Tuesday, 27 November 2012

465: AIDS 1 - Earliest Days

By the late 70s/early 80s, an accepted element of a healthy life on the gay scene was the regular trip to the VD clinic and then a few pills or shots to clear up the STD of the moment. A cartoon that appeared in the gay magazine “Christopher Street” in the summer of 1981 (and which I’m sure was reprinted in “Gay News”) showed two men at a bar with one saying to the other: “What do you say you and me pool our viruses”. If printed in a straight magazine, it would almost certainly be condemned for homophobically suggesting the diseased quality of gay life, but when printed in gay magazines it’s a twist on contemporary mores. Either way, it was a foreshadowing of what was to come.


“National Lampoon” 1982

(The headline alludes of this piece alludes to a famous "NY Daily News" headline: "Ford to City: Drop Dead". This is a surprisingly early piece alert to one small blip in a small subset of the American population. On the one hand this can be read as satirising the casual bigotry and religious condemnation in the dismissal of the rising deaths in the gay community. On the other hand, it’s just as likely to provoke laughs in its unconcerned readers, for whom satire is breaking taboos, saying the unsayable, and joyously anaesthetising the heart so as to appreciate finer graduations of cruelty and vitriol. In retrospect, this piece is unfair to Dianne Fehrstein whose AIDS budget for the City of San Francisco was bigger than President Reagan's AIDS budget was for the entire nation for several years in the 80s)


A little over a year later and AIDS is a word to conjure with in this glib concoction.

“Punch”, 18 May 1983


Auberon Waugh’s Diary
Private Eye 26 August 1983

In fact, there are only 14 confirmed cases of AIDS in Britain, as I keep telling everybody. The disease is no less fatal than rabies, and the health authorities have managed to control rabies by a strict policy of quarantine. Would the Gay Community take it very badly if I suggested that American homosexuals visiting Britain should be required to spend six months in kennels before being allowed out to take their pleasure with the natives. My purpose is not to annoy English gays, many of whom are terrifically amusing, talented, artistic, etc, but to protect them. Scientists are working on an idea that a prophylactic against AIDS might be to eat huge numbers of cucumbers every day, but it would be foolish to rely on this.

Illustration by Brian Bagnall

(What is intended here in a sententiously high-toned and blithely semi-nonsensical opinion-proffering manner would later go on to be offered as serious advice by numerous media and political pundits. Where the cucumbers come into this I don’t know, other than the tendency for people to use them as demonstration models for the application of prophylactics.)


Eddie Murphy, Delirious (recorded August 17, 1983)

http://ukjarry.blogspot.com/2007/12/27-faggots-eddie-murphy.html (I’d already covered this piece of stand-up before, but mostly just looking at Murphy’s manner, rather than his extended piece on AIDS)

Ladies be hangin' out with gay people. Ladies be saying, "Gay men are the best friends to have. 'Cause they don't want anything from you and you don't want anything from them and he can just hang out and you can be with him and it's fun and you can talk to them" and all that bullshit and they be hangin' out with them.

You know what's real scary about that? That new AIDS shit. AIDS is scary 'cause it kills motherfuckers, AIDS. That ain't like the good old days when venereal disease was simple. In the good old days you'd get gonorrhea and your dick hurt, Go get a shot, clear it right up. Then they came out with herpes. You keep that shit forever like luggage. Now they got AIDS. That just kills motherfuckers. I say what's next? I guess you just put your dick in and it explode (mimes sex and an explosion) and the girl will be on the bed and go "Maybe I should see a doctor about this."

Kills people! And it petrifies me because girls be hangin' out with them. And one night they could be in the club havin' fun with their gay friend and give them a little kiss (lip-smacking sound) and go home with their AIDS on their lips. Get home with their husband and like five years later it's "Mr. Johnson, you have AIDS." He goes, "AIDS? But I'm not a homosexual." "Sure, you're not a homosexual."

(In an October 1990 interview with Spike Lee, Murphy apologised for making these jokes about AIDS. He explained that he had been only 21 at the time, and that AIDS was then a new disease that nobody knew enough about at the time., and that he wouldn’t joke about it now because it’s a much more sensitive issue.)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

464: Gay Pal for the Straight Gal 2 - Taxi

Elaine’s friends set up her with a Kurt, a man they all meet in a bar. Elaine and Kurt get on, but then Kurt reveals to Tony that he is bisexual and really in love with Tony. Tony then has to face up to how he can break this news to his good friend, Elaine. All culminating in a visit to a friendly gay bar.

Oh, the complications of the modern dating scene and those pesky bisexuals!

“Taxi” was a much better sitcom than the average, and this episode is a good example of how it was much denser with a better and more varied selection of styles of humour and jokes. Even the corny bisexual / bicycle misunderstanding gets a bit more energy and spin than usual. Furthermore, this episode features no lecturing or defending the right to exist of homosexuals– a la Norman Lear sitcoms, like All in The Family or Maude. Kurt’s bisexuality is just accepted as a fact. Tony is not creeped out, disgusted, revulsed or angered by Kurt’s attraction to him. Nor is any anger directed at Kurt for dissembling his true nature. Tony is only upset for Elaine. It is his concern about breaking the news to Elaine that is the engine for the second half of the episode. In one instance, the emphasis on Tony’s dilemma is the necessary distraction so that the troll-like Louis doesn’t say anything homophobic or old-fashioned about Kurt. The only hint at entrenched attitudes is Alex’s moment of hushing Kurt at the gay bar when Kurt says he’s gay, then realising how ludicrous that is in a gay bar.

