Mary Ellen Mark, Roy Cohn with American Flag, 1986

Mary Ellen Mark (American, b. 1941), Roy Cohn with American Flag, 1986

Mary Ellen Mark (American, b. 1941), Roy Cohn with American Flag, 1986. Gelatin Silver Print, 13 7/8 x 10 7/8 in. Gift of Dr. Kristaps J. Keggi, 1993.87

Former chief counsel for Senator Joseph McCarthy Roy Cohn’s political activities cemented the representation of homosexuality as traitorous. In this portrait taken for Vanity Fair four months before Cohn’s death from AIDS, the attorney who lived his life in the closet while forcing others out of theirs sits shadowed by his double on the back of the chair that frames him. Cohn faces off the camera while flagging the stars and stripes held at his crotch. A friend of Cohn’s recollected an evening spent singing patriotic songs around his piano: “Roy sang three choruses of ‘God Bless America,’ got a hard-on and went home to bed.”