The spectacle of the fleshy FBI chief lurching around the corridors of New York’s Plaza Hotel in drag is now indelibly lodged in American popular folklore. The story is deeply satisfying since it suggests the powerful Hoover — who monitored, harassed and blackmailed thousands of Americans about their sex lives — was a rank and villainous hypocrite. Unfortunately, it is based entirely on the testimony of only one witness: Susan Rosenstiel, the former wife of a wealthy liquor distiller, who was quoted at length in the over-heated Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, a 1993 biography by muckraking Brit Anthony Summers and excerpted in Vanity Fair magazine.

For the record, Ms. Rosenstiel said that she and her husband went to a party with the gay McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn at the Plaza Hotel overlooking New York’s Central Park in 1958. There she met Hoover in a… More…