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“LUSCIOUS” LUCIUS BEEBE – First Openly Gay Celebrity and Lover of Trains

“LUSCIOUS” LUCIUS BEEBE – First Openly Gay Celebrity and Lover of Trains

  • San Francisco Chronicle columnist Lucius Beebe was probably the first gay men and major celebrity to have a publicly open relationship.
  • An author, journalist, historian, raconteur, gourmet and bon vivant extraordinary – this extraordinary personality was world famous and a long time columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • He loved trains and had his own private railway car.


  • From the 1930s until his death in 1966, Lucius Beebe was the image of celebrity. Here he is seen with this partner Charles Clegg.

Beebe standing next to the observation platform of his private railway car.

Lucius Beebe and The Gold Coast...

  • Along with Clegg, Beebe owned two private railcars, the Gold Coast and The Virginia City.
  • The Gold Coast, Georgia Northern / Central of Georgia No. 100, was built in 1905 and is now at the California State Railroad Museum.
  • After Beebe and Clegg had purchased The Virginia City, they had it refurbished and redecorated by famed Hollywood set designer Robert T. Hanley in the Venetian Renaissance-Baroque style.


Beebe and Clegg dining on board The Virginia City

  • The Virginia City has been restored and currently operates as an excursion car.
  • Beebe and Clegg wrote about and photographed the Virginia & Truckee Railroad and worked unsuccessfully with other railroad fans to preserve it.
  • Their fame was such that they were caricatured in “Fiddletown & Copperopolis,” by Carl Fallberg.

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Lucius Beebe and  Charles Clegg’s Christmas Card…

Beebe in front of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco...

Beebe in front of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco…

Lucius Beebe "plays" the Palace Hotel in San Francisco...

Lucius Beebe “plays” the Palace Hotel in San Francisco…

  • Columnist Walter Winchell called him “Luscious Lucius.”
  • Beebe is perhaps best known for having coined the term “Cafe Society,” a group of which he was undoubtedly a member.

Beebe in the grand lounge and forecourt of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

A columnist for the New York Herald-Tribune in the ’30s and ’40s, he was elegantly turned out and very decadent for a journalist. More than 1.5 million New Yorkers read him every morning.

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Beebe made the cover of Life magazine, owned a newspaper, private railway cars and is memorialized in the musical number by Rodgers and Hart.

Click here and to read the full New York Social Diary story by Michael L Grace…

Beebe with Lily Pons and Howard Hughes...

Beebe with Lily Pons and Howard Hughes…

From the RGJ Reno Gazette-Journal


by Karl Breckenridge

The stories abound about Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg, as they were quite visible around Reno and Carson City, always clad in what we’d call “steampunk” attire today. My buddy Red Kittell, selling the Nevada Appeal as a youth, remembers Beebe flipping him a silver dollar for a nickel paper every morning in the early 1950s. In San Francisco, they maintained a suite at the Palace Hotel with the chandelier that Warren Harding died beneath and a six-stool bar and owned a palatial home in Hillsborough.

They acquired the Virginia City home of the opera house impresario John Piper, and on snowy nights when Geiger Grade was closed, they stayed in Carson City in their private rail car the Gold Coast, which many readers remember spotted by the V&T roundhouse. (Writers have alleged that the Gold Coast was spotted in VC; let’s remember that the V&T trackage was abandoned from Carson City to VC before WWII.)

That 1907 rail car, furnished in Venetian Renaissance replete with a gold and crystal chandelier, a fireplace in the drawing room and brocade tapestry, was visited by the San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist Herb Caen who likened it to a French … well, boarding house, and reported that “… I didn’t go upstairs, for I didn’t want to bother the girls.”

You too can visit that rail car now; it’s in the California Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.
Soon after adopting the West, its lifestyle, and snap-button frontier shirts, Beebe organized, wrote, choreographed and staged an annual production in the state capitol, a raucous and well-lubricated quasi-Chautauqua featuring Presidents Grant and Lincoln, Mark Twain, Sandy and Eilley Bowers, the Comstock lady-of-the-evening Julia Bulette, diva Lotta Crabtree, the Warren Engine Company, the State Supreme Court and other dubious dignitaries, some living, others dead. The parts were portrayed by sitting State officials, from Governor Charles Russell on down, and brought great amusement to all and probably a few pink slips to some state employees.

Beebe, with Clegg, wrote over 20 books about the West, its culture and characters, and some fairly authoritative works about early American railroading. Many are still seen around town, as handsome coffee-table editions. He wrote a column in the Territorial Enterprise and the San Francisco Chronicle in the distinctive style that only he could use, nor would any sane writer even attempt to emulate. Many columns were written in advance, prompting an editor to ask the aforementioned Herb Caen following Beebe’s death, “Why do you turn in your copy late, but Beebe’s is always on time, yet he’s dead?”

They adopted the West, and rode fine thoroughbred stallions – or at least were pictured standing by them. The late iconic photographer Don Dondero once quoted, sort of privately at the time, Beebe’s remark during an impromptu rodeo photo shoot, “The last thing that I wanted to do was sit on a damn horse.” And they walked among us – I was once shopping in the basement of Eagle Thrifty on Wells Avenue when a gent about 6-feet-4, which he was, in a morning coat, Wellington boots, vested in a high-collar shirt and a top hat, asked me if I knew anything about Coleman camp stoves. I’ve speculated for the last 50 years what in the world Lucius Beebe might be doing with a camp stove.

Beebe quietly passed away of natural causes at their Hillsborough home on Feb. 4, 1966. Charles Clegg, 13 years Beebe’s junior, relocated to Hillsborough and died Aug. 25, 1979. They became Nevadans to the core and their adventures brightened the Northern Nevada horizon for a score of years.

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