Indeed, the visit to the gay bar is unexpected. The first half of the gay bar scene just has it employed as just a slightly upmarket backdrop for Kurt and Alex’s conversation. An unreferenced quote from the programme’s producer James Burrows: "I insisted we use only gay extras and bit players in the 'Taxi' episode in the gay bar. Why? Because they look right and have the right behaviour. I told my cast to be as real as possible...We didn't have any 'wild' gays in it at all." The ferns dotted around the bar are a contemporary gay bar touch (vide the gang shuddering over the possibility of fern in the slightly later Cheers episode). The patrons look contemporarily gay too with their moustaches and polo shirts. That touch of realism does rather evaporate for the last couple of minutes in Alex’s ever-escalating dance scene. The episode’s big gay set-piece is enthusiastically received by the live audience, as men dancing together is always good for enthusiastic laughs – as numerous excursions in the “Police Academy” films proved.

This episode won an Emmy, though not for writing or acting, The writer of this episode, David Lloyd, would go on to further gay content in sitcoms. He script edited the Censor episode of “The Associates”, and even more importantly, was the creator of the first major American gay-themed sitcom “Brothers” which ran from 1984 - 89


Taxi "Elaine's Strange Triangle"
10 December 1980
Writer: David Lloyd

Judd Hirsch as Alex Reiger
Jeff Conaway as Bobby Wheeler
Danny DeVito as Louie De Palma
Marilu Henner as Elaine O'Connor-Nardo
Tony Danza as Tony Banta
Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim Ignatowski
Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas
John David Carson as Kirk Bradshaw
Michael Pritchard as Dancing Guy

Elaine is at a restaurant with the men, depressed after a break-up. Alex suggests that she should go out with someone. Elaine and T go to the bar to get drinks. Elaine is slumped and distracted. A smartly-dressed man in a suit sees them and approaches.

KURT: Excuse me. Hi. Are you two… together

TONY: Yeah, we ‘re together (as K is about to leave, suddenly thinks and grabs his arm) O-oh, hold on! Er, she and I? No,no,no. We’re just friends (pulls E) Er, I’m Tony Banta, and this is Elaine Nardo.

KURT: Pleased to meet you. (Shakes T’s hand) Kirk Bradshaw

TONY: Pleased to meet you – huh, Elaine?

ELAINE: (casually) Yeah right, hi (smiles at K, gives T sharp lowered look)

(T: deliberately upbeat and interested) So, er, kirk you come here often?

KURT: Well my office, is just around the corner

TONY: Yeah! What do you do?

KURT: I’m an investment analyst

TONY: Wow! An investment analyst (looks around for E, who has ignored all this, T sees she has gone back to table with drinks)

TONY: Ah, small world

KURT: Why? Are you an investment analyst?

TONY: Nah, a cab driver

(a beat while he takes this in)

TONY: Hey Kirk, you married?

KURT: No Tony, I’m not

TONY: Great! I got some people I want you to meet. C’mon over. (bringing him over) Hey guys! This is Kirk Bradshaw, an investment analyst from here in New York and he’s not married!

ALEX: Why do I feel like I’m watching a gameshow? Tell us what he’s won Tony? (introduces the rets of the guys) And of course you know Elaine

KURT: (silly/dryly) Oh yeah, we go way back

(Elaine makes “oh geeze” face)

The guys offer the seat closest to E. Both K and Elaine slightly amused at the obviousness of the set-up. All the others sat in arrow facing them)

B: So Kirk, let me tell you a little about Elaine. She’s a cab driver but she also works in an art gallery

KURT: Really? I’m kind of an art buff

(guys makes mock noise of interest to confirm how much K and Elaine have in common)

KURT: Strictly an amateur art buff of course

ALEX: What kind of stuff you like?

KURT: Just simple stuff, French Impressionist

(same noises as before and “French Impressionist!” “Oh lala!”, etc)

ALEX: (to guys) C’mon will ya. You’re embarrassing her

ELAINE: No, no, it’s okay

KURT: I own a couple of pen and ink drawings by Degas

(same noises)

B: Hey, I think Elaine would like to see those

ELAINE: (laughing) I’m really sorry about this

TONY: What about tomorrow night, Elaine?

(Elaine taken aback)

B: What about for dinner?

ELAINE: Oh, do you know what you’re putting this poor man through?

KURT: How about dinner tomorrow night, Elaine? I’d really like it

ELAINE: (laughing) I’m so embarrassed

KURT: I wish you wouldn’t be. I’d love to show you my drawings

(guys look away, make insinuating noises)

ELAINE: Well, er, might be fun. Why don’t you call me. I’ll give you my phone number

BOBBY: Here, here!

(BOBBY hurries to get out pen and napkin to write on. The guys all talk over each other saying E’s phone number. Kurt gets up)

KURT: Nice meeting you all. See you tomorrow night Elaine (leaves)

(Guys are excited for ELAINE, and cluster round her)

BOBBY: Great guy!

