Wednesday, 23 September 2009

297: Sanford and Son 1972

Sanford and Son - The Piano Movers
14 April 1972
Writer: Aaron Ruben (adaptation of “The Piano” by Galton and Simpson)

Redd Foxx ... Fred G. Sanford
Demond Wilson ... Lamont Sanford
Lester Fletcher ... Man
Rick Hurst ... Police Officer

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

“Sanford and Son” was the American adaptation of the classic English sitcom “Steptoe and Son”. It was produced by many of the same team behind the “All in the Family”. The big alteration was the change to a black working class setting. The show also became more of a vehicle for the raucous playing-to-the-gallery comedy style of stand-up comedian Redd Fox as the father Fred Sanford. Many of the episodes in the first season were based upon episodes from the English series. This episode borrows heavily from the 1962 episode “The Piano”. In that episode the man wanting to get rid of the piano is more of a posh silly arse. The change we’re concerned about in this version is that the character has been altered to allow for a lot of gay innuendo. Nothing is confirmed that he actually is gay, but there are enough suggestions to make for a whole load of hand-waggling gestures between Sanford and Son. It draws upon none of the intricate plotting, scene-setting or jokes of the gay themed episode of “Steptoe and Son” aired in 1970. However, as in “Any Old Iron”, it does rely upon the idea that a refined man with aesthetic tastes can, in Harold Steptoe’s words, only be a bit of “a poof”, or “fruity” for Americans. So the class element in homosexuality is played heavily here. The audience and the Sanfords are presented with a slightly older man, fastidious and fussy, velvet-jacketed and wearing a neckerchief. He’s also not a physically imposing man, shorter than the two Sanfords. Happily, this isn’t a mincing portrayal. He demonstrates a refined concern for his collected antiques. He starts off not quite touching on prissy, with a crisp, insistent diction, but not quite queeny. Although when provoked the man adopts more of a bitchy tone as in the “Now I have a whole new way of life which I prefer”, and becomes more imperiously prissy as he becomes more pissed off by Fred Sanford’s behaviour (as if to confirm and provoke Fred even more). So any homosexuality is not quite obvious but these elements are chosen to conform pre-existing prejudices, hence Fred Sanford’s:

“I think he’s a fruit”.
“$100 to Dwayne Hudson.. I bet I know who Dwayne is”
“Got any kids? I didn’t think so”
When the man is in on phone “Oh hello, DARLING”, then speaks French, Fred Sanford’s mimicking him reminds me of Max Bialystock in “The Producers” mocking Carmen Ghia’s mannerisms.
Just as “All in the Family”, there are jokes about flying (i.e feet noit touching the ground), which must have been a feature of the time, I suppose.

It’s worth noting the enormous laugh from the audience each time the man puts his hand on Fred’s shoulder. Then the enormous laugh as Fred slightly camps it up lounging on the sofa, waving his long cigarette, primping his head, making a few effete phrases, which Fred assumes mocks the man’s lifestyle.

So the gay innuendoes are a strange choice of fillip to adorn the episode, since the English episode was half an hour long and fairly dense. There’s some room for disavowal here about the character being actually gay, but all the jokes and mild gibes made by Fred are based on homosexuality. And there’s no possibility of any ironic intentions for Fred’s conviction is never proven woefully mistaken. The jokes and mockery are comparatively mild, and there’s nothing to suggest vehement disgust or horror at being around homosexuals. If it’s homophobic, it’s because we no longer entertain the attitude that homosexuals are automatically laughable. You’ll notice that the man’s possible homosexuality effortlessly grants Fred a natural superiority over this rich, sophisticated white man.

There is another episode in a later series of “Sanford and Son” revolving around mistaken homosexual identity.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

296: The Mary Tyler Moore Show 1973

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”
My Brother’s Keeper - January 13, 1973
Writers: Jenna McMahon, Dick Clair

Cloris Leachman: Phyllis Lindstrom
Valerie Harper: Rhoda Morgenstern
Robert Moore: Ben Sutherland

Phyllis's beloved brother Ben, a composer for commercials, comes to town for a visit from New York. The dominating Phyllis, proud of her brother, desperately wants to set him up with Mary. The two have a pleasant meal together, but when Mary’s friend Rhoda drops by, Ben hits it off with her, inviting her to a concert. He begins spending more time with Rhoda to Phyllis's dismay and intense disapproval. Rhoda evens says they are going to get married. Mary holds a party to which everyone is invited. It is a disaster. Phyllis is sat in corner away from everybody and begins sobbing violently at the prospect of being related by marriage to her antagonist Rhoda. Everyone rapidly leaves. Rhoda goes up to Phyllis and tells her that she and Ben are not getting married, that it was a joke.

Rhoda: Ben and I aren’t getting married. He’s not my type.

Phyllis:(getting up, outraged) What do you mean? Not your type! He’s attractive! He’s successful! He’s single!

Rhoda:(interjecting) He’s gay!

Incredible display of Phyllis stunned. Stares at Rhoda. Rhoda nods in confirmation. Phyllis is now abashed, then hugs Rhoda joyfully.
(ecstatically) I’m so relieved.

Phyllis and Ben at piano. There is no mention of his homosexuality, only a gag at Phyllis’s ignorance of music.


As the summary makes clear, the only suggestion of homosexuality and a gay character is right at the end of the episode. There is nothing in Robert Moore’s performance to suggest he’s gay. He’s not played as excessively manly, merely as a friendly, attractive proposition for the female characters. If in retrospect the audience sees anything “gay” in Ben’s portrayal then it may stem from the fact that Robert Moore was gay. Moore had been involved in the original New York production of “The Boys in the Band”. Apparently the role of Ben was never conceived as gay. When this episode was recorded it was felt that the conclusion wasn’t working. According to James L. Brooks, the show’s producer: "It was rewrite night, and we were looking for an end to the show. Bob was gay and we said, `What if we just use that?'" That it can all be a last minute afterthought suggests that homosexuality was now a fact of modern life that audience would accept. The audience has been kept in ignorance as much as Phyllis, and it is hoped will accept as well as she does. It’s certainly not given an opportunity to really think of what this means, in itself or for the characters. It’s a way of pricking Phyllis’s self-conceit. Being gay is the biggest logical shock the writers can think of to top the episode. Why wouldn’t a man be interested in an attractive woman? Though it’s a solution which had been offered as a gag in Rock Hudson films over a decade earlier. And this deferred romantic interest gambit is a technique which will become a mainstay of gay-themed sitcom episodes in the 1970s, and even in the cartoon strip “Doonesbury”.
Possibly because “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a much less abrasive, audience friendly show, more people seem to remember this episode as featuring the first gay character on an American sitcom, than the episode of “All in the family” which preced it by almost two years. And indeed, it may mean more than it was on such an appealing show, and without any hint of controversy or liberal argument, that Ben’s homosexuality was made an inoffensive joke.
And of course, I hardly need mention that we never see beloved gay brother Ben ever again.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

