Saturday, June 22, 2013

Boys in the Band Redux

I know I've posted this clip from the movie "The Boys in the Band" before but I have the urge to post it again.  

I remember the first time I saw this movie.  It was in 1970.  I saw it with Bill at the Goldman Theater in center city Philadelphia.  Most of you reading this blog posting either weren't alive at this time or if you were alive, weren't aware of the gay sub culture.  Oh but we (Bill and I and our friends) were.  

In 1970 Bill and I had been together for six years.  We went to the Westbury which was gay bar on the corner of 15th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia almost every Saturday night.  We usually met up with our coterie of gay friends Phil, Ron (yes, another "Ron"), Ed and others.  

Me, my friend Ron H. and Phil D - 1965 - ready to "hit the bars" on a Saturday night - notice we dress up - my friend Ron was the "Harold" of our group - sad to say he is also gone now

Back in the 70's the gay subculture was very "sub", believe me.  The Westbury bar and other gay bars  were subject to periodic raids.  Remember this film (and play) was made before the Stonewall Riots that said "Enough!"  

Bill and I were hesitant to see this film although we wanted to see it very bad.  Looking back on our reasons for being reluctant to see this film seems silly now but at that time we were actually afraid that the police would raid the whole theater and arrest us all.  And of course back in Those Days when a gay man was arrested they always put it in the newspaper so your employer would discover your "perversion" and promptly fire  you from your job.  Oh yes, those things happened before Stonewall, believe me.  

The Goldman theater was right across the street form the bank where I worked.  Bill worked for RCA (remember that company?)  Even though we were taking a risk we decided to see the movie anyway.  I remember walking into the theater with butterflies in my stomach.

As we walked down the sumptuously carpeted theater aisles we tentatively looked around to see if there was anyone else we knew in the theater.  Much to our surprise there appeared to be a greater number of straight people (men and women couples) in the theater.  Of course there were the Usual Suspects, gay male couples dressed for the occasion.  Back in those days gay men dressed up to go out. 

We didn't see any police.  We seated ourselves and waited for the theater lights to go down.  

In a short time the lights went down and the movie started.  "This is it!" we thought.  You know I can't remember the theme music of "The Boys in the Band" but I do remember the opening scene of Emory (Cliff Gorman) swishing walking down the New York street with his two pink poodles.  Well, no one in our circle of gay friends had pink poodles but we did have swishy friends.  As a matter of fact, our biggest revelation of the whole movie was just how accurate it was in the depiction of the various gay characters.  It was mind blowing (no pun intended).  

We settled down and watched this movie about all the different characterizations of gay men and their degrees of self-hate, doubt, and general joie de vivre.  I do not exaggerate, I cannot tell you how liberated we felt watching a movie about our "friends."  We knew gay men like those up on the screen!  We WERE those gay men.  Yes, we even used the now discarded jargon of "numbers" (referring to "tricks") and "Mary", which was an affectionate term for friends.  Can you believe it? 

My friends Ed, me and Ron H. at my 24th birthday dinner at our Pennsauken, NJ apartment - 1964

It goes without saying we were enthralled watching the whole movie which was a metaphor for what gay life was like for us and our friends pre-Stonewall.  

Alas, those days are gone now as is most of the cast of this movie.  Sadly all of the gay actors have died of AIDS related causes.  Only the straight actors (Peter White "Alan" and Laurence Luckenbill "Hank") are alive today.  But this movie, a ground breaking event in the evolution of gay awareness in the main societal culture of this country, lives on.  

Every now and then I need my "Boys in the Band" fix.  There is absolutely no movie entrance that surpasses Harold's Entrance.  None.  

This blog posting is for those of you who remember what it was like BS (before Stonewall). It was a whole different world folks.

We have progressed but we still have a long way to go.  Back in 197 when Bill and I saw this movie the very idea that we could ever get legally married never entered our mind.  After watching this clip I wonder what Harold would have to say.

