Jan 22, 2021

Why Everyone in West Hollywood Watched "Dynasty"

After spending so many years looking for "a good place," when I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I didn't want any contamination from the straight world. I read Frontiers and The Advocate instead of the L.A. Times.  I didn't go to a movie unless it had gay characters.  And tv was the enemy, alien propaganda like the pamphlets dropped over enemy villages in wartime.

So in the fall of 1984 I watched 7 hours of tv regularly: Alice, Charles in Charge, The Cosby Show, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, It's Your Move, Kate and Allie, The Jeffersons, Miami Vice, Newhart, and Who's the Boss.  To be fair, that was my dreary year in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas.

And in the fall of 1986, I watched 3: The Golden Girls, Head of the Class, Mama's Family, Married with Children, and Dynasty.

I couldn't help Dynasty (1981-89).  On Wednesday nights, every tv in West Hollywood tuned in.  Bars had Dynasty Night.  On Halloween, guys dressed up as Joan Collins.

I didn't see the attraction. It was a Dallas clone, except set in Denver, and unscrupulous oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) was an East Coast elitist rather than good ol' boy J.R. Ewing, so there were more sexual intrigues than shady business deals, but it was still a soap opera.

I could see the attraction for drag queens.  Blake's trophy wife Krystle (Linda Evans) and his ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins) had big hair, fabulous outfits, and lots of temper tantrums. But what did gay men who weren't looking for fashion tips see in the succession of bikini-clad ladies lounging by poolside: Pamela Sue Martin, Emma Sams, Heather Locklear, Diahann Caroll.

There were a few hunky men, who sometimes stripped down for bed, but rarely lounged around the pool.  Sometimes they appeared in speedos on Battle of the Network Stars.

John James (above) played Jeff Colby, who courts Blake and Alexis' daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin).  The two eventually spun off into their own soap, The Colbys.

Maxwell Caulfield (left) played Miles Colby, Jeff's cousin, who also courts Fallon.  A little triangulation between them, but not enough for a subtext.

There was a gay character, sort of: Blake and Alexis' son Steven (Al Corley, Jack Coleman), one of those tortured, self-hating 1970s gays who claim that they like men, sort of, while sleeping with every woman in sight and trying desperately to change "back" into heterosexual. Every time he kissed a girl, I groaned.

But then, seeing any gay person on tv in the 1980s, even a conflicted one who likes girls, felt like a victory.


  1. I remember 'Dynasty' and I definitely didn't see any similarities to 'Dallas' at all.. Most people with the ability to look beyond the remedially obvious to set gender aside would recognize that Alexis was the J.R. equivalent on that series, not Blake. And I don't think gay men needed to be drag queens to appreciate the show. The show was high camp (something 'Dallas' never was) and gay men tend to be drawn to camp humor (made to feel like "outcasts" living on the margins of mainstream society, gay men generally tend to have a subversive perception of society at large), so I think they can appreciate anything that portrays that world with an over-the-top sensibility and 'Dynasty' did it better than any other show of the 1980s.

    Bottom line: Anybody who is constantly looking for explicitly positive representation of gay people before they can find any redeeming qualities in something, while simultaneously lacking a subversive sense of "camp" humor wouldn't get it.

    1. I'm not drawn to camp humor. I'm constantly looking for explicitly positive representation of gay people. Does that mean I have to give back the toaster oven?

    2. I am drawn camp humor, and I'm not constantly looking for explicitly positive representations of gay people, though I like them when I find them. But I never got Dynasty. Never. I just thought it was in poor taste.

  2. "Toaster oven" is a reference to the "Ellen" sitcom of the late 1990s. the actress and the character both came out at the same time.

  3. Replies
    1. I didn't watch "Dynasty," so I don't know who that actor or character is

  4. when i was a kid my best friend (who is also gay) and i loved the camp of dynasty. we got it. like charlie's angels: halston and guns or the dukes of hazzard playing up the suggestiveness of backwoods cousin impropriety.
    we each had our "pick" on dynasty and mine was steven despite his blondness which was never my thing but his eyes and chin. well, that was a different story. my best friend loved Gordon Thomson --Adam Carrington, and star of Sunset Beach. Fast forward twenty years later and ol Adam is trying to pick me up n the steam room of the WeHo 24 Fitness. Still sexy, great voice, and it got interesting.

  5. "Dynasty" was an old style Hollywood glamor fantasy series with a camp sensibility. Steven was as gay positive as you could get at that time- yes he was often on the down low but hey you have to have drama- I do wish he would have had at least one happy gay love scene- but men did not kiss on tv in the 1980s.

  6. Well, the simple answer is that nobody used "bisexual" yet and gay men at the time were somewhat bi-exclusionary while embracing the often closeted yuppie gay. (And the old gay villain tropes were and still are applied to bisexuals. I mean, I watch Titans, which actually used these tropes in season 2, but applied them to Robin.)

    What always bothered me was that Hollywood basically recreated heterosexuality whenever they wrote a gay couple: The more hunky one was into sports and action movies, the more twinky one was into cooking and theatre.

  7. The Colbys had Jeff and Miles has many fist fights which turned into homoerotic wrestling matches to keep the gay fans watching


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