Thursday, 21 June 2012

429: A Choice of Viewing on Television

ABC. 10.30 P.M. (1)
Two FBI agents decide to move in together. Edgar has a headache and Clyde burns the roast.
Edgar: Paul Lynde. Clyde: Charles Nelson Reilly

Amalgamated Megalomaniacs in association with B.E.N.T. Television presents the week-by-week story of those tough-talking, go-getting bum-kissing boys on the Nancy-Squad: It’s “Sarky and Bitch!” Starring Michael Double-Glazing and David Arsehole as Lieutenants Sarky and Bitch. This week’s story: “Cum in San Francisco”. Sorry, “Come In, San Francisco!”

TUESDAY RTV2 9.30 (3)
Andy Warhol's GARBAGE
Trevor and Kevin, two gay garage attendants near Doncaster, learn that they have been refused admission into the WRAC. 'Heady' Bob ,a transvestite AA man, who is saving up to have the Operation and join the RAC, stops by to tell them his tests at the Special Clinic are positive. They spend the afternoon in desultory conversation, ringing up the Speaking Clock.
"Superb. Masterful. Yummy." The Lancet
Rating: Odd

Close male friendship between chaps and Japs in raw tale of eye-scratching and savage bitchery. By the director who made “Horseguards in Love”.
Rating: Gayish

Liza Minelli ("the toast of kings, the delight of queens") plays Christopher Isherwood, a character created by W. H. Auden. Also starring Joel Gay as the naughty man in the funny make-up. Set in the bitchy days of Berlin in the early thirties, this is a treat for everybody in their early thirties.
Rating: Fab

Little Homo is kidnapped by a band of Cherokee Indians. Homo seduces the Cherokee chief and they plan a marriage. But the nuptials are spoiled by Little Homo’s dad, who steals the boy back. In the ensuing action, Dad falls in love with Chief as well. Little Homo: Tatum O’Neal. Dad: Roman Gabriel. Chief: Merv Griffin.

Japanese-made sci-fi epic about an atomic mutation, a gigantic walking rectum the size of the World Trade Center who gases and besmirches the country before being subdued by an army of homosexuals.

Ken Russell's story of how Hitler's homosexual love affair with Rommel loses him the war. Rommel is played by Rudolph Nureyev, and Montgomery by Peter Pears


A round-up of gay-related gags from various TV guide parodies

(1) National Lampoon, February 1978
Edgar and Clyde at the FBI are of course J. Edgar Hoover and his close associate Clyde Tolson, and this plays off the long-standing rumours about the actual nature of their relationship, recently raised in 1978’s “The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover. Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly are two rather camp American light entertainment actors

(2) “The Outer Limits” (written and performed by Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson), at The Comedy Store, 1979
“The Outer Limits” was the “Firesign Theatre”-inspired duo instrumental in the creation of alternative comedy, “The Comic Strip Presents” and “The Young Ones”. The bit above is actually the intro to a parody of close cop duo “Starsky and Hutch” (if you hadn’t guessed). For all that alternative comedy was about not indulging in the prejudices of old-fashioned comedy, this skit uses an awful lot of the milder slurs at the expense of the sensitive masculinity of the leads. The rest of it is just a parody of the shortcomings of Starsky and Hutch: the show’s senseless hyperkineticism, the character’s enthusiastic stupidity and emphatic stating of just how disgusted they are by crime to show how sensitive and intelligent they genuinely are. (Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans may remember Shooty and Bang-Bang). The characters are just played as stereotypical brash Americans, but without any apparent gay mannerisms or camping it up.

(3) “The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book”, Eric Idle, 1976
A parody of Andy Warhol films, long renowned for their gay subject matter, here transferred to the banality of Enlish life rather than New York bohemia. Then a parody inspired by a rearrangement of the title of classic British WWII POW film “Camp on Blood Island” with some jokes about bitchy gays, Ken Russell films ("Women in Love"'s naked male wrestling), and the long-standing rumours about the sexual availability of the Horseguards.