ELAINE: (really pleased) Yes! He’s very nice!

JIM: Seemed a little pushy to me

(At the garage – the guys notice that Elaine has been much happier , even singing, for the last ten days. The guys pride themselves on their match-making skills. All the guys except, LOUIE and Tony are out on calls. Kurt comes in)

LOUIE: Hey! Who are you?

KURT: Kirk Bradshaw. And who are you?

LOUIE: In here? God! (realising) Oh, oh, Kirk! Kirk Bradshaw – you’re the young fellow who’s dating our Miss Bradshaw

KURT: That’s right

LOUIE: How far d’ya get?

(KURT is taken aback)

LOUIE: C’mon, c’mon! A little guy talk here. D’you hit a home run? I’m not gonna tell anyobody?

KURT: I’m not going to tell you anything about my relationship with Elaine

LOUIE: Well, some friend you are!

(LOUIE goes off, Tony comes on)

KURT: What was that about?

TONY: Naw, he’s a jerk, hey, so how ya doing Kirk?

KURT: Pretty good

TONY: Pretty good! (mock punches him in stomach) You son of a gun, you! You and Elaine been seeing a lot of each other! Yeah! (mock punches him in stomach) You son of a gun, you!

KURT: That’s why I stopped by. I wanted to talk to her

TONY: You just missed her. She just went out

KURT: Oh. Just as well I guess (looks serious)

TONY: What’s the matter? You two got a problem?

KURT: Yeah, I’m afraid so. I’ve been meaning to talk to her about it ever since I met her. I just (shrugs) can’t seem to be able to.

TONY: Well sit down. Tell me about it

(they sit)

KURT: See. I’m in a tough spot. I really like Elaine

TONY: (mock punches him in stomach) You son of a gun, you!

KURT: Tony! The problem is I like somebody else too

TONY: (downcast) Oh. Somebody else. Well man, that’s a problem

TONY: It Is a problem, Tony. I feel bad about it. I honestly never meant to get involved with Elaine. Remember the night I came up to the two of you at the bar – I said, Are you two together?

TONY: Yeah, I told you we weren’t

KURT: (sighs) Well. (looks down) She wasn’t the one I was after, Tony.

TONY: (long pause as T looks at K processing this, then enquiring) Oh no?

KURT: (shakes head, then looks directly at T) No (smiles slightly)

(long pause as TONY looks at KURT processing this, then gives him long wary look, slightly pulling back, shaking head) Oh, no,no,no,no


(TONY sat alone in garage, staring straight ahead finishing drink, with two empty cups before him. LOUIE comes in. can see TONY is upset. Sees TONY hasn’t confided to ALEX)

TONY: No way you can make me tell you this Louie . . .You ain’t got no problem like this one

(LOUIE tricks TONY into telling him by writing it down on sheet of paper, thinking they will be sharing problems)

LOUIS: (reading) The guy Elaine is going out with just made a pass at me!

(LOUIE turns to look at TONY in feigned shock for him. TONY sat down looks very small. LOUIE turns away and bites his knuckle, stifling his real response. TONY opens his piece of paper from LOUIE only to realise he has been tricked, but LOUIE runs inside his cage to safety as TONY tries to get at him in revenge)

(TONY sat at bar, slumped, despondent. BOBBY comes in and sees him)

BOBBY: Hey Tony. How’s it going?

TONY: Not great

(when TONY tries to pose a hypothetical question: what would BOBBY do if the person BOBBY was dating hit on TONY? But B thinks he really means Bobby’s girlfriend has been hitting on Tony, and BOBBY suddenly leaves to go question her. Elaine enters as BOBBY leaves)

ELAINE: (excited) Tony! Did Kirk stop by the garage after I left tonight?

TONY: (wary) Kirk? (badly acting) No, no Kirk! I didn’t see no Kirk! No idea!

ELAINE: Ohhh! Alex said he thought he saw him as he was driving off.

TONY: (sitting) I’m sure didn’t see any Kirk!

ELAINE: (can see he’s acting oddly) Are you okay?

TONY: (plaintively) I’m fine. I just have something on my mind

ELAINE: (sitting) Aww, you want to talk about it?

TONY: I haven’t decided yet.

ELAINE: Well, I’m going to be home if you want to call, okay?

TONY: (softly) Thanks, Elaine.

ELAINE: Well I got to go

(Elaine leaves. T stares at the table sad-faced and distracted. L comes from bar. Talks to T who doesn’t listen. When L sits down, T finally notices him)

LATKA: What’s the matter? You have The Blues?

(just looks around sadly)

LATKA: Well, why don’t you order some drinks and we can talk about it?

TONY: I can’t. I got no money. And anyway, I don’t think you’d understand my problem

LATKA: Yes I would

TONY: I don’t think so. You know anything about bisexuals?

LATKA: (gladly) Of course. They are very popular in my country

TONY: (amazed) They are?

LATKA: Oh yes. Almost everybody have them. And one of our favourite sports is racing them

(TONY starring in puzzlement)

LATKA: And when we are not using them we have special racks where we chain them up at night

TONY: Latka! I’m not talking about Bicycles! I’m talking about Bisexuals!

