Controversy Feed

"Brokeback Mountain" Opens (December 9, 2005)

BrokebackBrokeback Mountain was a landmark movie - a gay romance that was not only critically acclaimed but successfully crossed over to the general market.  It opened in very limited release in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 9, 2005.  What a beautiful, tragic, passionate and haunting story.  My friend Tom and I had the good fortune of seeing it opening weekend, going to a noontime showing on Sunday in Chelsea. During its 4-month run Brokeback grossed nearly $180 million, more than half of which came from foreign markets.  It was the most nominated film during awards season and won three Oscars (Director, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score).  However, it lost Best Picture to Crash.  



UndertowBy coincidence, on the same evening I originally wrote this post in 2010 I saw a beautiful gay romance from Peru called Undertow which reminded me a lot of Brokeback Mountain.  It tells the story of a married fisherman,with a child on the way, who is carrying on a homosexual affair with a visiting artist.  Very touching and the two actors have a beautiful chemistry together.  And the photo to the left suggests a scene from Brokeback.   


Undertow movie (Contracorriente)
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The Vatican Bans Gay Seminarians (November 29, 2005)

SeminariansTo quell outrage over the cover-up of child abuse in the US by Roman Catholic priests, the Vatican scapegoated gay men by banning their admission to seminaries.  However, the ban that was announced on Nov. 29, 2005 was akin to rescinding an invitation to a club that lost its popularity long ago.  Even before this edict was issued only half as many men were entering seminaries as they were in 1965 (while the number of Roman Catholics increased by 41%.)  After peaking in 1975 the number of ordained priests had fallen by more than 30%.  Today the typical priest is older than 60, with those over the age of 90 outnumbering clergy younger than 30.  


To address this decline the Vatican thought it wise to bar a contingent of young men who historically comprised a significant portion of priests - while continuing to refuse ordination of women or married men.  And despite findings to the contrary, the Church has knowingly deceived its faithful by conflating homosexuality with pedophilia.


Decline_in_seminaries The Roman Catholic Church has been greatly impacted by gay liberation.  Previously, as long as homosexuals were pariahs they provided a steady supply of seminarians as they looked to the priesthood as a refuge.  (Shortly after I came out to my dad he told me I would have made a great priest.  That's when I realized that for those of his generation gay men were viewed as being useful if they became priests.)  But as gay men began to live more openly the priesthood was no longer the only viable career option to consider.  To help fill this void more and more priests are being brought from Africa, home to virulently homophobic forms of Christianity.





Movie_priest The 1995 movie Priest looked at the various conflicts encountered by a young, questioning priest (with a penchant for sneaking out to a nearby leather bar).  Although set in Ireland the issues are similar to those encountered in the US.  

Two Gay Men in Bed on "thirtysomething" Creates a Stir (November 7, 1989)

Thirtysomething _guys_in_bedTwo days before the fall of the Berlin Wall another wall of sorts fell on network TV when the critically acclaimed ABC drama thirtysomething showed a gay male couple in bed having a post-coital chat.  The episode was called "Strangers" and it never aired again - largely due to advertiser resistance.  However, it's available on DVD (season 3).  By contrast, a scene like this would be considered chaste by the standards of TV in the 21st century.  (Case in point, the premiere episode of ABC's How to Get Away With Murder in September 2014 showed a scene in which one gay character rims another - to no uproar whatsoever.) 





Billy_crystal_soap ABC had a reputation for pushing the envelope vis a vis portrayals of gay issues.  It aired the TV movie That Certain Summer in 1972 about a divorced father disclosing his homosexuality to his teen son.  Then in 1974 the popular medical drama Marcus Welby MD aired an episode, "The Outrage" , about a high school teacher who raped a male student.  Billy Crystal (left) portrayed an openly gay character in the late '70s sitcom Soap.  Another TV movie, Consenting Adult, aired in 1985 and told the story of a young man coming out to his parents (played by an overwrought Marlo Thomas and a disapproving Martin Sheen).  Finally, in the 1990's the sitcom Roseanne had two regular gay/lesbian characters - played by Martin Mull and Sandra Bernhard, respectively.      




