Scope and Content of Collection
Title: J. Max Turner writings
Bulk Dates: 1976-1999
Collection number: Coll2008-073
Turner, J. Max,
Collection Size: 3 archive cartons + 2 archive
half-cartons 1.7 linear feet
ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.
Los Angeles, California 90007
Abstract: This collection consists of the writings,
1954-2006, of J. Max Turner (1922-2007). The materials include drafts and final
paper and electronic versions of novels, and final and draft scripts, as well
as performance materials (programs, photographs, and newspaper reviews) of
Languages: Languages represented in the
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access
Researchers wishing to publish material from this collection must obtain
permission in writing from ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, which holds
the copyright to the material.
J. Max Turner writings, Coll2008-073, ONE National Gay and Lesbian
Archives, Los Angeles, California.
Gift of the J. Max Turner Trust, William C. Hein, Trustee, December 2,
Collection processed by Michael P. Palmer, December 19, 2008.
Processing this collection has been funded by generous grants from the
J. Max Turner Trust, William C. Hein, Trustee, and the National Historical
Publications and Records Commission.
J. Max Turner was born in St. Charles, a small village just west of
Saginaw, Michigan, on July 25, 1922, the son of a coalminer, who abandoned the
family when Turner was a young child. He grew up in Saginaw, graduating from
Arthur Hill High School in 1940. He then enlisted in the U.S. Navy, following
the lead of his four brothers, all of whom were in the merchant marine or the
naval reserve. He continued to serve after the United States entered World War
II, but was mustered out when the navy established a policy that no two members
of a family could serve in the same unit. He later enlisted in the army,
participating in the Normandy invasion and in the Pacific. Early in the 1940s,
despite the fact he had an active homosexual sex life, he married, converting
to Catholicism to do so. After Turner was mustered out, he and his wife
hitchhiked west, and at some time hired on with the Drew Traveling Carnival.
They then returned to Saginaw, where their two sons were born; shortly
afterwards they divorced in a messy court case, his wife accusing Turner of
homosexuality. After the divorce, Turner again took to the road. In Chicago he
associated with members of the Ballet Theatre; in San Francisco he worked for
some time for the madam, Sally Stanford, as one of her "boys", and became
friends with the "male actress" Charles Pierce. He also worked in Morocco as a
clerk for an international construction company before returning once again to
Saginaw, where he worked as a salesman. In 1961, he became manager of the
ladies' shoe department at a department store in Huntington, West Virginia,
where he met William C. Hein, the local district manager for Chevrolet Motors.
The two became partners in 1962, remaining together until Turner's death. Later
that year, Turner and Hein moved to Charleston, West Virginia, where Turner
opened a record shop; for six years the couple also operated a successful
gay-nineties-themed eatery, "Belle's Sandwich Parlor and Public Pub". When
bootleg tapes caused record sales to wane in the 1970s, Turner closed the
record shop and in 1979 the couple opened a lampshade and lamp repair business.
They moved to Tampa, Florida, in 1984, where they also opened a lampshade store
until Turner retired in 1989.
Turner began writing in the early 1950s: his earliest known datable
composition, the poem "Lonely Lover", was written during his time in San
Francisco, and was published in 1954 as "The Tortures of Being Alone". Later,
he was bitten by the acting bug, and for a brief period left his job as a shoe
salesman in Saginaw to become an aspiring actor in New York. He wrote his first
Step Down Into Hell, in the early 1960s; it
was staged by the theater department of West Virginia State College, receiving
decent reviews and attendance. During the 1970s he wrote several novels, three
of which were eventually published in 1999. His humorous book,
Pathetically Yours, Sara Muskoil, was
published in 1977. Turner and Hein had been involved in the response to the
AIDS crisis since the very beginning, and in 1993, after the death of a
particularly close friend, Turner wrote a play,
It Happens! A local production was favorably
received, and from that time until his death Turner concentrated his efforts on
writing plays combating negative stereotypes of gays and lesbians and showing
instead the fullness, healthy humor, and normalcy of GLBT life. Several of his
theater works had local productions, and one,
Mama's Ghost, also had an off-Broadway
Turner died in Tampa on February 26, 2007, at the age of 84; his
survivors included Bill Hein, his partner of 44 years.
Source: J. Max Turner Writings, Coll2008-073, ONE National Gay &
Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection consists almost entirely of Turner's writings, in
particular his plays. The materials include drafts and final paper and
electronic copies of novels, and final and draft scripts, as well as
performance materials (programs, photographs, and newspaper reviews) of plays.
The collection is divided into six series: (1) Personal, (2) Novels, (3) Plays,
(4) Other Writings, (5) Electronic Media, and (6) Publications.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this
collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Turner, J. Max, 1922-2007