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Gay-Themed Movies I've Seen Through The Years

Boys in the Band Movie


Since 1980 I've seen 112 gay-themed movies, which is about 10% of all the movies I've watched, beginning with The Boys in the Band in 1981 through Oscar contender, Moonlight, at the end of 2016.  On average, I've seen three films each year in this genre, with 1997 being the year I saw the most - eight (and in 1984 I saw none).  About two-thirds could be considered "indie films" (in other words, very few theaters showed them and they made less than $500,000 at the box office).  Despite this long list, there are some well-known films I've never seen, the most popular being Philadelphia, Dallas Buyers Club and Capote.  What follows are my 20 favorites, a listing of some of my least favorite, and a summary chart of all of the movies.  (Please note that movies with gay subplots aren't included.)


Moonlight movie



When & Where I Saw It: January 2010 at the Bronxville (NY) Playhouse

Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore

Setting: Los Angeles, early 1960s

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Box Office: $25 Million

Comments: Firth was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a grieving professor whose lover was killed in a car accident.  Julianne Moore played the role of his best friend.  Although it was on the depressing side, the film's ending was somewhat uplifting - and it was beautiful to look at.  Directed by fashion designer Tom Ford.


A single man poster 



When & Where I Saw It: February 2001 at Chelsea Cinemas

Setting: Cuba in the 1960s and 70s/New York in the 1980s

Starring: Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Domestic Box Office: $4.2 million ($6.5 million, adjusted for ticket-price inflation)

Comments:  Based on the life of Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas (portrayed by Javier Bardem).  Johnny Depp plays a cross-dressing prisoner in a Cuban prison.  AIDS enters the picture at the end of the film as Arenas, now living in NYC, dies of AIDS.  Directed by artist Julian Schnabel.  Bardem was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.  At it's widest it showed in 127 theaters.  The movie poster overpowers one of my doctor's exam rooms.


Before night falls



When & Where I Saw It: December 2005 at Chelsea Cinemas

Starring: Heath Ledger; Jake Gyllenhaal; Michelle Williams; Ann Hathaway

Setting: Wyoming and Texas in the 1960s and '70s

Rotten Tomatoes Score:  87%

Domestic Box Office Gross:  $83 million ($112 million, adjusted for inflation)

Comments: Received eight Oscar nominations, and despite winning for Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, it didn't win Best Picture, which caused a stir (Crash won).  Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Williams and Hathaway were all nominated.


Brokeback mountain poster



When & Where I Saw It:  2000 at Chelsea Cinemas

Setting: West Hollywood

Starring: John Mahoney, Zach Braff, Dean Cain

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

Domestic Box Office: $1.8 million ($3 million, adjusted for ticket-price inflation)

Comments:  The movie revolved around the lives of members of a gay softball team.  Two of the movie's lead characters were known from their TV roles, John Mahoney of Frasier and Dean Cain of The Adventures of Lois and Clark.  And Zach Braff would star the following year in Scrubs.  Billy Porter was also in it - 13 years before winning a Tony for Kinky Boots.  A highlight from the soundtrack was Giorgio Moroder's From Here to Eternity.  Many who liked the film pointed out how it showed how "normal" gay men had become compared to those from The Boys in the Band era (late '60s to early '70s).  Like many gay-themed films, it never played in more than 100 theaters.





When & Where I Saw it: 1998 at Quad Cinema

Setting: Hollywood in the 1950s

Starring: Ian McClellan; Brendan Fraser; Lynn Redgrave

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

Domestic Box Office: $6.5 million ($12 million, adjusted for ticket-price inflation)

Comments: The movie tells the true story of gay movie director, James Whale (played by McClellan).  It received three Oscar nominations, with Lynn Redgrave winning for Best Supporting Actress.  Brendan Fraser took his role to break his image as an action star (e.g., The Mummy movies).


Gods and monsters



When & Where I Saw It: October 1997 at Chelsea Cinemas

Starring: Kevin Cline, Joan Cusack, Debbie Reynolds, Matt Dillon, Tom Selleck

Setting: Indiana

Rotten Tomatoes Score:  73%

Domestic Office: $64 million ($120 million, adjusted for ticket-price inflation)

Comments: This is only one of two comedies among my favorites.  Its premise is based on a real-life event whereby Tom Hanks, during his 1994 Oscar acceptance speech for Philadelphia, mentioned that his high school drama teacher was gay.  This also happens in the movie, but the drama teacher, played by Kevin Kline, is deeply closeted. Joan Cusack was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Kevin Kline's long-suffering girlfriend.  Tom Selleck plays a gay news reporter who grabs Kevin Kline and kisses him hard on the mouth.  A classic scene has Kline's character listening to a tape instructing him how to act more masculine, but it all falls apart when he's instructed that "manly men" don't dance, and then Diana Ross's remake of I Will Survive comes on to test him.


In and out movie



When & Where I Saw It: May 1990 at the Angelika

Starring: Bruce Davison; Mary-Louise Parker; Dermot Mulroney; Campbell Scott

Setting: New York City, 1981-1989

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Domestic Box Office: $4.6 million ($10 million, adjusted for ticket-price inflation)

Comments:  The first mainstream movie about the AIDS crisis (five years after An Early Frost aired on network TV), Bruce Davison was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Although it was considered mainstream, it played in only 85 theaters.  Some scenes were filmed at the beach on Fire Island.  One of the few amusing scenes had two characters singing Dream Girls in their bedroom. The boyfriend I saw the movie with died from AIDS two years later.





When & Where I Saw It:  June 1997 at City Cinemas Village East (2nd Ave./12th St.)

