Monday, 30 November 2009

329: Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell has been doing things in the Uk for about the last four decades, and is famous/notorious as the nation’s leading gay rights campaigner. At times this has brought him great opprobrium, although as the principles of gay rights have been legally instituted, he no longer seems such a strident figure. Also his attempt to perform a citizen’s arrest on Robert Mugabe probably did a lot to endear him to many.

Tatchell first came to national attention when he stood as the Labour candidate in the 1983 Bermondsey byelection.,_1983 should probably give you all the context for what follows.
It was infighting in the Labour Party at the highest levels about the appropriateness of Tatchell’s selection which made for such good copy in the newspapers. And therefore made him and his homosexuality a matter of national discussion.

Here we have cartoons and gags about an out gay figure (although it was confused at the time by Tatchell’s attempts to “in” himself somewhat for electability). There were an awful lot of snide gags made about him at the time. But we shall discounting all the obvious homophobic abuse, (presumably thought to be killingly witty at the time by its perpetrators), and instead focus on how humorists and cartoonists portrayed Tatchell.

How is Tatchell as a gay man portrayed, and what use is made of his homosexuality as a club to beat the Labour party.

from “Private Eye”, 18 December 1981

On 7 November 1981, Bermondsey Labour Party selected Peter Tatchell. Labour Party leader Michael Foot declared "the individual concerned is not an endorsed member of the Labour Party and as far as I'm concerned never will be". Foot’s outburst was prompted by suspicions that Tatchell was of the hard Left, a part of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency, But then the Labour party’s objections all got confused in the public consciousness with revelations about Tatchell’s homosexuality.
So this column from Adrian Spart – an ad hoc adaptation of “Private Eye”’s usual left-wing activist Dave Spart. Spart’s typical contradictory and illogical ranting are employed to present a touchy homosexual who will take anything as opportunity for offense, rejoicing in his victimisation.

The controversy over Tatchell’s candidacy was largely played out in the press as a conflict between Michael Foot and Tatchell, so as to undermine Foot’s leadership
Such was the obvious conflict between the two that gags about gay coupledom were pretty much impossible.
This cartoon by MAC is the only I can find that makes an attempt. MAC presents Foot and Tactchell as a couple. Not only are they holding hands but the caption refers to Deidre and Ken from the soap opera “Coronation Street”, two characters then going through a tempestuous romantic reconciliation, a storyline making national headlines.

by MAC in “Daily Mail” 21 February 1983

The following three cartoons are all about the difficulties between Foot and Tachell. Whatever the point of each cartoon, the cartoonist employs certain elements from gay stereotypes to depict Peter Tatchell. Overly detailed eyebrows and eyes with large, pursed lips, and often stood in a fey stance. It contributes nothing to the gag but it lets you know that Tatchell is a gay man

by Keith Waite in “Daily Mirror”, 16 February 1983

by Nicholas Garland in “The Spectator”, 19 February 1983

by Michael Cummings in “The Sunday Express”, 20 February 1983

from “Private Eye” 25 February 1983
Another of the editorials by “Private Eye”’s fictional proprietor Lord Gnome is fairly accurate summation of the hypocritical conflation of politics with homophobia enjoyed by Tatchell’s opponents that marked the Bermondsey by-election.

Cover to “Private Eye” 25 February 1983
This however is just a cheap gibe. The tendency Foot referring to being The Militant Tendency. Hmmm, “Ducky”, is not advanced.

by Marc Boxer in “Private Eye” 25 February 1983
The embarrassed father's slightly posh son looks as though he’s an extra from “Brideshead Revisited” but as per usual, note the prominent almost rouged lips.

by Michael Heath in “The Spectator” 3 April 1983

from "Private Eye", 16 December 1983
And this refers to Tatchell’s book “The Battle for Bermondsey” at the end of 1983

So as you can see, in most of the above, outright homophobic jokes are usually outside the discourse of political comedy, but even caricaturists find it tempting to include some allusion or other to Tatchell’s homosexuality no matter how irrelevant. Although this si somewhat understandable since homosexuality was then unknown in public politics.
It would be profitable to compare this approach to Peter Mandelson’s treatment by the press. Coded phrases, double entendres, fussy descriptions of his clothes and manner, and allusions to Larry Grayson and “Are You being served” are all employed by cartoonists, impressionists and humorous political journalists. Mandelson’s homosexuality makes for a vulnerable point. Is it expressly homophobic? Well, the fact that Mandelson’s outing was handled so badly made him seem embarrassed and so a characteristic for mockery like boggle-eyes, corpulence, speech impediments or any other mockable trait.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

328: You Can't Lick Dick 3

by Edward Sorel
cover to “Screw”, 10 December 1973

A small selection of scandalous sexual gags at Richard Nixon’s expense. Another example I’ve posted earlier of Nixon indulging in Caligulan-style homosexual orgies is this comic in “National Lampoon” February 1974
Unlike that cartoon by Sean Kelly and Tony Hendra, these three examples all turn on Nixon’s friendship with Bebe Rebozo. is probably a decent overview of Rebozo’s character and the history of his friendship with Nixon.
Nixon and Rebozo were incredibly close friends, almost devoted to each other since the early 50s. This was a relationship all the more striking since the awkward Nixon had few others friends. Their friendship may have been made more public than is common as a means of countering the impression Nixon usually gave of possessing all the human affect of a cheap lawn ornament. But it also had the side-effect of making people ponder as to the true nature of their companionship. Even members of Nixon’s administration are on record declaring their suspicions. (Not that any gay historians would be minded to claim Nixon, or Edward Heath for that matter, for our team as a matter of pride.) So these gags play off existing qualms that people had about Nixon and Rebozo together.

Of course these jokes are primarily intended as cheap shots. And deliberately so. The editors of “National Lampoon”, Edward Sorel and Paul Krassner are not really the type to thing that homosexuality is actually dishonourable. Each has differing attitudes of relaxation and liberal acceptance given their generation, but they are all prepared to play off the assumption that for the general public homosexuality at the very least has a strong stigma.
It is those unenlightened attitudes that Nixon repeatedly made his political base.
We’ve seen Nixon express his distaste for homosexuals in his incisive review of a 1971 episode of “All in the Family”
So it’s not big, it’s not clever, but making gay allegations against Nixon is just the sort of base attack that would really rile him. No need to be political, no need for ornate caricature, just paint him as a queer. Nixon was such an uptight and unsexual person, it was the perfect comic contrast to show him relishing some passionate gay sex.

The first example, the letter in “National Lampoon” predates Watergate, so it’s just a general humorous jab, some common abuse of the man. Playing off his strenuous image of probity even it is undermined as he gets some executive head.

The second from Paul Krassner, is just one small part of a larger assault on Nixon’s character, morals, and general fitness for office and general existence as a human being. Gay rumours are raised, in the vicinity of other longstanding rumours about Hoover and Clyde Tolson, only to be scotched. And how are the rumours disproved? By visiting whores. Classssy.

The third example above, the illustration by Sorel, obviously builds on contemporary interest in the Watergate Tapes. A cover for “Screw” magazine means the opportunity for Sorel to be as scandalous as possible. It also has Nixon as the one being buggered, which probably has a touch of further denigration about it.
The last five pages of Robert Coover’s 1977 novel “A Public Burning” has Richard Nixon sodomised by the figure of Uncle Sam, an equally vicious and low conman representing the true base nature of America. It’s quite a graphic passage, and in its “Deliverance”-style rape there’s more than a slight element of Coover exacting some unspeakable vengeance on his imaginary Nixon, since what could be a worse indignity. However, after this gross buggery, in the last couple of paragraphs, homosexual affection comes into it as this venal Uncle Sam and Nixon realise their love for each other.

327: You Can't Lick Dick 2

from “A Sneak Preview of Richard Nixon’s Memoirs” by Paul Krassner
in “Chic” 1976

There seems to be a tradition of accusing those who fight Communism of being homosexual. This smear tactic was used against Whittaker Chambers; against Senator Joseph McCarthy; against J. Edgar Hoover. In that vein, gossips used to joke about Hoover and Clyde Tolson double-dating with Charles "Bebe" Rebozo and myself.

Neither Rebozo nor I are"'gay." We have been very close friends since 1950. What we enjoy most about each other's company is the fact that small talk becomes unneccessary. Weare not afraid of silence. But we have never had any kind of sexual relationship.

