THE ORTON DIARIES
John Kingsley "Joe" Orton (1933–67) was an English playwright, well-known during only his last three years, when he shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies. He kept diaries during only the last eight months of his life. They were edited by John Lahr and posthumously published in 1986.
The diaries were always intended for eventual publication, despite their sexual frankness. In his own diary, the actor Kenneth Williams recorded saying to Orton, "Pepys put all his references to sexual matters in code so that no one would know", to which Orton replied, "I don't care who knows."
Orton was murdered with a hammer by Kenneth Halliwell, with whom he had been living for sixteen years. Once his lover, their sexual relationship had long been virtually extinguished, as the diaries show, and Halliwell had grown increasingly and violently jealous of Orton’s literary success.
While at home in England, Orton had fairly frequent, invariably casual sex with men, but in Morocco, with the exception of one young man, his almost daily sexual encounters were with teenage boys. Moreover, thrice in his diaries he expressed his exasperation that he could not have sex with boys in England and he twice implied that his preference was for boys of fifteen.
Because all the homosexual encounters described by Orton were casual except those with one Moroccan of fourteen or fifteen, age is the only means of determining which should be considered pederastic and which androphilic. In what follows, all sexual references to boys below the arbitrary age of seventeen are noted.
The notes are all by the editor. Some of his biographical details of English people mentioned are here omitted.
London December 1966-May 1967
Tuesday 25 April 1967 [describing a party he attended at “Kenneth W.”’s flat in London]:
We had a very interesting evening. I told a lot of stories about sex. ‘As long as they [new arrivals at the party] won’t be shocked like the time I told Gordon Jackson how I’d fucked that kid of thirteen,’ I said. ‘No, No!’ Kenneth W. said, ‘They love all that filth. …’ (p. 143)
Tangier May-June 1967
During his first nineteen days in Morocco, Orton continued to be promiscuous. Those he describes sex with were six: Mohammed, a “very beautiful” boy of 15 or 16 “whom I knew (but had never had) from last year.” Larbi, aged 15, more frequently engaged in masturbation with Halliwell, Mohammed Khomsi, aged 19, Nasser, aged 25 (despite Orton making the objection “but, I like boys”), another Mohammed, aged 15 or 16, and finally Mohammed “Yellow-jersey”, described first as about 15, then as 14. From the morrow of his first sex with the latter, there is no more mention of sex with anyone else, and he describes pedicating this boy nearly every one of his remaining thirty days in Morocco. Extracts are given here for only the most interesting passages in illuminating the attitudes and behaviour of the time.
Sunday 7 May [the day Orton and Halliwell flew in from London on 7 May, intending to stay two months, and taking a flat.] …
After changing we went down to The Windmill, a beach place run by an Englishman (Bill Dent) and an Irishman (Mike). … We had tea and went out on the terrace, which is by the railway line. As I was sitting half—asleep, a small voice said ‘Hallo’. It was a little boy. I had a little conversation. He asked my name. ‘Joe,’ I said. He nodded. ‘Joo,’ he said, ‘yes.’ ‘Are you going home now,’ he said. ‘No,’ I said, lying, ‘I’m staying with friends.’ He spoke then of how he was at school and was learning English. After more conversation, during a lull, he said, wistfully, ‘Do you like boys?’ ‘Sometimes,’ I said. He nodded. ‘You fuck him?’ he said, nodding at Kenneth. I shook my head and he said, conspiratorially, ‘He is asleep.’ And then, ‘You will be here many days?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Goodbye,’ he said, with a smile and stopped. ‘I am Hassan,’ he said. After he had gone, K. said, ‘You can’t have him - he is about ten.’ ‘It’ll have to be a cabin job,’ I said. ‘They won’t allow him in the cabins,’ he said. ‘Along the beach then,’ I said.
