Jul 9, 2013

Love, Sidney: Tony Randall Plays...Um...You Know

In a 1972 interview in the gay-vague After Dark magazine, Tony Randall said that he'd recently seen some gay porn.  "Just terrible!  Just disgusting!  There's nothing to watch in that. It confirms something I've always suspected -- they don't like it."  Later he said "There is no such thing as homosexuality -- it's just something invented by a bunch of fags."

Rather an odd statement from someone who had played the gay-vague friend to gay actor Rock Hudson in several movies, including Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957), Pillow Talk (1959), and Send Me No Flowers (1964).  But at the time he didn't believe the rumors -- "6'5, built like Tarzan, very virile. A man's man. I didn't believe it for a moment."

Apparently he spent his life believing that all gay men swished.

Still, he kept trying to incorporate gay plotlines into The Odd Couple (1970-75), about two divorced men sharing an apartment, the prissy, gay-coded Felix (Tony) and the boorish slob Oscar (Jack Klugman).  Every other hip urban sitcom had a gay episode -- why not his?  Maybe Felix could find an article Oscar was writing on gays in sports, and assume that he was gay.  Or they could accidentally get booked onto a gay cruise.  The network censors nixed every idea, so Tony and Jack started baiting the censors by hugging and kissing.  Here's a clip of outtakes.

In 1981, Tony Randall starred in the tv movie Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend, about a depressed gay artist living in Manhattan who takes in a single mom and her daughter. The gayness was gingerly tiptoed around, conveyed through hints and innuendos.  Oddly, he didn't swish.

The tv version, Love Sidney (1981-83) faced howls of outrage long before it aired.  Right-wing nutjobs hated the fact that a gay man would be openly portrayed on tv (also a woman who had sex without being married).  So Sidney was de-gayed as much as possible, and Laurie (Swoozie Kurtz) became merely divorced, not "loose."

How de-gayed was Sidney?  He never says anything, but there is a photo of his long-dead lover placed tactfully in the background in the apartment. He doesn't know any other gay people, although he rescues a suicidal one in the penultimate episode.  Actually, he doesn't have any friends of his own, although he is quite obsessed with his mother.

He doesn't date any women, except in the 1983 two-parter "Allison."  It doesn't work out, because he's still pining "for someone he lost."  "I really hate her!" Allison exclaims.  Sidney cautions: "Don't hate...er, that person."

That's as gay as tv got in 1983.

That's as gay-friendly as Tony Randall got.

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