Starring: Jason Alexander 

Setting: Dutchess County, New York

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

Domestic Box Office: $2.9 million ($5.5 million, adjusted for inflation)

Comments: I saw it on Broadway in 1996 (the play was written by Terrence McNally).  In the movie version Jason Alexander (at the height of his Seinfeld fame) replaced Nathan Lane, which I was happy about because I found Lane's character cloying.  In one scene a young stud sunbathes nude on a rock by a lake.  AIDS is part of the plot.  No female characters.  


Love valour compassion



When & Where I Saw It: March 2011 at the Quad Cinema

Starring: Mart Crowley (director of The Boys in the Band)

Setting: New York and Hollywood

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%

Domestic Box Office Gross: $34,000

Comments: Although I found the 1970 movie The Boys in the Band very depressing (I saw it in 1981) I recognized it as an important film, so this documentary about the making of it was fascinating.  Crowley reveals that his friend, actress Natalie Wood, was instrumental in getting the Broadway production and then the movie written and made.  It's shocking how little the documentary made at the box office.  Director Crayton Robey also directed Where Sky Meets Ocean, a 2003 documentary about Fire Island Pines.


Making the boys poster  



When & Where I Saw It:  February 1982 at the Murray Hill Theater (E. 34th St.)

Starring: Kate Jackson, Harry Hamlin, Michael Ontkean

Setting: Los Angeles

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 31%

Domestic Box Office: $12 million ($35 million, adjusted for inflation)

Comments: Ontkean and Jackson are a married couple but he comes out of the closet after a brief affair with Hamlin's bed-hopping character.  What made this film notable was the physical affection between the men and a positive ending for Ontkean and Jackson after they divorce.

Back in 1982 it was very risky for an actor to play a gay man (especially if physical affection was shown).  Years later it was reported that Michael Ontkean would bristle if he was asked about his role.  At the time Kate Jackson already had two successful TV series on her resume, The Rookies and Charlie's Angels, and a third would debut in 1983, Scarecrow & Mrs. King.  Hamlin was part of the all-star cast of LA Law in the second half of the 1980s and was named People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1987.  Ontkean appeared with Jackson in The Rookies in the 1970s and Twin Peaks in the early '90s. 

Roberta Flack sang the title song, which peaked at #13 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the spring of 1982.





When & Where I Saw It - Released in 1987, I didn't see it until March 1991 when I rented it while on vacation in Palm Springs

Setting: England, early 20th century

Starring: James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Simon Callow

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

Domestic Box Office: $2.4 million ($5.3 million, adjusted for inflation).

Comments:  A beautiful to watch, Merchant-Ivory production, Maurice was released two years after A Room With a View and five years before Howard's End.  The build-up to the scene where Maurice (James Wilby) and the working class boy he lusted after (Rupert Graves) consummate their attraction gave most viewers a case of blue balls.





When & Where I Saw It: February 2009 at Chelsea Cinemas

Setting: San Francisco in the 1970s

Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Domestic Box Office: $32 million

Comments: The movie won two Oscars (it was nominated for eight) - Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor (Sean Penn).  James Franco portrayed Milk's lover (as a blond).  Sylvester's classic You Make Me Feel, which was on the soundtrack, perfectly captured the the late '70s gay disco scene.  At its widest the movie played on 882 screens, half as many as Brokeback Mountain - and it grossed $50 million less (domestically), barely breaking even.





When & Where I Saw It: January 2007 at Chelsea Cinemas

Setting: London

Starring: Cate Blanchett & Judi Dench

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

Domestic Box Office: $50 million

Comments: Judi Dench is a conniving, jealous and somewhat pathetic lesbian with the hots for a fellow schoolteacher, Cate Blanchett, who is fiercely heterosexual (and carrying on an affair with a student).  This is the only movie on mytop-20 list with a lesbian theme.  It received four Oscar nominations, including Best Actress for Dench, Best Supporting Actress for Blanchett and Best Adapted Screenplay.


Notes on a scandal poster



When & Where I Saw It: September 1998 at the Greenwich Playhouse

Setting: Indiana

Starring: Christina Ricci, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Domestic Box Office: $6 million ($11 million, adjusted for inflation)

Comments: Many thought Lisa Kudrow, one of the co-stars of Friends, should have received an Oscar nomination for her performance.  This is the second of my favorite movies set in Indiana.  I saw the movie at the Greenwich Playhouse, which is now the site of a multi-level Equinox gym.



The Opposite of Sex



When & Where I Saw It:  March 1986 at a theater on W. 72nd St.

Starring: Steve Buscemi

Setting: Manhattan and Brooklyn

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Domestic Gross: $538,000 ($1.25 million, adjusted for ticket-price inflation)

Comments:  One of the first films to tackle AIDS, it was Steve Buscemi's first major role.  The movie's director died of AIDS in 1990.


Parting glances 1984



When & Where I Saw It: September 1996 at Quad Cinema

Setting: New York City in the second half of the 1960s

Starring: Guillermo Diaz, Luis Guzman

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%

Domestic Box Office:  $692,000 ($1.4 million, adjusted for inflation)

Comments:  Although it grossed less than $1 million, this was nearly four times as much as the much maligned remake from 2015 (which got just a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes).  In 2012, one of the movie's leads, Guillermo Diaz, began his role as Huck in the TV show Scandal.  I had a few dates (before the movie was filmed) with one of the extras who was in a few scenes depicting a demonstration in Philadelphia.


Stonewall 1995 movie poster    



When & Where I Saw It: February 2014 at the IFC Center (formerly the Waverly, West 4th/6th Ave.)

Setting: Provence, France

Starring: Unknowns

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Domestic Box Office: $325,000

Comments:  A disturbing, drawn-out drama about a murderer in a lakeside setting where gay men sunbathe nude and cavort in the woods.  The protagonist, Franck, witnesses the murderer (Michel) drown his lover but nonetheless finds himself very attracted to him; and he doesn't help in the murder investigation.  Additional murders ensue.  The movie ends in darkness with Franck calling out for Michel, bringing to mind the end of The Blair Witch Project.  This isn't usually my type of movie but I found it mesmerizing, perhaps because the setting brought to mind the Meat Rack at Fire Island (and how a maniac could do harm to persons cavorting in it at night).  Despite critical acclaim, it showed in no more than sixteen theaters in the US.