We were introduced by Senator George Smathers, who was infamous for supplying female company to his fellow politicians. It was Smathers who sent Mary Jo Kopechne to Senator Edward Kennedy.

Whenever I was in Florida, I would always stay with Bebe, and he would occasionally get a couple of beautiful $200-a-night girls. Or, as they would be called nowadays, $200-a-night women. But when I bought my own home in Key Biscayne, then his yacht became the rendezvous site.

326: You Can't Lick Dick 1

from "Letters to the Editor"
in "National Lampoon" August 1971

click - be with you in a second, Bebe, as soon as I figure out how to work this new Dictaphone and record a letter for my idiot secretary to send out. There, I think it's on now. Ah, Miss Conklin, when you play this tape tomorrow, please transcribe it as a letter and send it to the National Lampoon, and let me make it perfectly clear that there are to be no accidental omissions this time, or your services will no longer be needed here in the White House.

A trusted advisor of mine had brought to my attention that your recent Pornography issue does not meet the minimum standards for decency as outlined by recent Supreme Court rulings. Because of this - ha, Miss Conklin, change that to "For this reason" - an injunction against your magazine is being prepared by the Attorney General specifically citing your obscene assertions that Mr. Rebozo and I habitually engage in - Bebe, cut that out - unnatural practices. These libelous and false assertions - c'mon Bebe, at least let me finish this letter - will also be brought to the attention of the postal authorities - Hey! You'll simply ruin my new pants. Now I mean it! - for proper disposition.

You are hereby directed to cease publication of such - oh, please stop - ridiculous and -oh oh- offensive material or face the legal consequences. Look, Bebe, will you stop fooling around? At least wait until we're in the car. Somebody might walk in. Now where was I? Ah, yes I must add that I, personally, find your publication - mmmmm - disgusting and degrading to American youth and a sign to our enemies that our moral fibre is in serious - faster, Bebe, oh faster! - question. I can, promise that if you keep up this sort of -oh oh oh oh - filth, none of you will even be able to write home for money - ooooh God! - oops! Who's there? Oh, heh heh, hello Pat. Funny I didn't hear you come in. I seem to have, heh heh, dropped one of my contacts in my lap and Bebe was kindly, ah, helping me find - er, Miss Conklin, please type this up and sign it for me. Why, Pat, I've always worn contacts, didn't you - click.

Richard M. Nixon
President of the United States
Washington, D.C.

Friday, 27 November 2009

325: When Intimacy Goes Wrong

Men kissing. Always good for a laugh. Unfortunately, particularly so among audiences watching serious gay films in the cinema. The scene builds up to a perfectly non-gratuitous kiss between the leads (often played by straight stars, let’s be honest, because gay men kissing gay men might be too much) and then just as lips touch, from somewhere in the audience there will come a giggle or two.
Now, let’s be thankful it’s not a cry of revulsion. Society has moved forward somewhat. But in an entertainment arena if its not turning you on or winning your sympathy then the sight of two men kissing most likely provokes a comic response. Is it because of diffused disgust, puzzlement, anxiety, awkwardness? Is the sight of two men kissing so outside of the normal order it can’t help stimulating laughter? Is it because the power of a same-sex kiss suddenly breaks the audience’s involvement and so like a bad line or cheesy special effect it can’t help but elicit laughs?
Of course, if a same sex kiss is truly intended to be funny then it’s best if it’s between two straight men. The discomfort will then be on the part of the two characters on screen, rather than on the part of the audience trying to parse their own response to two gay men kissing.
Such is the social power of gay kissing, that there are precious few examples of dramatic gay kisses being allowed, let alone funny gay kisses.
The 1982 black comedy “Deathtrap” has a twist about halfway through when Michael Caine and Christopher Reeves are revealed to be gay lovers. The most immediate and shocking way of proving this was by having them suddenly, unexpectedly kiss. In trade circles it became known as the $10 million kiss, since it’s estimated this how much the kiss cost the film in tickets. That’s a lot of audience to risk for the sake of one joke.

Other than in scenes where one man makes a move on another dressed as a woman, same-sex kissing tends to feature as the punchline to jokes about men discussing the boundaries of permissible intimacy. How close can they get, how can they show they like each other as friends? And then it just goes too far, and passionate kissing erupts. It’s usually not intended that these are closeted gay men, trying to sublimate, and never kissing for sexual gratification, but that in almost every instance there’s nothing half-hearted about these kisses.

You’ll notice each time there’s a kiss in the sketches below it gets shrieks, as taboos are broken, and the characters insist that there’s nothing sexual about two men kissing.

from “Fridays” 8 May 1981
“Men Who Hug”

Larry David
Michael Richards
Mark Hamill

Mark Hamill in an ugly suit kisses Michael Richards – not quite the “Star Wars” slash you were looking for?
A bunch of unembarrassed guys (David and Hamill are particularly boobish for contrast) are able to show their appreciation of each other. Although not in a casual urbane Parisian sort of a way.

from “Smith and Jones” (circa 1989-1990?)
Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones

The uptight, nigh-hysterically uncomfortable Griff Rhys Jones is almost a match for Gene Wilder at his best.

from “Exit 57”, 1996
Stephen Colbert as Father
Amy Dearis as Mother/Squirrel
Jodi Lennon as Daughter
Paul Dinello as Boyfriend

An occasional gag from sitcoms is for one character to show another how to put the moves on a potential date. At a particularly embarrassing moment a third character will enter to everyone’s gay-tinged discomfort. Here, it starts off with the inappropriateness of a father asking his daughter’s date if “he got any?”, not with disapproval but with encouragement. And then comes the kiss, which merits a positive evaluation on his daughter’s behalf.
Nothing makes sense and then it keeps being repeated with each element made more emphatic, culminating in the lingering, passionate romantic clinch of the third instance. The audience being left to assume how much further it can be taken in the fourth repetition.

from “Mad TV”, November 1, 2003
Ike Barinholtz and Josh Meyers

Basically the same celebrating athletes joke as Monty Python’s footballers and National Lampoon’s Disco Beaver’s hockey players, and the cartoons about the Football Association’s concern about emotional footballers. Except that here, rather than just a quick visual, the joke builds on the character’s confusion: “What just happened?” followed by much agonising as to whether they are gay. Of course, the fact that this is deliberately a joke, means the show can spend more camera time on men kissing (accompanied by leaping on each other, running their hands through each other’s hair, dancing provocatively), than any gay kiss would receive in any prime time drama.

Over the last five years or so, David Walliams has got a hell of a lot of mileage out of his sexually ambiguous persona, both in sketches, and on chat shows, flirting with other men, fondling them, and occasionally wrestling them to the floor and pulling their underpants off.

And for more crassly teen-oriented fare which I can’t be bothered wasting my typing on, why not search youtube for
“Baseketball” (1998) – Trey Parker and Matt Stone are two good friends affirming their friendship;
“Dude, Where’s My Car?” (2000) – Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott kiss each other in a moment of blithe one-upmanship;
“American Pie 2” (2001) Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott disgustedly forced into kissing each other against their wills to get out of trouble;
“Talledega Nights” (2006) - straight redneck Will Ferrell kisses cultured European gay NASCAR driver Sacha Baron Cohen as a sign of competitive admiration.

There's a lot of it about, you know.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

324: John Lennon - Four in Hand

“Four in Hand” by John Lennon
From “Oh Calcutta!”, 1969

Well this was an unexpected find when browsing through “Oh Calcutta!”.
(“Oh Calcutta!” was a full-frontal comedic revue about sex first stage by theatre critic Ken Tynan in 1969 and which went onto long-running success in both England and America.)
For most people it’s the fact that it’s a homoerotic masturbation sketch by John Lennon that is the surprise.
For me, since I know more than is probably useful about Ken Tynan, it’s the fact that this is a homoerotic sketch in “Oh Calcutta!”. When Ken Tynan was compiling “Oh Calcutta!” he was very emphatic that any camp material or gay influences be excluded from the production. This was because “Oh Calcutta!” was intended as a heterosexual entertainment. No offense or prejudice against gays was intended (Tynan was always very proud of having stood bail for a gay friend), but he assumed gay men wouldn’t have the necessary responses upon which his show’s success was predicated. Camp or gay jokes were also to be excluded because it was a type of humour that already had a home on the stag and would be a distraction from the sexy humour of “Oh Calcutta!”.
Given all of the above, I assume that Tynan’s bending of his own rules is prompted by the prestige of John Lennon’s name.
Admittedly, if you’re going to do a mass jerk-off sketch, barring thoughts of impotence (and “Oh Calcutta!”is all about positivity, not incapability) then unexpected thoughts of other men are a likely source of humour. Which is of course why actual or potential gay boys often find themselves disbarred from dorm room frolics and rounds of the “Soggy Biscuit Game”, since if there’s no homosexuals involved then there’s nothing gay about masturbating with other men. Which the punchline of getting off to thoughts of the Lone Ranger rather undermines.