295: All in the Family 1971

Here we have what is possibly the first American sitcom to discuss homosexuality and also feature a homosexual character. (The English already got there with Steptoe and Son at least a year before America. Yay for us!) It’s worth noting that this groundbreaker was a Norman Lear sitcom. Norman Lear’s sitcoms were all about pressing social issues, and advancing an agenda of liberal acceptance and positive politics. In this case the sitcom team use the bigoted Archie Bunker (as first established in the sitcom “Till Death Us Do Part”. Yay for England again!) as a stalking horse to accentuate the stupidity of know-nothing, right-wing prejudice. Although making this the fifth epiode of only the first seies was a relatively bold move. Many of the sitcoms in America during the 1970s which happen to feature an episode with homosexual content are from the Norman Lear production factory.
You’ll notice that the word gay is never used at all in this episode. However when Archie employs his tirade of slang terms about homosexuals it’s then immediately followed by Archie’s ridiculous views on the race so as to make homophobia as ridiculous by association as racism.
For all Archie’s bluster, when we finally see Roger it’s faily obvious that Roger is not gay. Although he does use words like super, fabulous, etc, there is a not a hint of lisping, effeminacy, or swooping, soaring tremulous diction. He is a perfectly plain and normal person. The depiction and anxiety about Roger DOES tie into fear of a less-heterosexual generation. Being cultured aroused suspicions of being unmanly and therefore homosexual (See comments by President Richard Nixon below). “La-di-da! Is one way of putting it. “Goddam hippy faggot get your hair cut” might be another. So Archie’s homosexual obsession over Roger is expressive more of a particular generation and cultural gap, rather than of any consequence of Gay Lib. The unisex anxiety schtick is made explicit in the Jerry scene
Mike’s outrage seems based more on Archie is slurring his friend as gay, than actually defending gay rights.
Archie’s kicking up his heel gesture is the same one featured on the posters for the gay film “Staircase”,
Steve is the all American he-man. With a deep, rich, booming, slow performance. Indeed, Philip Carey had been a professional football player. In fact, quite a few homosexual sitcom episodes rely upon the idea that the one-off homosexual is some all-American he-man hero so as to upset effeminate stereotypes. Of course, this episode also establishes another fine homosexual episode tradition - we never see him ever again.
The arm wrestling adds a certain dramatic counterpoint and also confirmation S’s manly qualities.
And given, the final tag-scene, it could almost be argued that the larger import of the episode is that Archie is incapable of parsing the new sexual signifiers with his old-fashioned, uniformed standards, and therefore his excitation about homosexuals means that he is the one least capable of knowing when he sees one

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

And just to round off, here’s an unexpected piece of social and cultural criticism. It’s Richard Nixon the TV critic. Although since he seems to think at least two of the characters were gay, he wasn’t paying all the attention he might. Besides thinking Mike may be bisexual. And isn’t good that Nixon thinks: “I do not think that you glorify on public television homosexuality. The reason you don’t, anymore than you glorify whores. We all know we have weaknesses. But, goddamn it, what do you think that does to 11 and 12 year old boys? We constantly had to clean up the staffs to keep the Goddamned fags out of it. It outrages me because i don now want to see this county go that way. You know what happened to the Greeks! Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a homo. We all know that so was Socrates. You know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags. Nero had a public wedding to a boy. You know what happened to the popes? They (had sex with) the nuns, that's been goin' on for years, centuries. But the Catholic Church went to hell, three or four centuries ago. It was homosexual, and it had to be cleaned out. Now that's what's happened to Britain, it happened earlier to France. Let's look at the strong societies. The Russians. Goddamn, they root 'em out. They don't let 'em around at all. I don't know what they do with them. Look at this country. You think the Russians allow dope? Homosexuality, dope, immorality are the enemies of strong societies. That's why the communists and left-wingers are pushing the stuff. They're trying to destroy us. I know Moynihan will disagree with this, (Atty. Gen. John) Mitchell will, and Garment will. But, goddamn, we have to stand up to this. When I think of television, makes this respectable. There’s a big programme of that, we should respect them and all that, they’re letting these people like the Gay liberation crowd and the Gay May Day and all the rest. You know what’;s happened to san Francisco? "But it's not just down in the ratty part of town. The upper class in San Francisco is that way. The Bohemian Grove which I attend from time to time. It is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine, with that San Francisco crowd.It’s just terrible, I mean, I don't even want to shake hands with anybody from San Francisco. Decorators. They got to do something. But we don't have to glorify it. You know one of the reasons fashions have made women look so terrible is because the goddamned designers hate women. Now that’s the truth. You watch. Some of those fellows they have the flat-chested thing with horrible looking styles they run. That was really the designers taking it out on the women. Now they're trying to get some more sexy things coming on again."
Why as monologues go, it’s even better than the stuff that Archie Bunker offers up.

“All in the Family”
“Judging Books by Covers” by Burt Styler and Norman Lear
9 February 1971

Archie: Carroll O’Connor
Edith: Jean Stapleton
Gloria: Sally Struthers
Mike: Rob Reiner

Roger: Tony Geary
Steve: Philip Carey
Kelcy: Bob Hastings
Jerry: Linn Patrick


Mike, Gloria and Edith are getting things ready for a party. Archie is outraged at the fanciness of the food, and wants to know what special person is coming when he never gets food like this)

A: But that don’t answer the question. Who’s the big cheese you’re having here for lunch.

G: (admits softly) Roger

A; Roger da fairy?!

M: (trying to steer Archie away) Alright…

A: Did you hear that, Edith? Do you know who they’re bringing around here for lunch? Roger! Sweee-tee-pie Roger!

M; Alright, Arch, will ya cut it out, huhn?

E: (placatory) It’s their friend, Archie.

A: Listen, Edith, we run a decent home HERE. And we don’t need any, any strange little birdies flying in an’ out of here

G: Dad, stop that! Roger is not a strange little birdy

A: His pal, Roger, is as queer as a four dollar bill, and he knows it

G: That’s not only cruel Daddy, that is an outright lie!

M: Do you know something, Archie – just because a guy is sensitive and, and he’s an intellectual and he wears glasses, you make him out a queer.

A: I never said a guy who wears glasses is a queer. . . A guy who wears glasses is a four-eyes, a guy who’s a fag is a queer!

(laughter and applause from audience)

G: (to E) Make him stop talking like that

(E hurries away from argument, tidying up room)

A: Go ahead Edith, now answer the girl. Now you’ve seen Roger sashaying around here with his la-de-da talk – he’s a pansy!

E: (flatly) I don’t know

A: Whaddayamean you don’t know

E: (bewildered) I’m not an expert on flowers

M: Look Arch, you might as well face it – you’re all alone in this. We all know Roger, and we all know he‘s straight. And even if he wasn’t. And I said “if”, what difference would that make? Do you know, that in many countries, England for instance, there is a law that says whatever two consenting adults do in private is their own business.

A: Listen! This aint England! We threw England outta here a long time ago! We don’t want no more part of England! And for your information, England is a FAG country!

(Loud laughter from audience. Mike is surprised by Archie’s comment)

M: What!

A: Certainly! (stands up) Aint they still picking handkerchiefs outta they sleeves, huhn? (mimes to audience laughter] Aint they still standing around leaning on them skinny umbrellas, like this here? (rests his hand on his hip in teapot handle style) I know. The whole society is based on a kind of a fagdom.

(loud laughter. Mike gets up almost outraged and spluttering)

M; You, you…. You know, you’re right Archie. You’re right. The British are a bunch of pansies. Pansies, fairies and sissies! And the Japanese are a race of midgets. The Irish are boozers, the Mexicans are bandits,

A: And you Polacks are meatheads.

(audience laughter again, since “Meatheads is A’s pet slur for M. A sits back down. Doorbell rings. Gloria gets up to answer door)

G: That’s Roger. Now Daddy, please be good.

A: If I can’t be good I’ll be careful

(G opens door, Roger comes in. Is dressed slightly loudly, but is enthusiastic and well-spoken in manner. G embraces him, and M warmly shakes his hand)

R: Gloria! Hey Mike!

M: How was the trip?

R: Fabulous! Mike, it was the most super trip. In fact, it was an absolutely stunning, exhausting, incredible experience!

A: (out of the side of his mouth)Oh when is he gonna land?

G: Pardon me, Roger. You know my mother –

R: Ah yes, Mrs Bunker, so nice to see you again. Really, a pleasure (when Edith shakes R’s hand, he covers her hand with his other hand. Rather puzzled, E then covers his other hand with her other hand)

G: And my father, Mr Bunker.

R: Mr Bunker (extends hand)

A: How are ya? And one hand is enough

[Family sits down to look at Roger’s snapshots]

A: Er, tell us about Europe, there, Roger. What kinda sports action they got over there this time of the year. I mean, they must have things like skiing there and bobsledding. Bobsledding! There’s a manly sport. (looks pointedly at Roger) You do any bobsledding over there?

