Monday, 23 February 2009

233: "The Kremlin Letter" with George Sanders

“The Kremlin Letter” (1970)
Directed by John Huston
Screenplay by Gladys Hill, and John Huston, adapted from the novel by Noel Behn
George Sanders as “The Warlock”

John Huston’s films are usually a particular type of worldly, cynical entertainment. His films are made for a mature audience, and since here Huston takes advantage of the then recent loosening up of screen classification codes, “mature” can also mean a certain amount of “sexing things up”.
If you’re going to have a gay spy then it’s probably going to be a lot more credible to have a gay English spy. Particularly, as later in the film he’s having a relationship with a Russian. Other than showing him in a clinch, what more dramatic way of proving he’s homosexual than performing in drag in a gay bar? Otherwise “The Warlock” is a perfectly capable spy, so no sissy insinuations of incapability. It’s not played harshly for laughs, although Saunders is a rather bulky woman, and the big cigar avidly stuck in an older and partially de-dragged face makes for a deliberately grotesque contrast. I think you’d be hard-pressed, other than the twitching of the lips when he sights his prey in the museum, to argue that it’s a stereotypically gay performance, that Sanders plays it more queeny than any of his other roles. I’ve read one or two reviews that argue that playing in drag is a humiliation for sanders, to which the only reply is, “Have you seen the poor man in ‘Psychomania’?”

Should we see anything special in the bar being situated in San Francisco, in 1969? Probably not too much. It’s a very stylish brittle crowd (haughty faces and flapping hands), looking as though they’ve all escaped from “I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet” (circa 1966) – so maybe not that au courant actually.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

232: "Theatre of Blood" with Vincent Price

from “Theatre of Blood” (1973)
written by Anthony Greville-Bell
Directed by Douglas Hickox

Vincent Price: Edward Lionheart
Diana Rigg: Edwina Lionheart
Coral Browne: Chloe Moon

If you haven’t seen “Theatre of Blood” then why not? Vincent Price plays Edward Lionheart, a murderous Shakespearian actor determined to avenge himself on a circle of critics. Each critic is killed off by Lionheart in a manner alluding to a particular play, and in each instance Lionheart indulges a taste for playacting.
Here we have Price as Lionheart pretending to a gay hairdresser called “Butch”. And Diana Rigg as a young women pretending to a snide male hairdresser (which is a sufficiently Shakespearian conceit in its own right).
Like Sellers’s performance, it’s a variant on the languorous primping, slightly predatory poof, leaning limply against the nearest support. There’s even a “duckie” thrown if for good measure. Some rather heavy emphasis when Butch says “gay” or “camp”, just so you don’t miss it. I’m going to pretend the Shakespeare quote featuring “faggots” is purely accidental.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

231: "A Day at the Beach" with Peter Sellers (1970)

A surprise cameo by Peter Sellers and his good friend Graham Stark in “A Day at the Beach” (1970). The script was written by Roman Polanski who was due to direct the film too. Sharon Tate was murdered just as he was preparing. Polanski’s comedy, “The Fearless Vampire Hunters” also has a vampire played comic gay. “A Day at the Beach” had a very limited release. It is by all accounts a fairly sombre affair, and Sellers and Stark’s cameo is an unusual piece of relief with deliberately nasty dramatic overtones. Lord only knows how the two came to be in it (although Polanski was in Sellers’s “The Magic Christian” in 1969). Apparently Sellers was credited as “A.Queen”. It’s probably best to compare this gay couple to characters in other contemporary films like “Boys in the Band” and “Staircase”. Here we have two languorous queens who are rather too old, in several ways, for the fashions they wear, and so a little grotesque. Both flirt with / stare hungrily at the young man (Mark Evans) who plays along, if aggressively. A certain primping, fiddling with hair, and Stark’s heavily beringed, effeminate hands is par for the course. Sellers deep-throating the arms of his spectacles is not. Seller’s spiteful bitchiness towards his absent partner as a form of flirtation is not unrealistic, though it provides an excuse for threats by the young man towards Stark as a means of proving his superiority. So not quite comic relief, but much of it played for laughs of a kind. It's certainly a million mile away from the likes of Dick Emery.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

230: Funny He Never Married #2 with extra Orson Welles

Dean Martin Show, 17 September 1970
written by Marty Feldman and Barry Took

Here’s an oddity. Orson Welles and Dom Deluise performing “Funny He Never Married” on the Dean Martin Show. I’m guessing this is from Welles’s appearance in 1970, since the sketch was originally performed by Marty Feldman in 1968. Tim Brooke-Taylor was the other original performer, and he had worked with Orson Welles in several projects in 1969, which is how I imagine Welles came to know the piece. It’s mostly the same sketch, but slightly more drawn out, since the two are playing it as fusty old clubmen, giving slightly more consideration to what they’re saying, rather than playing it as two old gossips. This has some additional business about scents and flowers not in the original.