My friend Ron, me and Phil on River Drive in Philadelphia for a "Sunday Afternoon Cruise" - 1965


  1. Wow this post sure brings back lots of memories.
    I remember when the movie "Boy in the Band" was first released in L.A. I desperately wanted to see it but I was too young. Then "Song of the Loon" was released and I was too young to see that, too.

    I somehow procured a copy of the play "Boys in the Band". I hid it in my bedroom. My parents found it and tore it up!. Heck, it was a fairly benign play.

    Then I discovered John Rechy's novels. I purchased "Numbers" in a seedy Los Angeles bookstore when I was fourteen - - simply because there was a photo of a sexy nude guy on the cover.

    Sorry for's my trademark.

    1. Jon,

      You had some parents. That's one thing, my parents didn't care what I read. I had a lot of gay paperback books. Still have them. Not the jerk off books but novels like "The City and Pillar" by Gore Vidal. I also got John Rechy's first novel, "City of Night." Reading those books back then was my "gay lifestyle." Then when I got out of the Army my friend Ron (pictured in my blog) was the gay man who introduced me to gay nightlife. I never had sex with Ron (not that he didn't try but he wasn't my type) but he was responsible for bringing me out. There's a whole story between Ron and me but I don't want to "ramble". Hey, just kidding. I don't think you ramble. I ramble. :)


  2. Ron,

    I never saw the movie. I had read the book of the Matt Crowley play when it came out and had intended to see the film when it was released, but somehow never did.


    1. Lar,

      The film is excellent. I didn't see the play but basically, it's the play. I understand that the film used the same actors that were in the play which was a smart thing to do. I've seen the film several times and will again. it is a classic, gay or straight.


  3. perhaps it was my mood at the time; when I finally saw it I thought is sad, and so full of self-hatred/loathing. I felt gratitude things have improved. I suppose I should see it again to see if my memory of it is different.

    1. Dr. Spo,

      No, I don't think your opinion of "Boy in the Band" will change by watching it again. The movie was sad and full of self-hatred and loathing. While I never felt that way myself during those days, many of my gay friends were that way. What I found so interesting about this movie was that it was the first time I ever saw gay life depicted realistically on film ever. Even today most film depictions of gay characters aren't real life. I know I was there and I am here now. Real gay men have hair on their chest, not the shaved, smoothed chested Hollywood version of gay men.


  4. I think it's kind of required viewing for The Gays because it shows how things WERE, and if you don't know where you came from, you cannot get to where you want to go.

    1. Bob,

      Oh this is where I/we came from, believe me. However, like the cast of "The Boys In the Band", almost all of my contemporaries are now gone. I am one of the few remaining survivors. Won't be too long until I'm gone too then this "history" will get twisted and tweaked into something it never was. This film, "The Boys In the Band" was the way IT WAS......Mary.


  5. Anonymous10:20 PM

    The Theme song: " The Look of Love" Herb Alpert
    Want to see most of the movie? Go to Youtube and there are 12 scenes including the one above. Very Powerful indeed.
    I managed an "Art Theater" in Greensboro, NC in 1970 that showed the film. Offered a private screening for my friends
    at 1 AM ! We added some of our own lines for the characters.
    Ron, as usual, you do a wonderful job of bringing things of the past to life again. Might just have to pick up the phone
    and touch someone tonight with the BIG moon and all !

    1. Stuart,

      I have the movie on DVD. I've lost count on how many times I've watched it. To me the scenes are like a work of art. Sure, some of the dialogue is dated "He looks like a character out of a Williiam Inge play" for instance. Who today knows who William Inge was? But the subtly and honesty of the scenes is what keeps me coming back. I know some complain about the self-loathing homosexuals but hey, I was there and it was true. I wasn't one of those gay men but I know people who were. It is just a shame that most of the cast died of AID's related diseases. So sad.



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