[That evening] When we were at the steps leading from the casbah, three very beautiful boys approached. ‘You English?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You like to come for a ride in a taxi?’ the prettiest one said. We were too wise to be caught in that trap and we said ‘no’. ‘I’ll take a single one back sometime,’ I said to Ken. ‘But not three and not in a taxi.’ ‘The taxi driver is probably in the act,’ Ken said.
Monday 8 May …
We saw Bill Fox sitting and drinking coffee at a café. He said, as we sat down, that he’s had a little chicken who’d sucked his cock. ‘He said he loved it,’ he laughed. ‘I thought of you immediately Joe, though he’s too small to fuck, I’m sure.’ I asked him his name. ‘Hassan,’ he said. ‘That’s the one I spoke to at the Windmill,’ I said. ‘I must have him, only I can’t take him back to our place. Not after last year, and we are staying the summer.’ ‘You can have him at my ﬂat,’ Bill said. ‘I’ll ﬁx it up for you.’
Wednesday 10 May
Then we met the two thirteen-year-olds from last year, Mustapha and Absolem. But it really is too dangerous to go with the little ones, so I said ‘no’, (p. 161)
Saturday 20 May …
We met Mustapha. He was about fourteen. ‘We’re going to Malabata,’ I said. ‘Would you like to come with us?’ He made no objection and we waited for the bus. However, there was the prospect of fucking Mustapha in the hills outside the town and I endured all with patience and thought of the tube of KY jelly in my haversack along with the bottles of lemonade. At last Nigel drew up in his car. It’s a four-seater and he offered to give us a lift. However, he hadn’t realised that Mustapha was with us and chickened-out of taking him on the grounds that he couldn’t carry six. I wanted to get out with
Mustapha and wait for the bus, but Kenneth objected and said, ‘No, let Mustapha join us at Malabata.’ ‘But,’ objected Stalk, ‘he won’t do that.’ ‘Yes, he will,’ said Kenneth. By now I was in a great rage. ‘I’ll get out and get the bus with Mustapha,’ I said. ‘No, no!’ Kenneth said and, foreseeing great scenes ahead if I did get out, Nigel drove off, and before we were out of sight we saw the boy speaking to some tourist. I sat sick and glum. ‘It’s too dangerous to take boys of that age in the car,’ Kenneth said. Nigel agreed. I said nothing and went into a world of my own for the rest of the day, hutting the door and refusing to speak to anyone on the ill-fated trek to Malabata.
Thursday 25 May …
I then saw Mohammed (the one that was coming at two — he wore a yellow jersey and, to distinguish him from the rest of his kind, I’ll call him Mohammed Yellow-jersey). So I had a couple of poached eggs and a coffee, and nodded for Mohammed Yellow-jersey to follow.
I went onto the Avenue d’Espagne and Mohammed Yellow-jersey was still following. I let him in and he sat on my bed smiling. Kenneth came out of the bathroom. I went in for a shit. When I came back Kenneth was sitting in a dressing-gown. ‘Do you want tea?’ I said to Yellow-jersey. ‘Yes, please,’ he said. I made a pot. He had condensed milk in it and three spoonfuls of sugar. Kenneth and I talked. He had a piece of hash cake. I wasn’t going to risk it fucking up the sex. I took a couple of valium though. I usually ﬁnd a mild muscular relaxant helpful. I took the boy (who is about ﬁfteen) into the room. We took off our clothes and lay together. I stroked him, kissed his nipples. When I’d got a spanking good hard on, I turned the lad over and, using a little grease mixed with my spit, I put my prick up his arse. I found he wouldn’t take the cock up the arse. He cried out as it went in. But he allowed me to have the prick between the buttocks which, as I fucked, he agitated in a most alarming way. At this point I, my hand well-greased, put my hand under him and took his medium-to-large tool in my hand. While I fucked him, I pressed his prick between my clenched ﬁst and had a truly satisfactory orgasm.