Friday, 13 February 2009

229: J.B. Handelsman

from “I Have Seen the Future and It Hurts” by J.B. Handelsman
in “Punch” 23 May 1973

Some panels from a strip by J. B. Handelsman satirising futurology. What sort of things might one invent for a ludicrous future? Why, such silliness as nude flights to Jupiter, underwater cities, talking fish, nonsensical aliens, gibberish as a new language, and drug induced interactive television. Anything else too ludicrous for words? Some sort of weird inversion of sexual roles must be on the cards? Yes, it's gay marriage and parenting. Both wear female clothes, and it’s a “male daughter-in-law” not “son-in-law”. The “I temporarily do” is a nice line, I think though.

228: Parody Engagement Card

from a parody of modern Hallmark greeting cards in “Janet Lives With Mel and Griff”, 1988

17 years later and the same “it’s not some much losing a son, as gaining another son” punchline from Alan Coren’s romance parody. It’s a little hard to tell, but it looks as though the figure on the right is wearing some sort of cap.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

227: Alan Coren - Chapter VIII, Two Hearts Beat As One

"Chapter VIII: Two Hearts Beat As One"
by Alan Coren
in "Punch" 27 Jan 1971
(from a series of parodies inspired by a news story about modern romance magazines)

Mrs Belweather was nervous; and what mother would not be?

She had done their weekend cottage out from top to bottom, and the little house shone like a brass button; the scent of lavender and pine was everywhere and the rich brown parquet was a mirror of chintz and dimity, and the bright flowers of the spotless curtains, moving gently in the soft spring breeze, were for all the world like the real flowers of her lovely little garden beyond! The horse-brasses winked in the cosy ingle-nook, and the porcelain dog smiled beneath his lampshade, and her collection of reproduction Delft soup-plates sent the friendly rays of the spring sun dancing back into the room, and Crippen the cat sat on the white window-ledge blinking contentedly as he rubbed his furry paws over his fine long whiskers, and the bronzette kettle sang happily on the hob. Yes, thought Mrs Belweather, wonderfully presented for sixty, I have done my bit! Shall I have just a little glass of Stone’s Ginger Wine for my palpitations? After all, I do deserve it, and it isn’t every day that a mummy’s only son brings his fiancée home!

She had just washed up the wine glass and popped a Polo into her moth when the wheels of Nigel’s little two-seater rasped on the gravel, and his horn peep-peeped, the way it always did when he came down to Volehaven from his important job in the city. Hurriedly she smoothed her hair. The door chimed gently. She ran to it.

Nigel stood there smiling, filling the doorway with his fine, lean frame, his handsome face tanned form the drive, his grey eyes twinkling with customary merriment.

'Hello, Mumsy!" he said, with his wonderful voice. He put down his cricket bag and his squash racket and his riding boots and his gleaming twelve-bore, and threw his strong arms around her.

“Hello, darling!" cried Mrs. Belwether. My goodness, she thought, am I really about to weep? Silly old me! "Where's . . .”

Nigel laughed his rich laugh.

“In the car, Mumsy,” he replied. “No peeking! I wanted to have you all to myself, just for a minute."

They walked into the parlour, arm-in-arm, and Nigel was about to tell her about his job and his new flat in fashionable Fulham Road, when she slapped his wrist playfully!

"Nigel, I can't wait a moment longer! It really is too naughty of you! Look, there’s Father coming in from the radishes now."

“Very well, you silly old thing!" said Nige1, and, with a light laugh, he went out the door.

The lovers returned hand in hand, smiling over some private joke, as lovers will. Mr and Mrs Belwether waited by the fireplace.

"Mumsy, Father, this is Julian," said Nigel.

They all shook hands. Mr. Belwether, retired from the bank now but still sprightly, poured sherry, and looked Julian up and down, as fathers will.

