Jun 10, 2013

All in the Family's Gay Episode

Speaking of firsts, the first specifically identified gay character on tv appeared on an episode of All in the Family on February 9, 1971, only 1 1/2 years after Stonewall.  I didn't see it at the time: the church forbade All in the Family because Archie Bunker's daughter and son-in-law were atheists.  I was probably watching Boy from Dead Man's Bayou, starring Mike Lookinland.

Lovable bigot Archie (Carroll O'Connor) gets upset when Mike and Gloria's hippie friend Roger (Anthony Geary) behaves in a flamboyant fashion.  He must be a fruit!  They insist that he's not, but Archie is not convinced.

Meanwhile, at the bar where Archie hangs out, bartender Barney (Billy Halop, another of the original Dead End Kids) points out tough ex-footballer Steve (Philip Carey).  "I don't care if he comes in for a beer, but I don't want his. . .friends. . . turning this place into a hangout."

What?  Steve's a fruit?  But he's so. . .big!

Archie confronts Steve, who admits that he is, indeed, gay.  Archie refuses to believe it, and as proof, challenges him to an arm wrestling contest.  Steve wins, but he's still gay.

It's not exactly a gay pride moment.  The moral is: appearances can be deceiving, so don't judge until you have all the facts.  Being gay is still reprehensible, something heterosexuals "judge."

But it's a lot better than the cadres of lisping, limp-wristed fashion designers and psycho-killers who would populate television for the next twenty years.

Philip Carey was a long-term Hollywood tough guy with starring roles in The 77th Bengal Lancers, Lancer, and Tonka, with Sal Mineo (top photo). He went on to play Asa Buchanan on One Life to Live (1987-2008).

Coincidentally, Anthony Geary is bisexual in real life.  He would go on to General Hospital (1978-2013) playing rapist-turned-romantic hero Luke Spencer in the most famous soap opera story arc of all time (30,000,000 people watched him marry Laura Webber on November 17, 1981).

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