LATKA: (blithely) So am I. (gets up) Listen I hope you feel better, alright. Goodbye.

(leaves as ALEX enters bar)

TONY: Hey Alex. I really tried to work this out myself. (shaking head) But I got the worst problem in my entire life

(ALEX cuts him off, saying emphatically that he’s through solving other people’s problems)

TONY: Alex, I really did try to spare you from this. But, er, I’m not so sure that the guy Elaine’s going out with, is right for her.

ALEX: (surprised) That’s your problem? Tony, what’re you worried about? We picked a winner. (laughs) That’s your problem (!) Besides, who are we to decide who’s right or wrong for Elaine?

TONY: Yeah, that’s right. Except for one thing.

ALEX: Nothing!

TONY: Well, except this one thing

ALEX: (sharply) What one thing?

TONY: He wants to date me

ALEX: (pause) Noooo

(T nods head)

ALEX: Noooo. You must have misinterpreted what he meant.

TONY: Well he said my simplicity was engaging and we’d be Wonderful together.

ALEX: (sinks head into hand, groaning) Oh no.

TONY: Well see now, the point is, Alex, this could go rough on Elaine. I mean, if she’s getting serious on him, she should know. So, should I tell her?

ALEX: No! I say he ought to tell her. Someone ought to talk to Kirk and set him straight. As it were.

TONY: Thanks, Alex, let me know how it turns out.

ALEX: (just as Tony starts to pull away Alex grabs him) No ,no, no, no, no! For once in my life I am not gonna let this thing get dumped in my lap! YOU tell him

TONY: (stares at Alex then accepts it) Alright. I know it’s my job. But, you think you can come along with me? I mean, you don’t have to say nothing. You just have to sit there and be a buddy. C’mon Alex, please, please, please?

ALEX: (grudging) Alright, alright. I don’t understand? Why can’t you do this by yourself?

TONY: I can’t be alone with him. I’m the one he spends tortured nights dreaming about

ALEX: He said that?

TONY: No, I’m just assuming

(Bar. Music playing. Only men in bar. Bar in centre of set. Alex comes in, sees Kurt sat at table at far end.

KURT: Alex!

ALEX: Hello. (to men at bar) Hi

KURT: How you doing (shakes offered hand)

ALEX: Tony here yet?

KURT: No. he called. Said he’d be delayed

(as Alex looks around)

KURT: That gives us a chance to chat

ALEX: (sits) Yes, sure, okay. This is a gay bar, isn’t it?

KURT: Yeah, sure. This your first time here?

ALEX: (too emphatically) Oh yes, yes. (catching himself) I’m sorry, I didn’t mean by saying yes so quickly that it would seem terrible if I’d been here before…because actually it would not have been terrible if I’d been here before… yeah, I’d been meaning to (K amused at his discomposure) Just out of curiosity of course…No I don’t mean curiosity, what I mean

KURT: (kindly) Let’s not chat any more

ALEX: (agitated) I used to be such a good chatter, you know. Look, Kurt, I have a really terrible, difficult thing to talk you about, and I don’t even know how to start

KURT: Alex. I think I can guess what you’re trying to tell me.

ALEX: You can?

KURT: But I’ve already told Elaine that I’m bisexual

ALEX: Shh! (catching himself) Oh, oh! It’s okay here (looking around) I’m sorry

KURT: Anyway. We’re still friends and we had a fine talk. Oh, and by the way, I understand that Tony’s not interested and that’s okay too

ALEX: (enormously relieved and relaxing back) Oh wow. Can we have a couple of beers?. Wow. I thought this was gonna be difficult, but instead it’s a snap. Boy, am I a lucky guy.

(Very tall, large guy in blue bomber jacket who has been in background of scene comes over to the table)

Guy: Excuse me, would you like to dance?

ALEX: (Alex stares up at him then away with non-plussed look) Just for the sake of optimism (to Kurt) No, go ahead, I don’t mind

Guy: No, I meant you

ALEX: No, no, I’m just having a beer with a pal, thanks

Guy: C’mon. don’t be shy. (Takes Alex’s hand)

ALEX: No no I really can’t

(Man pulls Alex up. Alex holds firmly onto chair so that he is walking with it pushed to his bum. Man swings him around and Alex sits down again, retrieves his hand and makes “enough” gesture”.)

(Man grabs A’s hand and pulls him so that he lifts up from chair and is spun into man’s chest. The music has become louder. As Alex resists, at each instance the man turns it into a disco dancing move, including further spins, twists and even dipping Alex. In all of this the man is leading and Alex is the “female” partner”. The man parades A around dancing floor. There are now noticeably more men in the bar who are watching and also dancing in place. After one particularly vigorous move with Alex crouching and the man spin-kicking over him, Alex extricates himself. Alex has to criss-cross to get to the exit, since the man is dancing in front of him. Alex fakes him out and leaves. He immediately backs in again because there is a chain of men dancing coming into the bar.)

(All the men are dancing towards Alex, who now has his back against the bar. He backs up over the seats to find himself standing on the bar. All the men loudly cheering and waving their arms. Alex finds he enjoys the attention and makes a few tentative disco-pointing motions. More encouragement and he is dancing vigorously on the bar a la John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”.)