“So,” he said, "this is the young fella who’s going to take our 1ittle boy away, is it?”

Everyone chuckled! He's so good with people, thought Mrs. Belwether hugging herself mentally.

“Don't think of it as losing a son Mr Belwether," said Julian. "Think of it as gaining a son."

Mrs Belwether nudged Nigel.

"I think Father wants to be alone with Julian," she said. "Shall I show you my cotoneaster?"

"Right-o!" said Nigel.

When they had gone, Mr. Belwether poured Julian another glass of sherry.

"Now, young fella-me-lad," he said. "This job of yours-pays well, does it? Good prospects?"

Monday, 9 February 2009

226: Adam and Steve

If at some time you haven’t had some supposed wit inflict: “If God had meant for there to be homosexuals, then he’d have made Adam and Steve, not Adam and Eve” on you then you’ve been jolly lucky. To which wisecrack the only reasonable response is jamming your thumb into their eye, and then while you’re got their attention explaining the theory of evolution, punctuating the more important principles by slamming their head against the wall.
Aaanyyyyy-hoooo. Cartoons in which some typically male/female couple is changed to became an all-male gay pair.

“Larry” in “Private Eye” 5 November 1971.
Darby and Joan is an English phrase used to describe a couple who’ve been married for many, many years. Social clubs for pensioners were called “Darby and Joan Clubs”. "Darby and John" would have seemed like a workable pun.
There’s a handbag, and I think the chap seated in the window on the far right is wearing pearls.

David Austin in “The Spectator” 20 August 1983
A gay Punch and Judy for a gay audience

Michael Heath in “The Spectator” 7 July 1982

Michael Heath in “Punch” 17 March 1982
More of a crappy pun, to be honest, and less impressive than a cartoon I’ve seen from the ‘70s of a performance of “Oklahomosexual”

Sunday, 8 February 2009

225: Ralph Steadman in “Gay News”

from “Gay News” 1977

“Gay News” ran these illustrations to accompany a series of articles giving guidance for gay couples on legal and financial matters about the housing market. How on earth Steadman became involved in this I don’t know? It might possibly be some show of solidarity by Steadman aginst the forces of repression as symbolised by Mary Whitehouse's blasphemy lawsuit against "Gay News" which was in full swing at this time. I generally don’t include cartoons from gay magazines, but given the eminence of Ralph Steadman it seems silly to exclude this. Certainly it’s worth comparing the men in these four illos with the homosexuals from my last Ralph Steadman feature. The Caesar haircut sported by the one partner is some acknowledgment of a prevalent gay hairstyle from the period.

8 April 1977 – The necessary dance of discomfort to avoid greater embarrassment and shame when living in rented accommodation.

22 April 1977 – A fantastic means of projecting the banker’s anxiety about gay men

6 May 1977 – Gay gnomes – not very impressive, if I’m honest

20 May 1977 –A visual metaphor for entanglement, as a long life together stretches out and the newspaper headline heralds society’s progress

224: Jack Chick - The Gay Blade

panels from “The Gay Blade” by Jack T. Chick, 1972

For more of the nearly ineffable and inexhaustible bigoted religious oddness of Jack Chick, why not start here, and then stare with befuddlement into the gawping horse’s mouth itself.

I think we can all tell that Mr Chick doesn’t want to deal in this sordid matter. No one should be confronted by this sort of especially sordid sin, let alone when it is wilfully flaunted by those who have rejected God’s law and grace. Mr Chick is driven to write about this distasteful matter by the depth of his concern for your soul. Isn’t that good of him? (Don’t forget to say ‘Thank you’.)

Are these caricatures or are they how Mr Chick really sees homosexuals. Mockery or verisimilitude? Rather than the variable comic effects of most of the things I’ve posted, in this instance the aesthetics of Mr Chick’s cartoon have a moral impetus. If you don’t already comprehend how wrong homosexuality is then this should put you off. Note how surprisingly old and raddled Mr Chick’s homosexuals are: balding, sagging and, at best, ridiculous. There’s not a hint of style or camp triviality about these homosexuals, because that might accidentally grant even a dab of attractiveness to this sinful and properly unspeakable behaviour. Copious and incessant Mr Creosote-like vomiting is surely the only reasonable disgusted response. And if you were unsure, well, he’s drawn a picture of that too, just so you’ll be convinced.