Jon Lennon’s sketch is based on experiences as a teenager he would masturbate with friends, during which they’d call out the name of movie actresses.
Paul McCartney: “We used to have wanking sessions when we were young at Nigel Whalley’s house in Woolton. We’d stay overnight and we’d all sit in armchairs and we’d put all the lights out and being teenage pubescent boys, we’d all wank. What we used to do, someone would say, ‘Brigitte Bardot.’ ‘Oooh!’ That would keep everyone on par, then somebody, probably John, would say, ‘Winston Churchill.’ ‘Oh, no!’ and it would completely ruin everyone’s concentration.”
Until the days of the Farrelly Brothers, this was probably the most witnessed scene of comic masturbation for public entertainment, since “Oh Calcutta!” was a success running for decades in one form or another.

Other adult revues of the time deliberately made more of their gay content. Often this was because they had their origins in a younger and more counter-cultural demographic. “Oh Calcutta!”’s biggest rival in the early ‘70s was a production called “The Dirtiest Show in Town”, another funny sex revue but much concerned with contemporary social issues about equality and environmental pollution. Most of the reviewers took particular notice of the camp performance style of one of the actors, Jeffrey Herman. “The Dirtiest Show in Town” was written by Tom Eyen, a gay man, who went on to be an almost permanent fixture of New York theatre and eventually write “Dreamgirls”.


by John Lennon

(Four chairs, backs to the audience. Facing them, a large projection screen divided into four sections, one for each chair. Three men impatiently waiting. A doorbell rings.)

1: There he is now. I told you he’d make it. (He opens the door.)

(George enters: he wears a fedora.)

1: If you’re going to join the group, George, you have to remember we always start on time.

George: Sorry I’m late, fellas.

2: We don’t like people breakin’ the rules, George.

George: I already said I’m sorry.

3: Look--We gonna talk, or we gonna jerk off?

1: Ok, let’s get started. This is your seat, George. Now this (pointing to screen) is a new kind of machine--a telepathic thought transmitter. Whatever you think about flashes on the screen. Now the rules of the game are this: all of us think of things to jerk off to--until somebody comes--and the first guy who comes has to stop everybody else from coming. Got it?

George: Got it.

1: All right. Let’s give it a try. Whatever comes to mind, George.

(1 goes to his seat. George sits between 2 and 3. Rhythmic music starts. Images start to flash rhythmically on the screens. The men’s arms start to move rhythmically in front of them. The screens facing 1, 2 and 3 show Hollywood and Playboy-type pinups. George’s screen remains blank. The rhythm builds up while screens 1, 2 and 3 are all pulsating with glamorous women. Suddenly, we hear the strains of the William Tell Overture, and during a crash of cymbals, a picture of the Lone Ranger flashes on George’s screen. All screens go blank and all four men stop masturbating.)

3: What the fuck was that?

1: What are ya tryin’ to do, George?

2 (rises, adjusting his pants): I told you not to invite outsiders.

George: I’m sorry, fellas, it’s just the first thing that came into my mind.

2: We haven’t had a vacancy in six months, George! Harvey only left because he got a divorce.

3: How’d you like a silver bullet up your ass?

1 (walking to George): You sure you’re all right, George?

George: I’m fine, thanks.

1: All right, let’s try it again.

(They all sit down again.)

1: And cut the horseshit, George.

(The music starts again and the images start to flash. They are slightly more nude than before--close shots of breasts and bottoms. By trial and error, the four screens begin to form a composite picture. George is dutifully collaborating. Finally, at the height of the rhythm, screen facing 1 shows a nude model’s head, screen facing 2 shows her breasts, screen facing 3, her legs. Pause. The recumbent image of the model is almost complete. Suddenly the strains of the William Tell Overture are heard again with another image of the Lone Ranger on George’s screen.)

George (exultantly): Aha! A-a-a-a-ah!

(He rises. His screen continues to flash the Lone Ranger. With one jabbing sweep of his arm, he flashes Lone Ranger pictures on the other screens as the music builds. As each image flashes, 1, 2 and 3 lose their concentration completely and give up the contest.)

George (turns as he goes to exit): See you next week, fellas.

1: Get the fuck outta here!!!

(Sound of four “whistling” gunshots as each remaining screen blacks out.)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

323: Monty Python - Carl French

The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Michael Palin as Interviewer
Graham Chapman as Carl French

0.00 – 2.41

Interviewer: Mr. French, you're one of the film world's most arrogant queens. I mean not just homosexual or Gay or anything, I mean you are a raving queen.
Carl French: Well, yes.
Interviewer: I mean, a real screamer, a real "Whoops! Get her! Don't mind me dear!" limp-wristed caricature.
Carl French: Is that not in order?
Interviewer: No, no, that's fine. And I understand that you married the beautiful black heiress Hueyna Tanoy partly for the publicity but mostly to cover up the fact that you prefer going out with Little Boys.
Carl French: Look, really!
Interviewer: Carl, you're an offending little poof, a mincing gay-bar loiterer, a winnet-covered walking perfume shop and an evil perverter of innocent little boys!
Carl French: What!? Really! Is this part of the interview?
Interviewer: No, no, I just wanted a few contacts.
Carl French: Well, shouldn't we be talking about the film?
Interviewer: We’ve been off the air for ages. Now, where'd you find them?
Carl French: Look, I think we are still on the air.
Interviewer: Oh, sod the fucking air! Can’t you still get locked up for that sort of thing.
Carl French: What about the film?
Interviewer: Just a few addresses, please...
Carl French: Look, we’ve got James Dean in it, in a box!
Interviewer: I-I can turn the microphone off if you...
Carl French: And bits of Jayne Mansfield...


Apparently the first half, the stuff about keeping a dead Marilyn Monroe in a box, originated in a sketch by Douglas Adams.
As per Monty Python, one bizarre concept leaps into another, switching from the weird film into the strange abuse. And abuse it intentionally is, not what one usually expects in the course of some film PR. Chapman’s performanceplays it as un-gay as possible, a perfectly stolid character, even as the interviewer moves beyond abuse, into baroque invective, and then realms of scandalous sexual criminality. Yet there’s also a freedom, since this sketch would probably not have passed on television or on cinema. As a LP sketch it can ascend to new heights of bad taste, and just let the abuse flow, matched by Palin’s escalating shrieking hysteria, as he skips in and out of mocking faggy voices. And then the final twist, which isn’t a million miles away from “Nudge Nudge”’s “What’s it like?”

If you were wondering, a “winnet” is the ball of unremoved specks of shit that dry onto the hairs around your sphincter. Share this information with your colleagues at work.

Monday, 16 November 2009

322: Monty Python - Tchaikovsky

"Monty Python's Flying Circus"
26 October 1972

Wow, this gets though a lot in an awfully short time. Pay no attention to the subtitles.

Besides all the usual sharp Pythonesque nonsense subverting high culture and parodying the media, this is inspired by contemporary revelations and innuendoes about a long dead composer. From a period when Ken Russell films were big stuff, his 1970 film “The Music Lovers” was not shy about Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality – although it has absolutely no relevance to John Cleese’s summary. And it allows for slightly salacious comments through the sketch, ie, “contains material that some people might find offensive but which is really smashing” and “the naughty bits, which were extremely naughty for his time”

So Eric Idle’s opening salvo, “Was he just an old poof who wrote tunes” undercuts all the traditional respect and typical dignity of the arts documentary format.

“Hello Pianist” is an obvious play off the camp salute “Hello sailor”.