(The doleful Tony enters at this moment and stares open-mouthed. When another more flamboyant dancer jumps on the bar, Alex gets down and falls into the arms of the large man, who dips him so that Alex is looking up at Tony)

TONY: Alex! Elaine is having her heart broken and you’re having a great time here dancing (shakes his head and leaves)


(Garage. Tony and Alex sat at table. Tony evidently much happier, smiling, holding a dancing trophy)

TONY: I’ll never understand how you couldda let that happen. I don’t care what you say, I would never have danced with that guy

ALEX: (sarcastic) No. Not you, you little heart breaker. Give me my trophy (grabs trophy as T laughs)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

463: Gay Pal for the Straight Gal 1 - Alice Gets a Pass

“Alice” was a sitcom adapted from Martin Scorsese’s 1974 film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”. The show began in autumn 1976, and the second episode featured Alice discovering that the eligible hulking, manly attractive football player that all her friends are trying to set her up on a date with is really a homosexual. The Andy Lippincote storyline in Doonesbury had appeared in early 1976, so it’s just possible that this story line might have been in the back of the mind of the production staff. “Alice” was not a controversial Norman Lear social issues-all-in-your-face type of a sitcom. It was a middling, genial family-and-work-based comedy that kills the time. So if nothing else, it shows that this sort of programme is now comfortable handling this kind of material.

Like the Andy Lippincote story, the first half of this episode is about the comic deflation of romantic expectation, and the comic material in the second half comes from Alice deflecting everyone else’s wrong assumptions about her developing friendship with Jack Newhouse. The dramatic twist in the second half is that though Alice easily accepts Jack as gay, she has then has reservation about him being around her son. Her disapproval of him isn’t so much that he could be a paedophile, as that in some not entirely defined manner, he would be a bad example to Tommy. Pas devant les enfants – which of course is the general attitude of TV executives who don’t want to rock the boat. No controversy. The show does let Jack defend himself and Alice realises her fears are wholly irrational. As with the later episode of Maude, we get to see that the younger generation have the easiest time accepting the existence of homosexuals.

In a July 1977 review of homosexuals in the preceding year of television, the critic Tom Shales, wrote:

“From TV today, the impression given of homosexuals is that they’re just like heterosexuals except they have no hang-ups. Many series had stories with prominent homosexual characters last season, and, because the networks are touchy about the demands of activist groups, these characters were so removed from the old stereotypes as to seem utter supermen. When “Alice” fell in love with a homosexual man on that series, the guy was brawny enough for a Brut commercial.”

Indeed, Denny Miller was a former profession football player, but one of the ideals of American masculinity is the football player, so it freights a lot of assumptions for this episode (and was the case in “All in the Family”). And it does provide the opportunity for Flo’s little monologue about the homoerotic appeal of sportsmen together.

In the mid-2000s when a selection of episodes was released on DVD after canvassing fans, this one was on the shows that was included.

Again, as with previous arguments for homosexuality by sitcom characters, the references to famous greeks as though some allusion to antiquity endows confirmation and authenticity

Curiously, “Jack Newhouse” is the anglicisation of Giacomo Casanova – but that’s probably not important, unless you’re watching a translation on Italian TV.

And do I never need to say that Jack never returns to the series?


"Alice Gets a Pass" - 29 September 1976
Writer: Martin Donovan

Linda Lavin: Alice
Polly Holliday: Flo
Philip McKeon: Tommy
Vic Tayback: Mel
Denny Miller: Jack Newhouse

Mel’s friend from college, a former pro-quarterback and now a western actor, Jack Newhouse announces he is coming for a fishing visit. When he shows up at the door there is assorted manly grappling between Mel and Jack. All three waitresses are attracted to Jack, but since Alice shows an interest, Flo encourages her. When Mel says he is already committed to the bowling team the first night of Jack’s visit, Flo pushes the two to go out together.

At home, Alice’s son Tommy is enthusiastic that she’s going out on a date, and at his encouragement Alice wears a more revealing dress. When Jack arrives, Tommy also tries to impress Jack about her. When Jack sees Alice in her dress he tells her she looks “beautiful, sexy, stunning”. They go out. They come back to find Tommy has set up candles, wine and romantic music. Alice asks whether Jack would like to take Tommy fishing with Mel. The two sit on the sofa, with space in the middle of sofa between them

J: I had a great time tonight, Alice

A: Me too . . . You’re also the first date I’ve had here I haven’t had to arm wrestle goodnight. Not that I have anything against wrestling, it just has to be the right guy, know what I mean?

J: Yes I do

A: (pause) You sure you know what I mean? (laughs)

J: (long pause) Alice. You’re really a great person

A: (trying to keep her jolliness up for the rest of the scene) “You’re really a great person” sounds like it should be followed by a “but”

J: But.

A: But you’re married.

J: No

A: But you’re engaged?

J: Un-hnn

A: But you got a girlfriend?

J: No.

A: I think I just ran out of “but”s

J: But I’m gay.

(Alice’s smile slowly fades then she blinks at him. END OF PART 1)

A: Would you mind playing that back again?

J: I’m gay.