Stranger by the lake movie poster



When & Where I Saw It: 2004 at Quad Cinema

Setting: A fishing village on the coast of Peru

Starring:  A cast of unknowns

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Domestic Box Office: $146,000 (widest distribution was 30 theaters)

Comments: A married fisherman with a new-born falls in love with a gay artist, which creates tension in his fishing village.  It was a nice change of pace from the urban settings of most gay-themed films.


Undertow movie poster



When & Where I Saw It: November 2008 at Cinema Village (W. 12th St.)

Setting: A small town outside of Chicago

Starring: Tanner Cohen

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

Domestic Box Office: $124,000

Comments: An openly gay high school student makes a love potion and uses it to turn straight people in his town gay, including his crush, the school's quarterback.  A wonderful film, but like so many gay-themed movies, despite positive reviews it had no distribution; at its widest it showed in four theaters nationwide. The following year I saw Tanner Cohen walking through H&M on Fifth Ave./17th St. and I stopped him and told him how much I enjoyed the movie.  Five years later he had a one-minute scene in the premiere episode of HBO's Looking, where he took part in a threesome with Augustin and his boyfriend.


Were the world mine poster



When & Where I Saw It:  January 2003 at Film Forum (Soho)

Setting: Near the Israel-Lebanon border

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Domestic Box Office: $267,000

Comments: The movie is about two soldiers who fall in love.  Shot in the hinterlands of Israel.  One beautiful scene is of the two of them playing in the snow.  The film was only 67 minutes in length.






Another Gay Movie (2006) - Appearances by Graham Norton, Lypsinka ... and Richard Hatch.  This has the third lowest IMDB user score of the movies I've seen.  Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I were 30 years younger.


Another gay movie


The Country Teacher (2009) - Set in a farm community in the Czech Republic, I found it depressing and maddeningly slow (but it got a decent IMDB score of 7.0).  The most interesting part of the movie was a graphic scene where a cow gives birth.


The country teacher


Happy Together (1998).  Tells the story of boyfriends from Hong Kong living in Buenos Aires.  Its director won the highest honor at Cannes and its Rotten Tomato rating was 78%, but I found the two characters very unlikable as they carried on their dysfunctional relationship.


Happy together movie


I'm So Excited (2013) -  Perhaps the nadir of Pedro Almodovar's career, this tacky movie tells the story of a peculiar flight on a Spanish airline and how the gay flight crew manages it.  It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 48% (and 5.6 on IIMDB).


Im so excited by pedro almovodar


Kiss Me Guido (1997) - Use of the word "Guido" in the title should have been a tip-off about the quality of this movie.  It was turned into a sitcom on CBS that lasted for only a few episodes.


Kiss me guido


Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil (1997)- I didn't read the book (a big best seller for weeks and weeks), and I'm not a big fan of drag, but I went to it thinking it might be interesting.  I was wrong.


Midnight in the garden of good and evil - movie poster


The Next Best Thing (2000) - Starring the insufferable Madonna and Rupert Everett.  And it featured the cringe-worthy remake of the song American Pie (a duet).  This has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 20% - the lowest IMDB score of any of the gay-themed movies I've seen.  Even the poster is unappealing. However, it managed to gross $15 million at the box office ($24 million when adjusted for ticket-price inflation). 


Next best thing


What's the Name of the Dame? - I saw this as part of Queerfest 2012.  It was a revue of nine drag queens who sing songs by ABBA, in various styles.  Although I like ABBA, this was excruciating to watch.  Not surprisingly, it never went beyond the film festival circuit.


Whats the_name_dame_ movieposter2


Gay themed movies1 Gay themed movies2 Column headings Gay Themed Movies3 Gay Themed Movies4 Column headings Gay Themed Movies5 Gay Themed Movies6 Column headings Gay Themed Movies7 Gay Themed Movies8


















Documentary Explores High Hopes, Crushing Disappointment of Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along"

Merrily-playbill Best worst thing


In the spring of 1981 I read an article in TIME Magazine that enthusiastically reported on a collaboration between Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince for the show Merrily We Roll Along.  Since I was still gaining my bearings as a young, single, gay man in New York I lost track of the show's progress, but the positive tone of the article stayed with me.  Years later I discovered that it was a huge flop, closing after just sixteen performances.  The show's trajectory is the subject of the documentary The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, which I recently saw at the IFC in Greenwich Village (just one of three theaters nationwide where it played).  It was directed by one of the three actors with a lead role in the show.  It's a touching film, capturing the giddy excitement of the young cast (who were between the ages of 16 and 24), followed by their crushing disappointment


Merrily we roll along_hal prince stephen sondheim
When "Merrily We Roll Along" was in development, Hal Prince was 52 and Stephen Sondheim was 50.


I was surprised to learn that Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame was in the show's original cast (and he'd win a Tony Award in 1990 for Jerome Robbins' Broadway, just as his TV fame was beginning).  The show was also where singer/cabaret icon Liz Callaway made her debut (at the age of 20).  And perhaps most interestingly, the documentary included interviews with the original lead, who was replaced during previews.  He was very gracious and now owns a talent agency.  (And according to the IMDB database he's had no other acting credits since, except for the 1981 movie Senior Trip.)


Original cast of merrily we roll along
The original three leads (from left): James Weissenbach, Ann Morrison and Lonny Price (who directed the documentary).


