Saturday, February 18, 2012
The Boys In The Band
I wanted to veer off into another genre: Queer Cinema. I chose this genre simply because I wanted to explore something different since I now possess the freedom to look into anything I desire without feeling guilty about it. If one chooses to explore it, he or she must advance to intellectual nirvana with caution back home. I worked in an entertainment superstore in Batesville, Arkansas for one year. During that time I had customers ask me where the "gay" films were in a hushed voice. Sadly, I had to take them over to the Foreign Films section because that is where the majority of them are filed away. Its not many. It always frustrated me that we had to keep these films in a proverbial back room, so to speak. They were basically locked up like a dirty secret. I have never believed in censorship of any kind, whatsoever. But they are there, waiting to be viewed.
My hometown is predominantly rigid Baptist and Pentecostal. I miss home, but it took moving to California to fall in love with it. The Bay Area has opened my mind with a sense of limitlessness, but my "flyover" state of Arkansas will always be home. I know that the sheer goodness that lies within the Ozark Foothills will never be extinguished because the people that inhabit that region of the country have an eternal flame.
The city and county of San Francisco, California has a rich, fascinating, and confusing history. Lately, Ive been collecting books on the history of my great city to fill the shelves of my ever growing library. I could take the time and tell you the history of San Francisco in a nutshell, but this is not the time. However, I will say this: when you boil it all down; the city of San Francisco is inhabited still to this day by risk-takers, dreamers, artists, writers, musicians, outsiders, and people on the quest of finding themselves. The inhabitants of San Francisco are transcending life every day and our Golden Gate Bridge is our symbol of freedom and acceptance to continue transcending no matter what the world may say. Its our invitation to you personally to flock here, and discover yourself in our streets and rolling hills. The gate is always open. Its been called "Baghdad by the Bay" and "Sodom by the Sea". San Francisco has always commanded people to gawk their attention towards it. Its the loudest, flamboyant city stage I know of. It's citizens all know by now that God knows, anything goes.
My fellow Baptists in Arkansas were not the one's that made me an activist for Gay Rights, it was the Imperial Galactic Independent Fundamental Baptist Empire during my Bible College days that made me stand up for what I believe in. I once told a professor of mine:
"I see all these people around me so in love with what they are doing for the glory of God. They are in the zone of their passions for Him. But I am absolutely miserable, I don't possess that joy within my heart. I don't feel that desire. Honestly, I feel that they are all trying to push their convictions on me. If I don't agree with them, they argue with me and it converts into hatred. I feel condemned. I cannot, and will not be forced to believe in their convictions when I inherently don't view the entire world as evil, sinful, and inherently evil. I don't feel bad for believing differently from them and whats more, I don't think God is staring down at me with a large hot lighting bolt aimed for my head! I don't have their convictions and I will not be moved. I am not ashamed. My curiosity and obsessions rule me, and I believe that is God given and far from Satan spawned."
He was moved by my statement and didn't know what to say. Looking back now, I think that is the first time I realized I needed to get the hell out of the ministry because it was too extreme and close minded. I didn't fit in...I was an outsider amongst those who belonged there because I thought outside the box.
It still amazes me how Christians treat gay people. You can be a recovering raging alcoholic, a drug infested zombie trying to get off deadly substance abuse, you can even be a whoring adulterer with a sex fetish, an abusive wife or husband who hurts not only the significant other, but the children, and residing family members: and you can be washed in the Blood of the Lamb, be forgiven, and turn your life around without being hounded. People rejoice that you finally found the love of Jesus to get you through your daily battles. But...if your a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning person there is no hope. You are damned for all eternity without even being pitied with the likes or whores, drunks, and deadbeat parents. Your basically given a one way ticket down the elevator shaft to a flaming, boiling, dark, sulfur incensed, scream-filled corridor of roasting, demon infested hell! I'm baffled that Christians, who are supposed to be loving and accepting people, treat homosexuals like steaming manure. The persecution of gay people is evil, pretentious, and malicious. I strongly believe that "Christians" need to take a long look in the mirror and realize that so many people hate them and that the people's hearts are hardened towards the Love of Christ is because it's the so called "Christians" own damned fault! It's ridiculous to me that Christians pick that so called one SIN and do a Riverdance number on it!!!
I started fighting strongly for Gay Rights and being an advocate for their causes when I was in Bible College. The proverbial straw that broke the camels back for me personally was when I heard a well respected preacher (I won't reveal his name) during a Pastor's Conference use the word "faggot" from the pulpit. He also pranced around the stage and talked in a feminine manner not only to illustrate one of his points, but to also make the audience laugh. He also condemned every homosexual to the burning, boiling, dark bowels of stinking hell! I sat in the pew utterly discussed and angry. I even looked at my friend and whispered, "What a foolish asshole. I wish I could just leave." I couldn't believe a "Man of God" was doing this. So much for compassion and love! I also witnessed other preacher-boys: "supposed men of God", who were called to preach the Gospel refer to each other as "faggot" and "gay" to one another in the dorms and restrooms. Nothing made sense anymore, I was terribly confused and angered. After that, I threw every preacher's view of homosexuality out the window. I became tired of identifying with the Church on that issue.