A: (pause) You don’t just mean “jolly”?

J: Ngnn

A: (nods head in acceptance, obviously flustered, lip sucking, trying to smile and be friendly) I didn’t think so (shifting about) Well. I, er, I don’t, er, see why that should matter. I mean, er, you’re a person… and I’m a person, and, er, (looks directly at him) Gay?

(look from him to confirm)

A: Huh!

J: Alice, I, er, didn’t want to lead you on. I felt you were the kind of person I could have an honest, up-front relationship with - was I wrong?

A: No! Certainly not. Wrong? That’s the relationship for me. Honest and up-front.

J: Good. I’m glad you feel that way. And I’m really, really happy we’re going to be friends.

A: (smiling, conciliatory) Yes.

(rest of scene has all the awkwardness of two people building up for a kiss)

Well. It’s late.




(Jack gets up goes to door, Alice follows. Just as he steps out, pauses then turns around, then leans in to kiss Alice on forehead)

J: ‘Night

A: Goodnight.

(Alice closes door, then slowly slumps against it, blinks heavily, pulls wry face)

A: (slightly plaintive) I shouldda known. (sadly) Mel said he was a man’s man.

(at Mel’s Diner. Mel is cooking. Alice enters to get food for customer. Mel comes over leaning in close to her)

M: So! Going out with Jack again, huh?

A: Yeah. You got my eggs, side of bacon?

M: Coming, coming. (inveigling) So? How’d it go?

A: (brightly) Ok!

M: Okay? Two nights in a row and all you can say is OK?

A: (focusing on preparing food) Mel!

M: Come on Alice, you can tell me. Jack’s my friend, we were roommates together. (Walks back to grill) What he did, I did.

(A looks up stonefaced)

M: C’mon, C’mon Alice. I wannna know how it Went.

A: (brightly) Like you wouldn’t believe

(Alice leaves. Mel holds her by arm)

M: He’s an animal, right! All those pro-football players are animals, groupies in every city – wine, women, song!

A: (cocks head, beat) Two out of three ain’t bad, Mel (leaves)

(Mel shakes his head in manly pleasure. In main restaurant, Flo stops Alice)

F: Tell me, little cheerleader, how many points did that old quarterback put on that scoreboard last night?

A: (smiling) Flo, that’s tacky

F: Alright, I’ll put it another way. How was he?

A: (firmly) He’s a very nice man (tries to leave, but F is holding onto A)

F: And?

A: And nothing.

(F still won’t let A go)

F: There must have been some illegal use of the hands somewhere?

A: (getting irritated), Flo, nothing happened. (starts to serve food, and F follows)

F: C’mon sugar. Just because one of us gets lucky, ain’t no reason why the other can’t have some fun. Don’t I always tell you everything?

A: Unfortunately.

F: Well, hell, if I went out with a big handsome cuss like that, I’d get on my C.B. and shout it to the world

A: Flo, I have nothing to tell you about last night

F: Oh I understand – you’re not the type that messes about and tells. Shoot that Jack works fast.

(Alice looks around, then draws Flo closer)

A: He doesn’t work fast. Nothing happened. Nothing’s gonna happen. Jack’s gay.

F: (long pause as F slowly chews gum, then) What?

A: (serious) I went out with a guy I really dug and he turned out to be gay

F: (long pause as F slowly chews gum, then) What? Jack Newhouse?! You gone cuckoo?!

A: (emphatically) He told me

F: He told you? Himself? Just like that? Alice, pass that onion dip, and by the way I’m gay?

A: (nods several times, then) Yes

F: Are you sure he didn’t say gray? You know he colours his hair in them TV commercials.

A: Flo! He said gay.

F: (laughing) Alice! Jack Newhouse is a football player, honey! He’s big and strong. Any woman’d Die to take that hunk of candy home. Why, he spends half his life surrounded by big, virile men, in locker-rooms and showers, being tackled by other football players (slowing down as she realises) jumping up and down hugging each other (long pause) patting each other’s butts (very long pause) If that don’t beat all, Jack Newhouse gay!

A: Ooh my God! I just remembered something! Tommy!

F: What about Tommy?

A: I asked Jack to take Tommy fishing with him, but now I’m not sure I want him to go

F: Oh, you mean because Jack is a (looks directly at A and raises eyebrows)

A: Flo, Tommy’s at a very impressionable age, and he worships Jack

F: (holding A’s arms) Well, Alice, I don’t think you have a thing to worry about

A: You don’t?

F: No

A: I’m just over-reacting?

F: Sure. You are.

A: Maybe you’re right. I’m just being silly and narrow-minded

F: Of course you are

A: Of course I am

F: So what are you going to do?

A: Tell Tommy he can’t go

F: Good!

Later at busy diner, when M is off fishing. A behind counter preparing food)

A: (to F) I’m just upset. I told Tommy he couldn’t go, but I didn’t tell him why

(J suddenly comes in forcefully)

J: Alice!

A: Hello Jack

J: I got your message and I want to talk to you

A: Gee, I can’t right now

J: Listen Alice

A: Sorry Jack, I’m awful busy

J: And I’m angry!

(Flo suddenly gives very long breakfast order)

J: Why aren’t you letting Tommy go? Is it because I’m gay?

