Page 529 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
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Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer                509
                •   the very coded Tennessee Williams’  A Streetcar Named
                    Desire  (play,  1947;  film  1951).  My  doctoral  dissertation
                    was  Love and Death in Tennessee Williams (1967), and
                    only the most flat-faced heterosexuals would ever not get
                    that Sebastian Venable was cannibalized for being a bac-
                    chanalian gay in Suddenly Last Summer (1958); only the
                    most flat-earth straights would not be able to decipher that
                    Blanche DuBois was a drag version of an effeminate man
                    who liked rough sex servicing young soldiers, and who had
                    a lech for his/her hyper-masculine blue-collar brother-in-
                    law — himself recently mustered out of the army, played on
                    stage and screen by the twenty-something Marlon Brando
                    who merged his sweaty hard-man image from  Streetcar
                    into his combustion-engine rebel image in The Wild One
                    to become a huge biker icon behind the leather culture of
                    early Drummer.
                In 1967, Mart Crowley wrote a powerfully pentecostal play that
             spoke with tongues of fire. The Boys in the Band became a Broadway
             hit, a Hollywood movie, and a cultural benchmark. The self-eviscerating
             comedy,  no  more  bi-polar  than  the  ever-lovely  (perhaps drag drama),
             Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), became popular with regional and
             community theaters. As a matter of fact, my domestic lover and photog-
             raphy partner at Drummer, David Sparrow — when he was a student at
             Western Michigan University where I was tenured on the English Depart-
             ment faculty — starred in the 1972 WMU production of The Boys in the
             Band directed by David Karsten. Much to our amusement, he was cast as
             “Alan,” the only straight character in the play, while straight “college-boy”
             actors — who kept their balance on such thin ice — played swishy gays.
             David Sparrow was accurately typecast on stage, because he was a homo-
             masculine man playing an evolving heteromasculine character, and mas-
             culinity carried his performance as much as his presence. Some latter-day
             gay critics don’t approve of Mart Crowley’s snarly dialog, which, whatever
             they imagine, is an exact time capsule of the way many homosexuals of a
             certain age bantered with a kind of “gay gallows humor” in the oppression
             before Stonewall. Up through the 1960s, suicide — beginning with social
             suicide through alcohol and tobacco, and then physical suicide — was the
             only way out of the existential horror show of being outcast with other
             outcasts. If the brilliant Mart Crowley were figure-skating an “Olympic
             version” of The Boys in the Band, he would win a perfect 10, crowned with
             another perfect 10 for overcoming the degree of difficulty in nailing his
             quadruple-lutz routine with an accuracy that some found disconcerting.



           ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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