On one small point I will defend him however. Because Mr Chick likes to revise his efforts given new information, people have been accidentally led to misjudge this work on one point. The version to be found online gives this work a copyright of either 1984 or 2000. This has led to easy criticism that judging from the homosexuals he has drawn Chick’s cluelessness about modern homosexuality is frankly awesome and all-encompassing, and he can therefore be readily dismissed as a crank.

The original version of this dates from 1972. Mr Chick is prompted to knock up this airy confection in response to the newly burgeoning gay lib movement. It’s silly to castigate him for drawing his Gay Libbers as hippy types. Gay Lib at that type was a largely hippy/post-hippy movement (see here and here, oh and here). That they’re fat, greasy slobs is a judgement call by Mr Chick on hippies (cf Ronald Reagan’s crack: “A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane, and smells like Cheetah”.)

As homosexuality has proven a social problem that hasn’t gone away so this has stayed in print and been updated to take into account AIDS; it’s just that Mr Chick hasn’t taken the effort to update his representation of homosexuals as well. As the version you can read in full online as “The Gay Blade” is a bit of a hodge-podge of facts, social trends, and art from over almost 30 years, so it’s little wonder it doesn’t entirely all cohere sensibly

Saturday, 7 February 2009

223: Viz - Sherlock Homo

from “Viz” October/November 1992

You can make arguments and jokes about Sherlock Holmes as the ne plus ultra in confirmed bachelors, fussy, detail-obsessive and somewhat scornful of women’s company. Academics have and so have comedians. Nothing as insightful as that here. Instead, in 22 panels, it's every common gay stereotype offered by the British tabloids and popular TV. It’s Holmes as a homo, yet cheerily inoffensive. It is a one-off thankfully. I think trying to flog it on a regular basis would have become too appalling in a number of ways.

You get the standard Holmes cliché combined with the gay clichés of overly expressive eyes, limp wrists, hands either fluttering or held to the face, pursed lips, prancing walk and even heels kicked up. You get all the swishy effeminate clichés of Larry Grayson (“Shut that Door”, “What a gay day”, and “Look at the muck in here”) Duncan Norvelle (“Chase me”), and even Julian Clary (sexual single entendres). You get a taste for cross-dressing and a prissy tidiness. You get “whoops”, “duckie” and sly camp bitchiness. You get a fondness for sailors, Hampstead Heath, leather clones, and an opportune sexual predatoriness. I don’t think we get a Mr Humphries reference, since mincing has never been exclusive to John Inman, but otherwise it’s the full house. I’m surprised you don’t get “Elementary, my queer Watson”, but that wouldn’t work given the joke’s set-up where everyone is oblivious to Holmes’s raging homosexuality.

Some other examples of jokes about a gay Sherlock Holmes:
Billy Wilder’s “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”
assorted cartoons and sketches

“Viz” was always infinitely better than its woefully crude imitators. By all accounts “Zit” was ferociously unpleasant, with “dirty queers”, “benders”, “poofs”, and “fags” thrown around in strips like “The Nancy Ninjas”, making it seem more like the tabloids which “Viz” so expertly parodied.

Friday, 6 February 2009

222: Liz Atkin: My mother made me a homosexual - If I give her the wool would she make me one too?

From a 1980 exhibition
Liz Atkin illustrates the famous piece of graffiti.

From that period in the late 70s and early 80s when a certain brand of contemporary fine art liked to take hip politicised graffiti and illustrate it in some fashion. By the mid-80s artists gave up on even attempting to illustrate and you end up with galleries full of half-assed conceptual slogans which would disgrace your typical writer’s workshop rendering obsolete the creative artist’s skill and deliberative work. But that’s another argument.
From what little I’ve seen of Liz Atkins works she is driven to draw people in whose caricatured faces are evident “marks of weakness, marks of woe”. The oddly distorted face of the homosexual with slightly pursed lips isn’t necessarily an obvious gay caricature, merely how Atkin tends to draw a face. The most famous practitioners of this general style are probably Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe, but from the 1940s – 1970s there was a fantastic body of English fine art illustrators. Books of work for the “Radio Times” and several volumes edited by Paul Hogarth give a good overview of this recently forgotten tradition. Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Her work is a combination of collage and line drawing. I’m afraid this isn’t a terribly clear copy. The background is a knitting pattern, with a little representation to show what the completed figure will look like. The main figure is your homosexual, either completed from the pattern, or else suggesting that all homosexuals are alike. And in the bottom left, a diary of sexual conquests, hence the pressing need for more homosexuals. But fundamentally, a good, right-on lefty piece of socially committed art.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

