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Billy Byars, Jr.

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Billy Byars, Jr. (1936-), owner of Lyric International, producer of The Genesis Children, partner to pornographer Guy Strait, friend of J. Edgar Hoover, key figure in "the first child pornography ring ... brought to public view", perpetual footnote in Kennedy assassination theories, is a fascinating figure. And also a public figure, which permits his discussion here. Mr. Byars is of primary interest here as the owner of Lyric. Many of Lyric's reputedly 90 magazines and many movies still circulate on the Internet. Photographed by Harlan 'Slim' Pfeiffer, many were filmed in Mr. Byars's home - also the Lyric studio - and around the pool with the cinderblock walls in his backyard. While Lyric's films featured extensive nudity of boys and young men, Lyric produced only "physique" photography and never pornography. However, two of the "Lyric boys" who played around Byars's pool later found their way into the bed - or at least the limousine - of the Director of the FBI.

Adopted with a silver spoon in his mouth

Billy Goebel Byars, Jr. was born in Texas in August, 1936 and adopted through the Edna Gladney Foundation in Fort Worth by oil man Billy Byars, Sr. and his wife, Emily.[Viola Hegyi Swisher, "Generating The Genesis Children", After Dark, September 1972, p. 18].

While his birth certificate says "William G. Byars" and newspapers reports on the Lyric scandal, when he was out of the country, call him "William", when he is able to give his own name, and in other legal papers, he is always "Billy". His father is "Billy" on his death certificate.

The 1941 movie Blossoms in the Dust [1] highlighted the accomplishments of Edna Gladney, two of which are important to the story of Billy Byars, Jr. In 1936 Edna Gladney succeeded in having the Texas legislature pass a bill to have children registered as the children of their adoptive parents, removing the stigma of illegitimacy. Byars was one of the earliest beneficiaries of this law. In 1951, again at the instignation of Gladney, Texas law was changed to give adopted children the same inheritance rights as biological children.[2]

That same year the Byars family adopted Billy, they purchased a large corner lot in Tyler, Texas, and in 1937 built a two story house in the Monterey style. The scale of the house was sumptuous for the midst of the Depression: brick and frame construction with three baths, a three-car garage and a servant's room with a bath. The house was enlarged to 5,000 square feet in the 1940s, and Byars's parents resided there for the rest of their lives. There was a Steinway grand piano in the living room, and parties that included such guests as Ronald Reagan. [3]

Tyler is in the eastern, green part of Texas, the closest major city being Shreveport, Louisiana.

Byars is quoted as describing his mother as "an elegant but colorful woman" of Irish descent. [Swisher, supra] The family businesses included not only oil, but the Byars Royal Oaks Farm in Tyler, where the elder Byars bred champion cattle. [4] The Byars family includes a sister who continued raising cattle [Swisher, supra] and in 2003 there were still Byars breeding champion cattle.

Billy Jr. was also fond of telling people that his biological parents were of Russian royalty. However, local Tyler, Texas residents contend that he was the son of a coffee shop waitress and a lonesome trucker.[Interview. Anthony Aikman-2006 by Ballog] [Anthony Summers, Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993]

Although Billy Jr. would often tell people he held various degrees and was a molecular biologist, in truth he only attended MIT for one semester from Sept. 16, 1954 - January 7, 1955 and held no college degree. [MIT Registrar - 2006] After dropping out of college, Billy reportedly had a falling out with his father regarding his homosexuality and left his Texas home.[Interview: Anthony Aikman-2006 by Ballog] Apparently, Billy and his father somewhat reconciled their differences and in the early 1960s, in his mid-twenties, he was still joining his father for annual vacations at Clint Murchison's Del Charo Hotel in San Diego, where they often took the bungalow next to J. Edgar Hoover's.[Anthony Summers, Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993, p. 337]

At the summit in Los Angeles

Billy Byars, Sr. died in 1965. Presumably Billy, Jr. received an inheritance, and by 1968 was already installed in California. "His bachelor pad in the Hollywood hills boasts massive oaken beams and other touches of baronial elegance," according to a 1972 interviewer. [Swisher, supra] Summers says that "Byars's house in Los Angeles, at the summit of Laurel Canyon, was for a while a haven for adult homosexuals and male teenagers." His friendship with J. Edgar Hoover continued, and he received at least one Christmas card from the FBI Director in the house on Mulholland Drive. [Summers, supra]

Byars's life and Lyric's history are inseparable at this point. An examination of the Lyric catalog would clarify dates. Two of the Lyric films seem to have been produced in Texas, Summer Freedom supposedly shot on Padre Island Seashore near Corpus Christi, Texas, and Sandy Hill, possibly in the town of that name north-west of Houston. Online sources say that the earliest photos of Peter Glawson are from the Texas gulf coast, while Sandy Hill features a Peter notably younger than in The Genesis Children or in photos taken at the house on Mulholland Drive. It would also be interesting to know how Byars's relationship with 'Slim' Pfeiffer began. Byars and Pfeiffer may have begun their photography in Texas.