Particularly unexpected is Michael Palin’s gossipy hairdresser Maurice (and compare his previous outing as a hairdresser climbing Mount Everest). The campness is out of all proportion to the normal documentary manner, although tangentially related to Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality. A gay hairdresser is an acknowledged cliché, and rather more than Graham Chapman’s David Unction, deliberately exaggerating the stereotype is part of the joke. So this is a Pythonesque poof since it is a comic collision between disparate styles. The actual performance is just a great gawping mouth, with lots of eye rolling and delicately held hands. The alliterative slang is a new one to me though (25/11/09 Turns out that it's a variant on Polari, camply referring to things like "Lily Law".)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

321: Monty Python - David Unction

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus”
21st December 1969
Graham Chapman as David Unction

3:36 – 4.42

Of itself there’s not much to this early gay cameo in the firsts series of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. It is made ever so slightly more complicated by the directions from the original script:

“Cut to effeminate announcer sitting at continuity desk. Any resemblance to Mel Oxley should be accidental. His name is David Unction.”

Mel Oxley was a real in-vision continuity announcer of the period. So this is intended as a parody of a particular person, besides encapsulating a certain sort of oleaginous showbiz, exuding smarmy false sentiment. A particular brand of desperately up-beat and insincerely ingratiating mannerisms – bright, bright, lots of smiles, etc – has gay connotations. Make of the twinkly sign what you will. Although the “Old Queen” is a more explicit attack on the figure being parodied.

6.00 – 6.24

Here the team ramp up their caricature a bit further. The appearance of an actual muscle-mag is deliberately surprising, and possibly a first in a comedy programme. And now David Unction has become a forthright queen. The “You Fairy” attack from the Viking brings forth a wheedling bitchy manner, flaring nostrils and a snide cry of “Hello sailor!” Is anything very advanced or complicated one with all this? Well, no. It not much more advanced than thinking that presenting a homosexual on screen is enough to be funny of itself.

One final complication in all this is that Chapman, an actual gay man, is playing this character. Of course at this time there is a tendency for gay men to play gay stereotypes on film and stage. Only no one actually will admit they’re gay. And Chapman at this point in his career was no different. You can see him play a theatrical queen in 1968’s “How to Irritate People”. He also played a similarly bitchy, quasi-hysterical camp photographer in the 1970 film “Doctor in Trouble”. A year or so later Chapman would donate funds to the establishment of “Gay News”, and would give a lengthy interview in one of the early issues. It’s notable that Chapman pretty much stopped performing these sort of roles after that.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

320: Stephen Stucker in "Airplane!"

“Airplane!” 1980
Written and directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Stephen Stucker as Johnny Henshaw

This is someone’s edited selection of Stephen Stucker’s scenes and one-liners from the film “Airplane!”

Stucker’s performance would appear to be fondly remembered by many fans of the film, his role perfectly capturing the film’s off-the-wall one-liner style.
Over the course of the film, Stucker’s brief appearances paint a portrait in camp: exuberant, blithe, mischievous, inconsequentially and randomly silly playing off the more serious delivery of lines from other actors.

If you want to delve deeper into the gags Stucker delivers, you can just about snuffle out a few gay mannerisms: childish, trivial, bitchy, fashion-obsessed, and a Wizard of Oz reference. But I’ll admit I’m really straining to make that work.

How much Stucker is acting or whether this performance encompassed his range is hard to tell since he did not appear in many films. He had played an insane gay fashion designer Bruce (yes that stereotypically American gay name again) Wilson in a 1975 sexploitation film “Delinquent School Girls” aka “Carnal Madness”.

“Delinquent School Girls” trailer

Although mainstream American prejudices at the time liked to believe gay men were fairies, such flamboyant camp has never had a ready home on US screens, and Stucker’s style of performance may not have led to the career opportunities provided in the UK. Stucker’s equivalent in the UK would probably be someone like Christopher Biggins. Biggins played a number of coded or explicitly gay comedy cameos throughout the ‘70s (besides starring in ‘70s sex comedies like The Sex Thief, Eskimo Nell, It Could happen to You, and Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate). Panto also gave Biggins’ style of performance a regular home, and Biggins had occasional roles in serious dramas as villains and oddballs. Biggins of course has survived, and become a minor national figure in the process. Stucker was less lucky. Stephen Stucker was one of the first Hollywood actors to publicly announce he was HIV-positive. Here he is as part of a panel discussing AIDS on the “Phil Donahue Show” in 1985. Stucker died of AIDS on April 13, 1986.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

319: W.K.R.P. in Cincinnati 1981

“W.K.R.P. in Cincinnati”
18 November 1981
"Three Days Of The Condo", written by Lissa Levin

Here we reach the point that gay stereotypes can be used for the express purpose of discomforting bigots. So we get Johnny Fever camping it up with gusto to shrieks from the audience. I think the audience’s enjoyment stems equally from provoking the staid, uptight condo committee and from the nelly posturing and exaggerated inter-racial romantic affections of Johnny.

Hesseman had played a gay character several times on the sitcom “The Bob Newhart Show” in the later ‘70s, but I haven’t seen it so can’t compare.

The third episode of the first season of WKRP had a gay-themed episode in 1978. When a local athlete overhears other reporters refer to Les as a "Queer Little Guy" (because of his lack of knowledge about sports and his strange behaviour), Les gets banned from the locker room at the stadium for being gay. Whether true or not, the rumours prompt the permanently uptight Les to contemplate suicide by jumping off the building. They eventually get Les to talk to the player by phone and the matter is straightened out. The line "Les, it's okay if you're a homo." was redubbed in syndication as "Les, it's okay if you're gay."


Howard Hesseman (Johnny "Fever" Caravella)
Tim Reid (Gordon "Venus Flytrap" Sims)
Richard Sanders (Les Nessman)
Weldon Boyce Bleiler (Mr. Waynwright)
Constance Pfeifer (Ms. Archer)

Johnny receives a settlement cheque of $24,000. Johnny starts spending his money recklessly until Venus convinces him to invest in a condominium at "Gone With The Wind Estates". When Johnny begins to feel confined due to all the rules, he tries to pull out of his investment. Johnny and Vegas speak to the condominium committee. When Johnny can't get out of the contract, he threatens to throw loud, wild parties "night, after night, after night" until the contract is released. The female condo committee head responds that she will just have Johnny arrested, "...night after night after night, until you learn to behave yourself like a good little 'Gone-with the-Wind-er'."
In Johnny’s empty apartment. Mr Waynwright and Ms Archer sat down facing Johnny and Venus. Johnny sat in one chair. Venus stood up

V: I mean, there’s gotta be something we can do here. I mean, let’s see here. (confidentially, nudging J on shoulder) Johnny, can you think of anything?

(long pause. V still tapping J slightly on shoulders, to encourage him to do or say something.

J: No….ah…

(but J looks up as V walks away to far end of room)

J: (matter of factly) But, I think it’s time we started telling the truth, Venus

V: (turning around) It is?

J: Yes it is. (gets up) Now Lord knows, I Do want to be a good “Gone-with-the-Wind-er”. (walks across to V) It’s Venus here that’s really unhappy.

(Since V is stood on higher part of flooring, J is slightly beneath V, turns around to gesture at V with one slightly limp hand)

J: And that is his first name – Venus. Just like the Goddess of love and beauty.

(J clasps his hands together. Simpers slightly. Looks up at V from lidded, slightly fluttery eyes)

J: (adopting a camper tone) Cross my heart, Vene, once we move in here together, you’re going to come to Love it.

(J steps up to V, and puts one hand on nearest shoulder and other hand around V’s nearest arm. V is now very uncomfortable and remains so for the rest of this scene)

J: Just think of all the things we can do with Textures?

(J moves hand on V’s nearest shoulder to farthest shoulder)

J: Hm, hm? Remember those darling little wall-hangings we saw in that shop off Decker Street? They were to die, Vene, just to DIE! What do you say?

(J moves hand on V’s farthest shoulder to top of farthest arm and cuddles/shakes/rocks V slightly)

J: Just loosen up, hm, how ‘bout it?

V: Errrrr-hah

J: (to W and A) It’s that old South thing that’s got him upset. You know, the slavery bugaboo, and that is just So Silly.

(suddenly takes V by the hand and pulls him back to chairs. V sits embarrassed, with hands clasped in lap. J talks with a lot of swishy gestures of one hand)

J: Now we’ll blend right in here. We’ll just go to all the parties. We’ll get to know our neighbours.
(rests hand on V’s shoulder and leans into him)

J: We’ll enjoy the pool, and the sauna.

J: (to W and A) We will practically LIVE in the sauna. Think about it Vene? We can take long strolls through “Frankly My Dear Park”, hm?

