Jun 28, 2013

North Dallas Forty: The Gay Locker Room

Take arch-conservative Nick Nolte, who starred in the heterosexist classic Who'll Stop the Rain (1978), and would go on to partner with the arch-homophobe Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours (1982), and play a homophobic cop in Q&A (1990) and a homophobic gangster in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (2008). 

Pair him with Mac Davis, Country-Western music star who wrote such heterosexist classics as "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me," "One Hell of a Woman," and "Forever Lover."

Put them into a movie about foul-mouthed, homophobic football players.

What do you get?

Right: A gay romance.

North Dallas Forty (1979) is about Phil Elliott (Nick), an aging player for the North Dallas Bulls (based on real-life player Peter Gent, who wrote the original novel).  Elliott is increasingly dependent on painkillers to keep up with his teammates' macho sex, drugs, and raising-hell lifestyles.  And he is increasingly antagonized by his mercenary coach, who can see only profits.

Elliott meets young gun Seth Maxwell  (Mac Davis), based on real-life quarterback Don Meredith, and soon they are partying together, hanging out naked together, and hugging a lot.  In the novel, Maxwell is an antagonist, a friendly enemy who tries to seduce Phil to come to the Dark Side, but in the movie they are Hawkeye and Trapper John from MASH, two friends standing up against the world.

Up to a point.  In the end Maxwell betrays Elliott, who is fired.  The final scene has the dismal taste of rejected romance.  Elliott is leaving the Bulls office, when he runs into Maxwell.  Hoping for a reconciliation, Maxwell throws him a football.  Elliott lets it bounce off his chest and fall to the ground, and walks away.

The novel  hints that two of the players are gay, and involved with each other.  That was excised from the movie in favor of some homophobic jokes and lots of discussion of the size, shape, and potency of each others' penises.

I generally hate sports movies. I was only talked into seeing this by the promise of hunks in the locker room.  There are plenty of tight uniforms, 1970s codpiece pants, and guys walking naked toward the showers, including Bo Svenson and John Matuszak (who posed nude in Playgirl in 1982).

But, if you can ignore the various hetero-orgy scenes and the Girl who is waiting to change Elliott's life, the same-sex romance shines through.


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