Cast change merrily we roll along
And with Weissenbach's replacement, Jim Walton


In 2000 I finally got around to buying the cast CD (which was recorded the day after the show's closing).  I was surprised to discover three songs I was already familiar with: Good Thing Going; Not a Day Goes By (first heard on Carly Simon's album, Torch); and Our Time (which I heard sung by the NYC Gay Men's Chorus).  Then in the winter of 2012 I saw a City Center Encores! production of the musical, and although I struggled during the first half hour or so, I became more engaged as the show went on.  (One of the main characters was played by Lin-Manuel Miranda.)  After seeing it I could understand why the show might have been off-putting to audiences as its themes of youthful ambition thwarted, lofty ideals compromised and friendships ended may have hit too close to home for many.  However, since its initial rejection by audiences, the show has been embraced by a an ever expanding group of appreciative theatergoers.


Lin manuel miranda in merrily we roll along
2012 City Center Encores cast, with Lin-Manuel Miranda (second from right).


Watching the documentary I thought back to my life in 1981, when I was the same age as some of the older cast members.  1981 was my third year working in New York, and the year I moved into Manhattan - first into a loft in TriBeCa (which was yet to be a chic neighborhood), and three months later to the West Village.  During Memorial Day weekend I visited Fire Island for the first time; another first came a few weeks later when I went to the hot new dance club, the Saint.  Later that summer I left my first job and went to work at the powerhouse ad agency, Young & Rubicam.  (At the time I didn't know that a few of the men I worked with were gay).  Then in November, a few weeks before Merrily had its opening, I met (at Uncle Charlie's bar in Greenwich Village) the man who I would have my the deepest relationship with. Finally, 1981 was also the year that the scourge that would become known as AIDS began to get news coverage. 


Double click here for a nice write up about the show's heritage.















































Tickled to ... Boredom



A documentary titled Tickled came out this summer.  It's about men who get off restraining guys and tickling them - and engage in it as a competitive sport.  This brought to mind a fellow I once had a few encounters with who was very much into tickling as well.  I met him at Fire Island in the Meat Rack on Labor Day in 1999 and we later got together in the City during the fall.  Because I was attracted to him I indulged him a few times (four times to be exact) before I grew frustrated and bored.  Although we'd briefly veer off into some other bedroom activities, he'd always bring it back to tickling.  Through it all he was always playful.  (Tickled, by the way, grossed a little more than $600,000 at the box office, and at its peak played in 53 theaters.)


It turns out that one of my best friends tricked with "the tickler" ten years earlier and also experienced the tickle treatment.  He also told me that the fellow had done a number of photo shoots for the gay porn magazine, Mandate, in the 1980s (but his career was in IT).  In his spare time he collected Marilyn Monroe memorabilia and during my visits he was in the process of putting his collection up on ebay.  He was partnered with an older man but they didn't live together.  The last time I saw him was in Chelsea walking with him.


As for me, I don't consider myself ticklish - unless I'm restrained.  Besides not being a fan of tickling, I was also never excited by fetishes such as nipple play, biting, toe sucking, or spanking.  A gentle touch was always the best way to get me worked up.  (But, as those who have been intimate with me can attest, there are still a good number of other "pleasures of the flesh" I enjoy, but that's a blog for another day.) 


Tickled poster















Remembering 'Two Guys' And Its Unintentional Gay-Affirming Ad Slogan

Two guys store


Gay men have regularly been the target of fire-and-brimstone types who admonish that, according to the Bible, two men who "lay" with each other is an abomination.  Happily, this never caused me any sleepless nights.  However, their admonition about forbidden love came to mind when I moved to New Jersey in 1979 to begin my first job across the Hudson in New York.  During my initial weeks I became aware of a chain of discount stores called 'Two Guys'.  What got my attention was the store's tag line, "Two Guys ... "Naturally".  I was taken aback, what was up with that?  This vexed and amused me all at the same time because it was diametrically opposed to what society was constantly telling homosexuals. 




I found it curious that no one else seemed to give it a second thought.  I suppose it was because 1) they grew up with the store and 2) if they were heterosexual they never had the "laying with another man" line thrown at them.  (This was different from the Ben Gay brand,  which everyone snickered at.)  And it wasn't as if the store was founded from a wellspring of enlightenment and tolerance since the first store opened in the gay Dark Ages of the 1940s.  Then I read about the store's history and I discovered that the word "naturally" was part of a longer tag line that was shortened from, "We save money for you at Two Guys ... naturally."  So this was just a matter of my gay wiring putting a comical, ironic spin to it (as we homosexuals are wont to do).  Alas, the chain went out of business in the early 1990s.  It was ironic that as gay men rose in acceptance the store with the peculiar, suggestive name foundered.


Two guys naturally tote     


























Remembering lllustrator Robert de Michiell (1958 - 2015)



Robert de Michielle


While watching last week's Tony Awards I was surprised, and saddened, when, during the In Memoriam segment, Chita Rivera said the name of illustrator Robert de Michiell (who had died in October 2015 at the age of 57).  Although I didn't know him personally I knew of his work through a friend who participated in an erotic drawing workshop that met weekly at the Leslie Lohman Gallery in SoHo.  Robert was one of the regular attendees and I bought a number of his sketches (two which are shown to the right) at the gallery's first Dirty Little Drawings show in 2003.  It exhibited work by participants of the workshop (all submissions were 4X4 inches square).  Once I knew his style I recognized his work in Entertainment Weekly and The New Yorker.  He also produced a series of colorful Fire Island postcards that captured the carefree, body-beautiful atmosphere of the Pines. 


One of the postcards in de Michiell's Fire Island Pines collection


Robert de Michielle chest
Another of his drawings that I own


Robert de michiell man on beach towel
Having spent a number of summers in the Pines, might I have been the inspiration for this sketch? 


