Did J. Edgar Hoover Really Wear Dresses?


Mr. Kessler is the author of a new book on the FBI, The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, available from Amazon.com.

In 1993, Anthony Summers, in his book Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, claimed that Hoover did not pursue organized crime because the Mafia had blackmail material on him. In support of that, Summers quoted Susan L. Rosenstiel, a former wife of Lewis S. Rosenstiel, chairman of Schenley Industries Inc., as saying that in 1958, she was at a party at the Plaza Hotel where Hoover engaged in cross-dressing in front of her then-husband and Roy Cohn, former counsel to Senator Joe McCarthy.

"He [Hoover] was wearing a fluffy black dress, very fluffy, with flounces and lace stockings and high heels, and a black curly wig," Summers quoted Susan as saying."He had makeup on and false eyelashes."[1]

Susan claimed Cohn introduced Hoover to her as"Mary." Hoover allegedly responded,"Good evening." She said she saw Hoover go into a bedroom and take off his skirt. There,"young blond boys" worked on him in bed. Later, as Hoover and Cohn watched, Lewis Rosenstiel had sex with the young boys.

A year later, Susan claimed, she again saw Hoover at the Plaza. This time, the director was wearing a red dress. Around his neck was a black feather boa. He was holding a Bible, and he asked one of the blond boys to read a passage as another boy played with him.

It was episodes such as these, Summers declared, that the Mafia held over Hoover's head."Mafia bosses obtained information about Hoover's sex life and used it for decades to keep the FBI at bay," the jacket of the book says."Without this, the Mafia as we know it might never have gained its hold on America."

Rosenstiel, a former bootlegger during Prohibition, was well-acquainted with Mafia figures such as Frank Costello, originally Francesco Castiglia. He was also friends with Hoover, having endowed the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation in 1965 with $1 million. But Susan was Summers's primary source for the cross-dressing story, and she was not exactly a credible witness. In fact, she served time at Riker's Island for perjuring herself in a 1971 case.

Convinced that Hoover had somehow stacked the cards against her during the divorce proceedings, Susan had long tried to interest anyone who would listen that Hoover was a cross-dresser. Susan had taken her allegations to Robert M. Morgenthau, the U.S. Attorney in New York, who himself had no use for Hoover.

"She used to call me after 5:30 p.m. when my secretary had left, so I wound up having to listen to her," Morgenthau said. He said he found her claims baseless. But Morgenthau shared her allegations with William Hundley, who had a Justice Department attorney look into them.[2]

"Susie Rosenstiel had a total ax to grind," Hundley said."Somebody who worked for me talked to her. It was made up out of whole cloth. She hated Hoover for some alleged wrong he had done. Plus the story was beyond belief. I told Summers this. Then he goes ahead and uses it."[3]

Now seventy-seven and living in a single room in a Manhattan hotel where rooms rent for $98.85 a night, Rosenstiel said Summers paid her for the interviews she gave him, and she wanted to be paid for an interview for this book. Like most journalists and news organizations, I believe paying for information calls into question its credibility. When I told Rosenstiel this and suggested she could generate publicity for herself by telling the truth and admitting she made up the cross-dressing story, she said,"It did happen."[4]

Summers said that after Rosenstiel told her the cross-dressing story, she told him that she intended to give the story to another journalist. Summers said he paid her a fee to hold the story until his book came out. The producer of a documentary made for Frontline and the BBC also paid Rosenstiel for her appearance with Summers, he said.

In an Esquire piece, Peter Maas, a world class journalist who died in 2001, pointed out that Summers's rendition of events has a fatal flaw: After the alleged incident at the Plaza, Hoover assigned agents to investigate Lansky, who supposedly had the goods on him. When the Miami Field Office complained that the investigation of Lansky was not producing enough information to justify the manpower, Hoover wrote back,"Lansky has been designated for 'crash' investigation. The importance of this case cannot be overemphasized . . . The bureau expects this investigation to be vigorous and detailed."

