Mar 10, 2018

Fall 1985: Watching Brothers in the Hollywood Hills

When I first moved to West Hollywood in 1985, every Wednesday night my friend Mark, who introduced me to Michael J. Fox,  drove me up to a house in the Hollywood Hills, where there were about twenty gay men, most involved in the film industry, drinking wine, eating fancy hors d'oeuvres, and waiting until 10:00.

To watch tv.

What was all the fuss about?

Brothers (1984-89), a sitcom on the premium cable network Showtime, about three grown-up brothers who run a bar.

1. Macho ex-football player Joe (Robert Walden, left, formerly the roving reporter on Lou Grant).

2. Macho construction worker Lou (Brandon Maggart, left).

3. Cliff (Paul Regina, right), who, in the first episode, dumps his fiance on his wedding day and tells his brothers that he!

A gay character on tv!

In 1984, gay characters appeared on network tv very rarely, usually in "old high school buddy comes out" episodes of sitcoms. There were no gay characters in starring roles.  There were no tv series about gay people.

Brothers was revolutionary.

Cliff knows nothing about the gay world, so he and his brothers work together to explore cruising, dating and romance, gay organizations, gay rights, AIDS, and homophobia of various types.  Their tour guide is Donald (Philip Charles Mackenzie), a stereotypic swishy queen who is loud and proud.

Both are actually shown dating men, getting involved in relationships, and even kissing guest stars like Charles Van Eman, Jay Louden, Matthias Hues, and John Furey (right, the one with the basket).

Other gay characters in the 1980s were portrayed as completely sexless, announcing that they are gay but never doing anything about it.  Revolutionary again!

As the show progressed, episodes increasingly focused on non-gay topics, like machinations at the bar, Joe's dating and eventual marriage, or Lou's wife and kids, including a seminary student (John Putch) and a teenage prodigy (Yeardley Smith, later the voice of Lisa on The Simpsons).  

In the fall of 1986, I enrolled in a Wednesday night class at USC, and couldn't go up to the Hollywood Hills anymore. Brothers aired until 1989.

You can watch episodes on youtube, but I don't think I will.  I prefer to keep it part of my memories of those first months in West Hollywood, when everything was exciting and fresh and new.

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