life together. From their first meeting in 1958 through their recent marriage and beyond, Norman and Alan have built successful careers while maintaining a relationship. Norman has worked as an illustrator and creative director at both the Jane Trahey Agency and Lear’s magazine. He has also done graphic design, for which he won that Emmy award, and has gone on to become a painter and sculptor whose work resides in museums and permanent collections around the country. Alan began his career as an actor on Broadway and television, going on to work in a casting office and eventually obtaining a job at David Susskind’s production company. He served as president of Warner Brothers Television for ten years, where he launched many successful television shows, including Alice, The Dukes of Hazard, and Night Court. He also produced the Emmy-nominated 1988 TV movie based on the novel The Bourne Identity.
Alan and Norman’s story in Double Life provides a unique picture of a relationship between two gay men in the latter half of the twentieth century. “We both grew up at a time when homosexuality was not even spoken about,” they write. “When we entered our 50th year, another same-sex couple told us we were ‘an inspiration,’ so we began to feel we had the responsibility to make what we’ve experienced available to others. We also wanted to show people who were not gay that our life was not unlike theirs.” In addition to their lives together, the memoir details their encounters with iconic celebrities, including Lena Horne, Rock Hudson, and Katherine Hepburn. It also serves as a personal account of how far the movement for LGBT equality has come. At the end of his recent opinion piece in The Times, Norman reflected on Alan’s Emmy nomination years after his own, saying, “He didn’t win, but I know that if he had, he would have stood up there and openly thanked me as his life partner.”
Double Life: A Love Story from Broadway to Hollywood was published by Magnum Books, with a foreword by Mike Nichols. In his review of the memoir, Alfred Uhry, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning author of Driving Miss Daisy, wrote, “Anyone living in a long term relationship, gay or straight, will find him/herself in the pages Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine have written…From Broadway to the Village to Madison Avenue to Hollywood, they have tales to tell and they tell them brilliantly.”
GLAAD thanks Alan and Norman for sharing their stories of a life together as a loving, committed couple.