What Was Your First Gay Movie? Please Share!

posted by Madam Bubby

 

A friend of mine told me he used to sneak into gay porn movie theaters in the seventies and eighties. At that time in New York City, where he lived, such establishments were plentiful. Specifically, he remembers first seeing Fred Halsted in leather in the movie L.A. Plays Itself (newly restored by MoMA and re-released on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming and never forgot the experience, both watching the movie and the “extracurricular experience” that occurred in the seat next to him. Minus the hanky-panky in the seats, the grandparents and even great-grandparents of the current generation can tell a similar story, going to the movies to see a particular movie star they idolized, even seeing a movie that changed their lives and made them decide to go into show business. 

 

Fred Halsted
Fred Halsted

  

Now that most guys can get their porn over the internet, in fact, any movie via streaming and youtube, the “big event,” almost like a coming out to oneself (or in some cases, others as well) of going to see a gay movie may have lost its social and psychological importance. By gay movie, now, I don't just mean a gay porn movie. It could mean any movie with an overtly gay character or a gay theme. More of these movies were appearing in the seventies and eighties, following the wake of the groundbreaking Boys in the Band. Check out Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet (the book and the documentary film) to find out more about some of these movies, such as Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Making Love.

 

The Celluloid Closet book cover

 

One of these movies was my first gay movie: Victor, Victoria. I saw it when it first came out, in 1982. I didn't know at the time about the movie's gender-bending and gay content, nor did I know that the person who asked me to go (who was ostensibly dating a female friend of mine) was gay. I got more of the humor about opera and singing and cockroaches in restaurants than its complex, contradictory messages about who is really a man or a woman in this movie about a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.

 

Victor Victoria poster and image
Victor/Victoria

 

Overall, the movie seemed more escapist for me at that time, an escape into a fictitious Paris of the 1930s where you could be gay (even though that term was not used at that point, and I still tended to see that word as meaning happy) and go to fancy nightclubs and live in art deco hotels. Maybe all the singing and costumes appealed to a stereotypical “gay” sensibility in me, but I'm not sure. Other than the initial poverty of Julie Andrews and Robert Preston before they concocted their brilliant scheme, the movie was nothing like my current reality of being a college student in a sheltered Chicago suburb that seemed leagues away from what was happening on Wells Street, the center of gay nightlife in Chicago at that point and where the Bijou Theater was showing gay porn films starring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler. Looking in hindsight, I see a profound disconnect between what I thought I knew and what I really didn't know about sexual identity, not unlike the appearance versus reality conflicts the characters in the movie experience.


What was your first gay film? Reply to this blog and share with us! 

 

 
 
 
 
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Carlos
Hi, about the subject, the first gay movie I saw, there were two actually, I don't recall which one was first but I saw them about... Read More
Friday, 28 January 2022 19:12
DAVID MCKELLAR
The first gay film I saw was 7 In A Barn by J Brian, around 1972. I screwed up my courage to go in and see it. What an experience... Read More
Friday, 28 January 2022 20:40
Lawrence King
My first gay movie was actually an ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK. "That Certain Summer" with Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen. Funny how pla... Read More
Sunday, 30 January 2022 07:18
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The Legendary Baton Lounge: Just a Few Steps Away

posted by Madame Bubby

Jim Flint in the Baton Show Lounge

A friend of mine sent me a link to a news item: the legendary Baton Lounge, long a fixture of the LGBTQ community in Chicago, has moved after 50 years in the same location. The entertainment venue, which has featured over the years so many famous drag queens (Chili Pepper, see below, was one of my favorites), had been located in what is now called the River North area. But, according to the news source, rents escalated, and Jim Flint decided to make the move north. And even north of the established Boystown, in the growing gayborhood of Uptown (and walking distance from my abode).
 

Family cast
Chili Pepper

Baton Lounge performers
Baton Lounge performers

Jim Flint
Jim Flint

What is significant here is Flint did not decide to just close up shop. Apparently the venue is still thriving; the entertainment he provides has not gone by the wayside like the great gay adult theaters (Bijou at the top of the list) or the bathhouses (only one is left in Chicago with the closing of Man’s Country).
 

Bijou Theater sign

It’s obvious Flint is not providing a venue of public sex or pornography in the stricter sense; he’s putting on live theater which does not focus on a naked porn star jacking off. Yet, remember, the Bijou used to do and was doing again broader forms of entertainment, rethinking the purpose and audience of the space, before its closure in 2015.

And drag is of course in the global spotlight. Hello, RuPaul (who actually appeared at the Baton). And whether one thinks this fact is unfortunate or not, a drag show is straight-friendly. It has been for some time. Think Victor/Victoria, which of course makes the illusion even more complicated. And that illusion was the basis of theatre for so many years. Women could not appear on the stage respectably in the West until the eighteenth century. The Greek tragedies and the plays of Shakespeare relied on men playing the women’s parts.

(I can’t imagine the Baton putting on a performance of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, though. It doesn’t lend itself well to parody or even camp, though one line in the play, “The queen is falling,” might get a laugh.)

And speaking of straight-friendly, I know someone whose date took her there on the first date. Now, both of us had met her date at a wine-tasting event, and we could not tell who he was attracted to. Still, it seems an odd, or rather, ambiguous, place for an ostensibly straight guy to take a straight woman on a first date, however original and exciting the venue. There was no second date. Que sera.

I was taken to the place on my birthday. I was not sure if that was a straight person’s “safe” idea of gay entertainment (the person who planned the event), but several persons from the office went (not all gay). I did enjoy receiving some attention from Chili Pepper, who was dressed up in some fabulous 1960s retro outfit (kind of a dress with a jacket with white buttons and trim). The host did not believe I was 28 (I wasn’t that young; so much for illusion).

Flint’s new location is in a beautiful building with a deco feel, perhaps an architectural landmark. Much of the area around it is either abandoned, waiting for or in the process of bland gentrification, perhaps diluting some of the illusion or edginess that feeds into that illusion.
 

Baton old and new locations
Baton old and new locations

Still, it’s not far from the legendary Green Mill cocktail lounge, and the Uptown Theater is in the process of renovation, or, more accurately, retrovation. That’s the paradox: idealizing and revisioning the past in a time when daylight too often intrudes upon magic and everyone thinks they are a star shining on the screen of a smartphone.

May the magical stars of the Baton reign for another 50 years.

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