straight shooter

Reggie Kray was not denying trivial accusations such as murder or torture
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Like most men and women of my age and generation, I usually assume that people I don't know are gay until I discover otherwise. It's much safer and much less socially embarrassing that way round. I loathe those hissed corrections when (hopeless square that you are) you invite his girlfriend or her bloke to dinner. "Actually, she's a he," they say pityingly. "Didn't you know?" So, routinely, I do it the other way around, forcing the straights to admit (almost shamefacedly) that actually, they're married or affianced to someone of a different sex.

Perhaps this attitude explains why I was so surprised this week by the sudden rash of celebrity gay denials. Why on earth would any sensible person want others to think they were simply heterosexual? To be thought to be gay is not a big disadvantage these days, and for people not to know what you are is even better. Unless, of course, you are suspected of lusting after farmyard animals or digging up graveyards, it must be wonderful for your sexuality to be the subject of open conjecture. Far, far worse for no-one to be in any way interested, surely?

Such is not everybody's view, however. A week ago, Fergie assured viewers of America's ABC network that Prince Andrew was not homosexual. "There is absolutely no chance he can be gay," she told Dianne Sawyer. "A lot of people believe that's true. And it is categorically not true". I do not know how happy Andy will be with this attempt to destroy the tiny amount of mystique which attaches to him - and I wonder whether any wife or husband should be as confident as the Duchess of York. But let's come back to that.

Just as convinced of the heterosexuality of her partner was Peter Lilley's wife, Gail. She chose to reveal all to Hello! magazine, which was published this week. "There's nobody less remotely gay than Peter," said Gail, mispeaking herself. Really? Nobody? Not even Bluto from Popeye? Or Mr Lilley's erstwhile colleague "Shagger" Norris? And the evidence she called in her favour was somewhat shaky, consisting mainly of the recollection that strange women had so adored her husband that she had had to "tell quite a few attractive women in his life to pee off!"

Women are often very funny about their male partners' sexuality, sometimes choosing not to know what they would rather not believe.

Princes of the line and ministers of the crown stand in want of wives to help them with their careers, whatever their orientation. Therefore, the mere possession of one does not constitute a firm commitment to lifelong heterosexuality. Nor does the existence of dogged female admirers, as Cecil Rhodes discovered to his cost when fending off the persistent Princess Radziwill. Nevertheless, I must say that I have always suspected that Andrew didn't join the Navy because of the Village People and that Peter is only Lilley by name. Sorry, boys.

But the best denial of all came in yesterday's Daily Mirror, and took the form of a letter sent to the paper by Reggie Kray. Reg was not denying the trivial accusations which always dog men of his calling, such as murder, torture and gouging. He was dealing with the charges that really hurt - having a tumour, being visited by a bimbo, being gay and - worst of all - dressing up like a red Indian, any one of which might lower him in the estimation of the outside world, but when put together would make him "the butt (sic) of a joke here at Maidstone jail". Indeed, the image of Reggie, clad in buffalo-skin leggings and eagle feathers, watching a nymphet dance to old Judy Garland records is rather odd. I would much prefer to remember him, happy and smiling, sticking a screw-driver in someone's neck.

I cannot help feeling that Reggie has made a big mistake. One day, he will come out of prison to discover that attitudes have changed during the 30 years or more of his incarceration. Which set of memoirs would be more likely to sell - Killing Obscure Lowlives or Gangsters in Tights? No contest. Or as the song nearly had it: "Sing if you're glad to be Kray. Sing if you're happy that way."

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