(sits down on chair next to V)

J: We can have Mr Wainwright and Miss Archer over for some of your scampi, wouldn’t that be fun?
(now has one hand on V’s nearest shoulder and other on V’s lower arm)

J: So how ‘bout it, you two? What do you say?

(with his hands fluttering apart to punctuate each key word)

J: Let’s just forget about all this terrible Business and just LIVE and create, and just BE?

(W and A look awkwardly at each other)

J: He’ll be alright, I’ll talk to him.

(J puts hand on V’s, crosses his legs, and looks knowingly at V)

(shot of uncomfortable W and A.)

(Cuts to WKRP office. V is now recounting with great humour the events just)

V: And then I swear he reached over and gave me a peck on the cheek

Les: Yuck!

Herb: You didn’t tell ‘em you very from KRP, did ya? They are clients of mine, you know.

V: No. But I did tell them I knew you very well (puckers his lips at him) We went over to the office and tore up the contracts. Fever was completely out of control. (aping camp enthusiasm with arms half thrown up in air with lip hands) He was ‘Liza Minnelli’ this and ‘Liza Minnelli’ that!

J comes in through closed door

V: Well there you are, you dusky devil! (slumps against door frame)

End of scene

Sunday, 8 November 2009

318: George Carlin

“Gay Lib”
from “Toledo Window Box” ( recorded 20 July 1974)
by George Carlin

Though titled “Gay Lib”, this stand-up routine has very little actually to do with the details and practicalities of the Gay Lib movement. It’s much more about constitutes natural and unnatural sexual attractions and responses, arguing that a sexual response is just a sexual responses and therefore discrimination is unthinking. George Carlin was by this time recognised as the new Lenny Bruce for the counter-culture, all for tolerance, social change and sexual openness.

From about ten years earlier these were Lenny Bruce’s take on homosexuality which (discounting the liberal use of “faggot for the time) is also very open to the whole range of human sexual responses

By analysing the central matter of sexuality, but not in a prurient manner, both Bruce and Carlin pretty much avoid any discussion of gay stereotypes.


Gay Lib.
Now interestingly, here is an attempt by a put down and kind of persecuted minority to insist on their place rightfully and their treatment rightfully, without it having anything to do with ethnic or religion or anything! It's really an exciting separate part of Liberation.
Now I have always wondered...Well, we’ve all thought about “homosexual” – “heterosexual”. We’ve always wondered, first of all, sometimes we, if we're younger, we react to that in a way that we've been schooled. Then you kinda get your chops and you get things okay and you understand and it's all right to be able to talk about that:
(mumbles mimicking conversation) ...young.....kid...that’s cool...(more mumbling) You know.
Well here's what I mean. The word "homosexual" - many people who are not in the position to have to decide this, they wonder:
(puts on voice) "Is homosexuality... is it Normal? Is it Natural? I ask you. Is it Normal or Natural? Is it unnatural and abnormal?"
Now those two words seem to revolve around it. Now let's look at those words for what they are...
"Natural." Hey. Means "according to nature." Is it according to nature? Well....Probably not in the strictest sense because nature didn't presuppose it. Nature only gave us one set of sexual apparatus. Girl's got something for the guys, guy's got something for the girls.
As it is now, a homosexual is forced to "Share" the apparatus that the opposite sex is using on this person. Certainly if nature were in command there'd be two sets of goodies. So nature was not ready. We leaped past nature again in our sociological development, Way down the road ahead of nature.
Is it normal? Normal? Well what's "normal?" Well, let's see.. if you're standing in a room, stripped, and it's dark, (speaks faster) and you're hugging a person and loving them and rubbing them up and down and they're rubbing you and you're rubbing together, and suddenly the light goes on and it's the same sex, you've been trained to go
(long, loud prolonged scream)
But it felt Okayyy.... So maybe it was normal without being natural.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

317: Cheers - Boys in the Bar, 1983

Boys in the Bar
27 January 1983
Writers: David Isaacs and Ken Levine

When Sam publicly supports an old teammate who has come out of the closet, Norm and the gang are afraid that "Cheers" will become a "gay bar”.

This particular episode was nominated for a 1983 Writers Emmy Award, continuing the trend of the last three years of unsuccessful nominations for gay-themed sitcom episodes. It did win a Writers Guild Award for Best Comic Episode. The episode was also recognised by the gay community, winning won a Media Award from AGLA (Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Artists), but not GLAAD, as many websites report, since GLAAD Media Awards didn’t exist until 1990, taking over from AGLA.

Here’s a memoir about writing this episode by Ken Levine

This episode certainly offers a variety of homosexuals. First off there’s Tom, who is actually a minimal and inoffensive character, but as a professional baseball player he embodies the ideal of all-American manliness. You’ll remember the homosexual in “All in the Family” was a former professional sportsman as well, for the same reason of overturning common prejudice. As in “All in the Family”, there’re also some faux-gays, straight characters whose appearance and behaviour leads others to think they’re gay. In this case we get assorted chaps with moustaches, leather vests, and a penchant for hugging – rather early 80s, unlike the flouncy aesthete of the early 70s. Finally, you get the two hidden gays, mingling with and indistinguishable from the regulars until the episode’s final gag.

So the regulars in the bar have the same function as Archie, humorously spouting common prejudices and bigoted opinions and making themselves look slightly daft. A few mild sissy impressions and ludicrous obsessing about ferns get laughs from the audience. Unlike “All in the Family”, this episode has something of a journey, putting principal character Sam under the moral microscope. Sam learns to accept his friend, realising that homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed and subsequently finds the strength to stand up for these principles. The rest of the bar are buffoons, embodying the worst impulses, who do become a rampaging mob, at one point. It is commercial rather than social fears that threaten to sway Sam.

Underlying the regular’s behaviour is the assumption that gays are a separate community, who are not a part of their world. A gay bar is implicitly not the same as their bar. Of course this a progression in acceptance since an episode of “Maude” in 1977 about a community’s attempt to close down a gay bar. For all of the horror of the regulars, there’s little actual mockery of homosexuals, only comic exaggeration of what it means to be a typical manly guy in a bar with other normal guys.

Carla’s line is a reference to a famous incident when disgraced baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson was leaving the courthouse during his trial and a young boy begged of him, "Say it ain't so, Joe,"

“Cheers would have other gay-themed episodes. Harvey Fierstein would later appear in as "Mark Newberger", Rebecca's old high school sweetheart who is gay. In one episode Norm would pretend to be a gay decorator to get work. Ehe final episode included a gay man who gets into trouble with his boyfriend after agreeing to pose as Diane's husband.

Ted Danson: Sam Malone
Shelley Long: Diane Chambers
Rhea Perlman: Carla
George Wendt: Norm
John Ratzenberger: Cliff
Nicholas Colasanto: Coach
Alan Autry: Tom Kenderson
Shannon Sullivan: Reporter 1
John Bluto: Reporter 2
Wesley Thompson: Photographer
Jack Knight: Jack

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

(Sam’s old baseball teammate Tom Kenderson has written his autobiography, “Catcher’s Mask” which Sam is promoting in his bar. Sam hasn’t read the book, but is sure it will be a warm, exciting reminder of the days of baseball and womanising they shared. Dianne starts to speed-read the book. Coach reminisces over all the pranks Tom played on him. There are a small number of journalists sat in a semi-circle. Tom enters the bar. Carla throws herself at him and swoons. Sam draws Carla away then shakes hands. )

D: Sam! Did you get a chance to read my book last night?

S: Ah, no, no, I didn’t Tommy, I’m sorry

D: (concerned) I really wish you had.

S: Did you put in that flight to Kansas City, when we jumped in the garment bag with those two stewardesses?

T: Yeah, that’s there.. But…

S: Well, I’ll die happy. I’m fine. (pointing towards display) Let’s get you famous here, alright!

T: I don’t think you…

(Tom goes to display. The bar regulars come over to watch.)

T: Before we start here, (waves hand) Sam Malone, come up here! I’m sure you all remember Sam Malone. And if you don’t - chapters seven through nine.

(Sam comes up to Tom. Stands next to him and they put their arms across each other’s shoulders in manly-pally way)

S: No, no. I’m a business man now. I keep my clothes on. Mostly.

(They both laugh)

Reporter: So, you two were real close?