We dozed for ﬁfteen minutes or so and then he had a douche. We smiled a lot and I gave him six dirham and he asked for another, so I gave him seven. We displayed more affection and then he went and drenched himself with a cheap kind of eau-de-cologne …. I made apot of tea, had a largish slice of hashish cake and came into the living-room. ‘Very good,’ I said to Kenneth. ‘Just my type.’ …
[After dinner] Sat on the boulevard at the Café de Paris and, at ten, rose to go, only to meet Nigel, Frank and Kevin who persuaded us to stay a little longer. In the re-allotment of seats, I sat next to a rather stuffy American tourist and his disapproving wife. They listened to our conversation and I, realising this, began to exaggerate the content. ‘He took me right up the arse,’ I said, ‘and afterwards he thanked me for giving him such a good fucking. They’re most polite people.’ The American and his wife hardly moved a muscle. ‘We’ve got a leopard-skin rug in the ﬂat and he wanted me to fuck him on that,’ I said in an undertone which was perfectly audible to the next table. ‘Only I’m afraid of the spunk you see, it might adversely affect the spots of the leopard.’ Nigel said quietly, ‘Those tourists can hear what you’re saying.’ He looked alarmed. ‘I mean them to hear,’ I said. ‘They have no right to be occupying chairs reserved for decent sex perverts.’ And then with excitement I said, ‘He might bite a hole in the rug. It’s the writhing he does, you see, when my prick is up him that might grievously damage the rug, and I can’t ask him to control his excitement. It wouldn’t be natural when you’re six inches up the bum, would it?’
The American couple frigidly paid for their coffee and moved away. ‘You shouldn’t drive people like that away,’ Nigel said. ‘The town needs tourists.’ ‘Not that kind, it doesn’t,’ I said. ‘This is our country, our town, our civilisation. I want nothing to do with the civilisation they made. Fuck them! They’ll sit and listen to buggers’ talk from me and drink their coffee and piss off." ‘It seems rather a strange joke,’ Frank said with an old school—teacher’s smile. ‘It isn’t a joke,’ I said, ‘there’s no such thing as a joke.’
Nigel, who was drinking some strange brandy, got very excited by a girl who passed. She looked like a boy. She was German. We discussed women for a bit and I wrote them off as a mistake. ‘Who wants a girl to look like a boy?’ I said. ‘Or a boy to look like a girl? It’s not natural.’ ‘I really think, Joe,’ Nigel said, ‘that you shouldn’t bring nature into your conversation quite so often, you who have done more than anyone I know to outrage her.’ ‘I’ve never outraged nature,’ I said. ‘I’ve always listened to her advice and followed it to wherever it went.’ We left at eleven. I feel so content. (pp. 185-7)
Friday 26 May …
I have frequently given my best sexual performance with people I didn’t love, in fact rather despised. I have fucked the arses off aging queens quite easily, but found a beautiful young boy often too difficult to come, because I loved him too much. (p. 188)
Saturday 27 May …
At three, a knock at the door. It was Mohammed Yellow-jersey. Of course, as he hasn’t a watch he has no way of telling the time. I let him in. The attractive, curly-headed seventeen-year-old also outside and pointed to himself. I shook my head and closed the door. He stayed there for ages waiting. Mohammed very amused. Kenneth not so. ‘What is he waiting out there for?’ he said. ‘It really doesn’t matter,’ I said. ‘He can wait, nobody in this alley sees what’s going on.’ I took Mohammed Yellow-jersey into the bedroom after he’d smoked one of Kenneth’s cigarettes. We had a very exciting sex bout. We were both sweating and exhausted. He almost immediately fell into a deep sleep, snuggling close to me. After a few minutes I also fell asleep and we were awakened an hour and a half later by Kenneth hissing through the door, ‘What have you done in there?’ ‘Nothing,’ I said. My Yellow—jersey and I showered and I said I’d see him on lundi. As I was talking to small Absolem and Mustapha on the boulevard, a Moroccan man passed and said to them, ‘Hassissi,’ at which they looked sheepish. I suppose it’s the equivalent of bum-boy. In a civilisation where homosexuality is frowned upon, whether active or passive, I can’t think of an English equivalent of luart. Larbi frequently admits to luart but not hass-hass, though, in fact, I have been up him as he must very well know.