221: Terry Southern - “The Moon-Shot Scandal”

“The Moon-Shot Scandal”
By Terry Southern in “The Realist” November 1962

A significant difference between Soviet and American space efforts has been the constant spotlight of public attention focused on the latter, while our antagonist's program has been carried forward in relative secrecy. This has presented tremen¬dous disadvantages, especially in its psychological effect on the national-mind, and it harbors a dangerous potential indeed. If, for example, in climax to the usual fanfare.. and nationally televised countdown, the spacecraft simply explodes, veers out crazily into the crowd, or burrows deep into the earth at the foot of the launching-pad, it can be fairly embarrassing to all concerned. On the other hand, it is generally presumed, because of this apparent and completely above-board policy, that everything which occurs in regard to these American spaceshots is immediately known by the entire public. Yet can anyone really be naive enough to believe that in matters so extraordinarily important an attitude of such simple¬minded candor could obtain? Surely not. And the facts behind the initial moon-shot, of August 17, 1961, make it a classic case in point, now that the true story may at last be told.
Readers will recall that the spacecraft, after a dramatic count¬down, blazed up from its pad on full camera; the camera followed its ascent briefly, then cut to the tracking-station where a graph described the arc of its ill-fated flight. In due time it became evident that the rocket was seriously off course, and in the end it was announced quite simply that the craft had "missed the moon" by about two-hundred thousand miles-by a wider mark, in fact, than the distance of the shot itself. What was not announced-either before, during, or after the shot-was that the craft was manned by five astronauts. Hoping for a total coup, the Space Authority ¬ highest echelon of the Agency-had arranged for a fully crewed flight, one which if successful (and there was considerable reason to believe that it would be) would then be dramatically announced to an astonished world: "Americans on the Moon!" Whereas, if not successful, it would merely remain undisclosed that the craft had been manned. The crew, of course, was composed of carefully screened volunteers who had no dependents, or living relatives.
So, in one room of the tracking-station-a room which was not being televised-communications were maintained throughout this historic interlude. Fragmented transcripts, in the form of both video and acoustic tapes, as well as personal accounts of those present, have now enabled us to piece together the story - the story, namely, of how the moon-bound spaceship, "Cutie-Pie II," was caused to careen off into outer space, beyond the moon itself, when some kind of "insane faggot hassle," as it has since been described, developed aboard the craft during early flight stage.
According to available information, Lt. Col. P. D. Slattery, a "retired" British colonial officer, co-captained the flight in hand with Major Ralph L. Doll (better known to his friends, it was later learned, as "Baby" Doll); the balance of the crew consisted of Capt. J. Walker, Lt. Fred Hanson, and CpI. "Felix" Mendelssohn. (There is certain evidence suggesting that CpI. Mendelssohn may have, in actual fact, been a woman.) The initial phase of the existing transcript is comprised entirely of routine operational data and reports of instrument readings. It was near the end of Stage One, however, when the craft was some 68,000 miles from earth, and still holding true course, that the first untoward incident occurred; this was in the form of an exchange between Lt. Hanson and Maj. Doll, which resounded over the tracking-station inter-corn, as clear as a bell on a winter's morn:

Lt. Ranson: "Will you stop it! Just stop it!"
Maj. Doll: "Stop what? I was only calibrating my altimeter¬ for heaven's sake, Freddie!"
Lt. Hanson: "I'm not talking about that and you know it! I'm talking about your infernal camping! Now just stop it! Right now!"