S: For three years we did everything together. I mean, no one ever saw us apart. (slight hug by Sam)

Reporter: Well, Sam! It must have been quite a Shock for you when Tom wrote about coming out of the closet.

(brief look of shock, and Sam casually shuffles out from their shared arm contact)

S: (laughing to stay in control) Oh, oh. You mean, ha, you mean in Detroit? When I was with the waitress, and he came out of the closet and was wearing . . . a… (serious) That’s not what you’re talking about, is it?


Norm: Yikes!

(Bar regulars get up as one, not making eye contact with Sam, and walk to far end of bar in single file. Diane, sat at bar, looks on at Tom and Sam in concern, shakes head slightly).

(T and S suddenly in conversation ignoring everything, unaware photos being taken)

S: Is this some kind of joke, Tom?

T: I wanted you to read the book, Sam. It’s still hard for me to tell people from the old days.

Reporter: Sam? You said you two used to do Everything together?

S: (imperceptibly edging away from T) No, no. You misunderstood that. No! (laughing) As a matter of fact, people used to come up to me and say, Hey you know you two are best friends, yet you’re completely different!

(T is slightly upset, and has been looking away from S. D suddenly stands up and calls)

D: Sam! Sam, there’s an emergency in the back room! (pointing for him to come away)

S: What?

D: Erm, I…found holes in the pool table.

S: Oh, yeah, yeah. (flustered) Will you excuse me. Some Chick wants to see me, can’t get rid of them (!) You guys know how that is! (slaps back of male reporter) (walking to other end of bar, says loudly so all can hear) So honey, you can’t go in the back room without me?

D: (out of side of mouth) Shut up!

Carla: (standing looking up at T) Say it aint so, Tom? Say it aint so?

S: (walking into pool room) Thank you for getting me out of there before I made a complete ass out of myself.

D: I was fast, but you were faster.

S: It wasn’t my fault. Imean, He shouldda told me.

D: Sam! He told you to read the book!

S: Yeah, but…

D: He should have known you would have been spending the evening with a woman who thinks ‘Candide’ is a toenail polish.

S: I just can’t believe it! I mean, the guy was a Hound, Diane! He had women everywhere. We’d be on the road, we’d go into hotel lobbies, there’d be three, four women holding up kids!

D: (flicking through book) He covers that, he covers that.

S: Where?

D: Here, here, in this paragraph right here. (hands book to S) You want me to read it?

S: No, no, I’ll read it. Right there?

D: Yes

S: “From the outside, my days in baseball seemed glorious. But the greater my fear became of my true sexuality, the more I compensated with typical Don Juan promiscuity”

D: Does that explain it?

S: I don’t know. I’ve only read it once.

D: He was denying who he was. He’s no longer doing that.

S: (Walks into corner, shaking head) I shouldda known. I remember sitting in a piano bar with him, and he requested a Show tune.

(D looks at bemusement at this comment. S sits down pondering. D comes over to him to comfort him)

D: Sam, I do understand why you’re upset. You’re afraid that now people will think you’re

(S suddenly leaps up)

S: No, I’m not upset! I’m not upset. It’s just that – Guys should be Guys! Diane. That’s all.

(Walks away. D follows)

D: Sam, look. Your friend Tom’s out there. He needs your support now more than ever before. He really hasn’t changed. He’s still the same gay you used to tinkle off balconies with.

S: (nostalgically) Boy, the world was a lot simpler then.

(T walks into doorway of poolroom. Knocks to announce himself, coughs)

T: Sam, sorry about all this. See, I thought you’d read the book, and everything was cool. Look, I don’t want to cause you any more problem so I’m just gonna take off, okay.

(turns around, makes thumbs-up at Sam, and walks out. Beat. S and D glance. Beat)

S: (Mutters) Damn it! (chases after him and D follows)

T: (On stairway to leave) Thanks a lot everybody. Nice talking to y’all again.

Coach: (Sadly) So long, Tommy.

S: (from far end of bar)Tom! You still a gin and tonic man?

D: Way to go, Mayday.

S: (walking over) I make ’em the way you like ‘em. On the house. Coach.

T: (shaking hands again)Thanks a lot, Sam.

Photographer: Hey listen. Can we get a couple more shots of you guys?

S: Yeah, sure. You bet.

T: I appreciate this, Sam.

S: Well, you didn’t dump me when I had a drinking problem.

T: Ah sure I did. You were just passed out at the time.

(two laugh and wrap arm across each others shoulders for photograph)

N: Pardon me pal. Where are these photos gonna run?

Photographer: I dunno. Mostly local papers.

N: Uh-oh.

Regular: What’s the matter?

N: Same things gonna happen to Cheers that happened to Vito’s Pub.

Regulars (in chorus) Uh-oh!

(Sam overhears and slight expression of concern on face as last photo is taken)


(discussion about Sam feeling proud about what he did)

S: Hey Norm? What was that you said yesterday when they were taking pictures, about Vito’s Pub?

N: It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.

S: Talk to me, Norm.

(Norm sighs. Cliff comes over)

Cliff: Norm, I think it’s best he hears it from us. Go ahead, tell him the story.

N: Alright, you heard of Vito’s Pub.

S: Yeah. It’s a gay bar.

N: It didn’t used to be. It used to be a Great bar. I hung out there myself.

Coach: Wow, what a story Norm! (Sam pulls coach back)

N: I’m not finished.

Coach: There’s more!

N: One night Vito lets a gay group hold a meeting in the back room, right? Gays for…the Metric System or something? Story gets in the newspaper. Gets a lot of attention. Next thing you know Vito’s Pub turns into

(effeminate pronunciation) Vito’s Pub! All the regulars left, Sammy! Out went the oars and the moose-heads, in came plants and ferns. (shudders) Ferns! I just don’t want that to happen to Cheers, is all.

S: I don’t believe that stuff. Bars don’t turn gay overnight.

N: You don’t have to believe me. I have scientific proof. Cliff?

Cliff: It happened.

N: See!

(Sam mouths “What?” in exasperation)

D: You’re talking about them like they’re were ogres. The fact of the matter is, there are gay people in this bar all the time.

N: Whaaat? No way. I haven’t seen a gay guy in here in ages.

D: I see, so you can spot a gay person?

N: A mile away

D: And there are none in here right now?

N: (Gets up and looks around) Oooh. Noop! Looks like a straight crowd to me. (sits back down) Too ugly to be gay. Too ugly to be out.

D: Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but you’ve gone so far in proving you’re open-minded, Norman. There are two homosexual gentlemen in this bar at the moment

Regular: C’mon. get outta here!

D: They told me they were gay. They told me they appreciated what Sam had done. That’s right guys. They’re here right now. And you don’t even know who they are.

(Regulars start turning about, looking around slowly)

Regular: Hah-ha! Nah! She’s kidding. Everybody here checks out alright

N: I dunno. It occurs to me that….CLIFF! hasn’t had a date in quite some time.

Regular: Ah-huh! (points accusing finger) That’s right.

Cliff: Oh. Oh yeah, Norm? well how come we’ve never seen this Vera you’re allegedly married to? Huh?

(Two men come to opposite end of bar)

Guy: Could we have a couple of beers please?

S: You bet.

(Regulars look askance
Cliff: (muttering alarmed) Patty-cake alert!

Guy: Hey, you’re Sam Malone?

S: Right

Guy: Yeah, yeah, I saw your picture in the paper this morning. Can’t wait to read that book

(Regulars all huddled in suspicious group looking on)

Guy: I’m not much of a baseball fan but that sounds interesting

S: Yeah, should be pretty good.

Guy: Listen, could we have light beers please.

N: (raising hands above shoulders as though to say any further argument) Light beer.

(Regulars, shuffle and mumbles, case closed)

Guy: Thanks (take beers away)

Coach: (whispering)Sam, those guys look okay to me.

S: (directed down bar) They Are okay, Coach

Cliff: Yeah, well, maybe we are a little off base here, Norm

Regular: Hey look, let’s test ‘em out.

Regular: I got an idea – (shouts) Look at the Bagonzas on that babe!

(Two men very involved in each other’s conversation at table pay no interest)

D: Oh this is medieval (!)

Cliff: Hey, Jack, change the channel. Should be about time for the Benito-Vennito bout!

Regular: Yeah should be a bloodbath!

(two guys not listening)

D: (puts on dopey voice) Uh, they’re not watching! Let’s string ‘em up!

Carlo: So, what we gonna do about these guys, huhn?