Met Paddington [Orton's nickname for a Moroccan friend]. He said he’d been smoking Kif. He walked with us for a little. He talked of sex. I spoke of vaseline, which he agreed was good as a hair tonic also. ‘Spit,’ he said ‘is good with a boy, but sometimes the mouth is dry and it’s impossible to make enough.’ He then said, ‘When I go into the country I usually take a piece of soap.’ ‘But isn’t it painful?’ ‘Yes,’ he admitted, ‘it can be painful.’ He said he was going to Spain in a few weeks. ‘Many lovely boys there,’ he said smiling. ‘Seventeen, eighteen, I have fucked many Spanish boys.’ …
Went to dinner with Nigel. … He said that El Aioun was the place for boys, ‘and for tea also, I believe,’ he said. ‘I like young boys.’ ‘How young?’ I said. ‘Oh very young,’ he said. ‘But how young?’ I pressed. ‘Twelve?’ ‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘About fourteen.’ ‘Oh, perfectly natural,’ I said. ‘I think I have ﬁnally settled for ﬁfteen. This is because my Yellow-jersey is ﬁfteen, though, mind you, I lust for Mustapha and he can’t be more than fourteen. I think it a little indiscreet to bring him back to the house, so I shall have him in a cabin one day. If his prick is as undeveloped as last year, I shall know that he is not fourteen.’ ‘What will you do then?’ Nigel said. ‘I shall leave it for a year or two,’ I said. ‘Like the peaches on a sunny wall,’ Kenneth said. (pp. 189-90)
After wandering about [in Chechaouen] and taking a few photographs, we met a boy of about ﬁfteen. He was dark and on his upper lips the ﬁrst downy hairs of a schoolboy moustache. His name, inevitably, was Mohammed. He took us to the spring and we sat at a café among the trees. … we smoked [Kif], with intervals, for a couple of hours. … Mohammed was suddenly very provocative and, as we left the café, plucked a sprig of jasmine from a nearby bush and presented it to me. …
Mohammed took us to a café where, as expected, we had to witness a dance by a Moroccan queer. … I bought a postcard of the dancer and a small boy, also dressed as a girl. ‘That boy is good for fuck,’ Mohammed said pointing to the boy in the picture. ‘Quel age?’ I said. Mohammed shrugged his shoulders. ‘Perhaps ten,’ he said. He went on to say that the boy had been had by most of the male population in the town. ‘You like this boy for l’amour?’ Larbi said, nodding at Mohammed. ‘OK’, I said, feeling most unsexy and half asleep. Larbi spoke to Mohammed who said it wasn’t possible for him to come to the hotel. The patron wouldn’t let guests take boys back. However, he said, he’d be delighted to come to Tangier and sleep with me there. I told Larbi to explain that I was going on Sunday, and for Mohammed to come after I came back from London. ‘OK, this boy say he come June 8th.” (pp. 193-4)
Saturday 3 June …
Larbi arrived at three. Yellow-jersey arrived and had tea. Yellow-jersey and I had it off in the bedroom. How incredible it is, I thought later as I watched him take a shower, to really see a nude ﬁfteen-year-old. That small waist, sudden jutting of the bum; it wasn’t just sex, it was an aesthetic experience. Sitting in the bath, he looked as if he were on canvas by a French impressionist — some painter of the stature of Renoir. There was a faint ﬂush of hair in the small of his back, spreading out to the top of the buttocks. He stood quite naturally and unselfconsciously towelling himself and I thought that nothing ages one more than the sight of one’s juniors, if they’re beautiful in the nude. I glanced into the mirror recognising at once that I was old enough to be the boy’s father. Larbi and Yellow-jersey soon left after sex.