New yorker cover by robert demichiell
March 1, 1993 cover illustration


I often found myself confusing de Michiell with another gay illustrator, Robert W. Richards (still alive, at the age of 80), who also participated in the erotic art workshop.  Their drawing styles, however, differ - de Michiell's hot and masculine men are a blend of caricature and cartoon while Richards' men are more lifelike and have pretty faces with a high-fashion flair.


Robert richards
An example of Robert W. Richards' work


After a number of Dirty Little Drawings exhibits the organizers of the workshop compiled nearly 300 of the sketches and published them in a handsome hardbound book (like the drawings, 4X4 inches) titled, you guessed it, Dirty Little Drawings.  de Michiell had four of his sketches published and eight of Richards' were chosen.


Dirty Little Drawings


The Dilemma of Having a 'Gay' Voice

DoISoundGayRecently I saw the documentary Do I Sound Gay?, which explored the anxiety the doc's director, James Thorpe, had over his voice.  Although it was amusing, I found it curious that a gay man in his 40s living in New York City in 2015 had a hang-up about his voice being too gay.  The film follows him as he seeks to change his voice to one, as I interpreted his goal, devoid of any personality.  In my mind this dilemma was a good example of "white people problems".  And his visits to a speech therapist brought to mind a form of gay reparative therapy.  (By the way is there a stereotypical lesbian voice?)


Besides discussing his concern with speech therapists, linguists and acting coaches, the director also discussed the phenomenon of gay-sounding voices with gay personalities such as Dan Savage, Tim Gunn and George Takei.  For me, one of the highlights of the doc was finally getting the chance to meet author David Sedaris' husband, Hugh.




While viewing the documentary I thought of a high school classmate, Mark, who had a very gay-sounding voice.  We were friendly, but at the time I wasn't aware that I was gay so there was never any discussion about it (this was in the mid-1970s), but I think, subconsciously, it was why we were friendly.  He was also obsessed with Cher, so that, more than his voice, should have been the giveaway that he was gay.  I was curious to see if I could find Mark on Google, and my search proved successful.  Sadly, though, it turned out he had died in 2006.  His obituary mentioned his male partner.




As for me, although I was teased a little bit in high school about being a "fairy", I wasn't bullied and I didn't dread going to school.  (And the teasing  ended when I was named editor of the yearbook.)  As an adult I never had issues about my voice sounding gay, but I was always surprised when I was told I didn't sound gay.  However, about ten years ago I went to see a speech pathologist to see if she could help me make my voice more commanding in a business setting since I found it challenging to break through  chatter at meetings whenever I wanted to ask a question or make a comment.




Despite it being entertaining as well as instructive, apparently Do I Sound Gay?  wasn't compelling enough for moviegoers as it played in just 17 theaters and grossed less than $100,000 (paltry even by gay indie film standards).





Learning About Gay Life Before Stonewall

SageSAGE is a social welfare organization that looks after the needs of elderly gay men and lesbians.  In the summer of 1985, when I was 28, I volunteered for its Friendly Visitor program, which matches volunteers with a SAGE client for weekly visits - to talk, do light errands or have a meal together.  My client was 75-year-old Jim Chesbro, who lived on East 21st St.  He grew up in Albany and was in the Merchant Marines where he was involved in resettling European refugees after World War II.  Like Sammy Davis Jr., he lost an eye in a car accident when he was in his 20s.  His voice reminded me somewhat of Truman Capote's.  Every other week I'd visit with Jim after work for an hour or so.  Besides being gay we were also both Mets fans.  


My visits proved beneficial for both of us.  Over a cocktail or a glass of wine he'd tell me stories about his life in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, and I enjoyed getting a first-hand history lesson about what gay life was like back then.  In some respects Jim was the grandfather (s) I never had.  He told me that in Albany everyone in his gay circle had an assigned woman's name (his was Laura) and he'd go to house parties where everyone changed into drag upon arriving.  And in Cherry Grove of the 1950s there was no electricity so dinner parties were held by candlelight and guests often wore tuxes.




Occasionally we'd eat at his favorite Chinese restaurant, and he insisted on paying.  He also gave me cash gifts at Christmas, Easter and on my birthday - which was against SAGE regulations.  For Thanksgiving 1985 I made a pumpkin pie for him and we went to dinner at The Old Forge on 3rd Ave. and 17th Street.  And while Jim was always a gentleman, during one visit he said that he'd like to see me in a sailor's suit and have me pretend that I was "rough trade"!  




It seemed that most of Jim's gay experiences were with hustlers or furtive moments with straight sailors.  However, he did tell me of one long-term romance.  In the 1930s, before joining the Merchant Marine, he was a teacher and librarian at a prison near Albany, where he carried on a 7-year relationship with a prisoner.  He was able to pull some strings and get him an early parole and they moved to Jacksonville, Florida.  However, it turned out the fellow was more or less straight, so Jim moved out after five months.




Jim's mobility was severely impaired by arthritis, which forced him to curtail traveling, something he used to love to do.  The few times we ventured out he'd use a cane and hold on to me.  It was quite a challenge crossing the street with him before the light changed.  Because of his frail condition Jim wanted me to accompany him to the Jersey shore for a vacation and to Fire Island, where a friend owned a home.  In fact, a weekend visit out to the Pines was planned during the summer of 1986, but Jim took ill and it was postponed. 


Jim was a client for little more than a year when he died of a heart attack at the end of July 1986.  I got a call at work from one of the friends he often spoke about, Bill Funck.  Later that day I went down to Jim's apartment and met Bill and a few of the friends he mentioned as well as his sister, Mae, who still lived in Albany.  Bill was the friend of Jim's with the house in the Pines and he invited me out a few weekends later.  (He also owned one of the liquor stores in the harbor.)  His house was on Driftwood Walk, and when I took a share in the Pines ten years later my house was on the same walk.