(4) “This Week’s TV Programs”, by Gerald Sussman, with Danny Abelson, Tony Hendra, and Ted Mann - National Lampoon, December 1978
A parody at the expense of “Little House on the Prairie”. Tatum O’Neal was actually a girl, but the Macauley Culkin child star of the day. Merv Griffin was an American talk show host about whom there long-standing (how many times have I written that now?) gay rumours.

(5) "After Star Wars, What?”, Barry Took - Punch, 4 January 1978
A throwaway gag from a whole selection of silly future movies. Not much done with the idea of gay Nazis, and instead says more about perceptions of Ken Russell's pictures during the 1970s. Took demonstrates the same paucity of possible names who would be recognised as gay. Really, I mean, Peter Pears.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

428: Computer Dating 3 - Kenny Everett

Starts 2.55 – 5.02 “The Kenny Everett Television Show”, March 3, 1983
Kenny Everett and Geoffrey Palmer

And by the early 1980s the set-up of a computer dating system accidentally setting up two straight men on the same date is a cliché that can be subverted with a surreal twist as in this sketch.

427: Computer Dating 2 - Robert Censoni

“Playboy”, May 1969
Robert Censoni

In this cartoon, almost contemporary with the last sketch, Censoni presents the standard late 1960s America homosexual – when not actually a man in drag. Overly dressed-up, fluttery-eyelashed, blithely smiling, pretty and blond. The idea of the homosexual with dyed-platinum-blond hair is very much the cliché of the times – lots of other Playboy cartoons in the 60s, the character portrayed by Rod Steiger in “No Way to Treat a Lady”, and the central character in the book of cartoons “My Son the Daughter” by Mort Drucker.

Monday, 18 June 2012

426: Computer Dating 1 - Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra

The Dean Martin Show
2 January 1969

Hey kids, ever wished you could see Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra playing kinda gay. Today, your vaguely articulated whim is my command.

This sketch starts off with the pair disappointed to discover they’ve been matched up together, gradually accepting their compatibility, dancing together and then the cops come to dance them off stage.

This sketch is more about the two enjoying themselves together in front of an appreciative audience, which is the whole rat pack thing. Indeed, part of the “fun” is their bewilderment - as the characters in the sketch, these two internationally famous womanisers (“what do you consider most important in a date”: “38-24-28”) and also as the performers of the sketch - wondering “what the hell are we doing in this?”

If these were proper (comedic) actors these performances would be a lot more thought out. Instead you get the occasional lispiness moment from Dean. Sinatra does become more effeminate towards the end, particularly his reply ”If you don’t know then it won’t make any difference” to Dean’s “Why aren’t you a girl”.

Notice that it takes the audience a moment or two pick up on Dean’s “I can’t think straight” gag. Note also the “three children – one of each” line.

Frank Sinatra appeared on The Dean Martin Show on 2 January 1969 and 31 December 1970. Since a quick search shows that a large number of sitcoms had plot gimmicks about computer dating and a few chat shows and news programmes featured discussion of computer dating in 1969, I suspect this means computer dating was a current topic and that this sketch is therefore from the 1969 show. And what could be more extreme computer cock up than the possibility of two men dating each other

Sunday, 17 June 2012

425: Pinklisting

Saturday Night Live, 9 November 1985

This sketch, in the first SNL episode of autumn 1985, is in the context of Rock Hudson’s death the previous month. To America’s shock, the long time heart throb and Hollywood leading man had announced on July 25, 1985 that he was suffering from AIDS contracted from homosexual encounters. Two and a half months later he died on 2 October 85. In the wake of Hudson’s revelation there was much concern that in his kissing scenes with his co-star Linda Evans on “Dallas” he might have transmitted AIDS to her. On Oct 31, 1985, the New York Times reported that “Because of the fear of AIDS among its members, the Screen Actors Guild is requiring the 7,000 producers and agents with whom it has contracts to notify performers in advance of any scenes that require open-mouth kissing. The guild has sent a letter describing such scenes as ‘a possible hazard to the health of actors in light of the lack of clear and consistent medical opinion as to how or in what manner this disease is communicated’.''