R: Oh no, sir, there isn’t too much of that over there in London, I’m afraid. That’s where I spent most of my time.

A: London, huh? London, England?

R: Yes

A: (dismissively to Mike) Your witness

(family are looking at snapshots of flowers)

E: What beautiful flowers!

R: Aren’t the colours vibrant. And they smelt heavenly!

A: (to himself) He’s off the ground again

R: Oh this was a most enchanting young person

A: (pointedly) Boy or girl?

R: A Boy

A: (to himself, slightly despairing) Why did I ask?

[Archie gets up and snatches the picture]

A: I wanna take a look at this enchanting young person

[Mike gets up and comes after Archie, drawing him to the other side of the room away from Edith, Gloria and Roger]

M: Gee, Arch, aren’t you going to be late meeting Steve and the guys at the tavern

A: Oh, I thought I’d hang around and hear some more about the enchanting things he done over there. For instance, did he hunt?

M: You know Roger doesn’t hunt. I don’t’ believe in it either

A: Yeah, well sometimes I got my doubts about you too, Buster Brown. Alright Edith, I’m going over to Kelcy’s Bar to say hello to my friend Steve, and say hello to some of the boys. Nice seeing you too Rog.

R: My pleasure, Mr Bunker

A: (Kicks up his right heel slightly) Whoop-dee!


[At the bar. Kelsey behind the bar as bartender. Steve, Archie and several other patrons are at the bar discussing politics. Steve is a well-built bachelor, played professional football for two seasons, now owns a camera shop. Archie looks up to him as an embodiment of the ideal of old-fashioned masculinity, envious of his bachelordom, his rough tough sports career, and his fitness. Archie and Steve move across to a table in the corner of the bar. Mike and Roger come into get a pitcher of beer]

A: Get a load of this, my son-in-law and his pal, Tinkerbelle

[Roger approaches Steve to talk about camera technicalities, then returns to Mike at the bar)

K: Er Mike, can I speak to yer fer a … (to Roger) Would you excuse us please?

R: Oh sure

K: Thanks.( K and M move to far end of bar, K leans intoward M) Eh, this, er, kid you come in wid, is he straight?

M: Oh no, not you too. Of course he is, why?

K: Well, the way him and Steve there was so buddy-buddy. I though maybe he was a little . . (makes flowery gesture with hand and pulls fleeting prim face)

M; What?

K: Oh now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind Steve. His camera store is just down the street here and he only comes in for a drink every once in a while on his way home. Besides. He don’t… camp it up, yer know (again waves hand, but grimaces). Aaand, he don’t bring in none of his friends (flutters fingers of hand)

M: Kelsey? Are you trying to tell me that Steve is …

K: (Deliberatively) I just wouldn’t want MY place… to become no, er . . . (purses lips and slightly waggles head) hangout…knowwhatimean? Hunh!

[while Archie and Steve are in conversation at the table the camera zooms in on Mike staring slightly open-mouthed at the pair. End of part 1]


[Archie comes home to watch a fight on TV, as Roger is about to leave Mike is eager to get R to leave before Archie says anything]

A: (calls Mike over) Why don’t you just open up a window, we’ll all watch him just fly out

(Roger leaves)

A: What’s the matter you sore-head. Just because I called the turn on your friend Roger-belle?

M: Listen Archie, you make one more crack about my friend Roger…

A: Or what?

M: Nevermind. But I could tell you something that could shock you pretty good

[a party game, in which due to build only women are able to lift a chair. Archie becomes more frustrated.]

A: It’s a dumb gag. Where did ya get it?

M: Roger showed it to us.

A: Oh! Roger showed it to ya!

G: Yeah, he brought it back from England.

A: Oh I bet he can do it!

M: Let’s not start any of that again, huh.

A: You told me that a man can’t do it, so if a man can’t do it then I would imagine your friend Roger-belle can

M; Roger-belle, huh, Rogerbelle! You wanna know who could lift that chair, Archie? I mean not only could he that chair, but he could prance and flit all over this room with it? Your friend Steve!

G: Michael!

A: My friend Steve!

M: That’s right, that’s right Archie! And I wasn’t going to say it. But it’s true

E: (sitting in shock) .. a .flow-er?

A: You are sick! You know that! You need help! (long speech about the permissive society) But when they goes besmearin’, when they goes besmearin’ the name of a great linebacker, a second shirt All-American, a man, and I mean a Real MAN… then you might as well shut the doors of this country and hang out a sign, “Closed! Owner gone nuts!”!!


{cuts to Kelsey’s bar, where the patrons, including Steve, are all enthusiastically watching the fight on the Tv. Archie nervously comes in and hovers near Steve who is shouting at the fight. When the fight finishes most of the other patrons leave]

A; Where you goin guys?

Patrons: The old lady’s waiting for me.

A: (to Steve) Boy! That was some fight there, huhn?

S: Say, you know something, Arch? (fakes several punches at A) I love those competitions!

A: (dodges punches) Hey! Take it easy! Hey, the law says them mitts of yours are lethal weapons.

S: Are you nuts, Arch, I was ball player, not a fighter

(A and S sit down at table)

A: Aw, what’s the difference! I mean look at the size of you. Buy, the strength. Hey! Do me a favour – let me try you onec with the arms (Puts his arm on table ready for arm-wrestling)

S: (waves him way) Aw, have another beer.

A; Come on, come (arm still ready)

S: Forget it

A: One time

S: Are you serious

A: Certainly

(S grasps A’s hand)

A: Alright, go

(Struggle of barely a second, then S pulls A’s arm down with a cry of victory)

A: (pulled across table) Aw, geez! Oh, be-uwdiful! Aw, gee boy, what an arm! Aw, when I think of what that dopey son-in-law of mine said… (cups face in hand despairing at Mike)

S: Mike still bugging ya?

A; Aw, I tell ya, it aint only him, it’s his whole generation (suddenly turns to the bar) Hey Kelcy! Bring us a couple of beers over here, will ya. I mean they got no regard, they got no respect for the old institutions.

S: What institutions, Archie?

A; Well you know, like, spots, sportsmanship there, guts, guns, the things that separate the sexes, you know what I mean.

S: yeah, I think I know what you mean.

(beers brought across, and Archie cradles his beer, as he become a bit more anxious about broaching the matter)

A: Let me ask you something. How long you know this, er, this kid Roger there? That was in with Mike?

S: Ohh, a couple of years. Ever since he started coming in the shop.

A: A couple of years. Now, you’re a man of the world. And you must know that this kid is a kind of la-di-da (waggles hand back and forth). Right?

S: is that what mike thinks of Roger?

A: Aw, forget about what mike thinks, I can’t even tell you what he thinks. Hey put ehm glasses over her, I want to go at you once more.

S: You’re nuts.

A: Come, lemme get even. One more time. Come one, get it up there. Alright, go!

(S. clears beers from table. A and S now have hands clasped on table)

S: What does Mike think, Arch?

A: Aw, Mike, geez! Well, for one thing, he thinks that friend of his, Roger, is straight. And for another thing. Aw, Steve, you’re gonna want to bust him wide open when I tell you this, I don’t know eher he gets these brainstorms. But he thinks that you’re … I can’t even say it, this, Steve

S: (looking directly at A, slight smile on face) He’s right, Arch

A: (looking at S in bewilderment) Hunh?

(enormous laughter from audience filling the dramatic pause between the two characters)

S: He’s right (then pulls A’s hand to table, winning match again and as punctuation to the conversation)

A: Oh you mean he’s right about his friend, Roger there

S: (matter of fact) About everything

A: (pause) Aw, come on? I mean, if you wanna joke about it alright, but come on, get off it, huh, guy?

S: Arch… (puts beers back on table) How long you known me? Ten, twelve years? In all that time, did I ever mention a woman?

