Nov 6, 2015

Why Everyone in West Hollywood Watched "Dynasty"

After spending so many years looking for "a good place," when I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I didn't want any contamination from the straight world. I read Frontiers and The Advocate instead of the L.A. Times.  I didn't go to a movie unless it had gay characters.  And tv was the enemy, alien propaganda like the pamphlets dropped over enemy villages in wartime.

So in the fall of 1984 I watched 7 hours of tv regularly: Alice, Charles in Charge, The Cosby Show, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, It's Your Move, Kate and Allie, The Jeffersons, Miami Vice, Newhart, and Who's the Boss.  To be fair, that was my dreary year in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas.

And in the fall of 1986, I watched 3: The Golden Girls, Head of the Class, Mama's Family, Married with Children, and Dynasty.

I couldn't help Dynasty (1981-89).  On Wednesday nights, every tv in West Hollywood tuned in.  Bars had Dynasty Night.  On Halloween, guys dressed up as Joan Collins.

I didn't see the attraction. It was a Dallas clone, except set in Denver, and unscrupulous oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) was an East Coast elitist rather than good ol' boy J.R. Ewing, so there were more sexual intrigues than shady business deals, but it was still a soap opera.

I could see the attraction for drag queens.  Blake's trophy wife Krystle (Linda Evans) and his ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins) had big hair, fabulous outfits, and lots of temper tantrums. But what did gay men who weren't looking for fashion tips see in the succession of bikini-clad ladies lounging by poolside: Pamela Sue Martin, Emma Sams, Heather Locklear, Diahann Caroll.



There were a few hunky men, who sometimes stripped down for bed, but rarely lounged around the pool.  Sometimes they appeared in speedos on Battle of the Network Stars.

John James (above) played Jeff Colby, who courts Blake and Alexis' daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin).  The two eventually spun off into their own soap, The Colbys.

Maxwell Caulfield (left) played Miles Colby, Jeff's cousin, who also courts Fallon.  A little triangulation between them, but not enough for a subtext.






There was a gay character, sort of: Blake and Alexis' son Steven (Al Corley, Jack Coleman), one of those tortured, self-hating 1970s gays who claim that they like men, sort of, while sleeping with every woman in sight and trying desperately to change "back" into heterosexual. Every time he kissed a girl, I groaned.

But then, seeing any gay person on tv in the 1980s, even a conflicted one who likes girls, felt like a victory.