Supposedly the light falling into the pool was an accident and Sweeney’s panicked cry was genuine, but in the context of the sketch both make sense. If not the first episode, then this was one of the earliest episodes that Sweeney performed in. He had been a writer for the show for a number of years, and was already “out”, therefore becoming the first gay performer on the show. So here you have a gay man pretending to be gay, as stereotypes of masculine and gay behavior and interests are played off each other. Hence the Judy Garland headline, and occasional shrieking sissiness and effeminate mannerisms. Although it’s all in the aid of a larger sympathetic satirical point about being forced back into the closet.

Madonna as Melinda Zoomont
Randy Quaid as the Director
Terry Sweeney as Clint Weston
Joan Cusack as Make-Up Girl
Jon Lovitz as Censor


Rolling Captions and Announcer: "In the early 1950's, a dark shadow descended upon Hollywood. Caught up in the mass-hysteria of the McCarthy era, the entertainment industry turned against its own, blacklisting innocent artists and craftsmen. Banned from their chosen occupations, these blacklisted individuals fell victim to hearsay, its ugly accomplice innuendo, and their unattractive sidekick, guilt by association. And now in 1985, Hollywood again is gripped by paranoia, this time provoked by the tragic AIDS outbreak. Actresses refused to do scenes with unknown actors. Gay actors are forced back into the closet, leading double lives, wearing wedding bands, riding motorcyles - living in fear that they will fall victim to: PINKLISTING"

[ dissolve to movie set, as actress Melinda Zoomont storms in ]

Melinda Zoomont (in a terrible stilted posh English actress accent): Art, are these the pages? Because if they are, it's all wrong. I thought the love scene with the new character was out?

Director: Sweetheart, we decided that we had to establish your relationship with Lionel, because four or five scripts down the line, you're gonna have his baby and he kidnaps you.

Melinda Zoomont: But I told you, I don't do love scenes with actors I don't know!

Director: Take five, everybody!

(Stagehands groan]

Melinda Zoomont: I hate that this is happening to me, because it places me in the role of the bitch. And I hate that, because I'm not a bitch.

Director: Melinda, Melinda.. no one thinks you're a bitch. You’re a professional. We all are. We've got a job to do. Now, you may not know Clint Weston, but I do. And I can tell you that there's not another more masculine, heterosexual actor on 24-hour call in this town!

Melinda Zoomont: Well.. maybe I'll do the scene - but not until I meet the man face-to-face.

[sound of motorcycle can be heard ]

Director: That sounds like Clint's Harley.

Clint Weston (appears, punching shoulders of other men in palsy fashion) : Damn those helmet laws - who needs 'em, huh? Heads up (as he throws helmet to stangehand)

[everyone is happy to see Clint as he enters the set, Clint shakes hands, give high-fives, almost goes to shake hand with female stangehand ]

Director: Hey, Clint! [ they shake hands ]

Clint Weston: (over emphatic, with stilted macho movements ala John Wayne, rolling shoulders pulling at shirt and adjusting belt buckle) How about the gazombas (cups hands) on that make-up girl, huh? Boy, I know the old wife wouldn't be pleased with that comment (flaunts wedding band on hand) , but hey - just because you're on a diet doesn't mean you can't look at the menu, right guys? [ notices Melinda ] Oh . . . uh . . . excuse me. Just a little guy talk there!

Director: Clint, this is Melinda Zoomont, your leading lady.

Melinda Zoomont: How do you do?

Clint Weston: Oh, how do you do? You don't have to introduce me to television's sexiest star!

Melinda Zoomont: Well, uh.. I think we're running a bit late. Shall we do the scene?

Director: Right you are, Melinda. We'll knock this off as soon as you get out of make-up, Clint.

