Mar 8, 2013

Johnny Dangerously


 I spent 1984-85 teaching at Lone Star College, aka Hell-fer-Sartain State
College.  A student took off his clothes in my class, I got some nice visits from Bruce and Viju, but otherwise it was miserable.

I read a lot of science fiction and went to a lot of movies.  The one I remember most was not based on a novel by a gay writer, like The Razor's Edge and A Passage to India; it didn't have extensive beefcake or bonding, like  Terminator, The Falcon and the Snowman, and Nightmare on Elm Street; it didn't even have an extraordinary amount of homophobia, like Dune and The Breakfast Club.

The movie I remember most clearly from my year in Texas is Johnny Dangerously.



It's a spoof of those 1930s crime dramas like Dead Endwith two men on opposite sides of the law: Johnny (Michael Keaton)  and his brother Tommy (Griffin Dunne of American Werewolf in London).  Originally a good kid, circumstances force Johnny to go to "the dark side," where he becomes a successful gangster, even paying for Tommy's law school tuition. 

Meanwhile rival gang leader, the flamboyantly gay-vague Danny Vermin (Steve Piscopo), exhibits a love-hate attraction for the dashing young gangster. 










Later, Tommy disapproves of Johnny's gang activities, so Johnny agrees to "go straight."  He's framed for murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair.  Then Tommy is captured by Danny Vermin, so Johnny escapes and mounts a daring nick-of-time rescue. 






There isn't a lot of beefcake, though Joe Piscopo (top) and Michael Keaton (left) have displayed their muscles elsewhere.  There are some of the standard 1980s homophobic slurs. Johnny and Tommy get girls -- Johnny's is played by Marilu Henner of Taxi.  Not a lot of gay connections in the actors' other works.

But sometimes a classic gay subtext, complete with a same-sex rescue, is enough, especially on a bleak January afternoon when you're playing hookey from your job at Hell-fer-Sartain State College.