Life wasn’t always a cabaret for esteemed British novelist, Christopher Isherwood, whose semi-autobiographical tales of a closeted gay man living in pre-Nazi Germany were collected in the best-selling book The Berlin Stories, but that all changed when he met 18-year-old Don Bachardy on a Santa Monica beach in 1952. Despite their 30-year age difference — not to mention it being the era of McCarthyism, one of the most homophobic periods in American history — the pair began a high-profile love affair that would last more than three decades.
While their relationship, though open, was idyllic in many ways, with Isherwood helping his younger lover develop his affinity for drawing and painting and the couple frequently entertaining well-known artists, writers, and movie stars in their hillside Santa Monica home, it wasn’t always without its challenges.
At times the May-December dramas may have seemed like something out of a movie, and indeed, it became one — “Chris & Don: A Love Story,” a fantastic 2007 documentary that reveals how hard the couple worked to achieve their bliss, but achieve it, they did. Their intergenerational relationship withstood the passage of time. Ultimately, the two remained together for 33 years until Isherwood’s death in 1986.