A: (pause) What difference does that make? You’re a bachelor.

S: So?

(nervous laughter from audience)

A; Yeah, but bachelors, they’re always acting kinda private.

S: (leans back) Exactly

(drawn out pause)

A: Aw, come on Steve, I mean I aint the brightest guy in the world. Well you wanna put me on, put me on, but don’t sit there and tell me you - I mean look at you. Come on will you, ya big clown, get outta here!

S: (getting up) Have it your own way, Arch. The truth’s in the eye of the beholder anyway. I’ll see you later, pal. (gives Archie a strong deliberate manly punch to the shoulder which rocks Archie almost off his feet)

(Steve leaves the bar, and long pause as Arch rights himself thinking things over, then -)

A: Well, if that’s the punch of a fruit…. (thinks over what he just said, as face slightly falls in way dismay, then - ) Naahh! (makes gesture to dismiss everything that’s just happened and leaves bar)


Back at the house, Gloria and Mike are showing the chair trick to a friend, Jerry. Jerry has back to the camera, is wearing a baseball jacket, and has non-descript hair. Jerry lifts the chair just as Archie comes in through the door.

A: (slightly outraged) I thought you said a guy couldn’t do that! Now I’m never gonna trust youse two again.

G; (giggling slightly) Daddy, I’d like you to meet my friend jerry Woodner

A: Yeah, how are ya?

(Jerry turns around to reveal that Jerry is a woman with a unisex haircut)

J: How do you do Mr Bunker

(lengthy pause, audience laughs as A looks on non-plussed)

A: (nonchalantly to cover his embarrassment) Pleased to meet ya. (walks to his seat, and says to himself) Nowadays you can’t bet on nuthin.


Friday, 18 September 2009

294: Jonathan Winters 1962-1965

Jonathan Winters was a stand-up comedian whose career began in the early 1960s. Like Bob Newhart and Lenny Bruce much of his act consisted of in-character monologues, routines and sketches. Lenny Bruce was the high-end of controversy, and his act could sometimes be somewhere between a revivalist meeting and an encounter group session. Newhart’s routines were very carefully worked-out monologues. Winters didn’t touch directly on social and political matters, and his act was more free-form and exuberantly silly than Newhart’s. Even as Lenny Bruce was in decline, suffering concerted oppression from the law, Jonathan Winters was becoming a regular guest enlivening early and mid-60s talk shows. As he flipped from character to character on stage, improvising and following his fancy, it was obvious Winters was getting a lot of boyish fun out of own pretending, and so he sets an obvious model for Robin Williams, establishing a livewire format and manner which would make Williams warehouse-loads of cash. Indeed, Williams brought on Winters to play his son in the later seasons of “Mork and Mindy”.
Winters had a lot of stock characters and mannerisms which he could draw upon, some of which would go on to popular success, such as playing an eccentric old lady in drag. In the early ‘60s Winters had a number of pieces of schtick which centred on playing a fey camp gay character. Most of the specimens I can find date from about 1962-1964. This means he may have had a bit of reputation for dealing in this sort of humour and may possibly explain a little why he was one of the actors in the ultra-camp film of “The Loved One” (1965).

Given the era, Winters camp portrayals usually edge beyond merely sissy, but then he’s confronted by the problem of how much further he can actually go, of what he is allowed to say. There’s always the need to take his audience’s attitudes into account, and also the mores and censorship of whichever media or venue he happens to be playing in. So these gay gags become a practical matter of balancing the performance within the larger joke of the piece, and also configuring them both so that Winters won’t fall foul of somebody’s offended sensibilities. And at the time, there was probably enough novelty and daring just in Winter’s performance, without having to go much further than that. Whereas by the ‘90s just putting on a gay manner was nowhere near good enough for a decent joke for informed audiences (for unenlightened audiences is maybe another matter).

from the Jack Paar Program (circa-1962-1965)

Here, in character with Tv talk show host Jack Paar, Winters is a playful, delightfully naughty faun – a bouncy, exuberant sissy. So some of the joke is that Winters is playing a faun, and some of the joke that this mythological creature is a bit camp. And on top of that, in the interview there’s a strong amount of “Is he/isn’t he/” flirting between Paar and Winters resulting in Winter’s “They know in the forest!” So it’s not merely a camp performance, but also slightly deniably, should complaints come down from executives, that it was all within the context of Winter’s faun joke. So funny to play gay, but a little ambivalent, and not outrightly homosexual

“Moby Dick and Captain Arnold” from “Jonathan Winters' Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963)
Listen to it at:

This is a camp take on “Moby Dick”, the epitome of obsession in the rugged nautical world. Its notable though Winters doesn’t make any attempt at jokes about what sailors get up to when the lights go out. Arnold is just described “as a bit of a strange fellow”

This is the longest performance I’ve got of Winters so it gives me a little more latitude to describe his performance. For a start besides being queeny, it’s slightly lispy, because Americans more than the British tend to think that homosexuals lisp. It’s not spectacularly effeminate, but there is an overall unmanly and simpering tone to his performance. Part of the unmanliness is a tendency to triviality, to lavishly deploy the epithet "silly". He employs a slightly drawn out pronunciation - vowels are dipthonged. The triviality results in a tendency to try to keep everything on his level, but when crossed (the gruff sailor calling him a “sissy”) he becomes slightly petulant. Again it’s a largely unsexualised performance. Statements like "You're so strong" and "hold me" could be come-ons, but they could just as easily be the sort of sissy pleas that Bob Hope used to make in scary situations.

"Fairies Can Fly" aka “The Cop and the Fairy” from “The Underground Tapes” a 2007 collection of bits which were too risque or controversial to be released in the early 1960s when they recorded.
The sketch is only a minute long so you can listen to the first half at

Officer: Where’s the fire, where’s the fire?
Driver: In your eyes, officer! In your eyes!
Officer: (slight pause – declarative) you’re a fairy, aren’t ya?
Driver: Do you see any wings (giggle) I think that’s an asinine remark on your part – You great big man-neanderthal person, you. Yeahss, just a hood with a badge, that’s the only difference.
Officer: What did you call me?
Driver: A hood, a hood! You ought to have one right over your ss-kull! Jayssuss!
Officer: I don’t want you cursing. I happen to be patrolman O’Brien
Driver: (slightly sarcastic) Oh tell us, oh leader, where is your motor-sssickle? Do you have the multi-coloured fox-tails and the devil on the front? What’ll a Harley do? Open it up on a sssnowy day, mmm, and then we’ll see.
(mimics crashing noise)
Officer: Oh, you damn fool! You ran right into me!
Driver: Yeah, yeah! Fairies can fly, can’t they.
Officer: Alright lock him up. Joe. Fag, put him down in number 3-6-7-12. I don’t want to fool with him. Get in the back seat with those devils and they tear your clothes off

This plays a slightly more flirtatious and defensively queeny camp type against a bluff ignorant cop. A touch of gay panic at the end, although how could one be afraid of such is a sissy is probably part of the joke. The “where’s the fire?” – “In your eyes” would be repeated in an episode of “Laugh-In” with Alan Sues.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

293: Terry Gilliam - Quick Henry, the Flit!

By Terry Gilliam
In “Fang” 1962 (the humour magazine of Occidental College, California)
reprinted in "Help", February 1963

“The National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook” was written in 1974 at a remove of some 10 years, and was attempting to remember all the jokes of that period, while also layering everything with a retrospective irony.
This cartoon is a contemporary instance of someone having the same idea for a joke. Gilliam uses the most famous version of the insect spray slogan, “Quick, Henry, the flit!”. Attending university in the early 1960s means Gilliam would have been the right age to remember “flit” used as a slang term for a homosexual or effeminate boy.

