Wednesday, 20 January 2010

357: I’d Rather Swish Than Fight

I was going to make the title “Suck Cock, Dodge the Draft” (which was a real Gay Lib placard from 1970-71) but I thought I’d show a little decorum

One area in which homosexuality began to impinge upon the younger generation in the 1960s was its usefulness as a way of avoiding the draft. It worked for the straight Ken Tynan in the UK. It didn’t work for the American writer Tom Disch, and he was gay. Swings and roundabouts. Other than actually admitting to a homosexual act, the rough and ready method of immediately proving one’s homosexuality was a little transvestism. Because, as I’ve covered elsewhere, cross-dressing stands in fro homosexuality. And so the following couple of gags.

By Guindon
In “The Realist” April 1966

Cover to “Esquire” September 1966.
Well this is underwhelming. The English style magazine had a fashion spread in the early ‘60s with the drag artiste Danny La Rue modelling the new styles for women. That was witty and daring (some of the advertisers objected at the time). One lipstick reluctantly held by one very straight looking boy is not much of a snappy eye-catcher.

And of course there was the character Klinger in the sitcom “M.A.S.H.” (1972 – 1983). Klinger played on the “mental unfitness” rather than the “sexual perversion” line. Klinger, played by Jamie Farr, was always dressed in women’s clothing to try and prove his psychological unsuitability for the army. Apparently the character was originally written as an effeminate gay man, but then inspired by Lenny Bruce’s escapeds, they subsequently decided that it would be more interesting to have Klinger be heterosexual, but wear dresses in an attempt to gain a Section 8 discharge. So Klinger just ended up being a fast-talking heterosexual who was the go-to guy for a hairdryer with a concern for the the standard of his wardrobe.

“Greetings” (1968)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by Charles Hirsch and Brian De Palma

Starring Gerritt Graham, Robert De Niro and Jonathan Ward.

This rather choppy, fly-by-the-seat-of-its-pants early comedy-drama effort by Brian De Palma follows three young counter-cultural sorts and their escapades attempting to evade the draft and get laid in New York City. When the Jonathan Ward character is called to attend his conscription office, there’s is a brief scene where Gerritt Graham gives him a lesson in how to mince and swish before De Niro relo-playing as sergeant – a very limp wrist, a fey lisping voice, primping his hair, some not very veiled come-ons and invading personal space. A bunch of straight guys showing each other how to act gay is never particularly rewarding, except as a display of degrees of cluelessness, and this is really just flailing around.

1.10 – 1.20
Then there’s this brief clip from a “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” episode from early 1969. A brief man-on-man kiss between an officer (Jonathan Williams) and a draftee. I suppose even just a brief peck on the cheek must be accounted relatively bold for this time. Especially because of the throwaway compliment on the kiss even as the soldier is kicked out of the army.

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