After Jim's death, Arlene, the manager of the Friendly Visitor program sent me a note expressing her condolences and encouraging me to call her if I needed to talk.  She also hoped I would continue with the program, but I didn't because I didn't want to experience another client's decline and death.  Also, I had heard from other Friendly Visitors how high maintenance some of the clients could be and I realized how easy I had it with Jim.


What struck me as I listened to Jim's stories was that despite the  homophobic times Jim lived in he had fun and interesting experiences, even while living a closeted life.  Nowadays I wonder if gay men in their 20s and 30s think living in the 1970s and '80s was also somewhat of a Dark Ages for acceptance for gay men of my generation.





Remembering Fun Times at Greenwich Village's Monster Bar & Disco




One of ZeitGAYst's most visited posts is one I wrote about gay bars that have closed since I moved to New York in 1979.  Each one that closed made me apprehensive about my neighborhood bar, the Monster, meeting the same fate, so I've written a loving tribute to the Monster before the fact.  Located on Grove St., around the corner from my apartment, it's a lively place that's been around for 40 years.  Part of its appeal for me is that even if I stay longer than I planned I'll be home in minutes.  


Besides its proximity, I also like the place because of it's spaciousness and, at least until the invasion of the shrieking women, attracts a good mix of patrons of different ages, races and ethnic backgrounds; there's also little "attitude" to speak of.  If you prefer to sit and chat an expansive bar is upstairs; if you like to dance a a disco downstairs beckons; and if belting out show tunes is your talent, there's a piano you can gather around.  (Two complaints I have concern the bar's drinks: 1) they're smaller than those of other bars - for example, Industry in Hell's Kitchen, serves drinks that are twice as large for the same price; and 2) Happy Hour doesn't include cocktails with "brand" liquor - a detail that isn't made explicit.)


Happy Hour


The Monster opened its doors in the early '80s, which was around the time I moved into Manhattan.  My earliest memory there is dancing to Michael Jackson's Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough in the downstairs disco with my boyfriend Rick and a friend from work during Gay Pride weekend in 1983.  In its early years it didn't have the section of the bar where the piano now sits - that was a bookstore (legitimate, not "adult").  Thirty years later I often go there on Friday evenings after work, joined by my friends Andy and Maury.   Here are some other fond memories/photos:


  • When I was in between full-time jobs I'd often go there late on Tuesday for its Classic Disco night.  It was wonderful hearing the great classics of the 1970s and '80s.  In a post I wrote about my favorite disco lyrics, the opening paragraph mentioned this weekly event.




  • I once got six people kicked out for being disorderly.  It happened one Saturday night as I was seated at the bar and a boisterous group of guys and gals persisted in heavily leaning and pushing up against me (especially the women).  Despite asking them nicely a number of times not to do so, they continued invading my space.  Finally, I had enough and, summoning my inner "top", stood up and forcibly shoved them away from me.  It turns out they were being annoying all night and this was the excuse the door man had been waiting for to bounce them.  Happily, I wasn't tossed out with them.




  • I had the good fortune of meeting hunky Channel 5 weatherman Mike Woods there on a Sunday evening last summer.  I introduced myself because I wanted to tell him of the post I had written about sexy news anchors that included him.  (Last fall People Magazine named him its "Sexiest Weatherman".)




  • Despite there being no electricity, the Monster was open after hurricane Sandy struck in late October 2012.  It had a generator and the bar stayed open as long as the ice supply held up.  I went there with friends the evening of Halloween.  On a night that's known for being crazy and crowded in the Village, that year was dark and quiet with no Halloween parade.  But inside it was cozy with candlelight and just neighborhood regulars.




  • This is the bar where I had my first Negroni, vodka gimlet and martini.  One evening, in the summer of 2012, I splashed some of my martini on my Blackberry, which was sitting on the bar, and within 10 seconds it stopped working.  I loved this device but I ended up getting a smartphone instead.




  • It's the only bar where I know bartenders by name, such as Mitch and Jeremy (pictured together), Greg, Vinny, Stephen, Patrick, Raymond, Pedro, Achilles, Evan and Facundo (pictured).  However, once I knew their names I was always felt a sense of loss if I discovered they had left (as was the case with the last four names). 






  • Because I live so close I can walk there quickly in the depths of winter without putting on a coat (saving me hundreds of dollars in coat check expenses over the years).
  • Some of the go-go dancers at Saturday night's Manster at Monster event were a joy to watch as they truly put on a high energy,  hot show.  But not all of them.  Once I called out one who was barely moving, just sort of posing (and the song playing was quite danceable) - and I reported him to the manager.  However, a few years this vibe disappeared as rent boys replaced the dancers, trying to charm patrons (ideally, drunk tourists) into buying a lap dance for $5/minute.  This change happened after bar manager, Mitch, who was the creative force behind Manster, left and his night was replaced by Squirt




Crowd favorite, Vinny Vega.







Sitting at the bar ...







Iron work at the monster
A nice piece of iron work hangs behind the booth at the entrance where patrons pay cover charge on weekends.


Miguel the monster
Miguel is one of the managers






Greek statue at monster
Are we at a bar or a museum? (Stands adjacent to the piano.)in


Monster tshirt


May 28 monster disco
As Alicia Bridges sang, "I love the nightlife, I love to boogie, on the disco round ..."


Rainbow chest at the monster bar
Pride weekend, 2017






Drink on bar
Absolut Mandarin with a splash of cranberry!



Monster glass wall
Cinder block glass wall on the stairwell leading downstairs to the dance floor


Singing by paino
A regular belts out a tune ("What I Did for Love" would be a good guess)


(Despite my fond memories, in recent years changes in the types of patrons it attracts, e.g., more straight women, many of them drunk and loud and with their boyfriends in tow, and most recently, repercussions of COVID-19, have reduced the Monster's appeal for me.)

