Excerpt: Hiding in Plain Sight

It's a good bet that had Raymond been married, his wife would have had a difficult time understanding his growing relationship with Robert Benevides, a young actor Raymond met on the set of Perry Mason. The handsome Benevides, thirteen years Raymond's junior, had a small role in the 1957 sci-fi flick Monster That Challenged the World (billed as Bob Benevedes) but was having trouble finding steady work. He and Raymond hit it off immediately, reportedly after Robert delivered a script to Raymond, and their attraction to each other grew. Before too long, Robert—"a nice fellow and very cordial all the time," said Art Marks—was running errands for Raymond.

"Benevides started hanging around the set with Raymond. I didn't know who he was at the beginning, but I thought he was a friend of Ray's, and I asked Bill Swann . . . whether Benevides was gay, and he said he didn't know," said Marks. "But I know Ray liked [Benevides] and was supporting him in some things he wanted to do . . . Benevides was writing a script or something and Ray was in his corner, so to speak. He was like Ray's flunky. He would run errands, fly to Phoenix for him, pick something up and come back. Ray needed people like that, because he didn't have the time to do it."

Besides sharing the same initials, Robert and Raymond had somewhat similar backgrounds, geographically. Robert was born in Visalia, California, in February 1930. After graduating from Exeter Union High School, he studied theater at the University of California, Berkeley, Raymond's old stomping grounds, and served in the army during the Korean War. Stationed in Japan, he spent two years as an army combat engineer and reentered UC Berkeley after his discharge from the service, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1955. After knocking around Lake Tahoe, he hooked up with agent Sid Gold, who got him the job in Monster That Challenged the World and roles on television in West Point, Navy Log, and Death Valley Days.

Raymond and Robert were discreet in their relationship, and the Perry Mason cast was an extremely close and tight-knit group—ensuring that the relationship would stay insulated "within the family," even if no one was exactly sure if Raymond and Robert were lovers. Even though Raymond's homosexuality was known within the industry, the scandal magazines of the time, including Confidential, hadn't been sniffing around. They had bigger fish to fry, including Raymond's Horizons West costar Rock Hudson, who was one of their favorite targets.

Future movie director Arthur Hiller was behind the camera for several early Perry Mason episodes. He was chatting with Raymond on the last day of filming one of those episodes when Raymond mentioned he wanted to renovate his house in Malibu but couldn't find a good contractor. Hiller, who was adding on a few bedrooms to his own house in West Hollywood, recommended the two men who'd been doing the work—one of them a huge Raymond Burr fan—and arranged for the men to drive out to Malibu on a Sunday.

"When the workers came to my house on Monday, I asked them how the meeting went on Sunday and they said 'fine,' but I could sense something was off-base," Hiller said. "They didn't have the enthusiasm that they had before, or which I expected. I kept at them, 'What's the matter?' Turned out they were going to do the work, but when they knocked and Raymond opened the door, he was wearing a pink bathrobe. And that put the one who just loved him away."

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