Valerie Swisher, who interviewed Byars after The Genesis Children was released, describes him: "Molecular biologist Billy Byars came to movie making with a background in biophysics, bacteriology, protozoology, virology, geology, astronomy, mathematics, entomology and weight training. He also exercises great expertise at the racetrack and in Las Vegas, computing odds. In more orthodox veins, he's a painter, art photographer, camera expert and color connoisseur." [Swisher, supra]. Summers, more concise, calls Byars "a part-time filmmaker, fitness enthusiast, and dilettante".[Summers, op. cit., p. 377]

Swisher calls Byars a "tall Texan" and describes him as a "very forthright black sheep, acting always upon passionate private conviction and not out of hypocritical public pretense." [Swisher, supra]

The After Dark interview includes a photo of Byars and the actor Vincent Child in Rome filming The Genesis Children. After the photo has been reproduced in a magazine, the magazine microfilmed, and the microfilm laserprinted, it is possible to state that Byars is the same height as Childs, and that wearing dark glasses and a ten-gallon hat he looks very much like anyone else wearing dark glasses and a ten-gallon hat.

It seems safe to affirm that Byars was not unfamiliar with the seamier side of life in Los Angeles, or unacquainted with young men in the sex trade from the Gold Cup.

Photography of enduring quality

However, according to a 1975 interview with a Lyric producer,

"Lyric had specialized in nude photos of models ranging from twelve to twenty years of age. As a physique photographer, Lyric had been out of business for several years, since Byars did not approve of doing hardcore photography and the market accepted little else, but the company name was being carried on as a producer of television travelogues."

Lyric's production occurred in a narrow window of time, when social mores had loosened sufficiently to permit the sort of naturist films it produced, but not enough to allow more explicit content. The same producer acknowledged that "Lyric had once been one of the biggest photographers in the business." [5]

Mr. Byars himself was a sometime photographer. Zipper magazine, a Hollywood publication which billed itself as “Art/Entertainment For Men” included in its February 1972 issue the pictorial “Photographer of the Month: Billy Byars.”

Something more than being "one of the biggest" is needed to explain the frequency with which Lyric's films and photographs circulate even today. Perhaps it was the quality of Pfeiffer's photography, which transcends the genre, or the choice of models, or the beauty of the settings. Pfeiffer's camera captured a swimming pool full of splashing boys, high above Los Angeles and in the hazy distance the sea, and made those summer afternoons eternal.

Byars and the Lyric boys

It is difficult to determine just who the "Lyric boys" who appear in Lyric's films were, and the nature of their relationship with Mr. Byars. Possibly he merely considered that having a lot of naked teenagers about improved the view.

Peter Glawson appeared both in the early Texas films and the later California ones. An online source says

"I would say that he was totally straight and not a nudist but a 'financed boy' who was resident with an older person. He liked being looked at but I would doubt that he was that keen on looking. He was brought into the big city from the country and I would say that it was his practical nature rather than anything else that kept him there." [6]

Various other posts confirm Mr. Glawson's heterosexual orientation. Others posts assert that a younger brother appeared in Lyric productions as "Maxey Adams". The family may have been originally from Texas.

One of Lyric's early magazines, Coq d'Or, says "Peter rarely wears clothes around the studio." However, there is no reason to believe that Lyric's text about its models is any more factual than what Playboy prints about its models.

Robin Lloyd affirms in 1976 that a "Peter, a thirteen-year-old and one of Byars's favorites, still commands a high price in the chicken market."[Lloyd, Robin, For Money or Love: Boy Prostitution in America, Ballantine Books, NY, 1976, p. 79] Lloyd's "Peter" may not be intended to be Peter Glawson, and even so on the same page Lloyd also claims that "One of Billy Byars's best sellers, Genesis Children, portrayed the "delights" of Guy Sommers, a boy ... imported from Hawaii". There is no "Guy Sommers" credited in that film, but Lloyd provides no footnotes or bibliography and cannot have envisioned that his readers would have access to something like IMDB. He also refers to "Guy Strait (probably not his real name)" without bothering to check.[Lloyd, p.77] It is the name Strait was born with. [Clifford L. Linedecker, Children in Chains, 1981, p.228] Online rumor seems reliable in comparison with Lloyd.

