Legendary Little Richard Part Seven
Relationships and family
Around 1956, Little Richard got involved with Audrey Robinson, a college student, originally from Savannah, Georgia. According to the singer, he invited other men to have sex with her in groups and once invited Buddy Holly to have sex with her; Robinson denied those claims. After Richard’s religious conversion, the two friends lost contact. Robinson later became a stripper using the name Lee Angel. After reconnecting with Richard in the 1960s, Robinson feared being close to Richard again, due to their contrasting lifestyles. Robinson and Little Richard have remained close friends.
Little Richard met his only wife, Ernestine Campbell, at an evangelical rally in October 1957. They began dating that year and wed in July 1959. According to Campbell, she and Little Richard initially enjoyed a happy marriage with “normal” sexual relations. Campbell claimed when the marriage ended in divorce in 1963, it was due to Little Richard’s celebrity status, noting that it had made life difficult for her. Little Richard claimed the marriage fell apart due to him being a neglectful husband and his sexuality. Richard claimed that neither Robinson nor Campbell thought he was gay because he was “such a pumper in those days”. While married, in 1962, Little Richard adopted a one-year-old boy, Danny Jones, from a late church associate. Little Richard and his son remain close, with Jones often acting as one of his bodyguards.
Little Richard stated that as a child, he only played with girls and felt feminine, which was the source of jokes and homophobic ridicule at his expense. Caught wearing his mother’s makeup and wardrobe at times, he was brutally punished by his father. He began having sexual encounters with boys by his teen years and also occasionally had sex with older women. Because of his effeminate mannerisms, his father kicked him out of their family home at 15. As Richard later explained in 2010, “my daddy put me out of the house. He said he wanted seven boys, and I had spoiled it, because I was gay.” He first became involved in voyeurism in his early twenties, when a female friend would drive him around and pick up men who would allow him to watch them have sex in the backseat of cars. He was once arrested after a gas station attendant in Macon reported sexual activity in a car featuring Little Richard and a couple. Cited on a sexual misconduct charge, he spent three days in jail and was temporarily banned from performing in Macon, Georgia.
During the early 1950s, Little Richard had appeared as a drag performer in various vaudeville groups. By the time he entered the Chitlin Circuit, he began using makeup regularly, influenced by Billy Wright, who recommended his brand of makeup to him, Pancake 31. Later, as he began experiencing success in the mid-1950s, he made members of his band use makeup as a means to gain entry into white clubs during performances. He later told a columnist, “I wore the make-up so that white men wouldn’t think I was after the white girls. It made things easier for me, plus it was colorful too.” In 2000, Richard told JET, “I figure if being called a sissy would make me famous, let them say what they want to.” Though he was gay, Little Richard recalled female fans sending him naked photos and their phone numbers.
While attending Oakwood College, Richard recalled a male student showed himself to him. After the incident was reported to the student’s father, Little Richard withdrew from the college. In 1962, he was again arrested after he was caught spying on men urinating at men’s toilets at a Trailways bus station in Long Beach, California. Richard returned to participating in sexual orgies after his return to secular music in the 1960s. In 1984, while he claimed homosexuality was “unnatural” and “contagious”, he would tell Charles White that he was “omnisexual” after he was asked about his sex life. In 1995, Little Richard told Penthouse that he always knew he was gay, saying “I’ve been gay all my life”.
Drug and alcohol use
Little Richard was allegedly a heavy drinker and cigarette smoker during the mid-1960s. By 1972, he was using cocaine, developing an addiction to the drug. He later lamented during that period, “they should have called me Little Cocaine, I was sniffing so much of that stuff!”He got addicted to heroin and PCP around that same period. Of his drug experiences, he said “I lost my reasoning”. He said of his cocaine addiction that he did whatever he could to use cocaine. Little Richard admitted that his addiction to cocaine and heroin was costing him as much as $1,000 a day. In 1977, longtime friend Larry Williams once showed up with a gun and threatened to kill Little Richard for failing to pay his drug debt. Little Richard later mentioned that this was the most fearful moment of his life because Williams’s own drug addiction made him wildly unpredictable. Little Richard did, however, also acknowledge that he and Williams were “very close friends” and when reminiscing of the drug-fueled clash, he recalled thinking “I knew he loved me – I hoped he did.” Within that same year, Little Richard had several devastating personal experiences, including his brother Tony’s death of a heart attack, the accidental shooting of his nephew that he loved like a son, and the murder of two close personal friends – one a valet at “the heroin man’s house.” The combination of these experiences convinced Little Richard to give up drugs and alcohol, along with rock and roll, and return to the ministry.