05.29.10

Dead Cool: Gayelord Hauser

Listen up, Jamie Oliver! Simon Doonan pays homage to the original European celebrity chef, who turned a case of tuberculosis into a glamorous career.

Jamie Oliver must be totally knackered. He just spent the last six weeks strenuously attempting to save us all from our naff eating habits on his ABC show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Chef Oliver is not the first European to cross the Atlantic and discourage the populace from eating horrid artery-clogging muck. And he is definitely not the most glamorous. That particular honor goes to Gayelord Hauser.

Why, you are no doubt wondering, would anyone saddle a boy-child with the name Gayelord? Brace yourselves! This particular bloke actually changed his name to Gayelord of his own volition!!!!

Gayelord Hauser was cool because he took his gay tubercular hip and made an unstoppable brand out of it.

Helmut Eugen Benjamin Gellert Hauser was born 115 years ago this month in Tubingen, Germany. His food epiphany occurred when, as a youth, he contracted tuberculosis of the hip. He sought the help of a Swiss monk (you know how you do) who prescribed the ingestion of 36  lemons per day. Miraculously, it worked. As a result, the young Hauser decided to dedicate his life to showing us greedy peasants how to connect the dots between nutrition, health and—Jamie Oliver take note— BEAUTY!

Swiss Kriss, a laxative, was Gayelord Hauser’s first successful venture. Next came Gayelord Hauser of France products, many of which are still available today. Inspired by this early success Gayelord moved himself and his well-cleansed bowels to pre-War Hollywood where he found a welcoming milieu: the narcissistic youth-obsessed movie community. Soon Marlene and Gloria and all the girls were in the thrall of the good-looking “doctor” who promised to add years to their pampered lives while making them even more beautiful. His weapons? The five "wonder foods": skim milk, brewer's yeast, wheat germ, yogurt, and blackstrap molasses.

The Ryan Seacrest of his day, Gayelord Hauser was media-omnipresent, spewing his autocratic-but-folksy pronouncements via books— Look Younger, Live Longer (1950), Gayelord Hauser’s Guide to Intelligent Reducing (1955) and countless others—broadcasting, and syndicated columns. His influence in the coming years was far-reaching, as evidenced by the fact that in the 1950’s Betty Doonan, a working class broad from Belfast, ejected white sugar and white flour from her larder and began ladling Brewers Yeast and molasses down her kids’ gullets. Thanks mum!

Nobody was immune to the audacious and over-reaching pronouncements of Herr Hauser:

- "Lack of calcium produces fear of the dark, nail biting and gossiping."

- "Worry turns the hair grey by destroying the adrenal glands."

- "Blackstrap molasses will add five years to your life and re-grow hair on bald spots."

Gayelord’s grandiose claims repeatedly got him into hot water. The American Medical Association's Bureau of Investigation was often up his pristine butt. When finally busted for masquerading as an M.D., he simply switched his title to “food scientist.”

Was he a quack? Maybe just a little bit, but so what! At least he had charisma and fabulosity. When he wasn’t lounging around his groovy pad in Sicily with his boyfriend Frey Brown (the gays love a little Taormina) and his longtime beard Greta Garbo, or playing canasta with Paulette Goddard and the Duchess of Windsor, he was snapping up 90210 real estate. Having bought whole chunks of Rodeo Drive when it was cheap, he died a wealthy poofter at the ripe old age of 89.

So what made Gayelord Hauser cool?

G.H. was cool because he took his gay tubercular hip and made an unstoppable brand out of it, inveighing against processed foods and raising the consciousness of glamour-aspirants around the globe.

Unlike Jamie Oliver, he connected the whole notion of food consciousness with physical beauty. Therein lay his success. He understood the role of vanity in communicating a serious message. His own best advertisement, Gayelord remained suave, handsome and luscious his whole life, swimming miles everyday and—one of his proudest accomplishments—reading without glasses.

Gayelord Hauser’s dream was ultimately stymied by the arrival of convenience food. Will Jamie Oliver succeed where the vivacious, vainglorious Gayelord failed? Time will tell. In the meantime, toss out that beef jerky, and bust open that vat of wheat-germ!

Bon appétit!

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Writer, fashion commentator and window-dresser, Simon Doonan, is known for his provocative "Simon Says" column in the New York Observer. He has written four books: Confessions of a Window Dresser, Wacky Chicks, a memoir entitled Nasty and a tongue-in-cheek style guide entitled Eccentric Glamour. Nasty is to be re-released as Beautiful People .  A comedy TV series entitled Beautiful People , produced by Jon Plowman, will debut on LOGO in May.