Oct 5, 2012

Things Were Rotten: Dick Gautier in the 1960s

Dick Gautier, a fixture of 1970s comedy, found himself in the spotlight recently, when the Game Show Network aired a 1972 episode of The Match Game.  Guest Gautier had to fill in the blank n the question "Doris just got married and found out her husband was a __."  He said "fag."

Back in 1972, it wasn't homophobia that caused a ruckus; it was revealing the existence of gay people.

But there's no evidence that Gautier was more homophobic than other heterosexuals in the 1970s; it was only three years after Stonewall, one year after the first gay character on tv, and "things were rotten."

Besides, he had a lot to offer to gay kids in the 1960s and 1970s.

1. He was handsome, with dreamy hair and a dazzling smile.  Not to mention hunky (seen here in the musical South Pacific).

2. He had a number of roles in television or movies that minimized heterosexual interest and emphasized buddy-bonding, such as the robot secret agent Hymie on Get Smart (1966-68).

Or as Hal Walters, best friend/confidant/object of rescue of reluctant superhero Stanley Beamish (Steven Strumphill) on Mr. Terrific, which lasted for only 17 episodes in the spring of 1967.

3. He starred in the Mel Brooks series When Things Were Rotten, which lasted for only 13 episodes in the fall of 1975.  A parodic treatment of the legend, it offered a Robin Hood who would prefer hanging out in Sherwood Forest with his merry men to wooing Maid Marian.

Dick Gautier had over 500 guest shots in sitcoms, dramas,  and game shows,  voiced dozens of cartoons, composed popular songs, acted on Broadway, drew caricatures and wrote a dozen books, including a murder mystery, No Laughing Matter.  He can probably be forgiven for having the same prejudices of many people in his generation.


  1. I always thought Hymie the Robot was gay.

  2. Has he said anything about gay people lately?

  3. To be fair, a lot of gay people were still using the word "fag" to describe themselves and/or each other back in the day. I'm not making excuses or defending the use of the word, but just pointing out that it wasn't thought of in the same way that it is today.

    When I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s, many Asian people still referred to themselves as "Oriental"; many little people still referred to themselves as "midgets"; Non-verbal deaf people were referred to as "dumb", etc.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not nostalgic to bring back the "f-word", but I'm just pointing out that acceptable social perceptions of words change over time, so how a word is perceived 40 years later isn't necessarily how the people using it intended at the time.


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