Naming Names ... Counting the Gay Men in My Life

Hello.mynameisMost of us find ourselves attracted to a man based on his physical characteristics and/or personality traits.  I can't imagine that an individual's first name is a deal breaker, but it may serve as the cherry on top.  However, some names seem to stimulate the pleasure center in the brain more than others.  Interestingly, as I think about my favorite names, very few men in my social circle have a name on this list (see list below).  For the most part, the names of my friends, boyfriends and acquaintances (past and present) are neutral, e.g., Michael, David or Brian.  Of course, I'd never choose to date or not date someone because of their first name.   But if I had a bad experience with someone their name might stick in my subconscious and cause some trepidation if I encountered it again.


Antonio Dario Jeffrey
Ben Eduardo Julian
Brent Evan Kent
Carlos Francisco Luke
Christian Gabriel Roger
Dale Javier Ryan
Alfred Fred Ralph
Arthur Larry Sal
Clarence Leonard Stanley
Curtis Manny Todd
Greg Marty Vinnie


Looking through my journals (which I've kept since the late 1970s), I conducted a census and counted over 500 gay men who've been part of my life for one reason or another.  They fall into the following categories: 1. Acquaintances I came to know either through friends or meeting at Fire Island (24%); 2. Co-workers and colleagues (24%); 3. Dating/relationships (20%); Tricks (12%); 4. Close friends (9%); 5. Neighbors & roommates (5%); Those working in professional services I use, e.g., doctors, accountants and therapists (5%); and 6. Relatives (1%).




The gay men who have been part of my life in some way have 241 different names.  The most frequently encountered have been: Michael (19); John (19); David (12); Mark (12); and Paul (10).  Two-thirds of the names have just one person attached to them.  Some of the more out-of-the-ordinary include the following: Armin, Arunas, Barrington, Blandon, Cyg, Jatinder, Kemper, Kuba, Mahes, Udy, Shasi and Toon.  (There is also one Robb, a Donn and a Mat.)


Michael 19 Brian 6
John 19 Chris 6
David 12 Gary 6
Mark 12 Mike 6
Paul 10 Peter 6
Jim  9 Robert 6
Steve  9 Ron 6
Scott  9 Bob 5
George  9 Greg 5
Bill  8 James 5


As far as my own name goes, there are/have been four Robs, six Roberts and five Bobs in my social circle - but only once did I date someone who had the same name as me.  (And we met a couple at a Christmas party who were also both named Rob!)

Fire Island Memories: My Wonder Years (1996 - 2002)





Earlier this summer I wrote a post about my experiences at Fire Island in the years before I took a share there (1981-1995).  This post highlights experiences during my share in the Pines on Driftwood Walk between 1996 and 2002.  During these seven years four of us were housemates every summer while sixteen others had a share for at least one of these summers.  While not quite an expose like Hollywood Babylon (no names are named), nonetheless what follows is a bit dishy, a touch titillating.



What kept me from taking a share in Fire Island for so many years was my impression that getting out there was such a hassle, i.e., take a subway to Penn Station to catch a train; then change trains at Jamaica or Babylon; get off in Sayville, and rush to a van that took you to the ferry; and once off the ferry, a schlep to the house.  However, it turned out the 2-1/2 hour journey wasn't all that bad, especially since I often traveled with housemates. 


Looking back at it, what sticks in mind most is the acronym BIGOS, which helped in remembering the stations between Bay Shore and Sayville ('I' was for Islip, 'G' for Great River and 'O' for Oakdale).  At Oakdale I'd get up and make my way to the door so I could hop off at Sayville and get to a waiting van ahead of the other eager boys swarming off the train.


Another useful piece of information was that the walk from Pines harbor to our house took about eight minutes.  This was especially helpful when deciding what time to leave the house when heading to the ferry for the to the City on Sunday evening.





In all my years, the worst travel experience was on Labor Day 1998 when a severe thunderstorm struck mid-afternoon, causing widespread disruptions on the Long Island Railroad.  After waiting for two hours for the train at Sayville, a group of us took a taxi up to Ronkonkoma where we got a train not affected by power problems.  I ended up walking into my apartment at 11:00 rather than 8:00.


In 1999 the LIRR started running double-decker (or bi-level) trains from Babylon.  However, despite their technical advance, the new cars had a pitiful lack of room for luggage in the racks above the seats.  Also, these new trains presented riders with a new decision - whether to sit in the upper or lower berth ("tops" or "bottoms" could sit in either, there was no segregation).  This was similar to the decision when boarding the ferry. 



My housemates joked that my primary role at the house was to be the eye candy who greeted visitors on our deck, where I'd be sitting on a chaise lounge reading Entertainment Weekly.




Sometimes my welcome was extended from the pool.




Of course, I took part in other house activities such as grocery shopping, cutting veggies for dinner and loading the dishwasher after dinner.  I also organized the house's photos.  And one summer I bought a manually operated ice crusher as a gift for the house.  Inexplicably, I was the only one who used it (I now have it in my apartment).


My unappreciated gift.


While my primary reason for spending time out at FIP was relaxation, some housemates loved to have projects.  I contentedly observed, from a distance, while they installed solar panels on the roof to heat the swimming pool, put in a sprinkling system to water the flowers during the week, and constructed a wet bar out on the deck. 



The Meat Rack was just a three or four-minute walk from our house.  My first time there was in the black of night, and as I cautiously made my way through the sandy paths enshrouded in shrubs, and low hanging tree branches, the movie Blair Witch Project kept coming to mind.  However, on nights of a full moon there was no trouble finding your way around, and the place truly became a wonderland.  (As Olivia Newton John and John Travolta said so well in Grease, "Oh, those summer nights!")  However, as the summers went by I gravitated to daytime "walks" because I wanted to see the merchandise before touching it.


During these summers I went on dates back in the City with eight gents I met out in the Pines, six of whom I was "introduced" to in the Meat Rack.



