(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #54, June 20, 1997)
If you haven’t yet seen the film version of Terrance McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” may I suggest that you make it part of your Gay Pride experience this year. Gay Pride is, after all, what made a film like this possible. I saw it shortly before writing this column, and I felt the same way watching it as I felt watching the coming-out episodes of “Ellen”: What was on the screen seemed so — normal, so true-to-life. I’ve lived that movie; I’ve known people like that and spent weekends like the ones depicted in the film. It’s about time we got to see ourselves portrayed in mainstream entertainment not as the funny uncle, not as the comic relief, not as the villain, but just as — us.
I couldn’t help drawing comparisons with another film that involved eight gay friends: “The Boys in the Band.” In 1968, when the play was staged (the movie version came along in 1970), it was history-making because it was one of the first-ever unflinching, unapologetic portrayals on stage or film of gay men. But they were all caught in a tragic web of self-loathing whose manifestations ranged from alcoholism and drug abuse to devastating bitchiness.
Toward the end of the screenplay was this uplifting line of dialogue, spoken between wrenching sobs by a character named Michael: “If we could just not hate ourselves so much. (More sobs) That’s it, you know. If we could just learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.” Another character, trying to comfort him, replies: “Yeah, I know.”
“The Boys in the Band” was then. “Love! Valour! Compassion!” is now. And Gay Pride is what made the difference — starting with the Stonewall rebellion (which happened a year after “The Boys in the Band”) and continuing with Gay Pride celebrations across the country and around the world.
Hats off to everyone responsible for “Love! Valour! Compassion!” Now how long will it be before we see a film that treats leather culture with the same kind of respect?
Leather and SM are occasionally seen on the big screen, but Hollywood has yet to do our community any favors. Here’s what Blockbuster’s Guide to Movies and Videos has to say about 1980’s “Cruising”: “Dishonest, offensive thriller with [Al] Pacino as homophobic undercover cop decked out in chains and leather to attract killer of homosexuals. Fails on all levels, regardless of viewers’ politics.” Two years later Hollywood tried the same formula again with “Partners.” From Blockbuster: “Straight cop [Ryan] O’Neal pretending to be gay in undercover murder investigation takes pointers from homosexual partner [John] Hurt. Witless.”
Don’t even get me started on The Village People’s “Can’t Stop The Music” from 1980. That one I did see, unfortunately. Even the SM scene in “Love! Valour! Compassion!” was (for me, anyway) a throwback to the bitchy and hurtful mind games of “Boys in the Band.” So I guess it’s not our time yet.
Maybe after a few more years of Leather Pride celebrations, some director (who might also happen to be a member of the leather community) will get a major Hollywood studio to green-light a film that treats our community with sensitivity and integrity. That will be a great day.
Upcoming Leather Events
Twin Cities Festival of Pride Parade
Sunday, June 29, intersection of Spruce Place and Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis. Parade steps off at Noon sharp, so be there by 11:45 a.m.
Remember, the parade route is different from years past, which necessitates different line-up procedures. Start at Spruce Place and Hennepin and follow the parade back until you find the leather contingent’s position (all positions will be clearly marked along the staging area). For more information and a map of the parade route, see page 63 of this year’s Pride Guide.
Minnesota Leather Pride Celebration
Sunday, June 29, 4-9 pm, Gay 90’s Dance Annex and Men’s Room
Free keg beer, sodas and food; door prizes and boot black. Help welcome home International Mr. Leather 1997, our own Kevin Cwayna. Admission $7, or $5 with 1997 Pride button. A collaborative effort of the Atons, Black Guard, MNBears, Knights of Leather and North Star Gay Rodeo Association.
Mark Your Calendar . . .
July 11-13: Great Northern Shindig and North Star Regional (Gay) Rodeo. Pride Special: Order your Rodeo package by Pride and save $3..
July 18-19: Mr. Minnesota Drummer and Drummerboy Contest at the Club Metro Underground. If you want to compete, call Colin Spriestersbach.
July 25-26: Grand Opening Celebration at the new Main Club in Superior, WI (which opened for business June 5).