Clint Weston: Okay, right-o! [approaches the make-up chair, sits down ] Hey, how about handing me the paper, huh? I want to check the stats on my Raiders. (on front page of paper held to audience away from him, headline reads: “Judy Garland Bio: Liza Unwanted" Clint flips papers around so he notices article). (in more effeminate emotional tones, clasping hands to face) Oh, my God! Why doesn't she leave the poor woman alone! (crying)

Make-Up Girl: Are you alright?

Clint Weston: (pulls himself together) Of course, I'm alright! It's just that Raiders secondary! Last week they leaked like a sieve

Make-Up Girl: Who's the secondary?

Clint Weston: Oh, uh.. those are the guys that, uh . . . go . . . uh, uh . . . both ways. [gets up, returns to the set ]

Director: Uh.. you got your dialogue?

Clint Weston: Uh.. yeah, yeah.

Director: Alright, come on over here, we'll just talk you through this. Okay, now, Clint, you propose a toast to your little scheme, you share a glass of wine, you gaze into each other's eyes, you kiss passionately . . . then you take off your clothes, and you get into the hot tub. Got it? Uh, can we hear that hot tub!

Stagehand: Hot tub!

[hot tub starts bubbling]

Director: That's 180° in there, so you two should be quite comfortable.

Clint Weston: Can you believe we're getting paid to do this!

Melinda Zoomont: Another day, another $10,000.

Clint Weston: [ laugh] (almost camply:) Stop it! We've got a scene to do!

Director: Could we get a censor in here? I've got a question about this kiss here?

Censor: [enters set ] Yeah, what can I do for you?

Director: Oh, Ted, hey how you doing? Uh, listen, Ted, how passionately can we make this kiss? Uh.. we got sweeps coming up, I need a little help here.

Censor: I tell you, there hasn't been much kissing lately, so.. just about anything is okay with us. Now, as long as we don't see any tongue; a little bulge in the cheek [ demonstrates ] or this, that's alright. But we can't see any of this (tongue waggling)..

Director: Okay. Thanks, Ted, I owe you one, buddy! Okay, let's rehearse this - Clint, Melinda, from the top! Alright, roll it.

Voice: Speed.

Voice: Sound.

Director: Action!

Melinda Zoomont: My husband has the same routine every day. If you follow my instructions, it should be child's play.

Clint Weston (huskier): Angel, I want you to know - I'm not just doing this for the money..

[a light falls from the set, crashing into the hot tub, Clint camply shrieks and panics ]

Melinda Zoomont: Wait a minute! You're gay!

Clint Weston: Yes, I'm gay! And now you all know. Art, you can fire me if you like, but I can't go on living a lie.

Director: Clint, I admire your guts. And I think you should know that.. I'm gay, too.

(All the other stagehands shout they are too, and two wrap their arms around each other)

Clint Weston: [ to Melinda ] Living out this little charade, you know, was not our choice. It was a matter of survival! But I suppose you wouldn't know anything about that!

Melinda Zoomont: Well.. actually.. I do have a confession to make. And I do understand you. [ long pause as she slowly stalks to centre stage, stand still, collects herself, then proclaims] I'm an intravenous drug user.

[everyone groans with disgust and horror]

Director (pats he comfortingly, understandingly): Well, shall we do the scene, then?

Melinda Zoomont: [ considering ] Alright.

Clint Weston: Wait a minute! No way am I gonna kiss an intravenous drug user! Get my agent! (charges off stage, his hand waggling high)

Director: Take five, everybody! Clint!

[As the camera pulls back the two stagehands with their arms around - one of whom I think is Anthony Michael Hall - begin kissing each other]

424: Killjoy Was Here 3

“National Lampoon”, March 1979
from “Letters from the Editors”


We’ve had just about enough of your childish “homo” jokes. You sneer and giggle and hurl your little barbs at us. We’re a part of this society. Medical science says we’re normal; the law says we’re entitled to every right and privilege that you are. We’re human, we’re American, we have feelings, and if you don’t leave us alone, we’re going to come over and fuck your dad.