In the National Lampoon Yearbook the “Flit” joke is used as an insinuation about the "artistic" Forrest Swisher. Here the joke is in the reveal of panel 6. Not merely a sissy, but an out and out homo. One hand is limp and the other clutches a flower, bouffant styled hair, tight trousers (which in another cartoon of the same period Gilliam calls “fag pants”, as did many other people), unmanly crossed leg stance, heavily lidded eyes, and pursed (possibly lipsticked) mouth. The jumper and shirt combination probably meant something at the time too, I suspect (UPDATE: A lengthy piece on homosexuals in "Life" 26 June, 1964, goes on and on about how tight trousers and sweaters are the urban homosexual uniform). Such a homosexual caricature being unexpected (a) in the context of the insect ad, (b) in such a grotty little hovel and (c) in general.

I feel slight discomfort about reprinting something from university days, to give it a pass as sophomore work. This cartoon has been reprinted several times, not just in Monty Python retrospectives, but also in a 1971 collection, “A Century of College Humor”, before Gilliam was famous. Gilliam was aiming at putting out a nearly profession humour magazine in “Fang”, and was trying to establish connections with Harvey Kurtzman as his mentor. So it’s not merely a throwaway item. And it does reflect the attitudes of the time. Gilliam admits to being a very conformist frat-boy type in his early university days. The attitude expressed in this cartoon also possibly explains a few faggy jokes in later issues of Harvey Kurtzman’s “Help!” when Gilliam was assistant editing, as Kurtzman had not shown any interest in jokes in that area previously.

292: Artistic Boys

from “The National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook” (1974)
by Doug Kenney and P.J. O’Rourke

National Lampoon’s Yearbook is a pitch perfect parody of High School Yearbooks, the way they capture the low grade awfulness of High School life, and also a plunge into early 1960s nostalgia.
As part of the preparation for the project, every National Lampoon member brought in their school yearbook. The editors discovered that every high school featured the same characters, and so one of the reasons why the Yearbook is so impressive is because it is a gallery of American high school archetypes.
Forrest Swisher is one of those archetypes. Besides the jock, the greaser, the make-out artist, the preppy, the class clown, the maths nerd, and so on, we also get the “artistic” one. So there are the obvious interests in theatrical pursuits and speech, and the school arts and literary magazine. Given the period, an attraction to hip artistic outsiders is expressed in the tail-end of the beatnik movement and the emergent Bob Dylan.
And from various hints, it’s obvious that “artistic” is sometimes also a polite way of deferring saying “queer”. “Crosses legs in class” is a certain type of refined or effeminate behaviour. Each of the profiles ends with a slightly sarcastic tagline, and “Quick ma the flit!” is a coded gay slam.
“Quick ma, the flit” was a long-running slogan for a series of insect killer spray ads. “Flit” was 40s/50s slang for a sissy or effeminate boy - it’s in “Catcher in the Rye”. So what could be seen as a silly nonsensical statement, is more of a mean in-joke.
Is Swisher gay? There’s nothing in the yearbook to go much further, and realistically there wouldn’t be. But it nicely encapsulates the belief that boys with artistic inclinations also have other inclinations. Besides, the boy’s bloody surname is Swisher. How obvious do you want it?
The writers returned to the 1964 graduating class on several occasions. In a 1976 reunion, they didn’t quite know what to do with him, and had Swisher as a local theatre director, married to the liberal Jewish university graduate. A 2003 update, now has Swisher as a Catholic priest who takes a lot of interest in young boys groups (there’s a long standing tradition in “National Lampoon” of sexually suspect priests).

Monday, 14 September 2009

291: The Magic Christian (1969)

“The Magic Christian” (1969)
written by Terry Southern, and John Cleese and Graham Chapman

Adapted from Southern’s short episodic novel of the same name, the film is a series of sketches, in which multi-millionaire Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) employs his money to make people indulge in shocking stunts. So the jokes are two-fold:
1) to demonstrate what indignities people will suffer when offered wads of cash, from minor bribes to a scene of city bankers diving into a vat of ordure sprinkled with pound notes
2) to indulge in stunts which disturb conventional sensibilities - some are intended to be subversive, some are just freak-outs

Vito Russo in his book “The Celluloid Closet” absolutely LOATHED this film: “'fag' jokes fly in a viciously homophobic film".
Somewhere I have a “Spitting Image” parody of late Mel Brooks with the tagline “Totally obsessed with Nazis”. It’s not really stretching a point to say the same about Terry Southern and homosexuals. I mean, really, really, really, really, really obsessed. Well, you understand the emphasis. I suppose he should be given some sort of acknowledgement in managing so many ways for homosexuals to be creepy for comedic gross-out purposes. Maybe, homosexuals really were just that odd and perverse to mainstream audiences at the time, and this film reflects that. (To offset this, there is a very affectionate tribute in Southern’s collection “Now Dig This” to his friend the gay poet Frank O’Hara, capturing his camp, sexually mischievous manner. Although that it SHOULD be the camp, impertinent, sexually mischievous side of O’Hara that Southern fixates on and enjoys...?)

0.00 – 3.22
Laurence Harvey as “Hamlet”
Here’s an instance of satirical humour overtaken by the events of the day. The joke is the unexpected metamorphosis of a performance of Hamlet’s soliloquy into a burlesque strip. Whether it’s actually gay or not is up for debate. When a man performs a woman’s role, it can’t help but look camp. Besides, there’s the fact that he’s offering his body as an object for desire, topped by the chap with the binoculars trying to get a good look at the end.
By the time this was released to the public, cavorting nudity on the stage was very much the thing of the day, with such ultra-hip atrocities of embarrassment as “Hair”, “Oh Calcutta” and “Dionysus 69”. Exploration of homosexuality in Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre also raised its head on the contemporary stage. There had been an all-male 1967 production of “As You Like It”. There had also been an explicitly homosexual 1969 production of Marlowe’s “Edward II”, with Ian McKellen as the lead, and also featuring Peter Bourne (now better known as Betty Bourne of Bloolips). This touring production of “Edward II” aroused a lot of tight-lipped scrutiny from the local moral forces wherever it was staged because of male kissing and unabashed affection. An issue of the early gay lifestyle magazine “Jeremy” had a big feature on the production and interviews with the cast, though no one was questioned or felt up to declaring a personal sexual interest. It also prompted the “Sunday Times” to identify McKellen as one of the actors to watch out for, with a photo-feature of McKellen clad in nothing but some tight leather trousers and sprawling in a chair. Which must have raised a few eyebrows over the breakfast table. (Oh, and I see a BBC recording has been released on DVD earlier this year,) But nothing in this sketch plays off the idea of gay actors, it a subversion of Shakespeare.
So given all this, the overwhelming impression made by this sketch, and indeed by most of the bits and pieces in “The Magic Christian,” is not one of major cultural subversion and criticism, but of a camp, self-congratulatory sense of “How naughty we are!”. As the various outrages are played out, it’s sometime hard to distinguish between the filmmakers portrayal of the onscreen audiences and their attitude to the real one watching the film. There’s a constant sense of being nudged in the ribs, and the impression they want that you should just throw up your hands and cry, “Scandalous! Simply Scandalous!”

0.00 – 1.38
Nosher Powell as the ginger boxer
There’s about 3 previous minutes of verisimilitudinous boxing bout scene-setting before this bit, but I’m sure we’ll all prefer going straight to the real action, shan’t we. In this scene, Southern updates his earlier attempt in the book version of “The Magic Christian”. Then, it was just one boxer pretending to fey and effeminate. Here the ante is upped to actual gay kissing. Nosher Powell has a very fey voice dubbed, and does that limp-wrist gesture. And we don’t get to see the kiss, though the direction is slightly more stylised to point up that fact. As in the book, it all ends in an rioting audience when their taste for violence is subverted. Which is apparently the same conclusion as in “Bruno”.

The discomfort of a stuffy ex-army type suddenly made the focus of homo-erotic attentions. A formal heightening of the oddness of such devotion to the body beautiful by these muscle men, with a little race-discomfort just to add to the mix. As before with the Hamlet sketch, there’s an obvious homosexual, fluttering his tip at the entertainment, and resting his head in a primping manner, just to highlight the faggotry of it all.