D: Carla! You’re not prejudiced against gay are you?

Carla: I'm not exactly crazy about them. I mean I get enough competition from women. I'm telling you, if guys keep coming out of the closet, there isn't going to be anybody left to date and I'm going to have to start going out with girls. (looks at Diane) Ewww.

D: Carla, you don’t have to worry about me. I like my dates a little more masculine than you. Not much. But a little.

S: I can’t believe you guys are making such a fuss over two guys walking into a bar.

(Another man enters the bar, and the two men each give him a welcoming hug.)

Cliff: Patty-cake!

Regular: (aghast) It’s an orgy!

N: (agitated) Ferns! Sammy, we’re talking ferns!

D: You! Come on! I’ve seen you guys hug.

N: Yeah but we hate it.

Regular: (pointedly) Say Cliff. I haven’t been to Clancy’s in a while. That still as nice a place as it used to be?

Cliff: I don’t know Jack, I haven’t been there in a while myself.

Regular: C’mon let’s go on over there.

S: Give me a break! You guys are kidding right?

N: Sammy, we’ll just come back in a couple of weeks. And see if Cheers is the still the kind of bar where a single woman can be assured of being harassed and hit on.

S: Hey. Get back here! All of you, right now!

(Regulars come back sheepishly)

S: You mean to tell me, that you guys are baling out on me?

Regular: Sam, I’m telling you, within a month there’s gonna be wild music and guys dancing and exchanging phone numbers.

D: You know, Sam, you’ve got some really great friends here. You’ve gone out of your way to make a bar where customers can feel like they belong, part of a family. And now they’re walking out on you.

(Regulars cries of protest, amidst which can be heard: We don’t want them on our patch. Three men at table aware of hub-bub)

D: Quiet! Perhaps we should step into the back room. Anyone having something Intelligent to say, can follow me.

(D walks toward pool room. No-one moves. D turns around)

D: Fine! Anyone with a two-bit opinion.

(Regulars, Coach, Sam and Carla all trail into pool room with much noise)

Cliff: Sammy, Sammy, look I’ve got a simple solution to this whole problem. You just go up the guys and politely ask them to leave. I mean, everything is back to normal.

(general agreement from Regulars)

D: Sam! Would never do that. Would you, Sam?

(S on the spot, is deliberating. D comes over)

D: Oh no!

S: I’m not sure. These guys are my regulars. If I lose my regulars I lose my bar. Now if single women stop coming in here I have no reason to live.

(general agreement from Regulars. Carla steps up)

Carla: No emotional appeal here, Sam. This is a purely intellectual argument. You let this bar go gay, you’re going to have to hire male waitresses. (muttered disapproval from Regulars) That means I’m out on the street. And I’m not going to be able to feed little Sammy Tortelli (cradles pregnancy bump)

(Norm gets up)

N: Alright, we’re all agreed then. Sammy tells these guys to leave. We don’t go to Clancy’s? Am I right Sam?

S: (mumbles in defeat) Alright. Alright (begins to walk back to bar)

D: Sam!

S: Just leave me alone. I’m running a business here. (come back to D) What do you think I should say to them?

D: Oh well, it’s very simple. You just walk up and say, Hello, we’re a group of snivelling bigots, and, er, we don’t care for your kind.

Cliff: That’s good.

Regular: I like that

(all follow Sam behind back to bar. Sam walks over to three men on his own, as all the regulars hover on other side)

S: Hi fellas.

Guy: Hi Sam. What’s going on?

S: I got a little bit of a problem, maybe you can help me out? Ah. You see I’m the owner of this bar, and

Guy: Yeah, we know, we read the article in the newspaper.

S: Oh yeah, right.

Guy: That took a lot of guts.

It really did


Guy: So what’s your problem.

S: As a matter of fact I don’t have a problem. Coach, get these guys a beer on the house.

(S walks back behind the bar, through the Regulars who are disapproving)

N: What’s the matter, Sammy, chickening out on us?

Cliff: Yeah, Sammy, Sammy, Sammy, I thought you had more character than that.

S: Hey listen. Those guys are staying. Anyone else wants to leave that’s fine.

N: Okay, Sam, you know what kind of bar this could turn into.

S: It’s not going to turn into the kind of bar that I have to throw people out of.

D: That was the noblest preposition you’ve ever dangled.

(Sam goes into office. Diane goes into pool room. Regulars suddenly hatch scheme and pretend the bar is closing early, ushering the three guys out. Sam and Diane come back in surprised. The regulars come back in whooping.)

N: We just got rid of your friends, Diane.

Cliff: It was all Normy’s idea

D: Norman, I think there’s something you should know about those guys. They’re not gay. In fact one of them tried to hit on me tonight.

Regular: Whut? But you said they were.

D: I said there were two gay men in the bar. I didn’t say who they were. They, along with myself, have had a wonderful time watching you make complete Idiots of yourselves. Yeah, the guys I was talking about are still here. (D walks off.) Right guys?

Two guys who’ve been in the background of the Regulars all evening: Right!

Both lean in and kiss a shocked Norm on his cheeks, then rest their faces on his shoulder and look doefully up at him

N: (points to guy on left) Better than Vera.

Friday, 6 November 2009

316: The Associates 1980

from "The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV"
by Stephen Tropiano, 2002

The Associates, April 10, 1980
"The Censors", written by Stan Daniels and Ed Weinberger
Martin Short as Tucker Kerwin
Richard Brestoff as Mr Anderson

Not mentioned in the synopsis above is that the writers of this episode were nominated for the 1980 Writers Emmy Award.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

315: The Hot Slot by Alan Moore

“The Hot Slot”
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Larry Stroman
in “American Flagg” #21, June 1985

I don’t really include stuff from real super-heroics-style comics but as this is by Alan Moore I thought I’d make an exception. The whole story is intended as satire in broad strokes, and Alan Moore has a long-standing reputation for including positive homosexual portrayals in his comics. Though this falls short .

These are the final panels from the first instalment of Alan Moore’s seven-part science-fiction sex-romp in the comic book “American Flagg”. These characters only appear in this episode, as Moore establishes the story’s background, where unintentional subliminal advertising has been exploited by a pornographer to turn a futuristic Kansas into a sex-obsessed pornotopia. The character with the gun is called Max Hedrhum (an allusion as to where Moore borrowed the idea of subliminal TV from). The pair pop up again as a cameo in the final episode where they're planning their wedding ceremony.

Really what the whole story line is about is all the fun of satire in bad taste. The entire story line is loaded with illustrations of people in fetish and bondage gear, sex parlours, and more depictions of dildos than you’d ever expect in a comic in the mid-80s. The satirical and funny short stories Moore made his name with at 2000AD in the early ‘80s had limits, but here Moore harks back to the liberty of the 1970s when the counter-culture and underground comix made their last stand. Underground comix would be just a collection of blank pages if you removed most of the drawings of (straight) people fucking. The aging hippy audience and the relaxation of censorship because of the New Wave meant science fiction could be as crass and vulgar as it wanted to be. Assorted anthologies by Michael Parry about drugs and “The Shape of Sex of to Come” by Douglas Hill allow science fiction writers to ape “Oui”, “Penthouse” and “Men Only”, often with a satirical aspect to protect writerly dignity. This is what Moore is drawing upon here in this story.

So as a part of this rough-and-tumble comedy Moore gives us a highly dramatic gay panic scene. Not that I’m particularly pointing a finger at Moore with the intention of screaming, “Homophobic Hypocrite!” Because that’s simply not the case here. It’s more an indication of how the times have gradually changed, and Moore may have been thinking that making his comedy rapist a seven foot hulk was a complimentary inversion of usual stereotypes (i.e. the notorious near-rape of Bruce banner at the YMCA in a 1980 edition of “The Incredible Hulk” comic book). “Blackadder II” (recorded in mid-1985, and broadcast in the beginning of 1986) was written by the right-on Ben Elton and congenial Richard Curtis and has more than a few buggery gags, which are a bit more vigorous than the usual sitcom-fodder.
Actually thinking on it, I suspect that most of the buggery/rape jokes I’ve got to hand date from the mid-80s: Fags in the shower, jokes about Clones, the panic sublimated into dancing jokes at The Blue Oyster bar in the “Police Academy” films, and Uncle Monty in "Withnail and I".