A: (setting up frying pan pan, then turns to look at him briefly) Yes

J: What do you think would happen if he came fishing with Mel and me? (helps her sort out food orders) I’m still waiting to hear. What did you think would happen?

A: I don’t know. Nothing, I guess. J: That’s exactly right. Nothing. Except for fishing and fun

(Flo comes in to get food)

J: Alice, look …

A: Jack, listen – part of being a parent is protecting your child. And I’d just rather Tommy didn’t go at this time

J: Hold it. This wasn’t my idea. You were the one who asked me to take him. (she nods in agreement) Alice if I were straight and you had a twelve year old daughter, would you trust me with her?

A: (looks up at him, beat) Yes, I suppose that I would

J: There’s no difference, Alice. Don’t label me.

A: What do you mean

J: (emphatically) I respect other people’s rights to live their way. I want other people to respect my right to live my way. (still helps her with sorting out the breakfast orders)

A: Jack, I’m sorry

J: (smiles, accepting) Okay. I don’t agree with you decision about Tommy, but I understand your right to make it, and I respect that.

A: (smiling back) Thanks.

J: Still friends (offers hand)

A: (which she shakes) Of course

(goes to leave)

A: Jack! Do me a favour. Take Tommy with you.

J: Are you sure?

A: I’m sure

J: What made you change your mind?

A: (laughs) That’s another privilege parents have – to change their minds. And you’re looking at Phoenix’s Free-Style Mind Changing Champ. When I told Tommy he couldn’t go, I just felt awful. Especially after the way he looked at me then the way you looked at me and now the way I look at me . . .

J: Don’t worry. We’ll have a great time.

(back at A’s apartment after the fishing trip. T putting away fish, says he has something to tell mother, she gets agitated, but it turns out it was only he had half a can of bee which he then threw up)

T: Mom, why all the question?

A: Nothing, nothing, I just wanted to know about the weekend.

T: Okay, level with me. First you didn’t want me to go fishing, then you changed your mind. Now the third degree. Mom, what’s up?

A: (trying to shrug him off) Nothing

T: Mom!

A: (turns to look directly at T) Tommy, Jack Newhouse is a homosexual

T: (thinking it over) Jack?

A: Yeah. Does it bother you?

T: No. Erm. I’m just surprised. From the way kids talk I thought you could always tell. I don’t care though. Jack’s a great guy. A great football player. And a rotten fisherman

A: (smiling) You really got it together, don’t ya?

(the two hug. END OF PART 2)


Mel gets off phone, excitedly recounting Jack’s latest practical joke.

M: This guy is too much! What a sense of humour! Know what he tells me last night? He tells me he’s gay!

A: Mel! Anything is possible.

M: Whadda ya? Nuts? The guys a bull! A professional football player! He’s not one of those (flailing hands) “hair-decorators”!

A: (cautiously leading) You know, Mel, a lot of famous men have been homosexuals.

M: (pause) Get out of here! (pause) Who?

A: Alexander the Great

M: Alexander the Great? No way!

A: Michelangelo

M: Mike Angelo down at the pizza house?! What are you – bananas? Mike Angelo has eight kids! Mike Angelo is about as gay as Jack Newhouse. And if Jack Newhouse is gay, I’m gay!

(beat, and close-up on Alice smiling)

Sunday, 4 November 2012

462: Doonesbury: Andy Lippincott 1976

Joanie Caucas was one of the characters from the earlier years of Doonesbury. In her mid-30s she had left her husband, and eventually drifted into running the child care at Walden Commune where she instilled in many of the young girls a fierce belief in women’s rights. Joanie wanted to become a lawyer and eventually got a place at university in the autumn of 1974. There she found a friend in her roommate, the black law student Ginny Slade. Many of Joanie’s scenes over this storyline showed her trying to rise above the institutional sexism of the other male students, lecturers and college life.

In a letter back home at the beginning of her university life Joanie writes “The first days of classes have been interesting. I have two male professors, one female professor, and one gay discussion-group leader”. Nothing more is ever made of this character. It’s just a slightly daring throwaway comment on youthful contemporary mores. In the same way that the strip at the time has the occasional reference to casual drug use, alongside all the political criticism. Although in the way Trudeau has phrased this line, it does seem like the old cliché that a homosexual is some third sex after male and female.

In January 27 1976 Joanie met Andy Lippincott, a thoughtful, sensitive legal student in the university library. The long-time singleton Joanie finds him attractive and his championing of sexual equality only makes him more appealing. They go on a date, and Joanie falls in love with him, sharing he feelings with her roommate and her former day care charges.

Then in the 10 February 1976 instalment, when Joanie tries to express her concern as to why Andy hasn’t shared his feelings with her, Andy tells her he’s gay.

The last panel makes it sounds like a diagnosis for a terminal condition.

One final twist on feminism and homosexuality.

And here the story stops. A month or two later, Trudeau returns to the story of Ginny’s candidacy. And we get a couple more strips of Andy. The first is just a continuity nod, reminding readers of his last appearance. The second strip, unlike the first run of Andy’s strip, actually addresses the matter of the change in acceptance of homosexuality, recognising it as social issue equal to civil rights.

