Jul 16, 2013

Lance Loud: The First Gay Celebrity

Many people believe that the first person to come out on national tv was Lance Loud of the reality series An American Family (1973).  Cameras followed Bill and Pat Loud and their five children, including young adult Lance, for 2000 hours in 1971, and the footage was culled down to 12 hours, airing on PBS on Thursday nights in the spring of 1973.   Among the highlights of the 12 hours was Pat asking Bill for a divorce, and, according to the urban legend, Lance coming out to his mother.

I didn't see it in 1973, but I've seen it recently, and Lance doesn't come out.  He's already out, living in Manhattan, where his mother visits, meets his friends, and goes to a drag show with him.

But that was probably the first time most tv viewers, at least those hip and liberal enough to be watching PBS, saw real, live gay people.

The show became famous, parodied on Saturday Night Live, spoofed in the movie Real Life, given a homage in the name of the rock group The Loud Family.

And Lance Loud became the first gay celebrity, being seen with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, commenting on cultural issues for magazines such as Rock Scene, Details, and Interview.  He was a columnist for the gay news weekly The Advocate for many years. He died in 2001.

The 2011 film Cinema Verite, about the making of The Loud Family, starred Tim Robbins as Bill and Thomas Dekker as Lance.

See also: The Andy Warhol Museums

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