The Queers,
All Over Everywhere, Even Iowa

423: Killjoy Was Here 2

Punch, 15 Decemeber 76
By J.E. Hinder

(Members of the Students Union recently voted to pulp this year's Bristol University Rag Magazine because of its "sexist, racist and anti-homosexual jokes", But an alternative suggestion has been made. According to a Bristol Evening Post report, a "leaflet of explanation intended to soften the effect" of the offending material may possibly be inserted.)

Page 6. We apologise for a misleading statement concerning "the boy who stood on the burning deck / His a*** against the mast / Who swore he would not move an inch / Till Oscar Wilde had passed." The boy in question, after a teach-in with fin-de-siecle predecessors of the Gay Liberation Movement, entered into a meaningful, open-ended, in-house dialogue with Mr Wilde, reaching complete agreement. Later, he became a member of the Fabian Society and was responsible for many of the lighter-hearted passages in "Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation" by Sidney and Beatrice Webb.


Why, it's Political Correctness Gone Mad! And a parody of Political Correctness Gone Mad as well. All in the mid-70s too. Though in those days it was "consciousness-raising" and "humourless bloody lefties! Can't take a bloody joke." Plus ca change . . .

Thursday, 14 June 2012

422: Killjoy Was Here 1: Terry Scott On . . . Homosexuality?

“Scott on . . .“
The Sex War”, 9 October 1972
written by John Kane

The creature above appears in a screengrab from a documentary about changing attitudes to women in British sitcoms. When the credits mentioned that this brief scene was from the “Sex War” episode of "Scott on . . ", suddenly the nature of the bizarre creature in that middle class lounge amidst all those nice middle class ladies and giving Terry Scott a stern glare was revealed to me . A couple of notes in gay magazines of the times explains all. That oddity is Colin Jeavons playing a poof. It’s 1972 and flamboyantly (even bizarrely as in this instance) dressed camp homosexuals with feminine bouffant hairdos are the order of the day, in other words: “A POOF”. This is one of the reasons why Gay Lib members of that time were so irate, because this is how gay men were being portrayed on television. Writers for the few gay magazines, journals and newsletters of the time, “Jeremy”, “Lunch” and “Gay News” would mutter enviously over the fact that in America public campaigns by gay men seemed to have least some minimal effect. In the UK – nothing doing. But this episode appeared and then in the 28 October 1972 edition of “The Radio Times” a letter was printed written by actual, real homosexual men expressing their disapproval of this caricature fantasy. Oh, oh, the rejoicing!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

421: Not Gay Pride 2

"Punch" 30 March 1983

AGITORY - The helpful guide for the Committed Reactionary.

"Anti-Gay Movement"

Don't be afraid to express your distaste and revulsion.

Badges available saying "Sod off to Sodom", and car stickers, "I'm proud to be normal". £6 per dozen.

Support wanted for Anti-Gay Pride Week.

SAE to Decency Society, Tunbridge Wells.


Gay Prides now being enough of an event that a supposed counter movement by decency-loving conservatives can be a joke. Tunbridge Wells, because as the heart of middle England and the Tory homelands, it has been the origin of the stereotypical reactionary, silent majority letter-writer sign-off "Disgusted of Tunbrudge Wells.

420: Not Gay Pride 1

Two by the never knowingly upbeat and chipper Michael Heath

“Punch” 4 July 1979
A variant by Michael Heath on his earlier "Of course, I can remember when you could laugh at poofs in the street, for nothing." cartoon just to the right. Although it also occupies some of the same territory as the Ken Pyne cartoon here

“Punch” 9 March 1983
And this one speaks for itself

419: Culture Clash 2

National Lampoon, November 1977

from “The Beautiful People in Middle America: A menopausal Change of Lifestyle”
written by Robert L. Green
artist unknown