We would have these trips to San Francisco. While on our way there other students would make comments like, "You know all the gays live there, its Sodom and Gomorrah, filthy Sodomites! They are all going to hell if they don't repent!" I was repulsed, sickened, and infuriated. I remember standing up for the city, and the gays. By this time I had been doing extensive research on all the districts etc. and the history of the city. I asked them to just listen to themselves talk! I then said, "Its not all gay. If you want to see gay go to the Castro, that's where it all is. There is so much more to this splendid city besides that. You're all a bunch of close-minded hypocritical Stepford robots from space! You don't even realize that San Francisco was a city built by outsiders and that the Golden Gate is a symbol of freedom for anyone: gay, straight, or bisexual to come here and find themselves. San Francisco is one of the most loving, diverse, and accepting cities in the world, and you guys make me want to puke when you speak of this epic city in such ways! I think you're all backwards for thinking like this when you live in one of the most liberal areas in the country!!!"
Jesus H. Christ! Torches were lit and I had to run like mad!!! The story has a happy ending: I got out of the ministry, discovered Anne Rice, and continued to explore my Divine curiosity and interests! Bible College was exhaustive and suffocating. I believe that was the toughest part of my young life so far.
The picture you see above this post is taken from Mart Crowley's play The Boys in the Band (its not a musical). It was the first gay themed play ever to grace the dimly lit stage of an off-Broadway production in New York City. It was a colossal success. Mart Crowley had been down on his luck and residing through a huge storm of unfathomable depression. A good friend of his asked him to house-sit her residence for one month as she was flying off to do business. He was on the verge of being homeless, so he took the chance to live for one month in her Beverly Hills mansion. One late evening he was was having bouts on insomnia. He sat up in bed with a large ream of yellow legal pad and started writing obscure dialogue from the top of his head. Thus the The Boys was born. The following day he started typing out his soul and his own feelings towards homosexuality. It should be noted that Mart Crowley is not a gay man. When the play was finished being produced from a typewriter he began looking for someone to buy it, while his manager tried to discourage him. He was terrified it would ruin Crowley's career. Crowley decided not to listen and eventually sold his play.
After it's success on off-Broadway it was brought to the attention of film director William Friedkin (who's cinematic masterpiece is The Exorcist). In 1970 Friedkin transformed The Boys in the Band into film and it has become a legacy. I won't go into the plot details, but it involves a group of gay men who have assembled for Harold's 40th birthday bash in a New York City apartment. As the evening grows later, the alcohol starts pouring, and the claws start coming out of the closet after a special game is devised. Each man must call the one person they love the most via telephone. In so doing, their past scars and revelations are conjured up, and are revealed to one another and the audience. My favorite line in the entire play is:
Harold: "You're a sad and pathetic man. You're a homosexual and you don't want to be, but there's nothing you can do to change it. Not all the prayers to your god, not all the analysis you can buy in all the years you've go left to live. You may one day be able to know a heterosexual life if you want it desperately enough. If you pursue it with the fervor with which you annihilate. But you'll always be homosexual as well. Always Michael. Always. Until the day you die."
The film is exceptionally clean-cut, philosophical, heart wrenching, full of brilliant comical one-liners, and offers a sympathetic view of homosexuality. You, the viewer, will laugh and weep for the boys in the band.
Queer Cinema should not be considered taboo. There is nothing pornographic about it. Each film discusses the issue of homosexuality through hysterical humor, heart break, profound morals, and a sense of majestic grace and optimism. Some films that I have recently watched in the genre include:
1. The Celluloid Closet- A touching documentary based off Vito Russo's work of the same title about the role of gays and lesbians in our Cinematic history. It has a sweeping score, is narrated by Lily Tomlin and has interviews with Tom Hanks, Whoopie Goldberg, Susan Surrandon, Shirley McCalin, and a host of others. I recently purchased the book in a used bookstore for my library.
2. The Boys in the Band
3. The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
4. The Edge of Seventeen
4. The Children's Hour
6. Sordid Lives
7. Female Trouble
8. Pink Flamingos
9. But, I'm A Cheerleader
10. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
11. Suddenly Last Summer
12. Mommie Dearest
13. Torch Song Trilogy
14. Latter Days
16. Fried Green Tomatoes
Each of these films have perfected scripts, exceptional morals, flawless acting, and have won prestigious awards and accolades from organizations like Sun-Dance, and the the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. A few are cult classics and classics, but are considered part of the genre. If you get a chance, seek them out and watch these amazing films. I'm sure you will love them.