Sunday 11 June …
Yellow-jersey came. … I took his clothes off. And explored his body. I ﬁngered his buttocks. He became very excited. The hashish had really worked rather well. Giving me incredible conﬁdence. I turned him over, admired the shape of his back, the beautiful shape that you have to be fourteen to have. His buttocks, which weren’t dark at all, but had a creamy look, rose very sharply from his waist. He lay his face on the pillow. I put my prick up as far as he would allow and fucked solidly for three quarters of an hour. Finally I came, shooting between his buttocks all over the bedspread. … Not for the ﬁrst time I reﬂected that having had a boy of his age in England I’d spend the rest of my time in terror of his parents or the police. At one moment with my cock in his arse, the image was, and as I write still is, overpoweringly erotic, and I reﬂected that whatever the Sunday papers have said about Crimes of Passion [plays by Orton] was of little or no importance compared with this. (pp. 206-7)
Wednesday 14 June
I went down to the Windmill. Didn’t bathe. Saw a very pretty boy of about eleven. He kept rolling over in the sand, showing first his cock and then his arse. But I had Yellow-jersey coming at three. He arrived at 3:40. He lay on the bed smiling, a ludicrous parody of sexual invitation. I locked the door of the bedroom and had a ﬂeeting moment of indulging in illicit pleasures triggered off, I suppose, by the turning of the key in the lock. I picked up a towel and put it on the bedside table. ‘La creme,’ Yellow-jersey said, his eyes half-closed. I took the vaseline from the drawer and took his clothes off. I played with his cock, in order to excite myself, not him. He hugged me suddenly and said he’d been tossed off by an English tourist. ‘Where?’ I said. He looked puzzled. ‘Un Anglais,’ he made the gesture of masturbation — ‘moi — la toilette.’ ‘La plage,’ I said. He nodded, very pleased. ‘Did he pay you dirham?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he said. He kissed me and we both laughed. I didn’t ask how much the English tourist had paid him, because it was probably more than I do. ‘Surely though,’ Kenneth said later, ‘it isn’t necessary to have boys in lavatories in this country.’ … Yellow-jersey and I were naked. I was fully awake. I turned him over, knelt above him, greased my cock with vaseline and spit, stroked his buttocks and wiped the residue of grease on my hand. Yellow-jersey, his face on the pillow, his eyes closed, gave a little moan. My cock was very hard. I fucked for about twenty minutes. …
At the end of twenty minutes, I got up and had a piss. When I came back, Yellow-jersey was laying on his stomach with his arms spreadeagled like young Christ cruciﬁed seen from the back without his cross. I straddled the boy, put my cock in again and fucked him for another ten minutes or so — coming at last with enormous physical and mental pleasure. Yellow-jersey’s cock was still hard as I reached round and felt it. He kissed my cheek. (pp. 209-10)
Tuesday 27 June …
There was an incredible scene at The Pergola today,’ Nigel said. ‘A fourteen-year-old blond English boy came in with four big Moroccans. He was holding court.’ ‘Fourteen?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ Nigel said, ‘I was told he was fourteen. He is here with his mother.’ ‘Are the Moroccans fucking him?’ I said. ‘Well, I don’t know,’ said Nigel. ‘I suppose he will get fucked if he carries on like that.’ Larbi left shortly after this conversation. Nigel expressed an interest in M. Ali (Chechaouen). Kenneth, anxious to sell his share of the boy, said, ‘Yes he’s very good in bed, and he’ll do anything.’ ‘How do you know?’ I said. ‘You’ve only asked him to do so little.’ Kenneth said, ‘Oh, all the boys will do anything.’ ‘They won’t,’ I said. ‘There’s a lot of things they won’t do.’ It was very irritating to be told by someone who likes being masturbated that the boys ‘will do anything.’ ‘You said yourself that he wouldn’t take it. It was your excuse for having him in the ﬁrst place.’