Although in the context of the sort of comics you find in the back of gay bookshops but never in “Forbidden Planet” this scene might go wholly unremarked.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

314: Days of Future Past

A rather feeble title to show how ideas of the slightly comic idea of gay integration have now been overtaken by fact.
During the previous 10-15 years from the mid-60s onwards there had been a continuous development in the public’s awareness of homosexuals. At first it was the public just getting used to the idea that homosexuality existed, and then the existence of actual gay men. Of course, homosexuals were always someone, somewhere, and, to be honest, something else (Terry Southern syndrome). Then came Gay Lib and Gay pride, as gay men insisted that they weren’t ashamed of their sexuality and were just like everyone else (the general trend of sitcoms during the ‘70s). Then the was the growing awareness of homosexuals as a community, of the gay scene with a separate gay life entrenched in the major cities (hence films like “The Ritz”, “Saturday Night at the Baths”). Accompanying this, the actual practices of a sexual identity start to overtake all the sissy clichés, and gay couples start popping up in films and sketches. By the end of the ‘70s gay men have an established identity. They are a part of a society, but are not yet integrated within society. Hence all those jokes about ultra-leftist tokenism with jokes about gay centres, gay Santas, etc (which I find I haven’t posted yet)
These cartoons show the next stage during the 1980s of changes in modern attitudes towards homosexuality, as the typical social trappings of heterosexual life are extended to and overlaid onto gay men and couples. So the joke here is - isn’t it slightly funny when homosexual couples do exactly the same things as straight couples? Of course, some 25 years later it’s impossible to look at these cartoons un-ironically, since inclusive assumptions about gay life are now all part of modern life. Whereas this cartoon by Handelsman from 1973 is about how futuristically unlikely gay marriage would be.
Of course gay magazines had been running these sorts of cartoons since the mid/late-70s, but that’s another thing entirely.

by Gahan Wilson
in “Playboy” June 1980
The one chief’s distaste is a way to put a handle on what is otherwise just a gay wedding cake. A gay wedding cake isn’t quite enough of a joke to stand on its own without the tag line about time’s changing.

by Tony Husband
in “Private Eye” 24 April 1986
Either cluelessness or an inability to confront the matter head on by the manager.

by Ken Pyne
in “Private Eye” 24 August 1984

by Kipper Williams
in “Private Eye” 22 September 1982

by Tony Husband
in “Private Eye” 8 February 1985

Acceptance here is comic because it is nervous and fumbled, and overcast by second-thoughts. Is this right? Can this be right? is the message of these cartoons. Unless explicitly emotionally-wrought any gag cartoon character will look self-possessed. These gay characters, deliberately not gay caricatures therefore casually inhabit these little worlds, and so only the two characters in the Husband cartoon suffer the embarrassment we’ve all experienced at the hands of a well-meaning but inept associate. These cartoons are the first indication of a trend of social development which when mirrored in comedy reaches ludicrous fruition in Harry Enfield’s “Modern Dad” sketches some 15 years later.

by Spencer
in “Punch” 7 July 1982

by Marc Boxer
in “Private Eye” 22 October 1985
Gay men means cartoonist have a new tool in their array of adultery gags. An element in these particular cartons is the belief that aftershave was really for poofs.

Oh, and one final thought these cartoons elicit.

Piss on “The New Yorker”.

Most of these shouldn’t have been out of place in “The New Yorker”. Indeed, subsequent cartoons in “The New Yorker” have covered the same territory, making much the same jokes. It’s just that “The New Yorker” cartoons are at least 10-15 years later than the ones I’ve shown you – which isn’t necessarily the cartoonist’s fault. Whether you think the cartoons above are good or bad, “The New Yorker” lacked the balls to run any gay-themed cartoons until about 1993. This one from the end of 1992, merely a toe dipped in topical waters, is possibly the first properly gay-themed cartoon in “The New Yorker.”
Bear in mind that “Private Eye” and “Playboy” had been publishing gay cartoons since the beginning of the ‘60s, and even “Punch” and “Mad”, with their particular audiences, had followed suit by the end of the ‘60s, while “National Lampoon” had started in 1970 and never blanched at any gay gag. In different ways, editorial and strip cartoonists in popular newspapers and journals in America and Britain made individual forays on a case-by-case basis in the ‘70s and ‘80s. (And that’s before you even think about TV, radio, LPs and films.) The gay cartoonist William Haefeli, who has since produced a significant percentage of “The New Yorker”’s gay gags, with a career of twenty years in almost every major magazine, didn’t begin appearing in “The New Yorker” until 1998 with the appointment of a new cartoons editor, Bob Mankoff.
Was it cowardice, bourgeois distaste, or simply polite consideration for an oppressed minority? Whichever way you look at it, homosexuals were comedically unprintable in the pages of “The New Yorker”, one of the major venues for cartoons, until just over fifteen years ago (coinciding with the appointment of Tina Brown as the editor of “The New Yorker”.) Since Lee Lorenz was “The New Yorker”’s cartoon editor from 1973 until 1998, it’s fairly obvious who didn’t grow a fucking pair until his last five years in post.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

313: Hewison's People - Camp Follower

by William Hewison
from “Punch” 8 March 1978

If the “Great Bores of Today” from 1977 was about changes in contemporary lifestyles, this is just a faintly hackneyed joke about a certain sort of gay obsessive fan. These sort of assumptions were used merely as background detail in Heath’s illustration, with the Dietrich and Garland books. Here it’s foregrounded as the only joke. Twenty years later you could run a variation on it making appropriate changes for Madonna or Kylie. So you could argue that it has some truth to it. But as far as attitudes and understanding of gay life go, it’s barely any advance on the Gorer / Searle piece from the late ‘50s, almost 20 years earlier. “Great Bores” was explicit in making the joke about homosexuality and its place in contemporary society. Hewison dodges any hint of contemporary relevance. This caricature is detached from the real world, in more ways than Hewison intends.

For the joke to work, though, it does assume knowledge on the reader’s part that there is a certain sort of obsessive gay super-fan, and what their idols of choice are. Hewison makes the gay aspect explicit through the fey camp manner of expression. The joke can’t work any other way than through the monologue, since the character that Hewison has drawn doesn’t work at all. The limp-wrist may be a crass give-away, and it’s a little imprecise as to whether the other hand is engaged in some sort of hair-primping manoeuvre . But otherwise the figure as drawn has no correlation with what such a fan might be like. At best, this is somebody’s uncle in his late ‘40s.

Monday, 2 November 2009

312: Great Bores of Today

Great Bores of Today
by Richard Ingrams and Barry Fantoni
illustration by Michael Heath
from “Private Eye” 29 April 1977

“Great Bores of Today” was a series that ran several decades in “Private Eye”. The “Great Bore” was some current stereotype or obsessive, giving vent in an unrestrained, slightly inarticulate and self-contradictory monologue to their solipsistic concern, with accompanying cartoon illustration by Michael Heath. Capturing current attitudes in words, accompanied by Heath’s attention to details, the “Bores” are a surprisingly accurate record of the minutiae of British life over the years. Recording changes in the attitudes to jobs, money, weather, sex, politics, and all the things people use to form their identities.

Here Gay Pride catches “Private Eye”’s attention. (and with rather more verisimilitude than their earlier attempt at satirising Gay Lib). Of course, what can’t be overlooked is that this gay character is being mocked for his dreary tedium. But that’s the point of “Great Bores”. It does have the accompanying virtues of currency and accuracy in its taxonomy. Otherwise “Bores” would just be a rather weak attack on things the authors don’t like, and it was usually much better than that.

So this is more than some camp caricature. The emphasis is on the contemporary impetus to not merely admit to being to a homosexual, but of “coming out” as a social and political necessity. “Private Eye”’s impression is that in the general give and take of polite social interaction, the response of gay men when given greater liberty to live their lives openly is to do nothing but talk about is being gay men. So it’s a mockery of what the writers of “Private Eye” perceive as rather vestigial politics – yapping visibility as means of demanding equality rather than action and policies.

About this time, the British public could have seen a normal gay couple who discussed gay issues in the LWT comedy/drama/musical “Rock Follies of ‘77”.

Note the sheer detail of Heath’s illustration. The kitsch decor with camp knick-knacks and a homoerotic item of classical statuary. Books which cover Hollywood divas, Isherwood. A skin mag and a copy of “Gay Times”, which as a moderately political newspaper espouses the same social line as the chap in the cartoon.