"Marcus Welby MD" Airs Controversial Episode About Pedophilia (October 8, 1974)

Marcus-welby-md ABC's popular medical drama Marcus Welby, MD aired a controversial episode on October 8, 1974 about a boy who was raped by his male teacher.  Provocatively titled "The Outrage", the episode stirred up protests by gay rights groups (this was in the days before GLAAD) because it conflated homosexuality with child molestation.  (Unfortunately, it remains a popular misconception today.)



Abc_logo A number of ABC affiliates refused to air the episode (including those in Philadelphia and Boston).  Fortunately, it aired in my hometown of Pittsburgh and it was a learning experience for me.  I was a senior in high school at the time, unaware of my sexual orientation and quite naive as far as matters about sex was concerned, so the episode's subject was a real eye-opener.  It was the first time I had heard about male-on-male rape.  (And a number of years passed before I learned that gay men, even some heterosexual couples, willingly engaged in anal sex). 


It was also fortuitous that Marcus Welby aired on Tuesday, which was my mother's bowling night.  I doubt she would have let me watch this episode if she had been home.  (Although my father was home he was usually in the kitchen or in the basement paying bills or doing paper work from his job.)    


The actor who portrayed the teacher was Edward Winter (who I thought was hot; he reminded me of Bill Bixby).  He later joined the cast of M*A*S*H in the show's last few seasons. 





Thirtysomething Then 15 years later ABC found itself embroiled in another controversy, this time from conservative "family values" groups.  They were up in arms because the network's acclaimed drama thirtysomething aired an episode titled "Strangers"   that showed two gay men in bed together having a casual post-coital chat.  As with "The Outrage" this episode was met with advertiser defections and it never aired in repeats.    

Rock Hudson Dies From AIDS (October 2, 1985)

Rockhudson_dorisday Two months after Rock Hudson revealed that he was battling AIDS, the actor died from its ravages on October 2, 1985.  He was one month shy of his 60th birthday.  Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor, two of his former co-stars, stood by his side and provided emotional support in his final months.  Hudson's death was somewhat of a one-two punch for the general public because 1) he had AIDS and 2) it was revealed he was gay. 






Rockhudson_shirtless Rockhudson_lifemagazine Hudson's death began the next chapter in the nation's unfolding AIDS nightmare because, after four years, it finally put a face on the deadly scourge.  Then, when celebrities such as Arthur Ashe, teenager Ryan White and actress Amanda Blake (Gunsmoke's "Miss Kitty") succumbed, it brought home the message that heterosexuals weren't immune.  Later, Magic Johnson and Greg Louganis would become ambassadors for living with HIV (both revealed they tested positive for HIV in the 1990s).  Both are still alive and thriving.


Rockhudson_aids So Rock Hudson is now probably best known, especially among younger generations, for dying of AIDS rather than being one of the most popular movie stars of the late 1950s and early 60s.  Shortly before he died Hudson addressed this legacy and said he was fine with it if it increased awareness of the disease and the importance of protection.  Between the time of Hudson's death and the early 1990s well known gay men in the fields of fashion, acting, music and choreography would be among the thousands to die of AIDS.  Many would be considerably younger than Hudson.  1986 saw the death of fashion designer Perry Ellis.  And this was the only beginning as Liberace, Freddie Mercury, Michael Bennett, Robert Reed, Alvin Ailey and Robert Mapplethorpe were some of the other famous faces struck down in their prime.








President Clinton Signs DOMA Into Law (September 21, 1996)

Clinton_signs_doma It was bad enough that President Clinton began his first term by enacting the misguided "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but as the end of this term approached he signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act on Sept. 21, 1996 (just in time for Election Day).  It allowed states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions and also prevented the federal government from recognizing the validity of such marriages.  Sixteen months later we'd see how the president defended the sacred institution of his "traditional" marriage when his philandering with Monica Lewinsky was uncovered.