As with the “Mad” magazine cartoons, here’s another culture clash. Real life gay fashion designers Roy Halston and Yves St Laurent (not a couple in reality but here two blithely grinning sissies holding hands and flowers) meet depraved “Deliverance” style rednecks. What violence, murder or raping will result? Is there more to be made of “camping”? Really though, it’s of a piece with other National Lampoon posters such as the one of middle-of-the-road patriotic singer John Denver being horribly savaged by an eagle.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

418: Culture Clash 1

Mad, June 1974
“Bussing In Other Areas for the Purpose of Social Integration”
Writer: Arnie Kogen
Art: George Woodbridge

This cartoon rather belatedly plays on the aftermath of the culture clash of late 1960s / early 1970s America. Bussing was the policy of desegregation in education where black students would be transferred to more upscale usually white schools. So here we get three more culture clashes which would make a lot more topical sense if they had been printed in 1971. Instead, three years later, it’s less like satire and more like nostalgia. We get Hippies, underground newspapers, and Fire island homosexuals on the one side of the gap. On the other side Pat Boone (an Ultra-WASP singer), marines, and hard hats (right wing workers who attacked anti-war protestors). The joke being that in each instance that integration is impossible. If the top cartoon shows an actual path of violence being cleared through all those mucky, lazy hippies, then it’s hard to see how the joke in the bottom panel isn’t “Tee-hee, look the fairies are also going to get a bashing”. Like the gay men in Jack Chick’s “The Gay Blade” , these are some surprisingly old, ugly and balding gay men, to add insult to injury.

417: Queer Bashing 2

National Lampoon, April 1971
from “Real Balls Adventure Magazine” by Doug Kenney, Michael O’Donoghue, John Boni and Terry Catchpole

This is a just a little excerpt from this issue’s “Real Balls Adventure Magazine”, a parody of both the “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” brand of lurid adventure story pulp magazine and also the extreme anti-commie, far right-wing attitudes of their audience.

So here “fag casting” and “queer trolling” as treated as sports with tips from the “Volunteer Vigilantes against Homos”. Already Judy Garland allusions are de rigeur. My speculations about peacenik = faggot in Colin Wheeler's cartoon are made explicit here.

416: Queer Bashing

Private Eye, 27 March 1970
Colin Wheeler

The phrase “queer bashing” was introduced into popular English usage at the end of 1969, when the trial at the Old Bailey over the murder of Michael de Gruchy on Wimbledon Common by a gang of teenagers suddenly gave the phrase contemporary currency. Mention of “Queer bashing” becomes used more and more common through 1970 until it rolls naturally off the tongue. As this cartoon appears in March 1970, Colin Wheeler has been fairly quick off the mark in picking up on this new phrase. In the light of all the late 60s jokes about hippies campaigning for peace being “long-haired faggots”, here you have one about it being more natural to beat up homosexuals than campaign for peace, a joke at the expense of the thuggish dad’s expectations.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

415: The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, 1984
By Sue Townsend

In the first and second of the Adrian Mole books, Adrian's best friend was Nigel, who is trendier and more clued up (as far as a teenager can be) than Adrian. In the second book, Nigel is revealed to be gay. There’s nothing you can pluck out in the first book, but there’s a certain dramatic build-up and spoonfeeding of information in the jokes in "The Growing Pains", most obviously in Mole’s puzzlement over the boys only Halloween party. Once Nigel comes out Townsend plays with people’s attitudes as Mole first tries to distance himself from his newly outed friend. The final confrontation over starting the Gay Club at school is the pleasure in talking about something that has previously been unspeakable, and so the forces of authority are unable to reply in kind since as far as they are concerned they must self-censor about homosexuality and cannot engage in argument. Not much else is made of Nigel’s sexuality otherwise and he is just Adrian’s friend. A portrayal of gay teenager in the mid-80s is a relatively brave and sympathetic act by Townsend.