Still presumably cowering because Lansky had incriminating photos of him, Hoover followed up with an order to install bugs in Lansky's apartment. Having been ordered by Robert Kennedy to attack the Mafia as the FBI had attacked Communism, Hoover wrote in the January 1962 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin,"The battle is joined. We have taken up the gauntlet flung down by organized crime. Let us unite in a devastating assault to annihilate this mortal enemy." Yet even before Kennedy took over, Hoover, stung by the disclosure of the 1957 Appalachin meeting, had been pursuing the mob aggressively. Doesn't that torpedo Summers= theory? No, Summers told me, by that time it didn't matter to Hoover. But, of course, if there were such photos, they would have been just as embarrassing in the 1950s and 1960s as in earlier years. Summers pointed out that he wrote a lengthy rebuttal to Esquire, and he called the Maas article"inaccurate and abhorrent."

Despite the clear implication in the book that her story was true and the declaration on the book's jacket that the Mafia knew that Hoover was a" closet homosexual and transvestite" and held that over his head, Summers told me that he merely reported what Rosenstiel said, along with what others claimed. He said he holds"no firm view one way or the other" as to whether she told the truth.[5]

While there was always speculation about Hoover and Tolson, there were never any rumors about Hoover cross-dressing. Oliver"Buck" Revell, a former associate director of the FBI, noted that if the Mafia had had anything on Hoover, it would have been picked up in wiretaps mounted against organized crime after Appalachin. There was never a hint of such a claim, Revell said.

Hoover was more familiar to Americans than most presidents. The director of the FBI simply could not have engaged in such activity at the Plaza, with a number of witnesses present, without having it leak out. The cross-dressing allegations were as credible as McCarthy's claim that there were 205 known Communists in the State Department, yet the press widely circulated the claim without further investigation. That Hoover was a cross-dresser is now largely presumed to be fact even by sophisticated people.

(Click here to see a cartoon by Pat Oliphant depicting Hoover in a dress.)

  1. Summers, Anthony, Official and Confidential, page 254. [back]
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 27, 1993, page A14. [back]
  3. Hundley, William G., July 24, 2001, Robert Morgenthau, January 2, 2002. [back]
  4. Rosenstiel, Susan, December 23, 2001. [back]
  5. Summers, Anthony, December 24, 2001 and January 2, 2002 and email of January 4, 2002. [back]

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joe baltar - 12/31/2003

Please excuse the extended post but I seem to be having problems from the FBI CARNIVORE program.I wanted to say at the end of my last post "you can commit the almost perfect crime of 9-11 or JFK assassination if you are the lead agency investigating those crimes." For a detailed reading of the trial transcripts laying out the evidence for tax payer funded FBI agents involvement in the Martin Luther King assassination visit the Martin Luther King Center website and read the transcripts posted by King family attorney William Pepper. The evidence convinced a jury to say FBI agents were principal architects in the assassination of Dr King.

joe baltar - 12/31/2003

I forgot to mention the title of Tyronne Powers book EYES TO MY SOUL in my previous comment.The previous commentator
mentions the mistress of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Madeline Brown is her name and she has authored the book TEXAS IN THE MORNING which discusses Johnsons' involvement in the coup d etat and murder of President Kennedy.She had a child by Johnson named Steve Brown. In his will Johnson left an annuity to Steve Brown. Ed Tatro, renowned JFK assassination researcher is a high school English teacher at Quincy Massachusetts High School.We brought him to speak at Bates College twice where he gave
a 3 hour presentation and showed over 100 slides part of his 1200 slide collection detailing who the principal architects were in the JFK coup d etat.Always remember you can commit a almost perfect 9-11 or JFK assassination
if you are the lead agency investigating the crime.

