Newly unearthed documents detail the lengths the US government went to in the ’60s to try to deport WWE star Pat Patterson over suspicion he was gay.
Patterson rose to fame as one of the chief architects of the WWE. Born in Canada, he emigrated to the US in 1962, when he began touring the US as a pro wrestler. At the time, wrestling was still considered something of a niche sport, and didn’t have the popular following it has today.
Throughout his career, Patterson lived as an openly gay man among friends, family and co-workers. He found a longtime boyfriend in Louie Dondero; the two maintained a relationship for more than 40 years until Dondero’s death in 1998.
Patterson came out publicly as gay in 2014, and is now celebrated as the first gay star of the WWE. He died in 2020 after a battle with cancer; he was 78.
Newly resurfaced documents in a report by David Bixenspan for Mel Magazine outline the now-shuttered US Immigration and Naturalisation Service’s (INS) repeated efforts to deport Patterson for being gay.
Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents reveal the INS started a years-long investigation of Patterson in 1964. The agency’s objective was to obtain evidence of “homosexual activity” in order to deport him back to Canada.
The documents detail witness interviews from 1965 and an investigation by the “Portland Police Department morals officers at homosexual parties in Portland.”
One witness reported that Patterson and Dondero attended “‘gay’ parties at his home,” but noted Patterson was not seen “engaging in homosexual activities with other persons at the parties.”
After the investigation picked up again in 1966, the INS began deportation proceedings claiming Patterson provided the government with a fraudulent work itinerary.
A memo shows that as part of the proceedings, an investigator questioned Patterson about his “rather effeminate mannerisms” and dyed blond hair.
When asked directly if he was gay, Patterson denied and said accusers were “jealous and were trying to get him into trouble.” The same year, the INS requested a psychological evaluation of Patterson.
The agency was ultimately unsuccessful, and Patterson would go on to obtain US citizenship in 2002.