The previously cited Lyric producer did respond to questions about the Lyric boys, one of whom lived with him. He says that one of his accusers in the 1973 scandal "was the kid brother of a fellow that was living with me at the time. The older brother was just a beautiful boy, a really great guy, whom I had taken in because things were so rough for him at home-an alcoholic father, the whole bit." In response to the direct question, "The older brother was your lover, then?" he responded,

"Not in the classic sense, no. But that's what everybody assumed, and you can't stop people from making assumptions, you know. Everybody figured we had some wild affair going, and they couldn't understand why my girl friend at the time wasn't jealous-why she liked him too. But in reality we were just a family unit - no wild sex orgies or anything. But even the kid brother thought we were lovers, and he was kind of jealous that his brother was getting all the affection, and not him." [7]

There is no reason to believe that the producer's houseguest and Peter Glawson were the same person.

Given widespread statements by those who knew him that the most prominent of the Lyric boys was straight, and the direct statement by someone at Lyric that one of the boys lived with him in a non-sexual family relationship, the minimum assumption is the most indicated: that the Lyric boys were merely part of the scenery at Mr. Byars's house.

The next film

There are several versions of what Byars and Lyric were planning at the time of the scandal. In 1972 Swisher says,

"Byars's next film venture is an already filmed documentary he has titled The Russian Adventure. It unreels as a story of the travels of an International Boyhood group, filmed not only in Russia, but elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Still in the early planning stages is a ballet feature to be filmed in the desert. Nude. Of course."[Swisher, op. cit.]

The L.A. Times article about the arrests described Lyric's current project as "Soviet '73, a film about Jews traveling in Russia." [L.A. Times, op. cit.] The Lyric producer claimed in 1975 that, "We had a tremendous amount of money sunk into a major TV travelogue on Russia just then." [8] The recurring Russian theme indicates all three sources are discussing the same project. There are several possible explanations for the contradictions:

  • Byars's plans may have changed after The Genesis Children flopped at the box office. Permission to film in Russia may have been difficult to obtain in the early 1970s, and rather than abandon permits and contacts already in place, it may be Lyric decided to film something else.
  • Byars may have tilted his interview with Swisher, who was primarily a dance writer, to her interests. He twice describes his film sequences as "ballet" when speaking to Swisher, while elsewhere he prefers the term "symphony". Also, when pushing one's current films, it may be inadvisable to indicate that one has abandoned that line for something completely different.
  • Just how the L.A. Times or the police would know of Lyric's plans is unclear, and the reporting may be unreliable. Perhaps only in Los Angeles does one include in an arrest report the suspects' plans for their next movie.
  • Lyric may have been planning to make two films at the same time, during the same trip: one for television, and one for DOM-LYRIC.

The Scandal

Lyric came to an end in late 1973, in a scandal that the Meese Commission later called "the first child pornography ring ... brought to public view." (Attorney General's Commission on Pornography (1986) PART 3: Law Enforcement Recommendations. Chapter 3, paragraph 5 [9]. The Los Angeles Times article about the arrests was titled "14 Men Indicted in Sex Movies Featuring Boys Ages 6 to 17: Son of Actress, Heir to Oil Fortune, YMCA Counselor, Scoutmaster, Schoolteacher Among Those Facing Charges". [Los Angeles Times Oct 27, 1973, p. B1]

The "Heir to Oil Fortune" was Billy Byars, Jr. and the "Son of Actress", a Lyric producer. As the policy of the Los Angeles Times was then to not index criminal justice proceedings, it is difficult to determine just what happened to the fourteen accused. A later story confirms that the first of the accused to go to trial ("YMCA Counselor") was acquitted after a full day of jury deliberation, and that two others had pled guilty. A jury deliberated four days before convicting D.M.Y, accused on nine counts, although one of the two thirteen-year-old victims testified that he had been dangled over a cliff by two policemen who insisted he name men with whom he had had sex. (Lloyd, supra, p. 151) also [10]. The defendant in that case received a $500 fine.[L.A. Times, May 31, 1974, p. E4. Online summary only consulted]

While the Meese commission and the Los Angeles Times both refer to films of child pornography, the news article says that the accused were charged not with child pornography, but with molesting children. It says "One confiscated film shows the boys playing nude on a beach believed to be near Corpus Christi." Lyric did produce such a film, Summer Freedom but perhaps no charges were filed based on the film because it was not pornographic under California law.