Finally, Zonker canvases the soft-rock singer Jimmy Thudpucker if he will contribute to Ginny’s campaign. When Thudpucker sounds Zonker out on Ginny’s stand on various poltical and social issues, for those who’ve been following the story there is an allusion to Andy.

Really in all of this though, Andy only exists as an adjunct to Joanie’s storyline. He’s barely a person, just a plot mechanism to a little comic romantic frustration – ala the 1973 episode of “Mary Tyler Moore” in which Rhoda dates Phyllis’s brother who is revealed at the episode’s end to be gay. This sets the trend for the 5-8 years or so in which there is a mini-trend of introducing one-off homosexuals into light sitcom settings as potential boyfriends. Rather than being aggressive or confrontational about the issues, programme makers can show that homosexuals are so charming, normal and personable that if you knew one then you wouldn’t even mind him dating your sister.

“Joanie’s Fate”, Barbara Goodman, Boston Globe, February 17, 1976
“Not that I thought it was funny. It wasn’t. It was depressing. The one and only warm, sensitive man in her entire law school class and he turns out to be gay. It was enough to make you cry.”

However, for all that Andy and Joanie’s storyline reads as perfectly uncontroversial, this was still the mid-70s and this was material appearing in everybody’s comics’ pages. A nice summation of objections to the Andy Lippincott’s coming out can be found in the article below by Jay Gibian. Gibian was gay, so here is an instance of gay journalist covering a gay topic The various arguments by the censoring editors are that homosexuality is too serious a subject, and is therefore inappropriate for comedy or any light treatment. This is how homosexuality becomes a taboo matter for casual discussion. These are same attitudes that meant homosexuality could only be treated as subject for satire (“serious comedy”) in the early 60s. The comics pages are not a suitable place, precisely because anyone might read them. No shocks and no surprises, though none of the editors are prepared to go so far as to say that homosexuality itself is scandalous. Not included in the article below is the comment by Miami Herald editor Larry Jinks who had also cut the cartoon. “We just decided we weren’t ready for homosexuality in a comic strip”. In light of later developments in late 1976 and 1977 in Miami because of Dade County, Anita Bryant and the Save Our Children campaign, Jinks may have been in touch with the conservatism of his mainstream audience.

Andy appeared briefly again in 1982 when there was a week’s story about Joanie’s then-boss, Congresswoman Lacey Davenport visiting the Bay Area Gay Alliance, a gay rights campaign. He vanished from the strip until the late 80s when Trudeau brought him back as an AIDS victim. It was this story that made Andy more like a fully fledged Doonesbury character. He finally became more than a brief footnote in the strip’s history, and it this storyline (really his only storyline) for which he is probably best remembered. He was the brave and noble patient facing up to his inevitable death, while trying to succour Joanie’s fear, horror and despair, while also exchanging witty banter with his weary doctor.


“Some Papers Halt ‘Doonesbury’ – Homosexual Episodes Said Not Appropriate for Comics”

by Jay Gibian for United Press International. (I used the version printed in “The Palm Beach Post” 12 February 1976.)

“Doonesbury”, a comic strip frequently dealing with such controversial subjects as politics, drugs and sex has been suspended for a week by at least three major newspapers because of the inclusion of a homosexual character.

A survey by UPI showed the “Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal”, the “Cleveland Press” and the “Houston Post” all suspended the comic written by Garry Trudeau and syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate in nearly 450 newspapers.

“We felt the subject matter was not appropriate for the comic page”, Charles Egger, editor of the “Citizen-Journal” said in a message to readers, published in the place where the strip usually appears.

“We don’t believe the subject of homosexuality belongs on the comic pages”, said Tom Boardman, editor of the “Cleveland Press”. “It’s not a subject that can be treated in a flip way”.

But Egger and Boardman said they had received thousands of responses from readers about the suspension.

Boardman said his newspaper received nearly 2000 letters and telephone calls after a notice advising readers of the suspension was printed. Egger said about 1600 telephone calls were received when his newspaper failed to print the strip Wednesday.

Boardman said the letters were “about 50-50 on the matter”, but most of the telephone callers tended to object to the newspaper’s decision.

Lee Salem, managing editor for Universal Press, said the series involving homosexuality was sent to the newspapers about two weeks in advance of the publication date, ”because we knew some editors might be concerned.”

“We felt it (the strip) was handled with taste and humour that could stand by itself.” Salem said “Editors, however, may elect not to carry it.”

“But we are not really concerned to have only have three or four newspapers drop it.” Salem added “We had more newspapers drop it last spring when he ran a series about Henry Kissinger in a ‘This is Your Life’ situation which caused quite a bit of consternation in some editors.”

“The Houston Post” dropped the strip without comment and then published a notice to readers saying the cartoon would resume on Monday.

“This week’s strip dealt with homosexuality,” the “Post” said. “This is a subject Post editors believe to be inappropriate on a comic page. The Post will continue to treat this subject in a serious manner in the news column rather than in comic strips of a popular cartoonist.”

However, the strip was being read over a local radio station and the Gay Activist Alliance at the University of Houston was reading the strip to telephone callers.

“We’ve been getting about 50 calls a day,” an Alliance spokesman said.