The astonishment this caused at tracking-station H.Q. could hardly be exaggerated. Head-phones were adjusted, frequencies were checked; the voice of a Lt. General spoke tersely: "Cutie-Pie II-give us yuur reading-over."
"Reading thpeeding," was Cpl. Mendelssohn's slyly lisped reply, followed by a cunning snicker. At this point a scene of fantastic bedlam broke loose on the video inter-corn. Col. Slattery raged out from his forward quarters, like the protagonist of Psycho - in outlandish feminine attire of the nineties, replete with a dozen petticoats and high-button shoes. He pranced with wild imperiousness about the control room, interfering with all operational activity, and then spun into a provocative and feverish combination of tarantella and can-can at the navigation panel, saucily flicking at the controls there, cleverly integrating these movements into the tempo of his dervish, amidst peals of laughter and shrieks of delight and petulant annoyance.
"Mary, you silly old fraud," someone cried gaily, "this isn't Pirandello!"
It was then that the video system of the inter-corn blacked out, as though suddenly shattered, as did the audio-system shortly after¬ward. There is reason to believe, however, that the sound communi¬cation system was eventually restored, and, according to some accounts, occasional reports (of an almost incredible nature) con¬tinue to be received, as the craft-which was heavily fueled for its return trip to earth-still blazes through the farther reaches of space.
Surely, despite the negative and rather disappointing aspects of the flight, there are at least two profitable lessons to be learned from it: (1) that the antiquated, intolerant attitude of the Agency, and of Government generally, towards sexual freedom, can only cause individual repression which may at any time-and especially under the terrific tensions of space-B.ight-have a boomerang effect to the great disadvantage of all concerned, and (2) that there may well be, after all, an ancient wisdom in the old adage, "Five's a crowd."


Lisping? Check
Bitchiness? Check
Transvestites? Check
Wholly inappropriate homosexuals comically disgracing some bastion of all-American masculine pride? Check
Well if nothing else this is pretty comprehensive in enumaterating many of the mannerisms and comedic set-ups that would obtain for the better part of the next 20 or so years. I am however absolutely entranced by the phrase “insane faggot hassle”. If ever there were a perfect title for some queer ‘zine then it must be “Insane Faggot Hassle”. Of course this piece is mostly written in a deliberately conservative style appropriate to a report, to set a contrasting background for the sudden eruption of queaniness, so there’s little else to rise to that kind of word-juggling, which is a shame.
The illustration is from a reprint in the short-lived late ‘60s English humour magazine “Private Collection”.
There is a recurrence of comedy homosexuals in Southern’s works, his writing and his films. If there is a sudden sprinkling of cameo comedy queers in the more daring films appearing in the later ‘60s then it is not merely because there is a new license in sexual matters in society but because the films are often either written by Southern, adapted from his works, or else the film-makers are trying to capture the same tone.


From “An Impolite Interview with Terry Southern" in “The Realist” May 1964

Q. Some readers have felt that, in a couple of things you've written for "The Realist", that there was an underlying hostility toward homosexuals. Do you have an underlying hostility toward homosexuals?

A. No, I do not, Paul, but def! Some of my best friends, in fact, are absolutely insanely raving gay. "Prancing gay," it's sometimes called - that's the gayest there is. My notion of homosexuality, by the way- I mean the area of interest it holds for me - is in the manner, speech, and implicit outlook, and has nothing to do with the person's sex-life.
I know guys, for example, who are actually married to boys, but they wouldn't be homosexual in my mind because their manner and so on is non-gay. On the other hand, there does exist a very definite gay-syndrome, and anyone who has not observed this is simply too busy playing the fool. Now if you want to say that the very awareness of the syndrome is hostility, I could not argue that-though I hasten to add that by no means do I find it an unpleasant syndrome. As for its significance, I would certainly say that persons who are quite openly and freely gay have more in common, or believe they have, than persons who say they are Catholic or Jewish have.
In fact, if you were to compile a list of group-identifications which have any internal strength left, I would say the gay would rank fairly high. The highest of course, would be the junkies - they have a sense of togetherness, a common frame of reference, and so on, that surpasseth all. Jewish is finished, Negro is rapidly falling to pieces. The Gurdjieff people, Actors Studio people- I think they're fairly tight, but of course they're both tiny groups.
But you take the gay-well, I don't want to go too far out on a limb here, prediction-wise, but by God, I'll just bet that if someone, a smart politician, really used his head - no pun intended there, Paul, har, har - and made a strong, very direct bid for the huge gay vote. . . well!

Q. As a matter of fact, there is a gay politician who, when a reporter asked him off the record if he thought his homosexuality would affect the election, he replied that he was hoping for the latent vote.

