In his newly published memoir, the world's most famous music mogul comes out of the closet to acknowledge that he is bisexual. And part of the reason he stayed in the closet, Clive Davis suggests, is the problem that many gay as well as straight people have believing that bisexuality is a real sexual preference—or lack of it, if you will—and not just a hedge against owning one's homosexuality.
Davis waits till the very end of The Soundtrack of My Life to address his personal life at all... and then, it's only for six pages, out of nearly 600. But, inevitably, that's become a bigger instant focus than anything the longtime label chief might have to say about discovering Whitney Houston or squabbling with Kelly Clarkson.
"For over 50 years I never had sex with a male," the twice-divorced Davis, now 80, said in an interview with Nightline. "It wasn't repressed. I had very good sexual relationships with women.”
But had he ever thought about men "in that way," asked ABC's Cynthia McFadden?
"Never," Davis answered firmly. "So for me, this very maligned, misunderstood subject of bisexuality came up... I’m not lying. And it exists."
But by repeatedly and preemptively addressing the issue in the few pages he devotes to it in his book, Davis seems to acknowledge the skepticism that still greets claims of being bi. Music industry types have long assumed that Davis was gay, so within the business, there may be less surprise about Davis admitting a fondness for men than by his avowing he maintained a sexual attraction to women, too.
"Everything stayed outside the public glare as I tried to figure out my new bisexuality," he writes in the book. "To my intense disappointment when I did try to probe all this in conversation with others, it turned out that no one really believed in bisexuality. Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike didn't credit one word of any explanation I offered.." As far as others were concerned, "if at any time, for any reason, you had sex with a man, you were gay. That's all there was to it."
In the autobiography, Davis says that during a time he dates only as "still the era of Studio 54," he was approached by a young man of about 25 and, "after imbibing enough alcohol, I was open to responding to his sexual overtures, my first such encounter with a male." He goes on to write that during this first homosexual encounter, he flashed back to a conversation he'd once had with singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson, who was "straight to the core" but "wanted to face what he felt was an unnatural fear on his part" of gay sex by "muster[ing] up the courage to do it."
"I had not been at all repressed or confused during either of my marriages," Davis writes. At the time of this first encounter, he was still living in the same house as his second wife but, for the sake of a child, was putting off physical separation. "I hadn't fantasized about men... I was not at all interested in anonymous sex. But sex with a male didn't repulse me, and it provided welcome relief."
The marital split finally took place in 1985, after which Davis has relationships with the man he'd met at Studio 54 as well as two women. "I enjoyed my time with all of them and honestly felt I had no strong sexual preference... I was not looking for a lifestyle change... I had no inclination whatsoever for any club or bar life... It was relationships that interested me."
He further writes that in 1990 he entered a "monogamous relationship" with a doctor—"I obviously couldn't escape the profession all Jews put on a pedestal"—that lasted until 2004, and that he has been in a different (also monogamous) relationship with a man for the last seven years. If that lends credence to other people's "bi is really gay" theories, he adds, "Do I feel I could have been similarly attracted to a woman? The answer is yes."
Book critics had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, promising not to write about the book until its official publication date today. The few reviews that have appeared so far have been mixed—with some suggesting they would rather have heard more personal stuff and less about the minute details of Arista Records' history.
"Reading Clive’s L-O-N-G book is like being force-fed the minutes of the latest Sony Music marketing meeting," wrote the New York Daily News' music critic, Jim Farber. The bisexuality section is cited as "one of the rare personal glimpses into Clive’s life. Far more often, we’re finding out about things like Clive’s run-ins with Paul Simon over his suggestions he edit his singles down for radio."
Los Angeles Times music critic Randall Roberts had a more complimentary take on Davis' attention to the little things as well as the big: "Yes, Davis devotes pages to his close affiliations with Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Sly Stone, Patti Smith, Aretha Franklin, Santana, Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys. But fans of rock history will be equally transfixed by some of the little details... Throughout The Soundtrack of My Life, Davis writes with calm openness."