Twenty-First after Trinity. Hallowe’en Daylight Saving Time ends (USA and Canada)

At five o’clock I was asked by my so-called best friend Nigel to go to his Hallowe’en party. He said, ‘Forgot to send you an invite, zit face, but come anyway, dress as a warlock or you won’t get in.’ I decided not to go as a warlock; I wanted to break away from stereotypes, so I went as a fiend. My mother helped me to assemble a costume. We used my father’s old flippers, one of my mother’s long-legged black leotards and an orange fright wig she bought years ago when she went to my father’s fishing club dinner and dance. I looked a bit indecent in the leotard so I put my swimming trunks over the top, but when I got the whole lot on I didn’t look a bit fiendish, I just looked dead stupid. My mother had the idea of putting a nylon stocking over my fiendishly made-up face. It looked a bit better but my costume still lacked a certain something. At seven o’clock I had a crisis of confidence and almost took everything off, but my mother fetched a can of green neon spray paint that we used to perk up last year’s Christmas tree. She sprayed me from head to toe with it. The dog whimpered and ran under the draining board. So I knew I must have achieved the right effect.

The short walk to Nigel’s house was an ordeal. A gang of little kids in pointed hats ran up to me screaming: ‘Trick or Treat.’ I kept telling them to bugger off but they followed me to Nigel’s, trying to tread on my flippers. Nigel wouldn’t let me in at first because I wasn’t in warlock costume. (He’s so literal! He’ll end up working with computers if he’s not careful.)

But I explained that I was a fiend and he relented. Nigel’s mother and father were upstairs watching telly, so we raided their drinks cupboard and drank Tia Maria and Egg Flip Cocktails. There were no girls at the party, which was a bit strange. Nigel said that girls make him sick. The warlocks and me danced in the pumpkin light to Duran Duran records. It was OK, I suppose, but without girls it lacked a certain je ne sals quoi (French for something or other). At ten o’clock Nigel’s mother ran in with a running buffet. The food was all gone in ten minutes. Most of it was eaten, but a lot got thrown about. Without the civilizing influence of girls, boys return to the wild.

Went to the ‘Off the Streets’ youth club party with Pandora. Nigel caused a scandal by dancing with Clive Barnes who was wearing lipstick and mascara! Everyone was saying that Nigel is gay, so I made sure that everyone knew that he is no longer my best friend.

Walked up and down the High Street in my sheepskin coat and cashmere scarf. Saw Nigel in his new leather trousers posing at the traffic lights. He suggested we go to his house to ‘talk’. I agreed. On the way he told me that he was trying to decide which sort of sexuality to opt for: homo, bi or hetero. I asked him which he felt more comfortable with. He said, ‘All three, Moley.’ Nigel could never make up his mind.

Nigel has formed a Gay Club at school. He is the only member so far, but it will be interesting to see who else joins. I noticed Brain Box Henderson hovering around the poster looking worried.

Mr Scruton has ordered the closure of the Gay Club, saying that he and the school governors couldn’t sanction the use of the school gym for ‘immoral purposes’. Nigel pretended to be innocent. He said, ‘But, sir, the Gay Club is for pupils who want to be frisky, frolicsome, lively, playful, sportive, vivacious or game-some during the dinner break. What is immoral about gaiety?’ Mr Scruton said, ‘Nigel, the word “Gay” has changed its meaning over the past years. It now means something quite different.’ Nigel said, ‘What does it mean, sir?’ Scruton started sweating and messing about with his pipe, and not answering, so Nigel let him off the hook by saying: ‘Sorry, sir, I can see that I will have to get an up-to-date dictionary!’


The two books were adapted into TV series (The Growing pains of Adrian Mole in 1987) which if you’re of a certain age (cough-cough) have a powerful nostalgia factor not just in taking the viewer back to the mid-80s but also for featuring an enormous number of English character actors in supporting roles. In particular there is a certain joy in seeing Freddie Jones as the sputtering headmaster eventually bested by his pupils. The accents are somewhat wrong, being that imprecise Black County / Birmingham hybrid actors offer up when a role is anywhere in the Mildands instead of the Leicester tone it ought to be, but then that only made the programme seem even closer to home for me at the time.