Leonard Frey as Lawrence Faggot (pronounced Fag-Oh, French-style, so a joke that probably slips past most of the audience. Because simply calling a gay character “faggot” - oh, ho, ho, ho - no we’re much more hip than that) revisits his performance from “The Boys in the Band”. Solicitously and disarmingly oleaginous with a few up-market camp insinuations, in an outrageously over-styled suit. All of which must have been even more of an in-joke, as the film version of “Boys in the Band” wasn’t released until the year after this.

Two body-builders dancing together. Which is mostly the boxing gag revisited, but in the context of the elite society of the other dancers.
And the all-out oddness of Yul Brynner in drag, overdubbed with a female voice singing “Mad About the Boy” to Roman Polanski. And then the final reveal and reversion to Brynner’s gravelly voice. Intercutting between the two, these is something of an intense perversity to this.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

290: Gorey Goes Gay 5

“Happy Endings” by Edward Gorey in “National Lampoon” March 1973

The “National Lampoon” issue for March 1973 had the theme of “Sweetness and Light”. This was partly playing against type as the magazine that prided itself on its propensity to shock and offend with scabrous satire or sheer bad taste. Gorey was an occasional contributor to “National Lampoon”, and so offered several pages of “Happy Endings”. Part of the joke being that Gorey’s work are renowned for their endings which are either morbid or indecipherable in a “L’Avventura” manner. So each of the panels is the conclusion to some unknown story, but now an Edward Gorey-style happy ending. Curiously, Gorey’s “Happy Endings” has never been collected.

This is sort of sweet I suppose. Although there I have an underlying suspicion that part of the joke is that the public would think that the idea of marriage between two men in the early 1970s was a silly thing.

This is surprisingly un-Gorey-like. It’s explicit for a start. You don’t expect Gorey to offer a take on “Midnight Cowboy” and male hustlers. And you really don’t expect Edward Gorey to use phrases like “biggest basket”. And that this should be a happy ending is unusual. But then Gorey’s works rarely encompass the contemporary. The chap on the left has overly beringed, fluttery hands, and is also shouldering a man-purse. What the hell the object is in front of the young hustler I don’t know though.

289: Gorey Goes Gay 4

from “The Gilded Bat” by Edward Gorey, 1966

A Goreyesque tale of one girl’s career in the world of a ballet, a take on “The Red Shoes”. Here’s one of the scenes of social success. Nothing gay here, surely. Except, except... For all the pleasantly turned out young men making up the scene, none of them seem to be paying much attention to the ballerina in her finery. Gorey was a good enough artist that he could make it evident as to where his figure were looking, and nobody’s eye’s are on the ballerina here. Those of you who know anything about the ballet impresario Diaghilev might have an explanation as to what may be going on in this picture of sophisticated socialising.

288: Gorey Goes Gay 3

In its own weirdly catch-as catch-can way, the most sexually concerned of Edward Gorey’s books is “The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Work by Ogdred Weary” (1961).

In a style alternately abashed then declamatory, it traces the adventures of a young girl as she is embroiled in the sexual escapades of an every widening group of libertines, which is standard for a certain brand of high-cultured pornography. On each page the girl is introduced to some new character, and in a slightly coy, euphemistic phrasing, it is suggested that she is either party or witness to some new if unclear sexual encounter. The wit of the book lies in the fact that nothing sexual is ever shown or described. Everything is left to the reader’s imagination. Characters are only ever shown standing around. As the cast increases there are a few homosexually suggestive encounters.

Herbert and Harold are a wealthy young man and his butler from earlier on. All their attentions to date have been heterosexual, but in the in the typical pornotopia, no one ever says no to anything. To me, this picture is reminiscent of those late 19th/early 20th century swimming hole paintings - Henry Scott Tuke and Thomas Eakins, a homoerotic athleticism. Not so much paederasty, as ephebophilia, which makes for an unexpected element in the high-toned short stories of Guy Davenport. See, the three men are merely disporting themselves. What could be more disavowable?

Chasing someone with a whip is merely a romp? It’s the sort of understatement which achieves its apotheosis in “The Curios Sofa’s” immortal line, “Still later, Gerald did a terrible thing to Elsie with a saucepan”.

Notice the chap on the left, is effete and lithe, his hands casting about his head, as he is clad in light blowsy attire. Every single man who appears in “The Curious Sofa” Edward Gorey describes as well-formed, well-made, well-developed, well-proportioned, etc.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

287: Gorey Goes Gay 2

from “The Listing Attic”, 1954

I’ve no intention of writing a study of homosexuality in Edward Gorey’s works. The art and appeal of Gorey’s pieces derive from his abstruse suggestions of sexual and violent oddity. Sacher-Masoch and the great notorious murderers skirt in the immense penumbra of overpowering late-Victorian propriety. If you can put a finger on precisely what’s happening then the joke is usually the poorer for it in Gorey’s works. His strength lies in his rich and ever deepening ability to allude to unspeakable or incomprehensible behaviour amidst the Edwardian haut monde. However a few pieces do feature some actual gay content (I almost wrote explicit there, but that wouldn’t be quite right). This is from only the second of his little books, when his career was barely starting. A collection of deliberately grim limericks. This scene reminds me more than a little of the beginning of Waugh’s “Decline and Fall”. And why Harvard? Well, the already eccentric Gorey was a student there, so there may be just a little exorcision of bad memories in this exaggeration of the worst fits of group-sanctioned prejudices.

286: Gorey Goes Gay 1

This is the American cover for the 1959 Anchor edition of the novel “A Room in Chelsea Square”. The novel was published anonymously in England in 1958. Eventually the author was revealed to be Michael Nelson. How then do we know that the slightly effete, foppish chaps on the cover are gay, and not just standard Gorey men? Easy. Because the characters in the novel are gay. “A Room in Chelsea Square” is a kind of homosexual fantasia about the main figures responsible for the wartime literary magazine “Horizon”. The publisher, Peter Watson, fabulous margarine heir, was gay, while Cyril Connolly and Stephen Spender ran the bisexual gamut at different times in their lives. So here, slightly more realistically rendered than usual, are two of Gorey’s ambiguous men. I think the hands are a bit more splayed and expressive then his usual manner. The one man stretched out is the picture dictionary definition of languorous, while the other with his unusual stance, drinks from a large glass of champagne. Is there something in the way their heads are turned to each other? Apparently, the illustration wraps around the back, and has a male nude statue. So even without reading the book, there are enough hints in this cover to alert those who may be attuned properly to suspect that this may be a book to somehow satisfy certain personal interests. Which given that this 1959 is about as much as one can hope for. As per this illustration by Ronald Searle a few years earlier.

