Jul 10, 2013

The New People: Gay Hippies After Stonewall

Another attempt to cash in on the hippies, The New People premiered on September 29, 1969,  three months after the Stonewall Riots and the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement.  It was heavily promoted, with gushing accolades in teen magazines, but it didn't get many viewers, because it came on at 7:15!  That's right, they figured that after The Music Scene, another 45-minute program, you'd have no other choice.

Except by 7:15, all of the kids were watching Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.



The premise was Lord of the Flies meets Lost, "boys alone" with some girls.  A group of college students crash-lands on a desert island.  With no adults around, they must depend on each other to survive. George Baker (Peter Ratray, rather long-in-the-tooth at age 28) becomes the leader, though there are frequent schisms.   Plots involved issues of law and order, women's rights, racial prejudice, and hippie gurus, plus an ongoing mystery: people kept disappearing, and there were mysterious Others on the island.

Unfortunately, the mystery was never resolved. The New People tanked after 17 episodes, in spite of the full-page semi-nude spreads in teen magazines.  It's never been out on DVD, though you can see this promo on youtube.

Three of the actors have gay connections.

The summer after The New People, Peter Ratray (left) starred in the West Coast premiere of the gay-themed Boys in the Band.  In 1983-84 he played Ed in Torch Song Trilogy, and in 1995 he played Burt, the leader of the Mattachine Society, an early gay-rights organization, in Stonewall.  Otherwise he has appeared mostly on soap operas.

Davis Olivieri starred in The Naked Ape (1973), with Johnny Crawford.

Zooey Hall played Rocky, the rough Alpha Male rapist in the movie version of Fortune and Men's Eyes (1971), about homoerotic relationships in prison.  Otherwise he has played mostly heterosexual crazies.  Sal Mineo starred in the original.