Sep 10, 2016

March 1985: The Brady Bunch Dad Plays a Swishy Queen

You have to be careful watching tv.  The producers, actors, and directors are not your friends; even when they are gay, they are often Uncle Toms.  So it's impossible to avoid frequent statements that assert that everyone on earth is heterosexual, that you do not exist:
"Well, Joe, you're getting to that age when you start to notice girls"
"All guys look at girls.  It's only natural."
"She's every man's fantasy."

If you are careful, you can usually avoid the more virulent statements that assert that you exist, but you are a swishy joke or a predatory monster.

I let my guard down one night in the summer of 1986.  Who would expect virulent homophobia on Murder, She Wrote?

I had no interest in the Sunday night old-person's series (1984-1996) about a small-town mystery writer (played by Angela Lansbury) who kept stumbling across -- and solving -- murders.

Usually the victim was a relative or friend -- "Oh, no, you invited Aunt Jessica to Thanksgiving!  That means one of us will die!"

But Alan was a fan, for some reason, and that Sunday evening, we watched an episode called  "Footnote to Murder" (10 March 1985).

Jessica goes to a mystery writer's convention full of petty jealousy, feuds, backstabbing, and vindictiveness, and of course someone ends up dead.  Unfortunately, her best friend is the prime suspect.

 Robert Reid, formerly the Brady Bunch dad, played swishy uber-stereotype Adrian Winslow, who is criticized for writing novels about "Greek boys mincing about."

"At least my books sell," he simpers.

Who's buying all of these mysteries about Greek boys mincing about?

Although an uber-swishy, lavender-laced, fruit-flavored 1950's stereotype who writes about swishy queens in in ancient Greece, he's also closeted.  "The young man I was dining with last night was a reporter," he explains.

So the word "gay" is never used.  Just a lot of condescending smirks and whispered innuendos.

At least he's not the murderer, just a swishy red herring.

At the time I didn't think anything of it -- virulent homophobia was commonplace on tv during the 1980s.

Then, in 1992, Robert Reed died.  Of colon cancer, but he turned out to be HIV positive, resulting in crazy media headlines like "Mike Brady Had AIDS"!

And his Brady Bunch costars revealed that Reed was, in fact, gay.  They all knew, back in the 1960s, but of course they couldn't say anything for fear that having "America's Favorite Dad" come out would destroy his career -- and their show.

So a gay man agrees to play this horrible 1950s stereotype?

He also hated The Brady Bunch, and actually refused to appear in some episodes that he thought were particularly stupid.

A paycheck is a paycheck.  You did what you had to do, in those days.

See also: Christopher Knight/Peter Brady, Barry Williams/Greg Brady; and Razzle Dazzle: 1970s Variety Shows.