Usually I like to point out if the creator of whatever I’m posting is gay. In Gorey’s case it’s a little more awkward. In interviews Gorey would make assorted self-deprecatory remarks about his underpowered and inchoate sexuality. His art and personal interests are almost the epitome of a certain type of camp. And it is the perverse sense of sexual inexplicability and complementary artistic inclinations, high culture and pop (before there even was a fetishising of pop culture) which underlies the few negative reviews he has received over the years, and likewise is the base of much of his appeal to a worshipful fan base. His personal artistic acquaintances are almost all drawn from a certain type of New York gay intellectual. Indeed the circles he moved in can be traced in a book like “The Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality, and the Shaping of American Culture” by Douglass Shand (if only to demonstrate that a tradition of overeducated aesthetic university pooves isn’t solely the province of Oxbridge nancy-types). If you like Gorey then you’ll probably want to track down his friend Frank O’Hara’s book of little plays, “Amorous Nightmares of Delay”. And if you’ve heard ever Gorey speak, then he’s undoubtedly possessed of what I always think of as the authentic voice of the Classic American Homo. I’m in no way prepared to speak for what the man did with his genitals, and neither should you. But gossip is fun, isn’t it? Actually, rereading the Searle/Gorer piece, doesn’t some of that sound rather descriptive of the balletomane Gorey to you?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

285: More Gay Espionage 3 - James Bond

“The Spy Who Minced in from the Cold”
by Stanley Reynolds in “Punch” 30 July 1975

CHAPTER 1: Mince for Breakfast
'There’s the hell of a flap on," Miss Moneypenny said as Bond walked into M's office early that morning. "He's in a terrible tizz, I'll tell you."
Bond had been day-dreaming about his weekend in Paris with Jean-Paul from F Station and the evenings he had spent at Fouquet's drinking Americanos-Campari, Cinzano, a large slice of lemon peel and soda; always Bond stipulated Perrier - and the luncheons at the Cafe de la Paix where he always had luncheon in Paris when he wasn't having luncheon at the Rotunde or the Dome where the food was good enough and it was amusing to watch the people but they were not like Vefour, the Caneton, Lucas-Carton or the Cochon d'Or which were great restaurants without the tarnish of tourism of the Tour d'Argent or Maxims.
Paris and Jean-Paul had been fun. Bond was almost sorry Jean-Paul had turned out to be a double agent working for S.M.E.R.S.H. But then Bond had had the pleasure of strangling Jean-Paul with his own piano wire in a wood in the little village of Fourquex, just outside St Germain, on the N184 near the junction of the N307 to St Nom and the D98 which Bond always took to avoid the heavy traffic on the Paris-Nantes and Versailles autoroutes. Then there had been that incredible chase down the glistening ice mouth of the Gloria Express bob-run on a one-man skeleton bob with nothing to eat during all that Alpine chase but a foot of garlic sausage, a hunk of bread and a bottle of Pis-de-Chat - when up in the restaurant on the Zugspitze Emile would be doing his Krebsschwanze mit Dilltunke, crayfish tails with rice and a cream and dill sauce.
Now it was M who was doing his nut.
"Take a pew, luv," M said. M winced.
"Oh this job!" he said. "Sometimes I wish I were back in Austin Reed's. Honestly I do. Russell Harty wanted me on his show but I told him, 'It's the anonymity, dear, it must be preserved at all costs.' How was Paris? Hell, I suppose, in August. But at least, James, you have the fun of meeting those great big meaty boys from S.M.E.R.S.H. All those Slavonic cheekbones. Sheer Heaven! I was telling Mick the other day. . . but sometimes I don't think Mick really understands. I mean, not really. But what can you expect from someone like Mick? A dear boy but she was seconded from Special Branch. Trench coats galore! James, you'll never know the trouble I've had with her and her trench coats. 'There's more to spying, dear,' I told her, 'than looking like some grotty old man after a bit of rough outside the Sloan Square tube station gents,' I said, I did."
Suddenly M's manner changed. He tossed a report across the desk to Bond. "I suppose you've heard of this scandal A. J. P: Taylor has kicked up. Well, just between you, me and the Number 11 bus, ducks, Her Majesty's Secret Service has been dropped right in it. It's not that the Minister minds. He's a positive sweetie. So long as you keep her off the creme d'menthe. But these gruesome crewcuts over at the C.I.A. are getting more sweaty-palmed than usual about security. I had, if you'll excuse the expression, Lamont T. Knockwurst Junior in here yesterday telling me his boys are positively reluctant to liaise with the Firm ever since Taylor did the naughty on us. I mean, it's just too butch for words but you know what the crewcuts are like, all six packs of lager and Penthouse."
"Crash dive?" Bond asked, using the phrase the Firm had borrowed from the boys in the Submarine Service to mean bad news-or worse.
"Oh, crash crash crash!" cried M, waving his hands in despair.

CHAPTER 2: Fanny's Devine
BOND sat toying with a Rehrilcken mit Sahne and an Imperial Tokay. No matter what Richard Boston might say about the demise of real beer and the octopus tentacles of the brewery conglomerate with their plastic pint pots, Bond thought, there's a lot of life yet in your old British pub. But Bond's heart was, not in his
Rehrticken mit Sahne. His heart was in his Tricker's boots; 9½ triple A, made from the special last run up for him by a little Hungarian around the corner who also did a jim dandy boeuf Stroganoff every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Cleaved in twain by a buzz saw he had almost been by that Beastly Dr No, buried in sand up to his Egyptian cotton collar and breathed upon by S.M.E.R.S.H. men with borscht on their breaths - these exploits were mere bagatelles to the fate that awaited him now in the form of Miss Fanny Devine of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and the C.I.A.
M had arranged a piece of liaison work between the Firm and the C.I.A., putting Bond alongside the nubile and svelte Miss Fanny Devine, the Madame Bovary of the C.I.A., in the hope of dispelling Washington DC's fears of limp wrists in the old Firm with a masculine display of the old...
Bond recognised her immediately by the long golden hair, silk to the roots, the big wrap-a-round Mary Tyler Moore smile, and the tank top T-shirt with the words C.I.A. RULES NO MESS O.K.? emblazoned across Miss Fanny Devine's twin bows.
"Hi!" she said, coming to Bond's table. "You jus' gotta be Jimmy Bond. I'm Fanny Devine. Hey, you gonna spy with me, huh? Great! Say, what's that guk you're eatin'? Looks like saddle of roebuck with a smitane sauce or I never read Fanny Farmer's Boston Cookbook. Hey, you some kind of a food freak? You into that gourmet jazz? Kinda fifties that trip, know what I mean? Do they do a peanut butter 'n' lettuce sandwich here?"
Bond felt a distinct rising of the gorge.
"Actually," Fanny said, "I packed some jelly sandwiches before I skyed in from D.C. this ayem." She produced this noxious fare. Bond's gorge rose. M! M! M! he thought, how could you do this to me? Can you still be jealous that I stole that 19-year-old Corcian with the eyes black as beluga away from you? Bond ordered a martini and. . . shook it.

CHAPTER 3: AC From DC -With Jelly
BOND wondered if he wouldn't have been better off staying in men's wear at Austin Reed's.
He put an arm gingerly round Fanny Devine's neck and puller her close to him and kissed her long and passionately, trying to think of pleasant things like firing a hot Walther into M's face or thoughts of Hans, who had had the antique shop near the Nymphreburg Palace, and how awful he (Bond) had felt when he had to get Hans with a poison Weisswurst in the Franziskaner Keller that night drinking Steinhager when he learned Hans was from S.M.E.R.S.H. and actually had a wife, three kids, a dog, and a turret lathe in a shed in the back garden of his semi-detached in No 10 the Vier Jahreszeiten.
Bond could feel Fanny Devine's breath coming in hot pants, pre-shrunk blue denim with fashionably ragged edges, £7.99 at better boutiques everywhere. Bond knew what the Firm expected of him. This was. . . Crash Dive!
Trembling he felt for those twin orbs so like the real honey dews you could only get at Kristato's round the corner from the Excelsio bar where they served a Negroni with Gordon's, which was the only way to serve it. Bond felt a stinging slap and opened his eyes. To his amazement Fanny Devine's eyes blazed with fury.
"Fresh guy!" she spat angrily. "Men! men! men! they are all the same, after one thing 'n' one thing only. An' we thought you wuz all different over here in London, England."
Bond dared not hope. "You mean ?"
"That's right. I'm Woman's Lib 'n' th' only true liberation for us gals is to make a complete break 'n' rupture with a male orientated 'n' masculine structured society. "
"Fanny, you mean you are. . ."
"Yes, gowan 'n' laff. I'm gay. Or tryin' to be. It's kinda hard for a normal average girl from Shaker Heights but I have taken my cue from the leaders of Woman's Lib 'n' have shaken off the grubby gropin' paws of men, men, men - all except Dads 'n' President Ford of course." Fanny rose and saluted then sat again.
Bond was thunderstruck.
"As soon as I finish my current tour of duty," Miss Devine said, "I'm goin' back to Bennington to get my Ph.D in modern free association dance 'n' I'm comin' outta th' closet, yes siree bob, I am. But until then mum is th' word, schlepp. Unnerstan'?'
Bond felt Fanny Devine, munching a jelly sandwich, which he had prepared himself, sipping a frosty bottle of 7-Up, and he returned to M where he found his chief busily dressing for the Liza Minelli Look Alike Contest scheduled for that evening at the Bosun's Mate.
"Well?" snapped M eagerly.
"Do I ever miss?" Bond replied, a secret smile playing about the corners of his lips, for M's seams were crooked.
"Not that, ducks," M said. "I mean this rhinestone choker.. Do you think it's too tacky? Mick thinks so but I said, 'Listen, cheri, is tat the essence of Liza or is tat the essence of Liza?' He's turned nasty ever since I got honourable mention in the Julie Christie Look Alike last April. 'Dear boy,' I said, 'what's the use of being a spy if you can't get yourself disguised when duty calls?' "
Bond tossed his report on the desk and headed for the door.
"So you squared us on that Taylor rumour? That was peachy of you, ducks,"
M said. "The Firm won't forget. Beyond the call, and all that. But tell me, James," M's voice dropped into a serious key, "how. . . was. . . it?"
"Not too bad," 007 replied, "but nothing like the real thing."
"Well, toujour gay, duckie," M said, "see you at the Bosun's Mate and if you wear a rhinestone choker too, I'll take away your licence to kill, honestly I will."