joeb - 12/23/2003

FBI agents are perfect teachers in showing what happens to a species when it hires bodyguards to protect it and enforce its laws.
Former Black FBI agent Tyronne Powers PhD has written a wonderful book about the FBI FRUHMENSCHEN program created to target black elected officials in sting operations because the FBI feels blacks are incapable of governing. Powers discusses his early days as an FBI asgent undergoing training at the FBI Academy at Quantico Marine Base. White agents dressed up as Klu Klux Klan came into his bedroom and terrorized him. He survived a bombing assassination attempt in his FBI issued vehicle while writing this book; retired Trinity College Psychology Professor Bud Schultz has just published his second book THE PRICE OF DISSENT where he interviews civil rights activists,union organizers and anti war activists who survived tax payer funded FBI assassination attempts. His first book IT DID HAPPEN HERE follows a similar vein and is published by University of California press; THE FINAL REPORT is co-authored by Charles Key, the republican state representative from Oklahoma City who has detailed tax payer funded FBI involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing.It is available at http://www.okcbombing.org. Type benton k partin into google and reads his two page letter to Senator Trent Lott then read the resume of this retired Brigadier General who was in charge of the US Air Force missle and bomb testing program. He says the truck bomb did not bring down the Murragh Building;pay a visit to http://www.unansweredquestions.org and purchase the video AFTERMATH which details the evidence for FBI involvement in 9-11;visit the website of former LAPD narcotics detective Mike Ruppert and get his video on TRUTH AND LIES OF 9-11; type the name of attorney Ron Kuby into google.He represented the people involved in the first world trade center bombing. It was the FBI paid agent provacteur Ahmet who got the defendents to build the bomb. The FBI then fired Ahmet and let the bomb be detonated.You do know what to do? joeb

Walker Freeman - 12/9/2003

Before you discount anything about J.Edgar Hoover you have to take seriously the testimony of LBJ's mistress concerning his meeting at the home of Texas oil tycoon Clint Murchison in Fort Worth the night before JFK's murder. Then you have to ask "what has happened to Hoover's protege's in the pursuing years?" Are renegade FBI/CIA and DEA agents still active in the vestages of the drugs for money/arms deals that Secretary of State Schultz said were going to be a thing of the past in his civic's lesson before congress? Who benefited from the murder of Judge John Wood in San Antonio? Where did the funding for Charles Harrelson's son's college education, Woody's education, come from? Who gave him a leg up in Hollywood? At what price? To keep what secrets? Why was the only one to finger Woody's father, the 80 year-old head of security at Texas A&M University and protege of Hoover...whose story was made into the first film of Stephen Speilburg and focusing on his exploits in the Dixiecrat/Marcello-mobbed city of Beaumont?

Meanwhile, ask who another Fort Worth oil tycoon, Richard Rainwater...partner with George W. Bush in the Texas Ranger Franchise... the money behind Columbia Healthcare and Hospitals (which made Tenn's Senator Thomas Frist wealthy with its buyout of HCA)... was running with in Vegas and what are their ties to Galeston (where David Ferrie stayed on his way to Dallas), Duval County (home of George Parr and the infamous Ballot Box 13) and San Antonio...home of jailed former Texas Attorney General, Dan Morales, elder at First Presbyterian Church, SA. Ask why a sitting Texas Hispanic congressman was never investigated for his conflict of interest in the ownership of the security company that controlled a major Texas port.

Search the internet for..."Daniel Cohen, Pan Am 103, Lockerbie, and THE GAME IS OVER" as I did and you'll find some answers.

Cartha D. DeLoach - 12/8/2003

Many of us who knew Director Hoover for many years know he was not a cross dresser and homosexual. As one of his top assistants, (Deputy Director), I traveled with him. saw him frequently each day and often under trying circumstances while working on major cases. He was a deeply religious, old fashioned, two-fisted type, who believed in firm discipline. Under no circumstnaces would he have risked his reputation and that of the FBI by such habits unbecoming to his way of life. He was tough and recognized that to gain the cooperation of the public he had to win respect. He is recognized as the "Father of Modern Day Law Enforcement" because of centralization of fingerprints, brilliantly creating a crime Laboratory for all of law enforcement, the FBI Academy,training for all Police, and the National Crime Information Center, a boon for all law enforcement. Yes, he was not perfect and had warts, but they are overshadowed by his many sucesses and by the many men and women he trained during his long career. One added item: The J. Edgar Hoover Fouhndation, which is now the J. Edgar Hoover Law Enforcement Center, was not founded only by a contribution from Lewis Rosensteil. It was mostly founded by contributions from many sources, Former Agents of the FBI have contributed heavily as has many organizations, and individuals from all types of law enforcement and religions. Thank you for allowing me to set the record straight.

