Nov 2, 2013
Nicholas Cortland: Model/Actor/Gay Icon of the 1970s
1. On February 15, 1972, the spring of sixth grade, I saw the "Wild Weekend" episode of Mod Squad, about three hippies working as undercover cops. Pete (Michael Cole) gets kidnapped, tied up, and presented as a party gift to his ex-girlfriend.
The other guests seem to like Pete, too; he's aggressively groped and manhandled, especially by the hunky prettyboy Doug. But later Doug helps Pete escape. Surely they liked each other, I thought!
3. Recently I was reminded of the "Wild Weekend" episode, and hunky prettyboy Doug, so I looked him up in the IMDB. Nicholas Cortland. He lived from 1940 to 1988. My AIDS radar went off.
His screen credits were nondescript: 2 soap operas, 7 guest spots on tv series, and 5 movies, the first in 1965, the last in 1985, nothing I had seen except for the Mod Squad episode and Frogs. Two gay subtext vehicles -- he must be gay!
In 1976, Nicholas performed the lead in three productions of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco: Edward Albee's Tiny Alice, Michael McClure's General Gorgeous, and Tennessee Williams' This is (an Entertainment), the latter written especially for him. Two gay playwrights.
5. I checked Google Images for pictures, and found lots of beefcake shots, but they all seem to be of Nicky Cortland, a contemporary porn star.
Hundreds of gay actors, writers, directors, and other performers were lost to AIDS during the 1980s. You may think of Nicholas Cortland as a lesser light, not as famous as Rock Hudson, Liberace, or Brad Davis.
But none of them were visible in a small town in the Midwest on a cold winter day in 1972, when the word "gay" had not yet been spoken, and the possibility of men loving men not yet dreamed of, except in hints and signals.