A. Anyway, if I may return to your question, I say no, I am not anti-gay, and, in fact, I say moreover that only a non-gay could have interpreted my articles as such.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

220: Attack of the Clones / Send in the Clones / Stop Cloning Around

By the mid ’80-s even the most clueless of cartoonists had started to realise that most homosexuals were not quite the effeminate lipstick-wearing, flouncy sissies they had imagined. Gay cartoonists in gay magazines like “Christopher Street” and “Gay News” had been making jokes before 1980, but those were jokes for the gay audience familiar with the scene. Michael Heath’s “The Gays” strip had noticed fairly early on that there was a distinct new gay identity. Trend-spotter Peter York had an essay about this change in his in 1980 collection of journalism “Style Wars”. The prevalence and flagrancy of the clone, given a few additional touches by way of the leather cop from “The Village People”, would become an easy stereotype for cartoonists for almost the next two decades. Soon it was easy for even the laziest of cartoonists to suggest a homosexual through some combination of: a moustache, an earring, maybe a shaved head or a leather cap, a revealing shirt or string vest, and a bomber jacket. It allows the cartoonist to note that homosexuality is actually about sexuality, but the various elements can be figured to make it all seem a rather silly display (whether you feel that it’s a bit silly already is a whole other matter).

So, just a few, pretty much picked at random:

David Austin in “The Spectator”, 18 February 1984
Another “gay dog”, but now it’s the moustache that confirms homosexuality

“The Gays” by Michael Heath in “Private Eye” 27 July 1984
Is a gay man any more than the sum of his fetishes?

David Austin in “The Spectator”, 8 December 1984
A variant on the “we’re all individuals” line undercut by self-inflicted conformity.

David Austin in “The Spectator” 24 August 1985

Tom Johnston in “The Sun”, 7 March 1987
Pretty much all in one package. The tattoo “Harvey” is there to remind readers of Harvey Proctor, the Tory MP revealed to have had sex with a rent boy earlier in 1987. Kinnock and his two drinking companions are all Labour politicians. But a gay MP is a gay MP.
What would a scary homosexual be? Well just as silly, only larger.

“Are you trying to be funny? Yes we do take heterosexuals actually!”
Charles Griffin in “Daily Express” 6 April 1998
All the traditional effeminate stereotypes about what a gay army would mean. In the parody recruiting poster, all the clone clobber cannot hide inherent nelliness, as the pointing finger becomes a limp wrist. Which never happens in real life, no.

Bill McArthur in “The Glasgow Herald” 9 November 1998

Tom Johnston in “The Sun” 10 November 1998
Cliches about cruising gay men on Clapham Common, inspired by the “lapse of judgement” of Labour MP Ron Davies.

“Matt” in “The Daily Telegraph” 1998
If nothing else, this demonstrates what minimal effort is required to depict a gay cliché.

Dave Gaskill in “The Sun” 24 April 2000
Just your typical gay dad in a scene of congenial domesticity.

219: P.J. O’Rourke and John Hughes: How to Tell a Homo

from “National Lampoon” February 1980

Ah, the trends of yesteryear. Side parting in the hair, moustache, plaid shirt, straight leg jean, web belt - no, I don't think we shall ever see that look come back. Of course the jeans really ought to be tight Levis, but this particular illustration makes it look much more like a standard fashion plate and less conspicuously sexual. The joke behind all this is that at the end of the ‘70s male sexual identity is all screwed up. That homosexuals are now appropriating the fashions natural to a rugged manly lifestyle is even more ridiculous when the typical manly men of the 1970s have become more sensitive and therefore almost indistinguishable from “homos”. And yes, again, P.J. O'Rourke and John Hughes are still quite happy to throw around the word "homo".

Sunday, 1 February 2009

218: Auberon Waugh on “Private Eye” and homosexuals

from an interview in “Gay News” #187, March 20 1980

The “Eye” makes far more anti-homosexual jokes now because homosexuality is more in the forefront, more able to take care of itself. After all, in the old days, if you said a man was homosexual, you were accusing him of a criminal offense. That’s not so now. The big difference between us and “The News of the World” is that although we spend a lot of time grubbing in the dirt, we do it for laughs saying “Isn’t it funny that so-and-so’s having it away with so-and-so?” whereas “The News of the World” is frightfully moral . . . Anyway you know, I don’t think anyone ever takes up the cudgels against homosexuality as such. I think it’s much more personal than that . . . People who’ve got it in for you will say “bloody catholic” or “bloody queer”.