Mar 20, 2015

December 1979: Fred, Gay Liberation, and "All That Jazz"

December 1979, about a month after my 19th birthday.

 I'm having a very busy Holiday Season.  Back from a semester abroad in Germany, my last date with a girl, the Chinese Restaurant Incident ("Don't call Bruce gay!"), meeting Fred the Ministerial Student.  Then, on the 28th of December, Fred asks me to a movie.  This will be our second date.

All my life, I've been looking for gay subtexts in movies, tv shows, books, comic books, and cartoons.  But after junior high, I had to keep them to myself.  My friends would say "don't be stupid" and point out the movie's profusion of female breasts.

I couldn't even point out the cute guys without getting weird looks.

And I didn't even know that they were gay subtexts until a year and a half ago.

Now, finally, I can both recognize gay subtexts and discuss them afterwards!  I imagine Fred and I sitting at a dark-wood booth in a restaurant pointing out the two male characters with a special closeness, who rescue each other and stay together at fade-out. Or at least grinning over the beefcake.

I've already seen Star Trek and The Black Hole, so our choices are Kramer vs. Kramer (Dustin Hoffman gets a divorce), Going in Style (old guys rob a bank), The Jerk (Steve Martin as a jerk), and All that Jazz (about a theater director).

Fred tells me that the theater director is based on Bob Fosse.  I've never heard of him, but I say "Great, he's one of my favorite actors!"

Besides, it sounds better than those other movies.

It's about a grotesquely ugly old-guy theater director named Joel Gideon (Roy Scheider of Jaws), who chain smokes, uses drugs, and keeps butting heads with his ex-wife, teenage girlfriend, and teenage daughter.  His impossible work schedule runs him into the ground.  He has a heart attack, goes to the hospital, has open heart surgery, dances with his arteries, and flirts with the Angel of Death.  Finally he dies.

Incomprehensible, depressing, and disgusting!  And no gay subtexts -- Joel Gideon is utterly obsessed with women.  Even the Angel of Death is a woman.

A little bit of beefcake -- some hot guys dance together in the "Airotica" number.  But they are drowned out by the proliferation of female breasts.

We leave the Showcase Cinemas in silence and stop in at Happy Joe's Pizza.

We choose a secluded booth so we can talk about gay topics without being overheard.   I'm feeling sick and depressed, not only from the depressing movie but from the lost opportunity.  I wanted to talk about gay subtexts, openly, without fear.

Fred starts.  "Boy, was that movie awful!  That Joel Gideon is a horndog!"

"I know!  All he can think about is girls, girls, cigarettes, and girls!"

"You'd think with all of the gay people working in the theater, there'd be at least some fruity stereotypes in the background somewhere.  Just for the sake of versimilitude!"

"Or a couple of guys who were into each other," I add.

"And what was it with the female body parts?"

"Disgusting!" I exclaim.

And on and on, dissecting each scene for heterosexism and the heterosexual male gaze (though we didn't know either term yet), bemoaning Hollywood brainwashing, how it tells the world over and over that we do not exist, we cannot exist, or if we do, we're monsters and freaks of nature.

I've never been able to discuss our oppression before, either, not openly.   It's almost as much fun as finding gay subtexts.

See also: 10 Reasons Why "Kiss Me, Kate" is a Gay Classic

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