On Labor Day weekend in 2000 I bumped into a fellow at Sip'n Twirl who I had dated briefly after we met on Labor Day weekend ten years earlier.  Magic happened and we ended up walking out to the moonlit beach where we had a passionate "reunion".  The next day I saw him and told him how much fun the night before had been, but he was very aloof and, poof!, the magic was gone.



In May 1998, a boyfriend and I were the only ones out during a chilly and rainy weekend.  What should have been a romantic weekend turned sour.  John was agitated because our house didn't have a TV (at his apartment he had two that were always on, and tuned to different channels).  And he didn't help with cooking or cleaning up afterwards.  Tension flared, sex was withheld, and on Sunday we broke up.



Like most houses on the Island, ours had a flagpole over the house and a flag holder in the entrance way by the door to the deck.  One of the duties for those who arrived first each weekend was choosing two flags from our extensive inventory.  My favorites were the flags of Barbados, Djibouti, Estonia, Panama, the Seychelles and Tanzania.







Compared to other houses, ours was rather tame as far as drama went.  Still, if life in our house had been presented as a reality series, here are some of the moments that might have been highlighted:

  • A housemate was baking a cake in the oven and asked me to take it out when the timer went off.  However, although I was sitting at the dining room table, and another housemate was reading the newspaper in the living room, neither one of us heard the timer go off, and the cake was singed.  It turned out it was my birthday cake.
  • Pines celebrity Robin Byrd supposedly walked off with a box of our paper towels after they were unloaded from the ferry.
  • Here are just a few of the personal "slights" I suffered:  1. A housemate chastised me for pronouncing Long Island with a hard 'g'.  2. I was ridiculed for not knowing how to flick open a fan, and fan myself coquettishly.  3. A dinner guest asked me if anyone had ever told me I looked like Smithers from the Simpsons.  (The house was divided on whether it was a slight or an innocent comment.)  4. Finally, one summer my last name was misspelled in the Pines phone directory, jeopardizing my chances at being tracked down by someone I exchanged names with at tea, in the Pantry ... or elsewhere.  
  • After one of our housemates broke up with his boyfriend we learned that the ex had a brother in prison, convicted of murdering two strangers he thought were his parents.
  • Another housemate was a lawyer who had a gay couple who owned an architectural firm as a client.  After a lengthy litigation was decided in their favor, they had the audacity to claim poverty and refused to pay, but  expected to keep their settlement - which, as their attorney, our housemate had control of.  (Ironically, their lawsuit was against a client who didn't pay them!)  This couple had a house in the Pines and if any of us was seen saying hello to either one we were given grief.
  • During the last night of my first summer, I had a dream in which I was given my drag name - Collette Whatchoowant.  Obviously, a French Canadian Indian princess.
  • Two housemates were the primary chefs and they never met a piece of meat they didn't think could be enhanced by smothering with an apricot or prune compote.
  • During the 4th of July weekend in 2002 all of Fire Island was inconvenienced by "rolling blackouts" that lasted for 2-4 hours.  They began on Saturday evening, and after a few hours, one of our housemates broke the monotony by putting on a wedding dress he just happened to have at the house, and glided down Fire Island Boulevard in the pitch darkness, creating an eerie, spectral image. 
  • The "Wig Wall" was always there to liven up any dinner party.



Houses held parties that were either charity events or parties with a theme.  Ours held the latter.  The Hat Party took place in the first or second week of August and was a late afternoon/early evening affair (5-8:00).  Guests wore a hat, simple as that.  Some used no imagination and came with a baseball cap (but if they arrived bare chested, no one noticed) while others put a lot of thought and creativity into their hat.  In general between 125 and 150 attended.  Raw veggie platters and cold shrimp were served.  The biggest debate would come weeks before when the design of the invitation was debated.


Hat Party 1999


Hat Party 2002



At the close of the 1999 season huge pipes were laid on the beach to bring in sand being dredged from the ocean's floor.  It attracted quite a crowd, probably because the season's big parties were over and this was the most excitement to be had in early October.






The first few summers I was attached to my bottle of Skin so Soft to keep mosquitoes away.  Then, because of West Nile Virus, there was a major effort at spraying the island to eradicate the breeding grounds of mosquitoes.  From that point on I didn't need protection.  However, sand fleas still tormented me whenever I tried to lie out on the beach, biting my ankles.





Just because it's a carefree weekend destination, doesn't mean FIP is immune from reminders of our mortality.  For instance, an ex-boyfriend of one of our housemates was found dead on his deck, a victim of a heart attack; he was only in his 40s.  Then there was the fellow who collapsed and died on the dance floor of the Pavilion (Aug. 1998).  One person drowned in the ocean in the vicinity of Fisherman's Wharf (Labor Day 1999), while another was found dead in a swimming pool at a house on Ocean Walk (4th of July 1999).  I was also at the house the weekends Princess Diana and John Kennedy, Jr. died in 1997 and 1999, respectively.  Because we didn't have a TV, and no wireless internet back then, we depended on the houses that had TV for updates.



Since most of my time on the Island was spent in a bathing suit, it was an important purchase.  Every summer I'd buy one or two to add to my collection.  There were four in particular I favored (all square cuts).  One was a cotton, black/white checked number, a second had a blue-pink geometric pattern, another was a turquoise number by Raymond Dragon with a vertical white and metallic sliver stripe, and, finally, my favorite (seen below) was navy with a a vertical yellow-white-yellow stripe on one side.  One of my boyfriends went wild whenever I wore it.  (He asked me to give it to him if I ever decided to throw it out.  I haven't been able to find it, so perhaps he took off with it.)


The most favorite of them all




Alas, after constant exposure to bright sun, chlorinated pool water and salt water from the ocean, they, like we humans, faded. 



And here is the final look at the deck of our house before we closed the door on the 2002 season ...


A fond farewell to the summer.