After the signing of DOMA, thirty-two states (accounting for nearly 80% of the US population) added amendments to their constitutions defining marriage as the union between a man and woman.  Nonetheless, eight years later Massachusetts became the first state to legalize and perform the first gay marriages.  


Then in 2011 the political landscape shifted dramatically when 1) the US military's noxious "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy was repealed and 2) state supreme courts in Massachusetts and California found DOMA unconstitutional.  This was followed in 2012 by President Obama, in the midst of his re-election campaign, announcing his support of same-sex marriage.  In the spring of 2013 Bill Clinton expressed regret over the signing of DOMA, which was quickly followed a few months later by the Supreme Court overturning DOMA and mandating the federal government recognize same-sex marriage in the states where it was legal and provide all benefits previously available only to opposite-sex couples (even in those states where it was still banned).  Finally, in June 2015 the Supreme Court overturned bans on same-sex marriage in 17 states, making it legal nationwide.



New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey Comes Out & Steps Down (August 12, 2004)

It was a bolt out of the blue, coming during the dog days of summer, when Jim McGreevey, the Democratic governor of New Jersey, revealed he was gay during a news conference on Aug. 12, 2004.  ("My truth is that I am a gay American.")  Then he announced he would step down because he had been carrying on an affair with a male aide who was the state's homeland security advisor - despite being unqualified.  During the few months McGreevey remained in office he had the distinction of being the first (and, so far, the only) openly gay governor in U.S. history.




It was unfortunate that McGreevey's coming out was linked to a scandal.  And the months following his press conference were like a soap opera.  Stories came out about his liaisons at rest stops, and then during an ugly court fight with his wife, Dina Matos, over alimony McGreevey divulged that they carried on a menage a trois with another male aide (she denied it).  A few years later each spouse wrote tell-all memoirs (his: The Confession; hers: Silent Partner) and did the Daytime talk show circuit to tell their sides of the story.






For the governor, the story had somewhat of a happy ending as he found a well-off boyfriend (pictured below) relatively quickly, who he lives with in the "gay suburb" of Plainfield, NJ.  Then he sought refuge in the Episcopal church and studied for his Master of Divinity degree.  The Episcopal church turned down his bid to become an ordained priest so presently McGreevey advises prisoners in Newark.  And although it seems he's now on a righteous path away from the spotlight, a shroud of tawdriness still lingers.




Meanwhile the sexy male aide who was the object of the governor's affections, Golan Cipel (who denied that the affair was consensual), returned to Israel and hasn't been heard from since.  Now that's a book I'd like to read.






Jet Blue Flight Attendant Has Much Publicized Meltdown (August 9, 2010)

Steven_slater_jetblueThere are times I wish someone wasn't gay because of negative attention they've drawn to themselves.  A case in point is Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater.  On Aug. 9, 2010 he claimed to have had a confrontation with a passenger upon landing at New York's JFK Airport.  His ensuing meltdown resulted in Slater grandly exiting on one of the plane's emergency slides.  After an initial outpouring of support from the public (and tens of thousands of Facebook followers) the FTC determined Slater had fabricated the story and JetBlue terminated his employment.  He was later treated for alcohol abuse.        


In no particular order, here are some others, oddly all men, who I wish didn't bat for our team:

  • Richard Simmons - With his frizzy, clownlike hair, manic chattering and age inappropriate short shorts, Simmons has been somewhat of a court jester for the straight world for the past 30+ years.  The late Liberace also once appeared on stage in red, white & blue sequined hot pants, but his preferred garb was over-the-top fur coats.  And then there's Carrot Top.  For boys questioning their sexuality in the 1970s and 1980s these entertainers may not have been the most appealing gay role models.
  • Perez Hilton - Despite losing weight and losing the various dye jobs he's still a boorish, vindictive scold.
  • Andy Cohen - His execrable Housewives reality TV shows on Bravo glorify the worst in human nature.
  • Richard Hatch - Although winning the first season of Survivor was a positive, his myriad legal troubles afterwards diminished him.  And then there were his embarrassing cameos in the movie Another Gay Movie and its sequel Yet Another Gay Movie.
  • Roy Cohn - A truly despicable character.  There was some satisfaction in seeing him get his comeuppance in Angels in America
  • Andrew Cunanan - Murderer of Gianni Versace and four others.  And although neither Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy murdered anyone famous, they more than made up for it in volume.
  • George Michaels - One too many arrests for drunkeness and public lewdness.
  • Elton John - The good will he accumulated from years of charitable activities for AIDS causes was largely wiped out when he performed at Rush Limbaugh's fourth wedding in 2010.
  • John Galliano - The former head designer for Christian Dior was fired from his post after going on a drunken, anti-Semitic tirade against some bar patrons in Paris in 2011.
  • Sam Adams - The luster of his election as the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, Portland, OR, in 2004 was tarnished somewhat when he admitted to an affair with an intern, a relationship he originally lied about because the young man was underage when they first met (he insisted they didn't have sex until he reached the age of consent).  Another politician you can add to this list is former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey.  After coming out at a press conference in the summer of 2004, and resigning, all sorts of tabloid-worthy escapades were revealed. 
  • Finally, any cast member of LOGO's The A-List: New York and The A-List: Dallas    


Happily, the scales are weighted heavily in favor of positive gay role models such as Tim Gunn, Rachel Maddow, Carson Kressley, Ellen DeGeneres, Greg Louganis, Tammy Baldwin and Neil Patrick Harris, to name just a few.   

For Shame! Elton John Performs at Rush Limbaugh's Wedding Reception (June 5, 2010)

Eltonjohn_rushlimbaughSinger Elton John forever sullied his reputation with many of his LGBT fans when he performed for right-wing radio personality/blowhard Rush Limbaugh on the occasion of his fourth marriage on June 5, 2010.  For this act of treachery John was reportedly paid a cool $1 million to help Limbaugh celebrate the flouting of his marriage vows (the sanctity of marriage, indeed!).


GayrepublicansIn Limbaugh we have an individual who has built his reputation on spewing forth mistruths and hateful insults - and not limited to the LGBT population.  Meanwhile John's nauseating shilling brought to mind gay Republicans who say they chose to be affiliated with the party not because of its views on LGBT issues, but rather because they support its economic platform.  (Of course, Elton isn't an American citizen.)  Some gay men liked to be pissed or spit on, some are into cock and ball torture, and then there are those who are Republicans.   


I'm sure Ann Coulter now has John on speed dial - in the unlikely event she finds a man to marry. 

The Swift Downfall of Oscar Wilde (May 25, 1895)

Oscar_wilde In the winter of 1895 Irish playwright Oscar Wilde had perhaps his greatest artistic triumph when his comedy The Importance of Being Earnest opened in London to great acclaim.  But just three months later, on May 25, 1895, the married father of two was found guilty of "gross indecency" with another man and sentenced to two years of hard labor in prison.  Sadly, he largely brought this misfortune upon himself.  He had sued his male lover's father for libel (after referring to Wilde as a "sodomite" on a calling card), but midway through the trial thought it best to withdrawal the charges.  However, by then too many incriminating things had been said by Wilde and he was brought up on morals charges - and convicted. 



It's unfortunate that Wilde's hubris blinded him to the fact that Victorian England was far from ready to overlook his licentious behavior, regardless of his fame.  After his two-year sentence was completed he moved to France where he died a few years later at the age of 46, largely penniless and with few friends. 


In 2018 British actor Rupert Everett directed, wrote and starred in the movie The Happy Prince, which told the story of the last few years of Wilde's life after he was released from prison.  The film was a labor of love as the handsome Everett took on the diminished, paunchy appearance of Wilde in his last years.  (Ironically, Everett is thirteen years older than Wilde was at the time of his death.)


Rupert everett_the happy prince