Two of the accusers

"... were just hustlers the police had dug up ... they had worked for Lyric a good little while ago. Even the police didn't push their stories too much, because they were both well into their teens and they admitted they were willing participants." [11]

The Los Angeles scandal was fueled in part by the 1973 murders in Houston, Texas, by Dean Corll of at least 27 teenagers. The police insinuated to the press that the Lyric scandal might have a connection. Lyric's owner was originally from Texas; another of those arrested in the case was identified by the L.A. Times as "W.J., a Houston photographer".

Some of the accusations are puzzling and inconsistent. While the headline says the men were "Indicted in Sex Movies" the text says "the indictments do not charge anyone with making obscene films." Guy Strait was arrested, as well as another man, D.M.Y, called "a major competitor of Strait in the distribution of homosexual films" [L.A. Times, supra]. How a "ring" can be formed by competitors is not explained. While that's certainly possible in price-fixing, that is not mentioned as a concern in the episode.

Lloyd Martin, the policeman most responsible for the arrests, constructed a national reputation as the "child abuse policeman". He later fell into discredit. Widespread criticism of him and his methods is easily found on the Internet. Martin's signature sound bite is that child abuse is "worse than homicide." One Salon article calls him "infamous" and provides a good general discussion of the exaggerations of child pornography foes [12].

Byars's old friend J. Edgar Hoover had died in May, 1972.

Fortunes Restored?

Mr. Byars was out of the country at the time of the scandal. Robin Lloyd claimed in 1976 that "As soon as the heat was on, Byars fled to Europe to avoid prosecution. He is presumably there today and will probably stay, since there are at least four outstanding felony warrants for his arrest in this country."[Lloyd, p. 78] The Lyric producer, however, says that after Strait's arrest he spoke with friends in the police and was told there was no cause for concern. He at least did not feel "the heat was on". [13] Summers says that, "Byars was by then abroad, reportedly in Morocco, and stayed out of the United States for many years to come."[Summers, op. cit., p. 377] The implication is that he had returned by the time Summers interviewed him in 1988.

While Swisher refers to Byars's mother in the past tense, Texas public records show that Emily Byars died on December 30, 1979 [14]. Byars's sister purchased the family home from the estate. [15] That would imply that there were other heirs, presumably Billy Byars, Jr.

The house in the Hollywood hills that served as Byars's home and as the Lyric studio was last sold on 12/01/1988 for $600,000. [16] Whether Byars was the seller would be available in Los Angeles public records, but isn't online.

So whatever harm may have been done to his finances by The Genesis Children, it's safe to assume he inherited another chunk of a Texas-sized fortune, and this after a decade that had been good to oil money. Fifteen years older and presumably wiser, he may have held onto it. Certainly he has not since cut as wide as swath as he did in the halcyon years of Lyric International.

Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy

Summers shows through numerous details how very well the Byars, father and son, knew Hoover. The afternoon of President Kennedy's death, J. Edgar Hoover phoned three people: the Attorney General, the head of the Secret Service, and Billy Byars, Sr. [Summers, supra, p. 329]

One statement by Billy Byars, Jr., is frequently repeated by conspiracy theorists. Byars related to Summers a conversation at the Del Charro during the summer of 1964 or 1965.

"I asked him, 'Do you think Lee Harvey Oswald did it?' And he stopped and looked at me for quite a long time. Then he said, "If I told you what I really know, it would be very dangerous to this country. Our whole political system could be disrupted.' That's all he said, and I could see he wasn't going to say any more." [Summers, supra, p. 330].

Usually when this quote is cited online Byars, Jr. is described as "teenage", but he would have been in his late twenties.

Common Errors

Several errors are frequent in online information about Byars.

  • The most common is spelling his name as "Byers".
  • The next common is describing his mother as an actress. While the headline in the 1973 scandal referred to "Heir to Oil Fortune" and "Son of Actress", "son of actress" was in fact someone else, a Lyric producer.
  • Lastly, More & Co. of San Francisco, in their magazine More Children #1 identified one of the models as "Billy Byars, Jr." This is probably a competitor tweaking Lyric. It is not plausible that the son of a wealthy Texan was posing for nude photos in San Francisco. Byars's 1936 birth doesn't match up, either.
  • Online searches find a William G Byars, Jr who died on June 15, 1997 in Pottsboro, Texas. But his date of birth is given as October 21, 1926, so presumably he's a different Byars.

See Also

Peter Glawson Lyric International