Gian Sammarco as Adrian Mole
Steven Mackintosh as Nigel Partridge

0.00 – 3.03
(The bit where one of the boy guests acts Adrian to dance is a new addition here)

4.24 – 5.16, and 10.55 - 13.35

Saturday, 9 June 2012

414: The Fenn Street Gang

The Fenn Street Gang

Hugh Walters – Mr Winters

“The Start of Something Big” (24 September 1971, writers: Geoff Rowley and Andy Baker)
“Distant Horizons” (22 October 1971, writer: Tony Bilbow)
“Who Was That Lady?” (3 December 1971, writer: John Esmonde and Bob Larbey)
“The Great Frock Robbers” (11 February 1972, writer: John Esmonde and Bob Larbey)

Everybody remembers that 1970s British sitcom with a gay character, you know, the one who works in a fashion shop. No, I don’t mean Mr Humphries in “Are You Being Served”. I mean Mr Winters who in “The Fenn Street Gang”.

Unfortunately I’ve lost my notes for “The Fenn Street Gang” so this will all be from memory as life is too short to acquire the episodes and watch them again.

“The Fenn Street Gang” was the spin off from “Please, Sir”, a sitcom in which a bunch of actors in their late twenties pretended to be students at a comprehensive school. Eventually, they all began to look pensionable and so that particular part of the programme’s premise got a touch ridiculous. However as the series and the characters were popular, “The Fenn Street Gang” was created to follow their further adventures into the real world after leaving school.

As there were quite a few characters in “Please, Sir”, each of the episodes of “The Fenn Street Gang” only followed a couple of characters at a time. Sharon who was the “dolly bird” type character got a job in a boutique in the first season. Her boss at the boutique was Mr Winters, and as per the rest of this blog, is the only reason why I’m interested in watching this barrel-scraper from the archives. Mr Winters is gay, and is a recurring character in the first season. Therefore Mr Winters is the first recurring gay character in a sitcom and therefore makes this sitcom slightly worthy of a little historical notice. He is only a supporting character though.

A gay manager in a boutique is not too far a stretch as a reasonable character. If I remember correctly, the other girl helping in the shop was black, so it’s some attempt to look at a slightly more modern Britain. From a distance of 40 years you could say he dresses somewhat colourfully but not really any more flamboyant than you might realistically expect in 1971. Nor is he overly camp. He is a sympathetic character, largely friendly and understanding towards the girls he works with. Most of the time it’s more a matter of accepted gay mannerisms by the actor, than any explicit camp declarations. There aren’t really any jokes at his expense, nor is he a screaming caricature. He’s more realistic than Mr Humphries, say, and as this is only 1971 he isn’t a “poof” stereotype either. By poof , I mean: flamboyantly dressed in an over-the-top costume, mincing about, and camping it up. Poofs were de rigeur circa 1972 – 1974, and compare also to Dick Emery and Robin Hood in “Carry On Up the Chastity Belt” (1971). In one of the episodes, Sharon’s boyfriend gets possessive about Sharon’s friendship with Mr Winters and wants to be sure that he’s “a poof”, but it’s not meant in an unpleasant derogatory way. It’s 1971, this is an ITV sitcom, her boyfriend is a Jack-the-Lad character, and let’s be honest, in the very early 70s everyone called gay men poofs.

So if someone were to do a documentary, Mr Winters is definitely one to dig up and include for a 30-45 second inclusion but nothing more. As with the first ever gay character in a sitcom in “Steptoe and Son” so Britain gets in with the first recurring gay sitcom character . And as with “Steptoe and Son” it’s not a blazing offence either – even if it is only for 4 episodes. Hugh Walters crops up a lot in British television, where he sometimes employed slightly fey or fussy characterisations. He even went on to play Charles Hawtrey in the Carry-On biopic “Cor Blimey”. So whether Hugh Walters is gay or not, this is not a performance to be embarrassed by either.