john - 11/24/2003

There is an FBI agent, in Los Angeles field office, engages and support a group of individuals in incest and pedophile activities. The same agent protects and participates with the same group organized to commit crimes. He threatened, coercion, harmed, murdered, and sabotaged any individual to oppose or expose their criminal activities. FBI agent portrays the group; innocent good people, originally from wealthy Noble families, Capitalist pro-American, good Christians obey the laws, and many other favorable propaganda to help them gain sympathy, respect and support to divert attention and suspicious from the group’s and his criminal activities.
In addition, they are engaged in treason acts. The FBI agent sold classified information to the group to avoid exposing of his pedophile activities.
Furthermore, he falsely accuses innocent and defenseless people of wrongdoing, accusing same innocent people of crimes they never committed, classifies them anti-American, terrorist, communist, low character unsuitable in the society, and many other false allegations to elevate his position with the FBI. He wasted taxpayers’ money to pamper and cover up the group’s crimes for financial gain. The agent activities similar to FBI agent John Connally of Boston field office.
I am seeking assistance to stop this ill FBI agent from harming the society and the government.

Philip Hardy - 10/10/2003

Thanks very much Paul, your advice is very much appreciated. I will get in touch with the publishing company. Cheers.

Paul Meade - 10/10/2003

Anthony Summers lives in Waterford, in the Republis of Ireland.
I presume you know to contact his publishing company (try their PR dept) and ask them for more specific dcetails.
Paul Meade

Mike Sigman - 10/3/2003

"Did J. Edgar Hoover Really Wear Dresses?" By Ronald Kessler, there is
included the following statement:

"The cross-dressing allegations were as credible as McCarthy's claim that
there were 205 known Communists in the State Department, yet the press
widely circulated the claim without further investigation."

Unfortunately, since the release of the Venona Tapes in the early 1990's, it
appears that Joseph McCarthy may have had more truth in his statement than
there is truth in the common public derision of the "205" statement.
According to the Venona records, there may have been *more* than 205
communist agents in the government at that time.

Mike Sigman
Durango, Colorado

joeb - 8/7/2003

Is Ronald Kessler really the FBI's Public Relations man engaged in FBI damage control for his friend Oliver Revell?
As of July 7, 2003 there are close to $1.7 billion dollars in civil lawsuits filed against Boston FBI agents for their involvement in the murders of over 21 people from 1960-2001.
These murders were committed by a death squad collaboration between the FBI and Boston Mafia. Type the name FBI agent John Connolly into google.See the books BLACK MASS by Gerard O'Neil and Dick Lehrer also see DEADLY ALLIANCE by Ralph Ranalli.The FBI under Hoover allowed the Mafia to exist in every major American city to be used to carry out political assassinations against American activists and to blackmail and extort.
FBI agents have a long history of being personally involved in pedophilia.See the book THE FRANKLIN COVERUP by attorney John DeCamp. The head of the FBI's division of child abuse attorney Edward Rogers was recently sued by his two daughters for incest.He lost the case.They allege he had been having sex with them since they were 2 years old.He never showed up for trial to defend himself and lost the case.Type the name of his daughter Sharon Simone into google for more information.How bad is the FBI lab run? See the recent book TAINTING EVIDENCE by John Kelly. Ask Ronald Kessler if he ever contacted Pulitzer Prize winner Ross Gelbspan (see his website http://www.heatisonline.org) when he was writing his book about the FBI and FBI agent Oliver Revell.Then contact gelbspan to get his version of the story.Type revell's name into google and see what you pull up about him and the Pan Am flight 103.Better yet read BREAK INS DEATH THREATS AND THE FBI written by Gelbspan which looks at the FBI collaborating with the Death Squads in El Salvador while Revell was assistant Director at the FBI.Want to read more about the FBI collaboration with the Mafia in the assassination of President Kennedy then read MAFIA KINGFISH by John Davis.How about the FBI Mafia collaboration in the assassination of Martin Luther King? Read ORDERS TO KILL by Attorney William Pepper. Type William Pepper's name into google.

