Monday, 28 May 2012

411: Gay Bar 12 - Eraser

Eraser, 1996

Directed by Chuck Russell Screenplay by Tony Puryear and Walon Green

Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Kruger Robert Pastorelli as Johnny Casteleone Rick Batalla as Kevin, the Bartender

Kruger, a Witness Protection specialist, goes to see Casteleone, a mob witness who has been given a new identity.

Outside the bar we see a fair number of men, some in vests or with arms around each other.

To the strains of the opening to “It’s Raining Men” cuts to three drag queens in the bar miming to the song.

Cuts to dance floor entrance – gym bodies but not overly masculine dancing – some with Arms around one another

Pans across floor to an extravagant pair in in polka dot lycra costume and pink fur stole dancing at one another who separate to let Arnold Schwarzenegger pass.

He makes his way to the bar and speaks to one of the men behind the bar who is Casteleone.

Let’s finish this particular saunter down memory lane with this unexpected appearance in a 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger film. And if it’s surprising to me, then it’s probably equally surprising to the audience of the time. However it fits in, as this is about the time that gay films or films with gay characters go mainstream / inoffensively acceptable with “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994), “The Adventures of Priscilla - Queen of the Desert” (1994), “Jeffrey” (1995), “The Birdcage” (1996), “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997), “In and Out” (1997). A thriller like “Copy Cat” (1995) can feature a personally pleasant gay character who frequents gay bars if only so he can be killed off.

So this particular scene exemplifies the standard gay bar / disco as it will appear for the next fifteen years to the current day. From being something secretive, faintly grubby, now we have all these gay bars that flatter audiences that gay life is just a little more glamorous and exciting: “Absolutely Fabulous”, ”Sex and the City”, “Will and Grace” , and “Queer as Folk”.

What you get here are as many disparate, but non-controversial aspects of the gay club scene as can be crammed into one scene in as short a time as possible. So you get flamboyant drag queens performing, and also one or two female impersonators in the general audience. The extravagantly dressed pair are not drag queens but instead evocative of the more avant-garde club scene, reminiscent of Leigh Bowery or the Club Kids in the early 90s (and I’m old enough to remember seeing Michael Alig and co on various NYC talk shows when I did homework after school). Otherwise the rest of the clientele are gym-toned and either in revealing or tops or else in waistcoats. What there aren’t are any clones of leather daddies. This isn’t “The Blue Oyster”.

The flipside to this openness is a corresponding ease on the part of the two straight men. This is lightly humorous scene, where the characters are just amused that they are in a gay bar and nothing more. The characters tease each other but aside from the opening “Was it your idea to leave me with the Village People?” line from Pastorelli, they don’t mock the gay men. They’re not uncomfortable being there. There’s no sense of their masculinity being threatened or fear of sexual assault.

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