This follows Alan Coren’s lead in “Punch”. Coren’s comedy homosexuals are bitchy and only concerned about fashion. This is written in response to public comments made by the historian A.J.P Taylor that British intelligence was riddled with homosexuals. Despite being a James Bond parody, the title is a parody of le Carre’s “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”. Unlike Cyril Connolly’s “Bond Strikes Camp” parody, the campness here is immediate and up-front. Never having read one, I don’t know how this compares to “The Man from C.A.M.P.” books, although those were written in the late 1960s for a gay audience. If I didn’t know that this had been written for “Punch” but instead thought it had appeared in “Christopher Street” or “Jeremy”, early gay magazines, how would I feel about it then? Since the gay dialogue is overplayed, and M as a drag queen is going it a bit far, I think I’d conclude it wasn’t intended as a funny parody featuring homosexuals, but that it was being funny about an idea of homosexuals. The parodying of homosexual attitudes, not of Bond as gay, is the joke. In the same way that “toujours gai” becomes “toujours gay”. Unlike Connolly, here the gays have to play straight, rather than straights as gay. As in Connolly’s piece, all the concern in Fleming’s novels about connoisseurship and international travel does transfer easily into a gay lifestyle. The “Liza” stuff ties its to its time. While the Lesbian conscious-raising is not entirely wrong in general, but certainly isn’t quite right in its specifics. Of course, lesbians aren’t unknown in Bond, so it maybe Reynold’s attempt to subvert the kinky lesbians of Bond-world with the more earnest politicised lesbians who were making themselves known.

284: More Gay Espionage 2

by Mahood in “Punch” 21 May 1975
From “A Paler Shade of Pink: Lefties in the Civil Service”

The only gay-themed entry in a sequence of cartoons about the influence of left wing politics in UK bureaucracy. You’ll notice it runs a variation on the same “Reds under the Bed” slogan as the “Burkiss Way” piece. This particular cartoon is inspired by 1975 publication of John Vassall’s “Vassall: The Autobiography of a Spy”. Not a hint in the cartoon that the two characters are that way inclined though, either gossiping or passing on a warning, which seems like a trick missed. Just makes a connection between homosexuality and communism through a rapidly dating pun.

283: More Gay Espionage

(Academia and espionage make strange bedfellows. But of course so did Oscar Wilde. And the spirit of Wilde would seem to have been one of the guiding influences during those heady, seamy years of varsity shortly before the last war - years when, as we are now only too aware, the enemy began to infiltrate British seats of learning in a most literal manner. ERIC PODE OF CROYDON takes a look back at what went wrong in our failure to counter the Soviet thrust.)

“Beds Under the Reds”

(Academia and espionage make strange bedfellows. But of course so did Oscar Wilde. And the spirit of Wilde would seem to have been one of the guiding influences during those heady, seamy years of varsity shortly before the last war - years when, as we are now only too aware, the enemy began to infiltrate British seats of learning in a most literal manner. ERIC PODE OF CROYDON takes a look back at what went wrong in our failure to counter the Soviet thrust.)

Quentin “Whoopsy” Rampton: Rugby and showers afterwards. Descended from a long line of sailors, usually on Sunday afternoons. Was the first man to reduce dandruff to its present size. His plan to introduce homosexuality as a safe contraceptive for men never caught on.

Quentin "Whoopsy" Rampton recalls those early carefree days spent punting and picknicking by the Cam with wistful nostalgia: "They were undoubtedly the happiest days of one's life. The very idea, though, that Vladimirovich Sovietspy- or Jerry as he become known to me - might be a Russian was at the time unthinkable. He was so frightfully charming . . . gave me lifts to college in his tank, let me try on his fur hat at weekends, that sort of thing."
But beneath the surface a deadly game was being played. In 1934 Sovietspy met William Celery Purse, a second-year embroidery student and the son of three high-ranking brigadiers: auspicious military connections which were strengthened further by an uncle in the navy, Rear Admirer Sir Horatio Purse. After a deep personal relationship lasting close on seven and a half minutes Sovietspy claimed he had photos of Purse winning medals at ice-skating. For Purse, this was the end. His reputation in tatters, he was forced to tell all he knew about British Intelligence.
Again, Rampton claims he had still not begun to suspect. "How was one to know? He was such a frail, sensitive man. He used to catch potato blight from packets of crisps. No, I would never have believed him capable of such outrages."
I put it to Dr Rampton that he was arguably the most outrageous old fairy in the history of Creation.
"Well, yes."
As a leading poove of that period, therefore, what leaks did he know about?
"Well of course we all knew that Guy Rogerson was handing the Russians the Red Army... who until that time were working on the bacon counter at Sainsbury's. And we later discovered that Jocelyn Beddowes was secretly passing them East Germany. He used to smuggle it over a lump at a time inside copies of Bertrand Russell."
Shocking revelations indeed. And were there any others, who even to this day have not yet been exposed?
"Well there was one other colleague who was working as an agent - I believe he entered journalism and became an editor. His name was

from “Best-seller! : The Life and Death of Eric Pode of Croydon” by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick (1981)

A parody newspaper article from a book collecting many of the best sketches from the late 1970s radio comedy programme “The Burkiss Way”. The programme was a blend of pinpoint accurate media parodies, surrealism and self-referential metafictional conceits, and expertly deployed hoary old gags. Eric Pode of Croydon was a recurring, ghastly, incompetent character, and it is his exploits on which the book is hung. “The Burkiss Way” is regularly repeated on Radio 7 in the UK and well worth a listen.

Anyway, here it’s a parody of the fellow-travelling 1930s and Oxbridge educated gay spies. I don’t think it would disgrace Woody Allen in the pages of the New Yorker, with its sex jokes, and forays into silliness. The sudden ending is a deliberate joke, not a scanning error. I think it captures the various ways that the public thinks that upper-class university types have of indulging homoeroticism, which would only be confirmed by the production of “Brideshead Revisited” a year or two later. The picture they use for Rampton is of W.H.Auden. Who was gay, Oxbridge educated, knocking about in the 1930s, of fellow-travelling lefty inclinations, and even a friend of Burgess and Maclean. “Whoopsy” captures nicely those university-type nicknames, while being blatant about homosexuality. Obligatory mention of Wilde? Check. The ice skater might seem a deliberately silly interjection, but probably refers to John Curry, the 1976 British Olympic skating champion, who had been outed about the time of his victory.