Kenneth became violently angry shortly after this and attacked me, hitting me about the head. (pp. 221-2)
Wednesday 28 June …
The fourteen-year-old-boy appeared with a Moroccan. He wasn’t good-looking. A little queen, in fact. I’d like to fuck him though, just because he’s fourteen and blond. Kenneth began an argument. ‘He’s awful,’ he said in loud irritating tones. ‘I can’t understand anyone going with him.’ ‘If he takes it and he’s fourteen,’ I said, ‘I can see perfectly why the Moroccans are interested and I would be too.’ (p. 223)
Thursday 29 June …
Took Yellow-jersey into the bedroom. l’d taken too much cake and so the sex, though good, went on too long. I was fucking for an hour. Yellow-jersey very upset because I’m leaving. He doesn’t believe I’ll return. October seems so far off. Such a lot of things can happen.
London July-August 1967
Tuesday 4 July …
Saw Peggy. She’s quite extraordinary. Being v. sophisticated about my taste ‘for little boys’. Willes has told her this. ‘Well, you’re legal now,’ she said, showing her ignorance. (The homosexual bill becomes law today.) ‘It’s only legal over twenty-one,’ I said, ‘I like boys of ﬁfteen.’ She looked rather bright. Great attempts at modernity. I saw Peter Willes this evening for dinner. ‘Most people are very shocked by paederasty,’ he said. ‘You mustn’t let people know you fuck little boys.’
Tuesday 11 July …
Achmed [Ossman, just introduced as an Egyptian journalist] arrived at eight. We went to a pub and talked. He, wary at ﬁrst, with the present situation vis-à-vis the Arab/ Israel conﬂict. I said I was pro-Arab and he brightened considerably. He is in favour of Nasser. He says he’s liberalising Egypt. Though, to hear him talk, the liberalising seems to consist mainly of the Arab girls becoming freer sexually. l’m not in favour of this — the more girl—conscious they become out there the less boy—conscious. I received a distinct impression (Achmed being rather middle-class) that boys and hashish are distinctly out of fashion with the trendy Arabs. It’s all whiskey and Western thought. (pp. 237-8)
Thursday 27 July, [describing his arrival to stay with the family of Oscar Lewenstein in Sussex:]
We met Oscar’s mother, a small, withered Jewess, and his children Mark (14) and Peter (11). Both were middle-class children. Brought up in a liberal atmosphere. … Neither child was sexually attractive. Mark wore spectacles. Even when he removed them he wasn’t erotic. He was thin, studious, red-haired. Even when he removed them he wasn’t erotic. I was perfectly safe from his charms for he had none. … Peter was younger. He was depressingly unsexual. (p. 257)
July 28 Friday [describing a visit to a beach in Sussex with Halliwell:]
Here and there were numbers of nearly-naked boys. This made me unhappy. After passing a fifteen-year-old lying face-downward, wearing red bathing-drawers, I said, in a rage, ‘England is intolerable. I’d be able to fuck that in an Arab country. I could take him home and stick my cock up him! (p. 259)
 [Note transposed from the first mention of him on p. 49:] Kenneth Williams (1926- ). Popular comedian and actor. … A good friend of Orton’s … .
 [Note transposed from the first mention of him on p. 84:] Gordon Jackson (1923- ). Actor. Best known to TV audiences as the butler in Upstairs, Downstairs.
 This was Halliwell’s first attack on Orton’s head, a foreshadowing of his murder.
 [Note transposed from the first mention of her on p. 231:] Dame Peggy Ashcroft (1907- ). Actress.
 The Homosexual Bill. Became law on 27 July, 1967, made sex in private between two consenting male adults no longer an illegal offence and ﬁxed the age of adulthood at twenty-one.