Philip Hardy - 7/11/2003

Did you ever get a contact/email address for Anthony Summers? I am studying the Kennedy assassination very closely at the moment and his book 'Conspiracy', which I've read roughly 15 times, is one of the best, if not the best. I've also read another 20 books or so on the matter. I would like to know how he thinks Nixon and Hoover could have fitted in to the JFK murder, considering Nixon oversaw the Bay of Pigs operation when it was in its infancy while vice-president under Eisenhower whose health was deteriating. The JFK murder seems to come full circle from the Bay of Pigs to the CIA-Mafia-Anti Castro Cuban exile alliance forged to overthrow Castro. Nixon not only was closely affilated with the CIA, but with the mafia. Hoover believed JFK stole the election from Nixon, and Nixon was aware of this too. It would be extremely rewarding for me to communicate with Mr Summers about my ideas as I am writing stuff myself and I greatly respect his work.

Kirk Muse - 1/2/2003

I'm trying to locate the postal or e-mail address of author
Anthony Summers

Clayton E. Cramer - 8/2/2002

Fascinating claim that you make. So I guess the importance of transvestites in the San Francisco gay community is just imagination?

Yes, I know that most homosexuals aren't cross-dressers. But there is a large fraction that are, and pretending otherwise shows that you haven't ever traveled through the Tenderloin in San Francisco. (The Hasting Law Library was in the middle of it, and there were things visible there on the street that I did NOT want to see.)

Dr BB - 7/27/2002

The more time that passes, the more the story reeks of 1950s "straight" stereotypes about homosexuality. As most people know now, there's no particular link between homosexuality and effeminacy or cross dressing; in fact most cross-dressing fetishists are straight. They say bad forgeries always become more obvious with the passage of time....

a g m - 7/25/2002

This article attacks the thesis that Hoover was being balckmailed by the Mafia. It does not offer any argument against the thesis that Hoover was seen in drag, and in fact the witness confirms her account. The statement that he could not have engaged in this activity without the word leaking out is silly, since the word demonstrably did leak out.

Paul N. Hehn - 7/19/2002

Haven't historians got anything better to write about than whether Hoover wore a dress or not.
The stock market is crashing down because of huge frauds committed by crooked businessmen at
Enron, World Com and who knows what other companies causing huge losses for millions
and the Bush administration is about to attack Iraq regardless of what the rest of the world thinks--and we
are concerned with trivia liike this.

Paul N. Hehn

John T. Donovan - 7/18/2002

Kessler's thesis seems similar to that of Dr. Athan Theoharis in his J. EDGAR HOOVER, SEX AND CRIME, published a few years ago. I wonder if he consulted Dr. Theoharis's book?

P. Caswell - 7/18/2002

Um, I think the cartoon that you link to at the bottom of Article 814 is by _Pat_ Oliphant, not Tom as the page reads as of 7/18/02. Tom Oliphant is a political columnist for the Boston Globe. Pat Oliphant is (was?) the political cartoonist.

Les Wright - 7/18/2002

I visited the National Archives in the 1980s, when a friend of mine was an archivist in the photo collection. My friend pulled out several files of photos of J. Edgar Hoover. Among them were several black-and-white images of Hoover in women's clothing (in particular I remember a photo of him in a spaghetti-strap evening dress) in--what at least appeared to be-- public social functions, Tolson usually hovering only inches from Hoover's arm (at what film studies calls "intimate distance").

I have not followed the controversy of who has claimed what about whom. I first learned of the Hoover-astransvestite story *after* seeing actual photos in the National Archives.

Ed Barry - 7/16/2002

Good article. Hoover was controversial in countless ways, but the dress story never made any sense--even if he were a cross-dresser, he would never parade around like that in a public place. Nor do I believe the rumors that Hoover, in drag, played the part of Aunt Bea on "The Andy Griffith Show" all those years. (On the other hand, the most convincing case that he indeed wore dresses is the photograph on the home page of this website--it's been said that pictures don't lie--so the case remains open!)